|Cover Art by Fiona Jayde|
First though, congratulations to Jeffe on her RITA Award this week - yay!!!
I just released a new science fiction romance this week, Two Against the Stars, so instead of flash fiction, I'll share an excerpt.
Empathic priestess Carialle has escaped the evil Amarotu Combine, but she’s hardly out of danger. Not when she risks everything to rescue a drugged man from a crooked veterans’ clinic. By lulling the clinic staff to sleep, she reveals her powers. And once again, criminals are after her and her rescuer.
Marcus Valerian, a wounded Special Forces veteran, never expected to have his life threatened by the clinic that’s supposed to help ex-soldiers like him. But when he wakes from a drugged state to find a lovely woman urging him to run–he does. In his family’s remote fishing cabin, he suffers the agony of withdrawal, soothed only by her powers.
In their idyllic hideaway, the two also discover a nova-hot attraction flaring. But can they stay alive long enough for it to become more? Not if the Combine has anything to say–they are not giving up until Marcus is dead and Carialle is their weapon.
The Excerpt – The Heroine catches her first glimpse of the hero and learns of her employer’s deadly schemes:
…she heard a commotion outside. Hastily she gathered up her tools and supplies and directed her robo cart into the corridor. Coming toward her was Mrs. Trang, talking to an officious man dressed all in white, while behind them was an anti grav litter escorted by four husky orderlies. Peters and Matikian trailed behind. The patient on the litter was shouting incoherently, fighting the restraints, cursing. He seemed to be in the grip of a delusion about being captured by Mawreg, the deadliest enemy of the Sectors civilization, against whom war was constantly being waged.
Appalled both by the man’s violent behavior and the cruel way he was restrained, Carialle flattened herself against the wall and watched as the litter was floated into the room, rocking precariously from the vehement struggles of the ill man. It took all four of the attendants to transfer him to the bed and shackle him tightly to the rails, as Peters slid the medical unit over the lower half of the patient’s body. Matikan jabbed an inject into the man’s neck with a force that made Carialle wince. He enjoyed that.
The patient convulsed and collapsed, going limp against his bonds.
“I’d keep him well under control,” the man in charge said. “Fully sedated. For his own good,” he added with a wink.
“Yes, doctor, of course.” Mrs. Trang was all smiles as she agreed with the suggested course of treatment.
Carialle was shocked to find the owner’s aura full of the bright green of greed, banded with the rusty red of evil and the corroded gold of improperly used power. She lingered to watch the patient as the others left the room, inhaling sharply as her still active senses ‘read’ him.
At his core was the blue fire of a true warrior of Thuun. His aura blazed with it.
Small patches of the dull gray intruded around the edges of the flames, probably from the inject he’d been given. The flames were distorted in a disturbing fashion she’d never seen before, blurry. Odd pools of oily black drifted in the center of his aura, three of them, walled off from each other by twisted knots of bright white so glaring she had to shut down her observation, which had never happened to her before.
“Hey, you ok?”
She jumped as Peters tapped her shoulder. “Sorry, I—I was surprised at how agitated the man was when he was brought him in.”
“Yeah, the patients are usually a lot farther gone by the time we get them. He’s a big prize.”
“What do you mean?” Disturbed by her vision of the blue flames, as well as those mysterious black pools confined by the white lights, Carialle kept walking toward the next area she was due to clean. Mustn’t appear to be slacking off, especially with the owner on the premises.
“Sweetie, what do you think Mrs. Trang is running here?” Peters kept pace with her.
Puzzled, she said, “A rehab clinic.”
He shook his head. “Yeah sure, in the other part of the building. Over here, she keeps them alive so she can scrape their veterans’ benefits. And she takes the payments for all the fancy therapy, nutritious foods, supplemental meds and special care they’re supposed to be receiving. Nice little racket. Her and the doc are in it together. He directs suitable patients her way and she gives him a kickback.” Peters leaned closer, as if the way to her reluctant heart was to share his employer’s secrets with her. “This new guy ain’t even supposed to be here. He was Special Forces, badly injured in action, then got himself tortured by the Mawreg before he was rescued. The military ran him through rejuve regeneration to fix his body but his mind is fucked up. He was supposed to go to a fancy, high end rehab clinic on the eastern continent but Trang and the doc diverted him here. Forged the records. No one will ever know he existed. Much less find him.”
“Why?” Horrified, she exerted pressure to keep him talking for once. This new patient wasn’t her problem, not at all, but the glimpse of the blue flames rattled her to the core. Assisting a warrior of Thuun was the highest duty of a priestess. But I’m not a priestess and he can’t be a warrior of my god—he’s human. I don’t know him, I owe him nothing. But despite her frantic denials, she was under a compulsion to understand the situation more fully.
“Special Forces are awarded a more generous pension than these other poor bastards who were regular military, maybe five times as much. What she really wants from our new resident though is his veterans’ acres. He’s entitled to prime real estate, courtesy of the grateful Sectors.”
“How will she acquire land meant to be his?”
“The drug she gives them, toranquidol? It destroys the mind over time but there’s a point in the process where free will is gone but the victim retains certain functions. She can make them do anything she wants. She’s gotten rich off of having these poor bastards change their wills, sign over property, you name it. Even married one or two of them along the way for the death benefit and life insurance payouts. He’ll sign the forms to give her the veterans acres.” Peters chuckled, sounding as if he admired Mrs. Trang’s ingenuity at scamming. “I guess what the Sectors authorities don’t know won’t hurt them. I mean, who cares, right?”
“But don’t the patients’ families—”
Peters shook his head. “She and the doc pick their targets carefully. No family, no one to ask awkward questions. Or interfere.”
So what’s Carialle – a fugitive herself - going to do about this?