Authors: Taylor Dillion
“We were told you had some humans,” the leader said, his gaze finally breaking from Sienna’s. “Is this all you have?” he waved at them.
“Yes, this is the shipment that arrived this morning.” The shop keeper smiled his fake smile again.
“They’re kind of beat up and scruffy-looking,” the largest of the males who Sienna guessed was nearly seven feet tall observed as he appraised the bandages and bruises.
“Well, you know, humans are so squishy and soft, they bruise like fruit,” the trader laughed at his own joke. The leader of the group simply eyed him for a few moments longer and then turned to the women again. “Vax, what do you think? Are they worth our time?” he asked the one to his left who appeared slightly younger and a little shorter than the leader and the gold giant as Sienna had decided to call him.
“I suppose. But I can tell you now, you shouldn’t pay top dollar,” the younger one smirked. “After all they are bruised fruit.” The shop keeper’s face flashed extreme annoyance before he masked it and smiled the fake smile again.
“Well, of course, we can negotiate some.”
“Your cousin is over at the Bizzek telling everyone a tale about Mirkndaks and a sick human who turned green. It’s not true, is it?” the younger one questioned. “I mean we wouldn’t want to buy sick humans, after all.”
“No, no, no, I promise they aren’t sick just a little bruised.” Igvat silently cursed his idiot cousin in his head. He should have been able to make a fortune on the rare humans but if the drunken fool was telling that story he might have other problems besides not getting a good price for the possibly ill humans. Humans were so rare he had expected them to move so quickly he wouldn’t need to worry about whether or not they were actually sick. That would have been the buyer’s problem after all he had an ‘as is- no refunds policy’. “Why don’t we move to my shop and negotiate,” he gestured toward the small building.
“Well, let’s see what you’re offering,” the leader said indifferently. He and the younger man proceeded to the building.
The shop keeper slowed his steps at the blue giants. “Get down to the Bizzek and get my idiot drunk cousin out of there before the authorities show up. Tell the drunken fool if the government takes any of my stock, I’ll take the price out of his idiot hide even if he is family,” he whispered furiously.
Rev fought not to smile as he overheard. The shopkeeper had no idea Rev’s hearing allowed him to overhear even whispers farther away. He sent a mental message to Dezek and Vax to bring up the threat of the confiscation since in fact it was a very real threat if someone repeated the tale of sickness to right ear. The Katowie government dealt swiftly and not necessarily justly with potential disease carriers. The capital had twenty million permanent residents and another five million daily visitors to the galactic supply station on an average day. A fast spreading disease would be catastrophic. Rev walked closer to the enclosure and squatted down. He pointed and then crooked a finger at the one who was doing the most glaring. He figured anyone that gutsy was the alpha of the group. Not many people would be willing to stare down Dezek. Dezek, at six and half feet wasn’t the largest male on their ship, he and Fazon both had four inches and forty kilos on him, but Dezek had an intensity and an aura of authority that people responded to when he entered a room. The defiant female made Rev wait for a few moments. While he waited patiently for her, Rev decided she would definitely make a fine mate for his best friend. She had courage and spirit to spare. He knew Dezek thought so as well. From his position behind Dezek, he’d seen his friend’s nape spots flush suddenly. That meant only one thing to their people, a found mate. She finally came to the wall and stared down at him. Yep, she had guts.
“I want you to pay attention carefully,” he told her. “They went in to get him to give us a good price. You need to be ready to leave the minute the collar locks come off. You’ll comply quickly and quietly. We will need to leave fast and efficiently if you want off this planet. Trust me when I tell you this is the best offer you’ll get. If the people they call the government on this rock confiscate you because they think you’re contaminated, they exterminate without a second thought. Since you were in the custody of the Mirkndaks, you already know some of what other potential hazards lurk. Do you understand?” His voice was low and commanding but he seemed sincere and it didn’t feel like an attempt to scare her.
“Ashaa hasn’t been conscious since he zapped her collar. Rose and Taylor are injured, in a lot of pain and having trouble moving. They simply can’t move quickly with the injuries,” she told him pointing to each in turn so he wouldn’t think she was disagreeing.
