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
“Is that what you think this is? Some personal goal of running from my life?” She shook her head. “But I suppose in your line of work, it’s always about self-gain.”
“Ouch,” he said, placing his hand over his heart. “Now who is making unfounded judgments?”
“Listen. I will give you these jewels, and you will take me to Haripor.”
“Haripor?” he questioned. “What is…”
She held her hand up. “There is something there I have to retrieve. Once we get it, you take me to the planet Rilan and I’ll give you the jewels. Then you can take me back to my father and claim your bounty.”
“I don’t understand?”
“You don’t have to,” she said. “You don’t have to understand, or ask questions, you just have to do it and get paid. Twice. That should appeal to a man like you.”
“A man like me…” He nodded. “Deal.”
“Good.” If it was possible, her skin grew paler, her hand reaching for the nearest solid object that would keep her on her feet. He made sure that object was him.
Lifting her up, he carried her to the small bunk room where he slept, despite her assurances she could walk there herself. “I’m just protecting my investment.”
With that he dumped her on the bed, turned around, tearing himself away from her, and left the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.
“Course set for Haripor,” she interrupted him.
“Women,” he said, and went to the console and sat down, replaying everything that had happened in his head, trying to figure out what Tiana was up to. Blackmail sprung to mind. That would explain why she had her mother’s jewels with her in the first place.
Unless she was spinning him a whole pack of lies. And he had heard them all before, he knew what people would do and say to get out of trouble. But she intrigued him, and despite his better judgment he wanted to see how this played out.
Maybe this princess would bring him in a sum as big as the bounty he had almost certainly lost by delaying picking up the trail of Victor Ulha. For once, he found he didn’t care.
Was this the right thing to do? She still didn’t know if Larka had been kidnapped, but if she had, going to Haripor with that big hunk of man flesh was the surest way to get her back. He knew how to protect himself, and he would protect her, because she was his ticket to riches.
Maybe she should try to get a message to Kilma first, before they went bursting into Haripor? she wondered as she lay still, half in a dream world, half in the real world, her body too exhausted to get itself out of bed. Although the stiffness in her bones told her she had been lying here much too long.
And that might mean he had disregarded her offer and by now was close to her home planet, and her angry, disappointed father.
With a groan, she hooked her leg off the side of the bed and heaved herself forward, swinging her legs around to plant her feet on the floor. It was then that she noticed that she had a lot less clothes on than she had gone to bed in.
Was the guy some kind of pervert too?
As if to answer her question, the door opened, and, without knocking, he came in. The only thing that stopped her launching the kind of attack on him her brothers were afraid of was the tray of food in his hand.
Her stomach rumbled so loudly, he must have heard it and a smile spread across his face. “Stellia said you were awake.”
Tiana frowned. “Does Stellia know everything?”
He dropped his voice conspiratorially. “She thinks she does.” He winked and looked up, as if he was expecting some clever retort from the computer. When it didn’t come, he raised his eyebrows, and said, “Here. Eat. Then we can talk.”
“About what?” she said, momentarily forgetting all about her lack of clothes as she took the tray from him, and set it on her lap. Picking up what looked like fresh bread, she bit into it. “That is delicious.”
“Stellia is the latest model, and she is fitted with the latest technology. Including some kind of oven that seems to work miracles on whatever is put in it. Ten minutes ago, that bread was a packet of powder.”
“Impressive,” she said, taking another bite. “I wouldn’t be able to guess.” He smiled, making her wonder if he was making it up, but found she didn’t care, and was not going to let him ruin her breakfast.
“So, Haripor?” he asked.
She sighed. It looked as if her breakfast was going to be ruined after all. “Is that where we are heading?”
“It is. We are in orbit. But before I dock, I want to know what exactly I’m getting myself into.”
“You don’t have to get yourself into anything. All you have to do is dock, let me out and then wait on your ship until I return.”
