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Mated to the Jardan Pirate (MF)

Galactic Alien Mates

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 55,751
Available Formats
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ePub
Mobi

This space pirate may have captured her ship, but she'll never let him steal her heart...

Sylvis Trasker is captain of one of the galaxy's premiere luxury cruise ships. But when her ship is boarded by pirates, her boring life sailing the rich and famous around the wealthiest system in the galactic core becomes more exciting than she expected. These aren't just any pirates—they're Jardan, huge alien warriors known for their prowess both on the battlefield and in the bedroom. And their heavily muscled and roguishly handsome captain, Kash Dra'sten, is the worst of the bunch. Sylvis immediately hates his arrogant posturing, but his panty-melting smile and captivating wit make her body hum with desire.

Captain Kash Dra'sten is having a spell of bad luck. Their last few raids netted them next to nothing, and his crew is clamoring for a big payday. After they leave the safety of the outer rim to capture a luxury cruise ship, their plan to make a quick getaway takes an unexpected turn. They discover that the fiery human female captaining the vessel is the daughter of a wealthy duke with ties to the Tirinva royal court, and his crew demands they take her for ransom. Dra'sten knows that if he refuses, it will be mutiny for sure. It's not long before the tiny human's wit and courage—not to mention her beauty and her luscious curves—both amuse and excite him. But when he learns the truth about her family's business and the dangerous past she fled, he knows he must protect her from both his mutinous crew and her venomous father. And the only way to do that is to mate her. But it isn't easy to mate a feisty human female who hates your guts. Even for a Jardan pirate, who's used to taking what he wants...

Reader note: contains hot alpha aliens, enemies to lovers, pirates, and racy scenes intended for adults. Mated to a Jardan Pirate is a standalone Sci-Fi romance with a happily ever after that takes place in the Galactic Alien Mates universe!

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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE



Captain Sylvis Trasker of the GPC Mero Tallasa

Andolan System



Some days I wondered why I’d ever wanted to captain a starship. I should have simply stayed on Tirinva and made a fulltime career out of being a lady of leisure. But no, I had to be stubborn. I had to choose my own path. And now…here I was.

The responsibility for twenty billion credits worth of interstellar pleasure cruiser, not to mention the thousands of souls on board, kept my stress levels simmering during every voyage. Even though nothing catastrophic had ever happened with me in command, captaining a cruise ship stuffed full of wealthy passengers on the same round trip voyage through the same star system was simultaneously nerve-racking and mind-numbingly dull. Lately I’d been wondering what I’d been thinking when I’d turned my back on my father’s wishes all those years ago and decided the stars were the place for me.

I rested my chin on my hand and stared at the red nebula filling the Mero Tallasa’s bridge viewscreen, trying not to yawn. The expanse of stars alight amid the bright red interstellar cloud made a beautiful scene. It was always a huge hit with the passengers, but I’d taken this route so many times I barely even noticed it anymore. The realization made me a bit sad.

First Mate Bestri Zrahm walked over and handed me a data tablet with the latest status updates and progress reports on repairs. “You need a vacation,” she said, giving me that look she always gave me when I got this way.

Bestri was from Cleron Major and had silvery skin, blue-tinged hair, and purple eyes that went well with her white uniform. If she hadn’t been one of my best friends, I might hate her just a little for being so exotically beautiful. My standard issue brown hair and hazel eyes made me look like one of Tirinva’s little mudhens in comparison.

I gritted my teeth and shook my head. Enough. Time to break out of my funk. “Don’t be silly,” I said brightly as I scanned the data tablet. “Every day is a vacation on board the Mero Tallasa, the jewel of Xexe Moray Corporation’s fleet.”

Bestri arched an eyebrow at me. “I can’t decide if you’re joking or if you’ve lost your mind, Captain. But if you’ve lost your mind, that means I’m in command now, and I order you to take a vacation.”

