A Best-Selling Series
John M. Davis
Copyright 2015 Serenity Valley Publishing
Editing by Daniél Lecoq
Cover by Salvaje and 5 Dimension PhotoArts
Background by Palnk
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Prologue: The Great Series
Chapter 1: Sadness (Part 1)
Chapter 2: Kohonith
Chapter 3: Snowfall
Chapter 4: Pleading Hearts
Chapter 5: Let The Games Begin
Chapter 6: Sadness (Part 2)
About the Author
The Great Series
Where do I begin?
Over the past few years, we’ve watched as Gunship took its punches while continuing to move forward – finally topping the charts at #1(The Fleet: Book One). I say we, because I feel like the fans are as much a part of Gunship as I am. This is our story.
I seem to craft each instalment based on the feedback of previous entries into the series, at which time my fantastic editor, Daniél, makes everything more fun to read. Except for Dalton James, of course. I never know what that booty chaser wants to do until he comes to me in a strange, almost paranormal way that’s hard to explain.
To die-hard fans of the series, this is the final ride. I thought long and hard about possibly announcing this over Twitter or my shiny blog, but ultimately I decided that you guys and gals should be the first to hear it. If you’re reading book 9, it’s a safe bet that you’ve watched these characters grow up, in a manner of speaking.
I did my best to give the characters we all know and love a proper send-off. I also left enough wiggle room at the end to find my way back into the story, should the itch return. I make it a point to never say never.
As I wrote this chapter of the Gunship story, however, something just told me it was time. For once, everything seemed to add up and I truly felt like we had reached the end. With that, I present to you the final chapter.
As I sit here this morning listening to a hard rainfall that is eerily similar to life on Ronica, I find myself in deep thought, just as Vladris would be. People often ask what the hardest part of writing is. It’s certainly not the long hours or late night adventures in front of a computer screen. As I listen to this rainfall outside, I now understand that the toughest thing about my job is saying goodbye to characters who’ve become family. Over the last four years, Dalton James and company have allowed me to go from wannabe author to a bestselling author who is blessed enough to write for a living. For that, I will always be grateful.
Perhaps I will return to the series one day when I’m older. There are certainly more stories inside of this rambling head of mine. Until then, I want to make sure these characters go out with a bang. Let’s do this.
Sadness (Part 1)
“Don’t worry. We’ll find her.” Hans said.
Resting his hand onto Dalton’s shoulder for a moment, he tried to provide a bit of comfort without showing any doubt in his statement. But Dalton understood there was doubt – he doubted, too.
Nearly six-months had passed since Dalton had last seen Cambria’s beautiful face. They had found the star liner and most of its passengers, who’d been exterminated by the filthy hands of vampires. But Cambria was not among them. Dalton had found her message of desperation stuffed into an empty bottle of hard liquor and knew that she’d been taken alive. It meant there was a bit of hope when it came to seeing her once more. But it also meant that she was certainly enduring unspeakable things at the hands of her vampire captors.
Most of the folks aboard her commercial flight weren’t as lucky. The vampires had committed mass-slaughter aboard the civilian ship and dozens just like it, during a day that humanity had come to know as Day One.
It had been stamped as such because Day One was the officially the first day of the Third Great War. After the senseless killing of so many civilians, humanity understood that there was no going back. Talks of peace would no longer suffice and the only way to ensure survival was by eliminating vampires until none remained.
They were terrorists. Slavers who’d successfully launched a war against humanity once more, for no other reason than to kill humans. It was the greatest war that had been seen by either human or vampire eyes. So large in scale that there were warships rocking even the deepest, darkest corners of the Skyla System.
Their kind had long fought wars with sword in hand. It was the way of a vampire. Their new queen, however, was different. She understood that the humans and their technology-rich ships could not be beaten with the skill of a sword. Instead, the vampires had secured many allies through political means. They envisioned a new Skyla System where only a handful of humans remained and did so for the job of slavery. Otherwise, it was to be a vampire-dominant galaxy which awarded territories to anyone who aided their cause in the war. Among those helping them were the Benzans. They were unlikely allies after fighting one another in previous wars, but the organized crime syndicate saw potential in a galaxy ran by criminals. Crime was certainly common ground among the two races. It was to become a universe in which the strong would survive, while the stronger thrived. And, aside from the vampires, the Benzans were to be feared like no other group of killers alive. Vampires committed unspeakable acts for no good reason. The Benzans committed similar acts for money.
