Disclaimer: The people belong to Mr. Lucas and Mr. Zahn, but I'm giving the characters some new things to do, and giving you a new Karrde/Shada romance. There are too few of those, you know. Only three at my last count, plus mentions that they're together iin some other fics.

Chapter One: Shada D'ukal sat at the bar in the club called The Black Rose. She stared into

her glass of Tokay, not really seeing the amber liquid. Instead, she was preoccupied with

her troubles, of which she had several. First off, she had been banished forever from her

home on Emberlene. Shada was sad about this, but sadder now that she knew that the

people she'd believed in – the Elders – and the group she'd belonged to – the Mistryl

warriors – believed in a worthless, unjust cause. Worse, they were dragging all of

Emberlene down with them. Technically, though, anything connected to Emberlene

wasn't her problem anymore. What was her problem was the fact that she had nowhere to

go now. Shada had absolutely no idea what she was going to do. She needed work, but

she'd already tried the New Republic, and they didn't want her. The only one who seemed

to...and there was another trouble. Talon Karrde. The whole time she'd been helping him

search for Jor'j Car'das, he'd been very friendly, but she figured it was politeness. That

was okay – much better than most of the males she'd worked with, who'd been anything

but polite. The bad part was...well...truth be told, she wasn't exactly sure. Something

about him bothered her, but she wasn't sure why. To complicate things further, he wanted

to talk to her. That was why she was here, to meet with him. But why did he want to talk

to her? A job offer? Or to explain why he no longer required her services? Not that it

mattered, really. He clouded her head, so logically it was a bad idea to work for him

anyway. Shada sighed. Life could really suck, she decided glumly.

Over near the door, a man watched her stare at her glass. Talon Karrde wondered

what the black haired woman was thinking. She seemed very preoccupied, and it caused

him to hesitate. What if she was unwilling to accept his offer? What then? It hit him

suddenly that he really wanted her to stick around, though he didn't know why. Karrde

felt that Shada was somehow important to him, but that made no sense. It didn't matter,

he decided. You're here to offer her a job, he reminded himself. Nothing more and

nothing less. But if that's true, a treacherous part of his mind whispered, then why are you

so nervous?

Shada looked up to see Karrde walking towards her. Kreth, she thought. Why

now, when I'm not ready to deal with him? But he was almost up to her now; she would

have to make herself be ready.

Karrde felt oddly uneasy as Shada turned to face him. There was something about

those emerald eyes...so deep a man could drown in them. He shook such thoughts off. He

had no business thinking that way about Shada. To distract himself and get this business

started, he said, "Hello, Miss D'ukal. How are you?" That sounds wonderful, Karrde, he

thought bitterly. Real smart.

He sounds as uncomfortable as I feel. Wonder why? Shada ignored the thought,

because she had to respond, and side conversations in one's head are very distracting.

"Hello, Karrde. I'm alright, I guess. How about you?" Very smooth, D'ukal. Now what?

Karrde blinked, surprised by the oddness in her voice. "May I sit down?" he asked quickly. She arched a brow and responded dryly, "Well, since I'm waiting to talk to you, sure." He slid into the seat across from her. A server saw him and took his drink order. When it came, he took a sip and cleared his throat.

"Well, Miss D'ukal, I'm here to ask you if you want a permanent job with my organization. I have an opening and I think you'll fit the requirements perfectly. "Uh-huh," she replied. "And what exactly is this job? Oh, and, call me Shada. I'm not big on the 'Miss D'ukal' thing."

Karrde smiled slightly. "Shada it is then. And the position is second-in-command. I really think you'd do well there." He studied her hopefully and watched as her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "You already have a 2IC, Karrde. Mara Jade," she said.

"Ah. You're right. But, you see, Mara's leaving soon. She's getting married. To Luke Skywalker. So she's decided to focus on her Jedi studies and that means she's leaving. Which also means that I need a new 2IC, so...will you take the job?"

"Skywalker! She's marrying Skywalker! How'd that happen?" Karrde laughed. "I'm not sure, but it's true. Are you accepting my offer or not?"

She was going to turn him down. He messed with her head just by being in the same room. How could she work for him? But then she met his eyes and her choice altered. She wanted this job and she would take it. She could suppress whatever her problem was and do her job. "All right. I accept. Thank you." He shook his head and replied sincerely, "No, thank you." Then he left. She watched him go silently. In the back of her mind, a voice whispered, And so it begins...