I laughed. Leave it to Bestri to get me grinning again. “If only I could. I really need an adventure to shake things up. An off-ship adventure,” I added quickly. Even as tedious and routine as the Mero Tallasa’s voyages were around the Andolan System, I didn’t want any more surprises. This voyage had been bad enough.

“I might have something to shake you up,” Bestri said, grinning. “I’ll tell you about it later. But right now, I’m really looking forward to some time planetside. This last run had me wanting to steer us into the sun and end our misery.”

I snorted, feeling exactly the same way. But on the bridge, I had to sound like the captain, so I switched to my no-nonsense captain’s voice and focused on the data readout. “They aren’t going to have the in-room drink dispensers back online for another seven hours? We’ll be back at the space port by then.”

My first mate shook her head. “I have a feeling the company is going to get a huge amount of complaints. They’ll probably have to issue a load of refunds. The good news is, if we’re all fired, I can get us a commission on a deep space hauler where we won’t see any other people for at least a year.”

“That’s good news?” I said, handing back the data pad.

“After all the ‘hospitality challenges’ we faced on this last run? You bet it is.”

I couldn’t help my grin. This had been one of the most difficult voyages of an otherwise yawn-worthy career captaining pleasure ships. It was certainly the most non-stop irritating since I’d become captain.

First, our departure from Umeia space station was delayed six hours due to a primary engine anomaly we finally traced back to a bad sensor. A high-energy solar flare event had produced hiccups in some of our non-essential systems when we’d steered our course past the central star. The resulting interference-laden subspace calls and spotty data transfers annoyed our passengers to no end. It had also put the in-room drink dispensers on the fritz. And stars forbid the passengers couldn’t get drunk at will without having to head to one of the six restaurants or cocktail lounges on board for their intoxication pleasure. Then the galley staff had somehow mistakenly taken on a thousand kilograms of uivos spice instead of the very rare uelcite required to properly make pluogawa, the uncommon and expensive gourmet treat our cruise line was known for. The outrage over that blunder alone had upset some of our most affluent passengers past the point of civility. Who, in turn, made their displeasure known to their captain, Sylvis Trasker. AKA me. Which made me wish there was a drink dispenser on the bridge.

Now as we finally—thank the stars—began the final leg of our journey back to our port of call, I could actually consider relaxing a little. The end was in sight. After all these problems, I was really looking forward to some time away from the bridge. It was enough to make me want to hide in a holo-room with a bottle of tenberry wine and lose myself in some good old-fashioned augmented reality. Maybe I’d re-holo that erotic romance about the two Earth warriors and their captive bride. And then do the fighter pilot program and blast some brigands into space dust.

“Captain Trasker,” the helmsman said. “We’re picking up subspace interference ahead. It could cause problems for non-essential ship systems.”

I swallowed a groan. If I had to deal with one more fussy aristocrat or rich merchant magnate with his panties in a knot because he had to wait an extra three seconds for the speed lift, I was going to seriously consider jettisoning myself in an escape pod to however far the oxygen lasted.

I glanced at the systems officer. “Pol, what are we looking at here?”

“Minor system disruptions,” Pol replied, a tall young man fresh out of the academy. He flashed through data feeds at his terminal. “Likely temporary. Shipboard comm systems. Bots going offline.”

Great. The only thing that irritated the passengers more than having no in-room drinks was not having their cleaning bots. “Helm, adjust our course to avoid the worst of it.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The helmsman began plotting the new course. “We should be back at Umeia in twenty-six standard hours.”

I nodded. The course adjustment would put us about an hour behind. We could probably make that up with a thruster increase, but it would cost the cruise line more money. The Mero Tallasa was a Forstra Class cruise ship, with three thousand, five hundred souls on board including my crew of two hundred. Her warp engines were the pride of the Xexe Moray fleet…but running them hot lowered profits. And that meant I had to listen to accountants complaining at me. And that meant my bonus mysteriously growing smaller instead of larger.

