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Blindsided has a Cover!

That’s right! Blindsided has a cover and it’s a fabulous one! I’m so excited to share it with you. It’s September and only a scant few weeks until Blindsided, book 2 of Medusa’s Consortium, is available to read and enjoy. September 29th is the big date. Stay tuned for preorder dates coming soon! In the meantime, feast your eyes. And then enjoy a little tease.

 

 

Blurb:

In New York City away from those she loves, living with the enigmatic vampire, Desiree Fielding, Susan Innes struggles to come to terms with life as a vampire whose body serves as the prison for a deadly demon.

When Reese Chambers arrives unexpectedly from England, desperate for her help, she discovers that Alonso Darlington, his lover and her maker, has been taken captive and Reese has been warned to tell no one but her. Before the two can make a plan, Susan receives her own message from a man calling himself just Cyrus. He not only holds her maker prisoner, but also her lover, the angel Michael. If she wishes to see either of them alive, she’ll come to him and not tell Magda Gardener, the woman they all work for and fear.

With no help coming from Magda or her Consortium, Susan and Reese must turn to the Guardian – the terrifying demon now imprisoned in her body. He alone can help them, but how can she possibly trust him after all he’s done?

 

 

All Dreams are Uninvited — Blindsided Excerpt:

It was a dark place where she found him, with walls so high only the small patch of starlight was visible above, but she was a vampire now. She didn’t need the light, and he, well he had never needed the light, had he? He stood naked with his back to her. He was broad of shoulder. There were white scars like latticework across muscles stretched taut over his shoulder blades. At first she thought they were from a whip, but as she drew nearer, she saw that they were more geometric in form, as though perhaps they were some sort of ancient ceremonial writing. She traced the shapes of them with the tips of her fingers, and his muscles rippled with the sensation. With a start she realized she’d never seen his body before.

“That is because I have none,” came his reply. “Only in dreams can I wear the flesh of my choosing.”

“You’ve worn flesh often enough. I would have though it was always of your choosing,” she said, making no effort to hide her bitterness.

“It was not my own though. That pleasure, I have never known.”

“Only in dreams, you say. Then this is a dream.”

“You know that it is.” He didn’t turn to face her but leaned in toward her, and she slipped her arms around him and rested her head on the flat of his back. His belly tensed at the touch of her hands, and he caught his breath in a soft moan. “Touch is what I longed for most,” he said. “I thought the lack of it would drive me insane while I languished in my previous prison. But here, with you, I’m closer to touch than I would have thought possible. I do not mind it, you know. It is no hardship to be here nestled inside you, close to your heart.”

She released him and took in their surroundings once more. “This is the place I’ve created for you?”

He pulled her arms back around him and sighed with contentment as she laid her head against him once more. “This is how I have decorated. The place you created for me was only the shape of myself, both boundless and infinitesimal. Oh it did not matter. I could see through your eyes, feel through your flesh, even though it no longer lived as it once did, even though you never spoke to me. I hoped that someday you would.”

“And when I refuse, you come uninvited into my dreams?”

“All dreams are uninvited, Susan, and perhaps this time it is you who have come uninvited into my dream.”

 

Making the Word Flesh

‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us.’

 
No, I’m not waxing Biblical on you this lovely spring day. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about the power of the word.
Duh! Writer here. 🙂 When am I not thinking about the power of the written word?

 

At the moment, I’m finishing the final rewrite of Blind-Sided, the second novel in the Medusa Consortium series. Like all the Medusa tales, it’s a big book and, as I work through the final draft, reading it out loud as I go, occasionally I find myself wondering how we writers can create something out of nothing, from the tiniest seed of an idea. As much as I love a good TV binge, there’s nothing like a good novel – whether you’re reading it or whether you’re writing it. Few things engage the creative process quite like a novel does. In the mind of both the reader and the writer, the word becomes flesh and the world of the story becomes as real as the world we live in … at least if the author has done her job.

 

The very best novels are the ones that pull us in to the point where the writer’s world seems more real to us than our own, to the point that we physically feel the story, not simply take it into our mind. That’s also true for the writing of a tale. If I’m not pulled into the story physically, if I don’t feel it in my gut and below, then I can hardly expect my readers to, can I?

