Wyvern’s Outlaw

Wyvern's Outlaw, #7 of the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeRyke wants nothing more than to escape the space pirates of the Gloria Furore and go home to his young son. He’s pretended to share their views and has worked his way up the ranks to co-pilot of the Armada Seven, commanded by the most vicious space captain of all. The capture of Princess Anguissa and her ship, the Archangel, is a moment of triumph for his superior—except that Anguissa never plays by anyone’s rules. In a flash of dragon fire, she incinerates most of the crew and takes command of the Armada Seven. Ryke is spared, but he’s not sure why—what plans does the beautiful dragon princess have for his future? And what will she demand to grant his wish of returning home?

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An excerpt from Wyvern’s Outlaw:

Anguissa, dragon princess and Captain of the starship Archangel, didn’t make mistakes.

That was the reason she’d survived almost three hundred years of roaming the galaxy with the strategy of following only the rules that suited her.

Yet, she had apparently just made a colossal mistake, one for which her sister Thalina would pay the price.

It was impossible.

And obviously true.

Anguissa scowled. She checked the ship’s position after the jump, recalculated and reviewed. She hadn’t chosen this quadrant as a destination, yet here they were. She didn’t like this quadrant or know it well—it had always given her a bad feeling, even on the star charts, and she’d visited it only once.

It was widely believed to be the hunting ground of the Gloria Furore, the notorious space pirates who would steal anyone or anything. They sold to the highest bidder.

Anguissa had also survived as a star pilot by not provoking the Gloria Furore.

That she was back in the identical location as that single visit defied belief, especially as she hadn’t chosen it as a destination. The presence of the Armada Seven, a ship commanded by Captain Hellemut, made her location indisputable.

The nav system didn’t show that Anguissa had made a mistake. In fact, it indicated that she had chosen an entirely different destination, the one she remembered choosing, half a galaxy away from here.

Which could only mean that her ship had been sabotaged.

Captain Hellemut had somehow compelled Anguissa to come back.

It was all too easy to remember the words of the captain allied with the Gloria Furore, intergalactic bandits of the worst kind.

To appear in this quadrant once could be an accident, Captain Anguissa. To appear twice would be a provocation.

There wasn’t a whole lot of doubt about how this would play out. Any second now, Hellemut would hail the Archangel—if she didn’t attack first.

Anguissa needed to keep Hellemut from firing, given the payload still locked in the hold of the Archangel. It was secured and quarantined, but destroying the Archangel would disperse it.

Which was the last thing Anguissa wanted to happen.

She hid her trepidation from both her sister Thalina and the android who Thalina insisted was the Carrier of her Seed.

“You said this sector would be vacant,” the android noted. Powers of observation were probably supposed to be a benefit of his kind but it was one of the traits that Anguissa found really irritating.

She hoped it irked him that she called him “Robot.”

Anguissa tapped the display and spoke lightly, as if she wasn’t panicking inside. “That’s the problem with a quick departure.”

“Where are we?” Thalina asked.

“Where we shouldn’t be,” Anguissa admitted. “I called up a list of recently visited locations and chose the wrong one. We’re too far out. Frack. I don’t usually make these kinds of mistakes.”

Thalina’s voice rose. “But we can get to Cumae, right?”

“There are sufficient stores for one life form to reach Cumae or to return to Incendium,” the android said. “Not both.”

“That makes no sense,” Thalina protested.

“Our present location is distant from both planets,” he informed her. He drew a triangle in the air, one with a long point. “Consider that we are here.” He indicated the single point. “To jump to one or the other is a difference of direction more than distance.” He tapped. “That said, the individual would have several days of minimal nourishment if Incendium was chosen as destination, but would still arrive alive.”

Anguissa barely listened. She didn’t need the lesson. She was thinking about fuel.

Strategy.

And a virulent virus locked in the hold.

Thalina was convinced that the android was the Carrier of the Seed, the destined father of her child, and might be her HeartKeeper. That was insane, to Anguissa’s thinking, but she respected her sister’s conclusions.

She could smell Thalina’s reaction to the Seed, against every expectation. It must somehow be true.

Anguissa had to ensure her sister’s safety, whether she was pregnant or not.

The upside was that Anguissa suspected Captain Hellemut really wanted her and no one else. It was a personal lesson Hellemut intended to give, which meant it might be possible to send the Archangel out of reach.

Anguissa decided to teach the captain of the Armada Seven to be careful what she wished for.

It was possible, after all, that Captain Hellemut didn’t know that Anguissa was a dragon shifter. She wasn’t rumored to be strong on research, and Anguissa hadn’t revealed her true nature in their last encounter. She might have the element of surprise on her side.

It was only fair, since she’d been surprised herself. Who had tampered with the nav system of the Archangel? Who had betrayed her?

Who had dared?

It was a mystery she hoped she had the luxury of time to solve.

Thalina and her android were talking, but Anguissa hadn’t really been listening. “Not to interrupt you two, but we’ve got more trouble than supplies,” she said. She pushed her sister firmly down and out of sight. There was no telling what else had been tampered with. There might be a video feed to the Armada Seven, as well. “I know that ship.” She pointed to the display on the far side of the deck, which showed the Armada Seven in all its hideous glory.

It was an ugly ship, manufactured for power and not for grace, then repaired as necessary in foreign ports. It was large and grey, a freighter later armed for war, but not a vessel to be underestimated. It had enough firepower to annihilate the Archangel five times over.

