Home > Conqueror (Galactic Kings #4)

Conqueror (Galactic Kings #4)
Author: Anna Hackett

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

The night air was cold on her skin.

Evie Mason liked it. She liked that she could feel something other than anger.

She liked that it took her mind off the nightmares.

Her muscles tensed, images trying to push through her brain.

No. The nightmares had taken enough from her tonight. She was not thinking about them.

Instead, she thought of all the things she missed. Rock music, ice-cold Heineken beer on a hot day, Reese’s peanut butter cups. Mmm, nothing went together like peanuts and chocolate.

The snow-covered grass of the palace gardens crunched under her feet. A dusting of the tiny flakes had fallen earlier, covering everything in a glittery, otherworldly shimmer.

She was in a palace.

She looked back over her shoulder at the stone structure built into the mountainside. The ebony rock was threaded with gold veins, and had been carved into buildings that looked both strong and elegant. Like something out of a dark fairytale.

She was just a regular woman from Earth in a freaking alien palace.

Her gaze shifted upward to the unfamiliar groupings of stars in the night sky overhead.

Her belly coiled into tight knots.

She was a long, long way from Earth.

Yep, no peanut butter cups around here.

Evie sucked in a deep breath, trying to push through the tightness in her chest. The cool night air chilled her skin. Her white nightgown and light sandals were too flimsy for the wintry night, but she didn’t care. She wanted the bite of the cold. She wanted the pain.

She squeezed her eyes closed and pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers.

She was not going to fall apart.

“I am Evie Mason. I am Evie Mason.” It was a furious whisper. One she’d been repeating every day, over and over, for the last two years.

For two years she’d been nothing. A prisoner. A test subject. A thing.

She’d had to fight to remember who she was, every second of every day.

Sometimes, it all felt like a bad dream. From the day the exploration ship she’d been the logistics manager on had been attacked by aliens, outside of contact range with the Jupiter space station where they’d been based, she’d been living a nightmare.

Everyone aboard had died, except her.

She’d ended up in a cell. Sold.

Then she’d fallen into the hands of the Sarkans and their dirty, evil Zhylaw scientists.

A muscle ticked in her jaw. She breathed deeply again, her hands balling into fists.

Two years. Two years she lived in a cell aboard the Abiosis science space station.

There had been so much pain and suffering.

The head Zhylaw scientist, Naberius, had taken her blood constantly. He’d poked holes in her, hooked her up to machines. He’d used her blood to create his abominations in his lab. Wild, horrifying creatures.

Rage welled inside her. It lived and breathed there, and refused to go away.

She released a sharp breath. “Yeah, well, Naberius is dead.”

She’d helped kill him herself. And she wasn’t a little bit sorry about it.

Power trickled along her veins. She felt it pulse inside her.

No.

“I am Evie Mason.” Another desperate breath. She tried to wrestle with the rising energy.

I don’t want you. Just leave me alone.

The molten rage and the power didn’t cool, but they receded.

Like a monster sliding back into the swamp.

She rolled her eyes. Her brain was extra overactive tonight. But glad to feel a little normal once more, she started walking again.

Not that her new powers would stay dormant for long. She rubbed the center of her chest. Naberius had changed her.

Evie would give anything to be normal, but like going back to Earth, she was terrified that it was an impossibility.

Gritting her teeth, she lifted her chin. The hedges in the garden were well-maintained, and she could smell something pretty, flowering somewhere. Fascinating stone sculptures dotted the grounds.

Most of them were just abstract hunks of rock carved into interesting shapes.

She turned a corner and almost ran into one. It reared over her like a giant beast.

Her vision blurred and her nightmares came rushing back.

Shadows. Pain. A strange red glow. A throb of energy. Terror.

“Jesus.” Her chin fell to her chest, and she dug her fingernails into her thighs. She fought the images back.

The bad dreams had been strong tonight, wrenching her from her light sleep. Just strange, half-formed images that flashed in her head. Some had been Naberius, the faces of the scientists, the lab workbenches, and the blood-soaked straps.

No. Fuck that. She was free.

She’d been rescued by enemies of the Sarkans.

She looked into the night sky again.

She was now on a planet called Taln in the Sarkany System. She was on the other side of the galaxy to Earth.

Her belly did a terrible swirl. She was too far away to ever go home.

That anger inside her churned again, twining with her new, unwanted abilities. It felt like something alive inside her that wanted, no needed, to be set free.

Gritting her teeth, she kept walking across the grass. The statues changed from abstract pieces to men and women.

They were all humanoid. Talnians. Apparently an advanced alien race—the Creators—had seeded the systems of the galaxy with life a long, long time ago. So, all the species across the Milky Way came from similar breeding stock. She paused in front of one statue carved from dense black rock, crisscrossed with gold veins. It was of a tall woman in a long dress, a delicate crown on her head. Some Talnian queen of old.

Evie stroked a line of gold in the rock. Beautiful.

The hedges opened up to garden beds. Even though it was cool and snowy, flowers that had adapted to the colder climate bloomed. Sweet, floral scents filled the air.

Then she rounded some bushes and gasped.

The view of the city of Gearma was breathtaking.

The snow-capped mountains were stunning, with sharp, jagged peaks that caught the eye. The buildings of the city sprinkled down the hillsides to the valley below, clinging to cliff faces, and glowing with golden light.

She now knew Gearma was the capital of Taln, where the planet’s king—Conqueror Graylan Taln Sarkany—ruled.

The wind caught her hair. She was supposed to leave for the neighboring planet of Zhalto soon. Shockingly, there were two other human women from Earth here in the Sarkany System. Mal West and Poppy Ellison had been testing an experimental starship when they’d been flung through a wormhole and found themselves on the other side of the galaxy.

Mal now lived on the planet Zhalto, and was in love with Zhalto’s overlord, Rhain Sarkany.

Evie let out a breath. Sometimes it was all too much to take in.

Poppy was living on the planet Damar, a forest world filled with alien wolf shapeshifters, and she was now mated to the emperor, Brodin Sarkany.

The women had survived, fallen in love, and found a place to belong.

Evie didn’t belong anywhere.

Hell, she never had. She was just the poor girl, with no mother, who’d never fit anywhere.

She heard a noise.

She turned her head, staring through the dark garden. Was someone else out here?

Moving silently, she slipped through the vegetation.

Then she stumbled to a halt.

The man stood on a large, square stone platform. It had four pillars in the corners, but no roof. The pillars glowed dully, giving off a low, gold light. There was no snow on the platform, and the man had his back to her.

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