Monday, October 26, 2009

Tangled Web covers

By leaving a comment below, vote for your favorite cover. Random drawing will be held for a free, signed copy when the book is published!

Cover #46

Cover #45

Cover #44

Cover # 43

Cover #42

Cover #41

Cover #40

Cover #37

Cover #36

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 14

Room assignments came next. Couples were housed on the first three floors, singles paired up and were on floors four through eight.

"Take a key and move on," the attendant here said. "One key per person."

Before leaving the building, they received directions to their building and then put their stasuits. These were checked and rechecked at the door. Corrections were made as needed, none too politely.

"We start Monday, Tilda," Bobby sounded apprehensive.

"Bobby, I hate this place," Matilda shuddered, clinging to his arm.

"So do I, honey. It will be all right, we won't be here all that long."

They found their room without any difficulty. James and his girlfriend, Stella, were next door. After unpacking their scant belongings in the cheerless, tile and metal room, they went to the cafeteria in the basement. Each dorm had its own to minimize exposure to the outdoors. The food wasn't too bad, at least it wasn't gray.
* * *
Monday dawned and the only difference was that the sky was a lighter shade of gray than it was at night. Darkness took on a lurid cast in the light of the orange gas lights scattered about.

Decked out in their gear, the four of them approached the mine with trepidation. They had been assigned to a team with six other people. After three weeks of training, Matilda would be taking over. She was terrified.

"I don't really see why you get to be in charge," Jane complained for the hundredth time. "I scored higher than you on the aptitude test."

"Only two points," Stella quipped, liking Jane's discomfort.

"Because," James was only too happy to be the one explaining this time, "she out ranked you on Saltulle. Foreman DuLac, remember?"

Jane stalked away in a huff. James and Stella laughed after her.
"She can have the job as far as I'm concerned," Matilda commented. "Do you know how many rules and safety regulations I have to memorize in the next three weeks?"

"You can do it, Tilda. I'll help you," Bobby told her, squeezing her fingers.

"Thanks! I can use all the help I can get!"

Their shift went quietly and they learned more about Chaxite than they ever hoped to. Getting home that evening, after dinner and a hot shower, Matilda sat down with her regulations. Bobby came in and sat across from her, gazing at her intently.

"What?" She felt flustered and confused by his look.

"We need to decide something, Tilda. When do we want to get married? There is an actual minister here, we could have a church wedding."

"I really can't think about it until training is over."

"What will be the next excuse, Matilda? We could have married on the ship, but you didn't want to. Do you even want to marry me?" His eyes filled with angry tears which he blinked away.

She took his hand in hers. "Yes, Bobby, I do want to marry you. I love you. But I want to be able to enjoy our wedding and our time together afterwards and until I get through this training, I just can't. We can get married right after as a celebration, okay?"

He smiled weakly. "Alright, I guess I can wait. I'm holding you to this, Matilda DuLac." He reached for her rule book. "Here, let me have that, I'll quiz you."

"I do love you, Bobby." They spent the next three hours studying the rules until both of them knew them by heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 11

Matilda woke on a morning six weeks later and realized not only was it her seventeenth birthday, but it was her last day on Saltulle. Her family was headed for a mining colony on Solaris in the Zapata system. She was being sent to a mining colony on Parisium and Bobby was going with her.

After three years, if she worked hard enough, she would be eligible for transfer to officer's training. That program alone took an additional three years and the most she could hope for was Commander on a mining vessel. If she were extremely lucky, eventually she would be given a Captaincy, but she doubted it. In the entire three centuries of its existence, there had been three female captains in the Mining Guild.

She dressed quickly, anxious to spend time with her family. Solaris was a long way from Parisium and she did not foresee any chance for visits. She had Bobby, that would have to suffice.

When she got to the kitchen, there was a flurry of activity. A banner across the doorway said, "Happy Birthday, Tilda!" This time her sisters had enough time to finish it and had liberally decorated it with oblique balloons and slightly psychotic clowns.

