I'm super excited to share Chapter One of Alien's Stone Heart. Set in a shared world with several other of your favorite SFR authors, Outlaw Planets Mates is a series full of adventure, sexy alpha alien, and fated love! Pre-order HERE.
Alien’s Stone Heart
Chapter 1: Lily
A gust of wind blew through the leaves, threatening to toss the alien stasis pod I was in down the side of the cliff. A small creaking sound came from the branches holding my pod in place, and I held my breath, praying that it wouldn’t be my last.
I’d woken up a few minutes ago in complete darkness, in a strange pod of some kind and completely sealed in. My first thought was that I’d been buried alive in a coffin.
Don’t panic. Don’t panic, I’d repeated to myself.
Who was I kidding? I had totally panicked. The word coffin only had to flash through my head once, and I’d freaked out, screaming and yelling and kicking until, by some magic fluke, the pod opened up, showing the bright blue of the sky above me.
I’d been lucky the pod opening faced up and not down. I'd have been nothing but a splat on the ground if the pod had landed any other way.
Then again, this might be all a dream. Did death hurt if it was just a dream?
I could still be a splat on the ground if I didn’t get out of here, and soon too. The branches holding the pod were not the sturdiest, and every gust of wind was a death lottery.
Of course, it was my luck to land on the side of a cliff. It was the same shitty luck that got me abducted in the first place, in my nightgown no less.
I remembered parts of my abduction from Earth. There were little green men, actual little green men, like right out of the cartoons and B movies.
They’d put something into my ear, and suddenly I was able to understand their strange language. Apparently, human women were pricelessly valuable. We were universal breeders. Greenie the Meanie hadn’t explained what that was, but he didn’t need to. I got the gist of it by the disgusting way he leered at me.
I was almost glad he planned to sell me, just so I didn’t need to touch him. His boney fingers on my body as he gave me my inoculations—so I wouldn’t die from the first alien germ I met—made me want to puke.
Alien germs. My brain kept bringing up War of the Worlds, except this was no movie, and Tom Cruise was nowhere to be seen. He was overrated, anyway. I wanted Chris Pratt to come save me from my nightmare instead.
After the inoculations, they’d thrown me in this pod, and the next thing I knew I woke up here.
Something must have happened. This wasn’t an auction house, and I doubted landing their cargo on the side of a cliff was normal operating procedure.
The wind blew again, and the branches swayed; the pod swayed with them. Staying here wasn’t an option. The branches wouldn’t hold for long, and there were only two options: up or down.
I crawled to the edge of the pod, hoping my shifting weight wouldn’t send it plummeting. I looked over the edge.
Oh, hell no!
What a horrible time to find out I had a fear of heights. I mean, I’d been up high before, but this was something else.
Down was not the way to go, so I looked up.
There were more alien trees trying to grow out of the side of the cliff. They were thin and spindly, but they just might hold my weight. Now I wished I hadn’t spent so many evenings Netflix and chillin’ with Ben & Jerry.
Was that the top edge of the cliff right there? I couldn’t tell clearly from my angle. I was kind of a klutz on two feet on most days, and I hadn’t climbed anything since that one time I went to the rock-climbing gym as part of some poorly thought out work team-building exercise. It had ended badly. But I was willing to chance it now. Staying here was a death sentence.
I reached up for the first branch and lifted my bare legs up to wrap around it; my nightie lifted up around my hips. It had been years since my monkey bar days, and I’d let the gym visits lag behind during the past year. I was not in my best shape, but there was no way I was going to wait in that death trap.
Grabbing an adjacent branch, I heaved and shoved until I was upright. I could do this. I found the next set of branches and repeated the process.
See! This isn’t so bad.
From my new vantage, I could definitely say that the edge of the cliff was in sight. Safety. Or relative safety. I had no idea where the heck I was. For all I knew, there could be a fire-breathing dragon waiting for me at the top.
A light vibration moved the sediment on the cliff face, sending a sprinkling of sand and dirt over my face. I sputtered. More vibrations and a few small rocks tumbled down the side of the cliff around me, and I looked up. Something was coming.
I hoped it wasn’t the little green men coming to retrieve their lost merchandise. There was nowhere to hide in the pod unless I was willing to risk it and climb down. I thought of the long drop down to the rocky ground below and decided I’d rather face whoever was above me.
A grey face popped over the top ledge of the cliff. That was no little green man. That was a gargoyle!
I gasped, and my hand slipped. With a shriek, I tumbled down, breaking the first branch I’d climbed up on. I landed with a thud inside the stasis pod. The broken branch landed on top of me, smacking me in the face with a few choice leaves.
“Fuck!” I struggled to right myself.
A loud crack made me pause.
Oh, shit! That was one of the branches holding the pod! I took a few deep breaths. Everything could be just a dream, right?
“Grab this and tie it around yourself like a seat,” rumbled a low voice.
It must be the gargoyle speaking. His voice was low and rumbly, and it sounded too real to be a dream. At least the translator Greenie the Meanie had given me worked for multiple languages.
