Hope it's green where you are, or at least showing that promise. And if you're down under, Happy Fall--hope it's cooling off for you.
Things are heating up in the Cade-iverse, with a new release on the way.
LodeStar Book 3:
Captive of Pleasure; the Space Pirate's Woman debuts later this month on all the sales platforms.
Want to know the exact day? Sign up for
My Newsletter below and you'll be the first! And you'll get an additional exclusive excerpt only for subscribers, as well as a peek into Book 4.
Meanwhile, here's a peek into the story ...
As El Zhazid, ‘The Storm’, he rules the wilderness shipping lanes of Frontiera, demanding toll from other pirates and striking ruthlessly at those who dare to enter his territory. Just 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 aborts a planned raid to save her, only to discover he can’t send her back to 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 to stop them, 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?
Planet of Frontiera
The Pinnacles auction ring had clearly been thrown together in a hurry—it consisted of a roof system of satellite-resistant fabric, mottled gray like Frontieran stone, stretched from the mouth of a huge cave out to several tall rock columns. Under this shelter squatted the ugly, bulbous shape of a Quark O’gren transport, surplus of the Solar Wars, and a host of smaller craft.
Food and beverage stalls lined the mouth of the cave. Smoke and steam rose to pool under the awning. The savory odors of food could not, however, cover the stench of the crowd. The hot air was rank with unwashed bodies, fear and lust.
Rough beings from several planets milled about, talking and laughing raucously, some gambling in impromptu games of chance, some trying to peer into the big transport for a glimpse of the day’s wares.
A fight had broken out between a huge Mau and a pair of humans. The Mau ended it by tossing one of the men bodily through a slit in the tont walls hung around the area. The other turned and ran, shoving his way through the crowd. The onlookers laughed uproariously or slunk away, depending on who they’d been cheering for.
Inside the cave, the auction ring took up the rear of the cave, before the smaller entrance. A stage hovered several feet off the ground, and the buying had begun. A pair of Tygean females, petite and buxom, posed enticingly for the beings watching from the cave floor, but their golden gazes were feral, wary. They were both in full mating shift, tails waving behind them.
Above their heads, a holovid magnified them in detail for the crowd. The holocams captured the catlike intensity of their gazes, and the fine dusting of fur covering their skin.
A Vulpean skated above the crowd on a hovie, his beady gaze on the crowd, his oily voice amplified as he extolled the virtues of the two slaves. “Not one, but two sweet, fiery Tygeans to warm your sleeping pod. Both in full mating shift, thanks to their recent arrival from Tygea, where the female moons are in ascendance. Ver-rrry lusty, they are.”
Bidding was brisk. Bidders held devices in their hands that beamed their bids, signaling the amount of credit they were willing to spend.
To the rear, a small group of prisoners huddled under heavy guard. A Barillian female’s keen of despair, fluted from the tall pipes atop her lavender head, cut through the rumble of the crowd and the auctioneer’s strident voice. One of the towering Mau guards struck the Barillian, and her mourning ended with a squawk of pain as she cringed away. The stench of fear emanating from the cowering group heightened.
A female Mau was readying the next offering, a pale Pangaean, green hair wrapped tightly around his throat, slim body shivering despite the heat.
Joran Stark glided through the crowd, his stride relaxed, like a man who had all the time in the world and no particular intent. Over his leathers and vest he wore the long cape favored by travelers here, of dull shaded gray-green. The hood was pulled forward to shade his face from the glare of the hoverlamps.
He was not the only one so garbed. On an illicit occasion like this, many preferred to remain anonymous. And there were those who wanted to pry their identity from them. Spy bots zinged through the crowd, holovid cameras revolving like disembodied eyeballs. Occasionally the tiny orbs ventured too close to their prey and were struck down. These fell from sight in a shower of sparks.
The crowd was edgy, eyeing each other suspiciously. Many hands or paws hovered near weapons. An Occulan’s eight eye stalks waved, each in a different direction. An Indigon stood, pale face grim under his ebony hair, a space cleared around him. Using his mental powers to push other away.
