Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Publisher: Stars and Stone Books
Date of Publication: August 1 2017
12 Stories of Science Fiction Romance Set on Intergalactic Shore
Summer love is summer love, no matter the planet. Climb aboard your spacecraft or time machine and travel across time and space with these thirteen tales of love on beaches in the future and among the stars.
Includes stories by USA Today Bestselling Author Traci Douglass, Cara McKinnon, Rhonda Jackson Joseph, A.E. Hayes, Sheri Queen, M.T. DeSantis, L.J. Longo, K.W. Taylor, Mary Rogers, Elsa M. Carruthers, Emmerite Sundberg, Serena Jayne, and Oriana Maret.
If she can only save one thing, which will it be—the red beaches of Mars or a love she can’t imagine living without?
Bria has just been fired from her job as an ecologist at Trans Life Corp, the global leader in virtual reality living, and she’s devastated that her life’s work has ended with nothing more than a pink chip severance package. She’s been deemed obsolete in a world where every aspect of life has been automated, and even relationships are carried out in virtual environments. Then Bria’s sister, Samira, enters her in a singles sweepstakes to an exclusive Mars resort to force Bria to have a little fun for once, and Bria is one of the lucky winners.
Thayne is the owner of the exclusive Mars resort and has set his sights on expanding to a remote area on the other side of the planet. He is looking for the right person to lead his new venture when he comes across Bria. She’s exactly what he needs. His success is driven by his gift for acquiring rare talent, and he always gets what he wants—until now.
Bria refuses Thayne’s job offer. She’s not interested in helping destroy another ecosystem for corporate greed, and she’s definitely not interested in any kind of romantic entanglement—virtual or real. Yet despite her better judgment, she’s drawn to his zest for life and his creative nature. But finding a way to keep their clashing values from destroying their chance at love proves harder than Bria could have thought possible.
Excerpt Red Sand:
The strength of water pushing against sand captivated Bria. If only she had such power, she could change the world—or at least her little part of it.
But this was just a miniature version of the real thing. She flipped the rectangular, glass-enclosed frame over to watch the liquid bump the tiny particles into different shapes. Reds, browns, and tans jostled one another until the sand settled into wavy mounds at the base of the container. Bubbles rose to the top and burst. Bria turned the device again and again, repeating the process, absorbed with how different the formations appeared with each rotation. Life was like this crude imitation of a sandy beach, always changing when getting pushed around by a greater force.
Here she sat in her repurposed home on Boxcar Alley with no job, no more research, and no future at Trans Life Corp.
Earth was screwed. She knew it. Trans Life knew it.
Did the board members care that nature and all her beauty had been overrun by technology? Not a bit. They were already working on expanding to other planets.
To her shame, she had to admit her role in the virtual living that was taking root and growing weed-like over the planet. She had utilized all she’d learned as an ecologist and worked with other experts to engineer its equivalent in the realm of virtual habitats. She was as much to blame as Trans Life Corp for how the world had been altered into a state of disconnect from what was real—what you could truly feel, taste, and smell.
What she couldn’t have foreseen was the rapidity with which people embraced artificial environments, especially the Love Triangle, where all your pleasurable sensory needs could be met with the help of a CompuBot—available with or without interacting with another online user.
About the Author:
Sheri Queen received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York—an area she loves to depict as a backdrop for her stories—and enjoys traveling to new places where she is constantly discovering inspirations for her writing. She especially loves visiting old graveyards.
A Dream to Build a Kiss On
A Dreamworld Short Novella
Can passion bloom between a bookish botanist and an analytical android?
Adam has served as a devoted assistant since the day he was created twenty-six years ago. His ordered world centers on logic and logistics, until a strong solar flare causes a glitch in his synthe-soul circuits and his normal routines are thrown into chaos. In a flash, his universe is filled with wild, dark desires that until now Adam has only imagined.
Jillian Lewis has spent her entire career in search of the rare, elusive Shadow Moondrop Orchid. She’s forsaken any semblance of a normal life in pursuit of her goal and now has the ultimate prize within her reach. By securing a coveted invitation to the fabled Dreamworld Resort, she has just three days in which to locate and record her once-a-century flower before it disappears again.
With the clock ticking, will they surrender to the unpredictability of love or will their chance at forever disappear like stardust on the summer wind?
Excerpt A Dream to Build a Kiss On:
2069 – Remote tropical island in the Atlantic Ocean
Adam desired Jillian Lewis, and not just for her beautiful brain.
