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Coming June 1, 2024: Besieging the Moon. The exciting sequel to Destination Alara has long been in the works. It is finally happening. I'm pleased to announce this work will have three versions. An eBook, paperback print copy, and hardcover. The eBook version is available now for Preorder at Amazon

      After a year of boredom on the planet Alara, Commodore Van Swann receives a call that makes her blood run cold. An unknown adversary has attacked the Titan Defense Installation. Van leads the battle fleet dispatched to defend Saturn’s largest moon. Cade Meryan, Van’s wife and Alara’s High Queen, follows to provide support. Disaster strikes when the fleet is easily decimated. Van and Cade are left scrambling for a way to repel invaders from the Terran system’s only defensive outpost.

     Tales of an ancient weapon and assistance from a new friend offer hope. Unfortunately, it requires a side trip to Earth, which is now a penal colony for the Alliance’s worst offenders.

     Commodore Vanessa Swann and Queen Cade Meryan are back in this is exciting new Space Adventure and they've brought along some new friends. Read below for an excerpt of the book coming to Amazon on June 1, 2024.

     “Cut him off! No, not that way!”

     Vanessa Swann, erstwhile commander of the Coalition Military flagship Gauntlet, leapt to the right as she shouted instructions. She crouched and darted after a streaking, tawny fur ball as fast as she could go in a hunched over position. Van managed to trip over her own feet and fell flat on her face. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except that she tore the knee out of her gray uniform pants on a steppingstone. With a bitten off curse, she shot to her feet in hot pursuit.

     “I’ve got him. He’s trapped now. Circle around behind.”

     The Meryan family butler, a blue-skinned, blonde-haired Alaran named Jefferson, attempted to follow her instructions. Jefferson hopped across hover-stones laid out across an azure wading pool. Halfway to the other side, his foot slipped on a wet stone. Slick-soled formal footwear didn’t fare well in such conditions.

     “Oh, for the love of space flight.” Van saw his arms flail. She pictured the outcome before Jefferson hit the water.

     As a direct result of the man’s startled yelp and the rather boisterous splash, their prey scampered off to hide among the thigh-high wallick grass growing against the bank. Van immediately veered off. She tip-toed quickly around the bank’s edge, circling in from behind. The grass swayed as the beast attempted to sneak away, but she didn’t intend to allow that to happen.

       "Got you now, you little monster,” Van grumbled quietly.

     She inched closer until she stood only a foot from her target. The soft claws at the tips of the grass caught on her trousers. Van paused there for only a moment, assessing the best way to pounce. Suddenly, a furry brown head with tufted ears swiveled toward her. An elliptical pair of green eyes locked with hers. The creature tensed. Van dove forward.

     Outstretched fingertips actually skimmed wiry fur before the animal bolted back toward the chateau.

Newton’s first law worked decidedly against her. Van couldn’t halt her forward motion, though she struggled valiantly. She felt herself going over and attempted to twist to the side. Not a brilliant move, she quickly decided. Black uniform boots slipped on wet grass, and she followed Jefferson into the pond. Cool water closed over her head before she came up sputtering.

     This was way past the point of ridiculous.

     Van blinked water out of her eyes as she scanned the grounds. She swiped short auburn hair back from her forehead so she could see. There wasn’t any sight of the blasted beast though Jefferson had managed to climb out of the pond, water flooding from his clothing.

     To make matters worse, her wife of almost a year couldn’t possibly assist in the capture. The Alaran High Queen, Cade Meryan, could barely stand upright. She was far too busy laughing.

     Van shot Cade a look of utter frustration. That emotion quickly segued to mirth at the sight of Cade’s merriment. Cade’s black eyes glittered in delight as she held onto her stomach and guffawed at Van’s antics.

     Van chuckled. This entire moronic episode was worth everything to watch her too-serious mate let go for once.

     “Where did it go?” She couldn’t help grinning even though she knew she still had to find the thing.

     “He’s,” Cade started before breaking down again. She pointed toward the open back door of Meryan Vineyard’s chateau, situated high on the Mauti Coast.

     Jefferson stood there with a hand on the knob. Water that streamed from his once impeccable suit formed a puddle on the ground and plastered his hair to his skull. Even his wrap-around Alaran ears looked waterlogged.

     “He went back inside.” Cade managed to complete one sentence before she dropped to her knees. She laughed so hard that light blue tears streamed down her cheeks.

     Cade wasn’t fully Alaran. She mostly took after her human heritage with dark hair, black eyes, and pale skin. She also stood at almost six feet where most Alarans were a little shorter than the average human. Her tears and blood, however, mirrored her Alaran side.

     Van waded out of the pond and squelched her way over to Cade. With hands on her hips, Van attempted to look exasperated. She couldn’t quite pull it off. The breeze blowing through the wet uniform threatened to make her shiver.

