sci-fi romance book
genre: sci-fi romance book
length: 33664 words / novella
released: August 2009
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Daughters of Lyra: Heart of a Commander
Lieutenant Amerii, one of the beautiful and strong daughters of Lyra, wants nothing more than to prove herself to her captain and the army without her father, Captain Lyra III’s, help… except maybe one thing. Van, Count of Aeris and attendant to Emperor Varka has been on her mind since she met him at her cousin Sophia’s wedding, and she wants to see him again.
Charged with the duty of meeting the Varkan first fleet at Varka Two, Amerii is pleasantly surprised when the commander turns out to be Van, and he wants her to be the one to join him on his vessel to sign the contract between Varka and Lyra. When she meets him again, he’s more handsome than she remembered, and she resolves to risk the violence of his bloodlust to make him hers.
Van is sure bringing Amerii to his vessel is nothing short of dangerous and his fears are quickly realised. Amerii stirs his blood like no other female and he’s been battling his bloodlust since first meeting her, desperate to know what love is and to find a way of controlling himself so he can have her, but his feelings for her are too strong to resist, placing his whole crew in danger.
Can Amerii convince Van that he can love and that he’s worthy of becoming her mate? Can Van control his bloodlust enough that he won’t hurt Amerii when he bites her? And when Van is taken captive by the Wraiths of Varka Two, how far will Amerii go to rescue the man she loves?
ALL OF THE DAUGHTERS OF LYRA STORIES STAND ALONE AND DO NOT NEED TO BE READ IN ORDER.
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Lieutenant Amerii took one final look at her appearance and then left her quarters. She pushed her jaw length chestnut hair from her face, tucking the long fringe behind her right ear, and strode through the ship. It was the largest vessel she had worked on in her career with the Lyran Imperial Army and the one where she had felt least at home. The captain of the Nebuz-Lyra VIII was impossible to deal with. No matter how hard she worked, how much she pushed herself, he seemed to refuse to see her worth. He rewarded the rest of his crew for efforts one hundred times less than her own.
Not that she was bitter.
Amerii refused to let it get to her like that and she refused to raise the matter with her father, Captain Lyra III. In her heart, she knew it would get her nowhere. Her father would see to it that the crew gave her respect, but there would be no feeling behind that respect. It would be a hollow lie. She wanted to win the male crew’s respect without having to resort to her father stepping in. She wanted to do this on her own, wanted to make something of herself just as her father and mother had done.
She envied the rapport that a select few officers had with her captain though. She envied it enough that it left her feeling on the outside of that group, looking in at a place where she wanted to be more than anything. She had worked well with her previous captain, but the bond these men shared seemed to go beyond that. She would even say that they were friends.
Her rapport with the captain couldn’t be further from what she desired, from what those men had. No matter how hard she worked. It was as though he expected something more from her. She didn’t think that she could give any more.
Amerii caught a glimpse of herself in the wall of thick blue glass that surrounded engineering. It was strange to see herself wearing something other than the tight blue and black flight suit that she had become accustomed to. The close-fitting dark blue, almost black, jacket was cropped short so the hem rode level with the waist of her equally deep blue tight trousers. A twin stripe of royal blue chased up the side of her legs from her polished black knee-high boots. The stripes marked the arms of the jacket too, running up from her wrists to her shoulders and from there to her neck. She had never had to wear dress uniform before.
But then she had never been given such an important task.
Walking to the bridge, Amerii went over the greeting procedure in her head, not wanting to mess it up. Her captain had chosen her for this task and she had to get it right. Perhaps then he would begin to respect her and see that she had potential and could be a great officer.
There was another reason why she couldn’t mess up this task either. She would be greeting the Varkan commander of the vessel that was coming to escort them to Varka Two. They were to finalise the handover of the planet with the commander. Lyra had to make the right impression.
She had to make the right impression.
The door to the bridge slid open to reveal the curved room that she had seen only once since her transfer to the Nebuz-Lyra VIII. The room fell silent when she entered, the laughter of her captain and the officers dying away. They all turned to face her, their expressions serious. She walked down the curved steps and past the communications post to reach the group.
Each of the five men’s gazes raked over her and then rose back to her face.
Sometimes she couldn’t decide whether it was because she was a woman or royalty that they treated her so differently.
“Lieutenant Amerii,” her captain said, his expression still stern.
