Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WIP Wednesday – Clan Beginnings: Clan, Honor, and Empire

            The Imdiko turned to see Dramok Rajhir hurrying after him.  Flencik tried to steady his suddenly thudding heart, but it wasn’t easy when the councilman’s aide offered him a smile that he couldn’t help but answer.  Rajhir was an extremely handsome man, one he’d felt an instant attraction for.
            Flencik held no hope that the dashing stunner had come after him for personal reasons.  Despite enjoying seeing the man heading his way, the Imdiko hoped desperately that Ospar hadn’t come up with something new to add to his covert assignment.  Flencik felt he was in over his head as it was.
            Dreading what Rajhir might say, Flencik asked, “Did we forget something?”
            The Dramok shook his long, sleek hair back as he reached him.  “No.  I thought I’d walk you to the in-house transport.”
            Flencik’s mouth dropped open before he could stop it.  “Oh.  Thanks.”
            He flushed, hearing the unadulterated pleasure in his own tone.  Blushing only increased his embarrassment.  Rajhir’s good looks and confident bearing kept flustering him.  His shirt and trousers, while not showy, were well-cut to show off a strong, perfectly proportioned body.
            The Dramok fell in step with him, and they proceeded on towards the in-house transport system.  Rajhir tilted his head to gaze at him with a sidelong look.
            “Flencik, I – I know this is important, finding out what’s going on at your work, to you as well as to Ospar.  But I really hope you’ll be careful.”
            The kindness sent warmth spilling through Flencik’s chest.  He warned himself to not see it as anything more than a simple expression of consideration of the guiding Dramok personality for a member of the sensitive Imdiko breed.
            He wasn’t a liar, however.  He told Rajhir, “I’m scared stupid.  I guess the councilman thinks this is big.  Do you think his instincts are good?”
            Rajhir sighed.  “Honestly, this is my first day working for him.  That’s why I kept getting caught screwing up.  I do know he’s motivated to get rid of corruption in the council.”
            Flencik eyed him worriedly.  “You really don’t know if this Ospar is a good bet?”
            “If you didn’t think so, why did you come to him when Teken wasn’t available?”
            “His was the first door I came to that wasn’t full of people applying for a job,” Flencik admitted, his face flaming hot. 
            Rajhir looked up at him, his expression stunned.  The Imdiko thought how stupid he must appear ... deservedly so.  He had walked into the chambers of a councilman he knew nothing about and spilled his guts. 
            What if Ospar had been a good friend of Councilman Ledsin?  What if Flencik had told his story to a man who would have gone straight to his employer’s Dramok with the story?
            For someone who was supposedly brilliant, Flencik had done something remarkably stupid.  He could have crawled into the nearest closet and hid for a year in shame.
            Rajhir abruptly started laughing.  Flencik winced, but when the Dramok slapped his hand on his back a couple of times and then gripped his shoulder with a friendly squeeze, the doctor realized it wasn’t mean or derisive laughter.  Rajhir was finding the situation, not Flencik, hilarious.
            Keeping his hand on Flencik’s shoulder, Rajhir gasped between guffaws, “You and I are not having a great day, are we?  Which of us do you think is the more foolish acting?”

Releasing March 2014

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Books in Print

Okay, so I know I made some remarks recently about how little good it seemed to do placing all of my books in print.  Print doesn’t even make up half a percent of what I make in sales, and the formatting is an absolute nightmare for someone as tech-challenged as me.  It really hasn’t seemed worth the effort. 

Another issue about putting my books in print is that as an indie publisher, I’m pretty much relegated to the print-on-demand category.  This means that when someone orders one of my books in a physical medium rather than electronic, it is printed up at that time, ‘on demand’.  That makes it expensive to the readers.  Shalia’s Diary Book 1, with only 65,000 words, is an $8.99 book in print.  Ouch.  Since I’m trying to keep costs down for readers who prefer print, I make as little as three cents a sale.  You read that right:  depending on where you buy my book, I might make only three pennies on that 8.99.  It’s nuts, but I can’t fathom asking people to lay down a ton of hard-earned money on something I offer for free on the internet.  Nine bucks is more than pushing it, if you ask me, even for a full-length novel.

