Starfall(3)

By: Melissa Landers


With only three cabins on the Banshee, that left him the option of bunking with Renny, or asking Solara to switch rooms. Kane shifted a glance at Solara, who sat on Doran’s lap with both arms locked around his neck while he used the end of her long chestnut braid to tickle her nose. Those two were permanently joined at the hips. No way they’d give up their private quarters.

“Hey, Cap’n,” Kane said. “Mind if I bunk with you?”

Renny didn’t ask why, one of the many reasons why Kane liked him. “Suit yourself. But I snore.”

“Me too.” At least that was what Cassia claimed.

“It’s a deal, then.” Renny held up an index finger and dug inside his coat pocket, then produced Kane’s watch. It was an antique, passed down from Kane’s great-great-grandfather, and the only thing his dad had ever given him besides a tarnished last name. Renny handed it over with an apology in his eyes. “You might want to lock this up. I can’t seem to stay away from it.”

Kane fastened the metal band around his wrist. “As long as you don’t lift the key to my lockbox.” Renny had done that before. The man had compulsive sticky fingers, a condition that’d forced him to flee Earth after he’d stolen from the mafia.

Renny grinned. “I make no promises.”

Doran tore his gaze away from Solara long enough to ask, “What’s our ETA?” But he kept one hand on her thigh and used the other to rub her back with all the dedication of a guy trying to summon a genie from its bottle.

Kane made a face, but the pair didn’t notice.

“About noon, Vega time,” Renny said. “We’ll dock there overnight, so feel free to use the shuttle if you want to meet up with your brother.”

That got Kane’s attention. Doran’s twin brother had invented a super-fuel called Infinium, which was quickly becoming the most valuable substance in the galaxy. The guy was loaded, and he lived below the surface of a nearby planet in a swanky compound that included a beach simulator. “I want in on that.”

“But the shuttle only holds two people,” Solara pointed out.

“Then I’ll curl up in the rear hatch.”

“For a two-hour ride?”

“For as long as it takes.”

“You must really want out of here.”

She had no idea how much.

Renny excused himself to check the autopilot, and Solara leaned forward, resting both elbows on the table. “What’s up with you and Cassia?”

Shrugging, Kane told a deceptively simple truth. “Nothing.”

“I noticed you two don’t fight anymore.”

“And that’s bad because…?”

“Because bickering is what you guys do,” Doran cut in. “Some people write sonnets. Other people draw hearts. You two yell at each other. It’s your twisted love language.”

The use of the L word didn’t escape Kane’s notice. It hit home like a fist to the chest, forcing him to face the stove to hide whatever emotions were pulling down the corners of his mouth. It was no secret he’d loved Cassia since he was too young to tie his boots—enough to drop everything and follow her out the door two years ago. And she wanted him, too. The way her skin flushed every time he touched her made that obvious. But wanting and loving were two different things. The real desire of Cassia’s heart was to go home and rule their colony, which she couldn’t do with the bastard son of a merchant by her side.

Kane stirred a pinch of cinnamon into the porridge. “We’re friends. That’s all.”

His tone warned them to drop it, and they did. But when breakfast was over and the crew left him to clean up the mess, their words replayed inside his head. They were right. The dynamic on the ship had shifted, and a knot was building inside his chest, pulling a little tighter each day. Something had to change before that knot snapped him in half.

He decided to forgo the sunlamps and returned to his room, where he stuffed everything he owned inside a spare storage box. He’d just grabbed his pillow when Cassia walked in and stopped short at the doorway.

Her honey-brown eyes flew wide, darting from the box in his hands to his now empty bunk. “What’s going on?”

Kane knew he hadn’t done anything wrong, but that didn’t stop his stomach from sinking. The sensation reminded him of the time his mother had caught him hiding a broken figurine under the sofa. He fixed his gaze over Cassia’s head and into the hallway. “The room’s all yours. Now you don’t have to listen to me snore.”

“But where are you—”

“With Renny. I think it’s best.”

For a long time she said nothing. Then her mouth pressed into a hard line while her eyes flashed with anger. “Perfect,” she spat, reaching behind her neck to unfasten the Eturian prayer necklace he’d bought for her—the one that had cost him two months’ wages. She stood on tiptoe and shoved the necklace into the box, right beside his pillow. “Don’t forget this.”