Inversion Point Excerpt

Chapter One

 

Jian Station, 2270

“Come here often?”

Zed sized up the man who’d spoken. Average height, average weight, with curly blond hair that might never have seen a brush in its life. His green eyes sparkled in the dim light of the bar and he held two bottles as though his success with that old, tired line was assured.

Turning his attention back to the other bar patrons, Zed considered his options. Be blunt and rude? Kind but dismissive? Or invite further attention? “I’m waiting for someone.”

“What a coincidence. I’m someone.” The blond plopped down in the seat on the other side of the little round table and pushed one of the bottles at Zed. “You know, you’re supposed to jump at the opportunity to eye-fuck a stranger.”

A smile twitched across Zed’s lips. “You’re not a stranger.”

“But I am strange.” Flick winked and tipped his bottle of soda against Zed’s beer. “Seriously. A little harmless role-play. Would it kill you?”

Grinning widely now at his lover of almost a year, Zed swallowed a mouthful of watery ale. “Couldn’t you come up with anything better than ‘Come here often?’”

“I never said I was an expert in flirting. Usually a couple of glances are all that’s needed to pick someone up.”

Zed snickered. “If you’re picking up a guy.”

“Not a woman?”

“Think about Nessa.” Zed raised a brow, picturing the fiery redheaded doctor of their ship, the Chaos. “Do you think it only took a couple of glances for Elias to get her into bed?”

“I don’t know, man. I have no basis for comparison.”

“Women like smooth lines and to be…” Zed waved a hand, “…wooed.”

“Kinda glad I never had the urge to flirt with anyone but men, then.” One side of Flick’s mouth quirked upward. “And, really, I guess it’s kind of pointless between you and me. You’re already a sure thing.”

“Hey!” Zed sat back, laughing, then sobered as he caught movement at the back of the bar. “We’re on.”

To his credit, Flick didn’t follow Zed’s gaze. Casually, he put his drink aside and activated the bracelet dangling from his left wrist. Most people carried multipurpose wallets for communications, Net access and so on, but Flick’s mangled and twisted left hand made unfolding one of those devices tricky, even with the new glove that helped him get some use out of his fingers.

The face of their captain, Elias Idowu, popped up on the holo interface. “Talk to me, Fix.”

Felix, Flick, Fixer, Fix—all of those names belonged to the engineer of the Chaos, though Zed had to admit the nickname Fixer suited him the best. That’s what he did, he fixed things. Didn’t stop Zed from calling Flick by the name he’d used since they were boys.

“We’ve got her.”

Is she alone?

“There are six people with her. Four men, two women,” Zed reported, keeping his voice low and his gaze on their quarry. Relief spiked through him at the girl’s reappearance—despite the presence of the unknowns surrounding her, she looked unharmed and relatively happy. When she’d vanished into the private area at the back of the bar shortly after they’d followed her inside, he’d feared the worst. But a missing-persons contract only gave the crew of the Chaos the authority to apprehend the girl, not to disrupt a business or charge into a members-only room. They had to wait until she was accessible again.

One of the men turned and Zed caught sight of a sash hooked around his left arm, a symbol he’d gotten way too familiar with over the past few months. “Oh shit. Of all the groups she could’ve gotten mixed up with…”

“What?” Elias and Flick said at the same time.

“It’s the fucking Church.” Zed slouched in his seat, trying to shrink his muscular frame into something less noticeable.

Flick narrowed his eyes at the holo. “I thought Qek said this station was clean!”

According to my data, it was.” The diminutive ashushk pilot appeared next to Elias. “I checked the registration of each ship at dock and those in the queue. None of them matched the numbers of known Church of Omega vessels.”

“Then our intel is out-of-date.”

It appears so.”

“I’m gonna kill Ryan.” Their intelligence-gathering guru was supposed to be better than this.

Flick turned his attention back to Zed. “What do you want to do?”

Not what should we do. What they should do was march over there and take Aurelia Makynzy Dunbar-Harrington into custody—she was a runaway and her parents were paying quite well for her return. Not to mention that a dive on a backwater Shi Corp station—also known as Shitty Corp for valid reasons—was no place for a kid of sixteen.

No, what he wanted to do was slink out of the bar and hope to God none of the cultists saw him.

“Why are they even here?” Zed turned his head toward Flick, covering the side of his face with a wide palm. Maybe it would delay recognition. “Coincidence?”

