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Obsidian Lies



BOOK TRIGGERS

  • Extreme violence and gore.

  • Assault (not by H with h).

  • Non-consensual.

  • Mind games and manipulation.

  • Captor - Captive power exchange.

  • h with multiple H

  • h is twenty-five.

  • h witnesses H with other women in multiple scenes.

  • Somno (sleeping princess)


Chapter 1

Isla

We all come with baggage. The older we get, the more baggage we accumulate.

When you first start a relationship, it’s new and exciting, and you want to learn everything about them. Then you realize you’re not the first, and others came before you who left an impact that might be big or small.

The younger you are, the less impact they have because there’s not as much time.

At twenty-five, I’ve had a few relationships that lasted a year or close to it. A few relationships that have lasted no more than a few weeks and plenty that didn’t make it past the first date.

Then I met Derek, who was ten years older, and he was going through a divorce, and my baggage felt small and insignificant compared to the baggage that his ex-wife brought. They didn’t have children together, and that made things less complicated, I suppose.

Yet I still hated all those times during conversations when he would just go quiet, kind of cut off the sentence halfway through, and there’d be this awkward silence between us. I knew whatever we’d been talking about triggered a memory of something he’d done with her.

I told myself that I could be mature about this. I’d done things with my partners in the past. Lots of things: holidays, weekends away, the simple stuff like going out for a walk or a meal. I’d even been talking about marriage with one of my exes—we did a lot of stuff together, and when you lived in the same city, you crossed paths with old memories.

But that baggage is about more than the shared experiences. There is also a tendency to compare. To focus on what one partner did terribly, and then meet someone who does that well, and be enamored to the exclusion of everything else.

It’s a bit like the house we used to have when I was a kid, which I loved—a leafy street with a park right out the back. I spent hours there. Then we moved, and there wasn’t a park anywhere near, and even though I had a bigger bedroom in the second house, I kept thinking about that park.

My ex, Levi, couldn’t make a phone call ever. If we were having takeout, it was me doing it. Something went wrong with the hot water, it was me calling around for repairs. But damn, that man knew how to eat me out. Really, he had skills. And I forgave him for the fact that he couldn’t pick up the damn cell and make a call.

And then I met Derek—Derek was the exact opposite. There wasn’t even a discussion. He just got on with it if something needed sorting and did it straight away. I hate to use the swoon word, yet that confident facade hit the spot. And I’d think to myself, Levi never did that, and look how much better life is now.

The thing about relationships is it’s not one or the other, is it? You don’t always get the best of both worlds. And Derek, well, he doesn’t exactly light the same sparks in the bedroom. He’s not terrible, you know, but he doesn’t do that.

Does it make me shallow to even care about this? I’ve asked myself that a lot. Why do I miss one tiny thing and want both? Don’t get me wrong, my break up with Levi wasn’t only about him shirking household chores. Derek has many qualities that were missing in Levi.

Levi couldn’t keep a job for more than five minutes.

Levi had some kind of weird aversion to putting trash in the can. He put empty milk cartons back in the fridge... packets of all kinds that were empty.

And Levi, who I caught going down on another girl… In our bed.

Yeah, Levi was an asshole... with skills I still find myself missing at weak moments.

Baggage.

I’m only twenty-five, but I realize I’ve got quite a bit of baggage.

But now we’re moving to the other side of the world together for Derek’s job. I’m excited and a little nervous. The day he told me he needed to move for business was the day that he proposed. His divorce was messy as they wrangled over assets, so I was surprised, you know, that he wanted to jump back in again with somebody else.

Derek isn’t perfect, but he ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got a steady job, and I’ve never once found him in bed with anybody else, so that’s a definite bonus. But as that guy in the media is always saying, perfect doesn’t exist. What we do is find someone we believe we can work with and grow together.

Accepting felt right. And I’m glad for this change, to put his crazy ex behind us, to start again somewhere else where we won’t be constantly bumping into old memories. Over time, those stilted conversations where he thinks about her will grow less and less as we create new memories together.

And I’m okay with that—more than okay.

The start of a new adventure. That’s what life’s about, isn’t it? Experiences—stepping outside your comfort zone, moving somewhere else.

I’m so ready to do that. My parents were a little nomadic; we moved into six different houses during my childhood, and I found something that I loved about each and every one. So I’m not afraid of moving.

I’m looking forward to exploring our new city and building a new future with Derek, maybe even starting a family when the time is right.

There’s just one tiny problem with all of this.

How we get there.

Specifically, the journey through Andromeda.


Chapter 2

Isla

“It’ll be fine,” Derek says. “It’s just a short trip. People do it all the time.”

I realized that to get there we needed to go through the middle of another country. I even searched the web for info a few days ago.