 

You see, the thing about being a writer is that we’re entirely self-entertaining. The stories seemingly come out of nowhere, and expand to fill our days, and often our nights and any moment we can spare in our efforts to get them down, in our efforts to create something real. Even when I’m not plopped in front of the computer writing, the story, the characters, the next scene – they’re all going through my head. Some of the best, most creative writing happens when I’m not physically writing at all.

 

If you’ve read the Judeo/Christian creation myth in Genesis, then you know that God simply speaks the world into existence without any seeming order of plan. That’s writing in a nutshell. I have an idea. I shape it enough to anticipate what the ending might be … might be, and then I write and let the story unfold and surprise me.

 

Eeep! I guess I am waxing a bit Biblical, but you have to understand, there’s a whole lot of mythology going on in the Medusa books, and as a lover of myth, how can I not get pulled in and end up contemplating the connections and meanings?

 

While a writer brings her world into existence using nothing but words, she has to do a little more than that with the
characters. They can be created with words, but they need life breathed into them, they need chemistry, connection, personality, pasts, flaws, feelings, neuroses and a driving force that’s greater than themselves. The world unpopulated is a lonely and boring place. Let’s just say Magda Gardener’s world is anything but. And there comes a point when I’m not entirely sure if I’m breathing life into my characters of if they’re breathing life into me. Certainly my world is brighter, more textured, more three-dimensional because of the characters I’ve created to populate the worlds I’ve written. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, since the stories we writers create are a part of ourselves yet to be discovered and the discovery is absolutely an adventure in creation.

 

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 2

Mr. Sands’ story, as I suspected, is far from finished. Last week we left Elise North at a Wetherspoon’s  keeping an eye on Daniel Sands as he kept an eye on the woman who had been his inflight meal. Elise North is a PI with something extra, and … you guessed it, she works for Magda Gardener. Can’t tell you how much fun Elise and I are having pursuing Mr. Sands in this unfolding Medusa’s Consortium tale. I hope you’re enjoying our voyeuristic encounters as well.

 

If you missed Part 1, follow the link

 

In pursuit of Mr. Sands Pt. 2

Safely tucked in my booth at Wetherspoon’s, I observed Daniel Sands observing his victim. The word victim didn’t really feel right under the circumstances. The glow in the woman’s face spoke of a well-satisfied lover rather than a victim. And if I wasn’t mistaken, Daniel Sands observed the woman with true affection and more than a little bit of pride. I knew Magda Gardener had at least one vampire on her consortium, and there was a succubus. Both could drain a life away easily and without batting an eye to satisfy their needs, but they didn’t. It was clear that neither did Mr. Sands, though I didn’t know if that were always the case or simply because it was not wise to leave a string of dead bodies on a commercial airliner. As I watched him watching her, I couldn’t help but bask – vicariously of course — in a little bit of their afterglow.

I followed him following her to the car park. Oh they didn’t notice. I have a way of going unnoticed when I want to. It’s one of the skills Magda hired me for. I watched him watching her from beside a black Audi, and I felt the exact moment when he chose to let her see him. She had just settled into her Mini  – an older version — but she didn’t start the engine, as I knew she wouldn’t. Instead she looked around her in nervous anticipation. Oh she wouldn’t have seen him if he hadn’t wanted her to. Being able to hide in plain sight was one of his survival techniques just as it was mine. At the moment when her heart rate had accelerated just so — you know that moment I’m talking about — when the serious gallop of foreplay isn’t enough any longer, when the body demands more. At that moment when her anticipation was palpable and so was his, he took from her once more. Oh it was just one little nibble. I suspected from a distance he could do little more, but that was another question to add to my growing research list. With his taking, he offered her one last little reward before he freed her completely from his thrall. It only took a raise of his hand to rest and a slight flexing of his fingers, and she came. I felt the pulsing of her orgasm deep in my chest. And him, well there was a sense of euphoria that radiated off him like heat waves. If it were even possible the glow of good health and maleness at its prime that he exuded grew even stronger. And then he just stood there watching as she drove away.

I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and got into the car Magda’s people had provided – an apple red Merc AMG that fit me like a glove. Inside I pulled up Magda’s number on the blue tooth.

“He touched me,” I said when she picked up. “On the plane when he was making his rounds. I had to let him. I had no choice really.”

“And?”

“Why, yes, I’m fine, thanks for asking and no, he didn’t hurt me and he didn’t suspect anything.”

Her silence told me in no uncertain terms she was unimpressed with my sarcasm. “And?” She repeated.