I’d pretty much decided to no longer bother with print versions of my books.  A lot of self-published writers don’t these days.  Then this whole mess with e-books being taken down by distributors including Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Satan – oops, I mean Amazon – started up.  Sister Katherine was taken down in the purge, though I was able to get it re-instated.  Amazon’s weird cover guidelines have taken Shalia’s Diary Book 1 and Alien Refuge off the general searches – at least the e-book versions.  The print versions are still showing up in the All Departments search with the delicious artwork right there for all to see.  Way to go with hiding that adult content, Amazon.  Great job, as usual.

Oh yeah, you might have noticed I mentioned Shalia’s Diary Book 1 is now available as a print book.  So is Sister Katherine.  Coming in the next week or so will be To Clan and Conquer, Clan and Conviction, and Ravenous Virtue.  In the wake of the latest nonsense, I decided to do my best to ensure readers could find my books in some format.  A few of you have told me you have decided to snag tree books in case your e-books go bye-bye.  Better safe than sorry, right?

So now you can pick up the latest Clans of Kalquor book, Alien Caged, in print along with the other books I’ve mentioned.  From this point on, I’ll shut up about the rigors of print formatting vs. the return.  In short, I’ll do my job and be happy about it.  No more whining, I promise.

Alien Caged

Available from Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Amazon UK, and Kobo.  Also in print.

Sister Katherine

Now available from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  Also in print.

Shalia’s Diary Book 1

Available from Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  Also in print.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Alien Caged Release Week - Chapter 1

It’s out!  Clans of Kalquor 8:  Alien Caged is now available at the usual suspects:  

Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Amazon UK.  Also available in print.

Without further ado, here is the description and Chapter 1:

For most, the Earth/Kalquor War ended years ago.  Yet veteran destroyer captain Zemos and clanmates Oret and Miragin have been captured by a renegade Earther battlecruiser.  They’ve been held in a cell for months now, with no idea where their ultimate fate lies.  Threatened daily, they know their lives can end at any moment.  The only bright spot during their imprisonment has been the lovely woman who brings them their meals and offers the one friendly face amongst their enemies.

Elisa Mackenzie is among the desperate Earthers trying to survive in the wake of Armageddon.  Surrounded by fanatics who won’t give up a long-lost war, she can’t let herself care for the Kalquorians the ship has taken prisoner.  Her lonely heart, empty for so long, has other ideas.  Knowing the Kalquorians are dangerous and her fanatical shipmates are even more so, Elisa fights her feelings in vain.  Ignoring the harsh lessons of long-lost youth, she falls in love.

Zemos, Oret, and Miragin know they must escape before the Earthers deliver them to an unthinkable end.  They also know the key to opening their cage means turning on the woman who has infiltrated their fierce hearts.  Elisa already has their adoration.  She deserves their protection and care as well, but enemies both new and ancient threaten the Kalquorian Empire.  To save their people and themselves, the three men may have to destroy the woman who would complete their clan.

Mild BDSM, including anal play/intercourse, bondage, Dom/sub play, forced seduction, and multiple sexual partners (m/f/m/m). 

Chapter 1:

Elisa Mackenzie pushed her food cart through the detention halls of the battlecruiser Final Judgment.  She moved the rattling wheeled piece carefully, determined not to spill a crumb of the overflowing dishes.  The last hover cart had lost all power three weeks ago, leaving Elisa and the rest of the kitchen staff with seven battered and dented denizens on casters.  They didn’t move smoothly as the hover carts had.  It was yet another reminder of the deprivations on board the renegade starship.

Elisa wheeled the now nearly empty cart from the general population brig to the other half of the cruiser’s prisoner containment.  She was on her way to the maximum security brig, where traditionally the most violent or dangerous prisoners were kept.  It was time to feed the Kalquorians.

Her heart drummed in anticipation as it always did when she neared maximum security.  She knew it was ridiculous to get so excited.  It was stupid, in fact, if Elisa was honest with herself.  Her secret fascination with the aliens was reckless to the point of being dangerous.  If any of her fellow shipmates knew the thoughts she had, especially about the clan she was about to see now...
Elisa set her expression to one of boredom as she entered maximum security’s guard office.  She suppressed a groan when she saw the two men in the room:  Ensigns Chris Coombs and Don Remington.  

