an excerpt

Chapter One

"I know we're considered one of the best cold case teams, but this one...I think your old man is letting his heart rule his head."

At the sound of the petulant voice, Nolen glanced up from the map he studied.

"You don't have to be a part of the team, Terrian. We can always get someone else." Nolen stretched and yawned. His long frame was stiff from bending over the circular table. He really had no time for negativity. He raised a quizzical eyebrow at the dark-haired man who was now regarding him like a hungry man would a prime rib steak.

"I never said I didn't want to come." Terrian ran a hand through his hair and then casually down over his chest. "I just think we're wasting our time. The boy went missing two years ago now. Searches were made for his ship. Nothing was ever found. Not even debris. That ship had to have been captured by pirates." Terrian shrugged.

"That was then. This is now. We have additional information, Terrian."

Both of them turned at the newcomer's well-modulated tones. Nolen smiled as Qamar entered, ducking slightly to avoid the top of the door's frame. He didn't miss the same look of hunger in Terrian's gaze now directed at Qamar as he watched the tall, slender male head to the table.

"Nobody told me." Terrian grumbled the words as he folded his arms and glared from Qamar to Nolen.

The ill-tempered tone to Terrian's voice was one that Nolen knew all too well. As good as Terrian was at his job, he wanted to know everything, even the smallest of details. Sometimes his demanding nature was just too demanding--something Nolen had firsthand experience of in a more personal nature.

"The formal team briefing is tomorrow." Qamar tilted his head at Terrian. "As you well know."

The soft, melodic tones of Qamar's voice held the tiniest, yet unmistakable, note of censure. Standing by him, Nolen, for all his height, still had to look up at him. He might be over six feet tall himself, but Qamar had another six or seven inches on him. Somehow, the sylph-like body seemed ethereal or intimidating, just by changes in Qamar's voice or demeanour. The Aeriyan was an integral part of Nolen's team as well as a much-loved friend.

Qamar ran his long, slender fingers over his naked skull and Nolen watched him fix Terrian with an amber stare.

"We have evidence the ship gave a false location when Huntsman called in the attack." Qamar prowled around the table, pointing on the map to the areas he referenced. "We now believe that instead of heading towards the Gemini Space Station where they could reach safety, the ship was actually heading towards the Lamda Quadrant. The likely destination, if that is true, would have been Ignis." He looked up at his audience.

"Ignis is still at the prehistoric stage of development. Giant plants, lizards, and insects." Terrian's brow furrowed as he brought to mind what he knew of the world.

"When dinosaurs ruled the world, Terrian." Nolen smiled at Qamar, who tilted his head right, the alien's equivalent of a nod.

"Indeed, my friend. I suggest that you retire to your room, Terrian, and attend the briefing tomorrow like the rest of the team." Qamar indicated the door with an elegant wave of his hand.

"Retire alone, Qamar?" Terrian raised an eyebrow and gazed at Qamar as though Nolen no longer existed.

Recognising the sultry tone, Nolen's cock stirred. Not so long ago, Terrian would have used those words, and that tone, with him. He almost laughed aloud at the incredulous look on his friend's face.

Repeating the gesture, Qamar simply tilted his head. "Naturally."

Nolen waited a minute to allow Terrian to leave and then went over to the door to check the other man had indeed left.

"He has his sights on you, Qamar." Nolen turned to his friend.

"Understandable. He seeks a relationship where he believes it will not require fidelity, commitment, or true emotion. He knows that most of my people, when away from our home world, will have sexual liaisons with those not of our kind. That it is purely sex and nothing more. When we mate, however, it is for life. To him, I am simply an exotic and erotic challenge."

"I should never have had a relationship with him. I don't know why I did." Nolen shook his head and sighed heavily. He had known it wouldn't work and had gone ahead anyway.

"You needed companionship. You felt alone. He took advantage of you and you let him." Qamar spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.

Even if Qamar was simply stating facts, Nolen didn't want his friend to think that was all to the relationship he'd had with Terrian. "No he didn't." Nolen's cheeks flamed with embarrassment. "I knew what I was doing."

