Starline – Excerpt

Mellissa's choices had been stripped from her, and she felt sick. She had done the victim thing once before and had promised herself never again. Not after all those years in the orphanage, where she'd had no control of her own destiny. Now, years later, there she was again in the same boat. She straightened her back. No way! I will have some control over my life, she promised herself.

She started pulling at the buckles, but his commanding voice told her to wait. Anger, despair, and fear roiled in the pit of her stomach as she worked to make sense of what she was experiencing. She looked up and saw pity his eyes.

She had so many questions to ask, but the main one included why? Why her? She had played by the rules she'd learned in the orphanage. She considered herself a contributing and upstanding member of society, so how could this possibly happen to her? Don't whine. Get out there and accept the trials you're given. The voice of Mother Superior rang in her head.

"Where are we going?" Mellissa asked, traces of her tears evident in the husky question, but damned if she would give in to the tears.

"Back to where I came from. Earth Empire Admiralty on Aenna."

"Aenna? Where's that?"

"It's really a glorified asteroid, located between Mars and Jupiter," he said, relaxing into his seat. "Admiralty has its strategic offices there, but first we have to get to the Time Port outside the solar system, just beyond Eris."

"Time Port?" She leaned forward. "What is a Time Port, and why do we have to get there first, and where in hell is Eris?"

She dragged her eyes away from his and looked around. The gunmetal gray that met her eyes again teamed with sensitive lighting. Black streaked with slashing lights filled the ports. He sighed and huffed out a breath, and she could tell that dealing with her frustrated him to no end. Once more she questioned the sanity of what he had said, and what she had seen.

Quickly undoing the buckles with fumbling fingers, she rose and hurried to the window, looking out. Nothing made sense though. Nothing looked even remotely like anything she could see on Earth or anywhere else. This so had to be a nightmare, she told herself, hoping it would settle the nerves that floated around her brain, buzzing anxiously.

Okay, she could go along with this; after all, she would wake up back in her office after her fertile imagination had given her fodder for her book. Right? But what if this was really happening? A click sounded, then a hand settled on her shoulder, breaking her reverie.

Warm, heavy, and somehow reassuring, that hand gently turned her back toward the most magnificent man she had ever laid eyes on. Duvall McCord. Captain of the stealth ship Elector. His eyes mesmerized her.

"It'll be all right," he said. "We'll make this right for you, but you can't go back." He looked at her, and she felt a charge of something—some kind of new emotion, desire—flash through her system.

Yeah, like some mouse like me could ever interest a man like this. Look at those shoulders, abs, and arms, not to mention that face. Yeah. As if. She mentally shook herself. Obviously, I need some male companionship, or at least a frontal lobotomy, she thought, snorting.

"Thanks." She glanced away, her mind settling back to the bigger issue. He said she couldn't go home. "Nothing can make this right for me," Mellissa explained, slowly shaking her head. "If I can't go back, what can I do?" A bitter laugh erupted from her. "The me that I am will no longer exist." The sensation of being lost in a warp settled within her mind.

"I'm going to call my second, Grayson, in to get you started on the identification process. The sooner that's done, the sooner you can begin the integration process. There'll be some learning ahead, but maybe we can learn some things from you too. Let yourself get acclimated first. I'm sure there will be an occupation suitable for you, and your skills will be evident." The vibration of his voice soothed her.

She allowed him to usher her back to the seat.

He quickly called Grayson then, explaining he had duties to see to, he headed to the door, stopping just before it closed to say, "I know this seems tough, but there really is a lot riding on this mission. I just don't have choices either."

Then he acknowledged a tall, Nordic man who slipped in through the door before he left.

"Alice, welcome to Wonderland," she said aloud.