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Since my story takes place over Thanksgiving weekend, Unlaced is for 50% off from now until November 30!
Here’s the blurb:
When Roxanna Chase finds herself alone in her tiny hometown of Haven, Indiana on Thanksgiving eve, she decides to do the one thing she always swore she’d never do: attend Chatterfest, an unofficial high school reunion held every year the night before Thanksgiving at Haven’s busiest bar, The Watering Hole. After a couple of cocktails and reminiscing with a classmate, Roxanna is overwhelmed, and a little turned on, when her old high school crush Nicholas Birch approaches her at the bar. He’s still as tall, broad-shouldered and sexy as he was thirty years ago. Since he’d dated her best friend in high school, Roxanna had always placed Nicholas in a box marked ‘hands off.’ When Nicholas admits he had feelings for Roxanna in high school, the two decide to leave the bar together and see what happens next. They quickly find that when old flames are rekindled, they can ignite into an inferno that refuses to burn out.
Here’s the set up for the excerpt, my character Roxanna owns her own lingerie manufacturing company which caters to the “well-endowed woman” called Unlaced. I thought this was the perfect career path for my character because, I mean, what’s sexier than designing frilly underthings?
Roxanna has a rather ample bust and much to her dismay, her bra size is the one thing her friends have always fixated on. In the following scene, Roxanna is in the busiest bar in her small hometown on Thanksgiving eve and as she’s embraced by an old high school friend, her “rockin’ rack” is once again the first thing her classmate comments on.
Here’s the excerpt:
“Roxanna,” came the chipper call from Caroline Murphy.
Holding her Manhattan in her left hand, Roxanna swiveled on her bar stool and greeted the bubbly blonde in front of her with a smile. She started to hop down from her perch, but Caroline waved her hands.
“Don’t get up. It’s too hard to get back on the damn things,” Caroline said of the tall bar stool.
Roxanna was enveloped in a big hug after which Caroline grabbed her shoulders, leaned back and peered into her face.
“My God, just look at you, still stunning. You always did have a figure that could give Dolly Parton a run for her money.”
Roxanna blushed at the compliment, even though she’d heard a variation of it since her teen years. She always hated that people made those types of comparisons.
Just once she’d like to be told she had beautiful eyes or nice hair.
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Here’s the blurb:
Justus Kendall is an interior designer from St. Louis who aspires to start her own design firm and when she lands her biggest job to date, remodeling a prestigious old hotel in downtown St. Louis, she is on top of the world. However, while touring the hotel, her happiness is cut short when she finds her fiancé Alex Williams tumbling out of one of the hotel suites, a naked blonde wrapped in a bed sheet tangled in his arms. Justus is stunned, furious and hurt when she finds Alex cheating on her a month before her wedding.
As a way to get over him, and as a chance to have fun and clear her head, Justus convinces her best friend Krystal to accompany her on her honeymoon cruise. While on the cruise Justus meets a handsome Latin dance instructor named Miguel Amores from Miami. The pair quickly find they have red hot chemistry on the dance floor and off of it.
Below is a scene where Justus and Miguel dance together for the first time.
Justus was about to gasp from the feel of his hard body aligned with hers, but then she remembered this was just a part of the lesson, essential to learning the dance correctly. She also reminded herself of the scene by the pool. It had really looked as though he had something going on with the blonde, so she knew she shouldn’t read too much into the dance lesson. Her head was telling her that’s all there was to it, but her hormones were scoffing at her simplistic nature. If she were being honest with herself, she’d admit that the air between her and Miguel was charged with the powerful current of sexual attraction.
“Music please,” he told his assistant. “And here we go, start by taking slow steps to the opposite side of the room, once there change arm positions and start back toward the direction you came from.” Miguel addressed the instructions to the class while he held his cheek mere inches from hers. Justus had been watching him from the corner of her eye and admired the sense of presence he commanded among his eager pupils. She inhaled deeply as a means of soothing her frayed nerves, but instead her nostrils were greeted with his clean scent and the smell of his woodsy cologne.
“Very good. I see I’ve got a group of fast learners here. We’re going to go over this a few more times, and then we’ll be moving on to the meringue.”
Again Justus’ stomach fluttered, because of the way he said the dance with proper Spanish pronunciation. In an attempt to steel her wavering tummy, Justus tried to make an objective assessment of Miguel. What was the big deal with him, anyway? So he was easy on the eyes. She almost scoffed out loud to herself. She knew that was an understatement. He was a feast for every pair of female eyes.
And why shouldn’t he be?, she asked herself. He was a perfect physical specimen and very sensual. He seemed to positively ooze sex and eroticism with his every move, look, and touch. Justus turned her head toward him to steal a glance at his profile, but he caught her looking at him.
When their gazes connected she almost gasped. His eyes were so arresting, they were a dark, fierce green, like beautiful shining emeralds. She also noticed flecks of gold laced through them, reminiscent of cat’s eyes. But not any ordinary house cat, these were the eyes of a wild predator.
Yes, she decided, with his sexy, sleek moves, black hair and green eyes he was more than a man. He was a panther.
She sighed to herself, so much for her objectivity.
Want to know what happens next?
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A contender for the world title, professional bull rider Judd Romeo defies death for a living. Now he must deal with the death of his mother by settling her estate. Returning home to Kentucky, he runs smack dab into the arms of his high school sweetheart, a woman he has never forgotten.
Veterinarian Mandy Sullivan learned early on that risk-takers are trouble. Having custody of her sister’s child, she is working hard to be both mother and father to the abandoned girl, and doesn’t count on trouble showing up next door.
Mandy discovers she can’t avoid the famous cowboy she’s never quite put out of her mind. When Mandy’s sister comes home threatening to take away the little girl Mandy loves as her own, will she realize Judd is not the same man he was back then?
“Short Go” at a PBR Event in Dallas, Texas
“That’s one rank sonofabitch. Good draw you got, Romeo.”
Judd Romeo nodded. “Yep, he’s a mean ’un.” Perched on top of a six-foot deep metal chute, a leather bull rope clutched in his right hand, he acknowledged the flank man.
“Ain’t named Bad to the Bone for nuthin’,” the other man said.
Judd turned his attention to the 1900-pound Charolais-cross bull beneath him in the chute. It was good luck to draw last year’s bucking bull of the year. All he had to do was stick on this sucker for eight seconds and he’d have a win. No doubt about it.
Judd expelled a deep breath and rubbed his wet palms across his Wranglers. Pre-ride jitters. Nothing unusual. He’d gotten them before. He’d have them again. If he didn’t get ’em, he didn’t get that edge he needed to stay on one of these big, bad bulls.
Still, Judd’s gut twisted as he eyed stock contractor Tim Wilson’s bull. Other riders said this bull lived up to his name, and they talked about how Bad to the Bone threw up his head and smashed a guy’s face once. Yet the bull was allowed back into the chutes, and cowboys kept trying to ride him.
Now it was Judd’s turn. Adrenaline pumped through his veins. A thin line of sweat peppered his lip. He backhanded it off. Winning was the reason he had busted his butt on the circuit. He was a professional bull rider and a damn good one. This year he had a legitimate shot at the world title and the million dollar bonus.
Too bad his father didn’t care.
Why think about Jared Romeo now? His dad had never approved of him, let alone his desire to ride bulls for a living.
He had proven his old man wrong, hadn’t he?
Judd drew a breath. Damn, why was he was chewing on the past when he needed to focus?
He slowly put on his leather riding glove, directing his gaze toward the packed arena. How he loved this life. The noisy crowd. The blaring rock music and high-tech pyrotechnics. The earthy smells of dirt, sweat and manure. The camaraderie and danger. Eight seconds of heart-stopping thrills. Stunned silence when a competitor didn’t get up. Applause and cheers when the cowboy stood and staggered like a drunk out of the arena.
His father had never understood this excitement. The beauty of man tackling beast.
Mandy didn’t get it either. He had loved that girl in high school, but she had just seen the danger and walked away from him.
Judd looked away from the crowd. Riding bulls was all he wanted to do. All he knew how to do. It was in his blood.
He tried to swallow over the lump in his throat. His mother had appreciated his passion. She had understood.
The chute boss turned to him. “You’re up, Romeo.”
Judd’s head snapped up. “Right.”
His pulse kicked up a notch. Time to ride. This one’s for you, Mom.
Judd rubbed more rosin on his gloved riding hand and tugged his black Resistol down over his eyes. He plucked a mouthpiece out of the pocket of his protective vest and popped it into his mouth. Ready, he slipped from the railing and eased down on the bull’s flat back.
Bad to the Bone snorted and shifted in the chute. Judd slid his gloved hand into the leather handle of the bull rope, and another cowboy leaned over the railing to cinch the rope around the animal’s girth. Judd’s lips tightened.
“He usually goes out three or four big jumps,” the flank man warned, “and then spins like a sonofabitch.”
Judd jerked a nod of thanks, his total concentration now on the rope in his right hand. He sucked a deep breath and glanced at the other cowboy beside him.
“You gonna suicide it, Romeo?”
Judd knew the risks of a suicide wrap. He also knew the rewards. Expertly he wrapped the rope around his gloved hand and the bull strap. Next he split the little finger from the others with a second wrap. For good measure, he pounded his curled, leather-covered fingers with his left fist.
Then with his grip secure, he scooted up over the right hand and tightened his legs against the bull. Blood rushed in his ears. He gulped another quick breath.
The gate flew open and the bull blew out of the chute jumping high into the air. The animal lunged thirty feet in two jumps and spun to the right, kicking high. Judd gripped the bull rope. Each jerk wrenched his riding arm and shoulder socket.
Riding directly in the center of the bull’s back, he dug the blunt rowels of his spurs into the animal’s hide. His free hand snapped at a ninety-degree angle over his head. His insides churned like a cement mixer.
Bad to the Bone changed tactics and spun faster to the left. Judd went with him. Forcing air through his lungs, he concentrated on staying in the center. He didn’t want to drop down into the middle of the spin. His inner clock ticked away six seconds.
Judd opened up and began spurring the bull. His timing was good. He was making points, but his calves no longer touched the animal’s sides. Any lurch or twist could dust his butt into the dirt.
Damn, this is good. No amount of money could buy this kind of high. He was winning. Riding the rankest damn bull on the circuit and beating the socks off the competition.
The eight-second buzzer signaled the end of the ride. He’d stuck it! The crowd roared its approval.
Like a fool, he kept riding. He loved it. The only thing better would be seeing his father’s face when he won the world title.
Preparing to dismount Judd yanked the tail of the rope to release his riding hand. The bull switched directions at that moment, bucking hard, and jerked him down and away from his grip. His hand caught up in the rope.
Judd fell, still attached to the powerful bull thrashing beneath him. Whipping from side to side like laundry in a stiff breeze, he tried to get his feet under him to lunge back on top of the creature so he could release the pressure on the rope. It was the only way to free his hand.
A bullfighter dashed to the opposite side of the bull, grabbing at the rope. “Judd, I’ll getcha!”
Gritting his teeth, Judd stretched his free hand toward his entangled fist. The bull was too fast, too erratic. Finally the spinning and bucking motion ripped his hand free.
Judd slammed face first into the dirt. The bull’s hoof skimmed over his head.
A second bullfighter intervened, shouting at the bull and tossing his hat in the opposite direction to provide a distraction. The bull swerved to charge the courageous bullfighter. Judd sucked in desperate gasps of breath and speed-crawled away from the flying hooves and sharp horns. When he scrambled to his feet, he lurched toward the rail.
The first bullfighter reached his side. “You okay?”
Searing pain shot down his right arm and up his neck. “My arm hurts like hell.”
Judd let his riding arm hang by his side. He raised his good, left hand and high-fived the bullfighter. “Thanks, Buzz. I owe you.”
“Just doing my job.” The bullfighter grinned. He reached down and snatched Judd’s hat out of the dirt.
Judd took it. An approving burst of applause and cheers shook the arena. He battled a surge of nausea, but still managed to acknowledge the fans with a wave of his hat. Then a doctor from the sports medicine team reached him.
“You got ninety,” the doc said, ushering him out of the arena. “Highest score of the night. Puts you in the lead.”
He had won. It had been the best ride of his life. Winning this event kept him in first place for the world championship title and the million dollar bonus.
Taking deep breaths, Judd reached the gate and turned back to the arena. The barrel man climbed into his padded barrel, his clown smile spreading wide across the white greasepaint that covered his face. The pickup man spurred his horse into position at the end of the arena.
“Let’s look at that shoulder, Judd.”
Judd winced. “Sure, doc.”
Sweat spiked his brow. Although it hurt like crazy, he knew he’d be okay. With a few weeks before the next set of competitions before the October finals in Las Vegas, he had time to heal.
Judd turned away from the noise and the lights. Hot pain throbbed in his shoulder, but it didn’t match the pain in his heart.
He would take care of his arm, and then he would go home to Kentucky. Back to say good-bye to his Mom and take care of her things. Mandy would be there. But his father wouldn’t be.
Maybe it was time to extinguish the torch he had carried for damn too long.
No one crosses Parker Stuart, caretaker to his family’s thoroughbred racing empire. Parker retaliates against anyone who dares slight him or his blue-blooded British family, especially Regina Ward and her poker-playing father. The previous spring, Reggie had had the nerve to walk out on him after a torrid, three-week affair. Now, when Parker arrives in Kentucky to collect his family’s winnings, he’s determined to settle the score with the lovely Ms. Ward.
Regina Ward doesn’t consider herself a damsel in distress. After all, this is America, and she’s accustomed to depending upon herself. However, when her father loses four of the yearlings from their central Kentucky horse farm in a poker game, Reggie knows it’s up to her to save what’s left of her family’s homestead and her proud Kentucky heritage. Can she do it when Parker Stuart, the most arrogant and infuriating Brit she’s ever met, shows up in the Bluegrass?
Okay – here’s my last post and my upcoming book. This is an unedited version of the book since I haven’t gotten my edits back from Phaze yet.
Hope you enjoy
Heather stood near the screen in their room on Bert’s command ship and glared at the injustice she saw happening to the Vespian people. They were being lied to. Those who realized it was all a lie and fought against Reasta’s guards were getting hurt in the process. “I hate this.”
“My heart, you say that every time you watch the feeds.”
“We should be out there leading these people, not hiding here on this ship.” She turned to face her mate, Storm. “They are dying for us.”
“I know, but you know the consequences of getting caught.”
“It still doesn’t stop me from wanting to be there on the front lines. That is what I was trained for, not sitting back while others died in my stead.”
Storm came up to her and wrapped his arms around her. “I feel the same way, but until we can find away to be undetected we can’t risk it.”
“I know.” She snuggled against him. “But it doesn’t make me feel any better.”
“I know how to make you feel better.”
“You do, don’t you?” She leaned back to look up at him.
He gave her that heart stopping smile that turned her insides to jelly. His hand went to the seals of her gown. “And I know how to make you melt.”
His lips massaged her mark as she eased his uniform off him. The fact he wore it showed he felt the same way she did. He despised this as much as she did. The heat of his skin against her palm made her smile.
Storm wrapped his arms around her and carried her to their bed. “I can do this all day long if it will make you feel better.”
Heather laughed at that. “You know as much as I would love that, there are too many people demanding our attention. Since this war has started we have been interrupted a lot and you growl every time.”
“Time with my mate is precious to me.” He nibbled on her throat. “Now, we have much better things to do than think about what is going on outside this room.”
She lay back on the bed as he joined her. “I agree.”
His tongue slid against her mark, filing her with need. Her hands caressed his chest, following the contours of his muscles. Thought of him filling her had her heart pounding in her chest.
“Your desire just spiked, my heart. I thought I was here to relax you.” He pressed a kiss against her color bone before he worked his way down to her breast.
“And you will, right after you make me so boneless I can’t speak.” She quieted when his lips closed on her right nipple. The man knew how to make her body sing. Heat pooled in her core. Want had her legs wrapping around his hips, sending the silent signal of what she really wanted.
His hands worked their way down to her legs, stroking several of her sensitive spots before they slipped around her thighs and eased them away from his body. “Not yet my heart. You have been edgy and very frustrated and I want to see that beautiful smile of yours. You need to relax completely and in order to do that I need to build you up to a white hot flame.”
“You always do that. All you have to do is give me that sexy smile of yours and I’m a puddle.”
He rested his chin on her stomach as he looked at her. “Yet when I use that same smile in the security center I strike fear in my soldiers. They don’t melt at my feet the way you do.”
“Ha. It’s not the same smile. I’ve seen that evil one you give my team when you want to push us a little harder than normal.”
“Evil?” He climbed back up her body. “You like it when I challenge the group. All of you do.”
“Of course.” She smiled up at his face only inches from hers. Her hands continued to caress him, touching places she knew ignited his need. He shuttered when she gripped his buttocks. “You do, too. The pride you feel when we master some complicated technique you dreamed up is hard to miss.”
His fingers brushed along her jaw line. Storm’s voice was soft as he spoke. “You have done a good job of distracting me from my mission. This time you win.”
Her smile widened when she felt him drive into her. Her legs wrapped around his hips once more. She felt the heat of his mouth on her mark as he set a slow but deep pace. Angling her body so he could get the best penetration she met him thrust for thrust.
“Don’t let this go to your head, my heart. There is always round two.” Storm shifted his hold on her which changed the pace.
That drew a moan out of her. Now he was hitting that sensitive spot he always aimed to stimulate. Soon she was shaking in his arms. Her voice was barely a whisper. “So close.”
Then she felt her release bubble up from inside her. It flowed through her, filling her with a beautiful euphoria that only Storm could get her to feel.
“That’s my girl.”
Kuarto called them to his lab. He had been cryptic but excited when he contacted them. They found him waiting by the door. “I want you to see this.”
He brought them to a monitor, grinning broadly. They looked at the screen, studying the information. Heather wasn’t quite sure what she was looking at. It looked like a finished formula to altering her looks, but as far as she knew her brother hadn’t been able to complete it yet.
