Authors: Lolita Lopez
Skyport Virgo, Volume 1
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509
Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © 2010, Lolita Lopez. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
As a political refugee on twenty-fourth century Earth, Laleh Sarafpour suddenly faces deportation to her hellish home planet because of a ridiculous clerical error. She never expects a chance meeting with Pike Grayson, a deliciously sexy Spacefleet admiral, to drastically change her life. In the span of a night, Pike saves Laleh from her sadistic half-brother sent to haul her back to the nightmare of her past life and offers her a chance to save herself: a marriage of convenience for naturalization papers.
From the moment Pike claps eyes on Laleh, he craves the breathtakingly exotic beauty. Pike's desire ignites the second she accepts his proposal, but her innocence in the pleasures of the flesh forces him to practice a little patience. With the gentlest of seductions, Pike introduces Laleh to all the naughty delights to be found in a marriage bed.
As they journey across galaxies to Pike’s first command station, the sizzling attraction between the pair proves to be explosive. But when Laleh’s past threatens to catch up with them, Pike risks everything to protect the woman who has managed to so perfectly capture his heart.
Hunched low in a corner booth, Laleh nursed her rum cocktail, enjoying the bursts of lime and mint on her tongue. Her fingers drifted over the slick dossier embossed with the official seal of the Federation's Office of Earthly Immigration and Naturalization. Paper documents, for all their rarity, always seemed so final. Generally, all correspondence, official or otherwise, went through her trusty transmitter, the telecom device seemingly attached to her palm every waking hour of the day. It just felt so odd to hold paper between her fingers, made the experience of her depressing day all the more surreal.
For at least the twentieth time, she opened the glossy folder and removed the blue form she'd received only hours ago. Her gaze settled on the bolded text of the official ruling.
Laleh's belly clenched at the realization she was right and truly fucked. She wiped a hand down her face and kneaded her temples.
What am I going to do now?
There were only nine days remaining on her student visa, hardly enough time to find a lawyer and file an appeal. Fear gnawed at her nerves. The moment her name appeared on the deportation rolls, Dari would send someone to fetch her back to the place she'd fled with her mother all those years ago.
But she couldn't go back to that hell hole. Hezma-12 was technically her home planet, but it had never been a home to her. There was nothing warm or loving about the memories of that horrid place. Only the image of her late mother's smile conveyed happiness to Laleh. Here, on Earth, Laleh and her mother had found what they'd always desperately desired. Independence. Freedom. Security. They'd built a wonderful life for themselves in Houston's Delta Sector. Now all of that was threatened by a clerical error.
Laleh cringed as the rowdy crowd of Spacefleet airmen and women congregated near the bar grew even louder. She cast a wary glance in their direction and questioned her impatience for a drink and a place to mope. After leaving court, Laleh had boarded the maglev but quickly felt suffocated on the packed train. She'd jumped off at the first stop and wandered into the first bar she'd spotted. That she happened to be in the Alpha Sector—the Launch Pad as locals called it—had escaped her notice at first. At present, it was unavoidable. Officers and enlisted members of the Federation's Spacefleet caroused within the bar, the airwomen clustered in groups around tables, the airmen regaling eyelash fluttering groupies with tales of their deep space adventures.
Rolling her eyes, Laleh swirled the liquid in her glass. She lifted the glass halfway to her mouth before setting it down. Getting blitzed didn't hold the same appeal as it had an hour earlier. Right now Laleh needed to think without the haze of a drunken buzz. Surely there was some other option available to her? Perhaps she could lodge a—
"Mind if I sit here?"
Laleh's gaze skipped to the man standing just to her right. She gave him a quick once-over, noting the steel grey uniform hugging his athletic physique. Although Laleh knew little about Spacefleet, she recognized the admiral bars of the insignia embroidered on the left side of his chest. He struck Laleh as a bit young for such an advanced rank, but after the thirteen year war on the Outer Nine, she supposed the captains who had survived the conflict and gained the necessary experience for promotion would have been few and far between.
Sandy hair framed an angular face, his square jaw clean shaven. Deep green eyes burned her skin with their heated gaze. The faintest lines of age and stress edged his lips and eyes. A sudden urge to reach out and touch him overwhelmed Laleh. Although stoic and even the slightest bit aloof in his manner, he couldn't hide the sadness reflected in his eyes. Laleh recognized that kind of emotional pain better than anyone else. After all, she'd spent most of her life diligently beating it down and hiding it away within herself.
Before Laleh could muster an answer, he slid into the booth across from her. A bemused smile slanted her lips. "Please sit."
He seemed to realize his
and set aside his beer. "Pike Grayson."
"Laleh." She grasped his extended hand.
"Nice to meet you." Pike firmly gripped her hand, his palm chilled from holding the frosty mug. As their hands separated, his gaze dropped to the blue form. He frowned.
Laleh quickly shifted the form back inside the dossier. "Just a little hiccup."
