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Authors: Chandra Ryan

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“Security says there’s static on the long-range scanners.”
She went over to the imaging machines to see for herself. Sure enough, the screens
were practically unreadable.

“We’ve been picking up some unusual frequencies lately. I’m
sure it’s just solar flares or some other natural phenomenon though. Nothing
suspicious.”

“Have you checked the cables?”

“No.” His voice was dry with sarcasm. “I’m only an
engineering specialist. Loose cables are way above my level of expertise.”

“Okay. Okay. I get it. Sorry. I didn’t mean to question your
competence.” She took a deep breath and stared at the screen again. “Still, for
my peace of mind, run a level-seven diagnostic and send me the results. We’re
doing the Salaan run in two weeks. This ship has to be in perfect working
order.”

“Understood, Captain.”

“Good. Let’s get this resolved and pray for a smooth couple
of weeks.”

“Will do.”

She nodded encouragingly to Vance. He was damn good at his
job. If he said there was nothing worth worrying about, she believed him.

Chapter Three

 

Parker stood and watched her walk away until he could no
longer see her in the rush of people walking through the corridors. He could
only imagine how ridiculous he looked as he stared off into space like a zombie
but he couldn’t seem to make himself care. She had been inside his head. He’d
felt her there the moment his hand touched her. And he’d liked her there.

He shook his head and took a deep breath to steady himself.
He needed to go back to his quarters. That way no one would see him walking
around with an impressive hard-on his first day on the ship. He really didn’t
want to be known as “the woody guy”.

His foot felt heavy with his first step. But the second was
easier. And by the third he was almost back to normal. Thankfully his head had
started to clear as well. Sure, he still remembered what it felt like to have
her in his mind but it was in an objective way.

The metal walls blurred in his peripheral vision as he
continued down the passages. He couldn’t find his way to his quarters
blindfolded yet but the ship’s layout was fairly intuitive. Which was nice. It
allowed him to think about other things as he walked. And the only thing he
wanted to think about was Harlow.

She’d seemed self-confident and distant when he’d spoken
with her in her quarters. She handled herself with poise and dignity when she’d
tossed Speck off her ship. So he hadn’t expected the gentle comfort that’d
accompanied her consciousness. Nor had he expected the soul-sucking loneliness.
He’d wanted to wrap her in his arms and tell her everything would be okay. It
was a position he’d never found himself in before. And after her lecture about
knights in shining armor he was pretty certain she wouldn’t be any more
comfortable with her role in that scenario than he was.

When he came to his quarters he placed his badge on the
security panel and the door swooshed open. “Lights.” At his order the room was
illuminated in soft light. His quarters had been his first priority after
meeting with Harlow and now his stuff was all put away and his bed was neatly
made. Everything was in its place and exactly as he liked it.

The door shut as he stepped over the threshold and cocooned
him in the comforting space. He needed to rest. Once he’d caught up on his
sleep he’d forget about the contact. Though it’d probably be hard to ever
forget about the tug of desire that accompanied Harlow’s loneliness.

He sucked in a ragged breath at the memory of it. Her hunger
had been so sharp and hot that it’d swept through his blood like a roaring
inferno. He cursed softly as he crossed the room. No. There was no way he’d
ever forget that.

The bed squeaked a little as he threw himself across it but
he found it fairly comfortable. He’d been a tall man before he’d gone through
the enhancement process so he’d felt like a giant after the government had
gotten finished with him. Still, their beds were always big enough for him. It
was one of the benefits of being in the military. They made him so they always
anticipated his size.

He kicked off his boots with a sigh as he stared up at the
ceiling. What was he going to do? Working with her was going to be hell. He
couldn’t think about her without remembering their connection. And it wasn’t as
if he’d be able to hide it from her. She could read minds. And even if she
couldn’t, he was pretty sure she could just look down at his pants and figure
out what was going on.

The door chime buzzing softly brought him out of his
thoughts. “Who is it?”

“Harlow.”

Fuck!
Even with the slight mechanical tinge the
intercom gave her voice, his dick hurt at the sound of it. He didn’t know what
brought her to his door but he was willing to bet it wasn’t to give him a hand.
He snorted at the private joke before shaking his head. Knowing his luck, she
probably wanted to talk and make sure they were okay. One look at him and she’d
know just how okay he was.

