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Only after she copied the Turgonian admiral’s signature did she grab the paper with both hands, devouring the message.

Tikaya shoved her bamboo chair back so quickly it toppled to the floor. She glanced about the desk-filled room. Everyone had stopped work to watch the door where her supervisor stood with the president. Their graying heads tilted toward each other, some discussion on their lips.

She blinked. When had the president arrived?

Then elation sent her racing across the room, sandals slapping the wood floor. Perfect. He should know first.

Mr. President?” she called, though he was already looking her way. “I have—”

Her hip rammed the corner of a desk. She flailed for balance, tripped over her own feet, and pitched forward. The president caught her in an awkward embrace. Mortified, she lurched backward and found her feet as heat swarmed her cheeks.

Professor Komitopis,” he said gently, amusement in his blue eyes. “Do you surf?”

Tikaya stared at him in bewilderment, then over his head and out the open door. In the bay, a steamer rumbled toward the docks while a few students straddled surfboards near the beach.

No, sir,” she said, letting puzzlement into her tone.

Don’t start,” the president said.

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