Bestri turned to me. The slightest hint of impatience lingered in my first mate’s voice. “A minor blip, Captain. We have this. The board is green, and we’re avoiding the patch of interference. Now get out, ma’am. I’ll alert you if there’s any issue.”

I shook my head. “I’d only be sitting there, staring out the windows and wondering when I should head back onto the bridge.”

Bestri reached into one of her uniform pockets. She winked as she handed over a small metallic cube about the size of a tenberry. Her voice was low and her grin was naughty. “This should relax you. Or just the opposite…”

I glanced over the holo-cube, a program for the state-of-the-art holo rooms onboard the Mero Tallasa. “This isn’t one of those scary holo-programs you like, is it? I can’t handle that right now.”

Her grin widened. “Nope. This is a state-of-the-art, scorching-hot holo-program. Fully interactive. It brainscans you and gives you exactly what you need.” She licked her lips. “Your perfect fantasy.”

I laughed. “Perfect fantasy. Right now my perfect fantasy is probably sleep.”

“Oh, you joke now, but will you be joking after you try it?” Bestri’s cheeks shaded from a soft silver to a gentle blue as she blushed, but her smile never faded. “Let’s just say I’m a fan. I’m sharing this with you because I’m your friend. And as your friend, I’m prescribing stress relief through vigorous fucking.”

That surprised a laugh out of me. I bit my lip as I considered indulging. It had been long enough since I’d had a male in my life. The last one had been a fighter pilot on Oxirix Six. I’d had a good time with him, but then his carrier had deployed and neither of us had bothered to keep in contact. Although I’d had fun, I’d held myself back from developing any feelings for him. Exactly like I always did. They couldn’t know about my past or who I was. It kept me walled off…and seemed to kill every relationship before it could really develop.

Maybe I was doomed to getting my kicks from holo-room sex programs for the rest of my life. I’d whine about it later when I was back in our homeport and had some spirits to drown my sorrows in. Until then, artificial sex fantasies would have to do me. Literally.

“Okay, I’m going to give it a try. First Mate Zrahm, you have the helm.”

Bestri stepped back and saluted. “Aye aye, Captain!”

I took the holo-cube with me as I left the bridge. At first I was excited, but my spirits began to fall with every step. My duties as captain had taken over every aspect of my life, and the secrets I kept about my past ruined my chances at a meaningful romance. Now my life seemed to be one unending cycle of docking the Mero Tallasa, setting off with a full load of rich tourists, and cruising the same path through the Andolan System, stopping at the same pleasure ports, seeing the same nebulae, flying through the same planet rings.

This certainly wasn’t the life my parents wanted for me. My father was Duke Archa Trasker of Von, my mother the Duchess of Terravon. On Tirinva, the House of Trasker was only three seats from the throne in the line of succession. My parents were filthy rich. I’d been filthy rich—once. Jewels. Clothing from Omanonk Tren, all the latest fashions. A cybernetic horse. Whatever I’d wanted. And my only duty had been to marry Duke Olli Qegort. So what if he snorted when he laughed? So what if he laughed at his own jokes, which meant he was almost always snorting. So what if he dyed his mustache purple and had a reputation for dark, depraved sexual desires that had put him on the no-entry list at even the seediest of Tirinva’s brothels? Purple was the color of House Qegort, after all. Any bruises on my face would simply look like house spirit.

My parents had said it was all just vicious rumor, attempts to disgrace and destabilize a noble house for financial ends. And maybe it was. But it hadn’t mattered. All I’d ever wanted to do was fly.

So I’d shipped off to the academy and trained as a pilot for cargo tugs. My mother had shrieked that I’d be stretched to death by a black hole, and my furious father told me I deserved to end up marooned on a desert world full of hostile alien life—penniless and alone.

He wasn't that far off. The passengers on this run were about as hostile as any I’d ever seen. And he’d taken care of the penniless part when he’d disowned me for defying him. The alone part I was doing all by myself.