“We are being hailed,” the android said. “By the other ship in the quadrant.”

“By Captain Hellemut of the Armada Seven,” Anguissa agreed.

“You anticipated this meeting?” he asked.

“No, but I recognize the ship and I know its captain well enough to speculate on her plans.”

“Ah!” he said.

There was only one way to get Thalina safely away from Captain Hellemut and the android was Anguissa’s best chance of an ally.

“Okay, this is what’s going to happen, Robot, and you’re going to make it so.” Anguissa leaned toward Acion and gave him rapid instructions to flee with Thalina after she teleported to the Armada Seven herself alone.

“This is illogical,” he protested.

She glared at him. “On the contrary, it’s the only thing that makes sense,” she insisted, then took advantage of what had to be his basic programming. “You exist to serve right?”

“Correct.”

“And I’m your captain, so I command you to do this in order to defend my sister.”

He frowned and Anguissa wished he could calculate probabilities a little faster. She was well aware of the flashing signal on the comm and she knew that Captain Hellemut’s reactions wouldn’t be improved by delay.

“What’s happening?” Thalina asked.

Anguissa glared at her sister. “Stay out of view and keep silent if you want to live. You do not want to mess with these people.”

“Who are they?”

“Frack knows but they work for the Gloria Furore.”

That was apparently all the warning her sister needed because she hid immediately.

“And strap down,” Anguissa added in a growl.

“This is excellent advice,” the android said and Anguissa breathed a sigh of relief that he was going to do as instructed.

“And you will ensure that my sister has no opportunity to become curious about the contents of the hold,” she muttered in an undertone.

“I note that it’s secured and quarantined,” the android said.

“And there’s only one person in the universe who could figure out my code.”

Their gazes met and held for a moment, then the android nodded agreement.

It wouldn’t take Thalina long to deduce what Anguissa was planning either, so Anguissa didn’t give her any time. She went to the transport deck, propping her hands on her hips as she faced the screen. “Open the frequency to hail, Robot.” she commanded. “Let’s do this thing. Oxygen is wasting.”

The screen was immediately filled with the sight of Captain Hellemut in all her hideous three-eyed glory. She had to be the most unattractive creature in twenty sectors, but Anguissa smiled. “Greetings, Captain Hellemut,” she said in the universal tongue. “How I have missed the sunshine of your smile.”

“You are a fool to return, Captain Anguissa,” Captain Hellemut replied with a smirk. “And I thought you were clever.”

“I just dislike unfinished business,” Anguissa said.

“The Archangel is targeted by all of our weapons, Captain Anguissa. You are in no position to negotiate.”

“What do you want?”

“Complete surrender, of course.”

“Is that all?”

“You, first, and then the Archangel.”

How deep did the sabotage go in the Archangel’s systems? Would the ship surrender itself to Hellemut, regardless of what Anguissa commanded?

She still couldn’t think of how it had been done. Someone on her own crew must have betrayed her, but Anguissa couldn’t imagine who it might have been. She kept her crew small, on purpose, and they’d all been with her for a long time. She trusted them.

Could Hellemut have somehow compromised the nav system at a distance?

Was there a worm lurking in the communication link? Anguissa didn’t think that was possible, but she would hurry the conversation just in case it had become possible.

Thalina had to escape.

“And if I decline this generous offer?” she asked.

“I’ll obliterate you both together, right now.”

“How very persuasive you are, Captain Hellemut.” Anguissa raised her hands. “Open a beam to transport me to your deck so I can surrender in person.”

Hellemut chuckled, evidently not realizing that Anguissa never surrendered anything this easily. It was an advantage and Anguissa would take it. She gave a nod to the android, then turned her head to wink at Thalina so that the other captain couldn’t see.

Then she felt the tingle of the transport. It always started with the hair on the back of her neck standing up and a shiver rolling over her flesh. She had to arrive in the same form as she departed, but that wouldn’t last long. The tingle claimed her, the transport dividing her molecules and flinging them along the trajectory to the Armada Seven.

Anguissa vaguely felt a void open behind her, a hint that the Archangel had jumped just as she’d commanded, then the heat that she always felt on emergence.

She felt the deck of the Armada Seven beneath her feet and didn’t waste a second. She summoned the shift, changed shape, and breathed a torrent of dragon fire directly at Captain Hellemut.

In that same instant, Anguissa smelled the Seed. It sent a jolt of desire through her, a primal urge to mate that was so hot and imperative that nothing else mattered except identifying the Carrier and seducing him completely.

Hellemut screamed and evicted her seat to hide behind it. The seat burned, flames dancing high, and the air filled with smoke. Instead of finishing what she’d started, Anguissa scanned the deck, inhaling deeply.

The Carrier of the Seed was the co-pilot, the man who was staring at her with narrowed eyes. He was tall and muscular, a man who could have been from Incendium—except that Anguissa had never yearned to claim a man from Incendium so badly. His expression was guarded and his aura was dark.

She realized with a start that he was an umbro, a species from Centurios feared and loathed throughout the known universe. They were often called Soul-Stealers. They captured and claimed, leaving their victims to bleed to death while they hunted anew.

Anguissa took another breath of the Seed and didn’t care.

She wanted him.

She wanted him now.

And he was hers to possess.

Excerpt from Wyvern’s Outlaw Copyright ©2017 Deborah A. Cooke