Authors: Jan Springer
Book six in the Heroes at Heart series. Can be read alone, but best enjoyed in series order.
During a secret mission to locate their brothers on the faraway planet of Paradise, the Hero sisters become separated after they crashland.
Taylor and Kayla
While searching for help, Kayla is bound and imprisoned by the Breeders—along with a sexy male captive whose tantalizing scars pique her interest. She’s thankful when he rescues her, and irresistibly aroused when she becomes
captive. Wild lust flares in Kayla’s eyes—an erotic side effect of the Fever Swamp water. Taylor is going to enjoy administering the cure—lots of sizzling hot sex!
Blackie and Kinley
Injured and lost in a dense jungle, Kinley is intimidated by the big, scarred man hot on her trail, especially considering the erotic power he holds over her. Capturing his beautiful female prey, Blackie can’t wait to train her as a pleasure slave. When the well-hung male slips a collar around her neck, Kinley struggles with lust as a
My sincerest thanks to all the wonderful readers of the Heroes at Heart series. Thank you for your patience in waiting for Kinley and Kayla’s stories to be told.
I really appreciate all your emails and letters of encouragement through the personal crisis in my life regarding my caregiving to my ill dad and subsequent loss of writing time.
I will treasure your support, your comments and your advice, always. Now that I am able to head back to full-time writing, I look forward with immense anticipation to bringing you more intriguing stories that will captivate your hearts and arouse you to new heights.
I’d also like to extend my thanks to four gorgeous ladies who helped me along the way with the Heroes at Heart series.
Tons of thanks to editor Violet Hughes for her helpful comments while editing this final book in the series. You rock, Violet! Bunches of hugs to editor Kahli Reid for accepting for publication this final book in the Heroes at Heart series.
A huge thanks to publisher Raelene Gorlinsky for accepting the series in the first place and for coming up with the delightful series name. We were both newbies at Ellora’s Cave and I am forever grateful she accepted me into her stable of authors and into the Cave.
Finally, warm hugs to editor Mary Moran (oh wise one) for taking the helm for part of this series from Raelene.
I appreciate everything you wonderful, hardworking ladies have done. You all hold a dear spot in my heart and you will remain on my Best Editor keeper shelf, always.
“Hull breach. Computer malfunction. Electrical interference. Life support threat.”
The string of dire warnings shot like torpedoes through astronaut Kinley Hero’s layers of sleep. As she struggled to awaken from stasis, her gut hollowed out with nausea.
The ship was in trouble.
Trying to rouse herself had always been a bitch in the simulation sessions. God help her, this time was no different. The fatigue that accompanied awakening made it hard to keep her thoughts straight, yet she managed to open her eyes and stare into the saucer-shaped room she hadn’t seen for what should be—if the clock blinking on the far wall indicated correctly—about a year now.
The small starship she and her two sisters were traveling in had been designed with the sleeping quarters smack in the middle of the saucer. All around her, computers hummed with activity. Various lights of red and amber frantically blinked, spewing off visual distress signals and echoing alerts. From what she could piece together in her foggy brain, the starship was falling apart—quite literally.
Beyond the protective glass barrier of her sleep cocoon, the curling gray smoke dissipated for a few seconds. She swore beneath her breath at the hairline fissures that had appeared in the titanium framework. Fractures that—if not taken care of immediately—would lead to their demise.
In one solid jolt of awareness, she punched the emergency button beside her head. The secure glass hatch slid open and immediately acrid smoke sank into her lungs, making her gag. Grabbing the oxygen mask that suddenly dropped before her face, she took a few deep, steadying breaths.
The oxygen passed through her system with lightning speed, waking her fully. Power sifted through her and, within moments, her lethargy disappeared. Ripping aside the mask, she crawled out of the pod and moved through the smoke. Passing her two sisters’ sleep hatches, she punched each of their external emergency buttons, hoping to hell they’d grab the oxygen masks that would automatically deploy.
The smoke got denser and bit into her eyes as she rushed to the life support console and discovered a virus had infected the system. She didn’t have time to figure out how that had happened, but managed to create an antivirus program to deal with the problem.
Just then, something rocked the ship and she sailed through the air. Pain slapped her naked ass as she landed just inches from the captain’s chair. Grabbing the padded armchair, she hoisted herself onto the plush cushion and snapped on her seatbelt. They were in for a bumpy ride.
The main computer continued to bellow warnings.
“Security nonfunctional. Protective shields failing. Replicators off-line. Warp speed down.”
