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Author: ,
Series: Galactic Mating Season #1
Genre(s): ,
Released: April 6, 2016

Book Description

Just when I think nothing else could go wrong…I see her.

My crew and I are on a desperate mission hunting a villain, but he’s always one step ahead. Now we’re stuck in orbit over a primitive planet called ‘Earth’ without enough fuel to get us home. And worst of all, every last one of us is about to go into heat.

That’s bad. Very bad.

Our only hope of survival lies somewhere on the surface. I can’t afford any distractions, least of all a beautiful, curvy human female who my body tells me is my fated mate, my amavar. But that’s impossible! My mate can’t be human…can she?

A review from...

...Cindy C.

Very well written, this story is easy to follow with a flow that oozes life into it as it progresses. Filled with lots of good chuckles, some deep despair, hot, steamy sex and lots of loving, this book will have you hopping. Absolutely love the characters. I absolutely loved it!


Also in this series:

Read the First Three Chapters

CHAPTER 1

DIVIAK

“Captain Diviak, we’re nearing the point of no return. If we don’t turn back soon…”

“You don’t think I know that, Akotolyn?!”

I immediately regret speaking so harshly. My navigator’s lean face flushes from its normal bright pink to a darker shade and he turns his wiry frame back to his screen, much like a child might do when scolded by its mother.

For the most part, the five crew aboard Nyx have learned to deal with my short temper, but my navigator is not as strong as the rest of us. Warriors don’t expect a superior officer to watch his tone when giving commands but young Akotolyn has never seen the ravages of war. If he ever does, I’m not certain a Baik as inexperienced as he would survive. Too sensitive. Still, he’s a brilliant navigator, and I count myself lucky to have him.

Taking a deep breath, I do my best to control my voice. “How much farther till we reach his last known coordinates, Akotolyn?”

“Thirty-seven udvars, sir. To have enough fuel to return to Nova Baikonur, we must turn back at thirty-five udvars.”

“Two udvars?! We’re only two udvars short?”

Of the three crew members on the bridge, only Akotolyn jumps when I slam my fist into the wall. The smooth, shiny metal dents inward leaving a detailed impression of the ridges on my knuckles. I’m so frustrated that, when it slowly pops back into shape, I want to pummel it into submission. But I know better. Nyx was built with a self-healing metal designed for the Syndicate’s deep-space fleet, and nothing I do with my hands could ever damage it permanently.

There must be another option. I speak into the vityok wrapped around my wrist. “Chentan, is there any way to conserve enough power to make it to…what’s that planet called again?”

“Jord, sir,” Akotolyn says. “But the Interstellar Vade Mecum notes that the dominant indigenous species calls it ‘Earth’.”

“Original,” I snort. We’ve only visited about twelve ‘Earths’ since setting out on our mission.

“To answer your question, sir, no,” says the voice of Nyx’s engineer. “We pushed the interstellar drive too hard too early and for too long. No amount of pampering will conserve the fuel we need to reach Jord and still leave us enough to return home.”

We’re all tense. None of us needs to put voice to our thoughts because we’re all thinking the same thing.

We won’t make it back to Nova Baikonur for Mot Ruom.

“Then we have to turn around, mission be damned,” the communications officer blurts out.

“Don’t be a reckless fool, Entiran,” says my first mate, Werizan, his tone flat but firm. “You know we can’t go back without the princess. We’ll be executed. We might as well just run Nyx into the next asteroid we see and be done with it.”

Silence falls across the bridge. We’re faced with an impossible choice. I’m faced with an impossible choice. Press on and almost certainly lose our minds or turn back and definitely lose our lives.

If we don’t return in time for Mot Ruom, our mating season, each of us — with the exception of Werizan — will succumb to our kar chhlok and very quickly go insane. Most likely, we’d turn on each other until only one survived, and then he would… I can’t even think of what the sole survivor would have to do to earn the honor, nor what he would do to himself in the end.

And I’ve fought in three wars.

