Silver Serenade

 
  • Publisher: Orange Grove Press
  • Genre: Science Fiction Romance
  • Available Formats: eBook and Paperback

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A beautiful but deadly assassin joins a desperate fugitive in the hunt to catch a terrorist.

Starship pilot Jace Vernon flees his home world after being framed for murder. He seeks the man responsible, but S.I.N. agent Silver Malloy counters his every move. Silver’s mission is to eliminate the leader of Tyrone’s Marauders, and she refuses to back down even after Jace explains why he needs the man alive. Her resolve wavers when Jace’s charms breach her defenses. Can she help him prove his case, even if it means betraying her agency and ruining her career?

This title was originally published by The Wild Rose Press. A newly revised Author’s Edition is coming soon with a brand new cover.


Awards & Accolades:

The Romance Reviews Best Book Award

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Reviews

“Amazing heroine, sexy hero, lovable sub-characters…This is an exceptional, fast-paced, futuristic book that takes you to different worlds and introduces you to a whole new outlook on this genre of writing.” Babes in Bookland

“Silver Serenade by Nancy Cohen is a fun, entertaining, out of this world read!…It has all the same great elements that I have come to expect from Mrs. Cohen’s books…great characters, a strong storyline and the need to want to read more.” Cheryl’s Book Nook

“Ms. Cohen has not only given her readers a fabulous new world, but also a fantastic new galaxy to explore. This fantasy erotic romance has a strong, sexy hero and an even stronger, sexier heroine…Fans of Nathan Fillion and Firefly are sure to enjoy this futuristic romantic fantasy.” Coffee Time Romance

“Having not been exposed to many sci-fi writings, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first opened this book. I am ecstatically surprised. If all sci-fi futuristic books are written as Ms. Cohen has written Silver Serenade, I would add many more to my shelves. Silver Serenade is strangely captivating and oddly intriguing in an exciting, first-rate way.” Final Cut Editing

“Silver Serenade is a smashing good combination of two genres: romance and science fiction. Two highly motivated, extremely able, and extremely attractive characters have goals that both intersect and interfere…The author draws a fascinating world of intergalactic politics, futuristic technologies, and clashing moral priorities.” Philip K. Jason, Fort Myers Magazine

“A book of intergalactic proportions as well as action and romance!” Oh, For the HOOK of a BOOK!

“From start to finish, Silver Serenade throws an action packed thrill ride. It’s fun and adventurous, and left me begging for more!” Siren Book Reviews

“Get ready for an epic adventure, as vast as the universe in which it is set! With a touching love story, a great blend of humor, action and passion, and a great cast of characters, this is a book that won’t let you go until the very last page.” The Romance Reviews

“A fun romantic science fiction thriller… fast-paced from the moment Jace makes the hit on Silver and never slows down as love between them complicates their already complex relationship.” The Romantic Post

“Silver Serenade is an exciting, action-packed space adventure with more attention-grabbing twists and turns than a West Virginia highway. I loved it!…Whomever Ms. Cohen writes about next and wherever she wants to take me, it’s safe to say that I will go happily and enjoy every minute of it.” Two Lips Reviews

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Excerpt


Copyright 2010 by Nancy J. Cohen

Silver Serenade by Nancy J. Cohen

CHAPTER ONE

Despite the coolness of the woods, sweat dribbled down the back of Silver Malloy’s neck. Her muscles ached from hours spent in a crouched position, but stealth mattered more than comfort. She’d waited for this opportunity for months—no, make that years—and wasn’t about to lose it due to a lapse in technique.

This first kill might be her last, but at least she’d complete her revenge.

Using her rifle scope, she scanned the dusty street that stretched below her hillside vantage point. The few scruffy inhabitants who trudged between the ramshackle buildings didn’t interest her.

A lucky tip had brought her to Al’ron, a watering hole for space travelers. Those who visited here were not often welcome elsewhere. They came to buy arms, men, and equipment to carry out lawless raids against innocent victims, and Tyrone Bluth had earned the reputation as the cruelest bandit of all.

Silver couldn’t wait to end his reign of terror.

Raucous bird cries and the drone of insects rang in her ears, augmented by the auditory sensors in her gold drop earrings. She ignored them─her concentration centered on the only saloon in town.

Squinting, she watched the set of double swinging doors, eager for the slightest hint of movement. The spicy scent of tangleberries tickled her nose. She stifled a sneeze, unwilling to lose focus, even for a moment.

