Stars Across Time Preview and a Mandrake Company Update

Posted by on March 11th, 2015 in News | 60 Comments

Hello!

I have a new book that will be released this weekend (you can pre-order it now if you want to grab it at the temporary 99-cent launch price), something a little different this time. It’s a time travel romance that takes place in a quasi dystopian/post-apocalyptic future. Yeah, say that 7.3 times, why don’t you? 🙂 I’m doing good if I can even spell post-apocalyptic.

I’m posting the blurb and the first chapter below in case you want to check it out.

Before jumping into that, I’d like to assure you that there is at least one more Mandrake Company novel coming. I have a fun new story worked out with Lauren as the heroine (I didn’t think she would ever be heroine material, but you asked for it! And Tick asked for it too.), which involves her slightly promiscuous sister (also a scientist) coming to Mandrake Company with a mission in hand. I’ll be working on that this spring.

In the meantime, I’ve uploaded a boxed set of the first four Mandrake Company novels on Amazon. I’m going to try and buy some ads and run a sale on that later this spring or this summer to see if I can get more people to check out the series. As it stands now, the fourth and fifth books haven’t been selling as well as the second and third did, so I may need to think about moving on to something else after Lauren’s story. But I’d definitely like to try a few more marketing things before shelving the gang, since I’m still enjoying writing about them.

If you’ve read the first four books, I would appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a review on the boxed set. (You could just copy your reviews from the other books.) Thanks!

Now, for a peek at the new adventure:

Stars Across Time

Blurb

StarsFinalWeb400Air Force pilot Andromeda “Andie” Kim dreams of being chosen to join NASA so she can go to space. Instead, she’s stolen by savage kidnappers from a dystopian future where fertile women are needed for breeding purposes. One of her kidnappers, a man named Mace, goes out of his way to protect her from the other slavers, but she’s not about to trust him. All she wants is to escape and find a way back to her time before she’s sold as broodstock and stuck in this ruined world forever.

Colonel Aloysius “Mace” Theron of the Cascadian Alliance is a battlefield commander, not a spy, but after twenty years of service, he’s also trusted by his superiors. That’s why they choose him for a top-secret mission: to infiltrate an organization of thieves using a time machine to plunder the past. He’s supposed to find and destroy the machine, not fall in love with one of the captives, but Andie is as much of a fighter as he is, and he’s drawn to her from the beginning. Yet if he fights too hard to protect her, his identity will be discovered and his mission will fail, leaving criminals to terrorize the past, perhaps irrevocably changing history and endangering everyone he knows and loves. 

Preview Chapters

Andie Kim dug through her pack in the dark, mashing her fingers against a canteen, packets of dehydrated food, a first-aid kit, and something gooey on the bottom—she didn’t know what that was and decided to embrace the ignorance.

“I stuck some hand warmers in here,” she mumbled. “I know I did.”

“This is so beautiful,” her friend Min-ji said, her form hunched over the telescope at the edge of a cliff, her outline barely visible on the dark night.

“Aren’t you cold?” Andie patted her pockets until she found her phone, so she could turn on the flashlight app.

Min-ji stared into the eyepiece, whatever she saw holding her attention rapt. Andie sighed. This was what she got for making friends with an astrophysicist. Soft grunts and proclamations of ardor came from one of the campsites behind them, a vocal demonstration of what normal people did to keep warm on a frosty night in the mountains. Unfortunately, Andie and Min-ji did not have anyone along—or back home either—to keep them warm, a perennial problem in her life. If Min-ji felt the lack, she never showed it. She had a telescope to snuggle up to.

Andie finally found the hand warmers stuck to the goo at the bottom of the pack and pulled out two of the packets. As she stood up, a flash of white appeared in the woods farther up the mountainside behind them. Headlights? The bumpy road they had taken up to this remote facilities-not-included campground had continued past the turnoffs for the tent sites, but she could not imagine navigating the potholes and rocks in the dark.

She continued looking in that direction for another moment, but the light did not repeat itself. Maybe it had been her imagination.

gh the pine trees, promising frost would lie on the ground by morning. It might be spring break back at the University of Washington, but winter had not yet relinquishg and pulling her jacket more tightly around her body, Andie cracked open a hand warmer and joined her friend by the telescope.

She nudged Min-ji with the other hand warmer. “Here.”

“This is magnificent, Andie,” Min-ji said, finally lifting her head. “I was afraid it would be too late to catch it, but the sky is so clear out here. Take a look. The ion tail is brilliant, all blues and greens.”

“Aren’t you cold?” Andie asked again, pressing the hand warmer into her friend’s palm, though she did lean forward to peer at Comet Lovejoy. Despite her grousing, gazing up into the night sky always piqued her imagination, and she dreamed of traveling into space, however remote the possibility was these days. Even if she finished her master’s in aeronautical engineering, the odds of being accepted to NASA were—she snorted—astronomical.

“Cold?” Min-ji asked. “I suppose. But aren’t you supposed to be tougher than that? Didn’t you have to go out in the wilderness for weeks with nothing but a Swiss Army knife to get by?”

“You’re thinking of the Marines. I was in the Air Force. We didn’t go anywhere without our hand warmers.” Technically, Andie was still in the Air Force, the Reserve, anyway. She had to get back for her drill weekend in a few days.

“I’m now imagining you rummaging in your pack for one while piloting a fighter jet at fifty thousand feet.”

Andie smiled. Cruising at high altitudes was cold, but the liner under the G-suit kept a person warm. Or maybe she had always been too enthralled by being in the sky to notice.

She started to reply, but a twig snapped out in the woods, and she closed her mouth. It was probably nothing, but she turned in that direction, peering toward the trees. Were there campsites in that direction? She couldn’t remember. The couple having sex in their tent had quieted down, and there weren’t any lights on anywhere on the cliff top. The stars might be bright in the dark sky, but they did little to illuminate the mountainside.

Another twig snapped, and Andie tensed. That had been closer. She tried to remember where exactly she had seen that flash. Was someone sneaking through the woods from that direction?

“What is it?” Min-ji asked, sounding young and uncertain for the first time. She hadn’t taken any time between college and entering her Ph. D program, so she was young, Andie reminded herself. Barely twenty-four and without experience being anything other than a student.

Even with more life experience, Andie did not feel at ease. Two women on a camping trip by themselves might be an appealing target if there were serial killers or rapists roaming the mountains. It was hard to imagine anyone coming all the way up here to partake in criminal activity, but she supposed the odds of some brute being caught out here would be slim too.

“Let’s get back to the car,” Andie whispered. They didn’t have any weapons along—she hadn’t shot anything more deadly than a rubber band since leaving active duty—but they could lock the doors, honk the horn, and drive off if necessary. Navigating that forest service road in the dark might not be appealing, but she trusted she could do it to avoid itinerate criminals.

“Are we leaving?” Min-ji reached for her telescope.

A distant whisper escaped the trees, a man’s whisper. Foliage rustled.

Andie grabbed her friend’s arm, propelling her toward the car. “Leave it. We’ll worry about it in the morning.”

Knowing how expensive a piece of equipment that telescope was, Andie expected a protest, but Min-ji must have heard some of the sounds. She hustled toward their campsite without objecting. She tripped, pitching forward, but Andie kept her from falling.

