Stargazers 4: Wayward
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by Anne Kane
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Science Fiction
Description: Katarina and Abbie are twin Stargazers, and their mother, fearful of the pirates that run rampant in this part of the galaxy, has been hiding their abilities for years. But when Abbie is kidnapped, Kat boldly offers her services to a very sexy pirate captain in return for his help. Tore is fascinated by the sexy young Stargazer, but how far is she willing to go to save her sister?
eBook Publisher: Changeling Press LLC, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: February 2010
27 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [92 KB]
Reading time: 56-79 min.
Kat perched atop the barstool and took small sips of her cocktail, assessing the other drinkers in the popular portside bar. She needed to find a man. The door made a whooshing sound as it slid open, and she turned her head.
The man strode through the doorway like a conquering Viking, and she studied him with interest. He was well over six feet tall, and his wavy blond hair hung loose to his shoulder blades, held in place by a thick strip of leather around his forehead. His eyes were like chips of ice-blue rock, sharp and hard. He walked with the loose, easy gait of someone who spent more time off planet than on. Thick ropes of muscle covered his arms, with more outlined beneath the tight material of his heavy uni-suit. He slid onto a barstool at the far end of the Last Chance, and the bartender immediately bustled down to take his order. No waiting for someone like him.
Kat motioned to the bartender after he had served the Viking look alike his drink. "Who is he?" She tilted her head toward the newcomer.
A smirk lit his dark features while he gave her a quick once-over. "That's Tore, captain of the Sun Runner. Usually stops in here when the ship's in for maintenance. Rumor has it he's a pirate, but I'm not stupid enough to ask him if it's true. He generally doesn't pick up any female companions here, but for a class act like you, he might make an exception. You want an introduction?"
Kat grimaced at his suggestive tone. She did, but not for the reason he had in mind. "No, thank you. I'm perfectly capable of introducing myself."
The bartender shrugged and drifted over to a group of miners playing cards. Kat waited a few seconds, gathering her courage. This Tore fellow looked like he might be just what she needed. Now all she had to do was convince him to help her. She wasn't sure the credits she'd accumulated would be enough to buy the loyalty of a pirate. She took a deep breath and slid gracefully off her stool.
She almost made it to his side before the huge stranger turned his head. She felt a dart of pure lust lance through her as his gaze swept her from head to toe. Up close, she could see the rows of scars on his arms and face, evenly spaced so you knew they weren't inflicted in a fight or by accident. Those kind of marks bespoke deliberate torture. She shuddered. It was the kind of torture the Intergalactic Council liked to call rehabilitation.
"How much?" His deep voice reverberated through every nerve, causing moisture to gather deep inside her pussy.
She knew exactly what he meant. He thought she was one of the whores who frequented the bar looking to pick up new clients. She should be insulted, but the smoldering passion deep in those gorgeous blue eyes made her consider, just for a second, taking up the ancient profession. A man like this would generate so much power. And so much passion. Unfortunately, she didn't have time right now to slake her thirst for sex.
She let her regret show briefly in the smile she flashed him. "I'm not a whore. I'm looking to hire a ship, one that's fast and able to fight." She paused, realizing she should be careful about how much information she divulged. She knew nothing about him or his connections.
He lifted one eyebrow, a spark of interest lighting his eyes. "Really? And what would you need a ship like that for?"
Kat held out her hand. "My name is Katarina. My friends call me Kat, and I have my reasons. Are you available?"
He stood, towering over her, and Kat found herself tilting her head to keep eye contact. A cynical smile hovered on his lips as he reached out and took her hand, holding it just a fraction of a nanosecond longer than necessary. She wondered if he knew what he did to her pulse rate.
"Name's Tore. Perhaps we should get a private booth if we're going to discuss business." He glanced over at the bartender who nodded toward the back of the bar.
Kat licked her suddenly dry lips, feeling unexpectedly nervous. Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea. "Certainly."
Tore grabbed his drink and led the way, threading through the crowded room with the arrogance of a man who knows people will get out of his way. Kat trailed behind him, admiring the taut slide of well-honed muscles under the tight uni-suit. He didn't bother to look back and see if she was following. It probably never occurred to him that someone might not do exactly what he instructed.
"After you." He stepped aside to let her slide into the booth ahead of him. She put her drink down on the table before she slid onto the slick pseudo-leather seat, trying to look composed.
An old saying popped into her head. Never let them see you sweat.
Tore palmed the privacy settings, waiting for the digital readout to glow a reassuring green before he sprawled across the bench opposite her. He took a deep draft from his bottle before placing it on the table. "So exactly what is it you need?"
Kat looked into those deep blue eyes. They gleamed with calculating intelligence, and she could feel the confidence radiating from him. Although her twin was much better at reading people's auras, Kat's Stargazer talents lent her a certain advantage in negotiations. She'd be able to tell if he was lying and if his intentions toward her were dangerous.
"First I need to know if you are affiliated with the Intergalactic Council." She watched his body language. His answer was crucial to her plans. He tensed for the barest fraction of a second, and her gaze flickered to those scars. She wished she had the nerve to ask him where they'd come from.
"They'd like to catch me. I don't intend to let them." He sat a little straighter. "If you're working for them, this conversation is over."
Kat relaxed and shook her head. "No. They don't even know I exist, and I'd like to keep it that way." She made a split second decision, her gut instinct telling her she could trust this man. "I'm a Stargazer, and I'm sure they'd do whatever it took to get me to work for them." She shuddered in spite of her resolve not to show fear. "I've heard stories."
