Starfall(7)

By: Melissa Landers


The man grunted in agreement.

“You won’t get an exclusive out of him,” Kane went on, “but I wouldn’t let that stop you. If you don’t get in on the ground floor, someone else will. Maybe the Obsidians,” he said, recalling there was a heated rivalry between the two colonies.

That was all it took to convince the man. He left to draw up a contract, and Gage spun on Kane with a smile so wide it tested the boundaries of his cheeks. “I want you on my team. Whatever they’re paying you on the Banshee, I’ll quadruple it.”

“Hey,” Solara laughed, gripping her hips. “You’ve got some nerve, trying to poach him while we’re standing right here.”

“Oh, come on,” Gage told her, still peering at Kane in wonderment. “Talent like his is wasted on a ship hand. He shouldn’t be scrubbing floors and washing dishes. He belongs on my sales crew with Shanna. That girl could charm the gills off a shark. Together, they’d be unstoppable.”

Kane appreciated the praise, but tempting as the offer was, he couldn’t accept it. The bounty on his head had forced him to lie low, and besides, he’d left that life behind to watch over Cassia.

Cassia.

An invisible blade jabbed at his sternum. He’d managed to forget, for one moment, her final words to him: I don’t need you for anything. She’d hurtled plenty of colorful barbs at him over the years—scatweed, wharf-licker, and his all-time favorite, scum-eating son of a crotch smuggler—but this was different. This time it was personal. She’d taken extra care to aim for his soft spot before plunging in the knife, and he didn’t deserve that, especially after everything he’d sacrificed for her. What he deserved was someone who didn’t run hot and cold all the time, who wouldn’t play with his feelings and hurt him just because she could.

Maybe he should do something about it.

He studied Gage and tried to picture working for him. It was surprisingly easy to imagine. He liked Gage, and more than that, he admired what Infinium had done for the outer realm. The pay raise wouldn’t hurt, either, or the beach simulator. The more Kane thought about it, the more he could see himself making a life here. He’d even be able to stay in touch with the Banshee crew when Doran came to visit his brother.

This job might be a dream come true.

Kane tempered his excitement, not wanting to seem too eager and hurt his negotiating power. He was about to ask for more information when a new voice called, “I heard my name.” A young brunette strode into view, curvier than the Volcanus mountains and twice as hot. But gorgeous as she was, that wasn’t what held his attention. What struck him was the way she moved—with an easy sort of confidence that was rare for someone her age.

“Shanna”—Gage waved her over—“I want you to meet Kane Arric. I’m trying to steal him away from his ship.”

She stopped in front of Kane, standing close enough to share the sweet scent of her perfume. He noticed her eyes were violet, cosmetically enhanced, and even more striking when contrasted against the long chestnut hair tumbling over her shoulders. She unleashed a brilliant grin and slid her palm into his grasp. Kane was so caught up in her smile that he held on for longer than a friendly shake. She didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she gripped him harder while her gaze brightened with interest. It’d been a long time since a girl had given him that look, but he recognized it.

She liked him.

He returned her smile. Yeah, he could definitely see himself fitting in here.

“Kane,” she repeated, drawing out his name as she continued to hold his hand. “I hope you’ll join us. We’re changing the galaxy out here. Plus”—she gave a teasing wink—“there’s talk of a dental plan. If that won’t sway you, I don’t know what will.”

Gage chuckled. “He just sealed the Calypso deal.”

“Really?” Her brows lifted. “Without an exclusive?”

“It didn’t take much,” Kane admitted. “I just pitted him against the Obsidians.”

“That’s ingenious,” she said, and Kane couldn’t help standing a bit taller. “Now you really have to come work with us. At least think it over.”

A few minutes ago, he would have told her no. But now his heartbeat quickened with the excitement of new possibilities—of starting over in a place where he was appreciated, where he could excel instead of simply exist. He still didn’t want to tip his hand by seeming too eager, but he already knew what his answer would be.

“I’m willing to talk about it…maybe on the beach?” Giving her palm a light squeeze before releasing it, he added, “I want to hear about this dental plan.”