Exiled from her home by a malicious stepmother, Calla is sent alongside her two shallow and greedy stepsisters to a planet in another galaxy. They are set to compete to be the wives of a Prince, a man they have only just met. The competition doesn’t last long since once Prince Lincoln sets eyes on Calla, he knows she is one for him. But forces outside their control conspire to keep them apart and their happy ever after may end up lost in a strange world of men with the power of fire in their hands and their hearts.
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Copyright ©2021 ML Uberti
I hunched over the engine of the ’95 Astro van, frowning. I had no idea why someone would want to keep fixing this hunk of junk, but for years it had ended up in my dad’s shop each month, like clockwork, with a new problem.
Today’s was a leaky oil pan. But it also made a terrible grinding sound that had to be another issue. I let out a breath and wiped the back of my hand over my forehead. I kind of wished my dad would have told the owner that it couldn’t be saved — but that was impossible. Because my dad was gone — two years now. Sometimes, I still forgot. I’d get to a sticky problem and turn to ask him if it sounded like the timing belt, then I’d remember. And my crappy life would slam me in the face again.
My dad had been my world. We lost my mom to cancer when I was little — I barely even remember her. But growing up with one parent didn’t mean I went without. My father gave me all the love he would have given her and me. I never felt anything less than cherished.
Unfortunately, three years ago a woman with a broken head gasket rolled into our life and things had never been the same. My dad married her within months, smitten immediately with her sophisticated air and coifed beauty. And then, months after that, I lost him to a heart attack.
My Uncle Tyler took over the shop, kept me on, and I was allowed to keep living in the house beside Ashe Auto, in the basement, because it financially supported my stepmom and her twin terrors — daughters who were one year younger than me and treated me like trash.
I didn’t even recognize my life anymore from what it had been. I supposed the one constant was this stupid vehicle that would die and kept coming back in repeatedly for maintenance. My stepmom would never tell the owner to scrap it. To her, money was money — so we would fix this heap time and time again because it kept cash flowing in.
If she had wanted so badly be wealthy, she shouldn’t have married a man who owned a car repair business. It’s not exactly a lucrative venture — especially in the small town we lived in where no one had a ton of money to spend. And still drove cars from 1995.
“Calla!” I heard my stepmom’s shrill voice call me from outside the garage bays and I rolled my eyes — to myself. I wouldn’t dare let her see that — she’d pop an embolism, and then something of mine would mysteriously disappear. Last time I talked back to her, the locket my dad gave me for my sixteenth birthday vanished. She knew just how to kick someone when they were down — her one superpower.
I lifted my head and peeked around the raised hood, giving her my fakest smile. “Yes, Marlene,” I replied, but I couldn’t keep the disdain out of my voice. That would be impossible.
Her mouth curved into a wicked smirk that had me worried for a moment — she never looked happy. And right now, she was positively glowing.
“Your uncle and I need you up at the house,” she told me, then turned on her fancy high heel and stomped away.
I tossed the wrench I had been using onto the table behind me and washed my hands in the sink. I didn’t have the most feminine hands — a fact my stepmom liked to harp on me about. It could be tough to keep them pristine when you were up to your elbows in grease all day. And no one had minded what they looked like before she showed up three years ago.
Which meant I was staring at my lack of a manicure as I made my way up the hill to the old Craftsman I had grown up in and didn’t notice the two large black SUVs and small gathering of strangers in suits until I nearly ran right into them.
I stopped short, my eyes moving over three men I had never seen before, my Uncle Tyler, my dad’s brother, the twin terrors, and my stepmom — wearing that same maniacal smile.
“Calla June Ashe?” One of the men stepped forward, a sleek tablet in his hand and a serious look in his eyes behind his tortoiseshell glasses.
“Yes,” I answered, confused as to what was happening, but hoping for a split second that maybe a million dollars had been found in a secret account, and these men were here to give it to me and whisk me away to a deserted island where I could drink piña coladas and sit on a beach alone for the next fifty or so years.
“I’m Gil Harsen, here from the GBP at the capital in Frankfort,” he began, walking toward me with the device still in hand.
GBP? Should I know what that it is?
My gaze flitted over the group around us, noticing that my stepsisters were in their Sunday best, consisting of sleek, golden dresses, hair shiny and straight, makeup heavy. My uncle’s eyes were downcast, and he refused to look at me, which made my stomach sink.
“If you’ll take a few moments to look over this document, I’m afraid we are pressed for time.” Mr. Harsen harbored a glance back at Marlene. “We had been delayed as your mother said you had work to finish before you could leave.”
I took the tablet, my eyes combing the information as I muttered, “Stepmother,” correcting his false assertion that the shrew on my left and I were biologically related.
The page I started to study had a lot of legal jargon that seemed impossible to decipher, but there were key words that gave away what the document’s intent was: breeding, mate, and off-world being a few of them.
“What is Khomsa?” I blinked up at Mr. Harsen, and the two other men in suits with a cheap sheen, wearing sunglasses to hide their eyes, bouncing from foot to foot impatiently.
“It’s the planet you and your sisters will be going to,” Mr. Harsen told me and my eyes darted to the twin terrors, gleeful looks on their faces.
“Planet.” I stared at Marlene, her Cheshire smile still in place.
“You’ve been enrolled in the Galactic Breeding Program,” she pronounced, her tone bright and bubbly. “All of you.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starbucks aficionado, lover of throw blankets and betrayer of all things kale, ML Uberti is a Wayne State University graduate and Metro Detroit author with a predilection for oddities and happy endings. She is mom to three autistic kids, 2 ridiculously stupid dogs and wife of a teacher and musician who has endless patience for her impeccably bad taste in Netflix shows and murder documentaries. She is thrilled to dip her toe into scifi romance from contemporary and hopes you enjoy her big, brooding alien alphas and resilient fairy tale queens.