Take You Away, by Kira Hillins
Online gaming brought them together.
Small town Kansas girl Zoe Kearny never meant to befriend anyone in an online video game. But after a year of talking to Ben over the headset, he’s traveled five hundred miles to meet her. Now she needs to prove to herself, and her two cynical friends, that a long distance relationship could work out, even if her violent ex-boyfriend works to ruin everything she’s worked for.
Time can change a person, for better or worse.
He was proof of that. Guilt-laden Benjamin Solmer hit the bottle hard after his brother died in a motorcycle accident two years ago. If he hadn’t met Zoe online when he did, alcohol would’ve driven him to the grave. Now he knows there’s more to life than video games and playing guitar in a rock band. He’s ready to pursue love. But with Zoe’s fear that long distance relationships don’t work, and deeply guarded secrets she won’t reveal, he worries maybe Zoe’s not the one.
Excerpt from Chapter One:
Of all days to invade this sector of the world, they chose her birthday.
Darned aliens messed up Sonya’s plans to sit atop her brand-new lighthouse and flirt with Soljer. It took weeks to work up the courage to ask him to couple. Now with them descending from the sky, she wouldn’t get the chance.
Zoe Kearny tightened her grip on the Xbox controller. She breathed in deep through her nose, puckered her lips, and then exhaled slowly. No need to get angry. Couldn’t stop an inevitable war to celebrate a day they had no use for. Preventing aliens from taking over the world was, after all, part of the video game.
“Why now?” she whispered into her headset.
Ben chuckled. “Of all days to attack, huh?”
No doubt about it, great minds think alike. Or at least, similar minds wishing they weren’t spending their days five hundred miles apart.
Zoe glanced at the blurry picture on the bottom right corner of her TV screen. Yummy Benjamin Solmer. Soljer in games and the band he played guitar in on weekends. She liked to call him Ben.
Ben was her rock—a cool rock with deep green eyes and bangs sticking up in tufts. Enviable lashes matched short midnight hair perfectly groomed around the sexiest ears she’d ever seen.
The man was hot—melt-to-the-floor kind of hot. So hot she often wondered why he spent his spare time playing video games with her, a woman he’d never met before, when he could be with anyone he wanted.
“Want me to make quick work of this?” he asked.
“No, I got it.”
As tempting as it was to let him take over the fight, this was her moment to show off. She was so much better at this game than when they’d met outside the training grounds.
He’d invited her to his chat session two Christmases ago to scold her for carelessly, albeit accidentally, setting his virtual house on fire. She’d cried. He apologized for being a jerk and then invited her to be his acolyte.
“Just don’t burn down your lighthouse with a rogue fireball.”
She laughed. “You’ll never let me forget. Will you?”
“Never,” he said. “Wasn’t just my house you burned down. It was the entire village. I had to deal with a lot of pissed-off gamers that day.”
“Ah. Poor homeless gamers. You really are a hero, Ben.”
“Was that sarcasm?” He chortled. “Took two days to reconstruct twenty-five houses and move them to another town. Including my own house.”
She huffed. “Five more levels, then I can move there too. I think I’ll buy the house next door to you.”
He cleared his throat. “The town’s already banned you.”
“Are you serious?” she cried. “I have more chances of dying than setting anything on fire. Pfff…I’m going to die here anyway.”
Fireballs she could handle. Her problem was taking on too many aliens at a time. Too often she found herself staring up into a pixilated blue sky that turned gray as she died.
“I won’t let you die,” he said. “But it should be easy for you to take them out wearing the new robe I gave you.”
With +50 willpower, +35 endurance, and +15 fire magic, it was the best robe in the game at this level. The dark green garment went well with Sonya’s long blonde hair and huge green eyes. Golden streaks woven into the skirt and along the low-cut neckline sparkled in the sun.
If Sonya wore a tiara, she’d look like a princess instead of a fire sorceress. If the dress were pink and this were a fantasy game with dragons and castles and a handsome prince to kiss, then maybe. Defeating aliens, battling to save the world with a big-boobed cartoony character—this was sci-fi at its best.
“I hope you’re right,” she muttered.
“You’ll be fine. I’m right here if you need me.”
Zoe screamed inside. Darned aliens! Birthday confessions ruined, Soljer’s creator would remain oblivious to how she really felt. Today anyway. No cuddling or coupling. Only stopping the bad guys from taking over the world.
Clear bubble-shaped spaceships landed on white sands along the endless coastline. Some hovered over the azure sea. Others slowly descended to the car-lined parking lots. Fifteen ships and counting. Twenty by the time they stopped appearing in the blue sky. Red skulls with blinking eyes rotated around each ship, adding a nice touch to the battle theme.
Purple blobs with long, gangling limbs and sharp, pointy teeth emerged from the crafts. Zoe puckered her nose. Disgusting creatures. Oddly cute. She’d keep one as a virtual pet if they were nice, but they were evil, destructive monsters that left trails of purple goo in their wake.
The aliens demolished the lifeguard station on the beach, the kiddie pool near the bathrooms, and the bathrooms too. They’d leveled the ice-cream stand to the ground, which meant no more cotton-candy cones. When the little monsters headed for the lighthouse, the beloved place she’d bought last week with all her in-game money, Zoe moved Sonya in position.
“Here they come,” she sang.
She held down the B button. A giant orange fireball appeared between Sonya’s palms. Zoe released the button, sending the ball hurling across the sand. The first wave of aliens charred like purple marshmallows over a bonfire.
“Burn, baby, burn!” She released smaller but faster balls. Wicked laughter spilled from Zoe’s open mouth as the plum bodies blazed.
They were no match for her kick-ass sorceress. Two more big attacks and she’d rule the beach. Birthday saved! Maybe there was time for coupling after all. Read more at http://www.loose-id.com/take-you-away.html.
Kira Hillins writes to create a fantasy world in which to exist until she’s beamed back to her home world of Oregon. Or until Superman rings her doorbell and asks her to fly away with him on an adventure that may, or may not, include the Tardis. Whichever comes first. Wherever she lands, writing will always be her passion.