Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 50

The nightmare that consumed my mind as I slept held me in its grip when I woke as a hand touched my shoulder, and I lashed out and backed away. The corner of my cell was safest when they were trying to prod me out. They’d get me, eventually, but I couldn’t make it easy on them.

“No, no, no, no,” I chanted as I rocked. The darkness shocked me. My cell was never dark. What new trick was this?

“Kohen, open your eyes.”

I froze. That voice didn’t belong. Not here, not in this place.

“Kohen. I need you to open your eyes and look at me. It’s Everett. You’re safe. Just open your eyes.”

My breath sawed in and out. Not again. I’d had another nightmare, and I’d hurt Captain again. I didn’t want to open my eyes and look at him, see what I’d done.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry, just open your eyes. Look at me and see.” Captain’s hands were on my face, his fingers stroking my cheeks. Cautiously, I opened my eyes. His were the first thing I saw.

The darkness was gone, a low light brightening as we kept moving around.

I searched Captain’s face, his neck, his bare chest. There was a faint red mark on his shoulder. “How…?”

“Before I woke you up, I put a cushion between us. It blocked most of the blow.”

“You shouldn’t have to… I’m sorry.” I touched the spot. “I should go to my quarters.”

“No, you shouldn’t. You should stay right here, with me.”

I pulled away, pushing to my feet. I had to use the wall for support. “We can get enough contact when I’m awake and it’s safe for you.”

“But I like sleeping with you. Space is cold, even when the ship’s enviro controls are set to perfect human parameters, it feels chilly. I’ve never had someone in my bed before.” Captain was still at my feet, and it was strange to look down at him. I wanted to offer him a hand up, but I hesitated. Finally, I held one out.

“Are you going to stay down there?”

Captain heaved a big sigh but let me help him up. “I was thinking about it. If I’m vertical, we need to get back to work. We should be arriving soon, and I want to ditch this ship.”

My mouth was probably around my knees. “Ditch. The ship?” The words didn’t make sense together.

“Shame for something like this to be sold off for parts, but it’s time to go underground. When Freska gets free, she’ll pick us up.”

Captain pulled me into his arms. I relished the feeling of his skin against mine and drew in all my sense of him. He seemed okay, not favoring his arm. I probably hadn’t hurt him, but I hated the risk. I wanted to do the meditation exercises Lakshou had taught me to calm down, but they were tainted with the knowledge that he’d just gotten close to me so he could get my trust to turn it against Captain and hurt me.

“So where exactly is this place? That you can sell a whole ship?” It was strange to quietly clean up and dress. I moved around Captain’s quarters with him, like we’d done it a hundred times or more instead of being new.

“Most races know of Mackinack, but don’t actually know which planet it is. Have you heard of it?”

I shook my head. “No.”

Captain smiled. “Mackinack is like… the shadiest dreams can be reality. Nothing too dark, no slavery, no eating sentient beings or anything like that, but if it can be voluntarily bought and sold? It is. Or gambled. Or traded. And it all happens below the surface, literally. The virtual market is on a secondary plane, a virtual one that can be accessed below the crust. You must know a gatekeeper to get in, and you must have something the gatekeeper wants in order to garner their interest enough to gain access.”

“Do you?” That was a silly question to ask. Of course he did. “Never mind. So you’ll sell this ship there? And Freska will meet us? Will it be safe for her? She won’t be tracked?”

Captain snorted. “No one could track Freska’s ship if she doesn’t want it to be. I’m sure she’s late because she decided to draw away some pursuit or saw some means of capturing more intelligence. She is very capable. If she was one whit more bloodthirsty, she’d take over Deke’s position. Well… if she cared for more than machines. It’s harm to any of her precious metal companions that really pisses her off.” Captain shook his head, a wry grin creasing his cheeks and forehead. “Her poor babies, she moans.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” No crushing any shuttles or other metal parts around the crazy mech lady. Got it. “So will we get to Mackinack soon?”

“We’re arriving at J277 Alpha Zenta in the Jexan quadrant now. That’s what Central knows this planet as. I’ve a few contacts here, no one anyone else would recognize. Friends of friends of friends. People who served and know what it’s like.” His grin was gone, and Captain paused with his hand on his stomach.

