Authors: Harmony Raines
Tags: #Romance, #Multicultural, #Science Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Alien Invasion, #Colonization, #Exploration, #First Contact, #Galactic Empire, #Genetic Engineering, #Multicultural & Interracial, #General Fiction
Petra had thought her bodyguard was big, but this alien was huge, big, broad shoulders muscled and toned. He made the guards who were escorting her look small, like wimps. They would never stand a chance against a man like this, and it brought home to her the frailty of the human race.
The car pulled up, and this time she didn’t wait for the guard to come and help her out. Instead, she pulled the handle, opened the door, and got out. She was no longer the President’s daughter: she was a lottery winner, just like all the other females who went to Karal.
That was what she wanted to be, a normal lottery winner. She might not have entered the lottery, but she knew this was how it had to be, and she was sensible enough to understand that she either embraced it, or it would ruin her. Because to go unwillingly, would mean this alien forcing himself on her. After all, she knew full well she had one job, one duty, and that was to breed the next race of this alien species.
The guard opened the trunk of the car and took out her suitcase, then he came around to where she stood. He hesitated for a moment, looking towards the Karalian hidden in the shadows. As if it was still his job to protect her, he walked past her, heading towards the alien, but she stopped him. “I can take it from here, thank you.”
“I can carry it to the ship for you. And check out everything before you board the alien vessel.”
“No, thank you. This is where you leave me.”
“I swore to your mother that I would see you safely on board.” The guard seemed reluctant to give up her suitcase, but she reached out for it and closed her hand around the handle, pulling it firmly towards her.
“You can watch from here. And if there is one more thing you want to do for me, then tell my mother that I love her and I don’t blame her.”
The guard let go of her suitcase and took a step back. “I will tell her as soon as I get back. I know it will make her happy.”
“Thank you. I shouldn’t have let us part on bad terms.”
Then she smiled at him, took one more look at the view around her, and walked towards the alien cruiser. And the being who held her fate in his hands.
The car pulled up, and his attention snapped to the humans who were getting out. His training kicked in; this to him was just another alien planet after all. Yes, Okil had visited here many times and they seemed happy enough to allow their females to travel to Karal to breed, but still, the first rule of survival was to stay alert for every danger.
A female got out of the car first, quickly followed by a male who went to the back of the vehicle lifting something. He came into view, standing by the female, pausing for a moment. Niko was on his guard: was this some kind of ambush? He’d only expected the female to come to meet him. Niko watched carefully, without moving, without giving any sign that he was preparing for an attack.
The two of them stood there for a second as the female tried to take the bag from the hand of the male. Niko wondered if she was trying to disarm him; there was an exchange of words. And then the male relinquished his hold on the bag, and she turned towards the space cruiser and began to walk towards him.
Niko still hadn’t moved while he watched the whole exchange, watched as the human male hovered over her protectively. He sneered inwardly; as if these males would be capable of protecting a female against a Karalian warrior! They were so pale and frail, compared to his species. The lack of good quality food and air had taken its toll on them. From what he had understood from Darl, if the Karal had come here in a couple of centuries’ time, they would not have found the females suitable to breed with. The human race would be ruined.
And this was the trade Okil had bartered. By saving the human race, the Karal would be saved too.
His female drew closer, walking confidently towards him, although he could see a tremor pass through her body as she grew closer; she was scared. But this is what she wanted, he told himself. Yes, she might be scared, but she had entered the lottery, this was what she had signed up for. And it wasn’t as if he was some kind of beast: as long as she didn’t fight him he would treat her with respect.
Although he needed something more than tolerance, he needed her cooperation if they were going to journey into deep space and survive.
The light reflected on her face, and he could make out her features for the first time. Her hair was copper in colour and fell in waves around her face; her eyes were green, and they flashed as she stood before him, her chin tilted up in what he could only think of as defiance.
“Hello, I’m Petra.” Her voice was calm, belying her obvious nervousness.