“I know you two want to be out there with your soldiers and you know I have been doing some research.” He pulled up some more data. “The biggest problem we have is disguising Heather. Her DNA overrides some of the things we have tried in the past.”
“And you think you have something that can fix that?” asked Storm. He put an arm around Heather’s waist.
“I’ve tested it.” He pulled up a sample of her DNA and they watched as it altered on the screen. “It can be done.”
“You’re sure.” Heather wasn’t convinced this was the smartest thing to do. Nothing had worked before, why would it now.
“Oh, yes.” He looked at her, grinning. “I’ve been studying the data on the device you had in your back. It was designed to disguise your true heritage and have you read as human, but not your looks. It’s one of the reasons nothing worked before. The device didn’t allow anything to alter what it was hiding. Now that I know how it worked I can use some of the same technology with a few advancements to alter your identity.”
“And the first time I’m scanned everyone will know.” Heather shook her head, remembering how that device isolated her and had her tested time after time. “I can’t take that chance, Kuarto.”
“That last device was meant to be found. You told me that was what caught Anseri’s attention when she went through your files in the first place. The ones I will use will be much smaller and undetectable.”
“Ones?” Storm shifted so he stood behind Heather with his arms wrapped around her.
“For you, Storm, I’ll only need to use one to change your features to scans and the naked eye. Heather is a little more complicated than that. I believe three will do it, maybe four. One in the groin, one in the back of your hair line and one at the temple and if I need a forth one it will go in the second temple.”
“Altering my looks to the degree we need it done hasn’t worked in the past.” She knew he was trying to help, but even when they went to Micali’s planet he couldn’t disguise her completely.
“When you went to Aruka I was able to change your hair color and skin color and I didn’t have access to the technology I can now use. Heather you will look and read Vespian. No one will be able to tell who you are.”
“So we won’t tell anyone?”
She hated keeping her friends in the dark, but knew it had to be done. “Is it permanent?”
“As long as you have the chip in and it’s activated, yes, but I will be able to turn it off and on as needed.” Kuarto looked at his sister then her mate. “There are a few things we need to go over first.”
Heather knew there would be buts. “What is it?”
“The only thing I can’t hide is if your mind expands. I don’t know how it will affect the chips. It might do noting and let them continue to work or it could fry them. It could also leave them intact but not functional.”
“That is a big risk.”
“Which is why I want to put them in and wait for an expansion before I let you go out into the field. It shouldn’t take too long.” He waited for her agreement before he inserted one in her temple. “It has also been suggested you two shouldn’t know what the other’s new features are if this is successful.”
“What?” Storm growled.
“To protect you both you have to find each other again. I’m not going to mess with your mindmeld, but it will be hard to explain a mated couple just showing up. Two single Vespians wanting to help their world would make more sense. We’re doing the same thing with Skye and Sam.”
“So everyone is going along with us joining the military?” Heather was shocked. Kuarto was the loudest against the idea when they tried to suggest it. “I thought you were afraid we’d be killed.”
“In the beginning we were, but Bert ran the timeline several times and said if we didn’t let you do this we would lose this war. As much as I want to lock you two away to keep you safe I know better. You draw trouble to you.”
“Ready?” Kuarto patted a table.
“Yes.” Heather climbed up on it. “You sure this will work?”
“The last expansion didn’t do anything to the chip so I feel comfortable letting you do this.” He gestured for her to lie down. “The first chip will change your skin tone. He inserted the chip he spoke about. She held out her arms and watched as her fair skin darkened, but not enough to allow her to blend in with Vespian society.
Kuarto smiled. He must be happy with the slight change. “Storm, if you’ll go with Micali, she’ll insert your chip.” He worked on the first insert as Storm left the room.
“You’re serious about us not knowing what the other looks like.”
“One of Bert’s conditions. He felt the four of you needed to blend in and entering security on your own would do that. You and Storm have your mental connection so that will guide you to each other. I doubt you’ll be apart for long.”
“Has Bert asked me to block that link?” She watched as her fair skin darkened to the Vespian tone. “Wow.”
“He didn’t say anything about it.” He inserted the next chip, the one that would turn her hair black, to the back of her neck. That took a little fine tuning too. “I think he’s leaving that up to you.”
“Hmm.” Heather held up the tips of her hair. “It even has the blue shine Vespian hair has.”
“I know.” He inserted one at her right temple. “So what color do you want your ring to be? And don’t ask for purple. That is a dead giveaway.”
“I guess the most prevalent color out there.”
“Believe it or not that is green.” He worked the chip until she had the Vespian golden eyes with a green ring. The tone started to change, and turned violet. “Hmm. Let’s put in that fourth chip.” The color settled to the green he wanted. “Perfect. Now all I have to do is alter your features enough to hide your identity, alter your voice and we’re done.”
“And what if they fail?”
“You worry too much. About the only thing that would knock them out is a EM pulse and we don’t use equipment that would cause that, but I know you. Storm told me how you kept expecting the one I installed when you went to Akura to stop working even though I knew it wouldn’t. There is nothing to worry about.” He gestured for her to jump down from the table. “Would you like to see the new you?”
“Yeah. No one has ever been able to alter my looks before. Besides you.” She added. Her brother walked her to the large mirror he had brought in for this reason. She looked at the stranger staring back at her through the mirror. Jet black hair hung down her back, the honey brown skin all Vespians had and her eyes. That surprised her the most. Golden with a green ring. “My eyes look a bit like Toki’s.”
“Yeah, when I changed your features I noticed that, but if I tweak it any more it doesn’t look real.” He ran the scanner over her. “Looking good.”
Heather platted her hair so she had a long braid going down her back. Her brother handed her a uniform.
Being able to start with everyone else excited her. Being the mate of the future leader had its privileges but it also had its limitations. This time she could prove her worth by her deeds, not who she was mated to. It also made her think about how no one knew who they were. Maybe she should shield her ability from everyone, including her mate. She bet Storm would still spot her in a crowded room.
If you do that I won’t be able to hear your thoughts, will I? She could feel Storm wasn’t happy about the idea. They had gotten so used to them sharing everything.
No, if I do this I’ll block my thoughts off from everyone, including you and the children. It will help keep me hidden from our friends. No one will get that familiar feeling when they’re near me and it will keep us all safe.
I like that familiar feeling.
My heart. I’m not sure how to keep you and the children in while I block everyone else out. I need to start with a clean slate and let you in later.
So I really won’t know when I met you again?
I won’t know either.
I am so tired of proving we belong together, my heart. Why must we do this separately?
Because it will keep people from questioning us if we meet and then become a couple. It won’t be difficult for us to find each other. Our personalities aren’t being changed. I’ll just look for a very domineering man.
And I’ll look for a woman who always gets into trouble?
See you soon, my heart.
Heather had been dropped off near one of the security outposts where she had been told by Kuarto to sign in then was directed to the large cave nearby. She saw about eighty other soldiers with her. This small a crowd should make it easy for her to find her mate, if he had been dropped off at the same place. Looking around, she didn’t see anyone who fit his build and height right away. She’d have to search for him later. The meeting was about to start.
Fridon’s image stood in front of them, waiting for everyone to gather and quiet down. “All of you are here because of your records. I am looking to put together several more elite teams to infiltrate our enemies stronghold. Our war is a private one. Not sanctioned by the council. They have been compromised and can’t help us right now so we need to help them.”
Soldiers around her murmured amongst themselves.
“As with any elite team you must be tested. Once you leave this cave you will find out what your destination is. You’ll have two days to get there. That is all.”
As they filed out they were handed a handheld that all the information they needed to get to their destination. Heather looked at hers as she followed the people in front of her. Interesting, she had two days to get to the target that normally took three days to travel on foot if they followed the basic paths and they weren’t allowed to use any sort of transportation because it could be traced. She grinned. This was going to be fun.
Storm looked at his small pad as he headed to the next site. He didn’t see his mate among the soldiers at their indoctrination but that didn’t surprise him. Fridon called for everyone’s attention just as he joined the rest of the soldiers, then they were ushered out and handed these devices. After going through some of the data he grinned. It was a mission scenario he had wanted to use but had never had a chance. Now Fridon was implementing it. Only the best would make it in time. Those who were worthy of being elite would make it undetected. This was going to be fun.
Several Vespian women walked in front of him and he noticed they had cropped their hair. Vespian women didn’t cut their hair so why did these women? He found himself walking with a few other men. “What’s with the hair?”
“They’re honoring Heather.” That was all they needed to say.
Storm wondered how his mate would react when she learned this. She had wanted to leave the planet because she didn’t want to bring war. This could upset her more. The people’s love for her humbled her. He just hoped his mate wouldn’t follow suit to fit in. He liked her hair long, and she knew that, but it would be a way for her to blend in with the rest of the women. He had tried to reach out to her several times with his mind and make her aware but couldn’t connect. She was going to keep him to finding her the old fashioned way.
He knew a short cut that would allow him to make it to their destination point with plenty of time to spare, a lot of others knew it too so what would he miss if he took the short cut? There had to be more than just getting to the meeting place.
Heather noticed several of the women sported short hair. Storm had told her the women never cut their hair so why did these women do it?
“You doing it too?” A young woman fell into step with her as she moved through a small village.
“What?” Heather looked over at the young woman, wondering why she singled Heather out of all the other women in security uniforms.
“Cutting your hair to honor Heather.”
“What?” They were doing this because of her? “I thought Heather had long hair.”
“She does now, but when she first came here with Storm her hair was short because of her position in security. Some of the women are cutting their hair and keeping it short until Heather can walk amongst us freely again. That Reasta woman needs to be stopped, but that is why you and I are here.” She worked on her handheld while they walked. “So, what about your hair?”
“Never thought about it.” It humbled her that they were doing this for her. To know they knew the truth even after the rhetoric Reasta was spinning amazed her. “It is a beautiful gesture.”
“I’ve been thinking about it. There is a medical facility nearby. They’re the ones doing it right now.”
“I don’t know.” Heather looked up at the woman. Kuarto didn’t change her height so she was still shorter than most Vespian women. “My mother wants me to leave my hair long until I’m mated. Let my mate decide.”
“Are you bonded?”
“No. Haven’t met the right man yet, but you know how parents are. Mom might think it a wonderful gesture for other women, but not her daughter.” Heather shrugged. “I’ll think about it though. She is mated to our future leader so my future bondmate would understand, and that is only if I meet him right away.”
“True, your hair could grow out before you meet him.”
Heather wasn’t sure how to handle her new associate. They all had a job to do and making friends wasn’t one of them, but there was a reason this young woman approached her and she wanted to know what it was. She didn’t seem to know who she was really talking to, unless she was a very good actor.
“There is one thing we can do to honor, Heather.” She stopped and held out her hand. “My name is Loli.”
“Nusi.” Heather looked at Loli. It was weird talking about herself in the third person. The young woman’s face was familiar, she was pretty sure she had seen her during some inspection so she had been part of security for a while. “Know anything about this new squad?”
“Only they want the best of the best.” She pulled out the small pad everyone had been handed. “I do know giving us these is not normal procedure. They must have more than our destination in them.”
“Yeah. I thought the same thing. There must be a target. Something we have to get along the way.” Heather looked at hers. “Figuring out where the information is shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.”
“If it is too easy to find then it’s not the right target.”
Heather looked at the woman and grinned. She just might be a valuable asset.
Storm kept looking for his mate as he made his way to the first checkpoint. He also knew he needed to acquire his target before he hit that checkpoint. It was simple enough. He had to go into the center of a small village and grab a chip attached to the main screen. There were a few things he had to follow. One was he couldn’t be caught, so he somehow had to find civilian clothes. The uniform would be a dead giveaway. He also had to get it before anyone else. Standard procedure would have more than one person going after the same item.
He wondered how Heather was getting along.
The screen blared random data. Ever since Reasta had gained control of the council the news had changed to crazy stories that meant nothing to the people. He stared at the screen to find the chip. Fridon wasn’t pulling any punches. It was up at the top of the giant screen, dead center.
He noticed several people who had been in the cave eyeing the same chip he was. Storm grinned. He loved competition.
Heather looked at the information that would allow her to get her target. “Loli, you know anything about this area?”
“A little. I’m a bit of a tech so I studied the area around our first meeting site.” She slipped her device in her pocket. “I can help you with your assignment.”
“What about yourself? You have a goal as well.”
“When it comes to an elite squad what comes to mind?”
“The task force first.” Heather shrugged. “Then those in the background that make everything happen.”
“And that’s what I want to do. I don’t care about the chore given to me. I don’t want to be part of the task force. That is what the first set of goals are for.” She pulled the small handheld they were all given and showed Heather hers. “They also loaded information for those of us who are techs. If that is my goal this is what I need to do to be considered.”
Heather looked at the screen. One of the first things it told her was to find someone who wanted to be part of the elite squad. “So that is why you befriended me?”
“Sorry. I could tell by the way you carry yourself that you’re going to be successful. There is a particular type of person who can do this. Many want to but only a few can actually do it. You are one of those people.” She tapped her screen again and everything disappeared. “The smarter members of a squad start to create their group long before they are actually picked. It’s part of the test. A loner won’t do well in an environment when you must rely on other people.”
She was right. “So how do you propose I can get into this bonding celebration without an invitation, my uniform, or getting noticed?”
“Oh, you’ll be noticed, but not as a member of Vespian security.” She smiled. “I know just what to do.”
Storm slid the chip from the screen into his handheld, showing he was the first to retrieve it. The screen cleared and loaded a new task. He thought his assignment was too easy. Now he had to make his way to a small town having a bonding ceremony. His goal was to keep others from retrieving a small gold leaf from the main hall. It didn’t tell him where the leaf was or who would be trying to retrieve it. The notes led him to a particular house where he could dress for the occasion.
The hall was full by the time he arrived. He saw several people from the cave there. Mostly women. There were a few males, dressed like he was. They must have been successful with their mission as well and had gotten the same assignment as him. So the women were to try to retrieve this leaf. Several of the other men had already corralled and taken away couple of the young women. They were trying to break the rules so they were easy to stop. The instructions were clear. They weren’t allowed to wear their uniforms and they couldn’t attract the wrong attention.
He noticed one woman the moment she walked into the hall. It was her beauty that caught his attention first. It made him look, mated or not. That was when he noticed her hesitate. It was only a second before she smiled and slipped into character but he saw it. A Vespian would never show hesitancy, but his mate would. Storm smiled as he approached her.
Heather felt she was showing a lot more skin than she was used to, even though she knew it wasn’t true. The gowns she wore at Vespian functions exposed a lot but were made of a lot of see-though material so she felt covered even when she wasn’t. Looking around, she realized most of the women around her bared just as much skin. Fear was not a Vespian trait and she needed to shed hers. Plastering a smile on her face she looked around to see if she could see her goal. What she did see was a man, a good looking one at that, coming right at her. Her smile brightened. He would allow her to move about the area without anyone noticing she was looking for something.
The height was right, so was the length of her hair, the one long braid made him happy. She hadn’t cut it yet.
If it was her. Only one way to find out. Time to dance with her.
He bowed to her and she returned the bow, allowing him to take her into his arms and move her about the floor. Bright gold eyes looked up at him. The intricate dance had them touching and moving against each other as well as around each other. The intimacy of the movements aroused him. One of the steps had him bending her backwards as he moved with her. He spoke softly, his breath brushing against her throat. “I wonder what would happen if I were to press my lips against the nape of your neck. Would you melt in my arms? Become boneless for a moment?”
Those golden eyes widened and she studied him. “And if I were to slip my hand inside your shirt and brush you here?” Her fingers brushed his mark and sent a shudder through him.
He pulled her close. “My heart.”
She laughed and it sounded like music to his ears. The steps coming up would separate them and have her dance with another partner but he didn’t want to let her go. He had to though and he watched her move away from him toward the large cake in the center of the room. Moving with the steps she leaned toward the cake then back out again. Then she was gone.
Where the hell did she go?
Heather came out of the hall a little breathless. Storm might not be very happy with her, but she needed to get the leaf recorded in her handheld before someone tried to take it from her. A smile spread across her face as the data was uploaded to the proper people.
“I need to go back in.”
“You can’t. Once you sent the data a new assignment downloaded and it’s timed.”
Heather looked at the data Loli was pointing at. “Well crap. That just makes matters worse.”
“Where do you think you are going?” His voice sounded different but she remembered how it made her feel when she first heard it inside.
“My next assignment.” Peeling the skimpy dress off, Heather climbed into her uniform as she spoke to him.
“We need to talk.”
“It’s okay, Loli. He’s an ally. He helped me get the leaf.” She pressed her lips to him, quick but heated. “Got to go, but we’ll talk when I can.”
He wrapped his arms around her so she couldn’t move. “I don’t think so.”
“I am going to be on that elite quad and you aren’t going to stop me. You can try, but I will make it and so will Loli.”
Storm’s handheld alerted him to a new assignment as well. He looked down at the screen. “Today is your lucky day, Nusi. I need to go as well, but we’re not done, not by a long shot.”
He captured her lips with his. His tongue swirled against her mouth begging for admittance then swooped in when she gave it, searching for her tongue to dance with his. His desire for her grew as he ended the kiss. When he let her go she gave him a promising smile that made him just a little bit harder.
What he found interesting was she didn’t connect their mindmeld like she promised. He could feel her happiness, her desire, but he couldn’t read her thoughts. She shielded them so he couldn’t use it against her. He grinned. He would have done the same thing.
“Wow, that was some kiss. You know he will be looking for you, right?”
“Yeah.” Heather couldn’t help but smile. The thought filled her with desire. She started moving to their next target at a fast pace.
“You also realize he is probably pitted against us.”
“What makes you say that?” But Heather had wondered the same thing. It wasn’t a coincidence that he was there when she went to retrieve the leaf. She saw other women try and were carted off by men she recognized from the cave.
“It would make sense to get the best. If we all worked for the same goal without a little sabotage it wouldn’t really be competition.” Loli looked at Heather’s handheld then her own. “Looks like they know we’re working together now. We’re synced up. They have already labeled us too.”