Elias’s snort carried loud and clear over the holo interface, but it was Qek who spoke. “Perhaps a coincidence, but most likely it is not. The itinerary of the Chaos is filed with station administration once it is finalized. They are aware in advance of our scheduled approach and docking.”

Six months ago, when the news broke about his death and subsequent resurrection at the hands of the omniscient aliens, the Guardians, Zed thought the worst he’d have to deal with would be the media hounding him for sound bites. There’d been a frenzy for a while, but it had died off after a few weeks. Not that he wasn’t still a hot topic when there was nothing else to report on—as far as anyone knew, he’d been closer to the powerful Guardians than any other living being. When you added in his already-celebrity status as the youngest son of the galaxy’s richest family, and the holo of him and his team rescuing a transport of civilians that went viral during the Human-Stin War…yeah, he’d seen more of his face on the holos recently than he’d ever cared to.

But as annoying as the media was, they had nothing on the Church of Omega. The damned group had decided he was the second fucking coming of…something. They’d gone from annoying ripmail messages to public appeals for attention to out-and-out stalking. Last week they’d had to dodge Church members while running a shipping job on Dardanos Station. Afterward, Ryan had sworn up and down that the Church wouldn’t find them again.

Either Ryan had overestimated his effectiveness—not bloody likely, since the man was beyond good at his job—or the Church had stepped up its game.

“So what do we do? Renege on the contract and throw it back in the queue on SkipNet with a confirmation of locale?” Zed asked.

No one said anything for a moment. Laughter drifted over from the Church’s table. Clearly they hadn’t figured out Zed was in the same bar, or else he’d have been mobbed.

I don’t like that idea,” Elias said, his voice uncharacteristically serious. “I know dealing with this cult is shitty and we all hate it. If it were an adult we were tracing—

“I know. Shit, I know.” Zed sighed. “Shouldn’t have suggested it, sorry.”

Flick nudged his hand. “Walking away is out. So what’s our play?”

Fix could go over, chat her up—

Flick’s eyes widened. “She’s sixteen!”

You’re not actually going to pick her up. Jesus.”

“Just thinking about it makes me feel skeevy.”

If you are successful at enticing Ms. Dunbar-Harrington away from the Church of Omega, however, that will be a hole in one.” Qek clicked, clearly pleased with her idiom use.

“Talking about holes doesn’t make me feel any less skeevy!”

Zed nudged Flick’s hand. “It’s the best plan we’ve got. Pour on the charm, get her interested and maybe you can lure her outside.”

Flick groaned. “I’m not charming.”

“You can be.”

“She’s not gonna be interested. Elias, you should—”

Fixer, put on your big-girl panties and do this!

“Oh man, I’m gonna tell Ness you said that.”

An inarticulate noise of frustration reached across the comm line.

“Okay, I’m going, I’m going.” Flick took a last swig of his soda, burped quietly and stood up. “Wish me luck.”

Zed tried to make himself look small as Flick wove his way through the half-filled bar toward the tables the Church occupied. It didn’t seem like the cultists were paying any attention to the rest of the patrons, so hopefully they wouldn’t notice the direction Flick came from. He didn’t waste any time in sidling up to Aurelia, wide smile stretching the scar on his cheek. His eyes would be twinkling, Zed knew that from experience. When Flick turned on the charm, he was cute as hell. Aurelia smiled back, then looked away, her cheeks flushing pink.

Score.

One of the Church members approached Flick, frowning. They shared a few words, but the cultist’s expression never lost the puzzled look. As though he was trying to figure out where he’d seen Flick before…

Zed realized their mistake when the cultist’s gaze swung about and landed on him. The man froze, his eyes widening in recognition and his mouth dropping open.

Oh shit.

Of course the Church of Omega would know what Flick looked like. And if Zed’s partner was in the bar…

“He’s here!” the cultist shouted, taking a step in Zed’s direction.

Flick grabbed the man’s arm, but it was too late. The other Church members had spotted Zed as well and they started moving toward him as one. It didn’t matter how much Flick yelled at the guy he was clinging to or tugged on his arm—nothing was going to stop the wave now. Behind the mass of cultists, Zed saw Aurelia stumble backward and then turn and flee.

Zed didn’t have time to get his wallet out to ping Elias about the absolute failure of their plan. “She’s running!” he shouted at Flick.

All traces of charm slipped from Flick’s expression. “Go!”

