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HOPE'S FOLLY

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HOPE'S FOLLY -- February 2009
(third book in the Dock Five Universe)

Enter a world where Polite, Professional, and Prepared to Kill is more than a motto…

Admiral Philip Guthrie is alive and kicking—despite an Imperial kill-order with his name on it. Now he’s leading a rebel alliance against the oppressive Imperial forces. Or he would, if he could get his command ship—the derelict cruiser, Hope’s Folly—functioning. If lack of crew and supplies isn’t trouble enough, his assigned bodyguard turns out to be former Imperial assassin Rya Bennton—the daughter of his best friend and first commanding officer. A man whose death is on Philip’s conscience.

Rya Bennton has been in love with Philip Guthrie since she was a girl. But can her childhood fantasies survive an encounter with the hardened rebel leader who is now her commanding officer? Or will her determination to destroy the Empire put not only their mission, but their hearts and lives in jeopardy?

It's an impossible mission on a derelict ship called HOPE'S FOLLY. A man who feels he can't love. A woman who believes she's unlovable. And an enemy who will stop at nothing to crush them both.


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reviews

Hope’s Folly is a 13th Annual PRISM Awards finalist!

Paranormal Romance Staff Top Pick for April 2009

Hope's Folly has been awarded the Paranormal Romance Staff Top Pick for April 2009.

2009 Paranormal Excellence Awards for Romantic Literature (PEARL) for Science Fiction!

Hope's Folly has been awarded the 2009 Paranormal Excellence Awards for Romantic Literature (PEARL) for Science Fiction!

Romantic Times BOOKreview magazine TOP PICK!

Romantic Times BOOKreview magazine TOP PICK!"Hang on to your phasers as Sinclair blasts off on another rip-roaring space adventure. In previous books, Admiral Philip Guthrie has been an aloof legend, but in this page-turner he's grappling with overwhelming odds. The technical details Sinclair provides add to the intensity of the story by keeping readers in the belly of the wounded ship along with its intrepid crew. A roller-coaster ride in the extreme! ." - Jill M. Smith, Romantic Times BOOKreview magazine

“This is what I imagine a David Weber romance might be like... Between sabotage, military action, romantic tension, and some interesting jury-rigged weaponry, it's a fraught flight, and great fun...”  - Locus

Joyfully Recommended Read!

Joyfully Recommended Read!“Action, adventure with just the right mix of romance make Hope’sFolly another book for my keeper shelf!..Hope’s Folly and the whole Gabriel’s Ghost series are definite Recommended Reads!” –Melissa for Joyfully Reviewed

Five Scoops!

“If you’re a fan of science fiction and romance, this book does both equally well and in spades. Due to it standing well on its own, I would even say it’s a great book to start off a first encounter with her work, and most definitely the perfect way for more seasoned Sinclair readers to continue. This is classic Sinclair; evidence that the author knows no bounds and readily takes us readers on one imaginative and thrilling ride after another. Truly an excellent book. Five Scoops!” - Lurv A La Mode

Hope’s Folly … is a rapid-fire romp through futuristic political intrigue and high-risk passion… The tug of war between decorum and passion keeps the romantic intrigue smoldering…. With Hope’s Folly, Linnea Sinclair builds on a secure reputation as a leading fashioner of science fiction romance. She straddles and blends these genres with a unique bravura and wit.” – Philip K. Jason, PhD, Naples (FL) Press Club

“Ms. Sinclair shares her phenomenal writing talent with a well-built sci-fi world, and characters who charm their way right into the reader’s heart. Hope, fear and longing play heavy roles in Hope’s Folly as a crew struggles to survive, and an uncertain attraction progresses into a romance that sizzles” - Darque Reviews

Hope's Folly is simply phenomenal I absolutely did not want to put the story down. It had action, suspense, mystery, and passion.” - Kathy Andrico - KathysReviewCorner.com

“Once again Linnea Sinclair delivers. Hope’s Folly is the perfect combination of an action-packed sci-fi space romp and a heart-warming romance. A keeper.” – The Book Smugglers

