Seducing Stag Page 7

“Shit,” Hellion murmured.

It was eerie quiet when the engines were shut down. Stag kept life support on but at a minimum. “We wait. In seventy-two hours, we’ll reverse course. I want two of you visually scanning for any lights. The Markus Models will have to rely on visuals too and might amplify their exterior lights, hoping to spot us.” He tapped out a new schedule, sending it to their pads. “Rest as much as possible to slow your breathing.”

“Why did you lower life support?”

Kelis answered Hellion’s question first. “In case we can’t find our way out. We’ll use less fuel repowering our systems and survive longer in case we’re stuck out here.”

Stag leaned back in his chair and slowed his breathing, measuring each one. He also accessed lighting inside the ship, dimming it to draw less power. “We’ll get out of this.”

He hoped he hadn’t just lied to his crew.

 

 

Chapter Three

 


Nala made the bed and glanced around the room. The lights were so low it was difficult to see much. Stag was a mega asshole for making it as tough as possible to clean his quarters, but she’d done it.

Her stomach grumbled. He’d wanted to motivate her to do his bidding, and he had. She’d been abandoned in his room for what she guessed was a good seventeen hours now. The only reason she had access to water was the cleansing unit sink.

“What a dick,” she muttered.

She took a seat on the floor in case Stag was anything like her father. Manny Vestria had hated creases on his bedding. He’d spent twenty years in the military, before he’d retired and taken a job with her on her transport shuttle.

She drew her knees up and hugged them. Her father and the Pride were gone.

The freighter had been her baby. She’d sold everything after her grandfather’s death and bought it at an auction. Some smuggler had been caught by Earth Government and his loss had become her gain. She’d hired men her dad had trusted, ex-military buddies of his, and she’d built her reputation as being honest and dependable. At first she’d landed a few jobs hauling supplies to colonies, but then she’d hit the jackpot by being given a contract to deliver sex bots.

Now she had nothing. Tears filled her eyes but she blinked them back. It was done. There was no changing the past. She’d learned that lesson from a young age. She’d been the daughter of a military officer who’d spent more time in space than on Earth. Her mother had died when she’d been eight, her grandmother four years later. Then her grandfather, when she’d been nineteen and just learning the import business he had built.

Earth Government had come in and said they were taking over the business, using the excuse that she wasn’t qualified. There’d been nothing left on Earth for her at that point. She’d sold the house, emptied her grandfather’s credit accounts, and bought her freighter. EG couldn’t steal from her again if she wasn’t living on the planet.

The door opened and she lifted her chin. Stag entered then sealed them inside. He held a covered tray. “Food.”

She rose up and was tempted to hit him with the damn thing but hunger couldn’t be denied. It might feel good to shove whatever he’d bought all over his nice, neat uniform but in the long run, she’d be the one to suffer for her show of defiance. He might wait another seventeen hours to feed her.

“Thank you.” She accepted the tray and returned to her spot on the floor.

“You may sit on the bed.”

“It’s been made with clean sheets and blankets. I even fluffed your pillows.” She hoped he’d smother on them. “I don’t want to mess it up again.”

He took a seat on the bed and she could feel him watching her, but she focused on the tray, lifting the lid. The smell hit her instantly and her body reacted to the delicious aroma. She grabbed a fork and dug into what passed for meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

“I apologize for the wait. I didn’t mean to stay on shift that long.”

She wasn’t buying his excuse but decided to not call him on it. For now, she was a prisoner, and she’d play his little control-freak game. She had no choice.

“Is this the silent treatment?”

She swallowed and stared up at him. “This is the ‘I’m so hungry I’m eating this as fast as possible before you decide to take it away’ treatment.”

“Eat slower. I won’t take it from you. The Markus Models were returning to your ship. We entered a dead zone to avoid them finding us.”

Her hand froze, the fork inches from her mouth. “You what?”

“I didn’t want to leave Control until I was certain we wouldn’t be found. We’ve seen no sign of them. They weren’t able to follow our trail inside.”

“We’re in the Pitch?”

“I’m not familiar with that term.”

“The Pitch. It’s what they call that black hole or dead zone, whatever. Every captain in this sector knows to avoid it. Didn’t your sensors read the warning markers put up along the border? That would be an alert transmitted to your computer to not to go beyond that point or dire shit happens.”

“I wasn’t aware it had been named.”

She put the fork down and took a drink from the cup he’d brought. The liquid tasted like red wine. It surprised her that cyborgs had some, but she didn’t comment on it. It was usually a drink reserved for important celebrations. “You’re crazy. Do you know how many ships have entered the Pitch and never been heard from again?”

“Four.”

“Oh, it’s way higher than that.”

“The marker warning stated four.”

“It hasn’t been updated in forever then. They lost two ships just last year. Probably three the one before that. The first time I traveled out this way, a colony-seeking ship thought it would be fun times to see what might be on the other side of it. There were a hundred and nineteen souls aboard, and that was six years ago. They were never heard from again. I was told they sent in rescue ships searching for it. Over twenty went in, and they spaced them apart but close enough to keep in sight of each other, and still managed to lose six when they drifted in too far. You crazy bastard.”

He frowned. “We had no choice.”

“Run. How about that? You burn thrusters until they give up chasing you.”

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