It took less than half a minute on a speed lift to reach the deck with the holo-rooms. I entered an open holo-room and let it scan my biometrics before I inserted the holo-cube in the reader drive with hands that trembled slightly. My body began to respond to my anticipation, my heart beating faster and my mouth going dry. Quickly, I stripped out of my uniform as the holo-program loaded so I could be dressed in whatever outfit the program provided.

Just as I skinned off my panties, the holo-room’s bare panels, motion cameras and projectors vanished, replaced with a wide terrace with an expansive view of icy mountains and a crystalline lake. The breeze kissed along my skin. The program photo-displays had me wearing next to nothing, a doshan silk and shear dress, with my long dark hair in a braid. An intricately carved stone table stood nearby, filled with my favorite dishes, fruits, and tenberry wine.

I picked up a tweeleaf fruit and bit, enjoying the sweet tang bursting on my tongue as I glanced around eagerly, wondering what this program would see as one of my sexual fantasies…and then I saw him. A naked Colbix stood in the doorway between two stone pillars, his huge, muscular arms chained to the stone.

My jaw dropped open at the sight of him, and my core tightened with an immediate flood of arousal as my pussy grew slippery and hot. The Colbix male towered above me, with a massive chest and a body packed with thick muscle. Colbix had a wide range of skin colors, and this one had yellowish-red skin like fire with elaborate dark patterns, stripes, and symbols across his body. There were even marking stripes along his large cock. His hair was long and darker than mine, his eyes also dark, his stare blazingly intense. He was also completely naked, I was happy to see. His cock, even though it wasn’t hard yet, was so long it sent a thrill of pure lust racing through me.

I needed to do something about that, right now. I wanted him hard. The chains and shackles were a surprise, but I decided to run with it, because it gave me an opportunity to play a little. The expression on his face was searing, seeming to burn its way along my curves. Smiling coyly, I reached up and slowly undid the laces keeping the doshan dress on me, and then I let it slide down my body, inch by inch.

Another thrill raced through me as I watched his cock stiffen as I revealed more and more of my body to him. I felt beautiful, powerful, turning on this big alien without even a touch. Loving the way his long, thick cock thrust up and outward from him. His member was so big I doubted I could completely encircle it with my fingers and thumb, and the thought of that monster sliding inside me had me wetter than ever and weak in the knees.

Maybe it had been a really long time if my fantasy had me going from zero to full warp speed without the slightest bit of preamble. But the needy groan that slipped from my lips said everything that needed saying.

After the erotic sound left my lips, it seemed to hit him like a physical blow. His expression grew determined, and he automatically reached for me…only to be brought up short by the chains. I grinned as his expression darkened, frustrated because he was held back from what he clearly wanted so badly. Me. Then without a word, he flexed and pulled, all those huge muscles standing out as he ripped the chains out of their anchors in the stone pillars.

I gasped in delight, then swallowed hard, hearing my throat click because my mouth was so dry. Probably because every bit of moisture in my body seemed to have flooded my pussy while I watched him come for me.

His hard cock swayed with every stride he took, the broken chains clinking. I had to fight the urge to step backward—he was so damn big—but instead I lifted my chin and held my ground. I wanted him to command me. To bring me to my knees before him and drive me to the heights of ecstasy. That was what I needed. A male who could finally own every part of me, body and soul, who understood me better than I understood myself.

He caught me up in a powerful embrace. His lips claimed mine. My mind reeled, my thoughts hazed with lust. I lost myself in the scorching kiss, loving the feeling of his hands caressing my naked flesh. His skin was hot, but the brush of metal from the chains was cool. His cock throbbed against me, hot, needy, wetting my skin with his precum. His lips left mine, kissed their way down my neck as I wilted with pleasure in his arms. They went lower, across my collarbone, to my breasts, teasing and sucking my nipples. My core tightened, aching, my clit throbbing with desperate need as he turned his attention from one hard nipple to the other. I sobbed out a cry of purest pleasure, and he lifted his lips back to mine, capturing them again, kissing my moans even as they trembled on my lips.

