I thought I'd share another excerpt from my latest scifi romance release, Two Against the Stars.
Here's the story:
Empathic priestess Carialle has escaped the evil Amarotu Combine, but she’s hardly out of danger. Not when she risks everything to rescue a drugged man from a crooked veterans’ clinic. By lulling the clinic staff to sleep, she reveals her powers. And once again, criminals are after her and her rescuer.
Marcus Valerian, a wounded Special Forces veteran, never expected to have his life threatened by the clinic that’s supposed to help ex-soldiers like him. But when he wakes from a drugged state to find a lovely woman urging him to run–he does. In his family’s remote fishing cabin, he suffers the agony of withdrawal, soothed only by her powers.
In their idyllic hideaway, the two also discover a nova-hot attraction flaring. But can they stay alive long enough for it to become more? Not if the Combine has anything to say–they are not giving up until Marcus is dead and Carialle is their weapon.
The excerpt – empath Carialle uses her power to ingratiate herself to the landlady:
As her landlady gently quizzed her about what she needed and made suggestions, Carialle used her power to peer more deeply into the woman’s aura. The colors indicated Mrs. Galaganos liked to keep her fingers on everything going on in the neighborhood. She had a deep thirst for knowledge as a means of control of her environment. Living in a place like this, Carialle could see why the woman wanted to keep up with the business of everyone in her orbit. Knowledge was power in certain situations. She wondered if Mrs. Galaganos planned to pump her for gossip from the clinic. If she gets too nosy about me, I’ll have to be on the move.
“You certainly maintain the garden in great shape,” she said, trying to change the subject.
Pride evident on her face, Mrs. Galaganos surveyed her small domain. “Yes, all but the biggest tree. I’ll be devastated if anything happens to it but the leaves have been dropping for ten days now and this isn’t the leaf-casting season. I gave it extra water.”
Impatient as she was to be off about her own errands, Carialle felt a compulsion to react to the concern about the possibly ailing tree. Tulavarrans and nature worked hand in hand on her planet and a priestess was never to ignore the needs of the differently-sentient. “Additional irrigation isn’t always the best tactic,” she said, walking toward the tree in question. “Let me take a look.”
Mrs Galaganos trailed behind her. The pet yawned, rolled over in its patch of sun, and ignored them.
The tree had a beautiful shape, with a swirling trunk rising twenty feet in the air, and graceful branches currently sporting rather patchy clumps of leaves. The older leaves were a glossy deep green but the newer ones were shriveled, mottled with red and brown. Carialle stepped across the ornamental barrier of white shells and rested her hand on the tree, reaching for the sentient with her power. A carving to the left caught her eye. “What’s this?”
“My late husband planted this tree when we moved in here, all those years ago.” Mrs. Galaganos sighed. “He was such a romantic—he carved our names into the trunk, with a heart, in honor of our love. Said it represented our promise to each other. This tree is my last link to him—he died a year ago. I’ll be devastated if it dies too. I feel close to him when I’m out here gardening in the shade of the tree.” Her voice quavered and Carialle feared the elderly lady was on the verge of tears.
She peered more closely at the inscription and could barely make out two names and several slashes resembling a date. The heart shape was distorted by the tree’s growth pattern. “It’s lovely,” she said, repressing a shudder at the idea of defacing the living wood in this fashion. The carving was old and clearly not the cause of the tree’s current health problem. “Bugs. Living deep within the trunk, feasting on the rising sap.”
“How—how can you tell?”
“I know a lot about plants. I’ve studied them.” Carialle improvised. The tree was attempting to tell her what course of action might help it fight off the infestation. She sent the entity a comforting thought and then used her power to push the insects.
Mrs. Galaganos screeched and retreated as a flood of tiny black and white insects came pouring from the ground between the tree’s gnarled roots, and out of every knothole. “I’ll get the watering robo and drown them!” She hobbled to take action, as the pet arrived to growl and make threatening noises at the invaders. His elderly mistress washed the horde off the sidewalk and into a drain, muttering imprecations against them and obviously taking great joy in defeating the hitherto unseen enemy. Carialle bit her lip hard to repress her urge to grin at the landlady’s enthusiasm.
She stepped away from the tree, hopping across the puddles and rivulets left behind on the sidewalk by Mrs. Galaganos’s flood. “I believe if you sprinkle a spice which possesses a heavy concentration of capsaicin or a similar substance, around the roots once a week, work it into the ground with a trowel and then water, the tree will remain insect-free and should recover. Follow the procedure for four weeks.”
“It looks better already.”
Carialle pivoted on her heel to survey the tree. The leaves did seem healthier and the branches were less droopy.
“How—how did you do that?” Mrs. Galaganos was staring at her.
Hastily Carialle sent a thread of her power to calm the old woman, and to help her believe the lie she was about to utter. “I heard them moving and chirping under the bark and so I thumped hard on the tree. I guess I startled a bunch of them and the others followed, like larger creatures stampeding. You took care of the problem then.”
Mrs. Galaganos took a deep breath and patted the robo by her side. “I certainly did.”
With reluctance Carialle left an outsized feeling of gratitude for her efforts in her landlady’s mind. The woman made it her business to know everyone and everything in the district apparently and Carialle might need a favor or significant help at some point. Always good to have a kernel of obligation already planted. “I’ve got to be going now. I’m running out of time before I have to be at work so I must get my errands done.”
“See you later, dearie.”
She waved and left the courtyard, heading for the marketplace. She’d probably gone overboard with her assistance to the tree, but it was hard to tamp down her power once she was engaged in a task actually proper and in line with her beliefs. At the same time, leaving Mrs. Galaganos feeling so indebted to her made her feel queasy. Uncomfortably close to the type of coercion the Combine had forced her to do.
And don't miss the other two books in this series!