Tylar Daire is the navigator on a space mission whose focus is to discover a cure for a mysterious illness killing colonists on Terra. The crew consists of the captain, a soldier for protection, a scientist to study the virus, Tylar himself, and hot-shot ace pilot Rion Z'ev. From the moment Tylar and Rion meet, sparks fly. They try their best to keep their growing relationship from the others, but when they're alone on the bridge during the day, or holed away in the sleeping quarters at night, they can't keep their hands off each other.
Soldier Jareth is an old friend of Tylar's. When he begins to suspect he's caught the virus they're trying to cure, he swears Tylar to secrecy. But Jareth gets worse, until he can't hide it any more, and he collapses out in the field. Will the crew be able to defeat the virus, or is it too late to save them all?
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Rion spun his chair around and squeezed it in next to mine like he wanted to get a closer look. As he stared at the screen, I stared at him -- his hand on the back of my chair, his lips set in a slight frown, so intense. "I bet you he scrapes that shit up and bottles it," he whispered.
Then he glanced at me, and his eyes were so dark, they reminded me of the sea we flew over to reach the colony. That deep. That endless. With a grin he added, "You know he lives for this stuff. He'll spend days analyzing that goop."
Ansel is strange like that; no way was he leaving without a sample. On the second day we were out here, Paol picked a dandelion and Ansel almost took his hand off bagging it. Paol told him to give back his flower, but Ansel said it wasn't a flower, it was a specimen. Oooh, Paol had replied as Jareth laughed. My bad.
"What do you want to bet?" I asked him.
Rion studied my chin for a moment, thinking. "I don't know. What do you have that I want?"
Oh God Jesus, he did not just ask me that.
I could tell him a hundred things I had that he'd want, things I want to give him, things I know would leave him begging for more. But I'm a wimp and I chickened out before I could admit to anything even remotely suggestive. "I don't know."
I wanted to kick myself. How stupid can a person be? He all but asked for it, and I just said I didn't know like an idiot. Ugh.
"Let me ask you something." He smiled slightly and didn't move away just yet, which was a good sign. When I nodded, he touched my elbow, just took it like he wanted to lead me somewhere.
"I may be totally off the mark here," he said; he wasn't looking at me anymore but at his hand where it rested on my arm, staring like he's never seen his skin against a flight suit before. "I might be reading this whole thing wrong, and if I am then you just tell me to stick to flying and I'll not mention it again, okay?"
I didn't know what he was getting at, but I just said, "Sure."
He pressed his lips together, squeezed my elbow just slightly, then looked at me to whisper, "I'm thinking there's something here. Between us. Something ..."
He trailed off. I held my breath, unable to think or say or do anything that might ruin this moment between us, and after a long minute, he forced a smile. "Never mind."
I covered his hand with mine as he started to pull away. Before I could stop myself, I asked, "How about this? The stake's just a kiss. Okay? That's all. If he doesn't take the sample, I get to kiss you because I win. How's that?"
Rion smiled so brightly I just melted. "If he takes the sample, then I get to kiss you," he said. When I nodded, he laughed. "Either way we both get something, eh? I like the way you think. We'll have to bet more often, up the stakes a bit next time."