“Moz is arriving behind me now,” he said without looking behind him. Indeed another impressive gold male who was about the size of the leader had arrived and was smiling at her as he advanced. “We’ll have enough hands to help. Go tell them what’s happening and ready them.”
“What about Zabyss?” the woman indicated the Xydrav in the next pen.
“What about it?” he said with narrowed eyes.
“She was with us aboard the Mirkndaks’ ship. That means she’d be in danger too.”
Rev rolled his eyes and sent another mental message to Dezek. Only a woman with guts would bargain for another’s life when she had no idea of what lay ahead for herself.
“I let him know you don’t want to leave it but I can’t promise anything. Now go get them ready,” he told her and she looked startled by this news. He just smiled and waved her to the others. He watched her go back to her group and whisper urgently to them. All eyes of the group were now watching him except for the unconscious woman he knew wasn’t completely human and the youngest with her short red hair and the most bandages.
He turned and stepped toward the other male.
“He’s waiting at the vehicle controls. He’ll pull up front as soon as he hears from Dezek. Ragtag bunch aren’t they?”
“The leader is gutsy so…” he shrugged. All of the women were watching him and Moz now. “The two with bandages and the unconscious one will need to be carried. She tells me that they won’t be able to move quickly on their own. I’ve relayed the information to Dezek and Vax who are ‘negotiating’,” he grinned knowing Vax’s unique ability to ‘push’ people to do what he wanted could be very useful in situations like this one. Otherwise, they’d never be able to afford eleven human females at once. They were just too rare. Moz laughed with him over the thought of how Vax was likely to negotiate as they waited.
The shop keeper appeared with Dezek and Vax and two more of the huge Jata a short time later. The shop keeper certainly knew what kind of help to hire. The first Jata stopped at the enclosure containing the little Xydrav and began to undo the manacles from her tentacles. The shop keeper and the second Jata joined the one who had been patrolling the kiosk and they stepped into the enclosure holding the women. The Jata began to remove the collars.
“There. Now they belong to you,” the shop keeper was smiling but his eyes looked slightly puzzled. Rev hid his grin, Vax strikes again. He, Moz and Vax entered the enclosure. Vax lifted the petite human with red hair and the worst injuries while he murmured to her. Rev knew he was ‘pushing’ her to ease her pain while being moved. Moz lifted the darkest human who watched him quietly but didn’t protest although she grimaced. He moved to the unconscious form, pulled her up and dumped her over his shoulder. He turned and saw the leader and another of the women were glaring at him. He shrugged and smiled as he continued on to the vehicle which had drawn up at the front. The little Xydrav rushed to the leader and threw its tentacles around the woman’s legs.
“Come on, let’s go, Zabyss,” she hurried the little creature along.
Once in the vehicle, Dezek started issuing orders.
“Fazon, get us the hell out of here before he realizes what we did or the troops show up. Nyman,” he called through the communication link, “get those engines powered up and Nav on line. We need to leave two days ago.” He turned to the women. “My name is Dezek, this is Vax, Moz, Rev and Fazon is at the controls. You need to move to the ship quickly once we arrive. I don’t have time to explain or give you a lot of information right now. Just do as I say and I’ll try to explain as soon as I can. Go in the door then to left and to the end of the passageway and go in the door on the right,” his voice was commanding and stern.
The vehicle came to a sudden abrupt halt causing Rose to whimper softly and Taylor to groan. Cracked or broken ribs were definitely no fun. Dezek jumped out and scanned the area. He motion to the women and pointed to a ramp leading to a large ship. The women filed out and headed for the ramp. The three males each carrying an injured woman led the way. Fazon grabbed the little Xydrav who squeaked in alarm and hustled her in behind the women. Dezek followed and closed the hatch when it locked he called out.
“Nyman, get us gone now!” He wouldn’t breathe easy until they left the star system. He hustled to the bridge and grabbed a seat. “As soon as you hit the ninth planet jump to hyper speed,” he ordered Nyman. The pilot shot him a surprised look but didn’t ask questions.
