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Authors: Autumn Dawn

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When Sparks Fly

BOOK: When Sparks Fly
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Polaris just got a little hotter.

Perhaps it was his wild black hair and indigo eyes,
or maybe it was his enigmatic aura, but there was something about
Hyna Blue that drew Gem. The man had clearly done hard labor, his
cybernetic implants gave him increased strength, but he was no
longer whole…and now he was getting drunk in her tavern. Yes, Hyna
Blue aroused instincts both carnal and nurturing. Gem’s blood had
been fiery to start with. Blue heated it even more.

Of course, since the planet of Polaris discovered its
trainum mine, things were hot all over. Prosperity had blown in on
a solar wind, along with many disreputable types, the least
deceptive of which were the shape-shifting aliens. The ruined
beauty of one patron and his drunken proposals were the least of
Gem’s worries; and perhaps her one solace. Like her father had
named it long ago, this inn was The Spark. Gem had to survive the
blaze.

 

 

 

When Sparks Fly

 

by

Autumn Dawn

 

PUBLISHED BY:

Autumn Dawn on Smashwords

 

When Sparks Fly

Copyright © 2012 by Autumn Dawn

www.autumndawnbooks.com

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the
prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various
products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used
without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not
authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark
owners.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

A Zzel dragon looked in her window. Gem
Harrisdaughter screamed as the huge reptilian eye blinked and
focused on her with malevolent intent, knowing she was going to
die. Then she heard a snort. The huge native reptile was laughing.
At her.

With a growl of ire, she stalked to the
kitchen door, ripped it open and walked outside. “All right, who
wants to die?”

The neighbor’s punk son Bijo and his
green-haired Kiuyian buddy pelted out of the scrub-covered side
lot, laughing like miners on a drunken spree. Dressed in shabby
jackets and with their hair razored like wannabe rock stars, the
pair had been bugging her with pranks since she’d told their
fathers she’d seen them ditching class. It wouldn’t have been her
concern, but they’d been doing it on her property and had nearly
gotten into a brawl with some customers.

The Kiuyian boy tripped over his big feet
and crashed into a thorny bush. He yelped and jumped out.

Gem smirked. Served him right for pulling
his shape-changing pranks on her. He’d be picking thorns out of his
hide for the next half hour. Maybe she ought to plant a few
carnivorous bushes out there while she was at it; or just leave
whatever grew naturally. Saints knew they weeded enough dangerous
indigenous species out of the struggling garden to form an entire
hedge.

She watched the kid dust himself off. Gem
didn’t mind Kiuyians in general, but they could get up to serious
trouble with their shape-changing abilities. The talent had helped
them survive on their hostile home world until they’d learned
enough to colonize other planets. Luckily there were few Kiuyians
who could change into fully humanoid shapes other than their
natural form, or she’d have a bar full of underage drinkers. Mostly
they stuck with animal forms or humanoid/animal crosses.

There’d been an influx of Kiuyians to
Polaris in the last seven years. Most of them were dirt poor,
brought in as cheap labor to work the mines. Gem still hadn’t made
up her mind about the aliens as a group. Sometimes they came in as
customers, and those who spent money behaved…for the most part.
There had once been a drunk who changed into a three-headed serpent
and puked all over the floor. She’d had the sot working odd jobs
ever since, to help pay off the damages.

She reached for the thick wooden door,
letting herself back into the spacious kitchens of The Spark.

Like the Kiuyians, Gem’s family had come to
Polaris for the mines. Unlike the Kiuyians, Gem’s father had
decided that building a business to cater to the miners was more
profitable than grubbing around with the ore. Her father, Airk
Harris, had homesteaded their land and built this inn on it. Until
his death last year, he’d called the inn a work in progress, and it
showed. The fortress-like building was still mostly unpainted. Both
interior and exterior walls were striped with multihued layers
resembling sandstone, a result of the pouring process of
construction. It was a mark of the inn’s cheap, if sturdy,
materials; more expensive buildings on Polaris were one color,
often glossy, even jewel-hued.

For herself, Gem liked the stripes. The look
was earthy and unpretentious, much like her family.

The tables were inexpensive antigravity
tiles that doubled as screens. The menu and drink list appeared in
several languages on the surfaces, allowing guests to touch-select
their orders. These orders were beamed directly to the bar and
kitchen, streamlining service. Or it usually streamlined service,
assuming the servers weren’t flirting with the customers. Gem had a
terrible time keeping the girls who worked for her from turning the
place into a brothel. There had been one incident last year…

Well, it was hard to find good help. Polaris
was a very reserved community, and it was vital that the family
maintained its reputation, both business and personal, if they
wanted to succeed. Those who didn’t toe the line here were
ostracized. A business run by three sisters could easily be
ruined.

The antigravity tiles could be used as
lighting, lined up to form banquet tables or stacked against the
wall if she wanted to turn the bar and dining area into a dance
hall. The inn had a private room that doubled as a family dining
room and parlor, but most of the time Gem and her sisters just ate
in the kitchen. They charged extra for guests who wanted the
private room.

