Breathing sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? It’s something we all do naturally. When I was a child I had it easy. Went to school, did my homework, then went out to play. Homework always came first. Dad’s rule. But I didn’t have to worry about anything because my parents took care of me and let me be a kid. Then as I went off to college and got married, life became more complicated, but I didn’t notice. I didn’t have a problem juggling everything. Didn’t matter how busy I got, and at one time I was juggling a lot.
Then one day an aspiring author made a comment to me. He was amazed at how I did it all. That made me think. What all was I doing? I started to look at all the things I was juggling. That, I must say was a very bad move. The moment I looked I started to drop things. Lost control. I kept trying to get my juggling ability back but couldn’t. So that made me think again. Why was I able to do this before and not now. I’m trying to juggle the same amount of things. What changed? The fact that I knew I had all this stuff floating up over my head waiting to whack me when I wasn’t looking? That didn’t seem right.
It drove me crazy. What if I switched directions? Would that help? Nope. So what was it??????
Breathe, Barbara, breathe. So I stopped for a moment, then another, and another. That was it. I wasn’t giving me time for me. I was so busy trying to do everything, because now I knew I had all this stuff I was doing on, I forgot about me.
My husband and I live close to Hatteras, and when we were first married we’d jump in our four-wheel drive vehicle and go down to Oregon inlet. Once we found a nice spot on the shoreline we’d enjoy the day. We’d go about once a month, sometimes two. Loved it. There is something about the sand, sun and salt water that calms you. Makes you forget about the rest of the world for a while. Allows you to rest, clear the air. Breathe.
That’s how I did it. I would recharge there and I could juggle forever.
Then my son came along and we altered our visits. But we would still go down two three times a summer, and travel a little further south, to Ocracoke Island, LOVE that place, and spend the weekend. Then my husband lost his job, my father-in-law died, we moved in with his mother, and we stopped going. The juggling got really bad for a while.
This is when I say thank God for family because I now have a new beach to chill out at. Wait for it. Charlotte NC. Now I know you’re saying, wait, Charlotte is nowhere near the beach. It’s on the opposite side of the state! I know. But that’s where my baby sister lives and when I go visit her I get to do the same thing. I can stop, forget all the things I deal with, and just breathe. I need that, we all need that. I’m lucky my little sister is my best friend. That I can go there and not worry about anything because she accepts me as I am. If I need a good cry she’s there for me. If I need a good laugh we don’t have to wait very long before one of us does something goofy.
Ooh and the room I normally stay in? It has a beach theme so I still get to see the ocean – in paintings and what she calls her tacky wall ornaments. So it’s like I’m there. And I can breathe. And God it feels good!
I hope all of you have a place where you can go and breathe too.
Barbara’s latest release is Passionate Desire. Read on for a blurb and first chapter excerpt:
Storm and Heather’s story continues…
Kuarto hates getting sucked into the passionate releases of a couple he has suddenly developed a mindlink with. The only time the three of them merge is when they’re climaxing. They can’t stay away from each other and it is interfering with his work. If things weren’t bad enough a beautiful woman crash lands in his backyard. He goes to the site to rant and rave but learns her memory is gone. Until he can release her memory he has to explain her presence so pretends she is his mail-order bride. Passion flares between them as he does his best to figure out who she is.
Toki was sent to speak to Heather’s brother but she loses her memory when her ship crash lands near his house. Memory or not he is a handsome man and she is drawn to him. They become intimate quickly and she can’t get enough. By the time her brother and mate come to find her she knows her feelings for Kuarto are real and she has to choose between a job she has been groomed for all her life or the man who is her destiny.
Heather found her way blocked by a huge set of shoulders. Storm. Sometimes their mind link really got in her way. He had to know what she was up to and was going to try to stop her.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“Please tell me you’re not going to start being overprotective already.” She looked up into her mate’s determined face.
“The doctor did just release you from the medlab. You have been through a lot, from your kidnapping two months ago to your pregnancy. I’m not being over protective, just concerned for my mate’s welfare.”
“Storm, I’m fine.” She tried to move around him, but he wouldn’t allow that. A sigh escaped her. “I bet if I were to drag you into that bedroom you wouldn’t be worried about me just being released from the medlab.”
A spark entered his eyes. “I didn’t hear you complaining earlier.”
He was right. She enjoyed every moment she was in his arms. Heather gave him a sultry smile. “You didn’t have any complaints either.”
“No I didn’t.” He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. “My heart, bringing you to ecstasy is what I live for. To have you fall apart because of what I do to your body arouses me. It’s why I never tire of you and always want you.”
Desire started to unfurl inside. She slid her hand up his shirt, hoping she could talk him into letting her out. “So do you want to come with me?”
“You haven’t told me where you were going.” His grip was strong on her waist. He dipped his head so he could work his magic on her throat.
Where was she going? The moment his lips touched her skin she forgot everything but the feel of his mouth on her neck. “Can’t think.”
“Then it wasn’t important.” His tongue slid up over her mark and she felt it to her toes.
“I just want to get out.” Her voice came out breathless. “Feel the sun on my face.”
“Where did you want to go?” He continued to nibble in the one spot he knew would make her knees weak.
