Earthman's Bride started out as a short story which ran away with my imagination. I knew what I wanted to say, but the story had been told many times before with many variations: a young woman given to a conqueror as part of a peace agreement...he desires her...she fears him,...eventually they fall in love... So how to make it different, and not just a rehash of every book ever written on that theme? Would changing the setting help? Making it medieval...paranormal...futuristic? And the conqueror? Should he be a warrior...a beast...a supernatural entity, perhaps an older man, inured to the cruelty of war...or a much younger one, still able to find some tenderness in his life?
There are too many science fiction stories of invaders from other planets coming to Earth a la War of the Worlds, but all of them are told from the Earth's point of view. That settled it for me. Do the old switcheroo. Make the Earthmen the conquerors, barging into another a galaxy like barbarians, pillaging and conquering.
My Earthmen aren't barbarians but they’re definitely not nice people. Having depleted their own natural resources, they head to the stars looking for planets having the elements they lack, and they were ruthless in their determination to get what they wanted. Using force, they "accept" these worlds into the Federation, placing them under their "protection" and then haul their natural resources back to Terra. Since most of the planets are less developed than theirs, it's easy to subdue them with superior firepower and take what they want.
Unfortunately, when they got to Tusteya, that changed. The Tusteyans received the Terrans in peace but within 30 minutes of their meeting, peaceful intentions go flying out the window. Though not as technologically advanced, the Tusteyans weren't about to allow themselves to be enslaved by aliens. And so the war began…and lasted for 30 years, until Alcin Spearman, leader of the Elius, asks for a truce, and to show the sincerity of his intentions, offers his 17-year-old daughter Rebeka to the new Governor to cement the peace. Alcin is certain the young Earthman will want Rebeka, and once he meets her, Philip--being young and male--definitely does. What Philip doesn’t know, however, that his bride-to-be has an agenda other than simply being a peace offering. Once Rebeka has gained his trust, she's to kill him, and during the chaos of his death, her father and his men will storm the palace and end the Terran tyranny once and for all.
Not wanting to become a murderer, Rebeka agrees because she has no choice. She goes into the marriage willingly, hoping against hope that some miracle will occur to prevent her from killing her new husband. Nevertheless, everything appears to be going just as her father wishes... She is completely alone except for the presence of Darius, a Terran android re-programmed to protect her. Unknown even to Rebeka, however, Darius has his own agenda. He is capable of human emotion and has fallen in love with the woman whom he has been ordered to protect while she kills his former pupil.
And then, two things happen: Philip discovers Darius’ feelings for his wife, and blackmails his former teacher with the threat of telling Rebeka unless he’s a little less outspoken in her presence, and Rebeka falls in love with Philip as she discovers he isn’t the monster her father and everyone think he is…
Three beings with emotions rapidly reaching the boiling point. Which will overflow first?
Earthman’s Bride placed first in the 2008 Maryland Romance Writer’s “Reveal Your Inner Vixen” contest in the alternate?SF category. Here’s the winning excerpt:
In his office, Rebeka sat at the little table with Master Martin, going over the drawings and diagrams, reeling off names of body parts and how they functioned and what would stimulate them, while Darius lounged on the little window seat across the room, his big body looking too large for that small space. One elbow leaning on the raw wood, he rested his chin in his hand, eyes half closed, appearing totally disinterested in what was going on. Gradually, he allowed the grey lassitude preceding dormancy to slide over him.
It was only when Master Martin took the book from Rebeka, snapped it shut and stood up, calling to him, “Darius, would you come here, please?” that the android roused, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs of near-deactivation from it, and obeyed.
“Certainly, Master.” Three strides brought him to stand between Martin and Rebeka. “How may I help you?”
“Take off your tunic.”
“S-sir?” For an instant, Darius was certain he’d misunderstood. Just stood there, unmoving. Surely he doesn’t mean…
Rebeka, who had been staring at the teacher, turned her attention to him, mouth open. She seemed to be holding her breath.
“You heard me, Darius. Take off your tunic. You must obey, you know.” This was said very softly, but Martin’s quiet tone seemed threatening.
Mouth set in a hard, straight line, Darius did as he was told, untying the sash at his waist and pulling the tunic over his head. Master Martin took it from his hands and dropped it over his chair, too far away for him to reach, then waved a hand in the android’s direction.
“There he is, Rebeka. A naked male. He’s exactly like a human. Look him over well.”
Darius bit his lip and took a deep breath.
Rebeka stared. Directly at his crotch.
To his surprise, she didn’t blush or avert her eyes. Instead, she continued to look at his penis as if it was the most fascinating item she’d ever seen. Under her gaze, he shifted uncomfortably.
Master Martin broke the silence. “Now, Rebeka, you know it all. Show me the erogenous zones.”
She looked at her teacher.
Had to practically force her eyes away from me, Darius thought, resentfully.
Taking a deep breath, she said, like a bored schoolchild reciting a lesson, “First, there’s the ear lobes.” She hesitated, pointing vaguely. “Should I touch him, Master Martin?
No, damn it! You old bastard, you’d better not say what I think you’re going to!
The old man nodded and said the one thing Darius had hoped he wouldn’t hear. “Show me, Rebeka, how you’ll arouse your husband.”
“Master—” Darius began a protest.
“Quiet, Darius! Just stand there. Be obedient and silent.”
