Currently Out of Print (expected to have a new home soon!)
February 9, 2011
Originally published by Ellora's Cave, then Loose Id, and now self published.
Tom is a soldier and sniper on a ship tracking space terrorists. Despite being unlucky at love, he hopes to catch the eye of a crewmate named Becca. She's smart and strong and everything he wants. However Da’shay, an exotically beautiful alien with her own very strange ideas, keeps ruining his plans. While Tom loves playing trust games in the bedroom, where he’s happy to let a woman take complete erotic control, in real life he never trusts easily. Da’shay is no exception to that rule. Besides, she's strange.
But when danger forces Tom to rely on Da’shay, he finds himself drawn to more than just her body. Her strength and her suffering intrigue him. As the conspiracies and blowback threaten the entire crew, Tom finds his loyalties and his love starting to turn toward the one woman he never would have expected.
|Review at BlackRaven Reviews
Ms. Gala has a deft hand at storytelling, and I was immediately immersed... [Tom's] emotions pour off the page: whether he’s confused, angry, or horny, I felt it right with him. READ MORE
Review at TwoLipsReviews
The hot-enough-to-melt-your-ereader sex between them revolves around the BDSM aspect of dominance and submission, with the woman in the dominant role. There's no S&M going on, just light bondage. There's enough humor in their relationship as well to break the tension generated by the tight spots the crew of the Kratos continue to find themselves in. READ MORE
As with the best romance novels, the storyline and characterisation of this novel would still be worth reading even if there was no romance. There's a fairly interesting plot revolving around space travel, aliens, conspiracy and slavery. READ MORE
Tom sighted down the end of the rifle and watched as Ramsay and Eli talked to the captain of the Reseda. The other captain had genta blood in him, either that or he was one of those fools who went around painting himself blue. He was wide enough to be a genta, but he looked a little on the short side. Unless Tom missed his guess, the man would be a good head shorter than he. Now Tom was tall and almost as broad-shouldered as a genta himself, but the Reseda captain looked a little too human.
Tom itched to turn around and see if their genta was wandering around, but he held perfectly still in the long grass where any movement could betray him. He’d be damned if he could figure out why Command wanted some half-alien on their missions, but no one was checking with Tom. After a quick look, Tom settled back down in the tall weeds.
The dirt was hot under his stomach and the sun glinted off the Reseda’s hull. Ramsay was scratching his ass now, and Tom tried to figure out if that was some signal or if the man just had an itch. He settled on an itch. Ramsay had pure white hair that fell past his shoulders and the best poker face Tom had ever seen, but right now he was looking dramatically unhappy. That meant he was playing a part, so the op was still going good.
Eli was over by the crates, his hand on his gun. Eli was their newest crew, and in a few months, Tom had learned one thing—the man had a freakish ability to find cover in a firefight. Tom shifted a little and studied the ramp, looking for shadows. A spaceship didn’t have windows you could just throw open and start shooting out of. If this lot was planning on double crossing Ramsay and Eli before Ramsay and Eli could double cross them, then they’d have to come out of that ramp.
Already this was feeling like a bad deal. Yeah, just get in, collect a little intel, offer to carry some smuggled goods and then get out. The trouble was that Captain Ramsay’s missions never did go the way one might expect. The man either went out of his way to piss people off or they naturally took a disliking to him and tried to shoot him. That might be why Tom liked him so much. Well, that and the captain was an old gun hand from the casslit war, and he had about as much patience for politics and paperwork as Tom did. Command hated them both.
It seemed as if every popular captain Tom had served under had been one more pompous ass running around with some smile all while looking down at the crew as if they were bugs who’d just crawled out of the woodwork. Captain Ramsay was different though—he’d been raised out here and he cursed and drank as well as the next gun hand. Tom and the captain had been together for six years, which was a lifetime in the Corps. He was the first captain Tom had worked for without wanting to space.
Eli turned and stared right at the hill where Tom was hidden. Oh yeah, things were going south. Tom gave a feral grin as he tightened his finger against the trigger. These smugglers were about to find out that the government wasn’t quite as helpless or as harmless as they liked to tell themselves out here on the border.
Ramsay threw a hand up, acting as if he was upset about the price of the embryos. That was when all hell broke loose. Three gun hands came tumbling down the ramp, diving for cover as they fired wildly. Eli ducked down behind the crate and Tom neatly picked off two of the newcomers. The third tripped and dived right toward the embryo crate. That left him just a few feet from Eli and Tom trusted the sergeant to finish that one off. He swung his gun south.
“Well damn,” Tom swore. Ramsay had already taken the other captain out. Standing up, Tom squinted at the ship. “I never get to have any real fun.” He started walking down toward the captain. The tall grasses caught at his legs so that he ripped them up by the roots as he walked.
“Bright, sharp neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, sparkling orange,” a familiar voice commented. Tom turned to look at their own genta as she walked toward him. Backward.
