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
He sighed. That kind of thinking was never useful; he had to focus.
Then the taptab in his hand picked up a heat source. If it was his bounty, he was close. A few more steps and the infrared image cleared enough for him to make out the outline of a body clearly, lying down, knees drawn up. At least the bounty was still alive.
All he had to do was catch him.
Slowing his pace, he moved noiselessly, not wanting him to bolt when he found him. Silent, like the clouds passing by overhead, he drew closer.
This was what he did, and he was good at it. Tracking, hunting and capturing. Mak drew his laser, set it to stun, and smiled to himself. He could almost feel the weight of the bounty in his pocket. Then he let his confidence ebb, putting himself on alert. The man in there was dangerous; he could not afford to be cocky. Cocky got you killed, and he was not in the mood for dying.
Tiana hoped she would be safe here, huddled under the blanket in a vain attempt to keep warm. The night wasn’t too cold, but her wet clothes did nothing to keep her warm and they clung to her skin, negating any value the blanket had. However, taking them off was out of the question; she had to be prepared for anything this planet might throw at her.
Another shudder passed through her body, making her teeth chatter. She desperately wanted to light a fire, but even a small one would attract attention to her hiding place. Although it was something she would consider tomorrow, if she could find some clean water to bathe in. Not because she hated being dirty, but because, as darkness fell, she realized just how easily she would be seen if anything tracked her through the night. They wouldn’t need to see her hidden in this tree, they wouldn’t need to hear her, or scent her: they would just have to follow the glowing trail right to her door.
The bog was made up of something phosphorescent. It covered everything that she wore, everything that she touched, and lying there she knew there was nothing she could do about it. Just as there was nothing she could do to save Larka.
Tiana thought of the poor child, all alone, in the possession of men who wanted to use her. At thirteen, it was only a matter of time until the slavers were offered enough coin to sell her as more than a kitchen slave. She tried to shut those thoughts out. She would get to her in time, she would save her, just as she had promised Larka’s mom, Kilma, when she had sent the
with the message saying Larka had been ripped from her arms.
If Kilma had ever got the message. The way the bandits had intercepted Tiana’s ship, she wondered if her return message had been intercepted too. Had they known the princess from Kalisov was out in space all alone?
She turned over, hating the mess she had made. Taking the message at face value had been a mistake; she should have had it confirmed. Instead, afraid that if her father had the slightest idea that his daughter planned to leave, he would have grounded her completely, she had left. No consideration to her own safety, only focusing on Larka. Lying here, she had gone over the sequence of events, and it had come to her that either Larka had been taken to purposely lure her out, or the child was still at home with her mother and the whole thing had been a ruse, to get her to leave her planet.
, she chastised herself. She had been only too happy to run away. So easily she had persuaded herself it was because Larka needed her. The reality was, she knew her father was planning to marry her off, not understanding that it wasn’t that she couldn’t find a husband. It was because she didn’t want one; instead, she wanted a life of her own. She wanted freedom. How her mom had given up her freedom to become a queen was beyond Tiana. Jolina must have really loved Tiana’s father, and those two young boys who she treated as her own.
Marriage was not going to play the same trick on Tiana; she wanted to remain free. No husband,
no children. She could serve the people of Kalisov in other ways. She had to make her father see that.
A noise close by made her alert, but she didn’t move. The slightest sound could be enough to bring one of those creatures crashing through the dried wood she had piled up against the entrance to her makeshift shelter.
She listened, the silence broken by her heartbeat. It drummed in her chest, pounding in her ears, leaving her straining to hear anything above it. Using small shallow breaths, she tried to calm herself. It might have been nothing: perhaps a small creature sniffing around after food.
Or it might be a big beast who wants to rip your head off.
A vision of the snakelike creature, and its deadly, sharp teeth replayed in her head.
Just as she had convinced herself that there was nothing out there interested in her, there was the sound of scuffling footsteps, and then a whoop so loud, it must have been right outside.
The whooping was cut off by the sound of a laser, and replaced by a snarling that made her start, so loud, so vicious, so full of hatred was it. Full of death.
The laser sounded again, followed by a male voice, shouting. “Victor Ulha!”
Who the hell was out there?
And who the hell did he think was in here
“Victor, if you are in there, this would be good time to come out.” He sounded as if he was exerting himself and the steady swish of his laser lance told her he was fighting something, something angry, something that had been stalking her, waiting outside for her to emerge, perhaps?
Or another trick?
A new sound mingled with those of the battle already going on outside. A howl, deep, full of unspeakable rage, made the wood rattle. It wasn’t close, not yet. But she had no doubt it soon would be. This was perhaps her best chance of escape.
Pushing the blanket off, Tiana raised her glowing foot and kicked at the wood piled across the entrance to her not-so-safe sanctuary. As she reached up to wrap her hands around the edge of the tree to pull herself forward, she noted every part of her skin and clothes glowed. She would have been so easy to find, an easy meal for the creature already here, or the one on its way.
Giant thunderous footsteps made the ground tremble, and a crashing sound told her that trees were being crushed underfoot as the thing made its way towards them.
. Who was this man? He was fighting a creature, similar to the one in the bog, but with short sturdy legs. Crashing branches told her the other thing heading towards them was perhaps one more step up on the evolutionary ladder. She didn’t want to meet it; she just wanted to get out of here.
“You are not Victor Ulha,” the man said, looking at her with a mixture of surprise and disappointment.
, she thought, hoping she looked at least female to this monster of a male alien who towered above her. “No, I am not,” she answered.
A swipe from the creature made him direct his attention back to his adversary. “We need to run,” he said, as he jabbed at the whooping creature, whose sinewy neck weaved from one side to the other, looking for a way past the laser that stung it every time it lunged forward in attack.
