Sneak Peek – Chance of a Lifetime
A Drift Series story released as part of the Loved In Space Anthology
Coming March 10th for a limited time!
Erik caught sight of a tall figure navigating the crowded club and smiled. She was back. His mystery woman didn’t make an appearance every night, but when she did, his life got a little extra kick.
The Nova was one of the hottest clubs on the Drift, attracting a bevy of lovely females from every species and echelon of society, but there was something about her that was different. For one thing, she was always alone, though he’d seen more than a few guys try to change that. She’d politely but firmly rejected each and every one of them. On two occasions, the guys hadn’t got the hint, and he’d cheerfully kicked their asses out of the club and away from his mystery woman. Which was probably a bit presumptive of him considering he didn’t even know her name. Work always got in the way.
What he did know could be summarized on the back of a cocktail napkin. She had legs that went for light-years, a mane of chestnut waves he wanted to wrap around his fists, and a lush mouth just made for kissing. She’d been the star of every fantasy he’d had since the first night she’d walked into the club, and he wasn’t letting her leave again until he knew her name.
He scanned the rest of the club, looking for trouble. It was a full house tonight, with most of the guests gathering near the fighting pit. The cage was still dark, but in less than an hour, the fights would start and the money and blood would start to flow. Most nights, it was more money than blood. The Nova only hired the best fighters, men and women who knew how to put on a good show without doing any serious damage.
He absently ran a finger along the side of his nose. The last time he’d been in the ring, his buddy, Dai, had broken it. That had been two months ago. He needed to get back in there soon and show them all he hadn’t gone soft.
He looked over to the gaming area again. She was still there, the bright red streaks in her dark hair making her easy to spot. So did her height. She was only slightly shorter than he was, just a few inches shy of six feet or so, and she was the walking definition of the word statuesque.
“Have you asked her out yet, or are you hoping to initiate this romance telepathically?” Cynder appeared beside him without warning.
“Fraxx, Cyn! When are you going to stop doing that to me?”
“When it stops being fun.” Cyn was a cyborg and her unique combination of genetic and technological enhancements had gifted her with a damned annoying level of stealth. She inclined her head toward his mystery woman. “And you didn’t answer my question.”
“She only shows up when I’m on duty. If I quit doing the rounds to chat her up, your brothers would kick my ass.”
Cyn snorted. “No, they wouldn’t. They chased Zura around this bar, on duty and off. Besides, it’s obvious she’s coming to see you.”
“What? How is it obvious?”
The cyborg rolled her eyes. “You said it yourself. She only comes around on the days you’re working. You think that’s a coincidence?”
He ran a hand over his hair, smoothing the blond locks back from his face as he considered her words. Well, hell. “Until now? Yeah.”
“It’s not. And you’re welcome.” She gave him a light shove. “Now, go make with the talky-talk. Or do you need me to help you with that, too?”
“I can chat up my own women, thank you, boss.”
“And yet here you are. I’m never going to win the betting pool if you don’t get your ass in gear.”
Oh fraxx no. He cracked his knuckles.“Who’s running a pool on my love life, and how soon can I get them in the cage for a little payback?”
“Our little blue momma is running the pool, which means you can forget about payback.”
“Zura? She’s got twins to look after, not to mention two husbands. How the hell does she have time to run a betting pool? For that matter, how does she know I’m interested in anyone?”
Cynder uttered a low, throaty chuckle. “We’re family, Erik. You can’t keep secrets from your family.”
“It’s not a secret. It’s not even a thing, yet,” he grumbled.
“And it won’t be, unless you go talk to her.”
He glanced toward the gaming area again. He’d been looking for her, but something else caught his attention.
“Trouble?” Cyn asked, shifting to a more aggressive stance.
“Kirk’s letting an intoxicated guest bet on starburst.” He checked the area, but none of the senior gaming staff were around. They were probably helping deal with the rush of bets being placed on tonight’s fights.
Cyn tapped her temple. “I’m letting Jaeger know there’s a problem on the floor. Can you handle things until he gets back?”
A path opened up for him as he strode through the crowded club. If his size and stormy expression didn’t inspire people to move, the word “Security” emblazoned on his dark blue uniform usually clued them in.
“I’m on my way,” Jaeger’s voice came over his earpiece.
He didn’t bother responding. He entered the relatively quiet gaming area, made his way over to Kirk, and tapped the man on the shoulder. “I need you to put the game on hold for a minute.”
Kirk shot him an irritated look. “Why?”
