“I am hungry.” Sienna wasn’t aware she’d spoken the words until Tolo looked over at her.

            “Galley is on B Deck, next level down.”

            “I would also like to lie down for a little while. Where are our quarters?” She tilted her head at him. “Or do we all sleep in the same room?”

            What appeared to be a grin lifted the corners of his mouth. Enough to where she could see his fangs. “We each have our own cabins,” he informed her. “They are also on B Deck. Gorma can show you the way.”

            She thanked him, realizing it was an automatic response, but he didn’t reply or seem to notice. Getting to her feet was more of an effort than she thought. She was somewhat surprised to discover her legs were wobbly, and she felt…


            Drained of energy. And tired. More tired than she’d originally believed.

            Despite being hungry, she actually debated whether or not to forego food and sneak in a quick nap instead. The twist in her gut decided for her, and she took the lift down to B Deck.

            “Gorma, show me the way to the galley.”

            The little white arrows appeared instantly, leading her down the correct corridor to the small room that contained one table, five chairs, and an enormous bank of food processors. Three walls’ worth.

            “Shit, how many are they planning on feeding? The entire Terran Planetary Force?”

            There were no instructions, no writing whatsoever, to identify what processor produced what. Not even in Vanglanese, which was one of the universally accepted languages used by the majority of governments in this sector.

            “Guess I’ll have to make do with whatever I conjure up.”

Going over to one, she ordered a bowl of tippiton stew, just to test the system. See what it could and couldn’t create. Within five minutes, she had a bowl of hot stew, complete with a zemsaw bun. She opted for water to drink, and took her meal over to the table.

            The stew was more than decent. The bun was crispy on the outside and chewy soft on the inside. “Huh. If all the food’s this good, at least this part of my two-year contract won’t suck.”

            She was nearly finished with her dish when she heard someone approaching. She watched as Kars slowly walked into the room. She was immediately struck by the paleness in his usually dark blue skin. His yellow eyes looked sunken in his face.

            Scrambling to her feet, she hurried over to him. “What is wrong, Kars? Are you not well? Here. Sit down before you fall down.”

            “I do not need to sit.” He placed a webbed hand on her shoulder and stared directly at her. “I am not ill. I need to be reenergized.”

            Sienna froze. She knew this had to happen, sooner or later. She knew what she’d be required to do to “reenergize” these men.

            The time had come, and she simply. Wasn’t. Ready.

            Kars saw her hesitancy and knew it for what it was. He pasted a small, sad smile across his thin lips. “We were told this might happen.”

            “I-I am sorry, Kars.”

            “No. Do not apologize. But you do understand that unless you accommodate us, this ship will not fly. The weapons will not fire.” He motioned toward the food processors. “There would be no food. No gravity to keep us stabilized. No air circulating for us to breathe. No water for us to drink.”

            Sienna hung her head. “I know what you are saying. I…I thought I was prepared for this. I thought, when the time came, I would be able to…” She looked at him, unashamed of the tears brimming in her eyes. She detested herself for her weakness, but she hated herself even more for letting them down. These males depended on her. A world trusted her. But when it came to fulfilling her obligation…

            She watched Kars go over to a small machine she’d previously ignored, not knowing what it was for. He tapped the tiny sliding door.


The door slid to the side, revealing a thin vial of a dark liquid. Taking it out, he turned and brought it over to her.

            “Drink this.”

            Sienna grimaced. “What is it? Liquid courage?”


            She froze, her hand already clutching the vial. “I was kidding.”

            That sad smile floated over his lips again. “I was not.”

            She stared at the contents. “This is really liquid courage?”

Kars sighed. The sound of it reminded her of the way her mother reacted whenever she was being recalcitrant. “Sienna, do you think you are the only Gaspiel to have second thoughts?”

            “I…I never thought about it. You are probably right.” She eyed the liquid again. She knew if she continued to hesitate, whatever courage she had would eventually vanish.

            It was on impulse that she upended the vial and swallowed the contents in one gulp. A small belch followed, leaving her with a surprisingly mild aftertaste, which she couldn’t identify. Kars watched her with obvious amusement.

            “You should start to feel its effects very quickly.”

            He was right. She did.

            A warmth spread from her center, moving outward and into her limbs. Tickling, teasing, soothing her nerves, yet at the same time revving her libido. Unraveling her inhibitions. Giving her a sense of decadence she hadn’t experienced since her midshipmen days when she’d have a little too much Collavian brandy. And Jurido Pars was the brightest, best-looking, and hottest damn guy in the regimental fleet.