Book Review: Militess and Mage by Monica Enderle Pierce

Book: Militess and Mage

Author: Monica Enderle Pierce

Series: The Shadow & The Sun (book 1)

Rating: 5/5

Excellent fantasy novel. If you’re looking for a romance novel, this may not be for you. It’s really more of a fantasy story with a romance running through it.

BookClouds2

Starting with the cons, as there are so few.

Cons

  1. There are almost no steamy scenes, and the few that are there are forgettable. Again, this is more of a fantasy story.

 

If you’re good with the one sorta con, I highly recommend giving this book a read.

Pros

  1. The story has an excellent plot that moves along well, especially coming into its own once there’s a bit of trust between the characters.
  2. I love that they’re not “in love” or even “in lust” with each other at first sight. This attraction grows along with their trust. The sparring back and forth started to drag a touch in the beginning, but the author soon got the characters working together by moving the plot along.
  3. The characters sing. I love their strength and their vulnerability. They both made sacrifices, sometimes unwillingly, for their power. It’s clear both earned their standing even if they were born into privilege. The Mage suffered under a cruel master and the warrior suffered the social stigma of being a bastard.
  4. Both the hero and heroine are very powerful, but so is the villain they are up against, and their power has reasonable limits. This adds to the tension as victory is never guaranteed and there are a lot of close calls along the way.
  5. Once the plot really starts moving, it’s fast and furious and you get swept along for the ride.
  6. I *love* that heroine starts out strong and ends strong. She is never weakened for the story. She doesn’t have to go from warrior to damsel to make the story work. I loved that she was physically scarred and unrepentant about it. She took lovers as she chose. Yes! A true warrior that happened to be a woman instead of a “female warrior”.

"Aspiring" Writer

One topic I’ve seen a lot lately is the discussion wrapped around calling yourself a writer. Not an aspiring writer, but a writer.

I think I understand where this advice is coming from. This is a really hard field to get into, and it’s easy to get disappointed. I am experiencing my own doubts about my work and if I should continue to write.

I do not like the process of trying to find an agent or publisher. It really puts me out of my comfort zone, and the constant rejection is disheartening.

So calling yourself a writer is supposed to be an affirmation.  A way to keep yourself going when you’re thinking of quitting.

BookClouds2

But I feel like this is somewhat disingenuous. In my experience, most people who say they want to be a writer or are aspiring to be a writer mean they want to write full time. Most are already slugging away in their basement, spare bedroom, or if they’re really lucky, home office. But what they want is for their writing to support them and their family. They don’t want to have to hold down a day job so they can make ends meet.

So I get it. If you write, you’re a writer. You are doing the act of writing, and it doesn’t matter if you ever publish your work or not, if you never earn a dime from your work. And the publishing aspect is the part I like the least. I hate spending my few writing hours a week looking up agents, rewriting queries, etc.

I suppose if you’re an actor, you act. Even if it’s only at your community theater.

A co-worker of mine wanted to be a baseball player. He made it the minor leagues but got hurt. It ended his baseball career. He still plays baseball for fun, but he never says he’s a baseball player. To him, calling himself a baseball player means something very different than playing in his weekly rec league.

I suspect the same is true for writers.So, this affirmation feels a bit…I hesitate to say it…patronizing.

J.K.Rowling posting her rejection letters, (harsh, scathing rejection letters), did far more to motivate me than all of the “you are a writer” posts combined.

I write. I write almost every day. I wrote on my birthday, Valentine’s Day and Easter. I wrote when I had a cold. I wrote when I had bronchitis. I wrote when I didn’t want to write anymore.

So I am a writer, but I’m also an aspiring writer.

I am aspiring to find an agent. Aspiring to publish my first novel. Aspiring to make my writing profitable enough that it can pay for a laptop dedicated to it. Maybe even the latest version of Word.

I may not be good enough, lucky enough, or connected enough for any of this to happen. But I’m working for it. Aspiring towards it.

Three Things I’ve Learned Revising My Second Book

I have been revising my second novel while procrastinating on writing a query for my first. Yeah, I know. But this whole query thing sucks. As does the rejection that goes with it. But here are three things I have learned revising so far.

Magic

I Fall Apart at the End

I had been clipping along with my revisions pretty well through the first half of the book. It was better written than the first draft of my first book, which I chalked up to the experience of writing and revising a whole book. Of course, I’d thought this was going to continue throughout the novel. Boy was I wrong. Once I got to the middle of the story, the writing got more . . . well, it needed work. A lot more work.

Revision progress slowed.

Then I got about 2/3 of the way through, and the writing went from rough to bad. Very bad. More like a glorified outline. There’s still dialogue and the like, but the transitions (which I struggle with normally) are beyond bad. Description seems to have been tossed out the window, the villain is poorly developed, and the heroine seems to be regressing rather than coming into her own.

I have my work cut out for me, but that’s what revision is all about. This is why it takes me so much longer to revise than to write.

 

Character Arcs

As I have been revising this piece, I learned something about how I have been writing character arcs in my first two books.

My heroines both have external conflicts to resolve: escape from a necromancer to save her soul; escape slavery so her children will be born free.

Both of my heroes have internal conflicts: let himself find happiness beyond duty even after all he’s seen and done for a righteous cause;  learn the humility, compassion and sacrifice it takes to be a good king.

I’m still not sure if it’s good characterization or not. I want my female characters to be perceived as strong, even if they need the hero’s help. These are romance novels. I need to find a reason to keep the hero and heroine together even if they aren’t two people that would normally be together. I also need to make larger than life heroes feel more human.