Most genta were big. The aliens loved to crossbreed with most anything, but since they were near seven foot tall and built like top-heavy brick jail houses, their half-breed human children tended to be big and ugly. Da’shay seemed to be the exception. Her blue was almost greenish, which made most people think she was one of those fools with a piss-poor dye job, and she was insubstantial looking. As a species, genta were doxies who liked to travel the universe and collect genetic trinkets from about anyone they ran across. They were just particularly smart and well-armed doxies, and one of them must have collected genes from some real willowy human to end up with Da’shay.
“Go away,” Tom said.
Da’shay turned around and looked at him with a surprised frown. “Light like sticky cacti spines.” She poked her finger at him as though she was going to jab him and Tom took a fast step back. Da’shay might be thin and crazy as…well, crazy as a genta, but she was fucking strong. He’d watched her take grown men and toss them like ragdolls, so he didn’t need her poking at him.
“Why don’t you go tell Becca we got the smugglers?” he suggested. She studied him, a frown on her face, almost as if she were some sweet girl from next door, one who seemed to be mighty confused and slightly blue.
She smiled. “No,” she said brightly. With that, she turned around so her back was toward the Reseda before she started walking backward toward it. Her hands were up as if she were walking a tightrope, and Tom could only shake his head. He’d never been around genta much since his home planet wasn’t near their part of space. They were annoying.
“Tom, we covered?” Ramsay called. Tom started trotting down the hill.
“Ran the scans, Captain. Four crew in total—we got ‘em all,” Tom agreed. Their mission had actually been to buy the embryos and leave, but the smugglers fired first, so his kills were justified. He’d never killed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill him first…him or his crew. These people had. As far as Tom was concerned, that was a capital offense.
“Well shit. They won’t be answering any questions. It’d be nice if you missed a shot every once in a while,” Ramsay said wearily. The two smugglers Tom had dropped both had neat bullet holes in their skulls. Yeah, lasers were nice for cutting through metal and pulse guns were good for knocking people on their ass, but humanity had never invented anything as clean and accurate as a good old fashioned bullet gun. Tom smiled grimly and patted his sniper rifle. However, Ramsay was frowning at him.
Tom slung his gun across his back and gave Ramsay the same frown right back.
“You ain’t dead,” he pointed out with a glare in his captain’s direction. “Sir.”
“And I ain’t got a smuggler to track into the Omega system, either.” From his expression, Ramsay was thinking all sorts of curse words. The captain was like that, always getting cranky, but Tom preferred that to men who never opened their mouths until they booted you off the ship with a poor service rating.
“Sir,” Eli interrupted, “they were moving on your position.” He pointed to the three dead gun hands. Tom had taken two of them from almost five thousand meters out, which was fucking amazing.
“I wasn’t questioning Tom. He’s always on the legal side of his kill.” Ramsay shook his head and looked down at the blue captain he’d killed. It looked as if one clean shot had done him in, which meant he really was one of those idiots who just stained himself blue. Genta were a good deal harder to kill than that. You had to hit the brain stem, and Ramsay’s bullet was too high for that. It’d been good enough to kill a human quick and neat. Or quick anyway. The mess was spread over the side of the ship and the grass.
Ramsay slapped his hand against the side of the smuggler’s ship. “Fucking mess. Again. No wonder they stick us out here in the hinterlands.”
Tom wasn’t so sure it was their killing record that did that. Ramsay never did his paperwork, and the last six reviews Tom had gotten in his personnel file had included all perfect scores. There were certain areas where Tom earned a perfect score—like his marksmanship—but he sure didn’t fool himself into believing he earned an outstanding review in field legality or basic diplomacy. No, that was more likely to be Ramsay’s inability to do paperwork.
And then there was the time the brass put Ramsay in front of a pack of reporters. Tom hadn’t been in the Corps yet, much less on the Kratos, but everyone had talked about it for years. He’d been one of the last prisoners the casslit had freed and the officers made a big deal out of promoting him and honoring his bravery. Ramsay took the medal and threw it as hard as he could. It neatly landed in the middle of a salvage dumpster and about a million reporters had gotten a good shot of that. That was before he was quite so old. But for all his faults, Ramsay ran a good crew. This was the best crew Tom had ever worked with, and every year it seemed to get better as they swapped out officers who retired or got promoted off the ship.
Eli cleared his throat. “Becca could get the computer records, sir.”
“Call her in.”
“Yes sir.” With a nod, Eli turned his back and called on the radio for Becca to bring their ship in.
“You want me to…” Tom trailed off, not quite sure what he should do. It wasn’t as if he could help much with the computer. He spent plenty of time volunteering to help Becca with the ship engines in the two years since she’d come on board. There were heavy parts down there and he never passed up a chance to impress her with his physical strength. Becca was a beautiful woman under the grease and wrinkled clothes from crawling through access panels. Hell, she was a beautiful woman because of them.
