Archive for the ‘excerpt’ Tag

Valmont Contingency Excerpt–First Kiss

Garrick gave up. She was scared and frustrated, and he didn’t want an implosion. He’d already been through one of those and, honestly, didn’t care to repeat the experience.

Ripping damn, he wanted to help her. “Would you feel better if you slapped me?”

She huffed. “You haven’t done anything to warrant it.” Then she frowned. “Lately.”

“Fine,” he agreed. “I’ll do something tacky and rude, you can slap me for it, and then we’ll move on.” Without waiting for a response he dragged her against him and sank his fingers into her hair, using the silky mass to pull her head back.

“What—ow!”

He covered her mouth with his, swallowing whatever else she was going to say.

Her entire body went stiff and he congratulated himself on a job well done. In another second or two she would shove, he would let go and brace for impact. Any second now. Any…

She melted.

The stiffness turned into soft curves, her palms slid up his chest and her lips parted. Her tongue flicked out to touch the inside of his lower lip and the really weird thing happened. The top of his head blew off, taking most of his brain with it. Rational thought was a dim memory and all those “baser” instincts it overruled were now in control. The drive to breathe, to eat.

She moaned quietly, deep in her throat.

The drive to mate.

He had both hands on her backside, pulling her hips tight against his to ease some of the throbbing while she pushed her fingers into his hair. She wrapped one of her legs around his, her bare toes rubbing the back of his calf.

“Rick?”

Somehow she’d said his name even while he was trying to lick her tonsils. Her voice was deeper than he would have expected, not as breathy, more…male. Male?

“Captain, this is the bridge. We have a Reich distress call originating in Republic space.”

Ripping hell on a platter. It was Shak, not Tasha. Brain matter reappeared and told him in no uncertain terms exactly how stupid he was, even when everything between his ears was functional. On the other hand, disengaging from that full-body kiss was quite possibly the most physically demanding thing he’d ever done—enough to make him pant from exertion. Exertion. It had to be exertion, because the alternative was a direct violation of half a dozen military rules that he had insisted go into the navy contract.

Tasha mewled in protest, a noise he hoped the comm hadn’t picked up as he tried to control his breathing enough to talk.

“Captain here. What’s the nature of the emergency?”

There was a tangible pause, almost as if Shak was trying to figure out what was going on. Garrick wished him luck. “Engine trouble,” was the eventual response. “Intercept or transmit to Glitzer?”

Well, that would explain what a Reich ship was doing this far over the border. They could have been drifting for a sepcyke. And Direwolf had the ability to help with that kind of emergency. A heavy sigh pushed its way out of his lungs.

“Intercept.” As if he had any choice. And it would keep him far away from Tasha. Direwolf was a tiny ecosystem in the middle of space and he was in control of it. She was dependent on the ship for the oxygen, pressure and heat that kept humans alive in space. She had to be able to trust him not to take advantage of that dependence.

“Bridge out.” Which meant he had five minutes to finish whatever was going on in here before Misha would expect him to show in the ready room.

Garrick glanced down into enormous indigo eyes that were just a little dazed-looking. His ears felt warm. “You were supposed to slap me, remember?”

She blinked at him a couple of times. “Your name is Rick?”

“Yeah.” He started, gently, to pry her off. “That’s me.” Buddha on a stick. He’d been trying to lick her tonsils and she hadn’t known his name. He was a lower life-form than slime mold.

“Oh.” She seemed to realize she still had limbs wrapped around him and let go. She stepped back and looked at the floor, the bulkhead, anywhere but him. “So you’re going to board another ship?”

“It’s my job.” And taking advantage of attractive women who were completely dependent on him was emphatically not part of that particular job. Even if it felt extraordinarily good.

“What if some of them need medical treatment?” She actually tried to dig a toe into the flooring, which looked adorable if almost painfully cliché.

“I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.” He pulled her chin up with a knuckle. “Look, you’re still short of sleep. Twelve hours over six cykes isn’t enough. Nap. If I need you, I’ll call you. I promise.”

Oh god, she was biting her lower lip. Then she nodded. “I’ll try to nap.”

He needed to get away from her for a moment or he was going to dive back into her body, and the guilt from doing it once was bad enough. His ears felt like they might be considering spontaneous combustion.

“You want me to tell Shak he’s getting a new roommate?”

She looked confused. “Who is Shak?”

“Second-shift commander. The guy on the comm just now.”

She blinked several times in succession. Either she was batting her eyes at him, or she was trying not to cry. “No.”

