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The Starlight Chronicles Book 3
Under His Command

Now Available from Siren Publishing

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Peyton Valmont is a top-ranked pilot, but she's also insubordinate, broke dozens of rules, stole military property...and she has to be punished. Commander Kel Gallico and Colonel Jake Naiad might privately think the daring lieutenant is gorgeous, but that is beside the point. Duty is duty.

Kel is known as one of the most strict ship captains in the entire federation. He's worked hard for that recognition, and just because he has a secret weakness for one luscious, willful pilot does not mean he is willing to cash in his career. Until he is sent to enact a rescue gone wrong on a planet where danger takes on a whole new meaning and having a rogue pilot who breaks the rules without thought is a decided advantage.

Two powerful males, the one woman who dares to challenge their authority, and a dangerous situation where the rules might just be suspended, makes everyone wonder who is Under His Command...

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EXCERPT:

Kel had no idea what the expression on his face might be, but he did his best to keep it neutral.

This whole day seemed designed to test him in every way a male could be challenged.

First was the agonizing decision he couldn't possibly ask any officer or crew to go down to the surface of Epsilon, his anguish over the matter both private and difficult. It wasn't easy to condemn the people on the surface of the planet to certain death, yet when he weighed the odds, it had seemed clear it wasn't right to order a hopeless attempt at rescue either. Then the news came Peyton Valmont had taken matters into her own hands, left the ship unauthorized, and while he stood in paralyzed indecision over what to do about it, apparently pulled off the rescue of the millennium.

To compound the unpalatable situation, now he had to punish her. Yes, he'd let her off easy, but never did he expect she would offer him her body.

Did she know he'd secretly lusted after her since the moment she set foot on his ship? The lieutenant stood there, her rich dark brown hair highlighted by the subdued overhead illumination designed to make sure there was no glare on the dozens of monitors, her vivid hazel eyes reflecting her trepidation, but also her undeniable courage. She was more than classically pretty, her features delicate and feminine, long lashes framing those incredible eyes, a soft pink mouth right now compressed into a tight line of apprehension.

It was common opinion she was gorgeous and though he never commented one way or the other when the men talked about Lieutenant Valmont, he definitely agreed.

If he wanted her before, he wanted her even more now. Fuck, how was he supposed to manage this, especially when she'd suggested he be the one?

Kel took in a breath, hoping he still looked unfazed. "What about me in what way, Lieutenant?"

"If I have to do this, can I service you? Commanders don't have to share either, do they? Wouldn't you count as two?"

"No. Naiad is just a step down in rank, second in command. We share quarters, responsibilities, and just about everything else."

Including you, should you choose this. He didn't have to explain it.

For a moment she said nothing. Then with obvious effort, she nodded. Just once. "Okay, I can live with that. You and Commander Naiad." There was just a slight falter in her voice. "The other officers are my colleagues."

And he wasn't a colleague. Of course he wasn't. It was his duty to distant himself from the staff. To be above it as he dispensed orders and kept strict discipline. "I don't…" he started to say, and stopped, not sure how he wanted to finish.

What the hell was he going to tell her? He didn't like the idea? Yes, he did. He'd like nothing better than carry her off to his quarters right this minute. His sex drive was as healthy and strong as any other S-species male. With her—the slender yet suggestive lines of her figure under the required uniform always intriguing—it was very tempting.

She waited, her back perfectly straight, those entrancing gold-green eyes wide. When he didn't speak she explained haltingly, "I don't know if you understand how hard it is as a female to get treated like an equal. Right now even the officers who outrank me regard me as one of them. I'm going to lose that if I have to submit to any of them. What you are talking about isn't like having a sexual affair, Commander, which is also against regulation for the same reason—discipline."

"This is a punishment," he told her, an edge to his voice.

"I realize that. I accept it," she countered, "but can you see my position? This way at least I wouldn't lose their respect."

He could see her in a lot of different positions—that was part of the problem. Kel looked around at the sterile surroundings of the bridge. He was the commander, she was just a rogue female pilot, and why he should feel so guilty about this was a mystery

Valmont had walked in tense and defiant. She'd stood there and took his diatribe on her disobedience, and then she'd waited for his edict. Not that she had much choice, but still once he heard her reason for why she had commandeered the craft and risked her life, he understood.

It changed nothing. He really didn't want to reprimand her in the first place, so making it as easy on her as possible appealed to him, but it had to be done.

She appealed to him. That was the problem. Since the first moment she stepped foot on the ship, he'd wanted to fuck her.

Now he could have her. Whenever he wanted. In any way he wanted.

Damn if his unruly cock didn't start to swell at the thought.

Still, it posed problems if he agreed to this. Kel stared at her. "I don't want the crew to think I'm meting out discipline for my own pleasure, Lieutenant."

