Authors: Robyn Bachar
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Science Fiction
sire is an addiction that could destroy them all.
Cy’ren Rising, Book 2
The second son.
Lieutenant Commander Jace Harrow is the second son of House Morningstar—the spare, not the heir. Armored with an arrogant mask, Jace keeps the world at arm’s length to protect those around him from becoming targets for his bloodthirsty brother.
The broken sword.
Lieutenant Bryn Viera was a shadow sword and a decorated officer, dedicated to protecting her people. But for the past five years she has lived as a slave and has the scars to prove it. Bryn vowed to escape or die trying—until she met Sabine.
Born into slavery, Sabine never expected to fall in love. Her feelings for Bryn sparked her desire for a new life, but now Sabine is in phase, consumed by the need to mate with a male. Her dream of freedom with Bryn is on the brink of destruction, for to deny the phase means death.
Thrown together by the unforgiving demands of the phase, they must unite to save Cyprena’s people from a deadly new bioweapon—or be destroyed by the scars of their pasts.
Warning: Contains an arrogant officer with a weakness for having his hair pulled, an insatiable empath, and a badass warrior woman who form a male-female-female threesome sizzling enough to melt your shields.
To Diana and Karrin, who have all my love and devotion for their constant support. I couldn’t do this without them.
To Devin Harnois, Keith Melton, Chandra Ryan and Jay Whelan, who have my undying gratitude for their input in making this book better.
To my family, for never batting an eyelash when I tell them what I’m writing.
To Suz and Jennifer, who love the Cy’ren Rising books almost as much as I do.
“Captain, we have a problem,” Jace said.
Captain Hawke’s exasperated sigh hissed above the static on the comm. in Jace’s helmet—it was a sound he heard often enough, usually directed at him. Though Jace was her first officer, Captain Carmen Hawke had little patience for him on a good day. As the deck of Jump Station 3 rocked and rolled beneath the soles of his armored boots, Jace doubted today was going to be a good day. He hoped it wasn’t going to be his last day.
“Sam says you’ve got fifteen minutes before the station’s hull integrity fails. You don’t have time for problems,” Captain Hawke informed him. Sam was seldom wrong, and Jace glanced at the chrono on his helmet’s heads-up display and made a mental note. Fifteen minutes was not a lot of time to work with. The mercenaries had to be insane to fire on a target while their own men were still on it.
“We’ve reached the market deck. There are mercs between us and the indexer, and the signage indicates there’s a brothel here that isn’t listed on the station’s business registry,” Jace said.
“You don’t have time for a quickie either,” she snapped.
“Pity,” Soth muttered beside him. Jace fought the urge to shush him. Technically Commander Soth outranked him as a shadow sword, but Jace outranked him aboard the
. The resistance was odd that way.
“It’s a Cy’ren brothel, staffed by female slaves,” Jace clarified. A lurid neon sign advertised
The Sexiest Cy’ren Fems in the Sector!
a few doors down from the club that was their target. Freeing slaves was one of the main focuses of the resistance, and Jace refused to leave any slaves to die with the Jump Station.
The captain cursed. She was human, but she had two Cy’ren mates, both of whom had been slaves, so he knew she would be sympathetic.
“The mission is priority. Once you get the indexer out, you can go after the females.”
“Acknowledged, Captain.” A small knot of tension eased in his chest, and Jace motioned for his team to proceed.
Warning lights flashed around them, but Jace’s armored helmet muted the blare of the sirens, and its filters scrubbed out the station’s smell. Their mission was to rescue Malcolm de la Cruz, the station’s resident indexer, before the mercenaries added him to the list of silenced sources who’d had information linking House Nightfall to the Eppes slaver organization. Judging by the amount of mercs between them and the dance club the indexer did business out of, their team might be too late. De la Cruz had been digging up data on the bioweapon the Eppes had been researching on Nepheros, and if they lost him, the resistance might not learn what the weapon was until it was used against them. They had already lost contact with two other researchers, and Jace was not about to lose another.
Four mercenaries armed with laser rifles stood guard outside the club’s entrance, and Jace assumed that the rest of their team must be inside. The mercs wouldn’t get paid unless they could prove that they had terminated de la Cruz—blowing up the station was cleanup, not the kill method. The sight of the mercs’ guns combined with the wail of alarms had cleared out the bystanders, so at least there would be no civilians in the line of fire. Hopefully de la Cruz had good security and could survive long enough for Jace’s team to get to him.
“Take the leader,” Jace ordered, drawing his sword. Though he was a good shot with his pistol, Jace preferred to fight with his blade. Laser weapons were unreliable—they often overheated or misfired, and the shot could be blocked by armor—but his sword didn’t miss.
