Free First Chapter Friday: Soulless, a Heart Pounding Sci Fi romance novel!

Give a romantic sci-fi welcome to “First Chapter Friday,” where we delve into alien romance and the allure of fated mates. This is a place where sci-fi meets romance on an otherworldly journey through the cosmos. Discover the passion and intrigue in this sexy sci-fi adventure where love defies the boundaries of space and time.

Soulless, a free sexy alien romance featuring fated mates, human and alien romance, and an otherwordly sci-fi setting

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Sierra didn’t know why she’d agreed to family dinner. Her father sat ramrod straight with a glass of whiskey clenched in one hand and studiously ignored the insignia on the sleeve of her uniform. She ate her peas one by one and only spared him glances when he shifted or sighed. Three years of this shit and she still hadn’t learned.

“I talked to Commander Mitchell about the training course I told you about. Two years of officer training and then you’ll have a command. Say the word and it’s yours.” He wasn’t using his General voice, which Sierra appreciated. But it also made her want to cry. He’d given up ordering her around. How long would it be before he gave up on her all together?

It was moments like these that she could still smell the stench of the Wastes where she’d spent her first years sticking to her skin. Her father, General Remington Alvarez, had saved her life. And all she was to him was a disappointment.

“I like my job, Dad.” She forced herself to look up. Even though he was in his mid-sixties, her dad barely had any gray hair and his muscles made her think he could lift a tree if he had to. He’d been stationed behind a desk for more than a decade, but none of the work had made him soft. No, Remington Alvarez was all hard edges and strict rules.

“The job that means I have to spend every night you’re in the field wondering if you’re safe? The job that I can’t talk about to any of my friends? The one that will steal away your future before you even realize it?” He jerked his glass up to his mouth and threw the whiskey back, hissing as the liquid burned its way down his throat.

“I wouldn’t be any safer in the fleet,” she felt the need to point out, even as his other statements flayed her alive. “And if it weren’t for the work I did, the fleet would be flying blind.” He made it all sound so sordid, and not a necessary part of any defense apparatus.

Her father sucked in a deep breath and Sierra had to look away, staring at a still photograph her father had taken at some fancy event with an alien with bright yellow skin and sharp teeth. They’d had this fight a hundred times before and the only sure thing about it was that both of them would be left hurting and resentful by the time the night was over. “I’m—” she cut herself off before the apology could flit across her tongue. That was the problem. She wasn’t sorry.

“Sneaking behind enemy lines, lying to people. It’s not honor—” he, too, choked on his words.

Sierra still flinched. It’s not honorable. Yeah, she’d heard that one plenty of times too. This had to end now. If they spoke for any longer, it would lead to more months of silence and shitty tempers.

She placed her napkin on the table and scooted her chair back. “Thanks for dinner. I’ll give you a call when I get back and we can do this again.” Emotion lodged in her throat and she swallowed it, unwilling to break in front of this man.

“Back?” her father demanded, throwing his own napkin down. “Where are you going?”

“A mission. Classified. Dishonorable stuff, you wouldn’t want to hear about it anyway.” Her eyes itched and if she didn’t get out of there in the next minute she’d end up crying. Sierra didn’t cry in front of her father, not ever. That was even worse than dishonor, that was weakness.

“Erra—” he tried to stop her with her old childhood nickname. Sierra didn’t even pause as she scooped up her jacket from where she’d laid it on the back of his couch. She made her way through the narrow hallway of his quarters and to the front door.

Something that might have been regret danced in his eyes as he met her at the door. “Be safe,” he finally said, grabbing her in a tight hug and yanking her close. “Come back in one piece, I still need a date to the reception for Ambassador Yormas of Wreet.”

Sierra squeezed her eyes shut, but when she opened them again, her eyelashes were wet. Her dad said nothing. “I’ll give you a call,” she promised, not ready to agree to anything when her emotions were so raw.

He just nodded and let her go.

The hallway outside of his apartment was the same boring gray as the walls inside her father’s quarters. He shared the floor with three other units, but she saw no one as she made her way down the faded carpet to the stairwell beside the elevator. She took the stairs at a fast clip, as if speed were enough to outrun everything on her mind and in her heart. She hated disappointing her father. He’d saved her from a short, hard life of unspeakable cruelty and darkness. She doubted she would have made it to twenty-nine if he hadn’t adopted her. But Sierra had long ago realized that being grateful for her existence didn’t mean she owed her dad her entire future.