The green-skinned Husk remained, but their numbers had dwindled a great deal. They’d been hit the hardest during the years of plague and only a few thousand capable warriors remained. Those who did, backed the cause of humanity. They were mortal enemies of the vampires and backed anyone who fought against them.
Humanity’s central planet and prized home of desert sun and green-hued skies, Glimmeria, had come under siege but defended itself well enough. Initial vampire attacks had done great amounts of damage, but humanity had recovered quickly enough. Striking back and pushing the war into a virtual stalemate.
There were no clear-cut front lines in the Third Great War. The Skyla System was simply too large. Instead, there were coordinated attacks by both sides and intelligence had become just as valuable as a solid weapon. The leadership of each side was well-protected and rarely moved, but, when they did, all hell typically broke loose.
Many things among humanity had been adjusted to fit the needs of their new war. Prisons were cleared out with the understanding that killing vampires would officially pay their debts to society. They were typically sent into the far reaches of the Skyla System, often in the face of unspeakable odds, and few prisoners made it through a month of hard service. Those who did, however, were then paid just like the rest of the brave soldiers who proudly wore Freedom Republic blue.
Likewise, anyone who’d been found guilty of a charge that was initiated by the vampires was cleared in full. Humanity began backing its own, for a change.
Dalton James had also been cleared of the charge of murder. It hadn’t taken the authorities long to figure out that the vampires could no longer be trusted, and even the wealthiest of undead warlords had no influence among honest people. Not anymore. It was the first time in history that Dalton could remember every living, breathing son of a bitch working together in the face of evil.
There were only two sides in The Great War, and absolutely no gray area. You were either with the Vampire Nation, or you were sworn to the pact of ending them, while allying yourself with the Freedom Republic. Each side had its army and strong financial backing. For the Vampire Nation, there was a promise of new government and that, of course, enticed many of the wealthy. The undead intended to rule through fear and had no problem assigning territory to some of humanity’s worst, assuming they backed them in the war. The Skyla System was big enough, and the prospect of having a mighty army behind you was appealing to anyone who’d ever questioned the current government.
That said, most men chose to remain free. And being free had its price. Soldier to soldier, humans were weaker, but their numbers were far greater. If mankind had learned anything over the course of history, it was how to survive even the toughest of wars. That experience had proved invaluable as humanity wasn’t easily squashed like the vampires had intended them to be. Mankind had proved resilient – they had brought an equally strong force of military might to the party.
Humanity was organized, for the most part, but there were others. Men and women who fought the good fight, while doing so with complete freedom. Hans, Dalton and crew had become mighty good at hurting their vampire adversaries while living freely in the black of space. Hans had 21 unofficial kills to his name, Dalton had 22. Not that anyone was counting, of course.
For Hans, it was a personal matter of ending the race which had taken his true love away in the act of murder. For Dalton, it was about finding his true love before it was too late. Two men hell-bent on putting themselves in harm’s way for the cause of just. But even warriors liked to eat a nice meal every now and again.
“This tenderloin tastes like shit.” Deshazo said.
He was the typical muscle-bound soldier for hire. Deshazo had killed a few, but his thousand-yard stare was a bit inflated for a man who’d only killed so few. And being very outspoken was in his nature. A very typical trait for a man so large that folks generally backed away before testing him.
“Well it does.” he added as the crew stared at him.
“It’s likely been sitting there for a few days.” Wolfman replied.
They’d hit another vampire stronghold, which was their third of the week. Dalton had hoped to find Cambria. But, just as in month’s past, he was left with little more than fading hope when it came to finding the woman he loved.
The stronghold had either been evacuated because of Freedom Republic soldiers in the area, or the vampires had left it to strike somewhere else. Either way, according to the Gunship’s muscular greenhorn, the meat left behind tasted like shit.