“Mackinack is… underneath?” I asked to break him from his trance.

“Yes. We’ll go down with a few guards. Leave the ship up here where it is safe and take a shuttle like we’re going down for supplies. I’ll use vid images to make the trade.”

Captain stopped, and I nearly ran into his back. “Together, remember? Where I go, you go. I learned my lesson. Nothing is going to separate us.”

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Featured eBook: No Way Out by Eric Alan Westfall

Today there's an eBook cover with a man with an eyepatch on my blog. An eyepatch! Epic! Check out No Way Out by Eric Alan Westfall, but first, he answers a few of my best questions.

no way out

QSFer Eric Alan Westfall has a new MM historical romance out:

It’s April of 1816 in Another England.

And Jeremy—a whore from the Dock—is living in a guest bedroom at the London home of the (in)famous Iron Marquess, with over fifteen days missing from his life.

For someone who remembers everything from his third birthday on, it’s unnerving not to know. Fine, fourteen days for the coma and the infection delirium. But those first thirty-six hours. Do they explain how he got hurt, how he got to Ireton House, and why his lordship’s mountain-sized valet is taking care of him? Or why his ironness looks at him with nothing iron at all in his eyes?

Jeremy and the Iron Marquess both have dark secrets. Forced engagements, an inheritance, a scheme to clap Jeremy in Bedlam, the revelation of the missing hours, a problem with plumage, some numbered accounts, and a long sea voyage, all seem to mean there’s no way out of the snares surrounding them. Or is the old saying true: where there’s a waltz, there’s a way?

All royalties will go to a local LGBT organization.

Universal Buy Link | Amazon | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


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Do you have a favorite quote?

            I have, I think, a sort of packrat mind, which over quite a few decades (to quote my late partner, I’m older than dirt) has accumulated bits and pieces of lines that I like. Lyrics from songs, nothing recent, and a lot of them musicals. Snippets of Shakespeare. Things from poetry or novels. And I use them in pretty much everything I write. Although I don’t sit there and think, “Okay, I need an allusion to a lyric. What will it be?” I’m just typing along and there the reference is.

            So I have a Shakespearean “thing.” The first quote is one I’ve used often, and it appears in no way out, to hopefully good effect. It’s King Henry’s speech at Harfleur, the start of which is:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage...

I know that much “by heart,” but the totality of it is so extraordinarily powerful.

            The second is because it always moves me, no matter how many times I reread it. Sonnet 29, which begins: “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes//I all alone beweep my outcast state...” and ends with such a glorious uplift.

How did you come up with the title?

            The title and the opening line are one and the same. It was never going to be anything other than no way out—lowercase. Why lowercase? Because I think it visually suggests flatness, despair, fear, concern. Those three words are the core of the book. Both men feel there is no way out of the problems which beset them individually, and later, together. Yet they try. And since all of my Another England (alternate history) novels ultimately have an HEA, they succeed. But how? Well, I hope the manner is unexpected, a great deal of fun, and quite beautifully romantic...with a little Latin thrown in. (No, no, no. Get your minds out of the gutter. The language, not a guy. Sheesh!)

Do your characters try to make like bunnies and create ever more convoluted plots for you? Or do you have to coax them out of your characters?

            Any convolution in plots is pure (impure?) me. When I start writing, I have the title, the opening and the ending, and a pretty good idea of how I’m going to get from start to finish. The only book I didn’t have the right title for at the start was The Warlord and The Bard. It started life as a long, long ago short story called “The Meeting” and pretty much stayed that way until I started expanding the plot and eventually the final title popped into my head.

            I know writers who have had characters do just that...demand more, different, you can’t do that you have to do this...but it’s never happened to me. What takes the plot off in a new direction is usually an idea that occurs to me, and once I start writing, the story expands to explore the logical (my logical, not necessarily the world’s “logical”) consequences.

            For example, in early August when I was starting the push to finalize no way out...which included finishing a number of incomplete chapters (I don’t write linearly)...I woke up in the middle of the night, stumbled around until I got to my office, blinded myself with the light, grabbed a pen and bit of paper and started writing, then stumble-staggered back to bed with my night vision shot.

