~ Lost Kingdom ~
J. M. Dragon
e-mail: J. M. Dragon
“The report is accurate,” Tavia announced after making triple checks on the calculations. She knew they were correct the first time through but the information was so vital that additional verification was mandatory.
Darc slithered closer, but kept out of her reach if she decided to swing a punch at him again. “Are you absolutely certain? Can we go home at last?”
Tavia repeated his last sentence. “Can we go home at last?” Her eyes tracked Orin who appeared dumbfounded. Her gaze kept steady on Orin. They had at least one full lifetime on the planet and she was glad to share some of the time with him. She knew that Orin sometimes thought she was with him only because he saved her life and that she was grateful. Part of her knew that was true but a bigger part of her staying with Orin was her jealously over the Princess and her affairs.
“Now what are you thinking? You seem far away,” Orin whispered into her ear while he took the opportunity to nibble it gently.
She pulled away slightly and looked directly at him. Seera was due back and didn’t want her to see that kind of display. “I was thinking about us Orin.”
Orin gave her a shake of his head, as he moved in closer to snatch a kiss, ignoring the snort of irritation from Darc. However, he did notice that Tavia recoiled from the intimacy.. He chose to ignore it for the moment. “That sounds rather wonderful to me.”
Their banter ended as the door to the penthouse opened - the Princess had returned.
All eyes glued at the hallway with all three having the same thought running through their heads the princess’ temper and mood swings. They all knew that if she weren’t in a good one she soon would be with the news.
Darc was the first to get up and just as he reached the doorway, Seera walked inside. “I’m back…”
Before the Princess could say another word, Darc spoke in disgust. “What’s she doing here?”
The apartment went quiet.
Tavia gave Orin a rye glance as they waited. She had seen the expression that filled the Princess’s face too often to forget what it meant. She’s hot on the scent of sex. Although she was intrigued, a spark of jealousy jolted through her when the person in question moved a fraction closer to Seera. She watched as her childhood friend placed a protective hand on the woman’s arm and gave her a quick reassuring glance before her eyes returned to Darc. It was no secret that being on the planet brought out the Princess’s baser instincts. Tavia hoped that Seera’s proclivity for copious amounts of sex had changed–she suspected it hadn’t. That thought made her feel sad; she felt that Seera had squandered all the opportunities she had to learn from the people on the planet. Her heart knew differently–she wanted Seera and deep down she was sorry for herself.
In a slow voice, laced thickly with sarcasm Seera spoke directly to Darc and the other three occupants felt the powerful anger she was holding in check. “First, Janice is my guest and second,” Seera moved within inches of Darc and tangibly felt his fear. “It is not your place to ask anything of me unless I allow it.” Her eyes blazed. “And, I do not!”
It was definitely clear to everyone that Darc had been there so long that he’d forgotten who was in charge - he wasn’t. He composed himself enough to realize that he’d gone too far and nodded before he moved away with a slight bow. He saw the pent up rage simmering in the Princess and shook himself mentally before he did what any royal aide did well…he subserviently accepted her words and formed his apology. “I’m sorry yo…I was worried about you. You did leave the meeting on rather a short notice.”
Seera gave the man his due for he was good at one thing – groveling. She fully intended that when they finally arrive home, he would be the first change in her royal personnel. To hell with my mother’s insistence she makes that call. Almost a hundred years of his meddling in my life has become intolerable.
“Ok Darc. You’ve done your duty.”
She pushed him to one side and Tavia saw a malevolence expression enter his face. It wasn’t, as she had originally thought, aimed at the Princess, but directed at the woman who was now following Seera further into the room. She looked at Orin and blinked. He would need to protect the girl while she was in the room and when she saw his nod, she knew he agreed. She wondered what she had been missing while she and Orin were gone.
Seera acknowledged Tavia and Orin with a nod. “Thank you for waiting. I’d like you both to meet a…my personal secretary Janice Clark. Janice this is Tavia and Orin, we go back a long way.”
Janice was thankful that she hadn’t had to be nice to Darc Cimmerian, and speculated that it now looked likely that she might never have to again after his outburst. When she took a closer look at the couple on the couch, she blinked. She recalled the monochrome photo on the wall at the far end of the hallway and with a genuine smile, held out her hand. “Hi it’s great to meet you. I was recently admiring the photo of you all at a fancy dress party.” The fact that the woman was pregnant was not lost to Janice and she speculated on exactly how long ago they took the photo.
Orin spied Tavia apprising the woman who Seera appeared to be more than casually interested. He hadn’t forgotten what it was like covertly watching the person you were attracted to but hadn’t had the courage to tell them how you felt. Orin knew it was a long shot but he had always hoped he would be the one Tavia loved the most. He sighed heavily, then replied, “Hi yourself Janice. It’s a pleasure to meet you. That picture was taken what seems like decades ago now.” He accepted the warm smile from the Princess for his greeting of her friend.
Tavia decide that she would talk to the woman alone at some point and find out exactly how she and Seera fit together. “Hello Janice, likewise it’s a pleasure to meet you. Any friend of the Pr…Seera’s, is a friend of mine,” her tongue almost betraying her with the honorific title. When they arrived, it was an unwritten rule; that at no time would any of them ever address Seera as a royal person in public.
Seera gave Tavia one of her I’m not amused looks when she heard the, faux pas. “I’m just going to show Janice the next room that she’ll be cataloguing for me. I’ll be right back,” she said before she indicated the bag filled with brown boxes full of food in Janice’s hands. “I have breakfast.” Seera turned to Janice and nodded before she passed the delicious smelling items to Orin.
Darc shot them a look of loathing before he sat heavily in a chair. “You didn’t have to be so friendly after all she is only the hired help.”