Of the two, Coombs was the least offensive though he smelled like he might have last showered around Armageddon.  He did just enough work to avoid getting into too much trouble with everyone else, and not one iota more of effort than that.  The man took laziness to a near art form.  Despite the strict rations of the ship’s dwindling food stores, he managed to look flabby and indulgent.  

Better looking and sweeter smelling, Don Remington was still an asshole.  There was no getting around that fact.  He made rude comments and insinuations in Elisa’s presence when there was no one around to report him for it.  She treated him like a nuisance, ignoring him for the most part. 

She did her best to hide her fear of being alone with the man.  Letting Remington know how vulnerable Elisa felt around any of them would be a huge mistake.  He was known to be belligerent and bullying when he knew he could get away with it.  It wasn’t farfetched to imagine him taking his ‘flirtations’ too far in the right situation.  Thus far, Elisa had managed to make sure that situation didn’t happen.

She wasn’t surprised to see both men in the room, though there was only one guard assigned per shift.  Coombs and Remington often took an hour to play cards as one traded guard duty with the other.  They were in the thick of a poker game now, from the looks of things.  Coombs’ shock of dingy blond hair hung to the tip of his nose as he squinted at his hand.  The men were supposed to keep their hair regulation short.  No one seemed to have reminded the lackadaisical Coombs of that fact in the last several months.  For that matter, no one had apparently bothered to tell him to keep up appearances at all.  Wearing his uniform jacket open to display a stained tee-shirt, as he did now, wasn’t in keeping with military protocol in the slightest.

In contrast, Remington was as official as an ensign in worn clothing and shoes could make himself look.  The man was low in rank, but he carried himself as if he ruled the ship.  His hair was always short and clean; his clothes pressed, if becoming a bit threadbare; and his shoes shined despite the heel of one coming loose.  He was ambitious enough to look the part of up and coming fleet officer.   Remington was also mean enough to run over those who didn’t get out of his way.  Even though Earth’s official military was long gone, he still ached to advance and be important.  It had escaped his notice that being in his thirties and having gotten no farther than the rank of ensign boded poorly for his future advancement.

Plus there was that little matter of Earth’s fleet no longer existing.  As far as Elisa knew, a few scattered remnants of ships like Last Judgment were all that was left of a force that had been millions of vessels strong.

As Elisa entered the guard office behind her clanking food cart, Remington did his usual perusal of her body.  His eyes traveled from the top of her hair-netted brown tresses down to the crotch of her food service white trouser uniform.  She knew she should be used to it by now, and not just from Remington.  

It wasn’t that Elisa thought of herself as a raving beauty.  She was sure she’d never come close to that particular description.  Moreover, she was no longer young.  Seated firmly at middle age, Elisa had left youth and its innocent dreams behind.  She knew there was nothing in her appearance to excite any real interest.

At least there wouldn’t have been back on Earth before Armageddon had destroyed that planet and most of its people.  Women were a rarity now, and Elisa was the only female on board the battlecruiser.  Men naturally had thoughts of a less than saintly nature when they saw her, even though she neared fifty.  

Remington’s particular leer managed to make her feel filthier than most of them, however.  He’d told her more than once, “Girl, if I ever catch you alone, I am going to be made a very happy man.”  He left no doubt what he intended to do with her to make himself happy.  He’d grabbed her a few times.  Just a week ago, he’d caught hold of her hand and pressed it to his semi-hard crotch before she could snatch loose.

Elisa hated the man.  Passionately.

Coombs wasn’t as bad by a longshot.   He was just lazier than most.  Even when it came to the easy job of guarding the three men imprisoned in Maximum, he could barely be bothered to put in the bit of effort it required.  As Elisa trundled her rattling cart through the room, he never looked up at her.  He continued to study his cards, peering at them through slitted eyes in the dim light.  Most of the ship was kept at half illumination as they tried to conserve precious power.  Headaches from eyestrain were a common complaint.  

