Series: Star Racers and Rogues #1
Published by: Jaymi Hanako
Release Date: October 28, 2016
Contributors: Jaymi Hanako
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
When duty and passion collide, they could lose everything...
No one knows that Malkyn is a princess, and that’s just the way she wants it. Unwilling to be a pawn in her family’s deadly power struggles, she fled across the galaxy. But now Keitera is under siege by a mysterious alien force, and the tall, muscular soldier with whom she shared an unforgettable night of forbidden passion has arrived to escort her home.
As a commoner and a member of the Royal Guard, Ty never should have touched a princess. After she left, he threw himself into his duties. His responsibilities. And tried to forget her. But when ordered to bring her back to their planet, he jumps at the chance. Even though he knows the risks to her safety and to his heart…
Leaving him behind the first time nearly destroyed her. Making a permanent return means possibly forfeiting Ty’s life. But as deception and violence flare up all around her, there is no one else that Malkyn can trust. Will their bond be enough to save their world? Or will the fires of war burn them both to ashes?
A princess always remains calm, even when others do not. Serenity can mask even the worst of faults.
Strange to hear her mother’s voice in this moment—she had died long before Malkyn left home. But it might be the only advice from her childhood ‘training’ which could be put to use in this foreign system.
Andrew Thomas, the CEO of the Asteroid Racing Circuit, waved her over to stand beside him at the podium. He cleared his throat, a pointless gesture since he already had everyone’s attention and began: “Today, we have witnessed history: only the second pilot to win twenty races on our circuit. The first, of course, being the late Dante Goshawk of Earth. And now, please allow me to present to you: Malkyn Holtwyre of Keitera.”
She hid her wince. She’d asked them to stop including her home system in any mentions of her name, since she had cut all ties to her past long before she’d entered the Earth system. But they continued to use it at every opportunity.
She could partly understand their fascination. Keitera was a star that the earthlings had watched in their night sky for centuries, as just one bright light in the constellation they called Aquila. Never imagining there could be sentient life there. If the roles had been reversed, she supposed she might have been equally captivated.
“Thank you, Mr. Thomas. I never thought I would have a chance to finish twenty races, much less win so many. I feel extremely fortunate.”
The first questions were polite and bland and she answered them in the same vein. The height of the dais allowed her to focus her attention away from those who were interrogating her.
She locked her gaze on the wall at the back of the press room. The inner titanium shields had been left open to take advantage of the last rays of sunlight. Winds swirled, driving the rust red soil of Mars against the thick, clear sapphire crystal sheet and the angle of the structure made it slide down like blood rain.
The space was becoming unbearably hot and closed in, especially since she still wore her pressurized flight suit. Though not as heavily insulated as the EVA units used to endure the extreme chill of the Mars environment outside of the settlement buildings, it still trapped far too much body heat.
One man stepped forward and nearly struck the podium with his recording device. “Let’s not play coy here, sweetheart. You know you don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Ghost Raptor.”
“Excuse me?” A low buzz filled the room as the various correspondents began to whisper amongst themselves. Malkyn felt heat rush to her face. Fortunately, no blush would show in her skin. It was the one small inheritance from her genetics she was always grateful for. She glanced at the small holo-disk reporters were required to wear for identification. He was from the Earth system, sent by one of their decidedly less reputable news outfits.
Malkyn bit back a smile at the memory of some colorful descriptions of that particular press which Dante had used on several occasions. It had been an uncensored rant, so different from the charming and discreetly speaking facade he put on for the public. His adoring fans would have been quite shocked.
“None of your so-called victories would have happened if Goshawk hadn’t been killed. Everyone knows you couldn’t beat him. No one could.”
More than half of her wins had come while Dante was alive, but she knew this reporter wasn’t interested in facts. “Dante was my friend.” Another collective gasp from the assembled group warned Malkyn she’d just set herself up for another round of speculation. There seemed to be a universal belief that males and females could never engage in a purely platonic relationship regardless of differences in species and systems of origin, as long as there was a similar enough level of intelligence and reasonably compatible biology.
She touched her throat. Though the thick layers of carbon-fiber and fabric kept her from feeling the leaf-shaped medallion he had given her, the knowledge that it was there gave her the little extra strength necessary to continue. “And he was the greatest pilot I’ve ever known. Competing against him made me better.” She stood and shoved away from the podium. “I think I’ve had enough questions for today.”
And she walked away.
She kept walking.
He caught up from behind, latching on to her arm. She glared at him and he immediately released her.
He was panting hard from his brief exertion. Strange. Mr. Thomas wasn’t expected to keep himself in the same physical condition as the racers on the circuit, but he shouldn’t have shown such weakness either. Then again, he was fairly old for an Earthling, especially for one who lived full-time in this colony. Most humans, regardless of where in the system they were born, often chose to retire back to their home planet when they reached a certain age. “Sorry about that. I’ll make sure that fool loses his press privileges with the circuit.”
“You don’t need to coddle me in this, sir. ARC needs all the publicity it can get, and you can’t obtain it if you ban every reporter who forgets his brains before coming to the interviews.”
The man let out a reluctant chuckle. “It isn’t coddling to be looking out for the circuit’s best asset. It’s best racer.” He quickly sobered and gave her a sharp look. “And I never realized Goshawk’s death affected you so much.”
