Alien Conquest (Fated Mates of Xaensskar #2) - Jude Gray

Chapter One


When I was nine years old, Ilen plucked me and my little brother Galen off the streets and took us into his group home for parentless street kids, an ugly old house with peeling walls and broken wood floors. The sign out front called the place Stone Haven and made it sound like the home was some fancy private academy for rich kids.

Ilen said he liked my spirit and wasted no time teaching me to work. He took us in, fed us, gave us a place to sleep, and taught us—me, actually, because Galen was too sick to work—to pick pockets, beg, and pair with the other kids to steal items he could later sell.

He couldn’t be blamed for figuring out ways to make a living. It was costly taking care of a bunch of street kids and the governments were of little help.

Generally, when one of his kids reached the age of sixteen, he gave us back some of the money he’d made from us over the years and sent us away to start over as adults—or almost adults—but he’d kept me three years past that age. Mostly because he needed me to help tend the littles he brought in, but also because I was the best thief he’d ever raised, and he was reluctant to let me go.

Also, he’d grown attached to my little brother. Galen wasn’t the robust, energetic, healthy person I was. He’d been delicate and sickly as far back as I could remember. Being a street kid since he was three years old hadn’t helped. If Ilen sent me away, he’d have to part with Galen, as well, and he wasn’t willing to do that.

My parents hadn’t thrown us out and we hadn’t run away, like some of the others. They’d simply died and left us completely alone. Well, they hadn’t simply died—my father had shot my mother in the temple with a stolen trevar and then shot himself.

There were no relatives to take us in, no neighbors willing to put us up. Once, before we were thrown from the apartment we’d lived in all our lives, two scary Aktovi females had come to look us over.

Galen had begun to cry the second they’d waved their tentacles at him, and I’d grabbed his little arm and dragged him to the bathroom, where I’d locked the door and climbed out the window to escape them.

My brother had died a year ago while I was out working the streets, and I’d never really come to terms with his death. He was all I’d had.

“Stay on, Kreia,” Ilen had told me. “Stay on for a while and help me with the littles.”

So I had, because I owed him. And maybe because I had nowhere else to go.

That night I was working the busy nightlife district of Zun. I wasn’t as sharp as usual because I’d caught something from a couple of the coughing, hollow-eyed littles, and I was off my game. Ilen had given me some medicine, but instead of making me feel better, it made me foggy. Weak and feverish, I hurried down the streets, hoping the rains wouldn’t come and add to my misery. It was cold, and even when I was well, I hated the cold.

I worked the streets of Zun, filling my deep pockets with jewelry, wallets, purses, and small, expensive electronics, mostly, when another of Ilen’s kids, a thirteen-year-old boy called Vihn, caught my attention and beckoned me into the shadows of a deep alley.

“I’m going to East Corvin,” he told me. “The master was called away and there are no grosens on the property. I have a contact inside who’ll let us in.”

East Corvin was one of the wealthier communities of Brighmin, with the homes spread out and the gardens huge, unlike the houses, apartments, and buildings all squashed together in the city. Stone Haven was right in the center of Veltan, one of the poorer districts. I doubted an East Corviner had ever set foot in Veltan.

I put my hands on my hips and stared up at him. Though he was only thirteen, Vihn had started shooting up last year and had yet to stop. Gangly and thin, with ears that protruded comically and big round eyes that made him look slightly dimwitted, Vihn was one of my favorites.

His mother had tossed him out when he was eight years old and her new man hadn’t wanted any kids. I’d come across him a year later, starving and sick with a black Copyright 2016 - 2024