Rave was staring at the vast space in front of him when a ship invaded the beautiful blackness of the universe.
“What is he doing here?” Rave wondered aloud.
“The same as us, I’m sure. This is a refueling planet.”
Rave jumped. He hadn’t expected an answer. He shifted in his chair to face his first mate.
“Sela, I thought you were on planet.”
“And miss this show? You’ve got to be kidding. I want a front row seat. Got any snacks?”
Rave stood. He didn’t need any reminders of the man who’d walked out on him and taken Rave’s career and heart with him when he’d left.
“Since you’re done with leave, you can take over the coms. I’ll be in my quarters.”
He answered with a flip of his finger then left the control room. Sela knew the score between him and Kain. Rave wouldn’t dwell on it. The Retribution would be in port until morning. He could avoid the traitor for one night.
The computer’s musical voice stopped his movement. “Captain Anders, we’re being hailed. Would you like to receive the call here or will you take it on the main deck?”
He strode to a panel in the hull to answer. “Who’s trying to contact the ship?”
“Commander Kain Sims. The call is marked urgent.”
“Of course it is,” Rave sighed. “Patch him through.”
He didn’t want to take the call at all, but he couldn’t refuse a member of the Alliance. He was lucky they’d granted him the right to own a ship. Still, they waited for him to make one wrong move so they could take that away, too. Right now, the ship was all he had left and he wasn’t going to let them take it away from him too. Not this time. Now he wanted nothing to do with the Alliance unless forced to. Like now. Fuckers.
“Captain Anders, permission to board?”
“Do I have a choice?” Rave braced his arm against the hull. He didn’t want to see Kain ever again. It was just his luck to be on the same planet as him.
“I’ll meet you on the main deck.” Rave released the com to end the call.
Dread pooled in his stomach. He’d managed to avoid Kain for a while now. Why had he shown up now, here? Anger began to replace the dread.
“Sorry, Rave, I tried to divert the call,” Sela murmured as he entered the bridge.
“Not your fault. Why don’t you go to your cabin? No sense in both of us being here.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to run interference?”
“It’s better if you don’t witness this. I’m not sure if I can hold my temper, and someone will have to captain the ship if I get hauled in. We have cargo to pick up on Seid II.”
Sela left, and Rave wished he could follow her.
Stop being a pussy. You’re over him.
If he was so over Kain, why did his heart speed up at the very sight of the tall man striding toward him? Why did he drool when he glanced into Kain’s emerald-green eyes and want to run his hands through the man’s black hair? Now his body betrayed him.
Rave stood rooted to the spot as if the anti-gravity locks held him in place. He made Kain come to him.
“Commander.” Rave inclined his head, taking in the new lines etched on Kain’s face.
“Rave—” Kain struggled with his words.
He shouldn’t have been so happy to see how hard it was for Kain to speak to him, but he was. Rave cocked his eyebrow at the informality, trying to ignore the tingles running through his body hearing his name coming from Kain’s lips. “Is there a reason you’re on my ship, two years too late?”
Shit, why did I say that? Damn it. And why does he look so good?
“Yes, but I don’t have time to go into it. You’re going to have to trust me,” Kain pleaded.
“Trust you? That’s classic. Answer my question, why now?” Rave wasn’t going to give Kain an inch no matter how much the man’s voice affected his libido.
“The Alliance needs you.” Kain’s voice sounded stronger now.
“Fuck the Alliance and fuck your cryptic bullshit.”
Kain ran a hand through his hair, betraying his frustration. Well, screw him.
“They’re calling you back to service,” the man whispered, almost as if he didn’t want the words to be spoken.
“No fucking way. They court-martialed me!” Anger pulsed through him.
The Alliance might be the governing body, but calling him back to service? That was a load of horse shit. They’d put him through the something no innocent man should go through.
“No, they didn’t.”
Rave couldn’t have heard that right. He shook his head to clear it. There was no way the Alliance could fuck up his life again. He stayed out of their way and, for the most part they stayed out of his. “What?”
“You were never court-martialed. They staged the whole event. No one told me about it until after it had happened. That day—”
“Stop.” Rave held up his hand. “Tell me why they staged something that ruined my life then get off my ship.”
He clenched his hands at his side, proud at how calm he sounded because inside he was seething. He’d dreamed of confronting Kain with the betrayal he felt. How could the man he loved disappear, only to show up again working for the very system that sent an innocent man to one of the worst prisons in the universe? What he hadn’t expected was how hard his dick would get in Kain’s presence. The attraction still held strong, but it was lust, no way could he still love the man in front of him.
“I had no—”
“Don’t finish that sentence. I want to hear about my ‘call’ to service.” There was only so far his calm could go. The rage building in him would explode soon. He was pissed at himself for still feeling attracted to the handsome man before him. He should be repulsed by Kain’s very presence.
“The Alliance wanted you to get your own ship and set up a trade route. They hoped their enemies would contact you. Once you were established, they planned to bring you into service so you could take down the smugglers.”
“And someone couldn’t have told me this?” What a load of bullshit. Did the Alliance arrogance know no bounds? “I would have gone undercover. Before I realized what a chump I was, I would have done anything for the Alliance.” His head ached and his emotions tangled inside him. He didn’t expect to feel hurt, but he did. His life had been the Alliance and Kain before he’d been ripped from his world on a whim and they’d both betrayed him.
“There’s a leak. No one knows how far up it goes. Right before you were taken into custody, someone murdered Commander Roth. He’d been undercover for a couple of months. The Alliance needed it to be real for this to work. Only a few people could know.”
