Monday, May 30, 2022

The Shell and the Star - Part 15 (With Memorial Day Commentary)

The Shell and the Star - Part 15 is my post today, but with it I'd like to offer an observance of what today stands for for those of us who live in the USA.

A friend posted a meme that showed a man standing at the gas pump with the current astronomical prices listed, pausing to give a grim look at a row of headstones with the names of many of the wars or major conflicts our service members have served in or died for in defense of our freedoms. The caption read: "I'm not going to complain about the high cost of anything this weekend."  

Point well made. Some have sacrificed far more and suffered far worse than we can begin to imagine for the sake of this country. This is a time to look beyond the current state of the country and the world, and honor their memory and their sacrifices. Happy Memorial Day.


Returning to the story, we ended last week's episode with Jinn inviting Trey into her quarters to ask him a question in private. I'll recap the closing paragraphs before launching into this week's except. If you're just tuning in today to read this serialized aquatic science fiction romance, you can catch up with ALL the parts posted to date at this link:  

The Shell and the Star

Jinn didn’t know if it was the tash or her heart that dared her to make such a bold invitation, but she wasn’t willing to let him go without expressing…what? If only she could find the words. Sharing her heartfelt thoughts had never come easy. So often she’d been laughed at, ridiculed for putting her feeli

ngs on display. “You have made a bid...” Jinn dropped her gaze to her clutched hands. “And there is something I need to ask you.” She raised her face. “In private?”

She backed her sphere far enough into her quarters to allow room for him to slip inside. Would his honor or his curiosity prevail?

His curiosity, it was.

He followed her in, his blue eyes going dove gray in the muted light. His dark bodyveil swirling slowly with the quiet movement of his arms.

“What do you want to ask?”


Jinn’s gaze dropped to his mouth when he formed those words. She stared at the perfect bow of his lips, now stained a delectable shade of red by the flute of tash that he’d sipped.

“Jinn?”

She couldn’t speak. Her throat worked hard just to swallow.

She gestured to the ceiling and took her sphere up. He followed a moment later, ascending from the waters exhaling a cloud of bubbles. Jinn opened the top hatch of her sphere and propped herself up on her pilot’s couch.

He smoothed back his raven hair and gave his head a shake to sling a stray lock from his eyes. He opened those blue-grey orbs and looked up at her in question.

Or was it expectation?

She wasn’t sure if it was the tash, or primal curiosity that inspired this streak of audacity, but she knew exactly what she ached for. What she needed right now.

The vision of his body, stripped bare before the game, came to mind and her fingers twitched. Her skin flushed with heat.

She’d only just met him today, and yet...

They’d shared a lot, but it hadn’t been enough.

The dim lights shown from below, silhouetting his body and casting a soft shimmer over the domed walls. “When we were talking in the cove today. When you leaned so near. Did you want to kiss me?”

There, she’d found the words. Little more than a breathless bleat, but spoken aloud, at least.

He snapped his mouth shut and the muscles flexed in his jaw. This wasn’t the soft acquiesce of a gentleman that she’d expected. Was he insulted by her question? Angered?

“Yes, I wanted to kiss you,” he admitted, his voice throaty and low.

“Do you still?”

“I do.”

Her heart gave a mighty kick. He did! How would it feel to have his lips mate with hers? How would he taste? How perfectly would their mouths meld together? “Would you please?” she asked.

In a single movement he whipped off his handfins and launched from the water. His fingers hooked over the hatch opening and he hauled himself high onto the curve of her sphere until barely a breadth separated them.

She reached for him, drawing his mouth to hers until she felt the heat and press of his lips. She cradled his head and drank him in as eagerly as she’d downed the last of her tash.

Never breaking contact, he levered his elbows into the hatch opening and thrusted his hands into her hair. Joined to him only by mouth and hands, she reveled in the wild sweetness of their connection and the deeper stirrings it incited.

Too soon—eons too soon—Trey unlevered his arms and after a final, tender sweep of his fingertips along her cheek, slid down the slope of her bubble and back into the water with a splash.

Jinn leaned over the side, reaching after him. “Trey?”

“I should go,” he rasped.

“Have I done something…?” Shameless? Brazen? Had the tash made her too forward? Had she overstepped a line? Or, worse yet, had he not enjoyed her kiss? “…wrong?”