But now I’m here about to embark, I feel weirdly nervous about this, more than going to live somewhere new.

In a few hours, we will be in our new home in a new city, and my nervousness will be no more than a fleeting memory soon forgotten.

Maybe I’m more nervous about the move than I realized, and it’s manifesting in this reluctance to get on a high-speed land shuttle that ferries people from Sarendon to the supercity of Chancely every day.

We are standing on the platform, our luggage has already been taken—I’ve packed all my worldly possessions into a container and watched it leave this morning at the ass end of dawn.

Derek sighs and rubs his hands up and down my arms.

“Do you want this, Isla?”

Tears prick the back of my eyes. Do I? “I’m just nervous.”

“How did you think we were going to get there?”

Those simple words are delivered with a hint of exasperation and like a laser-focused pinball light up my ‘am I stupid’ house. I don’t think I’m stupid, but I feel it today.

As I accept the consequence of letting Derek handle everything, I must also face how I didn’t think about getting from A to B at all. “I’ll be fine,” I say.

His smile is encouraging. He’s good to me, patient. He also unwittingly makes me feel young and naive when I really don’t think I am.

“Good,” he says. “I want to do this with you, Isla, to start again. Chancely is amazing. An apartment overlooking the river, right in the heart of it all. I’m excited about my new placement. And I know once you settle in, you’ll find work that suits you and meet new friends.”

I nod. At this point, I have burned all my bridges. Our apartment has been handed back to the rental agency. New tenants are moving in next week. I can turn around, go back, and beg to sleep over on a friend’s couch until I sort myself out. Wait for all my luggage and stuff to return—mope about thinking about Derek starting his bright future without me, while I’m alone and wishing.

Or I can just get on the high-speed shuttle with the hundreds of other people who make this trip every single day.

His smile tells me my nod is a relief, and he leans down to kiss me. Brief, but full of promise.

“You’ve got a ton of books on your app. Read one, the trip will be over before you know it, I promise.”


 

The seats are plush, and the carriage is spacious inside. We are facing each other, a table between us and a window to my left. I make myself comfortable, battling the butterflies in my stomach as the other passengers embark and find their seats.

And then we’re pulling out, and it’s too late to call an abort.

Derek gets a message from work and opens up his computer to deal with the matter, leaving me alone to my thoughts.

On the other side of the carriage, opposite us, are four young women. All have long, lustrous hair, perfect manicures, and makeup. They’re dressed like they are going to a party… maybe they are when they arrive. When the server comes around to take food and drink orders, they request champagne.

I order a soda, and Derek orders a coffee.

I should read as he suggested, but I find myself staring out the window again, watching the familiar city landmarks pass by as we approach the bridge that takes us across the glistening waters of the Lumen Sea. The shuttle sweeps northward, offering me a final view of the back carriages snaking behind, along with Sarendon.

The dome. Wow. I’ve never seen the dome before other than on the viewer. I feel strangely vulnerable to be outside it. The shuttle has a protective force field that keeps it safe from the meteors that rain down on our planet every day.

The reason we never take to the skies outside of domes.

The reason I’m taking a shuttle across the sea and through a foreign continent before we reconnect with our lands again on the other side of the world.

The geography of our planet is as strange as the delineations between them and us. Something you are aware of and yet don’t understand until you see it from the other side.

So lonely. A glistening dome around which is nothing but scorched earth from the endless meteor strikes.

That final image of the city is snatched away as the shuttle bears east, and my vision is filled with a vast, endless sea.

We’re over deep water.

The four girls sitting opposite raise their glasses and cheer.

I turn back to Derek, taking comfort from how relaxed he appears as he focuses on his work, from the girls laughing and chatting without a seeming care in the world. Our carriage probably holds another thirty people, and not one of them is freaking out. I didn’t count the full number of carriages, but I read it typically ferries several hundred people, and I don’t see any signs of panic setting in.

The shuttle curves again, and another land mass and a forest swallow the shuttle up.

Andromeda.

Not a star system, although there is also one of those, but a county, a people, an unknown.

Barbaric people who are nothing like us.

Those rumors, though.

Speculation is more likely. You know, like when people claim to have seen the Yeti. They even have compelling images and eyewitness accounts, and while a few crazies lap it up, most people don’t.

Andromeda is a bit like that. We share the same planet, and we’re told that Andromedans are vastly different from us, and yet none have ever been seen.

Maybe this is all some government conspiracy, maybe the forested landmass is a secret military base. I mean, there’s got to be a reason why they don’t suffer from the constant and unpredictable meteor showers that force our people to hide inside a dome.

Maybe it’s full of yetis.

I snort a laugh.

