Reaver’s Kiss: Chapter One


“The Loliax aren’t going to leave us.”

I looked around the dingy room in the middle of our dorms we’d dubbed the rec room.

Seriously, did anyone really believe that we’d be abandoned?

It was ridiculous.

Not even worth thinking about.

A tiny glimmer of doubt prickled my belly.

Maybe because the idea of being abandoned in space by a bunch of aliens is too terrifying to think about, Allie.

No. It was ridiculous.

“We have a contract with them. How do we even know Kyla is reading the screens right?”

The computer whiz of our little group shot me a look, and I shrugged.

Sure, Kyla was the only one of us who’d managed to take extra shifts with the Loli’s maintenance crew, the only one of us who’d poured over their stupid manual with all the mind-numbing detail about the ship, the Smarniks Dream.

Of all of us girls who’d signed on as entertainers for the third-rate intergalactic cruise, she’d be the most likely to understand what she was seeing.

But how much did she know?

It’d only been forty years since the Galactic Alliance had contacted Earth, only forty years since humans had known for certain that we weren’t alone in the Void.

Four decades wasn’t much time to try to absorb an entire universe of new technologies, advances in physics, new branches of science we’d barely dreamed of.

Kyla couldn’t be right.

And still, the warning announcement rang over and over in my mind.

“Attention honored guests. Unexpected solar activity has been detected. Shielding has been raised. There’s no cause for alarm, but for your safety and comfort, we ask all guests to retire to their quarters.”

We weren’t ‘guests,’ but we’d gone to our quarters, gathered around in a panicked mob, and now Kyla was making things worse.

“Make you a deal,” Sarah said.

I was a little surprised.

Sarah wasn’t usually the type to push herself into the center of a situation.

But here she seemed to step up to the plate and take charge. Someone needed to do it before we had a mass of crying women.

I looked over the rest of the girls.

Sophia and Amelia held hands, looking shocked.

Hannah seemed calm enough, maybe because she spent her off-time reading up on all the different aliens. For a xenobiologist-to-be, it must’ve been heaven. 

Hannah knew they wouldn’t really abandon us.

Maisie stood a bit behind the others, eyes fixed on the screen over Kyla’s shoulder.

Who knew what she was thinking?

She never said much, and honestly, I wasn’t sure she had much to share.

But she danced well, and the aliens running the cruise appreciated that.

“Thirty minutes in the pods, just in case,” Sarah continued.

She met my eyes and grinned.

“If Kyla is wrong, and we’re all overreacting, I’ll take your shifts for the rest of the cruise.”

Tempting. Very, very tempting.

When I signed up for this, I’d thought about it like any other gap year job, just one that paid much better.

I needed the money if I was ever going to finish school.

A dual degree in law and linguistics would get me a job almost anywhere on Earth.

Even off Earth if I wanted.

But after several weeks of being stared at by every species imaginable, feeling like nothing more than a bug in a cage, I wasn’t sure how friendly I felt about dealing with aliens ever again.

“I’m not that much of a bitch,” I told her.

I mean, maybe I was. Probably was.

It might’ve come up before.

“Fine, I’ll get in my pod. But I reserve the right to tease you all until we’re back on Earth.”

“Four minutes,” Kyla said.

That cold voice of fear popped up again.

She sounded awfully certain.

After that, it was a mad scramble as we all slipped back to our cabins.

Olivia, my roommate, had beat me to it. I only saw a flash of her hair as she slid into one of the tight cylinders set into the outer wall of our room.

No matter. It wasn’t like we were best friends.

Taking a deep breath, I looked at my tablet, thought about grabbing it, getting a little studying time in.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” I reminded myself. “You may as well take a nap.”

Nothing had better happen, because to be honest, I wasn’t entirely certain about the sturdiness of the pods.

It was clear these cabins had been created for us humans as an afterthought, ostensibly because they didn’t have space for more staff in the main part of the ship.

I thought it was clear that the rest of the staff didn’t want to be housed with savages like us.

Probably the inclusion of escape pods was part of some galactic bureaucratic codebook, like having a fire escape or something.

“And maybe that’s a good thing,” I admitted as I slid inside the cramped tube.

“Here’s the view from the external cams,” Kyla said, her voice faint through the pod’s comms system.

Fine.  It wouldn’t keep me from my nap. I’d seen it before. The long column housing our deck stretched out before us, ending underneath the giant disc where the rest of the cabins were housed, the pleasure gardens and lounges and casinos and all the rest of the things that made an intergalactic cruise fun.

At least for the passengers.


The all-clear would sound, we’d get back to our regular schedule.

My shifts would start in a few hours, and I’d skip up and down the stage, mentally reviewing torts and damages cases.

I grimaced.

Dancing had never been something I’d tried to learn. It was frivolous, a waste of time.

Luckily, none of the aliens seem to care. Or maybe they did, and the comm bangle on my wrist did a terrible job of translating for me.

Either way.

“See, they’re not going anywhere,” I said. “I’m taking a nap.”

No sooner had I closed my eyes than the pod shook, and my heart leapt in my chest.


Something really was happening.

Couldn’t be. Maybe it was just something with the shields.

A thin crescent slowly emerged, dividing the disc from the cargo column. From us.

“Can’t be happening, can’t be…” I couldn’t even speak, eyes riveted to the screen as a white light circled the edge of the disc.

“Guys, that’s the jump drive powering up,” Kyla’s voice said.

I didn’t want to know that.

It circled, gaining speed, the glow getting brighter and brighter.

They were doing it. The Loliax were really leaving us. 

I’d sue their pants off for this. Okay, not pants. They had too many tentacles for that. But still…

The flash filling the screen was almost too bright to look at, and suddenly the cargo column rocked back and forth, the shouts of the other girls echoing in my ears.

When the screen cleared, the disc was gone.

But they hadn’t jumped.

The wreckage floating all around was proof of that.

Everyone was silent, all the words shocked away.

And then, the hiss of sleeping gas filled the pod as I was ejected into the Void.

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