I Blame Ted Danson For My Erotic Sci-Fi Romance ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE
Quite a few years ago, I watched an interview with Ted Danson, the actor best known for his stint as Sam Malone on the 1982 sitcom Cheers. The interview was on some kind of celebrity-oriented show, possibly Entertainment Tonight (back in the day when it was helmed by Mary Hart and John Tesh). Anyway, this interview is when I first learned that the actor was also an environmental advocate.
At one point during the interview, Ted Danson remarked something along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing here) “whenever we flush the toilet, it becomes somebody else’s problem.”
Well. Well. Talk about a massive guilt trip! I hopped right on that one, let me tell you. I don’t know if it was my upbringing or Ted Danson’s rebuking tone or the way he seemed to look right into the camera—right at me—but that moment was the first time I developed real insight regarding the monumental task of keeping Earth healthy.
Unfortunately, I was too naïve at the time to make a connection between my thoughts about his statement and my behavior—meaning that my behavior could change. But his words stayed with me, replaying in my mind even decades later. Naturally, this tended to occur most often when I had to use the toilet. Ugh! I kept agonizing over whatever harm I was causing the environment every time I had to pee or poop.
Eventually, I got wise about the fact that the only way to relieve my sense of unrelenting guilt was to start doing my part to help Earth. I began with easy things, like shutting off lights when leaving the room. Reusing items whenever I could. Keeping the water off while brushing my teeth. Recycling. Composting. I’m not as consistent as I could be, but I’m actively working on retraining myself and ditching maladaptive environmental habits.
Ted Danson’s words were so powerful that they had a particularly unexpected repercussion. When I decided to write my erotic sci-fi romance Once Upon a Time in Space (Red Sage Publishing), I channeled my experience with his message into the narrative. On one level, my book is about a hawt futuristic explorer who tangles with a sexy, ruthless space pirate during his quest to find a new world. But on another level, the story explores the consequences (albeit in a very fantastical way) of pollution allowed to continue unchecked on planet Earth.
Don’t get me wrong: my story is pure unabashed entertainment all the way. I intentionally avoided pulling a “Ted Danson” during the course of the story—no preaching allowed. But, given my encounter with his interview and its subsequent impact, I couldn’t help but speculate about the relationship between flushing toilets and a dying Earth. Are we really heading toward a time when we’ll be flushing our planet away for good? I shudder to think so.
Since writing the story, I’ve been working even harder on flushing away my harmful habits. In fact, as I write this, I’m awaiting delivery of a Fiskars 6201 18-Inch 5-Blade Momentum Push Reel Lawn Mower. Even though I’m hardly a lawn mower expert, I can’t wait to start using this baby. The exercise ain’t exactly gonna hurt me, either—take that, Ted Danson!
And now for a giveaway! To help celebrate Earth Day, I’m giving away a $10.00 Red Sage gift certificate to one winner (because going digital with books is another way I’ve gone green, and I’d love for you to join me, even if it’s just for one book). To enter, leave a comment telling me one way you’ve gone green or plan to do so.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.
Heather’s debut erotic sci-fi romance novel, Once Upon a Time in Space (Red Sage Publishing), features the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus on a desperate quest to find a new world. Standing in his way is Raquel, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.
In the sea of stars, an epic love story is about to begin…
Earth is dying. Nick Venture, the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus, embarks on a dangerous mission to find a new planet and save humanity. This places him on a collision course with Raquel Donovan, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.
Raquel lives for one purpose: revenge against a horrible demon from her past. When an attempt to hijack Nick’s starship backfires, Raquel becomes his protector in order to avoid capture by the tyrannical Space Defense Corps. Nick and Raquel are irresistibly drawn to one another despite the forbidden nature of their attraction. But the conflicted pirate’s deepest secret could tear the couple apart even as humanity’s time runs out….
Addition: I’m going to match Heather’s giveaway! So we’re offering TWO $10 Red Sage gift certificates!
As soon as I saw this necklace, I knew I had to buy it for some lucky winner.
If you take a close look at the cover for LADY DOCTOR WYRE, you’ll see that she’s wearing a necklace. That necklace is the key to keeping Sig alive.
