Authors: Cathryn Cade
The LodeStar Series
Captive of Pleasure;
‘The Space Pirate’s Woman’
Can a woman with no memory inspire a man who is running from his?
As Il Zhazid, ‘The Storm’, he rules the unsettled prairies of Frontiera, striking ruthlessly at other pirates who dare to enter his territory. Only a few know him as Joran Stark, a man who desires only to live wild and free with his loyal band. Women love him, other pirates fear him and the InterGalactic Space Forces can’t control him.
Zaë is young, lovely and terrified—a slave paraded before the scum of the galaxy to be sold to the highest bidder. Storm interrupts a lucrative raid to save her, only to discover he can’t send her home, because she has no memory of who she is or where she came from. Now he must battle ever-bolder pirates who want his territory and the IGSF officials who want to use him, all with her close by his side.
The last thing he ever wanted to be was a hero, but can this damaged woman inspire him to be the man she believes him to be? And within the shelter of his powerful arms, can she finally believe in herself?
Captive of Pleasure;
The Space Pirate’s Woman
LodeStar Series, Book Three
Published by Cathryn Cade
Copyright 2014 Cathryn Cade
Cover by Gilded Heart Designs
Edited by Red Circle Ink
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All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.
Planet of Frontiera, Eastern Mountains
The reporter for Galactic Travel struck a pose for the holovid cameras on the bluff above the plain, a meandering river rolling behind him. In the light of the summer evening, his blond hair curled over his high forehead. He wore sturdy frontier garb, a broad brimmed hat and sungoggles in one hand.
“Greetings, galactic friends,” he called. “I’m Ashe Targhee, reporting to you from Frontiera, where I’ve spent the last several weeks getting to know this wild planet—her mountains and plains, her tropics and poles. Her creatures, both sentient and base.
“The Khadim tribes of Frontiera’s beautiful eastern plains are a simple, nomadic people. They camp each night by the light of the three moons, in their portable dwellings known as tonts. Every week or so, they wake to a pristine sunrise, break their fast and prepare to move on across these seemingly limitless plains in search of food, water and forage for their livestock. The riverbank you see behind me bears the traces of their last camp, with cook-fire rings and trampled forbs.”
He held out one arm. “They’ve since moved upriver. Now come with me as we visit these friendly nomads. But watch your step—we’re in skrog country.”
With a conspiratorial wink, he stepped onto a hoverpad, turned and zipped along the bluff.
In his elegant home in Frontiera City, Logan Stark watched with a near smile on his taciturn face. “‘Simple, nomadic people’,” he murmured. “Well done, brother.”
“Did you call, Mr. Stark?” A slim Pangaean appeared in the doorway to the galley.
Stark shook his head. “No, Natan, I’m fine. Although you could pour me another moonbrandy.”
The Pangaean hesitated, and Stark looked over at him, brows raised. His housekeeper’s greenish hair fluttered as his gaze darted between his employer and the empty snifter at Stark’s elbow.
“Um, that will be your third, sir,” Natan said.
“I’m well aware of that,” Stark said gently.
“Yes, sir.” Natan hurried over to take his glass and refill it from the Serpentian fireglass decanter on the sideboard. He set it on the tray hovering at Stark’s elbow. “May I serve you an hors d’ oeuvre with your drink, sir?”
Stark shook his head, gaze on the holovid. “No, Natan. I’ll wait for dinner.”
The Pangaean slipped away. Stark reached for the glass, hesitated, then lifted it to his lips. Who the hells cared how much he drank?
Not his former mistress, that was for certain. And that left no one, at least in this house, except his housekeeper.
A chill of something he refused to name ran through him. He took another drink.
The holovid scene changed to a circle of domed tonts, a mottled gray-green that blended in with the brush along the banks of the clear, golden-green river. Under the trees a band of catamount ponies frisked in their pen, an occasional spark of purple arcing when one strayed too close to the invisible energy barrier that held them. An older female kept watch, scenting the breeze with feline head high, pointed ears pricked, her tail lashing slowly as she paced back and forth on long, powerful legs.
Under an awning the same hue as the tonts, a large number of cruisers and hovercycles were moored, some hued with flashy gelpaint, some with dull camouflage. The bulk of a transport rose over the trees, and if the watcher knew where to look, a sleek, silvery cruiser was just visible under its own camo awning.
In the background a herd of skrog moved majestically, angling toward the river along a path only they could discern. Their shaggy heads, laden with swooping horns, swayed as they walked. A small herd of deer-like stickas skittered out of their way, disappearing into the brush. A pair of gyre hawks sailed overhead, dark arcs against the golden sunset.
Ashe Targhee posed in the foreground, profile framed against the sky.
“The evening camp fires of the Khadim are just now lit.” He gestured toward the reddish glow coming from a portable firestand. “The tontkeepers, male and female, will cook the evening meals there. And later, when the moon and stars light the heavens, they’ll share stories and games of chance.