"He knew better." Qamar made a clicking sound in the back of the throat that denoted his annoyance. "He knew you wanted more than he could give. I'm not saying he seduced you into his bed. Did he ever once call you by name? Or was it always something neutral that could refer to either sex?" Qamar gazed levelly at Nolen.

Listening to Qamar, Nolen sighed and nodded.

"I can feel how much you want to be loved and there are many out there that would be eminently suitable. Yet something drives you to be with those who aren't. You knew that Dimitri was wedded to his job as an ambassador and had just three months left of his tenure here and yet you still started seeing him knowing it was headed nowhere. Terrian I can also understand. His insecurity in regards to a relationship that goes beyond the merely physical is almost palpable when I'm around him."

"Does he know you are an empath?" Nolen asked. He was glad to be off the subject of his train wreck of a love life.

"No. As your father promised, it isn't in my file. It's not an advantage if people know. If he's a good boy, he'll find out." Qamar gave Nolen a smile.

"What? I thought you had no interest in him." Nolen's voice almost rose to a squeak with shock at the suddenly predatory glint in Qamar's amber eyes.

"I never said I wasn't interested per se." Qamar's voice took on a deeper, richer tone. "Abandoned by his parents, treated as a slave by his adoptive family, an outcast in school for having no birth family, and being of overly-high intelligence, Terrian has issues. But they're not insurmountable."

Qamar's wide grin showed thin, sharp teeth that seemed so at odds with his otherwise angelic appearance. It made Nolen shiver, but not with apprehension. He wondered how those teeth would feel nipping at his flesh.

"I am not suitable, Nolen, and I would always turn you down for just that reason, no matter my own desire."

"I'm sorry." Nolen cursed himself silently, dropping his head, his shoulders slumping.

How could I be such an idiot? He's an empath. He can feel my emotions. The gentle but insistent touch to his chin tilted it so that thin, cool lips could brush across his with a feather-light touch.

"Start listening to what your heart wants, Nolen. You are a good friend and I love you as such. It would be my delight to see you with someone who is suited to you." Qamar spoke softly and quietly.

"Thanks, Qamar. You're a good friend, too. Good luck with Terrian," he added, heading to the door.

"I will not need luck, my friend. Terrian is unused to those who say 'no'. It rather shocked him, threw him off-balance." Qamar sauntered out jauntily and headed in a different direction to Nolen.

The melodic sound that was Qamar's laughter drifted around Nolen as he headed to his quarters. Qamar's insight played on his mind and he wanted to think.

Although he had intended to go straight to his quarters, instead Nolen detoured to the space station's pleasure decks. There were bars, cinemas for multiple viewing, booths for single customers, restaurants and, tucked very discreetly away from where families enjoyed their recreation time, the sexual pleasure block.

Here he could indulge in anything from simply listening to audio recordings or watching vid-discs to having his own personal orgy either by holographic fantasy, android simulants, or the real thing. Nolen licked his lips. He hadn't come here before but had heard often enough how amazing it was.

Taking a deep breath he went inside and spent several minutes discussing what he wanted with one of the attendants. The young man was long-legged, lean, and his skin was the colour of burnished bronze. He was also naked apart from a thong that shifted enticingly with every movement he made. He took Nolen deeper inside the complex.

"If you would just strip off in there. You can keep a towel around you when you come out. I can put on the attachments without taking it off. You're sure you don't want anything more...intimate?" the attendant asked.

The sultry purr went straight to Nolen's groin, but it wasn't what he wanted.

"No, this is fine. I've been told this is fantastic." He added the compliment quickly at the attendant's disappointed pout. He hurried away to strip and returned with the towel in place.

He lay back into what was halfway between an oversized chair and a bed as the attendant scurried around busily. He was given options of setting and sound for the hologram that would play. As he had chosen one of the most basic pleasure packages, his choices for his hologram were also limited and yet he was still stunned by the variety offered.

