Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Report Card: I Flunked This Week...

funny pictures-Yu has mistaken me for sumbuddy who is in teh mood to get up.

The evil day job finally caught up with me. Exhaustion set in today and I slept all day. No writing, no plotting, not even housework--other than laundry so I have clothes for more EDJ this week.

A few good things happened this week, just not any writing! LOL

Edits for RIVER OF NEED, the 4th book in the Tennessee Cops series, are done and I have a release date, October 27!  I found the date quite by accident. I was perusing the Coming Soon page at Ellora's Cave and there it was. They were major fast on the website because my editor turned in the final manuscript early Friday morning! I don't have a cover yet but hopefully soon.

I found a fabulous review of SHROUDED ANGEL at Literary Nymphs. Scandalous Minx gave it 4.5 Nymphs and said, "Shrouded Angel is the second story in the Virkola Dreams series. Shayla Kersten does a fantastic job of developing the storyline, thanks to her interesting characters, surprising twists, explosive action scenes and delicious erotic moments." Definitely did some Snoopy dancing over that one! *cackle* You can read the entire review here.

A new story idea struck on the way to work the other day. I recorded a bunch of notes then expanded on them at lunch. I guess that could count as writing. The short synopsis is about 700 words but has no character names. Since it's a younger man/older man story, the characters are currently named YM and OM. *cackle snort*

I put together some of my wardrobe for Ellora's Cave's RomantiCon. I still need to find some boots. And maybe another pair of pants. The conference it October 7 -10. I can't wait. Last year was a real blast. This year I'm rooming with one of my bestie galpals, Delilah Devlin, so this year should be even better!

So last week's goals were:

1) Work on Beloved (lesbian vampire).
2) Self-edits on Naughty Nooner.
3) Work on synopsis for Angel Moon book 3.
4) Work on plot for new MedRom idea.

And nothing got done. Well, next to nothing. I did a little on BELOVED but not enough to even post a word count. Mostly tweaking. Since my life has turned out so busy I'm dropping the MedRom idea for the moment. I need to read more of the line and I just don't have time right now.

The upcoming week will be hectic. Month end close starts all over again. And since I'm taking off Oct 7-8 and 12 for RomantiCon, I'll be kicking butt getting things done at the EDJ. Plus, this weekend is an overnight get together with Cynthia D'Alba and Delilah Devlin so I won't be able to do much Saturday night and Sunday.

However impossible my goals may be, I must have them. A deadline or objective always give me a little extra oomph to get it done. So this week's goals:

1) Work on Beloved (lesbian vampire).
2) Self-edits on Naughty Nooner.

I need to put away the Kindle at lunch and work on writing projects! *cackle* And I'm really enjoying my Kindle. The book I'm reading right now is The Lute Player: A Novel of Richard the Lionhearted by Norah Lofts. I read this book years and years ago. My print copy is brittle and dry, falling apart and next to impossible to read. But the Kindle version! Woo hoo!

The Lute Player originally released in 1951 although the first one I read was a reprint from 1975. Simon and Schuster reprinted it again in 2009. I discovered it on Amazon as a Kindle book just before I ordered my Kindle. It was the first book I bought. And I'm enjoying it as much now as I did 30-something years ago.

Speaking of... I'm off to bed with my Kindle to read for a little while!

Have a fabulous week!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Report Card: The Short of It...

I is tired wurk tooƂ hard

I am exhausted so this will be a short report. The Evil Day Job won this week but I managed to accomplish some writing too. Mostly today. And because I ignored housework and yard work in favor of Starbucks and writing. I'm afraid my dust bunnies are becoming sentient. Hopefully, they'll get along with the other critters.