Orin grinned. “You could have fooled me. Looked like more than a working relationship developing there Darc…besides, she brought breakfast.”
Darc retorted, “Not a chance. Clark’s her private secretary and agreed last week to help out in cataloguing all the stuff in the apartment.”
“Yeah, well I disagree. If Seera’s eyes were looking at me like that I’d say I was in big time.”
“Orin!” Tavia intercepted at his crude comment. Although she had to admit, it was fun watching Darc squirm.
“It isn’t true.” Darc ground out.
“What isn’t true?” Seera asked as she silently entered the room only hearing Darc’s last words. Her face remained calm as her stomach plummeted at the possible negative news about their way home.
There was silence in the room before Tavia decided to give Darc a break. “It was of no consequence Seera. Are you ready to discuss the report now?” she asked as she continued to chew on her breakfast sandwich. “Do you mind if I eat while we talk… I’m starving?”
Seera sat in the sofa facing all three and waved her hand. “Go ahead I’m listening.”
Janice had time to contemplate exactly what was going on in her life as she undertook her task of precisely noting every item in the room. From what she found so far, it was staggering. From what she experienced over the years with the women in Seera’s life, it was incredible and mind-blowing to think that the woman treated her differently.
Janice felt all kinds of warm and fuzzy, savoring the moment when Seera admonished Darc Cimmerian for his rude outburst. For years, she wanted to see him taken down a peg or two. Janice felt all tingly that Seera had come to her defense.
The big question now was where they went from there. She knew enough to know that there was something going on that had, she guessed, a lot to do with why she was doing inventory. The only thing she could rely on were the snippets of information and assumptions she made and that lead to Seera was, to use the classic phrase, leaving the building. Her heart dropped like a stone, but maybe it wasn’t as bad as she was thinking. If Seera is leaving the business, it might explain why she is making an effort to get to know me on a personal level. She felt excitement as she concluded that Seera didn’t want to leave her behind and probably had loved her from afar. The thought made her deliriously happy until, she felt herself spiraling downward and shook her head in an attempt to clear every sign of doubt.
She plopped down in a chair that was part of a marvelous piece of late eighteenth century furniture. She opened a drawer of an antique writing desk and was surprised to see several old newspapers. She picked one up and glanced at the date…1937. The headline declared that FDR was beginning his second term.
She turned a few pages until she came across a large photo and took a double take. She was certain that the four people in the photo were the same ones presently in the apartment. The man named who identified himself as Orin, stood proudly with a trophy and the others seemed to be celebrating with him. They were dressed in the same outfits that she saw in the other picture and the plane they leaned against looked authentic. The headline read…Steele takes the Thompson trophy for racing planes with unlimited horsepower engines. His Gee Bee Super Sportster wiped the floor with the opposition. She blinked rapidly as she tried to focus again on the picture certain she was wrong. Her eyes spied another paper and with growing uneasiness, she scanned the pages until she found other references to events in which all four pictured sometimes together and others alone. She couldn’t shake the shock and suspicion that tried to float to the uppermost of her consciousness.
Janice swallowed hard as she repeatedly looked at the pictures. Bemused, she looked at the date and noted that the papers were over eighty years old. She sank to the floor and sat across legged not knowing what to do. She didn’t know how to ask without offending if Seera and her friends were over a hundred years old. They’ll place me in a lunatic asylum for my ridiculous accusations.
Her brain was numb as time washed over her and she knew there was only one thing to do. She needed proof to make her suspicions more than a hallucinatory notion. Janice knew one thing for sure; she had the opportunity to find more evidence. The question then was if she did what would she do with it.
She neatly folded the papers and put them in a manila envelope. When she heard the door open and saw Seera walk inside she quickly covered up what she was doing and smiled hoping that she didn’t look too guilty.
All Seera saw was Janice sitting on the floor and that made her grin. “Is it more comfortable down there than on one of the chairs?” she asked peering down at the woman.
“Hi, has the meeting finished?”
Seera took a few more steps and crouched down next to Janice as her eyes scanned the younger woman’s face. What looked like a tender smile crossed her face as she reached out with her left hand and ran a finger sensuously down Janice’s cheek. “No, unfortunately I think I’m going to have guests for a few days.”
Janice ’s heart jumped in her throat at the tenderness of the touch. “I can leave if I’m in the way?”
“Never. I came to ask if you wanted to join us for coffee. It’s almost eleven and you and I usually take a break around now. What do you say?” The understanding tone in Janice’s voice made Seera let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. The last thing she wanted was for Janice to leave.
“Ok, if you’re sure it’s not a problem…I wouldn’t want to intrude.” Janice started to get up before Seera unexpectedly hauled her easily to her feet and encircled her in her arms. Janice whimpered as the feeling of need began to grow.
Seera felt the tension build between them and all she wanted to do was to finish what they’d started the day before. “I could do with a change of scenery actually.”
“Are we going out for coffee?” Janice said with a faint smile.
A slight chuckle followed the words as Seera bent her head and rested her forehead on Janice’s and said, “You my dear Janice are a rather beautiful change of scenery. The others can go out if they wish.”
The blush that followed Seera’s remarks had Janice’s heart racing. She wasn’t sure how but the door closed and Seera dipped her head and tasted the lips that had been calling to her for hours.
Janice didn’t pull away from the embrace but sank gratefully into it. This was exactly what she had been craving. No matter what her prudish hopes were, her body was certainly pulling the rug out from under wherever they were.
When their lips finally disengaged, Seera began to apologize. “I’m sorry…”
Within a heartbeat, Janice placed her finger to Seera’s lips preventing anymore admissions of repentance. “It’s ok, I’m real happy you did that.”
