Stranded on a primitive world, facing death at the hands of the natives, betrayed by her crew, with drug smugglers hunting her, Captain Dace has one hope of rescue —Convince the Patrol agent trying to kill her she’s innocent.
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Dace’s wants are simple–a trading ship and the freedom to fly where she chooses. But on her first trip, her crew betrays her, her ship explodes, and she finds herself stranded on Dadilan, a planet locked in a feudal age.
Survival is hard enough when you have no technology or resources. It’s even harder when you have drug smugglers hunting you. Dadilan is the source of shara, a drug that enhances psychic abilities, a commodity so rare and precious people will kill for it.
Trapped between rival smugglers and the Patrol undercover investigation, Dace has one hope of rescue–convincing Tayvis, the undercover agent, she’s an innocent bystander. But those don’t exist on Dadilan. No one lands without authorization, unless they are smuggling.
Her ignorance may cost her life.
The grass in front of me slowly parted. I stared into a wide face of evil green eyes and huge fangs. The animal snarled, showing more teeth. I didn't have the breath to run any longer. I scrabbled through the grass until I found a big rock. I staggered to my feet, hefting the rock in shaky arms.
"Go away," I said, my voice squeaking with fear. "You aren't going to eat me."
The creature licked its fangs and came closer, moving on stealthy paws.
"I mean it. Don't mess with me." I lifted the rock to my shoulder. My muscles protested.
The creature shot a look over its shoulder, then bounded away into the night.
I let out a slow breath. Something had just scared the creature. That something would be bigger and meaner. Fear shivered along my spine. I held the rock higher, ready to throw it at the new threat.
He came out of the mist like a primeval god in a really bad romance vid–dark hair, darker eyes, and a face stolen from my most secret fantasies. He wore a leather vest with no shirt, tight pants, and tall boots. He stopped on the other side of the stream, muscles flexing as he folded his bare arms across his chest.
I swallowed hard, wondering if he was just a dream. I shifted my feet on the stream bank. "What do you want?"
He looked me over, not answering.
I lifted the rock, trying to appear as threatening as possible. I lost my hold on it. It fell into the stream with a loud splash.
His lip twitched as he smothered a chuckle.
Having a complete stranger laugh at me was the final straw. I thumped down on the stream bank, dropping my head into my hands.
The man splashed across the stream, his touch gentle on my shoulder. "Are you hurt?"
I shook my head. I'd felt worse and lived.
He watched me a moment longer, then put his arm around my shoulders.
I stiffened at the unexpected touch. No one had ever tried to comfort me. I surprised myself by bursting into tears. I'd lost control. I hated the feeling. I struggled until I finally fought the tears back. Only the occasional hiccuping sniffle escaped.
"Feel better?" he asked, just a trace of sarcasm coloring his voice. He shifted away, leaving me cold.
I couldn't look at him, embarrassed by my outburst. I stared down at his vest, at his muscles, at his hands, anywhere but at his face.
"You want to explain why you're out here?" He waited, still as a statue.
I finally looked up, at his face. It was a mask, giving nothing away. "I got lost?"
He raised one eyebrow. "Lost from where?"
I dug through the information Ameli had dumped into my head. I found little of any help. "My father's house."
He shifted position slightly, enough to change from sympathy to threat. "You're no native of this planet. You want to try again?"
I edged away. "No. How do you know I'm not native?" My curiosity got the better of me.
"You're speaking Basic."
I hadn't realized it. I repeated one of the more colorful expressions I'd learned from Toiba.
The man raised his eyebrow higher.
"You aren't native, either." I sniffled, wiping my nose on the back of my hand.
He stood. I glimpsed a tattoo on the inside of his wrist, an intricate black diamond that only one group in the Empire had.
I froze, not knowing if it was good or bad. "You're a Patrol Enforcer."
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't shoot you."
"You aren't carrying a blaster."