Release Date: January 23, 2019
Cover Design: Mayhem Cover Creations
She’s one of the last free humans. On the run… And running out of time.
Laina Roberts has been on the run for ten years, a freeborn human hiding from the cyborgs of the Silver Legion who now controls what’s left of humanity. Moving secretly from planet to planet and space station to space station makes for a damn lonely life—and don’t even get her started on how long it’s been since she last had sex. Sometimes she thinks it might be worth turning herself in to the cyborgs just to end the loneliness. That is, until she’s caught!
Captured by a hot-as-hell Legion officer, the cyborg Ronan makes her think being probed by him might not be so bad. But becoming a cyborg’s slave—sex or otherwise—isn’t high on her to-do list. She doesn’t trust him and doesn’t understand his constant questions about Earth—especially those about her long-dead relatives. Ronan can just kiss her ass—oh yes, please—because she is not going to let her desires or his incredibly perfect body weaken her resolve. She now has a new mission, to convince the cyborgs and the rest of the galaxy that all Terrans, humans and synthetic humans like cyborgs, have the right to be free.
If only he didn’t make her feel like melting into his arms and never leaving. Being captured by a cyborg might not be so bad after all…
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“Get up, freeborn.”
The bark of his order made the woman flinch, and she began to unwind, as though forcing herself to relax. Her body uncurled, and she pushed herself into a sitting position, wiping dust from her face and hair. She looked helpless. How ironic, given what her ancestors had done to him and his kind.
Her lovely gray eyes—yes, even he could admit that much about them—shone like the hull of the Orion. Pure. Beautiful. When her gaze finally settled on his face, her eyes darkened. Like the Scar on Jupiter, they clouded and churned.
“You.” She let out a whisper, only audible to him. She shoved herself to her feet and wobbled unsteadily before regaining her balance. Did she recognize him?
“Under the regulations of the Sol Patriation Act as set forth by order of the Galactic High Council, you are hereby detained by the Silver Legion. You will be returned to Terran space, where you will spend the rest of your days in the service of the Terran Colony Fleet. Ensign, restrain her.”
The moment Julian took a step toward her, she swung a fist at him. He easily caught her wrist and twisted it until her legs buckled, and she fell to her knees at his feet with a cry of pain.
“Why did you think that would work?” Julian asked.
The woman gasped, face still ravaged with the pain of his tight hold.
He leaned in closer, anger growing. “I’ve been fighting tougher opponents than you for three hundred years. I once took down a gorg with my bare hands. Why did you think such a feeble attack would succeed?”
The woman shut her eyes, wincing with pain as she took a deep breath.
“Answer me, freeborn,” Julian demanded, gripping her more forcefully.
Ronan was about to tell Julian to stand down when she struck, driving her other fist into Julian’s groin. He cursed as he released her. The woman dove past a shocked Alanna and ran for the door. Ronan aimed his pulse gun and fired, striking her between the shoulders. She went down hard, head smacking into the floor.
The control room went silent, except for the electric drone of computers, as Ronan walked over to the unconscious woman. A cut above her left eye from where she’d hit the floor was dripping blood onto the deck.
An emotion wormed its way to his chest. Pity. He pitied this woman. She was so frail, so breakable, like the rest of her doomed people. And yet she was brave enough to evade him and his team, even if the attempt was ultimately futile. It was a pity that freeborns had so many failings. It ruined the few strengths they had.
Ronan knelt and slid one arm behind her back and one behind her knees to lift her up in his arms. He carried her body to his chest and walked back to Alanna and Julian.
“Have the boarding party return to the ship,” he said to Alanna. “Notify the commander that we are returning to the Orion.” He then looked at the Nubran captain. “We have acquired your ‘stowaway,’ Captain. I have no further interest in your vessel. You may resume your course.”
Zore nodded, carrying a mixture of relief and sadness. “Thank you.” Her eyes strayed to the human’s face. “Please, don’t go hard on her. She is a nice person. Always polite. Worked hard. She never caused any trouble.”
Julian groaned. “I beg to differ.”
Zore frowned, her amber eyes darkening. “You would have done the same in her position. Any one of us would.”
“What’s your point, Captain?” Ronan asked in irritation.
“My point is that she is undeserving of whatever fate you have in store for her. I would think, coming from a race once persecuted like they are now, you would be more merciful.”
The Nubran’s words were bold and unafraid, her determination to stand up for the freeborn an unexpected turn. Ronan couldn’t help but wonder what hold this female had over Zore that she would risk her life and the lives of her crew.
“They receive all the mercy they deserve,” said Julian.
Zore’s head dropped, and she looked away. “You have the law on your side, and I have complied, but if you cannot see that justice must be tempered with wisdom, then there is nothing left to discuss. I will thank you to leave my ship in peace.”
“As you wish. Safe journey, Captain.” Ronan nodded to his subordinates, who flanked him as he left the control room and returned to the Orion, his prisoner still in his arms.
Commander Alaric Corvus stood waiting for them on the other end of the airlock. His eyes zeroed in on the prisoner.
“So, you were right. You did see a woman on board,” Alaric mused. At two meters in height, he was slightly taller than Ronan, but he held an air of command about him that made him seem more solemn than the rest of the crew. A silver star sat on both of his epaulets, but with his service record he could easily have three if he desired. He was one of the first cyborgs to command a warship, and one of the leaders of the Cyborg Rebellion three hundred years ago.
