Draekon Destiny:Exiled to the Prison Planet(5)

By: Lili Zander & Lee Savino

That’s the best I can ask for. “Thank you, Thrax.”

He nods. “Things aren't good between Felicity and the two of you,” he says quietly. “Are they?”

The first week or two, I thought I could fix it, but as the days tick on, I'm beginning to lose hope.

“Don't give up,” Thrax urges quietly. “If you want her, fight for her. Show her that you care.”

“I don't know how to do that,” I tell him, my voice tired. “Caeron knows I've tried.”

“When Ryanna first got here,” he says, “I was crazy about her. I did everything I could to attract her attention. I flirted with her, I joked, I tried to make her smile. But it wasn't until much later that I discovered the real reason she stayed away from me. Her bondmate back on Earth used to beat her, and it left her terrified of all men.” He gives me a sober look. “I'm telling you this because we tend to forget that the human women have pasts, the same way we do. Felicity's experiences have shaped her life, the same way your experiences have shaped yours. The way she's reacting could have nothing to do with you.”

Our mate rarely talks about the past. All I know is that her mother died giving birth to her, and her father had left her with family shortly after and moved away. Just once, she’d said that his actions had made her feel abandoned.

That day, when she confided her feelings in me, I should have held her in my arms and comforted her. I should have let her know that she would never be alone again. That we were her mates, and we would be with her for the rest of our lives.

But I hadn’t, because those words had hit a nerve deep inside me…


We’ve flown the run between Maarish and Skadus for three long weeks. About ten days into the mission, Skadus’ planetary patrols shoot at us, taking out our comms dish.

“We don’t need it,” Captain Plyke says, looking around at her three-person smuggling crew. “Let’s keep going. The client’s paying a bonus for early delivery.”

I nod agreement. It isn’t as if I’m expecting to hear from anyone. My parents are dead. As soon as I came of age, I ran away from the orphanage that I grew up in, and I’ve spent the last three years in Captain Plyke’s crew.

It’s a good life, much better than any I could have had if I’d stayed at home. The captain’s fair, she pays on time, and she doesn’t double-cross us.

Four weeks later, we’re finally back in the Zorahn empire, in a remote corner of the Northern Wilds. “A week of shore leave,” the captain says, her lips twisting into a grin. “Use it well, boys. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and remember, if you get arrested, I’m not bailing you punks out.”

Snesh, who is from Adrash, falls in line with me as we head toward the town. “Of all the places for shore leave,” he grumbles, “Why here?”

I wince. “It’s my fault,” I admit. I show him my forearm, with the twenty-three tattoos marking the number of times I’ve been tested. “It’s the time of the Testing, and it’s far less trouble to show up and get it over with. The scientists hire bounty hunters to find the dawdlers.”

“Ah.” He gives me a sidelong glance. “I forget you’re Zorahn. Are you nervous?”

“Me?” I shake my head. “We have no history of contagion in my family. It’s just a formality.” I pass a market stall selling cheap communicators, and I pause in front of it, pulling a wad of money out of my jumpsuit. “Three weeks without comms. I guess I should check my messages.”

The shopkeeper is in a haggling frame of mind. It takes me a good knur to buy the communicator and link it to my records in the ThoughtVaults. By the time I’m done, I’m running late for the Testing. Muttering a curse under my breath, I put the small device in my pocket and head to the main square in Ryki.

The lines are long. Every male Zorahn under the age of fifty needs to be tested. “They only sent two Scientists,” the man standing in front of me complains. “I’m a healer. You think these idiots care that I have to turn away patients and shut my practice for a day to do this?”

“Shh,” someone else says warningly. “It doesn’t pay to antagonize the indigo-ones. People have a way of disappearing into the Crimson Citadel and never coming out.”

I don’t reply. I’m reading the messages that have piled up in my absence. There are a couple of job offers. Good smugglers are always in demand. A couple of messages from my friends, wondering when I’m planning to be home next.

And then I read it… the message that makes my heart stop.

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