Someone staggered from the saloon. Her pulse accelerated as she recognized Bluth, the leader of Tyrone’s Marauders. He sported a wide-brimmed black hat, militia-style clothes, and a weapons belt bristling with armaments. A hostile scowl creased his ugly face, a face that had haunted her dreams forever.

Shutting one eye, she took careful aim through the targeting sight of her TechVix LD-6 Sharpshooter Special.

Her gut clenched, and she steeled herself to fire. Just as her finger twitched on the trigger, a shadowy figure dove into her. The impact knocked her to the ground. She dropped the rifle, but not before it discharged a wild shot.

A heavy weight toppled across her body, forcing her spine down against the packed earth. Tiny pebbles dug into the small of her back. Brittle pine needles pierced her skin. So much for the protective jumpsuit she’d worn.

“Let me up.” She shoved at the bulk immobilizing her. Unable to break free, she aimed a string of expletives toward the man whose furious green eyes glared down at her.

“Who the devil are you?” he demanded, his thick dark brows inched together in an angry scowl.

“I could ask you the same.” Silver’s hand scrabbled in the dirt, searching for her fallen weapon. “Are you one of Bluth’s men?”

“No.” His thighs pressed her firmly to the ground.

“Then get off me so I can finish what I started.”

“Only after you tell me why you’re here.”

Panic seized her as she faced the possibility of failure. “All I need is one clear shot, then we’ll talk.” She thrust at his broad chest, but he wouldn’t budge.

“If you’re worried about Bluth getting away, it’s too late.”

“What?” Silver lifted her head to peer over the crest of the hill. Sure enough, Tyrone Bluth was nowhere in sight.

The villain had torn apart everything meaningful in her life, and now she’d lost her chance to even the score.

Rage clouded her vision. “I don’t know who you are, but you’ve no right to interfere.”

His lip curled. “Is that so?” His attention shifted to a spot beyond the ridge, then he lowered his face close enough for her to see the brown flecks in his irises. “Be quiet. Bluth’s patrol is searching the area.”

Gritting her teeth, she gave him an appraising glance. Taut angles highlighted his bone structure, emphasizing a patrician nose and a jaw set at an arrogant pitch. Jet black hair swept in tousled waves to his nape. Slicked back from a wide forehead, its style proclaimed he was a man who couldn’t be swayed from his purpose.

With her smaller frame, she doubted the defensive tactics she’d learned during training would be effective. He looked like a guy who could counter her every move.

Minutes ticked by while he pressed against her in a manner that made unwanted awareness flood through her.

He raised himself to peer over the rise. “All right, it’s clear. Get up and identify yourself.”

You wish, mister. As soon as his weight lifted off her, she rolled to her side, snatched her rifle, and stood. The stranger appeared unarmed. From the tight fit of his vest and leather pants, she didn’t see where he could hide a weapon unless one was tucked inside his polished black boots.

“I should shoot you for what you’ve done.” She aimed her laser rifle at his chest. “I’ve waited months for this opportunity to kill Tyrone Bluth.”

“Why are you after him?”

Maybe if she explained, he’d let her finish the job. “Bluth is a ruthless outlaw. He leads a band of terrorists who prey upon colonists. His raids destroy entire settlements, killing thousands of innocent people. I mean to end his tyranny.”

They both spoke in low tones, aware that Tyrone’s men still scoured the woods.

The man’s jaw clenched, exposing a slight cleft in his chin. “I need the man alive, not dead. Fortunately, I caught a gleam of your weapon and stopped you in time.”

Before she could respond, a flurry of birds fluttered into the air. Silver’s head tilted sharply as she read the sign of unwelcome visitors. She hadn’t detected the stranger earlier only because she’d been so focused on her target.

“Someone’s coming,” she said. “I’m outta here.”

Slinging her rifle strap over her shoulder, she bounded down the slope, twigs and dead leaves flying in her wake. The man’s footfalls pounded behind her.

At the base of the hill, the forest swallowed them. Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the branches, illuminating cobwebs suspended in the air. Pine needles swatted her face, but she ignored them, icy prickles of fear clawing her spine. She’d heard what Bluth did to captives.

The man pushed past her to take the lead, swerving by a cluster of bramblejuice bushes. Silver couldn’t help admiring his agility as he skirted rocks in their path. For a big man, he moved fast.

She easily kept pace. Her feet dodged a fallen log as she charged after him down a grassy decline to the bank of a small stream.

Halting, he whipped around to face her. “These woods don’t go much farther. Beyond that rise, the terrain changes abruptly. We won’t find many places to hide in that barren landscape. Let’s circle around toward the spaceport.”