He laughed. “Have you been to Haripor?” His face grew serious. “If you take a step on that planet, you are likely to be taken and sold.”
“But I’m the daughter of the King of Kalisov.”
“Which is why you will fetch a good price.”
“They wouldn’t dare.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” He shook his head. “You have no understanding of their ways. Everything has a price to the slavers of Haripor. Which is why I need to know what I will be buying. Because I’m assuming it’s a person. Your lover? What, did your father not approve of you having an affair with the hired help, and so he sent him here?”
After nearly choking on her food, she placed her bread back down on the plate, swallowing the words she wanted to spit out at him and his rude assumptions. She had to play this cool; from what he said, she truly did need his help, because getting herself kidnapped would not help Kilma and Larka. She needed him to understand why she was here and why it was so important to her. “There is a girl.”
“A girl?” His voice told her his interest had been piqued. “I thought for sure we would be going there to trade for a lover of yours. Or maybe a kitchen maid who makes your favorite cookies.”
That did it! She stood up, despite her legs feeling as though they were still stuck in the bog. “Is that it? Or do you have any other insults? Just because I’m a princess, doesn’t mean I only think of myself.”
“Sit down and eat. I’m sorry.” He nodded. She figured he was sincere, and she wanted to eat, so she did as he asked and sat down.
“Where are my clothes?” she asked. Her temper had got the better of her, and she had momentarily forgotten she was half naked. “Or is this your idea of entertainment—strip a woman while she’s sleeping so you can see her half naked in the morning?”
“Your clothes smelt of that bog, and were glowing in the dark. I washed them, and once you have a shower you can have them back.”
“A shower? Another part of your ship’s advanced technologies?”
“It’s not exactly a shower, more of a decontamination chamber. You have no idea the kind of undesirable people I have on my shiny new ship.” The insult was aimed at her.
“Well, as soon as we have what I need from Haripor, and we have returned her to Rilan, you can take me home, get your bounty and I will be out of your life forever.”
He snorted, and then recovered himself. “I think we need to start again.” He turned his body towards her, making her incredibly aware of his presence. A heat emanated from him, and she wanted to lean into him, and let it soothe her aching body, and calm her frayed nerves. When he spoke about Haripor and how she would most likely end up as a slave there herself, she realized just how little she knew of the universe outside of the small bubble that was Kalisov and its surrounding territories.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” she said, deciding to play nice, at least for now. He might be a bounty hunter, but he appeared to be trustworthy, and trustworthy was all she needed right now. He could have just marched into Haripor and sold her himself; instead, he had offered to keep her out of their reach.
For the jewels in your pocket
, she reminded herself. Her pocket!
“They are on the table next to my bunk,” he said, pointing behind her. He had read her mind.
“Oh,” she said.
“You sound disappointed I’m not a liar and a thief.” He took the tray and began eating the bread himself. She was being rude to him, and she didn’t know why. Here she was, on his ship, being treated fairly, eating his food.
“Not disappointed. Surprised.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you are a bounty hunter. That means you hunt people down for money.”
“And that makes me a bad person?”
“Doesn’t it?” she asked, hoping he could prove her wrong, because she really wanted to like him.
“No. You see, my people live by certain rules. One of which is, we only take bounties from people who are looking for something, or someone they have lost. Like you and your child. Or your father might look for his missing daughter.”
“She’s not my child,” Tiana said, looking him in the eye. “She’s from Rilan. Her mom sent me a message to say she had been taken. I knew my father wouldn’t let me go and get her, and neither would he send an emissary of any kind.”
“So you ran?” His eyes narrowed, intent on what she was saying.
“I didn’t run. As in
. I planned to go to Haripor, buy Larka back, return her to her mom and then go home.”
“I don’t know what kind of technology your ship has, but you were a long way from Haripor when I found you.”
“I know.” Oh well, she might just as well tell him everything. Even though she suspected he already knew a lot more than he was letting on. “I was attacked. It was if they were waiting for me.”
