So today is author’s choice and I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at the next book in the Federation Chronicles – MESMERIZED. This book features Andrei, Daniel Haws’ right hand man in Phantom Corps and Piper, the one person Andrei would never be able to forget.
When You Least Expect It…
They call him the Shadow. Andrei Solace delivers death on silent feet as an assassin for the Phantom Corps. The perfect weapon in the fight against the Imperium, he’s sent to the same ‘Verse he left behind as a youth.
Piper Roundtree is a mercenary prepared for anything—except for being rescued from Imperial lackeys by the man she hasn’t laid eyes on in eleven years. While she remembers every mesmerizing sensation he gave her, she thought they were through. And against the backdrop of an impending war, their passion is reignited.
The girl Andrei once loved is now a fierce woman who can pilot a ship through canyons at high speeds, and drive him wild with equal abandon. As much as Andrei tries to protect her from the darkness inside him, Piper admires his skills and the code he lives by. Now the lovers must join forces—in more ways than one—to save the Known Universe before the enemy hurls it into irreversible chaos…
PHANTOM CORPS: MESMERIZED by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2011, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, Berkley Publishing Group
Releasing April 2011!
Asphodel Portal City Lockup
“Sir, you can’t go in there!” Andrei Solace didn’t bother looking up. Not that he’d have been able to see much with one eye swollen shut from the butt of the rifle he’d taken to the face. The pain had subsided to a dull, all-consuming ache, but the anger burned, low and steady, in his gut. Enough to get through another day.
The outsider spoke again, his tone nearly amused, partly chiding. “I’m afraid you’re incorrect about that.”
Andrei did risk a glance, curious about who spoke to a jailer that way.
He expected another social worker. Gods knew he’d seen enough of them over his lifetime. Instead, what he got was the biggest man he’d ever seen. It was enough to have Andrei ignoring the pain from his injuries to swing his legs from the narrow cot to stand and edge closer.
“Look, sir, I’m sure you think you’re entitled to all sorts of things with your shiny shoes and soft hands. But this is my lockup, and I’m telling you there’s no entry to the cells without the proper paperwork.”
The big man looked down his nose, not a difficulty. Andrei committed the expression to memory as the man looked as if he’d smelled something awful. So much was communicated without a single word. Smart.
The jailer flinched, just a tiny bit, when the big man reached into his pocket and pulled a sheaf of papers from it. “Will these do?” He opened a portfolio to show the jailer.
The jailer read, his lips moving, until he paled and stumbled back. “I had no idea, sir. I . . .”
“Now that we’ve taken care of the formalities, I’d like to see the prisoner.”
With a new target for his anger, the jailer sent Andrei a glare over his shoulder as he led the big man through the hall, unlocking as he went. Andrei didn’t want to appear weak, but he really had to sit down again, so he made his best attempt at nonchalance and strolled back to his cot to sit.
Wilhelm Ellis, newly minted Comandante of the Federation Military Corps, came to a halt just outside the boy’s cell. Andrei was a mess of bruises and bandaged wounds, one eye swollen shut. His eye, the good one, held a quiet, burning anger.
Barely eighteen standard years, and he was hard. Harder than most adults, even those Ellis dealt with in the corps. Hard wasn’t a bad thing. Especially out here. It could be a very good thing indeed, especially in a soldier.
Sighing with annoyance and no small amount of disgusted anger, he rounded on the jailer, pinning him with a glare. “Has he been seen by medics? I was under the impression he’d been here for two weeks.”
“Two weeks and four days. Not that I’m counting.” The jailer sent a sneer toward the boy that had Wilhelm clenching his fists momentarily.
Instead, he kept his voice very, very calm. “Care to explain the state of his face?”
Finally, the jailer understood. He stumbled back, his gaze on the ground. “He has anger problems. Always attacking. Seven hells, sir, he was brought in here after nearly killing a man. He’s been picked up on assault and theft charges multiple times in the last years.”
“Did. You. Give. This. Boy. Those. Bruises?” Wil wanted to punch this petty little bully for the damage he’d done. Instead, he bullied with his size and position. He rarely did, but sometimes it was necessary to scare the spit out of a man before he got the picture fully.
“With all due respect, sir, the boy attacked one of my men. He’s the reason why we have to chain him like a horse in a pasture. The boy is garbage. A dirt rat just like his mother was. If he’d had a father around to instill some discipline, he wouldn’t be here. I don’t think you can come in here and second-guess when you’re not up to sp . . .” The jailer’s words died away when the boy jumped toward the bars, held back by the shackle on his ankle.
“Fuck you. You don’t talk about her,” he snarled, yanking on the chain so hard Wil wondered if he’d break his ankle. This was some will. A good sign if it could be channeled correctly.
“Unlock the cell and the chains and get out of my sight before I show you some discipline myself.” Wil kept his eyes on the boy as he spoke to the jailer.
“He’s dangerous. Didn’t you hear what I just said? He attacked an armed man. Why don’t we get you a chair and you can interview him on the other side of the bars? Safer that way.”
Wilhelm touched the personal comm on his wrist. “Operative Haws, inside with me, if you will.” He didn’t look at the jailer as he spoke. “I’m quite capable of handling myself. Do as you were ordered, or you can join him in the cell next to this one.”
The jailer appeared to begin to mumble, but Wilhelm sent him a look so severe, he clamped his lips together, unlocked the cell and shackles and got out.
“Get out of my sight.” Wil walked past and into the cell, towering over the boy who shook with his desire to lash out. At Wilhelm, at the jailer, at anyone. Wil knew that expression, having seen it in the mirror enough as he grew up.
He sat on the rickety chair they’d provided, stretching his legs before him, purposely taking up as much space as possible. Daniel would have his back. And most likely he’d learn something from a boy he’d been not too long before that. It’d be good for Daniel to see how far he’d come. How much discipline had straightened his life out.
This one. He shook his head as he took in the wild-eyed Andrei Solace. “Why are you so angry, Mister Solace?” Slowly, taking the boy’s measure, he pulled a pouch from his pocket and rolled a smoke.
The boy tried to hide behind an uncaring facade. Keeping his mouth closed, choosing a shrug.
Wil inhaled the rich heat and exhaled, enjoying that moment very much. “This place is a dump, Andrei Solace. This ‘Verse, this cell, your life, all a fucking dump.”
He enjoyed the flare of anger in Andrei’s eyes, the tension of his muscles as he trembled with the effort not to punch Wilhem right in the nose.
Wilhelm nodded, satisfied when the fists unclenched and the spine relaxed slightly. “Good. See? You can control yourself. When you want to. I’d wager you were simply never taught any discipline.”
With a dismissive wave, he went back to the smoke, wondering how long it would take to get Solace to speak. The boy now had about a 30 percent chance of making it back to Ravena with him.
Each interview he’d done over the last four years as he’d built his special teams had been different. Some he knew before he even saw the person if they’d be a yes. Other times, he’d been convinced one way or another and had his mind drastically change at the last minute.
Andrei Solace was, at first glance, another in a long line of kids from rough backgrounds who fell into violence and criminal activity from a young age. Not unusual at all. This one, though, had scored off the charts on his testing.
The way he’d reacted when his family had been insulted indicated a sense of loyalty. Loyalty when given by a boy like this one would create a bond for life.
“Your silence is interesting. I’m going to take it as you wanting to hear more about why I’m here, shall I?” He narrowed his eyes at Solace, who stared back stonily without, speaking or moving.
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