Starburst – Excerpt

Chowd walked down the corridor. The blonde woman reminded him of a man eater; someone best avoided, he knew. He hid out in the security offices waiting for a clear run. And the man, the ambassador? He had all but slobbered over Meredith. The thought made Chowd's gut burn as he headed to Duvall's office. He swiped his hand over the unit, and as the door opened, Duvall and Meredith lifted their heads.

"Oh, thank Eshra it's you, Chowd." Meredith's voice betrayed her agitation.

His instinct to protect her kicked in. "Meredith? Are you okay?" He moved swiftly to her side, and she smiled at him, warming him.

"Oh yeah. But I think I have a problem. The ambassador is…well, in not terribly technical terms…lecherous. He wanted me to stay and have a drink. He wanted me to join him for dinner."

Deep rose colored her cheeks, and the glint in her eyes both made him feel angry that the human would upset her as well as relaxed the nervous tension that had filled him. She isn't interested in the ambassador, but she wants me. He grabbed hold of one of her hands, feeling instinctively that she needed support.

Duvall glared at the door before exhaling heavily. "Okay, well, the only thing I can do at the moment is either move you to the command post—but chances are he'll track you down and spend a fair bit of time there in the next few days—or you can move into the security sector with Chowd, during your working hours. We can't afford to upset the ambassador or his assistant, but you need clear air to do your work. Chowd?" Duvall cast a look at him, letting him know that he had his captain's full support, whichever way he chose to act.

Anger, hot and acidic, burned inside him. He knew that this would only offer her some small amount of freedom. If the ambassador truly were that intent on following her, then he'd look for her in her private time. He ran tight fingers through his hair, his mind working overtime. "I believe that would be appropriate. In fact, in the interests of keeping a lid on any advances he might make, we should move Meredith into my cabin until the ambassador is safely returned to the Star of Ishtar. I will, of course, sleep in my private office." Though, the stars know, I will probably sleep badly with her so close by.

Duvall watched him with assessing eyes. Chowd knew he'd been in this position before and was obviously assessing Chowd's behavior before allowing it.

He stood quietly, waiting for Duvall to reach his own conclusions. In his own mind, he had no question over his actions. Meredith didn't want the ambassador's attention, and he would move all the stars in the galaxy to ensure she didn't have to endure it.

He knew Duvall could argue the anti-fraternization rules the Admiralty had set in place, but the Elector was a place where people made decisions that worked, whether or not it broke any other rules. He snickered to himself at the thought.

The silence grew before Duvall nodded. "Fine. That is probably the best outcome. I also need you to take on training with Meredith. Keep her skills current so we can ensure her safety during this mission." He looked rueful for a moment before continuing. "Not just because she's my sister, but she's also a valuable asset to the Admiralty."

Meredith opened her mouth, but both Duvall and Chowd raised a hand. "No, Meredith. Trust me."