Friday, February 14, 2014

The Power of Love Blog Hop!

Feb. 14th-16th
Love has been very kind to me. I met my husband a few days after my 16th birthday. We hit it off from the first moment we met. It was definitely lust at first sight, lol. That gradually turned to love and now, 16 years later we'll be celebrating our 14th anniversary next fall. We've had ups and downs, but we make it through them together. Sometimes that means one of us pulls the other kicking and screaming, but what's love without a little torture thrown in?
I thought, in honor of this blog hop, I'd write more on a story I've been dying to flesh out for a long while now. I'm also offering one commenter a chance to win any one of my eBooks, their choice! Or if you have all my eBooks, I'll hand over a $5 gift card instead. So, rules, details, all the fun stuff... first, you must comment of course. I want to know what the power of love has done for you. It can be friendly love, romantic love, family love... whatever you feel comfortable sharing. As always, I NEED your email. If I can't contact you, I can't send you a prize, right? :)

When you're done reading, check out the other blogs in this hop sponsored by Julie Hayes and MA Church. Each one is hosting some sort of V-day event as well as a giveaway.
Married to the Enemy

“You will do your duty!” my father thundered.

I bowed my head, my fists clenched as tight as my jaw. I stormed from the room, not daring to speak. I’d been meek my whole life. I obeyed without question, accepted the strictures placed on me. That hadn’t done me a bit of good.

Neither had blowing up, and finally after many long years, releasing my iron grip on my temper. That had earned me a pair of guards and a day of fasting to purify me to receive Stygianius’ wisdom.

It wasn’t right. I’d hoped that one day I’d have a husband I could love. I didn’t expect to be offered to a stranger as part of a peace contract.

The high priest had chosen me as the chattel our people were to send, a gesture to placate the Nembero. I’d considered him a friend, my only confidant who knew the misery of my existence. For I was only Verlast ever born dedicated to Stygianius; I was unique on my planet. Unique on Verlast meant feared and shunned.

But I was just a man.

I vented my fury in my room as I paced, but there was no way out. I couldn’t leave and make a life for myself in the star lanes traveling to the adapted human planets, not with my ‘gift’. The sign the gods put on me at my birth, that made my father conceal me from the world, was nothing but a curse. Isolated, restricted, and helpless—I lived my life confined to the shadows as I waited to fulfill a special destiny. The priests had assured my father upon my birth that one day Stygianius would make his will known to them and killing me would offend the god.

So I lived. I’d survived the circumstances of my birth all to fulfill a destiny that consisted of being an unwilling sacrifice to the most infamous Nembero ever born, Zaran.

Their battle leader, a man feared more than any other for the atrocities he committed in the name of war.

My husband.

The priest came to me, speaking of the Nembero and the war, impressing upon me the importance of meeting my fate with open arms.

I snorted.

He meant accepting the vicious bastard’s use of my body to keep him from raping our world further. I refused to acknowledge his words as he tried to speak of the heat of battle and the way it could warp an otherwise good man. The plea he repeated over and over to look upon this union as a chance for a new life and not a slow death sentence. I ignored him until he went away.

How could I trust him anymore? His words echoed in my head as I destroyed every symbol of Stygianius hung on my walls. I tore the hangings from the windows, then screamed and retreated to the furthest corner to avoid the pain my temper won me.

My doors stayed locked.

The next night I was led outside my father’s compound for the first time since my birth. Soldiers surrounded me. We stood on the steps of the capital city. I’d never seen the twinkling city before. People crowded the plaza, gaping at me.

I kept my head high. Inside I trembled, but outside… outside I was stone.

For once I resembled my father, with the harsh, unmoving lines of his face and his rigid bearing. His speech was broadcast through the city and the planet on speakers, but I didn’t hear a word. He stepped to the side and held out a hand toward me. I stepped forward but shunned his hand.

He narrowed his eyes, but there was nothing he could do as the crowd roared. What else could he do to me, anyway?


I traveled by shuttle to the planet of the Nembero. Unwilling to get too close to the net of their planetary defenses the captain rocketed me toward the planet in a private pod with the few possessions I hadn’t destroyed. I arrowed through the atmosphere at a screaming pace, but not even the fire surrounding the pod was enough to keep me warm as a cold knot grew larger in my stomach.

