Read Lost Star Online

Authors: Morgan Hawke

Tags: #Romance

Lost Star (18 page)

Toggs stopped at a pair of mirrored doors that parted to reveal a lift. Long minutes passed on the rising elevator marked by Terran classical instrumental music. It finally stopped, and the mirrored doors parted.

Interstellar Service & Discipline: Lost Star


Ravnos stepped out into a broad and expansive round room. The floor, the distant curving walls, and the pillars that marched all the way around the room were cream marble flecked with gold. His gaze was drawn from the extravagant and blatantly erotic statues stationed between the pillars, and then upward to the gigantic mural that spread across the domed ceiling overhead. It featured two ancient sailing ships engaged in a sea battle during a storm. Ravnos’s brows lifted. Apparently, the president was quite fond of his ancient history.

Toggs stepped to the side. “Please go in, Captain Ravnos; however, I would ask that your men remain by the door.”

Ravnos tilted his head at his lieutenant.

The lieutenant signaled to his men, and the four crewmen split into two pairs and took position on either side of the door.

The president’s chamberlain nodded.

Ravnos turned and strode down the carpeted runner toward the far end of the room and the golden oak desk perched on an exotic Terra-Persian styled rug.

Behind the desk sat a man in a gold frockcoat, his long blond hair tied back with an extravagant cream bow. Directly behind him two guards stood at attention. Despite their seemingly frivolous dark blue frockcoats trimmed in black lace, there was no mistaking that both guards were marine augmented. They held tall pole-arms tipped with blades that crackled faintly, revealing that they were in fact electromagnetic weapons designed specifically to fry an attacker’s mechanical augmentations.

Standing before the desk stood a tall, slender figure entirely swathed in a frost white hooded cloak.

The man behind the desk leaned back in his chair and smiled up at the figure before him. “I will allow you passage to search for your missing…person.”

The cloaked figure sketched a small bow. “Thank you, President Kidd…”

“However…” The man behind the desk lifted a cautionary finger. Lace frothed from his wide gold coat cuffs. “You may not collect him without his verbal consent.”

The figure in white stiffened. “What?”

The president smiled and folded his hands together. “You said yourself that he’s not a criminal, but someone you care deeply for.”

“Yes, but…”

The president tilted his head to the side. “Then why would he not consent to leaving with you?”

The figure in white took a step back, bowed stiffly, then straightened. “I accept your terms.”

The president nodded, and his smile broadened. “Good luck on your hunt.”

Ravnos slowed his steps. Something about the hooded figure in white made his heart slam in his chest, but it didn’t feel like fear. It felt more like…anticipation.


Morgan Hawke

The figure whirled around in a swath of white silk, revealing a pale, masculine face carved in exotic lines with high cheekbones and delicately pointed ears. His full lips were drawn into a tight line, and his electric blue eyes burned with intensity. A long, slender, snow-white braid fell over the shoulder of his black, iridescent, body-hugging ship-suit to tumble past his waist. A plain and very businesslike sword was belted at his hip. Gleaming black boots rode all the way up to his thighs.

He was painfully beautiful, and definitely Skeldhi.

Ravnos stiffened.
Oh, crap…

The Skeldhi’s long strides carried him back down the carpeted walkway straight toward Ravnos.

Ravnos continued forward, staring dead ahead, his gaze firmly on the distant wall and away from the other man’s eyes.

The man marched past Ravnos, the white cloak brushing against the hem of Ravnos’s long black coat.

Ravnos took a completely unintentional breath. The rich scent of the man walking past him filled his nose and lifted every hair on his body. He knew that scent. He knew this man. Heat coursed all the way through him, and sheer shock spilled in cold waves that lifted the hair on his body.
Oh my gods…Seht?
Somehow, he continued to walk forward without the slightest hint of the vertigo spilling through his limbs.

Behind him, the lift
, indicating that the doors had closed, carrying the Skeldhi prince elsewhere.

Ravnos very nearly walked into the desk before him. He stopped, startled at his sudden arrival.

The man seated behind the desk tilted his head, one golden brow lifted. “Captain Ravnos, I presume?”

