Tag Archives: 99 cents

He’d be in more danger without her. JAGER now available! #GalacticDefenders #newrelease #scifirom #sfr

Hello! Today is release day for JAGER, the second book in my scifi adventure romance series, Galactic Defenders. Be sure to read the extended excerpt below…

JAGER blurb:

Jager’s new squad of Defenders has completed training, but the spoiled princess who has grated on his nerves since her first day of training is called back to Hemera for a yearly celebration. When Princess Katrina doesn’t show up, Jager must find her and drag her home, where he wishes she would stay.

Katrina is a Defender, not a princess. And there is no way she wants to return to a planet she hates for some stupid ceremony. Not when she could be out killing Erebus with her squad.

But when a new enemy threatens both their lives, they must work together to survive.

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Get BRYCE (Book One) for 99¢  from:
(Sale ends April 19, 2017)

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On Thursday, I shared the prologue from JAGER, and on Friday I shared the first scene of the first chapter. At the end of that scene, Jager tells Katrina, a squad member, that she will not be going with the squad on their first mission. Well, Katrina is not okay with that.

JAGER Chapter One cont’d…

© 2017 Jessica E. Subject

Katrina marched off the shuttle, through the docking bay, and straight to Granil’s office. She refused to be taken away from her squad. She was a Defender, not a princess. And if they kept making her return to Hemera for stupid ceremonies, no one would ever show her any respect. Every single day, she had to prove herself, prove she could take down the Erebus just as well as the best Defenders. Yet, behind her back, she only heard the sneers at her royal lineage. No one was ever impressed by how many Erebus she eliminated, or how fast. And regardless what Jager said, she did work well with her squad. She took out their enemy while their leader kept the rest of the squad alive.

Why wasn’t he on her side? Did he really want to be stuck babysitting the other three? Couldn’t he see the danger he’d be in without her? If Katrina couldn’t change someone’s mind, she’d end up assigned to a new squad when she returned from Hemera, her current one having died on Earth. While the idea held some appeal, she actually preferred to be grouped with the misfits.

“Excuse me? Granil?” No matter how outraged she was, she didn’t dare speak to the leader of the Galactic Alliance the way she did Jager. Not if she wanted to remain a Defender. With all the special provisions her mother had demanded, the Alliance would just as soon be rid of her. She knew they only put up with her at Bryce’s request. He had served the Alliance longer than any other Defender, and they were still trying to make up for Kimba’s mistake in leaving his squad and others on Niesgoo to die.

“Come in.” The leader’s short tentacles waved before changing color from mauve to blue. She was calm, a promising start.

Katrina saluted as she entered the room. “I would like to talk to you regarding my absence from my squad’s mission to Terra.”

Granil pursed her lips. Her tentacles switched to orange and stood straight up, not a good time to confront a Yarwin. But, Katrina had no choice. “Proceed.” Though the woman’s lips kept moving. Had Katrina’s translation chip malfunctioned, or were there no English words for what she’d said?

Katrina leaned forward, her hands behind her. She didn’t dare sit in one of the seven empty seats around the leader unless offered. Those were reserved for planetary leaders. Not lowly Defenders. “I ask that you allow me to join them on the mission. I have proven myself time-and-time again. Plus, Terra was my home for many years. I can be an asset to the entire platoon.”

“While I don’t disagree with you, Katrina…” She stretched her jaw. “I am standing firm on your absence for this mission. Your presence has been requested on Hemera, and I must grant that request.”

“But shouldn’t it be up to me?” She wanted to pound something as she’d done when Kimba had been leader. Though, that time, she’d been fighting for her father’s life, rather than upset they were making her visit her parents.

“If people did what they wanted, the universe would be chaos. Sometimes we must do things we don’t agree with. That’s part of life.” Granil picked up a com tab from her desk. “You will go to Hemera, enjoy your graduation ceremony and whatever other celebrations they have planned for you. And then you will return to the carrier, train, and go on the next mission with your squad.”

