Chapter 3 Scene 1 of “Ruby Descent”

The first scene of Chapter 3 of “Ruby Descent” is up! Here we meet the fabulous Lily Fairpoole, the brilliant Head Engineer and Director of Tech for the Ruby lift. Respected by the crew for her incredible abilities and kind nature, Lily enjoys her position, and all of the perks and challenges that come with it. A discrepancy she’s discovered in Zora alerts her. Everything seems to be normal on the surface, but her gut instinct smells trouble. With docking and the Everblue party in the near future, it won’t do to have anything awry. The entire crew knows they have to be at their very best. The song/video is by none other than electro-swing diva Alice Francis, who is one of the biggest inspirations for Lily’s character.

****

So much to do. Things wouldn’t be half as crazy if the Admin shutdown hadn’t thrown her off. Lily scanned streams of data in her display visor, inspecting the stability of all channels to Zora. Like luminous bubbles in a champagne glass, information packets flowed past her vision. She flicked and twirled two fingers in air to navigate, and spoke her access commands in steady monotone.

“User passcode: jazzsiren 29LMF. Keysector G15-20, Red exec column, line 43.087…” She pinpointed a narrow section of code. “Aren’t supposed to be there, are you? Unless someone inserted you via direct link. We’ll see what Mr. Marlow thinks. Highlight. Copy to local device, and copy-send to inbox: Marlow1.”

Her wristcom chimed with double acknowledgment. She sent the suspicious code to Mr. Marlow as a heads up, though she needed to tell him more in private. Her instinct never led her wrong, and the signature address she’d found rattled every alarm bell. Always better to get a second opinion before assuming too much, and Mr. Marlow was the most practical mind aboard the lift.

She had to alert Mr. Randall Paynter too, as a matter of protocol. That crotchety bastard deserved a kick in the ass for his lackadaisical attitude on the missing report, and for his obnoxious manners in general. Mr. Marlow kept Randall on a tight regimen after several recent mishaps, but Lily still found it difficult to contain her temper around the cagey Director of Security.

Yawning, she removed the visor and set it on her workbench. The shop was a mess after her scramble to sync the lift back to Zora. Though it was a compact room, like most of the cabins aboard the Ruby, Lily organized her space well. Tools and interface hardware hung in neat rows along the plain white walls, spare robotic parts stored on a collapsible rack. Her myriad panels and holo-displays for system access flickered with shifting icons and code. This was her world, and it was as perfect as she could make it.

She’d worked as the Ruby’s Head Engineer and Director of Tech for three months, and she loved it. Challenges and novelty were always afoot, much more fulfilling than the dull programming jobs she’d had before. And aside from Mr. Paynter, she liked and respected her fellow crew members.

Especially Mr. Marlow. She couldn’t help flirting with him a little. He got flustered to adorable when she threw him sidelong smiles. Mr. Marlow was a good man, polite and loyal, and he intrigued her to no end. He had a strong fighter’s build, such masculine arms and broad shoulders. Sometimes she imagined what he might look like without a shirt on, but always pushed the distracting thoughts from her mind. Had to stay professional, no matter how attractive the boss was.

She wiped her hands off as best she could, but her greasy, callused fingers were inevitable. The work was hard, but she prided herself on managing so many important functions of the Ruby. It allowed her to use all of her abilities, including her singing voice. Aside from her technical position, Lily performed with her jazz band in the Steerage Lounge twice a month. A fantastic arrangement, and she fancied herself the luckiest singer in the universe to have such opportunities, all in one swanky red space elevator.

As she turned to the door, she paused. Mustn’t forget her access adapter. The sly little device was still attached to her display visor, and no one must ever discover it. She pried it off of the visor, and dropped it into the pocket of her red uniform coveralls. The latest in mobile hackware, the adapter was illegal to possess, let alone use. It would earn her a one-way ticket to jail and a huge fine if got caught. However, Lily knew many tricks. First thing any good hacker learned was to dance around the Admin trackers and surveillance programs.

Lily used the device only for crucial situations while at work. The latest disconnect from Zora was one such dilemma. Thanks to her illicit skills, she’d soared through the system and re-established the link in a fraction of the time. Mr. Marlow had told her to use every override possible, though she couldn’t tell him of her true methods yet. Maybe someday, when she could fully trust him with the secret.

