When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval's feelings for his former partners— and theirs for him?
Brad took a deep breath of cool night air, inhaling the nutmeg scent of the flowers planted around Ardaval's front door. Before Brad could knock the door opened and Ardaval stood in the doorway. Brad hesitated before putting out his hands palm up.
Ardaval placed his hands over Brad's. "My heart, my home, my hearth."
"My hearth, my home, my heart," Brad murmured in response.
Smiling, Ardaval directed his gaze at Brad's eyes; the Aleyni’s interest evoked the same curious flutter in the pit of his stomach as the last time they'd met. Ardaval held open the door and gestured for Brad to enter. "You've come to discuss Gavin."
"I have." Brad followed Ardaval into the front hall where tiles of local stone sparkled on the floor and a padded bench stood under a window. Through a doorway on one side, a glance revealed a kitchen furnished with dark wood cabinets, clean and a bit bare.
"Come." Ardaval gestured toward the back of the hallway where a doorway led into a center courtyard, open to the cool night air. He motioned to a small table where a red-leafed tree in the center spread its leaves overhead. Brad sat, and Ardaval sat beside him.
Brad needed to talk about Gavin Frey's political views. Views that, as far as he could tell from the records, were the opposite of his own. A breath brought him the scent of Ardaval's skin, musky, with a hint of clove. Was it duty or cowardice keeping him from reaching for Ardaval's hand and kissing the palm?
Ardaval clasped Brad's hand in his. "Tell me more about why you were posted to Aleyne."
Should he remove his hand? No. He enjoyed Ardaval's touch and what was the harm, really? When he glanced up, he found Ardaval regarding him with evident amusement.
"I recommended a man who used psi to save his squad be given a dishonorable discharge." Brad hesitated." Although the soldier deserved a medal rather than a court martial, he was a fool to admit he caught a thought.”
"About Gavin Frey. Is he your shan?" The thoughts slipped out.
Ardaval stared into Brad's eyes for a second or two before he replied. "As you surmise, he is my son; my shan, because I didn't raise him."
Might as well ask this, too. "His mother never told you about him?"
Ardaval shook his head. "No, she didn't. He spent six months here after she died. Then we disagreed over a matter of ethical principal and he left."
Given what he understood about Frey, Brad would have been surprised at anything else. "He married, but his wife died. He has a son who is now fourteen by Terran Standard years."
"His mother possessed a strong psi talent."
"She contacted you?" Brad's eyebrows rose.
"She did. I suggest you keep an eye on the boy."
"Do you believe he has gazal?" If the boy developed Aleyni mind speech abilities, he'd need careful watching. Brad's own family was fairly accepting but how would Frey react if he discovered his son possessed gazal? And what about the terrorists, who might try to exploit Keth's talent?
Ardaval nodded. "I do, though of course we've never met. Gavin doesn't have gazal, or at least if he does, he keeps his mind so locked down it's the same thing."
Brad sighed and rose. He'd completed what he'd said he'd come to do.
"It happens this way with us, at times." Ardaval paused for a moment. "We'll meet again."
Brad turned to leave. He couldn't ignore this connection, wish it away, any longer. Only Ardaval's assurance kept him moving out the door.