Was it just his imagination or had his request to stay on as a co just upset Aurra? Garran had expected her to make some kind of quip or even to coolly reject his request straight away, but her hasty and somewhat awkward retreat had caught him off guard. Again.
He hadn’t gotten the impression so far that because of his impairments she considered him incapable of performing the copilot’s duties. But maybe he had pegged her wrong. Maybe she had only given him the rotations out of pity; so that she could get some sleep feeling somewhat reassured that a human was keeping an eye on things and not just the auto-pilot and was secretly relieved to be rid of him in less than two weeks’ time.
Maybe he should have explained better and included that his rationale was not just Doc, but other things as well.
Before he had thought he’d just walk pretty much straight back into his job. Never mind that people considered him dead. Then he had started to think about what had happened and had come to the conclusion that some strong political forces had to have been at work to let his team walk into that trap and then follow up with that charade of a trial. There had to have been a traitor in his own ranks—maybe more than one. Walking back in there, grandstanding and complaining about how badly he had been treated would most likely get him only one place—an early grave.
And what he’d said to Doc earlier during that operation to remove the failsafe was true. He did value his life. Even though now, when he was forced to slow down and found himself with more than enough time to reflect, he realized that he hadn’t really behaved like he valued his life at all.
For years he had only acted on instinct. From one adrenaline rush to the next, one mission after another and if he had had some downtime he had added the thrill of pursuing meaningless encounters with women. The chase to get into a woman’s pants the foreplay to meaningless, no-strings-attached sex. And that had been mind-numbingly easy at times, too. His looks, his charm, his rank and his uniform, a cocktail too potent for many to resist. It wasn’t all one-night stands, but none of his relationships had ever evolved beyond mutual convenience.
Looking back he realized that he had been extraordinarily lucky to survive all those missions for all of which he had volunteered. But lately, his luck had run out. Nevertheless he was still alive and he wanted to keep it that way. And for now all he had left was his charm. His looks were still okay if you discounted the fact that he was missing a leg and paralyzed. For all intents and purposes he was officially deceased, so his rank and his uniform where worthless, too. Not that he even had a uniform at this point. None of the women of his past would waste another look at him now.
No—when he had considered where to go on Horlus III while getting medical treatment and at the same time keeping a low profile, it had occurred to him that he really had no place to go. A career soldier since his late teens without any living relatives, his entire world had revolved around—himself. Many of his fellow soldiers respected him, but the real deep bond of brotherhood had only existed within his squad. And those true friends, the ones who had trusted him with their lives, too, were all dead and buried somewhere on Horlus I. So who was left?
Doc—Doc was the only person he trusted unconditionally. Aurra? The rest of the crew? They hardly knew him. What if Aurra denied his request? Then he had nobody and nowhere to go. What would happen if he tried to access his money? Damn—it just occurred to him that he might not even have a penny left in his name either.
A cold chill crept up his spine. If he didn’t have access to his money, then he wouldn’t even be able to buy the loyalty of some of the mercenaries he knew. And if he couldn’t stay here and had no money and in fact no identity, then how would he get the treatment to be able to walk again? Worst case he could make do without a leg, but what if he couldn’t get treatment to reverse the paralysis?
No, there simply was no other way. He had to convince Aurra to let him stay.
And there was yet another reason he ruefully admitted to himself: Aurra herself. Though he was certain that no woman including her would look at him in his current condition she intrigued him. She was so different, so unexpected. Her stern expression that sometimes melted into a sweet, heart-stopping smile, her too big eyes that sometimes made her appear vulnerable despite her don’t-mess-with-me attitude and style. He had never known a woman with a nearly shaved head before. Had she always kept her hair like this or had something brought on a radical change in appearance?
He noticed something else. Never before had he been interested in a woman beyond her willingness to sleep with him. Now he found himself wanting to get to know Aurra, to be her friend.
Garran almost laughed at the novelty of the idea. He had never wanted to be friends with a woman before. But then, no woman had ever treated him like Aurra treated him neither. No deference, no suggestively sexual gestures, no subliminal messages unspoken between the lines. Suddenly the concept of being friends with a woman didn’t seem so foreign anymore. Maybe when he could walk again he could even court her. What had she called him earlier? Sir Galahad. Courting seemed surprisingly appropriate all of a sudden. Now he was really getting ahead of himself.
