Dubor’s eyes didn’t reflect the images in front of him. Nor did they have a standard color like most…races.
His eyes had the white fleshy part that she had in her own, but the middle part was like a window.
Not a window into a soul or the gooey parts, but a window through him. Looking at him you could see the space behind him.
It creeped her out to the point she refused to look at him. She tried to be polite considering she worked in the same building, but that was as far as it went.
And if that wasn’t frustrating enough she found out, that his eyes could darken to black if he wanted – if he was interested in who he was talking to.
But with her, they were never dark.
It rubbed that he thought so less of her, but when she thought about it, she was happy he thought that – so that she didn’t feel bad about disliking his eyes so much.
Ree jerked. “Yeah?”
Her boss stood by her 360 virtual desk with a teardrop mug. “Harissa quit this morning.”
Ree had a split second to register her surprise, but the follow up emotion of dread overshadowed the first. “That’s unfortunate. Is she okay? Or did she get a promotion?”
“She had a tension-stroke the other day. She is still in the treatment center and will be there for a a few months. I need you to go through her files, figure out what needs to be done.”
“I can’t get into her computer,” Ree said matter-of-factly.
“Call Dubor he will open it up and give you assess.”
No. Never. “Okay,” Ree said feeling her insides tighten.
Ree watched her boss walk away before letting her head fall back with a huff. She didn’t want to do this.
Ree snapped her head up and came face to face with Dubor’s creepy eyes. His face was turned away so the effect wasn’t so intense, but it still bothered her countenance. “Hey, I was going to call you.”
“Your boss talked to me first. I was waiting for her to explain it before I dropped this off.” He set it down on top of her calendar that she had been filling out.
“Thank you,” she said taking the computer moving it to the front of her desk and opening it up.
Dubor moved behind her seat and leaned down some, but not so far she could feel his breath or punch him in the face. “Okay,” he said pointing at the prompt, “click the helix and type in…
A shock wave blasted the building in two quick successions. As if the air had tried to punch the building from the roof.
Ree didn’t have time to scream as Dubor wrapped a hand around her arm and yanked her out of the chair. Her vision blurred into white and her back burned.
When her vision returned, two pair of black eyes watched her. Words she didn’t understand muffled in the air.
Ozone and greasy meat filed her nose.
Nothing made sense. She didn’t even know where she was. Why was she outside?
Dubor’s face was red, and his dark blood drained down his nose. But his voice was soft and his thumb kept rubbing her temple.
Then he stopped and rested his head against hers, and she felt something chill where their flesh connected. Shivers ran down her body at first. Second was a warmth that felt like a balm to her pain.
So…question for you:
1. Continue story with Dobor?
2. Too weird. Think of something else.
Ree was inside Dubor’s house.
No words, no explanation, he just picked her up after medical checked her placed her in his Yoll Spinner. A hover craft with lots of moving spheres outside. She always thought they looked stupid, but inside, they were nice, and spun through the air quickly.
Now she was standing in a fancy apartment, feeling out of place.
Dubor was standing beside her. “You stopped walking. Is that the Terran way of showing that you don’t like my home?”
She swallowed. “No, it’s just…really nice. I’m afraid to touch anything.”
“Terrans don’t like nice things? Got it.”
Ree touched his shoulder quickly, “No, we like nice things. I mean at least I do. But…this is really nice. You must have a second job I know nothing about.”
He frowned. “I have one job.”
“Must pay well. I know I don’t make enough for something like this.”
This time his face contorted, “Are you asking to know how much I make?”
“I make enough to sustain a large family. Don’t worry.”
Ree leaned back. Did he just say don’t worry?
Dubor took her hand and lead her into the bedroom and her stomach turned to acid. He wasn’t thinking about making a family right now, was he?
“You look sick. You will rest while I make food.”
Ree didn’t take another step. “I think I want to go home. I appreciate you brining me here, but I’m fine. Medical said I will be good. I have plenty of pain tabs to take when these one’s wear off.”
When he didn’t say anything she peered up and saw his black eyes on her. Angry dark eyes. “If you go home, I will join you. You are weak and limping and the medical staff didn’t say you were good, they said you needed to rest and take it easy. You’re a smart female but you are blind to dangers. Your building was blown up – a Terran only building. That should alert you to the threat lurking in Terran only buildings.”
She didn’t like how much sense he made. Not at all.
Ree also didn’t like how he knew she lived in a Terran only building, meaning her apartment. How would he know that?
“We should stay here. It’s safer. But if you need the comfort of your things, then I will take you to your place.”
Going to her house sounded like a bad idea, if there was a chance that a crazy person might blow it up. If possible she would prefer to avoid another building going up in flames. Not to mention her apartment wasn’t half as nice as Dubor’s home. She didn’t know if he’d judge her, but she would like to avoid that too.
Blowing out a defeated breath she said, “I will need some of my stuff, like my clothes and cleaning products. But it’s probably smarter to stay here.”
Dubor pointed to the bed, “I know what things you wear, and what products you smell like. I can take care of that while you rest. Lay down while I take care of these things.”
