Authors: Angela Verdenius
Copyright 2010 Angela Verdenius
Cover image courtesy of Ekaterina Yudina | Dreamstime.com
Cover design by Angela Verdenius
ebook Edition License Notes
No part of this book may be reproduced or copied without prior consent of the author & publisher.
All characters and towns are figments of the author’s imagination and bear no resemblance to any person living or deceased.
Table of Contents
The Love, Heart & Soul series has been re-edited and re-published for your enjoyment (at least, I hope you enjoy them!).
These stories are romances with action, hunky heroes, heroines each strong in her own way, and interesting side-characters (both funny, good and bad) who later generally feature in their own books.
The stories are set on distant worlds and in outer space, but, I have to point this out, they are not heavy on sci-fi technology! The stories are very much character driven, and so saying, the intimacy between the couples range from sweet to hot, depending on the storyline and the characters. Like real people, they are all so different.
What you might find different, if you’re not from Australia, is the spelling. I’m an Aussie, and I tend to spell the Aussie way, so if you think you’ve stumbled upon an error, it may not be!
So anyway, I hope you enjoy revisiting these worlds, and if this is your first time, I sincerely hope you take pleasure in reading what I took pleasure in creating.
The Reeka race of warrior women were farmers and warriors living off the land. Men from other tribesu>< married into the race and adopted their lifestyle. Women were trained in combat beside the men. They lived this way for centuries, until thirteen years ago when the males—men and infants—started to die, while the females of all ages survived. It was believed the Reeka women murdered them, but there was no evidence. However, it was enough to make them reviled, and they were forced to leave their homes after constant attacks.
They became nomads and mercenaries, their efficiency in combat and cold-blooded killing ensuring their employment by warring district lords.
Five years ago the inhabitants of a small settlement were slaughtered. Survivors named the Reeka warriors as the murderers, attacking during the night in a murdering frenzy. No one was spared.
The Inka Empire leader, whose son was amongst those believed to have been murdered, outlawed the warriors. The few believed to have survived are scattered throughout the galaxy, mostly sheltering in the Outlaw Sector and fighting there for warring district lords.
So goes the history of the legendary Reekas—betrayal, heartache, pain—but they won’t give in to anyone or anything. They will fight to the death. Heart and Soul, they are sister warriors and they fight as one, with one goal in mind—freedom. Freedom or death, as is their war cry.
But sometimes there are things worse than death...
Outlaw Sector, outskirts
Planet Ylan, The Desert
The shrill cries of the carrion eaters shattered the air as they wheeled above the hot desert. Heat waves shimmered and the air was heavy, promising a coming sand storm.
Ceri didn’t care about the sand storm. It was the least of her worries. What concerned her more were the bounty hunters that were swarming over the hot dunes.
Though it’s too late to worry about them, she thought, as her sword clashed hard with another hunter. She parried, swung, got under his guard and sliced him neatly across his abdomen. His intestines spilled out in a steaming heap and he fell to the ground amidst his own innards, his eyes widening in horrified understanding. But carrion that he was, the bastard just wouldn’t give up and die. Instead he fumbled, trying to push his innards back inside the gaping slit before he dropped.
“Got to give the man credit,” Rani panted, her own sword dripping hunters’ blood onto the hot sand. “He had guts.” And she laughed.
“You’re a sick wench,” Ceri replied.
“Oh, come on, that was funny.” Rani glanced around. “The hunters are closing in. There’s a cave in that rock-hill.”
“We’ll be trapped in there.”
“And we’re easy targets out here. They can come around us, hem us in, anything.” Wiping her fingerless, metal-lined glove across her forehead, Rani watched the approaching hunters. “We either die here or make a stand in there. At least no one can get behind us.”
There was no other choice, really. Die out in the hot sands - and very quickly, because some of the bastards were now drawing their lasers - or make a last stand in the cave.
Without another word spoken between theet betwee warriors, they turned and sprinted for the cave. Laser fire spat hot sand around their rawhide boots and Rani stumbled as a vicious hot searing went through her upper shoulder.
Her damned sword arm.
She kept moving, trying to push the searing pain to the back of her mind. Adrenalin helped but later it was going to hurt like the very devil. If there was a later.
Unaware of what had happened, Ceri pushed onward until finally the gloom of the cave cut off the glaring sun and they were inside. A quick glance around showed that the cave went back, far back. As they ran onwards, hoping for tunnels that branched off, they realized that this truly was going to be their last stand.
Coming to a halt at the end of the long tunnel, they looked at each other.
“What I wouldn’t give for some lasers now,” Rani remarked.
“What I wouldn’t have given to have lasers a day ago,” Ceri replied, pushing her heavy braid back over her shoulders. “We wouldn’t have been hunted for the last twenty-four hours if we’d had lasers back then.”
