THE SPIRAL PATH
Available March 28, 2011
After defecting from the Star Union eleven years ago, spaceship Captain Lara Soto is now the leader of the free Chimerans. Her only regret is the intense young officer she left behind. But when Terra’s S.U.S. Interlace goes missing with her brother Rafael on board, she has to push aside the pain of her betrayal and team up with her old love once again.
Commodore Mitch Yoshida has never stopped thinking about the woman who deserted him. He’s also witnessed first-hand the Terran discrimination Lara foretold, from sequestering Chimerans on spaceships to enforcing indentured military service.
With Rafael and the Interlace crew held prisoner by a being out of legend, will Lara and Mitch be able to resist their long-denied attraction and complete a rescue mission? To secure the Chimerans’ release, they must risk traveling to a whole new dimension. . .
The very first scene of the story, from Lara Soto’s point of view:
The wormhole, what sailors called the Spiral Path, led to only one of the many dimensions in space-time. Unfortunately, Lara might not be crossing into any of them today.
“Gryphon, your launch slot has been denied,” said a voice from Cassini Command. “Captain Soto, please report to the embark bay antechamber for inspection.”
“Inspection? What’s stuck up those Star Union asses now?” Camryn Rossa, Lara’s first officer for the past eleven years, locked down her station and unsnapped her restraints.
Lara leaned back in her command chair and clicked her nails on the arm. Those damned royal pains. All her permits were in order, immaculate even. The Gryphon’s manifest had been logged days ago. Star Union officials could be sticklers—especially out here at Cassini Station—but no one had ever denied her launch before. No one would dare threaten a Creed aristocrat, even one with a reputation as tarnished as hers. Plus, pissing off the Creed prime minister by detaining her daughter could destroy diplomatic relations, which meant the Union might have finally given up on peace.
Except, like the rest of her crew, Lara wasn’t just Creed, she was also half-Terran. In other words, a Chimeran—born of both dimensions. And neither Terra nor Creed trusted the Chimerans. They were unnatural, after all.
Lara’s stomach clenched and a cold sweat shivered on her skin. Maybe the Union was finally trying to make good on their threat to enslave her and her Chimeran crew. Maybe her days of freedom were over.
“Captain, are we going?” Cam stood statue-still and patient, gods bless her, hands clasped behind her back. Despite walking out of the Union Academy with her over a decade before, the woman had learned her lessons well. No way could Lara let her longtime friend down now.
Lara stood and smoothed the creases out of her leather jacket. Outside the viewport, Saturn’s rings floated behind its moon Titan. She glanced at her young navigator. “Chandra, you have the conn. If we don’t return in fifteen minutes, blow through that launch bay and rendezvous with the Centaur on Alpha Haven.”
The ensign swallowed and nodded but took her command seat without hesitation. “Yes, ma’am.”
Lara clenched her jaw. This was the boy’s third mission. If anything happened to Chandra, his uncle would kill her.
“Expecting trouble?” Cam fell into step beside her. “We’re not even transporting anything illegal this time. What’s Union’s diss?”
“I have no idea, but activate your wrist-sync.” Lara kept her gaze trained ahead and pushed her panic away. If the Union wanted a fight, she’d give them one, but not at the risk of her crew. She’d ceased following their orders a long time ago. “We’re stopping at the weapons locker on our way.”
The opening of Chapter Six, from Rafe’s point of view:
Rafael sprawled in the command chair of the Interlace, head back, arms dangling down, fingertips brushing against the decking. His uniform jacket hung open. Calendra draped herself over his naked chest and the long cloudlike tendrils of her hair wrapped him in a cocoon of ecstasy and pain.
Around him the crew thrashed, locked in their own torture with the Revenant.
He heard Calendra’s thoughts like a whirlwind across his mind, shared her pain and pleasure along every nerve ending. The woman had endured agony for a thousand years. At least until she’d found him.
So sweet. So sweet. The flesh. Solid. Miss the sweet.
Calendra’s hopes and fears ran rampant in his head, constant any time she touched him. And she touched him often. Right now the woman splayed her hands through his once-dark hair and kissed the three tiny star tattoos along his neck. Ground against him. Rafe’s muscles tightened and he reciprocated.
The jumbled storm of her mind sucked him down to relive her memories—cold champagne splashing over her hand as she toasted the launch of the science vessel Revenant, her first sweeping view of the half-built ship in dry dock, clinging tight to her daughter on a merry-go-round.
“You had a daughter?” The words nearly choked on the grief in his throat.
Calendra paused in her ministrations and he sensed a sudden stillness in her embrace. Her mind’s tempest settled and she clung to him like an earthly ballast and safeguard from the wormhole’s pulverizing disintegration. Whatever human remnant was left of Calendra Kai after enduring such imprisonment needed him as an anchor.
“Two.” Calendra lifted surprisingly lucid gray eyes to him. “I had two daughters.”