Exotic new worlds, excitement, danger and a dragon-shifting alien. What more could you ask of a science fiction anthology?
Check out these new stories from authors Rose Nickol, A.M. Halford, KD Jones, and Bethany Shaw.
Lovers Lost in the Stars: By Rose Nickol
Myla didn’t realize how different her life could be until she was kidnapped and stranded with two of the most devastating males she had ever met. Captain Dwaain Moreson and his second Lewan were from the planet of Xylan and Protectors of the planet. Dwaain was also leader of the planet.
Finding Myla and her father stranded in space had been a stroke of luck for Dwaain. Being attacked by the Meglan and stranded with the little female and Lewan worked nicely into his plans, plans for him and Lewan to be bonded to the woman. Would fate intervene again and take her away or would all their dreams come true?
“Stop! You’ll hurt yourself,” Dwaain told her loosening his hold. He relaxed his arms enough that she could sit up straight.
Myla pushed against his shoulders enough to put some distance between them and sat her back straight. “Please let me up.”
Dwaain moved his hands to rest on the arms of the chair and let the little female up. “You cried out in your rest. I only wanted to console you.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your comfort. However, I’m to be life bonded to Naglan of the Leean. I would appreciate it if you showed more decorum.”
She stood before him, and even seated he was taller than she. Dwaain reached down and lifted her chin with one finger so that she was looking into his eyes. “I will do as I choose with you and you will like it.”
Myla took a deep breath, and her face turned red, but she said nothing. She knew better than to provoke him more. After all, she was still a prisoner and needed to keep her head about her. She didn’t know what he would do if she antagonized him.
“I will not hurt you, a little female. Anything I do I will guarantee you will enjoy. If I wanted to, I could have you screaming my name.” Dwaain held her chin between his fingers forcing her to look into his sage green eyes. Myla let out a little huff and twisted out of his grasp. “It is of no consequence. I am to be queen. I am betrothed. I cannot break the scared promise. It would bring shame on the royal family.”
Dwaain let her escape. “We will see, little female. We will see.”
Romancing a Space Ranger: by A.M. Halford
Planet Genus Nine is a key location for the human expansion into space and is presently used as a primary military base. Lieutenant James Wright is in charge of the new arrival, civilian architect Martin Black. Martin is on Genus Nine to build a new rec-center and hospital wing.
These two butt heads at any given situation, but an attack on the military base forces them to face their desires and each other. With an alien threat, meddling exes, and just their own stubborn prides in the way, can Martin and James find love together?
Martin and Daryl had spent two days in deep conversation with the CO of the base and the CEO of their construction firm. What it all boiled down to was they were getting the help they needed to get back on track. Gerald was relieved of his job. Martin felt no remorse for costing the man his career. If he’d just reported the situation as it was, then there would have been no problems. Delays were expected and understandable when dealing with these conditions.
Presently, he was standing in the middle of stacks upon stacks of supplies. He looked like a child lost in a maze as he gazed up at one pallet and checked the barcode number against the list on his tablet.
All the remaining supplies for the foundation arrived last night, at least that was the report. Martin was trying to ensure that was the case. The last thing he needed was for his guys to start pouring concrete over the rebar and laying out the second half of the foundation just to have to stop part way through because of another error.
He was about halfway through the check.
“Why don’t you have someone else do this?” James asked him from his place watching from a vantage point. Not that there were too many vantage points in this maze of crates and pallets. “You are the one in charge. Labor like this shouldn’t be your primary duty.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Martin smiled. James had started opening up around lunch time yesterday. The Ranger seemed intrigued by the fact Martin took such a hands-on approach to his job. “To ensure the site runs smoothly and efficiently is my job. That includes checking the supplies. I’d rather Daryl and his team place their efforts where needed, laying the foundation and getting us back on schedule. I, on the other hand, usually have hours of free time which would normally be spent in an air-conditioned office.”
“Was that a complaint or were you bragging?” James frowned.
Shrugging, Martin looked to the man and winked at him, “You decide.”
Elite Dragon Warrior: by KD Jones
Elite Warrior Markus traveled a long way from his home world of Drakonia. This new planet called Earth is strange and the people even stranger. He was there for one reason, to find more of his people and to protect them from enemies old and new. What he didn’t expect was to find a mate that both he and his dragon wanted to bond with. Things just got more complicated but he was a dragon-shifting warrior, he could handle anything.