“Hang on,” Min-ji whispered. “I have a flashlight.”

“Leave it off.” Andie guided her along the route, glad there wasn’t as much undergrowth tangling the forest floor on this, the drier side of the mountains. She wasn’t glad, however, that they were twenty miles away from civilization—if the small town of Cle Elum could be called such. Those miles had taken over an hour to cover, thanks to all the dirt roads.

She thought about calling out, trying to wake some of the other campers. Even if there were only two other cars out here, maybe mobilizing the owners would alarm whoever was skulking around out there. But she would be foolish crying out for help if she had heard nothing more than a couple of hikers returning late to camp. Very late. The last time she had checked her watch, it had been midnight.

“Who’s out there?” she called, trying to sound forceful rather than concerned. Anyone who had innocuous intentions should answer the question. She also hoped her voice would be loud enough to rouse the other campers without panicking anyone unnecessarily.

More foliage rattled in the brush, closer than before. Nobody answered.

Andie already had her keys in hand, and she thumbed the fob to unlock the Jeep. It was still over twenty yards away, making her wish they hadn’t tramped so far in search of a patch of open sky. The dome light came on, brightening the area around the car enough to make out their tent—and someone behind the vehicle. A man. He darted away from the illumination and out of view.

Andie faltered. Were the intruders already guarding the car? Setting a trap because they had known Andie and Min-ji would come this way?

Min-ji must not have seen the figure, because she kept heading straight for the Jeep, running full out now, the wan yellow dome light like a beacon drawing her. Andie continued on, trying to think if she had anything that could be used as a weapon. She had a multitool, but she had used it to cut a rope when they had been setting up, and she had left it inside the tent.

More figures moved about at the edge of the light. They had surrounded the car. Two of them ran toward Min-ji.

Andie had been about to veer toward the tent for her multitool, but she couldn’t leave her friend to be attacked. She sprinted in that direction.

Despite Andie’s earlier admonition, Min-ji must have dug out her flashlight. She shined it at the figures charging toward her, maybe hoping to blind them with the beam. Andie glimpsed shaggy fur, and for a moment, she thought bears were descending upon them, but she quickly dismissed the notion as ludicrous. These had to be people wearing furs. Odd, but there was no time to consider it further. Min-ji had reached the car, but one of the big men lunged toward her. She wouldn’t make it inside. Min-ji whirled and threw her flashlight at him just as Andie reached them.

“What do you want?” she yelled, again hoping to wake up the other campers and get some help, but at the same time, she attacked.

Andie knocked one of those reaching arms upward, hoping to give Min-ji time to get into the car. Then, knowing her block wouldn’t have been enough to hurt the man, she fought her instincts and stepped in closer to the figure. She launched an elbow at the man’s gut. The fur jacket, or whatever it was, padded his torso, but her blow still elicited a startled grunt. She stomped down, hoping to crush his instep, but the darkness made it hard to see her target. She didn’t think she caught more than the toe of his boot. Still, he jerked back, dropping his arm.

“Get in,” Andie barked to Min-ji, who had the door open, but paused.

Andie thrust the keys at her friend just as someone grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around. Fear flowed into her limbs, but she had been pursuing adrenaline rushes her entire life, so the feeling was an old friend. She kept her wits and grasped the wrist of her attacker with both hands. It was an awkward move, since he was much taller than she, but she had practiced similar moves countless times in the dojang. She twisted his wrist against the joint, and he released her shoulder. He grunted with pain, but that did not keep him from swinging at her with his other hand, a fist streaking toward her face.

Expecting such an attack, Andie ducked the roundhouse punch and stepped in again, driving a knee toward his groin. He twisted, and she connected with his thigh instead, but she brought her foot down for another stomp. This time, she succeeded in catching the vulnerable instep, and he gasped and lurched away from her.

A scream erupted behind Andie, not from Min-ji, but from farther away—one of the other campsites. Gunshots followed, and a man shouted. Andie had no idea if she was about to get help, or if the intruders were attacking the other campers too. Andie didn’t see Min-ji. She hadn’t made it into the car.

A third man lunged for her, and there was no time to pause and look around. She did glimpse more figures moving all around the car—and around her. Far too many for her to deal with. She blocked the lunging arm and launched a straight kick at her attacker’s groin, hoping to drive him back so he couldn’t try to grab her again. She kept her back to the front of the Jeep, ensuring nobody could get behind her, but she sensed more men closing in. With the car door open, the dome light remained on, and the intruders were close enough now that she could see their faces: grim, dirty, bearded faces.

Two men rushed her from either side, and she had to pick which one to defend against. There wasn’t time to debate it logically; she simply reacted on instinct, knocking aside a grab and trying a side kick, though she barely had room to lift her leg. The other man caught her while she was busy with the first, wrapping a meaty arm around her waist. Her feet were lifted from the ground, and she lost all of her leverage. Still, she squirmed, pressing her fingers together to turn her hand into a weapon to gouge eyes. But in the dark, and with so many men smothering her, she had little chance of connecting. She kicked and clawed because it wasn’t in her nature to give up, but she knew in her heart that defeat had come.

When she spotted Min-ji, held firmly in the grasp of a man a few feet away, any lingering hope she might have felt disappeared. There would be no escaping into the Jeep and driving away, not at this point. Who were these bastards?

At the other campsite, more gunshots fired, but they ended abruptly with a heavy thud—someone being thrown against a tree? Andie hoped it was one of the other campers hurling an intruder about, but she doubted it. There were far more of these bearded, fur-wearing freaks than there were campers. The screams continued from the site next to theirs, but then another thud came, the sound of flesh striking flesh, then silence.

Andie was shoved up against the Jeep with enough force to knock the air from her lungs. No fewer than three men pinned her there, their shaggy bodies pressed against her so she could not get a knee up to defend herself.

“She’s a feisty one,” one snickered, his face far too close to hers as he leaned in from the side.

His hot breath smelled of rotten meat, and she almost gagged. His accent was strange. Even though she had visited numerous countries, she couldn’t identify it. He didn’t sound like he came from Washington State; that was certain.

“Good find,” another of her captors said, then startled her by dropping his foul mouth onto hers, practically thrusting his tongue down her throat.

Even though fresh terror charged through her, Andie bit down with all of the strength in her jaw, imagining herself as a wolf with the power to crush bones with her teeth.

The man screamed as loudly as the woman in the other camp had. Flesh ripped free, and blood flooded her mouth. This time she did gag. She spat out whatever part of his tongue he had left between her teeth, her stomach roiling at the horror of the situation.

Laughter came from the other men holding her. “That’ll teach you, Blackie,” one said between laughs.

Andie twisted, hoping they might be distracted and that she could escape into the woods. Whoever they were, they would have trouble finding her in the dark, if she could just get away from the car and the camp.

But the other two only leaned harder against her, keeping her from moving. She couldn’t even get her hands up to defend when the one she’d bitten reared back into her sight, his face livid. He punched her in the face, and pain exploded in her cheek, her head knocking to the side so hard, the blow threw every thought from her mind. Out of some vague instinct, she ducked her chin to her chest, trying to brace herself for another attack.

