Space Fever [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Kate Donovan
eBook Category: Romance/Science Fiction
eBook Description: He can save her planet, but only if she saves him first. Cabrielle is glad her father never lived to see his defraction technology in the hands of the rebels. Now the only hope for her planet's survival is Torr, the Zentarin who's training Cortierra's pilots. Except Torr is suffering from an untimely case of lust fever--two years ahead of schedule. He must return home to mate with a Zentarin female, or die? Unless by some miracle a Cortierran female exists who might satisfy him. Sleeping with the hunky offworlder isn't exactly the way Cabbie planned to redeem the family name, but she'll do anything to defend her home. Even use her body rather than her crack sharp-shooting skills. One feverish night later, Torr has his cure, and Cabbie finds herself lust-bonded for life. She willingly gives him her heart--until the truth behind his motives flings it back at her in pieces. As Torr's lust-mate, Cabbie makes an irresistible target for the rebels. When they kidnap her, intent on using her as a pawn, one thing is certain. Her frayed bond with Torr is Cortierra's only hope. Warning: This story contains non-FDA-approved home remedies for lust fever.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2010
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42 Reader Ratings:
Delivering a top-secret message from the president...
In times past, this assignment would have carried enormous prestige on Cortierra. Now that the presidency was mostly ceremonial, the honor had paled as well. Still, Lieutenant Cabrielle Lent could remember when their democracy had flourished--before the discovery of pandium, before the rebellion, before the death of her infamous father--and so, as she approached the headquarters of Supreme General Berritt Veesayloren, she carried the presidential missive proudly.
Unfortunately, the two burly captains-at-arms guarding the doors seemed equally intent on performing their duties. "No one gets in. Orders of General Vee himself," the larger of the two men informed her.
"You guys must be new," Cabbie told them coolly. "I'm Vee's stepdaughter."
"And Jensen Lent's daughter. Don't forget that."
The other guard flashed an apologetic smile. "You've got orders from President Arcos. We respect that. But Vee's word is law around here."
"And if Arcos himself were standing here? Would you bar his entry?"
The guard hesitated. "Are you taking full responsibility for this?"
She nodded, acknowledging to herself that if this turned out to be a miscalculation, it might not be simply embarrassing. It could be career-ending, despite her well-placed connections and sharp-shooting prowess. Still, she couldn't back down now, so she pasted a confident smile on her lips, pushed open the double doors and strode into General Veesayloren's office.
Immediately, she knew she had made a mistake.
There were two people in the room. The first was her stepdad--a powerful man who had showered her with affection, publicly as well as privately.
Unfortunately the other person was an offworlder. Arguably a superior one in terms of genetics. Definitely a superior one in terms of military might. And assuredly not the sort of fellow one wanted to surprise, let alone offend.
Commander Denn-Torr. The silver-eyed savior of them all.
Not that Cabbie could actually see his famed Zentarin irises--they were hidden behind black lenses. But her imagination was supplying the details, and she was sure those pools of liquid steel were regarding her with disdain, if not outright contempt.
She wanted to despise him in return but simply could not. His tall, leather-clad physique, blue-black hair, square jaw and regal bearing prompted only awe. He was a picture-perfect Zentarr--powerful and disciplined, advanced beyond the wildest dreams of humans on Cortierra, and the only hope for Cabbie's planet in the war against the rebels.
And he was staring right at her.
Her stepfather broke the silence. "What's the meaning of this?"
She licked her lips, still distracted by Denn-Torr. "I'm sorry, General. I have a message from President Arcos. But it can wait. Obviously." Turning to the offworlder, she added carefully, "I didn't know you were here, Commander. Please forgive the intrusion."
"It's fine," he told her, his voice an unreadable monotone. "No one but the general and myself knew of this meeting. Finish your business and leave."
"Yes, sir." She turned back to her stepfather. "My orders were to place this message into your hands. No intermediaries. I couldn't have known--"
"It's fine, Lieutenant," her stepfather said, echoing Denn-Torr's words, but arching an eyebrow to clarify that it wasn't "fine" at all. Then he took the green envelope and slid his finger under the seal.
Should I stay? Go? What? she asked him silently. Her instinct was to run, but what if there was a return message? Hadn't the president mentioned that possibility?