Her mother had fixed a special breakfast to which Bobby had been invited. He was sitting, tipped back in his chair, talking to her father. He stood when she walked in. His kiss was carefully platonic, although their relationship had progressed to the next level. Matilda suspected her father knew she and Bobby were lovers, but he said nothing. He liked Bobby, who was steady and reliable. They had talked about marriage, but never formalized it, leaving it nebulous. For some reason, she never felt quite as strongly about their relationship as he did.

"Happy Birthday, Tilda," he said softly, kissing her again.

"Look what we got you!" Her sisters chorused, grabbing her by the hand and dragging her to the table. A small stack of presents were by her plate. The largest was from her parents. It was about 11" x 10" and flat. It contained a holographic photo frame loaded with pictures of her family from her parents' wedding to their last big event, Amie's seventh birthday.

All of them were clustered around Amie at the end of the table as she blew out candles. Behind and to the left was Wil, seen in profile, a sad smile on his full lips. Matilda paused, gazing at the photo, for he had not been looking at Amie, but at her. She lingered over the photo for a moment, then set the frame aside to look at her other presents.

The girls had made her cards and gifts. From Amie, she had a bracelet made of stones and chunks of metal she had found lying around. Amie had no way of knowing that those scraps were worth a small fortune anywhere but Saltulle. Brigette's gift was two fold. First an autograph book all of them had signed. It also contained messages from everyone she had been able to charm in to sighing it, which was virtually everyone in the town. The other half of her gift was a diary.

"That's so you can write down all the exciting things that happen to you," Brigette said proudly.

"Thanks, girls," she hugged each of them. "This is the best birthday ever."

Bobby smiled secretively. "I'll give you mine later after we get on board the ship."

Surprised and curious, she gave him a long, appraising look.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - part 7

Matilda has discovered that there might be Trimagnite on Saltulle. She is sensitive to the elusive, toxic, liquid ore. Wil & her father have asked her to show Wil where she was when she had her encounter. Matilda has made another discovery too, she realizes that she's falling in love with "Uncle Wil".

Matilda dressed carefully but with an eye to practicality. First, comfortable jeans which fit her very well, emphasizing her slender hips and firm thighs. Her shirt was a long sleeved, plaid cotton worn over a white tank top. Gloves and helmet were standard issue. No one left them or their goggles and filter masks behind. Thick soled boots completed her outfit. It wasn’t fancy, but it was the best she could do.

Brigette tapped on her door and poked her head in. “Uncle Wil says, are you ready?”

“Be right there.” A dab of her favorite perfume behind each ear and she was ready.

Wil was waiting outside on a bright red floater cycle. He grinned widely, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

“Hey, baby girl,” he borrowed her father’s nickname. “Ready?”

In reply, she hopped on the back seat of the cycle, strapped in and gave Wil the coordinates of the spot she had felt the Trimagnite’s pull the day before.

“If you feel anything at all, say so. I don’t care how dumb or trivial it seems. If your nose itches, tell me.”

“Okay, Uncle Wil.”

They took off smoothly. Wil’s cycle was heavier than the Guild’s but more powerful and maneuverable. It was also completely silent. All they heard were the stones, kicked up by as it glided by, hitting the bottom of the cycle.

“I think you’re old enough to call me just plain Wil, don’t you?”

He glanced over his shoulder at her when she did not reply right away. She nodded and was opening her mouth to reply, when they hit a patch of turbulence, a small dust devil which was easier to go through than around. Conversation was impossible and she had to throw her arms around Wil and hang on, afraid she’d fall off.

A year ago this small gesture would not have affected her, but as her body changed and blossomed, she was very conscious of her growing breasts pressed against his muscular back. It felt strange. She was aware, too, of how comforting his body was near hers. Not in the way of a child with her favorite uncle, but as a woman with a man.