“You are the lottery winner?” he asked and her green eyes flashed again.
“No. Sorry to disappoint you but I didn’t enter the lottery.”
He frowned, puzzled at her words. “I don’t understand. You are Petra Parker?”
“Yes.” She nodded, her hair passing across her face as the breeze caught it and the scent of something citrus reached his nose. He longed to reach out and touch the silky strands and bury his face in her hair and inhale the scent deeply. He almost reeled backwards at the strength of those emotions, and he knew that his colours were skimming across his face.
“I thought that we only took women who entered the lottery?” he asked, feeling in some way cheated.
“They made an exception for me. Your leader did a deal with my mother. Leverage, I think that’s what you call it.”
Niko frowned again and his colours flowed across his skin like a deep, churning ocean, his emotions in turmoil. “You are here against your will?”
“In a way,” she said sharply. “I didn’t enter the lottery. And I don’t really want to be here. But that’s the deal that’s been done for the sake of my people. For them, and for my mother, I will fulfil the obligation.”
“Fulfil the obligation?” This sounded as if she was going to be trouble. That she was going to come along with him to Karal because that’s what she was supposed to do, not because it was what she wanted. The thought of going into deep space with a female who was reluctant to be there filled him with distaste. The journey would have been bad enough with a female who wanted to be with him, but to be on board a ship with someone who held a grudge … that could be deadly.
“Yes, but don’t worry, I know exactly what’s expected of me.” She kept her gaze low, not meeting his eyes.
He wondered if she did. Yes, she knew she was here to breed, but she had no idea of what it was like to be with a man. Or did she? One of the terms of the lottery was that the females were virgins, untainted. But if she was here because of some deal, as a way to leverage the President of Earth, she might not be as pure as he had hoped.
Was he supposed to ask her? And if she said no, should he refuse to take her as his mate?
“Shall we go?” she asked, as he stood, deep in thought.
He stepped aside, and she walked past him, dragging her bag behind her. At least she had not expected him to offer to carry it.
Following her inside, he paused at the top of the ramp, ready to close it, noting that the car was still on the tarmac, and the one male still stood by the side of it, watching. Maybe he was her mate, and that was why he had been so overprotective, and had not wanted her to go.
With his eyes still on the human, he pressed the button to close the ramp. It slid up, obscuring his view. But he had the distinct impression the human was not leaving.
“Who is that man?” he asked.
“My bodyguard,” she said simply.
This confirmed Niko’s belief: he guarded her body because it belonged to him. Niko looked at her, taking in the curve of her breasts, and the roundness of her thighs. She was a perfect breeding specimen; no wonder she had been claimed by another. His desire for her was certain: it showed in the hardness, barely concealed by his pants. Niko was in the middle of his prime and he wanted to mate, but not with a female who had already been used.
He would take it up with Darl as soon as they reached Karal.
“Put that in here,” he said, indicating the hold where she could stow her belongings. Then he escorted her to the control deck. “You may sit here.”
She did as he said, sitting in the seat next to his and doing up the seatbelt. He switched on the sensors, and sure enough they picked up the car; it had pulled further back out of the way. But it was no longer moving. They were waiting for the cruiser to launch. Maybe he should check her belongings in case there was a bomb or something else on board, maybe they had plans to disable the ship and take it was their own?
“Are you ready?” he asked, watching her closely. She looked nervous, but not nearly nervous enough for someone planning on sabotaging his cruiser.
She closed her eyes briefly, almost with a sense of resignation, and he relaxed a little. “Yes.”
He pressed a button on the control panel and spoke to the radio tower, asking for permission to leave. As soon as it was granted, he flicked the switch off and then pressed another button to power up the engines. Taking hold of the control lever he moved it forward slightly, and the cruiser vibrated as the engines strained, trying to lift the cruiser up off the ground. Experience told Niko when to allow this to happen. Too soon and the engines would stall, too late and they would blast off too hard and damage the cruiser.