The buffeting of the atmosphere shook me hard, and I winced.  The straps dug into my chest and shoulders. My pale white skin, unblemished by the ebony spots of my people, would not be so unblemished anymore. Dark bruises were sure to blossom from the sudden jerk of the pod as a landing beam stopped the shuttle’s downward momentum.

I’d heard the servants speak of the tentative cease fire. Their glances had meant nothing until I figured out the sacrifice they spoke of was me. They also spoke of their sons and brothers, husbands and fathers, and their coming home for the first time in many long years, at least those who had not died in battle. I kept my mind fixed on the thought of those lives saved with peace brought with my body, rather than their blood. I ignored the words my father sent me away with, orders to submit to my husband and placate the Nembero lest I shame him further.  

Nothing shy of death could be worse than the loneliness of my life so far, could it? Maybe I could change my circumstances. My father couldn’t stop me from talking to people, or leaving my room, anymore.

The door to my pod opened, and I could feel a cold air flow against my skin for the first time in weeks. It was a sensation I’d rarely felt. I could only go outside on the nights when the dark of the moon held sway on Verlast. Just a single night on my world, every few months. I was allowed one short walk in the courtyard, completely isolated by guards at every entranced. I’d gone barefoot as many times as I could, just to feel the rocky cobblestones beneath my feet.

Verlast was a warm planet. It was cold here, chilling me even as I enjoyed the fresh breeze. The smells were very different. I took a deep breath and caught a rich spice that flavored the air as people entered the pod. I could hear their steps.

Loath to move from my chair until I knew their greeting customs, I stiffened, folding my hands in my lap, and waited silently. I was growing cold but refused to wrap my arms around my body for warmth. I made sure my back was straight and lifted my chin. My life was no longer my own, not even to the small extent of freedom I’d had before, but I would not give in to fear either.

“Kertyn of Verlast?”

“I am,” I said.

“I am Markin, Tuothic of the Nembero people. Have you come to my planet of your own will to marry Zaran, the battle leader of my people?”

I turned my face toward the speaker and nodded once.

“I do.”

The draft entering the pod was more than my thin clothes, suitable for the shuttle trip through space, could protect against. A violent shiver wracked my body.

Just then the other person spoke, the deep voice like velvet across my skin.

“This is ridiculous, Markin, the boy is clearly lying. He is not here willingly to marry me; look at him shake in fear. He won’t even look at us!”


I struggled with the straps holding me to the chair. Jerking them off, I stood up. Clearly no one had told them of my so called gift, the full extent of Stygianius’ mark.

I turned to other man. My husband.

I do not lie! I may not have chosen you for my husband, but I understand the reason for this union. I am ready to do my part. Are you? I shake because it’s cold here, much colder than I am used to”—I took a deep breath—“and I do not look upon you because I cannot see in the light that came on when the shuttle landed. The sight of my marking is also… disturbing to others. I seek only to ease this meeting with you, my new husband.”

Silence reigned when I finished speaking. My hearing, extremely acute, caught nothing, not even the sound of movement.

“You are… damaged?” the leader asked finally.

“I am not!” My fists clenched at my sides. “I am the chosen of the god, Stygianius. His darkness was brushed across my eyes when I was made, and I was given the gift of his heat-sight. The night is his realm, and my own. I am Chosen, not damaged!” I said. The words were on a lie, at least as far as my father was concerned, but I’d learned to live with my differences.

What other choice had I had?

“Hmm,” the Tuothic said thoughtfully, “perhaps this will not be such a disaster after all.”


“You thought one of the light stealer’s children, one of the Verlast, would never be able to live on our world. You thought the vision the priests had, that the peace they promised, would never be fulfilled. The gods would never be so cruel as to punish your many sacrifices with a husband that was not right for you. Trust, my old friend.”

My jaw clenched. “I wish you would not talk of me as if I were not here.”

“Our apologies,” the Tuothic said.

The battle commander didn’t apologize.

The leader of the Nembero continued, “You are still shivering. I think we should get out of this pod. Markin can guide you as you get your first glimpse of your new home.”

I snorted, my patience and courtesy stretched beyond repair. “I told you, I cannot se—”

“And yet you shall,” he interrupted.

