Authors: Lyn Gala
Tom is a soldier and sniper on a
ship tracking space terrorists. Despite being unlucky at love, he hopes to
catch the eye of crewmate Da’shay.
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.
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.
futuristic erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave
Thank you so much to the most supportive group of
rough-draft readers in the world: Stella Omega, Carol Drysdale, Donna, Kelly S.
Tom sighted down the end of the rifle and watched as Ramsay
and Eli talked to the captain of the
. The other captain had
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
, 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
himself, but the
captain looked a little too human.
Tom itched to turn around and see if their
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
’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
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
“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
as she walked toward him. Backward.
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,
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
“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
, 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
She smiled. “No,” she said brightly. With that, she turned
around so her back was toward the
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
his home planet wasn’t near their part of space. They were annoying.
“Tom, we covered?” Ramsay called. Tom started trotting down
“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
“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.
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
Ramsay slapped his hand against the side of the smuggler’s
ship. “Fucking mess. Again. No wonder they stick us out here in the
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
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
but everyone had talked about it for years. He’d been one of the last prisoners
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
“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
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
“Seems like Da’shay’s having one of her spells,” Ramsay
“Yep,” Tom agreed. There really wasn’t much else to say.
were strange and Da’shay was stranger than most. Basic training said there were
only two rules for
. 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
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
“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
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.