“Enough,” came a cold voice from in front of her. It was the man who held Min-ji. He, too, was bearded, if less fully than the others, and he also wore a heavy fur coat, along with a rifle on a strap hung across his chest. Hell, was that even a rifle? Andie’s cheek throbbed, and the taste of blood in her mouth made her want to throw up, but she forced herself to focus on the weapon, trying to figure out who these people were. She didn’t recognize it at all, but it looked more like an old Civil War Winchester than anything modern. It was almost as if she had gone back in time and stumbled across a group of trappers. Min-ji’s captor also wore a knife with an antler hilt, and a heavy-looking iron mace hung opposite it on his belt.

“You want to sell them,” the man added when the others looked in his direction, “you better not batter them up before you get them to the market.”

The market? What the hell?

“Who asked you, new blood?” Blackie snarled.

“I don’t know about you, but I joined to make some money.” Min-ji’s captor flicked dismissive glances at the men, then met Andie’s eyes for a long moment. His expression was hard to read, but he had sharp gray-blue eyes that probably didn’t miss much. His black hair was tousled, but not as long and shaggy as most of the men’s. He had a strong jaw and might be handsome if he ever cleaned up, not that she cared what any of these morons looked like under the grime. He shook his head slightly, then looked away from her.

Andie had no idea what to make of the gesture. It was almost as if he was disappointed. In her? Because she had bitten his buddy’s tongue? Well, she would bite his, too, if he brought it anywhere near her.

“Mace is right,” an older man said, stepping up beside Min-ji’s captor. Mace? He had named himself after his weapon? What a tool. The older man was dressed like the others, though he carried a short sword. Gray streaked his unkempt beard, and deep lines creased the corners of his eyes. One of his hands was injured—or had been deformed since birth—with the third and fourth fingers fused and stumpy. “They’re worth a lot. They’ll bring more coin if they’re not all bruised up.”

“We don’t have to bruise them.” Blackie pressed close to Andie again, this time grabbing her by her ponytail. She glared at him, but he didn’t bring any body parts close enough for her to bite. “Just have some fun before we turn them over to their new owners.”

Owners? What was this? Andie knew a slave trade still existed in parts of the world, but not in the mountains two hours from Seattle, damn it. And whoever these thugs were, with their antiquated weapons and strange accent, they were speaking English. Was there truly some rural area over here where women were being bought and sold?

“We had to work hard for this one,” Blackie added, tugging at her ponytail, his grip anything but gentle. “Let us have her for a couple hours. It won’t lower their value at the market. It’ll get them ready for their new lives.” He chuckled.

Andie seethed and bit back the words that wanted to flow out of her mouth. She didn’t want to get hit again, not when she stood nothing to gain from it. She hoped someone with some scruples would disagree with the yokel, even as she braced herself, trying to store her fear at the back of her mind so she could continue to think straight. If these thugs started dropping their pants, she might find an opportunity to escape. She refused to contemplate that she might not find that opportunity.

“Wouldn’t even take hours,” the man to Andie’s right said, snickering. “Been so long since we had a woman, everyone could work their way through in a few minutes.” His body was pressed against Andie’s side, pinning her right arm, just as his counterpart on her left had that side of her body immobilized. So he was in no danger when he lifted a hand to paw at her through her jacket, finding her breast and squeezing with all the gentleness of a bulldozer.

“Swing your own tongue, Mac. I’ve got stamina like a race horse. Bet she’ll like it too.”

“Nobody’s taking hours or minutes with anyone,” the graying man said. “Some of them are young enough not to have been popped.” He eyed Min-ji speculatively.

She wasn’t a virgin, but Andie wasn’t going to say anything if it might keep them from raping her young friend.

Two other men walked into view, both with female prisoners of their own. The women from the other camps. One was standing, her head bowed in defeat. The other was slung over a man’s shoulder, dangling unconscious—or maybe she was afraid and was feigning unconsciousness. What had happened to the men who had been camping with these women? Even though it made her cheek ache, Andie twisted her head, trying to see through the windows of the Jeep and toward the other camps. The dome light wasn’t powerful enough to illuminate the ground very far in any direction. Maybe it was for the best. She dreaded seeing a violently murdered man on the forest floor.

“This one’s no virgin,” Blackie said, his fingers coming to rest on the back of Andie’s neck. He tightened them, digging in, forcing her to tilt her head back to look at him. “Are you, woman?”

At thirty-two? Not likely. But she kept her mouth shut, resolving to keep herself out of further trouble—unless it was worth it. Blood stained the man’s beard. Too bad he could still talk. Andie must not have taken off more than the tip of his flapping tongue. She narrowed her eyes, making herself stare into his without flinching. Maybe she would get the chance to bite off something else. She smiled fiercely at the thought. At least that was what she intended to do. Unfortunately, his buddy kept mashing and squeezing her breasts. It was hard to look fierce with that going on.

She caught Min-ji’s captor looking at her from several feet away, his face colder than ice. Because he didn’t approve of the men groping her? That hardly seemed likely in this group. Maybe he wanted her for himself, and that was why their manhandling irritated him. She didn’t usually get that much attention from men, so she wasn’t sure she should assume that, but these thugs seemed particularly horny. She wondered if she might somehow pit them against each other.

“This one might be a virgin,” the older man said, waving toward Min-ji and rubbing his stumpy, misshapen finger. “And that one there’s barely a woman. She was out here with her papa, looks like. She’ll do real sweet at the market.”

The girl in question was staring around, her eyes rounder than moons. She looked to be in shock. Andie hoped the men hadn’t killed her father before carrying her away.

“We’ll look the others over back at the cave,” the graying man relented when the pawing continued, none of the thugs who were tormenting Andie taking their eyes from her. The leader didn’t seem to have much control over the men, and Andie worried she wouldn’t be able to escape this fate, after all. “If the boss doesn’t have another use for them.”

“I’ve got a use for this one right now,” Blackie said, rubbing against her.

Andie gritted her teeth so hard, she risked breaking them.

“That’s right,” Mace said. “We should plunder the women before we try to sell them. Because I hear buyers at the market really treasure used goods.”

“Did he say plunder?” a man in the background asked. “Who says plunder?”

“I think pirates said that back in the twentieth century,” said another.

“Try the seventeenth,” Mace muttered.

Andie couldn’t bring herself to feel grateful to Mace or any of these thugs, but at least he had distracted a couple of them. Maybe they would remember whatever else it was they were supposed to be doing here. Some of them did wander off, but the ones pinning Andie did not move away from her. Maybe putting up such a fight had been unwise; now they knew what she could do and that she had to be watched closely.

“Come on,” the older man snapped, irritation seeping into his voice. “Let’s get back to the machine before someone comes to investigate those shots.”

Andie’s tormenters hesitated, as if she was some ultra-alluring gold nugget that they couldn’t tear themselves from. Maybe they had escaped from a prison and hadn’t seen women for a long, long time.

Mace pushed Min-ji toward the leader and strode toward Andie and the men holding her. Before they realized he had moved, he gripped Blackie by the back of his neck, hauling him away from her. Blackie snarled and swung at him. Mace didn’t bother blocking the blow; he simply evaded it and knocked the other man on his ass so quickly, Andie didn’t quite follow what he had done. A leg sweep and something else. He eyed the other men, but they shook their heads, not stepping forward to try him. The one mashing Andie’s breast lowered his hand.