Since she was headed in the same direction, Silver didn’t argue. She hopped across a jagged row of slimy rocks to cross the stream. In her haste, she slipped on a pile of wet leaves coating the opposite bank.

The man dashed forward and offered a hand to assist her. Surprising herself, she accepted, feeling an odd tingling when his large palm enveloped hers in a firm, warm grip.

Once they reached the top of the embankment, he dropped her hand as though he’d touched fire.

His gaze darkening, the stranger turned away and charged across a ridge riddled with tangled kurl vines that made progress difficult. She watched her footing, careful to avoid snagging her ankle. They’d gone a short distance when she sniffed the distinctive scent of crushed marlberries.

“They’re directly in front of us.” She tugged on his arm to stop his forward momentum.

He glanced at her, his eyebrows raised. “How do you know?”

She smirked. “I’ve done my homework. Fallen marlberries cover the ground during the summer here. They emit a distinctive musty aroma when broken. Someone is on the trail ahead of us.”

His appreciative grin might have charmed her under other circumstances, but anger still drove her. Bluth would be dead by now if not for him.

“We’ll change direction,” the stranger said. “Follow me.”

“Why should I?” She stood her ground.

“Because we have a better chance of alerting each other to danger if we stick together.”

He had a point. All right, she’d go along with the guy for now but only until the coast was clear.

Footsteps crashed through the brush behind them. Her pulse racing, Silver darted after the man toward an outcropping of boulders that bordered the woods on the eastern edge. They’d circled the perimeter of the town to approach the spaceport from the opposite end but still had a distance to go.

The man gestured toward a crevice in one of the larger rocks. “It looks like we can just squeeze through.”

“We’re not far from the port. I say we take our chances.” She could still catch Bluth before his ship lifted off. Once she’d killed him, it didn’t matter if his henchmen caught her.

“They’ll overtake us first. Do as I say.”

“No, thanks. You can hide in there, but I’m on my way.” Small, dark spaces held no appeal for her, and that gap in the rocky mountainside looked as inviting as a bear’s den.

She ducked past him but wasn’t fast enough.

His eyes glittered as he blocked her path. “You’re not getting captured. I can’t trust you to keep silent about meeting me. Inside.” Grasping her arm, he hauled her toward the crack in the granite.

“Let go of me.” She struggled for her rifle but couldn’t reach it. Nor did her attempts to kick him succeed.

He tugged her closer to the yawning black space that reminded her of…no, don’t go there. Memories surfaced anyway, bringing home the reason for this mission. Bile rose in her throat at the thought of Bluth getting away.

Forced into the narrow opening, she sucked in her stomach and flattened her back against one side of the boulder. The tight squeeze proved a challenge, but she emerged into a small chamber beyond. The ceiling lowered as she progressed, forcing her to crouch in order to proceed through a gap at the other end.

Her rifle scraped the rock. She hoped it wouldn’t be damaged, but the space was too small for her to adjust it. Besides, the man followed directly behind.

Irridescent cilica crystals imbedded in the granite provided illumination. After a few paces, the passage widened.

Her lungs ached, and she let out the burst of air she’d been holding. She breathed in a cool, rustic scent.

“Keep moving.” The man poked her arm.

Unable to retreat, she advanced forward, gasping in awe as the passage opened into a large chamber with a high ceiling and sprays of gypsum festooning the walls. Glittering stalactites and stalagmites and huge gnarled calcite columns added to the impression of height. Her glance halted on the streaks of red gleaming along the walls.

Rubilite formations.

Her resentment toward the stranger temporarily forgotten, she stepped onto the flowstone floor to examine one of the glowing veins which lit the interior like fire. Trickling water sang a steady rhythm in the background.

“Look at this!” She drew a finger along the streak of ruby red, its surface rough but cool to the touch. “Can you believe it?” She stared about the room, overwhelmed by its richness.

Behind her, the stranger gave a grunt of appreciation. “A hidden treasure of Al’ron. I wonder if anyone knows. This sector might be riddled with these caves.”

“This lode could be worth a fortune, when properly cut and polished. Whoever stakes a claim wins the mining rights.”

“I cannot take advantage of such a find, but you can.”

Puzzled by the bitterness in his tone, she pivoted to face him. Her gaze slid from his thick hair to his broad shoulders and muscled arms, lingering on his partly exposed chest and bronzed skin. Her pulse thrummed in her ears as a compulsion to learn more about him crept into her mind.

Forget it. Nothing matters but your mission.