“Look. Josie is even turning her nose up at it.” Wolfman stated.
His long-haired dog of police-grade, nearly wolf, was snubbing the tenderloin, which made her unshaven owner mighty proud. Wolfman was tough as nails, though not abundantly muscular. What muscle he did have was lean and practical, and it seemed to flow synonymously with his long locks of black hair.
“Fuck it. More for me.” Deshazo commented as he swiped the table quickly and shoveled all of the stale meat into his jacket pocket. He certainly wasn’t a fan of its taste or texture, but protein was essential in keeping his bullish stature.
“You better hope that’s animal meat you’re eating.” Dalton warned.
Immediately, Deshazo spit the half-chewed mess to the floor in disgust.
“That’s horrible.” Wolfman said.
“Well, it’s true,” Dalton replied. “The vampires will eat a woman and hell, I will too. But it’s two different kinds of eating, if you know what I’m saying?”
As Deshazo continued to hack up every morsel onto the floor, Hans shook his head for a moment and tried to comfort his friend once more.
“Maybe the next stronghold.”
“It’s OK, we’ll find her,” Dalton finally said. “And when we do.”
“They’ll get what’s coming to them, my friend.” Hans said as he rested his hand onto Dalton’s shoulder for a moment.
“You can bet your ass on that.” Dalton said with truth.
“I’m guessing if our fanged friends are out on a strike somewhere, they’re going to be mighty upset to come home and discover a puddle of hacked-up vomit meat in the middle of the floor. I know I would be.” Wolfman said with a grin.
“Fuck the mutherfuckers.” Deshazo said as he tried to hold down whatever puke remained deep in his stomach.
“Bring it down, Alyssa.” Hans said, pressing an ear-mounted com unit.
“Roger that.” her voice replied.
Seconds later, the thunderous engines of their Gunship could be heard as it descended upon the stronghold’s location from a high orbit.
Alyssa had become the mainstay pilot on their crew, and for good reason. She could fly the hell out of their ship, which made up for her lacking skills with a handgun. Her looks were explosive enough, too. Cream white skin and brilliantly blonde hair which nearly looked white as well. Voluptuous curves filled her standard flight suit of black with remarkable detail, making her very attractive. The problem, however, was that Alyssa’s heart was reserved for Dalton James.
Each time they sat down on a moon to sweep through a vampire compound, Alyssa found that her own heart was divided. She wanted Cambria to be found safely, and she wanted Dalton to be happy. But Alyssa also wanted to be the woman by his side. Publicly, she’d shown no signs of wearing down, but privately, Alyssa was crushing by the minute. Often times crying herself to sleep in hopes of being coveted by Dalton James.
Her feelings for him brought with them an overwhelming feeling of guilt. She understood that feeling the way she did about a married man was wrong, still, nothing seemed to ease the wanting for him.
Alyssa had done her best to steer clear from Dalton whenever possible. She’d made it perfectly clear that she’d do so out of respect for Cambria. But it was slowly killing her inside. Each time, finding herself inconsolable as he left the ship. There was so much that she wanted to say to him, but her words were forbidden by the laws or morality.
As their ship gently touched down on the small moon’s surface, its cargo ramp was already open. Deshazo and his meat-snatching hands was the first to board the ship, followed by Wolfman, his sidekick, Josie, and their lead man, Hans.
Dalton stared at the small building for a moment. He thought of the vampire stronghold and the thousands just like it, wondering if his lover was struggling. There was an indescribable helplessness in wanting to rescue someone and being held back by a single roadblock – location. If Dalton could just find Cambria, he’d save her. His revolver would chew through as many vampires as it took, just to bring her home safely.
But today would not be that day.
“You coming, my friend?” Hans asked loudly as the ship prepped for takeoff.
Dalton glanced back to his good friend and their ship, which was a newer model Gunship. A military ship, though it contained no external weaponry. For all intents and purposes, the Gunship had been a cargo ship built for a small military crew during the First Glimmerian War. Its design, fantastic speed and reliability had made the ship popular with independent pilots and the like. It had been heavily used to move weaponry back and forth during the original war, specifically crates of guns, which had originated its name.
