Saturday, September 13, 2014

Enchanted Orb with Leisl Leighton


Today's Enchanted Orb post is with Leisl Leighton where she shares with us her thoughts on inspiration and in particular, her series, The Witch-Were Chronicles. The first book, Dark Moon, is available now.

Where does inspiration come from? Why does one person paint, someone else act, another sculpt and someone else write? How or why does the Muse touch a person and make them want to create in some way? I couldn’t say. All I know is that I have always had the need to be creative. I have always needed to find some way to let the Muse flow through me and let it feed my soul in some outward show of creativity. It used to be acting and performing (and sometimes still is) but since having children, it has very much become about writing.

I know a lot of authors talk about playing the ‘what if’ game when they are looking for story ideas. You know – ‘What if my hero turned into a werewolf?’ ‘What if my heroine suddenly discovered she could do magic?’ ‘What if the heroine had a fear of magic – and large dogs!’ ‘What if the hero had to make the heroine face up to her magic and did it by turning into a wolf in front of her?’ That kind of thing. It’s a great process, but for me, inspiration has never started this way. My stories and characters always touch my awareness in the form of a dream. A dream that won’t leave me alone, but keeps playing time and time again. Sometimes the same scene, sometimes more, adding characters and plot and depth and always in full technicolour surround sound. From these dreams the stories just grow. The characters become.

For instance, the inspiration for my current series, the Witch-Were Chronicles – the first of which, Dark Moon, was released in March, and the 2nd, Healer Moon, and 3rd, Blood Moon, I’m working on right now – came to me in a dream like usual, but it was a dream that was a little different. At first, the dream started off as a memory of when I was skiing down Federation (a black run) at Mt Buller in Victoria. In the memory, I was having such a lovely time. I love skiing. I love being on the mountain, the scent of the snow and the freshness of the air, the thrill of setting your skis down a slope and trying to perfect technique, the glorious views when the weather is good. When I’m up there, I feel free and relaxed in a way that’s hard to describe, something I share with my family. On that day I was knocked over by a snowboarder. It ruined my day because he hurt my leg and I had to stop skiing to go and ice my knee.

In the dream, this happened, but the dream morphed and the person who was enjoying her freedom and glorying in the snow and weather and the feeling of flying, wasn’t me. And the man who bumped into her wasn’t a normal man – he was something else entirely and he had an impact on the heroine of the dream that was far greater than simply knocking the wind from her or hurting her knee. The scene grew every time I had the dream and when I finally sat down to write it, it flew from my fingers and onto the page.

When this happens, it doesn’t feel like I’m writing at all. Very often, I will read back what I wrote later and I can’t even fully remember writing it. Those moments are priceless, because when that truly happens, the writing is more than I could have meant it to be.

There are times when this process slows down though and I know my well of creativity is getting low. When this happens I know I need to take care of myself, fill myself up again so the dreams flow and inspiration strikes. The way I do this is to do the things I love – like skiing and doing fun things with my family, swimming and going for walks, reading books I love, watching movies and TV shows I can sink into and lose myself in, either by myself or with my family or friends. I read more. I go do writing workshops. I chat to writing friends. I critique their work. I discuss the issues in their manuscripts and workshop their ideas. I read. I sing and tinkle on my piano. I read. I listen to podcasts and surf the net and write blogs. I read. And then when I’ve done this enough, the dreams start to flow again and the words spill out of me, a world of discovery opens before me and the stories and characters take shape.

Everyone’s process is different, but I think the essence of all creativity and what is at the source of all inspiration, is to look after yourself, to have fun, to play, to do the thing that got you into your creative process in the first place (my love of reading, of discovering new characters and stories, led me to writing) and to keep doing that. To never stop. That’s why I read and no matter how busy I get, I always find time to read, because without the reading, there is no writing. And I suppose, that is where my inspiration comes from.