“He’s staying at a flat in Soho. He stays here in London until he’s ready for another night flight, unless he decides to fly home.” I recited the address.

“You found all that out from touching him?”

“No. I found that out by taking a peek at his landing card in the Passport control queue.”

Her chuckle was like fur against bare skin and I couldn’t help but wonder if our fearless leader was perhaps a powerful succubus. I’d heard that she could be very charming, hypnotic, in fact. But mostly I’d heard she was flat out terrifying, and she liked it fine that way. It left no doubt as to who was in control of the Consortium. Other than that I knew little about her. I’d never met her personally. She recruited me through a friend of a friend. In the year I’d worked for her, I’d not spoken to her at all until I was assigned to tail Daniel Sands. Him, for some reason, she took a personal interest in, so I was given a phone with only her number programmed in. It was equipped with several other high tech upgrades that made me feel a bit like 007. I knew it was as much her way of tracking me as it was mine of finding her, but then I did have a subcutaneous chip for that. So, what I could glean from the situation was that Magda Gardener wanted Daniel Sands very badly, that Magda Gardener had very deep pockets – which I already knew, and that I was not nearly as expendable as she might have me believe. Listening to her voice and even knowing what I knew, I still had a hard time imagining that she could be more terrifying than some of the nightmares I’d come up against. The thing is, working for her was interesting, and the pay and the benefits were incredible.

“You’re a resourceful little shadow, aren’t you,” she all but purred in my ear. And I all but preened my response.

“I do my best.” I smiled at my reflection in the mirror above the visor as I refreshed my lippy.

“You’ll be texted the address of your flat in Soho as soon as we secure you one. It’ll be ready when you arrive.”

I was practically drooling at the thought. Magda Gardener had expensive tastes, and she treated her employees as though they did too. Having said that, she would have no qualms about making me stay in a crack house if that’s what it took to secure what she wanted, and I’d certainly stayed in worse.

I’d barely made it to the motorway before I got the text with the address of my temporary digs. I was impressed. Clearly I wasn’t the only savvy person who worked for Magda Gardener. The place was right across the street from Mr. Sands’ flat with a perfect view of his big bay window and the entrance to the building. I arrived to find the fridge was fully stocked and the closet full of clothes. We’re talking high-end designer stuff that I knew would fit me like a dream. Most of the time I’m called upon to travel at the drop of a hat. There’s seldom time to pack. I receive a passport, credit cards and cash – whatever I’ll need for my cover. Can’t count the number of gorgeous outfits and expensive jewelry I’ve had to leave behind because of time restraints and other … more pressing issues. The necessary accouterments are usually waiting for me when I arrive. As I said, Magda Gardener has expensive tastes. The place was also equipped with state of the art surveillance equipment. The bugs, I would have to find a way to get into his flat myself. But I was confident I could do that with no problems. I made a quick sandwich, drank a gallon of water and, after a quick shower, I went to work.

Pretending to be doing a customer relations survey for the airline, I telephoned the woman who had been Mr. Sands’ inflight meal. Sarah Martin was her name, and she managed a bookstore in Brixton. She had scrimped and saved for her holiday in the Big Apple, had gone with empty suite cases and came back with them crammed with bargains. Being upgraded to first class for the trip home was the cherry on the fabulous holiday cake for her. Sadly, all she remembered about her first class flight was that the food was fab and she’d slept right through most of it. Oh, and the flight attendants had been particularly helpful. Perhaps that one final orgasm had also wiped her memory of events Mr. Sands would prefer she not share with nosy people like me and Magda Gardener. None of the flight attendants who knew about Mr. Sands could be reached for comment. I was informed they’d all made quick turnarounds on other international flights, which I found rather strange since after an international flight, one would have expected at least an overnight layover to rest.

All this I did by phone, along with loads of online research of incubi in general and what information I could find, scant little that it was, on Sands specifically. We suspected he lived somewhere in the Hebrides. But no one knew exactly where, and in truth he was nearly as much of a highclass vagabond as I was. Most of the research was connected to resources Magda had given me when she gave me the assignment. I had lots of time for research and phone calls because for two days and nights Mr. Sands didn’t leave his flat. I know because I could see him moving about inside. He wasn’t secretive about his presence. He never drew the curtains, even when he was fresh from the shower or undressing for bed. Perhaps it was a part of his thrall to hide in plain sight and yet be so irresistibly visible that he was like a peacock fanning his tail and advertising for a mate. At any rate, he had my full attention.

