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Authors: Leslie Dicken

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BOOK: The Price of Discovery
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Greg and Ankra were on the dance floor. He watched his sister move with a grace and ease so foreign to him. Greg's gaze devoured every inch of her. Their bodies jerked, turned then slid against each other.

Drakor swallowed and moved forward, squinting in the dark. He finally saw Erin seated at the bar, stirring a pink-colored drink.

Erin took a few sips and rested her chin on her hand. She didn't seem interested in watching the dancing or in talking to her neighbors. Instead, she stared off somewhere he couldn't see.

A tall male came up next to her and began to speak. With the noise of the music and the crowds, Drakor could not hear their conversation, but he did feel a twist deep in his gut. Even though Erin did not look interested, shaking her head and returning to her drink, Drakor's stomach pitched.

“Hi!”

Startled, Drakor turned. A female with vibrant red hair, painted red lips, and large eyes smiled at him. “You been here before?” she asked, moving closer. “I come all the time and haven't seen you.”

“First time.”

“How about a dance?” She traced her finger along his forearm. He stared at her shining red fingernails, then let his gaze follow the path up her arm. The cut of her shirt offered him a view of rounded white skin. When he finally looked up at her face, her lips were curved in a grin.

She leaned against him, her voice in his ear. “You like what you see? It can be yours later.”

How he wished he could have release. Since his Crossing nearly six years ago, he had not felt a sexual urge. Then a few days ago a stranger walked into his life and now his body was a mess. He thought of nothing but Erin. He'd endured nearly a constant state of arousal in the past day.

But only his
Mharai
could relieve him of this bittersweet agony. And it couldn't possibly be Erin.

Words whispered in his ear, “Come with me.”

Drakor wanted to challenge his body, see if another Earth female could tangle his emotions and inflame his blood. It couldn't be that Erin was the only one.

He let the red-haired female lead him to a deeply shadowed corner of the room. She pushed him back up against the wall and pressed her large breasts against him. Her lips brushed across his cheek as her fingers trailed down his backside.

He felt nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Where was that urgency? That blistering desire taking over his rational thought?

Drakor pushed the female away from him.

“What's wrong?”

Scowling, Drakor moved away from her warmth and headed for a seat at the bar. That female did nothing to entice him, nothing to make his erection throb or his mouth water. If that were the case, then it wasn't
every
Earth female who unraveled the thorough teachings of his Crossing.

Drakor swallowed and scanned the row of full barstools, but Erin was gone.

 

 

The only way to get rid of the guy bugging her at the bar was to walk away. Erin left him slurping on his beer and headed up the stairs. She hadn't seen Drakor since they descended into the darkness of the dance floor.

She squeezed past the dancers and jostling guys and went for the front door. The bouncer stamped her hand and she slipped outside into the cooler air.

A few people milled around along the sidewalk, all of them with someone else. She went to a planter holding a large tree and perched on the corner.

Some night this turned out to be. Greg was all over Ankra. And Drakor must be all over some other girl. Or they were all over him. Face it, as good-looking as he was, he'd be heading home with someone tonight.

She should feel relieved. Involving herself with Drakor would be like another death sentence to her career. But, damn, she melted into a puddle of horniness whenever he was around.

Erin smoothed her lip gloss over her lips, relishing the cool summer breeze.

“Well, lo and behold, who do we have here?”

Erin cringed at the sugary, southern voice. “Oh, Rita, could that be you?”

She turned to see her nemesis from the
Sentinel
standing near the curb, her arms crossed over her large bosom and her lips smacking the ever-present gum. Dyed-blonde hair twisted with a curling iron and a sleek outfit to upstage any model made Rita the queen of Mickey's ball.

Why the hell did Erin have to make do at this small-town paper and put up with bitches like Rita?

“I didn't think you came to a place like this,” Rita sneered.

“Why not?”

The diva bounced a curl in her palm. “Aren't you more of a corner barfly kind of girl?”

“Why, I would be, but you've laid claim to everyone in the city.”