She tapped her ID into the access panel beside the door, locking the shop behind her. Mr. Marlow’s office was on the other side of the level, a short stroll along the administrative and VIP suite corridors. Red was everywhere on the Ruby. True to its name, the lift flaunted its jewel theme with no excess spared. It was Lily’s favorite color, another reason she liked her job.

Brass, platinum, copper, and chrome accents meandered along the embellished frames and split columns. Retractable chandeliers and artistic figurines were firmly bolted, stored in safe compartments when the Ruby dropped from its charging platform, halfway through each descent. She always marveled at the genius behind the lift’s construction. It was a work of art as well as innovation, and she was proud to be on the crew.

Miss Ruthie Gale passed Lily in the corridor, a bevy of housekeeping robots trudging in tow. “Good day, Miss Fairpoole. I want to thank you for getting us back to Zora so fast. Great job, as always” The chirpy young flapper grinned, her bright brown eyes and bee-stung lips framed in makeup a little too dark for employee dress standard. Mr. Marlow never reprimanded Miss Gale for her sleights of policy, for she was a dedicated and reliable worker.

“Good day, Miss Gale. You’re welcome. I always try to do my part.”

“And how!” Ruthie shouldered her bag of cleaning supplies. “If only my duties were as exciting. One more round of cabin inspections on Level Three, and I’ll be ready for the dock.”

Lily smiled and tucked a stray black curl under her headband. “Good to hear. If you need any extra units to help, my Custodians are available to you. Just give me a buzz.”

“I will.” Ruthie beamed. “Thank you. It’s like you said before. I’ve got your back, and you’ve got mine, right?”

“Absolutely. Only way this tin can on nano-fiber rope moves up and down is because we’re a team.”

Ruthie paused, studying her. “Are you nervous about this party and the top cats we’ll be catering to? I heard the Blanes will be on the descent. Can’t hardly believe such important celebrities will be aboard our little Ruby soon. We’ll all have to be at the top of our game to impress.”

“I’m not nervous about the party,” Lily said. “What does concern me is the discrepancy I found in Zora. I hate to cut this short, but I have to speak to Mr. Marlow before docking begins.”

Ruthie’s face always formed a pout when she pondered things. “A discrepancy? Uh oh. Well, I have faith you and Mr. Marlow can fix it. Keep in touch if you need me for anything, okay?”

Lily nodded her gratitude. “You know it. Catch you later, Miss Gale.”

Miss Gale continued to finish her last inspections, and Lily turned the corner toward the concierge and main lobby. On the way, she passed the kitchen. The delicious smells of Mr. Wetzel’s culinary creations wafted into the hall. Lily’s stomach rumbled, and she peeked inside.

Mr. Wetzel flurried about from range to skillet to saucepan, obsessing over the careful ministrations of his robotic cooks. The ends of his auburn hair frayed beneath the edge of his white chef’s cap, his demeanor a constant state of the jitters. He was a perfectionist to a fault, but his talents for cuisine and coordinating social events were unparalleled. His deep-set gray eyes skittered in Lily’s direction, and his nervous expression eased to a smile.

“Good day, Miss Fairpoole,” he said. “Are you hungry?”

“Good day to you as well.” She stepped inside, feeling sheepish, but she was starving. “I am, but I don’t have time for a plate. Mind if I just have a bite of something?”

“Of course not.” Mr. Wetzel gestured to a tray of appetizers on the prep island. “Please help yourself. It’s the least I can do to thank you for saving me. With Zora down, I fell behind. So far behind, nearly a disaster. But you saved the day, as always.”

“Thank you, sir.” She grabbed a morsel of the seafood roll, and noticed the platter of smoked salmon lox alongside. Grabbing a napkin, she wrapped a piece of the fish inside, and put it in her pocket. Mr. Vincent’s weakness was salmon, and she never refused a chance to spoil the tyrannical feline overlord of the Ruby. With a farewell and another hearty thanks to Mr. Wetzel, she hurried on to Mr. Marlow’s office.

Chapter 2 Scene 3 of “Ruby Descent”

The final scene of “Ruby Descent” Chapter 2 is up 🙂 Though faced with many life-altering decisions, Ethlyne gathers her resolve and meets the man she fears most within his lair. With her past hopelessly broken, and a treacherous future, Ethlyne chooses to endure. However, old pain doesn’t dissolve easily, and only shallow hope carries her this time. Image is of Silas Blane, business mastermind and bone shaman extraordinaire.
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Silas Blane
**
 
A queasy sensation clenched her gut when the limousines slowed at their destination, on the executive level of the hotel. She reached for one of the dainty slices of toast beside the champagne. Warm butter sounded good at first, but as soon as she spread it, the smell struck her as disgusting. Bile rose in the back of her throat. She tossed it back onto the tray, drank some ice water, and nibbled on a plain slice to settle her stomach.
 
