Galaxy Glitch by Juliet Cardin by Juliet Cardin - Read Online

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Summary

Nettle Vallen, alias legendary Liberty Forall, is rescuer and relocater of unjustly persecuted shifters. Teneg, renegade smuggler, has partnered with Nettle in the past in dangerous extractions. The pair is reunited once again, only this time Nettle is the one who needs saving. Extremely self-reliant, Nettle bristles over the idea of becoming dependant on another—even if it happens to be the sexy Lizord lover of her past. Nettle strives to put her reservations aside when she learns a terrifying secret about her past—one that makes her question her own identity and all she has ever believed in her life. But softening, even for a moment, will undermine the stronghold she's created around herself, possibly allowing Teneg into her heart, where he longs to be—for good.
Published: Torrid Books on
ISBN: 9781611607307
List price: $3.99
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Galaxy Glitch - Juliet Cardin

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Page 1 of 1

Connie

Prologue

Hurry, Nettle, we must move!

I didn’t want to run anymore. My legs hurt and my breath felt heavy in my chest. Why, Da? Why do they chase us? What crimes had I to be guilty of being only six years of age? And my father, kind and handsome, surely, there was no reason for him to be the object of their rage?

Tall dark trees loomed all around us, only the light of a full moon lit our way. Recent rains made the ground beneath my feet mushy. Old wet leaves stuck to my shoes and mud sucked at every step I took, bogging me down, making it hard to move.

Please, just a little farther. He’d carried me for a while, but even my small size was a burden to bear overlong.

Rumbling voices bounced from tree to tree, giving the impression the small mob was everywhere. There were more than ten of them, I was sure. High upon a hilltop we’d spied them coming. I’d counted that many before father had pulled me away.

Men fear that which is different from them, he explained.

How were we so different? Did we not live in a little thatched roof cabin with timbered walls and planked floors, same as them? Was my straw mattress bed, with soft blankets stitched by my mother’s own hand not just as theirs was?

We did not live in the village. Perhaps that was it? Or maybe because my mother was dead?

On we raced, threading our way through the woods—jumping, dodging and ducking obstacles in our path. Every time we thought we’d pulled away, the mob would once again swell up behind us. The endless miles of trees had been a place to run and play and forage, sustaining us throughout my life. And now, it spread out vastly, offering succor in this time of need.

Till we could go no farther.

Barely did we stop in time, coming just short of the edge of a precipice. Stones clattered over the foreboding edge, echoing their descent to the wandering stream far below.

Stop! commanded a voice. Dark shadows emerged seemingly from every corner of the forest, casting light from the torches they carried. We were trapped.

When I looked up, I saw my father’s face was flushed with exhaustion and fear. His grip was tight on my hand and I felt a tremor pass between us. Faces enflamed by the torchlight made the mob appear sinister and grotesque. Were these the same faces I’d seen throughout my days? There, Dinny Hedgelow, a fellow who lived on the edge of the village. He’d been friendly in the past. And Martin Vell, the man who baked the bread. All of them were familiar. Though now, they seemed as strangers with their chests puffed out in anger and purpose.

Devil’s spawn! Ragnor Ballick hissed. This appeared aimed at me.

Leave us be, my father said, his voice betraying the fear we both felt. We will leave and never return.

Too late for that. Dinny’s skinny, scraggly body bent forward, his finger pointing out as though to push us to our deaths with it.

Nettle, my father’s voice sounded over top of my head.

I peered up again and our eyes locked. He stepped back, inching us closer to the ledge.

No, Da! I whined. Did he mean to end us then?

She will return with us to stand trial, Ragnor bellowed.

Trial? For what? We had done nothing except eke out a living, same as them. It was true the villagers had scorned us some, but surely, they didn’t mean to kill us?

You must be brave, Daughter, Da said.

Father, no, I begged.

Give her over and you may go, Martin entreated.

Never! my father yelled.

Why, Da? What did I do wrong? They were intent on having me, for what purpose I did not know. Except, Martin’s daughter, Avish, had spit at me two days past, and I had pushed her into the mud. Was that what this was all about?

Nettle, my father said. Remember I love you, Daughter, more than life itself.

I’m sorry, Da. I shouldn’t have pushed Avish. I’m so sorry! I must make it right.

He shook his head and smiled at my tear-streaked face. You’ve done nothing wrong, love.

Feet shuffled anxiously and torchlight wavered as the men advanced. Father’s hand tightened on mine. Remember, Nettle, I love you my darling. Be brave, be strong, he said.

Brave? Strong? For what, Da?