As I think through the many romance novels I’ve read, this seems to be a somewhat common theme.

I need to think more on this, but for the moment, I’m not sure I have a better solution.

 

Motivation

My motivation has been flagging during these revisions. Some of that is due to a sick child. But more of it is due to the draining process of revision. It’s more fun to create, to let the characters come to life and see what’s going to happen next. It’s less fun to deal with character arcs and plot pacing. It’s even less fun to work through transitions, descriptions, and the like.

All are important. And the work isn’t ready for external feedback until all have been dealt with.

Time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get to it.

Book Review: Deliver Me from Darkness by Tes Hilaire (Book 1 of Paladin Warriors)

Book: Deliver Me From Darkness

Author: Tes Hilaire

Rating: 1/5 Stars

book-759873_640

 

I preface this review with the fact I read the name of the series Paladin Warriors, and was *squee* Paladins! I love knights and dragons, swords and sorcery. Bring it on!!

I read a bit further to see that the author’s take on Paladins was angels from The One God that had chosen to come to earth to fight Lucifer’s minions. *double squee*

Oh wait, the hero is a vampire. Still a Paladin, but somehow a vampire was able to turn a holy being. Hmmm, probably a bit of story there, hopefully a good story . . . Still hoping for the Paladin parts to be really good even if they’re not as powerful as I would’ve thought.

IF you are a huge fan of vampire romance, this might be your cup of tea. If you are looking for Holy Paladins, Guardians of the Light, and Knights in Shining armor, this story isn’t for you.

Pros

  1. Steamy scenes were pretty good.
  2. The background characters were amazing. I *loved* Logan, I liked Vallin by the end, and Alexander was also cool. Gabby was wonderful, and Christos easy to hate.

Cons

  1. Flashback scenes were jarring and didn’t actually help with the story. As a matter of fact, they were a tad confusing.
  2. The Paladins are NOT *Paladins* They are rapists. To force yourself on someone, to forcibly “mark” them against their will, a mark that will bare their thoughts and feelings as well?!? Really? And every one of them was ready to forcibly mark Karissa because she was the last female paladin? Really? Maybe their order deserves to go extinct. Not sure what separates them from the Darkness. Why would the Light even allow this forcible marking? Shouldn’t the Light demand consent or smite the Paladin doing the marking?
  3. By the way, why were there no other female Paladins? Low birth rate, but why a low birth rate? And how did the ones that birthed the rapey paladins all manage to die? Book never does a great job explaining it. From some of the flashback scenes, seems like all the women were together for some reason and the forces of darkness pounced. I hope to hell that wasn’t the reason. Those ladies should’ve lit the forces of darkness up and taught them what it means to mess with a celestial being. But, you know, there were no big strong men around to protect them. *gag*
  4. The plot was weak. It appeared to be: everyone wants Karissa. Whether to forcibly subject her, as per the Paladins, or for her blood, as per Lucifer and gang. No idea why Lucifer wants her blood, and he gets it, so he wins.Not really the ending I was expecting in a Romance novel. Yeah, the hero and heroine also survive, but I don’t expect the bad guys to get what they want.
  5. I didn’t like the heroine from the beginning and never came around to liking her. Might be the temper tantrums. Might be everyone saying how powerful she is and then her constantly being a damsel in distress. She doesn’t do much of anything to save herself other than run away. Which, yeah, can be viable strategy, but then get the heck away! Quick synopsis of her story:
    • Captured and brought to Roland.
    • Sorta willingly taken to Haven with all the rapey Paladins, but then goes unconscious because of reasons and is imprisoned in a bedroom. I rolled my eyes when she simply walks out of Haven (who was guarding their most precious victim?). In the middle of the night. And doesn’t notice it’s still night until the door closes behind her. Right.
    • Good thing there’s a rapey Paladin that catches her and who’s about to force himself on her but has to stop so he can save her from a couple vampires and demons.
    • Good thing the vampire Paladin gets there in time to save her from the other Paladin . . . ‘Cause, you know, she’s so powerful . . .
    • The fact that later in the story she leaves the cabin when her vampire Paladin can’t, after she was told not to . . . Are you surprised she’d abducted (again)?
    • She’s taken to the coal mines where she’s drained of blood and tortured . . . in a romance novel . . .
  6. Serious damsel in distress. And I have no idea why she’s considered so powerful, or why an author has torture in a Romance novel. All I can come up with was that the author desperately wanted her to be vampire by the end rather than Rolland being redeemed to the Light and returning as a full Paladin (which is the Happily Ever After ending I was expecting a la the Circle Trilogy from Nora Roberts – great trilogy, by the way.).
  7. Karissa has no real growth or development, either. In the last scene, she is being all squeamish over helping dissolve the remains of a really bad guy and ewww, she can’t touch it. Even though there are Paladins (granted rapey ones) fighting all round her, risking their lives, to save her.

 

I opened the book wanting to love the Paladins, ready to love them, in fact. I came to hate them (except for Logan). The vampire ended up being the best of the lot (surprise twist, Logan ends up being Karissa’s brother, so no super nice guy for her!), and I kept hoping for there to be something that redeems the vampire Paladin and brings him to the light. Yeah, no.

He is still a vampire at the end, and now, so is she. No happily ever after for me. Looks like the end of the line for the Paladins as she was the last female one of them and now she’s undead. Not sure that’s entirely bad, given their propensity to not require consent.

Not a book I remotely recommend, but if you do read it, don’t get too caught up in the Paladin Warriors title.

