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Authors: J.J. Lore

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BOOK: Unexpected
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Without
a word of parting, she rushed past them and made her way to the entrance to the
living quarters, an area off limits to any
Alphans
not on staff. As she trotted down the hall and tried to look forward to her
quiet time in the garden, Alisa couldn’t shake her unsettled feeling. She could
blame it on painful memories but knew that wasn’t the cause of her shaking
hands or disordered thoughts. Something about the intensity of the two men,
their suppressed surety, had her reeling.

****

Mikel
watched Alisa flee, and his stomach ached. Hurt like he’d just taken a gaff
stick to his abdomen. How could she just leave them? Regret welled up. He’d
apparently made an enormous error in his speech, but he couldn’t understand
what. It was a good lesson to be reinforced. He should remain silent and let
Felix do the talking. His bondmate was much more articulate.

Felix
must have sensed his attention because he turned away from staring at the door
where sweet Alisa had disappeared to look at him, puzzlement clear in his eyes.
“What happened?”

They’d
been so sure how this encounter would proceed. Once they’d discovered her
identity, both he and Felix had been jubilant. They’d cleaned their quarters,
laid in a stock of food, and requested the next several days off so they’d have
plenty of uninterrupted time to gain an intimate relationship with Alisa. The
realization that she wasn’t waiting for them with her bags packed and a smile
on her face had been a shock, and the fact that she’d simply run off was
devastating.

“I
said something wrong.”

“But what?
Using the term
retrieve
might have made her feel like a
package. But otherwise, the connection was there. I felt it like fire in my
blood.” Felix shook his head and leaned against a pillar. Mikel was equally
unsteady on his feet. Had a bondmate ever behaved in such a way? His few
acquaintances who’d managed to gain a female partner had all described the
process as rapid and overwhelming for all parties, not that the men discussed
it in much detail. But it was definitely supposed to involve her wanting them
as much as they wanted her.

The
crack of wood striking wood interrupted them, and Mikel regarded the old
gatekeeper who’d chaperoned their brief encounter with Alisa. He was wrinkled,
grey, and looked like he knew how to disable an entire platoon of charging
Xyran with some twine and three pebbles. He brandished his crook.

“Centurions.”

Both
he and Felix automatically bowed their heads as a gesture of respect for his
elder status. He might not outrank them, but he definitely was in control of
his sphere.

“What
is your intent in regard to her?”

Mikel
gulped, as the censure in the old fighter’s eyes was clear. He knew many of the
diplomatic corps dallied with the available human women here. It was a
privilege of rank, and a rare treat for Alphan men to find a female sexual
partner considering the lack of women of their own kind back home. Human women
seemed to find
Alphans
attractive, or at least some
did. He and Felix had certainly engaged in some casual flings with open-minded
females while they’d been stationed on Earth. But
a mere one
or two nights
of passion with Alisa would not satisfy him or his
bondmate. She was suddenly and irrevocably as essential to them as oxygen.

“Entirely
honorable, I assure you.” Felix said, staring past the old man to peer down the
hallway where she had disappeared.

“Sounded
more like you were going to throw her over your shoulder and steal her out of
here.”

The
image that queued up in his admittedly over-stimulated mind had Mikel reeling,
his staff hardening with the thought of wrapping his arms around the soft
curves of her thighs, her buttocks, having her wriggle against him with gasps
of excitement. When his bondmate shot him a dark look, Mikel forced himself to
deal with the here and now and leave such fantasies for the shower cubicle.

“We
didn’t intend to abduct her. We wished to speak to her and present our case.”

Mak
raised one eyebrow and released
his hold on the discipline rod. Mikel breathed a sigh of relief. He’d often
been chastised with the crook while he was at the academy and had the knots on
his skull to this day.

“You
don’t have much experience with women, do you?”

Mikel
shook his head even as Felix spoke up. “We have spoken with twelve women in our
time here and have had four welcome us for coitus.
Well, one
for me and three for him.”

His
bondmate jerked his head at him, and Mikel suppressed a grin. Felix was quite
peeved he hadn’t had more success at finding a willing woman. He’d demanded to
know what Mikel said or did to entice them to join him in bed, but since he wasn’t
sure what women were thinking in the first place, he honestly couldn’t answer.
He just gratefully accepted whatever contact they were willing to give.

The
older man sighed and settled back behind his desk, gesturing for him and Felix
to bring their seats closer.

“It
seems you have encountered humans who are actively seeking a means to leave
this planet. Not that they weren’t sincere in their desire for you,” he said,
holding up his hand to stave off any protest. “But the women here come from
terrible circumstances, and they want a better life. Our efforts to encourage
all these uncooperative governments to support just this one center are nearly
always met with bluster, corruption, and outright neglect of their most
vulnerable citizens, so it’s no wonder these women wish to leave and find
security on Alpha.”

Mikel
stayed quiet, ready to learn. Instinct told him gather Alisa up and bring her
home, but they apparently needed a strategy.

“And
that’s exactly what we will give Alisa. We are ranking officers and come from
elite houses. We can give her a fine home, jewels, and children. She’ll never
have to worry about a thing.” Felix made his declaration like he was standing
in front of the assembled cohort in the Great Hall on Alpha, introducing his
bonded woman and staking his claim upon her. Mikel felt an answering swell of
pride.

Mak
tilted his head. “As I said,
those are the women who wish to bond, who have their hearts set on a different
life. Some who shelter here are not of that mind.”


