When Lark is stolen from Earth to be a slave on the planet Tavdora, she’s determined to find her way back home to her family, no matter the cost. Placed in the household of a notorious slave trader, Lark quickly learns her best assets are her eyes and ears. And if she’s brave enough, her voice.
Kalen is the Tavdorian son of a slave trader and in line to inherit his father’s business. But his growing feelings for Lark, the new house slave who dares to speak of freedom, compel him to reveal his new plan for the slave ships returning to Earth—escape. Together, they just might spark a change that flares across the universe.
“What have we here. A runaway?”
I can’t think. In my panic I can hardly breathe—
“Easy there.” His voice is lucid and smooth, not rough and unkind like I imagined it would be. He releases me. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
The first scattered thought that crosses my mind when I look at him is, he’s not really too different from Humans. I mean, apart from being exceptionally tall, he really could pass for a Human. His tanned face is clean-shaven, and when he smiles, dimples appear. Dark feathery hair the color of molasses curls around two pointed ears. Amusement flickers in his eyes—and for the first time I notice the strange color of them. They’re not crazy at all, the way Johnson described. They have a purple hue, soft and deep like lilacs. Never look them in the eye. One of Johnson’s many lessons. I avert my gaze.
“What are you doing outside the plantation?” His voice is not accusing but slightly curious. “You shouldn’t be out here unless you have a death wish. Correct?”
My stomach drops. Yes. He thinks I’m a slave. This could be good.
Or really bad.
I glance at the sky, think of something to say, but every Tavdorian word I’ve ever learned has decided to take a vacation.
“The sunset,” I finally say in his language. “You can get the best view from here.” It’s the weakest excuse ever, but it’ll buy me some time.
“The sunset?” He crosses his arms, and I notice how strong he is, his forearms corded in muscle.“You risked your life leaving the plantation…for a sunset?”
One swallow. Two blinks. “It’s worth it, don’t you think?” I gesture toward the sky, now turning a deep shade of crimson.
He swivels his eyes toward the sunset, then back at me. A confused smile forms on his two perfect lips, and I briefly wonder if all Tavdorians are this good-looking or if I’ve officially lost my mind.
“Alno must be lenient. Not many slaves get the privilege of enjoying a sunset.”
My heartbeat spikes. Look away. Johnson told me Tavdorians never speak civilly to Humans. It’s all orders and reprimands. So why is this one speaking to me? Why isn’t he reacting in anger at my “privilege”?
“But you don’t have to worry about a lashing from me.” The Tavdorian steps closer, and my shoulders stiffen. He’s so tall my head barely reaches his chest. If he thought I was a runaway, he could easily swing me over his shoulder and carry me to the plantation himself.
“What do you want with me?” The question comes out in a breathless whisper. I allow myself to peek up at him. He stares back, his eyes sparking with curiosity.
“Simple conversation would be enough.”
A conversation. With a Tavdorian. There’s nothing simple about that.
“You don’t need to tremble so much. I’m not going to harm you.” He waves his hand in the air. “Or tell on you for running away.”
“Thank you,” I manage to whisper, realizing after I speak the words that I just confirmed his suspicion.
“I would suggest you run with more resources, though. Food. Water.” His eyes drift over my threadbare tunic, and he frowns. “Layers of clothing, perhaps.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“Do you know how to hunt?”
I’m starting to wonder if this is an interrogation.
He narrows his eyes and lowers his voice a notch. “Or are you meeting with other runaways? I heard there were two who ran from the plantation. Alno must have a terrible time keeping his fence intact.”
I can’t speak. My mouth has been bolted shut, my fear threatening to choke me.
He sighs and drags his hand through his hair. “This conversation is seriously getting boring. You can either speak to me like a civil…being. Or you can walk away and leave me hanging, wondering who the mysterious copper-haired runaway was that I met on the riverbank.”
My brain screams at me to walk away, but this Tavdorian isn’t the only curious one here.
My name is Sara Baysinger and I write books. I was born in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador where I spent my early life exploring uncharted lands on horseback and raising chickens. I now make my home among the endless cornfields of Indiana with my husband and two children…and I still raise chickens. My dystopian novel BLACK TIGER was self-published in 2016, with books 2 & 3 published in 2017. When not getting lost in a book, I can be found gardening, devouring chocolate, and running off the sugar-high from said chocolate.
I’m currently working on an upcoming science fiction romance novel that will release with Entangled Teen, an imprint of Entangled Publishing.