Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Redstone Ch. 11, Pt. 2

Notes: New Redstone, now with long-awaited answers. Berengaria telling it like it is, and Garrett possibly getting in too deep...guys, isn't there a better way to rescue Kyle? No? Oh.

Also, good news: I signed a new contract with Samhain for a MM contemporary thriller (because that's how I write, what can I say?) due in February! It won't come out until later next year, but I'm stoked! My editor there liked my original submission Tempest enough to ask for another story without having it pre-finished, which is awesome. *does happy dance, remembers too late to stretch before high kicking*

Title: Redstone Chapter 11, Part 2.


Garrett had seen pictures of Berengaria Alexander, of course; the entire Alexander clan was very photogenic, and while Berengaria had never been the politician or socialite that many of her siblings were, she hadn’t always been a recluse either. She and her brother Raymond actually looked very alike: the same long nose and high cheekbones, the same dark hair and height. Their mother had been Foster’s first wife, and they’d had three children together before mutually moving on.

Garrett was fairly sure she was dead now, actually, like most of the people Foster Alexander had either married or produced. Six wives, seventeen children and yet there were only four Alexanders left now, and one was doing research so far out in the Fringe it was practically the Beyond, with no interest in returning home or, indeed, in being involved in any way with his family. Garrett knew. He’d asked.

Berengaria met him in a solar at the back of the house, the room warm and brightly lit. It was full of plants, even tiny vines that had insinuated themselves into what were probably deliberate cracks in the walls. The air was moist, and scented with some sort of mint that made Garrett’s lungs feel like they were expanding more than usual with every breath. There was birdsong of some sort as well, unidentifiable but sweetly trilling, and he felt his shoulders relax.

Berengaria stood up from a replica of an ancient wicker chair as the bot led Garrett in. She was dressed in a gauzy white gown, nothing skintight, just shaped enough to give an idea of the body that lay beneath it. Her dark hair, liberally sprinkled with grey, was pulled back in a tight bun. Her face was smooth but her hands were oddly wrinkled, as though she hadn’t been in a Regan tank in decades. She couldn’t be more than sixty, though. Why did she look so old?

“Madame Alexander,” Garrett said as he approached. “Thank you for meeting with me.”

Berengaria inclined her head, as regal as any queen. “Thank you for coming, Mr. Helms. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, although I must say, even for you and your father this seems an undertaking so vast as to be a fool’s errand.”

“That’s entirely possible, but we have to try. Millions of lives are at stake.”

“Hmm. But you’re not here to talk to me about millions of lives,” Berengaria said. “Please, sit. Would you care for a drink?”

“Do you have bissap?” It felt like it had been forever since Garrett had drunk bissap juice. It was Claudia’s favorite, a part of her childhood, but without the nearness of the vineyards she’d cultivated before they’d left Paradise, her supply had run out.

“I grow it here. Some will be brought for you.” The bot left almost soundlessly, and Berengaria took a deep breath. “You want to know about Kyle.”

“I do.”


Garrett hadn’t been able to explain over the comms exactly what he was doing out of fear of being overheard. “I’m trying to get him out of prison and back into a situation where he can act as a foil to the president’s influence. Kyle didn’t do what he took credit for; he’s not a murderer. He’s trying to create change, and I want to help him with that.”

“So you recruited him to your little insurrection and then took advantage of him, you mean.”

Well, she didn’t pull her punches. “No. There are different branches of action stemming from the same idea, which is that the Federation is ill-served by its current ruler and his allies. I was on one branch, Kyle was on another and then we happened to intersect. I don’t want his sacrifices to be for nothing, but in order to get him out of prison and not have the courts label him a fugitive, I need information.”

“How do you even know he’s still alive?” Berengaria asked, so softly Garrett could barely hear her. “Redstone has released no public information about his status.”

“I have people on the inside ensuring that he stays alive. But I need leverage to get him out and keep him out. I need to know things that your older brother would probably rather no one knew.” Garrett didn’t miss her shudder at just the mention of Raymond Alexander. “What scares him so badly about Kyle? Why doesn’t he want to take things to trial?”

Berengaria folded her wizened hands and stared at them for a long moment. “Do you know very much about our family history?”

“More than most people do, I think.”

“And you clearly have no problem using illegal means to get your information.” Garrett opened his mouth to defend himself, but she shook her head. “I only bring it up because I assume you’ve looked over our health records.”

It was one of the first things he’d hacked into, actually. “They were mostly redacted.”

“Yes. Supposedly because we’re the first family and more deserving of privacy for security reasons than others, but in actuality, those records have been completely expunged. Everything dating back to our births, everything showing our early issues and therapies—all gone. It is relevant, though, because among other things, my older brother Raymond was diagnosed very early on with a number of psychiatric conditions. The strongest by far was clinical narcissism.”

Well, he was a professional politician. Garrett could relate. “I’d think that comes with the territory.”

Berengaria smiled, but it wasn’t a happy smile. “With the territory of the presidency, or the territory of being my father’s child? We all came by our self-absorption honestly, we eldest. Our father always loved himself better than anyone else in his life. In some of us, that engendered a desire to excel in order to draw more of his attention. In Raymond, it brought about a loathing so deep that it became the greatest single motivating factor of his life. My father was a military hero; Raymond shunned the military and went into the political sphere as soon as possible. My father had many wives; Raymond was determined that no one was worth the distraction from himself, and that he had no need of anyone else to share his life with. After all, no one could possibly measure up.

“That lasted until he met Haven.”

