Authors: Catherine Spangler
Praise for Shadower
“Excitement and enjoyment from the very first page. Ms. Spangler delivers a depth of character and strong conflicts. A fun read!”
— Romantic Times
“A richly textured futuristic novel…and an absolutely wonderful read. Readers will delight in
— The Midwest Book Review
“Catherine Spangler has a unique gift to create characters who linger in your mind long after you have closed the book.”
— Christine Feehan, NYT Bestselling Author
“Terrific! Catherine Spangler knows how to keep you at the edge of your seat! Fast-paced and sexy,
is a winner from cover to cover.”
— Susan Grant, NYT Bestselling Author
Shielder Series, Book Two
Shielder Series, Book Two
Copyright 2000, 2014 by Catherine Spangler
Cover art by
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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For my mother, Jacquelyn, a class act all the way. Your compassion and gentleness were a guiding beacon to all who knew you. Much love always.
And for my father, Henry, who taught me the importance of humor and acceptance, and tutored all my friends in math when I was growing up. You’re the best.
is the second book in the Shielder series, it is actually the prequel to
. When I wrote
, Sabin and Moriah were such strong characters that they demanded their own story, and I obliged them in
. Both of these books are stand-alone and the reading order is not crucial to either story. However you read them, I hope you enjoy them!
Table of Contents
He'd always figured he would end up in hell. He just hadn't planned on arriving there while he was still breathing.
Well, he had been wrong—once or twice—before. Dreary and rank smelling, Giza's was a hellhole all right. Hazy lighting combined with narcotic-laden smoke created a murky mist, shrouding those present in anonymity. The dimness was probably for the better, Sabin thought, scowling as he stepped in some unidentifiable muck on the floor. Too bad the poor lighting couldn't mute the drunken bellows of the miscreants of the quadrant who congregated here, or the stench assaulting his nose.
If he didn't need the solace of some good Elysian liquor, he'd have killed the time watching Radd repair his ship. Just the thought of that cursed ship was enough to propel him toward the bar for a refill. What a day! Galen had eluded him again—a reward of a thousand miterons blown to blazing hells. Then his ship had developed a problem with the stardrive, and he'd barely made it to Calt. Thankfully, he'd finally been able to commission a new ship, which would be ready within the next lunar cycle.
He set his mug on the counter. "Hey, Thorne, give me a refill."
A small, gnomelike man scurried along the inside of the bar. His bald head, overly large for his body, bobbed up and down. "S-sure thing, M-Mr. Travers." Ducking an empty glass heaved at him by a soused Antek and ignoring the raucous laughter from the rest of the drunks, Thorne poured more golden Elysian elixir into Sabin's mug. He deftly snatched the miteron Sabin tossed him before scooting back to his safe niche near an exit.
was the nucleus of his existence, Sabin thought sardonically. Endless hours spent among the dregs of humanity. He had no real home, nor anyone to go home to, for that matter. Never would. It was simpler that way, he reminded himself. "Here's to the carefree life," he muttered.
As he lifted the drink to his lips, a flash of color at the end of the bar caught his eye. A woman leaned in at the counter, clasping a drink between slender fingers. Her hair had drawn his attention; hair a rich bronze color reflecting myriad highlights, even in the dim interior of Giza's. It was gathered into a sleek twist on top of her head, revealing a graceful neck.
Her profile didn't appear too bad either, although he couldn't see the lines clearly at this distance. The tawny cape she wore hid her figure. She emanated an elegance not seen among the worn-out females who routinely serviced the degenerates frequenting this soulless planet.
She was as out of place in this den of iniquity as a baby kerani in a pit of Oderan sand vipers. And she would last about as long. Sabin felt drawn to her, despite the fact that he usually avoided entanglements with women, preferring the uninvolved physical release he could find at the Pleasure Domes. This wouldn't be anything more than an offer to see the lady safely out of this hellhole, he told himself, striding to the end of the bar.