Val opened the two bottles of beer and set them up on the bar. Her customers, a couple of locals, winked at her as they grabbed their bottles. The phone rang and she glared over at her supposed help for the night, Tina, who was leaning over and flirting with customers instead of working. She should have told her boss that she would handle the bar alone tonight. Buz insisted, however, that since it was a Friday night she needed the help. Plus, Tina was his niece so there wasn’t much she could do.
Val reached for the phone and turned her back to the bar. “Saddle Up Saloon. Yes, of course we’re open. No, the kitchen shut down an hour ago. Happy to help.” She hung up and caught the sight of several new customers coming up to the bar.
Turning around she greeted them, “Welcome to Saddle Up Saloon. What can I get you?” Holy shit! The three men that just came in were smoking hot, wearing leather jackets and tight-fitting jeans and dark sunglasses.
“Whatever is good,” the taller man with light reddish-streaked brown hair ordered.
She couldn’t help but gawk at him. The man had to be the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. If only he took off his glasses. As if he could hear her thoughts, he took the dark sunglasses off and looked at her. She was stunned into silence. His eyes were a golden honey color, warm and welcoming. He cleared his throat.
“Miss, are you okay?”
Oh man, he probably thought she was rude or something. “Sorry, what did you want?”
He took a seat at the bar and the other two men sat as well. They were good-looking men too, but she couldn’t seem to take her eyes from this one with the gold eyes. The way he watched her had her nipples harden and she felt a pulsing in her pussy.
“I asked for three of whatever is good.”
“We don’t have hard liquor or mixed drinks, just wine and beer in bottle or on tap. Do you like dark or light beer?”
He hesitated for a moment, looking at his two friends before telling her, “Dark.”
“Okay.” She quickly went to get three dark beers from the cooler and opened them, then put them on the bar in front of each man. She stood there for a moment, not being able to move away, trapped in the first man’s golden eyes. “So are you guys just passing through?”
That was stupid—just about everyone passed through this small town. Rarely did anyone stay unless they got stuck somehow or were raised up here. She fit the first. She had come with an ex who broke her heart, stole all her money, and abandoned her there. She had no friends or family to call for help, but thankfully the locals were kind enough to take her in. She had been there now for three years, never making enough to go anywhere and really had no desire to leave. This small town had become her home.
“We will be here for a few days.” His voice was deep, with a bit of an accent she couldn’t place—sexy as hell. She bet he could talk women out of their panties with just the sound of his voice. Her body was feeling overheated. Touching her forehead, she was grateful it wasn’t sweaty.
Phoenix Down: by Bethany Shaw
Nova’s family expects her to fail, and she’s determined to prove them wrong. Her first mission isn’t going to plan, though. Her ship has crashed and she’s the only survivor. Now, she must convince the handsome human that she means him no harm and is there to help him.
James doesn’t believe his eyes when he witnesses an alien attack in his backwater town. After watching one of his neighbor’s be obliterated by one of the invaders, he comes to the rescue of an injured young woman. He rushes the unconscious beauty back to his farm where he and his niece tend to her. When she awakens, he realizes there is something about her that isn’t quite human. Can he and his niece trust the enchanting alien?
A groan drew him from his thoughts. James snapped his attention to the woman who lay on the ground. Another whimper escaped her lips. Blonde hair covered her face. She was petite but muscular. The black jumpsuit she had on hugged her figure, showing off her natural curves.
Her arm was mangled. Ice covered it from the tips of her fingers to her elbow. Her breathing was labored and soft moans blew out in time to her breathing. She wasn’t moving. If she was conscious it was barely.
James went to her side and knelt next to her. He pushed the hair out of her face, and stared. She was gorgeous with thin, pink lips, a round face, and small nose.
Her sapphire eyes flicked open. They were brighter than any eyes he’d ever seen, almost shining. She mumbled something but it wasn’t in English.
“It’s okay,” he said.
The woman’s eyes fluttered shut.
“Hey,” he said, putting his hand on her neck to find her pulse.
A slow but steady thrum met his fingers. He let out a breath and looked around. It’d be risky to move her, but he couldn’t just leave her while he found help – assuming he could find it at all.
