Authors: Gabriella Bradley
Tags: #Gabriella Bradley,scifi,fantasy,romance
Table of Contents
Haven Drew is about to blow the whistle on a genetically damaging by-product of the Dahkhar Mining Corporation when she is thrust from her safe white-collar life into the mine itself.
Her analytical skills are used by the very corporation she wanted to expose. Lives are placed in her hands and in front of her guns, daily. Trapped in a vortex of rage and shame, she’s confronted by two familiar faces housed in her cell. Josias and Isan had been investigating the disappearance of personnel at the Corporation headquarters when they were relieved of their duties and assigned to positions in the mine.
It might not be love at first sight, but biology is powerful and with her mates at her side, there’s nothing they can't do. Risking life and limb isn't an ideal honeymoon, but they manage to work together toward their goal of launching themselves into space and to a colony infected by disaster. How romantic can you get?
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Gabriella Bradley
Cover art by Martine Jardin
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To Viola Grace…
“Haven Drew, prisoner one-zero-one-eight-eight. Present yourself for processing.” The hostility of the guard was palpable and she trembled with shock while doing as he told her. “This is your uniform, don’t be caught without it. It’s punishable by death.”
A quick glance at the black tights and ugly green tunic told her why. ID badges with her number on it in huge red lettering were sewn into the fabric in no less than five places. Even the underwear and boots they issued her were marked with her number. She wasn’t going anywhere unless she traveled naked. At the order to strip, she peeled off her pristine business suit and silk underwear. Then, distastefully, she pulled on the garb of a prisoner of the Dahkhar Mining Corporation, their corporate offices, which were her former place of employment. Last, she drew her thigh-length blonde hair back and wrapped it around her head in order to put on the tight cap that would hide her golden locks. The cap was green, to match the tunic.
The board of directors had sentenced her by acclamation, all because she was too damned good at her job. She’d been shocked out of her mind at the accusations. Though she pled innocence, she knew fighting the system would only end up getting her banished to another distant alien planet to work in one of the mineral mines, or get her killed. They didn’t believe her, and here she was.
“Speed it up, Drew. This isn’t a coffee break.” A not so gentle prod by the guard made her stagger. She finished pulling on the horrid boots and rubbed her ribs absentmindedly.
She didn’t see the fist coming. The impact knocked her into the door of the shuttle and she stayed down. Fear raced through her in a cold wave. Her ribs ached in protest. This was the farthest from okay she’d ever been in her life.
“You will speak only when spoken to, Drew.”
Her guard didn’t look kind, but didn’t show any of the contempt she’d expected.
“If you remember what I’ve told you, you may just live long enough to hate the fact you haven’t died.” She took the hand he extended and cautiously stood up.
“Welcome to the Dahkhar Mines.”
When the door hissed open, Haven started to wish dying had been an option.
* * * *
Soon after arriving at the prison, she’d discovered if she talked to any of the other prisoners, they were interrogated at length and suffered for having contact with her. Keeping to herself was her only alternative.
Assigning her to the very facility where she’d first noticed the accounting discrepancy was a cruel irony. Her orders were to program the slag drops on worlds in the early stages of colonization, and to destroy any ships that didn’t have proper clearance. It made her sick to her stomach. The mining slag would increase growth disproportionately in new crops. Its toxicity would also dramatically increase the level of mutation in the colonists, decreasing their intelligence and increasing their strength. Perfect farmers by design. Who cared if the colonists had migrated to the planets for a new start? Instead of a new beginning on a supposedly untainted planet, they were dooming their descendants. It was all in the name of profit, and now Haven was part of it.
“Dahkhar Mining Station to transport nine. Do you have security confirmation?” The sound of her own voice made her cringe. The cold tone she’d adopted was part and parcel of her new persona, prisoner 10188.
The ship she’d hailed was on approach. With a flick of her fingers, she focused the guns on it. “Repeat! Security confirmation required. Respond.” When the ship continued in silence, she double-checked all frequencies for a reply. When none was forthcoming, she hit the guns. The shuttlecraft fired back, but was woefully outgunned. Within seconds, nothing remained of the craft but pieces of debris drifting into space.
“Transport nine destroyed as per contact protocols by prisoner one-zero-one-eight-eight.”
“Destruction recorded and protocols confirmed. A safety bonus in rations and upgrade in accommodations has been recorded,” the computerized voice answered in a monotone.
Nine life forms had shown on her screen. She would cry for the lost lives later. She was only grateful security didn’t know exactly how aware she was, or she’d have been dead long ago. She knew the board of directors thought she had only been curious about the loss of the two heads of security that’d disappeared mysteriously, though she knew they would be suspicious about her having any further knowledge. To this day, they hauled her in for supposed orientation, only to subject her to additional interrogation for an hour or more. They didn’t know she had uncovered their entire poisoning project. Thanks to her enhancement, they never would.
After hours of nerve-wracking close calls and self-recrimination, she left her station only to have a supervisor stop her. “One-zero-one-eight-eight, you have received an upgrade to larger quarters.”