It was the second morning that I began to suspect he knew he was being watched, that he even relished the idea. Of course he would, wouldn’t he? But I never thought for a moment that I was in danger. He was, after all, just an incubus. I’d dealt with worse.

He slipped from the bathroom in a wave of steam with nothing but a towel tucked low around his hips. I nearly spilled tea down my shirt at the exquisite view he afforded me. I watched with heart racing as he disappeared momentarily and returned with a cup of coffee and a copy of The Guardian. Okay, I’ll admit it delighted me more than it probably should have, since this was my job. But he parked himself in the wing backed chairs smack dab in front of the big bay window and, as he sipped and perused the paper, folded for an easy one-handed read, his other hand strayed to his lap. As though he were barely mindful of the act, he opened the towel and cupped himself absently. Any man might sit in the privacy of his living room on a Sunday morning and, without giving it a second thought, reach for a fondle and a caress and perhaps a little scratch of his junk. I would do the same if I were a man, if I had such an interesting, intriguing appendage there between my legs always vying for my attention. But that Mr. Sands was indulging in such an ordinary act of maleness was what made it so extraordinary. I don’t know why I expected him not to indulge in what was such a quintessentially male act, but by the time he laid the paper aside, leaned back into the chair and opened his legs for a good grope, I couldn’t have looked away if I wanted to.

He couldn’t see me. I was sure of it, and it was my job to spy on him. Still there was something so naughty about me watching while he stroked and caressed his lengthening cock, that it was all I could do not to feel guilty. And perhaps the guilt, the little niggle of shame put the edge in my own growing arousal as I adjusted to hold the binoculars in one hand and slip the other inside my panties.

His fingers were long and slender as they curled around his heft and moved up and down the length of him. His efforts became ambidextrous as he palmed and cupped his sac while fisting and stroking his erection. The shifting of his hips, the tensing of the muscles in his thighs and his flat, tight belly, the way his toes curled into the soft carpet — together they were all such human acts that it was easy to forget they were being performed by someone who was not human. With a start I realized I was mirroring his efforts, toes curling, hips thrusting, fingers darting in and out of slick depths and over rising hardness. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, nor what I was doing, and it was only as my shuddering release shook the binoculars fracturing the arching spasms of his own release, unashamedly poured out onto the floor in front of him that I raised the lenses just enough to take in his face. I expected to see a man lost in his own pleasure, not a man whose cold eyes were locked on me. I swallowed a yelp of surprise, as though he might somehow hear me and the last thing I saw before I dropped the binoculars on the floor and fled my vantage point was his mouth quirking in a wicked smile.

 

Jet Lagged with Mr. Sands Part 1

It’s time for my annual April visit with my sister in the States. As you know, I’m always intrigued by the effects of travelling across multiple timezones in short periods of time, of effectively being “no place and no time” in a plane for hours. I’m here safe and sound at my sister’s but still a bit jet lagged, so I decided to share with you from the archives, The Strange Encounter with Mr. Sands  — a two-part story inspired in part from entering the twilight zone at Seattle International Airport last year at this time and wondering if I’d ever get out again.

After the completion of Mr. Sands’ tale, one of my readers told me that to her it felt like there should be more to Mr. Sands’ story. And who knows, maybe there will be. But for now, here is part 1 from the archives with part 2 to follow. Enjoy!

 

 

The Strange Encounter with Mr. Sands Pt I

Warning: Adult Content! 

I woke up in the first class cabin sprawled across my upgraded seat. The blonde flight attendant, Maggie was her name, had placed a cool cloth over my forehead, and the other attendants herded the last of the passengers off, looking anxiously over their shoulders at me.

“Did I pass out? What happen?”

“It’s all right,” she said. “You’ve just had a very intimate visit from Mr. Sands, that’s all, but you’ll be fine. In fact you’ll be better than fine in a little while. Here, drink some water, and I’ll help you off the plane and get you something to eat when you’re ready. I promise, I’ll do my best to explain everything.” She held the bottle to my lips.

As I sipped, my strange encounter with Mr. Sands all came back to me with a little clench and tremor of the muscles down deep below my belly.

