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Authors: Their Princess

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BOOK: Elizabeth Raines
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The figure darted behind another tree, giving him a better look at the short and slender shape. Was he dealing with a frightened child?

“It’s okay,” he said, trying to keep his tone calm and reassuring. “I won’t hurt you. I’m here to help. I saw your ship. I have a med kit. Let me help.”

“Who you are?” the voice rasped.

A woman
. That explained the fear.

While Luka had worked for years with women who were every bit equal in strength, speed, and wit as men, some women felt vulnerable around strangers.

“My name’s Luka. You crashed near my home. I came out to see if I could help.”

She hurried behind a closer tree. “Medicines have you?” Her accent was unfamiliar, and English obviously wasn’t her first language.

“Yes. Medicines.”

“Weapon I see. Cast it aside.”

“I’m not throwing away my gun.”

This time, when she retreated several meters, he caught a glimpse of long, white hair. Was she an old woman? She moved too fast to be elderly.

“I won’t hurt you. I keep the gun for protection. There are animals in this forest that could hurt you. Bears and cats and—”

“No cats!” Her piercing shriek rent the air, and she was suddenly running right at Luka. Before he could brace himself, she tackled him to the ground, still screaming.

The med kit went flying as he wrapped his arms around her waist to try to keep her still. She responded by slamming her knee into his balls and rolling away.

With a groan, Luka put his hands between his thighs and hoped he wouldn’t pass out. Nausea raced through him, and stars dotted his vision. “Fuck. Ah, fuck.”

Her hand brushed over his hip, reaching for his weapon. He grabbed her wrist as he panted against the pain. When she started to fight him, his anger rose, giving him strength.

Damn it, all he’d done was come out here in the middle of nowhere to help her, and she’d thanked him by racking his nuts and trying to steal his pulse-gun.

Wrestling her under him, Luka finally pinned her with his heavier body. “Stop struggling.”

She was nothing but a little bit of a thing, probably not weighing more than forty-five kilos. He used care not to hurt her. Perhaps she was a child after all.

“Not hurt me!” She tried to buck him off.

“I told you I’m not going to hurt you. Stop wiggling.”

She gave up the struggle. “I stop now. Loosen me.”

Her white-blond hair was tangled over her face. Holding her slender wrists with one hand, he brushed the tresses away from her face.

Seeing her was like a punch to the gut. This was no child. This was an attractive woman.

His breath let out in a loud whoosh, and his cock hardened so quickly he got a little dizzy. Even after months of celibacy and a good knee to the groin, his body still recognized a soft, female form.

Her eyes were the most enchanting color—crystal blue with rings of emerald around the irises. He’d never seen eyelashes that long. Her beautiful face was heart-shaped, as were her pink lips.

She was incredible.

His heart clenched as Kimini filled his thoughts. God help him, he was lusting after this woman, and he didn’t even know her. It felt like a betrayal of all he’d shared with his wife.

Sanity came tumbling back, and Luka eased away, still holding her wrists. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head.

“Where’s the other survivor?”

“No other.”

“Bullshit. I saw two sets of prints.”

“No other—”

With a growl, he got to his feet, pulling her up with him. “I know you don’t know me, so I’m going to clue you in on one very important thing you need to know. I
despise
liars.”

“No other—”

Luka put his hands on his hips and glared down at her, surprised at how much taller he was. The top of the woman’s head barely reached his shoulder. Yet she stood toe-to-toe with him, those gorgeous eyes glaring right back as though she could match his strength and stubbornness.

Damn it all if he didn’t chuckle in response.

He’d never seen anyone move so quickly. One moment, he was laughing. The next, he was holding his foot and wondering if she’d broken a bone when she’d stomped his instep. “Wait!”

She scampered into the trees with the speed and agility of a doe, obviously more afraid of him finding her companion than any mountain lion.

He hurried after her, sore foot and all, so he wouldn’t lose her in the forest. “Wait!” he called again.

Her pace never slowed.

Luka rapidly gained ground, and he tried to grab at her long hair to slow her down. She dodged him and veered to her left.

“Oh no, you don’t. You’re not getting away that easy, you little minx.”