“We’ve never done it there before.” He captured her lips, easing her mouth open so his tongue could tease hers. She melted just a little more in his arms. “We can go, but if I find we can’t make it back here before I need you again…”
“I can take you back into that room and make you forget about the gardens altogether.” He ran his fingers against her jawline in his gentle manner. “I don’t need to walk.”
“You promise to be discreet?” She knew he would get his way. One way or another. And this was the only way she could get hers.
He adjusted his arm around her waist and guided her outside. “Of course.”
“As discreet as your mother was with that tent?” She referred to when she had first come to Vespia. He had been away on a mission and she wanted to be there when he arrived home. His mother had brought half of the palace guards with her so Heather could greet him when his ship landed, including a giant tent no one could miss.
“We did have a few moments together so I could see the gift you made me.” He squeezed her waist. “That red outfit is still my favorite.”
She smiled up at him. “I know.” Heather looked around and found them being followed by guards as well as a few of the news people with their cameras aimed at them. A sigh escaped her. “I see we’ve got our entourage.”
“Ignore them.” He took her hand in his and let her set the pace for their walk.
Heather took her time, enjoying the leisurely stroll. She stopped whenever she felt like it to smell a flower or touch a leaf.
“Thank you.” She rested her head against his chest.
“For what? Spending time with my heart?” He stopped walking and tugged on her hand. She looked up at him, then in the direction he nodded in.
Not too far in front of them was a young girl clutching a well loved stuffed animal. She stared at them. Her eyes filled with a touch of awe and fear. The child knew who they were.
Heather crouched down so she could be closer to the child’s level. “It’s okay.”
The little girl looked up at her mother for a moment before she took a few steps toward them. “I have a present for you.”
“Really?” How did the child know she was going to be here? Storm had given in a little too easily. Did he plan this so the news people could get some footage they wanted? This way the media would leave them alone? Heather knew they had been hounding him for an interview with his mate and he kept putting them off.
The small girl pulled a bunch of wilted flowers from behind her back. Poor thing had been waiting a while to give them to her. “Wait. They were much prettier before.”
“They are beautiful. Thank you very much.” Heather took them and smiled.
The big happy grin was worth her little white lie.
She stood and slipped the flowers into Storm’s waist band. “You planned this, didn’t you?” She said it softly and kept her face averted so the cameras trained on them wouldn’t pick up what she said.
“I swear I didn’t.” He looked at the flowers sticking out of his waist band. “You’re not going to leave them there, are you?”
“Don’t have any pockets.” She winked at the young girl who stared in awe for a moment before wrapping herself around Storm’s leg for a quick hug. The child then dashed to her mother’s side.
Heather stood. She smiled at Storm, waiting to see what he would do next.
He gave her his ‘I’m not happy with you’ look before he passed the flowers to one of the guards. In seconds, they had been set into a device that revitalized the flowers and placed them in a small vase. “They look much better there than in my waist band.”
“I know, but did you see her face when I did that?” Heather looked at him, her eyes sparkling. “I think I made you a hero in her eyes.”
“Because you stuck those pitiful things in my pants?”
“Because you didn’t growl at me or become angry at what I did. You showed her honor by allowing me to put them someplace safe. That’s why she hugged you.”
“I’m not sure I understand.” He slipped his arm around her waist once more.
“You are destined to be the next leader, right?” At his nod she continued. “And as leader your job will be to protect the people and the planet of Vespia. She knows that. Those flowers were very special to her. I could tell by the way she held them. You treated her flowers with care. You might not have liked what I did, but you didn’t fight me.”
“What makes you think I didn’t like it?”
“That look of yours.”
He pulled her up against his body, lifting her just enough so her feet wouldn’t touch the ground. “Which look is that?”
“Your brows drop and your eyes narrow at me.”
“So that one is called ‘that look’?” He grinned. Storm lowered his mouth to hers. “I’m going to have to remember that one.”
Heather wrapped her arms around his neck. “I have lots of names for your different faces.”
“Which one is the ‘I want you now’ look?” he said, his lips still inches from hers. Desire danced in the depths of his eyes. He finally closed the distance between their mouths, his tongue delving, searching for hers.
She found want filling her body. Too bad they were out in public.
It didn’t seem to bother him at all. His lips left hers and worked their way to her neck. “I know of a nice secluded spot.”
“Now?” Her modesty warred against her growing desire.
“You promised to go along with me if I couldn’t make it back to our rooms.” He looked down at her. The longing in his eyes held such promise. “It will be discreet, I promise.”
He led her to a simple bench surrounded by shrubbery and flowers. The bushes were tall and sculpted, sealing the bench in so no one would be able to inadvertently see anything. On top of that they were surrounded by their guards.
Storm sat first. He never lost contact with her so she couldn’t back out on him. Pulling her onto his lap, he had her straddle him. Her face showed her fear. “You okay?”
“This isn’t something I think I’m ready for.” She let out a pent up breath.
“I would never make you do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.” He touched her face with such tenderness. “I see such strength from you I sometimes forget that a lot of our ways are foreign to you.”
