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Hunting Faith (The Hunting Series Book 1) by Tracy Lauren (1)

Chapter 1


I casually eye the guard passing my cell as I recline on a hard bunk. The guy’s got guns but no key cards, so I let him continue on without a word. He doesn’t hesitate to leer at me, though, and I keep my expression blank, not wanting to incite an interaction with the male. Luckily, he doesn’t slow his pace.

For some reason they’ve put me in a fairly isolated area of the barge, which is odd. Most prisoners are housed in barrack-like environments, not private cells. Not that my cell is luxurious in any way. No, it’s so small I can touch every wall when I stand in the center, and the barred front offers me no true privacy. The only amenities include a small toilet and water spout…which, I suppose, are luxuries compared to some of the other places I’ve been.

I know there are more prisoners in this section of the prison barge. I saw some briefly when I was brought here. Though I have no vantage point to see anyone now, other than the slow but steady flow of passing guards. I wonder if I’m near a guard station or something, because it seems they all have business somewhere along this narrow and isolated corridor.

Time drags on with nothing to do but plot my escape and eventually my patience is rewarded when the next guard approaches. I pop up from my resting place and he stops at my sudden movement, staring at me from the opposite side of the bars. I don’t recognize his species, but the ring of key cards on his hip is plenty recognizable.

“Hi,” I tell him with a slow smile. When I see him look from side to side, ensuring we are alone, my smile broadens. Flirtation, a woman could rule the universe with this one simple tool. It’s my go-to a good 80% of the time. The other 20% is equal parts kicking ass and running for my life.

“Greetings,” the guard says cautiously. He’s slightly smaller than me in height, but with a stockier build. His skin is sallow and he’s got short wiry strands of hair covering his scalp and fat little teeth in a too wide mouth. Whatever he is, he sounds young and naïve. “I’ve never seen a prisoner that looks like you before,” he notes with awe in his voice.

“Have you seen many prisoners?” I ask coyly. I imagine his father must have gotten him this job and suspect he hasn’t been at it long. I mean, his uniform is still stiff, I note absently. That’s when I notice he doesn’t have a gun. I bite back a frown. Still, this might just have to do.

“What did you do to end up in a place like this, female?” he questions, avoiding my question with the alien version of a blush appearing across his pale, young cheeks.

I sidle up to the bars, peering at him through my lashes. “Oh, lots and lots of very naughty things,” I assure the young man in my most seductive voice. The blush on his cheeks rises. “Can I ask something of you…”

“Flennin,” the guard supplies.

“Flennin, I like that name,” I say, warming my expression. “Do you mind, if I could ask just one thing?”

“What’s that?” he asks, nearing the bars so we are that much closer to one another.  

“Why have I been placed in this solitary cell? From what I know, most prisoners are housed in the barracks.”

“There’s supposed to be a transfer soon, everyone in this section is going to be moved to a small transport ship,” he explains.

“Do you know why?” I question.

“No, I guess it might have something to do with sentencing. Sorry,” he offers after a moment, looking apologetic. I can tell he feels bad for me, it’s like he thinks that because I’m a pretty girl I couldn’t possibly have done anything truly criminal. It’s a mistake lots of people make.

I make doe eyes at him, letting them get a little watery as I do. Crocodile tears, as my grandpa used to call them. Flennin looks from side to side again and leans a little closer to my cell, placing himself within easy reach.

“I did hear one interesting thing about the transfer though,” he says, trying to make conversation either to ease my trouble or simply because he likes talking to pretty girls. Either way, I benefit. “It’s actually happening on Nydor Station,” he tells me as if that information holds some kind of meaning.

“What’s on Nydor Station?”

Suddenly, my talkative guard blushes again and has trouble meeting my gaze. “It’s a, um…it’s a brothel station,” he answers, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck. The poor guy was just trying to make conversation and didn’t think through the course of it first. Now he’s embarrassed himself by bringing up such a lewd subject in front of a female. I bite back a smile. He’s a sweet kid, really. “The other guards were talking about it. It’s just something I overheard.” He shrugs.

“Well, I think it’s very interesting.”

“Do you?” he asks, clearly surprised.

“I do.” I smile. “Do you know what else I think is interesting?”

“What’s that?” he asks, returning my smile.

I lean a little closer to the bars, as if I am going to share a dirty secret with the young guard and he mirrors my movement.

That’s when my hands shoot through the bars. I grab Flennin by the stiff collar of his uniform and yank him hard against the cell door. It stuns him, and I wretch him back only to bring him into the bars once more. This time his eyes roll back in his head and his body goes limp. Quickly, I lower him to the floor, working to keep his body close enough to my cell to snag his key cards.

I twist them from his belt and reach my arm as far as it will go to the right of my cell, feeling for the access panel. I swipe it wildly a few times before I hear it beep and the lock snaps out of place.

Now I have to act fast. If I do this right I can slip off the barge on Nydor and hide myself among the crowd. If I’m caught before then, who knows what my fate will be. A beating? Some form of torture? Death? Still, trying for an escape is worth the risk. I have a feeling that if I end up wherever this barge is taking me for my sentencing it’ll be inescapable. This might be my last chance.

My cell door slides open and I drag the guard inside with me, grabbing his arm so I can utilize his personal comm. I deftly type a few commands into the unit, looking for something specific on the ship’s schematics. A mechanic hired me on once to help him with repairs on a barge similar to this one. It was a cargo barge, but the inner workings are similar…and bingo. I got it. It’s such a nuanced little access panel, most people on a ship don’t even know what it’s for and the size of it doesn’t allow for many to fit inside. But, as a human, I’m just the right fit. From within the access panel, I can make my way to a maintenance area in the bowels of the ship and once we dock I’ll be able to escape this place once and for all. Armed with knowledge and fierce determination, I work to hoist the guard up into my bed before hastily tossing my thin blanket over him.

Quietly, I pull my cell door shut and make my way down the corridor. I move slowly, cautiously, listening for the sound of approaching boots. But more than that, I move confidently. I’ve been out here a long time, all alone, playing this game, running from the villains. It’s a hard life that’s taken much from me, but I’m determined to do anything it takes to survive.



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