Luxi stepped out on the tramway deck, trailing her bag, and grabbed onto the rail that ran all the way around the tram station. Gravity was very minimal this close to the station’s center.
Not one person was waiting on the tram.
On the other side of the deep track where the cable-tram would pull in was a huge window, and beyond it, the floor of the world turned upward very slowly, meters and meters, and meters, away—all the way overhead. Oh, glory…
She suddenly felt as though she were falling, and falling, and falling…
Luxi had to consciously make an effort not to fall over. According to her sense of perspective, the entire world was rotating sideways at a dizzying distance. She tore her gaze away and turned her back to the window. Okay, let’s not look at that anymore.
She swallowed, suddenly understanding why the tramway had few passengers.
According to the chrono on the wall between the two lifts, she had about five minutes to wait for the next tram. Once she was on it, the tram would reach a stop just short of every five minutes, and she had seven stops before she would reach the stop she wanted. That should be long enough to do something about my hair.
Brushing her hair would also give her something to concentrate on, rather than the dizzying view. She knelt and dug into her bag to retrieve her brush.
Brush in hand, she stood to tug the elastic free from the end of her braid, then dug her fingers into her thick curls to get them out of the braid. It took more effort than she thought it would to untangle the long coils enough to pull a brush through them. The bright copper of her waist-length mane blazed in a cloud of sunset waves against her deep-violet suit. She winced. Her hair was beyond frizzy. The shipboard sonic projection vibro-showers and antibacterial lighting had not been good for it. Brushing it in low gravity did not help any. She shook her head and kept brushing. Well, at least her hair wasn’t dry and crispy…
The lift door on her far left opened and three laughing people came leaping out of the lift, floating on the light gravity. The tallest was a pale young male with sleek creamy-blond hair that swept well past his shoulders. His charcoal-gray silk formal frock coat flared open to his knees, showing off the expanse of his gently defined bare chest. His trousers were skintight black velvet.
His two companions were slender, black-haired fems dressed in snug and aggressive-looking black leather trousers and tall boots. They were nearly masculine in build, with only the gentle flare of hips and the slight curve of breasts under their cropped halter tops defining their gender. They were also armed with long and short blades, where the male was not. Their bare arms and bellies proudly displayed sword-cut scars across the light golden skin. Their mouths were wide and their up-tilted black eyes flashed with humor as they towed their beautiful companion toward the tram-track.
Luxi watched them avidly as she pulled her brush through her springy curls. From the looks of the sword scars, the fems were a lot older than their youthful forms suggested. It was entirely possible that the male was also far older than he appeared. Clearly, she was looking at an Imperial lord and his two bodyguards.
The young male turned to look at Luxi with violet eyes set in an exquisitely perfect face. His glossed pink lips opened on a spectacular smile.
Luxi froze. Wow…pretty.
Another man came out of the lift. His strongly masculine face was pale as marble, without a trace of blush. His metallic-silver hair was drawn back and fastened in a smooth, straight tail that fell just past his shoulders. His full-body, high-collared jumpsuit was of deepest black, yet it shimmered with rainbows. Absolutely comfortable in the light gravity, he moved with the inhumanly effortless grace of the mechanically enhanced. He was simply gorgeous in motion. He stalked around the incredible trio with the careful inattention of a predator trying not to startle his prey.
Luxi blinked. There was something odd about him… His hair was true metallic silver, a color no living hair could possibly emulate. Her mouth fell open. He was a cyborg—the most perfectly crafted, utterly human-looking cyborg she had ever seen.
He lifted his chin as though scenting something interesting and turned to look at Luxi with eyes the color of steel—and shadow.
Luxi’s talent jolted hard. Good glory…
The cyborg was animate and conscious, but he wasn’t alive. The spirit of the living man he had once been burned in the depths of his gaze, a spirit that had not fled with the loss of his living body; a ghost perfectly contained in fully robotic flesh.
Within her, synchronicity suddenly dropped into place.
The cyborg was a key to the future she was looking for.
Luxi jerked her gaze away from the stunning ghost. A haunted cyborg?
Life was getting stranger by the second. She lifted the brush to her hair to do something rather than turn back to stare at him. Her talent shimmered within her. Apparently she was supposed to see him, and he was supposed to see her, so he had something to do with her new future, but what?
She scowled, trying to read the lines, but just could not see what was supposed to happen next. The future was still too vague. Apparently the decision to set things in motion was not hers.
Someone spoke at her elbow.
“Huh?” Luxi turned.
The beautiful young lord and his two dark-eyed companions stood only inches away. Luxi’s eyes opened wide. This close, the young lord was breathtaking. His face had only the slightest touches of cosmetics outlining his impossibly violet eyes. Even his perfume was gorgeous.
He asked her a question.
She had no clue what he said. Luxi lifted her shoulder in a small shrug. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.” She really, really needed to get an upgrade for her internal translator.
“He says that you have hair like living flame. He’d like to know if you would care to join him for sex.”
