OATH OF CHALLENGE: CONQUERING KATE
BY MARLY CHANCE


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PROLOGUE



The Shimerian population had been in trouble for many generations.
There was a great disproportion of males and not enough female
mates.  Of the children born, a large percent were male. It was a
downward spiral that spelled eventual extinction for an entire planet.  
Shimerian scientists worked feverishly to solve the mystery of the
population problem, but were unsuccessful.  As a temporary solution
they proposed importing females from other planets or having males
go off-planet for mates.

After listening to the scientists’ grim reports, Shimerian government
officials began to look for possible solutions.  They studied other
planets and concluded that Earth, with its many similarities, was a
logical first choice.

Humans and Shimerians were similar biologically.  The two planets
were environmentally similar, although there were significant
differences in atmosphere.  However, these differences presented a
major difficulty.  Shimerians could not adapt well enough to the
differences to live on Earth for longer than three weeks at a time.  
After three weeks they grew progressively sicker until death occurred.

Humans, on the other hand, were more adaptable.  They were able to
adjust to Shimerian atmosphere quickly and could live on the planet
with no problem.  Even more importantly, Shimerians and humans
were biologically compatible enough to make interplanetary
reproduction possible.  A solution was in sight.

After lengthy negotiations, the Earth government agreed to help.  The
ShimEarth Friendship Treaty was signed.   The Treaty was supposed
to be the beginning of a new era in interplanetary cooperation for the
greater good.

Earth agreed to provide potential mates for Shimerians. In return,
Shimerian resources and technology were fully available to Earth.  
Already, in only the first eighty years since the signing, amazing cures
for some of the worst Earth diseases had resulted from the
cooperative knowledge provided by Shimerian scientists to Earth
scientists.   

However, the sharing of technology and culture was approached
slowly and carefully.  No one wanted conflict resulting from too rapid
an integration.  Each planet had its own secrets, but positive advances
took place on both sides.  Each government had its own reasons for
ensuring success.

However, in the beginning, suspicion ran high.  The Treaty was
complicated to negotiate and even more difficult to implement.  The
Earth government, making clear it was not prostituting its women,
agreed to provide a register of potential mates and carefully agreed
upon Courtship Laws.

Since the Shimerian males’ version of courtship leaned toward
kidnapping and seduction, the Earth government had been very
specific that the program would be voluntary and follow prescribed
rules.  Earth females chosen from the register or “called to Oath,”
were given three courtship or engagement options, two of which
included a “knowing period.”

If, after the knowing period and under certain conditions, the Earth
female did not want to continue the union, she could file legal
paperwork that the union was incompatible and should be dissolved.  
The third option was added in the event that a female had changed
her mind.  Basically, Earth officials tried to build in an escape clause.  
In the end, Shimeria was able to turn the clause to its advantage.

The register was considered by Earth to be similar to signing a
contract with the armed services.   Females signed and swore an oath
to abide by the Oath contract.  The penalties for breaking Oath were
quite severe--imprisonment and heavy monetary fines.  However, the
social stigma of breaking Oath was considered much worse.

When the treaty had been signed some eighty years ago, there was
hesitation by Earth females and only a few actually became Shimerian
mates. However, as the positive breakthroughs in technology and
medicine began to be widely felt, the Shimerian government pushed
hard for a public relations program in higher learning centers to
promote registering.

These “culture classes” explained the process in glowing terms and
encouraged young women to register. The classes had a very idealistic
slant with just enough excitement to entice. “Help your fellow human
beings and Shimerians, too,” they persuaded, “while having an
adventure.”

More Earth females registered and were mated. Then, rumors began
to surface about Shimerian men and their sexual abilities. Women
spoke with sighs of their physical attributes, but a lot of information
remained unknown. There was just enough mystery to intrigue and
entice even the most hardheaded of women. More and more Earth
females registered.

After a while, the overwhelming response meant that for every twenty
thousand Earth women registered, only one would actually be called
to Oath. Most would go on to fall in love with a man on Earth. When
she married or at age thirty, her name would be removed from the
register with thanks from her government for her willingness to serve.