Snaps barked and shoved his head under her hand. She slumped over the seat, petting him.
 
“I’m okay, precious,” she said. “But this is another sign. Mercy, why is this happening to me right now? Like someone’s played the worst joke on me.” A thin laugh escaped her.
 
Snaps sneezed, ears perked, his beady eyes bugging in concern.
 
“It means there’s probably a bun in the oven. A little brother or sister for you and Ginger. It just better be your daddy’s. If it’s the big bad wolf’s puppy, I’ll–“
 
Everything swirled. A retch cut her short. She lunged for the wastebasket, and lost her cookies. Well, actually, she lost her toast. And the wine, and the…damn it all. Eyes watering, she swooned back onto the seat. She flung an arm over her face and groaned.
 
Snaps scratched at the door of the limo, yapping for help.
 
She dabbed her lips clean with a handkerchief, red smears of lipstick staining it. How rotten to get sick, with Silas expecting her. Her eye makeup was probably smudged to hell, too.
 
The chauffeur opened the door, and the clever, chiseled face of Miss Nelli Avangaline peered in. Snaps scurried around Nelli’s feet, barking orders.
 
“Mrs. Blane, are you ill?” Nelli asked, reaching into the vehicle to help Ethlyne sit upright.
 
“I was. Better now that my stomach evicted all that slop.” Ethlyne wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and sipped more water.
 
“Dear me, you’re pale as a sheet.” Nelli waved and whistled to the bodyguards near the other limo. “Trey, Franklin, get over here!”
 
While her staff fussed over her, Ethlyne collected herself again. There was no time for weakness. A lady carried on, no matter the odds, and did what had to be done. Only way she’d ever gotten to this point in her life. She popped open her pearly compact, fixed her makeup, and smoothed her coif. Another swill of water and a peppermint freshened her breath. It would have to suffice.
 
Mr. Ling appeared, his intimidating posture emphasized with hands behind his back. He studied Ethlyne down his bladed nose. “May I fetch anything for you, Mrs. Blane?”
 
She forced herself to stand, clinging to Trey and Franklin’s muscled arms for support. “No, thank you. Lead the way, Mr. Ling.”
 
Heeled pumps and polished wingtips ticked with Snaps’ tiny claws along the checkered tile floor. Ethlyne pulled her stole tighter, her fingers pressed like talons into the soft fur. She and her assistants followed Mr. Ling down a vaulted corridor. Columns of stepped copper stretched upward to the arched marble ceiling, while rows of fleur style sconces and potted fronds interspersed elegance.
 
The hall converged into a spacious lounge, affluent hotel guests mingling about. Top hats and tails, silk and chiffon draped over genteel postures, vape atomizers and cocktail glasses cradled over conversations. The walls were decorated with geometric mirrored insets, reflecting the posh cliques and their robotic servants into wedged fans and curls.
 
A holographic avatar misted into view before them, projecting a sprite of a young woman. Blonde and snazzy in the tailored uniform of the Royal Crown, her smile and eyes were too bright to be human. The avatar bowed her head. “Good day, Mrs. Ethlyne Blane. Welcome back to the Royal Crown Orbital Plaza And Resort. It’s always a pleasure to see you.”
 
Ethlyne nodded to the simulated hostess. “Thank you, Zora.”
 
“If you require anything to make your stay more comfortable, you have but to ask.” Zora’s voice accommodated to excess. Only programmed protocol, yet Zora was the most sentient and adaptable system in the known worlds. Everything in the hotel, and the five lifts as well, ran on this incredible service network.
 
People approached Ethlyne and tried to start conversation, but she only waved. The mad king of Everblue despised dalliance when important business was at hand. These guests were either off to the party, or breaking from the bedlam. The anniversary party had lasted three days already, and the final blow would be aboard the Ruby lift. The wildest ride was yet to come. Ethlyne had to be a smiling goddess of good will for the corporate overlords of water one last time.
 
