First Meeting: WINTER SOLSTICE DREAM Fantasy Holiday Romance

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

Can I tell you a secret? This is one of the books I’ve reread the most from my own backlist. I love the classic Cinderella fairy tale and this novella was inspired by the fairy tale. I have this entire fantasy world of Claddare created and stories to tell in that world but never enough time to get to it. However, the Female Main Character here, Nadelma, is the castle’s cook from The Captive Shifter (which is my other novel so far set in this world) and readers liked her and asked for her story. It’s also my winter holiday story! I will also admit to a mental picture of Navarre from ‘Ladyhawke’ when I wrote an earlier scene with Halvor on his horse…so in short, I love this story.

The excerpt – Halvor is a high born mercenary, come to Azrimar to fight for the king. Nadelma saw him and his people ride in a few days prior to this but they’ve never met. She’s been summoned by the king for a different reason:

Nadelma made a note to herself to find a regiment of suitable toy soldiers as a solstice gift for the boy, who was a great favorite of hers. “Will you be allowed time off to go home?”

“His majesty said I could go for a week if I wanted to.” The boy’s eyes were wide. “He said it would be hard but he and his lady mother would do their best to manage without me.” Chewing on his lip, Tabarus had a furrowed brow as if there were weighty matters on his mind. “I don’t want to leave them with a lack of service. They’re been so nice to me, not like…well, other people.”

“Sending you home to your family for a week would probably make both of them happy,” Nadelma said. “They only have each other and the king’s sister after all, so they want anyone from a large family to be with their kin at the holidays.”

He obviously liked the idea. “What about you?” he asked, with the bluntness of a child. “I’ve never heard you talk about your family.”

Nadelma barely felt the twinge of pain after all these years. “Don’t be worrying about me—the castle is my home and everyone here is my family. I don’t need anywhere else to go.”

Satisfied with her answer, Tabarus rushed ahead to announce her to the royals, dodging someone attempting to leave the chamber and scampering inside, out of view.

Nadelma followed him and ran right into a soldier who was exiting the audience chamber. She nearly fell but his hand on her arm kept her upright.

“Apologies, my lady,” the man said in a deep voice, the syllables accented with the lilt of the Dales. “Are you all right?”

“I’ve got my balance, thank you.” Flustered, she brushed her skirts and dropped a curtsey, realizing the man she’d collided with was the Dales lord, Halvor himself. “I believe I was the one at fault, sir.”

He laughed but kindly. “We’ll call it a draw.” Now he released her arm, nodded pleasantly and joined his waiting companion in the hall beyond.

Nadelma had to work hard not to pivot and stare at him as he walked away. He was a big man, even more massive than he’d appeared on the giant warhorse the other day, although his touch had been gentle, only enough to keep her on her feet. He’d smelled deliciously of man and forest greenery and a hint of musk and unaccountably she’d wished to move closer to him, not to retreat. Now she’d seen his face without the obscuring helm, she found him as handsome as she’d expected and his brown eyes were piercing in their intensity. The day old stubble served to emphasize the strong lines of his face and his sandy blond hair was cropped close, the better to accommodate his helmet no doubt.

VS: Don’t worry – they meet again soon…


Torn from her home in the Dales as a child, Nadelma has made a place for herself as the head cook in the Witch Queen of Azrimar’s castle. She stays in the background of the busy court and uses her gentle magic gifts sparingly to help others. More or less content, she’s made peace with the hard facts of her life. Romance, marriage, a family – all beyond her dreams any longer.

Then Halvor, an ambitious Dales lord rides into the city, bringing his mercenaries to serve the king, with the promise of a rich reward, including a title and an estate. The only catch? He has to marry a highborn Azrimaran noblewoman to seal the treaty.
Fate conspires to throw Nadelma and Halvor into each other’s company and the attraction is instant and deep but both resist the attraction. She knows she can never have him for herself. He must fulfill the treaty to secure a safe place for his people to live, since their holding in the Dales was destroyed by the black magic of the Shadow. Marriage to a noble damsel of the king’s choice is his fate.

Until he met Nadelma he thought his heart was frozen by the loss of all he cared for, back in the Dales. Now he knows better but his people must come first.

The situation is hopeless…or is it? For the king declares the city will celebrate Winter Solstice and hold a ball, where wishes and dreams just might come true.

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By veronicascott Posted in Snippet

First Meeting: STAR SURVIVOR #SciFi Romance

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

This week I’m doing STAR SURVIVOR, which is a sequel to my “Titanic in Space”  novel WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM. Readers really wanted to know what happened to the secondary characters Twilka and Khevan after the events in WRECK. (So there are some spoilers for WRECK obviously.) The couple were together when WRECK ended but as we learn in this book, subsequently Khevan deserted Twilka to return to the service of the alien goddess of flames whom he served. Twilka has done her best to pick up the pieces and embark on a new life…when Khevan reappears.

The excerpt: 

She’d known it was a mistake to agree to venture out of her cabin, much less to go to the casino, but her companions had been begging her to join them on this final night of the cruise. A woman couldn’t concentrate on business all the time, could she? Not even to avoid unpleasant realities. A migraine nagged above her eye, threatening to become full blown, and the loud thumping music in the casino aggravated the pain. Twilka Zabour paused at the entrance to the private, high stakes gaming area and froze.

Oh, yes, a major flashback was inevitable now. Not just because the lights and the music and the crowd were reminding her so forcibly of the last night on board the Nebula Dream, but because of the man standing in the center of a largely female, laughing group of passengers. He stood with his back to her, thank the lords, and all she could see were his broad shoulders and that glossy, unbound mane of hair, but the high roller running the table was a D’nvannae Brother.


The memories were a physical pain in her gut as the room spun around her.

“Drink. I need a drink,” she said, grabbing at the glasses balanced on the tray of a passing server. She didn’t care what they were, nor was she displeased to find the goblets contained two completely different feelgoods. Even as the waiter exclaimed in annoyance and her own companions exchanged astonished glances, she shoved the now empty glasses at the man, snatched a third from his tray, swirls of orange and green froth, and sauntered forward. Twilka headed to the table with a casualness she in no way felt, her nerves taut as a bowstring, her pulse pounding. The migraine took hold with a vengeance now, fueled by tension and the feelgoods. At least she’d worn a killer dress.