As her creations returned to their origin, the locket seemed to catch fire between them, molten metal searing her breast. Too tiny for her human eyes to see, her assemblers crawled out of his pores and cells. All year long, she wore the locket against her skin, allowing her body heat and life energy to infuse the battery cells within, so that if he ever needed a jolt, all he had to do was reach her. She’d also programmed her assemblers to emit alarms if his life energy ever ran too low, so even if he were too injured or weakened, she’d always be able to find him.
While she would mourn his death, she had an ulterior motive for such a detail—the tiny nanobots could never be allowed to fall into enemy hands.
If you’d like to win this necklace, simply comment on this post and tell me your favorite etsy or other hand-crafted shop (preferrably online so I can shop!) or simply throw your name in the hat.
For extra entries, you can rate or review Lady Doctor Wyre. I’ll automatically pull in all rates/reviews from GoodReads, Amazon, or B&N (existing ARC reviews do count). If you rate/review it anywhere else (your personal blog, etc.), please comment with the links — or drop me an email so your extra entries are counted. Twitter counts too — just use @joelysue so I can see your tweet. Note that I can’t easily keep track of the “new” RT feature, so the old classic style is best to ensure your tweets get you the extra entries.
This giveaway is open to anyone on the planet, even if you’ve won something before, and will remain open until April 8th. The winner will be announced April 9th on the blog. If the winner hasn’t responded by April 11th, I’ll draw another name.
It’s Steampunk in Space for Joely Sue Burkhart’s new series. The Victorian-esq society is brilliantly crafted, multidimensional and intriguing. The futuristic aspects of this story will resonate with those who like such space tales as Whedon’s Firefly, while erotica fans will enjoy the ménage and bondage scenes. Burkhart has done an exceptional job of integrating these moments, and the heroine’s dominatrix tendencies, fully into the story. Readers will be anxious for the next installment in this universe!
I’m madly revising the holiday novella to get it submitted in time (by July 15th) and I’ve almost reached the halfway mark. My goal is to finish this pass by Monday and then work on a brief synopsis and blurb to accompany the submission. Interested beta readers will hopefully hear from me around Monday.
Skipping ahead a bit from the last excerpt I posted for you, this snippet takes us into the “dark outlaw’s” POV that Lady Wyre briefly referenced. Yes, I know, another assassin, sigh. But this man is not Gregar, although I think the Shadowed Blood approves most highly of him. *grins*
When a man killed for money—and was damned good at his trade—his price eventually went so high that few could afford him. Luckily for Sigmund Regret, there were plenty of millionaires as long as he was willing to traverse the universe. In his one-of-a-kind mega catamaran built to cut through space like a hot knife through butter, he lived a life of luxury purchased by the blood of others.
But no luxury in this galaxy could satisfy the abominable ache of loneliness or erase the scars of his childhood. Nothing could ease that ache…except one Lady Doctor Wyre who literally held his heart in the palm of her dainty little hand.
The miserable run-down nag he’d leased from the livery stable in this equally miserable hovel of a town snorted and gave one last weak jerk on the reins, trying to go back home to its dank stable. Finally the beast surrendered to its duty with a jerky pace that jarred Sid’s teeth. With the Solstice a fortnight away, the hours of darkness seemed eternal, so the few precious hours of thin, cold sunlight would be welcomed by most. Not him. He did his best work at night, and as the sun began to peek over the horizon, he urged the horse to a shambling trot.
In the cold and dark just minutes from her home, it was easy to let fantasies fill his mind. He imagined slipping the silver and ivory-handed pistols into a chest and locking them in a dusty, forgotten place or better yet, throwing them into an Imperial bin. Removing the slim, wicked little blades he hid all over his body one by one and tossing them out into endless space. Waking up to her each morning. Watching her wide smile of pleasure when he surprised her with little gifts like tea and ribbons and frivolous silk stockings that she adored so much.
Sig had many regrets from his sordid past, but he couldn’t bring himself to regret leaving her each Solstice. Not when it meant keeping her clean of the blood on his hands or protecting her from the dozens of agents and bounty hunters constantly seeking Lord Regret. God knew she had enough danger of her own. The last thing he needed to do was drag a man into her vicinity who’d sell his own mother to the Ravens for a fraction of the coin Britannia would pay to get the great scientist back.
In the narrow alleys, darkness still cloaked the rutted, snowy path with too many shadows that might hide some fool thinking he’d be the one to snag Lord Regret, but he didn’t deviate from the shortest path toward her. This close, he could feel a frisson of energy zinging through his body to which he was normally oblivious. Fire ants crawled through his veins, driving him closer to his target. Absently, he slipped a hand beneath his coat, rubbing his breastbone, but he’d never been able to feel her treatment. Just the scar where his heart had been.
