a little friday fiction

I haven’t done this in a while – and since I did remember to apply underarm deoderant this morning, I’m feeling generous 🙂

Here’s a snippet of my novel Keeper, now available in paperback and pdf from Trunk Novels. If you like it, feel free to read more at the Trunk Novels website. Really like it? How’s about you buy the download, in pdf form? Or better yet, purchase a hard copy in Trade Paperback (think hardback size, without the hard back) to take Keeper to the beach, or give away as a gift. Share the love, spread the word, and support a starving artist. Then come back every month to read a new story from a new author.

Got a novel in your trunk you still believe in but couldn’t find a buyer for? Visit Trunknovels.com and check the guidelines – we’re open to submissions!

 

 

Chapter One

 

Alex was angry.

He stared into his glass of whisky, seeing nothing but his own brooding face reflected darkly back at him – the ice a cold mirror of the heat boiling inside. When his mood was this black, few people dared approach with anything less than extremely good news. He knew that because they told him, well after his mood had changed. But he’d never before noticed that look staring back at him as the ice slowly diluted very old scotch.

Never noticed his father’s eyes in that angry reflection.

Alex lifted the glass in a toast to no one. “I hope you’re in hell, old man.”

The scotch was downed in one swallow, but the reflection remained, clinking up against the sides of an empty glass. Alex caught the eye of a waitress and motioned for a refill. The burning in his throat was perfectly appropriate, considering his mood, and he’d just decided a good hangover might do the trick. Drinking to excess might not ever solve a problem, but the pain it would cause the next morning would lend justice to his rotten mood.

Right now he wanted to brood. He wanted to sit there and contemplate the fact that – sometime between last night and five hours ago – fate had, for no good reason, kicked him in the ass. Or was it destiny? He could never quite figure out which one hated him so much. It was most likely a conspiracy.

“Here you are, sir. I’ll just charge it to your cabin.” The waitress deposited the fresh drink and paused,
touching the bottle on her tray with a question in her raised eyebrows.

Alex nodded, neatly avoiding eye contact. She left the bottle on his table and vanished quickly into the small crowd, muttering something about tips and attitudes. He was working up a great reputation. A mere two hours into the trip and already on his second waitress.

No matter. Casual conversation wasn’t something he wanted to tolerate right now. He could barely stand his own company as it was.

Alex looked at the ice again, wondering why the angry man looking back at him didn’t just go drink in his room and leave these good people alone to enjoy their cruise.

“Alex?”

A female voice interrupted his attempt to swallow the dark ice-face. Alex looked up sharply, fully prepared to send whoever it was away so he could be alone with his misery.

“Alex Marcase? It is you!” The tall, auburn-haired beauty with perfectly manicured fingernails slid gracefully and without invitation into the seat beside Alex. “Just the other day I told my father I’d heard you were around this neck of the universe.” Miranda Carpenter smiled her best debutant smile. “How have you been?”

“Miranda?” Alex blinked, unsure if the slight aura around the woman’s face was due to the dim lighting of the cruiser’s bar or a testament to the quality of the scotch and the amount he’d already consumed.

“You remembered.” Miranda Carpenter reached out, lightly touching his arm with a delicate hand. “It’s been years.”

“Twelve, I think.” Reluctantly, the glass of whisky was set aside. Alex forced a smile and tried to appear pleased to see her.

Miranda moved her head from side to side slowly. A gesture designed to impart a sense of sadness at the time passed without actually expressing any true regret. After a perfectly timed pause only a lifetime of high society could cultivate, her gaze drifted over his head. “You remember my father, don’t you?”

So much for a quiet, solitary evening of drinking, brooding, and wallowing in self-pity. Alex looked up, then began to stand, but he was waved back down by the distinguished gentleman easing himself into the chair beside Miranda.

Paulson Carpenter was a commanding personality, tall and well built, and one of the most successful
entrepreneurs from Alex’s home world. He’d known the man – and more intimately his daughter – since childhood.

“Mr. Carpenter, good to see you again, sir,” he lied as he shook the offered hand.

“Marcase. I’m surprised to find you on a cruise at a time like this. Shouldn’t you be getting ready to leave port on the Ascalon? I’m sure I heard Franklin was already getting his ship prepped.”

This was definitely a twisted union between fate and destiny, and both were laughing.

He could hear them.

“I wish I was, sir.” Alex adjusted his expression now that there was a man sitting at the table. A man of wealth and position, to be sure, but still a man who could understand the dark mood of another man without taking feminine offense at his demeanor. “This isn’t a cruise, just an unexpected trip.” He straightened slightly and glanced at the whisky waiting patiently for his attention. “Believe me, I’d much rather be warming up the engines myself.”

“Must be an important trip, to take you away at a time like this.” Carpenter’s eyebrows arched upwards, giving the offer of elaboration. “The Pendulum Nebula, isn’t it?”

“Is that your latest goal, Alex?” Miranda purred, leaning back in her seat. “To beat Franklin to the Nebula?”

