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GAMES OF COMMAND

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GAMES OF COMMAND
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GAMES OF COMMAND -- Feb 2007

RITA Award Finalist!
2007 PEARL Award Winner!

Can she trust a man who is half-machine?

The universe isn’t what it used to be. With the new alliance between the Triad and the United Coalition, Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian finds herself serving under her former nemesis, bio-cybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten—and doing her best to hide a deadly past. But when an injured mercenary falls into their ship’s hands, her efforts may be wasted …

Wanted rebel Jace Serafino has information that could expose all of Sass’ secrets, tear the fragile Alliance apart—and end Sass’s career if Kel-Paten discovers them. But the bio-cybe has something to hide as well, something once thought impossible for his kind to possess: feelings...for Sass. Soon it’s clear that their prisoner could bring down everything they once believed was worth dying for—and everything they now have to live for…

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2007 PEARL Award Winner!
2007 AAR 12th Annual Reader Award Winner!
Helium.com Top Ten Supernatural Romance Novel
All About Romance Desert Isle Keeper Award
All About Romance Top Ten SF/Fantasy & Futuristic Romances

4-1/2 Stars! (Romantic Times' highest rating)

"When it comes to high-flying adventure, political intrigue and dark romance Sinclair has it aced! This surprising tale is filled with shifting loyalties, deception and jaw-dropping flying maneuvers. The characters in this complex novel are all faced with the realization that what they have always believed may not be the truth and that powerful emotions can be stronger than any mechanical implants." - Jill M. Smith, Romantic Times BOOKreview magazine

Desert Isle Keeper! “[A]n incredibly exciting, thrilling read...heart-pounding action and heart-throbbing romance. Games of Command is a flat-out terrific story.” – All About Romance

"Fascinating, Fabulous, Fast-Paced, with one of the best heroes ever! I've been waiting for Games of Command and what an incredible story! Wow!" - Robin D. Owens, RITA(c) Award Winning Author of HeartMate

"Excellent, strong, feline companions. Four paws up!" - Zanth, hero of HeartMate by Robin D. Owens“

Linnea Sinclair just gets better and better! Games of Command, her latest science fiction romance, features not one but two sexy, dangerous heroes, along with two strong, capable women and two fabulous furry furzels. Sinclair whips her characters through a story that is as exciting and action packed as it is passionate. Games of Command is not to be missed.” - Mary Jo Putney, author of The Marriage Spell and Stolen Magic

"Heart-pounding action, compelling characters and taut suspense make Games of Command a must read!" - Patti O'Shea, author of Through A Crimson Veil

"One of my all-time favorite authors, Linnea Sinclair is a master at blending science fiction and romance. Miss one of her books? No way! When it comes to writing science fiction romance, nobody does it better! I am a jet pilot with 25 years experience; very few authors get it right when it comes to writing flying scenes. But when Linnea Sinclair puts you in the cockpit, you are guaranteed an out-of-this-world, five-senses flying experience with all the thrills and chills of the real thing. In GAMES OF COMMAND, Linnea hits it out of the park—hell, out of the galaxy!--pairing my favorite kind of hero with my favorite kind of heroine in a rip-roaring adventure with enough twists and turns to leave even the most jaded reader guessing until the very end. And did I mention the white-hot romance? The cool science? The cute fidgets and furzels? This book has it all!" - Susan Grant, author of The Legend of Banzai Maguire and Your Planet or Mine?

“Linnea Sinclair beautifully blends SF and love stories to make some of the most exciting and satisfying romance novels being written today.” - Jo Beverley, NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

"Games of Command is a wonderful book. Linnea Sinclair has written a unique and utterly intriguing hero in Kel-Paten. Sexy, complex and devoted, he's a man to fall in love with." - Nalini Singh, author of Visions Of Heat

"An emotionally compelling, action packed, riveting read!" - Sarah McCarty. author of the Hell's Eight series

"Get ready for some non-stop action in this ride across the galaxy and even into the infamous McCellan's Void in this no-holds-barred adventure of a lifetime!