Dark Moon Blurb:

Lately, Skye Collins has been unable to shake the feeling that she's being watched. After a lifetime spent hiding her true nature, she knows that any unusual attention is something to be wary of. And the only attention she's been receiving lately is from the intense and attractive Jason McVale.

Jason claims to know things about Skye that can't be true, and it's obvious he's hiding secrets of his own. Yet despite herself, Skye can't resist the attraction between them, and her surrender will set in motion a chain of events that will have consequences for everyone she holds dear.

Gradually, Jason convinces Skye that she has to trust him if she is to solve the riddle of her past and learn the truth about her power. But believing Jason means that her entire life has been based on a lie.

As her enemies gather strength and the danger increases, Skye is forced to accept who she really is. Will she risk everything and fight for those she loves? Or save herself and let them be destroyed by the forces of darkness?

About the Author: Leisl Leighton

Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).

After starting a family Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl's stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.

Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dog, Buffy, and likes to spend time with family and friends. She sometimes sings in a choir and works as a swim teacher in her day-to-day job.

Leisl writes paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense.

Buy links for Dark Moon

Amazon Kobo Destiny Romance iBooks Google Play

Buy links for Killing Me Softly:

Amazon Kobo iBooks Destiny Romance Google Play

Where to connect with Leisl: www.leislleighton.com  | Facebook  | Goodreads

Follow her on Twitter @LeislLeighton








Thursday, September 11, 2014

Magic Thursday: Werewolves with Mel Teshco and CARNAL MOON





When Carnal Moon was first published with Ellora’s Cave four years ago, paranormal romance and erotic romance was flying high. Combine the two and you had a winner with most readers.
Werewolves and vampires were the ‘in’ thing and had been for some time, and it seemed as though nothing would knock them off their pedestal.
Well all good things must come to an end. At least until they come back on the next wave. Readers got over vampires in all their forms—sparkly, allergic to sunlight, garlic and wooden stakes, just as they did with werewolves in all their guises (although Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten remains one of my firm favourites).
Having said that, for some of us vampires and werewolves remain at the top of the paranormal heap, so to speak, and we’ll continue to read (devour) them. Bring them on!!



Blurb:

On the first night of each full moon, werewolves cannot resist the calling—the instinctual need to mate.
Living a double life has never been difficult for Holly, but in her world, if her species is to survive, all she can look forward to is down-and-dirty, uninhibited sex with a different partner each month. She has never had reason to complain though. Until now.
She’s fallen for Ricky Mandela, her hot, sexy, human lover. Holly can’t pretend she has a chance at a family and happily ever after. Those are human dreams. But she can’t give him up either. Will she have to lie and cheat to hold on to the man she loves?

Excerpt:

Holly parted the net curtains and peered through the bedroom window.
A full moon shone, bright and yellow in the cloudless sky.
Yet, here she was—still human, still with a human.
Only the oldest of her species could resist the need to change on the first night of each full moon. And even they were hard pressed to withstand the calling.
She frowned. So why hadn’t her body clamored to become lycan and seek out, then mate with, another of her kind?
The bed creaked then Ricky’s footfalls drew near. “What’s wrong?” His arms encircled her from behind, tugging her against his chest.
With a sigh, she dropped the curtain. It swished back, and the scene outside suddenly became a latticework scene of suburban rooftops, parked cars, shrubs and trees edging the street.
She snuggled close, her head fitting just beneath his chin. Draped in a wispy negligee, she felt all his hard warmth and inexplicably shivered.
“Nothing.” She turned, linking her arms over his broad shoulders. “What could possibly be wrong when I have you here to sate my every need?”
Ricky kissed her brow, but she sensed the twitch of his lawyer antennae when he said, “Mmm. Good answer.”
She pulled free, her eyes narrowing on his shadowy form. “Why do you ask?”
He frowned a little. “I don’t know. You just seem…restless.”
Her heart kicked into high gear. He couldn’t guess her secret. Not ever. She drew in a deep, slow breath—willing calm. “Perhaps I’m not ready for sleep yet.”
His eyes glinted. Then he bent, his mouth close to her ear as he murmured huskily, “Neither am I.”