“So, why did they send you?” Rave couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice this time.
“We didn’t hide the fact that we were a couple. The Alliance kept me away from you. They told me you’d die if I contacted you before they were ready. I wanted—”
Rave wasn’t going to listen to this shit. He couldn’t care about what Kain wanted. Not now. His emotions were already on edge. “You have to leave. Now.” Before I either kill him or fuck him. Shit.
“I can’t.” Kain sounded pained.
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t’.” This had gone far enough.
“My ship has been impounded. The minute I stepped onto your cruiser, I became a target. The official word is you’ve kidnapped me.”
“I see.” He didn’t really, Rave was pissed almost beyond words and couldn’t understand why he got the shit end of the whole deal. The whole thing sounded convoluted. “So it’s okay for you to go undercover, but I had to be lied to.” None of it made sense.
“No. The official word is also that you’ve taken me hostage. The truth is I’ve walked out of the Alliance…to find you, to finally tell you the truth. This was my first chance to get to you.”
Rave grabbed for his chair and fell into it. He couldn’t believe what Kain had told him. Could it be true? Had he lived a lie for the last two years? Shock reverberated through his body. Maybe Kain hadn’t deserted him after all. Rave crushed such thoughts. No, the man before him had to be following orders, no matter what he might be saying. And what truth could Kain possibly have for him?
Kain took in the pain and disbelief on Rave’s face. He’d put it there, with the help of the Alliance. Kain wanted to soothe it away, but it wasn’t his place anymore no matter how much he wanted it to be. I told them the kidnapping plan wouldn’t work. Damn it, I need this to work.
His thoughts on the matter were never taken into consideration, one more reason to leave the Alliance behind for good.
He ached to cradle Rave. Their time apart had felt like a lifetime. Rave had changed—he’d bulked up. Kain could see the muscles ripple when he gripped the chair. Rave’s brown eyes flashed from anger to shock and pain before the wall came back up. Then his gaze held determination. His body hadn’t been the only thing to change. Rave’s face had a steely quality. Kain missed the smiling man from the past. The only thing really that had stayed the same was Rave’s short military haircut. Kain took a step forward, wanting to run his hands through his old love’s hair, but Rave’s glare stopped him. The hurt in the man’s eyes made his heart twinge. He’d put that look there, whether he’d intended to or not.
Kain swallowed and moved forward to stand in front of Rave despite the frown marring that beautiful face. Before he could halt his movement, Kain caressed Rave’s cheek. He almost lost it when Rave closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. Kain fell to his knees in front of Rave, grabbed his ex-lover’s head in his hands then took his mouth in a kiss. Rave stiffened, but Kain didn’t let him think. He licked Rave’s lips until they opened for him. He heard a groan, but he wasn’t sure if he’d made the sound or if Rave had as Kain poured every ounce of the loss from the last two years into that kiss.
Rave thrust him away and left his chair. The shock of the ship’s metal-grate flooring smacking his ass surprised Kain. He pressed his fingers to his lips, the taste of Rave still lingering, as he glanced up at the angry face of his former lover.
“Fuck you, Kain! You can’t waltz in here after all this time and expect me to fall all over you.” Rave wiped his hand over his mouth as if rubbing off the kiss.
Kain bowed his head. What did you expect? Going into this situation, he’d known it would be difficult. A dull crash reverberated through the room, and he lifted his head. His jaw dropped. Rave’s fist had made a dent in the wall.
Kain jumped to his feet. “Are you okay?”
“Stay away from me, Kain. I’m not going to tell you again.”
“I really don’t want to hear your apologies.” Rave turned to glare at him.
Kain stepped back at the hatred in Rave’s eyes. He’d changed in the years they’d been away from each other. Rave had become what the Alliance had wanted him to be—a cutthroat trader.
“Will you do it?” He hated the weak tone of his voice, but if he had to beg, he just might.
The laugh that echoed around the bridge caused Kain to cringe.
“Brilliant, just brilliant. I have no loyalty to you or the Alliance. Why should I help? Give me one good reason.”
“Melanie.” Putting Rave’s sister’s name out there would give the man pause. He hadn’t changed enough not to care about family.
Rave clenched his jaw and closed his eyes. “Explain yourself. Now.”
Kain knew the calmness in Rave’s voice hid the anger racing through him. He reached into his uniform to pull out a vid stick, which he tossed to Rave.
“The cargo you’re picking up on Seid II is a T-15K Laser.” Kain nodded toward the stick in Rave’s hands. “Watch the test if you don’t believe me. It’s a planet killer. The Royalists are using you to smuggle it to the New Moon colony. They plan on launching it in two weeks to show the Alliance that they’re ready to take over.”
“How do I know this isn’t another fucking trick?”
“I wish it were. But it isn’t. If we don’t stop this, Melanie and New Moon will be dead.”
“What’s to stop me from taking her off planet?”
“Nothing, but I know you, Rave. You may have changed some, but there’s no way you’ll let a whole planet of innocent people die because you’re pissed off.”
The alarms on the Retribution blared.
The computer-generated voice cut through the noise. “Captain, an Alliance ship has locked weapons on the Retribution.”
“We have to leave, Rave. Now.”
“Why? Just tell them you’re on board. Plus, my crew is still on planet.”
“What you don’t understand is not everyone is aware of the plan. We need to keep on schedule, and getting detained here is not an option. Is anyone on board?” He rushed through his explanation.