Interstellar Service & Discipline: Lost Star


Chapter Seventeen

Standing before the gracefully carved golden oak desk, Ravnos bowed to the president of the Republic of the Caribbean Stars. “President Kidd.” His expression was perfectly neutral, despite the fact that it felt as though a fist had closed tight around his heart. He utterly refused to even consider that the painful ache attempting to choke off his breath had anything to do with the fact Seht had brushed up against him and had not noticed him.

The man behind the broad desk rose to his feet, resplendent in an ornate cream and gold frockcoat and waistcoat that were tied closed with a pale cream sash. The entire outfit was practically encrusted with gold embroidery and cream seed pearls. His spun-gold hair was drawn back from his pale brow and bound at the nape of his neck with a cream silk bow, the long, wavy tail tumbling to his waist. A full head and a half shorter than Ravnos, the president was forced to lift his chin to meet Ravnos’s gaze.

Golden brows swept up over electric blue eyes. The smile on his lips was both welcoming and a touch sly. “Goodness, I sincerely hope that our clearly less-than-adequate doorways are not proving difficult for your…stature?”

Ravnos stared down at the far smaller and slighter man. He schooled his expression to perfect blandness. “I’ve managed not to dent too many of the lintels, sir.”

The president chuckled and held out a white-gloved hand, a froth of cream lace tumbling from his broad coat cuff. “I’ve heard many fine things about you, Captain.”

Ravnos’s dark brows lifted. “Oh?” He lifted his black leather-gloved hand and gripped the hand offered carefully. “You’ve heard that I’m a bloodthirsty battle-commander with an extremely nasty temper when crossed?”

The president’s smile broadened. “As I said, many fine things.” He released Ravnos’s hand. “I’m more than pleased to offer you and your ship a safe harbor.”


Morgan Hawke

Ravnos nodded and relaxed enough to smile. “I couldn’t have wished for a better place to call home, President Kidd.” He reached into the breast pocket of his waistcoat and withdrew a tiny data crystal. He held it out to the president. “My charter, sir.”

The youthful president took the tiny crystal and slipped it into his own inner breast pocket. He tilted his head and lifted a golden brow. “Would you object to the occasional private mission, between hunting forays?”

Ravnos didn’t even blink. That the president might offer him a side job or two was expected. He would have been far more surprised if the president hadn’t asked for such. “That would be perfectly acceptable, sir.”

The president clasped his hands and nodded. “I’m very glad to have you with us.”

He tilted his head, and his blue eyes narrowed. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, no?”

Ravnos stilled utterly.
He shook it off with a slight smile. “My father said the very same thing.”

The president nodded. “He sounds like an intelligent man.”

“He was.” Ravnos’s mouth tightened.

The president’s brows lifted, then fell. He nodded. “I see; my condolences.”

Ravnos’s smile gentled. “Appreciated.”

The president inclined his head, then smiled. “Now then…” He tugged at the lace falling from his cuffs. “I will send my aide to you with the particulars of where you will be stationed. A small private estate has been prepared for you and your crew’s convenience. I also have a list of companies willing to take commission for recovery and repair for your ship, should you need them.”

Ravnos had only half his attention on the conversation. Truthfully, he was merely nodding at the appropriate lulls while internally recording what was said for later perusal. He was far more interested in who Seht was looking for in the Republic of the Caribbean Stars. The fist around his heart and the cold sweat sliding down his spine told him that he knew exactly who the Skeldhi prince sought. But why was the prince still pursuing him after so many years? Why hadn’t he just given him up?

sounded, signaling that the lift doors behind him had opened.

A voice called out in the echoing room. “Sir, you must wait!”

“I do not…wait.” The voice was cultured, soft, slightly mechanized, and…familiar. Heavy boots thumped on carpet.

Ravnos stilled. Where had he heard that voice before? His internal computational automatically sorted through his monstrous collection of voice files, choosing and discarding voice track after voice track at the speed of thought. The closest match was…

Memories flitted through his mind, of darkness and a medical table, then a floor, punctuated by faded echoes of screaming pain from…ice in his lungs.

Interstellar Service & Discipline: Lost Star


Ravnos’s eyes widened, and his breath stilled.
But it couldn’t be him.

