Five Moons Rising is out!!

That’s right, you can get it in your hot little hands. Right. Now! I’m excited (and a wee bit terrified), and I hope you are too.

This book was a long time coming for me. I first started writing it as part of NaNoWriMo. I knew I wanted to write something paranormal. Part of the fun of the paranormal universe is that there are so many different myths and legends to choose from and incorporate, and I was looking forward to doing that. I got to pick and choose what my beasties could do. For example, in this universe, werewolves are not negatively affected by silver. They don’t do much to discourage that assumption, though. Silver makes for crappy weapons, and they’re happy to keep would-be werewolf hunters at a disadvantage.

The other thing I wanted was to write something dark. There are certainly very dark moments in my On Deception’s Edge trilogy, but overall, I see it as a very hopeful story. This one was going to be different. I relished the chance to write about monsters of all stripes, including the human variety. As I wrote it, I came to realize that for my characters being a monster was about the choices they made, not whether or not they were human. I certainly wasn’t looking to make my supernatural creatures cuddly. (In this book, I use the term supranormal instead of supernatural. In terms of the story, it’s a term developed by the government that means those beings that are beyond or who transcend “normal.” After all, if supras are being kept under wraps, there can’t be people wandering around talking about the supernatural all the time.)

So I started writing. A lot. For those of you who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. (My wife likes to refer to is as FroYoPoMo, though I can never get a straight answer as to exactly what that’s supposed to stand for.) Sadly, my plans for NaNoWriMo were derailed by life, as so often happens. That November was the same month my relationship of fourteen years ended. I had far less than the 50,000 words one has to write to “win” NaNo, but the timing simply wasn’t there.

The following year, things had calmed down significantly, so when November rolled around again, I dusted off the Five Moons Rising manuscript. To my surprise, I really liked what I’d written so far. The first couple of days of NaNo were spent reading it over, which put me at a deficit to begin with. For me, NaNo works best if I write about 1700 words a day. When I start slacking is when I get into trouble, and here I was slacking by getting into my own story. Still, I prevailed and was able to complete NaNoWriMo that year. I wrote my 50,000 words and was most of the way done with my manuscript. Those of you who have read my other work, you’ve probably realized that I don’t do short well. There was definitely some writing that had to be done to complete the story, but that was going to have to wait.

When I wrote my debut novel, Depths of Blue, I had no other demands on my writing time. In fact, I wrote the first draft of the entire trilogy back to back to back. Five Moons was my first experience of having to juggle multiple novels at various points in the publishing pipeline. While I was trying to finish up my latest manuscript, I had to put it aside to work on edits for Heights of Green. By the time I got back to Five Moons, I simply wanted to finish the manuscript. As a result, the pacing felt strange to me, and I really wasn’t certain if I’d written a decent story or not. I put the manuscript aside for a few weeks before starting on revisions, which is pretty typical for my writing process.

After getting the manuscript polished to the point where I felt I had a decent final draft, I sent it off to my publisher and promptly got sucked into edits for Vortex of Crimson, then working on some short stories before starting a new project. (Actually, I started a few new projects, but the one that stuck was Demon in the Machine. Look for that one next year.)

So imagine my surprise when I got Five Moons back for edits and I found that I really liked the story. I’d gotten so sick of it, and the experience of writing it had been so disjointed compared to my first go-around, that I was half convinced it was terrible. It turns out it wasn’t! The big problem during edits is that I’d find myself reading the story instead of working on changes. The more time I spent with Malice and Ruri, the more I fell in love with them all over again. And as usual, my editor (the incomparable Medora MacDougall) had excellent suggestions. With her help, Five Moons Rising became a book I knew I could truly be proud of.

So here she is, finally. My fourth-born, of whom I’m inordinately proud. I hope you’ll come to love her as much as I do.

 

bel-fivemoonsrisingFive Moons Rising, now out!

Unknown to regular citizens, nightmarish creatures lurk in the dark underbelly of human civilization. The presence of these supranormals (“supras”)—werewolves, vampires, demons—is a closely guarded government secret, as is the existence of a cadre of specially engineered Hunters charged with exterminating them.

Code-named Malice, Hunter Mary Alice Nolan was genetically modified and rigorously trained to use her great strength, heightened senses, and killer instincts to track and eliminate supras who prey on the innocent. A loner by choice, her only real link to the human world is her close connection to her mother and sister—until the unthinkable happens…
Ruri Samson has been a werewolf for more than a century and is comfortably situated as the Beta of her peaceful pack. Until she is betrayed by the woman she loves and an evil outsider massacres her Alpha and his most loyal followers. Barely escaping with her life, Ruri is forced to tread the perilous path of a lone wolf while vowing vengeance against the usurper and his minions.

Although these two powerful women should rightfully despise each other, fate will soon compel them to join forces on a dangerous quest to avenge their loved ones—and will ignite a forbidden passion that neither of them ever imagined.

Available directly from Bella Books or Amazon.

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Five Moons Rising, Meet the Characters: Ruri

No romance is complete without another main character. While Five Moons Rising may be paranormal fiction, there is a strong romantic subplot, and who better to play the counterpoint to dark and brooding Malice than Ruri Samson?

Ruri has been a werewolf for over a century. She knows her place in the world and she’s very content in it. Ruri is her pack’s Beta, and she has a knack for werewolf middle management. While she could probably have been Alpha to her own pack, she is happy in her role as Beta. She gets to do the fun stuff-taking care of her packmates, making sure their situation is stable and comfortable-without any of the pesky challenges and much fewer of the day-to-day dominance games that go along with being Alpha.

Above all, Ruri is responsible, so when things go terribly wrong and her Alpha is killed while her pack torn apart around her, she blames herself. Not only that, but she’s suddenly thrust into the human world as a lone wolf, with no pack bonds to fall back upon, and no experience being on her own in the 21st century. She has no official identity and no legal avenues through which to make money. All she has to keep herself focused is a thirst for revenge against the rogue Alpha who destroyed her life.

And then she crosses paths with Malice…


bel-fivemoonsrisingFive Moons Rising, out June 20, 2017

Unknown to regular citizens, nightmarish creatures lurk in the dark underbelly of human civilization. The presence of these supranormals (“supras”)—werewolves, vampires, demons—is a closely guarded government secret, as is the existence of a cadre of specially engineered Hunters charged with exterminating them.

Code-named Malice, Hunter Mary Alice Nolan was genetically modified and rigorously trained to use her great strength, heightened senses, and killer instincts to track and eliminate supras who prey on the innocent. A loner by choice, her only real link to the human world is her close connection to her mother and sister—until the unthinkable happens…
Ruri Samson has been a werewolf for more than a century and is comfortably situated as the Beta of her peaceful pack. Until she is betrayed by the woman she loves and an evil outsider massacres her Alpha and his most loyal followers. Barely escaping with her life, Ruri is forced to tread the perilous path of a lone wolf while vowing vengeance against the usurper and his minions.