It hadn’t been exactly like an electrical shock when the man brushed against my arm in the queue at baggage check-in, but what I felt was just as much of a shock to my system. What I felt – and I know this is going to sound insane – but what I felt was an orgasm. It was just a brush – his arm against mine, as the desk agent motioned him past me and his hand settling onto the small of my back to steady me when I nearly lost my balance at the impact of what had been way more physical than if he’d flattened me. He offered me a smile, and a soft-spoken apology that I barely heard over the hammering of my heart and my efforts to get myself under control. I remember thinking I’d never seen eyes so blue on a man with such coal black hair. Strangely enough, he approached the desk with no bags to check, and yet whatever he had to say to the agent must have been important. He had her full attention – in fact she was totally entranced by him, though for his part, he seem distracted. He kept glancing back at me and smiling, as though he knew me, and I kept thinking how arrogant I was to think he was actually looking at me. Whatever it was he wanted, the agent nodded enthusiastically leaning into his personal space so close he could have kissed her if he’d chosen to, and I confess I held my breath thinking that he might, and not sure if I wanted him to or if I wanted to believe that I really was the center of his attention.

After only a minute, he thanked the agent and gave her hand a little pat as he might have done to a favorite pet. He gave me one last glance that I felt way down deep in my center where my insides still squirmed and clenched from his touch, then he turned and walked off toward security.

“You’ve been upgraded to first class, Ms. Dempsey.” There was a blush on the agent’s cheeks, as though the man had done way more than just brush her hand with his, and frankly her struggle to breath and the dewy sheen on her forehead had my imagination running wild before the fabulous upgrade could sink into the brain of someone who has long been resigned to an in-flight experience of traveling cattle car class. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she’d just had the same response to the dark man with the blue eyes that I did. As I made my way to security, three attendants fell into step behind me.

“Mr. Sands is on the flight; did you know?” Said the petite blonde, with a short bob, who I later learned was Maggie. Her voice had that breathless fan-girl quiver brought on by the presence of celebrity. I racked my brain trying to think if I knew any famous Mr. Sands. I didn’t, but then I didn’t keep up with pop culture very well.

“Oh God! You’re kidding me,” the male attendant in the middle said. “Are you sure? He hasn’t done JFK to Heathrow in a while. I hate to say it, but I was hoping he’d got bored with us and decided to check out some other night flight.”

“You shouldn’t talk about him like that, Hal,” the blonde replied. “All I know is that Kaitlin said he came to her desk personally, asking for an upgrade.”

“An upgrade? Seriously? Wow! Someone’s gonna get lucky this flight,” said the willowy brunette on the other side.

“Sh!” the man replied. “Don’t be so disrespectful. He’ll know. He always does, and he won’t like it.”

I slowed my pace just enough to let them pass, then fell in behind them intrigued by this Mr. Sands, whoever he was. Apparently he was on my flight.

“Well at least this time there are no newbies on the crew,” The brunette said.

“That’ll make things easier,” Maggie replied. “I hate having to deal with their reactions. Makes it hard on the rest of the crew. Well at least the first timers get a warning now, which is more than I did when it was my turn.”

What the hell, was the man a groper, I wondered?

“They may get a warning, but who the hell would believe it,” Hal said.

I was just about to pluck up my nerve and ask who this Mr. Sands was, when the three squeezed onto a lift and
disappeared in a wave of Japanese tourists while, being slightly claustrophobic, I opted for the next one, which was less crowded. I wasn’t much on celebrity, and whoever this Mr. Sands was, he had nothing to do with me.

In the lap of luxury, I forgot about the mysterious Mr. Sands and enjoyed my meal and the fact that I could stretch out without bumping into anyone. In fact, I had more than just a seat to myself. There were several seats to either side of me empty, and all the other seats were occupied by people who couldn’t wait to settle into a good night’s sleep. I didn’t think I’d sleep at all, and I really didn’t intend to, since I figured I’d never get another chance to enjoy first class. I was wrong though. I was asleep almost before the attendants anxiously cleared the dishes. In fact, they seemed downright skittish, which I thought rather unusual for first class, but then how the hell would I know?