"...Oh my, this book was so very hard to put down. Words cannot describe how enjoyable this book was to me. My eyes whipped over the pages with the speed of light. All I can do is bow at the feet of Linnea Sinclair and beg for more books of this caliber! I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy good reads that take them to the outer reaches of space and back!" - Kathy Boswell for The Best Reviews


excerpt

Games of Command

Chapter Three
Corridor, Sick Bay Deck

Sass lengthened her stride in an attempt to keep up with Kel-Paten, who barked orders into his commlink on their way back to the bridge.

“I want every bit of debris you can find. Do you understand me, Lieutenant?”

They turned the corner. Two black-clad maintenance crew dove out of their way.

No need for my morning jog with Eden, Sass thought as she trotted alongside, listening to the salvage crew lieutenant try to reason with Ol’ No-Excuses Kel-Paten.

“I don’t care what the current equipment limitations are. If you have to, Lieutenant, you get out there with every Gods-damned sieve from the Gods-damned galley and bring me everything that may have been even remotely connected to the Novalis!”

She understood his insistence, even if she didn’t much like his method. Illithian border breeches had become more plentiful of late, casting serious doubts on the efficacy of the Fleet—something Kel-Paten took personally. Serafino’s mission could have provided answers to that problem. But Serafino had turned the tables or turned tail, she wasn’t sure which. Whatever answers Kel-Paten couldn’t wrench out of “the damned pirate” might be found on his ship—what was left of it. Sadly, a sieve might be the only useful tool.

They reached the lifts, breathing hard. Sass considered taking her pulse and jogging in place. She certainly was in appropriate attire but doubted that Kel-Paten, standing with his hands shoved in his pants pockets and scowling fiercely at the closed lift doors, would find her actions the least bit funny.

That she found them downright hysterical only told her how bloody tired she was.

And relieved. Sebastian, Serafino called her. Not Sass and, thank the Deities, not Lady Sass. So he didn’t recognize her. At least, not in his semi-conscious state. There was always the chance he might when his injuries healed. She hastily threw together a few facts—and a handful of rather pretty lies—that would work as a cover story for the dealings she had with him when she was part of Gund’jalar’s mercenary cell and working arms runners like Serafino had been her job for the UCID. If she was lucky—and she prayed she wasn’t over quota on luck this week—she wouldn’t deal with him again. She’d gladly relegate that duty to Kel-Paten and knew the admiral would have it no other way—not after the embarrassment Serafino and the Mystic Traveler—his ship back then—had caused Kel-Paten years ago out by Fendantun on the Vaxxar’s shakedown cruise. The sneak attack not only took out the Vax’s aft shields but launched a jammer drone up a missile tube, rendering all onboard communications systems useless. More annoying than dangerous, had there not been three top fleet admirals on board. Ever since then, Serafino was his personal nemesis. His attitude in the staff meeting made that abundantly clear.

Still, she didn’t want to stir up old memories. She had no desire to spend the next few weeks in the Vaxxar’s brig if someone like Kel-Paten started poking holes in her past and realized that Sass wasn’t the simple derivative of Tasha that people often assumed it to be. It was the only name she had for the first twenty years of her life and—for a period of time after that—it had acquired a small bit of notoriety.

Notoriety that could put her career—and her life—in serious jeopardy if the Triad found out that the new captain of the Vax started hijacking Triad supply ships when she was sixteen. That was one of the many things Gund’jalar taught her.

The deck numbers on the lift panel before her crawled by. She propped herself up against the wall next to the doors. The metallic sheeting was pleasantly cool against her bare midriff. She closed her eyes, longing for five seconds of peace and quiet. Well, as much peace and quiet as one could expect after what the Vaxxar had just gone through. But after all her years in space, the continuous chatter over shipboard comms requesting Lieutenant So-and-So to report to Such-and-Such or advising Team Whatever that the Who-Gives-A-Lubashit Drill was about to commence, no longer registered in her mind.

