Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #erotic Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Table of Contents
Cora became a guard for the Alliance because it suited her temperament. She became an Avatar’s companion because she had no choice.
Cora Rhodes was riding escort for six bratty sacrifices to a desert world. Her talent is simple, enhanced senses, but she had no idea that it wasn’t her talent but her bloodline that would let her see what no one else could when she first set foot on Lero.
Able to see what none of her companions could confuses her at first, but when she wakes the sleeping Avatar, hallucinating a fruit tree is the least of her problems.
Relak has slept for seven hundred years, waiting for the woman who can see through the illusion that guards his home. Her species is familiar, her spirit is refreshing and her body sends his senses spinning in the direction of his bed, with her in it.
A man, a woman and a planet come together to restart a world and invigorate a population. Will they be able to hold off the stupid and greedy, or will a world asleep for centuries fall to those who would take its core?
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
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A Terran Times Tale
Cora Rhodes, hired guard, rocked with her companions in the small landing craft.
“Sox, can’t you stabilise us?” Cora held tightly to the wall and strap of the ship while they tilted again.
“The atmosphere is angry, Cora. The wind alone is enough to threaten hull integrity.” Socorea grunted and held on for dear life.
Cora looked at their cargo, six women who were dressed in formal gowns, sacrifices from their world to the planet below.
It wasn’t as brutal as the phrase
indicated. The Vahsh nobles were bound to send a group of young women once every ten years in an effort to provide a mate for the sleeping Avatar of Lero.
Cora didn’t know why he was asleep or what this whole thing was about, but it was a payday for her and an assignment. She went where the Alliance sent her and rarely had time to spend the credits that she accumulated.
The ship shuddered again, and Cora fought a curse. No one had ever told her that the worst part of space travel was take off and landing until it was far too late. One moment she was preparing to leave Earth and the next, she was fighting to hold onto everything she had eaten in the last decade. It had come as quite a shock.
“We are almost there, Cora. Hang on to your lunch.” Socorea laughed.
“Very funny. You know I don’t eat before drops.”
“Or take offs for that matter. Take your seat before you fall over. We are about to make landfall.”
Socorea was one of the rare Oefric women out in active service to the Alliance, but she was far too smug with her abilities as a pilot.
Cora strapped in while she contemplated ways to bump off her friend while maintaining a pilot to help her off Lero. It was something she struggled with during every landing.
The shuttle broke through the cloud layer, and Cora gasped in amazement. The ground that looked so bare and inhospitable from space was rich, green and alive with life. From the orbital station, it had looked to be a desert world.
“Oh my. That is lovely.” She smiled and looked around at as much of the living eden that she could.
Her friend gave her an incredulous look. “You are kidding. Does your kind like barren deserts and rock formations?”
Cora looked around her and frowned, rubbing at her eyes. “I must be tired, because that is not what I am seeing.”
“What are you seeing?”
“I don’t think that this is the time or place to discuss my delusions, Sox.” Cora spoke quietly, aware that six curious pairs of ears could hear them now that the roar of wind was over.
The sacrifices to Lero were all pretty, pure and barely adult by Vahsh standards, one of them may be the wife of the sleeping Avatar, but Cora was quite sure that the Avatar would regret it. The prospective brides had not stopped whining since they had hugged their families farewell and boarded the shuttle.
“Well, this is one uniform that I am going to be happy to get out of, Cor. It is not only uncomfortable but humiliating.” Socorea looked down at the lizard-like red bodysuit with its deep vee to the navel.
Cora’s was no better. Her escort uniform seemed made of cobwebs and flames, including two thigh-high armoured stockings that met the high-soled shoes. She looked like Halloween on acid. “Three days on the surface and one day back to the orbital station. You can get back to your charming gowns in no time.”
“Here we are. Just as described, the perfectly clear landing site. Not that there isn’t an entire planet to drop on. I swear I have seen sand flats with more geographical interest.”
Cor frowned, Sox wasn’t seeing what she was seeing. The surrounding area banked against a mountain range, and they were on a drop off that looked like it went several hundred feet straight down.
The directions they had been given were most specific. They were to leave the shuttle and walk to the temple ruin and wait for three days. After that, they were free to leave the same way they had come.
Cor unbuckled and got to her feet. “All right, ladies, let’s begin your journey. Sox will gather the rations, and I will walk with you to the temple.”
Moara, Venkiil, Whelan, Quish, Saldara and the ringleader Tobeena got to their feet and followed her to the exterior hatch.
She watched the cycle of the lock and smiled as the click indicated the availability of the exit. With a surge of delight, she opened the door and stepped into the green and growing wonderland.
Her hyper-charged senses went into an overload of delight. She hadn’t smelled, felt or enjoyed a planet like this since she had left Earth. Her
had earned her a trip on the Volunteer exodus, and she had never enjoyed it as much as she was doing right now.
