ACROSS A SEA OF STARS
by Caitlyn Willows
Cover Art by Trace Edward Zaber
A night of debauchery has made Kes realize how much he’s wasted his life. Fate delivers him a chance to turn things around. All he has to do is retrieve a stolen Planet Skipper and deliver the culprits responsible for its theft. Once the task is accomplished, his entry into the Interplanetary Commission is guaranteed. But the Universe has another plan—Anne Sherwood.
Anne has always believed that everything happens for a reason. She prides herself on being open-minded. A world of possibility and wonder lay open to those who were willing to accept. But even she has her doubts when she learns the hot-as-heck man she’s spent the night with reveals he’s from another planet.
Through Kes, Anne discovers a power of her own she’d never imagined—the ability to control energy. It’s a power that’s growing by the minute. A power that could get out of control if she allowed it to do so. Now someone from Kes’s past is aware of it, too. And he wants it for himself.
“Five Shooting Stars! When a jaded space traveler meets a starry eye romantic they get a beautiful love story. I loved Across the Sea of Stars by Caitlyn Willows. It is a great love story that made me smile and really have a lot of aww moments too. Plenty of heat between the characters too to keep me reading.Kestral he is tired of one night stands that mean nothing. He wants his life to have more meaning than that. He blocks out his fears and disappointments in life by having sex with random strangers. He has one last chance to prove he can follow his dreams. He is going to change his life and take that chance. He knows this is it for him all or nothing and he is willing to gamble it all to win.Anne she is from Earth. She is upbeat, optimistic, dreamer. She sees a shooting star she loves watching the night sky. When she is attacked in the parking lot by a group of drunk men, Kestral saves her.They hit it off right from the start. But Kestral wonders if Anne can handle who he really is and will pursuing her cost him his dream job or not.Over all this is one sweet story I couldn’t stop reading. I will have this one on my keeper shelf.” – Redz World Reviews.
Anne Sherwood sorted her tips by denomination. Two hundred dollars! A great night! But then, paydays for the military community normally were. She stuffed the wad of money deep into her big black leather tote and smiled up at her coworker.
“Ready to call it a night, Peggy?”
“I’ll say.” She tucked a strand of her platinum blonde hair back into place in its braid. “My feet are killing me.”
“They did keep us running tonight. But it was a good night.”
“Little Miss Mary Sunshine as always.” Peggy laughed lightly. “I swear, if a customer left you a quarter, you’d still think it was a good night. You even dealt with that problem table wearing a smile.”
Anne couldn’t help it. It was so much easier being happy than sad. If a person looked hard enough, they could always find something good in a situation.
She steered Peggy toward the door. “You need to get home to that man of yours. That’ll put a smile on your face.”
Peggy glowed with anticipation. “Your plans?”
“I’m off for groceries, then home to my menagerie.” She swung open the glass door and stepped into the late summer night.
“Damn it to hell,” Peggy muttered. “The streetlight’s out again. Find some good in that.”
A flash across the sky caught Anne’s eye. “Look.” She jerked her hand toward the disintegrating meteorite. “A shooting star.”
Peggy merely shrugged. “Is there a night when you don’t see one?”
Eyes wide, Anne scanned the heavens for more. “Hardly. I love watching them, wondering where they came from, how old they are. There’s going to be one heck of a shower tonight. Are you going to stay up to watch?”
“At one in the morning? Are you crazy?”
Anne glanced at her friend. Peggy’s eyebrows had shot up to her hairline, or close to it.
“Life’s too short to spend it sleeping. This is an event.”
“Yes, and it happens every year. So what’s the big deal?”
The awe with which she’d said the word earned Peggy’s laughter. “Yes, and magic, too. Like the comets.” Peggy tossed a hug around her shoulders. “See you Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend. We’re spending ours in Vegas.” She walked on to the parking lot.
“Enjoy.” Anne lifted her hand in a wave the other woman didn’t see, while she scanned the sky again. Two more meteorites shot across a star-kissed field of black. It was going to be a spectacular show later on. She couldn’t wait.
“Well, well, well. Look what we got here.”
The deep voice drifted to Anne from the shadows of the building. Three men stepped from the inky depths. Fear crawled through her body. She shot her gaze to the parking lot. Peggy was already gone. If Anne hurried, she might be able to make the safety of the restaurant. Two deputy sheriffs were finishing up dinner inside.
As if anticipating her move, the men surrounded her, chortling with glee. They were the problem table she’d dealt with earlier. They’d been drunk then and were worse now. She ticked off identifying characteristics—white males, slender, early twenties, baggy jeans and sports jerseys, black knit caps.
“It’s our cheery little waitress,” one said.
“Wonder how friendly she really is,” said another.
“Come on, sweet thang.” The man in front of her gestured toward her tote. “We could use a little sumpin, sumpin. Gonna give it up without a fight?”
