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Starkissed micro-sequel: Starlight

February 21, 2011

Here’s the micro-sequel to Starkissed I promised a few days ago. It runs about 2000 words, and it’s permanently archived on a page to itself, link to the right. I’ll also be putting it up other places over the next few days, such as Goodreads and Smashwords.

If you haven’t read Starkissed, I hope you take a few moments to check out the excerpt. There’s a link to the right. Or click here: Starkissed.

Enjoy!

 

Foreword

This vignette picks up a few days after the ending of Starkissed. For those who have read the book and wonder why I don’t mention certain things, it’s because I don’t want to put in too many spoilers for those who haven’t read it. (Rest assured, all is well!) And if you haven’t read it, I hope you find Leith and J’Qhir’s happily-ever-after intriguing enough to follow along on the journey of how they reached it in Starkissed.

Starlight

©2011 Lanette Curington

All rights reserved.

Earth

July 2308 TST (Terran Standard Time)

Earth confined her, Leith thought as she walked through the gardens surrounding her parents’ home. Their home, not hers, not any longer. In a few months, she would go to Zi, a hot, arid world many light years from where she stood at this moment. The thought thrilled and frightened her at the same time.

Gazing up at the night sky, she studied the panorama of diamond dust stars scattered across the midnight velvet sky. A thicker band of dust trailed off-center–the Milky Way. She missed traveling among the stars, though she had done so only a few times in her life. Her last trip hadn’t been pleasant in many ways, but she wouldn’t go back and change it for anything. The outcome was worth any of the horrors she had endured. She had met J’Qhir, the Warrior of Zi. How could she want to change that?

She sat on a rustic wood swing to rest a spell before going inside and turning in for the night. J’Qhir once more had his code of behavior to adhere to. Starting tonight, he’d live with Drew Garrison, a dear friend as well as the best pilot at McClure Shipping, for the duration of his stay on Earth. Their binding wouldn’t be officially official until the Council of Elders back on Zi deemed it so.

The Council had agreed to accept their binding only if they could observe the ritual, though it was an unusual practice for them to do so. But Leith was an off-worlder and qa`anh’al–forbidden. Now, she and J’Qhir must act as if they were not bound. The Council was even sending someone to Earth to ensure the formalities were followed! They had only a short time left before every waking moment would be under stringent observation.

If J’Qhir wanted to retain his place in his world, she wanted it for him. He wanted to try, he’d announced after a long, exhausting communication via LinkNet with the Council that morning. The Council had been lenient…well, lenient for them. So J’Qhir–and she as well–had to meet them the fraction of the way they’d moved. She didn’t mind, not really, but she already missed not having him by her side as he’d been the past few days. She almost couldn’t bear the thought of going to bed tonight and not having him there to hold her close.

His home would be her home, she thought defiantly, no matter how many rules they had to follow, no matter where in the galaxy it took her.

The sound of evenly placed steps, every other one a bit heavier, drew her attention from the sky. She stood and walked down the path to meet him, the Zi Warrior she loved with all her heart. He filled the narrow space between the overgrown bushes on either side with his height and breadth.

According to Zi tradition they weren’t supposed to be alone. When they were together, properly chaperoned, they weren’t supposed to touch. Even as she wondered why he’d come to see her without a third party present, she kept her distance. She longed to throw her arms around him and be held by him in return. She wanted to run her hands over the smooth, soft leather of his hairless skin and run her fingertips over the crest of his forehead. Here, the faint light from a window just past the bush on one side allowed her to see the subtle umber tracings along his tawny skin.

“Good evening, Leith,” he said as if they hadn’t just parted a few hours before, after having supper with her parents and Drew.

She looked into his slitted amber eyes. To stave off the need to touch him and hold him and kiss him, she asked, “What brings you back tonight? Is anything wrong?”

“No, everything isss right.” He walked toward her, favoring the leg that had been damaged over and over again in attempts to save them from the misguided vengeance of a man who had once been considered a friend.

He obviously had something on his mind, but he would tell her in his own way and his own time. So she led him to the swing and sat, patting the space beside her as an invitation. He joined her, but sat far enough away from her that they would not touch.

Hot and muggy temperatures had yielded to the passage of a cold front earlier in the day, causing the night air to be tolerable instead of unbearably sultry. She was comfortable in a loose, sleeveless cotton dress, but his saurian nature grew sluggish in cooler temperatures. To avoid the possibility, he wore civilian woolen trousers and jacket with every closure fastened tight. Soon, she thought, he would once again wear the Zi Force war uniform.

Only the creaking of the swing broke the relaxed silence between them. After a time, he cleared his throat.

“I know of your Terran cussstom,” he said with quiet formality, “where the male giftsss hisss lifemate with a ring to irrevocably finalize the arrangement. I–”

“It’s not irrevocable,” Leith interrupted gently, “if you’re talking about an engagement ring. The couple have promised one another to marry–or bond–but either can call off the engagement without repercussions. It’s the same with a wedding ring. There’s always divorce.”

He frowned, his crest wrinkling. “Do your people not hold to any promisssesss made?”

Leith stifled a smile, knowing he wouldn’t understand that she didn’t laugh at him because of his not understanding. For all his age and wisdom and experience, including his involvement in the wars with the Crucians, his misconceptions of some of human nature and how he questioned everything about it was endearing to her. “We should, shouldn’t we? A hundred years ago, in most cultures on Earth, it would have been considered as enforceable as a signed contract and scandalous to break it. There would have been social consequences to pay.”