Janice , placing her hand in Seera’s, grinned. “Yeah, let’s go before they send out a search party for you.”
“Not just yet,” Seera purred as she pulled Janice in for a longer deeper kiss. Her hands snaked under Janice’s shirt as it searched for the nipple she felt in her mouth the night before.
Janice ’s senses were on overload as she felt two of Seera’s fingers squeeze her nipple. She longed for more and when she knew she was near the edge she raggedly whispered, “Take me now.”
Seera pulled her lips away, disengaged her fingers, and rested her chin on top of Janice’s head. “Not here…not like this. I promise there’ll be time for us later.” It took all her willpower not to take Janice as her thoughts turned to Tavia in the next room it effectively doused her ardor.
Darc’s insides seethed like a melting pot of acid. All his efforts were as a friend and advisor to Seera in a god-forsaken place that was not his home. He didn’t understand why he was receiving the rebuke since the other two walked out so many years earlier.
Janice Clark had been the last person he’d expected to see. As far as Darc was concerned, the Princess and her crazy notion to see the woman put everything in jeopardy. In the years that Janice Clark worked closely with the Princess, there had never been any sign that the two might be heading toward a more personal relationship. He knew that once the Princess tired of the woman it would be up to him to fix the situation before they left for home. Darc’s sour look increase as he looked around the room.
The only bright moment in the day was Tavia’s declaration that the report was correct. When Janice joined them for coffee, the sight was painful for Darc to watch. The Princess’s fawning over Janice Clark and Orin looking at Tavia like a love-sick fool made him feel nauseous. He let his eyes rest on each individual knowing that the truth was each wanted what they couldn’t have…each other. Daggers left his eyes and hit Janice in the middle of her forehead.
When dinner time arrived, the group talked about going out to a restaurant and Darc wanted no part of socializing with any of them – except the Princess. “Don’t you all agree that we’ve done all we can today,” Darc asked then saw the collective nod of agreement. “Tomorrow I’ll introduce Tavia to the scientist who constructed the report and have her verify their data again. Then we can continue our plans for departure.” Darc was pleased to see that Seera thought his was a good plan and Tavia appeared to agree. But, Orin’s scrunched up face said he wasn’t convinced. “You have a different suggestion Orin?”
“Not particularly,” he replied as his mind wandered elsewhere.
Not convinced of his answer, Seera gently prodded him. “You seem somewhat preoccupied. Have we left something to chance?” Warm brown eyes captured Seera’s and she saw hesitation in their depths.
“I think someone needs to check out the shuttle transport.” He hadn’t wanted to point out that at the end of the day everything came down to the vehicle. No matter how much energy they harnessed, if the shuttle didn’t respond it would be the end of all hope of leaving for a few centuries or maybe forever.
“He’s right,” Tavia whispered..
Darc shifted in his chair. “The Pr…Seera and I have checked out the location on a regular basis Orin. The shuttle is exactly where we left it and still emits a power signature.
“Tavia and I made that same vigil every year and I know that to be true, but that isn’t the point. The power supply is merely a trickle charge from the subsidiary unit I set up to conserve the original power cells. It has nothing to do with the main system.”
Darc and Seera both looked at Orin in surprise. Seera spoke first. “I wasn’t aware that you had switched to an auxiliary supply.” Seera’s brow furrowed at the thought. Before they left the desert and the shuttle, they all knew the main system might have seized up and there was every possibility that they would be unable to restart the engine. The thought made her shudder, as the possibility of remaining on this planet became abhorrent in the extreme.
Tavia placed a reassuring hand on Orin’s arm. Although she was mildly surprised when he told her what he’d done, she also knew they never expected to wait so long before returning home. “At the time, Orin‘s decision to power down was calculated with only the best intentions. In the light that we have been here such a long time, his action might be our savior.”
Darc’s face took on the red tinge of anger as he stood up. “You did that without asking the rest of us…without consulting the Princess? That is outrageous!”
Seera allowed the mistake of her identity to wash over them for she felt that Darc was justified in his anger. They had resided on earth for ninety years and now that home was nearer than at any other time it came down to whether the system rebooted. If it did, they could use Astoria to speed up their going back home. “I guess you and I will be going to the crash site Orin and find out if this can be achieved.”
All eyes turned to Seera and they realized that there was no use in asking her to stay behind while they went. She had made up her mind and it wasn’t going to change.
Darc pointed at Tavia and said, “I’m leaving. I’ll collect you tomorrow. Goodnight.” His footsteps revealed his pent up anger as he eventually shut the outer door heavily behind him.
For a few moments, there was silence in the room before Seera gave them a crooked smile. “I guess he’s pissed. What do you say we have an early dinner by going to that small restaurant at the corner of the building? It looks like we’re all in for a long day tomorrow.” Her thoughts drifted to Janice who was still, she hoped, engrossed in her collections.
“Sounds good to me,” Tavia said. “After that, I’ll need an early night…the baby is kicking like a soccer goalie today.”
Orin shot her a look of loving concern, which eased as she gave him a slight smile. “Me too,” he finally replied.
Seera had seen the interchange between them and a stab of envy reared its head. Her dream of having that particular journey with Tavia she realized was now impossible. I know that even if I could move heaven and earth it won’t change. Tavia and I are simply on different paths that are never likely to merge or be enough to satisfy me anyway. No Diamond takes second place, especially to a man. Still she could not deny the pull she felt that drew her to Tavia like a moth to a flame.
“O kay, I’ll find Janice and ask if she wants to join us.” She stood and began walking away before she turned back and gave them a dazzling smile. “Thanks for coming back. Now, I know we can go home. I was beginning to think it might never happen.”
