Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on earth in order to escape an arranged marriage. Kidnapped by the princess’ head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found.
If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.
No pressure or anything.
Factor in Trystanthe princess’ terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secretsand her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan's young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Chani Lynn Feener’s debut novel Amid Stars and Darkness is a thrilling space adventure complete with perfectly detailed alien planets and a super sexy secret romance in a sci-fi setting.
Praise for Amid Stars and Darkness:
"A thoughtful, sexy adventure with winning characters just begging for a bedtime read." VOYA
"Feener’s world-building is excellent, and readers will feel engulfed in the culture, politics, and technology." School Library Journal
"The focus on the growing relationship between Delaney and Ruckus will please romance readers." Romantic Times
"This debut makes for fun, fluffy reading." Booklist
Praise from the Swoon Reads community:
“This story was amazing! The character development, the romance, the tears, such an emotional rollercoaster!”Hannah B., reader on SwoonReads.com
“Aliens, sexy soldiers, romance, cliffhangers... guys this book has everything!” The Blonde Bookworm, reader on SwoonReads.com
“I absolutely loved it. It hooked me right from the beginning and I couldn't put it down. It had so many great twists and turns and I loved that I couldn't predict what was going to happen. I loved the characters and their development throughout the story.” Emmasgems, reader on SwoonReads.com
“A thrilling high-stakes read. From the very beginning I was sucked in and pulled along this intense journey filled with danger at every turn.” Ashley, reader on SwoonReads.com
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"Do we really have to play this game?" Delaney asked, the question coming out halfheartedly. She already knew what the response would be.
"Come on," Mariana pushed. "I'm nervous."
"You're never nervous." The two of them had been friends for four years now, so she would know. "Besides, I'm terrible at this. You always win. Hence, why I'm here standing in line, waiting to get into a place I have no interest in."
"Don't be so dull, D." Mariana bumped Delaney's shoulder playfully. "Any time with me is fun time. Now" — her deep chocolate eyes homed in on a man standing five paces ahead of them — "us or them?"
Delaney made a big show of staring at the back of the guy's head before shrugging pointedly. "Us?"
Ignoring the fact that Delaney's heart clearly wasn't in it, Mariana pondered a moment before disagreeing. "Definitely a them."
"How can you even tell?" Because chances were very good that her friend was right.
"It's in the set of his shoulders."
"It is not." Or, if it truly was, Delaney couldn't see it.
The heavy thrum of music from inside the large warehouse building vibrated around them, the waves rumbling up through their feet. True to its name, club Star Light was a glittering beacon off the fringe of Portland, Maine. The building itself was made of faded brick, and had once been home to some sort of manufacturing company. That was many years prior, and it'd been renovated into one of the hottest dance clubs in the state about half a decade ago.
"Tell me again who you're hoping to meet up with?" Delaney asked as the line moved another foot closer.
Being that it was Friday night, it came as no surprise that the place was packed. A curvy stretch of people trailed from the two metal doors all the way to the start of the parking lot to the right. Because Mariana and Delaney had traveled the forty-five minutes from their small town, Cymbeline, to Portland earlier in the day, they'd snagged a prime parking spot in front of one of the buildings across the street. At least leaving would be easier. Too bad they'd spent so long at dinner that they hadn't gotten here at opening.
"I'm not hoping anything," Mariana answered, though her wide grin gave her away.
"Right." Delaney rolled her eyes jokingly. "That's why you're 'nervous.' What's this one's name again? Starts with an O? Owen? Otto?"
"Ottus," she corrected, a strand of annoyance slipping past her deep-red-painted lips. "Which you totally remembered. His name is Ottus. And you're supposed to be here for moral support. This is our first time meeting in person, and I want it to be perfect."
"Oat-us," Delaney sounded it out, and made a face. She remembered seeing the spelling of it flashing on Mariana's phone last week. It wasn't done in the traditional way; it was strange.
But of course it would be, considering Ottus was an alien.
It'd only been three years since the revelation of extraterrestrials. Apparently, they'd been visiting Earth for millennia, and no one knew quite why they'd decided to come out of hiding now, only that they had. After exposing their existence, there'd been talk of a merger, which of course the humans had protested. They'd attempted to fight, but their weapons were toys in comparison to the technology those from Xenith had.
"He's Vakar," her roommate said then, excitement brimming behind her smooth brown eyes. "He told me he used to be a soldier."
Mariana was obsessed with the aliens, who she'd dubbed Them. Like they were rock stars she couldn't get enough of. It was the one thing Delaney was looking forward to now that they'd graduated high school and moved into an apartment: separate rooms.
She loved Mariana, but she didn't share her interest in the otherworldly. Still, she was glad her friend was so excited to meet someone, even if he was an ex–alien soldier.
"And now he's a bartender," Delaney said, making sure the teasing lilt to her voice was apparent. "How impressive."
"Shut up." They moved less than a foot closer to the door. "If you'd just give him a chance, you would like him, I promise. But not too much. I don't want to share."
"I don't have anything against aliens," Delaney said for what felt like the millionth time. "I'm just not enthralled by them like you are. I'd prefer to go about my life per usual and pretend the invasion never happened."
