Biggs knows. Run.
The vid-conference with Rhianna and Prince K’ev ended,
and Helena beat a fast exit from the war room and ducked into the elevator.
High in the corner, a tiny prying red eye glowed. Riding to the residential
level of Bunker One, she wiped all expression from her face for fear of drawing
attention to herself. If the sensor could analyze her emotion, Biggs might
suspect what she planned.
It wasn’t the surveillance cameras she could see—and there
were plenty of those—but the ones she couldn’t spot that could trip her up. Biggs
had had her apartment bugged. After she’d destroyed them, others had replaced
them by the next afternoon. So she’d left the bugs in place, but guarded every
word she said. Not that there was anyone to speak to. Other than the maid who cleaned,
Rhianna had been the only one to visit her, and she’d left on the Draconian
ship three weeks ago.
The elevator opened, and she exited, nodding at a
maintenance worker pushing a cart down the hall. Outside her door, a retinal scanner
verified her identify before admitting her.
Inside, she slumped, expelling her breath in a silent whoosh. She couldn’t stay here; her
apartment wasn’t safe, but she allowed herself a moment to celebrate the good
Rhianna was alive! Until the vid-con, she, along with
everyone else, had believed her dead. Against the odds, she’d survived—had discovered
the bomb in her communication device. Although happy with Prince K’ev with whom
she’d bonded, she was fiercely, justifiably angry.
We betrayed her. I
betrayed her. The fact she had managed to slip her a secret message warning
her of the bomb did little to mitigate her culpability, even though sending
Rhianna to Draco had offered the sole chance to save her life. If she hadn’t
gone, Biggs would have had her killed. Helena didn’t doubt he would have
followed through on his threat. She had racked her brain for a way to save
Rhianna’s life, but could only come up with a long shot. Slip her message and
pray she found it in time. She had, but now Biggs suspected Helena had warned
He’ll be coming
for me. Telling her father wouldn’t do any good because even if he believed
her, he couldn’t arrest Biggs on her say-so—there had to be evidence. It was
her word against his. If the president took him into custody, the chief special
advisor still could have her eliminated. His enforcers were everywhere.
There was no place on Earth he couldn’t reach. But
Rhianna had provided Helena with an escape plan.
Her gaze snapped to the phone. Nobody used that line. In
the past, she’d been summoned to emergency briefings in the middle of the
night, but since being shut out of high-level discussions, that didn’t happen anymore.
Please, don’t let
it be Biggs. She pressed a hand to her churning stomach and picked up the
phone. “This is Helena.”
“This is Patsy.”
She sank into a chair. “Hi, Patsy. What’s going on?” She
affected a cordial, but impersonal tone in case others were listening in.
“I called to say goodbye.”
“I’ve been terminated.”
“Terminated? What are you talking about?” Damnit!
Damnit! She’d feared this might happen. Patsy had been slipping her tidbits of
information and had been the one to alert her to the hail from Rhianna. If not for
Patsy, she wouldn’t have attended the vid-con, might never have learned her
friend had survived.
“I’ve been told my services are no longer required.”
“I’m so sorry.” She felt sick.
“They’re coming to escort Henry and me topside in few
“Your brother?” Henry Winslow worked for the Secret
“Yes. He was fired, also.”
“Where will you
go?” With the threat of immolation still a possibility, no place above ground could
be considered safe. On the other hand, with Biggs in control, Bunker One was
the most dangerous place on the planet.
“Henry owns a cabin in Montana. When relations with
Draco started to unravel, he made plans.”
sorry.” She and Patsy had become close,
and the woman had been enormously helpful. I’m
the kiss of death. Everybody who helps me gets drawn into the line of fire.
“It’s not your fault. It was my mistake. You’re the
president’s daughter and a member of his strategic council; I assumed you
should be notified of Rhianna’s call.”
To anyone listening in, the falsehood would sound plausible;
however, Patsy had been aware of Helena’s marginalization. Back when they were
free to talk, they had discussed the disturbing trend they’d seen forming.
“You believed you were following the rules,” Helena
continued with the lie.