“Listen, you little wench, you can think you're all high and mighty, but I'm going to bring you down.” She put her hands on her hips. “I had my meeting with Rockford on Friday.”

Erin caught her breath. Oh shit. Not Rita too.

“What?” Rita scoffed. “You mean you didn't expect a little competition for the mid-July exposé he's running?”

Erin shrugged. “I'm not worried.” Though, in fact, she was concerned. Rita was Rockford's pet. The man practically drooled every time the woman walked by his office.

“Well, Erin, let's just say that we know which one of us is going to make the front cover and which one of us will be writing obituaries.”

“You're a bitch.”

Rita raised her eyebrows and smacked her gum. “That may be, my dear, but the best bitch will win. And I've already got my story picked out. And it will blow you right out of the water.”

“I have an idea I'm working on.” Well, maybe. Really nothing more at this point than a few strangers who built a really pretty house right on the spot where a John Doe no one cared about died.

“An idea, huh? ‘It's a good idea to spay and neuter your pets' has been done already.”

“Get lost.”

“Absolutely.” She grinned and her white teeth glimmered under the Mickey's neon sign. “It would be my pleasure now that I've ruined your night.”

Rita turned on her heel and joined some friends waiting near the front door. Erin slid off the planter and banged her elbow.

That did it. She had enough. She needed to find Greg and the others and drag them out of there. Who cares if the night was still young? She knew dance clubs weren't her thing, yet she tried to be a sport. Now she just wanted get home and think through her plans. So far, her brief encounter with Drakor and Ankra had given her no new clues as to the mysterious death of John Doe.

Erin left the relative quiet of the sidewalk and joined the throngs in Mickey's flashing and deafening rooms.

She went down into the darker dance floor where she had ditched the guy at the bar. Across the room, she caught sight of Greg near one of the mirrored walls. His back was to her and she knew he held some girl in his clutches. She tapped him on the shoulder.

“Go away whoever you are,” he said without looking back.

Erin stepped around him and saw he had one hand on the girl's hip and another cupping her face. It was Ankra.

Her stomach knotted. “Oh, this is really great, Greg.”

“Go away, Erin, I'm having the night of my life.”

“Yeah? Well, I'm not. I want to leave.”

He didn't take his eyes from his captive. “Catch a lift with someone. I'm not going anywhere.”

Typical. Self-centered Greg strikes again. Yeah, he'll do people favors, he'll be a nice guy. But only if there's something in it for him. She could never just ask him for help.
 

Erin pulled his arm from Ankra's face. “You're supposed to be chaperoning her from leeches, not be one of them!”

He yanked his arm from her grasp. “Am I bothering you?” he asked his shining-eyed partner.

She shook her head.

Erin threw her hands in the air and groaned. “Oh, that's just great. Give me your keys, asshole. I'll wait in the car.”

He reached in his pocket and held them out to her. “Have a good nap.”

Erin snatched the keys and stormed across the room, pushing through the crowd. Once out the front door, she made a turn for the car. But the familiar wide flare of muscular shoulders made her pause.

Erin inched her way closer. With the light from the streetlamp, she could see wild, dark hair curling over the collar of a green shirt. Drakor stood against a streetlamp, his arms folded across his chest.

Why was he out here alone?

Curious, but not wanting to intrude, she crept up behind him and stood nearby. She was about to say something when, without turning around, he spoke.

“Greetings, Erin Price.”

 

All around him the air buzzed with nighttime insects and whispers of people walking by. He smelled their sweat and cigarettes. And yet nothing could compare to Erin.

Drakor squeezed his eyes closed but he could not prevent the explosion within his cells. Opposite to what that other Earth female had caused, Erin's closeness created a maelstrom in his senses. His mouth watered, his palms itched, his flesh hardened. Of course he knew she stood near him.

But why her? No one on his planet had ever found a mate anywhere but Elliac. The very few who never found a mate at all were so unusual, they were ostracized, forced to live in a separate colony. He had spent the last several years searching for his
Mharai
, waiting to find her, to end this tortuous celibacy. Now only a few weeks were left until he reached the birthday when it would be too late.

