When Pauline B. Jones and I were putting together the first Pets In Space anthology in 2016, I wrote a story for the volume about a kidnapped alien empathic priestess, who was found as a stowaway on my interstellar cruise ship, the Nebula Zephyr, and her adventures fighting her way free of the Combine (Star Cruise: Stowaway). She escaped the villains almost by accident, because she had help from my spaceship crew (and the pets).
I realized after I finished that novella that I wasn’t done with the subject of these beautiful, empathic women and their predicament with the Sectors’ organized crime syndicate. I decided to tell a much longer story for Miriell, sister of the original heroine, putting her in the heart of the operation, at the mercy of her violent ‘controller’, and when I asked myself who would be her hero, Conor Stewart appeared. Those were the beginnings of Danger in the Stars.
She sees good in him, well hidden under the façade of the dangerous hitman and crime boss. He goes out of his way to help her when he can and cautious attraction blossoms between them. Not to give spoilers but there’s much more to Conor than meets the eye. He is a hero!
I used to be a huge reader of romantic suspense novels – still am on occasion! – and it was fun to be writing along those lines myself, but with the science fiction elements firmly in place.
Readers had been asking when they were going to learn more about the Mawreg, who are the apex enemies of humanity in my Sectors universe, and in this book Miriell meets one. I also was able to expand a bit more on my Shemdylann pirates, since Miriell also has an uncomfortable encounter with one of their high ranking females.
A word about the title – it’s a little wink from me to the late, great Andre Norton, who had all those short and snappy scifi titles for her books. The first science fiction book I ever read was her Catseye and I still have all my battered Ace paperback books by her.
Danger in the Stars isn’t my usual Sectors spaceships and blasters scifi story (although there certainly are some of both elements in the action scenes) but I was really intrigued with telling this tale and exploring a few things about both the empathic priestess (which brings in my element of mysticism that I always like to incorporate) and the stone cold mob hitman, who has to fight his deepest instincts to preserve and protect. When it comes to Miriell, he can’t stand by and let her remain a pawn of the Combine. This is a romance, so the Happily Ever After ending is guaranteed, even if perilous for my couple to attain.
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a group of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.
Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.
The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?
A quick excerpt:
The nausea was always the worst part of emerging from cryo sleep. Miriell fought her confused thoughts and the incipient headache, trying not to throw up. She curled into a ball on her side, hands fisted on her unhappy stomach and bit her lip to avoid moaning.
A rough hand on her shoulder, shaking her. “Come on, you know we don’t have time for this sick act of yours. Snap out of it, the client’s waiting so see what you can do.” Jarek’s voice changed, became more congenial, placating almost. Clearly he was no longer speaking to her. “These exotics don’t do well with cryo sleep, but she’ll be on her feet in a minute or two, I promise. Then we can be on our way.”
“Good. The boss is getting impatient, waiting in the limo. She doesn’t spend much time in cargo warehouses.”
The new voice was deep and although the tone was rough and the words clipped, Miriell felt as if a warm blanket had been placed over her shoulders. Intrigued by her own reaction, she forced herself to sit up on the floor, bracing herself against the cargo container that had been her prison. Blinking to focus, she turned her head, searching for the owner of the new voice.
Jareck grabbed her elbow in a bruising grip and yanked her to her feet. He must have removed the shackles while she was still unconscious. Giving her a shake, he said, “I swear, every time we travel for a job, you act as if your sweet time asleep in the cryo unit was torture.”
Maybe because for me it is. Swaying, balance still off, she couldn’t resist Jareck as he tugged her close to him, the smell of his cheap cologne another assault on her overloaded senses. Her stomach heaved and she had to make a conscious effort not to throw up all over him, slapping her free hand over her mouth.
“Do I have to carry you?” His voice was low and she knew it was a threat. He’d make her pay later.
With painful effort, she straightened her spine and stepped away, brushing one hand down her plain gray tunic in a vain attempt to smooth out the wrinkles. “I can walk.”
“You don’t look like it.”
Their new companion was no one she’d ever met before, tall, broad shoulders, heavily muscled, with black hair and gray eyes that were almost silver. She was mesmerized by his eyes. Miriell wished she dared to engage her gifts, get a sense of this person, maybe figure out why he made her feel safe, when clearly she was anything but. Jareck stopped to pick up his kit bag, never releasing his hold on her.
“Conor’s right, we’ve got to be going. You’re ready to behave, right?”
Submissively she nodded, bottling up her anger and hatred. Someday I’ll get my chance and you will die.
*Portions of this post appeared previously on Pauline B Jones’s blog…