I didn’t want to accept the arm I felt when Zaran moved to my side, but I didn’t want to fall either. I was used to moving around the compound without sight, after a lifetime, but I couldn’t do that here.

“A banquet has been planned for tomorrow evening. Tonight is your Vagal, your union night. I came only to greet you as the treaty required the husband to fulfill the bond between our people was willing.  As you state you are here of your own will, I shall leave you now, the contract fulfilled.”

A large hand gripped my arm. His skin felt hot against mine, and he radiated that heat all along the left side of my body. I pulled free and bowed politely to the Tuothic. I heard him leave and then my husband took hold of my arm again.

His voice was low as he guided me out of the pod, instructing me when to step down. The door shut and I half-turned.

“My stuff—”

He tugged me back around. “Will be brought to our home by others later.”

I stiffened. His home, including his bedroom. I shoved the fear down so that it would not show on my face.

“I can see you shaking, you know.”

“I am cold, as I said.”

“I can smell your fear, boy. You cannot fool me. You do not want this marriage… or me.”

“I don’t know you! Would you not feel fear, if you were on a strange planet, unable to see, married to a man who has a reputation of such brutality among your own people they will only whisper his name, as if speaking it aloud would bring down his wrath?” If this man was going to be my husband, I’d have him see me for who I was, temper and all.

“I am not boy either! As a prince of Verlast, I could only do what was best for my people. I didn’t come here expecting love. Yet I came. I am here; I am married to you by peace treaty, not even a ceremony. And for good or ill, this is how things are. I am nothing if not practical. Marriage isn’t the greatest challenge I’ve faced, and I do not bow down to fear.

“I shall not offend the gods by rejecting the union that apparently both your priests and mine have claimed is the only way to find peace between our people. I came to your planet, to make this my new home in good faith and with an open mind. The least you could do is to extend that courtesy to me as we get to know one another.”

Zaran made a growly sound in his throat and then he sighed. “You are right. I am sorry. This is just....” His hand tightened on my arm. I hid my wince. What was one more bruise?

I supplied the word. “Difficult.”

“Yes,” he said. “You’re different from what I expected.”

“Is that a good thing?” I asked. I shivered; the air was very cold though the heat coming off his body warmed the left side of me.

“I think so,” he said softly. “But you must be freezing. Let’s go inside and then I have something that I want to show you.”

He began to lead me away from the pod carefully guiding me up a set of stairs and through a large portal door. I heard it slide shut behind us and the wind finally stopped. The air felt very dry but warm inside the building. The floor shivered under us, and I swayed. Zaran tugged me closer to his body. I stiffened, but he didn’t move or let go.

 “Will you trust me, just a little more?” he asked. He took me a few steps into the room and then turned us, standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders.

“I’ll try,” I said quietly.

“Open your eyes.”

I shook my head. “You don’t understand. Light is painful to me, beyond painful.”

“Trust me, Kertyn.”

I took a deep breath and cracked my eyes open. When I wasn’t assailed by agony-inducing light I opened them further. My mouth dropped open.

“What is this place?” I whispered. I didn’t want to speak any louder.

“This is my home, our home.”

“It’s so beautiful.”

All around me sparkles of color colored the ceiling. They were shiny prickles of heat, but so small they looked like far off stars. I could see, really see, but it didn’t hurt. I turned around.

I gasped.

“What?”Zaran said. He frowned and squared his shoulders.

“Your… your eyes.” They were like white jewels, set in skin so dark and hot it looked like ebony fire. I longed to touch it to see if it was as smooth as the black sheen looked like it was.

Zaran’s hand came up and brushed under the pitch black orbs of my eyes. “Are not as beautiful as yours.”

My cheeks warmed. No one had ever said my eyes were beautiful. No one had ever touched me or looked at me with such warmth. My own father had never met my eyes without shuddering, and here a stranger, offered me the precious gift of acceptance.

I looked away from him, before I could embarrass myself with an unseemly outburst. I bit my lip, taking in the elegant space, all clean lines and comfortable furniture, of my new home. I saw a window and rushed over to it. I looked outside and felt my mouth fall open again. There was no sky, no sun. Outside, there stretched a darkness like I had lived in my own life but it was light all over by the same jeweled lights that were here in the house. There were many buildings all around us.

