round robin

Part 6 of Holy Fudge Nuggets - An ORA Round-Robin


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 Kayla Griffith. If you like what you read, be sure to check out her work.

Need to catch up?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Holy Fudge Nuggets

"No. No, no, no…" loud cracks drown Lauren's words as the sky rent itself into a violent show of colors again. Her hands fumbled for her camera as a long, shiny—

"You've got to be kidding me." Her finger convulsed on the shutter as the not-so-mesmerized part of her brain almost laughed at the absurdity. "What is it with you people and penises?" Did aliens have Freudian issues, too?

Roan let out what had to be a curse by its tone and intensity. "We have to get out of here. Stop that and drive."

The camera jerked out of her hands. "Hey!"

She whirled on him with every intention of fighting to get her precious camera back, but the fear etched into his features brought her up short.

His body rippled with tension as he looked feverishly around her Jeep. "Do you have any weapons?"

"Weapons?" Her voice rose an octave. "To fight a freaking spaceship?"

"How fast can this vehicle move?"

"Wait. Isn't that one of yours?" Lauren shoved her thumb at the bulbous cylinder hovering over the crater created by Roan's now invisible ship.

The hard set of his lips answered her before his words. "No. That is my enemy."

Goosebumps rippled over her skin as panic raced through her body, but she wrenched the key and shoved the Jeep into gear as she slammed her foot onto the accelerator. Without thinking, she whipped the Jeep around and headed back up the dark, barely there set of tire tracks that passed for a road.

"We… can't… outrun them," she yelled over the noise and constant pummeling of the backroad. Without headlights she dared not take her eyes from the trail, and the Jeep's jerking rendered the rear-view mirror useless.

She had no idea if the interstellar man-part was still following them.

Roan twisted in his seat, his eyes rivetted on the scene behind them. "We must find a populated place where we can hide."

"Populated? This is New Mexico." She yanked the wheel to the left and the Jeep climbed up onto a forestry road. The logical reporter within her came out of hiding, shoved her panicked self aside, and began to piece together a plan. "Wait. How much of a population?"

"They won't dare show themselves in the open to large groups of people. That would be a temporal act of war."

"So, we can be safe if we find a place where a naked space or time traveler, whichever you are, with glowy hands won't attract any attention?"

"Essentially, yes."

She grinned despite the danger they were still in. "I've got an idea."

After a few more turns, a forestry sign appeared marking where the dirt road intersected a two-lane paved highway.

The arrow pointing to the right read "Roswell 38 Miles." An old truck rumbled past going much faster than the posted speed limit. Lauren pulled out onto the pavement behind it, turned on her headlights and followed it down toward the dim light of the city.


Wind whipped at Roan's hair and exposed skin as they followed the rusting vehicle in front of them. Occasionally, a piece of debris or bug hit him with a loud pop. His empty stomach rumbled its displeasure at regular intervals, darkening his already black mood. The constant barrage of sensation blocked his abilities to sense where his enemy might be. For all he knew, the ship could be hovering over them undetectable in its cloaked mode.

Next to him, Lauren sat with her hands locked on the steering wheel and her eyebrows knit together, creating a small line between them while her mesmerizing eyes remained focused on the road. Though she said no words, her lips kept moving in some internal conversation. A conversation that wasn't going well, if he read her expression right.

That shouldn't have distracted him from the very real danger of his situation, but it did. Or at least she did.

He blew out a breath and looked across the horizon to the streak of pink showing clearly where the desert met the sky. They'd followed him. The crash wasn't an accident but sabotage shoving him through a rift into the wrong space and time. What about this mission was so important that the Zantherians would attempt that?

The vehicle slowed and Roan looked up to see several lights on poles and a hanging green circle that turned yellow and then red. Lauren pulled the Jeep to a stop and whirled on him like a cornered animal.

