Under His Command [The Starlight Chronicles 3] (Siren Publishing PolyAmour)
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by Annabel Wolfe
Description: [Menage Amour: Erotic Futuristic PolyAmour Romance, M/F/M, Multiple Partners Sharing] Peyton Valmont is a top-ranked pilot, but she's also insubordinate, broke dozens of rules, stole military property...and she has to be punished. Commander Kel Gallico and Colonel Jake Naiad might privately think the daring lieutenant is gorgeous, but that is beside the point. Duty is duty. Kel is known as one of the most strict ship captains in the entire federation. He's worked hard for that recognition, and just because he has a secret weakness for one luscious, willful pilot does not mean he is willing to cash in his career. Until he is sent to enact a rescue gone wrong on a planet where danger takes on a whole new meaning and having a rogue pilot who breaks the rules without thought is a decided advantage. Two powerful males, the one woman who dares to challenge their authority, and a dangerous situation where the rules might just be suspended, makes everyone wonder who is Under His Command... [Erotic Futuristic PolyAmour Romance. Warning: Contains graphic sexual content and adult language.]
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./PolyAmour, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
60 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [162 KB]
Reading time: 97-136 min.
"4.5 BLUE RIBBONS: I adore Annabel Wolfe's writing. She takes 'out of this world' futuristic plots and makes them realistic. I can't imagine living on a spaceship, but when I read about the characters of The Starlight Chronicles, I actually feel as if I am right there on the ship with each character. Don't miss Under His Command. It is a noteworthy and much welcomed third installment of a delightful series!" -- Natasha, Romance Junkies
* * * *
The tall man standing in front of her had his back turned, hands clasped behind him, his gaze focused on the navigation panel.
Peyton Valmont squared her shoulders. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
For a moment there was no response. Then he said without inflection, "Are you surprised, Lieutenant?"
No, she had to admit she wasn't. Staying quiet seemed the best course because if she voiced that out loud it meant she knew she was going to get in trouble and that of itself was an admission of guilt.
At her silence, he swung around and pinned her with his infamous ice cold gaze. There was a granite set to his lean jaw. Commander Gallico said in clipped tones, "You disobeyed a direct order."
She cleared her throat. "Actually, sir, I didn't. I wasn't present at the briefing."
"Are you trying to split hairs with me on this, Valmont?" His eyes were pure steel gray and about as warm as the interior of a frozen planet. "Everyone on this ship knew my decision about the stranded personnel on Epsilon. Sending in a transport was too risky. The surface was unstable, the storm too severe to chance more lives, but I don't have to tell you that, do I? You witnessed it all firsthand."
He was right. The conditions had been horrible. She'd never seen worse and even without the storm blast the constant quakes and collapsing landscape made finding the small band left alive almost impossible. "It wasn't the most pleasant mission, sir," she conceded, doing her best to not sound flippant or worse, cocky.
Because despite not the best odds, she had managed to somehow spot their beacon, land the transport on the shaking little strip, and when the survivors scrambled aboard, she'd also taken back off, no small feat. Getting in had been a miracle--getting out had been a living nightmare. It had tested every skill she had as a pilot, but she'd done it.
To the grateful soldiers and colonists, she was a hero. Unfortunately, to Commander Gallico, she was insubordinate.
It wasn't like she hadn't known there would be repercussions, she reminded herself, standing stiffly at attention.
"It wasn't a mission, Lieutenant. It was a hijacking. Taking a military craft--even if it is the craft you are assigned to pilot--is against regulations. You know it and I know you know it. You risked an expensive piece of machinery, you risked the lives of your crew, and since you just proved how damn good you are at your job, you risked one of our best pilots."
She opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, he snapped, "Don't you dare point out those people are still alive. I'm more grateful for that than you can imagine, but it doesn't change my position on this."
Of course not. As far as she could tell, Kelton Gallico was so by the book he could probably spout regulations in his sleep. He was young to be in his position and good at it too, but hardnosed in a lot of ways. Basically the crew of the ship liked him for his unswerving fairness and clear head if there was trouble, but they did follow the rules to the letter under his command. She always had too, until now.
Very carefully, she said, "I wasn't going to point that out, sir. I was going to tell you my sister was down there."
Silence. Nothing but the blip of the surveillance screens in the background.
His eyes narrowed a fraction. "On Epsilon? What was she doing on a failing planet?"
"Planet physicist, sir. Hired by the Minoan government to try to analyze why the structure of the planet was beginning to disintegrate. She was the one who advised them to send the distress signal but it got worse even faster than she thought."
Commander Gallico's expression didn't change. "I see. I hate to even ask this, but was she with the recovered party?"
"Yes," Peyton answered, remembering the feeling of pure joy in the midst of chaos and urgency when Tara had clambered into the cockpit, her face streaked with soot, her eyes red from the virulent gas releases from the explosions, but beautifully alive.