Gently, he turned me around, his hands caressing down my back and nudging me forward until I leaned against the stone table. His strong fingers massaged my ass cheeks, working into the muscle there. Then he spread my legs wide, exposing my glistening pussy to him. I looked back over my shoulder at him as he grabbed his cock in one hand and settled his other hand on my hip. Then he edged forward. For a moment I thought he’d fill me with one hard thrust, probably lifting me to my toes, if not off the ground, and I bit my lip in anticipation. But he surprised me by gently pressing the tip of his big cock at my entrance, sliding past my pussy lips, giving my channel time to stretch to take him all in. He buried himself all the way inside me, filling me, and pulling a needy gasp from my lips.

He kept one hand on my hip and ass, his fingers pressing into me, not hurting but massaging deep into my muscles, working out the coiled tension in my body. He caught my long braid in his other hand and pulled gently enough to draw my head back but not to make me cry out in pain. I felt the tug, the tension making me hotter, coating his cock with my cream.

He began to fuck me, long slow strokes, driving deep, rocking me forward with the power of each thrust. He said nothing, only made growls and grunts as he did me hard, while he drew from me all kinds of moans of passion. Each stroke drove me closer to climax. My eyes were half lidded, my mouth open, I was helpless in his arms. I was about to come undone around him when everything around me began to shake wildly. I could barely keep my feet and I lost the edge of orgasm I’d been riding and cursed in frustration. A program glitch? Now?

Wait. That was my ship shaking, not the holo-program feedback! I barely had time to wonder if something had hit us when alarms began to blare.

“End program!” I yelled. The holo-room scene vanished, his big cock disappeared from my pussy, and without the table to support me, I toppled forward and fell over like a buffoon. I was too alarmed to care much as I scrambled for my clothes.

The cruise ship shook from another impact. The AI voice, so absurdly calm, began repeating over the system speakers, “Captain Trasker to the bridge. Captain Trasker to the bridge.”

I hurried around the room, snatching up pieces of my uniform and struggling into them. My heart was pounding hard, first from the sex, now from the warning sirens. All my lust and desire had vanished. I yanked on my pants and nearly lost my balance again. I ended up hopping around with my feet tangled until another explosion rocked the ship and sent me crashing onto my ass. Again.

“Dammit!”

“Captain Trasker to the bridge. Captain Trasker to the bridge…”

“I’m coming!” I yelled at the speaker, although in broadcast mode it couldn’t hear me.

I finally managed to get back to my feet, threw on the rest of my uniform, and hurried into the corridor while adjusting my captain’s hat back into place. My body was thoroughly annoyed at the interruption right before I got off, but aside from my skin still feeling very warm and flushed, I no longer looked like I’d just been getting fucked into next month by an alien.

Stewards and security personnel in the corridors were directing passengers back to their rooms. Passengers shouted questions at me, looking confused and alarmed.

“Everyone, please remain calm,” I called as I wove my way through the crowds back to the bridge. The classic Murphy’s Law said of course this had to happen when I’d been enjoying one of the holo-rooms, as far from the bridge as possible, instead of relaxing in my cabin ten meters away. “I’m sure this is only a minor technical difficulty—”

The entire ship shuddered again and groaned as if she were being torn asunder. Passengers screamed. I gritted my teeth and kept my pace brisk but even. If I started to run, it would cause a panic. I had to appear as if I were in complete control.

What the hell was going on? There were no rogue asteroids in this system…certainly no black holes like my mother had gone on and on about.

I finally reached the bridge. Everything was chaos. Red alarm lights flashed, and screens everywhere displayed alerts and warnings. My bridge crew was scrambling in all directions, shouting reports to each other, working feverishly at command terminals.

My stomach clenched with icy dread, but I made sure to keep my face calm. “Status report,” I barked as I strode to my captain’s chair.

