She stood in the window, captivated by the three moons hovering over the mountains of Ohma, the Khanndoran nighttime landscape taking her breath away as always. Sheskia fireflies sped through the trees, fast as birds as they emitted large white flashes of light. The chorus of nocturnal insects swelled with the rising breeze, a calming symphony that she looked forward to each night. The glow of blue flowers on the bhrusa trees stretched to the horizon, and stars sparkled over the magnificence on the ground below, as if keeping watch over the alien lands that now felt more like home to Makenna than Earth ever had.
A multitude of footsteps sounded on the stairs and her stomach abruptly clenched with nervous anticipation. Despite her anxieties, heat gathered and pulsed between her thighs at the prospect of being taken in hand by her mates.
She’d been naughty today, having disabled the security system that circled the clearing around their home in order to dash off to pick berries all by herself without permission. She had intended to return quickly and reset the security system before anyone noticed, but while the system was disabled dozens of monikons—large furry primates that lived on the mountain—had descended upon their house and ransacked the kitchen while foraging for food. To make matters worse, the monikons also damaged several control panels in the entryway, causing malfunctions in many of the home’s other systems.
As a result of her disobedience and carelessness, her mates were none too pleased with her. Daddy Torin had found her in the forest and given her a severe scolding, complete with a few smacks to her bottom over her clothes, before marching her home and sending her upstairs to contemplate her actions while he and his brothers dealt with the mayhem she’d caused.
Guilt settled on her shoulders. She’d caused him worry when he’d noticed her missing. She’d hoped to return home before he detected her absence, but she’d been wrong. Very wrong. She ought to know by now that she couldn’t get away with the slightest disobedience.
Not when she had six daddies to watch over her.
Nerves flitted faster in her tummy when the door zipped open. She turned to face Daddy Torin and gasped at the sight of the sturdy-looking strap in his hand. The strap was reserved for the most serious of offenses, and she supposed she deserved it. She hadn’t thought the brief spanking in the forest had been intended to suffice as punishment and she’d already expected a longer, harder disciplinary session. One that would bring her to tears and make her truly repentant for her actions. She trembled in place, her legs weakening as her heart raced faster.
Behind Daddy Torin stood his five brothers, Daddies Aras, Kameel, Nagen, Vilad, and Zane. The six of them wore hardened expressions. Daddy Nagen crossed his arms over his chest and his eyes darkened further, leaving her with no doubt about how he felt concerning her illicit outing. A quiver raced across her bottom cheeks.
“Little human,” Daddy Torin said as he approached her, “we are very disappointed in your behavior. If you’d wished to go hiking you only needed to ask. I would have gladly walked with you. You endangered yourself today and you put the servants at risk too. It took us hours to repair the damage caused by the monikons, and we are certainly fortunate one of the deadlier creatures from the forest didn’t wander inside. What were you thinking?”
She released a shaky breath and fidgeted with her hands. “I’m so sorry, Daddy Torin. I didn’t know the monikons would find their way in and cause such horrible damage. I-I had only wished to quickly pick some berries to surprise you all with a homemade pie. If you came with me, then it wouldn’t have been a surprise.” The Kreccian cooks they employed had been teaching her how to prepare Khanndoran food in her spare time, and they’d recently shown her how to make a dough that tasted similar to pie crust, which had given her the idea. She’d spotted the near ripe berries during her last hike through the forest, a week ago when Daddy Zane had accompanied her on a walking path near a stream.
“We appreciate your efforts in the kitchen of late, Kenna,” Daddy Aras said with a note of kindness underlying the scolding tone of his deep rumbling voice, “however, you were naughty and put yourself in danger. The mountains are filled with beasts that could easily make a meal of you. Furthermore, disabling the security system is completely unacceptable. This wasn’t a casual disobedience on your part, little girl, but a premeditated one, and you will be punished severely for your transgressions. We have no intentions of being gentle with you this evening. You will be one very sorry little human by the time we are finished administering your discipline.” It was then that she noticed he was holding a large phallus in one hand and a bottle of lubricant in the other. Her heart pounded faster and she instinctively reached back to shield her bottom.
