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This month I'm featuring Mine to Hold book 4 in the ES Siren series (co-written with Mel Teshco and Denise Rossetti).
“Tasty. Male.” Silke put the little brown guinea pig in a cage and picked up the next one. “Delicious … also male.”
“They’ll be eating well this round.” Vance updated the animals’ notes on his portacomp. Vet Silke Rask kept very strict control of the guinea pig breeding. She didn’t want an inbred population by the time they reached Solitaire. They were, however, a source of fresh meat on the ship—for some people anyway. Not for the likes of Vance. And probably not for Silke either.
“I know. Oh! We have a girl. Yummy.” Silke gave the animal a little pat.
While she was quite happy holding them and being nice to them, Vance kept his distance. The animals were going to be eaten. They weren’t pets. He could have one dead and ready for cooking in about fifteen minutes flat. He’d caught and cooked a lot of things in the slums. Guinea pig would’ve been a luxury. Still was.
He looked at the little bundles of fur. They were still too small for eating, but not so small that they wouldn’t try getting it on with their siblings.
Vance glanced up as a man in Air Force blues walked in. “Grady’s back,” he murmured.
“Routine checks on the hold to make sure we don’t all get sucked into space.” Silke’s gaze flicked to the officer and lingered for a moment before returning to the animal in her hands.
Routine checks. Sure. It wasn’t the integrity of the ship Captain Grady was checking out. Vance had noticed the way he looked at Silke. He’d also seen the sparks between Silke and Grady when they talked. Not that he was in a position to be jealous. He was her assistant on a good day, a high-risk whites prisoner with another twenty years to serve—once they reached the planet—on a bad day.
If they reached the planet.
He didn’t care either way. He’d stopped living for the future a long time ago. It was much easier to focus on enjoying each day as best he could, sleep, and then repeat.
“Juicy is a boy.” Juicy also wriggled and tried to get free. They’d started giving the litters silly names after two very boring alphanumeric designated litters. They still had their alphanumeric designation, but life was more fun when the guinea pigs had more appropriate names.
“And I bet he would be juicy, too.” Vance hadn’t had real meat since leaving Earth, and even then, what they’d been given in prison was more ground up mystery meat than anything recognizable.
“In a couple of weeks.”
“I’ll go you halves. We’ll cook him over one of your burners.”
Silke smiled at him as if she were half considering the idea. Sometimes when she looked at him it was as though she was thinking of something very different to work. He didn’t let himself explore that thought. At least, not here. Alone and at night … that was a different story. He liked Silke a lot more than he should. She’d always treated him as a person, not a number, or a con.
“You’re discussing an offense within earshot of an officer … I could report you.”
Vance doubted Grady would do anything that might get Silke in trouble—anything that would damage his chances of hooking up with her. It was almost painful to watch what was happening. One of them needed to make a move or he’d do it for them.
Silke looked up, clearly surprised to see Captain Grady had moved closer. She recovered fast. “There are four legs. We’ll cut you in.”
She held the guinea pig out to him, but Grady wrinkled his nose and didn’t take it. He didn’t say no either.
Mine to Hold
Getting caught between two lovers has never been more dangerous.
Captain Leo Grady is making his third trip to Solitaire. He's spent five years in space and is ready for a change. Not wanting to go back to Earth, he's chosen to pay off on Solitaire. All he needs is a woman willing to be his wife. Given that women are heavily outnumbered on the fleet of first settlers he knows he can't sit around and wait. He has to act.
Vance Knox has been working with vet, Silke Rask, for the last six months. He fancies her, but refuses to do anything about it because he still has a twenty year sentence to serve. He has nothing to offer any lover and he expects nothing. He made his choices a long time ago. But it burns to see her getting closer to Grady.
Silke is torn between the sensible choice of Grady and the more dangerous attraction she has for Vance, but as secrets are revealed she realizes that she has to fight for what she wants. Not everyone on the ship is there because they earned their place, and old Earth money still has power.
When disaster strikes and threatens the lives of everyone on board she realizes that that sometimes no choice has to be made. Why should love have limits?