"I hate you. Really, really hate you." She punctuated each word with a poke to his chest and then turned before he could respond to reach behind her and pull up a black cloth bag. She dropped it on his lap with far more force than was necessary. "You need to hide that thing."

He felt a ridiculous urge to smile at her. "Why do you hate me, exactly?"

The red changed to green and she looked back at the road as the vehicle began moving again. "Because Mr. super-cute, touchy-feely alien guy, this is the story of the century and no one will ever believe me. Not even with the pictures."

"They can't believe you. If you tell anyone, you will be targeted for removal."

"And that's why I hate you. I have proof that space travel is real and I can't tell anyone."

"Technically, they are the same thing."

"Right. Einstein's theory of relativity. If you accidentally rip through one, the other one gets screwed up, too."

He raised an eyebrow in surprise. She was more intelligent than he'd given her credit for. "I shouldn't be here, Lauren. I need to get back to my mission and lead the Zantherians off this planet before they hurt anyone or damage the timeline."


He pointed to the sky. "The other ship. They are a race of beings resembling your species of arachnids with impenetrable armor, eight opposable thumbs, and nasty prehensile stingers."

"Spiders?" Her voice grew oddly shrill. "You're being chased by super spiders?"

"Humans are a rarity in the galaxy and are often at a physical disadvantage. The universe does not favor the soft skinned." To their right, he spotted a sign he'd been seeking. His tense muscles relaxed just a bit.

"Turn at that yellow sign," he said, pointing to the well-lit building, one of the only ones containing other humans. "They can't follow us in there. We can eat in safety while I make further plans."

Lauren looked incredulously between him and the bright, yellow arches, but she turned into the wide expanse around the building before screeching to a stop.

"Seriously?" She was almost screaming at him. "It's not enough that you're a naked guy from outer space and fly a shiny, disappearing penis, your enemy is a spider from hell, and the universe hates me because I'm squishy." She pointed up at the yellow light above them. "Now you're telling me burgers will save us?"

Roan smiled at her. "Technically, it's the French fries that can save us. The galaxy is a strange place."


About the Author

Kayla Griffith has served on the ORA Board since 2017.

The story continues in August, with author Yvonne Erwin taking the reins. Check back to see what happens!

Part 5 of Holy Fudge Nuggets - An ORA Round-Robin


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 Harlow Layne. If you like what you read, be sure to check out her work.

Need to catch up?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Holy Fudge Nuggets

Sniffing, I scrunched up my nose at the offending object resting across my lap. “What the hell is that smell?”

“Oh, I think my friend used it last week when she had diarrhea. Does it smell bad?” she squeaked out like a tiny mouse being chased by a cat.

“I think bad is a gross understatement.”

Opening the glove compartment, I shuffled around dozens of films rolls before I could find what I was looking for she slapped my hand away and slammed the compartment door shut. “Hey, what was that for?”

“I don’t know?” she asked back with sass. “Maybe because you were going through my shit without asking. What were you even doing?”

“Looking for something to help cleanse this stench from this retched piece of fabric. It seems like maybe a little more happened to this poor defenseless towel than you’re letting on.”

Lauren slammed on the brakes and whipped her head toward me with a look of fiery vengeance. “Maybe if it’s so offensive to you, you’d like to walk to get your stupid hamburger, fries and milkshake, and find yourself some clothes.”

“No offense, but,” I held the towel up for her to get one last glance at it before I chucked it over the side. “Now that’s been taken care of, why don’t we get this show on the road and get me some burgers.”

Her brows furrowed. “What about clothes?” Her eyes flicked down to my lap for only a second and then met my eyes with her face as red as a bright sunset.

“Oh, I thought we were going through the drive thru.” I replied back cheekily. Surely there were places where we didn’t have to get out to pick up food in her town.

“And have your clumsy ass make a mess of my baby.”

“Baby? I thought that was a term of endearment for Earthling offspring or those you’re intimate with.”

