Mya will do anything to convince him to become her hero, even if that means becoming the one thing he can’t resist…..
Mya is having a crap day.
Princess Mya Centauri is stranded and alone on the shady Bates Space Station. With rumors of her father’s dethronement escalating, she needs more than her wits and entitlement to protect her—she needs a hero. So when she unexpectedly finds herself mistaken for some whore by Centauri’s most notorious assassin, and at one time her father’s most trusted man, she decides things can only get worse.
Jax is having a crap decade.
Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Captain Jax Rouss, an ex-Royal Guard, is now an escaped prisoner with a price on his head. Embittered after years of trying to clear his name, Jax wants nothing whatsoever to do with the family he once swore to protect. So when he wakes up to find that the sweet, smelling patron-pleaser he’s purchased is not only lovely, but already in his bed, he decides things can only get better.
But with lives at stake and kingdoms in jeopardy, Mya will do anything to convince the one man who hates the Royal family above all else to become her hero, even if it means being the one thing he can’t resist…The Space Captain’s Courtesan.
Captain Jax Rouss hated being cold. But being cold and naked was even worse.
“Welcome to the Bates Space Station, unidentified male visitor,” said a computerized, female-gendered voice through the speakers inside his stasis capsule. “Please remain calm during the re-stabilization process.”
The shakes racking his body were hard to control as the blood rushed to his frozen extremities, sending pinpricks of heat down his arms and legs.
Jupiter’s balls, this bites donkey’s ass.
Jax gritted his teeth. The worst was yet to come. Deep stasis was a technological advancement that allowed a person to travel twenty light years in a matter of only two human years to the less inhabited Centauri Outer Planets, but the side effects sucked.
“Please remain calm as your stasis capsule pressurizes and opens,” droned the automated voice.
A hiss of warm air blasted inside his capsule. Chills and icy sweat broke out over his skin. The prickling sensation became a slow burn as he flexed his fingers and toes to get the blood pumping and help speed up the re-stabilization process. Of course, speeding things up brought on the nausea faster.
The iced-over plastic cover opened with a swish of compressed air, and just in time. He rolled to his side and lost whatever contents had been in his belly for the last two years. Mostly stasis fluid and stomach acid.
“Ah hell, man. At least aim for the pail. You’re acting like you’ve never done this before,” said a man somewhere outside Jax’s peripheral vision of the bucket and cement floor.
Jax lay back, grateful for the folded clothes the attendant had plopped down on his chest. He shifted the clothing lower to cover his man-junk, still cognizant enough to know being cold was never good for the ego.
Oh, he’d done this before; three different times, to be exact. Way more than enough to know re-stabilizing sucked, but really, there was no way around it. Well, no way around the processes at the outer-lying Bates Space Station. At the Ritz Space Station a person would wake up in a fluffy white robe, IVs dripping in mega amounts of B12 vitamins and anti-nausea meds, along with a special “relaxer” that made coming out of stasis feel the same as waking from a really good night’s sleep.
Yeah, no such treatment at the good old BSS. But the BSS did have its advantages. The station didn’t check micro-identification or report to the Interspace Travel Database. If you had enough galaxy credits and kept your head down, then a man with a record—or without one—could get along just fine.
Jax coughed and tried to get his lungs used to breathing real air instead of stale manufactured oxygen. Of course, the BSS had manufactured air, but here the smell of bleach, rot, and ripe old men made a person feel like they were alive and not in some plastic, hyper-allergenic, de-sensitized coffin.
He groaned, struggled to a sitting position, and swung his legs around, letting his feet touch the first solid ground in two years. When the gray bowed walls of the station stopped spinning, he tried wrestling into his pants. It took three attempts and four more visits to the bucket on the floor, but he finally got himself half dressed.
