Jade Archer 
   ~ A Shot For The Heart ~
Excerpt ~ Treacherous Sun

Mykel stared out into the cold, empty expanse of space at the bright glow that was his home system’s final burst of brilliance. The supernova that had claimed their world was stunning, despite the soul-searing tragedy it represented.

Such a beautiful end for such a beautiful world.

Mykel wiped away the single, silvery tear that slid down his cheek. He repositioned his wings to wrap around his shoulders—unconsciously seeking comfort in their soft embrace.

Placing a hand against the portal, he let the icy chill seep into his palm as he sent out a mourning and peace prayer for those that had been lost. So many had decided to stay with the world they loved, including his mother and father. Stubborn damn pair.

A hurt, cynical part of his heart suspected it had all ended up being just too hard for them. The pain of losing their world. The thought of having to pick themselves up and start again. The inevitable changes that would need to be made.

Mykel lowered his head, no longer able to watch their sun’s final decay. No matter how hard he had begged, pleaded or cajoled, his parents had refused to leave Orison. They had simply trained him up as quickly as possible to assume leadership and settled in to die. Mykel felt the pain like a fresh slash to his heart.

Why weren’t we more important than a dead lump of rock? Why wasn’t I?

Nothing survived on the surface of the planet by the end. The only way life had managed to struggle on was in specially constructed bio-pods, most of which had been brought with them. It was just dirt and rocks and death everywhere else by the end. And now, not even that.

When the Intergalactic Council had offered the Nu Hayven, he thought everyone would jump at the chance to survive and carry on. But no. Many had refused to leave—preferring to die with their world. As nature intended, they said.

Mykel snorted angrily as another tear tracked down his cheek. There was nothing natural about what had happened to their world.

A hundred years ago, when he’d been barely old enough to leave his home nest, something catastrophic had happened. Something Mykel didn’t believe for one moment was a natural process. Some even blamed the Intergalactic Council—the sun had been fine before they began sending diplomatic envoys to negotiate peace treaties between Aenjels and Deamonds. But if they were a part of the problem, which Mykel seriously doubted, they had ultimately proven to be their salvation as well. After all, the Intergalactic Council had built them a habitat ark, the Nu Hayven—their last refuge.

Mykel still couldn’t understand how it had ended up being necessary though. By all rights it shouldn’t have been. Two hundred years ago, their solar system was young and vibrant and strong. Their sun had been countless millennia away from burning out. It had never even crossed anyone’s mind that it would die. Then everything changed. The sun began to decay more rapidly than anyone had ever documented in recorded intergalactic history.

No one understood it. No one could explain it. It just happened. Like a cancer, taking over the fiery body at the centre of their lives and slowly eating away at it until one final explosion claimed its heart.

“Sir?”

Mykel spun around to face the military aide at the door. He hoped the man hadn’t seen the tears. The last thing he needed was for the Intergalactic Council to get word that the Aenjel’s leader was weak and weepy. He had to present a strong front if he was going to make sure his people were well cared for. They were orphans now in a cold universe. And the neighbours were anything but friendly.

“Yes,” Mykel answered as steadily as he could manage.

“Your comm link appears to have malfunctioned again, sir.”

Mykel fought down the sense of chagrin at being caught with his comm link turned off. He hated the little device that kept him tethered to this floating hunk of flexisteel.

“Admiral Jaynous would like a word, if you please,” the aide continued when Mykel made no reply to his subtle censure.

Mykel stifled the sigh that threatened to escape his lips. What is it this time? He resettled his wings in irritation. The last few weeks on board the transport vessels had been…difficult. He’d found himself in front of the stern rescue fleet’s commander on more occasions than he cared to recall. Jaynous had little patience for Aenjels in mourning apparently.

Inclining his head, even though it wasn’t truly necessary—they both knew he really didn’t have a choice in the matter—Mykel followed the aide out of the room and down the sleek, sterile corridor to the Admiral’s office.

Why are all the cruisers so lifeless and cold? he wondered as they walked. Was this what they had to look forward to on the Nu Hayven? Mykel could see many long hours spent in the bio-pods if it was. And he knew he wouldn’t be alone. No Aenjel could live like this for long. Feeling more and more depressed with every step, Mykel entered the Admiral’s large, austere office…and froze.

He needed to continue into the room. He should look away and acknowledge the rest of the executive officers he could sense scattered around the room. He should be focusing on Admiral Jaynous, wherever he was. But he couldn’t. His eyes simply would not cooperate as they drank in the tall, dark-haired Deamond standing in the shadowy lee of the view portal on the far wall.

Damn! Every line and inch of the man was caught in perfect relief against the star-spattered background of black. Tall and well-muscled, with broad shoulders and a trim waist, the Deamond was all hard, hot warrior. Which, of course shouldn’t have turned Mykel on, but did. In a big way. Every damn time he laid eyes on the man.

