Nils knows his department is nicknamed NerdWorks. Pilots like Celene think the closest tech geeks come to combat is all-night Nifalian chess tournaments. But behind the NerdWorks insignia on his sleeve Nils is an able fighter, ready to prove himself and gain Celene's trust.
The desire between them is unexpected, but with the fate of thousands hanging in the balance, the hotshot pilot and the tech genius must succeed in their missionno matter the cost.
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Lieutenant Celene Jur wanted vengeance. And now she was going to get it.
She strode down the corridors of the 8th Wing Base, adrenaline pumping through her body. As she walked, soldiers and pilots hurried out of her paththey knew when the fire gleamed in her eyes, nothing stood in her way. That's how she'd gotten through the grueling Black Wraith training in only sixteen solar months. Only Commander Kell Frayne had ever surpassed her record. He'd completed training in ten solar months, but her old friend was as determined as a siyahwolf on the hunt. Just like her.
Three solar months. It had been three solar months since she had been tricked by a false distress signal. When she had flown to investigate, someone had used a device to temporarily disable her Black Wraith ship. She'd been helpless, powerless. Taken captive. If Kell and Mara Skiren hadn't rescued her from the auction block, she'd be someone's pleasure slave now, and her ship torn apart, its secrets sold to PRAXIS.
By the Ten Hells, the person responsible would pay.
Striding into the mess hall, she surveyed the rows and rows of crowded tables. Normally she enjoyed the sound of hundreds of 8th Wing servicemen and servicewomen sharing a meal. Laughter and banter was a necessary counterpart to the life-or-death battles they faced every day. Today, the sound was simply noise. A few people saw her standing at the entrance and waved, but she kept scanning faces until she saw the two she wanted. She walked quickly through the mess, her heart pounding.
Kell and Mara sat at a table, and though there were others sitting nearby, they were deep in a private conversation. Usually Celene left them alone when Kell and Mara looked at each other like that, like they were the only two people in the universe. And they looked at each other that way often. But today, nothing could distract her from her purpose. Not even love.
She braced her hands on the edge of their table. It surprised her that the table didn't shake with the amount of energy she exuded.
"We got the bastard."
"Yes, I'd love a refill of kahve, thanks." Kell smiled up at her. Since Mara had joined the 8th Wing, Kell smiled more than Celene had ever seen him smile before. When he saw Celene's face now, though, his smile faded. "The bastard?"
"The one who made the disabling device." She tried to sit, but couldn't relax enough, so she remained standing. "Command says they have a lead, and I'm going to follow it."
"I'd like to use that fuck's head for target practice." Mara might be 8th Wing now, and far along in her training to become a Black Wraith pilot, but she still had the heartand languageof a scavenger.
"You can't," said Celene. "Because when I find him, I'm going to cut off his face and decorate the cockpit of my ship with it."
"What's the intel?" Kell demanded.
"Don't know yet. Got a meeting at 13:00 to talk details." Celene checked her chronometer. "That's in ten minutes."
In unison, Kell and Mara stood, wearing equally determined expressions. "We'll go with you." Mara swallowed the last of her kahve and slammed her mug on the table.
"I'd like you to," Celene answered, "but if you've got something else scheduled..."
The fierce look on Kell's face showed why he was one of the most decorated pilots in the 8th Wing. He fought hard, and with deadly intent. At the controls of his Black Wraith, or even when he trained in hand-to-hand in the combat simulatorthere wasn't a more merciless fighter.