EXCERPT FROM GABRIEL'S GHOST

click to buyChapter 1

Only fools boast they have no fears. I thought of that as I pulled the blade of my dagger from the Takan guard’s throat, my hand shaking, my heart pounding in my ears, my skin cold from more than just the chill in the air. Light from the setting sun filtered through the tall trees around me. It flickered briefly on the dark gold blood that bubbled from the wound, staining the Taka’s coarse fur. I felt a sliminess between my fingers and saw that same ochre stain on my skin.

“Shit!” I jerked my hand back. My dagger tumbled to the rock-strewn ground. A stupid reaction for someone with my training. It wasn’t as if I’d never killed another sentient being before, but it had been more than five years. And then, at least, it had carried the respectable label of military action.

This time it was pure survival.

It took me a few minutes to find my blade wedged in between the moss-covered rocks. After more than a decade on interstellar patrol ships, my eyes had problems adjusting to variations in natural light. Shades of grays and greens, muddied by Moabar’s twilight sky, merged into seamless shadows. I’d never have found my only weapon if I hadn’t pricked my fingers on the point. Red human blood mingled with Takan gold. I wiped the blade against my pants before letting it mold itself back around my wrist. It flowed into the form of a simple silver bracelet.

“A Grizni dagger, is it?”

I spun into a half-crouch, my right hand grasping the bracelet. Quickly it uncoiled again—almost as quickly as I’d sucked in a harsh, rasping breath. The distinctly masculine voice had come from the thick stand of trees in front of me. But in the few seconds it took me to straighten, he could be anywhere. It looked like tonight’s agenda held a second attempt at rape and murder. Or completion of the first. That would make more sense. Takan violence against humans was rare enough that the guard’s aggression had taken me—almost—by surprise. But if a human prison official had ordered him… that, given Moabar’s reputation, would fit only too well.

I tuned out my own breathing. Instead, I listened to the hushed rustle of the thick forest around me and farther away, the guttural roar of a shuttle departing the prison’s spaceport. I watched for movement. Murky shadows, black-edged yet ill defined, taunted me. I’d have sold my soul then and there for a nightscope and a fully-charged laser pistol.

But I had neither of those. Just a sloppily manipulated court martial and a life sentence without parole. And, of course, a smuggled Grizni dagger that the Takan guard had discovered a bit too late to report.

My newest assailant, unfortunately, was already forewarned.

“Let’s not cause any more trouble, okay?” My voice sounded thin in the encroaching darkness. I wondered what had happened to that ‘tone of command’ Fleet regs had insisted we adopt. It had obviously taken one look at the harsh prison world of Moabar and decided it preferred to reside elsewhere. I didn’t blame it. I only wished I had the same choice.

I drew a deep breath. “If I’m on your grid, I’m leaving. Wasn’t my intention to be here,” I added, feeling that was probably the understatement of the century. “And if he,” I said with a nod to the large body sprawled to my right, “was your partner, then I’m sorry. But I wasn’t in the mood.”

A brittle snap started my heart pounding again. My hand felt as slick against the smooth metal of the dagger as if the Taka’s blood still ran down its surface. The sound was on my right, beyond where the Taka lay. Only a fool would try to take me over the lifeless barrier at my feet.

The first of Moabar’s three moons had risen in the hazy night sky. I glimpsed a flicker of movement, then saw him step out of the shadows just as the clouds cleared away from the moon. His face was hidden, distorted. But I clearly saw the distinct shape of a short-barreled rifle propped against his shoulder. That, and the fact that he appeared humanoid, told me he wasn’t a prison guard. Energy weapons were banned on Moabar. Most of the eight-foot tall Takas didn’t need them, anyway.

The man before me was tall, but not eight feet. Nor did his dark jacket glisten with official prison insignia. Another con, then. Possession of the rifle meant he had off- world sources.

I took a step back as he approached. His pace was casual, as if he were just taking his gun out for a moonlit stroll. He prodded the dead guard with the tip of the rifle then squatted down, and ran one hand over the guard’s work vest as if checking for a weapon, or perhaps life signs. I could have told him the guard had neither. “Perhaps I should’ve warned him about you,” he said, rising. “Captain Chasidah Bergren. Pride of the Sixth Fleet. One dangerous woman. But, oh, I forgot. You’re not a captain anymore.”

With a chill I recognized the mocking tone, the cultured voice. And suddenly the dead guard and the rifle were the least of my problems. I breathed a name in disbelief. “Sullivan! This is impossible. You’re dead—“

“Well, if I’m dead, then so are you.” His mirthless laugh was as soft as footsteps on a grave. “Welcome to Hell, Captain. Welcome to Hell.”