“Yea. Let’s go find my girl.” Dalton said.
Constellation of Fear
Harvest Moons of Kohonith
The Benzans had long been feared throughout the Skyla System, though, in many ways, they were also greatly misunderstood. Sure, they committed criminal acts with very little regard for the laws in place, but unlike many other factions which shunned traditional laws, the Benzans did so to benefit their own.
A love for their own race showed with each of their ships. From the near-seamless exterior of bright silver and black trim to the interior of finely-crafted wood and splendor of silks, the Benzans did not have a large fleet. Those ships they had, however, were built with the highest specifications and done so in a way that represented their people proudly.
Jonathan’s was no different. He’d been a warrior among the Benzans for many years and had ended a great deal of lives. Jonathan’s acts had earned him a great deal of respect among those who served aboard his ship, which provided a second home. Whereas many commanders needed to consider the possibility of a coup, Jonathan did not. He was given a security detail aboard his own ship, which was standard throughout most of the militarized races. Still, he didn’t need one. Each soul aboard his ship would have gladly died to save Jonathan’s life. To them, he was a hero and much more. His acts of battle had proven him worthy, but his compassion for those on his home planet had deemed him a saint.
Cambria had been held inside of a room aboard the ship, albeit comfortably. Since she was a little girl, Cambria had heard the stories. The Benzans were completely ruthless and uncivilized, at least that’s what she’d been told. She’d seen nothing of the sort while aboard their ship. Her quarters came complete with an oversized bed, silk sheets, a fine wooden vanity and lavish drinks housed in crystal pitchers. Certainly not what she’d expected from a group of people that was supposed to be nothing short of barbaric.
There had been no torture, as she had imagined there would have been. From the time the vampires had sold her to Jonathan’s ship, Cambria had been treated well. She walked around waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting horrible things to follow. Yet she’d seen absolutely nothing that frightened her.
Being called from her room after nearly two weeks of being held, however, sent fearful emotions throughout her body. Finally having a chance to stand before the ship’s commander only furthered her timid feelings.
“You may come forward,” Jonathan said as he watched her carefully. “I have no intentions of harming you.”
Jonathan was a well-dressed man from head to toe. A brilliant red robe fit for a king, though he was anything but. Jonathan was a warlord, and he’d been a notoriously vicious one. Long locks of brown hair and iridescent eyes of green that could nearly cut through a man. He was gorgeous for a man so feared.
Cambria stepped forward a bit. Her steps were filled with fear, of course, while understanding that she had no choice in the matter. She was a slave now. That was her identity and would be for the foreseeable future, barring a rescue by her lover. Still, Cambria managed to walk with a bit of strength.
“You are quite beautiful, if you do not mind my saying.” Jonathan remarked with a soft voice of compassion.
“Say what you will, I am a slave and in no position to speak against you. I only wonder what harm will come to me?”
“You’re wrong, I’m afraid,” Jonathan said with a loving smile. “You’re no slave. The vampires may have taken you for that purpose, and they may have sold you to me in the manner of slavery – but I do not condone slavery. As for harm coming to you, I take pride in the fact that my people are well cared for.”
“Then why-” Cambria began to ask.
“Because for every young woman I purchase from the clutches of that vile race, there’s one less young woman to be purchased by someone else. Someone with far worse intentions, I assure you. You are right to be afraid and I do not blame you. Many of the men who purchase slaves, well, they aren’t as compassionate. I suppose you got lucky.” he added with a calming smile which lasted for several moment.
Cambria stared at him long and hard. She did her best to read the man behind the luminous eyes.
“You’ll be treated properly here. I can promise you that,” Jonathan said. “You’re as human as anyone here, and you’ll be treated as such. In fact, the soldiers aboard this ship take pride in the job of protecting guests.”
“Thank you,” Cambria said. “But you need to know that my man will come for me. And when he does, there will be no soldier here that can stop him.”
Jonathan laughed aloud for several moments, prompting the handful of soldiers on the bridge of his ship to do the same.