The week was full of day job stuff but my Ellora's Cave editor sent back edits on the new TN Cop story, River of Need. Not much in the way of actual edits. Mostly it was the usual struggle with commas. *cackle* Plus a couple of requests to clarify or tweak awkward sentences. She really loved this one. She said it was much more raw and gritty than my usual stuff and she loved it! I did some serious Snoopy dancing over her praise! LOL

Even with minimal edits, I like to do a complete read of the manuscript so I couldn't run through the comments and be done. I managed a about a third of the book Tuesday night . I ended up working late the rest of the week. Or just too tired. Saturday evening I worked through some more but couldn't finish. I woke up around midnight last night and completed the edits.

After a late start this morning, I ended up at Starbucks. I wrote 2675 words on the Ellora's Cave Naughty Nooner submission. Finished it except for self-edits and a few tweaks. I'm a few hundred words short of 6k. I have to watch the word count or I'll end up bumping into the new shorter Quickie range and it'll no longer be a freebie! LOL

My RWA chapter, Diamond State Romance Authors, met Saturday. I was supposed to give the program but with no time to really prepare and the fact I needed to leave early, I postponed the program until next month. We did read aloud critiques before the business meeting. I read from my lesbian vamp short story. No one seemed to get the mythology behind the story. While chatting with Delilah Devlin about it today, she suggested I write an intro paragraph about the legend. Brilliant!

I played around with the story when I got home. I need to spice up the end with a little more sex then I'll send to my CPs.

My goals last week:

1) Finish Naughty Nooner free short story (epilogue to ICING ON THE CAKE). Still need to do self-edits.
2) Work on synopsis for Angel Moon book 3. Nada. Just not enough time.
3) Work on plot for new MedRom idea. Same as #2.

This week's goals:

1) Work on Beloved (lesbian vampire).
2) Self-edits on Naughty Nooner.
3) Work on synopsis for Angel Moon book 3.
4) Work on plot for new MedRom idea.

Oh and my Kindle shipped on Friday with an estimated delivery date of tomorrow. I've never looked forward to a Monday like I am tomorrow! *cackle* Of course, it'll probably arrive on Tuesday.

Hope you have a fabulous week!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday Report Card: Better Late Then Never?

funny pictures of cats with captions

Forgot to post my report card yesterday. The weekend just went by too fast. Friday night I met up with Cynthia D'Alba and Merlyssa Cormack for a night out. To watch bull riding. Not my usual cuppa, if ya know what I mean. But it was an interesting evening. Except for the Tea Party mentality and seriously politically incorrect jokes. But the bull riding was interesting even if it came with more than it's fair share of bullshit.

Bull riders are some seriously crazy mo-fos. I mean, these bulls weigh between 1500 and 2000 pounds. And they are seriously unhappy about having that puny cowpoke on their backs. Even crazier are the dudes known as "bull fighters". These crazy SOBs distract the bulls when the rider comes off so the rider can get away. Unfortunately, one of the bull fighters on Friday night didn't get out of the way. It looked like he got trampled in the torso. He was taken away in an ambulance.

The bull fighters are the guys in the lower right corner of the picture. Their outfits are a mix of cowboy and football player. They wear pads similar to a football player but I don't imagine it's much help when a 2000 pound bull stomps on you.

I haven't been able to find out the status of the injured bull fighter. Hopefully he wasn't too badly hurt.

While I probably won't become a buckle bunny, the evening was interesting and set some story ideas marching through my brain. Especially about the bull fighters... *grin*

As far as writing progress, well, not much but better than expected? Seems a familiar phrase for me lately. The evil day job was a total bear last week. Only a four day week and I put in more that 44 hours. Wednesday was a twelve and a half hour day. But most of closing is done. Our cost accountant has to do his thing with overhead clearing today then I can start reviewing financials. We're only a day behind schedule at this point, which I consider good since we're short the former controller. Most of her job was diverting people from interfering with the rest of us doing our jobs. Since I'm doing my old job plus playing interceptor, I feel pretty good about our status at the moment.