Elisa looked over Coombs’ shoulder to see what he was holding.  Three of a kind, deuces.  He’d been winning pretty well to judge from the stack of chips in front of him.  Too bad for him he wasn’t winning any real money, not when there was no actual income anymore.  For those Earthers who hadn’t surrendered following Armageddon, there was only running, surviving, and trying not to get caught by the Kalquorian Empire.

Beyond the small table the men sat at, the guard office held little.  There was a dusty vid that was supposed to only be used in emergencies.  The crew was constantly reminded to conserve power whenever possible.  Despite the energy rationing, the guards often played concerts and movies saved in the system.  Elisa couldn’t blame them.  Besides work, there was damned little to do on the ship.

On the far wall hung a couple of frequency disruptors, five percussion blasters, cuffs, and an old black uniform coat turning gray with dust.  The recycling unit had quit working some time ago, and the bin used for refuse was overflowing.  The com system sat silent.

Elisa looked to the door at the other side of the room.  Only three men occupied maximum security, all crowded in a single cell at the opposite end of the block.  Despite the knowledge that Kalquorians were usually bisexual, an abhorrence to Earth’s former government and state religion, a clan had been placed in containment together.  The senior tactical officer, Alec Robards, was a brutal pig of a man in Elisa’s estimation.  It had certainly not been kindness he had in mind when he’d dictated the Kalquorian captain and his clanmates be sequestered in a single cell.  He’d done it to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible.  Robards might have thought it would also turn them against one another in claustrophobic fury.  So far, he’d been disappointed.

Elisa knew she couldn’t see the Kalquorians from her spot standing behind Coombs.  That didn’t stop her gaze from going to the door anyway, eager for that first glimpse.  As always, she was impatient to get in the cell block and enjoy the too-few minutes she would have in the prisoners’ company.

Remington’s voice, pitched slightly higher than most men’s, interrupted her nervous thinking.  “Time to feed the animals, huh?  Go on in.  I’ll be in there in a second.”

Elisa schooled her expression to not reveal her delight.  She would get a few precious seconds alone with Clan Zemos.  It took all she had to not dash with her cart towards the door.

Remington gave her a grin that set her teeth on edge.  “You could wait for me to finish this hand, if you’ll miss having me next to you, darlin’.”

Elisa stiffened but she walked steadily through the office without a word.  She never encouraged the men she worked with, especially not Remington.  In the nearly four years since Armageddon, it amazed her she hadn’t been raped yet.  She thought only the kind protection of the captain and the constant threat of execution from the first officer and the ship’s head of security had kept her safe so far.  Much like the brute Robards, First Officer Chase was still a devout follower of Earth’s one true religion.  Lewd behavior was grounds for immediate execution as far as those two men were concerned.

Still, Elisa had no illusions that if she didn’t leave the ship at some near point in the future, she would find herself in trouble.  Sooner or later, her luck would run out.

Yet, where could she go?  She had no funds to start a new life anywhere.  Worse still, she was part of a renegade crew that had committed crimes against the Kalquorian Empire.  If caught, she could find herself on trial and sent to a Kalquorian prison.  No matter what Dramok Zemos and the other two said, Elisa feared what would happen if she left the battlecruiser.  

However much Clan Zemos might be lying to her, her heart lifted at the prospect of seeing them alone.  She filled with warmth and joy, as she did every day, twice a day.  Elisa didn’t pretend that her life revolving around those few moments wasn’t pathetic.  It was, but she had come to terms with that.  The coming seconds were her reason for rising in the morning and going through the motions of living.  When her time with the Kalquorians was over, she would exist on the anticipation of tomorrow.

She entered maximum security and trundled her cart towards the far cell.

The three alien men made Elisa nervous in more than one way.  They were dangerous men to be sure, though they’d never threatened her.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The Kalquorians, including the walking menace that was Nobek Oret, had been unfailingly kind towards her.  They acted as if they liked her.  Sometimes Elisa entertained the notion that they even flirted.  It was fun to think she could evoke such a response from them, though she knew she was nothing special.  

Of course the prisoners had to be nice.  They were stuck in a cell with armed guards only steps away.  Elisa knew she was in no danger from the three in maximum security, nor the rest of the captured Kalquorian destroyer crew being held in the general population brig.  There hadn’t been one single instance of any of the prisoners breaking through the containment fields in the three months they’d been held.  They were secure and she was safe, at least from them.