Mace was the first trained fighter she had seen in the group, but she couldn’t find herself enthused about his talent, even if he was using it to help her now. That help was only a result of his leader’s wishes, and it had nothing to do with her. He would be hard to slip past whenever—if—she found her chance to escape.

Mace pointed at her. “Make sure you tie up that one. We don’t want to lose anyone.” Then he turned his back on her, glaring down at Blackie as he passed, but simply stalking into the woods after that.

Andie swallowed, uncomfortable after he disappeared into the shadows. What if the men decided to ignore their leader and resumed their manhandling?

But Blackie did not return to her. Andie tensed as the other two pulled her away from the car, yanking her hands behind her back. Even though the men stayed close and kept their grips on her arms, for a few seconds, she wasn’t pinned by their weight. She might have lifted a leg for a kick or rammed her knee into one of their groins. Maybe there was a chance she could yet escape, before they trussed her up like a rotisserie chicken.

Min-ji spoke softly in Korean.

Andie was half-Korean, but she didn’t understand any of the words. Her mother had been a second-generation American and had never spoken the language at home. Andie had learned more from her years practicing Tae Kwon Do in the Air Force than she had growing up, but Min-ji wasn’t talking about punches or kicks. She was probably telling Andie to wait, that the odds were against them now. Not bad advice.

Andie sighed and let the smelly thug tie her hands behind her back, the coarse rope biting into her wrists. Apparently, these people didn’t have zip-ties.

While the men were binding her, Min-ji, and the other two women, two more brutes ambled into view, their arms laden with lanterns, sleeping bags, and other gear they must have stolen from the camps. Whistling, one of them poked his head into Andie’s Jeep. He removed a blanket but left her purse behind the seat where she had left it.

A third man trundled into view, carrying two five-gallon plastic gas jugs. He had a large, lumpy head and a blind eye, nothing but the white showing. What kind of freak show was Andie dealing with? He stopped at the rear of the Jeep and pried open the gas door. Another man showed up with a hand pump and tubing. Andie stared with disbelief as they siphoned the gas out of the tank. She had a couple hundred bucks in her purse, and they were stealing the gas instead?

“Got it all, Russell,” the one with the jugs said after a few minutes. He screwed on the cap and nodded to the leader.

“Good. Time to get going.”

Blackie pushed Andie toward the trees. Other men crowded at her side. Her feet might be free, but she had few delusions of outrunning anyone with her hands bound and with so many people ready to flatten her to the ground if she took a wrong step. Now that the entire group was here, aside from Mace who hadn’t returned since disappearing into the woods, she could count them. There were twenty men. She and the other campers had never had a chance.

Coyotes yipped and yowled nearby, drawn by the blood that had been spilled. Or maybe they were simply pronouncing her fate. As the men pushed their captives into the dark forest, toward where she had seen that light earlier, Andie tried not to feel they were being marched to hell.

Chapter 2

Colonel Aloysius Theron, currently undercover as a thug named Mace, stalked through the dark trees ahead of the group, keeping his rage to himself. He was glad the night would hide the tension in his shoulders—and the fact that he wanted to spin around and kill every one of his so-called comrades, especially the idiots who had been mauling that woman. A woman whom he would have gladly invited into his unit, to fight alongside his men in the border skirmishes back home. He wagered she already had military experience, here in this era, or perhaps she was on a police force.

The leader of this group of kidnappers, Russell, would watch her if he was smart; she was the kind of person who could escape and fetch the police. Or she might get ahold of one of their guns and shoot all of her kidnappers. Theron smiled tightly, relishing the thought even if he shouldn’t. He needed to stay with these thugs for long enough to find their secret market, along with the women and goods they had already stolen. They weren’t the only group of thieves operating in the mountains, and as much as he would like to see them dead, that would not allow him to accomplish his mission.

Realizing he was outpacing the men, Theron forced himself to slow down and wait. He wanted to make sure the women were doing well—as well as could be expected. This was rough terrain, and they were not following a trail or road. He couldn’t appear too solicitous, as he had reminded himself earlier, because he had been with the group for less than two weeks, and they would be suspicious of him if he seemed any different than they did. Still, if he found a chance to let the women escape without risking revealing his identity and dooming his mission, he would take it. The fewer people the thieves succeeded in kidnapping, the less risk there was of wreaking havoc with the timeline.

Staying to the side of the crooked column, Theron checked on the fighter woman first. Andie, he reminded himself, having sneaked up on the camp early enough to hear her talking with her friend, Min-ji. He had seen them using the telescope, as well, speaking of a comet in the sky, and his gut had twisted at the idea of kidnapping them. He had a telescope back home, and he, too, enjoyed studying the stars. He had been considering a way to warn them, but the rest of his party had shown up too soon, clomping and snapping their way through the woods, making enough noise that even city dwellers, as these women appeared to be, had heard their approach.

Theron had remained still for as long as he could, silently hoping they would make it to their vehicle and escape. For those who had been sleeping, their fates had been inevitable, but Min-ji and Andie had been so close to making it. It wasn’t as if the kidnappers had vehicles of their own that they could give chase in. Cars and trucks—and the gasoline to power them—were almost as rare as diamonds in his time.

Andie trod along, there being little else she could do since she was hemmed in by men and her hands were bound behind her back. But she looked left and right as she walked, determination burning in her eyes. He thought she might have glimpsed him as he passed, even though he remained silent. It was possible—even though he’d had far more wilderness training than most of these men, he wasn’t trying to hide himself—but she did not let her gaze linger on him. Why would she? He was nothing more than one more thug to her.

Trusting that she could survive the hike without trouble, Theron waited for the others, so he could check on them. Min-ji plodded along, her head down. Behind her, the teenage girl must have passed out or not been keeping up, because she had been slung over one of the men’s shoulders, like the blonde woman. Theron had not seen what had happened in those other camps, but he hoped the idiots had not killed anyone. He would have objected to the shooting of civilians under any circumstances, but in this case, he objected even more strenuously. Anybody the thieves killed or kidnapped could cause their own time to change. If they murdered some distant ancestor, they might cause some friend of theirs to completely disappear, to have never existed. Theron shuddered to think that such a thing might have already happened, that some military comrade he had once fought beside might have disappeared without Theron ever knowing the loss because all of history had changed. Or what if there might have been some version of time where he had been married and had a wife and children?

He snorted to himself, admitting that was unlikely, given how rarely he was home where he might meet women. And children? There were so few couples that managed to have children. There was a reason these thieves were kidnapping females from this time period, no matter how misguided and greed-driven their motives were. Oddly, they never seemed to kidnap fertile men to sell, probably because so many men had trouble admitting that they might be the weak half of the equation.

“The cave is up ahead,” someone at the front of the line said, waving one of the stolen lanterns.

Theron jogged past the column of men, stepping lightly so the dry, brittle pine needles would not crunch beneath his feet, and joined Russell at the head, careful to come in behind the man instead of in front of him.