“Let’s join them, shall we?”
“Let’s,” Creed Forth agreed drily from the viewing room in his remote Frontieran stronghold. “If only to see these simple nomads have a little fun with you, you pompous ass.”
The lovely blonde curled beside him poked him in the ribs. “Creed,” Taara Ravel protested. “He’s just doing his job.”
He pulled her closer on the capacious leather sofa and pressed a kiss to her temple, his gaze still on the holovid. “Ah, but you’re a wide-eyed little immi, learning about your new planet. I happen to know the leader of these nomads, and there’s nothing simple about him or his band.”
“Maybe Ashe Targhee will come and interview you next,” she teased. “A simple miner, plying the earth for minerals.”
His big hand covered her mouth. “Shush. Be a good girl and later I’ll show you my technique for going deep.”
“I can’t wait,” she mumbled against his fingers.
“I know. We simple miners are good with our equipment.” He moved his hand back to toying with her silky hair.
She turned back to watch the program, then sat up straight, her eyes wide. “Wait. Is that your brother?”
He laughed. “Yes, yes it is.”
Ashe Targhee sat cross-legged on a low stool, beaming with pleasure. Rustic glowlamps floated around the perimeter of the cozy main room of the tont, illuminating him and the man who lounged across from him on a skrog-leather divan.
Tall and lean, with broad shoulders and long legs, everything about this man was in sharp contrast to the reporter, from his flowing gray robes, the loose headdress draped around his head and neck, to the hawkish cast of his tanned, angular face. His eyes were a piercing light gray, nearly silver. His casual pose belied the keen watchfulness of his gaze.
“You are known as Il Zhazid,” the reporter said. “Can you tell our viewers what your title means?”
The other man shrugged modestly. “Oh, really, it’s nothing. It means ‘The Storm’, but it’s just that we move about so much, you know? Blowing like the winds over these plains. Kind of a joke of ours.”
The reporter nodded wisely. “I see. Your people have a wry wit. I expect they’re fond of practical jokes as well, eh? A bit of play to liven up the simplicity of nomadic life.”
His host bowed his head, raising one hand palm up in a gesture that said Targhee had expressed things perfectly. “This is so. Yes, yes.”
A woman appeared in the doorway between chambers, guiding a hovertray laden with a steaming pot, mugs and small trays of food. She wore a long robe as well, hers dark. Under the loose hood, silver hair framed a lined face.
“My lord,” she murmured, with a shy frown at the cameras. “Your refreshment.”
Zhazid waved her to leave the tray between them. “Thank you, Nera. We will serve ourselves.”
The woman bowed and then hurried away.
“Ah, thank you.” Targhee accepted a steaming mug and selected a small plate of food. “Delicious,” he said for the camera floating nearby. “Tea and nut crispies.” He chuckled. “Didn’t expect to get these so far out here.”
Zhazid regarded him over his own mug, his expression benign. “We receive occasional shipments from civilization.”
“Ah, of course. By, er, catamount pony?”
“No, by supply transport. We are a simple people, but we do utilize tech.”
“Ah, of course.” Ashe Targhee looked around. “Now, I’m sure our viewers will want to know, sir. Are you not ... wed?”
His host shook his head. “‘Wed’? How do you mean?”
,” the reporter explained, gesturing with his crispie. “Do you have a woman, a partner? Or perhaps part
. Heh, heh.” He gave the camera a speaking glance, as if to say that of course everyone had heard of tribal hareems.
Il Zhazid raised his heavy, arching brows. “Ah,” he said. “Concubines. Yes, yes. Many of them. Well, only three, actually. These tonts aren’t
spacious, as you can see.”
The reporter’s eyes widened with glee. “Three?”
“Certainly. Would you like to meet them?” He didn’t wait for Targhee to speak, but instead bellowed over one shoulder. “Concubines! Present yourselves.”
There was a short silence, and then a flurry of whispering and giggling, including a muffled curse.
“We are here, my lord.” A small, slender blonde slipped through the doorway, followed by a taller redhead, and finally a slim man with skin the hue of café au lait and huge, lustrous eyes. All three were clad in long robes and headdresses, only their faces and a little of their hair visible.
Eyes bright with excitement, the three of them filed over to the divan. The two women disposed themselves on either side of Zhazid, while the male slipped down to sit at his feet. He leaned his head on one of his lord’s brawny legs, long lashes veiling his gaze.
The blonde laid her head on Zhazid’s shoulder, while the redhead stroked his chest with one hand. Surrounding their virile, masculine lord, they formed a striking tableau.
“I see,” Ashe Targhee breathed. “Yes, I see.”
Sitting in a cozy corner bar in Frontiera City with Daanel Ravel and his partner, Kiri te Nawa clapped a slender hand to her mouth to stifle a snicker. She gave in and tipped back her head, laughing with husky, ribald abandon. It felt good—she hadn’t really laughed in months.