This interested him, and a crackle of electricity told her Stellia was listening too. She looked up, and then to him, suddenly afraid this was all a setup, and that her attackers were somehow linked to this man.
“Who attacked you?” he asked gently.
“Their ships were unmarked. But old. They hit one of my engines, but I managed to jump to light speed and lost them. My engine was too damaged and I dropped out of light speed.”
“You don’t have any idea who they were? Color of their ship? Their weapons? Photon?”
She sat still, closing her eyes, trying to bring back the memory into her fuzzy head. Usually she was good at remembering every detail, but yesterday had taken it out of her and she had to concentrate really hard. “There was a small number on the one ship. 158-34. I think that was it. The hull was blue, but with some darker patches, like it had been reprimed.”
“Good girl. And the weapons? Were they bright when they fired?” he asked.
“I do know the difference between photon and neutron. The blast wasn’t either of those. It wasn’t a laser. It was an old-fashioned crank.”
“The Maraki? Aren’t they traders from the outer quadrant?” she asked, remembering her brother talking about a meeting he had with them a month or two back.
“They are.” He rubbed the stubble that covered his chin, and Tiana took in the tiredness around his eyes. It looked as if he hadn’t slept. But then, she had been in his bunk, so where would he sleep?
“Are you going to tell me why the Maraki tried to shoot me down?” she asked, reaching across and taking a small piece of dried fruit from the remainder of her breakfast.
“I don’t know.”
“But you have a theory?” she prompted.
“Theories get you into trouble. I am a humble bounty hunter, and you are a princess. If I tell you what I think and you relay it to other sources, I might find myself in trouble.”
She smiled. “You are not humble. And who would listen to a girl?”
He chuckled. “You might be a girl, but you are a princess, with no husband, who lives on a planet at the heart of the known trade routes. Do you have any idea how valuable that makes you?” He stood up. “I think we should abandon this rescue. And I should return you home.”
“No.” She rose to her feet, her chin stuck out defiantly. Despite this alien towering above her, making her feel small, she would not be intimidated. “We struck a bargain. Or are you afraid? I thought Virdian bounty hunters were the best.”
“And I thought princesses were self-centered brats.” He dipped his head, his breath caressing her skin when he spoke his next words. “Tell me what is so special about this girl.”
“Nothing. And everything,” Tiana answered.
Nothing. And everything.
He should have let it go, and not listened to what she had to say and simply turned the ship around and taken the princess home. But he had listened and that was why he was stood here now, at the gates of the capital of Haripor, with her jewels in his pocket, and a laser at his side. He wasn’t sure which would be his weapon of choice.
It would depend on who had hold of this child, Larka, and why.
His suspicions were growing. Had the Maraki set this whole thing up? Did they have any idea how much the girl, Larka, meant to Tiana? Or had they simply intercepted the radgraph sent from Tiana to Larka’s mom, Kilma? If that was the case, he had to consider the possibility that they were not the only radgraphs to be intercepted.
A small piece of the puzzle clicked into place in his brain. The Maraki were always looking for new ways to hustle. Tiana was a bargaining chip they could use to do a deal with the King of Kalisov. If they managed to get their hands on her, they could use her to make him sign a trade treaty. Or maybe they had intended to lure her out of Kalisov territory and then
her from some attack, thus earning her father’s thanks and a swiftly arranged marriage to one of their princes.
Mak wasn’t aware the Maraki had any ambitions of bettering themselves. They might be the biggest trading force in this sector of the universe, but their ships were old and unreliable, and the ruling party never thought to invest in the planet’s infrastructure. They simply moved goods from one place to another for the cheapest possible price, their low overheads making them more appealing to many traders, their absence of care making them unpopular with others.
Now it looked as if they wanted to open new trade opportunities, and in their usual way, they were being heavy handed, willing to use this girl, Larka, to get their hands on the princess. Had they never heard of plain old negotiations?