The afternoon had turned gray and cold by the time we pulled up in front of the lake house, and a gusty wind was blowing off the water. I shivered in the kitchen, putting on water for tea while Ethan got a fire going in the fireplace and threw another couple of logs into the woodstove. Soon enough, though, the fire was snapping bravely against the draft and things were starting to warm up. Outside, the wind had blown up a rattle of raindrops against the windows. I was glad to curl up with my mug and microfleece on the bed and watch the flames dance in the fireplace.
Ethan stretched out on the bed beside me, propping himself up on one elbow and balancing his own mug of brew in front of him. He wasn’t watching the fire, though. He was watching me.
I turned to look at him and smiled. “Okay. I guess I’m ready to talk about it.”
“Only if you want to.”
“I don’t think this bed is big enough for the two of us plus the great big elephant we brought with us back from the doctor’s office.”
Ethan smiled. “You have a point.”
“So. No alien probe. No proof.”
“Right. But that’s not the only problem.”
“No.” My stomach was suddenly churning. “Because if the probe is no longer there, where is it? I mean, was it removed? And if so, who removed it?”
“Exactly.” Ethan took a thoughtful pull on his tea. “Asia, what if your loss of memory about the time you spent in captivity wasn’t the result of trauma? What if it was the result of a deliberate effort to make you forget?”
I sat up and stared at him. “What do you mean? Brainwashing?”
“Well, yes, in a word. Drugs, electroshock, psycho-manipulative techniques. There are any number of means to the end. No doubt a more advanced culture would have a few I’m not aware of.” His jaw tightened as his gaze fixed on the fire.
I started to shake again, though the room was thoroughly warm now. “My memories of the time I spent there . . . I was empty, blank, unable to feel anything until Dozen . . . I thought it was drugs. Are you saying they did something to my mind?”
Ethan sat up, set down his mug and grasped my trembling hands in his. “Whatever it was had no lasting effect, Asia. Your mind is whole and strong and fully intact now.”
I searched his eyes. “How do I know that? Just this morning something else came back—a memory of being examined when I was first taken. That’s why I jumped when you touched me. How do I know there’s not more—worse—still in there?”
“There may be pockets of memory still protected by your healthy mind, Asia. That does happen.” Ethan had slipped into professional mode. I should have been annoyed, but I found myself clinging to that reassurance instead. “Once you feel completely safe, you’ll release them, and I’ll be here to help you through it. I have a feeling you’ve already acknowledged the worst of it. The narrative stream is complete. The only gaps are the actual abduction and return and your recovery from the shoulder injury, perhaps because you were unconscious during those times.”
I wanted to believe him, God knows I did. But the sense of violation that had begun with the knowledge that I had been taken was now complete with the knowledge that they had rearranged my mind. To make me forget. As if that was even possible.
The tears pooled in my eyes and began to roll down my face. “Why would they do that to me? Who were they that they could do that?” Even as I spoke, I knew: I hadn’t been the only one. I’d simply been one of an uncounted number of those Taken and somehow returned.
Ethan gathered me in and wrapped his arms around me. I pressed my face to his warm chest and gave in to what was left of my grief for the life I had lost, for all the lives lost.
“They can’t have been human to hurt you like they did.” His hand stroked my hair. “My Asia, my sweet, beautiful Asia.” His voice became a magical murmur, a soft, warm salve for my aching heart.
And I know, if I were Taken again today, I would cling to that one moment so strongly they could never take it from my mind—that memory of Ethan holding me in the firelight as afternoon turned to darkest night and whispering my name so it sounded like love.
A woman with terrifying memories of an alien world and a psychiatrist willing to risk everything to protect her find themselves on the run from black ops kidnappers with a sinister interest in UFOs.
--Part political thriller, part sci-fi, part romance, Unchained Memory is an exciting read full of unexpected twists and turns highlighted by Donna Frelick’s excellent prose. –Linnea Sinclair, Author, The Dock Five Series
An FBI agent must forge a bond with a half-alien tracker to find a boy who is the key to an interstellar power play. Only love can ensure that these unlikely partners beat rival off-world hunters to a vulnerable prey.
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY says Trouble in Mind "skillfully blends alien abduction conspiracies, political intrigue, space battles, and epic romance into a psychic police procedural that also packs an emotional punch." Read the whole rave review here.
The teacher turned to him, a glint in his gray eyes. “I say we owe the galaxy a civilized Thrane to make up for the butcher that is his father. What is your name, boy?”
“Gabriel Cruz, sir. And I am human, not Thrane.”
Lana sat bolt upright in the unmoving vehicle, her eyes seeking light, her lungs gasping for breath in the airless void of night. The child Gabriel had stood up for the part of him that was human, but Lana saw what the others that day had seen—part of him was not of this Earth. His father was Thrane, his brothers were Thrane, and his memories in her mind showed her everything that meant—the cruelty, the conquests, the centuries of war. The bloodlines, the psi talents, the laws that held them in check.
Then, more proof, if any had been necessary: the image she had first seen when she’d touched his scars, of the fight on the dark side of Azreeni VI. Just one of so many fights on so many exotic planets, the creature dying beneath him just one of so many other unimaginable, inhuman creatures he had seen in his lifetime. Image after image, place after place, memory after memory flooded her consciousness until she was shaking and weak. Jesus Christ! Was she crazy, or was he? Aliens? Other planets?
And . . . holy mother of God, he and I . . .
She clawed open the car door and stumbled out of the vehicle. It was all she could do to keep her feet—and the contents of her stomach—as she gulped in huge breaths of cold desert air. They were pulled just off a secondary road onto a flat stretch of hardpan, and she was alone. Stars wheeled overhead. God, it was quiet! Her heart beat like thunder in her chest.
A flashlight winked a few paces away and began to bob in her direction. “Lana?”
Oh, Jesus! She wanted to run. She wanted to fight. She wanted to do anything but talk to Gabriel Cruz. Who wasn’t human.
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