Master Negotiator Riley Smith is a man on a mission, not the way he wants to spend the Yuletide holiday. He tries to make the best of it by flirting with Karma Engineer Pax, but the sexy Kar-En seems more interested in Yanar Aht, the mission's top translator, than him.
Yanar knows how to say yes in just about every language in the civilized Romba Galaxy, but he never gets the chance. His harmonic body longs to find the heart-mate who will drive him to sing the Song of Fulfillment, a seeming impossibility on a ship full of humanoids. It definitely puts a sour note in his holiday spirit.
As the ship is on the verge of flying apart, killing the entire crew, Pax must choose between duty and her growing love for these two men. She suspects carrying a cargo load of immature chaos balls would be easier. But Fate has a karmic gift in store for her… if she's brave enough to accept it.
Praise for Karmic Gifts
"I'm always impressed when an author can deliver a fulfilling story in a minimum of pages and Karmic Gifts easily fits that description. The entire story is pure pleasure from beginning to end and offers searing passion, humor and an absorbing plot that kept me reading. I couldn't ask for more!"
-- Chamomile, Whipped Cream Reviews
"Kira Stone comes up with a unique reason for a ménage a trois! Karma, balance, ah, I got it! This is definitely not your average Christmas celebration but it is one heck of a lot of fun."
--Dee Dailey, The Romance Studio
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Christmas Cookies: Karmic Gifts
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2007 Kira Stone
"You foul offspring of a pigmy goat!"
"You loud-mouthed, unevolved primate!"
Pax hurled herself against the corridor wall as the Karma B-Class ship Kismet rocked in a pocket of deep space only it occupied. Over the resulting chaos, she heard another voice shout in triumph, "You unprincipled hind end of a depressed hyena!"
The ship shuddered, warning signals turned the corridor into an Old Earth 1970s disco, and Pax felt another throbbing headache coming on. She took a deep, centering breath, then pressed the button on her service belt that linked her to Kismet's intercom system. "Friends, I would be most grateful if you'd assume neutral positions at your earliest convenience. Thank you."
This was the third time she'd had to issue that serious request in as many days. The crew on the karma-driven ship knew the dangers of letting their behavior veer too far outside established parameters, and they usually managed to strike a harmonious balance without much coaching. As Karma Engineer for Kismet, it was her responsibility to ensure the vessel maintained an even keel. This trip, she was failing. Something was decidedly off.
Pax squelched her own negative feelings about the mission and stumbled into the Lava Pit, the ship's social center, where the annual Yuletide Festival was underway. Or it was, until everyone had turned statue still as she'd requested -- as much as it was possible on a ship that was rolling beneath their nether regions as if it were a hydrofoil sailing over rocky ground.
Rocky ground. Heh. That's what I'm on, all right.
She took a look around the room, assessing the situation. She spotted Ziang-Liang and Quee by the fireplace. Their bright plumage fanned out to absorb the heat required to run their avian bodies. The twin looks they wore were slightly embarrassed. A sign of high shame for one of the Dytclis.
"We have caused much discord, have we not, Karma Engineer Pax?" Quee asked softly.
No, she didn't think so. She had a suspicion that the ship's karmic balance had been thrown off by something else entirely. However, Pax knew from bitter experience that it was better to let the pair of avians feel at least partly responsible so they didn't stir up further trouble. "May I ask why you were hurling insults at your friends?"
"As a gift. To show our esteem for them," Ziang-Liang offered.
That was a bit warped even for Dytclis logic. "Would you care to explain further?"
The rainbow-hued creatures exchanged a few clicks and trills that passed for their native language. Then, in Terranese, Quee said, "Old Earth custom. Insults among friends is a way of bonding. Since this is an Old Earth holiday, we wanted to participate in Old Earth customs."
Pax made a mental note to restrict the ship's history links for the birdbrains. With them, a little knowledge could be a dangerous thing.
"Admirable motives." Their ruby tail feathers fanned out in a burst of pride. Before they could get carried away, Pax added, "But deeper investigation of the custom might reveal that it fell out of fashion in the 2820s when Old Earth joined the Greater Galactic Federation. You see, they found it was not wise to chance a negative reaction when they were taking advantage of karma-driven ships."
Clicks and trills and the release of several downy, violet underfeathers followed this statement. When the air cleared, the Dytclis were again in poses of contrition.
"We are most abject in our apologies, Karma Engineer Pax. We will do further research to find a more suitable method of celebrating this Old Earth custom with our new friends," Quee announced.
As the two sped away on webbed feet, she hurriedly called after them, "Try Carols, Christmas in the database. And in all things, exercise moderation."
The karmic balance of the ship adjusted by a few grains, and Pax inwardly sighed. The birdbrains hadn't been responsible for the ship's instability which meant she still had a job to do. Fast. She scanned the room. Most of the ship's thirty-seven crew members were present. The problem had to be within her sight. Somewhere.
It didn't look like much of a party. In neutral positions, no one moved around much for fear of upsetting the delicate balance that stood between them and oblivion. Polite conversation followed around her in an invisible caress. Everything seemed just fine, no warning tingles at all. Which meant the problem was personal, not professional. On a shipload of people who were paid well to maintain a calm demeanor in the most trying of circumstances, it'd be easier to find an aluminum filament in an asteroid field than to ferret out the guilty party.
Until she did, the ship would continue to waddle through subspace like an unstable infant, slowing their progress. Too unstable, and the Kismet would literally fly apart. They were rapidly approaching that threshold. She had to hurry… and she had to be right.