Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Paranormal, Science Fiction Erotic Romance, Shapeshifter
“What is she wearing?” The low voice of the Alpha was curious
“Underclothing. Probably species specific. Is that the uniform of a badge?” The voice was that of an older female.
“It is. She is. I have heard that the main colony has a female in charge. I am guessing that this woman is her.” The older female was brusque.
“That would explain it.”
“How she was able to turn over half the bachelors back without even raising her fist. I was shocked when they ran past me, but seeing the males that remained with her, it makes perfect sense.”
The older woman had a grudging respect in her tone when she said, “She turned them back? That does explain a few things.”
Small stickers were being applied to her skin. The gel on them had a peculiar smell.
“Hold still, miss. This is going to hurt.”
Lee nodded and held still as power surged through her body. Screaming seemed like a good idea, but the pain was over before she could do more than draw breath.
A scanner was shifted into position, and the female doctor checked the readings.
Lee opened her eyes a slit and looked around. The burning was fading, and the scanner was chirping.
“What is wrong, doctor?” She breathed deeply, and her body gave her the signal that everything was okay.
“You have been infected with the Keymin nanites. They are fixing your body, but they are upgrading you at the same time.”
The word was out of science fiction and the Avari files, but Lee knew better than to sneer. “I got those inside me? How?”
“Young Keymin who are still maturing are carriers. Their bodies produce enough nanites to carry them through growth spurts. When they shift suddenly, they tear the skin and the nanites move in to effect repairs. Those are the ones that jumped into the open wound. They came in under his fingernails where the claws tore the skin and ran riot through your body.”
She struggled to sit up, but strong hands held her down. “Keep still until the doctor gives you the all clear.”
“Bossy.” Lee sighed but kept her shoulders on the table.
The physician puttered around and did a few more scans. “Well, you are firmly in the throes of transformation, Badge. You will have to remain here for a few days while we make sure that the change is stable.”
Lee reached into her bra and fished out the spare earpiece. “Did you get that, Dispatch?”
“Loud and clear. Check in during your shift, Badge Ryan. I will be standing by.” Anadora’s voice trembled with relief.
“Over and out. I think I need some rest.” Lee turned off her com and hooked it back in her bra.
The Alpha looked at her. “The com was open the whole time?”
Lee nodded. “Standard protocol. I was going up against twenty-six beings that could rend me limb from limb. Recording is the best way of proving that I did not use excessive force. They were doing it on my home world before I came out here, and it has helped us drive home a few incidents that were not recalled by the perpetrators.”
“So, there is a protocol involved. Well, that is understandable.” The doctor tried to fill in the silence. “Where do you want her housed?”
The Alpha scowled. “What?”
“She will need housing for the few days while her body adapts and living in the maiden quarters is not really suitable.” The doctor was hinting at something, and it was obvious by the way the Alpha’s jaw tightened that he was not impressed.
Flat on her back, she had a chance to watch the man that had rescued her from his own people.
His eyes were the same ice white in both forms, but as a human, his lashes were black and thick as were his hair and eyebrows.
A claw mark started at his jawline and snaked beneath his shirt. His lips were currently pursed together in a frown, so she was unsure of what was going on in his mind, or what his mouth looked like. His nose was sharp with nostrils that were flaring as he scented her.
The slow, sleepy look that took over his face sent a flip through her naked belly and created an extreme urge for her uniform. When he followed it with a slow smile, “She will stay with me,” Lee wanted to run.
“You can get dressed, though you will need to find something else to wear. The nanites do not extend to repairing clothing that does not have them embedded during manufacture.” The doctor smiled.
“Good to know.” She slipped into her suit and sealed the booted legs one at a time. The side of the suit was shredded, showing pink scars and white skin. The rest of the uniform still covered her decently though, so she sealed the front and turned to the Alpha with a smile. “So, a good night’s sleep then?”
He grinned, “You can sleep.”