When the leader’s attention turned to the tablet, Katrina knew she’d been dismissed. Fornax! Didn’t anyone understand the danger they were putting Delta squad in? They were already cursed by the squad’s name, Jager having been the only survivor after a mission to Hoggins where Bryce had saved his ass. And she was just starting to like that ass, too. Even though the person attached could be a pigheaded asshole sometimes.

Shuffling down the hall, she pounded the wall a few times. Nope, it did nothing to squash her anger. She wanted to beat on someone. Maybe her squad leader would be in the sparring room.

“No luck?”

She spun around to find her best friend, only friend, Jace, holding her hand wraps out to her. “No. You’ve got to promise me you’ll protect them. Or just him, that’s okay.”

Jace grinned, the smile lighting up the sparkle in his eyes. “When are you going to scratch that itch? You’ve been craving a piece of him since you first arrived for training.”

“Never.” She grabbed the wraps from him. “Though if he calls me princess one more time, I’m going to shove one of these down his throat.”

“I’m sure you’d like to shove your tongue down his throat if given the option.”

She smacked her arm against Jace’s chest, knocking him back a step. “Keep it up and you’ll be first.”

He raised his hands in front of his face. “Okay, okay. Take it out on the simulation. I’ve programmed one for you. It’s all set.”

“Nah.” She frowned. “If I’m really heading to Hemera, I have to leave in an hour. I should call my sister and find out what’s happened since I was last there.”

“Not your parents?” He strolled alongside her toward the lift to Defender quarters.

“Are you kidding? They still haven’t accepted I actually want to be here. Or at least my mom hasn’t.” Katrina sighed, remembering her last conversation with the queen of Hemera. “I’ll get enough of her loving concern when I get there.”

“Well, come here.” Jace held his arms open, and she went into them, his hugs always able to relieve some of her tension. He kissed the top of her head. “I’ll see you when we all return. And I’ll guard that ass you like so much.”

She smiled and shook her head. “Thank you.”

In her room, Katrina dialed up her sister’s private line at the royal palace on Hemera. After the screen flickered, a young woman appeared, sitting on the bed that had once belonged to a precious little girl who’d lost both her parents in separate Erebus attacks. Queen Lalia had adopted her after ensuring the planet was safe from further attack, and Katrina had the sister she’d always dreamed of when growing up on Earth. But, the little girl was gone, a young woman with some obvious teenage angst in her place. “Gwenie, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Gwen.” She huffed and tilted her head to the side. “And I’ll give you one guess as to why.”

“Mom’s making you dress up again?” Something she hated, too; part of the reason she dreaded returning home.

Her sister picked up a bunch of material and threw it toward the screen. “It’s hideous. And all because you’re coming home. Because you’re officially a Defender now.”

“I hate to see what she has for me, then.” Probably something that covered every inch of her body, unlike the dress she’d worn at the coronation when her mother hadn’t had the time or opportunity to plan for anything.

“Take me with you, please!” Gwenodyn stuck out her bottom lip. “Scrym has less than a year before he’s eligible to enlist for Defender training. After that, I don’t know how I’m going to keep my sanity. They’ll smother me.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Katrina knew the feeling, had experienced her mother’s overbearing love when they’d still lived on Earth, and it had only been the two of them. Before she knew of the Defenders, her real father, and life on a multitude of other planets.

“Sneak me onto a ship. I don’t care. I’ll be quiet, stay squished in a cupboard somewhere.”

That’s it! Katrina could sneak off the ship to Hemera and sneak onto one going to Earth. Though not the one with her own squad. That would be too obvious. “We’ll see. I’ve gotta go.”

She switched off the screen. Her sister would have to wait. Katrina had to visit her real home first.

JAGER is available from:

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March 27 – April 2 ~ SciFi Romance Super Sale & #Giveaway #scifirom #romance #scifi #99cents

March SFR Super Sale & Giveaway 3/27-4/2!

9 SciFi Romance Authors are offering
17 books for FREE, 99¢, and $2.99!

Most of them are discounted for a limited time.
It’s just our way of thanking our loyal readers.

