Chapter 1

Everyone was quiet.

All eyes not glued to computer screens were staring out the windows at the two monstrous cruisers flying alongside them. Warships more interested in preventing their escape than offering protection.

Raidan felt the weight of every passing second, each moment taking him one step closer to the inevitable. And, in the silence of spaceflight, he heard the solemn bells of the executioner.

This is it, boy,” he whispered to himself. “I hope it was worth it.”

His XO looked up from her station, probably in response to his mumbling. Her narrow eyes shot him a hateful glare.

Seeing her that way, knowing her disgust was justified, made him almost regret his decision to leave her in the dark. She’d been a faithful friend these past several years, and deceiving her had left a bitter taste in his mouth. But if he hadn’t betrayed her, if he’d instead chosen to tell her everything, she would have worked against him to compromise his efforts. Or, perhaps worse, she might’ve taken his side. He doubted it—breaking the law and defying orders wasn’t her way—but if she had, she’d be bound for prison now too. And that would be unbearable.

Poor beautiful Commander Presley. And she really was beautiful with glossy golden hair, a splendid physique, and, most important of all, cunning green eyes that pierced anything, feared nothing, and gleamed with intelligence. She was more than most twenty-eight-year-old officers could hope to be and an outstanding second in command. His eyes traced her misleadingly delicate face, and part of him wished he were ten years younger, like the junior helmsman at her side, enthralled and intimidated by such a stunning young woman. With an amused grin, Raidan imagined himself as the boy he used to be—the timid new officer at the ops post, nervously scouring his mind for an excuse to ask out a girl. It made him smile, and, for a moment, he almost forgot the gravity of his situation. Almost.

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