Thrown from one dangerous situation to the next when she and her family are rescued from the imminent explosion of their space ship, Magnolia finds herself at the mercy of a ruthless band of pirates. One man’s dark smoldering gaze draws her like no other and has her offering to help the men who have rescued them.
Kesh was not expecting his mate to fall into his hands, or the extent he will go to make her his. When trouble finds them and Magnolia’s life is in danger, he will do whatever it takes to protect her.
Fascinated despite herself, Magnolia finds herself torn between her desire for Kesh and her need for freedom, until he brands her as his and she cannot escape from the truth of his claim or the longing of her heart.
The sudden blare of the emergency alarm shocked me so badly I almost dropped my bag. My heart thundered wildly. This was it. This was the moment we had all been dreading—the moment when the fusion core went critical. We had hours left before the core exploded, ripping through the ship, turning it into a twisted mass of metal and fire.
I rushed my bags out to the lounge, intent on returning to the control room. Someone had to come. They had to. We couldn’t die like this. I might have had doubts about my parents’ conviction that the Universe would help us, but I had to have hope. I had to have something to hold onto when everything was going to hell around me.
Racing up the stairs, my long skirts almost tripping me up in my haste, I slipped back into the control room and resumed my seat. The scanner screen was empty. No ships. No signs of anything. In desperation, I grabbed the communications microphone and pressed the button.
“Please, if you can hear us, we need help. Our fusion core has gone critical. If there’s anybody out there, please help us. We have children aboard the ship.”
Letting go of the button, I slumped back in the seat. There was nothing—no response. I stared at the scanner screen, willing a ship to come along. Any ship. I wasn’t ready to die. I wanted to do too many things, and too many places I wanted to visit.
Loud voices and the quiet sobs of a child reached me through the open door of the control room. This was my family, and usually we all got along. You had to get along when you lived on a ship together, but the last four days were taking their toll on all of us and tensions were high. Light footsteps echoed along the metal walkway that led from the lower level to the control room before my mamma’s voice came from the open door way.
“Magnolia, come down to the lounge and spend time with the family. It might be the last chance you get.”
I turned to look at my mamma. It was the first time she’d acknowledged that it was possible we wouldn’t make it out of this mess alive.
“All right. I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Don’t take too long. We should all be together.”
She didn’t need to say at the end. I knew that was what she meant. Giving the scanner one last look, because I could sit for the next two hours watching it and we might only have two hours, I stood up from the co-pilot’s chair and stepped between the two seats.
A small beep sent hope exploding in my chest. I whipped around to look at the scanner, and sure enough, there was a tiny blip on the screen. One little dot point of green light amongst the black, right on the outer edges of our scanner’s range and moving slowly towards us.
Falling over myself to get back in the chair, I grabbed the microphone.
“This is the Spirit of Freedom. Please respond.”
I waited, my breath caught in my throat. Come on... come on. They had to respond. I wanted to shout for joy. I wanted to call out to my family and let them know there was a ship, but I had to make sure they were going to respond first.
“Please, we have children aboard this ship. You’re our only hope,” I said into the microphone.
“Please, you have to help us,” I whispered as my hand fell into my lap, the microphone falling from my fingers.
I stared at that little green blip and willed them to respond. The Universe had provided a ship in our hour of greatest need, so they just had to come through. I just needed to hear a voice over the comm system telling me they were on their way to us, and then I could breathe.
It felt like days since I’d been able to take a deep breath, the worry pressing in on me, tightening my lungs, making it impossible to breathe deeply.
“Spirit of Freedom, this is the Fallen Star. What is your status?” a deep masculine voice asked, coming through the comm system.
A sob rushed up from my chest to lock in my throat, my hand flying up to my mouth, holding the noise in. I grabbed for the microphone in my lap.
“Fallen Star, we have a critical rupture of our fusion core. The core will explode in the next few hours. Please help us.”
I waited, watching that little green blip as it moved slowly closer, millimetre by millimetre, creeping across the scanner screen towards the centre and our location.
The lights on the control panel of the ship flickered and danced. Warnings that we had a serious problem. Warnings that had been flashing for four days.
“It should take us two hours to reach you. Gather everyone in the cargo bay and we will dock directly with your ship. You should gather everything you want in the time it takes us to get to you. Fallen Star out.”
The relief was overwhelming. Tears gathered in my eyes, slowly trickling down my face.
“We’ll be ready, Fallen Star. Thank you.”
Now we just had to hope that we were still there in two hours. I scrambled up out of my chair.
“Papa! There’s a ship coming!”
I raced for the door and clattered down the walkway, my hasty footsteps echoing through the ship.
My father appeared at the bottom of the stairs, hope shinning on his face.
“Yes,” I replied, “We have to move everything into the cargo bay. They’re going to dock directly with us and they said to wait in the cargo bay.”
“How long, Magnolia? How long until they get here?”
I stepped off the stairs and saw the hopeful faces of my family and the few people who travelled with us. They might as well have been my family, we were so close.
“Two hours. We just have to hold on for another two hours.”