Jax looked around. Though it had been awhile since his first departure, not much had changed: gray floor and walls, steel rolling doors where the capsules would load after the self-guided ships were docked, a half-a-dozen attendants checking on the numerous guests in various stages of re-stabilization. All in all, typical outer-lying space station. The BSS never had much to promote, and even with the new vertical, orange-striped lighting, the place was still a dump.
Two men who staffed the port were in the official gray, sweat-ringed uniforms and footed booties. One stood by Jax’s side with a slim tablet in his hands and the name “Locke” on his name badge. The other was busy typing into a computer at a nearby console. They both looked as if they’d taken the water rationing protocol Omega Interpol had put into place seriously, and hadn’t bathed since before the first human colony left earth twenty years ago.
A small, furry rodent with sharp teeth buzzed by his head. Even groggy, Jax backhanded the flying rat into the adjacent wall.
“It’s hard to catch the flying ones when the cats still don’t have wings,” said the man sitting behind the computer screen, not even looking up at the sound of the splat behind his head. “Mutation seems to be getting the last laugh by affecting the evolution chain from the bottom up.”
Yeah, rats and cockroaches, the only ones guaranteed to survive the end of the world.
“Name and ID number?” asked Locke, whose hair seemed to wither under the florescent lighting.
It spoke to how discombobulated Jax was that he almost barked out his real name and number. He wasn’t Captain Jax Rouss anymore—the title had been stripped from him over ten years ago—but that still didn’t mean his bitterness had lessened any. “Last name Koff. ID number 00415.”
The pair of beady eyes peered out from over the tablet. “There seems to be a glitch in the system. Are you sure that’s the correct name and number?”
No. Jax had lived under so many different names and identities that it was hard to keep track. After over ten years on the run, details of his stories had started to run together. Jax spent quite a few years on the Outer Planets where there was significantly less security than here inside the Omega Galaxy. He had to remember there was a price on his head as long as the Prince Regent held any power, something he couldn’t afford to forget.
But still, with only two hours before the after-effects of deep stasis really took effect, he didn’t have time for the sly bid for a bribe from some BSS lifer who wouldn’t know his dick from a galaxy dog on a bun.
“Put a hundred galaxy credits on my tab for your trouble. I am sure the documentation can get worked out somehow,” he growled, starting to feel the beginnings of hunger pains that, if weren’t taken care of, could bring a grown man to his knees.
To Locke’s credit he didn’t even blink at the hefty bribe. Maybe he’d take some of the money and use it on a shower.
The other attendant came over and grabbed Jax’s thumb and rolled his print onto the scanner. The man paused long enough to make sure he got a good image, than tapped the screen with his stylus and moved back behind the console.
“Date of birth is the second month of year 3010,” Locke said.
At least that much was true, and Jax was starting to feel every one of those years.
“But you’ve been through…” Locke did a low whistle and gave Jax his first prolonged eye contact since docking at the station, “three rounds of stasis, so you’ve lost quite a few years.”
Jax’s body might be going through a mild case of tremors, and his head was getting that disoriented drunk feeling, but he didn’t need a lifer calculating how old Jax was now. Every time a person underwent stasis their body stopped all processes, including aging. So even though chronologically he was thirty-six-years, his real age was closer to thirty. “I need my bags from my ship, a room, and a post-meal. How long did I pre-pay for?”
It had been ten years since he’d left BSS, and all the space stations and re-stabilizations were starting to run together.
Jax nodded. Stasis was no joke. The brain didn’t know it had been asleep for two years, thus had no need for the basic things of life. During deep stasis, a computer regulated everything a person needed to survive: breathing, blood flow, a bare minimum of life support. But the brain didn’t like to be tricked. Once out of stasis, the brain knew it hadn’t dreamt, eaten, or had sex in years, and the body was determined to make up for lost time.
It took three days to stabilize, to feel human again. And maybe, in his case, to be able to think clearly again. Even at the Ritz Space Station they couldn’t speed up the process, they just made it way more enjoyable.