Shimeria conducted its own educational campaign.  Shimerian males
were given “Earth culture classes” in school to understand the
customs and the languages.  In addition, more emphasis was placed
on the importance of honing telepathic skills.

Shimerian males realized early that finding a mate was a difficult task.   
It involved years of telepathically probing and searching for their
destined mate.  When the male located his mate mentally, the odds
were very good that she would be on the Earth register.  If she was
not on the register, there were other alternatives.

After all the years of practicing and searching, it was quite a moment
for a Shimerian male to locate his mate.  Some males went through
their lifetime trying and not succeeding.   No one could understand
why some males located their mates at a particular time.  It was a
great mystery and a great source of frustration.  Some called it luck.   
Some said chance.  Some said destiny.  And some said skill.

Some, like Tair da’Kamon considered it all of those things.   Knowing
Tair’s skills, not many would dare to disagree.  In the last few weeks,
Tair’s brother, Liken had called his mate to Oath.   Rumor held that
Tair had located his pactmate years ago, but had waited.   Whisperers
said he had been waiting for his brother to call his mate, so that Tair
could be the couple’s link.   To be eligible to offer protection as a link,
the male had to be unpledged at that time.  Tair was very protective of
his brother.  Most felt the rumor could be entirely true.

Now that Liken was pledging with his mate and Tair was her link,
many wondered if Tair would call his pactmate to Oath.  Speculation
was rife regarding his possible mate.  He was a Guardian of
exceptional skill, respected for his cunning and determination.   What
kind of Earth female would be a match for such a warrior?

Tair heard the new rumors and arched an eyebrow in sardonic
amusement.   As usual, he kept his own counsel.  He never confirmed
or denied anything.  Gossipmongers were left to wonder.  However,
later in private, Tair did not bother hiding his lusty smile of
anticipation.   Indeed, he had found his mate.  Her name was Kate...



Chapter 1


Men, Kate concluded, are pretty much like an expensive pair of
stockings -- sexy when you first try them on, but apt to run like hell at
the first snag.  Leaning back in her chair, she sighed and waved a
mental goodbye to Todd.

He had been an amusing lover and a nice diversion from the drudgery
of her heavy work schedule.   It was a shame that he had to disappear
and take her good sex life with him.  Truthfully, she rather thought
she’d miss the sex more than Todd.

Suddenly, a deep masculine voice broke her train of thought. “I’ve
heard that sigh before.  It can only mean trouble.”

Kate smiled with surprised pleasure. “I’m not the troublemaker in this
family, remember?  Gage, what are you doing here?”

Gage strolled into her office and sat down with unconscious masculine
grace.  Kate assessed her brother silently.  He was six foot, three with
blond hair and blue eyes.  Muscular and athletic, he had an easy charm
to match.

Under the movie star good looks, though, he looked tired.  She could
see traces of strain in his face, and there was a lurking sadness in
those crystal blue eyes.  Frowning with concern, she continued, “And
why do you look so sad?”

Gage rolled his eyes, though affectionately.  “Men do not get sad,
Kate.  Women get sad.  Men get pissed off. And I’m not either of those
things.  I’m fine.  You’re the one sighing.  What’s the sigh all about?”

Kate stared hard at him a moment, but knew he wouldn’t be budged.  
He wasn’t going to tell her until he was ready.    She didn’t like seeing
that look on his face at all.  She could guess why it was there, and the
mere thought sent a touch of panic through her veins.

Her brother would not die.  She would fight fate, or God, or
whomever she had to fight, but she was not losing Gage.  Pasting a
determined smile on her face, she said lightly, “I could be sighing at
the thought of the chocolate ice cream I had at lunch.”

Gage threw back his head and laughed.  Shaking his head at her, he
said, “First of all, you don’t like ice cream.  A horrible sin, but it’s true.  
Secondly, knowing you, you probably worked right through lunch.  
Unless you lunched with, uhhh what’s the name this time?  Was it
Brad or Brent?”