Shame coursed through her and deepened when all their nostrils suddenly flared.
Oh, no. They could detect her arousal.
She pressed her thighs together in an attempt to hide it, but it was too late. All six of her daddies could smell the moisture quickening in her core. To make matters worse, her nipples tightened and when six dark gazes subsequently locked on her chest, she knew they could see the further evidence of her mounting desire through the thin layer of her nightdress.
She couldn’t help it.
The mere thought of receiving a punishment from her daddies never failed to call up her arousal, and they smelled her every single time. Between their heightened physical senses and their empathic abilities, she couldn’t keep a single secret from them. Sometimes it seemed they knew her better than she knew herself, these six alien warriors who had claimed her as their mate and as their little girl.
“Strip her,” Daddy Torin commanded, and a second later Daddies Kameel, Nagen, Vilad, and Zane approached her, their no-nonsense visages firm and their black eyes gleaming in the light of the nearby sconces.
They made fast work of removing her lacy white nightdress and flower print panties, the feminine garments brand new from the materials replicator. They always delighted in surprising her with brand new girlish attire, having forbidden her from wearing anything too grownup, or, in their words, “not proper enough for a sweet little girl.” In the months since they’d claimed her, she had come to enjoy wearing the little girl clothing and feeling like a pretty doll as they dressed her each morning.
Daddy Nagen held up her panties for a moment, inspecting the clearly visible wet spot in the crotch area. A fresh flush stole through her.
“Get her into position on the bed, hold her down, and pull her bottom cheeks wide apart,” Daddy Torin said with authority in his voice. “By the time we’re through with you, little girl, your bottom will be very, very sore—inside and out.”
A shudder ran through her but she didn’t resist as they got her into the ordered position. The cool breeze wafted into the room, making her ever aware of her spread privates. Her asshole and pussy were on full display, her arousal no doubt gleaming from her smooth pink parts. When the telltale warmth of her essence trickled down her inner thighs, she flushed anew with humiliation.
“Look how wet she is,” Daddy Aras said, running the phallus over the wet slit of her nether lips. “I can use her natural essence for moisture rather than the bottle of lubrication.” His words caused her to heat all over, and she trembled as he slid the phallus into her pussy, driving it deep into her feminine core, only to withdraw it a moment later and subsequently shove it straight back inside. He repeated this action several times, increasing his pace as he pumped it in and out of her wet, aching center, causing everything below her waist to tighten and pulsate with pleasure. To her utter mortification, a deep moan slipped from her throat.
Awash in shame, she buried her face in the covers.
Finally, he withdrew the phallus entirely from her pussy. Daddies Kameel and Nagen settled on either side of her, holding her down on the bed, while Daddies Vilad and Zane each pulled on one of her bottom cheeks from the side, spreading her privates even wider. Remorse and humiliation spiraled through her. A second later, she felt the pressure of the moistened phallus being pushed against her back hole. Her heart skipped a beat. Daddy Aras was shoving the huge object into her ass, and he wasn’t being gentle in the least. She gasped for breath and struggled to accept the burning intrusion in her tight bottom hole.
“Get it nice and deep,” Daddy Torin said. “She was very, very naughty today. I want her to feel the ache of the phallus in her bottom hole long after it’s been removed.”
Daddy Aras gave it an especially hard shove, and she whimpered and clutched onto the bedcovers, trying to summon the strength to endure such a strict punishment. Daddies Vilad and Zane released their hold on her bottom and each placed a hand on her lower back.
“It’s as deep as it can possibly go,” Daddy Aras said, running his hand slowly along her backside, as if inspecting his handiwork. “I bet you’re feeling thoroughly punished already, aren’t you, little girl? But you still have a strapping coming. A very hard one.”