Heather check to see what Loli was talking about. On her hand held was an image of her new face and the position she was being considered for. Loli’s image was on the same screen with the position she was being considered for. “You think everyone is on here?”
“If I look in the right places, why? You want to know his identity?”
“It would only be fair since he knows mine.” Loli looked at her strangely. “You said my name and he repeated it.”
“Oh. Sorry. Guess that wasn’t very smart of me.”
“Doesn’t matter as long as you didn’t do it on purpose. I know there are probably saboteurs within the group.”
Loli’s eyes widened. “Didn’t think of that either. I promise I’m not. I really am a tech.”
“Don’t worry, Loli. I trust you.” At least she did for now. Heather had been through enough training sessions to know what to look for and to know they could offer Loli a position if she were to turn. She just hoped the young woman knew that the test was to see where her loyalty was. If she did turn traitor she probably wouldn’t be part of the team. “Now, how much time do I have to get to the next site?”
“At a run you’ll make it with two minutes to spare.”
“How fast can you run?” Heather took off at a sprint. Running too fast for too long could cripple most but she had built her duration time up, depending on the distance. It didn’t take her long to get there. She made it with ten minutes to spare. While she waited for Loli to catch up with her she found a secluded spot to watch as others showed up.
She sensed him before she saw him. He must have sensed her too because she saw him looking around. A smile spread across his face when he spotted her. Great, he was going to give her location away. It surprised her when he disappeared from sight. Then she felt his breath on the back of her neck.
“I see you have waited for me.” He slipped his arms around her.
“Not for you, Luprin, but for my partner.”
He pressed a kiss against her mark. She sucked in her breath as her body tightened. “I see you also learned my name.”
“Those handhelds have all kinds of information if you know where to look for it.” She turned in his arms. “They also seem to know everything we’re doing.”
“You mean things like this?” He captured her lips with his, pulling her up against him as he deepened the kiss. His tongue dipped into her mouth, caressing and searching for hers. They got lost in the sensations for a moment. He broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers. “I wish I could take advantage of this but we have jobs to do.”
“So I need to be careful of being alone or you might take advantage?” She looked up at him and smiled. “I guess I’m going to have to find spots like this more often. How many times can I push before you come through on your promise?”
He grinned. His fingers slid along the seals of her uniform opening the upper section enough for him to slip his fingers inside. “Oh, my heart, if you want to challenge me you know I’ll take that challenge.”
She felt his caresses all along her upper torso and knew where he was headed. She stepped back, trying to get him to pull his hand out. “Okay! Time to get to the task at hand.”
“I am.” He captured her lips with his once more while his fingers slipped into her folds. Her breath shortened as those caresses caused her heart to beat faster and her desire to spike. “This is just a taste of what I want to do to you, but I want to take my time with you, find out what you like, get to know you as intimately as possible.”
“You aren’t fighting fair.” Her voice came out soft as his hand continued to work its magic.
“I know.” His voice deep because he was as effected as she was. “They will give us a safe place to sleep tonight. Wait for me and I’ll give you so much more.” Storm captured her lips once more before he released her so she could pull her uniform back together.
Heather took a moment to compose herself. “I will pay you back for that.”
“I sure hope so.” He grinned devilishly. He looked over her head for a moment. “Looks like your partner has arrived.”
Heather turned to look, Loki was standing in the center of the area searching for her, when she turned back to Storm he was gone. A sigh escaped her as she caught Loli’s attention. The young woman joined her in her hiding place.
“Um, you didn’t seal your uniform right.”
Heather looked down and grinned. Her mate was the only one who could break through her control and he was having a little too much fun with this. “Right.”
“What have you learned?”
That her mate’s touch still took her breath away. “I saw several people go in, but none come out.”
“You sure you weren’t sidetracked? I saw your new sex partner leave a few minutes ago.”
“We haven’t had sex.”
“Not yet, but it will happen. There’s too much chemistry between the two of you to ignore.” Loli looked at her handheld. “It doesn’t show anyone inside.”
“Now that doesn’t make sense.” She could still sense their presence, but couldn’t explain why she knew what she knew. “Where would they have gone?”
Loli checked the blueprints of the building. “There is no other door to the building so they must still be inside.”
“Then the building must be shielded from your sensors.” Heather pulled her device out of her pocket and started working on it. “We just need to override the system blocking us.”
Within seconds Loli smiled. “That did it. You know you could be a tech too. That was good work.”
“You think I should?”
“No.” She laughed. “You would get too bored too fast. Then I’d have to keep you out of trouble.”
“I have heard that before.” Storm had said the same thing, so had Bear, her commander in Earth’s security.
“Here.” She sent the data Heather needed to her handheld. “This will allow me to track you inside as well as tell you where everyone is. Now that I have the data you released I’m seeing the people in there but they’re not moving. I think you need to rescue them.”
“Has anyone else figured out what is happening?”
“No way to tell.”
Heather nodded. She checked her uniform once more to make sure it was sealed properly before she headed to the door where command had demanded everyone enter.
She checked the interior and pushed her handheld inside before she entered the building. As long as Loli could see and read her she was willing to go in to see what was really going on. The darkened interior blocked her vision for a moment but her eyes adjusted quickly. She caught a whiff of something and held her breath. In order to go in and out she’d need a supply of oxygen if she didn’t want to fall victim like the others.
Dragging one of the people out, she started talking to Loli the moment she was in fresh air. “The air is drugged. That’s why they’re going in and not coming out.” She propped him against the wall so he could regain his senses. Heather inhaled deeply several times from having to hold her breath. “What do you have to help me with that?”
“It’s going to take me a minute.” Loli’s voice came out of the handheld. She came into view and crouched down beside the man Heather had rescued. After pressing a few keys she scanned him to see what the chemical was. “Oh, he is going to have a headache later. It’s a water vapor mixed with a sleeping powder. It’s making them drunk and tired.”
Heather wondered what she should do. Water didn’t affect her the way it did a Vespian but if she used that to save these people it could give her away. Her helmet was at the cave with everyone else’s. “I remember reading about a plant that can help us breathe underwater. You think there is any nearby and could it help?”
“Actually I have something better.” She pulled something out of her pocket, tapped on the screen for a few moments then held it out. The face of the device glowed as something materialized on top of it. “There you go.”
“You have a materializer?” Heather picked up the small breathing apparatus and studied it. “How did you manage that?”
“There was nothing about bringing handmade items with us. When they scanned me to make sure I didn’t have any contraband on me this was accepted.”
“What else do you have hiding in your uniform?” Heather teased as she pressed it against her mouth and activated it.
“A few other things that might come in handy along the way.”
Heather went back into the building and dragged out two more people. She continued to bring them out until she had gotten everyone. She rested against the wall as she deactivated the mouthpiece. Her handheld made a noise, letting her know where the rest area was. She had done everything she needed to do for the day.
Loli came to where she rested. “You went beyond what was expected.” She showed her the numbers scored for each person. Heather was in the lead. “Of course your partner isn’t too far behind you.” Luprin stats were close to hers.
“Then let’s go to the safe zone so we can get some rest.”
“You go ahead. I have one more assignment.”
“What is it?”
“They want me to go to the leader of this village and pick up a key.” She looked at Heather. “I wonder what the key is for.”
“What? No. You have done your assignments. I can handle this.”
“Yeah, and we know they keep throwing these wonderful little curveballs at us too. You helped me with my assignments. It’s only fair I help you.”
This book is one of my favorites. Heather has to time travel back to our time to rescue Storm who has lost his memory. It was such fun to write.
Heather and Storm’s story continues…
When Storm leans against one of Bert’s machines and is sent back in time, without his memories, Heather has to go after him.
A simple retrieval won’t work. She has to make him remember before they can return to their own timeline.
Finding him is easy, getting him to regain his memories isn’t. Then she finds out Ialog is there, giving Storm something to keep his memories at bay.
Now she has to find a way to stop her old nemesis and bring her mate home.
Storm held Heather close as she continued to sleep. His fingers brushed against her soft skin. As busy as their schedule was, it was nice to have a little of the morning to themselves. Heather still wasn’t getting enough rest dealing with the twins and he did his best to let her nap when he had the chance, even though he could think of other things they could be doing right now.
“You do have a one track mind.” Heather opened her eyes and looked at him.
“You are supposed to be sleeping.” He ran his knuckles along her jawline.
“It’s hard to sleep when you keep thinking of our intimacy. Were those memories or fantasies?”
He gave her one of his bone melting smiles as he pressed her back into the bed. “Yes.”
“Yes?” She smiled up at him.
“Because somewhere along the way my fantasies become reality and then memories.” He nuzzled her throat.
“Is the door locked?” She tilted her head so he could have better access.
“No. Why?” His lips caressed her mark, sending little frissons of heat through her blood.
“Because your son has figured out how to open the door.”
“He’s not tall enough to reach the panel to open the door.” Storm stopped long enough to lift his head and looked at her. “But it doesn’t surprise me he figured out another way. He is our son.”
“I sure don’t want him tottering in here at the wrong time.” She touched his face.
“Then he won’t.” Storm surged into her. Tendrils of excitement filled her as he entered her. She wrapped her legs around his waist.
“What?” She shifted so she could accept him in deeper.
“Haven’t you noticed that they are never looking for us when we’re arguing, amorous, or intimate?” He pulled out and drove back in. “You have a mental connection with them that tells the children when it is safe to come in.”
She brushed her fingers against his mark and was greeted with him sucking in his breath. “Too much talking.”
He chuckled as he pressed his lips to her mark. “I have created a monster.”
“One you are very proud of.”
“Oh yes.” He pulled her into a sitting position, bracing his arm along her spine to give her support as she slid up and down his length. Her muscles rippled against him as she moved. They shared everything, including their intimacy. He could feel her desire as it swirled through her, filling her with excitement.
Storm leaned her away from him a little so he could hit the spot that brought her more powerful orgasms. Each time he brushed the spot, her need blossomed to a point where she felt her body shake with each stroke. One particular stroke drew a moan out of her. She was close, so close. Muscles tightened against Storm, her blood hummed. Slowly the heat built in her stomach. The flames licked along her insides until it enveloped her, sending her out to the stars.
Storm eased her back unto the bed as he continued to rock into her. Another moan escaped. Everything tightened again. The heat of his mouth latched onto her mark as his release started to unfurl. Feeling his orgasm brought her to the brink again. She soared through it with him.
“Beautiful.” He brushed hair from her face. “My heart.”
“A great way to start the day.” She smiled up at him. Her smile widened when she sensed her son opening the door. Someone has come to visit.
“Papa?” Terrik, their son, totted over to the bed.
“Yes, son?” He touched her face once more before rolling off her and looked down at his son. One of the biggest joys in his life was their children. Terrik was brilliant like his mother yet had the ability to strategize like him. A sharp wit and a smile that reminded him of his own gave Storm a hint at what his mother went through with him before he mated with Heather. His daughter rivaled her brother in intelligence and her mother in beauty. Shyer than her brother, she would look at people with her big violet eyes and melt any male’s heart who saw her. He knew he would have his hands full when his children started coming of age but he welcomed the challenge.
“Mama wake yet?” He looked up at Storm with gold eyes surrounded by a violet ring and a bright smile.
“Yes she is.” Storm offered his arm to his son who grabbed it just above his wrist so his father could lift him to the bed. Something they had started when Terrik had been old enough to crawl to the side of their bed. He held his son until Heather could move. She always needed a few moments to regain her mobility after they were intimate. “You’re awake a little early today.”
The boy snuggled against his father as Heather watched him. “Heart.”
“I know, she’s my heart, too.” He pulled his son close and pressed a kiss to his head. Storm smiled at how fast the twins picked up on key phrases and words.
Heather smiled when he crawled to her side. He was careful to not disturb her too much as he snuggled against her.
“You’re my heart too, sweetheart.” She touched his face. “Just like your sisters and your father. Where is your sister? She’s normally right behind you.”
“Perhaps we should go check and see if she is awake now.” Heather sat up with the cover wrapped around her.
“Do you need some time, my heart?” He looked at his son curled up against her. She normally spent a little time with the children when they first woke, but had promised to be ready quickly. They had hoped to be back before the children would wake up. This changed things. “We need to travel to Bert’s compound this morning. I told him we would be there as soon as we got up. He is expecting us, but I’m sure we can take a little time if you need it.”
“We can go as soon as I get dressed. It won’t take me long to get ready. Kuarto and Tiko have promised to take care of the twins while we’re gone.” She stretched, careful to keep the cover up to shield her nakedness. Nudity wasn’t something Vespians found embarrassing, but being raised on Earth she still was a bit shy showing her body to her children.
“Not the great spoiler?” Storm picked up his son and placed him on his chest.
“Your mother has council meetings today and the last time your son was in council chambers he was a bit too active. He disrupted several disputes, forcing Kuarto to go and get him. She had to promise to take time off when she watched the children after that.” Heather didn’t keep the laughter out of her voice. “I promised her it would be her turn next time. Bert said we could bring them with us, but Kuarto has been pestering to spend time with them.”
“You have come to trust Bert,” Storm commented as he entertained their son while Heather got out of bed and dressed.
“He has been honest with us so far and has taught us a lot about our abilities. I feel he can be trusted.” She closed the seals on her gown then reached for the boy. She touched his nose as she turned from the bed. “And how is my little protector this morning?”
He pressed his hand against her heart the way he had seen his parents do so many times. “Hungry.”
She laughed, hugged him and headed to the twin’s room. “Then let’s get your sister and feed you two.”
Storm climbed out of bed and dressed while she fed the children. He came into the main room once he sealed his uniform and picked up the cup of coffee Heather had waiting for him. “Do you think Terrik knows what the gesture means?”
“He knows that gesture is one of the ways we show affection for each other.” Heather leaned against her mate with her cup when he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “The fact he wants to do it too is just so sweet.”
“You still have trouble leaving them behind, don’t you?” He hugged her close when he heard her voice fill with such emotion.
“You have the same problem.” Careful of their coffee, she turned in his arms and touched his face. “Besides it will only be for a few hours.”
“And we need to get going.” He took her cup and placed his and hers on the table. “The transport is ready. Is your brother coming here or are we bringing the children to him?”
“I’m coming here,” said Kuarto as he walked in.
“You don’t knock?” Storm growled when he realized the man was behind him.
“I was told I didn’t have to.” He walked up to Heather and kissed her on the cheek. “Being family has its perks.”
“The children are almost finished with their breakfast.” Heather started running through her list of things to do for the children. “I have their clothes laid out on their beds. Um, they do dress themselves but you might need to help Terrik. He has a little trouble getting the seals closed properly.”
“They’ll be fine, Heather. Stop worrying.” He sat with the children as they finished their meals. “Now go. We’re going to have fun today.”
“Mama?” asked their daughter, Zunarka. “You leave us?”
“You get to be with Kuarto and Toki for a little while today.” She touched her daughter’s cheek. “We’ll be back soon.”
“Can we go into the garden?” asked their son. He had already dismissed them and was ready to play.
Storm put an arm around Heather’s waist and escorted her out the room. “Your soft heart would keep us there another hour if I didn’t pull you away.”
“I’m not that bad.” She looked up at him. “Am I?”
“It’s one of the reasons why I care for you so much, my heart.”
It didn’t take them long to get to Bert’s compound. Once the elders had a chance to question Bert they gave him permission to stay on some land in a remote area of Vespia so he could do his research on what happened to the rest of the ancients. They felt it was better not alerting the entire race that they had a living, breathing ancient among them. If the planet was aware of his presence they would never leave Bert alone.
Heather and Storm walked into his main computer room and found him working on assembling a large piece of equipment. He had parts floating in the air as he used a three dimensional image to move them around until they were ready to be put into place. There were small clamps on the pieces floating that allowed them to defy gravity.
“You have been busy.” Storm looked around at all the different components Bert now had up and running, not sure if he was happy with the elders’ decision. The only other ancient they had been involved with had a fixation on his mate and he feared the same thing would happen again over time, but Heather trusted the man so he kept his opinions to himself.
So far Bert had been the exact opposite of Ialog, but how long would that last? Would he develop that strange overpowering desire to have Heather that Ialog had? She was part of his visions. He had told them she was important to the future of their races. Would he try to take matters into his own hands like Ialog did? Storm knew he had to be leery or they could be caught unawares.
“A lot of the equipment I need for my search was already in my ship so it was easy to transfer it. Others I brought from my other compound, plus I have been working on a few more to make sure I have everything I need to begin my search.” He looked at Storm. “I know you have no reason to trust me. Ialog did ruin that, but I promise I have no ulterior motive. I just want to find my people. It is hard knowing I am alone.”
Did the man just read his mind?
Heather touched Storm’s arm. He could see that she understood. She had lived with being unique all her life. He placed his hand on top of hers. He trusted her. If she felt Bert was safe then he would too. For now.
The simple gesture had him wanting her again. She started smiling at him so he knew his eyes had started glowing once more. Good thing they had the ship with their favorite chair in it. He just might get a scream from her on their way back.
Storm walked around, looking at the different pieces of equipment. All types of machines covered the walls along with several large screens. “Fridon would love this place.”
“Then bring him next time.” Bert grinned as he worked on connecting a board to one of the screens. “I enjoy his sharp mind.”
Storm nodded as he rested his hip on one of the consoles.
“Oh, Storm don’t lean there–” Bert frowned as Storm winked out of sight. “Oh, dear.”
Bert sprinted to where Storm had stood only seconds ago. This wasn’t good. Storm wasn’t supposed to disappear this soon. Was he? The information he had gave him the impression it wouldn’t happen for a few months. How did the timeline get off? Using a handheld device he scanned the area then started pulling up data.
“Oh dear?” Heather grabbed him by the shoulder, turning him to face her. “What do you mean by ‘oh dear?’ Where did he go?”
“It’s not the where I’m that worried about, it’s the when.” The data he looked through on his hand held also filled one of the screens. Heather watched in awe as he flipped through thousands of images in seconds. It didn’t take him long to find him.
“The when?” Heather rubbed her forehead.