He wasn’t a field medic, but he’d seen enough carnage to know she looked stable. Hopefully there was no internal bleeding. He scooped her up and carried her to the truck that still sat idling in the field.
James opened the passenger door and set her in the seat, doing his best not to jostle her. He closed the door and hurried to the driver’s side, hopping in, and putting it in gear as he closed the door.
The truck lurched forward when he stomped on the gas. He sped back toward the gravel drive undecided on whether he should get her to the cellar for care or go for McGee’s guns.
If he couldn’t protect her, it would be pointless to save her. He turned the wheel and stomped on the gas. He hoped McGee’s guns would be easy to find. He needed to get the woman help and get back to Emma.
James fished his cell out of his pocket and skimmed through the contacts until he found the home phone. He hit send and put the phone to his ear. Nothing. He looked at the phone and cursed. Still no service. Shit.
He blew out a breath and revved the truck. What the hell was going on? An alien invasion, he told himself. It made him laugh out loud. Nothing about this was funny except for how absurd it all was. He had an old radio at home. He’d get the guns, get the woman back to the house, and then snatch that damn radio from the barn to see if he could find out what the hell was going on.
New Release & New Series!
Dragos, a half-dragon, is not happy about this latest case. Supernatural murders of humans weren’t exactly anything new to him, it was actually his job, but these were just gruesome. His partner, Rozalia, and he were only called in after the fourth body was found. Meaning they were now playing catch up. The addition of a third party wasn’t making his mood any brighter.
Neculai, a half-demon, can tell that Dragos is less than thrilled to have him on this case. After all, what can human science tell them about supernatural deaths? Fortunately for Neculai he’s very good at what he does, and he doesn’t use human science but instead a form of alchemy created especially for the HBIA (half-blood investigative agency).
As they work together Dragos and Neculai quickly come to notice the attraction between each other, though when they act on it something unimaginable happens. These two must not only learn to work together to catch a serial killer, they also must come to terms with the newest turns in their own lives.
Dragos pulled back the sheet covering the latest victim, examining her carefully. She fit the same MO as the last three women. He hated to say it, actually he was loathed to even think it, but it seemed they did, in fact, have a serial killer on their hands.
“Her name’s Amber Byrd. Doc says her heart was removed postmortem, just like the last three,” Rozalia, his partner, said as she came to kneel beside him. Her burgundy hair and silver eyes made her stand out, though his flame red hair and gold eyes weren’t any better. “Also, the same symbol was found on them,” she reached under the sheet and withdrew the victim’s left arm. A pentagram was burned into the underside of her wrist.
“So, are the brass officially calling it then?” Dragos asked as he stood and straightened to his full height of six-eight.
Rozalia nodded. “Demonic murders. As of this one, the HBIA are taking over. That means it’s now our case.”
“And thank goodness for that,” a detective of the Paradigm Police Department: Human Division, District 12, said as he walked over to them. His brown suit was rumpled. He’d probably slept in it last night. Brown hair and brown eyes, average build, and a mediocre face didn’t leave much of an impression. “Name’s Jamison. I was the leading detective until the higher powers declared it your business. I’ll have the files dropped off at your office.”
“Thank you. Until then, care to walk us through what you know so far?” Dragos inclined his head toward the dead woman.
“Not much really,” Jamison shrugged. “According to our ME cause of death is not apparent upon initial examination. Her heart was removed after she was killed. Of course, if this is the same sick bastard, then her cause of death will be natural. Our guys say it’s like their lives just left them. Honestly, you guys deal with some strange shit.”
Dragos agreed, but didn’t comment back. The gateway between Earth and Rua, the supernatural world, that appeared at Nemo Point in the Pacific Ocean had been open for nearly five hundred years now, and each side was still adjusting to their new neighbors. Half-bloods like him and Rozalia were employed as part of a special police force that worked on the fringes of both worlds. Whenever one crossed into the other’s territory it became the HBIA’s jurisdiction. And in Paradigm, the hexagonal, manmade, floating island and neutral mega-city built around the gateway, that happened regularly.
“Thank you, detective,” Rozalia smiled warmly. “We’ll call if we have any further questions.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jamison waved as he turned and walked away. “I know the drill.”
He could hear the bitterness in Jamison’s voice. The district PDs hated when they got involved and took one of their cases. Dragos understood the resentment, but it was for their own good. Humans just weren’t equipped to handle this kind of thing, plus they couldn’t be trusted to remain partial. At least, that was the official ruling.
