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         Part #8 of Hotbloods series by Bella Forrest
Stargazers


  Hotbloods 8: Stargazers

  Bella Forrest

  Contents

  Also by Bella Forrest

  Problems reading?

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Epilogue

  What’s next?

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Read more by Bella Forrest

  Also by Bella Forrest

  HARLEY MERLIN

  (Brand new fantasy/romance/supernatural series!)

  Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven (Book 1)

  THE CHILD THIEF

  (Action-adventure/romance.)

  The Child Thief (Book 1)

  Deep Shadows (Book 2)

  Thin Lines (Book 3)

  THE GENDER GAME

  (Action-adventure/romance. Completed series.)

  The Gender Game (Book 1)

  The Gender Secret (Book 2)

  The Gender Lie (Book 3)

  The Gender War (Book 4)

  The Gender Fall (Book 5)

  The Gender Plan (Book 6)

  The Gender End (Book 7)

  THE GIRL WHO DARED TO THINK

  (Action-adventure/romance. Completed series.)

  The Girl Who Dared to Think (Book 1)

  The Girl Who Dared to Stand (Book 2)

  The Girl Who Dared to Descend (Book 3)

  The Girl Who Dared to Rise (Book 4)

  The Girl Who Dared to Lead (Book 5)

  The Girl Who Dared to Endure (Book 6)

  The Girl Who Dared to Fight (Book 7)

  HOTBLOODS

  (Supernatural romance)

  Hotbloods (Book 1)

  Coldbloods (Book 2)

  Renegades (Book 3)

  Venturers (Book 4)

  Traitors (Book 5)

  Allies (Book 6)

  Invaders (Book 7)

  Stargazers (Book 8)

  A SHADE OF VAMPIRE SERIES

  (Supernatural romance)

  Series 1: Derek & Sofia’s story

  A Shade of Vampire (Book 1)

  A Shade of Blood (Book 2)

  A Castle of Sand (Book 3)

  A Shadow of Light (Book 4)

  A Blaze of Sun (Book 5)

  A Gate of Night (Book 6)

  A Break of Day (Book 7)

  Series 2: Rose & Caleb’s story

  A Shade of Novak (Book 8)

  A Bond of Blood (Book 9)

  A Spell of Time (Book 10)

  A Chase of Prey (Book 11)

  A Shade of Doubt (Book 12)

  A Turn of Tides (Book 13)

  A Dawn of Strength (Book 14)

  A Fall of Secrets (Book 15)

  An End of Night (Book 16)

  Series 3: The Shade continues with a new hero…

  A Wind of Change (Book 17)

  A Trail of Echoes (Book 18)

  A Soldier of Shadows (Book 19)

  A Hero of Realms (Book 20)

  A Vial of Life (Book 21)

  A Fork of Paths (Book 22)

  A Flight of Souls (Book 23)

  A Bridge of Stars (Book 24)

  Series 4: A Clan of Novaks

  A Clan of Novaks (Book 25)

  A World of New (Book 26)

  A Web of Lies (Book 27)

  A Touch of Truth (Book 28)

  An Hour of Need (Book 29)

  A Game of Risk (Book 30)

  A Twist of Fates (Book 31)

  A Day of Glory (Book 32)

  Series 5: A Dawn of Guardians

  A Dawn of Guardians (Book 33)

  A Sword of Chance (Book 34)

  A Race of Trials (Book 35)

  A King of Shadow (Book 36)

  An Empire of Stones (Book 37)

  A Power of Old (Book 38)

  A Rip of Realms (Book 39)

  A Throne of Fire (Book 40)

  A Tide of War (Book 41)

  Series 6: A Gift of Three

  A Gift of Three (Book 42)

  A House of Mysteries (Book 43)

  A Tangle of Hearts (Book 44)

  A Meet of Tribes (Book 45)

  A Ride of Peril (Book 46)

  A Passage of Threats (Book 47)

  A Tip of Balance (Book 48)

  A Shield of Glass (Book 49)

  A Clash of Storms (Book 50)

  Series 7: A Call of Vampires

  A Call of Vampires (Book 51)

  A Valley of Darkness (Book 52)

  A Hunt of Fiends (Book 53)

  A Den of Tricks (Book 54)

  A City of Lies (Book 55)

  A League of Exiles (Book 56)

  A Charge of Allies (Book 57)

  A Snare of Vengeance (Book 58)

  A Battle of Souls (Book 59)

  Series 8: A Voyage of Founders

  A Voyage of Founders (Book 60)

  A Land of Perfects (Book 61)

  A Citadel of Captives (Book 62)

