Hello everybody! Today I’m hosting a segment of a read-along of The Empire by Elizabeth Lang. She has also provided an exclusive picture from her Empire Series for this stop to go along with the chapter at today’s stop. And be sure to hang around until the end to enter the giveaway where you could win a Kobo Mini, among other fantabulous prizess. 😀
“No!” Adrian woke with a start, his heart pounding, his hands frantically pushing at phantom tormenters.
A soft voice, as much in his head as in his ears, soothed his frayed nerves. “It’s alright. You’re safe. You were only dreaming.” . Peace and comfort washed over him, gentle waves lapping over the walls of his mind to where fear and pain threatened to overwhelm him. She sat at the edge of the bunk. Had she been watching him all night?
“Why are you helping me?” he asked. Dimmed cabin lights picked out golden flecks in her eyes. Perhaps it was a refractive effect.
“Can’t you guess?”
The problem was he didn’t have to guess, it was clearly written in her soft, earnest eyes and, more importantly, in her actions. He remembered the Admiral’s last words before he left the room. You should thank Ensign Mirren. She worked very hard on your behalf.
“I’m afraid I can.” He reached up and lightly brushed her cheek; beauty and bravery, such a potent combination. “You deserve someone who is more emotionally accessible and who will not lead you into danger.”
“I don’t care about that.”
The dim lights glowed softly on her face. He turned away, trying to focus on the tiled ceiling. “The path I travel only leads to one place. You cannot follow me there.”
“I’m already there. That is my choice.”
A tiny dagger of pain jabbed into the back of his head. He of all people understood about choices, and the lack of them. “I don’t want you hurt because of me.”
She pressed a hand on his chest and a warm tingle spread from the heart of her palm, a sense of peace and connectedness, and a familiar flowing of strength, like the jolt of an energy supplement. “I don’t want you hurt either, but neither one of us can survive alone. We need each other.”
The memory of his time with the Therapist bound them together and he realized with shock that she must have felt what he experienced in that dark room. It was more reason to…
“It isn’t,” said Kali.
His lips thinned. “I thought you couldn’t read my mind.”
“Your impressions were so strong, I guessed what you were thinking. I’m sorry.”
This was not a welcome development. “How long have you been able to do this?”
“Off and on, but it’s mainly with you. I don’t reading your mind. It’s understanding your mind if that makes sense.”
“Not particularly.” It was hard to decide if he was irritated at having his privacy invaded, or worried that she was able to feel whatever was happening to him. He decided it was both.
“We are joined whether you like it or not, Adrian.”
“So it appears.” He wondered how far she could sense him and in what detail. This required investigation. “Very well. I would not object if you walked with me.”
She whispered the words, as if she was afraid to break the moment and find it was all a dream. “You would not object?”
“Not much.” The corner of his lips twitched and a barely perceptible twinkle lightened his eyes. “There is only one bed in this room.”
“Is that one of the things you don’t object to?” asked Kali.
He sat up facing her, the covers falling away to reveal his pale upper body. The scars didn’t seem as harsh in the dimmed lights. Her head bent and she pressed her lips along a jagged mark that ran from his left shoulder across his chest. Adrian drew in a hissed breath and shuddered at the first touch.
Kali hesitated and lifted her head to meet his eyes. “We can stop if you wish.”
His only response was to pull her closer until their bodies touched, her thin nightgown rubbing roughly against bare skin sending a shiver of pleasure through her even as she felt him flinch.
“Adrian…” She pulled back and saw his eyes closed tight as a shudder ran the length of him and his body tensed.
“I…have…to do this,” he said, anguish crinkling his forehead as he forced himself to continue, but all he felt were the touch of other hands, the ones that hated him, who had made his body respond and rejoiced in his pain. In his mind, he also saw Boudreaux’s face and remembered his own weakness.
His hands balled into fists, angry with himself for allowing these things to happen, for making this act into a mockery. He opened his eyes to look at her and his voice was raw with anguish. “I wanted this. For you.”
“I know,” she said gently. “It’s all right. One day…” a flash of anger made her eyes spark in the dim light, “we will destroy the people who did this to you.”
