Sneak Peek at Marked for Strife

Chapter One

Rissa checked the timer and grunted. She still had ten minutes to go, fifteen if she was serious about burning off that extra slice of cake she’d indulged in before bed. The food on this cruise was the best she’d ever had, and it was worth every extra minute of sweat to enjoy it while she could. In a few more weeks she’d be back to her normal life, where food, water, and even air were carefully rationed commodities.

 Life on a space station wasn’t easy, but it was the only life she’d ever known. If her number hadn’t come up in the annual lottery, she might have spent her entire life on Nanu station. She’d have missed out on discovering the glorious indulgences of spending an entire day at a spa, eating every meal from an endless buffet, and sleeping in a bed the size of a standard living cubby back home.

She also would have gone her whole life not knowing how mind-twistingly terrifying planets were. Not the planets themselves but all the things that came with them—toxic plants, dangerous animals, the inescapable pull of gravity, and worst of all, open sky. Just the thought of it made her miss her footing and nearly stumble off the treadmill.

“That’s it. I’m done for the day.” She kept hold of the rail with one hand as she slowed the machine down to a gentle walk. At least no one was around to see her nearly fall on her face. A few weeks ago, it would have been thronging with fit, trim women obsessed about every ounce of body fat and running on the treadmills as if all the demons of hell were chasing them with ice cream sundaes and extra fudge sauce… and now she wanted ice cream slathered in ribbons of warm, gooey chocolate and caramel.

She still had dessert on the brain when it all went to the hells in nine hypersonic handcarts. The deck beneath her feet shuddered, the hull creaking in ways that set Rissa’s teeth on edge. It was the sound of a ship in pain. She’d heard it plenty of times before, but that had been at the shipyard where she worked, surrounded by teams of professionals with everything they needed to put things right.

They weren’t anywhere near her shipyard right now. They were in open space, not the ideal location for their hyperdrive to fail… But that’s what was happening.

“Shit!” Training had her running for the engineering deck before she could think. It was instinctive, and she made it out the door of the gym and into the corridor before she remembered she wasn’t on duty. She wasn’t even a crewmember. She was a passenger, and she didn’t even have access to that part of the ship. She stopped running, automatically moving to press against the wall so she wasn’t blocking the corridor. With the drive down, they’d have dropped into normal space. That wasn’t a problem so long as they weren’t too close to a planet or a star.

Klaxons erupted, the noise almost drowning out the captain’s orders as she spoke over the ship-wide comms.

Rissa decoded the various alarms. Navigation and proximity alerts screamed as engine failure alarms wailed. Airtight doors slammed shut and locked. That shouldn’t happen. Not unless they were… Fuck.

The gym and other amenities were one deck below the passenger quarters, meaning the escape pods were in a different spot. She’d spent years working on ships like these. Hells, she’d even worked on this particular vessel, and she knew exactly where to go. The only other passenger she ran across was dressed in a spa robe and slippers, and she clearly didn’t have a clue what to do.

Rissa grabbed the younger woman by the arm and hustled her down the corridor. “This way,” she yelled so her words would carry over the alarms.

Hope shot her look of gratitude mixed in with a healthy dollop of fear. “What’s happening?” she called back.

The deck bucked beneath them, hard enough to make both of them stumble, but their hold on each other kept them on their feet.

“Bad shit. Maybe an attack.” It was impossible to convey much information over the noise, and they needed to move, not talk.

Hope’s eyes widened. “Attack?”

All Rissa’s worst fears were confirmed a second later. Another alarm wailed, drowning out all the others. The main lights winked out and were replaced by red strobe lights. Shit. It was time to go. The order to abandon ship had gone out.

“Come on! We need to go. Now!” Rissa knew they were running out of time. The ship was under massive stress, and she felt it twist and ripple beneath her feet. It was damaged, crippled, and fighting against a significant source of gravity… and it was losing.

They reached the evac station. The pod doors were all open and waiting. She pushed Hope to the nearest one.

“Sit down and put the harness on. That’s all you need to do. The rest is automatic. Just hang on, be smart, and don’t go too far from your pod.”