She understood the acts of intimacy, the nature and mechanics of a kiss, but not how to properly initiate one. Or how to artfully receive one.

Or what to do when it ended.

“Your request was…unexpected.” He passed a palm slowly over the curve of her bubble, his fingers gently brushing the surface, as if he were stroking…her body? Jinn was sure he had no idea what desires his gesture roused deep inside her.

He must have caught her watching, because he stiffly withdrew, his hands going still at his sides. “It’s time I retire. Rest well.”

She had done something wrong. Had her kiss repulsed him? Offended him? Confused at his sudden aloofness, she blurted, “Would it be better if I leave?”

His long silence nearly brought tears to her eyes. She closed them tight and turned her head away, refusing to let them fall.

Then his voice came through her translator. Soft. But sure. “No Jinn, I don’t want you to leave. Not tonight. Not tomorrow.” He reached out again to just graze the surface of her sphere. “Not ever.”

He turned and swam out of her quarters, closing the water seal tight behind him. Leaving her alone and mystified by his hasty withdrawal.

________________________________________________

The differences in their two worlds -- and Jinn's society's intentional withholding of information about their two cultures  -- is beginning to come into play in Jinn's and Trey's growing relationship. What's that phrase? Buckle your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy ride?

Hope you come back next week to see where Jinn and Trey navigate from here.

Enjoy your long weekend, and have a great week.




Friday, May 27, 2022

AFTER THE FLOOD: A NEAR-FUTURE SF TALE

Sienna watched the reeds for movement.
 May, 2052

Sienna watched the reeds for movement. She could see for miles in this drowned land. Much of what had once stood here—homes, stores, office buildings, gas stations—had been swept away by storm and flood. Over and over again, until the wetlands had come to reclaim the mud and rubble. Now only the wild things lived here. The things she hunted. The things that hunted her.

On the raised causeway that led past what remained of the city, the big shots reclined in their vehicles and let the comps guide them to their destinations. Holograms assaulted their senses from the very air around them, exhorting them to do their duty to God and Nation, to be fruitful and multiply, to buy and spend. Sienna could see the holos from here, even though she was a long way from the causeway. She ignored them. The people in those cars might as well live on another planet for all she had in common with them.

She certainly wouldn’t be multiplying. She had vowed to die before she would allow herself to be taken by the slavers coming up from the South to steal fertile women off the streets. So she had taken a year’s worth of pelts and scavenging treasures to pay for the illegal operation upstate that ensured she could never get pregnant. Now she would never be burdened with a child she couldn’t feed. And she was safe from bio-slavery.

The air around her already shimmered with heat, though the sun was barely above the horizon. The hazy sky told her it would be a scorcher today, a day to seek the shade in her home in one of the few concrete structures that still stood on higher ground. But first she had to find meat—a deer or a pig, if she was lucky, a groundhog or a muskrat if she wasn’t. She had learned the hard way that the shellfish that thrived in the swamp weren’t safe to eat. They were rotten, contaminated by poisons in the soil and water. She let them be.

The AR-50 rested easily in her hands, a weapon she was used to carrying. It wasn’t ideal for hunting—it often made a mess of a smaller target—but there were other reasons to pack the cheap automatic. Armed gangs and the police roamed the streets; feral pigs ran in herds in the swamp. Guns, unlike food or shelter or other basics, were easy to get. And though she lived with others, she hunted alone.

A splash off to her right caused her to whip around. But she saw nothing. No deer, no birds. A prickle of awareness raised the hair on the back of her neck. There were other things in the swamp that sometimes needed killing, wilder, more dangerous things.

When she heard the first coyote yip, she knew she might be in trouble. It was close, and on the right side, where she’d heard the splash. She eased silently to the left and back toward a raised tuft of grass. But an answering call came from even closer; the pack was circling. Then she heard the unmistakable sounds of something running through the knee-high water, splashing and grunting. The pack was after its prey now, yipping and warbling in the high, feverish calls that meant breakfast would soon be served. Coyotes never hunted strong, healthy individuals. Whatever they were after was wounded or sick or too young to survive. Not worth fighting them for it.

