Deadly Pursuit: Blood Hunter Book 2 by Nina Croft
Amazon Product Description:
Breaking assassin Jonathon Decker out of a maximum security prison on Trakis One seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, pursued across space by the two most powerful factions in the universe, the crew of El Cazador are having second thoughts. They'd like to give him back. Unfortunately, that no longer seems an option.
Jon is used to working alone. Now, he's stuck on the space cruiser El Cazador until he can work out just what he's supposed to know that puts him on everybody's most-wanted-dead list. He s not happy that the crew includes a runaway priestess with designs on his virtue such as it is. Jon likes women, but he gave up the role of protector a long time ago, and Alexia, High Priestess of the Church of Everlasting Life, is an accident waiting to happen.
After twenty-four excruciatingly boring years of doing her duty, Alex is finally having some fun. She never meant to run away it was a rash impulse and she means to go back eventually. But first, she's going to squeeze enough excitement out of the situation to last her a lifetime. And what could be more exciting than a stunningly gorgeous werewolf?
Meanwhile, the Church are chasing their missing priestess, and the Collective are pursuing their escaped assassin. Being hunted has never been more deadly...or more fun.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my day with Nina Croft and Deadly Pursuit!
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
And now for your reading pleasure...an excerpt!
Twenty-four years ago...
A pair of sickle moons hung low in the sky, casting a sullen, bloodred glow insufficient to light the path. High priest Hezrai Fischer swore under his breath as he tripped over a tree root and only just prevented himself from sprawling on the ground in an undignified heap.
"How much further?" he snapped.
"Not far now, my Lord," the guide murmured soothingly. He'd been saying the same words for the last hour.
The procession wound its way up a steep track cut into the side of a mountain, on what had to be the most godforsaken planet in the known universe. Sweat soaked his robes, and every muscle ached from the unusual exercise. "Why here?" he asked the world in general. "Why couldn't she have been born on some nice, civilized planet?"
"God works in mysterious ways," Sister Martha spoke softly from beside him.
He gritted his teeth as the words hovered on his lips. Personally, he would have preferred a little less mystery and a little more common sense from God. Biting back the blasphemous thought, he peered sideways at his companion. She had no trouble maneuvering up the track, seeming to glide in her long, black robes. her face was serene; only the subdued glow in her eyes hinted at her excitement.
Left to him, he would have chosen a different companion. Sister Martha always set his teeth on edge, but as the head of the Order of the Sisters of Everlasting Life, it would be her duty to take charge of the new priestess. He hadn't been able to think of a reasonable excuse to leave her behind.
The old High Priestess had died a month ago. They had immediately sent out seekers to all the inhabited planets to search for the new vessel; a baby girl born at the exact moment of the old priestess's death into whom the holy spark would have been transferred.
"We're here, my Lord."
"Here" appeared to be a tiny hovel. Dull orange light flickered from the single window. He smoothed his robes, raised his fist, and banged on the wooden door.
It was opened seconds later by one of the brothers. "My Lord."
Hezrai nodded brusquely. "They know we are coming? Have they agreed?"
"Yes, my Lord. For one thousand credits, they will hand over the child."
"They should hand her over for the glory of the Church," he snarled.
"They are not members, my Lord, but they are poor."
Hezrai detected a slight censure in the words; he'd ignore it for now, but made a mental note of the man's name. "Let's get this over with."
He followed the brother into the house, though 'house' was an ambitious word for the single, dingy space he found himself in. The air held a sharp, sour smell, and he wrinkled his nose.
At the far side of the room, a man and a woman huddled together. The man held a baby in his arms.
"At last," Hezrai muttered. Perhaps now they could finish this and get back to civilization. he stepped closer and peered down at the baby. He didn't know much about babies, and wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, but some sense of holiness at the very least.
"Are we sure?" It was an ugly, little thing with a squashed up face, strange gray eyes rimmed with black, and a shock of dark red hair. Hezrai frowned. "Has there ever been a red-haired priestess?"
"Not that I remember." Sister Martha sounded dubious. "Can we see the sign?"
The father parted the robes. A purple birthmark showed clearly on her right thigh in the perfect shape of a cross.
Hezrai nodded. It was enough for him. "Make the transfer."
He waited, tapping his foot on the rough wood floor, trying to ignore the stench of the place. Finally, the transaction was complete. "Right then...Get the girl and let's go."
The parents hadn't said a word, but now the mother stepped forward. "Please, I don't - "
Her husband halted her with a hand on her arm. "Shut up, Lisa. There'll be other babies."
"But - "
"We discussed this. What sort of life will she have here? With the Church, she'll have a chance - a future."
Hezrai rolled his eyes. Yeah, right, they were doing this for the infant, nothing to do with the thousand credits. he really hoped the woman wasn't going to be difficult. Before she could say another word, the man edged closer to Hezrai and shoved the baby into his arms.
Hezrai almost dropped it.
Now he knew where the disgusting smell was coming from. Staring down into its red face, he tried to feel some religious awe. This was the High Priestess returned to them. She blinked at him from intense gray eyes, screwed up her features, and screamed, nearly bursting his eardrums.
"Quiet, child." He made an effort to keep his voice even. If he gave in to his natural inclination and screamed back, he suspected it would do more harm than good.
She shrieked louder.
"Give her to me." Sister Martha held out her arms.
A second ago, he would have gladly handed her over; now that the sister had asked, he tightened his grip and gritted his teeth. "The child belongs to God now. She must learn obedience."
The baby quieted, her lips curving into a sweet smile.
"There, you see, she just needs discipline."
She opened her mouth and regurgitated vile smelling, half-digested milk down his pristine black robe.
That was the moment Hezrai Fischer began to hate the brand new High Priestess of the Church of Everlasting Life.
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