He’d never been able to decide if the tiny machines living inside him were responding to their Creator with joy, or simply feeding off his own spike of emotion as he neared her. Energy rose in his blood, as though lightning would begin arcing about him. He was tempted to simply spread his arms out wide and see if he could soar into space, riding the pulsing waves of energy.
She’d not only saved him; she’d managed to increase his very normal human gifts until he felt invincible.
Yet no matter how arrogant he might be, he was not stupid. A lifetime of protecting his own skin drove him to ride past her snug cabin on the edge of town. He hadn’t been followed, but if anyone had noticed that he always fell off the grid around the holiday season…and decided to put a few eyes and ears at the most likely locations…the last thing he wanted to do was kill a man in her house.
She’d never forgive him if the blood splattered onto her fine silks.
Shaking his head with an amused smirk twisting his lips, he dismounted in a grove of trees. Snow blanketed their branches and the ground. A great hush hung over the town, an expectant silence in the absence of the prevalent winds, a drawn breath held without release. He listened for any sound out of the ordinary, stretching his ultra-sensitive senses for any sign of pursuit or a hidden trap.
The front door of her cabin slid open and a man stomped out. Tugging on his coat while he muttered beneath his breath, he headed downtown, casting a wary glance about him. Of course he didn’t even think to look at the grove of trees on the outskirts of town; he was too worried about gossipers seeing an unwed man leaving a lady’s house in the dead of night.
Sigmund did not fail to note the state of the man’s dishabille, nor did he miss the silver star on the lapel of the man’s rebel coat. A sharp pain in his thumb made him look down at his hand. Dumfounded, he stared at the slender blade in his palm. He didn’t remember drawing one of his throwing knives.
He jerked his gaze back up to the back of the retreating man. Such a throw would be child’s play for Lord Regret and he certainly had no compunction against killing an unaware target. Lord Regret had no scruples. He had no heart, no mercy, no regret that he couldn’t laugh off or at least drink into oblivion.
So why do you wish to murder this stranger without a single coin to show for it? A sly voice whispered, mocking such a supposedly immoral and cold, unfeeling heart.
With a self-depreciating grimace, he slipped the knife back into its leather brace beneath his coat sleeve, tilted his bowler at a jauntier angle, and led his poor mount to the small shed that served as a stable when he arrived. Usually she’d prepared a spot for his horse with fresh hay and feed, for her locket warned her of his nearing vicinity, yet this time, the makeshift stall was bare. Another sign that she hadn’t any notion of his impending arrival.
Shrugging, he tossed straw down for the horse while his mind gnawed like a rat trying to escape its cage. He was much earlier than usual, thanks to the engines he’d upgraded just last month, enabling a faster, more direct jump through the galaxy. If anything could lure Lady Wyre to the dark side—touring the universe with him—he’d thought it would be the most expensive and advanced technology, which had been founded on none other than Lady Doctor Wyre’s original experiments.
If that doesn’t work, he reminded himself wryly, I have a dozen pair of pink silk stockings in the hold.
Sliding from shadow to shadow was second nature, as was slipping inside her back door without knocking. He had to know the truth. Perhaps she’d been forced to remove the locket for some reason. It had to be working, or he’d be gasping on the frozen ground, waiting for the rest of his body to die.
She sat at a plain wooden table sipping from a heavy cup much too big for her delicate hands. Candlelight glowed upon her face, soft yet regal and so damned beautiful she might have been a queen herself despite the plain, standard-issue furnishings which surrounded her. She couldn’t live lavishly and expect to avoid the gossipers, even though he knew she had enough coin to buy anything she wanted in York. She could buy the entire colony if she’d tap the funds he’d set aside for her. He knew she would have no qualms about using his blood money; no, it was her pride that objected.
Even stripped of her title and House and position in Society, every fiber of her being screamed Her Grace. How she’d been able to keep her secret on Americus this long escaped him entirely, for he could see nothing but the grand Duchess sitting among peasants.
“It’s no use,” he said in a low, deliberately Britannian drawl. “I see through your disguise.”
