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Her only hope was escape. The chill of the shuttle and the loud pounding in her ears made her body quake, but Jewel squelched the shivers.
She ran a hand through her son's soft blond hair as he stood beside her, bouncing and eager for the hatch to open. They waited in the small docking area of the Geanus shuttlecraft. The same craft she'd stolen from her husband, Kalon, days before. To steady her shaking hand, she gripped Jared's shoulder in a light squeeze.
“Will there be pirates?” Eyes twinkling up at her, Jared grinned, full of adventure.
“No, sweet one. Remember, we're on holiday. Everything's perfectly safe.”
The door swung open with a shlurp and all hope of safety fled. Tears stung her eyes as she hitched up her chin and stared at her husband's two goons filling the doorway and blocking their escape. They'd almost made it. Almost.
Behind the beefy men who glared at her, phasers in handno doubt the choice of weapon to avoid hurting Jaredthe station docks filled with people going about their business. None of them would stop, or even hesitate, if she screamed for help. She swallowed the urge and forced her trembling lips into a pasted-on smile at the tallest one, who wore leather and a menacing smile. She'd forgotten his name, if she ever knew it.
“Why, boys, are you here to accompany us to the circus? Jared's excited. He's never been to the circus before.”
The guard's scowl turned to confusion. “Circus?”
Spinning on her heel, she scooped Jared into her arms and sprinted through the cabin of the shuttle.
“Hey.” One of the guards sputtered. Clamoring and cursing erupted behind them.
The two goons right behind them, she stumbled into the cockpit, turning to take the brunt of the fall. A sharp pain throbbed in her hip. Still on the floor beneath Jared, she stretched her leg and hit the door pad with her foot.
The hatch slid closed on the curses of the tall one.
Her speech caught as she sucked in air, too winded to reassure Jared who clutched at her, ruining the expensive weave of her shirtpicked and paid for by Kalon. She'd never liked the thing anyway.
The pounding on the door was muffled from the reinforced airtight seal. Good. The guards were locked out. Or she and Jared were locked in this tiny cockpit. Jared scrambled off her, and she pulled herself up using the foldout table where she'd spent the journey teaching Jared how to play cards. Their game had scattered on the floor.
Jared stared at the closed portal. “Why'd we close the door on Ben? He'd like the circus, too.”
Leave it to Kalon to send Jared's favorite guard. Her husband might not make the effort to understand his wife, but he apparently got full reports of Jared's likes and dislikes. “I'm sure he'd enjoy the circus, baby.”
“I'm four. Not a baby.”
“No. You're a big boy. Brave.” What was she going to do? All of this was for Jared. All of it.
A light blinked on the console. A message waited, probably from Kalon. She wouldn't check it. There was nothing he could say that would make anything right.
“Strap in, moonbeam. I'll show you the docking controls before we go.”
“Really?” His eyes widened and all his teeth showed in his big grin.
After he sat, legs dangling, she checked his harness and slammed her body into the pilot seat, her hip protesting. She missed the buckle twice. Finally, she clicked in and punched the controls with shaking fingers.