It was…remarkable how the male could be offering to buy her clothes and cleaning products and yet make her want to smack him for telling her what to do.
“One more thing,” Ree started, “I need to know why you saved me. Out of everyone on my floor, you saved me. Was it because I was the closest person, or is there another reason?”
Dubor tilted his head and his eyes flashed from dark to see-through back to dark. “I am the first of my kind to choose a Terran. I wanted to learn more about you before I took you. I’m fortunate to have been near you when the bomb went off. I took you in my races tradition. You do not notice these things, but my kind saw and understood my actions. You belong to me. You are my mate.”
Ree was absolutely positive about two things…
Dubor was right, he knew nothing about Terrans.
Dubor was delusional.
There was a fine line between dangerous crazy and manageable crazy.
Crazy carry who lived down the hall from her was the most-likely-to-do-harm.
Dubor, might be the manageable kind. Or at least she hoped so.
“Are you going to lie down? Or do you need help walking to the bed?” Dubor asked.
“I don’t need help. But I’m not ready to lie down.”
The male nodded once, “Then will get make you food while you rest on the couch.”
When she didn’t move fast enough, he tried to pick her up and she bent and knocked his hands away. “I’m good, I don’t need help. Thank you though.”
Dubor’s mouth flattened. “You’re my mate. Take my help.”
Grr. “I don’t need it…right now.”
Dubor followed slowly watching her every step and wince. He grunted every time she stopped to take a break. There was a point that she thought about letting him carry her, but there a great deal of pleasure knowing she was doing it herself – and it was driving Dubor crazy.
Maybe he re-think the whole mating thing once he realized she wasn’t single because she lacked options. She was single because she preferred it that way.
The couch enveloped her like a cloud. Soft and plush fabric she literally felt caressed. Ree might have moaned a bit, but no one who had felt a couch like that could have blamed her.
Rubbing her hand over the velvet like cushions she soaked in the moment.
Thirty seconds later, she was board.
Dubor was in the kitchen using the Minky screen mounted on the wall above the sink. It looked like he was ordering food, but the images were too small to tell. The dark orange color of the food provider was impossible to miss though.
“What are you ordering?”
Ree rolled her eyes. “We’ve worked together for years. By now, you should have learned I like details.”
“Yes, I noticed. But now that we are mates, you will learn to trust me.”
Sitting forward she rolled off the couch and limped towards the kitchen. “I trust what I know or what I see for myself. I’ve explained this. It’s not going to go away regardless of the labels you’ve given me.”
Dubor turned, his jaw tight. “Stop moving around. The medical staff said to rest. You’re not resting.”
Ree took a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen. Spreading her hands on the smooth countertops she said, “See, I’m resting now.” Then she pointed at the Minky screen, “What do you have on there?”
Dubor reached over, pushed purchase and closed the order screen down.
Narrowing her eyes. “Nice. Just in case you didn’t know… Terrans are particularly adept at being petty. So you can be a jerk, but I can worse. Much worse.”
Moving to the other side of the bar, Dubor pushed a finger to the black surface. “This is not how you mate. I read the books. It specifically states that Terrans, live together, mate often, and eat together. You are supposed to…” he stopped.
Probably because she was laughing. Hard.
He folded his arms and waited.
Fanning her eyes, Ree said, “I can’t breathe.”
Dubor’s skin darkened and she couldn’t help it. She laughed harder.
By the time she could talk the food had been delivered via transport pod. Dubor pulled out a large bowl of…. broccoli soup? And a loaf of bread.
Dubor placed the bowl in front of her, quickly adding a spoon. Then he cut a large slice of the bread and placed it on a small plate.
The bread didn’t look like bread. Picking it up first she sniffed. “This is pumpkin bread.”
Dubor looked between the food. “Terrans eat soup with bread. It’s number eleven of their favorite foods.”
Returning the bread to the plate she covered her mouth desperately trying not to laugh.
Forcing herself despite the odd pairing she whispered, “Thank you.”
The books were wrong.
He should have anticipated that, but he figured Ree always followed the rules. At least she did at work.
Now…he was seeing a whole different side of her.
And he wasn’t sure if he liked it or not.
Ree was back on the couch – but it took a lot of effort to get her back there. He figured she’s want to talk about their future family. That’s what the books said females like to talk about.
But not his mate.
She was watching a video on his Minky screen.
It wasn’t even an educational video or a documentary. No, she was watching something that was making her laugh every few seconds.
He didn’t know what that video was called, but he didn’t it. It was taking her attention from him. This was supposed to be a serious time for them.
Maybe he missed something…
He needed to look through the books again.
Leaving the living room he stopped when the front door chimed. A visitor. Diverting his route he checked the security mount and saw a Safety officer at the door.
Pushing for the door to open he stood back. The officer was one of his race so he greeted him as such by letting his focus dilute so the male could see behind him to prove he wasn’t hiding anything.
Respectfully the officer did the same.