Despite her immense regret and trepidation over the impending strapping, her pussy ached with the need to be filled up, her clit throbbing so hard tears sprang to her eyes. “I-I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“We know you are, little one,” Daddy Torin said, his lips hovering close to her ear, “but this is a lesson you need to learn. You need to understand just how wrong your actions were today. You could have gotten hurt. Others could have gotten hurt as a result of your negligence. Now you must suffer the consequences of your naughtiness.” His hot breath wafted across her neck and his nearness sent a shudder through her.
She peeked out from her hiding spot in the covers just long enough to glimpse the sturdy leather strap dangling from his hand. Oh, God. She wondered how many times he would bring it down across her bottom. When he got into position behind her and took aim with the strap, she promptly turned around and reburied her face in the bedcovers.
The first lash came down with a searing impact that took her breath away. She gave a muffled scream as her bottom cheeks involuntarily clenched around the massive phallus. Agony consumed her and she tried to rise from the bed, but several pairs of strong hands held her down. Daddy Torin didn’t wait long before bringing the leather down again. And again. The stinging lashes soon came quickly, one after another, some of them even landing on her upper thighs. With each harsh blow, she couldn’t keep herself from clenching against the painfully large intrusion in her bottom hole, no matter how hard she tried.
She had a feeling this wouldn’t be a quick punishment. But her daddies would give her the chastisement she deserved, and then she had no doubt they would comfort her in the aftermath of the strict lesson. They would take care of her, and despite her current predicament, her heart warmed at the thought.
Her daddies always took care of her.
Even when she was shamefully naughty.
Six months earlier…
She waited in her father’s home office, wishing she were miles away from this sterile, uninviting room—not to mention the irritable man seated behind the large desk. For a brief moment, Makenna Vega wondered what it might be like to have a warm, kind father who not only felt true affection for her but regarded her as more than an extension of himself and his many achievements. If only.
As quickly as the wistful thoughts entered her mind, she dashed them away and steeled herself for whatever negativities their impending talk would hold. A sad thing, that she couldn’t even recall the last time they’d enjoyed an unstrained conversation.
Years, she thought with her spirits sinking. It’s been several years.
Her heart hammered in her chest and nerves curled tight in her stomach. She cast a glance at the two heavy suitcases resting at her feet as she waited for her father to look up from his screens where he constantly monitored his various businesses and investments. Impatience spread through her, but she wisely kept quiet. Her ears tingled with the echo of harsh words bellowed in this very room countless times before. If she interrupted him, he would likely yell at her or even throw things at her for costing him money when she drew his attention away from his work at the wrong time.
She hated when he shouted at her, especially when he called her horrible names, and she had no wish to endure another one of his verbal tirades. She pressed her lips together and swallowed hard.
“I know why you’re here,” he finally said, still not glancing up from his screens. “Your bank card isn’t working and you were unable to book passage to Phennulos.”
“Yes, Dad. It appears my funds have been frozen. Surely it must be a glitch?”
He touched one of the screens, still not glancing up. “It’s not a glitch. I’ve seen your grades for the last two semesters and they are atrocious. Do you realize the only reason you haven’t been kicked out of the university is because of your last name?”
Anger simmered underneath Makenna’s surface. He never listened. She’d told him time and time again that she didn’t wish to study mind-numbingly boring Interplanetary Business, but he’d wanted her to continue in the family trade and had forced her into a field of study she wanted nothing to do with. She longed to study Xenolinguistics, but he didn’t understand the point of studying alien languages when one could simply wear a translator. The beauty of an otherworldly tongue, like many Earth languages, was often lost in translation. She might not know the first thing about investing in the Gahorrian mines on Preemmix 3 or opening a chain of lavish hotels on Norr, but she was fluent in over two dozen alien tongues and could fumble her way through at least two dozen more.
She took a deep breath and forced a smile. Now wasn’t the time to argue about changing her college major again. That battle would have to wait for another day. “Dad, all my friends are going to Phennulos for summer break. Heather, Angela, Maria, and even Sherry are going.”