He didn’t have time for this right now, no matter how vulnerable and appealing she was at the moment. Especially given how vulnerable she was at the moment. “Then we’ll talk about the rest of it when I get back, all right?”

She nodded again, somber.

He felt like enviro sludge, but he nodded back. “In the meantime, I have an engine to fix.”

Valmont Contingency Excerpt — Meet Captain Rick

Garrick checked the ping on his long-range sensor array, flagged it for identify and smiled at the results. Corinth 6.0, flagged Port Hazard, ident: Trouble’s Here. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one member of his bridge crew flinch, and two others grinned in response. That meant he’d shown a few too many teeth.

“Charlie, get me an intercept with our bogey. Joss, send a standard hail, hold for inspection.” He pulled out his control panel from the armrest lock. “Shak, get the boarding party ready. We’ve got tail.”

Tail was freighter parlance for the trail of ionized particles a starship engine left behind between jumpgates, probably an allusion to a comet’s tail of similar particles. Bogey was a word so old nobody knew what language it came from, but it meant an unknown sensor contact. And in this case, it was inaccurate. Garrick knew exactly who was out there, and Trouble’s Here was on his List of Marque, flagged out of Port Hazard, a station on the boundary of the Republic and the Reich that changed allegiance with every watch shift. Its last port of call had been Dorrigan, which was a much higher dock zone than Trouble could afford unless her captain was running something off manifest. Something that would shortly belong to Garrick Yusuf ben Khalid and the crew of Direwolf.

Damn, he loved this part of his job.

Next came schematics, complete with his personal notations of every likely hidey-hole on Corinth Model 6.0. He forwarded that to Shakiro Nobinata, who would be leading the boarding party. The departure manifest was light, showing only high-value pharmaceuticals with very specific handling instructions. Garrick frowned. Not bloody likely that the Blaine cartel would be shipping on a tramp. It had to be a cover, and whatever it was covering was now up for grabs. And he had big hands.

“Intercept in two hours, thirty-six minutes and four-point-two seconds.” Charlie wanted to be Vulcan when he grew up, and as a result he was overly precise about, well, everything. If he hadn’t been the sector’s best navigator, he wouldn’t have gotten away with it.

“No response to hail.”

Did they have comm turned off to save power, were they ignoring him, or was Trouble about to be somewhere else?

“Bogey jink, forty-five degrees absolute vertical with fifteen percent velocity increase. New intercept two hours, forty-six minutes, thirty seconds.”

Charlie must be busy if he’d left off a decimal. “Boarding, I’m on the way. Intercept in two and forty-five.” He glanced up and Charlie was glaring. “Give or take.” He swung the computer back into the armrest of his chair. “Gentlemen.”

“Yeah, we know the drill,” Misha said from the copilot’s station. “Go play, Rick. Bring back something pretty.”

His new space armor rubbed his right shoulder when he put it on and he made a mental note to have Shak or Misha adjust the pauldron’s curvature. The new umbilical homed perfectly on the freighter’s personnel hatch and connected atmosphere-to-atmosphere without manual override. Inside, Trouble’s Here had that special kind of corner-grime that he only saw in all-male ships.

The captain and watch crew were white-lipped on the bridge, everyone else herded into the wardroom and locked down. And then it was time to search.

Everything was going according to plan until, “Rick, we have a passenger.” Shak’s comm unit squelched. “In a closet in enviro. She…you’d better come take a look.”

“Did you say she?” The plan had turned left without him.

There were no passengers on the manifest. No females in the crew. And Trouble was the kind of ship that gave steerage a bad name. He turned right at the next corridor intersection and took the lift to the mechanical deck. Enviro was normally as far away from crew quarters as possible, because it always had a certain smell to it, no matter what kind of seals and scrubbers tried to contain it. In his experience, this also tended to make it a desirable place to hide contraband in his experience. Nobody in his or her right mind would go rummaging around in there unless sealed into an environmental suit.

For a woman to hide in enviro, she had to be serious about not wanting to be found. He frowned at the deck indicator. What in the known worlds was she hiding from?

“Rick-san, you’re not going to believe this,” Shak told him on the command channel when he stepped into the room containing the environmental control systems. It was barely bigger than a closet. “If I weren’t looking at her, I wouldn’t effing believe it.”

He edged past Shak’s armor and looked for himself. She was pretty enough, in a grime-encrusted sort of way. Wearing practical clothes for stowing away, nothing-colored ship knits, her hair pulled back in a medium-brown braid. There was something familiar about her eyes, but he couldn’t place it. The rest of her face might have been anyone’s, features the symmetrical dead average associated with good genes and good nutrition. “What won’t I effing believe?” he asked on the same private frequency as he watched her stare back at him.

