I’m really excited to say that Embrace the Romance: Pets In Space 2 anthology is releasing next Tuesday, the 10th. I thought for today’s backlist feature, I’d share an excerpt from the story I wrote for Pets In Space 1, in 2016, which is now available in my ebook Star Cruise A Novella: Stowaway: With Star Cruise Rescue and Golden Token Short Stories. Yeah, I know, totally unwieldy title…but pretty cover, right? (From Fiona Jayde.)
Here’s the story for Star Cruise: Stowaway: Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.
Here’s today’s excerpt:
This was the time of day he enjoyed most, when all his crew had gone off duty and the Nebula Zephyr’s top cargo deck was quiet. Sure, more work remained tomorrow to get the cargo squared away properly and ready for the next stop, but there was no rush, being several weeks out. Cargo Master Owen Embersson surveyed his desk in the tiny office on Deck 18. Time to leave the place to the ship’s AI, go have his dinner in his cabin and then resume work on the scale model of a long-vanished temple he was building. This one was incredibly intricate, and he’d charge the customer triple the usual price.
Stepping onto the echoing deck, he called for Moby. She spent most of her evenings hunting vermin lurking among the monstrous crates and containers, but she usually passed the first part of the evening in his cabin, eating the incredibly expensive cat food he had the ship’s AI keep in stock. Not much else to spend his salary on. “Come on, cat, I want my dinner even if you don’t,” he said to the elegant vision in white fur who trotted from the murky recesses of the deck. How she stayed clean when she spent her days prowling the cargo deck, he’d never know.
Purring, she came to his steel-tipped work shoes but evaded his effort to pick her up, moving just out of range the way felines did, as if cats could teleport. Moby scampered toward the towering stacks of cargo then turned. Seeing he’d failed to chase her, she sat, tail twitching, head tilted, eyeing him.
“What‘s the matter with you? I’m not in the mood to throw cat toys and retrieve them right now.” Embersson headed toward the gravlift. Moby regarded the entire ship as her territory and could find his cabin for her dinner when she was hungry.
In the next minute, he nearly tripped as she rubbed his ankles, nipping at one in passing. Swearing, he caught himself with a hand to the bulkhead. “What in the seven hells is wrong with you tonight? Giving me a concussion won’t get you fed.”
Moby yowled at him and ran toward the stacked cargo again.
Figuring she wanted to show him a recent kill, which he’d then have to dispose of, he followed.
Moby moved faster now that she’d gotten him with the program.
|By Artist Nyssa Juneau|
He followed her around the corner of the pallet the ship had taken on earlier in the day and found Midorri, the Zephyr’s other pet, crouched beside a free trader container. “What mischief have the two of you gotten into now?” he asked Moby. Midorri came aboard the Zephyr originally as the pampered pet of a princess, but after the whole outbreak incident, Sector authorities refused to let the lady disembark on Sector Hub with the undocumented animal, so the ship had kept the odd green fluffball. Dr. Shane was her official owner of record, but the entire crew liked the slightly clumsy but always amusing creature.
Midorri sneezed, as she was often wont to do, allergic to humans perhaps, and flicked her plush prehensile tail before lowering her head and extending her long green tongue to lap at something on the deck.
“Freaking flares, do not tell me we’ve got leaking cargo. Damn free traders and their beat-up equipment.” He hoped Moby hadn’t sampled whatever Midorri was drinking. The alien animal could probably handle anything up to and including nuclear fuel, who knew, but Moby was definitely a terrestrial cat, with a more delicate stomach. He tried to shoo Midorri away from the slowly growing puddle of green goo, dripping from a dented corner of the container. Musta gotten banged when the shuttle crew offloaded the final pallet too fast and had to straighten everything in a rush. Funny, he’d never have picked this box—well constructed, made from high-quality materials—to be a problem. “I better see what’s in there,” he said to the interested animals.
Moby yowled, startling him as her voice echoed, and Midorri emitted a high-pitched chirping that grated on his ears like a physical assault.
Spurred on by the animals’ distress, which confirmed his own suspicion he faced a genuine problem, Embersson used his cargo master key, which was supposed to open any container on his ship. Nothing happened. Swearing, he tried again. “This free trader’s never shipping anything with us again, idiot forgot to set the damn code for my access. Maeve, can you open this?”
“Of course,” the ship’s AI said. “I haven’t forgotten all my military skills just because I run a cruise ship nowadays.”
“Wait a second.” He stepped aside, encouraging the animals to do so as well. He imagined a gush of whatever was leaking when Maeve did her hacking thing and overrode the container controls.
Midorri tried to climb over his boot to return to the growing puddle.
A loud click echoed in the cargo bay and the seams on the crate glowed yellow, unsealing in a smooth progression along the rim. Sure enough a deluge of liquid followed, but Embersson froze for a moment as he saw what had been inside the crate. Then he was on his knees beside the now-open container, heedless of the green cryo fluid soaking his pants, as he tried to extricate the woman who’d been illegally stored inside.
About Embrace the Romance: Pets In Space 2, for which I’ve written my first ever rock star romance!:
The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!
10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org http://www.hero-dogs.org/. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.