“Passing the ninth planet and proceeding to hyper speed,” the pilot told him a few minutes later as he ignored several summons for contact from the seventh planet. He completed the jump to hyper speed flawlessly as usual. Then he turned and looked Dezek over for a moment before speaking. “Now do you want to tell me why I just pulled a damn rookie stunt by jumping into hyper speed while still inside a star system and probably incurred a fine that costs a small fortune in credits if they complain?” the pilot demanded.
“Because I just bought ten human females, a Xydrav and a Zargazian hybrid for a song from swindler and the government on that rock thinks they’re all diseased. Oh, and the Zargazian, is FEMALE,” he grinned at the dropped jawed pilot and walked out to check on his lucky finds.
Sienna was pacing rapidly and was pissed. The males carrying her three injured hadn’t stopped in this room but had gone out a door on the other side. Now neither door was opening and Rose, Taylor and Ashaa were who knows where.
The door opened and HE entered.
“Where are Rose, Taylor and Ashaa? You said you’d explain,” she demanded.
“Their injuries are being looked after right now,” he was unfazed by her show of temper.
He went to the wall and pressed several buttons on a console. He opened a small door to the left of the console and extracted a pitcher and glasses. He placed it on the table and pushed more buttons. Another pitcher and more glasses, then a loaf of what looked like bread and tureen of soup followed. He pulled bowls and flatware from the cabinet next to the console.
“Ladies, do you all have translators?”
“Yes, the suPonicks put them in when they took us from Earth,” Sienna answered for the group. “Now where are the others?”
“SuPonicks took you from Earth? Then how did you wind up in the feed supply of the Mirkndaks?” he frowned.
“The suPonicks attacked a military base on my planet near the town where we live. We aren’t military though. We had gone to the base to cater a lunch meeting, meaning we provided the meal. While we were setting up the suPonicks got into a skirmish with the military leaders they had been trading with over Ashaa. They wanted her and the general and scientist in charge of the lab at the base weren’t willing to give her up. So Nogith, that was the expedition leader’s name, told me he did what any good suPonick would do and took what he wanted. Then they gathered up the survivors which included us and destroyed the base. We were on his ship when the Mirkndaks attacked the ship. When we woke up we were on a different ship. Then there was an incident on the Mirkndak ship and we wound up at the trader’s stall.” Sienna glared at him once more, “Now where are the other three?” She came close to stamping her feet this time. He smiled at her again. Why did it make her skin prickle when he smiled that way? It was annoying as all hell. She hated that arrogant smile of his. She didn’t like the high-handed jerk. He was way too confident for her taste. She needed to locate the other three and get some answers and he just kept smiling. She’d never wanted to smack someone so much in her life. But what really made her made mad was she had the unexplainable urge to wrap her arms around him and bury her face in his shoulder.
“Ah. I see. Ladies, I have water, juice, a grain loaf and soup. I doubt you’ve been eating well so let’s start with something that will go easy on you,” he smiled again.
He looked at Sienna and she fought not to squirm as she held his gaze. “Why don’t we sit over here and talk?” He gestured to several chairs on the far side of the room.
“I don’t want to sit with you or talk to you. I want to see the others,” she snapped at him. He was smiling again and she felt like slapping him to get rid of the smile.
“Tell me your name.”
“Sienna,” she glared at him.
“Sienna, I promise your friends are fine. They are having their injuries treated and then they will be returned to you.” He was smiling again. She gritted her teeth. She took a deep breath and tried to remember he had pulled them out of a bad situation but he irritated her.
“Fine, but I’m not going to wait forever,” she told him glaring.
“Can we talk then?” he asked.
“I don’t know why I should talk to you or trust you. Everyone out here has an agenda and some of them aren’t pretty at all,” she told him angrily. Even as she said the words she was torn. She wanted to trust him. She wanted to be held by him and hear him tell her everything would be okay. What was wrong with her, she didn’t need a man to take care of her. Tim had proved that to her.