Sometimes you dream strange things when you travel, and sometimes those dreams can seem very real. I dreamed of the blue-eyed man from the check-in queue. He rose up from the seat directly across from mine, one that I was almost certain had been empty, and then he began to walk among the sleepers, touching each of them lovingly as though they

were his children and he’d just gotten them to sleep. His tender ministrations were interrupted by the unexpected appearance of the blonde flight attendant. “You’re here,” she said, and the fan-girl timbre of her voice was replaces with something more along the lines of fear – fear mixed with lust if that were even possible. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” It was then that I was certain I must be dreaming, because he took her face in his hands and kissed her, and oh dear god in heaven, what a kiss it was! Tongue, there was tongue, moving in little darts and licks as he probed and tasted and tested and teased until the woman opened to him and practically melted into his arms. And then it was over, with a deep intake of breath, he released her then settled her back on her feet, and she turned away as though nothing had happened. Then he kissed everyone in first class, one by one with the same deep probing intensity, as though he

sought something out, and they arched up to meet him in the kiss — some moaning softly, a couple of the men even giving that gut-punch of a grunt men do when they ejaculate. But then I was dreaming, wasn’t I? Me, who never had a dream more erotic that finding myself naked in the middle of the supermarket. With each sleeper, he took his time in the kiss, he let them embrace him, let them touch him, let them stroke his hair, and then he took the kiss. That’s what it felt like to me, at least, that in their sleep, he took the kiss from them, a stolen kiss — almost, and yet no one denied him. Still, I sensed just the tiniest frisson of fear in each of them, but then there would be, wouldn’t there? A kiss from a stranger in a darkened plane could possibly be as frightening as it was intriguing. When the kiss was finished, when he released them, it was immediately clear that they had fallen back into a deep sleep. This he did to everyone around him while I watched and squirmed on my first class bed. It was only when everyone else was sleeping soundly that he turned his attention to me.

 

 

It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again, and I’m Piloting Fury!

Scribe-computer-keyboardMG_07771-225x300I love November! November is National Novel Writing Month! I love the camaraderie, I love the challenge and I love the endless possibilities and the way the creative energy simply explodes in unexpected ways when I have only thirty days to finish a novel. Most of you already know that my latest release, The Tutor, got written last year during NaNoWriMo, and I had so much fun, that I decided to try it again this year.

 

What I wasn’t expecting was the I’d be making my first ever attempt at a Science Fiction novel, which I’m calling, Piloting Fury. To celebrate NaNoWriMo 2016, I’m sharing a little of my WIP with you lovelies today. This is the beginning of the first chapter. Please remember this is only a work in progress and this is the first draft, but I’m rather pleased with the direction Fury is heading already. Hope you enjoy.

 

Piloting Fury Blurb:

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer, Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her she life she’d dreamed of owning her own starship, and when the Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands the Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. But she does. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 2nd mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out the Fury is way more than a cargo ship. It’s a ship with a history — one Mac may not be able to live with and one that she’s been a part of for a lot longer that she could imagine, and Rick Manning was not above fixing a bet to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

 

Piloting Fury Excerpt — The Bet:

 

“Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” Rick Manning was more than a little bit drunk. He had to be to make that sort of bet with me. Everyone knows you don’t gamble with Diana Mac unless you want to lose. I never lost – ever! What gambling I managed in spaceports was my income, and I hoarded it all obsessively. Every credit of it went toward paying off the contract of my indenture. Nope! I never lose because I can’t afford to, and yet here I stood on the small but efficient deck of the Fury, reporting to Rick fucking Manning, and the bastard was nowhere to be found. “Probably sleeping it off in some whore’s bed,” I growled under my breath.

“You cheated, you bastard!” I said more loudly. Even if he heard me, what the hell was he gonna do, dock my wages, crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76throw me in the brig? “I know you cheated, I just don’t know how you did it,” I said out loud to the console, which, in spite of my anger at Manning, already had me intrigued. OK — Pilot! I confess. Even visions of strangling Rick Manning with a New Hibernian cryo-whip couldn’t hold my imagination quite like the console of a new ship – even if it was one I was now indentured to for who the hell knew how many galactic years. I’m not bragging when I say I’m the best pilot in the galaxy, and that means I’ve never met the spacefaring ship I couldn’t fly. Not that I got that many opportunities indentured to the Dubrovnik, but Captain Harker had fattened his pocket more than once by betting on me in an impromptu race of some sort. Of course the ship was never my own, and that made the bet even more interesting. No one ever saw it coming. In spite of my crap situation, I couldn’t help admiring the clean lines and the efficient arrangement of the Fury’s controls. Already I was jonesing to see what the ship could do, and the truth was that the Fury was one helluva ship – not a new one, by any means. Hell I doubted if Manning even knew what the original make was. If the entire ship wasn’t glued together with spare parts, I’d be surprised, and yet leave it to Manning to win, steal, smuggle and finagled some of the best, state of the art, components in the galaxy. I only knew that because he and I got drunk together on Diga Prim waiting out a lava storm one night in a bar. The man was as proud of his ship as he was his cock and, while I’d made it a point not to check out the latter, I’d wanted to check out the Fury for a long time. Just not like this.