            The first thing was a new title for an important chapter:  In Which Several Secrets Are Surrendered. The second thing was notes on a box and its contents which have significance for one of the MCs, some dialogue, jottings on what happened. But when I started turning the notes into typing I realized this scene revealed something important about the MC, a facet of him I hadn’t realized existed, but which made so very much my never humble opinion. I started having fun exploring that facet and incorporating it elsewhere.

            I hope this makes sense.

What are your future projects?

            After a long dry spell I’ve released three books recently. A Cocky Confession Story Collection was released 8/6. It’s an eclectic collection of fantasy, paranormal and contemporary short stories, with the contemporaries being sexy, humorous reading. On August 13, Of Princes False and True, a gay retelling of a fairy tale from Andrew Lang’s 1910 collection, The Lilac Fairy Book. (Appropriate, huh?). The third was no way out.

            I’m hoping to have Christmas at the Baths done and out before Christmas. It’s a somewhat different, perhaps unusual story, from what the title might suggest. Contemporary. I’m not sure whether it’ll be a short story or a novella. I’ll have to see where Mike the Manly Muse takes me, if he’s not spending too much time in a towel, cruising.

            Next year, I’m confident I’ll have two more fairy tale novels to publish. 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar (I’m sure you can figure out the source) and The Truth About Them Damn Goats—setting the record straight in the words of the troll himself...on a TV show.


6 April 1816
1:38 p.m.
Ireton House, London

no way out
The voice was back.
Inside my head.

Still I swiveled, twisting to look behind, knowing I would see what I always see when the words are said—nothing. The unpainted, scuffed wooden floor was empty. The door to second story elegance had not creaked since we passed through, shutting it behind us, moments ago. The stairs to lesser third-story elegance and fourth story no elegance at all were both bare of bodies who might whisper words only I could hear.

I turned forward again, teetered, and reaching out, slapped my palms flat against the walls of the narrow servants’ stairs. Pressing hard, I tilted back, but my socked foot slipped on the slick wooden edge. When I landed, the floor made known its displeasure with a sharp splinter through the rope-belted loose trousers, ill-fitting smalls, and into my bum. I yelped.

The cold voice of Thomas, the senior footman, rose up the stairwell from the landing below. “His lordship is waiting.”

I shifted my weight to my left hip, and rolled to my knees, giving him a fine view of my bottom if he was watching, which was by now instinctive. I made a point of lifting my left leg with great care, and with equal care placing my foot on the floor, again in case he was watching. A right foot repeat and then some clearly awkward struggling to get myself as upright on the landing as I could—although a boy with a twisted spine and a twisted leg can never be truly upright—followed by a shuffle-step away from the edge. I suppressed the temptation to rub my right arse cheek. Without turning around I called down, “Well, bugger ‘is bleedin’ lordship! Me feet ‘urt ‘n me arse ‘as been ‘urt, too.”

My feet didn’t hurt much any more. Though bandaged still, and covered with the thick wool stockings sagging around my ankles, they had almost healed. But the pretense might keep me here, with a comfortable bed, and good food, for just a while longer. I grinned a small, wicked grin to myself, and wiped it away as I turned to face the stairs. “Right, then. Shall I drop me britches, turn ‘n bend and you can see what’s stickin’ in me bum, ‘n maybe come up ‘n pull it out?”

It was amazing how much disdain could be contained in stare and stance. Thomas even managed to look down his nose while looking upthe stairs.

“Orright, orright. Jus’ wait a bleedin’ minute. ‘n you might want to close yer eyes so’s y’don’t see somethin’ what might ‘orrify you, just in case me grip slips, ‘cause I ain’t goin’ nowhere with somethin’ stickin’ in me arse.”

My hands were on the knot in the rope, and I grinned broadly when the footman closed his eyes, with a stern “Be quick about it then, boy.”

I untied the knot, loosening the waistband since whoever supplied the trousers was much thicker around the middle than me, using my left hand to hold the pants up. I reached behind, and working my right hand into my smalls and found the painful little bugger. With thumb and forefinger I wiggled it free, brought my hand round to the front, and looked at the bloody, bloody thing. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I lifted the three-quarter-inch sliver before my face. “Oi! Is this a dagger wot I see before me?”

