My first book in the Prison Moon Series is set to release on April 24th! I'm beyond excited to share this new world I've created with Alexandra Marell. Take a peek below at the first chapter of my contribution to the series, DRAGON FIRE.
Abducted by aliens and housed in an airtight room with twenty other girls wasn’t Sara’s idea of a good time. Neither was being dropped into the jungle of a Prison Moon, but for the rest of the galaxy, it was. She was the entertainment. The game? Survive the lawless alien criminals who ran wild or die trying, but there was no outrunning a dragon, and he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to let her go.
Toren has spent the last several centuries sleeping beneath the rubble of an abandoned temple. The wars decimated his world and now was used as a dumping ground for the most vile creatures in the galaxy. A Prison Moon where it was kill or be killed. He slumbers to escape but awakes when a female, the first he’s seen in centuries, stumbles into his lair. And now that he’s seen her, he’s not letting her go.
But the corporation that runs Prison Moon One has other plans. Broadcasting a televised event across the galaxy of an Arena fight between a live dragon and any willing to fight him will bring in more viewers, and money, than they could imagine. All they had to do was catch him and to do that, they had to take the girl.
The screaming finally stopped. Sara closed her eyes and sighed in relief. The wild beating pulse in her head from the artificial light caused the headache she couldn’t get rid of to pound harder with each beat of her heart and the screaming only made it worse. Not that she blamed the girl. If it had been her on the receiving end of that last attack, she’d still be screaming too.
Everyone shifted nervously, some in small clusters talking in hushed whispers. Every face she looked at wore the same shell-shocked expression. Hers probably did too. Foul odors filled the room, the stink of unwashed bodies and human waste lingering in the air, and it took every ounce of willpower she possessed to not throw up. She tried to block it out, to imagine she was somewhere other than the cargo hold of a spaceship headed for who knew where. She snorted a laugh. Aliens. It was still too fantastical to believe but she did. She’d seen them.
She’d been a skeptic until she stepped out of the shower and her entire dorm room was flooded with light so bright she’d been momentarily blinded. The darkness that followed was a blessing she fought to get back after opening her eyes to this. A small metal, doorless room filled with frightened women who either spent their time crying, complaining or screaming to be let out. Hence the headache.
A section of the wall to her left opened to reveal a door that hadn’t been there before. The chirping noise she’d come to recognize as some sort of language filled the room moments later. One of the aliens she liked to call Big Heads walked in and the screamer started up again. Sara’s head throbbed more intensely at the shrill noise. She would have thrown a shoe at the girl if she’d had one on.
Three aliens stopped just inside the doorway. As many times as she’d seen these guys, she still stared. The alien’s neck was as long as her arm, its head three sizes too large for his body. She wasn’t sure how he even held it up but somehow managed. His bug-like eyes were large bulbs sticking off the side of his head and as horrid as they looked, they smelled even worse. Like ammonia mixed with wild onions. Every time one got near, her sinuses burned. Maybe it was the slimy substance that clung to their skin or some pheromone only other ugly aliens would find attractive. They were brown for the most part but dark green strips slashed across their flesh in neat rows. She would have nicknamed them something closer resembling a lion but Big Head had popped into her mind first. They all wore dark gray, one-piece suits of some kind, each with a wide belt around their waists where gadgets of varying size hung in small pockets along the belt.
The Big Head who walked into the room made a motion with his hands that looked as if he wanted them to stand. Those able to do so wasted no time obeying him, herself included. The last girl who didn’t was still lying in a heap over along the wall. Sara glanced the girls way. As she’d been most of the day, the blonde stared straight ahead at nothing, her eyes unblinking. Her torn clothing hung off her slim frame, scratches and blood staining her thighs. Tears filled Sara’s vision. She blinked them away and turned back to the same aliens who’d done such vile things to the poor girl. The memories still made her my stomach churn. If she lived to be a thousand, she’d never get the images out of her head. Had it been her, she’d be lying over there staring at nothing, too.
