Returning with a New SciFi Romance Series — Excerpt from Orion: Star Guardians, Book 1

Posted by on June 14th, 2017 in Excerpts / Freebies | 4 Comments

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog and just as long since I published a new science fiction romance novel (I did publish Dragon Bond, a fantasy romance, last fall, but I know some of you prefer spaceships to dragons). The good news is that I’m launching an all new series this summer: Star Guardians.

I think you’ll enjoy these if you liked my Mandrake Company novels. Our heroines come from Earth, but they’re soon whisked away for adventures (and romance) among the stars.

Here’s the blurb and the first chapter of Book 1, Orion. (It will go live on Amazon on June 15th.)

The heroes

Tattooed, muscled, and fierce, they look like felons, but these highly trained agents are humanity’s protectors, the only ones standing between Earth and the threats of the galaxy. They are the Star Guardians.

Blurb

A born geek, Juanita has dreamed of exploring the stars for as long as she can remember. Getting kidnapped by slavers from another planet? Not so much. If she’s lucky, she might be able to convince the hot guy protecting her from the others to help her escape. 

A bounty hunter allied with the Star Guardians, Orion is undercover on the slavers’ ship, plotting to end their kidnapping trips to Earth. He didn’t expect to meet someone as funny, sexy, and determined as Juanita among the victims. He wants to protect her from the thugs molesting her, but that could blow his cover and jeopardize his mission. He must choose between keeping her safe and dooming Earth to be a target for slavers forever. 

First Chapter

Re: Kings of the Galactic Frontier

Juanita gripped two dog leashes with one hand and her phone with the other, barely aware of the trail as she stared at the alert. Her heart thundered in her chest, and it took three tries to thumb open the email app to pull up the freshly delivered message. She’d been waiting for weeks for a response. Dare she hope…?

Dear Author,

Thank you for your recent submission of Kings of the Galactic Frontier to Distant Stars Publishing. Unfortunately…

Juanita’s eyes blurred, and she didn’t see the words that followed. It didn’t matter. She had read enough. Rejected. Again.

The dry, waist-high grass rustled up ahead, and the dogs leaped off the trail, tugging the leashes out of Juanita’s hand.

“Damn it.” She stuffed her phone into her pocket and charged after them. The tops of the grasses shivered, marking the dogs’ passage. They’d already run fifty feet, unhindered by the leashes trailing behind them through the field. “Whatever you’re chasing, it’s not as good as the feast Angela has waiting for you in your kennels back home!”

Juanita had no idea if Max and Thumper considered the animal shelter home, but the rest of her promise wasn’t a lie. What other abandoned dogs got fresh chicken neck dumplings and rabbit sausages for dinner?

She pushed through the grass, grunting as she maneuvered uneven ground in the deepening twilight.

“You guys are going to get me fired,” she called.

Whether it was typical for volunteers to be fired, she didn’t know, but she should have been back by now. Angela and Tala would be waiting on her to feed the dogs and lock up.

Strange bluish-white lights appeared in the sky above Mount Elden, startling Juanita. She tripped and went down. Dry summer grass scraped her face, and something prickly stabbed her hand. Cactus thorns?

Arizona had the unfriendliest foliage of any state in the country. Granted, Juanita hadn’t been to many other states, but she was positive she was right.

She rose to her hands and knees. Ahead and to the right, the grasses shivered violently, and the tip of a quivering gray tail stuck up out of them. The dogs had stopped, shoving their noses into holes to try and find whatever rabbit they’d been chasing. That was a relief, but as Juanita picked her way to them, she looked again to the sky over the mountain.

Not only were there lights, but the lights were odd. There were six of them in a circular pattern, and they seemed to hover over the rocky mountain.

It definitely wasn’t a plane. A helicopter? Only if the helicopter was shaped like a Frisbee. She could just make out the dark disc-like shape between the lights.

It sailed behind the mountain to the west. Well, whatever it was, it was twenty miles away, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Juanita shuffled forward and plucked the leashes out of the grass.

