Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Be afraid…be very afraid.

Whenever folks talk about phobias or fears, I always think of Yoda and Luke in that scene in Star Wars where Luke is outside that cave. And he says to Yoda… "I'm not afraid." And Yoda says, "You should be. You should be."

WELL...never fear, Yoda, oh master, I'm not afraid to say I'm afraid! Of some things. But in my defence, some things are just downright creepy. And they should be feared.

Okay, I'm sure you can guess by the image my number one fear. Only this is truly a phobia. It's not rational. Not in the least. I know…spiders are small. I can easily kill one. And yeah, it's not like they 'attack' people or hunt them, but seriously! Why do you need 8 FREAKING EYES! AND LEGS! What the hell is with that? And the way they move…all skittering across the ground! OH MY GOD.  My friend, Bronwyn, yeah... I'm sure she'll have something in her post about these lovely creatures...but she calls them Satin's Snowflakes. I think that's the perfect description. In reality, anything with more than 4 legs creeps me out. Bugs of all kinds. I hate them. But spiders…they make me scream like a little girl. And can I just say, there's a reason I have teenage boys.

I have one other phobia that rivals spiders…CLOWNS.

Now, I don't care what people say. Clowns are creepy. They steal your soul when you stare at them. I'm serious. They aren't natural. That puffy hair and big red nose! And all that face paint! Shit. I hate even thinking about them. There's a reason they are portrayed poorly in horror movies…Poltergeist and Stephen King's IT are two that pop to mind. They lure kids to their death. I believe even Supernatural had an episode about them. And yeah, it was as creepy as you think it was.

On a note. I'm not talking about rodeo clowns. For some reason those good ole' boys don't bother me. I think it's because they dress differently and and don't do the big hair and stuff. And they save cowboys, so…I like them. But circus clowns. They are just plain wrong. (of course, if you are a clown, I'm not saying you, personally, are an evil incarnate of some kind of demon... I just don't like clowns)

Wow. I'm sitting here trying to think of anything else. I can tell you some stuff I'm not afraid of. Snakes, water and the dark. They don't bother me. I'm not afraid of open spaces, or closed spaces. Bats don't bug me. I'm not afraid of bridges or the fog. The idea of aliens don't freak me out and I love thunderstorms. I don't like odd sounds in the middle of the night, but…that's more from years of watching too many horror movies. And a few too many seasons of Criminal Minds.

So two. Only two deep-down, stomach roiling, turn me into a screaming fool fears. Or really, phobias. I know they aren't justified…Clowns are probably very sweet people…but then that's why they're phobias. They aren't supposed to be rational.

Please join my fellow bloggers as they discuss their fears and phobias. You can find them below…

Bronwyn Green
Jessica Jarman
Tess Grant
Leigh Jones
Kellie St. James

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My next zombie book—or the one where I answer that annoying question.

I know that when I read a series, I don't always have the patience to wait until the end to get all the answers. But that's exactly what I did with my What Remains series. I made folks wait. And honestly, I get it now. Why authors do it. It's not to piss folks off. It's not because I didn't have the answers, lol... I just couldn't make it all work out in the first book for a couple of reasons.

First, the book would have been 180 000 words long. Mostly because it took a long time to explain it all. And I didn't quite have that long of a single story in mind. I also doubt anyone would enjoy that much info dumping in a single read.

Second, it's not really realistic, is it? To assume everyone would know what happened? If we woke up to some kind of plague…and I don't necessarily mean zombies…would all of us know what the cause was? If we weren't informed by the government, or the medical community, would we just magically have the answers? Hell, it's four seasons into the Walking Dead and they still don't know what caused it. We got clues from the CDC episodes, but they don't know. Not really.

Obviously, I think not. I think it'd take time. Meeting the right people or just dumb luck. If something stuck the human race and devastated the population quickly—and scary as it is, this is possible—we might not get the information before it was too late. We'd have to piece it together over time. Fight the good fight because we want to survive and worry about why we were fighting later.

Anyway, the third book finally fills in more of the missing pieces. How the infection got started. So for those who may have cursed me, the answers are coming. Promise. Though there may be more questions that accompany them.

Here's the gorgeous cover and the working blurb...

A new strain. A brand new war

Cogan MacKenzie, Sullivan Gates and Jake Gibson arent your typical recon team. Firefighters in their previous lives, they lack the tactical presence the other teams havea fact no ones willing to let them forget. But when they get the chance to go searching for another missing team, they dont let a lack of well wishes stop them. They just never counted on running into a woman fighting off a horde of undead. Or that shed give them the answer to the one question thats been on everyones mind.