General Vee was staring at the sheet of paper he had pulled from the envelope, his eyes flickering up and down as though reading and then re-reading. She noted the tension in the corners of his mouth and recognized it immediately as a symptom of smoldering rage.
But was it directed at the message? Or at her?
Even in her misery, she couldn't resist stealing a second look at the Zentarr. To her surprise, he was staring back at her again, although he returned his gaze to the general immediately.
He's as curious as you are, she realized. He's heard all about Dad--the good and the bad. He wonders what you inherited from him. Brilliance? Treachery?
Wasn't that what everyone wondered? Not that Cabbie saw her father as a traitor. More like a self-destructive genius who had placed his own needs above the needs of his planet.
In his own way, hadn't Denn-Torr had done the same? He was here, even though his planet's Elder Council had decreed Cortierra to be too warlike to merit any further military assistance from the mighty Zentarus. They had recalled all their consultants, making it clear they would remain neutral in the struggle between Cortierra proper and the rebels who had broken away, regrouped and now mounted regular attacks on the mother planet.
Then you showed up...
Cabbie eyed the commander intently. She knew his government had refused his request to officially aid Cortierra. However, in deference to his many military honors--and to the fact that his own father had died protecting Cortierra from space pirates--they had granted him a leave of absence and permission to become a flight instructor on Cortierra for one year, but only on the condition that he not become directly involved in the planet's civil war.
Her memory flashed back to the moment of his arrival in his magnificent Zentarin glider. He had stepped into view, his lean muscles clad in the black leather uniform of his native land, his fabled eyes hidden by darkened goggles. Throngs of reporters and soldiers had mobbed the area, anxious for a glimpse of him. Cabbie's vantage point--in the control tower of the launch strip--had given her the best view possible, and while she had tried to remain cool, the image had been seared into her brain.
Her stepfather interrupted her reverie. "The rebels have successfully deployed a defraction device."
"Huh?" It took her a full second to react. Then she whispered, "It's not possible. That technology is still years away--"
"Apparently not." Vee's tone was icy, and she knew exactly why. He blamed her father, and by extension, her. It was irrational, and it would fade quickly, but it had happened often enough for her to know the signs, and not just from her stepfather. She had even seen such accusations erupt in her own mother's eyes.
Guilt by association.
The general turned away from her and addressed Denn-Torr. "This complicates our situation even further, Commander. The rebels are no longer just a nuisance--they're a full-fledged threat."
"Actually, it doesn't complicate my situation at all," the Zentarr reminded him. "I am neutral in these skirmishes."
"Oh... Quite right." The general's face reddened. "No disrespect intended. We would never embroil you in our rebellion." Visibly flustered, he told Cabbie, "Take a message to the president. Tell him...well, tell him things are even worse than he knows. I'll arrange a full briefing within the hour."
"I'll tell him, sir. Anything else?"
"Just go. And Lieutenant Lent?"
"Not a word to anyone. About any of this. And no mention of Commander Denn-Torr being here. Is that clear?"
Not even to the president? she wanted to ask, but instead she just saluted and hurried out of the room, anxious for time alone to deal with the shock of the rebels' unexpected advantage.
Not to mention the shock of coming face to face with a tall, dark, hard-bodied Zentarr.
Hours later, as she stared into the fog-shrouded canyon that formed the northern boundary of her family's estate, Cabbie wondered what her father would think if he knew his beloved research--some of which had been conducted on this very spot--had fallen into the hands of the rebels. In some ways, it was a blessing he had died before such a terrible thing happened.
Instinctively, she drew her blaster and fended off the swarm of blood bats that had zoomed out of the mist. Thirteen direct hits this time--the most she had ever managed during a single attack. The remaining rodents dove back to their chemical lair, and, despite her hard-won confidence, she exhaled in relief, knowing how much they wanted to latch on to her carotid artery for a nice, warm meal.
Her days of practicing on blood bats were coming to an end. Soon it would be real humans--Cortierrans by blood and culture, despite their rebellion. Although Cabbie had specialized as a sharpshooter, there would be little need for that skill now that the rebels had the ability to shield their presence with ADT. No longer would they be limited to surprise attacks on the three moons of Cortierra. With Ambient Defraction Technology, they could bring carriers and battleships right into the atmosphere of the mother planet without advanced detection.