She resisted the urge to reach for the medallion again. No one knew of its existence. It was possibly one of the few truly discreet things her friend had ever done, perhaps because the reason behind it had been too private to share with the public at large.
It had stemmed from a conversation they’d once had, while watching one of their fellow racers throw a gaudy party for some “milestone” anniversary of his birth.
Neither Malkyn and Dante could ever have celebrated their own. For one thing, she couldn’t be bothered to figure out the differences in the solar years calculated by the earthlings and by those of her home system. ARC and all other outposts ran on the Earth calendar and clock, no matter where they were located.
Dante had been abandoned as an infant outside of a hospital on Earth. There was no record on exactly where or when he had been born.
So they had both been orphans in a way, though her lack of family was by choice and his from circumstance. It was the defining link between them. The date of their first race in which they’d competed against each other had become their “birthday” of choice, and as a private joke, they had called themselves twins. The medallion had been a gift to mark the first time they’d celebrated together,
Just eight months ago and only two days before Dante’s fatal crash.
Mr. Thomas sighed, forcing her attention back to the present. “You haven’t missed a race in years. Maybe you should get away for a while. Take some time for yourself.”
“I don’t need—“
“I think you do, Malkyn. I don’t want to see you burn out on me.”
She doubted there was enough time in the universe to make her feel the way she had before the accident.
She had been there. Right next to him. And the memories haunted her.
The fear in his voice. It nearly ripped her apart every time she thought of it. His side thrusters had jammed, rendering him unable to maneuver only moments before he slammed straight into a large asteroid.
There had been no body left to bury. No funeral. No sense of closure in either Earth terms or her own.
Since then, racing had felt like an obligation. Something she had to do because she didn’t know what else she could do. There was no more thrill. No more challenge. No joy. “Where would I go?”
“You still have family, don’t you? Why don’t you visit them?”
That was the last thing she wanted. Her family as a whole no longer existed, torn apart by endless rivalries and backstabbing plots to gain control of the crown. Not that she could tell her boss that. She had not told anyone, not even Dante. “I’ll think about it.”
He must have believed her, nodding and giving her a brief smile before walking away.
She’d never been to Earth itself and wouldn’t know the first thing about where to stay or what to do. That wasn’t unusual among the circuit. Many racers preferred to spend their free time on one of the moons of Saturn instead. She’d heard the accommodations on the Enceladus colony were amazing, built to show off the moon’s gigantic geysers and pristine snow.
The ‘hotel’ orbited just high enough to avoid the tallest geysers and was installed with many more viewing ports than usual to take advantage of the views. Not just of the moon itself, but also of the rings of Saturn.
Another of Saturn’s satellites might work. Titan’s thick orange atmosphere made it nearly impossible to view its parent planet from the moon’s surface. There was another plus: in keeping with the utilitarian nature of that colony, those shelters had been built almost completely void of any windows. Even though one of those simple rentals was located in what was arguably one of the prettiest settings in all of the Earth system: right on the shores of a magnificent methane sea, the Kraken Mare.
Space wasn’t always available, however. The settlement’s main purpose was to serve as a home base for those who mined the helium3 and deuterium from Saturn’s atmosphere. There were very few accommodations for tourists. There also wouldn’t be anything provided by the resort to occupy her time. Leaving her with far too much time alone to think of all the things she’d rather forget.
Malkyn tensed and once again reached for a weapon that wasn’t there. “Who is it? Identify yourself!”
A deep, masculine chuckle filled the air. The shadowy form bowed before stepping into the light. “Now, now, Your Highness.” His voice was harsh with the rough accents of her birth tongue. “Is that any way to greet an old friend?”
Malkyn stiffened. The imposing, battle-scarred male had been her youngest brother’s best bodyguard. Never mind what he had been to her personally. “Tylsonn.” She saw him wince and grinned. Ty had never been fond of his full name. “What are you doing here?”
He gave her a slow half-smile and looked her up and down, his bright yellow eyes filled with an aroused masculine heat. “Maybe I came to finish what we started so long ago.”
She shivered. Fire rushed through her veins and her body clenched with instinctive need. Just before leaving home, Malkyn had slipped into Ty’s room at the guard quarters. Giving him the virginity she was supposed to be saving for an arranged political alliance. It was her way of declaring—albeit privately—that she would no longer live her life by her family’s demands.
And she’d certainly never expected to see him again.
He looked good. Far too good for her peace of mind. Their time apart had certainly done him no harm.
Malkyn choked back a laugh. What, had she really expected him to pine away over her? That would have meant there was far more than a simple physical attraction between them. She had always known there wasn’t.
Not on his side, at least.
He wasn’t wearing a pressure suit, indicating he had not just come off a ship. Nor was he wearing the cobalt and gold trimmed tunic of the royal guard. Just a simple white shirt that nearly glowed against his deep copper skin, and plain brown trousers that hugged every inch of his muscular thighs. She was half-tempted to ask him to turn around, to see if it clung just as nicely to the back.
Definitely not something she should be doing now. Or ever. “It was a foolish impulse. And not one I would have thought you would remember, after all this time.”
Ty stepped closer. “They say you never forget your first, Malkyn.”
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