Even better, we’re offering an awesome giveaway!
Enter to win one of two $20.00 Amazon Gift Cards just for subscribing to our newsletters or following us on social media.

http://smschmitz.com/space-kissed-super-sale

Training with Delta squad ~ Read Ch.1 of JAGER #GalacticDefenders #scifi #romance #sfr

Hello! As I’m sure you know, JAGER releases March 27. That’s in three days! I’ve been sharing snippets from the story as part of Weekend Writing Warriors, but they’ve only been small excerpts.

Yesterday I shared the prologue from JAGER, and today I’m sharing the first scene of the first chapter. At the end of this scene, Jager mentions Bryce saving him, a scene which occurs in BRYCE, the first Galactic Defenders story which is on sale for 99¢ until April 19, 2017.

Pre-order JAGER from:

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JAGER Chapter One

© 2017 Jessica E. Subject

“Three, two, one, go!” The gate buzzed open, and Jager led his squad into the Malarken forest on Kalara. Katrina, the most recent Defender graduate, took the lead, with Aram to the right, and Dhranash to the left. Silus, his Kalaren second, held center point, ready to down any Erebus the others missed. Bringing up the rear, Jager covered all their asses, prepared to save the members of his squad from every single holographic creature used to test their skills. After two Galactic years of training, fighting side-by-side, he expected them to work as a team. Yet, they didn’t. Princess Katrina was more interested in besting everyone, trying to prove she was just as skilled as her father who had recently retired from service. Only, she forgot about the rest of the squad, leaving them to fend for themselves. If he was honest, she was the least of his worries. The other members of the squad always wound up tangled in an Erebus’s tentacles or with one of the creatures over top of them, close to being killed by its poisonous saliva. And they’d served as Defenders for much longer.

Kimba, the former Galactic Alliance leader, must have hated him to assign him to the misfit group. But, no matter how much he’d argued, she refused to change her mind. The new Alliance leader, Granil, agreed with her predecessor. He was stuck with them and had to mold them into a cohesive squad. An impossible challenge.

As he weaved his way through the massive prickly trees whose canopy blocked out most of Kalara’s orange sun, Jager listened for his team. Not quiet at all. Erebus, with their lumbering bulky bodies, moved through the area with more grace. Dhranash squeaked with every step. If he stayed low enough, he wouldn’t feel the trees poking into him. And Aram sounded like a herd of rehn stampeding through the area. Jager covered his face with his hand. How many times would they have to run this drill before these lightweights learned how to cover the area properly?

A twig snapped behind him. Jager twisted around and raised his plazer, ready to shoot. Instead of their enemy ready to attack, he found Katrina, who had already downed the Erebus with just her blade.

She gave him a weak smile. “Sorry. It snapped the branch when it fell.”

Sorry? He yearned for the rest of his squad to be able to take the creatures down so quietly. And for them all to work together. He rolled his eyes and released a heavy breath. “How many?”

“This one makes five.” She took off before he could respond, the sound of her dark ponytail flapping in the air the only noise she made.

Five. That meant two or three more before the drill was over and he’d have to face Major O’Shaunessy for their score.

Ahead of him, Silus froze. A drop of black goop plopped onto his head, and the Defender screamed. Great, he’d reacted exactly as he was trained—if he wanted the Erebus to rush him. Jager pointed his plazer at the tree, aimed through the scope at the big blob perched in the branches, and fired.

A buzzer went off. They’d killed all the Erebus in this drill. Or, rather, Katrina had downed all but one, and he’d been lucky enough to find the other.

After holstering his plazer on his hip, he headed out of the forest, ready for more bad news. Maybe they’d take his squad from him. Maybe they’d punish him by assigning him to guard duty on the prison colony. He’d go mad within four Galactic years, but that had to be less stressful than trying to train the members of his squad. He’d forget all about them by the time he returned to Kalara.

When he reached the edge of the trees, he found his squad resting on a rock, panting, and looking as if they’d just survived an attack. Well, everyone except Katrina.