The only thing that tames the kar chhlok is finding one’s amavar, their one true mate. Once that happens, there’s no longer any need to attend Mot Ruom. But among the six of us, only Werizan has claimed a mate and there are no female Baiks this far out in the universe.

“Twelve udvars, Captain.”

I grit my teeth to keep from snapping at Akotolyn again. It’s not his fault we face certain death, no matter which choice I make.

If only we had more fuel…

Something clicks in my head. “Chentan, is there any chance we can find fuel on Jord? Or a substitute?”

My vityok is silent for a few moments, then Chentan’s excited voice echoes across the bridge.

“I accessed archived reports on the planet’s resources and there’s mention of a substance that looks like it could very well work for us. It doesn’t have the same name but the chemical composition looks very similar.”

My face remains stony but relief floods through me, just as I know it does for my crew. Chentan quickly tempers our expectations, though.

“I can’t guarantee anything, Captain. Without a sample, I’m only guessing.”

“And to get a sample, we have to go past the point of no return,” I mutter as I pace the bridge, never taking my eyes off the viewing screen. The swirling blue and white orb of Jord grows larger, and much too quickly.

“Eight udvars.”

The fate of my crew, not to mention that of Princess Erusha, rests with me, and it’s not a responsibility I take lightly. Jord looms large on the viewing screen, beckoning me forward, but the itch under my skin is a warning. Someone — or something — other than that kidnapping pahngdar Raftagan is down there waiting for us. As much as that unnerves me, there is really only one thing to do.

“Put Nyx into orbit, Akotolyn.”

They all stare at me for a moment, then burst into activity. Akotolyn taps coordinates into his controls, Entiran sends a message back to the Syndicate relaying our plans, and Werizan scans the atmosphere of the planet looking for a good place to hide the ship.

“You can’t believe all the garbage they send up here,” he says, the tension ebbing out of his voice. The others are, as usual, even more cheerful. I hope for all our sakes that the mood change is warranted.

“Any sign of Raftagan’s ship?”

Werizan taps his screen and watches it closely. He turns, a grim look on his face.

“Nothing. But this is exactly where his signal disappeared, Captain. It’s very likely that he figured out a way to cloak himself, or maybe he somehow disabled his transmitter. If he’s not in orbit, he’s down there, sir.”

As we take our place among the junk and debris circling ‘Earth’, I stare at the screen, almost as if I might be able to pierce the planet’s spinning cloud cover and spot the fiend prowling around the surface. As much as I want to find him, however, my priority is to locate the substance Chentan needs to fuel Nyx.

“Werizan, find someplace quiet for me to transport down.”

“Captain, you can’t go alone—“

“I can and I will. My impatience is what brought us to this point. Whatever the dangers lurking on this planet, it’s my responsibility to face them. I will not risk your lives because of my mistake.”

I hold my finger over the button on my vityok and catch Werizan’s concerned gaze.

 

“But be ready to bring me back in a hurry.”

CHAPTER 2

JASMINE

“I used to love Halloween,” I mutter, watching hordes of hyper pint-sized ninjas, princesses and goblins scurry past the window of Claire’s Boutique.

“And working here ruined it for you, Miss College Graduate?” teases my co-worker Raven as she hangs an armful of gaudy jewelry on a peg.

I’m too ashamed to tell her the truth — that my stupid ex, Trevor, sucked out every ounce of joy I had for the holiday, and I’m still letting it affect me six months after he dumped me. That would be too pathetic.

“No, they ruined it for me.” I point to a random pack of suburban teens dressed like zombies. Everyone would believe that, even though they don’t really bother me.

“Come on, Jasmine. Didn’t you ever dress up and stroll the mall back in the day? They’re just having fun. Although you know they’re gonna come in here, wreck the displays and giggle over shitty earrings that will turn their ears green before they get home. And then Beth, fearless leader that she is, will bitch endlessly.”

She holds up a pair of terrifyingly neon dangle jobs next to her pretty, round face. “What do you think?

“If anyone can pull it off, it’s you, Raven.”