The cave did not look like much on the outside, the entrance being little more than a vertical fissure in the rock, but the entire troop of kidnappers funneled through it with room to spare. In a chamber inside, more men waited, clad in the same dirt and furs that the other thieves favored. They stood in front of a group of young women, a much larger group than Theron’s band had acquired. It was hard to tell much else about them, since they huddled in the shadows behind their guards.

The men inside held torches, the flames flickering and casting dancing shadows on the walls. The natural rock chamber smelled of mildew and animals, as well as the sweat and odors of men. In his own time, the cave had been dug out and reinforced by survivalists who’d had a reason to build it into more of a base. Popping into the original—and much smaller—form had been alarming. Theron had been told that nobody ever woke up in a wall, that the machine had safety mechanisms built in to ensure that couldn’t happen, but when one stepped into a distant time and landed with one’s heel an inch from a slab of granite, one wondered.

“Bring them in,” came an unfamiliar voice from the back of the chamber. It belonged to a bald, bearded man with his muscular arms bare, despite the chill night air.

Theron’s gut tightened. He recognized the bald man from the wanted posters General Morimoto had shown him. Severus Optimus was the moniker he cheekily went by; nobody knew his real name. He might not be the ultimate leader of the time thieves, but he was high up in their organization. Unlike Russell, who was little more than a gopher in charge of mice, he might be aware of the more prominent army officers in the Alliance. If Theron was recognized here, surrounded by so many enemies, he would be dead.

He stepped to the side near the entrance, hugging the shadows and letting the rest of his group and the women filter in ahead of him. Would they all be traveling back together? It would be difficult to remain in the shadows permanently. Like Russell, Optimus wore a metallic bracer on one arm, a device that contained the controls for operating the machine, for returning the kidnappers to the present. Assuming everything worked. This was Theron’s first trip back through time, and he couldn’t help but be worried about making it back home, even if the general had assured him the machine had been tested.

Optimus’s gaze raked over the new group, mostly checking out the women, but he squinted at Theron for a long moment. Theron hoped it was only because he was a new man on the team. When Optimus’s gaze shifted away, he let out a breath of relief, but he still worried the bandit might recognize him by the light of day. Theron had been out in the field for three weeks, fighting back the desert invaders from the south, so he had already been scruffy, and he had let his hair and beard grow as soon as the general had told him about this mission, but facial hair and dirt alone might not be enough to save him from recognition. And if the coyotes realized they had a wolf in their midst, they wouldn’t appreciate it. Like the woman they had captured—he glanced toward Andie, who was standing quietly and taking in everything around her—Theron wouldn’t have a chance of fighting off so many. Worse than being killed, he would have failed his mission. All he had ever dreamed of rode upon this success. He could not fail, not now.

“Such a paltry few, Russell?” Optimus asked. “Four women?”

Russell ducked his head. He was older than Optimus, but Theron had not been incorrect in identifying him as a submissive underling.

“This is not a highly populated area, my lord,” Russell said.

My lord? Maybe seventeenth-century terminology was coming back into vogue after all.

“We did find some gasoline and other useful items.”

“Of course it’s not populated, you goat’s ass,” Optimus said. “That’s why we chose it. But Brenner’s group had no trouble finding some women.” He stepped aside, gesturing grandly at the cowering figures hunkering against the wall in the shadows. Someone lifted a lantern, so their faces were visible.

Theron clenched a fist. Women? They were scarcely more than girls. The youngest might have been twelve, and he doubted the oldest was more than sixteen or seventeen. They all wore green uniforms, the material torn and dirt-stained from what must have been a difficult journey to reach this cave. Theron couldn’t guess at the significance of the outfits, but he could tell right away that they did not have military experience, so it was nothing like that. His history-loving lieutenant, Gideon Davies, could have identified the garb. Not for the first time, Theron found himself missing his unit. If he’d had his men here, he could have done something more effective than clenching his fists. He could have taken out all of these criminals and returned the women to where they had come from. True, he wouldn’t find the market or have the opportunity to destroy the time machine if he acted here, but standing idly by grated at him like salt in a wound.

He caught Andie with her fists clenched, too, her shoulders tight as she strained at the rope wrapping her wrists. Theron toyed with the idea of cutting her free and sticking a knife and a gun in her hand, then fighting alongside her. It wouldn’t be quite like going into battle with Johnson, Tackle, and Cougar at his side, but he would like seeing her fight again.

“They’re real nice,” Russell said, his eyes gleaming as his gaze raked the teenagers. “All fertile breeders?”

Theron pulled his attention back to the leader of the kidnappers, reminding himself that this wasn’t the time for fantasy. Besides, if he gave Andie a knife right now, she would try to stick it into his gullet. She had no way to know he was an ally, and he dared not tell her, lest she knock away his cover.

“We’ll leave the marketplace to determine that,” Optimus said.

The marketplace where, Theron longed to ask. According to the general, it was somewhere around the Puget Sea, but nobody in the military had been able to find it yet. It didn’t help that most of the units had been busy fighting outside invaders hungry for water and food the last three years. They hadn’t expected to have to put men and resources they didn’t have into dealing with criminals operating from within the Alliance.

“We’ll split into two groups, to minimize our losses if we’re discovered,” Optimus said. “I’ll take the virgins. They’ll bring in gold by the bar—I’m sure of it. Russell, you’ll go ahead and take the others. If you come across any trouble, I expect a warning. But don’t get into trouble.” His eyes narrowed. “I don’t want to lose anyone. Even the older women are plenty young enough to bear a couple of babes at least.”

Theron wondered if he would continue to be in Russell’s group. He hoped so; in part because none of those men had shown an inkling of recognizing him yet, and in part because he wanted to make sure Blackie and the others didn’t get their wish, to take advantage of the captives on the way to this market.

“Market?” one of the older uniformed girls asked. “What do you mean? Where are you taking us?”

Theron leaned forward, his attention sharpening. He didn’t expect Optimus to openly tell the girl, but maybe he would reveal more than he had thus far.

But all Optimus said when he turned toward her, eyeing her with unabashed avarice, was, “Where women are needed.”

“China?” Min-ji asked. She had managed to maneuver closer to her friend.

Andie’s shoulders shifted, like she might be trying to work her bonds free. She had her back close to the stone wall, so Theron could not see, but he wondered if the two women were up to something. Had Min-ji managed to pass something to Andie? Her hands had also been tied, but they were in front of her instead of behind her back. Nobody else seemed to being paying attention to them. No, most of the men were ogling the younger women. Theron reminded himself that he wasn’t responsible for keeping Min-ji and Andie from escaping and that he would be pleased if they managed to do so.

“What?” Optimus frowned at her.

“Are you taking us to China?” Min-ji asked. “There’s a bride shortage there, isn’t there? Because of the one-child rule the government has been enforcing and people preferring boys for so long?”

“One-child rule?” Optimus truly appeared stunned at the statement. Whether it was because he simply couldn’t imagine such a thing or was unaware of the population problems that had been a huge part of this century, Theron couldn’t guess. He would think someone who dipped into Roman history for his name would be more of a historian. “Such a strange problem to have,” Optimus finally muttered, then raised his voice. “You’ll find out when you get there, girl. Now tell me, do you belong in the virgin group or not?”