“Your people live here?”

I turned to look over my shoulder at Zaran.

“Yes. We are unable to live on the surface of our planet. Our sun is a red dwarf star, and it is too cold to live above the warmth of these caverns. The liobi, the lights you see, keep the caverns lit and warm. Our entire ecosystem is dependent on them.

“That’s what started the war between our people,” he said quietly. “Some of your people came here many years ago and saw our lights. Taken from our planet the luminescence fades and they become no more than sparkly rocks. Sparkly rocks your people coveted enough to go to war over.”

My father was relentless when he wanted something. The rest of my people saw him differently than I, his son, did. I saw through the charismatic and warm veneer to the ice inside. “So… to protect the life of your planet and people, you went to war with my people, killing hundreds of thousands.” I turned to face him.

Zaran stared in my eyes, pain so clearly etched on his face that I didn’t know how he could stand it. “We never wanted war, but we face the extinction of our kind. We can no longer tolerate the light of other worlds. Without our planet, the Nembero would become extinct.

“I could not allow my people to die. So I did things that no one should have to do, things so horrific the cost of taking the liobi became greater than their worth. But I never intended for the cost of peace to be….”

“So personal?” Zaran had risen to the challenge to protect his people, at great personal cost.

“Yes. If—” Zaran turned away from me, his voice breaking. He took a breath. “If you don’t want this marriage between us, I can speak to the priests. Should this be too much for you to bear, and what I’ve done to your people is too much for us to overcome, I will release you from the treaty. I never wanted a husband who would be with me only out of duty and obligation.

“I never want to live with a man who fears me,” he said softly.

I used my eyes and really looked at the man in front of me. The firm tone of his voice had softened. He didn’t sound like a battle leader anymore. He certainly didn’t look like he commanded armies and battles, obliterating ships of Verlast soldiers. His shoulders were slumped, and I sensed a great wound to his spirit. He didn’t seem a monster. He seemed like a man pushed to the brink of no return. A man set apart by the choices he made for the good of the many at a cost almost too high for him to recover from.

I understood doing things you have to, for the sake of others. In that, we weren’t so different after all. Perhaps there was more common ground between us than I thought. Perhaps this marriage would be more than a way to peace for our people. Maybe this would be a way to peace for both of us, as well.

I thought back to the way I felt when his hand touched my face, and he called my eyes beautiful.

I put a hand on his shoulder and turned him around.

“I do not fear you.” I took a deep breath. “The gods would not have brought us together if it was not our destiny. I cannot promise you love, not yet, but I want to see if this marriage can be all the gods promise it to be.” I licked my lips, staring at the pulsing fire of his heart beat in his neck, then looked up into his eyes.

“My life I pledge to yours, Zaran. In peace and light, in strife and darkness, I shall walk beside you and share your steps until the end of our days.” I leaned forward and nuzzled his cheek with mine. He felt amazing, smooth and soft, and so, so warm.

“What was that?” he asked.

“The marriage vows of my people. I know we are already wed but through treaty only. I wanted to share the words with you as a promise.”

Zaran slid his hands down my arms and grasped my hands. He brought them up to his chest and placed them over his heart, then pressed them down.

“My people do not exchange set vows, we make our own. Marriage is set by contract, but we exchange tokens once the agreement is complete in a ceremony before our families, speaking words from the heart.” He let go with one hand and reached into his pocket and pulled out ring with twined black and white stones that curved around and around, and then joined in the center before flaring out into a wide solid spiraling oval that would lie along my finger to the first knuckle.

He looked at my eyes with his ice white gaze and smiled. “I didn’t know what you looked like but this token is meant to represent both of us. It does it better than I could’ve planned. Maybe this was destiny.”

His heat aura pulsed, fast but steady. “I promise to open my heart to you, Kertyn, and try to be the best husband I can. I want nothing more than to build a happy life in peace, with you, if you will have me.”

My lips trembled as he slipped the ring on the middle finger of my right hand. I kept my eyes open, wanting to see him as he came closer, bringing our lips together in a gentle kiss.

We stood there, staring at each other. The raw emotion of the moment after my long journey exhausted me. I stroked my chilled fingers against the warmth of Zaran’s chest. I could only imagine what being surrounded by an embrace would feel.

