Heart of the Forsaken

scroll down for excerpt                 Book 7 in the Heart & Soul series

***

The sins of the creator…

The cold-blooded pirate high jacked his ship,
but Red didn’t expect Sonja to highjack his heart, too. Now she was in
danger, he wouldn’t let her go.

A legacy of evil explodes in violence and
blood…who will live, who will die…who will love the Forsaken?

 

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**

The morning sun was high in the sky when the hover tray arrived carrying the merchant and the crates.
“Did they find the pirates?” Red asked Fretya, as the merchant stepped down onto the grass.
“Nary a sign.” Fretya spat into the grass. “Bitches! If I got my hands on them, I’d hang them myself.”
“They sound a handful.” Red looked at the crates. “There was talk about them in the tavern last night.”
Ripping the sign off the nearest big crate, Fretya scowled. “Murderers. Scum. That’s all they are.”
“Probably are murderers,” Simon agreed, coming to stand beside Red. “Pirates are.”
“Not all,” Red muttered, thinking of Sinya.
Knowing immediately what he was thinking, Simon grunted.
“Don’t care.” The merchant flung the sign onto the tray.
Red grinned openly. Simon managed to keep a straight face.
“You can laugh,” Fretya scowled. “Think if it was your cargo stolen.”
“Aye. Sorry.” Red hid his grin behind his hand, making a pretence of rubbing the lower half of his face thoughtfully.
“I bet you’d hang them if they did that.”
“Uh…probably not hang them.”
“Oh, of course not. You Daamen are too soft when it comes to females. Give them a pat on the arse and a telling off, I’ll bet.”
“Be a hard pat on the arse.” Red chuckled.
Simon burst out laughing, as did Shamon, Borga, and young Torkra, who were all getting ready to lift the crates.
Muttering to himself, Fretya stood back and waited while the Daamen traders took the crates off the hover tray and loaded them into the cargo hold of the trading ship. He watched them go up the ramp, the impressive muscles in their arms and chests bulging with power beneath the weight of the crates.
Privately, he wished he looked like them. He’d have no trouble finding a comely wench then. They all flocked to these dangerous-looking giants. Sighing, he watched as the last of the crates were lifted and transferred to the cargo hold.
“That’s the last of them.” Red strode down the ramp. “Thanks, Fretya. We’ll see you on our next trip.”
Stepping up onto the hover tray, the merchant gave him a wave and proceeded back to the settlement.
“‘Tis all done, then.” Jase peered out of the cargo hold. “Ready to leave?”
“Aye. Let’s go.” Red walked back up the ramp and into the cargo hold.
Pulling the lever that raised the ramp, he watched it come up and seal shut.
As he turned away, he found Mikal and Torkra watching him curiously. Two of the three new crew members, they were also the youngest, being only seventeen and eighteen years of age, respectively. Once his friends had wed, they’d chosen to stay on trading trips closer to Daamen. That had promoted him to captain of one of their ships, a position he’d felt ready to take on at this point in his life. The only drawback was finding himself with the responsibility of two young Daamens. Still, it wasn’t such a hardship. They were likeable.
Brothers, they were as different as night from day. Torkra was dark-haired, with a quiet temperament and a quirky sense of humour. Blonde Mikal was feisty, with a zest for life that amused Red no end.
“Aye?” He raised his brows at them.
“Just a question.” Mikal hesitated before asking, “What would you do if those pirates had stolen our cargo?”
“There’s no way they could lift one of our crates.” Red laughed in amusement.
“Well, what if you’d caught them?”
Shaking his head, Red laid his brawny arms on their shoulders and steered them towards the platform lift in the corner. “The things you worry about!”
“We’re not worried,” Torkra stated. “Just curious.”
“Aye. What would you do?” Mikal persisted.
Glancing down at them with twinkling eyes, Red replied, “Give them a sound spanking and send them on their way.”
The younger traders groaned.
Laughing uproariously, Red hit the ascend button, and the platform lift groaned and rattled up to the second floor.
~ * ~
Pushing the top of the crate open, Sonja peered over the edge cautiously. Finding the cargo hold empty of traders, she hauled herself painfully over the edge of the crate and dropped to the floor, landing lithely on her feet.
The laser burn on her back was throbbing, and she knew she needed it seen to fairly soon. But first things first, they had to secure the ship.
Knocking softly on the other crates, she waited while the pirates climbed from their hiding places. Once they were all standing together, she crossed to the empty space left by the platform lift and frowned.
“What the…” Startled, Illona stared at her. “You’ve been hit!”
“Look at the blood.” Jolie paled.
“It’s dried up.” Sonja looked up the shaft to see the bottom of the lift two floors above them. “We’ll tend to it later. Right now, we have to figure out a way to get out of here. The platform is too noisy to bring down. It’ll alert the traders that someone is aboard.”
“Most cargo holds have a staircase, in case of power failure.” Jevena peered around, then spotted a door. “There!”
Crossing over to it, Sonja opened it quietly and looked up the metal staircase. “Right. Let’s go.”
Quietly they ascended the first flight of stairs. Coming to a door, she pressed her ear against it. Silence was the only thing greeting her on the other side. Opening it a fraction, she peered into the lit corridor. A door stood in the side of the corridor not far off. Narrow for a short distance, the corridor then opened out. There was a clear view all the way down to the end, where there was a cabin. No door barred it, so she could see the instrument panel.