“I was informed.”
“There was a problem with debris from the downed transport. It ruptured the oxygen supply to the managerial men’s sector. Until repairs are completed, you will be joined by some of those evicted from their quarters for a few days.” The supervisor laughed, an unpleasant sound that grated on her taut nerves.
“Good thing you now have the superior accommodations. This way.” The supervisor led her by the arm to one of the upper levels where the larger apartments were reserved for those who’d exhibited complete loyalty to the company and the facility.
Inwardly, she snickered.
If they only knew.
They stopped in front of a pair of shiny metal doors, as opposed to the single black door to her previous small room. Three bright orange numbers lit up briefly, one of them hers. The supervisor punched in his code and the doors slid silently into the walls. Haven sighed and wondered briefly who she’d have to share with, who the other two numbers belonged to.
Her new roommates were already inside and she came abruptly to a halt when she saw them. She recognized them both. One man leaned against the window, only briefly glancing behind him. The other man lounged on one of the suspension beds.
The supervisor reminded her. “Your orientation is in one hour.”
She nodded and waited until he’d stepped out of the room. The doors closed. “Damn their fucking orientation. Orientation my foot!” she spat. She could have kicked herself when her new companions looked at her curiously.
Her roommates were no other than Josias, the head of Dahkhar security and Isan, his second in command—the two who’d disappeared.
So how and why had they ended up in the mine
? It was a setup. It had to be. She was sure they’d assigned the two men to her quarters in an attempt to get information out of her. Vaguely, she wondered if the oxygen supply was truly damaged. She knew who the men were, had seen them on various occasions when the investigation had begun, but never in close proximity. What were they doing here?
“Haven Drew! What a nice surprise,” Josias said and turned away from the window.
Isan swung his legs over the side of the bed and jumped to the floor to face her. “Yes. I hardly expected to share quarters with a female.”
“And what a female,” Josias said, his sexy lips displaying a slight smile. “Since we’ll be stuck together for a few weeks while they repair the damage to the oxygen supply, we might as well make the best of it. Let me introduce myself properly.”
They were hot, each in their own way. Both were tall, muscular, their tight bodysuits accentuating every muscle and curve of their body. Josias’ waist-long hair was a sandy blond, his eyes a startling green contrasting sharply to a tanned face. His luscious lips sported a tiny smile, as if he was amused by her inspection of him.
She allowed her gaze to wander to Isan who sat on one of the beds. His hair was black, drawn back into a ponytail. Both of them had a natural wave in their hair, but Isan’s was more unruly, soft curls escaping at his temples and forehead. His tan was darker, his eyes a deep brown. Their long hair indicated they’d undergone enhancement. But to what extent? Enhanced people were forbidden to cut their hair beyond a certain length. Extremely long hair, like hers, indicated very special enhancements only implanted in a select few.
He walked toward her, hands held out, palms facing her. It was the customary greeting. He expected her to place her palms against his. “Josias, former head of security.”
“I know who you both are. And your second in command, Isan.” Haven ignored the men’s proffered hands. Her body hummed with energy, a vigor produced by her pheromones. A feeling she hadn’t experienced for a very long time and that she couldn’t explain at that moment. Trying to squash her surging libido, she looked at them both. “So this is where you are. We all wondered where you’d disappeared to so suddenly. It’s rather curious you both vanished the day before they arrested me. Care to explain?”
Josias’ hand dropped to his side. “We were arrested and ended up here. Like you were obviously arrested.”
Haven laughed. “Likely story. Why would they arrest the two of you?”
“We were investigating the disappearance of a number of employees and discovered they were sent to the mine. When we reported and asked for an explanation, they arrested us, so here we are,” Isan told her.
“Bullshit. Why don’t you just admit that you were both planted here to further investigate me?” She shook her hair loose from its confinement in the horrid cap she had to wear during her work hours. Locking her mind from the consistent probing by the two men, she walked to the bathroom and was pleasantly surprised by the more luxurious facilities. She was even more pleased at the sight of a new uniform. It was the same style tunic, embossed with her number, but it was a nice lavender color, as was the cap. The numbers were yellow. Of course, her new abode was nothing compared to her beautiful apartment at home, but it was a far cry from the tiny cubicle she’d occupied until then.
After relieving herself, she looked in the mirror and ran her fingers through her hair. When she returned from a grueling hour of interrogation, she could at least look forward to a long soak in a real bathtub and change into her new clothes.
Going back to the living area, she found Josias pacing the floor. Isan was reclined on the bed. “So, are you going to tell me the truth? Or do we cohabit in silence until your quarters are repaired?”
“We lost the oxygen supply in our quarters when a chunk of debris tore it to shreds. It’s the truth,” Isan said.
“You just happen to be assigned these new quarters of mine? Gimme a break! You must really think I’m blonde.” Walking to the far wall, she jabbed at a button to display the menu for the auto food dispenser. “Mm, the menu has improved, too!”