“How many?” he asked the group.

Dhranash shook his head.

“Didn’t see any, sir.” Aram shrugged her thick shoulders.

Silus put his head down. “None.”

“Cosmos.” He sighed and glanced around for Katrina. She never stuck with her squad during drills. Why would she now?

He spotted her leaning against the fence surrounding the forest, chatting with Jace, a Mingot, and a seventh-year Defender like him. His competition. They both had new squads and had to prove to the Alliance they were ready to go on missions. The new Zulu squad had already aided Echo on a humanitarian mission in the Tuey system. Probably because Katrina shared information about the drills with Jace so his team would perform better. Each drill was supposed to be different, but Jager couldn’t be sure. Katrina would do anything for the Defender who had helped saved her father when the Alliance had turned their back on him. How he wished he’d been sent instead.

No. He didn’t like Katrina. He didn’t like her fraternizing with Jace, the only Mingot he knew with hair. Perfect hair some Defenders swooned over. And he definitely didn’t like what the guy did with Katrina behind closed doors. Naf and Oflan could shove it up their asses if they believed him to be jealous of the other Defender. Because he wasn’t. Jace belonged to a different squad, and Jager wanted to keep his own squad focused without having to deal with the drama of relationships. Maybe if Katrina hung around with her own squad, they could work well together for a change. Some of her skill could rub off on the rest. Who was he kidding? The other three were hopeless.

Major O’Shaunessay motioned him over. “Your squad eliminated the enemy in record time.”

Jager did a double take. How had that happened? “Yes, sir.”

“I think you are ready for your first mission.” He handed Jager a com tab. “You’re going to Terra.”

Jager returned the screen. He couldn’t accept the mission, regardless of how much he looked forward to leaving the training facilities. “Based on what happened today, I don’t think that’s advisable. You know Katrina took down most of those Erebus. The rest of the squad is nowhere close to being ready.”

“I do not care what you think, young Kalaren.” The major crossed both sets of arms. “You will lead your squad on this mission.”

“Yes, sir.” And three of them likely wouldn’t survive. Even if it was an easy mission. Maybe he could leave them all there.

“Oh, and you will be missing one of your team members for the mission,” O’Shaunessy added. “Katrina will travel to Hemera before the carrier makes the jump to get to Terra.”

Great, his best squad member wouldn’t be a part of their first mission. He’d be lucky if he survived. “Yes, sir. When do we leave?”

“The shuttles will leave for the carrier in the morning. Until then, read the doc on your com tab and prepare your squad. The Terrans are still not aware of life beyond their own planet. No plazers. We have to be very careful.”

“Yes, sir.” Jager saluted the major, two fingers to the forehead then brought down in front of his face.

He headed back to the rock where his squad still looked as though they’d taken on an entire colony of Erebus. “Attention! I have some news.”

“Did you hear?” Katrina raced up and slapped him on the back. “We’ve got our first mission. We’re getting sent to Earth with Zulu and Echo squad.”

Jager clenched his fists. “Yes, we are.” He turned and glared at her. “But, you’re not. Your Royal Highness is required to attend a ball on Hemera.”

Her nostrils flared. “You lie. There is no way in Gaspra I’m going to miss out on our first mission.”

“Not my orders.” Jager raised his hands, hoping she took the challenge elsewhere. “That came straight from the top.”

“Well, get them changed. You can’t handle a mission without me. You know that.” She shifted her head to the rest of the squad. “These three are useless.”

“Hey!” Aram stood, fist raised. But Katrina had the Gersonian’s arm behind her before she had the chance to swing.

Katrina released her. “Admit it. You sound like an elephant barreling through the bush.”

Aram stared at the ground. “I don’t know what an elephant is.”

“Exactly. Which is why I need to be going to Earth. I mean, Terra.” Katrina grasped Jager’s lapels in her fists, yanking him forward. “I grew up there. I know the planet far better than any of you. I need to go on this mission.”