Although these two powerful women should rightfully despise each other, fate will soon compel them to join forces on a dangerous quest to avenge their loved ones—and will ignite a forbidden passion that neither of them ever imagined.

Available directly from Bella Books or Amazon.

 

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Five Moons Rising, Meet the Characters: Malice

Holy crap, what happened to the time? I knew it had been a bit since  last posted, but I had no clue that was in February!

A lot has happened since then. I’ve been doing some custom work as a result of my Etsy store, so that’s been fun and interesting. It turns out that I’m not very good at estimating prices on first-run objects, so that’s been less good, but it’s meant some more money has been coming in.

I’ve also completed the final draft for my next-next release: Demon in the Machine. I actually sent that in to Bella Books yesterday, and on time no less, so yay there!

I managed to get the page proofs for Five Moons Rising taken care of also, which is good as that one is out in something like six weeks. Six weeks!!! (Or maybe less, I’m apparently not good with how time goes by, as we’ve just now established .)

Oh yeah, and I got a job. No big thing there. (It’s totally a big thing!) I’ve been unemployed since last August, so that one’s really a load off my mind. And no, I’m not making enough money from my writing to do that full time, so I’m safely in the same boat as the majority of the other writers out there.

But!!!

That’s not what I wanted to talk about today. As I mentioned, Five Moons Rising is out soon, which means I need to tell all of you a bit more about that project, and I thought I’d do that by introducing you to the characters.

So… Malice. How does one explain Malice?

To start, Malice is the code name for Mary Alice Nolan. She is a genetically-modified super soldier who is tasked with keeping the worst elements of the supranormal community in the greater Chicago area under control.

It turns out that our worst nightmares are real, and they inhabit a strange place between myth and real life. Werewolves, vampires, demons, and even faeries live in the seams of human society, doing their best to go undetected , and our government is happy to keep it that way. So happy, in fact, that they created a cadre of soldiers who make sure that those supras who may be on the edge of going rogue are taken out before humanity can confirm their existence.

These soldiers, called Hunters by the supra community, are few and far between. The process for creating them is long, grueling, and often deadly, and that’s just for getting the modifications. Once the Hunters are out in their communities, the mortality rate of their profession is pretty staggering, and there’s a high incidence of destructive behaviors that go along with this. These are people who live with one foot in the human world and the other in the supra world. To say that their lives are highly compartmentalized is an understatement.

Malice has managed to stay ahead of the curve. She isn’t dead, yet. Nor has she fallen into the clutches of addiction, but she doesn’t have the healthiest sex life. Since the establishment of personal relationships is frowned upon by her superiors, she’s coped by having a string of one night stands, but she’s starting to lose interest in those. What keeps her grounded is her relationship with her family. Any familial ties are a rarity among her group, but she’s especially lucky in that her sister lives in town. Her mother, Sophia, lives in New York, but little sister Cassidy moved out to Chicago for university. Mary Alice is as close with Cassidy as she’s able to be. They meet up for dinner or lunch once a week, except during mid-terms and finals.

So when the worst comes to pass, Mary Alice’s carefully balanced life is thrown into disarray. The parts of her life that she’s worked so hard to keep in their separate boxes start to become jumbled together. Her response to the crisis is logical, but not necessarily sane.

In Malice, I’ve created a character who is physically about as strong as she can be, but circumstances have created some pretty glaring weaknesses in her mental and emotional well-being. To a certain extent, she’s aware of these deficiencies, but she ends up in a very dark place as she works to hold together a life that is unraveling around her.

Malice is a take-charge, get-the-job-done kind of woman, but she’s about to find out there’s more to life than completing the task in front of her, and that sometimes even the right choices have devastating consequences.


bel-fivemoonsrisingFive Moons Rising, out June 20, 2017

Unknown to regular citizens, nightmarish creatures lurk in the dark underbelly of human civilization. The presence of these supranormals (“supras”)—werewolves, vampires, demons—is a closely guarded government secret, as is the existence of a cadre of specially engineered Hunters charged with exterminating them.

Code-named Malice, Hunter Mary Alice Nolan was genetically modified and rigorously trained to use her great strength, heightened senses, and killer instincts to track and eliminate supras who prey on the innocent. A loner by choice, her only real link to the human world is her close connection to her mother and sister—until the unthinkable happens…
Ruri Samson has been a werewolf for more than a century and is comfortably situated as the Beta of her peaceful pack. Until she is betrayed by the woman she loves and an evil outsider massacres her Alpha and his most loyal followers. Barely escaping with her life, Ruri is forced to tread the perilous path of a lone wolf while vowing vengeance against the usurper and his minions.

Although these two powerful women should rightfully despise each other, fate will soon compel them to join forces on a dangerous quest to avenge their loved ones—and will ignite a forbidden passion that neither of them ever imagined.

Available directly from Bella Books or Amazon.

Posted in Five Moons Rising | 2 Comments

What’s up in 2017?

bel-fivemoonsrisingWhat is up in 2017? As usual, I have lots of plans for my writing, and as usual, that’s the easy part. It’s becoming painfully obvious that the writing-adjacent stuff is as important as the actual-writing stuff, and I need to be more diligent about it, too.

So the writing stuff… This year, Five Moons Rising comes out. Already, I’ve been working with my editor on getting it polished up for publication in June. In fact, I returned the manuscript to her for the final time yesterday, now it goes to the proofers. I’m extremely excited about this one. It’s a departure from Jak and Torrin’s story, but I guarantee the readers will fall in love with Malice and Ruri like I did.

I’m also working my way through drafts of my next novel: Demon in the Machine. I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but I’m thinking either very late 2017 (which is probably a stretch), or more likely 2018 sometime. This one is a lot of fun. It’s not nearly as dark as my offerings to date, and since Five Moons does stray into rather dark territory on occasion, that’s probably a good thing. This one is steampunk set in Victorian London and features a half-demon archivist and a cat-burgling debutante.

I’m working on one short story right now, and I have plans for at least one more this year, maybe more. Like last year, these will probably be a combination of brand new characters/locations, and revisiting old worlds. That I’ll have to play by ear…

And of course, I’ll be starting another big project, once Demon is in the can and off to Bella. I have a lot of ideas (as usual), so picking one is going to be the hardest part. My little book of notes and ideas gets more and more full as time passes. If I ever lose it, I’m sunk.

Finally, the writing-adjacent stuff. On the fun end of the spectrum, I’ll be continuing to review books for The Lesbian Review, and I’m working with The Lesbian Talk Show on a new project! That’s right, Andi Marquette and I have teamed up to put on a podcast!! It’s called Lez Geek Out! and it explores where the lesbian community overlaps with popular/geek culture. Our first episode is up, and the next one should be out next week. I’m looking forward to this little adventure.

I’m going to the GCLS conference again this year! I had a really great time last year, and I got to meet lots of readers and fellow authors. This time, I’ll be going with a fresh new release, and I couldn’t be more excited!!!