He listened, waiting until the engines were at just the right pitch, and then he pulled back the lever and they launched off the Earth, heading up through the atmosphere and back into space. He glanced at the woman next to him. There had been no ambush; he had misread the situation.
But still she seemed like an enigma to him. Not what he expected a lottery winner to be like, but then she wasn’t a lottery winner, was she? And as his colours flowed across his skin he acknowledged that despite his reservations, he wanted to know exactly what she was.
She dug her nails into the armrests of the seat, clinging onto them as if they would keep her safe as the cruiser hurtled up through the atmosphere taking her into space. She’d never been interested in space travel at all. Throughout all the years when humans were desperately trying to leave the planet and find a new home for humans to live on, never once had it appealed to her. The Earth was her home: it was where her father was buried and it was where she had wanted to live her whole life.
Those thoughts had to be cleared from her mind now, there was no choice: she had left the Earth, she was going to Karal … with a male who was a stranger to her. Petra consciously made herself loose the armrests. She flexed her fingers, taking a deep breath in and out, and then relaxing. She tried to look at the controls of the ship, tried to put her mind somewhere else, and then as they left the Earth’s atmosphere, the moon glowed bright and white in front of her and she allowed the amazing sight to infiltrate her thoughts and ignite her excitement at this new phase of her life.
“I never expected it to be quite so beautiful,” she said speaking to the Karalian beside her; there was no one else to talk to. “We don’t really see it, not anymore. Even with a telescope it is never clearly visible. I’ve seen pictures of it of course, but I never expected it to be so incredible.”
He looked at her and then looked back at the moon. “I have seen a lot of planets, and I have seen a lot of moons. But both your planet and your moon are extraordinary in their beauty.” He looked at her again and something seemed to hang in the air between them. Maybe it was lust.
All she could think of, was what would happen when they landed on Karal and he took her to his bed and made her his. She swallowed down the panic that followed that thought.
The colour rushed to her cheeks, but it was nothing compared to the colours that flashed across his skin. Golds and blues, swirling around like clouds covering his skin, disappearing beneath the collar of his overalls. She longed to undo the buttons one by one and see where the colours headed. To see if they covered his whole body in a mass of swirling emotions.
“And when we go into deep space, will we see lots of different planets?” It seemed like a stupid question. Of course they would, although for all she knew they might be put into some kind of cryogenic stasis, not seeing a thing until they woke up at the destination.
“Yes, you will see things that you would never believe were true. The wormholes we travel down hold so much mystery, so many planets, so many stars, that we’ve never actually visited, but we can see them as we travel through space.” His voice was full of wonder, and she felt herself warming to him. Surely a creature who could see the beauty in his surroundings couldn’t be all bad.
“So do you have a name?” she asked.
“My name is Niko,” he said as he turned away from the moon and aimed the ship towards distant space.
“I hope we get along, Niko. I’m sure I gave the impression I don’t really want to be here. And I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make the best of it.”
“I’m very pleased to hear that, Petra. We have a mission to do, and it is my duty to make sure it is a success.”
“It’s more than duty for me, I need this to succeed so my people have a home to go to. The Earth cannot support us any longer.”
“I wish that it could be different for you, I still don’t understand why you are here. Why I was not given a woman who was willing.”
“It’s because my mother’s the new President. I’m not supposed to say anything about what happened. But I think the information is safe with you. I don’t think you’ll be going back to Earth again, will you?” she asked.
“No, Petra, I have no wish to return there.” He looked at her and smiled, and his colours changed to red and greens. “The President: that is like your Ruler?”
“Yes, it is. From what my mother told me, the Karal helped her followers overthrow the old President. And somehow, for some reason, your Hier Ruler decided that it would be a good idea for me to be taken to Karal in exchange for that help.”
“You mean like a hostage?” he asked, his face creased in a frown as he studied her again