Over the years - and I mean decades of original fic and fanfic - I've written in a mix of genres; paranormal, contemporary, mystery, historical, romance, fantasy, and science-fiction. But among my list of published works, there is only one SF [so far]. So if a story of an alien on our planet, trying to stay unnoticed and find his sister, sounds interesting, give STARFALL a try.
Ash is looking for his sister. He refuses to accept she's dead and he's come halfway across the galaxy to the lakes of Vermont in search of her.
Faye and Conn are on the trail of an underage runaway who has no intention of going back to Florida with them.
They all meet up in Amassol, Vermont. When Ash and Conn encounter each other, the attraction is immediate and almost overwhelming. It's also impossible. Ash's mission and Conn's assignment, as well as rival street gangs, make sure of that.
Quincy's Roadhouse & Grill squatted on the western edge of the town, on the other side of the wide High Verde River. Just upstream from the modern bridge a long, smoothly curved outcrop of rock jutted from the water. It looked like the back of a prehistoric creature or an overturned boat. The Roadhouse, a solid-looking two-story place with a poorly surfaced parking lot surrounding it, had a deep covered porch the length of its front. On the apex of the roof sat a neon sign that glowed with only a slight intermittent flicker. The rough and ready agelessness of the Roadhouse hinted at drovers, loggers, quarrymen, and prohibition. Now it seemed an anachronism.
Conn pulled in and stopped well away from the dozen or so vehicles already parked, and they climbed out. The heat hit like a wall of wet feathers.
There were maybe twenty people in the thankfully air-conditioned room, and none of them looked like tourists. Conn was expecting the swift checkout he received when he followed Faye inside, and he kept his expression bland as he did some surreptitious checking of his own.
What he did not expect was the peculiar jolt behind his eyes as his gaze swept over the attractive barkeep and the man leaning against the bar talking to her. It came as a soundless click, as if something that had been out of alignment had just snicked into place. Not painful, and gone as soon as he'd registered it, but definitely not his imagination messing with his head.
Conn was too good at his job to show any reaction. Without a pause he strolled to the bar and ordered a couple of beers, giving the woman behind the bar a friendly smile. The man had turned away slightly so that his back was toward Conn, but every detail of the pair was already filed away in his mind. The woman was about five-six and in her forties, older than he'd initially thought, and on the plump side. She had long dark hair worn in a trailing tangle of ringlets, and her makeup was a little too garish for the sunlight struggling through the windows. Her scarlet shirt was tied off under her impressive breasts, and her painted-on jeans hung low on well-padded hips. A Chinese dragon tattoo snaked around her waist, its head and tail meeting at the crimson rose surrounding her navel. The heart of the vivid flower was a navel-piercing, a ruby-colored crystal that glittered when she moved.
The man's skin had a red-brown tint that suggested a varied racial heritage, and his hair was mostly a rich burgundy that never occurred in nature. That color and the streaks of copper and pale blond must have cost a packet in a salon. It fell over his forehead in heavy waves and curled on the collar of his shabby denim jacket. He wore shades and, incongruously, gloves that drew attention to his hands. Both pinkie fingers seemed to be unusually thickened inside the supple leather. He was maybe in his late twenties, six feet tall, and lean, his shoulders tapering to narrow hips. His jeans were faded, baggy and shapeless, as if he'd bought them from a thrift shop, but somehow managed to be stylish. Conn had gotten a brief glimpse of a high cheekboned, unsmiling face and lips pressed to a thin line that might have been anger, and he wondered briefly what the woman had said or done to irritate the guy. Who seemed familiar. But Conn's usually infallible memory let him down in this instance. Or maybe it was the tension in the man, that coiled-spring alertness beneath the casual surface that struck a chord.
He carried the beers over to the table in the corner and slouched beside Faye.
"The guy at the bar," he said quietly. "The redhead. Do you know him?"
"No," she answered. "Pretty, though."
Conn snorted. "So's a mountain lion, but you wouldn't want to get up close and personal." And he wondered where the conviction that the man was dangerous had come from.
"Speak for yourself." Faye snickered. "Or is the scarlet Amazon behind the bar more your type?" Then she became serious. "Why? Do you know him?"
"Just looks familiar, like I've seen him around somewhere, or maybe in a photo in a file."
* * * *
"What's suddenly bitten your ass?" Rose demanded, thumping another beer in front of him. Ash shrugged.
"Just remembered something I was supposed to do," he lied. He could feel the man's presence scratching at the edges of his awareness, and indisputably there. No, that was impossible. He was imagining it. For a moment Ash lost track of what Rose was saying. Of course it was his imagination. This wasn't a Fourth Consortium planet. It was a Class One Prohibited World, poised on the edge of space-flight and with no knowledge at all of the species and politics that lay beyond their solar system. There was no way he would be drawn in—not for casual sex and never by the deep-in-the-gut awareness of a true connection.
Rose's knuckles tapping none too lightly on his forehead brought him back with a jolt.
"Earth to Ash," she drawled, amused. "For the second time I'm asking, Angi isn't here yet. Is she going to be late tonight?"
"Uh, probably. She's gone to the discount warehouse in Montpelier with Emma. The Lodge was running out of basics ahead of schedule, she said. I told your dad at lunchtime," he added.
Rose scowled. "Oh, great. So of course the drunken bum forgot to tell me. Fuck!" She made an obvious attempt to sweeten her expression. "Hey, want to earn a few extra bucks? I booked the Raiders for tonight and it's gonna be busy. They're a popular band around here."
"Behind the bar or bouncing?"
"How about both? Not that I'm expecting trouble, but you never know these days."
"Okay." Ash glanced at his watch. He wouldn't be able to search another segment of the lake that night, but he could do with the extra cash. "I have to finish up at the Lodge first. Nine o'clock?"
"Great. The band should be setting up then. Be here by eight-thirty and I'll throw in a burger on the house before you start. Dad's promised to be sober this evening."
"Deal." He smiled and drained his beer in long swallows. Being a carbon-based life form on a planet that shared the same fundamental chemistry as his own species had its advantages. There wasn't much in the way of food and drink he had to avoid.
Ash took another quick look at the couple in the corner on his way to the door. The woman was watching him with unhidden interest. He knew most of the people he'd met here thought of him as handsome—and that had taken some getting used to, after years of his family and friends teasing him about his height, his heavy-set body, and coarse features. Then her companion looked up and for the first time since he'd landed on this planet, Ash's shades provided no barrier. The man locked eyes with him and Ash swore under his breath. A slow fire began in his blood. Yes, there was no possibility he was imagining it. He had never experienced the sensation before but it was hard-wired into his psyche. Every Vyan knew what to expect when they met their true-bond. The connection was real and unless he was very careful, it would only strengthen from now on. At least, it would as far as he, Ash, was concerned. What the Douryan felt—if anything—was another matter entirely. Either way, it meant he was effectively shafted.
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