Read Queen of Starlight Online

Authors: Jessa Slade

Tags: #Firefly spaceship captain, #Linnea Sinclair, #Susan Grant, #Nalini Singh, #Ann Aguirre, #Queen of Starlight: Sheerspace Book 1, #alpha male, #space opera, #hot sexy, #futuristic romance, #science fiction romance

Queen of Starlight (9 page)

BOOK: Queen of Starlight
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“Tangle and shred it, but you are beautiful, down to the bone.” He touched the center of her throat and drew his finger down between the open finials of the torque, pausing near the where the necklace had bruised her in the passion of their embrace. “It hurt you.”

“I don’t even feel it.”

His hand drifted lower. “Take it off.”

“I can’t.” But she shifted so the curve of her breast bumped his palm. He drew in a harsh breath and cupped her. His thumb eased a slow circle over her nipple and she arched with a purr.

“What you do to me,” he murmured.

She smiled. “Nothing much, not yet. So please, continue.”

He growled, low in his throat, and she felt the echo in her throat. Even with the stars blazing behind her while the
Asphodel
rolled through black space, she’d never felt more primitive than this moment, more alive in her own skin than when his brushed roughly against her as he stripped out of his vest and shirt.

He made an untidy pillow of their clothing and her veils, and eased her down on the bench. With the curve of the viewport over her, she stared up at him. Framed by his beloved stars behind him, he was a breathtaking sight, and her head spun with a touch of vertigo.

“Ah, princess. You move me.”

“Hard to believe when you are so much bigger.”

“In space, it just takes a nudge.”

She had suspected he’d be more amenable to her in the dubious comfort of the
Asphodel
. Here, in his private space—his private space in space—he could let down his guard. Enough to fuck her, anyway.

She crooked one knee to give him a place to balance his weight while he lowered his head to her breast. She streaked her fingers through his uneven locks and gave herself up to his mouth.

Such fire! L’auraly texts revealed all, and the exercises she’d mastered had brought her intense satisfaction by herself in her bed, but the addition of these chaotic elements—his hands, his mouth, his breath, the scratch of his stubble where she least expected it—redoubled the pleasure. The soft give of her flesh to the hard press of him, the yielding that took as fiercely as it gave, had never been so meaningful to her. Silly tears prickled in her eyes when he shucked his trousers.

He paused. “Etta?”

She shook her head and clasped him closer. “Now.”

“No.” His big body burned against hers. “There’s more. You should know this.”

“I know, I know,” she moaned. “But I don’t think I’ll make it.”

“You will. I’ll make you.”

“Ah, my captain, with his orders.”

“Do as I say then, and open yourself for me. I will make your crystal sing.”

She obeyed, widening the stretch of her legs. As if echoing her tears, her inner flesh moistened and ached with wanting. But he made her wait while he kissed a constellation across her skin. The unwritten lines between sparkled across her nerve endings, brighter than the qva’avaq. His head dropped lower yet, and his dark hair scratched her sensitive inner thighs. She cried out as his tongue laved her. Deep in her core, galaxies unfurled.

He kissed his way up over her delta. “Sweeter than berries. Who needs those thrice-tangled crystals?”

“Corso...”

But he lowered his head again and then his fingers were doing things, wonderful things, things she’d charted in her notebooks and now couldn’t remember the names of. She could barely remember her
own
name.

This was not covered in the l’auraly texts, this feeling of coming undone. The qva’avaq murmured along her nerves, whispering secrets from the l’auralya crystal embedded in her skin to the a’lurilyo crystal around her neck. This was more than simple sex. She stiffened, as if she could hold herself together within the hard circle of his arm clenched under her buttocks and his finger inside her, finding the secret places of her pleasure.

“Let it go,” he murmured. “You want it. I want it.”

She sobbed at the cool rush of his breath over her fiery skin, and when he plunged his tongue into her again, she came apart in his arms.

Chapter Eight

Corso centered himself over Benedetta’s quivering flesh where the silvery whorls of the qva’avaq charted the path of her deepest pleasure. He paused to stare down into her heavy-lidded eyes. “They say l’auraly are untouched until they are given to a companion. Virgins.” He stumbled over the outdated word.