J’Qhir sighed in exasperation. “Your world, your people baffle me. How you have sssurvived and thrived with nothing to conssstrain and ressstrict your worssst impulsssesss isss an enigma.”

“Well, morals have always gone back and forth. We’ve changed, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other and back again many times in our history. Two hundred years ago, no one cared whether a promise was kept or not–except the two involved, of course. And,” she reminded him, “the people of Earth aren’t like the Zi, where everyone on the planet follows the same social structure. Terrans are made up of thousands of cultures only loosely connected because we are all human and all reside on the same world. What about the custom? Did you have a specific question?”

“No, I…” He pulled something from his pocket. “I have thisss.”

His large hand completely surrounded the thing. She could only guess what it might be, and her breath hitched in her throat. She’d given no thought to her own traditions because she’d been caught up in the Zi way of things for so long. Unshed tears burned the backs of her eyes as he opened the small, dark blue velvet box and held it out for her to see.

A set of rings nestled together in the slot made for them. Leigh blinked back the blur of tears, but she recognized the silvery metal with its pale blue blush as titanium-jettite. One was a plain band, but the other cradled an irregular-shaped crystal in its prongs. She had seen crystals similar to it only once before. In this one, blue fire danced in the center of the clear stone, sending multi-colored sparks from indigo to azure radiating outward with each movement of the box in J’Qhir’s trembling hand.

“Thisss type of cryssstal isss ssso rare on our world we do not ussse it for interssstellar trade. To the Zi, it isss the mossst presssciousss of all.” He pulled the ring with the crystal free. “On your world, a ring sssuch asss thisss sssymbolizesss your commitment to me and mine to you and to no othersss, doesss it not?”

Leith looked up at J’Qhir and nodded, teardrops sliding down her cheeks.

“You weep.” He reached up as if to wipe the tears away, but stopped before he touched her. “Doesss it not pleassse you?”

Brushing her cheeks dry, she smiled. “Tears of joy and happiness, and even awe and wonder that we somehow managed to find one another in a galaxy full of beings to sift through. Yes, it pleases me very much. And even though it may not be in fashion this century to regard it as such, I consider the pledge behind the ring to be irrevocable. We are already bound as far as I’m concerned, and accepting the ring only confirms it.”

J’Qhir didn’t smile–he rarely ever smiled in her presence–but she could see in his eyes that he was quite happy with her answer. She held out her left hand, and he slipped it down her third finger without touching her at all.

“I love you,” he said simply.

“I love you, too,” she replied from her heart. She turned her hand one way then the other, mesmerized by the way the blue sparks radiated and reflected throughout the stone.

“If you do not mind, I will presssent the other to you after the Council hasss decreed our binding rightful.”

Leith nodded, but with less enthusiasm this time. He started to close the box, but she stopped him. “May I have a closer look?”

“Of courssse.”

She examined the narrow band and realized she’d been wrong to call it plain. She ran the tip of her finger over the tiny, graceful glyphs flowing across the half not buried in the velvet. Some of the Zi writing she could identify but others were unknown to her.

“The ssscript tellsss of our binding,” he explained. When she had withdrawn, he carefully moved the band in the slot to show that the writing continued all the way around it. “If the ring sssignifiesss our avowalsss as lifematesss, sssomething ssshould tell why.”

“A wonderful idea and makes it a perfect binding ring.” With regret, Leith watched him close the box and tuck it away in his pocket. They were already bound, and she should have the right to wear it. If not for the Council’s rigorous notions of propriety–though she suspected it had more to do with an ulterior motive to cause J’Qhir and her as much misery and anxiety as they could rather than adhere to tradition and rules–she’d have it on her finger now.

They sat in silence for a while, both gazing at the starscape above them, but she was not content to just sit there as if they were stone statues. She moved closer to him and didn’t stop when she heard his sharp intake of breath.

“Leith, pleassse–”

“I’ll move away,” she whispered, “if you really want me to.”

“I do not want it. You know thisss.” Stiffly, he put his arm around her

She snuggled against him. “And I want this. There’s no one to see us, no one to tattle to the Council yet.”

“I wisssh to do thisss the proper way. You agreed,” he reminded her reproachfully.

“Yes, I did.” She sighed and started to draw away, but his arm tightened around her, holding her even closer.

“I wisssh more for you to ssstay,” he murmured. “For a few momentsss.”

Slipping her arm around him, and ignoring the scratchy fabric of his jacket, she laid her head on his chest. The occasional movement of her hand caused the crystal to catch the light and twinkle like one of the stars above.

Going to Zi with J’Qhir would be a much more complicated move than she’d expected when she woke up this morning, but being with him was all that mattered. Together, they would handle whatever obstacles the Council of Elders threw in their path. Once more the crystal’s refraction of the light drew her attention, and she smiled.

Leith carried starlight on her hand to remind her of how she loved J’Qhir and was loved by him, and no one in the galaxy could ever take that away from her.

The End

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One comment

  1. Thanks to the author for a wonderful story! I just read, “Starkissed”, and it’s followup free short story, “Starlight”. It’s a story of betrayal, survival when abandoned on a unoccupied world, misunderstanding and cultural differences, hard work, patience, honor and loyalty, and especially passion and love. The alien worlds and cultures were interesting and wet the appetite for more. Sure wish we would see more about this intriguing alien worlds! Hint, hint…. 🙂



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