She stiffened but didn’t jump from her chair or whirl to face him. Instead, she set her cup down and reached for the kettle. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
As she refilled her cup, he noted that her hand trembled. He sat across from her, the spot the other man had just vacated. He dipped a finger into the still-full cup of lukewarm tea. Slipping his finger into his mouth, he watched her reaction through veiled lashes. “Your guest likes a little tea with his sugar.”
Her eyes flared wide and her hand fluttered up to wrap her fingers about the locket—his locket, the key to his heart and life. She flinched at the energy she must feel sparking inside that metal heart, yet until she’d touched it, she hadn’t noticed his approach. That told him more than any words that she’d already made her choice before he could ask the question. She’d been too distracted by this other man to notice the metallic firestorm brewing on her breast.
She’ll never sail space with me.
“You’re early, sir.” Her words rang in the small room and her nose tipped to a haughty angle. Lady Wyre made no excuses or pretended regrets, which was one of the reasons he admired her so much. That steely pride and determination would help her succeed in any endeavor, whether in surviving a reduced situation on a colony or the Queen’s wrath if she were dragged back to Londonium. “Is the device malfunctioning?”
He, too, could play the privileged lord, although that would ill serve his intentions with her, for ladies of Britannia held all the power. Such an act would immediately put him in an inferior position. He chose instead to slip on the dread role of the gentlemanly assassin, the man who both repelled and attracted her.
With a flick of his wrist, the slender blade hidden in his coat fell down into his palm. He cut a slice of bread from the untouched loaf between them. “Would you like a piece, Charlie?”
Shaking her head, she eyed the blade like a poisonous serpent had uncoiled on her table, but she made no objection to the familiarity of her nickname.
He smirked and kicked back in his chair, nibbling on the coarse bread. Without looking away from her face, he rolled the blade from finger to finger on his left hand as though he didn’t have a care in the world. “So what’s his name?”
“Who?” The word came out as a croak, so she cleared her throat. Narrowing her gaze, she hardened her voice. “Oh, I presume you saw Sheriff Masters as he left.”
Sig deliberately let his gaze roam down her body, noting the filmy lace robe and her obvious nakedness beneath. “Was he as good as me?”
As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he knew he’d made a grave error. One did not push Lady Wyre and think to sway her affection or decision. A push would simply cause her to push back harder or charge in an entirely different direction than which he’d intended.
With a lazy smile to match his, she leaned back in her chair, all her tension and haughtiness traded for indolence. “Actually, he was very good, and I did not have to tie him up first to have my way with him.”
Continuing our chat about The Chocolatier’s Wife and Beautiful Death, here’s the next questions I asked Cindy and her response. Head over to Cindy’s blog for my questions/answers re: BD.
How long have you been writing, and where does TCW fit in your bibliography? And what’s in the works for you next?
I’ve been writing since my teens…about 20 years. The Chocolateir’s Wife is my third completed book. Of my first two, Blue Moon is, ironically, my second book. The first I wrote, Balancing Act, will be out in a year or so. I’ve also written a lot of short stories and poems. I wanted to write longer works, but when I was a teen I was more interested in expressing myself…my emotions, what I was going through…in a descriptive way, and I loved poems because I could finish them. Then I did short stories…when I finished my first novel, it was really a relief!
And since I missed a week or so over the holidays, I’ll post another.
What’s next for the world of Chocolatier’s Wife?
As for what’s next for that world…I have several plans. Someday, I think William is going to have to face the sea…I imagine a mystery, perhaps, happening while he and Tasmin go on a voyage, perhaps to visit cocoa plantations? I’m not sure. But I am working on a story set in the “enemy” empire of Pandroth. I don’t know if I ever will truly write about William and Tasmin again…but I love them so much, it gives me comfort to think I might just.
Continuing our ongoing book chat, the next question I asked Cindy about The Chocolatier’s Wife:
How did you come up with the idea of the letters between Tasmin and William? I loved the way the two storylines unfolded!
The letters came about because I needed to create a history between Tasmin and William. In the story, they aren’t allowed to meet, technically, until their wedding day, a rule that goes out the window when he’s accused of murder, since she is now able to break her promise to be his wife with no repercussions. So, why would she risk everything to go and see him and help him? The letters seemed like the only solution, and as I wrote them, I realized that they could tell a completely different second story. They were a lot of fun to write.
Head over to Cindy’s blog if you want to hear about what attracted me to the Hades myth.
