Kyler's Justice (Assassins of Gravas Book 3) - N.J. Walters
Five planetary months ago…
“Leave me alone.” Etta Mortis glared at her half-brother. How had he found her? She’d been so careful. Fifteen years older than her, and meaner than a wounded Barskan wild boar, he’d been trouble for as long as she could remember.
The heavy cleaver slammed down on the poor beet, splitting it in half. Reddish liquid trickled from the vegetable, spreading across the cutting board. Too much like blood. “I want nothing to do with the games you and Helldrick play.” No way would she give him the title of father. The bastard was nothing more than a sperm donor.
“Not even for them?”
She lifted the sharp cutting tool, casually holding it above her shoulder, and the glint of humor disappeared from his green eyes. “What in the three hells of Brenam are you talking about?
Balthazar crossed his arms over his massive chest and smiled, but there was nothing remotely pleasant about it. No, it was pure evil. The fine hairs on her body stood on end. This is not going to be good.
“What have you done?” she demanded. Everyone she knew walked in fear of her half-brother. At more than six and a half feet tall, all of it pure muscle, he would slice a man’s throat, step over his fallen body, and carry on with his day, never sparing a thought for what he’d done. His flaming red hair and beard made him a standout among the ladies. And just like his father, he lived to be the center of attention.
After her mother died when she was four, Etta had been raised in the viper’s nest of Helldrick’s home. When she’d reached the age of twenty-one, a friend of her mother’s had shown up with a small inheritance. She’d taken it and run. For two years, she ghosted from kitchen to kitchen in small bars and taverns across the galaxies, learning how to cook, but never staying anywhere long enough to be tracked.
Or so she’d thought.
“I haven’t done anything.” Oh, she heard the subtle emphasis.
“What has he done?” she shot back. “Don’t try my patience. The bar opens in two hours and I need to finish my prep work.” After scraping the cut beets into a pot on the industrial cooker, she added water and spices.
“He hasn’t done anything yet. That’s where you come in.” He reached across the counter, grabbed a carrot, and chomped down. The one bonus to being on an agra-planet was that vegetables were in ready supply.
Taking a deep breath, Etta centered herself. I’m an adult now. I make my own decisions. “What does Helldrick want?”
“A small favor.”
She snorted and, with speed and precision, began to cut sweet potatoes. It helped her think. “No such thing.”
Balthazar popped the last of the carrot into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “He knows you’ve kept in touch with your sisters.”
He shrugged. “I don’t care about any of our father’s bastards.”
“Then why are you here? I’m one of those bastards.” Helldrick had never married any of the women he’d impregnated. Like Balthazar, he was a giant of a man with a ready smile and handsome enough to attract the ladies. The outer veneer hid the rot of the man’s soul.
He shrugged one massive shoulder. “He needs you for a job at Hell’s Gate.”
All the air was sucked from the room. The cleaver fell from her nerveless fingers onto the counter. She gripped the edge to try to ground herself. Her vision dimmed. “I’ll never go back there.” Mortis—the planet she’d been born on, the place she’d spent the first twenty-one miserable years of her life. She bore the planet’s name as her own. Helldrick had given it to her as a joke because he didn’t have a surname, at least not one he’d admit to. It had become a badge of honor, a symbol of her resilience.
And Hell’s Gate was her father’s bar, his private kingdom on Mortis. People lived and died on his whim. He was all powerful, his word law. Rumor was Balthazar had done something similar on a planet called Tortuga, creating a haven for criminals like himself.
It had almost killed her to leave her sisters, but their mother took good care of them. Etta’s plan was to make money and get a place of her own before wrestling the children and their mother from Helldrick’s grasp.
She shook her head. “I won’t do it. Nothing you can say will make a difference.”
“Yonna is dead.”
And the blows kept coming. “Dead? How?” Her poor sisters. They