Out of the frying pan and into the inferno.
10.25 years after the end of the Great War
“Welcome aboard the Vor Cand.”
Shar’ia shook her head at the warrior standing guard at the airlock. A soft pattering of sand rained down on her. She’d been warned about the sand. It was an aspect of Navorain culture that dumbfounded her, but every outsider who boarded one of their ships was given at least one dose of the dust.
Welcome? I’m supposed to feel like a farden guest? The handcuffs circling her wrists took conviviality out of the equation. The fact she was facing a ten-year stint on the closest penal colony made her mood surly at best.
“Up your nacelle,” she muttered as she passed the warrior. His smile did nothing to improve her mood. She growled at him and sent him a withering stare. I’ll be damned to the pits of Nafrong before I’m nice to you.
“It is in your best interest to remain silent, Ms. Shar’ia,” her legal proxy whispered to her. “The Navorains aren’t known for their kindness toward accused smugglers of their ancient relics.”
They’d been over this before. Who the frig cares? I’m done for. You said so yourself. The slant-eyed Parthenian who’d been instructed by the Intergalactic Judiciary to represent her had also told her she should throw herself on the mercy of the Navorain High Council. He didn’t stop there. Oh no. He went on to inform her that, according to his research into the Navorain Criminal Code, there were brutal penalties for any man or woman found guilty of a similar crime to hers.
And, she thought as a soft, sardonic sigh broke from her throat, I’m as guilty as sin.
Might have been nice if my contact had told me I was smuggling Navorain artifacts.
She wondered if Kar’el, her purveyor on Atlas Nine, knew exactly what he’d packed in the cargo bin or whose toes he’d stepped on by pilfering the ancient tombs dotting the desert planet of Lazarus Seven. She sure as hell hadn’t until the InterGal vessel did a sensor sweep, which led them right to her cache. The expression on the officer’s face told her she was carrying some really pricey cargo, as in sacred relics of a warrior race who sat on the verge of extinction.
It wasn’t the first time she’d trafficked big ticket items. Hell no. She’d managed to traffic some items no other smuggler would touch with the deadly end of a phase pistol. Simmerian tingling oils from the dark planet, Danovia, expensive aphrodisiacs from Circe and the highly intoxicating alcohol from Earth had been at one time or another in her cargo hold. Not only had she shown the other traffickers she was one of the top captains in the sector, but she’d also shown her family she wasn’t just another of their run-of-the-mill female offspring who ran in fear from anything that could be considered remotely dangerous.
I broke the mold—but to what end?
She nibbled on her lower lip as she was led a short distance down the corridor. Remembering her brothers, sisters and cousins calling her crazy for wanting to follow in their father’s footsteps, she recalled nearly being teased out of school because of her aspirations.
Granted, few of her contemporaries had made it to graduation, but that was the norm rather than the exception on Atlas Nine.
Her home world, Atlas Nine, was about as poor a planet as you could find in the Omega Sector. An abandoned Earth colony stellar months from any other inhabited planet was pretty much screwed from the beginning. Then, years of war had left the planet on the brink of financial collapse and with a band of thugs in charge of the government. The populace, known more for producing the buzz-drug, Varian, turned to any and all illegal means to scrape out a living.
Her grandfather was the first to propose the ‘Ias take to the darkness of space with the sole intent of pirating the luxury cruise ships traveling to and from the vacation planets. It seemed harmless to all, especially when you considered the ship her grandfather piloted. A decommissioned Earth Guard Warbird. The battle-class cruiser didn’t have much going for her in the beginning except sheer size.
Basically gutted when she’d been taken out of service, Shar’ia recalled her family painstakingly putting the battle cruiser back together with armaments bartered for on the black market. Impressive was the word most often used to describe the ship once the retrofit was complete.
In all the early missions, the ship only had to fire a single warning shot, hear the captain of their target surrender, and gather the booty. Those good times didn’t last long. The vacation planets began employing heavily-armed interstellar cruisers and bounty hunters to patrol their borders. Smuggling was the second choice. The cargo holds could carry ten times what most traffickers could. With the addition of holographic walls, the cache was always well hidden behind empty cargo-containers or, on rare occasions when her father actually contracted a legit job, stacks of water purifiers or spare parts for a space station.
And you, in your ultimate wisdom, allowed the ship to be captured. Honestly, she felt guiltier about the loss of the ship than she did anything else. It was a good thing that both her grandfather and father were dead, because if they hadn’t been, they never would have forgiven her. Should have dumped the cargo and let InterGal clean up the space debris.
She gritted her teeth as another warrior came into view. Like all Navorains, he carried himself with an air of being better than every other species in the known universe. If she had been in a better situation, she’d admit he was a handsome man. His broad shoulders were absolutely huggable. Striking, sterling-silver eyes, strong featured with a full, kissable mouth caught hold of her attention. Nice. Very, very nice. The scowl he wore on his face she could do without.
Her gaze steered to another warrior who was striding toward her. Holy Mother of Atlas. The warrior was too gorgeous for words. Noticing he was larger than his contemporary, she licked her suddenly dry lips when he inspected her from the top of her head to the tips of her boots, and then his hard stare reversed course until he glared her dead in the eye. Heat blossomed in her belly. A delicious warmth she couldn’t deny spread downward until her pussy ached for some attention.