Jager clenched her wrists and tore her grip from him. “Don’t you ever do that again. I am your commanding officer, and you need to show respect.” A vein pulsed in his forehead. “And I will not change the orders. You need to reevaluate what you want away from the Defenders. You work on your own, without your team. And that’s not how a squad works.”

“Maybe if we had a better—”

“Enough, Princess. You will do as you’re told.” He’d had enough of her for one day. She could go cry to her boyfriend, but Jager wasn’t going to be the one to question Granil’s orders or Bryce’s demands. He would never deny that man anything, not after he’d saved his life.

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Katrina meets her squad leader ~ Read Prologue for JAGER #GalacticDefenders #FREEread #scifi #romance

Hello! As I’m sure you know, JAGER releases March 27. That’s in four days! I’ve been sharing snippets from the story as part of Weekend Writing Warriors, but they’ve only been small excerpts.

Today, I’m sharing the entire Prologue for the story, which reveals the first time Katrina meets Jager. Yes, this is their story. The prologue occurs right after the end of BRYCE, the first Galactic Defenders story which is on sale for 99¢ until April 19, 2017.

Pre-order JAGER from:

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JAGER Prologue

© 2017 Jessica E. Subject

“Are you sure this is what you want?”

Katrina tossed the duffle bag of her few belongings to the young Defender on the waiting shuttle. “Yes, Mom. We’ve been through this a million times. I want to be a Defender.”

“But you can wait a couple of years.” Her mother, the queen of Hemera, paced between her and the ten-passenger Alliance ship ready to take Katrina to Kalara where she would train to fight the Erebus. “Get used to living away from Earth, here, where you know people.”

“What better way to get to know all the races of the universe than to train alongside them. It’s like French immersion, which you thought a good idea when I started school on Earth.”

“Yes, but you were only gone for a few hours each day. Now, you’ll be on a completely different planet. I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”

Katrina had hoped leaving the day after her mother’s wedding to her father would make her departure easier, with her mom occupied in wedded bliss. But the plan had backfired, with both her parents, dressed in their royal attire, there to see her off. “Different city, different planet, what difference does it make? I’d be going away to university this year anyway.”

She caught the two-fingered wave between the Defender and Bryce, her father. He nodded in response then rested a callused hand on her mother’s bare shoulder. “It’s time to say goodbye, Lalia.”

Thank goodness for his support. Even though Bryce had his own hesitation about her leaving for Defender training, it had nothing to do with not allowing her to grow up. He simply wanted more time to get to know her. Though, from the stories she’d overheard from other Defenders, she was just like him.

Katrina hugged her mother and kissed her pale cheek. “I will try to contact you every day. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

“Yes, you will.” Bryce squeezed Katrina’s shoulder, his way of showing affection. She didn’t know if it was the Kalaren version of a hug, or a result of years of not knowing he had a child. Either way, she wouldn’t hold it against him. She still had to get used to the idea, too.

“Thanks, Dad.” She loved the look of shock then pride elicited from calling him that even after several times.

He smiled and squeezed again. “If you have any questions, problems, or need anything, let me know.”

She nodded before turning her attention to her last farewell. Her little sister. Even though not technically related, Gwenodyn filled the longing she’d always had for a sibling. And she was a smart girl, too. Being half-Mingot, she possessed the ability to read minds and could influence others to get what she wanted. In fact, she had succeeded many times in convincing Katrina to sneak her food or play when they were both supposed to be studying Hemera culture. Until a Mingot Defender who had served in Bryce’s former squad had caught on and decided she needed to be taught not to read others’ thoughts without permission. After Jace’s scolding, Katrina tried not to broadcast her thoughts so loud.

Cosmos, she would miss Gwenodyn the most, her big brown, curious eyes and bouncy ringlets of hair. “Hey, sister, you keep an eye on my parents for me. Don’t let them get into too much trouble.”

“I won’t.” Gwenodyn clasped her hands together and shook her body side to side as if ready to pop. “And you stay focused on your studies instead of all those cute Defenders.”

