Captain Steve Craig, Earth Con II, commander of the spaceship Orion, gazed down at the lovely female before him. Her brief garment bared much of her golden skin, leaving little to the imagination, especially when the woman inside was breathing hard. Her round breasts rose and fell, nipples straining at their thin covering. Dampness rode the indentation of her navel, and the vee of her thighs.
He would have to be careful with her--she wore a trainee insignia, which meant she was not as experienced as the older women.
The blood thrummed through his veins, his body tensed in anticipation as she bowed her head to him. A red-gold curl fell across one arching eyebrow, lashes veiled her green eyes. He watched her, every cell of his body focused on her alone.
Behind him a command rang out, and in a flash he realized that he had misjudged--badly. She leapt into the air. A blur of slender bare leg scissored by his face, struck him hard across the chest, and he went down.
Craig sprawled on his back, stunned. He shook his head to clear it. Damn, he hadn't expected her to be that good at hand-to-hand combat--she was only a cadet in the Orion's guard battalion.
He lay on a floor covered with thick mats. Around them in the small gymnasium eddied a crowd of similarly clad males and females. On this, the second morning out from Earth II, the elite Serpentian guard of the spaceship Orion were at morning training maneuvers, including hand-to-hand combat. Their ship's captain was the only human allowed to join them.
The cadet crouched over him with her hands on Craig's shoulders, one knee braced on his abdomen. Without thinking, he set his hands on her hips to steady her. She was firm under his hands and smelled of woman, warm and sweet. She panted with effort, her breasts moving temptingly in their thin covering.
For an instant he was caught in her emerald gaze. Then her eyes crinkled at the outer corners, her full mouth primmed, and he realized she was fighting a gleeful smile. She deserved one--he had been so taken with her, he hadn't had his guard up at all. Lucky she had hurt nothing but his pride.
He trained regularly with the Orion's Serpentian guard, and they knew he would ask no quarter, although he had been known to give it. It was not in his nature to be rough with a smaller, more fragile female, even one who could break his neck with one twist of her legs. He knew the Serpentians were too skilled to lose control.
He rolled up to his feet, taking her with him, and set her lightly on the floor, bowing to her.
"Go ahead and gloat, Cadet. Your attack was flawless."
She bowed in return. "Thank you, Captain. But I sense that your concentration was not completely on our match."
Her voice whispered around him like a silken rope, even as he nearly gave a snort of laughter at her words. She spoke truer than she knew. He had been concentrating on his powerful sexual response to her. He was fortunate that his protective cup hid his erection.
This instant attraction did not please him. True, Serpentian women were among the most attractive females that he had encountered in the galaxy. They were graceful, sinuous in their movements, and when their slanting eyes fastened with carnal intent on a man, it had a tendency to make his cock harden and his brain soften. They could render a male nearly comatose with pleasure, without expecting any emotional connection in return.
But as captain, he had disciplined himself to view the Serpentians only as warriors necessary to his ship's survival. He was responsible for the well-being of every crew member on the Orion. That did not include casual sex with any of them.
Still, everything male in him responded to this one.
"May I know who has had the honor of flattening me like a raw recruit?"
Her cheeks flushed. "Yes, sir. I am Tessa--that is, Guard Cadet Tessa Alligon. It is I who am honored to serve on the Orion."
He acknowledged this with a nod. It was an honor to be chosen as a guard on one of LodeStar Corporation's ships, especially for a cadet. The Orion and her sister ship the Cassiopeia were the newest generation passenger and transport ships. LodeStar had received thousands of holo-video résumés from applicants.
"Advance!" called a deep, smoky voice. On a low podium stood another golden female, and beside her towered a handsome male. The commanders of his Serpentian guard--Sirena and Slyde.
Charged with adrenaline and sexual frustration, Craig faced his next partner, a slender male with startling green gold hair and sly, twinkling eyes. His amusement faded as Craig took him down solidly. They landed with a grunt.
He winced as Craig gave him a hand up.
"Nice one, Captain."
"You're having an off day, Izard," Craig said dryly. "You smashed my face into the mat last week."
"That I did." The Serpentian's eyes gleamed with satisfaction. "Your human beak still looks a little canted."
Craig laughed and clapped the other man on the shoulder. "Izard, you have the perfect life. Fighting, eating and sleeping."
The Serpentian cocked his head as he turned to walk with the captain. "Most would say you have attained the perfect life, Captain. Your own ship, a crew of over a hundred at your command."
"Yes, I suppose so."
"If you find yourself bored, or dissatisfied, perhaps you need to avail yourself of my other favorite shipboard activity," Izard added under his breath. "You are surrounded by beautiful, willing females here."
Craig shook his head. "As you said, I'm their commander."
"Captain, I revere your high personal standards." Izard sighed. "But I've no wish to emulate them."
"I have no worries on that score," Craig murmured as he intercepted a look between Izard and Yvene, a lithe, blonde female.
Beyond them a group of female guards strolled out of the gymnasium. The young redhead was the last to go, her hips swaying enticingly as she walked. She really had beautiful legs.
Craig shook his head impatiently. He had no business thinking that way about a member of his crew. There was a time when he would have followed her, and made an offer, but not now. By inter-galactic law, he had power over every being on board, and with that power came responsibility. He would not have his female crew feeling pressured by his advances. There were plenty of other women available, in port and among the passengers. Epaulets on a well-fitted uniform still attracted women, and he had worn a pilot's wings for years, first in the InterGalactic Space Forces, and now as captain of his own ship.
Izard was right--being the commander of the Orion was a great life. And these adrenaline-charged sessions with his ship's guard were among the perks. They were what drew him out of his comfortable bed early in the morning, when most of the crew and all the passengers of the mighty ship slumbered. Not only was the sparring sheer fun, it was part of his shipboard fitness routine. Hard cross-training helped him maintain the alert calm necessary for his job.
It also helped with another problem. He had been blessed, or cursed, with a powerful sexual drive, and regular workouts allowed him to subvert it.
Regular encounters with Serpentian females did not help, he thought wryly as he stepped into his shower unit for a wash and dry. Especially those as lovely as Guard Cadet Tessa Alligon. It was only as he welcomed the jets of hot water on his sweaty skin that Craig realized what had been different about her. She had been perspiring. She must be at least part human, then. Serpentians did not sweat.
He considered this intriguing anomaly as he smoothed gel soap over his skin. Perspiration had trickled down between her breasts and dampened the cloth over the swell of her mons. He had smelled her, too, heated woman.
His body reacted with a deep tightening in his groin.