A quick look at the master visual screen had her cursing up a storm. Her breath halted as the gorgeous planet grew larger and larger in the viewing window. Its pristine blue and sharp green colors and shapes looked eerily similar to Earth’s.
They were going to crashland and she doubted she had enough time to stop the descent. There were too many things going wrong all at once. Panic paralyzed her, and for a few precious seconds her mind blanked out as she stared at the blinking warning lights on every system.
One by one the systems were shutting down, down, down. Just like the ship. Down in a blaze of glory.
Ah geez, she had to snap out of her morbid thoughts. Fifteen minutes was her best guestimate before splat time. The ship had hit the disintegration layers around the planet her brothers had warned against when they sent an SOS back to Earth over two years ago. This unexpected turn of events, the ship breaking up despite assurances from the tech guys that it wouldn’t, pissed her off.
Kinley swallowed as she looked at the hairline fissures in the hull. Hopefully those guys who’d slapped this ship together were right and it wouldn’t fall apart. If they were lucky, the starship would survive the plunge through the atmosphere, but what about after that? It would need some serious repairs. She could get them out of this mess and patch up the ship, but only if they could get the replicators online. And only if they survived the crash.
More arrows of anger slammed through her as she thought of her three older brothers, Joe, Ben and Buck. Damn them! They were crazy bastards! They should have come home like the good little astronauts they were supposed to be and not remained on this planet. Instead, they’d sent their ship back to Earth without them, opting to stay with the women they’d fallen in love with because they had feared traveling the time warp in the wormhole on the return voyage would disintegrate those women.
For crying out loud. What kind of men would want to stay on a planet where the male species didn’t get educated and were considered nothing more than sex slaves?
. When she got her hands on them… Sadness, strong and fierce, swept through her. Who was she kidding? She may never see them again. In minutes they would be streamlined with the wreckage and—
“What’s happening?” Piper’s panicked voice rocked Kinley back to reality.
Snapping her gaze to the left, Kinley found her identical twin sister standing right beside her. Thankfully the smoke was clearing and she could plainly see the fear on Piper’s face. Funny, she still looked the same after a year in sleep stasis—green eyes, pretty auburn, tangled hair and perfectly arched, dark eyebrows. Kinley wished she could keep the truth from her sisters, but they needed to hear the full extent of what was going on.
“Everything’s failing,” she admitted. Her heart twisted with anxiety when Piper frowned. But her sister recovered quickly and nodded like a trooper, accepting the possibility that they may not survive.
“I’m going to override,” Kinley stated. “You two get to work on saving the protection shields.” She focused on the task at hand.
Their younger sister Kayla yelled something about losing cabin pressure. Piper swore and took off.
“Deal with it!” Kinley yelled back and unbuckled herself from the captain’s chair.
God, her eyes were still burning from all the smoke. The lingering, bitter taste made her want to gag. She could hardly see, could barely breathe. Hell, she could barely walk on the horribly tilted floor as she stumbled behind the bridge and popped open the red panel that would allow her access to the override button.
Black haziness swept inward from the corners of her eyes and Kinley knew if she didn’t calm herself, she’d pass out.
As if her sisters sensed what was happening to her, an oxygen mask flew in front of her face. She grabbed the mask and, with frantic, jerky speed, snapped it over her nose and mouth and deeply inhaled the precious, sweet air.
The blackness hovering at the sides of her vision disappeared and Kayla’s worried glance had Kinley waving both sisters away, reassuring them she was fine.
The oxygen effectively cleared her mind and she found the override button. Pushing it, she waited.
Override was a state-of-the-art alternative that, should the computerized system fail, would let a totally independent mainframe take over. Untested in the actual field—but passing the experimental phase with flying colors—the new system utilized hydrogen atoms instead of the array of microchips currently being used.
Suddenly the spaceship slowed and righted itself from the awful, steep tilt they’d been riding along. Yet they continued to plummet toward the planet and Kinley swore if she reached her hand through the high-tech glass pane of the spaceship, she would literally touch the planet. It was
close. And it was so pretty, too. The colors were deepening, the landscape taking vivid form. There were rolling hills, lush, green, jungle-like vegetation and sparkling, blue ocean waters.
Kinley blinked, forced herself to rip her gaze from the mesmerizing beauty of the planet and came back to reality. The cabin was once again filling with acrid smoke.
“Brace yourself for impact!” she yelled as she gave the planet one final glance and watched it continue to careen closer and grow bigger.
