Scarred - Tana Stone
Captain Brok clasped his hands behind his back and peered out the ship’s front view screen. He tried not to be impatient, but after weeks searching the galaxy, he was starting to be on edge. Glancing around the dull-metal bridge and at the Inferno Force warriors at their posts, he knew that they felt the same way. The long-haired officers with unshaven faces and tattooed skin did not complain openly, but there had been a marked increase in informal sparring matches in the gym, and at least half of the Drexians on the bridge sported a bruise or two.
Brok touched a finger to the tender spot on his own jaw, a souvenir from his first officer, Kalex, during a particularly long and sweaty Kranji match. His gaze went to the warrior at his console, and he couldn’t help but grin at the black eye he sported. He knew they’d both been grateful for the distraction, and even for the sharp sting of pain. Anything to take their minds off the boredom of what had come to feel like an endless search.
The captain scraped a hand through his own dark hair that had grown even longer during their extended rescue mission. His Inferno Force crew had never gone so long without battle. He’d never gone so long without battle. Not since he’d taken command of his own ship. The elite fighting force of the Drexian empire was used to fighting their enemy on the outskirts, not chasing around after abducted humans. Well, to be more accurate, they were chasing after one tribute bride and one Gatazoid wedding planner.
A series of beeps jerked his mind back to the bridge, and his heart beat faster as he noted an approaching ship. “Report.”
“A freighter,” one of the officers reported, disappointment dripping from his voice. “Parnithian.”
They had no issues with the Parnithians, and no reason to stop the freighter. If only the ship had been Kronock, thought Brok. Then they would get the fight they’d all been itching for.
“How long until we’re in range of Spartos?” he asked.
Kalex twisted around from his standing console and gave him a crooked grin. “We’re about fifty astro-minutes closer than the last time you asked.”
The captain huffed out a breath. “Grek.”
When they’d first determined the possibility that the human female and Gatazoid might be on Spartos, he and his crew had felt victorious. It had been the first solid lead they’d had after losing the trail at the Ganthar pirates. But that had been days ago, and they were still traveling to the distant planet. A planet that was as mysterious to them as any in the galaxy. A planet known for being xenophobic and closed off to outsiders. A planet they weren’t even sure had Serge and Madeleine.
He growled low as he thought about the human female they were tracking, and a few of his officers glanced over at him. Although he’d never laid eyes on the female in person, he had not been able to rid his mind of her image since he’d first seen it on the screen. He and his crew had been shown images of all the tribute brides they’d been chasing, but somehow, Madeleine’s image had been the one to take hold of him. The moment he’d seen her nearly-black hair, delicate features, and slightly upturned eyes, he’d lost the ability to think straight. The human looked like none he’d ever seen before—not that he’d seen many human females—and there was something in her dark eyes that made him need to know more.
The Ganthar pirates had dismissively called her the runt because of her slight stature, but Brok knew there was nothing weak about her. He could see the spark in her eyes even in the image. It was a spark that made his pulse quicken and his cock swell.
Stop, he told himself. She is not yours.
Technically, she belonged to no Drexian. Not yet. Even so, Brok knew she could never be his. He’d made peace long ago with the fact that he would never take a tribute bride. It was better if an Inferno Force captain had no distractions. And what human female would accept a scarred warrior like him, when there were so many young, perfect Drexians available?
Touching a finger to the slash that ran down one side of his face, he allowed himself to imagine a future in which he hadn’t been disfigured battling the Kronock. A future in which he could take a tribute bride. A future that was