I see it the moment it happens. One second, Gabrielle stares at me in surprise, the next, her pupils dilate, and she frowns. Almost as if she doesn’t realize she’s doing it, she leans forward, dragging in a deep, shuddering breath as she tries to scent me. I was right. She feels it, too, this attraction, this need for each other. Not nearly as much as I do, or she’d be clawing at the glass, but it’s there, even with her meds suppressing it.
I let my gaze wander over her. She’s taller than she looked on screen, over six feet. The shirt she wears is sleeveless, and it must be cold in the cell because her nipples tent the fabric. I nearly groan at the sight of them. If I could get to her, I would roll my tongue over them, through the shirt at first, until she was so needy that she begged me to rip it off her. Only then would I put my mouth to her skin, and I’d stay there long enough to test the theory that some women can get off from nipple play alone.
The fabric of her pants hides her long legs, and I hate that. I bet they’re as toned as her arms, the perfect length to wrap around my hips. She wears the flimsy sandals the lizards give to all their human slaves, knowing that they won’t be any help should their captives attempt an escape.
I drag my gaze back up her tall frame. Her build is lean, athletic. Whenever I’ve jerked it to the thought of a human woman, they’ve always been full-figured. Tits and ass: that’s what got me off. Now here I stand in front of Gabrielle, in front of my mate, and I realize I don’t give a fuck what her body type is, only that she actually exists. Maybe I used to be a tits and ass man, but now I’m just a Gabrielle man.
A Gabrielle man? You sound like a sap. Jesus Christ, get it together.
But I can’t. I’m gone for this woman. So gone. And who could blame me? She’s perfect. Her skin glows a deep golden tan. The dark eyes that stare out at me are almond-shaped, with thick, black lashes – bedroom eyes to go with her bedroom voice. I imagine them half-lidded as she looks up at me, pupils blown even wider than they already are, her full lips parting as she digs her nails into my back, desperate for me to drive deeper, harder.
I put my hand on the glass again, needing to steady myself. She’s here, she’s right here, and I can’t fucking get to her. My fingers shake. I want to pound on the door, shatter it, but we fought the entire way here, and my crew is exhausted. Not me. I feel wide awake, wired. My mating instincts are flaring, adrenaline and lust coursing through my body, filling me with energy – an energy my crew doesn’t share. They’re too tired to help me fight our way out of here, and though we could easily hold this hallway against a superior force, once we left it, we’d be in trouble.
I know all of this, and part of me still doesn’t give a shit. My mate stands three feet away from me, separated by a glass barrier. I can see her, but I can’t touch her, can’t sink into her warm, welcoming body, and it’s driving me fucking crazy.
Behind me, Ceres feigns a gag. “Captain, you’re starting to reek. Need I remind you of the labia-mouthed monster we fought in the jungle?”
Not even the memory of that hideous creature is enough to curtail my desire. I lift my gaze and eye the seam of the glass, wondering if there’s any way to pry it free without hacking into the system and overriding the lock.
No, I tell myself. If I try to break Gabrielle out, she could get hurt. My crew is exhausted, and we’re outmanned by lizards and their hired muscle. Plus, I have no idea what state Gabrielle is in. She could be starving, sleep-deprived, or drugged.
My logic goes to war with my instincts for a few seconds. On the one hand, I’m desperate to get to her; on the other, I understand it’s too dangerous right now. I might be an asshole, but sacrificing my entire crew on the altar of my lust for this woman is a step too far, even for me. Thank God for the meds Sita cooked up for me and the ability to take a step back and think before doing something stupid.
I remind myself that even if I could get to Gabrielle, I wouldn’t just rut all over the unsuspecting woman. I’ve resolved myself to wait for her, to put my own selfish needs aside until she adjusts to life off meds and makes up her mind about whether or not she truly wants me back, and I plan to stick to that resolution even if it drives me crazy.
Being a decent man is bullshit.
I take my hand off the glass and sign to her. Are you okay?
The haze of confusion clears from her expression, and the look she gives me is deadpan. I’m in an alien jail cell, about to be sold at auction. Yeah, sure, I’m just peachy, Captain. Thanks for asking.
I bark a laugh. This sarcasm is another small glimpse of her personality, and I cherish it. I’ve been so fixated on getting her, protecting her, that I haven’t stopped to think about how amazing it will be to have another human on the Raven. One who understands earth humor, can reminisce with me about life back on our home planet.
I sign back at her. Have you been hurt? Drugged?
She nods. Drugged. I’m still coming off the high. She worries her lower lip between her teeth, and my desire spikes. I want to tug it out with my lips, worry it with my own teeth, tease her until she –
Sir, I don’t have my meds on me, she signs. They’re back on the ship.