Hope gave her a tight, quick nod and ducked inside.

Rissa waited for three long seconds before moving to the next pod in the row. The first pod sealed before she got inside her own. Hope was as safe as Rissa could make her. The rest was up to her.

Once her own pod dropped free of the ship, Rissa got busy. No way would she sit back and let this thing pilot itself. That was fine for someone with no flight training, but she’d been fixing ships most of her life. That meant she knew how to fly them… more or less. Either way, this pod would crash. That’s what they were designed for. Her plan was to make sure it crashed as gently as possible.

*

“And this is why I prefer to fly myself.” Rissa looked around the clearing she’d chosen as her landing site. She and the pod were both in one piece, and the only damage she’d done to the area was a few scorch marks on the grass-covered ground.

She’d maintained the same trajectory the autopilot had determined. She didn’t want to wind up too far away from any other survivors. When rescue came, proximity might make the difference between going home and getting stuck here for the rest of her life. That was not going to happen.

It could turn out to be the nicest planet in existence, but it was still a planet. That meant weather, and animals, and an atmosphere that was only held in place by gravity. No domes, no containment units, and no barriers.

“It’s not natural,” she grumbled. “At least, not to me.” She didn’t do nature. The closest she’d come to it was the bio-dome at the heart of Nanu station, but that small area of carefully cultured trees and plants had about as much in common with this place as a candle flame had to a solar flare.

The clearing was covered in some kind of knee-high plant she thought might be called grass. A current of air moved the long blades of orange and gold, making them hiss and rustle. The sound made her uneasy, though she didn’t know why.

She kept her eyes on the ground with most of her focus on her feet. That way she couldn’t see the sky at all, which helped… a little. She needed to retrieve the emergency supplies stored in the pod and drag them over to the tree line. Under the trees, everything was in shadow, and that meant she’d have another layer between her and the open air.

The trees were strange and nothing like the ones she’d seen in the biosphere. They were the wrong color for one thing. Those trees had been green and blue, but these were very different. Reds and oranges mostly, with a few flashes of golden yellow. The trunks were massive things, gnarled and twisted into thick towers that rose far into the air.

She caught herself looking up, squawked in horror, and dropped her eyes back to the ground again. Vertigo hit, and the next thing she knew, she was on her hands and knees as the world spun around her. She squeezed her eyes shut and dug her fingers into the grass as if that was the only thing stopping her from flying off into space.

When the spinning stopped, she didn’t open her eyes right away. She just stayed where she was and tried not to throw up. “I fucking hate planets,” she groaned as she waited for the queasiness to subside. Once it had, she hauled herself to her feet and made her way back to the pod. She had shit to do, and the faster she got it done, the sooner she’d be inside her emergency shelter. She needed a roof over her head as quickly as possible.

She dragged everything over to the edge of the clearing and arranged the carton with the emergency shelter so the entrance pointed toward the forest. She followed the instructions printed on the side, doing a sweep to make sure the area was clear of rocks and other debris that might puncture the shelter once she activated it. Then she leaned down and pressed the large button below the instructions. First she heard an explosive whoosh followed by a loud, prolonged hiss of air, and then the shelter inflated. It expanded away from her position, just the way it was supposed to.

Once that was done, she lugged a second container inside, sealed the doorway, and sat down on the floor with a sigh of relief. Yellow had never been her favorite color, but right now the garish Day-Glo shelter was the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen. Now she just had to make herself as comfortable as possible and wait for rescue. Surely that wouldn’t take long. Humans weren’t signatories to the Galactic Legion’s Unified Agreement, but they were recognized as sentient lifeforms. Anyone who heard the Bountiful Harvest’s distress beacon would be compelled to offer assistance. It was legion law.

That meant someone would come for them. In fact, they were probably already on their way.

Ready for more? Marked For Strife release May 17th. PREORDER NOW

It’s Release Day for Rett!

She thought they were on the same side. That mistake cost her everything… including her freedom.

Anya dedicated her life to the fight against the alien invaders who had conquered Earth. Now that fight is over. The rebellion failed, the enemy won, and she knows exactly who to blame. He was her lover, her friend, and a spy for the aliens. Worse. He’s one of them… and she’s his prisoner.