If someone had to, absolutely had to, twenty-four hours was the bare minimum the human body could function before going back into flight. But twenty-four hours between flights was almost unheard of, and just too damn painful. Jax was in no hurry. He planned on spending the entire three days eating, sleeping, and… “Did I pre-credit for anything else?”
At that moment, realizing the reason Locke’s hair seemed to ripple was because space lice were jumping around, he had no desire to touch a BSS whore. But he knew he’d be changing his mind soon enough. After a few hours of sleep and some hours of wicked dreaming, he’d be hornier than a pilfering raider after months in space.
Locke scrolled through with his thin stylist pen. “Yeah, looks like you paid for a courtesan. Did you want full body decontamination?”
Jax looked at Locke digging at his scalp with long, black-rimmed fingernails. Jax scooted back, cautious. His hair had grown out during stasis and space lice was a tough kill. He nodded. “How much?”
“Five hundred credits.”
“Five hundred!” He would’ve shot to his feet if the room hadn’t still been spinning. Five hundred had been his monthly salary when he’d first started out in the Centauri Royal Guard.
Locke scratched under his arm pit, eyes never leaving his tablet. “Inflation.”
Jax groaned. “Jupiter’s balls, she better screw like Helen of Troy with her spacesuit on fire for that price.”
Locke’s expression didn’t change.
“Fine, I’m good for it.” Jax stood and the space station spun in a whirl of colors.
“Hey, careful. You fall and bust your head and you’re screwed. We don’t have a medic here.”
Jax steadied himself. Of course, why would Bates have a medic?
“Your thumb print will unlock your door. Pod number is 204,” Lock said. “You have full meals for three days. Make sure you vacate after that. If you don’t, we have security that will help you leave.”
Yeah, he knew all about security on the outer-lying space stations—freaking bullies with clubs. He just needed to make it to his bed, get some rest, food, and have a good lay. Everything else could be figured out later.
Mya pulled her loose fitting hoody lower over her eyes as she walked past a group of men loitering in the hallway.
“Hey, watch it, boy,” said a bald headed man, pushing her as she walked by.
Mya didn’t look up, just stuffed her hands deeper into her pockets, and shuffled by. No use making eye contact. There were bullies throughout the Bates Space station. Her best protection was invisibility.
She quickly turned down a corridor of rooms to get out of their sight. She’d been here too long; her permanent residence was starting to be noticed. In a place meant for transitional purposes only, her presence for over two weeks was odd in itself. Not to mention why a young boy would linger in a place known for criminals and drifters without any protection.
Mya ran her thumb with its special adhesive key-print across one of the door sensors. The Im-O-Print was a version of a master key; it could open most moderate security doors. One of the more practical things Aunt Nana had taken with them before they left. Mya had quite a bit of success getting in and out of pods throughout the station. She couldn’t secure a room on her own, but it didn’t take long to realize that most of the pods were occupied with guests recovering from stasis. At first Mya would sneak in, heart pounding, tranq in her hand, ready to snatch the waiting post-meal and run back out. But soon she realized nothing except catching fire would wake the men, and locked in a room with an unconscious body, free food, and prime-time media was the safest place to be. No reason not to camp out and eat post-stasis meals while she tried to secure passage on the next Centauri bound flight.
The screen on the door glowed red indicating denied access. The Im-o-Print was starting to wear, and the locks were opening less and less. Before, she’d always been careful to keep track of when the pods were occupied and unoccupied. There was always a slight chance a man could be awake in the first few hours of getting to his room, but that was easy enough to determine as watching the clock.
Now though, with fewer and fewer doors opening, her options were wearing thin. She went to the next thumb panel—red. Then the next. She made her way down one side and was ready to start back up on the other when a scan-panel glowed green—gotcha!
She cracked open the door and slipped in. The room was dim—they always were. There was a post-meal on a cart in the corner, cover still on, stemware still wrapped in plastic. Mya checked out the bed and smiled. There was a rather large mound huddled under the covers, and once her racing heart quieted in her ears, she could hear the sound of heavy breathing. Jackpot!