“I highly recommend Hope's Folly for anyone who enjoys SF with a military
bent and some seriously hot romance seasoned throughout. It's a heady brew,
and it's all prime Linnea Sinclair. Enjoy.” - DeAnn Rossetti, Butterfly Books.


excerpt

Hope's Folly

The passenger docks on Kirro Station were cavernous, dimly lit and bitingly cold. It took forty-five minutes for the Starford Spacelines’ transport ship to regurgitate Rya’s duffel out of its cargo holds, along with the rest of the passengers’ baggage. By that point, Rya had already turned up the collar on her leather jacket and tucked her hands under her armpits, releasing them only to make a grab for her duffel on the shuddering, rumbling baggage belt.Then she knelt, fished her dark blue Special Protection Service beret out of the side pocket, and removed the rank and service pins. She pulled the beret over her perpetually unruly hair. Some people might look twice if they knew what the beret symbolized. This was, after all, a recently declared Alliance station. Imperial Fleet in all its flavors, including Imperial Security, was not welcome.

But the overheads were weak and those milling about the baggage collection area of the passenger terminal appeared as bleary-eyed as she was. The beret could be mistaken for black. The service pins were deep in her pocket. And her scalp was goddamned frostbitten. She was going to wear her beret, for what little did it good.

It was better than nothing.

The two day flight from Calth starport had been dismal, with crying infants, hacking old men and one painfully thin woman who snored like a half-ton freightloader grinding gears.
Kirro Station was equally dismal. Umoran had been hit hard with financial failures after the grove cankers and lack of support from what was once the empire. Exports were down. Imports were priced like luxuries. More than half the food kiosks in the passenger terminal were abandoned. Those still open offered few selections at ridiculous prices.

She overpaid for a half mug of sweet tea and, clutching it between chilled hands as the duffel’s strap dug a furrow into her shoulder, headed down the long corridor to find the waiting room for the shuttle to Seth.

She passed a few stripers, armed and watchful. Seven months ago, she might have stopped to talk about the job with one or two. She was law enforcement, as were they, although her jurisdiction as an ImpSec officer had been on a much larger scale than station security. Now she played civilian, letting her gaze pass over them as if a man or woman armed with a rifle was nothing more than an interesting curiosity. Though she did wonder if any of them were former ImpSec like herself.

Out of habit she studied their weaponry more than their faces. No Carvers here, not even Stingers. Standard issue Mag-5 pistols. Rifles were boring Blue Surgers. She’d trained on them, could dismantle them in her sleep which, in her opinion, was all they were worth. But yeah, get shot by a Surger, it still hurt like a bitch and could put you flat out dead if someone’s aim was good. Not center mass, as they were taught. That only worked on the good guys, but it wasn’t the good guys that needed shooting. It was the bad guys, and they were smart enough to wear body armor. Good luck getting a standard Surger to penetrate that.

Okay, maybe at point blank.

But at point blank, the bad guys had already shot you dead with their nice powerful Carver-12s.

No, with a Surger you had to go for the throat or brain. Stop the blood flow, stop the body functions. Even then, some slag-head twilighting on rafthkra might still come at you, full bore.

She’d seen it happen.

That’s why she liked working for ImpSec. They carried Carver-10s, minimum. Carver-12s on shipside duty. She even heard of 15s when they worked the rim or were assigned to an admiral’s personal protection. Totally apex, to quote her friend Lyza, who was by now sleeping in Rya’s bed in Rya’s apartment, possibly even with Rya’s former lover.

The shuttle waiting room was crowded. Not surprising. According to the schedule board, the room serviced three shuttles: dirtside to Umoran and the moon colony, and spaceside to the Seth shipyards. She wondered how many of those huddled down on the hard seats had seen Commander Dina Adney’s coded transmit on available crew positions for the new AIR fleet. A lot, probably, because this was Calth, and Calth had almost entirely withdrawn from the empire after the dissolution of the Admirals’ Council several months ago.

Only the Walker Colonies and Port January were playing coy, but then, Port January had long been an Imperial base of operations.