The chase ended almost before it began, with a high-pitched scream cut short and the triumphant coyote-party howls that always followed a kill. A feral human then. Sienna could tell from the scream. One of the many young ones that scraped out a life in the wetlands after those that were forced to bear them dumped them here. The series of foster homes where Sienna had grown up had been a horror show, but at least she hadn’t had to fight off coyotes. Just predatory males.

She cursed. The hunting in this part of the wetland would be ruined for the rest of the morning. All the prey would have gone to ground in the commotion. She decided to head back. Better to be hungry another day than dead.

She took the time to scan the marsh again as she slogged through the mud. Over on the causeway, the cars drove on, oblivious to the life-and-death struggle below them. In the sky, the holos filled the air with color and sound. “Only You can Save this Nation! Do your Duty Now!”

This mini-short story is a work of fiction in the long tradition of science fiction that places the issues of the present in the context of the future. Everything in it is directly extrapolated from the headlines of today. If the world I describe is not one you wish to live in, well, I don’t blame you. Me neither. Check the last line.

In hopes of change,

Donna

 

 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Upbeat stories laced with politics, history, and mystery with a side salad of romance

 

After a decade or so I've finally worked out what I write. By that, I don't mean genre, I mean what's the essence of pretty much all my stories? What makes me tick as a writer (and a reader)?

I suppose it comes down to what do I like to read?

I like science fiction. I loved Asimov's Foundation series and his Elijah Bailey stories. I regularly re-read Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict books, as well as the stand-alone Infinity Beach, but I'm not so keen on his Academy novels – mainly because of the style. While the Alex Benedict books are written in first person, the Academy novels are written in third with POV jumping around too many people. However, one Academy novel grabbed me. Humanity discovers a planet occupied by humanoids living in a simple society reminiscent of medieval times on Earth. The planet is soon to be visited by a devastating storm that attacks civilization but the people who find the planet are not permitted to overtly interfere. If they reveal themselves, it would be like the coming of the Gods to Ancient Egypt or Greece. How do they warn the aliens about the coming catastrophe without revealing themselves? The book is called Omega.

I never could shake my fascination for history, despite the best efforts of the fellow who taught the subject in my final year of high school and I ended up getting a BA(Hons) (I think Americans call that cum laudae). So I have an interest in true crime, like Jack the Ripper. Or the subject of my historical novel, To Die a Dry Death, about the wreck of the Dutch merchantman Batavia off the coast of Western Australia in 1629.

I also like detective stories. Authors like Peter Robinson, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell come to mind, as well as plenty of others.

In summary, the books I read tend to have a mix of a mystery to solve, some compelling history to explain the current circumstances, and a current political situation to complicate things. You could describe Star Wars in the same way.

What don't I read?

I don't read paranormal romance, even if the paranormal is alien. I'm not interested in dystopian stories or horror (Alien comes to mind – never seen it, never will) and (with the exception of Star Wars) I avoid magic in my SF.

When reading romance I tend to skip through the steamy bits. My sex scenes are always M/F and not specific. I reckon my readers can fill in the details. None of that is a value judgement, just a statement of my preferences.

So that's my niche. I write upbeat stories laced with politics, history, and mystery with a side salad of romance.

The Search for the Crimson Lady fits that brief perfectly.


 BLURB:

One hundred years ago the pirate ship Crimson Lady terrorized the space lanes, then she disappeared without a trace, leaving behind nothing but tall tales and legends. Until Tara Wyndham finds an artefact from the lost ship

Rys Kovas made a mistake when he left Fleet to take over his uncle’s tourist business. He jumps at the chance to hire out his luxury yacht to go hunting for a ghost ship with the lovely Tara and her grandfather. But murder, sabotage, and accidents mar their journey.  It’s clear somebody doesn’t want them following the trail. As the danger ramps up Rys suspects there’s more to the mystery of the Crimson Lady than a long-lost spacefarer’s story.

Can Rys, Tara, and her indomitable grandfather unravel the mystery and escape with their lives?

Here's a snippet to whet your appetite.

Eldarni pointed at the model at the center of the display, an elegant vessel with long, flowing lines. "You've heard of the Crimson Lady?"

"Of course," Rys said. "I tell some space stories as part of my tour. The Crimson Lady's one of them. Guests love that stuff. A phantom ship, floating endlessly among the stars, sometimes turning up to terrify freighter crew."