Mariana was quick to defend them. "They didn't invade."
Done with this conversation, Delaney scanned her mind for anything else they could talk about. Literally anything. There was a bickering couple directly behind them, and for a moment their argument about whether or not waiting to get in was worth it was entertaining enough to hold her attention.
At this rate, they were never getting in and Mariana would never get to meet the bartender.
"Moral support, huh?"
"Yes," Mariana agreed.
"All right." She stepped to the side of the line. "This is taking forever."
Delaney ignored the six people who'd been standing in front of them, locking eyes with the bouncer. She'd watched him more closely over the past ten minutes and had noticed his bored expression and slouched shoulders. If she had to guess, he and his lack of enthusiasm were the main causes for the slow line movement.
Flashing a grin at him, she made sure to have his full attention before slipping a twenty from her pocket. Angling her body to keep the rest of the line from seeing, she held the bill out and motioned toward Mariana, who was still waiting in their spot.
"My friend is running late for a date," she told him. "Help a girl out?"
He was about three times her size and didn't appear to be the nicest of people, so she kept her smile firmly in place. He glanced between the two of them once before motioning Mariana forward with a finger.
Plucking the twenty from her hand, he absently asked for her ID, barely bothering to look down at it once she'd held it out.
She was a bit disappointed by that fact — the fake had cost her a decent amount of money, and using it had been the only part about coming to this club that had excited her. Then they were through the doors and Mariana swung an arm over her shoulder and they both laughed.
* * *
THEY'D SQUISHED THEIR way into the center of the crowd, relishing the flashing of neon strobe lights and the surrounding heat from the other patrons. It smelled like sweat and beer, and Delaney's ears were already burning from the heavy beat that thrummed from large speakers situated all around the rectangular room.
The dance floor was a large fifty-by-fifty square dais at the very center of the club. A single step led down to the rest of the place, with a bar lining the entire right wall, and booths and tables taking up the left and front. At the way back, a DJ station towered over the dance floor. A man with a bright pink Mohawk was currently spinning, his hair and teeth glowing.
The black lights painted the world in a mysterious radiance, turning everyday objects — like Delaney's Converse — into flashy items. The entire high-rise ceiling was covered in tiny glow stars of all sizes.
Despite her reservations, Delaney loved that she could disappear here, blend in and become just another cog in the universe. It was liberating in an odd way, one she couldn't quite place her finger on. Word spread quickly in a small town, and the town her parents still occupied off the coast of Maine was as small as they came. Not for the first time, she inwardly rejoiced at the fact they'd agreed to send her to boarding school.
She'd spent the past four years at Cymbeline Academy, a good two hours from where her parents lived. Just enough distance for Delaney to feel independent.
Mariana leaned in and screamed against the curve of Delaney's ear, "I'm going to get a drink!" They'd spotted Ottus working the bar when they'd entered, but Mariana had insisted they dance first, no doubt to build up her nerve.
"Are you sure?" Delaney asked. "Do you want me to go with?"
She shook her head. "I don't want our first face-to-face to be with a third wheel, no offense."
Delaney held up her hands and kept dancing. She spun as her friend disappeared among the masses, and Delaney twisted her hips and waved her arms to the heavy thrum. The song changed and she loosened up, switching tactics with ease.
The crowd moved in on her, caging, and she laughed when a boy around her age made a really bad robot move to get her attention. He fell into step with her and they swayed to the beat, close, but still far enough apart for it to be appropriate. Another three people turned toward them and joined, two of them girls.
She didn't know how many songs passed with them, but when she realized it'd been a while since Mariana had gone, she waved at her new friends and stepped back to go find her.
For a moment there she'd been able to distract herself with the music, but now enough time had passed that she was starting to get tired. Mariana was the partier in their equation, with Delaney merely dragged along for the ride every once in a while.
Stepping down from the dance floor, she scanned the bar, which stretched across the entire wall, easily spotting Mariana in her red outfit.
Sure enough, she was leaning across the white bar top, laughing at something Ottus had said.
He was all height and muscle, hair a mix between blond and brunette, depending on which way he turned his head. He'd shaved it so that there wasn't much to see anyway, making it even harder to correctly guess the shade.
The two of them had connected on one of the many dating apps Mariana used. The apps helped connect humans and aliens who were looking to get to know one another better, so it wasn't too big of a surprise that Delaney's best friend had signed up.
With a shake of her head, she decided to walk over and let her friend know she was leaving. There were enough people there that she had to move through the throng cautiously, but she'd only made it a few steps before someone slammed into her from the side.
She almost lost her footing, and instinctually reached out, grasping on to the other person's arm. Once steady, she glanced up to find herself staring at one of the most beautiful girls she'd ever seen.
They were about the same height, with the same narrow shoulders and long legs. The other girl's hair was even cut practically the same length, to just past her chin. That was where the similarities ended, however. Where Delaney's hair was a vibrant red, this girl's was inky black and slick like silk.
"Are you all right?" Delaney asked, pulling back and straightening.