“We’ll assume custody of the prisoner,” the newcomer said to her legal proxy, but he never took his steely gaze off her face. “You are excused, Counselor, unless you intend to fly with us to Lazarus Seven. It is most inhospitable this time of the year. Of that I can assure you.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” Shar’ia started but stopped herself short. What the hell is going on? It wasn’t so much the change in destination she was questioning but the rampant desire flying through her system. The simple act of breathing had her nipples tightening to hard buds. The ache in her femininity turned to a damnable throb.
“Supreme Commander Fis Cand, I must protest.” An audible gulp sounded from her legal proxy. “On behalf of my client and as duly appointed defender of her interstellar rights, she is innocent until proven guilty. That is not a new concept to the Navorains.”
“The Navorain Counsel of Kings has decided not to pursue the formality of a long trial. That is contingent on Ms. Shar’ia returning the statue of Cand to its rightful home on Lazarus Seven.”
“But…but…you said…” The proxy didn’t continue when the other warrior took a threatening step forward. “You said the planet…inhospitable.”
Shar’ia swallowed against the knot of trepidation forming in her throat. “I’ll exercise my rights to a hearing before my peers.” She nodded to tell the two warriors she meant what she said. Ten years on a penal planet versus death from the elements in a wasteland? It was a no-brainer. Elbowing her legal proxy, she glanced at him. Her legal proxy appeared on the verge of fainting. “Say something,” she whispered under her breath.
That was it? “I must protest”? Great, I’m so farden frigged it’s not funny. The tension infusing the artificial environment grew heavy. Shar’ia felt tears gather in her eyes, but she blinked the wetness away. She wasn’t about to start crying like a baby, no matter how dire her circumstance or how hideous her punishment. Pursing her lips, she clenched her teeth.
“Leanderus, show Ms. Shar’ia to her quarters while I discuss the situation with her legal proxy.” Supreme Commander Fis Cand fisted his hand.
The thud of a body hitting the floor sounded next. Shar’ia stared at the unconscious figure of her legal proxy. “Wait,” she cried when a firm hand took possession of the six-inch long metal bar separating the metal cuffs circling her wrists. “I’ll lodge a formal protest with InterGal.”
“If that is your choice, so be it,” the one named Leanderus informed her.
Another pattering of sand fell from overhead vents to sprinkle down on her head and shoulders. Fear combined with lust to make her an emotional mess. The conflicting emotions oddly charged her body while the realization the Navorains were going to exact the ultimate punishment from her had her nearly in panic-induced tears. “Can’t we talk about this?”
In the back of her mind, she knew she’d do just about anything to keep herself alive. Anything and everything. She considered escape for a split second but disregarded the notion. The only way she could pull that off was with help from a member of the crew. You’ve lost all your senses if you think a Navorain warrior is going to break whatever code it is they follow and help you off this ship. Sadly, Shar’ia recognized the wisdom in her thought.
There was no escape.
A few more options shot through her head. She came up with a few scenarios she thought might fit with her limited knowledge of these types of cultures. It didn’t take her long to realize her only option was to beg for mercy and relinquish her freedom but keep her godforsaken life by becoming one of the warriors’ slaves.
She slid her gaze to the side and took in Leanderus. Small talk seemed to be the only way to open the lines of communication. But, I don’t want them to grow suspicious.
This is a farden friggin multi-spacecraft wreck on the I-995 galactic byway.
Her musings went from acceptance of what she had to do to how she needed to pull off her notion to downright disaster in the blink of an eye. Her gaze followed Leanderus’ strong fingers working the control pad outside a room. An involuntary shiver of sheer terror racked her body. And the damnable desire surging through her body ratcheted up a notch. “Is this the brig?”
“No,” Leanderus responded simply.
Her heart surged upward and seemed to lodge in her throat when she took in the accouterments of the room. Spartan was the only word to describe the space. She could count the contents of the room on one hand. Her gaze roamed over the low-to-the-ground bed, a desk, a dresser and another door, which she was almost certain led to a personal care compartment. If anything, the minimal furnishings, even the layout of the furniture, reminded her of her quarters aboard her ship. That was due to the nature of her craft’s duty. It was a Warbird. Physical space was at a premium for the sole purpose of maximizing the number of crewmen needed to keep her in tip-top shape, man her guns, and pilot the ship.
Audibly gulping, Shar’ia bit her lower lip when Leanderus escorted her to the bed. Her femininity clenched when he released his hold on the shackles and caressed a hot path up her arm. She gasped when he cupped her head in one of his huge hands.
Over the hard thudding of her heart, she heard her breathing turn to short pants. The soft strains of a song played in the background. It was a faint but sweet song that wrapped her in a cozy feeling of security. A low moan grew in her chest when Leanderus laid his hand on her hip. A female voice began to sing, but the sound level was so low Shar’ia couldn’t make out the words. She suddenly wished she knew where the volume control was for the speakers.
Leanderus released his hold on her head. The song fell off. “What?” she whispered almost inaudibly.
© Belladonna Bordeaux
Author: Belladonna Bordeaux
Publisher: Cobblestone Press
Shar’ia is a third generation trafficker of everything illegal in the Omega Sector. It would have been nice if she had been told her latest cargo contained a sacred Navorain relic. Her life has gone from dangerous to downright crazy as the mystic sand of Lazarus Seven mates Shar’ia to not only one but two Navorain warriors.
Joseferus Fis Cand is still reeling from the loss of his home planet. The plan for his people is easy – they have to repopulate their faltering numbers with all haste. They’ll pull out every weapon in their sexual arsenal to gain a new mate.