After this, never again. Once the Goodridger reached Earth, she would go home to Mars. She hoped Castor would go with her. They’d return to their peaceful lives together, and Silas and his corrupt empire would face the consequences for all their lies. It seemed a far-fetched expectation at this point, as she followed Mr. Ling down another hall, to a pair of open ebony doors. The room inside yawned shadows like a tomb of lore, treasures and death secluded within the bowels of time.
 
Her staff waited in the hall. Nelli handed Snaps to her, knowing the dog never left her side. Mr. Ling waved Ethlyne and Snaps through, then closed the doors behind them. The click of the latch startled her. An odd numbness crept up her skin, goosebumps of tiny knives. So dark in here, hot, like drowning. The very air pressed, almost choking. She mustn’t get sick again, and steeled herself.
 
Cigarette smoke and sophistication adorned the office. What she could see of it, anyway. Mr. Silas Blane always preferred things dim, or sliced with firelight. He conducted occasional business at the Royal Crown, and rented a large space here for the convenience.
 
“Ah, there you are, my dear. Please, sit. Make yourself cozy. If you’ll excuse me, I must finish this call.” Silas grinned and leaned back in his chair, oozing deceptive charm. His dark glasses rested atop his head, as he didn’t need their protection in his self-imposed gloom. He shied from sunlight due to a strange malady of his vision. His dark brown eyes and hair appeared black when wrapped in dark corners like this one.
 
The logo of Everblue glowed in a single blue raindrop on the wall, providing ghastly illumination. Its flickering neon splintered across his shielded lenses, his smooth and calculating features, the gleaming display panels set into his desktop. He puffed an imported cigarette in blatant disregard of the hotel’s policy, smoke snaking about his fingers. Silas did whatever he wished, and no one questioned him. Such was his privilege as the CEO and Chairman of the most powerful mega-corporation in the solar system.
 
Ethlyne sat in the chair opposite the desk, setting Snaps and her handbag in her lap. Her gaze wandered to the eccentric decor, anything to avoid staring at her brother-in-law while he chatted on his wristcom. Silas adored dead things, human and animal. Specifically, bones. In every office and lair he owned, his skull collection gaped at visitors with dark, empty sockets. Trophy animal heads from his hunting expeditions covered an entire wall, but there was no fur or glass-eyed taxidermy to emulate life. Only the glaring white bone of their demise.
 
A human skull brazier rested on a corner altar, incense smoke wafting out of the hollowed eyes and nose. Offerings of crystals, dried herbs, a wolf’s skull etched with strange runes, and other small bone figurines rested around it. Beside the brazier was a photograph of two women, set in an ornate frame. Ethlyne recognized Silas’ wife and teenage daughter, their faces solemn, the daughter’s hand resting across the back of her mother’s wheelchair. Though Silas seemed a devoted husband and father to outsiders, Ethlyne was a Blane family member, and knew of the actual alienation.
 
“Yes, indeed. Bring the crews onto the main lobby floor when we board the lift, Reuben. It’ll be splendid, simply glorious. I must have at least one favorable segment before I depart. Hold the front, good man, hold the front. Cheers.” Silas disconnected his call, and swiveled his chair to face Ethlyne. His smile broadened over his brazen white teeth. He must spend a fortune to keep them so perfect, as he was a chain smoker. Though he bore a celebrity’s practiced panache, his grin always seemed more a predator’s sneer, the fangs of a beast bared to kill. “How marvelous to see you. You’re right on time. And hello, Snaps. Looking dapper as always.”
 
Snaps replied with a growl.
 
“It’s nice to see you as well.” She chose the most obvious conversation filler. “How are Tamsin and Cerise doing?” It was a double-edged question, one she hoped would unsettle him.
 
Silas shifted his weight to a more relaxed position. “They’re well. I thank you for asking. Tamsin mentions you often, and wonders why you don’t visit anymore. I’m never sure what to tell her.”
 
Ethlyne tensed. Why was Silas being so casual with her? They hadn’t spoken in person for weeks, and he acted now as if the event of two months ago was forgiven and forgotten. It’s all a show, and the last act at that. Just a while longer.
 
“I’m ready for the boarding ceremony, and I received your message with the final specifications,” she said, resting an arm against the desk in feigned interest. “What do you wish to discuss?”
 