“Twenty thousand on the red,” she said, having seen his bet and choosing the opposite. “I’ll spin.” Sipping the abominable, too sweet concoction, she leaned over to spin the retro wheel, giving the room a full view of her cleavage, accented with perfume dust and temporary diamond-studded tattoos.

There was a growing silence around the table. She didn’t think the onlookers knew who he was—had been—to her. She was famous, her face appearing everywhere as the embodiment of her brand, but he was just a D’nvannae. In reality, Khevan could never be dismissed as “just” anything, could he? Her companions had caught up to her, Lissa and Jord standing at her side, slightly behind. Tossing her hair, she raised her glass as the croupier proclaimed her win. “Again.” She leaned over and licked Jord’s ear, caressing the outline with her tongue as sensuously as she could manage in her highly fraught state of mind. She’d taken him by surprise, but he played along, putting his arm around her waist and pulling her close, turning so her hip curved into his crotch, spilling the drink a bit as he nuzzled her neck.

“The lady wins again,” said the dealer.

“Your lucky night,” Khevan said, inclining his head to her slightly.

Lords, his voice was as deep and sensuous as ever. Twilka grabbed the table rail with her free hand. Did he know who she was? Of course he did, but the bastard was pretending not to recognize her. “Available for contract, I see.”

“Technically true, but traveling to an outlying temple for a required ritual,” he said. His handsome, tattooed face gave nothing away. “There would have to be an emergency for me to take a contract tonight.”

“Did you want to let the bet ride?” asked the croupier.

“No,” she said abruptly. “I don’t tempt fate too far any more. Cash me out.” Sick of the game, barely able to see for the lightning flashes in her field of vision caused by the migraine, she abandoned her drink and took Jord’s arm. “I think we’ve wasted enough time here, don’t you?” Beaming at Lissa, she added, “Let’s go to the cabin and start the party again.”

She stumbled ever so slightly as she spun around. Jord kept her upright and they walked away. “What the seven hells were you doing?” he asked in a low voice. “Did you know that guy?”

“It was him, wasn’t it?” High pitched and excited, Lissa’s tone betrayed her fascination. “Your D’nvannae?”

“Not mine, never mine,” she said, biting her lip as too much of the truth slipped out. Fearing he was watching her, dreading that he wasn’t, she kept walking until she’d put enough distance between herself and the high stakes area not to be seen.


The survivors of a terrible wreck meet again—but this time only one can survive.

The long-awaited sequel to The Wreck of the Nebula Dream

They survived an iconic spaceship wreck together. She never expected to see him again … especially not armed to kill her.

Twilka Zabour is an interstellar celebrity. She built on her notoriety as a carefree Socialite who survived the terrible wreck of the Nebula Dream, and launched a successful design house. But now the man who gave meaning to her life, then left her, is back–this time for the worst of reasons. Will he kill her … or help her survive?

D’nvannae Brother Khevan survived the Nebula Dream in the company of a lovely, warm woman, only to be pulled away from her, back into his solitary life in the service of the Red Lady.  Now Twilka’s within his reach again–for all the wrong reasons. Khevan will do everything within his power to discover why Twilka has been targeted for assassination, and to save her.

But Khevan is not Twilka’s only pursuer. Will allies Nick and Mara Jameson arrive in time to aid the couple, or will Khevan and Twilka’s ingenuity be all that stands between them and death?


By veronicascott Posted in Snippet

First Meeting: STAR CRUISE MYSTERY DANCER SciFi Romance Take on Anastasia

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

I took on the challenge of trying to retell the legend of the lost Grand Duchess Anastasia and whether she had survived or not, and recast it as a scifi romance, set in the far future on my Nebula Zephyr luxury cruise liner.

The excerpt: Liam is a security officer on the ship, attending the planetside auditions for new dancers for the Comettes troup. He was a judge and is now signing on the chosen dancers. Tassia is desperate for a way off the planet as there are assassins on her trail and has successfully auditioned for the shipboard dance troupe.

Liam made quick work of the new employee processing. The girls were tired but excited and several attempted to flirt with him as he checked their travel papers, guild memberships and the like. He stayed politely distant, in professional mode. Most had worked a cruise liner before so they knew what he needed and supplied the information without prompting.

When Tassia came to sit in the chair across the table from him, she sat straight backed, outwardly serene and composed.

“Congratulations,” he said. “Tough process the Comettes management put you through today. I was pulling for you.”

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity.” She brought out the folder with her papers, which she retrieved from a ratty backpack across the room in a pile where all the other girls had stacked their bags.

He raised his eyebrows a bit. “Actual paper? Haven’t seen this in a long time.”

“It’s all in order and has the proper holo seal.” She tapped one finger on the spot. She watched him, her amazing blue-and-copper colored eyes wide. He had the feeling deep inside she was terrified, and he wished he could reassure her.

Liam examined the documents once and then a second time. On the surface they appeared fine. The Sectors allowed for identification to be presented in all forms as long as the required holos were present. Some star systems were less technically advanced than others. Others had religious reasons for presenting ID one way versus another. But all his well-honed instincts from years in the military and working security details told him these were fake papers, this woman was in a lot of trouble, and he probably had no business allowing her onto the Nebula Zephyr.

Now is not the time to react to this woman. But he was, despite his misgivings. He’d admired her pluck all day, dancing in that worn, threadbare garment in the midst of the peacock finery of the other professional dancers, not to mention her obvious gifts as a dancer. To buy himself time to think, he asked, “No guild card?”

“Is one required?”

He heard the slightest hint of a tremor in the question. “I believe you can acquire a card on the ship.” He raised his voice. “Director Cartajj? Question?”

Walking as gracefully as any of her decades-younger dancers, she came to where he and Tassia sat. “Yes?”

“Does she need a guild card?”