His honesty filled her with determination. He believed she could do this or he wouldn’t suggest it. She stood and straightened her skirts so it wouldn’t hamper them. Once she had them out of the way she eased herself back down on his lap.
Storm pulled her close, capturing her lips with his. He drew her into a vortex of passion with the swirl of his tongue. She felt it in the heat of the kiss, in the heat of his mouth on her mark. It made her blood boil.
“I need you.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
Storm didn’t need any more prompting. He freed himself from his trouser and helped her slide down his hardened length. He buried himself deep inside her. They both shuddered at the intimate contact. “I need to feel your skin against mine.”
She removed his shirt and he opened the top portion of her dress. Slipping it from her shoulders, the gown pooled around her waist. His hands slid up her back, holding her close and right where he wanted her.
“Now, let’s see if I can make you forget about everything else but us.” His fingers worked their way into her folds, finding the one spot that made her desire spiral out of control.
She sucked in her breath as his fingers brushed against her most sensitive spot. Her muscles rippled against him, making him wonder if they could reach their releases without either making a move. Every time her muscles constricted on him like that he felt it deep inside.
He continued to stroke her body and it continued to sing for him. She was caught up in the maelstrom of sensations flooding her. Heather’s sheath tightened around him like a vise. Her breath came out in soft pants. Head tilted back, her eyes were not quite closed and her mouth was slightly open. This was what he wanted. She looked so beautiful when she hit her release.
Her mind reached for his as she hit the pinnacle. The intimacy they shared went beyond anything he could ever explain to anyone. Once she was released from its grip she touched his face with her fingers.
“Ready for more?” He had his hands on her hips, helping her set the pace for her next release. Her muscles tightened against him, increasing the desire filling them both. He felt her mind brush against his so he could feel her body’s reactions as well as his.
Every frisson of heat she felt, he felt. When one move made her body tighten, he felt it in his soul. His lips nibbled on her throat, working their way to her mark. That always had a deep connection for her. He swirled his tongue against it and she came apart in his arms.
“What the hell?” Suddenly Kuarto found himself surrounded by overwhelming sexual sensations that kept building around him. His body hardened with the powerful release surrounding him. Someone else’s release. He had no clue who brought him along on their sexual exploits but he got caught up with them every time.
The truck he drove took a hard right before he could regain control and he hit the ditch running alongside the road. He pounded his hand against the steering wheel. Every time this happened he got swept away with whoever was doing it. He just wished it would stop.
“Whoever! We have to talk about this. I don’t want to be part of your intimate liaisons so please leave me out.” He screamed to the heavens. It just wasn’t fair. He had abstained on purpose. Women just complicated things and now he was mentally sharing these massive orgasms with a woman and her mate and the man didn’t leave her alone. The fates were downright mean to him.
Kuarto pulled his vehicle out of the ditch, using the magnets under the bed of the truck, and got it back on the road. A quick check showed a couple of dents in the body but the frame was fine. The dents he could bang out later, but he hated hurting his truck at all. He had found it in the small building next to the house when he bought it and had fallen in love with it the moment he found out it worked. Things like this weren’t made anymore. Technology had seen to that.
He drove to his destination as quickly as he could. He was already late. He grabbed his pack as he stopped the vehicle. “Sorry Ken. I tried to get here as fast as I could.”
“It’s okay, Doc.” He gestured him to follow. “She went into labor a few hours ago but I thought she might be overacting which is why I didn’t call you right away.”
“Isn’t this her third child?” He walked into the house of the couple. This man was by far the dumbest male he had met. Kuarto was sure of it. “You know each child comes a little faster than the last one, right?”
“She could have held it in.”
Kuarto wanted to smack the man in the head. He had no clue about birth and really didn’t seem to care. “You have the next child and let’s see if you can hold it in, okay?”
“Doc?” He heard her frightened voice.
“I’m here, Sara. Everything will be fine now.” He raced to her side when he noticed the fear in her eyes. Kuarto picked up his scanner and ran it over her body. Overall everything was fine. The baby’s cord was wrapped around its neck a few times but he could fix that in an instant. He talked to her softly and helped her bring the baby into the world.
“He’s beautiful.” The new life he held awed him. This was why he became a doctor. This rare beautiful moment when you got to see a miracle. Once he finished checking the baby thoroughly he handed him to his mother.
Kuarto looked at the child’s father, hoping the baby would have more brains than dad. “You and the baby will be fine.” He made a few notes for the records he had to turn in. “Come see me in a week so I can check and see how well your son is doing.”
“A boy? Really?” She looked down at the sweet face of her baby.
“Yep.” He touched the baby’s tiny hand and was gifted with it wrapping around his finger. He couldn’t help but smile at the new life trusting him like this. “He looks just like his dad.”
She grinned as she hugged the baby to her.
Kuarto grabbed the father by the collar when he was finished with the mom and child and dragged him outside. “You let her rest, you hear me? I don’t want to rush back out here because you were too stupid to understand she needs to recuperate from giving birth. She isn’t supposed to do anything more than care for the child for two weeks. That includes fixing dinner or cleaning. No yard work or farming, milking, anything that would make her lift or move anything heavier than a baby.”