“You can visit Phennulos with your friends over the winter holiday break after your fall semester just like you did a couple of months ago, if you would like, but only if you work hard and pass every single one of your fall classes.” He finally looked up from his screens, and his dark eyes were glassy, his pupils completely dilated. She wondered if he’d been taking stimulants again. He routinely went days without sleeping, not wanting to be away from his work for too long. His hands were trembling slightly and he appeared paler than usual. “You’re not going to Phennulos over summer break, Makenna, and that’s final. Don’t try to argue with me and don’t even think about bringing on the tears. Your grades are an embarrassment. You’re a Vega and I expect more of you. I suggest you take your classes seriously, study hard, and get good grades just like your brother and sister did. Look at how successful they’ve become—they have done the Vega name proud.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve put a freeze on all of your accounts. You will stay here on Rissa Island all summer and study for your upcoming classes.” His gaze flickered back to his screens.
“All my friends are going. It’s not fair! You can’t do this to me!”
“I’m working, Makenna. This conversation is over. You are dismissed,” he said in a clipped tone.
“I promise I’ll get straight As during the fall semester if you’ll just let me go to Phennulos, Dad. I promise!” She couldn’t believe he’d actually cut her off. This couldn’t be happening. She would do anything to make sure she boarded an interstellar vessel tomorrow morning that was headed for Phennulos. Anything.
“Makenna, I’ve also alerted the Interstellar Security Administration not to allow you to board an interstellar vessel under any circumstances, even if you do somehow manage to come up with the money for a ticket, so don’t get any ideas in your head.” He pressed and swiped at his screens, his fingers moving quickly as an intense look of concentration spread over his features. He was hardly paying attention to her, she realized, and his dismissive attitude left her increasingly frustrated. She didn’t know a single person around her age who lived on Rissa Island who wasn’t headed to Phennulos tomorrow morning when the portal to the party planet opened. Everyone went to Phennulos during winter and summer breaks. Alone. I’ll truly be all alone. Her heart pounded faster as cold panic gripped her.
“But Dad! The portal to Phennulos opens tomorrow and then it won’t be open for four more weeks. At least give me access to the money I earned working as a Xenolinguistics tutor this year.” Chump change, he’d called her tiny paychecks. But she’d been proud as hell to earn even a small amount of money on her own, particularly doing something she loved, and the scant amount might be enough to cover a budget fare to the party planet. “Please, Dad,” she said, giving him her saddest look.
“The answer is no. I’ll not have a failure for a daughter, Makenna. Think about it. That’s all you are right now. A complete and utter failure. But there is still time for you to get your act together and make something of yourself. You will thank me later. You don’t want to grow up to be worthless, do you?”
His words stung. No one had ever made her feel like a worthless failure but him.
“Dad, I can’t believe you would do this to me! I’m all packed and ready,” she said, kicking one of her suitcases. “My friends are waiting for me at the Luran Resort.” The thought of her friends enjoying a night together at the lavish hotel next to Rissa Island’s Interstellar Port without her only deepened her frustration and despair.
“Makenna, I have an important conference call with a group of Belishian developers scheduled in five minutes. If you don’t leave my office, I will call for Emmitt to escort you to your room.”
Her ire rose and she finally stomped her foot. “You’re being outrageous!”
Her father pressed a blue button on his desk and the deep voice of Emmitt Henderson, head of security at the Vega family compound, sounded behind her a few seconds later.
“Yes, Mr. Vega?” The burly man entered the room and came to stand beside Makenna, giving her a brief dispassionate glance before he looked at her father.
“Please escort my daughter to her room and see that she doesn’t come out until morning.”
“What? Dad, you can’t force me to stay in my room. This is fucking ridiculous! I’m nineteen years old. I demand—”
A firm hand gripped her upper arm, and she gasped and gazed up at the guard who had dared to put his hands on her. “Come with me, please, Miss Vega.” He squeezed much harder than necessary, his fingers digging painfully into her flesh.
This absolutely couldn’t be happening. But it was. No matter how much Makenna argued and tried to escape Emmitt’s firm hold, he half-carried, half-dragged her to her large bedroom on the third floor of the mansion. This was not how she had envisioned her summer starting—as a captive in her own home. Tears streamed down her face and her throat burned. What was she going to do?