Most of her nervousness had nothing to do with the non-existent threat the aliens posed to her physically.  Elisa knew the basis of this other menace, the issue that put her in real peril.  It was the one thing that made her life bearable even though she would be executed if anyone knew.

She’d fallen in love with the clan of Captain Zemos.  

If anyone of the crew discovered Elisa’s secret, her life wouldn’t be worth spit.  Even Joseph Walker, the compassionate captain of the battlecruiser, wouldn’t be able to find mercy for a woman who’d fallen for not just one, but three Kalquorian men.  She’d be seen as a godless slut and traitor by the majority of the crew, especially Chase and Robards.

The thought of what would happen if her feelings for the Kalquorians became known made Elisa’s stomach tight.  As she usually did when she became nervous, she hummed a tune.  She calmed as the first notes flowed from her throat.

She approached the far cell and the three Kalquorians came into view.  Already knowing she neared, they stayed well back from the field that kept them imprisoned in their small, two-bunk cell.  The quarters would have been tight for two Earther men, the prisoners it was meant for.  For three big Kalquorians, the shortest of whom stood about six-and-a-half-feet tall, it was miniscule.  

Contact with the containment didn’t harm prisoners; it simply allowed no escape.  The Kalquorians never approached too closely until they were sure Elisa was comfortable in their presence.  They seemed determined to show her they offered no threat.  She thought that only underscored how dangerous they truly were, but she couldn’t help but feel pleased they treated her with such compassion.

The three large men bowed to her as she neared, as they always did.  Ever respectful, their faces lit with smiles when they saw she came alone.  Elisa returned the smiles.

Captain Zemos, who stood in the middle of his clan, said in a warm voice, “What a lovely voice you have, Matara Elisa.  Someday I hope to hear you sing.”

Elisa couldn’t help but take in the sight of the handsome Zemos.  Over middle age of the Kalquorian lifespan of 250 years, his long black hair had the slightest dusting of gray.  His years showed not so much in the few lines of his face, but in the experience that shone in his purple cat-pupil eyes.  Maturity lay in Zemos’ attitude more than in his appearance.  That aura, combining with a strong jaw and an underlying ferocity, made his face unabashedly masculine.  Yet the rest of his features were soft enough that his appearance tried to enter the realm of endearing.  Zemos couldn’t be called cute, but Elisa had come close to that description more than once in her head.  

His well-muscled body, behemoth at what Elisa guessed to be around six-feet-eight, showed no hint of debilitation.  The uniform suit he wore, what the aliens called a formsuit, was black and clung to every curve of his carved body.  Elisa suspected he and his clanmates washed their clothing in the cell’s small basin, because they always managed to look clean.  Even their boots stayed shined.

Elisa stole a quick glance at the doorway of the guard’s station to make sure Remington hadn’t entered the block yet.  Rattling the cart to cover that she spoke, she told Zemos, “I can’t imagine the comments the guards would make if I was to serenade your meal.”

He rewarded her joke with a grin.  The sight stabbed into her heart, and Elisa looked away.  She fussed with her limited field disruptor, as if she couldn’t operate the small device’s controls in the dark.  It was hardwired with one setting and an ON/OFF button.

Elisa activated it.  A window in the containment field opened just enough for her to slide the covered plates of food into the cell, one at a time.  She clipped the disruptor onto her belt and pushed the first tray through the opening.

As always, Nobek Oret stepped forward to take the food from her.  “Good evening, Matara Elisa,” he said.  His low, growly voice might have come from the mouth of a wolf rendered capable of speech.

He must have known how intimidating he looked.  As he always did, the Nobek came just close enough to the containment barrier to stretch one long arm out and accept the plate she offered.  Oret was younger than Zemos by one year, and his long curly hair retained all of its blue-black color without the first sign of gray.  Yet he looked harder and more careworn than his Dramok.  Elisa could never call such a feral creature ‘cute’; indeed she did not think him precisely handsome either.   However, Oret’s face, with its stark features and intense demeanor, was riveting.  To one who appreciated the perfection of creatures such as sharks or hunting tigers, Oret might be deemed a beautiful predator.