 

From Chapter 14

I stayed an extra half hour on the bridge, watching the read-outs on the hypers, making sure guidance wasn’t picking up a skew from the remnant of an old ion trail. I leaned over Sully’s shoulder. He pulled me around and into his lap. “You’re supposed to be off duty.”

“I just like to take my ship through jump.”

“And out again, I suppose?”

“Yes, and out again.”

“That leaves about five hours with nothing for you to do. Tea sounds good. Can you defend the universe without us for awhile, Ren?”

“Most certainly.”

“We won’t be far.” Sully stood, grabbing my elbow. In the common room he coaxed two mugs of hot tea from the panels. I pulled the chairs out from the table but he shook his head. “Our cabin. Decor’s better.”

Yes. It had a bed.
Six days. In the past six days, he’d done nothing more than kiss me, tuck me in, let me sleep. But he’d made sure, every hour I spent with him, a little more of Gabriel Ross Sullivan came to the surface.

It was as if he were showing me in small ways what I couldn’t ask and what he couldn’t tell. But he watched my rainbows, cautiously, waiting for my fears to subside.

And they were subsiding, in equally small ways. That Sully was an empath like Ren was clear. So were a few hundred, or perhaps thousand other humans in the Empire, from what I’d heard. And I hadn’t heard much, other than those who admitted to the rare mind talent often worked as government sanctioned med-counselors. I could understand their usefulness in that field. Though it had been disconcerting at first to feel the warmth flowing through my body from the touch of Ren’s and Sully’s hands, it wasn’t intrusive. I didn’t fear that. It was a giving, comforting thing.

But I still wondered about the differences between empaths and Ragkirils. The Empire called all Stolorth telepaths Ragkirils. Knowing Ren now as I did, I knew that wasn’t true. Ren was an empath. He didn’t have the Higher Link. But what was Sully? Was the ability to do a zral, a cleansing of memory, a part of empathic abilities, not Ragkiril? I’d never heard of any humans with Ragkiril talents, though admittedly, a patrol ship captain wasn’t likely to be informed of such a discovery. Could it be just a stronger version of a reassuring touch, a blurring of a memory rather than the removal? He never said he could do a zragkor. That procedure was a mind suddenly inside another’s mind, violent, harsh.

I sensed no violence, no harshness in him or Ren anytime their warmth flowed into me. I didn’t even know if they were aware they sent the sensation, or that I could feel it.

Sully’s card trick with the five angel of heart-stars perplexed me a little more. You can’t alter matter by touch, by thought. Even my Grizni dagger was mechanical, a hybrid fluid metal reactive to heat and pressure applied at certain key points, coded only to my fingerprints.

There were only two logical explanations: either Sully did have second deck—why did I have to assume Ren’s reference to ‘Gabriel’s tricks’ meant something on the extrasensory level?—or he sent the emotional resonance of acceptance into me when he handed me the cards. I saw five heart-stars because that’s what I wanted to see.

He put the tea on the bedside table, drew me into his lap in the middle of the bed. He took a moment to undo my boots and his own, pulled them off. He wrapped his arms around my waist, nuzzled his face in my neck. “Tea’s for later. Though it’ll probably be cold by then.”

Warmth trickled through me, then a flash of heat, flaring, spiraling. Its unexpected intensity made my eyes open in surprise.

His own sharp intake of breath matched mine. The heat simmered. Gentled. “I want so badly to make love to you, Chazzy-girl. But only if it’s what you want. Tell me to wait—”

I closed my hands over his. “I don’t want to wait.”

Another flare, flames dancing, but I was ready for it this time.

I draped my legs over his thighs, took his face in my hands. Kissed him with small, teasing, nibbling kisses.

He groaned. Tiny explosions rained inside my body.

He kissed me back, hard.

I opened my mouth, tasted him.

His hands found the edge of my shirt, pulled. I broke from the kiss, stripped my shirt off, then the undershirt. He ran his hands lightly over my breasts, his thumbs circling my nipples. His fingers slid down to my waist, stroking, then up again. The heat came in long, coursing flares.

I reached behind my head, unraveled my braid and shook my hair free. It fell to my waist, tangled and curled.

“Chaz,” he said softly. He ran his fingers through my hair, pushing it back from my face, letting it drift down through his hands.

I pulled the edge of his shirt out of his pants. His hand covered mine, impatient. He yanked the shirt over his head then grabbed me, rolling me onto my back. His hard length covered me. His mouth claimed mine, demanding, insistent. A strong hand cupped my breast. Then his lips burned against my neck, my shoulder, closed around a nipple, sucked with a tenderness that made me ache.

A hot wave rolled over me, soothing the ache, caressing it. Mouth back on mouth now. Breaths shuddered.

