Coriolis, Book 3
Ebook ISBN: 06398-02056
For Jordan Sawyer, it’s just another day at the office. She’s the Coriolis‘ pilot, and she’s flown them all through countless close calls. She’s focused, determined, and smarter than she lets on.
It’s why Eric Kane, second-in-command to Captain Carter Therres, wants her so much. Well, that, and Jordan is simply drop-dead gorgeous. There’s only one problem: Major Kyle Cortez, the self-appointed guardian of the children who has set his own sights on Coriolis’ curvy pilot.
“Sarah, I need you to watch the others.”
The fifteen-year-old nodded. “What if they ask where you went?”
Kyle Cortez glanced at the door separating the two of them from a two-room bunker full of terrified children. He looked back at Sarah. “Tell them I’m making sure they’re safe. They don’t need to know the details.”
“Okay.” Sarah touched his shoulder just as he turned away. “Hey, Major Cortez, please be careful.”
Kyle smiled. “I will.”
He waited until she went back into the bunker, then he clipped an arc pistol to his belt and slung his assault rifle strap over one shoulder. He’d brought the kids here to keep them away from the Syndicate bastards, but he’d trained with the men who now hunted them. He knew damn well what sort of tactics the soldiers employed, especially when it meant recovering what the Syndicate considered its own property. The thought made him nauseous. These were children, between four and fifteen years of age. They were scared and homeless, but they sure as hell weren’t anyone’s “property.”
The tunnel connecting the bunker to an abandoned military outpost ran beneath the ground for a half a mile. Phega, the largest planet in the Theoro sector, didn’t lend itself to human habitation, so the Syndicate had built biodomes connected by underground corridors such as this one. Kyle had escorted the children here when the coup took place on Earth, but unlike his fellow soldiers, he’d had no intentions of letting the kids fall back into the hands of those monsters. He’d killed the other two guards the moment the shuttles left the main compound. Then he’d led the kids into one of the most remote bunkers — one he knew he could defend.
Now, though, he had other problems. One of the aging sensors left in the bunker had picked up an unidentified ship entering the atmosphere. Kyle refused to let anyone come within a mile of the children.
The tunnel ended in the largest biodome. Kyle hid behind a stack of crates and watched as the ship came into view. His eyes widened when he recognized the distinct shape.
“What the hell?”
The Coriolis, the pride and joy of the Syndicate’s recon fleet, docked and powered down. Kyle couldn’t begin to imagine why Captain Therres would show up here, unless Therres had been sent to recapture the children.
The docking bay door slid open, and Kyle studied the group of three men that emerged. One he recognized as Captain Carter Therres, though the captain had aged since Kyle had last seen him. The other two wore regular Local Marine combat gear. They removed their helmets, obviously deeming the biodome free of enemies.
Kyle stared at them, trying to place their faces. One appeared older than Therres, definitely military, but no one Kyle knew. The other one he would’ve remembered, no doubt. The body armor hugged every muscle, from broad shoulders down to the man’s booted feet. The soldier’s short dark hair was a bit longer than regulation, and equally dark eyes seemed to scan the perimeter with an acuteness Kyle felt deep into his soul.
Then that gaze met Kyle’s. Somehow, the keen-eyed soldier spotted Kyle even when Kyle thought he was well-hidden. A sniper rifle rose a split second later, making it crystal clear how the man had seen him. A sniper. Knowing he had no chance against three of them, Kyle shoved his weapons across the dusty floor and rose slowly, hands above his head.
“Who are you?” Therres asked.
“Major Kyle Cortez, Local Marines.”
“Cortez? I know your name,” the sniper said. Though he didn’t re-shoulder his rifle, he lowered it a fraction of an inch.
Kyle nodded. “You’re military, but I don’t recognize you.”
Therres motioned for the men behind him to stand down. “I’m Captain Carter Therres, of the Coriolis. This is Morgan Reid, retired Marine,” he said, motioning to the older man on his left, “and my second, Lieutenant Eric Kane.”
Kyle nodded at them. “It’s been a while, but I know you, Captain Therres. Did the Syndicate send you?”
Therres glanced at the men with him then back at Kyle. “How much do you know?”
“I know there was a coup, and that Leader Joren is missing.”
“He’s not,” Morgan interrupted. “He’s safe.”
“He’s with you then?” Kyle asked. Therres nodded. “Then… you aren’t with the Syndicate.”
“No. But I think we’re all here for the same thing: to protect a group of children,” Therres said.
Kyle lowered his arms. “Yes. They’re all hidden in a bunker. I was one of the guards who escorted them here, but when I found out the truth behind why the Syndicate wanted the kids back, I killed the other two guards. Those kids have been prisoners of the Syndicate and its scientists all their lives.”
“And they’re likely to have implants,” Morgan added. “Tracking chips fused to their skulls. Joren and his brother Ashley both had them. They were the first.”
“Oh, my God.” Kyle waved at his weapons. Therres nodded and Kyle retrieved both guns. “I don’t know how much food we have left,” he said, as he led the men back down the tunnel. “I’ve left them in the care of the oldest, Sarah. She’s fifteen, but the youngest is four.”
When they reached the bunker, Kyle used the series of knocks he’d taught Sarah, their own secret code. Locks clicked on the other side then the door opened. Sarah’s eyes widened and she stumbled backward.
“Shh, it’s okay,” Kyle reassured her. “These men aren’t Syndicate. They’re being hunted, just like us.”
Sarah glanced at each of them, wary. “How did they find us?”
“I’m Captain Carter Therres,” Therres offered. “My partner and his brother were like you. They found out where you were, and we’re here to get you to safety.”
Kyle set his weapons down, and the other men did the same. “Sarah, get the others. We’re getting out of here, I promise.”
Watching her head into the back room where the other children stayed, Kyle prayed he was doing the right thing. Therres and Morgan looked around the small front room. Kyle knew he didn’t have a lot of choices. Food was quickly running out, and the kids were scared. He noticed movement to his right and glanced over. The sniper, Eric Kane, stood guard near the door, rifle down but most likely ready at a second’s notice. When Eric looked at Kyle, the man’s dark eyes, which Kyle now realized were nearly the color of the deepest blue ocean, regarded him warily. Kyle hadn’t looked at another man with the remotest hint of desire in years, but he couldn’t look away from Kane. Thankfully, a swarm of children broke the spell.
“Are we really leaving?” One of the kids, a seven-year-old boy, stared up at Kyle expectantly.
“Yes, we’re leaving,” Kyle said. He smiled and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Stay together, everyone. Follow Captain Therres. He’s going to take us on his ship.”
The kids, curious but relatively quiet, all fell into step behind the captain. Morgan followed, then Kane. Kyle brought up the rear. Kyle gave up trying to stop staring. Eric Kane, despite being encased in black body armor, made Kyle want to drag the man into the nearest dark corner. Of course, the prospect of getting his ass kicked, or worse, kept Kyle’s libido at bay.
He hadn’t been with a man in ages. Then again, he hadn’t been with a woman in a long time either. The last one had been the closest he’d ever come to falling head over heels — a pilot by the name of Jordan. He sometimes wondered what happened to her, but after several years, he figured she’d moved on and found someone else to warm her bed. Besides, the Syndicate had kept him on the go for so long, he wasn’t sure he knew how to please anyone anymore.
Hopefully, once onboard the Coriolis, his body would stop trying to betray the fact that he happily enjoyed both men and women. If he was lucky, Eric Kane would be the only temptation.