Noble Romance Publishing LL, Feb 1, 2009
Jesska Halassi is an Houri - a courtesan whose ability to telepathically read men's libidos makes her one of the most sought-after ladies in the Selaen Dominion. But her latest client has Jess puzzled; Kendrith Vand of the starship "Kia's Pleasure" is a handsome adventurer, an enigmatic wanderer of the spaceways. He's every woman's dream - yet he himself appears less than captivated by Jess's charms. And "nobody" turns down Jesska Halassi!
Piqued - and not a little aroused - Jess pushes her gifts to the limit to uncover the secrets of this mystery man. But she gets more than she bargained for when her empathic gifts physically transform her into Vand's former lover. Who will he ultimately choose? Sexy, sassy Jesska . . . or the image of the woman he worshipped and lost centuries before?
"Ladies, I hope you'll forgive me. I find myself fatigued by my journey, and I know I am poor company."
"But I," Jess said, fully aware that she was grasping at straws, "am known to be rather good company." She put all the warmth and appeal she could into her voice and tilted her head in a way that experience told her men loved. All men but Kendrith Vand, apparently. He opened his mouth, looked her up and down and then, smiling slightly, bowed and left the table. Jess and Aunt sat silent for a long while, listening to the soft music piping through the air. Jess felt embarrassed, frustrated, and most of all, furiously angry.
"How infuriating!" She squealed, balling up her napkin and throwing it across the table. "Did you see what that, that "bumpkin" did? He simply got up and walked away! "Nobody walks away from me!""
"What I saw," Aunt said a moment later, her voice glacial, "is a diner who didn't like the dish put before him."
"No, "that" was me!" Jess snarled, picking fragments of "kija-ke" off her tongue. "Your precious officer was simply rude! And Aunt . . . I couldn't read him! I've never-"
"Lack of skill is no excuse." Aunt sniffed. "I had hoped your experience would carry the day here, Jesska. Plainly I was wrong. Return to your quarters. I'll find another girl to deal with Vand."
Jess stared at the little woman. "What? Aunt, didn't you hear me?"
"Everyone in this restaurant," Aunt said through gritted teeth, "Everyone on the "station," I don't doubt, can hear you."
"I-couldn't-"read"-him! That's not natural! You think one of the other girls will do any better? Who?"
"Ethya, maybe, or Melicante."
"Melicante? But she's a junior! She's barely out of her apprenticeship! The ink on her guild tattoo is still wet, practically!"
"So she's younger than you," Aunt said coolly.
"What's that got to do with it? She's younger than Vand, too."
"Exactly. He's starting to get of an age where men appreciate a younger woman."
"But you're just guessing blindly at what he wants! You can't-"
"Listen girl," Aunt snapped, whirling on her. "I've run this station since your grandmother was shitting her diapers. I'll keep my own counsel on what I can and cannot do. Now go to your quarters!"
Fuming, Jess got up and strode away from the table. A moment later she remembered she had left her sandal under the table and hopped back on her one shod foot to retrieve it. She spent as much time as possible on the operation, both because she knew it would infuriate Aunt Amber and because she wanted time to come up with the last word.
She got it. "I suppose ordering a dessert is out of the question?" she asked blandly. The shocked noise Aunt Amber made in reply could not possibly be considered a word, first, last, or otherwise.
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