His mission was to spy on the enemy, not fall for one of them.

Find the rebels, infiltrate them, and send back intel that would break the rebellion. Those were his orders. But once he was inside, Rett discovered everything they thought they knew about the human rebels was wrong. The enemy was more dangerous than they expected. They were cunning, determined, and female… and one of them was his mate.

Claiming her isn’t permitted. Taking her prisoner might get him killed, but Rett won’t stop until he has what he wants… her.

This series contains hot, growly aliens on a mission to find their mates – and a group of women determined to free their planet… and themselves. 

Buy it now!

Marked For Mayhem is here!

Her last shot at love just crashed and burned… Literally.

 Bella signed up for the interplanetary courtship cruise hoping for travel, adventure, and maybe a chance at romance. Now she’s crash landed on a strange planet with no one around but a horned, alien hottie who showed up and laid claim to her gear, her ship… and her.

He’s too brash, too pushy, and much too young for her. He’s also not taking no for an answer…

This wasn’t the adventure she imagined, but it might just be the romance of a lifetime, if she can stay alive long enough to enjoy it.

**Buckle up. This sci-fi romance contains an alien with fur, fangs, horns, and a very possessive attitude when it comes to the woman he’s claimed for his own.

Grab your copy today: https://susanhayes.ca/book/marked-for-mayhem/

And if you missed the prequel – pick up Marked For Rage, too!

Sneak Peek at Marked For Mayhem

Her last shot at love just crashed and burned… literally.

Bella signed up for the interplanetary courtship cruise hoping for travel, adventure, and maybe a chance at romance. Now she’s crash landed on a strange planet with no one around but a horned alien hottie who showed up and laid claim to her gear, her ship… and her.

He’s too brash, too pushy, and much too young for her. He’s also not taking no for an answer…

This wasn’t the adventure she imagined, but it might be the romance of a lifetime, if she can stay alive long enough to enjoy it.

**Buckle up. This sci-fi romance contains an alien with fur, fangs, horns, and a very possessive attitude when it comes to the woman he’s claimed for his own.

Chapter One

“This was not in the brochure,” Bella muttered as she clung to the straps of her safety harness. She kept her eyes tightly closed as she spent what she assumed were the last minutes of her life trying to pin down which of her many dubious choices had led her astray.

The escape pod pitched and shook as it plummeted toward the surface at speeds she didn’t want to contemplate. If the thrusters failed, there’d be nothing left but a crater and a schmear of organic goo that had once been Bella-shaped.

She decided that signing up for the galactic matchmaking cruise had been the key mistake. What was she thinking, looking for love at her age? It didn’t matter what species they were. Males were all the same. They wanted someone young and pretty to warm their bed and boost their ego, and while Bella had been young once, she’d never been pretty.

She heard her father’s voice in her head, exactly the same as it had been the day he’d called her into the front room and laid out his plans for her future. “You’re a handsome woman, Bella, but you’ll never be beautiful. Beauty offers its own kind of power, but you’re not destined for that. You’re going to have to find other ways to get by in life. I’ve got no money or power of my own, but I know men who have both. The best I can do for you is to give you to one of them. You’ll have to make your own way after that.”

She’d taken her father’s advice and gone with the man he’d chosen for her, a crime lord named Felix Natar. Maybe that had been a mistake, too, but she’d had limited options back then.

The same could be said for her current situation. She’d traveled from planet to planet, watching as the other women made their choices and left for their new lives. Now only a handful of them remained, rattling around the lushly appointed ship like loose change in a rich man’s purse. At least, they had been… before it had all gone to the nine hells.

One minute they were zipping along in hyperspace, and the next the ship convulsed and shuddered as something that felt like a shock wave tore through it. After that, there’d been nothing but chaos.

The captain had come on, shouting orders Bella barely heard over the alarms that screeched and wailed from every speaker. Heavy, airtight doors slammed shut, sealing off various compartments.

Bella tried to remember the drills they’d all been put through at the start of the cruise. Emergency procedures. She needed to be somewhere right now… Shit! The escape pods.