She’d run around with streaks of black grease in her blonde curls while she raved about some engine part that she couldn’t calibrate perfectly, and she was a damn good shot in a fight. It was a pity the captain kept her on the ship most of the time. And unlike some women, she wasn’t always going around painting herself up. Now she’d painted the engine room up to look as if a rainbow had diarrhea on the walls, but she didn’t waste time painting her lips and nails…except for that one time, and like Tom had told her then, she looked better wearing grease. She had these beautiful curves with nice wide hips that a man could grab during sex and a smile that just about turned Tom’s insides to water. And she loved her computers and her gadgets. But computers were not Tom’s thing. He’d be more likely to impress Becca with his stupidity if he even tried, which wasn’t going to get him in her pants any time soon.
“Little whispers,” Da’shay said as she laid her head down on the crate and petted it like a favorite pet. That crate had room for a hundred thousand embryos, all those lives for the buying and selling, and Tom figured he had no idea how a genta saw that. Da’shay was new enough to the ship and strange enough that Tom didn’t understand any two things she did. It made him nervous.
“Seems like Da’shay’s having one of her spells,” Ramsay commented.
“Yep,” Tom agreed. There really wasn’t much else to say. Genta were strange and Da’shay was stranger than most. Basic training said there were only two rules for genta. First, you left them the hell alone. Second, you left them the hell alone. Oh officers had to deal with them seeing as how a certain number did take jobs in human space. The Corps had a number of genta engineers, but Tom wouldn’t want his life in the hands of a creature that couldn’t quite see the world all normal-like.
“Sir, Becca’s coming in low and hot,” Eli said before he started trotting for the ship. Steering in atmosphere was a little like trying to get a cow on a balance beam and Becca wasn’t the pilot that the captain was. She wasn’t even as good as Da’shay, who could fly the ship through a needle on days she felt like it. It seemed reasonable to take shelter in the ship, just in case Becca managed to set the field on fire or land on their heads. Ramsay must’ve thought so too because he followed Tom up the gangplank.
“You might’ve waited until you saw whether they were going to shoot at me first,” Ramsay complained again.
“Wasn’t looking forward to the reports you have to write up if you let the captain get dead,” Tom offered with a casual shrug as though he didn’t care about much else. Another officer would have written him up for that, but Ramsay laughed.
“Hating paperwork is my problem, not yours. You just do it half-assed,” Ramsay joked back.
“Then we’re rubbing off on each other.”
“Yeah, well if you shoot ‘em, you give ‘em a decent burial and record the coordinates.”
“You going to bury the one you shot?” Tom asked.
Ramsay looked over and smiled. “Hell no. That’s why I hired you.”
“And here I thought I got stuck with you because every other captain wrote me up so much that they ran out of room on my data chip,” Tom commented. Ramsay laughed. Fact was, that wasn’t a joke. As much as Tom had hated most of his captains, they’d hated him back just as much. “You want me to go get pea-brain?”
“Don’t call her that,” Ramsay said, but he didn’t sound too serious about it. The captain was watching Becca bring the Kratos around through a thick-space glass window. The small ship jerked and staggered in the heavy atmosphere, but Becca seemed to be keeping it from plowing into the ground. Just then, one stubby wing hit the ground and threw up great clots of dirt and weeds. Ramsay flinched.
Tom looked down the ramp where Da’shay was still stroking the crate and then over to Eli. Eli gave a shrug. “Let her be,” he suggested. Tom nodded. It wasn’t as if he actually cared, anyway.
For someone who knew how to put an engine together and take it apart while the thing was still flying, Becca was not exactly impressive trying to drive it. She swung the ship around and one wing dipped, nearly hitting the ground again before the lateral thrusters fired and the Kratos edged closer, her side lining up against the Reseda.
“Eli,” Ramsay said, his voice tight.
“On it,” Eli agreed. He opened a comm. channel. “Becca, we don’t mind walking. Feel free to park it right there.”
“I can put it down next to you,” Becca said. The ship crept closer to them, the broadside showing off the huge scorch mark where they’d taken fire. Becca must have been working hard because about half the scorch was gone and three new plates shone brightly against the dull metal of the rest of the hull.
“Becca,” Eli warned. Technically, Becca outranked him. She was an officer, but she was a young officer and smart enough to listen to the experienced soldiers. That’s how Tom had stayed alive all these years—he knew whose orders to follow and when to drop a grenade into someone’s hovercraft to keep them off the battlefront.
“Putting her down now,” Becca said cheerfully as the ship settled toward the ground.
“All the little whispers tick and tick,” Da’shay said loudly from the bottom of the ramp. They ignored her.
“Venting engines now,” Becca said, and with a pop and a huge sigh, the Kratos dumped steam out of her vents, sending clouds of hot dust into the air. As the cloud reached them, fogging the porthole Ramsay was standing at, a huge explosion hit the ship and Tom found himself flying through the air as the entire Reseda rose onto her side and then crashed down. His back hit the bulkhead and then Tom was out cold.
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