3 Things I have Learned About Time Management

So, I was a bit frustrated on Wednesday after reading a post blaming writers for not making time for writing.

I have learned a lot about time management since I started writing with 2 kids, a husband, and a full time job. Here are a few of them in hopes they help you, too.

Time

Know Your Attention Span

More time does not mean more writing gets done. At least, not for me. It might mean I poke around on the internet more. It might mean I check e-mail or tidy my desk. For me, I have found that 45 minutes to an hour is about as long as I can productively write at a stretch. During that time, it’s ideal for me to put on a little music to focus. And to remember that if the baby fusses, DH has her for this period of time. I don’t need to go poking my nose in.

Focus. Write. Edit. Revise. Whatever I’m going to do, do it.

 

Use Dead Time

Dead time for me is during my commute, while I’m folding laundry, putting away dishes, etc. I try to think about characters, motivations, plot, etc.  Amazing how many little scribbles on sticky notes during this time have helped get through a block.

The time I spend on a walk may convert to this once I work through the pain from breaking my foot.

Best time I’ve ever had for creativity was taking walks outside. Got me some exercise, too. But the slow healing and large hills in my neighborhood has made that difficult since my fall.

 

Minimize Distractions

Whatever yours may be. As my writing desk is in the middle of the living room since the baby got my office, my writing time has to be after my oldest child has gone to bed. Her kissing my leg, as cute as it is, is not conducive to writing.

I can’t write while she watches her episode of TV before bed, either. Even children’s television programming tends to be too distracting for me. TV, in general, is just something I can’t ignore. No matter how bad it is, no matter how much I may want to, I can’t look away.

I’m not much for social media (still need to get a twitter account and a Facebook account), so that isn’t a distraction for me. I know for many it is, and I have heard of writers purposely getting a computer for writing that doesn’t connect to the internet just so they can stay focused.

"Magically" Find More Time

magician-859303_640

I read a blog post recently blasting those of us who say we don’t have the time to dedicate to social media and building our brand. This post claimed we are simply binge watching Netflix, sleeping an extra half hour, whatever, but we’re not taking our writing seriously.

First, I don’t like social media. I mostly like writing. Both are work, one is work I like doing most of the time. I don’t even have a personal Facebook account. I don’t “tweet” or have a Twitter account. I know there are more social media sites out there, but I clearly am not on them either.

Second, I find it rather flippant to lump all writers into the same category. Especially those of us holding down a full time day job.

 

So, here is my schedule:

6 am-7:30 am – Wake up. Eat. Get dressed, brush my hair, teeth, and whatever minimal morning routine I can squeeze in. Help get the kids dressed, fed, teeth brushed etc. Make it out the door by 7:30 so I’m not late to work.

7:30 am-8:00 am – Drop the kids off and drive to work.

8:00 am-5:00 pm –  Work. Maybe later, depending on the time of year, the projects I am working on, and looming deadlines.

5:00 pm-5:30 pm (or later) – Drive home

5:30 pm-6:45 pm  – Make and eat dinner. Clean up after dinner.

6:45 pm-7:30 pm – Family stuff. Go for a walk, watch an episode of TV with DD, practice letters, read books, whatever. This is the brief snip of time I have to enjoy the kids.

7:30 pm-8:00 pm – Bedtime routine for DD1.

8:00 pm-8:15 pm – Shower, get clothes out for myself and the kids for the next day, etc.

8:15 pm-9:00 pm – Write while DH puts DD2 to bed

9:00-10:00 spend an hour with DH. We might sit and chat, play some video games, whatever. Maybe I’ll read if he wants to just chill. Can’t remember the last time we watched TV or a movie . . .

10 pm – Bed

 

So, I have to give up time with my children, time with my spouse, or sleep to wrangle more time to do social media. Or I have to give up my 45 minutes of writing time. Not going to do it, so I guess I am just not going to take my writing “seriously”.

I love writing. I would very much like to see some success in my writing endeavors. But it will never replace my day job. Families are simply too expensive and writer incomes too meager, especially in 2016 when mom’s are sometimes the primary income.

I really hope I just misunderstood the post. Or reacted strongly because we are going through a rough time with DD2 and medical issues, combined with a great deal of day job stress.

Or maybe the blogger has never tried to balance a full time job, a spouse, and two kids with a fledgling writing career and aversion to social media.

Or maybe there is no hope to launch a writing career at this point in my life. If that’s the case,  not sure how I feel about all the wasted hours I’ve spent alone at a keyboard when I could’ve been reading, binge watching Netflix, or playing Fallout 4.

Writing Through Distractions

I cannot write through distractions, not real ones, anyway.

Yes, I can write and listen to music. Sometimes, music can inspire my muse.

I can write while I eat a sandwich, drink my juice infused water, or let the cat sit on my lap. But turn on the TV? I’m done.

elephant-964898_640
I just have to look.

I don’t know how people write or do homework or do anything that requires concentration in front of a television. I see people doing it all the time, but I’m not one of them. I would just stare at my computer screen while I kept sneaking glances at the TV until I was just watching TV. Even if whatever was on was something I didn’t care about. Even if it was something I didn’t like.

To write, I need to focus.

In college, I used to hide away in breakout rooms to study. I seldom studied with anyone else because then I couldn’t study.

I know the rage today is multi-tasking. Easy enough if the work requires little to no thought. But the moment it is a difficult or in-depth problem, I need to focus on it. I will set time aside in my work calendar to dedicate to a particularly difficult analysis. If our open concept office environment isn’t conducive when I need it to be, I will squirrel away in a conference room.