Buy Links:

Find Mel Tescho at:
http://www.melteshco.com/
http://melteshco.blogspot.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/mel.teshco
https://twitter.com/melteshco



Bio:

As a rather quiet, introverted child, Mel Teshco would never have believed it possible she’d one day be making a living writing hot, erotic stories and meeting so many other wonderful writers. She can most often be found at her computer, giving into her children and/or cats demands and occasionally/often drinking home brew, which brings out her sociable (i.e. loud) side. Her long-suffering husband is still waiting for retirement.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Bite Of... Loving the Prince

After a brief break, we are back with Nicole Murphy and A Bite Of... Loving the Prince.




Can you, in less than five words describe your book? 
Corporate espionage, betrayal, and love on a moon.

Who is your favourite character? 
Cassandra Wiltmore – I first came up with her when I was 14 as my tribute to Princess Leia from Star Wars. 30 years later, she finally gets to live!

What inspired you to write it?
When it comes to my storytelling, there were two formative influences in my life – seeing Star Wars and reading the Lord of the Rings. I’ve written homages to both of them. The Lord of the Rings one was TERRIBLE, but then so was Cassandra to start with. I perservered with that and now it’s come true. So maybe it’s time for me to return to the forests of Aethanworld…

And here's the snippet...

Cassandra didn’t see Kernan for the next couple of days but when he came to present his report, the awareness that crawled over her skin made her wonder if she’d ever be over him.
Then she remembered she hadn’t seen Di for a couple of days either, thought about what they’d undoubtedly been doing to each other and nausea rose.
She took the memory stick from his hand and plugged it into her reader. Most of it was as she had expected: increased patrols, new coverings on the ducts, more frequent checks of the building. His idea for securing the enriched balcite interested her.
‘A balcite-threaded glass room, open-roofed, walls reaching to the ceiling. Palm and iris locked, restricting numbers of employees allowed access.’ She looked up at him. ‘Someone could use the tracks to drop down into it.’
‘The tracks would be removed from the area. We would need to think about where we positioned it so we didn’t interfere with the moving of the balcite, but we’ll still know what the internal environment is because it will be the same as the rest of the warehouse and the clearness of the walls will mean the E is still under constant surveillance.’
‘Near the stairway up to the offices.’ Cassandra focussed on the far wall as she thought. ‘We can’t move balcite there anyway because it gets in people’s way and blocks their view as they move up and down the staircase.’ She focussed on Kernan and nodded. ‘I like it. I like it a lot. I’ll send it straight through to security.’
‘Thanks.’ A pause, then, ‘So, how’s Hera doing?’
Heartbroken. ‘Fine. How about you?’
He shrugged. ‘Luckily, I’ve got this manic boss who’s working me so hard I don’t have time to think about could-have-beens.’
Did that mean he wasn’t doing the nasty with Di at night? ‘Well, if the pace is too much for you, say the word and I’ll find something calmer.’
Kernan grinned. ‘Work me hard. Whip me. I’ll enjoy it.’
Boy, she really didn’t need the mental image of him enjoying a whipping. ‘Begone.’ She waved him away.
When she walked in the front door of their home that night, Cassandra was surprised to find Diana there. ‘Taking a night off?’ Cassandra said as she flung herself onto the lounge.
‘I’m over him,’ Diana said. ‘Only so much a girl can take.’
Of Kernan? Cassandra doubted it. ‘Good.’
A pause, then Diana laughed. ‘It’s killing you, isn’t it?’
‘What is?’
‘Picturing me with Kernan. You’re dying to ask, but at the same time you don’t want to face it because it really will be the end of your dreams for him. I mean, how can he want you after he’s had me?’
‘Fuck off, Diana.’ Cassandra closed her eyes.
‘He likes to undress you slowly.’ Diana’s voice dampened to a soft, throaty timbre, ‘tracing his fingers over your skin, as if he wants to arouse every single inch of you.’
A more exquisite torture had never been devised. Cassandra didn’t want to hear this but Diana was right — she did want to know. Wanted some hint of reality to base her fantasies on.
‘He likes to find every place on your body that will respond to his touch. Every woman is different, and he makes sure he learns what you need, what you like, so that he can touch you to make you greedy for him.’
‘I’m thinking steak for dinner.’ Cassandra tried for nonchalance but was sure her dry throat and quivering insides were evident in her voice.
‘And when he takes you — ’
‘That’s enough.’ Cassandra launched to her feet. ‘I don’t want to hear about you having sex with Kernan.’ She marched into the kitchen, Diana following.
‘Really? I thought it sounded really good. Hot. Enough to make you tingle and squirm. Are you tingling, Cassandra? Are you turned on?’
Cassandra started to bang pots and pans around.
‘I’m turned on,’ Diana said. ‘Shame I’m never going to know if I’m right or not.’
Cassandra dropped the pot she was holding and spun around. ‘What?’
‘Yep. Outright turned me down. Not interested. Not now, not ever. So, I guess it’s up to you to see if it’s three times the lucky charm with the Wiltmore women and Kernan Radaton.’ Diana winked and sauntered out of the room.
Damn her to the deserts of Jorda.
Cassandra pushed down the glee that Diana and Kernan hadn’t been together and turned back to making dinner. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t interested in her and she had no intention of making a fool of herself.
He would remain in her dreams, and that was all.