Katrina’s cheeks warmed even before she noticed the gaze of everyone around them on her, including the guy waiting for her on the shuttle. He was cute but by no means the best-looking Defender she’d met since she’d left Earth.

Leaning down, she gave Gwenodyn a big hug. “You need to stay out of my head.”

The little girl giggled. “I couldn’t resist one more peek.”

With a deep breath, Katrina stepped away from her family. She waved and, before she could chicken out, headed into the shuttle.

“All set,” she called as soon as she had buckled her harness. She didn’t need the Defender to check. After Gwenodyn’s comment, having to make eye contact with him would embarrass her more.

It didn’t take long—a few hours rather than several days like previous trips—for them to reach the monstrous five-level carrier. Kimba, the leader of the Galactic Alliance, waited for her in the shuttle bay. “Welcome to your first day as a trainee.” She gestured for Katrina to walk along with her.

Pack slung over her shoulder, she followed the woman through already-familiar halls. “I’m ready to officially become a Defender.”

“Perfect.” Kimba followed her into the lift. “Today, I will take you to your quarters where you will become familiar with the rules and routines of our Defenders.”

The lift opened into a large, circular hall, and through the throng of beings, she spotted small doors around half of it. The cacophony of noise greeting them ended in silence. Everyone saluted the leader—two fingers touching the forehead then brought down in front of the face. Crap, she’d forgotten to do that. Yet, after their previous argument over saving the Defenders on Niesgoo, she didn’t feel like saluting the woman.

Kimba gave a curt nod, and the noise returned. “You’re the first door over there, your father’s old room. It has been reprogrammed to unlock with your thumbprint. Captain Jager is your squad leader, and he will be by later to introduce himself.”

Jager. She knew the name but couldn’t remember how.

“Training starts tomorrow,” Kimba continued, her short tentacles straight behind as if she was just as anxious to leave as Katrina was to see her go. “And will take place on the carrier until we reach Kalara’s orbit.”

“Thank you.” She saluted the leader. “And sorry for not saluting earlier.”

“It’s quite all right—once. You’ve had a lot to learn in a short span of time.” She ducked back onto the lift. “If you have any problems, my office door is always open to you. Otherwise, I’ll see you again at your first inspection.”

And with those words, the woman left, the tension between them disappearing along with her. Katrina stood against the wall of the space filled with Defenders from all over the universe. Jace and Oflan, the only two Defenders on board she knew well, were nowhere in sight. While her mother would have encouraged her to go up to some of the others and introduce herself, she preferred to settle into her new quarters. She didn’t imagine she’d have much free time once her training started. Making her way through the crowd, she gave a brief smile to those she passed.

“Look at the princess,” a Gersonian Defender said from twenty feet away, his thick wattle shaking with every word. “Can’t socialize with anyone. Thinks she’s better than everyone else.”

“I heard she got Bryce’s old room,” his female companion said. “High-ranking quarters for a newbie.”

Katrina let the comments slide. Though neither of them had said a word to her during her previous stays on the carrier, they now seemed to resent her. Nothing she said would change their mind. No different than on Earth.

“Out of my way, Terran filth.” A Kalaren Defender shoved past her.

“My name is Katrina, and I’m part Kalaren, like you.”

The leggy woman spun to face her. “You’re nothing like me. And we all know who you are. Your father may be one of the greatest Defenders ever, but your mother comes from the most backward planet in the Alliance, and you were raised on Terra. Or, I guess, Earth is what you call it. You are the lowest of the low here, and no matter how much training you go through, you always will be. I doubt you’ll make it through the first day.”

Katrina had reached the door of her quarters, but she couldn’t resist a response. She’d already proved herself to those who mattered. “You know, we have people like you on Earth. We call them bitches. Look it up.” She entered her quarters, imagining a stunned look on the woman’s birdlike face.