Min-ji’s mouth sagged open. These kidnappers did have an off-putting bluntness. Among other things.

“If you don’t tell us, we’ll have to do an inspection.” Optimus smiled, nothing friendly about the gesture as he eyed Min-ji and the other women.

Inspection? Theron looked to the ceiling, to the heavens. Even with the Lord’s strength, how could he stand by and do nothing while such a thing occurred in front of him? He found himself looking around, assessing the numbers again, wondering if he could possibly do something by himself. In addition to the women, more stolen goods were stacked against one of the walls of the cave: food items, a few electronic devices, camping gear, and several jugs of gasoline. If he could dump out one of those jugs, expose the gasoline to the oxygen in the air and light it, maybe he could cause enough chaos that he could gain the upper hand in a fight.

Against forty men, Theron? You’re not a god. You’re not even that young anymore.

He sighed at the voice in the back of his mind. It was not wrong. He would get himself shot, and then what protection would these women have? And who would contact headquarters to let them know where the rogue time machine was?

“Take their clothes off,” Optimus ordered. “All of them.” He gestured to the uniformed girls too. “We can’t assume that just because they’re young that they’re virgins. Given all the people that were in the world in this time period, some of the women had to be jumping anything with a cock.”

Theron wanted to clobber the man, for the foul language and everything that was so utterly wrong about this whole situation. Instead, he shifted a couple of steps to the side, toward the gas jugs. Starting a fight he couldn’t win was idiotic and might get him killed, but he couldn’t endure Optimus inspecting every woman in here.

Unfortunately, he had chosen his spot poorly when he first entered the cave, and twenty feet and many men stood between him and that cache. Still, several kidnappers had begun disrobing their captives, leering as they did so. The fact that not one of them objected made Theron want to burn every man in the room with his plan.

One thing at a time. He inched closer, trying to look like he wasn’t moving at all, should anyone glance in his direction. Even if most eyes were toward the women, some of the thieves stood back with their weapons in hand, maintaining a more professional guard stance. Theron had already noted that several of those men had rifles from the time period, ones that could fire entire magazines full of cartridges before needing to be reloaded. If he could get one of those for himself, he could definitely do some damage.

Fabric ripped as the men cut away the women’s clothing. Some of the girls in the back whimpered. The sound made Theron cringe. Nobody should have to endure this indignity—and what was sure to become more than indignity—but especially not such young women.

Min-ji had tears in her eyes, but she looked at her friend, a question there, as well. Andie nodded once. She looked toward the cache of stolen goods, even as her captors cut her clothing away. Calculation glittered in her brown eyes. Theron might have an ally in the battle he was planning, whether she thought of him as one or not. He vowed to cut her bonds as soon as he had a chance.

“Virgin,” Optimus announced. “Over there. Next.”

Theron paused, frowning in the man’s direction. Optimus wasn’t doing a physical check, at least not in the invasive way Theron had imagined, but instead, held a small device against each woman’s bare abdomen. Oh, his hands did roam unprofessionally as he did his checks, and guards held the young captives so they could not shy away, though they certainly tried, but as soon as a red or green indicator came on, he waved the subject to stand in one group or the other and moved onto the next woman. Not surprisingly, most of his previously uniformed captives went into the virgin group, though two who looked too young to be sexually active were guided toward the other group, one with her cheeks flushing red. Hell, to Theron, they all looked too young to be sexually active. He might not have any children, but he was old enough that any one of the uniformed girls could have been his daughter. The thought of them being sold to the highest bidder made his fingers tighten into fists again.

He took a couple more steps toward the gasoline canisters. Three men stood in front of the area. Whether they had been assigned to guard the goods or had merely chosen that spot when everyone had entered the cave, Theron did not know. All three of them were watching the naked girls, their eyes hungry. One of them dropped a hand down, openly rubbing his crotch. Theron hoped he managed to light that one on fire.

“You going somewhere, new blood?” one of the men asked, turning his eyes from the girls to Theron.

Apparently, this one hadn’t been as engaged as his buddies. He tapped the stock of his rifle as he met Theron’s eyes. The motion caused his sleeve to droop slightly, revealing a bracer on his wrist, one identical to the one Optimus wore. One that could call to the time machine back in their own century, letting it know its travelers were ready to come home. The bracers were simple, with all of the complicated parts being back on the machine itself. Press and hold down the button on the side, and one went home.

The guard followed his stare, curled a lip, and yanked his sleeve down. Realizing he had made himself more suspicious by taking such a long look, Theron shrugged easily and met the man’s eyes, as if he had nothing to hide.

“Yeah. Came to see you. I saw you earlier, talking to Optimus.” Theron had seen no such thing, but he assumed that the men in the other group had all “talked” to their leader at some point during this raid. “Do you have any idea how much we’ll end up making once the girls are sold? If they’re getting split off, and we get sent with the less valuable group, will we get a cut from the other group?”

“What makes you think you deserve a cut of anything? You didn’t come in with a woman or anything else in your arms.” The guard shifted so that he stood in front of the gasoline jugs, as if he knew exactly what Theron had in mind.

“I helped get those two.” He resisted the urge to wave toward Min-ji and Andie, reminding himself that he had suspected them of being up to something. If they were, he did not want to draw anyone’s attention to them.

“Did you.” The guard’s flat tone made it seem like it wasn’t a question. His eyes narrowed, and he searched Theron’s face.

Hell, maybe one of Optimus’s minions would be the one who recognized Theron. This one must be trusted, if he had been given one of the bracers to wear.

Theron turned toward the center of the cave, as if he cared what Optimus was doing next. In truth, he only wanted to keep the guard from having a long look at him. His face should be less recognizable in profile. He pulled out his knife, hoping to further distract the guard, though he made it clear right away that he was simply flipping it in his hand, not intending to use it as a weapon.

As he had hoped, the guard’s gaze was drawn to the blade. A testament to all the years he had spent in the field with nothing better to do, Theron could juggle knives and do all manner of tricks even with just one. He tossed this one in the air, bouncing the hilt off the back of his hand and catching it. Whatever entertained the guard. It was the sort of handling he could do in his sleep, so he watched Optimus while he did it and contemplated how he was going to light the gasoline on fire. He had matches in his pack, but not in a pocket or anywhere he could reach without digging around. The jug itself shouldn’t present much of a problem; the plastic had to be sturdy, but he was fairly certain he could throw the knife and pierce it.

Optimus had finished separating his group of captives, and he strode across the cave to Min-ji and Andie. Andie was still framed by men on either side of her and wasn’t likely to make it to the exit if she tried to run, but her shoulders seemed looser than they had before. Her hands were still behind her back, but she might have freed them and was pretending they were still bound. Or maybe her friend had freed them somehow. Min-ji stood in front of her, her own hands still bound, but they might have used their bodies to block the views of those around them.

Optimus checked Min-ji first. “Not a virgin. That group.” He waved her away.

