Authors: Brenda Hiatt
Tags: #teen, #science fiction, #young adult
A Starstruck Novel
Dolphin Star Press
Copyright © 2014 Brenda Hiatt
All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between the events or the characters in this story and actual events or persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Dolphin Star Press
For the hero hidden in each heart.
current Banfriansa (Princess), daughter to Mikal son of Leontine; sole heir to the Nuathan monarchy
A year ago, if someone had told me I was born on Mars, heir to the last legitimate Sovereign of a three-thousand-year-old underground colony there, I’d have thought they were crazy. Of course, I also would have thought they were crazy if they’d told me nearly every cool kid from Jewel High would be at my sixteenth birthday party. My last birthday party had been a three-person sleepover with Bri and Deb, my whole circle of friends at the time.
A year ago, I was plain, acne-ridden Marsha Truitt, twice-orphaned nerd, being unwillingly raised by an “aunt” and “uncle” who had no more idea who my real parents were than I did. It had been a pretty big shock to learn last fall that I was really Princess Emileia, born Sovereign of Nuath, the secret colony on Mars, and of all the
(expatriate Martians) on Earth.
Not that any regular Earthlings, including my aunt and uncle, knew any of this. That wasn’t why I was so much more popular now than last year. No, that had to do with my (real) relationship with Rigel Stuart since the start of the school year, and my (pretend) relationship with Sean O’Gara since Christmas.
“Gee, M, maybe you should’ve asked Rigel to have your party at his house, it’s so much bigger than yours.” My best friend Bri shoved her way through the crowd, her dark curls swinging behind her. “Though maybe that would be awkward these days?”
I shrugged, not sure how to answer. I mean, she had a point, since Rigel’s house was about four times the size of my aunt and uncle’s “historic” little cracker box. But it
have been awkward.
“C’mon, everybody, let’s do cake!” Sean—tall, handsome, and the reason for the awkward—called from the small dining room across the hall.
The crowd moved in that direction but I hung back a little, hoping to at least brush Rigel’s hand first. Suddenly, there he was beside me, dark-haired, broad-shouldered and gorgeous, just like he’d sensed my thought—which, of course, he had.
“Did you actually invite this many people?” he whispered, brushing my hand to give me the boost I craved. He had to be craving it, too, since we got so few chances for physical contact these days. Now that most people thought I was dating Sean instead of Rigel.
Craving is right. It sucks to go so long without touching you,
he sent silently in response to my thought.
Their stupid antidote hasn’t changed that.
I smiled up at him, trying to hide my frustration from him the same way he was trying to hide his from me. “I originally invited about half of these people,” I whispered back, “But Bri mentioned it at lunch on Wednesday, so…” I waved a helpless hand at all the people who’d have been hurt to be left out.
Rigel and Sean, and Sean’s sister Molly, were the only other
attending Jewel High, and all of them were here because of me. Shortly after Rigel moved here in August, he and I discovered we had a special bond, the
that was so rare most Martians didn’t even believe in it, outside of fairy tales. Because of our bond, even though I was a nobody and Rigel was the new star quarterback of Jewel High’s formerly lame football team, we started dating.
Thus my meteoric rise in popularity.
Sean was no slouch, either, of course. He’d come to Jewel late in the fall semester and almost immediately became the star of our also formerly lame basketball team. Unfortunately, Sean also happened to be the guy that Nuathan tradition said I was supposed to pair up with. And Nuathans, I’d learned by now, were
about tradition. Way too
about tradition, in my opinion.
To keep the peace, especially on Mars, which was teetering on the edge of civil war, I was now having to pretend I was with Sean, even though Rigel was, and would always be, my soul mate and the love of my life. I knew this. Rigel knew this. The whole
Council knew this. And Sean knew this, though he clearly kept hoping I’d buy into the make-believe and become his girlfriend for real.
Thus, the awkward.
“C’mon, M.” Sean brushed a coppery strand from his forehead and motioned to me. “The candles are going to burn out before you can blow them out.”
I’ll still be here.
I thought back, grateful—again—that Rigel and I had never told anyone else about our ability to communicate this way, since it was practically the only thing keeping us sane these days. Besides which, if the Council knew, they’d no doubt try to find an antidote to
too, instead of just to the awful physical symptoms we both suffered whenever we were apart too long. Not that we’d been apart long enough since receiving their serum to know how well it
And I hope we never will be,
we both thought at the same time.
With secret smiles, Rigel and I linked pinkies for a second. Finally, I moved forward, the crowd of jocks, cheerleaders and actual friends of mine parting with difficulty to let me through. I saw Sean’s bright blue gaze flick to Rigel behind me for a fraction of a second and noticed a very slight tightening around his mouth, but then he was grinning again.
“Make a wish.” Sean threw an arm around my shoulders. “A good one,” he added, giving me a little squeeze.
