» Unedited Blurb «
After four months of orbiting Earth in a spaceship bursting with sex-starved aliens, nurse Shelley Bonham will do just about anything to get off. The ship, that is—the Garathani are preparing to deliver the first load of female mating recruits to their home world and nothing could induce her to go along.
Not that the aliens aren’t hot enough to put her hormones on red alert. In fact, the more time she spends with the Garathani leader and his personal guard Hastion, the more she wants them. Knowing what Cecine and Hastion are doing to each other when nobody's looking only makes it harder to keep her hands to herself.
But she’s already been betrayed by one alien, namely her dead douchebag of a husband. Can she trust her future—and her children—to another?
» Unedited Excerpt «
Shelley was chasing a huge, scary alien down a never-ending hallway. If it weren’t so damn aggravating, she’d be laughing her ass off at the irony.
“Minister, I really need to speak with you,” she said for the third time, her heart pounding with exertion and anxiety, and more than a little antagonism. She’d intended to confront Minister Cecine at breakfast, but he was already on his way out when she got to the dining room.
“Not now, Ms. Bonham,” he replied without looking back. “I’m due on the surface in ten minutes.”
Shelley swiped her forearm across her sweaty forehead as she jogged after him. It was hell keeping up—his legs were almost as long as she was tall, which meant she had to take three steps for every one of his, and it didn’t help that she was almost as big around as she was tall. God help them both if she tripped—she’d probably start rolling and take him out like a bowling pin. But after spending all last night psyching herself up, she wasn’t about to let him get away without giving her some kind of answer.
“This can’t wait, sir.”
“It must. I’m already behind schedule.”
Her ire ramped up another degree. The few times she’d found the nerve to prod him gently about her return to Earth during the big family-style meals he hosted in his private dining room, he’d basically patted her on the head and told her not to worry her pretty little head.
Not that he’d actually touched her. Or said she was pretty. And really, the most powerful being in the galaxy probably did have more important things to do than map out her future.
That didn’t make being perpetually put off any less frustrating.
“Just how the long do you intend to keep me in the dark?” she demanded. “All the other compound employees received their reintegration plans weeks ago and most of them have already gone home, but no one’s told me anything. I have to make plans just like everybody else.”
“All in good time, Ms. Bonham.”
“Good time?” Her eyes bugged. “The ship leaves in less than a month and I have two babies to provide for!”
“I’m well aware of both facts,” he said, hooking a hard right and heading into a tranlift.
She took a deep breath and followed him in, grateful for the breather. “Then please, sir, just give me five minutes.”
“I’m sorry but I haven’t a moment to spare this morning.” Both his brilliant auburn hair and scarlet robes flared out majestically as he turned on his heel. Staring straight over her head at the door, he added, “I’ll be happy to speak with you upon my return.”
“And just when—eep!” He picked her up by the upper arms and set her to the side so he could exit through the door she hadn’t even heard open. So much for her breather—where was a damn slow elevator when you needed one?
Chafing her tingling arms, she raced after him. “And just when will you return?”
“I can’t say for certain.”
Shelley blinked back tears of rage. Redheaded bastard. He could ink everyone into his schedule but her.
Dammit, she knew she’d regret staying under his so-called protection. She should have started kicking and screaming and demanding to be sent back to Earth as soon as she recovered from the delivery, media firestorm or no. He knew damn good and well she’d had absolutely no idea who Mark really was or what he’d been up to. Hell, she still didn’t know if she’d even been legally married to the prick.
She followed the minister through yet another sliding door and her eyes widened when she realized they were in the transport bay. Behind the instrument panel stood Ensign Holligan, whose pink-and-lavender-striped blond hair reminded Shelley of her old My Little Pony dolls. Commander Kellen, Lieutenant Shauss, Hastion and two other aliens she didn’t know were already on the flare platform, clearly waiting for Minister Cecine. The instant he stepped up there, they’d all disappear and she’d be left standing here like an idiot.
Her jaw tightened until her teeth creaked. Enough was enough, dammit. He was not going to leave her twisting in the wind for one more minute.
Grabbing two handfuls of his velvety robe, she yanked hard and yelled, “Talk to me, you big jerk!”
Everyone in the room froze and it got so quiet, you could have heard a pin bounce off the thick biologic pad underfoot.
