Friday, October 7, 2016

Sneak Peek at All In

All In comes out October 18th, but if you don't want to wait that long to get a glimpse of Cynder's story, this is your lucky day.
Here's a sneak peak at All In.
Cynder paced back and forth in front of the door, listening to the crowd on the other side. It was another full house tonight in her bar, the Nova Club. A packed club meant profits were up, the liquor was flowing, and the betting would be fast and furious. Better yet, some of those bets would be on her performance in the ring tonight. Anyone who bet against her was going home poorer. There was no way in hell she was going to lose.
The door opened, and she was hit by a wall of noise. Her batch sibling, Kit, who was also one of the club’s co-owners, stuck his head in and grinned at her. “You ready to kick ass?”
“You have no idea how much,” she replied. She glanced past him, looking into the club. They had to be near their occupancy limit. Perfect. The energy of the crowd was a tangible thing: a heady blend of body heat, bloodlust, and booze-fueled enjoyment that hit her like a spike of adrenaline.
Kit cleared his throat, drawing her attention back to him. “Nothing like doing the month-end books to get you in the right frame of mind to go a few rounds, right? This time, can you please remember that your opponents aren’t the enemy; they’re contracted employees? Try not to break off anything vital.”
She rolled her eyes at him, her thoughts already on the match to come. “I have never broken anything off of anyone, vital or otherwise. And before you even say it, a Jeskyran’s body thorns grow back, so that one doesn’t count.”
Kit scoffed. “The way he was complaining and wailing? I’m betting he’d argue with your assessment. You stay sharp out there and good luck.”
“I don’t need luck tonight. Not unless Frey has suddenly stopped dropping his guard and Jester learned not to telegraph his moves.”
“Don’t get cocky. Cocky gets you dead,” he said, using a line he had uttered a thousand times on the battlefield. They might have left that life behind, and Kit wasn’t her commanding officer anymore, but some things were too ingrained to ever truly be forgotten.
She snapped off a salute in response and grinned at him. “Yessir, Major sir.”
“Why do I put up with your sass again?” he asked.
“Because I’m your batch sister, your business partner, and the only person you know who can do the club’s books. Also, I’m cute as hell and your wife thinks I’m awesome.”
There was no mistaking the look of contentment that came over Kit’s face the second she mentioned his wife, Zura. Kit and his brother had married the love of their lives three months ago, and the honeymoon phase was still going strong. The way the three of them looked at each other, Cyn suspected it would never end. Kit and his cloned twin, Luke, were deeply in love with Zura, and she felt the same about them. It was almost enough to make someone believe in true love and fairytales. Almost.
The noise of the crowd rose to a deafening roar, a sure sign that the fight before hers had come to an end.
“You’re on in two minutes. We’re introducing your opponents first. Fight smart, Cyn. I’ll see you ringside.” Kit tapped his fist to hers before leaving.
Once the door closed, the noise faded. Like all cyborgs, she had excellent hearing, vision, and other senses. They had been gifts without price when she was a soldier, but now that life was over, there were times she wished her enhancements had an off-switch, or at the very least, volume control.
She bounced on her toes and rolled her shoulders, loosening up in anticipation of stepping into the ring. The fight wouldn’t be easy, but she knew it was winnable. It was part of the Nova Club’s draw: each bout would be between well-matched opponents, and none of the fights were easy wins. It kept the betting hot and made sure everyone brought their A-game.
The habits of a lifetime kept her breathing slow and her heart rate steady even as she felt the familiar tingle of adrenaline. This was what she lived for now— these few, fleeting moments when she could focus on the present instead of the past. The brief stretches when she could exist one heartbeat at a time, reacting instead of remembering.
The door opened, and the maddening noise of the crowd rolled over her. Head up, hands high, she made her way to the ring, laughing every step of the way.
* * * *
Jaeger had only been in the Nova Club for an hour, but he could already see it was everything he had heard it was, and then some. The clientele was rough, the food was way above average for the Drift, and the drinks weren’t watered down at all. The fights were fair, and the casino was well-run and above board. After spending two months working their way through half the bars, gambling dens, and fight clubs on the corporation-run platforms and stations that made up the Drift, the Nova was a welcome change of pace.