Kate gave him a cold glare designed to freeze the blood in his veins.  
“It was neither.  Do try to keep up.  His name was Todd.  And he’s
outlived his usefulness as of this morning.”

Gage’s expression sobered a little, but the amusement was still in his
voice. “Poor bastard.  What did you do?  Tell him he was fired without
further notice?  Oh, I know, you’re both lawyers.  You sent him
papers addressed to ‘Dumpee.’”

Kate forced a rather brittle laugh and nearly winced. “Actually, I
believe I received the papers this time.  But, no doubt he’d have
received some from me soon enough.”

Gage sat up and searched her face with suddenly gentle eyes.  “Kate,
are you okay?  Did you really care about this one?”

Kate sighed and felt a pang of sadness that had nothing to do with
Todd. “No, actually, I didn’t.  I mean, I cared about him as a person,
but you know me–I don’t develop lasting relationships.”

Gage shook his head. “That’s not true and you know it.  Look at you
and Sharon.  You’ve been friends for forever. “

Kate went cold with icy dread at the mention of Sharon.  Taking a
deep breath, she said with resignation, “Sharon.  That’s right.  You
don’t know about Sharon.”

Looking really alarmed now, Gage asked, “What’s happened?”

Kate met his eyes squarely. “Sharon was called to Oath.  She’s due
back from Shimeria today.  I have the incompatibility papers already
drawn up for her signature. ”

Gage eyes widened in shock.  “Called to Oath? Sharon?”  He looked
dazed at the thought.  “Sharon is so…”

He fell silent, obviously trying to think of a term.  “And Shimerians are
so…”

Kate smiled grimly. “Yes, exactly.  If they’ve harmed her in any way, I’
ll go there myself and see justice done.  I swear I will.”

Thoughts of her sheltered librarian best friend in the arms of a
dominant, sexually aggressive alien had given Kate quite a few
sleepless nights in the last three weeks.  Thank God Sharon was
coming home today.  She would see her and make sure everything
was okay.  Feeling a familiar sense of frustration at her inability to do
anything now, she focused on explaining the specifics to Gage.

“His name is Liken da’Kamon.  He invoked the Oath three weeks ago
and Sharon chose Seduction.”  Her mind filled with images of herself
and Sharon at eighteen, so young and idealistic, signing the register.  
Wincing at the thought of how she’d urged Sharon to sign, she felt a
fresh wave of guilt and helplessness.

Gage knew he looked outwardly composed.  He’d had a lifetime of
hiding his emotions, even from his sister.  But inside he was truly
shocked and worried at the news.   Straightening his shoulders, he
asked precisely, “What do you mean she chose Seduction?”

Kate heard the dangerous edge to his voice and said quietly, “Earth
females get three options as to the Oath the Shimerian male will
make:  Seduction, Challenge, or Capture.”

Gage tried to remember what he could about Shimeria.  It wasn’t
much.  He had met some Shimerian males in his travels, but he’d never
been off-planet to visit the place.  The males whom he’d met were big
and lusty types, powerfully built and aggressively male.  He couldn’t
imagine Sharon with that kind of man.

He felt a growing anger at the thought of what might have happened
to Sharon.  Focusing on getting as much information as possible, he
said shortly, “Explain the options to me.  What exactly happens?”

Kate watched the growing anger in her brother and felt a little
relieved.  They would help Sharon together.  Taking another deep,
calming breath, she said, “I’ve been going over the paperwork
carefully.  If the female chooses Seduction, she goes to Shimeria with
him for three weeks referred to as a “knowing period.”  He gets
certain intimacies at certain times progressively.”

She realized she was tapping her fingers impatiently on the desk out
of sheer nerves and stopped immediately.   “Total intimacy occurs
within three days.  Basically, he takes an oath to seduce her into
staying with him.  After three weeks, if he’s successful, they have a
pledge ceremony and go back to Shimeria to live.  If he’s unsuccessful
in convincing her to stay at the end of the knowing period, she can file
incompatible papers and dissolve the pact.”

