CompuServe Romance Reviews
Captive Heartsby Lissa Michaels
Ariana Zoltan has no choice but to work with her
Taken prisoner by the Jotnar Alliance, Morgan Fontinara, crown prince of Bellariss, must escape the slave world of his incarceration to lead the rebellion he planned. He didn't count on a sexy psychic warden, nor did he plan to reach out to her in a moment of weakness, bonding himself to her mind, body and soul.
Ariana Zoltan has no choice but to work with her Jotnar overlords, but does everything she can to ease the slaves' suffering. If that means using her powers to spot potential runners, so be it. But Morgan's psychic pleas force her to respond, wrapping her future and soul with his.
Can trust be earned between such disparate lovers?
Morgan and Ariana must answer this question before they can turn their attention to defeating the Jotnar and grabbing for a life together.
CompuServe Romance Reviews
Captive Hearts is a powerful book with definite cross-genre appeal. Plus, a strong candidate for screenplay or teleplay adaptation.
- Mundania Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)
Read an Excerpt
The trading world Tellari
Morgan Fontinara glanced at his chronometer and bit back a sigh of frustration. Two blasted hours! How long was it supposed to take to convince thirty people that he could do what they wanted him to do? His rebellion plans were sound. If they'd only stop arguing with each other, and stop questioning his abilities, they'd see that. And, as if this situation weren't bad enough, his brother Galen still had not arrived. He should have been here hours ago.
"You are sure this will work?"
Aware of how quiet the windowless storeroom had become, Morgan glanced briefly at the closed door then turned his head to answer the thin, green-skinned Theledonian woman. "It'll work as long as we're able to keep the element of surprise. That's why I've kept my plans vague. You can't tell the Jotnar what you don't know."
An angry hiss drew his attention to the Sumarian representative glaring at him through narrowed reptilian eyes. "You s-sound as-s as though you believe we would willingly betray you. Perhaps-s you have already been betrayed."
"I'd be foolish not to consider that possibility, but I'm willing to take the risk." Not because most of the Bellarissian cargo ships the Jotnar destroyed were his, but because he took the loss of each crewmember personally, and their numbers were growing far too large. His people suffered only a fraction of what the rest of the galaxy suffered under Jotnar rule. They had to be stopped.
"He's here, isn't he?" a new voice said from the door.
Seeing the innkeeper lounged against the wall by the door, Morgan's stomach flip-flopped. He hadn't been there a moment ago. That meanttrouble, or that he'd had some word on Galen.
"Prince Morgan could have sent a representative from Bellariss, like your own worlds did, but he risked his own skin to prove that he's sincere in helping us overthrow the Jotnar."
A murmur of agreement traveled through the room as Morgan tensely awaited whatever news the innkeeper had to deliver. Thank the gods it was a short wait.
"That transmission you were expecting just came in."
Morgan excused himself and followed the innkeeper into the tavern. Business was pretty slow this early in the day. A few patrons of various species were scattered around the large taproom. The counters gleamed and the floor had been swept clean of the debris from the previous night's business. His boots shuffled and scratched over the floor's fresh coating of sand as he trailed behind the innkeeper. The closer he got to the innkeeper's office, the more anxious he became.
What was that blasted kid up to?
He paused long enough to nod a greeting to the furry, little white Trill that chattered in his direction then stepped through the door the innkeeper held open for him.
"Take as long as you need. I'll see that you're not disturbed."
Morgan nodded his thanks. Then, after the door had closed, he walked over to the desk and flipped on the viewscreen. His brother's smiling face appeared.
"Where in the three phases of hell have you been?"
Galen sputtered, his face flushing. "We delivered all the missives, then picked up the trade goods we'd ordered. Morg, it was great! The broker got everything we requested. I managed to get two cases of Folian brandy for you and a water crib for Sabina and Boyan's baby, and --"
He flinched. "We were so close to Pleasara, and Hastin said we had time to --"
"Hastin!" Morgan swore. "I should have known. Here I've been worried sick you were taken by the Jotnar, and you were rolling around in some whore's bed."