He leaned closer, gaze razored as obsidian. The golden teardrop ring on his left little finger gleamed, a sample of the first water purified by Everblue encased within its faceted prison. He exhaled a cloud of smoke, and at least had the gentility to blow it away from her. “There’s been a change of plans at the last minute. Due to unexpected circumstances, I won’t be attending the descent with you. I must go to Mars at once, to deal with certain discrepancies in the company. That being the case, you and my charming brother must represent me, and be the hosts for our friends.”
 
Ethlyne raised a fine penciled eyebrow. She’d expected bad news, but this was a lucky turn. “I’m sorry to hear that. What’s the trouble, if I may ask?”
 
“A sabotage,” he said. “The Administration has ordered an emergency shutdown of all space transport, including the Ruby lift. Boarding has been delayed by thirty standard minutes. Apparently, the Martian extremists responsible for the recent bombings on Farswept have escaped, and the officials fear they’ll try and retreat to Earth. Security will be escalated along the descent.” His stare speared her over his folded hands . “Everything, everyone will be monitored closely. Though you and Castor surely have no objections to that. Do you?”
 
“Of course not,” she said, widening her eyes to appear naive.
 
Silas sauntered around the desk, the tip of his cigarette brimstone red as he took a deep drag. Always the epitome of fashion, his black suit flattered his lean, rakish figure, his tie tacked with a silver pin bearing the Everblue logo. He leaned at the edge of the desk, and crossed one ankle over the other. “So, tell me, where has your husband been for the past two months? He ignores my calls, and refuses to tell me his location. I only hope you’ve kept him up to date with all the requirements for the descent.”
 
She took a deep breath. “He’s…away. He refuses to speak to me on a personal level, but I assure you I’ve briefed him on all professional points. Please don’t ask me to elaborate. You know the reason for his solitude all too well.” A slight pout of her lips, a slow blink, she allowed only a fraction of her enmity to flare. Her exaggerated expression of dismay, even flirtatious disappointment, was presented to mislead him. Would he fall for it?
 
Silent, he stared through her, as if seeing things beyond her senses. An eerie habit of his. Castor had once told her Silas possessed strange powers–uncanny foresight, and a talent for swaying things to his whim. She’d always scoffed, assuming it was her husband’s wit, always teasing her with silly jokes. But after she’d experienced Silas’ true nature, she wasn’t sure anymore.
 
He extinguished his cigarette into a chromed ashtray. “Aren’t we a happy family?” His laughter rolled like a soothing tide. “One error doesn’t validate another. Ethlyne, there’s much I’d like to tell you. However, I can’t see the point when there’s so much you won’t tell me. I’d once believed we were business partners. Even friends. Why the sudden reversal of your regard, I wonder?”
 
He spread his fingers across the desktop, and muttered something. The torrid smother of the air intensified.
 
Snaps jumped down and cowered under her chair. Sweat beaded on Ethlyne’s face and neck, and she coughed.
 
“Is something the matter?” Silas asked. “You seem distracted. May I get you some water?”
 
“No, thank you.” She’d never accept another drink from this man, even though her mouth and throat burned with thirst. The room compressed around her, bringing back the fearful memories. Flashes, glimpses, were all she could recall. Pale flesh, flamed with desire and remorse, tattoos of a wolf and esoteric sigils dancing along Silas’ skin. A skull with living eyes, rhythmic songs burrowing into forgotten parts of her mind. Daggers of bone, smoldering ash, blood. Incapacitated. Silas’ voice had echoed inside her head, probing her entire being. “Tell me the truth.”
 
He dared to torment her again. The tattooed marks around her navel itched and stung. She hunched, hands over her abdomen. “Don’t do this.” She gasped. “I’ll fulfill my contract to you, and to Everblue. Please, just leave me alone. As for Castor, I have no knowledge of, nor influence on what he does. He despises me, now. I’m of no use to you there.”
 
Silas stepped closer, and bent over her chair. Ethlyne froze, as if pinched in an unseen vise. Her heart thrashed against her ribs, panic surging in her veins. She smelled the clean, spiced undertone of his cologne, the tonic in his sleek hair. His breath mocked her, lips skimming the edge of her ear.
 
“You’ll always be of use.” He sidled behind her, hands resting on her shoulders. “What a tragedy my brother has abandoned you. His devotion must be trite, if he’d leave his true love over a simple mistake.”
 
“Stop, at once,” Ethlyne said, shrinking from him.
 
A snarl exploded beneath her. Snaps dove to protect, sinking his teeth into Silas’ ankle.
 
