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An Unexpected Debt: The Amagi Series, #1

An Unexpected Debt: The Amagi Series, #1

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An Unexpected Debt: The Amagi Series, #1

Length:
290 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 5, 2021
ISBN:
9781940599816
Format:
Book

Description

Hijacked dreams and a high-stakes gamble. Can a young woman secure suitors while trying to soar among the stars?
 
Skylar Kawabata has her future mapped out. Frustrated by years of misuse from her family, she's got her Class Three pilot license firmly in hand and plans to take over her mother's interstellar shipping business. But when she discovers it's been sold right out from under her to a handsome but infuriating man, the outraged ex-heiress vows to make him pay.
 
Already struggling to feel worthy enough to attract top-notch men to build her relationship network, Skylar's fight for her inheritance turns into a heart-stopping power play. But she's up against long odds from a love-match setup with an old crush, an impulsive bet with the man controlling her legacy, and one of her many dads becoming a dangerous threat… 
 
Can Skylar navigate to the destiny she desires, or will she get knocked off-course?
 
An Unexpected Debt is the first book in The Amagi science fiction romance series. If you like mouthy heroines, an array of delicious men, and amazing world-building, then you'll adore S. J. Pajonas' action-packed adventure. 

 

Please note: THIS SERIES MUST BE READ IN ORDER. It is a true series and plot elements carry through every book, from beginning to end. You will miss too much by reading this series out of order or skipping around. This is also a slow-burn romance series that contains profanity and sexual situations.

Publisher:
Released:
Nov 5, 2021
ISBN:
9781940599816
Format:
Book

About the author

Stephanie (S. J.) is a writer, knitter, Capricorn, Japanophile, and USA Today Best Selling author. She loves summer, downtempo beats, yoga pants, foxes, owls, dogs, sushi, pasta, and black tea. She lives outside NYC with her husband, two great kids, and her dog who always wants to play. When it comes to her work, she writes about everyday women and uncommon worlds. Find her online at https://www.spajonas.com


Book Preview

An Unexpected Debt - S. J. Pajonas

1

Congratulations! Everyone cries, and I blink away the surprise of all the voices at once.

The cake slides onto the table in front of me. Sparklers spitting bursts of light into the surrounding darkness. The cake is chocolate drenched in even more chocolate, and ‘Class Three!’ is written on top in looping letters. I specifically asked for it to be as chocolatey as possible. Chocolate and red wine from Casa Aravena — you can’t go wrong there.

My cousin and best friend Vivian comes forward out of the shadows to squeeze me and kiss my cheek.

We’re so happy for you. So proud. Her eyes are a little misty, and I have to stop myself from scoffing at her. I know I was on death’s doorstep not too long ago, but I’m better now. And she’s been through quite a lot the last few years. If she’s proud of me, then I’m going to let her be proud…

Kind of…

Quit your weeping, I whisper at her with a wink, and she chuckles. It’s going to take a lot more to kill me than crash-landing in the desert.

Thank goodness for that, she says. She puts her arm around my shoulders, and we both stare at the cake as everyone else laughs and chats. The good mood is dialed up to one-thousand percent, and I can’t even describe how amazing that feels after the last two years. Actually, make that my entire life. Because my life was crazy insane way before I started flying the Duo Systems with Vivian and attending flight school again.

Just think, Vivian says. You’ll be on your own now. Finally. No bosses. No obligations. Just you, the Amagi, and the wide-open universe. You’ll be taking over your mom’s business within a month or two, and then things are really going to pick up. I’m so happy for you. You deserve it. She kisses me on the cheek, and I inhale a deep breath. Yes, finally. Freedom and making the family business my own.

The sparklers die out, and a restaurant server comes forward to cut slices for everyone. I hold my piece, but I take a few minutes to enjoy the calm, a calm I won’t have for long. I circle the room and talk to everyone. I put on a fucking happy face because that’s what’s expected of me, especially after this long haul and a high score on my final exam. Plus, the Class Three license. Damn, I have wanted that forever. And I deserve it, for sure. It’s too bad a hijacking, escape pod, scary desert adventure, and brush with death marred my last week at flight school.

I stand back and remember the people missing who I want to be here. Amira, my flight school buddy, is off celebrating on Palo Alto with her family. Who the hell knows where Kalvin is. I’m sure he didn’t mean to kiss-and-flee, but that’s what he did. Jinzo’s mom, Hera Lee, is here but his sister, Asteria, is not. I miss her. Mom and Dad are on opposite sides of the room, and that’s the way I expect them to be for the rest of the night. But otherwise, I don’t have many friends, something Vivian and I always had in common. I’ve met a ton of people throughout the Duo Systems, slept with dozens of men, but friends? Those are scarce. When you spend your life growing up on a ship and not going to school, you don’t make many friends.