She gave Andie a long look, then took a circuitous route toward the smaller collection of women, one that caused her to walk near the cache of supplies. With her no longer blocking his line of sight, Theron had an open view of Andie. She had an intriguing collection of tattoos that ran across her shoulders and met in the middle of her chest, above the valley between her breasts. Whether that had been the original intention of the tattoos or not, Theron caught himself admiring the curve of her flesh, the peaks of her nipples tight in the chilly cave. Neither small nor large, her breasts were just the right size for a man to cup and fondle before letting his hand roam lower, down the smooth muscles of her abdomen to her belly button, where a small gold bar pierced the flesh. He imagined playing with that with his tongue and then tracing her inviting, tan skin lower, brushing past the black curls of her pelvis to dip into—

He jerked his gaze up, his cheeks heating with shame. Of all the inappropriate times to think of sex. Was he truly as much of an animal as the thugs around him? His embarrassment deepened when he realized Andie was looking at him, her jaw tight, her eyes hard as Optimus pressed his device against her abdomen. The fresh bruise blossoming on her cheek only made him feel guiltier for ogling her. Had she seen him staring at her? She must have.

“Why don’t you put away the blade, new blood?” the guard beside Theron asked, nudging him with the muzzle of his rifle. Theron had forgotten he was still flipping the knife, it being such a habit that he could do it without paying attention. “You’re making me nervous, and my trigger finger gets twitchy when I’m nervous. Go stand over there, eh?”

“Not a virgin,” Optimus announced. “Imagine my shock.” He tweaked Andie’s nipple and waved her in the same direction that her friend had gone.

Min-ji had stopped to wait. No, she had stopped to fiddle with something in her hand. Flame burst out of a wrapper she held.

Theron was so startled that he almost didn’t react in time. The guard was lunging for Min-ji, while Andie was lunging for Optimus. With everyone focusing on them, Theron threw his knife. The guard had stepped forward to grab Min-ji, so the blade flew behind him, lodging in the closest gasoline container. The shouts that had erupted in the chamber echoed from the walls and covered the sound of the knife striking. Theron lunged in and yanked it free as he kicked over the container.

“What are you doing, girl?” the guard snarled, turning Min-ji around and pushing her toward the smaller group of women. But not before she spotted the gasoline dribbling onto the floor, forming a puddle behind the guard.

Theron did not know if she had noticed him knocking it over, not with the big guard blocking her view, but she reacted quickly to what was important. She managed to free her hand—she had to have burned herself, holding that fire—and flung the charred wrapper and a handful of flaming chemicals at the puddle.

Theron jumped away before the fire ignited. He grabbed the mace hanging on his belt and was about to clobber the guard when shouts and bangs came from the cave entrance. At first, he thought Andie might be escaping, knocking men aside to flee, but the kidnappers had swarmed her, pulling her arms behind her back. Optimus, a snarl on his lips, had raised his hand to strike her.

Theron raised his knife to throw it, intending to take the ass in the neck, but Optimus froze and stared at the cave entrance. A man was striding inside with more women and more fur-clad kidnappers behind him. Theron might have attacked, anyway, might have accepted that he had committed himself and his fate was sealed, but he recognized the man, and that recognition stunned him into inaction. It wasn’t another thug whose face adorned the wanted posters back at the base. It was Major General Duckworth, the man who oversaw Alliance border protection and who was so high ranking that Theron’s nose would have bled if he had tried to climb up to sit next to him.

After all the battles he had been in, Theron never would have thought himself capable of panicking, but the only thought that jumped into his mind was that Duckworth would recognize him in an instant and that he couldn’t allow that to happen. Instead of hurling his knife, he lunged at the guard with the bracer. The man had turned from restraining Min-ji to flapping at the flames and kicking away the other canisters so nothing else would burn. Theron locked his hand around the guard’s flailing wrist and pressed the button on the bracer.

The man realized what he was doing right away and tried to yank his arm away. Theron hung on with all of his strength, while keeping his back to the cave entrance and hoping the general had not already recognized him. The guard growled and used his free arm to throw a punch at Theron’s face. Theron caught it with his bare palm—it wasn’t the first time men had taken cuts at him.

“What are you—” the guard started to demand, but white light flashed all around them.

He, Theron, and who knew how many other people disappeared from the twenty-first century.

~

If you would like to keep reading, please grab a copy of Stars Across Time here.

60 responses to “Stars Across Time Preview and a Mandrake Company Update”

  1. lynne says:

    Pls don’t leave the mandrake series until some of my burning questions get answered— did the techno druids move back to the devastated Grenavine to re- teraform it? Does Hazel have a story? Does the ship get a cook and could it possibly be Sergai as a secondary job? also whatever happened to Val’s brother? and I’d love to meet Ankari’s father!!!

    • Ruby says:

      Aww, at least one of those will come up in Lauren’s story! And I have a half-written novella, too, that solves the cook problem. Maybe. 😉

  2. Sherry says:

    These are great books. I’d hate for the fun to end.

    I will be picking up Stars Across Time this weekend. I’m looking forward to it!

    Thanks for all you do.

  3. Consider it purchased! I can’t wait to read it but also can’t wait for more Mandrakes!!

  4. Sheri Moore says:

    Just came across your e-mail regarding Stara Across Time. I
    hussled my bustle over to Amazon on 1-clicked it. Thanks for the heads up. Sounds like my kind of story.

  5. Celestine says:

    I think your Mandrake series is continuing exceedingly strong. No cookie-cutter characters here. Each heroine is her own person with her own quirks. So glad to hear Lauren will be getting her own story, but I hope Hazel gets a quick little HEA. Plus reading the antics of Chief of Boom Striker is always great! Just downloaded Stars Across Time!

    • Ruby says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Celestine, and for checking out the new story as well. I am still having fun with the Mandrake Company guys, so we’ll see how many more adventures there might be. I can always come back to it after taking a little break (but Lauren’s story is definitely coming before any breaks)!

  6. Susie says:

    I just finished stars across time. The timing was perfect to be a sick-day read. I’m definitely voting for more books in this series!

  7. Sheri Moore says:

    Loved Stars Across Time. Mega yes for this to become a series.

  8. Dawn says:

    I will be picking up Stars and any of the stories that you write. You have become one of my favorite authors! I definitely want more Mandrake stories and can’t wait to see what happens for Lauren. I also want to see more of Striker.I think his story begs to be told.

    Excellent work!

  9. Mary Jones says:

    Hi Ruby,
    Just finished all 5 of your Mandrake series books and are just about to start reading Stars across time. I love your Mandrake series characters, they are fresh and the stories are anything but predictable. I love that some of your heros are awkward . Gregor even appears to suffer from a form of asperger’s syndrome. Thanks for that. I have a handsome but socially awkward son, so this gives me hope for him. I also love the fact that there is no bondage/whipping sex scenes that so many scifi romance writers seem to fill their novels with lately. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy this type of degrading writing and usually just skim those sections and pick it up again when the story begins again. I much prefer your love scenes where everyone comes out on top.

    • Ruby says:

      Thank you for checking out the books, Mary, and for taking the time to stop by. I’m glad you’re enjoying the series! It’s probably clear that I’m not a fan of the alpha-jerk types of heroes (or whips and chains :D). I’m glad there are folks who have fun with my sometimes awkward and sometimes geeky fellows. Take care, and happy reading!

  10. k kennedy says:

    Mandrake series is great, but I think you have another hit series with stars across time, you have a niche for creating well developed characters that are so believably wonderful.