A cliff was approaching, and there was no way he was letting her run right over the edge. His fear gave him a burst of speed. He caught her at the edge of the woods, only a short way from the rocky edge. Arms around her waist, he tackled her, rolling to absorb the force of the fall with his own body. A loud
whoof
came from him as the wind was knocked from his lungs.

The fight went right out of her. She moved off him and knelt at his side. “Hurt you are?”

Luka shook his head as he panted for air. His lungs didn’t want to cooperate.

Her trembling fingers brushed the hair away from his eyes. The scent of flowers rose from her skin. “Sorry. I am sorry.” She laid her palm against his cheek.

Funny, but her mere touch seemed to restore his breath, and what little pain he’d had from the fall vanished. His dick, which had just begun returning to its bored state, rose to attention again.

Then recognition hit. The accent. The white-blond hair and two-toned eyes. The healing touch.

“You’re Trilani.”

Her eyes widened, and fear was clearly written on her features. “Not. No, no.
Not
Trilani.”

He didn’t like seeing her afraid. He especially didn’t like her pulling away from him as if
he
were the danger. She seemed so fragile, so vulnerable.

“I not.” Her gaze scanned the tree line. “Must go.”

When she tried to stand, he seized her wrist. “Wait. Where’s the other survivor? I saw two sets of tracks.”

She let out a shuddering breath, moving her focus from him to the trees and back again.

“I swear to you I just want to help. I
swear
it.”

Her teeth tugged on her lower lip. Then she gave him a curt nod.

Luka followed her back into the woods, retrieving his dropped med kit. After only a few more meters, she stopped in front of an enormous pine and gave the area a good, long look around.

“Where is he?”

“Here,” she replied.

“There’s nothing here but trees.”

A grin crossed her lips. Then she took his hand and walked around to the opposite side of an enormous tree.

A man rested with his back to the trunk, legs splayed in front of him. A human man. His head had lolled forward, making his long, dark hair hide his face. Some of the locks were matted and darkened with blood.

“I’ll need more light to see his injuries.” Luka plucked a flash stick from his pocket, flipped it on, and set it on the ground. “These take a minute or two to warm up. Then we’ll have plenty of light.”

“Help him,” she whispered. “Please.”

“I’ll try.” Luka jerked the med kit from his belt and popped it open before crouching at the man’s side. “Let’s see what’s going on here.”

“Help him.”

“I will, honey. Be patient.” Gently lifting the man’s chin, Luka gaped at what he saw. Surely his eyes were deceiving him. “Jake?”

Chapter 2

 

“Luka. Thank God.” Jake’s words were so slurred he sounded to himself as if he’d been drinking—probably a result of slamming his head into the con when they’d hit.

There wasn’t a single part of his body that didn’t hurt. His own fault. He’d counted on
Beltane
to hold together until he could get her on the ground. The ship was a good old girl, but age had finally caught up with her. Her death rattle had come before she landed, and Jake had been in a free fall in the end. At least he and Syla survived the crash.

Jake struggled to rise. His pride had already taken a sound beating when she’d dragged and carried him into the woods. While Trilani women possessed great strength, the notion of a woman carrying him over her slender shoulder as she spirited them away from the crash site was still a bit humiliating.

Luka’s hand on his shoulder held him down. “Let me see what you’ve gone and done now.”

“What I’ve
gone and done
,” Jake said, “was get us on the ground safely in a dead ship.”

Luka’s scolding shouldn’t have been a surprise. He’d always been the responsible one in their relationship. Whenever Jake and Kimini had wanted to do something daring, Luka had always been the voice of sanity.

Each time he thought of the family he’d lost, the heartache resurfaced. Time and distance had dulled it, but Jake would always miss Kimini and what he and Luka had shared when they’d been on Fraiqua.

Syla had been a healing salve to his soul—a bit ironic since her species was known for their healing touch. She’d helped fill the hole in his life left behind when Kimini died and Luka returned to Earth.