The other girl stared at her oddly for half a second before the lost, distracted expression on her face suddenly morphed into a large smile. It was almost a bit creepy how wide it was, and Delaney instantly distrusted it.
"I'm perfect," the girl said in a high voice. She reached out and rested her hand on Delaney's left shoulder, squeezing lightly. "You have a fantastic night."
"Um" — Delaney turned as the girl went to step by — "yeah, you, too."
The girl was swallowed back up by the crowd. She hadn't even apologized for walking into her. Suddenly Delaney was completely drained. The music was too loud and the air was too stifling with all these people. Deciding she'd definitely more than done her best-friend duties, she turned back toward the bar where she'd seen Mariana only a few minutes before.
Only Mariana was no longer at the bar. Neither was Ottus.
Frowning, Delaney pulled her cell phone out of her back pocket. There weren't any messages, so she tapped Mariana's number and lifted the phone to her ear. It was hard to hear anything over the music blaring from all directions, but she was calling mostly so that her friend's phone would ring long enough to get her attention.
As it continued to ring in her ear, Delaney moved toward the exit, eager to get out of the throng. Outside, the air was sharp, and she sucked in a deep, chilled breath. It was close to one in the morning, and the line they'd waited in earlier was gone. There weren't many people out, just one or two smokers tucked against the brick siding by the door.
She turned away from them, heading in the direction of her car.
Mariana's voicemail picked up, and Delaney decided to give it one more try. After that she was going to resort to texting and waiting in the car. They'd driven together, so she didn't want to leave without knowing where her friend was and if she'd need a ride or not.
Knowing Mariana, the answer to that was the latter.
Just as Mariana's voicemail picked up again, Delaney's phone dinged. She paused at the entrance to an alley between the club and the equally large brick monstrosity next to it. Her car was visible on the other side of the street, directly under a streetlamp, so she could easily see within. It was empty.
She moved her attention to the screen and sighed when she saw the text message was from Mariana. Her friend let her know that she'd grabbed a ride with Ottus and was heading back to his place for the night.
Mariana had ended the text with a kiss emoticon and a winky face that had Delaney rolling her eyes and laughing at the same time.
Relieved that it meant she could now head home without worry, Delaney went to take a step forward, checking both sides of the street for oncoming traffic.
Before she knew what was happening, a heavy hand slammed against her mouth, yanking her back against someone's solid chest. She dropped her phone and, in her shock, watched it ricochet off the cement ground.
It landed on its back, so that the smiling image on her home screen of Mariana hugging her was the last thing she noticed before being tugged into the dark alley.CHAPTER 2
Delaney couldn't tear her gaze away from the phone as she was dragged back into the dark crevice between the club and the closed restaurant at its right. The sky was practically black overhead, and the second they were in the shadows, her brain finally registered what was going on.
Her struggling increased, and she shook her head back and forth to try to dislodge the hand on her mouth. The arm around her waist tightened, almost to the point of pain, and she was pressed flush against her captor.
"Stop it, Lissa," mumbled a deep male voice directly above her. "We need to go."
She tried to tell him that he had the wrong girl, but she couldn't even manage a muffled word past his hold. Frustration welled, and she took a stuttering breath to clear her head before reacting. Slamming her foot down on top of his, she dropped to her knees when his grip momentarily loosened, not waiting for him to regain his composure.
Twisting around so she was sitting on the cold ground, she kicked out with both legs, landing a blow to his stomach. It felt like she was hitting a rock wall. Flipping onto her feet, she bolted for the alley opening.
A growl sounded at her back, and right before she was about to make it into the light, she was grabbed again. This time he lifted her off her feet, letting out pained grunts when she repeatedly kicked him in the shins. He didn't loosen his hold again, and instead shifted her weight to his side.
He carried her as if she weighed nothing, toward the end of the alley and farther from the front of the club and any semblance of safety. His shoulders practically blocked out the building behind him, and she had to tip her head all the way back just to maintain eye contact. He wasn't bulky by any means, but he was fit and, judging by that kick she'd given him earlier, steady as a damn tree.
Which meant that the five measly self-defense classes she'd let Mariana drag her to weren't getting her out of this.
"I'll scream," she threatened, not really sure why she was telling him instead of doing just that.
"Then I'll silence you."
He dropped her suddenly and slammed her back against the frozen stone wall. His body settled around her, effectively pinning her in. Her head didn't even come up to his chin, but a couple of inches lower so that she was staring at the top of his chest. When she pressed her hands against him, he didn't budge, and there wasn't enough room for her to attempt kicking again.
She waited and, when nothing happened, risked glancing up at him.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked her, suddenly breaking the silence. His brows were creased, and he was inspecting her like he would an unruly animal.
"With me?" Her voice was incredulous. "I'm not the one who just kidnapped someone, buddy."
"I told you, it's time to leave. You're the one who's making this difficult."
"I'm the one —" She stopped, shoved down the fear, and held up her hand between them. "Okay, let's start again. First of all, dragging someone into an alley against her will constitutes kidnapping. Second of all, you also happened to kidnap the wrong person."
"We don't have time for this."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Amid Stars and Darkness"
Copyright © 2017 Chani Lynn Feener.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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