  11. Gayle says:

    I read the mandrake series and really enjoyed it. The series is well written and drew me in. I really enjoyed the series. I would love to see more books.

    I read your new book, Stars across time, and it is a great book as well. It would make a great series.keep writing!

  12. Ola says:

    I just finished Mandrake series, read them all in 3 days, couldn’t put it down. I love how beautifully your heroes love their women 🙂 and so hope you won’t stop writing this series!! Please 🙂
    Can’t wait for Lauren’s story and would love to read Azarow, Hazel and Striker’s happy endings. Would love to see Striker fall real hard, it would be really interesting to see what you would ‘do’ with him 😉
    And will Victor ever actually say the L word out loud? 🙂
    I’m starting Stars across time today, thanx for your writing and please don’t make us wait long for your next book! 🙂

  13. Monique says:

    I never, EVER, feel the need to post comments or contact authors regarding their work but the Mandrake series was so much fun I was compelled to break from the norm. Love, love, love the series. You are responsible for about a week’s worth of being completely unproductive and letting my house get downright grungy. Not time to clean when there is a book that needs reading.

    I read so much and find that many of the plot lines and characters seem so predicative and repetitive. Thank you for giving us original characters and plots to enjoy. Your main characters are strong, quirky, beautifully flawed and definitely original. I’m so looking forward to more. I’m with Ola, I want to see the Chief of Boom go BOOM! and get his romantic comeuppance. There is a lot of rehab work to do him though. Good luck with that!

    I’m going to get Stars Across Time now. Another day or two of slacking off won’t hurt at this point.

    • Ruby says:

      Hi, Monique! I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing the kind words. I’m glad you’re enjoying the series and having fun with the characters. I definitely like to keep them quirky. 🙂 I’ll keep your request in mind for Striker, hah! Thanks for checking out SAT too. Take care, and happy reading!

  14. Celestine says:

    Glad to see this notice/thread is still going and people are still gushing. I am happy to see I am not the only one wondering what a talented author such as yourself could do to redeem Chief of Boom in a woman’s eyes!

  15. Helen says:

    I’m all for more Mandrake stories… They’re really fun. When can we expect Lauren’s story ? I don’t think you should stop there though… What about this new firefighter who’s scared of spiders ?

    • Ruby says:

      Azarov is the hero in the novella I’m working on. 🙂 Yes, Lauren may finally get hooked up in the next novel…

  16. Molly says:

    Hi,
    So I just got Mercenary Instinct because it showed up on Bookbub, I like it and would like to read more. However from your website it looks like the other books are only available on Kindle and I use a Nook. Will the other books in the series be coming to Nook? When? Thank you.

  17. Deniece says:

    I thoroughly enjoy the Mandrake Company series. Have purchased the first 5 so far and hope to see more. Your characters are likeable and make for an enjoyable read. These stories provide the correct balance of space opera and romance

    Like hearing about Viktor and Ankiari in the other books but have enjoyed the story of their relationship.

    Please keep writing on this series as you remind me of Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant books.

    Thank you also for skipping the graphic sex that so many authors think they must add to their books.

    • Ruby says:

      Thanks for picking up the series, Deniece. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying them! Linnea Sinclair was my introduction into SF romance several years ago. Wish she was still writing them! 🙂

      • Deniece says:

        Thank you for the response. I am always looking for a good story to enjoy. While waiting for more Mandrake Company books I have found E.M.Foner and the Union Station (Earthcent Ambassador) books.

        Best Regards

  18. Clare says:

    I loved reading all your books (including all the EE series etc) and looking forward to more. I think my husband is a little jealous of my e reader at present since I’ve practically devoured them one after another. Please do carry on with your mandrake series. It’s been great to read something with action, heart, wit and a romance and with strong female characters.

    Like Monique I have never felt compelled to comment on authors blogs, but since I’ think I’ve read your entire collection I wanted to feedback that your stories are addictive and heartwarming and Well just such fun. So thank you and I look forward to reading more. In the meantime I’ll check out some of the authors you’ve suggested.

    • Ruby says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Clare! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the stories, and I hope your husband doesn’t mind the reading addiction too much. 🙂

  19. Amy says:

    So glad to hear that there is at least one more Mandrake book coming out(seriously jonesing over here, woman…)and Tick is just too delicious to leave unattended….

    However comma don’t you think that Stryker deserves a book too? I mean, through all the books he has kind of grown on me. Yes, like fungus, but still…. He is a diamond in the rough!

    You are always awesome sauce, and I swear I would read your grocery list you write so well!

    🙂

    • Ruby says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Amy! Yes, at least one more novel and a novella that will be out in an anthology next month. 🙂 We’ll see about Striker… heh.

  20. Kelly says:

    Loving the book, can’t put it down. Would love a sequel.

  21. Kiki says:

    Another one here who LOVES the Mandrake series! I love how the heros and heroines are all flawed, odd individuals, who none the less fall in love with their partners…despite the flaws. If I wasn’t already married, I would say it gives us fellow odd-balls of the world hope to find our one true partners in life.

    Anyway, so….the next Mandrake series book comes out when?? Lauren and Tick definitely deserve a story. Striker needs one too….he needs to all hard and fall bad, he is redeamable, despite his rough edges! A guy who draws comics can’t be all bad 😉

    • Amy says:

      Stryker- right?! I said the same thing. He so grew on me! Lol!
      Amy
      😉

    • Ruby says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying them, Kiki! Next up is a novella in a bundle with other authors that’s coming out in July. I’ll post a few more details soon. I still have to write Tick’s adventure–I do have it plotted out. 🙂

  22. Nurit says:

    Hi, just finished reading Stars Across Time. I loved it, although the future seems a bit depressing… But still, it was very interesting and full of imagination.
    I would love reading more about Andie, Theron and other characters from this book.

  23. Diane E Matters says:

    This last week I started reading my first Ruby Lionsdrake book, Mercenary Instinct. This is a very good story and I plan to read every book in the series. I’ve gotten so tired of the kindle “first in a series free book offer” where the book is written so terribly bad I am thankful I got it for free. When I do get a freebie and it IS a read where I can tell it is written by a polished writer who is a good storyteller I am so happy. I’m glad there are 4 more in this series to read after this one.

    • Ruby says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Diane. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and hope you have fun with the other ones too. 🙂

  24. Norma Ivone says:

    I’ve just read Stars across time and I loved it! Fun, adventure and romance, what else can we ask for? I’m also a fan of Mandrake series.Thank you for these enjoyable readings. Greetings from Mexico!

    • Ruby says:

      Thanks for giving a different type of story a try, Norma. I’m glad you enjoyed it! And hello in Mexico. Pretty hot down there? I live in Arizona for most of the year. 🙂

  25. susie says:

    I was hard up for a good book and just reread stars across time. Still love it 🙂
    Are there more books planned?

  26. Diane E Matters says:

    I’m at 23% read while I am drinking my morning coffee. I really disliked having to stop reading this story last night because this book was so good. You have again impressed me with your gift of storytelling, Ruby. I’m a big Mandrake fan though this is such a nice departure from reading a favorite series. Thank you!

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