The writers of Ozarks Romance Authors have launched their own Round Robin. New installments will be posted monthly. Be sure to check back to see how the story is progressing!
The next installment of our story, HOLY FUDGE NUGGETS, is authored by Barbara Bettis. If you like what you read, be sure to check out her work.
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Holy Fudge Nuggets
Roan studied the woman—Lauren, she said her name was—gathering the camera. She brushed the debris from her hands and blew the dust from its nose—no, that had been called a lens.
Then she turned her head, hip-high to him, and her face glowed redder than Orian’s fifth moon. Looked like inhabitants of this place hadn’t become comfortable with their bodies yet.
“Why are you here?” The words seemed to clog in her throat as she rose, careful to keep her line of vision on the horizon
What would she make of his reason for suddenly appearing? She thought his cruiser was a time machine; perhaps that would serve for now. “We’ve been experimenting with time slips, and this century has many important events to examine.”
“So you popped back to study us?”
Her glance zeroed in on his face, her eyes focused, narrowed. Green eyes. The color of rare Rhrysthem crystal found in the deep heart of Zanther’s mountain range. His people had battled hard for that prize, and he’d give the last hundred years of his life to find the traitor who’d betrayed them. The traitor or his writings, here in this backward yet beautiful place. But he couldn’t tell her that.
Perhaps that’s why his mission had been compromised. The Zantherians swore to block any attempt to uncover the secret formula. And lord knew they could worm their scheming way into any surrounding. The Silent Force hangar would be no exception and that’s where his ship had been readied before his flight.
The woman tilted her head, her gaze sharpening. “I read that time machines would transport beings through time, not—” she looked at the sky “—through space.” Her expression arrested and her nostrils flared. She must have caught the sweet, floral scent of his ship’s blue metallic shell beginning to reconstruct through the blaze. The fragrance of lilacs, if he accurately recalled his readings about the planet. Thank ye Gods. He wouldn’t be stranded after all, although everything non-metal inside the craft was ashes. He’d need to gather more supplies.
Pops and crackles from his poor heliatron had become muted as the flames went about putting themselves out. In all his studies, Roan had never heard of spacecraft reacting so when entering an alien atmosphere. And this atmosphere’s oxygen level most closely resembled his own planet’s, so there was no reason for the inferno when he landed. Had to be sabotage.
The woman brushed her blond hair from her forehead, the camera in her hand scraping her cheek. Her startled look told him she’d forgotten about the thing. So had he. Damn, he’d better get his thoughts in order. He sure as hell didn’t want to have to hurt this woman, but he had to know what she had captured when he crashed.
“Let me help you with that.” He extended his hand, but she turned a shoulder.
“I’ll just slip it into my bag.” After tucking the camera away, she nodded toward the wheeled vehicle sitting on the road.
“Come with me. Better get you some clothes before we do anything else.”
Roan eyed the cloth bag in her hand. He’d have to go with her for now, until he knew no evidence of his arrival existed.
“We’ll stop at a Target for shorts and a shirt. How big are you?” Her mouth compressed, her gaze slipped down, and her cheeks once more took on the vibrant red of Orian’s flaming moon.
Lauren focused on his beautiful face. I won’t look down, I won’t look down. She swiped her fingers across her forehead, flicking away the perspiration. Oddly enough, she shivered. “Better get you some clothes before we do anything else. How big are you?”
Oh, dear lord, why had those words slipped out? How humiliating. Her gaze lost the fight and sank to his jiggly bits. Not bit-size at all. She slapped her hands against her face which burned as hot as the blazing Time Machine. Time Machine my behind. That did it. Indignation froze away the embarrassment. What game was he playing, and how stupid did he think her?
The entire reason she was in this lizard-forsaken bit of rock, sand, and heat was to find out just what kind of tests the government sanctioned. The air base lay twenty-five miles to the north, but plenty of folks nearby had reported odd lights and sounds during the past two months. Her job—track down the source and film it. Whatever ‘it’ turned out to be.
A flaming flying saucer—or cylinder or whatever—had been the last thing she’d imagined. Obviously, they were testing a new kind of aircraft. She supposed the pilot was damned lucky to be alive. The inferno that once engulfed the craft had died to
leisurely flames. She jerked her head to the side to make certain. Yep. Mesmerized, she followed the flickering light. Little flames, curling around the ship, like tongues, licking it all better, like a live thing. Never before had she understood that expression.
What a fabulous jump-page photo that would make. She looped the bag over her shoulder and pulled out the camera. Damn, it still had debris all over it from her dive into the dirt. Gently she brushed off the body with the tail of her shirt and blew on the lens.
“What are you doing?”
His voice at her back made her jump. She’d forgotten him and her embarrassment in the excitement of finding a great shot. Suddenly, like a cool brush of breath, a faint blue glow curled around her hands and into her new, thirty-five hundred dollar Hasselblad. Well, she’d gotten it second-hand, thus the good price, but it was new to her.
“Hey, stop that!” Lauren bent over the long-range lens that cost nearly as much as the rest. The glow enveloped the whole camera and when it vanished, the body, the lens, the viewfinder—sparkling!
She turned to find his chocolate-brown eyes glowing. She smiled. “Thank you. I don’t know what you used, but my camera is completely clean!”
He smiled in return, a toe-curling, scalp-tingling curving of lips that left her breathless.
“Yes,” he said. “Absolutely clean.” He laughed. “Let’s go.”
About the Author
Award-winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she briefly considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.
She now lives in Missouri, where by day she's a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she's an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for--and heroes to live for.