My lust evaporates. This isn’t good. She’s not going back to the ship; her new master will collect her at the end of the auction, and then she’ll be loaded aboard their spacecraft and flown off planet. We planned to tail her, put the Raven into stealth mode and wait for an opportune moment to strike. Her declaration just shot that plan to hell. I can’t, I can’t tolerate the idea of her coming off her meds around anyone else but me. I might be holding onto control by a thread, but I trust myself more than I do the horny alien fucks in the hall with us.
Behind me, Kic huffs in a breath. “What is it? Why do you smell of fear?”
I fight the urge to curl my hands into fists and pound at the glass. “Because she doesn’t have her meds on her. We have about a day before the mood stabilizers are out of her system. Another day before the hormone suppressants fail.”
Am lets out a low hum of worry. “And then she’ll be like you were?”
Memories flash through my mind. Blood. So much blood. Endless, marathon sessions of sex. “Yes. She’ll be like I was.”
Nin makes a noise of distress. “Poor woman.”
Ceres steps beside me, staring into the cell. “Do you have any meds on you, Captain?”
“I do,” I tell her. I grabbed a packet of them before I left the ship, on the off chance that we’d get stuck in the city for a few days.
Ceres nods. “Get them to Thakhat, and pay him to give them to her when she’s removed from her cell.”
It’s a good idea, and I’m thankful for Ceres’ sharp mind at a time like this, when mine feels fuzzy and sluggish.
Gabrielle takes a step forward. Her dark eyes move from me to Ceres and back again. How much can she hear in there?
Did you catch that? I sign.
She shakes her head. Just muffles.
I have meds, I tell her, and relief flashes across her face. They’re different than what you’re used to. They don’t dampen moods, but they should be enough to stabilize your hormones, so you don’t – oh, hell, how do I say this to her?
She eyes me. So I don’t go on a killing spree?
I nod. Or a fucking spree.
Her mouth pops open in a gasp, pillowy lips parting in a way that makes my dick strain against the restricting fabric of my suit.
One of your guards is on my payroll, I tell her. He’ll get the meds to you.
She doesn’t look relieved. If anything, she looks more worried than before. Nothing like the threat of turning into a mindless sex fiend to sober you up.
Something must catch her eye because her gaze goes past me. She points before signing, I want to take her with me.
I turn and see a redheaded woman curled into a ball in the corner of the cell across from Gabrielle’s. She’s small, much smaller than my mate, and she looks distraught. This is more than sadness or fear of being an alien captive. Something terrible must have happened to her. The sight triggers my protective instincts, and I can only imagine how hard they’re riding Gabrielle if she’s been stuck in her cell, staring at this woman, unable to help her.
I turn back to my mate. If she gets sold to the same alien as you, we’ll free her too. But if you’re separated, she’s on her own.
A stubborn expression flares over her face. Yes, fight me, I think. I don’t want a passive mate. I want a ferocious one. One who stands up for what she believes in, pushes back, isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m being an asshole.
Even her hands convey her annoyance when she starts signing again. With all due respect, Captain, if we’re separated, and you free me, I am going after her. I have no idea where any of my other people are, but her, I can save.
I want to tell her she’s wrong. That she probably can’t save her. Space is space. In all likelihood, these two will be separated, and she’ll never see the other woman again. It’s damn near impossible to find anyone out here. I would know; I’ve tried. But I don’t want to see the look of disappointment on my mate’s face if I tell her that. I don’t want her to lose hope.
We can try, I sign. Where is the rest of your unit? She hasn’t mentioned them yet, and if she wants to get to anyone, I’d think she’d like to get to them above all others.
Her face falls, stubbornness draining away to expose the hurt hiding beneath. They’re dead, she says. They died defending our ship.
And where were you?
Babysitting a group of scientists, she tells me. Sir, there’s one more problem.
I wait for her to continue, but her hands are still as she eyes me. Her gaze moves to my left and then right, and I realize she’s looking over my crew. A hint of worry tightens her mouth, and doubt darkens her eyes.
You can trust me, I tell her. You’re the only other one of my kind out here. I’d do anything to keep you from harm.
Her eyes go wide at that. Probably a bit too soon to declare my undying devotion to her, but what’s done is done.
She eyes me for another moment before her mouth moves, and she mutters what looks like, “Fuck it.”
I was stationed onboard the USS Kennedy, she signs. Before I was taken captive, the captain… he ordered a Mission Abort on my guard duty.
Wariness snakes up my spine. I don’t like this.
She takes a deep breath before finishing. My new mission is to not resist my captors.
I yank my gaze from hers and stalk away from her cell. I’ll kill him. I will fucking dismember that piece of shit. He would turn my fierce mate into a helpless babe? Put her at the mercy of her captors? The lizards have no fucking mercy, and more than half the alien races out here are even worse than they are.
“Captain!” Ceres calls, jogging to catch up with me. “What are you doing? Who are you going to kill?”