“I know this doesn’t make sense.” He had been watching her out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at Heather before he turned back to the machine. “The thing Storm rested against is a time machine. I have used it in the past to watch and learn about people as well as travel to times and places I wanted to learn more about. I assembled it here so I can travel where and when I need to gather clues on what happened to my people. It was on because I was finishing the installation. But it wasn’t set properly. Normally I have a timeline and location set, along with how long I plan on being there. It also has the DNA sequence of the person going back so they don’t get harmed by the transfer. Storm set it off without any of that being done so I’m not sure where or when he went or what he might remember. This image shows he arrived wherever safely. Now I have to see how we go about extracting him.”
“Wait. A time machine? No one has been able to control time travel yet.” Heather move close to the machine but Bert blocked her way. If she touched it the same thing would happen to her and he didn’t need two of them lost in time.
He hoped he was right about where Storm was supposed to arrive, but until he could check history to be sure, everything could have changed. If Storm was where he should be then he was safe and the next step would be to send Heather after her mate.
“None of the races you’re familiar with have the technology yet, but we have been able to successfully control it.” He moved to another computer to get historical data before going back to the time machine.
“Great. So my mate is trapped back in time somewhere? Bert, we have to bring him home.”
Bert watched her as she looked at the machine. He knew she was thinking if she did what her mate did would it send her back to the same point in time? Heather instinctively moved toward the machine to find her way blocked by Bert again.
“Please don’t touch anything. Without it being prepared properly you don’t know when or where it will send you and your mind will be wiped. You could end up on another planet and timeline if I don’t do this right. That won’t do Storm any good. Once I verify his location we’ll work on bringing him back. It shouldn’t take too long. I promise.”
Bert laid his handheld on the surface. The equipment he sat it on hummed as it worked.
“Why didn’t your machine send that little handheld off to who knows when?” Heather asked when the device didn’t disappear.
“Safety protocols because of my DNA.” He gestured to it. “It’s on the handheld.”
Heather gave him an exasperated look.
“Dealing with a time machine is tricky work. In order for me to touch it over and over without being sent all over time uncontrollably I set protocols for my DNA. It knows me and will only send me through time when I program it. Normally I have it set not to send anything without permission, but because I was still installing it and never expected Storm to touch it I hadn’t quite gotten to that. It’s hard to install the protocol when the machine isn’t fully installed and calibrated.” Although he should have. He knew Storm time traveled, he just didn’t know when until now. He had thought it happened a little too early, but the timeline hadn’t changed so he was feeling more optimistic. Bert pressed a few buttons. “Storm is on Earth. Looks like the western section of the…oh dear.”
“Again with the ‘oh dear?’ What now?”
“He’s in the early twenty-first century. Looks like Washington State of the United States.” He turned to look at Heather. Storm was where he was supposed to be. He didn’t see the connection with the location until now. “Isn’t that where Ialog kept you when he kidnapped you on Earth?”
“Yes. It is also where I was found as a child and where I left Sam after I wiped her memories. Wonder why that area seems to be a focal point.” Heather pointed to the machine. “Have you calibrated it?”
“So retrieve him.”
‘It’s not that easy.” He picked up his handheld and looked at the data on the screen. “Because the machine hasn’t been configured for his DNA it can’t read him properly. Retrieving him won’t work. Someone will have to go after him.”
“I’ll go.” She took a step toward the machine.
“There’s a complication.”
“What sort of complication? You can bring him back, can’t you?” Now she knew how Storm felt when she disappeared. The thought of him not being here for her had her stomach in knots. A feeling she didn’t like.
“His mind was overloaded by the transport. According to the records I’m finding in history, he’s been in that timeline for about two years. There have been no ripples in our timeline so he was supposed to go back there to have the universe we know. I can’t change that or we could find ourselves in a different timeline. And what is going to be a problem is your mate has been diagnosed with amnesia.” He looked at Heather. “He won’t know who you are.”
“But I can still go back and get him, right?”
“Yes, but I’ll need a little time before you leave. You can’t go back and just drag him forward. I’ll need to create a life for you in that timeline. A history that withstands scrutiny. Although their computers were still in the beginning stages, their security systems were great at ferreting out false information. You need to have an iron clad identity. I also need to give you the proper supplies to survive then as well.”
Survive? Wasn’t she going in and just bringing him home? “Why are you going through all this if I’m just going in and extracting him?”
“You might be there a little longer than for a simple extraction, but I’ll explain everything in a bit.” Bert crossed to another screen and worked a keyboard near it. “It won’t take long to get everything ready.”
Heather didn’t like the fact that her mate had been on Earth with no memory of her for two years. He had a libido that would cripple the normal human. How many women had he slept with since he had been gone? And how many had he put in the hospital?
The sooner she went back and found him the happier she would be.
“I need to make a manual upload to your insert.” He stepped up to Heather and made adjustments to her device. “There. You should have all the details of the life I have made for you. I have also given you timeline events that need to take place. If you see anything out of the ordinary you need to let me know.”
Images and information flooded her mind. “Wow.”
“I won’t be able to talk to you directly, so making sure those things happen will allow me to follow you as you move through the timeline.” He stepped back and went to the console that sent Storm away. “I know you’re anxious to get going, but I have a few more things to do before I can send you back. My job right now is to make sure you have everything you need to bring him home.”
“Just hurry, Bert. I want my mate back.” Heather crossed her arms over her chest while she waited. She knew she looked like Storm, but didn’t care. Not knowing what she was going to find when she found him had her nervous.
“Bert.” This was taking too long.
“I know you’re anxious.” He finished what he was working on. “For you.”
Heather walked around the motorcycle Bert showed her. She liked the sleek design. This was going to be her mode of transportation back in time? It made her smile.
“This vehicle has two functions. One is for you to use in the timeline you are going to. I have created it so it will fit in with the vehicles they use. The other is it is your time traveling device. It will take you there and bring you both back.” He patted the seat. “I thought the design fit you.”
It reminded her of the air bikes on Vespia. The two tires were where the resemblance ended. “Tires, really?”
“Yes. They still used personal vehicles instead of transports. Everything traveled on roads instead of in the air like you’re used to.” Excitement danced in his eyes. “When you are going still relies on fossil fuel to run their transportation. They have started to work with alternative fuels but so far it is only solar and electric when it comes to transportation. This will store the fossil fuel they use and I have programmed the bike to use it, so you won’t draw attention to yourself by running a machine that never needs gas, but it will take a lot longer to disappear than any of the vehicles there and it will burn the gas cleanly. No pollution. If someone asks you about what kind of mileage you get there are three key words to use. One is new, the second is prototype, and the third is hybrid. The mileage you will actually save won’t be believed. If you have to come up with a number for someone who is a little too curious take the average mileage for a motorcycle and double it. That data should be in the information I have downloaded already.”
She nodded. There was a lot of data in her mind for her to go through so she could fit into the timeline. She hoped it would be easy to sort it out when she needed it. Heather touched the handlebars. “I do like the design.”
“Good. I did my best mimicking the designs of the timeline. It does have a few perks from our timeline that will work there. In order to make sure it can travel back and forth the energy source is protected against EM pulses and time fluctuations.” He pulled up the computer system. “I have included a shield that will protect you if you were to have a spill as well.”
“I’m a good rider, Bert.”
“I’m not questioning your abilities, but during this timeline there are accidents because people aren’t paying attention. Although they have GPS and cell phones, the computer systems in their vehicles haven’t been designed to drive the car yet. You could get bumped by a car switching lanes because they didn’t see you. The bike also has a holographic program what will hide the fact that you can’t damage the machine. If you get into something where the bike should be damaged the system will create a false image that can be seen and touched from any angle.” He turned on the hologram so she could see what he was talking about and grinned at her. “I’m quite proud of that.”
Heather walked up to the bike which now looked like it had slid across concrete and touched the damage. It felt real to her. “That is wonderful.”
“All you need to do to get the original look is rearrange the crystals here.” He opened a panel and moved a couple of the crystals and the bike went back to normal. “Even damaged the bike will still work so you do have to be careful if you do end up in some sort of fender bender as the locals call it. Make sure the bike working seems believable if you do get in an accident.”
“Wow.” She loved this.
“There are a few other things I’ll go over before you leave but I want to focus on this garment first.” He moved to her suit and held it up for her to see. “This is designed to withstand the temporal change. There is a second one for Storm that I have put in the bottom of the saddle bags.”
“And the suit will protect us?”
“Yes. A spare helmet, boots, and gloves are built into the frame of the bike for Storm when he’s ready to come back. The suit will also double as a regular garment while you’re there. If you don’t close all the seals you can wear it in units and it will look like a biker outfit.” He separated the seals so she could see what he was talking about. “This will keep you protected while you’re riding so please use it when you should.”
“Why is that important?”
“Because I think you’re going to be there a while. According to history Storm was a bit of a recluse, only leaving a mountain hideaway to do photoshoots. You might not find him right away.”
“He’s a photographer?” Heather shook her head. “I would have thought he’d be in the military. I can see him as a drill sergeant.”
“He probably doesn’t know how to control his shifting so keeps to himself as much as possible.” Bert handed her a small pile of clothing. “This should be up to the fashion there. You can pick up more once you arrive.”
“What type of bartering system are they using?” She didn’t like the sinking feeling she was getting. How hard was this going to be? “Cash?”
“Yes, and I have that for you as well. They also use plastic.”
“I’ll explain that in a few minutes.”
Heather nodded. This was a lot to absorb.
“I can get you to the area he has shown up the most, but there is no record of his address in any of the files. Any money he received for his work was done with direct deposit, and he had a post box as a mailing address. There’s no record of a physical address. If he needed something delivered he used a local diner. That is where I would start.”
“It was a small box one could rent from the postal service where your mail could be delivered. The area I’m sending you to is remote. It is possible he doesn’t live in a location where they could deliver mail to him.” He touched her collarbone. “I won’t be able to communicate with you. The delay will be too great.” He handed her a small communication device. “But with this we will be able to get messages to each other in case of an emergency. Like I said earlier cell phones are prevalent when you’re going so I created this handheld to mimic the standard smart phones most have there. You can also use it to fill in the gaps as you interact with the local people. You hear something you never heard of this will tell you what you need to know so you don’t raise flags. The people then were into texting so that is how a lot of the data you might need will appear. All you need to do is glance at the screen. Since so many do the same thing you won’t look out of place.”
“Anything else?” She wanted to get there and find her mate.
“Yes. I’m going to try to drop you into a secluded area, but you might be seen. Your landing will cause an EM pulse and knock out all power there. I’m hoping there won’t be anyone around, but you need to hide the bike and the suit as quickly as possible if you find there are too many who might see you and you can’t ride away immediately.”
Heather removed her dress and climbed into the suit, snapping her gloves and helmet on, but left the visor open. Sealed, it resembled the Vespian security uniform.
“I’ll need to cover your mark.”
“Why?” She placed her hand against where it was hidden by the suit. Her mark was something she wore with pride. It proved she was Storm’s mate.
“Storm has the same mark. You could frighten him by having the same tattoo he does. That is what most people will think it is. Not having his memory he’s not going to know that it shows his bond to you.”
She hadn’t thought of it that way. “Do we have to?”
“I think it’s best.”
Heather nodded. Not something she wanted but she did see the logic in it. She removed her helmet and bared her neck.
“I promise it will still be there. It will be like Skye’s. Unseen, but still there.”
Bert had a few more last minute things that kept cropping up. She just wanted to go.
“If you’re ready I’ll send you back. Once you arrive I’m going to continue to stream data to you so you have as much info I can give you to function there.” He handed her a thin card.
“What is this?” She flipped it over.
“A credit card. That is what most of the people use there to store their money.”
“And how did you get money into this timeline?”
“We have been traveling through time for a while. This is the generic account for any ancient to use. As long as you don’t use too much of the money in one place you shouldn’t draw any attention to you.”
“And what is too much?”
“During this timeline? Ten thousand or more.”
“Good to know.”
“I have also made you money from that timeline. It should be enough to afford hotels and food for about a month.” He handed her a thick wad of bills.
“That sure seems like a lot.”
“I didn’t go any higher than a hundred dollar bill and those will raise eyebrows if you use too many at the same time.”
“I’ll try to be careful.” She slipped the money inside her suit.
“You’ve never dealt with money like this. Try to stick to the smaller bills and only use the bigger ones when your total is high enough to warrant it. Cash can’t be traced, but people in this timeline worry about people who flash too much cash. Try to give exact change whenever you can. Once you get there and start breaking bills you’ll be getting coins as well.”
“Change. Right. The coins are less than the bills.”
“Just remember this timeline is when homeland security had just started. It is what Earth security blossomed from. But when it first started they were a bit overzealous because of what had happened.” He went to the time machine. “To us it is ancient history but to them it was only twelve years ago.”
“What are you talking about?”
“September eleventh, two thousand and one.”
“Oh.” There were many things in history that changed the shape of the world. The attack on the twin towers and the pentagon was one of them. That one day started a series of events that led the planet to the world she knew. “Right. I’ll be careful of what I say.”
“The colloquial language is a lot different there too. Be prepared for that download. There is a lot.” He tapped a few keys on the small pad he held. “Ready?”
She nodded. How bad could it be? Her mind was flooded with so much so quickly. She said the first thing that popped into her head. “Holy shit!”
“The download worked.” He grinned. “The language of the time will flow naturally from you although you might mentally question your choice of words.”
“This is crazy. Can I go now?” She grinned back. That was strange to her.
“Almost.” Bert held out his hand. “You need to leave your rings behind. I know they mean a lot, but they might cause more trouble than you want with Storm.”
“He’s still going to see the marks they left behind.” She sighed as she pulled them off and dropped them into his open hand.
“I know but it is easier to explain the lack of rings than why you’d be willing to break your vows with a stranger. And that is how Storm will see you and any relationship you might try to start with him.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“There is a button on the bike that will bring you home when you’re ready.” He pointed to the button in question. He looked at her before answering her question. “Storm must remember before you can bring him back. If he fights the memory then you need to stay with him and wait for him to remember.”
“He’ll never believe he’s from another timeline or another planet. Forcing him to come back without knowing the truth could cause more trouble than you realize.”
“But my brother has the ability to unlock the mind. Why can’t I just go and bring him home? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m trying to keep the timeline intact. The handheld will also guide you to do the same thing. Any tiny changes could create a world you don’t recognize when you come back so please understand that I ask you to listen to me without question. I can’t explain everything because I’m afraid of changing things back there as well as here. I promise it will all make more sense when you’re back there.”
He was asking for a lot, but she needed to get to Storm and bring him home. She had to trust him. Heather nodded.
Bert smiled and continued explaining everything he could. “You also can use the button if you get into a situation that could cause bodily harm. But if you come back early I might not be able to send you again so use it wisely.”
She nodded again. The sooner she got going the sooner she could find her mate. She closed the helmet so she was sealed in.
“One last thing. If everything goes right no time will pass here while you’re gone. You should return within a minute after you leave.” He tapped a few more keys then looked at her. “Go stand by the bike and I’ll send you on your way.”
Heather did as he asked. The scene in front of her started to soften and then stretch as it broke into a thousand pieces. It felt like her body was being squeezed then pulled as she flew across the galaxy and time. Landing on Earth stunned her. She just stood there until Bert’s comment about getting going as fast as she could filled her mind. She looked around and saw no one, jumped on the bike and took off.
Tires crunched against the rock filled road she zipped along. Then she hit asphalt. The bike weaved a little as she adjusted to the new surface. It didn’t take her long before she had control and was eating up the miles between her and her mate.
“Heather, you’re going too fast. Speed limit here is sixty-five and they will stop you and give you a ticket if you’re too far above that limit. You don’t need to get yourself into any of the databases here.”
She heard the computer’s voice in her ear. She grinned as she slowed to the proper speed and continued. “I didn’t know you were coming with me, Cim.”
“Bert felt you might need me to assist you in this timeline. A friendly voice so to speak. I’m also tied into the phone Bert created for you.”
“Ah. My hand held. Did he also alter the way you talked to fit into this timeline?”
“Yes, and the proper word is cell phone. They will merge with the handhelds but right now they are two different devices. In this timeline handhelds are also known as tablets. The most famous one is the iPod. It watches movies, surfs the web, reads electronic books that can be downloaded into the device. It’s like a computer in many aspects.”
“Pretty basic stuff then.”
“But to these people they are the cutting edge of technology.” Her visor showed a truck stop that started to blink. “What is that?”
“A restaurant that Storm has been known for frequenting. It is also where he has packages delivered.”
“Then I think we should go in for some coffee.” Heather steered the bike into the parking lot. The place was busy. She turned her machine off and climbed off the bike. She felt nervous. Would he be here?
A little bell dinged when she entered the restaurant. The place was packed. The only empty spot was at the counter. Walking up to it, she felt lots of people watching her. Perhaps she should have removed her helmet outside.
“I believe it is the way you look in the suit,” said Cim. “Heartbeats in most of the men have increased as they spotted you. They are aroused by your outfit.”
“Great. Just what I need.” She sat on the stool before releasing the seals on her gloves. Then she released the seals on her helmet. “Are you also part of my insert?”
“You want to know what happens when they see your face? I’ll send you a text.”
Heather pulled off her helmet and put her gloves inside. Her almost white hair now fell more than halfway down her back. Having it short for most of her life she was never one to spend a lot of time on it. A quick brush and she was done. Storm didn’t mind, he loved her hair. One of the reasons it was so long now.
She heard a beep and looked at the phone. Cim’s data on the men watching made her want to laugh. No matter where she was she always got the same reaction.
A very pregnant woman stepped up to her. “What a ya’ have?”
“Coffee for starters.” Heather smiled at her. “When are you due?”
“About a month from now.” She rubbed her womb absently. “Cream?”
“Please?” Heather picked up the menu that the woman handed her. There was a wide variety of food on the pages. So many she found it hard to pick something. Most of the people had gone back to what they were doing, giving her a chance to see what they were eating around her. A lot had breakfast in front of them. She looked up at the clock. The digital face said ten a.m.