I’ve admired Raven’s bold beauty since she started here a few months ago. Not every short, chubby chick could pull off the bright colors and tight clothes she’s drawn to. But somehow, she rocks it all.

Me, not so much.

The summer I shot up six inches while simultaneously going from a training bra to D cups — and that was just for starters — killed any taste for fashion I might have been developing. All I wanted to do was hide — my height, my weight, my boobs — so I took to wearing the drabbest, baggiest clothes I could find.

It’s a habit I never broke.

Then there’s my hair. Long, dishwater blonde curls that frizz like crazy in Tallahassee’s ridiculous humidity. If I’d been born a ginger, I’d look exactly like a ‘big and tall’ Sideshow Bob.

Even pulled back, my frizzy curls would corkscrew like crazy around the striking chandelier earrings I’m fingering. With all the rhinestones, they’re big and bold and eye-catching. If they were real, Liz Taylor would have vaulted the counter to get at them, but I don’t even have the guts to try them on.

“So what do you want to be when you grow up, Jasmine?” Raven asks, draping a bright orange necklace around her neck. It shouldn’t have worked with her lime green and teal dress but, naturally, it did. “Didn’t you graduate, like, years ago?”

I spin away from her to hide my blush and fiddle with a display that’s already perfect. The truth is that I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do with my life. I started at Claire’s back in college and just…never left.

Again…pathetic.

“Four years, but I’ve been looking for jobs in my field.” Yeah, right. The only thing a history degree is good for is trivia night at the local bar. “I’ve probably sent fifty resumes a week and I haven’t gotten so much as a phone interview in months. Guess you’re stuck with me.”

The lie slips out easily. Oh, sure, my resume is up on all the job sites but that’s about it. Everyone else in my class has moved on with their life, but I’m still here, piercing gun at the ready.

Raven’s laughter, vibrant and joyful, fills the store with warmth. Still, a nasty part of me burns with envy when she tries on yet another necklace I’ve been eyeing. It should look ridiculous, but on her, it’s a statement.

“It’ll work out eventually.” She smiles reassuringly, the ‘garnet’ necklace setting off the hot pink streaks in her platinum blonde bob. “At least I’m a fun time. Or at least that’s what it says on the men’s room wall.”

She tips a wink at me and plucks a big blue ‘lapis’ necklace from a peg, a distinct gleam in her warm brown eyes. It’s another piece I’ve been drawn to, but if I won’t make a fool of myself when I’m in the store alone, I’m not going to do it in front of her. A change of subject is in order before she gets any ideas.

“You going out tonight?”

“Hell yeah! Gonna rock the single life. Make out with a drunk frat boy wearing a dick costume. You know, classy stuff.”

“What are you going to be?”

“Slutty cheerleader? Maybe a slutty pirate? Something slutty, anyway. You should come! You’ve been single forever. You must be dying from all the celibacy.”

“Eh, I’m honestly enjoying rolling solo. I only have myself to worry about.”

It’s not worth mentioning that since my breakup with Trevor — a.k.a. Mr. Foreplay-Is-For-Losers — my sex drive has been non-existent. Turns out that being told over and over again you’re a big, dull dud really puts a damper on your self-esteem. Even if I wanted to date, moving in with a couple of roommates in a cramped apartment isn’t conducive to romance.

“You’re not still pining for your ex, are you?”

I gag like I’m about to puke. “God no!” And that’s the truth, though I still haven’t built up the courage to block his number on my phone, despite his occasional passive aggressive texts.

“Girl, you dodged a bullet when that food court dingdong Mindi caught his eye.”

“The worst part of it all is that now I can’t go to Sbarro.” I love pizza, but no matter how much I’m craving it, I refuse to buy it from Trevor’s new girl.

Of course, that’s the moment she walks into the store.

Mindi and her little food court minions are dressed…well, not to the nines. That involves a level of class I’m not seeing in the dollar store slutty nun costumes they’re poured into.