The effect on Wil when she clung to him, was electric! An insignificant thing set his heart pounding and his adrenaline rushing.

“She's a child,” he reminded himself. “My friend’s child, what’s more.”

He fought for self control and concentrated on maneuvering the cycle through the dust devil. He successfully got himself under control until the wind shifted, bringing with it the scent of her perfume.

It was expensive, something he had bought for her mother, but in her peculiar way, Mary had said it wasn’t her style. She gave it to Matilda, not because Mary didn’t like the scent, but because she saw the expression of longing in her daughter’s eyes when she looked at the tiny, blue crystal bottle and experienced the fragrance.

It mixed with a woman’s chemistry and was guaranteed to smell different on everyone. Wil’s sensitive nose loved the exotic aroma and he enjoyed picking out the subtle differences between them. He suppressed a sigh of contentment as her scent wafted toward him.

“A child...” echoed in his mind.

She stiffened suddenly, as they approached the site. Still several clix away, she was experiencing something. Taking careful note of the coordinates, he stopped the cycle and turned to her.

Her face was pale and drawn, dark eyes wide with confused terror. She clung to him as if she were drowning and only he could save her. He had seen the look before on the face of sensitives. The pocket must be very close. He sniffed, lifting his head, filtering out her scent. Standing with difficulty, as she refused to release her hold, he slid away from her gently. Her hand shot out, grabbing his shirt in a vice grip, pulling the hairs on his chest. Tortured eyes sought his.

“Don’t leave me,” she gasped. “What is it? Why do I feel...?” She could not put the feeling in words.

Holding her hand, he walked a few feet from the cycle and sniffed again. There it was! The tang was unmistakable; like lemon oil, cloves and sweat with an overlay of metal. He drew a breath through his mouth, tasting the air as it traveled across his tongue.

“It’s a big one.” He went back to the cycle and she trailed him silently, wide eyed like a frightened puppy.

Wil took a sophisticated scanning device and made detailed readings of the area. Matilda sat on the sled, shivering, although it was a hot day. Absorbed in his work, Wil didn’t notice right away. He spoke to her, but she didn’t respond, and he grew concerned.


He glanced at her, immediately worried. She was going into shock. He marked the post with a guild beeper and gathered his equipment. Then he picked her up, plopped her on the seat in front of him and turned the cycle toward Mine Base One. He radioed ahead and Murdock met them personally. Wil had been friends with Murdock for years.

“What’s wrong?” Murdock's eyes held deep concern for Matilda.

Wil looked around, his penetrating gaze deterring interference from others. He leaned over to Murdock and whispered, “Trim shock.”

“Trim shock?” The other man was appalled.

Trimagnite sensitives would sometimes react badly to a pocket, particularly a large one which was near the surface.

“First time out, it’s my fault. The pocket is huge! Where’s the doctor?”

“Watson’s in his office, sober for once.”

“Let’s get her there immediately, show me.” He lifted Matilda up as if she weighed nothing and followed Murdock to the doctor’s house which doubled as an office.

The old man clicked into high gear when he heard what the problem was. “Get me a double shot of joe,” he told Murdock.

Look for Part 8 at my Word Press site:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten - Part 5

“I’ll wake you when I come to bed,” Ed winked at her luridly.

“Very likely you will, Edmund, but don’t expect much!” She threw a dishtowel she had been taking to the wash at him and walked off, muttering all the way to her room.

“So, Tilda, tell me specifically what you felt on your way to the camp.” Her father seemed calm, but excitement seethed under the surface.

She described the sensation as accurately as she could. Wil sat quietly, smoking thoughtfully, listening with an intensity she had never seen.

“Do you remember where you were?”

“Yes, it struck me as odd, so I glanced at my position.”

“When you crossed it later, did it happen again?”

“No, just once. Why?”