“The younger girls needed them.” Rani ignored the burn in her shoulder though the blood was trickling slowly down her back. “They can get to safety better with us leading the hunters away.”
Starting to nod in agreement, Ceri suddenly caught sight of the blood that dripped onto the floor behind Rani. In several swift steps she darted around her and swore. “Bloody hell! You got hit!”
“I know.” Rani squinted over her shoulder. “How bad is it?”
“Bad enough.” Ceri felt in the little pack on her belt and drew out a self adhesive patch, sticking it over the wound.
Rani sucked in a pained breath.
“This is the best I can do for now,” Ceri began, but then she stopped, angling her head to the side.
Voices sounded down the tunnel, distant but audible, and the warriors looked at each other in silence.
Bounty hunters were closing in. There was nowhere to hide, the craggy walls of the cave giving no cover. In the floor was a long crack that went from one side to the other, but it was nowhere wide enough for them to slip into for shelter.
“You know,” Rani said casually, “this might not have been my best idea.”
“It was your only idea.” Ceri placed one arm around Rani and hugged her suddenly. “Your best idea yet.”
Rani held her close, resting her chin on her sister warrior’s shoulder, knowing this might be the last time they had a chance to say anything, and yet she couldn’t think of anything to say to her sister not only in the Reeka sisterhood, but of the flesh as well. But she had to try. “Ceri - ”
“I love you,” Ceri whispered.
Closing their eyes, they hugged tighter.
The voices came closer, the harsh words echoing down the tunnel.
Ceri and Rani stepped apart and looked at each other. There was nothing more to say, nothing more to do, than fight...
“Freedom or death, sister,” Ceri said softly.
Rani gave a half smile. “Freedom or death.”
Hefting their swords, they turned as one and moved forward several steps to wait. The wao wait.bounty hunters might have them cornered, but they weren’t going to have an easy kill.
Four hunters appeared, their lasers held upright. They grouped not far from the warriors, their eyes gleaming hungrily as they raked them with hard gazes. Behind them were more, but they held back.
Smart move, because even though the cave was large, it wasn’t large enough for a full-on attack.
One of the hunters stepped forward, the barrel of his laser facing up. “Give up, Reekas?”
Rani swung her sword up and smiled. “A Reeka never gives up.”
“Too bad. You could live longer.”
“I doubt it. You’d have us swinging from the gallows as soon as you could.”
“The law is the law.”
“Funnily enough, the law and us don’t seem to get on anymore.”
Ceri watched, her gaze taking in the hunters behind the first four. They’d drawn their swords. As she watched, the four in front holstered their lasers and she knew why. Laser fire could go through a person, and if it hit the cave, no one knew if it would cause a cave-in. How stable the place was, was unknown. Smart move for the bounty hunters to recognize it, even if they were bloodthirsty bastards. It seemed as though this particular pack was a thinking pack.
Seconds ticked past, and then as one they moved, the four hunters springing forward, the two Reekas meeting them.
The cave rang with the sound of clashing swords, and when three hunters went down, three more appeared to take their place. The confined space made it harder to fight, but the desire to live, combined with the desire to claim the high price on the warriors’ heads, made for a desperate push onwards.
Locked in combat with two bounty hunters, Rani stumbled suddenly, the earth shifting beneath her boots. Regaining her footing, she fought on. Blocking the pain from her shoulder, she swung her sword again and again.
Cursing the confined space, she tried to prevent herself from being herded towards Ceri, but with so many hunters around it was a losing battle. Finally she found herself once again ranged alongside her sister, the hunters in front of them.
Then the earth shifted again, a crack sounding, and it was loud enough to make them all falter to a stop and look up above them.
There was something in the air. Something not right, something strange. A cold wind whistled up from the large crack in the dirt at Rani’s feet and both she and Ceri instinctively stepped back from it, which put the crack between them and the hunters.
The hunters glanced around warily. A rumble vibrated the earth beneath their feet and everyone stiffened.
“Something’s wrong,” one of the hunters said harshly.
“Cave-in?” Another lowered his sword.
A red-haired hunter at the front of the pack looked narrowly at Rani and Ceri. “This place is going to collapse. We need to get out fast.”
Rani laughed. “Oh, that’s an incentive! I don’t think so, hunter. I’ll take my chances here.”
The walls of the cave contracted slightly, pebbles cascading down the rough-hewn surfaces. The crack in the floor widened with an almost deafening roar.
His jaw tightened. “You’d choose to die in , te to dia cave-in?”
“What, you think we’d choose to die at the gallows?” Rani swung her sword in a lazy circle. “Do you see me running to be with you, little man?”
Ceri saw the fury burning in the hunter’s eyes. Reeka warriors fetched huge sums of dinnos. Leaving them behind just had to be almost breaking this bastard’s heart.