Friday, March 24, 2017

Hearts and Minds by JC Hay

Piracy, Psychics, and Swords, Oh My!

Like a lot of SFR writers, Firefly holds a special place in my heart – despite its flaws (and they are many), the characters, and the makeshift family they created for themselves draw me back in repeatedly. When I wrote my first space opera romance, Hearts and Minds, I wanted to capture some of that same feeling.  Most of all, I wanted to create the sense of payday-to-payday desperation that followed Captain Tightpants in my favorite episodes; a sense that the ship is held together as much by the captain’s willpower as anything so mundane as welds and joins.
Syna Davout’s ship – The Hangman’s Quarry – was designed to follow in the footsteps of the renegade vessels before it, especially Serenity and Moya (from Farscape). Someplace that was more home than ship, and carried the imprints of its crew (both past and current) in the design. From the snap-locks that hold everything in place (to protect them from Syna’s evasive piloting) to the gym built into the first cargo bay (a remnant from Syna’s old partner, Anbjorn), to the ship’s gossipy AI, I wanted to convey that sense of lived-in, broken comfort.
I contrasted it early on with the sleek, impersonal cleanliness of Galen’s Narcissus-class corvette. Decorated in white tiles polished metal, it’s a far cry from the cramped, dingy chaos of the Quarry, and Syna disparages it almost immediately. Unfortunately for her, there’s more to her act of piracy than she’s aware, and if there’s one thing she hates more than sterile silver spaceships, it’s being someone else’s pawn—

Hearts and Minds

Syna Davout was hired for a simple smash-and-grab job—smash into a luxury yacht, grab the cash, and split the proceeds with her client. Unfortunately, the client failed to mention that she’d be the diversion for an assassination attempt that destroys the yacht and leaves her with a passenger she neither wanted nor expected - a fugitive telepath caught in the middle of a revolution.
Galen Fash knew his days were numbered. The fledgling uprising on his home world needs him to buy them time, with his life if necessary. The last thing he wanted is to get involved with a pirate captain-for-hire whose larger-than-life emotions draw him like a moth to a flame.
On the run from a relentless enemy that wants them both dead will be hard enough without acknowledging the attraction that flares between them. Together they might have a chance, assuming they can survive each other…

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“Are you going to help or just stare down my shirt?”
Galen blinked, smiled. “Is there a way I can do both?”
She shoved a curl of hair out of her face, pink leaching into her cheeks. “Just hold this.” She indicated the wires in her hands with a jut of her chin. He had to shift closer to reach and found himself too conscious of the way she pressed back against him as she worked. He willed his body not to respond and hoped it wasn’t too distracted to ignore him. She mumbled something as she flattened her back against him.
“Sorry, what?”
“Close your eyes,” she whispered. His pulse lurched erratically until blue-white plasma illuminated the space, and he realized she’d issued it not as a come-on, but a warning. His eyes snapped shut and focused on the red-yellow afterimage of the welding lance drifting quietly behind his eyelids. “Two more, then I think we’ve bypassed it.”
“That’ll bring the shields up to full?”
“It’ll bring them back to where they were before we started this venture, which is something. Stay out of the aft-most cargo hold—I had to reroute power from its environmental controls.”
“Is that safe?”
The welder sparked again, the light savage even through his closed eyes. The smell of ozone and charged particles drifted through the air. Combined with her shampoo, it made her smell like a spice field after an electrical storm.
“Yeah, just don’t go in there. Not much choice in the matter, the starboard field’s influx coupler got slagged. I don’t just carry those around with me.” The welder flared again. “That should finish that.”
Galen opened his eyes cautiously. “You can’t ask Bree?”
Syna shook her head. “No. There’s no pickups in here, and no speaker for her to respond through. I have to do it from the hall.”
He grinned. “Ooooh, unchaperoned. I like it.”
She laughed, her blush renewed. Warmth flooded out from her, her emotions a sea he wanted to swim in. She has no idea how sexy she is, he realized. On impulse, he leaned forward and kissed her.
She froze for a heartbeat and a flicker of panic went through him, then her hand tangled in his hair and tugged him closer. Her body crushed against him and any control he’d aspired to evaporated. The heat of her body soaked through his skin, suffused him as he lost himself in her.
She broke the kiss long enough to take a breath, then tugged his hair back to bite along his jawline. The combination of teeth and tongue overloaded Galen’s senses. His knees lost any sense of strength they had, and he reached out for support with one hand.
There was a soft pop and a whiff of electrical smoke. She pulled up from the kiss and touched her nose-tip to his, a quiet smile playing across her mouth. “Please tell me you didn’t just rip out my lovely bypass.”

About JC Hay

JC Hay writes romantic science fiction and space opera, because the coolest gadgets in the world are useless without someone to share them.
In addition to Romance Writers of America, he is also a proud member of the SFR Brigade (for Science Fiction Romance), the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance chapter, and a proud member of RWA’s PAN (the published authors network).
In addition to piracy in high space, JC writes the Corporate Services series, a set of connected cyberpunk romances set eighty years in our future where the limits of humanity are being stretched and tested.
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