Saturday, October 14, 2006


Colby Hodge is out of town, so has generously invited Susan Grant to post
another excerpt from

by Susan Grant
copyright Susan Grant 2006
MARCH 2007
ISBN 0373771924;
HQN books

This uncorrected excerpt may contain errors and other text not found in the final printed novel and is not for sale. Please don’t share the text with anyone without first receiving permission from the author to do so.

Chapter Two (continued)

“Aw, come on. Aren’t you curious?”

It reminded him of the times he and Evie got in trouble as kids. They were always going where they weren’t supposed to, giving and taking dares, playing with gusto. Jana was the serious one. Except for the night she met Cavin, she’d always behaved.

Supposedly the ship was pretty nice. A fighter. Cavin’s ship, on the other hand, was a troop transporter and ugly. He started walking along the furrow. Evie followed. There was a bounce in her step now. Her hesitance to view the spaceship was crumbling.

“But didn’t Cavin say something about staying away?”

“That was when the Reef was alive. The risk’s gone now. In fact, in the interest of national security, I say it’s our citizen’s duty to check it out.”

“Trespass, you mean. I like the sound of that. I’ll tell you what, Jared. The guy broke into my house, went through my things and scared my dog. I’d be happy to return the favor. This is the next best thing. Let’s go see his ship.”

While hunting for Cavin, the assassin had sneaked into Evie’s house looking for evidence. Evie’s house was holy ground—you didn’t mess with it, you didn’t criticize it, and you definitely didn’t invade it. The killer was probably lucky to be dead, because if Evie got her hands on him it wouldn’t be pretty. Especially after learning her psychotic, girly dog Sadie had been completely traumatized by the incident. Even staying at the ranch, surrounded by familiar people, the Chihuahua was continued to tremble and growl at nothing. Well, trembling and growling more than usual.

Jared helped Evie climb over a toppled, shattered oak tree. Beyond, the gouge in the dirt ended. The grass was flattened in a vaguely triangular shape. “There she is,” he said.

Jared and Evie walked forward, arms stretched out. It was like playing pin the tail on the donkey except with eyes wide open and without the donkey.

His hands impacted something solid. Bingo. His pulse kicked into overdrive with a spurt of adrenaline. “Say hello to the Prince, baby.”

“Say hello to the who?”

“The Prince.”

His sister gave him a pitying look.

“It’s my call sign. The Prince. I know what you’re thinking, but every fighter pilot has one. It’s part of the tradition. No one in the squadron calls anyone by their first name.” He’d hated “The Prince” at first. He’d won the name because of his privileged upbringing, his family’s celebrity. But over time, he’d made the name synonymous with shit-hot flying and unwavering professionalism. Now he wore it proudly.

“Okay, Prince. How do we get inside?”

“I have to find the hatch.” He ran his hands over the cool smooth hull. Cavin showed him how to get inside a dormant ship. He assumed the same technique would work for this one. The fuselage was rippled here, dented there, but not as damaged as he’d expected. He bumped up against what felt like a wing and climbed onto the surface.

“Careful, Jared.”

“Don’t lose your nerve, girl. This was your idea.”

“My idea? All I wanted to see were poppies.”

He found the seam of the hatch, just where he expected it to be, and the release. It opened smoothly. He swung his legs over the edge and dropped down.

The cockpit was snug and dark with room for only one person. But the craft had enough bells and whistles to make his little fighter-pilot heart roll over. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, more of the details became visible. Graceful, unfamiliar symbols labeled the smooth panels. An alien language.

God, you’re beautiful. “Say hello to the Prince, baby,” he murmured. “Say you’re mine.” He slid into the seat. It made a whirring noise and molded to his ass.
He jumped. “What the f—?”

“Jared!” Evie cried out from the open hatch.

“It’s okay. The seat moved. I didn’t expect it.” He was damn embarrassed to see that his pulse had doubled.

Enthralled, Jared took hold of the control stick as the ship continued to come alive. Lights came on, slowly, a clean white glow. One by one, the panels of instrumentation powered up. In front of him, a large rectangular screen with rounded edges glowed smoky gray. In a blink of an eye, it became transparent and he was looking outside at the fields. “This is how they see where they’re going,” he explained.

“Don’t be a spaceship hog, Jared. My turn.”

“Not yet. Wait until it finishes powering up.” They watched in wonder as the ship continued to unfurl. He’d give his right testicle for a chance at taking it up for a spin, to leave the stratosphere at mach view the curve of the experience weightlessness for longer than the top side of a reverse loop... Hell, maybe he’d throw in his eye teeth, too.

Suddenly, all went still. A silky female voice murmured something in a language he didn’t understand.

“What did she say?”

“I don’t know. It’s the ship’s computer, I think. Probably waiting for voice recognition.” One light blinked on the left hand rest. It resembled the incoming message light on the e-mail program on his laptop. It was too irresistible to ignore. He tapped his finger against the light and the screen turned white.
“Jared, what’s happening?”

“I’m not sure.” The forward screen was milky bright and rippled like smoke. A part of him not-so politely suggested that he might want to beat feet out of the ship, but curiosity kept him rooted in place. He extended a hand. “The’s so beautiful,” he joked.

“Not funny. This is freaky. Come out, Jared. Please. Call Cavin.”

“Evie, check this out.” The milky screen slowly cleared. It revealed a large room sumptuously decorated in warm, cozy colors. Soft, comfortable looking furniture blended with what was obviously tech beyond anything they had on Earth: a small round sphere resembling a volleyball floating along near the floor; an entire wall glowed with rippling colors. “A window into another world,” he murmured.

Then voices from off screen erupted, speaking in an alien tongue. His heartbeat kicked up a notch.

“Uh oh. Jared.”

“I know. I hear them.”

The closer and louder the voices got, the more Jared hoped to God the screen wasn’t two-way. If it was, they were busted.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:51 PM EST

    Super cool to the max! I can't wait till the book comes out!!! ;-)