“I never thanked you for what you did for me.” His throat tightened.
“You never need to thank me. We’re in this together. We will get through this.”
He nodded. “It would be remiss of me to take you for granted. To not express—”
“Adrian, do you have a manual somewhere about relationships?”
“How did you guess?”
She sighed. “Can you stop reading it?”
“If you wish.”
Reaching out hesitantly, he took her right hand in his and lifted it up, breathing a sigh of relief when his treacherous body did not respond negatively. He noted the earnestness in her eyes and was grateful there was no pity, though he suspected there must have been some.
Adrian was a man who refused to give up, not when something was important to him. Steeling himself, he leaned forward and brushed his mouth gently over hers, as if her lips were the petals of a flower he was afraid to crush. Their breaths mingled and they inhaled the scent of each
She was about to ask him a question but the words were lost as he kissed her, his lips like moist velvet, parting hers. This time it was she who shivered as she leaned into him, desire coursing through their bodies, her hands cupping the back of his head, burying her fingers in the rough silk of his hair. She gasped as bare flesh touched and a current of hot energy passed between them, uniting them in common desire.
He felt the whispers of her presence like gentle fingers caressing the edges of his consciousness, as he willed his walls to lower, to allow her in..
Do you trust me?
He paused and his eyes focused on hers as he contemplated this serious question. His voice was husky in reply. “I’m afraid I do.”
Among my people, intimacy is with the mind as well as the body. It might be easier for you than the physical.
For a man who found trusting anyone difficult, to open himself up in the way she was asking was almost impossible, but he was committed to her now and for Adrian, a commitment was absolute.
The experience with the Therapist had scarred him in ways he hadn’t realized but for her, he wanted to try, even though every fiber of his being rebelled against it. “It might be worth exploring.”
As he continued the assault on her senses, warming her, exciting her, she did the same in his mind, gently and patiently at every step. When he shuddered, she would pull back and reassure him, giving him understanding and affection. In the end, they settled for holding each other in companionable silence and his fingers lazily traced teasing lines along her arm. “I want to tell you why I refuse to work on the Neutron Wave Project.”
She twisted around to look at him. “You don’t need to.”
“If we are to walk together, I want you to know why.”
Everywhere the Empire was under siege, whether it was enemy inc ursions or daily rebel actions. The military forces were stretched thin and the balance was tipping towards chaos.
“In the Old Calendar, they had a Doomsday Clock.” Andrew Tennyson leaned back in his chair and loosened his collar. When he was not being the man-who-was-to-be-feared, he could almost be human, to a few select people. One of those being fellow High Admiral and clandestine lover, Anita Cressins.
The weekly State-of-the-Fleet meeting was finally over and Anita had lingered after the other Council members left. No one dared suggest they had anything more than a professional relationship, though the astute ones may have guessed otherwise.
“That sounds ominous.” Anita was highly intelligent and beloved by many. People would follow her to hell and back. However, some, mainly the rebels, called her a skilled and deceptive manipulator. Her blond hair, swept to one side and pulled in a ponytail, was curled upwards away from her collar. It gave her an innocent air, but not that of a naive child. It was hard to believe ill of her, especially when you looked into her vulnerable blue eyes. In some ways, she was more powerful, by influence, than Andrew was even though she held the Fourth Seat in the Fleet Council and he was First.
“Considering what happened later, I would call it depressingly prophetic.”
She entered a few notes from the meeting into her datapad. “Why are you bringing this up?”
“Because, my dear,” he sighed, the crinkled tension around his eyes signaling his frustration, “people never learn. The human race is on the verge of annihilation, and yet all people are concerned about are their own petty regional interests.”
“This is about the rebels, isn’t it?” Her voice was soft and possessed a natural sympathy that drew people to her.
A wry smile released some of the tension on his face. “They’re a nuisance. They make ineffectual attacks and claim a victory, but they tie up valuable resources that we need to fight the Andromedans.”
