Eagle moved closer to the bed and saw the woman was breathing shallowly, her chest rising and falling in a slow, gentle rhythm beneath the almost sheer covering of a deep, teal green gown. His pulse quickened as he gazed down at the sleeping beauty, unable to keep from staring at the soft curves of the body almost fully exposed to his view. Knowing he should back away and head for the com unit across the room, he tried to move but found he couldn't. He could only gaze down into her face, tracing the soft contours of her lips with his eyes.

Strange how gentle she looked in sleep, how unlike her persona as the raging captain of the ship, who had tried to torture him into revealing her sister's whereabouts.

Running his tongue across his lips, Eagle sank down on the side of the bed. His hand brushed against hers, and all at once, powerful fingers of thought grabbed hold of him, paralyzing him, forcing him to remain at her side as a mind, strong, curious, reached out and entered his own.

* * * * * * * *

Sky drifted silently in her mind, cocooned in the peace of her inner meditation. From time to time she called to her little sister, sending strong mental impulses outward, but mostly she waited, confident Mayla would reach out to her as soon as she sensed Sky's artificial shielding had been lowered.

Sky often thought being a telepath a curse, the worst thing that could befall a person, but at times she acknowledged the ability had it's advantages, like now.

When she reached her current level of meditation--unusual in that she seldom had time for it--she could see herself inside her mind. It was like watching an interactive vid, for her mind could create anything and within its confines she knew a freedom she had never found anywhere else.

She flew across a green sky, her arms aloft, the wind pushing beneath her, holding her with the gentleness of a lover's arms. A lover. She smiled and wondered if Mayla would be terribly shocked were she to arrive and find her sister in the throes of a romantic fantasy conjured from the more sensual recesses of her mind? No, she wouldn't subject her innocent sister to such a scene. Still, as Sky lowered herself to the ground, the picture of the perfect man began to form in her mind.

Tall, dark-haired, he would have green eyes the color of the Andromedan sea. He would be muscular, but not in a thick or heavy-set way, rather he would have the fluid lines of a sleek lion, with strength and prowess held under careful control. His jawline would be square, his mouth firm with a tendency to smile, nose aquiline, a slight hook to it; a few tiny wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, dark eyebrows that were thick but not bushy, accenting his resemblance to the ancient Terran jungle cat, and one single dimple on the right side, near his very kissable lips.

Sky stiffened as she sensed she was no longer alone. Her imaginary man was there as well. She sensed him before she saw him and allowed his essence to wash over her with a strength that took her breath away, even as his spirit drew her to him. Strange, she didn't usually feel such strong sensations from her mental imaginings. This was silly. She had no time for such nonsense. Concentrating she shut his image out of her mind, then opened her eyes.

He still remained, walking slowly, determinedly toward her. Confused, she watched him approach. She could not see his face but she began to walk toward him, the pull something she could no longer resist.

Then he was there in front of her, his face hazy, blurred, not unusual in a creation of her mind. She reached out one hand to touch his face and immediately a current of--of what? Desire, passion, need--flowed between them. Silly. This was completely ridiculous and was taking her away from focusing on finding Mayla. She concentrated again on making him disappear. Instead he took her hand and brought it to his lips, then pulled her closer until they were pressed tightly together.

Sky brushed her fingertips against his jaw, tracing a somehow familiar path to his mouth. When she focused on individual aspects of his face, he became clearer. Before she could think, his mouth had covered hers and burned a tantalizing kiss into her, his tongue touching hers slightly, asking entrance that she freely gave.

Sky felt a languidity passing over her, a hot, sultry heaviness flood through her veins and pool down low inside of her. She opened her mouth to his and he delved deeper, his hands moving over her body, lulling her into a sweet, sweet peace. She smoothed one hand across his forehead and jerked with reaction. Without warning, thoughts began flowing into hers, thoughts from this dream-man.

Impossible.

An intruder. A horror filled her. This was no fantasy she had created. Someone had entered the room as she lay in her self-induced trance. Although she had taken a personal vow never to enter anyone's mind without permission, Sky did not hesitate. This person had violated her thoughts and she would not allow him to leave without knowing who he was, and what his motives were.

She entered his mind, flowing over the outer consciousness, ignoring the random meanderings to delve into the very center of his being.

Unexpectedly, waves of emotion hit her, surged over her, assaulted her with a force too incredible to have been conjured by her mind. Anger, rage, despair--the power of the feelings propelled her back to the edge of his mind.

Her own anger surged and instead of fleeing the person's mind, she held on against the onslaught of thoughts, looking for a tendril of calm she might hook onto and use as a pathway to find the core of the mind. She found it and flung herself against it, riding it through the barrage of intense negative emotions.

Gradually she passed the surface tumult and entered the next level of this being's mind. There she found an incredibly complex personality. A man whose mind had been split at a young age in some way she couldn't discern. His original personality and a slightly altered one had merged at some point, she saw, but part of the true self, the original self, was kept hidden away, shielded tightly.

Intrigued, Sky gently rocked herself against the hidden recesses, mentally convincing the shield she was no threat until the barrier lowered and she slipped inside. She wished immediately she had left well enough alone.

Inside the hidden core lay the heart of a child, shattered, irreparable. She found grief so overwhelming that she gasped and began to cry, deep, heart-broken sobs. She found anger so intense she thought it would consume her. And she found compassion, soft and soothing.

Who was this man? Who was this person of such sorrow who had dared to invade her privacy? Kell? No, she knew Kell's mental essence from the few times when they had first joined forces and she had accidentally entered his mind, envoking her promise to him that it would never happen again.

No, this was someone else. Gently, carefully, she eased out of the depths of the mind, drifting slowly, with unthreatening movement toward the surface, sending her question out as she passed---"Who are you?"

Ranon.

The answer had come swiftly, freely, and Sky felt like a detective who has done a good job of investigation. It was an odd name, one she'd never heard before in all her travels. He was backing away from her--his mind feebly attempting to push her out of his thoughts again. She sensed his weakness and alarmed, moved quickly upward, through the surface thoughts, breaking the top wave of mental activity like a swimmer. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, tears drying on her cheeks.

The man called Eagle--her prisoner--sat beside her, his eyes wild, stricken with shock, his body frozen in place.

"You!" she whispered.

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