“Now’s not a great time.” Maybe she’d get the hint and just
go away. He wasn’t on duty until tomorrow so it wasn’t as if she needed him for
anything.

“You’re a fucking soldier. No time is ever a great time.
Open the damn door.”

She did have a point. Still, it wasn’t as though she really
needed him to let her in. It was her ship. “You’re my captain. You can’t just
open the door?”

“I’m not here as your captain.”

That got him off the bed and to the door in record time. His
hand shook with nerves as he hit the release. Damn. He wanted her so badly he
was a wreck with the hunger. When the door opened he had to take a step away
from her just to resist her pull. She looked small and delicate as she stood in
front of him. And every instinct he possessed told him to wrap her in his arms
and kiss her until they were both dizzy. But he couldn’t. Not yet. Not until he
found out why she was here.

He waited for her to step through the doorway and for it to
close behind her before asking, “If you’re not here as my captain, why are you
here?” He suspected he knew the answer. Hell, he’d put credits on it. But he
needed to be certain before he acted.

“I can’t get you out of my mind.”

Interesting choice of words. “And here I thought you were
the one in mine.”

She stiffened. “I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

“Whoa.” He threw his hands up in surrender. “You
misunderstood. It wasn’t a complaint.”

Her brow wrinkled in apparent confusion. “It should be. I
take my crew’s privacy seriously. The only way I can expect them to respect and
trust me is if I extend that courtesy. Of course, I hear random questions and
thoughts sometimes. That can’t be helped. But I don’t go poking around. Ever.
What I did to you, even though it was unintentional, was completely
unacceptable.”

He’d been wrong. She
had
come to his quarters to talk
to him and make sure they were okay. He nearly sighed with disappointment. “I
appreciate the value you put on the crew’s privacy. Really, I do. But I don’t
think you should beat yourself up over what happened. If anything, I owe the
apology. I know not to touch a woman without permission. I was raised better
than that.”

Her smile was just the tiniest upswing of the corner of her
mouth but it transformed her entire expression. It made her playful—mischievous
even. And it made his heart race. “I don’t think that was the type of touch
your mother meant.”

He chuckled. “My mom was pretty strict. Especially about how
a man treats a woman.”

“She sounds like a good mother.” Harlow leaned back against
the door and looked down at her feet. The pose was so uncharacteristic it
momentarily stunned him to silence.

“But if a woman gives permission, what then?” She tilted her
head so she looked up at him through the corner of her eye coyly.

“Then it’s up to the man.” She had to be flirting with him.
There was no other explanation to her behavior. Still, he couldn’t quite make
himself believe it. If she wanted to flirt she would’ve opened with that. Not
with the procedural apology. Right?

“And if I gave you permission? What would you do?”

His heart missed a beat. She was flirting. “I don’t know.
Tell me to touch you and we could find out together.”

She looked hesitant. “If I did, it wouldn’t be an order. I’m
not your captain. Not right now.”

“I understand.” And he did. They were equals in this moment.

“If you don’t want—”

He couldn’t bear to listen to her indecision and self-doubt
any longer. “You shouldn’t be concerned about what I don’t want. What I do want
is enough to keep us busy for hours. But what do you want, Harlow?”

She shook her head. “No one has ever cared about what I
want.”

“I do. Tell me.”

“I want to get this out of my system. I need to get you out
of my head.”

That kind of stung. Also took some of the mood out of the
moment. “Sorry to be such an inconvenience.”

“You know what I mean.”

Of course he did. Their attraction was at best a distraction
for her—at worst it was an annoyance. But he didn’t like the thought of being a
distraction. “You want me to fuck you so you can move on.” When she didn’t
reply he shook his head. Fine. But if she thought he’d make it easy for her to
forget him she had another think coming. “Tell me to touch you, Harlow.”

“Touch me. Please.”

The space between them disappeared as he wrapped her in his
arms. He could feel the warmth of her skin as it slid under his palms but he
didn’t sense her in his mind as he had before. “You aren’t in my head.”

“I can block it. When I focus. You caught me off guard
earlier.”

He bent over and took her mouth with his. The kiss was
tentative. But he needed a moment to judge her reaction. Her soft moan and the
tug of her fingers in his hair gave him the answers he needed. He ran the tip
of his tongue against the seam of her lips, demanding entrance. When they
parted for him he delved into her depths. She was warm, soft and tasted of mint
and cherries.