Fucking hell, if she’d known her father would actually prevent her from joining her friends on Phennulos, she would have gotten tutors and spent all her time trying to get passing grades. But now it was too late. She wrapped her arms around her center, feeling as if she needed to physically hold herself together, lest the deepening despair of her loneliness rip her to pieces.
She wiped at her tears and rushed into her bathroom, then sat down at the vanity, frantic to fix her smeared makeup. Once she had herself looking somewhat presentable, she returned to her bedroom and perched in front of the video comm at her desk.
The log showed ten missed calls. All from her friends.
Fuck fuck fuck. She needed to think of something good to explain her absence at the Luran Resort and fast. The truth wouldn’t do. The truth felt too personal, too raw to voice aloud to anyone.
“Call Heather,” she said, forcing a smile. She absolutely couldn’t admit to her friends what had happened. She’d already lied about her grades, not wanting them to believe she was stupid—they were all doing well in their studies at the University of Rissa—and she couldn’t fathom what they would think if she admitted her father had forbidden her from traveling to Phennulos until she passed her classes. It was bad enough her father thought her a failure. She didn’t want her friends believing it too.
“Hey, Kenna! Look, girls, it’s Kenna!”
A second later, her four friends stared back at her on the screen, all dressed to the nines and wearing full makeup. Obviously, they were getting ready to go dancing in one of the clubs near the Luran Resort. Her heart panged with the longing to join them, but they were on the other side of Rissa Island and she was locked in her room.
“Hi, ladies!” she beamed into the screen, trying to act as if nothing was amiss and praying they bought it. “Where are you headed?”
“To Club Xander. Carly called us and told us some super-hot Hennorian guys were there. A couple of them are princes, too!” Maria sighed dreamily. “I can just see it now. Her Royal Highness Maria…”
“Oh, please!” Angela said, rolling her eyes. “Hennorians won’t marry humans. They’ll fuck them, but they won’t marry them. It’s never been done. They hold fast to their traditions.”
Maria gave Angela a playful push. “Once Mr. Sexy Alien Prince with the big vibrating cock goes for a ride on this fine specimen of the human race,” Maria said, pointing to herself as she batted her eyelashes in a dramatic fashion, “he won’t be able to live without me. Years of Kegel exercises are about to pay off, my friends.”
All the girls broke into laughter, though Makenna had to force it. They hadn’t even left for Phennulos yet and they were having fun without her. Another wave of loneliness swept over her, so swift and piercing it nearly took her breath away.
“So when are you getting here?” Sherry asked.
“In the morning.” She wasn’t sure how she would manage the trip to Phennulos, but she would figure it out. Even if she had to stow away on a vessel headed for the party planet.
The door to her bedroom opened and Emmitt pushed her two suitcases inside. He gave her a cocky smirk before promptly closing the door. She heard the clicking of the lock a second later, followed by his chuckle echoing down the hallway. Bastard.
How would she escape? She racked her brain, wondering if she could slide down the side of the house without breaking anything.
“Hey, Earth to Kenna. Why aren’t you joining us tonight?” Sherry asked, waving at the screen.
“Oh, um, well, I am going to spend the evening with my dad and then I’ll see you at the Interstellar Port for boarding in the morning.”
“I hope you already booked passage on the Portania. There were only a few first-class tickets left,” Heather said, looking scandalized at the prospect of traveling in anything but refined luxury.
“Already booked, of course,” Makenna lied, her heart pounding and her palms breaking into a sweat. “My father called the bank and fixed the glitch with my card. No worries.”
“Are you sure you can’t join us tonight?” Maria asked. “You might be able to bag a Hennorian prince of your very own.” She waggled her eyebrows and grinned. “Must I say it again? Big. Vibrating. Cocks.”
Makenna forced a broad smile as her friends broke into another fit of giggles. Once they quieted, she leaned forward and stared into the screen, wishing she could snap her fingers and appear in their hotel suite right now. She always felt dreadfully lonely at home. Though she hadn’t enjoyed her classes at the university, she had liked living in a dorm filled with lots of other girls. For the first time since her mother’s passing she’d almost felt like she had a real family who cared about her.