“Right. We’ve got your six.” Soth raised his rifle and took aim. Jace’s brow rose—it was Alliance military slang. Apparently Soth had been spending too much time with the captain. Captain Hawke’s mates were Sunsingers, and until recently Soth had been head of the Sunsinger shadow swords.
Commander Soth fired, neatly dropping the merc with a shot to the head, and Jace charged. His armor absorbed a blast to his left shoulder as he engaged the nearest target. The man shrieked as Jace’s blade pierced armor, bone and flesh. Humans were always scornful of “archaic” bladed weapons, until they died on one.
Between the team’s aim and Jace’s blade they made quick work of the remaining guards and then proceeded inside. Though the club had emptied out at the first sound of sirens, the music still played and the lights pulsed in time to the beat. Distracting, but there wasn’t time to cut the power. Jace was glad of his helmet’s breather, because clubs like this always smelled of sweat, cheap liquor and stale vomit.
“Soth, you’re with me,” Jace ordered. “McNulty, you and the rest of the team hold the exit.”
The two shadow swords wove through the empty tables and crossed the deserted dance floor. The indexer would be hiding somewhere in the back. He’d never met de la Cruz before, but Jace had dealt with other indexers at different locations, and they all tended to be based out of bars or nightclubs. Busy places where people got chatty after a few drinks, and where shady backroom deals were the norm.
Laser fire erupted from a back hallway, and Soth grunted as he took a hit to the chest. He shrugged it off. They ducked for cover behind an overturned table.
“Frag grenade?” Soth asked.
“Not in these close quarters.”
“It’s only a little shrapnel,” he muttered in reply. It explained why Soth had so many battle scars, and his armor bore so many dents and burns. Soth was older than Jace, and his added years as a shadow sword seemed to give him more courage than common sense.
“No. Use a stunner,” Jace ordered.
Soth pulled a stun grenade from his belt and lobbed it down the hallway. A blinding flash of energy thrummed past them, rattling the metal table. The enemy fire stopped, and Jace pressed on. Unconscious mercenaries lined the hallway. It was tempting to finish them off, but he ordered Soth to secure them instead. The stunner would only last for a few minutes, and Jace didn’t want the mercs following them back to the ship. Then again with the pounding the station was taking, the mercs would probably be dead before the effect wore off.
Jace reached a reinforced door, and frowned at the wires trailing from the lock’s control panel. At least the mercs hadn’t succeeded in breaking in. He punched the door’s comm. system, praying it still worked. “Malcolm de la Cruz, this is Lieutenant Commander Najacen Harrow of the
. We’ve been sent to evac you.”
There was no response, and Soth shrugged. “Can you hack it?”
“Let’s hope so.” They hadn’t brought a tech with them because the team hadn’t anticipated needing one for this mission. It should have been a simple in and out.
Jace picked up where the mercs had left off, and he managed to open it after a few tense moments and one failure that singed the fingers of his gauntlets. A human was sprawled on the floor in the next room, just inside the door, a laser burn to his chest. Without armor to absorb the blast, a wound like that was fatal. Soth pulled off one of his gauntlets and checked the man for a pulse, but then shook his head.
“Dead. Hope he’s not the indexer.”
“He’s not. Too tall.” Jace headed for the next door and tried the comm. again, announcing himself and his orders. This time the speaker fizzled to life.
“Remove your helmet and display your heritage marks.”
Sheathing his sword, Jace complied, instantly assaulted by the cacophony of scents and sounds the helmet had shielded him from. He tilted his head so that the camera above the door could get a clear shot of the right side of his throat. The black runes inked into his skin proudly declared that he was the second son of Lord Najamek Harrow of House Morningstar—the spare, not the heir. House Morningstar was one of the twelve ruling houses of Cyprena. The second most powerful house, in fact, just behind House Nightfall—for now. Securing the indexer was another step to ensuring that Nightfall’s days on the high council were numbered.
The door hissed open and revealed a room filled with data terminals. A human with rumpled black hair was perched in a chair, surrounded by data screens filled with scrolling lines of text. The words flew by too quickly for Jace to catch them. How could anyone read that quickly? Or hope to absorb any of it?
“I’m not finished. I need more time.” The indexer waved a hand at the shadow swords as though warding them off.
“Are you Malcolm de la Cruz?” Jace asked. Though there had been a basic description, there hadn’t been an image available in the man’s file. The human was a bit young to be an indexer, but he had the scrawny look of a scholar. His fallen companion was well muscled—a bodyguard, Jace guessed, or a bouncer.
“What? Yes, I am,” he muttered in reply.
“Then we need to leave. The station’s under attack.”
“I’m aware of that, but—”
“You’re out of time,” Jace warned. “A few more hits and the hull is going to fail.”