"I didn't send you out on a pleasure cruise, blast it. Don't you know how dangerous it is for us? You get in, do your business, and get out. There's no time for anything else."
"I know, but --"
Morgan turned his back on his brother, effectively cutting off Galen's excuses. "I shouldn't have let you go."
"Oh, come on, Morgan. Nothing happened."
Morgan whirled back to the screen. "Not another word!" He dragged his fingers through his long blond hair and forced himself to take a deep breath. The kid was just too young and irresponsible to send out on a mission like this. He should have followed his instincts and not bowed to Galen's pleadings. "Where are you right now?"
"We just entered Tellarin space. We should be touching down in half an hour."
"Good." Morgan rested his knuckles against the desk and leaned in toward the viewscreen. "Then you, Hastin, and I are going to have a long talk."
Galen paled, but didn't protest. Then the ship lurched violently, knocking him from his feet.
"Morgan?" Galen's panicked face stared back at him, his voice barely audible over the loud wail of the warning sirens. A loud explosion lurched the ship again. "Stars," Galen whispered, his face stricken with horror. "We're being boarded."
"Galen, get out of there. Transport out, now!" Morgan gripped the desk, willing his brother to do as he said.
The door behind Galen blew in.
Morgan swore, feeling useless as he watched his dazed brother turn toward the armed Jotnar soldiers that swarmed into the room killing anyone that moved with blasts of laser-fire.
"Galen, transport out!"
Galen slowly raised his hands. A Jotnar pointed his laser rifle at him.
"Gods, no," Morgan whispered.
The soldier fired and the screen went static.
"No!" Morgan swore, his fingers flying across the controls as he tried to get the signal back. He tried three times and all three came back with the same results --the signal was gone.
He slammed his fist on the desk, clenching his eyes tightly shut against the burning of tears, and sank onto the desk chair. "Gods, Galen," he whispered, resting his forehead against his fisted hands. "I shouldn't have let you go."
"Prince Morgan? You all right?"
Morgan took a deep breath and looked up, seeing the innkeeper standing in the doorway. He nodded, wiping away the wetness from his cheek with his hand.
The innkeeper cleared his throat, aiming his gaze over Morgan's shoulder. "Your brother-in-law is getting anxious over your being gone for so long."
Morgan nodded, standing up. "I've got to get back to the meeting." When he got to the door, the innkeeper gently grasped his shoulder.
Morgan's throat tightened so badly he could hardly swallow. All he could do was nod.
"I'm sorry." The innkeeper gave his shoulder a comforting squeeze, then left Morgan to find his own way back to the meeting.
He walked through the taproom in a daze, barely acknowledging the greetings he heard. As he neared the storeroom where their meeting was being held, he heard a multitude of angry voices raised in argument.
Determined to put an end to the petty bickering, he gritted his teeth and stormed into the room. They were so busy shouting into each other's faces, they didn't even notice his furious entrance.
"That is enough!"
The sudden silence was deafening as thirty-four pairs of eyes turned to him.
"You people came to me for help. I'm here, offering that help, and all you can do is bicker." He dragged shaking fingers through his hair. "You want to rebel against the Jotnar? Fine, I'll help you, but you're going to do it my way or it won't be done at all. Is that clear?"
"Yes-s, Your Highness-s," the Sumarian replied with a humble bow, amusement sparkling in his eyes.
Morgan ground his teeth, refusing to look away from that reptilian smile, from the challenge, even as the others humbly agreed to follow his plans.
"Something has happened," the Theledonian woman whispered, drawing Morgan's gaze. She stared at him with her knowing, half-lidded gaze.
Boyan, Morgan's brother-in-law came to stand beside him. "Morgan, what is it?"
Morgan closed his eyes briefly, taking a deep breath. He didn't want to do this now. Anger was so much easier to deal with than grief. "We lost another ship."
"Gods," Boyan whispered. "Galen?"
Morgan nodded and turned away, unable to say more. When a gentle hand touched the middle of his back, he stiffened.