Silas shouted and stumbled, the dog tugging at his pant leg.
 
“Snaps, come.” Ethlyne pointed to her lap. Snaps let go, still growling, and leaped into her arms.
 
“Dogs are the most loyal friends,” Silas said, smoothing his lapels. “A bond even death can’t sever.”
 
With a huff, Ethlyne stood and gathered her things. “Do you have anything else to say? If not, please dismiss me, as I have much to prepare for the descent.”
 
Silas grinned and shook his head. “You may go. I appreciate your time, Ethlyne. Your virtues commend you.”
 
A paltry attempt to conceal his manipulations with a compliment. She might have been gullible to Silas’ intentions before, but she was no fool, now. Once bitten, a thousand times shy, baby. Gotta survive.
 
She didn’t say goodbye, and paced out of the office with her head up and her hips weaving outrage. Minutes later, she checked into her ready suite a level down. The bed called to her. She told her staff she was still feeling out of sorts, and laid down for a while with Snaps. For the first time in weeks, a tear fled down her cheek. She didn’t dry it. It carried her suffering away, and left a damp stain on the pillowcase.

Chapter 2 Scene 2 of “Ruby Descent”

Chapter 2 Scene 2 of “Ruby Descent” is up! Troubled holo-cinema diva Ethlyne Blane has much on her mind. The Everblue anniversary party rages at the Royal Crown Orbital Plaza And Resort, while political troubles rage across her home on Mars. It’s tough to find a spot of tranquility when all of the worlds totter around her. Being in the public eye is her job and her destiny, but she now faces the arduous task of keeping the ultimate secret. And worst of all, to face the monsters themselves in their den of corruption. How will she play the role of a gracious hostess and confident celebrity when confronted with her greatest fears and shame?

https://www.wattpad.com/233003859-ruby-descent-chapter-2-scene-2-hollow-in-the-crowd

ethlynelost1

 

Episode 39 Part 3 of Beauty In The Bones

The next segment of the Beauty In The Bones Season finale is up 🙂 Silas and his father go on a hunting trip together. Catching up with each other after several months is rewarding, but unsettling intentions emerge regardless.
 

Chapter 2 Scene 1 Revision of “Ruby Descent”

photo-movie-star-mary-nolan-head-up-almost-profile-with-large-earrings

I’ve completed the first scene revision of Chapter 2 of “Ruby Descent”. Things have changed since the first draft. I’ve expanded the POV from just Walter’s alone. Now Ethlyne and Castor Blane, as well as Lily Fairpoole, will all have their own POV chapters. This next installment opens as the glamorous yet shy holo-cinema starlet, Ethlyne Blane arrives at the landing platform before the big descent. Within hours she’ll attend the Everblue party, and see her much-missed husband Castor once again. It’s been so long, and the pieces of her heart have yet to be mended. Only time will tell if a broken love can be restored to the bliss it once gave. The music is a very appropriate song for this forlorn character, by Caravan Palace. The image is of Mary Nolan, silver screen goddess who greatly inspires Ethlyne Blane.

****

Ethlyne caressed the stem of her wine glass with sylphlike fingers, the delicate scroll of her wedding band clarion against the crystal. She stared out the circular shuttle window with her chin propped on one hand. Stars glistened somewhere out there, but the glare of the cabin lights obscured their shine. Only black, fathomless, the eternal maw of space. Endless possibility waited in those depths, though hope was a rare commodity these days.

“Mrs. Blane, would you care for an hors d’oeuvres?” The Custodian unit’s veneer sparkled as it presented a tray of gourmet tidbits.

“Why not?” She sighed, and helped herself to a piece of sweet fig crostini. Best to eat light. Trim and girlish by nature, she’d nonetheless indulged more over the past two months. The waif figure she was famous for in her many holo-screen roles had filled here and there, womanly curves flowing along the seams of her gown.

Her agent hounded her daily about her figure. Right before this flight, he’d summoned her to his office, and asked if she was expecting. What nerve. Granted, their current film required her to look the part of a half-starved Earth girl during the tragic years of the great War. But when Mr. Yates cornered her so, demanding her private details with passive scorn, she’d stormed away in rage. How dare he be so rude?

In truth, she didn’t know if she was with child yet. She delayed going to the doctor, because she dreaded the result. If she was pregnant, who would the father be–her husband, or her brother-in-law? Tears stung the edges of her blue eyes, but they didn’t fall. They never did anymore. She’d cried them all out by now.