He watched her for a few moments. Then he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. His skin seemed to shimmer for a moment and then the gold began to fade into pale green. Dark green spots began to show down the sides of his face starting at his temple and running just in front of his ears and then down his jaw and down his neck into his collar. His lips became dark green and his finger nails turned moss green. She looked at his hands and the spots were also there as he reached up and removed blue contacts allowing his metallic gold eyes to show.
“You look like Ashaa!” Sienna exclaimed. The others turned to look at them.
“Due to our history we camouflage ourselves when we have contact with others,” he said it in hard flat voice. “But yes, your friend does appear to be one of us. Why don’t I start by removing those bruises from your face and let’s go from there.”
She stood there glaring at him for few moments but he just smiled. She threw her hands in the air and turned to the chairs and sat. Confused by him and herself, she gave in for few moments. He sat beside her and placed his hand on her cheek. Unlike Ashaa’s cool soft hand, his hand was warm and she could feel his calloused palm begin to heat more. His touch caused a low electric tingle to run over her. She shivered and opened her eyes to look at him startled by the sensation. Desire was flaring in the gold eyes so hot it made her blush. She tingled all over. Then he was sitting back, it was over but his eyes still spoke to her.
“Better?” he asked softly.
“Yes,” she said shaking herself mentally. “Now, the others?”
“Why don’t you eat and we’ll talk when you’re not so tired,” he suggested softly with the sexy smile. Then he got up and walked to the others and pulled out a chair for her. She glared at him and stayed where she was. He winked at her and she wanted to scream. She heard him speak to Jasmine then saw him reach and touch Jasmine’s cheek. Part of her wanted to protest, she didn’t want him touching anyone else. She watched as the bruise seemed to evaporate away. Jasmine was smiling but she didn’t look stunned the way Sienna had felt when he had touched her. Jasmine laughed and thanked him. He turned and walked to Sienna again. Sienna tried to shake the odd and confusing thoughts from her mind.
What the hell is the matter with me?!!
He bent close. “I’ll check on the others for you,” he told her quietly as he caressed her cheek with his index finger. She snapped her head back and glared. The man was infuriating. Then he winked and then left the room. Sienna wanted to scream and throw things and she really had no idea why he rubbed her the wrong way. But he did, and worse yet the damn man knew and enjoyed flustering her.
Rose didn’t open her eyes immediately as she woke. A male voice was speaking softly to her in a language she didn’t understand and there was a very warm male hand under her shirt resting on her stomach. She could feel callouses on his palm and fingers that told a tale of hard work. She opened her eyes and saw the most beautiful face she’d ever seen. His eyes were closed but she already knew they’d be metallic gold. He was pale green with dark green lips and dark green spots that started at his temple and flowed down the sides of his face and neck. His hair was a shade of almost black in color with dark red highlights catching the light and reached just past his shoulders. She wanted to touch it.
“You look like Ashaa,” she said quietly. He stopped speaking and opened his eyes. Then he smiled and his face lit with a glow. He laughed softly.
“Is this a good thing?”
“Of course,” Rose felt herself blush.
“I was starting to worry. You’ve been out for a long time. How do you feel?”
Rose considered the question and realized she no longer hurt and nothing was throbbing. “Much better,” she answered slowly. “What did you do?”
“I just used a little warmth for healing, so you can breathe without pain and use your hand. Let’s take the wrap off your arm.”
He helped her sit up and she realized the rib wraps were gone.
“I hope you don’t mind. I cut the fabric out of my way,” he told her with a smile as he guessed her thoughts.
“No it started out as someone’s jacket before they shredded it to wrap me in it.”
She couldn’t stop staring at him. Everywhere his hands touched felt like little electric shocks to her skin. He looked up and met her eyes. He smiled again and Rose had the urge to giggle.
God, how she hated giggly girls
she thought and grimaced.
“My name is Vax. Yours?”
“Rose. Can all of your people heal with your hands?” she heard herself ask. She shook her head, “Sorry probably a rude question. Sometimes my brain to mouth filter stops working and I blurt out stuff.”