She gritted her teeth and turned her attention to the Big Heads, leaving the girl to her fate. She wiped tears she wasn’t even aware she’d been shedding away with one shoulder. They did no one any good to shed now, anyway. Life as they knew it was over.
The chirping language they spoke spilled from one of the Big Head’s fish-like mouth before he pointed at the door. He grabbed the blonde closet to him and shoved her out, then grabbed another. They were being moved. As much as she feared what these aliens were going to do with them, sitting in this stinking hole of a room was getting to be too much. She’d take a walk and breathe fresher smelling air if they wanted her to.
The corridor was dark with small green lights lining the floor of the walkway. It was colder here with a faint odor she couldn’t place but it wasn’t human waste so she inhaled deeply to clear her head. The metal under her feet felt like she was walking on ice and she’d have given anything for shoes—or clothes. She crossed her arms over her bare chest when she neared the Big Head on her way down the hall, not that it mattered. It wasn’t like he couldn’t see she was a fan of the Hollywood wax with just a glance. Thankfully it was growing back in but not nearly fast enough.
Being the only girl abducted in her birthday suit drew more attention than she liked, even from them. The blonde they’d taken turns amusing themselves with early came to mind and she shuddered before lowering one arm in an attempt to cover her bare lady parts.
A doorway at the end of the corridor came into view. The line of girls in front of her slowed and she watched as each girl was ushered inside. No one screamed after going in so it was too soon to panic. As she was ushered forward, her headache grew along with her racing pulse. The doorway loomed ahead, the light coming from inside almost blinding. When she stepped inside, the room was bare. The walls were white, the light overhead, bright. A noise on the other side of the wall drew her attention and she peeked around the corner—and wished she hadn’t. Her racing pulse stuttered, then raced when the girl in front of her was grabbed, the Big Head just on the other side of the wall taking her arm and sticking it with something that resembled a needle. The girl fell as if dead, another alien there to catch her before she hit the ground.
Sara screamed as the Big Head waiting behind her pushed her forward, the needle-like thing in the other ones hand biting into her skin moments before the world went dark.
Voices pulled her from sleep. Sara opened her eyes and groaned. Her headache was worse and a spot behind her right ear pounded so hard it stung. Raising her hand, she brushed her fingers over the spot and winced. It was tender and wet. Pulling her hand away, she saw her fingers smeared with blood.
“It’s an implant.”
A girl with long red hair was staring at her. She looked ragged, her curly hair in tangles around her face. Dark circles lay like bruises underneath her green eyes and even though she was thin, her pixie-like features didn’t look as gaunt as some of the others. This girl had been taken recently. Sara sat up and wiped the spot behind her ear again. “What kind of implant?”
The girl tilted her head a fraction to the right, motioning to the front of the room. Three Big Heads were there, talking. Sara’s eyes widened. It wasn’t the chirping she’d been hearing since waking up on an alien spacecraft, but actual words. They were speaking English. Or rather, she was hearing English. She rubbed the spot behind her ear again. “It’s a translator?”
“I think so.” The girl slid closer. “I didn’t understand them before today so I’m assuming that’s what the wound behind my ear is from. They did knock us all out. I’m thinking it was to insert something into our heads.”
The girl looked at me and the corner of her lips turn up into a tiny smile. “I’m Marcy, by the way.”
“Sara.” A glance around the room told her it wasn’t in the same one they’d been in before. This one was clean and feces-free. “Do you know what’s happening? Why we’re here?”
Marcy shook her head. “Not really, but I don’t think its good, whatever it is.” She took a shuddering breath. “From what I’ve been able to hear, we’re to be used for some sort of entertainment.”
Sara raised an eyebrow. “Entertainment for who? And how?”
“Don’t know.” She motioned behind us. Sara turned and when she saw what Marcy pointed at, she gasped.