She took off her hoody, the rooms were always warm since stasis dropped body temperature, and walked over to the tray hoping for French toast. No such luck—meatloaf. She sighed, broke off a hunk, dunked it in ketchup, and popped it into her mouth. Still chewing, she walked over to the bags in the corner. She squatted down and started rummaging through the contents: Clean underwear—leave, sound tazer—pocket, brand-new oral-sanitizer—pocket, worn old paperback—what? Who carried around paperback books anymore? They were a waste of precious resources and space. Mya flipped through the brown, worn pages and quickly realized it wasn’t a novel, but a journal.
Handwritten scribble occupied page after page, front and back, almost filling the entire journal. In the dim light, she tried to make out the words, but couldn’t. Her education in foreign languages was extensive. To date, she could speak twelve different languages and dialects and read and write in seven, but nothing scribbled on those pages looked familiar. A written code then?
She glanced back at the lump buried under the blankets and readjusted her opinion of the unconscious man. No one hand-wrote anything anymore; no need, since all tablets had diction capabilities. There was only one reason someone would spend the time to scribble note after note; he was hiding something. Today, even with high tech firewalls, anything electronic was subject to hacking. No way could an old-fashioned journal be hacked.
Mya carefully put the book back in his bag. She only took stuff that she needed or could trade for credits, and then only stuff that wouldn’t be easily missed. She had a feeling this man would quickly miss his journal.
She shrugged. What did she care? Everyone here was hiding something—a past, a crime. She was hiding as well.
“It’s time, Mya. Your father has called you home.” The memory of Aunt Nana’s voice brought back the night they had both fled the desert home she’d been sequestered in for the last ten years. “We’ll travel as a daughter taking her sick mother to the Capital for treatment. We must be careful. Trust no one. Suspect everyone. But have comfort, child. I’ll be there every step of the way, and we’ll find a man loyal to your father who will take us to the Capital. We’ll be safe there.”
Her shoulders slumped as the grief over Aunt Nana and the fatigue of running, hiding, and trying to stay alive wore on her. She hadn’t been trained for this. Her education was in the proper greeting of neighboring dignitaries and the best tactical movements in seating charts. She got up and made her way over to the corner of the bed, her heart heavy in her chest.
Nostalgia for the past pressed down on her. Her childhood had been filled with servants, parties, special tutors, and a doting father. Such was the life of being her father’s favored princess. It had been a given that Prince Sar would take over as king and her life would take the course of her older sisters: a royal wedding at the age of twenty-five, a few children. But then, ten years ago, after the attempted assignation on her father’s life, everything changed. Her father grew paranoid, and in between hushed meetings behind closed doors and an ever present guard at her side, she was whisked off to Planet Saba where her only companions had been her Aunt Nana and a small army of loyal guards.
Except Nana didn’t stay with her every step of the way. After a two week flight to the BSS, Nana went to bed early and never woke up. She’d passed peacefully in her sleep, but after Mya’s initial shock, it didn’t take her long to realize she was all alone with no one to trust and very little money to spare. Soon Mya found herself wandering the Bates Space Station, breaking into pods to secure food and a safe place to sleep.
She was Princess Mya Centauri, daughter of the Omega Centauri, blood relation of the Centauri ruling class. Yes, all that was true, but even a Centauri could get tired. Even a princess needed a place to lay her head. Mya looked down at the soft, white pillow and then at the rather large huddled lump to her side. Maybe she could rest for a moment, close her eyes just for a few. Once rested, she’d be able to make a plan, leave the BSS, and find a way back home. Back into the loving arms of her father.
Yeah, no big deal, she sighed as she laid her head on the pillow and closed her eyes, her body relaxing into the mattress. And she might as well add finding a solution to the inter-galactic space travel-time conundrum while she was at it.