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Title: OFF PLANET
Author: Aileen Erin
Genre: Sci-fi Romance
About OFF PLANET:
From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin
In an all-too-plausible future where corporate conglomerates have left the world’s governments in shambles, anyone with means has left the polluted Earth for the promise of a better life on a SpaceTech owned colony among the stars.
Maité Martinez is the daughter of an Earther Latina and a powerful Aunare man, an alien race that SpaceTech sees as a threat to their dominion. When tensions turn violent, Maité finds herself trapped on Earth and forced into hiding.
For over ten years, Maité has stayed hidden, but every minute Maité stays on Earth is one closer to getting caught.
She’s lived on the streets. Gone hungry. And found a way to fight through it all. But one night, while waitressing in a greasy diner, a customer gets handsy with her. She reacts without thinking.
Covered in blood, Maité runs, but it’s not long before SpaceTech finds her…
Arrested and forced into dangerous work detail on a volcano planet, Maité waits for SpaceTech to make their move against the Aunare. She knows that if she can’t somehow find a way to stop them, there will be an interstellar war big enough to end all life in the universe.
There’s only one question: Can Maité prevent the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?
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“I’m aware.” It wasn’t something anyone could miss.
My cheeks heated. I didn’t like to show weakness, but this was one I couldn’t hide. “I don’t know. I can’t get it to stop.”
His eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“What do you mean what do I mean?”
“Okay. Why won’t it stop?” He said the words slowly.
Was the man being annoying on purpose? “How the hell should I know? I’m a little stressed at the moment and—”
“I’m an idiot.” He wiped a hand down his face, and when he looked back at me, his mouth dropped open slightly. He finally understood. “You were never taught how to control it. You don’t even know what it means, do you?”
“No. It’s not like there are any Aunare around that I can ask, and I can’t trust any information that SpaceTech puts out.”
“You can’t hide when you look like that.” He was stating the obvious, but at least he was getting it.
“Exactly. I can’t leave here. I’m stuck. Usually working out helps, but apparently not tonight.”
“What do you do when your skin starts glowing out there?” He motioned toward the door.
He wasn’t wrong to be surprised. It was kind of a miracle I’d survived this long.
No part of surviving had been easy for me. “I learned to cover all my body parts whenever I’m in public, so it’s just my hands and face I have to worry about. If I start glowing, I shove my hoodie over my head, use my hair as a shield, keep my head down, and stick my hands in my pockets. All while moving as fast as possible to a safe place.” I stared off at nothing.
This whole conversation made me feel too exposed. I didn’t like that my skin was giving away my feelings, and I didn’t like talking about my feelings to a stranger. Even one that I trusted. The glow gave too much of it away, and talking about my survival methods just seemed odd to me.
“It used to happen only once in a blue moon, but it’s been getting worse the last year or so. But I’m on edge. I’m going to keep working out, and it’ll stop.” Declan tilted his head as I said that, and my heart sank. He said he’d be keeping an eye on me, which meant that he knew I’d been here, working out, for over five hours. “It has to stop, right? Eventually?”
“No. It actually doesn’t. The glow has to do with energies. I can help some, but I’m not Aunare. I don’t really understand it all.” He pointed to the desk. “I’m going to make a call. You need to talk to someone who can explain it to you better than me. Just need a second, and I’ll get it connected.”
He went to the desk and placed three small devices on it. I wasn’t sure if he wanted privacy for the call or if he just needed the desk for the devices, but I was going with the latter.
I walked toward him. “What are those?”
“I need to make an untraceable, off-the-grid call. This will help me do that.”
“Is it safe?”
He gave me a fierce look. “I would never do anything that would put you in danger.” His voice was firm but had a tinge of hurt in it. He was mad that I would even question that, but what he didn’t get was that I always had to make sure.
I let out a breath. “Okay.”
“But, as I said, you need more help than I can give. You need to talk to another Aunare.” He powered them up and started tapping his fingers in the air. “Hey.”
“Is there a problem?” A rich voice came through the line. He sounded worried, but the voice—the timbre and texture of it—sent shivers through my body, and I’d pay my hard-earned money to listen to the man talk all day.
I’d thought that Declan’s voice was nice, but this one was out of this world.
I almost laughed at that thought. Whoever he was, he was out of this world. Literally.
“No problem. At least not how you mean,” Declan said.
“What does that mean? Did you find her? Is she okay? What’s—”
“She’s here with me now. She’s fine. I’m—”
“You’re in the air then? When do you—”
“What do you mean?” The voice deepened to a low rumble before he switched to Aunare. I gasped as Declan did, too.
I’d only heard it in old videos, but it was a beautiful language. Full of lovely hushing sibilant sounds that soothed my soul. I didn’t understand the words, but they felt familiar.
Mom said my first language was a mix of Aunare and English. They decided before I was born that she would speak to me in English and my father would speak to me in Aunare. But once Liberation Week happened, it was too dangerous to say even a single Aunare word. Ever. The brain wipe the doctor had done got rid of every Aunare word I knew.
Now the language seemed familiar but forgotten. Like if I could just clear away the fog, then I could understand what they were saying, but as it was, I didn’t understand a single word.
“Is that my dad?” I asked. The voice sounded familiar, but I didn’t know how. Maybe it was the memory wipe.
Declan and the other man stopped talking.
“Amihanna.” That one word felt like a caress that slithered its way into my heart and grasped it. The timbre of it surrounded me, and all of a sudden, I was filled with heat and drowning in want.
My throat was dry as I blinked my eyes, trying to figure out why the light was suddenly so bright, but then I realized it was me. One word to me from the Aunare man and I was wrecked.
If I’d thought my skin was glowing before, I was wrong. Now it was so bright I could’ve lit up the entire city.
About Aileen Erin:
Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd—from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), geeks out on Tolkien’s linguistics, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband and daughter in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.
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