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Authors: Elysa Hendricks

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fiction, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Adventure, #Life on Other Planets, #General

Star Raiders

BOOK: Star Raiders
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Star Raiders

Elysa Hendricks

LOVE SPELL

HEART’S BOUNTY

“So, ASP has judged me guilty and wil hand me over to the Consortium. That’s the plan?” Shyanne asked. The open young man with whom she’d fal en in love had never existed; he’d been an il usion created to trap her father. Damn, she didn’t want that to matter, but it did, even after al these years. Even after al the pain he’d caused her.

“There are those in ASP who question the evidence and your guilt in these crimes.” Greyson snared her gaze. “But you and I both know you’re far from innocent.”

Staring back at him, Shy fought off the surge of guilt threatening to cool her rage. What did she have to feel guilty about? Surviving? His betrayal had smashed her comfortable, secure world into a mil ion pieces and left her to put her life back together the only way she could. Smuggling was her only option. What else could she have done?

“So they sent you here alone to bring me in.” She forced a chuckle. “I think someone miscalculated.”

For Mom and Dad, Thanks for giving me the courage to raid the stars to find
my dreams.

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

HEART’S BOUNTY

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Epilogue

INTERACT WITH DORCHESTER ONLINE!

RAVES FOR ELYSA HENDRICKS!

Other Love Spel books by Elysa Hendricks:

Copyright

Chapter One

Greyson Dane sank onto the narrow bunk, leaned his aching head against the cold metal bulkhead of his cel and cursed his stupidity. After five years in the field with Earth League Force’s Anti-Smuggling/ Piracy (ASP) Bureau, he should have known better. His last ten years behind a desk as an administrator had apparently dul ed his skil s. One minute he was in charge, commanding an elderly man suspected of interplanetary smuggling to take him to his boss; the next he was waking up in a smal , locked detention cel with a king-sized headache. How had the old man gotten the drop on him?

As much good as it would do him, at least his hands and feet were free. The steady thrum of an engine told Greyson the ship was moving but gave no suggestion as to where…which raised a host of other questions: Even if he managed to break out of his cel , could he escape if things took an ugly turn? Had his captors taken his ship in tow or left it behind?

Left it? Unlikely. These were pirates—no, smugglers, he reminded himself. Not that nowadays there was much distinction. Since the arrest and imprisonment of smuggler Stewart Kedar ten years ago, the line between the two criminal types was often blurred. Until his final mistake, Kedar had handled his operation like a business, if a criminal one, careful not to break certain laws or tread on the toes of the Consortium of Intel igent Life, recognizing that the leviathan col ection of interstel ar governments didn’t like having its nose tweaked—and that they had the power to secure justice whenever they felt like it. As had ultimately happened.

The new smuggling boss had no such scruples or smarts. Without regard to the danger, from his recent emergence he’d encroached on Consortium space and done as he pleased. But though the culprit had evaded capture so far, eventual y his hubris would lead to his destruction. Greyson intended to be the one to bring him down. Just as he’d taken down Kedar.

Not that your run-of-the-mil smuggler would be likely to leave behind a prize like Greyson’s ship, he admitted to himself, even back in Kedar’s day. His cruiser was smal , fast and sleek, and loaded with state-of-the-art technology that a criminal could easily turn into credits on the outer-world black market. And Greyson had been wel outside Consortium space when he’d confronted this particular smuggling ship, so he was beyond the nominal protection of the Consortium’s legal decrees.

He groaned again, this time more from mental distress than physical pain.

What else could go wrong? He’d broken more than a few Consortium rules himself.

He ticked them off in his mind: interviewing a restricted prisoner—the smuggler Kedar—without authorization. Using a prototype vehicle without authorization and then losing said vehicle to known criminals. And Greyson wasn’t finished. Soon he’d be promising pardons to wanted felons—pardons he didn’t have the authority or authorization to offer, working as he did for Earth, who was much too smal to have any pul in the Consortium. But there wasn’t any choice.

Most of the time Greyson didn’t dwel on the negative aspects of Earth being part of C.O.I.L.; in his mind, the good far outweighed the bad. Though some people considered dependence upon the interstel ar coalition a drawback, being a member provided benefits that everyone in power recognized—one of those benefits being survival. That’s why, with Earth halfway through its one-hundred-year probationary period in C.O.I.L., chances were even if he succeeded in this unauthorized mission, both ELF and ASP would crucify him. His actions were leaving their planet open to expulsion. But the coalition could just as easily revoke Earth’s probation if something
wasn’t
done to stop the recent attacks.

The door slid open and he was blinded by sudden il umination after hours of darkness. He couldn’t make out the features of the person silhouetted in the doorway, but he knew who it was.

Smuggler.

Pirate.

The reason he was on this il -fated mission. The woman he’d loved and betrayed.

Shyanne Kedar.

Shy Kedar stepped into the holding cel and, studying the man sitting nonchalantly inside, plummeted without warning into the past. Her heart and stomach went into free fal as unwanted memories of laughter, passion and love careened through her mind. Try as she would, she couldn’t banish Greyson from her soul. She couldn’t even banish him from her memory—not when she had a constant reminder. From the moment of her son’s birth almost ten years ago, Rian was a miniature image of his father, down to the chocolate brown eyes to which she could never say no.