Zed leaped forward but the mass of cultists grabbed him, their voices rising in a cacophony he couldn’t understand. Fuck, he hated crowds. And the fact that this crowd was pulling at him, blocking him and making him feel like a piece of meat…it was a nightmare come to life.

He shoved at one of the Church members, trying to open up a hole in the mob. Damn, were they multiplying? There hadn’t been this many cultists a minute ago, he’d swear to it. And every second he wasted here was another second Aurelia had to lose herself.

“Hey!” Flick yelled.

Zed turned to his lover in time to see Flick cock his elbow back and slam his fist into a guy’s nose. The crunch of cartilage sounded loud even above the clamor of the group. The flash of red blood caught everyone’s attention.

“Go!” Flick shouted again as the mob turned toward him. “Get her!”

Leaving Flick to defend himself felt wrong in so many ways, but Zed knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity afforded by Flick’s distraction. He took a breath and summoned the altered state of consciousness called the Zone—a state the Allied Earth Forces had taught him to achieve through training, discipline and the regular application of venom from the stin, the aliens who’d been humanity’s enemies up until a year ago. In the Zone, he was faster, stronger, less emotional—a better soldier—and he could match the stin’s ability to phase out of reality.

A trick that made getting through a crowd easy.

He popped back into existence at the back door and yanked it open. A rank, garbage-strewn service corridor stretched before him to the right and left—something you’d never find on one of his family’s stations. Anatolius space stations were clean and well maintained. Shitty Corp stations…well, there was a reason for the nickname.

Shouting to his left pulled him in that direction. Still in the Zone, he ran, his legs little more than a blur. Careering around a corner, he found a homeless person wailing about their destroyed stack of plasmix crates. Another shout up ahead told him his quarry wasn’t out of reach yet. He bolted forward, racing around another corner—straight into a spray of biting, acidic mist.

Oleoresin capsicum, better known as pepper spray. Recommended action: blink rapidly.

He registered the pain, but the Zone prevented him from reacting to it. Blinking, he grabbed the canister from her and tossed it aside, then gripped her wrist. “I’m Zander Anatolius, security officer for the Chaos. We have a missing-persons contract for your retrieval.”

Aurelia struggled against his hold, trying to tug out of it. Not something she’d be able to do even if he wasn’t in the Zone. “Let me go!”

“Under Central Alliance of Planets and Stations freelance protocol, I’m authorized—”

She bent forward and sank her teeth into Zed’s hand. He felt it, but again, the Zone kept him steady. He continued blinking, aware that tears would be needed to flush the spray out of his eyes.

“Are you done?” he asked, wondering if she’d actually go so far as to break skin with her teeth. “Full disclosure—my blood is poisoned.”

She jerked away and looked up at him, worry flickering in her eyes.

“I’m not going to hurt you. Your parents want you home.”

“I hate them. I hate home.”

That wasn’t something Zed could understand. Even when he’d been estranged from his family, by his choice, he’d loved them with all his heart. He’d stayed away to protect them, not because he didn’t want to be with them. “You’re going to have to work that out with them. Under CAPS freelance protocol, you’re now under my authority.”

“Yeah, I just bet you want me under you.”

Zed grimaced. “That’s disgusting.”

“I’m disgusting?”

Oh Jesus. Save him from melodramatic teenagers. He ignored Aurelia’s renewed struggles and, with his free hand, tugged his wallet out of his pocket and opened it, awkwardly, to contact Elias. “Contract fulfilled,” he reported. “Is Flick okay?”

As far as I can tell.” Voices buzzed in the background as Elias spoke. “Station security showed up before I could get into the bar to back him up.

“Shit.”

“Yeah, and I—” Shouts rose over the murmurs. “I think that was Fixer cussing out a reporter.” He cleared his throat. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any pull on a Shi Corp station, do you?”

Zed groaned. “Let me make some calls.”

“It sounds like you’re super busy,” Aurelia said, smiling sweetly. “I can just—”

“There’s nothing in the freelance protocols that says I can’t gag you.” Zed raised a brow.

“I’ll just be quiet.”

“Good plan.”

#

Felix batted at Nessa’s hand. “Stop touching it, you’re making it worse.”

“I swear, if you don’t stop moving, I’m going to sedate you.” Nessa continued to poke his face with fingers made of hot steel. Normally she had a gentler touch.

“Your bedside manner needs work, Doc.”