He laughed again. “It’s okay, I don’t mind. I’m guilty of it myself sometimes. I was just about to ask if the flower you’re named after is as pretty as you. Or I may just blurt out you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.”
Rose felt her face flame. It was impossible this beautiful man thought the same of her as she did him but his words felt true.
“I’m guessing it’s very rare to have two different colors in your eyes,” he told her as he took in the doubt in her eyes.
“Yes, it’s very rare and only occurs in about six out of every thousand births,” Rose told him.
“You don’t like them?” he guessed with a tilt of the head.
“They’ve never made my life easy. Let’s put it that way. Combined with the red hair, freckles and being very short, it makes for a tough life for a little girl on the playground.”
“Well, I happen to think they’re stunning. I also like the freckles,” he told with smile. “Let’s see if you can stand.” He helped her to her feet. “Wow! You are tiny.” He towered over her by about a foot. At a measly 5’3” that wasn’t hard for most people.
Whatever he was about to say next was lost as a tone sounded. “Come in,” he called out but his eyes never left hers.
“Her guardian is about to start gnawing on the walls if you don’t return her soon,” one of the other men from the market joked as he stuck his head in the room. He too now resembled Ashaa. He backed out of the room and whistled as he went down the passage way.
“Let’s go see the others and I’ll get you something to eat.” He took her hand and led her from the room.
“What’s with the gold skin and blue eyes?”
“That’s a long sad story we’ll save for later when you can’t sleep,” he joked with her. The thought of him sitting next to her bed at night made Rose blush again. Some days she hated being a redhead. Every emotion she had showed in her face. The door at the end of the passage opened and they entered a room where something smelled delicious and Rose’s empty stomach growled.
Sienna was suddenly wrapping her in a bear hug. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, except your squeezing me to death,” Rose explained.
“Oh, sorry. I’ve just been so worried.” Sienna looked close to tears.
“Hey, no black eye,” Rose noticed.
“Dezek cleared up mine and Jasmine’s. Yours is missing too,” Sienna noted.
“Sorry, I forgot my manners. Sienna, this is Vax. Vax, Sienna.”
“Thank you for helping her,” Sienna thanked the young man.
“I was happy to help. Rose, it appears Dezek has seen to the meal. I need to leave you here and check in on the bridge,” he smiled at her again. “I’ll be back in while.” He tapped her nose gently and left the room smiling. Sienna raised her brows at Rose’s wide smile and Rose blushed, “What?”
For Taylor the ride in the vehicle had been nearly more than she could take. Her ribs hurt so bad no she couldn’t stop the silent tears from sliding down her face.
“We’re nearly there now. I know you hurt. I’ll do something as soon as I put you down,” he told her as he carried her up an incline and then out of the sunlight. She knew they were now inside a ship again. She felt every change of direction he took. Finally, he placed her on a bed but she didn’t open her eyes. He started removing the bindings. She placed her hand on top of his without opening her eyes.
“What are you doing?” her voice was breathless with pain.
“I can’t work with the fabric in my way,” he told her quietly in his deep gruff voice. She opened her eyes and was startled by his appearance. Gone was the gold skin, he now resembled Ashaa with the pale green skin, dark green lips and dark green spots but his eyes were still blue. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly as though he might smile about her surprise. He was incredibly sexy she thought. With that smile, that face, and his low deep voice, he was definitely trouble. And his scent. She couldn’t forget to put that on list. Even though she’d been in near agony since he lifted her into his arms, the scent of him made her mouth water.
“You’re eyes are wrong,” she cocked her head in thought. He laughed.
Was everything about him sexy
“Would you like me to take out the lenses?”
He shook his head and smiled but reached up and popped out the lenses. His eyes were now the metallic gold of Ashaa’s. He put the lenses on the table and turned back to her.
“Definitely. Why are you removing the wraps, my ribs are cracked, possibly broken. The wraps keep them stable while I breathe. It keeps the pain down.”