She didn’t know how to take that, so she got to her feet, checked her com devices and stowed them in the pouches on the side of her thighs. She winced when she checked her stun gloves. They were smashed, the electronics mashed by the contact with the Keymin.
Once she was dressed and all her bits were accounted for, she smiled brightly at the Alpha. “Shall we go?”
He raised one midnight brow and nodded. “Please. Come this way.”
Lee followed him as he walked out of the medical clinic. She kept her shoulders back, head high and her stride purposeful.
“My home is this way.” He held out his arm and showed her a charming building across the open area of a courtyard filled with tables and ravenous young men tearing through piles of food.
“The males that tried to take over the colony festival? Yes. Their shapeshifting leaves them hungry. It is necessary to replace the energy that we use to increase our mass. Also, they are growing still, they need to eat.”
She nodded. “How long do the Keymin continue to grow?”
He looked down at her. “Until our twenty-fifth year. At that point, we are physically mature and can begin to look into courting a mate. The women mature at twenty, so we have to keep them apart until the men have caught up.”
She smiled slightly with understanding. “It was that frustration that sent the men out to find willing women at the festival. They probably would have too, but there was the little matter of getting past the drunken men, and they would not have been too appreciative of an influx of fur and fangs.”
He nodded. “It was why we sent you the alert. You did more than we had imagined you could. We certainly never thought that you would have a badge to send out in defense of your colony.”
“I was the only officer on duty. It was my responsibility to keep everyone safe and to stop your people with a minimum of fuss. I was amazed that my talent works on your folk, but it did seem to catch them by surprise.” She smiled happily.
He gave her a sharp look. “A talent?”
“A talent for command. It was why I became a badge when I left my world. It seemed the best of the options offered to me.” She shrugged and winced at the tug along her ribs.
He opened the door to a large structure and shepherded her inside. “Welcome to my home.”
“Wow, right on the main square.”
“I need to be near my people and they near me. It makes it easier to put out any fires that erupt.” He grimaced. “Like the one tonight.”
“How did that happen?” She took a few steps and paused. “I have been wondering about that all night.”
He pressed a hand to her back and prodded her up the stairs. “The seasons have been accelerated and so were the females. No one was ready when three young women went into heat the first day and six the next. By the end of the week, the women’s quarters were full, and the young men were suffering. The harvest celebration is common knowledge, and one of them must have planted the idea for the others to follow. In five minutes, the bachelors’ quarters went from contained to empty and an alarm went up.”
“And you were on your way to restore order.”
“And stop them from tearing their way into a party uninvited.” His lips quirked in a smile, and she was hypnotized. She couldn’t stop staring at him.
Lee tried to avert her gaze, but she only succeeded in dropping her eye-line to his chest. “You seem to have the nanite-embedded fabric.”
He pressed his hand to his chest as if surprised. “Yes. We all wear it. It saves on replacing fabric every day.”
“Very practical. Do you think I will be able to shift?” The idea was slowly seeping into her mind. She had been clawed by a werewolf and now was infected by the same mechanism that enabled them to shift. It was likely that this would take shape in her body.
“I believe you will be, but we are not allowing you to leave until we are sure that you are not a danger to yourself or others.” His tone was stern, and it had an immediate effect.
Lee stood glaring at him with the hair on the back of her neck literally standing up. A low growl built in her throat.
He made an answering growl, wrapped his hand around her throat and pressed her to the wall. His growl vibrated through her until she grudgingly relaxed.
“I will leave when I am fit and not later.”
“You will leave when I tell you you can leave.”
She could tell that she had struck a nerve with him. He seemed genuinely surprised she wasn’t giving in.
With gritted teeth, she compromised. “We will discuss it in the morning.”
He leaned back, allowing her to move away from the wall. “A sound compromise.”
“I despise compromise, but I am at a disadvantage…for now.”
He inclined his head, and she thought she saw a smile. “This is your room.”