If I need to think, I need to minimize distractions.

I really like to have that kind of focus when I write, but sometimes my only writing time comes while DD gets her episode of TV before she goes to bed. Focus is impossible for me as DD watches My Little Pony. Until she’s watched the same episode the 15th time (thanks Netflix!), and then I can mostly tune it out.

It’s so bad I have a hard time paying attention to conversations I really care about when someone has the TV on. I actually have a hard time hearing their words over the light and noise box clambering for my attention.I simply can’t do sports bars. I feel like my head is going to explode from information overload as all those channels bear down on me.

At our house, we generally do not have the TV on unless it is being actively watched. Probably because of me. Okay, definitely because of me. Most other people seem to have it on as background noise and don’t even notice it.

Ahhh, to not notice children’s television programming. Now that truly is a gift.

3 Things I learned Writing Fan Fiction

apocalypse-1325398_640

I loved Fallout 4, until I got the end. I never actually finished the play through as I couldn’t find a way to get the ending I wanted. (And then I cheated and looked it up. Sure enough, no way to get it). But one thing that I did uncover before knowing better was the absolutely awful ending for my absolute favorite Fallout follower.

Don’t get me wrong, I did the quest chain for each of my followers. Diligently killing off Gunners and getting medicine for a sick child for McCready, helping dry Cait out even though it meant going through another psycho Vault, helping Curie get a synth body. Whatever they needed, even though no one ever asked my character how her search for her infant son went . . . 

But Danse was my favorite from the very beginning, and when Bethesda gave him such a  raw deal . . . I was mad. Mad enough that after months of stewing about it, I wrote him a different ending. A happy ending. If you’ve been readint his week, you know the ending I gave him, while still trying to stay true to canon.

In the process of writing that, here’s there things I learned.

 

  1. It’s hard to write someone else’s character. Sure, I had spent countless hours traveling with him and learning how he talks, how he thinks, etc. but it’s not the same as him being my character.  Many of my characters have elaborate back stories and experiences you’ll never see on the page. But their my character. I know it about them. I understand why some characters on TV shows feel off sometimes. I can’t imagine writing an entire show week after week, with different groups of writers, none of whom “own” a character.
  2. I need a happy ending. Even in a post-apocalyptic game about nuclear war. I needed it enough I stewed over it and eventually created an ending so Danse’s story ends on a better note. Damn Bethesda for not letting me get my happy ending. I read the news. Yep, I know what a mess the world is. Particularly in Syria right now. But, dammit, my fantasy life can be better than that.
    • So, I won’t finish the game and left it a stalemate. My son is still alive though dying of cancer. Danse is still alive, as happy as Danse ever gets, and still traveling with me (reloading an old save, I knew better than to give the data I hacked from the Institute to the Brotherhood). The Brotherhood is still out there making the world safer by knocking down ghouls and super mutants. They may hate the Institute, but they can’t get to them without me. Minute Men are setting up settlements and protecting the people.
    • Bite me, Bethesda.
    • I would have rather had the Institute clean up its act and maybe start helping the Commonwealth. As, you know, I am now in charge of it. Would’ve liked the Brotherhood to be like it was under Lyons and actually become the warrior class that protects the people even if it demands “tribute”. But I’ll take what I can get. A stalemate is better than never ending war among factions with the power and resources to actually make life better for the Wastelanders.
  1. It’s easy to let your writing game slip. After reading a handful of fan fiction works to get an idea for how fan fiction works, I started writing. And I found myself being less strict with my own work, writing in a similar vein as to what I’d read. While I didn’t rewrite, revise and edit like I do for stories I am hoping to publish, I also discovered how easy it can be to toss something on the page and leave it. I did tidy it up a little, but I suppose a sloppy happy ending is better than no happy ending at all.

End: Second Chance for Paladin Danse

Continued from: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4.

apocalypse-1325398_640

End: Second Chance for Paladin Danse

They awoke more tired than when they’d gone to bed. She’d lost track of how many times they’d made love, how many times he’d brought her to climax, and how many times she’d wished her conscious would simply let her marry him.

The thought made her smile, and while wanted it, wanted him, she had to make sure he wanted her. She would have to give up her Vault and the people she loved to be with him and his brothers and sisters. It was a hard choice, but one she’d make. She just didn’t want him to regret asking her to spend the rest of their lives together.

Conversation quieted between them as they walked southwest of Diamond City and came to a small ghost town. No signs of squatters or even raiders.

“Lots of the scientists lived here before the war. We lived in the next town over because Mom didn’t want to be too close to Dad’s work colleagues. She said he worked enough already.”

“Do you want to go up and see it?”

“I left that life behind 200 years ago, and I may be starting a new one in a few months. But this is where we must part ways.”

“I love you, Tesla.”

“And I love you.” She hugged him, and even through the power armor, she felt the tension in him. He didn’t want to let her go, and his every instinct was to fight for what he wanted.

She turned away from him and walked into the silent and abandoned town. She didn’t look back, knowing she didn’t have the strength to continue if she did.

Danse watched her go until he couldn’t see her anymore. He waited another hour, maybe more, before setting the flare that called a veribird.

Paladin Danse returned to the Prydwen, silent and brooding, and found Elder Maxson was waiting. After making a full report to the Elder, Maxson shook his head.

“Shame about those Wastelanders. Holotags were barely dry. Two deathclaws,” Maxson shook his head. “I’ll send a squad out to retrieve the power armor. When you’re ready, I have another mission for you at Fort Strong.”

