Book Blitz & Excerpt: Snap Me Up + Giveaway

Snap Me Up Banner

Snap Me Up, by Landra Graf

Book 1 in the Full Throttle Cyborgs series

Word Count: 62,153
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 254

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
EROTIC ROMANCE
FANTASY
FUTURISTIC AND SCIENCE FICTION
ROMANCE
SCIENCE FICTION

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Book Description

For this mechanic, anything is fair game.

Snapper Rodriguez never met a woman or a racer he didn’t like, until Gina Morales shows up. She’s butting her head under every hood, moving his tools and plain annoying. He’d rather fall down a mine shaft and lose his other limb than put up with her any longer.

Gina Morales is still trying to figure out what it means to be human, and as the first AI with a body in existence, she’s eager to find her maker. A racing garage like Full Throttle seems like a great place to start, though the head mechanic is an ass and she can’t help but get involved when their latest racing engine fails.

When Snapper and Gina are forced to work together to create a new engine and steal parts from competing racing gangs, the thrill of the job and the close quarters bring unwanted attraction. Too bad Snapper still wants her gone and will do anything to make that happen, even promise her tastes of human connection that she’s never experienced before. As things heat up, the threat to Gina’s synthetic heart grows, along with her confusion. They’ll have to decide if love is worth the risk or if this is a finish line they can’t cross.

Reader advisory: This book contains references to theft, cyborgs, and the major injury of a minor character.


Excerpt

Wrench to the left to loosen. Wrench to the right to tighten. Gina Morales found the process interesting, like everything else human.

Who came up with the idea to tighten clockwise or loosen counterclockwise? Who came up with a clock?

Of course, she could answer these questions with her big AI brain, though completing the actions, experiencing them, meant far more than simply knowing.

A loud winding noise started at the opposite end of the bay and Gina didn’t even bother to look. No, she’d tried to tell that idiot Snapper the engine wouldn’t work, but he, like most male humans, believed he knew more than a woman did.

All right, that may be unfair. He believes he knows more than me. Stubborn through and through.

A small explosive blast erupted at the opposite end of the bay, the air wafting the scents of combustion and melting metal. Then the fire exhaust compression tanks hissed. This brought a different smell. Gina sniffed and got a good hint of ozone, crisp and clean, before the fans kicked in to clear out any possible toxic chemical reactions.

“Fuck!” Snapper’s exclamation brought a smile to her face.

Since the first day Gina had stepped into the Full Throttle mechanics bay, Snapper had acted suspicious and rude. Though she half admired his cautious nature, it got a little old when he questioned every move she made.

Sure, she was lying to his face, but that was for her safety and security. No one could know she was the first-ever synthetic. Her AI brain had once been the primary software component of a ship named after her, but she’d evolved, and six months prior had discovered a madman from Earth’s moon had worked with someone on Mars to create synthetic bodies. It was her chance to exceed her parameters and prove her worth to her creator.

Though becoming human had opened a whole new universe for her.

It’s all new.

Snapper swore again and threw something. Gina set her wrench down and leaned up, squaring her shoulders as she approached him.

“It wouldn’t have done that if you—”

“Don’t say it, Gina.” Snapper brought his hand up and massaged his temples, rubbing black slick all over his tan skin.

The dirt marring his face bothered her. The lack of attention to cleanliness—she itched to take care of it. Problem-solving was a natural reaction to her root programming, as it had been for more than twelve years.

“You have—”

He whirled around to face her, blue eyes blazing. “Are you finished with the engine tune-up on that hauler?”

A shit job he’d given her for daring to make a suggestion the last time. As an AI, she should have learned her lesson, and she had, but being human meant trying again. At least, Sampson had always told her that.

“I’m almost done. Just tightening the last few bolts.”

“Then maybe stick to it and let me worry about the engine.”

She took a deep breath. “I would be happy to, though you should know that if you added an extra row of plugs, it would be able to distribute the load more evenly.”

“You’re a racing engineer now, are you? Your skills were slip drives and trolling motors when you showed up. Best stick to haulers, drifters and ships, and leave the racers to us.”