Bloody hell. Bloody, bloody, bloodyhell. Maybe Thomas wouldn’t.... Well, bloodyhell all over again, he did. The footman was looking at me now, his eyes wide, his mouth open to say something, and then he slowly shut it.

It would only make it worse if I tried to cobble together an explanation of why, or how a sixteen-year-old street boy (the age I gave) could paraphrase The Scottish Play. I shut my own mouth, dropped the splinter, retied the knot, and began descending the stairs with care, one thumping step at a time. I braced one hand against the wall—his lordship did not believe in hand rails for his servants—in case of another slip. The footman waited until I was almost at the landing before turning away. Watching my downward struggle, he was unconcerned about the possibility of another fall, his expression informing me if I fell I was on my own. I followed in silence as we went through the halls of the first floor to the front of the house.

Ah, his lordship’s library. I stared at the door.

I’d been in there, just the once, when I shouldn’t have been. But then, I shouldn’t have been in the house in the first place, but I was, though I didn’t know why. Or how I came to be here. Both were part of what was missing. I could remember every...bloody...thingin my life up to the night before...whatever...happened. Remember the Dock on the 12th, the clock in my head saying it was ten thirty at night when I finished the last man. I remember the glint of the shilling as it spun through the air, making me get off my knees, bend and stretch to reach it in the muck. The feel of the metal between my fingertips as I picked it up. Then the twist and roll away, my back taking the brunt of the kick meant for my belly. The man was one of those who, once done, and eager to be tucked and buttoned away, feels guilty and lashes out at the one responsible for his sin. I remember his silhouette as I got to my feet, his realizing how much taller I was, and how the silhouette turned and hurried away.

Then nothing more until I woke up too damned many days later in a bloody nobleman’s house, in sobbing agony, weak, my feet, head and thigh throbbing with pain.

Author Bio

Eric is a Midwesterner, and as Lady Glenhaven might say, “His first sea voyage was with Noah.” He started reading at five with one of the Andrew Lang books (he thinks it was The Blue Fairy Book) and has been a science fiction/fantasy addict ever since. Most of his writing is in those (MM) genres.

The exceptions are his Another England (alternate history) series: The Rake, The Rogue and the RouĂ©(Regency novel), Mr. Felcher’s Grand Emporium, or, The Adventures of a Pair of Spares in the Fine Art of Gentlemanly Portraiture(Victorian), with no way out(Regency) coming out a month after Of Princes.

Two more fairy tales are in progress: 3 Boars & A Wolf Walk Into A Bar(Eric is sure you can figure this one out), and The Truth About Them Damn Goats(of the gruff variety).

Now all he has to do is find the time to write the incomplete stuff! (The real world can be a real pain!)

Author Facebook (Author Page):

Author Twitter:

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 49

This week's flash was inspired by the prompt: There is always some madness in love...