I arched my hips against him, felt him throbbing, felt liquid fire racing through my veins. I ran my hands over the sinews of his shoulders, down to his waist, pushed my fingers into the waistband of his pants. “You going to take these off, or do I have to use my teeth?”

His dark eyes glittered with a dangerous passion. “We’ll save that method for next time. When we have more than five hours.”

My pants and underwear came off, too, tossed somewhere over his shoulder. Then there was nothing but heat and hardness, hands stroking, fingers tracing, tongues leaving hot, wet trails.

And fire, searing, cresting, spiraling. I knew it was his emotions I felt, overwhelming me, augmenting and feeding my own.

I found his mouth again, wanting to kiss that wicked, wicked Sully grin. My hands moved up his chest, through the thick mat of dark hair, and clung to his shoulders. His hands slid under my backside, kneading me, lifting me, his hardness stroking against me, slick. I wrapped my legs around his waist, stroked back with my body. He trembled, kissed me with a passion that made me gasp.

“Sully, please!”

I didn’t have to ask twice. He plunged into me, sparks surging, cascading, swirling. My body answered with a fervency I didn’t know I had, pleasure streaming through me at hyperspace speeds. Everything collided, arcing. He rasped my name, stroking deeper.

And then I swear three suns went nova, half a galaxy was blown away and the universe shifted at least a hundred feet from where it had been before.

But it was just Sully, his body hot and damp and heavy against mine, breathing long, ragged breaths against my neck. Sending warm, pulsing waves through me.

I unwrapped my legs, let my feet drift down the back of his thighs in a slow caress. I stroked his hair and when he moved slightly, bit his shoulder.

He chuckled. “You’re a wicked woman, Chazzy-girl.”

“You’re a wicked man, Sully.”

I dozed, curled against him, listening to the rise and fall of his breath. Warmth fluttered through my hand and up my arm when I touched him, traced the line of his jaw.

His eyes slitted open. He grabbed my hand, nibbled kisses on my fingers. “No regrets?”

“None. Well, maybe.”

A small flash of concern touched his eyes. His mouth turned into a slight frown.

Wicked woman, Chazzy-girl. “I like my tea hot.”

Something between a groan and a grumble rumbled in his throat. He pushed me back, slid on top of me, slid inside me again, hard, throbbing. “Let’s talk about heat.”

I couldn’t. Talk. Passion, hot, molten passion streamed through me. Then a second wave, but different, almost intoxicating. Then heat again, melting me, melting into me. Then another, floating, rising.

The heat returned, more intense, probing, wrapped around me. Parted, pleasure surged, building, cresting—

“Oh, God, Chaz!” Shuddering, soaring, taking me with him, clinging to each other. Desperate, frenzied kisses.

Then warmth, soft as the breath on my face, enveloping me.

I opened my eyes to find Sully watching me. Reading rainbows?

“You can do that, control what you send? What you make me feel?” Like sensations of intense passion alternating with ones of languid pleasure. Like a sensation of acceptance. Five heart-stars in my hand.

A long wait was filled with the sound of his ragged breathing, finally slowing. He watched me the whole time.

“I’m sorry,” I said softly. “I’m not supposed to ask—”

“No. It’s okay.” His was an equally as soft reply. Then Sully’s face was next to mine on the pillow, his arm across my chest, hand on my shoulder, pulling me closer against him.

“Yeah,” he said in my ear, just a breath of a whisper. A near silent confession. “Yeah, I can.”

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Coming 2008! SHADES OF DARK



2006 RITA Award WINNER - Best Paranormal Romance



12th on the Locus Top 20 Bestseller List Dec. 2005
Windy City RWA Choice Award 2nd Place Winner!
PRISM Award 2nd Place Winner!

Affaire de Coeur Magazine Internet Reader/Writer Poll Winner - Best Futuristic Novel!

Affaire de Coeur Magazine Write-In Poll - Best Futuristic Finalist!

Sapphire Award 2nd Place!!
PEARL Award Honorable Mention Winner!

Available Now! from Bantam Spectra. Order online from BN or Wal*Mart

 

"Within pages I knew I was heading for one of those dreamed of reading experiences…[Sinclair gave] me everything I have always looked for in a novel: a compelling story, strong characters who are more than the sum total of their emotional needs, a universe in want of exploring, and a message about living life with determination and discipline.

Without exception, GABRIEL'S GHOST is the best science fiction romance I have read in the last 15 years !"

--Mary Pinto, The Word On Romance

"A Perfect 10! Linnea Sinclair hooks readers from the first page, then teases at the end of each chapter with a surprise, a twist, or a turn. Fast-paced, suspenseful, tension-filled and highly emotional, GABRIEL'S GHOST is an addictive tale of adventure and romance that readers will be hard pressed to put down. The breathtaking, exciting climax left this reviewer eager for Ms. Sinclair's next release.