"May the gods ease your pain," the Theledonian woman whispered, and Morgan felt some of the pain in his heart ease, if only temporarily.
"Thank you," Morgan whispered, unable to meet her gaze.
The mention of more senseless deaths at the hands of the Jotnar subdued the atmosphere of the meeting. One brave soul, a Novan, stood and cleared his throat. The sound, much like a feline clearing a fur-ball from its airway, caught everyone's attention.
"Your Highness, if something should happen to you --"
"The invasions will go on as planned whether I'm alive or dead." Morgan glanced at Boyan and received his affirmative nod. "Your people will see freedom. You have my word on it."
His answer seemed to please the room's occupants, setting some of their worries at ease. The meeting soon broke up, with promises to follow Morgan's plan and to be prepared to defend their worlds when the invasions began. When the last representative had gone, Morgan turned and headed out into the tavern.
"I need a drink."
Boyan nodded and followed him up to the bar. Without being asked, the innkeeper poured two shots then quietly moved down to other patrons.
Morgan stared into the thick, blue liquid, not knowing what kind of whiskey it was, but hoping it would burn like hell going down.
"Are you sure?" Boyan met his gaze through the large mirror behind the bar.
"I saw it happen."
"Galen, Hastin, all of them are gone." Morgan swore, and downed the shot. It burned a fiery path down his throat into his belly.
He coughed, shaking his head to clear it, then tapped his finger on the bar, ordering another. He swallowed that one just as quickly then pushed the empty glass away.
"How am I going to tell my father that he just lost his son and his best friend?" Not that Hastin was much of a loss. Morgan still believed that Hastin was responsible for Drake's banishment, that he could have done something to keep his son from being punished for a crime he didn't commit.
He wondered how Drake would feel about his father's death? Drake had spent his whole life trying to earn his father's love, and had always come up short. He rubbed his hands over his face then sighed, letting them drop, and stared into the mirror. A familiar face stared back at him. "Drake!"
"Where?" Boyan turned to look.
Morgan swiveled on his barstool, but saw no sign of him. "Blast it, where'd he go?" For the first time in six years, he'd caught sight of his best friend, and he'd just vanished.
"Are you sure you --" Boyan stopped, gripping Morgan's arm. "We've got trouble."
Jotnar soldiers swarmed into the bar and were heading right for them.
"Out the back," the innkeeper whispered. "Hurry!"
Morgan and Boyan hopped the bar and ran for the door leading to the private hangar where their ship was hidden.
"You want to try and fly out?" Boyan asked, huffing for breath as he ran along side him.
Morgan shook his head. "No time." He could hear the soldiers' shouts and thumping boots getting closer. "Back here!" He dodged behind a crate. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Yanking back their sleeves, they exposed their jewel encrusted wrist cuffs. On the colored jewels, they tapped in the transport sequence that would send them home.
"Ready," Boyan said.
"Go. I'm right behind you."
Boyan shimmered and began to fade, as Morgan went to press the final jewel on his cuff. A tearing pain ripped through his abdomen. He gasped, doubling over. "Gods, not now Sabina!" He swore at his twin, damning her for expecting him to share every nuance of her pregnancy at the worst possible times.
"Morgan!" Boyan's voice was far away, too far to be of any help to him. Then, he was gone.
Gasping for breath, he forced himself to straighten and reached again for his cuff.
"No you don't!"
Morgan flinched, then found himself facing the barrels of several laser pistols. The Jotnar squadron had caught up to him.
"Grab that thing off his wrist. Don't let him touch it," the commander ordered.
When one of the barrels pressed into his cheek, it's quiet hum warning him it was ready to fire, Morgan stilled his struggle to keep the cuff. How did they know?
To the untrained eye, his cuff was just an expensive piece of jewelry --a gold bangle encrusted with purple gems. The commander's next words confirmed his growing fear.
"It's a pleasure to find you still here, Your Highness. We were afraid we'd missed you."
Betrayed! Morgan gritted his teeth and struggled as they yanked his arms behind him and shackled his wrists. It had to have been a Bellarissian. No one else knew of their transporter capabilities.