“Let’s not waste time,” she said, hoping to impress upon him a sense of urgency. “We still have a good chance to catch Bluth before he reaches his ship.”

Annoyed by her loose hair, she twisted it into a braid, fastening the ends with a cord from her pocket.

The man had been studying her face. Now his glance drifted to her hair, making her take perverse delight in slowing her movements.

He tightened his lips. “We’ll wait a few minutes to let those goons pass.”

Awkward moments ticked by while they listened for signs of pursuit. During the interim, Silver’s nerves reacted to every movement he made. Tension crackled between them, eliciting a sheen of sweat on her skin. Risking a glance at his stern profile, she was consoled to note a muscle twitching in his jaw. So he wasn’t immune to her after all.

“I’ll reconnoiter the entrance,” he suggested. “Wait here.”

I may have screwed up my first kill, but I’m not that dumb. The man might desert her in order to reach the terrorist first. Or he could plan to expose her position and use her as a decoy for his own escape. Either way, she wouldn’t give him the opportunity. Ignoring his command, she followed him.

“What is your business with Tyrone Bluth?” she asked while they edged through the cramped passage.

“Why do you want to kill him?” he countered.

“I told you. He’s a menace to society.”

“So are a lot of other people.”

Again she heard that bitter note in his voice and wondered at it. “Who are you?” When he didn’t respond, she said, “All right, I’ll go first. I’m Silver Malloy.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he drawled as they reached the entrance. He stretched to his full height, tilting his head when muffled voices sounded outside. “Quiet, they’re nearby. Get back inside.” He darted deeper into the cave.

Silver followed, her heart thumping when she realized how close they’d come to being discovered.

The stranger stopped abruptly and pivoted to face her. When he placed his finger on her mouth to warn her against talking, she stiffened. She didn’t need the reminder. If they were caught, Bluth wouldn’t show any mercy.

As they waited, her body warmed to the man’s touch. Bad timing, but that seemed to be her fate. She’d had little luck in the men department; either they viewed her as a sexual object or as a comrade in arms. Only dear Burrell had treated her with true affection. Now her fiancé was gone along with her family.

No room remained in her heart for anyone else, only for revenge against the pirate who’d caused her grief.

The stranger dropped his arm. “I’ll see if they’ve left,” he said in a gruff tone. Without sparing her a backward glance, he retreated toward the exit. “It’s clear,” he called.

She trailed him outside, wincing at the bright sunshine. A brilliant flash drew her attention toward the spaceport.

“Oh no, that might be Bluth’s ship.” Disappointment colored her voice.

“He’ll leave an ion trail. We can follow him to his next destination.”

“We?”

“I have a fast scout ship on the launchpad.”

“So do I, and I prefer to work alone.” She started to sidestep beyond him, but he blocked her path.

“We’re both after the same man.” His gaze snagged her in its intensity. “We’d have a better chance of catching him together.”

“I’ll think about it. Stand aside.”

No way would she tag along with this guy for much longer. Not only did he want Bluth alive for his own purposes, but he played havoc with her hormones. Once they safely reached the launching platform, she’d fly solo.

Their trek through the woods was effortless since Bluth’s henchmen had cleared the area. It wasn’t long before they stood on a hillside gazing at the spaceport. Dust swirled in the air, clogging her nostrils, while heat rose from the rocks like an outdoor oven. Her parched throat cried for a drink. Beyond the hill, an array of launch sites interspersed with maintenance sheds dotted the flat expanse of reverrock.

“You didn’t say who you are,” she mentioned. “I gave you my name.”

Facing her squarely, he gave her a searching glance. “I’m Jace Vernon.” His jaw clenched when her expression registered shock. “Listen to me before you pass judgment.”

“Judgment has already been passed.” She couldn’t help her involuntary step backward. Ignoring the wild thumping of her heart, she raised her weapon. “Everyone knows about the high price on your head. What worse crime could there be than murdering your parents and selling your sister into slavery?”

She took aim. “Under the authority vested in me as a member of Earth Centrum’s Security Integrated Network, I hereby place you under arrest.”

“You’re an agent of S.I.N.?” he said, pronouncing it as one word rhyming with bin. “I should have guessed.” His scorching glance raked her from head to toe. “I suppose you’ve been assigned to assassinate Tyrone Bluth. His Marauders have been terrorizing Earth’s colonies, and you did say you meant to end his tyranny.”

“My job is no concern of yours. Now move.” She gestured with her rifle. “We’ll take my ship and tow yours. I hear quite a few bounty hunters are on your trail. I’ll look forward to receiving the reward for your capture.”

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