Tavia once more moved faster than expected and overtook Seera before she could leave. She impulsively placed her arms around her old friend and whispered, “I never left you Seera. You were always with me inside. Never forget that.”
Seera hugged her friend back and felt moisture building in her eyes. “Thank you.” She released Tavia quickly for the nearness to the woman was too much for her to bear. Her body began to hum the tune of sexual excitement as she said, “Be right back,” before she rapidly left the room in search of satisfying her need.
As the door opened, Janice peered up from the documents she was reading and readjusted her reading glasses that had slipped down her nose. Her smile beamed when saw Seera. “Hi, has the meeting finished?”
“Hi yourself…have I ever told you that you look cute in those?” Seera moved closer, considered taking the woman in her arms, and do her best interpretation of making love–she held back.
Janice let out a tinkle of laughter. “Really you must have seen me in these hundreds of times in the office.”
“Hmm, I guess I have. Maybe I just never had the courage to tell you before.”
“You and lack of courage are never uttered in the same breath. They call you the panther on the office grapevine. Did you know that?” Janice grinned as she saw surprise in Seera’s eyes.
“No I didn’t. Does that mean they expect me to pounce on them at anytime?” Seera chuckled. “Anyway, I came to ask you if you wanted to have dinner with us.”
Janice wanted to say yes, but she was dog tired and having Darc Cimmerian sending her daggers over the meal, wasn’t her idea of a relaxing dinner. She reluctantly shook her head. “I need to get home. You do remember we have work tomorrow.”
The surprise and disappointment that flooded Seera’s face for a second was so fleeting Janice didn’t see it. “Sure I remember. Are you certain you won’t reconsider…I can promise you the food is great.”
Janice moved closer to the woman and realized that what she wanted and what Seera was offering differed immensely. She wanted Seera to cradle her in her arms and she thought Seera wanted the same but for some reason she was keeping a distance between them. It was completely in contrast to earlier in the day and Janice concluded that maybe her boss was just too tired for anything else. She squelched any negative thoughts. “No, thank you for asking, but I really need to go home. Will I see you in the office tomorrow?”
This is ridiculous…the hell with caution. In one fluid movement, Seera captured Janice in her arms and kissed her soundly. When their passion allowed a moment to find a breath, Seera rested her chin on Janice’s head. “I won’t be in the office tomorrow Janice. A problem needs my attention before it gets out of hand. You’ll handle that for me right?”
Disappointed, but being held so close with the emotion of the kiss they shared still swimming in her veins, Janice whispered, “Yes, of course.”
“I need you to do one more thing for me.” Seera said.
Janice lifted her head saw a slightly pensive look on Seera’s face. “Anything.” She was pleased when she was certain she saw light shine out of Seera’s eyes.
“Tavia is being shown our research facility by Darc. Will you make sure she doesn’t over do it? Orin is traveling with me and he’ll worry if he thinks she only has Darc for company.”
Janice was relieved that Cimmerian wasn’t going with her “I will make sure she is not in harm’s way. Will you be back tomorrow?”
“I hope so. How would it be if I call you with our itinerary?” Seera bent and kissed Janice again. This time the passion built slowly and it took all of her will power to break the bond–she needed relief.
Janice stared up into Seera’s eyes breathlessly with an innocent look of devotion. “That would be wonderful, just like you.”
Seera pushed Janice away gently so she was at arm’s length and gave her a long glance and a saucy wink. “You know exactly what makes me happy Janice. I need to go. Tavia is looking even more tired than you or I. We’ll talk later ok?”
Janice reluctantly accepted that they had to part but it didn’t hurt any less. “Sure, I’ll go home now. A hot bath and bed sounds remarkably good right now.”
As Seera sucked in a deep breath almost giving in to her basic desires, it would have been so easy to take Janice to bed right then for she was so willing. Her thoughts turned to Tavia. Again, the specter of her hidden feelings for her friend arose again to taunt her. This time however, she placed someone else’s feelings above her own and it felt like the right thing to do. In her heart, nothing had changed, Tavia would still rule her if nothing more than in her dreams.
Tavia lay in bed contemplating what had happened that day and it was incredible in numerous ways. When she thought about seeing the Princess again, she smiled dreamily and that caught Orin’s attention as he climbed wearily into bed.
“Hey what’s so funny?” He knew the look wasn’t for him but he played along. “Haven’t you seen me climbing into bed beside you before?” He kissed the tip of her nose and hugged her close.
Tavia closed her eyes not wanting to recoil from his touch. “Yes silly. It wasn’t you specifically.” Tavia settled into the strong loving hold that for years had been her never ending safety net.
“Ah, something else then…out of pure curiosity what was making you smile in such a way.” Orin kissed the top of her head and slid his hand to cover the bulging belly possessively.
“I was thinking about today and that we might finally be going home. Do you know what that means Orin? Our baby won’t be alone and I’ve been so worried about that.”
Orin heard the catch in her voice. “I have too darling, but our baby wouldn’t have been entirely alone for he would have us and for what it’s worth, the other two.”
The edgy tone that transmitted as Orin mentioned the Princess and Darc in a somewhat unfriendly fashion surprised her. He wasn’t as easy to convince that the Princess had nothing to do with the request to terminate the baby months before. “Seera didn’t know about Darc’s order to abort our baby Orin,” she said in defense of her friend. “She was shocked when she saw my condition but it was a joyous kind of surprise. There is no way she was a party to that cruel request.” She saw the doubt on his face and said, “I’d know Orin…believe me I would. No matter how many years we’ve been apart I still understand her better than she does herself.”
“Hmm, I’m not convinced, but if you are then that’s good enough for me. What do you make of the Clark woman…or should I say the Princess’s attitude to her.”
