Stargazers 1: Wanton by Anne Kane

Stargazers Collection by Anne Kane

Stargazers (Collection)

by Anne Kane

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 06229-02001

Descended from the witches of old Earth, Stargazers have the ability to control the lines of psychic energy that join the planets and other heavenly bodies. They use their talents to bend the energy to their own use, much the same as the druids of Earth used to harness the ley lines. They can power space ships, run machinery on far away planets and detect people’s presences from great distances. Highly sought after, both by legitimate sources who want to hire them and by pirates who enslave and sell them, they are constantly on guard.

In this collection, five stargazers defy the odds and find love and adventure as they travel across the galaxy.

This collection contains the previously released Stargazer novellas Wanton, Willful, Wild, Wayward and Star Haven: Sinful.

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Chapter One

Tarik watched the young woman pacing the cargo bay of his ship. Tall and willowy, she stalked the width of the cell with angry strides of long, slim legs. A short, fitted tunic did little to hide her shapely figure, and he felt a spark of heat ignite in his gut despite his mistrust of her kind. Wisps of wavy, chestnut hair escaped from the single braid that hung to her waist, and her green eyes sparkled with rage.
He felt the corner of his mouth tilt upward as she aimed a kick at the wall. He’d bet if he could hear what she was muttering, it wouldn’t be very ladylike. Of course, she wasn’t really a lady. Krystal de Mylar was a Stargazer, one of the few who hadn’t yet sold her talents to the Intergalactic Council. Probably holding out for a better deal, he thought cynically.
The lack of military security surrounding her had made her an ideal target when he realized he needed to acquire one of the accursed witches in order to rescue his brother. Tarik’s renegade status made it impossible to post a job proposal with the Stargazers’ Guild, so he’d simply used his resources to plan and execute the perfect kidnapping. Unfortunately, none of his cybernetic enhancements would help him explain to the infuriated redhead why he’d spirited her away from her home without her consent.
The woman stopped pacing and pivoted to face the hovering droid, her eyes narrowed so that the green irises sparkled like gems. She’d obviously realized someone was monitoring her. A flicker of heat ran up his spine as she stood still, legs spread and hands on hips. Her mouth moved, and his attention dropped to her full, luscious lips as they moved slowly in exaggerated speech.
You are going to regret this.
It wasn’t hard to read her lips. Or the threat in her eyes. He sure hoped she didn’t know how to wrap the interplanetary energy lines around his neck.
“Not exactly what I’d expected.” He turned to address his second-in-command. “I pictured someone older, and tougher.”
Ryan grinned. “And a little less mouthwateringly attractive? Might have made it easier to deal with her. Do you want me to go in first and soften her up a bit? Your reputation with the ladies doesn’t bode well for gaining her co-operation.”
Tarik sighed. They’d managed to spirit Krystal out from under the noses of her parents and her bodyguards without a problem, but they needed her to co-operate if they hoped to accomplish their mission.
Stargazers could sense the energy lines that connected the stars and planets. They had the ability to grasp those lines and harness the energy for their own use. If she agreed to help them rescue his brother Cynn, all they’d need to do was narrow down his location and the witch could use the energy lines to get them in and out of Intergalactic space undetected by the patrolling warships. He didn’t understand how the Stargazers accomplished it, but the results were irrefutable, which explained why the unscrupulous bastards running the Intergalactic Council made a point of hiring as many of the witches as possible.
Before his parents were murdered by the Council, they’d likened the Stargazers’ abilities to the witches of Old Earth, who used the planet’s ley lines to feed their magic. They’d been baffled though, by the Stargazers’ tendency to accept employment with the restrictive Intergalactic Council. He sighed, running his fingers through his short hair. The longer he put this off, the angrier the witch would get.
“Get her into a set of restraints and bring her up to the interrogation chamber.” He turned to leave, pausing when Ryan grabbed his arm. He looked pointedly at the offending hand, raising one eyebrow questioningly.
Ryan let go of his arm. “Restraints? Are you serious? She’s already pissed. You need to convince her to help us, and treating her like a criminal isn’t going to win you any brownie points.”
That might be true, but he wanted her under control until she agreed to help. “Just the wrist restraints, then.” He ignored Ryan’s glare of disapproval. “If I understand the theory, she can’t hook into the power of the energy lines without lifting her arms, so we should be safe enough.”
Ryan’s disbelieving snort told him what his second-in-command thought about that.
“Get her up there. Now.” He issued the command in what he hoped was a stern tone, pivoting to stalk out of the room. The damn witch hadn’t been on his ship for a full solar cycle and already she was causing trouble.
* * *
“Let me see if I have this straight.” Sarcasm dripped from Krystal’s voice. “You launched an unprovoked attack on my parents’ estate, abducted me, left me cooling my heels in a cold cargo bay holding cell for goddess knows how long, had my hands bound behind me with a set of barbaric and extremely uncomfortable restraints, and then had me brought to what is obviously an interrogation chamber.” She paused to sweep a scornful glance around the room, her gaze lingering on a padded rack with leather straps dangling from the various parts. “And now you’d like me to do a favor for you?” She lifted her chin and fixed him with a glacial stare. “Thanks, but I don’t think so. I’d like to go home now.”