“My Jeep is my baby.” Her eyes lit up with love for her beloved vehicle. “And my baby would appreciate it if it didn’t get alien herpes on all over the seat.”

“Well, I guess if spreading my alien herpes is what’s going to happen if I’m naked then I guess I’m starting an outbreak.”

“Why do you have to be naked?”

I was unsure if I should tell her the weakness of my race, but it seems like I’ll be unable to succeed in my mission otherwise.

“I have to be naked to be in tune with the environment. Clothing dampens my senses and I can’t use my abilities.”

Startled by a shock wave of the atmosphere shattering, we looked up, eyes glazed to see a phallic object falling from the sky head first, falling into the ground.

My enemy’s ship.


About the Author

Indie Author. Romance Writer. Reader. Mom. Wife. Dog Lover.  Addicted to all things Happily Ever After and Amazon. 

Harlow Layne is an emerging author of small-town and Hollywood romance.  

Harlow wrote for years before she Luke and Alex’s story that had been swimming in her head for years.

When Harlow’s not writing you’ll find her shopping on Amazon, spending way too much time on social media, reading, or hanging out with her friends, family, and two dogs.

The story continues in July, with author Kayla Griffith taking the reins. Check back to see what happens!

Part 4 of Holy Fudge Nuggets - An ORA Round-Robin


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 Susan Keene. If you like what you read, be sure to check out her work.

Need to catch up?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Holy Fudge Nuggets

“Before we leave…” Lauren began to look around. No way NASA would leave an Astronaut in the middle of the desert with a billion dollar machine and not send someone to pick him up. “Is it possible for me to take a look inside your ride?”

He glanced down from his six feet something height to her five feet nothing height and said curtly. “No. Actually, I should move it before we go. I wouldn’t want someone to find it and find themselves an Magula in the morning.”

Why couldn’t she keep her eyes from wandering down? There they were again, dangling for her to see. She had broken up with Bryan two years ago. If she went without sex much longer she wondered if she could again be considered a virgin. “A-a Magula?” She couldn’t concentrate while looking at him like that. Ok, this this had to stop before she jumped this naked stranger right there and then.

She walked self-consciously toward her Jeep Wrangler. She’d left a beach towel in the back when she drove to the lake with her friends. She assured herself it would cover him nicely and fought the urge to glance back and take one more peek. Instead she looked the other way and kept walking then stopped in her tracks to stare at the completely refurbished spacecraft a football field away. Then it dawned on her. “Magula. You’re not from Earth, are you?” By now he stood beside her.

“No but if it puts your mind at ease, this is my third mission here so I’m well informed as to how things work. What I like best about your planet is gravity. It is so much easier to get projects finished when your tools aren’t floating around or on the other hand, so heavy there is no way you can use them.”

Tools. Lauren didn’t want to think of his tools! She rooted through the rear of her vehicle and pulled out a wrinkled, damp, smelly, towel from her last water excursion. She didn’t look at him when she handed him the disgusting thing, she would give him some privacy while he wrapped the nasty terry cloth around his Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson waist.

Privacy? She thought how silly it had been to look away after staring at his junk for the last… who knows how long. As she crooked her head back toward him, she noticed the aircraft had vanished. “What the hell?”

Roan must have seen the look on her face. He helped her to the front of the car and sat her in the seat. She was glad she had taken the top off for the summer.

He gently closed the door then rested one tanned muscled arm on the opened window frame and the other on the windshield. He leaned his lemon and mint scented face so close to hers she saw blue flecks dancing in his eyes and watched them turn dark as he spoke in a voice much lower than she noticed before.

“Lauren, I can’t tell you how sorry I am you were here to see my ship crash. It is important you listen to every word I have to say.

“You said nothing when I said I’d visited Earth before. It makes me think you are not taking this encounter seriously. I don’t want to tell you too much because it is human nature to let others in on events such as this.”