Gina clenched her jaw. “Snapper—”

“Gina, how about you finish your assignment and let me deal with ’ol grumpy ass here.” The voice beside her belonged to Drag, the newly appointed leader of Frog Lick and the Full Throttle gang. This town and the gang had once belonged to the Smiths, but they were long gone now, moved on or arrested. What was left was a blend of Smiths, others from another gang called Macintosh and some stragglers from non-affiliated gangs who had earned a place with Full Throttle.

Drag had been the one to give her a chance, while his buddy Snapper wanted to give her a hard time. Where Drag was all blond hair, straight-cut and slicked-back, with a solid build and trimmed goatee, Snapper was dark, curly hair and untamed beard. Like a wild man fitting into the uncivilized stereotypes often used to describe Mars men on the Upper Planets.

“Aye, aye, cap…er, boss.” She caught herself but didn’t miss how Drag’s blond eyebrow raised a fraction.

Instead of doubling down with more words that might give herself away, or cause more questions, she pivoted on her foot and went right back to the hauler. Her wrench waited for her, and she grabbed it, though her curiosity couldn’t be helped. She’d always been more of a listener anyway, from her years possessing an inanimate object.

“I don’t like her, Drag.”

She wrenched with a little more force than planned, and the damn bolt squeaked. Her grip eased up as the conversation continued.

“You could at least hear her out. She might have a good idea or two.”

Gina liked Drag. Liked him a lot. He was logical, smart, thoughtful, and he was constantly attempting to improve the gang-town, in more ways than others did. Starting with equality for women and men… Prior to Drag taking over as gang leader, women weren’t allowed to work in the mechanics bay or any areas of ship building and mining.

Snapper growled. “Maybe, but I don’t have time for ideas right now. We needed this racer ready to start testing. We’re pushing it as things are. Now, I got nothing.”

“You got a body, just not an engine. It’s all right, we have time and you go back to the drawing board. We’ll get thoughts from others at the town meeting tonight. Many heads are better than one.”

Funny how Gina had tried to tell Snapper the same thing a couple of days ago and he’d shot her down. Drag, on the other hand, was able to get through. At least, Snapper’s weary sigh implied most of his fight was gone.

“Fine, I’ll be at the meeting, though I was hoping to skip it.”

“No,” Drag replied. “I need you there. You and Rune are my right hands. We need to show a united front, more than ever.”

Gina tightened the last bolt in place and slammed the engine cover down, doing her best to give the impression that she wasn’t hanging on every word…except the pair had gone silent. She glanced over and saw Snapper’s pensive expression. Those fingers were back to massaging engine grease into his skin.

She rubbed her own fingertips together. The presence of grease there made her stomach turn a bit. Dirt, grime—she’d been a ship, knew the feel of such things, yet even now she ached to clean her hands.

“They turned us down, didn’t they?”

Snapper’s question was met by Drag’s nod of agreement. Not good at all.

She gathered her tools and dropped them in the box against the wall. Another quick look—Drag and Snapper were now talking to their driver, Hemi. She took that moment to slip away to the sink and contemplate her next move.

The water and soap were a mash of odd sensations that she’d never gotten used to, though less overwhelming than the baths with the full immersion into the liquid. She’d almost frozen in fear the first time she’d cleaned herself, her experience limited to the ion showers on the ships. No water, no waste. Though here, everything was recycled, filtered and re-used.

Soapy suds were swept clean by droplets of liquid—the same liquid that powered humanity. Seventy percent of their bodies was composed of this life-giving nectar.

Gina dried her hands on a towel then took another peek around the corner—with Drag and Snapper sidetracked, she could log her progress on the hauler in the computer and potentially access the other files. It wouldn’t take long, and this was her best chance, while the system was unlocked and available.

She hadn’t dared let the machine log her as getting in after hours or attempting to erase the evidence. In other circumstances, a little light hacking might work, but one never knew when a tech might discover her digital fingerprints and cause her trouble.