“I can issue you one,” Riall said, glancing at Tassia. “It’s not a problem. Since we have a private moment, I wanted to let you know I expect to upgrade you from alternate shortly, once you’ve learned our routines. We run two full casts, with three swing girls and, while I don’t experience much turnover, there is the occasional vacancy.” Lowering her voice and bending over the table, she said, “I believe there might be at least one girl leaving us at the next planetfall, going to be married, so I’m thinking ahead.”

“Thank you for taking a chance on me at all,” Tassia said.

“Your solo was magnificent, even if not in our style of dancing. Clearly, you’ve been well trained. I’ll have to consider where we might be able to use you as a featured performer eventually, assuming you can pick up enough of what we require for showmanship. Have you ever done antigrav aerial work?”

Tassia shook her head and the beautiful curtain of shining black hair moved like liquid silk over her shoulders, catching Liam’s attention again. “I have not, sorry to say, but I’m willing to learn, of course.”

Driven by an impulse he didn’t stop to question, Liam asked, “Are you allowed to do a salary advance, Madame?”

The director didn’t miss a beat. “Yes, of course. I’ll make sure the ship’s account shows a week advance. Now if there’s nothing else, I should be conferring with my staff about rehearsal plans. Will we be leaving soon, Liam?”

“Almost done.” He grinned and made a few entries in his data pad.

“Thank you again,” Tassia said as the director walked away. She bit her lip. “I—I am rather tapped out for credits, and I’ll probably have to buy new workout clothes on the ship.”

“No problem, just routine.” He was lying, but he didn’t want to embarrass her. She looked flat broke and starved to him. He assumed the director had seen the same picture since she agreed so rapidly to the unusual wage advance. Employees ate as many free meals as they wanted on the Nebula Zephyr, food available at all hours due to the many shifts running in different departments, so this Tassia Megg girl certainly wouldn’t go hungry, but he suspected she might need other things long before the first paycheck credit would have been issued.

Tassia lingered, surprising him. “Could I ask one more favor? Could I possibly travel to the ship with all of you now? I don’t have anything else to pack before I go and no one to say goodbye to. It’d be easier for me to take a shuttle now.”

Taken by surprise, he said, “There’s no rule against it. We do have room today. Sure, why not?” He rose, closing his datapad, and addressed the small group waiting for him. “All through. We can leave anytime you’re ready, ladies.”

“I’ll get my things,” Tassia said, “Please don’t leave without me.”

Princess or Imposter? Depositphotos


First published in the Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 anthology…

Tassia Megg is a woman on the run after the death of her elderly guardian. She needs to get off the planet in a hurry when chance directs her to an open dance audition for the luxury cruise liner Nebula Zephyr’s resident troupe. One thing Tassia can do is dance.

Security Officer Liam Austin is suspicious of the newest performer to join the Comettes. She shows all the signs of being a woman on the run and seems to fit the Sectors-wide broadcast description of a missing thief, accused of stealing priceless artifacts. As he gets to know Tassia during the cruise, he starts to wonder if she’s something more – a long vanished princess in hiding from deadly political enemies of her family perhaps?

And what’s the story with the three eyed feline companion other crew members swear Tassia brought aboard the ship? Does the animal even exist?

As the ship approaches its next port of call, all the issues come to a boil and Liam must decide if he’ll step in to help Tassia or betray her. F’rrh the alien cat is the key to the mystery and Tassia’s fate.

A science fiction romance take on the Anastasia tale…

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First Meeting Snippet: “Groundhog Day in Space” STAR CRUISE TIME LOOP

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

I love “Groundhog Day” style time loop romances and it finally occured to me I should write my own! I had to do more advance plotting than I usually do in order to have enough elements for the time loop to repeat and be interesting as the female main character begins to unravel the day she’s living through over and over and works to change the outcome.

And who can resist the idea of an alien “turtle” pet who can leave his shell?

The excerpt – oh, did I mention there’s a big budget futuristic ‘movie’ being filmed on the interstellar cruise ship? Raelyn won a crew contest for a bit part and when she reports to the ‘beach deck’ set, she meets Kev, the main male character: 

Three people in a row ignored her before she snagged a fourth person by the sleeve and hung on. “Please, I need to know where to go.” After blurting out her frantic request, she focused a bit more on the man she’d waylaid. He was over six feet tall, more handsome than anyone had a right to be, with sandy blond hair and dressed in what looked at first glance like a flight crew uniform. The logo was the fictional cruise line’s emblem, however, and the officers of Raelyn’s ship didn’t wear their shirts unbuttoned to the navel to show off eight pack abs. Realizing she was staring, she raised her eyes to his face. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“No problem.” His voice was deep and the sound curled around her, leaving her wanting to hear him say more. Anything would do, although intimate nothings would be great. Raelyn realized he was staring at her with a grin as she daydreamed yet again. “First time on a set? It can be confusing.” His voice was kindly but amused.

“I—I won a crew contest to do a walk on part today,” she said.

“Didn’t anyone tell you who to report to?” Without waiting for her answer, he took her hand and led her around the frantic activity to a smaller group off to the side. “The AD is your best bet. Assistant Director Pete Hinklin to you.”

Hearing his name, a short, rotund younger man turned with a frown. Stabbing a finger at the man accompanying Raelyn, he said, “Kev? You’re supposed to be in makeup right now, not escorting visitors.”

“She’s a bit player for this afternoon’s scenes.” The actor relinquished her hand, much to Raelyn’s regret. “Pete’ll take care of you. I have to run.”

“Thank you,” Raelyn called out after him.

“And you are?” The AD was scanning a handheld. “Sivala Amson?”

Confused to hear another stewardess’s name, Raelyn shook her head. “No, I’m Raelyn Cantorini. I won the crew contest to be in a scene with Mr. Strongson? I memorized my lines.”

“Good for you.” Pete remained grumpy and was clearly unimpressed by her diligence. He didn’t even look up from his device. “Oh, right here you are. Sivala’s already in makeup. You’re late.”

She bit her tongue, not wanting to argue and still puzzled as to why another crew member was present. No one had said anything about more than one winner of the contest. “Where should I be?”

