Abducted by Commander Varian Saar of the starship Wanderlust, lovely Jana Greyson found herself high above her native Texas in a world beyond her imagination. A helpless pawn in an intergalactic struggle, Jana knew her handsome captor held her fate in his powerful grasp. And now he was stealing her heart as well . . .
Their passion is forbidden, their desire undeniable—and their love will soon blaze as brightly as the stars, in this thrilling tale by the multimillion-selling author of the popular Gray Eagle series.
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About the Author
Some of Taylor's most recent books include By Candlelight, Someday Soon, Lakota Dawn, and Lakota Winds (due out in paperback in May 1999). She has also made contributions to other books including The Leukemia Society Cookbook, Christmas Rendezvous, and Summer Love. In addition, readers can see her as cohost of the QVC/TV Romance Book Club Show.
Taylor's interests include collecting spoons, coins from around the world, ship models, dolls, and old books. She loves to fish, ride horses, play chess, target-shoot, travel (especially in her motorhome and out West), hunt for Indian relics, and take long walks with her husband. Reading, in particular books set before 1900 and current biographies, thrillers, horror, or fantasy novels, is also one of Taylor's favorite activities. She is also extremely active with charity work and was even featured on the cover of Diabetes Forecast in February of 1998.
She lives in the country on seventy-nine acres of woods and pasture with a lake and a catfish pond. She writes her novels in a Spanish cottage which overlooks a five-acre lake, a working water mill, gazebo, and covered bridge.
Read an Excerpt
Commander Varian Saar lifted Jana Greyson in his strong arms. He shifted her body to afford himself a better look at her features, stunned to be looking at the Universe's most beautiful female. Two of his highest-ranking officers and best friends had suggested he capture this woman. Varian had read her file put together by First Officer and Lieutenant Commander Nigel Sanger and Dr. Tristan Zarcoff, the chief medical and scientific research officer; so Varian knew what had sparked their interest in this particular female.
Jana's dark blond hair was thick and long. It tumbled over his arm in a lush cascade of curls and waves which were streaked with a color as pale as a full moon. Her silky skin had been lovingly kissed by the sun to produce a surface of golden satin. Varian recalled the strange color of her eyes, which had varied with her emotions. They were neither blue, nor green, nor violet — but a coalescence of all three. Her gaze was like a kaleidoscope of magical allure and sweet mystery. He wondered how many times those unique eyes and their sensual hint of promise had been some man's undoing. Her pinkened lips almost boldly invited a man to taste them. Her nose, chin, and cheekbones increased her rare beauty. Never had he viewed such a harmonious blending of features. Jana appeared too perfect and beautiful to be real, but her steady respiration assured him she was very much alive.
Varian tensed at his line of thought and his rampant emotions. For him, this breath-stealing and loin-tightening vision was a forbidden fruit. Yet she had the unconscious power to pervade him without even trying. She evinced traits which ensnared his senses. Perhaps he had watched the tape which his men had made of her before her abduction once too often! Was that why he had captured her himself? With so many enemies after his life, how rash to become entangled with any special female.
Varian was displeased she had witnessed the deaths of the men who had attacked her. But when Jana's abduction came to light, he could not afford to have an account of their visit to Earth, even from unreliable witnesses. He was angered by her torn gown, bruises, and scratches. He had been unable to communicate with Jana and lessen her fear. She would never have understood his language without the aid of an audiotranslator.
"You and Tris were right, Nigel." Varian admitted. "She will bring the highest bid ever made for a captive mate."
They gazed appreciatively into the sleeping face of the most beautiful female they had seen in any galaxy. While scanning Houston's television signals one night in May, Nigel Sanger and Tristan Zarcoff had viewed the news story about how Dr. Jana Greyson — daughter of the late Temple Greyson, cattle baron and oil magnate, and the late Katrina Stacy Greyson, heiress to the prestigious and lucrative Stacy Aerospace Firm — had set up a foundation for terminally ill children. And even though her vast estate contained property and businesses and cattle and oil, she had completed her science studies and hoped to research childhood diseases. The news report had said that while Jana was waiting to assume a research position at the Johns Hopkins medical complex in August, she was working temporarily at the Baylor medical complex in Houston. And it had revealed that although she had finished her studies in January, she would attend the University of Texas graduation ceremony in Austin with her friends and classmates. Tonight they had tracked her to the graduation celebration in her hometown of West Columbia.
