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
“The princess has a bounty out on me?” Misha’Ha asked, suddenly releasing him from her deadly stare.
“Yes.” Could she tell it was only a half truth? The bounty was for information, which he might decide to trade in if he didn’t catch up with his current quarry.
“And what poor creature are you searching for?” Misha’Ha asked.
“Here.” He took his
out of his coat pocket and set it down in front of her. The picture of a male appeared, and he gave Misha’Ha no more information. “I was close. I know you don’t want to help me, but believe me, it would be far better if I caught up with him first. This one is a piece of work, and I’m about the only one who would rather take him alive.”
“I don’t doubt that.” She glanced at him, but there was no more of her deep probing, much to his relief. “Give me your hands.”
“Why?” he asked, glancing down at her bony hands. Her nails were like long talons, just right for sinking into his flesh.
“Because that is how I read the future. Of course it always works much better if you cross my palm with silver first.”
“You mean, if I pay you? You did get the part about our deal being one set of information traded for another.”
“Do you want it to work or not?” She lifted her left hand, and thrust it under his nose. Mak dug into his pocket and retrieved a coin, not worth much, but it was silver. “Thank you.”
“You are welcome,” he said politely, even if it was laced with a hint of sarcasm.
She held in her palm, and then set it aside. “Hands.”
He did as she asked, wanting it to be over with. The place was starting to give him the creeps. Not bright and airy, as the front of the tea shop was, this room was dimly lit, a strong smell of incense lingered on the air. Mak felt his senses becoming numb, his eyes growing heavy. If he didn’t know better, he would have believed he had drunk the tea Driole had given him.
“There.” The old woman spoke, and he snapped awake.
“Where?” Mak asked.
“What you seek. It is at the point where day meets night, on the Jewel of the Trallic.”
“The what?” he asked, shaking his head to clear the fog there. He could almost feel it, could almost see it floating around in his brain.
“The thing you seek is at the point where day meets night, on the Jewel of the Trallic. Look for the aquamarine. Once you find it, you will know.”
“Know what? That is a whole load of gibberish.”
“It is all you will get from me. The clues are there, the truth if there, what you do with them is up to you.” She loosed his hands, got up quickly and then said sharply, “Now get out. I have fulfilled my side of the bargain; I expect you to fulfill yours.”
He stood, bowed slightly and then left, her words joining the fog in his brain. The bright light of the shop made his head hurt, and he struggled to walk in a straight line. Had the witch drugged him? Dazed, he left the tea shop, not comprehending the words Driole said to him, but he was sure they were a Quarian insult.
Once in the fresh air, he let Misha’Ha’s words sit with him, while he made his way back to his space ship. He didn’t understand them at all. Even after the cool air had cleared his mind, they sounded as if she were simply trying to trick him. He had been to all the galaxies in this sector, and some beyond, but never had he heard of the Jewel of the Trallic. The man he was seeking hadn’t had time to get any further. Not unless he found someone with a warp drive, and Mak knew for sure there were only three in the sector. Two belonged to world rulers and one belonged to a certain Virdian bounty hunter, and went by the name of
Once inside his ship, he punched the ignition button, strapped himself in and launched into space.
“Stellia. The Jewel of the Trallic. Ever heard of it?” Mak asked the onboard computer.
“What is this? A test of my memory banks?” Stellia answered in a voice that often verged on sarcastic. Whoever had programmed the voice must have had a sick sense of humor. It was like having a nagging wife on board, who always knew what you were doing, and what you were supposed to be doing.
He took a deep breath. “No. It is not a test. I have information about our quarry. And that information tells me we have to go to the Jewel of the Trallic. So if you have anything that will help us, please share it with me.”
He swore the computer sighed, in that resigned way reserved for talking to an idiot. “Jewel of the Trallic. An archaic name for the Cronolon Belt. Once part of the Alaton Empire, the Trallic was a group of five planets orbiting a sun, ruled by the Alaton Race. The Alaton…”
“I don’t need the history lesson; I know of their downfall. Do you know which planet is the Jewel?”