Come back next week for her next question,
Now I have to ask you…are any of your characters partly inspired by actors or actresses?
Last weeks’s chat and Cindy’s post with my answer about the original inspiration for Beautiful Death.
The question I asked her next was what movie and characters had inspired TCW? Her response:
Well…I have always loved the movie Master and Commander, and I thought Edward Woodall’s character, William Mowett, was just a lovely, wonderful and much under used person. Since I’ve seen him in a handful of other things, and he’s a very good actor, he puts a lot into his roles, even the smallest parts become full, perfectly realized people. So, in a way, that’s where our William gets his sea faring past…and his first name.
I probably shouldn’t have confessed that!
Ha, I love that she confessed it! If you’re curious to see how I would “cast” Beautiful Death, head on over to Cindy’s blog.
Next week, we’ll continue our chat with my question to her:
How did you come up with the idea of the letters between Tasmin and William? I loved the way the two storylines unfolded!
This summer, I was priviledged to chat in depth with Cindy after reading The Chocolatier’s Wife released by Drollerie Press around the same time as Beautiful Death. Events conspired against us so we’re just not getting this “chat” published on our blogs, but we had a great time discussing the story behind the books and general writing. We plan on posting part of our “back and forth” chat every Friday until we finally stopped talking shop. This is very informal, so there may be some overlap…or some juicy tidbit extras!
First off, let me say how much I enjoyed The Chocolatier’s Wife (TCW). This sweet romance really tugs on the heart-strings. I absolutely adored the little touches between Tasmin and William. For most of their lives, their courtship happens through letters. It’s sort of a fluke, really, that they were even “matched” by the magic that determines who should marry.
Little things speak so loudly, though. It’s the care and consideration between the two of them that really makes this story so sweet, long before they ever meet face to face. The small considerations between these characters really shows how they fall in love bit by bit. Love comes softly for these characters, and it’s beautiful to watch.
We thought it would be interesting to delve deeper into our stories, because they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, really, for what our niche micropress Drollerie Press is really all about. Beautiful Death is violent and quite sexy, where TCW is softer and subtler, but BOTH stories combine magic and romance into what we think is a rather rich and unique tapestry. Both stories are transformative, because I assure you, William is never the same after Tasmin blows into his life, and Isabella can only learn what it truly means to be a “monster” after she becomes a monster herself.
So the first thing we started talking about was the “story behind the story.” Here was Cindy’s response:
What started my book was a sort of goofy confluence. It was nearing Christmas and my then department chair had given me a tower of chocolate…different boxes with all these lovely things inside. And I had just watched a movie with an actor in it who I was wishing was in more roles…and as i was opening the box, I was wondering what I would like to see him in. And I took a bite of this square of chocolate…it was, sincerely, one of the best pieces of chocolate I’d ever eaten…and the idea flooded into my head, even the title.
Sounds yummy, yes? So head over to Cindy’s blog and read my response about Beautiful Death and its original inspiration.
Next week, we’ll continue with the next question, where I said:
Oooh, so you know I’ve got to ask: who was the actor and what was the movie?
Then we got to talking about “casting” our characters.
And since it’s been quite a while since I posted anything about Beautiful Death, I’ll post an excerpt. This piece provides some of the backstory about how Isabella became “Beautiful Death.” Although she doesn’t know it at the time, this “alien” is Hades. Not exactly your everyday run-of-the-mill “first meet” in a romance.
Without opening her eyes, she knew someone watched, very close, the stirring of air warning her that a hand stretched toward her.She exploded into action, rolling to the side and scooping up the knife that she always kept nearby.Huddled with her back to the wall, she felt her heart stutter with dread.
This monster was the real thing.
The alien spun silvered rainbows through the alley, leaving her nowhere to hide.He squatted down to her level, as though that would fool her into trusting him.“Isabella.I’ve come to help you.Your father–”
A cold sweat coated her skin, but she couldn’t hold back the laughter.Ragged, shrill with grief and rage, her voice grated like broken glass.“Even if you weren’t a monster, I’d know you were lying.My father’s the last person I ever want to see again.”
A sound jerked her attention behind him.More aliens had her sister.
“I’m tired.”Amelia lay in one of the alien’s arms like a helpless baby, and the look of resignation on her face made bile burn up Isabella’s throat.“I’m dirty and cold and starving.I just want to go home.He said we’d be safe, Bella.If not…”she shrugged, “at least it’ll be over.”