Captain had allowed himself to be distracted for a moment, and then he’d been back to business. I wasn’t nearly as strong as he was. It was a good thing I wasn’t in charge of anything, because all I could do was eat, drain the cup of blessedly cool water I was given and then another as soon as it was refilled, and watch him. He was so sure, listening to the reports the crew gave, considering each one, and issuing orders that took us out of the berth in port and set us on the original course to rendezvous with Freska.
“She’ll be there. Sooner or later.” He can such confidence in his crew. At least certain ones.
“Where is there, Captain Querry?” Kekillill asked.
“An out of the way planet. One not as under control as Central might like to think. And one where we have friends.” Captain nodded to the pilot at the helm, a grizzled species covered in poky spines all along his back. He had two long arms, and a pair of shorter, thinner arms that had long, dexterous digits that extended from two balls on the end. “Slidot has the coordinates.”
“Yes, sir. Ready to engage once we’ve dropped the decoy drones.” His voice was a thin as his fingers, high and reedy, not the deep voice I’d expected from the barrel-chested alien.
“Decoy drones?” I asked.
“Another bit of Freska’s handiwork,” Captain said.
“They’re small holo-emitting drones that cast a solid field projection that match out ship, right down to our emissions. We can use them to confuse our trail.” Slidot pointed to four different blips on the screen. “On the main screen, Captain?”
“Go ahead, this is always interesting to see.” Captain gave him a nod.
I watched as the screen lit and the small devices jetted out. They spread out in all directions. “Watch this,” Slidot piped. The screen split into four as the decoys got farther away. “Activating decoys now.”
Shimmering into view were four copies of the ship, each one a mirror image in every way. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were real, even though there’d been nothing but empty space around the tiny metal devices a second before.
“Navigation paths locked. Engaged in three, two, one.” All four ships shot off, trails disappearing rapidly as the ship moved in our own direction.
“And there’s no way to tell the difference?” I asked.
“Nope.” Slidot didn’t really have a neck to turn, but his head bobbed from side to side.
“Why didn’t you use those decoys when we were going into the port then, instead of getting reinforcements? Wasn’t it risky to contact more people, in case there are more spies working with Brox?”
There were a few twitters and sounds, some shifting. No one spoke, the silence complete except for the sounds of the consoles. Too late I realized I shouldn’t question Captain in front of his crew or bring up such a sensitive subject. I grimaced.
“The decoys can only follow a single set path, and since they are only tiny drones, they don’t have capabilities to hold an AI system capable of answering the port authority questions if the ships were intercepted.” Captain spoke as if I hadn’t just committed a huge mistake.
I nodded, not willing to open my mouth and say anything else stupid.
We traveled for at least another half-shift before Captain gave up his seat and headed for his quarters. “Contact me the second we hear anything.”
“Yes, sir.” Kekillill was also on a rest period, so the next person in command was yet another crew member I barely knew and a species I’d only heard of but never seen in person. The feathery tufts of fluffy pink hair on tendrils of skin coming down in a fringe from just below its eye were very distracting as it spoke and the air it breathed out sent the fronds dancing.
Captain’s pace back to his quarters was swift, though he stopped several times to reassure crew members who saluted him. The break was probably more for me than him—my breath was coming short, and the skin-crawling need was starting to ride me.
It wasn’t even sexual. It was all need. As more time passed and we didn’t hear from Freska, the more worried he got. He didn’t show it, not really, but I watched him constantly. I could see the tension in his body rising, feel its echo.
Entering his quarters started to ease it, but only slightly.
It was crazy, feeling someone else’s mood, their emotions. “There is always some madness in love….” I muttered.
“What?” Captain turned, his top half-off.
“Nothing. Just something I heard once.” Did I love him?
I wasn’t really sure what love was. But I needed him. And, based on the exhaustion in Captain’s eyes he couldn’t hide, he needed me too. I stepped in close, running my hand over the exposed skin of his chest.
“Kohen?” His breath caught when my thumb brushed his nipple.
“I need you.” I didn’t say anything else, and neither did he. We went to the room, the bed, and our clothes were pulled off and dropped to the floor. I pushed him onto the bed, then crawled over his body, touching as much of his skin as I could.
We should have cleaned up, the bitter tang of fear sweat a harsh reminder of the ordeal at the port, but it only fed our desperation. I sucked up a mark on his chest, then another on his belly, then one on his hip.
Then I applied all that wet, sucking pressure to the place he needed it most. His shaft filled my mouth, my throat, and my belly when he stiffened and shot come inside me so I could greedily swallow him down, to hold him inside me.
Captain hauled me up and a few rough strokes of his hand painted his belly with my seed. “Everett!”

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 48

“Everett.” My voice was husky, deeper, raspy in a way I’d had to mimic before with targets, but it all came totally natural with him.

“Mmhmm.” Captain put his hand on my face and tilted my chin up so our gazes met. “You scared me. I would really like it if you didn’t do that again.”

“Me too.” Not that I wouldn’t step in front of a weapon in a heartbeat if one was pointed at him.

He brushed my lower lip with his thumb. “Your body is so distracting.” Heat flared in his eyes. “But we don’t have time for more.”

“You sure?” I leaned in closer to him. He was still clothed, but his body heat filled the small space.

“Yes.” His hand fell away slowly, and he stepped back. “Your clothes are done.” A light flashed and then the screen opened, and a suit in my size, perfectly measured against my body. It fit like a glove, tight where it should be and loose where it shouldn’t.

Unabashed, I dressed while he watched me. I had just the pants on, my bare feet sticking out of the pants when Captain’s hands landed on my sides and he pulled me in close. “You’re sexy naked, but you’re even sexier when you’re halfway dressed. The way your hips dip in here.” His fingers tickled as they traced my muscles. “Your lean strength.” He groaned. “Oh fuck it.”