"And they're mostly true." He gave her a piercing look. "They have spies everywhere, and most Stargazers end up under contract to them, either voluntarily or through other venues. How did they manage to miss you?"
"My mother's been hiding us since we first started to show signs of talent." She took a sip of her drink, remembering all the times they'd picked everything up and moved on a moment's notice. "Our father left before we were born, so it was just the three of us. No one else knew."
Tore held up a hand. "Hold it. Three?"
"Yes, I have a twin sister, Abbie. She's missing."
"And you think the Intergalactic Council kidnapped her?"
Kat set her drink down on the table. "No. She was kidnapped by a pirate, some type of reptilian alien."
"He sent a ransom demand?"
She shook her head. "No. No ransom demand."
"Then how do you know she was kidnapped? Maybe she ran away with a lover."
Kat hoped he had an open mind. People didn't always believe how close she and Abbie were. "We're twin Stargazers. When we want to, we can concentrate and 'see' through the other's eyes. I saw the abduction."
She stopped and took a deep breath, willing the panic away. She needed this man to take her story seriously. Being dismissed as a hysterical female wouldn't help her save Abbie. "She was on her way home from a shopping trip when they lured her into an alley. The alien was big, stocky, with green scales all over him. He didn't knock her out so I was able to see the ship they dragged her aboard, but I haven't been able to get a response from her in over seven cycles. Either she's drugged or they're using an energy shield to block her. Usually I'd be able to make contact with her, but all I'm getting is a vague sense of direction."
"Probably a shield." He tapped his fingers on the table. "From your description, I'm guessing she was taken by one of the Aviroan slaver ships, and they routinely use energy shields to block detection by the authorities. Keeping captives drugged is expensive, not to mention risky. Not all sentients react the same way to chemical input."
For the first time in days, Kat felt a flicker of hope. "Do you know where to find these Aviroans?"
He shook his head. "Not that easy. Their home planet is in the Basal system, but that's not where they'd be heading if they were picking up slaves. Can you describe the ship you saw?"
Kat concentrated, trying to recall every detail that might help locate her sister. "It looked like one of the Council's supply shuttles, only smaller. It had reflective strips across the bow and the wings were sloped backward, as if they planned to cut through a narrow channel."
"Something like this?" He traced invisible lines in the air above the table and all of a sudden, the image of a shuttle appeared, floating in the air.
Kat gulped, looking from the image to Tore and back again. A human couldn't manufacture images out of thin air. "What are you?" she whispered.
His eyes narrowed to cold slashes of blue ice. "I'm human. Just not quite as human as some." A faint aura of red fury tinged the air surrounding him, sending shocked recognition through her. His aura. She didn't have the ability to see auras, but there it was. Tore took a long pull on his drink, and Kat sat quietly, wishing she had the nerve to ask him to explain.
As if reading her thoughts, he relaxed and gave her a wry smile. "A long time ago, the Intergalactic Council thought it would be interesting to genetically alter some of the orphans under their protection. After all, who cared what happened to a bunch of throwaway kids? My body adapted well to their tinkering, so I became one of their special projects." He fingered the bottle idly, and she could feel him forcing his emotions under control. "A cyborg named Tarik rescued me and took me under his wing." He regarded her thoughtfully. "His mate, Krystal, is a Stargazer as well. Seems like there's a lot of you running around loose."
Kat jerked her head up in surprise. "I didn't know there were others. We thought the Council contracted any Stargazer they knew about except those the slavers managed to get hold of and sell in the free space auctions."
"So who else knew about your talents? Besides your mother?"
Kat glared, not liking his sudden change of direction. "She wouldn't have betrayed us."
He shook his head. "That's not what I'm getting at. It sounds like your mother did a fine job of hiding your talents all these years. Has it occurred to you that maybe your twin wasn't kidnapped for her Stargazer abilities?"
Kat frowned. "No. I just assumed..."
"Well, don't, it's dangerous. Assumptions have caused more grief in the universe than religion." He made a point of sweeping her body with his gaze. "Sometimes slavers are interested in other things."
Kat felt the blood draining from her face. The thought of gentle Abbie being sold as a sex toy terrified her. Her sister wasn't the type to cope under those circumstances. Kat wasn't even sure she'd survive.
"If you're identical twins, I'm thinking it's quite likely. At first glance I mistook you for a pleasure worker."
"But Abbie isn't like me." Kat felt her cheeks heat for the first time in ages. "She's the quiet one. She even refused to take a lover to increase her powers. She said she wanted to wait until she fell in love before she would consent to sex. She wanted it to be special."
Tore jerked upright and stared at her in horror. "You can't mean she's a virgin?"
Kat nodded slowly. The look on his face sent a sick knot roiling through her stomach.
Tore got to his feet. "We need to find her, and fast. I'll call the maintenance techs and get them to push Sun Runner to the top of the list. Do whatever you have to, and meet me at the Docking Ring in an hour."
"Wait." Kat grabbed his arm, feeling her world spinning out of control. When had he offered to help her? And when had she agreed? "We haven't discussed fees yet. What if I can't afford your services?"
Tore looked down at her with something akin to pity in his eyes. "Mature female virgins are very rare. There are special auctions for them, and you don't want your sister to be in one. We'll come to some type of arrangement for payment, but right now you need to get your little butt in gear and get ready to depart." He ran a finger down her cheek. "One hour. Don't be late."