Will love set them free—or seal their fate?
In the 67th century, Trev, a master thief and computer hacker, and Khim, a vat-grown human android, reluctantly share a cell in a floating space prison called Steering Star. Trev is there as part of an arrangement that might finally free him from his father's control. Khim, formerly a combat android, snaps when he is sold into the pleasure trade and murders the man who sexually assaults him. At first they are at odds, but despite secrets and their dark pasts, they form a pact—first to survive the prison, and then to escape it.
But independence remains elusive, and falling in love comes with its own challenges. Trev’s father, Dante, a powerful underworld figure with sweeping influence throughout the galaxy, maintains control over their lives that seems stronger than any prison security system, and he seeks to keep them apart. Trev and Khim must plan another, more complex escape, and this time make sure they are well beyond the law as well as Dante’s reach.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Adopted Child, Class Differences, First Time, Friends to Lovers
Word Count: 95,000
Setting: floating cities, space prison
Languages Available: English
Strangers bathed his body in lilac-scented water. They brushed him down, naked, with gold body powder. They rimmed his eyes with blue shadow and caressed his lips with a soft pink sheen.
Khim might have fought them off if, beforehand, they hadn’t made him breathe the curling zotic smoke from the pleasure wands the grooms waved all about his face and head. The smoke aroused him against his will, made him pliant, dizzy. Paralyzed his vocal cords—an invisible gag—and took away all aggression. Aggression under command orders for expert frontline fighting was his own past means of survival. Bereft of that, he had no sense of what to do as his body betrayed him by following every command of the grooms, every lead.READ MORE
The grooms, three human boys who looked no more than nineteen, seemed pleased at his response. But mostly they seemed bored, applying all the makeup and powder as if they’d done it a hundred times before. Their touches were professional, gentle, not cruel. But except for that gentleness, they seemed uncaring about what he might be going through.
Created to obey, Khim had no words within him for a protest.
Brought onto a small lighted stage on a thin laser-leash by a fourth handsome groom, Khim could see nothing beyond the glow that contained him but shadows and darker man-shapes upon those shadows.
Knowing nothing of this new, nonmilitary world, he felt vulnerable and exposed, and fear fluttered through his stomach and into his chest. He knew what this was about—sex and its darker underpinnings. It couldn’t be otherwise, for he was naked, painted like a doll. He’d witnessed androids fucking without inhibition, but he’d never wanted it for himself. Never felt aroused by his own kind. Never had the sex drive some of the others seemed born with. If something was wrong with him, he never thought about it or cared. He got his pleasure from battle, from storming alien worlds and using his weapons to subvert, kill, destroy. It was enough for him.
But that was no longer his life.
This new thing was something so completely “other” to what he was trained for. He didn’t want it.
But his mind and body were like separate entities now. In this moment, upon this stage, as he tried again to find words to deny, to protest, to negate the proceedings, nothing happened but a few twitches in the sleek, round muscles beneath his henna skin. His voice was cramped down low in his throat, unwilling or unable to come out, and he was turned upon the dais as if he were a doll for all those out there in the shadows to ogle and critique and assess.
If there were conversations about his viability, his virility, his beauty, they were silent, through private systems and digital conveyances. He was privy to none of it, and Khim abhorred that even more.
The groom who’d led him into this dark area leaned away, put a hand up to his ear as if listening. Right after that, the groom made a motion and touched Khim on the wrist. He forced him to lift his right hand up and turn it, showing off the silver gleam of the metal that had replaced the flesh-and-bone hand he had lost in the explosion on Doom in Shadow.
It all took just under a minute. Then the grooms led Khim off by the glowing leash into a dark corridor beyond the little stage, where he was able to overhear just the barest of harsh whisperings.