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Ignisar Book 2
BY JESS K. HARDY
“Once again, Jess K. Hardy delivers the space romance I didn’t know I needed.”
– Ruby Barrett, author of Hot Copy and The Romance Recipe
A BILLION STARS, TWO HEARTS, ONLY ONE CAVE.
After half-human bionic Elanie installs her LunaCorp hormone upgrade, tumultuous emotions and her changing body complicate her life aboard the deep space pleasure cruise, the Ignisar. Seeking answers, she’s thrown into the path of the ship’s handsome but curt physician, Sem, an empath from the ocean planet Portis.
Knowing empaths typically can’t tolerate being around bionics since AI emotions are unreadable, Sem is worried he won’t be able to treat Elanie effectively. Especially as he finds himself undeniably drawn to her, making a fool of himself every time he sees her. Remaining professional in the face of a massively inappropriate crush becomes next to impossible.
When a mysterious voice hacks Elanie’s programming, forcing her to hijack an escape pod and jump through space, Sem follows her to the edges of the Known Universe. Stranded on an uncharted planet together, they must fight to survive deadly blizzards, arctic ice caves, and a secret, hedonistic cult. Navigating their growing feelings for each other might prove to be an even greater challenge than escaping back to the Ignisar.
With the fun of an off-ship Star Trek episode, the intrigue of The Murderbot Diaries, and the heat of Ice Planet Barbarians, I, Bionic is sure to please lovers of both sci-fi and romance!
When she reached the staffroom, she scowled at the laughter seeping through the door before it slid open for her.
What did everyone have to be so happy about?
“Good morning, Elanie,” chirped Chandler—the Ignisar’s cruise director. He waved a hand over the tray of macaroons perched in the middle of the table, his smile suspiciously bright. “We have pastries.”
Elanie’s scowl intensified. “I know. Sunny told me.” Looking around the room at her crewmates, she noticed not a single one of them was laughing anymore. She had that effect on them these days.
The grey-green skinned Aquilinian twins who ran security on the ship, Rax and Morgath, sat back in their chairs, their bulging, muscular arms crossed over their broad chests. Sunny, the ship’s hospitality specialist—and probably Elanie’s only friend—sat nestled in between pink-haired Tig—head of IT, and Sunny’s new partner, Freddie the Venusian—the ship’s Languages and Customs expert. Everyone at the table stared at her, their expressions carefully pleasant in a way that made Elanie fist her hands at her sides. Nobody acted like their normal selves around her anymore, and she’d done nothing to warrant their caution. She wasn’t a bomb about to explode, and yet, when she sat down in her chair, the twins visibly stiffened beside her.
“What?” she barked, making them flinch.
Morgath raised both of his hands and blurted out, “Nothing! Jeez.”
“We were, um, just noticing how nice you look today. That’s a real pretty sweater. It looks…fuzzy.”
Elanie thought Rax might be trying to flatter her. Which was also abnormal. Why can’t everyone just be normal!
Morgath laughed at his brother. “Nice try, dingus.”
“You’re the dingus,” Rax muttered.
“Oooh, sick burn,” said Morgath. Then he added under his breath, “Dingus.”
Elanie—ignoring the twins and deciding she was hungry after all—swiped a frog macaroon from the tray and abruptly bit off its head.
Sunny slid her a steaming cup of tea across the table. <It’s chamomile,> she Vcommed. <It’s supposed to be calming.>
Elanie clenched her teeth at the implication. <I am perfectly calm.> She took the tea anyway, but only because it smelled good, and the frog’s head had made her thirsty.
“Where is everyone placing their focus today?” Chan asked, the same way he started every single meeting, every single morning.
Elanie nibbled on her frog while the twins informed the crew about their plans to run tests on all the pleasure pods throughout the ship and decommission some of their older security mechs.
When they’d finished, Sunny Vcommed, <Darling, you look upset. Was it your date? You can tell me.>
<I don’t know,> Elanie admitted, prying the legs from her frog and dropping them onto her napkin one by one. <I think my upgrade is defective.>
While Tig said something about needing to adjust the humor settings on the deck five serving drones after several guests lodged complaints about inappropriate joking, Sunny asked, <What do you mean?>
Elanie waited while Sunny took her turn, informing the crew of the high-profile guests planning to arrive tomorrow—some Martian movie star power couple who’d holidayed aboard the ship several months ago and, despite trashing their room and shattering one of the moon jelly tanks, had still been invited back.
Once Sunny was finished, Elanie commed, <It’s just, nothing feels good. Ever. And apparently my boobs are lopsided.>
Sunny’s head whipped around so violently the sharp points of her blond bangs landed in front of her eyes. <Did Blake tell you that?> she snapped. <Because if he did, he’s an idiot. Your boobs are absolutely perfect.>
“I will be assisting Sunny with preparing the Martian’s room for its inevitable destruction,” Elanie said flatly when her turn came. Then she commed, <Blake is not an idiot,> defending him even though she didn’t entirely disagree. He was a gen-33 bionic after all, an iteration not known for their processing power. But Elanie didn’t care that he spoke in short sentences and had never read a book in his entire life. He was nice to look at, and he liked her. What more did she need?
Sunny’s expression was dubious.
<He’s not,> Elanie insisted. <It’s not him, it’s me. It’s not his fault my malfunctioning hormones make my asymmetrical breasts ache whenever he touches them.>
Compassion warped Sunny’s features and Elanie recoiled at the sight, pasting herself to the back of her chair. When Sunny’s hand reached across the table for hers, she almost knocked her chair over backwards.
<Would you two please pay attention!> barked Chan through their shared comm, his voice snapping Sunny’s hand back into her lap, thank the stars.
<Sorry, Chan,> Sunny replied while Elanie stared at her dissected frog.
A Montana transplant with her roots in deep, Jess K Hardy is a lover of mountains and snow, long nights and fireplaces. She has been a sandwich artist, a student, a horse trainer, a physical therapist, a wife, a mother, and also a writer. She writes SFF and contemporary adult romance.
Links to Jess’s website, blog, books, #ad etc.:
Thanks, Jess, for sharing your story with us!
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