To steady herself in a suddenly unstable universe, she crossed her arms and leaned against the wal . “Greyson Dane,” she said, keeping her voice cool and control ed despite the heat growing inside her. “What are you doing here? Last I heard, you were comfortably ensconced in an office as the youngest ever ASP

deputy director.” She didn’t add that it was a position earned by capturing her father. A position earned through betrayal. A position earned by being a snake.

“Shyanne.” He said her name in an al -too-familiar husky tone. “Nice to see you again. It’s been a long time. Doing wel , I see?” To keep from lashing out, she tightened her hold on her elbows. “Can the chitchat. Why are you here? And how the hel did you get aboard my ship without being detected?”

“A bit of new stealth technology. I’m sure your engineers wil figure it out as they examine my ship. As to why I’m here…I have a proposition for you.”

“Now, what could you possibly offer me that I don’t already have?” she drawled, forcing herself to drop her arms and run her gaze dismissively down his body. But if she was foolish enough to put her hand into that fire again, there was indeed something he could give her that no one else ever could. She just wasn’t that foolish.

When she’d first met him, he was a young man of twenty-five, his body tal and lean. He was stil lean, but there was more mass to him now. Through the material of his flight suit she could see the outline of his chest, his pectorals, flat stomach and hefty biceps. For a man who spent most of his time behind a desk, there wasn’t an ounce of flab to be seen.

Sometime in the last ten years he’d cropped short his thick brown hair. She remembered his shoulder-length locks, how during lovemaking his hair had formed a curtain around their faces and enclosed the two of them in their own smal world of passion. For a brief moment she mourned the loss. Then she let it go. Forced her thoughts back to the present.

Her gaze moved to his face. Like most human men, whether under C.O.I.L.

influence or not, he opted to use a beard suppressant, so his square jaw remained free of any stubble. Deep lines bracketed his mouth and fine wrinkles sprayed from the corners of his warm brown eyes. Overal , the years had treated him wel , turning his youthful good looks into a mature handsomeness.

She shifted away from those eyes that watched her too closely. “I already have your ship. It’s a shame to dismantle such a beautiful piece of machinery, but she’s worth more as parts. No buyer would dare fly an ELF ship loaded with C.O.I.L. technology out here. Too many pirates would be gunning for them.” Something about the ship’s design struck her as familiar.

He lifted an eyebrow. “That’s what I’m here about.”

“Pirates? What do they have to do with me?
You
boarded
my
ship. I’m no pirate.”

“Evidence says otherwise.”

She bit back a retort. “What evidence?” she asked instead. In the last few months she’d heard rumors that made her uneasy. Learning from her father’s mistakes, she was doubly careful to keep her smuggling operation through C.O.I.L.

space minimal and undetected, but lately at some ports of cal she’d heard her name mentioned in connection with attacks on Consortium ships and outposts.

Someone—and she was afraid she knew who—was setting her up.

“ASP detected your ship’s locator ID at the site of more than one pirate attack,” Greyson said.

Shy snorted. “Locator IDs are easy to fake and total y unreliable as identifers.

What do your witnesses say?”

“There are no witnesses. The pirates kil everyone.” His tone was icy.

“Do you real y think me capable of cold-blooded murder?” The question burst out of her. Though she made her living smuggling, she refused to resort to theft, drug-running, slavery or anything of the like, and she always had. It was one reason she remained strapped for cash. That Greyson knew her so little was yet another slap in the face. Almost as bad as everything else he’d done to her.

He went on without answering. “As long as your activities remained smal and caused no real harm, ELF was wil ing to overlook you. But attacking supply transport ships and smal farming colonies, murdering the crews and colonists…? It won’t be tolerated. Something has to be done. ASP has to do it.”

“And you think I’m responsible,” she repeated, searching his face for an answer. His thoughts were closed to her. But then, they always had been. The open young man with whom she’d fal en in love had never existed; he’d been an il usion created to trap her father. Damn, she didn’t want his answer to matter, but it did, even after al these years. Even after al the pain he’d caused her.

When he didn’t reply, anger burned away her pain. She lifted her chin and said,

“So ASP has judged me guilty and wil hand me over to the Consortium. That’s the plan.
When they catch me
,” she stressed.

“There are those in ASP who question the evidence and your guilt in these crimes.” Greyson snared her gaze. “Though you and I both know you’re far from innocent.”

Staring back at him, Shy fought off the surge of guilt threatening to cool her rage. What did she have to feel guilty about? Surviving? His betrayal had smashed her comfortable, secure world into a mil ion pieces and left her to put her life back together the only way she could. Smuggling had been her only option. What else could she have done?

“So they sent you here alone to bring me in.” She forced a chuckle. “I think someone miscalculated.”

“My last solo mission went fairly wel .”

Shy ground her teeth at the nonchalant reference to his betrayal. “Do you think it smart to remind me of that?”

BOOK: Star Raiders
11.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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