“What are you here for, Officer?”
“I was told you have the only surviving Terran from the bomb attack this morning.”
“I do,” Dubor said as he refocused his eyes so they were dark and no one could see through them.
“I am here to take her to containment.”
Dubor’s shoulders squared. “Why would you take you to containment?”
“We are quarantining the Terrans in the city. For their safety…and ours. They have never fully integrated with our ways. They have proposed this quarantine, and we have obliged.”
Dubor’s skin vibrated underneath his back and shoulders. Not loud enough to be considered a threat, but enough to let the male know he wasn’t happy. “She’s not leaving. She’s my mate.”
The officer’s eyes darkened so Dubor couldn’t see through. “You claimed her?”
The officer’s skin lightened with disgust. There was a slight shake of the head, and Dubor knew there were those of his kind that didn’t think female Terrans were good to look at. The eyes always in focus and their bodys were stiff, unable to bend and expand like their females did.
But Dubor found he liked Ree, despite the off texture of her body and her ever-watching eyes.
“Hey, everything okay?” Ree said from behind him.
The officer leaned to the side to look past Dubor.
Dubor followed the officer’s glance to see Ree still on the couch, Minky screen silent, and a small line crinkled between her eyebrows.
“I’m Safety officer Aben. I’m here to take you into a quarantined building.”
She swallowed and whispered, “Quarantine? Did the bomb have some illness attached to it?”
“No. No illness. But the Terrans believe it was an attack of their kind. They have asked to move to their own secure location. I’m here to take you.”
Ree didn’t move. Instead her eyes to came to him and in that moment his body warmed with pride. She was looking to him for help.
It was one of the main factors in a mating.
Things were progressing.
“I told the officer you were my mate. Which means you will stay with me.”
The officer stepped past him contradicting him, “You will come with me. I know Terrans don’t mate. And I know your kind thinks our mating practices are…bad.”
“She stays,” Dubor hissed.
The officer touched his badge of authority, “Only if she admits to being your mate.”
Dubor peered at Ree feeling his skin flickering with uncertain anxiety. If she answered wrong, he would fight for her. He wasn’t letting her go. Aben should have known this, but he was challenging his mating.
Ree licked her lips. “I…” she started but didn’t answer. Her chest rose and fell in deep breaths. Dubor knew her long enough to see her confusion and he hated that she was questioning this. He explained it – he told her they were mates.
That was all he had to do.
“You are not his mate. You can say it. I see your doubt. If you were his mate, you’d be proud of that,” Aben said with a scowl.
The confusion Dubor saw was gone replaced with the cold anger he knew and respected. Warmth filled him with hope.
Ree pushed off the couch and balanced on her one good foot. “I’m not going to pretend that I’m a Haylor and I mate like you. Clearly I’m a Terran, and I see things and understand things differently. But then again, all Terrans are different – for example, I’m not the kind of Terran who wants to be quarantined. I think that’s stupid. So I’m going to respectfully decline leaving Dubor’s home.” Each word said with ice-cold-fury.
“You don’t get to stay because you want to, Terran,” the officer said with a snarl. “This isn’t your home planet, you don’t get to decide what laws or new rules you agree with and follow. So let me say it again, are…you…Dubor’s…mate?”
Ree inhaled deeply. “According to your laws, yes I’m his mate.”
Dubor should have been pleased by that declaration, but the way she said it, made it sounded like she wasn’t accepting him.
Aben pulled his thumb back towards his shoulder. “According to our laws, you have to accept him first to be a mate. You haven’t. So you’re out.”
Dubor stepped in front of the officer, growling. “She’s not leaving.”
Behind him he heard Ree moving towards him. The female didn’t understand anything if she thought he was going to let her go.
“Get out of the way,” Aben hissed.
“She’s a Terran.”
A hand pressed on his back and he stilled. Ree?
She used him to stable herself and he let her. But he made sure to keep her mostly behind him. Her head poked out between his side and arm. “I’m staying. And I… I accept Dubor’s claim. I am his mate.”
He would have liked a little more of something in that statement, but it was there and Aben had to accept it.
Aben shook his head and glared at him. “Haylors and Terrans don’t mix. Trust me, you’re making a mistake. Let me take her, you’ll find a better female. One who understands.”
“You know,” Ree said wrapping an arm around his waist, “I may not understand everything, but I know a racist when I see one.”
The hate in Aben’s eyes poured out of him towards Ree and Dubor felt like a king as he watched his mate stare right back. She would be a strong and passionate mate.
He chose right.
Question to you: After the officer left…
She was an idiot.
Why the hell did she say she was Dubor’s mate?
Mateing was nothing like marriage. There was no getting out of it. No divorce. No going slow and getting to know each other.
FOREVER AT THE START.
Gahhhhhh. What had she done?
Ree watched Dubor shut the door. Her gut clenched already regretted her words. When Dubor faced her, he said, “It’s good you accepted my claim.”
The words were in her mouth to declare she lied, she didn’t want to be his mate, but she held back to cutting words.
