Thank you for stopping by and joining us for our stop on the Read-A-Long portion of The Empire by Elizabeth Lang virtual tour. We are excited to post this segment of the story and we hope you enjoy it too!
“It will be interesting to discover which will make you beg. Will it be the pain or the pleasure?”
How do you tame a man without breaking his spirit?
The galaxy is under siege from alien invaders. The Empire is the only force that stands in the gap, trading the freedom of its citizens for a tenuous security.
Amidst this chaos, Lt. Adrian Stannis is a brilliant scientist trying to stay out of the limelight. He hides on a research vessel plying the Outer Rim and finds peace of a sort with Kali Mirren, a psi-enabled humanoid. But his days of anonymity may be coming to an end. Someone has discovered his secret and is determined to make him pay for his treachery. He must finish the project he abandoned years ago, one the Council deems essential in its fight against the aliens, but things are never that simple where Adrian is concerned.
Is he more man than machine, or have years hiding behind a mountain of logic eroded his humanity? Can he learn to love and will he be able to survive the tangled web of political expediency and psychological manipulation that surrounds him?
Will Kali be able to save him from himself, or is there a mystery surrounding him that may explode in their faces?
Everyone wants to know the truth, but will it set them free?
Adrian charged into his cabin, tearing off his lab coat and uniform. He threw the clothes on the floor, not caring where they landed, and stepped into the shower. All he felt was Boudreaux’s hands on his body, everywhere. It had been terrible and overwhelming. His body warmed in memory and his pulse quickened.
No! He pounded his fist on the tiled wall.
Her seductive voice whispered in his mind. But I am never far, not for you. You will never be able to escape me.
Adrian twisted the temperature controls to the coldest setting, choosing the strongest jet spray, and slapped the ON switch. He gasped and every muscle tightened as cold water blasted his body, strangling any hint of warmth. His body shuddered violently and desire waned. He plunged his head into the cold streams; his mouth opening in shock as his brain froze, driving out all thoughts of the woman who haunted his life. His whole body tensed against the onslaught of cold driving against his skin.
It was good. Cleansing. Numbing cold. Washing away all traces of weakness. Of Boudreaux.
He could almost forget her name, but not quite. Not yet.
Adrian ordered himself to relax and braced his hands flat against the wall, forcing himself to stay. He needed the cold to touch his core, seeking to numb himself to everything, losing everything except the one person who meant the most to him.
Kali was tired but happy when she returned to her cabin after the po st-diplomatic briefing. The negotiations had been a resounding success and she had impressed the Admiral and his staff with her competence and psi abilities.
A gentle smile spread across her face when she heard the strong splashes of water in the bathroom. Adrian must be washing up for the evening.
The Admiral had been bombarded with news about the Neutron Wave tests the moment he stepped off the teleport platform. The news was almost as good as the success of the Verindi negotiations, at least for the people on the ship. She knew it wouldn’t be for Adrian.
Kali sighed and loosened the high collar, shrugging off the stiff formal jacket with a sigh of relief. It was only then she noticed Adrian’s clothes lying in a tangled pile on the floor. This was unusual for a man organized to the point of obsessive-compulsiveness. He must be troubled about the progress of the Neutron Wave Project or Kegan and Boudreaux had broken through his barriers, shattering his control. Damn them.
She opened up her perceptions and reached towards the bathroom, and gasped at the cold nothingness from his mind. “Adrian!” Kali rushed into the shower. Adrian was standing as frigid water splashed down over him. He was a hunched over, his arms and legs spread, and his hands flat on the wall. Just like someone bowing to the authority of a Security officer who was about to search him. His body shook like a leaf fluttering in the wind.
It was freezing. A quick search revealed the water temperature. She hit the OFF button and the water cut out immediately.
“Adrian, why?” She hugged him, willing warmth into his body as she reached for a fluffy towel from the rack and wrapped it around him. For a moment, he stayed in the same position. He didn’t seem to hear or feel her.
There was an agonized exhalation of breath and his head moved slowly, looking up at the nozzle. His lips were blue. With a shaky hand he reached for the ON switch
“No!” Kali pushed his hand away but he reached for it again. They wrestled as she stepped into the shower but his limbs were heavy, sluggish.
She held him as he struggled, trying to push her away. His eyes were empty and that chilled her even more than the frigid water that soaked her shirt.
She didn’t like to use her psi abilities without his permission but Kali reached into his mind, pushing, trying to find the places he left open for her. Adrian, don’t do this. Tell me what’s wrong.
The cold turned to pain as his eyes focused on her face. “K-K-ali?” He stopped struggling and sagged against her as she led him back into the cabin.
He stared blankly and was unresisting as she lay him on the bed and covered him with several heavy blankets. His eyes closed and he fell into an exhausted sleep. Kali brushed her fingers across his face, waiting for it to relax and lose its harsh lines, but it never did. Somewhere inside he could not sleep, he could not rest.
She slipped under the covers beside him and hugged him, pressing her body to his as her mind sent him as much calm and warmth as she could.
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt to say something nice once in a while,” gr umbled Bryce, as he and Kerril lined up to watch the latest action holovid.
