Enjoy a sneak peek at chapter one of Ren, coming August 23rd.
The red guy. Again.
Emry thought she was done with alien Romeos who made promises and then ditched you, but their paths continued to cross. What’s a girl to do when the same guy keeps turning up like a bad penny?
Steal his ship
The wrong thing for the right reason.
Four years ago, Ren made the mistake of choosing duty above his mate, a fragile human female unsuited for his toxic planet. He sent her away and has searched for her ever since.
Now fate has brought them back together. She might have stolen his ship and abandoned him, but he won’t let her get away a second time.
The chase is on.
Ren is a stand alone story with second chances and a hard won HEA. No cheating because we’re not here for that.
The vehicle rolled to a stop outside the departure terminal. The female shifted on the seat, clutching her rucksack like a shield.
He turned off the vehicle. The engine ticked as it cooled. “I will accompany you inside,” he said.
“No, that’s fine,” Emmarae said, her voice stiff and her eyes forward. From this angle, he studied her profile. She was Terran, there was no way to avoid noticing, with her pale beige skin that seemed like no color at all and could not be healthy, the speckles of sun damage scattered across her nose and cheeks, and her hair so pale it was nearly white, like a shimmer of a mirage on the horizon.
Her narrow, thin blade of a nose kept drawing his eye. How could anyone draw enough air with such a feature? Rolusdreus would never produce someone so obviously ill adapted for survival.
Ren hated this, every moment of this.
“Look at me, female.”
“My name is Emmarae.”
“Look at me, Emmarae.”
She sighed, turning to face him. A jagged scar pulled at the corner of her mouth, turning it to a ludicrous grin. “Why? Is eye contact going to change anything?”
“No,” he admitted. “This is for the best. The warlord–”
“I don’t give a flying fuck what your warlord has to say. This is between you and me, and, right now, big shocker, you suck,” she snapped.
“This is for the best,” he repeated. The planet had high levels of radiation. His Mahdfel physiology was designed to thrive in the harsh environment, but her fragile Terran body could not survive. When the first Terran females arrived to be mated to the warriors of the clan, many were skeptical of their value. The female could not venture outside the domes without wearing protective armor. They were unable to tolerate the extreme temperature fluctuations. Even the sun was too harsh and burned delicate skin.
When the warlord forbade any more Terran females, Ren reluctantly agreed. His closest friend and his Terran mate suffered the loss of their unborn son. He would not wish that suffering on anyone, even if he thought it dishonorable the way his friend, Havik, sent the female back to Earth.
Then the warlord put an ultimatum to his warriors that anyone with a Terran mate had to refuse the female or leave the clan. Ren kept his opinion to himself as good warriors left the clan, choosing their mates over an egomaniacal warlord. He admired those males, doing what was correct and honorable.
He never imagined what he would do in that situation. Why would he? Everyone knew Ren was inferior. He was small, the runt of the clan, and obviously defective. Generations of genetic engineering and adaptation crafted the perfect warrior to thrive on the harsh planet, and all of that failed to manifest in Ren.
No female would be matched to him and if they were, the hubris he would need to claim her, to defy the scorn of his clan and his warlord. He could not imagine their sons.
“You deserve to be where you will thrive,” he said.
Perhaps if the warlord’s son, Havik, had kept his mate instead of sending her back to Earth, then other warriors in the clan would have resisted the warlord’s push to remove Terran females. Ren grew angry at the way his friend had been fortunate enough to be matched to a mate then rejected her, angry at the way he, himself, had been pressured to refuse his own Terran mate, and even angrier at himself for not resisting that pressure.
He was a failure in every way conceivable.
“You may file for a divorce. I will not contest your decision. It is for the best,” he said.
“You keep saying that but I don’t think you know what that means.”
He understood. Every moment of this day irritated him like sand in the joints of his tail but he could see no other way. Faced with only poor choices–keep his female and be outcast from the clan while the very planet slowly poisoned her, or reject his mate to keep her safe and healthy– he chose the wrong action for the correct reasons. He hated it but he would have to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. Her wellbeing was more important than his ego.
“I understand,” he said, even if she did not.
“Do you?” She turned to face him, the scar lifting her top lip in an exaggerated grin, but that was the only thing about her face that appeared amused. “How much humiliation do you think I deserve? I go back to whoever’s in charge, the alien bureau, and I explain that I didn’t cut it. They match me again. I get rejected again. For fucks sake, how pretty do you need me to be?” She pressed a finger to the corner of her eyes.
Ren realized with alarm that she had grown emotional. “Do not cry,” he said, unable to stop the female’s tears.
The tears he caused.
“Oh, fuck you. I’ll cry if I want to. I mean, I know what I look like.” She waved a hand to her face. “I get it but I also figured that all cats are gray in the dark, so it didn’t matter much. Butter face. Put a bag on my head. Ha ha. Well, jokes on me.”
“I have excellent night vision.”
She tossed him a sharp look. “Really? That’s what you have to say?”
“I have miscalculated–”
A bitter laugh tore from her throat.
“If you believe your appearance is the cause of my rejection, you are mistaken.” He liked the scarring and the sun damage. It was interesting in a way he was not used to seeing. Mahdfel healing prevented skin from being marked in such a manner, unless severe damage was caused by a poison or some other caustic agent.
She leveled a flat stare at him, full of challenge and resentment.
