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Heart Full Of Stars (Secrets Vol. 18)

heart full of stars

ISBN: 9781603100809 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780975451687 (trade paperback)
Publisher: Red Sage

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Freed at last from alien bondage, singer Fanta Rae finds herself stranded on a lonely Mars outpost with the first human male she's seen in nine years. Ex-Marine Alex Decker lost his family in the Aggressions and guilt drives him into isolation, but Fanta's passion turns his world upside down. When alien assassins come to enslave her, he and Fanta must fight for their lives and a future that holds no guarantees.

 

excerpt

"Get this thing off me!" Fanta slung an angry glare at the bartender as she plucked at the slimy, segmented tongue lapping around her forearm.

The bartender tossed his shaggy black mane and laughed. The sound chimed through the air like a chorus of crystal bells. Only pretty thing about Vuilites, Fanta thought glumly. Beside her, the mammoth Triclops unfurled a second tongue around her shoulders, and she almost leapt out of her skin.

"I said I'm not interested, you troglodyte!" The frantic waving of her hands toppled her glass, splashing liquor into the Trike's mucousy eyes. All three blinked furiously. The Trike growled, a basso complaint more felt than heard.

Pinned to her barstool by the creature's bulk, Fanta pressed back against the counter. "Look, buddy, you asked for it."

"Back off, Quask."

The Trike swiveled his elephantine head toward the source of the command. A dark-haired man stared down her suitor. He stood with his legs slightly apart, his stance relaxed. The fingers of his right hand casually stroked the duct tape-wrapped butt of a blaster protruding from a holster slung low on his hips. Quask hesitated, snarled, then, to Fanta's unending relief, backed away.

"Thank you," she sighed. The man eased up next to her. She scootched her chair over to make room.

He raised two fingers to the bartender, who brought him a shotglass of dark liquor. "Figures Quask would be the first one to sniff you out," he said, then downed his drink in one gulp. He waved over another, ordered one for her as well.

"He did more than sniff." She dabbed slime from her sleeve with a cocktail napkin. "Do you know him?"

"Wouldn't be the first time I'd toasted his tentacles." He turned to her, eyes inscrutable, and held out his hand. "Decker, security. What's your business here, Miss...?"

"Rae. Fanta Rae." Clasping his fingers, she offered her best smile. He seemed immune. The drinks came and he appraised her solemnly.

Whatever he'd ordered stung her lips and dove down her throat like a swarm of hornets. Gagging, Fanta dropped the glass. That, at least, elicited a fleeting smile from Decker. She gazed at him over a napkin pressed to her lips.

True, he was the first man she'd seen in years, but even back then, before she'd left Earth, she would have found him wickedly hot. Eyes the intense blue of a clear winter sky just before dusk, black hair razored in a buzz cut, dusted with silver at the temples, a strong, shadowed jaw that jutted when he clenched his teeth. The hand he curled around the shotglass was large and callused. With an unexpected tremble, Fanta imagined the delicious, rough feel of those hands dragging over her naked skin. Then she shook her head. God, it had been a long time.

He waited while she cleared her burning throat. "I'm here by accident, actually," she rasped. "My hopper broke down. It's in the shop, you can check it out yourself."

He nodded. "I saw it."

"Then you know I'm on my way home."

That iron jaw tightened. "Recolonizing?"

"Yes. I should have landed at New Ellis, of course." She rolled her eyes. "Would have, if my generator hadn't given out."

He produced a palm-sized gray instrument from under his jacket. "I'll still need to run a proof."

"Sure, of course." Fanta waited while he made adjustments to the Identicom, then pressed her thumb on the pad. When the minute needle broke her flesh, drawing a drop of blood, she flinched. A light blinked green. Decker put the scanner back. "It'll take a few minutes. Where've you been since?"

Since. She knew what he meant. Since the Aggressions, the series of wars that had wiped out three-quarters of Earth's population and driven the survivors into the cold and empty arms of space.

"All over. Star cruising. I'm a singer. I got some great gigs cross-galaxy. In some parts of the universe, I've sold more recordings than Elvis and the Beatles combined." She smiled, and he grunted.

"Sing something," he said.

Glad for the distraction, she slipped off her stool. "Okay. Let's see. Oh, this was a big hit on Pegasus Nine." Tapping a complex rhythm against her hips, she sprang into a peppy tune, showing off with twisting trills up and down a scale that would daunt most vocalists. The language, of course, added to the difficulty of the performance, but Fanta prided herself on her mastery of Guifpegn. Decker, watching with a look of bemusement, nursed his drink while a few offworlders paused to listen. One, a blue skinned Pegian, her aural tubes vibrating, burbled in admiration.

With a modest grin, Fanta bowed. The Pegian snapped her appendages appreciatively and moved on.

Decker finished his drink. "No, something from home. From before."

She searched her memory, thrust her fingers through the short fuchsia hair that stood at odd angles all over her scalp.

"I, uh, I'm sorry, I don't remember..."

A corner of his mouth quirked. "S'okay. Don't worry about it."

Regret nudged her, and a little shame. "Hold on, I do, I think." She cast a glance ceilingward, blurred the gleaming silver ductwork in her vision, let her lids droop. Started singing, "With a heart full of stars, I wait for you..." Her head rolled down. She kept her eyes closed, kept her voice low and sultry. "In a world without hope, I reach for you..." Then, feeling her tenuous hold on the lyrics slip, she hummed a few broken bars through a rueful smile. She shook her head, shrugged. "That's all I... Decker?"

He looked shot. Shocked. Stunned. Eyes wide, he stared at her. Then he blinked and passed his hand over his mouth, down the coarse stubble of his chin. "Jesus," he said, his voice edgy and harsh. Something out past the fabriglass dome seemed to catch his attention and he turned away from her, toward the flat, featureless Martian landscape. He drew a cigarette from his pocket, clamped one end in his mouth. His hand shook a little as he lit it and took a heavy drag.

Fanta caught her lower lip between her teeth. "Sorry, guess I'm rusty."

A veil of smoke fogged the view as he exhaled. The eyes he turned on her were glossy, blue as despair. "After all these years. After all these years, it still hurts."

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reviews

Linda Gayle uses her fabulous skill of world building to its full advantage in Heart Full of Stars. The vivid descriptions of both the environment and the culture of the alien races really bring this story to life. Ms. Gayle also makes a very strong but subtle statement about preserving our world as most of Earth’s inhabitants were wiped out or enslaved in the Aggressions. While the sexual attraction between Fanta and Decker developed rather quickly, this was very credible as both were starved for exposure to other humans. Linda Gayle has established a world that will leave readers craving other stories set in this same futuristic time period! ~ ck2skwipsandkritiques.com

4 1/2 Stars RT Magazine:  Not to be outdone by previous Secrets tales, number 18 releases inner beasts—paramedic hunks, a singer in distress and one hot and desperate werewolf—to make the latest Secrets one that will stay in readers’ hearts and minds for a long time. Fantastic love scenes make this a book to be enjoyed more than once. ~ Faith V. Smith

4 1/2 Stars Romance Junkies  Red Sage keeps cranking out incredible tales of explosive passion and intense desire that keeps readers coming back for more...

All About Romance - Desert Isle Keeper...this collection is strong, erotic, emotional, and satisfying... ~Kate Cuthbert

Harriet Klausner--The Best Review ...four delightfully heated speculative fiction romances...

 

available at

Red Sage Publishing: (ebook)   (trade paperback)
Amazon.com