I flopped down in the pilot’s seat, which strangely enough felt as though it molded to fit my butt. I knew for a fact that Manning’s ass needed a little more space than mine did, and so did his broad shoulders, which while I had admired in more than a few space ports where we’d had the misfortunate to ran into each other, I now loathed with a loathing hotter than the fiery pits of Diga Prime, and envisioned kicking that very fine ass out the airlock somewhere in the Outer Rim. But thanks to the fine mess the cheating scumbag had gotten me into, I couldn’t even do that, and it had been such a sure thing. I was sitting pretty, wasn’t I? The newly healed incision on my forearm itched like crazy, and while it was already all but invisible, it was far better than any manacles Manning could have slapped on me. I should have known. I should have suspected something, but I was too busy patting myself on my back for my good fortune, too greedy for more.

I should have suspected something when Manning lost a small fortune to me in game after game of Sandirian poker. At the time, the man wasn’t yet too drunk to make intelligent decisions, and I knew for a fact he wasn’t a gambling addict. I’d heard about addicts who had gambled away far larger fortunes than the one Manning had amassed, which was just enough to buy back my indenture with a nice little nest egg to tide me over until I could find other work. Nope, Manning was a lightweight when it came to gambling losses. In fact a minor satrap was legendary for gambling away a whole planetoid out at the edge of the Orion Nebula. I just figured it was a cock thing with Manning. I recognized the signs. The skirt had worked its magic just like it always did with lonely, horny sailors in spaceport hoping to get laid. Men or women – it didn’t really matter. If they gave me that look and offered to buy me a drink, I knew I had them. They all just assumed because I was sitting alone, shuffling a deck of cards, I was as lonely and as in need of entertainment as they were. And then there was Rick Manning. He’d been doing his best for the past several galactic years to get me in bed. By now it had become a game between us. He flirted with me, and I let it roll right over me. I liked the banter. I liked the fact that we had intelligent, often witty conversations in between his flirtatious, but harmless advances. It was what we did, the two of us, so why should I think anything was particularly different about last night, and yet the man had lost everything he had, all of his life savings and all he could do was chuckle.

“It’s your hair, Mac,” he said, as he motioned over a notary to make the transaction legal. “And when you wear that dress and let your hair down like that, of course a man’s gonna lose. And you, you little minx, that’s what you’re counting on, isn’t it?”

I rubbed my fingers together indicating money. “My entire income depends on me making it work, indentured here, remember?” I laid a palm against my chest. “But if it’ll help,” I grabbed up the band that had secured the battered deck of cards and pulled my hair back in it. “The dress I can’t do anything about. Other than my uniform, which is back on the Dubrovnik, I don’t own anything else.” I truly did live close to the bone. But that was about to end, wasn’t it?

He leaned over the table and offered a smile that would have shamed the Suns of Valoxia. “Well that’s a start. Tell you what, one more hand and I’ll bet my jacket.” If you win, you can cover up a little bit and maybe give me an even chance, and if you lose,” he looked me up and down.

“I won’t,” I said shoving the deck of cards across the table to him.”

He took them and began to shuffle, his eyes still locked on mine. “If you lose, then I get your clothes. All of them.”

“I won’t,” I repeated organizing my cards as he handed them over.

In no time at all I was bundled up in a vintage flight jacket that Manning swore up and down was a real Terran relic he’d one in a poker game he’d apparently done much better in that he was doing in this one. He slugged back another New Hibernian whisky and the barmaid, who bent so he got a good view down her bustier, brought him another one. I laid down enough credits to pay for my drinks and stood. “Gotta go, Manning. You’ve got nothing left I can win off of you, and I sure as hell don’t want the clothes off your back.”