He schooled his expression to neutrality, showing only mild boredom, and turned very slowly.

The man striding up the carpet was tall, broad-shouldered, and refined in appearance. Perfectly groomed golden hair fell in graceful waves across a high brow.

Neatly trimmed golden brows arched over sapphire blue eyes. His carved porcelain face was very nearly feminine with high cheekbones. He was the very picture of a high-ranking noble of the Imperial court, but he moved with the smooth refinement of the extremely, and expensively, augmented. Clearly, his body was more machine than man.

However, what held Ravnos’s attention was that he wore a blindingly white, painfully tailored uniform practically encrusted with gold braid with a floor-sweeping cape and the long coat of a high-ranking imperial officer. He frowned slightly at the man’s insignia.
An admiral? That can’t be Moribund
. He searched through his data files trying to match the face with a name.

“President Kidd”—the noble admiral stopped before the desk on Ravnos’s immediate left—“a moment of your time, if you please?”

Ravnos lifted his brow. By standing on his left, the noble was blocking Ravnos’s sword arm.
Rude bastard

The noble’s gaze traveled across Ravnos’s clearly mercenary uniform. He focused on the ship insignia displayed in silver and jet on the left breast of Ravnos’s long coat.

More than one iris shifted in the depths of his eyes, revealing that they were entirely artificial and designed for deep space. His gaze chilled, but his full mouth smiled almost sweetly. “You won’t mind, will you?”

Ravnos’s brows lifted. That was an interesting expression. He couldn’t have reproduced it if he tried. “How does he do that?”

The president smiled. “You mean that disdainfully cheerful ‘I hate your guts and plan to kill you, but don’t trouble yourself over it’ look?”

Ravnos blinked. He hadn’t actually intended to say that out loud. On the other hand, he didn’t mind joining the president in a small game of “let’s annoy the rude admiral by talking about him as if he’s not there.” Ravnos nodded. “Yeah, that.” He tilted his head to glance at the agreeably sneering admiral, then turned to purse his lips thoughtfully at the president. “That must have taken quite some time to perfect.”

Kidd rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I’ve been trying for ages, but I still can’t quite get it.” He winked at Ravnos. “I have a few council members I would dearly love to use it on.”

Ravnos tucked his thumbs into his belt and smiled. “I could see how that might come in handy.” His mental files suddenly coughed up an image of the man beside him.

Admiral Roth “Satan’s Wrath” Moraine of the angel-class dreadnaught
, also known as the
Emperor’s Sword
, in charge of the Imperium’s largest fleet, fourth in 110

Morgan Hawke

rank from the throne, a prince of the third quadrant, and twice decorated with the Imperial Star for heroism in battle.

“I am so pleased that my presence brings you such amusement.” Admiral Moraine’s voice was calm, cultured, and clicked into a perfect match with what Ravnos had recorded as Moribund.

Ravnos turned to stare at him. “I’ll be damned…”
. But how could he be the most wanted man in known space and also be…the hero of the Empire?

Something to think about later
. He tuned his entire mental array to memorizing everything he could about the man beside him, up to and including the exotic cologne that didn’t quite disguise the scent of extremely expensive designer hydraulic fluid.

Admiral Moraine inclined his head slightly, his eyes crinkling at the corners with humor, but his lips curled back to show perfectly even teeth in what one might assume was a smile, but according to the fine hairs on the back of Ravnos’s neck, was in fact a snarl. “Ah, so you recognized me?”

Ravnos blinked.
That was the understatement of the century
. Was he telepathic? Only one way to find out. He curled back his lips in an exact replica of Moraine’s snarling smile. “You’re a celebrity. Kind of hard to miss…”
You murdering sack of shit

Admiral Moraine nodded absently. “Yes, thank you, now if you don’t mind, Captain, I truly wish to have a private word with President Kidd.”

Ravnos released a soft breath. Nope, not telepathic, just a damned good guesser.

President Kidd waved his hand. “Of course you may have a private word!” He tapped the top of his desk. A holographic display bloomed into life a few inches above the surface of his desk. He frowned at the data flowing upward before him. “How does the twenty-third, at half past nine in the morning, sound to you?” He turned and smiled at the admiral.

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