Sure, Luka had asked Jake to join him in isolation, but the invitation lacked sincerity and had probably been offered solely out of obligation. When they’d been a Fraiquan family, their passion for Kimini and for each other had flamed brightly. Once she was gone and they’d both become human again, the fire seemed to just…die. When Jake told Luka he wanted to go back undercover, Luka had declined.

They had different ways of dealing with their devastating loss. Luka coped by disappearing from the world. Jake needed more, and he knew if he’d followed Luka into seclusion they would have come to hate each other.

That
, he wouldn’t allow.

So they’d kissed and parted ways, heading on to new lives. Luka had his farm while Jake dove into work, taking on assignments that were foolhardy and far too dangerous for most IDEA agents. He’d tried to live through his work, but he missed Kimini and Luka more than he could sometimes bear. Then he’d done a favor for a good friend and taken a job as a bodyguard to a princess, which eventually led him here—right back to Luka.

Fate was a fickle master.

Settling back down, he let Luka run the scanner over his body. Now that he’d gotten Syla out here in the wilderness, he might finally be able to relax. Knowing that Luka was at his side again helped more than Jake could have imagined. Together, they could protect her.

Flipping the scanner off, Luka frowned down at him. “A couple of cracked ribs. A nasty bump on the head. But that’s about it. You’re damned lucky.” He glanced to Syla. “I should scan you, too.”

She scrambled to Jake’s other side and tried to squeeze herself behind him. “No. You no touch.”

Luka frowned. “I’m not gonna hurt you.”

“She’s just skittish right now,” Jake said. “It’s been a rough couple of days. Give her a little space.” He held out his hand for the scanner. Damn it if it didn’t tremble. “I’ll scan her.”

“You don’t trust me?”

Jake snorted. “Of course I trust you. Shit, Luka, I trust you with my life—with Syla’s life. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

“Syla? That’s her name?”

Jake nodded. “Let me scan her. She’ll warm up to you quick enough. She’s just frightened after everything we’ve been through.”

Luka handed him the scanner. “That was a helluva crash. I’d be shaken up too.”

While he shouldn’t allow Luka to believe that was all that had happened to Syla, Jake skipped recapping the drama for now. Once they were settled back at Luka’s farm, there would be plenty of time to explain the odyssey that had brought them here. Then he and Luka could put their heads together to try to find a solution to her problem.

Nudging Syla to his side, Jake winced. The ribs were tender, and each breath was agony. He pushed the pain aside, ran the scanner over her, and then read the results. “She’s good. No injuries.”

“She’s damned lucky too. What the hell happened?” Luka asked. “I mean…how in the hell did you end up all the way out here?”

Since Luka’s seclusion was supposed to be secret, Jake knew he was asking about more than why the
Beltane
had crashed. “Long story.
Really
long story.”

“This wasn’t a lucky accident, was it? You came looking for me.”

Jake gave him a curt nod.

“No one even knows I’m here.”

“Betinsa does.”

Luka’s eyes widened.

“You’re safe, Luka. I’m the only one she’s ever told. And believe me—it took a shitload of arguing to finally get her to reveal the farm’s location.”

Betinsa Nungio had been their IDEA contact in their time on Fraiqua. When he and Luka had gone through genetic manipulation—to leave behind their humanity and become Fraiquan—she’d coached them through the cultural transformation. She’d been their confidante, their spiritual advisor, and their friend. She’d also helped both men after Kimini’s death.

Now, Betinsa was the director of IDEA, a position granted to her in light of all the work she’d done to help save not only her home planet Fraiqua, but the many missions she’d either participated in or planned that helped stem the flow of patrile—the most addictive drug in the galaxy. Her job was to keep IDEA’s greatest secrets, including where her agents went when they needed to “disappear,” as Luka had.

“Betinsa, huh?” Luka ran his hand over his face. “Should’ve known. She always thinks she knows what’s best for everyone.”

Jake managed a chuckle, wincing at the pain it caused. “Because she usually does.”

Thunder rumbled in the distance. Luka looked to the skies. “Storm’s coming soon. We should get you back to my place.”

“Yeah.” Jake struggled to his feet. The pain in his head became a throbbing so intense he feared he’d pass out.

BOOK: Elizabeth Raines
6.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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