|Centauri 2: Centauri Twilight
Romance Fantasy Sci-Fi
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Lara Danexx suffered years of torment at the hands of the evil and twisted Ranzon Slavarien. But she escaped and raised an army of rebels to destroy him. Victory is within her grasp when an unwelcome intruder hunts her down and spins wild tales of her lost family and royal blood. This arrogant invader stirs her long dead emotions and threatens to ruin all of her plans. She can’t allow herself to desire his touch, or believe his lies…too much is at stake.
General Anton Coridian gave his word that he would find his beloved queen’s long lost sister, Princess Jondalara. He expects a pampered princess. Instead he finds a guerilla leader with an army of loyal cut-throats and rogues at her back. Every instinct he has demands that she is his lifemate and he must steal her away to safety. But the dark determination and pain in her eyes reminds him of his own tortured past. She offers him redemption and the chance to right an unspeakable wrong. Destiny must be laughing, because now he’s fallen in love with a woman who will stop at nothing to free her people…even if it means sacrificing herself. Anton is determined to join her, both in bed and in battle. Now he must convince Lara that his love can save not just her life, but her battered heart.
Romcon Readers Crown finalists (2012)
Anton needed an escape. All this happiness made him nauseous. In the last two weeks since the announcement of his brother Darius’ wedding to Audra, Queen of Centauri, he’d witnessed more kissing, smiling and cheerful familial festivities than he could stand. Now the ceremony was finally over. All he had to do was manage to not look as grim as the bitter taste in his mouth made him feel, as he survived these last few hours of dancing and merriment.
Taking advantage of a lull in the festivities, Anton pulled Darius and Audra aside. “I’m leaving tonight.”
Audra took his hands in hers, the soft fabric of her wedding dress brushed against his legs. He forced his feet to remain planted. No need to offend his new sister by moving out of arms reach. “Are you well enough to leave?” she asked with a frown. “This isn’t going to be an easy mission for you.”
Anton used the one argument he knew Audra would not stand against. “Sweet sister, I’m well enough. The sooner I leave, the sooner I’ll find Jondalara and bring her home.”
Audra leaned up and kissed his scarred cheek. “Anton, how will I ever be able to thank you?”
Regardless of his own internal agony, it had nothing to do with Audra and Darius. He couldn’t stop a genuine grin escaping. “Name this baby after me.”
Audra slumped against Darius. “Baby?”
Darius held his new wife close to his side. “What baby?”
Anton smiled then chuckled. Should he be upset that his brother had made love to his lifemate, even though she was to have been Anton’s bride? Maybe, but he could not. It was too difficult to find your lifemate and impossible for a Coridian man to resist her once he found her. “It appears you two already had your wedding night.”
Audra’s hand automatically went to her stomach. Nothing was showing, there was no bump, not that it would have shown under her wedding dress anyway. “But, but...how could you know? I don’t even know yet. I mean I haven’t…” Audra sputtered, unable to voice the words.
Darius laughed, rich and loud, uncaring that he was drawing attention to the three of them. “It is one of his gifts, Sweetheart. Ask my mother sometime what happened when he was five and told my mother to expect me.”
Oblivious to everyone else, Anton knew they were in love. Audra leaned again into Darius and he wrapped his arms around her. “A baby,” she sighed and rubbed her stomach. Then she turned back to Anton, the happy bride gone and only the Queen remaining. “I don’t care what it takes, bring my sister home.”
Audra had found Anton half dead in Zelton Slavarien’s dungeon after escaping Slavarien herself. She was resourceful, his sister-in-law. He’d been beaten to within an inch of life and tortured in many other ways by Slavarien who wanted to know where Audra was.
He heard the doctors, while he was in the med tech unit, say how lucky he was. That a few more hours and the damage would totally have been irreversible and he would have died. He wished he had, along with the rest of his company of soldiers. They’d been sent to bring back Zelton Slavarien for trial, but just outside his citadel a trap had been laid. One designed to capture Anton and solicit information from him in any way possible. Torture was the preferred method employed by Slavarien.
She’d saved what was left of his miserable life. He’d do this one thing for her before he let the darkness and guilt over losing his men in the ambush, claim him. He and Darius both knew the odds of survival were low, of finding the princess even lower. But he’d demanded the mission anyway. The planet Delaz was a long way off, a lifetime from the world he knew. And a return to the dominion of the evil Slavarien family.
None of it mattered.
He’d find Jondalara or die trying. This was the one thing that Audra wanted above all else, the one thing he could do for her to repay his debt.
“I will, Your Majesty. I will bring her home to you.”
The star cruiser Dremel, orbited above the planet Delaz. Anton hadn’t asked for the Dremel, it was the flagship of the Centauri fleet, but Darius had insisted. “It’s our best ship. If you should get into trouble, the ship and its personnel might get you out.” Darius had clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m not ready to lose you yet, brother.”