Garrett racked his brain for a moment. “Your father’s last wife.”

“And my brother’s only paramour, brief as their liaison was.”

Garrett frowned. “How did that come about?”

“Have you ever seen a picture of Haven?” Berengaria reached out to the table between them and shuffled the computerized top back and forth until she’d brought up the image she was searching for. The girl was…well, exquisite. She reminded Garrett a little of his own mother, possessed of a beauty so exceptional as to render her almost alien. People could shape themselves into almost anything these days, but every so often someone came along who still blew people’s minds. Haven was one of those people.

“She’s very beautiful.”

“Mmm, yes.” Berengaria lifted her fingertips and the picture faded away. “Her parents were low-level aristocrats on Firenze who spent all they had getting her to Olympus to make a good match. Haven wasn’t much of a student, but she had aspirations, insofar as they went. She and Raymond met at a dinner hosted by her planet’s ambassador, and he decided he wanted her. Haven was amenable.”

“They sound like a very odd match.”

“They were quite compatible in their mercenary natures,” Berengaria said. “She gave him the attention he wished for, and he had the one person who had ever intrigued him on his arm. For Raymond, it was everything he’d ever wanted.

“And then she met my father.” Berengaria sighed. “I loved my father when I was a child, but as I grew I could see just how poorly he had done by his families. He was far from a perfect man, and this was exactly the sort of incident he could have avoided and actively chose to pursue instead. He had Raymond’s good looks and far more vivacity, and he seduced her away from my brother in the space of a single evening. They married two weeks later.”

Garrett winced. “Ouch.”

“Ouch indeed,” Berengaria agreed. “It broke Raymond’s mind; not his heart, because I’m almost sure that he wasn’t in love with her. But he couldn’t conceptualize how anyone could throw him over after he had deigned to notice them. He was a god and there could be no others, and yet the devil had swooped in and plucked his acolyte right out from under him. He couldn’t allow such a trespass to stand.”

Now they were getting into the meat of things. “You think he killed your father, then?”

Berengaria sniffed derisively. “I know he was behind that attack. The same way I know he’s responsible for killing almost all of the rest of us, the same way I know that no evidence of that can be found. The only concrete evidence of Raymond’s wrongdoing rests in Kyle, which is why he’ll fight to the death to keep Kyle from undergoing close psychic probing or trace searched for genetic manipulation.”

Garrett frowned. “What do you mean?”

Berengaria’s chuckle was so sharp it should have cut him. “No one was supposed to survive the attack that killed my father. They were traveling in the nearest thing to an empty zone that exists in Federation space. I was more paranoid than Raymond had suspected at this point, though, and I’d affixed a tracker of my own to my father’s ship. When it stopped broadcasting I extrapolated their last position and roused rescuers. Kyle was the only one left. Our other siblings…” She looked away. “Their escape pods were too close to the blast, and had been damaged. They froze to death. My father, Haven, and the crew were lost instantly, of course.

“I petitioned the courts for custody of Kyle and won. I knew it wouldn’t last. Raymond would try to finish his work. I was prepared to fight him for it, but then…my accident occurred.”

Garrett watched her smooth her hands over each other. “Some sort of malfunction in your Regen tank?”

She nodded. “You’re very insightful, Mr. Helms. Yes. There was a very targeted malfunction in my personal tank’s software which caused cellular and DNA damage instead of repairing it. By the time I was removed, I had aged almost a century, and one of my aides had permanently disappeared.” She held her hands up and looked at them critically. “Such damage takes time to repair if you want to protect your mind. I’ve been at it for twelve years now, and I’m perhaps halfway back to normal.

“I thought Raymond would kill Kyle, but I was wrong. I had spies of my own at the time, and before the most loyal of them was found and killed, she told me what Raymond had done. His obsession with Haven had never died, despite his killing her. With Kyle, Raymond saw a chance to both have a piece of Haven and to expunge the last of our father from his life. He had his personal doctor endeavor to replace the parts of Kyle’s genome that came from Foster with Raymond’s own, to make Kyle into the child he had never had, and never truly wanted before he was denied the opportunity.”

Garrett knew his mouth had fallen open, but he couldn’t quite get it to shut. “He…that sort of manipulation is…”

“Illegal? Imperfect? Dangerous? Yes. And when it didn’t give him the worshipful child he had expected to get, it was too late to quietly dispose of Kyle; he was in the public’s eye by then. So Raymond sent Kyle away, and told me if I attempted any contact with him I would regret it. I believed him.” She shrugged. “I created this place to heal within, and shut out the rest of the universe, including my younger brother. There’s only so far you can extend yourself before the thread of your will snaps. I reached that time when I found myself in a body I no longer recognized.”

“And this genetic manipulation could be proven?” Garrett pressed.

“Absolutely. It stems to a time that Kyle has no memory of, and that would be enough of a red flag to a behavioral psychic or psychologist that the necessary tests could be done. Raymond won’t be easy to overcome, however.” She tilted her head slightly as she looked at Garrett, and he saw the weariness in her eyes, the hopelessness that still pervaded her. “Be careful he doesn’t draw you out too far, Mr. Helms. You have vulnerabilities that would be far too easy to take advantage of.”

Cody. Jonah. The girls. “He can’t come at me without consequences.”

“For some people, ‘consequence’ is just a word,” Berengaria said.

The juice finally arrived, but Garrett wasn’t thirsty anymore.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Redstone Ch. 11, Pt. 1

Notes: Hey, an established couple and some sexytimes! Brief but enjoyable; also mildly explicit, so...don't read if you don't like. Next time: mysteries and secrets and dysfunctional families, oh my ;)

Title: Redstone Chapter 11, Part 1.


