Starfall(9)

By: Melissa Landers


“Something’s wrong,” he said as his body tensed.

“It’s Renny,” Solara told him in a hollow voice.

“What happened?”

“He just radioed from the Banshee. He’s hurt pretty badly and…”

“And?”

“Cassia’s gone. The Daeva took her.”

Kane didn’t remember standing up, and he didn’t remember running across the sand or leaving the beach simulator. But the next thing he knew, he was within arm’s reach of the compound air-lock, trying to claw his way half-naked toward the shuttle docking station while Doran and Gage wrestled him to the floor.

“Let me go,” he growled, shaking them off. As he pushed onto all fours, he realized he needed a suit and an oxygen helmet to make it aboveground, and he began looking around for the set he’d worn earlier.

Solara ran in front of him, blocking his path to the air-lock. “Kane, you have to stay here. The Daeva are still hunting you. Renny lied and told them you’re on New Haven, but they have a team watching the Banshee in case you come back. If they catch you, it means Cassia gave herself up for nothing. She wouldn’t want that. You need to slow down and think about this. One of us has to go instead of you.”

Kane snatched a suit from the wall. “Get out of my way.”

“No, this is suicide,” Doran said. “You’re staying here until we know it’s safe. Then we’ll do whatever it takes to find Cassia—I promise.”

“I’m not asking for your permission. Get out of my way.”

“And I’m not asking for yours. You’re staying put.”

For a charged moment, they stared each other down. Then Doran grabbed Kane’s wrists and tried twisting his arms behind his back. Kane was stronger. With one downward jerk, he freed himself and delivered a right hook to the nearest jaw. His knuckles collided with bone, but he felt no pain, only panic. Nothing mattered except finding Cassia. He never should’ve left her alone. While he was here, tangled up on the sand with another girl, she was scared and suffering, and that knowledge drove him to the brink of delirium.

She needed him. He had to go to her.

He barely managed one step before Doran and Gage ganged up on him again. They each took one of his arms and dragged him backward while he thrashed like an animal. Then Solara advanced on him, pulling a small button from her pocket.

Except it wasn’t a button. It was a handheld stunner.

“No!”

“I don’t want to do this,” she said. “I’m so sorry, Kane.”

He lurched back, desperate to get away from her. He couldn’t let the stunner touch his skin. Once it did, it would flood his system with enough neuro-inhibitors to knock him out cold, and even after he woke up, his memory wouldn’t return for a full day. The Daeva would be in the next sector by then. He’d never catch them in time.

“Please don’t! I’ll stand down, I swear!”

But Solara didn’t listen. She slapped the device against his bare chest, and at once, he felt a rush of drugs careening through his nervous system, deadening his muscles until his head hung limp and his body went slack.

He had just enough strength to whisper, “She needs me,” before his eyes slammed shut and darkness swallowed him.





Cassia didn’t know how long the voyage lasted. Tracking time was impossible when every moment inside her filthy metal cage felt like an eternity. It didn’t help that there was no sunrise or sunset in space, only darkness. And without any live company in the cargo hold, she had no one to ask what day it was.

The Daeva didn’t retrieve many breathing targets, so hers was the only cage on board the ship. On either side of her cell, coffins were stacked high and strapped to the floor, proof of a job well done for the contract holders. Cassia kept her eyes fixed in front of her and tried not to picture what remained of the people inside those caskets. It chilled her to think one of them might’ve been Kane.

At least she’d spared him from that fate.

She missed him so much it hurt. She’d lost count of the number of times she’d reached toward her throat to touch the Eturian prayer necklace he’d given her, only to find it wasn’t there. She should’ve kept it. She needed all the comfort she could get.

There was no royal welcome waiting for her on Eturia. The title of princess meant nothing without the backing of her family’s military, which wouldn’t come riding to the rescue of a disgraced girl who’d broken her marriage contract and started a war. She’d be lucky if the Daeva bothered to hose her off before presenting her to Marius. After that, it would be a toss-up between execution and a chemical lobotomy—one of the many sadistic procedures his family had engineered.