Excerpt: Ann Aguirre's Wanderlust

So yeah, I tell you above how much I loved the book – here’s an excerpt to give you a fabulous taste…

For a moment, I try to imagine Dina and me coordinating anything as a team, let alone an outing that involves out of body experiences and mild hallucinogens. Thankfully that’s years away yet. I sprawl back in the nav chair and turn my face upward, appealing to a grungy gunmetal ceiling. “Why me?”

“Because you fight so hard against attachments?” Though delivered casually, I register the intent quality of the question.

I force myself to answer lightly. “Yeah, that must be it. What’s the plan?”

March raises a brow. “When do we ever have a plan?”

“We always have a plan. We just don’t stick to it.”

“So what’s the point of making it? Why not just wing it?”

I glare. “Are you in the mood to argue with me?”

“Actually I’m in the mood to fuck, but our timing’s off.”

“Isn’t it always? Dance lessons might help.”

The smile kindles in his dark eyes before it reaches his mouth. With a wonder that actually steals my breath, I watch its genesis like a mini-sunrise lighting his whole face. I don’t know how I got by without him, or why I fought so hard against this. The first impression scares the shit out of me, but it’s breathtaking too, like when you push off a cliff and feel the wind against your face. At that point, you’re not thinking of anything but freefall.

Landing comes later. That’s what hurts. Then again, what doesn’t?

I can close my eyes and construct this man’s face, feature by feature. Could I ever do that with Kai? I can’t remember anymore. I know he had blonde hair and green eyes, but he’s faded, like someone I knew a long time ago. And I’m not sure if that’s okay, or if it just makes me fickle.

He answers my thought without looking at me. “It makes you human.”

That sounds like an equivocation to me, but then, I know he doesn’t like finding me thinking about the love I lost. That’s tough shit, I’m afraid. I can’t forget about Kai. I never will. He was different than March in every conceivable way, so it puzzles me how I could love two such dissimilar men.

I have this dream sometimes where I’m in a white room, no furniture, but there’s two exits. Kai stands before one door and March stands before the other. I’m caught in the middle, and I have to choose. I know this is a bullshit crazy-ass thing because I’ll never have to pick.

Kai is gone. I’ll never see him or touch him. I’m happy with March. I love him, I do. But the dream still wakes me up in a cold sweat.

How do you measure love? Quantify it? It’s not something you can put on a scale or pour into a beaker to examine its volume and viscosity.

Crazy Jax, worried about choosing between the living and the dead. Some days, though, I feel like I’m closer to the latter than the former, and it’s not improving. If anything, I’m getting worse. The bruise Kora inflicted on me two weeks ago should be healed. Instead it’s just starting to turn blue-green.

My hair should be growing back. I should have a short, nappy crop of curls on my head by now, but it still looks much as it did after we shaved it. When I look in the mirror, it’s like I can see ghosts swimming in the glass. They can’t touch me yet but my head echoes with their whispers.

“Please don’t think that way.” March finally cuts me a look, away from the instrument panels and readings he doesn’t need to monitor.

I remember that from the old days, before I knew how he felt about me. He used the controls as a way to distance himself from me. And the fact that he’s doing it now tells me he thinks we do, indeed, have something to fear.

“Have you ever heard of a jumper wasting away like this?” There, I finally said it out loud. Now it’s no longer the pink orangutan that everyone pretends not to see.

“No, but that doesn’t matter. After we wrap things up here on Emry, we’re heading straight for Lachion, so Doc can take a look at you. Don’t worry, Jax. We’ll fix it.”

I don’t argue with him, but I have a feeling it won’t be that simple. At this point we don’t even know what “it” is. There are any number of medical facilities we could jump to from here, no need to target Lachion, except I trust Doc, and I won’t have somebody I don’t know poking around in my head. Or my intestines for that matter. Those days are done.

Further complicating matters, we really shouldn’t jump to Ithiss-Tor until we’re certain I’m not infectious. Most likely any illness I’ve contracted wouldn’t translate to their systems, but I prefer to be sure. I’m not killing off a whole race as an unwitting plague carrier.

Unless that’s what someone intends. What if I’ve been infected on purpose? What if—

“Jax.” With a word, he reins in my paranoia.

One thing’s certain, though. I’ll choose a trip to a Psych and a Eutha-Booth over some long, lingering illness that has no cure. Either March is distracted or he prefers to ignore that. Just as well, I don’t want to fight. Too tired.

Still no answer from Emry. We’ve reached real visual range now, no more distant images picked up by the sensors. I lean in, studying the energy readings, though I don’t know enough about it to draw conclusions.

“How’s it look?”

“Like something’s wrong.”

“Wrong like they all caught some exotic disease and died, and the station is now infected with deadly parasites that kills you with bloody hemorrhaging out the eyeballs? Or wrong like they don’t want to encourage visitors?”

March regards me for a moment and then shakes his head. “Ever an optimist, aren’t you? Your imagination scares me sometimes, Jax.”

“You know, the Psychs always said that about me too.”

Truthfully, I’m getting a bad vibe from Emry Station. Not like what waited for us on DuPont, nothing as harmless as Hon and his raiders. It’s too quiet here, too still.

Something’s down there. And it’s not in the mood to talk.

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