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Authors: Ava Jae

Beyond the Red

BOOK: Beyond the Red
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Praise for
Beyond the Red

“Ava Jae’s
Beyond the Red
is a sand-swept fantasy of court politics, rebel attacks, and forbidden romance. While reading, I had flashes of
Star Wars
—a new planet, a fascinating culture, a fresh look on a ruler struggling to keep her power—and I had to know what happened next. Dangerous, exciting, and fast-paced,
Beyond
the Red
is a story not to be missed.”

—Francesca Zappia, author of
Made
You Up

“Packed with political intrigue and smoldering romance,
Beyond the Red
left me craving more of Kora’s and Eros’s story and the unique, fascinating universe that Ava Jae has created.”

—Sarah Harian, author of
The Wicked We Have Done


Beyond the Red
is a sweeping, compelling romance in a complicated and gritty world. Intrigue and heart on every page—I couldn’t put it down. I’ll be following Ava Jae to see what comes next!”

—Kate Brauning, author of
How We Fall

“I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down! What a fantastic debut, perfect for fans of
Firefly
and
Star Wars
. Ava Jae’s
Beyond the Red
packs a punch, a total thrill ride that will keep readers turning the pages. I stayed up all night reading it. From page one, I was sucked in. Jae’s writing style is a perfect mix of stop and go, and her world comes to life within the first few pages. The action was power-packed, and the star-crossed romance had me begging for more by the end.”

—Lindsay Cummings, author of The Murder Complex series

“Ava Jae has built such an interesting world in
Beyond the Red
. With forbidden romance, gritty action, and thrilling danger, this debut is one to watch. And here’s hoping for a sequel!”

—S. E. Green, award-winning author of the Killer Instinct series

“I loved
Beyond the Red
! Ava Jae’s science fiction world-building is a perfect blend of a fantastic, foreign alien civilization and achingly human desires all packed into an explosive mix. I couldn’t help but root for crafty Kora as she navigated court politics, revolutions, and dangerous secrets. And Eros! His determination balanced with a sense of humor about his fate made him such a swoon-worthy love interest. The action started swiftly and didn’t let up. I can’t wait to read more from Jae!”

—Lindsay Smith, author of
Sekret
and
Dreamstrider

“A thrilling blend of science fiction and fantasy,
Beyond the Red
sketches out an exciting new world full of romance and intrigue. I can’t wait for future installments!”

—Kat Zhang, author of the Hybrid Chronicles series

Copyright © 2016 by Ava Jae

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Sky Pony Press, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

Sky Pony Press books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Sky Pony Press, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 or
[email protected]
.

Sky Pony® is a registered trademark of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

Visit our website at
www.skyponypress.com
.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

Cover design by Sarah Brody

Map design by Kerri Frail

Print ISBN: 978-1-63450-644-1

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-63450-645-8

Printed in the United States of America

To my maker, with all the love You’ve given me.

My brother just killed me. Again. I know, because I wake with a knife to my throat and the cool barrel of a phaser pressed against my forehead. Good morning to you, too.

“Blazing suns, Day,” I murmur, rubbing the grogginess from my eyes. “If a Sepharon soldier manages to find camp while I’m sleeping, I accept I’m dead, okay? Now let me rest.”

I’m ready for some kinduv snappy comment about how I’m dead twice now—when I’m too tired for Day’s drills, he sometimes mock-kills me in six or seven different ways before launching into his
the aliens won’t let you rest
spiel—but it doesn’t come. Maybe I should apologize for not taking him seriously, but it’s hard to be amped up all the time over such a distant threat. Most of us haven’t even
seen
a Sepharon, let alone come close enough to have to fight one, even if Day insists we’ll eventually have to.

Still, the quiet is unlike him.

I lower my hands and peer into the darkness of the tent. It must be earlier than I thought, because the suns haven’t risen yet. A shadowy figure cloaked in black stands over me. Silence twists through my chest. The hiss of shifting sand nearby sets my pulse racing. There are others here. And since when does Day wear a cloak?

“Sit up, boy,” the figure says, and his light voice surprises me—he’s a kid, can’t be older than fourteen—and he’s calling
me
boy? He nudges the phaser. “Scream for help and I’ll cook your brain.”

I sit up. Carefully. No sudden movements. My fingers are cold and my heart’s about to explode, but I force a slow exhale and swallow a bout of nausea. If this is some kinduv training exercise, Day’s gone
way
too far. As head of security, my brother’s obligated to be paranoid about raids from the Eljan Guard, but if they ever find us, they won’t sneak into my tent and hold me at phaserpoint—they’ll just raze the place to the ground.

A thought worms into my mind and a shot of ice hits me in the stomach.
What if this isn’t a drill?

My eyes adjust, and I can make out the others—three figures cloaked in dark colors, curved black phasers in hand, standing near the entrance of my tent. They shift nervously, and one is digging the toes of his left foot into the red sand. Definitely not trained soldiers. Judging by their lack of height and use of English, they’re human, which means they’re probably from camp. So what do they think they’re doing?

If they weren’t armed, I could take them out easily, but I’m not willing to risk a lucky shot to the chest with a phaser blast. The only way for me to escape this would be to turn their weapons against them. There’s no way I’d do that to a bunch of kids.

“We should hurry,” one of the companions whispers, and the boy holding the phaser and knife outstretched nods and steps back.

“Get up.”

I slip off my bedroll and reach for my pants folded at my feet, but the hum of a charging phaser and the telltale red glow stops me in mid-reach. Red, not white. It’s actually set to kill, the little star-cursed idiots.

“What are you reaching for?” the boy’s voice is high and tight. “I’ll kill you, I swear I’ll—”

“I’m putting on pants,” I say calmly. “Unless you plan to parade me around camp naked?”

A long pause. “Just hurry up.”

I’ve barely thrown on a pair of shorts when the warm barrel of the phaser nudges my spine. “That’s enough,” he says. “Put these on.”

He passes me two smooth metal cuffs.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask.

“We don’t answer to half-blood bastards,” one of them says. It’s meant to be an insult, but the words roll harmlessly off my shoulders.

“Put them on,” the boy behind me demands, pressing closer to me. I could refuse, but the heat of the charged phaser on my skin makes me think better of it, so I slide them on. They shrink to mold to my wrists, their edges glowing blue as the magnet activates. The boy pulls my hands behind my back and the cuffs snap together.

“Move.”

I duck out of the tent. A blast of warm wind slaps my face with chalky scarlet sand. Powder coats my tongue and absorbs the moisture in my throat, turning cold and muddy in my mouth. My foot catches on one of the tent supports, and without my hands to break the fall, I slam into sand, my tent crumpling behind me. Something hard presses into my thigh—the metal handle of the switchblade in my left pocket. One of them grabs my shoulder and yanks me to my feet—or tries, anyway, but he’s barely gone through his voice drop and I’m not exactly a small guy. I shift onto my knees, then stand. They prod me forward through the maze of sleeping tents, each marked with a circular family crest of varying designs and colors. I spit cool, bland sludge.

I can see my captors more clearly under the light of the quadruple moon-dotted sky. The tallest is nearly a foot shorter than me. They wear matching black hoods with scarves covering their mouths and noses and long dark clothing to conceal their skin. Each of them carries several weapons—knives, phasers, and a club. Their movements are swift and silent, their heads ducked, as though they’re afraid of being seen as they keep me between them. They move with a synchronization that twists my stomach—I’m not the first person they’ve taken.

As we move through camp, the hum of the phaser at my back keeps my mouth shut. I don’t doubt they’d use any opportunity to roast my organs with a well-placed pulse.

BOOK: Beyond the Red
4.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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