Fight!Why don’t you fight?Don’t lie there and let them kill you!“There is no home.Mom’s dead, and Daddy’s never coming back.Don’t you understand?There is no safety!If they don’t kill you, their virus will!”
Choking on tears of rage, her throat hurt, her eyes burning.Otherwise, she’d have seen the alien coming at her.
The bastard was good, she’d give him that.He seized her right arm, his thumb pressing on her tendon until her nerveless fingers dropped the knife, while he pinned her against his body with his other arm.For all his size and power, he made one monumental error.He treated her carefully, as though she were just a fifteen-year-old kid, half starved and scared shitless, as though she hadn’t seen people tearing each other apart for food or killed to keep herself alive.
She lunged up and buried her pitiful human teeth in his neck, tearing at that vulnerable pale skin.
The alien’s body jolted against hers, silver burning higher.Glass shattered in the windows of the abandoned highrise.Street lamps that had long ago quit working exploded like fireworks.The ground trembled, glass and metal tinkling, debris falling all around them.
“Bella.”The alien’s voice sounded shaken, hushed, not filled with fury or pain like she’d expected.The fool released her hands and cupped her head tighter to his throat, curling his body around hers protectively.“Your father sent me to you.I mustn’t…”
Then you’re dead, she thought, fisting her hands in the ridiculously long, pretty hair about his shoulders.She yanked his head back further and tore deeper at his throat, determined to rip her way to his spine, but he still didn’t release her.His power burned higher, sinking into her, melting her bones, and swirling rainbows sucked her down into an endless pit of darkness.
Her heart pounded harder, her mind screaming with terror, but her body slipped into neutral while he siphoned off her energy.Her strength, hatred, and rage that powered her ferocious will to live disappeared in an instant.
He’s feeding on me.He’s eating me alive.
She’d seen the horrors, watched as the aliens drained their victims and left them mindless shells to die twitching and screaming when the virus struck.She’d hated those weaklings and despised their stupidity, never understanding the horrific compelling need to give up the fight.
There was nothing she could do to stop him; worse, the longer he fed, the less she wanted him to stop.
Rest, peace, safety, all lies he silently promised while he crushed her against him and drained her lifeforce.Surrender, his body purred against hers.Death won’t be so bad.I’ll be gentle, sweet, good, I promise.
His blood coated her face, filled her mouth, and slid down her throat in a hot, liquid flood, but she was the one dying.Little by little, Isabella flickered lower, a candle guttering in the silent, cold night.Her defenses crumbled.He was all around, inside her, soaking her up, drinking her most horrible dreams and memories, seducing her to death.
Lost, all she could think about was how incredibly good his blood tasted.
A few years ago, Paperback Writer held a free e-book challenge at Halloween, so I thought I’d try to continue the tradition. This is the short story I mentioned earlier in the week, set in the Mythomorphoses world. For length reasons (the place I hope will take it as free promo for Beautiful Death only wants 2k), it’s rather short, but eventually I’ll probably expand it. The “end” of this story is just getting to the good stuff.
A Tale of Mythomorphoses
In the laboratory bowels of Olympus, Prometheus suffered for his transgression.Once a scientist himself, he had sought to expose the secret of exactly what sort of research occurred in Zeus’s labs.In punishment, Zeus had injected him with his latest, greatest experiment.
CEO of MedCorp and founder of New Olympia, Zeus needed no chains to hold Prometheus prisoner while a giant eagle feasted on his liver.The eagle was eating him from the inside out.Few could look at him without fleeing in revulsion.Soon he would be merely another caged pet in Zeus’s personal menagerie.
Death was Prometheus’s only hope, and the newest specimen chained to the copper-topped exam table would be the quickest route.
“What a rare find.”Zeus’s voice shook with reverence.“A pure-bred Macedonian female.I thought they’d all died in the pandemic outbreak.What is your name, lovely creature?”
Even if she’d been willing to respond, Prometheus doubted she would have been able, not with such suffering twisting her body.Their alien visitors were incredibly sensitive to Earth’s metals.Her delicate skin was already charred from the metal.Soon, blood would run freely, dripping onto the pristine white floors, and no amount of pride and majestic power would keep her from screaming for mercy.
Prometheus couldn’t bear to see it happen again, even if he wasn’t the one committing such horrors.