     “You think it’s funny, do you? What do you think would happen to me if that little monster got hurt?”

     Cade laughed harder until her hilarity finally dwindled away with a few lingering chuckles. “I think Pisa would kill you if anything happened to her tika cat.”

     Van shivered for a very different reason. Pisa Rhydone, or Old Pisa as everyone called her when she wasn’t listening, served as one of Alara’s royal advisors. While technically, Pisa answered to the matriarchy, Van didn’t relish the idea of pissing her off.

     “You know, it’s not like I’m afraid of her,” Van lied.

     “Uh huh.” Cade chuckled once more before climbing to her feet. “Don’t let her hear you say that. You know she thinks she’s everyone’s mom.”

     “Yeah, but we’re the queens. What’s she gonna do?” Van really tried not to sound like a naughty teenager.

     “Would you like for me to ask her, or would you prefer to change into something dry?”

     “Don’t you dare tell her I said that. She’s liable to let Minion into our rooms while we’re sleeping. You know I’m allergic to tikas.”

     Cade allowed the issue to drop as she changed topics. “You do realize that you hold the title of Queen-Consort, right? You’re not technically the queen.”

     “Yeah, I know that’s you. I’m good with that. I prefer flying Coalition ships anyway, which you can’t do anymore now that you’re High Queen. I’m just saying that since we’re married, I still qualify as royalty. Not that I care about all that stuff.”

     Cade nodded, her eyes dancing. “As long as you can hold it over Pisa’s head so that she doesn’t try to take a switch to you for letting her tika out.”

     “Exactly.”

     Van smiled as Cade draped an arm over her shoulders. Typical Cade, she thought. Cade didn’t allow the sopping wet uniform to deter her from expressing affection. Van leaned into her partner’s muscular frame, feeling Cade’s slight limp as they walked back to the house. They passed by Jefferson holding the door and for once Van didn’t even mind that the Alaran was a little taller than her. Alarans might be shorter than most humans, but that norm didn’t apply to Van. No matter where she went she definitely stood on the smaller side, but Cade always made her feel like the tallest in the room. Van tucked her medallion back under her shirt as she passed him. It had fallen out when she landed in the water.

     She caught Jefferson’s eyes and playfully poked her tongue out at him. Van had the satisfaction of seeing his eyes widen very slightly and she could have sworn she saw him fighting a smile. She had never seen him laugh, cry, or show emotion in any way. Van had personally made it her mission to get a reaction out of him while they vacationed at the vineyard. So far, not much luck.

     Cade squeezed her shoulder, pressing the wet fabric into her skin. “Let’s get you dried off before she comes asking what’s going on.”

     Van and Cade retired to their rooms for a hot shower and a change of uniform. The chateau’s reclamators quickly provided the clothing, complete with Van’s various awards. Cade kept herself busy around their quarters while Van dressed. Once she finished, Cade took her hand and led her to the outside gardens.

     “Are you ready to go back?” Van asked softly. “Not that I’m in any hurry. We needed this time off after getting Alara back on its feet. I just wish we’d had more alone time.”

     Last year’s cowardly and unanticipated assault by the Gothoans had left more than the capital city devastated. It had taken most of the year to rebuild city centers and clean up the damage.

     Preceding that final assault, the Gothoans had kidnapped Cade. During that time, she received an injury that left her with a permanent limp.

     They settled onto a marble bench beneath the trees and leaned back to enjoy the quiet of an early summer day. Van rested against Cade’s side, content to snuggle under a strong arm and enjoy the warm sunshine. From the higher vantage point of the chateau gardens, they saw the ocean stretching far into the horizon. Humming bees drew nectar from the nearby flowers. All in all, she quite loved the peaceful setting.

     “No, not really. The Mauti Coast is one of my favorite places on Alara. Still, we really should return to the castle and see how repairs are going. As for alone time, I know what you mean, but I could hardly leave Pisa and the others to endure the construction going on in the castle.”

     Van squeezed Cade’s hand. “That’s one of the things I love about you. You’re so thoughtful.” She tried to keep any disappointment from her tones. Cade was a wonderful queen precisely because of her compassion. Van wouldn’t have her any other way, but that didn’t mean she wanted others around if she felt the urge for a romantic liaison.    

     At least engineers had finally restored Meryan Castle, the High Queen’s seat of power, to its former glory. Van couldn’t wait to return home. She chuckled softly to herself. Van never thought she’d be comfortable in such an austere environment. Throne rooms, banquet halls, and four floors of a castle based on an antiquated stone design definitely rested outside her wheelhouse. As an orphan, Van grew up with far less pomp and circumstance. She preferred her uniform and surrounding herself with people lacking hidden political agendas.