“Why do you look upset?” he asked, taking her arm to help her back to the couch.
She discreetly withdrew her arm because she could limp all by herself.
On the way she said, “I don’t think the humans should segregate themselves from the rest of the people. Makes us look scared. And I also think that officer’s a jerk and he should be looking into who blew up the building instead of going around looking for other humans.”
Dubor didn’t say anything until she was on the couch. He sat down on the cousin next to her, facing her, not the Miny screen. “None of those things I can change.”
“I didn’t ask for you to change them. I was telling you why I was upset.”
He frowned. “When you are upset, you are supposed to tell me what is wrong so that I can fix it. If I can’t fix it, you shouldn’t be upset.”
What in the name of all things holy was he talking about?
Did he really believe that crap?
In his eyes, she could see he did.
She was in hell.
Ree needed a minute to first control the anger that boiled in her veins at his tone, his arrogance, and the sheer stupidity his words. Taking a breath, she had to remember he was not human and he didn’t know anything about co-habitation rules.
“You’re breathing hard from your nose,” he said.
Ree glared at him. “I’m trying to calm down so that I don’t say something that will hurt your feelings.”
Now he looked angry. “Why are you talking to me as if I’m a child? My feelings are not so simple that they can be hurt with words.”
There was a dark part of her that wanted to say something that would slice through him. Cutting him to pieces. To show him exactly how wrong he was.
She held back, again.
Interestingly, he didn’t say anything more. He turned and sat back against the couch. Dubor folded his arms over his chest and stared at the blank Minky screen.
She didn’t know if he was mirroring her on purpose, or if there was a natural pose for when you were angry and sitting next to the person you were annoyed with.
Some time later, air felt chilled. Ree wasn’t sure if it was from the tense silence, or if it was in fact, cooling down. Regardless she didn’t say anything and let the air add to her ire.
Silence was not something she had an issue with, even if it was tense because if she stayed quiet, she wouldn’t say something she couldn’t take back. Not that she was cutting on purpose, but it happened.
Also… if she was being honest – she was upset at herself too. She was the one who decided to tell an officer that she accepted the mating. A mating she didn’t want.
There wasn’t even a sexual attraction between them. Or at least, she didn’t find him overly attractive.
Not that a relationship was solely based on that, but it was a factor.
So she let the moment linger in effort to give her time to think. Not that she knew how to fix any of it – but maybe something would come to her.
But it was hard to think when it was cold.
Dubor huffed out a breath minutes later and walked to his room. When he returned he brought out a thick white fluffy blanket.
When he sat down he said irritably, “Here, your skin has bumps all over it. I read that happens when you are cold.”
Ree took the blanket, covered her shoulders and tucked her feet under her. “Thank you,” she said trying to keep the irritation out her voice because she wasn’t a jerk and she was genuinely grateful that she was under the softest thing she ever felt.
“This is a nice blanket.” The words came out before she realized it.
Dubor nodded once. “It is.”
The silence returned and stayed. Ree leaned over and used the arm of the couch as a pillow thinking of her first day as a mate, and how it was ending in angry silence.
Honestly, she couldn’t decide what upset her the most. The fact that she was mated to someone she didn’t know and didn’t want to be with, or, the fact that Dubor didn’t do anything that she could point her finger at and say, see, that’s why we can’t be mates.
He was a decent guy.
Bossy, yeah, but he fed her, cared for her and paid attention to her – enough to get her a blanket when he was pissed.
As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Ree didn’t know a single male human that would have done that for her. Not that there wasn’t such a male in the universe who did that, but the simple fact was, she didn’t know them.
Eyes closed, Ree told herself that by tomorrow, she was going to have to take the mating seriously. Figure out the rules, understand the expectation and go from there. It obviously wasn’t going to be a romantic relationship, but she was not going to let it become a hateful one full of resentment.
Already lived that nightmare with her parents.
Wasn’t going to make that her future.
At some point in her sleep Dubor must have picked her up and moved her into the bedroom. Because she woke up needing to use the restroom. Slipping out of bed, she noted that she was in his shirt and nothing else.
But again she let it go, used the facility and crawled back into bed. As soon as he was down, his arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her back into his warm body. The cold air in the room had chilled her and being up against him soothed her from the inside.
It didn’t take long to fall back asleep, which was insane because the few times she stayed the night at a date’s house, she couldn’t get comfortable.
Her mind was too foggy care.
Pressing her hand to his, she pulled it up to her chest and had him hold her tighter.
His mouth pressed to her shoulder and nipped softly. “Sleep.”
Dubor left her.
It had been two hours and twenty-two minutes since he went into work, and Ree was losing her mind. She was assaulted with conflicting emotions. One part was uneasy about Dubor going back to work because their might be another bomb. Granted he was able to save himself last time, but still. People died.
A lot of people died and being alone was forcing her to let that sink in. Ree may be a horrible person, but the more it sank in, the more she hated being alone.
Which was probably why the other part of her was furious with Dubor for leaving her. Work wasn’t that important. You don’t just mate someone – in word – and then leave them.