On the less fun end of the spectrum is the beast I’ve been wrestling with since the publication of my first novel. That’s right, I still need to slay the marketing beast. But! I’ve been talking to people, and I have some ideas, so all I have to do now is implement them. Watch this space for an email newsletter. It’s my top priority once I get my current project put to bed.

So that’s it for me. I’m sure I’ll pick up some extra things as I go along, but for now, that’s the plan!

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2016 revisited

bel-vortexcrimson_2I wasn’t feeling too great about what I accomplished in 2016 until I took a look at what I actually did. Turns out I’ve been beating myself up for nothing, I actually got a decent amount of work done. There’s been a lot of upheaval in my life this year, what with a move across country, my current lack of a job, and the results of the election. This is why I do these posts. It’s easy to lose sight of what you’ve been working on when life happens.

So to recap, here was what I had planned for 2016:

  • Polish Five Moons Rising for delivery
  • Write a romantic short story for Bella
  • Write a freebie short to be posted here
  • Get Vortex of Crimson into shape for publication in October
  • Start a big new project for the second half of the year

I managed to get all that done, and then some! Five Moons Rising was delivered on time, even a couple days early, if I remember correctly. It’s currently slated to come out in June 2017, which is a bit of a bump back from its original release date of April 2017. That actually works pretty well with what else I have going on, so I’m not going to fret too much about it. My big hope is it comes out in time for the GCLS con, so I can do readings and some marketing then.

I wrote the romantic short story written for Bella. It ended up being called “The Getaway,” after a few title changes, and was published in Bella’s Happily Ever After anthology.

Not only did I get that freebie short story written, but I actually ended up writing two! The first is called “Touched,” and stands on its own. It’s pretty damn hot, but I hope it also makes the reader think. The second is “Landing Day,” and it’s a novelette featuring Jak and Torrin in their first major holiday together after the events of Vortex of Crimson. I had a lot of fun writing it. It felt like writing fanfic for my own characters. It’s been a while since I wrote those two, and getting to revisit them was fun. It also allowed me to start setting things up for more stories in that universe down the road. Was that a giant tease? Why, yes! Yes, it was. Anyway, they’re both available in PDF as free downloads. I’d like to get them converted to other formats so they’re more easily read on ereaders, but that’s yet to come, I’m afraid.

Vortex of Crimson did come out in October, so that was good. Less good was that I didn’t do all the marketing with it that I’d been planning. The election threw a wrench into a lot of things I was working on, and my marketing efforts, such as they are, took a big hit. So my biggest disappointment this year is in my inability to market myself under adverse conditions. It’s hard for me under the best of circumstances, but November definitely wasn’t that. So if you haven’t picked it up yet because you didn’t know about it, it’s out now! It’s the third book in the On Deception’s Edge trilogy. I know there are people who won’t start a series unless it’s finished, and this one is definitively done. Jak and Torrin’s story has come to a close (except for the little epilogue which is “Landing Day”), so you don’t have to worry that I’ll never finish it.

Finally, I more than started a new project for the second half of the year! I pretty much finished it too. My newest project, and one I’m currently working to get into submittable shape is Demon in the Machine. If you read my previous post planning for 2016, I had a few ideas for what the second big project was going to be. And I did none of them. This one is all new! Demon is steampunk set mainly in Victorian London. It features an opposites-attract romantic subplot between Briar: a half-demon archivist, and Isabella:  a high-society cat-burgling debutante. Their attraction grows at the intersection of a plot involving demonic forces and technological intrigue. They have no idea how high the stakes are, or how they’re going to handle the forces arrayed against them and the ones pulling them together. It’s great fun. I had a blast writing it. It’s much lighter than my previous novels have been. After Five Moons Rising, I was ready for a change of pace. Not that I didn’t have fun with Five Moons, but the story there is much darker.

So that’s what I was up to last year. Check in again when I try to wrap my arms around what 2017 will look like.

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Landing Day – Chapter 4

The fourth and final installment in Jak and Torrin’s holiday novelette, in which we find out exactly how big a mushball Torrin is.

The happiest of holidays to all my readers! I know 2016 was a rough year, but I’m thankful for each and every one of you. May 2017 be a far better year than the last one!


Chapter 4

Torrin was having second thoughts, which she didn’t care for at all. Jak already had one, hells she had two and access to others on the base. The gift idea that had seemed so genius to Torrin at the time ate away at her. Though from the way Jak kept eying the large brightly-wrapped package in the back seat of the car, she was intrigued. Covered as it was in traditional wrappings of yellow and orange, the box looked even bigger. There were other gifts piled back there, but Jak’s eyes had homed right in on her name on the tag.

Jak held a small pile of packages on her lap. She’d refused to let Torrin handle them, for which Torrin really couldn’t blame her, not after the way she’d tried to find out what she was getting the other day, not the number of times Jak had caught Torrin snooping about their flat. She hadn’t managed to discover Jak’s stash. Where had she been hiding them? Her smuggler’s sensibilities were highly offended. Torrin excelled at hiding loot, and uncovering it, but somehow Jak had managed to foil her highly developed instincts.

They arrived at her mothers’ house, the little bungalow nestled among sandy hills. Brown grasses showing only the occasional clump of green were all that was left of Irenya’s lawn during the dry season. It was a hot day, even for Nadi. The car’s interior had been nice and cool, but as soon as they opened the door, the heat enveloped them. It was so dry, any sweat evaporated off her skin immediately without cooling her anywhere near enough.

Irenya peered out the front door, then came out to meet them. The heat didn’t seem to bother her at all.

“Pass me some of those boxes,” she said to Torrin. “Let’s get you two inside as soon as possible.”

Jak had acclimated well enough to many things on Nadierzda, but the dry heat wasn’t one of them. She smiled gratefully and hurried up the walk. Torrin passed her mother enough boxes to be able to handle the rest. She made sure to hold on to Jak’s gift.

“Thanks,” Torrin said to Irenya.

“Don’t mention it,” Irenya replied. “I need your help to finish our present to Raisa.”

“Of course. How did you keep her away from the room?”

“It was easy enough. I claimed it as a place I could use to change out of my work clothes. I’ve been using it for months since you and I started talking about the project.”

“Clever.”

“We’ll see about that when she realizes I’ll be changing in the bedroom again.”

They were at the front door, so Torrin didn’t have to respond further. As soon as she stepped inside the tidy little house, she was swept into a hug by Raisa.

“Safe Landing, Torrin,” Raisa said.

“And to you, Raisa.” She shrugged to indicate her arms full of boxes. “Let me put these by the fountain and I’ll greet you properly.”

“When you get the chance.” Raisa gave her a final squeeze then let her go. “I’ve been told you’ll be helping your mother with a mysterious project. I’m to keep out of your way.” Her eyes sparkled with excitement.