She blinked. “Technically, perhaps. But after this, I would say, in all practical ways, no. I am most definitely touched.”

A surge of satisfaction swept through him. His raging erection was in no way diminished, and yet the pleased glow within him was almost post-coital in its power.

But in its backwash, a disturbing thought occurred; had he lessened her value by touching her? The mercenary shouldn’t sample his own wares.

That thought was upended with violent negation. He was not a slaver and she was not merchandise, even though such a financial transaction at least had a certain clarity. No, like the intricate, honed facets of her keying crystal sealed in its protective barrier,
this
situation seemed pretty and innocuous…and had hidden teeth.

Benedetta settled her hands over his hips with a sigh. “Let go,” she whispered, repeating his words back to him. “I want it. You want it.” Her fingers sank into his haunches with irresistible strength.

He could no more withstand her than the
Asphodel
could deny the commands keyed into the nav that brought the ship from the cold, empty quiet of space into the violence of a fiery descent. And he was every bit as vulnerable in this fated course.

He sank downward, pulled into the circle of her arms, and nestled the seeking apex of his erection into her warmth. She was so tight around him, and her eyes closed as she adjusted to his presence, but the slick damp eased his way.

When he was fully immersed, he kissed her brow until her eyes opened. In the viewport behind her, the roll of the
Asphodel
brought the planet in sight again and the light bounced in her citrine eyes. The sight pierced him. She was doing this to save her planet, and he… Never mind that she was the born and bred whore, he was the one taking advantage of her.

Her inner muscles clasped around him, an intimate, invisible warning. “Where are you going, Captain?”

Slowly, he withdrew.

Maybe he had some intent of retroactive honor, but the hot, wet suck of her delta sabotaged him, and with a groan he plunged back in. She arched up, welcoming the intrusion of his body with a gasp. She skimmed her silvery hands up his chest and circled his nipples. He bucked at the erotic tingle, and she laughed.

At that low, husky sound of delight, he lost it. He stroked her inside and out, using every trick he knew and a few he made up on the spot, watching her unique reactions, responding to her sighs and tightening muscles. Maybe she’d been bred and trained to be the perfect lover, but he was her
first
lover, and he’d be tangled and shredded before he let her ever forget this moment.

“Now,” she whispered at last, and the crystal sighed with her in erotic counterpoint. “Oh please, now.”

He buried himself within her and held his breath until the epic shudder ripped through her and caught him, like a wild trip across dangerously tangled sheerways toward a destination unknown but far, far, far away from where they’d started.

A strangled shout tore from him, taking the last of his strength, and he collapsed across her.

It was a long time before he caught his breath. Longer still before he wanted to rise. He kept his weight on his arms so he didn’t crush her completely, but he knew he was too heavy and he still didn’t want to move.

He wanted to keep her right where she was.

That realization, more than anything, pushed him up. His head swam with the warm fragrance of her skin when he took a breath, but she touched his jaw and ran her thumb across his lower lip.

“Hush,” she said. “Whatever it is, just hush.”

For the first time in a long time, he was willing to take someone else’s orders.

After they set their clothing to rights, he led her to his room. He didn’t miss his days commanding a squadron, but he had a twinge of nostalgia for the full-size shower. At least the
Asphodel
’s captain’s quarters offered a private, if cramped, bathing cylinder.

He dialed in the settings and gestured Benedetta inside. “It’s not much, princess.”

She kissed him, a long, lingering kiss. “This is all I need.” She slipped inside without looking back.

He freshened up himself with a rough swipe of medical wipes. His ribs were still sore—the bone knit accelerators never worked as fast as advertised—but the bruises across his back had faded to pale reflections of Benedetta’s yellow-green eyes.

Shred it, but even as he erased the planet-side fragrance of her from his skin, replaced with the wipes’ sharp chemical tang, the feel of her lingered. In his fingertips, on his tongue, around his cock.

He needed a mind wipe.

He changed into clean clothes and kicked aside the rest—never mind that they’d been cleaned on Qv’arratz and the same hint of fresh, open air clung to them as surrounded Benedetta herself. The fresh black vest smelled of…nothing. Exactly the way it should.