“All access to engine control is currently offline,” the gentle computer voice offered helpfully. “Engine power is zero point zero zero percent. Secondary systems are unresponsive—”

“Someone tell me why the systems are down,” I growled, taking my seat as the air around my chair filled with holo-screens flashing red warning text.

“Pirates, Captain!” Bestri said with an edge of panic in her voice.

“Pirates? Here?” That was insanity. This close to the galactic core, there shouldn’t be any sign of so-called space buccaneers for hundreds of thousands of light years. The Andolan System was one of the safest in the galaxy!

My first mate pointed at the main viewscreen. A dark, sleek frigate class starship was on screen. It bristled with weapons. The black hull had a large symbol on the sides—a white sword through a blazing white star. As I watched, the pirate ship fired a missile at us from its forward launchers.

“Shields!” I yelled.

“Shielding is offline,” the systems tech said. “Ion burst missiles took out the shields in two shots.”

My heart sank as I watched the missile race toward us. Nothing about this seemed real. Only minutes ago I’d been getting the fuck of my life and now I was helplessly watching a missile streak toward my ship. If it was tipped with a warhead, we were dead.

The missile burst a dozen or so meters from the bridge. It didn’t explode so much as break apart, sending a bunch of small metal spheres racing toward us.

“What the hell is that?” I demanded. “Get me a sensor readout now!”

“That’s how they’re taking control, Captain,” Bestri replied as she furiously worked her control panel. “First they took our shields down and now they’re using some kind of bots to attach to the hull and take over our systems. Engines are out. Helm control is down. They have control of all major systems.”

“Life support?” I demanded as dread pooled in my stomach. How could this happen? This wasn’t the outer rim. This was smack dab in the middle of one of the most affluent systems in space.

“They have control of life support,” Pol answered grimly.

“Have you broadcast a distress signal on all subspace channels?”

“They started jamming us before they decloaked. We didn’t have time to force a signal through before they took over communications.”

We were completely and utterly borrked.

“The hostile ship is hailing us,” the comm officer said. “We can’t block their signal, Captain.”

I gritted my teeth and lifted my chin. If I had to surrender, I would do so with dignity. “Put them through on the main screen.”

Pirates? I still couldn’t believe it. Whoever this guy was, I refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing my fear. I knew the type from info broadcasts. He’d be fat and greasy, with more weapons than brains, and maxing out at a two-syllable vocabulary. Of course he’d smell like feet and probably have boils. Hairy boils. The filthy bastard.

The main screen switched from a view of the stars and the sleek pirate frigate to a view of the pirate captain. I had to clench my teeth to keep my jaw from dropping. The pirate captain was a nothing like I’d expected. He was stunning. He was a Jardan, and my mind immediately flashed back to the Colbix on my erotic fantasy program. The only aliens bigger and sexier than the Colbix were the Jardan. His skin was shaded a light blue, and I could see plenty of it, because his chest was bare beneath his long, synth-leather coat. Broad, heavily muscled chest, wide shoulders, thick arms. Shift-tattoos covered his torso—designs that changed color from black to silver to crimson as I stared at them. His eyes were a shockingly bright, pale blue, making an interesting contrast to his jet-black hair. He wore leather pants that clung to his powerful thighs as he slouched in his captain’s chair. He had rings on his fingers and earrings in his ears—all kinds of valuable alien stones and gold hoops that could have brought a fortune in the markets of Tirinva. I recognized one of his earrings as a supercomputer control device to keep him in touch with his ship’s systems. He rested one of his bejeweled hands on the side of the chair and kept the other on the biggest sword I’d ever seen. The blade was in a dark scabbard with the same design as on the outside of the ship—a white sword and blazing white star.

A sword? Was that some kind of crude, dramatic affectation? Then I realized it was exactly that. A primitive threat by a pirate—a Jardan pirate—the height of vulgar aggression. My heart thudded in my chest, and my mouth was dry as sand, but this time, neither of those were from the good kind of excitement.