“Reporting for duty, sir.”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

Danse listened to the mission briefing on Fort Strong. Another dangerous mission. Another chance he might not make it home. Once he wouldn’t have cared, but now… He touched the holotags around his neck.

“Before I send you to Fort Strong, tell me about this Vault Dweller you recommended for admittance into the Brotherhood.”

“Nate, Sole Survivor of Vault 111 and a veteran of the Battle for Anchorage. Skills are sharp. I saw him in action in ArcJet against synths.” Danse paused, considering Nate’s proclivity to pick up junk. “Still acclimating to the wastes after his time in cryostasis.”

“Sounds like a solid addition to the Brotherhood. I’ll have you head back over to the police station. See if you can recruit him. Keeping Knight Rhys and Scribe Haylen there to oversee the outpost.”

Danse slapped his fist over his heart in acknowledgment. He turned to leave, then paused. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Of course. What’s on your mind?”

“Back at the Citadel, soldiers and their families were permitted to dwell together.”

Maxson stilled. “Did you get a girl in trouble?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Maxson let out the breath he’d been holding. “In time, after we get the airport fortified, yes, we’ll work on setting up a place for families. Only rare exceptions like you have the same drive and commitment as those born into the Brotherhood.”

A rare smile curved Danse’s lips as he thought of a son of his as a Brotherhood squire. All the more incentive to make it home alive.

But if he didn’t… Elder Maxson wasn’t the right person to ask. Maybe Scribe Haylen. If he didn’t make it back, he wanted Tesla to know that’s why he hadn’t come for her at the end of the six months.

With his mission briefing in hand, Danse went back to the police station in search of Haylen.

***After the story events leading to Blind Betrayal***

“Still thinking about him?”

Tesla looked up from the detail schematic she’d stopped seeing ten minutes ago. She pressed her lips together as glanced at her father and shrugged.

“I want to punch the bastard that hurt you like this, but from the sounds of it, that wouldn’t end well for me.”

Tesla smiled and hugged her father.

“Have to say, though, I’m glad you’re not going back to the Wastes. You made robotics team lead, and with all of the advancements this Institute has made that we’re getting our hands on, it’s going to take a strong person to keep us on the straight and narrow.”

“I know the answer to Turing’s conversation. A machine can have a soul, Papa. I met one that did.”

“All the more reason for us to be careful.” He hugged her and looked down at the tiny receiver she wore around her neck. “And if he ever finds the sense he was born with, maybe you can convince him to join us. I’d rather gain a son, even an unruly one, than lose a daughter.”

“His transmitter is undamaged.” She shrugged. “Perhaps his feelings changed after returning him.”

“Or things in the Wastes are more unpredictable than here in the Vault. If he does stop being stupid, at least consider asking him to join us here.”

“He would never…”

“Did you ask him?”

She looked down.

“At least give him the choice, Tes. And I promise not to hit him. I’d only hurt my hand.” Her father hugged her again and left her to her work.

Tesla’s head jerked up when the tiny receiver around her neck kicked into life. Six months had come and gone so long ago that she’d given up hope. Perhaps not entirely, as she still wore the radio, but…

“Is he really dead?” an unfamiliar female voice asked.

“He’s dead to Brotherhood,” a man said.

“Not the same.”

The man’s voice dropped to little more than a whisper. “I convinced Maxson to spare him, but if anyone in the Brotherhood ever sees him, they’ll shoot him on sight.”

“You found him at Listening Post Bravo,” the woman said.

“Don’t tell anyone else. Don’t even breathe it. Give him time to escape.”

“The Brotherhood was his life,” the female voice said. “I don’t care what they say he is. Danse is a good man.”

“One of the best,” the male voice replied. “Which is why I would’ve gone to blows with Maxson if he hadn’t spared him.”

The tiny battery on her transmitter died and she missed the rest of the conversation, but she knew the Brotherhood had learned the truth about Danse. That they could have cast him out after all they meant to him, all he’d sacrificed for them…

She pressed her lips together as she hurried out of her workroom. Yanking off her clean suit, hairnet, and gloves, she tossed them into a bin as she hurried through the Vault to her room. The glittering power armor stood quietly in the corner. Her bots had been busy, even if she’d lost hope she would ever need it.

She paused a moment as she looked at the suit. Danse hadn’t actually called for her. Hadn’t actually said he wanted her to come back to him.

To hell with it.

If the Brotherhood had kicked him out, he’d be in more pain than when the deathclaw had ripped apart his leg. And if she knew him at all, she knew he’d be destroying himself, blaming himself, because he’d lost everything he loved.

He may not want her as his lover anymore, but she could still offer him the comfort a friend. And he’d need that.

Donning her power armor, she clomped down to the newly built relay station. Hadn’t been too hard to purchase the remains of a dozen synths the Sole Survivor had destroyed. The Institute’s technology was impressive, far more advanced than theirs is some ways, primitive in others.

But once they’d had access to the Institute’s leavings, Vault 010 had been working furiously to unravel how it worked. How and if to use this technology was still being hotly debated by the ethics committee, but the one thing they’d unanimously agreed on was copying their teleportation technology.

When the security officer saw her walking towards him in the power armor, he stepped in front of her and crossed his arms over his chest. “We’re still proving it out, Tesla.”

“You can either send me to Listening Post Bravo, or I am walking there.”

“You’re a research lead. You can’t go traipsing through the wastes!”

She folded her armored arms over her chest. “You going to stop me?”

The guard glanced at the relay technician and then back at the faceless armor. “Lemme call this in.”

