Christie Meierz has a new MM sci-fi romance out: Rembrandt’s Station. And there’s a giveaway!
Stationmaster and exiled aristocrat Albert St. John Rembrandt—Bertie to his friends—is in love with a man he’s always believed he can’t have, and finding out the hard way that some Tolari are as poisonous as their planet is only the beginning of his troubles.
A ship has gone missing. His station is in crisis. Bertie must somehow recover his health and manage the disaster while trying to decide whether to accept genetic modification in order to be with the man he loves.
And no Rembrandt has ever taken a gen mod.
Warnings: mention of past off-screen rape of a character who doesn’t appear in the book
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The Monral bent over him. “My love, I beg you—”
“Must… must stay human… the Duke…”
The Monral slammed his other hand onto the treatment bed and looked up at the apothecary, knowing his face betrayed the pain of his next words. “You cannot give it to him unwilling.”
She nodded, her own face betraying nothing. Grimly, he poured more of his own strength through his fingers into Bertie, who rallied a little, bringing the pain roaring back. Pain itself could kill a human. The path to keeping Bertie alive lay along a cliff’s edge. Any mistake would plunge him into the dark.
The apothecary pointed her chin at his hand. “We will do all we can for him, but high one, you must pace yourself.”
He shook his head and turned back to Bertie, willing him to remain in the light. Stay alive. Stay alive! Stubborn human! Why? Why did he risk losing his own life to remain unmodified, to hold himself apart from a belonging he clearly desired?
Poisoned, sickened, in extreme pain—Bertie could not be thinking clearly. Did that give the apothecaries an excuse to disregard his oft-stated opinion about the blessing?
Or—he could make Bertie want the blessing.
The Monral lowered his head. No. That, Bertie would never forgive. When he realized he had been manipulated—and he would—he would hate them all.
At least he would be alive to hate them.
The Monral wiped at stinging eyes. He could not betray Bertie now, though the consequences were unthinkable. He touched his forehead to Bertie’s cheek, let his senses wrap around his lover’s presence. Pain. Everywhere, pain. It crescendoed. Bertie cried out, and the Monral drew a harsh, gasping breath. It was too much, and he broke the contact to straighten. A chair touched the back of his legs; he dropped heavily onto it. Bertie had to live. He had to. If he would not take the blessing, then the Monral would do what he could do, even give every last bit of his own strength to save him. He could live with prolonged exhaustion. He was unsure if he could live without Bertie. Not anymore.
Bertie writhed. “I don’t want to die alone,” he rasped. “I don’t—” The last word broke off into another scream.
The Monral’s vision glazed. “You are not alone, my love,” he said, when the scream subsided into choking sobs. “And you will not die. Not while I am here.”
Bertie sighed, and his emotional landscape fell into a disorganized chaos of shallow unconsciousness. His body spasmed and twitched. Around him, the apothecaries, nurses, and aides moved rapidly about their varied tasks, but even unconscious, the pain hardly dulled, radiating from Bertie like heat from a fire. The Monral sagged in the chair, exhaustion fogging his thoughts. He had poured almost everything he had into Bertie. It was still not enough.
“You will not die while I am here,” he repeated, and ignored caution to pull what he still could through his ruling bond, pushing that through his fingers.
He tried to find more. There was nothing left. He would have to wait for the energy available to him through his ruling bond to replenish itself, but he was out of time. Bertie was out of time. Already his glow began to dim again. Tears welled up and spilled down the Monral’s cheeks. He was going to lose him. He was going to lose Bertie.
No. He gathered his remaining strength. If giving it left him unfit to rule, so be it, so long as it kept Bertie alive. If it was not enough—
He took a breath, facing the reality before him. If it was not enough, then Albert St. John Rembrandt, the Duke of New Norfolk’s unwanted youngest son, would walk into the dark surrounded by the love of Monralar.
“I am yours, my love,” the Monral whispered. “I will always be yours.”
He took a deep breath, gathering himself.
A feeling of being watched stole over him, and with it, a sense of Parania’s beloved. He paused. Laura was awake and listening, then. Or she was traveling about while her body slept. Why was she here?
Was it simply to offer comfort when Bertie—if Bertie—when—his thoughts stuttered to a halt. More tears spilled.
Then something touched the very core of his heart and soul, refreshing and replenishing, and suddenly he was alert. Energy poured in from his ruling bond as if he had yet given nothing at all. Startled hope flooded him. He drew another deep breath and directed the energy into Bertie. The dimming stopped.
From across the stronghold, he felt the smile on Laura’s face.
* * *
As dawn approached, the mood in the apothecaries’ quarters lightened with the sky. Even to the Monral’s untrained eye, as bad as Bertie looked, his color was better, pale as a summer cloud but no longer grey. Much of the pain had subsided, to the relief of everyone in the room, and though his breathing was shallow, it had settled into an even pattern. The Monral caught the head apothecary’s eye and lifted an eyebrow. She nodded.
“He is out of immediate danger,” she said. “We will do all we can to repair the damage to his body, high one, but it is extensive, and he will require many tens of days to fully recover. He could not have survived without the strength you lent him.”
Its work done, his connection to the beloved of Parania guttered like a candle flame and went out, leaving his chest aching but his body thrumming with energy. Mother of All, he thought. What power Laura had. And how much longer could her Paran hide the fact of it from those who would use or destroy her?
The Monral turned back to Bertie, whose eyes had slitted open. The whites were entirely stained red with blood. “Good morning,” he told him gently, in English.
Bertie managed a faint smile and said, in a hoarse whisper, “You sure know how to show a man a good time.”
Award-winning author Christie Meierz writes space opera and science fiction romance set on a world of empaths at the edge of a dystopic human empire. Her published works include her PRISM award-winning debut novel, The Marann, three more novels set in Tolari space, and several short stories.
She is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), spent 10 years raising sheep in Broome County, New York, and has been declared capable of learning Yup’ik.
Christie now lives in Rochester, NY, where she and her mathematician husband serve as full-time staff to two parlor panthers known to humans as Banichi the Assassin and Miss Myrtle the Hurricane Cat. (Their true names remain a mystery). When she’s not writing, she writes about writing on her blog, her personal Facebook page, where she welcomes comments and friend requests, and her Facebook Author Page.
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