About the Author:
Rhonda Jackson Joseph is a Texas
based writer and professor who must exorcise the demons of her imagination so
they don’t haunt her being. A life-long horror fan and writer of many things,
she has recently discovered the joys of writing in the academic arena about two
important aspects of her life: horror and black femininity. She balances her
natural darkness with the light and love of romance stories.
When Rhonda isn’t writing,
teaching, or reading voraciously, she can usually be found wrangling one of
various sprouts or sproutlings from her blended family of 11…along with one
husband and two furry babies.
Rhonda can be found lurking (and
occasionally even peeking out) on social media:
If she can only save one thing,
which will it be—the red beaches of Mars or a love she can’t imagine living
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dream to Build a Kiss On
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
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
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.
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.
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
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?”
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
“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.
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
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.
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?”
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
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
“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.”
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.
sparked through his circuits, though he did his best to hide it by adjusting
his wire-rimmed spectacles. “Of course, sir. Whatever you need.”
Adam. Perhaps next weekend, when things aren’t so crazy, we can discuss your
Shall I contact the botanist with her final boarding information?”
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
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?
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.
Only Love Once
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
do not.” Nivens moved back to him. “Would we like to?”
Very much, but it appears the lady has trouble.”
eyes rounded, and his hand went to his weapon; it was an automatic reflex.
Bell moved forward; staying his hand.
for me, Nivens. Her trouble is her own, and as I don’t know her, I don’t
have any idea what it is.”
you like us to find out?”
shouldn’t bother. Soon, nothing much would matter. He had one day left, what
harm could come of this?
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.”
wish.” Nivens bowed, spoke briefly to Jeene’a, and went to do his
shook his head almost imperceptibly. Getting what he wanted was easy.
Getting who he wanted? He didn’t have that option.
one more… small “indiscretion” – as his father liked to call them – was in his
cards. Another privilege he would soon give up.
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.
there is a matter I wish to speak to you all about. Gather everyone, will
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?
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).
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
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.
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Publisher: Stars and Stone Books
Date of Publication: 1 August
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
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!
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
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 :
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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?”
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,”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
“A lovely name,”
Randroth said. It fit her well. He bowed his head. “I am Prince Randroth of
Belmret, at your humble service.”
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.”
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 buds from her ears and taps her temple. The ocular screen behind her eyes
flickers and cancels the antique film’s rolling credits. Her Galaxy Delivers
Inc. queue slides in place and flashes amber for her attention, but her vision
blurs. Next time when she’s supposed to be sorting Galaxy delivery jobs and not
doing her volunteer museum job she’ll preview a sci-fi meat-grinder like The
Whirling Vortex for the annual ancient films festival. She palms her eyes dry.
Not some thrashing B-list not happily-ever-after space-love pile of…
A film in which
the leading lady dies of Veneda Syndrome is no romance. Veneda’s a horrible
illness of rogue cell necrosis. The Vortex’s star dies in her lover’s arms
within meters of the molecular diagnostic tool that could have saved her life.
The guy is no hero.
With a burst of
heat, Kestrel kicks the size twelve feet entangled with her size sevens. The
guy’s cubicle is in the next row over, and she’s never met him, so who cares?
complaint is muffled behind the tall gray partition. “Watch it.”
“Keep your feet
to yourself,” she mutters.
co-workers’ empty, gray desktops, hers is littered with antique novelties. All
gifts from him. Mercer.
Kestrel picks up
the tarnished silver spoon and taps the scented candle. A calendar of curling
paper the color of jaundiced skin leans against the back partition, and a
busted pair of wire rim glasses rest like a paperweight on top of her spacer
her earn the license. It’s worth spit these days because of Tabara Gold’s
desquamation. A sister planet that peels off chunks of its surface the size of
mountains tends to discourage transportation and trade.
She grips her
chair’s metal arms and rollers back because the room shrinks. Her cubicle
wedges into a precise row of ten cubicles in a room of ten rows. The room is
the in the bowels of a building stretching one hundred stories into the world’s
ocher skies. The circulator pump hisses chemicals smelling of antiseptic. She
sips air with shallow breaths.
calendar’s single digit number mocks her, and she can’t look away because
Mercer proposed marriage exactly one year ago. Then he disappeared. Now he’s
grills who document Adalon City’s social scene breathlessly welcome him home.
Apparently Mercer’s shadow is enough to send females ages 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’s alive. Three. Days.
There’s only one
answer why he hasn’t blasted down her door and fallen to his knees to beg
forgiveness for agony she’s suffered. He regretted his proposal because she
never fit Adalon’s scene—that rarified air that makes the gossip grills
slather. His silence means she should move on with her life because he is.
Love is a like a
sponge. It absorbs and expands beyond its capacity, but when it dries up it’s
stiff and useless. Her friends say she just has to get back in the game—rewet
that sponge! If not for Tabara Gold’s annoying skin peel, she’d blast through
Adalon’s ochre skies, break clean of Jaster’s gravitational pull, and run and
run and never stop.
hum as each processes color-coded delivery jobs. Giant boards rule the walls.
Electric blue letters flicker and scroll with jobs pouring in at a rate of two
every fifteen-point-three seconds. Topside, a swarm of Galaxy’s delivery jocks
in the company’s blue and gold receive the orders, upload the message or take
possession of the package, and speed away on jetters Adalon’s enforcers decry
as a public menace.
Kes,” Yallo’s voice drags her back. “You got a thrashing blue.”
Heads pop up. Blue…ah,
blue…rolls off every tongue.
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. The blue’s five minutes old. She snatches her spacer license,
and the universe propels her into the lift.
delivery industry is no place for swimmers afraid of sharks. Theodosia Galaxy’s
balls live in one tower, and her body in another. Theo will go for the other
companies’ jugulars to win the off-world job, especially since Tabara Gold
chokes Jaster’s economy.
Kestrel taps the
quarter-sized button marked 100, and the reflective gold doors slide shut.
She’s a big-eyed, tight-jawed slash of pale skin in loose clothing drenched in
There’s only one
way to clear the dust of this past year’s desert experience. Theodosia will
want the blue’s fat commission, and Kestrel will fly the mother-thrashing
package down the throat of a black hole if it means putting space, and lots of
it, between her and Mercer.
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.