I may not have a lot of friends, but I do have plenty of enemies. All of Mom’s other useless consorts — Miguel, Dominic, and Juan — are pathetic weaklings. They bum around, act helpless, and can’t find anything, even when it’s right in front of their noses. None of them showed up tonight, and that’s not a surprise. They don’t like me very much. My older brothers, Oliver and Raphael, who do nothing but suck off the family teat, declined to come. They are incapable of being happy for me. Everything is all about them at all times. They tolerate me because I’m inheriting the family business, and I still give them money.

I do miss my younger sisters Ana and Jukia. They have their own problems and attending my party wouldn’t help them. My two younger brothers, Cameron and Nolan, are pretty great, but they were told to stay home. I miss their laughter.

My eyes focus on Mom across the room. She’s been distant all evening, giving me only the barest of praise and an empty hug. She frowns at her sister, Vivian’s mom, and I cringe, wondering what’s bothering her and how I’ll have to fix it.

Vivian’s second consort, Ken, approaches me and slides up to my side.

Your eyes look haunted, he says and shivers. I knock him on the arm playfully. Hey, now, don’t go abusing your new boss.

I press my hand to my chest. "My new boss? How so? Pretty sure the Amagi is my ship."

He smiles. Of course she is. He pulls me from the side and gives me a kiss on my temple. Ken Mata is one of Vivian’s four men, and he’s also the CEO of Flyght, my new side gig. Once I get the Amagi out of space dock and running again, I’ll be taking Flyght clients back and forth between the Brazilianos and Californikos Systems. Those flights are always fun and lucrative, and I can do them in between running my mother’s business on her ship. Flyght is still the hippest start-up in the Duo Systems, and I will use my Diamond Level permit with them to make money for the next few years. I have a good feeling about it, the kind of feeling that sits in my chest like a proud lion.

I will make my own money, running my own ship, and meeting more men to make a part of my relationship network. That is if I don’t go home and find my family and family business a complete mess after leaving them alone for almost three years.

I swallow a gulp of wine to keep my anxiety down. Skylar Kawabata does not have anxiety. Skylar Kawabata is a kick-ass pilot and independent shipowner, out cruising the galaxy and looking for love. She is not, I repeat, not anxious and worried about her family. She is not anxious about meeting men for her relationship network, either.

Not one bit.

Understood?

The Amagi is your ship, and I can’t wait to see you flying her again. It’s been too long, Jinzo says, butting into our conversation from behind. Ken and I turn to admit him. Jinzo is Vivian’s number one consort and husband. He’s also the man putting the Amagi back together for me ever since the military tore her apart. Where do you think you’ll take her first?

Jinzo’s eyes flash with delight, and I hold my breath for a moment. Vivian is so lucky to have found the most perfect men for her. I wish I could clone Jinzo and take the extra for myself. He’s been a godsend the last two years as he’s put the Amagi back together with the help of his mother, sister, and friends at Lee Shipyards.

I shrug. The usual. I need to visit the family on the Mikasa, get the lay of the land, and understand the business. Then I was thinking about going to visit Amira first.

Palo Alto, right? He sips his wine.

Yeah, she’s going to be there for a few months. She’s taking some time off before getting back to flying. She’s actually doing her own relationship network research because she doesn’t have a matchmaker like I do. But she would die if Vivian’s men knew this, so I keep the details to myself.

Sounds like a plan. Jinzo leans in to give me a kiss on the cheek. Congratulations again. I’m going to go rescue Gus from having to talk to my mother all night long. He chuckles as he walks off to rescue Vivian’s third consort. Vivian and her fourth consort, Mat, are still sitting at the table eating cake.

I watch them for a moment and wonder if I’ll ever be that happy. Vivian smiles and laughs, covering her mouth filled with chocolate cake. She glows with good-natured glee, something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

Ken nods. There’s that haunted look again.

I roll my eyes. Go be with your woman and leave me alone. And though I mean the words, I deliver them without malice, so he knows I’m not angry.

Got it, he says, bowing before heading off.

I no longer want to talk to anyone. I grab my slice of cake and head to a table in the corner to eat and drink in peace. It won’t last, but it will be enough to lessen the anxiety and anger rising in my gut minute by minute. Despite the party atmosphere, there’s something wrong, and the sensation nags at me. Mom is too distant, and the lack of immediate family here is making me suspicious.

The party is dying down, and as I look across the tables at how happy Viv is, my mood drops. She smiles as Jinzo leans in to kiss her, and Gus’s hand is on her back. She deserves every happiness. There’s no doubt about that. Seeing it, though, reminds me of my two years in school alone. Two years of my nose in books, flight simulators, checking in on my family whenever I could, and late nights of drinking in dive bars with the bartenders as my only company.