“Good.” He picked up his pack and headed to his truck. “I’ll know if you don’t follow my directions.” He climbed into the vehicle and took off. If the man did what he should everyone would be fine.
Storm sat on the couch, waiting for Heather to return from the council chambers. His mother had insisted she work with the elders some every day. So he had freed her schedule so she could be with them for the afternoon sessions.
He felt a little nervous over what he was about to show her. She wasn’t going to be happy about it but he needed to make her see this was the only way.
She came in the door and her smile faded. “What is wrong?”
“Nothing.” He patted the cushion next to him. “I have something to show you.”
“Alright.” She sat beside him and turned her attention to the large screen he received most of his communiqués on. Images flashed on the screen. Images of her. Heather stood when she realized where the pictures came from. “That is from the other day? How were they taken?”
“I took them.”
“Excuse me?” She looked at him in shock and there was a hint of betrayal in her eyes.
“I had to.” He brought up one picture of her with her eyes half open. “The news people have been hounding me about you. They wanted to interview you. I have to give them something. I thought a picture would work.”
“This over them talking to me? That is so personal. I can answer a few questions about my background.”
He grabbed her and pulled her up against him. Desire for her warred with anger. “They don’t give a damn about your background, Heather. If they got their hands on you they’d be asking how many sexual partners have you had, how many different positions you have tried, which one is your favorite. They want to know if you can keep me satisfied.”
She glared at him.
“Why do you think mother thought it was a good idea to release your pregnancy to the public? It was to show I’ve not been celibate since our mating. But they want more. If we don’t give them something then they will come after you. Do you want them cornering you on your way to the council, asking you all these intimate questions?”
“I get your point.” She studied his face, sensing his contradicting moods. “Are you okay? I know you’re cross with me because I’m questioning but you seem highly aroused too.”
“I had to go through the pictures. Find the right one to give them. Just watching you in the different stages of your release filled me with want, but this picture.” He pulled up another still. “This one has me so hard for you right now.”
Heather never saw herself the way he did. But the image in front of her revealed everything. Storm held her close in the image, his eyes held an intensity she only saw when they were both close to their release. She had her back arched against him, head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth slightly open, her ecstasy etched on her face. Just looking at it had her blood racing. “Is that what I look like?”
“Yes.” He nibbled on her throat. “You are the most beautiful to me at that moment.”
“Is that the picture you wish to release?”
“What is the human saying? ‘A picture is worth a thousand words?’ Don’t you think that will show them that you are sexually pleasing to me?” He worked on the seals of her dress. “As much as I’d like to keep this one for myself it would be perfect. But it will be plastered everywhere. That is why I wanted you to see them first. Help me pick out the one you’re happy with.”
“Before or after you ravish me?” She worked on his shirt while he peeled her dress off her shoulders.
“How about during? You’ll see how arousing these images are and be glad.” He got the dress off her just as she had helped him out of his pants. He eased her to the carpeted floor. Her muscles gripped him as he slid in deep. “My heart.”
He started a quick pace, one they normally worked their way up to. “Now watch.” He set it so that the pictures would flash on the screen for about thirty seconds each. With a flick of his wrist he moved it from the screen to the ceiling above him so Heather wouldn’t have trouble watching her own orgasm unfold.
Heather watched him maneuver her to straddle him. The next few pictures showed her fear over the thought of getting caught and him calming those worries. His tenderness when he realized her fear pulled at her heart. She remembered he didn’t force her. This was her decision.
Storm ground his hips against hers, causing heat to pool in her stomach and make her forget about the pictures for a moment.
“You need to pay attention,” Storm spoke softly in her ear. He slowed their pace down, making his strokes deeper instead.
“It’s hard to focus on two things at the same time.” She tilted her head back as the slower movements had her body humming. When she could refocus on the images she was standing and adjusting her skirt. Then the images showed Storm kissing her. She didn’t realize how heated their kisses got until she saw it happen in front of her eyes.
“You can tell the moment I enter you.” Storm knew what she was looking at somehow. And he was right. Her body tightened when he penetrated deep inside. Her eyes dilated and she bit her lip.
“Mark that one.” Her voice came out slightly breathless. The next few pictures were them undressing each other so that her upper torso was naked. She knew the moment his fingers started working their magic by the intensity on her face. Her forehead was pressed against Storm’s, her hands grasping his arms. “That one too.”
More flashed in front of her. The next picture she had him mark was the one of her first orgasm. Her eyes were partially opened and locked on Storm’s face. Her fingertips touched his jawline.
She lost focus on everything as her body reacted to a thrust that sent her close to the edge. The heat in her stomach intensified as it spread to her limbs. Heather tilted her hips and wrapped her legs higher on his waist. Her mind brushed against his as she felt her being tighten just before she reached release. She soared to the stars as spasms shook her core.
Storm continued to pump into her, his so close he couldn’t help but move faster, hoping to catch the instant that was eluding him for a moment. He stiffened as he reached what he was after. His orgasm had her clamping down on him as she felt everything he did.
“And we haven’t even gotten to the good pictures yet.” Storm pressed kisses against her neck as he allowed the pictures to continue.
Heather wondered how many orgasms it would take before they could pick out a picture.