In the living room she had the Minky screen running a video just so she could hear someone else’s voice.
Boredom, she realized was a punishment.
Two hard bangs hit the front door. Too stunned to move she stared from the kitchen.
“Open up, this is officer Aben.”
Another hard hit. “I know you’re in there. Dubor said you were at home.”
A flurry of emotions and thoughts raced through her mind, doubting everything. At the same time she grasped at one thing she knew – Dubor was serious about having her as a mate. So with that one small nugget of truth, she guessed her mate didn’t send Aben to the house.
The officer was coming on his own.
And that worried her.
Another pounding and the officer shouted. “If you don’t open this door, I will break this door, and take you out with mire-cuffs.”
Ree’s heart beat hard in her chest.
This was serious, and yet she feared it was a ploy to get her out. So instead of going to the door, she slide on her socks, so that she didn’t make any sound, and moved to the closest window.
Sliding it open, she held her breath as she slipped out.
Her socks made no noise on the small pebbles. Very, very quietly she tip-toed from the house, through the thick layer of black fur trees, and silking vines. This side of the city was more open, and had more nature, which was more likely to kill you, than anything else.
A large tree lay down on its side, the length of it was too long to run around, so she climed. Hefted herself up, she flung a leg over…
Ree, fell hard on her side knocking the air from her lungs. Eyes closed, she felt the air heat and sizzle and crack in the air. The potent stench of burnt wood and plastics cut into her nose and lungs.
She pushed off the ground, she lifted herself up to see the house.
It was in pieces – only bits of metal from the kitchen and floor remained. Her heart beat faster…was Aben dead?
Movement caught her eye and she saw a dark figure, striding into the trees. Ducking down, she knew it was too late. He must have seen her.
Run, she told herself.
Ree wasn’t what you’d call, a runner.
Not that she couldn’t but running at top speed for a long duration wasn’t something she was going to be good at. She knew this, but she also couldn’t think of alternative solution to her current life and death situation.
So, she ran as fast as she could down the line of trees. Not going deeper, because that scared her just as much. There could be animals in there that would kill her just as soon as the person following her.
Her stamina was starting to slow and that was bad.
She chanced a brief look behind her, but she couldn’t see anyone. Ree didn’t let her confusion detour her, she couldn’t stop. She had to keep going.
Her chest hurt and her legs felt like an old banana peel. Yet she kept pushing her body forward.
Mouth dry wishing the moisture in the air would be enough to drink, she didn’t chance to look behind herself again until the tree line ended at a large lake.
What the hell was this?
She looked behind her, Ree didn’t see anyone.
In the air was a dark figure and a deep male growl. He was descending from the tall points of the trees, his body square and flat, using the air to glide on. She had no idea a person could do that. She shouldn’t have watched. She should have ran.
No thought entered her mind until the male landed on all fours. His form reshaped into a humanoid body. What kind of…thing was he?
Unable to process anything her body took over and moved her from that spot, all the way to her knees.
Ree scuttled back into the shallow water.
In one leap he had his hands on her chest, “Death for the human,” he said just before pushing her under water.
Air. She needed air.
Kicking out as hard as she could, she used his hold to make sure every kick was swift and constant.
His grip loosened to one hand as he tried to hold her legs, but the threat of death gave her that extra frenzy she needed. Ree felt his hold disappear and she shot out of the top and filled her lungs.
“You’re going to die,” he hissed jumping back at her.
This time she jumped to the side and swam deeper into the water. She felt his hold on her ankle and she kicked and splashed water at him until he let go.
Then she swam deeper and further, not wanting him to know where she was. Her lungs burned but she needed to get as far away as she could.
When she came up for air he was still on the beach. He pointed at her and started to run, not into the water, but around it.
Like he was going to get her when she reached the other side.
Dipping back under the water, she swam the opposite direction wondering how long before he came in after her.
The next time she came up for air she heard the sirens. The male who tried to kill her was running back into the woods. Staying on top of the water she swam to furthest side of the lake where the road was.
It took a while because the lake was large, but at least she was alive.
Pacing on the beach was Dubor, who looked like she felt.
Ree was breathing hard when she crawled out of the lake’s water. Still hip high she sloshed forward. Dubor ran into the water with a monstrous growl, wrapped his arms around her and held her too tight.
“Can’t breath,” she said weakly.
He let lose slightly, but he didn’t let her go. “I’m never leaving you again. I’m never letting you be alone for a second. I’m so angry.”
“You’re angry at me for being left behind. That’s dumb.”
Dubor’s face pressed against hers. “No. I’m angry at myself for not staying with you. Protecting you. You could have died.”
She could have had the killer not like the water. Maybe he couldn’t swim?
On the beach the medical staff made Dubor put her down. Eyes closed she held his hand, needing his touch to anchor her. The killer was not here, and Dubor would be her eyes. He’d watch out for her.
She could sleep.
“We need to ask her some questions,” a voice asked.
