Read The Princess and her Bounty Hunter: Alien Romance (Fated to the Alien: The Psychic Matchmaker Book 2) Online
Authors: Harmony Raines
Tags: #General Fiction
His pretend-sipping of the tea was watched with great interest. Not sure if it was supposed to kill him or make him go to sleep, he just pretended that his eyes were heavy, his lids drooping. The girl appeared to buy it. Resting his head on his hand, he closed his eyes, and let the rest of his senses do the work. It was his sense of smell that told him when the woman he had come to see had walked into the coffee shop.
He could scent a
witch anywhere. That was the secret, their scent, because their gift gave them the ability to change their appearance, to shift their features from one minute to the next, so you could never describe them in detail if asked.
This was the great Misha’Ha, and she
speak to him, and tell him what he needed to know.
The planet loomed larger in the window, too large, too fast.
“Brace for impact,” the computer ordered. “Prepare for crash landing.”
“I am aware,” Tiana said, wanting to tuck her head down and cover it with her arms. But she needed to guide them in. Yes, she could trust the computer, but trust wasn’t really her thing. Neither man nor machine.
“I can’t die here.” Those words were not meant to be hollow. They were born from a promise, a promise she had made two days ago when she had left the safety of her planet and her comfortable life, and headed into enemy territory to rescue an innocent girl called Larka.
The plan had been simple enough, she planned to go to Haripor and get her back, whatever the cost. Taken from her home planet, Larka would most likely be sold as a kitchen slave, until old enough to be something else. Tiana didn’t let her mind wander too far in that direction; it was too dark, too awful to comprehend, especially since it was Tiana’s fault Larka had been stolen from her mother.
Tiana had received the message from Larka’s mother, Kilma. She had gone to her father to ask him to send troops, but he had refused, saying they could not risk entering the airspace of another planet, not when the captive was not one of their own people. Tiana had argued; he had again refused.
She had threatened to go herself. He had told her to grow up and stop acting like a boy playing at soldiers. She was a woman, a princess and she should do what she was born to do, marry and breed. The argument had finished in its usual place, with Tiana’s father telling her he would find her a husband so that she could have her own children, rather than dreaming of running halfway across the sector to rescue a peasant child.
He might as well have slapped her across the face. In his eyes she was something he could sell, something he could barter for a new trade agreement. In short, she was no better off than Larka.
Tiana decided it was time she made a stand for what she believed in. Her father had not anticipated her next move. He had no idea of her courage, or her loyalty to something other than the crown or her position. If he had, he would have made sure the star port had instructions to ground her.
Going to the star port, she had requested a fully fueled ship, and been given one. Then she launched, telling the
she was going to their nearest moon for the afternoon. It wasn’t an unusual request: Tiana liked the peace and emptiness of space. It allowed her to dream of a future she would never have, one where she explored the galaxy and beyond.
She’d figured getting out of Kalisov space was going to be the hard part. With a pocketful of her dead mother’s jewelry, she had expected to go to Haripor, the capital of the planet Brigal, and simply buy Larka. She had been so wrong.
Leaving Kalisov space was the easy part. It was afterwards, around twenty light-years afterwards, to be exact, when things got complicated. That’s when she had run across bandits, and ended up with a hole in her engine.
A small hole
, that was what Tiana had told herself as she outran the bandits and risked a jump to light speed; her ship was luckily superior to theirs for speed. The engine had held together better than she expected. It had kept going for long enough to get to the other side of the galaxy, she just wasn’t sure which galaxy.
As the engine failed, they had slipped out of light speed. With the second engine failing under the strain, her only hope was to find a habitable planet and land on it, soon.
Planet 5109 was the only choice. That didn’t mean it was a good choice, but the air was breathable, unlike the dense atmosphere of the other planets in the vicinity. If she could keep the ship in one piece on landing, she might be able to salvage enough parts to build one good engine and then continue on her way.