“I am Captain Sylvis Trasker,” I said, keeping my words as cold as water in space. “What is the meaning of this outrage?”

“Captain Trasker,” the pirate said, his lips curving in a charming smile. His voice was deep and his intense eyes glinted. “I am known as Captain Kash Dra’sten of the frigate Defiance Blade.”

I folded my arms across my chest and sneered. “Never heard of you.”

Dra’sten’s smile slipped a notch. “Be that as it may, I have the distinct pleasure of capturing your vessel. You know the routine. You will surrender your ship to be boarded by my crew and me. No weapons and no resistance, and we’ll have no reason to respond in kind.”

For a moment I could only glare at him, my thoughts reeling. I couldn’t decide if I detested him more for his attitude—he clearly thought he was the handsome, dashing rogue—which he wasn’t. Or because he was able to string together words with more than one syllable.

I narrowed my eyes, holding his gaze. “I won’t let you turn these people into slaves. They are citizens of the Galactic Imperium. You will be brought to justice for this…” I paused, trying to find the right words. “Grievous transgression.”

Captain’s Dra’sten’s expression turned cold. Had I offended him? Good. I only wished I’d been captaining a warship instead of some defenseless interstellar pleasure cruiser. Then maybe I’d wipe that smug smile off that—barely average-looking—face with a blaster barrage.

“I’m sorry, Captain Trasker,” the pirate said, leaning forward, his hand clenching on the sword hilt and his tone icy. “We must be having communication problems, because I mistakenly thought you said something about slaves. Get one thing straight. The Defiance Blade does not, has not, and will not ever take slaves. This is a civilized enterprise. We will board. We will take a few valuables from the rich passengers, a few supplies for our ship. We will be on our way. Your corporation’s insurance company will cover the losses. We will all be happy.” He leaned back in his seat, seemingly relaxed again. “Especially me.”

“And if we refuse, you pig of a pirate?”

The captain paused for a second with his head cocked to the side. I suspected he was listening to something through the supercomputer device near his ear. He confirmed it an instant later.

“Ah. A pig. Human livestock known for being filthy. My apologies, I needed to have the computer look that one up.” That winning grin spread across his face, and I hated it even as a traitorous thrill raced through me. “I’ll have you know I can be as filthy as you’d like,” he continued. “But business first. I believe you wanted to know what happened if you refused.”

I waited.

He just smiled at me with that infernal smirk.

“Yes, you’re quite dramatic,” I said. “Can we get on with it?”

He shrugged. “Very well. I won’t make threats. Your ship is disabled. I control all your systems with hack bots, even your life support. You look like a smart female. Choose wisely.”

I couldn’t help myself. I bared my teeth in a silent snarl at him. Oh, I looked like a smart female, did I? As determined by this muscle-headed pirate who probably scored in the amoeba range on the standard intelligence assessment?

Of course, my winning IQ didn’t say much for us right now, sitting dead in space with no options. He wasn’t lying about controlling all our systems. We had no shields, no weapons, and no engines. I couldn’t resist him, no matter how badly I wanted to. But maybe if I bought my ship enough time there would be a way to outsmart him…

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I had no choice. “The Mero Tallasa hereby surrenders to you, Captain Dra’sten.”

The Jardan pirate nodded at the formality. He likewise kept his tone formal. “I accept your surrender, Captain Trasker. Our dropship will be on its way soon. I don’t want any unnecessary harm to come to any of your crew or passengers, so I suggest you meet me at the loading bay unarmed.”

I nodded curtly. “Anything else?”

“Keep your passengers calm. Make them understand we only want to take their valuables, not their lives.”

“I’ll do my best. Is that all?”

His lips curled slightly. He looked me up and down with those pale blue eyes, and I wasn’t sure I liked what I saw in them. Because what I saw was interest, and that made my blood begin to run faster through my veins.

“That is all, Captain,” he replied lazily, that obnoxious smirk curling his lip. “For now.”

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