Thinking back on the past year, I realize I have a lot for which to be thankful. I’m thankful for a husband who not only understands, but embraces my crazy. I’m thankful for my children, who know what’s right and aren’t afraid to challenge what’s wrong. I’m thankful people actually want to read what I write, and every day, I get to wake up and do a job I love. I’m thankful that I have a friend I can count on, who never takes more than she gives, and celebrates our differences rather than condemns them. I’m thankful for short lines at the supermarket, the last donut in the box, and my favorite song on the radio. Bad things happen, and the world doesn’t always make sense. So, mostly, I guess I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be thankful.
Commander Ivy Dalton doesn’t believe in luck or chance. Everything in her life—her career, her ship, the respect of her peers—she’s worked hard to earn. When she and her crew are attacked during an exploration mission, sending her ship crashing onto an unidentified planet, her only concern is finding a way to contact the Alliance. She never expected a single, tiny incident in the infinite reaches of space to challenge all she thought she knew about fate, destiny, and…love.
For thousands of years, King Kai Blackthorn has ruled over the people of his planet with selflessness and compassion, never taking anything for himself. Recently, however, he’s grown weary, malcontent, and the loneliness that has plagued him for centuries has become too pronounced to ignore. Then all that changes with the unexpected arrival of one sassy blonde with luscious curves and a dangerously sharp tongue.
Caught in the midst of intolerance and corruption, two strangers from different worlds struggle to find a way to coexist. Kai can’t abandon his people, and Ivy can’t imagine a life grounded in one place. But fate will not be ignored. Decisions must be made, compromises that will change the course of their lives. For no matter which destination they choose, the journey will leave them forever altered.
Alarms blared throughout the ship, their harsh, electronic tone inciting panic in everyone aboard the Dreamweaver. Colored lights blinked and flickered from the computer consoles on the command deck, while the video display flashed system failure warnings in red across the monitors.
“Lock target! Get me a visual!” Commander Ivy Dalton barked orders at her crew over the wailing sirens. Sitting on the edge of her seat, she gripped the arms of her chair when the ship shuddered violently from another impact. “Tombs, status update?”
“Shields at twenty-eight percent,” Officer Anson Tombs responded, turning away from his station to address her. Perspiration beaded at his temples, darkening his chestnut hair, and his bright green eyes—eyes nearly the same shade of green as Ivy’s—widened with anxiety. “Life support systems failing. Significant damage reported in cargo bays three and four.”
“Target locked,” another of her officers called from the weapons panel at the front of the deck.
“Life support systems at thirteen percent.”
“Visual on screen, Commander. All communications are down. We’re unable to establish contact with the vessel.”
“Seven evacuation shuttles launched. Two standing by.”
Her crew continued to call out stats and updates, but Ivy’s full attention had turned to the small ship on the display. It wasn’t an Alliance ship, nor did it belong to any of their allies. No bigger than a shuttle, it likely wouldn’t hold more than three or four members, possibly a scouting vessel. Emblazoned on the helm was an unfamiliar emblem—a cluster of three dots situated in the middle of a simple circle.
Whoever they were, wherever they’d come from, they definitely weren’t friendly.
“Fire on target,” she ordered. With their power systems failing, they’d only get one shot. “And make it count.”
Even as they unleashed their payload, reducing the unknown ship to a scrap heap of twisted metal, the Dreamweaver lurched sideways. The sudden shift threw Ivy from her seat so that she rolled and bounced across the command deck. Coming to a painful stop when she crashed into one of the computer consoles, she remained crouched on the floor as the ship continued to sway.
Long strands of blonde hair stuck to her face, damp with perspiration, but she swiped them out of her eyes roughly and released a frustrated breath.
“Tombs! What the hell is happening?”
“We’re falling,” the officer called back.
“How?” Ivy demanded. “We can’t just fall through fucking space.”
“We’re caught in a gravitation pull, Commander.”
“Tombs, we’re at the edge of nowhere. There’s no fucking planet, moon, or even an asteroid even close to our location.”