Eldarni leaned forward. "But you know it was a real ship."

Rys shrugged. "I'd heard the stories before I bought my uncle's ship. For me it was like the Solstice Spirit – I stopped believing in that when I was about five. Not believing in the Crimson Lady took a little longer."

From the corner of his eye he noticed the lovely Taralyn smile. He raised a hand. "I mean, I know she existed. Or at least, I'm willing to believe she did. But that was over one hundred years ago. She was a pirate ship — a Human pirate ship— preying on freighters in the trade lanes around the outer limits of the Empire. And then she didn't. There are lots of theories. The most plausible is that the Yrmak clans didn't like the competition and destroyed her. The most popular is that she was pursued and disappeared into some other spacetime continuum. From that shadow space she returns from time to time, a ghost retracing her past." He shrugged again. "My uncle told me the spiel, what to tell the guests, suck them into the mystery, maybe even hint that they might see her, somewhere out there near the Seymara Drift."

Find out more about the book

Just a few more days and Obiwan Kenobi comes to a screen in my house. Judging by the trailers it's looking very good. But I'll talk about that next time.


Sign up for my monthly newsletter and get a FREE SF short story


Cheers,

Greta

 

 

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 17

Last week's episode ended with Addy asking for Max's help to escape alien captivity. He didn't give her an answer. This week Addy must face alpha gladiator Regan--remember he'd demanded she meet him by that tree at twenty-five o'clock (midnight) to finish what he'd started. But Addy gets an idea to protect herself from her tormentor.

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.  

If you just found CAPTIVE, you can catch up reading here: Chapter 1  Ch 2  Ch 3  Ch 4  Ch 5  Ch 6  Ch 7  Ch 8  Ch 9  Chs 10 & 11  Ch 12  Ch 13  Ch 14  Ch 15  Ch 16 or buy the full book at your favorite retailers for only $2.99.


CAPTIVE

Chapter Seventeen

 

The two waning crescent moons cast their silvery light through the wooded path as Max limped with the assistance of a branch for a cane. If he’d spent another minute cooped up in that infirmary, he’d have bloodied his knuckles against the wall.

There’d been nothing to do in there but think.

What the hell was in store for him now that he’d lost the Survival Race Regional Championship? How long would they shelter him in HuBReC’s kennel? He had no owner. No future.

Instead of healing him from his ex-master’s torture, Ferly Mor should have euthanized his worthless ass.

His broken leg screamed with pain. If he’d headed back to the infirmary fifteen minutes ago when it merely ached, he could’ve been resting it right now, but he hadn’t wanted to return to the loneliness. Out here at least the noisy crickets kept him company.

He hobbled off the path in search of a good place to rest and came upon a log, which he pushed with his good foot until it rolled close enough to a tree. He sat on the ground, leaned back against the trunk, and elevated his bad leg on the log, sighing in relief when the pressure ebbed.

Fresh night air filled his lungs.

Fake night air was more like it. If only he could breathe fresh air again. Feel the arctic wind smacking his face. Or, better yet, taste the equator’s tropical breeze.

What if he could?

Maybe he could break out. He had escaped once. He could do it again. Who would come after him this time?

Ugh. Only an idiot would entertain thoughts of freedom. Damn woman. Filling his head with unrealistic dreams.

In the distance, a lightstick beam bobbed along the path, disappearing and reappearing between the trees. He checked his watch. It was just after twenty-four o’clock. Who the hell would be heading to the training field at this time of night? Not the gladiators. They all lived on the other side of the field in Xanthrag’s stables.

It wasn’t long before the lightstick’s owner came into view. Speak of the devil.

The woman didn’t appear to see him in the shadows, but he clearly saw her thanks to his genetically enhanced eyesight. It was probably the only good thing the Hyboreans ever did to him.

The hair on his neck prickled in warning. Something seemed peculiar about the way she moved. She wasn’t as relaxed as she’d been last night, strolling in the rain with her apple basket swinging on her arm. Tonight, she gripped a basket to her body as if trying to keep its contents quiet. Her footfalls were silent, too. Deliberately silent. She walked toe to heel.

What the hell was she up to creeping and sneaking around?