“It is a beautiful picture, Heather,” said Toki. “It’s all anyone can talk about.”
She nodded, although she didn’t quite agree with the general census. To have such a private thing plastered everywhere had her blushing a lot. “I’m just not used to it.”
They ended up going with the one that made Storm so hard. It was by far the most erotic, yet tasteful photograph of her. Storm even had it framed. It hung in their bed room, in the main room of Anseri’s home and he had one made for his office. Being confronted by it all the time was desensitizing her to being embarrassed by it.
“So where is my brother anyway?”
“He should be here any time.” Heather offered her a drink. “I’m surprised he didn’t ask you to meet him at his office.”
“He said it was a sensitive subject and he didn’t want the information to be recorded.” Toki took the glass Heather handed her. “Is this Earth Ice Tea?”
Heather nodded. “It has been very warm recently so I thought you might enjoy it.”
Storm entered the room then, grabbed his mate and captured her lips with his.
“You two just don’t get enough of each other, do you?” Toki sat her glass on the coffee table.
“How would you expect me to greet my mate?” He hadn’t let go of Heather, but had broken the kiss. He looked into Heather’s eyes. “We’ll finish this later.”
“Why did you call me here?” Toki stood. The passion Storm and Heather shared for each other was a little overwhelming at times.
“I believe I found Heather’s brother.”
“Really?” Heather was excited to finally meet her twin.
“Yes, based off the information you have gleaned from him when you’ve been in contact.” He pressed his forehead against hers while he handed his sister a disk. “This should have everything you need to find him, Toki.”
“When should I leave?”
“As soon as possible.”
Kuarto looked around as he started up his truck. Looking at his watch, he figured he’d be able to get home without any trouble from the couple in his head.
That was what he called them now. The mind sharing had started a few months ago but he only found himself included every once in a while. In the last few weeks they seemed to connect every time. It had already taken its toll on him. The time difference between them gave him some relief, since they seemed to be sleeping when he was working, but he was having trouble getting any rest at night and it was making him cranky.
The two in his head couldn’t stay away from each other and the only time they shared with him was when they were hitting their orgasm, and he had worked that out to be about every two hours when they were awake. It was hard to get anything done with that kind of schedule.
A loud whine filled the air, forcing him to look up.
“Oh, that doesn’t look good.” He watched as a small ship billowing a whole lot of ugly black smoke, flew over his head, making a straight line for his home. “If you hit my house I will be one angry young man.”
He hit the gas and pushed his vehicle so he could keep up. Trying to keep an eye on the ship as well as the road wasn’t the easiest thing to do. The black trail continued its path right for his home. He didn’t need this. Strangers on this planet were frowned upon and having one in your backyard would make you a target. A loud boom filled the air as the ship connected with the ground. He reached the site seconds later. It had missed his house by several hundred feet but it was still very close.
Sleek and black, the small ship’s nose had buried itself in the ground pretty deep, but he could see the door so could still get the ship to open, if he could figure out where the controls were on the outside. Kuarto looked for a seam or seal, but didn’t spot it. At least not right away. He rubbed his hands along the body of the ship, searching, hoping he’d hit some sort of indentation. “Ah. There you are. Can’t hide from me for long, can you?”
He had been labeled brilliant by his peers. Had been the most sought after doctor in the galaxy and hated it. So he just took off, changed his name, and found some tiny back water planet to hide on. If these people knew who he was he’d probably find himself drugged and sold to someone who knew his value. Which was why he didn’t want this kind of intrusion. He had worked hard to keep his true identity secret and he didn’t need some uninvited guest to screw things up for him.
He could have totally ignored this but he had two things that didn’t work in his favor. One was the ship landed too close to his home for him to pretend it didn’t happen. The other was his oath as a doctor. He needed to be sure the people inside were okay before he read them the riot act and sent them on their way.
He pressed the lever and watched in satisfaction as the doors opened. He had hoped to find the ship empty, thinking it could be unmanned by the size at first but he spotted a body slumped over in the seat, which killed that idea. The pilot was incased in a head to toe uniform. The suit was sealed, giving the pilot as much protection as it could during the landing. That was good. He should have survived the crash.
And someone to yell at always made him feel better.
The interior still billowed heavy smoke, which hindered his vision. He needed to get the pilot out so he could see to their injuries. After being sure he could move the pilot, Kuarto slung him over his shoulder and carried him out. His burden was a lot lighter than he expected. “What are you, a boy?”
This guy couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred and seventy-five pounds and he was a tall one. Close to seven feet. Kuarto wasn’t short. He was well over seven feet but he tried to play that down as much as possible. There weren’t too many races with that kind of height and he didn’t want to think of what that could mean.
He laid the body on the ground and searched for the seal of the suit. It looked vaguely familiar. Vespian in design. Not too many people knew about that race but being the most sought after doctor did have its perks. It took a second for him to find the right spot. A grin spread across his face when he heard a faint noise as the glove he held came off into his hand.
He worked on the helmet, releasing the catches before he could remove it. His first glimpses of the face didn’t make him happy. “Oh, this can’t be good.”
