Excerpt from All Tied Up by Kaenar Langford, final edition may differ.

Chapter One

From her place of concealment deep in the shadows, Naymeen watched the little man nervously pace the tiny landing bay. It was obvious, from the way he stayed out in the open, he wasn’t a soldier. No soldier would have made himself such an easy target. Lucky for him, no one was even aware of his arrival. Lucky for him—but luckier for her.

He whirled as she moved forward from her hiding place. A look of alarm crossed his face as he took in the black torso armour and the gun in the holster on her hip. His voice trembled as he spoke. “You’re not the person I’m supposed to meet.”

She shook her head.

He stepped back.

She snorted at his attempt to put some distance between them and advanced on him.

His face paled, the colour leaching from his flabby skin. “Are you here to kill me?”

He didn’t know that wasn’t to be his fate, that he was only a means to an end.

A tight smile lifted her lips. Yet it must have done little to reassure him, as his voice quivered when he asked again, “Are you going to kill me?”

She gave him his reprieve. “Not this time.”

He looked relieved—but not for long.

“I’m well aware you’re here from Jaehdang,” Naymeen went on, “a planet that is under sanction by the United League of Veluvian Planets, to enter into clandestine negotiations with Mr. A. C. Blackshott, one of the wealthiest men in the galaxy. Therefore, you are definitely persona non grata here on Gheldar.”

If possible, he grew even whiter as she revealed the details of his supposedly covert mission.

“Do you really think the League would allow a meeting to take place between an envoy from a hostile planet and a man with an unlimited cash flow?” Naymeen shook her head for emphasis. “It just doesn’t seem like a good thing. So that’s why I’m here.”

Her leather boots nudged his fancy shoes as she invaded his space. “It’s my job to encourage you to go back home. Or, if necessary, persuade you a bit more forcefully.”

Now she was afraid, from the look on his face, the poor creature was going to faint.

“I’m not a killer, Mr. Chengalie. At least, not this time.”

He started, but whether at her use of his name or at the reference to her status as a ‘sweeper’ for the League, she couldn’t be sure. Yet she wondered why he was surprised. It was obvious she knew everything about his task, and it also was obvious that, considering whom he was meeting, the League would send in an enforcer, a cleaner-upper of the situation, as it were.

Naymeen was still annoyed they hadn’t allowed Blackshott and the envoy to get together so she could find out the purpose of the meet, but the group seemed more concerned with prevention. She knew that kind of short-sighted thinking often came back to bite one in the arse—with a vengeance. She hoped they were prepared for that possibility.

But now, it was time to perform her duty. “Let me put it to you this way. It would be better for everyone, especially yourself, if you were to turn around and head back home without delay.”

As the realisation apparently took root in his brain that her purpose really was to rout but not kill him, a smidgen of boldness crept into his backbone. He puffed himself up in protest. “But I can’t leave.”

Naymeen wanted to laugh at his sudden burst of indignation. “Anyone from a sanctioned planet is banned from Gheldar—and from every other planet within the jurisdiction of the League. You need to leave, immediately.”

The envoy struggled to speak. “But what will I tell my master, Chancellor Lantusa, when I return without seeing Mr. Blackshott?”

Naymeen shrugged. “Tell him Blackshott changed his mind, tell him I changed your mind. I don’t really care what you tell him, just get the hell out of here. Now.”

Mr. Chengalie shook his head. “You don’t know him. His Excellency will not be happy.”

“I also don’t really care about the state of His Excellency’s well-being,” Naymeen said sarcastically. “This meeting will not take place.” Catching his arm, she swung him around, marched him to his little craft and waited while he opened the hatch.

Mr. Chengalie continued to press. “It is very unwise to upset my master.”

“If he gets too upset, just tell him the bounty hunters of The Shadow Walker would be glad to come and sooth his hurt feelings.”

The little man blanched. “You’re-you’re one of them? I-I thought you worked for-for the League,” he stammered.

Naymeen didn’t bother to confirm or deny his statement. Always press an advantage with the enemy. “I see you’ve obviously heard stories about Captain Hazen Chandler and his crew. You would do well to believe them, for only a fool would incur the wrath of the hunters of that star cruiser,” she said with a tight smile.

As the envoy prepared to climb aboard the speedercraft, she grabbed his arm again and stopped him.

“Wait. Is Dayne Fitzgerald the reason you’re meeting with Blackshott?”

The messenger swung around, his eyes wide. “Are you mad? Even Chancellor Lantusa would have nothing to do with King Shaudar’s right hand man. He’s like a shadow, moving through the galaxy on jobs for that vile creature. You never know where he’ll turn up, and, by the time he strikes, there’s no sense looking for him. He’s long gone.” The emissary shivered and looked around as if the hired gun might be lurking in the dark corners of the holding bay. “No, the assassin was not going to be the topic of our discussion.”