If Zemos’ body was chiseled, then Oret’s had been carved, sculpted, and polished within an inch of its life.  Veins stood out on his arms, exposed by the sleeveless formsuit he wore.  He looked capable of breaking steel beams in half with nothing but brute force.  His skintight uniform left nothing unimagined.

Oret was fearsomeness personified.  Yet, like a mouse hypnotized by the stare of a deadly cobra, Elisa found him entrancing as well.  She was drawn to this walking, talking icon of destruction.

His deep gaze never wavering from her face, he smelled the food before handing it to the third man of their clan.  A slight smile curling his lips, Oret said, “Perhaps hearing you sing would sweeten the guards’ tempers just a bit.”

Imdiko Miragin snorted as he sat with his tray on the lower bunk.  “Tossing a handful of sugar at such men would only result in the sugar falling to the ground.  For some, offering sweetness is a waste.”

Elisa sighed and nodded her agreement.  Miragin was forever saying something of note.  He was a writer of much renown in the Empire, so much so that he was referred to as the Conscience of Kalquor.  The time Zemos had mentioned this bit of the Imdiko’s biography, Miragin’s handsome face had taken on an uncharacteristic scowl.   The Imdiko did not seem to be in love with the nickname.

Threads of gray wove themselves in Miragin’s messy curls.  Wide, intelligent eyes often sparkled with humor and mischief.  The Imdiko’s good nature couldn’t be eclipsed by even his imprisonment.   Elisa’s favorite feature on Miragin was his plump lips, sumptuous to the point of decadence.  She often wondered what it would be like to kiss that delicious-looking mouth.  He was also the least intimidating of the three men, several inches shorter than the other two and built more like a long-time runner than a muscled powerhouse.  The youngest of the three at a century and a quarter, Miragin had a dreamier aspect.  Elisa imagined him taking long walks as he contemplated the concerns of his world.  Any time the Earther guards were present, Zemos and Oret stood between them and Miragin, determined to shield the Imdiko from all harm.

Oret came forward again to accept another dish from Elisa, passing this one to Zemos.  “You prepared these meals yourself?” he asked in his wolf-growl voice.

She nodded.  “Yes, Nobek Oret.  I have taken on the responsibility of cooking all your meals.  I have already made the breakfast Mr. Thomas will deliver to you in the morning.”

He nodded and took the final tray from her.  Oret’s demeanor was often one of suspicion, and Elisa knew he didn’t trust anyone else to cook his clan’s food.  In those cases, he ate first and insisted Zemos and Miragin not touch their meals until an hour after he’d finished his.  His distrust of their captors hadn’t been shaken in three months, though no one had attempted to poison the trio.

Even at the beginning of their imprisonment, Oret had been more relaxed with Elisa than any other Earther.  After the first two days of her bringing their meals, he’d eased his dictates to the other two that they wait to eat until he felt confident of the food’s safety.  Elisa thought it was because she was a woman that Oret trusted her to the extent he did.  She’d often thought about telling him he really should know better.  Women were imminently capable of evil acts, as the Church had so often pointed out.  She’d held her tongue because she liked that the fierce Nobek felt confident of her motives.

Miragin had already started eating the chicken stir-fry she’d made, practically inhaling the pile of food she’d made for him.  Between mouthfuls he said, “Delicious as always, Matara Elisa.  Thank you so much for preparing our food.”

Elisa closed the window in the containment field, smiling at his praise and obvious enjoyment of his dinner.  She glanced down the corridor towards the guard’s room.  There was still no sign of anyone coming to join her, and she knew she should get going.  Yet her whole day revolved around stolen moments such as these.

Zemos was smiling at her as she returned her attention to the clan.  “You are without a guard tonight.  I do like it when we get a moment to talk.”

Elisa told him, “They’re busy playing poker.  Remington said he’d follow in a moment.”

“Remington.”  Miragin made an ugly sound.  

Oret said, “A fool with ambitions can be dangerous, but in the end he’s still a fool.”  The Nobek considered Elisa, and she barely controlled a shiver that wanted to go through her at that appraising stare. 