  A SHADE OF DRAGON TRILOGY

  A Shade of Dragon 1

  A Shade of Dragon 2

  A Shade of Dragon 3

  A SHADE OF KIEV TRILOGY

  A Shade of Kiev 1

  A Shade of Kiev 2

  A Shade of Kiev 3

  THE SECRET OF SPELLSHADOW MANOR

  (Supernatural/Magic YA. Completed series)

  The Secret of Spellshadow Manor (Book 1)

  The Breaker (Book 2)

  The Chain (Book 3)

  The Keep (Book 4)

  The Test (Book 5)

  The Spell (Book 6)

  BEAUTIFUL MONSTER DUOLOGY

  (Supernatural romance)

  Beautiful Monster 1

  Beautiful Monster 2

  DETECTIVE ERIN BOND

  (Adult thriller/mystery)

  Lights, Camera, GONE

  Write, Edit, KILL

  For an updated list of Bella’s books, please visit her website: www.bellaforrest.net

  Join Bella’s VIP email list and she’ll send you an email reminder as soon as her next book is out. Tap here to sign up: www.morebellaforrest.com

  Copyright © 2018 by Bella Forrest

  Nightlight Press

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Problems reading?

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usually very helpful and efficient.

  Chapter One

  My daughter and I craved sweetblood like our lungs craved oxygen.

  Too long without it, and the cracks started to show. Nova’s cries grew more pained, and I ended up struggling to cope with the shrill sound of them rattling my eardrums. I hated to admit it, but it made me want her as far from my arms as possible.

  And right now, having waited in this damn customs line for half a day, my addiction was controlling me more than maternal instinct. Although, thankfully, she was fast asleep at the moment. The bag full of sweetblood was back at the pod, and it was all I could think about.

  “Where will you be staying on Mallaroticzyshkravanczyrmo?” the customs official repeated, his tone impatient.

  I was miles away, dreaming of sweetblood. Without the blackwatch tuber tea to take the edge off my cravings, I’d taken to weaning myself off the substance, a taste at a time. It had been working until we’d ended up stuck in this endless line, trying to get the right documents to enter Mallarot as legal visitors.

  The plan to go straight to the Stargazer planet had been put on hold momentarily while we got the crew back together. I’d wanted to meet the others close to the location that was buzzing around in Stone’s head, but Lauren had contacted us a day or so ago to suggest it might be better if we met on a neutral planet, so we could go over the plan and regroup.

  So, we’d ended up on Mallarot after all.

  In all honesty, I was glad of the detour. It only seemed right, after losing Mort, that we should pay homage to the place he was born, and perhaps bring some closure to his family, assuring them that he had been a hero, in the end. For what he had done for me, Navan, and Nova, I would forever be indebted to him. I just wished he was still around so I could tell him to his face. I missed him so much more than I ever expected to. Nova did, too—I could see it in the way she looked around sometimes, as though someone were missing.

  “Miss, where will you be staying on Mallaroticzyshkravanczyrmo?” the customs official snapped, waving a hand in front of my face.

  Navan interjected as my attention snapped back to the official. “We’re planning to stay with a friend’s family. They reside here on…” He trailed off, floundering over the full name of the planet.

  “Unfortunately, we’ve lost the address,” I added, smiling as sweetly as possible. To be honest, I was just looking forward to cleaning the layers of grime and exhaustion off my crawling skin and getting a hot meal in my belly. Navan looked as broken as I felt, both of us suffering the aftereffects of traveling through space in a cramped pod with a newborn baby. At least Nova could fall asleep in my arms and be comfortable; I hadn’t slept properly in days.

  “A friend’s family?” The customs official didn’t seem convinced. “Do you know how many travelers I get through here, like yourself, claiming they’re coming to see a ‘friend’s family?’”

  “Shifters are a friendly people. I imagine they get a lot of visitors,” I replied, attempting charm, though the official looked anything but impressed. He seemed bored and world-weary, as though he’d rather be anywhere else.

  “That supposed to be a wisecrack?”

  I shook my head. “No, officer, not at all. I genuinely mean it. My friend was very thoughtful, and I can only assume the rest of his kind are the same.” It felt weird to speak about Mort in the past tense.

  “Say I do believe you’re not making a joke at our expense—I’m still going to need some answers. For a start, who’s the family friend?” the official pressed. It was clear from his tone that, if we didn’t give the right reply, we’d be taken in for further questioning. Out of the corner of my eye, shifter guards in gaudy yellow uniforms were glancing at this particular post, preparing to haul us into custody if the occasion called for it. They had huge guns cradled like strange metal children in their fleshy arms.

  “Our friend Mort passed away very recently…” I paused, taking a breath. “And we’re here to inform his parents.” It was only a half lie. Yes, we were here to rendezvous with our friends, away from Vysanthean territory, but we could kill two birds with one stone this way—no matter what Mort’s parents thought of him the last time they saw one another, he was still their son. They deserved to know what had happened to him. Maybe the loss of him might fix the damage that had been done to their relationship.