She spied an empty row of bench seats and headed for them, only to realize why they were empty. They were broken, their backs still connected but the seats stripped out. She turned and walked again past humans hunched into coats, children huddled close in a mother’s or father’s lap, and a few Takas lounging casually, not bothered by the cold at all, their furred hands and wrists sticking out of lightweight shirts or thermals, shipyard patches on their chests marking them as returning workers.

The schedule board flashed, catching her eye. A low groan went around the room even before she finished reading the advisory that all shuttles were delayed for one hour due to heightened security concerns.

A baby wailed loudly.

Rya completely concurred with the sentiment.

Movement near the dirtside shuttle tubeway signaled a family vacating several of the bench-like seats—the delay likely meant time for a lavatory stop, or maybe food. Rya was only a row away. She quickened her steps then slowed. An elderly man and woman pulled themselves off the cold decking, tugging two toddlers with them as they ambled for the seats. A pair of hardbody guys did as well.  Dockworkers, Rya guessed with a fair amount of professional accuracy. She stepped in front of the men, blocking their path, trying to give the people with the small kids a chance to get there first.

The bearded hardbody stared levelly at her as she shifted her stance until she stood bladed to him, gun-side away. Ingrained habit. The man was about her age, and not much taller than she was, maybe five-ten. But he outweighed her by at least sixty pounds, and Rya was no lightweight. A factor Matt had always found less than appealing.

“I have breasts, I have hips, I have thighs,” she’d told him more than once when he’d patted her ample rump with some snippy comment. “Get used to it.”

The bearded man’s gaze dropped to her chest.

“Kind of you to let them have the seats,” she told him, bringing his gaze back to her face as her right hand found the small laser tucked against her back.

“Yeah, I’m Mr. Wonderful,” he drawled with a quick glance to his friend. His hands edged into his pockets.

She palmed the laser, flicking the setting to stun.

“So now I gotta go sit on the floor again,” he continued. “It’s real cold on your ass, you know. Think you should come and keep me warm.”

“I think you’ll do just fine by yourself.” She put her professional tone in her voice. “Have a good one, gentlemen. Now, move on.”

Maybe it was the tone of her voice, or maybe it was Mr. Wonderful’s friend’s gaze flicked to her beret and down again, possibly catching the outline of the gun in her shoulder holster that even her womanly charms and leather jacket failed to fully hide. He nudged his friend.

“Let’s go, Al.”

“Hey!”

Al’s friend grabbed Al by the arm and steered him in the opposite direction.

Rya tucked away the L7 at the small of her back, and didn’t miss the low comment when they were a few steps away.

“Striper? Fuck.”

No, not a striper. ImpSec Special Protection Service. Polite, professional and prepared to kill.

She sighed, caught the grateful gaze of the elderly woman with the sleeping toddler in her lap, and smiled her acknowledgment.  

The “shuttle delayed” sign still flashed. Rya wandered away from the tubeway hatchlock and finally ended up leaning against the wall—holding up the bulkhead, her father would say—where the corridor dead-ended into the waiting area.

A few more people stood, filing out, tired of waiting or hungry, or both. Or just needing to move. Mr. Wonderful and friend claimed two seats quickly, but she didn’t intervene this time because no one smaller, weaker or older needed them.

She glanced away from them and watched the corridor instead.

That’s when she saw him. A solitary figure in a thermal overcoat that her mind automatically tagged as “Fleet-issue,” moving with a determined but limping gait. He leaned on his cane with every other step, the wide strap of a duffel a dark stripe against the gray fabric of his coat.

He was too far for her to see his face, but as he moved under the dim overheads, his short-cropped silver hair made her immediately tag him as a veteran. Not recent Fleet, then. Probably a casualty from the Border Wars twenty years ago.

Officer? Yeah, she tagged that, too. It was in the way, in spite of the pain and his limp, that he held himself. The set of his shoulders. The lift of his chin. Retired officer, silver-haired, probably in his seventies. Coming here at Commander Adney’s call?

God, were they down to that now? Relying on rheumy old men to try to stop Tage’s insanity?