Captain pulled me in tight. His lips slanted over mine, the soft, pliable surface just right for a nibble.

So I did.

He jumped, his hand squeezing, a gasp pushing into my mouth. I grinned in triumph, losing the pace and rhythm of the kiss. A mechanical voice interrupted us, asking if there was need for another fitting.


The main door slid open, an unsubtle hint. Captain cleared his throat, holding the bundle of clothes in front of him, and lead the way out. “Something about you makes me lose all sense,” he muttered.

I followed him, grinning, the short jacket flaring at the waist and covering my erection just enough to keep from being obscene.

Deke’s grim expression wiped away the relief our brief respite gave us. Captain stiffened. “Did he die?”

“No. I had to gag him though. Fucker was squealing so fast I couldn’t keep up. We need to get him back on board with a recorder. We need to keep all these names. See what proof he can offer up.”

Captain nodded sharply. “Thank your friend for us. I know he didn’t have to let us in.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of place this was. There was a feeling of a lab to it, with machines and beeping and chemicals, but I couldn’t be sure that it was a hospital. It didn’t look like the place where I’d had the tests and experiments and all the long years of torture done to me either. And since I never wanted to come back here, I didn’t plan to ask what it was.

We collected Elliard and headed straight for the ship. I couldn’t see how Deke had gagged him—he looked perfectly normal—but the cowardly man kept jerking on his restraints. He definitely wasn’t getting out of those.

There was a tense moment when we were challenged by guards at the port, but they cleared us when Captain flashed his paperwork and captain’s badge.

The ship was a hive of activity inside. We passed through the hold, then moved up to the medical wing. Deke stayed with Elliard and Aparoe who clucked and frowned at me when he told them what I’d used. I shrugged.

“You rather I let him keep pointing weapons at Captain and Deke and trying to get away? He was going to take him with me and sell me. He’s lucky he isn’t missing parts.” I was done being prey, done being weak, done being the one who flinched.

“Do you need treatment?” one of the medics asked.

“No, I’m fine.” I backed away, closer to Captain. “Just some bruises and scrapes. The paralytic is all gone.”

“Fine. Then go do whatever else you need to do so we can get some peace and I can stop having to patch people up down here.” She glanced at Deke. “He’s a bit too much like you now.”

“Hey, I didn’t know he took the knife,” Deke protested.

Captain turned smartly, and I followed suit. Apparently even Captain hurried away when the chief medic was in a mood. We marched toward the ship’s command center.

“You can go to your quarters and change, get something to eat, maybe rest,” Captain offered.

I looked at him steadily.

“Or come with me.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll ask a crewman to bring some rations to our stations.”

“That works.” I could eat. Now that the immediate danger had passed, and the arousal I’d felt had faded, other complaints were making themselves known. The gravity on the planet was lower, but I’d strained some muscles in my legs jumping. I was definitely hungry and very thirsty.

And I’d probably pay whatever it took for some cold, clean water—though I didn’t have any money, so I had no idea what I’d pay.

Kekillill jumped to her feet and saluted when Captain crossed the threshold. “Sir!”

“Thank you, Kekillill. Report, please.” Captain sat, indicated a second chair for me, and Kekillill launched into a verbal report before my ass hit the minimal cushion. Guess they didn’t want the officers getting too comfortable.

“Freska reported in. They’d had some difficulty in their mission, sir, and gone on radio silence. But there have been no communications about Frijul or the team, our ship, or your cousin since we’ve been in system.”

Captain tugged on his lip with his thumb and forefinger. I was reminded on when I’d nipped at it, pulling the soft, pink skin between my teeth and biting down gently. And suddenly the coat wasn’t enough to hide… things.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 47

We reassembled into something that appeared to be guards hurrying Elliard away for treatment for any recording that might capture our escape and any staff we might run into since we didn’t have time to find his secret exit. Captain kept one hand on Elliard’s shoulder, but I could see his fingers digging in, not gently resting on his cousin in reassurance. No, he didn’t want to let go because he wanted to ensure the bastard stayed close so he couldn’t get away.

