In orbit over a deserted outpost at the edge of conquered space sits an aging space station under the control of the Trans Planetary Protectorate. The Borealis is slowly falling apart as the Protectorate funnels its massive resources into the border wars and keeping the outlaying systems in line, as insurrections break out.
Inamorata Crossing by PI Barrington
As an Enforcement Officer of the TPP, it's Khai Zafara's job to transport Teyrnan Sajan, a rebel leader and 'prisoner of war' to the Borealis to serve out his sentence in the prison levels. Khai holds a deep-set hatred for the Rebellion, believing they were responsible for her father's murder – which she witnessed as a young girl.
Teyrnan Sajan was on Borealis they day Khai's father was murdered. He thought he was the only person left alive who knew the truth. Once Teyrnan realizes who Khai is, he begins a slow process of helping her separate reality from the false memories the TPP drilled into her head.
Teyrnan is a convincing man, and Khai begins to see the truth behind TPP lies. At first, she convinces herself that it's the draw she feels toward him that's clouding her judgment… but as memories break through, she has to accept the truth. And she has to make a choice: Deliver Teyrnan to Borealis so he can serve out his punishment -- and probably die -- in prison. Or, turn her back on the TPP and everything she thinks she's known to join him and the Rebellion and right the wrongs done by her father's murder
Kiss Me, Kate by J. Morgan
K'Tyln Dar is a pampered prince who wants to finally become the man his planet needs so he goes in search of the baddest bounty hunter in the known universe -- The Professor.
Richelle is called The Professor because she knows every possible way to kill a man. Most people -- like K'tyln -- have no idea that the most ruthless killer in the known universe is a woman. And she likes to keep it that way. Richelle has neither the time nor patience for a puff-shirt, golden boy politician like K'tyln Dar.
When he brazenly demands to meet The Professor and reveals his desire to 'learn to be a warrior', her first thought is to put him in his pompous place. But, as he takes his licks -- and bruises -- and contusions -- she sees a glimpse of the man he not only wants to be, but the man he is deep down inside.
Forgive Us Our Debts by Gail R. Delaney
Sarina Laroux is taken hostage and held as a prisoner on the Borealis, considered a traitor to the TPP after they took her father's throne and laid waste to Andromeda Prime -- her home. Theron Kess is sent by her family to rescue her, a job he would never refuse because he owes her family more than they even know.
Theron almost gives up hope in getting her out when he can't locate her amongst the other Uudon-dosed prisoners. When he finally finds her, he is thankful he always prepares for the worst, because her situation is the stuff of nightmares.
Add to that the fact that the Rebellion picks this time to attack the station. Not only does he have guards and Sarina herself to deal with, but gunfire and an aging station ready to shudder apart with the next pulse cannon blast. He has to earn Serina's trust -- something that doesn't come easy on the Borealis -- if he has any hope of getting her out alive. By the time all is said and done, they both come out different people... and for the better.
EXCERPT - From Inamorata Crossing
"Hungry?" she asked him without emotion. "It's time for your regulated meal."
"It would be nice," he said, and smiled once again.
"You haven't tasted it yet." She smirked back.
What are you doing? Flirting with this guy? Cut it out, Zafara!
She turned her back on him, walking to a panel of drawers. She keyed in her identification number and pressed a palm against a square that lit up. A small whirring sounded and then the drawers disengaged with a clunk. Khai pulled one of them open. She inspected an MRE wrapped in foil, then shoved it into another drawer at the top of the panel and punched another key. A line of light flickered into life, and a moment later a buzz rang out. Khai pulled the MRE out and set it down on the table slab beside him.
"Utensils are in the package," she informed him in a flat tone.
He shifted a bit and then nodded down at his body
"Do you mind? It will be impossible to eat with my hands bound."
Khai flipped a lever and the seat swung out and around to place him at the table and she knew he expected to be freed completely. Instead a metal shaft rose from the floor and a thick metal clamp wrapped around his chest and clinked shut. She could hardly repress her laughter as she unlocked the wrist restraints.
"Enjoy your meal," she told him sweetly. She walked back to the dais where the cockpit sat, waiting for him to gag. When he didn't, Khai narrowed her eyes at him.
"Not bad," he said between shoving forkfuls into his mouth.
Her mouth dropped open. She'd tasted the MRE once, and it horrified her. Once was all she ever needed. The taste still rankled on her tongue whenever she remembered it.
"You like it?" She walked back to the table and sat down opposite him, astonished and disgusted.
Teyrnan shrugged. "I've eaten worse."
"There isn't anything worse." She made a face at him.
"Yes, there is, lieutenant." He stopped eating and stared at her. "You know, there is something so familiar about you. Are you sure we've never met before?"
"I'm sure. I'd have remembered you."
"And I would have remembered you." He said, smile and tone suggestive. His gaze left hers and moved down to her chest.
Khai snorted and jumped up from her seat, cursing herself for being led to the bait. She shook her head. "I can't even be kind to you without feeling--" She stopped. Feelings should not be part of this whatsoever. This was her job, her duty, not some school age infatuation. She turned her face away from him, afraid to look into his eyes again.
"Continue, lieutenant. You're feeling... what?" His voice sounded deeper, almost seductive.
Khai closed her eyes, glad that he could not see them, and shook her head to clear it. "Disgust, that's about the only emotion I can come up with for you." Her voice sounded stiff to her.
"That's better than nothing. Which is what you should be feeling." She heard him take another bite. "Could I get some salt?"
Khai turned to him. He raised his eyebrows, imitating her sweet sarcasm, feigning innocence.
Khai growled, walked over to the panel, flipped a small flap open and pulled out a packet of salt. She flung it at him as she turned and sped past him, hitting him on the forehead with it. He laughed out loud and shook his head.
"There's no winning with you," she spat at him from the captain's chair at the controls. Khai forced herself not to hear whatever his penetrating voice said in response.
Posted by Hannah on 3rd Apr 2013
I originally found this anthology because I heard Gail R. Delaney had a story in it -- and I'm a HUGE fan of her Phoenix books (HUGE!) -- but I ended up with a whole series I just love!
I hadn't read P.I. Barrington before, but I'm going to go try her Future Imperfect series after reading the first short in this anthology.
I've read J. Morgan (based on recommendations by Gail Delaney), and his contribution to this anthology was typical Morgan -- I like it!
But Gail Delaney once again blew me away! She can put as much intensity and emotion in a short story as she does one of her super long novels. Theron is wonderful. How does she make me fall in love with every one of her heroes?
I'm off now to read the other anthology and the novellas. Maybe I'll find some more new to me authors.