Gage tensed even more and said shortly, “Couldn’t she have picked
one of the other options?”

Kate sighed.  “Believe me, for Sharon that would have been worse.  
The Oath of Challenge is similar to the Seduction Oath.  The female
agrees to cooperate sexually with any intimacy for two weeks--except
intercourse.  Obviously, he can’t abuse her or force her into repulsive
acts.  He’s challenging her to explore her sexuality without giving in to
total intimacy.”

The words came out huskier than she intended.  Clearing her throat,
she continued, “If she has intercourse with him, she is ineligible to file
for noncomp.  She has to pledge with him and stay.”

Kate felt a little warm at the discussion of the Challenge Oath.  Despite
her worry for Sharon, she couldn’t help feeling intrigued at the
thought.  What would it be like to explore your desires in that way?

An image of a Liken’s broad-shouldered brother flashed through her
mind.  There was something about him.  He kept popping into her
thoughts.  She had even awakened from a few rather interesting
dreams.  She might see him today when she went to the Pactbuilding
to see Sharon and file the papers. Immediately, she banished the
thought.

With each sentence, Gage could feel his blood pressure rising.  “And
Capture?”

Shrugging helplessly, Kate explained, “In my opinion, it’s the most
dangerous of the three.  The female runs and tries to evade the male
for a month.  She has two advantages:  she gets a 24-hour head-start
and Shimerians can only stay on Earth for three weeks without getting
ill.  The illness progresses rapidly and is fatal if they don’t return to
their own world.  They can’t adjust to our atmosphere.”  

She wearily rubbed the back of her neck where it had begun to ache.  
“I wish we couldn’t adjust to their atmosphere, but we can.”

Gage felt guilt all the way down to his toes.  He had been unavailable
and out of touch when his family needed him.  He felt the guilt turn to
anger at his own selfishness.  He should have been there for them.

He said, “I’m sorry, Kate.  The two of you should have been able to
come to me.  I would have helped hide her.  He wouldn’t have found
her. And if he had, he wouldn’t have taken her away.”

Kate smiled and shook her head.  “Gage, as much as I appreciate the
protectiveness, we could have handled it ourselves.  Besides, she
couldn’t break Oath.  Signing the register is legally binding.  She
would have faced imprisonment here.  She could have run under the
Capture option, but…”

She leaned back in her chair and said grimly, “We couldn’t risk the
consequences if she was caught.  If the male captures her, she has to
obey him sexually for however much of the month is left.  He can do
what he likes to her, as long as he doesn’t hurt her emotionally or
physically.”

Seeing the hardness in her brother’s eyes, she forced a more neutral
tone.  “A high stakes gamble with possibly intense sexual
consequences.  For Sharon, it was out of the question.  Oh, and with
Capture, noncomp papers are out, too.  You’re stuck.”

Gage leaned back in his chair and wiped his hand over his face in an
absent-minded gesture of frustration.  Obviously, Sharon had made
the only choice that she could make, given the options.  Suddenly, he
remembered something else about Shimerians.  He hated to even
mention the topic to Kate.  She would get upset, but he had to know.  
“They’re psychic, aren’t they?  Or some form of it?”

Kate knew her face had gone pale at the mention of the word, but she
said evenly, “Yes, I think they have some unusual mental abilities.  I
couldn’t find any concrete evidence in my research, but there are too
many rumors from too many places.”  She looked away.

Gage felt the weight of silence hang between them for a long
moment.  Kate was avoiding looking at him.  He decided to confront
the issue directly. “Kate, we both know psychic powers are possible.  
I’m clairvoyant and there’s no getting around it.  I’ve proven it
enough times in our lives.  Just because you don’t like what I see,
doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Panic and anger raged inside her, so Kate purposefully turned cool.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in your powers. You know I do.  I just
don’t believe in destiny.  You may have seen your…” her voice caught,
but she quickly got it under control, “…death, but I refuse to accept
it.  You’re healthy and sitting right here in front of me.  Nothing’s
going to happen.”