A whole bunch of hair spilled out. What he knew of the Vespians was limited. Very alpha, very big and very private. Most of the ones he had treated took his help with a glare and were gone the moment they could leave but all of them had been male. This one was female. He didn’t know a damn thing about their females.
He brushed her hair out of her face. To make matters worse she was by far the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. “Probably my mind sharing couple’s libido talking.”
Kuarto had taken an oath of celibacy when he walked away from his old life. The less ties he had anywhere the better. Being attracted to someone could cause trouble for him and would complicate too many things. Knowing he was attracted to her made him weary. Better to get her on the road to recovery and on her way.
She had a strong pulse, and other than the nasty gash on her forehead, she hadn’t been hurt too badly. “So, how did you get that gash in this getup?” The suit should have protected her completely.
He pulled out his portable kit and used what he needed to start her healing process. In seconds her eyes fluttered open.
Golden eyes with a bright green ring stared up at him. “Who are you?”
She struggled to move.
“Hang on, now.” He gently pushed her back down. “You’ve just been in a crash and it might take you a moment or two to get your body to respond the way you want.”
Her eyes filled with confusion as she was able to turn her head so she could look over her shoulder to see the ship. “I flew that?”
Okay, that was not a good question and he knew it. How badly did she hit her head before she got the helmet on? “What is your name?”
“My name?” She looked up at him, fear creeping into the golden depths. “I don’t know.”
“That’s fine.” Although it wasn’t. He checked the readings on his scanner to see if he could reverse the memory loss. “I’ll pull the records from your database on board and will get your file. Memory loss isn’t unusual with something like this.”
A weird hum filled the air around them. He knew that sound and it wasn’t any better than her amnesia. Kuarto only had seconds to react. He pulled a device from his pocket, and activated it before he spread his body over hers. The moment the force field activated, the ship exploded, taking any information he could have gotten to help her remember who she was.
Now he had a very pretty guest to contend with.
“Sir? We’ve lost contact with her ship.”
Storm turned to glare at the young man who just spoke. He could see the readings too. “Do you know why?”
“No, sir.” The young man swallowed hard. “On her last check in everything was fine. She was headed to the coordinates programmed into her ship. As far as we can tell, she was close when the ship stopped communicating with us.”
He really didn’t need this. “Give me all the data on her last coordinates.”
The young man nodded and downloaded the info to a disk. He handed it to Storm with shaky hands.
Storm took the chip and walked out of the command center. It looked like he needed to go find his sister before she got into any more trouble. He crossed the open atrium to get to their rooms, wondering what Heather had been up to. Normally, she would brush her mind up against his from time to time but today he hadn’t felt her presence once.
He walked into a darkened room and felt his heart stop for just a moment. After all they had been through he feared she would be taken from him again. Until the person behind her kidnapping was found and stopped, Storm would be vigilant.
He spotted her silhouette and breathed a sigh of relief.
“You worry too much.” She stood as he walked toward her.
“Only about you.” He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”
“I was meditating.” She rested her head on his chest, listening to the beat of his heart.
“Everything okay?” He touched her stomach as he led her to the couch and eased her down.
“Of course.” She brushed her hair out of her face and gave him an exasperated look. “Please don’t treat me like I’m some sort of fragile flower. We have another sixteen months left on this pregnancy and I’ll go crazy if you start being too overprotective this early.”
“Can’t help myself.” He gave her one of his bone melting smiles. “But you do know how to distract me, don’t you.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “I think I have an idea.”
He bent his head to hers and captured her lips with his. He loved the taste of her. Her tongue slid against his, making him groan at the pleasure. He then moved his lips to her throat where he loved to nibble.
“You’re home early.” She tilted her head aside so he could have the access he loved.
“I know. I went to speak to my mother.” He worked on the seams of the dress she wore. “My sister has turned up missing.”
She pulled back to look at him, stopping him for a moment. “That’s not good.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing.” He went back to the seams of her gown, opening it easily, exposing her body to his gaze. Storm found it flawless, the velvet skin begging for his touch. His fingers caressed her softness as the dress dropped to the ground. “But I’m going to go check it out to be sure.”
“I’m going with you.” She had already opened the seams of his uniform. All he had to do now was walk out of it.
His hands cupped her breasts. This was one thing he didn’t want. She had a way of getting what she wanted even when he was dead set against it. “You know, I think these are a little fuller than they use to be.”
“Don’t change the subject.” She put her hands on her hips. “I’m going with you.”
“Heather.” He lifted her in his arms, and carried her to their bed, hoping he could distract her enough to forget her desire to accompany him. Why did he even mention it?
But Heather knew what he was up to. She smiled up at him, ready to accept him into her body like she had hundreds of times before. The moment he surged into her he could only think of the wonderful sensations their joining caused.
“You are taking me with you.” Her voice, laced with her desire was soft in his ear.
“Too dangerous.” There was no conviction in his voice and he knew it, but he was too caught up in the intimacy they shared. Everything washed over him. He felt her muscles tighten against him, sending delightful frissons up his spine.
“Why?” She licked her lips as one shiver of excitement raced through her blood.
He felt her body quake as it took control of her for a second or two. Every once in a while he stroked her just right and it fanned her desire to a white hot flame. “My heart.”