"For your sake, I'm glad." He turned then so he was in profile, and sighed audibly, rubbing the back of his neck. "You've put me in one hell of a situation."
"Sorry, sir." She was...but she'd do the same thing again. Whatever happened now--even if she got demoted or lost her commission--was worth it.
She covertly tried to gauge his expression. He was strikingly handsome as most S-species males were, so the line of his nose was perfectly straight, his mouth chiseled and at the moment set grimly, and his ebony hair gleamed under the lights of the command center which was his domain, just brushing the collar of his uniform tunic. S-species--or Super-humans--had evolved as a result of genetic engineering when Earth decided to form colonies on different planets, and the result was they were taller, more dominant, better-looking, healthier--everything enhanced. Earth was now but a sub-colony, completely under the dominance of S-species rule. Being half-human, half-S-species put Peyton at a disadvantage sometimes and she felt it now. He was pissed--in many ways he had a right to be angry--and being in the same room with a very much larger, very ticked off, regulation-crazy commander wasn't her idea of a good time. Weighed against the duress of the mission itself, she could feel the strain in the tension in her shoulders and the dryness of her mouth.
He glanced over finally. "Let me first say I understand your motivations and can't put forth with any sort of honesty I might not do the same thing."
Relief washed over her but it was short-lived.
He went on in that same matter-of-fact tone. "But I have to reprimand you, Lieutenant. I literally do not have a choice. Should I allow you to get away with this, I'd be setting a precedent for anyone who takes it into their head to become some sort of hero by breaking the rules and risking their foolhardy necks and government property. This time it worked out. The next it might not. My job is to maintain order and discipline. It doesn't matter that I sympathize with your dilemma. Do you understand?"
Well, fuck, there went her career. Measured against her sister's life it was a small price to pay, but she loved her job. Peyton's throat felt tight but she nodded. "Yes, sir, of course I understand. You have your duty."
"Yes, I do." One ebony brow arched upward. "It isn't always pleasant, either."
"I'm sure you'll be fair, sir."
"I'm going to try to be. Considering the high level nature of the offense, I could have you demoted down to an assistant navigator, or even released from service, if I wished. I hope you realize that."
Peyton felt a little sick.
"But instead I think I'll allow you to choose. I'm going to ignore the appropriation of craft without permission, which considerably lessens the breach of conduct." Gallico stared at her, his face set. "I'm just going to address the direct breaking of an order. Your choice, Lieutenant. Any of the standard punishments offered in statute nineteen."
He was being more than generous but since she wasn't a walking-talking military rules expert, she asked haltingly, "Off the top of my head, sir, I don't know them."
There was actually a flicker of some actual emotion in his eyes or it seemed that way. "I don't suppose you ever thought they would apply to you. Your record so far is spotless. It's part of the reason I'm being lenient."
"And I appreciate it," she murmured, desperately trying to remember that part of her training. They'd had to read the damned rule book from beginning to end, but he was right, she hadn't concentrated on the part where it listed consequences for failure of duty. She ventured, "Six months off the controls without pay, correct?"
"That's one possibility, yes." He inclined his head. "Or a loss of rank."
The first sounded awful, but the second was out of the question. She'd worked hard to get to where she was, and at twenty-four, was one of the youngest females to hold her own with a very male-dominated force of military pilots. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "Sir, I'm both a lieutenant and a level 4 pilot. One of only a handful of females who have risen so quickly. I'd hoped to be a major in the next five years."
"I'm well-aware of your accomplishments. It makes this even more difficult." He hesitated and then added without any expression, "There's a third option. If you wish, you can trade into a month of sexual service. It's up to you. It would be standard. The slave uniform, confinement to quarters for that month, full subservience."
To her dismay, she felt her face flush. She'd forgotten about that. On long journeys like this one the males got restless without sexual activity. To keep order with such a large crew, there were human females brought on board to service them, but the numbers were understandably limited due to space and the males had to share. If a female officer had an infraction and wished to pay the price with sexual compensation, it was offered as an alternative to punishment since it was actually helpful. When the regulation was put in place the males had grumbled at being limited to just two options when women had three, but then again, they appreciated the reverse discrimination in other obvious ways, so the rule had held.
Peyton stood there, thinking furiously. Not touching her transport for six months? Being a pilot was her life. It was what she lived and breathed. Demotion didn't hold much appeal either. If she could save her career, she would. "How many males?" she asked in a tight voice.
The commander looked at her with those cool eyes. "They have to outrank you. No female officer is obligated to sleep with anyone of lesser status. We have two colonels, four majors, and a captain on board. Due to your rank, you are permitted to just service two. If that's your choice, tell me which ones and I am sure they'll be more than happy about the arrangement."