“Costume first.” The AD took her by the elbow and walked her across the sand to a large tent. Inside the activity was nonstop, with men and women being fitted in uniforms and beach attire. Pete handed her off to someone else. “Get her to makeup pronto,” he said, “And then have them bring her to the set. Strongson isn’t here yet but when he does arrive we can’t keep him waiting.”

“Yes, Mr. Hinklin.” The assistant costumer was all deference. As he bustled away she fired questions at Raelyn. “Size? Measurements?”

Dutifully she supplied the information, although the woman, who didn’t identify herself also ran a handheld scan over her. “Hmm, a truth teller,” the costumer said with a chuckle. “I can tell you’re not in the business.” Quickly plundering a nearby rack of uniform pieces, she gave an armful to Raelyn. “Dressing rooms over there. Keep your own underwear since we aren’t doing a period piece, thank the Lords of Space. The stuff they used to wear in the early days—impossible to get comfortable! There’ll be shoes in the cubicle in various sizes.”

When she was decked out in her new uniform, Raelyn had to chuckle. The colors were on the garish side, pink and vivid lavender, with gold piping on the seams. All the seams. “As if I was an admiral.” The faux logo was perfectly positioned to call attention to her chest and couldn’t be moved. The bodice laced up and enhanced her décolletage while the skimpy jacket pulled at her arms and didn’t do much to hide the cleavage created by the rest of the ‘uniform’.

“I could never do my job in this getup,” she said to the costumer as she emerged from the dressing room. “No offense.”

“None taken. We’re not filming a documentary or a drama. Well, not a serious drama.” The girl laughed. “Spy jinks, I heard Mr. Strongson say once but don’t repeat that.”


Raelyn Cantorini, senior stewardess on the interstellar cruise ship Nebula Zephyr thinks the alien artifact she bought on the last planet the ship visited was just a pretty glass orb…until her pet Eyn knocked the ornament off a table, shattering it and sending her into an infinitely repeating time loop. Stuck reliving the same day over and over, Raelyn has only hours to try to save the ship and everyone on board from dying in a terrible catastrophe. As she tries to solve the mystery of what happens to the ship right before midnight each time the day repeats, Raelyn meets Kev Gordonn, the former Special Forces soldier turned actor and finds herself falling in love with him. Each time the day repeats, she learns more about him while he has no memory of her. Can she persuade him they’ve met before? Will he trust her enough to help stop the Nebula Zephyr’s destruction? And if they do save the ship, will that reset time for Raelyn? This is a lightly edited rerelease of my novella from the Pets in Space 6 anthology. No new material has been added.

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First Meeting Snippet: STAR CRUISE IDOL’S CURSE

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

This one was fun to write – I took off from the concept of bad luck following a person who takes a rock from a volcanic beach, a national park or other place where it’s forbidden to take souvenirs and I did a lot of research into the subject. I was particuarly fascinated by the burden this places pn park rangers, who receive so many of these souvenirs back after the tourist has had truly awful luck. I thoguht what if the rock in question was actually part of ancient idol and all it wanted was to go home?

The Nebula Zephyr’s cruise director is assigned to return such a rock for a deceased passenger…

The excerpt: Here’s the first meeting in the book between Juli and Third Officer Steve. After picking up the rock from a lawyer’s office on the planet, Juli’s car has broken down.

A groundcar swerved smoothly into the emergency lane and came up behind her. She prepared to tactfully refuse whatever offer of help the driver might make but to her complete astonishment, Third Officer Steve Aureli got out of the driver’s seat.  He was in civvies rather than the CLC uniform but looked as tall, broad shouldered and handsome as ever. She was rendered speechless by the unforeseen arrival of the one man she most wanted to see and the tension left her body in a rush.

“Juli? I thought I recognized you—what’s the problem?”  He gave the smoking car the side-eye as he walked to join her.

“I’m glad to see you,” she said. “What a coincidence. I had Ship’s business to take care of in the city business district so I picked up a CLC car at the spaceport but it’s sure turned out to be a clunker.”

“Heading back to the spaceport?”

“Yes, although I’ve missed the shuttle to the ship by now.” Juli winced as a few droplets from the sky hit her cheeks. “Oh wonderful, and now it’s going to rain.”

“We can give you a ride,” he offered. “The side of this road isn’t a good place for you to be stranded, especially with a storm coming.”

A gust of cold wind buffeted her to emphasize his remark and she shivered. What happened to the hot sun of just a few hours ago? Peering at his sporty groundcar, she hesitated. “I don’t want to be a bother or ruin your date.”

He laughed. “No bother and it’s not a date. Remember I told you my aunt Dian was going to be a passenger on the next leg of the cruise? I picked her up this afternoon and I also have the use of the captain’s personal shuttle, so I can take you all the way to the Zephyr with us. Plenty of room in this rented car of mine.”

“Say no more, I’ll be thrilled to accept your help then. Let me grab my purse.” Heart unaccountably lighter because he wasn’t on a date, Juli fished her possessions out of the car, and went to climb in the backseat of his racy red vehicle, as he held the door for her. Hope never dies, I guess. Oh, Juli, get over this mad crush. Angry at herself for her racing pulse and the effect this man invariably had on her, she stumbled and Steve steadied her with one big hand. Her body tingled a little at the physical contact.

“I’m Steve’s Aunt Dian,” said the lady in the front seat, swiveling to study Juli. She extended her gloved hand.

Juli tried not to stare. Dian was elderly but wearing full, expertly applied makeup and her syntho hair was coiffed into a confection of pink and blond a trideo star might admire, accented with a glittery star-shaped barrette. Her pink and cream woven suit was by a high end fashion designer, or else a very good knockoff and she presented an altogether glamorous and retro picture. This is practical, stoic Steve’s aunt?  Juli detected no family resemblance although of course that didn’t mean much. “I’m so happy to meet you and glad you’ll be sailing with us.”

Next instant, a barking ball of golden brown fur sailed over the seat, landing in Juli’s lap with a thud. With a startled scream she tried to fend off the pet, which fortunately seemed intent on getting into her purse, rather than actually attacking her personally.