How the whole damn thing got started.

But the knowledge reveals a deadly new development in their fight against those infected by the parasitic plaguea secret that could destroy what little remains. Theyve got one chance. One last shot at stopping the infection from spreading before theres nothing left worth saving.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pet Peeves—Or what turns me into the Hulk…

On more than one occasion, I've told my kids that they're lucky I'm not the female version of Bruce Banner, because this…the green version…would be me. And these days, I'd be green more often than not.

Now before I get on to what turns me into an anger management client in need of a therapist, I'd like to thank a few ladies who've let me hijack their weekly blog posts. In my need to try and blog more…yes, these posts might be the only blogs I do, but at least it's a start…they allowed me to join them on a different subject each week.  You can find their Pet Peeves at the following blogs— Bronwyn Green, Jessica Jarman, Kellie St. James, Tess Grant and Leigh Jones. Please hop on over and see if they react to any of mine.

So, I could go for the obvious as an author. Yes, the misuse of your and you're, 'til and till, is enough to make me go green, but I can overlook that if need be. I don't have to necessarily face it on a daily basis, and as I'm not the best speller in the world, and grammar can still defy definition at times… it's definitely a peeve but not Hulk worthy.

My first pet peeve—Drivers who shouldn't be driving! You know who you are. You drive 50 in an 80 zone then crank that baby up to over 70 when you get to the small town 60 zone. You don't signal when you're turning, and you cut people off because you just have to get one car ahead of me. There's a reason one of my family's favourite shows is Canada's Worst Driver. And I have a teenage driver. It's obviously a choice you're making.

Now let's not forget those folks that complain about everything, but won't step up and help out. Some of you may know that I volunteer for the local hockey organization. This was my second year as the Bantam Division manager, and next year I'll have both the boys as I move into Midget. So yeah, I put in a lot of time. But I don't mind. My boys love the sport and it's good to be able to give back. But there's always those few, select parents. You know the ones…they bitch about the schedule, about the teams, about anything and everything. Yet they never, and I mean never, volunteer to help out. You folks should just stop talking. Like now.

And don't even get me started on the parents and coaches who think it's fine...actually their yell at the officials in a game. I can assure you, there's no reason that can justify you yelling at a teenage kid for a job they're doing to the best of their ability. I don't care if they missed a call or called one you think wasn't there. They. Are. Kids! (and head's up, jackass, you're not perfect in your job, yet I bet your boss doesn't stand over your shoulder yelling you to get your head our of your ass, or wake the fuck up! Yes, folks say this. They YELL this) I'd also love to know if you stand in line and scream at the checkout clerk if they type in the wrong product number and have to retype it? Do you yell at the kid in McDonald's if they give you a medium fry instead of a large? Why is it, people realize this kind of behaviour is wrong until they get to a sporting event? Here's some advice. It's just a game. Your child will most likely not be going to the big leagues and if I had to make you watch yourself in action, you'd be mortified. I'm embarrassed for you. So shut up. Can't make it any clearer than that!

Deep breath.

My middle son is the best at helping me keep my cool. He's awesome. He tells me to breathe and rocks back and forth with me, lol. This is usually at the rink when some jerk is yelling at my other son. Of course, I can only take so much before I confront them, but still. For the sake of the post, I'll try to breathe...rock back and forth. Think happy thoughts in my happy place.

Right. Pet peeves. Here's another one that makes my eyes bulge out of my head. When they kill off a main character—no, not one I've just met. One I've invested emotional energy into. Who I've rooted for, fought beside. Watched bleed and keep going. Who's finally beat the odds only to bite it. And why? For ratings? For the shock factor? I really don't give a crap about either. I think sometimes authors and screenwriters forget that HOW a character lives is as important as the quick and dirty attention grab of killing them. And no, I don't just mean the Walking Dead, lol. I could name numerous books and shows that all fall into this category. So don't kill off the people we've come to love. Just don't.

Wow. I think I could go on and on. As in a never-ending list. Obviously, I have anger issues, lol. Actually, at the end of the day, I think these all come down to one problem. People lack COMMON SENSE. You know it's true. Common sense would solve many issues that drive us all batty. Like those kids that wear their pants down around their ass. Common sense says that you won't be able to run from the zombies, but hey. Guess that's Darwinism at work, too. So by all means, keep wearing them low, boys. The zombies will prove us all right eventually.