“Not so fast, Mac,” he said, his words not exactly slurred, but getting pretty close. He blocked my exit with an extended leg, nodded back to my chair and with a wave of his wrist sent the barmaid scurrying for another whisky for me. “You can’t leave till I’ve had a chance to win back all my shit.”

“I can, and I will,” I said, stepping over his leg, but even half drunk, Manning was fast, he lifted his thigh, effectively high-centering me and ending me up in his lap. He curled a thick finger around a strand of hair that had escaped my make-shift pony tale and, I remember thinking it strange that he smelled more like a man who’d been enjoying a trek or a camping trip in the National Parks of the Beledine than someone three sheets to the wind on cheap-assed whisky. I even remember not minding his flirtations at the time, but then why would I when I was a free woman at last, one with a very nice jacket, even if it was considerably too big.

“I do have something I can bet.” His breath was warm against my ear, and I felt the buzz of my own generous alcohol consumption that made me think I just might take him up on what I figured he was about to offer me as apart of my drunken celebration of my freedom. After all, an indentured didn’t have a lot of free time for sex, and for me, when I did have the time, I was trying to manage a few more credits toward my freedom.

“Oh that,” I nodded down to his lap and gave a little laugh. “I figure I can have that without wagering for it.”

The chuckle he returned sounded positively animal, and his lips quirked into a crooked smile. “And while I can think of nothing I would enjoy more than a good shag in the sheets with you, Mac, that wouldn’t win me back my stuff now would it?”

I was about to say since he had nothing to offer I saw no point. I was about to walk out the door of the bar free and clear, go straight to Captain Harker and pay off the contract of my indenture and see what it felt like to sleep and wake up as a free woman. That’s what I should have done, in retrospect, but then Manning dropped the bomb.

“One more hand, Mac. Just one. Win the bet and the Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.”

Fuck me! If he hadn’t been holding onto me, I would have fallen right off onto the floor. Now I’m not a woman who is often speechless, though as an indentured, I know when to keep my mouth shut, but this time, all I could do was make a couple of fish gasps as he gave me that look I was sure had gotten more than a few women in his bed and probably worked just as well getting him out of trouble with the authorities when his cargo was less than copasetic.

“What do you say, Mac? You up for it? I’m betting the Fury along with the next three contracts I have to fill.” He shrugged. “If I don’t have a ship, I can’t fulfill the contracts, right? Come on. Give me at least one more chance.”

“Your ship? You want to bet the Fury?” I stumbled off his lap all but falling on my ass before I made it back to my chair, and he was already motioning the notary over.

“What does this mean, her ass is yours?” The notary asked, with a strong New Hibernian accent. “You know I need specifics.”

“He wants me to fuck him, if I lose,” I clarified. Me arrogant? Huh! I could already picture myself easing the sleek bulk of the Fury out of dock and seeing what the ship could do in open space.

There were three other tables demanding the attention of the notary, and the fact that such a big wager had to be witnessed wasn’t making them or him very happy. “Well I can hardly write that down, can I?”

Manning rolled his eyes and grabbed the notary’s device using the touch pad to type in whatever was a good euphemism for the thing I was certain wasn’t going to happen, and I was so sure of myself, so positive that the Fury was already mine, that I didn’t bother to look at what he wrote. I just placed my thumb against the DNA reader on the keypad and the notary grunted his approval, nodding to the barmaid who brought over a sealed pack of cards. Manning settled her on his lap – for luck, he said, as he shuffled the cards, considerably longer than necessary, but then I could be patient when I would be walking away with the price of my freedom plus change and a bright shiny starship of my very own. I certainly wasn’t worried about Manning. He was a respectable pilot – not as good as I am, but not bad Writing pen and birds 1_xl_20156020either, and he was one cunning sonovabitch. He’d land on his feet no matter what happened.

When he dealt me three tens, I figured I was in like Flin. The vacuous barmaid was too busy playing with Manning’s bronze curles to give anything away, and really, while she might meet him after hours and commiserate with a good fuck, she wasn’t at all interested in the outcome. Looking back, I should have thought that strange. I should have thought the whole situation strange, that a man was about to bet his fucking starship to a woman who had a reputation for never losing. Looking back, I should have thought of a lot of things, but all I could think about was that in one glorious night, I would gain my freedom and a starship with contracts pending.

I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about Rick Manning pulling a straight flush. But that’s exactly what the bastard did. Winner takes it all.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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