Sneak Peek!

Chapter 1


“Just a little more…” I coax. 

The late morning breeze cooling my flushed cheeks reminds me to be grateful as I liberate another handful of wizened grapes from their vine. Not much, but more than either me or my sisters have had since yesterday. The fruit going in our pockets won’t get us killed by the Grengorians if caught. But I’m still ashamed to be starting our time in their care stealing.

 I look back at the Alabama farmhouse in the distance, seeing the exact same image I did thirty seconds ago: an empty porch with no extraterrestrial, off-duty officers in sight.

If the right Grengorians are even inside…

There’s a chance my intel is wrong and I’ve led my sisters to their deaths. Mine too. Traveling on an empty stomach is hard, but traveling without a pulse is impossible. Thankfully, I see nothing but a chipped deck and empty rockers. I release the breath I’m holding, grateful for the little things in life.    

         “Has anyone else noticed the bees aren’t scaring me?” I hear my youngest sister Maddie ask through a mouthful of grapes. I want to chastise her for being so impulsive. These were supposed to last us till the compound. But the thunderous sound of my own belly reminds me to be kind.

         “Shh!” my other sister Shaina hisses, louder than Maddie’s words by a lot. I look at the farmhouse. Were things about to get worse?

         I hold my breath because there’s nothing else to do, nowhere to duck or hide if heard. It was this or staying on the run in Florida. I’d rather be treated like a servant than slaughtered and eaten. And my sisters feel the same.

The lush copse of trees off in this distance are just that, off in the distance. I can’t risk my or my sisters’ chances at making it to the next settlement on such a bold move.

         “You shush,” I whisper, swatting a bee away from her. Whether she’d admit it or not, I know Shaina still winces when she hears the familiar buzzing of a bee near her face.

         “I don’t have to,” she snaps, not looking at me. But her voice is low, so I take her retort as the apology it is.

         “You think they’ll let us shower when we get there?” Maddie asks in a hushed tone after a few silent minutes. She always did this when she was nervous about a new place with new Grengorians to survive.

         “Let’s hope for the best,” I whisper, praying Shaina would keep her mouth shut for once. I hadn’t seen her pocketing anything either. Was she eating her share just like Maddie?

         The sound of a door swinging open breaks my concentration. I drop nearly half my meager haul as I crouch down, and my sisters do the same.

         I give them each a quick grin, hoping my silence will remind them to stay calm. Gren footsteps on the porch tell me the alien hadn’t heard us, wasn’t looking to the enclosed garden nearby. But that could change at any time.

         The ear-shattering sound of an engine revving up throws me off balance, and I fall a few inches to the ground, smushing my haul beneath me.

         “It’s coming for us!” Shaina hisses through gritted teeth. I shake my head, knowing no Gren would ruin a running vehicle over a few sallow, stringy humans.

         I watch the pickup roll down the dirt driveway, taking a right turn toward the main compound. Our destination. If the rumors were true, which I know they are.

         “We should have hopped in the back instead of wasting our time on this!”

         “I’m sorry,” Maddie says, and I flinch. It wasn’t her fault we were still hungry and homeless. It was mine.

         I think about this the remaining quarter mile to our destination. Soon, the three of us would have food and shelter in exchange for work. I can’t think of anything since the invasion that would make our parents more proud.

         “Look! I see it!” Maddie exclaims, pointing ahead to a sprawling community of buildings and farmland.

         I smile, unconcerned by the tall, green creatures manning the gates or the waifish, destitute humans seeking asylum. It was still a sanctuary compared to the harsh realities of the outskirts and occupied cities. And one I didn’t think we’d get to till nightfall, the product of second-hand information.

         “Let’s get your age.” A female Gren with short hair and a pinched face looks down at us from her booth. I tremble under the weight of her glare.

         “Twenty eight, twenty five, and twenty three,” I reply, pointing at myself, then Shaina and Maddie.       

         “There’s your pod.” The Gren points to a gaggle of entering humans. Nearby, I spot a few male Grens, leaders by the look of their uniforms, talking to the pod. 

I feel Maddie’s hand clutching my own. I grab Shaina’s. We need to stay together here. Just like we always do.