Common sense would tell us not to take up two spaces at the store because you have a big-ass truck. So do I, but I seem to be able to put it between the lines. Common sense says we should be tolerant. That acknowledging others have different beliefs doesn't mean it diminishes ours.

But that's the problem. There's a lack of Common Sense.

Okay...I'm going to stop before my blood pressure hits 200 and keeps climbing. Thanks for dropping in, and I can't wait to see what next week's blog will be. I hope they go back to the shuffle thing on my iTunes library. Though we all know there will endless Nickelback, I know there's more in there than that.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Terms of the lovely B.A. Tortuga

Sooooooo.... I have the awesome, the incredibly talented and may I say beautiful B.A. TORTUGA on my blog today. Okay, so before I let B.A talk... and she'll be far more fascinating than I... can I just say I'm having a fangirl moment here. Seriously. I love this lady's work. And she doesn't know this but...when I first met her at AAD long ago (hell, not that long, lol) I wanted to tell her how much I loved a few of her books that I'd read, but...I couldn't. I was too nervous! True freaking story.

I don't think she knows that... and when I see her this year she'll get the ever loving f*** hugged out of her. Julia, too. Because BA is one of the nicest, most down to earth people I've met. And I'm ubber jealous of her and Julia. I hope I have find a man half as awesome as J. 

Okay, enough of me gushing ... sorry, I warned you I was a fangirl. Now on to the real post…

You know you’re in trouble…

…when you have to tell your editor, “I didn’t have to research prison, honey. You know how many felons I’m related to?”


From car theft to drugs to larceny, I have it covered.

Before I go any further, I want to say thank you to Kris for hosting me. I know y’all know this, but this woman is joy made flesh and I love her dearly. She always knows when to make me smile.

So, I wrote a book about an ex-con and, because I have a huge family with obvious moral flexibility issues, I knew what that meant.

I knew that being out of prison doesn’t mean prison is over. I knew that felony charges can keep you from voting, from traveling, from living in a house with a rifle without special dispensation.

For instance, my ex-con, Sage? He has to get permission to go into Dallas, sixty three miles away. He had to get permission to come home to help his sick daddy. He has to submit to drug tests from police officers, on demand. 

You want me to make it worse? The man he went to prison for killing was the sheriff’s nephew…

I think my editor (who was a genuine dear and who I tease because she knows I adore her) was a little taken aback by the mass of details, about how Sage never got to forget that he was who he was. 

I think there are a lot of people who would say that was how it’s supposed to work, too. 

I spent a lot of time worrying about Sage and Win (and yes, I know how weird that sounds, but it’s true. I totally worry), about how they were going to make it, how Sage could survive coming back to Texas. 

I think you can see why:

“Bubba, you and Win didn’t come in for lunch. Momma set out plates when she saw his truck.”
“He wasn’t here for lunch.” No. Adam had come to see if he’d been ass-fucked in the joint and whether he liked it.
“Oh. I…. Everything okay?”
“Nope.” Everything was not okay.
“Oh.” Rosie picked her way over, past all the leather and metal, and dusted off a bench. “You want to tell me?”
“I was in jail. His family hates me. Mainly though, I was in jail for a long time. He’s a hero and a cop, and I’m an ex-con.”
She sat there for long moments, looking at her hands, which she twisted in her lap. “I think you’re the best man I’ve ever known. If he doesn’t, he’s not the one for you, Bubba.”
He nodded. “Whatever happens, happens, honey.”
Sage loved Adam and he knew it, but he was an ex-con. He’d let a man fuck him so people didn’t beat him up. He wasn’t a good man; he was just a man. If Adam couldn’t handle that, well, who could blame him?

The Terms of Release is releasing March 24, 2014 from Dreamspinner Press and I’m proud enough to bust. 

Official Blurb:

They say a man can always come home. So after doing hard time, Sage Redding heads to his family’s northeast Texas ranch to help his ailing daddy with the cutting horses.

Adam (Win) Winchester is a county deputy and the cousin of one of the men killed in the incident that sent Sage to prison for almost a decade. While Win's uncles, Jim and Teddy, are determined to make Sage and the entire Redding family pay for their loss, Win just figures Sage has paid his dues and maybe needs a friend. Maybe he needs more than a friend. In fact, Win’s counting on it.

