Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Barren Planet Book One
What would you risk for love?
Marlee's people are dying—the valuable anysogen gas that covers their planet is making the entire population infertile. When the council tells her she must leave her partner and choose another to improve her chances of having a baby, she’s devastated. She swears she’ll never love again—it hurts too much.
Tyris thinks he has everything he wants, despite his world suffering from overpopulation—until his wife leaves him because he is forbidden to have children.
In an attempt to convince his world, and his wife, that he’s worthwhile, Tyris goes hunting for a lost planet said to contain untold riches in the form of anysogen gas.
When he crashes on her world, Marlee and Tyris agree to pretend to live together while they try to repair his ship and escape from the planet. But as they battle the harsh winter on the planet together, keeping their distance becomes even more challenging than the snow, the council and the risks of a real relationship...
Genre: Sci Fi Romance
Release Date: February 25, 2013
Publisher: Rinelle Grey
The ice crunched under Marlee’s wooden clogs, but the thick woollen socks inside kept her feet warm. The wind whistled around her, trying its hardest to find a crack in her coat, and when that failed, forced its way through the felted wool to chill her skin. She didn't stop even when the wind pulled her shawl from around her head. The pin at her throat kept it from being lost, though it now hung uselessly down her back. She hefted up the wooden handles of the wheelbarrow and pushed on, needing to get as far away from the village as she could.
Only when she had reached the stark, bare branches of the woods did she pause, putting down the wheelbarrow handles and breathing heavily on her hands in a futile attempt to warm them. The trees did little to hide her from the other workers back in the village, but the distance helped, and she felt a little better.
She rearranged her shawl before looking around for firewood. A fruitless search. Although recently fallen twigs and sticks littered the ground, most of this area had been picked bare in the last few weeks. She picked up wheelbarrow handles and pressed deeper into the trees.
Each step away from the village lightened her step, and a bit further in, she saw decent sized pieces of wood. She wasn’t in the least bit afraid of being away from the village. The sky above her was clear, and no animals had run wild in these woods for as long as she had lived here. No mammals, birds or reptiles had been able to withstand the reduced fertility caused by the effect of the anysogen. Even though they’d stopped mining right after the meteor hit, it had been too late. They animals had all died off within years.
She picked up pieces of wood and threw them into the wheelbarrow, dislodging a few scurrying insects. These, along with water dwelling creatures, seemed to be the only ones that could overcome the effects of the anysogen. Her fellow humans refused to accept the inevitable. Eventually their species would lose its tenuous hold on this planet and be as much history as the other mammals were.
Marlee shook herself. Why were these thoughts intruding today when she just wanted to lose herself in the mindless tasks?
Jaimma’s comments signalled the end of her period of grace. She and Nelor had been apart two weeks, the accepted grieving period. Her mother’s visit yesterday, Kalim’s insistence that she needed to move on, those were just the beginning. Over the next week, the hints would get less subtle, her friends and family would start suggesting possible partners. The pressure would get more intense. She’d seen it before.
Eventually, everyone gave in and made a choice. Not many had held out to three weeks, and none to four. But she had no intention of giving in. Not this time. She didn’t want that anymore.
What would happen when she continued to refuse to choose? Would everyone eventually accept her choice? Her mother? The council? How far would they push? She didn’t know. It hadn’t happened before.
She jerked her head up, listening. Far off in the distance, she heard it again. Screams. Something was horribly wrong. Abandoning the wheelbarrow, she turned to run back to the settlement when a loud boom sounded overhead, and she ducked.
A large object burned through the sky above her.
Marlee crouched, frozen to the spot, staring at it in disbelief. All her life she had heard tales of the meteor that had decimated her mother’s home planet before she was born, but she had never expected to see one for herself.
She needed to get back to the village, to find shelter. Would any kind of shelter protect her from a meteor strike? Her heart thudded in her chest, and she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the fireball.
Then, right in front of her eyes, the flames dissipated and a silver form emerged.
It sailed through the sky at an amazing speed, and adrenalin pounded through Marlee’s veins. She shaded her eyes from the sun as it crashed through the trees some distance away. The ground shuddered at the impact.
If it wasn’t a meteor, what was it? It looked a little like a miniature version of the Tenacity, the old rocket ship that had bought her people to this planet. But if it was a rocket ship, where was it from and what was it doing here?
After all this time, had someone come to rescue them?
She was too young to remember the hope people held onto after their arrival, but Nelor remembered. He had told her, childlike hurt and pain in his voice, how they had waited. How it had taken several years for them to accept there would be no rescue.
Had they given up too soon?
Marlee picked up her skirts and ran. The ship had been going down fast. The crash she had felt had been too hard for a controlled landing. The occupants could be hurt and needing help.
