Authors: Sharon Lynn Fisher
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For Debbi and Laurie: indispensible betas, devoted fans, dear friends
The second book is harder than the first. There are expectations to live up to—your own and everyone else’s. There’s the fact that while you’re writing the second, you’re still working on copyedits and galleys for the first (and later on there’s the release and blog tour, ongoing promotional activities, and so on ad infinitum…).
I guess what I’m saying is you need a lot of help. Or at least I did.
But before I get to that, a few technical notes and acknowledgments …
This book twisted my brain in all sorts of cool new directions. For themes in the book, I’m grateful for inspiration from Mary Shelley and her dark tale of a man-made creature spurned by his creator. I’m grateful to Emily Anthes and
book, also inspired by Shelley (at least in title),
Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts
. Though it would have greatly simplified my research had this book been released before I wrote mine, I’m really glad it came out in time to help me do some tweaking. Also, in the early writing stages I attended an informative seminar held by ScienceOnlineSeattle—I was probably the only person in the room whose eyes lit up when they started talking about the perceived potential for Open Science to go horribly wrong. It was my first exposure to terms like “garage bio” and “DIY bio.”
Regarding locations in my book … Though I stuck as close to the real world as I could in describing them, I had my way with geography and landmarks (at least to some extent) in Letterfrack, County Galway, Ireland; Moab, Utah; Arches National Park (Utah); and Granada, Spain. I have fond memories of visiting all these places, mean them no disrespect, and hope they shall forgive me.
On a final research note, many thanks to Michel Navedo for fielding random questions about Spanish.
And now for the beautiful people in my life who helped make this book possible …
At Writers House … My agent, Robin Rue, who always listens, gives great advice, and once called me “very well-mannered.” I think I laughed about that for three days. Also Beth Miller, who is a lightning-fast e-mail responder and does her best to answer even the oddest questions.
At Tor … My editor, Whitney Ross, who is unfailingly kind and supportive. Thank you for going to bat for me, and for making my books better. My publicist, Leah Withers, another expert at fielding odd questions—thank you for holding my hand during my first blog tour.
Debbi Murray and Laurie Green … for eagerness and enthusiasm that keep me going on the hard days. For making my books better.
MaryEllen DiGennaro and Lisa Polec, for hand-holding and support during scary times this year, and for helping take care of me, body and mind.
For generous moral support and love during the writing of this book: Melissa Watkins, Donna Frelick, Mark Gleave, Vanessa Barnveld, Dominic Groves, and Rick and Kathy Cissna. For distraction when I needed it: Buco e Beppo and Terris Patterson.
For tremendous support of my first Tor book,
: authors Heather Massey and Willa Blair.
For keeping me limber in body, heart, and mind: yoga instructors Tracy Hodgeman and Morgan Kellock, and also the Kadampa Meditation Center Washington.
For going above and beyond to support me in meeting my deadlines, for being a Faraday shield in my lightning storms, and for love—always for love: Jason Knox.
And finally, my darling Selah, who never lets me forget, “If you don’t believe in things, you’ll never look for them.” When she goes to live with the fairies, I hope she’ll always remember how much her mamma loves her.
I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel.
Water pooled around Asha’s hips, soaking her thin cotton dress. She studied the glimmering surface of the lake, and the rocky hillside looming on the opposite side.
How did I get
Closing her eyes, she pressed her fingers to her temples. The last thing she remembered was climbing to the roof of the Archive with her father. It was a beautiful fall evening, and they’d planned to picnic and watch the sunset. She’d stepped off the ladder onto the corrugated, whitewashed metal, and then …
She grasped at the words as they breezed across her consciousness. They had the ring of command, yet she had no memory of who had spoken them, or why.
A masculine moan sounded, so close she rolled into a crouch and skittered into the shallow water. The lithe movement of her own body surprised her almost as much as the unexpected voice.
Just beyond the depression she’d left on the beach, a naked form stirred. A stranger. His gaze riveted on her. He sat up straight, fists digging into the sand. No,
sand. His body rested on a bed of some soft, fibrous material.
She remembered the flimsy dress—now wet and clinging to her body—and hugged her bent legs, concealing herself as best she could. Her heart pounded against her thighs.
“Who are you?” they both demanded.
So the confusion was mutual.
“You first,” he said. A command, not a courtesy.
