A woman running from darkness. A man forced to live in the shadows. Together can they find a way to stay in the light?
Alexa Bristow, a woman with an extraordinary talent, has finally escaped the scientific facility that has held her prisoner for years. Through a series of unfortunate events, she finds herself on the run and in the company of one of the galaxy's most dangerous and sought-after fugitives: ex-military Special Forces Ranger, Cade Rogan. Alexa begins to feel drawn to this ruggedly handsome fugitive, who, despite his ruthless notoriety, may not be the heartless killer he is portrayed to be.
As Alexa struggles with her newfound feelings for a man who may never know how to love, she is determined to keep her promise to find and safely deliver the evidence that would clear his name. Her journey into his dangerous and complicated life thrusts her into a world of insatiable greed, horrific military experiments, and a galactic empire bent on total domination. She must find a way to overcome such terrible odds, but her most daunting task is to melt the frozen walls of Cade Rogan's heart.
It was the chance I'd been waiting for—the chance to escape TRF, the Talent Research Facility that had held me captivefor so many years. A heavy electrical storm had passed through and this time shorted out a power grid, knocking out service to the housing wing of the facility. It would only be a split-second before backup power engaged, and in that chance-of-a-lifetime moment, I'd make my move.
My heart was pounding with the anticipation of an escape from this facility—this scientific prison. The night duty TRF associates manager shouted orders to the others, making sure the system would come back online correctly and lockdown would be secure. The lights dimmed and flickered, then went out. The familiar hum of the security system to the individual housing doors paused as the power ceased. I pulled my door open just enough to keep it from locking back down.
The other participants picked up on this opportunity as well. Their yells and shrieks resounded off the walls as they ran from their rooms. This freedom sent some of them into a frenzy—running through the halls, frantically searching for a further way out. This was the type of reaction I'd hoped for. The night duty associates went scrambling for those who were loose, leaving my area clear for my own escape.
It was in this madness that I kept my calm. I quickly went to my closet and grabbed the small bundle of belongings I had already prepared for such a moment as this, and I left my room dressed in a TRF associate's required attire that I had hidden away months before. I grabbed the set of backup key entry cards that someone had pulled out due to the storm, along with a clipboard from one of the night stations, and then looking like a concerned professional TRF associate, I began my flight to freedom.
I made my way out of the facility in the cover of darkness, walking part of the length of the air landing field before I saw it: a small transport shuttle with the words "Javelin-Star" on the side. The shuttle waited silently on the mostly unlit tarmac, its outer landing lights glowing a soft orange as if beckoning me to board. It was strange that a shuttle was here in the middle of the night, in pre-flight standby, with hardly any landing beacons lit. But that would only be in my favor, and I didn't think another thing about it as I quickly slipped aboard.
I hurriedly changed from the white lab coat and pants into a long saree, the whole while keeping my eyes peeled for any signs of security. I tightened the garment close about me, especially around my head to cover my blonde hair. I slipped between a tall stack of secured containers and empty lockers, which gave me a moment to listen and calculate my next move. Time passed, and there were no sounds inside or outside the shuttle. All was silent and calm, something I hadn't experienced in years. A soft sigh escaped me as the quiet and warmth enveloped me, letting the emotional and physical stress drain from my mind and body. Soon I began to drift off, compliments of the evening's ritual injection of a sleep aid given to each participant.
I woke up dazed, my mind blank. Only my physical senses were waking from the drug induced deep sleep. I was cold and being shaken...no, not shaken. Slammed. Something was wrong. There were raised, anxious voices. Someone was shouting orders as loud dings blasted through the hull. My mind unfroze, and I suddenly remembered where I was. Aboard the Javelin-Star, leaving behind a terrible life I had been forced to live.
I could hear a female voice yelling, "The fuel reservoirs have been ruptured, losing altitude! We're gonna crash!"
I blinked, trying to clear my vision. Reaching out, I tried to grasp something to hold onto, but my hands and fingers were so cold and weak. There was a terrible jerk, and part of the hull tore away in a blinding fury of twisting metal. I fell to the cold metal floor, hitting it hard. Pieces of debris hissed past me in every direction. Alarms sounded and lights flashed. People's voices were louder now, more panicked. All at once, I felt it: the horrific impact, and the heavy weight that landed across my chest. Then everything went dark.
