“When I crash landed on Beryl what was the first thing about me that caught your eye?” Zara Dior nudged her significant other’s knee with her foot, to press him to answer. “And don’t give it to me in Prince Regent mumbo jumbo. You know I like it straight.”
Awyn Shandar grimaced, fighting the negatives if he skirted her order. “Your training honed body. I did see you naked that first day.”
“And there I was trying to fathom what you were thinking because I assumed you weren’t like other guys.” Zara chuckled, swiveling to jab him with a firm gaze. “Bet you wouldn’t have tried those shenanigans if you’d known the way I could kick-ass and take names later, huh?”
“If it had not been a medical necessity…no. ”
“And you’d only think it fair, since you gave me two tests that I even the score, right?” Zara leaned forward to nab something she’d secretly tucked behind her back.
“Will it entail matters of diplomacy?”
“No. It’s nothing your mother or Geist will have to sign off on.” Zara flipped open the cover. “If your brother hadn’t destroyed my cargo, it wouldn’t have been this…crispy. Now we’ll see if you pass my test with flying colors.”
“What is that book?”
“The futuristic woman’s guide to life.”
Awyn’s eyebrows swept down. “A travel log? Can I see the maps.”
Zara wheeled it around for him to get an eyeful of a scantily clad couple lounging on Sartin’s beach to shoot an ad for Mirage perfume. “You can borrow my magazine all you want, but it’s way out of date.”
“Then what will it prove?” Awyn scoffed, chugging half his tankard of Tropi.
“These quizzes never go out of style. But to humor you, I’ll skip the multiple choice answers and let you fill in the blank. Fair enough?”
Awyn nodded, draining the rest of his cup with a gulp.
“Think you’re a bigger girl magnet than most of you pals?” Zara held up a hand to stop his rushing answer. “Take your time and answer truthfully. I want details,” she stressed.
“I caught your eye as Captain of Mostyn's Guard.” He wiggled his eyebrows only to get a scowl for his troubles. “There is no way I could out maneuver Talis. They swarm to him like flies to Anida’s sweet rolls.”
“Kudos on the vivid detail, but I could've done without that mental picture. Let's move on. How often do you spend time naked when you’re solo?”
A pent up breath whistled out between his teeth. “What kind of question is that?”
“An interesting one. Now fess up.”
“An hour…maybe two, but I’d rather spend it bathing with you.”
“Maybe later, hot stuff. If you rub me the right way with those aphrodisiac salts I offloaded.”
His lips curved into a heart-stopping smile of pure sin. “Can we go now?”
Oh, how she wanted to say yes. “We’ve only answered two questions!”
Awyn’s face fell, his frown beseeching her to hurry along with her fun so he could have his.
“The last really yummy fantasy you had…fill in the blank.”
“We played this out in the holochamber. Remember the—“
“Delicious cake that didn’t light me up like on of your brother’s experiments. We’ll have to hit Anida up for more of that.”
“It can be arranged for a price.”
“Who’s boss here?” Zara’s eyebrow arched, keeping him in check for a few minutes longer. “Name a non-sexual activity that makes you feel more in touch with your bod.”
Awyn’s eyes focused far off, his air one of someone lost in a daydream. “Sparring with you sword to sword. Advancing and retreating, neither the stronger.” His brilliant blue eyes afire, he warmed her with their touch. “How many men can say they have such a talent in their reserves.”
“You’re going to make me blush.”
“Eventually. If we ever make it to our bedchamber.”
There was that naughty boy that wanted her to call him daddy. “Last question okay?”
Awyn nodded, a satisfied grin animating his face. “You could not take it any longer?”
“Why do I feel another test coming on?”
“Ask your question and let us call it even. Agreed?”
Zara slipped her hand behind her thigh and twisted her index and middle fingers together. “You’ve got a deal.” After all even if she were a loser, she’d still get some spoils. The edges of her mouth twitched, ready to break into a grin until she scanned the next question. “The luscious woman you just started dating says she’s going back to her ex. You feel…fill in the blank.”
Awyn’s face went deadly serious, his tone rigid. “Is there another man?”
“No. Substitute Sartin, my home-world where I still bear a duty. What then?”
“I would die. Without you I have no heart, so how could I live?” He scooted to the edge of his chair to grab her hand, slackening the pressure when she winced.
Zara leaned forward to place a kiss as powerful as her killer death strike upon his lips. “If I ever had to make the choice, know I would take you in my heart. And at the first chance I’d sail across galaxies at break neck speed to reach your side again.”
A brimming smile cheered his soberness as he pulled her to her feet, then wrapped his arms around her waist. “Isn’t that what got you into trouble in the first place?”
“You could always come along for the wild ride. CHIRI will keep you safe, or kill me if I let anything happen to you.” Her gaze dropped to the magazine laid out in her chair. “Or you could opt out for an extra credit question.”
“I shall choose the later.”
Her smile went from barely there to too-hot-to-handle as she wedged in closer to him to whisper, “Sex is hottest…fill in the blank.”
He peppered her cheeks with soft kisses. “When…you…are…unarmed.” His hand slid down her thigh and lifted the hem of her dress to snag her backup dagger. With it safely tucked in his belt, his hand latched with hers. “Shall we?”
“You’re bowing down to let me lead the way?”
Awyn twirled her away from him, then zeroed in on her weakest spot with a resounding pat. “There are advantages to bringing up the rear. I get to watch you walk away.”
Her spirit flared to life as quick as her libido’s blood-pumping race. “Payback is a double-edged sword I won’t mind wielding when the time comes.”
Awyn’s hand on her hip turned her toward him. His head dipped, their tongues at passionate war until they pulled back for a mutual cease-fire. “I would never expect less from the woman I love.”
For more flying sparks between Zara and Awyn pick up TIES OF VALOR, due out November 2006 from Triskelion Publishing.