EXCERPT from Inner Diverse, Book 2 of The Splintered Universe Trilogy; Galactic Guardian Detective Rhea Hawke is travelling in her AI ship Benny in search of the “assassin” Serge to return him to the precinct for questioning:
…I slouched in my pilot’s chair, cosy in Serge’s old crewneck sweater, the one he’d worn—and taken off—when I’d last seen him. I hugged myself and tucked my nose into my elbow, breathing in the delicious fragrance of old wool and Serge’s faint but intoxicating scent—
Benny signalled me: “Scimitar class ship ahead, Rhea. I believe it’s Serge.”
I jerked up, feeling an irrational thrill surge through me. I let a predator’s smile slide across my face as I sat back and pulled out a wad of soyka gum, threw it casually in my mouth, and chewed lazily with an open mouth. “Well, let’s catch ourselves a little prey, Benny.” I blew out a bubble, popped it, then carved out a ferocious smile. “I’m hungry.”
I seized the controls and banked hard toward the stolen ship. “Lock on the scimitar, Benny. On my mark…Now!” I watched the ship shudder in the violent concussion wave.
“The scimitar is disabled, Rhea. We are being hailed.”
The holo-com lit up with Serge’s distraught face and I felt my own heat. He looked stunning in a grey crewneck sweater and black trousers. The sweater was identical to the one he’d worn when I’d last seen him—the one I was now wearing. As soon as he saw me, Serge’s face relaxed and he gave me a rakish smile. I noticed his fleeting glance down at what I was wearing and felt an awkward moment of recognition pass between us as our eyes locked. My face blazed with embarrassment.
“I should have guessed it was you, Rhea,” he said casually. “That your way of saying hello?”
“It is with you,” I bit back, casually chewing and throwing the gum around with my tongue, despite the warmth surging up my face. “We’ve disabled your ship and intend to dock and take you aboard. Don’t give me any trouble, Serge, and I won’t have to kill you.”….
…I kneeled down and gruffly pulled at the restraints to check their strength then rose and paused. I locked eyes with his, lips smirking, and played the gum in my mouth with my tongue. “Feels familiar, doesn’t it? Only in reverse.”
Serge took in a long breath, eyes roaming my body, then met my gaze head-on. “Go ahead.” His fragrance of musk and strawberries flared. “I know you want to kiss me.”
I jerked back, face flushing with anger. “You’re so full of shit, Serge. So hubristic about your powers of seduction―”
“Not hubristic, Rhea. I just know,” he said calmly, inching toward me even as I recoiled. “Haven’t you ever wondered about love at first sight?”
“Hormones,” I said flatly and blew out a bubble.
“Karma,” he returned.
I abruptly popped the bubble with my tongue and sucked my gum back into my mouth.
“You were wearing my sweater,” he said.
“I was cold.”
When Galactic Guardian Rhea Hawke investigates the genocide of an entire spiritual sect, she collides not only with dark intrigue but with her own tarnished past. Her quest for justice catapults Rhea into the heart of a universal struggle across alien landscapes of cruel beauty and toward an unbearable truth she’s hidden from herself since she murdered an innocent man.
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Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press (Vancouver) was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” will be released by Inanna Publications (Toronto) in 2020.