“Okay, my wayward charges. We’re going back…”

She trailed off because the lights had come into view again, this time curving around the other side of the mountain. And they were heading in her direction.

“Not my direction,” she reasoned to herself. “They must be heading for the airport.” Where else would some aircraft go?

Thumper whined. Max tugged at the leash, trying to return to the rabbit hole. The lights grew brighter and closer.

Juanita turned the dogs back toward the trail, tugging them behind her and picking up her pace. There was no way a UFO would land in the field behind the animal shelter, but she couldn’t help but feel uneasy about its seemingly direct route. And the speed with which it was approaching.

She reached the trail and urged the dogs into a run.

Before she’d gone more than a few steps, the lights disappeared. She almost tripped again.

She stopped and scoured the sky with her eyes. She saw nothing but the dark outline of the mountain, the field, and a couple of ponderosa pine trees alongside the trail. There was no way the UFO could have landed or flown away between one eye blink and the next.

Thumper whined.

“Right, boy,” Juanita murmured and started walking again. “It was probably nothing. My imagination.”

Still, as she hurried along the trail, she kept looking toward the sky, expecting the lights to reappear.

Her phone rang, and she squawked in surprise. She hadn’t realized how quiet it was out here. How still. Not so much as a breeze rustled the grass.

The number belonged to the animal shelter.

“Hello?” Juanita asked, hoping it was Angela and not Tala.

“This is Doc— Tala. Are you on your way back with the dogs, Juanita?”

“Hi, Doc Tala,” Juanita said, making a joke of the fumbled introduction. Even though Tala Matapang, formerly some kind of fancy heart surgeon down in Phoenix, had only been volunteering for two weeks, she was in her mid-thirties, and Ben had been quick to make her the shift leader. “I’m almost back.”

“It’s past time to lock up.”

“I know. You got somewhere exciting to go?”

Tala hesitated. “No.”

“Well, I won’t keep you from getting to the unexciting place you have in mind. I’ll be there in five.”

“Good.”

“Uh, Tala? I don’t know if you’re by a window, but you didn’t happen to see some lights in the sky, did you?”

“No.”

“It didn’t look like a plane, and there’s nothing but national forest around Mount Elden, right? Nothing weird should be taking off from there. Or landing.”

“Not that I know of.”

Barks sounded somewhere behind Tala.

“I guess it is a UFO then,” Juanita said, joking to reassure herself.

“You’re in the wrong state for that. New Mexico is a few hours away.”

“Oh, does New Mexico have an exclusivity deal with all the UFOs out there?”

Juanita couldn’t hear Tala’s response. The barking in the shelter had grown so loud that nothing else was audible. Something definitely had the dogs riled up. Had someone come in late, looking to do an adoption? The dogs didn’t usually get that crazy about visitors.

Max let loose with a hound-dog baying that made the hairs rise up on Juanita’s arms. He lunged, pulling at the leash. Thumper opened up with his higher-pitched, yappier bark and also threw himself toward the side of the trail.

“Guys.” Juanita stopped, bracing herself.

A crunching sound came to her ears from the field to the left of the trail. She squinted, but the gloom was deepening, and she couldn’t make anything out. But it sounded like something breaking the dry grass. A lot of it.

About a hundred meters away, a rectangle of light appeared, hovering several feet above the top of the grass.

The dogs barked uproariously.

Juanita crouched down, hoping the grass would hide her from… whatever that was. Shapes moved within the rectangle of light, silhouetted briefly. They were humanoid, but she got the impression of big shaggy heads.

“Hats,” she whispered to reassure herself. “Or big hair.”

The rectangle of light disappeared.

A faint, high-pitched whistle reached Juanita’s ears.

“What—”

The dogs lunged on their leashes so powerfully that she was yanked to her knees. She tried to hold on, but they had caught her by surprise. Canvas burned her sweaty palms as the leashes tore free, leaving her hands raw. The dogs weren’t on the hunt now. They were terrified of something and raced off.

“Max!” Juanita cried. She started to yell Thumper’s name, too, but some preternatural certainty came to her, and she knew it would be a very bad idea to draw attention to herself.