So writing, well, I wrote a little bit here and there during the week. Never more than a few hundred words but it adds up. By Friday, I was up 400 words. Saturday I did grocery shopping, haircut, nails and a little writing. Sunday, I hit Starbucks and finished my short story submission for Girls Who Bite (Cleis-editor Delilah Devlin) and 1700 words to my Ellora's Cave short story for the freebie Naughty Nooners line. The story is a follow-up to ICING ON THE CAKE. It's fun playing with these guys again. Although I need to watch the word count. Freebies have to be less than 7k. I'm already pushing 4k and not anywhere near finished!

Sunday's final total: 2099. Week's combined total: 2804. So not phenomenal but considering the EDJ last week, pretty good. And I didn't include last Monday's writing because I cheated and counted it on last week's report. *cackle*

To sum up, last week's goals were:

1) Finish BELOVED (lesbian vamp short story). DONE!
2) Work on Naughty Nooner free short story (epilogue to ICING ON THE CAKE). WROTE 1700 words.

3) Work on synopsis for Angel Moon book 3.
4) Work on plot for new MedRom idea.

This week's goals:

1) Finish Naughty Nooner free short story (epilogue to ICING ON THE CAKE).
2) Work on synopsis for Angel Moon book 3.
3) Work on plot for new MedRom idea.

Oh, and I found out my Kindle will ship on the 22nd. I ordered it on September 1st. I received the cover last week. What a tease! LOL But I'm excited! Can't wait to get it!

Hope ya'll have a fabulous week! I'm off to get ready for the EDJ!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sunday Report Card: Er...on Monday?

Okay, so the long weekend confuzzled me. I really thought yesterday was Saturday. *shrugs*

The past week--last week--was a bitch. No nice way to put it. First full week of full time work and it was month end closing to boot. Hectic, crazy, long hours and long commute conspired together to kick my butt. I'll need more time to get back into the swing of things. It probably won't happen this week. I'll still be working on month end and short weeks tend to be the longest in the history of time. *cackle*

The long weekend sped by. Saturday and Sunday I spent at Momma's with Sister, Lil Bro, the 15 yo and 10 yo nieces. We had fun for the most part, always do. But Momma had a "honey-do" list. I put up the new shutters before it got too hot (read: before Lil Bro got there) then Lil Bro chainsawed a bunch of limbs that had fallen over the last month or so. Two of which were big enough for some serious firewood! I stacked while he cut. Totally exhausting work, especially after all the ladder climbing while putting up the shutters. Oy, my aching hip!

On the writing front, not much to report but better than expected. Except it would have really sucked if I had reported my progress yesterday. My muse was on a shiny binge. I couldn't concentrate on the same story two days in a row--when I was able to open a file after a long day of work.

Progress was sporadic. I worked on a plotting synopsis for the third Angel Moon book (tentatively titled Avenging Angel), a plotting synopsis for another Harlequin Medical Romance idea and a short story for submission to Delilah Devlin's lesbian vampire anthology, Girls Who Bite. Total as of yesterday was 1015. Today, I escaped familial responsibilities and met Cynthia D'Alba at Starbucks to write. Knocked out another 350 or so words on the MedRom synopsis and 1561 on the lesbian vampire short story, titled BELOVED. Woo hoo! Not my best total for a day but it's something!

So my grand total for the week was 2881! Of course, my week was one day longer than normal. Since one of my goals was to force the bitchy muse into the mood to write regardless of her mood, I think I did pretty good!

I also Snoopy danced on Friday when SHROUDED ANGEL released. Very early Friday and very briefly. The EDJ pretty much killed the rest of the day.

I did go crazy waiting on the MedRom response to my first proposal. I didn't get one until Tuesday, the last day of the fast track and it was a rejection with very nice feedback. No request for revisions but they liked my writing style and suggested I send another proposal through the regular submissions guideline. Not great but not bad for a rejection. Definitely more personable than some I've received lately. *cackle*

Oh, I also broke down and found a special ring for the new boss (the old boss' boss). On my last phone, I had the theme from the Exorcist but I couldn't transfer the ringtone when I changed phones. But I didn't have a lot of direct interaction with him because the bestest boss in the world handled his direct requests. So I wavered between getting the old ring tone for old times sake and the theme from Jaws. The Exorcist won. *cackle*

Well, I'm off to bed. Short week with lots to do! My goals for this week are pretty mild. Write something! Actually, the list goes like this:

1) Finish BELOVED (lesbian vamp short story).
2) Work on Naughty Nooner free short story (epilogue to ICING ON THE CAKE).
3) Work on synopsis for Angel Moon book 3.
4) Work on plot for new MedRom idea.