“She gave us a bit of trouble.” Ronan tilted the body in his arms so the woman’s head rolled away from his chest and toward the commander. The wound above her eyes had caked and clotted.
“Doctor, we need you,” Alaric called over his shoulder. A woman appeared from the group that had gathered around the airlock. Dr. Valeria Schedar was the Orion’s chief medical officer. She wore the uniform of the Legion, only with a silver caduceus on her shoulders instead of a rank insignia. Her long blonde hair was pulled back at the nape of her neck and bound with a strap.
“Minor head trauma… Stunned with a pulse gun, I take it?” Valeria reached to take the woman’s body from Ronan.
He felt a strange urge keep her in his arms. Valeria looked up at Ronan and sensed his reluctance. Her lips curved in a soft, understanding smile.
“She won’t require a stretcher. Bring her to the infirmary. I still have to tend to her wounds.” Valeria headed for the sickbay, and Ronan followed. He felt his commander’s eyes on his back the entire way. He wasn’t behaving abnormally, was he?
The sickbay was a large room with multiple beds and various medical instruments. Though the cyborgs on board could regenerate from most injuries quickly without aid, the majority of the crew were synths, and as such they required more traditional care.
“Where should I put her?” Ronan asked, looking at the multiple beds. None of them looked particularly comfortable to him.
Valeria waved at the room as she searched for her instruments. “Anywhere is fine.”
The metal surface of the nearest medical exam table gleamed in the artificial light, looking cold and hard. Ronan had no desire to place the woman on that.
“Do you have something to lay on the bed to cushion her?”
Valeria chuckled. “Haven’t you been here since the refit?”
“I rarely need to come here.”
“Just lay her down and press the panel next to the bed, where it says ‘New Patient.’”
Ronan did so. As soon as he pressed the button, what he’d assumed was a metal surface slowly ballooned out, raising her up a few centimeters and cushioning her on all sides, raising her head up to a natural resting position.
“Elysian design,” the doctor said matter-of-factly. “Customizes the bed to the patient’s body, plus provides readings of basic body functions.” She pointed to the diagnostics panel above her head, which now lit up with her heart rate, pulse, and brain activity.
“I should have guessed.”
“Well, as you said, you rarely need to come here.”
Ronan’s attention returned to the prisoner. His fingers threaded through her hair. The chestnut strands felt like watered silk. A frisson of pleasure went through him, and he felt a surge of reluctant tenderness for her. That tenderness quickly turned to anger, then into something else. He pictured her looking at him not with fear but desire, and that desire being returned in kind. What would he do if…?
He blinked, Valeria’s call jarring him back. He shook his head and controlled himself. “What?” His hands were still deep in the soft coils of the freeborn’s hair. He freed his hand of the strands that clung to his fingers.
“You can daydream inappropriately on your own time, not mine. I need to wake her.” Valeria cleaned the prisoner’s head wound and covered the cut with a clear cream, which disappeared as it was absorbed. “She probably has a concussion. I need to make sure she didn’t suffer from any other injuries during her journey, and for that I’ll need to wake her.”
“Fine. Do it.” He waited as the doctor injected her with a serum that would pull the prisoner back into consciousness.
The woman’s lashes fluttered, and then her gray eyes, fogged with pain and confusion, locked onto his and held.
“You,” she gasped. Again she’d said that.
“Me,” he agreed. He forced himself to scowl, though part of him found her bewilderment amusing. But she was not a source of humor. Despite how she appeared, she was the enemy. He could never forget that.
One of Five ARC’s for Across the Stars
About the Author (Lauren)
USA TODAY Bestselling author LAUREN SMITH is an Oklahoma attorney by day, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
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About the Author (Noah)
Noah Chinn was born in Oshawa, Ontario, and has never really forgiven it for that. After high school he fled his hometown in favour of the freezing winters of Ottawa. Three years later it dawned on him that higher education and frostbite did not have to go hand in hand, and finished his degree in Toronto.
Shortly after university he moved to Vancouver, where he met his future wife, Gillian. He then spent the summer bicycling across Canada, which she thankfully didn’t misinterpret as him trying to get as far away from her as possible. They moved to Japan for three years, where he taught English yet managed not to learn a word of Japanese.
It was during this time that he had a successful cartoon series called Fuzzy Knights, which centered on the exploits of toy animals playing Dungeons and Dragons, and an evil hamster trying to destroy them. Some have called this a cry for help.
He later moved to England with dreams of making it big as a writer – because with a BA in English Lit it was either that or serving fries at a burger shack. Noah’s first serious attempt at a novel, The Professional Tourist, was set in a Tokyo language school. Unstable students (and teachers), biker gangs, and the homeless underworld of the Blue Village all featured in this slightly askew romantic comedy.
The book landed him an agent, but not a publisher. Unfortunately, in the way aspiring actors move to Hollywood and end up as busboys, the closest he came to literary success in England was working at several bookstores – each of which mysteriously closed down after his stay.
After writing several more manuscripts and moving back to Canada, he found more success in the North American market. He and his wife now live in Vancouver.
He now wears a hat.
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