Today I am so pleased to welcome Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen to Joyfully Jay. Jenn and Kelly have come to share an exclusive excerpt from their latest release, Chaos Station, the first in a new series. They have also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving the authors a big welcome!
Felix stopped in the doorway, transfixed by the sight of Zed’s broad shoulders—bare shoulders, slicked with soap bubbles and water. He watched the shift of muscle beneath golden skin as Zed washed his hair, deltoids bunching up and down. The string of planets tattooed down his spine barely flickered. Repeated exposure to j-space had probably killed most of the animation in the ink. Following the line down Zed’s back, he damned the fact the half wall blocked the rest of the view. But he remembered well enough how Zed’s torso narrowed at his hips, the firm roundness of his ass, the way his glutes flexed when he moved. The ticklish spot behind his knees, how Zed’s powerful thighs felt against his own, or wrapped around his hips.
Zed turned and pushed water from his face, opening his eyes. Still fixed in place, Felix met his gaze and wondered, idly, if the ship had swayed—which would be bad in j-space. Really bad. Swallowing, Felix fought to keep his eyes pointed forward. Zed’s pectorals teased the periphery of his vision. Sculpted, as firm as the rest of him, wet and still covered by dark hair which now curled in the steam of the shower.
“You’re letting in a draft,” Zed said, one corner of his mouth quirking upward.
“Sorry.” Felix took a step back. “I can come back later.”
Zed’s expression shifted and the weight of years dropped between them, cooler than the breeze wafting through the open hatch. “You don’t have to go. I’m just about done.”
“Okay.” The single word barely scraped the surface of the response Felix wanted to give.
He stepped over the lip of the door and the hatch slid closed behind him. Steam billowed back, obscuring Zed’s face before it funneled up toward the exhaust. When the mist cleared, Zed had turned around again, one arm up as he pushed water through his hair. Felix averted his gaze, turned, then found himself peeking back over his shoulder. His need to look at Zed felt like a desperate thirst—edged with madness and a lack of prudence.
Jerking his chin back around, Felix fiddled with his towel and tried to remember why he’d come to the bathroom. To have a shower. Then he planned to visit Zed. To talk.
“I was going to come find you,” he said. “Sorry I didn’t earlier. We had an issue with the c-core.” Which hadn’t been urgent, but—
Zed stepped out from behind the half wall with a towel tucked around his lean hips. God, he looked good. The moisture clinging to his skin highlighted the cut of his muscles, each so defined that he appeared carved rather than created in any natural way. A meter separated them, but Felix imagined he could feel the heat radiating from Zed’s flesh.
“I’ll let you—”
“Do you really want me here?”
In the bathroom? Yes, no, yes, goddamn it. “Ah…”
Zed’s dark brows drew together and furrows marched across his forehead.
“We need to talk,” Felix managed.
“Is that what you want?”
“Why do you keep asking me what I want?”
“Because this is your ship. Your crew.” Zed raised a hand, palm turned up. “You don’t need to get involved in my shit.”
“I want to.”
Zed’s brows rose out of the flat line they’d been trying to make.
“Zed, Loop, whatever…whoever you are. Shit, this is so confusing.”
Felix scrubbed a hand across his face and then a small detail peeked out of the hazy atmosphere surrounding them. A mark on Zed’s wrist, a new tattoo. Felix stepped forward, reaching out to catch that arm. Zed pulled back, the movement swift, but not too fast to follow. Then, with a grunt, he offered his hand to Felix, wrist turned up. The tattoo had the patina of age, but the lines were still sharp, the ink still animated. A gentle pulse traced the design in an endless loop. Felix recognized it instantly. A soliton, or a visual rendering of the mathematical formula.
He’d thought the symbol perfect when he’d first seen it, a self-reinforcing wave that maintained its shape at constant speed. In other words, Zed. He always had a plan, he always had a direction, and very little could dissuade him. At least, that was how it’d been before. Now curved, interlocking lines that flowed endlessly, seeming without beginning or end, marked Zed’s wrist in echo of the pendant Felix given had him, the only gift Felix had ever made to a lover.
His pulse beating in his throat, Felix cradled the underside of Zed’s hand and stroked his thumb across the mark. “Is that…”
Zed’s eyes had darkened again, but not to steel. The same depth of emotion that swirled through Felix’s frame seemed to be echoed there. “When you died I wanted to keep you close.”
Felix swallowed over the weird flicker of his pulse. “I’m sorry.” Not for dying, or earning the distinction of being labeled KIA. For being a self-absorbed ass. “Zed…I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I want to help, okay? I might not need you—” had he really said that? “—but I think you need me. You and Emma. I’m here, I’m alive, I’m only missing one hand.” Ungloved, his left hand hung uselessly from his wrist, twisted and gnarled. He looked down at it, frowned at the ugly parody of a functioning appendage, and then angled his chin so he could peek at Zed without appearing to study him.
A blur of motion stilled his chin. Zed’s other hand. Felix flinched. Then he swayed forward, leaning into the touch, needing it, despite any ill-conceived words to the contrary. Zed’s warm palm spread across his jaw. Felix’s grip tightened around Zed’s wrist. Zed had only to lean in another centimeter before Felix closed the distance between them. He had no plan, only the desire to be closer. Did Zed smell the same? Would he taste the same? Could the years they’d lost have erased everything between them?
Zed’s lips caught his, gently, tentatively. Felix breathed out, his breath tickling his nose. A sound circled his throat, his heart squeezed painfully and then thought ceased as he pressed forward and fell into a kiss that would always be familiar. Timeless, breathless, needful.
“You’re not real. Felix Ingesson is dead.”
The war with the alien stin is over, but Felix Ingesson has given up on seeing his lover, Zander Anatolius, ever again. Zander’s military file is sealed tighter than an airlock. A former prisoner of war, Felix is attempting a much quieter life keeping his ship, the Chaos, aloft. He almost succeeds, until Zander walks on board and insists that Felix isn’t real.
A retired, broken super soldier, Zander is reeling from the aftereffects of his experimental training and wants nothing more than to disappear and wait for insanity to claim h
im. Then he sees footage of a friend and ally—a super soldier like him—murdering an entire security squad with her bare hands and a cold, dead look in her eyes. He never expected to find Felix, the man he’d thought dead for years, on the ship he hired to track her down.
Working with Felix to rescue his teammate is a dream come true…and a nightmare. Zander has no exit strategy that will leave Felix unscathed—or his own heart unbroken.
Jenn and Kelly met in 2009 through a mutual infatuation with a man who wasn’t real. After all but crashing the video game’s forums with daily dissection of their obsession, they started writing together, discovered they really liked writing together and began plotting stories in worlds of their own creation.
The CHAOS STATION series aren’t the first books they’ve written together, and they’re pretty sure they won’t be the last. As long as their so-called smartphones keep making autocorrects that trigger brainstorming sessions, they’ll have enough character ideas and plots to keep them writing for years to come.
- Chaos Station series: www.chaosstation.com
- Jenn Burke: www.jennburke.com
- Kelly Jensen: www.kellyjensenwrites.com
Jenn and Kelly have brought a $10 Amazon gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Thursday, March 5th at 11:59 pm EST.
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