“Charrli, don’t be rude,” said Dian, snapping her fingers in annoyance. “No one asked you to do a search and destroy mission on Juli’s belongings. Get back here where you belong.”

Hand on the controls, Steve studied Juli. “Do you have a snack in your purse?” he asked. “Charrli’s a real chow hound.”

“What an inelegant way to describe my champion purebred miniature Deskaza dog.” Despite her offended protest, his elderly relative didn’t sound too offended. “I’ll have you know they’re a rare breed.” She snapped her fingers again and the doglike creature made one final attempt to open Juli’s purse before obeying his mistress’s command and returning to the front seat with a sniff. “I apologize for Charrli,” Dian said, cuddling him close so all Juli could see were the tips of his triangular ears and his intense brown eyes peering at her over his owner’s shoulder. “Although I must say you and he are obviously going to be great friends while we’re on your ship.”

Apparently satisfied peace had been restored, Steve put the car smoothly into the traffic flow.

“There’s nothing in my purse attractive to a dog,” Juli said. She reached in with both hands and fished out the scarf-wrapped box holding the rock. “Maybe he likes the smell of the straw in this old basket?”

Charrli wiggled his hindquarters, escaping his mistress’s hold and crouched beside Dian on the seat, growling. His ears flared out wide and Juli tried not to laugh because he really was adorable despite his best efforts to act menacing.

“What is that?” Steve asked, eyes wide as he took in the dilapidated, colorful container. “A souvenir?”

“Someone’s souvenir, not mine.” With a chuckle she put the package away again. “And not from this planet. It was a passenger’s good luck charm, I gather, until it started bringing him bad luck. Or so the story goes. The Line’s been asked to return the thing to Tahumaroa Two and I’m the stuckee.”

“Why doesn’t the owner take it himself?” Steve navigated through the traffic effortlessly but of course he was the Nebula Zephyr’s chief pilot and a former military fighter jockey so even rush hour on an alien planet didn’t faze him.

“He’s dead.” Juli put her hand to her lips and inhaled sharply. “I didn’t mean to sound so dramatic.” Patting her purse, she added, “This had nothing to do with his death, unless the lawyer forgot to fully brief me.”


An unusual bequest….

Juli Shaeffer, the Nebula Zephyr’s cruise director, receives a mysterious bequest from the estate of a longtime passenger – a lump of rock taken from a reef on the planet Tahumaroa. Legend states anyone who steals from the ocean gods will be cursed. The passenger’s will requests the rock be returned to the beach so his heirs won’t be affected by the bad luck he believed he’d incurred. Juli doesn’t believe in superstitions and she agrees to carry out this small favor on the ship’s next stop at the planet in question.

Until the rock disappears from her office…

When the rock disappears and reappears in various locations around the ship, and seems connected to a steadily escalating series of mishaps, Juli turns to Third Officer Steve Aureli as the only one she feels she can trust. Along with Steve and his elderly Aunt Dian – a passenger aboard the Nebula Zephyr for this cruise – she investigates the strange series of malfunctions plaguing the interstellar luxury liner. Steve and Juli enlist his Aunt Dian’s dog, Charrli, a retired Sectors Z Corps canine, to help them track the missing rock as it moves about the ship.

Juli and Steve must find the rock, hang onto it and transport it to the planet’s surface, before the alien idol’s curse turns deadly. The attraction between the two of them grows as the threat to Juli becomes more and more focused. Can she carry out her task while he keeps her safe from the alien curse? Will the capricious alien idol bring them good fortune…or disaster?

This is a re-release of the 42,000+ word novel I included in the Pets in Space® 4 anthology, which is no longer available. No revisions or additions have been made to the original novel for this re-release. I have also now included a 4,000 word prequel story Butterfly Hair, in which the diva Azlaya arrives on board the Nebula Zephyr. This short story was a free reader magnet available only in the time before the anthology was originally published.

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First Meeting Snippet: STAR CRUISE MAROONED

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

For this next Star Cruise book, STAR CRUISE MAROONED, the action takes place on a planet and the time frame is actually before the couple came to work on the Nebula Zephyr. This was one of my best selling book of all time….when the book opens obviously they’ve already met, since they’ve been working on the same ship, but this is their first conversation in this novel. The couple are aboard the ship’s shuttle, taking a group of passengers to the planet’s surface for a carefree afternoon.

The excerpt:

Meg retreated to the galley, where she found the only other crew member besides the pilot.

“Passengers all happy now?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.

“I don’t think this bunch is ever happy,” she said. “You’ll find generational billionaires rarely are, when you’ve done more of these private charters. But at least I’ve supplied them with feelgoods.” She slid the drink tray into the chiller. “Did you need something?”

Simon ‘Red’ Thomsill held up his hands in mock surrender. “I know, this is your territory and I shouldn’t be here, Guild rules. But the pilot wanted coffee.”

Hands on her hips, Meg smothered an impatient sigh. “First of all, he should have buzzed me for it, and secondly, he knows perfectly well only guests are entitled to genuine Terran coffee.”

“Wow, are you this dedicated to rules all the time?” He leaned against the emergency portal and studied her, one eyebrow raised as if he might be trying to tease her.

Two internal call signals pinged, one right after the other. From the cabin, she heard female passengers swearing at each other. She straightened her tunic as if gathering determination, and headed out to mediate whatever the problem was now. “No tip is going to be big enough,” she said under her breath. Pausing on the threshold, she glanced at Red. “I’m responsible for the coffee inventory on this shuttle, and it comes out of my pay if the weight is short.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Yeah, there’s a lot you don’t know, rookie. But Drewson does. The synth stuff crew members drink is over there.” Pointing at the proper carafe, she left the galley as more voices joined the clamor in the passenger section.

One of the scantily clad women had spilled her beverage all over another’s ample cleavage, staining both the woman’s skin and skimpy bikini top. The agressor was pulling the other’s hair and screaming insults, while her victim tried to land some blows anywhere she could reach. The primary guest laughed and made bets with the two men seated next to him, wagering on which woman would prevail.