Alex grinned ruefully and rested the tips of his fingers on the glass in front of him. “Not to it, Miranda, through it.” He glanced knowingly at her father. “I’m willing to stake my reputation on finding turbidium out there.”

Paulson Carpenter knew as well as anyone what Alex Marcase’s reputation was worth. Regardless of what anyone may have speculated about his personality, his career was widely known and well respected. When he set out to locate something in the infinite blackness of space, he didn’t fail.

“Actually I’m inclined to believe you.” The elder man dipped his head in a slight bow. “The scans are vague enough to make exploration intriguing. Who’s your backer?”

Alex’s face darkened. Sarcasm threatened to ooze into his voice and he was loath to deny it the
opportunity. “I’m still open, sir. You don’t happen to have a few million credits in need of good use?” A small voice deep inside his mind insisted he share his scotch if he was going to hit the man up for funding.

He killed it before it could argue.

“Is that what this trip is for? To drum up funding for your next exploration?” Miranda ran a long, delicate finger through her hair in a mild attempt at flirting that was more instinctual reaction than thoughtful act. “I thought your mother was holding a dinner so you could rub elbows with the elite?”

The ice busily diluting old Earth scotch on the table shifted position impatiently.

“Elite elbows are being rubbed as we speak.” Alex tried a smile, but it didn’t fit. “She’s holding the dinner, and none too pleased that I’m not there.” He looked at her father again, arching one eyebrow. “I can beat him. Franklin’s ship might be fast, but he’s predictable. He’s always been predictable.”

“I’m sure you can,” Paulson nodded easily. “He’s the only pilot who could ever compete. And you beat him to Carmex 6 by three days. The news wires were abuzz with that story for weeks.”

“Three days that cost his investors seventeen billion credits. The Elias Corporation has a new system to mine and unlimited employment security for the next hundred years, thanks to my having beat Franklin there.” Alex paused to listen to the little voice he thought he’d killed flop about in protest. He really hadn’t come here to talk shop, or find a new financial backer to get his next voyage paid for. And he wasn’t in any kind of mood to take advantage of the only situation he found himself in. He was beginning to wonder if jettisoning himself out the nearest airlock might not solve everything rather quickly. The only problem with that plan was the fact that it would then leave Jason Franklin with the most likely chance of discovering what lay inside the Pendulum Nebula before he did. Alex couldn’t live with that.

He couldn’t die with it either.

Paulson shook his head, perplexed. “So what could possibly be so important as to drag you away from your ship at a time like this?”

Alex clamped his teeth down hard and let an index finger slide around the rim of the glass. The Carpenters were members of a very small group of people who knew exactly who his father was. He hated that they knew. He hated that anyone knew. But at least this time, he didn’t have to mentally search his stock of forged replies or premanufactured responses.

“My father’s dead.” He forced his gaze off the ice and made eye contact with Paulson. “I got a call this
morning. They said it was imperative that I take possession of the estate immediately. I think his old
partners are circling the corpse or something.” That was a mental picture he wanted to hang on to. It kept him from completely regretting his decision to accept the inheritance.

Carpenter pursed his lips and nodded, knowingly. “He had no others, then? I know your mother contracted for other children, before you were born.”

Alex shook his head and let his gaze return to the scotch. “None he registered, anyway.”

“But he was wealthy, wasn’t he?” Miranda’s question belied her own knowledge of the man. “You’re heading out there now, when you should be launching for that Nebula. So it must be worth it.” She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “It is worth it, isn’t it?”

“Miranda!”

“Don’t scold, Father.” Miranda sat back in her seat, looking for all the world like a petulant twelve year old instead of the grown woman of twenty-nine. “I was just thinking if his father’s estate is worth what I’m betting it is, he could just fund that expedition himself, investors be damned.”

“I really don’t know what he was worth,” Alex lied while meeting her gaze.

“Yes, of course.” Paulson, at least, understood these things. “I tell you what. Miranda and I are going to visit her aunt, on Sirui. We’ll be on this ship when it makes the round trip back. If you’re onboard, and you haven’t found funding for this exploration of yours, we’ll talk. I could probably do with another tax break.”

Alex looked up, eyebrows creeping up in hopeful surprise. “I might take you up on that, sir.”

Carpenter stood, motioning to his daughter. “We’ll talk more about the prospects later.” He glanced
pointedly at the bottle of scotch. “Come along, Miranda.” When she failed to respond, he reached for her arm. “Can’t you see this man would like to be alone?”

“I’ll be along shortly, Father.” Miranda shot him a look, but leaned closer to Alex, smiling. “We haven’t seen each other in years, there’s a lot to catch up on.”

Father and daughter shared a momentary stare that appeared to communicate on a level Alex could only imagine. He knew if you were close to someone, close enough to really know someone, you could practically communicate without words. But he’d never experienced that intimacy himself.

 

Interested in reading more? You can read the whole novel over at the Trunk Novel’s website.

Or buy the pdf version at our Trunk Novels store:

Or even support starving artists by purchasing a hard copy to take to the beach this summer, or give to a friend. Keeper is available in Trade Paperback (think hardback size, without the hard back). Then come back every month to find a new author with a new story to tell.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s