"How does this thing work?" The soldier turned the cuff over in his hands.
"Press the large stone twice, then the small stone on the bottom three times."
"No!" the commander shouted, but it was too late. The gullible soldier had already keyed in the sequence, and the cuff immediately grew red hot. The soldier yelped and dropped it. In seconds, it melted into a molten puddle of gold. Nothing remained, not even the stones.
"That was a mistake!" the commander growled. Then he raised the butt of his pistol and struck Morgan in the temple. A blinding pain exploded through his head, then everything faded to black.
On the Alliance planet Cantara, Ariana Zoltan paced in front of her wide office window. The panoramic view, with it's towering black mountains and the soft yellow clouds floating in the lavender sky, brought her little enjoyment this morning. In fact, it only served to remind her that if her plan didn't work, this might be her last day in this office.
"It has to work," she whispered, looking down at the delicate bracelet that wound around her wrist, then tapered across the back of her hand in an intricate webbing of tiny gold links and crystals, and attached to a small ring on her middle finger.
The large crystal, set in the center of the webbing, grew warm against the back of her hand. A rainbow shimmered to the surface of the crystal and burst into a riot of color.
Ariana smiled. It was trying to encourage her. She wished she were that confident about her situation. For all she knew, they may have already decided to replace her. Grader had been in with the review board for an hour already, no doubt poisoning them against her.
She'd always known that he resented her being installed as administrator over him, but she'd never expected him to go behind her back and report every little problem. If only she'd caught on sooner, she might have had more time to prepare.
The door to her office whooshed open. Her aide Shalanna strode in, data pad in hand.
"Is everything ready?" Ariana moved to her desk and clenched her shaking fingers tightly into the back of her chair.
"The review board has chosen ten slaves from the yard, as you requested, and are awaiting you in the conference room."
"Thank you, Sheena," Ariana whispered, sending the goddess of all a quick prayer. They were going to give her the chance to defend herself against Grader's accusations. No doubt he expected them to simply come and remove her from power on his word alone. "This is it, little rainbow. Time to show them what we can do."
Giving her white Command uniform jacket a firm tug, and her neatly pressed, black trousers a once over, she knew that they'd find no fault with her appearance. Her uniform was flawless. If only her confidence was in as good a shape.
Looking calmer then she felt, Ariana strode out of her office and down the hall. As she neared the conference room, she could hear Grader's voice raised in protest.
"What purpose will this serve? The woman is incompetent. Replace her and be done with it."
Wanting to test her crystal and see how Grader felt the meeting was going, she concentrated on him from the open doorway. His anger and frustration rolled over her in crashing waves.
Flinching briefly, she entered the room. "To what end, Commander?" Ariana nodded a greeting to the review board then turned to Grader. "So things can go back the way they were? Since I've taken over, slave deaths have been reduced by ninety-five percent."
"Slave escapes have gone up." He strode up to her. "You're too soft on them. They have no respect for our authority and no fear of reprisals when they disobey." Standing at her height, Grader glared into her eyes, nearly nose to nose with her. His pale Jotnar skin reddened in anger until his face nearly matched the shade of his hair.
"Commander, you've had your say," Captain Jojev, head of the Jotnar Base Efficiency Review Board, interrupted. "Take your seat." He nodded toward a vacant chair at the end of their table.
After a lot of posturing and dramatics, Grader sat in the indicated chair and glared at her.
Captain Jojev smiled at her. "Now, Administrator, why don't you tell us why you had us choose these slaves from the yard." He gestured to the small group of men standing in the corner under heavy guard.
Ariana's heart pounded in her chest. This is it. Praying this would work the way she wanted it to, she sent a silent entreaty up to the goddess.
"As Commander Grader stated," she made eye contact with each of the board members, "the number of runners has increased. We're working to discover how they're escaping the compound, but if my system works, we may be able to stop escapes before they are attempted."
Grader snorted. "What system?"
Ariana ignored Grader, keeping her gaze roaming over the three board members. "During my training, I spent some time with the psychics on Theledon. While there, it was discovered that I had a latent empathic ability."