“Do you—”

We spoke simultaneously. “Can I—” We broke off at the same time.

I almost laughed. Way to break a moment with awkwardness.

“You’ve had a long trip. Would you… do you need anything?”


Zaran chuckled. “I bet. I’m sorry I didn’t think offer you some time to yourself before. That pod was pretty stark.”

“I’m used to it.” My father had never wasted many personal funds on luxuries. What I’d had in my room had been from the priest.

“The bathroom is down the hall. Would you like a tour, Kertyn?”

I nodded. I walked beside him, relishing my freedom. I’d expected Nembero to be just like home. I’m not sure why, except that I’d experienced so little else. I rarely had a chance to speak with anyone, other than snatches of conversations. Out of all the Verlast, I probably knew the least of my new husband.

And that was probably a good thing. I hadn’t acquired the hate and fear of him personally so many of my people had. They’d lost loved ones to him, but the Nembero hadn’t sought out the war. If any was to blame, it was my father.

Now was not the time to think of him. I shook my head.

“Is something wrong?”

“Hmm?” I hadn’t been paying attention again. “I’m sorry, I was distracted.”

“You’re exhausted.” He stopped. “This is the bathroom. I think the tour can wait for tomorrow.”

That meant going to bed. I’d never slept with anyone. Would we share a room, or would I sleep alone in a separate space?  

And what about before we went to sleep?

Zaran opened the door. “The far door opens into our bedroom.” He pointed down the hall. “That is the main door.”


I went into the bathroom and shut the door. My hands trembled as I stood there, but my bladder was complaining louder than my nerves. Thankfully, the Nembero were still human, no matter what their adaptations to their planet. The bathroom wasn’t that different.

The same sparkles light the ceiling, gently illuminating my face as I stopped by the sink. Water filled the smooth basin. I ran my fingers through my long white hair, pushing it back from my face. My eyes glittered in the light.

What in the world was I going to do in there? My isolation had been complete. All I had were my father’s vague warnings and disdainful curled lip. Whatever he expected to happen couldn’t be good if he felt like he to order me to do it.

I’d made a commitment, and I’d honor it.

Whatever it was.

Would I leave it here? Okay, I know I'm cruel, but I'm not that cruel! Come back tomorrow for more, and another round of comments to win any of my eBooks you want! Or, if you have them all, you can request a $5 GC to Amazon.

I'm having some issues with the Linky list of participating blogs showing up, so if it doesn't appear, please use this link to head over to Julie's blog, Full Moon Dreaming. I know it's live there.



  1. Love the expanded version of this story! I was just re-reading the original on GA the other day. As for what love has done for me like you, I met my husband around my 16th birthday and haven't looked back ever since. From sweet-16-never-been-kissed to 25 years of marriage it's been a fun ride. Neither of us dated anyone else. Being sentimental idiots that we are, our anniversary is the same day as our first date ;-)

    1. Oh? Me too! I was going... I'm really on an alien kick, but I don't feel creative enough with all my writing to come up with something new... OH WAIT! lol. Nothing like dusting off an oldie but goodie and making it better. And this really needed an update with all the new writing skills I've acquired.

      I can't even begin to claim being a sweet 16 ;) But I do know what it's like to meet someone then and grow closer over the years. It's not the 'norm' I'm told, but it's worked for us too!

  2. I always liked this story and am happy it is being continued.

  3. I liked teh story. I will be back.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    1. Thanks Debby, I'm glad you liked the story! You're welcome back anytime!

  4. A really interesting story,it certainly caught my attention and I want more. Thank you for sharing it.

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

    1. What can I say? I have a think for space/sci-fi/fantasy right now. These guys needed a longer story. :) Thanks for reading, HB

  5. Read this on GA and always wanted to read more!! Hope to read more tomorrow!

    1. Forgot about what love did for me. Mine would be friendship love. My best friend is someone who has much of my respect and love for listening when no one else would give me the time of day. She had already been through so much herself, and I had to be the perfect daughter because the rest of my sisters were sort-of evil. So we listened and were there for each other.

    2. Aww! I so get you. I met my best friend when we were 6. She's closer to me in most ways than anyone else in my life. And since we both had some issues growing up, we really bonded over our screwed up lives too, lol! I'm so glad you have someone.