A large section of the wall was glass, or something similar, and beyond it sat thousands of stars in a vast ocean of darkness. Since the moment she woke after the abduction, she’d prayed this was all a bad dream, that someone spiked her drink and she was having a really bad drug-induced trip, but what sat beyond that window wasn’t anything her imagination could come up with.
There were two planets in the distance and sitting between them and the ship was a ring of scattered rock that spanned the entire length of the window from left to right. The rocks varied in size. Some were as large as a bus, others as small as a basketball. It looked like an asteroid belt of some kind.
Further in the distance, behind the two planets, a massive cloud of stars glimmered like diamonds. The entire thing shined in shades of gold, blue, red and purple. A nebula, if she wasn’t mistaken. One large enough to see its brilliance with the naked eye. As much as she wanted this to be a bad dream, she could no longer deny it. She really was in an alien ship—in deep space.
A series of hissing noises filled the air, and a few screams followed as gravity seems to disappear to leave them floating in mid-air. Sara reached out to grab anything she could and found Marcy’s arm. Long minutes later, the artificial gravity returned and they fell back to the floor. Grunts and groans followed, Sara’s elbow aching and she laid there a few moments, then sat up.
She looked at the window again. They were landing. The planet wasn’t blue like earth. The colors below were varied with wide oceans of red, green and teal. As they drew closer, the window turned white, her view of the planet below gone.
Chortling laughter filled the room. Four Big Heads leaned against the wall looking at them. One said, “Welcome to your new home,” before they all started to laugh harder
“Get up,” another said. They stood and for the first time since waking, Sara realized she was clothed—sort of. The thin gown she wore was loose fitting and sleeveless. The cut was low in the front with a deep “v” which bared more breast than it should. Not that is mattered. It was barely long enough to cover her ass and nearly see-through but she wasn’t about to complain. It was better than being naked. Plus, everyone else was just as scantily dressed as she was. Soft sandal-like shoes were on her feet and held on with a series of straps that crisscrossed over the top of her foot and tied in the back. They weren’t much, the soles not very sturdy, but it was better than being barefoot.
She glanced at Marcy who still stood by her side. She’d said they were to be entertainment. In this getup, it wasn’t hard to figure out what kind.
They were ushered out of the room and back into the corridor, the same green lights as before glowed dimly along the edge of the floor. They were led into a massive room with a door on one end that was nearly as tall as the entire ship. The floor beneath her feet vibrated and shimmied, the hissing sound from before rumbling past her ears. A solid thunk and bounce later and she assumed they were on the ground.
The other girls murmured and huddled together. She tried to count heads but everyone was standing so close together she gave up. There were at least twenty. Maybe more.
She flicked a gaze to Marcy and noticed the worried look on her face. Her own probably held the same. She had no idea what lay beyond those doors and she didn’t want to find out. Marcy stared at that massive door probably wondering the same thing she was—what would they find on the other side?
“We’re going to die.”
The whispered words are spoken to her left. Sara turned her head to see who’d said it. The girl was tall, her skin tanned a warm tawny brown, her hair so inky black it looked blue under the harsh lights. When she looked over at them, Sara could read every thought going through her mind with one look into her eyes. She really did think they were going to die.
As the door jolted and hissed, then started to lower, Sara’s first look outside at this alien planet came into view and she was inclined to believe the girl. They probably were going to die.
The barren landscape on the other side of the door didn’t look inviting. If anything, it was terrifying.
The Big Heads ushered everyone out and Sara lingered in the back as long as she could. Marcy looking her way was the only thing that got her moving. She knew next to nothing about Marcy but she was the only person who’d spoken to her and like it or not, she was closest thing to a friend she had at the moment.
Sara’s first look at the strange planet was deceiving. The dry, cracked ground they walked out on was a wide sea of nothing. It stretched all the way to the horizon. A shrill scream filled the air and she turned her head to the right, then sucked in a harsh breath.
