“Damn it, I don’t know why I play this fraxxing game with you bunch of cheats!” Layla Corbin dropped her cards on the dented metal table in disgust. She went to drown her sorrows with more of Jax’s hooch, only to discover her mug was empty. “Great, I’m out of scrip and booze. This really hasn’t been my night.”
“You play with us because it’s the only game in the sector and the only entertainment we have unless you want to spend another night watching vids.” G’arn grinned at her from across the table that took up most of their cramped dining area and pushed a small stack of chips her way. “Jax, refill her drink before she gets really grumpy and tries to stab someone.”
“No stabbing, Corbin.” Mace snapped from the far end of the table. Mace was their crew chief and captain of the mining vessel they all called home. He narrowed his gaze at Layla until his sky-blue eyes were almost hidden behind his lids. “I’m not filling out another vething incident report because you yahoos can’t play nice. Next one who requires a write-up is going to be sucking vacuum, because I will cheerfully throw any one of you out an airlock before I do anymore paperwork. We clear?”
“Damn, someone get the chief more to drink too, he’s even crankier than Layla!” Tero’s booming laughter nearly deafened Layla. He was grinning so broadly his elongated canines were showing. Layla found herself laughing along with him. It was said there was nothing more contagious than a Torski’s laughter.
Then again, Tero was only half-Torski, a thought that often made her wonder just how brave a woman his mother must have been. Even with his human blood, Tero was over six and a half feet tall and claimed to be over three hundred pounds. The Torski were heavy-gravity worlders, powerfully muscled and built like a brick wall. By all reports, they were big all over. Not that she’d ever get a chance to find out…
The chief had made it very clear when she’d signed on to his crew that while he had no problem having a woman onboard, he’d dump her ass at the first resupply station they came across if she started any trouble between the men.
“No bed-hopping,” Mace had crossed his thick arms across his massive chest and scowled at her from across the desk, his entire focus on her in a way that made her feel about three inches tall.
“If you want to sleep with one of my guys, go for it, but that’s it, just one. You make your choice and then you to stick by your choice for the rest of the tour. I don’t need my guys tearing themselves apart over a woman again.” Mace had never said another word about it, but Layla remembered the rules and lived by them. She just wished she had known she’d never be able to choose between them.
They were a five-man crew, and her four crewmates were all of the panty-meltingly hot variety. Six months later, she still couldn’t choose, which had resulted in the longest sexual dry spell of her adult life.
Asteroid mining paid well, sure. It had to. Otherwise, no one would risk their neck out here. It was dangerous, tedious work, and being stuck in the ass end of the known galaxy on a one-year contract meant she’d discovered new levels of boredom. By the time they got back to civilization, or at least what passed for it this far out, she was going to be horny enough to jump a Jeskyran, body thorns and all.
“Drink up,” Jax told her as he nudged her now-refilled mug toward her hand. “This is a new batch. I think you’ll find it more to your liking. I sweetened the mix a fraction and added something special.” The big blond engineer winked at her.
He was all about the details, and as she cautiously sipped his newest creation, she caught herself wondering if he was as detail oriented in bed as he was everywhere else. Lust ignited a fire in her blood, and for the thousandth time since coming on board the Kessel Queen she found herself wondering what it would be like if she didn’t have to choose between them. In my dreams, maybe. But sadly it’ll only be in my dreams…
“This is good stuff. Your best batch yet.” She smacked her lips and smiled at Jax, who beamed at the praise. She tipped her head back and drained the mug. “Hit me again.”
“You keep drinking like that, and G’arn is going to have to treat you for liver failure tomorrow morning,” Mace grumbled and tipped his head toward the Pheran, who acted as the crew’s medic.
G’arn chuckled, the variegated blue tints to his skin shifting slightly as he laughed. To Terran eyes, the Pheran race all looked a little like the long-extinct tigers of Earth. Rounded eyes and a broadened nose gave them something of a catlike face, while their talon-tipped hands and tufted, pointed ears added to the similarities. Of course, tigers weren’t blue, but the resemblance was uncanny.
“She’s tougher than the rest of us put together, chief. I still think she’s got Pheran blood in her somewhere. Besides, we’re all scheduled for three days of downtime now we’ve got the ship prepped for the storm headed our way. Plenty of time for all of us to recover, even the soft Terrans.”
“Who you callin’ soft, ya big blue kitty-cat?” Jax teased. Knowing exactly what would happen next, Layla dove out of the way. Just in time to avoid being in the line of fire. G’arn launched himself across the table at Jax, snarling curses as he hit the bigger man square in the chest.
The impact knocked both men backward and added another set of dents to the already battered walls. Claws squealed as they connected with the metal bulkhead and the sound tore across nerves already raw from boredom and cabin fever.
She made a run for the galley and managed to dodge Tero’s massive fist as he took a swing at someone, but the hooch had muddled her reflexes. She didn’t quite make the corner. Instead, she ended up careening into the food dispenser. Her stomach heaved and the floor dropped out from under her.
Veth, Mace must have turned off the gravity in this part of the ship. She should have expected that. It was damned near impossible to fight in zero-g and tended to put a stop to their occasional brawls. Layla found herself spinning, which was never a good thing in zero gravity, and an even worse situation when there were three other men and a minefield of crap in her flight path.
She threw out her arms and legs, trying to stabilize herself, and managed to slow down to a before everything went sideways. Or more accurately, everything went downward, as Mace reactivated the grav plates without a word of warning. Layla felt herself falling.
Landing was going to be a bitch.
Releasing February 26th, 2919
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