"I do remember reading that in your file," Captain Jojev said.
Ariana concentrated on him, but didn't sense the disgust she'd expected to him to feel. Encouraged, she continued her explanation. "With the help of the rainbow entity that lives within this crystal," she held out her bracelet-adorned hand, "I'll be able to sense strong emotions and determine where they might lead."
"Oh, please." Grader stood. "Captain, do we really have to listen to this nonsense? This is just an obvious attempt to save her position."
"Who said her position is at risk?"
"I sense your desperation, Commander, and your disbelief. Captain, I sense your curiosity, and your amusement." Ariana smiled, glancing briefly at Grader. "The other board members aren't quite sure yet what they feel about my announcement."
"You've proved a point, Administrator. I take it these slaves were chosen for some sort of demonstration?"
"You are correct, Captain." Ariana motioned the guards to bring the slaves forward.
A few of them looked familiar, but that only meant that they'd been on the base for a while. She spent little time in the yard and didn't own a slave, so there was little chance she'd ever know any of them personally.
Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the group, letting their emotions surround her as she slowly moved down the line. Fear, anger, hopelessness --all normal emotions for slaves. The crystal wasn't telling her anything. She paused and clenched her fingers into fists. This isn't working! They're going to think she's a fool.
There were still two slaves left in the line. It had to work. Taking a deep breath, she started moving, concentrating. When she got to the last man, the crystal vibrated against the back of her hand just as she sensed his determination and smug satisfaction. She opened her eyes and focused her gaze on the crystal. It flickered between purple and black. Pulsing once, the rainbow entity retreated, leaving the stone as colorless as water. She met the mocking silver stare of the tall dark-haired slave before her. "This one is ready to take action, and is willing to use violence to achieve it."
The slave paled, his mouth dropping open in shock, and Ariana thought for a moment that he looked vaguely familiar to her.
She shook her head, realizing that she'd probably seen him on the base before. It's not like she actually knew the man. Feeling that she had the matter settled, Ariana dropped her hand and stepped back.
"Take him to interrogation," Jojev ordered.
"Captain, please," Grader protested. "You don't honestly believe this nonsense?"
"Commander, you will have this slave taken to interrogation. If he's found a way to escape, I want to know what it is." Jojev's expression left no room for further debate.
"Yes, sir." Grader waived the guards forward.
As she watched the slave's retreating back, she realized that she'd just gained an enemy, and the knowledge didn't sit well with her. His hatred struck her like a blow, filling her with guilt and betrayal. Goddess above, why did she feel like she betrayed him?
Because you know this is wrong. Slavery is wrong, her conscience said. And here she was in charge of a base full of slaves, on a world that embraced slavery in every capacity --her world.
"Very impressive, Administrator." Captain Jojev came forward to take her hand. "Tell me more about this system of yours."
His affinity is false.
My job is at risk. The crystal throbbed against her hand, validating the feeling. Ariana swallowed nervously, hoping she looked calm and confident. "Right now, it's pretty limited. The rainbow entity has not yet become attuned to me, so the spectrum of emotional colors is limited."
"And when it is attuned to you?"
"I should be able to judge upon arrival which slaves are likely to give us trouble and assign them accordingly." She carefully withdrew her hand from his and the tension in her eased a little.
"Two months," the captain said. "You have two months to perfect your system, or Commander Grader will assume command."
"But Captain --"
"That is our decision." He tugged the hem of his uniform coat with a gesture of finality.
As they filed past her and out of the room, she couldn't miss Grader's smug smile, nor the air of triumph that practically radiated from his being.
"It's not over yet," she mumbled, glaring at his back. She just hoped two months would be enough time. If Grader regained control, the torture and killing would begin again, and she just couldn't bear to watch that.
No, it would work. She had just proved that it could. She'd just have to find a way to deal with her guilt. "I'm doing it to help them," she whispered, looking into the crystal.
The rainbow flared weakly.
"I'm finding little comfort in that, myself."
Copyright © 1999 by Lissa Ramaglia
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