It’s finally here! Our new book, The Slipstream Con, releases today, and we’re excited to be able to share an excerpt with you.
You can read the full first chapter, or purchase the book, by clicking on the cover below.
Is love the biggest con of them all?
A Ylendrian Empire story.
For three years, Kellen Frey has led bounty hunters Tal and Vanya on a merry chase, evading capture with flair and style. Now, just when they finally have their pet project—and object of their mutual fantasies—cornered, the elusive con artist turns the tables and gives himself up. A sudden attack of conscience, perhaps? Tal and Vanya know better.
Their suspicions are confirmed when a crime lord comes dangerously close to killing them all, and the rapidly sickening thief is forced to confess the truth—he’s been accidentally dosed with a highly illegal form of nanotechnology.
If Kellen can’t get his hands on another dose, he’s finished. The problem is, the only thief who’s ever broken in to Slipstream Labs is his ex-girlfriend, and she’s allergic to bounty hunters. As he does his best to play both sides, he struggles with his growing desire to be more than a prisoner to Tal and Vanya. Without trust, they won’t survive long. The clock is ticking as they race to uncover a conspiracy that spans the Ylendrian Empire.
This book contains an anti-hero with no qualms about redecorating your spaceship, a heroine capable of killing you with her hair stick, and another hero who would like nothing more than to shag them both without the inconvenience of a conscience.
The smoky rat’s nest of a club passed for high dollar on Station 43, and they priced their watered-down drinks accordingly. Tal had nursed his for over an hour by the time Vanya slipped into the seat across from him. Her dark hair was pulled up in a complicated twist that left half her curls free to cast shadows across her face, and the light from the candle between them wavered with her barely quickened breath.
“Station authorities undocked his ship a few minutes ago, and they’re dragging it to an impound net right now. We’ll be able to search it as soon as they’ve received our warrant transmissions. There isn’t a ship scheduled for departure for the next full cycle, and they’re already recalibrating their law-enforcement scans to search for his face.” Smiling impishly, she leaned across the table and snatched the last of his drink, tossing it back with aplomb. Neither of them said it, because until they closed the binders around his wrists it wasn’t real, but they both knew they were bringing in the bounty on Kellen Frey after three years of running him down.
Before the empty glass even reached the table, a scantily clad waitress replaced it with another. Tal found himself staring, the woman’s ample attributes brushing his cheek. Vanya laughed softly, and he jerked his eyes back up. “What?”
She waited until the waitress had left them alone again before answering, and he knew damn good and well that she was enjoying watching him squirm. “I think she likes you, Tal. Should I just go look for Frey by myself, while you get to know our hostess?”
He grunted something vaguely outraged at her, leaving his drink after the first burn of it warmed his throat. Vanya’s blue eyes sparkled, and he cupped her cheek, running his thumb over her skin. Tal dropped a credit chit on the table and stood, offering her his hand. She rose gracefully to her feet and led him across the dance floor, her steps light as the two of them slipped out the door.
In the cooler common hallways of the station, they both took a moment to check their weapons and their notebooks. Tal had three alerts in the last minute indicating that a partial facial match had been made on someone heading for the docking bays. In true form, they were all coming from different corridors on different levels. Unless Frey had learned to clone himself at will, he was on to them and already hacking their feed.
“Split up or track him together?”
Vanya watched the screen for a moment before answering. “Together. And I don’t think any of these are really him. The partials are all blips. He’s just throwing them up across the grid for a second or two at a time, long enough to alert, but there’s no tracking after that.”
“I wonder…” Tal didn’t finish the thought, fingers sliding over his notebook as he diverted more of the station’s resources to his own use. “He’s cloning someone, all right, but not himself.” Holding out the pad for her to see, he shook his head in amusement. According to the station-wide trackers, Tal was currently standing in the hallway with his wife and heading towards the docking bay of their ship.
“Damn.” She sighed, twining her loose curls between her fingers distractedly. “Want to hazard a guess as to why he’s on his way to our ship?”
“Sabotage,” Tal said without hesitation. He hoped he was wrong, that Frey wouldn’t be that stupid, but Vanya merely nodded and ducked into the nearest lift. He kept watching on his notebook as flickers of misinformation sprang up all over the station. When the door to the lift slid open, he tucked the pad away, and they spilled out with their weapons drawn, sprinting down the deserted corridor in the direction of the more populated docking areas.
“And there we are,” Vanya whispered triumphantly as the familiar figure disappeared around the corner. There was only one way up or down the corridor, but they hugged the walls for the limited cover provided by the bulkheads. Frey wasn’t a violent man, but he also wasn’t used to being cornered, and they had blast guns for a reason.
Tal wasn’t expecting to find Frey leaning against the sealed docking pod, his hands clearly visible in front of him as he smiled faintly.
“Vanya, Tal, it’s been too long.” He gave them a careful slow nod. “Your hair looks stunning like that, Vanya.”