Tavia felt the stab in her heart but let a faint smile cross her lips. “Shame on you Orin, have you forgotten how the Princess looks and acts when she wants to take a woman to her bed? She exudes sensuality.”
“Yeah, and she can’t keep her eyes off the woman in question…ah, I see your point.” He chuckled as he kissed her tenderly. “What a time to kindle that type of relationship.” He had an understanding sadness for the Princess’ predicament. Once, a long time ago, he’d thought that very same thing the first time he’d seen Tavia with the Princess. Luck and some manipulation on his part allowed them to end up together and that had changed his life totally. He sighed heavily as the thought brought home the predicament he and Tavia would face when they returned.
Tavia saw a shadow of what she thought was fear cross Orin’s features and knew his sigh wasn’t one of exhaustion. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, just a long day that’s all. I bet I’m about as weary as you are right now.” He feigned a smile as he settled down and tenderly held his hand to her bulging belly.
“You can tell me anything Orin. After all this time together you know that right?” She was overjoyed at the prospect of going home, but knew she’d have her work cut out convincing the family, especially her mother, that Orin could be a part of her life. She had masked her reservations about returning home. To go back to the hierarchical nonsense that had ruled the Princess and her life in the royal court was what frightened her the most.
Orin wondered if Tavia’s fierce declaration meant she was thinking along the same lines as he was. “I know darling. Now go to sleep we both have a heavy day tomorrow.” He kissed her tenderly and felt her relax into his arms and shortly after, he heard her breathing slow in sleep.
He remained awake for a few minutes more as he contemplated that in the space of a few days he might never have the opportunity to do this again. A shudder of panic seized his whole body as he automatically clasped Tavia close. Tears, that a man in his position should never allow to fall, slid slowly down his cheeks until an exhausted sleep finally claimed him.
Seera gazed at the shuttle in awe after she and Orin triggered the mechanism that removed the shield of invisibility. The cigar shaped vessel’s silver metal glimmered in the late morning sun. They didn’t see any visible signs of great age, much like the quartet that it had carried there. The idea to disguise the shuttle transport in the desert was Tavia’s idea. She concluded that any biped civilization would hardly urbanize in such a wasteland. She’d been right for the only things within a two hundred mile radius were buzzards, snakes and lizards. Upon further inspection, they found no telltale signs that anyone had disturbed the craft.
“No noticeable change to the structure Orin.” Seera reached out a hand and placed it on the cold metallic surface.
Orin nodded as he saw a smile appear on his Princess’s face. “Your Highness, Tavia predicts that the shuttle will remain in it current condition for a thousand years in this environment.”
Seera turned to face Orin and with a serious expression, she drew a deep breath. “If we get back it will be the end of what you and Tavia have. I expect you have discussed that situation?”
Orin’s face clouded and his eyes went cold. The mere mention of not being with Tavia was enough for him to consider murdering the person who spoke of it. “We must each face what we must when the situation presents itself your Highness.”
Seera considered his response and wondered if he was putting his head in the proverbial sand. She knew he was delusional if he thought that the miracle that had allowed him the multitude of years with Tavia would continue when they returned home. She reached out, placed her hand on the man’s burly arm and nodded in understanding. “Yes indeed, we must. Now, without power how do we get inside?”
With a grin, Orin reached inside his pocket and pushed a button on a small handheld console. There was a whoosh of venting air and the streamlined shuttle opened. “We have to hope your Highness that Astoria will be kind to us.” He motioned for the Princess to go before him and as she did, she heard a faint sound. “It is an alarm, your Highness. I initiated it to alert us if someone or something breached outer shell.” He pressed another button and deactivated the alarm.
“You’ve thought of everything Orin,” Seera said.
“Your safety and continued health are my first priority.”
Seera looked at him with a wry expression. “Except for the last seventy earth years.”
Before he replied, Orin walked inside and settled into the command chair before dragging the console closer. “I have always had you monitored and watched my Princess. At no time was your safety ever in doubt.”
Startled by the admission, she asked, “You’ve had a bodyguard at my side all this time? Who is it?”
Orin chuckled. “It’s no longer an issue Princess. Besides, there have been many over the decades. I was always a communication away and would have acted to your benefit at any time and have.”
Seera raised her eyebrows and gazed at him. She had no reason to doubt him and had at times wondered how she came out of certain situations without any trouble. “Thank you Orin.”
“I’m at your service my Princess. Please will you help me with the interface?”
Janice hadn’t heard from Seera and it was almost four-o-clock. She also hadn’t seen Tavia or Darc Cimmerian in quite a while and that worried her even more. Seera had asked her to make sure her pregnant friend didn’t overdo it but she was unable to locate her or Darc after they left the research facility. She tapped her fingers on her computer keyboard as she tried to think where he could possibly have taken the woman. The gossips in the office said he never took lunch unless it was with Seera. Janice frowned and was so caught up in her thoughts she didn’t hear her office door.
“Hi Janice,” Tavia said noticing a strange look on the younger woman’s face. “Are you ok? Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked crossing her fingers that it had nothing to do with Seera or Orin.
“Oh thank goodness…at last. I’m so glad to see you. I was …well that is…” To Janice, the woman had only been a calm and friendly soul. She allowed her eyes to take in the woman and could see how someone might be attracted to her giving a silent prayer that the woman was straight and pregnant.
Tavia grinned widely. “Ok, was it Orin or Seera who asked you to make sure I didn’t overdo it?”
Janice returned the open warmth with a genuine smile of her own. “Ms. Diamond actually, sorry.”
Tavia caught the younger woman’s eyes and saw the depth of emotion she held for the Princess. It was like a small river overwhelmed by the volume of water from a storm. Inwardly she scoffed at herself. “Have you heard from them?”
