This week I talked about my latest book and the inspirations behind it over at the Whiskey With My Book Blog. Here was the beginning of my remarks:
"This story actually began with a short story I wrote for the Pets in Space anthology, about a beautiful alien woman who happens to be an empath and a prisoner of a ruthless crime mob. Once that tale was done, I remained fascinated with exploring the idea of an empathic heroine and what ways her power might manifest, both to protect herself and to accomplish tasks for the Amarotu Combine, my interstellar mob….”
For the rest of the interview, hop on over there, plus there’s a different excerpt at WWMB than the one I’m sharing here today!
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.
Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.
The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?
Opherra is the crime boss in charge of the operation Miriell was brought in to accomplish. Jareck is her very unpleasant ‘handler.’ Conor of course is the hero, although he is a stone cold mob enforcer. The excerpt:
Miriell lay on the couch, fully dressed, working as hard as she could to stay calm, to slow her racing heart and to breathe. The room was dark, Jareck having headed out to the hotel’s elegant casino hours ago. She wondered if his bosses had any idea how deep his gambling obsession ran, or about his other addictions. Maybe they didn’t care. Maybe that was part of how the Combine kept him securely in their thrall. He’d take one risk too many on some trip of theirs, or so she hoped. Opherra certainly didn’t seem like the type to overlook his habits, and she had a demonstrably short temper. Jareck could be flirting with his own execution. But then, what would a heartless crime boss like Opherra do with Miriell?
There was a click as the door opened, and she sat up as far as she could, surprised Jareck would leave the pleasures he loved this early in the evening.
As the light flashed on, she realized with relief that the newcomer was Conor. He paused on the threshold, eyes narrowed, assessing the room. “I said I’d come to check on you. Where’s Jareck?”
“He went out.” Tempted to betray the controller’s vices, she held her tongue. She had no allies, no reason to trust anyone, but she knew Jareck’s temper. There was no guarantee she’d help herself by making trouble for him and all too much risk he’d make her pay dearly for the breach. There was nothing but rivalry between him and Conor.
The Amarotu soldier walked to the couch and stared at her. “How’s your breathing? Will you be able to do what Opherra needs tomorrow night?”
“I think so, “she lied, before giving him a truth as well. “I’ve never had this problem before. Thank you for trying to talk them into finding a doctor for me earlier in the car.”
“He shouldn’t have left you alone.”
For a second, Miriell felt warmed by the concern, but then she realized he was probably referring to her earlier escape attempt and fears she might make another. Irritated, she flipped the blanket aside, revealing the shackles anchoring her to the elaborate carved arms of the heavy couch. “This room is bigger and much more luxurious than my cell at the home base, but a prison still. Rest assured, I won’t be running again.”
His lips tightened, and an expression of distaste flickered across his face, gone so fast she thought she might have been mistaken.
Miriell pulled the cover over herself again, embarrassed to have revealed her bonds and, even worse, shown a tiny of piece of her genuine emotions. It’s not my fault I’m a prisoner. There’s no shame attached to me here. But the feeling lingered. She hated being lesser in this man’s eyes.
“I’ll turn the lights out so you can rest,” he said, striding toward the door.
“Please, can you do one thing for me?” She hated to ask for anything from these people, but her breathing wasn’t improving, and she was frightened. Jareck wouldn’t show up for hours, if at all, and when he did, his mood might be volcanic if he’d lost, or he might be too drunk to pay any attention to her. At least Conor had tried to get a doctor for her.
Hand already on the door, he paused, glancing over his shoulder. “What do you need? Water?”
She gestured at a huge bouquet the hotel had placed on the table at the other end of the capacious sitting room. “Could you bring those closer to me? Maybe on the floor next to the couch?”
He threw back his head and laughed. “Lady, that’s the strangest request I’ve ever heard. You like the smell? Do you eat them? What?”
She bit her lip. Giving the people who held her prisoner any information was a bad idea and a possible betrayal of the other captives from her world, but her chest ached from the effort to draw breath, and she felt dangerously weak.
Conor strolled closer. “No answer? I’m not touching the flowers till you explain.”