She nodded slowly, putting her datapad down. “Propaganda value. Even if they don’t achieve their primary objective, they still win because they were able to resist. It gives dissenters hope. Or most likely, that was their primary objective.”
“You understand them better than I do.”
As a teenager, Anita had been forcibly conscripted by a group of rebels on her home planet and trained to work as a field medic. It was during those years she learnt the most about the hearts of people, what could break a person—and more importantly, what could make someone
indestructible. They were men and women of passion and ideals but she saw in them the same things Andrew did.
“There are…” In her mind’s eye she saw the faces of those times. “…good men and women among them.”
“Misguided ones.” He went over to the large window that spanned the wall. From the top level of Fleet Command HQ, the people on ground level were little more than moving specks, specks he had a responsibility to protect.
“They believe in what they are doing, just as we do.” She came to stand beside him and for a while they stood in companionable silence.
The quiet sigh of the environment systems marked the time.
“What about Adrian Stannis?” Anita’s question was a surprise but not entirely unexpected.
“You know I take no pleasure in what is happening to him, but it is necessary. If he hadn’t sabotaged the Neutron Wave Project, we would be able to concentrate on fighting the Andromedans instead of trying to wage a war on two fronts.” He rubbed a neck tight from too much stress, kneading it with experienced fingers.
“Do we know why he did it?”
“I have Verel working on him.”
“Perhaps we can persuade him to do the right thing.” Her eyes were sincere, as they always were. A woman who wanted to believe the best in people, but not a fool.
The flicker of a smile crossed his face. “I knew you were going to say that. Unfortunately, he refused. He is only cooperating because he has no choice.” His face resumed its grim frown. That meant Stannis could not be trusted. He would have to be watched carefully, and perhaps
disposed of before he decided to do more damage. Assuming he could not be turned.
Anita’s eyes tightened slightly in a grimace. She knew that look, and what it meant to those who opposed his will. “So you’re intent on breaking him?”
“Just enough to make him compliant. Not enough to interfere with his creativity. He’s a brilliant man. I gave him an impossible deadline but it appears he might meet it. He doesn’t disappoint.”
“Unfortunately for him.” Anita sighed unhappily.
“He could help us end both wars much faster if he were willing to work with us.”
“Have you considered using the psychostrategists?”
“The mind-benders? I don’t trust them. They’re supposed to be mercenary but I have a feeling they have their own agenda.”
“Everyone has an agenda. The trick is to find a conjunction of purposes. Within that, you can trust them. In this case, the psychostrategists can be trusted to fulfill their commission, as long as you pay their price.”
His lips curled in distaste. He knew the reputation of the psychostrategists, a group of arrogant manipulators who saw everyone else as puppets. Andrew was motivated by a need to safeguard the human race. The psychostrategists were mercenaries and their skills were available to whoever paid their exorbitant prices.
Nevertheless, if they could manipulate Stannis into working for them willingly, it might be worth it. “I will consider it.”
Want to read more? Be sure to follow along on the read-along!
Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways — Chapter 1
Vixie’s Stories — Chapter 2
Decadent Decisions — Chapter 3
Reviews From Beyond the Book — Chapter 4
Great Alpha Speaks — Chapter 5
The Edible Bookshelf — Chapter 6
Independent Writers Association — Chapter 7
Self Publish or Die — Chapter 8
Natasha Larry Books — Chapter 9
Michelle Anderson-Picarella — Chapter 10
03/18/2013 — Castle Macabre — Chapter 12
03/19/2013 — My World — Chapter 13
03/20/2013 — Reading, Writing And More — Chapter 14
03/21/2013 — Ami R Blackwelder — Chapter 15
“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?
About the Author
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.
Page Turner Book Tours is fronted by the face behind Read2Review Kate. Page Turner Book Tours has been put together to help promote authors and give something back to the writing world. Kate has put together a team of incredibly talented people to help with the project by incorporating their individual skills into making new, fresh and exciting promotional plans that we hope you agree are amazing. If you would like to book a tour with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their tour packages. If you would like to become a tour host with Page Turner Book Tours please check out their Tour Host page. You won’t be disappointed!