Thanks for having me as your guest yet again, with a new excerpt from my latest release, Danger in the Stars!
I’m not normally drawn to stories involving organized crime but I had this fascination about what would happen to an alien woman from an unsophisticated planet, kidnapped because of her rare empathic powers, and forced to work for the Amarotu Combine, my interstellar mob. There seemed to be so many possibilities inherent in the situation – how would she survive, what would they force her to do with her powers, how could she retain her identity and her sense of worth, who would be a hero for her? What would happen if she felt herself falling into genuine love with someone in the organization? Not Stockholm Syndrome, may I hasten to add, which is where a victim may start to feel affection or emotion toward the captors as a psychological survival strategy. I tried to ensure that both Miriell and Conor, the hero, were crystal clear what the situation was and that their emotions were genuine, not an outgrowth of her predicament. Miriell is a very strong, senior priestess of her people, and remains clear eyed at all times about those who hold her prisoner, including Conor. But her powers tell her he’s keeping secrets. None of which deter him from preventing her escape attempt early in the book.
Here’s the story for Danger in the Stars:
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.
Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.
The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?
VS Note: This is the story of the sister who is mentioned in passing in Star Cruise: Stowaway, my story in the award winning PETS IN SPACE anthology. The new novel is completely standalone.
Excerpt – Soon after arriving on a new planet with her criminal handler, Jareck, Miriell seizes a rare chance to escape but is caught by Conor, the local Mob enforcer. He works for the planet’s crime boss, Opherra:
When she reached the lower floors of the hotel, other people were in the tube, apparently prevented somehow from ascending to the penthouse but able to use the gravlift unhindered below a certain level. For the most part, the other guests ignored her, although excitement and terror made her clumsy, and she bumped into several. She exited at the lobby along with a group of excitedly chattering tourists, human and nonhuman sentients, all babbling about the temple ruins on their itinerary for the day’s trip. Scurrying in their wake through the crowded entrance hall, she hoped a casual observer would think her part of the group.
The outer doors opened at her approach, and a burst of adrenaline propelled her onto the sidewalk in a rush, jostling a couple who’d paused to check their AI’s. Murmuring an apology, she stepped away. Which way? What now? Frantic, she set off to the left toward what appeared to be a main street with heavy groundcar traffic. The necklace bobbed around her neck as she ran. No one had ever told her what the range of the controller was but the more distance she put between herself and Jareck, the more hopeful she felt. And the police the Amarotu were always talking about with loathing would be able to remove it, wouldn’t they?
Reaching the thoroughfare, Miriell stopped in confusion. There were so many people and so many vehicles. How did one find these police?
“Excuse me—” She tried to stop one of the hurrying citizens, but he shrugged her off and shouldered past, as did the next person.
Changing tactics, Miriell approached a woman waiting with two small children to cross the street. “How do I find the police?”
“Now, darling, no need for involving the cops. The authorities have better things to do.” The deep voice swirled around her as Conor hauled her in, not ungently, and held her close in a parody of affectionate care. His arms were like steel around her, his muscles unyielding. “I told you, the hotel will be able to take care of the problem.”
Pushing against him in frustration, Miriell swore at Conor in her own language. To be so close to escaping…
Mouth open, the woman was staring at them. As her children tugged at her hands, she said directly to Miriell, “Are you all right?”
“My wife’s fine,” Conor answered smoothly. “Aren’t you, honey? We just arrived today. She gets disoriented a bit by cryo sleep. Waking dreams for the first day or so. You know how it is, I’m sure. I’ll get her back to the hotel, get some nice hot tea into her, and she’ll be herself again, good as ever. Thanks for your concern.”
Conor’s grip was now crushing her elbow. Miriell nodded, fighting back tears. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. I hope I didn’t frighten the children.”
Uncertain, hesitant, the woman scooped up her smaller child, tightened her grip on the other and sprinted across the street as the traffic paused in obedience to signals Miriell didn’t see.
“Not your smartest move,” Conor said in a low voice as he pulled Miriell away, retreating toward the hotel. “We have to get you back to the room before Opherra learns you escaped. Her punishments tend to be swift and harsh. Fortunately, she’s addicted to long baths, so we have a window of opportunity.”
“Please—” She knew there was no mercy to be had from an Amarotu soldier, but it was heartbreaking to come so close to escaping the nightmare her life had become. She sagged in his hold as her knees weakened. “I’m nothing to you. Let me go, I beg you.”
He shook his head, gripping her arm more tightly as he pulled her along. “You’re part of my boss’s operation. It’s my job to secure her assets and watch her back….”
There’s an excellent reason why Veronica Scott is a Best Seller and a Multiple times Award Winner. She is reliably a great buy.
I just finished her latest book. Danger in the Stars, is absolutely fabulous!
It begins with a powerful telepathic slave from a human'ish' species being brought to this planet to use her talents on a reluctant potential business partner. The first chance Miriell has to escape, she goes for it. Unfortunately, Conor is #2 in Lady Opherra growing crime syndicate and he has to bring the young woman back. Unlike her handler, Conor is firm but gentle and kind, but he cannot allow her to run off. She is here because the big boss thinks she can help Lady Opherra achieve her objective. The Lady Opherra does not believe she needs any assistance and grows to hate Mirielle.
Miriell hates the planet because it has few trees, but lots of buildings. She relies on the essence of nature to heal and strengthen her, so she is weakened by this planet. Fortunately, Conor takes her to various gardens while on the planet. The last one being the most critical. (You’ll have to read the book to find out why.)
While Miriell does not trust easily and despite that Canon is Lady Opherra’s right hand guy, Miriell grows to trust him, and they develop a love that nothing can break, even though they must keep it a secret for most of the book.
The first half is mostly establishing the characters, their loves and hates, plus Lady Opherra’s constant deceit and viciousness. The second half is full-on action and betrayals, then we are rewarded with a fabulous HEA. I couldn’t ask for more!
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”