Luxi started and turned her head to find the cyborg standing by her left elbow. She hadn’t even seen him approach. She was forced to look up. He was head and shoulders taller than she was. And this close, he was absolutely stunning. The lord was lovely, but the cyborg’s arresting face was utterly, powerfully masculine. Something in her stilled, as though holding its breath.
His dark silver brows rose. “Are you all right?”
Luxi released her breath and felt her cheeks heat. She’d been staring. “Sorry… I…” What had she been thinking? She didn’t have a clue. Her mind had utterly blanked. “I don’t know your name.”
“I’m Leto.” He smiled.
“I’m Luxi.” Her voice came out breathless. Glory above, his smile! She felt the listening stillness wash through her again.
Leto tilted his head toward the lord and his two fems. “He’s waiting to know if you want to have sex.”
Luxi blinked. “He wants…what?”
Leto lifted a pale hand to cover his chuckle. “Sex. He wants to know if you want to have sex with him and his fems.”
Luxi glanced over at the beautiful lord then bit her lip. “Could you tell him, I’m flattered, but I don’t normally have…” She winced. “…relations, with people I don’t know?”
Leto tilted his head and replied to the lord.
The lord rolled his eyes in obvious amusement. His two companions dissolved into giggles. The lord glanced at the cyborg and asked a question.
Leto raised his chin and turned away.
The lord watched Luxi expectantly and smiled.
Luxi peered up at the cyborg. “Leto, what did he say?”
Leto folded his arms across his chest and glanced down at the deck. “Tell you what—I’ll translate what he said for the price of…” He turned to Luxi and lifted a silver brow. “A kiss.”
“A kiss?” Luxi’s breath caught. This spectacular man wanted to kiss her?
His shadow-filled eyes focused on her. “Will you kiss me?”
Luxi licked her lips. “Okay.”
Leto’s eyes widened just a hair. He leaned downward, very slowly.
Luxi tilted her chin up to meet him. His lips brushed hers. Warmth, breath… He was warm; he breathed. Her eyes drifted closed and her lips parted under his. Their tongues met, explored, parried. He tasted like fresh, clean water. He smelled of rich leather.
He cupped her shoulders in his strong hands.
She reached for him and her hands settled on his hips. His shimmering suit was warm under her palms and felt like exotic leather. Vibrancy and darkness pulsed in a delicious yet shivery combination under her fingertips. She spread her fingers and pressed her palms against him to feel more of it.
His hands skimmed up her neck, drawing tiny shivers, and his fingers slid under her hair. He cupped her head and angled her mouth to deepen the kiss, stroking her tongue, tasting her, encouraging her to kiss him back.
Heat, hunger, urgency… A small moan escaped her throat. Her hands slid around his waist, pulling him closer.
His arm closed around her waist, pulling her tight against his body.
He was warm, and excited. She could feel the hard length of his erection against her belly. Moisture dampened her panties. The simmering dark within him brushed against her heart with unexpected fire. Her talent awoke in a searing rush and suddenly she could feel his bare skin under her palms—and along her entire body where they touched.
Leto abruptly pulled away, blinking, clearly startled.
Luxi grabbed onto his belt, refusing to let him go. “Did I do something wrong?”
He frowned down at her. “I ‘felt’ you.” He licked his lips. “You’re vitae sensitive? You can feel life-forces?”
“Not exactly.” She blushed. There was just no way to say this gracefully. “I feel…ghosts. I’m necro-sensitive.”
“I see.” Leto’s brows lowered and his eyes narrowed. “Did you know that I was…” He took a breath and his jaw tightened. “…dead,
before you kissed me?”
She nibbled on her bottom lip. “I knew that you were a cyborg with a…ghost.”
He stilled then his eyes narrowed. “And you kissed me anyway?”
She frowned up at him. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t?”
He blinked and gave her a sour smile. “About a million of them; all religious and having to do with necrophilia.”
She raised a sarcastic brow. “Funny, you don’t kiss like a corpse. You’re warm; you breathe.”
He barked out a laugh and stared downward. “I don’t think so, either, but some people seem to have a problem with it.” He shook his head and folded his hands behind him. “I was originally a nano-based cyborg. Biological machines replaced my body cell by cell. I’m not living tissue anymore, but I’m still me and perfectly functional; just not biological, so to speak.”
Luxi snorted and glanced down at the heavy line of his erection straining against the seam of his suit. “You felt awfully biological to me.” Her fingers tightened on his belt. She had the most incredible urge to pull him close and “touch” him again.
Trilling laughter reminded Luxi sharply that they were not alone. She turned to face the grinning lord and his dark-eyed, aggressive companions.
The lord gestured, shot out a rapid-fire list of incomprehensible statements at Leto, and glanced at Luxi briefly. He watched the cyborg expectantly.
A windy roar announced the sudden arrival of the tram.
Leto nodded at the lord
The lord grinned, then turned to his two fems, and they all moved toward the tram through the tram station’s low gravity like swimmers through water.
Leto tilted his head at Luxi. “Is that your bag?”
Luxi frowned at the tram. It was going in the wrong direction. “Yes, but that’s not my tram.”
Leto snatched for the handle of her bag and caught her around the waist. “It is now.” He jumped.