Erin Price could not be his lifemate. She was human. It was impossible. So why then did he hunger for her with such a voracious appetite? He wanted to take her nipples into his mouth, run his hands over the swell of her bottom, sink himself deep inside of her.

He heard Erin step off the curb and stand before him. He opened his eyes, drinking in the delicious sight of her.

Her eyebrow rose. “I assumed you would be inside dancing, having a good time.”

“I was searching for you.” His gut writhed. Desire, desperation, and fury all mingled in one burning throb.

“Oh? You were?” Something in her voice caught him. She sounded surprised, yet enthused.

“I was concerned. I saw a male disturbing you at the bar and then I didn't see you again.”

“Wow, Drakor, you were worried about me?” She shoved her hands in her pockets and he caught a glimpse of the valley between her breasts. “Did you notice that my own brother has no such worries?”

His neck felt damp. “Your brother is with my sister.”

“I know. I'm really sorry about that. Here I bring him along to act as a chaperone and he's the one all over her. It's really embarrassing.”

“It should not embarrass you. You cannot control what he does.”

“No, but I feel bad about his actions.” She glanced at the ground, her light hair swinging across her cheek.

Drakor fisted his fingers to resist brushing the strands from her face. His lips tingled with the desire to taste whatever glistened on her pretty little mouth.

He clenched his jaw, scrambling for the lessons from his Crossing. Once he knew how to force his body into submission, to resist the cravings. Images of Elliac, of his hillside home, of anything other than her, collided and merged in his brain.

Sand. Rocks. Stars. Sun. He tried to block his desire with the thoughts of the ordinary.

It failed.

One look into Erin's sky-colored eyes and his arousal pulsated.
Helta
, he had to have her. Or he had to get off this planet.

She raised an eyebrow. “Are you okay?”

Drakor could not find his voice, not with his sensations spinning out of control.

Erin angled her head. Her lips sparkled brightly under the streetlamp. “Shall I take you home?”

Great Sun, yes. Drakor nodded.

Chapter Five

Erin threw her shoulders back, trying to ignore the tingle racing down her spine, leaving her breathless. Though Drakor never said or did anything to make her believe he wanted her, she could feel a sexual hunger radiate from his stance. Her legs turned to jelly right there on the sidewalk.

She pulled her gaze from his powerful stare and dug around in her purse for Greg's keys. “Let's, um, get going.”

She started down the sidewalk but someone blocked her path. Rita.

“Who's this big hunk of a man?” The bitch gestured toward Drakor.

“A friend of mine. Is there something else you wanted to annoy me about? Or can it wait until Monday?”

Rita gave him a seductive glance over and smacked her gum. “And I thought Mickey's was out of your league. You are way in over your head tonight, my dear.”

Erin felt the color rise on her cheeks. “I'm not your dear and how about minding your business for a change?”

Rita took a few steps toward Drakor. “If I minded my own business all the time I wouldn't be a very good reporter, would I? You should take notes on that.”

Drakor stood his ground, his hands in his pockets. He watched Rita with guarded eyes. “You must be a friend of Erin's.”

“A co-worker would be more accurate,” she answered. “Are you two about to leave? That would be a shame.”

“Yes.” Erin forced away the tightness in her chest. She shouldn't be bothered if Drakor found Rita attractive. But for some reason, it really pissed her off. “We are leaving. Do you mind?”

Rita lifted an eyebrow. “Are you taking him home for the night?” She ran her fingers down his arm and squeezed his biceps. “Oooh! I think we all know that little Erin here is just going to drop you off at your door and drive away.”

Erin narrowed her eyes. “And?”

“I could keep him company a little longer.”

Taking a deep breath, Erin continued down the sidewalk. “Take your pick,” she called to Drakor. “This ride is going now.”

For a few minutes there was no sound behind her. She turned the corner and walked toward Greg's car, her heart slamming in her chest. Since Rita had moved into town about six months ago, she'd gotten the best leads, made the most contacts, enjoyed the fun social life. She'd bettered Erin in everything.

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