Single mom Rachel Hunter has not one second to spare in her day between rearing two daughters, running a thriving goat farm, and keeping tabs on her eccentric brother. Not to mention an ex-husband who's in prison for murder and a local gang leader harassing her at every turn! Then a gorgeous, tattooed man crashes into her fence and she finds out exactly what it means to have her hands full.
Pruxnӕ Dyuvad ab Mhij is sent to Earth by a mysterious Net telepath to protect a young girl, from what, the 'path doesn't say. He arrives at the girl's home expecting the worst, and is greeted by the young girl's mother, a honey-haired, plain spoken temptress whose mountain fortitude makes her a perfect candidate for the Choosing.
Dyuvad's first duty is to his mission, protecting a young girl from dangers unknown. It doesn't take long for the danger to become apparent, however, and soon, he and Rachel are embroiled in a reckless game led by a man who will stop at nothing to control Rachel and her children.
Copyright 2016. Published by Bone Diggers Press.
Excerpt from Alien Mine
Tersi, Twenty-Seven Standard Days Ago
Dyuvad ab Mhij sat up and popped his helmet off. His nerves tingled in the aftermath of a blaster shot delivered squarely to his armored chest. Thank Fryw he’d worn it on the raid instead of his street clothes. Otherwise, the blast would’ve knocked him out long enough for local law enforcement agents to discover his presence and arrest him for trespassing and vandalism, and probably kidnapping, too.
He slapped an armored hand onto the hardwood floor beneath him. He’d been this close to securing the red-headed beauty he’d spied on in the days leading up to the raid. His old friend Ryn abid Alna had gotten to her first, then shot Dyuvad, forestalling an on-the-spot challenge for rights to steal the woman.
Ryn always had been a sneaky, underhanded winyu runner.
Normally, Dyuvad admired his friend’s creative solutions to sticky situations. Not today. His father had made it clear that if Dyuvad didn’t return with a suitable candidate for the Choosing, even Wode wouldn’t be able to deter his wrath.
Which is what Dyuvad got for enjoying life a little too well.
“A man your age should be settled by now,” he said, mimicking his father’s gruff voice, “not out carousing into the wee hours of the morning. Don’t disappoint your mother again. Bring home a wife.”
Dyuvad pushed himself upright into a wobbly stand. His mother, the formidable Mhij Ak, would never express her disapproval outright. She didn’t have to. One glance from the former Q’Mhel’s cold eyes had always been enough to ensure her sons’ obedience, especially after their father shared one of her more daring adventures as the leader of an elite squadron of mercenary-soldiers.
Dyuvad snorted as he rebooted his armor’s internal systems. His mother loved him. He’d never doubted that. Had he been a disappointment to her? Maybe, but it wasn’t exactly fair to compare him to his older brothers. Styadun, the eldest of the three, was a serious, studious man and the heir to their father’s position as the kafh of Tyansk Province. Dyuvad’s next eldest brother, Benar, had opted to follow in his mother’s footsteps at the tender age of seven and had, for the next twenty-odd Galactic Standards, trained and lived as a mercenary-soldier on Q, their mother’s home world.
What could Dyuvad ever do to measure up to either one of his brothers’ accomplishments, let alone both?
His armor’s computer beeped from the helmet’s inset earpieces. Dyuvad retrieved his helmet from the floor and jammed it on his head. He ran a quick systems check, then pulled up the blinking Net connection in the lower right-hand corner of the digital display projected onto the interior of his helmet, overlapping his view of the red-headed woman’s home.
Immediately, the disembodied, androgenized head of a Net telepath flashed into view, startling Dyuvad. Personal contact with a ‘path was rare. They were an extremely insular bunch, very protective of their privacy, and only appeared in the most dire situations. For one to reach out now was bad, really bad. His gut tightened. Tyornin’s hammer. Had something happened to his family?
“You have been chosen for an urgent assignment,” the ‘path said, its voice flat. “Enter the Net for further details within one Standard hour or risk permanent disconnection from the Net.”
The dread zinging through Dyuvad faded into relief. Not his parents, then, but what?