I understood, though I’d already exacted my form of revenge on him. His frantic eye rolls and the rapid thrumming of his heartbeat in his throat were subtle signs of the agony Deke said he suffered, but it was enough to satisfy the dark need inside me for the way he’d threatened to harm Captain.

There was one tense moment when two workers came out of a door and nearly slammed into our rushing group, but they flattened along the corridor and simply watched us rush by, their eyes wide and mouths dropped open.

“They could alert someone. Don’t you know a faster way out of here?” Deke snapped.

“Almost there now.” The guard in front swung right at the fork in the corridor and then a left, and then a large set of double doors whooshed open and we were once again outside. This time I was upright, moving, able to see and feel and hear the world moving around me as more than a frozen block of flesh.

Not that there was anything to see or hear. We were in a quiet courtyard surrounded by buildings and the ground was covered as far as the eye could see with artificial landing grids. Each one held a craft. “Here.” The guard held out a locator and ignition wand. “Take this. It’s mine. It’ll get you to the hospital. Don’t get to the main Command one, or you’ll get made.”

“I didn’t plan on it, son.” Captain clapped him on the shoulder. “Take care of yourself and don’t get caught for what you did today.”

The shifty guard moved in a hunch, drawing his shoulders forward and down, slouching to one side and effecting a hard limp as he took a few steps to clasp forearms with Deke. “Me? Take on other guards after my injuries? Not likely.”

“Ahh… a fox in the hen house, I see.” Deke grinned. “As long as it gets you some pity dates as well. War hero and all that.” They laughed.

“There were no heroes in that war,” Captain said, his voice bleak. I put a hand on his shoulder. He was rigid under my touch. “We need to go.”

Deke somberly led the way, muscling the grav lift into the car when it didn’t want to glide into place smoothly. “Sorry,” he said under his breath to Captain when he passed him.

“I know.” Captain nodded once.

We headed away from the Intelligence building. “Are we really taking him to a hospital?” I asked.

Deke was at the controls of the craft. “No. Leastwise, not one that’s on any official radar. But they’ll be able to keep him alive when the paralytic wears off. I’d take him to the ship, but I can’t guarantee Aparoe will have what is needed.”

“How do you know so much about it? Do you have a medical background?” I knew so little about the men and women and other species who made up Captain’s crew.

“No. But I know my weapons.” Deke stood straight and tall. “Know what kind of wounds and damage they can make. You shouldn’t use a weapon if you aren’t sure.”

I brushed away the faint need to apologize at his words; they weren’t accusatory, just matter-of-fact. It was a lesson I’d take to heart.

Hours passed while we were forced to wait for Elliard to be treated. I did apologize, often, for that. We needed to get back to the ship and relieve Kekillill before someone realized the ruses with the other ships and that we’d been to Intelligence and to pick up Elliard’s accomplice, Frijul, as well.

“Deke, you got this?” Captain asked after a full clock turn.

“Not going anywhere.” He was seated in the corridor outside Elliard’s treatment bay, the man’s grav unit in plain sight.

“We’ll be back.” Captain captured my hand and towed me along with him. I dug in my heels when we approached the exit.

“Where are we going?” Leaving the makeshift hospital in the older building flanked by two automated factories was dangerous. I couldn’t let him take the risk.

“You need clothing. The rest of us have our uniforms or off-duty clothes. You have some things cobbled together or robes.” My chest constricted at the idea of wearing the robes Lakshou had given me. “Yes, that. So I want to stop at the tailored dispensary I saw down this road.”

Before I could argue, before I even knew what else there was to argue about, I was in a semi-private cubicle at the shop, stripped of every thread of clothing, with lights scanning every inch of my body while I was put through poses on the vid screen.

The last pose just faded when Captain opened the door. He was grinning widely.

“Glad you’re amused,” I said drily. “Since you dind’t have to do it. Some of the poses!” Obscene. That’s the only word that came to mind.

“Oh, I have before. I remember them. And I’ve been sitting outside the door, thinking about the last time I had a suit made here. But you made it into an art form.” Captain had his clothes draped over his arm.

“Captain, I need to get—”


“What?” I snapped. I stopped trying to shield myself and crossed my arms over my chest.

“You said you’d call me by my name.” Everett stepped in so close I could feel his warmth. “Everett. Say it.”

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