Another slice of life from Planet Zero. The book is coming along obnoxiously slowly. And who knew that working from home would consume more of my time than going to the office? How is it even possible? I swear, there are some dark forces at play.

Anyway, this little episode takes place fairly soon into the book after Addie has made tentative progress in befriending some native For women. But not everyone in their tribe is as welcoming and ready to accept her. She is the strange one here, the puny, poorly-adjusted, weird-looking female of an unknown species.

A striking young woman with reddish brown hair and asymmetrical but still arresting features walked up to them, staring boldly at Addie.

“Here, Vircea.” Chele motioned at her. “Take the fruit from the Addie-woman.”

Vircea extended her arms toward Addie and helped untie her sack before taking it off her back.

“Grateful,” Addie murmured, and Vircea smiled. It was a dazzling smile despite the long sharp teeth. 

Vircea held the heavy sack with ease, her bare arms showing an impressive muscle play. With one long glance at Addie’s face, she turned and left, flipping her long hair.

Melmie tugged at her. “Come with me. I’ll show you my tent.”

But Addie wasn’t ready to enter the settlement. With Chief Net’ok and the majority of the men being out, it would look like she was sneaking in. When she came back, it would be open for all to see. She didn’t want her reappearance to be under questionable terms.

“Next time, Melmie. I will be going home now.”

Melmie looked crestfallen. “We won’t be getting any more Elm fruit. That means I will not see you again.”

“You can come and visit me any time,” Addie assured her. “I will start drying the meat tomorrow. Come and be my jerky tester.”

“Me! I want to be a tester!” Oh’na squeezed her plump body between Addie and Melmie.

“Oh, go away, Oh’na. You’re such a pest,” Melmie looked annoyed.

Addie was just going to offer they both come over when she sensed a presence behind. Her heart sank. 


The girls quietly dispersed.

She turned slowly and experienced a curious mix of relief and disappointment. It wasn’t Zoark. It was Vuskas, and to his side stood Queen Qalae.

“Hello,” Addie greeted them, wondering if she should perform a curtsy. 

Vuskas slid an ironic glance at Qalae and raised one heavy eyebrow as if saying, What do you think of that, my Queen?

Qalae stared straight at Addie. “What are you doing here, strange woman?”

“I helped your women to bring back Elm fruit.”

“What business is it of yours?”

The more flustered Addie became, the more difficult it was to express herself in their language. “I met them… ran into them. Gathering Elm fruit. And I offered to help.” 

Let Qalae think that theirs was a chance meeting. She didn’t want Illied, Chele, and the girls to suffer their queen’s wrath if, for some reason, they were prohibited from mingling with strange women from Earth.

“And you came here to stay?”

“No… um… ” How to address her? Her Majesty? Chief Consort? Mrs. Net’ok? She should’ve asked Melmie what the protocol was. “I will be going home.”

“See that you do.” 

Ihr and Ehr chose this moment to fly over and engage in a noisy play with the queen’s Yuux. Or maybe it was Vuskas’s. There was a good number of the flying animals dashing from one teepee’s top to another.

Irritated, Qalae glanced up. “Which one of these screeching animals is yours?”

“They both are.”

Qalae pegged her with a stare. 

Vuskas scoffed. “You lie. No one has two Yuux. Yuux don’t share a host.”

Addie extended her arm and snapped her fingers. Her patience with their training had paid off, and Ihr and Ehr gracefully glided down to perch at her elbow.

Vuskas’s sneer slipped. Qalae blinked twice. 

Addie’s satisfaction was complete.

“Hmm.” Qalae’s face assumed the bored expression Addie remembered from the assembly. “You are strange.”

She inclined her head her way in a non-committal manner and sauntered away. Vuskas didn’t linger in her company either, though before he left he gave her a blatant once-over that ended in another scoff. 

Addie released a pent up breath. 

“Remind me to give you some extra Nessi innards you so love,” she whispered to her Yuux and pumped her arm once, letting them know they were free to fly away.

She turned to go. Once more, the For tribe proved unwelcoming if not overtly hostile. But no one had tried to hurt her, so maybe she shouldn’t complain. 

She stopped at the edge of the camp looking out, lips pursed, when the realization hit. She still didn’t know the way back to her teepee.

She frowned, furiously thinking the problem over. 

Well, okay, she could trace her way back to the Elm patch, and from there she would feel more comfortable finding her way home. It would be a long detour, but she had more confidence in this safer plan than trying to figure out a direct path and get lost.

“Follow the rocks with red moss. They will take you to the sands. From there, keep the Ehr sun to your back. If you reach the field with flowering Puri, you’ve missed your turn.”

Addie slowly turned, anxiety twisting her stomach into a knot. She hadn’t reacted that strongly to the queen and her beast of a henchman.

“And if I have missed it?”

Zoark looked at her from his muted-red dull eyes. “You’ll have to figure it out.”

She hadn’t heard him approach. Why hadn’t she heard him approach? He was lame, with a busted knee. He should shuffle loudly, thrash like a bear in the thicket. 

Nothing. There had been no sign of him coming right on top of her. She had never sensed his presence.

He was standing at her side, solid and uncompromising. His bad leg was slightly bent as if he had trouble straightening it all the way and wanted to keep more of his weight on his left side. 

Against her will, Addie’s gaze landed on his broken knee, and her trained brain automatically assessed the damage: joint bones appeared to have been smashed and never reconstructed, ligaments and likely tendons torn to pieces and not sewn back together, some thigh muscle missing as if ripped out by a mouth with lots of sharp teeth… There was nothing to be done for him without extensive surgery. She was surprised he maintained the mobility he did. That he could sneak up on her without making a sound was something out of the fiction tale.

“Does it still bother you?” she asked, caught up in her trauma nurse mode.

“That is profoundly none of your concern,” he replied with annoyance. “I thought I’d never see you again. Red moss, remember? That way. One last time, goodbye.”

Addie raised her eyes to his sour face and grinned. “I see now why you’re being so helpful with directions.” They squared off, all five feet two inches of her to his six-and-a-half. “You may see me again or you may not – I’m not making any promises. But thanks for pointing the way.”

She skipped over a large rock and lightly jogged following the red moss.

7 thoughts on “11/23/2020

  1. Hello! Just read HOMEBOUND and was so impressed! Finally a SCI-FI Romance book that takes its characters seriously. I absolutely enjoy a slowwwwww burn because the tension just heightens dramatically. Really enjoyed your portrayal of Simon and Gemma. Am looking forward to PLANET ZERO. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy work schedule to write the books. I want to do something similar one day. God bless.


  2. How did I miss your update and barely saw it now?! It’s fine, I followed up after my coworker asked me to recommend a thriller (of course I had to share A Family Affair by Lydia Hope). And got the best present ever! I wonder if Zoark is the ‘he’ Sathe was talking about earlier, the one who left the village after Samantha died? This was a great snack to keep me occupied until the next excerpt or full novel comes out. I’m wondering why Addie’s in a teepee now and not the City of Seraphim? Did Hobart screw them all over?

    So many questions! Is there any other ways we can stay connected with you? I’d love to preorder Planet Zero if I can.

    Thanks so much for making my day, Lydia! I can’t wait for more! 😊


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