“You have ten minutes.”

Danse sat on the sagging mattress, head in his hands. Why had Nate decided to spare him? The Sole Survivor should have taken him out rather than standing up to Maxson for him. Danse looked down at his hands, still unable to believe he was a machine. An abomination. An example of everything that was wrong with humanity.

How many of his memories were even his? Clearly, he’d never been child. Had his time in Rivet City been real or were they another man’s memories? He couldn’t be sure.

He looked at his laser rifle sitting next to him. Almost impossible to take his own life with it. He looked toward the dead yao guai rotting in the broken ruins of the bunker. Tesla had warned him about it, but he hadn’t wanted to end up here. He’d wanted to go down to the third floor, the one they’d shared for those few weeks. A trip down memory lane before he ended it all. But he hadn’t been able to figure out how to make the elevator go there.

Tesla. She’d probably forgotten him by now. The six months had come and gone. He’d been so wrapped up with dealing with the Institute and helping Nate that he knew he couldn’t have married Her and brought her within the Brotherhood fold. Especially as the airport was being prepared for war with the institute.

She deserved better than that, and he was sure someone in her Vault would give it to her.

Besides, better that she not know the truth about the ‘man’ she thought she loved.

He ran his hands through his hair.

He’d lost everything and everyone who’d ever mattered to him. While it would be easier to just give up, Nate had fought Maxson for his life and won. Nate saw something in him worth saving. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t, but Nate was the last man he’d called a friend since Cutler.

Standing, Danse collected his laser rifle, provisions, and ammunition. Maybe he’d head out to the countryside, start a farm or something. Damn the Institute for creating him, for letting him feel pain and loss. He couldn’t quite damn them for having let him love, even if it was a short time.

Hefting his pack, he paused as he heard the elevator engage. It slid past his floor, but he could hear nothing through the rock.

Rifle drawn and aimed, his heart thudded against his ribs. Someone had gotten past Tesla’s security protocols to get down to the third floor. Had Nate come back to end him? Only the Sole Survivor would have the skills to hack past Tesla’s security parameters, and even then, Nate would have to know there was a third floor to get to.

The elevator lit up again, and when the doors opened, a vaguely familiar suit of power armor emerged. The suit held up its hands. It wasn’t Nate. “Don’t shoot.”

“Tesla? What the hell are you doing here?” He lowered his weapon.

She took off her helmet and smiled at him. “I heard you were here.”

She was even more beautiful than he remembered. His chest constricted. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t.”

Her lips pressed together, and the hurt on her face pierced his heart. He reached out for her, then yanked his hand back. She deserved better than a machine.

She stepped out of her power armor and walked over to him, the top of her head brushing his shoulder. Wrapping both of her hands around one of his, she looked up at him.

Her fingers looked so small, pale and fragile compared to his. He laid his other hand overtop of hers, and when he looked up, he found himself caught by eyes as blue as her Vault suit.

“You’re hurting more now than when I found you the first time.”

He couldn’t bring himself to say the words, to tell her the truth about what he was. The lie he was.

“Where’s your power armor?”

His face fell.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered and wrapped her arms around him.

“I’m not a man,” he choked as he pulled away from her. “You should go. You deserve better than a machine can give you.”

“I knew you were a synth long before I fell in love with you.”

His head snapped up. “You knew?”

“You can’t fool my Fixers.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to cause you pain. To see you hate the man I love. And the only way anyone would’ve known would’ve required technology similar to Vault 010s. The Brotherhood meant so much to you, but with 200 year old tech, they could have never learned…”

Danse heard her unasked question and shrugged. “I was helping the Sole Survivor find his son. He hacked into the Institute’s databases for the Brotherhood, and that’s where they learned…”

“That they’re racist bigots?”

Danse’s head snapped up, defense of the Brotherhood on his lips.

“One night, when I was missing my mother particularly badly, I asked my father why God would let the world end.”

“What did he tell you?”

“That sometimes the world is so corrupt, so evil, that God must flood it to start anew. I hated God for letting the war happen for a long time.”

“Do you think the Wastes are an improvement?”

“I don’t know. The evil that permeated the old world…” She shook her head. “ And when anyone stood up or questioned, they were labeled a communist and carted away. So many atrocities, and people stopped fighting them.”

Danse reached into his pack and withdrew a handful of holotapes. “Speaking of atrocities, the information on Vault 75.”

Her eyes widened. “How…”

“You wanted it, and when the Sole Survivor had to go there, I was with him.”

“You remembered.”

“I thought of you most nights. But the fight with the Institute, helping the Sole Survivor… I had to protect you, and you were safe in your Vault. Besides, if I didn’t make it home…”

“Trying to protect me even after death?”

He looked down at his hands.

Holding up the holotapes, she shook her head. “I thought you said a whole Brotherhood squadron couldn’t get into Vault 75.”

“You haven’t met Nate. He’d have leveled half the Commonwealth to get his son back. And when he finally found him…” Danse shook his head. “Still not sure what he’ll do.”

“Nate has to make his choices, just as you have to make yours.”

“I…I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’d expected Nate or Maxson…”

“To call you a communist and destroy you?”

Danse ran his hand through his hair. “It’s not like that. I’m not even human.”

“Stop.” The sharpness in the single word had him staring up at her. “Not even you are allowed to hurt the man I love.”

“You still love me? Even knowing…”

“I already told you I knew before I kissed you. Before we…” Her cheeks colored.

“I love you, Tesla, but I have nothing to offer you.”

“Do you really love me?”