“I promise to be a good little mate and obey your every command, plus we can do this whenever you want.” Her muscles had him in a steel grip. Every time he slid in and out it just heightened everything.
“Oh, you don’t fight fair.” He picked up the pace, causing her muscles to ripple against him. His body shook at the feel of her tight sheath rubbing against him.
“And, oh my,” she stopped talking, heat unfurling in her stomach. It blossomed out, filling every fiber of her being. Her mind brushed against his as her release was on top of her. “You don’t?”
Like a light being turned on, Heather’s orgasm grabbed her and filled her with overwhelming joy. It spilled over into his mind so he felt the same emotions she did. His release was just as powerful, making them both speechless. Heather floated back down, relaxing against the pillows with a smile on her face.
“Oh, and I think I found another outfit you might like.”
He perked right up. Rising up on his elbows, he looked down at her. “Really?”
“I’ll save it for when we return home.”
“Home?” He nuzzled her neck. “Why?”
“There’s not a lot of privacy on those scout ships.” A sigh escaped her as he nibbled on her throat. “Remember what happened the last time we were around people and I wore one of your favorite outfits. It almost caused a riot just because I bent over the wrong way. I don’t like being an exhibitionist despite what that picture shows. What I do, I do for you.”
“And I like my own private shows.” He sighed. “So now you’re not only demanding that I take you with me, but we have our own ship?”
“I wouldn’t dare make a demand like that.” She brushed his hair with her fingers. “I know better.”
“But if I go along with this I get to see the new outfit and you will do whatever I ask of you?” He studied her face, watching as her eyes dilated at the promise of his threat.
“Your wish is my command.”
“You know that could get you into trouble.” He lowered his mouth to her mark. Still deep inside her he felt her body pulse as he pushed his tongue along the tissue.
She arched up against him. “I hope so.”
Kuarto had to come up with a reason why he suddenly had a woman at his place. His mind sharers had just sent him off for a few moments, but he had regained control and now needed to work on what he hoped the people here would believe.
The people in this small village all knew each other so a stranger would attract a lot of attention. Then he remembered one of the men talking about ordering a mail-order bride. That might work out for him since there were women from other planets willing to move to some of the more remote outposts to find a husband. Their own worlds were hard and husbands were rare. All he had to worry about was whether or not Vespians were listed. If so, he should be able to pull it off.
He pulled up the information on the brides. There were several companies who specialized in brides and they had every kind imaginable. It didn’t take a lot for him to backtrack on his computer to make it look like he had been looking for a bride for a month or so, and that would help with explaining her arrival.
The young woman slept in his bed at the moment. She looked so innocent there. He watched her, hoping everyone would believe the story he would have to weave.
The only thing he needed to do now was use his precious replicator to create what a bride would bring to her new home. He rarely used the machine because of the minerals needed to activate it. They weren’t the easiest items for him to get his hands on. So what he had, he used sparingly, normally for medical supplies he needed when it would take too long to order them.
Considering her ship burnt up on impact, all he needed to do was create an outfit he thought a new bride would wear to meet her husband-to-be for the first time. From everything he read, most would wear their wedding gown. Not very practical, but he did understand why, so he created a nice dress for her. Something she could wear now and still be pretty enough for people to think it was her wedding dress.
He brought it into his bedroom and placed it on her bed, hoping she’d put it on without any questions when she woke up. Glancing out the window, he saw one of the locals heading toward his home. Figured he would be the first one to show up after the crash.
He went on the defensive the moment his front door opened. Always worked on this man. “What do you want, Guapo?”
“I come to see you and that’s how I’m greeted? Shameful, doctor. I heard you have a new bride and wished to pay my respects.”
“That didn’t take long. Or was it the crash that brought you, and made you check to see what might have caused it?”
“You wound me.” He grabbed at his side where his heart was. “I worried something could have happened.”
“Right. Go home, Guapo.” He moved about his small office, trying to look like he didn’t care what the man thought. “I’ll bring her around when she is ready.”
“No quick peek?”
The young woman walked into the room at that moment, wearing the dress he had left for her. Why did she have to come out right while the most untrustworthy man on the planet happened to be in the building?
“Thank you.” She noticed their guest and stopped. She stepped close to Kuarto, as if she was looking for protection from him. At least she knew better than to talk.
“Guapo, my bride.” Not being able to explain anything to her, he prayed she wouldn’t question him in front of this little sleaze bag. It wouldn’t go well if she did. Thankfully she gave him an odd look but kept quiet during the introductions.
“She is very pretty. You are a lucky man.” He studied her, something that made Kuarto uncomfortable. “Tonight, I will come back, and we can celebrate.”
He didn’t think it was a good idea, but wasn’t sure if the man understood the word no. The moment the man left, Kuarto focused on her. “You shouldn’t have come out.”
“How was I to know you were going to have a guest?” Hurt filled her eyes.
“We need to get our story straight before he comes back.” He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. He hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings but had no clue how to fix it. “I have bought you. You’re my mail-order bride.”
“Okay.” She looked at him with such innocence.
At least she wasn’t going to fight him on this. “You need to be quiet as much as possible when he is here. He’s not one I trust.”