“She’s healthy and safe,” she replied. There was so much
more she wanted to say, but would never get the opportunity because communications
were monitored, and tomorrow, she would leave Earth. Now an ex-staffer, Patsy had lost her security
clearance. Revealing classified
information would violate national security and incur the wrath of Jackson
Biggs. However after the debacle with Rhianna, Helena wished to avoid repeating
mistakes. The worst thing she’d ever done was not tell Rhianna the truth. She hated
to allow Patsy, who’d be thrown topside, to live in fear of an imminent attack.
Of course, anything could happen with Biggs at the helm—but, at least for the
time being, a planet of nations had stepped back from the brink of
Screw Biggs. I’ll
be gone tomorrow. Rhianna had beaten the odds by going to Draco. Helena
would roll the dice and hope she could get away before his enforcers picked her
“According to Rhianna, King K’rah has withdrawn the
declaration of war, and instead, is demanding other concessions to demonstrate
our commitment to peace.”
“That’s great news—uh, what kind of concessions?”
“He has given us the opportunity to send another woman to
become the consort/concubine of another of his sons—Prince T’mar. A Draconian
ship will arrive on Elementa in a week. The woman is supposed to rendezvous
with the ship.”
“Is the president going to do it?”
“No. We’re continuing with colonization of Elementa. A ship leaves tomorrow with more settler and
supplies.” She crossed her fingers Patsy would pick up on the slight emphasis—but
their listeners would not—and would realize she planned to be on that
spacecraft. She didn’t want Patsy to worry about her when she vanished.
“Did the president turn them down outright?”
“Rhianna and Prince K’ev disconnected the transmission
before he could.”
“So when they find out we didn’t accede to their
request, we could be back where we started—expecting an attack.”
arrives on Elementa, I fear that will be the case.”
“I’m going to miss you,” Patsy said. “Will you be okay…here alone?”
Okay was their code word for safe. Had it been a casual
question, she would have asked, will you be all right? After Biggs had isolated
Helena, and the president’s assistant had begun sneaking her information, Patsy
had suggested they develop a code system.
“Of course.” She faked a titter. “I won’t be alone. I
have my father, and there are hundreds of staff and government officials in
Bunker One. Don’t worry about me. If you think you’ll be okay at your brother’s place, go with him. Don’t waste time. The large threat posed by the dragons still
exists, maybe worse than ever.” They’d both said way too much.
“I understand. And don’t you worry about me. I’ll be okay with my brother. In fact, he just
arrived along with the escort,” she said.
Once terminated, ex-staffers weren’t allowed to roam unattended;
they were treated as potential saboteurs. She felt relieved Patsy would be with
her resourceful now ex-secret service agent brother, but she’d miss her. A lump
formed in her throat with the realization they would never see each other
again. “Take care,” she choked.
“Stop it. You’ll make me cry.”
“You’re right. We’re both going to get through these
“You bet we are! The sun will come out tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Orphan Annie.”
“Hey, all we need is a Daddy Warbucks.”
She tried to laugh but failed; the situation was far too
dire. “I wish you all the best. If we never see each other again, please
understand how much I value your friendship, how much it means to me.” She’d
had two good friends, and she’d managed to hurt both of them.
Going to Elementa, then to Draco to become Prince
T’mar’s concubine would be the best thing for her friends and family because it
would remove her from Biggs’ reach. He’d be unable to use her as a pawn, and her
father would be free to work toward a peace settlement.
“You have so much to offer the world. I’ve always
respected and admired you for the way you speak your mind and take a stand
against injustice. How could I not be
The praise pierced like a barbed dart. She’d tried to take a stand, but failed to do
enough. Her message had saved Rhianna’s life, but it was almost a little too
little, a little too late.
“I don’t deserve your admiration, but thank you.” Helena
said. “Be safe.”
“I will. You, too.”
* * * *
A maintenance worker stood on a ladder replacing a
lightbulb when Helena emerged from her apartment the next day.
“Good morning, Ms. Marshfield!” he said cheerfully.
“You’re up and around early.”
Was it a casual observation or did her behavior seem odd
to him? Was he even a maintenance worker? Was it her imagination or had this hallway
been subject to unusually dedicated maintenance? Somebody always seemed to be around—vacuuming,
cleaning the carpet, touching up paint.