Several nearby aliens jerk around to look at us in alarm. Their translators must have Luytian programmed into them.
How did Ceres know what I planned?
I hear my own voice then, and I clench my jaw shut, realizing I’ve been muttering the word murder under my breath like a complete psychopath. Fine, maybe I am one. Maybe that’s what being a mated male has turned me into. I’m not going to fight it. My instincts haven’t led me astray yet, and if they’re singing for blood, blood they shall have.
“The captain of her ship,” I tell Ceres. “He ordered her not to resist. Anything.”
“Mother fucker,” she spits.
I look into one cell after another, trying to find the man who crippled my mate.
Am skids past me, all four palms smacking into my chest in an effort to slow me down. “Don’t be an idiot,” he rumbles. “Everyone here wears slave clothes. How will you know who he is?”
I pause. Good question.
Gabrielle will tell me.
I turn on my heel and stalk back to her cell. She’s pressed against the glass, frowning at me. The little line that’s appeared between her brows is adorable, and I’m surprised by how much I want to kiss it away.
What does he look like? I ask her.
Her hands flash as she signs back. Not going to happen. You’re my ticket out of this. I’m not letting you do something stupid that might get you killed.
I heave in a deep breath. Goddamn it. She’s right. Ripping the door off a cell to murder a man would lead to the same outcome as ripping her door off to get to her.
I look down at Sita. “I thought you said the meds would balance me out.”
“You didn’t blackout with rage again, did you?” she asks, tone indicating she already knows the answer.
I give it to her anyway. “No.”
She crosses her little arms over her chest, and I know from her body language alone the kind of haughty expression her mask hides. “Then the meds are working just fine. It’s your dumb man brain that’s on the fritz.”
Beside her, Nin coughs to cover a laugh.
I get no respect around here.
A movement catches my eye, and I look up to see Gabrielle trying to get my attention.
He gave me a clause, she says. I can protect myself against serious harm.
My shoulders slump in relief. The thought of someone abusing her, taking her against her will, was what drove me to the brink this time. It’s a sobering thought, a reminder that I need to keep my dick in my pants and stop thinking with it. Her safety comes first. My need is a distant second, or hell, fourth or fifth.
Do you see me as a superior officer? I ask her.
She considers this for a moment. What was your rank back on earth?
Lieutenant, I say.
She looks me over. There’s no lust in her eyes. Unlike me, she isn’t ruled by her baser desires. Yet. Now, she just seems curious. I have so many questions I want to ask you.
I’ll answer them when you’re safe, I tell her.
She nods, then takes a deep breath, and I can see the wheels spinning in that sharp mind of hers. Yes, she signs. I think I see you as a superior.
Good. This is good. We can work with this. Keep your ears sharp. I’m going to find some way to get near enough to you when you’re let out that I can try to abort your mission.
She bites her lip again, and I almost groan. She really needs to stop doing that. What if it doesn’t work?
Then we’ll figure something out, I say. I won’t let anyone take you like this.
She releases her lip and nods.
“We need to go,” Kic murmurs. “We’ve been standing here too long. And the lizards might not know the hand language you use, but they’re not stupid. They know you’re speaking to her.”
“And,” Ceres says, “since you decided taking off your mask was a great idea, they know who you are. They’re going to be on us like flies on shit after this.”
I know they speak the truth, but my feet feel glued to the floor. I stare through the glass of Gabrielle’s cell door, feeling helpless and trapped. “I don’t want to leave her.”
Am pats my back. “We know. But we have to find Thakhat if she has any hope of staying in her right mind. Do what’s best for her, even if it’s hard.”
I let out a heavy breath and nod.
Gabrielle arches a brow in question.
We need to go, I tell her, feeling a surge of triumph at the disappointment on her face. She doesn’t want me to leave either. But we’ll be close.
Yes, sir, she signs back. Thank you.
I want to tell her there’s no need to thank me. I’m not doing this for altruistic reasons. Or at least, not entirely. Yes, I would free her even if I didn’t want to make her mine, but I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice nearly everything to do so.
You’re welcome, I tell her. I’ll see you soon.
Am tugs on my arm, but I stay rooted to the spot. “Little help here,” he says.
Ceres shoves my shoulder, using her preternatural speed to catch me off guard. My crew works as a flawless team in all things, and forcing me to leave my mate behind is no different. The second Ceres pushes me, Am pulls my arm. Together, they get me moving.
I crane my head around, my eyes locking onto Gabrielle’s. She’s pressed right up to the glass again, watching me leave her, and I hate it. I hate it. But part of me loves it. Because she looks sad to see me go. It might not be much, she might not want me as much as I want her, but even on the meds, she’s curious, she feels drawn to me.
Just wait until she gets her first good sniff of me. It’ll be all over then, and I can settle in and wait, knowing it’s only a matter of time before she’s mine.
Copyright © 2021 by Navessa Allen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.