When I came to, I struggled for breath. Whatever had landed on me was pinning my entire upper body beneath it, crushing my chest. There were no alarms, no lights. Faint voices conversed in the background, but as hard as I tried I couldn't speak, couldn't ask for help. My head began to spin from lack of oxygen, and a wave of blackness began to take me. The voices were drifting farther away…
Then suddenly, a deep, low voice close to my ear said, "Don't move." He started moving the debris from my chest.
My lungs sucked in the hot, dusty air as if I was breathing in a cool and clean mountain breeze. It didn't matter; I could breathe now. The blood rushed to my upper body. It engorged the veins in my neck, and my temples pulsed wildly. The pounding in my head at that moment was almost unbearable. I looked around to see who had released me from certain death, but I only got a glimpse of his wrists and the bright shine of something silver. I waited a few moments, still trying to catch my breath. I sat up slowly. My chest hurt, my arms hurt, my head started pounding again, and I knew I was going to be very sore for a few days.
A woman with short, brown hair helped me to my feet. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I think so," I tried to say, but my voice was barely audible.
I was standing, no broken bones as far as I could tell. The saree I wore was torn here and there, but for the most part intact. The cloth was plain, a bland gray, far from the beautiful colors and feminine tapers of the traditional style of the saree, but I didn't want to draw attention to myself on my journey.
I began searching for my belongings. There wasn't much, but I had, over a period of a year, scrimped, saved, and kept hidden the necessary things I needed to start a new life for myself. The money and important papers were still safely tucked into the inner pocket of my garment. It seemed everything else had been lost in the crash.
A man walked over and introduced himself as Captain Patrick Freeman, and I noticed the silver watch on his wrist. Just as I tried to thank him for saving me from a crushing death, the woman looked at me and scowled in frustration. "Who are you anyway? And how did you get aboard our ship?"
"I—I came on board while you were docked on Tigres," I replied.
There was so much confusion and fear that questioning me further was the least of their worries. Captain Freeman had already assessed the situation, tried to contact their homeport, and then asked me to search what was left in cargo to see if there was any water or medical supplies. All of us were cut and bruised.
I followed Captain Freeman inside the broken ship. I noticed that he was an average sized man, slim but fit. He had deep brown eyes and sandy colored hair that was a crew cut style. It was the mandatory hairstyle for male pilots and shaven even shorter for military men—or prison inmates. Hayden Teague, the dark haired woman who had helped me to my feet, was the copilot, according to the nametag on her vest. She was a pretty, shapely young woman who was a few inches shorter than I was, with sparkling green eyes.
He pointed to the area he wanted me to search, and then he headed a few feet away to talk to his copilot. It sounded serious, so I tried to catch what they were saying while I looked through the rubble.
Copilot Hayden Teague pointed to the back of the shuttle and said, "Just look at those slashed fuel lines! They'll never be fixed."
Captain Freeman shook his head in disbelief. "Of all the fugitives in the galaxy, he has to be the one to hijack our shuttle, and on our last damn drop-off! For a big man he sure is quiet, moves like a panther. I never even knew he'd gotten aboard until he was on me with that self-fashioned blade of his."
"Sounds like he's pretty dangerous."
"Dangerous, and a madman," he said, as his hand purposefully rested on the hilt of his laser pistol.
"Is that why the guard tower on DeLorma sent out their galaxy strikers and shot us down, because of this fugitive? Who is he?"
"His name's Cade Rogan. He was a highly trained and decorated Special Forces military officer, still serving in active duty during the Trade Wars in the Meridan quadrant until he lost it and started killin' his own men. Then he took off, became a military deserter, and started murdering any innocent civilian that got in his path."
"The guy must have gone on a bloody trek of insanity," said the copilot, her voice quivering as she spoke.
"Yeah, he did, but was finally caught, convicted, and sent to the highest security military prison in the galaxy, Baykal. He was held in the deepest, roughest part of the prison until he escaped. He's been a fugitive for years now. There hasn't been a ranger or mercenary yet that's stayed alive long enough to bring him in. He's a violent killer. He has a whole slew of other convictions on his record as well. Rogan is very intelligent, cool and calculating, cocky and strong. He's skilled with all kinds of weapons, especially blades and guns."
I watched as a look of panic formed on the copilot's face. Captain Freeman put his hand on her shoulder and said, "I think for now Rogan just wants his freedom."
"That doesn't mean he won't come back…for us."