“You believe this is funny?” she asked.
“I believe you’re on a warship, my dear. Well over a thousand of the most highly-trained soldiers you can find, and the backing of the Vampire Nation’s army. Hell, I would hand you over to your man this minute, if not for the repercussions of vampire hands. I follow their rules and they allow me to live with honor. I also do not believe a single man will able to fight his way through this ship.”
“The vampires are murderers.” Cambria said loudly.
“That may be, but they have treated me fairly. More fairly, in fact, than the Freedom Republic did before this war started. It is because I’ve allied myself with the vampires that you stand here today – unscathed. Rather than suffering the fate of most women aboard their ships. So do not be so quick to judge me.”
Cambria nodded. While there was no denying he’d treated her fairly so far, Jonathan had allied himself with the Vampire Nation, and they were certainly thieves and murderers. Even his fine clothing couldn’t hide that fact. Unlike the mysterious Benzans, the vampires were blatant in their path of destruction.
“My man will come for me.” Cambria said.
“Then let him come,” Jonathan said with a grin. “I assure you, the vampires did not just randomly select me to lead this warship for them, nor did my own people. I am here on my own merits and I am feared by many, even the vampires, for good reason,” he added. “Erik. Please see this young lady to her quarters.”
“Yes, my lord.” one of the soldiers replied.
“And make sure our course is set for Kohonith. I’d like to arrive there before this damn war is over.” Jonathan ordered.
“As you wish, my lord.”
Colonial Star Revolution
Commander Dukes splashed his face with a bit of cold water. Looking for several moments into a dingy steel mirror which hung above a small sink, he prepared himself for yet another day aboard the massive warship.
Each Colonial Star was like a floating space station of military might, and his was the most notorious throughout the fleet. He’d commanded a dozen strikes which had ended nearly thirty large warships commanded by the vampires and their allies. Dukes had sent tens of thousands of murderers to their graves, making him a hero among the military that continued to fight for its own survival.
Today was no different. With a large attack planned on one of the vampire’s staging grounds, the Colonial Star Revolution would lead brave men and women into battle once more. Like chariots charging into battle, they would go directly for battle and pull no punches in doing so. Not before coffee, though.
Stopping by one of the tables in his large, crude room of military standards, Commander Dukes picked up his favorite coffee mug as it held piping hot brew.
The expression on his coffee mug pretty much said it all. Hell, its message had become folklore among the crew of the Colonial Star Revolution. Often times, they would chant those infamous words on their way to battle. Dukes never asked anything of the soldiers that he himself wouldn’t do. He’d become a man in command by his own merits of war. Everyone knew it and everyone respected the hell out of him for doing it the hard way.
Dukes had started his military career long ago as an infantryman. He’d fought in both of the Glimmerian Wars and even taken his place on the front lines during the plague of man. Few had survived any of the conflicts, yet Commander Dukes had done so on the front lines. Get some, that had become his mantra, and his soldiers were quick to follow it.
Opening the door of his quarters, two heavily-armed soldiers awaited him. They prepared to escort him to the bridge of the massive ship, as they did each morning.
“Good morning, fellas.” Dukes said.
“Sir.” one of them replied, though both of them nodded.
At the belly of the ship were smaller ships meant for defending the large sky galleon, and they were staged perfectly. Bodies hustled about, making final preparations for the battle to come.
Several minutes later, the three men entered the bridge area, which was also under heavy guard. They didn’t fear a coup among their own. The posted soldiers were there as a safety precaution in case the vampires managed to land boarding parties. Each Colonial Star’s bridge area was the ship’s official fallout shelter, for obvious reasons.
“Commander on deck!” one of the soldiers shouted.
“At ease, everyone,” Commander Dukes. “I just came to get some.”
His statement eased everyone’s mind just a bit. That was his way. Dukes could walk into a tense situation and make everyone a little more comfortable. That was the mark of a good leader and he did it well.
“You all know why we’re here,” Commander Dukes said with confidence. “You’re the best I have and we’ve been ordered to intervene on a little meeting we weren’t invited to. Let’s see if we can intercept a few high-ranking guys, shall we?”