Lauren was so afraid she struggled to get a breath. This man was an alien! She leaned backward, he leaned forward. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Roan stepped back. “There are many mysteries in the Universe. I am one of thousands of members of the Planetary Rewind Academy. You, on Earth, are too naive to understand the gravity of our mission, or to become a part of it. We have been here many times over the centuries and have left signs. Yet Earthlings have reduced our markings and attempts to contact your inhabitants to sightseeing destinations and mere close encounters.”

Lauren knew what she said from that point on could save her or — not. She hadn’t felt threatened until that moment. “I believe this entire happenstance is fascinating. I moved here to be closer to where the majority of alien sightings have been. I swear, your secret is safe with me.”

“I’m going to trust you, Lauren. We at the PRA have many friends on different planets and star-stops. There are few on Earth. No matter how evolved we are, it’s nice to have a friendly face and someone to talk to if our mission is long term.”

“I am honored,” she answered with no more fear.

“Good.” He opened the car door with a smile. Because, the only time I can eat hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes is on Earth. I’m hungry.”

He lifted her from the seat and hugged her as if they’d been friends for years. Wow, she was actually having an encounter with an alien! The way he embraced, and moved against her told her he was more Earthling than he wanted to admit.


About the Author

Susan Keene was born in California and raised in Illinois. Now she lives on a farm in the beautiful Ozarks. She writes full time and loves every minute of it.

Her hobbies include treasure hunting with her metal detector, bike riding, reading, art,  walking and her children and grandchildren.

Susan spent the first 20 years of her career in the medical field. She likes to weave her knowledge from the hospital into her novels.

Susan is available for speaking engagements, book signings and reviews. She loves reading her children’s books to schools and teaching children to get excited about reading and writing.

She also enjoys speaking at Book Clubs and writer’s groups.

The story continues in June, with author Harlow Layne taking the reins. Check back to see what happens!

Part 3 of Holy Fudge Nuggets - An ORA Round-Robin


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.

Need to catch up?

Part 1

Part 2

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.

The story continues in May, with author Susane Keene taking the reins. Check back to see what happens!

Part 2 of Holy Fudge Nuggets - An ORA Round-Robin


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 Bran Lindy Ayres. If you like what you read, be sure to check out their work.

To read the first part of this story, click here.

Holy Fudge Nuggets

"This is not okay. Not okay." Roan muttered to himself as he knelt to gently lay the woman on the ground. Dirt and debris had caught in her hair and clothes rendering everything a dull brown in the amber glow from the fire.

He glanced over his shoulder at the remnants of his ship. The heat from the flames had his bare skin prickling. How had he survived that? Something to ponder another time. He turned to the woman, checking her over to make certain there were no potentially dangerous injuries. Her labored breathing was punctuated by soft coughs every few breaths.

She must have aspirated some of the debris which could put her at risk for a lung infection later or suffocation right now. Normally he would have taken her to the ship and used the medikit to stabilize her. That obviously wasn’t going to happen. Have to do this is the hard way then. Still kneeling at her side he held his left hand over her face, palm above the parted lips. A moment of concentration and a soft blue glow warmed his palm. Blue wisps flowed into her open mouth. She inhaled deeply, paused then coughed forcefully. Another cough, this time specks of mud splattered across his palm. He pulled his hand away and leaned over her, watching her face. She took another deep breath and her eyelids fluttered open. It took her a moment to focus.

"Oh. You're still here."

"Aye, still here."

He watched her gaze wander away from his face and had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning at the expression that crossed her face.

"Still naked too."

"Still naked. My clothes were on the ship, which … is currently combusting."

"I can see that," her gaze finally found his face again. The laser sharp focus startled him. "Who are you?"

He got to his feet and looked around them. Aside from the burning ship there wasn't much to see. The rocky terrain reminded him of the outpost on Mars. A couple hundred yards away sat a wheeled vehicle. From the design he guessed he'd landed in the early twenty-first century. Not as far off the mark as he'd thought. About two years too late though. Dammit.