     Engineers had finally completed most of the city’s repairs after Senator Benter Mentis’s attack the year before, in a desperate attempt to kill Cade and take over the sector. That included the damaged family castle. Cade and Van had continued to use the edifice after the incursion until repair crews finally kicked them out. Van found it hysterical that the workers didn’t hesitate to show them the door.           
    Especially with Cade the newly installed queen of Alara after Mentis’s cohort had murdered her mother. She didn’t want to, but Van decided to bring up another painful topic. It was time to rip the bandage off, so to speak.

     “Have you spoken to Temis since we left?”

     “No, but my aunt has yet to contact me either.”

     “She did lose her only child.” Van felt compelled to point out Temis’s loss though the words stuck in her throat. “No matter what Saral did to us, Temis still loved her.”

     Cade touched Van lightly on the thigh, caressing her leg through the gray Coalition uniform trousers. “I know. Part of me still grieves my cousin’s death, but she did attempt to poison us in order to take the throne.”

     “Do you really think she was the one who hired Mentis for the job?”

     They had discussed this many times in the last several months. With both assassins dead, they still lacked any concrete answers. Van felt Cade’s shrug.

     “I wish I knew. Saral intimated as much. The Gothoan Council continues to disavow any knowledge of his actions.”

     Van snorted and brushed an auburn lock of hair out of her eyes. “Tell me about it. Councilman Faux is still trying to talk the Coalition into allowing their ships back into Alaran space.”

     “That will not happen any time soon. I don’t trust them.”

     “Neither do I. Oh, I heard the military finally replaced Saral at the Fleet Liaison Office. Some newly promoted Commodore from Celestas.”

     Celestas orbited as the second planet from the Andromeda sun. The elevated temperatures and harsh conditions tended to spawn sturdy soldiers. Van just hoped the new officer proved more trustworthy than his predecessor.

     “It’s about time. Well, we should finish packing. The transport will arrive soon.”

     Cade removed her arm and Van took the opportunity to gaze up into her beloved’s face. Van never felt intimidated by the height difference. She stared into black eyes, rimmed with the narrowest band of navy blue. She saw her own devotion reflected back. Gently, Van reached up to brush her fingers through equally dark hair.

     “I’m glad you let it grow out a little.”

     Cade caught her hand and pressed a kiss to Van’s wrist. “One of the benefits to no longer serving the Coalition Alliance.”

     “You mean as a uniformed member of the military, but you can’t be greedy.” Van chuckled at Cade’s cranky expression. “You still represent the Alaran sector as High Queen. Besides, you can’t expect to be a vice admiral in the Coalition and High Queen. It’s a conflict of interest.”

     “True, but I miss commanding Gauntlet and flying through space.”

     “Oh yeah, commanding the flagship is so exciting.” Van limited her usual sarcasm, seeking only to reassure her wife. “It’s nothing but ferrying dignitaries around and attending one ceremony after another. And don’t forget, it’s my ship now and I promise to take good care of her.”

     “It has been quiet without the Gothoans to stir up trouble. Even border skirmishes have diminished. By the way, if it’s a conflict for me to be queen as well as a military officer, why not you?”

     “Because I’m not the primary. As you pointed out earlier, I’m merely a co-ruler. That and I never resigned my commission.”

     Van planted a swift kiss on Cade’s lips, effectively silencing her and ending the discussion. She knew Cade felt stifled and left out of the action now that she no longer served aboard ship. Van couldn’t do anything about it and, truthfully, she didn’t want to. So far, Van had rescued Cade from imminent death no less than three times. She felt much better with Cade firmly planted on Alara’s surface. She stood and took Cade’s hand, urging her to stand. Cade rose willingly, but surprised Van by stepping closer and pulling her into a hug. Only inches away, Van’s heart ricocheted off her ribs as she felt Cade’s breath ghost over her lips.

     “Cade, I need to finish getting my gear ready. I’ll be late.” Her resistance sounded weak, even to her.

     “For what? Another diplomatic envoy? Let them wait.”

     The promised kiss never materialized. The sound of raised voices and running feet interrupted the moment. Van spun around toward the disturbance, all senses immediately on high alert. She deliberately placed herself between Cade and any oncoming threat. The ground car chauffer slash butler darted into the gardens, skidding to a stop. Jefferson’s face had taken on a reddish hue and sweat dotted his forehead. His rounded eyes reminded Van of a frightened reesha, the typical mount on Alara that resembled an Old Earth velociraptor.

     “What’s going on?” Cade demanded, promptly instituting control.

     “I’ve been sent to retrieve Commodore Swann. There’s been an incident.”

     By utilizing her rank rather than her honorific, Van realized the incident he mentioned involved Coalition military. So much for things being quiet. Van already missed the boredom.

     “What kind of incident?” she asked. Van had wanted to see some emotion from Jefferson, but intuition made her regret that wish.

     Jefferson’s high-pitched response made him sound ready to faint.

     “An unknown force has fired upon the Titan Defensive Installation.”

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