Snapper’s attitude toward her increased her desire to take the risk. She was tired of waiting, taking it slow, per Sampson’s suggestion. Hell, Sampson didn’t even know she wanted to find her maker.

Maybe Sampson didn’t fix my morality and ethics subroutines from when I was hacked eight years ago.

She logged the information then let her fingers fly. Her eyes scanned everything as fast as she could. Access to the Smiths’ old files, the visitors, the mechanics, the software developers and ship builders… The name imprinted on her mind, Torrent, never appeared anywhere.

Clicking out of the last file took her back to the main screen.

“I see you watching him. Best not to get any ideas.” Snapper’s deep timbre washed over her, a low rumble like when she’d be caught in the edge of a current floating through space and trying to get her bearings.

She froze. “What do you mean?”

“You watching Drag, getting that admiring look in your eyes like he invented Marsanium or something.”

Turning slowly, Gina found little to no space between them. Two steps max, but they were eye-to-eye. The big difference between her and most of the other women in Frog Lick—they had to look up to him. Maybe she did intimidate him. Sampson had suggested as much on their last holo-call.

“He didn’t invent Marsanium. The discovery was made by Jangles McKinney in 2292.”

Snapper shook his head and muttered under his breath, “You’re just a little walking encyclopedia and I know that, Gina. It was a comparison.”

“A figurative method of speech? I’m afraid I don’t see the reference clearly as I don’t admire the invention of Marsanium, though I do admire Drag. He is a good leader.” Hopefully, complimenting his best friend would deflect him away from noticing her inability to react to his figurative language. Fatch.

Snapper shook his head. “What are you working on here?”

“Just updating the maintenance records on the hauler and listing the parts and supplies I used.” She crossed her arms behind her back and stood up as straight as possible, prepared to handle whatever attitude he responded with. She suspected more vitriol.

“A lot of open files to be logging basic information,” he replied with a frown.

“I forgot where things were.”

Snapper stepped closer. “Then allow me to show you again, though maybe you should spend less time reading books and memorizing facts about my planet and focus more on your job?”

Gina stood her ground. “I found everything, and I’ll do better. See you at the meeting?”

She could smell his sweat, mixed with a citrusy flavor that reminded her of the lime grove on the planet Eden. Sharp and bitter, much like him. Scents were another gift humans took for granted. She enjoyed the smell of new things, along with trying to determine which ones appealed to her.

This close she could also glimpse the hairs on his chin, as curly and wild as the ones on his head. Though they weren’t all the same color—dark brown, ginger, even a couple of gray strands graced his face. Her exploration of his features meandered on to the Grecian nose, a near Romanesque style like the old books of Earth displayed. Bluest eyes with a smattering of wrinkles around the edges…and the indention between his brows that grew more pronounced every time he was frustrated.

“Gina, why are you looking at me like that?”

She reached into her back pocket and pulled out the towel there. Every mechanic kept one, though she didn’t sweat like the others and rarely had a use for it. Now she reached up and rubbed the grease away from his temples, one by one.

He took in a sharp breath, almost a hiss. There a was creak and groan of metal at her side as he clenched his cyborg fist tightly. Another difference… He, like Drag and a couple of the others, was enhanced with cybernetic parts. While she possessed more strength than the average human, there was a good chance Snapper could give back as good as she gave. Another thing we have in common, but I can’t tell him that.

She froze, and slowly pulled her arm back. “There. Clean.”

Her fingers still tingled from the limited contact with his skin. So much sensation, three thousand touch receptors in a fingertip. How do you humans not go into overload from a fleeting touch?

Snapper growled, that indentation between his brows back again. “Next time, Gina, ask for permission before you touch someone.”

She dropped the cloth at his feet. “Excuse me?”

“Leave Drag alone too. He doesn’t need you trying to moon after him.”

“What does that mean? I don’t moon after anything. You’re implying a moon can move outside of its orbit?” She cocked her head to the side as he took a step back.

“And pick up that cloth.”