Gage’s heart twisted at the look on his sister’s face.  She knew deep
down that he was right, but she couldn’t accept it.  Unfortunately, she
was going to have to accept it soon.  He could sense time running out.

There was a new feeling of urgency lately. The vision was occurring
with an alarming frequency now.  He had hoped he was overstressed
and that a vacation would lessen the feeling and the dreams.  Instead,
as he’d relaxed, they’d only grown stronger.  He could feel his life
slipping away, hour by hour.  His heart sped up in his chest.  Not much
longer.  There was no doubt.

Watching Kate’s pain-filled face, he groped helplessly with a way to
comfort her.  Pasting on a smile he said lightly, “Come on, Kit-Kate,
you know I’ve lived a life full enough for ten men.”

He watched with rising panic as her eyes grew over-bright at the
childhood nickname.  Kate never cried.  This conversation was getting
bad in a hurry.  Deliberately goading her he said, “Hey, I’ve single-
handedly worked my way through the female population of this city
and two foreign cities as well.   I don’t plan to die until I have at least
two more cities under my belt.”

Kate knew what he was doing.  He was bringing up his playboy image
to distract her.  Rather than being distracted, she spoke with firm
resolve.  “I don’t care what visions you’ve had.  You’re not dying
young and that’s final.”  Attempting to lighten the moment, she
continued primly, “And psychic visions are no excuse for being
oversexed.”

Gage couldn’t help admiring his sister’s determination and control.  
Kate was one hell of a fighter.  He grinned. “Who needs an excuse for
being oversexed when it’s so much fun?”

Suddenly, there was a loud commotion in the hallway.  Gage stood
and flashed a warning look at Kate. “Stay here.  Something’s
happening.”

Kate ignored her brother and stood as well.  Suddenly, the flustered
voice of her assistant was heard saying clearly, “But sirs, you can’t
interrupt her.  Ms. Carson is busy.  If you’ll just allow me to…”

Two hulking Pactreps entered her office, with her worried assistant
right behind them murmuring objections and apologies.  Seeing Gage
tense, she moved quickly to bring things under control.  She nodded
to her assistant. “Darren, it’s okay.  I’m willing to see these two
gentlemen.” She placed a sarcastic emphasis on the last word.

Gage arched an eyebrow at her in question.  She shook her head
slightly and dropped casually into her chair.  She watched as Gage
moved over to the left, and leaned against the wall.  He crossed his
arms over his chest.  He looked at the Pactreps like a sleepy tiger
deciding lazily when to pounce on his meal.

Her assistant backed out of the office with an apologetic look.  The
Pactreps came to a halt in front of her desk.  They were wearing
identical black pants and white shirts.  They were easily six feet, six
inches tall and heavily muscled.  They looked more like bodyguards
than government paper servers.

Gage watched the change come over his sister.  When she leaned back
in her chair, eyes glinting like ice, smiling wickedly, he almost felt sorry
for the Pactreps.  When Kate had that look, there was always hell to
pay.

She crossed one leg over the other and said gaily, “Hello, boys.  It’s
been weeks since I saw you last, hasn’t it?”

Gage could see the huge men flinch a little and had to stifle an urge to
laugh.  This was going to be good.  When neither man responded,
Gage realized it was going to be really good.

They seemed to be gathering their courage.  Considering his sister
was five feet six inches tall and less than half of either of their body
weights, the sight of the two hesitant reps was hilarious.

Finally, they had shown up to take her to Sharon, Kate thought
gleefully.   Her dealings with the Pact Officials this week had been
unproductive.  Basically, they had succeeded in convincing her that
she would be contacted when Sharon was due to arrive.  Any other
information she requested was met with bureaucratic jargon and
evasion.

