February 18, 2014
Allie always enjoyed casual sex with crewmates, but the war never let her get too close to anyone. Now the war is over, and shipmates lost. Somewhere Allie lost some part of herself, too. But no matter how hard she tries, she can't escape the gentle touch of Shank Lacroix, her favorite lover. He insists on standing by her and helping her find the missing pieces. The problem is that the old pieces don’t fit anymore. Allie wants more even as she fears her changing beliefs and sexual appetites.
Shank knows the signs of a person carrying too much guilt and anger. Allie is in danger of emotionally self-destructing. Shank knows he has to save his beautiful and dominating Allie and help her find herself again. In his youth, he went on a vision quest to find his path, but right now, spiritual quests don't have much to offer him. However, he does hope a quest to find their missing crew might help them find themselves and their love before it's too late. That is assuming that Command doesn't catch them trying to desert their posts and execute them first.
I actually thought that the author was even more successful mixing up space opera and the relationship than in the first book. The issues were connected with their respective sexualities and figuring out what they want from each other... READ MORE
The Romance Reviews
The plot was filled with exciting action, including visits with the different government factions, stealing a ship, and struggling to figure out their future. The sex was steamy, and included bondage to the point of immobility. READ MORE
The detailed dialogue provided put me right in the room with them. The plot was filled with exciting action, including visits with the different government factions, stealing a ship, and struggling to figure out their future. The sex was steamy, and included bondage to the point of immobility. The science fiction aspect was interesting and easy to follow. READ MORE
Allie pushed her rations from one side of the plate to the other. She’d call it food, only it wasn’t actually “food” as the human race defined it. This was more of a metallic-tasting mush that sank into her stomach and threatened to make it rebel at irregular times.
Normally she would have gone in search of some company when she felt this shitty. Shank would smile and gather her up in his arms before kissing her until she forgot her own name. They’d grab for each other, sweating and hot and twisting into the sheets until they had to collapse in laughter and untangle their limbs. His long black hair would fan out over the white pillow, and he would watch her with his dark eyes.
Allie had grown up on a farm, and long hair tended to drag in the manure pile when you shoveled, and get caught in machinery. Being practical, she’d always kept her brown hair cut short, and made fun of the fussing required for long hair, but Chankoowashtay “Shank” Lacroix made her realize it could be damn sexy.
If she had one ounce of good sense, she’d go find him.
Instead she sat alone. For a hypersexual, pansexual social woman, she was doing far too much of that lately.
Lieutenant Haslet came into the room and looked around for a second before she went to the distributor. After getting her ration, she headed over to the table. She waited a second for any protests before she sat across from Allie. When Allie had first come on the ship, Haslet and Corporal Jacqs Glebov had scared the snot out of her. They were physically intimidating, and worse, they were walking reminders of how the war could chew a person up and spit them back out. Jacqs had offended everyone and generally made everyone else as miserable as him...at least at first. Lieutenant Haslet had never engaged anyone at all.
Allie had lived in terror of turning into one of them. She’d always been gregarious, and she’d seen this future where she either transformed into a complete asshole or some shadow of herself. Or she could have taken the captain’s path and just stayed drunk all the time. People who’d been to the front weren’t exactly walking advertisements for mental health. However, before she’d had to face any of that, the war had ended. She’d done her basic training and a few months on a listening post, and now she would never again face off against batface aliens.
“Corporal,” Haslet offered as she put her food down.
Allie watched the mush slowly seep around the edges of the spoon when she tried to trap it against the plastic side of the tray.
“So any plans for the future now that the war is over?” Haslet asked. Allie watched her large hands perform a balancing act with a half-full spoon. Playing with the food did seem healthier than trying to eat it.
She shrugged. “I haven’t been released from duty yet.”
“True,” Haslet agreed. “But everyone has some sort of plan.”
“Jacqs didn’t,” Allie said. The words slipped out, but even if she hadn’t meant to conjure the memory of their missing crew, she knew it was true. Jacqs had lived in the present and made fun of the rest of them for having plans and dreams for the future.
Maybe living in the moment had made it possible for him to give up his berth on the ship so they could evacuate more children out of the path of the coming batfaces. Maybe he could make that decision because he’d never had any hope for anything better. Maybe she just didn’t understand him or his decision. Until she’d watched Jacqs walk off the ship to surrender to the enemy, she would have called him the least self-sacrificing man she’d ever met. Before coming on the Candiru, Allie had always believed she understood people. Always. Now she suspected she’d just been too young to recognize her own stupidity. Despite her youth, she felt so ancient that one good wind would turn her to dust and scatter her atoms across the stars.
“They made their choice,” Haslet said. She didn’t need to define they. Since the ship had dropped off their load of refugees, every conversation on the Candiru had centered on Jacqs Glebov and his partner in sacrifice, Commander Zeke Waters. The heroes.
Now that the batfaces had taken control of that part of the border, they were lost behind enemy lines. The war might be over and the various planets surrendered, but Allie couldn’t stop herself from obsessing over the what-ifs. What if she’d done the same? What if she’d refused to take off from the planet without them? What if she’d had a magic wand she could wave to force the world to be fair?