Second Officer and Security Control Chief Kyle Dykstra spoke up. "Too bad I couldn't just stun those things. Ready to return to the ship, sir?" Varian shook his head of dark sable hair to clear it of rambling thoughts. "Affirmative, Kyle. Seems we have the treasure we came for."
The starship Wanderlust orbited high above Texas; it drifted silently in the vast and weightless ocean of space, undetected by all Earthly tracking systems. No one suspected the starship's presence or its primary and humanitarian purpose to gather data for studying the threat of awesome destruction in the Milky Way Galaxy and to see if such a disaster could be prevented. After their return to the Wanderlust, Varian issued the order to leave their present orbit around Earth.
"Yes, sir," replied Lieutenant Tesla Rilke, who had never enjoyed an assignment more than this one for the Maffei Interplanetary Alliance under Commander Varian Saar.
Varian smiled. Tesla Rilke had proven himself to be the best navigational officer to serve under his command. "I'll be in my quarters if anything unusual shows up on the scanner."
Tesla Rilke hastily checked his instrument panels, aware that Varian Saar had an uncanny ability to hone in on trouble before the panels displayed it. "All systems functioning at safety levels, sir. I'll keep you posted."
"Lay in a course for the planet Zamarra. We'll need the extra time to get our charls ready for sale," Varian stated, then sighed heavily, as he personally found this enthralling practice repulsive. Until this current mission, he had not given much thought to the existence of a charl: a captive female who would be auctioned to serve and live as a mate, companion, mother on one of the planets in the Maffeian Galaxy.
Varian sat at the desk in his private quarters and propped his chin on a balled fist. While he awaited his science officer's arrival and final report, his thoughts went to the female "cargo" which temporarily inhabited the lower decks during this unusual voyage. With only a skeleton crew and select technicians aboard, the large starship had seemed almost empty before taking on the women from Earth and Uranus. The remainder of his crew had been given leave on their home planets until his return because the fewer people involved in this distressing affair, the better chance of keeping the real motive for this trek a secret from enemies.
Only a few officers present knew the reason behind this assignment by the Supreme Council, the elite three-man ruling body of the Maffei Galaxy. An enormous meteor soon to enter the neighboring Milky Way Galaxy would gradually increase its speed due to the gravitational pull of the Sun and would head straight for a collision course with Jana's world.
From Varian's viewpoint, the fate of Earth looked grim. The meteor's size and composition made it impossible for the Wanderlust to destroy or to divert it. Because of the placements of nuclear weapons and reactors, Earth and its inhabitants would be doomed when the "fireball" struck and exploded.
By plotting the course and speed of the meteor, which would enter this solar system in nine weeks, decisions could be made by the Supreme Council on whether or not to interfere in this impending catastrophe, if intervention was even possible. The ship's primary mission was to collect and deliver firsthand information to the Maffei rulers, to suggest any possible solution to this imminent cataclysm, and to carry out the Council's final decision. This crucial mission had to remain a closely guarded secret to prevent rival galaxies from taking advantage of the tragic situation. The ship's cover mission was the capturing, training, and auctioning of charls. This was the first time that the Wanderlust was directly involved in the enthralling process and Varian wasn't happy about it.
The Maffei Galaxy had not recovered from a virulent plague fifty years ago which had greatly decreased the female population. Many females had been left sterile or were presently too young or too old for reproduction: a vital facet to race survival. Thus the Supreme Council had enacted the desperate policy of capturing alien females to become Maffeian mates and mothers, whether or not they agreed. Luckily most adjusted within a short period of time.
