Lexi Ander has a new LGBTQ+ space opera out, The Valespian Pact book 4 (Ace, Demi, Bi, Poly): Cherish. And there’s a great giveaway!
Saving a life can change the course of history.
Destin is torn away from his chicks and his bonded when the Terrens invade Aries 7. Experimented on in Terren labs, and made to work their mines, the GyrFalconi struggle to survive. Destin becomes their caretaker, endeavoring to save as many as possible, despite the emotional toll. Amidst the battle for survival, the universe shines on him and he bonds with not one but four people who give him a reason to keep fighting. When Valespia sends its Legions to the GyrFalconi’s aid, Destin and his bonded are eventually freed, only to face new cruelties from their own people.
Freedom comes with its own trials, though, as a divide forms in GyrFalconi society between the winged and the wingless. Destin and his bonded are given a chance at true happiness and they keep what they claim, no matter what.
Warnings: violence, captivity, experimentation/not shown, physical trauma, death of unnamed character/not shown, talk of suicide, suicide not on page, death of chicks when eggs go cold.
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Dashing tears from his eyes, he finished packing a small but heavy satchel. Alaina and Paxx waited for him in the receiving room holding large, overstuffed bags. At least they were not flying any great distance. The door was open to the balcony and the sight beyond confirmed their reality like nothing else could. Transports large and small zipped between the tall spires of this residential quarter of Skylight. The buildings were hundreds of floors tall with every roost boasting a balcony or three for landing. Usually, municipal transports flew above the spires, but these originated from the base of the buildings where the personal transports were stored.
The aircraft were not the only traffic. GyrFalconi flew everywhere, either singly or in small flocks, and there was a lot of swerving and near collisions, the people too panicked to pay attention. A lead weight formed in Destin’s stomach and a sense of urgency whispered that they needed to hurry. At least his parents’ rookery was only a couple spires over.
“Stay close to me,” he warned. The fledglings’ eyes were round with dawning fear as they observed the chaos. Paxx and Alaina nodded vigorously.
Clutching the pack to his chest, Destin sprinted and leaped off the balcony, his wings spread as he tested the air for a wind to glide on while he waited for his fledglings to catch up. They carried more, so they dropped quicker and had to flap hard to reach him, their burdens clutched to their chests. Destin spiraled down to the building’s lower floors, hoping that the air there would be less travelled, and he was right. As long as they stayed above the storage levels, they would not cross many individual flyers.
A few minutes later, they reached his parents’ building. Destin searched for his mahen’s storage garage where she and his dahen would be waiting. All the bay doors were open and the interiors empty. He did not need to read the labels, since his mahen, Akela de la Zudora, stood in the opening to her bay watching for them. Her golden-brown feathers were streaked with a darker brown that made her look severe when her feathers were clapped tight to her crown. Her brown-ringed black eyes held a wealth of worry as well as a touch of fear, which abated when her gaze landed on them.
Destin circled around behind his fledglings and made them land first. Both immediately went to Akela when their feet touched the floor. She wrapped them in a calming embrace as she clicked her nose-plate to theirs. His dahen, Imrie, rushed from the transport when Destin set down. Imrie’s long, sweeping gray-tipped pink feathers were ruffled in the strong breeze that pushed into the bay. The pink contrasted beautifully with his ebony skin. Of all the Aries collectives, Destin thought his dahen’s feather coloring the prettiest. His own were red feathers dusted with the broody black of Aries 1. When he was much younger, he’d wished he had the pretty pinks of Aries 4 like his da. Destin had outgrown such vanities and he was content with his coloring, though he still thought the red and black was somber.
Imrie grabbed his face and clicked his hard yellow nose-plate against Destin’s. “Where is Dena?” he asked softly enough that the chicks did not hear.
Destin refused to answer, not wanting to bring to the fledglings’ attention that he and their mahen were at odds. Imrie’s blue eyes narrowed with comprehension, and Destin did not envy the dressing down that his dahen would give Dena when he saw her next.
His parents’ personal transport was a modest five-person pipit. Glancing inside, food stores were crammed into every available space, leaving just enough room in the back for Destin’s fledglings. They would be holding their overstuffed burdens in their laps since there was no other room to store the bags.
“I think we can make room for you,” Mahen said, coming up behind him. But they could not and still eat. There were questions about whether the sky-cities receiving refugees would have enough foodstuff to feed everyone. Destin would not have his family going hungry when there was a seat for him on another transport.
“Dena made arrangements for me,” he replied. Akela pursed her lips, sweeping her gaze over him and the fledglings as if to say, ‘yes, my son, I can see the accommodations your bonded has made.’ He forged on. “Speaking of, they are waiting on me. I am already several minutes late.”
His chicks made frantic noises. They were all talk about building a nest of their own, but here they were, not wanting to be separated from him. It warmed Destin’s heart more than it should have. Perhaps Dena was correct, and he was holding onto the fledglings too tightly. He wrapped each chick in his arms, reminded of how much larger they were when he tilted his head up so they could click their nose-plates against his.
“Do what you are told and help your granden and granhen with what they need. They will rendezvous with your bondeds’ families. Together, they will all work to keep you safe.” Destin waited for them to nod before he stepped away.
“When will you and Dena be joining us?” Mahen asked, pushing the fledglings toward the transport.
“The de la Bao flock are meeting up with some of their extended family. I will make my way to you once we stop,” he replied, hoping that the fledglings did not notice he said nothing about their mahen. The fact was that he did not know what her plans were, especially after their argument.
Imrie pulled out his data pad and demanded Destin give him the location where he would end up.
“I will come and get you myself once we have settled Alaina and Paxx,” Akela stated, her expression telling him not to argue with her. Destin nodded, saying hurried farewells to his parents before sprinting to the open bay door and leaping into flight.
He was not exaggerating when he said he was late. He owed the neighbors many apologies when he arrived. They were kind, patient people but the stress of fleeing to safety could make anyone terse, especially when waiting on someone who delayed their safe departure.
The weight of his bag seemed heavier than before, which Destin was sure it was just in his mind. There were more individual fliers clogging the airways. With great care, he dodged a couple of near collisions before reaching the correct building. The bay door was open, and Destin pulled up from his dive to land on the edge… of an empty storage slot. He double checked the name and number to make sure he had arrived at the correct place. This was where he was supposed to meet up with the neighbors.
Destin stared at the bare floor, his mind stalled for a few precious seconds as he tried to comprehend what it meant. Again, he double checked the ID to make sure he was at the right location, and he was, but they were gone. They had left. He was only a few minutes late, but the bay was not even warm from the aircraft’s engine, so they had been gone much longer than he was late.
Had Dena cancelled his seat, thinking he would be travelling with her? He could not imagine the neighbors leaving without him. They were close friends of Destin’s and if they were leaving, they would have contacted him, and there were no waiting messages on the data pad. If Dena told them he did not need the seat, then why did she not say something to him? Did she forget since they had fought? Was—
Destin shook his head, trying to clear his mind. This was not the time to allow emotional turmoil to take over. He would broach the questions with her later, after he reached safety. He considered flying back to his parents’ bay, but they were probably gone already, and he could not waste the time. He would have to fly.
A two-time Rainbow Award recipient, Lexi has always been an avid reader and started reading (secretly) her mother’s romances (the ones she was told not to touch) at a young age. She was the only teenager she knew of who would be grounded from reading. Later, with a pencil and a notebook, she wrote her own stories and shared them with friends because she loved to see their reactions. A Texas transplant, Lexi now kicks her boots up in North Carolina with her Yankee husband and her 80-pound puppy named after a vacuum cleaner.
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