So Darius remained where he was, mouth set grimly, as Rebeka reached up and caught his left earlobe between her forefinger and thumb. Her touch was so gentle that for a moment, he barely felt it. Abruptly, she put her other hand behind his neck, pulling his head down. Her body was so close to his he could feel its warmth. He wanted to put his arms around her, hold her closer. It was an effort to make his hands remain at his sides.
Standing on tiptoe, she began to nibble on his earlobe, breath warm and soft against his skin. Darius shivered slightly, then forced himself to be still as he felt her tongue trace itself around the edge of his ear.
If I were to…straighten… he began, recognizing that his thoughts suddenly were becoming erratic…but he didn’t move, continuing to stand, leaning forward with his head trapped in Rebeka’s embrace.
When she released him, allowing him to stand upright again, he relaxed, but then her hand slid down his shoulder to his chest, and her mouth trailed kisses along the same path. One finger encircled his left nipple, its fingernail scoring invisible grooves around and around it as Rebeka pressed her lips against the other, mouthing it gently. Darius took a deep breath that was almost a gasp.
She looked up at him. “Is something wrong, Darius?”
“No,” he lied, hastily. “I was just taking in extra oxygen. I have to do that to renew my pneumatic cells so I can appear to breathe.” He took a couple of extra deep breaths to demonstrate.
“That’s enough oxygen, I think.” Master Martin—the son of a bitch—-smiled slightly.
Rebeka turned her attention back to Darius’s body, moving even closer so her own was pressed against his. Darius closed his eyes. God, she’s so warm, so soft. I’m going to kill Master Martin! As certain as Tusteya’s sun rises each morning, I’m going to tear the old fart limb from limb to pay him back for this!
When Rebeka embraced him, Darius nearly recoiled as her hands slid to the small of his back, encircling his buttocks, fingernails performing that little scratch-and-arouse making the tiny sensors in his outer dermis bristle invisibly to attention. Her fingers floated over the deep separation of his cheeks, hesitated at the rough repair to the tattered skin on his left hip, then circled under them, squeezing lightly.
Darius’ body began to tremble, skin quivering.
Releasing him, she stepped back, brushing one hand across his stomach, circling the little depression that had never been attached to any umbilicus, bending to kiss and gently lap at it, her tongue flicking delicately into the little dimple.
The tremor grew stronger. He was visibly shaking now.
“Darius?” Feeling the sudden shiver, she looked up at him.
He didn’t answer, wouldn’t look at her, eyes riveted on something on the far side of the room. Rebeka stepped away from him. It was all he could do not to heave an audible sigh of relief. She didn’t look at Master Martin, didn’t see the broad smile now framing the teacher’s mouth, but Darius did and silently cursed the old man.
“Go on, Rebeka,” Master Martin ordered.
“That’s all.” She looked from Darius to the teacher, then gestured vaguely. “E-except for…” She nodded at the android’s genitals, still—thankfully—at rest.
“Go on, Rebeka,” Master Martin’s voice was softer now, very gentle, as if he was afraid of frightening her.
No—oh, no! Darius’s eyes met the old man’s. He took a deep breath, preparing to protest, grab his clothes, stalk out.
As if he realized the android’s thoughts, Martin shook his head. “Darius, what’s the first tenet of your programming?”
“I will obey the commands of my human makers to the best of my ability.” The words were spoken with a total absence of inflection. Dammit! He had to do what the teacher said. His will was his own only when it didn’t clash with human wishes, and it would take a great effort to override that order.
“Go on, Rebeka,” Master Martin repeated.
Obediently, she slid her hand under Darius’ testicles. He flinched. Suddenly, she seemed to freeze, just standing there, head down, staring at his penis. His balls were cupped by warm hands, chafed gently. The android’s gasp was so sharp it startled her. His face was expressionless though his jaw muscles tightened, as if he were gritting his teeth.
Rebeka stroked one forefinger along his penis, from base to tip, finger brushing back and forth across the crown. “It’s so soft!” There was wonder in her voice.
“T-the c-covering of t-the glans p-penis has been c-compared to the skin of a two-day-old n-newborn,” Daris spoke up. In spite of his stutter, his voice was tightly controlled, almost constricted, practically biting off the words.
Rebeka continued to caress him. She didn’t see Darius’ hands curl into fists, or how his jaws abruptly clamped or the deep flush sweeping over his face. He was angry and trapped, caught in her hands, being fondled as if his organ was a timid animal. Well, in a few more minutes, that timid animal’s going to turn into a raging beast!
Rebeka pressed her lips against the soft head. His tolerance point snapped.
Ignoring the painful ripple surging through his system at disobeying a human command, he seized her by the shoulders, jerking her upright, gasping aloud with relief as his penis slid from her hands. Darius pulled her up to face him and then his mouth was on hers, tongue sliding inside as her lips opened in surprise. It brushed against her own, laved over and under it, then he was sucking its tip almost desperately before he thrust her away. She staggered and nearly fell as he released her, staring up at him with startled eyes. Slowly, one hand went to her mouth.
“That’s what you’ll get if you do that to Philip Hamilcar—and more.” His voice was harsh, husky with emotion, chest heaving as if he were struggling to breathe. “I think, Mistress Rebeka, your lessons are over.”
The Earthman's Bride will be available from Class Act Books on April 15, 2012.