Authors: Bianca D'Arc
Tags: #space opera romance
TALENT FOR TROUBLE
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2015
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Can love restore a broken woman's faith in humanity?
Darak has just been elevated in rank and given new responsibilities, but his devil-may-care style belies a gentle soul. He feels deeply and his empathic abilities sometimes make him care too much. How then, can he ignore the shattered soul that cries out to him from a woman who, until recently, was his enemy?
Jana was kidnapped and forced to do many things she cannot remember, but feels deep shame for, nonetheless. Reunited with her sister and taken to the dubious safety of the seat of Council power to heal, she has no idea what's in store for the future. She only knows she's free for the first time in years. Free to think on her own. Free to talk to her sister. Free to admire the maddening man who bothers her on every level.
Raised on a planet with strict moral codes, Jana finds the permissiveness of life on a Council world shocking. Even though Darak appears to be a womanizer of the worst sort, Jana is drawn to the rogue. He is handsome, but there’s something more to him…something deeper that she cannot resist. And when he begins to teach her about the many ways of pleasure, she finds not only her body willing to give him all he desires, but also her heart.
Can Darak's healing touch break through the fragile facade Jana shows to the world? And when her help is needed to penetrate deep into enemy territory, will she aid them, or will she show her true colors? The fate of the galaxy might just be in their hands...as well as the fate of two hearts looking for their perfect match.
Jana’s hard a really rough time, including incidents of psychological and physical abuse in her past that she must overcome. They are discussed briefly in the text, but not depicted. There’s also a bit of kink happening on the good ship
. The crew can get up to all sorts of mischief between missions, and a bit of exhibitionism and/or voyeurism aren’t out of the question.
This book is dedicated to the fans who patiently waited for me to get back to this series.
It also marks the renewal of an editing relationship that started way back in 2005 with my first book,
. For that reason, I’d like to thank Jess Bimberg, my first—and current—editor. We’ve come full circle, and the band is back together! Woohoo!
And last, but certainly not least, to my family for sticking by me through thick and thin.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Jana Olafsdotter, native of Mithrak, was kept under heavy guard in the main medical facility on Geneth Mar. Her highly ranked sister, Jeri, was allowed to visit, and did so regularly, but Jana was still under a healer’s care, and probably would be for a very long time to come.
She didn’t remember much about her life since being taken from the family farm somewhere around her sixteenth birthday. At odd times, she heard malevolent chanting in the recesses of her mind where nothing of the kind ought to be. That, and the sparkling blue crystals that had fused to her skin during a horrific explosion of psi power, was the only proof of what they claimed she had been doing this past decade or more.
Really, she had no way of knowing how long she had been under the collective’s control. She also had no way of knowing what she had done with her strong Talent under their command. She only knew what she’d been told, along with hazy, and sometimes alarmingly clear, snippets of memories. She had been horrified by where she was and what she’d been doing in those few memories—and what had been done to her.
She knew enough to fear the person she had been and the things she had done. In the dark of night, ghosts of memories haunted her, and she woke screaming more often than not.
She had been a leader of the assault fleet and had attacked her own sister in the skies above Liata. She knew all about Liata now, of course. She had learned it was a peaceful, mainly agricultural world that had few defenses and little to steal. But the Wizards’ collective and their allies wanted it under their control, and they had sent her out with a fleet of ships to get it by any means necessary.
She had rained destruction on the pastoral planet, and ruined many lives in the process. Even now, her misdeeds haunted her, though if she had been in control of her mind, she never would have used her powers for such evil work. She preferred peace, when it could be had. And, though she would fight to defend others, the Jana she had once been, and wanted again to be, would never harm another without provocation.
Except maybe that frustratingly annoying man.
Darak, they called him. They all bowed and scraped to him, calling him
. It was enough to make her howl.
He was so condescendingly masculine. He flirted shamelessly with every female in the facility. It didn’t matter if they were eight or eighty. He flirted with them all.
And they all acted like silly girls when he smiled at them. From the oldest to the youngest, they indulged him and sent simpering smiles his way. They also took the trouble to remind Jana almost daily about how she owed her life to him and how she should be nicer to him.
But it was impossible to be nice to him. Every time she saw him, she wanted to pounce on him. And not in a good way.
He had crafty eyes that held far too much knowledge. His smug expression led her to think scandalous things about this man and her little sister—and her little sister’s new husband. Could it be?
It was unthinkable.
