Cali & Drake (The Alliance Book 1)

BOOK: Cali & Drake (The Alliance Book 1)
5.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Cali & Drake




Stormy McKnight

and Disclaimer

pending, Stormy McKnight


by Stormy McKnight


Cali & Drake
is the first
book in The Alliance series. I would advise the books be read in order, to
enhance the experience. However, I do try to write them as stand-alone as

Cali &
is a work of fiction and the characters, events, and dialogue found
within the story are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as
real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, either living or deceased,
is completely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced or shared in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including but not limited to digital copying, file
sharing, audio recording, email and printing without the permission in writing
from the author

Chapter One

, or Cali as she preferred, stared unseeing out at the
manicured lawns, classical statues and flower beds of her childhood home.
the faint bickering of her
parents reached her ears, but she ignored them for the moment. She was still
reeling from being dragged off the transport by her mother’s personal guard.
Instead of arriving in
, the main
city of her home world of
, and
arranging her living apartments like all new placements, she found herself in
her mother’s office instead. Absently fingering the collar of her Cestori Space
Administration issued black jumpsuit Cali wondered, not for the first time,
what she was doing here.

“Calinae, I’m ready for you now.” Her mother refused to use her nickname,
saying she found it vulgar.

Cali forced herself not to jump to attention.
Edal thrived on getting the upper hand and used intimidation
if necessary, to get her way. Cali turned slowly, knowing it would infuriate
her mother.

“Why did you have me escorted here? If you wanted to see me before
placement, you could’ve talked to me at the graduation ceremonies.” Cali kept
her voice steady. It was imperative not to get riled when dealing with Aicen
Edal, even when she was your mother.

“You know what it’s like when I’m out in public Calinae. I simply didn’t
have time to talk with you then. Why you’re here is of utmost importance.” Her
mother’s calm demeanor told Cali
since she was always calm.

“You’re to take a life-partner.”

Cali had to hand it to her, she did like to keep it short and sweet.
Blurting out that Cali was to take a
as if they were discussing her choice of dinner meat, was a bit callous even
for her. Despite her best
could feel her face turning red. Every woman on Cestori got to make their own
choices, but her mother insisted on trying to control her. This was beyond logical
behavior, which her mother prided herself on. Cali took a moment to calm down
by counting to ten. She felt a bit better, telling herself her mother couldn’t
be serious.

“Who might
have chosen to
share my life with?” Cali purposefully reminded her mother it was her choice. It
was a wasted

“It will be posted on all media forums that you’ve chosen to take Vathral
as a life-partner.” A satisfied look flashed across her mother’s face for a
quick second, to be replaced by her usual serene expression.

?” Cali choked out. “My
friend from the Academy? Vathral Dax?” Cali looked imploringly at her father, but
Eliav Edal just sat in his seat by the fireplace. In all her twenty-four years,
the only person she had known to stand up to her mother, was her father. The
only sign he was listening right now was the way he clenched his hands together
in his lap. “Father, you approved—”

“Leave your father out of this. We’ve talked it over and he won’t go
against me on this issue.” Her mother sat taller in her chair. “You know Vathral
is a perfect choice. The logic in the match is obvious, even to your father.”

“I’m allowed to choose my own life-partner.”
Cali’s temper, always easy to boil according to her mother, certainly bubbled
up for this occasion. “I don’t see any logical reason I would choose Vathral.”

“You are twenty-four years old
Calinae. You aren’t getting any younger.” Her
to point that out at every opportunity. “I agreed to let you
continue with advanced courses at the Academy, even after you finished your
basic degree. This was allowed only because it would enhance your resume when it
came time for you to join the Initiate Council. I even let you add Cestori Space
curriculum in with your core studies. I felt it was a waste of time, but your
father swayed me to let you try them.”

At this
her mother looked at
her father quizzically, as if wondering what species of dung slug he was. Her
father just sat
in his seat,
giving her a slight nod of the head.

Her mother continued, “I can’t wait for you to come around to seeing
Vathral as a partner on your own. He has initiated talks to partner with
Diandra Lor. There will be no partnership between Vathral and Diandra.
Lor has no desire to offend me—”

“Is that what this is about?” Cali’s eyes burned with unshed tears. “You
want me to partner with Vathral for political gain?” She knew that her mother,
as the most important political figure on Cestori, had ambition aplenty. That
her mother might have plans for her Cali had always figured, but she had tried to
shape a life for herself. When she graduated with honors from the space program
and been offered a captaincy, Cali thought her mother would see how happy she
was in her chosen career. She hadn’t considered her mother would take things to
this extreme.