He walked off without answering her question, on top of treating her like some Mars adolescent or a cleaning robot. She wasn’t a damn robot anymore, and high time she showed him, too.

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About the Author

Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day, and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

You can visit Landra’s website here, find her Amazon author page here and follow her on Pinterest here.


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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Held for the Stud + Giveaway

Held for the Stud Banner

Held for the Stud, by Vonna Harper

Word Count: 42,592
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 180

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
EROTIC ROMANCE
FUTURISTIC

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Book Description

A man determined to have his way. A woman in need of taming. The battle begins.

One look at the big, half-wild stallion and Asha vows to ride him. One look at the beautiful stranger sneaking toward his newly acquired stud and Banner vows to teach her that he’s in control.

Banner is a soldier, a man who has experienced little beyond weapons and war, but he and the men he’s responsible for need more than conflict. Otherwise they’ll lose what’s left of their humanity. He turns abandoned ranch land into an escape and offers it to battle-weary fighters.

Nothing will stand in his way, especially not the slight, determined woman who insists that only she can handle Koko. He won’t allow her to risk her life. When she disobeys, he disciplines her. Repeatedly.

Asha loathes the man who brought her, naked, to her knees, but her body isn’t listening.

Reader advisory: This book includes references to sexual harrassment, PTSD and war injury. There are elements of corporal punishment and dubious/ambiguous consent.

Excerpt

What I wouldn’t give to ride him.

His energy and power everywhere, me becoming part of him. Heat, endless heat. Wild all the way to his core. His body in absolute control. No fear or doubt. Potent.

Even with her heart’s jagged pace warning she might be having a stroke, Asha continued to stare at the prime example of maleness. She’d seen unwavering confidence before. Hell, she was pretty damn confident herself. But this…

Not wanting to miss a moment of this rare experience, she willed herself not to blink. The object of her admiration was far enough away that she doubted the stallion was aware of her, but even if he locked his dark eyes on her, she’d go on staring open-mouthed at him. She had no choice.

You don’t have to chase after them, she silently told the stud. Females will always do whatever they think it takes to convince you to breed with them. You can be selective. You assess and most times reject because you know there’ll always be another. Only the best will do.

Sweat pooled at the base of her throat while another kind of moisture soaked her panties’ crotch. From first glance she’d known she couldn’t be objective about him, but she hadn’t realized her reaction would be so primal.

She’d caress that sleek dark flesh, run her fingers through long, coarse hair, climb onto his back and ride him until there was nothing left of both of them.

As if reading her thoughts, the stallion stared at her, a front hoof furiously attacking the ground. He wasn’t quite coal black, but close, with a tail that swept the ground and a rich, thick mane. Do it, he seemed to say. Take the chance.

“You’re tempting me.”

He whinnied, the sound sharp. His muscles repeatedly knotted as he continued his attack.

“There’s a mare in heat somewhere, isn’t there? You sense her. Maybe you smell her.”

Barely aware of what she was doing, Asha jammed her hands in her jeans’ back pockets. The gesture tightened the fabric against her crotch and brought her attention back to herself. “Is that it? You’re primed for breeding? You can’t think of anything else. Hot blood runs through you all the time, keeping you keyed-up. You’d service an entire herd if they let you.”

Head high and thick neck arched, the stallion pranced closer. There was a wooden fence between them, but even if it hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t have shied away.

“You don’t intimidate me. That’s because it’s possible I know more about how you’ll behave than you do. I respect you, but you need to do the same.”

The animal stopped and again beat at the ground. He shook his head, eyes showing more white now.

“You want to run, don’t you? Gallop without this corral hemming you in. Work off some of that energy. Believe me, I get it.”

Head now cocked to the side, the stallion seemed to be considering her proclamation. She took him to be a little over sixteen hands high and probably thirteen hundred pounds, the majority of it muscle. The way his coat shone, people who didn’t know horses would assume he got a lot of grooming, but his hooves were ragged, his mane and tail tangled.

“I’m guessing your coloring has a lot to do with why you were picked for stud service. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going on. That’s why you aren’t out with the herd.”