Acutely conscious of all the incredulous stares directed her way, Shelley thought she did, in fact, hear a bead of sweat drip off her second chin and plop softly on her pink tee shirt.
She swallowed hard as the minister took his foot off the flare platform and slowly turned to look down at her. Way, way down. Their bodies were less than a foot apart and the proximity was setting off all kinds of alarms in hers. She could actually feel the heat radiating off him. She could even smell him—the almond dermal scrub that filled every soap dispenser on the ship and a light, tasty cologne of some kind. He reminded her of those windmill cookies her mother had always bought in bulk.
When his flame-blue gaze dropped pointedly to the hem of his robe, she released the crushed fabric, smoothing it with her sweaty palms as it slipped away.
Licking her suddenly dry lips, she said, “Sorry, sir. I shouldn’t have done that, and I’m really sorry I called you a jerk. I just…well, I’m going a little crazy being cooped up here for so long.”
His expression didn’t change. “Then I suggest you make an appointment with Dr. Tiber.”
Irritation tightened her jaw again. “I don’t need a shrink. I need to get off. This. Ship.”
“And so you shall. Eventually.”
When the minister turned again and stepped up onto the platform, Hastion shot her an appalled look and Shelley threw her hands up, shooting back a wide-eyed glare that said, What the hell was I supposed to do?
“But for now,” the minister said as he faced her, “you may rest assured that the Alien Affairs Department is working hard to find a suitable placement for you and the twins.”
She crossed her arms. It had better be more than just suitable. Last month the GaraTer Alliance had decided that her conversations with her husband violated the terms of her confidentiality agreement and demanded she return every red cent they’d paid her over the last year and a half.
Which wouldn’t have been such a huge problem if Mark had saved them for the down-payment on their dream home in Colorado, as he’d promised. But the money had apparently vanished without a trace, so not only was she dead broke but she was drowning in debt. Even with a masters’ degree in perinatal nursing, it would take twenty years to repay them. If one of the recruits hadn’t fallen in love with the babies and volunteered to stay on Earth for another year to nanny for nothing but room and board, she’d be totally screwed.
“You know,” she told him, “if you’d just said that in the first place, I wouldn’t have chased you all over the ship.”
He nodded at Pony Boy and then told her, “You must be at least eight feet from the platform before Ensign Holligan can initiate the flare.”
“Oh, sorry.” Blushing, she backed up several steps.
As the flare generator hummed to life, the corners of the minister’s lips curled a little. “By the way, Ms. Bonham, you’re welcome to chase me anywhere you wish.”
He and the others were sucked away in a flare bubble before her jaw had time to drop, leaving her gaping at the empty platform. What the hell did that mean?
She looked at the poker-faced Holligan. “Please tell me he didn’t just…”
What, flirt with her? Please. More like make fun of her. The asshat probably thought she needed the exercise.
Sighing, she turned to go. “Never mind.”
“Have a nice day, Shelley,” Holligan said blandly.
She whirled around and gave him a sharp look. His expression hadn’t changed but there was definitely a twinkle in the purple eye not hidden behind his hair.
Aliens were so damn annoying. They always acted like they knew something you didn’t.
“You too, Pony Boy,” she said, flipping him off over her shoulder as she walked away.
When his chuckle followed her out the door, she itched to go back and slam his pretty little pony head against the instrument panel until he was bleeding rainbows.
And then fuck his gorgeous, rock-hard alien body until he was coming rainbows.
Shelley stumbled. Yikes! Where in the hell had that thought come from?
No sexing the aliens! she scolded as she stalked down the corridor, scowling and sweating like a pig. For the love of Pete, her hormones had to be seriously out of whack. She’d grabbed the minister’s robes and called him a jerk! She was lucky as hell he hadn’t backhanded her into the next solar system or tossed her in the brig.
And it was so unlike her. She hadn’t been kidding when she told Monica she was a pansy who belonged firmly planted on Earth—she had a lifelong history of anxiety disorders, and finding out all the shit about Mark had probably set her therapy back ten years. In less than five minutes, she’d reverted from dragon-riding, risk-taking protector to powerless, scared-of-her-own-shadow victim. If she hadn’t had the babies to be strong for, she’d probably have spent the last four months curled up in a ball in the corner of her room, sucking her thumb and crying for her mommy.
Now she was tugging on aliens’ capes, calling them names and flipping them off. Clearly it was time to pay Monica another visit and figure out what the hell was wrong with her.