I'm keeping my options open with what to work on since the muse seems to like bouncing around lately. I also have drive time again with my commute and I tend to plot well in the car with a voice recorder. However, BELOVED is almost done. The minimum length in the call is 2k and I've just passed that. I need to wrap up the end and send it to my critique partners.

And I splurged in celebrating the new full time status at work, and the pay that comes with full time. I ordered a Kindle. Probably won't ship for another two weeks though. I'm beside myself just thinking about it. Of course, I'm trying to control my book buying until I get it. Driving me crazy because I'm an impulse buyer when it comes to books. Oh, yeah, I didn't get the 3G version because I'm an impulse buyer when it comes to books. LOL That would end up costing me way more than the $50 difference in the ereaders!

I hope ya'll had a fabulous week, wonderful and safe weekend and look forward to a great week ahead!


Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Release Day! SHROUDED ANGEL at Ellora's Cave!

SHROUDED ANGEL, the second book in the Angel Moon Trilogy, releases today, September 3rd. I've also included an excerpt below of ANGEL MOON as well. I'm stuck at the evil day job. The bestest boss in the world left for greener pastures now I'm back full-time and in charge! Great for the paycheck, not so good for playing online on release day!Ya'll have a fabulous Friday!

*insert Snoopy dance here* I love release days. Even after twenty one books and short stories, it still doesn't get old. I hope it never does. If I ever lose the joy of being published, I might as well stop writing. But for today, I'm Snoopy dancing!

By Shayla Kersten
Copyright © SHAYLA KERSTEN, 2010
Coming soon at Ellora's Cave


Terra offers sanctuary to both Angellum and Virkola. Unknown to the humans, a truce exists there. To Terrans, the two species exist as myths. One is a frail, winged creature from religious texts. The other, a demon of the night, living off blood. Both are far from the truth…

Because of the Angellum, Patrea, a Virkolan, has spent his life afraid of loss. When darkness descends on his ship in the form of a strange angel, Patrea feels he can't stay on the Avere. But departing would mean leaving behind the only light in his life—his bunkmate Hadreal. He needs to find the courage to tell Hadreal how he feels.

Hadreal has always felt more than friendship for his younger bunkmate, but bitter past experience keeps him from acting on his feelings. When a new danger brings them closer, he decides it might be time to live again. But now his chance at happiness may end before he's able to sample it.

Sometimes it takes a brush with death to make life worth living.

Publisher’s Note: While a standalone, for maximum reader enjoyment, we recommend reading Angel Moon first.


Unease shuddered down Patrea's spine. No sign of danger. Just his close-cousin Koris draining a gasa into a pitcher. The succulent promise of fresh blood after rationing should distract him. But this sense of danger wouldn't let him be.

He'd felt it before, although this time was different. Like a slight variation in tint to a familiar color. The first time, he hadn't recognized the feeling. Now he'd never forget it, different or not. His memory flashed to the sight of white Angellum feathers splattered with the spray of Virkolan blood. His clan's blood. His family's blood.

As the mealhall erupted with voices and footsteps, he shook his head clear of the vision.

Hadreal poked his head around the doorframe to the galley. "Where's the feast?"

His gaze fastened on a clear vessel full of crimson liquid. "Man, that smells good!" His mouth drooped open and his tongue swiped against an extended fang.

Even Patrea's unease couldn't stop him from smiling. Five years as Hadreal's bunkmate, Patrea had come to regard him as a friend, although he'd like to be more.