Her mother glared at her stonily. “With our families joined, the future
of our hold on the council is secured. Imagine the possibilities Calinae. Vathral
Dax is Tonn Dax’s only child. Whoever Vathral partners with will hold the key
to that seat on the council. If something were to happen to Tonn Dax before
Vathral’s partner were to have a female offspring, then Vathral’s partner would
naturally step into that seat, holding it for her child. Two seats on the
council, under the rule of our family. Now picture that scenario in reverse.
Vathral partnering with Diandra gives them the potential to control two seats.
I can’t allow that to happen.”

“Nothing is going to happen to Tonn Dax.” Cali shook her head against the
feeling in her stomach that it wouldn’t be an accident if something did occur.
“I know you feel strongly about politics mother, however, I don’t care if our
genetic line heads the council or not. Diandra is my friend, as well as
. They have true feelings for each

Her mother scoffed, “Feelings? Tread carefully here Calinae. Is that what
they teach at the Academy these days? Instead of making you stronger, as I’d
hoped, they have made you
Her mother looked
her father, “All the
time you’ve spent with her. I have no one else to blame for how she turned

Her mother made to stand up and then sat back down shaking her head. Her
hands massaged over her temples, “I’ll have to see about managing the direction
the Academy is taking if there are subversive teachings going on. For now, I’m
done with this discussion.” She slapped her hands down on the desk. “I’m not
going to argue with you
. You’ll simply
do as I say in this matter. A partnership between you and
will happen.” She pushed a button on
the desk and her personal guard entered. “Take my daughter to her rooms, and secure
the door. No one other than myself is allowed to see her.”

“Aicen, don’t be hasty—” her father tried to intervene.

“You have coddled her and this is the result.” Her mother held up her
hand to silence her father. The guards took her by the elbows and assist her
out the door. As soon as they passed the doorframe Cali heard, “She is weak and
believes in feelings Eliav! How could you let…”

Whatever her mother said next Cali
couldn’t make out. She stumbled
along the halls in shock,
by the guards at each elbow. Instead of
happily arriving in
, she was
being locked into her rooms. Her mother was head of the Council of Three, the
governing body of Cestori. If Aicen Edal wanted something, she got it. In this
case, a partnership between herself and Vathral.

Chapter Two

When she reached the door to her bedroom Cali wrenched her arms free of
the guards and stalked past them into her old rooms. She didn’t even flinch
when she heard the locks click. Looking around frantically, she started pacing.
What could she do?

She paused when she spotted herself in the mirror of her vanity. Her face
was pale and her eyes huge in her head. “
think! What should you do
?” She asked herself then slapped a hand to her
forehead. “
Talking to myself now. Great.”
She flopped into the small vanity seat and rubbed her temples. Realizing that
was something her mother did, she immediately stopped and sat taller in the
seat. She wasn’t going to let her mother get away with this.

Gently patting her cheeks, she tried to clear her head. First thing
first. She needed to get out of her room. This was not going to be a small
challenge. All of the windows had alarm systems on them. She wouldn’t have very
long before the guards monitoring those systems would notice her window was

Scanning the contents of her bedroom,
she realized she had left a few things when she went off to Academy that she
wouldn’t mind taking with her now. This would be the last chance to save them
to show her
since she would
never be coming back here. Taking one of her childhood bags out of her closet,
she began grabbing items that held sentimental value for her. A toy from a
carnival her father had taken her to. A medal she won when she was six for
acrobatics, it stunned her these things were even still here. Why hadn’t her
mother had the room cleaned out? Eyeing an
picture tucked in the mirror of her vanity, she knew the answer. Her father.

Taking the photo, she examined the image. It had been snapped by Alexi,
one of the household staff. It was of her and her father on the day she had
left for the Academy six years ago. Pride and happiness shone in her father’s
face. Excitement and the flush of youth shone in hers. Her father must have
brought it here and tucked it into the frame of the mirror.
How often did he come here to look at it?

Running her fingers along her cheeks, she felt the wetness of tears. Her
father had always wanted more for her than the political life her mother had
mapped out. He had filled her bedtime’s with the old stories. The ones filled
with tales of love and adventure. In a world like Cestori, her father was a
throwback. Nobody believed in love anymore and certainly wouldn’t use it as a
reason to take a life-partner. Her parents certainly hadn’t chosen to stay
together because of any feelings for each other. Her mother had married her
father because he furthered her political goals. Her father married her mother
because it’s what good sons did on Cestori.

Well, logic hadn’t done anyone in
this house any favors.
Cali was tired of hiding her feelings. Not that she
was good at it anyway. She believed in love and wanted that with a
life-partner. She wouldn’t be forced to settle for a political life with
Vathral Dax. A million other women on Cestori would look at this logically and
chose a partner based on that criteria. She wasn’t one of those million
other’s, she was Calinae Edal, romantic.