Naymeen tried to hide her disappointment. Despite her best efforts, she was no closer to discovering the whereabouts of the former agent turned traitor. Although she was only to deter Chengalie, she never passed up an opportunity to glean information about the rogue killer. The League seemed to have forgotten that finding Fitzgerald and bringing him in had been her assignment a mere few months ago. When she’d come up empty handed, the mission had been shoved aside to make room for more important ones. As if anything could be more important than the betrayal by Dayne Fitzgerald.

He’d been her partner on some of the most difficult jobs she’d ever undertaken for the United League of Veluvian Planets and had covered her back through them all. That was why she had trouble not taking his treachery personally. His deceit cut bone deep.

She couldn’t understand how a man of his convictions had become the henchman of one of the most despicable rulers of the galaxy. Had it been money that had lured him? Or the danger? She really didn’t know. All she knew was it was up to her to capture him however she could, and let the Galactic Court decide his fate.

Even though this envoy had nothing to do with him, she couldn’t help but feel Mr. A. C. Blackshott was somehow connected to Fitzgerald. She just had to figure out how, had to find a way to get close enough to the wealthy bastard to do just that.

But for now, she had to make sure Mr. Chengalie heeded her warning to leave Gheldar immediately. Naymeen needn’t have worried. The emissary had taken advantage of her few moments of reverie to scramble into the little speedercraft, activate its power source and take off from the landing cradle.

It hadn’t really been fair to let him think she was from The Shadow Walker. She had been a bounty hunter, but now she and her ship The Dawnrider were under contract to the League. Her current position was as a government agent, but he wouldn’t know that. Besides, her former compatriots wouldn’t mind her dropping their names like that. Even if her name wouldn’t put much fear into the chancellor, theirs certainly would.

She was sure Hazen, Radek and Tarian, the hunters from The Shadow Walker, would be delighted with any opportunity to ‘appease’ Chancellor Lantusa. In fact, there was nothing they liked better than flexing some muscle to ‘subdue’ a petty tyrant. But they weren’t involved in this mission. Despite the fact she no longer worked with them, Naymeen knew they would support her, no matter what. Besides, there wasn’t a great likelihood the chancellor would come after them or her. The hunters’ reputation pretty well guaranteed that.

She couldn’t help but grin as she headed to a nearby landing bay to retrieve her own speedercraft. There’s nothing better than a successful mission that sees some bastard get his come-uppance, especially when said bastard thinks being rich puts him above the law.

The League would be delighted to know Mr. Chengalie was on his way home, without having made contact with Mr. Blackshott. But her brain still pushed forward the idea the mission hadn’t been entirely successful, was only partially completed. It still niggled in her consciousness that there was more here, more between Blackshott and her traitorous former-colleague.

Believing one should always know one’s opponent, she had looked into the affairs of Mr. A. C. Blackshott, had carefully studied any data she could find about the man, but obviously she needed to do more research. And she needed to find a way to get his attention, to call him out into the open, to force him to make a mistake, a mistake that could lead her to Dayne Fitzgerald.

Climbing into the little vessel, Naymeen engaged the power source and steered the craft through the docking bay and into the sky. Her crew aboard The Dawnrider would be waiting, eager to know she was safe, and impatient to hear how the mission had gone. She was delighted she’d be able to tell them it had been a rousing success. Government agent—one, rich businessman—zero.


* * * *


Mr. Aiden C. Blackshott tried to control his temper, but the news his Head of Security had just imparted made that very difficult.

“What in Heldar’s name are you telling me?” As the man began to speak, Blackshott put up his hand. “I know, I know. Mr. Chengalie wasn’t there. I got that part. So where is he? What happened to him?”

Aiden couldn’t afford to let Brysin see it wasn’t anger he was feeling. It was fear. His Head of Security had no idea what was riding on the success of these negotiations. No one knew, and he had to keep it that way. It wasn’t his life at stake, but he’d do anything in his power to protect the one whose life was. Brothers looked out for brothers.

“I went to meet him myself, just as you told me to, but the landing bay was empty.”

“Did you ask around?” Aiden had the grace to feel contrite at the look Brysin gave him. “Sorry. Of course you did. And what’d you find out?”

His security chief continued. “Mr. Chengalie did arrive. I was able to learn that much. About a half hour before I got there.”

“So where’d he go? What happened to him?”

“Well, that’s where it gets interesting,” Brysin said, slowly nodding his head.

As Aiden made a ‘hurry up and tell me’ motion with one hand, Brysin continued.

“One of the docking crew noticed him pacing in the landing bay and wondered who he was waiting for.”

Blackshott groaned at the sheer stupidity of amateurs. He was standing out in the open when he was there to meet in secret. No wonder something happened to him.

