Home > Jerred's Price (Saurellian Federation #3)

Jerred's Price (Saurellian Federation #3)
Joanna Wylde

Chapter One

Transit Station Three

Just inside Imperial Space

Year 6296, Saurellian Calendar

“How’s Giselle this evening?” Vetch asked expansively as he walked into the bar. Giselle winked at him, used to his flirting. The station was part of the freighter captain’s usual run, and he came in at least once every other week. She gave him a big grin and leaned forward across the bar, flashing her cle**age at him.

“I’m fine, Vetch,” she said. “Getting better all the time. What can I do for you?”

“My friend and I needed a comfortable place to talk, and naturally we thought of Manya’s,” Vetch said, gamely attempting to maintain eye contact with her. Every few seconds she caught his glance darting downwards. Men always looked at her chest first She was used to it by now.

“They’re still there, hon,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Don’t worry, I check on ’em first thing every morning, just for you.”

Vetch blushed, and she gave a deep, rich laugh. Then he started laughing, too, and to her surprise he leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“You’re one in a million, Giselle,” he said. “But I have business to take care of this evening. Can you set up me and my friend with a pitcher? Talking business is thirsty work.”

“Is there anything that’s not thirsty work for you, Vetch?” a man asked. Giselle looked up, startled.

Her breath caught.

Vetch had always seemed tall to her, but this man towered over the friendly freighter captain. His face was hard, angular, and a nasty scar twisted one side of it, pulling his features into a permanent snarl.

Startled, she looked down quickly, but she couldn’t seem to take her eyes off him. He wore tall, black boots that seemed to be made of leather, of all things. Leather was expensive… Her eyes moved slowly upward following a roughened pair of black breeches that clung to every lean muscle of his legs. A loose, black shirt draped his upper body, and he carried a leather jacket cradled in one arm.

His gaze met hers coolly as her eyes reached his face. That scar caught her attention again, and she found herself looking at it with morbid fascination. What kind of wound would do damage like that, and why hadn’t he gotten it fixed? He cleared his throat meaningfully. Embarrassed, she flashed a smile at him. She had been rude. He didn’t smile back. In fact, he didn’t respond to her at all. Instead he looked away, checking out the room as if he was expecting trouble. Her intuition pricked, and she made a mental note to keep an eye on him. If there was trouble this evening, she’d bet her last credit it would come from him.

“Find a seat, and I’ll be right with you,” she said to him, trying not to let him see how uncomfortable he made her. She’d be damned if she’d show him weakness.

“Thanks, Giselle,” he said softly. He rolled her name across his tongue slowly, as if savoring its taste and sound.

He nodded to Vetch, indicating a table against the wall. As they walked over together, she watched out the corner of her eye as he took a seat against the wall. Definitely dangerous. She might want to warn Manya…

She brought them their pitcher and some glasses, and tried flashing another smile at him. But even Vetch’s expression was sober now, and it was clear her presence wasn’t wanted. Then a group of Debsian traders came in talking loudly, and her attention was taken up filling their drink orders. Still, she pointed the man out to Manya when he came out from the back office to tend bar. She didn’t like Black Leather’s attitude one little bit.

The bar filled steadily over the next two hours, and while she checked regularly on the two men, they didn’t want anything more from her. She had to admit, the way Vetch’s friend ignored her piqued her interest. She was used to men noticing her, used to them paying attention when she flirted and smiled at them. She was getting nothing from him, although at times she felt as if might be watching her.

After she stopped by the table to check on them a third time, something flickered in his eyes as she brushed past him—she knew she was on to something. He noticed her, but he didn’t want to show it.

She smiled to herself, wondering why she was bothering to play this little game with him. Boredom?

Maybe. A little flirting would make the shift go faster. After all, if he were going to cause trouble, he would have by now. She reached one hand to her already low neckline and pulled it down just a bit.

Manya gave her a pointed look, which she ignored. Cleavage sold drinks—he knew that. She was just doing her job.

On her next pass through the tables she ignored Black Leather, focusing on the Debsians instead. She leaned over as she served the traders, flashing them a wide expansion of soft, sloping breast littered with ginger-colored freckles. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Black Leather’s stare. She pretended not to see, and then leaned forward even further.

“Anything else I can get you boys?” she asked in a low voice, winking at the loudest of the traders. He was a bluff, friendly looking man who didn’t seem used to getting attention from women. His friends hooted, and one slapped him on the back.

Encouraged, the man leaned forward and held out two fingers with a credit chit between them.

“This is all yours, darlin’,” he said. “I don’t suppose you want to come back to my hostel with me?”

“Nope,” she said with a wink, “I’m not really that kind of girl. But I appreciate the offer.”

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