Not that he cared. It was none of his business. With a history of picking fruit at night, she might have been on her way to the orange grove.

But why was she being covert about it? And why was she wearing long sleeves, long pants, and gloves in this hot weather? She couldn’t possibly have found a way to escape, could she? Those clothes would never keep her warm in arctic temperatures.

She disappeared down the path.

Max followed, keeping his distance and damning his curiosity with each throbbing step.

“Flowers,” he muttered ten minutes later. He’d been stalking her all this time to find she’d come out here to dig up a bunch of blue-purple flowers. He was an idiot for following her. An idiot in a lot of pain.

If his leg didn’t hurt so badly, he would’ve turned around. Instead, he sat down to rest it and watch the crazy lady dig up flowers in the middle of the night.

She worked at it for an awfully long time.

Since she’d been crouched with her back to him, he couldn’t see exactly what she’d been doing for the past half hour. Obviously, it had been more than mere flower picking. He would have thought she was weaving them into a basket or something, if it weren’t for her constant watch checking and glancing around. Her suspicious nervous behavior made his heart drum faster.

When she finally finished whatever the hell she’d been doing, she stripped off her dark shirt and pants to reveal a white tank top and jean shorts. She checked her watch again, then ran off with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a lightstick in the other.

He limped over to see what she’d been making. Scattered on the ground were the remains of helmet-shaped flowers and long stalks stripped of leaves and petals. The roots had been cut into little pieces. A mesh strainer held a glob of wet plant pulp. Her gloves lay atop of the stripped-off clothing in the basket.

He inhaled the scent of alcohol.

The woman poisoned her whiskey with wolfsbane.

A twinge of sorrow and guilt stabbed his heart. He hated to see her fiery, passionate spirit this easily broken. But what had he expected? Really, how long could any woman last after being raped, abused, and denied help?

Suicide wasn’t a way out. Ferly Mor would reawaken her.

Ah hell, maybe he should explain that and save her a pounding headache in the morning.

He tracked her easily. After a few minutes, he spotted her under a big tree checking her watch again. He checked his. It was twenty-five o’clock.

Midnight.

She glanced about as if waiting for someone.

Regan, no doubt. Who else would demand a meeting in the middle of the night?

“Hell, woman,” he whispered to himself. “You’re not committing suicide. You’re committing murder. Atta girl.”

Too bad killing Regan would only piss the guy off.

He’d better inform her she was about to make a huge mistake. As he stepped forward to make himself known, Regan appeared through the woods. Max closed his mouth and stepped back into the shadows. Shit. If Regan caught him, he wouldn’t be able to defend himself with his bum leg.

There was nothing he could do but watch and see how things played out. If she were lucky, she’d get him to drink the poison. If he could then somehow mutilate Regan’s dead body past reawakening, he could send him to his final death. His ultimortem.

Sure, that meant he’d risk being put to his own ultimortem, but at least Regan wouldn’t be around to bother her anymore. Of course, another gladiator would step up into the alpha role and the cycle would continue as always.

“Hello, pet.” The bastard strutted too close to her, showing dominance and ownership.

She seemed to shrink next to him but didn’t back away. She handed him the bottle. “I’m sorry about this morning, Regan. Can you forgive me?”

He grabbed the bottle out of her hand and held it up to the moonslight. Liquid sloshed about a fourth of the way up the container.

Regan backhanded her across the face, hard by the sound of it. She cried out but didn’t fall. If Regan hadn’t put the bottle to his lips, Max would have been over there in an instant, bum leg or not. He didn’t move, though. He watched in anticipation as Regan chugged wolfsbane-laced alcohol.

Who would have thought a broodmare could easily poison an alpha gladiator?

Regan wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “Next time you bring me a bottle, it better be full.”

She looked away and nodded her head. He had to hand it to her. If he hadn’t seen the wolfsbane pulp himself, he never would have suspected a thing. Sure she was terrified, her body language practically screamed it, but Regan would naturally assume she feared his power and suspect nothing else.

“Take off your clothes.”

As she slowly unbuttoned her shorts and slid them off, Regan took another swig. How long before the poison took effect?

She pulled off her shirt and shifted from foot to foot in obvious discomfort. Max’s gut twisted. He hated the way Regan ogled her body. He should put a stop to this. If the poison didn’t work, Regan would rape her again. No way in hell would he stand here and watch that happen.