Thank you for sharing Nicole!

If you'd like to find out more about Nicole Murphy and her books, check out the links below.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Real Life Paranormal with Mel Teshco



Ghostly Encounters?


In my early twenties I lived in the Lake Macquarie area, and worked at two liquorstax bottle shops – one in Dora Creek (an old ramshackle chook-shed-lookalike that is now pulled down) and one in Morisset.  I had ghostly experiences at both these shops. 

The first experience was in Morisset. I’d walked outside from the cold shop into the warm morning sun, and when I turned around, where the sun streamed into the shop was a shadowy man. His features and everything were obvious even though you could see through him. It was as though the suns rays revealed his form. He didn’t move, just stood there right near the fridges. I’m not sure how long he stayed there, but I didn’t gawp too long, just got on with my work and chalked it up to seeing things – even though I had more than one customer get the shivers and tell me they thought someone was behind them. When I told a co-worker offhandedly about what I saw, she was so relieved as she thought she was going crazy – she’d seen him too. I’m guessing he’s a resident ghost as the manager at the time worked after hours doing bookwork and heard doors slamming when there were none to be slammed.

My Dora Creek experience was vastly different. I worked alone at this bottle shop at night, very rarely with another worker (unless it was crazy busy on a Friday and Saturday night). I’d closed the whole shop up and was balancing the till. I was actually crouched down and putting money into the safe when my whole body prickled with alarm and I sensed someone behind me (trust in those senses!) I had no other thought other than that someone had broken in. Except when I turned around, in the doorway of my little room was a tall white form, slightly see through with no visible features – but definitely a human form. It was as though it was draped in a long, shining white cloth.
When it finally faded away (I have no idea of how long that was two seconds or twenty!)  I set the alarm and I was out of there. Nothing balanced. Money thrown into the safe. Books half done.
To this day I have no idea why it appeared behind me. But I’d like to think that maybe there was a reason for my getting out of that shop earlier (we had to step out from the shop into darkness – the safety factor was zero).

 ~ ~ ~



On the first night of each full moon, werewolves cannot resist the calling—the instinctual need to mate.
Living a double life has never been difficult for Holly, but in her world, if her species is to survive, all she can look forward to is down-and-dirty, uninhibited sex with a different partner each month. She has never had reason to complain though. Until now.