“Think he’ll be of any use?” Rozalia asked as she looked around the scene. Her eyes narrowed and Dragos followed her line of sight to the police line at the mouth of the alleyway. A tall, broad shouldered man was arguing with one of the beat cops. “Your turn to deal with the reporters.”
“Flip you?” Dragos said, providing a quarter from his pocket.
“Oh no,” she shook her head, “I refuse to go up against your luck. I’m not crazy. Go over there and get rid of that pest before he manages to work his way around them.”
“Fine.” Dragos rolled his eyes as he walked over to the arguing pair.
“I’m telling you, I’m not with the press,” the man said, exhaustion in his deep voice. “I was sent here from HBIA HQ. I’m a forensic specialist assigned to this case.”
“Nice try,” the cop drawled. “Those people don’t use scientists.”
“I didn’t say I was a scientist,” he sighed.
“Can I see some ID?” Dragos demanded upon reaching the pair.
Coral green eyes met his own and Dragos got his first good look at the man. He was dressed to impress in a tailored pair of black slacks and a green button up shirt. A strap to a what Dragos had first thought to be a camera box was slung over his shoulder. The only thing that didn’t match his perfect dress were the sturdy black non-slip shoes he was wearing. They were scuffed and obviously well worn.
“Here,” he reached into his back pocket and extracted his wallet. Accepting the black leather, Dragos opened it and felt his stomach drop. The guy was in fact from HQ, and he was a forensic alchemist. “Captain Archer wants me on this case, and I’d like to get started immediately.”
“Let him through,” Dragos instructed, handing Neculai Petron, according to his ID, back the wallet. “The body’s this way.” Keeping his irritation under check, Dragos led the way back to the woman still laying on the filth ridden street. Now that this guy was here they couldn’t move her until he gave the okay. “Rozalia, meet Neculai, our assigned geek.”
“Already? Damn, that was fast,” Rozalia said. “Well, go ahead and do your thing. I need to head out and pick Grace up, meet you back at the office, Dragos.”
“Okay, give her a kiss from me,” Dragos waved his partner away.
“You’re still coming to dinner, right?” Rozalia shouted back to him.
“And miss Jerald’s cooking? Never.” Dragos smiled as Rozalia flipped him off. Jerald couldn’t cook in a kitchen to save his daughters’ lives, but the guy made a mean BBQ steak. With the summer officially beating down on them it was Jerald’s time to shine at the grill, cooking for his family and friends.
“I’m removing this,” Neculai warned, cutting off Dragos’ internal thoughts, before pulling the sheet covering the victim off and folding it neatly to the side.
Half interested in what the man was doing, Dragos propped himself against the brick wall of one of the bordering buildings, ignoring the grime that was no doubt clinging to it, and watched as the forensic expert pulled out a vial from his box. The green liquid inside it reminded Dragos of something one would find in a pond that had been left to sit for months.
Neculai—using a metallic ink pen—wrote a symbol on the vial, popped the cap, and held it beside the woman’s mouth. A blue tendril of smoke rose past her lips and coiled into the murky liquid, changing it from a sickly green to a vibrant amber as the symbol glowed red.
“Definitely traces of magic,” Neculai concluded as if they hadn’t known magic was used to kill this woman. Fully healthy human women didn’t just fall over dead from what seemed to be natural causes without some kind of nudge from the supernatural.
“If that’s all you can tell me then I’ll get more use out of a parrot,” Dragos remarked.
The glare shot at him had Dragos reaching for his weapon unconsciously. “Easy now, Detective Dragos,” Neculai warned standing to his full height. He stood a good three inches taller than Dragos, making him at least six-eleven if not seven foot. The man was towering. “The fact the liquid changed color means magic was used. The color it changed to refers to what branch of magic.”
“Now that,” Dragos smiled, “Is something I can use. So, what species am I looking for?”
“Angel,” Neculai answered. “Though, judging by the fact the liquid didn’t go a pure gold means you’re probably looking for a half angel.”
