Thanks for having me as your guest today, Cathy! I’m happy to say my new Science Fiction Romance novel, ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE is available now. The story takes place in the same universe as WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, but the two novels aren’t connected in any way. My heroine in the new book, Andi Markriss, does work for the same galactic shipping company that Mara was employed by in WRECK, but that’s the only tiny connection. Good old Loxton Galactic Trading – they like to hire strong willed, independent women who stay cool in a crisis.
Here’s the book’s blurb:
no images were foundAndi Markriss hasn’t exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn’t about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane’s say-so—no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.
Deverane was thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigned him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Suddenly his mission to protect this one woman has become more than just mere orders.
That mission proves more dangerous than he expected when rebel fighters attack the village and raze it to the ground. Deverane escapes with Andi, and on their hazardous journey through the wilderness, Andi finds herself fighting her uncomfortable attraction to the gallant and courageous captain. But Deverane’s not the type to settle down, and running for one’s life doesn’t leave much time to explore a romance.
Then Andi is captured by the rebel fighters, but Deverane has discovered that Zulaire’s so-called civil war is part of a terrifying alien race’s attempt to subjugate the entire Sector. If he pushes on to the capitol Andi will die. Deverane must decide whether to save the woman he loves, or sacrifice her to save Zulaire.
So the idea for ESCAPE’s plot is based in a real life incident that happened in India in 1857. The events in India during this period go by many names, depending who’s telling the story, but one common term is the Sepoy Rebellion. I was always fascinated how so many British women and children in India at the time were caught totally unaware, suddenly in the middle of a really awful war, and the people they trusted and looked to for help were the very ones determined to kill them. I always wondered how it would feel to be in the middle of such a situation and what I’d do.
My novel is not a retelling of the Sepoy events in any way. Unlike WRECK, which was loosely based on the sinking of the Titanic, ESCAPE only takes the very basic idea and then runs with it. When the book starts, the heroine knows things aren’t quite right, she’s a guest at an isolated compound hundreds of miles from safety…and then one afternoon Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane shows up and says it’s time to leave now.
Here’s an excerpt from that conversation:
“I forget you’ve been out of the loop.” Sitting down, Deverane leaned forward, putting his hands on his knees and taking a deep breath. “Two days ago I got urgent orders, relayed from Sector Command, diverting me from my primary mission. The new priority was to come five hundred miles out of our way to extract you for a safe return to the capital city.” From the dry tone in his voice, Andi guessed how little he’d appreciated the change. “Now, if you could get your things together, I’d like to be on our way before dark.”
She blinked. Today? He wants me to leave now? Andi shifted back into the chair’s embrace, crossing her legs. “Get my things—what are you talking about? I’m the guest of Lord Tonkiln’s family, and I’m expected to present a significant gift from Loxton at the reception tonight with due ceremony. I can’t ride off with you on literally a moment’s notice without some compelling reason. Why is your Command issuing orders concerning me anyway?”
The captain got up in one smooth motion, like a great cat uncurling, paced to the fireplace and back, then half sat on the edge of a sturdy table. I bet he’s a person in constant motion—discussing anything in patient detail doesn’t appear to be his style. Well, I’m not one of his soldiers and I don’t take orders from him, so he’d better explain himself.
“Call me Andi.” And let’s get this discussion on a less military, more personal level so you stop trying to give me orders.
The quick, meaningless smile crossed his handsome face again, never reaching his eyes. “Andi. In case you haven’t heard, this entire planet is about to be embroiled in a devastating Clan war.”
Andi didn’t hesitate. “Ridiculous. The Obati and the Shenti have been at peace for four hundred years. Everyone has been satisfied with the status quo for four centuries. How long did you say you’ve been on Zulaire, Captain?” She raised her eyebrows, drumming her fingers on the arm of the chair. “You’ve been here—what? Two weeks?”
He drew himself up to his full height, probably a foot taller than she, hands clasped tight behind his back, and glared at her. “I’ve been here long enough to see that this place is approaching critical mass, which apparently escapes your scanners. You’re the only offworlder on Zulaire right now who isn’t military, diplomatic, or mining personnel. And all of them are either safe in the capital or behind the defenses of the West Vialtin mine. Except you.” His index finger stabbed the air in her direction. “Along with my men and me. I intend to correct that situation in short order. Now, if you will please get your things—”
This is ridiculous. Not intimidated but curious, Andi shook her head. “We would have heard something out here. My office would have gotten in touch with me.”