The realization struck him. He was stranded. No ship and not even a thread of clothing, never mind his instruments and weapons. He'd never had a mission go sideways so fast. Something about that explosion had him wondering if his ship had been tampered with. If that were the case, someone had tried to kill him. They wouldn't have sent a lone operative, but a whole team if his mission was that important. He knew from reading the casefile that it didn’t have any bearing on the major historical events of this time period. It didn’t even involve saving a life, just a simple case of finding out where an author had left their unpublished works in order to settle some estate issues a few hundred years later.

The rattle of rocks next to him had him glancing down at the woman. He put out an arm to help her steady herself. What could he possibly tell her? Lying seemed the best option. If he was right about the era, then first contact had yet to happen and he could possibly get away with a fabrication. But what?

"I'm a test pilot."

"A test pilot. Flying a UFO. At night. In the desert. With no clothes on."

Okay, that made it sound really stupid. He grimaced and looked away from her. This was awkward. Almost as awkward as being completely nude. Talk about feeling exposed. He drew in a breath, held it and then blurted, "It's not a UFO, it's a quantum-temporal tunneler. QTT for short."

"Hold up, Mr. Nakie-butt. Are you trying to tell me that is-was a time machine?"

"My name is Roan Ask and yes."

"Do you always time travel naked?"

"Do you generally stand around quizzing crash survivors?" He put his hands on his hips and stared down at her. Even with all the dirt clinging to her, she was nice to look at. The shrewd dark gaze didn't waiver.

"Point taken. We should get to safety."

"And so you know, I was in quantum stasis. Normally, I would have had time to get dressed after landing." There was nothing normal about this situation at all. Stranded naked with a beautiful woman in the distant past … nope definitely not normal.

"Right. You’re no Dr. Beckett then."

"I … don't follow..." Roan said.

She turned away with a soft laugh and then bent to retrieve something from the ground. He sucked in a breath seeing the antique camera. Had she photographed him? That could be a problem. A big problem.


About the Author

Growing up in rural Missouri surrounded by dense forests teeming with giants, dogwood horses, pine castles and grapevine snakes, Bran has always had a very healthy imagination. This was further inculcated by their mother, who encouraged them to read the likes of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. Their love of fantasy and writing has never waned even as they got older, and has developed into a need to write.

They currently live in Southern Missouri with three young nerdlings and three precocious felines. When not writing, Bran can be found with their face still glued to the computer screen playing video games or reading.

The story continues in April, with author Barbara Bettis taking the reins. Check back to see what happens!

Holy Fudge Nuggets - An ORA Round-Robin


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 kick-off installment of our story, HOLY FUDGE NUGGETS, is authored by Rosalie Stanton. If you like what you read, be sure to check out Ms. Stanton’s work.

Holy Fudge Nuggets

The sky’s curtain of speckled navy had vanished in the span of a blink, ushered away by an explosion of electric whites and flaming oranges. There wasn’t time for thought, so Lauren didn’t waste any—she raised her camera to her eye and began clicking at everything that moved.

Which, at the moment, was the whole damn sky.

It took a moment, through the camera lens, to find the flow of movement through the sea of color that suddenly dominated New Mexico’s air space. Like all good fire shows, this one had to have a source. Through the break in smoky clouds came a—

Lauren frowned and lowered her camera. That couldn’t be right.

“No way.” She blinked a few times, but the scene didn’t change.

Swaying in a speedy blur across the night sky, blanketed with smoke and one hell of a light show, was an honest-to-crap flying saucer.

Or flying cylinder. It was hard to be sure.

Lauren allowed herself precisely one second to gawk before her inner journalist kicked into gear. The camera flew back where it belonged, a series of clicks providing a familiar cadence to unfamiliar chaos. The lens supplied what the naked eye could not, and years of training made following the—yep, that’s a UFO—flying saucer-or-cylinder’s progress much easier. Her journalist’s instinct did the work for her, guiding the camera’s nose as though it was sentient.