Training as a Defender already reminded her of her years in high school. Yet, she did long to see her friends again. She’d graduated, had received her final marks but missed the ceremony and the after-party. And any chance she’d ever had for a date with Jeff Bennett, the hottest smart guy at her school. On her eighteenth birthday, he’d asked her out to dinner the week after, but she’d stood him up, unable to get back to earth for the date. She could never return to that life now. The planet she grew up on was several galaxies and portal jumps away. Plus, she could never fit in there again after all she’d learned about the universe. Not much, but far more than any of her friends on Earth.

As Katrina placed her few belongings on the small desk in the cramped space, she scratched the spot behind her ear where the translator had been implanted. Would it be easier to go without it, actually learn the languages of the other races? Didn’t matter. Speaking their native tongues rather than having her Terran translated wouldn’t make anyone respect her more. She’d simply have to prove herself time and time again in training and then out on the field. Until tomorrow, she planned to rest. She stripped to her bra and panties and flopped onto the bed. Though she wasn’t allowed a com tablet during training, she had a com screen in her room and had found a way to hack into her ebook account on Earth, giving her access to all the fiction she’d bought. Nothing helped forget a bad day better than a good book. As she scrolled through the titles, the space adventures she used to read no longer held the same appeal. She settled for a college romance instead, set on Earth, a fantasy world for her now.

Bang, bang, bang.

Katrina leaped from the bed, smacking the top of her head on the overhead compartment.

Crap! She rubbed the sore spot as she tried to figure out which of the twenty colored buttons to press to open the door. Finally, she found the right one and stared at the man on the other side.

With a barely healed scar across his cheek and part of his nose, she couldn’t tell his exact age, but he couldn’t be much older than her, and was hot as hell. “Hi,” she squeaked out, admiring the tight fit of his shirt across a broad chest and around bulky arms, a tattoo trailing down from under his right sleeve. She noticed his Kalaren ridge and intense blue eyes before she realized he’d caught her staring.

She clasped her hands behind her and waited for him to say something. Instead, he shifted his gaze around, as if he’d forgotten what he’d come to say.

“Can I help you with something?” Did he plan to pull some sort of prank on her, initiate the new Defender?

He cleared his throat. “I’m Jager, leader of Delta squad, and your trainer.”

“Oh.” She saluted him. Shit, one of these times she’d get in trouble for forgetting to do that. “Come in.”

His gaze slid all the way to the floor and back up her body. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Crap, she had barely any clothes on and had invited her captain into her room. Way to make people hate you more.

He rested a hand on the doorframe, keeping his focus on everything but her. “Do you have any questions?”

“No.” She’d been reading fiction rather than the manuals she should have perused.

“Okay, training begins at oh-four-hundred Galactic time. Make sure your alarm is set accordingly.”

She nodded, though he likely didn’t see, the space above her head more interesting.

“Oh, and watch what you say to other Defenders.”

“Why, was she your girlfriend?” Just her luck to start a fight with the woman dating the leader of her squad.

“No.” He scowled. “But I don’t like to have to defend my squad members.”

Her stomach sank. He gave her shit already, and for standing up for herself. “Fine. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“And make sure you have more clothes on.” He ran his hand across his face and groaned. A faint blush softened his chiseled features. “That is, wear your full uniform.”

Katrina couldn’t help but smile, cheered up by making her captain uncomfortable.

He handed her a package resembling the wrapped granola bar Jace had given her before their departure to Niesgoo. “Eat this Darobar before your first training session. It will give you sustainable energy, which you’re going to need. There’s more in the dining hall for mornings after tomorrow.”

“Thank you.” She didn’t know how to take the gesture. Was he looking out for her or promising a grueling first training session? Either way, she expected plenty of Defenders would be watching and expecting her to fail.

He left her standing in the doorway, several pairs of eyes on her in her skivvies as her door slid closed, the staring Defenders surely thinking some rude comment. At least Jager hadn’t mocked her family and upbringing. Not to her face, anyway.

When her door finally shut, she remembered where she’d heard Jager’s name. He was the Defender Bryce had told her about, the sole surviving member of Delta squad, and the guy who’d been tortured by the Erebus after going kamikaze on them.

Brave, or stupid? She wouldn’t know until training started, but she was glad to have him on her team.

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