He had to give her credit for poise. Her haughty stance and the way she held her head high, chin tilted just so, gave the impression she was used to giving orders — and having them obeyed.
He glanced away from her for a moment and gestured at the guards. “Please remove Ms. de Mylar’s restraints and wait outside the door until I summon you.” He was gratified to see a faint shadow of alarm cross her face. She knew he wouldn’t give in quite this easy. He gave her a bland smile. “We need to discuss how best to accommodate her request.”
The shorter of the two guards stepped forward to remove the restraints. Tarik had to think for a moment before he could place him. Brent was a new recruit, a refugee from the Intergalactic Council’s recent annexation of the Utan home worlds.
Krystal stepped away from the guard and rubbed her wrists. The restraints hadn’t been that tight, but they’d obviously annoyed her.
A loud click signaled the departure of the guards and Tarik leaned back, stretching his long legs out under the table. “Have a seat.” He nodded toward the empty chair across from him.
“No, thank you.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself. This might take a while.”
The witch raised a brow at him. “I can’t imagine why.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, letting his gaze wander from the sprinkling of freckles on her nose, down her lithe figure to the foot that she tapped impatiently on the floor. Luckily, the table hid his body’s reaction. He didn’t need her to know she could arouse him with just a glance.
“Fine!” She threw herself into the chair, crossing her arms on her chest and glaring at him. “Discuss away.”
Tarik had to suppress the urge to grin. She certainly had the supercilious attitude down pat. He leaned forward, focusing on her emerald green eyes. Bad idea. A man could drown in those eyes. He shifted his attention lower, only to find himself wondering what those lips would taste like.
Okay, time to lay my cards on the table.
“I’m Tarik, the leader of the miners’ rebellion. The Intergalactic Council tried to buy me off, and when I refused, they abducted my brother, Cynn. They hope to use him to force me to abandon the rebellion and give them the mining rights we inherited from our parents. I can’t betray all the people who rely on us, and I can’t abandon Cynn to the mercy of the Council.”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “We’re determined to bring justice to this corner of the galaxy and stop the Intergalactic Council from terrorizing the outer planets. It’s time for them to stop forcing colonists to sign over their mining rights without adequate compensation. If the colonists and miners all stand together, we can stop them from sending their thugs to murder anyone who disagrees with them.”
He paused. “I’ve only got one option. Rescue. I need to get to Cynn before they realize I’m coming. If my intelligence is correct, you can find him, or at least locate his energy signature. We think he’s being held somewhere in the Kelverian asteroid field. If you can get us in without being detected, we can snatch him and get back out before they realize what we’re up to.” He met her gaze, hoping she could read the sincerity in his eyes. “I don’t usually condone kidnapping people, but I couldn’t very well go to the guild and say I wanted to hire a Stargazer willing to flout the Intergalactic Council.”
She ignored his quasi apology, a frown marring the perfection of her brow. “What will they do if you don’t agree to what they ask?”
He decided to be brutally honest with her. If she agreed to help, she deserved to know what kind of beings they were dealing with. “Most likely execute him. First, they’d torture him a bit. Make sure I know how much he’s suffering. Send me vid clips of the proceedings, perhaps a few body parts in case I thought they were faking the vid.”
He paused, taking a deep breath to quell the rage building inside him. “But that’s not going to happen. You are going to help us.” He let the steel show in his voice. No matter what he had to do, Cynn was not going to suffer the way their parents had. He wouldn’t allow anything to interfere with the rescue. Not even a Stargazer with mesmerizing green eyes and the body of a sex goddess.
She leaned forward, staring intently into his eyes, and he got the feeling this wasn’t the first time she’d discussed military tactics. “How good is your intelligence? Are you reasonably sure of his location?”
“Are you going to help us?” he countered, studying her face hopefully.
She smiled, a slow, bewitching movement of her lips that revealed two rows of even white teeth. “Maybe; tell me the whole story. What’s so special about you?”
He let himself relax slightly. She didn’t look quite as angry. He sure hoped she’d do this the easy way, because no matter how much he loved his brother, he wasn’t sure he could order anyone to harm this woman, much less do it himself.
He sucked in a deep breath. “My birth family lived on the mining colony on Radian V. Two decades ago, a group of miners there discovered a deposit of a rare, radioactive mineral and claimed the rights to it as per galactic regulations.” He leaned back, focusing on the wall behind her. “The Intergalactic Council offered to purchase the rights to the deposit for a fraction of their worth. The miners refused, and one by one, they and their families suffered a series of fatal accidents.” He paused to let that sink in. “My brother and I are the lone survivors of that group of miners.”

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