On the other side of the ship was a jungle of trees, vines, and thickets of bushes so dense the entire area looked as dark as night. The scream she heard was followed by another, then a snort of breath, moments before the ground shook. “What the hell was that?”
Marcy took a step closer to her side. “I don’t know and I don’t want to find out.”
The tall black haired girl from the ship still lingered close by. She turned to look at them and shook her head. “I told you, we’re going to die.”
Marcy scoffed. “Well, aren’t you just a bucket of sunshine.”
“I’m not being a smartass, I’m just not foolish enough to think everything is going to turn out all right.” She pointed to the barren landscape we stood on, then to the jungle. “We either die out here in the nothing or die in there where I’m pretty sure there are things willing to eat us. We are on an alien planet, you know. I’d hate to even think what waits for us in there.”
Well, when she put it that way. Sara shook her head. “Safety in numbers, then?”
The girl looked at her, then to Marcy. “Safety in numbers.” She reluctantly nodded. “I guess its better than dying alone.”
Marcy crossed her arms over her chest and whispered under her breathe, “Bucket. Of. Sunshine.”
Despite their predicament, Sara smiled. It was the first time since waking up on the ship that she’d felt the desire to do so. Looking at the black haired girl she said, “I’m Sara, by the way,” then jerked her thumb to the right. “And this is Marcy.”
“I’m Emma.” She looked to the jungle. “Not that exchanging names will help us much.”
“Well, if things go as bad as you say they will,” Marcy mumbled, “Then it’ll give you someone to scream for when you’re dying.”
Sara bit her lip and turned her head so Emma didn’t see her trying not to laugh. She understood Emma’s fear. Her own was climbing pretty high but fear kills and she wasn’t about to die. Not yet, anyway. She’d fight until she wasn’t able to fight anymore.
One of the Big Heads banged something on the metal floor of the ship and they turned in unison to look at him. He stood at the top of the landing staring down at them.
“Humans,” he said, the words slightly accented. “Welcome to Prison Moon One.”
Prison Moon? That didn’t sound inviting.
Marcy leaned her way. “I hope his use of the word prison doesn’t mean the same thing it means back home.”
“To prove we’re not heartless, we’re giving you two choices.” The Big Heads voice boomed in the stillness. He pointed to the barren landscape to our left. “You can take your chances in the Wastes or,” he paused and pointed back to the jungle, “try to survive in there.”
The other Big Heads standing nearby made that weird chortling sound Sara came to recognize as laughter. Whatever the joke was, it was apparently on them.
“The Wastes are uninhabited but there’s very little food and even less to water.” He shifted and pointed to the jungle. “In there, you’ll find fresh water, fresh meat if you’re lucky enough to catch and kill it, and an abundance of wild berries and fruits. It will be up to you to figure out which are poisonous and which are not.”
Someone in the front of the group snorted and said, “I’ll pick door number two.”
Sara couldn’t agree more. The jungle held shelter and food. Only an idiot would stay in the Wastes.
The Big Heads fishy mouth split and it looked as if he was trying to smile. He glanced at the other aliens and they seemed to share in his amusement. “Here’s where the other shoe drops,” Sara whispered.
Marcy raised her hand and chewed her thumbnail. “I’m sure you’re right.”
“The jungle holds a few dangers. There are animals who will find you a tempting treat and will most likely kill you so I suggest if you see one, you don’t linger to see if it’s friendly or not.” A few gasps from the girls cause the Big Heads to laugh again. “There are also high cliffs and sheer drop-offs that you’ll need to be careful of and—“
“Here it comes.”
He raised his huge head an inch higher. “There are the prisoners.”
Someone up front said, “Prisoners?”
Sara couldn’t see who said it but it made little difference. Everyone had to be thinking the same thing.
“This is a prison moon,” Big Head continued. “A penal colony for the most dangerous beings in the galaxy. Death sentences are exchanged for banishment and as for the others, when no one else can control them, they are left here. And forgotten.”