"Here." Koris handed the pitcher to Hadreal. "Take it out to the table while I put the other bird on to roast.

Hadreal wrapped both hands around the pitcher as if it were more precious than all the credit in the galaxy. His face dipped over the opening then he inhaled deep. With a sharp grunt, he left Patrea alone with Koris.

Patrea's discomfort grew until fear mixed with adrenaline. Angels couldn't be on board. Something else was setting off his internal warning system. The new captain? Maybe the old one? The Terran--Jenkins--had admitted to colluding with angels. The new captain--his name was Teo--should have killed Jenkins right then and there. Maybe the Terran had sent a signal. His angel friends could be following them right now.

Then again, the feeling had been just as strong--if not stronger--on Captain Teo's old ship. Patrea chalked it up to Jenkins' insistence that Teo was harboring an angel.

A round of cheers came from the mealhall.

Koris, his hands full of feathers and fowl, shouldered Patrea toward the door. "No sense in missing out on the fresh stuff."

Nodding, Patrea wandered into the room where part of the small crew toasted with fresh blood. Snagging a cup, he almost drooled at the sweet aroma.

Since Jenkins had taken over the Avere, they'd had few opportunities for celebration or even a decent meal. Now Patrea understood Jenkins' reluctance at allowing blooding for meals. Terrans had an aversion to drinking blood.

Captain Teo stood in the middle of the room with his cup raised. "To a profitable venture and a victorious fight!" The toast was familiar. While most smugglers--freighters of any kind--were in the business for the money, they also dedicated their lives to fighting the Angellum whenever the opportunity arose.

The other two crewmen, Hadreal and Narndo, echoed his words. Missing was Sorin, the captain's mate. Strange he wasn't there to celebrate his lover's acquisition of a new ship.

As he tried to drain the cup, Patrea's uneasiness thickened, clogging his throat. He fought against choking on his drink.

The captain drained his cup then set it on the table. He sucked his top lip under the bottom then released it with a smack. "I hate to put a damper on a good celebration but I have some serious issues to discuss."

The hair on Patrea's neck rose. A flush of heat washed over him. One hand clenched into a fist. The other wrapped tightly around the metal cup. Irrational hate threatened his control.

"I have information about an Angellum project that bodes very ill for our people." Teo motioned toward the seats around the table, but no one moved to sit. "A couple of weeks ago, my mate Sorin was kidnapped by angels."

Patrea sucked in a sharp breath. His nails cut into the palm of his hand. Knuckles whitened on his other hand as he gripped his cup harder.

"He doesn't seem injured." Hadreal echoed Patrea's thoughts.

Teo shook his head. "He was captured. The angel Jenkins was looking for was part of a group of Angellum rebels. They were trying to stop Angellum scientists from experimenting with Virkolan DNA. She was mortally injured defending my mate."

Trembling shook Patrea's arms. He planted one fist against his thigh to hide his shaking. Pressing the cup against his stomach, he pushed hard to stop the roiling unease. Grateful his voice didn't crack, he asked, "Why would they do that?"

Teo's gaze flitted from man to man before locking with Patrea's. "They were trying to design an angel who could inhabit the lowlands."

A collective gasp rocked the room. Voices cried out in various stages of indignation and disbelief.

Angels couldn't survive at lower altitudes for more than short periods of time. They lived on mountain peaks or floating cities hovering over Virkolan territories, dropping to the lowlands only to torment or kill Virkolans and their food beasts.

"They failed." Teo's voice rose above the din as he signaled for silence with an upraised fist. "Mostly."

"What the fuck does ‘mostly' mean?" Hadreal's voice growled as he took a step forward.

"They created a hybrid creature, but the Virkolan DNA was evidently dominant. He is loyal to us, not the Angellum."

"You let it live." Patrea's voice wasn't so steady this time. His nails bit harder as warm liquid seeped into his palm.

Voices rose in fury, each clamoring louder than the next. Questions, accusations belted out like projectiles from a weapon.