  6. Hey! Thanks for joining the hop. :)

    1. Were you checking on me to make sure my post when up? I did it, I swear! I even plan to post new ones each day! Go me!! LOL

  7. What's love done for me? Two pairs of eyes find eachother across a dancefloor, boy meets girl. Lust and passion at first sight. Love..? Eventually. A love that has survived the roaring twenties with studies at university, long distance love for four years, billing hell at law firm, two amazing but demanding kids. Now twenty years later we are still in love and lust! Why? Because he is simply the most wonderful person in the world.

    I am very happy you revisited this story. I was really wanting to read more when I read it the first time. Thanks! //Malin

    Email malindj at hotmail dot com

    1. Awww, how poetic Malin! Thank you so much for sharing, and I'm glad you survived all that! Long-distance is hard and since I have 2 kids who I've dubbed, 'Monsters 1 and 2' it's nice to know they are survivable! :P

  8. Long time ago, I'd read this story and I really adored it, so unique and intriguing. So happy that there will be more!
    I'm glad that you included other types of love in your posting. I would say family love. My parents were never very affectionate in words or in touch. But I knew they loved us though actions, e.g. we got flu shots at a time when most people didn't get flu shots. Or if they read about some outbreak of something, they wanted us to get that tetanus shot etc.
    strive4bst(AT) yahoo(Dot) com

    1. I'm sticking with humans, but they're all different in the future on new planets. :) I know there are all sorts of love in the world, and I didn't want to exclude any. My hubby isn't the most demonstrative either, but if I get sick or hurt he's right there. It definitely shows you when a person really cares.

  9. I loved this story when i read it on GA. I hope this means it might get an expansion... :D **happy dance**

    1. It does, it does! Make sure you come back!

  10. So glad that you chose THIS story to expand! It was one that had really caught my eye back when I first decided to read it and I think that the characters really deserve to get their whole story told!

    As for the love part... I too am one who married my high school sweetheart. We started dating at 15... And this year will mark our 16th year together (married for almost 11). He has been my first and only everything, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

  11. I was so glad to see that you were back on this one. It has a lot of potential and I can't wait to read more. As to what love has done for me. . . . It has taught me patience and how enduring takes real work. Some people think that love is a beautiful and perfect thing. It's not. It is beautiful but it is far from perfect. I have been with my husband for fourteen years and there have been some patches that have taken a lot of work to get through. We are stronger for it. Love that is easy and hasn't had to grow will only crumble when the shit hits the fan.

    1. I never quite felt the ending fit the characters. I wanted to see the characters learn each other more. I have to agree with you. I'm hitting 17 years with the hubby this summer. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's well... a slog. But you do it, if you really want to make it work. Thanks for commenting Harmony!

  12. That was nice

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  13. I love this story, and as for how love has impacted my life, well, what can I say, 41 and still single, but I have great friends, and I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, that's all you can really hope for.

    1. Aww, well love comes in many forms and at all different times. I'm glad you have great friends! Thanks for commenting Kathy, don't miss the other updates for the hop too!

  14. This is one of my favorite stories.
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

  15. I remember these characters! I'm glad you decided to revisit them. I'm glad that after a hard life lived as a "freak," Kertyn has a chance to be happy and loved for who is.

    The love from my friends has kept me sane the last two years. I moved to Massachusetts as part of a midlife career change, and the people, culture and WEATHER really do not suit me. I've been miserable. My friends have supported me and lifted my spirits as I've gone through this difficult stage. Thank God for Facebook! -- Geemeedee; dmmcgruder at yahoo.

  16. Love is a grounding force for me. The story looks lovely!


  17. OMG, yes I adore the expanded version of this story. And I'm so off to read the rest on the new post.

    Love? I think love has shaped my life over and over many times. The love of my parents despite the fact that I've always been a terror in every aspect when I was a child (and not only then) the love of my dear brother who managed to keep me in track when I veered of the path at times, the love of my lovers even though eventually they ended it shaped me into the person I am today, but most of all the love of my children. I see everything with new eyes now because I see a simpler world through them with the added bonus of a mature brain. Love is humbling in any form and it's all the reason to live as optimistic and happy as you can, even when everything seem dark and grey.


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