An end seat on the long bench bordering the bulkhead became available when a fidgety young man in plain coveralls pushed himself out of it and loped for the corridor. She slid quickly into it, next to a dozing Takan shipyard worker on her left. She’d give the space to the old man when he passed by her. Then maybe she’d indulge in another half mug of sweet tea to thaw her insides and her hands. The damned shuttle—

The old man, about fifteen feet from her now, limped under a dangling spotlight, the harsh glow illuminating his face. And Rya, already rising to offer him her seat, realized two things.  He was not an old man. And he had the most incredible blue eyes she’d seen in years.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said because that’s what she’d planned to say. And old or not, he was still limping.

He hesitated slightly, those marvelous blue eyes narrowing.

“You want this seat?” she continued. “I was just leaving. Shuttle’s delayed and seats are hard to come by here.”

He stopped in front of her and leaned on his cane.

Rya looked up. Yeah, up. Six-two, three. Stocky, maybe two-forty-five. Fleet thermal coats were a thin fabric. He had wide shoulders, a muscular neck. And a dual shoulder holster. She judged that, too.

Something flashed over his face—a wariness—then it was gone.

Her beret. He was Fleet. He knew its significance.

A baby wailed somewhere behind her, its cry dissolving into a series of hiccups.

“AWOL,” Rya said quietly in explanation of her head gear, because that wasn’t all that far from the truth. Then she said a name and watched for his reaction. “Adney.”

Confirmation came in the slight lessening of tension around his mouth.

“That’s pretty much why a lot of us are here,” she said, her voice still low. She didn’t know why she’d added that information. No, she did. For some reason she couldn’t define, but based on the cop’s sense she’d honed over the past few years, she trusted this silver-haired man. He exuded...something. An aura of command, of respect?

Yes, command and respect, now that she thought about it.

But more than that, she sensed that was why he was here. And she wanted him to know he wasn’t alone. Because in addition to that aura of command that ringed him like an impenetrable halo, she also felt a deep loneliness in him. A heavy weight that maybe had something to do with his injury or maybe not.

But it was there. It was palpable.

And it wasn’t just her cop’s instincts telling her that, but her years as the daughter of first Lieutenant then Commander then Captain Cory Bennton.

“Would you like to sit, sir?”

“How long is the delay?” His voice was deep, resonant.

“One hour, max, due to heightened security concerns.”

He was shaking his head in dismay.

The Takan on her left rose to his feet and called out to a group exiting toward the corridor. They waved. He headed for them in a long, striding gait.

When Rya turned back the silver-haired man had let his duffel drop to the floor next to his boots, its strap still in his fingers. It was heavy, but he wasn’t going to let it go or out of his sight.

“This is never a pretty maneuver,” he said and, twisting slightly, angled himself down into the vacant chair.

She sat in the Taka’s seat, forgetting she’d said she was leaving. She caught of tail end of a half-smile, half-grimace on his face, and realized her error.

“My leg thanks you,” he said with a hint of wry humor. “My ego is severely deflated.”

She grinned back, doing a quick mental tally of him as he wedged his cane into a niche on the bench-like seats, and then dragged the duffel between them. Early to mid-forties. The silver hair was an anomaly. It was thick, and judging from some still dark patches, had once been a rich brown about as dark as her own. His face had nice features. Not pretty-handsome like Matt, but classic with an edge toward rugged.

“Accident?” She pointed to his right leg, extending stiffly out.

“Let’s just say negotiations with a possible enemy combatant didn’t go as planned.” He adjusted his coat as he spoke. His hands were square, strong, the backs dotted with scars.

No pretty boy, this former Fleet officer. Engineer, she thought. Or chief of maintenance. Worked with his hands and cared little about gashes and barked knuckles.

“And the loser bought the beer?” she quipped because part of his mouth was still quirked when he’d answer her question. Not a real combatant then. Probably a bar fight.

“Something like that.”

His expression sobered.

God, when would she learned her flippancy wasn’t appreciated by everyone? The guy had probably been respectfully called Chief by dozens of subbies her age. And here she was making light of his injury.