They’d set up the fountain in the living room, in the same place it had been placed for as long as Torrin could remember. The fountain had been handed down to her mama from Tamra’s mama. It was one of the few reminders of her first wife that Irenya had kept, and all the more precious to her for it.

She took her time putting out the presents, while searching for her gift from Jak. There was nothing.

“You’re taking your time,” Jak said from the doorway. “Is everything all right?”

“She probably threw her back out.” Nat joined Jak by the door. She leaned against the frame. “I hear that happens a lot when you get older.”

“Very funny.” Torrin deliberately arranged a package just so, then stood up.

Jak watched her with wide-eyed innocence. Nat made no attempt to hide a wide grin.

“I need to help Mother with some things,” Torrin said with as much dignity as she could muster.

Nat stepped into the room. “Maybe we should open one present now.” Her eyes raked the pile of gaily-wrapped packages with poorly-concealed avarice. It was a line she used every year. She squatted in front of the presents.

“Not a chance,” Irenya said.

“But Mother, look at all that.” Nat’s outstretched arms took in the substantial pile. “How can you expect me to wait until after dinner?”

“It builds character.”

“They have this argument every year.” Torrin’s loud whisper to Jak was ignored by Nat and Irenya.

“I have more than enough character,” Nat said.

The words were the same as they’d been in previous years, but Irenya’s reaction was vastly different. She hesitated, her eyebrows knit together for a moment.

“One present then.”

Nat rocked back on her heels and turned to give Irenya a shocked glare. “I’m going to see if Mom needs help with the baking.” She brushed between Jak and Irenya in the doorway.

Jak and Torrin shared a look while Irenya reached toward Nat. She let her arm drop back to her side.

“I’ll check on her,” Jak said quietly.

Torrin nodded, and Jak followed in Nat’s wake. Nat didn’t take offense at what Jak said. She probably thought the sniper was the only one who understood.

“I can’t talk to her anymore,” Irenya said.

“She’s not mad at you, try to remember that.”

“I try, but it’s hard.” Torrin’s mother smiled bitterly. “It’s hard for me not to give it back to her when she gets angry.”

“I know.” Torrin reached around and draped an arm across Irenya’s shoulders. “I remember.” She squeezed gently to show she wasn’t trying to get in a dig. “You’re doing better this time.”

“Raisa’s a big help.” She straightened her back and dusted her hands off on her thighs. “We have work to do.” Irenya strode from the room, leaving Torrin to follow along in her wake.

There was much more work to do than Irenya had implied. To listen to her talk, it had sounded like she was almost finished. If the loom was even halfway assembled, Torrin would have been surprised. They had a lot of work to do if they were to be done by dinner. Torrin picked up a spanner and stepped into the fray.

As they worked, Torrin became uncomfortably aware that her mother was getting old. The sturdy muscles she’d developed over a lifetime of physical labor were still there, but they’d become ropey. Things simply took longer, which explained why there was so much to do on the loom. Torrin doubted Irenya had even noticed the decline. She’d put aside as much time as she’d normally needed for the project and was coming up short. Not that Torrin minded helping out. She liked to work with her hands, but if she’d known this was in the offing, she’d have brought her work gloves and coveralls.

The time passed quickly enough. Irenya responded with her typical monosyllabic answers when Torrin tried to engage her in conversation. Eventually, Torrin stopped trying, but she couldn’t take the refusal to chat personally. Irenya didn’t shut down conversation because she didn’t like Torrin, she simply didn’t like to talk. Torrin wished she’d realized that a couple decades ago. It would have saved her years of hurt feelings. Was this what growing up felt like? The ability to look at her parents’ actions and realize how little they had to do with her. For the first time, the silence between them didn’t feel awkward. Torrin hummed as she worked, a smile on her face.

By the time they finished, the sun had swung around to the back of the house and was barely kissing the horizon.

“Just in time for dinner,” Irenya said. She stretched broadly and rotated her neck until the joints popped loudly.

Torrin winced, she hated that sound. “I need a shower.”

“We both do. You take the one in the house, I’ll clean up quick in the outbuilding.”

When Torrin opened the door, the combined scents of goat and machinery lubricant in which they’d been laboring were wiped out by the smells of dinner. The top notes were savory, but she thought she could detect freshly-baked cookies and pudding beneath. She stood in the doorway, transported back to a time when she’d been young, when Landing Day had been the most anticipated time of the year, better even than the rodeo.

“Smells good, doesn’t it.” Irenya elbowed Torrin lightly in the side.

“It does.”

“Well, hurry up and shower so we can dig in. Sooner dinner’s done, sooner presents’ll be opened.” She looked behind her into the room. Irenya was as excited to give Raisa their gift as Torrin was to give Jak hers. Maybe. They shared a look of anticipation. “Go on.” Irenya pushed her out the door.

Torrin showered and changed in record time. The sonic shower made dealing with her hair a breeze, though it lacked the hedonistic pleasure of the water one she’d installed in their flat at Jak’s request. She had to borrow some of her mother’s clothes. They were a little short through the wrists and ankles and much more rustic than she preferred. No one would accuse Irenya of being fashion-forward. Still, the clothing would do for family. Torrin had nothing to prove here.

She made her way back to the kitchen. Jak and Nat sat chatting on one side of the counter while Raisa puttered about on the other, putting the finishing touches on dinner. Completely unaware of Torrin’s arrival, their discussion continued unabated,.

“How are the nightmares, then?” Raisa asked as she ladled gravy into a shallow dish.

“Getting better,” Nat said. “I sometimes get a full night’s sleep. My therapist is very pleased. The cats don’t like the nightmares at all, though. I wake up and they’re hiding under the bed. They don’t come out until I call for them.”

“Poor things.” Raise tutted sympathetically. “What about you, Jak?”

“It’s not so bad. Having Torrin there helps. I don’t feel like I’m so trapped in them.”

What Jak wasn’t saying was that she didn’t really want the dreams to go away altogether. They’d talked about it when the frequency of her nightmares had actually increased upon their return to Nadi. As terrible as the dreams were, they were Jak’s strongest tie to Bron.

Torrin crept a few steps back from the doorway, then entered the kitchen, making sure to scuff her feet. It was no mean feat in socks, but she managed.

“Oh wonderful, you two are finally done with your mystery project in Irenya’s mud room.” A small smile curled at the edge of Raisa’s mouth. If Torrin’s mother thought she was fooling her wife, she was sadly mistaken. Clearly, Raisa knew what was going on, she was simply much less of a snoop than the rest of her family.

“Yep. Mother should be in soon, she’s getting cleaned up.”

“Then we can start setting the table.” Raisa shooed Nat and Jak from their comfortable perches through the simple expedient of handing them dishes. They disappeared into the next room while Torrin accepted the first of the sides.

Irenya managed to time her entrance perfectly. They had just finished bringing out the last of the dishes and placing the cutlery when she walked in through the back door, accompanied by a blast of heat and sand.

