The idea of writing a science fiction romance around a Halloween theme intrigued me so I was delighted to sign on to the SUPRA VELUM anthology. There were two requirements all the authors had to meet besides a spooky theme – one of the main characters had to be “alien” and there had to be a scene with mist or fog.
I knew I wanted to set the story in my usual world of the Sectors, the interstellar civilization where many of my books take place, but it didn’t really fit into any of my ongoing series. We also had a word limitation (my story went over by about 3K). I’m usually a person with way too much plot going on for such a short book so I thought well, what if I limited myself to one twenty four hour period?
I’ve written humanoids with scales before (TRATUS in the Badari Warrior series and TALINN in the Badari Gladiators series) so I decided to make my Male Main Character an alien humanoid with scales and a tail. This is my first ever MMC with a tail and it was a good stretch for me to be sure I included the tail properly in the action (and the bedroom love scene). I like a challenge.
The idea of breaking some kind of curse came to me pretty quickly and I had fun creating the circumstances which lead up to my two main characters falling under this curse from another planet and having to break it to survive. Figuring out the mechanics of the curse and how it could be broken called for some magic ingredients and a quest in the dead of night because of course the curse will kill them at dawn.
The characters are co-workers in an interstellar office and have been eyeing each other with a lot of interest for a while but no one has really made a move. Then this curse comes along and forces them to work together to survive.
My FMC doesn’t really believe in the curse at first, despite the effect its already having on the hero but the aunt to whom she turns for help quickly disabuses her of the idea it’s all some kind of joke. I did quite a bit of research along the way (which we authors love to do and can get lost in, believe me) on curses and the potions needed to break them.
Here’s a quick excerpt from the story, from the scene where Hagan the MMC has to explain the curse to Amellia, his human co-worker.
“I apologize for disturbing your peaceful evening,” he said with a formal air. “May I come in? I’ll explain everything but I’m afraid I have bad news to impart.”
He did look a bit peaked she noticed as she retreated and he moved into the light in the living room. His usually bright green skin with the iridescent scales was faded and a few scales were missing. One popped up on his forearm and fell to the floor as she watched. “Are you all right?” she asked. “Do you need a glass of water or anything?”
“How do you feel is the more important question.” His emerald-green eyes glowed a little as he scanned her up and down.
Blushing because she was wearing her pajamas with the anime characters and the big slippers, she held her robe closely around her and mentally said goodbye to any hopes she’d ever had of dating this man, much less going to bed together. “I know I must look a mess. I have a migraine and an upset stomach.”
“Oh no.” For a moment Hagan doubled over as if he’d taken a blow to the gut and then stepped forward to grab her arm so suddenly she was flooded with adrenalin and uttered a squeak. “When?” he asked urgently. “When did this start?”
She twisted awkwardly in the direction of the chrono. “I don’t know, maybe three hours ago? What does it matter? What is going on with you tonight?”
He slid his hand down her arm and clasped her fingers. “Don’t be alarmed—I’d never hurt you. But I do have bad news to impart. May we sit?”
“Of course.” She drew him to the couch and the cat departed with a hiss, making room for them to sit.
“I had so much I wanted to say to you at the proper time,” he said, holding her hand a bit desperately. “You’re special, Amellia. I’d never met any woman like you before and I was—am—so powerfully attracted to you. I think we’re fated mates—”
“Like—like instalove?” She let out a gasp, wondering how to handle this revelation. “I mean, I find you attractive and I won’t deny I’d love to go out with you but we barely know each other outside the office.”
He nodded, his face set in serious lines. “My people believe on occasion a fated mate will be granted to a fortunate individual by the gods. I never heard of it happening with a human but I knew the instant we were introduced you were a woman I could so easily fall in love with. And while we were working together, I did. But now in my attempt to do the honorable thing, I’ve brought utter disaster upon both of us.”
“Does this discussion have to do with the box you’re holding?” She pointed at the container gripped tightly in the coils of his tail.
He set the box on her coffee table as she watched in fascination. “Did you know my people are born of eggs?”
She blushed. “I might have done a bit of research when you were assigned to the office.” Nervously she ran her hand through her hair and focused on the box, licking her lips. “To make sure I could provide you the best support.”
“Of course. Your thoroughness is an attribute I admire greatly,” he said but his involuntary assessment of her other, more physical attributes was highly appreciative. With a self-conscious cough, he averted his eyes and straightened. “When clutches are laid at high born Houses, there’s a ceremony known as egg matching, whereby certain individuals are entered into alliances by their parents—”
Amellia hadn’t seen any references to this ritual. Actually she’d stopped doing research after discovering the Zackmarune were egg layers. She’d done a little checking on whether human women could mate with a male from the alien planet, got discouraged by all the scientific mumbo jumbo and checked it out on an interstellar chat board, where she’d learned they could, and could even have children with a bit of medical intervention. None of the information helped tonight with this bizarre conversation. “Before they hatch? How do the parents know who to put with whom?”
“There are subtle markers on the eggs, which skilled priests can interpret through the use of sacred lanterns. The thing is, I was egg matched with one who became Sharshanna, a beautiful but spoiled daughter of another House.” He flicked a glance at her and smiled ruefully. “I fled my planet at adulthood and joined the Sectors military to escape our match truthfully. We’re long lived and there was plenty of time to be tail fasted. Honestly, she was such a schemer and climber, I hoped she’d manage an alliance with royalty and jilt me.”
Watching his face, Amellia was struck by the tension in his clenched jaw and the pulse beating hard at his temple. “But she didn’t?”
“Oh, she schemed and maneuvered with the best of them no doubt but hadn’t quite achieved her goals. I must explain in these modern times it’s common and quite accepted to sever the egg match once adulthood arrives. My taking the course of action carries no shame or dishonor for either of us. I think many people were probably surprised I’d waited so long to take the step. She’d certainly provided enough provocation.”
Reassurance seemed necessary so Amellia patted his hand. “I believe you.”
Hagan responded earnestly. “I wanted to be free to court you with honor.”
There was silence. Hoping to advance the conversation and get to the meat of whatever Hagan believed he needed to tell her, Amellia pointed at the box. “Is this what was delivered to the office while you were out in the field?”
“Yes.” He stirred the leaves with the tip of his tail, pulled out a coil of red vine and dropped it distastefully. “She took my actions badly.”
“She’s cast a curse on us.”
Jaw dropping, Amellia couldn’t help herself and burst into laughter. “I’m sorry,” she gasped, trying to smother her amusement as Hagan blinked. “A curse? Really? And that’s what has you so worried? In this day and age I hardly think we need to give it a second thought, even if she did send you a funky old box full of rodent skulls or dead flowers or whatever. Unless she hired D’nvannae assassins too, we’re probably going to be fine.”
Hagan remained serious. “I could handle the assassins—let them try to get past me to harm you. But this curse—there’s nothing to be done. At dawn we’ll both die.”
SUPRA VELUM: A SPOOKY SCIFI ROMANCE ANTHOLOGY by Various
Misty, spooky love and trouble; Tails, horns, and frightful cuddles. We spin our threads, we authors many, Of horror, sweets, ghosts, and frenzy, So you may sup on alien peen, To quench your thirst this Halloween. Wander beyond the veil into a spooky season of scifi romance tales written by some of the genre’s most influential authors and rising stars. From cute and sweet to horrific and death-defying, these tales span the breadth of autumn and Halloween vibes with everything from autumn foliage and chilly breezes to zombies and haunted trails.