Olivia’s chance to prove herself as a spy hasn't gone well. She knows the rogue Portal and Clan Alpha’s illegal artwork sales suggests someone has an agenda for BloodDark that doesn’t accord with its peoples’ future. Could Earth billionaire Roland Grundfest be behind it all?

Hernando is hurt by Olivia’s lie, but there’s too much at stake to remain mad for long. Olivia and Hernando have to learn to trust the Pure Bloods. They travel with the ruling council by airship through the blazing heat of BloodDark’s Day Side, and a climactic encounter in the desert that will decide Olivia’s—and BloodDark’s—fate once and for all.

Olivia's Decision
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Cover Art by Gwen Phifer
Excerpt

One good thing about dreams—you eventually wake up. Living nightmares just go on and on…

Olivia shook her head and refocused her attention on the task at hand. She had lost all track of time. Living on the dark side of a tidally locked planet played tricks on a human’s senses, but could she even call herself human anymore? Had she become a part of them?

Best not to think about it.

She picked up the tarnished candelabra on the table in front of her and began polishing. Strange, hadn’t she returned to BloodDark to pose as a mail order vampire bride or something along those lines? Shouldn’t she have attendants and servants? Why was she polishing the silver?

Because you must learn obedience said the other voice in her head, the voice which worked against her best instincts even when it attempted to comfort her misgivings.

“Oh, so somehow it makes it all right?” Olivia snorted. “Now I’m talking to myself and expecting an answer. What could have been in the wine at the pair-bonding dinner? Come on, Ollie girl,” she muttered to herself. “Keep trying to think it out. Stay on your plan. You’re here to find the other Portal. You’re here to expose Clan Alphan as the double-dealing troublemakers they are.”

Obey us! The other voice in her head sounded super-ticked-off now. You are chosen of Clan Alphan. You will obey.

“Bite me,” Olivia mumbled. She froze. “Oops. I didn’t mean it.”

She had learned during her recent ordeal that the Pure Bloods didn’t need to bite their victims to partake of their blood. In fact, they were often quite clinical and detached about it all. Through mind control they made their human subjects believe they were being bitten by a vampire while they withdrew blood in a much more conventional way—through sophisticated, miniature hypodermic devices. Once one of these was placed under the thin skin of the neck or shoulder, they could obtain blood as needed, leaving only a pair of puncture wounds and slight bruising.

“Interesting how humanity has romanticized your method of extracting our genetic materials. I suspect you all enjoyed becoming a part of our spooky myths and being portrayed as nasty villains and sexy Goth-lovers.”

Olivia placed the candelabra on the table and stood. “Enough of the spring cleaning. I’m going for a walk.” She headed toward the chamber door. Three steps shy of the exit, she hit an invisible brick wall. She knew it couldn’t possibly be there, but her mind wouldn’t let her take another step forward.

“All right. You win. I’ll polish the silver.” Sighing, she returned to the table and plopped down on the bench. “This is boring.”

The voice in her head didn’t respond. Maybe it agreed with her and didn’t know what to say? She picked up the cloth and another candlestick to polish, hoping it would be her last and she’d be rescued.

Annara. Olivia had to get a message to her friend and conspirator. Tell Annara how she’d messed up their spy mission big time and needed help getting out of the Clan Alphan house. She needed to tell her boyfriend Hernando how sorry she was for lying to him and her parents, too.

I need to get myself out of this mess I’ve fallen into…before I can no longer hear my own thoughts at all.

The rest of her day was routine—polish the silver, sweep the floors, and beat out the rugs like a Victorian housemaid. Menial tasks to keep her busy and prevent her from wandering too far afield within the Clan Alphan compound. Olivia knew the Alphans were up to something. She knew they had access to a Portal-like device and were selling or trading their valuables to acquire fresh human DNA in the form of mail-order spouses from Earth—like her. They spent every waking moment securing new blood, then covering up the lengths they were willing to go to get it.

Olivia frowned. Why did the Pure Bloods’ activities ring with such a sense of desperation, such urgency—or dare she think it—such finality?

“We are not desperate, my dear Olivia,” Moreau assured her as he took her by the arm to stroll the walkways of the clan’s walled gardens after her work period. “We are determined.”

“Could have fooled me.” Olivia admired the stark beauty of the dark purplish-black, thornless roses. Like every plant in the garden, they were the result of the Pure Bloods’ endless fascination with collecting Earth’s plant and animal life, then altering and combining species into new living things. The end results were neither of Earth nor of the near-barren BloodDark, a world which held little variety of native plant life according to the history she and the other mail-order brides were being taught on a daily basis by their tutor.

“Kate’s intended, Professor Mahvet, says the Pure Bloods were a dying race when they crashed on this rock all those millennia ago. Only with regular infusions of human DNA have they survived and prospered here.”

Olivia stooped to sniff one of the larger rose blossoms. Luminous and soft-petaled, the flowers held no scent. She frowned at the incongruity, then stood upright and glared at him. “Seems to me you all are desperate to keep the status quo, whatever the cost.”

Moreau’s mouth twitched, belying his calm expression. “Mahvet is an eccentric,” he said, dismissing the clan’s historian and scholar with a wave of his hand. “He’s been taken in by his studies of human society once too often. He believes our species are equals in intelligence and abilities. He won’t shut up about it.”

Olivia bit her lip, fighting a grin. It was fun, getting to him like this. “You and your family don’t agree with his findings?”

Moreau pulled her into his arms. “Let’s just say some sentient life forms are more equal than others.” His kiss came as a demand, not a gift of affection or trust.

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