QSFer Emily L. Byrne has a new FF sci fi book out: Medusa’s Touch.
Medusa Pilot TiCara X273 just signed on for more trouble than she ever bargained for. A beautiful corporate rep with a secret, her ailing boss, a covert mission to a hidden destination, an implacable foe with some unexpected allies and a sizzling attraction, seasoned with more than a touch of deceit and betrayal, make for a trip that some of them may not survive. Can TiCara learn to trust the woman she’s falling in love with before it’s too late?
Queen of Swords Press | Amazon
Sherin looked away, her half-closed eyes and the rapid rise and fall of her chest betraying her agitation. Was it desire? Or was TiCara letting the want that burned through blackhole her brain? TiCara studied Sherin for a long moment, waiting for her to look up and meet her stare, to say something that would tell her what might happen next and what, if anything, the rep wanted from her.
But the rep stayed silent and closed her eyes and there was a client waiting and credits to be made and cred was too important to lose. At least for now. TiCara smoothed her features into the sobriety appropriate for an important meeting and gestured toward the door behind Sherin.
Sherin spun away and hit the door’s old-fashioned secur button with a grimace. She ushered TiCara through, still not making eye contact, then trailed after her to stand in front of the now closed door. Her stance shifted subtly into guard mode, a change that TiCara could sense without turning her head. It surprised her, even hurt her a little. Did Sherin truly think that she was a danger to Vahn?
But now she was letting herself get distracted and she recognized that for the danger it was. Shadow trade pilots had bigger worries than chasing the nearest handsome face. She stepped forward, walking slowly with hands clasped before her, through the long white room toward the man she had come to see. Not for the first time, she wondered what the two cloth wall hangings with their depictions of odd creatures and plant life on each side of his desk cost the old man; a good replica of Old Earth embroidered silk was worth more than her entire ship. Originals were more creds than she could imagine.
Ser Trin Vahn, CEO of Vahn Corp, sat behind his big gray desk looking even more like an Old Earth tortoise than he had at their last meeting, only a half cycle ago. Word from the Eyes was that Eternayouth didn’t work for him anymore, that he would die a wizened old man while his seemingly younger rivals outlived him. Or so they all hoped, ghouls that they were.
TiCara was hoping that he outlasted them all, mostly because his credit had always been good. Besides, she liked him better than her other clients, which meant better than not at all. Trusting him was another matter, but then, she was hard pressed to think of any employer she thought she could trust.
She stopped before the desk and gave him the formal United Systems greeting: hand to heart to lips to forehead, followed by a bow. It was more formal than she needed with an established client but she knew it would sweeten up the old man. He was as notorious for formality as for his devotion to the ancient ways that their ancestors had brought to the stars from their home planet. She looked up and he nodded in acknowledgment before he spoke, his voice rasping against her ears, “I have need of your services again, Pilot-Captain TiCara. I apologize for the short notice but this is important.”
It must be. Vahn had never gone straight to business when she’d dealt with him before. Nor had he ever mentioned anything that approached urgency. Urgency was expensive, and they both knew it. Normally, he spoke first of interstellar trade, then asked shrewd questions that tried to make her reveal too much about her own operations. Then and only then would he tell her why he had summoned her.
This time was clearly different. He didn’t mention Sirius Transport, the shipping corp she currently subcontracted for, only her. Which meant this was an independent deal, risky for both of them. Sirius could cut her contract if they found out. They could do nothing to the old man, of course, not directly. But there were other forms of vengeance for interfering with another corp’s contractors while they were under contract: missing licenses, refusals to allow a ship to make port, minor sabotage.
TiCara weighed the risks as she sized up Vahn. Her latest delivery for Sirius had been a success and their rep had let her know that they would like her to make another drop soon, but they had not finalized any details. Sirius might ignore a side job, as long as it was fast and quiet and her ship was available when they were ready.
Vahn gestured for her to sit and a roboserver emerged from a wall panel to place a tea tray with a steaming teapot and small ceramic cups on the desk between them. They each took a cup and sipped. TiCara blinked in pleased surprise: this was greenhouse-grown tea, not the usual imitation made from processed protein. The old man was trying to sweeten her up too.
Emily L. Byrne’s stories have appeared in Bossier, Spy Games, Forbidden Fruit, First, Summer Love, Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition, Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Vol. 2, First, Witches, Princesses and Women at Arms, Blood in the Rain 3 and The Nobilis Erotica Podcast. Her collections, Knife’s Edge: Kinky Lesbian Erotica and Desire: Sensual Lesbian Erotica, are available from Queen of Swords Press. She can be found at http://writeremilylbyrne.blogspot.com/ and @emilylbyrne. She also writes less sexy things as Catherine Lundoff.