Ariela suspects the king's death is no accident. And the tyrant who usurped the throne looks guilty as hell. As leader of the Human rebellion against the Mutant rulers, Ariela is desperate for help, and Lord Starro, the handsome Crown Prince of the Star Children, offers the technology the Human faction lacks. But can Ariela trust a spoiled, arrogant foreign prince who never fought a battle, and thinks he is destined to rule the universe? Is she trading one tyrant for another? No matter how kind, handsome, or fascinating, Starro has frightening mental abilities. And this alliance is not safe, especially for Ariela's heart.
She scowled her deep blue eyes at him and pulled the blanket up to his shoulders. "You have not earned the right to die, Lord Starro. Too many lives depend on your survival."
"Please, don't call me lord." He scoffed and grimaced at the stabbing sensation inside his chest. "You don't understand..."
"You will get better." Her stoic confidence didn't boost his.
He clenched his jaw against another spasm. "There is no recovery from this drug. Only slow, agonizing death. I'm already dead."
Ariela steadied his twitching arm with a firm hand. He closed his eyes briefly, enjoying the calming effect of her touch. He wished they had more time. He wanted a chance to know her. But his quick death would prevent his shame and dishonor. She was Human, hence forbidden... yet Beloved.
She frowned at him. "How can you give up hope? I thought the Star Children were models of righteousness."
The criticism hurt more than the cramps in his innards. Starro managed to sit up on the bed and she pulled and fluffed the pillows for him to lean back.
He let out a calming breath, grateful for her soothing presence. "You have no right to judge me or my people."
"You are their prince. You can't give up. Your people need you." Her condemning gaze upset him greatly.
Starro grimaced but noticed the cramps had somehow lessened to an almost tolerable level. "What have you done to me? I should be dead."
The woman's smile illuminated the square room carved into the rock. "I guess it wasn't your time to die."
Starro chuckled and immediately regretted it as pain shot through his body. "Who says when it's time?"
"The Great Engineer of the Universe, that's who." She flashed a devilish grin. "But I like to help whenever I can."
Starro closed his eyes and the golden light caressed the regular planes of his face. "Still no sign of pursuit."
Ariela wrenched her gaze from his athletic body, a hint of shame warming her cheeks. She scrutinized their surroundings. "Assassins use stealth. We must keep our eyes open."
"I don't need my eyes to know there are none close to us." His neutral tone barely covered a subtle impatience.
"What exactly can you do that Humans cannot?" The question had been on Ariela's mind for a while. "If you explain it to me, I won't have to bruise your precious ego at every turn."
"You speak straight as an assassin's arrow." Starro gave a short, nervous laugh. "But it wouldn't be wise to tell our secrets to a foreigner. All foreigners are potential enemies."
Ariela couldn't help the flare of anger in her voice. "I thought we were allies against Lord Kohl and his blasted Mutant freaks!"
He flinched. Did her swearing bother him? Too bad.
His expression turned serious. "We are allies. So, I guess I should tell you." He straightened his long, muscled legs. The loose silk trousers tucked into white boots showed signs of dust, and the trek had scuffed the fine material. "We Star Children do not take these gifts lightly, and keeping them secret insures our advantage when conflicts arise. We pride ourselves in resolving most disputes without bloodshed."
"Blood is shed all the time." Ariela scoffed. "You can't avoid spilling blood, especially in an all out war."
"Yet, our gifts allowed us this luxury... thus far." He sighed. "I fear this is the end of a peaceful era. The specter of war is upon us."
"So what are these mysterious gifts?" The words came out sharper than Ariela intended.
He flashed an uneasy smile then stared at the ground.
Ariela resented his stubborn silence. "What if I give you my word as a warrior never to tell a soul? Will you trust me then?"
"I do trust you, Beloved mine." His warm voice in her mind again. "But even the best of us can be made to talk."
Ariela sighed, finally accepting that he could speak in her mind. "I guess you found that out in Kohl's dungeon."
He lifted his piercing gaze, and his jovial smile returned. "All right. I owe you the truth. We inherited our gifts from a now extinct race called the Estrell."
Award-winning Romantic Science Fiction with a Kick