No one’s denying Sage is an ex-con who went to prison for manslaughter. Regardless of the love he has for his father, he’s returned knowing things will likely go badly for him. Maybe a man can always come home, but he may not be able to stay.

Paperback buy link (first 20 copies come signed):

Ebook buy link:

Where to find BA: – blog
@batortuga on twitter

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Writing Process

So, by the title it kind of assumes that I have one—a writing process. Well, I guess I do. I open up my laptop and, well, write. That is a process, technically speaking.

In case you haven't notice, I'm not much of an organized person. And my advanced planning might go as far as an hour before something. So don't ask me to go to a movie next week. Ask me Wednesday night when it's time to leave, lol. But I'll give this a go...

First, I have to thank BA Tortuga for getting me involved in this. Truth be told, I'd never be able to turn the lady down because I'm a total fan. Seriously. FANGIRL. And because she's sweet, sexy and has basset hounds! Hello! Anyway, you can ring the lovely lady at her blog, BA Tortuga.

So here's what the blog asks of me...

1) What am I working on?

Well, I'm actually working on two things, though one is mostly done. My next What Remains book, MUTATION comes out at the end of the month. Edits are done but there might be some last minute tweaks. So, not sure if that really counts. I'm currently trying to finish the next vampire book. Book 3 in Dark Prophecy called Blood of the Wolf. I'm pretty excited about writing vampires again. This book is long overdue. So I hope to have that done by the end of the month. Then it's on to more sci-fi and zombies for me.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Ohhh, umm, differ? Well, I'd like to think that many of my books are really more cross-overs than most. First, there's always action and adventure. 'Cause I think we live the most when we're on the edge, right? When the prospect of losing something is chasing you. Reminding you that you're not here forever. Then there's the romance. That still has to drive the story. But I like to include suspense, paranormal elements. Whatever calls to me.

3) Why do I write what I do?

That's simple. It's what I love. I vary sub genres because I love more than one type of book. I love the old west, shifters, vampires. I love suspense and thriller stories. I'm a sci-fi geek. And fantasy...who doesn't love that. You get to make shit up!

4) How does your writing process work?

Like I said. I don't have a process. I sit down, open my laptop or iPad and write. Whatever pops into my head. I generally have no idea where the story is going. I usually have parts of it. But I'm pretty much as surprised as the reader to discover where it ends. How it ends. Things don't always play out how you picture them, but that's the beauty of writing. You get to make the rules of engagement up!

Okay, that's it for me. Thanks again for BA for letting me join. I'd hoped to have a couple of folks to pass on the torch, but seems time is tight these days. I'll update if they venture out from their writing caves. They obviously have much more of a process than me, lol.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What year is it?

Wow. It's really 2014? And not just January?

Okay, so I knew it was a new year. March of a new year. I know. I never blog. I can give you a laundry list of excuses. Single mom being at the top of the list. I swear, I thought when kids got older, as in teenager older, you got more time back. Sadly, this is a lie told by other parents who get enjoyment in giving you false hope.

So yes, I say it all the time. I need thirty hours in a day and eight days in a week to get done even a fraction of what I'd like to every week. But...the end of hockey season is upon us. That means my boys won't be playing or officiating. That translates into weekends NOT spent at the arena, watching their "sick skills and drags" (it's a hockey thing) or listening to adults yell at them. And this is a good time to say it... DON'T YELL AT OFFICIALS. Seriously, my boys are still kids and they don't get paid near enough to have forty-year-old idiots swear at them. And yes, I will tell you to get a grip. And you're welcome.

Oh, sorry, rant over. Which is why it's a good thing it's March and the season is damn near over.

So writing...

I've had a book release. Aquarius Dawning. Book three in my Dark Horizon series. It's a ménage book, so MFM. This is different to the others in the series and mostly because I like to vary stuff. That and Dakota needed two guys. Hell, I need two guys, but... oopps. Outside voice.

Anyway, I'll include the blurb and a short excerpt. But I really wanted to let you know that I'm part of a Writing Process Blog. I'll be putting that up tomorrow and then Thursday, I'll have a guest post by the awesome B.A. Tortuga. This lady is beyond words. I love her work as an author. My favorite of hers is still LIKE CATS AND DOGS... but you won't be disappointed by anything you read from her. And...she has a new release coming out. So come back Thursday and see what she had to say. Writing Process tomorrow, and the lovely B.A. Tortuga on Thursday. And I'll even try to post for my upcoming release at the end of this month. It's book three in my What Remains series. Mutation. A new strain…a brand new war.