She often hit the Bunker One gym early, but never by 4 a.m.
However, she had to be on the spacecraft before its 0:600 launch and had a stop
to make beforehand.
“Got a lot of meetings today. Trying to get a jump on
some work.” She tightened her grip on her handbag. “You’re working early.”
Every second she lingered gave Biggs’ men another second
to apprehend her. Fear screamed at her to get out fast, but she forced herself
to stop and chat. It would raise suspicion if she didn’t.
Even if she got out of Bunker One, she had no guarantee
of safety. She could be waiting in line, and she’d feel a tap on her shoulder.
Or, she’d get into a cab, and the windows and doors would seal…
“Normal shift, Ms. Marshfield,” he replied. “We get our
work done off hours so we don’t get in the way of important stuff.”
“Everyone is doing important stuff,” she said. “We all
contribute, we’re all working to make our planet safe again,” she offered a
platitude expected of the first daughter.
“Thank you for that,” he said.
“Well, uh, have a good day,” she said.
would make it a good day.
A few paces down the hall, she halted and peered over
her shoulder. “Was that light out? I got in pretty late last night, and I don’t
remember it being burned out.”
“We replace them on a regular schedule so they don’t
“Ah! Got it. Well, carry on.”
Maybe I’m being
paranoid. Maybe this degree of maintenance was normal. She hadn’t given it
much notice before, hadn’t checked out other resident areas to compare.
Cognizant of the worker’s scrutiny, she tried to walk normally,
not hurry, but not dawdle. She prayed her clothing didn’t appear as
out-of-place as it felt. Would he remark to his fellow workers, “Have you noticed
how chunky the first daughter is getting these days?”
She hadn’t dared pack a suitcase because it would draw
too much notice, so she’d donned as many articles as she could. Even the most
lightweight fabrics bulked up when layered. Beneath her swirling skirt and
belted floral blouse she wore a cotton/poly sheath dress, two pairs of
moisture-wicking running pants and matching T-shirts, yoga shorts and a tank,
five pairs of bikini panties, and two sports bras. She’d omitted all jewelry in
case she set off the metal detector, which would result in a pat down. There
could be no hiccups; the plan had to go smoothly.
She wished she could have worn athletic shoes, but those
would have stood out, so she’d settled on black flats. She hoped to grab a pair
of sneakers at the drugstore if they still had merchandise. She hadn’t been
topside in months, but according to reports, stores were picked bare.
Her bag would be searched like everyone else’s when she
exited Bunker One, so she couldn’t take anything signaling she wouldn’t be
back. In her purse she carried a hairbrush, some feminine hygiene products, a
little bit of makeup, a bottle of pain reliever, and a canister of tear gas and
a pocket knife only allowed because she was the president’s daughter. She felt
more secure for having the latter two items, although she was under no
illusions they’d offer any protection against a fire-throwing dragon the size
of a bus—or against Biggs’ trained, lethal enforcers.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, socks and the like, she
hoped to acquire at the drugstore.
She’d printed out a hard copy photo of her father and an
old one of her mother, which she’d taped into a small notebook. She had a lot
of photos in her phone, but since the device could be used to track her, she would
toss it as soon as possible.
Carrying a handbag broke with her usual routine, but few people were about. By the time anyone of import viewed the security feeds, she would be long-gone.
* * * *
Line of Fyre blurb
know things are bad on Earth when you’re the president’s daughter and becoming
a concubine to an alien dragon shifter seems like your best option…
Helena Marshfield made a big
mistake. But making it right puts her life in danger. She’s forced to flee and
become the concubine of the Draconian prince. She never expects to be attracted
to the “dragon man,” and has no intention of making the relationship
Prince T’mar has no wish to consort with a human. Unfortunately, his father, the king, decrees he must accept her, his dragon mistakes her for their mate, and worse, the flame-haired female stirs his desires. Still, he intends to deposit her at the palace and fly away.
But when powers on Earth draw them back into the line of fire, will their unexpected, unwanted burning attraction be the one thing that can save them?
Line of Fyre (Alien Dragon Shifters 2) will be released in March 2020. To get notified of the release AND get a free book to read now (Married to the Cyborg), subscribe to my newsletter.