Frowning, she fingered the lock on the corral door. She’d been looking for him since she’d ventured onto the mysterious place known as Escape, her attention initially drawn to whistles and thuds. Thanks to her career, she’d concluded she was listening to an agitated or aroused horse. The sounds and air of energy had drawn her magnet-like to this remote section of the acreage.

“It probably doesn’t matter to you, but I’ve been listening to you for a while, feeling you in my muscles and bones, letting you command me.”

Command. Yes, that was what it had been. Like a starving woman with the scent of something on a barbeque filling her senses, she’d made the decision to let instinct have its way with her. She had no business being here, but who would run her off? At what she understood was over a hundred acres, chances were she was the only human on most of them. It hadn’t been called Escape for long. A lot of mystery surrounded who owned it. She figured farmers or ranchers acquired the land which was dotted with a couple of barns and a sprawling older house.

Not that she should give a damn.

Command.

Pushing her hair out of her eyes—someday, maybe, she’d figure out how to contain the auburn mass that reached the middle of her back—she gripped the top board and gave the stud her full attention. She wanted him, to own and ride him, to love him and earn his respect. She’d slip a rope around his muscled neck and guide him to a tree stump or boulder. Using his mane for leverage, she’d half haul and half boost herself onto him. She’d settle her crotch on his broad back and tighten her thighs against testosterone-filled muscles. She’d weave fingers made strong from a lifetime of physical labor into his mane, lean forward and whisper in his alert ears.

“Run for me. Race the wind. Gather your legs under you and take us over the fence. Free both of us. Gallop until your lungs heave and I’m hoarse from screaming my delight.”

Her breath snagged, her cheeks burned and her muscles bunched in reaction to what she was certain the stallion was capable of. Her already charged pussy got into the act, muscles clamping down. Her nipples hardened and she gave up trying to close her mouth.

As if reading her thoughts, the stallion pranced even closer. He was all sexual energy, every inch of him leaving no doubt that he’d been created to excel at one task. She’d seen more stallions than most people, but there was something outstanding about this creature.

“You’re making me crazy.”

She should ask herself if she really wanted to confide in the stallion, but right now it was too much effort. She started to drop to her knees in preparation for wriggling under the fence when a shiver of sensation along her spine stopped her. Was someone watching? Assessing and judging her? She looked left, right, behind her and as far into the distance as she could. She didn’t see anything worthy of alarm but she’d been in enough precarious situations that she knew better than to dismiss what her nerves were trying to tell her.

To hell with it! Touching the stallion was more important.

Breathing quickly, she wriggled under the fence. As she straightened, the stallion pranced back.

“You can’t be afraid of me. I know it isn’t that. You just have trouble containing all that energy. God, but you’re magnificent. Devil and angel in one package.”

Talking took too much effort so she concentrated on wiping dirt off her jeans. Thinking she probably wouldn’t see anyone today, she hadn’t bothered with a bra, but then she rarely wore one. She was a C-cup, which meant people would notice, but bras weren’t worth the expense when being true to herself meant so much. Her untethered breasts and hard-as-hell nipples were clearly visible under the wear-softened cotton T-shirt.

If she were one for introspection this would be when she’d question why she’d decided to spend her day off exploring Escape. However, between being more than a little worn down from the long hike and her reaction to the stallion, she wasn’t sure she knew what she was thinking.

“Do you know what the phrase sex appeal means?” she asked the stallion. “What a woman is trying to get a man to understand when she tells him she’s turned on? Going by my less-than-extensive experience, I’m not an expert when it comes to putting out the right vibes.”

She clamped down on a chuckle. Her suspicion that some man might have his eye on her right now had twisted her thinking a bit. So she wasn’t as experienced regarding the opposite sex as she’d like people to believe. That was her business and had nothing to do with the moment. If a man was watching, he could come to his own conclusion. It wasn’t as if she had to have anything to do with him.

She again slid her hands into her back pockets. Fabric tightened.