Janice shook her head and replied, “No, I was hoping she’d call before now. Maybe they can’t get enough of a signal where they are and they’re on the way back. Ser… Ms. Diamond has experienced that before.”
“Sounds plausible,” Tavia said. “I’ll wait a little while longer and then see if I can get them on the phone Have you any dinner plans for this evening?” she asked of the woman whom she actually liked. It wasn’t that she disliked her, but it was different since she was Seera’s chosen conquest of the moment. She had seen it happen hundreds of time but it still left a bitter taste in her mouth She knew the answer it would break the part of her heart that still held the impossible dream of Seera.
Janice was surprise at the invitation and her brow furrowed as she considered the invitation. “Will Mr. Cimmerian be joining us?”
Tavia laughed. “Absolutely not! I’ve spent the best part of the day with that man and trust me anything over an hour is too much. I prefer to choose my company during my leisure time.”
Janice smiled warmly. She liked Tavia from the start, but now the woman grew even more likable. “I’d be delighted, what time and where?”
“I’m a stranger in town so why don’t you choose. Seera has left her car and penthouse at my disposal…shall we can go now.” She wasn’t a stranger in town but the place had changed some in seventy years.
Janice’s eyes flew open at the suggestion she leave before six for in all the time she’d worked there she’d never left early. “I’m not sure that’s the best idea. I’ll wait until the end of the working day. Why don’t you go home and rest some and I’ll meet you six-thirty at the restaurant you went to last night, if that’s ok?”
“Ok, sounds good, I’ll see you later.”
For the next several hours, Janice had time to reflect on dinner that evening and the rightness of the decision she’d made.
Seera looked at the sweat building on Orin’s brow. It wasn’t going as well as they had hoped. They had been working on the interface for over seven hours and still did not succeed. “Was that any more successful?” she asked for what seemed like the hundredth time.
A groan came from Orin as he peered up at her from his position under the console. “Afraid not, Tavia might be of more help…I mean no disrespect Princess.”
“None taken, I think you’re right.” She glanced at her wristwatch she saw that is was six and she still didn’t have the time to call Janice and explain. She was weary of her fake persona and longed for home and the life she was born to live.
“I’ll call her and find out if she has secured all the necessary details to verify the report.” Orin said as he reached for his cell phone and pressed the short code for Tavia. “Damn,” he said as he saw the message on his cell indicating there was no signal. “We need to get back to civilization for this thing to work.”
She calculated it would take six hours to get back to the city and that would mean an arrival time of around midnight. They had spent the entire day and solved nothing and the frustration of leaving without success was palpable.
Seera nodded in agreement. “Yes, let’s go back,” she said as she watched him finish closing the console panel and collect his tools. When they climbed aboard Orin’s airplane she said, “I’ll take the driver’s seat.” A pleasurable smile crossed her face as she sat behind the wheel. “It’s been a long time since I’ve handled anything as powerful.”
Orin grinned. “It will be a pleasure to be in your capable hands again your Highness,” he said sincerely. He knew that the Princess was a damn fine pilot. She wasn’t quite in his league but as close as anyone ever would be on that planet.
Seera laughed. “Coming from the 1937 Thompson trophy winner, I’ll take that as a compliment. Let’s go.”
Orin looked at the Princess’ profile and saw she was enjoying herself…really enjoying herself. He knew from the reports he had on a weekly basis that she hadn’t been behind the controls of any type of vehicle for over ten years. A chauffeur or a pilot took her to all her destinations.. He suspected that if things had been different and that war hadn’t started the Princess would eventually have taken the title of the best pilot around at the time. She had a natural feel for the machine, any machine when she had the controls.
One day, if they got home, Seera would eventually be in control of their planet, when her mother passed on. He hoped that after living on earth she might make the right choices when it came to changing the structure of power on Corinthian. At the end of the day, it would be up to Seera if the child had a chance to live a decent life, not one shackled in slavery.
“Are you going to ask me a question or have you decided I’m more beautiful than Tavia?” Seera’s voice surprised the man at her side just as she suspected her words would.
Embarrassed, he finally managed to get his speech under control and said, “I’m sorry your Highness I meant no disrespect.”
“Don’t be sorry Orin. Have you tried your cell again?”
For Janice, she hadn’t enjoyed a stranger’s company as much as she had with the woman across from her. She had spent so much time on her own with her movies and her only friends were the anonymous people she was in contact with on the internet. It seemed that she and Tavia had a genuine rapport. They both laughed over anecdotes about each other and others… particularly Darc Cimmerian.
They were waiting for their dessert, when Tavia gave a long concentrated stare and asked, “How long have you known Seera, Janice?”
Tavia noticed that Janice had a faraway look in her eyes before she spoke. “I began working as her private secretary five years ago.”
Tavia smiled for that wasn’t what she really wanted to know. “Actually I was wondering about how long you and she had known each other on …shall we say, a more personal basis.”
There was a cute faint flush of color on the younger woman’s cheeks and that told Tavia more than words could. It was clear to Tavia that for Janice the relationship was tender and budding rather than fully blown. She also realized that it wouldn’t be long before Seera took her to bed. Anyone looking at her as she spoke of the woman could clearly see that she was infatuated with Seera..
“Well, we actually…at least…not yet…it's only been a week.” Janice admitted shyly.
With a chuckle, Tavia nodded. “You like her don’t you? Perhaps you more than like her?” An inner demon answered her first taunting her with the relationship. She knew that Seera would never be hers, but she couldn’t resist checking out the competition.
