Excerpt from Jumper's Hope (Central Galactic Concordance Book 4)
Today I'm sharing a free excerpt from Jumper's Hope, the fourth book in my space opera-adventure-romance series. Reunited lovers must outwit a ruthless government agent, or their rumored deaths will be real this time.
* GDAT 3242.002 * Planet: Branimir *
It took Jess Orowitz a lot longer than it should have to realize the injured pilot he and his neighbor pulled from the flitter wreckage was a dead woman.
She groaned as they set her down as gently as they could on the glascrete surface of the public flitter port’s landing pad in front of an older, gaunt man who was slowly opening his large medic kit.
Jess’s farming neighbor, Bhalodia, the man who had called Jess to the scene, stood and moved back, rocking side to side on antsy feet. He’d dressed up in his only white tunic to come to town, and now it was ruined by a smear of bright red airfoil lubricant on his sleeve.
“She one lucky pilot.” His English was more pidgin than Standard, but he got by similarly in at least twenty other languages besides his native Thai. He pointed a thumb over his shoulder toward the hot, still-sparking remains. “Broke flitters usually tumble, not slide.”
Jess knew it had been the pilot’s skill that avoided the buildings when landing what was left of her ruined flitter, but he was too stunned to speak. Kerzanna Nevarr, the only woman he’d ever loved, the woman who’d been killed four years ago in a full-city riot on a distant planet, was alive. He stayed on his knees and had to remind himself to breathe.
Considering the Central Galactic Concordance had more than five hundred settled planets across the galaxy, hundreds of thousands of cities, and hundreds of billions of people, the chances of the two of them reconnecting again in a tiny town in farm country on a back-of-beyond planet were impossibly remote.
And yet here she was.
Her tangled dark blonde hair was much longer and curlier than he remembered, and partially covered the decorative Jumper tattoos on the side of her neck that led to the skulljack interface just behind her ear. Her nose looked straighter, and the thin scar that had bisected her right eyebrow was gone. He wondered if her eyes were still as blue as the summer sky. Cosmetics made it easy to change eye color on a whim, but Kerzanna had never paid much attention to fashion. Under the bloody, torn casual pants and loose jacket and top she wore, all shades of brown and cream, she was still tall and looked well muscled. Maybe she’d been one of the lucky Jumper veterans to escape the long-term side effects of the mech implants and enhancements.
“Pssst!” Bhalodia hissed quietly in Jess’s ear, startling him. “Told you. Pitt chemmed again.” Bhalodia tilted his head toward to the medic.
Pitt looked like he was performing a slow-motion dance interpretation of a medic assessing a patient, but unfortunately, it was real. Kwiksloe addicts thought their consciousness was expanding at half the speed of light, but it was just an illusion brought on by a depressed nervous system. It was why Bhalodia, who’d known Jess was still in town for a meeting, had pinged him to come to the crash site and prevent an unnecessary death because of Pitt’s impairment. Jess could be a medic when needed, though he paid a price for it.
Markalan Crossing’s town constable, Castro, walked around the corner of the main hangar building, then broke into a trot the moment she saw them. She was mostly good at her job, unless it had anything to do with her lover, Pitt. Bhalodia muttered disgustedly as he turned away from Jess and toward the flitter wreck. Bhalodia had served eighty-two years in the Central Galactic Concordance Military Ground and Air Divisions before retiring to his sprawling family farm on Branimir, and had zero tolerance for the situation with Castro and Pitt.
Castro’s habitual frown deepened as she took in the status of the flitter and the pilot, then became deeply pained as she realized Pitt’s condition. She gave Jess a warning look as she put her hand on Pitt’s shoulder and waited for him to notice and look at her. “Sweetie, I ordered a medevac. Maybe you should wait and let Orowitz and Bhalodia take her to the clinic.”
Jess struggled to stay still during the ten long seconds it took Pitt to process her words and respond. “I’m-m-m-m… g-o-o-o-d…” He gave her a slow, sunny smile that said she was his entire universe.
Castro visibly melted and smiled tenderly back, even though she undoubtedly knew the kwiksloe gave him tunnel focus. “All right, sweetie. I trust you.” She stepped back and glared at Jess, daring him to say one word. Her hand strayed as if by accident toward the needler on her quick-release belt. Something about her said she was microseconds away from unloading a full clip into anyone who interfered with Pitt.
Kerzanna needed immediate, competent assessment, and Pitt was useless. Jess sat back on his heels and dropped his gaze so Castro wouldn’t see any changes in his expression when he reached for the part of his mind that was Jess-the-medic and let it take over. The familiar sharp pain became a familiar dull headache as he let his professional gaze catalog Kerzanna’s injuries. He ignored the superficial cuts and contusions and focused on the probable head injury and possible cracked sternum. Her wheezy breathing suggested lung impairment, likely from smoke inhalation or possibly from an intruding broken rib or crash debris. Jess-the-medic’s hands twitched when Pitt carelessly thumbed her swollen cheekbone and drew a grunt from her. The idiot was wasting time with a manual assessment instead of using a scanner.
Jess-the-medic wished he was a minder healer, able to help Kerzanna with just his mental talent, or at least a telepath, so he could tell Pitt what to focus on first, but he was just an ordinary man. Or as ordinary as he could be after the Citizen Protection Service’s secret Kameleon Corps program left a few extra people in his head. He would diagnose his mind as fractured, except he was one of the fractures.