“Because there’s a problem.” A handful of gamblers and onlookers watched the byplay with interest. His mystery woman was one of them, and judging by the chips in her hand, she’d been about to make a wager.
“There’s no problem.” Kirk turned his back on Erik and nodded to the intoxicated player. “You’re up.”
Erik squelched the urge to pick the brash young dealer up by the scruff of his uniform and shake him. Instead, he shouldered Kirk out of the way and slapped a hand down on the table’s controls, freezing play. “Sorry, sir. Technical difficulties.”
Now he was close enough, he could see the player’s pupils were dilated and his skin had a distinctly yellow cast. That coloring was a side-effect of the most popular recreational pharma currently making the rounds. The man shouldn’t have been allowed near a gaming table, and Kirk had to know it. House rules banned anyone whose judgment was chemically compromised from placing bets.
“But I was winning!” the player protested.
“You’re welcome to come back tomorrow and try your luck then. But this game is over.”
“Asshole,” the player muttered.
Kirk set a hand down on the stack of chips near his station. “Why are you shutting us down?”
Because you’re violating the rules and letting an intoxicated patron play because he’s a heavy tipper. Jaeger was going to tear a strip off the kid as wide as the Milky Way when he found out. Erik ignored Kirk and offered the angry player an apologetic shrug. “Sorry. My orders are to shut down the table.”
The gambler grunted. “Then I’ll move to the other one. C’mon, dealer man.”
Erik bit back a sigh and tried to smile pleasantly for the sake of his audience, including his lovely mystery woman. He was trying to make a good impression, damn it. Why couldn’t the universe give him a break? He glanced up to find her watching him —her soft lips pursed in a tiny smile, and her pale brown eyes gleamed in silent amusement.
He tried another approach. “Maybe you should take a break, sir. Have something to eat. The fights will be starting soon. You don’t want to miss those.”
“Fight’s starting right fraxxing now if you don’t let me finish my game!”
The player came around the gaming table, his fists raised and lips curled back in a manic snarl. Erik dropped into a fighting crouch, his mind racing. He needed to subdue this guy fast, with minimal noise and risk to the bystanders. He was still considering options when the other man bellowed in surprise and pitched forward, his ungainly charge turning into an even uglier faceplant. He hit the floor hard enough to rattle the chips on the table. That was going to leave a mark, and possibly a dent in the floor.
Erik dropped to a crouch beside the fallen man. As he did so he spotted the reason for the asshole’s swan dive. Someone had tripped him. Erik swept his gaze up a shapely leg and found himself looking up at his mystery woman. Now he really needed to talk to her, and then buy her a drink. Her quick actions had ended what could have been a nasty confrontation.
She flashed him a quick smile and then retreated into the fast gathering crowd of onlookers.
He was tempted to leave the fool on the floor and go after her. Where the hell was everyone, anyway?
“I leave for ten minutes, and this place falls apart. Well, it’s nice to know I’ve got job security,” Jaeger drawled from somewhere behind him.
“Please, you’re married to one of the owners. You’re as secure as it gets.” Erik stood, turned to face Jaeger. He was standing beside his batch brother, Toro, and the two of them took up a significant amount of real estate. Dropping his voice to a near whisper, he summarized the situation for the brothers, knowing the cyborgs would be able to hear him over the thump of the music and the buzz of the crowd.
Jaeger listened, then nodded in understanding. “Thanks for dealing with this.”
“No problem. I should get back to work, though.” And his first job was to track down the woman, introduce himself, and say thank you.
“We got this.” Jaeger looked pointedly at Kirk. “I thought I told you to stick to the blackjack tables.”
“No one was interested in blackjack,” Kirk said.
“So you decided to fire up the starburst table while I wasn’t around.” Jaeger raised a dark brow. “Come with me, Kirk. We need to have a little talk.”
Erik knew what that meant. Everyone got one chance to screw up at the Nova. Kirk had just had his. If he messed up again, he was done.
He left the gaming area as Toro lifted the still groggy gambler to his feet. Somewhere in the crowd was a tall, leggy brunette he needed to find.
Erik scanned the club and spotted her near the bar that spanned most of one wall. Good. He hadn’t missed her. He smoothed back his hair, straightened his stance, and headed straight for her. Somewhere on the far side of the club, Cynder cheered loud enough to be heard over the hubbub. “Go get her, tiger!”
“She’s family. You can’t kill family,” he reminded himself. No matter how tempting it would be to try.
Want to read more? Check out the Loved In Space Anthology for only 99 cents. But it won’t be here for long!