Meg waded into the fray. “Ladies, please, we’re about to land. You’re required to be in your seats before we can make our final approach.” She caught the second woman’s elbow. Modulating her voice to a soothing tone, Meg said, “I can remove the stain, Ma’am, no problem.”

The women paused in their altercation, gazing beyond her with wide eyes. A moment later, both fluffed their hair.

Without turning, Meg knew Red had followed her. She’d observed his effect on females more than once already on this cruise. Something about his 6’4” height, the heavily muscled biceps, the chiseled features, the sparkling green eyes…Well, okay, to be honest, he had the same effect on her, but she wasn’t about to let him know. Been there, done that with a tempting crewman or two on her early tours. Crew romances were nothing but trouble when the first attraction inevitably flamed out.

Although Red was more tempting than anyone she’d met in a long time.

“Second Officer Drewson asked me to come and make sure the accommodations and the service are satisfactory,” he said, his voice deep and slow.

“Oh, yes, we’re fine.” The girl with the stained top brushed at her skin, accentuating her ample chest with the gesture, and smiled as if she hadn’t been screeching obscenities a moment prior.

“So nice of you.” The other batted her three eyes at Red, green lashes sweeping her cheeks. She held out her arm. “I think I might have a scratch.”

“I’ll get the medkit while Miss Antille helps Sharmali,” he said, leaning close to inspect the tiny red mark on the passenger’s creamy skin.

“Fine.” Meg was pissed and she planned to let him know it. What the seven hells did he think he was doing, interfering with her care for her passengers? He was crew, not service. She wasn’t the rookie here. Following Sharmali to her seat, Meg drew the cleaning pod from her belt and passed it a few inches above the woman’s skin and the orange and purple fabric of the bikini top. The pod hummed and the stains lifted in a rain of reverse droplets, absorbed into the cleaner, leaving no trace.


Note: This is the first in the series chronologically although each book is a standalone and can be read in any order. This book tells the story of how Red and Meg met before they came to be aboard the Nebula Zephyr.

Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.

Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.

But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised – the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.

Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?

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First Meeting: FATED STARS An Alien Empath #SciFi Romance

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

When I wrote FATED STARS my daughters were insisting I needed to write a female mercenary as the main character, so I did. I had a lot of fun making her tough and kickass, yet ready to find true love. It was also fun to write the alien empath for this book as the guy in need of rescuing.

Larissa has gone out for a night on the town with fellow mercenaries and ended up at a tacky carnival, where her friends insist on having their fortunes told. She’s reluctant but once she sees the fortune teller, her mood changes…Samell is seated inside a giant high tech bubble…

The excerpt: 

“You haven’t had your fortune told,” Pamila protested.

“I’m good. No need to tell me about my coming good fortune or the tall, dark and handsome guy I’m going to meet.” I think I’m staring at him now, and it’s not doing either of us any good. I wonder if he ever takes a break. She held up both hands with a laugh. “Let’s get out of here and find the nearest feelgood vendor. My throat is dry.”

“You paid your credit and the all-seeing giver of prophecies is waiting,” said the attendant in a bored voice. “No refunds.”

Devlin shoved her forward, and Larissa stumbled into the spot.  She straightened with a curse to find the seer’s eyes were open and he was staring at her, as he hadn’t done with any of the others. His eyes were emerald green, glowing, with glints of gold. She found she couldn’t avert her eyes.

A warrior of Thuun? Here? Have you come in answer to my prayer? The voice in her head was deep and resonant and she knew it was him speaking.

Inside the bubble, the man shifted restlessly, as if attempting to rise, to step down and meet her. Larissa realized he was held in place by force bonds, and she gasped, her adrenaline spiking. Slavery was illegal in the Sectors—what the hell kind of shady operation was this sideshow? She rested her hand on the blaster riding at her hip.

The attendant made an adjustment to a control panel at the side of the platform and the prisoner subsided, sweat beading his brow with the effort he’d made. His eyes closed and the enhanced voice sounded in the chamber. “You and your friends will journey far and reap great rewards. Widespread fame shall be yours.”

But in her head she heard his true voice, faint and desperate. I beg you for help, warrior.

Reacting to the prophecy, Devlin clapped her on the shoulder. “Now that’s more like it—widespread fame is good stuff. Let’s you book more jobs and hire your friends to watch your back, eh?  I think you got the best fortune, Larissa, so you can buy the next round of drinks.”

She allowed her companions to pull her from the tent, only briefly glancing over her shoulder, to see the seer once more completely immobile on his elaborate chair, eyes closed.

Maybe I imagined the whole thing. Too much cheap local whiskey. Shaking her head, she stepped over the threshold and tried to ignore the quiet please echoing in her head in the alien man’s deep voice.

VS Note: Of course she has to go back on her own and try to learn more…



Larissa Channer, a tough no-nonsense mercenary in the Sectors, is celebrating success on her last job and a big bonus, with no slightest thought of taking on another assignment anytime soon. Out for a night of carousing with her friends at a third rate carnival on a backwater planet, she walks into the tent of a fake fortune teller and finds herself confronting the most intriguing man she’s ever seen. But something’s wrong, ominous currents lie beneath the surface of their encounter and Larissa can’t leave well enough alone.

Samell, a powerful, high born empathic priest, has been kidnapped from his own primitive planet along with a number of his people, and sold to the shady operator of an interstellar carnival. Kept enslaved, pretending to be a fortune teller while forced by his captor to steal information from the minds of all who come before him, Samell despairs of every breaking free.

Until Larissa walks into his tent and he recognizes the warrior who might mean the difference between life and death.

The situation becomes dire when Larissa and Samell come to the attention of the Shemdylann pirates who kidnapped him in the first place and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the empathic alien noble, and derail the Mawreg plot against the Sectors? And will the soldier end up with her prince when all’s said and done?

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By veronicascott Posted in Snippet

First Meeting DANGER IN THE STARS Alien Empath Romantic Suspense #SciFi

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

DANGER IN THE STARS is the second one in my alien empath series and features the sister of the female main character in STAR CRUISE STOWAWAY, although they can be read as standalone books.