He saw it all for her: officer training, command, rank. Everything he’d doggedly pursued for his entire life. The only life he could conceive of. She’d taken one look at the training manuals and run screaming. Sierra was no stranger to discipline. How could she be when her father was General Remington Alvarez? But if she made that life hers, she’d be extinguishing herself. And as much as she loved her dad, she couldn’t do it.

He’d give her that derisive laugh of his if he knew she thought that way. How, he’d ask, could she be more true to herself as a spy than as a soldier?

She didn’t have the answer, but he wouldn’t care to hear it even if she did.

Her vehicle was located in the parking garage under his building. Sierra scanned the area, noting the android attendant near the entrance and a flickering light near where she’d parked. Awareness prickled at the back of her neck and her muscles loosened, her stride long and confident as she waited for the threat to make itself known.

A cat darted out from a dark corner and Sierra’s blaster was out, her finger on the trigger before she even registered the movement. When the animal jumped on top of her vehicle, she laughed and put her weapon away. She needed a damn vacation.

But vacation was the last thing she had to look forward to, not when planetary defense had to come first. Sierra gave the cat a gentle pet and then shooed it on its way before sliding into the car. As soon as she was on the road, her communicator lit up. She engaged the call without video and didn’t bother to glance at the identification to see who was calling. Anyone who had her code wouldn’t call if it wasn’t an emergency.

“Joyce is calling us in,” her friend and navigator, Mindy Branch said in lieu of a greeting.

“Right now?” A glance at the clock showed it wasn’t even close to midnight, let alone their 0500 call time.

“Yeah, Jo’s already on her way.” Mindy sounded about as pleased with that turn of events as Sierra was, but neither voiced their concerns.

“I’ll be there in an hour.”

“Got it. Drive safe.” She disengaged and the communication’s display went dim.

Sierra sent a silent prayer of thanks to anyone who was listening and turned her car around to head to the rendezvous point. She needed to get the fuck off of Earth to remember why it was worth saving in the first place.

***

Raze’s indicator alerted him that his required physical exertion period had come to an end. He glanced at the readout on the machine to see that he’d improved his last run time by three seconds and noted the statistics for his file. A quick swipe with the cleaning pad took care of the sweat that had dripped onto the machine, and he used a separate towel to take care of the moisture beading on his forehead and at the base of his neck.

The material was rough and cheap, but sturdier than anything else the legion had been able to purchase. He dragged it slowly across his skin and nearly couldn’t suppress the shiver that tried to climb up his spine from the almost painful friction. A moment later he pulled the towel away and disposed of it in the laundry chute. He mechanically stripped himself of his clothes and they followed the towel down to where they’d be laundered and returned to the rotation.

He nodded to Kayde, one of his fellow warriors, as he walked naked to the shower station. The cold water hit his skin with bruising force and this time he couldn’t stop the hiss from the sensation. The water quickly warmed to a sufficient level and he cleaned himself in his allotted time. Another swipe of a different abrasive towel saw him dry, and he barely spared a glance for the marks it had left on his green skin. He pulled on a clean uniform and exited the shower station before the next warrior to finish his training could be delayed.

Though Raze knew he was scheduled to join his team for the final briefing before their scheduled mission, he consulted his schedule before heading toward the administrative building in case the plan had changed. The legion and its soldiers were slaves to their schedules, especially those like him. To eschew routine was to eschew control, and when the soulless lost control, there was only one solution.

If he could still feel fear, Raze might have felt the shiver in his spine. But just like everything else, those emotions had been taken away from him, given up, two years ago, just before his thirtieth birthday. He couldn’t regret his decision, and he chose not to dwell on it. The legion had saved his life, he owed them his loyalty and his service.

A quick walk through one of the service tunnels brought him to the administrative building. The entire compound was connected through underground tunnels and elevated walkways so that no soldier or staff member would need to brave the harsh weather of their home moon by walking between buildings outside. The moon was habitable, but the weather extremes made it less than ideal, and for that reason, it had been sitting uninhabited after a failed colonizing attempt six decades before. The legion had bought the rights to the land and had spent years making their own little colony into a fortress.

No one would be able to do to them what had been done to their ancestors.

Something that might have once been sorrow clenched in his chest, but Raze paid no attention to it. If he chased the phantom emotion, he could easily find himself out of control and scheduled to be executed within the hour. Punishments were harsh and final for the soulless, but it was the only way to protect the legion.