Buckle up, hold on tight, and prepare for a wild ride you won't soon forget!"

--Carla Arpin, Reviewer, Romance Reviews Today

"Readers have come to expect the extraordinary from author Linnea Sinclair, but GABRIEL'S GHOST still exceeds all expectations! With the vision and texture of a poet, the heart of warrior, and the skill of a master, Sinclair creates a world of psychic gifts and shape shifters, of dangers beyond imagination and love beyond question. Chaz must rethink her beliefs, her morals, and her desires when betrayal leaves her stranded on a desolate, dangerous world. Gabriel must risk his deepest secrets and trust almost beyond capacity for this woman who challenges him, infuriates him, and makes him long for redemption from his private hell. Their mutual tangles of fears and desires, anger and faith leave them both reeling even as they work together to stop the breeding of jukors.

Furthermore, I confess to a growing weakness for mature heroines who can present themselves as total equals, matching strengths and vulnerabilities to men with likewise believable and endearing characterizations. And Sinclair succeeds with pizzazz. Together this court-martialed captain and this ghost create a tale so entrancing, so mesmerizing that readers will be absolutely blown away by their fabulous tale."

--Cindy Penn, Midwest Book Review

"Star-struck readers of Linnea Sinclair’s sci-fi romances -- I know you’re out there because the author’s previous release, Finders Keepers, had “the wow factor in spades” -- are in for another out-of-this-universe reading experience with the release of Gabriel’s Ghost... Exploring the awesomely complex world of sci-fi romance -- where religion, politics and societal prejudices are on a collision course -- is vastly rewarding when Ms. Sinclair is at the storytelling helm."

--Cheryl Jeffries, Heartstrings Reviews

FIVE STARS! "Gabriel’s Ghost captures your interest with non-stop action and suspense and keeps it as the tension mounts... I love the way Linnea Sinclair gradually unfolded Sully and all his secrets. Chaz is his match in every way. Quite the kick ass heroine, the passion between her and Sully is almost palpable... Gabriel’s Ghost is a must buy."

--Debby Guyette, CataRomance Reviews

"Written in the first person, GABRIEL'S GHOST was a book I simply couldn't put down. From the first scene I was absorbed by the storyline, and by chapter four I was so engrossed in the characters and their relationships that I never wanted the book to end...This author has been on my must read list since her very first book, and GABRIEL'S GHOST reaffirms her position there. "

--Sue Waldeck, Road to Romance

"Fine characterizations, snappy and smart dialogue, nifty world building and plenty of political and religious intrigue make for an interesting tale. It's written through Chas's point of view, but Sinclair does a nice job of presenting the problems and motivations of the various species that populate the story. The romance between Chas and Gabriel is provocative and believable, and Sinclair keeps the sexual tension between them simmering... Readers who enjoy romantic science fiction packed with a heady blend of adventure, action and intrigue will love Gabriel's Ghost."

--Martina Bexte, BookLoons

"I was ecstatic at the level of involvement I experienced with this book... I ran the gamut of every emotion possible while reading Gabriel's Ghost. The action, romance, intrigue and more never ceased."

--Robin Taylor, In The Library Reviews

FIVE MOONS! OUTSTANDING! "The universal scope of this book is incomparable. We have corporate greed, starship troopers and space stations, rogue pirates and hardscrabble smugglers, a Quest to Save Tortured Innocents, a Heroine who kicks butt and takes no prisoners, a Hero that is as yummy as double chocolate fudge, and a love affair that could become legendary. What could be better?"

--Brenda Thatcher, Mystique Books Reviews

"GABRIEL'S GHOST serves as an introduction to what promises to be an excellent series of two adversaries turned lovers surviving a world that has suddenly turned against them...[It's]an exploration into passion, love and adventure. It will keep readers enthralled as the plot is concealed and revealed at perfectly unexpected moments. Even the steamy sex scenes find themselves pivotal to the conclusion."

--Christopher Gamble, Revision14 Reviews

"Fast paced Sci-fi mixed with true romance and a side of steamy sex? Sounds too good to be true but Gabriel's Ghost delivers! This book had me up all night and left me horribly sleep deprived but it was worth every minute I spent in Sinclair's well crafted world. Do yourself a favor and curl up with Chaz, Sully and the gang, just don't start the book too close to bedtime."

--Evangeline Anderson, author of TAKE TWO (Kensington)

"This book is an adventure a minute, with one revelation after another developing and deepening the relationship between hero and heroine, even as they threaten to tear them apart. I don't know if there are any more stories in this universe, but I'd sure like to read them if there are."


--Gail Dayton, author of THE BARBED ROSE and THE COMPASS ROSE (Luna)

 

Copyright © 2008 Linnea Sinclair, All rights reserved.