In the next instant I no longer felt the pebbled ground beneath my feet. Instead, I was suspended in air. I looked in horror at my father’s face and saw his anguish. I screamed and my hands and feet thrashed wildly, trying to get to him. I heard gasps and rushing feet, but all I saw was Da’s face.

I love you, he cried. I caught the words and held them tight—my only salvation—and began to fall into the great abyss.

Chapter 1

What a bitch! The stupid girl had walked by my table at least three times and completely ignored my requests for another drink. Why I had ever agreed to meet here, of all places, was beyond me. The bar was called Happy Endings, I suppose because the majority of patrons showed up after work.

Liberty?

I looked up at the sound of my name and smiled at the man standing before me. Anglos?

Yes, he said, and sat down in the seat across from me. I could tell by the grimace on his face this wasn’t the type of place he frequented. Have you got the information?

He was all business. Too bad, he was a nice looking fellow and I wouldn’t have minded a bit of pleasure on this rendezvous. I retrieved a packet from my bag and slid it across the table to him. How long will it take? I asked as he opened the envelope and perused the contents.

He shrugged. Dunno. A few days, maybe longer.

Time was of the essence. When can you get started?

Another shrug. Tomorrow.

The waitress swished past the table once more, but this time, seeing my handsome companion, she came back. Two more of these, I said, indicating my glass. A Revolt alright with you? I asked Anglos. This night’s work called for something strong.

Sure, he said.

The girl returned with our drinks in record time. Anglos tucked the papers into his jacket and contemplated me while I sipped. How’d you get into this line of work?

Guess you could say I have a passion for the unfairly persecuted, I replied.

An expensive passion.

I knew his fee would be considerable. My last smuggler had been expensive, but reckless, his latest job—not one of mine—costing him seven years in Earth’s clink. Too bad, he’d be great in the sack.

Anglos finished his drink and stood up to leave. I’ll be in touch, he said.

I got to my feet as well. No sense staying in this dive any longer than necessary. Hopefully all goes well and we can reconnect at the appointed location. It’s listed on the map I’ve included with your instructions.

Yes, I saw it. I’ll message you once we’re out.

His confidence gave me comfort. With a quick nod, he was gone. I gave the bar one last look around and sighed in frustration. Looked like I’d be having another lonely night.

I left the bar and headed for Xanisel Hotel, one of the only three decent inns beneath the dome. Granted, Treox was an industrial planet, mines and factories offering the main hub of employment. Beyond the several domes that dotted the surface the air was thick with humidity and virtually unbearable for any length of time. That was, unless you were a native. Lizords found the conditions quite comfortable. They also worked inside and out, proving to be tireless laborers, and therefore, quite attractive to employers. They were also attractive in another way. Big, powerful, and green—and they packed more than the average male’s share of anatomy.

Being a weeknight the streets were practically deserted, with exception to the regular riffraff you’d find loitering around after dark. My steps echoed hollowly along the paved walkway, my shadow casting ghoulish dancing shapes across the shop walls as I passed. I hesitated mid-step, certain I could make out the sound of steady tread behind me. When I turned, there was no one. As I took up my pace again, I grew aware I wasn’t alone. My gait increased, and sure enough, the sound behind me strode faster as well. In my line of business I’d learned to be careful, distrustful even. I’d discovered when something felt off it usually was.

Quick as a wink I ducked into an alley. Probably not the wisest move—if I was a feckless female. I waited. The stalker’s pace slowed and then stopped. From where I stood, back pressed against the wall, I could see a large shape move forward and then dominate the entrance I’d taken. He held something in his hands I couldn’t quite decipher. Not that it mattered. It’d all be over in a few moments. Despite my circumstances, my heart drummed a steady beat and my breathing was regular. I moved away from the wall and awaited his advance.

Stupid girl, he chastised in a rasping voice. A hired mercenary no doubt.

Who sent you? I demanded.

You know who.

My enemies were vast, I hadn’t a clue. So you take their dirty money and do their bidding, no questions asked? And I’m the one who’s stupid?

He was close enough to see my smirk. He scowled. Good. Inciting his wrath would work to my advantage. When he made his move it was ungainly and loutish, as I knew it would be. I could now see he held a pipe in his hands. He swung it high in an arc over his head. Before it could descend, I dropped low and swung my leg around, hooking it behind his heel. Tripped up, he fell to the ground with a thud. Before he could recover I jumped to my feet and flew at him. Throwing all my weight behind the attack, I landed a series of savage, well placed kicks and then an elbow to his gut. His breath came out in a ‘whoosh’.

Stop, he gasped.

Sitting atop his chest I moved as though to pummel his face with my fists. When he begged for mercy I glared at him. Thought you’d get the best of me, did you? I sneered. Stupid fool.

Please!