Finally, for his setting, Nolen elected to have a forest that included a stream running beside where he was reclining and the sounds which would normally be heard if the illusion was reality. He also selected evening as the time of day with a clear sky of stars and a full moon overhead.

His legs were spread wide, his feet lightly strapped to hold them in place. They were comfortably supported, but Nolen felt extremely vulnerable. Despite that, or even because of it, his dick began to twitch and fill.

The heat of a blush burned his cheeks as the attendant matter-of-factly picked up his twitching penis to coat it and his scrotum with a slick gel. A combination sheath and pouch arrangement quickly followed, encasing them. His nipples were given similar treatment. There was no flirting from the attendant, just cool, clinical efficiency.

"Okay. It's going to feel odd that you can't touch yourself in those areas, but the computer will pick up your mounting arousal. When it feels you're ready, it'll start. Might make you jump a bit at first, but keep your hands away from the sili-gel coverings. Satisfaction is guaranteed. We've never had a complaint or a failure." The attendant spoke in an almost sing-song voice. This was clearly a familiar statement.

The attendant's last words were accompanied by a wink as he strode from the room. As the door slid shut behind him, Nolen couldn't suppress the gasp. Instantly the room became a forest at evening, with a sky full of stars and a slow stream bubbling. It looked and felt as though he was reclined on rocks covered with thick, fragrant moss.

Remembering his instructions, Nolen stroked the inside of his left thigh and trailed the fingers of his other hand through his thick thatch of sandy-coloured pubic fur. Closing his eyes, he gave into pleasure and yelped with surprise when it felt as if cold air had blown over his nipples. The sensation was rapidly followed by the feeling his stimulated buds were being sucked and nipped. It was so realistic, Nolen's eyes fluttered open briefly before shutting once again as his pleasure mounted.

He gave a guttural groan as it felt like his balls were being sucked and rolled in moist heat and he whimpered as his cock swelled and throbbed within the sheath. He began to pant at the sensation of his dick being sucked hard, and something warm, agile, and moist running up the sensitive vein. He began to thrust eagerly. Coherent thought evaporated in the heat of pure sexual arousal.

It was like no other sexual experience as varying sensations of cold and warm, dry and moist tormented his nipples. At the same time, his balls were rolled and squeezed with exquisite pressure and his shaft expertly pumped. For long minutes he was erotically tortured. As soon as it seemed as if he was going to be unable to resist and come, the sensations eased away only to begin anew as his arousal subsided. Finally, it was too much to resist and, with a cry, Nolen came, the system relentless in ensuring he had nothing left to give before allowing him to slump, totally drained.

The room resumed its clinical appearance, the lights slowly increasing in brightness to protect his eyes. He took a deep breath and stretched a little. As he moved, the door slid open and another attendant came in, this one blond and elfin. Nolen returned his smile and accepted the cool, fruit-flavoured drink he was offered. He watched as the pads on his pectorals and the sheath-pouch combination were removed and immediately discarded into the disposal unit. His feet were then released allowing him to move freely.

"This way." The blond indicated a door ahead.

Accepting the hand extended towards him, Nolen allowed himself to be led back through to the small changing room that also had a shower and separate drying cubicle. The shower had a ledge on which he was encouraged to sit for support. The tepid water cascaded over both him and the young man attending him, but as the blond only wore a thong, it was clearly not an issue.

The attendant poured a generous handful of citrus-scented gel into his hands and began to soap Nolen's body. It was done with clinical efficiency, and almost before Nolen had registered what was happening, the attendant was already moving away.

"Take your time finishing off and drying. I'll be waiting through there to escort you out." The attendant gave a quick wave and the words were called over the blond's shoulder as he sashayed away, his pert buttocks accentuated by the tiny silver thong that glittered in his cleft.

Standing slowly, Nolen let the warm jets of water cleanse his skin. As pleasurable experiences went, he had to rate this one highly. However, it reinforced that, for him, physical pleasure alone wasn't enough. As satiated as his body was, his heart and mind yearned for something more.

Just why is it that I can't find happiness? What am I really seeking?