- Author: Tana Stone
Book online «Pursued: A Sci-Fi Alien Warrior Romance (Raider Warlords of the Vandar Book 4) Tana Stone (best ebook reader for ubuntu .txt) 📖». Author Tana Stone
PursuedRaider Warlords of the Vandar #4
Also by Tana Stone
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I leaned against the steel hull of the ship as the imperial soldiers rolled metal crates of cargo up the ramp and coughed as a gust kicked up dust around me. For a moment, I wondered what was in the locked containers stamped with foreign symbols. Then I remembered that it didn’t matter, and I didn’t care. The cargo wasn’t the point of my mission, and whatever had been placed inside the crates I’d be transporting was only there to hide the trackers. Trackers that would lead the Zagrath to the Vandar horde I was planning to infiltrate.
The idea of going solo into a Vandar horde should have terrified me. It would have made any reasonable person’s blood run cold. But I wasn’t a reasonable person. I was one of the empire’s top assassins. I was the one they sent in when they needed someone fearless. Someone who wasn’t afraid to kill or be killed. The one who seduced her victims before she killed them. The one they called Mantis in dark whispers.
Flicking my fingers through the choppy layers of hair that brushed my shoulders, I scanned the outpost’s crowded shipyard and sighed. Despite the fact that I was heading out for my most deadly mission yet, I was eager to get off the planet. The time between missions always made me antsy. I’d rather be in the thick of a battle or deep undercover than waiting. Waiting gave me too much time to think, and thinking too much was never a good thing in my line of work. I tapped one of my black boots on the ground. Not to mention the fact that patience was not one of my virtues, especially not if it meant hanging out on a backwater outpost for much longer.
I took a bite of the hard jerky I’d been nibbling on—my sad excuse for breakfast—the salty flavor sharp on my tongue. Swallowing, I gazed at the buildings in the distance.
Rellaren looked like any other imperial outpost, with Zagrath soldiers in steel-blue uniforms and shiny, black helmets bustling around dull-gray ships. Gleaming droids zoomed across the hardpacked earth, dodging the faceless soldiers and emitting sharp beeps. Ships arrived and departed with regularity, kicking up clouds of dust that made me pull my shirt over my nose to keep from choking.
“Another day in paradise,” I muttered to myself.
Like most imperial outposts, Rellaren had barracks for soldiers as well as rowdy canteens for the couriers and supply runners to occupy their time while they waited for cargo to be loaded and unloaded. Repair shops were pressed up against scrap-metal dealers, and an open-air market sold you just about anything you could need for a space journey. There were a few discreet pleasure houses on the outskirts, but the quality of the pleasurers was not what you’d find on a pleasure planet or a pleasure ship. Not that I frequented pleasure houses, but I heard enough of the other crews talking to know.
Even from a distance, the scent of greasy food being prepared for the midday meal mixed with fumes from the engines, making the air around me both hazy and fetid. I glanced at the soldiers still wheeling crates into the belly of my ship. I should have time for a last Rellaren menashi. The thin bread spread with a spiced meat paste and wrapped into a long roll was the only redeeming quality of the dingy outpost. My stomach growled as I thought about the crunch of the bread and the tangy kick of the meat. Since I’d be eating ration packs on the ship until I was intercepted by the Vandar, this was my last chance for decent food.
Before I could head for the nearest menashi stand outside the gates of the shipyard, a hand closed over my arm. Without thinking, I clamped my own hand on top and spun around, flipping the male onto his back and landing on top of him with my knees straddling his shoulders.
“Whoa, Alana.” The Rellarian male’s eyes were wide as he blinked up at me. “I just came to see you off.”
I leaned back and released my grip on his hands. “You shouldn’t sneak up on me like that, Tannel.”
The creases in his brow relaxed, leaving only the traditional Rellarian ridges that formed a point between his eyebrows. “Not that I mind you being on top.”
I gave him a half smile as I stood and pulled him up with me. Even though Tannel was taller and broader than me, he didn’t have the years of combat training I did—or the finely honed reflexes. “Maybe next visit.”
He closed the short distance between us, lowering his head to mine. His light-brown hair tickled my cheek as it fell forward. “You sure you have to rush off so soon? You just got here.”
I shrugged and tried to ignore the warmth of his breath on my neck. “Sorry. The life of an imperial supply runner.”
He gave a snort of laughter. “You’re the finest imperial supply runner I’ve ever seen.”
“You mean I’m the only one you share your bed with?” I teased.
Another laugh, this one louder. “You clearly haven’t seen your competition. Big, hairy Taralians. Grulnix with spikes for hands. No, I’ll take a Zagrath like you any day.”
“I’m not Zagrath,” I corrected. I’d had that fact pounded into me enough that my reaction was automatic.
“Human, then. Didn’t the Zagrath and humans both come from Earth?”
“A long time ago. The Zagrath were the ones with the money and resources to augment their biology. That’s why they’re bigger.”
He put a hand on my waist. “I still