The desire, of course, was completely unexpected and entirely new, especially for an analytical android such as himself. Add in the fact he’d never actually seen the visiting botanist face to face, let alone heard her voice, and it was all a bit disconcerting. Until this point, they’d only communicated through electronic messages and then only ever about her upcoming stay at the exclusive Dreamworld Resort where he resided or her plants or science in general.
But still, her words intrigued him.
She spoke passionately of her specimens, the exotic flowers she’d nurtured to maturity from rare and ancient seeds. She also freely shared her knowledge of said specimens with him, answering all his endless questions without ever once becoming annoyed or bored as many of the resort’s other guests sometimes did.
“Happy twenty-sixth birthday, my friend,” Reziel Shaytan said, clapping Adam on the shoulder as he walked into his office. “Have you decided what you’d like for your gift?”
“Gift, sir?” Adam asked. “Technically, this isn’t my birthday since I was not conceived in a human womb, nor did I undergo the delivery process.”
Rez gave him a look, taking a seat in the black leather executive’s chair behind his massive desk. He was Adam’s creator and owner of the resort. “What shall we call it then? Your anniversary of existence?”
Adam considered the question a moment. “Yes. I think that would be appropriate, sir.”
“Fine.” He shook his head. “Abnormally strong solar flares are expected this weekend. Have you taken the necessary precautions?”
“Yes, sir.” Adam had been created to be as human as possible. His operating software, Synthe-soul, endowed him with both keen intuition and the ability to process emotions. And yes, those processes were sometimes prone to glitches—especially during times of low charge or erroneous electrical storms—but overall, his humanity grew stronger each day. “I doubled my charge time last night and I’ve scheduled my system updates for early this afternoon, to avoid any interference.”
“Good.” Rez sat back and scrubbed a hand over his face, the strain of recent events evident in the faint lines around his eyes and the tightness of his lips. Adam did his best to protect his master, but there was only so much one android could do when the man’s very existence was forbidden. Half djinn, half angel, Rez had been cursed to walk the earth alone—at least until Doctor Harold Thomas had tumbled into his life, quite literally, and their two souls had become one. Soul mates. Adam had read about such bonds, but hadn’t experienced that swift rush of acute longing for another being since his activation. He had all the right components for human physical intimacy—even a healthy regenerating supply of nanocyte sperm to create his own hybrid children someday—but he’d yet to meet a person with whom he wanted to share such a deep emotional connection.
“Adam, please also double check with our pilot in Miami to make sure the guests arrive well before the flare occurs,” Rez said. “I don’t want another debacle like the last time.”
The “last time” had been a newlywed couple on their honeymoon. Their flight had taken off as usual from the airport, heading due south toward the uncharted island where Dreamworld was located, when their aircraft had gotten caught in a time warp flux and the poor unsuspecting couple had ended up in ancient Byzantium. It had taken weeks, and all Rez’s immense powers, to get them back to the present unharmed. Luckily, legends about the Bermuda Triangle had helped Adam cover his friend’s magical tracks.
“Texting the pilot now, sir.” He typed the message in his mind then used his internal circuits to connect wirelessly with the pilot’s com unit. “And shall I check on the orchid specimen as well?”
“Orchid? That’s right. The botanist is coming today.”
“Yes, sir.” Adam glanced at his computer again, Doctor Lewis’s latest email still up on his screen. “May I ask you something, sir?”
“Go ahead.” Rez sounded distracted as he sorted through his messages for the upcoming weekend arrivals.
“Explain human intimacy.”
He stopped and stared at Adam. “Excuse me?”
“In all my years of existence, I’ve yet to experience true human connection and intimacy.” Adam frowned. “Not the physical components of the act. I’m well versed in all the necessary techniques through my regular software updates. But the emotional aspects are a bit more challenging. I wish to learn more so that one day, if I encounter my soul mate, I will know what is happening and can respond accordingly.”
“Ah, I see.” Gaze narrowed, Rez walked around his desk to stand before Adam, his tailored navy suit in direct contrast with the easy tropical luxury of the office’s interior design. “I’m sorry, my friend, but that is knowledge even I can’t conjure. True connection and intimacy between two people must grow organically.” He crossed his arms and lowered his head. “Besides, with the flare and our other guests, we don’t have much time. I’ll need your help to guide the botanist to her orchid on the other side of the island. And I need you to assess if she might be right for our other project.”
