Jaq's Harp

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Carina Press, Feb 21, 2011 - Fiction
In a world of floating islands and bio-engineered beans, the bad guys are taken down by agents of the Mother organization—agents like Jacqueline "Jaq" Robinson. Instead of accepting her next routine assignment, she sets out on a mission of her own—to destroy Giant Corp, the company responsible for her sister's wasting illness. Jaq must steal her cure from Giant's headquarters high above the city...even though she'll be brought face-to-face with Harper English, the man who left her to go deep undercover at Giant.

For Harp, Jaq had been a distraction the mercenary thought he couldn't afford. But once he sees her again, Harp knows he's made a mistake. Even though she vowed he won't have her again, it's clear they still have a powerful attraction. Harp's determined to get a second chance with Jaq—if they can escape Giant Corp and get back to solid ground in one piece...

20,600 words

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Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
About the Author

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About the author (2011)

Jacqueline threw the digi-missive across the room to shatter into tiny shards of tech. Her latest assignment would waste her talents taking out a little band of smugglers. She wanted a much bigger target. No, not wanted. Needed.

She needed to take down Giant Corp.

She stalked past the sparsely furnished front room, through the dim hallway and into the back room of her small apartment, toward the hacking cough. On Jaq's bed, her sister, Merrilyn, stared listlessly at the ceiling as a bloodied cloth flittered from her hand to the floor. Jaq sat on the edge, careful not to jostle the one and only person dear to her. Well, the only one left who took up residence in her personal space.

"I told you not to trust Giant Corp." She ran a hand through Merry's blond hair, so like her own.

Merry's slight pat on her arm reassured her, though only a little. "They said the treatments would work. What else could I do?"

"What else, besides sell your condo and leave us destitute to pay for a charade?" Jaq clucked soothingly to take the bite from her remark. She had other reasons to distrust Giant, but Merry didn't know about those.

"Don't go to work," Merry pleaded. Too weak to keep a hold, her hand fell back to her side and she closed her eyes, her lashes dark against her pale skin. "I'd rather never recover than have you do such horrible work."

"I'm good at it. I'll be fine." Yes, she would be fine. She was good at what she did at Mother, the secret espionage arm of the Global Organization of Strategic Equity, de facto government of New Castle.

"You'll be fine?" Merry took a deep shuddering breath. "Then why are you chewing your nails again?"

She yanked her hand away from her mouth and rose without disturbing the sheets clinging to the wasted body beneath. Damn. She hadn't mangled her nails like this since... No. She wouldn't think of him.

"I love you, sister." Merry's strained voice cracked. She coughed, the spasms lifting her slight frame off the bed.

"I'll send the nurse." She backed out of the room while Merry shook her head with the barest movement.

It didn't matter what Merry thought. To afford the nurse, Jaq had to work, and damn if she'd waste her time on the penny ante stuff. The medical bills to keep Merry alive had bankrupted them both.

Right on time, the nurse arrived in her bright white jumper, her perfunctory nod to Jaq showing her usual taciturn nature. This efficient dark-haired woman had been on the job for two months but Jaq barely knew her. With a bit of guilty relief, she shrugged into her threadbare jacket, hurried down the corridor to the lift, and spent the short ride down torn between going back and screaming inside the empty tin can. She did neither before she escaped onto the teeming streets of New Castle, a city so large it covered a quarter of the continent.

Without greeting or apology, a man in a drab tunic bumped past her to go in her building. She didn't recognize him. Not surprising since the high-rise held thousands. Nothing but dingy gray concrete buildings and lines and lines of carts selling food, housewares and the latest psychedelics.

A hovercraft she couldn't afford zinged by with low humming. She stepped onto the moving walk and shrugged. "Don't need a stinking hover."

The low-flying mechanical transports wouldn't get her where she needed to go.

She looked up despite herself. Most landers never did.

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