A breeze whispered through the grass, bringing an unpleasant scent to her nose. It seemed like a mix of body odor and spoiled meat. Then she heard voices. Men’s voices. They spoke in a harsh, guttural language, but they definitely sounded human.

That should have reassured her, but it didn’t. It wasn’t as if human beings didn’t have a track record of doing vile things, and she was a woman, alone in this field since her canine companions had fled.

Should she flee too? If she ran straight down the trail, she could make it to the shelter in two or three minutes. She’d inadvertently hung up on Tala, but she could hear the dogs in the kennel without the phone now, their barks traveling across the field.

Juanita clenched her phone and stayed low, listening to her more immediate surroundings. Was it safe to run back?

Grass crunched again, but then the noise went silent. She edged off the path, careful not to make her own crunching noises.

Two dark figures came out onto the trail, not ten feet from her. She held her breath. The light level had dropped significantly in the last few minutes, and she couldn’t make out their features. They turned away from her and jogged down the trail with easy, loping gaits that reminded her of greyhounds. Or wolves.

With a jolt, it occurred to her that they were heading toward the shelter. Tala, and Angela—if she hadn’t gone home yet—would be alone there, with just the dogs.

She looked at her phone. Would it be safe to call Tala and warn her? She hated the idea of making noise, even if it was just a whisper. Unfortunately, Tala had called from the building’s landline, not a cell phone, so she couldn’t simply text. She—

A hand pressed against her mouth.

Terrified, Juanita dropped her phone and tried to spring away. But an arm snaked around her waist, keeping her from escaping. She twisted and threw her elbow back. It connected with something—someone’s abdomen?—but it was like hitting a brick wall. Whoever held her didn’t even grunt. He certainly didn’t make any move to release her. No, the muscular arm wrapped around her torso tightened, and she was pulled back against a body—the brick wall. The original hand remained clamped against her mouth to keep her from screaming.

As if that was what she wanted to do. She stomped down, hoping to catch the instep of his foot. He anticipated her move and shifted his boot to avoid it.

Juanita twisted and writhed, trying to remember more moves she’d learned in that women’s self-defense class she’d taken in college. But the man holding her was too strong. Assuming it was a man.

No, that was silly. What else could it be? Those felt like fingers against her mouth, normal human fingers, and that was a human arm wrapped around her. A few locks of shaggy black hair fell over her shoulder, and the scent she’d detected earlier was stronger, that of rotting meat. God, was that his breath?

Something pressed against the back of her head. His face. Was he rubbing his face in her hair? Freak.

She jerked her head back, hoping to feel the satisfying splat of his nose breaking. But again, he easily evaded her attack. And then he laughed. His hand came up, and he gripped her breast through her blouse.

A new level of terror rose in Juanita’s heart, and she lost all rational thought. She twisted, thrashed, and clawed, praying she would land some painful blow, and he would release her.

Instead, he groaned and ground his crotch into her back. She could feel a hard erection through the clothes between them, and this time, she did try to scream.

A throat cleared nearby—she almost missed it over the blood pounding in her ears. But her assailant stopped grinding against her.

A man had stepped out on the trail a few meters away, and he looked toward Juanita and whoever had her. He wore what looked like dark leather pants and a suede vest that displayed a thick muscular chest and arms that looked capable of tearing people in half. Shaggy brown hair was pulled back in a knot, and a goatee and mustache darkened his face. A thong necklace hung halfway down his chest with what looked like a tooth hanging from it. It was too dark to see the color of his eyes or what he was thinking.

He spoke a single word, or maybe that was a name? Either way, it meant nothing to her.

Relieved her torment had stopped, if only for a moment, Juanita tried to elbow strike the man behind her again. But he’d caught her arms in his big bear grip, and she couldn’t get enough room to maneuver.

He simply held her against him, her feet barely on the ground, and spoke a couple of words back to the new man. His tone sounded challenging. He released the hand over her mouth to run it down her body to her crotch, and he rubbed her crudely as he spoke again. She tried to shift away from him, but he was too damned strong. She had the sense he was claiming her, like some caveman.

