When IN THE BLACK came out earlier this year readers were eager to come on board the Bonnie Belle and meet the courtesans, including the enigmatic Captain Samantha Keller and Marshal Daniel LeClair.
You haven't visited the Belle? Why not?
Now it's time to see how far IN THE VOID someone would go for love...
(slight spoilers for IN THE BLACK, so be warned!)
“Stimulation of the erogenous zones is essential.”
Sean Harrison groaned and turned the page.
“Make sure to maintain eye contact and inform your partner that they’re special.”
He put down the tablet and rubbed his eyes, feeling a headache starting.
Some people thought being a Guild courtesan was all about sex.
It was mostly true.
But whoever had written this paper on how to sexually satisfy women had to be either a eunuch or Sean’s girlfriend from the sixth grade, who’d thought kissing immediately led to pregnancy.
He swam over to the bathroom sink and pulled a moist cloth out of the dispenser. He looked in the mirror and spotted a few new wrinkles around his eyes.
It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.
And he was getting tired of stomping on the gas pedal.
Rubbing the hot fabric over his face helped push the pain away, not so much the annoyance.
He’d had to pay for this report as he had to pay for almost everything from the Guild. The rules and regulations dictated everything from exactly how much he could charge for his services to the cost of a hot shower. It was a constant juggling effort for the courtesans to coax tips from their customers to stay ahead and not end up chained to the Guild beyond their five-year contracts.
In exchange the Guild provided excellent training and let them travel the universe, visiting distant mining bases to bring civilized conversation to lonely men and women.
Along with great sex, of course.
Sean pushed the damp towel into the disposal chute and paddled back to the receiving area where the tablet still spun in zero gravity, waiting for his return.
“Crap,” he announced to the room. “Crappity crap crap.”
A knock came at the hatch.
“It’s open.” He never bothered to lock the door between landfalls.
Harry Lafayette bounced through the hatch and smacked his legs on the table as he flailed to stop himself.
“Hey.” He nodded to Sean. “You seen this new report? Man, if I had this in high school I would have scored big time with the ladies.”
Sean closed his eyes in an attempt to call up that inner peace April kept talking about.
Had he been this annoying on his first tour?
Had he ever been that young?
Sean resisted the urge to check the mirror again.
“It’s just a guidebook,” he said, trying to sound as kind as he could. “It’s put together by experts,” he paused, almost hearing the air quotes around the word experts, “who claim to know what women want. It’s not gospel.”
The bare-chested man floated around the receiving room, the smallest of the three-room suite each courtesan occupied on the Bonnie Belle. “But the trainers said they’d tell us everything we needed, teach us what we needed to keep our customers happy.”
Sean smiled. “Some things only come via life experience.” He resisted the urge to rub the invisible wedding ring on his left hand. “The Guild is good but you’ll pick up things during your first tour that they can’t teach. Don't be afraid to ask for help from the rest of the crew.”
Harry chuckled. “You mean April, Kendra and Bianca, right? ’Cause I don’t think I’m going to get much from Jenny and Sam.”
Sean shrugged as he reached out for the tablet hovering between them. “Jenny’s the best mechanic out here. And Sam, well—she’s a damned good captain. This is my second tour and I’d have no one else in the cockpit.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll take your word for it. Any word on when we’re getting another courtesan?”
“No.” Sean tapped the screen and sent the report away. “We’re still running one short. You got Dane’s cabin and we’re still waiting for Halley’s replacement.”
“I’m sorry about all that.” Harry looked down. “I know you were buddies with them both.”
“Not so much buddies, but work associates.” Sean wasn’t sure how to explain it to the rookie. “You can be on the same ship for months, years and never be friends with anyone else. Halley—” He choked up, thinking of the dead courtesan.
They hadn’t been friends but they sure as hell hadn’t been enemies. If Sean had been the one to find her dead in her cabin with her throat cut—
“Dane Morris was an asshole,” Sean growled. “He killed one of our own and tried to kill the captain. He was no friend of mine.”
Harry nodded. “Understood.”
Sean released the tablet and rubbed his face with both hands. “I’m sorry. I’m a wee bit on edge.”
“No problem,” Harry replied. “I guess this gets boring to an old pro like yourself after a while.”
Sean was in the middle of composing an answer when the alarm went off.
“All personnel immediately report to the galley.” Belle’s calm voice was in contrast to the blaring siren. “Please report to the galley.”
Harry flailed in zero gravity until Sean got hold of his arm and helped him to the hatch.
“Is it bad?” Harry asked as they opened the door and swam out into the hall.
Sean wasn’t in a mood to sugarcoat his response. “Probably.”
Kendra drifted into the hall, her movements graceful even in weightlessness. She eyed the two men.
It wasn’t a question.
IN THE VOID
Book two of Tales from the Edge
Catherine Rodgers doesn’t like Mercy spaceships, or the courtesans who work on them—not after her husband left her for a Mercy woman. But after her luxurious transport ship gets blown up to prevent her from cracking the lid off a corporate scam that’s left hundreds dead and a few people very rich, the only vessel around to save her is the Bonnie Belle.
Sean Harrison has worked as one of the Belle’s courtesans for years, bringing happiness to countless women along the space lanes. When he’s asked to look after Catherine while the Belle brings her to safety, it should be just another job. Somehow it’s anything but.
Sean is captivated by Catherine’s sense of justice and responsibility. And Catherine finds a softer, more emotionally intelligent man in Sean than she expected. Drawn together in darkness under the threat of death, they find the beginning of something lasting. But with pirates after the Belle and a price on Catherine’s head, that beginning might be all they get.
Coming out October 6th from Carina Press!