Amerii looked at him, wondering if she would be a captain by the time she reached his age. Silver touched his temples, streaking his black hair. His dark eyes held hers. There was cruelty in them that rivalled her father’s when he was angered. She almost sighed when she thought about him. Perhaps she should have remained on his ship where they had treated her like an equal, not an inferior. She had wanted to make something of herself though, and she couldn’t do that under his command.
“You are late.”
Amerii had been expecting that. She was late by fifteen minutes. His gaze lingered on her face and she knew what he was looking at.
She just didn’t know why he looked so unimpressed.
“Are you here to do your duty, or to attempt to win yourself a Varkan husband like the king’s daughter?”
A frown threatened to crease her brow but she stopped herself. The malice in his voice annoyed her but not as much as the laughter of his officers did. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides.
Swallowing her feelings, she bowed her head. “My apologies, Captain. I only wished to make the right impression on the Varkan emissary.”
When she straightened, her captain was smirking. She didn’t need to be able to read minds to know what he was going to say. It was going to be another snide remark about her attempting to snag a Varkan male.
He opened his mouth to speak.
“Incoming communication,” the young man behind her said.
She silently thanked him for sparing her the embarrassment of having her captain make fun of her and then added thanks to the Varkans for interrupting too.
Her captain left her, barking orders at the officers on the bridge.
“Is it them?” he said with a glance at his first officer. The younger man was leaning over one of the displays at the side of the bridge. He pushed his long black hair from his face and nodded.
“It’s the ship of the fleet.”
“On screen,” her captain said.
Amerii looked up when the view of space shifted to reveal the Varkan vessel. It was still at a distance but it was already huge, black and ominous. Two bulky halves were joined down the centre by a domed section and in front of that was an array of spiked blocks that slowly created a point, each a weapons port. It looked as dark and deadly as the species that had built it. It also looked as though it would dwarf her ship and the rest that followed.
Her thoughts shifted as she stared at the ship and she found herself recounting what her captain had said. Her cousin Sophia was her best friend and she despised her captain for showing such disrespect towards her and their family—the royal family. She touched her cheeks. And she wasn’t wearing make up to catch a man. It was barely a hint of eyeliner and lash darkener and a little colour to her lips. It was purely because she wanted to make a good impression.
Sophia’s wedding came back to her and Amerii found herself thinking about the Varkan that she had met there. It had been a year since the celebration but she still thought about him sometimes. She doubted that she would ever see him again though. He had said that he was the emperor’s attendant. A secret smile touched her lips. Perhaps, since she was already all the way out here in the Varka system, she would visit Sophia and the children on Varka Prime. Maybe she would run into him there.
“Lieutenant Amerii, pay attention!”
Jolted back into the room, she rushed to her captain’s side, cringing inside over angering him again.
The screen changed to reveal the Varkans. There were three of them, all wearing the black high stand-up collared jackets that she remembered seeing the Varkans in at Sophia’s wedding. Two of the men were standing behind the third, seated, man. All of them were wearing black visors that covered the top half of their heads, the two curved sides of the visor sweeping to a point in front of their noses. She looked at the one at the front. He had to be the commander.
Stepping forwards, she recited the greeting she had practiced, speaking the old language of Varka in a show of respect for them and their history.
The commander smiled.
There was something familiar about his mouth.
* * * *
Van sat up and paid more attention when he realised who the female addressing him was. His dark red gaze ran over her, his perusal safely hidden by his tinted visor. She had said the words of greeting perfectly, although with a slight tremble to her soft voice that declared her nerves. The snug deep midnight blue dress uniform she wore emphasised the curves he had noticed that night over a year ago. Curves that had captivated him until she had turned in his direction and he had seen her face. Her beauty was unparalleled. Not in all his long years had he seen one with such angelic grace and features.
The nerves reached her eyes and her fingers flexed. It dawned on him that she was waiting for his reply. She had captivated him again and he had been so lost in refreshing his memory of her that he had forgotten to say his part of the greeting. She threw a glance at the male who wore the insignia of a captain. The male glared at her. Her cheeks coloured and she turned back to face him. She wasn’t nervous because he hadn’t replied. It went beyond that. She drew a small device out of her pocket and began to frantically look at it.
Van stood the moment that he realised that she thought she had said something wrong. She had spoken it perfectly, right down to the accent on some of the more difficult words. When he removed his visor, her sky blue eyes came back to the screen.
A smile curved her lips, the same shy one she had shown him at Regis’s wedding. She had looked beautiful then. She seemed even more beautiful now.