Why the glum face? Marcelo sidles up next to me, an extra glass of wine in his hand. As my matchmaker, he’s in charge of keeping me happy but not out of control. I take the glass of wine and paint on a smile. Ach. You can’t fool me with that, he says with a chuckle.

Just doing as told. Working hard and keeping my ass on the straight and narrow.

Good, good. Ms. Vivian busted her butt to get this family back on an even keel. And I know we all want to keep it there.

I nod as I sip the wine. It’s excellent as always because not only does Viv have impeccable taste in men, but her men have excellent taste as well.

Marcelo softens as I peer out over the crowd and avoid his eyes.

We’re all really proud of you, Ms. Skylar. You worked hard for this license. Class Three is quite an achievement. Your mother was five years older by the time she made Class Three.

Then why does it feel like failure?

Thanks. I tip my glass to him, but I’m just doing my part. I’m a cog in the machine. It’s what I wanted. It’s what everyone wanted. But I didn’t expect it to be so isolating. I’m gonna hit the head, and then I’ll be back.

Not likely.

I leave my wine glass at the table, grab my bag, and head back past the main dining area. Bypassing the bathrooms, I exit out of the rear of the restaurant and walk five blocks north before hailing an autocab.

A whistle echoes across the street. Hey baby! Looking fine tonight! someone calls out, and my blood turns icy before it erupts into a brief lava flow.

Go fuck yourself, I whisper before I get in the next cab.

Corner of Avenue Kai and B, I instruct the autocab bot.

I do my best not to think the whole way there. Thinking gets me into trouble. Think about flying. Think about running my family. Think about raising my brothers and sisters. Think about men. Think about not being good enough. Never being good enough. Think, think, think. It leads to anger, which leads to mistakes. I’ve made a lot of those in my limited lifetime already.

When the autocab arrives, I know what to do. I count to ten before the door opens, and then I head straight inside.

Hey, Jess, I say, nodding to the night attendant at the front desk.

Hey, yourself. Her eyes travel up from the heels, to my legs, to my short, sparkly dress. Out at a party tonight?

You could say that, I reply, letting my smirk do the talking. Got anyone available?

She sits forward to look at her screen. Daniel is free for the next hour.

I breathe out a relieved sigh. Good. I’ll take a Wham Bam. I roll my eyes as the screen shows up in front of me.

It’s the same fucking package every time so she should know. But Jess is by-the-book. No ambiguity. She doesn’t ‘know’ me and would never admit she does. That’s the beauty of coming here.

I know the list by heart now and where all the menus are. I’ll take the fifteen-minute session. Oral, yes. Kissing, no. Cuddling, no. Talking, definitely no. Toys, okay. I pick two that are my favorites. I fill out all the body parts I don’t want to be touched (pretty much everything that isn’t necessary) and hit Purchase.

Jess looks at the order with raised eyebrows. Are you sure this is all you want? You look like you should be celebrating.

I’m not celebrating, I bite out between clenched teeth.

Maybe a threesome? It’s been a long time. When I stare her down, she chuckles. I’m only looking out for you.

Fine. Fine. I sink into my hips, desperate to get this done and over with. I glance over her shoulder at the rack of goodies behind the desk. Give me a bar of chocolate, an extra fifteen minutes of silence in bed, and Daniel has to leave the room.

Her lips twist into a grimace. You know they hate that. They live to serve.

They’re sexbots. Daniel will survive.

She pulls on her hospitality smile. Whatever the customer wants.

Thanks, Jess. You’ll get a great tip, as usual.

She winks at me as she pushes the chocolate bar across the counter. Have a sexy time.

I always do, I chime in a sing-song voice.

It gets the job done, but it’s never the same as the real thing.

2

I yawn and pour coffee for Marcelo in the kitchen of my family’s apartment in Sakata City. It’s another beautiful day on Ossun, but I have the windows turned down to forty-five percent because this headache is determined to kill me.

Where did you disappear to last night? Marcelo asks, adding cream and sugar to his cup. He’s dressed down today in a flowered shirt and black slacks. I’m still in my pajamas. Yes, it’s after lunch. I don’t care.

Here. I wanted to drink in peace. A partial truth. After my sexbot session, I hit the local liquor store, grabbed a bottle of cheap wine, and returned to this apartment. I fell asleep on the couch after watching two episodes of my favorite drama, Next Up. I missed two seasons while in flight school. Catching up on it is going to be brutal.

Sure, you did. Marcelo is too smart to handle even the most basic of white lies. But he clears his throat and moves on. I hope you had fun. Ms. Vivian loved planning that party, and she’s very happy for you.

And I wrote to her this morning and thanked her for everything. Trust me. I am more than thankful for everything — flight school, passing flight school, not dying in the desert. I’m just a little… frustrated.

Marcelo’s eyebrows rise into the top of his shiny, bald head. Frustrated? You look like you’ve seen better days, Ms. Skylar.