Taking a moment to pull up the Freedom Republic’s official plan on the large projection monitor behind him, Commander Dukes looked out onto the gathered crowd of nearly two-dozen strong. All of them leaders of men in a time of war.
“Kohonith is our enemy’s largest stronghold. And we now believe that a large-scale meeting is taking place involving several high-ranking leaders among the vampires. Including their queen,” his statement brought a low chatter throughout the room of soldiers. “It will be our objective to take Queen Sadie down, but several other targets of opportunity should be present. According to our intelligence, the queen’s top military adviser, Cutter, will also be there, as well as the vampire’s top Benzan contact – a warlord named Jonathan Fletcher. I cannot emphasize strong enough the fact that it will be hell getting through their defenses. Reports indicate that multiple warships are in orbit and several smaller class ships are scattered throughout the Kohonith moon system. But we cannot let this opportunity pass us by. We’re loading for bear and going in swinging.”
Taking a few moments to change the projection behind him to a hologram of the Kohonith moon system, Commander Duke looked to his men.
“It’s time to turn things our way. We’ve seen this war being fought on multiple fronts throughout the Skyla System and now our people believe that the war’s front lines will become Kohonith and its surrounding planets. Failure is not an option. If we cannot bring the queen and her top advisers to justice, we will hold them on Kohonith until the cavalry arrives, at which time we will raze the entire moon system.”
“The cavalry, sir?” a soldier asked from the rear of the large meeting room.
“The Husk, lieutenant,” Commander Dukes confirmed with authority. “They are massing their own fleet, but haven’t been able to assemble as quickly as we have. Humanity will be the first ones to arrive and the vampires will likely know we’re coming long before we get there. But the vampires think they’re unbeatable, which leads us to believe that they will not move their queen to a more secure location. We’ve give them hell until the Husk arrive to back us up in the war’s largest battle to date. They think our race is weak. It’s time to put that nasty rumor to sleep at the expense of a whole lot of bleeding vampires.”
Commander Dukes stated it with confidence, too. The Husk were very large and muscular creatures. Their skin was a tint of green that had become synonymous with their race. So had their hatred for the vampires. For centuries now, Husk and vampire had battled one another on an array of battlefields. Truthfully, if they could have found a way to work together somehow, humanity would have stood no chance. But that would never happen. The Husk despised everything about the vampires. From their sleek weaponry and traditions of murder, to their system of bowing before a queen. The Husk answered to only one, and he was their king. The strongest warrior among them.
The Husk were born to hate their adversaries. At a young age, they would begin training with weaponry and only the strongest among them became soldiers. They learned weaponry not to defend themselves, but to end the lives of vampires.
Likewise, the vampires held no respect for the Husk. To them, the green warriors were illiterate and filthy – like animals with no sense of structure. The vampires’ feeling of supremacy only stoked the Husk’s hatred for them, and had historically led to some of the most brutal confrontations ever witnessed. No matter what the circumstances were, if you put a Husk and a vampire into a room together, only one thing was certain. One of the bastards wasn’t walking out alive.
The Husk may have been cruder than their elegant adversaries, but the race of green warriors had a fleet of warships and they were capable enough. If the Husk had their way, their moment of fighting would not come in the black of space. It would come, sword in hand, on the crusty soil of Kohonith.
Cambria continued to find herself in awe as the room she’d been assigned to was rather luxurious. Where she’d expected a slave’s quarters, Cambria instead found an oversized bed, comfortable sofa of plushy red velvet material, a thick rug of elegance and a cluster of small windows which twinkled with the rays of Kohonith’s sun. It was absolutely fit for a princess, and nothing like she’d expected to find.
Her mind thought of Dalton and prayed that he would come for her. That said, her situation could have been much worse. What little time she’d spent in shackles with the vampires, they’d tossed her around like a possession. When Cambria was sold to the Benzans she expected the same, or worse.
Instead, she’d been treated with dignity. Something that made her question the belief that Benzans were bad people. Though Adam had been involved with the Benzans and she’d heard stories of a handful of them trying to do the right thing, they were infamous for criminals who cared nothing for those they hurt along the way. She began to think that perhaps the Benzans’ stereotype was wrong.