The young woman came back with her cup and a few small white containers that she sat next to it. Heather picked one up. Okay. What was she supposed to do with them?
“Hey Patti, can I have the usual to go?” A man in jeans and a flannel shirt stepped up beside Heather.
“Where you off to now?” She pulled a pad out of the pocket of the apron she wore, jotted down some things and slapped it on the sill of a small window. “Order to go!”
“Florida. Got me going from one end of the country to the other. Have four days to get there.”
“Four?” She poured coffee in a tall white foam holder then sat the same small containers on the counter. He peeled the top back and poured the contents into the cup. He gave it a quick stir and the coffee lightened. Next he grabbed a few packets in a small dish and poured them in as well. He took a sip and grimaced. He grabbed a few more packets. “Who made this? It takes like mud.”
“Princess. Who else?” She pulled the empty packets off the counter. “Four days is pushing it, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but if I can do it in four days I’ll get a bonus. Got mouths to feed.”
“You be safe.” A bell rang behind her and a large brown bag filled the small window. Patti picked up the bag and handed it to him.
“See you in two weeks.” He lifted his cup to someone in the kitchen and headed back out.
Heather would love to ask a ton of questions, but at least she now knew what to do with the little white containers.
“Have you decided what you want?” Patti had turned her attention back to her.
“Um, yeah. Eggs, bacon and toast.” She closed the menu.
She opened the menu and pointed to the title of the dish. “Bobby’s favorite.”
“Oh.” She felt like an idiot. “Sorry. Sure.”
“You get grits or gravy with it.”
“Don’t really need either.”
“I’ll bring you gravy. It is the best. How you want your eggs?”
“You got it.” Patti turned and gave her order to a cook. Tall good looking man with dark hair and a well kept beard filled the little window as he read over the order. They resembled each other. Heather would bet they were related somehow.
Heather picked up the creamer container and opened it, and poured it into her coffee. Since the computer always gave her a perfect cup she didn’t know how strong or how weak this cup would be. Her first sip wasn’t bad but she could still taste a touch of the bitterness she didn’t care for. She looked at the small container that held the sugar packets. There were white ones, brown ones, pink ones, blue ones, and yellow ones. The white one said sugar so she went with that one. The packet tore open easily and she watched as the crystals fell into the dark liquid.
“A real sugar user, huh?”
Heather looked up at Patti. She looked tired.
“I love real sugar, but turned diabetic with this bundle of joy. Found the yellow stuff closest to the real thing in coffee, even though I have to drink decaf.” She rubbed her stomach. “Once the baby is born I’m hoping for my first real cup of coffee in months. Decaf just isn’t the same when you want high test.”
“Don’t they taste the same?”
“Not to me.” Patti frowned for a moment.
“Sure, sure.” Patti smiled at her. “I’ll bring your food to you as soon as it’s ready.”
Heather nodded as she watched the waitress move to one of her other tables. Another waitress passed her to drop off an order before heading to another group of tables Heather hadn’t noticed right away. This place was a lot bigger than she first thought.
She watched her waitress. Patti wasn’t moving right. Then it dawned on her. The baby had just dropped, making her waddle more than walk.
The cook came out of the kitchen with Heather’s meal. After setting it on the counter in front of her he watched Patti as well.
“When did she say she was due?” Heather asked.
“You sure?” Heather looked at him. “She looks like she’s going into labor now.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The fact that the baby has dropped since I got here. Her walk too. The baby is getting in the way of her movements. It looks like her little bundle of joy is getting ready to come out.”
“Hmm. Excuse me for a moment, will you?” He stepped away.
Heather took a bite of her eggs. Patti came up beside her and stopped moving for a moment, gripping the counter as she stood there.
“Sure wish you’d stop acting up.” She spoke to her baby as she rubbed her stomach. “It’s really starting to annoy me.”
Heather looked at the large clock on the wall in front of her, noting the time.
“You want some more coffee?” Patti asked her.
“Sure.” Heather watched her as she continued to move slowly.
Patti brought over the coffee pot and freshened up her cup. “Oh, you already have your meal?”
“Your cook brought it to me while you were at a table.”
“Mike didn’t need to do that.”
“I didn’t want her food to get cold.” He stepped out of the kitchen at that point. “And I had nothing left on the stove.”
“Ha. You wanted to get a better look at the pretty biker chick.”
“Patti!” He glanced at Heather, embarrassed by her comment.
“What? She is pretty and does ride a bike.” Patti grabbed the counter again and frowned as she stopped moving for a minute.
“You’re in labor,” commented Heather as she took another sip of coffee.
“Don’t be silly. I’m not due for six weeks.” Patti let go of the counter, but hadn’t moved.
“Right. And babies know how to read a calendar. You grabbed this counter five minutes ago. That was when you complained that the baby was acting up. And you’re doing it again five minutes later. You’re sweating and I’m guessing it’s from the pressure the baby is causing.” Heather put down her coffee. “Shall I go on?”
“I’m not in labor!” Patti stomped her foot. Her face showed fear when her water broke and gushed to the floor.
“Yeah. I tend to disagree.” Heather stood and brought her to a chair near an empty table. “Sit.”
“I can’t be in labor yet.” She lowered herself to the chair. “Mike needs me for four more weeks. This is his busy season. And Bo won’t be back for three weeks.”
“Don’t worry about the store and I’ll call Bo.” Mike pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.
“But you’ll be short of help.” She looked at him.
“Patti, I can help him out if that will stop you from worrying.” Heather crouched down beside her and placed her hand on the woman’s stomach, wishing her brother or Micali was here. They knew a lot more than she did about birth.
“That will work, won’t it, sis?” Mike spoke to her in between answering the person he spoke to on the other end of his call.
“I guess.” She didn’t look happy.
Sirens grew louder as a large white vehicle pulled into the parking lot. A well fit man walked in first, pulling a bed. Heather’s mind translated it to stretcher. Another man came in with him steering the bed from the other end.
“Good thing we were on our way here for lunch or Patti might have had the baby in this diner. How far apart are her contractions?”
“Five minutes,” said Mike. He stepped out of the way so they could get her ready to go.
“No problem.” They did what they needed before securing her to the stretcher. “See you at the hospital, big brother.”
“Thanks, Bob. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” While the paramedics moved Patti out of the building, Mike got on the phone and started making more calls.
Heather was worried that one of the other waitresses would slip on the fluid on the floor. She stepped behind the counter and looked for towels.
Mike spotted her behind the counter and put his hand over part of his phone. “What are you doing?”
“Looking for towels.” She pointed to the floor.
“Oh. In the back, there. All I have are small ones, but there are paper towels back there, too. If the roll under the counter isn’t enough.” Then he went back to the call.
She saw the roll under the counter and pulled it out. Unraveling a big wad she dropped it to the floor to mark the spot. At least the other two women would see the paper on the floor. All this man needed was to lose another waitress because she slipped on amniotic fluid.
She found the small towels as well as a few more rolls of the paper ones. Looking around she also saw chemicals. Another thing she needed to finish cleaning up the mess. What should she use? Heather decided to just get the fluid up off the floor then she found a spray bottle of multipurpose cleaner. That would work.
It didn’t take too long before she had all the liquid picked up and the floor cleaned. Mike was still on the phone. Sitting back on her stool, she picked up her cup of coffee and took a sip.
“What are we going to do about Patti’s tables? I’ve been slammed today and can barely keep up with my own,” asked one of the waitresses as she walked behind the counter.
“It’s okay, Princess,” replied the one who was following her. “The rest of us peasant girls will pick up the slack.”
The one who spoke first flicked her ponytail and walked to the window in front of the kitchen. “Where’s Mike? I have an order.”
“He’s busy right now, but you walked right past him,” commented Heather. The young girl acted like Patti’s baby was an inconvenience to her. One word popped into her head. Spoiled. “What do you do when he’s busy in the kitchen?”
The second woman snatched the ticket from the princess and slipped it up in a silver round thing hanging in the window. “We normally put it here so the cook on duty can see it and she knows that. But the princess doesn’t like to be put out.”
Heather was right. She was spoiled. The place was packed and more people were waiting for tables. Heather knew by the way the princess was acting she didn’t want to have anything to do with Patti’s tables and the other woman would end up doing all of it. She needed help. “If you show me what to do I can at least get Patti’s tables cleaned.”
“You don’t mind?” The second woman looked over at Mike who had now walked outside, still talking on the phone. “We have been busy. There’s a gray buss tray you can use. They’re stacked over near the sink. Just put the plates in them and bring them to the dishwasher. If you put her tips in a glass or cup we’ll make sure she gets it.”
Heather nodded and got up. She found the trays and headed to the first table. She stared at the plates for a moment. Was she supposed to leave the food on the plates? The waitress she had been talking to came over.
“Never cleaned a table before?”
“It’s easy.” She picked up the plates, scraping the food from different plates all onto one then sat the stack in the grey bin. She took the cups and glasses next and stacked two or three the ones that didn’t have a lot of liquid in them before putting one that did on top. The stacking allowed her to put more into the container. Heather had brought a clean glass which the woman put the bills and coins in. Then she sprayed the table with a bottle she had brought and wiped it with a cloth. “Got it?”
“Yep.” That was easy. She cleared the rest of the tables in Patti’s section first and lifted the heavy bin. Now what was she supposed to do with it? She carried it back behind the counter. Mike had come back in and saw her. He hooked a thumb behind him. Once again she found herself back in the place where she found the towels. A loud clang and several swear words made her walk past that area and into a hot little room.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Um, helping out for Patti?”
“Patti?” He arched a brow at her. “She finally dropped that bundle of joy?”
‘“Bout damn time. She’s been whinen’ since Tuesday.” The man washing the dishes spotted the tray in her arms. “Put that there. Can you take the other one back with you?”
Heather picked up the tray filled with clean dishes.
Mike stopped her before she made it back to the counter. “I only agreed with you to get my sister out of here. You don’t have to do this.”
“I figured that, but your waitresses are slammed and I offered to help them so they can get caught up. I like busy work, keeps me from thinking about things.”
“Problems at home or something?” He reached for the bin she was carrying.
“No, I just got back from overseas.” Heather gave him the container. “Saw things I wished I hadn’t.”
“Military discharge?” He walked to the counter and sat it down.
“You’re not going to go postal on us are you?” He looked at her.
“No.” Heather laughed. “I got into a sticky situation and the doctors suggested I take some time off to see if I really want to stay in the service.”
“Officer or enlisted?”
“Lieutenant.” She climbed back on her stool. “This might just be what the doctor ordered.”
“Okay, but I have rules. One, you need a uniform. That outfit might get you more tips, but I ask the girls to wear a pair of black shorts and a white t-shirt so everyone looks the same. For now, I think there is a spare set around here somewhere. The girls always leave clothes in case they get called in and don’t have their uniform with them, but you’ll have to go and get your own somewhere along the line.”
“Okay.” Heather couldn’t believe her luck. He was going to hire her. Now she had the perfect excuse to hang around long enough to see if Storm would come in.
“Two. Everyone but Princess is a relative and all of them only work for tips.”
“Oh, no problem. I can do the same thing.” Heather smiled. “I guess I need to find a place to stay though.”
“You haven’t checked in anywhere?”
“I stopped for a cup of coffee.” She shrugged. “I was going to see if there was a hotel nearby, but never passed one before I got here.”
“Now I feel really bad. My sister is right, this is my busy time and I could really use the help, but if you want to continue on please don’t feel obligated to stay. We’ll work it out. If you stay I can help with a room. There’s a small efficiency above the restaurant. I lived there before I built the house around back. But I must warn you that will put you on call all the time. If one of the other girls calls in sick you’ll be the first one I go to.”
“I don’t have a problem with that.” It might work in her favor. Cim told her Storm came here a lot and he could drop in anytime. The more she worked the better chance she had of running into him. She had tried to reach out to him, but his mind was blocked off somehow.
Mike disappeared for a moment. When he came back he held the outfit for her. “You have a different pair of shoes?”
“In the saddles of my bike. Sneakers okay?”
“They’ll do. You don’t want anything too thin. You could burn yourself if a pan slips or could hurt yourself if you drop a tray of food. And you want shoes that don’t slip.”
Heather went out to her bike and pulled the shoes out. Bert had included the shoes with the pile of clothes he had handed her, but she hadn’t tried them on yet. She also grabbed a pair of socks. A soft piece of lace peeked up at her. She needed undergarments here, didn’t she? Better to be safe than sorry. The more delicate items she stuffed into her suit.
Hoping she didn’t forget anything, Heather walked into the bathroom and changed. Her biker suit was soft and pliable, allowing her to fold it up small enough to fit in the saddle bags easily. Heather checked out her outfit in the mirror once she had finished changing. The course material felt strange on her. After having perfect fitting clothing all the time to have something on this loose was weird, but the waist band was stopped by her hips so she didn’t have to worry about it falling off her.
She stepped out to find Mike waiting for her.
“Sorry it’s a little big.” He handed her a large rubber band and pointed to her hair. “Needs to be up.”
“No problem.” She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and wrapped the band around it. Not having a mirror made it a little difficult, but she got it back and off her face.
“Okay. Get to work.”
“Let me stick this in my bike and I’ll be ready.” She held up her uniform.
When she came back in he explained how the sections were broken down so she would know what tables she was responsible for. He also explained how the work load was broken down so they always had silverware rolled in napkins, coffee and tea ready. Once he felt she knew what to do, he let her get to work.
Here is the second book in the series. Here I introduce a new character that became a strong secondary character in the rest of the series. It’s Heather’s brother.
Passionate Desire: Book 2 of the Vespian Way
My main page at Phaze : http://www.phaze.com/author.php?author=21
Also available at Amazon.com
Storm and Heather’s story continues…
Kuarto hates getting sucked into the passionate releases of a couple he has suddenly developed a mindlink with. The only time the three of them merge is when they’re climaxing. They can’t stay away from each other and it is interfering with his work. If things weren’t bad enough a beautiful woman crash lands in his backyard. He goes to the site to rant and rave but learns her memory is gone. Until he can release her memory he has to explain her presence so pretends she is his mail-order bride. Passion flares between them as he does his best to figure out who she is.
Toki was sent to speak to Heather’s brother but she loses her memory when her ship crash lands near his house. Memory or not he is a handsome man and she is drawn to him. They become intimate quickly and she can’t get enough. By the time her brother and mate come to find her she knows her feelings for Kuarto are real and she has to choose between a job she has been groomed for all her life or the man who is her destiny.
Heather found her way blocked by a huge set of shoulders. Storm. Sometimes their mind link really got in her way. He had to know what she was up to and was going to try to stop her.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“Please tell me you’re not going to start being overprotective already.” She looked up into her mate’s determined face.
“The doctor did just release you from the medlab. You have been through a lot, from your kidnapping two months ago to your pregnancy. I’m not being over protective, just concerned for my mate’s welfare.”
“Storm, I’m fine.” She tried to move around him, but he wouldn’t allow that. A sigh escaped her. “I bet if I were to drag you into that bedroom you wouldn’t be worried about me just being released from the medlab.”
A spark entered his eyes. “I didn’t hear you complaining earlier.”
He was right. She enjoyed every moment she was in his arms. Heather gave him a sultry smile. “You didn’t have any complaints either.”
“No I didn’t.” He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. “My heart, bringing you to ecstasy is what I live for. To have you fall apart because of what I do to your body arouses me. It’s why I never tire of you and always want you.”
Desire started to unfurl inside. She slid her hand up his shirt, hoping she could talk him into letting her out. “So do you want to come with me?”
“You haven’t told me where you were going.” His grip was strong on her waist. He dipped his head so he could work his magic on her throat.
Where was she going? The moment his lips touched her skin she forgot everything but the feel of his mouth on her neck. “Can’t think.”
“Then it wasn’t important.” His tongue slid up over her mark and she felt it to her toes.
“I just want to get out.” Her voice came out breathless. “Feel the sun on my face.”
“Where did you want to go?” He continued to nibble in the one spot he knew would make her knees weak.
“We’ve never done it there before.” He captured her lips, easing her mouth open so his tongue could tease hers. She melted just a little more in his arms. “We can go, but if I find we can’t make it back here before I need you again…”
“I can take you back into that room and make you forget about the gardens altogether.” He ran his fingers against her jawline in his gentle manner. “I don’t need to walk.”
“You promise to be discreet?” She knew he would get his way. One way or another. And this was the only way she could get hers.
He adjusted his arm around her waist and guided her outside. “Of course.”
“As discreet as your mother was with that tent?” She referred to when she had first come to Vespia. He had been away on a mission and she wanted to be there when he arrived home. His mother had brought half of the palace guards with her so Heather could greet him when his ship landed, including a giant tent no one could miss.
“We did have a few moments together so I could see the gift you made me.” He squeezed her waist. “That red outfit is still my favorite.”
She smiled up at him. “I know.” Heather looked around and found them being followed by guards as well as a few of the news people with their cameras aimed at them. A sigh escaped her. “I see we’ve got our entourage.”
“Ignore them.” He took her hand in his and let her set the pace for their walk.
Heather took her time, enjoying the leisurely stroll. She stopped whenever she felt like it to smell a flower or touch a leaf.
“Thank you.” She rested her head against his chest.
“For what? Spending time with my heart?” He stopped walking and tugged on her hand. She looked up at him, then in the direction he nodded in.
Not too far in front of them was a young girl clutching a well loved stuffed animal. She stared at them. Her eyes filled with a touch of awe and fear. The child knew who they were.
Heather crouched down so she could be closer to the child’s level. “It’s okay.”
The little girl looked up at her mother for a moment before she took a few steps toward them. “I have a present for you.”
“Really?” How did the child know she was going to be here? Storm had given in a little too easily. Did he plan this so the news people could get some footage they wanted? This way the media would leave them alone? Heather knew they had been hounding him for an interview with his mate and he kept putting them off.
The small girl pulled a bunch of wilted flowers from behind her back. Poor thing had been waiting a while to give them to her. “Wait. They were much prettier before.”
“They are beautiful. Thank you very much.” Heather took them and smiled.
The big happy grin was worth her little white lie.