I’m really proud of this book, which has a lot of romantic suspense elements, secrets and surprises. It’s one of my favorites! When the book opens the empath is a prisoner of the interstellar mob, forced to use her powers for their goals. The only man who might be able to help her is the mob enforcer but how can she trust him?

The excerpt – Miriell is sick from having been in cryosleep as she and her mob handler arrive on the planet where the next assignment is located. Conor is the local mob enforcer sent to meet the duo.

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.” As their new companion voiced his opinion, she realized he was no one she’d ever met before. Tall, with broad shoulders and well-defined muscles, he had 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. The implacable secret vow was the only thing keeping her going. There would be revenge, not only for herself, but also for all the others. Hands at her sides, head bowed, she said, “As you wish, sir.”

“How do you ensure she won’t make a break for it when we walk outside, won’t scream for help?” Conor at least seemed skeptical of her meek compliance.

Jareck pulled a slim black AI case from his pocket and waved the device under her nose. Miriell fought not to flinch. He grabbed the necklace at her throat, a thick collar of gold set with a few random faux gems. “We taught them to behave right from the start. See this? It’s explosive.”

The other man moved so fast Miriell could only blink. He snatched the AI from Jareck’s hand and shoved the skinny man against the wall. “You’re planning to blow this woman up? And us with her?”

Pulling at Conor’s arm to no avail, Jareck choked. “No, it’s a directed charge, sophisticated, kills her and localizes the effects. A bit messy, but not like you’re thinking. I swear.”

Conor frowned at the device in his hand and then at Miriell, who struggled to remain calm, to push away the memories of when the Amarotu thugs who kept her and her people captive demonstrated the way the collar worked, selecting a man at random from their group and ruthlessly killing him as Jareck was describing.

Conor released Jareck, stepped away and tossed the AI back to him. “A bit overly dramatic and barbaric, don’t you think?”

“Nah, these people are savages. Didn’t even know they lived on a planet going around a sun when the Shemdylann slavers captured them. The Tulavarrans understand brute force, for all they’ve got a touch of psy power.” Coughing, Jareck came back to her. “And she knows damn well if she misbehaves, we’ll kill a few of her friends too. The deadly consequences in store keep them in line.”

Conor stared at her. She felt his gaze as if it was a physical force. “I’ll take your word for it. All I care about is you and your performer, as you call her, getting the job done for us the way the boss wants.” Brushing his hands as if to say he was done with them and their problems, he walked to the door.

Jareck rushed to grab her, towing her after the other man. “Oh, she’ll get the job done all right. These people are amazingly effective.”

Danger in the Stars

The blurb: 

Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number 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?

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First Meeting STAR CRUISE STOWAWAY Weekend Snippet #SciFi Romance

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

STAR CRUISE STOWAWAY  is the first book in my alien empath series. as well as part of the STAR CRUISE series. (They can all be read as a standalones.) It’s actually a novella and is in a volume with several other short stories I wrote in my world of the Sectors.)

I’ve always been fascinated by empaths, ever since I saw an episode of the original Star Trek featuring an empath, and so I enjoyed writing my own stories about them.

The excerpt – the cargo master of the interstellar cruise liner Nebula Zephyr found a stowaway, chained up, with an explosive collar around her neck and stuffed into a cryosleep pod hidden in a cargo container. This is the next day, when he goes to check on her in the ship’s sickbay. She was unconscious during the rescue. Midorri is an alien pet, sort of a cross between a tribble and a red panda. There’s also a ship’s cat…

Holding the flowers clutched like a wrench at his side, he entered the sickbay, ignoring nurse Relba’s widening eyes as she focused on what he carried. “I’m here to see the lady, the one brought in last night,” he said, feeling like an idiot, not knowing her name.

“Sorry, sir, the patient’s not allowed to have visitors—”

“I’m the exception,” he said, interrupting ruthlessly. “Dr. Shane agreed. What room is she in?”

Relba pointed to the corridor on the right. “Room 2. If you can get past the guard.”

He proceeded in the direction she indicated and had no trouble persuading Clint Miltan to admit him to the stowaway’s room, confirming (the head of Security and the Ship’s Doctor) had kept their word and left orders he was allowed to see the patient.

He knocked and entered as the portal slid aside.

Dressed in a plain blue sickbay gown, she reclined against a stack of pillows, with Midorri curled in her lap, making the humming sound he regarded as an alien version of purring.

Suddenly overcome by the awkwardness of the moment, Owen stopped as the door shut behind him. He extended the flowers. “I’m Owen Embersson, the ship’s cargo master. I’m the one who found you last night. I just – I came to see how you’re doing.” With a flash of anger at whoever had imprisoned her originally, he noticed the explosive collar was still around her neck.

She held out her hand, inviting him closer. “The animals said you were one to be trusted. Thank you for saving my life.”

He took her hand, gripping the bouquet in the other.

“I’m Tyrelle,” she said. “Are those for me?”

He handed over the flowers and went to grab the visitor’s chair. As he carried it to the bedside, he watched her hold the flowers to her face, inhaling the fragrance.  The flowers were glowing, richly colored spots of light and as he watched, each bloom expanded, the tired petals plumping, taking on a satin sheen, all the brown spots disappearing. The perfume wafted to his nose, intoxicating him. “Wow, how did you do that?”

“The ability is one of my gifts. It’s been so long since I beheld flowers, or anything green,” she said. “You brought me a rare luxury.”

“And you improved upon my pitiful posies a thousand percent.” He grabbed the water pitcher, and she placed the bouquet carefully into the vessel. “I’ll set this here, where you can see it,” he said, placing the arrangement, glowing and gorgeous, on the narrow bedside tray.

“Please, sit, be comfortable,” Tyrelle said, indicating the chair. “I’m grateful for the company, although the animals have been good companions, taking turns amusing me today, telling me about the ship and the people.”