That project included a new addition to the permanent staff on the island—a native species conservationist. Available positions were rare at Dreamworld, and while Adam appreciated Rez hiring another person to help share his workload, he would miss his hours amongst the island’s forests, nurturing their growth and choosing compatible new additions for the already rich ecosystem.
Disappointment sparked through his circuits, though he did his best to hide it by adjusting his wire-rimmed spectacles. “Of course, sir. Whatever you need.”
“Thank you, Adam. Perhaps next weekend, when things aren’t so crazy, we can discuss your gift again.”
“Fine, sir. Shall I contact the botanist with her final boarding information?”
“Yes, please.” Rez straightened, his expression thoughtful as he headed for the office door. “Let her know everything will be ready when she arrives.” He stopped at the threshold and turned back, his smile kind. “And don’t worry about making that soul-deep connection, my friend. When the time is right, it will happen. Perhaps when you least expect it.”
About the Author:
Traci is a USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary and Paranormal Romance. Her stories feature sizzling heroes full of dark humor, quick wits and major attitudes and heroines who are smart, tenacious, and always give as good as they get. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and she loves animals, chocolate, coffee, hot British actors, and sarcasm—not necessarily in that order.
Newsletter Sign-Up: http://tracidouglass.net/author-newsletter/
Iyonne has despaired of ever finding the right woman for her. But when she crash-lands on a seemingly uninhabited planet, she finds her. Sissiasandra has been alone for so long, the last of her kind. She believes that she will never again know love. Until Iyonne walks onto her beach. The two fall in love instantly, but there is one big hurdle to their happy ending. Iyonne cannot live in the ocean, and Sissiasandra cannot leave the sea to walk on land. Will they overcome their separation or are they doomed to live alone forever?
About the Author:
Sundberg is the friend of dragons and mother of chinchillas. She spends her time pairing people with good books. She lives in Pennsylvania with her two bunnies and five chinchillas.
You Only Love Once
Carpe diem the hell out of love.
In the year 2222, venturing outdoors is dangerous. Exposure to the searing ultraviolet rays of the sun could turn anyone into a crispy critter. The ocean is a toxic stew of chemicals and home to a horror show of mutant monsters. When a three-eyed creature skulks out of the sea to nibble on Leo, his beautiful neighbor comes to the rescue.
Since the tragic accident that resulted in Ivy’s cybernetic limb, she’s embraced the mantra “you only live once,” but her dangerous plans might be more a death wish than a desire to carpe diem the hell out of life.
Can Leo convince Ivy that nothing makes a person feel more alive than taking a chance on love?
About the Author:
Serena Jayne loves experimenting with different genres and mythologies. Anti-heroes and quirky characters are her favorites to write. While her first love is paranormal fiction, the mundane world provides plenty of plot bunnies. She studies Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University and is a member of Romance Writers of America.
Breakfast on Pluto
A chance encounter with a man she could love causes Princess Kerrinda of Kerberos to make a choice – do what her people expect and need, or follow her heart. Prince Belloch may not be the one she chooses, but what happens if he is?
Excerpt Breakfast on Pluto :
Bell was drawn from his thousandth bored musing about the view, or why he had windows here at all at the end of the known ‘Way. There was precious little to see but pitch blackness and one or two stars that took squinting to even make out.
“Humans like them, they feel closed in without them.” His father had always maintained this was true and so he had windows, for whatever that view was worth in the blackness surrounding the Hydra moon.
What piqued his attention was a woman, a vision, coming down the stairs so quickly as to almost be running. He watched as every few steps she cast her eyes behind her, him worrying she would fall down the steps still in front of her. Then there was her face. That, too, kept his attention.
“Beautiful.” That was what she was. He had uttered the single word out loud, despite it being a thought. He sometimes forgot; his every word was heard, his every action witnessed.
“Pardon me, did you say something, your...?” Nivens was always wondering what he could do better. All his staff was. Undeniably a perk, but also a pain. He cut him off.
“I did.” He didn’t turn his head though, he kept his watch. To his relief, she made it down without mishap. She frowned, and slowed her step. Satisfied with that she saw or didn’t, he watched as she physically changed. Her face, now peaceful, had a small smile. He would love to know what that was about. She was hiding from something or someone, but it didn’t look imminent. Life threatening. As she moved on gracefully, he guessed she had concluded she was ‘safe’ for a time.