Dubor, her amazing mate hissed, “Get out of my face. When she’s ready I will call you.”
“That’s not how it works, she a witness.”
“She’s my mate.” The last word was roared, and the air stilled. No one spoke the medical staff who had been touching the inside of her arm pulled back.
Ree smiled faintly. “My mate’s protective of me.”
“Yes I am.”
“Where are we going?” Ree asked.
“Somewhere safe.” Or at least he hoped so. Right now he was less than confident about everything. He heard Ree tell the safety and security guards what happened. Which was horrifying to think she could have blown up and drowned, and somehow she survived both.
And then Aben showed up, with burn marks all over his face astonished Ree survived the blast at all.
Never had Dubor felt as scared as he was now. Someone was after his mate. He wasn’t sure if it was because of her being a Terran or if it was just her. Not that it mattered. His responsibility as a mate was to keep her safe.
He failed that by going to work and thinking his house out of reach.
“Where is somewhere safe,” Ree asked from the other side of the vehicle curled up into a ball.
“Somewhere out of this city, and if necessary, off this planet.”
“You want to leave the planet?” Ree dropped her legs and turned to him. He didn’t know if she was shocked in good way or a bad way. But this was all he knew to do.
“I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe. Even if that means leaving the planet.”
“And where would we go? Do I get a say in this?”
He thought about that. Should she get a say? He didn’t think it was proper mating conduct, but she was Terran. He would give her a chance to offer her opinion. Maybe it would help him decide on the best option.
“What would choose between a port planet, a moon farm or another races planet?”
She was silent.
Dubor landed the vehicle and got out. Ree stepped out, and instead of walking towards the shuttles she turned around to the main street. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” she snapped in a voice saturated with emotions.
Catching up, he stepped in front of her and she tried, foolishly to walk around him. Stretching out his arm he moved again and again.
“Get out of my way,” she screamed. Redness lined her eyes with a sheen of unshed tears. “I’m not leaving with you.”
It was in his mouth to say she didn’t have a choice, she was his mate, but looking at her face, he held back. She was fraught with more emotion than when she had just survived the building’s explosion.
Something had to be really wrong, but he didn’t know what, and he was too anxious to ask. He wanted them gone, and on a ship bound for anywhere that would be safe.
“Ree,” he started and then knocked back.
She had used her hands to push him away, and it didn’t feel like she was trying to be gentle.
Mates didn’t hit each other.
“Stop,” he said trying to get control. She couldn’t go back, it was unsafe.
Ree didn’t stop, she kept pushing and digging between him and the vehicle to get past him. “You do not get to dictate my life, Dubor. You don’t get to say you’re my mate and then,” she pulled back and stared at him with wet eyes and cheeks, “and then say my opinion doesn’t matter. If you were human, I wouldn’t even be here. You and I wouldn’t even be a couple – especially after you told me I hold no status – and planned to use it against me.”
Dubor had not expected their mating to go smoothly. Not at all. But hearing her say that even if they were the same race, she wouldn’t be with him hit something inside of him. Something so big he felt the crunch in his heart.
She didn’t feel anything for him. Not even a little bit. And here he was, dying inside with worry.
Never in his life, did he feel so…vacant.
It didn’t take any effort at all when he spoke next. Because somewhere in the mere moments between her declaration and his next breath, his fears, his worries, his love died. Unfortunately, he couldn’t unmate her. His kind didn’t take extra mates. And he already bound himself to her in blood.
Not that she knew.
Not that she cared.
Everything he hoped for was gone.
“If you really don’t want to leave, I’ll take you back.”
She held his eyes as if looking for lies. It was another thing his kind didn’t do to mates, but again, she didn’t understand – and he didn’t care to enlighten her.
He turned and headed back to the car. “We’ll go back.” And probably die.
“Thank you,” Ree whispered. Something was off with Dubor and she watched it happen, and yet she had no idea what it was.
Dubor didn’t answer.
In fact, he wasn’t talking at all. His eyes were half lidded as if he could fall asleep while flying. Everything about him was…off.
The communication screen pinged. Dubor didn’t move to answer it. Considering it wasn’t her vehicle she knew the call wasn’t for her.
On the third ring Dubor pressed the accept call.
“Dubor? This is safety and security officer Maelg. I was calling to see where you have decided to stay for the evening.”
“I have not settled anything yet.”
“It’s been hours, what have you been doing?”
“Flying,” Dubor said in the same droll voice as if he was seconds away from sleeping.
“When you settle, you must call and inform me, so I can send an officer to you. To watch over you.”
Dubor didn’t respond at all.
“There was an attack on the Terrans camp, over twenty people were injured. We are trying to figure this out.”
Dubor slightly raised and lowered his head, but the call was voice only and Ree wondered if he remembered that. She also wondered why he didn’t seem to care at all that someone attacked the Terrans. Did he honestly not care about anyone but himself?
“Dubor, are you still there?”
“Yes,” he said pulling over to landing pad for a hotel.
“Contact me when you’re safe and settled.”
