Home > Dragon's Mistress (Saurellian Federation #1.6)

Dragon's Mistress (Saurellian Federation #1.6)
Author: Joanna Wylde

Chapter 1

"You've got to be kidding," Dani said with a laugh to the man on the view screen.

He smiled blankly at her. "No, Miss," he replied in a neutral tone of voice.

He was a young man, in his early 20s at most, wearing the livery of the Von'hot household. The Von'hots ruled the system, but Dani wasn’t intimidated by their power. She could tell he was uncomfortable with his assignment, but he tried to cover that unease with professionalism. "His Grace has specifically requested your services for the evening. We'll be sending a car for you shortly before sundown. Please be prompt, as His Grace appreciates timeliness in all his people."

"I'm not one of his people," Dani replied with a tight smile, trying to hide her annoyance at his attitude. "I'm a representative of the Pleasure Guild here on a diplomatic passport. And besides that, I'm retired. I no longer entertain clients."

The messenger’s mouth gaped. Clearly, he had never heard anyone say "no" to his master before.

"But—"

"Please let Lord Von'hot know that I am flattered by his invitation, but that if he would like professional entertainment for the evening he should consider contacting local representatives of the Pleasure Guild. I've met the Guildmistress here in the capitol, and I've found her to be a competent and professional woman. I'm sure that she'll be able to find someone to take care of His Grace's needs. After all, it would be unpardonably rude of me to simply step in and take a contract in her city. Goodbye."

Dani reached over and turned off the screen with a decisive click, enjoying the look on the young man's face as she did so. She had no idea why Lord Von'hot had sent her such an invitation, and she didn't care. She was on vacation, and no man—even one who owned his own planet—was going to mess up her plans.

She stood and walked over to the balcony. Stepping out, she shook out her long, blond hair and gazed at the city before her. The view was stunning—her hotel room was on the 700thfloor of the building, high enough that the atmosphere was thin and the air cold. Of course, none of that bothered her, as her balcony was enclosed in a force field that kept it comfortable. She leaned against the railing, somewhat amused by its presence. It was strange, but even after hundreds of years of technological development, humans still liked their balconies to have solid, visible railings no matter how unnecessary they were for safety reasons. After all, the shield would catch her if she fell.

Around her balcony, the spires of a thousand buildings reached up into the sky. More than a 100 million people lived there, according to the tour she’d taken the day before. It was a wonderful place for a vacation, even better for a vacation paid in full by the Guild. A small satisfied smile crept across her face at the thought. Serving as a diplomatic courier had its perks.

A chiming noise sounded softly through the air. Another call, she realized with a sigh. She walked back into her room toward the view screen terminal.

"Yes?" she answered politely as a face shimmered into focus.

"Dani, darling!" her caller trilled. The Guildmistress' perfect features smiled at her from the small screen.

"Hello, Guildmistress Karya," Dani said, her pleasure at this call genuine. "So good to hear from you again. I had a wonderful time at the reception last night. I can't tell you how long it's been since I've enjoyed a party that much."

Karya smiled back. She was a middle-aged woman, probably in her late 50s, yet she was still stunningly beautiful. Dani had heard stories of Karya's youthful conquests during her younger days. At the time they had seemed impossible to believe—she had been mistress to the old emperor himself, or so they said. But having met her, all the stories made sense. She was both beautiful and intelligent. No wonder the Guild's high council had been after her for years to take a leadership role. But she refused to move, saying she loved her home on Von'hotten too much to leave.

"Dani, my dear," Karya said. "You made quite an impression on our guests last night! I understand that Lord Von'hot's people have been in touch with you?"

"Oh, that," Dani sighed, making a disgusted face. "Don't worry, I got rid of them. I know better than to poach on your turf, Guildmistress Karya."

Karya looked startled, then burst into laughter.

"You'll never get far in the Guild hierarchy with a blunt attitude like that, child," she said, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes. "I've heard you were straight-forward, but my goodness!"

Dani laughed with her.

"Well, that may be, but I've never had much interest in administration anyway," she replied lightly. "Besides, I've decided to retire, as you well know. I'm just running a few errands and traveling right now. When I find someplace I like, I plan to settle down, perhaps buy a little house and live off my pension."

Karya raised one eyebrow questioningly.

"I have trouble seeing you settled in 'a little house' as you call it," she said with a smile. “You seem to like going where the action is. I heard you broke hearts all over Saurellian space before you returned to the Empire. Don't tell me you'd be content for more than a week in some boring backwater, because I simply won't believe it."

"Well, believe what you like," Dani said, still smiling. "I'm ready to relax and enjoy life. Too much work makes me a dull girl, you know.”

"That's what I wanted to speak to you about, actually," Karya said, her smile fading. "I realize that you’ve stopped entertaining clients, something I completely understand because I've been retired myself for nearly 20 years. But our Lord Von'hot is apparently rather taken with you. It would be helpful to me if you would reconsider your decision to meet with him."

"Why is that?" Dani asked, startled. "It's totally against Guild protocol for me to meet with a client in your district, especially one like Lord Von'hot. Even if I wasn't retired, I know Guildmistresses who would have me thrown off planet for even considering it."

Karya chewed her lower lip gently, seemingly lost in thought for a second.

"May I come to your room, child?" she finally asked. "I'd feel more comfortable if we could discuss this in person. Do you mind?"

"Not at all," Dani said, truly confused. "Please, I would be happy to visit with you."

"Thank you," Karya said, smiling kindly. I'll be there in about half an hour."

Dani nodded, then switched off the terminal.

* * * * *

Karya swept into Dani's suite of rooms in a haze of perfume. A small, timid looking woman followed her, carrying a large package.

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