Thursday, February 23, 2017




"Don't pretend that you aren't jealous." Tyr lounged against the door and watched his first mate pack his bag. "I can see it in your eyes every time you look at them."

Ben wanted to tell the man to take a long walk off a short airlock ramp, but he held his tongue. Tyr was the closest thing he had to a friend in this galaxy. He settled for, "Gin and Maeve deserve every ounce of happiness they have. I would never begrudge them that."

"Didn't say you begrudge it. Just that you want it for yourself." Tyr stroked his long beard. "You sure about taking off?"

"I have to figure out how to get a handle on myself. I'm not the kind of man anybody needs to be around right now." The fight with the Boderian armada had lasted less than forty-eight hours and now the new Princess of Boderia was sending an envoy to discuss a peace treaty with the President of Dinara. He needed to be as far away from the sector as possible when the royal envoy arrived. He couldn't risk any of them seeing him.

"You know I'm taking off in a day or two. Bound for who knows where." Tyr narrowed his eyes. "You're my first mate, Ben. I don't want to lose you."

"Then don't. I'll be back when I can. I promise." Ben picked up the bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Thanks for the fighter."

"Least I can do. Besides, Dinara is paying for the fuel." Tyr winked. "Never hurts to have the President and the Sword Guardian in your debt."

Ben smiled. "No, it doesn't." He held out his hand to the burly man. "See you around?"

Tyr shook his hand, but the worried frown never left his face. Ben could feel Tyr's eyes on his back until he turned the corner at the end of the hall. He sucked in a breath when he ran into someone coming from the opposite direction.

"Beg your pardon," he muttered.

"As you will." 

Ben froze at the quiet rejoinder. He looked down at the woman he'd bumped in to. "As you will" was a standard Boderian phrase. His mouth went dry when he saw the Boderian leather encasing her body, and the long whip coiled at her side. His heart began to race and sweat beaded on his brow. He had to get away. Fast.

He ducked his head and tried to move past her without another word, but her hand shot out and clamped down on his arm hard. He didn't look at her when she spoke.

"Hold, stranger." 


She moved to stand in front of him, and he felt the weight of her eyes move from the top of his head to his feet. "Who are you?" she demanded.

"No one."

"Look at me." Her voice was haughty, commanding. He gritted his teeth as he raised his gaze to hers. Shock reverberated through his body like a seizure as he blinked in disbelief. 

"Mira?" It came out like a whisper, because that's all he could manage. His knees were weak as he recognized a woman he thought he'd never see again.

"Benny?" Her face paled, her mouth opening and closing in her own startled surprise. 

She was still as beautiful as the last time he'd seen her. Tall and lean, the leather hugging her body in all the right places. She still wore her long dark hair in the standard widow's peak, and it cascaded over her shoulder in a heavy braid. Her eyes were a stark, startling blue. He focused on her lips as her tongue peeked from between them in a quick swipe. "I thought you were dead." He needed to breathe, to think. All these years he'd thought he killed her, too.

"That's what I thought about you. They told me...." Her long lashes swept down for a moment before she seemed to get a hold on herself. "Where have you been?"

"Around." He couldn't tell her about the Corsairs. Not yet. As much as he was glad to see her, he still didn't trust her. He didn't trust any of them anymore. "After the detonation I tried to go home but I...couldn't." 

"Home isn't what it used to be," she agreed. "The only reason I'm here now is that the Princess requested my presence personally."

"She's here?" Ben's sense of dread began to grow. Not now. Not here. He had spent too many years trying to get away from this, and he was so close. Too close to go back now. 

"Arriving tonight. I'm advance security. I'm not supposed to be wandering around without my escort but he couldn't keep up." Her lips quirked in the ghost of a smile. "She'll be happy to see you."

"I'm leaving. My ship sails before sunset and I won't be back. Don't tell her I was here; it will only make things harder." Ben looked at his one-time wingman. His best friend in so many things, but ultimately as much a betrayer as the rest. "I can't stay."


"Sorry, Mira. Pretend you never saw me and forget you did. It's better if everyone thinks I died that day." He started to walk away when she called,

"Better for who, Benny? Everyone else? Or you?" 

He  couldn't control his smile when he heard her mutter, "Still a grade-A prick." 

No matter what she thought about him, he knew that leaving before Talia or the others arrived was the best option for everyone. He'd done his "duty" to his planet once, and he'd condemned millions of people to death in the process. There was no love, no loyalty, in the 'verse that could make that unhappy fact untrue.

Steel is forged in fire.
Hardened by hatred.
Tempered by blood.
Seasoned by shame.
Sharpened by death.

Gin Draven is a soldier. THE soldier. Sworn to protect the people of his galaxy, the only thing he cares about now is winning his war. Years ago he gave his heart away and he was betrayed. Now, there is only determination to win where love once grew. 

Maeve is a woman with a plan. She's THE woman. She is determined to protect what she loves most, and she'll do whatever she has to do, including offering herself as a bride to the Sword Guardian of Dinara, a man she loved and lost years ago.

War brought them together, and war tore them apart, but the strongest loves are always forged in fire.

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