Wil looked slightly discouraged. “Still moving,” he told Ed. “But it gives us something to go on. You ever thought of mining Trimagnite? You’d be good at it, as a natural sensitive.”

“No daughter of mine will ever be a Trimmie,” Ed said with finality.

“Trimmies are seriously spooky, Uncle Wil.” She shuddered reflexively.

“No they aren’t, baby, they are just like you and me. The rest of us just think they are spooky because we don’t understand them.”

“One guy I met said the walls spoke to him!”

She had met an old Trimmie in a local pub when she was twelve. He had made a terrifying impression; wild eyed, gray haired, muttering to himself about the voices.

“Maybe they did. Some people are taken that way. You felt that tingle, others hear it resonate or sing, I can smell it. Does that make us spooky too?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Honey, working that stuff is enough to make anyone a little crazy.”

She could not meet the weight of his stare anymore. Blushing deeply, she looked away. A gentle, light fingered touch from his hand brought her eyes back to his.

“Tilda, I need you to show me the spot tomorrow.”

Matilda glanced at her father for confirmation. He nodded slowly, giving his permission. “I don’t have a cycle.”

“It’s all right, I have one. We’ll fly out there after I meet with Mac.”


“You’d better go to bed now, missy,” her father said firmly.

Matilda rose quickly, nearly knocking over her chair. She kissed her father on the cheek and leaned over to kiss Wil goodnight. For the first time in her life, she felt oddly self-conscious around him.

She made her way to bed, fumbling with her pajamas. Bobby’s kiss had left a memory on her lips. His face flitted before her as her eyes drifted shut, feeling his arms around her. In her dreams, however, the blue eyes turned dark and foreboding. Cute, immature teenage features took on a hard edged, lean and hungry look. Bobby’s face melted away, replaced by Wil’s.

Wil walked toward her, arms enfolding her, bringing her into his masculine embrace. Full lips pressed on hers, making her weak in the knees, and warm in all kinds of deliciously unfamiliar places. Suddenly, she was falling and he was yanked away. She reached for him, calling his name.

She woke with a start. Someone stood in the doorway. At first she thought it was her father who usually heard her nightmares and came to reassure her, but it was too tall, broad shouldered and muscular to be her father.

“You okay, Tilda?” Wil’s soft, deep voice held a note of concern. “I heard you calling my name.”

“I’m okay, Uncle Wil. It was just a bad dream.”

“Want to talk about it?” He eased into the room, thinking how furiously un-understanding Ed would be if he caught him there.

“I don’t remember it,” she lied poorly.

Wil sat on the end of her bed. “Why were you calling me?”

“It was so real...” She could not look him in the face. “I felt like I was falling and you reached out to grab me, but you got yanked away and I fell... It felt like forever....”

“I see.”

He didn’t really see at all. In fact, he had no idea how to handle this, but it seemed like the right thing to say; vaguely non-committal. She made him feel awkward and shy around her self-confidence, like a teenager on his first date. He had to keep reminding himself she was a child. He was godfather to her little sister, for God’s sake!

She was staring at him with that disconcerting expression which made him feel as if she stripped away layer after layer of his psyche.

“You all right, Uncle Wil?”

The sound of her voice startled him as he was still trying to sort out what he felt.

“Yes,” he croaked slightly, clearing his throat. “I was just thinking what this might mean. I think we’d better be extra careful tomorrow when we go out. I’ll double check the floater cycle and call up a weather report. Don’t worry, Matilda, it was just a dream.”

He leaned forward, forcing himself to kiss her on the forehead. His heart lurched uncomfortably and there were stirrings in him which no full grown woman had ever woken in him.

“Night, honey,” he reminded himself she called him Uncle Wil for a reason. Her father was his closest friend.

Part 6

Emma, Dangerous by Dellani Oakes – Part 62

Sam gets cut in the fight with Hempe. A nurse in the lock down wing stitches him up, thanking Sam for taking the monster out. He shows Sam a...