Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

You had to fall into mine. Lord, but you are a sight for jaded eyes. Hair like liquid night, eyes a man could drown in, lips that form a bow Robin Hood would kill for. We’re a long way from Sherwood, milady, and the Sheriff’s ‘men’ are darned strange, but won’t you quit your guardian’s space castle and come live in the asteroid woods with me?

“You’re staring again, Slim Jorn Banton.”

Every time I see Shreelanie Botarlion Cree, those thoughts echo through my mind. We met after I literally scooped her up from a dying drift after her cruiser got blast-looted by Drundim bandits. Not sure who came up with the idea of blast-looting, but it’s a cruel living. Why do the whole piracy thing when it’s easier to decompress the target and strip it bare at leisure? There are mean beings involved in that trade, and they can be hired to ensure specific vessel never reach their destination.

“I know. Can’t help myself.”

Like hers. A “tragic waste of a young noblewoman’s life”. They never even mentioned the two-dozen other souls sent into the long night with her ship. She wasn’t meant to survive. Officially, she didn’t.

But you’ll find Slim Jorn Banton and his beautiful partner, Dark Lanie Banton, listed as ‘freelance privateers’ on the Cree Company rosters. Our retainers are paid in gems to trusted intermediaries scattered across the Outer Reaches.

They don’t care if she’s dead or alive, just as long as she stays gone. Lanie never wanted to be the bird in a gilded cage. She had no intention of going back if she survived the blast-looters. Then she got rescued up by a wandering hopeless romantic who happened to have the same birthday.

“Then, sir, you’d better lean over here and kiss me by way of apology. After that, we can decide where we’re going.”

As I lean in, I whisper: “Who cares? As long as it’s with you.”