As she got closer he noticed her eyes. She was scanning for something. She settled her gaze on the doors to the hotel. Her mask of serenity momentarily broken, storm clouds broke in those eyes, upset taking over, then what he thought might be longing. She wanted, what? To go out? To leave? She turned instead and followed the corridor to the far lobby.
“It seems we have a damsel in distress, Nivens.”
Should he come to her aid? Perhaps. Bell would judge that later.
“That woman there, the one with the long inky hair. Do we know her?”
Nivens, never comfortable taking his eyes off his charge, stepped in front of him. After checking in all directions, he motioned for another guard. Jeene’a, until now, was unobtrusively seated in the small bar area. He rose, and quietly moved to them, replacing Nivens. When he did, Nivens gave his attention to the woman in question. Bell sighed.
“We do not.” Nivens moved back to him. “Would we like to?”
“Yes. Very much, but it appears the lady has trouble.”
Nivens’ eyes rounded, and his hand went to his weapon; it was an automatic reflex. Bell moved forward; staying his hand.
“Not for me, Nivens. Her trouble is her own, and as I don’t know her, I don’t have any idea what it is.”
“Would you like us to find out?”
He shouldn’t bother. Soon, nothing much would matter. He had one day left, what harm could come of this?
“Yes. But use discretion. Find out what you can about her. She’s obviously staying here, find out where, if she is with others, and what is known about her and them.”
“Your wish.” Nivens bowed, spoke briefly to Jeene’a, and went to do his master’s bidding.
Bell shook his head almost imperceptibly. Getting what he wanted was easy. Getting who he wanted? He didn’t have that option.
Maybe one more… small “indiscretion” - as his father liked to call them - was in his cards. Another privilege he would soon give up.
Bell moved to the bar, sat down, and ordered a Fixthi’an. The publican bowed to him and made his favorite morning pick-me-up. Sitting, drinking slowly, he thought about the woman on the stairs. She was lovely. Despite the interest she generated, he couldn’t very well have an indiscretion if he was indiscreet. If she knew who he was. What he was.
“Jeene’a, there is a matter I wish to speak to you all about. Gather everyone, will you?”
One hour later, it was done.
About the Author:
Mary Rogers is a Brooklyn native now living in Southern California with her husband, her kids, and too many rescue animals. Completely addicted to romance - she decided to write it. She is inspired by her swoon-worthy hubby, her children, her spoiled pets, and the best friends in the universe. They teach her daily the meaning of love. She also appreciates the wine.
One mysterious being. Two lovers who find her. Can this threesome handle the heat of this scorching summer?
Tristan works for the American government, but rarely speaks about his job. Why? Because his job involves intergalactic travel. Despite the fact that the year is 2041 and human beings are now capable to travel at faster-than-light speeds, Tristan’s projects are often kept secret – hidden even from his girlfriend, Cassandra.
When Tristan reveals to Cassandra that they are going to take a special trip to Delmar, a planet located in a different solar system that is mostly comprised of beaches and oceans, Cassandra is ecstatic. The planet was recently discovered by Tristan and his team, and so far, very few people have used it as a vacation spot.
Cassandra and Tristan pack their bags and safely travel to Delmar, finding themselves surrounded by beautiful beaches with white sand, sparkling turquoise waters, and a strange line of trees lining the perimeter of the particular beach they have chosen to visit.
During some intense foreplay on the deserted beach, Cassandra and Tristan are startled to hear movement coming from the trees behind them. When they stop to look, they see a beautiful female emerge. She tells them that her name is Lynx, and that she is an inhabitant of the planet. Tristan is baffled, as he was unaware that the planet allowed for immigration and human habitation. And when Lynx expresses her fondness for Tristan’s body and Cassandra’s golden “star eyes,” Tristan and Cassandra find themselves attracted to her. But should they give in to this strange, beautiful inhabitant of Delmar? And if they do – what might possibly happen to them?
About the Author:
A.E. Hayes is a published author who has been writing since the age of four. She has been featured under various pseudonyms in myriad novels, anthologies, poetry collections, music magazines, and newspapers. Her memoir, “Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac,” is set to be released on September 12th, 2017.
She is currently finishing her 6th fiction novel, “On Common Ground,” writing for the upcoming sci-fi romance anthology “Love Across the Universe,” (which will be released August 1st, 2017), as well as writing a paranormal sci-fi story for the upcoming graphic novel “The Eynes Anthology.”