Janice didn’t know what to say. If anyone else had asked her that she’d have gotten up and left. Somehow, the questions asked by this woman didn’t feel as if she were prying, although she knew she was. “Of course I like her. She’s caring, dependable, witty and intelligent.”
“Ok, yes she can be all those things to some people, but what about her faults?”
Janice ’s eyes flashed upwards in surprise and laughed as she saw the twinkle in Tavia’s beautiful eyes. “You know she wouldn’t’ like us talking about her like this.”
“Yeah, she’s egotistical…right?” Tavia chuckled as Janice nodded.
“A little, but most people don’t mind. She’s stubborn and likes her own way. I’ve found people in that kind of position have that tendency.” Janice bit her lip slightly as she realized that she had voiced aloud things she had noticed about her boss.
“Yes people in her position do have that particular trait that is very true. Trust me Janice, if you had grown up with her as I did, you’d know she is a terror in a lot more ways. Time, has had a mellowing effect on her though.” She meant every word and if Janice had met the Princess when she’d first arrived on this planet, Tavia didn’t think she’d be as blinkered to her faults as the young woman was now. The three T’s came to Tavia’s mind. Temperamental, territorial and tyrannical.
“Do you mind me asking how long you’ve been friends? She’s never mentioned friends…at least not ones she doesn’t throw away after a week.” Janice didn’t want to mention that the friends she meant were Seera’s sex kittens. At least that was how she’d termed them for they were always young and looking for the shortest relationship in history.
“How long, what a difficult question,” Tavia responded with a small smile as she reflected on the question a little longer. “We’ve been friends on and off I’d say since I was five and she was nine. One thing I know about her is that once she makes a proper friendship it’s for keeps.”
“I wish I’d known her that long.” Janice’s voice held a wistful note.
Their dessert arrived and Tavia was thankful for she didn’t know what to say. If Janice were around at the beginning she certainly wouldn’t be sitting here now…she’d be dead. That thought alone made Tavia shiver at how fragile an existence they had in the universe and her hand went to the bulge hidden by the table.
“I’ll call Tavia now, Princess.” Orin picked up the cell and saw the bar had a suitable count and dialed.
“Hi everything ok?” Tavia’s voice settled Orin’s stomach. He would never admit it but being in the Princess’ company on a more familiar basis than as her bodyguard had rattled him a little.
“We are good, what about you? We’ll be at the Princess’ apartment by midnight if not before.”
Tavia smiled and felt her whole body relax knowing Seera and Orin were on their way home. “I’d like to say I’ll wait up for you but…”
“That’s ok, I didn’t expect that. We will need your help with Astoria.”
“Can’t do without me?” she teased.
He wanted to say much more but with the Princess next to him clearly listening, he refrained from doing so. “ Astoria always complied with anything you wanted. The Princess and I are not as well versed with her inner workings.”
“Diplomatic, Orin…very diplomatic. Ah, of course, you’ve spent the day with the Princess of diplomacy. Silly of me to forget…actually, I didn’t. Does she want a quick word with Janice? We are about to leave the restaurant where we’ve had a lovely dinner together.” Tavia felt the rush of gleeful amusement flood her as she saw the flicker of surprise in Janice’s eyes.
A few moments later Janice was thrust the cell phone and felt extremely self-conscious. “Hi.”
Seera had given over the controls to Orin as she accepted the phone and smiled broadly, as she heard the tentative word. “Hi, yourself…Tavia hasn’t been prying as she?”
Tavia hadn’t expected the shock she felt when she heard the tender sound of Janice’s voice.
With a cough of embarrassment, Janice didn’t know how to reply. She saw Tavia motioned toward the bathroom and once she was out of earshot she said, “She was a little inquisitive but she’s a lovely woman. You are very lucky to have her as a friend.”
“I know, did everything go ok today since I didn’t give any notice that I wouldn’t be there?”
She was thankful that the conversation traveled to a field she was that made her feel completely comfortable. Janice related the necessary information before she brought up a touchy subject. “The Forester Corporation was upset that you didn’t make the meeting this afternoon. From what Mr. Simms in marketing said, they weren’t interested in doing business with anyone but you.”
Seera felt her nostrils flare at the comment. “He’ll have to get used to it. Anything else I should know?”
Janice heard the anger in Seera’s voice and knew she didn’t want to be in, Jim Forester’s shoes the next time he met up with her boss. “No, I tried to do as you asked regarding your friend, but Mr. Cimmerian kept her away from the office longer than I expected. However, she’s ok and we’ve had a lovely dinner and we are about to leave.”
Seera glanced at her wristwatch. It was only nine-thirty. When she heard Janice’s voice, Seera felt her body once again hum with sexual need. With the best winds, they still wouldn’t get back before eleven thirty. Her thoughts traveled to Janice and the possibility of seeing the woman for a late session. “Thank you. I knew I could trust you with that. I’ll be in the office tomorrow and see you then I guess.”
Janice swallowed hard wanting to say she’d wait around until Seera arrived home, but she felt it was too demanding in the early throes of a relationship. “Great, I’m glad you’re in the office.” She added, “You know I have that conference tomorrow so I won’t be there.”
Seera’s heart sank and she felt her lips thinned to a pencil line. “Sure, I remember that. I persuaded you to take it. Well…I’ll call you ok.”
Janice heard the hesitation in the words and smiled slightly. “I can always cancel and go another time. There’s bound to be another conference sometime next year.”
“No, don’t cancel we’ll catch up the day after. Sleep well Janice.” Seera ended the call abruptly. She’d call the escort service when she reached the airport.
Orin relinquished the controls. He had seen the Princess facial expressions change dramatically several times during the short exchange with her…friend. At least he could go home, and slip into bed and put his arms around the woman he loved. The Princess could not and he felt for her although he was glad that he had Tavia and she didn’t. His lips curled into a self-satisfied smile knowing he had something the Princess didn’t.