A guaranteed heart thumper. At least that was the buzz around the ship. Bryce was looking forward to this. In the lower level grids where he grew up, they had holovids but only the barest minimum in sensory inputs. He tried not to let his enthusiasm show too much. It would ruin the cool, experienced, man-about-the-galaxy image he was keeping with Kerril.
“By which you mean, nice to you I presume?” asked Kerril.
“Well, you know, I wouldn’t mind if some of it accidentally came my way. I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself.”
She stared at him, studying his face as if he were something under a microscope. “You have nice teeth,” she said seriously.
“I…what?” he asked, mystified.
“You wanted me to say something nice.”
“But…but,” he sputtered, “That was it? I have nice teeth? Who says that?”
“But—” He was at a loss for words.
“You don’t like it?” She seemed hurt and that deflated any outrage Bryce was feeling.
“No. I mean, yes. Uh. I’ll take whatever I can get.”
Kerril flashed him a dazzling smile. “And you’re great fun to tease.”
“You mean…” Bryce sighed and returned a wry smile of his own. “Don’t forget fun to insult at parties too.”
The line moved. “How did I ever get along without you?”
“Luck?” They passed through the doors into the theatre hall. Bryce suppressed a rush of excitement. The walls had a brilliant sheen that reflected the best in holovid technology. It was going to be out of this world. They found their seats and sat down. “This must be really good. The place is packed.”
“That’s what they say.” She leaned back and adjusted the sensory inputs. “I heard about the success of the Neutron Wave Project. Congratulations.”
Bryce stared at her, not expecting the change in topic, and even more surprised that she was making the effort to be nice twice in a row.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it. It was the Lieutenant. He’s brilliant.” He copied her movements and marveled at the plush comfort of the couch-like chairs and the sophistication of the sensory technology. The Sedener had nothing compared to this, just tables pushed out of the way in the mess hall.
“You help him.”
“Well, barely.” He flipped up the menu screen and scrolled through the options. “Which POV are you choosing?”
“I usually pick all of them.”
“But that’s no fun. Where’s the mystery?”
“This is an action vid.” Her eyes narrowed. “What’s the intimacy rating on this?”
The next morning, Adrian shuddered and his eyes opened. Kali was snuggled up against him, her body thawing the ice at his core.
Memories filtered back in a haze. He remembered standing in the shower as frigid water rushed over his body, chilling him to the bone. Kali had been there. It was a vague memory but she must have helped him.
She was always helping him. Adrian’s eyes closed, shutting out her image and hating himself for not being able to handle things on his own.
“Adrian? Are you awake?” Kali stirred beside him, her clothed body rubbing lightly along his unclothed one.
“How do you feel?”
“Fine.” “I don’t suppose you want to talk about what happened in the shower last night?”
“Not particularly.” He rolled away from her and contemplated the bare white ceiling.
Kali sighed loudly. “We’re headed to Serias Four next to pick up some supplies. The Admiral is going to allow some R&R. Would you like to come to town with me?”
“I can’t.” Adrian didn’t want to explain that he couldn’t leave the ship because of the implant in his head. It was too private, too embarrassing, like having a leash no one could see. “I have work to do.”
“You need a break.”
He turned to face her. “I will rest after the Project is finished.” Adrian drew his thumb along the curve of her jaw. For now, the shower had achieved its purpose. Boudreaux was a fading presence, held back by memories of the numbing cold.
He felt clean and secure with Kali. There were no pressures to perform or people to push him down. He leaned closer and kissed her lightly, pleased that he could do that at least.
Chell poured himself a cup of coffee from a container in the side tab le, dropped in a cream cube and stirred the murky depths with a spoon.
The heady aroma of smoked vanilla tickled his nostrils. Just the scent of it made him more alert. “You were saying, sir?”
They were in the Admiral’s office discussing the impromptu trip to Serias 4. “We’re picking up a psychostrategist for Stannis.”
He sank into the leather-like couch across from Verel. “A psychostrategist? That’s not good.”
“He is taking authority over Stannis’ case.”
As the Admiral drank his coffee, Chell shook his head. “Case? That makes him sound like a project.”
“He is someone’s.”
“Does that mean we won’t be able to assist him?”
Verel sighed as he put his cup down on the table. The golden fist emblem of the Empire glinted on its side, reminding him of his allegiance and that he was only an instrument for someone else’s policy. “We’ll do what we can.”
“I’ve had a report from Security Section. Seems Kegan told them Stannis has rebel leanings. They want to remind you that this is a serious matter and they should be allowed to handle it.”
“They do, do they?” The spiked edge in Verel’s tone could have cut through armor plating. “Tell them they do not have the security clearance to handle Stannis.” His smile was humorless and his eyes were dark, unforgiving pools. “If they do not back down, demote the whole section one pay grade.”
“With pleasure, sir.” Chell grinned.
Also Elizabeth Lang has shared with us an exclusive picture from The Empire Series
To read more of the Read-A-Long please follow the tour schedule…
03/03/2013 – Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways – Chapter 1
About Elizabeth Lang:
I’m a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery. Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn’t put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which ‘The Empire’ and ‘The Rebels’ are the first two of a four books series.
You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:
Author Page on FaceBook | Blog | Twitter | Website
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