She studied English and Writing at Hood College, where she earned her B.A., and later studied Fiction Writing at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. A.E. resides in Maryland with her husband and son, and when she isn’t writing or singing (or doing both at the same time), she spends her time drinking far too much coffee, logging miles by pacing around the living room floor in order to make her Fitbit happy, studying the violin, pretending to be a Cylon, and plotting ideas for several new projects (which usually happens during her living room pacing time).
L. J. Longo
A soldier and a café manager find themselves trapped beneath the surface of a resort by the deadly beasts native to the planet. As they fight to survive, they discover danger is a potent aphrodisiac.
As part of a hidden military outfit protecting rich civilians as they vacation on the resort planet Pangaea, Nathan Oyola planned to keep secrets, fight aliens, and maybe tan under the rays of an artificial sun. What he did not expect was to fall for his so-called boss, the manager of the café located directly above the aliens’ nest. When the native wildlife starts behaving more aggressive and strange than usual, how will Nathan keep them secret and keep his new-found love safe.
All B+ut You
Elsa M. Carruthers
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Publisher: Stars and Stone Books
Date of Publication: 1 August 2017
In a world where looks are so important that Genetic Modification is standard procedure, how will those without Genetic Modification cope, let alone find love?
Excerpt All B+ut You :
Jen was a medical researcher until her status as a B+ blood type made her ineligible for genetic modification and indirectly cost her a lucrative position. Soon, like all of the other un-modifieds, she finds herself living and working in B-Town. She passes her time trading books with her neighbors until they start coming for minor medical advice and help. It’s not a glamorous life, but she is content until she runs into Marsha, mysterious Gen-Mod who appears to be on the run.
About the Author:
Elsa is a speculative fiction writer, academic, and poet. She lives in California with her family. In 2011, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing and English from Seton Hill University. Since graduating, Elsa's work has been published in several anthologies, magazines, and e-zines.
Elsa is an active member of HWA, RWA, SFPA, IAFA, and the Poetry Foundation. She regularly attends writing conventions and loves meeting new people!
The Pirates and the Pacifist
Kai doesn’t believe in violence. Sam and Dek believe the ends justify the means. Will passion be enough to bridge the gap between the pacifist sent to broker galactic peace and the space pirates hired to keep him away at all costs?
Kaikoa met Sameer and Dek—leaders of a crew of sometimes space pirates—when they abducted Kai and kept him from attending an important peace summit. But when the pirates’ payment never appeared and a gunship showed up instead, Kai, Sam, and Dek found themselves on the same side of a galactic conflict–and tumbling headlong into a reckless passion.
Now they are searching for the truth about who hired the pirates to keep Kai from the summit—and whether the enemy wants one side to win, or simply chaos in the galaxy. But when the allies find the ones who double-crossed them on a terraformed resort moon, will Dek and Sam follow their new lover’s pacifist wishes, or will the pirate code of an eye for an eye tear their fragile threesome apart?
Excerpt The Pirates and the Pacifist :
Kaikoa pressed his toes into the metal floor of the small cabin where he’d been kept captive for the last two ship-cycles. He only knew the length of his imprisonment because his jailors left the wall screen on. They wanted him to be able to keep track of time passing—his voiceprint wasn’t authorized to change the programming or turn it off. Thanks to the screen, he knew that in one more cycle he would miss the meeting that had brought him from his quiet backwater planet of Moanalani—haven for his people after the rising sea levels on old Earth swamped their islands—to the central planets of the Trrbantu Cluster.
He hadn’t seen his sibling Nai’a since before the pirates had boarded their small transport ship and removed them to this larger vessel. Nai’a had been up in the cockpit, doing whatever they did to pilot the ship, while he’d been down in the galley making a meal.
Nai’a had probably fought for their ship like one of the ancient demons of the depths. Kai had been knocked unconscious by some kind of stunner almost immediately. Not that he was ashamed by his failure to defend the ship. He’d been called to speak at a peace conference, after all, not a battle strategy session.
The wall screen helpfully displayed the latest news about the conference, which had predictably devolved into posturing, name-calling, and chest-beating, at least on the part of the media anchors. Kai had hopes that the actual delegates—who’d been forbidden from giving interviews to the press until afterward—were keeping their composure better.