As he approached, sidestepping an unconscious man sprawled across the floor, she glanced up from her drink, making momentary eye contact with him. He stared into unique eyes, as golden as the Elysian liquor he'd been drinking—and as intoxicating. Her face was equally striking. The angular bone structure created a perfect frame for those mesmerizing eyes, a patrician nose, and a lush mouth suggestive of decadent possibilities. Heat surged through his body.
Her gaze shifted, coolly sweeping the length of him. Then, with an indifferent shrug, she returned her attention to her drink.
Sabin seldom cared if women were interested in him or not, but he wasn't used to being ignored. Placing his hand on the counter, he leaned toward the woman. She was tall, only a few inches shorter than him. Her scent, sweet and musky, launched a secondary assault on his senses.
He forced his focus back to the reason he'd approached her in the first place. "Don't you know it's dangerous for a lone female to be in Giza's, much less anywhere on Calt?"
She didn't even look up. "Go jump in the Fires."
Despite the sharpness of her words, her low voice struck an even deeper chord. Further intrigued, he took on the challenge. Shifting to lean back against the bar, he crossed his arms over his chest. "Not very original. Talk like that certainly won't deter these lowlifes. You really should let me join you. You'll be safe with me."
Icy amber eyes met his. "I seriously doubt that. And I find my own company preferable to—" she paused to peruse him once again, a look of revulsion crossing her face " —riff-raff."
Clearly, she found him about as inviting as a rabid desert krat. Sabin glanced down to his immaculate black flightsuit and boots that were shined to a high gloss. He'd showered today, and shaved, although with his heavy beard growth, his jaw no doubt sported its usual evening shadow. Still, most women found him attractive.
"I have it from very reliable sources that my company is
Her generous mouth curved into a sneer. "I can't imagine why. Look, I don't want company, I don't want conversation. I don't want anything from you, not even the time of day. Just stay the blazing hells away from me! Is
Obviously, she wasn't the friendly type. "Oh, yeah, lady, very clear. Be sure and tell that to some of the other characters in here. I'm sure they'll be glad to respect your royal wishes."
"I can take care of myself, I assure you. I certainly don't need any help from the likes of you."
"Fine." Needing that Elysian liquor more than ever, Sabin returned to the opposite end of the bar to finish his drink in peace. After that, he'd go see about his ship. He'd find better company with the taciturn Radd than with this serpent-tongued female. This day couldn't end soon enough.
* * * *
Moriah breathed a sigh of relief when the man strode away, an angry set to his shoulders. Males were forever hitting on her, sickening her with their crude advances. And this man emanated danger, with those inscrutable midnight eyes glowing in his chiseled face, and his long, black hair tied at the nape of his neck. Dressed entirely in black, with two long-barreled guns and a stunner slung from his utility belt, he'd seemed shaped of darkness.
She had taken on bigger men than him, certainly, but watching the lethal grace he displayed as he stalked along the counter, the ripple of muscles beneath his flightsuit, she suspected his lean body was superbly trained. He was likely the most dangerous one here. She could handle the rest of these drunken idiots. She wouldn't be here much longer anyway—assuming her luck didn't get any worse.
Downing the rest of her drink, she cursed Turlock. He was an ugly, half-Antek scum, and she should never have gone in on that disastrous Ataran deal with him. She had thought she was far ahead of him. Obviously she'd been wrong, as he had helped himself to her ship while she met with Fletch. Not surprising, given she owed him five thousand miterons. That ship would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace. Ultrafast spacecraft equipped with nondetectable armaments and concealed storage compartments were scarce and costly. Damn Turlock to the Fires!
Now she had to come up with five hundred miterons to purchase her passage off this viper pit. Moriah shoved aside rising panic. She had faced far more perilous situations than being stranded, without a ship, in a hellhole. All she needed was money. She scanned the dim bar, confirming the fact that she was the only female present. In her business, most of her dealings were with males, and the majority of them surrendered their money for two things: sexual gratification and gaming.