“You’ll be here when he gets in, right?”

“Absolutely.” The pause from his husband made Garrett sigh. “Jonah, I will swear on whatever you want me to swear on that I’ll be back by the time Cody gets in. I wouldn’t do that to him or to you; you’re going to need help wrangling all of the kids.” Cody, Ten, Darrell and Grennson were all arriving at Miles Caractacus’ floating family dwelling today, a brief visit before they headed back to Olympus and the beginning of their second year at the Academy. “Provided you don’t make me late,” he added when Jonah seemed to have no inclination to roll off of him.

“We haven’t spent an afternoon in bed together in way too long,” Jonah said, stretching out against Garrett and rubbing the lengths of their nude bodies together. Garrett turned into the movement, drawn to his husband’s warm skin like light to a black hole. “Can’t blame me for wanting to prolong it.”

“Mmm, no,” Garrett agreed. And quite the afternoon it had been, too; Jonah had been away for the past three weeks, traveling from Drifter ship to Drifter ship like a ghost and negotiating small but useful deals for mutual assistance in the Fringe. Garrett had been stuck in unending debate with the Senate, while trying to juggle dozens of other projects and potentials at the same time. One of those potentials, one that could provide invaluable information for other projects, had finally agreed to meet with him face to face. It was quite a coup; Garrett would be the first person in over a decade to speak with Berengaria Alexander face-to-face. Needless to say, they’d both been busy, so when the opportunity to fall into bed and forget everything else for a while had come up, neither man had resisted.

Two spectacular orgasms later and Garrett was feeling rather successfully relaxed. And when Jonah curled his long fingers around Garrett’s waist again, sliding his hands up his back until they got a good grip on his shoulders, Garrett gave in. He let his head fall back against the mattress and wrapped his legs around Jonah’s waist, hitching him closer to where Garrett wanted him, where he’d already been once. “I’ve got to leave in half an hour,” he whispered in Jonah’s ear, loving the way he could still make his husband’s breath shudder in his chest. “So you’ll have to be fast, and focused.”

“I don’t know about fast,” Jonah said with a faint groan as he found the spot and pushed, and oh fuck, Garrett hadn’t had Jonah twice in quick succession like this in way too long. He loved the ache of his body opening for Jonah, the intense pulse of pleasure it sent quivering through his core and out his limbs. He wanted to prolong it, preserve it; moments like this were so rare now, times when Garrett could exist solely in Jonah’s arms with no distractions, nothing pending, nothing pressing. He almost missed that indolent period of his life when the only thing on his mind was the next party, the next casual fuck.

There was nothing casual about Jonah, though. He demanded Garrett’s attention, taking the concept of focus to another level as he moved with precision, so good at pushing Garrett’s buttons at this point that even though he’d come twice already, Garrett’s body responded with rapidity. Jonah’s eyes were open, fixed on Garrett’s face, watching every expression that crossed it and adjusting accordingly. He fucked him slow but deep, pressing in hard each time, and Garrett tensed and tightened every muscle in response, his hands slowly turning into claws that clutched Jonah closer with every thrust.

“That’s it, darlin’,” Jonah murmured. “That’s it, give it to me. You’re so ready to come again, aren’t you? You’ve been dyin’ for it, all these weeks.”

“Shut up,” Garrett choked out. “Shut up, you’re cheating.”

“You said fast—” His hips screwed in hard again, hard and so slow but it wasn’t about Jonah’s speed, it was about Garrett’s reaction, and that was very quickly spiraling out of control. “And I just wanna give you what you want.”

Garrett had just the right pithy response on the tip of his tongue, but it didn’t matter, because he wasn’t going to be able to say it. He lost the ability to do anything but let Jonah in, take what he gave and wrap himself tighter and tighter with every second until finally, in what felt like far too little time for his sated body, the coil of tension inside of him broke open. Unlike the last two times, which had been more explosive, blinding and ecstatic, this orgasm spooled across his body like a solar prominence, slow and expansive and pinging across every nerve in his body. He felt Jonah tense against him, slow down even further and press in so hard it felt like their bodies might finally merge. His exhale gusted against Garrett’s ear, echoing with the sound of Garrett’s name, and when Jonah finally slumped, Garrett was there to catch him.

A few minutes later Jonah rolled away with a grin. “Ten minutes left,” he said smugly. “You’d better hurry, darlin’.”

“Oh sure, flaunt your ability to have a nap right in front of me,” Garrett snapped as he forced himself to get out of bed and head for the sonic shower. “Being a smug bastard isn’t sexy.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jonah said as he tucked his hands behind his head. Sprawled out on their bed, naked and sweaty and striped with red lines from where Garrett had dug his fingers in hard, he was almost irresistible. “It always looks good on you.”

Garrett shook his head. “You’re not making it any easier to leave right now.”

“You’d better focus then, darlin’.”

“Smug. Bastard.”

He did make his shuttle in time, if only barely. The window for his audience was a brief one, and Garrett pulled his mind away from a warm room and warmer husband and refocused on the task in front of him.

Berengaria Alexander. She’d lived in a secure space dwelling orbiting Liberty for fourteen years now. Her home was more of a self-sustaining fortress than a simple home, with carefully managed gardens, solar power for everything and nuclear backup systems, and a privacy shield that could fry the control systems of ships as much as ten times as big as her entire micro-colony. She lived in the company of bots only, and never gave public appearances. She occasionally gave interviews, but only via holo. She was independently wealthy, decisively isolated and by in large seemed content to be forgotten. Garrett was still somewhat surprised that he’d managed to land a face to face meeting with her.

Then again, if the woman had any soft spot, it was her brother Kyle. She hadn’t been his guardian for long, but her feud with President Alexander over Kyle’s custody was legendary among the upper classes, as was her defeat. She hadn’t stopped pushing until the president sent Kyle off to boarding school, and then only because her health had taken an unexpected and suspicious turn for the worse.

She knew something that would help them, Garrett was sure of it. It didn’t make sense for Raymond Alexander to stuff his brother away and delay the trial again and again. His poll numbers were down, and petitions among every special interest group from students to military officers to family advocates were multiplying by the day, insisting on “Justice For Kyle!” Why delay, when it should be a simple thing for him to discredit his brother in court? Kyle had already confessed to killing his classmate, and with the help of an empath and a few genetic tests, the president would be able to frame Kyle as delusional and have him locked away without the interest he was generating right now. And if he was hoping for Kyle to quietly die and diminish the controversy that way, well, that wasn’t going to happen. Not while Garrett was on guard.

There was another reason for the president’s machinations, and Garrett was going to find out what that reason was.

The shuttle pulled up to the glittering privacy shield outside of Berengaria’s home. “Voice verification, please,” a smooth-toned voice said over the comm.

“Garrett Helms.”

“Stand by for scan.” Ah yes, the infamous ship scan. The technology was so invasive that most planetary governments refused to use it, citing health concerns. Submitting to it was a condition of Garrett’s visit, though, and he sat still as the specially-calibrated radioactive rays suffused the ship, getting a three-dimensional picture of everything living or inert inside of the hull. The AI classified everything it found, comparing it to the original specs for the shuttle, analyzing life signs and any hint of weaponry, including chemical and organic.

After a minute of tense silence, the voice finally spoke up again. “Acknowledged, Garrett Helms. Please wait for touchdown before moving from your seat.” In other words, no sudden moves or we’ll blast you to space dust. Garrett sat perfectly still as the shield opened to admit him, and the shuttle followed its pre-programmed path down to the landing bay.

Berengaria’s home was large, a shimmering sea of metallic rainbow colors that shifted depending on the angle. Inside the biodome, every corner was home to some sort of plant, and beyond the main house Garrett caught a glimpse of terraced fields before his line of sight was obscured. It was a beautiful place, and the air, when the shuttle doors finally opened to let him out, was warm, almost tropical.

He walked down the ramp and onto the dark blue landing pad. A humanoid bot came out to meet him—shockingly humanoid, actually. If Garrett hadn’t known better from the identification code glowing subtly across its forehead, he would have mistaken it for a person.

“Welcome, Mr. Helms.” The bot, shaped masculine but wearing almost shapeless dark brown clothes, inclined its head. “Please follow me inside.”

“Lead on.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Redstone Ch. 10, Pt. 2

Notes: Some people just don't know when to quit. Other people do, and then you're left wishing they'd pushed further just to end the agonizing anticipation. In other words, Robbie pushes back while Isidore sits quietly. Yeah, it's a bit complicated ;)

Title: Redstone Chapter 10, Part 2.


No fewer than three women approached Robbie as he led his robot posse and their prisoners back toward the entrance. The first one tried coy, the second called his name, and who knew how she’d figured that out, and the third skipped all the middlemen and just stripped her top off. She was blonde, beautiful, curvaceous and perky and terribly scarred across the tops of both her breasts, which she thrust toward him with a smile and a wink. It was both blatant and subtle, a way of coming onto him while letting him know that nothing he could do would be worse than what she’d already lived through. Robbie was impressed.

Not impressed enough, though. “No thanks,” he said as he stepped around her.

“We have boys too, if that’s more your style,” she called after him, rushing to catch up. “Boys who know how to take a man like you, nothing like that scared little bunny your robot’s got his claw around. Or maybe you’d prefer to sample from a broader menu?”

“I’m not hungry,” Robbie said. He swiped his card at the door, then his palm, then let it read his iris as well.

“Everybody’s got hungers, baby,” the woman said knowingly as he left the Pen behind. “If you can’t feed them here, where can you?”

How about at the bottom of a black fucking hole, which is where I’d like to put most of the people in here? Robbie grit his teeth silently but kept moving until they reached the door that led to the intake room on the left hand side. “Get the others to the infirmary,” he directed the bots.

“This one’s physical functionality has ceased,” the bot holding the inmate Isidore had bitten said.

“Then run him to the infirmary,” Robbie snapped. “Go!” Holy shit, he hoped Wyl was installing some sort of improved AI in ZeeBee, because these things were too stupid to live. It was no surprise that the inmates ripped them up for parts; they were no threat unless backed up by less reliable, more dangerous human guards. Robbie moved into the room and the last bot followed with Kyle.

He looked the focus of their entire mission over surreptitiously as he put his weapons away in the stasis case. The case was a precaution against thievery, the assumption being that Robbie wouldn’t need an extra weapon to help him deal with an un-modded prisoner, and that there was no sense in giving them a chance to swipe something useful to take back into the Pen. Robbie was damn sure that that rule was broken all the time, but he wasn’t going to get things off to a bad start. Besides…

“You smart, kid, or are you stupid?” he asked in the same bored tones he’d been using all day.

“Smart, sir.”

At least he was prompt. “You wanna prove that, then you’re not gonna make any fast movements. Got it? Because I’m not in the mood for any shit while we process your intake.”

“Got it, sir.”

“Good.” Robbie picked up the official Redstone officer’s tab and pulled up Kyle Alexander’s information, all of it displayed in urgent red tones. “State your name.”

“Kyle Dazemar Holliston Harmony Alexander.” The top line turned green.

“I can see you’re already used to cruel and unusual punishment.”

One side of Kyle’s lips quirked up. “Sir.”


“Twenty-two.” Huh, he’d had a birthday since being in custody. That sucked.

“Planet of origin.”

“Olympus.” Another green line.

“Serial birth number.”

Kyle dashed off the twenty-seven digit number like he was reciting the alphabet. Another green line. “Good. Personal representative?”

“Demarcos Gyllenny.”

“Put your palm here.” He held out the tab and let Kyle set his hand down on it, and waited for it to register his print. It glowed green a moment later. “Good. Just the eyes now.”

“Why rush things, new guy?”

Robbie sighed internally. Of course he wasn’t going to be able to get through this without another confrontation. He turned around and looked at the two men who’d just entered the room. They were the same guards he’d had to force away from his door just a few hours ago. Pushy. “Hey there, friend,” the bolder one said with a manic grin. “There’s no need to throw this pretty thing back to the wolves before we’ve had a chance to do a more thorough intake exam.”

Robbie decided to start by playing dumb. “Bot didn’t say anything about damages, so he doesn’t need the tank.”

“How dense are you?” the second guard demanded. “You might have some ass on the side, but the rest of us have to play the field. Just leave the room for five—”

“Ten,” the first guy amended.

“Yeah, ten minutes and then come back and take him back to the Pen. No fuss, no muss.”

“We’re being recorded right now.”

“No we aren’t.” Robbie could have spread that man’s smug across a slice of bread, it was so thick. “No eyes in this room. Just finish the official intake and get lost for a while, new guy. You said earlier you wanted to be friends, didn’t you? So do we!” He smiled again. “This is a good way to make friends in Redstone.”

Robbie couldn’t let himself be seen as soft toward a prisoner, and not to Kyle Alexander in particular. He couldn’t let Kyle get stuck with these two either, though. It wasn’t an option. Dumb hadn’t worked, so Robbie decided to fall back on belligerent instead. “No recording doesn’t mean we aren’t being timed by the boss,” Robbie hissed. “I get what this is. You’re comin’ in on my first fucking day on the job trying to get me written up for stalling or whatever the fuck I can get in trouble for, as if passing around prisoners ain’t enough to get my own ass thrown into solitary for a while.

“Is this your way of making a play for my man? Get me sent to discipline, then you can get your hands on him while he’s alone?” The startled glance the two men exchanged was enough to let Robbie know they probably hadn’t thought that far ahead, but he was on a roll now. “You’re so anxious for some boy pussy, you can go fuck each other, because this intake is ending on time and I’m keeping my goddamn nose clean.” Robbie held the tab up to Kyle’s face and scanned his iris briskly, then slapped his own palm down on the surface to finish the formal registration.

“You don’t know who you’re making enemies of here, new guy,” the first guard said. “You think it’s just us? If you’re not more careful, you won’t have any friends at all. Then where will you and your husband be?”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Robbie motioned for the bot to take hold of Kyle again, retrieved his weapons and headed for the door, knocking into the other guards’ shoulders to clear them out of the way. He took Kyle back down the hall and steeled himself to let him go back into the Pen. The atmosphere of the place made Robbie’s skin crawl; he couldn’t imagine how it must feel to be there as much as Kyle was.

The faster they put the rest of Garrett’s plan into effect, the better.


Rory was shaped so strangely that it was hard for Isidore’s brain to register him as human at first, and coming from a man who’d spend the last decade on Solaydor, that was saying a lot. Rory looked like a human who’d been crushed in a gravity field, compacted down and out. He was a foot shorter than Isidore and maybe four times wider, and so thick through the shoulders and chest it would have been impossible for Isidore to reach all the way around him. His muscles were hard slabs of sculpted meat, and his enormous hands could have doubled for mining picks.

Rory sat at a table at the back of the pen, alone, using a sharpened sliver of metal to clean beneath his fingernails. When Sylvester brought Isidore through the crowd to him and motioned him to sit down, Isidore immediately began to calculate all the ways that Rory could take him apart with that tiny metal toothpick. According to rumor, there were dozens of possibilities.

It didn’t matter. Isidore sat and waited, but he didn’t have to wait long.

“You,” Rory said, his voice surprisingly smooth, “aren’t much of a fighter.”

“No,” Isidore agreed.

Rory glanced up at him. “You admit that rather readily.”

“I know my own weaknesses. Combat is certainly one of them.”

“But you also have a good handle on your strengths, of which deception seems to be at the top. What did you do to Nathaniel, anyway?”

Might as well tell the truth. It wouldn’t do to lay false expectations about the man’s recovery. “I poisoned him.”

Rory nodded. “I thought so. He won’t be coming back, will he?”

“Not unless they’ve found an antidote for cluthe that works faster than the time it will take that bot to get him to the tank.”

“However did you smuggle something like cluthe in here?”

Isidore smiled. “That would be telling.”

“Clever and quiet.” Rory shook his head. “I should have taken you for one of mine when you first got here. You’re a political, though, and I tend to avoid the politicals. Radicals of any kind aren’t the sort of people I care to deal with. Too many ideals getting in the way of the practicalities of life and death.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“You can make it up to me by explaining your interest in Kyle Alexander.” Rory shifted slightly, his massive bulk moving with inexplicable sinuousness. “He’s a high value commodity. Why should I let you keep him?”

“Apart from the fact that you’re not sure I can’t kill you, me and everyone within a twenty foot radius before you could stop me?” It was a minor bluff, but after what he’d just done to Nathaniel, Isidore was willing to bet that Rory would give him the benefit of a doubt. He wasn’t wrong, and the rapid backpedaling of dozens of feet brought smiles to both of their faces.

“Apart from that,” Rory agreed.

“Kyle Alexander is as political as it gets.” Isidore would have to play it close to the line here; he wasn’t a good enough liar to do otherwise. “The highest political powers in the universe want him dead or under their control. If he’s under my control first, I get a stake in that.”

“Interesting.” Rory moved on to cleaning his other hand. “And you think you can hold onto him for the time it will take to make your play?”

“I don’t know, but I’m willing to use every trick I’ve got to try and ensure that.”

Sun-bright eyes looked him over. “And you’ve got quite a lot of them, don’t you?”

“More than you know.”

Rory grinned, then put his little shiv away. There was a collective exhalation in the room. “I like you, Isidore. Being near you is like walking side by side with death. I’ve done that, you know, in the Beyond. I challenged death there, and I won.” He leaned over slightly. “I like my chances with you too, but I’ll put my personal desires aside for now. Curiosity is the only cure for boredom, I’ve found, but sometimes even curiosity serves you better if you delay it.”

“I agree.” The door to the Pit started to open again.

“Go get your boy, and remember to expect the unexpected. After all,” Rory bared his teeth in a grin, and they were all as black as space. “Turnabout is fair play.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Stick Up For Super Villains! TRR Nominations are here!

Hi guys!

Holy whoa, I've actually got a book submitted to compete in The Romance Reviews' Readers Choice Awards this year. Which is AWESOME...but I need help getting it into the next round. I need 50 nominations between now and September 30th in order to qualify.

If you like Panopolis, Edward Dinges and The Mad Bombardier, please follow this link and nominate Where There's Smoke for the next round! I so appreciate your help, guys, let's do this!

Nominate here: http://glbt.theromancereviews.com/viewbooks.php?bookid=17726

Please and thank you, darlins ;)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Redstone Ch. 10, Pt. 1

Notes: Back at last, and longer than usual! Have some Isidore being a total badass, ladies and gents, I hope you enjoy it. Remember, Reclamation is out and it has a playlist, so go enjoy that too. Free stuff for the win!

Title: Redstone Chapter 10, Part 1.


Isidore was feeling fairly confident as he led Kyle along their dark back corridor toward the Pen. Wyl and Robbie were here, which meant Robbie was integrating into the guard unit. He wouldn’t have a lot of clout there yet, but at least he’d be a moderating influence when it came to Kyle’s treatment. Kyle needed that if he was going to get through his official intake in one piece. Isidore remembered his own, and it had been…uncomfortable. And thorough. He was lucky his records had shown him as diseased when he got here; there were a few illnesses that even Regen had a tough time eradicating in just one go, and the guards were less inclined to take chances on a new piece of tail when there were other, far healthier inmates to take advantage of.

Klia’s crew had something close to a monopoly on the guards’ “personal attention” in exchange for better food and equipment. It was dirty but necessary, and she drove her best people hard to keep the rest of them safe. Klia was tough but reliable. She would jump into a situation as fast as anyone if she saw something to be gained, but other than that she held her ground and waited for opportunities to present themselves. She wouldn’t bother them now, in the Pen, but she wouldn’t offer them anything.

Rory’s crew was bigger but less cohesive than Klia’s, a lot of dangerous and violent personalities crushed together by Redstone and kept that way by Rory’s enormous fist. He was undoubtedly the most dangerous person in the entire prison one-on-one, a wanderer who’d gone past the farthest reaches of human-occupied space and returned with the most vicious will to live and conquer that Isidore had ever seen. Rory was elemental chaos, violence distilled into the heart of this dark place like a neutron star. He always pushed, and forced his people to do the same. They would come for Kyle, Isidore knew. If not now, then very soon. And Isidore wasn’t enough to keep Kyle safe.

He knew that Kyle would object to being typified as helpless, but it was very nearly the truth. It would have been different if Kyle had kept his mods; physical ability counted for a lot in the Pen. But he didn’t have them, and without fast fists and feet to back up his forceful desire for independence, he looked exactly like what he was: a young, mostly untested young man too full of idealism to really understand just what some of these people were capable of.

Kyle was armed with a single use, button-sized taser that would do for a one-on-one confrontation, and Isidore had his mods and a few surprises tucked here and there, but they needed allies. The independents were their best bet, but Big Charlie and his shadow were right out. That left six other inmates that might be willing to work with them, which was…not much. Let us just get through this first day, just one with no problems, Isidore thought fervently as he stepped into a broader hallway. A few hundred more yards and they’d be in the Pen, where people were already jockeying for position for food. If the guards were fast coming for Kyle, if he found independents willing to sit with them soon enough, if people needed what Isidore was offering…so many maybes.

“Hey there, lads.”

Kyle started, but Isidore was able to keep himself from jumping, just barely. “Pence.” He turned toward the man in the shadows, who was twirling his copper moustache like some ancient holovid villain. “What do you want?”

Pence held his hands up as he took a step forward. “No need to be hostile, Is-adore. I’m just pleased that you’re still both here, and looking so hale and hearty too! I heard there was some trouble with a bot earlier.”

“Where did you hear that?” Kyle asked suspiciously. Pence’s little smile got broader.

“Oh, I hear all sorts of things.” He tapped his ear knowingly. “Knowledge is a garden, and I like to cultivate mine. There might mean growing more mushrooms than flowers in this shit hole, but every little bit of information has its value.”

“What do you want?” Isidore repeated flatly. Pence had come here for a reason, but you had to pry information out of the man with a molecular destabilizer sometimes, and Isidore was in a hurry.

“My dear, you’re no fun sometimes.” He inclined his head and got down to business, though. “I come bearing gifts, actually.” He reached behind his back and pulled out a pair of shoes. They were tiny, the sort of basic sleeves that would expand to almost any size and kept most things from puncturing the material and the skin it protected, but didn’t do much for support. They were far better than Kyle going in there on bare feet, though, and an expensive thing to offer up. Especially as a gift.

“Where did you get those?”

“Does it matter?”

“It does. If you got them from a corpse, then you’ve probably violated someone else’s claim to the body because it isn’t a corpse you made.” Pence was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a killer. “If you stole them and people see them on Kyle, then I’ve inherited your trouble. I don’t need more trouble right now.” Stealing was more likely, honestly.

“Neither is correct this time, my ever-insightful darling,” Pence declared. Isidore felt Kyle stiffen slightly, and had to keep himself from rolling his eyes. Kyle would get used to Pence’s grandiose use of pet names eventually. “Three of Klia’s people just got new boots, and these were up for grabs. All it took was a little down-and-dirty prophylactic assistance that only yours truly could provide, and voila! Now I gift them to you and your new boy.”

“In exchange for what?”

Pence tilted his head slightly, the copper in his hair gleaming as he moved. “Call it a gesture of goodwill. I can’t associate with you officially, of course, it’s far too early for that sort of thing, but I sense a change in the wind. I simply want to be sure that I’m ensconced with the winning side.”

“What kind of change?” Kyle asked.

“Mouthy, isn’t he?” Pence commented. “Dear pet, let me tell you this and save your new master the trouble: silence is golden. You’re Isidore’s boy, so you do what he says when he says it, and nothing else. You don’t ask questions, especially not the kind that might cost you something.” Pence looked at Isidore and shook his head. “You’re being overly nice to this one, sweetness; he’s too accustomed to leading when he needs to be submitting to your leash. Silence him or risk losing him.”

“I handle my boy my way,” Isidore said, not that Pence was wrong. They’d talked about it, and Isidore had thought that Kyle understood, but Pence was dangerously disarming. His demeanor invited intimacy and conversation, but hopefully he would be the only one who slipped past Kyle’s guard like this. Kyle didn’t say anything else, so that was good. “And I accept your gift.” He held out his hand, and Pence inspected it carefully before laying the shoes in it. Isidore passed them back to Kyle, who put them on immediately. “Anything else?” There was always something else with Pence.

“Something that might be rather immediately useful, actually, provided you have a spare battery on hand.” Pence smirked and fluffed his hair mockingly. “My vanity mirror needs a new light source.”

Naturally. Luckily, Isidore had plenty of batteries now. He made one appear in his palm, and saw the glimmer of avarice in Pence’s eyes grow a little brighter. “Define immediately useful.”

“Information that’s face saving, quite literally,” Pence replied. “The sort of thing that might give the guards time to take your darling boy away and give you time to talk to the grownups without risking damage to your magnificent reputation.”

“Tell me.”

“Prove it works first.”

Oh, cheeky bastard. “I don’t deal in bad product.”

“Just checking, darling.” Pence shrugged, then continued. “There’s a little wolf pack waiting to try your mettle up ahead, and I do mean up. Two on the lintel and one enterprising little bugger clinging to the wall above them. Someone got a rather interesting set of mods past security,” he added with a little whistle. “No weapons that I could see, but that doesn’t mean much.”

“True.” Three of Rory’s guys. Not terrible, and a good show would certainly make the other independents more likely to give them the time of day. “Accepted.” He handed the battery over, and Pence caught the very edges of his hand and held it lightly as he bowed low, blowing a kiss across Isidore’s palm before tipping the battery into his own.

“You are wise beyond your tender years, dear heart.” Pence scooted away, and Isidore turned back to Kyle.

“We don’t have to stop them for long, just long enough for the guards to come and get you,” he said quietly. “It’s a test, not a real attack. Rory’s checking to see how committed I am to you. I’ll go in first, try to take at least two. Save the taser for yours. If you get into trouble,” please don’t get into trouble, “run toward me. I’ll handle it.”

“Got it.” Kyle looked nervous and grim, which was completely appropriate, but Isidore hated to see that expression on his face. He leaned in closer and lowered his voice to a whisper.

“Remember, Robbie is here. He’s probably going to be watching, and as soon as he sees you he’ll move to get you, I’m sure of it. You’ll be all right.”

“As long as you are too.”

“Don’t worry about me.” Isidore turned away before Kyle could protest again and led the way toward the pen. Ten more steps…five… Kyle hung back a bit, smart boy, and Isidore stepped through the door. The conversation nearest to him slowed, and he could almost feel the wave of sudden attention flow over him. His proximity sense kicked into overdrive, detecting the electrical fields of the men above him, letting him turn and catch the first one as he leapt down from above the entryway.

It was Lightning Ray, a long, skinny guy whose mods had added an extra foot of length to each limb. If he could keep you back he was hard to fight, but Isidore was already inside of his range, and grabbed the man by the throat as they both tumbled toward the floor. He turned his hand into a claw and dug inward, his nails puncturing flesh and gristle with ease. Blood began to bubble out of Ray’s gasping mouth, and Isidore kicked him away just in time to sit up and lunge for the second man, who’d jumped down and headed back toward the hallway to run down Kyle.

The second man—Nathaniel, Isidore thought—was unfortunately a much better grappler than Lightning Ray. He turned into Isidore and charged, putting him flat on his back again. Isidore struck out with his hands, but Nathaniel just leaned in and wrapped Isidore’s arms up as high as the shoulders, immobilizing them. He did the same with his legs, twining his own around them like vines. Nathaniel was incredibly flexible, and it didn’t take Isidore long to realize that if he didn’t do something fast, he’d be incredibly stuck.

“I hope you like being on the bottom like this,” Nathaniel whispered in Isidore’s ear as he leaned in close. Isidore didn’t say anything, just stretched his neck as far as he could, and then bit Nathaniel hard on the cheek.

Nathaniel reared back but didn’t let go immediately. “You fucking little shit, what the fuck was that? I’ll take that…take it out of…out…of…” His grip loosened and Isidore fought free immediately, already looking for Kyle, where was he, what had happened—

Kyle’s attacker, a bald man that Isidore didn’t recognize, was laid out at his feet. Kyle’s one-shot taser sent a tendril of smoke up from where it was still embedded in the guy’s gut. Kyle himself looked stunned, staring wide-eyed at Isidore. After a moment, Isidore realized he had Nathaniel’s blood smeared across his mouth. He licked his lips. It tasted foul.

“Back up, people.”

Isidore could have melted at the sound of Robbie’s voice, but he just took a step back from the carnage instead. Robbie led four bots, one of whom snatched up Nathaniel, who was beginning to foam at the mouth, and another who went after Lightning Ray, noisily choking on his own blood. Another bot went for Kyle’s attacker, and the final one? Straight for Kyle. It reached for his hand with its gripping appendage and Kyle let it take hold.

“You need an intake number,” Robbie grunted. “And these idiots apparently need the infirmary. And you…” He turned gimlet eyes on Isidore, who met them in total silence. “You need to learn to finish the job, punk. Save me some fucking time, why don’t you?” He turned around and the bots went with him, leaving nothing but stains across the floor.

Isidore spat his mouthful of another man’s blood out onto the rest of the filth, then turned to the watching crowd. “If Rory has something to say to me, he should just say it,” he said quietly. “No need to waste people.”

“Come on, then.” The man in the very front stood up from a table: Sylvester, one of Rory’s lieutenants. “Let’s take you to speak to him.”

Monday, September 7, 2015

RT and DRiTC! OMG!

Hi darlins!

So, as if life couldn't get any more frantically exciting...I won a contest held by the fantastic author L.A. Witt/Lauren Gallagher to get my way paid to next year's RT Conference in Las Vegas! I'll get to meet a lo of people in the writing industry, many of my current editors, and spend 5 days in Vegas with my honey, who will inevitably find other ways of amusing himself. I'm totally humbled by the opportunity, guys. Seriously. I'd better put up or shut up heading into this phase.

Other big thing: my second DRiTC story, Reclamation, is now available to read on the M/M Romance Group's page, here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/17441136-reclamation-by-cari-z-nsfw-9-7  There's a playlist associated with the story that you can get to from there as well. Reclamation is a near-ish future, dystopian-ish, undercover-ish cop adventure tale...it's a lot of things, so a lot of -ish, but it's also sweet and romantic and hopefully enjoyable, so! Please go and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Karmic Whiplash

First things first: I'm so sorry, this isn't a Redstone post. I hate getting behind on these, but my life is so busy at the moment I genuinely don't have time to dedicate to writing a chapter this morning and making it anywhere near decent. Normally I'd write it early if I know I'm going to be busy on posting day, but that wasn't possible this week.

Why? Lemme 'splain you a thing.

I think everything that could happen just decided, "Hey, it seems like a busy time for her and her man, let's jump on that bandwagon!" Two weekends ago, we were heading back from looking at houses (more on that in a minute) and ended up getting into a car accident with a teenager who decided to do an unsignalled U-turn in the middle of the highway. We clipped her bumper, there were no injuries, but insurance declared my man's car totaled. It sucks, he has a great car, old but super low mileage, so now we have to work around that.

We decided to make an offer on a house we liked on Friday, right before we headed out of town for knife camp. Cue lots of paperwork, signing and running around like the proverbial beheaded chicken. We went up to knife camp and focused on kicking ass for three days, which we excelled at ;) I won a gorgeous custom acid-etched knife, which is my precious, don't touch my precious.

Then we came back to town early Monday morning and went to work. The realtor called at 10 to let me know our offer had been accepted (we wrote a letter to the seller about how awesome we are and why we were the best people to buy their house, no joke), and yay! But also holy shit, so much paperwork, everything but my blood type and I'm not even sure that's off the table yet. We have inspections to schedule, tests to pay for, finances to reveal, and that's just the beginning.

Additionally, my year-end review at work is scheduled for this Friday. I'm not worried about that, but I do have prep work to do to prepare for it, not to mention re-certifying in First Aid and CPR. So there's that as well. I'm sorry, darlins, I really am. If I can write a chapter and give it to you later this week, I will, but I sincerely doubt I'll have time for much of anything story-related until next week.

Thank you for your patience, guys. *kowtows*