She stood and slipped the flowers into Storm’s waist band. “You planned this, didn’t you?” She said it softly and kept her face averted so the cameras trained on them wouldn’t pick up what she said.
“I swear I didn’t.” He looked at the flowers sticking out of his waist band. “You’re not going to leave them there, are you?”
“Don’t have any pockets.” She winked at the young girl who stared in awe for a moment before wrapping herself around Storm’s leg for a quick hug. The child then dashed to her mother’s side.
Heather stood. She smiled at Storm, waiting to see what he would do next.
He gave her his ‘I’m not happy with you’ look before he passed the flowers to one of the guards. In seconds, they had been set into a device that revitalized the flowers and placed them in a small vase. “They look much better there than in my waist band.”
“I know, but did you see her face when I did that?” Heather looked at him, her eyes sparkling. “I think I made you a hero in her eyes.”
“Because you stuck those pitiful things in my pants?”
“Because you didn’t growl at me or become angry at what I did. You showed her honor by allowing me to put them someplace safe. That’s why she hugged you.”
“I’m not sure I understand.” He slipped his arm around her waist once more.
“You are destined to be the next leader, right?” At his nod she continued. “And as leader your job will be to protect the people and the planet of Vespia. She knows that. Those flowers were very special to her. I could tell by the way she held them. You treated her flowers with care. You might not have liked what I did, but you didn’t fight me.”
“What makes you think I didn’t like it?”
“That look of yours.”
He pulled her up against his body, lifting her just enough so her feet wouldn’t touch the ground. “Which look is that?”
“Your brows drop and your eyes narrow at me.”
“So that one is called ‘that look’?” He grinned. Storm lowered his mouth to hers. “I’m going to have to remember that one.”
Heather wrapped her arms around his neck. “I have lots of names for your different faces.”
“Which one is the ‘I want you now’ look?” he said, his lips still inches from hers. Desire danced in the depths of his eyes. He finally closed the distance between their mouths, his tongue delving, searching for hers.
She found want filling her body. Too bad they were out in public.
It didn’t seem to bother him at all. His lips left hers and worked their way to her neck. “I know of a nice secluded spot.”
“Now?” Her modesty warred against her growing desire.
“You promised to go along with me if I couldn’t make it back to our rooms.” He looked down at her. The longing in his eyes held such promise. “It will be discreet, I promise.”
He led her to a simple bench surrounded by shrubbery and flowers. The bushes were tall and sculpted, sealing the bench in so no one would be able to inadvertently see anything. On top of that they were surrounded by their guards.
Storm sat first. He never lost contact with her so she couldn’t back out on him. Pulling her onto his lap, he had her straddle him. Her face showed her fear. “You okay?”
“This isn’t something I think I’m ready for.” She let out a pent up breath.
“I would never make you do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.” He touched her face with such tenderness. “I see such strength from you I sometimes forget that a lot of our ways are foreign to you.”
His honesty filled her with determination. He believed she could do this or he wouldn’t suggest it. She stood and straightened her skirts so it wouldn’t hamper them. Once she had them out of the way she eased herself back down on his lap.
Storm pulled her close, capturing her lips with his. He drew her into a vortex of passion with the swirl of his tongue. She felt it in the heat of the kiss, in the heat of his mouth on her mark. It made her blood boil.
“I need you.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
Storm didn’t need any more prompting. He freed himself from his trouser and helped her slide down his hardened length. He buried himself deep inside her. They both shuddered at the intimate contact. “I need to feel your skin against mine.”
She removed his shirt and he opened the top portion of her dress. Slipping it from her shoulders, the gown pooled around her waist. His hands slid up her back, holding her close and right where he wanted her.
“Now, let’s see if I can make you forget about everything else but us.” His fingers worked their way into her folds, finding the one spot that made her desire spiral out of control.
She sucked in her breath as his fingers brushed against her most sensitive spot. Her muscles rippled against him, making him wonder if they could reach their releases without either making a move. Every time her muscles constricted on him like that he felt it deep inside.
He continued to stroke her body and it continued to sing for him. She was caught up in the maelstrom of sensations flooding her. Heather’s sheath tightened around him like a vise. Her breath came out in soft pants. Head tilted back, her eyes were not quite closed and her mouth was slightly open. This was what he wanted. She looked so beautiful when she hit her release.
Her mind reached for his as she hit the pinnacle. The intimacy they shared went beyond anything he could ever explain to anyone. Once she was released from its grip she touched his face with her fingers.
“Ready for more?” He had his hands on her hips, helping her set the pace for her next release. Her muscles tightened against him, increasing the desire filling them both. He felt her mind brush against his so he could feel her body’s reactions as well as his.
Every frisson of heat she felt, he felt. When one move made her body tighten, he felt it in his soul. His lips nibbled on her throat, working their way to her mark. That always had a deep connection for her. He swirled his tongue against it and she came apart in his arms.
“What the hell?” Suddenly Kuarto found himself surrounded by overwhelming sexual sensations that kept building around him. His body hardened with the powerful release surrounding him. Someone else’s release. He had no clue who brought him along on their sexual exploits but he got caught up with them every time.
The truck he drove took a hard right before he could regain control and he hit the ditch running alongside the road. He pounded his hand against the steering wheel. Every time this happened he got swept away with whoever was doing it. He just wished it would stop.
“Whoever! We have to talk about this. I don’t want to be part of your intimate liaisons so please leave me out.” He screamed to the heavens. It just wasn’t fair. He had abstained on purpose. Women just complicated things and now he was mentally sharing these massive orgasms with a woman and her mate and the man didn’t leave her alone. The fates were downright mean to him.
Kuarto pulled his vehicle out of the ditch, using the magnets under the bed of the truck, and got it back on the road. A quick check showed a couple of dents in the body but the frame was fine. The dents he could bang out later, but he hated hurting his truck at all. He had found it in the small building next to the house when he bought it and had fallen in love with it the moment he found out it worked. Things like this weren’t made anymore. Technology had seen to that.
He drove to his destination as quickly as he could. He was already late. He grabbed his pack as he stopped the vehicle. “Sorry Ken. I tried to get here as fast as I could.”
“It’s okay, Doc.” He gestured him to follow. “She went into labor a few hours ago but I thought she might be overacting which is why I didn’t call you right away.”
“Isn’t this her third child?” He walked into the house of the couple. This man was by far the dumbest male he had met. Kuarto was sure of it. “You know each child comes a little faster than the last one, right?”
“She could have held it in.”
Kuarto wanted to smack the man in the head. He had no clue about birth and really didn’t seem to care. “You have the next child and let’s see if you can hold it in, okay?”
“Doc?” He heard her frightened voice.
“I’m here, Sara. Everything will be fine now.” He raced to her side when he noticed the fear in her eyes. Kuarto picked up his scanner and ran it over her body. Overall everything was fine. The baby’s cord was wrapped around its neck a few times but he could fix that in an instant. He talked to her softly and helped her bring the baby into the world.
“He’s beautiful.” The new life he held awed him. This was why he became a doctor. This rare beautiful moment when you got to see a miracle. Once he finished checking the baby thoroughly he handed him to his mother.
Kuarto looked at the child’s father, hoping the baby would have more brains than dad. “You and the baby will be fine.” He made a few notes for the records he had to turn in. “Come see me in a week so I can check and see how well your son is doing.”
“A boy? Really?” She looked down at the sweet face of her baby.
“Yep.” He touched the baby’s tiny hand and was gifted with it wrapping around his finger. He couldn’t help but smile at the new life trusting him like this. “He looks just like his dad.”
She grinned as she hugged the baby to her.
Kuarto grabbed the father by the collar when he was finished with the mom and child and dragged him outside. “You let her rest, you hear me? I don’t want to rush back out here because you were too stupid to understand she needs to recuperate from giving birth. She isn’t supposed to do anything more than care for the child for two weeks. That includes fixing dinner or cleaning. No yard work or farming, milking, anything that would make her lift or move anything heavier than a baby.”
“Good.” He picked up his pack and headed to his truck. “I’ll know if you don’t follow my directions.” He climbed into the vehicle and took off. If the man did what he should everyone would be fine.
Storm sat on the couch, waiting for Heather to return from the council chambers. His mother had insisted she work with the elders some every day. So he had freed her schedule so she could be with them for the afternoon sessions.
He felt a little nervous over what he was about to show her. She wasn’t going to be happy about it but he needed to make her see this was the only way.
She came in the door and her smile faded. “What is wrong?”
“Nothing.” He patted the cushion next to him. “I have something to show you.”
“Alright.” She sat beside him and turned her attention to the large screen he received most of his communiqués on. Images flashed on the screen. Images of her. Heather stood when she realized where the pictures came from. “That is from the other day? How were they taken?”
“I took them.”
“Excuse me?” She looked at him in shock and there was a hint of betrayal in her eyes.
“I had to.” He brought up one picture of her with her eyes half open. “The news people have been hounding me about you. They wanted to interview you. I have to give them something. I thought a picture would work.”
“This over them talking to me? That is so personal. I can answer a few questions about my background.”
He grabbed her and pulled her up against him. Desire for her warred with anger. “They don’t give a damn about your background, Heather. If they got their hands on you they’d be asking how many sexual partners have you had, how many different positions you have tried, which one is your favorite. They want to know if you can keep me satisfied.”
She glared at him.
“Why do you think mother thought it was a good idea to release your pregnancy to the public? It was to show I’ve not been celibate since our mating. But they want more. If we don’t give them something then they will come after you. Do you want them cornering you on your way to the council, asking you all these intimate questions?”
“I get your point.” She studied his face, sensing his contradicting moods. “Are you okay? I know you’re cross with me because I’m questioning but you seem highly aroused too.”
“I had to go through the pictures. Find the right one to give them. Just watching you in the different stages of your release filled me with want, but this picture.” He pulled up another still. “This one has me so hard for you right now.”
Heather never saw herself the way he did. But the image in front of her revealed everything. Storm held her close in the image, his eyes held an intensity she only saw when they were both close to their release. She had her back arched against him, head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth slightly open, her ecstasy etched on her face. Just looking at it had her blood racing. “Is that what I look like?”
“Yes.” He nibbled on her throat. “You are the most beautiful to me at that moment.”
“Is that the picture you wish to release?”
“What is the human saying? ‘A picture is worth a thousand words?’ Don’t you think that will show them that you are sexually pleasing to me?” He worked on the seals of her dress. “As much as I’d like to keep this one for myself it would be perfect. But it will be plastered everywhere. That is why I wanted you to see them first. Help me pick out the one you’re happy with.”
“Before or after you ravish me?” She worked on his shirt while he peeled her dress off her shoulders.
“How about during? You’ll see how arousing these images are and be glad.” He got the dress off her just as she had helped him out of his pants. He eased her to the carpeted floor. Her muscles gripped him as he slid in deep. “My heart.”
He started a quick pace, one they normally worked their way up to. “Now watch.” He set it so that the pictures would flash on the screen for about thirty seconds each. With a flick of his wrist he moved it from the screen to the ceiling above him so Heather wouldn’t have trouble watching her own orgasm unfold.
Heather watched him maneuver her to straddle him. The next few pictures showed her fear over the thought of getting caught and him calming those worries. His tenderness when he realized her fear pulled at her heart. She remembered he didn’t force her. This was her decision.
Storm ground his hips against hers, causing heat to pool in her stomach and make her forget about the pictures for a moment.
“You need to pay attention,” Storm spoke softly in her ear. He slowed their pace down, making his strokes deeper instead.
“It’s hard to focus on two things at the same time.” She tilted her head back as the slower movements had her body humming. When she could refocus on the images she was standing and adjusting her skirt. Then the images showed Storm kissing her. She didn’t realize how heated their kisses got until she saw it happen in front of her eyes.
“You can tell the moment I enter you.” Storm knew what she was looking at somehow. And he was right. Her body tightened when he penetrated deep inside. Her eyes dilated and she bit her lip.
“Mark that one.” Her voice came out slightly breathless. The next few pictures were them undressing each other so that her upper torso was naked. She knew the moment his fingers started working their magic by the intensity on her face. Her forehead was pressed against Storm’s, her hands grasping his arms. “That one too.”
More flashed in front of her. The next picture she had him mark was the one of her first orgasm. Her eyes were partially opened and locked on Storm’s face. Her fingertips touched his jawline.
She lost focus on everything as her body reacted to a thrust that sent her close to the edge. The heat in her stomach intensified as it spread to her limbs. Heather tilted her hips and wrapped her legs higher on his waist. Her mind brushed against his as she felt her being tighten just before she reached release. She soared to the stars as spasms shook her core.
Storm continued to pump into her, his so close he couldn’t help but move faster, hoping to catch the instant that was eluding him for a moment. He stiffened as he reached what he was after. His orgasm had her clamping down on him as she felt everything he did.
“And we haven’t even gotten to the good pictures yet.” Storm pressed kisses against her neck as he allowed the pictures to continue.
Heather wondered how many orgasms it would take before they could pick out a picture.
“It is a beautiful picture, Heather,” said Toki. “It’s all anyone can talk about.”
She nodded, although she didn’t quite agree with the general census. To have such a private thing plastered everywhere had her blushing a lot. “I’m just not used to it.”
They ended up going with the one that made Storm so hard. It was by far the most erotic, yet tasteful photograph of her. Storm even had it framed. It hung in their bed room, in the main room of Anseri’s home and he had one made for his office. Being confronted by it all the time was desensitizing her to being embarrassed by it.
“So where is my brother anyway?”
“He should be here any time.” Heather offered her a drink. “I’m surprised he didn’t ask you to meet him at his office.”
“He said it was a sensitive subject and he didn’t want the information to be recorded.” Toki took the glass Heather handed her. “Is this Earth Ice Tea?”
Heather nodded. “It has been very warm recently so I thought you might enjoy it.”
Storm entered the room then, grabbed his mate and captured her lips with his.
“You two just don’t get enough of each other, do you?” Toki sat her glass on the coffee table.
“How would you expect me to greet my mate?” He hadn’t let go of Heather, but had broken the kiss. He looked into Heather’s eyes. “We’ll finish this later.”
“Why did you call me here?” Toki stood. The passion Storm and Heather shared for each other was a little overwhelming at times.
“I believe I found Heather’s brother.”
“Really?” Heather was excited to finally meet her twin.
“Yes, based off the information you have gleaned from him when you’ve been in contact.” He pressed his forehead against hers while he handed his sister a disk. “This should have everything you need to find him, Toki.”
“When should I leave?”
“As soon as possible.”
Kuarto looked around as he started up his truck. Looking at his watch, he figured he’d be able to get home without any trouble from the couple in his head.
That was what he called them now. The mind sharing had started a few months ago but he only found himself included every once in a while. In the last few weeks they seemed to connect every time. It had already taken its toll on him. The time difference between them gave him some relief, since they seemed to be sleeping when he was working, but he was having trouble getting any rest at night and it was making him cranky.
The two in his head couldn’t stay away from each other and the only time they shared with him was when they were hitting their orgasm, and he had worked that out to be about every two hours when they were awake. It was hard to get anything done with that kind of schedule.
A loud whine filled the air, forcing him to look up.
“Oh, that doesn’t look good.” He watched as a small ship billowing a whole lot of ugly black smoke, flew over his head, making a straight line for his home. “If you hit my house I will be one angry young man.”
He hit the gas and pushed his vehicle so he could keep up. Trying to keep an eye on the ship as well as the road wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The black trail continued its path right for his home. He didn’t need this. Strangers on this planet were frowned upon and having one in your backyard would make you a target. A loud boom filled the air as the ship connected with the ground. He reached the site seconds later. It had missed his house by several hundred feet but it was still very close.
Sleek and black, the small ship’s nose had buried itself in the ground pretty deep, but he could see the door so could still get the ship to open, if he could figure out where the controls were on the outside. Kuarto looked for a seam or seal, but didn’t spot it. At least not right away. He rubbed his hands along the body of the ship, searching, hoping he’d hit some sort of indentation. “Ah. There you are. Can’t hide from me for long, can you?”
He had been labeled brilliant by his peers. Had been the most sought after doctor in the galaxy and hated it. So he just took off, changed his name, and found some tiny back water planet to hide on. If these people knew who he was he’d probably find himself drugged and sold to someone who knew his value. Which was why he didn’t want this kind of intrusion. He had worked hard to keep his true identity secret and he didn’t need some uninvited guest to screw things up for him.
He could have totally ignored this but he had two things that didn’t work in his favor. One was the ship landed too close to his home for him to pretend it didn’t happen. The other was his oath as a doctor. He needed to be sure the people inside were okay before he read them the riot act and sent them on their way.
He pressed the lever and watched in satisfaction as the doors opened. He had hoped to find the ship empty, thinking it could be unmanned by the size at first but he spotted a body slumped over in the seat, which killed that idea. The pilot was incased in a head to toe uniform. The suit was sealed, giving the pilot as much protection as it could during the landing. That was good. He should have survived the crash.
And someone to yell at always made him feel better.
The interior still billowed heavy smoke, which hindered his vision. He needed to get the pilot out so he could see to their injuries. After being sure he could move the pilot, Kuarto slung him over his shoulder and carried him out. His burden was a lot lighter than he expected. “What are you, a boy?”
This guy couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred and seventy-five pounds and he was a tall one. Close to seven feet. Kuarto wasn’t short. He was well over seven feet but he tried to play that down as much as possible. There weren’t too many races with that kind of height and he didn’t want to think of what that could mean.
He laid the body on the ground and searched for the seal of the suit. It looked vaguely familiar. Vespian in design. Not too many people knew about that race but being the most sought after doctor did have its perks. It took a second for him to find the right spot. A grin spread across his face when he heard a faint noise as the glove he held came off into his hand.
He worked on the helmet, releasing the catches before he could remove it. His first glimpses of the face didn’t make him happy. “Oh, this can’t be good.”
A whole bunch of hair spilled out. What he knew of the Vespians was limited. Very alpha, very big and very private. Most of the ones he had treated took his help with a glare and were gone the moment they could leave but all of them had been male. This one was female. He didn’t know a damn thing about their females.