Qala walked just behind Joran, her head and face similarly hooded. As his second in command, she would be as easily recognized.
“The Pinnacles,” she murmured, her voice too soft to be heard by others, but coming through his comlink as clear as if her lips were at his ear. “More like the space dregs.”
She was not wrong. The place was full of bottom feeders of all kinds.
Off to their right, Var moved on a parallel path, one arm around Ilya. The small blonde had her hood thrown back. She surveyed the prisoners as if searching for just the right new servant. To Joran’s left, two Occulans were moving into position as well.
If necessary, Wega and Riley would cause a disruption, a decoy for the attentions of the guards. They were a mean, ugly lot—Maus, even a few Gorglons and Ingoes, the scum of the galaxy.
“Quark, they have a lot of captives,” Qala said. “Should have alerted the IGSF to just raid this event in mid-auction.”
“Qala,” he reproved in the voice of a patient teacher. “We did that, we wouldn’t leave here with anything but a memory and probably some laser burns. All hells would break loose if the the IGSF showed up now. This crowd has more credit than smarts.”
“Not gonna be here in time to save many of the slaves. This lot will scatter like rats soon as their ships are sighted coming in.”
“True,” he said, clocking the next batch of prisoners being herded from the maw of a transport behind the auction ring. “But they’ll rescue some--they can track ships a long way out. And if we make it unprofitable enough, the gang will have to move fast to make up their losses, which gives the epaulets a better chance of catching them.”
All InterGalactic Space Forces officers had epaulets of service on their crisp flight suits, admired or derided depending on the observer. Since Joran and his crew cruised on both sides of the law, he appreciated the IGSF, but steered clear of them when he could. They took the fun out of so many activities.
“We could call them sooner.”
Joran sighed. Tough as she was, Qala had a soft heart for unfortunates.
“No,” he repeated. “We can’t. Too many for us to save. And we’ve got to make a living--we can’t live on sunlight and water. Thirdly, I’m not risking a stint on Deep Six for someone I don’t even know. IGSF finds us here, they’ll figure we’re part of it. We hit the slavers where it hurts, in their credit accounts, maybe convince them to go into a new line of work. That’s our contribution.”
“That won’t help these poor captures.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her to stop looking at them, if it was going to make her heart bleed. He kept his own gaze on the crowd, the guards, anywhere from which trouble seemed likely to spring. And if something uncomfortably like guilt rapped at the locked portal of his conscience, he held it at bay by remembering that he’d escaped a life in the gutter and so could others, if they fought hard enough.
Joran leaned against his pillar, stance relaxed as if he were immune to the surge of dangerous lust that had seized the crowd, the hot air thick with a new tension.
The rough crowd watched avidly as the next sale was wrestled off of the flat, and shoved to the middle of the stage, her Mau captor close behind her.
Ilya had been right--the slavers were definitely peddling flesh, and they’d saved the best for last. Against the Mau’s bulk, the girl was all soft curves and pale skin, her head reaching only to his middle.
The slavers had dressed her in someone’s idea of a dancing girl’s costume--a tiny, shimmering top that barely contained her full breasts, and a loin cloth with beads and feathers that framed her full hips and left her little waist and the curve of her belly bare, but they hadn’t bothered to clean her up. In her giant holovid image, her long hair hung in dirty coils, and although her face had been washed and made up, her limbs were smudged with grime, or bruises. Probably both.
Her eyes, a soft blue like the evening sky over Frontiera, were dilated with pure terror, her face pale as bone under the glitter of makeup, her soft, full lips trembling. She looked down at the crowd as if facing a pit of ravenous serpents.
Which in a way, she was, because in this crowd, her obvious innocence and fear would only attract the kind of purchaser who enjoyed inciting that fear, and pain as well. And every male in the place, and probably many a female as well, was staring at her raptly, wanting her lush mouth, and what her little thong covered.
“Skrog shit,” Joran muttered. Didn’t matter if they put a tracker on this one, with the lust pervading the very air, she wouldn’t even be in the air before her triumphant captor raped her.'
Definitely time for our reluctant hero to step up, wouldn't you say?
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