As Olivia rewards William, Jeanine finds her connection with the Star Stone oppressive.
Do you have any idea how paranoid you get when you know, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that someone is listening to everything you say? When someone sees everything you see? You find yourself wondering if they feel what you feel. If they know what you think. If, in fact, you have any secrets from them, at all.
It doesn’t help knowing it isn’t a someone who seeing and hearing everything. The something that’s doing it is far worse.
Why is it worse? Because I don’t know what it can do with the information.
Can it communicate my secrets to Queen Charlotte or Princess Olivia?
I don’t know.
Can it alert my enemies when I’m distracted or sleeping?
I don’t know.
Ever since Jana told me about the Star Stone’s connection to all Recognized nobles, I’ve found myself nearly paralyzed with indecision. The simplest decisions—what to wear or what to eat—have become burdens. And I know that sounds ridiculous, but don’t judge me until you’ve been where I am. Don’t judge me until you find yourself looking over your shoulder, metaphorically and for real, because you know something is watching.
I’m not the only one affected by this. It’s driving Drake up the wall, and I don’t blame him. I can’t discuss anything with him. No, that’s not true. He can’t discuss anything with me because I’ve turned every sensitive decision over to him.
He’s in charge, now.
He handles them all without any input from me.
Working with the rebellion?
You don’t even have to ask. Of course, I have nothing to do with that, anymore.
Coordinating with Jana and Tilly to discover more about the Star Stone?
Drake is handling it.
Hell, I didn’t even realize they had left the planet until a day and a half after they were gone. I would have liked a chance to say goodbye—Jana’s one of my closest friends in the galaxy and I have a feeling Tilly will be, once I get to know her better—but that would have been a foolish security risk.
I’m cut off from everything that truly matters. That includes physical intimacy with my husband.
Drake stopped spreading kisses over my stomach. “You know, babe, you might actually enjoy this if you relax. It feels like I’m kissing a rock, down here. A beautiful rock, but still a rock.”
Keeping my eyes squeezed tightly shut, I murmured, “I’m sorry, Drake. It’s just…you know.”
I felt Drake’s warm breath blow across my stomach as he vented a sigh. “Yes, I know. That damned crystal voyeur has you tying yourself in knots. You feel like you can’t be the Duchess your people deserve because you don’t know what that thing will do with the information it gets from you. I get it.”
Drake moved up next to me and wrapped his arms around me. “But, unless the Star Stone is planning on releasing sex vids of you and me, who cares if it watches us make love?”
“I care,” I whispered. “For women, sex is as much mental as physical. I can’t slip into the right mood knowing that…thing…is watching everything we do—and doing it through my own eyes! I desperately want to make love to you, Drake, but—”
“You’re not ready for a three-way.” Drake shook his head in mock disappointment. “I guess I shouldn’t suggest we invite… Hm, who should our third be? Not Olivia, I want to survive the experience, after all. Jana? No, that would just be gross! She’s become too much like a little sister to me.”
Despite myself, I giggled. “Oh, come on, Drake—you know who you’d invite!”
Drake eyed me suspiciously, “Please, tell me you don’t mean Kelly! That would just be wrong in so many ways!”
Still smiling, I rolled my eyes, “You’re right about that. Tilly, on the other hand…”
“I’ve never considered her before, but I like the way you think, wife! Tilly, it is.” Drake’s eyes unfocused for a moment, then he grinned. “We could make a whole role-playing thing out of it. You and I would be making passionate love as the beautiful burglar slipped into our room. Hearing our cries of ecstasy, she finds herself overcome with desire, throws off her clothes, and leaps into bed with us!”
I gave Drake’s chest a playful slap and asked dryly, “If you’ve never considered her before, how do you explain how quickly you came up with that fantasy?”
“I’m a man, babe. That’s how our minds work.”
I laughed loudly for the first time in what felt like years, even though it had only been days, Drake took advantage of the moment and lowered his mouth to my neck. When he began nibbling, I laughed and gasped and, somehow, didn’t think about the Star Stone again until much later.
Distraction solved Jeanine’s problem for one night, but can she and Drake find a way to get around the Star Stone and involve her in their most important plans? Find out in Chapter 14, coming Wednesday.