Kel-Paten’s deep voice did.

“Hypothesis, Sebastian, since I gather you do not find the sudden appearance of the Novalis disturbing.”

Sass opened one eye and peered up at him. His gloved hands were crossed over his chest. Classic defensive posture. My, we’re a bit testy this morning, aren’t we? And Gods, it was morning—about 0230 or later if the aches in her body were correct.

She closed her eye. “I find,” she said, after a deep breath and the requisite counting to ten which was supposed to help but never really did, “the sudden appearance of the Novalis and Captain Serafino to be just one more damned thing to deal with.”

“Sebastian—”

Pause.

There was always the pause after her name. The glare. It was a small ritual she’d most times found humorous, almost endearing. But right now it only fed her annoyance.

Reluctantly, she shoved herself away from the wall. “With all due respect, Admiral, the appearance of Serafino at our doorstep certainly saves us the time and expense of going to look for him. Do I find that a bit odd?” She rephrased his question. “Yes. But disturbing?” She shook her head. “Not yet, without further information.”

“You don’t find it disturbing that within twenty-four hours of when we were commissioned to find Serafino—he suddenly shows up, along with an inexplicable vortex?”

No, I don’t have your paranoia, she thought. A second later, she chastised herself. Just because their leadership styles were different—vastly different—and she was at the moment tired and cranky, didn’t mean she had to be so critical. She understood the pressure he faced to recover Serafino. It wasn’t so much the two hundred and fifty thousand credits that Serafino had allegedly absconded with. It was the fact that those two hundred and fifty thousand credits were part of the Alliance’s payment to him for undercover services that apparently were never rendered. The Triad Ministry of Intelligence was having furzel-fits over it. No doubt they’d want Serafino delivered for interrogation and prosecution, most likely to Fendantun or Panperra. That meant, again, going in the opposite direction of the Degun’s Luck mystery on Lightridge.

Eden wouldn’t be happy. But Sass suspected an unhappy Doc Eden was easier for Kel-Paten to deal with than an unhappy Ministry of Intelligence.

The lift signal pinged.

Kel-Paten allowed her to enter the empty lift first. He gave the voice command for the bridge as the doors closed then glanced down at her, probably wondering if she was going to answer his question.

She sighed. “I will not jump to conclusions before I have all the facts. If you’re suggesting that Serafino or his ship somehow caused that vortex, I can’t even I guess how that would be possible. Unless the Triad has some kind of secret weapon project you’ve decided not to share with us.”

Dark brows slanted down. Pale eyes narrowed. Hmm, he didn’t like that suggestion one bit.

“Okay, okay. Hypothesis withdrawn.” She gave a tired half-wave of one hand. “So let’s look at the facts. We are in a quadrant Serafino is known to frequent, according to HQ’s report. You suggested at the staff meeting a few hours ago that it was your opinion we weren’t far behind him. Actually, it seems we were in front of him, because somehow he got piggybacked to our—oh, never mind.” He was giving her one of those sideways-warning looks. She decided to ignore him before her tired mind fueled her temper.

She was still ignoring him when the lift pinged again to signal they’d reached Deck One. She barged past him and strode down the corridor.

“Sebastian!” he called after her.

She stopped just short of the bridge doors and turned. Was that a glimpse of a smile just now leaving his face? She must be more tired than she thought. Ol’ No-Excuses Kel-Paten never smiled.

“Let’s get some coffee,” he offered. “I need to do some thinking aloud about how the Illithians are getting past our patrols. You know I work better if you’re there to punch holes in every hypothesis I come up with.”

“Sure,” she said, unable to hide the note of surprise in her voice at his sudden change of tone. “I desperately need coffee right now.”

He activated the commlink clipped to his shirt. “Kel-Faray, the captain and I will be in my office. I want an update on all damage reports in fifteen minutes. And everything and anything that salvage comes up with on the Novalis as soon as you hear from them.”