He looked at her, pain etched across his face. “I don’t have the words to tell you how I feel. You are the last thing I think of at night and the first thing on my mind every morning.”

She touched his cheek. “I had been willing to give up everything to be a soldier’s wife.”

“Had been?”

“You aren’t a soldier anymore.”

He sucked in a breath.

“So come back to the Vault with me.”

“The Vault? I’m not a scientist.”

“You are an effective commander. We could use you in project control. And on the ethics committee, especially since we came into possession of Institute tech.”

His eyes widened.

“Haven’t done much with it yet, but the ethics committee will decide how we proceed.”

“Tesla…”

“And our security staff is lax. The entire Vault should be trained to shoot straight and care for a weapon.”

“Tesla…”

“And we could use help trading in Diamond City. The demand for clean water is high, and we can clean irradiated water and trade it. The guards of Diamond City have come to recognize my armor and make sure I get safely into the city, but I could use a partner.”

He framed her face in his hands and kissed her.

Her eyes fluttered closed and she melted against him, her mouth yielding to him as her arms wrapped around him.

“Are you sure you want me?”

A smile curved her lips, and her arms tightened around him. “More than anything.”

She slipped out of his arms and tugged him toward her power armor.

“I have a set of X-01 hidden away…”

“We’ll get it later. I’ll have them teleport us there if you can give them the coordinates.”

His brows knit together.

“Some of the institute technology we acquired,” Tesla said as she turned on the radio of her pipboy. “You take my armor. You’ll feel better in it, and I’ll feel better out of it.”

Danse frowned but did as she asked and stepped into the power armor. He studied the armor. It was lighter and more responsive than any he’d ever stepped into, and yet…

She smiled at him. “Stronger than anything I’ve come across, even modified. And it reflects energy weapon damage. My bots were very busy.”

“You really were preparing to leave your Vault. Your family…”

“I just hope you like life in the Vault.”

A smile curved his lips as he looked into her blue eyes. “I’ll be with you. We’ll figure it out.”

She picked up the helmet, slipped her arms around him, and with a flash of blue lightening they appeared at the relay station inside Vault 010.

He was there. And Tesla was with him. Danse let out a breath he felt like he’d been holding a lifetime. He was finally home.

Part 4: Second Chance for Paladin Danse

Continued from: Part 1Part 2, & Part 3.

apocalypse-1325398_640

Part 4: Second Chance for Paladin Danse

She woke up wrapped in his arms, his hard chest against her back, and she pressed herself closer to him. Things had gotten complicated, but before she could dwell on it, she felt him nibbling the soft flesh of her shoulders and the sensitive area at the top of her spine. His hands reached around and cupped her breasts, teasing over the sensitive peaks as he massaged the tender globes.

A soft moan escaped her and she twined her arms up around his neck, giving him total access to her.

Access he took.

Lifting her thigh over his leg, he probed her slickness, then slid into her.

She closed her eyes and gave herself over to sensation. Gave herself to him.

He felt her surrender, felt her let go and give him his way. He smiled against her smooth flesh, touching, stroking, indulging his senses in her. The sweet feminine scent of her, her tight sheath that gripped him as he plumbed her core, the feel of her silken skin under his hard hands.

He wanted to make her climax again, make her lose control as he saturated her with pleasure.

He teased a pert peak one final time then eased his hand lower, over the gentle curve of her belly and into the dark curls.

She gasped as he found her tender button and stroked. Her head fell back against his chest as she tried to process the feel of him deep inside her, his rhythmic thrusts filling her over and over, as his hands drove her further still.

The sensation built, pushing her higher and higher, and with one final thrust, he sent her up and over. Pleasure exploded through her, the culmination of fulfilled desire and passion.

Her body tightened around him as pleasure took her, and he could hold back no longer as he lost himself in her.

Still inside her, her turned her in his arms so he could feel her cheek against his chest.

“I love you, Danse,” she whispered as her arms tightened around him.

He’d never had anyone say to that to him before. Not say it and mean it. “Marry me, Tesla. You don’t have to be Brotherhood. Just come back with me.”

“Those word weren’t meant to trap you.”

“Which makes them all the sweeter. I’ve never felt this way about anyone, and I don’t think I ever will again.”

She brushed aside a lock of his dark hair as she smiled into his deep brown eyes. “I worry that you feel this way because I helped you, and then you were stuck with me for weeks. It’s called the Nightengale effect.”

“Not the first time I’ve been injured and needed healing.” He brought her fingers to his lips as he molded her naked body against his.

She fingered the holotags her wore even now. “I’m not sure you’ll feel the same way once you return to your brothers and sisters.”

“I’m more worried about not coming back to you. Of someone bringing you back my tags.”

She held him close and listened to the strong steady beat of his heart. “If you still love me and want me to marry you in six months, I will.”

“Tesla…”

“That way you’re sure. And I’m sure you really love me.”

He held her close, stroking the soft curves of her body. Then he rolled her beneath him and made love to her again.

 

Time escaped them. He’d waited as long as he could to take her back to her Vault and return to the Brotherhood. Danse donned his power armor as she got into hers.

“Six months.” He touched a gauntleted hand to her cheek.

“Your holotags. If you decide you still want me, there’s a tiny transmitter in them.” She leaned forward and lifted them, the fresh smell of her wafting over him and making him want to carry her back to bed.

She smiled, touched her lips to his, and then showed him how to use the transmitter. He memorized it, certain he would be using it at the end of six months.