He should have been there already, and his absence would put several important pieces of the treaty his faction had proposed in jeopardy. He and Nai’a had hoped that by taking their small, independent transport, they would avoid exactly the situation they’d landed in.
The door of the cabin opened, and three large humanoids entered. Two were actually human—a male and female—and the third was a splice.
If anyone should have wanted Kai to make it to the peace conference, it should have been a splice. If things fell apart, all of the mixed human-and-alien beings would be at risk.
But this one might not know that. Someone else did—someone who didn’t want Kai to succeed, and had hired these pirates to keep him away from the summit. The question was—was it a member of the league who wanted the insurgents eradicated, or a member of the human faction who actually thought they could win?
About the Author:
Cara McKinnon is the author of the Fay of Skye fantasy romance series. She is addicted to adding magic to other genres and creating fantasy hybrids. She earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University, where she found her writing tribe. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.
The Princess of Sands
The solar panel that powers the Sand Palace Hotel on planet Andala is failing. The hotel’s tyrannical owner will go to any length to secure a new panel, including arranging a marriage for his only daughter, Eliara Desanthar. Unable to reconcile marrying to benefit her father, Eliara sneaks aboard a ship in the castle’s landing bay, ready to make her escape.
But this ship is no ordinary vessel. It carries Prince Randroth of Belmret, who is on a diplomatic mission to Andala. When Eliara accidentally tries to hide in the prince’s chambers, Randroth vows to protect the terrified but beautiful girl, even if it means destroying relations between the two planets.
Unaware Randroth is her betrothed, Eliara returns with him to Belmret, where fun-in-the-sun, deep passion, and trapping revelations await.
And the truth might not set them free.
Excerpt The Princess of Sands :
The door of Randroth’s chamber slid open with a nearly silent hiss. “About time,” Idgmet said in his nasal voice and shuffled inside. He wore a one-piece bright lavender jumpsuit, complete with silver trim. Belmret fashion had done some odd things over the years, but this was the strangest. Idgmet fixed Randroth with a quizzical stare. “I hope you are not wearing that to meet your bride-to-be?”
Randroth tugged on the simple black trousers and adjusted the blue tunic he wore, a match for Andala’s oceans. He’d chosen the outfit purposefully to appeal to Desanthar—blue for Andala’s oceans, black because it would let the blue stand out. He would only get one chance to make a good impression. This was not the time for Idgmet’s idea of style.
“In fact, I am,” Randroth said.
Idgmet made a noise in the back of his throat, either distaste or disdain. A line appeared between his perfectly trimmed silver-painted eyebrows for only a second before the squire schooled his features. “Very well. I didn’t come to discuss your clothing, much as the topic needs addressing. Your father wishes me to remind you how crucial the securing of this union is.”
“Does he?” Randroth couldn’t keep the derision from his voice. This marriage had come suddenly and without warning or reason, at least none Randroth could detect. Belmret was not poor and, thus, in no need of a financial alliance with the riches of Desanthar’s tourism business. For all his money, Desanthar was not royalty, and so the wedding was not for political gain. In short, there was absolutely no reason why Randroth had to wed now, and to a girl he’d never met. “And did my father happen to explain to you why it is so important? He left out those details when discussing it with the son who is to be wed.”
“You know how much Belmret’s safety and future mean to your father.” Idgmet delivered his rote response in a flat tone. The underlying meaning was clearer than Belmret’s lavender oceans. There was still no reason for the union, or at least no reason Randroth’s father would disclose.
“I do.” Randroth folded his arms. The shirt pulled a bit at his shoulders. He’d filled out some since last wearing it. “But safety with not even an implied threat is not a reason to force marriage upon your child.”
“All due respect, Your Highness.” Idgmet held up the pointer finger of his left hand. His silver nail polish exactly matched the trim of his suit and his eyebrows. “I do not have time to argue about this. We must disembark.”
Randroth blew out a breath. There was no winning. He would leave the ship, meet Desanthar’s daughter, and wed in three days. “Very well.”
Idgmet spun on one heel. When he reached the door, it opened. He shuffled through, leaving Randroth to sulk in a most unprincely manner. All his life, Randroth thought he’d marry for love, like the princes and knights in the book of fairy tales he kept beside his bed. Whenever royal life got to be too much, he had read one of the old tales as a reminder of how his life could be. He should have known reality could never resemble fanciful stories in books, especially in matters of love. It wasn’t fair.
