<----New Cover!! For a limited time, Release will be $.99 on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ve also issued a coupon for Smashwords, in case neither of those sites work for you. Just enter VX75W at checkout.
Release is a space opera romance, so the setting’s different from a lot of my other books, but the characters and themes are purely me. It features rough-around-the-edges hero Keirth Transman who’s all about getting revenge on the man who raped and murdered his mother. Deep down, however, he’s fiercely honorable and sweet.
After he accidentally kidnaps snobby, spoiled Ariana, he finds himself stuck with her.
In the following excerpt, the two have been forced to land on a planet since their ship is damaged, and they are posing as a married couple.
The servant opened a door. “This will be your room.”
Ariana and Keirth stepped inside. The room was large, with a fireplace on one wall and a table next to it. A large bed sat against the other wall, covered with animal furs and tapestries.
The servant closed the door after them.
Ariana and Keirth both looked at the bed and then looked at each other.
Ariana bit her lip. “I guess I didn’t think this us-being-married thing the whole way through.”
Keirth knew the gallant thing to do would be to offer to sleep on the floor. But the floor was made of marbled stone, and it looked very uncomfortable. And besides, she hadn’t exactly checked with him before telling everyone they were married. Why should he have to suffer? But he couldn’t very well make her sleep on the floor, could he? “I’ll sleep on the floor,” he said.
“But it was my idea for us to pretend to be married,” said Ariana. “I can’t let you do that.” She went over to the bed and began pulling off pillows and cushions. She lined them up in the middle of the bed, dividing it in half. “There,” she said. “We’ll each have a side.”
“If you’re sure that makes you comfortable,” said Keirth. She was a member of the nobility. She couldn’t offer to share a bed with him without disgrace.
She looked down at the cushions, shrugging. “It’s the best we can do, isn’t it?”
Maybe so. But as Keirth stared down at the divided bed, he wondered if he shouldn’t also be taking how comfortable he was into account. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t finding himself attracted to her. He didn’t know if it was that damned dress or seeing her be so gracious and poised with the Triothians. Before, in the ship, she’d seemed alternately terrified and angry. When she hadn’t been yelling at him, she’d been screwing things up. He’d seen her as an annoyance, something to be dealt with. Now he was seeing her differently.
Another man might have been thrilled with the fact he was trapped in a bed with an attractive woman. Another man might have wanted to take advantage of the situation.
Ariana was riffling through her trunk. She pulled out a white nightgown and threw it on the bed. “They didn’t even give us a room to change into bedclothes.”
“I, um, don’t think that the people on this planet wear different clothes to bed usually,” Keirth said. She was going to change her clothes?
“Well, you’ll just have to turn around,” said Ariana, reaching behind her neck on the gown. “Do you think you could help me unfasten the dress?”
Keirth lurched forward. His hands fumbled to unfasten the smartcloth. Once he did, it parted immediately, revealing Ariana’s white skin underneath. He gazed down at the curve of her back, sucking in his breath. So, he was like other men in that regard. He did have some desire to take advantage of the situation.
He turned away from her.
“Turn around,” Ariana said, turning to face him. But his back was already turned. “Oh.”
He could hear the whisper of fabrics as she changed her clothes, and he struggled not to think about what she was doing, not to picture her nude body. He’d fought a long time to keep this part of his nature in check. He didn’t intend to let that change. Maybe he should sleep on the floor. He rubbed his toe against it. It was really hard.
“Okay,” said Ariana.
He turned back around. She was wearing the nightgown, which thankfully covered her entire body. But the fabric was a little flimsy, and he could see the barest hint of the outline of her curves beneath it. He immediately looked away.
“Do you, um, need to change?”
“I didn’t bring anything to change into,” he said.
“Okay,” she said. She took a deep breath. “Well, I guess we should…”
There was still time to do the right thing. There was still time to sleep on the floor. But Keirth sat down on his side of the bed instead and removed his shoes.
Ariana pulled the covers down on her side and slipped under them. She pulled them all the way up to her chin. “Can you turn off the lamps?”
There were clusters of oil lamps beside the bed. Keirth reached over and dutifully turned the knobs on them until they went out. The room was plunged into darkness. Unsure if the darkness made him feel relieved or more anxious, Keirth got under the covers of the bed as well.
With the cushions on the bed, there was less room than there might be on a single bed. It was better than the floor, though. Keirth lay rigidly on his back, his eyes wide in the darkness. He wasn’t sure whether to close them or not.
“I’m sorry if this part of my idea wasn’t so great.” Ariana’s voice was soft, possibly because it was dark.
“It’s fine,” Keirth said gruffly. He was doing his best to pretend she wasn’t over there. He was doing his best not to think about the sliver of her bare back, of the outline of her body in her nightgown. But…to his horror, his body wasn’t doing its best. He could feel himself thickening, lengthening between his legs. He was going to have to sleep on the floor after all. He struggled to think of something else—anything else.
Ariana giggled. “You know, this is the first time I’ve ever shared a bed with a man. I guess it’s not unusual for you.”
It was unusual. “No,” he muttered. “I’ve never shared a bed with a woman either.”
A rustling on the other side of the bed, and then the shadowy features of Ariana appeared over the cushions. She’d propped herself up to look down at him. “You mean, I guess, that you usually just take what you want and run.”