His breathing quickened when her cheeks coloured again. This time it wasn’t shame that tinted them but something else, something entirely more alluring. He cursed the distance between them, wishing she were here in front of him, not on another ship, and struggled with the sudden surge in bloodlust. It had never come on so strong before, not even in the midst of battle. He had never wanted anything as much as he did her. She had haunted him since the first and only time he had seen her.
In all their time apart, he hadn’t forgotten how she had made him feel that night, how he had found himself desiring her. It burned in his blood. It pervaded his dreams. It stripped control from him until he verged on becoming a slave to his bloodlust. He had spent long nights fighting his bloodlust, battling for control over it even as he surrendered himself to his feelings. He had tried to learn to let go, to accept the terrifying feeling of not being in control of his emotions, but it was far harder than he had ever expected. He didn’t think he would ever be able to do as Regis had done. He didn’t know if he could love.
When he saw her, it was all he wanted in life.
He wanted to be able to love.
“What is the matter, Lieutenant Amerii?” her captain said in a tone more than displeased. Van looked at the male, a piteous example of Lyran breeding, and contemplated ripping his head from his body as payment for speaking to her with such disrespect. “You must have said something wrong.”
“My apologies,” Van said and all eyes were back with him. He bowed his head. “Welcome to Varkan space. The greeting was spoken with perfection and a true sense of belief.”
Amerii bowed her head. Her cheeks darkened further. This reaction to him was interesting. Fascinating. It threatened to steal control from him.
He blanked her captain and stared at her, fixated, watching every subtle change in her body language and studying every emotion that flickered across her face.
“The younglings are doing well. They have inherited many traits from their father and are strong,” Van said and her gaze came back to him just as he had desired. He knew that talk of Sophia and Regis would always have her rapt with curiosity and would hold her attention. “Sophia is well and plans to visit Varka Two when work has been completed and your troops are settled.”
“Thank you,” she said and bowed her head again. Her small smile when she looked back at him told him how grateful she truly was for this information about her friend and relation. He had realised back at the wedding that she and Sophia were very close.
“Take you place again, Lieutenant Amerii,” her captain said and Van frowned at him, unimpressed by the interruption.
The captain squirmed under his glare, fidgeting in a way unbecoming of one of his standing. A Varkan commander would never behave in such a way, showing their fear. Still, it was probably this male’s first time seeing a Varkan. He didn’t look as though he had seen any action within Varkan space.
If he had, he would know better than to break into a conversation between a Varkan and another. He would know how dangerous it was, especially between a male Varkan and a female he desired.
“Varka requires a representative of the Lyran Imperial Army to sign a declaration of peace. The representative should be the highest ranking Lyran on your ship,” he said with a furtive glance at Amerii.
The captain stepped forwards.
“I will be honoured to begin this new era of peace between our species,” he said with a broad and wholly irritating smile.
Van’s expression remained emotionless. “You are not required. Only the highest-ranking Lyran will be transported here to complete the contract for Varka Two. You are not that person.”
The captain’s eyes darkened with his frown. Van ignored him and looked at Amerii again.
“A transport will come to collect you.”
“Now...” The captain moved forwards, his anger visible in the tight lines of his face. “Lieutenant Amerii ranks below a captain.”
“Royalty always outranks an officer of the army, Captain.” Van signalled the two men behind him to go to the transport ship. “Even if Princess Amerii is a lieutenant of the Lyran Imperial Army, in Varkan space she will be treated as her true title dictates. Royal blood is honoured above all others.”
The captain spluttered something but Van blanked him again and looked at Amerii.
“The transport will be with you shortly. I hope you will find it comfortable enough, your highness.” He bowed to her, holding it for long seconds before rising again.
He turned away and ended the transmission without another word. It had been foolish of him to insist on her being the one to sign the contract. Even though she did outrank the captain, he had asked her purely because he desired to see her in the flesh again. That need would only lead to trouble. Seeing her in the flesh would only stir his bloodlust and bring it out. It would be almost impossible to control his desire when she was near. It would be dangerous for his crew and for her.
Van clenched his fists and strode through the ship.
He had to remember his place. He couldn’t treat her as though she was only a female, a normal citizen that he could speak to openly and perhaps even act upon his desires with.
She was a princess of the Lyran royal family. He had no place speaking to her outside of formal situations.
He had no right to want her.
He closed his eyes as his bloodlust rose inside him.
He cursed under his breath and let his control slip.
Right or no right, he would have her.