They sat around the table. Irenya took her place at the head and carved the roast as everyone passed around the sides. Traditionally, the youngest members of the family would tell the story of how Zana Krikorian and her women discovered Nadierzda and settled on it. There were no children now, but someday soon there would be. Torrin smiled to herself as she looked around.

Nat had been the last one to tell that story, though she’d been prone to embellishment. When Nat told the story, the settlers were forced to fight off all sorts of beasts, each more ferocious than the last until Irenya had to tell her to knock it off and tell the story properly.

Conversation was quiet but animated. From the way Nat’s eyes kept straying toward the next room, she was distracted by the surprises waiting there. Torrin knew Nat would love her present. The time was right, though the idea still made her throat tighten.

Irenya seemed content to linger over her mug of bitrian after the meal while Nat’s fidgets grew more and more pronounced. Torrin caught the tiny smirk hovering around Irenya’s lips when she took another leisurely sip of the steaming beverage. Their mother was messing with Nat, and with no sign of remorse. Beyond that, Torrin also though it was time. Her palms were sweaty with excitement and worry. Would Jak like her present? Surely she would, but what if she didn’t?

“I think it’s time for presents,” Torrin announced, pushing her chair away from the table.

“Didn’t think you’d be the one to crack,” Irenya murmured as they all moved to the next room.

The first person to mention opening presents after dinner was the last to open theirs. It was a cunning strategy her parents had developed to deal with Nat’s over-enthusiasm. In fact, Torrin couldn’t recall a year when Nat hadn’t been the last one to open her gifts. From the slightly stunned look in Nat’s eyes, she wasn’t sure what to make of the situation.

Torrin claimed one corner of the couch and pulled Jak against her. A sharp object poked into her ribcage.

With an evil smirk, Jak pulled a small box from her coat pocket. Torrin’s name was clearly visible on the tag.

“So that’s where you’ve been hiding it, you saucy wench!” She shook her head. “I’ve been trying to get a better look at that for days.”

“I know.” Jak looked so pleased with herself that Torrin stuck out her tongue at her. “You can open it now.” Jak tried to hand it to her, but Torrin held up her hands.

“Oh no, she can’t,” Irenya said. “Torrin knows the rules. She has to hand out the gifts and wait quietly until it’s her turn to open them.” She turned out the lights in the room, leaving only those from the fountain. The glow through the fountain’s water shone a shifting pattern of light onto the ceiling.

“Fine, but you’re getting your gift second to last,” Torrin said. “I think it’s only fitting that Nat gets the first present, since she’s never had the experience before.”

She made a show of perusing the small pile of gifts before picking out her present to Nat. It was a small package, easily among the least impressive on the pile, but it was heavy. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” Nat said dryly. “Glad to see you’re starting with a bang.” For all her grousing, Nat tore into the package, showing no regard for the layers of thin paper Torrin had used to wrap it. She pulled a metal cylinder about the width of her hand from the box and held it up. “This is great! What on Nadi is it?”

“It’s the locking mechanism for the Calamity Jane’s airlock.” Torrin’s lower lip wobbled a bit as she smiled. “Do you know how hard it is to find something concrete to symbolize giving a ship to someone?”

“Hilarious, Torrin. Now where’s my real gift?” She craned her neck to look around Torrin at the remaining packages.

“That is your real gift. The Jane is yours.”

“It’s true, Nat,” Jak said from the couch.

“You’re shitting me.” Nat looked from Torrin to Jak and back again.

“Language, Natalya,” Irenya said.

“Yes, Mother.” The reply was automatic. Nat looked down at the cylinder and back up at Torrin. Her eyes shimmered wetly. She engulfed Torrin in a hug, squeezing so hard Torrin was certain she heard her ribs creak.

“You’re welcome,” Torrin said, laughing. If the laugh was a bit snuffly, no one commented. “I think we should give Raisa her gift now.”

Irenya leaped from her perch on the arm of Raisa’s chair and tugged her wife up to join her. She practically dragged Raisa down the hall. Nat and Jak followed along behind them while Torrin took a moment to wipe her eyes. She would miss piloting the Calamity Jane, but Nat had more use for her now. Torrin wouldn’t need her, not if she was staying on Nadi to have babies with Jak.

Raisa’s excited voice echoed down the hall when she saw the huge automated loom Torrin and Irenya had assembled. She joined the small group in time to see Raisa giving her mother the most thorough kiss she’d ever seen. It went on for quite some time. She exchanged awkward glances with Nat and Jak, who then looked anywhere but at each other and the spectacle in front of them. Jak leaned forward to examine part of the mechanism. Torrin studied the frayed edge of her shirt’s too-short wrist.

“Should we wait for you in the living room?” Nat finally asked.

“No need,” Raisa said. She gave Irenya a smoldering look that promised things Torrin never wanted to contemplate her mothers doing.

“All right, back to the gifts,” Torrin said, shooing Nat and Jak before her. The knowing chuckles of her parents chased them down the hall.

They must have indulged themselves in another kiss. By the time Raisa and Irenya rejoined them, not only were they quite mussed, but Torrin had sorted everyone’s gifts out.

What followed were a string of thoughtful presents that took much too long to open. To Torrin’s way of looking at things, there was far too much discussion over how lovely this gift was, or the usefulness of that one. She had to admit that the blanket Raisa had woven for her and Jak was beautiful.

When all the gifts had been opened, Jak tried again to give her the package from her pocket.

“Not quite yet,” Torrin said. She pulled her and Jak’s gifts to her mothers out from behind the fountain and passed them over.

Both women were entirely too composed about opening them. Torrin kept herself from snapping at them to move faster, but it was a close thing. Irenya and Raisa pulled the tiniest socks Torrin could find out of their respective packages at almost the same moment. They traded identical expressions of befuddlement.

“This is very nice, Torrin, but they’re not my size,” Irenya said.

“Oh, they’re not for you,” Torrin assured her. She bounced up and down a bit in her chair. “But you’ll want to hold on to them for later.”

“I don’t understand,” Irenya said.

“Oh, Torrin!” Raisa said over top of her wife. “Which one of you is it?” She looked back and forth between her and Jak.

“Both of us, actually.”

Jak put a hand on Torrin’s thigh. “Or it will be. I told her it was too soon to tell you, but she couldn’t help herself. We’ve been to see Kiera. They’ll extract our eggs in a couple weeks, then use the genetic material to fertilize us a few weeks after that.”

“Eggs?” Irenya’s eyes were ready to bug out of her head.

“That’s right,” Torrin said. “You’re going to be a grandmother, and before a year has gone by. Kiera foresees no issues for us. We’re genetically compatible and biologically fit.” When the expected dig about her age didn’t materialize, Torrin looked around. “Where’s Nat?”

There was no sign of her sister. No one else had seen her slip out.

“I’ll go find her,” Jak said. She scooted off the couch before Torrin could say anything, leaving Torrin to contend with her beaming parents.