Deverane walked closer, leaned on the table. “Have you received any communications from the office, or anyone since you came out here?”
“No, but it’s the summer slow period. Even the Loxton office is all but closed.” She gave him a challenging glare. “Look, on the basis of what you’ve said so far, I don’t appear to need rescuing. You still haven’t told me anything to justify leaving tonight, missing the reception, insulting my hosts, and driving back to the capital like a prisoner.” Wishing the deep upholstery didn’t make rising such an ungraceful process, Andi left the chair.
“You aren’t getting the picture.” Jaw clenched, he took a few steps to stand next to her. The glare from his green eyes was scorching, and Andi recoiled from the intensity. Apparently taking note of her unease, the captain gentled his voice. “Though why that should surprise me, I don’t know, considering the warnings Lord Tonkiln and the other members of the Council have ignored.”
“Warnings?” Andi took a step back, crossing her arms over her chest.
“To get their families the hell out of this isolated, inde¬fensible spot and into safety at the capital.” Deverane took a deep breath. He walked over to stare at the carvings on the mantel. Andi got the impression from the rigid set of his broad shoulders he was trying to control his temper. After a minute, he came to sit near her again. “I was told your boss made numerous attempts to get in touch with you, right until the moment he and the rest of the Loxton staff took a ship offworld.”
“Dave left Zulaire? They’ve all gone?” Now Andi fell back into the chair, raising a small puff of dust from the plush cushion beneath her. A wave of nausea rippling through her gut, she ran a hand through her hair, looping the tendrils behind her ear. “I don’t understand any of this. Why would my boss and my co-workers leave without me? Why wouldn’t the Tonkilns tell me? You’re still not making sense.”
Deverane came to hunker down in front of her chair, caging her with his arms, invading her personal space. Inhaling sharply, she caught a whiff of musk and forest and man, threaded with some delicious spicy note. She glanced down at his hands, strong, capable, locked on the chair close to her body. As if to calm an upset child, his voice was soothing and low. “Relax. We can get you offplanet in a military transport once you’re safely in the capital.”
She lifted her head, gazing straight into his eyes. Half-formed thoughts chased each other in her mind. The longer he talked, the more nervous she got, but it was still all too much to take in. Loxton only pulled staff offworld in the most serious situations. I haven’t heard a whiff of trouble. Dave wouldn’t have left me behind. Would he?
Deverane touched her arm lightly. “There have been incidents all summer. People disappearing, vehicles abandoned on the transportway with no sign of the occupants. There have even been some small-scale massacres in isolated villages, both Obati and Shenti. The violence keeps escalating. Command thinks a full-blown war is only a breath away, waiting for some convenient incident to touch it off. Lord Tonkiln and the others have chosen to keep things quiet, leaving their families at risk out here in order to demonstrate their belief in their own supremacy. Putting on a pretense of things going along as usual. Or else they refuse to see what’s coming. Civilians.”
He might as well have said idiots.
Deverane frowned at her, three deep wrinkles marring the strong sweep of his forehead. “Are you prepared to take the same risk?”
He’s invading my personal space, damn it. I don’t intimidate that easily, pal. She pushed at his rock-hard shoulders. Standing, he moved away a pace or two, still keeping his eyes locked on her. Licking her lips, Andi smoothed down her silky skirt. “You’re insinuating my hosts have deceived me and deliberately put me in harm’s way? I find that insulting.”
Eyes closed, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re a pawn to them.” Now he reopened his eyes and flung his arms out, hands wide open. “You mean nothing to them. If you’re going to refuse my offer of evacuation, then you’d better be ready to take care of yourself, because I guarantee you the Obati won’t.”
GIVEAWAY!!!! Veronica has kindly offered a $25 Amazon gift card to a random commenter. What do you think of this exciting new SFR! Comments will be open for the giveaway through Wednesday (9/4) evening and a winner will be announced Thursday (9/5). So comment now, people!
ETA: Thanks for dropping by and commenting! We have a winner…Jody W.! Congrats, Jody! Buy lots of cool books! : )