He brushed her hair out of her face. To make matters worse she was by far the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. “Probably my mind sharing couple’s libido talking.”
Kuarto had taken an oath of celibacy when he walked away from his old life. The less ties he had anywhere the better. Being attracted to someone could cause trouble for him and would complicate too many things. Knowing he was attracted to her made him weary. Better to get her on the road to recovery and on her way.
She had a strong pulse, and other than the nasty gash on her forehead, she hadn’t been hurt too badly. “So, how did you get that gash in this getup?” The suit should have protected her completely.
He pulled out his portable kit and used what he needed to start her healing process. In seconds her eyes fluttered open.
Golden eyes with a bright green ring stared up at him. “Who are you?”
She struggled to move.
“Hang on, now.” He gently pushed her back down. “You’ve just been in a crash and it might take you a moment or two to get your body to respond the way you want.”
Her eyes filled with confusion as she was able to turn her head so she could look over her shoulder to see the ship. “I flew that?”
Okay, that was not a good question and he knew it. How badly did she hit her head before she got the helmet on? “What is your name?”
“My name?” She looked up at him, fear creeping into the golden depths. “I don’t know.”
“That’s fine.” Although it wasn’t. He checked the readings on his scanner to see if he could reverse the memory loss. “I’ll pull the records from your database on board and will get your file. Memory loss isn’t unusual with something like this.”
A weird hum filled the air around them. He knew that sound and it wasn’t any better than her amnesia. Kuarto only had seconds to react. He pulled a device from his pocket, and activated it before he spread his body over hers. The moment the force field activated, the ship exploded, taking any information he could have gotten to help her remember who she was.
Now he had a very pretty guest to contend with.
“Sir? We’ve lost contact with her ship.”
Storm turned to glare at the young man who just spoke. He could see the readings too. “Do you know why?”
“No, sir.” The young man swallowed hard. “On her last check in everything was fine. She was headed to the coordinates programmed into her ship. As far as we can tell, she was close when the ship stopped communicating with us.”
He really didn’t need this. “Give me all the data on her last coordinates.”
The young man nodded and downloaded the info to a disk. He handed it to Storm with shaky hands.
Storm took the chip and walked out of the command center. It looked like he needed to go find his sister before she got into any more trouble. He crossed the open atrium to get to their rooms, wondering what Heather had been up to. Normally, she would brush her mind up against his from time to time but today he hadn’t felt her presence once.
He walked into a darkened room and felt his heart stop for just a moment. After all they had been through he feared she would be taken from him again. Until the person behind her kidnapping was found and stopped, Storm would be vigilant.
He spotted her silhouette and breathed a sigh of relief.
“You worry too much.” She stood as he walked toward her.
“Only about you.” He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”
“I was meditating.” She rested her head on his chest, listening to the beat of his heart.
“Everything okay?” He touched her stomach as he led her to the couch and eased her down.
“Of course.” She brushed her hair out of her face and gave him an exasperated look. “Please don’t treat me like I’m some sort of fragile flower. We have another sixteen months left on this pregnancy and I’ll go crazy if you start being too overprotective this early.”
“Can’t help myself.” He gave her one of his bone melting smiles. “But you do know how to distract me, don’t you.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “I think I have an idea.”
He bent his head to hers and captured her lips with his. He loved the taste of her. Her tongue slid against his, making him groan at the pleasure. He then moved his lips to her throat where he loved to nibble.
“You’re home early.” She tilted her head aside so he could have the access he loved.
“I know. I went to speak to my mother.” He worked on the seams of the dress she wore. “My sister has turned up missing.”
She pulled back to look at him, stopping him for a moment. “That’s not good.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing.” He went back to the seams of her gown, opening it easily, exposing her body to his gaze. Storm found it flawless, the velvet skin begging for his touch. His fingers caressed her softness as the dress dropped to the ground. “But I’m going to go check it out to be sure.”
“I’m going with you.” She had already opened the seams of his uniform. All he had to do now was walk out of it.
His hands cupped her breasts. This was one thing he didn’t want. She had a way of getting what she wanted even when he was dead set against it. “You know, I think these are a little fuller than they use to be.”
“Don’t change the subject.” She put her hands on her hips. “I’m going with you.”
“Heather.” He lifted her in his arms, and carried her to their bed, hoping he could distract her enough to forget her desire to accompany him. Why did he even mention it?
But Heather knew what he was up to. She smiled up at him, ready to accept him into her body like she had hundreds of times before. The moment he surged into her he could only think of the wonderful sensations their joining caused.
“You are taking me with you.” Her voice, laced with her desire was soft in his ear.
“Too dangerous.” There was no conviction in his voice and he knew it, but he was too caught up in the intimacy they shared. Everything washed over him. He felt her muscles tighten against him, sending delightful frissons up his spine.
“Why?” She licked her lips as one shiver of excitement raced through her blood.
He felt her body quake as it took control of her for a second or two. Every once in a while he stroked her just right and it fanned her desire to a white hot flame. “My heart.”
“I promise to be a good little mate and obey your every command, plus we can do this whenever you want.” Her muscles had him in a steel grip. Every time he slid in and out it just heightened everything.
“Oh, you don’t fight fair.” He picked up the pace, causing her muscles to ripple against him. His body shook at the feel of her tight sheath rubbing against him.
“And, oh my,” she stopped talking, heat unfurling in her stomach. It blossomed out, filling every fiber of her being. Her mind brushed against his as her release was on top of her. “You don’t?”
Like a light being turned on, Heather’s orgasm grabbed her and filled her with overwhelming joy. It spilled over into his mind so he felt the same emotions she did. His release was just as powerful, making them both speechless. Heather floated back down, relaxing against the pillows with a smile on her face.
“Oh, and I think I found another outfit you might like.”
He perked right up. Rising up on his elbows, he looked down at her. “Really?”
“I’ll save it for when we return home.”
“Home?” He nuzzled her neck. “Why?”
“There’s not a lot of privacy on those scout ships.” A sigh escaped her as he nibbled on her throat. “Remember what happened the last time we were around people and I wore one of your favorite outfits. It almost caused a riot just because I bent over the wrong way. I don’t like being an exhibitionist despite what that picture shows. What I do, I do for you.”
“And I like my own private shows.” He sighed. “So now you’re not only demanding that I take you with me, but we have our own ship?”
“I wouldn’t dare make a demand like that.” She brushed his hair with her fingers. “I know better.”
“But if I go along with this I get to see the new outfit and you will do whatever I ask of you?” He studied her face, watching as her eyes dilated at the promise of his threat.
“Your wish is my command.”
“You know that could get you into trouble.” He lowered his mouth to her mark. Still deep inside her he felt her body pulse as he pushed his tongue along the tissue.
She arched up against him. “I hope so.”
Kuarto had to come up with a reason why he suddenly had a woman at his place. His mind sharers had just sent him off for a few moments, but he had regained control and now needed to work on what he hoped the people here would believe.
The people in this small village all knew each other so a stranger would attract a lot of attention. Then he remembered one of the men talking about ordering a mail-order bride. That might work out for him since there were women from other planets willing to move to some of the more remote outposts to find a husband. Their own worlds were hard and husbands were rare. All he had to worry about was whether or not Vespians were listed. If so, he should be able to pull it off.
He pulled up the information on the brides. There were several companies who specialized in brides and they had every kind imaginable. It didn’t take a lot for him to backtrack on his computer to make it look like he had been looking for a bride for a month or so, and that would help with explaining her arrival.
The young woman slept in his bed at the moment. She looked so innocent there. He watched her, hoping everyone would believe the story he would have to weave.
The only thing he needed to do now was use his precious replicator to create what a bride would bring to her new home. He rarely used the machine because of the minerals needed to activate it. They weren’t the easiest items for him to get his hands on. So what he had, he used sparingly, normally for medical supplies he needed when it would take too long to order them.
Considering her ship burnt up on impact, all he needed to do was create an outfit he thought a new bride would wear to meet her husband-to-be for the first time. From everything he read, most would wear their wedding gown. Not very practical, but he did understand why, so he created a nice dress for her. Something she could wear now and still be pretty enough for people to think it was her wedding dress.
He brought it into his bedroom and placed it on her bed, hoping she’d put it on without any questions when she woke up. Glancing out the window, he saw one of the locals heading toward his home. Figured he would be the first one to show up after the crash.
He went on the defensive the moment his front door opened. Always worked on this man. “What do you want, Guapo?”
“I come to see you and that’s how I’m greeted? Shameful, doctor. I heard you have a new bride and wished to pay my respects.”
“That didn’t take long. Or was it the crash that brought you, and made you check to see what might have caused it?”
“You wound me.” He grabbed at his side where his heart was. “I worried something could have happened.”
“Right. Go home, Guapo.” He moved about his small office, trying to look like he didn’t care what the man thought. “I’ll bring her around when she is ready.”
“No quick peek?”
The young woman walked into the room at that moment, wearing the dress he had left for her. Why did she have to come out right while the most untrustworthy man on the planet happened to be in the building?
“Thank you.” She noticed their guest and stopped. She stepped close to Kuarto, as if she was looking for protection from him. At least she knew better than to talk.
“Guapo, my bride.” Not being able to explain anything to her, he prayed she wouldn’t question him in front of this little sleaze bag. It wouldn’t go well if she did. Thankfully she gave him an odd look but kept quiet during the introductions.
“She is very pretty. You are a lucky man.” He studied her, something that made Kuarto uncomfortable. “Tonight, I will come back, and we can celebrate.”
He didn’t think it was a good idea, but wasn’t sure if the man understood the word no. The moment the man left, Kuarto focused on her. “You shouldn’t have come out.”
“How was I to know you were going to have a guest?” Hurt filled her eyes.
“We need to get our story straight before he comes back.” He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. He hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings but had no clue how to fix it. “I have bought you. You’re my mail-order bride.”
“Okay.” She looked at him with such innocence.
At least she wasn’t going to fight him on this. “You need to be quiet as much as possible when he is here. He’s not one I trust.”
“Then why do you deal with him?” She looked out the window to watch the man retreat.
“Sometimes you have to deal with the worst to survive.” He looked at her. “You know, we need to come up with a name for you. ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t roll off the tongue.”
“What do you suggest?” She played with a piece of gold around her neck.
“What is that?”
“The necklace? I’m not sure. I noticed it when I changed.”
“Maybe it says something we can use.” He stepped up to her and took a hold of the gold disk. It was warm from her skin. It practically burned him. “To Toki, sister, friend, Heather and Storm.”
“Toki? Sounds like a nickname.”
“It does, but it’s Vespian, which you are too. I’m not sure how many people will recognize that but I don’t want to take a chance with something non-Vespian.” He didn’t have the heart to tell her it meant pain. “I don’t think it would be smart to give you a human name when you’re not human.”
“Then Toki it is.” She looked up at him while he continued to hold the medallion. “I wanted to thank you for the dress.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.” He backed off, not real sure why he had stayed that close to her for as long as he did. “Thought it would look better if you dressed the part of a mail-order bride. What did you do with your other clothes?”
“Left it on the bed.”
“It might be smart to put that away. Don’t want people asking too many questions because they happen to see it.” He walked into his bedroom. The uniform lay neatly on his bed. Kuarto picked up the outfit, folded it and put it into the wooden trunk he had at the foot of the bed. The covers disheveled look reminded him what cause it. He had a woman in his bed. Too bad he hadn’t joined her. He sure wanted to.
A slight sound behind him made him look around and he found her inches away. Being attracted to Toki was going to be a problem. He needed to be professional. “Okay, this is what we will tell people. You came here as my bride. The ship you came in fell apart as you entered our atmosphere and blew up after you were able to exit it. All your worldly possessions were destroyed in the explosion.”
“Which is what happened,” she commented.
The confines of the small room weren’t helping him at all. He picked up a whiff of something before realizing it was her. That unique scent all women had. He needed to get out of the room before he did something stupid like kiss her, so he headed back into the main room of his simple home. She followed right behind him.
“It’s also believable because people will think the ship was probably old and shouldn’t have made the flight in the first place.” He gestured to a chair. “You did get banged about a bit and I’d like to examine you.” He pulled out a pocket sized scanner. “I’m a doctor, although on this planet I’ve been known to take care of just about anything that moves. My supplies might not be able to bring your memory back, but I’d like to try.”
She looked at the scanner before looking back at him. “It would be nice to remember again.”
He nodded, and led her to the far right wall of his home, where he had all his medical supplies. He had already treated her other injuries when he first brought her to the house. The suit had protected much of her body, the gash on her head was about the only thing he could address. Kuarto would love to know how she got the nasty cut then was still able to seal her suit properly before she lost her memories.
He checked the wound, happy with the way it was healing. In an hour or two it would be completely gone. The amnesia was a different story. After running a series of tests, he found it temporary but everything he tried to reverse the problem didn’t work.
“Well, I have good news and bad news. Everything looks good, but the memory loss is going to last a bit longer. I’ll keep working on it, but I’m not sure how quickly I can fix your problem.”
“So what does that mean?”
“You’re going to be my guest a little longer.”
Storm went through a few more last minute checks before he was satisfied. “My heart, you really should sit while I do this.”
“I’m fine.” She checked the supplies she had asked for.
“Maybe so, but you are in the way.” He swiveled his chair so he could check final flight information. “If you want to get airborne, you need to move out of the way.”
She wanted to stick her tongue out at him, but continued her own work instead. She had spoken to the doctor, and gotten a medical bag to carry, just in case she needed it. The doctor had given her most of the things she needed to help Toki if she was injured, and the training to use the equipment as well.
Heather had done her research and found that the undeveloped planet where Toki was last seen was very leery of anyone just showing up. They might be able to cloak one of the smaller ships, but not a large medical one. So Storm went along with them having a ship of their own. The larger medical ship would have to hang back as they went to the planet.
“It should take us about a day to get there.” He snagged one arm and pulled her into his lap. “You have everything ready?”
“Like what?” She tried to look innocent.
He nuzzled her neck. “A certain something you promised me. It’s the only reason you’re coming along.”
“You telling me that you have no use for me other than sex?” Her voice was soft, slightly seductive, and very serious.
“Of course not.” He pulled back to look her in the eyes. “But you used sex to come with me. You could have used so many angles to make me bring you and you know I would have gone along with it.”
“True, but you know what I am capable of. You gave me a unilateral ‘it’s too dangerous’ and you know how much I hate that.” Her eyes grew wide as she realized how she had been manipulated. “You’re evil.”
“What are you talking about?” He played with the seam of her uniform.
“You did that on purpose because you knew I would come up with the one thing you always want to make you bring me along with you.”
“You’re my mate, wouldn’t pleasing me be part of what you want to do anyway?” He smiled at her. It was the one he normally gave her when he thought he had the upper hand.
She had no answer, but knew she would get her revenge. He liked to play games and she had gotten very good at winning these little matches. “Whatever you say.”
He didn’t like the way she gave in. It always meant trouble.
FREE ebooks! I just posted this message on my blog a couple of days ago. If you sign up for my newsletter or follow my blog I’ll send you 3 ebooks. You have to leave a comment on any front page post explaining which one you signed up for, and once I confirm it I will send you the 3 ebooks. Easy peasy! Please feel free to invite your friends, too!
Okay – I’m a bit of an air head today – miscalculated on the time left – I have 4 days not 8 so I’ll be posting 2 excerpts a day…
Here;s the first one – Dominated by Desire the one that started it all.
Dominated By Desire
Heather can’t believe she is the only person on Earth that can protect Storm, the ambassador from Vespia. It has something to do with some pheromone the Vespian male exudes. Although everyone tells her she is immune she doesn’t agree. There is something about the man that makes her desire skyrocket whenever she is around him.
Storm finds the Heather fascinating, bright violet eyes that hold a world of emotions in them. He finds himself drawn to her, wanting her with a depth he never experienced before. When she becomes the focal point of several kidnapping attempts he realizes she’s going to need his protection, the perfect excuse to get to know her better.
Heather stood next to her commander, going over everything she had learned about the Vespian society so far. He wanted to be sure she was ready for her next assignment. She found the idea of guarding the ambassador a bit boring but she’d done it before and it shouldn’t be a long one. The man was only to be on Earth for a short period of time.
Her first glimpse of the Vespian ambassador caught her off guard. She wasn’t sure what she expected but it wasn’t seeing him coming in like some sort of rock star. Shirt missing, exposing tight, sculpted abs, along with well muscled shoulders and arms. He was the stuff of most women’s wet dreams and he dressed the part.
“That is the ambassador?” She couldn’t keep the shock out of her voice. His jet black hair held a bit of a blue shine, and he kept running his fingers through the thick locks like he wanted to draw attention to it. He was tall too. Had to be over seven feet, even for her six foot three frame that was tall.
“I know it isn’t what you expect but he is doing this for charity.” Her commander’s voice was laced with a touch of laughter. “From what I hear he was talked into this. They wanted him to be one of the dates for this auction but he refused.”
All she could do was stare. The women surrounding him were practically throwing themselves at him, reaching to touch whatever they could. Giggles and groans filled the air as hands made contact with his muscled arms and legs.
How was she going to work with him now that she had seen this? She wasn’t sure if she could, with this flashing in her mind all the time.
Those women who were able to touch him tried to pull him toward them but luckily he had anchored himself well, and had plenty of protection to keep them at bay. She was sure he reveled in the attention. He had a smile that could melt a polar ice cap.
“If it’s all right with you, sir, I’ll wait for this to end elsewhere.” She didn’t really want to see any more. If she was to treat him with any kind of professionalism it would be smart for her to find another place to wait inside the embassy.
“That’s fine. This shouldn’t take very long.”
Heather turned around and climbed the steps to the large double doors. Her title of ice princess fit her well at this moment. Most women would enjoy watching this display but it just made her uncomfortable.
Unable to stop herself, she turned one last time to watch the spectacle and found him staring right at her. Everything disappeared during that moment. Nothing else existed but the two of them connecting through the throng of the crowd. The moment she realized she was starting to attract attention she broke eye contact and walked into the building.