“Life support systems at seven percent,” another officer called. “Switching to auxiliary power.”
“No.” Pushing to her feet, Ivy gripped the back of the chair bolted to the floor and steadied herself. “Divert auxiliary power to the thrusters. Then, everyone get to the shuttles.”
“Commander?” several of her crew members asked in unison.
“Do it! That’s an order!”
“Commander.” Officer Tombs shook his head. “We can’t launch two shuttles and maintain the thrusters.”
“Yes, we can.” Staggering onto the command deck, Chief Engineer Tariq Navarra grabbed Tombs by his shoulders and hauled him out of his seat. “Get everyone to the shuttles. Now!”
As the crew stumbled and pushed their way off the deck, Tariq folded his six-and-half-foot frame under one of the stations and ripped off the metal paneling to reveal the bundle of tubes and wires. His cat-like eyes narrowed, and he pushed his blond mane away from his face before pulling a sharp, serrated dagger from his belt.
“Navarra, what the hell are you doing?” The ship lurched hard to the right, throwing Ivy back into the computer console once again.
“If we’re lucky, saving our fucking lives,” the Helios hybrid muttered in response as he began cutting and splicing the thick wires.
“A more literal answer,” Sion Jabari added as he appeared at the doorway of the deck, gripping the frame for stability, “is that he’s diverting power directly from the jump drive core.” The other Helios smiled, the scar that ran from his temple to the corner of his mouth distorting his upper lip. Revealing his elongated canines, he lifted his massive shoulders as if he found the situation entertaining. “I’d tell you to make for one of the shuttles, but you’re too stubborn for that, so I won’t waste my breath.”
“Good thinking,” a small, feminine voice answered from behind him.
Ivy closed her eyes and groaned as she righted herself once again. “Cami, you shouldn’t be here.”
“Stubborn,” Sion repeated, bobbing his head so that his auburn hair bounced around his scarred face. “The whole lot of you.”
Shoving past the cat-shifter, Tariq’s mate, Camille Navarra, fought to keep her balance as she maneuvered to the nearest monitor. “The last evacuation shuttle just launched,” the tiny raven-haired female announced.
Ivy had never been so simultaneously terrified and pissed off in all of her thirty-two years. “You shouldn’t be here.” Her heart beat up into her throat as she looked at each of her friends in turn, and the muscles in her back tensed with anxiety. “I gave you an order!”
“And we’re not technically Elites.” Sion shrugged as his lips twisted into a smirk. “In other words, you’re not the boss of us.”
“Everyone shut it!” Tariq barked. His nimble fingers spliced three different wires together before he capped them with a titanium connector. “Done. Sion, set forward thrusters at full.”
“It worked.” Cami’s storm-gray eyes rounded as white halogen lights flickered to life, replacing the red glare of the emergency beacons. “We’re going to be okay.”
Ivy wished she had the same confidence, but from the wall-sized window at the front of the deck, she watched as flames engulfed the hull of her ship. The Dreamweaver hurdled through the blackness of space, gaining speed in its descent, and she still didn’t know how or why.
“Life support systems at three percent,” Cami called, her voice trembling only slightly on the last word. “It’s not going to matter if we have thrusters if we can’t breathe.”
“We just need to breathe long enough to land.” Sion punched at the onscreen keyboard on the navigation panel and slammed one of the levers forward.
“Land on what?” Ivy demanded, staring through the window into the void beyond.
“Everyone strap in and hold on to your asses.” Taking his own advice, Sion fastened the chair’s safety harness over his shoulders and around his waist. “I think we’re about to find out.”
Born with a silver tongue and a pen in her hand, Kali spends her days sleeping (she's part vampire) and her nights crafting scandalous romances with larger-than-life heroes.
Self-proclaimed patron goddess of reclusiveness, Kali currently resides in the Midwest with her oddly supportive family and tragically misunderstood cat.
Seriously, though, the cat is evil.
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