The officers all knew each other and socialized often and she wondered if she could actually do it. She cast over the possibilities. Being intimate with her colleagues after she'd done everything possible to gain equal ground? It sounded...daunting, dammit. Embarrassing, too, and thousand other things, but then she contemplated again not being a pilot for half a year. Even worse was going back down to being just another drudge who could only pull transports in and out of docking.
No. Out of the question.
She swallowed hard and looked at Commander Gallico. Those austere perfect features, his tall lean body, all that deliciously dark gleaming hair. In private, the female officers speculated about his personal life, but he kept to himself and if he availed himself one of the humans, he was discreet about it. There was little doubt she found him attractive, despite his intimidating standoffish demeanor. In a hoarse voice, she asked, "What about you?"
* * * *
Kel had no idea what the expression on his face might be, but he did his best to keep it neutral.
This whole day seemed designed to test him in every way a male could be challenged.
First was the agonizing decision he couldn't possibly ask any officer or crew to go down to the surface of Epsilon, his anguish over the matter both private and difficult. It wasn't easy to condemn the people on the surface of the planet to certain death, yet when he weighed the odds, it had seemed clear it wasn't right to order a hopeless attempt at rescue either. Then the news came Peyton Valmont had taken matters into her own hands, left the ship unauthorized, and while he stood in paralyzed indecision over what to do about it, apparently pulled off the rescue of the millennium.
To compound the unpalatable situation, now he had to punish her. Yes, he'd let her off easy, but never did he expect she would offer him her body.
Did she know he'd secretly lusted after her since the moment she set foot on his ship? The lieutenant stood there, her rich dark brown hair highlighted by the subdued overhead illumination designed to make sure there was no glare on the dozens of monitors, her vivid hazel eyes reflecting her trepidation, but also her undeniable courage. She was more than classically pretty, her features delicate and feminine, long lashes framing those incredible eyes, a soft pink mouth right now compressed into a tight line of apprehension.
It was common opinion she was gorgeous and though he never commented one way or the other when the men talked about Lieutenant Valmont, he definitely agreed.
If he wanted her before, he wanted her even more now. Fuck, how was he supposed to manage this, especially when she'd suggested he be the one?
Kel took in a breath, hoping he still looked unfazed. "What about me in what way, Lieutenant?"
"If I have to do this, can I service you? Commanders don't have to share either, do they? Wouldn't you count as two?"
"No. Naiad is just a step down in rank, second in command. We share quarters, responsibilities, and just about everything else."
Including you, should you choose this. He didn't have to explain it.
For a moment she said nothing. Then with obvious effort, she nodded. Just once. "Okay, I can live with that. You and Commander Naiad." There was just a slight falter in her voice. "The other officers are my colleagues."
And he wasn't a colleague. Of course he wasn't. It was his duty to distant himself from the staff. To be above it as he dispensed orders and kept strict discipline. "I don't..." he started to say, and stopped, not sure how he wanted to finish.
What the hell was he going to tell her? He didn't like the idea? Yes, he did. He'd like nothing better than carry her off to his quarters right this minute. His sex drive was as healthy and strong as any other S-species male. With her--the slender yet suggestive lines of her figure under the required uniform always intriguing--it was very tempting.
She waited, her back perfectly straight, those entrancing gold-green eyes wide. When he didn't speak she explained haltingly, "I don't know if you understand how hard it is as a female to get treated like an equal. Right now even the officers who outrank me regard me as one of them. I'm going to lose that if I have to submit to any of them. What you are talking about isn't like having a sexual affair, Commander, which is also against regulation for the same reason--discipline."
"This is a punishment," he told her, an edge to his voice.
"I realize that. I accept it," she countered, "but can you see my position? This way at least I wouldn't lose their respect."
He could see her in a lot of different positions--that was part of the problem. Kel looked around at the sterile surroundings of the bridge. He was the commander, she was just a rogue female pilot, and why he should feel so guilty about this was a mystery.
Valmont had walked in tense and defiant. She'd stood there and took his diatribe on her disobedience, and then she'd waited for his edict. Not that she had much choice, but still once he heard her reason for why she had commandeered the craft and risked her life, he understood.
It changed nothing. He really didn't want to reprimand her in the first place, so making it as easy on her as possible appealed to him, but it had to be done.
She appealed to him. That was the problem. Since the first moment she stepped foot on the ship, he'd wanted to fuck her.
Now he could have her. Whenever he wanted. In any way he wanted.
Damn if his unruly cock didn't start to swell at the thought.
Still, it posed problems if he agreed to this. Kel stared at her. "I don't want the crew to think I'm meting out discipline for my own pleasure, Lieutenant."
The word pleasure made her color deepen, pink giving a nice color to her cheeks. "Excuse me for saying so, sir, but I think the crew would object more if you were too harsh. Feel free to make sure they all know this was my choice. I'll do the same."