He leaned forward to brace her body between his chest and
the steel of the door as he continued to kiss her. It should have been enough.
But it wasn’t. He needed more. He ran his hands down her sides until he reached
her perfectly rounded ass. It was so firm and supple he wanted to strip her
naked and cover in it kisses. But that would have to wait.

With one simple movement he lifted her up and she wrapped
her legs around his waist. Her skirt slid up her thighs, making room for him to
get as close as possible to her, but it wasn’t close enough. He wished he didn’t
still have his pants on. He could imagine how hot and wet she’d be but he
couldn’t feel her and that was doubly frustrating. “Damn. I wish I could feel
you.”

She rubbed against him. “You would be able to if you were
wearing fewer clothes.”

“I was just thinking the same thing.” He loved a problem
solver. He took a second to appreciate the graceful curve of her neck where it
met her shoulder before dropping his head to nuzzle the sensitive skin there.
At his touch she broke out in goose bumps. Damn, she was responsive.

He pulled her to him and then carried her to the bed. After
he gently placed her on top of the covers he said, “I’ll show you mine if you
show me yours.” He winked but didn’t wait for her to agree to his terms.
Instead he immediately started to take his tank top off. There wasn’t any
reason to wait. He had no doubt she found the terms acceptable. When he’d
thrown the shirt onto the floor, however, he started to doubt that assumption.
She was still fully dressed. “You’re not getting naked.”

She smiled. “I’m enjoying the view.”

He quirked an eyebrow. “Are you now?”

“Of course. You are indeed a super-solder.”

He unbuttoned his pants and then slowly rolled his hips as
he pushed them and his boxers down his thighs.

“Quite the showman. Maybe you missed your true calling.”

He stepped out of the clothing and lay down on the bed next
to her. Propped on one side, he stared at her for a second. “Are you implying I
should’ve been a whore?”

She laughed openly for a moment but then stifled it
suddenly. “No.”

“That’s good. We haven’t discussed price yet and, I’ve gotta
say, I don’t think you could afford me on what the military pays.”

“Keep telling yourself that, Soldier.”

He ran his hand under the hem of her shirt. “You don’t
believe I’m good?”

All trace of a smile disappeared as he caressed her side. He
kept his touch firm enough that it wouldn’t tickle but soft enough to leave her
aching for more. “Oh, I have no doubt.”

“Good.” He cupped her breast in the palm of his hand and ran
the pad of his thumb over her nipple. “Though I wouldn’t have minded proving
it.”

“By all means. If you need to prove something to me, feel
free.”

His breath caught as she stretched out in front of him as
though she were presenting herself as some sort of divine offering. Desire
coiled tightly in the pit of his stomach. He had to taste her again. He needed
to kiss every inch of her body. And he wanted to start with the perfect bud
under his thumb.

He moved so he could lift her shirt. The material was thin
and light but lifting it seemed to take a momentous effort. He wanted to jump
on her and devour her but he had to hold himself in check. And that was
increasingly difficult as more of her body was revealed to him.

She was muscular. But whereas he’d been engineered to be
bulky and contain brutal strength, she was lean and graceful. “You’re
beautiful.” He sat up so he could remove the shirt completely. She kept her
arms above her head and allowed him to slowly sweep the material over her. As
soon as it was puddled on the floor he went back to examining her. Lifting one of
her arms, he brought her wrist to his mouth. He could feel her pulse race when
his tongue stroked the creamy skin.

“Oh god, yes. Don’t stop.”

He had no plans to stop anytime soon. He left a trail of
kisses up her arm to her shoulder as his fingers sought out the clasp on her
skirt. It only took a few seconds to undo it but it seemed as if an eternity
passed. He wanted her naked but he needed to feel her bare heat more. He
slipped his fingers under the band of the garment and down the small stretch of
smooth skin until he found what he was searching for. He trailed a fingertip
along the seam of her pussy and savored every second. Her hips bucked as if she
were asking him to explore more. And not one to disappoint, he was happy to
oblige.

“Your skin is so soft.” He slid his finger through her pussy’s
lips as he spoke. “And hot. I can’t wait to slide my cock deep inside you.” He
looked up at her as he mimicked what he wanted to do with his dick with his
finger. She grabbed his blankets in her fists as she closed her eyes and
whimpered. He allowed himself to push into her a couple more times but then had
to slip his fingers out of her.

BOOK: Subservience
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