Anne sucked in a breath, ready to scream her lungs out. A big hand clamped over her mouth from behind. The man reeked of french fries, stale beer, and cigarettes. He clamped his arm around her waist, while his friend tried to peel her fingers away from the purse straps.
“Yeah, fight, baby. That’s the way I likes it. Fight it hard.”
A green glow lit them like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Anne clicked her gaze skyward. A meteorite zoomed low overhead, shooting green flames as it traveled from east to west. It was a truly phenomenal event.
The hand over her mouth loosened. Anne saw her chance. Pulling power from deep within her gut, she prepared to unleash a blood-curdling scream.
“I think you’d better let the lady go.” Another man stepped into their circle. His voice was low, firm, and music to her ears. Help was here. Judging from his stance, he wasn’t going to put up with any shit.
Anne watched the green ball slowly disappear over the horizon. Its remnants highlighted the gold and red in the man’s tousled brown hair. He wore light-colored khakis and a pullover shirt she swore matched the fading meteorite.
“Yeah? And who’s gonna make us?”
Anne saw the flash of metal.
“He’s got a knife!”
They charged him as one. The man crouched low and snapped out his palms. With a muttered oof, two were hurled against the brick wall. Gasps for breath followed. Her savior whipped a fist around to their partner.
Anne had to blink twice. She swore she saw light pulse as he made contact. The mugger tumbled backward, hitting the ground hard. Eyes wide, he scrambled to his feet and took off. His friends wasted no time following. Anne listened to their footsteps beating a path to safety.
“Are you all right, miss?”
Long fingers curled around her upper arm. What she could only describe as energy coursed through her, lifting every baby-fine hair she possessed. Deep brown eyes studied her. His eyebrows tugged together as he waited for her response.
Anne was mesmerized by his sharp, angled features—the long, straight nose, the squared jaw, the hint of shadow carved just under his cheekbones, his full lips. What was his smile like? Were his teeth white and perfect? She wanted to stretch to her toes and kiss him, to wrap her arms around his waist and nestle her head against his broad chest. His touch, his nearness made her feel safe, protected. Desire overwhelmed her. Nothing was a more powerful aphrodisiac than heroics. But this felt like so much more than about sex. Yes, his nearness made her thrum, but there was safety and calmness that said things she’d never imagined. Things she’d believed existed only in stories. Trust, love, forever. Words like the one, love at first sight, and happily ever after danced on the edges of her mind.
“I’m fine, thanks to you,” she finally managed to say.
“Fortunately, I just happened to be in the area.”
He caressed his thumb over her arm in slow circles. Anne’s blood thrummed with each round. She imagined the calloused digit on her nipple, flicking it back and forth until it was hard. Then he’d wrap his full lips around it. His breath would be hot, his tongue wet, his touch…
“We should probably call the police.” He dropped his arm, breaking the sensual spell, but not the connection she felt.
Anne hugged herself against the sensations and tried to focus on the attack. Nothing was stolen, she wasn’t hurt, and they were long gone by now, so why bother? Her conscience intruded. If they did this once, they’d do it again. She had to notify the deputy sheriffs.
She glanced at her watch. What about her groceries? It was getting late. Her animals needed her.
“Do you have a cell phone?”
His question cut through her thoughts. “Yes, but there are two deputies eating inside. I could report the incident to them. But…”
Head tilted slightly, he waited for her to continue, then prompted her with a, “Yes?”
Anne looked up at him again. His eyebrows were still inched close. “I have to get to the store before it closes. My animals need me and food. Reports take forever to fill out.”
Worry faded with his bright smile. Anne’s legs wobbled. The man was gorgeous!
“These creeps need to be reported. I’ll go to the store for you, Anne. Just give me a list.”
She narrowed her eyes. “How did you know my name?”
Light laughter swirled around her, caressing her skin into goose bumps. “Your name tag.” He tapped the plastic badge.
Feeling foolish, she laughed. “Of course. Anne Sherwood.” She extended her hand to his.
“Kestral Dermot. It’s a family name. Friends call me Kes.” His hand wrapped around hers. Warmth spread up her arm, through her body. Her breathing quickened. “I’ll be glad to go to the store for you while you file your report. A list and some cash is all I need.”
Was it an underhanded trick to take her money and run, or a genuine desire to help her? Her instincts and heart screamed trust. Logic be damned.
A spate of shooting stars burst over his head. An omen to back up those instincts. The stars had yet to fail her when she searched them.
“Thank you. I do want these men stopped before they hurt someone.” She dug through her tote for the list, then handed it and her hard-earned tips to him. “It’s probably more than you need—”
“Then you’ll get a receipt and change back. Mind if I borrow your car? Mine’s down. I was headed to a pay phone when I saw you. My cell phone’s dead.”
Anne slipped him her keys, her trust, and her heart.