Nine years later
Devyn Kell is the devil himself. He will not take mercy on you and he will kill you if he finds out who you are and why you’re there. Trust me. I’ve buried every agent we’ve sent in after him- male, female and everything in between. Since he can spot an operative three seconds after he meets one, maybe a civ can bust his ass wide open.
Do not fail.
Alix Gerran held those words close to her heart as she entered the hangar bay where Kell’s ship was docked.
I don’t want to do this…
But she had no choice. It was either find the evidence to bring Kell to justice or watch her mother and sister die. She had three weeks before the Ritadarion Chief Minister of Justice executed them. And every day that passed, her family sat in a prison cell, rotting.
She was their only hope.
You can do this.
She still didn’t understand why Merjack just didn’t kill the man if he hated him so much. But the CMOD had been adamant that Kell have a public trial and execution. For whatever psycho reason an assassination contract wasn’t good enough for Kell.
Maybe Kell had run over Merjack’s dog…
We’ve already taken care of his engineer so he has an opening on his crew tailor made by us for you. You are to bring him to justice, alive for trial, or so help me, I’ll rape your family myself and then throw you to the class three felons and watch them take turns with you.
Whatever Kell had done to the CMOD had to have been fierce. There was no other reason for a hatred so strong.
â€œHow did I get in the middle of this?â€
But then, she knew. Her father had been a freighter until six months ago when his first mate had absconded with all of their savings. With no reserve, her family been forced into smuggling.
Unfortunately, her father had seriously stunk at that career and had been apprehended a week ago and executed within twenty-four hours of his conviction. Because she, her mother and sister were slaves, they’d been bound for the auction block to pay for his trial and execution.
Until Merjack had seen Alix.
Apparently, she bore a striking resemblance to someone in Kell’s past he’d cared about and that alone had kept her from being sold to a brothel.
So here she was…
I’m so going to die.
Stop it, Alix. You can do this.
She was getting tired of that worn out litany. The least the voice in her head could do was not sound so despondent when it said it.
You can do it!
Yeah, now she sounded like she was on drugs.
Swallowing her fear, she headed for bay Delta Alpha 17-4 where Kell’s ship, the Talia was docked.
Just don’t let him kill me three seconds after meeting me. It would seriously screw up her already messed up day.
She passed numerous freighters and fighters, the majority of which were outdated and barely legal for flight. Typical really. Most of the people who visited the Solaras Station were outlaws, grifters, prostitutes, fringe dwellers or pilots who needed the extra hazard pay that was offered to anyone dumb enough to fly through the Solaras System. Money for them was every bit as tight as it was for her.
But as she rounded a corner, she froze at the sight of what had to be the prettiest ship she’d ever seen. Her jaw dropped.
What I wouldn’t give for something like that…
It was absolutely stunning with gentle lines and no sharp angles anywhere on her. Painted a dark vermillion with gold highlights, she dominated the hangar. That ship was definitely a lady who shamed every single spacecraft that was docked here. For that matter, she shamed every ship Alix had ever seen outside of ads and online catalogues.
Letting out a slow, appreciative breath, she forced herself to not even dream about that one and started looking for the Talia.
It’s probably a rusted out tanker or freighter no better maintained than your father’s ship had been. You’re definitely going to have your hands full keeping her in space.
Just let Kell not be as disgusting as my father’s crew.
That was the worst part about runners and smugglers. They were a low hygiene bunch. It was like a badge of honor for them to out stink each other.
Look on the bright side, at least this way you don’t have sleep with his smelly hide.
True. With this mission, she only had to find or fabricate evidence to convict Kell before he killed her.
Pushing that frightening thought away, she counted off the bays as she passed them. â€œOne… two… three…â€ She stopped as she came even to the ship that had caught her eye.
No. It couldn’t be.
She double checked the numbers and sure enough it was.
Whoa… A rush of excitement went through her until she remembered that she wasn’t really here to work. She was here to either frame or apprehend a vicious felon.