Derek lifts his head and raises a brow. “Someone’s feeling better.”

“Yeah.” I smile back and rummage in my backpack for my reader so I can do what I should have done from the start: lose myself in a book. A server arrives with a fresh bottle of bubbles for the girls—I envy their abandon.

“Good,” he replies, going back to his work.

As I sit on the shuttle, watching trees zip past the window so fast, it’s nothing but a blur, listening to the girls laughing and talking in low whispers before they fall into laughter again, I realize this is all a bit of a non-event.

There is no angry horde waiting to attack us. I mean, how are they even going to go about it? This is a fast shuttle. If they really are barbaric people, a few rocks and wooden arrows are unlikely to trouble us.

I skim through book options on my pad. At least it’s working, I’ve gone through three of them in as many years—me and electronics don’t get along so well. Finding it hard to decide what I’m in the mood for, my mind circles back to those rumors and the article I read, not even an official news article, but some shady site I’d stumbled over when I looked up Andromeda a few days ago.

Rumors of them taking people.

It’s a bit like the people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. I mean, they make it sound so convincing, but also, it’s really not.

“Nothing grabbing your attention?” Derek asks. The drinks service comes around, takes our empties away, and brings me a fresh glass of water.

I smile. “I’ll probably never come through here again.”

He glances out the window. “There’s nothing to see but trees, passing too fast for the eyes to focus.” Then he smiles and snaps his computer shut.

Did I mention that Derek is handsome? He really is the full package, well, other than his aversion to going down on me, but the rest of his D game is on point, so I can’t really complain.

“It’s been a few years since they stopped a shuttle. I think you’re fairly safe, and even so, there are rules.”

I frown. My stomach takes a slow, unpleasant tumble even as I tell myself he’s going to laugh and make some crack about my face being a picture.

He doesn’t.

Now that I think about it, Derek isn’t really one for jokes or playfulness in general.

Derek is a pretty serious guy for the most part.

Why do I only now think about this?

“Rules?” My laugh is nervous. “What are you talking about? It’s just…” He’s messing with me, I know he is. This is the moment where I uncover his deviant sense of humor. “Do they stop shuttles?”

He shrugs. “Sure, but you’re with me.” His eyes lower to the engagement ring on my finger. “You’re wearing my ring. Even if they did stop us, they wouldn’t bother you.”

I really don’t think he’s joking. Not even Levi could hold a poker face this long. I stare down at my ring. “I don’t understand.”

“They’re not allowed to take married women, nor those committed and engaged. It’s one of the reasons I asked you before we left.”

I remember to shut my mouth. That takes the luster out of the moment, doesn’t it?

“Single women? Well, they’re fair game.” He makes a scoffing sound and glances toward the opposite side of the carriage, where the four girls are making good headway into the second bottle of bubbles. “I’m amazed at how many women come on these trips hoping the shuttle gets stopped.”

My laugh is nervous. “How would they even stop the shuttle?”

“Oh, they have ways. It’s electric. Just need to apply a suppressor to the track. They raid the shuttle, take any unallocated women, and then the shuttle moves on.”

“That’s ludicrous,” I say. I’m having an out-of-body experience. My ears start to ring.

“Why didn’t you mention this before?”

“What have you got to be nervous about?” Derek says. “They’re looking for single women.” His laugh is dark. “More than a few women in this carriage are definitely looking to be part of their next little batch of sluts or breeders or whatever the hell they do with them.”

Derek always did have a thing about how I dressed. Modesty. He never liked me showing too much skin. It was our first and only real argument the last time I went out with my friends and came home drunk. I wasn’t particularly with it at the time, so I told myself I’d imagined him calling me that name. The skirt and top had disappeared the next day when I got up, and he said they had been ruined and he’d put them in the trash.

I think I might be sick.

I don’t want to be here, don’t want to be with Derek, who thinks I’m a slut when I go out with my friends, who only asks me to marry him so I don’t get abducted by barbarians in the unlikely, yet possible, scenario of this shuttle being raided.

Maybe I should applaud his noble sacrifice to protect my virtue when the hordes attack.

I’ve just sold everything and left everyone I ever know to move to the other side of the planet with this man.

As I glance around the carriage with newly opened eyes, I take in another group of women who are dressed like they’re ready to go out to a nightclub. “How did I not know about this?”

“That’s a good question,” he says. “How did you not know about this? I thought everybody knew.”

“I thought it was a conspiracy theory.” I’m still convinced it’s a conspiracy theory. I’m still waiting for him to laugh—desperately.

“You really have lived a sheltered life,” he muses.

And now I feel naive and stupid. A glance at my watch tells me we’re at the halfway point. I can get through this. I don’t need to experience it being raided, which I really can’t believe will be pleasant no matter how some of my carriage members are partying like this is the trip of a lifetime.

