Captives of New Pompeii
unpleasant distinction of being favored by Venus. The
Fedorans are harboring us, so it is in their best interest not to
mention us to anyone.” She shook her head. “As long as a person
believes in the gods, it’s all perfectly reasonable.”
    “And the miraculous way they were
transported to another world will reinforce their belief in
Venus.”
    “Exactly.” He shook his head as well, a
reluctant smile curving his lips. “It’s crafty. You have to give
them that.”
    “It’s diabolical. But in the long run it
might be what’s best for my people. Their lives will continue on as
they have always been, while mine is in complete upheaval.”
    He opened his arms and she went eagerly into
his warm embrace. She didn’t want to need him, but already she felt
more balanced, more secure when he was around. “I would have spared
you this upheaval, but you saw right though my ploy.”
    She eased away without leaving his arms.
“You were claiming to be what I am. Did you honestly think you
could fool the real thing?”
    His brow arched. “You are one of six
priestesses we’ve processed so far. You’re the only one who
second-guessed the cover story. You’re not the average priestess,
my dear.”
    Pleased by his praise, she decided to tell
him her decision. “This is going to happen with or without my
cooperation, so I’ve decided to help you. I want the transition to
be as painless as possible for as many of my people as I can
help.”
    “That’s wonderful!” He pulled her back
against his chest and hugged her for a moment, his hands moving up
and down her back. “We’ll have to be really careful. You’ll need to
stay in the infirmary as much as possible.”
    “Is that where the orientations take
place?”
    “Yes. It’s important to minimize everyone’s
exposure to the ship and the crew.”
    For a long moment they just stood there,
content in each other’s arms. “This feels really nice.” She rested
her head on his shoulder and surrounded herself with his scent.
    “Can I sleep here tonight?” His voice was
barely a whisper, yet need resonated through the hushed tone. “We
don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to do, but I want you in
my arms.”
    Summoning all her courage, she met his
smoldering gaze. “I’d like that.”
    He kissed her then, the caress soft and
tender. His tongue brushed against her lips but went no farther.
She wrapped her arms around his back and pressed against him,
loving the feel of his strong body and eager to explore him more
fully. She parted her lips, wanting a deeper connection, wanting
more. But he pulled back and smiled then kissed the tip of her
nose.
    “We’ve got work to do,” he reminded. “This
will have to wait.”
    The rest of the day passed in a blur of
emotion and frustration. Felicia changed back into her robes, which
had been washed and pressed by another machine. The refugees
accepted the cover story more readily with her assistance, but they
also felt more comfortable asking questions. She did her best to
alleviate their fears, but Aiden kept reminding her that they were
on a very tight schedule.
    When the final group had cycled through for
the day, Felicia was left with a vague sense of doom. Was she a
traitor to her people, or had she simple offered them what comfort
she could in an impossible situation?
    “What’s the matter?” Aiden squeezed her
hand, which was entwined with his as they walked back to his cabin.
“You’ve been suspiciously quiet for the past few hours.”
    “How will the houses be assigned? What will
become of the people who travel from one city to another? Much of
Pompeii’s commerce was dependent upon trade.”
    “They will trade with Fedorans now and
visitors from other places. I suspect once the city is operational,
people will come from all over the place. It really is a unique
concept.”
    “What about the fishermen? How will they
make a living now?”
    “I saw a holo-model of the city. A section
of the

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