Fortunately, Cabbie had cross-trained as a turret gunner. Her unit would be deployed now, and she would go with them. She had dreamed of this day, but without this nightmarish tinge to it. Enemy vessels appearing out of nowhere? With no warning? Even a crack shot couldn't hope to compete with that.
She whirled to face her stepfather. "Hi, Vee. What a day, right?"
"I knew I'd find you here. Practicing. And thinking about him."
She winced at the reference to her father, who had died in this canyon during an escape attempt. Vee believed, as did many others, that Jensen Lent had intended to join to the rebellion and to share his research with them. Cabbie knew differently. Yes, he had decided to abandon Cortierra, but only to find a neutral location where he could continue his work. He was a scientist, not a soldier, and he was tired of watching his beloved planet being torn in two. So he had packed up his lab and loaded it onto a research ship. Then he had come one last time to this canyon to fill the ship's hull with pandium--a necessary component for building an ADT device. Ironically, it was the pandium that had killed him, igniting during takeoff and blowing him and his life's work into space dust.
"Watch out, Cabbie," her stepfather warned, pointing toward the fog.
She pivoted in time to fire six quick bursts from her blaster, then grinned. "Thanks, Vee. The little scuzzards are hungry today."
"I just hope I'm half as good when my unit gets deployed. It should be any minute, right?" When he didn't respond, she groaned. "You're not going to interfere, are you? They need me. And they've just begun to respect me. But most of them think I'll back out when the orders finally arrive. Please, please let me go."
"The orders have already been issued."
"Really?" She pulled her mobile screen from her jacket pocket, confirming that she hadn't been contacted. Then she eyed her stepfather sternly. "I know Mom's been nagging you, but you know I'm right. If you shield me from battle, I'm not the only one who'll lose the respect of the troops. They'll think you're playing favorites."
"Trust me," he said with a drawl, "I'm not protecting anyone. I just need you for another mission."
"Really?" She pursed her lips, intrigued. "As a sharpshooter?"
"No, it's something else."
She couldn't read his expression, which was usually a bad sign. "Is it dangerous?"
He hesitated before saying, "In its own way, it's the most demanding assignment I've ever had to make. Unfortunately, it's also the most degrading. If there were any other soldier who could do this, I would never ask you--"
"Degrading? Oh no! Propaganda against Dad? Please don't blame this ADT mess on him. He never wanted the rebels to get his technology. I know that for a fact." She folded her arms high on her chest. "I won't do it. You'll have to put me in the brig. And then you'll really have to answer to Mom."
"Blood bats," Vee murmured.
"Huh? Oh!" She spun and fired just in time. The rodents had gotten so close this round, she could actually feel the heat as she vaporized them.
Vee's eyes shone with admiration. "You're a phenomenon. But maybe we should move away from the canyon."
She nodded, trailing him to a nearby grove of trees--a picnic spot from her childhood. She could picture her father sitting on one of the iron benches, scribbling calculations on a mobile screen while Cabbie and her mother Jesslyn lounged on a blanket, snacking while weaving wreaths of wildflowers.
Vee surprised her by changing the subject. "Didn't you wonder why Commander Denn-Torr was in my office today?"
"Oh! I completely forgot." She laughed. "You know things are grim when a gorgeous hunk of offworld flesh--with silver eyes, no less--slips your mind."
Vee grimaced. "You find him attractive?"
"Are you kidding? Did you see those muscles?" When her stepfather didn't laugh, she licked her lips, subdued. "Did I embarrass you in front of him? I swear I didn't know he was there. I thought he confined his activities to his quarters and the top-secret training facility."
"That's usually true. But this was an emergency. He was telling me he needs to return to Zentarus. Immediately."
"What?" Cabbie shook her head, refusing to believe such bad luck. "He made a commitment to stay for a year, and it's only been two months. Less than that, even. Is there trouble on Zentarus? Or something with his family? I thought he didn't have any family," she added in frustration. "That's why he felt free to come here."
Vee gave a weary shrug. "Have you heard of Zentarin lust fever?"
"Of course. But that can't be it, can it? He's too young. The news stories were very clear about that. They said he timed his commitment so he'd be back home before his cycle began."
"Apparently it's not an exact science."
She glared in disgust. "So he's leaving? Doesn't he know he's our last hope now that the rebels have ADT? He's our secret weapon. We're doomed without him."