But then, what in his life was fair? He was a prince. Royalty did what needed to be done. Randroth straightened, squaring his shoulders and closing his eyes to collect himself. He drew in a deep breath and let it go slowly. If he must wed Lemswurth Desanthar’s daughter for some undisclosed reason, he would do it, sands be his witness.
The chamber door hissed open.
Randroth expelled the last of his breath in a huff. And if he had to put up with Idgmet’s impatience, he would do his best not to strangle the squire. “I said I would be right there.” He opened his eyes.
Idgmet wasn’t in the doorway. It was a girl. Her blonde hair fell in a mess of waves to her waist, and a faint pink colored her cheeks.
A tugging sensation pulled at Randroth’s heart. She looked like someone in trouble. He stood. “Are you all right?”
The girl jerked. Her head snapped up and around. She blinked wide green eyes at him, and the pink in her cheeks drained to a terrified white. She lurched backwards.
“Wait!” Randroth rushed to the door and captured her delicate wrist between his fingers. She trembled under his touch. Or had she already been trembling? “How did you get on this ship?”
The girl opened and closed her mouth. “I…” She swallowed with an audible gulp. “I need to get off the planet. My father…can you help me?”
The tug now tried to yank Randroth’s heart in two. One end pummeled him with duty and responsibility. He was supposed to stay on Andala and meet Desanthar’s daughter. In the other direction, there was still no reason for the marriage. The truth crumbled Randroth’s sense of duty. Forget trouble, this girl had the look of a caged animal. She ran, maybe for her life. He couldn’t leave her to fend for herself.
“Of course I can,” Randroth said.
Relief fell over the girl’s face like a curtain. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
A chill ran through Randroth at the gratitude in her voice. An iron determination followed. Whoever this girl’s father was, Randroth would do anything in his power to protect her. He pulled her into the room until the door slid closed. “What is your name?”
“Eliara,” the girl said.
“A lovely name,” Randroth said. It fit her well. He bowed his head. “I am Prince Randroth of Belmret, at your humble service.”
Eliara’s emerald eyes widened. “Prince?” She lurched into a bow. “Forgive me, Your Highness. I—”
“It is nothing.” He tipped her chin up with one finger. A current like electricity seemed to spark where his skin met hers. The current spiraled into a desire to pull her closer, feel her delicate body against his. “Please,” his voice rasped with the desire coursing through his blood, “call me Randroth.”
About the Author:
M.T. DeSantis currently resides in a small city on the U.S. eastern seaboard. When not writing, she can be found practicing yoga, attempting to answer trivia questions at restaurants, or plotting her next adventure.
She’ll brave the arms of destruction to shed the arms that betrayed.
When Kestrel discovers Mercer is alive and well, she embarks on a dangerous journey to escape the pain of his jilt. When Mercer turns the tables, Kestrel discovers the true meaning of betrayal, and the ultimate cost of love.
The antique film credits roll, and Kestrel strips the ocular screen from her brow. She stuffs the device into the bin at her knees and taps the evac release. Never violate your own rules. No romance means no romance because it’s rot. The silver screen disappears with a whoosh deeper into the guts of Galaxy Delivers, Inc. The next time she volunteers as previewer for Galaxy’s annual ancient films revel she’ll select a sci-fi meat grinder like The Whirling Vortex. Her vision blurs with tears. Not some thrashing B-list not happily-ever-after space-love pile of…
“Rot,” she whispers.
The film won’t get a thumb’s up from her. The leading lady dies of Veneda Syndrome. The star expires moments before medical staff can wrap molecular stabilizers around her body that’s eaten up by rogue cell necrosis. Nothing romantic about that. Even less inspiring is her lover’s desertion.
The room seems to shrink. Kestrel’s cubicle is wedged into a precise row of ten cubicles in a room of ten rows by ten. It’s in the ground floor of the Galaxy Delivers, Inc. spire that juts one hundred stories into planet Jaster’s ocher skies. The spire’s weight pins Kestrel to her roller chair. She sips antiseptic air in shallow breaths.
Unlike her co-operators’ empty gray desktops, hers is littered with antique novelties.
All gifts from him.
A calendar of curling paper the color of jaundiced skin leans against the back partition. It was his first gift. “To celebrate our first month together,” he’d said.
Kestrel runs a finger over the tarnished silver spoon he gave her at the close of month two. “For the lady who appreciates history.”