Funny, Trevor hated when I wore anything that showed off my curves. Then he’d turn around five minutes later and chide me for dressing too frumpy. Even when I let him pick out all my clothes, I could never win his approval. But based on the painted-on dress, it looks like Mindi gets a pass — and I can see why.

Like me, she’s a bigger-than-average girl, but unlike me, she’s a real stunner, incredibly beautiful. Her curves are in all the right places, and her clothes accentuate the positives. She would have been called ‘vivacious’ back in the day when women with curves were appreciated. Long, dark waves of hair that fall across her shoulders, sparkling blue eyes and full red lips complete the package.

I plaster a fake smile on my face. “Welcome to Claire’s.”

I don’t need to look at the clock to know that my shift ends in five minutes. She couldn’t have waited till I was gone to come in and gloat? Of course not.

Except she’s not gloating, really. She can’t even seem to meet my gaze. But her weasel-faced buddy is quick to pick up the slack.

“Oh, Mindi’s boyfriend, Trevor…do you know him?” Mindi’s other friends snicker. “He thought we all needed a little bling to punch up our costumes. We’re going out tonight. With our boyfriends.”

Good lord, this was all Trevor’s idea? What a total loser! A cruel loser, no less.

I work hard to keep my expression neutral. It’s a relief that I’m not upset, but I’d still rather be anywhere else right now.

“Well, you have a lot of decolletage, so maybe a necklace to highlight that?”

The sneer on her weasly face betrays her confusion. I can’t contain my glee over the fact that she has no idea what I said. I know it’s petty but she’s also a raging bitch.

God, I hate my life.

CHAPTER 3

DIVIAK

So much for Werizan finding a nice, quiet spot for me to apparate. The place is teeming with creatures of all shapes and sizes. Luckily, I don’t think any of these bizarre beings noticed my arrival behind this big green box. A quick look inside — and a healthy sniff — makes me want to vomit my morning meal.

It must be where they store their garbage. So close to where they live? Filthy beasts!

No one is paying attention to me. That’s good. The last thing I need is to alarm the primitive population of this planet when I speak to my crew through my wrist vityok.

“Werizan, you were right. The atmosphere down here is perfectly acceptable, although rather damp,” I report, my eyes tracking what looks like a very small, two-legged dragon of some sort. My mother thrilled me with tales of flying, fire-breathing monsters when I was a child, but they died out millennia ago.

“I thought you said the dominant species here were similar to Baiks but there seems to be many different species.”

“Sir…signal…weak…hear…”

“Werizan, do you read me? Werizan?”

I listen for a long moment but nothing comes through.

Chhookh!” My frustrated slaps do nothing to make the vityok work. Must be something in the atmosphere. Maybe that’s what is stopping us from finding Raftagan.

The crew probably can’t track me either. The thought makes that itch under my skin even worse. I’d better be on high-alert and keep an eye on these small but fierce-looking creatures. My crew won’t know if I’m in danger.

As I merge with the flow of bodies, relief washes over me that no one seems too bothered by my appearance. I’m a good head taller than the crowd, much more muscular, and of the…what are they called again? Oh, right, humans. Of the humans I see, my skin doesn’t quite match theirs. There are a variety of hues, but even the pinkest of them are much more muted than me.

Perhaps they become more vibrant closer to their own Mot Ruom. I know our skin changes dramatically during mating season. Still, I can’t help but feel pity for their dull skin tones, as varied as they may be.

A warm body brushes against me and I look down to see a puny, pale female human staring up at me, baring her teeth. Is this some kind of aggression? That would be insanely foolish of her, considering the difference in our sizes.

Blinga blanga blagga,” she says, her teeth gleaming at me. I have no idea what she just said, but the translator strapped around my throat hums against my neck ridge while it processes all the words it picks up. Soon I will be fluent in Human. But until then, this tiny creature’s words are a mystery.

When she rubs an impossibly small hand up the bare skin of my back, fingers tickling the ridge running up my spine, it hits me like a quasar pulse.

She’s in her kar chhlok!