“I guess it does mean the same thing, Marcy.”
“Aren’t we the lucky humans?”
The Big Head drew her attention by doing some weird thing with his mouth again that she assumed was a smile. “Aside from being home to the most vile creatures in the galaxy, Prison Moon One has a duel purpose. You would think life would never get boring in the vast reaches of space, but it does so, everything that happens on this little planet is live streamed to the far reaches of the solar system and for a price, anyone can watch.” He paced to the far side of the doorway and pointed to the sky. “Those are the eyes and ears of this place. They see everything and they’ll be watching you, constantly.”
Someone near the front of the group yelled, “For what?”
The Big Heads laughed again. “For our entertainment, of course.”
Sara turned to look at the monitors. They were huge triangle shaped prisms and as she watched, one piece broke off from the rest and flew over the jungle, another close behind the first. They were drones of some kind but far more sophisticated than anything she’d seen back on earth. “Reality TV,” she whispered.
“What did you say?” Marcy asked.
“I said, its reality TV.” She shook her head. “It's like those, lost in the wilderness, shows, where the camera follows people around and watches them try to survive.” She pointed to another set of the prisms shaped drones as it broke off from the rest and headed their way. “Only this time, we’re the stars of the show. Us and those criminals they drop off and forget about.”
The Big Heads voice rose and Sara turned back to face him.
“Four times a year supplies are dropped off for the inmates,” he said. “Food, clothing, medicine. Nothing is rationed. It is every man for themselves here and everyone knows their place but … the inmates get restless after being confined for long periods of time with nothing to do but fight to survive.”
Marcy took a step closer. “I have a very bad feeling.”
She did, too.
“Every six months we drop a special sort of supply.” He mouth pursed. “The species of aliens kept here vary but they all have one similarity—the desire to mate. That would be where you come in. ”
Her heart slammed against her ribcage. “And there it is.”
“As this moon is home to mostly males, female companionship is a prize worth fighting over—so we let them. Some of them are sexually compatible with your kind, some are not, but they won’t care. They’ll mate with you anyway, regardless of the outcome. Some of you will be selected and extracted for The Arena Games. Those inmates not fast enough, or are unwilling to chase you, are allowed to battle to the death in order to claim you. Those of you not selected for the games, will have to survive on your own, and not get caught.” He nodded to the monitors hovering in the sky. “And the entire galaxy gets to watch as you try. So you only have two choices. Let them catch you—or run.”
The moment the words were out of his mouth, Sara heard it. The rustle of branches, the pounding of feet against the ground, snarls, and growls that filled the air loud enough she barely heard the massive door on the spacecraft close. She glanced at it as the hiss of air stirred the dirt around her. It was leaving.
She turned back to the jungle. The noise was getting closer, blood rushing past her ears so fast she heard nothing but the wild pulse of it.
The natives were coming.
She grabbed Marcy’s arm and tugged her forward, then grabbed Emma. “Move!”
“But they’re in there?” Emma screamed.
“Then die out here of starvation.”
She didn’t wait to see if either of them was going to follow. Honestly, she didn’t give a shit. She barely knew them and their lives meant nothing to her but hers sure as hell did so—she ran.
She ran straight into the jungle where the snarling and growling grew louder and hoped like hell she didn’t meet what was on the other side.
End of Excerpt
End of Excerpt
DRAGON FIRE releases April 24th!
To see more of Lily's books, head over to HER WEBSITE.
About Lily Graison
Lily Graison is a USA TODAY bestselling author of historical western romances. Her Willow Creek Series introduced readers to a small Montana town where the west is wild and the cowboys are wilder. Lily also dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance when the mood strikes and all of her stories range from sweet to spicy with strong female leads and heroes who tend to always get what they want.
She lives in Hickory, North Carolina and on occasion can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in civil war reenactments and area living history events. When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.
To see the dresses and hats Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.