"What the fuck…" "Angels…" "Didn't sign on…"

Teo's bellow reached above the fray. "Silence!" His dark gaze glittered with a hint of steel. "He's harmless. He's newly hatched and his loyalty's imprinted on Sorin."

"He's here. On board." Patrea wasn't really asking a question. He knew the answer as his tension ratcheted up to a feverish pitch.

"Yes." Teo planted his fists on his hips. "As Sorin's offspring, he's a member of my family and therefore a member of this crew. You've sworn loyalty."

Hadreal shook his head. "Under false pretense."

"How so?" Teo's hard gaze landed on Hadreal.

Some of Patrea's admiration for his older crewmate seeped out from under his anger.

Hadreal stood his ground and didn't flinch under the intense scrutiny. "We didn't know you had an angel in your ranks."

"He's more Virkolan than angel. And he's still young. Mentally anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Koris sounded more curious than upset.

"He hatched full grown. Maybe all angels do or it had something to do with being a hybrid. He doesn't talk much. Though he's learning fast."

"I heard something like that." Narndo had kept his mouth until now. "About angels hatching grown or nearly so."

"Where is it?" Hadreal asked."In the corridor with Sorin, waiting to meet the rest of my crew."

By Shayla Kersten
Copyright © SHAYLA KERSTEN, 2010
Ellora's Cave, Available now!

Terra offers sanctuary to Angellum and Virkola. Unknown to the natives, a truce exists there. To Terrans, the two species exist as myths. One is a frail winged creature from religious texts. The other, a demon of the night, living off blood. Both are far from the truth...

Sorin thought sanctuary was the answer to their problems. Terra with its plentiful creatures, full of fresh blood and off limits to the millennia long war with the Angellum--who wouldn't think it paradise? Except paradise comes at a high price. Claiming a bounty on a renegade angel hasn't ended up the way he planned.

Teo loves his ship, his life in space, but he loves Sorin more. The plan seems sound but the bounty is a fraud and now the price is on him and Sorin. He'll make the best of the rest of his life with Sorin, even if it were only a few weeks.

But when hope appears from an unexpected source, both men grab chance by the wings.


"You and your fucking bright ideas!" Teo dodged behind a stack of crates as heat sizzled past his leg. The acrid smell of ozone raised the hair on his neck. Popping out from behind his cover, he squeezed off a burst of return fire. Sweat matted his hair and kept trickling down his forehead and into his eyes. The thin atmosphere made every breath a chore. He rubbed his coat sleeve across his face but the water-resistant material just moved the sweat around and added grit to the mix.

Sorin rested his ass against the wall. The heavy bundle draped over his shoulder forced him to lean forward. His ragged breathing spaced out his words. "If you...would have landed...closer we'd be in flight by now."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah... We've had this argument already." Thin air and hard exercise was a bad combination. "Sensor blind spot here...other side not. Almost there." Teo didn't bother to look for a target. Sticking his hand around the corner, he fired a fast volley. He jerked back as another blast from their pursuers smoked the corner of the crate. "Move!"

With a deep breath, Sorin pushed away from the wall. He resettled the burden on his shoulder then took off at a fast trot. Even as big as he was, Sorin struggled with their prize.

"Better him than me." With a final random blast toward the men chasing them, Teo followed his shipmate.

Even if this crazy idea weren't Sorin's, he'd be doing the muscle work. Sorin was taller than Teo by at least six inches and his body broader. He was bigger than any Virkolan Teo had ever met. Almost considered a giant, Sorin brought a certain amount of prestige to the ship, and to Teo.

Heat singed Teo's right arm. Gritting his teeth against a yell, he switched his blaster to his left hand and returned fire. No sense in giving their pursuers the satisfaction of knowing they'd hit something.

As they rounded a corner, the warehouse door gaped open like a giant mouth. Dawn lightened the darkness to a heavy gray.

"Damn..." Teo wanted to be off planet before first light. Less likely for the angry mob behind him to see any identifiable markings on his ship. The entire mission was gone to hell. He should have known better.