Her answering smile could have been a smirk. The mountain of pain in the middle of his face skewed his perception.

Fingers crept beneath the ones he had clutching the side of the med-bay bed. Felix jerked his hand away from Zed’s. “No touching! You already broke my nose.” Indirectly, but whatever.

“Flick—”

“It’s not broken.” Nessa left off torturing his face to step away and fuss with shit on the counter behind her, leaving Felix with a view of Zed’s woeful expression.

Zander Anatolius’s handsome features should never be arranged in anything but a satisfied and sexy smile. Currently, he looked as if someone had kicked his favorite puppy out of an airlock. Granted, fulfilling their contract had resulted in a fuckup of catastrophic proportions—a not-so-rousing bar fight, the appearance of station security and an impromptu interview with the media. Felix had handled that one by sticking his bloodied face in front of the holo camera and yelling—just so Zed would have enough time to chase down the sulky teenager currently confined to guest quarters. She apparently hadn’t wanted to be rescued. Imagine that. By the time he got back to the Chaos, a new chapter in the story of Zed vs. the Church of Omega had aired Live, at sixteen hundred Standard!

Felix scowled at Nessa’s back. “How is my nose not broken? Feels like someone dropped Jian Station on it.”

“Mendo strengthens bones and cartilage. You’ve had two previous treatments, right?”

Yeah, two broken noses in the past, two shots of bone-knitting glue shit. “So my nose is now unbreakable?”

“I wouldn’t say that.” She whirled around, brandishing a selection of hypos. “Want something for the pain or a swipe with a numb stick?”

Felix glanced back at Zed, the gesture instinctive and uncomfortable. He wasn’t asking for permission to take a shot of painkiller. Not really. He hadn’t self-medicated in months—it hadn’t been necessary. Therapy with the doc Zed had found for them was going…It was going. Maybe well. If pressed, he’d say well. Much as he hated sharing his thoughts with Dr. McMann, he could feel the difference unloading some of his shit had made. His mood had evened out, his sleep was largely undisturbed, and he hadn’t had the urge to further break himself in months. Why would he? He had Zed.

Had going feral in the bar set his progress back? Sometimes it was hard to keep his temper in check. But he’d been trying—which felt oddly good. Directing his thoughts and actions toward not doing harm had been weird at first, but more often lately he derived a certain satisfaction from fixing more than mechanical issues. And Zed needed him in good working order, what with the mounting pressure from the Church of Omega in between regularly scheduled assignments.

“Just numb it up.”

He reached for the fingers he’d previously shunned, and Zed gripped his hand while Ness waved a wand in front of his nose. The pain ebbed sharply, leaving him somewhat euphoric—and aware that he had bruises on other parts of his body.

“I feel like a punching bag.”

“You kinda look like one.” One corner of Zed’s mouth twitched toward a tentative smile.

“My charm only extends so far, man. And I was’n gonna t’…” And there went command of his lips. “Fffuuuuu!”

“I’m going to suggest some bunk time.” Nessa glanced between them, resignation claiming her face as she obviously came to the conclusion that telling either of them Felix needed rest rather than play would be futile. “Don’t use any tools for at least six hours. The agent should only affect—”

Felix waved her to silence. “I know.” His version of know sounded like gnome. He tugged Zed’s hand. “C’mo’.”

If he had to rot in his bunk for a while, Zed could damned well play with him. Or suck him off. His dick wasn’t numb and they could both use the distraction.

#

“Not the best advertisement of our services.” Elias snapped his wallet shut, killing the holo display of Felix leering at the media. “Feel like explaining what happened?”

Felix rubbed his shoulder against the wall. Beneath his boot soles, the gentle rhythm of a ship traversing jump-space provided a soothing counterpoint to the ache in the middle of his face. He’d had six Standard hours to rest his owies, and they had thirty more hours of j-space to cross before they popped out of folded reality somewhere in the vicinity of Mars and Central Station. Plenty of time for Elias to be captain and worry about their reputation.

Elias leaned back into his side of the booth the crew of the Chaos used as mess and conference table. Beside him, Zed brooded handsomely. Opposite, on the skinny side of the booth with Qek and Ness, Felix leaned forward. “It was going to get ugly, no matter what we did. The Church is becoming more than a simple annoyance.”

Nessa spoke up. “And Jian Station is no place for a sixteen-year-old girl out there fending for herself, let alone in the clutches of a cult.”

“Are we certain she was involved with the cult?” Qek asked.

