Authors: Kylie Wolfe
Drugs, murder, conspiracy, and a headstrong heiress complicate his covert security mission.
Tru Creighton wants her wealthy and powerful family to take her seriously. Sneaking away to investigate bookkeeping discrepancies from one of their holdings seems the perfect opportunity to prove her worth. Stranded on a hostile planet with a price on her head, she seizes her one opportunity for survival.
Nick Rayven, determined to build his reputation and fledgling security company, doesn’t flinch at difficult and dangerous missions. A former soldier and refugee from a war-demolished planet, he battles to create order and stifle his painful memories. His hard-won accomplishments are threatened when a spoiled heiress in danger awakens emotions he thought long gone.
Two people with plenty to prove risk everything to unravel their tangled missions. His sense of duty and vulnerable heart compel him to fight his growing attraction to her. Her heart demands she follow it straight into his arms. The people behind the conspiracy keeping them together and in harm’s way have other ideas.
CONTENT WARNING: Language and Violence
A Lyrical Press Science Fiction Romance
The lights shut off, except those on the helm, casting eerie blue shadows on their faces. Tru’s apprehension rose as she tested her shoulder harness and fidgeted in her seat. She looked to him, and drew strength from his rock-solid presence. She didn’t know much about solar storms– only enough to be frightened. She clutched the armrest.
“Impact in three, two...” Siren intoned matter-of-factly.
The invisible wave hit them and electrical sparks flashed over the ship’s nose, coming at them with terrifying swiftness. Blistering shocks pulsed along her skin and nerves felt as if they were on fire, burning her up from the inside out.
“Shields strong, life support holding,” Siren continued.
The ship bucked and lurched, snapping Tru’s head forward then back.
“Siren, how long until we’re out of the storm?” Nick demanded, while he continued to monitor the power to the shields and make rapid adjustments only he understood.
The ship’s engine groaned and metal screeched from the force of the storm. Lights flickered on the helm, sparks flying from wires affected by the solar pulses battering them.
“Hang on, Tru. We’re almost through,” he assured her while he swiftly rerouted connections.
By Kylie Wolfe
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To my grandmother, Helen Brown
There are no words, only wonderful memories
I miss you
Every book starts with an idea, or in my case one sentence that sparks the story. Words tumble across the page giving life to the characters and their adventures until it reaches a satisfying conclusion. Writing is mostly a solitary activity, but a book is given added depth and made richer by those that help us along the way. Mine is no exception.
To Laurel Newberry, my critique partner and friend. Thank you for always being able to find the perfect word when I can’t think of it, making sense of convoluted sentences and asking just the right questions to help me set the scene. I love Wednesday.
To Lisa, my sister and very first beta reader. I wasn’t surprised by the fact you read my manuscript and never offered any criticism even though there was plenty of work left to do on my book. You are a wonderful sister who only sees the good!
To Julie Chaddock, thank you for taking the time to read my work and offer excellent feedback. I know this isn’t a genre you usually embrace and the fact you did it for a complete stranger is incredible. Thank you!
To Abby Rose, Thank you for aiding my recovery from adverb addiction and helping to make my story stronger.
To Penny Barber, Thank you for not giving up on me even when I was discouraged. Your editing has been extraordinary and I have learned how to be a better writer through your efforts.
To Louann, Kim, Sonny and Carol. Thank you for your genuine enthusiasm and letting me prattle on about my book – you rock!
And the biggest thank you to my incredible family for all the encouragement, tolerance when I got lost in my writing and being the best cheerleaders around. I love you guys!
Nick Rayven hated Lodestone. The constant dust and fierce winds keeping it in semidarkness made his teeth itch. Hell, who was he kidding? He hated the whole damn planet. Whoever had come up with the name had a sick sense of humor and a distinct lack of imagination in calling both the port and planet the same. Far from a diamond in the rough, Lodestone was one miserable port of call on a thoroughly miserable world.
At least the hole-in-the-wall alehouse he found himself in had no such delusions of grandeur. He regarded the battered mug of local ale with distaste and slouched against the unforgiving metal of his chair. Hooking one arm across its back, he scrutinized the common room, noting the layout of every door and window, a habit that had saved his ass on more than one occasion. It was always good to know where the exits were just in case some idiot decided to start a fight.
Raised voices formed a raucous counterpoint to the hideous music piped through lousy speakers. The cacophony kept Nick irritated and on edge. He detested people, particularly in crowds, but his contact had insisted they meet here. Business was business and sometimes it required Nick to play nice and on someone else’s turf.