The familiar path inside the administrative building centered Raze with the comfort of routine. He walked down the brightly lit hallway and spared a glance at the Detyen art that decorated the walls. When he was younger, it would have brought to the forefront all of the sorrows and joys of a home he’d never seen. Now he merely noted that one of the frames hung slightly askew.

He entered the assigned meeting room and took his seat, nodding in greeting to Toran NaLosen, a younger Detyen warrior who smiled at him in response. Unlike Raze, Toran still possessed his soul. He wouldn’t need to choose between death and soullessness for a few more years. “Kayde and Sandon should be here soon,” Toran said. He tapped his fingers against the table, the small sound loud enough to fill the room.

Raze let his eyes rest on those moving digits. Toran’s clan markings climbed down both of his arms and covered parts of each hand, making his golden skin appear almost spotted. The door slid open and two more men walked through. Toran pulled his fingers into a fist and stilled as he studied the newest entrants. Raze spared them a glance, nodding at Kayde and Sandon before settling his gaze on the holo projector in the center of the table. Kayde settled in beside him and Sandon took his place at the front.

With a flick of his fingers, Sandon brought up a projection of the planet they would be heading to and their target. “The planet is called Fenryr 1,” Sandon said, calling up the basic climatological and population statistics as he spoke. “It technically sits at the edge of the Oscavian Empire, but has no native population and no Oscavian development. Flares from the dual stars at the heart of the system make it difficult to monitor the planet and it’s become a haven for pirates and slavers. Our intelligence has detected a small gathering here,” he pointed to a peninsula on the globe. “There are few other inhabited pockets near the southern pole, but we have no interest in them. Your target is the Lyrden, which is located a hundred kilometers away from the peninsula. It was brought to the planet two years ago and we think it is meant to be scrapped. Due to the extensive number of scrap ships collecting there, the Lyrden is not heavily guarded and we have no reason to believe that it will be destroyed before you can find it. We need all of the data that you can scrape from the onboard computer. Questions?”

Both Raze and Kayde glanced at Toran, who was reading through the mission parameters on his personal tablet. “This says the Lyrden is a XA-1. That’s more than a hundred years old. It’s possible, if not likely, that the system can’t be scanned or recovered. Do we have the authority to bring parts back? Or do we not want the inhabitants to know we were there?”

“This is a high priority mission. Use any means necessary to recover the data,” Sandon pierced Toran with his steely gaze. “The Lyrden was recorded in the Detyen system the day of the attack. We have reason to believe the information on that ship could lead us to whoever attacked us or supplied the weapon. Are we clear?”

They were. Sandon left them alone to plan. If Raze weren’t soulless, he’d describe the blood coursing through his veins as excitement. He sat forward, ready to talk the mission through. They couldn’t save their home, but they could get revenge, and this was the first step.

***

Within two hours of her disastrous dinner with her father, Sierra was on a ship and off planet, speeding towards the jump gate. The mission had suddenly moved up when a gap in scheduling provided her team with a quicker route to their destination, but the gap would be closed by the scheduled launch time. She could still hear Jocasta Nelson, her pilot, grumbling about missed sleep. Sierra kept her distance, opting to spend the time from Earth to the gate strapped in one of the chairs in the kitchen.

Mindy had shot her a glare and taken her position at the navigator’s station beside Jo. The two traded barbs as they worked through the checklists that would see them safely out of the solar system and on their way to Fenryr 1. Fucking pirates were stealing women from Earth and selling them off as slaves… or worse. Hundreds abducted over the course of a decade, and it wasn’t until the niece of a US Senator disappeared that anyone paid any attention to the victims. Sierra was trying really hard not to be angry about that, but she had three days to get her emotions under control. By the time they reached the pirates, she’d be ice. Until then, she wanted to hit something and not stop until it bled.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

A warning alarm buzzed and the lights flashed as they approached the gate. The interstellar passageways were seeded throughout the galaxy and made it possible to travel throughout inhabited space in a relatively short amount of time. Humans hadn’t put them in place, but the Sol system had free use of one gate and that gate opened to a highway of other passageways that led anywhere a person could want to go. Not that Sierra particularly wanted to go to Fenryr 1, but she’d do the job, gather the intel… and leave any women behind.

She clenched her jaw as her ears popped. Pressure built in her head as they slipped through the portal and out the other end. An all clear alarm sounded and the first leg of the journey was complete.