  “This ‘Mort’ you speak of, you don’t happen to know his full first name, do you?” The customs official was getting less amused by the minute. “Mort is a common nickname out here, short for a lot of things. Doesn’t help me much.”

  I flashed an anxious glance at Navan, remembering how stubbornly Mort had refused to reveal his proper first or last name, always saying I’d never be able to pronounce it.

  “I just knew him as Mort,” I said weakly, wishing again that he were here.

  The journey from Vysanthe’s atmosphere had been a desperately sad one, my emotions all over the place. The image of the iris closing on Aurelius murdering my friend had become a constantly replaying nightmare in my head—hard to shake and even harder to process. Moreover, the knowledge that Ezra and Aurelius would be coming after us, just as soon as they took over the queens’ united side, weighed heavy.

  “Last name?” The customs official sighed, his fleshy hand reaching for something on the desk ahead of him.

  “I don’t know that either. Like I say, I only knew him as Mort. He always said I’d never be able to pronounce his full name, so he never told me what it was,” I replied, knowing how feeble the argument sounded.

  The official plucked up a device and lifted it to his mouth, ready to rally the cavalry.

  “Wait!” I said, panicking. “He was pretty infamous on this planet when he was younger. I think he tried to impersonate a renowned diplomat, or something, and spent a while living on Almaghura, pretending to be this guy? He left not long after that. I know it’s not the best thing to be telling you, but his parents deserve to know what happened to him.”

  A look of surprise registered in the official’s red-veined eyes. “You mean Mortozyczmirnov Azabaratafaraxcyn? I know the guy… hell, everyone knows the guy around here. You probably should’ve started with that, might’ve saved us all a bit of time.” A hint of a smirk tugged at his slippery lips.

  “Well, at least he was right about one thing. I never would’ve been able to pronounce his name.” Another attempt at levity fell flat on its ass, the shifter official glancing at me as though I were an idiot. “Anyway… can you find his parents’ address for us? I promise we’ll be out of your hair ASAP.”

  The official folded his arms across his chest. “Maybe the Azabaratafaraxcyns don’t want to know anything about their son. He was dead to them the moment he broke our most sacred law. I doubt they’ll be too upset to hear he’s actually snuffed it.”

  “Maybe not, but it might give them some closure,” I insisted. “Nobody forgets their child, no matter what that child has done.”

  “Your kind must be very different from ours, miss.”

  “Well, what if it gives them some relief?” Navan said. “They might want to know that it’s all over, that they no longer need to be embarrassed about the son who brought them such disgrace. Would you rob them of that?”

  I was about to launch into another reason why the shifter should let us onto his planet when Nova gave a shrill shriek of displeasure. Her hands balled into fists, which she beat against my chest, her face contorting in a mask of red-cheeked discomfort. We’d been waiting our turn for almost six hours, leaving the pod in the inbound shipyard, and it had been about that since her last vial of sweetblood. In her wail, I could hear the shiver of torment that trilled only when she hadn’t had her craving sated. It wasn’t mere hunger; it was something more visceral than that.

  The official glanced down at Nova as her cries grew louder, her eyes squeezed shut in desperation as her lungs heaved out the pained wails. Against my arm, her scarlet wings pushed downward in defiance, her whole body
trying to arch itself out of my grasp.

  “Can’t you do anything about… that?” the customs official asked tersely, scowling.

  “Afraid not,” Navan replied, squaring his shoulders. No matter the situation, he always knew how to project an air of confidence. “Not until we get our papers to go through to Mort’s family, anyway.”

  The official pulled a face. “Fine. Anything to get that thing away from here,” he muttered, reaching for a laser stamp and holding it above a metal rectangle shaped like a credit card.

  A set of symbols appeared on the smooth surface. The shifter waited for the lettering to cool before handing Navan the metal pass. He pointed to a square at the bottom-right corner.

  “Scan this panel across your navigation system and it’ll put the coordinates in for you. Welcome to Mallaroticzyshkravanczyrmo.” It was the most insincere welcome I’d ever received, but it was a relief to hear the words.

  Taking the laser-printed pass and following the snaking exit path toward the inbound shipyard, where our pod was clamped, Navan reached over and took Nova from me. He lifted her into the air, swinging her gently, trying to get her to smile. When that didn’t work, he pulled her closer and blew raspberries against her tummy, earning a small giggle that bubbled up from the back of her throat. His focus was entirely on her—this little creature that we’d made—his face beaming up at her as her balled fists reached out for him. With Nova slightly calmer, he swung her slowly from side to side, singing quietly to her as we walked along.

 
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