Taking the photo she added it to the items in her bag Cali straightened
to stand as tall as her
allowed. Her mother was wrong. Emotions
didn’t make you weak, they made you stronger.

With a new energy thrumming through her, Cali came up with an idea. That
first place in acrobatics might come in handy yet. Taking up the bag yet again
she rummaged in her closet. She would need some clothes, even if they were
outdated. The hooded robe might come in handy too. Satisfied with the contents
of the bag, she sat down to wait.

Hearing the faint chime of the clock downstairs, Cali snapped awake.
Dammit, she had fallen asleep. Wiping the faint line of drool from her chin,
she listened intently. Judging by the shadows along the wall, and the quiet
settling of the house, she knew it was as late as she dared wait. On
she crept the short distance from her
bed to the window. With as much care as if she were handling her mother’s
china, Cali eased her window open and peered out.

The trees around the estate had grown substantially since she was a
child. One of the them was just close enough and she might be able to reach it.
Leaning over she dropped her small bag. After a second it landed with a small
in the grass.

Cali knew it was only a matter of seconds before the guards would see she
had opened the window on their security monitors. Taking her courage in hand
she climbed onto the window sill, and before she could think twice and chicken
out, she
for the nearest branch.
With an “oomph” she feared was loud enough to wake the whole countryside, Cali landed
against the limb. Luckily for
had been something of a tomboy growing up, so this wasn’t her first experience
with climbing trees. Her nannies had forever chased her around and nagged at
her to get clean. Her father had laughed and told them to leave her alone.

Grimacing as her tenuous grip on the branch slipped, Cali grunted softly
and strained to get a better hold. She wasn’t six anymore and this was harder
than she remembered. Wrapping her legs carefully around the limb, she
eventually managed to shimmy lower and lower, until there were no more branches.
She figured the drop was about eight feet. Being just over five-feet tall left about
drop to the ground. Hanging
for a moment she muttered to herself,
go before the guards find you
. With a small cry, she opened her fingers.
Weightless for only a moment, her feet hit solid ground, and Cali stumbled at
the sudden impact. She tried to right herself but landed clumsily on her bottom
despite her best efforts to stay on her feet. Cursing about the bruise she was
certain to have in the morning she jumped up and wiped her scraped hands on her
pant legs. All in all, that hadn’t been so bad.

The grounds were empty, but she knew there were guards patrolling. She
would have to avoid them. Snatching up her bag she took off at a run. She
needed to hurry.

Taking a path on the right she ran for all she was worth. Ahead of her
was the wall surrounding her parent’s home, and the security gate that few
people knew about. Her father had taken her through it a few times. At the
she took a moment to bend at the waist
and drew in deep breaths. She hadn’t had
exercise like this since…well since her childhood. The classes she had taken at
the Academy had been about diplomacy, finance, and trade. Even the space
courses hadn’t been physical. Therefore, she wasn’t what anyone would call
“fit” exactly. She was more on the rounded side.

Taking a moment to grab her cloak out of her bag of clothing she hurried
to cover her hair. Since it was platinum blond in color it was sure to be shining
in the light from the moon. Looking up she sighed, of
it would be full tonight.

When she reached
to open
the gate,
she triggered an unknown communication, or comm, beacon.


She jumped when a holographic
or holo’s as they called them on Cestori, of her father came up. He was in the
same clothing in the
as when she saw
him in her mother’s office. This recording was very recent.

“I hoped you would make it to this gate. We took it so many times on our
adventures. I have disabled the sensor on your bedroom
since that was the logical escape route you would take. I
will distract both the guards and your mother for as long as possible. I think
I can get you about eight hours. I won’t know where you run too, or how you are
going to get there. I know how resilient you are Cali. You’ll manage to get
away. When you are free, don’t waste any time.” He paused and looked over his
shoulder as if he heard someone coming. When the way was clear he turned back
to the camera and continued. “Just know that I’ve always been proud of you. I

Cali looked back at the house, torn on what to do now. Her father would
be stuck facing the wrath of her mother.

As if he knew what she would be thinking the
spoke again. “Don’t look back. I can take care of myself.
Hurry, Cali. Go.”

She didn’t hesitate any longer. She ran through the gate and took a
second to get her bearings. Her parents’ estate was on the outskirts of the
main community of Regency City. Which wasn’t really a city, it was actually rural
in nature, with a population of about fifteen thousand citizens. The city had
been founded as a vacation destination or getaway for the politicians and power
brokers of Thalesti. There wasn’t a whole lot of options when choosing which
way to go. Deciding on a destination, Cali took off at a run down the street.
There was one person she knew would help her. The last place her mother would
think she would turn for help. Vathral Dax.

BOOK: Cali & Drake (The Alliance Book 1)
5.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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