Even though the shadows hid his face, Mykel knew every nuance and expression well enough to imagine Lusaffar’s wicked grin. The fact that Mykel was standing frozen in the doorway would amuse Lusaffar to no end. The tiny points of his fangs would be just peeking out over his bottom lip and his black eyes would be filled with derision.

As he watched, Lusaffar tilted his head in a mocking bow. Light glinted off the two tiny black horns that grew from the top of his head and his thin, mobile tail snaked out in a lazy undulation behind him. It was enough to snap Mykel back to reality. He hurried into the room, trying desperately to avoid eye contact and ignore the gorgeous Deamond that haunted his thoughts—night and day.

Mykel badly wanted to shake his head to clear his mind, but he restrained himself. Instead, he nodded politely to his second in command, Yoeseph, who stood talking quietly with his Deamond counterpart—a tall, black-skinned Deamond named Baylelle. Unfortunately, they seemed to be the only Aenjel and Deamond making an effort to get along.

Looking around the room he spotted Gayebreel and Cayle the Nu Hayven’s military specialists—standing as far apart as they could get, eyeing each other warily. Doctor Asura was pointedly ignoring his peer, Doctor Raffayel by the Admiral’s desk. In fact, the room was full of Aenjels and Deamonds—both males and females—all supposedly destined to lead Orison’s survivors into their future, snubbing one another. Science officers, chief communications technicians and head flight coordinators—none of them were speaking, or even looking at their counterparts.

It was a troubling pattern that was beginning to mark all their gatherings, but Mykel’s mind really wasn’t paying much attention to the issue at the moment. It was still far too focused of his own particular Deamond problem—Lusaffar.

Mykel hated the fact he couldn’t control his lust around Lusaffar. It was a bad thing. A very bad thing. Lusaffar was the leader of the Deamonds. If there was anyone on board Mykel should be wary of, it was Lusaffar. Deamonds always and only ever looked after themselves. Mykel had to make sure he was there to look after the Aenjels and protect them from the Deamond’s aggressive nature.

“Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen,” Admiral Jaynous said, setting aside the two data pads he had been looking at and lacing his fingers together in front of him.

Gayebreel snorted rudely from the wall he leaned against—his arms crossed and face set, as always, in a dark sneer. Mykel knew just how Gayebreel felt. None of them had really had a choice, but the snort was still way out of line. He was going to have to deal with Gayebreel soon. If the Aenjel wasn’t pulled up in the near future, he was bound to cause trouble. Mykel just wasn’t sure what to do with the male.

“Blow-hard,” murmured Cayle, the rare winged Deamond, shaking out his leathery appendages irritably.

Gayebreel straightened up immediately, his sneer morphing into an angry scowl as he took a threatening step towards the small, dark-haired Deamond he was supposed to work with. Cayle responded by widening his stance, readying for a fight.

Just as Mykel was about to step in and separate the two military specialists that seemed to be perpetually at each others throat, Doctor Asura cleared his throat.

“If I have to patch either of you up again because you can’t keep your hands…or fangs,” he added, looking pointedly at Cayle, “to yourselves, I won’t be held responsible for what bits you wake up missing.”

Considering the doctor was a Deamond and looked completely serious, Mykel wasn’t surprised when both Gayebreel and Cayle backed down. Doctor Raffayel looked fairly certain his colleague would follow through as well—his eyes wide and terrified. Mykel made a mental note to check up on the slight Aenjel sometime soon.

“As I was saying,” the Admiral continued, his face calm, as if nothing untoward had happened, “the final arrangements have been made to start moving essential personnel into position so that they can take over the day-to-day running of the Nu Hayven as quickly as possible. These are the final details and assignments. Mykel and Lusaffar, as co-commanders you’ll need to acknowledge and authorise them before we can begin the transfers.” Jaynous slid two data pads across the desk.

Mykel reached across, trying to concentrate on the information in front of him and ignore the Deamond who stepped up beside him to take the other data pad.

Within seconds, one line jumped right out and metaphorically smacked him in the head. Hard.

Floor One, Apartment A, living assignment Mykel Anghelescov and Lusaffar Ifearnan.

“I’m not sleeping with him.”

“No one asked you to,” Admiral Jaynous replied, arching an eyebrow but otherwise remaining completely impassive in the face of Mykel’s outburst.

Lusaffar, on the other hand, started a low chuckle that grated on every one of Mykel’s nerves. Around them Mykel could hear a mixture of muttered curses, sniggers, agitated wing ruffling and derisive snorts.

“I mean,” Mykel ground out between clenched teeth, “I’m not sharing quarters with him.”

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