Heart of a Traitor

( 1 )

Overview

Disgraced ex-sniper Oriel finds herself falling for her rescuer, the dangerously handsome Daamen trader, Jase.

But no one is as they seem, a dark plot draws her ever inward, the law is closing in - and she's neck deep in treason.

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Heart of a Traitor

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Overview

Disgraced ex-sniper Oriel finds herself falling for her rescuer, the dangerously handsome Daamen trader, Jase.

But no one is as they seem, a dark plot draws her ever inward, the law is closing in - and she's neck deep in treason.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781291667806
  • Publisher: Lulu.com
  • Publication date: 12/12/2013
  • Pages: 414
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

I live in Australia, where I am happily ruled by my cats. When not working as a nurse, or procrastinating and sneaking peeks at books, I can usually be found at my trusty computer…procrastinating by playing on the internet…
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Read an Excerpt

They led her from the room. Out on the sidewalk, she saw a squad of four soldiers waiting to escort her to her punishment. The heavy beat of music from a tavern sounded in the background, and dimly she thought it was almost fitting, setting the atmosphere for what was to come.

Her gaze swept over the squad waiting for her, and she saw a myriad of expressions hastily hidden behind their stoic expressions. Sadness, horror, disbelief, anger. Anger at her, anger at what was going to be done. Her gaze lifted, and she saw the rest of her squad standing silently to attention on the left, slightly apart from the gawking crowd that had gathered in the street, lining it on each side, all straining to get a look at the punishment of a traitor. Her squad mates kept their gazes expressionless. She was grateful that Freeman, Yatla and Marly weren't there. She didn't care where they were, as long as they weren't there to witness her disgrace.

But it was the iron bucket with the coals smoldering red inside that made her gut clench in fear. The handle of the branding iron stood upright in it. Beside the bucket stood a soldier, back ramrod stiff, his profile hard and unreadable. Behind him rose the structure for the continuance of her punishment.

But she was a soldier. Fear might rule her insides, but she refused to give the settlers, or anyone else, the chance to see her fear. She'd done what she had for a reason, knowing that if she was caught there would be no mercy. There was no way her pride would allow her to scream, to plead, to beg. No, she'd chosen the moment when she'd made her mind up to help Reema, to help him for the sake of another. Now she was going to pay for herdecision.

The four soldiers fell in behind her and she was led forward.

The settlers buzzed with curiosity, their excited murmuring filling the air. It wasn't that they cared that the outlaw had escaped--who the hell gave a damn about that?--but that a soldier was going to be punished for it--that drew their morbid curiosity, their thirst for blood shed.

Oriel was brought to a standstill before the bucket. Clenching her jaw, she refused to look into the bucket of red-hot coals. Instead, she unfocused her eyes and stared into the distance, not looking at anyone.

"You have all heard that one of our soldiers was caught aiding an outlaw to escape, an outlaw we'd spent time hunting!" Captain Beuafra's voice boomed out.

The settlers immediately fell silent, a hushed expectancy filling the air.

"The death penalty is for traitors. The death penalty by hanging--or by survival!"

A shocked hush filled the town square. Then someone cheered, and it was quickly followed by several more, and someone else laughed.

"Survival has been chosen for this soldier ... if she can survive!"

Oriel couldn't stop the blood from draining from her face, even as she heard the snapped out order for silence. The settlers fell silent once more, but now she felt the eagerness of those eager to see punishment carried out ... and to carry out their own. They would be watching, she Jase led her into a spare cabin halfway Jase led her into a spare cabin halfway hovering for their meat.

The interest was sharper now, not just mere curiosity, and it chilled her to her bones, more than anything she'd ever known. On several faces she saw puzzlement, and knew that some didn't know. But the lust and cruelty on others spoke volumes.

Oh, my God, let me survive. Let me survive this, and what is to come.

Hands on her shoulders pushed her to her knees on the ground. The soldier before her bent and laid his heavily gloved hand on the branding iron.

"A soldier was this woman, one of our best." Captain Beuafra's words came out heavily, emotionless, cold. He didn't yell, but his words rang out clear in the morning hush. "A traitor she became. A traitor she will be known as by all who see her from this day forward."

* * * *

"Oh, hell, are we too late?" Simon came out of the office, scowling. "I don't want to see this."

"Let's go," Aamun said.

In silent agreement they all straightened, only to be stopped by the bartender, who gave a loud whistle of surprise, and said to his neighbour, "I know that soldier! She's the one who was in the tavern last night. Fancy the traitor being her!"

The words stopped Jase cold. He swung around, his gaze sweeping across to the Enforcement Building, and what he saw made him catch his breath.

It was the fair-haired soldier, Oriel. Arms behind her back, she was being led across to the strange contraption. When she was stopped before an iron bucket, he felt his blood run cold.

"Oh, shit," Shamon muttered.

"Bloody hell." Borga looked at Jase grimly.

"There's nothing we can do," Simon stated softly. "'Tis a martial law."

"What are they going to do to her?" Torkra asked.

"I'm not sure."