She knew the odds were slim, but she wasn’t ready to turn tail and run home, not yet. This was her one chance to save Larka. Afterwards, she would have to accept being nothing more than a slave herself, sold to a husband in exchange for money, or arms. At least one of them would be safe, and have a free life. Her father was continually seeking more power, and as the daughter of his second wife, she was never going to sit on the throne: he had two sons from his first marriage to fulfill that role. Marrying her off was her only use.
Unless she took the ship and kept running.
Tiana flicked a switch and a screen lit up. She needed to check the data one last time, but the power was dwindling. Hurriedly, she entered the data she needed, and the ship began to scan. Numbers crossed the screen, but before it gave her the information she needed, it went blank, and half the lights on the ship went black.
“Then engine has gone, power has been diverted to navigation. I’ll have to fly in blind.” Tiana flicked a switch and the shields protecting the window slid up. She would have to do this the old-fashioned way, trusting what she could see with her eyes.
There was a large expanse of water in the northern hemisphere, and then large, flat areas of land around the equator. If she was correct, that would be desert, hot and inhospitable, and she had to consider she might be in for a long stay on the island. There was some food and water on board, but she had to be able to go outside to fix the engine, so she needed to find somewhere else.
Not that it was ever going to be an exact science. With only one engine working, just, there was every chance she would overshoot her target. Her control was too limited. She needed somewhere safe, and yet open.
“There.” Tiana adjusted the course, which was like trying to steer a lump of wood. There was no finesse in the adjustments, and she fought to maintain any kind of course, heading for a grassy plain with trees on its furthermost edge. If the ship was irreparable, she could trek there for cover. “Perfect.”
The ship was vibrating so violently Tiana wasn’t sure if they were going to have to worry about landing at all. It was going to be pulled apart way before she got anywhere near the planet’s surface.
“I’ve got this,” she told herself firmly.
Sweat was beading on her forehead, and the muscles in her arms were screaming at her to let go of the control stick. Her father’s face flashed in front of her, full of anger at the disgrace she had brought on him by leaving to rescue Larka, and snubbing his attempts to use her to form a new planetary alliance for their people.
She had to live through this, had to fulfill her promise to keep Larka safe.
“Brace.” The alarm was going off in the background, but she ignored it as she broke through the atmosphere. Tiana readjusted the ship’s speed and direction as a cross-wind hit it. Could this planet be any harder to read? She had expected the landing to be easier once out of the atmosphere, but she was wrong. Buffeted one way and then another. Pushed forward, then back, the ship stuttered through the remainder of the distance toward the ground, Tiana half expected the last engine to stall and end her mission, and her life.
The grassland loomed closer in the window. What had looked like solid ground now resembled bog. The ship was going to be impossible to repair if it was half submerged in water. Pulling the control stick back, she lifted the ship’s nose, and kept it off the ground for a further hundred feet. Then it hit the ground. Spray shot up around her, but they bounced, going on another twenty feet before they hit the soggy ground once more.
Not so much spray, but that didn’t hide the truth: the ground was too wet for the ship to land on and for her to do the necessary repairs. As she fought to keep going, the trees on the edge of the grassland grew closer. If she could just make it that far.
Her arms ached, her back ached, her hands were frozen around the control stick, but still she fought. She was her mother’s daughter, born of the old world but brought up in the new. Fighting was in her blood, and she fought on, until at last she had to let the ship slide across the ground, before it broke up with the impact of each bounce.
When at last the world stopped moving, she sat back in her seat, slowly flexing her fingers, making them work, making them release the only control she’d had on her future. Which was now no more than a stick of metal attached to a steering system that was dead. Just like the whole ship was dead.
“Enough.” Tiana undid her seat belt and climbed out of her seat. The ship might be dead, but she wasn’t. The tilting of the ship told her the ground wasn’t firm underneath it. It also made walking difficult, especially coupled with the exhaustion that threatened her as the adrenaline rush she had experienced slipped away.