She hesitated. The man now seemed familiar—something about the eyes. They curved down at the inside corners, making them appear to slant under his dark, arched eyebrows. But she couldn’t place him.
He rose to a crouch, eyes moving over her like an extension of his arms, prying at the locked arms that concealed her body from him.
She reached up to release the clip that held her coiled hair to the back of her head, thinking she would cover herself with it. She gasped to discover her heavy tresses were gone.
Tears of confusion welled in her eyes. Fear knotted her stomach.
“What’s your name?” the stranger insisted.
“Asha,” she whispered, uncertain. There’d been another name a moment ago. A name that had seemed to mean something. Her throat tightened, strangling her words, as she said, “I don’t understand.”
“What are you doing here?”
She raised her eyes to his face, shrinking from the heat of his gaze. “I don’t know.”
His eyes bored into hers, probing for the thoughts behind them. He frowned, brow furrowing with doubt.
He doesn’t believe me
?” she repeated, indignation nudging past the fear that gripped her.
He slid his hands up his shoulders to rub his neck, baring the hard lines of his stomach, revealing pale marks under either side of his rib cage.
“Paxton,” he said. One hand moved to the back of his head, and he winced. He probed the sore spot with his fingers.
“Why are you here?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know.”
She glanced again at the fibrous nest. “What’s that?”
She blinked at him, no more enlightened than before. Before she could question him further, he rose to his feet, scanning the horizon. Her eyes lingered on the marks below his ribs. She glanced away before her gaze could slip lower.
He stood so long—motionless and studying the edge of the sky—she began to think he’d forgotten her. His composure was troubling. There was a shared mystery here, clearly, but they were not equal participants.
“How can you be so calm?” she asked, voice lifting with anxiety. “Do you know something I don’t? Has this kind of thing happened to you before?”
Paxton glanced down at the nest. “Yes.”
She waited for him to explain, but the low whine of an approaching ship changed the subject. Panic jolted her as the black beetle hummed into view, dragging its own reflection across the surface of the lake.
She sprang to her feet. “That’s an enemy ship!”
The war was over, but the Manti ruled the air, still keeping tabs on the last dregs of humanity. Citizens of Sanctuary were forbidden to wander away from the city—and the reservoir marked the boundary.
“We need to go!” she cried.
Again his eyes skewered her to the spot. “No need. That’s my ship.”
“Your ship? I don’t…”
And then suddenly she
. She sidestepped a couple meters down the beach, gaze flitting between ship and enemy.
Overhead, the beetle whirred to rest, cupped wings lifting to allow a controlled vertical landing. With a series of loud clicks it nestled into the sand, hover gear lowering and locking back against the hull. The skin of the vessel was lusterless and black—a secreted resin that looked like rubber. She watched the hull lighten from jet to blond, until it was almost invisible against the sand.
“Pax, you okay?” The feminine voice came from the ship.
“I’m okay,” called Asha’s companion. “Drop the ramp.”
“Who’s that with you?” the voice asked.
Paxton frowned, glancing at Asha. “I was hoping you could tell me.”
* * *
Pax could see the woman was ready to bolt. He could
She was a wisp of a girl. Narrow shoulders. Graceful limbs. Cropped brown hair—unruly except where it was tucked behind her ears—and round eyes the color of coffee beans. Despite her fair complexion, sun exposure had stained her arms and shoulders a light copper. His eyes explored the curve and swell of flesh exposed by the threadbare dress. His fingers twitched at his hips.
“Whoever she is,” his pilot continued over the com, “I can smell from here she’s scared half to death.”
“I know, Iris. Drop the ramp.”
“Lord of the goddamn
, Pax, you’re not thinking of bringing her on board.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because obviously it’s a trap. Your carapace was activated. Something went wrong down there.”
“Obviously,” he said, rubbing at the knot on the back of his head. He stared at the woman, and she took another step back. “But short of exploding, I’m not sure what she can do to us.”
“Well, for starters,
He gave a groan of impatience. “
can scan her for internal com or explosive devices. Besides that, she might have the answers I don’t, so drop the fucking ramp, Iris, because this is no place to be arguing about this.”
The ship’s boarding ramp opened with a thunk and lowered to the sand.
He took a step toward Asha and held out his hand. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
She stared like he was a snake. Her gaze drifted for the third time to the scars on his abdomen. Something prickly and unpleasant rolled in his stomach.