The steady rolling of the waves provided a soothing background beat as Aurora focused on her breathing, bringing it in sync with the moving water.
With her eyes closed, she could almost convince herself she was on Azaana. She hadn’t spent much time on the island’s expansive beach—she’d been too busy helping to build the settlement—but she could picture the azure water and pristine sand. Maybe Raaveen was down there now, gazing out at the water, or playing in the surf with Paaw and Sparw.
Justin had sent her an update during their stopover at Troi, letting her know he’d heard from Raaveen. Work on the settlement was nearly finished. He’d also said Raaveen had asked when Aurora would be returning, hoping she and Mya could be part of the planned festivities to celebrate the settlement’s completion. He said she was eager to show them what the Suulh had accomplished in their absence.
Well, Mya was already on her way. That would have to suffice for now. Much as she’d love to spend a couple weeks with the Suulh, she had a task of her own to complete.
Too bad she didn’t know her next step.
She drew in a deep breath and opened her eyes. No time like the present to figure it out.
Brushing the sand from her palms, she stood. Taking a more circuitous route back to the hotel would give her time to think.
The murmur of the surf grew fainter as the buildings closed in, but the walls amplified a new sound.
The steady fall of footsteps behind her.
She hadn’t noticed anyone else by the beach, but she hadn’t been paying attention, either.
Turning right at the next corner, she continued down the walkway.
The footsteps turned as well.
Probably a coincidence.
She slowed down, pretending interest in the brightly-colored clothing and beach paraphernalia in the darkened storefronts. The footsteps slowed as well.
Her heartbeat sped up. Don’t be paranoid. Probably just another insomniac out for a stroll.
She continued on, turning another corner that took her away from the direction of her hotel.
The footsteps came around the corner, keeping perfect pace with her.
Tension gripped her chest, but she forced air into her lungs. She was definitely being followed. But by whom?
Opening her empathic senses, she focused on her pursuer. Pinpointing the emotional field of her unknown tracker would be a piece of cake with so few people on the streets.
Or it should have been.
But she couldn’t get any reading at all.