She was only halfway to the nearest evac station when something loud happened and the ship rocked again, throwing her to her knees.

She was barely on her feet again before a new, even louder klaxon sounded and every monitor in view lit up bright red, all flashing the same message in various languages. “Abandon Ship.”

She’d followed the flashing arrows to the nearest escape pod and strapped herself into the one-man vessel. The moment she had her harness fastened, the door sealed, and she’d been ejected into space.

An annoyingly calm, automated voice came on within seconds of launch while Bella was still dealing with the sudden loss of gravity. The voice announced the pod would attempt to land on the nearest planet and began reciting instructions pertaining to various crash scenarios. “In case of a water landing…”

Bella ignored it. She had no idea what the surface looked like. It could be water, land, or molten rock, for all she knew. She didn’t even know where they were. All she had to go on was what little information scrolled across the pod’s single monitor. The planet had a breathable atmosphere, multiple healthy ecosystems, and not much else. No cities. No ports. No datasphere. She couldn’t even see what it looked like. The pod had no windows, and the monitor kept scrolling the same few lines of text. All she could do was hold on and hope.

Laughter bubbled up in giddy giggles that morphed into maniacal gales. She was about to crash land on a strange planet and probably die there… This was so not the way she imagined this cruise ending for her.

*

Bella didn’t remember the moment of impact. One second she’d been laughing like a lunatic, and the next thing she knew, she was staggering through the open door of her pod, coughing up the suspension gel that must have been triggered while she was still airborne.

The gel had saved her life, but holy hells, it reeked. She hacked and spat as much of the vile crap out of her body as she could, her attempts to clear her mouth and lungs triggering several rounds of nausea as her much-abused stomach got in on the action. Once her insides were dealt with, she switched her attention to the outside.

“Fuck.” She was drenched in the snot-slick stuff and more was oozing out of the pod. A goopy pool of it gathered around the open door, making the scorched ground sizzle and hiss anywhere the liquid touched.

Scorched ground. Right. So, the thrusters had kicked in like they were supposed to. She was still dizzy enough that falling back into the goop was a risk, so she moved a few meters away. Once she found a patch of reasonably clear ground, she planted her feet and took her first look around.

Trees. That was her first impression. She’d crashed into a forest of some kind. The ground was thick with a spongy carpet she assumed was some kind of moss, though it was a far cry from the blue-green stuff she’d seen before. This was a burnt orange color, though it looked to be healthy enough. The trees overhead had foliage of similar shades. Reds and oranges with a few splashes of gold here and there. She couldn’t smell much over the cloying smell of the goop, but the air was definitely breathable.

The second that thought popped into her head, she tossed it right back out again. Obviously, it was breathable. She’d have suffocated by now otherwise. Fortunately, the cruise came with a health package that had provided the women with all sorts of boosters to help them acclimatize to different oxygen levels and immunize them against dozens of pathogens and parasites. Handy when they were being toured around the galaxy looking for love… and damned useful now she was on a strange planet.

Whatever wound up killing her would have to be bigger than a virus. She looked around warily. “That was not an invitation for anything to try and kill me right now. In fact, I’d recommend waiting until I’ve gotten this crap off me first. Trust me, it does not taste good.”

She sank down on a moss-covered stone, gathered up a handful of the thick, orange stuff, and used it to scrub the worst of the gunk off herself.

Over the next few minutes, the natural sounds of the wood returned as whatever wildlife called this place home got over the shock of her sudden and noisy arrival. The pod had torn a path through the canopy, snapping off branches as it plowed through on its way to the ground. Sunlight poured through the gap, and after a few more minutes, she opted to move to a shadier spot. The sun was baking the remaining gel into a hard, tacky mess that itched.

She wanted to find a nice pool of water somewhere and clean up, but that couldn’t be her first priority. Being clean was a luxury. Shelter, food, and drinkable water were necessities. She eyed the pod that had brought her here. It was oblong, windowless, and a little worse for wear after atmospheric re-entry and the beating it took from the local plant life. Plus, the inside was coated in slowly dissolving goo.