“The Jewel was so called because from space it looks like a habitable planet. There have been many attempts by difference races to settle there. But the water is polluted by underwater volcanoes, which makes the water viscous.”
“You get stuck in it,” Stellia answered sharply. She obviously thought he needed everything explained to him in simple terms.
“I know what it means.” He thought for a moment. “Anything else?”
“The creatures there have evolved to take the moisture out of the gloop, but it is too labor-intensive for other species to settle there. The only water you can drink is from the streams after rainfall. As soon as it reaches a large body of water it returns to its gelatinous composition.”
“And then there are the creatures themselves. Huge, big teeth. The kind you like.”
“You mean deadly.”
“And that is where we have to go. Unless this psychic is trying to get rid of me.”
“Why would anyone want to do that?”
“Because they do not appreciate me in the same way you do.”
Stellia snorted. “Shall I plot the course?”
He thought for a moment. “If the witch Misha’Ha is to be believed, then that is where we have to go.”
“Misha’Ha. She is a Jala’Ha witch.”
“That’s the one. I’m surprised she made it into your data banks. She may be trying to kill me to hide her whereabouts.”
“I will watch you back, Mak,” Stellia said all too sweetly.
He rolled his eyes. “Thank you, Stellia,” he said. “Tell me, is a certain Virdian bounty hunter called T’Makizomo in your memory banks? I hear he is the best bounty hunter in the sector.”
With infinite patience, Stellia said, “No, Mak, you are not in my data banks. Maybe if you did something worthwhile, they might include you in the update.”
“I’ll bear that in mind, Stellia.” And he settled back to rest his still muzzy head, while his ship entered warp, heading to the Jewel in the Trallic.
“Yuck.” That didn’t quite cover how disgusting it was to be standing knee deep in thick primordial gloop. That was what it reminded her of anyway, especially since it was filled with tiny creatures that crawled over her.
She hated it. Hated it with a passion she saved for hating her brothers when they told her she was a girl and couldn’t learn to fight. It was that same passion with which she loved them. They were her playmates, her antagonists and her friends, and although she wasn’t supposed to learn, they taught her everything she needed to know. Meaning by the time she was a grown woman, she could fight, and fight well.
Lances were her favorite weapon: the way the power vibrated in your hands as you held the electrically charged hilt. It had taken her six months to finally hit her eldest brother, Axil, in the chest and knock him to the ground, and a further two months to do the same to Cralik, who was five years her senior and quick on his feet. They treated her the same as they treated each other, despite her being a girl, and having a different mother. They loved her, not always siding with their father in his treatment of her.
Maybe they were also united by the endless love of Tiana’s mother, Jolina. Their own mother had died in childbirth, so Cralik had never known her, and Axil had been four at the time, his memories of her soon forgotten. Jolina had come to Kalisov as their nanny, bringing happiness, love and laughter to the palace. She wove a spell over everyone, including the widowed king, who fell in love and married her, despite her lowly beginnings. Tiana might be a princess, but one half of her family tree were fishermen from the planet Rilan.
She heaved the last of the boxes out of the ship, resting it on a solid lump of ground. Taking a deep breath, she lifted it and began the short but exhausting walk to the edge of the bog. The rest of her provisions awaited her, and she had promised herself she would eat when this last box was safely out of the bog.
Treading carefully, she followed the trail she had memorized, knowing that one wrong move could send her and her provisions into a deep pocket of gloop they might never climb out of. Treacherous, that was an understatement.
One foot sunk into the sticky substance, and she heaved her other foot up, ready to take the next step forward, when something brushed against it. Not looking down, she carried on, her eyes fixed on the edge of the bog, which was now only ten feet away. One foot up, one foot down, repeat.
Across to her left, something stirred the thick gloop, making it swell. The thing brushing her leg had not been her imagination, and now it was heading back towards her.
“Damn it.” She placed the box on a section of high ground and ran for the edge of the bog, hoping hard ground would save her from this thing. But if it was amphibian, she might well be about to die. Horribly.