The trip from Centauri was short, only ten days, but the difference between his technologically advanced home planet, and this one might as well have been a thousand years.
Garrick Marcus, First Officer of the Dremel and Anton’s friend, read from the computer screen. “Thoriz Slavarien, and his son Ranzon, rule Delaz with an iron fist. All communication for the populace with the outside universe was cut off more than sixty years ago. All shipments to or from the planet, go directly to the City of Palaqwa where communication is possible only with the Slavarien regime.” He turned to Anton. “The people of Delaz are in the dark about the rest of the universe. They may not even know other people, other cultures, exist unless they live in the city and work directly with those that come to trade.”
Anton nodded. “I’m not surprised. The Slavariens must oppress the people in order to remain in power.”
Garrick, hands on the transporter controls, said, “Are you ready? You’ll be transported to the outskirts of a town called Nagato.”
“I’m ready. You have the com.”
“Affirmative, Captain. And Anton…good luck.”
“Thanks, Garrick. I think I may need it.”
The border town of Nagato was unlike anything he’d ever seen except on a viewdisc. The buildings were all wood and in fair condition. The street he was on bustled with activity. This was the heart of the commercial district, stores on both sides of the partially paved street. The original paving had been done at the same time he was born thirty five years ago…maybe even before and hadn’t been repaved since. Wooden posts in front of each building looked like they were some sort of parking meter. Compared to the rest of the building, the posts were new and well kept. They couldn’t actually be parking meters for air cars or cloud cars because there weren’t any of those vehicles to be found.
Transportation was by foot or on a beast called an allorat. His computer had a picture of it but it lacked the nuances only the real thing can show. Four legged with brown wooly coats, they had huge eyes, tiny ears and a beak instead of a snout. The allorat’s beak does not have teeth, much less the razor sharp ones that their cousin the snarlot has. Their tails were short and whip like. Ten feet tall at the shoulder, Anton would need a ladder to get on one, if he were to actually ride it. He apparently wasn’t the only one. The saddle on the one in front of him had a rope ladder hanging on the left side. It looked like it rolled up after the rider was atop the beast.
But the worst thing about an allorat was they stank. Not your average everyday sweaty animal stink, but a stench so foul, Anton had to hold his nose and close his eyes to walk past the thing. There was no way in this world or any other that he was going to ride that animal.
It was too dangerous for a Centaurian like himself to travel openly in Delaz. Strangers stood out. Even dressed as a local, his rich sapphire blue robes hiding his uniform and his weapons, his longish black hair tied back with a strip of leather, he was still an outsider. There was something ingrained in the populace, an attitude of fear that made it difficult for outsiders. Especially those unaccustomed to the kind of constant terror that these people endured day after day. No one wanted to say anything for fear they might be killed.
Delaz was a poor planet that had once been a part of Centauri’s monarchy, but too long now had it been under the rule of Thoriz Slavarien and his family’s brutal control. The only people who had air cars were the Slavariens. Not even the other noble and wealthy families were allowed the technology. If Anton used one he might as well paint a giant target on his back.
There were only two classes of people on Delaz. The haves and the have nots. The haves wore richly decorated robes over jumpsuits just as Anton did now over his uniform. The color of the robe indicated the house of the owner. The more elaborate the robe, the richer the person. The more slaves owned, the richer the person.
Then there were the have nots. The slaves. Anton soon learned the purpose of the posts in front of the buildings. Not for the allorats, there was no fear they would run away. The posts were for the slaves. The male slaves wore manacles at wrist and ankle. Each of the posts had built-in chains that the slaves could be attached to.
In addition to the manacles, the male slaves wore a sleeveless shirt, a wide leather belt and pants. No shoes, nothing else. The females he saw wore even less. Their clothing was two pieces. A long vest, open on both sides and held together with a wide leather belt. No under garments, no shoes. They didn’t wear manacles, but a ring on the back of the belt fastened to the post chain. Anton was appalled. He’d never seen anything so barbaric in his life.
Zelton Slavarien had sold Jondalara into this life. It was a good thing he was already dead or Anton would have another reason to kill the bastard.
According to the Dremel’s computer, he should be outside the main planetary capital of Palaqwa tomorrow. The only semi-modern city on the planet, it was protected by a force shield. The Slavariens were reviled because of their slave holding and knew it. If not for the rich stores of various metals needed by the outside world they wouldn’t be dealt with at all. As it was there was little choice, one had to have relations with the Slavarien family if one wanted the unique metals this planet had to offer.
Anton had to make his way on foot because of the shield and the fact that the only space port was Slavarien controlled. Shuttling to the space port would have announced his arrival to the family he was here to destroy. He would find Jondalara and take her from here but then, then he would return and destroy everything that the Slavarien family loved. Just as they’d destroyed him.