As he returned the Wanderlust to Star Fleet base on the capital planet of Rigel, Varian was to stop and hold an auction on each of the thirteen planets in his home galaxy. Varian pondered his orders to use the charl auctions as ruses to secretly pass a report tape of this mission to each of the thirteen avatars who comprised the Alliance Assembly and served under the Supreme Council of three men. Each avatar had been notified to watch for Varian's return from deep space and to attend the charl auction. The thirteen planetary rulers were to study the facts and meet with the Supreme Council on an agreed date to discuss the fate of the Milky Way Galaxy and any actions tobe taken. Varian was under orders not to allow a single one of these tapes to fall into the wrong hands.
The entry buzzer sounded. Varian pressed the door- release switch on his desk panel to allow his science officer, First Officer Nigel Sanger, to enter. Varian swiveled in his chair and leaned back, locking his fingers behind his head.
As he seated himself on the divan, Nigel informed his superior officer and best friend, "Kyle has security under control and Baruch said all ship systems are functioning at peak levels. We're lucky no environmental alterations were required for any of the charls."
Varian murmured, "We could use some luck or even magic about now."
Varian had studied the reports compiled by the mass-memory computer, but he wanted to make certain he full understood this dire situation and its consequences. "I guess there's no stalling it. You'd best fill me in," he ordered resignedly. He settled back in his chair and rested a head of shiny sable hair against the headrest. He absently rubbed his left forefinger up and down the deep cleft in his chin. By anyone's measure, male or female, Varian Saar's physical appearance was matchless in its superiority.
Nigel was one inch shorter than Varian's six-feet-four frame. His hazel eyes could shade to brown or to green according to his emotions. A head of thick, curly brown hair gave him a carefree look. Tiny creases near his eyes and mouth came from laughter and concentration, not from his age of thirty-one, the same as Varian. Nigel had been one of Varian's closest friends and constant companions for the last twelve years.
Nigel handed Varian a binder. It contained the report which would be placed on tape and delivered to the three Supreme Council members and to each of the thirteen planetary leaders by Varian personally on the day of the auction on each planet, hopefully without arousing any undue suspicion. "I'm afraid it couldn't look worse," Nigel remarked sadly.
The science officer leaned forward and spread out a galactic map on Varian's desk. He traced the meteor's course with his finger and related the sudden calamitous event which would bring great damage, loss, and destruction to Earth by the end of October. "There's no mistake, Varian. The planet Earth is in grave danger." Nigel went on to explain details of a grim situation which Varian already seemed to know by heart.
"And it only takes a few pages to relate such havoc," Varian muttered, angered by this violent challenge by nature. "Is there anything we can do, Nigel? Which won't endanger our Star Fleet?"
Nigel witnessed the troubled look in those deep sapphire eyes which seemed to be begging him to give more favorable answers. Varian Saar was not a man acquainted with defeat or weakness, and this uncontrollable predicament was eating at him. "We have a few choices, but each one carries dangers. We can let nature take its course and see what happens. Perhaps fate will avert a catastrophe." Nigel could tell that Varian Saar did not approve of leaving such an awesome task in the hands of often cruel or mischievous fate.
Nigel listed the next choice. "We can use the time left before impact to rescue and relocate as many Earthlings as possible. But if we send enough starships to accomplish an evacuation of any consequence, it would leave our Star Fleet spread mighty thin for defense against our enemies."
"Maal Triloni and Jurad Tabriz would be thrilled with that error on our part," Varian said with a sneer, aware of the covetous dreams of the leaders of their two neighboring galaxies.
Varian looked at Nigel and concluded aloud, "I doubt there's time for a large-scale rescue attempt. It would require our whole Star Fleet to deliver food, supplies, and water. Such a movement of ships would not go unnoticed by Maal or Jurad. Our world would sit as a helpless prey to either beast. It's a shame the Earthlings aren't capable of space travel so they could relocate themselves. Can't you imagine the terror and disbelief those people would experience if we simply dropped in to warn them? We'd never win their trust and cooperation in time to help them. If we don't think of something clever, it's best to leave them in blissful ignorance. Do you have another suggestion?"