I moved carefully but swiftly, pulling myself out from under the heavy branch with as little disturbance to the pod as possible. The last thing I wanted was for the pod to drop now, with me in it, just as help arrived with a rope. I sure hoped the gargoyle was here to help and not some alien who thought humans were tasty.
I’d expected a rope, but instead, I found a live vine dangling down into the pod. Well, whatever worked. I hoped I wasn’t allergic to it.
I passed the vine under my legs and then tied it around my waist like a seat. Then I looked up at the freaky-looking creature up top and gave him the thumbs up, realizing too late that he probably had no idea what it meant. But he got the gist of it and started pulling.
Wow! He was strong. I was no featherweight, but judging from the huge face that now popped over that edge, he was probably a giant.
Gargoyles weren’t bad, right? Didn’t they guard buildings?
A few seconds later, I found myself face to face with a real-life, walking, talking gargoyle. I gawked awkwardly with my mouth open. He was massive, towering over me by at least a foot and a half. He was all muscle and no fat, perfectly chiseled. His shoulders were broad, blocking out the sun like a boulder. And was that a tail?
“So that’s what humans look like.” He looked at me as if I was the oddity here, then he leaned in and sniffed loudly.
I wanted to back away but couldn’t, not with the edge of the cliff so close.
Another deafening crack came from the branches below, followed by awful screeching. This time, the pod wasn’t so lucky. It tumbled down to the forest below, crashing into and breaking every branch along the way. It finally landed with a thunderous bang.
His tail swung out first to wrap around my waist. A moment later, giant, stoney arms enveloped me, pulling me away from the edge of the cliff.
Holy crap; I could have been in that when it fell! I swallowed hard.
“That was close! Thank you for pulling me up in time.”
My rescuer didn’t release me from the cocoon of his arms. I marveled that arms that looked like stone could feel so warm. Despite how he looked, he was flesh and bone, albeit a very firm flesh. And horns and a tail. I couldn’t forget those. Those were firm too.
I hadn’t noticed before, but instead of yellow or red eyes as I’d thought gargoyles would have, his irises were opalescent with flashes of blue, green, and even pink, depending on the angle. Weren’t opals mined from rocks? They were stunning against the gray of his skin.
I didn’t know how long I stood there, just staring into his eyes, mesmerized. He didn’t seem to mind, though. He was just as interested in me, looking me up and down and sniffing me—which was kind of strange, but whatever.
Now that I had a good look at him, he wasn’t as scary as he’d been at first glance. Sure, he had sharp teeth and pointed ears, but they fit his face.
For some reason, all I could think of was the little green man telling me I was a universal breeder. Was that how he thought of me?
A rumble like an Earthquake resonated from his throat, and his face suddenly changed, looking scary again. I gasped and stepped back.
“They are coming. I feel them.”
He felt them? I didn’t question him.
“We need to get you to safety before every skin trader in the area converges on us.” He took me by my hand and started walking, pulling me along because there was no way I could match his stride.
“Hurry, human, unless you want to be caught by slavers. I did not come ready to fight. I’m supposed to be hiding on this planet. I can’t make a scene.”
“I’m—” huff “—trying—” puff “—as hard as I can.” I struggled behind him, regretting letting my fitness level drop so abysmally low. If I ever got back home, I’d be throwing away my couch and canceling Netflix.
It didn’t help that I was barefoot and in my nightie. I was dressed in the worst possible outfit for an outdoor trek. The stones on the ground hurt my feet, and every movement threatened to slip a nip.
He stopped, looked at my short legs, and grunted. Then, before I knew it, my feet no longer touched the ground. I was pressed up against the universe’s buffest chest. Gargoyle-man was as fast as he was strong. He booked it across the open area around the cliff and ducked under the cover of an alien forest.
Pressed right up against his chest, I only caught glimpses of the forest as it whizzed by around me. I smelled it, though. It seemed even alien forests had that earthy smell—green, moist, and alive—though I was sure I wasn’t on Earth anymore.
When he finally let me back down on my feet, it was on a soft patch of greenery. I couldn’t call it grass; it was more like a green downy patch on the ground. In front of us was a giant tree.
The tree trunk was the size of a small building. It would’ve taken a couple minutes just to walk around it.
“We need to go up.” Claws popped out from fingers that just a few moments ago were gripping my ass.
Damn! I was glad those sharp babies were retractable.
“Hold onto me.” He stood in front of me and squatted so I could wrap around. “Come on. Up!”
He wanted me to hang onto him as he climbed that thing? Did I mention I recently developed a fear for heights? Like today?
I stared at his retractable claws and the claws on his feet. Huh, gargoyles didn’t wear shoes.
“Hurry, human. We can’t waste time.” He looked around nervously, hearing or sensing something I could not.
I wrapped my arms around his thick neck and lifted my legs around his hips.
My gargoyle started scaling the side of the tree. It only took a few yards of climbing before we found out how wickedly intimate our position was. Our fronts rubbed together with every movement, and, very soon, something rock-hard that hadn’t been there before pressed insistently against me.
I froze. This was definitely not a dream, because that felt much too real.