“Timok wasn’t concerned about the sneeze because he felt it prudent to inoculate Essell while he was in stasis.” Garjah shrugged a shoulder. “He already knew I was safe.”
“But this was already after you felt drawn to him?” Mereval asked Garjah. “The inoculations and the sneeze?”
He nodded. “I knew there was something out there I had to find. I thought I was just securing the ship and crew. Instead, the second I laid eyes on him I knew I had to take him back to the ship. And that I needed to keep him.” His voice dropped on the last few words, the husky note sending a bolt of lust through me.
His tone made no mistake on just how he wanted to keep me. How did he do that while saying so little?
I had too many clothes on. This room was way too small, and there were too many people.
“They can see our bond. I’ve said I don’t want to go back, and we’ve established I don’t believe the changes to my body could be undone anyway.” Bouncer came around to stand beside me. “Can we go?”
“You have been remarkably calm during all this.” Mereval smiled at me. “We appreciate how difficult this must be for you.”
“Not really.” But I needed to go.
“We will go over the data further. There needs to be studies done on this connection, more than can be achieved on a ship.”
Garjah nodded once. “I placed a security hold on the planet once we removed a full load of oslium. We also left probes in case of more visitors.” He stood, and I didn’t let go of him so I was pulled along with him. “We shall stay close.”
We were silent on our way out of the building. Bouncer padded beside me. The sky was high overhead, bouncing off the blue metal that capped the building. I squinted. “Where are we going?”
“I have a home nearby.”
“You do?” My eyebrows went up. “Here?” I almost smacked my own forehead. I kept thinking he was simply ship security, even if he was in charge of security, but he was much higher ranking than that. Of course he’d have a home here where the leaders were.
“It’s a few minutes away. We’ll take the transport.” Garjah indicated the waiting vehicle.
“All right.” There was little to no traffic around the Kardoval’s building, but we merged into it and once again the Four Arms were gawking at us. “Is it me they are staring at or you?”
Garjah shrugged. “Both? This is an official vehicle, so it does attract attention. I am known, and you are an alien.”
“Will I always attract this much attention?” I stroked Bouncer’s head.
I smacked Garjah on the arm. “Thanks. Couldn’t you lie?”
“I try not to.”
Sighing, I turned to look out the window. We’d left the area I’d consider a business area and were approaching what I hoped were homes. The buildings had more of that blue metal on them, extending outward in only two or three stories.
Some of the buildings lined the road and others were set back. I saw a few security, their stance and stares obvious. The transport slowed as we neared one of the places with a fence, though it didn’t have the guards in front of it. “Is this your place?”
“Ours now.” He ushered me out of the transport. “I have an interior garden I think Bouncer will enjoy. There are a few trees and there’s a small water feature.”
“That sounds perfect.” Garjah used two of his palms to activate a scanner on the gate. The gate lock clicked open.
“I will add you to the system so you can unlock the doors. We’ll have to go to the security suite.” The distance between the gate and the home wasn’t large. Two stories, blue metal capped his home too. There was vegetation in the front. Bright flowers dotted the path in a carpet of orange and brown and a tall and thin shrub with feathery strands coming off stalks branching about shoulder height flexed in the slight breeze.
The strands glistened and something clicked. Bugs? I wanted to pause and study it, but Garjah kept us moving. The door was thick, tall, and made of orange metal that matched the flowers. Using two palms, he touched the door lightly and it swung open.
“Come in.” He gestured for me to enter.
I walked inside. The ship I’d woken up on after he’d put me in stasis was larger than the Fleet vessel I’d snuck away from, but Garjah’s quarters on it had been small. Then again, he hadn’t had to share them. Maybe his quarters were really nice for a ship. But the size of his quarters had still left me with an assumption of his rank.
For the son of two scientists who’d been dragged around to station and planet, I’d gotten used to cramped quarters or being tucked away and forgotten. From time to time my parents might be important, or rub elbows with important people, but I wasn’t part of that. Honestly, I’d barely been treated better than staff.
Garjah’s home was beautiful. The interior was full of cushioned seats to the right grouped around a vid, and to the left was a food prep area that was nearly as large as the seating area. There were no exterior windows, but in the center of the space I could see was a large walled off garden full of natural light so I must go up both stories. It was stuffed full of plants I didn’t know and wanted to study.
Garjah rubbed my back, and I leaned into him. There were other things I wanted to do first though.
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Julie Lynn Hayes