Two wayward souls from opposite sides of an intergalactic war find each other against all odds.
Captain Alara Nadrin leads an Alliance warship in battle. Above all else, the Alliance prizes military prowess, duty, and following orders. And Alara wants more than anything to make her father, the Admiral, proud of her but struggles when her conscience and her orders conflict.
Zarik of Thallor leads a refugee ship while carrying a holy relic to safety. His plans fall apart when Alara’s warship captures them, putting his people, his family and the relic in danger. He’ll do anything to protect them.
With war at stake, can Alara and Zarik choose love?
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It seemed like hours passed. Zarik and Kessa put vids on for the children and tried not to fidget. Then the door opened to reveal two guards.
“We’re supposed to take you to the captain,” one said.
Zarik hurriedly followed them.
When the guards brought Zarik onto the bridge, he felt overwhelmed with the size. It dwarfed the bridge of the DLS Vize. Directly ahead of the door he’d been brought through, a ramp wound down to a lower area where roughly fifteen crew members sat before screens filled with blinking lights. All of them wore purple implants beneath their left ear that pulsed as their brains interfaced directly with the ship’s computer.
The guards led him to the side, up another ramp that led onto a large foredeck. The captain’s chair sat empty near the middle in front of a wall of screens. Along the sides of the ramp, an additional twenty crew members—ten on each side—sat in front of screens. As they walked by, Zarik saw three dimensions. Holographic images floated in front of a physical screen behind them. The crew manipulated the images and screen with both their brains and hands, plucking at the lighted holograms like a child might pull at the wings of a butterfly.
The bridge was so big he almost didn’t see the tiny woman on the foredeck. Her crisp uniform attempted to hide her female curves. That was the idea, of course. Rindarins were supposed to be androgynous. That’s why she’d pulled her dark hair into a tight ponytail that hung down her back.
The guards stopped next to the woman and she finally turned to look at them. Her deep brown eyes nearly filled her face but he didn’t miss the firm jaw and steady gaze. If he’d been anyplace else, he’d be interested. As it was, it was a damn shame such an attractive woman was wasted as a Rindarin.
“The prisoner, ma’am,” said one guard.
“I’m Captain Nadrin,” she said. “You wanted to speak with me?”
“Yes. I’m Zarik of Thallor, and I’m in charge of the refugees on the Vize.”
“I’m aware of who you are.”
He had decided to start off with a more conciliatory tone, rather than accusing her. “Your ensign indicated you’re concerned about combatants being smuggled on our ship. What can we do to assure you that everyone on board is a refugee, so you’ll let us go on our way?”
“My orders are to deliver all of you to a refugee camp, so it shouldn’t matter one way or the other.”
Zarik stiffened. “An Alliance refugee camp.”
He fought to keep his voice steady. “Do you know what happens in those camps? Have you ever been to one? Pirates attack as soon as the Alliance ships leave. They kill the men, rape the women, and force the children into their crews. You can’t send my people there.”
Something crossed her face—revulsion, horror, scorn. He wasn’t sure which. She yanked at the bottom of her jacket. “The Alliance wouldn’t do that.”
“You already have. I’ve seen it. Have you no compassion? No conscience? The people on this ship are all refugees. No combatants. By the Concord the Alliance agreed to, you have no right to detain us, much less force us to go to one of your internment camps.” He leaned forward. “No right to sentence us to torture and death.”
“Sentence you to torture and death? As though you haven’t done the same to my people?”
“Not to civilians!”
Now she did sneer. “I know the lie in your words.” She motioned to his guards. “Take him back to his ship.”
“Captain,” he said as they pulled him away. “Captain, please. Have mercy.”
“Mercy?” A flush of anger swept through Alara. Did the Dathars show mercy when her mother died in that refugee camp? No. So why should she? She stalked toward him. “This is war. Sending you to a sanctioned refugee camp instead of allowing you to take your smuggled combatants wherever the hell you please is prudence.” She made a slashing motion with her hand. “Get him off my bridge.”
“You’re killing us,” Zarik said. “There are children and babies on that ship. You’re killing them.”
She held herself still. Babies? If what he said about the camps were true, babies wouldn’t last long. And why would any combatant take a baby with them?
It didn’t matter. She had her orders. The guards pulled Zarik away as she turned back to her work. The closest camp would cost them two weeks of travel time. Two weeks of time while her ship sat on the sidelines.
She’d rather be fighting.
Damn that man. If he and his captain had been a little more circumspect, she never would have found them and wouldn’t be in this mess—losing time, questioning orders.
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