“Prep her,” Zeus ordered without even sparing a glance in his direction.“See if your inhuman appearance will gain her confidence.”
Alone with the beautiful Macedonian, Prometheus stepped closer to the table and let her get a good look at his warped features.
Her large, tilted eyes glittered like dewy spider webs in the morning sunlight, wild with pain and desperation.Night-black hair tumbled to the floor, delicate strands floating about her triangular face like wispy oceanic fronds.Deceptively delicate in appearance, her species normally possessed enough power to level mighty Olympus.However, Zeus had learned how to incapacitate their powerful alien friends who’d sought refuge from the rioting humans.Imprisoned by so much metal, she couldn’t call her power.Her suffering was merely a side effect as far as Zeus was concerned.
A twinge in Prometheus’s gut warned him seconds before an attack.Bowing his head, he gripped the edge of the table.Talons shredded his internal organs, a vicious beak tore at his heart, and massive wings beat furiously, straining to break free of his body’s cage.His knees buckled.His skin blazed with pricks of fire, fresh feathers spiking out of his flesh, dotting his back, shoulders, and arms.
In misery, he pressed his head to the cold table.Zeus had cursed him well indeed.The eagle was closer than ever to swallowing him whole.
“I can help you,” the Macedonian whispered, her voice as soft and light as her hair.
Startled, Prometheus forced himself upright.She looked upon him with pity, not revulsion, even though more feathers had sprouted from his body.
“Free me.We’ll flee this place together.”
“I cannot leave,” Prometheus whispered.His guilt held him prisoner as much as the microchip embedded in his skull.Zeus would track him wherever he fled.If Prometheus left with her, he would merely lead Zeus to her sanctuary.“What do you need to restore your power?”
“Blood first.”She shivered, her eyes darkening with hunger.“Then your lifeforce.After such a feeding, my power will rise enough for me to break free.”
He pushed himself up, leaning heavily against the table as though still weakened.It would be like Zeus to secretly watch his specimens interact.Prometheus let his arms tremble with weariness and fell against her.“Take what you need and flee.”
Braced for the immediate pain of her fangs, he groaned at the tender brush of her lips on his skin.Her tongue stroked the thumping vein in his neck and she made a low, glorious sound of pleasure deep in her throat.Despite the urgency and danger, she treasured his sacrifice.She proved she wasn’t afraid to touch him, to revel in his scent and taste.
In case Zeus was watching, he pretended to push away only to flop weakly back to the table.He let his head loll and used his broad shoulders and tufted feathers to block whatever view the cruel perverted bastard might have.
At last, she bit deeply.Pleasure-pain jolted through him, heat flaring in his body as though she breathed fire into his bloodstream.The morphing creature inside him beat wings furiously, trying to lift them both from this prison of steel and technology.A scent of high alpine fields full of night-blooming flowers filled his nose.Her power slid inside him, velvety shadows, dark, cool, and fresh like nothing he’d felt in an eternity, certainly never since becoming a citizen of New Olympia.
The pure, sweet scent of night enfolded him.
Take it all, he whispered in his head, surrendering to the blackness wrapped around him.End my suffering.
Midnight velvet swelled higher, cresting within his mind.She flipped through his memories, laying his soul bare and bleeding.He tried to pull back in shame, but she held him firm, seeing all the dread experiments in which he’d participated until he’d rebelled.He’d tried to escape, only to wake screaming on Zeus’s exam table.
Electric shocks buzzed in his head.A tendril of her power touched the microchip and his body shorted out, convulsed, throwing him to the floor.
Rich velvet shadows still enfolded him, but he heard a strange chirping noise.It took several moments before his mind registered the long-forgotten sound of crickets.
There were no bugs inside perfect, sterile New Olympia, unless one counted the butterfly garden in Athens.He must be dreaming.Or dead.
He opened his eyes and stared up at a black canvas dotted with diamonds.The sweet scent still wafted around him, tantalizing his starved senses.Strands of fragile web tickled his cheek.
Turning his head, he met the Macedonian’s gaze.Her midnight hair brushed his cheek again and he trembled.“Where are we?”
“You’re in my domain now.”She tilted her head, letting her hair slide across her cheek to partially obscure her face.Shadows clothed her body, but what he could see of her limbs confirmed she now possessed enough power to heal herself.“I know you wished me to kill you, but I couldn’t bear to harm you.I certainly refused to leave you trapped while I escaped.He never would have allowed you to die.”