She opened the door that he was pointing at and saw a plain and serviceable guest room. “Thank you. I am a little tired after the evening I have had. Is there a lav attached?”
“The door next to the bureau. Will you be all right?”
She nodded. “I will, but one thing.”
He paused and raised his dark brows against his sun-kissed skin. “Yes?”
“What is your name?”
He blinked rapidly. “Alpha Ozwin Napoliac.”
She grinned. “Thank you, Alpha Napoliac.”
“Ozwin. Please. Just Ozwin.”
She inclined her head. “Very well, Ozwin. I am Badge Leeahan Ryan, but you can call me Lee.”
“Leeahan.” The words came out on a low growl that sent her enhanced hearing into riot. She was hearing things that were not in the words but under them, and those undertones were fascinating.
He smiled. “Goodnight, Leeahan.”
She turned and entered her plain room and closed the door behind her. There were no locks, but she was sure that he didn’t need them. Such tiny little things as locks wouldn’t hold back a male with muscles like that.
She took a quick shower, wrapped herself in a towel and let her hair down. It was time to call it a night, and she knew when she was out manoeuvred. For better or worse, she was at the mercy of the Alpha, she was simply surprised that she wasn’t upset. Being at his mercy held a certain appeal.
Lee sat up and ran her hands through her hair before she froze in surprise. “What the hell?”
Her normal brown locks had been replaced with platinum blonde.
She scented Ozwin a moment before he spoke.
“The nanites change you based on your standing in the scheme of Keymin society. Your eyes have also changed, by the way.” He was sitting in the corner of the guestroom, reading a data pad.
“Why are you in my bedroom?”
He sat up and arched his brow at her tone. “This is my home, all the rooms here are mine by that very fact. I was checking up on you. The data on your species does not indicate any difficulty on taking on the nano machines, so what is your plan for your change in status?”
Lee tucked her sheet under her arms, keeping herself covered. “I don’t see why this should impact my status. I am the lead badge of the colony. I don’t need to change my occupation, this might, in fact make it easier.”
“You will have to check with the ruling council. They are not too keen on Keymin in the city proper, and you are now definitely Keymin.”
He got to his feet. “If you will come along, breakfast is ready in the dining room. My housekeeper is eager to be working for more than one person today.”
Lee looked around, “I would love to, but I don’t see my clothing here.”
“There is a gown at the edge of the bed. It will suit you, I think.”
He waited. “Well?”
“Aren’t you going to give me privacy?” She normally wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but there was something in his eyes that made the idea of changing in front of him slightly unnerving.
“I don’t think so. With your body shifting, you shouldn’t really be left alone.” He crossed his arms and leaned back on the door.
“Fine.” It was a grunt as she lunged forward, caught the pale blue fabric and hauled it toward her.
It took a few tries, but she managed to pull it over her arms and ribs before she slid off the bed to shake the folds of the gown out. It was tight but it fit. The gown was pale blue in soft folds that formed a low-cowled neck before turning into a tight column around her ribs, which turned to more soft, draping layers down to her ankles.
She tugged at the gown before turning to Ozwin. “There. I believe you mentioned breakfast?”
He laughed and opened the door, gesturing for her to precede him.
“No shoes for me?”
“They will have to be created later today. We didn’t have anything in your size.”
Lee looked up at him and frowned. “I am not that much bigger than a Keymin woman.”
“You think so?” He chuckled. “How many have you seen?”
Her frown deepened, aside from the doctor of the night before, she didn’t remember ever having seen a Keymin woman. “One. She was a little petite but not abnormally so.”
“Dr. Nalura is not an example of the ladies of the settlement. She is an Azon physician who has decided to join our little endeavour. Her family is worlds away and visit occasionally.”
Lee wasn’t sure what she was going to be facing until he seated her at a long dining table, took the position immediately to her right and tapped his fingers on the polished wood.
A charming woman bustled out, no more than five feet tall to Lee’s five foot ten inches. The cook was in late middle age.