The schedule board flashed again, halting whatever apology she was hastily throwing together and hushing a good percentage of the conversations around her.

This time there was a definite announcement. Two hour delay for the shuttle to the moon colony, four hour delay for the shuttle to Seth’s shipyards. The shuttle for Umoran, however, would arrive in fifteen minutes. Boarding would commence ten minutes after that.
Sighs of relief mixed with groans.

“Fuck.”  This, softly, from the man next to her. And with no apology. Well, he’d tagged her as Fleet as clearly as she had him. What were a few epithets between friends?

He leaned forward as if to stand then stopped, slumping back slightly, his gaze pinned on the wide viewport across the waiting area as if he could see all the way to Seth. Or the shipyards.

His eyes were narrowed, his brows furrowed. She’d seen that look on her father’s face when he was forced to make decisions he didn’t like. Or when decisions he wanted to make weren’t possible. The shuttle delay clearly had this man on edge.

“The empire’s not going to change all that much in the next four hours,” she commented, her voice low.

He slanted her a glance. The hard, angry emotions she saw in his eyes startled her, and almost had her reaching for her L7.  But he looked away, removing the immediacy of the threat. Still, she watched his hands because she knew he was armed. They were in plain sight though now one fist clenched.

“It already has.” He spoke suddenly, his voice as low as hers but harsh. “Tage hit Corsau an hour ago.”

She felt her eyes widen. He was looking at her now, studying her, not only anger on his face but grief.

“No.” She breathed out the denial, her chest tightening. “How bad?”

“Bad.”

She motioned to the solitary vidscreen hanging in the far corner, flickering with images of a concert in Port Chalo last year. “There’s been nothing—”

“I noticed. I’m guessing the dockmaster doesn’t want to deal with a panic situation. Or the news simply hasn’t hit the civilian outlets yet.”

“Where did you hear about it?” Maybe it was rumor. Maybe it wasn’t true.

“From an Alliance captain.” Blue eyes studied her again. “I don’t have four hours to waste. How many beside yourself are here to see Commander Adney?”

“No direct knowledge, sir. But guessing from dockworker uniforms and discounting families, I’d say thirty or forty.” She motioned to a group of men and women about her age seated in the first three rows nearest the shuttle tubeway. “My flight out of Calth Prime got in late. They were already there. I haven’t talked to them, but they haven’t reacted to any shuttle announcements for the moon colony or Umoran.”

She shifted her glaze to their right. “Those three males at our two o’clock position. Middle one in the white thermal, two females in black behind him. They all feel like Fleet to me, or maybe one of the dirtside forces.”

“How long were you with ImpSec?”

She looked at him. “Four and half years, sir.”

“Academy, officer track?”

“Yes, sir. Sub-lieutenant.”

“Last posting?”

“SPS, Calth Prime, sir.”

That rewarded her with a raised eyebrow. Special Protection Services officers were polite, professional and prepared to kill. And the old man next to her knew that.

No, not old man. But the Old Man. He’d known she was ImpSec. He’d known Adney was a commander, even though Rya hadn’t volunteered that information. She felt rank even more strongly from him now, in the tone of his questions, in his demeanor.

“Well, Subbie, we’re about to make the passengers wanting to go home to Umoran very unhappy,” he said. “Can you handle it?”

“You intend to commandeer the shuttle?”

“I do.”

“I can handle that, sir.”

“I’d do the honors, but too much walking is a problem at the moment. Find out who’s here for Commander Adney. Discreetly. Put them on alert. While you do that,” and he shoved himself, grimacing, to his feet, “I’m going to enlist the help of the local stripers.”

“Whoever’s chief probably won’t like that. You may have to get clearance from the dockmaster.”

“I fully intend to.” He lifted his duffel—clearly heavy—effortlessly. “Ten minutes.”

“Yes sir.” She fought the urge to salute and instead watched him head for a striper standing in the corridor, realizing she didn’t even know his name or rank. Not that it mattered. There was something very familiar about him, something that told her she’d follow him into the jaws of hell. And never regret it.