Psychic then, able to talk mind-to-mind with the animals? “I’m probably not allowed to ask you any questions about what’s going on, but I want you to know you can count on me. As a friend, anything you need while you’re with us.” Unable to stop himself, he added, “I’d like to kill whoever mistreated you.” He bit his lip.

“You’re an honorable warrior.” She petted Midorri, smoothing the green fur with her graceful hand.

Star Cruise A Novella: Stowaway with Star Cruise Rescue and Golden Token Short Stories. Please note only the Stowaway novella itself contains an empath story although the other two are set in my Sectors interstellar civilization.

The blurb: In this volume I’ve gathered three stories set in the Sectors which have previously only been available in anthologies (which are no longer on sale), plus a bonus Sectors short holiday story that I originally wrote for my blog.

Star Cruise: Stowaway: A novella of 22K words, previously in the first Pets in Space™ anthology.

Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.

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By veronicascott Posted in Snippet

First Meeting: Hostage to the Stars Weekend Snippet #SciFi Romance

I’ve decided to change up these weekly snippets and go through my backlist, sharing the first meeting between the two main characters in each book. I’m going roughly in the order of first publication. It’s always fun for me to revisit the books and I hope it will be for you too! Or if you’ve never happened to read a certain book, maybe I can entice you into giving it a try.

HOSTAGE TO THE STARS is the standalone sequel to MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR, which I highlighted last week. My readers really loved the character of Johnny Danver in the first book (so did I!) and wanted him to have his own book. It took me a few years to come up with just the right plot.

I was intrigued by the fact that Special Forces teams don’t routinely get sent in to rescue hostages held in other countries and in fact the unfortunate people may wait years to be saved. I visualized Johnny going on one such mission and what might happen…

The excerpt: 

The interior of the dimly lit building was mostly taken up with a large holding cell, currently caging only one occupant. Staring at him wide eyed, a gaunt woman in ragged clothing was rising from the floor, bracing herself on the wall. Chains at her ankles clinked as she moved.

He held one finger to his lips and moved to the door of the cell, blasting it open with a single low intensity pulse from his blaster.

“Sara Bridges?”

Hands to her mouth, eyes wide, she gave him a jerky nod.

“I’m here to get you out, Ms. Bridges, Sectors Special Forces. “

He thought she might collapse but instead she straightened her spine with an effort. A small moan escaped her lips but as he came closer she watched him without making another sound.

He put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “I’ll have to get these shackles off.”

She slid down the wall and sat. The chains were cheap metal, easy for him to burn the hinges with a flicker from the blaster, enough to break without burning her.

Moistening her cracked lips with her tongue, she stared at him, tears in her eyes, but said nothing until he removed the chains with care, angry all over again when he saw the raw marks the shackles left on her ankles. He set the chains aside. Taking him by surprise, she hugged him, shivering violently.

He held her close, hoping to offer a bit of comfort. Lips again near her ear, he whispered, “We’re going out the back, into the hills. Can you walk?”

Swallowing hard, closing her eyes, Sara whispered, “Yes.”

He had to unhook her fingers from his shirt, which he did carefully, helping her to her feet and leading her from the squalid cell. “The pirates are all inside the other building, getting drunk or high,” he said as he paused at the door, Sara crowding close.

He slid the portal open an inch and reconnoitered. “Damn.”

“What’s wrong?” Her voice was a husky whisper.

“Two guys, over by the trucks. Hopefully they’ll go inside before too long.”

Sara crossed her arms over her chest and rubbed her slender biceps as if she was cold, although the heat was growing intense in the jail as the sun rose higher. “Promise you’ll kill me if we get caught.” Her tone was intense.

“It ain’t going to come to that. We’re getting out of here today.”

“I want to believe you but I can’t take any more,” she said, tears slipping down her cheeks. “You have no idea.”

He reached over to pat her shoulder. “I’ll get you to safety, my word on it. I’m thinking it might be time for a distraction for our hosts though.”

“What do you mean?”

He doffed his thin backpack and knelt, pulling out two sweet miniature thermal explosive devices he’d picked up while selecting gear at the space station. “Thinking I’ll put a couple of these on one of their parked shuttles, blow it to the seven hells and while the locals are running around like suskadi with their heads chopped off, we’ll be heading for the hills.”

“Won’t they chase us?”

“Probably, but not right away. I’ll blow this building too. Umarri’s men will be confused and not only from the drugged tea.” He grinned.

The two men, arguing half-heartedly, as if they’d had the conversation before, were headed inside.

As soon as the coast was clear, Johnny said, “I’ll come back for you. Sit tight right here until I do, promise?”

She gave him a thumbs up. Apparently reading doubt in his face about her probable compliance with his order, she said, “They only feed me once a day so I know for sure no one will come. I’ll wait. You’re the best thing I’ve seen in months, soldier. I’m not going anywhere without you. And your weapons.”


He rescued her from space pirates … but can he keep them both safe from the far greater evil stalking a deserted planet?

Space travel without Kidnap & Ransom insurance? Not a good idea. University instructor and researcher Sara Bridges can’t afford it, so when pirates board her cruise liner, she’s taken captive along with the mistress of a wealthy man, and brought to a deserted planet. When a military extraction team sent to rescue the mistress refuses to take Sara too, she’s left to the mercies of a retired Special Forces soldier, along as consultant.

Reluctantly reactivated and coerced into signing up for the rescue operation to the planet Farduccir where he once was deployed,  Sgt. Johnny Danver just wants to get the job done. But when the team leader leaves one captured woman behind, he breaks away to rescue her himself.

As Johnny and Sara traverse the barren landscape, heading for an abandoned base where they hope to call Sectors Command for help, they find villages destroyed by battle and stripped of all inhabitants. A lone survivor tells a horrific tale of the Sectors’ alien enemy, the Mawreg, returning after being pushed out …

Searching for evidence to give the military, Johnny is captured. He regains consciousness in a Mawreg cage–with Sara next to him. Death is preferable to what the aliens will do to them… And even if they do escape their captors, can they alert the military in time to prevent another invasion of the Sectors?

Standalone sequel to Mission To Mahjundar (mild spoilers for Mahjundar in this story.)

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