“Control cabin,” she whispered back to Brina, who was close behind her. “This time of the night, I don’t expect there’ll be anyone there. But I want you and Elyse to go and check it out. Also the door to the right there.”
Nodding, Brina squeezed past her and out the door. Elyse followed, her brown bob swinging around her face. Sonja watched them move down the corridor. They stopped near the door, and Elyse pressed her ear to it. Stepping back, she turned the knob and pushed it open. Obviously it was empty, for they continued down the corridor until it widened, and Elyse disappeared around the corner. Seconds later she reappeared, and they cautiously approached the control cabin. Peering in, they turned around and waved to Sonja.
Moving quickly, she entered the corridor and went straight to the control cabin. Sitting down in one of the two seats, she studied the panel. Jolie sat down beside her.
“Think you can fly this?” Sonja asked her.
“There’s nothing built that I can’t fly,” Jolie returned. “And this is a fairly simple control panel. I can fly it. Be a useless pilot if I couldn’t.”
“Gee, and to think we still lost our other ship when it was in the pilot’s care,” Donika said. “How did that happen?”
Jolie scowled at her, before returning her attention to Sonja.
“All right. Bring up the plan of the ship,” Sonja directed. When it appeared, she traced it with her finger. “Okay, this floor is the first one. It holds the engine room and a small store. I presume that was the door near the stairwell?”
Brina nodded. “The engine room is why the corridor is so narrow for a stretch. The store is the small door behind it.”
“Excellent. Now, if we go back into the stairwell, we can go up to the second floor, which houses the dining cabin and crews’ sleeping cabins. The third floor holds a solitary cabin, and a laser gun-pit. Going by this, there are eleven sleeping cabins, but I didn’t see more than eight traders, so either there’s three more we haven’t counted, or they’re empty.” She looked around at the women crowded into the control cabin behind her. “I expect the traders to be asleep now. It’s the early hours of the morn. The plan is to lock the cabin doors as we progress down the corridor. Once locked in, there’s not a damn thing they can do. The ship will be ours.”
Grins flashed around the cabin.
“And if someone is awake, sees us and raises the alarm?” Donika quirked one elegant brow.
“If they don’t surrender quietly, then you shoot them.” Sonja replied.
“That could create a bloodbath.”
“It’s them or us, and it for sure isn’t going to be us. Maim them if you have to.” She took a deep breath. “Right, move out.”
Returning to the stairwell, they moved up to the second floor. All was quiet, and they filed into the corridor. The dining cabin was at the end of the corridor, and Sonja started moving quietly towards it, laser in hand, leaving those following to lock the cabin doors.
She was halfway to the dining cabin when she felt the tap on her shoulder. Glancing back, she looked at Brina.
“There’s only locks on two cabin doors so far,” Brina whispered. “None of the other cabins have them.”
Bloody hell. Sonja stared mutely at her for several seconds, then recovered and whispered back, “Did you lock those two?”
“Yes.”
“We keep going to the dining cabin. Once in there, we’ll decide what to do.”
“What if there’s someone in there?”
“Then he better behave himself. If anyone spots us, take him with us to the dining cabin.”
Brina took a deep breath then turned to quietly relay the message to the waiting pirates.
Inwardly shaking her head, Sonja continued forward. Of course the traders wouldn’t have locks on all the cabin doors. There’d be no need for it. This was a trading ship, not a battle ship. Nothing for it now but to keep going.
Nearing the dining cabin, she heard voices. Great. Just great. Halting, she motioned to Brina and the others, and they looked from her to the dining cabin door. As one they slid back against the wall and waited, lasers drawn.
Sidling up to the doorway, Sonja tried to judge the direction from where the deep voices were coming. Carefully, slowly, she moved her head forward until she could see around the door frame.
To the right of the large cabin were two armchairs fastened to the floor. A low table stood between them, a pack of cards spilled haphazardly across the smooth surface. In one armchair a trader sprawled asleep, while another was reading one of the books from the bookshelf. To her left was a counter against the wall, one she recognized as containing food. Before the counter stood a long table, with stools running down either side and at each end. On two of these stools sat two big traders, talking quietly, sipping from mugs of steaming liquid and, going by the small pile of dinnos, playing poker.
Drawing back, she held up four fingers, and her crew nodded. Motioning to Elyse, she indicated where she wanted her to go. Nodding, Elyse stepped out and slid past the other women until she stood in front of Sonja. Peering around the door frame, she judged the right time, then quickly slipped across the open doorway and flattened herself against the wall.
Sonja indicated to Brina, who dropped into a crouch before her. Turning her head, she held her finger to her lips, then jerked up her laser.
The pirates nodded knowingly. They were to follow her quietly and say nothing, but be prepared to fire. The warning glint in her eyes was reminder enough not to cause serious damage, either.
After checking that Elyse was ready, Sonja swung around into the doorway, moving sideways with speed. Brina followed close behind, crouched down to cover the startled occupants of the armchairs. The sleeping trader jerked awake, proving he’d only been dozing.
Elyse swung in the door and to the other side, covering the traders at the table, who’d dropped their cards and had sprung half off their stools.
Illona stood directly behind Brina, her laser going from one side to the other.
“Settle down, boys,” Sonja directed quietly, “And no one is going to get hurt.”

**

copyright Angela Verdenius