"We could try to either disintegrate or deflect the meteor."
Varian looked confused. "I thought you said we couldn't divert it or destroy it." he probed. "Have you come up with a new plan?"
"We can't carry out such a project alone, but a combined force of at least five or more starships might succeed. If we could stack, so to speak, our starships on two sides of the meteor, we might be able to shatter it. Then our starships could attack the largest fragments. Even if we failed to handle the broken pieces, they would cause less damage to Earth than the whole meteor slamming to its surface. We'll need top specialists to locate the meteor's internal stress points and decide how much time and power would be required for such a task. We'd need to strike at her before Uranus or between Uranus and Jupiter at the latest, I would think. Either solution will require enormous firepower from many starships. Their energy banks would be drained by the expenditure. I would suggest a chemical laser beam, if-you and the Council go for this plan."
"We can't take multiple risks. Those ships could sustain debilitating damage, or be destroyed, or left defenseless for days. What would happen if Jurad or Maal appeared on the scene while most of our Star Fleet was crippled? Or what if they pulled a sneak attack on one of our planets or on our Alliance Force while so many of our starships are away on a possibly futile mission? Isn't that right, Nigel? You don't know if such a plan could work?"
"It sounds logical, but I can't promise our success," Nigel admitted.
"Why a chemical laser?" Varian inquired.
Nigel knew why his commander and friend was asking that question. Trilabs — the company which developed most of the drugs, chemicals, and weapons used by the Maffei Galaxy — was the sole owner of the chemical laser being discussed. The formula and design belonged to their creator, Ryker Triloni, Varian's evil half brother and most vicious enemy. Ryker Triloni ... how different he was from Varian Saar, even if they did share blood from the same father.
Over the years since Prince Ryker Triloni had left the Androas Galaxy to live in the one dominated by Varian's grandfather Kadim Tirol Trygue, high ruler of the Supreme Council, Ryker had become an influential and wealthy man. Ryker's genius could not be argued. He was a matchless chemist and research scientist who owned his own impregnable planetoid, which was aptly called Darkar, for Ryker Triloni's heart and soul were as black as satanic evil itself. The Trilabs complex was located there. Everyone knew if Ryker ever defeated his half brother and Tirol, he would probably take over the Maffei Galaxy and fuse it to his grandfather Kadim Maal Triloni's Androas Galaxy to create an enormous and powerful empire. Yet, no one dared to defy the strength or to enflame the temper of the powerful bastard son of Galen Saar, except Varian and Tirol Trygue.
"A regular laser beam isn't strong enough." Nigel responded. "The chemical laser is the most powerful, the easiest to control, and the surest path to victory."
"You know where we would have to obtain the necessary gases?"
"Only Trilabs has what we need. Why not let the Council handle it?" Varian stared into blank space as he moodily reflected on several dark episodes in the past which this conversation had recalled, as if they were poorly healed wounds which had been reopened. The blue-eyed man muttered cynically, "I still say Kadim Maal is biding his time until he has the power and courage to seek revenge for what he thinks my father did to his family."
As if needing to verbally purge himself for the first time in years, Varian somberly continued, "It's so tiring and infuriating to stay on constant guard, Nigel, to be helpless before enemies because you can't legally touch them without breaking the law yourself or injuring the people and world you love. I know the moment I weaken, one of those bastards will end it for me, or make me wish I were dead. You saw Ryker's last chemical tortures in use: those truth serums and agony inducers. Can you imagine the perils our world would face if Ryker openly sided with either Maal or Jurad? Or both! It scares me to know that bastard has such awesome secrets and talents."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Moondust And Madness"
Copyright © 1986 Janelle Taylor.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
SEDUCTION AND SURRENDER,
Other Books By,
PART I Moondust and Madness,
PART III Moondust and Magic,
About the Author,