She’s fallen for Ricky Mandela, her hot, sexy, human lover. Holly can’t pretend she has a chance at a family and happily ever after. Those are human dreams. But she can’t give him up either. Will she have to lie and cheat to hold on to the man she loves?






 
Available from Amazon and other e-retailers for .99c

Mel Teshco's gypsy-like upbringing saw her living in many places along Australia's east coast. Each new home stimulated an already over-active imagination, where she spent as much time dreaming about fantasy worlds as the real world - the fantasy sometimes being much better.
Now living in (claustrophobic) suburbia while building on a rural property to keep her two horses, four cats and one hyperactive Belgian shepherd happy, she is (mostly) happily married with an ever hopeful husband (he'd love to retire), three children of wide-spread ages and two grandchildren.
She is a multi-published author with a love for the written word along with a short attention span that sees her juggling a wide variety of genres and heat levels in her stories. From contemporary to paranormal, inspirational to erotic, she hopes there's a little of something for every reader out there to enjoy. With too many stories in her head to keep up with, there will be many more books to come.

You can find her website at
http://www.melteshco.com/
http://melteshco.blogspot.com.au/
https://www.facebook.com/mel.teshco
https://twitter.com/melteshco

You can email her at: melteshco@yahoo.com.au


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Magic Thursday with THE SORCERER'S SPELL by Dani Kristoff Why Sex & Magic?

When writing The Sorcerer’s Spell, I found it was natural to combine sex and magic. Both seemed quite taboo growing up and now as an adult, I’m free to explore both in fiction. When the idea came for the opening of the book, it seemed to me that one is the most vulnerable when dreaming of sex with someone you’ve lost. Sex can be an intimate connection that is beyond just flesh, so what better way to get a hook into someone than to use the energy that desire creates when they are asleep, or dreaming, or even masturbating.

My heroine Annwyn is just an everyday woman, except that she dreams of having sex with her dead husband a lot. Enter wicked sorceress, Nira, and Annwyn’s life changes forever. She is released from her old life, free to have sex, albeit in another’s body. That’s an entirely scary proposition, right? Yes, and liberating too. It’s like having a chance to start over and to explore what might have been.

Combine one hunk of a sorcerer in Dane, and a binding curse that rids Annwyn of her inhibitions and she’s set to have some serious fun. Add to that mix some serious danger to Dane. If he can’t get rid of his curse, he’s going to be a werewolf forever, and not just your normal regular everyday werewolf, but one that has no sense of self. A rather a sad proposition if you ask me.

There are compensations too, like a really good friend in Rolf, the dreamy werewolf. But I don’t want to spoil things. I’m just letting you know that sex and magic mix very, very well.


Blurb

A sexy, body-switching urban fantasy. Annwyn goes to bed dreaming of making love with her dead husband and wakes up in the body of another woman, a woman who is having hot sex with Dane, a powerful sorcerer. Her body has been stolen by Nira, a sorceress, who feeds her magical power through sex, the kinkier the better. The curse she laid on Dane turns him into a werewolf every full moon. To complicate matters Dane's werewolf friend Rolf, succumbs to Nira when she temporarily repossess her body, causing jealously and confusion. Time is running out, as soon Dane will be a werewolf forever unless he can break the curse. Rafael from the Collegium of Sorcerers is the only one Dane trusts to help them, but when a wider conspiracy is revealed, it's up to Annwyn and her developing magical powers to save Dane before it's too late. But can she seduce an unwilling werewolf to lure the sorceress into a final confrontation?




Here is the link

Harper Collins



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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Magic Thursday: ES Siren

Today Mel Teshco, Denise Rossetti and I launch our new sci-fi romance series ES Siren. Set on the ship ES Siren as it makes the twelve month trip to the planet where they are hoping to establish a colony there is a mix of crew, military, civilians and prisoners (because someone has to do the hard work).