This was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime for me, too. Now I’m scrambling over contingency plans, working out what I’m going to do next because Chancely and Derek are no longer feeling like somewhere I want to be.

“We didn’t need to get engaged,” I say quietly, wishing he hadn’t. I wish he’d just told me he was making a clean break and I wasn’t part of it. I’d have moped for a bit, then I’d have done what I always do and picked myself up. “You didn’t need to give me a ring.”

“I wanted to,” he says. “Hey.” He reaches across and takes my hand, squeezing it lightly. “It’s been months since the last raid. You’d be amazed how many whores do this trip every week just hoping to be snagged from their insipid little lives.” His snort is derisive. His words are a little ugly.

Months?

I don’t know him.

I don’t want his hand, but I don’t push it away because I’m feeling scared and lost. I burned the last of my savings on a new wardrobe for this trip, and pushing him away would make me stupider than I already feel.

“Why would anybody want to be snagged?” It’s not really a question, just my mouth opening and spewing to take my mind off this looming relationship disaster as I scramble over my options.

His smile is indulgent. “You’re different. I’ve always known you were different. You don’t have the harshness that some women do.” His eyes turn a little flinty, and I know that he’s thinking about his ex-wife. There was a time when I hated that she had a hold on him. Now, I’m thinking she can have him. “They delude themselves into thinking it’s some kind of fantasy where a rough man swoops in and saves them from their troubles. This isn’t a civilized place. To call it barbaric is kind. But it’s not primitive people living in sweet rustic villages. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

How does he even know this? My hand slips from him. His job? The one he has with the government that tells me nothing about?

It must be.

“They possess the larger part of the world, but the population is smaller and scattered. Sometimes I think they just like fucking with us. You know, taking people because they can. Nobody likes to admit it. But a black market has been thriving for a very long time.”

I feel cold. I’m a little clammy. I wish I could open the window, but the windows are all hermetically sealed.

He hooks his finger in his collar and adjusts it roughly. “They’re better than us.” He lowers his hand to the table and stares out the window at the rushing trees. “More advanced in ways we don’t like to admit. They’re still animals. Or maybe in tune with their animal side. I don’t know. I’ve met a few of them. They’re arrogant.” He shrugs. “We’re arrogant too, I suppose.” His lips tug up on one side. “They don’t have the same guiding principles and certainly don’t treat women with the same respect we do.”

I don’t know how to process all of this. I feel like I’m being buried, and I can’t manage to claw myself out.

I still want to believe he’s joking, but he’s really not.

I wish I’d stayed on the platform and let him go on alone, which feels overly dramatic in the face of the relaxed carriage atmosphere, but I still ask.

He takes my hand again and pulls it to his lips. I feel strangely detached.

“You’re worrying about nothing, Isla. One, the chances of them stopping this shuttle is actually minuscule. Two, you’re with me. Three, you are wearing my ring.” He glances down at the ring in question and fiddles with it on my finger before putting my hand back on the table. “And they have plenty of willing options to choose from. Finally, they really don’t want to piss our government off. While they have certain advantages, we’ve got agreements in place. Every single woman on the shuttle needs to sign a disclaimer.” His eyes slide to the side. “Whether they’re married or not. You can’t board without rescinding full responsibility and stating that you won’t hold the government accountable.”

“I didn’t have to.” I frown. That’s not something I would forget.

“I passed you the tablet and told you to sign. You were on that chat app with your friend and barely looked up.” His smile is indulgent like my lack of interest in what was happening only amuses him. He likes taking care of me, and I always thought I liked it too.

“You did?” I let him handle all the moving activity and didn’t even think to question. “Are you nuts? Why didn’t you explain to me what I was signing?”

“You like me taking care of things,” he says, like this is all the reason he needs.

Why is it suddenly so hot here? Why do I feel like I can’t breathe?

He pushes my water toward me. I take a drink. God, I can’t look at the forest anymore.

“It’ll be fine,” he says. “Your ex was an asshole who never did a damn thing for you. You like me taking care of you, and so I do because it makes you fucking happy.”

Does he really believe those words, or is he too arrogant to care?

The sudden silence as the air conditioning cuts out is accompanied by a sharp deceleration.

The girls on the next table squeal and give each other high-fives.

Derek curses.

The blur of green flashing by the window solidifies into trees and forest as we come to a juddering stop.

I guess this means the not-so-primitive primitives who like to fuck with the government are about to commence a raid.




Excerpt Obsidian Lies, copyright © L.V. Lane 2023


What do you think? Curious?

Probably my darkest book to date coming up in the new year.

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