“I don’t know if I’m going to sleep tonight. I’m also not sure I care. Damn, but you’re beautiful. One of a kind.” She paused as a surge of something hot ran through her. “Right now, I’d give anything to be a mare.”

As if agreeing with her, the big, black, glistening creature stretched out a densely muscled neck. Holding her breath, she dragged her right hand out of her pocket and extended it toward him. Warm, moist air caressed her fingers and sent a fresh frisson of excitement into her.

“Will you let me ride you? I didn’t bring a bridle or saddle, but I’ve ridden bareback more times than otherwise. As for a bridle…”

The thought of pushing a metal bar between those white teeth made her shudder. She didn’t want to command him in any way. As long as she was astride him, he’d be in control. She’d trust him not to throw her, to know she preferred a canter over a trot and a gallop over everything else. Together they’d run like the proverbial wind and win every race.

The stud drew her fingers into his mouth. She embraced the moment.

“I know you. I think in some regard I always have.”

Tears she didn’t know she had in her burned. Blinking repeatedly, she struggled not to let them loose. When they continued to threaten, she withdrew her damp hand and stroked his neck where muscles and veins pulsed. Maybe she could go from standing flat-footed to being astride him on will alone. She tightened a hand around the rough mane and crouched in preparation for springing. Nothing else mattered. In one or two seconds she’d—

“Don’t even think it!”

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About the Author

Vonna Harper

What prompts a mild-mannered mostly law abiding woman to write erotica and erotic romance, a lot revolving around BDSM and capture/bondage? Is it the complex issue of taking or giving up control?

Vonna Harper doesn’t know and she has given up trying to find the answer. It’s enough that many readers are drawn to what some call the dark side. All she asks is that readers understand she writes fiction–a brand of fiction she finds fascinating.

Vonna has lost count of the number of books, novellas, and short stories she’s written. What she has no doubt of, it’s a hell of a ride.

You can follow Vonna on Facebook.

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Vonna Harper’s Held for the Stud Giveaway

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: A Mercenary to Love + Giveaway

Mercenary to Love Banner

A Mercenary to Love, by Landra Graf

Book 4 in the Bad Boys of Space series

Word Count: 62,159
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 247

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
EROTIC ROMANCE
FUTURISTIC AND SCIENCE FICTION
SCIENCE FICTION

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Book Description

There’s only one thing she wants to steal—his heart.

When computer genius Sampson Morales’ latest security measures fail to prevent the kidnapping of an Allied Planetary Union Ambassador’s child, he has no choice but to track and save the kid himself…especially if he wants to be paid.

Zasha Gustaf believed fighting with the Humans First movement could redeem her mercenary past, but when they use her intel to kidnap an innocent, she starts to have her doubts. Running into the only man she’s ever loved and who’s on the same trail is a sign. She commits to helping Sampson stop this group from sacrificing another blameless person, but she has another motive.

Sampson and Zasha have been down this road before, except last time it led to betrayal and heartache. He can’t trust her, and her attempts at redemption are met with constant rebuke, but when everyone, even the universe, is in danger, relying on each other is the only way forward.

Is a second chance possible for either of them…or will the past repeat itself?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of child endangerment, child abandonment, violence and murder.

Excerpt

Whenever the planet Saturn had crossed Sampson’s mind, he’d always believed stepping foot on its surface would involve jail time, or at the very least a spot in front of a tribunal. That he was being welcomed with open arms there, the land of the uppers, via official invitation no less, had made sleep near impossible for the last three solar days. Now, here he traveled among sprawling homes with green grass lawns, ponds of clear water…enough splendor to rattle the nerve endings of any man who’d grown up poor, near starving and covered in filth the majority of the time.

“Pull your mouth off the ground, kid. Bugs exist here.” Lee, ex-assassin and weapon expert, whipped her long black ponytail over her shoulder as their holo-vehicle came to a stop in front of Ambassador Al Smith’s house.

“You never told me how beautiful the ambassador planet was.”

She scoffed and re-checked her belt that was normally stacked with knives lining the leather. Now only two remained. “The thing about beauty is that it comes with a price. No sense salivating over something you won’t want to pay for.”