“Then why do you deal with him?” She looked out the window to watch the man retreat.
“Sometimes you have to deal with the worst to survive.” He looked at her. “You know, we need to come up with a name for you. ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t roll off the tongue.”
“What do you suggest?” She played with a piece of gold around her neck.
“What is that?”
“The necklace? I’m not sure. I noticed it when I changed.”
“Maybe it says something we can use.” He stepped up to her and took a hold of the gold disk. It was warm from her skin. It practically burned him. “To Toki, sister, friend, Heather and Storm.”
“Toki? Sounds like a nickname.”
“It does, but it’s Vespian, which you are too. I’m not sure how many people will recognize that but I don’t want to take a chance with something non-Vespian.” He didn’t have the heart to tell her it meant pain. “I don’t think it would be smart to give you a human name when you’re not human.”
“Then Toki it is.” She looked up at him while he continued to hold the medallion. “I wanted to thank you for the dress.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.” He backed off, not real sure why he had stayed that close to her for as long as he did. “Thought it would look better if you dressed the part of a mail-order bride. What did you do with your other clothes?”
“Left it on the bed.”
“It might be smart to put that away. Don’t want people asking too many questions because they happen to see it.” He walked into his bedroom. The uniform lay neatly on his bed. Kuarto picked up the outfit, folded it and put it into the wooden trunk he had at the foot of the bed. The covers disheveled look reminded him what cause it. He had a woman in his bed. Too bad he hadn’t joined her. He sure wanted to.
A slight sound behind him made him look around and he found her inches away. Being attracted to Toki was going to be a problem. He needed to be professional. “Okay, this is what we will tell people. You came here as my bride. The ship you came in fell apart as you entered our atmosphere and blew up after you were able to exit it. All your worldly possessions were destroyed in the explosion.”
“Which is what happened,” she commented.
The confines of the small room weren’t helping him at all. He picked up a whiff of something before realizing it was her. That unique scent all women had. He needed to get out of the room before he did something stupid like kiss her, so he headed back into the main room of his simple home. She followed right behind him.
“It’s also believable because people will think the ship was probably old and shouldn’t have made the flight in the first place.” He gestured to a chair. “You did get banged about a bit and I’d like to examine you.” He pulled out a pocket sized scanner. “I’m a doctor, although on this planet I’ve been known to take care of just about anything that moves. My supplies might not be able to bring your memory back, but I’d like to try.”
She looked at the scanner before looking back at him. “It would be nice to remember again.”
He nodded, and led her to the far right wall of his home, where he had all his medical supplies. He had already treated her other injuries when he first brought her to the house. The suit had protected much of her body, the gash on her head was about the only thing he could address. Kuarto would love to know how she got the nasty cut then was still able to seal her suit properly before she lost her memories.
He checked the wound, happy with the way it was healing. In an hour or two it would be completely gone. The amnesia was a different story. After running a series of tests, he found it temporary but everything he tried to reverse the problem didn’t work.
“Well, I have good news and bad news. Everything looks good, but the memory loss is going to last a bit longer. I’ll keep working on it, but I’m not sure how quickly I can fix your problem.”
“So what does that mean?”
“You’re going to be my guest a little longer.”
Storm went through a few more last minute checks before he was satisfied. “My heart, you really should sit while I do this.”
“I’m fine.” She checked the supplies she had asked for.
“Maybe so, but you are in the way.” He swiveled his chair so he could check final flight information. “If you want to get airborne, you need to move out of the way.”
She wanted to stick her tongue out at him, but continued her own work instead. She had spoken to the doctor, and gotten a medical bag to carry, just in case she needed it. The doctor had given her most of the things she needed to help Toki if she was injured, and the training to use the equipment as well.
Heather had done her research and found that the undeveloped planet where Toki was last seen was very leery of anyone just showing up. They might be able to cloak one of the smaller ships, but not a large medical one. So Storm went along with them having a ship of their own. The larger medical ship would have to hang back as they went to the planet.
“It should take us about a day to get there.” He snagged one arm and pulled her into his lap. “You have everything ready?”
“Like what?” She tried to look innocent.
He nuzzled her neck. “A certain something you promised me. It’s the only reason you’re coming along.”
“You telling me that you have no use for me other than sex?” Her voice was soft, slightly seductive, and very serious.
“Of course not.” He pulled back to look her in the eyes. “But you used sex to come with me. You could have used so many angles to make me bring you and you know I would have gone along with it.”
“True, but you know what I am capable of. You gave me a unilateral ‘it’s too dangerous’ and you know how much I hate that.” Her eyes grew wide as she realized how she had been manipulated. “You’re evil.”
“What are you talking about?” He played with the seam of her uniform.
“You did that on purpose because you knew I would come up with the one thing you always want to make you bring me along with you.”
“You’re my mate, wouldn’t pleasing me be part of what you want to do anyway?” He smiled at her. It was the one he normally gave her when he thought he had the upper hand.
She had no answer, but knew she would get her revenge. He liked to play games and she had gotten very good at winning these little matches. “Whatever you say.”
He didn’t like the way she gave in. It always meant trouble.