Which was how she captured the shot of a century—no, make that a millennia—when the alien ship collided with terra firma. The resulting quake threw her legs out from under her, but she fell with her finger still clicking. A storm of dirt and dust exploded into the air, and before she could close her eyes, every possible crevice in her small, vulnerable body was filled with flooded with flying grime. Tainted air stole down her throat, flooded her nose, and fell in blanketed layers across every inch of her skin. She immediately began hacking, which had the unfortunate effect of dragging more dust down her throat, but eventually the dirt thinned and sweet-tasting oxygen tickled her taste-buds.

“Are you all right?”

Okay. Now she was hearing things. Lauren coughed again, her chest burning with exertion. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, then blinked some more. A blurry collage of shapeless colors winked in front of her before beginning to harden. And then she was certain she was hallucinating.

Because standing before her against a fiery backdrop, was a man.

A handsome man.

A handsome naked man.

Lauren blinked again. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”

The naked man took a step forward, which had the lovely added benefit of jiggling his naked bits. Which were nice to look at, if not a little strange, given the context.

“Are you all right?” Mr. Birthday Suit asked again, kneeling so his eyes—which were a nice, warm brown—were level with hers.

Lauren shook her head, but that was the wrong decision. The world titled sideways and threatened to black out. She managed to stave off the dark, but only just. She knew she was seconds from losing her grip on consciousness, but the reporter in her wasn’t ready to go down without a fight.

She had some questions that damn well needed to be answered.

“You have a nice penis.”

And apparently, the part of her brain connected to her tongue had been blasted away in the spacecraft’s crash. That wasn’t what she’d meant to say, but her mouth couldn’t work itself around the right words.

The man tilted his head, studying her. He looked for all the world like his genitals were often the source of praise. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Also not what she meant to say. Lauren’s brow furrowed. “I usually don’t see a guy’s penis until date five or six. This is a new experience for me.”

“I am not wearing clothes,” the man said helpfully.

“Oh.” Lauren’s mind screamed something she couldn’t follow. It wasn’t that she was unaccustomed to people overstating the obvious—she worked with the media, so it was a regular part of everyday interactions—but the white noise in her head had grown louder, pushing all thoughts, penis-related or otherwise, out of reach.

She was about to pass out. In the dessert with a lost nudist.

Jesus Christ, could this day get any weirder?

Lauren shook her head—mistake—and looked again to her new friend, whose brow was furrowed, those nice brown eyes filled with concern. He was speaking slowly, but she couldn’t make out the words.

She placed a hand on his chest, concentrating. Ooh, sculpty. She needed to say something—anything, because passing out with a naked alien outside a wrecked flying saucer was not normal, and though she felt no fear at the moment, a part of her knew that was because she wasn’t aware enough. But if she passed out, she’d be at this guy’s mercy. And that would be a much scarier thought when she had control of her faculties.

Lauren managed to pluck words out of the back of her head. She could only hope they were the right ones. “Stop,” she said. “Hammer time.”

And with that, the world went black.

About the Author

Rosalie Stanton is an award-winning author of steamy paranormal and contemporary romance. A lifelong enthusiast of larger than life characters, Rosalie enjoys building worlds filled with strong heroes and heroines of all backgrounds.

Rosalie lives in Missouri with her husband and their dog, Luna. At an early age, she discovered a talent for creating worlds, which evolved into a love of words and storytelling. Rosalie graduated with a degree in English. As the granddaughter of an evangelical minister, Rosalie applied herself equally in school in the creative writing and religious studies departments, which had an interesting impact on her writing. When her attention is not engaged in writing or editing, she enjoys spending time with close friends and family.

The story continues in March, with author Bran Ayres taking the reins. Check back to see what happens!