Commander Dakota “Dak” Winter is on a mission of vengeance. After being captured and held prisoner in an underground facility on Venitia, she’s seeking justice on the man behind her incarceration—Captain Frank Bane. After years of terrorizing the outer rim colonies for his own gain, the man’s rogue actions are finally coming back to haunt him, and she’s determined to be the one to bring him down…if only she could find him.

Reluctantly accepting help from her father, Senator Jefferson Hayes, she finds herself teamed up with two men from her past—Commanders Kane Paterson and Tanner Jenkins—who seem just as interested in her as they are in capturing Bane. It doesn’t help that she’s been fighting her feelings for them for what feels like forever. Or that they’ve made it clear they’re not looking to remain just friends.

A manhunt across the galaxy might bring her some form of closure. Or it might be the start of a dangerous new adventure.


Six weeks later…

Dakota walked down the corridor, trying not to let the steady click of her boots ratchet up her nerves more than they already were. It’d been two years since she’d set foot on the Coalition space station, and if she’d had her way, it’d have been another two before she’d even considered returning. But after spending over a month hunting for Bane with no success, she’d finally had to answer her father’s request for an audience.
She laughed at the thought. An audience with her own father. Though it shouldn’t have surprised her. He’d rarely taken off his official hat long enough to simply be the man her mother had married. No reason anything should have changed in the time Dakota had been gone.
She bit back the disappointment souring her gut as she stopped at his door, the bold letters lasered into the metal glaring at her. Senator Jefferson Hayes. He’d been governor of Vega Major for the first eighteen years of her life before being elected into office on the High Council. Though she’d rarely seen him during that time. Her mother had decided to take part in a humanitarian mission to Targus when Dakota had turned four, and she’d spent those years trying to survive amidst the chaos. It’d been shortly after her father had taken over his new role on the space station that she’d discovered the true nature of the Council’s business, and that they were largely to blame for the bleak conditions she’d endured growing up. She’d originally believed her father had joined the organization to change that. To make a difference. Instead, it seemed as if he’d spent the past few years exercising every opportunity to prove her wrong.
Dakota glanced down the corridor. More than a few gazes had followed her progress to her father’s office, their disapproving glares still watching her from beneath shadowed faces. She took a deep breath, ignoring the uneasy feeling fluttering through her stomach as she pressed the comm link beside the bulkhead. A tone sounded from somewhere inside before the doors whooshed apart, sending a curl of cool air rushing past her feet. She took one last look down the hallway then stepped inside.
She moved through the small entrance chamber to the larger office beyond. A sizeable desk fronted the room’s numerous portholes, a dazzling view of the rising sun over Vega Major gleaming in the background. Her father had his back to her, his silhouette nothing more than a black shadow outlined by bright yellow light. She walked to the chair conspicuously placed in front of his desk, scraping the legs closer so she could rest her boots on the edge.
Senator Hayes turned at the sound, frowning as she crossed her feet at the ankles. She resisted the grin that lifted the corners of her mouth. He’d never been fond of what he considered childish acts, and she knew the simple gesture was enough to put him on edge.
She leaned back in the chair, giving him a practiced smile. “Senator.”
His frown deepened as he took a step toward her, placing one hand on the back of his chair. “Really, Dakota. If you weren’t going to try, why come at all?”
“Maybe because you didn’t actually ask me.” She arched one brow. “Or am I wrong in assuming this meeting was basically a summons?”
He stared at her for several moments before allowing a small smile to lift one side of his mouth. “You always were a stubborn child. I see becoming an adult hasn’t changed that fact.”
“What can I say, I learned from the best.”
He chuckled this time, pulling out his chair and sinking into it. He placed his arms on the top of the desk, steepling his fingers as he gazed at her. His eyes softened for a moment before he plastered on a smile she’d come to hate. “You look well.”
“That month off on Venitia was a godsend. Did wonders for my complexion.”
His smile faded. “That’s not funny.”
“Wasn’t supposed to be.”
He sighed, scrubbing a hand down his face. “Since it’s obvious you’re not one for pleasantries, we’ll get straight to the point. I’ll assume your foul manner means you haven’t had any luck where Bane’s concerned.”
“If I had, I wouldn’t be here.”
He huffed out an irritated breath. She pushed to her feet and walked to the far porthole, gazing out at the rising sun. She didn’t know what it was about the man that immediately put her on the defensive, but she needed to rein it in. Despite her personal feelings, he’d done nothing but aid in the search since she’d contacted him that fateful day.
She turned, leaning against the wall as she gave him a nod. “Sorry. Occupational hazard. And no, I haven’t found even a trace of him. I don’t suppose the other ships have uncovered anything useful?”
“Other than it appears Bane was up to far more than we ever imagined? Not a thing. Though we have rescued about half of his crew.” He leaned back in the chair, looking every inch the politician he was. “More than a few reported that Bane didn’t make it out before the engines blew.”
“And those men would be wrong.”
“There’s no way Bane led me all the way out there just to watch him die.” She crossed her arms on her chest. “What better way to escape than to destroy your ship while a High Council Senator watches.”
“It’s been well over a month. At some point, we’ll have to consider the possibility that Bane did indeed perish in the explosion.”
A hollow feeling settled in her chest, making it hard to breathe. After all she’d endured, she couldn’t give up now. Not until she’d exhausted every possibility. Until there wasn’t a shred of doubt left.
She pushed off the wall, covering half the distance between them, her fists clenched at her side. “With all due respect, Senator, now’s not the time to simply give up.”
He rose to his feet, his mouth turned into a scowl, when footsteps sounded off to her right.
“Guess the old saying is true…about a woman scorned. ‘Cause sweetheart, I’d rather face a dozen of those snipe creatures on Venitia than you when you’re mad.”
She froze, the familiar timbre of the man’s voice sending a shiver down her spine. A flutter of anticipation awakened low in her belly as she drew a deep breath, slowly spinning to face him. Deep brown eyes gazed back at her, the color almost as dark as his hair. Full, pink lips were curled into a stunning smile that made her knees weaken ever so slightly. He was the perfect personification of every fantasy she’d ever had, and the bastard knew it.
She did her best to hide her body’s reaction to him. The way her nipples beaded into tight buds or how a warm flush raced through her, settling uncomfortably between her legs. Two years and he could still turn her on with nothing more than his voice.
She crossed her arms on her chest again, hitching out one hip. “Well, I’ll be damned. Kane Paterson as I live and breathe. And here I thought you were still fighting the good fight. Hadn’t realized you’d switched sides along the way.” She nodded at him. “I suppose this means Tanner switched as well. You Targus boys do tend to travel in pairs.”
A chuckled sounded from the entranceway, and she turned as the man in question leaned against the bulkhead separating the two rooms, the broadness in his shoulders making the other chamber look even smaller. Unlike Kane, his features were lighter, with piercing hazel eyes and sandy brown hair that was slightly longer than Kane’s cropped style, though decidedly military just the same. He wore a similar outfit—Coalition issue pants with a long-sleeved shirt that emphasized the sheer strength of his frame. Muscles bulged beneath the thin fabric and it was all she could do to keep her features schooled. Damn, but the man was impressive, and not just his physique. She’d had the opportunity to see him fight on more than one occasion, and she knew he was just as deadly as he looked.
He gave her a roguish grin, not hiding the way his gaze perused her body. “Hello, Dak. Long time, though it sounds as if you haven’t changed a bit.”
“On the contrary. I’ve learned quite a bit these past few years. You’d be surprised how the outer rim planets rub off on you after a while.”
He tilted his head as if trying to judge her claim for himself. “In a good way, I hope.” He straightened, moving over to stand beside Kane. “And you know that Kane and I are intimately familiar with the outer rim planets.”
“Growing up on Targus isn’t quite the same, as I’ve discovered. It’s fairly tame compared to other settlements out there, but I’ll give you boys the benefit of the doubt.” She turned to her father. “All right. What’s up?”
He arched a brow. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Don’t patronize me. I know a political agenda when I see one. And there’s no way you just happened to have Kane and Tanner as part of your entourage at the same time you summon me here for a meeting.” She gave the boys a passing glance. “There’s no amount of cosmic Karma to make this purely coincidental.”
Her father shrugged. “And you claim I’m the suspicious one.”
“Again. Occupational hazard.”
He nodded, motioning to the chair. She considered her options, realizing there really weren’t any. Despite what she wanted to believe about herself and her independence, there was no way she was getting out of there without hearing what her father had to say. And if she were honest with herself, she owed the man that much.
She ran her hand through her hair, glad she hadn’t tied it back as she ambled over to the seat, sinking into it. Kane and Tanner walked across the room, stopping on the opposite side of her father’s desk—within reach but far enough away to convey their intentions. They were here because of the good Senator, and that’s where she suspected their loyalties lay.
A pang of disappointment burned hot in her gut. There’d been a time she’d wondered if there might be more than simple friendship between her and the boys. That the sudden pounding of her heart and the fuzzy feeling in her head whenever they were around meant she’d somehow succumbed to the possibility of an arrangement she’d denied all these years. But it seemed obvious that any feelings they might have shared had faded with the years they’d been apart—years she’d spent running supplies between the ravaged colonies in the outer rim while it appeared they’d embraced the very establishment that made her illegal activities a necessity.
She eased back in her chair, maintaining just enough tension in her muscles she could react to any change in the situation as she met her father’s gaze. “I sincerely hope this isn’t the part where you tell me to run off and be a good little girl, because I think we both know that’s not an option. Not where Bane’s concerned.”
The lines around his eyes crinkled with humor. “You haven’t played the part of the ‘good little girl’ in years. I’d be foolish to believe you’d embrace it under these circumstances.”
She resisted the smile that tugged at her lips. “Then why call me here? Surely it wasn’t for personal reasons.”
“Must you always make it so hard? I’d like to think we’ve broken down a few barriers between us over the past six weeks.” He shook his head. “Like it or not, Dakota, you’re still my daughter. And while I may not have excelled at the role of father in the past, it doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to you. And knowing Bane had the audacity to hold you against your will—on Venitia of all places—doesn’t sit well with me. So don’t assume you’re the only one who wants to see the man brought to justice.” He tugged his shirt down as he sat up straighter. “But that’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it? Justice over revenge.”
She smirked. “Are you suggesting my intentions are less than honorable?”
“Not in the least. But it’s come to the attention of the High Council that your enthusiasm has become borderline obsession. And with all the reports of his death from the survivors…quite frankly they’re looking to call it quits on this one.”
The statement hit her like a physical blow. Though she supposed that on some level, she’d expected no less from the Coalition, it didn’t ease the sudden thrashing of her heart or make the heat burning in her gut wane. She pushed to her feet. “Are you ordering me to abandon the search? ‘Cause I’m fairly certain that’s not really within your jurisdiction. And with my previous indiscretions pardoned, I’m not sure you have any authority over my actions at all.”
She took a step away when Kane and Tanner moved, each darting to one side and effectively trapping her between them. She didn’t flinch, raising an eyebrow at them as her palm landed on the butt of the stun gun holstered on her hip. Their gazes fell to her fingers then back to her face, twin scowls gracing their lips.
Kane crossed his arms on his chest, his expression speaking volumes. “Seriously, Dak? Do you honestly think we would hurt you?”
“Never thought you’d join the Coalition, either, but it seems you’ve proven me wrong. And I’m sure you’re more than aware I didn’t reach for my blaster.”
He huffed, rubbing his hand across his head. “So the fact you were only considering stunning us is supposed to make me feel better? And you haven’t even asked us why we joined.”
“I’m pretty sure there isn’t a reason good enough to win me over.” She sighed, removing her hand as she kicked at the floor. “Fine. But you can drop the wounded routine until you don’t outnumber me two to one.”
Heat flashed in Kane’s eyes though she couldn’t tell if he was angry or aroused. “Not much of a chance of that happening anytime soon, sweetheart, so you’d best get comfortable with the current configuration.”
She glared at him. “I never said I wasn’t comfortable, just cautious. And for the record, I’ve seen you boys fight. I’m not so delusional that I believe I could take either of you, let alone both of you together—not without something to tip the scales in my favor.” She leaned closer to Kane, ignoring the way his scent wove through her senses, instantly raising the temperature in the room. “And I thought my set of brass balls was what you boys admired most?”
Kane took the step separating them, pressing his body against hers. “Only when it’s not directed at us.” He trailed his fingers through the strands of her hair resting against his shirt. “But I’m glad to see you haven’t lost your edge.”
Her breath lodged in her chest as he stood there for three agonizingly slow heartbeats before moving back. A chill beaded her flesh with bumps, and she missed the heat from his touch, however innocent it’d been. She glanced at her father, curious as to his reaction to Kane’s outward display, but the man seemed more amused than anything.
She shook her head again, releasing a steady, deep breath in an effort to stay grounded. “Can we just cut to the bottom line in this discussion?”
Her father glanced at Kane and Tanner as he palmed his hands on his desk. “You know, I thought having these two gentlemen here would tame that wild streak in you just a bit. But I see that wish is a tall order to fill. Fine. Bottom line. The High Council is revoking its official involvement as of today and recalling the vessels it sanctioned toward finding Bane.” He waved off any reply she might have made. “However, I’ve managed to convince them that on the off chance the reports are a decoy, and that bastard is still out there hiding, you should be allowed to continue as a representative of my office.”
She waited for him to continue, but when he simply stared at her, she furrowed her brow. “But?”
“But what?”
“If that was all there was to it, you would have sent me a communiqué. Obviously there’s a hidden catch somewhere…a reason you wanted me here in person.”
His mouth curved into a wide smile. “Are you sure you don’t want to be a politician? Because you’d be very successful at it.”
“Pretty damn sure.”
“The catch is standing beside you.”
She shifted her eyes to Kane then Tanner before returning her gaze to her father. “You’ll have to be a bit more precise. How are Kane and Tanner the catch?”
Tanner laughed, drawing her attention. “Isn’t it obvious, darling? We’re your new partners.”
She scoffed, wondering if she was the only truly sane person in the room. “Partners? Sorry, boys, but I work alone.”
Tanner merely shrugged. “Times change. Looks like you’ll have to, as well.”
She opened her mouth to protest when her father pushed to his feet, scraping his chair back.
Hayes ignored the glare she flashed him. “This isn’t negotiable. While I was able to convince the rest of the Council that your expertise as a runner was our best chance at unearthing Bane’s location if he is still alive, they weren’t willing to simply give you free rein. Not with their reputation riding on the outcome. So I made them a deal. I told them I’d send my two best Commanders with you…as insurance. That way, the Council can be assured that any action taken against Bane is based solely on the basis of bringing the man to justice.” He gave her a long, hard look. “And not just to satisfy your pride.”
She tensed her jaw, holding back the stab of pain that flared in her chest. “So you are saying my intentions are less than honorable.”
“No. I’m merely hedging the bet in my favor. And preventing any possible repercussions against you should the outcome be less than desirable.” He walked out from behind his desk, stopping beside Kane. “We both know how single-minded you can get when you feel you’ve been slighted. And if a high ranking officer wasn’t involved, no one would care. But this goes far beyond your plight on Venitia. Bane’s become a symbol of every injustice the Council’s ever been accused of. The proverbial black sheep if you will. The very outcome of the war is riding on whether or not the man’s guilty of the charges laid against him and how the remaining members deal with his guilt, should it be proven. Even if your history wasn’t quite as questionable as it is, the other members still would have insisted on some sort of military involvement. To save their own asses.”
“So why call off the search?”
“Because we simply don’t have the resources to continue scouring every inch of every dusty planet. It leaves us too vulnerable to other insurrections. And if Bane is alive, it’d be the perfect time for him to capitalize on our reduced tactical presence…if he were so inclined.”
She laughed, shaking her head. “You’re still not convinced the man is guilty, are you?”
“I voted to give the man a promotion so he could have more control over our substantial resources. I’m not happy at the prospect that my trust in him was misplaced. But if he’s guilty, I’ll be the first one to imprison his traitorous ass for the rest of his life. All I ask is that you abide by the conditions set forth by the Council.”
“You mean the ones that specify I can’t be trusted.”
Hayes tsked her. “Really, Dakota. You’re a runner. What are they supposed to think? The fact they agreed to anything is quite a leap forward. And it’s not as if I’ve paired you up with two soldiers you don’t know or trust.” He crossed his arms on his chest. “Unless you’re going to stand there and tell me you no longer trust Kane and Tanner to have your back. As I recall, you three got into quite the trouble back on Targus.”
“That was before they joined the Coalition—before I decided going solo was the only viable option.” She looked pointedly at Kane. “Though I’m certain they’ll try to convince me their reason was more than justified.”
Kane never let his gaze waver from her face. “It was. Not that you’ll listen. You always were too stubborn for your own good. Not to mention proud.”
She sighed. “Not so proud I’ll give up the opportunity to hunt Bane down.” She held her hand out to her father. “Deal.”
He smiled as he grasped her hand in his and gave it a firm shake. “You’ll leave immediately. I’ll have all the information we’ve gathered transferred to the Aquarius. Witness testimony and planetary scans. Make of them what you will.”
She nodded, backing up and heading for the doorway. She paused just shy of the threshold, giving Kane and Tanner the once over. “Just know this. I’m not the inexperienced girl I was before, and this isn’t Targus. So I hope you boys are up for a ride.”