“Get off me,” Juanita snarled, then opened her mouth to scream, though she feared it would be useless, that she was too far from the kennels and civilization for anyone to hear her.

He brought his hand back up to clamp it over her mouth again. Before he got it in place, she chomped down on his fingers so hard that she tasted blood.

Finally, she had the satisfaction of him jerking his hand away and howling.

But the howl turned to a snarl, and he lifted that hand to strike her. She buried her chin, hoping to take the blow on her head rather than her face, but it never landed. A soft thump sounded, and she looked up.

The brown-haired man had stepped forward and caught her assailant’s wrist. The two men stood still, staring into each other’s eyes, and then her attacker flung her into the grass.

Juanita jumped up in time to see the two men fling themselves at each other. Punches landed, and they snarled like dogs. They went to the ground, grass crunching as they flattened it.

She didn’t pause to gape at her good fortune for long. She sprinted down the trail toward the shelter, hoping the other men hadn’t gone in there, hoping Tala and Angela and all the dogs were all right. The barks had gone silent, and she didn’t know what to make of that.

As she sprinted, her breaths coming in gasps, the cement rectangle of the building came into view. A hint of relief flowed through her. Even if she couldn’t get help at the shelter, it was on the main road into town, and her car was in the lot.

Even as she imagined herself leaping into the car and driving off to safety, she grew aware of footsteps behind her. Horror returned, and she pumped her arms and legs faster. At least one of those men was chasing her down. What if it was the truly horrible one?

She ran faster than she had ever run, but it wasn’t fast enough. The footsteps closed.

The back door of the shelter was only twenty or thirty feet away. Maybe she could make it. Maybe—

A weight like a battering ram slammed into her back.

She crashed to the ground, almost eating the trail. She tried to roll free, but her opponent landed on top of her with too much weight for her to budge.

He flipped her over as easily as if she were a doll. It was the brown-haired man. The tooth dangling from his necklace brushed her chin.

He settled his weight fully atop her to keep her from escaping, and all she could feel was rock-hard muscles underneath his clothing. Whoever these assholes were, they should be competing in bodybuilding contests instead of molesting women.

She started to squirm, hoping to find some way to escape, but she remembered how that had aroused the other one and hesitated. She had to be smart instead of flailing uselessly.

The man reached for his belt, the pointed tooth on his necklace bumping her chin. She jerked her head up, hoping to club him in the nose. As with the other man, he saw the attack coming and was too fast. Her hair might have brushed his chin, but that was it.

His hand came back up with something in it, a small metallic object the shape of a pen. He’d been reaching for his pocket, not his belt. As that object filled her vision, she wasn’t sure this was better. It made her think of the hyposprays on Star Trek.

When he pressed the tip against her neck under her ear, she tried to twist away, but his other hand held her head still.

For the first time, he spoke to her. She had no idea what he was saying or even what language he was using. The words sounded vaguely apologetic.

The cool metal touched her neck with a hiss, and she flinched as something broke her skin. He lowered the tool and gazed into her eyes. Waiting for something?

She curled her lip, wanting to spit in his eyes. But her lip was numb and tingly. Her entire body was, she realized. God, was he knocking her out? Why? So he could rape her more easily?

These thoughts should have terrified her, but a strange numbness was creeping over her, and the ability to feel anything disappeared. A moment later, darkness crept into the edges of her vision. The last thing she saw before she passed out was him staring down into her eyes.

~

Pick up the ebook to read the rest (Orion is only 99 cents for the launch): Orion: Star Guardians, Book 1.

Other Amazon links: Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUS | Amazon DE

4 responses to “Returning with a New SciFi Romance Series — Excerpt from Orion: Star Guardians, Book 1”

  1. Mary says:

    I love the whole Mandrake Co. series, I’m so looking forward to this one, especially since reading the blurb of the first chapter. Do glad it’s going to be .99 cents. Can wait to read the whole book, thank you!

  2. Alinia says:

    So good! Saw this while on vacation last week and read straight through Treyjon. Loved it! Can’t wait for Sagitta to come out!

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