She should return to the village to encourage someone to come with her, but she was too excited to stop. They would follow soon enough. She continued on, her breathing laboured.
After about half an hour, she reached the small stream that ran through the woods. In summer, the stream trickled along, and she and Nelor had picnicked beside it, paddling in the shallow, cool water.
Now it was swollen from recent storms, and though it was flowing too fast for ice to form, it would be freezing cold. The stepping stones she used in summer still peeked out of the water, so she took a deep breath and stepped carefully across without incident. The ground rose gently after the stream, but at least the rocky surface made for firmer footing.
It took another hour to reach the crash site. Marlee hid in the scant shelter of the bare branches for a few moments, catching her breath. The giant silver spaceship rested, still and silent, at the end of the long furrow it had ploughed through the trees.
Even once Marlee was breathing normally, her heart hadn’t returned to its normal beat. This ship held so much promise, so many possibilities. If its occupants were still alive, and the ship repaired, perhaps they could escape from this planet.
Despite the crash, she could see little damage to its graceful shape. A shape that bore only the slightest resemblance to the ship that had bought her people here. The Tenacity had been built for carrying people and cargo over long distances. Nelor told her it had taken forever to reach this planet, and she supposed that to a five year old, the nine months of the trip must have seemed like forever. This ship, long and slim, had been built for speed.
Not that it was going anywhere now.
After a while, when nothing happened, she stepped out from behind a tree, wondering where the entrance was. There was no door that she could see, only a word on the side in raised text. Hylista. She stepped closer and touched the exterior with one finger. It was still warm.
She ran her hands slowly over the text, down across the smooth surface then paused. The perfect shell was marred by a rough patch. Her fingers slid up and down a small crack, imperceptible to the human eye. She pushed at it with her fingers then jumped back as a gaping hole appeared in the surface with a hiss. Smoke billowed out.
She hovered a few metres back, coughing. Her nose wrinkled. It smelled strange, bitter and tangy, not like normal smoke at all. Even when it cleared, inside remained dark and still. When no sound or movement eventuated, curiosity overcame her caution, and she stepped up to the doorway and peered in.
It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Slowly she could make out shapes, buttons, instruments, and a shadowy form slumped over the console at the front. It didn’t stir. Taking a deep breath, she ventured inside to find out if it was still alive.
Fear clutched at her throat. What if the pilot hadn’t survived the crash? Her heart beating fast, she picked up his wrist and breathed a sigh when she found a pulse beating strongly. She struggled to move his deadweight into an upright position to check for injuries.
Once he was leaning back in the chair, his head lolling against the headrest, the reason for his lack of consciousness became apparent. A nasty looking gash on his forehead slowly seeped blood. Some of it matted his short spiky hair to his scalp. His face was slack, and a tiny dribble of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. She checked what she could see of the rest of his body, but couldn’t find any other injuries.
He was so pale and still that she checked his pulse again, but it still beat strongly, and when she held her hand in front of his mouth, she could feel his warm breath. Was there anyone else here? He didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger, so she looked around the rest of the ship.
This room was small, maybe three large steps across and four deep, but she could see another room through the doorway at the back. She walked towards it and hovered in the entrance, poised to run if necessary.
The second room wasn’t much bigger. A bench ran along one wall with cupboards underneath and above. In the corner, a small table was attached to the wall with bench seats on both sides. The space on the other wall was occupied by two beds, one above the other in holes in the wall. The sheets on the bottom one were rumpled. In the corner behind the bunks was another door, this one closed.
The beds indicated there had only been one person on the ship, but she should check the closed door, just in case. As she walked towards the door, she felt boxed in. The area was narrow. She could touch the benches and the beds on each side as she walked between them. There was nowhere to run. She hesitated outside the door then took a deep breath before pushing the door open.
The room inside was tiny with a glass cubicle in one corner and a shiny white toilet with a sink built into the back in the other. Empty.
Satisfied there was no one else on board, Marlee returned and surveyed the unconscious pilot. He might have looked slim, but his body was taut and wiry. She’d struggled enough just to get him upright earlier; there was no way she could move him by herself. The wise course of action would be to go back to the village and get help, but she didn’t want to leave him. What if he woke up while she was gone?
Marlee gingerly sat down in the empty seat next to him and waited. Someone would miss her eventually… she hoped.
As she waited, she couldn’t help but stare at him. His angular jaw was clean shaven, but she could see a dark shadow indicating whiskers under the surface. Even the cut of his hair was different than anyone she knew. Unable to help herself, she reached out a hand towards his hair. Was it soft and smooth, or spiky? But before her hand touched it, she pulled back.
In all her twenty years she had never met anyone she didn’t already know.
This man was completely new.
Rinelle Grey Amazon author page
Be on the lookout for Rinelle Grey's next book, Reckless Rebellion, coming Spring 2014
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