He wanted to spend Christmas with the girl of his dreams—he never dreamt they’d spend it in space!
Buddy didn’t mean to stow away on an alien warship. He just wanted to surprise Nika with a holiday dinner she’d never forget. But now, he’s stuck aboard the Reckoning with his dog, of all things, headed to a star system far from Earth and the Christmas dinner where he planned to introduce Nika to his family.
Nika has enough on her plate building colonies, dome worlds, and space stations in the Sol system—all without Earth’s governments detecting their presence. With a war going on throughout the galaxy, it’s up to her to create sanctuaries for sentients who have lost their homeworlds. When she’s called aboard the Reckoning to track down odd system errors—and pulled from a holiday dinner with Buddy—she knows something’s gone very wrong. It goes from bad to worse when she finds Buddy and his dog on board.
Now, they have to work together to figure out how to fix the ship for good, keep Buddy and his dog hidden, and forge an alliance with a planet full of super strong warriors with impulse control issues. For a galaxy at war, can a chef, his dog, and a little holiday four-part-harmony pave the way to peace?
Main Content: Approximately 30,512 words, 153 (5.5 x 8.5) pages
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HOMEWORLD FOR THE HOLIDAYS
(THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY, Book Twelve)
Copyright © 2019 Cassandra Chandler
All rights reserved
The drive gave Buddy a chance to have second thoughts about his plan. And third thoughts. And fourth thoughts.
But he was locked into it—unless he wanted to throw himself out the back of a moving truck.
He knew he and Nika could have something special together. They just needed to give it a chance. He wouldn’t give up on her.
The vibration of the engine stopped. It was the only clue he had that maybe they’d reached their destination. The ride had been so smooth. What the heck kind of suspension did this truck have?
He didn’t want to wait too long, and not just because he was tired of sitting in the dark back of the truck. He felt around for the handle and carefully opened the door, slipping out with his basket in hand.
The basket felt heavier than he expected, but as he looked around, that became the least of his worries.
The walls of the garage he was in were white, and looked at least seven stories high. The gray metal floor stretched out bigger than a football field. Bigger than five football fields.
And the things parked on that floor…
They weren’t cars. They were ships.
Giant ships. Small ships. Medium-sized ships.
Some looked like the flying-saucer type spaceships he’d seen in B-sci-fi movies growing up. Others were boxy shuttles, he’d guess.
And then there was Nika’s truck, parked against one wall, the light gleaming off its shiny silver sidepanels.
He turned around in a circle, his brain having trouble processing everything he was seeing in the harsh, bright lights. Everything except Nika.
She was standing in front of a large window, staring at… at…
Buddy walked up next to her, his heart pounding in his chest.
Earth. He was staring down at Earth. From the moon—or right next to it, anyway. He could see a curve of the bright white surface in the left corner of the window.
I’m in outer space.
His planet was so much more beautiful than he expected. The blue of the oceans practically glowed against the dark backdrop of space, white clouds swirling over water and land in amazing patterns.
“Whoa, that’s really something,” he said.
Nika turned toward him. She stared for a moment, then her eyes widened, her mouth dropping open.
“Buddy?” she gasped.
He nodded, eyes stuck on the window.
“So, um…” He swallowed hard. “I’m guessing you don’t actually work on cars.”
She grabbed his elbow and pulled him over to the truck and out of sight of the main area.
“What are you doing here?” she said.
“I wanted to surprise you. I brought dinner.” He held up the basket and opened the top flap.
Instead of seeing the dishes he’d hastily put in the basket, all he saw was orange fluff.
Orange fluff that stretched and turned his head toward them, blinking sleepily.
“You brought your dog?” Nika paused after each word, incredulous.
“Not on purpose,” Buddy said. “He must have climbed in there when he smelled the food.”
“Buddy,” Nika said, her grip on his elbow tightening. “You can’t be here.”
He nodded, looking around again. “Yeah. Yeah, I get that.”
“Buddy…” She pinched her eyes shut and lowered her head.
“Hey, you don’t have to worry about me telling anybody that…”
His brain seemed to stop, not wanting to see what was right in front of him. What had been right in front of him the whole time.
Who didn’t know about Santa? And sandwiches and seashells and…bread?
There were any number of things Nika had been completely clueless about, and Buddy had just thought it was because she’d been sheltered in her childhood. But nobody could not-know that much stuff.
Nobody from Earth.
“I won’t tell anyone that you’re…” He shook his head. “You know. An alien. Cause I’m guessing that’s what you are.”
She didn’t say anything.
Damn, that cinched it.
An alien. He was in love with an alien.
He ran his palm over his face, then realized his hand was shaking. He had to keep it together. But he was stuck on a spaceship. With his dog, of all things.
“We can hide out till you can take us back,” he said. “I don’t want you to get in trouble.”
“I’m not worried about me.” She stepped closer, staring up at him with those gorgeous dark eyes. “If they find you here, they’ll erase your memory.”
He shrugged, trying to keep his growing panic at bay. “That’s not so bad. I can make dinner for you all over again. Maybe not get interrupted this time.”
“If they find you on board, they’ll erase all your memories of me. All of them.”
“What? No. No, that’s not right.” He took a step back, but the truck blocked him. The truck that was actually a spaceship.
He shook his head. “You guys are the good guys, right? I mean, you’re one of them.”
“It’s our law,” she said.
“Nika…” He let out a breath that felt like it emptied him. “I don’t want to forget you.”
Her lips tightened. She turned back to the window.
“We’re going to figure this out,” she said. “I can set the autopilot on my truck to take you home.”
The blue sphere started to shrink. It took Buddy a minute to realize they had started moving away from it. More and more of the window became filled with blackness and stars.
His heart was pounding and his mouth went dry. Where were they going?
“That doesn’t seem good,” he said.
“No, no, no.” She ran up to the window. Earth was just a tiny speck, and then Buddy lost it among all the other points of light.
“We’re still close enough to the Sol system,” she said. “I can—”
She sucked in a breath as the stars outside were replaced with a milky blue…something.
The colors swirled and eddied, then started to float past the ship faster and faster.
“Blue space,” she whispered. “We just dropped into blue space.”
“I’m guessing that’s bad.”
Nika didn’t answer. She just kept staring out the window.
“Nika.” He gently gripped her elbow. “What does that mean?”
She turned back to him, her eyes wide and…scared.
“It means we’ve left Earth’s solar system,” she said. “And I don’t know where we’re going or why.”