â€œDammit, Vik. How can you not know what’s wrong with this thing? Can’t you commune with it or something?â€
She hesitated at that deep, rumbling voice that sounded like thunder. Lightly accented, it sent a shiver down her spine. Her heart thundering, she peeked around to the back and froze dead in her tracks.
If she’d thought the ship was something, it was nothing compared to the group of men who appeared to be its crew…
Oh. My. God.
The one who’d spoken had to be a good six foot four in height. Built in perfect proportions, he was lean and ripped. Broad shoulders tapered down to narrow hips and to what had to be the finest butt she’d ever seen in her lifeâ€“ she could bounce a credit off that.
Or break a tooth biting it…
His black hair was cut short, but the front of it fell down into a pair of eyes so dark they blended perfectly into his pupils. Dark brows slashed parallel to sharp cheekbones and a jaw that had a becoming tic in it.
Ooo that was totally lickable, too.
Power and strength bled from every pore of his body. An image that was perpetuated by the black Armstich suit hugging every dip and curve of his muscles, and the holstered blasters that were strapped to his hips.
Yeah, this guy meant business and was ready for trouble.
And the men with him were no different. There was one, a Hyshian by the looks of him, to his right. A few inches shorter, the Hyshian was no less ripped. His black hair fell in long braids to the middle of his back. He seemed to be around the same age as the first man she’d noticed.
Instead of black, he wore dark brown with even more weapons strapped to his body. His long coat was sleeveless, showing his bulging arms. Thick gold bracelets encircled both of his wrists and one thin band wrapped around his left bicepsâ€“ a mark of marriage in his world.
Yeah, he was every bit as deadly.
The third she suspected was a mecha. A good two inches taller than the one who’d spoken, he had dark blue hair and lighter blue skin. With his skin tone, he looked like a Rugarion, but their lips and eyes were black instead of the darker blue his were. As with the others, he was absolutely gorgeous. Well muscled and perfectly sculpted.
He also seemed remarkably peevedâ€“ something impressive since it was hard to get emotional programming perfected in an AI.
The mecha glared at the one who’d spoken. â€œMy name is not â€˜Dammit Vik’ and I find it ironic that you think I can commune with all metal beings when you can barely communicate your point of view with your own parents. And they birthed you. I did not give birth to this ship. Last time I checked, I was male and that would be impossible on a multitude of levels.â€
The other man laughed. â€œWhat do you think, Dev? Can we make a mod on Vik so that he could give birth?â€
The mecha scowled at him. â€œCareful, Sway, I could easily lock you in your room again… accidentally of course.â€
The Hyshian pulled out a blaster and angled it at his head. â€œI knew it, you metal bastard.â€
Dev let out an irritated breath before he disarmed the Hyshian. â€œAre we just going to stand here taking pot shots at each other? Or can we focus our collective ADD on getting us off this shit hole?â€
Sway glowered at him. â€œLook, no one wants off this hole worse than I do. I’m open for suggestions, Captain I-can-do-it-myself. Do you have any idea what’s sending off a warning?â€
Dev gave him a droll stare that sent a chill down her spine. â€œYeah, the malfunction system that won’t let us launch.â€
Vik snorted. â€œI suggested we hire a new engineer, but someone ignored me.â€ He slid his gaze to Dev.
Dev grimaced. â€œAnd what was I supposed to do? Shit one out? In case you haven’t noticed, there’s not a plethora of engineers here.â€
â€œPlethora?â€ Sway mocked. â€œWhat kind of girl word is that?â€
Dev went for his throat, only to have Vik come between them.
Vik shoved the Hyshian back. â€œSway, do not bruise the sacred entity. I don’t want to get dismantled because you desecrated the magic seed. Now both of you behave like you’re actually grown men.â€
Alix scowled. It was like watching a group of kids on a playground.
Deadly, scary kids, but…
You have to get in there and get on his ship.
I don’t want to go.
Just do it.
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to walk forward. Please don’t let them shoot me.
â€œExcuse me, scary people. Your rear stabilizer’s down.â€
Three pairs of eyes turned to her with an intensity that was absolutely terrifying. She had to fight the urge to run.
Instead, she held her ground as she faced them.