Regan rubbed his eyes. He blinked. He shook his head and then took another sip. “Take it all off.” His speech was garbled. It was as if he spoke with a fat lip.

Was the poison working?

She reached around her back, unclasped her bra, and let it fall to the ground. She crossed her arms over her chest. 

Regan scratched at his lips, his face. He examined the bottle in his hand and then dropped it. “What did you do to me?” His breaths came faster. Clutching his chest, he stumbled forward.

I’ll be damned. The poison was working.

“You fucking bitch.” Regan’s sucker-punch to the temple dropped her instantly.

Exploding out of the shadows, Max weaved between thickets and trees in gladiator mode. In the seconds it took to reach them, Regan had repeatedly kicked her in the belly and face while she lay helpless on the ground.

Max tackled him. He pinned the alpha’s back to the ground and repeatedly punched him in the throat, the face, and the chest until the poison that had him gasping for air finally stopped his heart. He wiped his brow and got off Regan’s abdomen to check on the woman.

She curled into the fetal position on her side with arms around her little belly as if trying to protect her unborn child. Something squeezed his heart. The baby couldn’t have survived Regan’s violence.

Maybe if he got her to the infirmary in time, Ferly Mor would be able to save the child. Or reawaken it.

If he brought her to the infirmary, he wouldn’t have time to come back and mutilate the gladiator’s body. Regan’s shock collar was already alerting Xanthrag to his death.

He glanced back at the woman naked on the ground, gasping for breath.

Ah hell.

He scooped her body into his arms. She opened the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. Fear glistened behind her tears. She said nothing. Neither did he. What could he say? That everything would be all right?

That would be a damned lie, and they both knew it.

She closed her eye again.

Max carried her to the infirmary, ignoring the sting from his bloody knuckles and the shooting pain in his leg.

* * *

Addy awoke in a hospital bed to the familiar chirping of a fetal monitor. Movement on the screen drew her attention to the fetus’s kick. Her baby lived.

Relief flooded her. Tears spilled over her eyes and ran down her cheeks.

Behind the machine, Ferly Mor and Rosalita filled a clear tub of pink fluid with medical instruments and an arm’s length of hose. What would the hose have been used for? She sat up onto her elbows and glanced around the room. In the next bed, hooked up to his own machine, lay Regan.

His bare chest rose and fell.

She wanted to jump down, run away, and hide, but her body couldn’t move. She could barely breathe.

How stupid was she? Of course the Hyboreans would pump his stomach and reawaken him. He was their damn champion alpha gladiator. His life was probably worth a hundred times more than hers was. What was she going to do now? Regan would kill her for poisoning him.

No. He’d torture her. That seemed to be a fate worse than death here.

Large, black alien fingers gripped her around the waist and snatched her out of the bed. It was Xanthrag, and he was pissed. She could hear his anger as a throaty growl.

“Let me go.” Her fists connected with dense padded skin in repeated punches that probably did nothing more than annoy him. His arms wrapped tightly around her naked body, pinning her arms to her sides.

The only thing she could do was bite. His impenetrable skin was as tough as a chunk of old beef jerky and tasted just as bad. She spat fur.

He repositioned her, holding on tighter than necessary, and seemed to be “yelling” at the other Hyboreans. As he looked from one to the other, she sensed him berating them. Rosalita wouldn’t meet his gaze. Ferly Mor stood with his jaw set and stared him down with those iridescent black eyes. No vibes emanated from him.

Was he hiding his feelings from Xanthrag or from her? The weight of her guilt forced her gaze down. She never thought about what repercussions Regan’s murder would have on anyone else. What was she thinking? Did she really care what these aliens felt? Besides, Regan wasn’t even dead anymore.

The thought still blew her mind.

Xanthrag made an about-face and carried her down the hall and through the back door of the kennel. He opened the cage opposite Max’s and tossed her inside. A stinging current shot from her choker through her body. She screamed and collapsed.

The aftermath of uncontrollable muscle spasms hadn’t stopped before another bolt of lightening pierced her core. Electricity tore through her again.

When it ebbed, she curled into a ball, crying and gulping for breath.