The small smuggling and cargo jobs they'd scrounged up lately had barely paid enough for provisions, but at least they hadn't had anyone shooting at them.

"Move it!" Teo stopped at the corner. Sorin would need at least a few seconds lead to get the ship's hatch open. Firing off a couple of shots, Teo chanced a quick peek around the corner.

Even in the dim lights of the warehouse, the Angellum were easy to see. Their milky skin almost glowed. With no room for lift, they'd furled their wings, leaving a small vee of white feathers jutting skyward to frame their heads.

A shudder sped down Teo's spine. He'd never been so close to the Angellum before. His war efforts were spent on the Compensa. While it looked like a small trader, he'd retrofitted it with weapons. He laid claim to bringing down an enemy troop transport. A small one but it counted. He'd also taken out three of their long-range scouts. Although those were mostly self-defense. Smuggling decent weapons to Vikola was his most valuable contribution to the eons-old war.

Teo fired another volley, scattering the creatures. A flurry of return fire slammed into the wall. Wood splintered under the impact. Scorched wood added to the odor of burning air.

The low-charge warning on his blaster beeped. "Fuck!" Ready or not... Teo squeezed off one final shot then sprinted toward the warehouse door. His lungs burned from lack of oxygen. Muscles all over his body screamed for more. He darted through the door then made a sharp left. Blaster fire peppered the wall near the opening.

The Compensa squatted thirty-something feet away. The ungainly ship looked like a fat-bottomed gasa squatting on a nest. The wide bottom normally held cargo. Today, the door gaped open to an empty hold.

Another few yards... Lightheaded, Teo stumbled, feet dragging. you...

"Come on, asshole. Don't you dare quit on me now!"

Who you calling asshole? Indignation increased his resolve. Kick your ass... Gasping for air, Teo dove for the open hatch.

Blaster fire flew over his head in both directions. Sorin stood over him with a long gun, returning cover fire as the hatch slid closed. Thuds marked the Angellum's continued volley. Sorin kicked an oxygen tank toward Teo.

Grabbing the mask, Teo inhaled deep for the first time since they left the ship over an hour ago.

"Come on, flyboy. Let's get this bitch out of here." Sorin grabbed him by the arm, almost dragging him toward the door.

"Where's your load?" He'd be pissed if Sorin lost it after all. Teo glanced around. The heavy canvas bag was stuffed into the open enviro-suit closet.

A secondary hatch slid open. Teo ran into the corridor. "You get that secured." Reenergized by the oxygen-rich mix in the main part of the ship, Teo climbed the short ladder to the helm right above them. "I'll get us out of here."

Slamming into his seat, he grabbed the flight yoke. His left thumb hit the standby button on the left control, freeing the yoke and the engines. His right thumb pressed the comm control. "Hang on!" He took a deep breath. Yanking hard on the yoke, Teo took the ship straight up. The back blast from the engines pointing down on full thrust should take care of anyone too close.

Acceleration sucked him back in his seat. High gravity forced the air from his lungs.

"Fuck!" Sorin's yell echoed through the comm, making Teo smile.

Serves him right after this mission. Then again, if his mate was correct, this could be their last mission. Once they delivered their booty, they'd have enough credits to retire to Terra.

As the atmosphere thinned, the welcome sight of black space greeted him. Teo wasn't sure he wanted to retire. He knew he'd miss this. He'd been reared on a ship, with nomadic mothers seeking solace from the war in the quiet of space. And what about the war? Running off to the sanctuary of Terra made him feel like a traitor.

However, Sorin was a dirtsider. He still had bouts of space sickness on occasion, but at least here he was safe from slavery--or worse--by the Angellum.

Vicious creatures, the Angellum had occupied parts of the Virkolan homeworld for nearly two millennium. Pockets of Virkola stayed, fighting a war of resistance or just eking out an existence in hiding. Others fled for the stars, entire families stuffed into ships too small with nowhere to go or cold space stations--living off dried provisions or meager prey. A few other planets had outposts where Virkolans were able to live, but they existed because the Angellum let them. Most assumed it was because there was no room for angels to fly.