"He's well aware of that." Vee's tone softened. "He tells me there's a possible solution to his dilemma."
"Really? I thought the fever drove them mad--as in clinically insane--if they didn't bond right away. Oh!" She interrupted herself to nod in approval. "You're saying his ruling council can send a female here? A Zentarina, or whatever they call them?"
"It's Zentress," Vee said with a laugh. "And that won't work. They'd need to send a ship full of females so that he could detect the ones that could satisfy him. And who would reciprocate his feelings."
"Are they willing to do that? I thought the council was reluctant even for him to come here."
"You're missing my point." Her stepfather cleared his throat. "The commander has detected a Cortierran female who could possibly suit his needs."
Cabbie almost laughed at the thought. "I never heard of a Zentarr mating with one of us."
"No one has."
"Who is she?"
Vee cleared his throat again. "Let me just say first, it's not definite. It was a momentary sensation on his part--"
"Wait!" She stared in disbelief. "You're saying it's me?"
Vee's jaw had hardened with obvious discomfort. "He found you provocative. His word, not mine. It's possible that if he spends more time with you, he'll change his mind. As your stepfather, I sincerely pray for that. But as the Supreme General of the Cortierran military--" His tone turned defensive. "Don't look at me that way. And don't tell your mother. Not until we know for sure."
"Me?" Cabbie wandered to the nearest bench, stunned by the bizarre turn of events. Once she had settled down, she gave her stepfather a feeble smile. "He called me provocative?"
"I wanted to strangle him," Vee admitted. "For anyone, let alone an offworlder, to speak about my daughter that way--"
"No, no, Vee. Don't be upset. I'm flattered, actually."
Forcing herself to be strong for his sake, she jumped up and hugged him. "I was afraid you were going to make me go on the vid-com and denounce Dad. This is strange, that's for sure. But it's better than the alternative."
"I would never ask you to betray your father. And as for this outrageous request, it's possible it will come to nothing."
Cabbie bit her lip. "When will we know? How will we know?"
"He wants to spend some time with you. See you. Talk to you."
"See me naked, you mean?" she asked, rolling her eyes.
It was Vee's turn to sink onto the bench, his face buried in his hands. "I honestly don't know."
"Hey." She sat back down and gave him another hug. "It's fine. And I have a nice body, right? Like Mom's, only shorter."
"I'm kidding. I'll try to look hideous. How's that?"
Vee chuckled. "You could never look hideous. You have her amazing green eyes. Her beguiling smile."
"But not her height. Or her hair. I always wanted that at least." Cabbie paused as she pictured her mother's waist-length auburn tresses. Even her father's golden hair would have been fine. Instead, she had inherited a mixture--
"Commander Denn-Torr said your hair was sprinkled with stardust."
Vee shrugged. "He didn't mean it romantically. More factually. Apparently, it's a rare and highly prized Zentarin attribute."
The thought pleased her. "I thought they all had black hair."
"Apparently not." Vee closed his eyes and admitted, "I am physically ill over this."
"Why? If it makes you feel any better, it won't be my first--"
"Cabbie!" He glared in warning. "There are some things I'd rather not know. In any case, I'm sure you've heard the rumors about Zentarin lust-bonding. Even assuming you've been intimate with a Cortierran male--which I'm sure you have not--this could be arduous. Assuming it takes place. Which is only a ten percent possibility according to the commander."
"Ten percent? With this hair?" she said teasingly.
Vee's eyes warmed. "Thank you for being so brave, Lieutenant Lent. You're a credit to your unit."
"Thanks, Vee." She looked down at her hands, wistful at the mention of her colleagues. Then she dared to ask, "So? If Commander Denn-Torr rejects me, can I go with them?"
Vee didn't hesitate. "Yes, you deserve that, although I'll be terrified you might be killed."
"No, you'll be terrified Mom might kill you."
He laughed. "That's true. Of course, she won't be pleased about the fever-bonding either."
"Like you said, we won't tell her until we're sure." A tingle of confusion ran through Cabbie, and she realized she wasn't yet sure what she hoped would happen. A fever bond with a Zentarr was indeed a daunting prospect. She didn't know a lot about it, but as Vee had said, it was reputedly arduous.
Not to mention permanent.
Lust-bonded for life...
Hardly the way she'd planned to serve her planet. Or to rehabilitate her family name for that matter.