Tiana’s legs hated the idea of running. Her body had shut down, the cold, and exertion from earlier, zapping all her strength, and so far, her fear of what was coming had not kickstarted her adrenalin.
“Hey. Can you use one of these?” He took out another laser and held it up.
She nodded. “Yes.”
He threw it at her. At first she fumbled it, nearly dropping it to the ground, but her fingers closed around the hilt, her brain telling her she had to wake up or she would be asleep forever. Dead. Tired was no excuse for winding up dead in the ground.
Her thumb flicked the switch to charge it. This was a newer model to the one she had used to spar with her brothers, but those fights had been some time ago, and technology moved on. She briefly thought back to those carefree days, so long ago.
Her eldest brother was married, his wife with child, and an heir to their kingdom, while Cralik was head of the armed forces, no longer in a position to be caught sparring with his younger sister. He was above all childish games now; his role was too important to have his authority undermined by play fighting with his younger sister. That was what he had told her, but she was sure he was simply scared one of his men might see her whooping his ass.
“It’s charged,” he called across to her as the laser went green.
“I know,” she said, and aimed it at the snake creature, firing off two shots, hitting it just below the eye. It reared up at the male alien. Although, at seven-foot-tall, with broad shoulders to match, the creature didn’t quite tower above him. The alien looked as if he could hold his own if it came down to a fight. He appeared to be all muscle, but was light on his feet. He ducked as the creature’s sharp teeth snapped at him, and then weaved to the side, telling her he was fit. Very fit. And used to a good fight.
The creature reacted to her onslaught as she fired two more shots, then hit recharge on the weapon. That gave the male alien a chance to fire his own laser, hitting the creature under its chin. The thing whooped in pain, the ear-splitting sound answered by a roar from the other approaching creature.
“We go. Now.” He fired again and ran towards the beast. Stunned at his bravery, she saw the flash of a blade and the knife in his hand dug into the flesh of the snakelike creature. Blood spurted from the wound. Not red, but the same phosphorescence color as the gloop from the bog, as if it was born from the earth itself.
He dodged back out of the way of the glowing bodily fluids. “One of us being lit up like a celestial body is enough, don’t you think?” He grinned and she caught white teeth, but his eyes were dark, almost unreadable, apart from the tinge of blue that flashed across them. He reminded Tiana of the laser, a sparkling current passing through him, bringing him to life.
Taking her hand, he pulled her toward him, and then turned them both around, dragging her with him back towards the bog.
“You know what’s in there, don’t you?” she asked.
“Big teeth, brother of this one?” he asked.
“Yes.” Her legs were not cooperating fully, and she was glad he had hold of her, dragging her away from the monsters. But where were they heading? Who was this mysterious alien?
And more importantly, what did he want with her?
Slowing down and asking him now was not a good idea. The ground still trembled under the footsteps of the big creature who was following them. This tall alien was her best chance of escaping, and once they reached safety, hopefully the safety of his space ship, then she would deal with him.
Her grip around the laser tightened, and she set it to charge, knowing she might very well have to turn it on her rescuer. Because the more she thought about it, the more she figured him being here wasn’t a coincidence.
Someone had shot at her out in space. Had that someone managed to track her as she jumped to light speed? Was that same someone holding her hand, and leading her to his ship? To what?
Tiana had no idea, but she was going to find out, one way or another.
What the hell were those things?
He could still hear them, the larger, unseen one especially, it howled, filled with an anger that he didn’t need to be able to understand it to know it was telling them to get off its planet. Which was exactly what he planned to do.
“My rover is just through these trees,” he said, pulling the grid from his pocket and checking the location. If he led them the wrong way, they didn’t stand a chance. Hell, he didn’t know if they stood a chance even if they reached the rover.
They would have to go back across the bog, and the rover did not move fast in hovercraft mode. They would be out in the open and vulnerable. The thing chasing them was fast; he could hear it crashing through the trees, cutting a deep swathe through the ancient forest.
Maybe that creature was even more ancient. It would explain why no one ever settled here permanently. No one probably lived to tell the tale either. He would update Stellia’s data banks accurately when they were safely on board and out of the thing’s reach. This planet should have a giant flashing warning sign hung on it.
That reminded him, Stellia had not sent him a rendezvous point. Did that mean something had happened to his ship? Being stuck here with that thing was not happening—this was not where he was going to die.
Cursing, he looked behind him at the woman he had found, who was glowing like a beacon for anything to see. They had to reach the rover and try to outrun it. Hiding was not an option, not unless she stripped her clothes off and he covered her in his coat. The thought of stripping her drew his eyes to her voluptuous breasts, which were exaggerated by the glowing clothing. If her naked breasts were the last thing he saw before he died, he might die happy.
Mentally kicking himself in the ass, he tightened his grip on her hand and propelled them both forward faster. He was not dying here.
“Keep going, only a couple of hundred feet left to go.” He looked at the taptab and then lifted his head to scan the trees for the rover. It was here somewhere.
Her breathing was labored, coming in short rasping gasps, but he was not going to let her give up. The grim determination of her face told him that choice was not going to be his to make, she had no intention of dying here either. Something in him shifted slightly, this might not be the bounty he was hunting, but if his senses were anything to go by, and he trusted them as much as he trusted Stellia, then she was no ordinary woman. And he intended to interrogate her thoroughly once they were safely off this damn planet.
“Is that it?” she asked, and pointed into the distance.
“Certainly is,” he said. “And not too soon. That thing is gaining on us.” The steady thud of its footfalls had already told him it was still moving, but now he could see its body heat on his taptab. It was gaining on them quickly.
“We have to get on board fast, and try to outrun it,” he shouted, dodging through the trees to the small clearing.