Born of Vengeance Read online





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  For my older brother, who gave me the love of all things space related and who first introduced me to science fiction. And to my sons, who are starting their own SF novels, as well as my hubby for all the SF conventions he's indulged me with for all these decades. To my readers, especially those who began The League adventures with me back in the early 1990s when the first novel was published--my goodness, how far we've come! And to all those who continue to look to the skies and think, what if?

  And for my incredible team at SMP for all they do, especially Monique, Erica, Brant, Jennifer, Alex, and John, who do so much on my behalf. They are my silent heroes. And Ervin for the incredible covers he produces! And of course, Robert and Mark for being my champions in all things and for all the countless hours of hard work you put in. You guys rock!

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  I'd like to take a special moment to acknowledge my grandfather, the Rev. O. C. Allred, who, when a little girl asked, "Grandpa, do you think there's intelligent life on other planets?" he answered with a profound statement that forever changed my life: "Well, Sherri, the Bible doesn't say that the good Lord only created one Heaven and one Earth. So it's quite possible that there could be millions of other worlds out there that He made. As for intelligence, I certainly hope so. 'Cause Heaven knows it's a struggle some days just to find a little bit of it here on Earth."

  PROLOGUE

  "Go ahead and court-martial me. I'm not about to babysit some pampered little bastard because he's bored with cocktail parties!" Major Ember Wyldestarrin glared at the colonel who'd just dropped a serious bombshell in her lap. The smug wanker walked beside her as if he were enjoying the fact she'd been assigned watch duty for some aristocratic playboy whose reputation for hedonism must have set untold intergalactic records.

  And if not, that was truly a crime. Surely no one had ever been born with a larger sense of entitlement or ego than the infamous Bastien Cabarro. She couldn't pick up an e-mag or news feed that wasn't laced with his latest exploit or misadventure. The only thing larger than his list of paternity suits was the bill for his average dinner party.

  Yeah, that was just what she wanted for a wingman.

  Never.

  Colonel Werrin smirked. "Technically he's a very large pampered bastard. Or pain in the ass. At least for me. Which is why he's being assigned to you. My least favorite pain in the ass. After your last stunt, I can't think of a better punishment."

  She scoffed indignantly. "Stunt? I saved twenty-two soldiers! Anyone else would have been given a medal."

  "Yes, had you not brought down half the station in the process of it. And torched Colonel Dayan's prized fighter."

  "Technically that wasn't an accident." She used his words against him to point out the fact that she'd quite intentionally set fire to Syrin's fighter. After she'd caught the worthless prick cheating on her.

  In her own bed.

  With her youngest sister.

  It'd been a moral imperative. Besides, they should all be grateful she'd only assaulted his ship, given what she'd really wanted to destroy. In fact, it was still a daily struggle not to murder that prick where he stood.

  And her sister, to boot.

  "Which is why you're being assigned a new wingman. And you're lucky. General Dayan wanted me to bust your rank down to private and make you a member of the rank-bust club along with Cabarro, who just went from major to captain two weeks ago after his last stunt--and that by order of his own uncle."

  Note to self, never ever date a man whose father outranks me.

  Yet another reason why she wanted to stay far away from Cabarro. His uncle didn't just outrank her--that bastard was their military. Commander general of the Gyron Force she was a part of, Barnabas Cabarro was also the prime commander for the entire Kirovarian armed services. You crossed him and he could not only bust your rank, he could end your life and no one would question it. The fact he could take his own pampered nephew's rank without sanction said it all.

  No one questioned Barnabas Cabarro when it came to the Kirovarian military. Not even the pampered visir asshole.

  But that was neither here nor there. Rolling her eyes, she wanted to scream in frustration. It galled her through and through to be in this mess because of a conscienceless prick who couldn't keep it in his pants.

  Then again, it wasn't completely Syrin's fault, really. It was mostly because of her temper that knew no boundaries and her baby sister who had no morals.

  I will not be that stupid again.

  Next time I'll murder the bastard and hide his body where they will never find it.

  And she couldn't imagine anything worse than to be saddled with a womanizing pig prince for a wingman. He'd be like a kid in a candy store with her all-female family. Never mind what Alura would do if she ever saw him ...

  Yeah, this had all the makings of hell for her.

  As they approached the training field, she swept her gaze over the soldiers there. Two dozen were running maneuvers.

  Well, almost two dozen ... one who should be among them stood off to the side with a cocksure grin as he made time with a corporal.

  Oh, let me guess....

  That had to be Cabarro. He fit what she was expecting to a T. Tall, gorgeous, and more than aware of it. What a scabbing piece of work.

  She felt sick just to be this close to him, and he was across the quad. Last thing she wanted was to be near enough to look into what would no doubt be a pair of smug aristo eyes. "Please, Colonel. I'll do anything to get out of this."

  "Beg all you want. Cabarro is yours till the binary suns of Ritadaria freeze over."

  Of course he was.

  Just as she started to curse her CO out loud and get that court-martial so that she wouldn't have to worry about this, she heard a high-pitched squeal. At first, she thought it her imagination.

  Until it came closer.

  Louder.

  "Incoming!" she shouted a few seconds before a bomb struck home. And this wasn't a drill. It hit the building to the east with such force that the percussion and aftershock knocked her from her feet. Fire and shrapnel exploded as the bomb disintegrated the north arsenal and set off every piece of ordnance kept inside its facility--causing even more damage and mayhem.

  The playboy cried out and dashed off to hide.

  Of course he did.

  The aristos would never sully their hands with helping the wounded. Or trying to dig out survivors.

  Furious, she ran to the training field, where a number of their younger soldiers had been injured. As quickly as she could, she checked on them and assisted the medics.

  Until a frantic cry drew her attention toward the offices on her left that had partially collapsed during the aftershocks. "Lieutenant Wyldestarrin? Can you hear me?"

  No ... please God, no!

  Her heart stopped as she realized one of her younger sisters was inside that building. A building that was about to come down completely, which would probably render a rescue impossibl