He swore again softly as the shower cylinder cycled off.

Benedetta emerged, naked. He took a sharp breath. And that perfume teased him yet again. Tangle and shred it, did she carry a secret vial of her essence just to tempt him?

She stood pliant under his restless gaze. “Are you going to show me the rest?”

He shifted. “You saw it all.”

She smiled. “Not you. Your ship.”

“There’s not much more. She’s not that big.”

“It’s not always about size.” Her smile widened. “Although sometimes it is.”

To his surprise, his face heated.

But as the
Asphodel
worked her way through the recon pattern, he gave Benedetta—once again wrapped in her veils—a tour. The last time he’d done one, it had been some general or other, strutting through the halls of his flagship without a glance to left or right.

Benedetta poked her nose into everything on the
Asphodel
. She admired the bridge and ran her hand over the command chair with a sly, sideways glance at him that made his body twitch. She frowned at the weapons board and tapped her chin. He knew what she was thinking this time too; when would they face their attackers? But she regained her enthusiasm to exclaim over the custom engines. His mechanic, Fariz, sat straighter when she noted the modified pinch to the proton-proton fusion.

Corso steered her out of engineering when she and Fariz started debating the risks and payoffs of charged black hole jumping to avoid imposed sheerways tolls.

As they headed down the corridor, he shook his head. “What does a l’auralya need to know about sheerways engines?”

She shrugged. “Who knows who my a’lurilyo will be.”

He stiffened as a protest sprang to his tongue, but he bit it back.

Still, she gave him another telling glance. “When this is over, I need a patron. Someone who will pay the l’auraly price. I’m the only one we have until Icere, Torash, and Alolis undergo their keying ceremonies and receive their a’lurily crystals.”

“You will still take a patron after we...” Corso gestured vaguely.

She arched her brow at him. “You’ve made it clear you aren’t interested in accepting the a’lurilyo key, but someone will be. And the fact that we...” She repeated his vague gesture with a mocking and suggestive twist. “That needn’t have any lasting impact.”

Of course not. Even the evidence of life-ending asteroid hits that blasted off atmospheres might eventually be hidden under the dust of eons.

Still, he found himself asking, “Did you ever consider the l’auraly are keeping the people of Qv’arratz trapped into depending on you?”

She frowned. “Trapped? They give to us and we give back. That’s not entrapment; that’s a relationship.”

“Not a good one,” he muttered. “Together, you should both be more than you are alone, not less.”

She frowned at him but they’d come to the last stop on the tour, the commissary.

He slid open the door. “Not much to see here, just the kitchen.”

Before he could walk away, she slipped inside. “Where is your cook? You have a pilot, an engineer, a medic...”

“Cooks are hard to keep in space. The good ones get tired of trying to make something out of nothing. The bad ones we get tired of.”

She prowled around the counters. Although he demanded a pristine ship, he could almost imagine the dust of neglect smudging her trailing fingers. “No wonder they were so excited about coming planetside for a meal. You know, you have what you need for a good kitchen.”

“Except the good cook,” he reminded her.

“And the willingness to believe that being in nothingness doesn’t mean you have to be happy with nothingness.” She stuck her head in the cooling unit while she grumbled to herself. She tossed containers on the counter behind her.

Corso propped his hip beside the growing pile. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

She straightened. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

In mere moments, she’d blended together some concoction in a tall-sided mug. She handed him one.

He took a sip and raised his eyebrows. The fresh, bright taste shone like sunlight on his tongue. “It’s good. Very good. I didn’t know we had berries in there.”

“You didn’t.”

“More l’auralya training?” The taste soured a little; how much of what she’d given him was slight of hand? Or other body parts.

“In a way, our whole existence is making something out of nothing.” She watched him over the rim of her mug. “Captain Deynah, can we win this fight?”

For a heartbeat, he thought she meant the unvoiced struggle between them. But of course she didn’t. That battle was only in his head. “We have the advantage of surprise and of setting. Qv’arratz is too far off the sheerways for your attackers to reasonably maintain a long siege without the promise of great reward. They’re raiding on a possibility, that’s all. We’ll make sure you’re not worth their time, effort, and losses.”

“Losses,” she said softly.

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