Dubor didn’t say anything until the vehicle was down and locked into place. “Talk to you soon, officer.” And then he terminated the call. To her he said, “I’m going to go in and get us rooms. I’ll be back.”
Ree pulled her knees to her chest as she watched him walk away. Her emotions beginning to torment her again, making her want to cry. And the biggest problem of all was why did Dubor say he was getting them rooms, as in plural.
Dubor was in his room. He was sitting at the small chair peering at the bed with no more emotion than he would have looked at a drying puddle. It was empty and cold, and he refused to sleep, not when he had work to do.
Ree didn’t seem happy that he was in his own room, but considering what she said, he was sure it was just a fake disappointment.
Logging in to his system began the diagnostics of checking the security system. While he was in there, he remembered what Ree said about people knowing where she was. In his unemotional state of mind, he was able to view the situation with a new perspective.
How did they know where she was?
The system check was going to take a few more minutes so he opened and new screen and began a search.
He was information security and had access to everyone’s computer, including securities and the cameras. Dubor didn’t know why he didn’t think of it before – wait, yes he did, he was too worried about Ree.
But that was over now, he was on a new hunt. One that was starting to give him feeling back in his blood.
Which computers cut out first. That would give the origin of the blast. Then he could go back and see who was working in those areas.
Then he could cross reference the names, faces and data….
He was starting to feel alive again. His finger flew over the numbers and letters as he commanded the program to do his bidding. It was like picking up several puzzle pieces and checking to see if they belonged.
It was aggravated. It was exhilarating.
One moment he was closing in on the information, and the next he stopped.
Standing up he rubbed his mouth. What was he going to do now? No one was going to believe him.
“Where are we going?”
“Another hotel,” Dubor said absently thinking about all the things he knew. All the lies he believed.
“Somethings wrong with you,” she said and he almost laughed. Yeah, something was very wrong. Her voice was light as if she cared when she asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” There was nothing to talk about. He had all his answers, and he was doing all he could to keep himself together when everything he trusted and believed in was wrong.
Dubor turned off the flyaway and landed in the middle of a shopping center. He looked over, not giving her his eyes, but peering in her direction. “I’ve got to make an untraceable call. It would be best if you stayed here.”
He ignored it. Right now, sorries were pointless. He had important things to worry about. Opening the door, her hand shot out, and snatched his arm. “Dubor.”
His name on her lips didn’t affect him the same, but he was still her mate, and would do as matehood dictated. Turning he gave her most of his attention.
“I’m sorry for what I said.”
“No you’re not.”
She winced. “I was angry and hurt and you told me I was nothing – that I held no status.”
He had not said those words. But he didn’t care enough to fight.
Her hand squeezed his. “I don’t like it when you’re quiet and angry.”
Again he didn’t respond.
Shaking her head, a tear dropped down. “Fine, go make your call and do whatever it is you need to do. I’m apparently going to stay here.”
Good Seth of the Stars did she not get it. He was doing this for her. It was all for her!
“I’ll be back. Don’t unlock the door for anyone.” He hesitated for a moment and then added, “Even if it’s me. Don’t unlock the door. I have the access number – I’ll be able to get in myself.”
Her brows drew together. “What are saying?”
Dubor didn’t want to share with her, especially since she wasn’t his hearts mate – but only a mate via their blood. But for her safety he answered, “My twin is the one who tried to kill you.”
Her jaw slacked.
“I thought he died over five years ago. But I found security footage that puts him near the building a week before the blast. I know it wasn’t me because I was following you home. You liked to walk for some stupid reason, so I made sure you made it home.”
Why did he tell her that?
Why did her eyes soften?
No – he didn’t care.
Another tear dropped down her cheek. “Thank you for watching over me.”
Dubor rolled his eyes and got out. He was not going to let her tears win him over. Her emotions flip flopped like the wind. He couldn’t trust her.
Dubor was waiting in the small café outside the shopping area. Sitting with an untouched coffee, he watched as countless people walked by.
He had made the call to the safety and security officer an hour ago. He didn’t know how long it would take, but he was willing to sit all night long.
Ree’s body jerked forward. So attuned to her sounds he stood up without thinking. A dark hooded figure was looking directly at him.
“Brother,” Dubor whispered.
“Not anymore,” Castem said back. The male reached down and grabbed Ree’s hair and pushed her forward until she was sitting on a seat directly opposite him. Castem didn’t sit but he did keep a hand on Ree and that turned Dubor’s stomach.
No male was allowed to touch his mate.
Regardless of familiar blood.
“I noticed you left your Terran mate, so I took the pleasure of bringing her along.”
Acid filled his mouth as he said, “She not my mate of hearts. She has no ties to me – we are blood only. So you should know you wasted your effort.”
Castem was silent for a moment.
Dubor didn’t bother looking at Ree. He didn’t want to see her relief.
Then Castem chuckled and took a seat. “Then I’m doing you a favor, brother.” Castem reached over and pulled down on the collar of Ree’s shirt showing a small explosive device. “Was going to have her walk into your room, but this place works too. We can leave her here, and you can come with me, help me finish them rest of the scum off our planet.”