Tal watched the slow smile spread across his wife’s face out of the corner of his eye, most of his attention still on their mark as he stood there waiting to be restrained.
“You’re too sweet, Kellen. And just turning yourself in to us this way? How did you know it was Tal’s birthday next week?”
“Well, I thought to myself, what do you get for the bounty hunter who has everything? Sorry about the wrapping job,” he said with a wave of his hand to the black bodysuit he was wearing.
Tal snorted as he caught Frey’s other hand, slapping the binding cuff on it and waiting while the tight plastic was suctioned down to an immobile glove over Kellen’s all-too-nimble fingers.
“Nice bow too.” Tal ruffled the unnaturally bright blond hair before he pulled Frey’s other hand behind his back and settled it into the binders. “I think I’ll wait a while to unwrap it, though. In fact, I’m thinking I’ll put it somewhere safe, first.”
Vanya holstered her blast gun and started patting Frey down, grinning the whole time. “My, my, you are well-appointed.” She took a slender, tightly rolled tool kit from a pocket near his hip.
The flash of dismay was almost too quick to see, covered immediately by a cocky shrug. “I’ve never had any complaints.”
“I’m sure you haven’t.” Tal nodded towards the tool kit. “Let’s just see how well-appointed, shall we?”
Van dropped it into his hand with a slight frown, and this time there was no missing the unhappy crease between Kellen’s eyes.
It all looked ordinary enough, the tools obviously used but well-kept. Tal rolled them over again with one finger, waiting for some telltale sign from Kellen. When there was no reaction, he sighed. “Okay, so what’s with these? I know there’s something.”
Kellen glanced from the tool kit to Tal. “It was a gift,” he said, voice tight and defensive. “I’d like it back, please.”
Tal sensed rather than saw Van’s eyebrows rise, but he kept his eyes on the other man’s face. “From your dear, departed mother?”
That was probably a little below the belt, judging from the way Kellen bit down on his lip. “I asked nicely. What more do you want? It’s not like I can use them right now.”
“I’ll make sure you get them back at some point.” Tal dropped them into the pocket of his own pants. “Anything else?”
“Let’s have a look, shall we?” She pulled a slender pick from Frey’s collar and a few single shock-packs from his pockets, but on the whole it didn’t seem as though he’d been out with any particular mischief in mind. Vanya handed Tal Frey’s notebook, but a quick glance showed it to be a tangle of encryptions that Tal would try to defeat later. For the time being he simply shut it off, relishing the sudden death of the alerts beeping on his own device.
“Let’s get him into the cell so we can process the claim.” Tal keyed in the entry code for their docking pod, then bent down for the retinal scan.
“Finally,” muttered Kellen, and Tal narrowed his eyes. There was always a game with Frey, always a con to be unraveled, and he was smart enough to realize that finding the biggest rundown of their career sitting on their doorstep probably wasn’t the gift from the gods that it seemed.
Their holding cells were converted crew cabins, and they only had two of them. Vanya, ever the gracious hostess, gave Kellen a choice of which one he wanted. A gentle shove through the door sent him stumbling into the small space.
“My own cabin? You two really know how to treat a guy.”
“Only the best for you, sweetheart,” Tal drawled. “Being that there is a person of a different gender present, Imperial law requires that I offer you the choice of one of us leaving while you strip. Do you have a preference?”
Frey smiled, a flash of perfect white teeth that matched the twinkle in his eyes. “My preference has always been for whomever is willing. Which of you lovely people is going to come in here and help me?” He turned to the side, wiggling a little to show off his cuffed hands. “I won’t bite, I swear.”
“Oh, why don’t you do it, honey? I know how good you are at getting people out of their clothes.” Vanya patted Tal’s cheek, then tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’ll go get us scheduled to undock.”
Tal turned back to find as innocent a look as he had ever seen lighting Frey’s face, and rolled his eyes. “No sudden moves, or I’ll leave you in the cuffs until we hit atmo in Rogena next week.”
“I’d put my hands where you can see them, but I’m a bit hampered by your little bondage fetish at the moment. I guess my word will have to be enough.”
Tal entered the lock code, stepping through the door of the cell and letting the clear panel slide closed. He waited for the locks to seal, then motioned to Frey, who turned around obediently and waited while his hands were freed. Tal’s jaw tightened as Kellen cracked his knuckles, but all it took was a raised eyebrow and Frey was unzipping his bodysuit, revealing the whole lot of nothing that he was wearing underneath it.
“Did you want the full floor show?” Fingers toying with the zipper, Frey paused as it parted just below his waist.
While he wasn’t averse to seeing what the full show might entail, Tal was fairly certain that it wouldn’t be the best idea. “Just strip.”
“Your loss.” Frey stepped out of the suit without fanfare, though he did seem to be fighting a smile and losing.
“I’ll try to live with my disappointment,” Tal said dryly, catching the body suit when Frey tossed it at him.