Jul Kisling’s heart aches for the homeless children living beyond her office window. Her father, Chancellor of the Third Quadrant of Akila, refuses to use his power to help them. Frightened but determined, Jul secretly searches for transportation to bring some of the children to a newly-colonized planet.Marc Prejean is an out-of-work, out-of-money Earth starpilot living on the land of his Cajun ancestors. Wrongfully convicted of smuggling and recently released from forcedsleep, he reluctantly agrees to Jul’s proposition. His desperate situation, the betrayal of his wife and brother, the loss of his starpilot license, and his stolen six years have left Marc angry and withdrawn.
Marc and Jul begin a journey of agonizing mistrust, smoldering sexual desire, and the shared goal of safeguarding the twelve children. Pursued by ruthless adversaries on both sides of the law, they soon realize they are delivering the children into even greater danger.
Marina Landry has gained attention in both the romance and science fiction communities for her heart-warming, emotionally intense, character-driven stories. Her debut novel A Star Called Home (Desert Breeze Publishing) has consistently received five out of five stars on multiple online book review sites. Marina has taught language arts and mathematics in south Louisiana for 18 years. She speaks on the craft of writing and teaches all levels of writers online. Though her education has not followed a typical path nor timeline, she has Masters Degrees in Education of the Academically Gifted, Secondary Mathematics Education, and Adult Education.
Excerpt from A Star Called Home by Marina Landry
“Jul,” he began. Trouble was, he didn’t know where to go next.
She filled the silence by saying, “I’m sorry about the gamepieces. I don’t know why I jumped into Isak that way. I was just… startled, I guess.”
“That’s one of the things I want to talk about. Why were you so startled when I offered you the mancala stones? You seem very… well, wary… of being around me. Is it… are you afraid of me, Jul? I know we don’t know each other very well–“
“I’m not afraid of you. I’ve seen how gentle you are with the children, how patient you are with all of us.”
“Then what? Have I hurt your feelings?”
Her lips tightened as she tried to form her answer. Marc’s neck grew stiff and he raised his head from the wall. Putting his feet on the floor, he leaned his forearms on his knees. Obviously, he had offended her somehow. In the painful silence, a tendril of shame curled and burned through his abdomen. He had accomplished the one thing he had struggled not to do the first time they’d met — show her how different they were, how coarse he could be. It was just as well; she would surely despise him once they arrived at Iberon.
“Marc, please understand.”
She fell silent again, and Marc could hear her breathing, labored as if volatile words were threatening to erupt.
“Just say it!” he demanded, unable to bear the acid in his soul.
“All right, I will.” She took another deep breath and lifted her chin. “I have no desire to lie to you, Marc. It’s just very hard… for me to say this. I think… I think… you’re an amazing man. I know this trip is much more difficult than you expected, yet you’ve done a lot to make it easier on everyone else, including me. I’ll always be grateful for the kindness you’ve shown these children. I dare say they’ve never met a man who treats them the way you do, like the precious human beings they are. Sometimes… you treat me that way. When I was hurt, you reassured me and… and you told me things about yourself. I felt a connection to you, comfortable with you. But then — I don’t know — you stopped looking at me.”
Opposing waves of guilt and relief flooded Marc, drowning his words. He wanted to tell her what a profound effect the kids had had on him. They were precious human beings, each one unique and special to him after such a short time. Just as she was special. He wanted to be close to her, to discover and cherish everything about her.
Yet, Jul couldn’t possibly love him and forget Gabe, especially not after only three days. And they were on their way to Iberon. If — when — he reported her to the Iberion authorities, they would never see each other again.
“It’s the kids, your plans for the kids. I know I agreed not to ask any questions, but if I understood why you were taking them to Orum–“
“Please, ask me anything but that,” she begged in anguish.
“Why can’t you tell me?”
“You must trust me. These children had nothing on Akila. I’m taking them to a better life. That’s all I can say. Please, please, don’t ask me any more.”
Her eyes were red from lack of sleep and barely restrained tears. She was in such obvious misery Marc couldn’t keep pushing her. His heart could hear she believed she was taking them to a better life. She wasn’t trafficking them out of greed or malice. Was that enough to excuse her from the legal consequences of her actions? Was that enough for him?
“I guess we both have secrets,” he conceded. “I suppose we can work together in spite of them. Maybe we could… be friends while we’re on the ship.”
“I’d like very much to have you as a friend.”
“Gabe won’t feel we’ve betrayed him?”
“Gabe? No, why would Gabe mind? My friendship with you won’t lessen my friendship with him.”
“Friendship? You aren’t… lovers?”
“Oh, no, I’ve never felt that way about Gabe. We’re just very good friends. Like… like maybe you and I could be.”
He couldn’t help it. A wave of elation rolled over him, washing away a layer of shame he’d been carrying about his attraction to her. He took her hands and cradled them in his palms. The now-familiar rush of desire filled him. He ignored it, and knew he would have to stay strong enough to ignore it repeatedly, because he would no longer deprive himself of touching her. He studied her graceful fingers and stroked her wrists with his thumbs.
He glanced up at her face and found her eyes were closed. Long, dark lashes rested against the high, pink cheeks and Marc wondered what it would be like to kiss those eyelids, those cheeks, the slightly parted mouth. Yet, he was entrusted with her safekeeping, even from his unwelcome advances. This was no way for a friend to act. He placed her hands in her lap and sat back.
She opened her eyes and stared at him. Marc looked away and said, “I plan to talk to Isak about him and Min.”
After a moment, she nodded. “Yes, I don’t want to keep them apart longer than necessary.”
“But, you said–“
“I know. But, I had a dream last night… Never mind. I just realized once you’ve found someone whom you love with your whole heart and spirit, spending one unnecessary minute away from them is like… like being in an airsuit in deep space. You know you have enough air and warmth to survive, but it’s not the same as being in the spaceship.”
“No, it’s not the same.” The quiet words slipped out, surprising Marc as much as Jul.
“Have you felt it? Is there someone you want to be with, but you can’t?”
Marc scoffed. If she only knew. “Yes, I’ve felt it, chère. But in my case, it would never work. She wouldn’t be interested, comprends?”
“Have you told her how you feel?”
The conversation was becoming too uncomfortable for Marc. He needed to change the direction his thoughts were flying. Friendship was better; he could offer friendship to Jul, and expect a rich friendship in return. He would never feel satisfied, but at least he would not have his heart wrenched out again, as his wife had done. An airsuit was better than nothing.