Dubor didn’t know how he shaped the views he did. With a family who hated Terrans he was the only one who thought they were interesting and beautiful.
Granted his family was right about one thing – they didn’t share compatible cultures – but even now, Dubor didn’t hate Ree. Or her kind.
“There are more of our kind here than hers. Why would you set off the bomb here?” Dubor asked.
Castem skimmed the faces, no emotions other than boredom. “They are like your brother, they walk among the Terrans as if they are equals. They don’t seem to know any better. I won’t mourn their death.”
Dubor picked up his cold drink and took a sip hating every drop of liquid. His brother’s nostrils flared. “You drink their filth?”
“Food is food, regardless where it comes from. But I’m more interested in what you plan to do with the Haylors after you eradicate the Terrans.”
Castem shrugged. “I’m not sure yet. There are a lot of Terrans on the planet. Not just in our city, but all over. They breed like parasites.”
Dubor set down the cup unable to force another sip down his throat. “Haylors have more children than Terrans. If they breed like parasites…how do you think we breed?”
Castem’s hand shot out and swiped the cup off the table. It flipped over a table and then clattered on the ground. “We are not them. We have had to breed more to keep our numbers high.”
What an insane thing to say. Dubor was not stunned, but amazed at how smart and dumb his twin brother was.
Dubor shook his head.
Castem’s quick hand grabbed Ree’s head and smashed it on the table making Dubor’s insides recoil with instant hatred and wrath. Kicking his brother’s chair he said, “Never touch what belongs to me.”
Castem slowly rolled off the ground and pulled back the hood and laughed. “I knew you were lying. She’s your mate of hearts.”
…she wasn’t supposed to be. Not anymore but seeing her pained face when it went crashing to the table was too much and his heart broke again. Splintering it beyond repair.
Castem held up a small button. “I’m glad I’m here to watch this.” Malice shone in Castem eyes as he stepped back. “You can let her die and safe yourself…or you can choose to die with her. I’ll give you to the count of three.”
Dubor heart burst as Ree scuttled back. “Live Dubor. This was my fault anyways.”
“One…” Castem’s voice rang in the air and all the peoples in the café finally understood what was happening and they screamed as they evacuated.
Dubor ignored them as he honed in on his mate.
Her head swished back and forth. “No. Go.”
As if he could.
“NoooooooooOOOO,” Ree screamed as Dubor launched himself around her, stretching his body until they were wrapped tightly. Death would be quick.
Ree’s breath sucked and sobbed as she pushed at his chest over and over.
Three…seconds ticked by, then four and five.
Dubor lifted his head, expecting his brother to push the detonation as soon as he looked up but…the room was empty save one.
He had a phaser in hand. It was pointed at the floor where Castem’s body was in a limp clump.
Aben looked around and then said, “I thought I saw you that morning. I thought maybe you had blow up the house on purpose. But the way you looked when you saw your mate, I knew I had it all wrong. I had to do some digging, but I found your twin brother. It made sense. Especially since we had tracked you to the source of the bomb in the security videos. I’ve been keeping track of you since.”
Dubor slowly pulled his body back together and offered his hand to Ree. Humbled and feeling too much he told Aben, “Thank you.”
The male Haylor nodded. “You’re welcome….and I’m sorry about what I said regarding mating a Terran. I guess you were right. It’s doable.”
Dubor was too conflicted to correct the male, but there was one pressing matter. “My mate has a bomb on her collar. Do you think you can call someone to get it removed?”
Aben nodded. “The crew is on their way.”
“Thank you,” Dubor said looking at his brother’s body again.
Ree’s small hand touched his arm. He didn’t look at her, but he did leaned down to hear her.
“I don’t want to stay in separate rooms again.”
He nodded wondering why this was the first thing she would bring up.
“And I want to talk to you, really talk. About being mates. All of it. I know I didn’t want to be mates at first, and our differences have been explosive, but knowing that you almost died with me is still killing me inside.”
Dubor nodded but he didn’t allow himself to hope that their matehood would work.
“I’ve never been in a real relationship, and I lost my family early so I’m use to just being me. So I’m sorry for not being good at this – and I want to make it work. I don’t like it when you’re…distant.”
Dubor didn’t have words. Hell he didn’t have anything but the need to stop her from talking. They were giving him too much hope, and he was liking them too much. So he pulled her into his arms and held her.
Ree’s arms clutched around his middle and she squeezed him. Pressing her face into his skin, and he felt her body sag, as if she had been waiting for his comfort.
Holding her firmly, he felt a heat inside his chest – melting his heart back together. This was nothing like it was supposed to be. Nothing at all.
The future was not going to be smooth, but maybe now they wouldn’t have to worry about someone trying to kill them – and they could start working on their relationship.
Lowering his head he kissed her hair and whispered, “You are the mate of my heart, Ree.” Even when he tried to think otherwise – he was shown the truth. He would be devoted to her forever.