Zed’s expression darkened. “They sure seemed attached to her.”

“Look, it’s my fault, okay? The moment they recognized Zed, the mood changed. They were all over him and…” Breathing out, Felix employed his own version of meditation, counting silently backward from ten to one. Ten, nine, eight…This was his crew, not a bunch of cultists set on touching his Zed, doing whatever weird shit they wanted to do to their idol. For all that he’d joked in the past about Zed pandering to fictional worshippers, he hadn’t known just how invasive it would be. “I lost my shit and started throwing punches. Let’s just say I was trying for a distraction.”

Zed offered Felix a conciliatory smile. “Once everyone became aware of who I was and what was going on, it was a mob scene. Flick’s distraction allowed me to phase-shift out of there and after the girl.”

“Aurelia Makynzy Dunbar-Harrington.” Elias had his wallet open again. “Who needs that many names?” When no one answered his question, he moved on. “Is she healthy?”

Ness pulled out her bulky medical wallet and opened a display. “A little underweight, but not malnourished, and seriously unhappy about being confined to the guest cabin.” She glanced up. “I explained to her it was either that or the med bay and she mouthed off for a solid five minutes.” She grinned over Qek’s head at Felix. “She’d make a good stand-in for you.”

Felix huffed.

“To be honest, given her attitude, I don’t think she was with the cult in the sense the Church supposed she was with the cult. She didn’t spout any indoctrination and seemed singularly unimpressed to have been rescued by Zed. I’m pretty sure she was just using them as an act of rebellion against her parents.”

Elias closed his eyes, as if to blot out the notion of rebellious youth. Felix decided it wasn’t the time to remind the captain of his own closet anarchy. When Elias opened his eyes again, he wore a resigned expression. “At least we don’t have to haul ass to the far side of the galaxy to drop her off.” They’d been taking a lot of jobs out of Sol so Zed could visit his family regularly. Aurelia Whatever’s parents were located on Mars. “Okay, I honestly can’t see how it could have gone any other way, but I’m going to let you explain this latest media frenzy to your family, Zed.”

The Anatolius Industries legal department had advised Zed to keep a low profile. While the family often attracted the scrutiny of the media, not all publicity was good publicity. And Zed was the only one with a partner who regularly attacked reporters.

“Zed?” Elias was nudging Zed, whose gaze had acquired a blank distance.

His own foibles forgotten, Felix leaned across the table to do the same. It’d been a while since he’d seen Zed drop out, and he didn’t enjoy the reminder. Before the Guardians had fixed him, every moment of blankness had the potential to be his last. The AEF’s Project Dreamweaver might have led to the end of their war with the stin, but it hadn’t been kind to the participants. The stin poison used to change them had also killed every member of the team but Zed.

Nessa waved her wallet in Zed’s direction, taking readings. “What’s going on, buddy? Can you hear me?”

Panic mounting, Felix scrambled up onto the tabletop so he could put a hand on each of Zed’s shoulders. All the better to shake him. “Don’t you fucking dare—”

Zed put a hand on his and looked up, the steel blue of his eyes returned to normal intensity, his mouth curved in a faint smile. “I’m here. I’m okay.”

“What just happened?”

“It was the Guardians.”

“The Guardians? They haven’t talked to you in six months.” Not since warning him a fourth gate at the Hub was about to open. Feeling slightly ridiculous, Felix edged back across the table.

Zed kept hold of his right hand and Felix appreciated the continued connection. “Something’s happened at the Hub. The Guardians want me there. They said it was time.”

“Time for what?” Qek asked.

Simultaneously, Elias asked, “Now?”

“Seeing as they didn’t teleport the Chaos instantly to the Hub, I’m guessing their interpretation of now is loose. Probably more like soon, with all haste.”

“That makes no sense,” Felix said.

Zed lifted one shoulder. “It’s the Guardians.” To Qek, he said, “They weren’t clear on the what.”

“Do we have any news from the Hub?” Nessa asked.

Elias tapped his wallet. “Let’s see if Marnie and Ryan know anything.”

Former Military Intelligence operatives Marnie and Ryan Scott were stationed on the asteroid they’d inherited from another member of Project Dreamweaver. They were considered part of the Chaos crew, but rarely traveled. Ryan got anxious when separated from his baby—the super-main he and Marnie had spent the past six months assembling out of pieces and parts. Among other specialized techniques, Marnie had a knack for finding stuff, and Ryan equal talent in putting it together—in a virtual sense.