The way she staggered from side to side must make her look as though she had drunk too much
. The fuzziness in her head was almost enough to confirm it, but she knew where she was, and what danger she was in. She had to get herself moving, and assess her situation.
Tiana made her way to the ship’s stores, and opened all the doors. Taking down three large containers, she filled them with as much food as she could, adding survival gear, water purification tablets and a blanket being of the most importance, before sealing the lids on tightly, in the hope that they would stay dry once she left the ship. Her plan was to reach the trees on the edge of the bog and set up some kind of second camp. From there she could come back and assess the ship, its damaged engines and likelihood of repair.
Only a momentary feeling of desperation was allowed into her head before she pushed it aside. She was not going to die here.
Taking the supplies, she placed them next to the escape exit, but didn’t pull it open. She had to be ready; the ship might have already sunk enough that was soon as the door was blown, water would flood in.
Only one way to find out
. She pulled the lever. There was a hiss of air, followed by the smell of rotting vegetation, then the door swung open, and she assessed her chances of ever making it off this planet.
They were not good.
“Misha’Ha,” the girl exclaimed, and he could hear the worry in her voice, even though it was barely a whisper. “We must leave. There is a bounty hunter here. He knows your name.”
“I am not leaving,” Misha’Ha replied calmly. “That’s him, I presume. What did you give him?” Footsteps came closer. He kept still, his breathing shallow and even.
. I wanted him to sleep. I hope I haven’t killed him.”
“He’s still breathing. The effects last around eight hours, we need to get him out of here. If the authorities find out you gave it him without his knowledge, there will be trouble.” The footsteps stopped. “Although he does have to drink it for it to take effect.”
“You are very perceptive,” Mak said sitting up. “I’m not big on tea.” He got up, towering above the two women, and handing the full cup back to the girl. Who promptly took it off him and then threw it back in his face. Only Misha’Ha’s hand stopped her throwing the cup too.
“It’s our best china, Driole, and we haven’t paid for it yet.” She loosed the girl’s hand and came closer to Mak. “What do you want, Virdian bounty hunter.”
“I want information, of course. I am trailing someone, and that trail has gone cold.”
“And what has that to do with me?” the witch asked, her eyes bright, defiance glittering there, hard, strong, and he could see why she had survived so long in a world that didn’t always understand or forgive her power.
“You are going to tell me where my bounty is. And then I am going to walk out of here and never mention I know where you are to anyone. Particularly a certain princess.”
“I will not help you with this bounty,” Misha’Ha said, and turned away from him. “I will not help you track someone down.”
“But that power of yours can. And so you will.” He followed her, the other people in the tea room watching the exchange, which made Misha’Ha increasingly nervous. Her heart rate was fast, her breath shallow and quick. She might hide it well, but he was unnerving her.
“Come through, we can talk privately there.” Her eyes turned violet as she looked back to him. Mak had seen just about everything there was to see in this universe, and nothing ever unnerved him. But this witch did.
“Talk? Or are you planning on drugging my tea again?” He raised his voice enough for it to carry to the other patrons, who looked nervously at their own beverages.
. Driole, offer our guests some complimentary cake.” The old woman moved quickly, belying her years, and he followed close behind her, letting his senses roam. If she planned to ambush him with her magic, he had to be ready.
If she had magic. It was well known that a Jala’Ha witch could see things, things that hadn’t happened yet, or the places where things were hidden. But what other powers they had were shrouded in mystery. These women were never supposed to leave their home planet. But this one had.
“Sit,” she commanded, and he did.
Misha’Ha seated herself across the table from him, her eyes fixed on his face, making him feel uncomfortable, and he had withstood the looks from some terrifying creatures in his time. The longer she looked, the more her eyes bored into him. He wanted to pull away, but he couldn’t. Was she changing his memories? Making him forget seeing her? Would he end up a lump of mush after she fried his brain?