The floor was actual sandstone, polished to
a high sheen. A couple of robotic floor-cleaners the size of dinner
plates zipped around like miniature flying saucers, sucking up dirt
and vaporizing sticky spills. Occasionally they’d zoom over to the
incinerator hidden behind the bar and eject a stream of waste
before going back for more.

The inn had one type of all-occasion,
oversize mug used for its soups, drinks and desserts, and one size
of plate; all were formed of self-cleaning glasstic. If a food type
needed a knife, it wasn’t served, which was okay, as most guests
were happy using spoons or their hands.

Gem’s father had had big dreams. He’d once
considered naming the inn after himself, but since he had no sons
and his unmarried daughters were properly addressed as
Harrisdaughter, he’d settled on
The Spark
. He’d promised his
still young family that it would be the starting point for any and
all business on the newly colonized planet of Polaris. Now that
he’d died, it belonged to his daughters.

As she surveyed the room, Gem took in a
table that was a little too raucous and grimaced. A woman was
holding court with a table full of miners. Too much longer and
there’d be trouble. Gem shuddered, knowing she’d have to deal with
the situation before it got out of hand.

They were in an odd position for three
single women. They’d inherited the inn, of course, and their father
had been well-liked, but if they weren’t careful how they conducted
themselves, respectable customers would shun them, Then they’d be
forced to accept seedier clientele if they wanted to survive. She
didn’t want to see her father’s memory dishonored that way.
Although he’d come from a planet with more relaxed standards, Airk
had chosen to settle here. It was a good place to raise a family,
what with its high ethical standards, and he’d taught his daughters
to respect the culture.

Gem didn’t really mind, anyway. She didn’t
want the uncertainty of a casual relationship. When she finally did
find a man, she planned to keep him. That way, she’d only have to
train a husband once. She didn’t have time to fritter away on
emotional upheaval and broken hearts. She’d seen enough of her
customers drowning their sorrows in liquor to give her a distaste
for the dramas of the lovelorn.

Before Gem could intercept the hooker and
send her packing, her sister Brandy came up from the cellar toting
a small keg. She glanced at Gem with her mismatched blue and brown
eyes as she walked toward the bar. “We’ve got rodents in the tubers
again. I set traps. Rissa’s in the taproom, and those miners are at
it early today.”

Gem grimaced, already heading for the
L-shaped hall that separated the rooms. “I see her. Why didn’t you
deal with it? You can knock heads just as easily. You have the red
hair.”

“It’s nearly brown.” This was Brandy’s
standard response to the old argument. “You have a better touch
than me. Quit whining.”

It was midmorning, but the taproom was
already half full, thanks to the new trainum mine that had been
found. The blue ore was a crucial ingredient in the starship fuel
used by the Galactic Explorers, the corporation famous for
exploring (some said exploiting) most of the newly discovered
planets in the last thirty years. Of course, most of the ships in
the Interplanetary Council’s jurisdiction relied on the energy-rich
mineral as well. Any new discoveries were a boon to the local
economy, and the recent claim was causing a huge influx of
visitors, the side effects of which were not all pleasant. A case
in point was this brazen chit perched on a miner’s lap.

Gem pointed to the hooker, Rissa. She jerked
her thumb over her shoulder. “You, get out. We’re not running a
brothel.”

Rissa pouted her full green lips and leaned
over to whisper in the miner’s ear. Her wildly curling green hair
slipped forward over her chest, doing a better job of covering her
than her low-cut dress. She knew better than to cross Gem, though.
She didn’t linger.

As the hooker slunk off, the miner set up a
protest. “Hey! We were just having a little fun. Lighten up,
cutie.” His skin was tinged blue with dust from the ore he worked,
and he and his two buddies exuded an unwholesome aura.

Before the man’s mind could travel farther
down a road she didn’t like, Gem warned him, “I’m the owner of this
inn, and I have the best drinks in town. If you ever want another
drop of alcohol here, mind your manners and don’t hassle me or my
help. I won’t hesitate to have you blacklisted.” She paused a
moment to let her threat sink in, then walked off.

She hated dealing with riffraff, but that
was part of being the owner of this place, and her father had made
certain she knew how to do all aspects of the job. It had gotten
harder lately. The lunar mines had turned Polaris into a boomtown,
and the influx of transients was mostly male. Women like Rissa were
in demand, and growing bolder about plying their trade. Once a
place got a rep for tolerating hookers, it was hard to clean up.
The Spark didn’t need that kind of attention. If Gem and her
sisters wanted to remain respectable businesswomen, they had to
stay vigilant.

Polaris was a gas planet. “Planet” was a bit
of a misnomer, actually, when considering the areas where people
lived. All the inhabitable land masses were made up of huge
orbiting chunks of rock, floating islands formed from asteroids
that had been pulled into orbit around the planet’s core. The
atmosphere here was breathable, a belt of air somehow comfortable
for most life forms. While there was no sea, colonists had mined
ice from the moons and formed lakes in available craters. They’d
filled those lakes with fish and sea life. Water was valued and
carefully recycled; hauling in more from the moons to form new
reservoirs cost money.

BOOK: When Sparks Fly
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