Jace circled to the man’s side. The indexer’s dark gaze flicked from screen to screen as he peered at the data from behind a pair of gold wire-rimmed spectacles, and his hands danced over a series of keypads. A bundle of wires trailed from beneath his hair and connected him to the terminals—Jace had heard of people jacking themselves directly into the data stream, but he’d never seen it before. Jace turned to Soth, and with a grunt and a nod the commander pulled the cord free from the terminal, and de la Cruz yelped and jerked as though stabbed.
“I’m not finished,” he protested again.
“Yes, you are. We’re going.” Replacing his helmet, Jace spoke into his comm. as they left. “Captain, we’ve located the indexer.”
“Understood. Commander Soth, take the team and escort the indexer to the ship. Be advised there are reports of more mercs between you and the docking ring. Lieutenant Commander Harrow, break off and get the females. Now you have eight minutes.”
De la Cruz’s lip curled in disgust as he tugged the cord free from his head and tossed it on the chair. His irritation vanished the moment they stepped into the outer room. “No,” he wailed. The indexer knelt at the dead man’s side and held his hand. “Alexi. You have to help him!”
Soth shook his head. “It’s too late. He’s gone.”
“No! He just needs help. A dose of adrenaline, or a cardio jump. Alexi was supposed to get to a lifeboat. I thought—”
“I’m sorry for your loss, but we need to move. Now.” Jace placed a hand on Malcolm’s shoulder, and the man nodded numbly as Jace pulled him away.
Jace’s pulse throbbed in time with the beat from the dance floor—he needed more time. Safe in his armor, Jace could survive if the station broke apart, but the civilians wouldn’t. They rejoined the team, Soth clapped him on the back for good luck and Jace split from the group. Seven minutes to round up a group of hysterical slaves and herd them to freedom. Another explosion shook the station, and Jace gritted his teeth and ran.
When the first explosion rocked the station, Bryn barely noticed it. She was working, and her client was enjoying himself, so it seemed like nothing worth her attention. Explosions weren’t all that uncommon on the station, because the life-support systems were ancient and needed constant repair. The air filtration units broke down in loud, spectacular ways on a regular basis, due to the clouds of nic smoke that choked the air at the local bars and nightclubs. Or so the master said—Bryn hadn’t been in any of the clubs herself, but she knew the type. No one came to a jump station for fresh air. They came to get their ships—and themselves—serviced, a quick stop on their way to somewhere more important. On her more wistful days, Bryn tried to think of herself like a mechanic. She kept the spacers flying happy as the engines of the galactic economy burned ever onward. Like most Cy’ren, she didn’t have anything against sex or being a sex worker. It was the fact that she no longer had ownership of her body and any say in the matter of how it was used that she hated.
A second blast shook the room, and an old memory resurfaced in an icy rush of fear that prickled across Bryn’s azure skin.
. The station was under attack. Dear gods, who would attack a jump station? The place was barely worth the scrap it was cobbled together from, and it hovered in U-territory—unaligned, neutral space between the Syndicate and the Alliance. Not even the most self-righteous Alliance cruiser would waste its weapons firing on a jump station.
“What was that?” the client asked. Had he said his name? Bryn didn’t remember.
She paused and sat back on her heels. The high, thin wail of an alarm blared in the distance, but she doubted he could hear it. Cy’ren hearing was sharper than a human’s.
“I think the air circulators have gone down again,” she lied. The alarm was an opportunity. Bryn never passed up the opportunity to escape, and she had the scars to prove it.
The client frowned, salt-and-pepper eyebrows beetling. He might’ve been attractive a decade or so ago, or at least attractive for a human, soft and bland as they were. “Maybe I should check—” he began, and she shushed him.
“Easy, baby. Don’t want to waste any of your hour, do you? You’re all paid up,” Bryn said.
Bryn rose with a sexy pout, and his indecision vanished. He reached for her, but she danced out of the way with a playful giggle. She circled behind him, trailed her fingertips across his shoulders, and then stopped. A louder alarm joined the first, and this time her client heard it.
“Is that—?” he started. Before he could continue, Bryn grabbed him in a choke hold.
Though she wasn’t in top fighting shape, she was still stronger than the aging spacer, and she held on until he lost consciousness. She could have snapped his neck, but that seemed extreme. The man didn’t deserve to die, and Bryn didn’t need to kill him to escape, just incapacitate him long enough to steal his key card. And his coat, she decided as she rifled through the pockets of his discarded clothing for the card. After all, she needed something to wear during her escape, thanks to her master’s belief that the girls didn’t need clothes while they were working. Or while they weren’t working.
The thin jacket smelled strongly of engine grease and only covered her to mid-thigh, but it would do. She pulled the belt tight and knotted it, then hurried to the door. Bryn swiped the card across the reader and nearly cheered with joy as the lock blinked from red to green.