Whoever had designed these things clearly didn’t intend for the pod to act as any kind of shelter once it was on the ground. Of course, most times escape pods would drift around in space and wait for rescue. The space-to-planet ratio was heavily skewed toward the empty space side of the scale.

 Still, it was better than nothing. And hadn’t that stupid voice mentioned something about emergency supplies at some point during the descent?

She crossed over to the still-cooling pod and took a closer look. There! Near the bottom, she spotted a panel marked in multiple languages. She couldn’t read them all—her translators only worked on spoken speech, not written words—but the ones she could make out all said the same thing. “Emergency kit inside.”

The metal was still hot, but she managed to get the panel open without burning herself. She found two containers inside. One was marked as rations and the other as an emergency shelter. She grabbed them both and lugged them over to the shady rock she’d used earlier. At least, that’s what she tried to do. The reality was something quite different.

The containers were heavy and awkward, and the thick moss made it almost impossible to pick her way through the uneven footing. After just a few steps she tripped over something and stumbled, dropping both items in the process.

Before she could recover her balance, she was deafened by an explosive whooshing noise and something hit her in the back, knocking her off her feet.

The moss was soft, but the roots and rocks she landed on weren’t. Ow.

She’d fallen too many times in her life to make the mistake of moving before she was certain nothing was broken. It only took a few seconds to determine she had a few bruises and scrapes but nothing more serious. Good enough.

Time to see what the hell had knocked her down and made that hideous noise. She got awkwardly to her feet, grateful no one could see her right now. Then she looked behind her. Something large and yellow was caught between the trunks of several trees. It shuddered and hissed like a suitcase full of unhappy snakes, and it took Bella’s scattered senses a few seconds to work out what had happened. Her shelter had attacked her.

She looked on in dismay as the large inflatable structure slowly deflated through several freshly torn holes. She’d somehow managed to activate it when she stumbled. It had inflated and then rapidly run out of room since it was far too big to fit into the densely treed space. The rocks and branches had torn holes in it, and now it was dying a sad, leaky death as she watched.

Fucking hells. Even if she found a patch kit, it couldn’t possibly be extensive enough to fix all the leaks, and she didn’t see anywhere nearby to set it up if she did. The shelter was useless.

At least she still had the rest of the supplies. Maybe she could cut up the shelter to make a tarp or something. If she could find something to cut it with. She needed something to defend herself with, too, because anywhere as lush and full as life as this spot had to have wildlife in abundance.

“Something here is going to try to eat me. I just know it.”

Movement out of the corner of her eye made her spin around. Some kind of serpent-like creature had come up behind her, its red and orange coloring helping it blend into the forest floor.

Bella had no idea if it was dangerous or not, but she wasn’t about to take that chance. She slowly lifted one foot off the ground and eased her shoe off. It was a sensible flat, durable and comfortable.

She took aim and hurled it at the creature’s head. Her throw was off, but it was enough to make the serpent veer off and then turn to slither back into the forest.

“Something might eat me eventually,” she called after the snake as she limped over to pick up her shoe, “but it won’t be you.”

Ready for more? Marked For Mayhem releases March 29th. Preorder it today and have this hot, horned alien delivered straight to your reader on release day.

Preorder it Here

Warr is here!

cover of Warr by susan hayes and mina carter

First they stole her planet. Then they stole her sister…

Her twin might have surrendered to the enemy, but Max will never stop fighting the alien warriors that conquered Earth. 

She’s the leader of a rebel army determined to fight for freedom and the future of the human race. The Tolath are her enemies, and she will never surrender to any of them… especially not to him

Warr is coming… He let her escape him once. She won’t get away again.

Warr caught her scent once, and he’ll never forget it. Whoever she is, wherever she is, he’ll find her. And when he does he will learn all her secrets and teach her the consequences of running from a Tolathian general. 

His mission – retrieve his target and bring her back untouched and unclaimed. But no plan survives contact with the enemy, and Max is like no adversary he’s ever faced before. She’s beautiful, dangerous… and his

This series contains hot, growly aliens on a mission to find their mates – and a group of women determined to free their planet… and themselves. 

Buy it now!