The expressions on the faces of the ladies with her told her that they had no appreciation for the fragrant breezes that were tugging at their skirts.
Tobeena sneered and stepped daintily along the ground. “I can’t believe anyone would want to live here.”
Cor could see lush grasses under the girls’ feet, but they were walking carefully as if trying not to kick up any dust.
She shook her head and promised herself an appointment with a Minder as soon as she got back to an Alliance base that offered one. Steeling herself, she led the way to the temple grounds and inside the courtyard.
Tents were pinned to carefully manicured grasses. Six lovely white tents, complete with pillows and bedding, waited in the central garden. Cor could not believe that no one else could see it.
“Ladies, here are your accommodations. Please enjoy them.” Cor parroted the words that she had been told to say, and the girls carefully made their way to the tents, touching the flaps with dainty fingers.
Sox came in with the ration packs. “Did you want to start a fire? The sun will be going down soon, and these ruins will get dark.”
“I know you can see in the dark, Cor. Not all of us are so lucky.” Sox stomped forward and flipped out their bedroll near the glossy stone fire pit.
“Do you not see wood anywhere?”
Sox looked around and right past the pile of lumber that was so carefully laid at the edge of the garden. “I am sure you will find something, you always do.”
With great formality, Cor bowed to her friend. “Well then, I shall go looking for some wood.” Shaking her head in amazement, Cor went exploring.
Her boots had solid grips that did not skid on the polished marble, and to her eyes, this place had not been abandoned and was not the ruin she had been led to expect. Everything smelled clean, and the breezes off the mountain brought a hint of frost.
The halls were open to the garden, each a thirty-foot column of expertly carved stone and inset. It was a home designed to look in on the garden, and there was no one in it. To Cor, it seemed like quite the waste of perfect housekeeping, but on the other side, she did not see anyone who could have done the polishing.
As she walked the halls, she kept an eye on the sacrifices emerging from their tents in the garden. The girls were shivering as if attacked by a brutal wind, and the distress in her charges made her cease her exploration. It was time to get to work.
She brought two armloads of wood to the fire pit and rolled her eyes at the cries of relief. They could see the wood now. That much was certain.
“I found a supply of wood. We will be able to keep the blaze going all night.” Cor looked to Sox and raised a brow.
Sox looked at the wood and shrugged helplessly.
Sighing heavily, Cor got to work on setting the wood into a log cabin with bark in the centre. “Get me my pack, would you?”
Sox brought the pack forward, and Cor rooted around until she found her lighter. It was her father’s and one of the only objects she had brought from Earth that had survived six years with her. Whistling gently, she lit a few shreds of bark and used them to light the bark inside the tower.
There was the standard holding of breath as she waited for the fire to catch, but when it did, she grinned and clapped her hands. Shivering women, which confused Cor, immediately surrounded the fire. Despite their thin clothing, the weather was not cold enough to account for their change in demeanour.
Sox huddled near the fire, and Cor grabbed her by her arm, pulling her away. “What is going on, Sox?”
Sox shivered and rubbed at her arms. “What do you mean?”
“It isn’t cold. It is cool, sure, but not more than a fall day. Why are you shivering?” Cor touched her cheek, and Sox’s eyes flared wide.
“Oh, stars. Why am I seeing a garden in this wasteland?”
Cor whispered, “That is what I am seeing. There is a tree behind you. If I pick some of the fruit, will you try it?”
Sox nodded carefully, her midnight hair sliding over her shoulders.
Cor carefully passed her and reached up into the tree where fruit gleamed with tempting colours. She bit into one and slurped up the juice. It was ripe and delicious, tangy and tart. She plucked a second one and brought it to Sox.
Her friend’s hands closed around the fruit, and Sox’s shock was unmistakable. She could see the fruit that was obvious. She brought it close to her nose and sniffed before biting into the skin. “Oh, that’s good. Why can you see this?”
“I don’t think it matters, but it does matter that no one else can. What the hell is going on here?”
Sox slurped up the last of her fruit and wiped her hands on her uniform. “I think we should probably ask our little sacrifices.”
“That seems like a logical idea.”
Cor and Sox walked toward the girls who were ignoring their guards with a studied air. It was time to find out what they were doing on Lero.
“Tobeena, since you are the most vocal of the group, I am going to ask you the history of this place. Why Lero and why are you here?” Cor smiled, but she knew it was not a pleasant smile.
The girls looked from one to the other, and Tobeena frowned, “It is none of your business.”
“I am here and you are here, and you are waiting for a sleeping Avatar to wake and choose one of you as a bride, and I want to know why.”
Tobeena scowled. “What will you do if we don’t tell you?”
Cor grinned again, “I will let the fire die, and since no one else knows where the lumber is, you will all freeze to death. Have a nice night. I am going on watch.” She turned and walked away.
The girls spoke to each other rapidly, and finally, Tobeena called out, “Wait. We will tell you.”
Cor came back and looked at them patiently. “Yes?”