He unclenched his jaw as he snagged his mug and took a long swallow. The sour taste burned all the way down, a caustic fire lacking any hint of civilization. So much for ordering the good stuff.
A furtive movement near the door caught his attention. The man entering the bar was average in height, with ordinary brown hair and nondescript brown clothes. Nick suspected his easy to forget appearance was deliberate, and his interest sharpened. Taking another sip of his ale, he watched the man inch closer, stopping a scant meter away.
“Nick Rayven?” The question was hesitant, the voice high pitched.
Nick studied the man in front of him and allowed a faint smile to curve his lips. Apparently, it was more predatory than friendly, and the other man flinched, eyes widening. Nick tried for non-threatening. Sweat broke out on the other man’s forehead. Sighing, he gave up.
“Yeah, I’m Rayven. Who’re you?”
“J–Jonas Spark.” He cleared his throat and eased onto the seat across from Nick. “My employer, Axyl Hargrave, instructed me to deliver the package to you.”
Straightening, Nick leaned his forearms on the metal table in front of him. “What of the payment arrangements? I assume the credits have been deposited into my account?”
Jonas nodded, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. “Half now, the...ah...balance when the package is delivered.”
Nick swore viciously, the variety and virulence of the words demonstrating a fine command of the seedier side of several languages. Jonas shrank back in his chair. Some of the bar patrons glanced at them to see if a fight would break out but returned to their drinks when Nick did nothing more than glare.
“That was not the agreement,” he ground out, when he trusted his voice.
“There has been a, ah, minor problem and a need to change the delivery destination. My b-boss is willing to double your fee for your trouble.”
“What kind of minor problem?” Nick scowled.
Jonas opened and closed his mouth, but nothing came out. His eye twitched. It was obvious to Nick he would rather be anywhere but talking to him. Jonas took a deep breath before he plunged on, words tumbling over each other in his haste to deliver the message. “Our primary competitor suspects we have found something but doesn’t know what we’ve discovered or where we found it. It is imperative we get this sample analyzed and our claim recorded before anyone else finds out what we have.”
Jonas took a shaky breath and wiped sweat from his upper lip. He visibly wilted in his chair as Nick stared at him. “Mr. Hargrave wants this sample delivered to Dendera Labs on Kaydet within a standard-moon cycle.” He pushed a small pouch across the table toward Nick.
Nick kept his eyes on Jonas rather than on the bag as he settled back in his seat to consider the offer. His company specialized in security, particularly escorting valuable or dangerous space cargo. Whatever the pouch contained must be valuable if Geotern Mining’s owner, Axyl Hargrave, wanted it delivered to one of Dendera’s most remote labs. Obviously keeping their discovery secret was of primary concern.
This job represented his ticket to expand the business, move it from the fringes to a more lucrative prominence. Kaydet was a small, insignificant planet on the outer rim of the system and about as far from Lodestone as anyone could get. He would need to push hard to meet the deadline, but it wasn’t impossible.
He nodded then drained his ale before he slammed the mug down. “Done.” Amusement twitched at the corners of his mouth as Jonas yelped and jumped.
Nick lowered his voice to a gravelly menace. “You tell your boss this.” Leaning forward, he pinned Jonas Spark with a look. “If he thinks to cheat me in any way I. Will. Hunt. Him. Down. All of the money in the universe won’t be enough to protect him.”
Nick released the seal of his jacket pocket and pulled out a small data drive. He keyed in a sequence of numbers and smiled at the influx of credits to his account. With skilled sleight-of-hand, he replaced the device and pocketed the small pouch.
Pushing back his chair, he stood and tilted his chin toward the empty container of ale. “Tell your boss thanks for the drink.”
He didn’t wait around for an answer.
As soon as he stepped outside, he knew it was time to go. Lodestone’s weather was known to be volatile, restricting ship traffic with its violent and swift changing moods. Air transports crashed with alarming regularity, driven to ground by savage winds and poor visibility. Pilots demanded hazard pay whenever they landed here, which made for a profitable run that was almost worth the risks involved. Nick had built his business by taking calculated risks and the extra credits were a welcome bonus.
A severe dust storm warning had flashed to all pilots before Jonas Spark had arrived, and time was in short supply if Nick had a prayer of getting off this rock before being grounded for the storm’s duration. Nothing was guaranteed to piss him off more.
With ground-eating strides, he hurried through the narrow streets toward the spaceport and his waiting ship. Squat buildings sat crowded shoulder-to-shoulder in the deserted industrial area he passed through. Dust devils wobbled drunkenly out of the narrow alleyways driven by the brutal winds that would soon be scouring the pitted surfaces of the buildings with gritty debris.