She lifts the ocean blue candle and inhales its sweet scent. “To match your eyes.” He’d kissed her, and that night she’d lost herself in Mercer Eridanus’s orbit. Even now her lips tingle.
With trembling fingers, she strokes the wire rim glasses that rest like a paperweight on top of the spacer license Mercer helped her earn. He’d called her a white-knuckle flier.
“My knuckles aren’t white.”
“No,” he’d said. “Mine are.”
The license isn’t worth sand these days because of Tabara Gold’s desquamation. A sister planet that sheds chunks of its surface the size of mountains tends to discourage transportation and trade.
Kestrel uncurls her left hand.
She hasn’t worn it in a year—the swirling platinum strands of precious metal that clasp a brilliant cut diamond as its prize. Her gaze strays to the paper calendar’s single digit number. Mercer proposed marriage one year ago today.
She’s memorized his note: Dear Kes—it could never work. I’m jumping a hyper-shot freighter out of Tabara Gold. The universe calls, babe. I’m sorry.
A good thing she doesn’t have Veneda Syndrome.
His note is twenty-two words. Where in twenty-two words is the essence of a man who combs antique slums on two planets to locate an artifact to celebrate each month of romance? He isn’t a man who ditches responsibilities and hyper-shots away. But he did leave.
And now he’s back.
The gossip grills who document Adalon City’s social scene breathlessly welcomed him home. Apparently, Mercer’sshadow is enough to send females aged two to one-hundred-seventeen into vapes. Men want Mercer for cards, bar jaunts, investment advice, jet races…
Three days have passed since she’s learned he breathes Adalon’s air. Three days.
The answer is that he regretted his proposal because she never fit Adalon’s scene—that whirling show of parties, fizzy drinks, and false laughter. When did he ever, ever take her about? His silence proves she should move on with her life. He is.
She stuffs the ring into a pocket.
Love absorbs and expands beyond its capacity, but when it dries up it’s stiff and useless. If not for the sister planet’s annoying skin peel, she’d blast through Adalon City’s ochre skies, break clean of Jaster’s gravitational pull, and run and run and never stop.
Instead, she’s here.
Operators’ voices hum as color-coded deliveries pour in at a rate of two every fifteen-point-three seconds. The operators sort the bids and roll them up onto the giant boards that march around the room. Competitor operators in fifteen buildings around Adalon City vie for the bids. In a city of millions, there’s money in messages and packages. Galaxy delivers.
Kes taps her temple, and her implant flickers behind her eyes. Pain streaks up her shin.
Bending double, she spies a pair of boots the size of freighters on a guy in the row opposite. She kicks. Never met him, so who cares?
“Hey!” The gray partition muffles his voice. “Watch it.”
“You watch it,” she snaps. “Keep your space boats to yourself.”
“Thrashing-A, Kes.” The voice of the operator next to her climbs an octave. “You got a thrashing blue to bid!”
Heads pop up. Blue…ah, blue…sighs off every tongue.
Kestrel launches to her feet. A job coded red is bound for Jaster’s far side; pink is for local delivery. Blue—beautiful, brilliant, and rare blue—is OWDR: off-world delivery required, baby. While she’s been gathering linen—or is the saying wool?—the blue flitted through her queue.
Blip! It disappears.
The blue’s been snagged by number 100: the top of the spire; Theodosia Galaxy, CEO of Galaxy Delivers, Inc.
Adalon’s delivery industry is no place for swimmers afraid of sharks. The gossip grills report Ms. Galaxy’s balls live in one tower, her body in another. Until Tabara Gold’s demasquation ends, the sister planet puts a choke-hold on Jaster’s economy. No doubt Ms. Galaxy will cut the other companies’ jugulars to win the off-world job and a fat commission.
Kestrel snatches her spacer license. The universe propels her down the perfect rows and fifty steps to the lift. She slides in, taps the round button marked 100, and the reflective gold doors glide shut. She’s a big-eyed, tight-jawed slash of pale skin in loose clothing drenched in shadows.
There’s only one way to clear the dust of this past year’s desert experience. Theodosia Galaxy will win the bid to deliver the package, and Kestrel will fly the mother-thrashing thing down the throat of a whirling vortex if it means putting space, and lots of it, between her and Mercer.
About the Author:
Oriana Maret is a science fiction writer whose careers include the military, corporate sales and management in cancer genetic diagnostics, and nonprofit brand management. She'll earn an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2018.