They had all sorts of questions she couldn’t answer, reluctantly leading her to admit Jak might have been right about their announcement being a little premature.

Irenya launched into a history of the family, detailing what each illustrious ancestor had accomplished. Torrin assumed it was to help her with name choices.

“Then there was your great-great Aunt Hildie. She invented the opalescent glaze that’s still one of the most popular colors on Nadi porcelain today.”

“We already know one name,” Torrin said, gently but firmly cutting into her mother’s litany. “We’re calling one Brona.” Where was Jak? And Nat for that matter. She wanted to give Jak her gift.

“Of course.” Raisa nodded. “It’s a lovely name, and it makes so much sense.”

Jak finally reappeared. “Nat needed some air. She’ll be back. She said we should keep on without her.”

“All right.” Torrin rubbed her hands together.

“Just a moment, Torrin.” Irenya held a hand out toward her. “Maybe we should wait.”

“Nat thought you might say that. She doesn’t know how long she’ll be.”

“Very well.” Irenya lowered her hand.

“Here’s your present from me, Jak.” Torrin slid the long box out from behind the couch. “Don’t worry about the paper.”

Jak had methodically unwrapped each present so far as if she might give offense if she didn’t take her time. She flashed Torrin an excited grin and tore off the paper in a flurry of scraps, quickly revealing the metal box beneath. She thumbed open the catches and opened the lid.

Torrin slid to the side to get a better look at Jak’s face. It lit up with delight. There no question as to whether or not she liked it. Torrin exulted silently inside.

“It’s beautiful, sweetie!” Jak exclaimed.

“What did she give you?” Raisa asked. She and her wife craned their necks to get a view of was bringing Jak so much joy.

Wordlessly, she turned the case around on her lap.

“That’s very nice, but what is it?” Irenya asked when confronted with a case full of components.

“It’s a sniper rifle,” Jak said. “A really nice one.”

“That’s very…romantic.” Irenya might like Jak better than she’d thought she would, but she still wasn’t thrilled about her vocation. Her smile was wooden and not terribly convincing, but at least she’d tried.

“It’s custom-made,” Torrin said. “I had it built to your measurements. Everyone I talked to agreed those are the finest gas-propulsion rifles in the galaxy. You’ll be able assemble it to your own preferences. I made sure they included all the options.”

“I love it, baby. It’s perfect.” Jak turned the case back around and stroked the pieces reverently. “I can’t wait to try it out.” She looked over at Torrin and her face fell.

“What’s the matter?”

“This must have cost you a fortune. My gift for you is silly.”

“Nothing you could ever give me would be silly.”

Jak looked away, but Torrin placed a finger under her chin and gently turned her head back around.

“I mean it. I treasure everything you’ve ever given me. If you gave me pocket link and told me it was special, I would keep it always because it came from you.”

As Torrin hoped, Jak smiled. She fished the small package out of her pocket and handed it to Torrin. “For you, my love.”

Torrin accepted the box with a kiss. She weighed it in her hands. It was light. She turned it over in her hands and tried to find the tape Jak had used to fasten the paper together. There was no tape. Her clever love had figured out how to fold the paper so it stayed put.

The wrapping unfolded like a flower, revealing a simple wooden box. Torrin opened the lid and stopped, staring down at its contents. She didn’t know what she’d expected, but it hadn’t been this.

“You didn’t,” she whispered.

“Of course I did,” Jak replied as softly.

Torrin blinked rapidly to clear the tears from her eyes. They spilled over onto her cheeks in front of everyone, but now she could see the beautiful blue comb cradled in satin.

“What is it, Torrin?” Raisa asked softly.

She tried to tell them, but couldn’t get the words past the lump filling her throat. Torrin swallowed once, then again, but couldn’t force out more than a whisper.

“A comb?” Irenya said when she showed them.

She coughed once then cleared her throat. “Jak made me one after she rescued me. She saw how much trouble I was having with my hair. I had to leave it behind when we left, but I loved it. It was the first thing she ever gave me.”

“It’s not the original, of course,” Jak said. “That’s long gone. But Audra had the last Troika expedition to Haefen bring back various samples of wood. I was able to make another one. It’s even better than the first one. I was able to sand the wood this time.”

“It’s perfect.” Torrin cradled Jak’s cheeks gently between her hands and placed their lips together. Jak’s lips moved against hers for the softest, sweetest kiss they’d ever shared. “You’re perfect,” she said. “We’re perfect.”

Back to Chapter 3

Start on Chapter 1


 

Jak, Torrin, and Nat are characters from my series On Deception’s Edge. The trilogy is complete and available from Amazon and/or Bella Books.

 

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Landing Day – Chapter 3

The third installment in my Jak and Torrin happy little holiday story. This one is rather NSFW, so maybe wait until you get home to read it. 😀

The final chapter will be up on December 23rd. I can’t wait!


Chapter 3

Nadierzda’s hot dry air passed around Torrin, stealing the moisture from her skin. Even at higher altitudes, it was warm enough that she needed only the bare minimum of clothing against the cold. A light jacket and pants of the same wind-resistant material kept her plenty warm, and protected her from the ever-present sand. She wasn’t going higher than the rim of the crater, after all. Jak wasn’t too far from Landing. A quick call to Olesya had confirmed that Jak was out in her ultralight, so she wasn’t going as far as the cliffs. Those she could land on with a glider, then take off again. The ultralight was necessary when landing on the flats away from the crater walls.

It helped to have friends in higher places among Nadi’s armed forces. Usually, Jak’s location wasn’t noised about too much. She’d impressed upon the Ruling Council the need to be more circumspect about military communication. The most massive breech of Nadi’s secrets in all of her history had come from one of their own, one on the highest echelons of Nadi’s then-militia. Tanith’s betrayal and subsequent death had shaken everyone. Worst of all, with her demise there was no way of knowing how badly, if at all, they’d been compromised.

So yes, Torrin understood and even approved of the tightened security measures. She just didn’t understand why they were being applied to her. Fortunately, Olesya was willing to bend the rules and check up on Jak for her, but when the Banshees were out of town, Torrin had to rely upon other methods.

Her stomach churned on the edge of queasiness. If only they knew what Tanith had said and to whom. The changes being implemented for their security had caused more than one of the planet’s more isolationist factions to call foul. Surprisingly, her mother hadn’t been among them. Perhaps it was that Irenya had known Tanith. At times, Tanith had practically lived at their house when Torrin was a girl. Or maybe it was that Irenya liked Jak more than she’d anticipated. They were very similar in many ways, and Torrin’s mother had found out quickly how much they had in common. Torrin had never known two people who could be so happy sitting together quietly in a room without ever speaking, and yet those two did exactly that. Sometimes Jak went over to Irenya and Raisa’s house to not talk to them.