“I’m sure I can’t join you tonight. Sorry, ladies,” Makenna finally replied as they all sighed with disappointment. “My father says he’ll miss me this summer and wants us to have some quality time together before I leave.” She had never told a lie that tasted so bitter.
“Aw, that’s so sweet!” Heather said, and the girls were all smiling again. “Well, have fun!”
“We gotta go now,” Sherry said. “Our otherworldly princes await. We’ll see you tomorrow, Daddy’s girl!”
“Bye! See you tomorrow morning!” Makenna waved at her friends, still forcing her brightest smile, then disconnected the call.
Daddy’s girl. Ugh. She was the farthest thing from it. Collin Vega could barely stand the sight of her and she didn’t enjoy being in his presence either.
Her smile instantly faded, and sickness rose in her stomach over the lie she’d told.
Not the lie about already having bought her ticket to Phennulos, but the lie about spending the evening with her father.
As if Collin Vega would take time away from his precious work and spend as little as five minutes with her. He might miss out on a last-minute investment or trade if he had to spend even one minute with her. She wasn’t worth his time. Not unless she majored in stupid Interplanetary Business and joined the family trade and made billions of dollars to add to the Vega fortune. Her spirits sank lower and she curled up on her bed, awash in a bone-weary sense of isolation.
She had no access to her money. She was locked in her room. And apparently her father had alerted the authorities not to allow her to set foot on an interstellar vessel under any circumstances. Though she was a grown woman, her father’s wealth and power allowed him to control her completely—the authorities and financial institutions wouldn’t dare oppose his demands, even when such demands skirted on the edge of the law.
She stared out her open window as the gentle ocean breeze entered her room, ruffling the sheer white curtains. The moon shone high in the sky, but the glow of Rissa Island prevented the stars from shining in all their glory. For a moment, she laid in her bed, peering up at the night sky through a part in the curtains and wishing she could see all the stars in existence.
One thing she enjoyed about space travel was the breathtaking views. She loved to turn off all the lights in her quarters and curl up next to the large wall-length windows, where she could stare at the stars for hours upon hours, adrift in the silent beauty of open space. Not only would she miss out on having fun with her friends, but she would miss her silly soul-searching ritual of gazing at the stars and wondering what her future held—please, not a future like her father’s or her siblings’.
She would also miss the swirl of sparkling colors that made up the inside of the interstellar portals. The artificial wormhole from Earth to Phennulos, which she had traveled through numerous times, was absolutely breathtaking, glowing blue and green with occasional glimmers of radiant silver. To think she might have to wait months to make the journey to Phennulos had her pacing around her room, trying to figure out how she would manage the interstellar trip without any money to her name—not to mention how she’d evade those handsy ISA agents.
She couldn’t risk attempting to pass through the security line or even purchase a ticket, assuming she somehow came up with the funds. But maybe…
Diamonds and other jewels.
The idea hit her, sending her scrambling over to her large jewelry chest.
Yes, this could work! She immediately started shoving her most expensive pieces of jewelry into a large velvet bag. Once she made it to Phennulos, she could trade in the jewelry for Phennulian credits. And maybe, if she had any trouble sneaking aboard a vessel—yes, her only option was to stow away—she could bribe any potential lone ISA agents who happened upon her with a handful of priceless jewels, particularly the extremely valuable ones mined on Preemmix 3.
Feeling more settled as a solid plan formed in her mind, she glanced at her open window. Another gust of wind ruffled the curtains, the humid breeze and familiar buzz of nighttime insects promising freedom.
Knowing she couldn’t scale down the walls of the mansion with two heavy suitcases, she entered her massive walk-in closet and rummaged around for a backpack. Once she found a black one—which she hoped would help keep her hidden as she snuck aboard a vessel in the darkness—she selected her favorite dresses, bikinis, shoes, makeup, and toiletries from her already packed suitcases, shoving as much as she could inside the backpack. Once she reached Phennulos and traded in the jewelry for credits, she could buy any additional clothes or items she needed.