Now, she had the same two Pacteps assigned to escort her as last
time.  When the reps remained silent, she gave them a mocking look.  
They remembered her well.  Good.  She arched one smooth eyebrow
and said overly pleasantly, “Oh, dear.  I’m speaking too fast for you
again, aren’t I?”

Speaking slowly and carefully, as if to a small child, she said, “Now,
what were your names?  Oh yes, Everest and Rushmore.  Couldn’t get
me to come to you, so you had to come to me?”

One of the men spoke. “I’m Pactrepresentative Dik si’Dalon and this is
Jr. Pactrep Joseph Swann.”

Kate nearly broke into laughter at the incongruity of the last name
Swann.  The rep was a huge hulking creature, and graceful he was
not.  Of course, he didn’t look like anybody’s junior anything either.  
Struggling to keep a straight face, she said, “Let’s not make molehills
out of mountains, shall we?”

When their faces remained blank, she sighed.  Suddenly changing
tactics, she demanded in a hard voice, “What do you want?  And you’
d better not be telling me Sharon is being kept past today.  I’ve read
the paperwork and my client will not be forcibly detained.”

The two men glanced at each other and then Swann spoke in a
cautious voice. “Sharon Glaston is returning today.  We have the
witness order to summon you there.  The pledging ceremony is to be
held at three o’clock.”

Kate sat up, uncrossed her legs, and placed her hands on her desk.  In
her coldest voice, she challenged, “The hell it will.  I notice you’re just
now notifying me and it’s already two-fifteen.  Left it a little late there,
didn’t you Junior?”

He winced, but held his ground.  “We are here to notify you of the
pledge ceremony and your required presence.  In addition, we have
more papers to serve.”

Taking a step toward Gage, Swann approached him and said, “We
have been searching for you.  You are her brother, correct?”

Gage watched the man through narrowed eyes.  Something was going
on here, and he had a sudden feeling it involved Kate and not Sharon.  
Straightening from the wall, he said coolly, “Yes, I’m Gage Carson.  
Why?”

The man handed Gage a piece of paper gingerly, as if he was feeding a
wild animal.  When Gage took the paper, Swann stepped back
cautiously.  Gage began reading.

Kate watched her brother’s brow wrinkle in confusion.  As his head
came up in surprise, he shot her a stunned look she couldn’t
interpret.  “What is it?” she asked in alarm.

Pactrep si’Dalon stepped in front of her.  Suddenly realizing the two
men were between her and her brother, she stepped forward until she
was within a foot of si’Dalon and glared up at him.

The representative held up another sheet of paper and began to read.
“Katherine Harmony Carson,” his voice nearly choked on her middle
name, but he continued reading in a low steady voice.  “You are
hereby summoned to Oath by the world government of Shimeria and
the...”

“What?!” Kate knew her voice was shrill, but she was shocked to the
core.  “Did you just say I’ve been summoned to Oath?!”

The representative continued reading as if his very mission in life was
to finish the summons.  “…and the United Government of…”  Gage
and Kate began talking at the same time.

“No way in hell,” Gage said in a dangerously furious voice. “She’s not
going.  You guys have picked the wrong two women.  I’m telling you
now--it’s not happening.”

Kate continued exclaiming, “There is no way that could be right.  Do
you know what the odds of Sharon and my both being summoned
are?  Only one in twenty thousand on the register is summoned.  The
odds of two best friends being called are astronomical.  Somebody has
screwed up here big time.”

Suddenly she heard a familiar name in the midst of the rep’s droning.
“Wait a second. Did you say the name Tair da’Kamon?  As in--a
relative of Liken da’Kamon?”

Her mind filled again with the image of the Shimerian male, Liken’s
brother whom she had met briefly at Sharon’s pact ceremony.  She
knew down to her bones he was the one.  His drop-dead good looks
were exceeded only by his arrogance.

Remembering his smugly grinning face, she had the sudden impulse to
hit something, hard.  He had known while they were talking that he
would summon her to Oath.  That knowing light in his eyes and smug
attitude made sense now.  She felt fury flood her at the mere thought.

