Gabriel Cruz had spent time dirtside on most of the planets clustered around the galaxy’s busier jump nodes. He’d pulled a few tours on some of the worlds of the distant Outer Reaches. His job required plenty of travel and a familiarity with many of the galaxy’s exotic locales and bustling centers of commerce, the slums and the luxury resorts, the slave markets and the sex trade. Gabriel hadn’t seen it all, but he’d seen a lot of it. And he could still find much to admire in a summer morning in a temperate climate zone on the planet its inhabitants called Earth.
The yellow sun was shining out of a flawless blue sky as he got out of the car and followed Rayna up the sidewalk toward Ethan’s house. It would be hot soon, but Gabriel didn’t mind the heat. He hated the cold of ships and space stations and dank colonial outposts, always balancing the scarcity of resources against the needs of many. Here he could smell the rich earth, the vegetation growing in it, the asphalt and the car exhaust. He could hear the birds singing, the neighbors mowing lawns and taking out the garbage. For one minute, he could pretend his life was like anyone else’s. Gabriel took that minute. Then he took a deep breath and went up the steps into Ethan’s house.
A young man in the white uniform shirt of a Metro Nashville PD officer stopped them at the front door with the usual bluff and bluster. Gabriel could see Ethan start toward them from the office inside on the right, but FBI Special Agent Alana Matheson was quicker.
She waved them in from a desk in the smaller office to the left, dismissing the uniform. “It’s all right, Officer. They’re friends of the family.” She nodded as she came to join them. “Morning, folks.”
“Agent Matheson.” Gabriel was intrigued by the way her grass-green eyes locked on to his. They studied him, as if they’d never quite encountered anything like him before. He didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by the thought, but he recognized he had that much in common with the FBI agent. He’d never seen local law enforcement like her before either.
Slightly unnerved, he said the first thing that came to mind. “Have you been here all night?”
She smiled, her fatigue showing. “No, I did get a little sleep. Don’t think your friend got any at all, though. He’s looking pretty slammed.” She indicated the office where the doctor was talking with Rayna.
Gabriel noted the signs of weariness in Ethan’s body that went beyond the obvious need for sleep and healing, his bone-cracking tension and heart-rending pain, his desperation. He felt his own chest tighten in sympathy. He turned back to Alana to see her watching him.
“How long have you known Ethan Roberts, Mr. Cruz?”
He held her gaze to see what her reaction would be and was delighted to see the color rise in her face in the seconds before he answered her question. “Not long. Sam and Rayna are mutual friends. They asked me to see if I could be of help.”
“In what way?”
“You might say I specialize in recovering what is lost.”
“As in missing persons.” She gave him that thorough once-over again. “I’m aware you’re a private investigator. Has Roberts hired you to find his wife and son?”
Gabriel smiled. It hadn’t taken her long to find his data plant.
“As I said, Sam and Rayna asked me to help. I’m not being paid.”
“Mr. Cruz, I hope I don’t have to tell you that interfering with a Federal investigation is against the law.”
Somehow he found her warning intensely sexy. “I have no intention of interfering. I’m simply here helping a friend recover something he’s lost. In this case, starting with his memory of what happened yesterday at the river.”
Alana’s gaze narrowed. “Are you also a psychiatrist of some sort, sir?”
“Then how do you expect to be able to help?”
He shrugged. “I have my ways. Some people would consider them somewhat . . . unconventional.”
Her lips curved. His breath stopped.
“Really. Okay. Maybe I should sit in on your meeting today, see for myself.”
He almost laughed. He hadn’t planned on this, but he could see no real harm in it. He would leave her behind long before he got to the point where the chase got dangerous.
Her smile widened, revealing white, even teeth, and she waved a hand toward the office. “After you, Mr. Cruz.”
“Thank you, Agent Matheson. And, please, call me Gabriel.”
“Might as well call me Lana,” she murmured as he passed her. “We’re going to be very close friends from now on.”
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.
Book One in the Interstellar Rescue Series
Buy NOW from Amazon and BN
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.
Book Two in the Interstellar Rescue Series
Coming February 16, 2016 from INK'd Press!
An FBI agent and an alien tracker join forces to find a boy who is the key to an interstellar power play. With vicious off-world hunters stalking the child, only love can ensure that these unlikely partners will save him--and each other.
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, too.”
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, psychomanipulative 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 on that planet . . . I was empty, blank, unable to feel anything. . . 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 story of what happened to you 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 by unknown beings 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 to Earth.
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.