Whyever
not?
Other than this
campus, which is maintained to
our
standards, everything I have seen of Earth is shabby, if not completely
dysfunctional.” Mikel couldn’t help interjecting. He, along with the rest of
the newly-arrived diplomatic contingent, had taken a quick tour of Earth as a
welcome from various countries officials. Most of the urban areas swelled with
homeless populations, the infrastructure was faulty, and only the supremely
wealthy seemed to have any security or contentment. Out in the hinterlands,
they’d had to merely fly over, since so many of the scattered inhabitants
harbored feelings of animosity towards interstellar visitors and would take
shots at anyone non-human. Their ship had even been fired upon as they’d
hovered over a place called Las Vegas.

“Some
have suffered abuse at the hands of others. It makes them cautious.”
Mak’s
quiet words burst through Mikel’s conceptions, and he
closed his mouth. Of course these women and children had suffered, both at the
hands of their own people, and via the barbaric behavior of the
Xyrans
who’d kidnapped them. Just considering the idea that
sweet Alisa might have been hit made his stomach turn.

“Do
you mean to say Alisa was injured by her captors? I thought they kept their
human prisoners in good shape to fetch the best price.” Felix’s quiet question
shocked Mikel. He’d never even thought of such a terrible scenario.

The
older warrior shrugged. “She’s very reserved and never confessed such to me. Don’t
be surprised at her avoidance of you. I know we are quite different from
Xyrans
, but to these humans we tend to look alike.”

Mikel
found that a ridiculous notion. Granted, both Alphan and Xyran males were of
equal stature and musculature, but his skin did not change color like a
fluttering flag. He and his bondmate possessed very elegant horns where their
smelly nemeses had only a fragile, unadorned cranium filled with a foul forked
tongue. No comparison at all.

“So
what is your advice to us?”

“I
would warn you off, if all you wish is a temporary bedmate to entertain you for
your tour here. You’ll find plenty of others willing to take on that task, even
a few interested in you both.”
Mak
gave Felix a
pointed look, and Mikel wanted to grin.

“We
wish a permanent alliance of the utmost honor and respect,” Felix shot back,
nearly rising out of his chair. His bondmate did tend to bristle when their
honor was questioned.

“No
offense intended, young centurion,”
Mak
said as he
picked up his crook and stroked the rough leather flail attached to the handle
in a silent reminder to regain composure. “I would suggest you apply yourselves
to more research. You seem to have a talent for it considering the ease with
which you found her.”

“Research of what?”

“How to court a woman.”

 

Chapter Two

 

Court a woman,
indeed
.
Felix snorted out his frustration and glared at Mikel, who was conscientiously
studying whatever data he’d pulled up from the official Alphan Earth guide. He
doubted his bondmate would find much of use in there. That tome had been compiled
by military strategists and diplomats, men hardly interested in the more
intimate rituals of this backward people they were reluctantly interacting
with. Felix had casually glanced over it on their flight to Earth. He’d learned
about the major countries, industries, natural resources, and geography. He’d
ignored the section on history for it had been far too convoluted to hold his
interest, and human religious practices had put him to sleep.

“What
have you discovered?”

Mikel
blinked at the screen,
then
tore his gaze away as he
swiveled on his chair to face him. “Not much, but I did find a translation of
an antiquated etiquette guide attached. I think they tacked it on so we could
learn the proper modes of address.”

“Riveting.”
Felix couldn’t
keep the sarcasm from his voice. He didn’t want to waste his time reading and
planning. He wanted Alisa here in their quarters where he could show her all
they could provide. He wanted to protect her, impress her,
make
her smile. Just thinking about how she’d been kidnapped by disgusting
Xyrans
, possibly hurt by one of them, made his blood boil.
The idea that she was sleeping alone, vulnerable, even if she was in a secure
location, grated on his nerves like a dull blade.

“It
is. Listen to this,” Mikel said, completely ignoring his aggrieved tone. “The
sanctioned union of a man and a woman has various requirements and are
different from culture to culture. Some are arranged and involve dowries and
familial exchanges—”

“Then
we find her family and give them the appropriate number of gems. Those
spinels
we captured on Pharos should be perfect, though I’d
rather see them set in a bracelet for her.”

A
pillow whizzed by his face, and he swung his attention back to his bondmate,
ready for a tussle. Mikel was shaking his head, his eyes rolling. “If she had
family, would she be here?”

No, she wouldn’t
.

“Besides,
it says here some families would want cattle, or land, or a title.” Mikel
scowled at his screen. “I wonder if Alphan lands and title would matter much
here on Earth. We can provide both.”

“Likely not.
They’re only of
use if you can stand on it or use it to cut in the receiving line. What are
cattle?”

His
bondmate ignored him and kept reading, and Felix decided to think about Alisa
for a while. She had become his favorite speculation, and he replayed yet again
the scant glimpses he’d had of her lovely form. He was especially fascinated by
how her hips curved into her thighs, all the plump swells directing his
attention to what he was certain was a lush
quonum
between her legs. With a grunt, he shifted on his seat, uncomfortable as his
staff pulsed to life. The idea that they’d found her still gave him chills.
Soon enough they’d win her adoration, she would complete their bond, and they
could begin to live a wonderful life.

“Where
does Alisa hail from?”

“I
don’t know. She didn’t provide any details in the few words she spared us.”
That still rankled. In theory he understood she might be shy of men, but surely
she felt the urge to join them as deeply as he and Mikel did. He’d never heard
of any unrequited bond. The pull was too primal to resist. How did she have the
strength to restrain it?

“We
should find out. It matters in how we might approach her. I’m calling
Mak
.” With that, Mikel rose and activated his link, pacing
the floor as he swiftly conducted a quick interview with the other man.
Resuming his seat, his bondmate continued reading, his fingers flicking over
the screen to move data where he pleased.

BOOK: Unexpected
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