They donned their helmets, picked up their rifles, and walked over to the elevator. It opened, and a moment later, they were walking back into the searing light of the wasteland.

The helmet muted the glare, making the bright light bearable after weeks in the bunker. Still, his heart was heavy and his eyes stung as he turned and led Tesla across the wastes to Diamond City.

They came across the occasional feral ghoul or raider and made short work of them. It felt strange to be out here with her, skirting super mutants and ferals, rather than leading a Brotherhood squad to exterminate them. Even after all the instruction and training he’d given her before leaving the bunker, she was still a civilian. And he wanted to keep her that way.

Her mismatched armor no longer looked mismatched; the little bots had been working hard on it after they’d finished repairing his. Hers had a slight shimmer to it in the fading light and looked almost ethereal. It suited her better than the mismatched stuff ever had, though he liked her best of all wearing nothing but him.

Shaking his head, he pushed the thought aside and concentrated on getting them to their destination.

 

They tromped into Diamond City, but none of the guards gave them more than a curt nod.

They didn’t look like raiders, and Danse wondered what he and Tesla did look like. He looked down at the winged sword on his chest plate. Had word of the Brotherhood already made it to Diamond City? The Brotherhood hadn’t been in the Commonwealth long, but it boded well if they were already well received. Perhaps they’d be able to build another fortress on par with the Citadel. Much safer for soldiers and their families.

As he led her through the makeshift city, she paused and looked up at the lights. “Last time I was here, my father bought me boiled peanuts and …”

Danse took off his helmet and gave her moment. When she removed hers, he could see the tears  shining in her eyes.

He leaned down and kissed her, a gauntleted hand stroking her cheek.

To hell with baseball, she had him. A smile curved her lips, she blinked back the memories, and followed him to the Dugout Inn.

Vadim greeted them, his eastern European accent making Tesla arch an eyebrow. “I’m surprised anyone has an accent after 200 years.”

Danse shrugged as he got them a room and something to eat.

“Ah, lovebirds.” Vadim grinned as Danse scowled at him. “But how you make love through so much metal?”

Tesla laid a hand over Danse’s, quieting him as she smiled at Vadim. “It’s tricky and complicated, but where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Vadim laughed and spread his arms wide. “Ah, you will have to show me sometime.”

“No.” Danse’s fists balled, but Vadim laughed, clapped him on the shoulder, and went to see to his other customers.

Tesla slid her chair closer to Danse and kissed his cheek. “He means well. I think.”

Pulling her a bit closer, Danse glared at Vadim. He said little else as they finished eating. When they were done, he led her to the room.

Closing and locking the door, he faced it and stepped out of his power armor, making it impossible for someone to open it. She stood beside his armor and stepped out as well, then they each removed their power core.

Once the cores were safely secreted away, Danse pulled her to him, his mouth hot and hungry on hers. He molded her body against his, then stripped her out of her vault suit and tossed it aside. He yanked off his own Brotherhood fatigues, picked her up, and carried her to the bed.

As he laid her down, he came down beside her, his mouth plundering hers as his hands explored her, memorizing every inch of her silken skin, every curve, every detail.

She wrapped her arms around him, feeling his thick muscles bunch under her fingers as she opened herself to him, letting him take all he wanted.

And he wanted everything.

He stroked down her slim body, pausing to tease her rosy peaks. He palming her tender globes in his calloused hands before his lips and tongue found them. She groaned, arching beneath him as his mouth fastened around one pert bud and suckled.

“Danse,” she groaned as she her nails bit into wide expanse of his back and shoulders.

He gave her no quarter as he moved his attentions from one nipple to the other, his hands still stroking her, touching, exploring. They eased down over her soft belly and down her rounded him, teasing the curve of her thigh as he moved higher and found her soft petals. He dipped one finger and then a second into her soft inner recesses as his thumb found her hidden pearl.

A soft moan escaped her, her body alight with passion and a bone deep need for him.

As if sensing it, he released her swollen breast and took her mouth with his, his tongue and lips claiming her as he parted her thighs and guided his shaft into her slickness.

And then he was in her, his strong hard body pushing her back into the mattress as he took her, filled her, and made her his. She threaded her fingers though his hair then stroked down his broad shoulders and over the wide expanse of his back. She gripped the knotted steel of his strong arms as he took her, his strong steady strokes pushing them both higher.

She was lost beneath him. The feel of him filling her as his heavily muscled chest pressed against her tender breasts overwhelmed her senses. So hot, hard and wholly male. She lost herself in the feel of him, in the clean masculine scent of him, in the exotic taste of him.

His hands skated lower over her body, found her little nub, and stroked. Her head lolled back as desire seared her, but he gave her no quarter, his hard body driving her higher and higher as his tongue claimed her mouth.

She was his.

She surrendered, giving herself over completely to everything that was between them. Quieting her thoughts and fears until all she knew was him and the passion and love that was between them.

Pushing, driving her relentlessly up until desire crescendoed. She cried out and clung to him as wave after wave took her. He clutched her hard against him, holding her as he gave in to his own needs and filled her with himself.

He gathered her to him, smoothing her hair as he teased his lips over hers.

Here, now, the conqueror was replaced by kindness and compassion. She lay against him as he continued to touch her, his fingers soft, gentle, almost reverent.

She was undone. And not by one of the many scientists that had wanted her over the years, or by the traders or mercenaries she’d dealt with. She’d lost her heart to a machine that was more human than most of the men she’d met.

She held him tightly, praying that he’d still love her six months. She’d love him for the rest of her life in Vault 010, and a lifetime there was a very long time indeed.