Then a knock came to her door.
“Yes?” Cambria asked. Expecting the worst.
Jonathan gently eased the door open and peeked in for a moment.
“I wondered if you might accompany me to a meeting on Kohonith?” he asked. His question certainly struck her oddly.
“This is your ship. I am your slave. Why do you ask? You could just force me to go and I would have no say in the matter.”
“I would like to make something perfectly clear right now,” he said with a firm tone as he entered the room. “You are not my slave or anyone else’s. I would not force you to anything against your will.”
“Really? Cambria asked. “Then explain to me how I came to be on this ship? Did you not purchase me? Is this not the definition of slavery?”
“There are women doing terrible things at the command of vampires this very moment. I do my best to save women from that fate, and I save as many as I possibly can. But alas, I cannot save them all.” Jonathan admitted.
“So I will be allowed to leave this ship? Or am I truly just a slave sleeping in better than average bedding?” Cambria asked.
“The time will come. And when it does, you’ll be free to leave this ship. You have my word,” Jonathan said with a polite nod. A response that took Cambria by surprise. “But until that time, I’m afraid you’re a passenger on this ship.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because this system isn’t safe. If I let you out on any of the moons below, you’d be dead by the hands of vampires within the span of an hour, at which time they will come to me and begin asking questions. I will either look weak as a leader in letting you escape, or I will have to admit that I allowed you to leave.”
“So you’re doing me a favor?” Cambria asked with sarcasm.
“That’s not for me to say,” Jonathan said. “But you’re certainly safe with me, yes. I would risk my own life just to ensure that you’re not harmed. Believe me when I tell you that my men would too.”
“I…I don’t understand?” she admitted.
“When I first saw you, something told me that you were different,” Jonathan said. “I mean you no harm. I would consider it an honor to have you at my side for the upcoming meeting. There will be nothing interesting happen, I’m afraid. The meeting is only a formality. But perhaps it will give you a chance to see that I’m not the murdering warlord you think me to be.” he added with a questioning look.
“I’m already taken.” Cambria defended.
“I’m not asking for your hand in marriage,” Jonathan said with a bit of a laugh. “Just a few hours of your time. Normally, the pompous elite among the vampire’s society have a beautiful woman hanging from their shoulder. And I cannot think of a single woman aboard this ship who rivals your beauty. For once, I would like to show up at one of these functions and have a woman that makes them all jealous.”
“So I would be eye-candy?” Cambria asked. Seeming offended.
“Yes,” Jonathan admitted. “And in return, I would give you the opportunity of freedom when the time is right. I’ll even try to help you locate this man of yours, if that’s what you choose. Not that bad of a trade.”
The thought of being able to find Dalton sent waves of shock through her body. Cambria missed him so badly.
“I have nothing to wear. You don’t want-”
“Relax. I’ll have it taken care of.” Jonathan said with a grin.
“So that’s a yes?” he asked.
“As long as you understand that it’s only for show.”
“Agreed.” he replied.
“OK then.” she said quickly.
“Cambria,” she replied with a nod. “Cambria James.”
“Yes. Very well then, Cambria James.” Jonathan said with an easy voice. Looking her over for a moment with innocence.
“Thank you, too,” she blurted out quickly. “You know. For not being the typical slave-owning dirt bag.”
“Your smile is far prettier than I have imagined,” Jonathan said with a nod. “And you’re very welcome.”
As he left Cambria to an empty room, she found herself curious as to what type of man Jonathan truly was. He was certainly different than she’d expected, which was enough to keep her interested in the meeting to come.
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A war between humans and vampires is underway. Cambria finds herself a victim of slavery as she's sold to a high-ranking Benzan strongman. Going against everything she has ever believed, however, Cambria soon learns that the Benzans are good people and that the warlord in question may have stolen her heart. Meanwhile, Dalton James continues his search for Cambria at a feverish pace. Leaving a trail of dead vampires and empty whiskey bottles behind him, Dalton and the Benzans are about to have themselves a little showdown.