Brysin correctly interpreted his boss’ reaction. “I know. He certainly wasn’t keeping a low profile, but remember, he’s a bureaucrat, not a soldier. Anyway, the guy says that someone must have been waiting for him, because one minute he was alone and, the next, a woman was talking to him.”

“A woman? Who was she?”

“The crewman had no idea.”

“What about their records?’

“Nothing. Either the record had been erased, or she managed somehow to circumvent their system.”

“How could she have gotten into the landing dock, undetected?”

“That’s what they’d like to know.”

A smile crept over Aiden’s face. Despite the severity of the situation, he enjoyed a good adversary, and this woman, whoever she might be, was proving to be just that.

“There’s more, boss.”

“I can’t wait to hear,” Aiden said, shaking his head.

“I managed to get a description of her.”


“She had long hair pulled back in a braid and a great body.”

Blackshott couldn’t help but laugh.

Brysin shrugged. “I’m just telling you what the docking crew told me. And they also said she was wearing black torso armour and carrying a gun.”

The last part piqued Blackshott’s interest. “That would definitely narrow it down, wouldn’t it? Sounds like a professional. What do you think? A soldier, maybe?”

“A soldier. Maybe a mercenary or a bounty hunter. The United League has quite a few they keep under contract. ‘Government agent’ is what they’re called. If the League had gotten wind of Chengalie’s meeting with you, they may have found someone to change his mind and send him home.”

“I wonder why she didn’t just kill him,” Blackshott mused.

“The League wouldn’t want that. Jaehdang may be hostile to them, but there’s no point in inviting any kind of confrontation. She just needed to persuade him to go home.”

“Looks like she was successful,” Aiden said dryly.

“I’m already checking our holographic records to see if I can find out who she is. I’ll look through the women we have catalogued in our database and see if there’s a match.”

“Let me look at the list as soon as you pull it together.”


* * * *


Naymeen lay on her bed, hands clenched at her sides, staring at the ceiling in her cabin aboard The Dawnrider. She was home, safe and sound. Her crew had breathed a sigh of relief at her return, although she could never figure out why they worried so much. She was very good at her job and never took unnecessary chances. Besides, the mission had involved one little bureaucrat. And the unseen presence of the mysterious Mr. Blackshott.

She forced her eyes to close, tried to calm her racing heart. Her crew might have heaved a sigh of relief, but she couldn’t say the same for herself. Her breathing was laboured, heavy. If the mission was so damned easy, why am I panting like a creature in heat?

Oh, she knew the answer to that question. The moment the door to her quarters had slid open, she’d ditched the torso armour and slid off her boots and socks. Her gun and holster safely stored away, she’d turned on the compuscreen to do a little more research on Blackshott. This time she’d requested pictures of her would-be adversary. And almost wished she hadn’t.

Mr. A. C. Blackshott—no mention of his first name—was gorgeous. Rich, wavy, brown hair tamed by a short, no-nonsense cut, dark eyes that promised a wealth of naughtiness and a body built for slow and easy sin. Too bad he was nine or ten years younger than she was, for even after the screen was turned off, the image of his beautiful face remained etched in her memory, haunting her, taunting her with its youth and unattainability.

She knew a man of his wealth and good looks would never give a woman her age a second glance. So why could she not block that picture of him from creeping into her brain? Those striking features danced in her mind, those sensuous lips begging to be stroked with tongue and fingers, those high cheekbones asking to be licked.

One hand crept to the zipper tab of her flight suit, pulling it across her breast from shoulder to waist, baring a thin ribbon of skin to the cool atmosphere of the chamber. As she pulled the bodice apart, her nipples pebbled in the chilly air. She flicked the sensitive peaks with her thumbs, strumming them until her bum lifted off the bed and she began to moan. It wasn’t enough. It was Blackshott’s hands, his mouth, she wanted on her. She imagined the door to her cabin sliding open. He would find her on the bed, waiting for him, and he would smile. He would cross to her, hold out his hand and draw her to her feet, saying nothing. Where her movements were quick and clumsy, his would be slow and graceful.

Struggling, thinking of him, she yanked the zip down her leg and peeled the skin-tight garment from her body. In her mind, she let him do it.

Long, elegant fingers would open the suit from tip to toe, slipping over her heated skin as her flesh was revealed. His strong hands would draw the body-hugging outfit along her shoulders and down. She’d gasp as he pinned her arms.

“Keep them there,” he’d say. “Don’t move until I give you permission.”

What could she do but comply, especially when his lips touched her neck, and he placed a line of kisses along her shoulder blade? His hands would join the erotic dance, skimming over the flesh of her back, dipping beneath the snug material to cup then squeeze her arse. His mouth at her breasts, nipping, sucking, his palms moving to cradle their weight.

He’d sink to his knees, sliding the material down her long legs and off.