Snaps yapped and squirmed in her lap, burrowing his squat Pekanese nose against her arm for attention. She ran her fingers through his coarse white fur in distracted reverie. Her little dog always cheered her up. If it weren’t for Snaps and Ginger, she’d have no one left. Animals had always been her closest friends. Few people were worth allowing into her life. Only Castor occupied the tormented shrine of her well-guarded heart.

She’d been two long, dreary months without her husband, and she missed him with every ounce of her being. He’d be at the Everblue anniversary party. He had to be. If Castor didn’t show, Silas would rend his younger brother to the sinew.

“Fifteen minutes to dock. Please fasten your restraints, and secure all belongings in the proper compartments.” The on-board system spoke in a pleasant tone, polite and prodding, a trait programmed to be so humanoid it annoyed her.

“Sit still, and be a good boy,” she said, kissing Snaps on the head. “You’re not a belonging, but we have to be safe.” The dog whined as she placed him into the compact kennel beside her.

Dr. Truman, the attendant veterinarian she’d hired for this trip, snored in the plush first-class seat across the aisle. No need to wake him. The longer she could go without hearing his snide, whiny voice, the better. Silas had recommended this vet for Snaps’ recovery after surgery, and Ethlyne regretted not choosing her own. Dr. Truman unnerved her in a way she couldn’t explain, a hunch beyond her usual disdain for other humans.

Mustn’t dwell on it, now. She had to be strong, composed. Keep it all together, dear. Silas must never know of the secret Snaps carried. The very fate and future of the known worlds rode with her sweet little pup. Once she got Snaps to Castor, only a single descent remained. The festivities aboard the Ruby lift would provide the perfect cover. Until then, everything depended on her discretion, and her ability to act the part. It was her innate talent. Shouldn’t be a problem when facing Silas, but she knew all too well of his methods. Her entire life was wrecked after what happened two months ago.

She placed a hand over her belly, her mind wandering. Under the sleek ripples of her satin bodice were the strange, savage marks her brother-in-law had etched into her skin. A circle of primal tattoos encircling her navel. What they meant, or why he’d scarred her so, she couldn’t guess. The whole night they’d shared was a blur of half-recalled nightmares and intoxicated shame. She cringed at the memory. Had Silas planted more than just these marks into her? Could his child now rest beneath her trembling palm? She couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, which distressed her even more. And Castor wouldn’t speak to her unless it was for their ongoing plot, though she could hardly blame him. Everything was her own fault.

Engines wailed, thrusters a tremor through the shuttle’s framework. The interplanetary vessel careened toward its docking platform at the edge of Earth’s gravity well. Snaps cowered behind his grated confines, pouting head on his paws. She hoped Ginger was okay in the trailer, somewhere down in the cargo bay. Her darling horse was too big to be at her side. If Ethlyne had her way, Ginger would fly first-class, too.

They landed with a jolt and skid across the platform. The shuttle lurched forward a moment, then drifted back as the hundreds of robotic tethers outside laced in a giant snare to halt it.

“Here we are,” she told Snaps, sticking a finger through the kennel gate to tickle his ears. “Are you ready for the soirée of the century, baby?”

Snaps licked her, bringing a smile to her face.

Yes, Castor had to come to the Everblue party. Silas was but one reason. The other was, everything they’d worked for, all their plans to smuggle the Goodridger to Earth, needed the key Snaps carried to succeed. Castor would come for the vital piece, and Ethlyne wouldn’t give her dog over without seeing her husband’s face again. Perhaps, when she could look into his pale blue eyes, beseech him with every desperate plea she knew of, he might come to reason. He might believe her. Maybe she finally could reach him, and try to mend the shattered remnants of the happiness they’d once shared.

She wished so fervently to believe it. There were a few more traps to evade first, a few more masks to wear, before she could be with her husband once more. She focused herself for her imminent meeting with Silas. The most treacherous game of all had begun.

Episode 39 Part 2 of Beauty In The Bones

Part 2 of the Season Finale of “Beauty In The Bones” is live 🙂 In this segment, Silas and Gerald reunite with family, though unexpected plans and guests spoil the chance of a relaxing holiday. Silas vows to hold strong to his love for Tamsin, though new temptations present themselves with the presence of a reluctant friend, who’s lost in more ways than one.