Zap! God, no. Tiny, hot spikes pulsated through every muscle fiber, every nerve ending, every blood cell. One jolt...two...three.

Darkness clouded her vision. She smelled burning flesh. He was killing her.

The current stopped, but her shaking didn’t. She gasped for air and whimpered. It hurt too much to do anything more.

As the pain lessened to a pins-and-needles sensation, her muscles tensed in anticipation of the next round.

The next round didn’t come.

A large Hyborean presence loomed over her. She wanted to move away or at least scream but could do nothing more than flinch. She couldn’t even blink away the dark cloud from her vision.

Gentle purring covered her like a flannel sleeping bag. It was Ferly Mor. She never thought she’d be happy to be in his company. Something cold, perhaps a medical instrument, rolled over her abdomen. It beeped three times, and Ferly Mor’s purrs came faster and louder as if happy. Big, soft arms embraced her.

Somehow, her baby had survived. Again.

She sniffled and wiped the tears from her blind eyes.

Ferly Mor dressed her, placed her on soft bedding, and with a gentle touch, stroked her hair. Lulled by his soft purring, she drifted into sleep.

“I commend you on killing me.” Regan’s supercilious voice entered her dream.

She awoke to restored vision. Ferly Mor was gone. Regan stood on the other side of the kennel’s bars in his militant stance with arms crossed and head in a cocky tilt. “Only a handful of alpha gladiators have managed to do the same.”

Shouldn’t he be pissed off right now? She pressed her lips together to keep them from trembling. She was safe behind these bars, wasn’t she?

“Open your cage. We’ve got something to settle.”

“No way.”

She didn’t expect his smile. “You’re a spirited little bitch, aren’t you?” Resting his forearms on the cross rail, he casually leaned into the bars. “You know, I can’t decide which way I liked you best.” His voice was cool and husky and full of himself. “Pinned against the tree fighting. Or under me begging for mercy.”

“How about staring you in the eye while poisoning you?” Max’s calm, casual tone contrasted with the anger flaring in Regan’s eyes.

Regan composed his face before turning toward Max’s cell. “At least she had the balls to take me on. Only a pussy waits for a man to have a heart attack before striking him down. Tell me, was this your plan or hers?”

“He had nothing to do with it.” The words flew out of her mouth before she could stop them. Why should she protect Max? Of the two men, he actually succeeded in raping her. Of course, if he hadn’t carried her to the infirmary, she probably would have lost the baby. It was infuriating wanting to simultaneously help him and hit him.

Regan turned back to her. “You know, pet, a person can only take so much before they reach their breaking point. It’s a matter of time before you leave this kennel. And when you do, nothing will come between me and what I want.”

“If you’re that hard up for sex, why don’t you go fuck yourself?”

Max snickered.

“Stupid bitch. It’s not about the sex. It’s about power. Dominance. Think about how good you felt killing me. How powerful.”

How could he possibly know that? It had felt good seeing him drink that potion. Adrenaline had surged through her knowing she was almost rid of her tormentor. She’d felt strong. In control. Dominant.

“That’s what I lust for. I want to take your strength. Kill your spirit. Leave you with nothing but fear. So fight me. Fight long. Fight hard. When I break you, the rush will be orgasmic.”

Mouth gone dry and heart galloping, Addy watched Regan strut to the exit. Why did she have to provoke the jerk? Max was right about safety breeding bravery.

Regan punched the button to sublimate the door. A cloud of vapor swirled behind him as he turned to face her. “See you on the outside, pet.” He winked and then stepped through the cloud.

“Asshole,” she muttered after the door solidified.

“Hell, woman, do you have any allies on this planet?”

 

 

#

  

Good for Addy for taking matters into her own hands to stop Regan's abuse. Unfortunately, she wasn't knowledgeable enough about her new world to realize it wouldn't work, and now she's made things worse. I love that Max raced out of the shadows to protect her from Regan. Unfortunately, he couldn't get to Regan fast enough. Thank goodness he took Addy to the infirmary, and that she and the baby were patched up. Find out what happens between Max and Addy next week or read the full story now at your favorite retailers.

 

 
K.M. FAWCETT

Romance with a rebel heart

www.kmfawcett.com

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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 5 RWA Golden Heart finals between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of Science Fiction Romance, our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.