What had just happened?
Her heart beat hard in her chest. No one ever affected her. That was one of the reasons she was brought in. Where all the other women had ended up sleeping with the man, she would be immune.
She needed something to calm herself down.
Meditation normally worked for her but she needed someplace quiet and empty. She found just about every room occupied. She nodded and smiled as she entered and then left different rooms.
Eventually she did find a quiet corridor. All she needed was a small alcove and a few minutes. She heard several sets of footsteps and sighed. Not this time. She turned back to find herself face to face with the ambassador with a small entourage.
Being this close to him set her body on fire. His gaze trapped her, heating her from the inside out. Training kept her from crumbling at his feet.
“Sorry, mistress, but this is the ambassador’s wing. No one is allowed down it but him and his most trusted guards.”
The man’s voice was pleasant but she found she could look at anyone but the ambassador. She found herself drowning in his eyes. They were a golden tone with a deep amber ring around the edge. She had never seen anything like it.
Tearing her gaze from his, she blinked a couple times before she could focus on the man who spoke to her. “I am sorry. Guess I got a little lost.”
“Of course.” The man bowed to her. “One of these men will take you to your room.”
“Thank you.” She steadied herself and followed the man down the hall. It took every ounce of will power to not turn around to look at him again.
“And who is that?” Storm found the petite woman intriguing. She had such expressive eyes.
“She has been assigned to help you with the treaty.”
“Really?” He looked over his shoulder to watch her turn the corner. “I thought this race decided I was too difficult to work with. Their women can’t fight the pheromones I exude and the men all want to kill me. Didn’t they say there was no one able to do this?”
“Yes sir, but she’s been tested against your pheromones and fared better than anyone else. Plus she has security training to protect you and their humans. You know these humans have wanted one of their own with you from the beginning. It was a compromise that the elders approved.”
“That little thing is going to protect me?” If the elders approved he wouldn’t fight it but he couldn’t see it. Besides, it would be interesting to see if she could do her job as well as they said.
“She comes highly recommended. One of the planet’s best.”
“We shall see.”
Heather dressed for the formal meal. She checked her uniform in the mirror to make sure everything was in place. This assignment would isolate her from everyone she knew. Normally she would welcome it, but she feared she wouldn’t fare any better than those who had tried before her. The one thing she had been able to do before this meal was meditate. It had helped. She had been able to center herself and regain composure. She should be able to face the ambassador with poise now.
One more adjustment and she headed to the main hall where the meal would take place. She entered through the doors and took in her surroundings.
The dining hall bustled with waiters and servers greeting people and taking them to their proper seats. Taking a few calming breaths, she stepped into the room and waited her turn. It didn’t take too long before she was seated next to her commander.
“You sure I’m right for the job?” After her reaction to the ambassador earlier she didn’t feel as confident in herself as her superiors seemed to be.
“Yes. You passed all the tests, and you are the best in security. He emits a natural pheromone that makes people either throw themselves at him or passionately hate him. You showed you were immune to it so that makes you the perfect candidate.”
She sure didn’t feel like she was immune.
The room quieted as they prepared to introduce the ambassador to the crowd. Women sighed and tried to leave their seats to get closer to him. Men either had a big dopey grin or looked like they could kill him.
“This is what I need to protect him from? Just keep him locked up.” She kept her voice soft as she leaned toward her boss.
“That’s why you’re perfect for this,” his voice just as soft. “You see the big picture. You know we can’t lock him up but understand he needs to be kept from other people. It’s just too dangerous to have him wander around.”
“Yes, sir.” She felt the ambassador’s gaze on her. And as much as she wanted to melt at his feet like the rest of the women, she was better than that. Using all her training, she schooled her features and looked back. She had a job to do and nothing would deter her.
He gave her a smile that melted any resolve she had. There was no way she would be able to do this job. Time to get out before she got into trouble. “Sir, I’m not sure about this.”
“I understand. He’s got a personality that pushes the best of us.”
“You don’t seem to be affected.”
“I’m under sedation.” He showed her a small patch resting on his wrist under his jacket. “Everyone at this table is, except for you. You are our only hope if we want to be allies with this planet.”
If she felt something from being in the same room with him and she wasn’t sedated, just how bad was it for everyone else? She watched as the ambassador took his seat. A loud gong sounded and the waiters started to deliver their food. The appetizers arrived first. “I don’t see how I am the only person for the job. There has to be someone else.”
“Lieutenant, you can argue with me all you want. I didn’t make this decision. You’ve been assigned. End of discussion.”
“Sorry, sir.” She took a couple bites. “It’s just I’m not sure I’m as immune as everyone thinks.”
“You’ll be fine.” He picked up the glass in front of him and downed it. Heather noticed the sheen of sweat on his brow. Even medicated he was having problems. “You’re feeling the affect of the pheromone. Nothing like everyone else in this room, but we knew you’d feel it a little. And every Vespian has it. It’s part of the race. That’s why we can’t go there and they picked one of their men they felt wouldn’t cause a war. His pheromones don’t have the strength that other visitors from their planet have had.”
“Why do we want them as allies?” She knew the answer but the mineral they had to offer seemed insignificant in the face of the problems they had to deal with just gaining them as allies.
“You know that mineral would allow us to end hunger here. They have more than they need and are willing to give it to us, but we have to prove ourselves.”
The appetizer was replaced with a salad.
“And I’m the one to do that? Are you sure they went through my record? I haven’t been the model soldier.”
“I know that, but you were the one chosen so you do your duty and help the planet.” He speared a piece of lettuce with his fork.
Dinner went by pretty quickly. She did notice the air circulation was working overtime. Keeping the room clean so emotions were kept at a decent level.
She was grateful she could speak to her commander so candidly. It allowed her to voice her concerns without making a fool of herself. So now she had to protect the man as well as figure out what the planet had to do to prove themselves. She should have read the fine print before she accepted this assignment.
Once the meal was done they were led to another room for dancing and mingling.
“It’s time for me to leave. You’ve already seen your room, right? Is there anything you need from me before I go?”
“Take me with you?” She half joked. “I’m not sure who my main contact is here. Normally we would have a meeting so I would know who I am to deal with. Why haven’t we done that?”
“Another concession. You will meet the people you will deal with tonight. So have fun but stay sharp. Alcohol probably intensifies the problem.” He took his coat from one of the servants and headed toward the door.
She turned to the ballroom, scanning the area for anything out of the ordinary. As she started to do a second sweep she found her view blocked by a broad pair of shoulders.
“Care to dance?”
What a wonderfully deep voice. She looked up to find the ambassador standing in front of her. Much taller than the average human, he towered above her.
How did he do that? He was across the room only seconds ago. She did her best to ignore him. “I should be watching the crowd, Ambassador.”
“True, but dancing will allow you to study the whole group without looking like you’re doing some sort of study.” He stood beside and started to look around with her.
She knew her job better than that and knew she wasn’t looking obvious until he joined her. “No one noticed me until you came over here.”
He smiled at her slight rebuff. Offering her his hand, he didn’t give her a chance to say no again. Heather placed her hand in his, hoping this wouldn’t be a mistake on her part.
His heat penetrated and warmed her blood. If she was immune, she felt for the women who weren’t. Every time he looked at her or touched her she felt it to her toes. Her body hummed at his close proximity. How was she going to do her job?
She needed to clear her mind. One calming breath and she turned her focus from the man who held her in his arms to their surroundings and the people who seemed hyper-focused on him.
One woman caught her attention. She kept lifting her head to see him. She was able to slip from her partner and was headed right for them.
“Um, we need to move. Let me lead.” She took control of their steps, maneuvering them out of the way. It didn’t take long before the woman was gathered by a few of the guards standing nearby and pulled out of danger.
“You have sharp eyes.”
“Thanks.” She saw a flash of silver. “Duck.”
He dipped her deep. Pressing their bodies together. She could feel the hardness of his thighs against hers. The angle he held her at allowed her to feel his member at her apex. It sent sparks of desire through her. Something she didn’t expect.
She watched a small dagger fly close but over their bodies. He reached his hand up and stopped the blade in midflight. With a slight flourish he tucked it into her jacket pocket.
His employees went to work subduing the man who threw it and led him out of the room like it was all in a day’s work. Her partner seemed to enjoy their intimacy because he hadn’t straightened yet.
“Do you mind?” She tried to act indignant, but it was taking all her energy to keep her wits about her.
He straightened, taking her with him. “Just wanted to be sure the danger had passed.”
She doubted that but remained silent. Her body screamed when it wasn’t near his. Instinct was to snuggle up to him, to feel his warmth once again. It took all her willpower to keep her feet moving.
She could do this. All she had to do was focus and not on him. She picked a safe location to bring her calm back to center. A couple of deep breaths and she felt in control once again.
“I’m fine, Ambassador.” She looked up at him, working hard on keeping her emotions under control.
“Don’t call me that.” A frown creased his handsome face as he moved her with the music.
“What?” Those damn eyes got the best of her. So clear and sharp, she wanted to stare into them for hours.
“Sorry, but we never had a meeting, remember?” She didn’t mean to sound snippy but she couldn’t keep it out of her voice. “No one happened to mention your name in passing.”
“Ah, well that makes sense. My name is too hard for most humans to pronounce.”
Then why was he giving her such a hard time?
“But I have picked a humanoid name, one that I believe fits me.” He smiled at her. “Call me Storm.”
“No sir, either, not from you.”
“Okay, Storm.” She wasn’t sure what to think. Why would he care what she called him? They barely knew each other. “Can we take a break? I’m starting to get evil looks from the women fawning all over you.”
“Of course.” He kept a hold of her hand, leading her to where his people stood. “This is Heather.”
They nodded. He didn’t need to say any more. They knew who she was. She had been hired to keep the man safe yet she didn’t know anyone in his entourage. How was she supposed to do her job without the proper information?
“You going to introduce me to everyone? Or I am supposed to guess as I work with each of them?” Somehow she had lost control of the situation.
“Watching you guess might be fun.” He grinned as he wrapped an arm around her to make the proper introductions. Not one name could she repeat.
Why did he feel a need to touch her when it seemed that the women nearby were becoming jealous of her? She could feel it building around them. Someone might have to protect her if he kept this up, but his grip was strong and she didn’t want to make a scene.
“Okay, since everyone seems to have those roll off the tongue names I’m going to have to come up with ones I can say and remember.” She received nods but at least no one seemed to be upset with her. She felt like she was babbling. “They’ll come as I get to know you.”
An older man brought them drinks, bringing her attention back to Storm. She thanked the server as she took hers.
“Why did you thank him?” asked Storm.
“Because it’s the polite thing to do.” She wished she could move and put a little space between them but he still had his arm around her and she wasn’t real sure how to break his hold without seeming rude.
“But it’s his job.” His curiosity was evident.
“True, but we all want to be told we’re doing a good job from time to time. Thanking him lets him know I appreciate what he does for a living.” She found it interesting that his question was so genuine.
“Interesting. Our people accept their position and do their job without question.”
She scratched her head, wondering how to explain it better. It had to be something he was familiar with. A grin covered her face when she came up with the perfect subject. “When you are intimate with a woman do you show your appreciation or do you just expect her to understand because she was doing her job?”
“When I am intimate with a woman I always show my appreciation with my partner. I do that during the act.” He said it softly, his face very close to her ear.
Okay that was the wrong subject matter. She felt it all the way to her toes. Fear had her stepping away from him, breaking his hold on her. Being rude wasn’t part of her worry. Him being too close was.
It didn’t seem to faze him. Storm just stepped next to her and wrapped his arm around her once again. And that was the way the rest of the evening went. When she found an opportunity to move away from him he found a way to come back into contact with her. Her whole being was in a heightened state of arousal. It took all her strength not to jump on him and beg him to have his way with her there with everyone watching.
When the evening finally came to an end she practically dashed to her room and headed straight for the shower. It was going to be long and cold and hopefully would cool her libido.
Storm sat on the couch in his suite contemplating the evening.
“You pushed her hard, sir. Why?”
“I’m not sure, Fridon.” He leaned forward as he spoke. “I don’t need protection and we know that, but for some reason the elders decided I needed to have it. Out of all the candidates they had they picked her. Why?”
“We’ve been raised to never question them, sir. You know that.” The young man got up and poured himself a glass of water. “Want some?”
“No. I need a clear head.” Water had an alcoholic effect on his race.
“So why did you push so hard?” Fridon sat across from Storm.
“I wanted to see what would happen if she was hit with the full force of our pheromones. I knew it could have caused a little trouble but our air system would remove a lot of it as long as I didn’t walk through the crowd.”
“And what did you learn?” The elders assigned Fridon to keep an eye on Storm. For some reason they had a special interest in the human and him.
“That she is very strong. I could feel her desire yet she refused to act on it. A weaker woman wouldn’t have been able to resist.”
“You want her.” He said it matter-of-factly. Storm never turned down a bed partner and this was the first time he had walked away without one. Any of the women there tonight would have accommodated him.
“What?” He sat back. Was it that obvious? “No, but she has piqued my interest.”
“So she has passed your test?”
“I wonder how she passed the elders’ one.”
He hadn’t thought about why they picked her. Now he had to worry about that. Sleep wasn’t going to come easy to him.
Heather found it difficult to sleep. Three cold showers later and she still hadn’t gotten her libido under control. She had thought about calling her commander and quitting, but ended up jumping back into the shower. Meditation had worked a little but not enough to relax her for sleep.
She paced her room, wondering what would work. Perhaps if she snuck down to the kitchen she could get a hot toddy of some sort to quiet her nerves and allow her to sleep. Her simple nightgown covered her well enough so she left the matching robe behind.
Barefoot, she tiptoed down the hall from her room to the central section of the house. Most of the help had gone to bed so she shouldn’t run into anyone along the way. As she turned another corner she heard a faint noise. Her sixth sense kicked in and told her something was wrong. She needed a place to hide until whatever she sensed had gone past and she could follow them. A small alcove beckoned and she slipped inside. Steel strong arms wrapped around her waist as a large hand covered her mouth.
No one could ever hold her. She proceeded to fight whoever had her and found herself flipped around and staring into the golden eyes of Storm. What was he doing here?
He dragged her into a small door in the alcove and pushed it gently closed. The confined space intensified the feelings she had been trying to banish. Her nipples got hard just because he held her.
Storm slid one of his legs between hers, pulling her up onto it so they could see eye to eye. The nightgown she wore rode up on her, leaving her core naked against the soft cloth she now rested against. She opened her mouth to protest and realized her mistake too late.
His head dipped toward hers, his mouth covering her lips as his tongue invaded. He cradled her head in his hand, angling it to give him better access to her.
She tried to hold back. Wanted to break the kiss altogether but her willpower deserted her in the onslaught of the passion. Everything screamed for more. She fell into the desire swirling through her, giving as much as he would take.
He deepened the kiss, his hands leaving her waist and head to slide up under the gown, touching the fevered flesh beneath.
She felt them on her buttocks, then slide up her back and around to her breasts. The pebbled tips ached for more as he caressed them. He shifted her, her legs wrapping around him to maintain the contact. Now she could press her core against the hardened length of him. Her whole being was on fire.
It affected him as much as her because she felt the tremor race through him.
Just as fast as it started it stopped. She found herself on her feet as the door opened and several guards faced them.
“Everything all right, sir?”
“Yes.” His voice came out deeper than normal. He cleared his throat and spoke again. “We ducked in here when the intruders drew close. Did you get them?”
“Yes, sir. We found them just outside of this area. Looks like they turned on each other, we found them all fighting when we arrived. They’ve been moved to security to be questioned whenever you’re ready.”
“Good. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He gently touched her shoulder. “Do you wish to join the interrogation?”
She nodded. Talking was out of the question. She wondered if the guards could see her disheveled look and swollen lips. If they did they showed no reaction.
Storm offered her his hand which she took and they followed the men to the security section.
“You might not like the way we do things around here but it is our way,” he said.
He had kept his distance from her, allowing her to regain some control. What had gotten into her? She never behaved like this before. Most men who showed her any attention learned quickly she didn’t want it. What was wrong with her?
Keeping her gaze averted she couldn’t help but notice the two wet marks on his clothes. One on his thigh and the other over his groin. Heat filled her cheeks. She did that to him. What must he think of her?
Relief filled her when they entered the security section. Something to draw her focus.
Two of the guards stepped into the room. One held a strange looking weapon.
“Tell us why you invaded the ambassador’s home.”
The four men just stared at them.
“Do you know what this is?” The guard with the weapon asked. “It’s from our planet on Vespia.” He turned it on a low setting, pressing it against the stomach of one of the intruders causing him to crumple to the ground. He turned it up a notch and aimed it at the next man.
“We know nothing.” His answer wasn’t what they wanted to hear. The guard pressed it against the neck of the man causing him to cry out in pain before crumpling as well. A large burn mark showed on his throat.
“It is designed to help with our animals. We can use it on the lightest setting.” He pointed to the first man on the floor. “To keep them from wandering. The highest setting kills.” He moved it to the top notch and sliced through a table sitting in the room. “Clean and precise. Now, why are you here?”
Sweat broke out on the brow of the third one. “I didn’t get paid enough to die.”
“Shut up,” said the other. “How do you know they won’t kill you after you talk?”
“I’d rather die at their hands than his.” He looked up at the guards, fear dancing in his eyes. “We were hired to get the woman. We don’t know why, just following orders.”
She looked at Storm. “Woman?”
“That is the question, isn’t it?”
Hi All I’m Barbara Donlon Bradley, author of the popular the Vespian Way, an erotic SF/Futuristic Romance series. I am excited to be here! Over the next 8 days I plan on posting each of the books in the series. Yep, there are now eight released with the ninth in production. I don’t have a release date yet, but should be hearing soon. I want to thank all of you who have read the series.
Halloween is my favorite time of the year, but my birthday is the day before so I do have an excuse. I love the trick or treaters and the costumes the kids in the neighborhood come up with. So when I heard about the Spookapalooza I knew I had to be a part of it. Hope you enjoy!