I lead Marcelo into the living room and flop into the comfy armchair, spilling coffee on my pajama bottoms. I smack the liquid away and sigh.

I think that’s an understatement. I look worse than Vivian did after she finished school. My hair is a mess. The undercut I’ve always used to keep the mop at bay has grown out. My eyebrows are shaggy, and I haven’t shaved in weeks, waxed in even longer. I sigh as I rest my head back. I need a vacation. Four or five days on Laguna ought to do the trick.

I crack open one eye and gauge Marcelo. He’s calmly sipping his coffee on the couch. I don’t think the vacation is going to happen. But…

Come on, Marcelo. I could hit the spas there and get cleaned up, too. Then I could hop over to wherever to meet the first men on your list.

Laguna is the premier tropical resort planet in the Californikos System, just a hop, skip, and a jump ring away from here. Vivian and I spent a few nice days there a while ago, and I want to go back something fierce.

I’m afraid it’s not possible. You left the party too early last night for this information to make it to you, he says, sipping his coffee. Ms. Vivian needs for you to attend a charity function in her absence on Palo Alto.

I groan and return my head to the back of the chair. A charity event? This can only mean boring, boring, and more boring.

Really? Do I have to?

No whining, he warns. The event is in — he checks his datapad — five days. There won’t be time for a jaunt over to Laguna, especially if you want to grab the Amagi from space dock and then get back to see your family on the Mikasa. We’ll be cutting things close as it is.

Right, right. I sigh and sip my coffee. I guess there’s nothing to be done about this. I want to do both those things. There’s not enough time for Laguna right now. I point my finger at him. But don’t think I’m going to forget about it. Laguna better be top of the list for after this charity shindig.

He raises an eyebrow.

Top, I stress, bringing my hand up to a level position at eye line.

He cracks a smile. Fine. I’ll see what I can do. But you owe me something.

I sip my coffee again. Oh yeah, what’s that?

Information.

My stomach sinks.

The first thing I need to hear about is this man you met at flight school.

I throw back my head in a guffaw. Hearing Marcelo call Kalvin a ‘man’ makes me want to cackle, but I keep it to myself. Kalvin is more of a precocious boy than anything, though I’m sure he’d like to show me differently.

Oh yes, he would.

I’m not sure whether I should find that laughter promising or foreboding. Marcelo laughs too.

But my mind is still on Kalvin. Ahhhh. If his parting kisses were any indication, we’ll be hopping into bed with each other the very moment we meet again.

Well, I can tell from your sneaky smile that this one will be hard to give up, Marcelo says.

I wipe the grin from my lips. I have to give him up? You don’t even know him yet.

Marcelo touches his chest. It’s my job to make sure you meet the right matches, correct?

I swallow the knot in my throat. Of course.

And while you may meet a few men along the way who will be good for you, we will still need to vet them all and make sure they will be the right people for your relationship network. We don’t want to take any chances, right?

Right. We don’t, I mumble.

Because bad matches are exactly what I want to avoid. Looking at my mom’s network, I need to stay away from any men like them. Marcelo helped Mom find Juan, probably the most helpful of her consorts, but the last of them, too. I was doing all the family work by the time he joined us, and Juan only had to pick up some of the slack.

For a hot second, I consider talking to Marcelo about Mom’s men and my past. But Marcelo knows nothing of what I’ve endured for my family. I’ve been too ashamed to confess anything more than the barest of facts. He knows Miguel does his part and stands by Mom. He knows my father retired years ago and has been living a life of solitude. But Marcelo doesn’t know that Miguel, Dominic, and Juan passed off every responsibility to me as soon as my father moved out.

I trust Marcelo now to pick out the right men, but…

Vivian got to choose some of her men, I point out.

Under my supervision, he stresses. And he’s right. Though he cautioned her about one of her choices, that match turned out to be one of the better options, despite his family. So… Marcelo waits for my response.

His name is Kalvin Vidal. His family is from Concord City, and I think he’s back there now. I’m not really sure. Last I saw him, that’s what he said he was going to do. We ended our last moments with a kiss and a promise to get together soon.

But my desire to see him again has already waned. I’m sure he’s forgotten about me, despite calling me ‘princess’ approximately one billion times and promising we’ll see each other soon. Most men do not last more than a night with me. They never have. They are almost always disinterested the next morning, or I have to leave to fly somewhere else. My life has never been conducive to relationships.

I’m quiet as I sip on my coffee, and Marcelo watches me. He takes a few long breaths before clearing his throat.

I’m going to extend the same courtesy and invitation to you as I did to Ms. Vivian when we first started working together, he starts. Let me be a sounding board for you, a friend you can talk to about whatever you need.

I set my coffee cup down.

"I’m not your mother, and I’m not your boss… I’m not Vivian

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