He shrugged and activated the preset coordinates input into his armor, then exhaled and lit the jump. Reality distorted around him and his head whirled. An instant later, he popped into his ship’s passenger bay and staggered sideways. Kraden jumps. They always left him a little shaky, no matter how hard he worked to overcome the side effects.
He shook his head hard, clearing it, and jogged toward the bridge. One Standard hour wasn’t a lot of time, but it didn’t need to be. Accessing the Net didn’t take intelligence, just a good connection. Still, he yanked off his helmet and instructed his ship’s AI to access the Net. No need to take chances. The Net was too valuable for communications and as an information source to risk disconnection.
As soon as he hit the bridge, he said, “Bring up recent messages.”
The viewscreen shimmered to life and a handful of windows opened, each one holding a message he’d received while he’d been planetside. Dyuvad plopped into one of the two chairs stationed in front of the ship’s main controls and pulled up a message marked urgent.
The Net ‘path’s head appeared on the viewscreen. “Identify yourself.”
“Dyuvad ab Mhij, Fevl, Tyansk Province, Abyw, Fluma System.”
The ‘path icon faded and was replaced by the image of a small girl no more than two Standard years in age. The likeness diminished and zoomed to the left side of the viewscreen. Adjacent rows of information scrolled down the screen’s right-hand side.
“Travel beyond the frontier to Origin Space and find this child,” the ‘path said. “She must be protected.”
“Travel beyond the frontier,” the uninflected voice repeated.
Dyuvad glanced at the bridge’s ceiling. Why had he bothered asking? He would’ve had better luck getting answers out of an inert wall. “Fine, I’ll travel beyond the frontier. Where exactly am I going?”
The girl’s image shrank. A planet appeared below it, a blue world shrouded in wispy clouds. Water covered large sections of the surface, interrupted by massive continents clustered into two groups of major landmasses and numerous minor ones.
Dyuvad studied the data scrolling along the viewscreen and frowned. “There are billions of people living on that planet. It’ll take years to find one little girl, and that’s assuming I can make it there at all. The frontier’s not exactly a friendly place. Origin Space is a virtual wilderness. No sane man goes there expecting to make it out in one piece.”
The ‘path reappeared. “Travel beyond the frontier, Dyuvad ab Mhij. Protect the girl.”
The message light blinked. The ‘path faded off the viewscreen and dozens of messages popped open one after another, so rapidly, Dyuvad couldn’t process them all. “Wait, slow down.”
The streaming messages flickered to a halt. He tapped into one containing sparse details of the girl’s life and pinned it into the upper left-hand corner of the viewscreen. Another message was from his bank on Abyw, alerting him to an unexpected deposit. He checked it and whistled his astonishment into the ship’s recycled air. Apparently, protecting the little girl was worth a couple hundred thousand credits, judging by the jump in his net worth. It was enough to bribe his way into another raid and then some. Maybe that would appease his parents.
He continued reading messages, pinned the important ones below the girl’s data, and finally hit on one from Benar flagged “Security Clearance Q.” After scanning it, Dyuvad sat back in his chair. He was to meet his brother in three Standard days, where he’d pick up new identification documents, enough currency to allow him to live independently on the girl’s planet, and clothing and other items he’d need while there. Benar’s six-man dal would escort Dyuvad and his ship to the outer reaches of the frontier. From there, he’d travel on his own into Origin Space to the girl’s planet, where he would jump planetside and go about protecting her from dangers unspecified.
He brought the planet’s image up again and studied it, eyes narrowed. Earth, also known as Terra. He arched an eyebrow. At least one among the Pruxnæ had visited the remote planet in the unknown past and returned to Abyw with enough bovi to start a breeding herd. Other than that, Dyuvad knew nothing, not surprising considering how far the planet was from civilized space. If he was lucky, the inhabitants would be relatively peaceful and would have some kind of rudimentary technology. If he wasn’t? Chaos, anarchy, primitive conditions.
After losing the red-headed beauty to Ryn, Dyuvad wasn’t feeling particularly lucky.
The last message was from an unknown sender and held a single line repeated over and over again. She is important to us.
Dyuvad grunted. Well, that wasn’t obvious at all, was it?
He input coordinates for the initial meeting spot into his ship’s nav systems and readied himself for an unplanned mission into one of the galaxy’s most uncivilized regions.