He told her in a gentle voice, “Never underestimate an enemy, Matara.  Not even with a seemingly impenetrable containment field.”

“Do you plan to attack me?” Elisa asked, fighting to keep her tone light.  At Oret’s gaze turned calculating, she wished she hadn’t said anything.

However, she had nothing to worry about.  The containment field was fully powered.  Not even a Kalquorian of Oret’s obvious threat level could hope to break through it.

The Nobek’s sudden grin was a mixture of humor and pretended threat.  “Attack you?  You know, I have had time to consider that option.  I decided that if given the chance, I would take you hostage.  Harming you would be off the table, little one, though making you squirm might be fun.”

Zemos gave Oret a warning look, though he looked as if he might smile too.  “Don’t frighten her, Oret.  Matara Elisa has been kind to us when she is able.”

Oret chuckled, a harsh chuffing sound that made Elisa wonder how often the man actually laughed.  “I meant squirm in a good sense.  Of course, this naive Earther female has no idea what I am inferring, do you?”

His smile turned paternal, as if she was no more than a child.  Elisa knew exactly what he referred to with his sly comment.  She might be a virgin at the grand old age of 48, but she wasn’t clueless.  Oret’s condescension irritated her, and she couldn’t help but respond in a manner that she’d never dare in Earther company.

Keeping her tone unimpressed, she told the alien, “If it was your weight on me, Nobek Oret, I don’t think I would have the breath or strength to squirm.”

It was an outrageous statement for an Earther woman to say to anyone, never mind a Kalquorian man.  Zemos froze to stare at her as if he couldn’t believe his ears.  Miragin made choking sounds as he laughed around his mouthful of food.  

Oret’s eyes widened at Elisa’s boldness.  Then his lips curled in a slow, knowing smile that made her heart hammer.  “Oh, my pretty one.  That I would have the chance to take your breath away—”

Before he could finish his comment, the telltale thud of booted feet warned them that Remington was on his way.  Elisa hurriedly squared away her cart and started walking away from the cell just as Remington came into the corridor.  His hand rested on the blaster holstered on his hip.

He pulled the weapon out.  Elisa’s mouth went dry.  She was sure none of their conversation had reached his ears.  Remington was simply being an asshole again.  He enjoyed threatening the prisoners.  She kept her eyes averted as he came level to her clattering cart and kept going past her.

His nasally voice rang out as he greeted the Kalquorians.  “Good evening, slimeballs!  Did you have another good day filled with fun and games?”

The clan made no response.  Elisa worried that someday Remington would push the three into a reaction, one that would give him the reason he desired to kill one or all of them.  She turned her head enough to peek at him and the men in the cell.  Remington was aiming at the Kalquorians in turn, pretending he was about to shoot them.  Miragin had risen from the bunk, and Oret and Zemos stood in front of him, shielding the Imdiko.

Remington giggled, somehow sounding like a little girl when he did so.  “What do you think, homo aliens?  You like seeing a female once or twice a day?  Does it make you wish you were me, someone who can have a woman’s pussy and not a man’s ass?  You want to hear how nice Mackenzie there feels to fuck?”

Elisa’s face flamed with heat.  She hoped Zemos and his clan knew she would never sleep with a disgusting pig like Remington.  She’d never known a man at all except to kiss ... if a teenage buss with a sixteen-year-old boy could be called knowing a man.

It might as well have been.  That innocent moment had landed her in all sorts of trouble over thirty years ago.  It had torn away every dream she’d possessed.  That moment of curiosity and infatuation had certainly not been worth the hell it had caused.

Elisa did not like Remington telling the Kalquorians or anyone that he’d enjoyed anything remotely sexual with her.  Even the most innocent instances could land her in hot water, and what Remington was saying could do a lot more than put her in the brig.

Somehow, it still paled in comparison to the fact the bastard was telling Zemos, Oret, and Miragin he’d known her in a carnal manner.  It made her sick to her stomach to think they might believe him.

Her cart clattered as she rushed out of the cell block.  Elisa’s chest was tight as she escaped the hateful sound of Remington’s laugh thudding in her ears.

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