I’ve never shared this excerpt from Wreck of the Nebula Dream before! This is a scene from the heroine Mara’s POV, before I decided to go ahead and make the entire novel from the hero’s POV because…reasons. Some minor plot elements mentioned here also changed slightly in the final version of the book.
Here’s the deleted scene:
Three days on the luxury space liner Nebula Dream and all Mara Lyrae had seen so far was her own stateroom. Typical when I travel. All space ships and most planets are pretty much the same to me. Life is a series of meetings, business dinners and strange beds, slept in alone.
She stretched, staring around at the beautiful stateroom, now cluttered with her three personal AI’s, files, notes and the other detritus of work. She was constantly working. Being the Sector Vice President for the giant Loxton Galactic Trading was a highly responsible job. LTG paid extremely well but she was always on duty for them.
“On to the next crisis,” she said out loud, getting out of her chair and walking to pour herself some tea. She wrapped the blue silk robe more closely and leaned on the dainty vanity, back to the mirror, surveying the messy room. “Might as well be in my damn office.” She pushed her thick hair off her face with one hand.
Mara turned around to look in the mirror. She had circles under her eyes. She was too thin. A person could only exist on nervous energy for so long. LTG paid her extremely well for what she did but lately Mara was starting to feel the rewards were not worth the life’s blood she poured into it. The name on the business was always going to be Loxton. A person could only go so far without being one or marrying one. Yes, the company wanted her to step into the vice president slot. Yes, Brin Loxton had made it clear he had more than a professional interest in her. She wasn’t sure of her own emotions but he was pushing.
But do I want to be Brin Loxton’s trophy wife? Is that all there is? I’ve accomplished most of my goals and it hasn’t turned out the way I expected.
“Passenger Lyrae, you have messages.” The Ship’s AI spoke softly. It had a pleasant male baritone voice, at least in her quarters.
“I always have messages.” I’m rebellious today. She took another sip of the lukewarm tea, preparing to go back to work. Not for her the festivities and glamour of the Nebula Dream’s maiden voyage. She might as well be on a freighter for all it mattered. The speed of the voyage was her only concern and the brand new Nebula Dream was being touted to smash the record for this particular run.
“You have 87 messages in the queue since the last update fifteen minutes ago.”
“Show me.” Mara set the tea cup on the table and squared her shoulders to dive into the endless work demanded of her.
The AI projected the messages in the cabin, scrolling through the holographic list at a fairly rapid clip.
One message caught her eye. “Wait, wait, go back. What was the last one?”
The subject and the name of the sender had been unexpected, as well as the shipboard point of origin.
“From Consolidated Star Guard Captain Nicholas Jameson, presently on board.” The Ship’s recitation of the tag was a bit odd, not as neutral as Mara was used to hearing. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the AI sounds enthusiastic. “Shall I play it?”
“Sure, go ahead.” Mara remembered the soldier from the shuttle. It was unusual to see a military man aboard a luxury liner. He had to be traveling under orders, not for his own pleasure. He couldn’t afford the Dream, not on a captain’s salary. “Play visual as well as audio.”
The holo message opened. The holo was high quality, no wavering, no distortion.
Oh yes, now I know why I remembered him. Mara scrunched her bare toes on the plush carpet and sat a bit straighter. The guy was impressive, standing well over six feet, hard body packed with muscles, an honest, good looking face, square jaw, sandy blond hair a bit longer than military regulation. “A regular recruiting poster,” she said. He’d stood out in the crowd at the spaceport. He gave the air of being ready for action at a second’s notice. Totally calm and self confident in any situation. A man you could lean on.
Although since she preferred to rely on herself at all times, why she cared if he was reliable was a mystery.
His eyes were hazel green, his gaze direct and serious. There was a small dimple in his chin.
Captain Jameson’s voice matched the rest of the package – deep and appealing. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you for giving me your extra seat on the shuttle the other day so I could make the Dream’s departure, Miss Lyrae.”
Right, because I did my usual thing and went right back to work. Can’t waste a minute. Don’t want to give anyone a chance to intrude on me. Because I can fire fifty people without blinking an eye but I hate social situations. Besides it was my assistant’s seat and he wasn’t using it. So why not help a guy in a jam out? Mara sipped her tea, grimacing at how cold it was.
The captain’s image was continuing to talk. “I was hoping you’d give me a chance to pay you back. Meet me for drinks at the Casino tonight?”
Mara shook her head. Oh no, no time. Nice try, soldier. She opened her mouth to tell the Ship to send back a polite refusal but the AI spoke a fraction of a second faster.
“Captain Jameson has his hopes quite high about your acceptance of his offer. He said you have beautiful blue eyes. Such an unusual vivid blue, he said.”
She could not believe her ears. Was the Ship’s AI trying to get her to go out with the guy?
The AI kept talking. “He said you were gorgeous and you’d probably never agree to dinner but maybe he could get you to have a drink with him.”
“Ship, it’s highly improper of you to repeat another passenger’s private remarks to me.” She kept her voice pleasant. She’d already learned how young the AI on this Ship was. Surprisingly unsophisticated for a high class luxury vessel. Mara tried to avoid hurting another sentient being’s feelings whenever possible so she didn’t make her rebuke too harsh.
“I’m sorry, Passenger Lyrae. I did not mean to offend.” The AI sounded worried.
“I’m not offended.” I can’t believe I’m engaging in conversation with an AI. She glanced at the captain’s image, frozen in the center of the stateroom. He filled out his uniform for sure. She was only going to be on this ship for another week and then she’d never see him again. No entanglements. A girl deserved some fun after making hundreds of millions of credits for her employer, didn’t she?
He definitely looked like fun.
“You now have one hundred thirty two messages in the queue. Shall I go back to the start of the scroll? Fifty four are marked urgent.”
Mara shut her eyes and shook her head. She rubbed her forehead for a minute. LGT’s stream of business issues never stopped. Assistants usually sorted through the message stream for her and did triage, handing her only the highest priority issues. It had been years since she had dealt with them all herself. “What time did the captain want to meet?”
“Seven o’clock, at the roulette wheel.”
She could manage, if she took a quick shower. “Ship, what do you have in the way of evening dresses?”
The Ship projected a miniature fashion show in every corner of her stateroom, little images whirling and twirling. “Captain Jameson plays chess with me.”
“Chess?” She tilted her head, glancing more closely at one or two of the dresses, flicking the others into invisibility with a gesture.
“It is an archaic game of strategy – “
“Yes, I know what chess is.” Mara was impatient. “You have to stop making these personal comments, Ship.”
“I like you. I like talking to you. I like the captain.”
“Do you talk to everyone on board like this?”
There was a brief silence. “No.” The voice was small.
Mara patted the bulkhead, as if the Ship was a pet or a child. “It’s all right. You can talk to me. And I’m sure if Captain Jameson plays chess with you, he doesn’t mind some chatter. But most people who travel on a ship like this don’t want to hear anything from you except for business.”
“I know. I’ve been reprimanded by the AI Officer twice. Which dress do you prefer?”
“The one on the left, in dark blue. Get rid of the sequins, except around the hem.”
“I will debit your account. Shall I tell the captain you will be there at seven PM?”
“Please.” Mara headed for the lavish bathroom. A major dress like the one she had selected was going to call for some elaborate hair and makeup. And her best perfume, the expensive one from Terra.
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.
All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara (and Khevan), Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.
But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?