“No!” said Keirth. It came out a little stronger than he meant it to. “Absolutely not.” He wished he hadn’t spoken in the first place. He was nervous. This whole situation made him nervous, and he couldn’t control his tongue.
“You don’t mean that you’ve never…”
If it weren’t dark, maybe she’d see that he was glaring at her. She might be pretty, but that never stopped her from being annoying, did it? “Is this your business?”
She flopped back off the cushions onto her side of the bed. “Really? I thought all men started lying with women when they were seventeen or something.”
Keirth didn’t say anything. For some reason, this discussion was not helping him stop being hard. If anything, it was making it worse.
“Why not? It can’t be because you’re ugly or something, because you’re quite nice looking. I mean, for a criminal.”
“Let’s go to sleep,” said Keirth. She couldn’t stop from insulting him, could she?
“I didn’t mean that,” she said. “You’re not a criminal. Well, maybe you are, but you’re in it for the right reasons, so that’s just as good as not being a criminal. I mean, if I killed Risciter, then technically I’m a criminal. A real criminal.”
Her voice started to shake on that last part. Keirth didn’t want her to have to think about Risciter, so he changed the subject back, even if it did make him uncomfortable. “Maybe all the noblemen can run around having whatever woman they want,” he said. “You might find that in other classes, it’s far less easy to take advantage of people.”
“So, you just never found anybody to lie with?” she asked in a small voice.
Keirth groaned. He didn’t want to talk about this. “Not exactly. There have been times when…” Things weakened him occasionally. They pushed at his resolve. “I choose not to.” At least his head chose not to. From the way his cock was pulsing at him at the moment, it chose completely differently. But he wasn’t that kind of man. If he were to take advantage of Ariana right now—and he could, cushions be damned—he’d be no better than Risciter.
“I don’t want to talk about this,” he said to her. He wanted to distract himself with something to make his raging hard on go away, and he wanted to go to sleep. Now.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
It was quiet. Good. Keirth filled his head with images of ships. Tomorrow, he’d find the chief, and they’d bargain. He wanted something fast but stealthy. A small ship would do just fine. He seemed to remember that the chief had a few of the T-6000 class in his junkyard somewhere.
“It’s only,” said Ariana, “that I don’t understand. I thought that men had…needs. My Aunt Tildy always said that women had to hold themselves to a higher standard, because men couldn’t help themselves and—”
“We aren’t all animals,” Keirth growled. “I’m not a beast. I don’t—” This was hard to explain. It was hard to think about. Images swirled back at him, from his youth. He remembered the way men leered at his mother. He remembered how much he’d wanted to protect her. “I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t be that kind of man. That’s all there is to it.”
Ariana was quiet.
But for some reason, Keirth found himself plowing on. “Do you think someone like Risciter gets a pass? He obviously has needs. Twisted needs. He and half the noblemen in the sector do whatever they like to women, and it doesn’t matter how she feels or if he hurts her. She doesn’t matter at all. My mother didn’t matter. She didn’t matter to any of them.”
“Is that why?” Ariana whispered. “You said you saw Risciter kill your mother. Did you see…? Did he…?”
“Rape her?” Keirth laughed bitterly. “I don’t know what you’d call it. That was her job. My mother was a prostitute.”
“He said that to me,” Ariana said from the other side of the cushions. “He said he usually did what he did to prostitutes and beggars, but he was excited because I was a ‘real woman.’ But you know, I don’t think that. I don’t think some people are more ‘real’ than others. And it doesn’t matter what your mother did, she didn’t deserve Risciter.”
“I wanted her to stop,” Keirth told the darkness. “I did everything I could to make her stop, but I couldn’t ever make enough money. It was awful. It was always awful. And the way they treated her…”
“I guess seeing it all from that angle must have made it not seem very… I can see why you wouldn’t lie with anyone.”
“But you see,” said Keirth, “that’s just it. Even if it’s not a business transaction, it’s the same. Maybe it’s worse. If I seduced some woman on my travels, shared her bed for a night, and then disappeared the next day, I’d be showing her the same contempt those men showed my mother. And I wouldn’t even be compensating her for it.”
“But if people get married, it’s not like that.”
“I guess not,” said Keirth. “But that’s not something I’m going to be doing. I live my life for revenge. And once that’s done, I’ll be arrested and hung, undoubtedly.”
Neither of them said anything for quite some time. After a while, listening to the even sound of Ariana’s breath, he was certain she’d fallen asleep. Maybe he’d shocked her. Or frightened her. This wasn’t an appropriate conversation to have with a woman like her. She’d pushed him, kept asking questions, but that didn’t mean he should have answered.
But then she spoke. “You really are a good man, Keirth,” she murmured. “A much better man than the ones who live inside the law. The ones I’ve known my whole life. I’ve never known anyone like you.”
He wasn’t sure how to respond. “You’re pretty unique yourself, sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me that.”
She propped herself up on the cushions again, so that she was looking down at him. His eyes had further adjusted to the darkness, and he could see her features clearly. “What if Risciter’s dead, Keirth? What then?”
He didn’t really want that to be true. He wanted to kill Risciter himself. It was his reason for living. But if Risciter were really gone, then… “I guess I’d still be in trouble for kidnapping you wouldn’t I?”
“If you weren’t in trouble with the law,” she said. “Would you want to be with a woman then?”
He laughed. “Not in trouble with the law? That’s never going to happen.”