As if the thoughts had summoned her, Torrin spied the long wings of an ultralight against the long grass up ahead. She made note of the location and landed her glider a little way off, hoping Jak hadn’t noticed her. There was still the chance she might surprise her lover.

As she usually did, Jak had concealed herself among a stand of the scrubby and gnarled plants that passed for trees here. She might not say so, but Torrin suspected Jak missed the majestic forests of her home world. Nadierzda’s trees were poor examples of the species, twisted and scoured as they were by the constant dust-laden wind. One day in the not-too-distant future, they would finish terraforming this world. If Torrin had anything to say about it, she would make certain there were trees from Haefen among the new species introduced to the planet.

She kept her eyes on the ground, trying to avoid stepping on the branches and dead leaves that gathered in the underbrush. At the same time, she kept an eye out for Jak. She couldn’t be much further out now.

Torrin peered through the screen of branches ahead and took another stealthy step forward. So far she’d been almost soundless. This time she’d sneak up on Jak for sure.

Her foot came down on something hard and Torrin recoiled before the branch broke. She reached out to a nearby bush steady herself. A small blizzard of yellow leaves rained down around her as the limbs of the bush rustled violently.

A muffled snort from behind her made Torrin’s shoulders tense. “Damn,” she said quietly. She turned, a rueful smile plastered on her face. “Surprise!”

Jak grinned down at her from her perch halfway up a tree. Torrin’s heart felt like it expanded to twice its normal size, filling her with happiness and making it difficult to breathe for a moment. It had only been five days, yet Torrin drank in Jak’s features as if they hadn’t seen each other for months.

Jak’s blue eyes laughed at her from her tan face. She wasn’t outside as often as she used to be, but you couldn’t tell that from her skin tone. Her hair had grown out a bit, from the severe buzz cut she favored. It was barely long enough to show a little curl, which meant she’d likely be cutting it soon. The curls framed Jak’s face and softened the line of her jaw, but Jak only saw untidiness.

“Were you trying to sneak up on me again, my sweet?” Jak asked.

“Can a woman be blamed for wanting to surprise the love of her life?”

“Is that what that was?” Jak’s eyes rounded out in a look of shock. “You’re getting better, then. I only heard you from half a kilometer away this time.”

Torrin narrowed her eyes suspiciously at Jak’s faint praise. During the past six months, Jak had developed a sense of humor drier than Nadi’s air. Torrin couldn’t always tell when she was joking, and Jak was too high up the tree to see if there was a damning crinkle lurking at the corner of her left eye.

“Are you going to come down and give me a proper hello, or not?”

“Yes, dearest.” Jak swarmed down the tree in far less time than should have been possible. Her feet had barely touched the ground before she was throwing herself into Torrin’s open arms.

Torrin closed her arms around Jak, reveling in the way their bodies molded together. This was the best part of coming home. Hells, this was coming home. Jak’s arms around her would be home on any planet in the galaxy.

Jak nuzzled into her neck, kissing the exposed flesh above the neckline of Torrin’s light jacket. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, Jak-baby.” Torrin leaned down and captured Jak’s lips. They moved with yielding softness against hers before growing rougher, demanding more from their kiss.

“Let’s get out of here,” Jak growled when their searing kiss finally ended. “I need you.”

“I’m not waiting that long.” Torrin pulled Jak’s shirt out of her pants, then slid one hand up the sides of Jak’s torso.

Jak tried to push her hands down, but Torrin was having none of it.

“We can’t do that out here,” Jak hissed while trying to corral Torrin’s roaming hands. “It’s indecent.”

Torrin couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her. Jak could still be so delightfully stuffy. The sexual mores of Nadi’s women made Haefen look like they were stuck in Earth’s first Dark Ages. She’d come a long way, but there were times when Torrin was reminded of where Jak started out.

“Why not?” Torrin asked. “Who’s going to see us? An antelope? Do you care that much what antelopes think of you?”

“What if someone flies by?”

“They aren’t going to see anything through the canopy.” Torrin skimmed her hands along the undersides of Jak’s breasts.

Jak gasped and closed her eyes. “The ground is…messy.”

“We’ll brush ourselves off after.” Jak’s nipples pebbled instantly through the fabric of her bra when Torrin dragged her thumbs lightly over them.

Jak reached up and grabbed Torrin’s forearms. “We’ll get cold.” She made no attempt to move Torrin’s hands, rather she seemed determined to keep them right where they were.

“I’ll keep you warm.” Torrin continued her assault on Jak’s nipples. She lightly took Jak’s earlobe between her teeth and bit down gently. Jak arched against her, moaning deep in her throat. Her ears were wonderfully sensitive, and Torrin lavished attention on them, never tiring of the response she drew from Jak. Torrin would have laughed at the whimper of disappointment from Jak when Torrin withdrew one hand from her breast, except she had more important things to concern herself with.

She undid the fasteners on Jak’s pants with the deftness of much repetition. Jak thrust her hips against her hand, seeking more. Torrin moved her hand to rest on the outside of her pants and shifted with Jak’ motions, denying the friction she sought. Jak growled low in her chest and grabbed Torrin’s ass with both hands, holding her there while she ground herself against the hand trapped between them.

“Patience,” Torrin breathed.

“Screw patience,” Jak growled back.

Torrin thrilled at the words, the tone and the way Jak kept rubbing against her. Jak had totally abandoned herself to their lovemaking. She was so wet, and getting wetter with every move of Jak’s. The dampness that had been accumulating between Torrin’s thighs had long since soaked through her underwear. A part of her wondered if it had soaked through her shipsuit also.

She reclaimed her hand and slid it down the front of Jak’s underwear. Jak groaned and angled her hips so Torrin’s fingers speared through the thatch of unruly hair and straight into her opening. She was so wet there was no resistance whatsoever and Torrin suddenly found her fingers encased in Jak’s damp heat. Jak cried out high and thin, the sound music to Torrin’s ears. Her knees buckled and so did Torrin’s.

Locked together, they swayed for a moment, Jak beyond caring, Torrin nearly so. With herculean effort, Torrin locked her knees and backed Jak up until she was supported from behind by a tree.

She slid another finger to join the other two. Her eyes rolled up at the powerful contractions squeezing her fingers. There wasn’t much room to thrust in the confines of Jak’s underwear, but that didn’t seem to matter. Jak cried out from even the tiniest movement, straining back against Torrin, her muscles tightening with each shout.

Torrin’s own excitement was reaching its pinnacle. Her center throbbed in response to each of Jak’s cries. With every squeeze around her fingers, she got closer to her own climax.

Unable to stand it any longer, but unwilling to come before Jak, Torrin did the only thing she could think of. She took the delicate skin of Jak’s neck and bit down, giving herself something other than the arousal screaming through her to concentrate on. Jak cried out at the pressure on her neck. She lifted her legs, wrapping them around Torrin’s waist and impaling herself deeply on Torrin’s hand.

She was almost there. Torrin only had to hold on for a little longer. Her jaw flexed at the impossibility of holding off her orgasm, when Jak stiffened around her, head thrown back and eyes staring blankly at the branches above their heads. She exhaled once, twice, then groaned long and loud, shaking with the strength of her release.

Torrin froze, her limbs shaking to match Jak’s. Her climax rolled over her, taking everything with it. She was falling, drifting outside of her body.

She came back to herself flat on her back, Jak lying on top of her and gazing down with a soft smile lighting up her face.

“You’re a little…messy,” Jak said. She plucked a small leaf out of Torrin’s hair.

“I had other things to worry about.” Torrin grinned up at Jak. She knew it was goofy, but couldn’t bring herself to care in the least.

“You’re going to get messier.” Jak’s smile was no longer soft.

“Oh dear, however will I cope?” Torrin laughed, then gasped. When had Jak opened the front of her shipsuit?

Some time later, Torrin lay on her back, looking up at the tops of the trees. Her head was nestled in the crook of Jak’s shoulder. Jak’s arms was wrapped around her, holding her loosely in place. Her arms and legs were heavy with complete relaxation, and she almost didn’t mind the tree root digging into the small of her back. Moving would mean leaving Jak’s arms, and she wasn’t prepared to do so quite yet.

“How was your trip?” Jak asked.

“Mixed,” Torrin said.

“That doesn’t sound good. What went wrong?”

“Nothing went wrong, exactly. I got the merchandise, but I also found out my particulars have been passed along to another non-League station. This one was a boil on the back end of beyond, and they still had it.”

“I’m sorry, baby-baren.” Jak ran her fingers through Torrin’s hair. “What does that mean for you?”

“If means more for us than it does for me.” Torrin grinned crookedly, trying to sound upbeat. “You’ll be seeing a lot more of me. I’d say I’m now officially grounded.”

“I won’t pretend I’m upset about that.” Jak’s voice was quiet. “But I wish you felt better about it.”

“I don’t feel bad about the idea of spending more time with you.” Torrin hastened to head off any misunderstanding on Jak’s part. “And I don’t feel bad about the rest of it, at least not precisely.” She trailed off as she examined her feelings. Jak said nothing. She merely waited for Torrin.

“I’m worried about being bored, I guess,” Torrin finally said. “My work with Troika is all well and good, but the aboveboard stuff won’t keep me occupied for long.”

“So find some more things to do.”

“I do have some ideas.” Torrin maneuvered herself around to get a better look at her lover’s face. “There’s you for one.”

Jak laughed, her teeth flashing white in the shadows under the trees. “We can’t spend all our time in bed. We’ll be horribly malnourished and at some point they’ll miss us at work.”

Torrin stuck out her bottom lip in a mock pout. “Well, if you’re going to be that way about it… I was thinking, maybe, eventually, I’d get into politics.”

Jak raised her eyebrows, though she didn’t seem overly surprised. She nodded slowly. “I can see that. You’d be good at it. People like you, and they respect you.”

“And I’ve seen enough out there in the galaxy. I know why what we do and are on Nadi is important, and why we need to keep doing it.”

“You don’t need to convince me.” Jak dropped a kiss on Torrin’s forehead. “I’m already in your corner.”

“Good.”

“So what are you going to do until then?”

Torrin looked at Jak inquiringly.

“You said eventually, remember?” Jak said.

“That’s up to you.” Torrin paused and licked her lips. “I thought maybe we could do more family stuff.”

“Do you mean that?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“You’ve been a little cagey about it when I tried bringing it up.”

“Not cagey,” Torrin said. “Careful. I wanted to make sure we’d be okay being us.”

“And did I pass your test?” Jak’s face was studiously neutral, but there was no disguising the edge to her question.

“I wasn’t testing you.” Torrin grabbed one of Jak’s hands between both of hers. “I was testing me.”

“That doesn’t sound much better.”

“What? Of course that’s better-“ Torrin sat halfway up when she realized what she’d unwittingly implied. “Oh.”

“Yeah. You have about three seconds to explain what that means, Torrin Ivanov.”

Jak had been spending far too much time with Torrin’s mother. The words and tone were classic Irenya.

“Jak, sweetie, I love you. You know I do. I would never cheat on you.” That out of the way, Torrin took a deep breath. “I knew after what Mori did that my world was going to get a lot smaller. I wanted to make sure I’d be all right, that I wouldn’t turn into a horrible person to be around.” She looked Jak square in the eyes. “I wanted to be worthy of you.”

“I see.” Jak seemed somewhat mollified. “And what did your test teach you?”

“That I’ll be fine. It’ll take some getting used to, but nothing could be better than being at your side. I want to share everything with you.” Torrin grinned. “I want to have your babies, or you to have mine, or whatever combination we come up with. We’ll make amazing daughters, and I can’t wait to meet them.”

“One of each, I think,” Jak said. At Torrin’s perplexed look, she elaborated. “I’ll have one of yours and you’ll have one of mine.”

“So you’re okay with it?”

“Of course I am. I do have one condition, however.”

“Anything.”

“I want us to get married.”

“If that’s what you want, then of course I’m up for it.” Marriage wasn’t practiced universally by the couples on Nadierzda. Maybe half of them got married, and for varying lengths of time. Torrin would have been fine either way, but if Jak wanted a wedding, Torrin would make sure she got one.

“Permanently married, though. I don’t want one of those five-year marriage contracts. I plan to be with you always.”

“And I do with you. It never occurred to me that you’d want anything less. I certainly don’t.”

“Good.” Jak withdrew her arm from around Torrin and stood. She offered Torrin a hand up, then started picking small twigs and leaves out of Torrin’s hair.

“What’s the rush?”

“I want to get you home where I can spend more time on you. I mean with you.”

She picked up her jacket. “And if we talk to Kiera soon, we can get in to see her before Landing Day. You know your moms will be happy to hear we’re thinking of giving them granddaughters.” Jak swung the jacket around her shoulders. Something fell out of one pocket, but she pounced on it and tucked it away before Torrin could see what it was.

“What was that?” Torrin pointed to the pocket where Jak had hidden the object.

“Never you mind,” Jak said, lightly slapping her hand away. “I didn’t pry into the mysterious cargo you had to get on this trip.”

“Fine,” Torrin grumbled. Her curiosity burned within her, and she grabbed Jak and tugged her in for a hug.

“Oh no you don’t!” Jak said when she realized Torrin was trying to feel the shape of object through her jacket. She pushed Torrin away.

It wasn’t like Torrin could make out what it was, since she hadn’t been able to get her hands near it. “I only wanted to give you a hug before we head home.”

“A likely story.” Jak pointed Torrin back toward her glider. “I’ll be right there to tow you into the air.”

Chapter 4

Back to Chapter 2

Start on Chapter 1

 


Jak, Torrin, and Nat are characters from my series On Deception’s Edge. The trilogy is complete and available from Amazon and/or Bella Books.

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