“She’s got a chip passport. Give it a standard scan.”

Garrick sighed and brought up his scanner display, checking the readout for the woman’s implanted identification. Text scrolled up his visor as he skimmed for a name. When he found it a couple of updates back, he blinked, in case it had been a mistake. And blinked again.

Who Moved My Coping Beans?

My friend Kelly has this theory…about coping beans. Coping beans are kind of like hit points in a role-playing game–you only get so many, and some people have more than others; some people are better at coping with physical danger while other people are better at coping with mental stress. Occasionally we can run across a super-coper and be amazed.

I visualize coping beans as being various colors, like jelly beans. They can be consumed, or they can merely be in use, ready to be released from one form of coping to another.

Well, somebody moved my coping beans on or about Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve barely seen a flash of them since. Why? I don’t really know.

Maybe it was the confluence of the book coming out in paperback and my birthday–both hit July 7. Maybe it was all the off-line promotion energy I’ve been expending (most of my coworkers at the electronics factory are buying a copy & want them autographed), or the energy going to Mayhem in the Grove 2011 (Sherrilyn Kenyon and Michael Hauge, both in Boise next June–it gives me goosebumps).

Heck, maybe it’s just a precursor of the 2012 disaster that will end the world. Okay, might end the world. Okay, okay, could make life very interesting for a while.

Or maybe someone moved my coping beans! Could it have been my darling husband, looking for a sweet treat? No, he’s supposed to be cutting out carbs (diabetes). Nor can I blame it on the cats, since coping beans are too small to interest them.

The answer that I really dread is that I put them someplace safe (because I knew months in advance that the book was coming out between Independence Day and my birthday) — and then forgot where they were stashed.

Really, Val? Are you that much of a ditz that you hid your own coping beans from yourself? Tsk. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

My penance is to post a deleted scene from Blade’s Edge–the kidnapping of Crown Prince Talyn by the Heir to the Hauptman cartel, Sharif Tanaka IV. Enjoy!

Varakis was gaining on her, from the sound of footsteps. Talyn dashed around a corner and opened a door without really looking at the other side, then leaned back against it with her eyes closed to try to catch her breath.

“Hello, Little Prince.”

She opened her eyes and realized she had found her way back to the audience chamber with Varakis practically on her heels, and the offworlder was two feet away from her.

“Hello, Tanaka. Sorry, I don’t have time to chat.” She pushed away from the door and tried to step around him.
He caught her by the wrist, digging his talons through her sleeve into her skin.

“Actually, you do.” The door opened behind her, knocking into his arm. He didn’t let go.

Talyn knew who was coming through the door; she tried to run, but Tanaka’s hold kept her where she was.

“I’ve waited fifteen years for this, you royal bi—” Varakis broke off and made a noise like a surprised grunt, which was followed by a clatter that could have been a knife dropping to the floor.

Talyn risked a glance over her shoulder; Varakis had slumped to the floor and Tanaka was holding a strange contraption like a weapon. And the knife had been a large one.

“Did you kill her?” She was amazed that her voice sounded almost normal.

“No. You and I need to have a conversation too personal to shout it across an empty room.” He let go of her arm long enough to move Varakis off his foot.

“I won’t go quietly,” she warned, even as she was backing away.

“I didn’t think you would, so I brought some insurance.” Tanaka smiled and lifted the weapon. “It’s a tranquilizer.”

Too late, she realized he was crowding her into the corner next to the door. “The entire planet knows Taryn is better than I am, now. She’s stronger, faster, more talented.” She felt a wall at her back and knew she couldn’t run from her fate any longer. “Just kill me. I don’t need to be humiliated any more.”

“I have no interest in killing you,” he said.

“There she is!” was followed by running footsteps, but Talyn had no way to move.

He frowned, then pulled up her chin. “My apologies, but I refuse to put up with continual interruptions.”

“You, offworlder! Hand over the imposter.” It was practically a growl. Talyn peeked around Tanaka and recognized one of the men who had accompanied the Barian Crown Heir on his trip into Zona.

He sighed. “You see what I mean?”

“I’m talking to you, blue-head.”

Tanaka twisted his torso, his weapon shot out almost faster than her eyes could follow, and there was another surprised grunt. “And now, Little Prince, it’s your turn.”

Something touched her neck, there was a tingling, and then the world went away.

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