Except, maybe I do.

Sampson had gone his whole life without much. Joining up with Smith’s crew, back when the ambassador was a lowly body collector, Sampson had earned his place. When he’d ditched the Body Collection Service and joined the crew of Gina, he’d found a family. Regardless of the gains, there still existed this gnawing need inside him for more.

“You could have something like this, bet on it. Show these pansy fools your big brain in action.” Lee nudged him on the shoulder before she hopped out of the vehicle. “Enough sitting around talking. Let’s do this.”

Sure, he probably could reach living on Saturn status. Al had. The captain of a death barge was now a parliament ambassador, a fairy-tale story like the ones his mother used to spout over their dinner of broth and stale food cubes. The possibility of living on a wealthy planet in a fancy house tempted, but he wanted another kind of freedom. Living here would only be another prison of servitude. The desire to roam space, go where he wanted when he wanted, to eat what he wanted… All those wants drove him on.

“Welcome to my home,” Al called out from the front door, all fancy robes, ginger beard tamed and his infamous nose ring a thing of the past.

Sampson gave a single nod out of respect and instinctually reached to tug on the edge of the beanie he typically wore on the ship. “Thanks for the invite.”

“Would you like a tour?” The older man’s booming voice carried across the lawn with ease.

Sampson patted down his ginger hair and glanced at Lee, whose raised eyebrow told him everything he needed to know. “Perhaps another time. This is supposed to be a business trip, and I’d like to get to work right away.”

The words rolled off Sampson’s tongue like contaminated waste in a slip drive, foreign and unwelcome. He wanted to throw caution to the wind, take a tour or enjoy a fancy lunch—which was exactly why Lee had come along, to keep him focused.

The invitation from Al had come in a solar week before and Gina, the ship’s artificial intelligence, had been eager to share with Sampson how his expertise was requested along with the possible payday involved.

Enough crinkle to bathe in, according to Gina. Their co-captains, Toni and Emilio, were busy with another gig and had graciously offered up Gina along with the remainder of the crew to escort him. More like babysit. The implication stung a bit but made sense. Gina wasn’t a cheap ship, and she’d been hijacked before. Though if he completed this job, the flash was his for the taking, and maybe…

I’ll have enough to buy Gina.

“Straighten up, kid. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by him. You’re smarter.” Lee casually whispered these words on their walk up.

The encouragement soothed his shaken soul a bit. The last time he’d encountered Al Smith, Sampson had been indentured to Al’s body collection barge with a twenty-year service tag. Al hadn’t been horrible to work for, but he’d still been in charge and not afraid to stow a young boy in a small crappy room in the underbelly of the ship.

Sampson and Lee reached the front entrance, and he took note of the pair of guards posted right inside. Business trip indeed.

“Yes, and once you get inside, we can chat. You don’t mind if the guards search you?” Al asked with a sheepish smile.

Trust doesn’t come easy anywhere in this damn galaxy. They’d been searched three times since they’d gotten off Gina’s shuttle at the landing port. No such thing as a small measure for the planet housing parliament’s ambassadors.

Lee smiled, a wicked fucking grin equal parts ‘screw you’ and ‘sure thing.’ “Do what you have to, but my knives stay. I already put away half of them. The rest is for your protection and Sampson’s. Anything happens to him, and you’ll be answering to your sister personally if I don’t get you first.”

Pride swelled in Sampson’s chest. Family. These people cared about him, though sometimes he wished they would let him run his own missions. Let me take charge. Sure, he’d been told he was in charge on this one by Emilio, but Lee still played the role of big bad sister no matter what.

Al held up his hands. “Sure thing. Just making sure no explosives and whatnot. Loyda would be pissed if I didn’t follow protocol.”

Sampson nodded in agreement, standing up straight and spreading his arms. “Then let’s wrap this and get to it. Time is flash.”

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About the Author

Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day, and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

You can visit Landra’s website here, find her Amazon author page here and follow her on Pinterest here.

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