I didn’t stiffen like I used to, but I also didn’t look at him, not wanting to see what I knew I’d see in his expression. Instead, I faced the cake and took a deep breath.
I wish for a permanent, perfect solution to our problem,
I thought to Rigel, then blew out all the candles in one try.
Even though it was a Saturday night, people started leaving my party around ten o’clock. I figured part of the reason was my Aunt Theresa, who was becoming less and less gracious the later it got (she and Uncle Louie were usually in bed by ten).
But I knew the main reason was that Trina Squires was throwing a party tonight, too—a last-minute thing, announced
word got out about my birthday party. Which was Trina all over. I tried not to let it bother me, though I did wonder how she’d managed to bully her parents out of the house for the evening. Of course, they pretty much gave her everything she wanted, from a new car to the latest fashions, so it probably hadn’t been hard.
Even Bri and Deb left around ten-thirty, though probably not to go to Trina’s. They’d always hated her as much as I did, and it was definitely mutual, though Trina reserved her worst nastiness for me.
By quarter to eleven, only Rigel, Sean and Molly were left. Aunt Theresa pointedly started picking up plates and napkins and yawning widely. Uncle Louie had gone upstairs a while ago and was already snoring so loudly we could hear him through the ceiling.
“Let us do that, Mrs. Truitt.” Molly smiled, her gray eyes wide and innocent as she stacked a bunch of paper cups to throw away. “You can go on to bed and we’ll head out as soon as we’ve cleaned up.”
My aunt hesitated for a second, then smiled back—something she rarely did at me. “That’s very thoughtful, Molly. Thank you. Marsha, don’t let your friends do all the work. Anything not done by eleven o’clock you finish up by yourself, since their parents will be expecting them.”
I nodded and she headed up the stairs. Before she even reached the landing, I was reaching for Rigel, dying to take advantage of this brief opportunity when we wouldn’t have to pretend. His hand met mine halfway and our fingers intertwined, a blessed relief. I was tugging him unresistingly toward the kitchen when Molly spoke.
“Wow, quite a crowd, huh?” she said a little too casually, watching my aunt’s retreat. “I think everyone had a good time, though.” Then, more quietly, “We have news, and thought this would be our best chance to tell you.”
“News?” I reluctantly delayed the Rigel-kiss I so desperately needed. “You mean from—” I hesitated, then heard my aunt’s bedroom door close. “From Mars?” I exchanged glances with Rigel, along with a spike of shared anxiety, since in our experience most news from Mars hadn’t been good—at least for us.
Sean picked up the trash bag my aunt had brought out and started tossing paper plates and plastic forks into it. “Yeah. Our folks suggested we let you, um, both of you, know right away.” Though he frowned at our still-clasped hands, he continued without trying to provoke Rigel, like he did way too often. “There’s more and more call for elections, not just for legislators, but for a President or Prime Minister or something.”
My heart beat a little faster. “You mean, somebody more permanent than the Interim Governor they have now? Somebody who could lead long term?” Maybe this would let me off the hook! It’s not like I
to be a leader, even after months of studying Nuathan history, government, society, and protocol. If I didn’t have to be Sovereign, I could live a normal life, be Rigel’s girlfriend openly again… It sounded too good to be true.
“It won’t really happen, of course.” Sean sounded certain. “But the Interim Governor is already campaigning, building support, and a bunch of Royal
are heading back to Mars as soon as possible to do the same thing.”
“Gee, that wouldn’t include your Uncle Allister, would it?” Rigel crumpled up the paper tablecloth and shoved it into a trash bag with unnecessary violence.
Molly shook her head so vigorously her dark hair flew around her head. “There’s no way they’ll let him go back after what he tried to do to you, Rigel. Mum says he and his pal Lennox are still under guard in Montana, and a good thing, too.”
I heartily agreed. Allister Adair, ex-member of the
Council, and Lennox, former governor of the Martian compound in Montana, had conspired to take Rigel out of the picture permanently. I’d been incredibly lucky to make my deal with the Council—the deal involving Sean—in time to save Rigel’s life.
“So, um, what am I supposed to do about all this?” I asked before I could think too much about that close call and upset Rigel with my feelings. “I already made that video they wanted right after Faxon was ousted and I’ve recorded two more statements since then.”
“My dad says those last two statements didn’t get nearly as wide an airing on Mars as they expected.” Rigel’s voice was factual but I could feel his excitement at the idea of me not having to be Sovereign after all.
Sean frowned again, though not at Rigel this time. “My folks said the same thing. Of course, communications are still screwed up there, so some villages used that as an excuse not to air them, especially villages that are either still anti-Royal because of Faxon’s propaganda or that have Royal leaders with their own agendas. Disloyal, shortsighted
“Sean,” Molly cautioned him, though
really wasn’t much worse than “damn” in English. Then, to me, “Anyway, Mum’s worried you haven’t had a chance to start building support of your own.”