He’d move to his feet and stare. Would he like what he saw? Would he want her?

“Undress me,” he would command.

Her hands would be unsteady as she undid the buttons of his jacket. As if she were his valet, she’d go behind him and respectfully hold the garment, letting him slip free. His back would be beautiful even hidden by the crisp white shirt. She would move before him, tugging the knot on his tie, sliding it from beneath the collar.

“Keep that handy. I might need it,” he would say.

Her knees would hardly be able to hold her. Somehow she would manage to push each shirt button free of its hole then drag the garment off him. Her hands would ache to touch him, but she needed him naked. The belt, the shoes, the socks—all would disappear in a hurry. Her hands would shake as she pressed the button at his waist through its opening and pulled down the fly.

No underwear, she decided. He would shun them. She would lean forward and lick his cock, flicking the drop of pre-cum with her tongue. No ceremony, no decorum, she would yank down his trousers, push him back on the bed and climb on top of him. Impale herself on him, ride him, look into his eyes as he thrust up into her.

His face hovered there in her imagination, on the edge of her awareness, as she reached over and grabbed the lube from the drawer of the bedside table. A quick squirt and her slick fingers went between her legs and touched that sensitive spot under the fleshy hood. With every circle around the taut bud, she imagined slamming down on his dick. She went off like a speedercraft entering a turbo jump.

Maybe that will clear my head of his image, Naymeen thought, minutes later, as she lay there, limp. She knew that really was impossible and, after that little daydream, she wondered what kind of lasting effect seeing him in person would have on her. She doubted very much it would be so easy to push him from her mind, once that happened. Reluctantly, she admitted he was the kind of man she admired. He’d come from nothing, from nowhere, to become not only one of the richest men on Gheldar but one of the wealthiest in the galaxy. It should have been simple to despise him for his money, yet many of the stories she’d just read about him spoke of his philanthropic ways. Worthy organisations across the star system had benefited from his generosity. And it doesn’t hurt that he is very easy on the eyes.

The niggling suspicion he was somehow involved with Dayne Fitzgerald still buzzed in her brain, and she had learned long ago to heed those hums of intuition. Getting close to Mr. A. C. Blackshott still seemed like the best plan of attack. Now, she only needed to figure out how to accomplish that.

Naymeen got to her feet. After slipping back into her flight suit, she donned her socks and boots, at the same time pushing Blackshott’s face to a side compartment of her brain, where she could easily retrieve it for future consideration and perusal. She had other things to occupy her mind— and her time.

She’d been sent to Gheldar for two reasons—to intercept and dispatch the envoy from Chancellor Lantusa and to upload then deliver a shipment of tritanis to Darzen, the largest city on Sartoric 4. The drug would be used to stop the spread of an extremely virulent pulmonary disease that had broken out. Her crew was in no danger, since they wouldn’t be landing, and the cargo would be moved from ship to ship through an interconnecting airlock activated from her starship, The Dawnrider.

A small docking bay would be formed between the two vessels, allowing the party from the other vehicle to take the boxes of medicine. As soon as their ship disconnected from the Sartorian craft, a powerful chemical rinse would thoroughly wash the area, totally destroying any harmful bacteria. It was a manoeuvre her team had performed many times, and she knew there was no cause for alarm. Her people were incredibly competent.

She had only to think about them, and the intercom buzzed from the bridge.

“Sorry to bother you, Captain, but you asked to be informed when we’re ready to leave. The service barge from the League has finished offloading the cartons of tritanis, and we’re good to go. As soon as you give the word, we’ll get underway for Darzen.”

“Thanks, Jedediah. I know you could handle all this with one hand while playing a compugame with the other. But I’ll be right there.”

“Roger that, Captain.”

Naymeen heard her navigator’s laughter just before he broke the connection. As she retrieved her gun and holster and began to strap them on, her gaze was drawn to the small closet in the corner of her cabin. She smiled as a plan began to take shape in her mind.

Heading to the wardrobe, she took out the dress. She’d found it on Kastuk right after the arrival of the invitation for the Galactic Emperor’s soirée. Once she’d put on the body-hugging creation, she’d known she had to have it. The shoes were an absolute necessity, too, she thought, spotting them on the floor of the tiny space. Even though she’d purchased the items, she’d still been unsure about whether she wanted to attend the gala. Until now.

Her research on Blackshott had mentioned he would be attending the prestigious event. She now had a way to get close to him. Naymeen could be very persuasive when she wanted. This might be the chance she’d been waiting for to find out if he had a connection to Dayne Fitzgerald. He may even know where I can find the lying, traitorous bastard.

“Captain?” Jedediah’s voice came through the intercom again.

“I’m on my way,” she said. She smiled as she hung up the dress and shoved the closet door shut. Mr. A. C. Blackshott, you may have met your match.


Copyright 2009 Kaenar Langford