* * * *
Neculai wasn’t sure what it was about him that made Dragos so prickly, but the detective sure wasn’t helping anything by glaring at him as he finished checking the scene for any more signs of supernatural presence. He found a few traces of residual energy toward the entrance of the alleyway that matched what he’d pulled from the victim, meaning the murderer probably cast his spell while still standing on the street. Of course, Neculai couldn’t draw any firm conclusions until he’d done a thorough investigation of both the body and all the evidence.
Unfortunately, he was coming onto this case late. At least one of the victims had already been released to her family to be cremated. If that was the case, retrieving the information to tie the four cases together would be much harder.
“Are you done yet?” Dragos asked. He’d moved to the police line and had been talking with the human detective, Jamison. No doubt trading information and comparing notes. “We need to get this area secured.”
There was nothing else for him to do here. The human police had already collected all the physical evidence he would need. Placing his tools back into his box, he slung it over his shoulder and nodded. “I’d like to see the other three crime scenes, if possible.”
“Of course,” Dragos conceded without much of a fight as he ducked under the tape and said goodbye to Jamison. “A team should be arriving to secure the alley. Do you mind sticking around until they get here?”
“No problem,” Jamison said. “Nothing waiting for me at home but my TV and a bottle of scotch.”
Neculai winced internally. He never could understand some people’s obsession with alcohol and being alone.
Following Dragos to his unmarked car, he set his box in the back and climbed into the front passenger seat. Glancing at the detective, he wondered why he had the sense that he’d seen him somewhere before. His shoulder length, straight red hair was pulled back in a ponytail showing off his perfectly symmetrical features. He couldn’t recall ever running into the man at HQ—he’d remember such a stunning man if he had—so where?
“Which site do you want to see first?” Dragos asked, starting the engine and pulling out into traffic.
“The first one,” Neculai answered, looking away from the admittedly handsome guy.
As they drove, Neculai wished HQ would have called him or another in earlier to confirm the situation with these cases. Now he had to do extra leg work to confirm what was already known.
If at any point he couldn’t pinpoint supernatural activity in one of the victim’s cases that one would be handed back over to PPD: HD to handle. The HBIA only had jurisdiction when it was a human, supernatural crime or HSC, or when a half-blood was directly involved. Human against human crimes, HHC, had nothing to do with them. Just like supernaturals committing crimes against other supernaturals, SSC, was outside their scope. It made for a narrow field of work, but not surprisingly, it was almost never quiet.
There had only been peace between Rua and Earth for 250 years now, and that was tentative, at best, at times. The first hundred years was soaked in bloodshed. The following hundred was a cold war of sorts. Another fifty was spent in peace talks and signing of treaties. Once that was done people needed to settle into their new realities, and many still didn’t want a melding of the worlds.
That’s where Paradigm came into play. The large island was created using technology from both worlds, with the hope of making it an example of peace for the rest of the world. The mega-city was broken up into twenty districts, and each district seemed to have its own, escalating problems. Some example they were.
Yes, there were plenty of people that hated those that were different, creating more than enough crime between the two worlds. Sadly, ninety percent of the crimes investigated by the HBIA were, what many would call, hate crimes. Hate crimes were so common, that it was a rule at HBIA to investigate all crimes with that mind set.
“Here we are,” Dragos announced as he pulled off the street and parallel parked at the curb in front of the alley in the sixth sector of District 12, where the first victim was found. “Alicia Taylor was found behind a dumpster in this alley one month ago. No apparent cause of death upon initial observation, and her heart was removed postmortem. The same brand was burned into her wrists as well,” he explained as they got out of the car and walked down the dark space.
With how old the scene was Neculai doubted he’d get anything from this location, still, he had to try. Magic used to kill another was powerful stuff. Knowing that, Neculai was hoping that traces still remained.
Pulling out another vial, he turned to Dragos and asked, “Which dumpster?”
“That one,” Dragos pointed to the green, greasy metal box to the left. “Here,” he handed him a photo of the body as it had been found, leaning against the building and the dumpster as if the victim was only asleep. The gaping hole in her chest proved otherwise.
Neculai wasted no time in going over and kneeling down in the exact same spot. Marking the vial, he passed it over the area several times, smiling in triumph when he got a reaction. It was the same. Angel magic had been used here as well, and it was used by a half breed.
“Well?” Dragos asked.
“You definitely have a serial killer,” Neculai said, standing up and showing him the vial. “He’s killed at least two of the victims.”
Mondays: Free post days where I post about anything I feel like talking about.