by Laurel Richards
As two groups of human colonists fight over territory, Ardra is caught in the middle. She is captured by Roimiran soldiers who are convinced she has been programmed with Tetch military intelligence. They turn her over to Jackson Deimos, a telepath trained in interrogation.
He’s very good at slipping in and out of other people’s memories, but he isn’t prepared for Ardra. Although it’s his duty to break her and find out what information she’s carrying, he finds it impossible not to fall for the beautiful captive.
Jack begins to question his loyalties, while Ardra confronts the fact that the life she remembers might be a lie. Will their attraction save them or tear them apart?
Note: Previously published as A Stellar Affair by Samhain Publishing in July 2015. This work has been revised and re-edited.
Genre: Sci Fi Romance
Content/Theme(s): Spies, Psychics, Telepathy, Space Opera, Futuristic, Military Intelligence, Paranormal
Release Date: March 15, 2017
Excerpt & More
Sunlight spilled into Ardra’s holding cell from a long, narrow window set high in the wall to her right. A chair in the far corner by the door was the only other furniture, but unlike her bed, it was not welded to the floor. She had lost track of exactly how long she had been here. Her time on board the Oberon was turning into a distant memory, and it worried her that she was getting used to this place.
She sat on the bed and wiped the sweat from her upper lip. This morning, she was scheduled to see Jack again. He sent for her every other day, and she could only assume he interrogated other prisoners in between. In the beginning, she had felt confident that she could handle anything he might do to her, but now she wasn’t so sure. Her last confrontation with him had taught her to be scared of his abilities.
It had started out much like their previous meetings. He had offered her a glass of tea and had made small talk as if they were old friends. Then she’d started to feel sort of light-headed or lethargic—what she had learned was a sign that he was using telepathy on her. Try as she might, she couldn’t shake it, and then it had happened.
She hadn’t really noticed the transition, but suddenly she’d been back on Nintu V during her second week of work with GEHD BD. The worst part of this mental shift was that she hadn’t sensed anything odd. She’d felt as if she were really there and didn’t question it.
Ardra was sitting across from Sonja Ward in the lab, just as she had her second week on the job. But as they talked, Sonja had started saying things she had never said the first time:
“What made you come here to Nintu V?” Sonja asked.
“I saw this job as a great opportunity,” Ardra told her. “I hope to be able to settle here permanently. I’m sick of moving around so much.”
“Oh?” Sonja tossed her dark ponytail over her shoulder. “Have you moved around a lot in the past?”
Ardra continued logging in samples. “Yes, though I don’t remember most of it. My family moved almost constantly when I was a kid. Actually, my mother had it worse. It sounds like she followed my father around their whole married life. By the time I was born, it was a tradition. Wherever his job took him, we uprooted and went with him.”
“That must have been hard,” Sonja said.
“Sometimes it was.” She rubbed her forehead. “I’ll tell you one thing, though. After I went off to school, it was a whole different story. Shortly after I left, my father decided to break into the mineral business out of Dirdurak, but my mother put her foot down. She wanted to stay on Nintu III, and she wasn’t about to go chasing his silly hide across the universe anymore. Unfortunately, by then my father was so used to taking her for granted that he got stubborn. He packed up and left on his own, and he was shocked when she didn’t run after him.”
Sonja tilted her head. “So where are they now? Is your mom still on Nintu III?”
Ardra tried not to let her sadness show. “Sort of. My mother died in one of the terrorist attacks on Nintu III—the one where the Roimirans blew up Bio-Tech. I was still in school at the time.”
“And your father?”
“Killed in an asteroid mining accident not long after he left my mother. One of the hazards of the job, I guess.”
Ardra squeezed her eyes shut to see if that would dispel the strange feeling of light-headedness that had washed over her, but it didn’t help.
“I’m sorry,” Sonja told her. “Do you at least have a lot of memories of them?”
That’s when Ardra had woken up. Whatever Jack had done must have worn off or broken down or something. With a jolt, her senses had returned to the immediacy of the precept’s house, and she had discovered she was sitting on the sofa, leaning forward with her forehead pressed against Jack’s shoulder. He sat opposite her on a chair he had pulled close. He was sort of hugging her with his hand on the back of her head, and he had gotten really worried when he’d realized she was awake.
“It’s okay,” he’d said quickly. “You’re all right.”
She had been groggy enough that it had taken her a moment to push him away. “What the hell?”
“It’s all right,” he’d kept repeating. “Don’t be startled. You don’t have anything to worry about.”
She hadn’t believed him. Her whole body had trembled as she’d realized what had happened to her. This was what the precepts did. This was the kind of mind game Jack could play with her. How many times had he done this to her? Every day since she had first gotten here? Could he do this without her realizing it? The sinking feeling in her gut told her he could.
And now she was going to have to face him again.
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