Pike sipped his beer and regarded her carefully. "You could always join Spacefleet.
Citizenship to the planet of your choice is guaranteed."
She shook her head. "That's not an option for me. My planet of origin isn't a signatory on the necessary treaties."
"Sorry to hear that."
Laleh shrugged. "It happens."
Pike ran his finger around the rim of his glass. The movement drew her attention.
She'd always had an odd fascination with hands of the male variety. There was just something ever so sexy about big, strong hands.
Her gaze snapped to his face. "Excuse me?"
"You're here on a student visa, yes?"
Laleh's eyes narrowed. "I am."
He seemed to catch her suspicious tone. Pike smiled and reached for her wrist. His touch elicited a ripple of excitement. Slowly, Pike rotated her wrist and traced the tattooed university crest there. "It caught my eye when we shook hands."
Pike's thumb settled over the mark. "Odd choice. Why not a class ring?"
"We don't wear jewelry on our hands before marriage," she murmured and gently removed her hand from his grasp.
"We?" Pike cocked his head as if thinking. "Are you from the Hezman Empire?"
Laleh was surprised he knew something so inconsequential about her home system.
His jaw ticked. "Now I understand the desire to immigrate."
"I take it you've been there?"
"Unfortunately," Pike grumbled and took another swig of his beer. "We took a rather nasty hit and had to make an emergency landing on Hezma-12. Let's just say our arrival wasn't very welcome."
Grinning, Laleh chuckled. "I can imagine."
Pike looked thoughtful. "I was under the impression women weren't allowed to travel off the Hezman planets."
"Generally, they're not. My mother didn't let that stop her though," Laleh wistfully added. "She managed to escape with me and gained refugee status here."
"How old were you?"
"And you've lived here how long?"
Pike frowned. "So, why the immigration issue? Shouldn't you have been granted residency by now?"
Annoyance twisted Laleh's face. "Apparently I was never issued the proper entrance formalities. As a minor, I was granted entrance on my mother's refugee visa. Later, I had no problems obtaining a student visa to study at university. All along I was under the mistaken impression that upon graduation and gaining employment, I would be issued permanent residency. Unfortunately, lacking that single electronic stamp on my passport means I'm technically on this planet illegally. I'd have to leave Earth, return to Hezma-12, and then apply for a new visa."
Pike exhaled loudly and shook his head. "What a mess! I'm sorry."
"So am I," Laleh replied dryly.
"How much time have you got to sort out this clusterfuck?"
"A little more than a week." Saying it aloud brought the reality home. Panic gripped her belly. Laleh needed to get home to research her options and formulate some kind of game plan. She flashed Pike a smile. "I should go."
"Would you like me to accompany you? It's late."
Laleh judged his tone. He wasn't fishing for an invitation for a one night stand. He seemed genuinely interested in welfare. "Thanks, but I'm fine."
"Are you sure? It's no bother."
"I'm sure." Pike nodded as she gathered her paperwork. She slipped the dossier and her sleek telecom device into her messenger bag before hiking it onto her shoulder. Laleh caught Pike's gaze. "It was nice meeting you, Admiral Grayson."
"Pleasure was mine," Pike replied, his voice low.
In that instant, Laleh felt an undeniable zing of attraction pass between them. Were it any other night and she any other girl, Laleh might have dared a bold move. The timing of their meeting couldn't have been worse. She had life and death matters to consider. An ill-advised relationship with a smolderingly sexy Spacefleet officer wasn't among them.
Especially when said officer exuded the kind of relaxed temptation only found in older, more experienced men.
Exactly the kind of temptation I need to avoid.
Laleh slipped from the booth. "Goodbye."
Nodding, Laleh backed away from their seats and pivoted into the crowd. Even as she moved through the milling swarm of bodies, Laleh felt his stare burning into her back. It took every ounce of willpower not to toss one final glance over her shoulder as she reached the exit.
Only later, when she gasped for her last breath, would Laleh wish she had.
Heat rolled low through Pike's belly at the sight of Laleh's luscious hips swinging side to side as she left the bar. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the light blue fabric outlining the delicious curves of her tight ass. Even in that staid, law-mandated court suit, Laleh knocked the breath from his lungs.
In all his years traipsing the universe, Pike had never clapped eyes on anyone who compared to that girl. His fingers just itched to pull out the pins securing her brown waves in that tight, low swirl. He could only imagine how beautiful she'd look with all that hair cascading around her shoulders. And those eyes! They were the most striking mixture of the bluest blue with warm topaz flecks. Combined with her honey skin and those full pouting lips, they gave Laleh a decidedly exotic flair.
When he'd spotted her from the bar, Pike knew he had to meet her. She didn't fit the mold of the stereotypical starry-eyed fleet groupie and hadn't shown the least bit of interest in the dozens of eligible young officers surrounding her. Apparently, Laleh knew enough about Spacefleet to interpret his admiral's bars since she'd addressed him by his rank when leaving.