Dade, human-Caeorleian hybrid and ex-military grunt, doesn’t fit in—not with humans, not with aliens, not anywhere. He’s always on the outskirts, angry, and people aren’t sure they can trust him. When he encounters a compatible tziu named Yaseke, secrets, misunderstandings, and attacks nearly prevent the two from making a connection Dade sorely needs. Even after they unite, Dade and Yaseke face challenges that two newly joined males should never have to endure.
From traitorous council members, to sadistic aliens who plan to sell them as slaves, to meeting a mysterious race of revered aliens called Collectors, Dade and Yaseke manage to stay together—and even rescue two youths related to Yaseke, who’ve lost their parents to the same betrayer.
Someone from Dade’s past is at the root of everything he’s suffered. No way can he let them get away with what they’re planning, but Dade isn’t sure he can stop them on his own. If he doesn’t let go of his isolation and risk the pain letting others in will bring, he’ll never save Caeorleia in time.
“Where are we going?” Maerit asked.
“Farther away from the crash.” A small windstorm had picked up on our second day of walking, forcing us to huddle together under the blankets, but it had the effect of wiping out our footsteps from the ship. I wasn’t sure if the Vlrsessiums had the technology to scan for our body signatures from space, but I wasn’t taking any chances. And who knew what lived here? A creature, intelligent or not, could be drawn to the crash site by the noise. I didn’t mention that worry, though.
“We’re staying safe until help comes for us,” Yaseke said firmly. “Seral will find us. Until then, Dade will keep us together and safe. He used to be a soldier, you know.”
“As a human?” Pira’s soft voice drifted back to me on the small breeze.
I stiffened, but none of the hatred I’d heard from other Caeorleians using that word colored her hum. “Yes.”
“Did you kill people?” Maerit turned around and looked at me, walking backward for a few steps. “Like us?”
Images of the many types of aliens I’d killed flashed through my mind. Some I’d have called people, some were more like animals. But I’d never killed Caeorleians. “No,” I answered honestly. “I’ve never killed anyone like you. I didn’t come to Caeorleia as a soldier.”
“How come you look like us if you used to be human?” Yaseke had tried to explain it to them the first night, before we started moving again, but kids were too damn nosy.
Muscles along my shoulders and neck tensed. My breathing shortened, and I had to bite back a growl as I froze in my tracks. Maybe traveling by night was a bad idea. The children had more energy than before, even while walking, and had started asking more questions. Maybe it was the vitality of youth, along with their ability to bounce back and recover from trauma. That wasn’t a question I could answer, though.
“Some doctors changed Dade against his will. He doesn’t like to talk about it, and asking such personal questions is rude.” Yaseke’s hum was gently reproving. He walked back and stood in front of me. His hands landed on my shoulders and massaged the muscles tensed by the memories I refused to remember. “Breathe with me,” he said.
He took one hand and held it to his heart space, letting me feel his chest moving up and down. I focused on his eyes and the warmth of his chest under my hand. That brought me back from the memories enough to focus on sharing his rhythm. Yaseke slid his hand down my neck to my chest.
“Good,” he said. “Keep going. In and out.”
I needed to get it together. We had to stay alert. Pira had asked an innocent question, and I was falling apart. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re fine,” Yaseke said softly.
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Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find an interesting story one day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started… Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out.
Fortunately, with the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep writing. Now you can find her stories both free and e-published. When she’s not on the computer typing away, she’s a wife and a mom of two in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the many worlds in her head, of course!
She can also be found quite often at her blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard, or maybe hardly working, as an admin on GayAuthors.org under her online nickname, Cia.