After years of research, Zeus could prevent the escape of death indefinitely.All in the name of science, of course.A little torture was required to improve the human race.
“I apologize for the pain you felt when I disabled the chip,” she continued.“I couldn’t remove it entirely, but you’re free from Zeus’s monitoring.”
Prometheus sagged back to the ground, the diamond-studded sky blurring in his tears.
Concerned, she rose up over him, her fine, delicate hair sending shivers through his body.“What is it?Do you still have pain?”
“I’m free,” he whispered, his throat raw.“You saved me.”
She smiled, but she kept her face partially hidden and she didn’t touch him.She waited for some response, and he feared that if he gave the wrong answer–to this question he didn’t even know–that he would never see her again.
The eagle stretched out its wings and he gasped, involuntarily tensing.Yet the pain didn’t tear through his gut.
“Zeus infected you with an odd strain of the virus but managed to retard your full transformation.If you continue in this manner, your beast will kill you both in its struggle for freedom.”
Any other person saying “beast” would have driven him away in shame.She said it calmly as though unbothered by his contamination, while New Olympian Marshals would hunt him down without a second thought.
“I can bring you fully through the transformation.”
Prometheus fisted his hands, trying to hide his trembling.“I don’t want to be a monster.I would rather die.”
“Oh.”The small sound escaped her lips, barely loudly enough for him to hear.She turned away, fully hiding beneath her starlit hair and shadows.“Then I’m a monster to you, too.”
“No!”He jerked upright and forgot his own ugliness enough to clutch her hand.“You’re so beautiful you make my heart hurt.”
“I tasted both your blood and your lifeforce,” she whispered.“Your kind revile us as the bringers of destruction.You blame us for destroying your civilization with the virus.”
The eagle’s instinct roared to life, screaming a piercing warning to any who dared harm her.Perhaps Zeus’s punishment could be used for good.As an eagle, he could soar the skies and alert her to any approaching danger.Gently, he slipped his fingers beneath her chin and turned her gaze back to his.Now that her power had returned, her eyes flashed like faceted obsidian.“I will protect you.”
Her lips quirked.“Who carried you out of Olympus?”
Startled, he glanced about the clearing at the ring of wild trees, green grass, and open sky, and finally realized they were indeed Outside.No biodome stretched overhead.This slender female had freed herself and dragged his dead weight through miles of underground laboratories and tunnels, unerringly finding her way out of New Olympia.
His shock made her laugh out loud, a tinkling chime that wiped away his consternation until he laughed with her.
Lightly, she cupped his cheek and stared into his eyes, her expression turning solemn.“I would bond you.I would be skyr to your beast, master to your eagle.I would control your transformation and aid you in shifting back to human form at will.You would not be the mindless animal you fear, but you would wear a leash that only I will hold.Can you trust me enough to allow this hold on your soul?”
Hope burned in his heart for something other than death.He didn’t turn away; instead, he showed his guilt and shame, reflected a million times in her mirrored eyes.“I participated in research on your people.When the surviving humans turned on them, they came to Olympus for help.We caged, dissected, and eventually killed them after we eeked out enough for Zeus’s interest.How can you forgive me?”
“I suffered.You suffered.”She ran her fingers through the feathers spiked across his shoulders and he shuddered in response.“I believe you’ve suffered enough.”Letting some of her shadows fall away, she revealed her upper body, gleaming opal against the black velvet of her hair.“Can we not find solace in one another?”
He bowed his head until his forehead touched hers.Her scent ripened, intoxicating, her lush power wrapped around him, caging his heart like no other.For once, he didn’t fear the chains she offered.“Bond me, skyr.I’m yours.”
With renewed hunger, her eyes fired like spinning jewels beneath the night sky.“The New Olympian name I took is Nyx.”
His heartbeat quickened, his fingers tightening on her face.Swift silent night: what a perfect name for her.“I’ll wear your leash, Nyx.What do you need?”
“I need you to take my blood and complete the bond you began to enable our escape.”
Ceasing its flailing punishment, the eagle within him perked.“Is that all?”
She didn’t seem to mind his ragged voice or stirring need.She pushed him flat on his back and he went, willingly.Tossing her hair back over her shoulder, she smiled down at him.“My blood is only the beginning.”
And so Prometheus found himself freed and then most delightfully bound once more.