Darc walked into Seera’s office after she summoned him for an early meeting. He had little doubt that she needed his help for she always did. Even though the others had rejoined them, he knew the current situation would be no different.
“Good morning, how can I be of service?” he said with a slight bow.
It was fortunate for the Princess that she had gotten use to his conciliatory tone and made sure she never had a lengthy conversation with him. She gave him a prolonged stare and saw him shift slightly as though slightly nervous. “From the information Tavia gave me this morning about her fact finding tour yesterday we should leave for home within the next five days.” Her gaze intensified on the man. “Is that your conclusion Darc?”
“It is. However, I stress caution on the procedure. With the arrival of Tavia who is an unknown quantity and not a recognized expert in the field, I believe that people in the research lab are now suspicious. Not to mention…” he began before he decide not to make the next remark.
Seera flicked him a cool glare. “Not to mention what?”
Darc cleared his throat. “The recent change in your relationship with Ms. Clark could prove to be a problem for you.”
“Now why would it Darc? My record of accomplishment is exemplary in removing unwanted females from my life in the nicest possible way. Janice will merely follow the route they all take in the end.”
Darc watched her carefully as he had for decades and saw that faint flicker of her eyelid indicating she was not telling the whole truth. If she can’t cleanly make the break, it will be up to me to make sure I sever it for her personally…and permanently. “I’m sure that will happen as it should,” he said with a nod. “How did the journey to the shuttle work out? Is everything going according to plan?” he asked. When he didn’t get an immediate reply he said, “Is there a problem?” Since Orin and Tavia weren’t there for this discussion, he wondered if something was wrong with the shuttle.
Seera smiled and said, “It’s hardly insurmountable Darc. We have the best people working on the problem. If they are unable to fix it then no one can. Astoria is proving difficult to bring back online. As you know, Tavia always was good with her.”
“Yes, it’s that bio-intelligent computer network Astoria possesses. She was probably annoyed when they shut her down.”
“On that point, you are more than likely correct.” She sighed and changed the subject. “ Janice told me that Jim Forester was creating a storm after I missed the meeting with him yesterday. What have you heard about it?”
Surprised that the Princess spoke with her secretary, Darc let an infinitesimal frown cross his face. “I didn’t realize you had been informed. I was going to put you in the picture myself this morning. As usual, Simms is cowardly in the face of a technical hitch. He actually wondered if you could reschedule and work something out with the man before he walks away from the table.”
“He won’t walk, there’s too much at stake. I’ll call him and ensure he doesn’t frighten our people again,” Seera remarked.
“Fine, I was going to suggest I have a word with him but he’s going to love the fact that you’ve called him personally. What’s next on the agenda?”
Seera flicked over the reports on her desk, glancing at each one with lightening speed and became lost in thought. Relishing giving up the persona she’d developed over the years and resuming her privilege life with all the fringe benefits. She looked up at Darc waiting patiently for an answer just like a faithful dog. “Call the lawyers. I want the business end of my life cleared up by Thursday.”
Darc cocked his head to one side before he asked, “And the personal affairs?”
“I’m working on that right now Darc. Haven’t you noticed the cataloging of my collection?” Seera replied.
“That is true. However, hasn’t it produced another personal matter to take care of before we leave?”
Her gaze transferred to the reports and she scanned them again. She knew what he was insinuating - he was right. “You can leave now Darc. I need your recommendations for the exit plan on my desk by lunchtime.”
The dismissal irked Darc, but as always, he allowed the Princess’s words to float over him. “You will have the report accordingly.”
Seera pushed her chair back slightly and looked toward the brightening horizon noticing that it was going to be a beautiful day. She would miss some of the sights and sounds, not to mention the smells, which abounded on Earth. It didn’t detract from her goal of getting home to her more civilized planet knowing she’d gained so much in experience while in this primitive environment. A shiver ran down her back at her territorial claim that she knew what her people wanted–her. Another shiver caused her to shake her head at its force. A part of her was terrified of returning if things had changed and she didn’t fit in anymore. Tavia worked out that the earth years were different to their planets and that was why they aged differently. If they returned in a few days time, only about ten years would have elapsed on Corinthian. She would do her duty as her family had before her for her mother trained her well.
As her thoughts turned to Tavia, she shrugged. Unable to grasp the concept that the woman she would have cherished and eventually named as her concubine preferred a man to her! She felt certain that with their return Tavia would regret her choice. Tavia’s predicament hit a sore point in her heart, much as her constant clinging to her unrequited love for Tavia. She couldn’t wait to go home where she belonged. The fires of longing began to stir as she wondered what Janice was doing.
Seera’s thoughts turned to home and her mother. She longed to return to her old self for it was the only one that made any sense in her life–autocratic rule. While on Corinthian, she had never been anything but a figurehead–heir apparent to a throne that the Queen ruled with an iron fist. The Diamond family had effectively dominated the Corinthian people for over two hundred of their years. They had created a fruitful, peaceful society governed by women. As with everything that runs smoothly, there was a cost. They regulated the populous rather than allowed them the freedom to choose.
She let an errant tear course down her cheek and sighed. “It was because of that I was wild and rebellious…I wanted her to notice me.” Had that happened, Seera would never have insisted on the wormhole creation that brought them to earth. Over the last hundred years, in her various capacities as underdog to Darc and the male dominated societies, she’d had to suffer she was certain she could incorporate that knowledge and be a more generous Queen on Corinthian when her time came. “Let’s get this show on the road so that I can have some fun, who knows my mother might ban me from leaving the royal compound when I arrive home,” she whispered to the empty office.
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