Why she would choose someone so incompatible to mate with confuses me. I would break such a dainty play thing. Besides, the very thought of mating with one of these fragile, colorless females is physically repugnant. Still, I must do my best to blend in.

I bare my teeth at her in return, hoping to mimic her expression in a noncommittal way. Apparently I get it wrong because her eyes grow wide and the unmistakable scent of fear wafts off her. Time to move on!

I can feel her eyes follow me but the fear odor is fading. Hopefully she won’t alert the authorities to my presence. I try my best to blend into the crowd, following the press of bodies into a large white structure.

Inside, my eardrums nearly burst from all the noise. The sheer number of humans overwhelms me. I tuck myself into an alcove behind some kind of plant life and simply watch for a moment to get my bearings. It doesn’t take long to realize that the small monsters are just human children disguised as other beings.

Dozens of questions race through my brain — Is this how they dress every day? Why do they carry orange buckets filled with small bits of what smells like sweet food? Why are they all gathered in this building but wandering around aimlessly? Is this some kind of religious hall? A sporting arena?

None of that matters right now. I have one mission here today: Find the substance Chentan needs. I have all the information on my vityok, but the translator hasn’t picked up enough Human to allow me to read their language yet.

Heads turn as I ease back into the flow of bodies, but no one raises an alarm. I can smell wariness off a few of them, lust from others. I ignore them all and slowly work my way toward the other end of the building, which I now see is some sort of indoor market.

“That’s a great blooga, man,” says a male sporting a mask that looks suspiciously like a warg, a species that lives in the Wellinga system. The translator doesn’t know what a blooga is yet, but I get the sense he’s appreciative of me. Wary of baring my teeth again, I merely grunt and continue on.

Up ahead, several females stare at a wall, touching their faces with tiny, colorful sticks. They’re covering their bland flesh with color. As I draw even with them, I see my own reflection and blink in surprise.

Mirror, the translator informs me.

I’m not surprised by the mirror, or the fact the translator is working so quickly. I’m shocked by the bright pink color of my skin. Normally, Baik skin tone resembles the fluffy, pink food product the child passing me is shoveling into his mouth.

Cotton candy.

I don’t care what it’s called. What I care about is that my skin is now a vibrant pink. It should only change like this when I’m angry, at the Mot Ruom or…no, that’s impossible.

I shake the thought from my head and continue on, trying to recognize the Human word Chentan input into my vityok. Nothing. My entire body vibrates with frustration.

We desperately need this fuel substitute to work. Nyx doesn’t have enough fuel for us to remain in orbit indefinitely. It might have enough fuel to land on the planet’s surface, but then we would be stuck here forever, and that can’t happen. These puny humans would not survive the rampage of Baiks in full fever.

A group of females huddles together, laughing and pointing at me. So far I’ve gone relatively unnoticed here, so why all of a sudden…

I look down to where they’re pointing and see the source of their amusement. My chhlok is swelling in an alarming way. And vibrating.

Impossible!

Only an amavar, a Baik’s true mate, can evoke such a response. I glance around but, as I already knew, no other Baiks are in this market. Therefore my amavar, whomever she turns out to be, cannot be here. It must be this blasted planet’s disruptive ions.

But my chhlok disagrees. It pulls me forward and I’m powerless to stop. It’s as if my body has been possessed — it no longer obeys my commands. Every step forward drains the coherent thought from my brain, replacing it with a purple fog of kar chhlok.

Not even during my most passionate Mot Ruom coupling has my body ever betrayed me in this way, and part of me can’t understand why it’s doing so now. The other part doesn’t care — its only mission is to find my amavar.

My feet stop and I look up. Through the glittering baubles and trinkets hung in the shop’s window, she stares at me, her pale blue eyes wide.

It doesn’t matter that she’s a human. It doesn’t matter that, as big as she is compared to the females standing near her, she’s still smaller than the average Baik female. It doesn’t even matter that I’m on a desperate mission to save my ship, my crew and my Princess. The only thing that matters is her.

And I must claim her, taste her, take her. Right now!

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