One of my favorite guests is back today to offer us a glimpse at The Fated Stars. Released in November, this book is part of the Sectors SF Romance series, which is one of my favorites. Please welcome Veronica Scott!
Always a pleasure to be a guest here – thanks for having me back, to talk about The Fated Stars, the most recent release in my loosely connected alien empath series. My daughters had been challenging me to write a kickass woman soldier, so for this book I decided the heroine would be a female mercenary, Larissa Channer. The hero is the alien empath and I challenged myself to think up a new type of situation for him to be is the midst of – the last three stories in this series had the female alien empaths versus the interstellar crime syndicate. But with Samell, I decided he’d been forced to work for someone else, equally nefarious, and his ‘cover’ is being a fortune teller in a traveling carnival. It was a fun place to begin!
Here’s the synopsis:
Larissa Channer, a tough no-nonsense mercenary in the Sectors, is celebrating success on her last job and a big bonus, with no slightest thought of taking on another assignment anytime soon. Out for a night of carousing with her friends at a third rate carnival on a backwater planet, she walks into the tent of a fake fortune teller and finds herself confronting the most intriguing man she’s ever seen. But something’s wrong, ominous currents lie beneath the surface of their encounter and Larissa can’t leave well enough alone.
Samell, a powerful, high born empathic priest, has been kidnapped from his own primitive planet along with a number of his people, and sold to the shady operator of an interstellar carnival. Kept enslaved, pretending to be a fortune teller while forced by his captor to steal information from the minds of all who come before him, Samell despairs of every breaking free.
Until Larissa walks into his tent and he recognizes the warrior who might mean the difference between life and death.
The situation becomes dire when Larissa and Samell come to the attention of the Shemdylann pirates who kidnapped him in the first place and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the empathic alien noble, and derail the Mawreg plot against the Sectors? And will the soldier end up with her prince when all’s said and done?
And the excerpt – this is the morning after Larissa has first encountered the fortune teller and can’t stop thinking about him and his situation:
Over a breakfast of synth coffee and mock eggs, Larissa allowed her thoughts to drift back to the night before. Parts of it were blurry, even with the headclear’s effects, but she kept thinking about the weird setup at the rundown carnival, and the way the seer’s telepathic voice sounded in her head. She’d asked her friends a few cautious questions, but none of them heard the man’s real voice. Or else they weren’t admitting it.
In the cold light of morning, the encounter had more than a tinge of the ridiculous. “A scene out of a bad trideo,” she said as she dumped the remnants of breakfast into the recycler. But the iridescent bubble the guy was sitting in bothered her, teased at a buried memory from her service days.
In the morning, with the whiskey fumes gone from her system, Larissa had to admit the material reminded her of what the Mawreg used for human specimen cages. She shuddered as she stepped into the shower. Liberating those experimentation camps was every soldier’s worst nightmare. What the enemy did to captives was unspeakable. She rubbed her stomach to quell a small wave of nausea. Must have eaten too fast. Or too soon after the shot. Rinsing herself off, she tried to stop her train of thought. Where would the operators of a shoddy third rate carnival have gotten the alien material anyway?
But the seer had clearly been a prisoner, unable to get out of the ornate chair.
“Seven hells.” Stepping from the shower and reaching for a clean set of utilities, Larissa swore in sheer frustration at feeling so conflicted. “This is not my problem,” she said, staring at her reflection. But in the cold light of morning, especially after the headclear, she could already feel the captive becoming her concern. She wasn’t the type to walk away from a person in need of her particular skillset.
For the next couple hours she was able to keep her mind on other things, researching the availability of slots for obtaining the enhancements she wanted for the ship, and trying to decide between various combinations, balanced by where the best custom spacedocks were. Traveling halfway across the Sectors had no appeal, unless there was a paying job involved. But, right now nothing on the Mercenary Guild’s list of opportunities appealed to her. A bank account stuffed with credits certainly made a person choosy.
Larissa checked her vidscreens as she ate lunch. The day outside was gloomy and overcast. All the more reason to blast off from this rock and be on her way. She lingered over her meal and then slammed her hand on the table, realizing with annoyance she was thinking about the seer again. His eyes had been so distinctive, captivating with the way the golden glints came and went in the emerald depths. She’d wanted a connection with him, maybe for reassurance he wasn’t actually in trouble. Well, with his voice in her head, she’d gotten the one-on-one link all right, but instead of easing her mind, his message had deepened her misgivings and triggered her instinct to help. “It can’t hurt to take one more quick recon of the situation,” she said to herself. “Report anything fishy to the authorities and then be on my way before I owe this crummy little spaceport another day of docking fees.”
Maybe she’d give herself a few days on Sirena Two, to relax and sunbathe, before moving on to the business of getting ship upgrades. She programmed the course to the resort planet into the ship and put the astronav unit into standby status. “Just as soon as I get back from this crazy side trip to the fortune teller, we’ll be on our way,” she said to the uncaring AI.
Strapping on her blaster, Larissa left the ship and walked into town. One advantage of these small colony settlements was the proximity of everything. The place was pretty deserted today, as it was a local work day. When she reached the carnival, the attraction was open but had hardly any customers, mostly teenagers cutting school or work, and a few parents with young children, gawking at the animals or enjoying the kiddie rides.
How can this carnival make enough credits to stay in business? To fly around the Sectors? She made a point of lingering over a game of chance, winning a small toy she handed off to a nearby kid, getting a shy smile and a whispered word of thanks. Now she was observing closely in the harsh daylight, she saw even more clearly how rundown and shoddy the setup was.
There had to be a hidden purpose to this carnival’s existence. Smuggling maybe. Or drugs. Neither was her problem unless a client paid her to investigate, so she continued her leisurely tour of the place, trying to imitate a bored spacer killing time.
When she reached the fortune teller’s tent, three giggly girls were already inside, so she pretended to examine the faux antiquities scattered around the interior with awe while the trio received their generic fortunes. The girls departed amidst much speculation over which boys of their acquaintance the seer had meant.
The man hadn’t opened his eyes at all. Larissa drifted to the front. “How much for a private reading?”
“Huh?” The carny, who was the same woman who’d been on duty the night before, gaped at her. “You pay your credit and you get whatever he says.”
“Yeah, I understand. I was here last night, and I just wondered if I could have him tell me more.” Larissa lowered her voice and leaned toward the other. “I didn’t want to ask too many questions with my friends listening, you know?” She pulled out a ten credit token. “Of course I understand there’d be an extra fee for a private session.”
The credit was gone from her hand as if it’d never been. The carny headed for the entrance. “Five minutes. Don’t touch anything. Stand in the circle at all times. When I get back, you’re done.” She looped the flap down as she exited, giving Larissa unexpected privacy.
She planted her boots in the circle and studied the man’s face. “All right, you seemed to want to talk to me last night, so talk. Or am I wasting ten perfectly good credits?”
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About the Author
USA Today Best Selling Author
“SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog
Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”
Reviewer KJ VanHouten has read The Fated Stars and if you come back tomorrow, she will be sharing her thoughts about this book. See you tomorrow!