But Jacqs had told her to stay and navigate the ship. After almost two months, she still felt guilty for sitting in the mess eating reconstituted rations when they were out there.
Hopefully, they were out there and not lying dead in the mud of some alien world.
“We chose to leave them,” Allie said slowly. She knew where this conversation was going, but she couldn’t escape repeating the old words. It was as if she were some kid picking at the edges of a scab, utterly unable to stop even when the bleeding started. The fact that Allie’s latest lover was among those explaining the choicelessness of the whole mess wasn’t improving her love life.
Haslet put her spoon down and studied her for an uncomfortably long time. “We chose to follow orders and save those kids.” Haslet gave her that look--the one that made Allie feel like twenty-three wasn’t old enough to argue with people who had lived nearly twice as many years. Intelligence and common sense had nothing to do with age on a fucking calendar.
Allie snorted. “Our orders were to escort the Orsk. Where were they? Where was the transport ship that should have lifted everyone?” She snapped her mouth closed before more unchecked anger could roll out of her mouth.
Haslet shifted in her seat and dropped her gaze to the table. She wasn’t a talker. Allie knew the woman was trying to help, to patch up some of the emotional wounds they all carried. Right now Allie didn’t want healing. She wanted to hurt and pay for having left her crew behind. She stood before her brain had even decided what to do.
“I’ll see you later.” Allie picked up her tray and headed over to the recycler. She was wasting food, and this part of the universe was suddenly long on refugees and short on food. Still, if she ate now, she’d just be recycling it into a bathroom toilet along with an abundance of stomach acid. Haslet watched her go with weariness in her gaze. Everyone on the Candiru looked weary these days.
The ship felt empty without humanity shoved into every corner.
Two weeks they’d ridden heavy with crying kids and complaining refugees and overflowing toilets. Now hollow corridors mocked Allie. Echoes of whispers from the dead and missing seemed to chase her down the halls.
The view of space and all its wheeling stars could never give her the same feeling of freedom and distance that she got from the sight of a horizon and the sun shining in a blue sky. The ship had always felt claustrophobic. But now it felt huge, like if she dropped something, the sound would ricochet forever. It was too big.
She turned, and Shank stood there, his hands shoved into his pockets.
“Hey.” She tried to smile.
“Hey,” he answered awkwardly. He rocked forward on his toes like he might move toward her, but then he rocked back.
In the past, any awkwardness between them had vanished under sex. A lot of sex. Whenever she’d lost her temper with him and tried out one or two of the other crew, she’d come back and found that his warm hands skimming across her skin made everything else vanish. Now she couldn’t really face the idea of anyone touching her at all.
“We’re putting into a station. Rough Shade.” He looked everywhere but at her.
She hummed and nodded. When she turned to head toward her sleeping quarters, they walked shoulder to shoulder. Ashwin Little stepped into a side passage to let them pass.
Mostly though, they only encountered phantoms. They passed the women’s dorm Allie had shared with Honshi Quin and the corridor that led to the training room that had been Grienbeck’s favorite spot and where Jacqs was always working out on the weights.
“If you don’t want me around, you can tell me to fuck off,” Shank suggested.
She stopped. “I never said...”
Shank looked at her, his brow drawn down into an expression that came closer to despair than sadness.
“I don’t want you to go away,” she said softly. It was an honest truth but not the entire one.
“But you don’t want me to touch you,” he finished. He reached for her, and she had to steel herself to avoid flinching as he rested his hand against her shoulder.
“I don’t...” She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. She couldn’t keep her balance around him. She was terrified of falling in love only to have Command take him away as cruelly as they’d taken other members of the crew. Shank had barely survived his last mission, and most of the crew who’d gone with him hadn’t.
She couldn’t face living through that hell again. Considering that Security Central had set off a nuclear weapon while Shank was outside the ship, he was probably dying now. True, it would take thirty or forty years for the damage to show up, but when she looked at him, it was like she could see a future where life stole him away.
Before when they’d been just having sex, it’d been fun. Invigorating. Exciting. He’d tasted her skin and whispered blessings in a language she hadn’t known existed. But now...every time he touched her, a black fear rose up and blotted out every speck of light. What if she lost him?
“I’ll wait,” he said.
She fantasized about his long black hair brushing over her breasts, of laughing as it got caught under them as they rolled in the narrow bunk, of his fingers curling into the bedding as she teased him until he begged for release.
“You shouldn’t have to,” she whispered.
“But I will anyway.”
She looked into his dark eyes, and that fear rose up so strongly that the few bites of food she’d gotten down threatened to crawl up her throat. She was running for a bathroom before she realized it. “Allie!” he called after her.
“Go away!” she screamed before turning into the men’s bunk room. It was the closest toilet, and she wasn’t going to make it any farther.
By the time she had finished heaving, her throat burned, and the men who’d been in the room had vanished. Shank was nowhere to be seen, and Allie leaned against the cool metal wall and wondered if she shouldn’t report herself as absolutely fucking nuts. She was pretty sure she’d lost it somewhere along the line.
The worst part was it was so damn illogical to lose it now. Yeah, the Candiru had lost crew. Every unit did. The war was over. She’d survived. She just couldn’t figure out how to get her head to accept these simple truths.
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