The Pactrep’s voice stopped finally as he reached the end of the
summons.  Looking up, he said in a gloating voice, “It is done.  You
must accompany us to the Pactbuilding for the ceremony.”  His entire
body went tense as if he expected her to spring at him.

Kate’s eyelids came down to hide her eyes and her face lost all
expression.  With a narrow look, she said calmly, “I’ll meet you boys
there.”

Gage made a sudden motion forward, but her pointed look stopped
him in his tracks.  Studying his sister, he knew she had developed a
plan.  Deciding to trust her for the moment, he said casually, “I’ll
transport you.”

Both Pactreps shook their heads.  Swann said, “You both must
accompany us now.  It is in the papers.”

Kate reached out and took the paper from si’Dalon.  Reading it over
carefully, she found the clause.  He was right.  Thinking hard for a
minute, she said flatly, “I’ll accompany you.  We’ll notify my partners
of what’s happening and drop by my house first.”

Suddenly, she realized that Sharon would be getting back shortly.  Her
temper spiked as she realized the timing. She clamped down swiftly on
her anger yet again and said coolly, “Or not.  I guess you guys have
timed it so that I have to leave with you to meet Sharon.  Very clever,
boys.  I never would have suspected an active brain cell between the
two of you.  Well done.”

Swann ignored the insult. “All notifications will be made and
procedures followed.  The Pactmakers will take care of any necessary
details while you are on Shimeria.  Everything from plant and pet care
to bills to family and work explanations will be handled diligently.  You
have nothing to fear.”

It was the wrong word choice.  Kate’s back stiffened and she said
coldly, “Oh, I’m not afraid.  I’m looking forward to having a
discussion with Tair.  Let’s go.”

She picked up a stack of papers off her desk and removed her purse
from a drawer.  She put the papers in her purse with calm efficiency.  
Slinging it over her shoulder and flashing the two Pactreps a look of
disdain, she walked out of the room without a backward glance.

Gage watched his sister walk around the Pactrep and out the door
with regal grace and felt like cheering.  He knew she had to be
panicked at the thought of being summoned, but it didn’t show. She
had decided to focus her energies on Tair.  He knew that sharp brain
of hers was busy plotting and planning.  Well, he had a few plots of
his own. First things first, however.

As Pactrep si’Dilon left in Kate’s wake, Gage turned to find Swann
regarding him warily.  Gage said, “Enjoy your moment of triumph.  
Kate will be stirring up hell soon enough.”  Leaning forward until he
was within inches of touching the representative, he said, “Of course,
you’re probably not afraid.  Kate has some scruples.  She won’t blame
you for this mess.  She knows you’re just doing your job.”  

Gage smiled and grabbed Swann’s shirt.  He stared hard into the other
man’s eyes, watching Swann’s face grow pale in response.  He kept
his voice low and even as he continued, “I, on the other hand, don’t
give a damn about scruples.”

He released the man’s shirt and leaned back.  He said matter-of-factly,
“Fuck scruples. Whoever hurts them will pay no matter how small
their part in this scheme.  If Sharon or Kate suffers, there’s no planet
in existence where you’ll ever be safe.”  He stepped around the
Pactrep and strolled out of the office.

Swann stood there a moment in the silence of the room.  The icy
threat he had seen in those eyes had been chilling.  He knew Gage’s
background.  He felt like he had escaped death by an inch.  With
absolute certainty he knew Gage’s words were true.  He sighed.

Some men, he reflected, were like cobras.  If you tangled with them,
one of you most likely ended up dead.  There were days when his job
really sucked.  With weary steps, he moved to follow the others.  
Government servants never got any respect.



Copyright 2002 Marly Chance All Rights Reserved






I hope you've enjoyed this small excerpt of OATH OF CHALLENGE:
CONQUERING KATE by Marly Chance!  To find out how to order this
book, please go to
http://www.marlychance.com/howtoorder.html.  Thank you!





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