Five years ago rival space pirate captains Val Blue and Dake Sureblood stole one incredible night together. But their brief, passionate history ended with the assassination of Val's father and the condemnation of Dake's clan. Now Val struggles to prove her mettle-to herself and to the dissenters amid her own people. Every successful raid is a boot heel ground into the burning memory of Dake Sureblood-and their secret son is a constant reminder of their shared pasthellip;.Ambushed and captured before he can clear his name, Dake Sureblood returns from a hell like no other to expose the true killer of Val's father. But as the identity of their enemy becomes chillingly clear, the former lovers must put aside their mistrust and join forces to protect their clans and their precious son.
The crew of the Varagonpursued their prey across a notorious region known as a graveyard to all but the pirates who lived there. Today there would be no escape for the old freighter trying to sneak away with a cargo full of stolen ore. Blue clan's ore, Valeeya Blue thought and yanked her weapons belt snug around her hips. Trespassers andthieves, they were. This was her people's home, not theirs. With a swell of possessiveness, she took in the sight of a million suns glowing fiercely behind a swath of bleak and rocky worlds. The Channels. It was a breathtaking sight even now, years after she'd first taken to the stars as a teenage apprentice. The mineral riches on the asteroids were what outsiders found so bloody attractive about the place, zelfen ore most of all, coveted by the galaxy's two warring factions to strengthen battleship hulls and other war machines. For the chance to thieve what they'd normally have to buy at sky-high market prices, these outsiders were willing to risk life and limbhellip;and space pirates like Val. "Eyes on me, Blues!" Her captain, Grizz, pushed through the crowd and stopped in the center of the bridge. His body armor and everyone else's was etched into an intricate, individual pattern. Tattooing the protective plates was considered good luck. The better the art, the better the luck. Whether the myth bore out over time, nobody wanted to say, but no one ever went out undecorated. As a newer raider, Val's was still a work in progress, only hinting at what she hoped it would someday be: a depiction of the wind-wild and free, like her. Grizz thrust his hand at a magnified image of the freighter. "Look at that old crate, sailin' through our lands as simple as you please!" he bellowed over the sound of outraged yells. "Well, she miscalculated, thinkin' no one would come after all that zelfen she took without askin'." His eyes glimmered. "Nezerihm's gonna pay well when we hand it back to him." "Ore stealers!" Val added her yells to those of the other raiders. With zelfen's value soaring, the mine owner had started paying out lucrative bounties for the return of plundered ore. In exchange, the pirates left Nezerihm's assets alone, unlike the old days when his family's riches were at their mercy. The days when the pirate clans were united and mighty, and the Nezer-ihms were not. Val couldn't imagine the clans holding sports tourneys and yearly gatherings, even intermarrying, but once upon a time they did. Clan elders like Grizz and Malta and even her parents recalled those times. These days, pirates didn't even trust each other let alone outsiders. They squabbled, jostled for power and practically stole food off each other's plates. Things had gotten so bad that Val wouldn't be surprised if a rival clan showed up today to crash their raid. Bring it on. The crew of the Varagonwas ready. Aye, and she was ready. She gave her armor one last tug. The raiders began to stomp their heavy boots, calling for the beginning of the raid. Grizz's eyes warmed but held on to a deadly glint as he took in the sight of his crew. "Blues! Are you ready to go a-raidin'?" Battle cries and boot heels thundered in the confines of the ship. Val's blood thrummed with anticipation, and also a wee bit of fear. "You need some fear," her clan-leader father had always told her. "Some. Too much paralyzes you, and too little makes you reckless. Arrogant." Conn no longer went out on raids, having lost a hand years earlier, an injury through another raider's recklessness. As eager as Val was to leave the Varagonand help collect the booty, she rechecked her gear. Where the breather hose connected to her nitrox cylinder a disc was loose. She tightened it with an O-clamp. She didn't need something like suffocation distracting her from the pleasure of a good raid. "Cap'n!" a deep, husky female voice cried out over the
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August 01, 2010
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