She smiled to herself, already feeling better. She wouldn’t spend the summer lonely beyond measure on Rissa Island, enduring the coldness of a disapproving father who believed her an embarrassment and an utter failure. She would escape that judgement and heartache, and then once she returned to Earth she would find a way to convince him to allow her to pursue her passions. If he still refused… well, he could not compel her to attend classes, she reasoned with an aura of growing rebellion.
She took a deep breath to calm herself further, then changed into a pair of black yoga pants, a tight gray tank top, and her most comfortable running shoes. After fashioning her hair into a ponytail, she slung on the backpack and peered over the ledge of the window.
Her stomach flipped. It was a long drop to the surface. If she fell, she would likely land in the thorny Reestrovian rosebushes that circled almost the entire perimeter of the house. Her heart panged as she stared down at the otherworldly vegetation, the blooms of which glimmered blue in the moonlight. They had been her mother’s favorite flowers. At the age of ten, only six months before her mother’s passing, she’d gone to Reestrovia on a wonderful four-month long vacation with her parents and siblings, and her mother had loved the native flowers. Her father had risked a hefty fine to bring the rosebushes to Rissa Island, paying off the entire crew of an interstellar trading vessel to smuggle the plants safely back to Earth.
Makenna’s chest tightened and her throat burned with emotion. Her father seemed like a stranger now compared to the man he’d once been. She couldn’t imagine him leaving Earth for a leisurely vacation, trusting his business and trade ventures to his employees for months on end, let alone risking a huge fine just to see a member of his family smile.
All the joy had left his life the day her mother died, having contracted a rare but deadly virus on Reestrovia. The virus had lain dormant for months. By the time anyone realized something was wrong, her mother’s organs were already shutting down. She had passed away within hours of arriving at the hospital, within hours of feeling the first symptoms of illness.
It was a wonder Collin Vega hadn’t had the rosebushes yanked out of the ground, but they remained in place, becoming more beautiful and lush as the years passed by. Makenna was glad he hadn’t ordered the groundskeeper to remove them. The rich fragrant aroma of the rosebuds—which remained in bloom year-round—wafted up with the breeze, filling her senses as memories of her mother and her happy early childhood washed over her.
She sighed and ran a hand over her ponytail, trying to shake away the clinging remnants of the past. She needed to focus on the here and now and what must be done to ensure she didn’t spend a miserable and lonely summer on this island.
Then she suddenly remembered the hoverboard she’d gotten for her ninth birthday. She rushed back into her closet, pushing aside boxes and moving a small dresser out of the way, until she found the item she was seeking.
Her heart thudded faster as she grasped the hoverboard and raced back to the window. She adjusted the controls, setting it on the highest hover—four feet above the ground, to allow for the shortest drop possible once she escaped out her window.
A swift breeze hit her face again, the promise of freedom beckoning her louder.
She placed her feet into the notches of the board and swung over the ledge, feeling brave and deliciously wild. A strange sense of knowing washed over her, a whispering premonition that once she jumped, life as she knew it would change forever. Would it, really? She could only hope her intuition proved right as she stared at the ground, so far below her perch in the window. Rebellion. Freedom. Change. Please God, let it all come to pass.
She counted backward from ten.
Then she jumped.
Her stomach nosedived with her, but she stopped four feet above the ground, still standing straight on the hovercraft. Despite her queasiness and her breathlessness, she giggled as she slipped off the board to the ground beside the alien rosebushes. She took a few deep breaths and grabbed the hoverboard, turning it off so no one would hear the faint humming sound it produced before she stashed it behind the bushes.
A gust of wind hit her, making her ponytail flail in the humid night air. The salty tang of the sea breeze tasted like liberty, and she ran off under the cover of darkness, determined to make it across the island before anyone noticed her missing.
Come this time tomorrow, she would be a stowaway on an interstellar vessel headed for Phennulos.