“This planet is not suitable for Terrans,” he added.
“Whatever. Is this going to take long because it’s boiling in here?”
He turned the engine over. Cool air rushed out of the vehicle’s vents.
“I’m not doing the test again. Going through this once is enough,” she said.
He disliked the idea of her being matched to another. He had no right to feel possessive, but Emmarae was his match. His mate. No one else should have her, even if he could not keep her.
He disliked himself even more for his greedy, grasping thoughts.
“Some males send their mates to a safe location, when the environment is unsuitable or an active battlefield,” he said, a proposition half-formed in his mind. The wide collar of her tunic slipped off her shoulder. His gaze lingered on the curve of her neck where it joined her shoulder.
There. His mark would go there in that patch of unblemished sallow beige skin. The thought pleased him immensely.
“It is not unusual. No one will remark on your return to Earth if they believe you are mated,” he said.
She gathered the fabric of the shirt in one hand, pulled it to her throat and covered that intriguing location. “What do we have to do to make that happen? Consummate the marriage?”
Consummate. Such an interesting Terran word, combining consume and mate.
Yes, he would very much like to consume Emmarae but he said, “A bite mark would suffice.”
“Here?” She looked around the cabin of the vehicle.
“Here.” He reached for her shoulder but halted when she flinched. When she relaxed and gave a slight nod, he lightly touched where her neck joined her shoulder. “And here.”
“Will it hurt?”
Undoubtedly. Usually the bite happened mid-mating, when the female would be, if he did his job correctly, too euphoric to notice.
A tapping at the window interrupted his thoughts.
“Not now,” he barked at the figure on the other side of the vehicle’s window.
“You can’t park here. You’re blocking traffic,” the person said.
Ren looked at the empty road and gestured broadly. The spaceport had no traffic. Rolusdreus was not a tourist destination and had few exports.
“Either drop off your passenger or move your vehicle,” the person said.
Grumbling, Ren pulled the vehicle into a lot on the other side of the road. They were only a few meters from their original location.
“What do we have to do for the bite? I don’t want an infection,” Emmarae said. Despite her stern tone, her hands twisting in her lap gave away her nervousness.
Ren produced a med kit from under the seat. “I will clean the skin and apply a numbing agent. Your discomfort will be minimal.”
She eyed the kit. “And people will think we’re married?”
“I won’t have to be matched again,” she said with a relieved sounding exhale. “Okay. Fine, but since we’re on biting terms, call me Emry.”
“Emry,” he repeated. He enjoyed the shape of her name on his lips. The moniker suited her much better than the florid Emmarae.
“Let’s get this over with.” Emry tugged down the collar to bare her skin and gathered her hair in one hand. She tilted her head to one side and screwed her eyes shut, as if anticipating pain. A pale, silver scar, faded with age, ran along the clavicle.
Ren opened the cleansing packette and gently applied the swab. A chemical odor filled the vehicle’s cabin but quickly evaporated. Next, he applied a numbing gel.
“Ugh, my nose tingles. Is it supposed to tingle?” Her free hand scrubbed at her nose.
“No but do not be alarmed. Terran epidermis is thinner than a Mahdfel’s.” Most were. Ren and his ilk had been genetically engineered to be superior warriors with accelerated healing, increased muscle mass, heightened senses, enhanced reactions. A durable epidermis was part of the package.
“Is it safe for humans?”
“Yes,” he said with fake confidence.
Emry searched his face. She sighed, either believing his bluff or deciding that she could not be bothered to question him. Squeezing her eyes shut, she said, “Fine. Just do it.”
“I will touch you now.”
Another sigh. “Spare me the play by play. Make with the biting.”
Ren lightly stroked her shoulder and watched her for a reaction or a flinch. Nothing. The area must be sufficiently numb.
He brushed back her hair, tucking it behind a rounded ear. The pale strands were fine and flowed like water. His thumb brushed along the clavicle scar. “What happened here?”
“Same thing that happened to my face,” she snapped. Then sighed. “Sorry. A car accident. Broken collarbone. It was a long time ago. It’s… a sensitive subject and it’s been a hell of a day.”
Yes. His fault, again.
Leaning across the vehicle, he pressed her face into the curve of her neck. His tusks dragged across her skin and he breathed in. If this would be his only opportunity to touch his mate, he would savor the experience. Underneath the antiseptic chemical, he caught the scent of lush, damp earth and green. So much green. Her scent was unknowable, born of a gentler planet and forbidden to him.
Longing pierced through him and he bit down, sinking his fangs in until he tasted blood. His tusks dug against her clavicle but did not puncture her skin.
Emry gasped. “That’s so weird. It’s wet and I feel pressure but nothing else.”
Ren withdrew and made quick work of cleaning and bandaging the bite.
“That’s it?” Her fingers touched the gauze covering, as if in disbelief.
“That is it. We are mates,” he answered.
“Legally mates. You can not be bound to another,” he said, knowing he spoke a half truth. She could still petition for a divorce and mate another male, if she so chose. Ren had the feeling that once Emry set her mind to a task, nothing, not even a half-truth, would be an obstacle.
“So this is goodbye.” Again, a touch to the gauze covering.
“It is for the best.”
Eventually he would believe the lie.
Okay, so they’re off to a rough start. I got a plan! Let me know what you think!