It was probably true. She was a damned hero now. Soldiers always admired the kind of courage she'd shown, and even more so the reckless act showcased her remarkable ability to handle a transport craft under any conditions. This solution would take her out of duty for the shortest time possible and he wouldn't have to dock her pay either.
"You won't have the opportunity to tell them," he pointed out. "If you choose this route, Valmont, you'll be confined to the command quarters."
"You're sure this is how you wish to resolve this?"
"I'm certain, sir."
"Very well." He waved a hand past the door scanner and opened the portal, gesturing at the two soldiers who stood at attention there. He said curtly, "Escort the lieutenant to Level C. See that she's indoctrinated."
Both the guards were too well-trained to show any kind of reaction, but Kel felt their shock just the same. Level C was where the females were kept and instructed on their sexual duties before each voyage, so he imagined it would be common knowledge fast enough just how he'd handled her insubordination. She left with dignity, walking between the two much taller soldiers in brisk departure. Kel wandered over and examined the flight log, but he didn't really see the notes he'd made. He needed to sit down and compose a report to be sent to Minoa on the incident. Epsilon was clearly a lost cause but at least there had been no further loss of life thanks to one daring, beautiful pilot.
"How did that go?"
Kel turned around and saw his second in command, Jake Naiad, enter the captain's bridge, open curiosity in his expression. Naiad murmured, "It couldn't have been much fun. I saw them take her out and she looked more resigned than anything."
"It went," Kel responded, rubbing his jaw. "And no, that part of this job isn't my favorite. I've had to discharge some good soldiers already in my career. It didn't appeal to me to do it again."
Naiad was also tall--most S-species males were--blond, built with whipcord leanness, his angular features refined and his eyes a clear aquamarine. He was a good officer and one of the few males Kel considered a true friend. They worked well together, and when they were on Minoa between assignments, played pretty well together too. The mutual competitive spirit meant they were good opponents in sports and other leisurely pursuits, one of which was bedding females.
"Is that what you decided to do?" Naiad asked, sitting down in his chair by the rows of panels. "You discharged her? I have to tell you; that's going to be an unpopular decision, Kel."
"Am I running a popularity contest?" Kel retorted, lifting a brow. "She broke about fifteen regulations."
"Sixteen, but who's counting," Naiad remarked, rubbing his chin. "Two of them big ones. Still, the governor's son was rescued, along with one other civilian and over twenty soldiers. How the hell she did it, I don't know. Her navigator said he couldn't help her worth shit and the thrusters quit twice. He also said she was like a machine. Cool as could be and determined as hell."
"The civilian was her sister."
The other man stared at him and then gave a low whistle. "Okay, that makes a difference. At least now I understand the determination. Fuck, you still discharged her?"
Kel leveled an ironic look at him. "I never said I discharged her. I said I would have been justified in front of any tribunal for doing just that. Instead I dropped the unauthorized appropriation charge and just addressed the direct disobeying of orders. I offered her the choice of any of the statute nineteen sentences."
Naiad thought for a moment, and then nodded. "That's more than fair. I hate to see her lose rank or be sidelined because she's damned good, but it's a slap on the wrist compared to what could have been. No wonder she wasn't more upset."
"Yeah, well, she didn't want to lose rank or be sidelined either."
For a moment Naiad looked puzzled but then he blinked. "Valmont chose sexual servitude? That surprises me. She doesn't seem like the submissive type." He grinned then. "Hey, I'm more than happy to volunteer to be her--"
"She's been assigned," Kel interrupted. "It's always awkward when a female officer is punished that way. I let her decide."
Naiad let out an exaggerated sigh. "Too bad. Some of her fellow officers, I take it. She's a delicious little piece, in my opinion. Who?"
"Me. Us, I guess, would be more accurate."
Blond brows shot up. "Nice work there." Naiad grinned. "I've had worse news. This day has gone from being a near disaster to shaping up pretty good."
"I didn't coerce her in any way. It was her suggestion." Kel was irritated with himself for sounding defensive but was pretty sure there was a hint of it in his voice anyway. "She doesn't want this to affect her status with the other officers she interacts with on a daily basis."
"Smart female, the lieutenant." Naiad's blue-green eyes reflected amusement. "I can't say I'm disappointed. Neither are you. Even before all this, I've caught you looking at her a time or two in a very un-commander-to-pilot way."
Was that true? It probably was, though Kel thought he'd kept his interest hidden. Naiad had an annoying way of being perceptive at the wrong times. "She's noticeable," he admitted.
"Very fuckable," Naiad agreed with a low laugh. "I wonder if she realizes how hungry for her you are."
"She'll find out soon enough," Kel said in a clipped voice and went to start his reports.