To give you a taste for the stories here are the moments where our heroes and heroines meet for the first time.


Rita slowed, then stopped at his cell and stared through the flex window.

The shaggy brown-blond hair that drifted to his shoulders was in stark contrast to the male soldiers on the ship, with their closely cropped hair. But Tristan’s mane, shining beneath the overhead light, did little to soften the hard angles and planes of his face. Not that it mattered, his toughness didn’t detract from his magnificence. It just enhanced his maleness, his magnetism.

Tristan’s brushstrokes abruptly stilled. He turned, his deep emerald eyes locking with hers. Something flashed in his gaze. Awareness. Caution. Restraint.
Rita had no doubt he accepted her presence as routine now. She only wished she could see something more … welcoming in his face.

Anger swelled even as all her common sense deflated.  She wasn’t some lowly whore beneath his worth! She was Chief Warrant Officer, commissioned officer in the US army and officer in charge of work placement for the prisoners. She was a rung below her lover, who was in charge of the prison guards, and she was sick and tired of the men in her life treating her as something less.
She turned her wrist to the cell’s identifier so it could read her implanted chip and allow her access. As an officer, she wasn’t exactly restricted from going into Tristan’s cell, but it was foolhardy to do so alone.

The door unlocked and she pressed it open then stepped into his cell. Her heart hammered and the lower regions of her belly tightened. She paused for a moment, to regain some semblance of composure. Not for the first time, she wondered if he appreciated the fact that no other prisoners shared his space. In comparison to the three standard bunk beds bolted to the walls in each of the other cells, his living area was expansive. 
She cleared her throat. “I see they’ve taken off your magna-cuffs.”

He’d turned back to his painting, as though whatever about her had captured his attention earlier was all but forgotten. “No. They’ve been relocated,” he corrected gruffly, lifting a leg to show the magna-cuffs snaring his ankles.
It made sense. He’d be unable to fully bend and flex his wrists with them on, and the powers that be would want to ensure he could display his talent at all times.

She stopped, eyeing the canvas, which, viewed from this side, was mysteriously blank. She didn’t want to see his creation—it seemed too personal, too private. “I’m sorry they felt the need for you to wear them,” she said softly, stupidly wanting only to please this man. “I know you’re not a criminal.”
His eyes snapped to hers, blazing and intense. “Yet I was tried and sentenced to serve the rest of my years on a flight I never wanted to be part of, traveling to a rock I care nothing about.”

She arched a brow. On the few occasions she’d tried to converse with him, he’d never given little more than monosyllabic answers. But somehow she preferred that to his ingratitude.
“You’d rather live never knowing where you’ll find clean drinking water? When you’ll have your next bite to eat? Prefer wondering which bunch of looters-turned-murderers will next set their sights on your stash of supplies?”

His jaw clenched. “Enough. I get it, I really do. You want me to kiss the toes of all those in favor of throwing me into a big alloy space-can that might well become my coffin.”


The prisoner, 1789, looked as though he’d seen better days. His cheek was split open and blood was trickling down his olive skin and into the scruffy, not-quite-a-beard that was becoming popular among the prisoners, as it meant less shaving. Her gaze flicked to his hands. His knuckles were red and grazed.

Joy, another incident report. But she doubted the Warrant Officer had caused 1789 any damage. The officer was younger than she was and probably weighed less, even with his boots on.

“What happened, Sir?” What excuse would the WO have for 1789’s injury?
The officer nudged 1789.

“I tripped and fell down a few stairs.” 1789 looked her in the eye as he spoke. His voice was perfectly modulated, but she knew it was a lie. If everything the prisoners said was true, they would have to be the clumsiest people on board. More likely he’d been fighting in the Rounds, but it was easier to agree to the lie. Safer, too. Tattling meant punishment.
She nodded. “Fine, I’ll check him out. Is he free to wander?” Or was he going to be confined to his cell? If so, she would have to call someone to escort 1789. She never walked around the male prison without another guard. She was almost a prisoner herself—confined to the medical area. Lieutenant Zane could’ve put her in the female prison section of the ship but this was his way of controlling her, isolating her even further.

