Federated Planets ambassador Tamlin Rye is headed home, having just finished a successful negotiation. Tam’s looking forward to some rest ... but the beautiful mysterious captain of his courier ship is more tempting than restful.
Captain Valentine Perrin doesn’t sleep well. He might be young, but he’s seen his share of difficult missions. His starship’s observation deck offers solitude on those nights ... until his new passenger interrupts. And, on this starlit night, Tam and Val will both find exactly what they need.
His boots were quiet on the carpeted deck. A cathedral, a hymn. But more than that: a tantalization. A glittering dancing summons that hooked itself right into his chest and tugged.
When he’d been younger he’d wanted to be a starship captain. In practice, growing up, he’d always been a cautious pilot of even the small family skimmer-ship, aware of the possibility of accidents or traffic violations. He’d liked following rules.
He’d discovered a talent for conversations, patience, thorough evaluation of details and coaxing out points of connection and compromise; he’d taken that into the Diplomatic Corps. All three of his parents had been proud; a teacher, a surgeon, a member of the Senate, they all believed in service, in commitment, in the Federated Planets, in their children’s ability to grow up and change the world for the better. He’d felt good about his choices, his place in the universe. He thought he was good at his job, most days.
But the old nostalgic childhood piece of his heart kind of wanted to run off with a dashing starship captain anyway. A love of ships and historic tales. A daredevil explorer. A rogue with a heart of gold. A great big adventure and a holonovel romance.
The stars grinned back, understanding. The observation deck’s windows were long and tall and open, brilliant beyond description. The ship made friends with lightspeed and danced merrily with physics and swiftness, and invited Tam in to feel it all, just the two of them.
And that was just fine; that was perfect, nobody else here to witness mutual shared glee. Only Tam himself, and the rainbowed light, and a few chairs and tables. He almost ran across the deck to the windows. He only didn’t because he didn’t need to.
He knew it was the middle of the night, according to ship’s time, anyway. He’d been awake, buoyed up by the success of his mission and the adjustment from Tacitara’s time cycle. He’d considered staying in his quarters, making tea, reading, working on his report.
The kaleidoscope of swiftspace glimmered and gleamed. An enchantment.
The observation lounge stretched out quiet and cool around him, only a few low amber lights glowing. This space was theirs and theirs alone, for now.
Except abruptly that became untrue. With a tiny chirp, pleasant and musical -- no vibration, not close enough, so not Tam’s communicator, which he’d shoved into a pocket --
He spun toward the sound. The person who’d been settled into the large corner chair -- not facing the door, spun away, high-backed and private -- bolted upright and silenced the noise, wide-eyed, startled; he blurted, “Apologies, Ambassador --”
And Tam realized -- all at once, a supernova to the gut -- just who that person was. Despite rumpled hair, despite the youthful astonishment.
The person -- the other person on the observation deck, here late at night -- was Valentine Perrin, or more accurately Captain Valentine Perrin.
In command of this shining graceful Federated Planets courier ship. Here to ferry Tam back to the capitol planet after negotiations. And so damn beautiful that Tam, experienced diplomat that he might be, had forgotten how to talk for a good five seconds when they’d first met.