Thanks to their semi-legal upgrades, the Chaos was now equipped to send and receive comms from anywhere to anywhere without relying on relay points. Elias poked at his interface and a holo opened up over the table, allowing Marnie and Ryan to join the team meeting. As usual, Marnie sparkled and smiled, her shiny hair and bright eyes obvious even through transmission. She elbowed Ryan, who glanced up from the console just out of view, offered a brief grin and returned to his precious. Even with his AEF bio-implants removed, Ryan was more comfortable with technology than with other human beings.

Hey, we were just about to call you. Things are happening at the Hub,” Marnie said.

“Here too,” Elias said. “Zed just got a call from the Guardians.”

They trumped me again.” Marnie grinned. “Well, the news is that twenty-four Standard hours ago, a small detonation was recorded somewhere inside Species Four space.” Four gates at the Hub, four species—not including the Guardians. No one counted the Guardians as a species. Too little was known about them. “Intelligence suggests it was a stin probe. The stin haven’t declared war on the universe yet, but in the last seven hours, thirteen Goliath class ships have passed through their gate and into the Hub.”

“That’s their reaction to the loss of a single probe?” Zed asked.

This is the stin.”

“I’m only surprised it took them this long to do something idiotic,” Elias said.

Felix had to nod in agreement. Species Four had entered the galactic playground six months ago. For four of those months, nothing happened. Then, elaborate crystalline structures had sallied through their gate at regular intervals to join the growing cluster at the center of their territory. Everyone assumed they were building a station. More baffling than the alien physics and geometry viewed from afar was the absence of communication. Species Four had seemed uninterested in talking with the other species until a week ago, when they finally responded to the indirect hails and welcome messages from the ships assembled by their border. Their answer resembled an abstract painting torn into shreds, pushed through j-space and reassembled by stin poets.

As far as Felix knew, the stin possessed no capacity for poetry.

Species Four was inscrutable in every way, leading many to believe they might be the Guardians. Except the Guardians had no problem communicating, even if their intent wasn’t always clear.

“Did the probe approach Species Four’s gate?” Zed asked.

Approach another species’ gate and it was boom time. Access denied and kiss your ass goodbye.

According to our intelligence, the probe was in the middle of nowhere when it exploded. Well, in the middle of S4 territory, but nowhere considered strategic.”

“Shit.” Felix didn’t like the idea of two aggressive species in the galactic community.

“No kidding,” Elias murmured.

Zed addressed holo-Marnie again. “Has S4 issued any statements regarding the stin ship?”

Only the usual garble.

“I find it difficult to understand the lack of clear communication,” Qek said.

Ryan looked up from his hidden console. “I’ve been running all their messages through every decryption routine I have and I got nothing. It’s more than a language issue. There are some repeated patterns, but even those can’t be translated.”

“The Guardians must be able to speak with them,” Nessa said.

All eyes, pixelated and present, turned toward Zed.

“Or they could have just dropped a gate into their home system, kinda like they did with us,” he said.

The crew of the first human ship to travel through the gate from Sol to the Hub had been hailed as heroes, and when they came back with news of new species, including the all-powerful but apparently benevolent Guardians, they became legend. The Central Alliance of Planets and Stations—CAPS if you liked stupid acronyms, Central if you didn’t—had maintained a drift named Jitendra after that first ship ever since. The original Jitendra was enshrined on Mars.

“They didn’t give you any other clues?” Felix asked, knowing the answer before he finished speaking. Now that his panic over Zed’s short lapse had subsided, vague anger began to take its place. Six months with no word other than “Be ready,” and now “Go”?

Zed shook his head, either in answer to his question, or in response to the belligerence likely spreading across Felix’s face.

“The Guardians might be waiting for us to make the connection,” Qek said.

“Bastards.” Felix waved away the mildly hostile stares of his crew. “What? Y’all expect me to sit here for a whole meeting and not be an ass?”

So what is the word from the Guardians?” Marnie asked.

“They just said it was time. I hope they’re not expecting me to stop a war between the stin and Species Four.” Zed licked his lips. “Because…”

“You’re good, but you’re not that good,” Felix said. “But they didn’t go to all the trouble of patching you up just to throw you away.” Surely not. “I guess we’ll just have to suss things out when we get there.”

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Text Copyright ©2015 by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen
Cover Art Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved.