PRAISE FOR LINNEA SINCLAIR
“One of the most acknowledged and well-received authors in sci-fi romance today.”
“Linnea Sinclair writes in two of my favorite genres—science fiction and romance—at the sametime. She does it very well, combining the richness and inventiveness of science fiction withthe great characterization of romance. The romances are wonderful, the world-building strong.If you love either genre, you’ll enjoy Sinclair.”
—KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH, author of Diving into the Wreck
PRAISE FOR HOPE’S FOLLY
Nominated for the 2009 Romantic Times
Reviewers’ Choice Award
“4? stars. Top pick! Hang on to your phasers as Sinclair blasts off on another rip-roaringspace adventure. … A roller-coaster ride in the extreme!”
—RT Book Reviews
“Sinclair shares her phenomenal writing talent with a well-built sci-fi world, and characterswho charm their way right into the reader’s heart. … Whether you’ve read the previous booksor not, you’re in for a wonderful treat that will surely leave you dreaming of life among thestars.”
“What I imagine a David Weber romance might be like—a rousing military space adventure withsex thrown in, and protagonists who are way more interested in each other’s weapons than theirclothes. … Between sabotage, military action, romantic tension, and some interesting jury-rigged weaponry, it’s a fraught flight, and great fun.”
“Action packed from beginning to end … I was on the edge of my seat with this one and eventhough I dreaded reading The End because the story would be over, it still did not make me slowdown reading this book one iota! Linnea Sinclair is one author on my keeper shelf and her booksare always rereads for me!”
“Too many authors on the romance side forget the science fiction part and too many sciencefiction writers simply can’t write the romance well. Sinclair blends them perfectly. … Thepacing is fast, the dialogue is excellent, and the book is full of secondary characters who areso well drawn they could carry a novel on their own. Highly recommended, as are the rest ofSinclair’s books.”
“Once again Linnea Sinclair delivers. Hope’s Folly is the perfect combination of an action-
packed sci-fi space romp and a heart-warming romance. A keeper.”
—The Book Smugglers
PRAISE FOR SHADES OF DARK
Winner of 2009 PRISM Award for Best FuturisticWinner of the 2008 Romantic Times
Choice Award for Best Futuristic/Fantasy Romance
Winner of the 2008 PEARL Award forBest Science Fiction/Fantasy
Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10 Award
“A rip-roaring tale of danger, passion, and hard choices. No one blends romance and sciencefiction like Linnea Sinclair, and Shades of Dark is another sizzling page-turner!”
—MARY JO PUTNEY, author of A Distant Magic
“A masterpiece … Not to be missed … Linnea Sinclair is always an author you can count on foramazing stories and is one of the best in the business. Shades of Dark is going down as one of
my favorite books of all time and well deserves RRT’s Perfect 10 award for excellence!”
—Romance Reviews Today
“Shades of Dark is one of those rare entities; a sequel that is as good, if not better, thanthe original. … This story is a compelling page-turner and a novel that firmly places Linnea
Sinclair in my select group of must-have authors. Five cups.”
—Coffee Time Romance
PRAISE FOR THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES
Honorable Mention for the 2007 PEARL Award for
Best Futuristic RomanceNominated for the 2007 Romantic Times
Reviewer’sChoice Awards for Best Futuristic/Fantasy Romance
“Linnea Sinclair invades Earth with a rip-roaring, genre-bending, edge-of-your-seat read thathas it all: crackling action, monsters, double-crossers, unlikely heroes, and a fully realizedlove story. I loved it!”
—SUSAN GRANT, bestselling author of New York TimesMoonstruck
“From its tongue-in-cheek title to its melding of romance and zombie-killing action, there’slittle in Sinclair’s newest sci-fi romance that doesn’t surprise, grip or entertain. … Fansof romance and fantasy hunting for edgier fare can stop singing the blues.”
“Quirky, offbeat and packed with gritty action, this blistering novel explodes out of the gateand never looks back. Counting on Sinclair to provide top-notch science fiction elaboratelyspiced with romance and adventure is a given, but she really aces this one! A must-read, by anauthor who never disappoints. 4? stars. Top pick!”
“Outstanding … Realistic characters, romance, humor, conflict and suspense, what more could aparanormal fan ask for in a sf/futuristic novel? … A keeper.”
PRAISE FOR GAMES OF COMMAND
Winner of the 2007 PEARL Award for Best Science
Fiction and Fantasy Romance
2008 RIT? Finalist for Best Paranormal RomanceAllAboutRomance.com
Top Ten SF/Fantasy &Futuristic Romances
“Linnea Sinclair just gets better and better! Games of Command is not to be missed!”
—MARY JO PUTNEY, author of A Distant Magic
“Games of Command is a wonderful book. Linnea Sinclair has written a unique and utterlyintriguing hero in Kel-Paten. Sexy, complex and devoted, he’s a man to fall in love with.”
—NALINI SINGH, author of Hostage to Pleasure
“When it comes to high-flying adventure, political intrigue and dark romance, Sinclair has itaced! This surprising tale is filled with shifting loyalties, deception and jaw-dropping flyingmaneuvers. … 4? stars.
PRAISE FOR AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS
Winner of the 2003 RWA? Windy City Choice Award
for Best FF&P Romance
2002 PEARL Award Honorable Mention forBest Science Fiction Novel
Romantic Times BookClub
magazine’s 2002 GoldMedal Top Pick Award
—Contra Costa Times
“Proves once again why Sinclair is one of the reigning queens of science fiction romances …This is a book [with] bright, attractive characters, an interesting plot, action, adventure,humor and romance.”
“A star in the making.”
PRAISE FOR GABRIEL’S GHOST
Winner of the 2006 RITA? Award for
Best Paranormal Romance2003 Prism Award, 2nd place (tied with
for Best Futuristic Romance2002 Sapphire Award, 2nd place (tied with An AccidentalGoddess), for Best Speculative Romance Novel
Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10 Award
“Both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a warm romance, with deep characterization andmeaningful relationships. Highly recommended.”
—Romance Reviews Today
“There isn’t a shadow of a doubt in this reviewer’s mind that Bantam has a bona fideinterstellar star in this author. Prepare to be star-struck, dear reader.”
“How can a review do justice to a book that sweeps you away from the very first page? …Sinclair has managed to mix religion, politics, adventure, science fiction and romance into oneof the best reads of the year. A true winner!”
PRAISE FOR FINDERS KEEPERS
Finalist for 2006 RITA? Award for Best First Book
Winner of the 2001 Sapphire Award for Best
Speculative Romance NovelWinner of the 2001 PEARL Award for Best Sci-Fi Romance
“Finders Keepers is romance, but also science fiction in its truest form. Ms. Sinclair createsa complete and fascinating universe.”
“A riveting, tightly written, edge-of-your-seat tale that pulls the reader in from page one,never letting go until the poignant finish.”
—Romance Reviews Today
ALSO BY LINNEA SINCLAIR
An Accidental Goddess
Games of Command
The Down Home Zombie Blues
Shades of DarkHope’s Folly
I’m hugely indebted to the following for their patience, input, humor, and support during adifficult time in my life, which included the writing of this book: author Stacey “AppleCosmo” Kade; author Monette “Attorney Babe” Michaels; reader M. L. “Hit ’em Straight”Helfstein, USNR (Ret.); my editor, Anne “Sparkle Mommy” Groell; and my agent, Kristin “TheRock” Nelson; as well as my Groupie Loopies at the Intergalactic Bar & Grille. And specialthanks to wonderful (cat-owned) authors Robin D. Owens, Susan Grant, and Mary Jo Putney. Thankyou all for being there when I needed you, for when the words wouldn’t come and the tears
Thank you also to Dr. Sisco at the Cat Care Clinic (Naples, FL), Doc Ellie Scott and staff atStringtown Animal Hospital (Grove City, OH), Dr. Lisa Fulton at the MedVet Cancer Center(Columbus, OH), and reader and veterinarian Dr. Earmie Edwards for all your efforts onDaiquiri’s behalf.
To my beloved angel-cat, Daq. You left much too soon and are always in my heart.
A big note of appreciation to my last-minute beta readers: Corrina Lawson, Debra Holland, LindaBurke, Melissa Nix, and Arwen Lynch.
And to my husband, Rob Bernadino, who after almost thirty years not only still finds me amusingbut knows when I need to cry—and didn’t hesitate to bring new furry typing assistants intoour lives: Chester, Brady, and Jimmy-James.
“Now and Forever”—DJ Lithium
“Titicaca” (Firestorm remix)—Firestorm & Steve Allen
“Angel on My Shoulder”—Kaskade
“Infinity”—Guru Josh Project
“Move for Me”—Kaskade
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerfulbeyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.”
His family was sending one of their corporate star yachts through two major jumpgates—fromSylvadae to the port city of Tal Verdis on Garno—just for him. And that, Devin Guthrie knew ashe sat in his spacious glass-walled office on the fifteenth floor of Guthrie Global Systems’sfinancial headquarters, portended trouble.
Devin nodded casually to his eldest brother’s image on the main deskscreen, deliberatelykeeping his voice noncommittal, as if the disruption didn’t matter at all. “A Trans-Aldanflight would be cheaper,” he suggested to Jonathan. Even if he went first-class. It would alsobe slower. That was more than reasonable by Devin’s way of thinking. He was in no hurry tohave his life turned upside down.
But that only deepened his brother’s frown on the large screen.
“You know better than anyone that the restructuring of the Empire hasn’t hurt ourportfolio.” Jonathan was dark-haired and dark-eyed like their father—the indomitable JonathanMacy “J. M.” Guthrie, who, at almost eighty, was still the undisputed patriarch of GuthrieGlobal Systems. Jonathan also had J.M.’s intense, narrow-eyed gaze. “Your time is valuable.
Additionally, using our own transport is safer. Especially with Philip resurfacing lastmonth.”
Devin pulled off his silver-rimmed glasses—another thing his family found fault with—andrubbed at the spot between his eyebrows.
He couldn’t argue the validity of Jonathan’s statement. Privately, the family rejoiced thatthe second eldest of the Guthrie brothers was alive. But Philip’s resurrection hadrepercussions. He was now no longer an Imperial admiral but had allied himself with the newlyformed Alliance of Independent Republics—“traitor worlds,” according to Imperial FirstBarrister-turned-Prime Commander Darius Tage. And, in spite of the fact that the Alliance wasin the process of being granted “conditional” legitimacy, sources whispered that there was aprice on Philip Guthrie’s head.
Being a Guthrie—one of the oldest, wealthiest, and most established families in theEmpire—might no longer be a guarantee of safety from a well-timed accident. And therein restedDevin’s last salvo.
He slipped his glasses back on. “Actually, traveling by commercial transport would be safer.
Tage isn’t going to kill one hundred fifty passengers to get at one of us. But a Guthriepersonal yacht malfunctioning at a jumpgate exit or never coming out of jump—”
“Would be viewed as suspicious and a direct threat, not only to us but to the Rossettis,
Petroskis, Helfsteins, and Falkners.” Jonathan ticked off the names of some of the Empire’smore prestigious families on his fingers. “Tage is too smart to make a direct move againstus.”
No, the emperor’s longtime adviser was crafty enough to cover his tracks first—or get someoneelse to do the dirty work.
Just as J.M. had Jonathan do his. “Devin …”
Devin held up one hand as a sign of capitulation, because he could hear his brother’simpatience. “Fine. I’ll check my schedule and call you—”
“I’ll wait.” Jonathan leaned back in the padded leather chair. A soft golden light danced insmall sparkles through the elegant beveled-glass library window behind him, illuminating thehallmark Guthrie intertwined-Gs visible over his left shoulder. Devin’s brother was at theGuthrie estate outside Port Palmero on Sylvadae—a world halfway across Aldan sector fromDevin’s offices on Garno. Most GGS offices had the luxury of a secure, near-instantaneousprivate comm link, which, at moments like this, Devin hated. The more common two-to-three-daycommunications delay afforded time to think things over and come up with a stronger argument.
He angled away from the screen where Jonathan’s image waited and tapped up a small hologrid.The data floated in a green-tinged glow. He scrolled through his appointment calendar, notingwhat projects were of immediate concern and wondering how far he could stretch those thatweren’t. He was not looking forward to going to Sylvadae.
It wasn’t because his current residence on Garno held any special appeal. It was a world knownfor its casinos, theaters, and restaurants circling the Tal Verdis spaceport, but he wasn’t agambler, he rarely went to the theater, and whatever fell out of his penthouse residence’schefmaster unit was fine by him.
It was just that crunching numbers, massaging financial data, and coding investment probabilityprograms were what Devin did best. He was far more comfortable with data than withpeople—especially when those people were his parents, his older brothers, and his brothers’families.
And especially when those same parents had no qualms about using his eldest brother to forceDevin to change his life.
Not that he hadn’t seen it coming …
Well, then, get it over with. But he would do it on his terms, his timing. “The quarterlysummary for Galenth needs revisions. And the stage six contracts from Baris–Agri are due intomorrow with the Englarian Church amendments. If those unfold as expected”—and as he wassenior analyst on both, there was no reason they shouldn’t—“I’ll be able to leave here bynoon, Fourthday.” That gave him three days to firm up the Baris–Agri deal—a project that hadbeen his primary focus for more than two months. He had to be here to make sure these finalcontract negotiations went smoothly.
“Delegate the revisions and the contracts. The star yacht will be there at half-past sixtonight, your time.”
Half-past six? Devin’s fist clenched out of sight of the deskscreen cam. “But Baris–Agri—”
“Father advises you to be on it.”
It wasn’t just the tone of finality in Jonathan’s words. It was that no one—except PhilipGuthrie—ever defied J.M.
“More tea, Mr. Devin? Or perhaps something stronger? Dinner will be ready shortly.”
Nelessa’s voice pulled Devin’s attention from his microcomp, where nice, friendly,nonjudgmental numbers were keeping him company on his flight to Sylvadae and keeping his mindoff the reason behind his trip—and the annoying fact that the Baris–Agri deal would concludewithout him. His microcomp was a Rada—a top-of-the-line unit that he’d customized to do evenmore than function as a pocket comm and datapad. It had voice and holosim keyboard capabilitiesand could integrate seamlessly into any larger datacomp system. He’d already sent eight pagesof notes to his assistants. And gone through three cups of tea since he’d boarded GGS’scorporate yacht, the Triumph.
The chief attendant from GGS’s private yacht waited with expert patience by Devin’s seat. Thedusky-skinned muscular woman was in her early forties, about six years his senior. Her voicewas far softer than her appearance; she sometimes doubled as Jonathan’s wife’s bodyguard whenMarguerite traveled outside acknowledged “safe” areas in Aldan. Devin didn’t doubt there wasan L7 laser pistol secreted somewhere under Nel’s pale-blue GGS uniform jacket.
Her hands, however, held only a teapot and a linen napkin.
Devin glanced at his empty teacup on the low table on his right, its thin white porcelain edgesbanded with pale-blue circles meeting at the intertwined double-G emblem. The same emblem wasetched into the double doors of his office on Garno. Where he should be now—and wasn’t.“Tea’s fine, Nel. Thanks.”
He’d save the hard liquor for after the meeting with his father and brothers.
Nel refilled his cup, then moved silently back toward the galley just behind the cockpit. TheTriumph was smaller than the Prosperity, GGS’s 220-ton yacht, which held twenty passengers in
opulent luxury, with ten large sleeping cabins. But the 130-ton ship could still seat ten on aday trip and sleep six on an overnight, not including the crew of three. And currently, Devinwas the only passenger.
Devin thumbed his Rada off and put it down on the table as his mind—tired, frustrated—strayedfrom the Baris–Agri deal. Was Jonathan’s choice to send the Triumph deliberate? It had been
her ship—or, rather, Makaiden had been the first pilot, though on longer trips she’d sharethat command with her husband, Kiler. But, to Devin, it was always her ship. He couldn’t
separate Makaiden from the Triumph, and when he’d first seen the ship’s distinctive slant-
nosed outline through the spaceport terminal’s windows, all thoughts of Baris–Agri vanished.He couldn’t stop his heart from racing, his breath from catching, and his hopes—illogically,stupidly—from rising.
His hopes where Makaiden Griggs was concerned were not only illogical, they were impossible.And not just because she’d left Guthrie employ almost two years ago, after her husband wasfired.
Her husband had been one of the reasons behind the impossibility of Devin’s hopes. Though alittle thing like a husband wasn’t known to stop Devin’s brother Ethan from his conquests,adultery wasn’t something Devin would do. Even if Makaiden had been interested.
He told himself that repeatedly.
The larger reason was that Devin was a Guthrie, and Makaiden Griggs was not the kind of woman aGuthrie admitted to having feelings for. She was a working-class woman, a jump-rated pilotwhose family was out of the wrong end of Calth sector, whose education wasn’t from aprestigious university like Montgomery or Valhaldan but at the hands of whatever freighter
operator would take her on. She drank her ale straight from the bottle and probably couldn’tname one decent vintage wine. Or even a marginal one.
She and her husband, Kiler, flew Guthrie yachts for more than five years. Devin found
by her within the firsthimself—not in love, he would never admit that—irrevocably intrigued
three months of meeting her. He was twenty-eight at the time, and she was—according topersonnel records he memorized—a year younger. But Makaiden Malloy Griggs had a presencebeyond her years—a light that sparkled in her eyes and a brassiness that hinted at an innerstrength. A confidence. A dedication. She loved being at a stellar helm and made no apologiesfor it.
And she wasn’t the least bit impressed by the Guthrie name. Around Makaiden, Devin felt like areal person. Not a Guthrie heir.
In that way, she reminded him of Philip’s ex-wife, Captain Chaz Bergren. But in all otherways, she was different. She was short where Chaz was taller, her hair a pale tousled cropwhere Chaz’s was a rich auburn that curled past her waist. And she laughed a lot more than heever remembered Chaz laughing.
Even now, the memory of her infectious laughter made Devin Jonathan Guthrie feel things hedidn’t want to—couldn’t afford to—feel.
But then, for Makaiden Griggs, life was good. She loved her husband, even leaving her careerwith GGS for him. And for all that Devin as a Guthrie could offer, he was sure she would havewanted none of it. She didn’t need him.
Not that he ever tried to be anything other than a friend, a colleague—her employer’syoungest son.
It was that friendship that drew his father’s notice. And because J.M. suspected, Jonathansuspected. Which again made Devin wonder—as Aldan’s stars flickered in the blackness outsidehis viewport—if that’s why the Triumph was sent. A final, irrevocable reminder that his life
would proceed according to the greater Guthrie plan.
“Dinner, Mr. Devin?”
He pushed himself out of the soft chair by the viewport and followed Nel’s beckoning hand tothe small dining table on the opposite side of the salon. He and Makaiden had played cards heremany times as he was shuttled between GGS offices in Aldan and Baris sectors. There wasn’t alot for a pilot to do in jumpspace, and Devin always made sure he had a deck or three tuckedinto his briefcase. She’d taught him to play Zentauri, and, even though he was a natural card-counter and could memorize five decks, she beat him now and then, her thought processescraftier and more creative than his.
Stop doing the expected. Surprise me! she’d challenged.
He’d wanted to. God and stars, how he’d wanted to. But—
Don’t think about that now.
The sliced roast smelled good. The cream linen tablecloth and napkin were smooth to the touch.Nel poured a ruby-red wine into an etched crystal glass, then waited for him to taste theroast, in case adjustments needed to be made. Cooked a little more or some spices added.
He knew the routine. He was a Guthrie. “It’s all lovely, Nel. Thanks.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Devin.”
He cut another piece of the fragrant roast. The last meal of a condemned man. Devin JonathanGuthrie, thirty-five years old and sentenced to marriage, without parole.
“Seven more days. That’s all I can give you, Captain Griggs.” The thin-faced man in thecheap, shiny brown three-piece suit grabbed the railing of the Void Rider’s rampway and stared
up at her with narrowed eyes. “You either pay what you owe or we’ll settle it the hard way.”
Kaidee Griggs leaned on that same railing and stared down at Horatio Frinks with equallynarrowed eyes, ignoring the tall, wide-shouldered Takan bodyguard hulking threateningly behind.
“What about the two thousand I gave you last week?”
“That leaves thirteen—”
“Which you will get, Frinks, when I get paid. You know that. We discussed that. It’s not myfault the Empire’s dumped more slagging restrictions on cross-border trade. I’m not the onlyfree-trader caught up in this.”
“But this ain’t no trader debt, and it’s over a year old now. I don’t like it. Orvis don’tlike it.”
The Taka nodded slowly. He wasn’t Orvis but, like Frinks, was hired muscle.
“And I don’t like it, but damn it, I can’t pay you if I can’t haul goods. You have anissue? Go to slagging Aldan Prime and talk to His High-Whatever Tage. I would have paid thatdebt off four months ago if it wasn’t for him.” Well, maybe not paid off, but she’d be a lot
less in debt if restrictions, fines, taxes, and penalties hadn’t been slathered on to free-trader operations by His High Asshole Darius Tage. For the betterment of the Empire. Of course.And at the command of Emperor Prewitt III. Of course.
It was always the emperor who commanded these things. Tage was just his obedient servant.
In a crigblarg’s eyes.
Sheldon Blaine’s claim to the throne was starting to sound more and more attractive—theterrorist tactics of his Farosian Justice Wardens notwithstanding. At least Blaine—who evenfrom prison still claimed to be the real heir to the royal Prewitt line—would want tradersgoing to and from Tos Faros and other points in Dafir sector.
Now it was damned near an impossible task to get across the B–C border into Calth. And eventraffic in the commercial space lanes in Baris was subject to “unannounced inspections.” Asif she had Philip Guthrie tucked in her cargo hold?
She knew Philip Guthrie—though she doubted many on Dock Five would believe her if she said so.And if she did have the man on her ship, she’d not waste his talents by stuffing him in acargo hold. He’d flown right seat with her and Kiler a few times. The man was impressive. Shecould almost forgive him for being a Guthrie.
Frinks made a disgusted noise and turned away. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
She shoved herself back from the railing and headed for the Rider’s airlock, fear warring with
frustration. Seven days. She couldn’t get to Calth and back in seven days even if the Empiredidn’t have a destroyer sitting out there with Dock Five in its sights, inspecting andimpeding traffic.
The best she could do in seven days was to get off Dock Five the minute the restrictions werelifted and never return. Let Orvis hunt her down. That could buy her a month, maybe three.
But it would also put her in a serious financial bind. One of the few intelligent things Kilerhad ever done was to prepay the Rider’s docking-bay fees on a two-year contract and sign the
ship on as part of the CalRis Free-Trader Collective. The CFTC, its contacts, and itscontracts—for all the annoying rules and restrictions—were the only things keeping her andher ship alive. Leaving Dock Five meant leaving all that behind and starting from scratchagain.
Just like they did when they left Guthrie Global.
Another thing to thank Kiler for.
That and a twenty-five-thousand-credit gambling debt—with the Rider as collateral.
She’d always worried that it would be her heritage, her family history, that would derail herlife. How damnably odd that the handsome, respectable—well, respectable back then—pilot shehad married turned out to be the source of all her troubles.
And that the very family history she was so afraid of was the main reason he was interested inher. So much for true love or forever after.