My name is Maxton and I’m a trader.
I live on a soulless planet where gravity, oxygen, and everything else are sold to the highest bidder on the black market. People are sold on the black market, too. You have to work really hard not to become one of those people. Pay your taxes, keep your friends and family close, and more than anything else—don’t get caught by the Militia. But all the rules changed for me the day I found her.
My name is Sophelia and I’m a stowaway.
I’ve been a slave for almost as long as I can remember. Waiting for the one day, one second, for my proprietor to turn his head so I could run and never look back. Now I’m on the run. And on a planet where no one is on your side and people would turn you in for a good meal or a piece of a silver, being on the run on Landu is the last place you want to be. Until he found me.
I won’t survive without him.
I can’t breathe without her.
“This’ll work. Thank you, Maxton.”
My eyebrows lifted. “You got some mind powers I don’t know about?”
She gave me a funny look, but added a small smile. That smile… Holy. Wow. “You gave me your shirt. Unless you’re also a slave, you have your own clothes.”
I absentmindedly reached back to rub the tag with my name in it on my shirt. “That’s right. Sorry. And what’s your name?”
“You want to know my name?” she barely whispered.
I grinned. “It’s only fair.”
She took a breath, looking at my mouth for a moment. I wondered the last time that anyone had smiled at her.
“Sophelia.” She laughed once, but it was more of sadness than anything funny. “I haven’t said my name in years.”
That rocked me to my core. “What did your proprietor call you?” And I immediately regretted that question.
She smiled, but again it was the opposite of her actual emotion. “You don’t want to know.”
I gulped, knowing I needed to get away from her.
“Hey, I’m sure you’re tired. Why don’t you take a nap or something while I go get my work done? When you wake up, we’ll be there.”
She must have noticed the off change in my tone, but just looked at me before going to my bed.
“Okay.” She laid down, facing the wall, and sighed so deeply. “A bed,” I heard her mutter.
“Wow, I’d forgotten.”
I left without another word.
I leaned against the wall outside my room, the back of my head to the wall, and stayed there for a minute. A couple of Havard’s regulars walked by, but I said nothing to them. He always had workers here and there, but I was his right hand and everybody knew it.
I went up to the top floor, pressed my thumb to the scanner, and went inside. Havard used the old technologies. He said it was cheap and gave the illusion of safety. If someone was dumb enough to crack through his security, then they’d meet their maker soon rather than later for being than dumb.
“Havard!” I called.
“Get in here, boy. Maybe we want to postpone our shipment for a day.”
“What?” I said, the shock evident in my voice. There was no reason I could think of that Havard would make his shipments late. None. Except silver.
“A slave escaped.”
I schooled my face. I was good at that. I crossed my arms. “So. Slaves escape sometimes. Who cares?”
“Someone apparently. This slave is worth a pretty silver.” He flipped the screen hanging over his desk around so I could see it. There she was. The redheaded beauty. And next to her face was a number I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.”
I gulped. “Why is she worth so much?”
“Why does it matter? I bet if we stayed a night longer, was a little late on our shipments, we could find her. I’ll split the finder’s fee with you.”
That silver…would change my life, would change so much for me. Could I really let one conversation with this girl take away everything I’ve worked my whole life for?
I steeled my back and face, thought about the one girl who did mean something to me back home. This girl on this ship meant nothing to me, but that girl back home was my life. I barely knew her anymore because I’d been gone so long, but she was everything and I needed this money to save her. I remembered that as I uttered my next word and condemned the girl in my room to hell.
“Funny this should pop up on your screen, Havard.” I grinned my best evil grin. “I was just coming to find you.”
He grinned back, not knowing why, but knowing he was about to make some silver. “Why was that?”
“The girl?” I nodded toward the picture.
“She stowed away in the ship.” I leaned in with my knuckles on his desk. “She’s in my room, right now.”
“You’re joking,” he barked.
“About silver? Never.”
He leaned back and smiled before jumping up from his seat. “Let’s go, crook.”
Shelly is a NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY bestselling author from a small town in Georgia and loves everything about the south. She is wife to a fantastical husband and stay-at-home mom to two boisterous and mischievous boys who keep her on her toes. She hoards paperbacks, devours sweet tea, searches year-round for candy corn, and loves to spend time with her family and friends, go out to eat at new restaurants, site-see in the new areas they travel to, listen to music, and, of course, loves to read, but doesn’t have much time to these days with all the characters filling her head begging to come out. She is author to over twenty books and counting!
Her own books happen by accident and she revels in the writing and imagination process. She doesn’t go anywhere without her notepad for fear of an idea creeping up and not being able to write it down immediately, even in the middle of the night, where her best ideas are born.