She knew things were different on Council worlds, but she’d been raised on Mithrak, where people simply didn’t behave in the manner she’d witnessed during her short stay on this planet. On Mithrak, sex was had in pairs—if it was had at all—and only under the blessing of the collective and their representatives. Among Wizards, or Talents as they called them here, sex was tightly controlled and meant for procreation alone, unless otherwise sanctioned by higher authority within the collective.
The collective had tried to breed her several times. The seed had never taken, and she was glad. They had punished her for defiance, but she hadn’t liked the brutal invasion of her body by the horrid men they’d chosen. Every one of them had been much older than she, and more psychically powerful. She remembered each encounter in intimate detail, for the men had shielded her mind from the collective and suborned her consciousness to themselves instead for their bestial attacks.
She almost wished she didn’t remember what they’d done to her and made her do in return. It made her feel dirty inside and out, and she didn’t think she could ever join with another man again, for any reason. She certainly didn’t see why the women of the Council worlds put up with it. And, sometimes, with multiple partners, no less.
There had to be something about sex that she was missing, but she definitely did not want to take the chance of further pain and humiliation to find out. She was better off celibate. Considering she was basically living in a med facility, that didn’t present much of a problem.
Only when that bastard Darak came and smiled so knowingly at her, did she have pangs of regret, or something almost like regret. She didn’t quite know what she felt when he came to her and checked on her progress, extending his healing power so gently and caressing her little hurts—the tender scars where the blue crystals had fused with her skin.
No one else bothered with those, but he did. It made her feel funny inside, though she didn’t have a name for what she was feeling. It was something she had never experienced before.
* * *
Jana was dozing lightly in her hospital bed when she felt a light touch on her cheek and then the tingling sensation she knew so well by now. Sure enough, when she opened her eyes, there stood Darak the Dreadful in all his magnificent, roguish glory.
“Did you miss me, doll?”
She would have answered rudely, but he chose that moment to zap her with his incredible healing touch that always made her feel good.
“Why do you do that? No one else bothers with the scars. They’re just happy to have me breathing.” She moved away, annoyed with him just for being so devastatingly handsome. She didn’t want to be attracted to any man, much less him.
Darak’s rich chuckle sounded through the room and bathed her senses in warmth. She would have shivered if she’d allowed herself to show even that much pleasure in his presence.
“Think of it as my way of apologizing for not being able to get those shards out of your skin.” He caressed her shoulder, the place where her neck met her collarbone, where just one of the bright blue jewels had taken up residence. When the stone at the center of her scepter had exploded in that last battle, shards of the power-infused crystal had embedded themselves in her skin, and nobody had yet found a way to get them out. “They do look rather pretty, though, you have to admit. I bet your whole body sparkles.”
“They’re a constant reminder of a past I’d rather forget.”
Darak frowned, and it was the first time she had ever seen such a dark look on his handsome face. It made him seem almost human.
“You should be reminded instead of your bravery and strength, and the hard path you’ve taken to get here. Your mind is free now, Jana. You’ll never be under their control again.”
“How can you be sure of that?” Her whispered words revealed just how afraid she was that somehow the collective would reclaim her and her power.
Darak scooped her easily into his arms, holding her close. She allowed it, feeling safe and secure in his strong embrace in a way she hadn’t since she’d grown too old for her father’s bear hugs. Darak—as annoying as he was—always made her feel safe. Because of that, she let him take liberties that would have her screaming for help should anyone else attempt them.
“I’m sure because you’re a strong woman, Jana. And you have powerful friends. Your sister is a Sha, married to another Sha, for goodness sake. They alone can hold off the entire Wizard collective, and you don’t think for one moment they’d ever let you be hurt again, do you? Plus, since your sister married my cousin, we’re family of a sort. I would help you if you needed it, but Jana, sweetheart…” His gaze held hers with grave seriousness. “I don’t think you’ll need it. You’re strong enough to stand on your own against whatever comes your way. I can read that truth in your beautiful eyes.”
“But the stones…” She whispered her greatest fear. “The stones in my skin will always connect me to the collective. Even now, I can hear them murmuring in the back of my mind.”
Darak hugged her tight, placing a kiss on the crown of her head. A single sparkling shard of stone had lodged just below and to the right of her right eye, highlighting the blueness of her eyes, the clarity of her gaze. The scepter of power had been in her right hand when it blew up, and he knew from treating her wounds in those first hours that most of the splinters of that huge jewel had embedded themselves in odd patterns all along her right side, though a few other memorable ones spanned her petite frame.