Hurrying, she stumbled to the nearby consoles and quickly read that many systems were still failing. Thankfully though, life support, defense shields and replicators were now at yellow alert. Obviously the new gadget the tech guys had installed was able to fix the problems, but not fast enough. The swirling gray smoke continued to billow and she had a hard time seeing her hands on the keyboard. She should look for that damned oxygen mask. Heck, she didn’t even remember removing it or where she left it for that matter.
“Kinley! Get your ass over here!” Piper shouted and through the smoke Kinley could barely see her sisters had deployed the three emergency pods padded with high-tech crash-guard foam. Yet instead of climbing into their respective pods—which could save their lives—they were both dragging one of the heavy pods toward her.
“Forget the consoles!” Kayla screamed. She tried to grab Kinley’s wrist, but Kinley smacked her away. Ignoring the fear in Kayla’s eyes, Kinley whipped her sister the biggest reassuring smile she could muster.
“Get yourself and Piper secure. The longer I stay here and man the controls, the easier the crash.”
God, she sounded totally calm. Was she in shock?
“Let it go!” Kayla shouted, her blue eyes sparking with fury. “We all get into the pods together or we all stay out.”
Anger slashed through Kinley’s momentary calm. Why in hell were they being so damned irritating?
“No fucking buts. Do as I say! That’s a goddamn order,” she barked.
Her sisters didn’t move. Determination and defiance marred their faces.
Shit! They could be so stubborn.
“Go! I’ll get in just before impact. I promise!”
They hesitated a few seconds, studying her to see if she spoke the truth, and she sighed in relief as they rushed off, leaving her small pod nearby.
Grabbing the joystick, she angled the ship into a steadier dive. In response, the ship jerked, creaked and the metal hull complained, but thankfully the ship moved in the direction she guided. If she played her cards right, she could bring this baby down on the water and glide them to a stop.
Earth—correct that—Paradise looked breathtaking. Lush shades of greens and blues splashed past the window in an array of streaks. A split second later, everything changed. Although she was in an airtight ship, she imagined the pungent odor of stagnant water as the blues and greens gave way to browns, blacks and grays.
What had happened to the nice scenery? Now everything seemed dark and dreary. The ship sped over the tops of gothic-like gnarled trees draped with hanging strands of brown moss. The pristine blue sky disappeared into the backdrop and suddenly the trees were replaced by a large, eerie black lake. Far ahead, more of those creepy trees loomed. Hopefully before the ship reached them it would slow enough in the water not to hit so hard as to crush her and her sisters to death.
She had to land and she needed to do it now, because who knew how long this ship would hold together up in the air. Maneuvering the joystick, she angled as best she could toward the surface of water.
“Impact in ten seconds!” she yelled in warning, and then wondered who the hell she was shouting at. Her sisters were already safely secured inside their pods.
Heaving a sigh of frustration, she reluctantly released the joystick and literally threw herself into the nearby dimly lit pod. Slamming the door, she fell onto the heavily cushioned chair, slipped on the harness and braced herself.
Not a moment too soon either
. The binds dug painfully into her chest as the spaceship jolted and swayed with dizzying speed. Suddenly everything inside her pod became deathly silent, yet thankfully fresh air blew in all around her, compliments of the pod’s own life support system.
Realizing she hadn’t turned on the audio, she wondered if it was a wise idea to do so. But she wanted to know what was going on out there. Needed to know. Reaching up, she flipped the switch and, for a split second, wished she hadn’t. A distinct swishing slammed into the pod’s interior as impact was made. Liquid pummeled the sides and she imagined the metal saucer sliding over the black lake like a skipping stone.
The water wasn’t going to slow them down as easily as she’d hoped because they just kept on gliding. She didn’t know how long they sped along—probably only two minutes—but it seemed an eternity. Suddenly she tensed against her restraints as the pod jolted. Snaps and pops echoed through the interior.
Oh crap! Trees breaking.
Gut-wrenching screeches of metal being torn shrieked painfully in her ears.
The spaceship is falling apart!
She held her breath and fought the waves of panic until she finally screamed for everything to stop as her pod tumbled around and around—screamed for everything to stop making so much noise. She should flip off audio and get rid of the shriek of metal ripping before it drove her crazy or, at the very least, made her deaf, but the g-force was so strong it literally kept her arms and legs from moving.
The ship jerked violently and something—the small white fire extinguisher or maybe the first aid kit—flew off the interior wall, slamming the right side of her head. White stars burst behind her eyes and a haze of pain enveloped her. Her eyesight dimmed. Panic slashed through her as the pod began rolling again. Round and around she went until she became nauseated and was screaming once again for the turns to stop. Then everything went blissfully and peacefully silent, including her.