“Did you see the menu? They’ve got fraxxing grass-fed beef. Steak, Jaeg. When’s the last time we had real, planet-raised meat, never mind a steak?” Toro asked, tapping the menu with a thick finger for emphasis.
“Where the hell are they getting beef from out here? Check the fine print, there has to be a catch.”
Toro scanned the menu again and then shook his head. “No catch. It says it’s certified, colony-raised beef. I’m ordering it. I don’t care if it wipes out my savings. It’s steak!”
“And how many fights are you going to have to win before you can eat again? We’re living lean these days.” That was a slight exaggeration of their financial status, but not by much. If the Nova Club signed Toro on as a fighter, the signing bonus alone would ensure they could make ends meet until Toro won a fight or Jaeger hit a lucky streak at the gambling tables.
His best friend scowled at the reminder of their status. “We wouldn’t be in the red if the last place we worked hadn’t been run by a couple of thieving, conniving cowards. You won that money, and they had no right taking it back. Everyone knows starburst is an un-cheatable game, that’s why it’s so damned hard to win. We’re cyborgs, not magicians with the ability to manipulate odds and gravity.”
“That’s why we’re here. If there’s any place on the Drift where no one is going to hassle us for being what we are, it’s in a club run by other cyborgs. They know better than anyone in the galaxy what we’re capable of,” Jaeger said.
“I hope so. If this place pans out, I’d like to stick around for a while. I’m getting tired of sleeping in a new bed every few nights. It’s starting to feel like we never left military service at all.”
“At least the food’s better,” Jaeger commented as he finally read over the menu and winced at the prices. This far from civilization, everything was more expensive. It was another reminder that they needed to start making money soon. From what he had seen of the gaming tables, the Nova Club ran an honest game, which meant with a little luck, he should be able to turn their fortunes around in a week or less.
“Does this mean you’re going to let loose and actually indulge in a steak with me? Come on, take a walk on the wild side.” Toro was grinning as he waved over one of the serving staff.
“Like you said, it’s steak. I’m in. Tomorrow, when we’re both broke and hungry, remind me that giving in to temptation is never a good idea.”
Toro shook his head. “Not a chance. You know those words will never pass my lips. Temptation is fun, and life is all about having fun and taking risks. You’re a damned gambler; you know all about risk and reward.”
“I know about carefully calculated risks and return on investment. That’s not the same thing.”
“Says the man about to order himself a big, juicy steak. Admit it, sometimes it feels good to give in to temptation.” Toro turned to their server and flashed the young man a smile. “My buddy and I will both have the steak. Rare. Oh, and one of every side dish, and two more beers.”
“You got it. You won’t regret the steak; it’s incredible. I got to try some the first time it came in, and it’s worth the scrip.”
“It better be,” Jaeger muttered and pointed at Toro. “You need an impressive winning streak if you want to keep eating this way.”
The server perked up at that. “You’re a fighter? Have you signed on here? If you have, you get a discount on food and beverages.”
“Not yet. Got a meeting with one of the owners a little later. We thought we’d come by and check the place out and watch the fights.”
“You came on a good night. Cynder is on the roster. In fact, her fight is up next. I’m going to put in your order and go watch. I’ll bring your steaks out as soon as they're ready.”
“Cynder—hey, isn’t that the name of the owner we’re supposed to meet up with later?” Toro asked.
“Cynder Armas, yeah. If she’s one of the owners, that’s good news for us. It means they let cyborgs fight here. I know they agreed to talk to you, but that’s never a sure sign.”
“And there you go, being all practical again. I was hoping she was hot. I love a woman who knows how to fight dirty, if you know what I mean.”
Jaeger rolled his eyes. “Keep thoughts like that to yourself, will you? You’re not half as charming as you think you are, and we need her to sign you on as a fighter, not toss us out of here because you hit on her. She’s going to be your boss, remember?”
...The rest of the story will have to wait until October 18th

Don't forget to pre-order All In to save 20% off the cover price.