Jase watched as she was forced to her knees, then he heard the damning words. Horror struck him as he saw one of the soldiers entangle one hand in her hair and grab her chin with the other, holding her head still. Realization hit him when he saw another soldier draw forth a branding iron from the iron bucket, but before he could say anything, the red hot metal was pressed against her cheek.

"Oh, stars!" Mikal blanched.

The gorge rose in Jase's throat as he watched. Without thought he stepped forward, only to have Simon and Borga grab his arms.

"Don't," Simon whispered fiercely.

"Goddamn it--" he began.

"'Tis martial law, Jase. There's nothing anyone can do."

"Twas true, there wasn't a thing a civilian could do against military punishment. Jase knew it. All the traders knew it. It could become bloody for them to even try to interfere. And it was against the law of the Intergalactic Peace Ship. The military dealt with their own kind, in their own way.

Jase's fists clenched, nails biting into his palms as he saw the silent agony on her face. The pain made her rise upon her knees, teeth clenched against the scream that everyone knew she held back. The soldiers forced her back down, holding her still.

The branding took seconds, but it felt like minutes. Jase found himself clenching his own teeth, grinding them against the almost overwhelming impulse to storm forward, grab the disgraced soldier, and take her to safety.

"Easy," Simon said softly.

They watched in silence as the soldier withdrew the branding iron. Even from where they stood, the traders could see the raw, blistering T that was burnt onto Oriel's cheek.

* * * *
Three

The pain was like a fire burning through her skin, and she wondered in near hysteria if the brand had gone right through the flesh and out the other side. Her teeth were clenched so hard to stop the screams from breaking loose, that her jaw ached. But that ache was lost in the fiery burn of her cheek.

The soldier who'd branded her wiped something across her cheek, and she flinched, expecting it to be salt, to bite as it mockingly healed. Instead, she felt something soothing, and dimly she realized that someone had slipped some healing medicine into the biting concoction.

There was a glimmer of sympathy in the soldier's eyes as he stepped back. Before she could say anything, she was jerked upright and led to the posts. The handcuffs were unlocked, and her arms raised and fastened to the bar that was nailed between the posts. Her legs were spread apart, ankles tied securely to the posts. Her surcoat was cut from her, to drop in the dirt between her outspread feet.

She knew what was coming. Knew it before she even heard the crack of the whip being unfurled.

Staring straight ahead, she held her breath. Her squad sergeant stepped in front of her, and in his hand he held a gag. Slipping the material between her lips, he leaned forward and tied it securely at the back of her head.

In her ear he whispered, "I'm so sorry, Oriel. Be strong. Where there is life, there is hope."

He didn't meet her eyes as he stepped back and then to the side.

The gag was to smother her screams, she knew. Smother any little sound she made, making it a little easier for her to cry out if she wanted. No one would hear her if they continued to cheer as they had when she'd been branded.

Her gaze swept unwillingly over the crowd, caught on something, and swung back. She found herself looking into a face as ashen as she knew her own to be. The square jaw was clenched tight, the firm lips pressed together. Blue eyes blazed with anger and sympathy.

It was the Daamen trader, Jase. Around him were the other traders, and they all had the same expression on their faces. A mixture of helpless anger and sympathy. But it was Jase's gaze that held her own, that locked with hers over the distance of the dusty street.

It was almost as though he held her captive, willing her to look at him.

She heard a ripping sound, and felt a cool rush of air on her back. The sides of her shirt and support garment were pulled forward and fastened cleverly enough that it didn't fall open and bare her breasts for all to see. A sardonic part of her mind appreciated the irony of it. The shame of a branding and whipping, but let's not bare our soldier's femininity to onlookers. It's not done.

But her back was bare. Bare to the bite of the whip.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fascinating romantic science fiction

    Military sniper Oriel is on a mission with her unit of the Canton Guard to capture or kill the outlaws. Though a superior soldier working her way up the ranks and well prepared for this assignment, which succeeds with precision, Oriel is stunned when she notices her brother Reema is one of the captured outlaws. Oriel knows he will die after a short trial so she tries free him, but that leads to her marked as a traitor with the proof carved into her cheek and her career in ruins with both sides scorning her. --- Oriel escapes from the military for her act of family fealty and is rescued from potential rape by the outlaws thanks to the Daamen trader Jase and his crew. He provides her a haven to heal from the whipping, which she begins to recuperate from, but the mental beating especially the end of her life goal and her sibling deserting her leave her emotionally shattered. Jase continues to protect the former soldier whom he is falling in love with, but goes slow as he knows her heart and soul remains tattered. --- This is a terrific entry in the fascinating romantic science fiction The Heart and Soul series because of the lead couple whose relationship evolves over the course of the strong story line as they get to know one another. Jase is patient with his beloved while proving loyal and offering friendship though he wants much more. Oriel is the more fascinating protagonist as she recovers physically but tortures herself mentally over how Reema left her behind to face the punishment though she saved his life and the end of her military career. Angela Verdenius provides another heart winning tale. --- Harriet Klausner

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