The word pleasure made her color deepen, pink giving a nice color to her cheeks. "Excuse me for saying so, sir, but I think the crew would object more if you were too harsh. Feel free to make sure they all know this was my choice. I'll do the same."

It was probably true. She was a damned hero now. Soldiers always admired the kind of courage she'd shown, and even more so the reckless act showcased her remarkable ability to handle a transport craft under any conditions. This solution would take her out of duty for the shortest time possible and he wouldn't have to dock her pay either.

"You won't have the opportunity to tell them," he pointed out. "If you choose this route, Valmont, you'll be confined to the command quarters."

"Yes, sir."

Naked. Nice.

"You're sure this is how you wish to resolve this?"

"I'm certain, sir."

"Very well." He waved a hand past the door scanner and opened the portal, gesturing at the two soldiers who stood at attention there. He said curtly, "Escort the lieutenant to Level C. See that she's indoctrinated."

Both the guards were too well-trained to show any kind of reaction, but Kel felt their shock just the same. Level C was where the females were kept and instructed on their sexual duties before each voyage, so he imagined it would be common knowledge fast enough just how he'd handled her insubordination. She left with dignity, walking between the two much taller soldiers in brisk departure. Kel wandered over and examined the flight log, but he didn't really see the notes he'd made. He needed to sit down and compose a report to be sent to Minoa on the incident. Epsilon was clearly a lost cause but at least there had been no further loss of life thanks to one daring, beautiful pilot.

"How did that go?"

Kel turned around and saw his second in command, Jake Naiad, enter the captain's bridge, open curiosity in his expression. Naiad murmured, "It couldn't have been much fun. I saw them take her out and she looked more resigned than anything."

"It went," Kel responded, rubbing his jaw. "And no, that part of this job isn't my favorite. I've had to discharge some good soldiers already in my career. It didn't appeal to me to do it again."

Naiad was also tall—most S-species males were—blond, built with whipcord leanness, his angular features refined and his eyes a clear aquamarine. He was a good officer and one of the few males Kel considered a true friend. They worked well together, and when they were on Minoa between assignments, played pretty well together too. The mutual competitive spirit meant they were good opponents in sports and other leisurely pursuits, one of which was bedding females.

"Is that what you decided to do?" Naiad asked, sitting down in his chair by the rows of panels. "You discharged her? I have to tell you; that's going to be an unpopular decision, Kel."

"Am I running a popularity contest?" Kel retorted, lifting a brow. "She broke about fifteen regulations."

"Sixteen, but who's counting," Naiad remarked, rubbing his chin. "Two of them big ones. Still, the governor's son was rescued, along with one other civilian and over twenty soldiers. How the hell she did it, I don't know. Her navigator said he couldn't help her worth shit and the thrusters quit twice. He also said she was like a machine. Cool as could be and determined as hell."

"The civilian was her sister."

The other man stared at him and then gave a low whistle. "Okay, that makes a difference. At least now I understand the determination. Fuck, you still discharged her?"

Kel leveled an ironic look at him. "I never said I discharged her. I said I would have been justified in front of any tribunal for doing just that. Instead I dropped the unauthorized appropriation charge and just addressed the direct disobeying of orders. I offered her the choice of any of the statute nineteen sentences."

Naiad thought for a moment, and then nodded. "That's more than fair. I hate to see her lose rank or be sidelined because she's damned good, but it's a slap on the wrist compared to what could have been. No wonder she wasn't more upset."

"Yeah, well, she didn't want to lose rank or be sidelined either."

For a moment Naiad looked puzzled but then he blinked. "Valmont chose sexual servitude? That surprises me. She doesn't seem like the submissive type." He grinned then. "Hey, I'm more than happy to volunteer to be her—"

"She's been assigned," Kel interrupted. "It's always awkward when a female officer is punished that way. I let her decide."

Naiad let out an exaggerated sigh. "Too bad. Some of her fellow officers, I take it. She's a delicious little piece, in my opinion. Who?"

"Me. Us, I guess, would be more accurate."

Blond brows shot up. "Nice work there." Naiad grinned. "I've had worse news. This day has gone from being a near disaster to shaping up pretty good."

"I didn't coerce her in any way. It was her suggestion." Kel was irritated with himself for sounding defensive but was pretty sure there was a hint of it in his voice anyway. "She doesn't want this to affect her status with the other officers she interacts with on a daily basis."

"Smart female, the lieutenant." Naiad's blue-green eyes reflected amusement. "I can't say I'm disappointed. Neither are you. Even before all this, I've caught you looking at her a time or two in a very un-commander-to-pilot way."

Was that true? It probably was, though Kel thought he'd kept his interest hidden. Naiad had an annoying way of being perceptive at the wrong times. "She's noticeable," he admitted.

"Very fuckable," Naiad agreed with a low laugh. "I wonder if she realizes how hungry for her you are."

"She'll find out soon enough," Kel said in a clipped voice and went to start his reports.

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