But there was still one significant hurdle to cross—the fact that she might not want him on her ship once they arrived at Horlus III.
Footsteps startled Garran out of his reverie. He turned and saw Jason enter the cockpit.
“Hi Garran. Is it okay if I call you that or should I call you Commander Raulsten?”
“Jason—no, please, Garran is fine.”
Jason sat down sideways on the edge of Aurra’s pilot chair and held out his hand holding a small touchscreen. “Here, for you. One of our on-board phones. Lets you talk to anyone of the crew regardless of where you or they are. And you can get the ship’s status messages on here as well. Let me know if you need help with the configuration.”
“Cool. That helps. Especially since I am having a bit of a rough time getting around lately.” Garran grimaced.
“You mind if I ask what happened?”
“Damned if I know exactly. All I can tell you is that I was drugged and put through two surgeries. First time I woke up with half my leg gone missing and the second time with both legs paralyzed. As to the why?” Garran shrugged.
“Well, that really sucks. Sure hope Doc can do something for you. He’s great.”
“Yeah. I hope so, too.”
Jason was quiet for a moment. Then he asked. “You think DF’s got a failsafe implanted, too?”
“I wouldn’t know, but Doc can scan for it.”
“You think Doc would remove it if he found it?”
“Hmm, I’m sure he would, but it might not be possible to remove it surgically anymore. I was lucky because mine had been implanted for only a very short time. DF has been a slave all his life. If he has one it was probably implanted a long time ago.”
“Why don’t you ask Doc directly?”
Jason got up from his perch. “Will do. And welcome again to the crew. Glad we have another pilot again. Aurra was really devastated by Bryn’s death, but now she seems almost back to normal. Whatever you are doing to make her smile again, keep doing it.”
“What makes you think that it’s me that makes her smile?”
“Going from agonizing depression to normal within the same twenty four hours you’ve been with us? Who knows? Maybe it’s DF’s great food. Or Doc finally slipped her some happy-pills, but my bet’s on you.”
He nodded at Garran then he walked out of the cockpit leaving a thoughtful Garran behind.
Oh, by Horlus, what was she going to do? Aurra had wolfed down some food, barely registering that she was eating something really tasty. She had at least remembered to thank DF before racing out of the crew lounge into the privacy of her cabin.
Now she was pacing around like a caged panther, trying to come up with all the reasons why letting Garran Raulsten stay was a bad idea, but none was sticking. Because one thing was absolutely certain; if Garran stayed on for six months there was absolutely no way in hell she was going to be able to keep her hands to herself that long.
She wanted him to stay. And she wanted him to be a whole lot more than just her copilot. Coming off the orgasmic high she had still been so euphoric, she could have jumped into his lap and kissed him senseless at his suggestion.
What was it with her all of a sudden? What was this man doing to her? Not only had the clinging depression almost miraculously disappeared, like a spectacular sunrise after a long stormy night, but he had eclipsed Bryn and was leaving her a wanton, shaking mess. Did he have special pheromones or what?
But what if he didn’t want her? What if she agreed for him to stay and then in a month or so the chemistry she could feel so clearly now failed? Was there rock-bottom below the previous bottom-less abyss of desperation and depression that Bryn’s death had cast her into, if Garran rejected her? Then what? Would it be worse to spend the limited space of this freighter in the presence of a man who didn’t want her, than with the ghost of the man who had wanted her but wasn’t present?
She sat down on the edge of her bed, an idea slowly taking shape in her mind. What if she accepted his proposal and before they arrived at Horlus III she would do her best to seduce him? She had never done anything like it in her life, but it seemed the only possible way to get out of this predicament. Surely, if he wasn’t interested in her once she had made her intentions clear then he would go back on his wish to stay on his own.
A good plan, she decided. So now there was just one significant hurdle to overcome. How did one seduce Commander Garran Raulsten?
Aurora - Part 13
Aurora - Part 13