A minute later, Mindy came bounding back and plopped into the seat beside Sierra, pulling her legs up to curl into a ball of fluffy woman. She wore a gray sweater that was soft enough to pet, but it was covered in soft balls of an unfamiliar fabric. The ensemble was matched by tight, synth leather pants and a bright green headband that held her long blue hair back. She didn’t look like a spy, but she was one of the best navigators in the entire Sol system.

“We’ll save them all,” Mindy promised.

Sierra wasn’t surprised that her friend had read her mind. The parameters of the mission hung heavy over all of them, even the standoffish Jo. “It’s a lot easier when we get to go in and steal data from rich assholes or plant a bug in some government official’s communicator.” Sierra unbuckled her safety harness and turned so she could more easily face Mindy. As her body shifted, the chair reshaped itself to accommodate her new position. They were designed for comfort on long journeys, something regular military vessels didn’t need. Though she’d never use that point in an argument with her dad.

“But you might actually get to shoot someone this time,” Mindy countered. She glanced back toward the cockpit and then lowered her voice. “Dinner not go great?” It was more of a statement than a question.

Sierra shrugged. “Could have been worse. We’re still talking to each other, so that’s good. I think he’s still kind of pissed off that I grew up.” Feelings weren’t something that they talked about in the Alvarez household, and Mindy was one of the few people who didn’t let Sierra get away with deflecting the discussion.

“And he knows that you’re doing dangerous shit,” Mindy pointed out. “My parents think I work in accounts receivable. They’d be terrified if they knew what I really did. But it’s not like this is a secret you can keep from the great General Alvarez. No one keeps secrets from the man who singlehandedly saved a city from alien destruction.”

Sierra groaned. “Don’t talk about Mumbai, please!” She covered her face with her hands and burrowed further into the chair. The trouble with being a hero’s daughter was that she could never escape his heroics. No one saw Remington Alvarez as the guy who’d panicked when he needed to help her buy bras. No, he was the man whose astute observations and quick thinking had turned a would-be massacre into a minor skirmish.

“He wishes you had your own Mumbai,” said Mindy. “It’s not that he wants destruction, but he wants you to be recognized. And as long as you’re doing this, recognition is the last thing you can have.”

“I don’t give a shit about medals and ceremonies. This is what I’m good at.” She’d been nine when her dad had swooped in and saved her from the Wastes, but that was old enough to already know how to wear a dozen different faces depending on what she needed. A safe home and years of therapy had given her the opportunity to live a fulfilling life, but she couldn’t escape those early years, not completely. They’d given her the tools she needed to survive and now that she could control her own destiny, she wanted to use those tools to help others, to help her people. Anyone could hold a gun, but only someone like her could lie to the face of the head of the Oscavian Diplomatic Corps and get away with it.

“You ever regret what we have to give up?” Mindy asked. She grabbed a blanket from the storage bin overhead and wrapped herself up, adding to her already high level of fluff.

“Like what?” She still had her dad, the money was good, and when she was home she was pretty much safe. What more could she need?

Mindy scoffed. “Really? You know, a guy? A family? It’s kind of difficult to maintain a relationship when we’re called off planet for months at a time with no way to communicate.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy worth more than a few weeks of my time, and even those are rare. What’s wrong with having some fun? We’ve got plenty of time for families later.” Though now that Mindy mentioned it, Sierra tried to remember the last time she’d been on a date. Had it even been this year? She had a feeling her friend wouldn’t count a hookup with one of the marines they’d been briefly stationed with.

“So you don’t want any of it?” This truly seemed to baffle Mindy, whose face screwed up in a look of confusion and something approaching pity.

“Not enough to give all this up.”

A slew of curses followed by fevered hammering came from the cockpit as the ship did something Jo didn’t like. Sierra and Mindy shared a look and both bit their bottom lips to keep from bursting out laughing. A moment later, footsteps pounded down the metal catwalk leading from the cockpit to the kitchen and Jo stomped through. She paused to look at both of them.

“One of you babysit the damn autopilot. I need to take a shower.” Without waiting for either of them to agree, she headed off towards the bathroom, muttering more curses.

For once, Sierra said her silent thanks to the temperamental pilot. A few more minutes of Mindy’s questioning and they’d be talking weddings or babies or some shit like that, and Sierra was not in the mood to discuss things that weren’t going to happen, at least not anytime soon. Unless there was some man out there who could respect what she did and appreciate her for the woman she was and not some perfect princess that he wished she’d be, she’d rather be single and fulfilled than paired off and miserable.

And she hadn’t once met a guy who wouldn’t want to change her. So single it was. And that didn’t make her regret anything.

Not at all.

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