A sucking noise filled her ears, and the sticky watery stuff began to move away from her, dragging her with it, as if she was on the sea shore and the tide had turned. Two feet away from the bank, it felt as if she were treading water, and going nowhere. Reaching out, she tried to grab hold of a low branch; it slipped through her fingers.
With the last of her energy reserves, she tried again. This time her fingers curled around the branch, and although it gave a sickening crack, it held, and she pulled herself out of the bog. Just as the creature loomed up, its mouth opening, lips peeled back, ready to strike. It was brown, the color of mud, its skin made up of scales. It moved in a slithering, sinuous way, sliding through the gloop, so close she could smell the decay on its breath.
The fights with her brothers had taught her one important lesson. If you were weaker, if your opponent thought it had the upper hand, you struck first, and you struck hard.
Pulling her leg back towards her like a wound-up coil, she quickly released it, jerking her foot out, until it came into contact with what she hoped was the thing’s neck. A satisfying gasp, followed by a strangled gargle told her she had hit her mark, and the creature slid down into the water. However, it was not about to give up, and the water swelled again, she could see how tight the creature was turning, bending itself in two and coming back towards her.
She didn’t want to risk her luck again. The same move might not work, not if this creature had any kind of brain in its thick, ugly skull.
Scrambling to the edge of the bog, her brain screaming at her legs to go faster, her arms to pull harder, she made it out as the thing erupted from the shallows, its teeth making a sickening snapping sound as it tried to make her its next meal.
Letting go of the branch, she fell forward onto her hands and knees, gasping for breath, her heart hammering so hard it was like thunder, the blood pulsing in her body making her feel faint. But she had to stay awake, and alert: she wasn’t out of danger yet.
Getting her feet under her, she pushed her exhausted body up, not caring about the thick goo that coated her black leggings, or that her leather jacket was ruined, and she would never be able to dry out her boots. She was alive, and she wanted to stay that way. That meant getting herself and her supplies to some place safe. Some place out of the reach of the creature. Although, thankfully, it seemed unable to get itself out of the shallows.
But it watched her. Small black eyes on either side of its head stared at her, the snakelike neck, sinewy and strong, moved from side to side, looking at her, watching her every move as she dragged one box, then another, back further into the trees.
Occasionally it lifted its head, its mouth pointing up towards the darkening sky, and emitted a terrible howl. She shuddered with the sense that it was calling to something. Perhaps there were many more like him, a thought which filled her with dread. There was nowhere to hide; the trees would give her some shelter, but not enough if there were similar creatures capable of moving on land.
She had to find shelter, because night would come soon. But where? The trees were thinning. She was getting close to the edge of the small wood, close to open ground, and whatever lay beyond.
Tiana knew she had to keep all that was left of her equipment together, sure that she would never be able to make it back to her ship, either for food or to mend the engines. She needed to form a plan, some way to save herself. It was impossible. She was light-years from home, and no one knew she was here. All her plans to rescue Larka were gone; she was now the one in need of rescue.
Then in the distance, she heard a sound that made her freeze. Another creature called, a sound that rent the air, it was almost as if the trees shook to their roots. Something was coming, and it was coming for her.
“Don’t panic,” she told herself, taking deep breaths and assessing the terrain. This was where she was going to have to make her stand. Or hide. She peered forward, toward a tall tree. Dead branches told her it might provide some kind of sanctuary. If she was lucky.
The call came again. Lucky or dead, there would be no in between.
Taking one of the boxes, she dragged it after her until she reached the foot of the tree. There she opened it, looking for something she could use to hack away at the tree trunk. Nothing, this was the provisions box. Racing back for the other, she rummaged through it, sure there was a knife in one of the boxes. She only hoped it wasn’t the box still out in the bog.
“Got you,” she said as her hand closed around the hilt and pulled it out. With no time to spare, she left the open box, running back to the tree and pushing the blade into a gap in the dry wood, and pressing down to pull the outside bark off. It was tough, too tough.