Virkolans were a peaceful people, they didn't have many weapons to fight off invaders. Since they hunted with the intention of taking their prey alive, most of their weapons were nonlethal.

Teo had done his part by smuggling real weapons to the resistance. He'd met Sorin on one of those trips. It had taken a lot of convincing to get him to leave with Teo. And Sorin's clan wasn't happy losing the gentle giant.

He grinned as he set the heading for the rendezvous. The convincing had been a lot of fun. Finally Sorin had agreed. Now they were bonded, living apart wasn't something they'd even consider. And Teo liked making Sorin happy.

For whatever reason, the Angellum ignored Terra. The few who lived there stayed hidden, living as legends and myths. Since Terrans had very short lifespans, beings like the Angellum and Virkola were easy to believe as folklore.

As the ship's sublight engines kicked in, a noise from below warned Teo of a visitor. Flipping the ship on auto, he pulled his weapon from the holster. Pain screamed through his wounded arm.


"Yes." Sorin's voice floated through the open flood hatch. "You were expecting someone else." Sorin's head popped up. "I brought you something to eat. Plus, I need to treat your arm." He shoved his medkit across the floor then came up the ladder to the helm.

Teo's good luck had someone with a healer's skill fall in love with him.

One hand carried a small, heavy plas-board box. Scratches and small growls indicated the occupant's irritation. "Here." Sorin held out the cage.

"I don't need that." Even though it would help healing. "We don't have many live ones left."

"I know, but once we're finished with this job, we won't have to worry about it. We'll have plenty."

If they finished this job. A sense of foreboding had hung around since Sorin first got word about it. Supplying arms to the resistance was one thing. Quite another to deal with the Angellum themselves.

While the creatures displayed a pale, ethereal beauty, their souls were as dark as space. And twice as cold. They'd invaded Virkola without any provocation. Even now, no one knew for sure why. Envoys sent to talk were returned dead, shredded into pieces by vicious claws. Virkolan slaves might have an answer, but no one ever escaped captivity.

The Angellum ruled Virkola from the highest mountains or sky cities. Not easy places to escape. Or attack. Of course the height wasn't a problem for the winged angels.

"Just take it. You need the strength. I can't keep this bucket of bolts flying with you laid up in the infirmary."

"Well, that's not exactly true."

While Sorin knew the basics of flying the Compensa, he wasn't very good at it. Taking off and flying straight were about his limits. Landings had been...interesting.

"Ha, ha. Drink."

Teo took the offered meal. Maybe it would get rid of the rest of his lightheadedness.

"Let me see that arm."

"I can't do both at the same time. Make up your mind which."

Sorin's left eyebrow rose in a delicate arch. Sure sign of the beginning of an argument. "Eat first."

"Thanks." Arguments could be fun because they were usually settled in bed. Then again, between his aching muscles and the searing pain from the blaster, he didn't know if he'd be up to sex. Best not to irritate his mate when he was in no shape to distract his ire.

Teo opened the cage. The small, ugly creature protested with a flurry of squeals and squeaks. Teo wrapped his fingers around the dark brown rodent then lifted it to his mouth. Teo's fangs slid free. A quick bite on the soft underbelly filled his mouth with blood. Sucking hard, he drained the rat. He slipped the carcass back into the box. He and Sorin would eat the meat later when they were settled in flight.

Rats were never enough to sate a Virkolan but it helped stave off a range of illnesses brought on by lack of fresh blood. The jolt would help Teo heal but not much more than that.

If this deal went down the way it was supposed to, they'd be able to retire on Terra...called Earth by the local population. It was said that Terran blood was almost intoxicating. And some people were pleased to let them feed. Although Teo couldn't think of the specifics, humans had another name for Virkolans. Even had legends about them and their origins--all of them so far from the truth it was funny.

Shayla's places: