QUEEN OF STARLIGHT
Previously published as “Enslaved by Starlight” in the anthology HOTTER ON THE EDGE. Winner of the 2012 InD’Tale RONE Award for novella/short story.
Bound by pleasure…
Transformed by empathic crystals into the perfect paramour, Benedetta Galil is the last treasure of her fading world. When raiders attack—seeking to corrupt the crystals and conquer all of charted space—she gives herself as a prize to the one man in the universe who values freedom over power.
Bound for the black…
Mercenary sheership Captain Corso Deynah left oppression behind him on a burning planet and has no use for a sex slave, even one as seductive as Benedetta. But while he stubbornly resists her body, her fierce spirit tempts him, and he will risk everything—his ship, his seclusion, the very stars—to win not just her passion but her love.
“Sexy, steamy, and action packed, this novella will knock you off your feet! The fantastic Jessa Slade masterfully weaves romance and action into the lives of Corso and Benedetta–and pulls it off with a flourish!”
— Bitten By Love Reviews
“ENSLAVED BY STARLIGHT is a truly wonderful reading experience. Jessa packed more story into this novella than I’ve read in some full-length novels. I highly recommend this novella for anyone who has enjoyed science fiction romance in the past or would like to experience it for the first time now.”
— Unwrapping Romance
Corso stepped outside, breathing out hard to clear the lingering sweet scent of pixberry from his lungs, and stared up at the sky. At the almost inaudible pad of bare feet behind him, he stiffened. Benedetta’s more subtle perfume teased him, and his heartbeat ramped even higher than it had that long-ago day when the sheer-ship plasma scorched the earth around him.
“Is it strange to see the stars from this angle?”
He glanced at the woman beside him. The silver l’auraly markings curled up the slender column of her neck to brush the points of her jaw, and the traceries glimmered even in the faint starlight. Every soldier knew, a sharp blow to those pressure points could disable. A kiss along those same lines could… He crushed the wayward thought. “What?”
She gestured upward, and the inner skin of her wrist glinted. “In your ship, you’re so much closer to them. They are beautiful from here, even through the ice rings and the light of three moons. They must be utterly amazing when you are up there alone with them.”
“You don’t see them at all in the sheerways. It’s all black. Unless you’re tangled, and then I’m told you see every star and moon and nebula at once in the nanosecond before your ship is shredded.”
She blinked. “Well, Captain Deynah, and here I wondered if you had any music in your soul.”
“Keep wondering.” As he wondered about her; how could she hold onto her soul when she was destined to be sold? He didn’t want to think about that either. “I suppose there’s no chance my pilot is going to uproot an error in your boy’s findings?”
She shook her head. “We always thought the crystals were inert without the unique Qv’arratz physiology. Not even all of our people can be keyed, and not all who are exposed survive the process. We’ve been safe until now because no one else could use them.”
“Safe, except for those people who died. And the ones who were sold.”
She moved a few restless paces from him. “People get hurt and die on every world through the cosmos. We are not unique in that respect.”
“Just unique in the aspect that you can be programmed to become the perfect mate for the perfect person.”
She glanced at him. “Now you sound intrigued.”
“I didn’t believe the stories. And I’m not sure I do yet.”
She gave him half a smile. “I can’t convince you with mere words. You must wear the a’lurilyo crystal to experience it yourself.” She touched the outer curve of the torque.
In the starlight, tiny points glittered on the inner curve of the crystal ring. Sharp enough to pierce the skin? Maybe, except a clear sealant coated the torque and protected the owner. Still, his hackles prickled. “No thanks.”
“What other reward will you take then?” She turned her steps in a half circle behind him. “You didn’t even touch the pix.”
He held himself still, though the prickle on the back of his neck tripped down his spine with her out of sight. “Keeping the sheerways open is more important than berries. We should bring in backup. If your raiders are a private entity, we can blow them out of the sky. And if the UU is involved, other consortiums will be willing to fight them, whatever it takes, to stop them from commanding the sheerways.”
“Fight them long enough to take the qva’avaq for themselves? No, we can’t bring in anyone else.”
“You brought me.”
“Yecho and Icere trust you.”
He noticed she hadn’t included herself in that short list.
She stopped her prowl at a right angle to him, just out of arm’s reach. “You had the opportunity to bind a world to your bidding. And yet you chose otherwise.”
The dull heat in his face annoyed him almost as much as the sympathetic twinge in his scarred shoulders. His rebellion at L-Sept hadn’t been a choice; the men he’d once commanded had been trying to kill him. But he buried the memory under a hard smile. “Why would I settle for one world? With the Asphodel and the sheerways, the universe is mine.”
“I hope you mean that metaphorically. It was our calculation that—unlike our attackers—you will be able to resist the opportunity to enslave a universe.” She wrapped her arms around herself. “Why does it mean so much to you?”
“My freedom? You have to ask?” As soon as he said it, he realized, of course she had to ask. The reminder appalled him anew, and the truth popped out before he could censor it. “Because it’s all I have left.”
He dared to slant a glance at her, sickened at the pathetic sound of the words. But her face was tilted to the stars, and her gaze was frosted with the light. “Do you hear that?”
The faint telltale whine sent old memories racing in all directions. “Incoming. Tangle it, where’s my pilot—?”
Still Available ~ The anthology that started it all
“Good Sci-fi romance is hard to find and good short length Sci-fi almost impossible, but this anthology delivers. Creativity, strong characters and interesting plots make this one a winner.”
— Night Owl Reviews 4 1/2 Stars Top Pick
“I highly recommend this anthology to any fan of sci-fi romance — all three stories were fast-paced, full of beautiful world-building, and highly romantic.”
— 4 Stars from Romanceaholic
HOTTER ON THE EDGE
Science fiction romance anthology
“Enslaved By Starlight”
(Now QUEEN OF STARLIGHT)
by Jessa Slade
Read excerpts of the other two novellas in HOTTER ON THE EDGE at www.HotterOnTheEdge.com