The WO gave a single nod and then left, as if glad to be gone. The door clicked closed, leaving Sienna and 1789 alone. Thanks, asshole. Prick should’ve followed protocol and waited until the prisoner was locked onto the chair.
“Sit.” She made her voice as hard as she could.

1789 sat.
“I’m going to release your cuffs and you’re going to place your arms on the chair. Clear?”

“Clear.” 1789 gave a single nod.
This would either go smoothly or be a cluster fuck. She was going to report the WO … not that it would make any difference. Zane would ignore any complaint that she made. Sienna released the cuffs and held her breath, keeping her finger over the activate button on her wrist control.

As soon as he was free, 1789 placed his arms against the metal arms of the chair. She pressed the button before he had time to get comfortable.
If he’d tried anything in those few seconds she would have hit emergency, locking down every prisoner in a ten-yard radius, which would have required some explaining. She’d never had to do it yet, but as one of the few women in the male area, she was aware of her precarious situation.

“So how did you really split your cheek open?”
“I fell,” he replied in that same flat tone.

“Bullshit.” She hated being lied to, and if there was something untoward going on, she wanted to know. With Lieutenant Zane in charge of the guards, anything was possible.
He blinked and looked at her carefully. “I fell, Corporal.”

“Onto a fist. You aren’t the first to come in from the Rounds and I doubt you’ll be the last. So would you like to try again?” She swung the imager between them to check his face for broken bones.
“You know about the Rounds?”

“Everyone knows, even if they don’t watch and bet.”
His head jerked in a nod, bones white on the dark screen.

“Hold still for a moment.”
She scanned the screen, looking for telltale black shadows or spider webs of cracks. Nothing. But she saved the image anyway for his med file.

“He didn’t hit you hard enough to break anything.” But it was only a matter of time. Something was bound to go wrong in the Rounds.

He blanked the screen with a quick jab of his thumb. “Sorry. What?”

Lily Kwan plonked a bilious green plastic circle on the table in front of him. “A base for your basket.” Determinedly, she pushed the glasses back up her long nose. “I’ve pre-punched it,” she said, pointing to the holes around the perimeter.

Con stared. Though her hands were narrow and graceful, with long, slender fingers, they were filthy, as if she’d been finger-painting with camouflage colors. Two knuckles sported blisters. 

How would the clever doctor react under pressure?
Without haste, Con reached out, gripped her right wrist and turned her hand palm up. The skin was marred with nicks and cuts, some healed, some not. “What happened to your hands?”

“Nothing.” Under his thumb, her pulse fluttered. “Just doing my job,” she said, her lips tightly compressed.
When she took a step back, he held on, gently, but firmly. “Explain.”

The downlights shone directly on her face. From behind the glasses, furious almond eyes met his. They were a stormy gray, not the brown he’d expected.
Con’s lips curved, very slightly. Ah, now they were getting somewhere. The peasant had transgressed and the princess was pissed. It warmed his heart, truly it did.

“I work in a lab, all right? I do experiments.” She tugged, to no avail. Her cheeks had gone a dull red.
Lounging back in his chair, Con released her, taking his own sweet time. “I see.”

Her spine snapped straight. “Which do you want? Bamboo or reed?”
“Neither.” He gave her a calm smile. “I’ll just watch the others for now.”

The blood beat beneath the golden skin of her throat.
“Fine.” Scooping up the green circle, she whirled around and headed for the sulky prisoners.

Con stared. Had he thought their yellow shirts were the only bright notes in the room? A glossy dark braid, almost as thick as his wrist, hung down Kwan’s back, bouncing with the energy of her stride. Threaded through it was a scarlet ribbon.
~~~
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of ES Sire, it's crew, prisoners and civilians.