Choosing Riley - S.E. Smith - ebook
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Readers' Crown Finalist! A brash, kick-ass heroine with a hidden vulnerability and an arrogant king forced to be a slave... Riley St. Claire has always followed her own rules. When she discovers her employer’s secret, she has to leave town in a hurry or end up buried with the dead guy she found, but when Riley is picked up by a passing trader from another world, she ends up a little farther away than she intended. After the King of Sarafin, Vox d’Rojah, was captured and sold to a mining operation, the last thing he expected to find was his bride mate. Vox isn’t sure which would be easier: another war with the Valdier or holding on to the human who will be his Queen. Fighting pirates, traders – and Riley – this will be one heck of an escape! Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of romance and adventure. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main Content: 242 (6x9) pages, 87,050 words

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Choosing Riley

Sarafin Warriors Book 1

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Epilogue

Sample of River’s Run

Additional Books and Information

About the Author

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend, Linda, who not only encouraged me to write, but who also read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Christel, Sally, Jolanda, Lisa, Laurelle, Debbie, and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!

And a special thanks to Paul Heitsch, David Brenin, Samantha Cook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, and PJ Ochlan—the awesome voices behind my audiobooks!

—S.E. Smith

Montana Publishing

Science Fiction Romance

CHOOSING RILEY

Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Publication March 2013

Cover Design by Melody Simmons

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

All characters, places, and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations are strictly coincidental.

Summary: Riley is abducted by a slave trader from another world and sold to a mining operation, where she meets Vox, King of Sarafin.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-64-1 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-27-6 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Science Fiction Romance – Fiction. 2. Science Fiction – Fiction. 3. Paranormal – Fiction. 4. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

Riley St. Claire has always followed her own rules. When she discovers her current employer is not as law-abiding as she thought, she has to leave town in a hurry or end up buried with the dead guy she discovered. What she doesn’t expect is to find herself being picked up by a passing trader from another world.

As the ruling King of Sarafin, Vox d’Rojah was expected to produce a son who would be joined in marriage with the first-born daughter of the King of Valdier. The problem was Vox had no intention of having any sons, at least not in the near future. He was quite happy with the wide selection of females he had at his disposal. When he is captured by a ruthless Valdier royal and sold to a mining operation, the last thing he expected to find was his bride mate.

Vox isn’t sure which would be easier: fighting another war with the Valdier or capturing and holding on to the human female who is unlike anyone he has ever encountered before.

Now Vox has to escape back to his world while fighting pirates, traders, and Riley!

The King of Sarafin has met his match in Ms. Riley St. Claire from Earth. He just needs to figure out a way to let her know he has chosen her as his Queen—and he has every intention of keeping her by his side forever.

Chapter One

“Choose,” the disembodied voice said.

Choose? Choose what? Riley thought, looking around her in disbelief at the rock walls. Choose to get the fuck out of this crazy nightmare? Hell, yeah. Choose to kill the bastards who put me in this miserable spot? Oh, hell yeah. Choose…

Riley jerked when she felt the ice-cold claw poke her in the back for the third time. Looking around, she followed the arm of the creature standing next to her as it pointed down over the edge of a small platform. She really was trying for that nice stage of being totally zoned out, but the damn creatures who kidnapped her twenty days before had an annoying habit of bringing her back to the unfortunate situation she was in.

“Choose,” the nearly eight-foot-tall stick figure said again, this time losing some of the disembodied tone.

Riley couldn’t help the little smirk that lifted the corner of her mouth. She really couldn’t. After the first week of captivity, she had moved from being mind-numbingly terrified to just downright pissed off at life. She figured if she was going to die, she might as well do what she did best: piss everyone off around her. That was what had gotten her into this situation in the first place—her big mouth and smart-ass attitude.

Okay, maybe she shouldn’t have pissed off her boss by telling him what he could do with his wandering hands when he grabbed her ass for the third time that day. Better yet, she shouldn’t have broken his nose, his hand, and more than likely his nuts since he had been screaming more than an octave or two higher than a soprano. Yeah, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Especially since his daddy happened to be the local sheriff. She was a bail bondsman, for heaven’s sake. Any freaking idiot should have known better than to mess with her. Her line of work required she know a certain amount of self-defense.

God, she thought. I really should have never taken that job.

When her boss swore she would never leave town alive after she beat the shit out of him, she figured it was time to get the hell out of Righteous, New Mexico. Of course, the fact her boss owned the local bail bond company and had a somewhat lucrative business going with his daddy should have been her first warning that something wasn’t right, she’d thought as she grabbed her purse and a large manila folder full of incriminating evidence against both of them. Finding out that daddy and junior were also running illegal weapons and drugs were definitely her second and third warnings.

Of course, the little tidbit of information she had found that morning about the dead guy buried under the storage unit had been the real reason she figured she had made a bad mistake. That information was now safely tucked into the manila folder stuffed in her purse, and it had gone along with her as she left the small town she had been living in for the past six months as fast as her old Ford could drive.

She actually might have had a chance to live a little longer if a series of life’s usual little hiccups hadn’t been blessed upon her. Again. Of course, if the car had been further than one push to the nearest junkyard it would have helped her great nonexistent getaway plans. It would have been better yet if the damn car hadn’t broken down just over the state line on the outskirts of the desert. She knew she should have purchased a new one last month, but she was such a tightwad she wanted to get every last mile out of it. And boy, did she!

Oh, and she couldn’t forget her best idea yet—getting in a truck with a guy who had more piercings and tattoos than a model for Prick Magazine instead of walking the three miles to the bar she had seen a roadside sign for.

No, I had to get my fat— Riley sighed. No, my maturely figured ass into the scum-bucket’s truck.

Riley sighed again. I really, really should have taken those anger management classes like my sainted sister, Tina, said I needed.

Unable to keep the grin off her face, Riley thought back to the look on the pierced, tattooed guy’s face when she shot him the bird as he drove off, leaving her in the middle of that godforsaken hell’s beach just as it was getting dark.

Give him a fucking blow job if I wanted a ride out of the desert, Riley thought savagely. Not bloody likely.

She showed him! As soon as he pulled over to the side of the road, she had been out of the truck cussing him up one side and down the other. Her Grandma Pearl would have been proud of her. She remembered every cuss word her grandmother ever said and a few her grandma probably didn’t even know. Of course, he had left her mature ass in the middle of nowhere.

Riley thought she was a goner until she had seen all those little lights coming toward her. How the hell was she supposed to know the fucking aliens had messed up where Area 51 was and ended up in Nowhere, Arizona? Riley had thought she was about to be rescued by a dwarf biker gang riding dirt bikes, not some alien spaceship out for a Monday night cruise for well-endowed women.

“Choose!” the tall creature growled out loudly.

Riley cleared her throat before turning to the stick-figured alien dwarfing her. “Choose what?” she asked, unable to hold back the slightly crazed giggle that had been threatening to escape her.

She giggled again at finally making the creature’s blank face break into a frustrated scowl. The creature slowly fisted its clawed hands before its shoulders actually drooped.

“Choose a male,” Antrox 785 said wearily.

Riley raised her perfectly arched eyebrows at the creature before turning to look at the selection of men who had been paraded in while she had been reflecting on how her attitude might have played a part in her present predicament. She had been watching haphazardly as a different female—at least she thought they were female—had been led to stand where she was now.

She was told—in a rather rude manner if you asked her—that she was being given the last choice because of her being so disagreeable, unpleasant, and downright ugly. She had, of course, taken it all in stride until the last comment and had to be restrained again after she‘d punched the stickman guarding her in what she hoped was his balls. Whatever the creatures had under their tunics, it laid the guy out cold.

Now, she was staring at one eight-foot-tall glob of green, oozing snot, something resembling a two-foot, two-headed lizard, and three six-foot-four or more drop-dead gorgeous hunks. Riley’s eyes widened. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was thirstier than hell, so she didn’t even have the capacity to produce enough spit, she would have sworn she was drooling.

She could tell by their build and their eyes and maybe the markings on their arms, chest, and shoulders, oh and did she mention their sharp teeth as they growled at the stick-alien, that they weren’t human, but man-oh-man did they look yummy! Riley thought dreamily for a moment before perking up again.

“What happens to the males that aren’t chosen?” Riley asked curiously, never taking her eyes off the three males.

“They will be used as food,” Antrox said with a frown. “Choose! All mated males will be kept to work in the mines. Mated males are easier to control as they are protective of their female. Now choose your male!”

“What if I don’t want to choose a male?” Riley asked sarcastically as she turned to face the tall creature next to her. “What if I don’t feel like choosing a male? What if I don’t even like males?” Riley added.

Right at that moment, she honestly believed she might not ever like any male ever again! After all, it was men who had started this whole hateful series of events starting with her no-good, dim-witted boss. Now, this overgrown toothpick expected her to just pick one of the bastards and mate with him?

That is so seriously not going to happen. Restraints or not, I will beat the shit out of any guy who tries to mate with me, she thought fiercely.

She wasn’t going to mate with any alien, no matter how cute they looked. She had watched enough science fiction movies to cure her of ever wanting any alien booty! What if those things decided to do some body snatching or exploding out of her? A shudder went through Riley at the thought.

Antrox 785 looked back and forth between Riley and the men on the platform below him with a confused expression on his face. “Why would you not want to choose a male? You are female! All of our data points to you being the weaker of your species and in need of a male for protection.” Antrox looked from the males back to Riley again. “Why would you not like males?”

Riley let loose a slightly hysterical laugh. Okay, maybe she was still just a little terrified. “Why don’t I like males? Now, that is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it? How about we go get a bottle or two of your strongest booze, get good and drunk, and I’ll tell you why I don’t like males anymore!” Riley’s voice was growing louder with each word. “Let’s start with you!”

Vox looked up in surprise as he heard a husky feminine voice shouting. He growled low as he caught his first sight of the buxom female who had turned toward the Antrox male. He wanted her. He didn’t understand why, but he wanted her—right now. His body instantly responded to her voice. He felt the primitive need to mate. To possess.

When he saw the face and body that went with the voice, it took everything in him not to struggle against the restraints holding him captive. She was curvy, with large breasts, a small waist, and hips that made his mouth water at the thought of holding on to them. Her hair was the color of their sun and flowed in thick waves down her back almost to her lush, rounded ass.

She is built for loving, he thought in awe as he watched her.

She was wearing a light pink top that molded to her lush curves. He couldn’t see what she looked like below her waist, but he could imagine it. He wanted to see her eyes. He knew they would be flashing with fire, and he wanted that fire turned on him. He snarled as another guard joined in using the stunning rods to force him back away from the edge of the platform.

He jerked in surprise, and his eyes widened as the female, who was tiny compared to the larger male, started jabbing the Antrox male in his chest and yelling at him. Vox snarled again when one of the guards pushed him back harder with one of the long rods. He ignored the sting from the shock and focused on the female’s hands, which were shackled in front of her.

Why would the Antrox shackle a female? Females were weak and to be protected. Vox had never heard of an Antrox male using shackles on one before. He listened in disbelief as the normally impassive species roared out in a loud, aggravated voice at the female.

“CHOOSE! Now, female, or I will choose for you!” Antrox 785 roared out.

He didn’t know what else to do. He was in charge of the mining facility. It was not his job to question who was brought to the mines. His job was to match a female with a male to ensure the males would be more docile. He had never encountered a hostile female before and did not know how to handle a female like the one poking her sharp nails into his chest.

Riley looked at the stickman standing in front of her and let out a sniff of indignation. “Well! There is no reason for you to get so uptight!” she said, turning her back to him and tossing her heavy mane of blond hair over her shoulder. “I choose all of them,” she said with an exaggerated sigh.

“What?” Antrox 785 practically shouted.

Riley turned to look at him and rolled her big, baby blue eyes. “I said, I will take all of them,” she repeated slowly with a slight shake of her head showing she thought he was a dumbass.

“But…but…” Antrox 785 stuttered in confusion. He looked down at the five men looking up at him and then back at the female. “No, you must choose one.”

“No, I don’t have to choose just one. I choose all five,” Riley said stubbornly. “Five or nothing!” she added with another determined shake to her heavy mane of hair.

“How can you have five males?” Antrox 785 asked in frustration. “All other females choose just one.”

“Well, I am not all other females. I am Riley St. Claire from Denver, Colorado, and I choose five,” Riley said with a stubborn tilt to her chin. “If you have a problem with that, you can just get over it. I’ve made up my mind, so there,” she added with a raised eyebrow, daring him to tell her no.

She would have crossed her arms to show she meant business if they hadn’t been tied together. Since she couldn’t do that, she put her nose as high as it would go in the air and gave her best ‘that’s my final answer’ look. She even thrust one hip out to show she could not be intimidated into changing her mind. If she learned one thing while being a bail bondsman, it was that body language could be a very effective weapon.

Antrox 785 ground his gums together in frustration. Throwing up a hand to the guards below him, he signaled for them to take all the men to the cavern assigned to the female. With a jerk of his head, he motioned for the two guards standing back behind Riley to come forward.

“Take her to her living quarters where her mates are and bring me the trader who brought the female here,” Antrox 785 said harshly.

One of the guards looked cautiously from Riley to Antrox 785 before replying. “The trader has already left, 785,” Antrox 921 said.

Antrox 785 looked down at Riley, who was baring her teeth at him and snapping them together. He took a step away, curling his clawed fingers into the palm of his green hands. With a nod of his head, he watched as the two guards escorted Riley out of the choosing room. Antrox 785 had already decided if it had not been for the law preventing an Antrox from harming a female—any female—he would have gleefully fed the female to the pactors, the large creatures they used to pull the ore out of the mines, as food. Antrox 785 made a note to himself that the next time the trader came to the mines, he would not be leaving.

Chapter Two

Vox jerked at the collar around his neck and received another burning zap from it. He growled at the other males who watched him. He knew two out of the four.

Tor was his chief of engineering, and Lodar was his medical officer. They had both been with him when he left his warship, the Shifter, to purchase crystals at the Valdier spaceport. All three of them had been enjoying some refreshments when a Valdier warrior approached them and said one of the members of the royal house of Valdier wished to speak with them.

Vox vaguely wondered at the time if it was in reference to the tentative peace agreement they had established almost a hundred years before. As the ruling King of Sarafin, Vox d’Rojah, was expected to produce a son who would be joined in marriage with the first-born daughter of the King of Valdier. The problem was Vox had no intentions of having any sons, at least not in the near future. He was quite happy with the wide selection of females he had at his disposal.

They had sat down to drink with an older Valdier warrior named Raffvin. He said he had news for Vox that concerned the peace agreement between the two former warring species. He had already made up his mind to ignore whatever the old warrior was going to say.

The male had been pestering some of his councilmen to meet with him. He was annoyed the Valdier had not taken the hint he wasn’t interested in meeting with him. As far as he was concerned, if he wasn’t their leader, Zoran Reykill, or Zoran’s brother Creon, he really didn’t give a damn what the man had to say.

He had met Zoran Reykill off and on during their many years of war and respected the man for being a strong and fair warrior who fought with integrity and cared about his people. It was his friendship with the youngest royal, Creon, that had sealed the end of the war and produced a long and lasting alliance. Creon had saved his life during an assassination attempt by some of his own warriors aimed at igniting fury at the Valdier during the Great Wars.

The resulting friendship had led to a collaborative effort to discover who was behind the war. A small group from the elite royal houses of Valdier, Sarafin, and Curizan were discovered to be working together to bring down the current ruling class of each star system so they could gain power.

Vox was determined to cleanse his star system of those who would betray their own people. He had gone after them without mercy, whether they were male or female; to him, a traitor was a traitor. He knew it had affected Creon badly when he found out the female he was in love with, a Curizan princess, was one of those responsible for instigating the war.

They had discovered it almost too late to save their friend. Ha’ven, the ruling Curizan prince, had been kidnapped in a plot to implicate the Sarafin and Valdier and to gain important information about the location of the Curizan warships. Vox had discovered one of his warriors returning late one night after sneaking off. He and two of his brothers had confronted the man. They discovered he had met with Aria, Creon’s lover. The warrior had been passing Sarafin information on to her. Vox had tortured every last piece of information from the man before he killed him and left his body on display in front of the palace for any others who thought to betray his trust.

He had approached Creon with the information he had discovered. At first, Creon had not believed him, but eventually he could not deny the evidence building up against Aria. They decided to set a trap for her. It had worked too well.

Only he, Creon, and Aria knew of their reported secret mission to transport a captured prisoner. When the mercenaries Aria hired showed up at the trap, they had killed all but the leader of the group. Creon had extracted the information from him. The man’s dying words were of Aria’s betrayal.

Later that night, Creon had the location of Ha’ven’s prison, and Aria was dead. Vox never asked his friend how he got the information out of her; he knew what he would have done. They had found Ha’ven three days later in a mining asteroid not unlike the one he and his men were currently imprisoned in. Ha’ven had been tortured and was more dead than alive. It was a miracle he had survived as long as he had, considering what Aria’s men had done to him.

Vox jerked back to the present when the door to the rooms he and the other men had been escorted to suddenly opened. He watched as three Antrox males entered. Two had long stunning rods, and the other had a strange-looking rectangular pink object on wheels. They were followed by the female he had seen earlier. She was talking to a fourth Antrox male who was following several steps behind her.

“Oh dear,” she was saying as she looked around the room. “This place screams classic caveman! Fred and Wilma really outdid themselves this time. I’ll have to be sure and send a thank you note for the lovely rock walls. Really, would it have hurt to have updated the décor by a few million years? I really am going to have to mark you down on Trip Advisor. This is simply too blasé considering today’s fashions and travelers’ expectations.”

The Antrox male behind her was grinding his gums together as she continued to ramble on about the furniture, floors, ceiling, and everything else in the room. Vox’s eyes followed the female as she tapped a slender finger on her chin when she stopped in the center of the room to look around once more. Heat filled him as her eyes swept by him. He wasn’t sure at first if the heat was from irritation that her eyes kept moving by him as if he didn’t even exist or his reaction to having her closer to him. One thing he did know, she was his and he wanted her now!

“Darling, can you put my luggage next to the bed? I hope you changed the sheets. I absolutely refuse to sleep on someone else’s dirty linens. Oh, Sticky-pooh, be a sweetheart and take off these adorable bracelets. As much as I like them, they really do clash with my outfit and totally say ‘prison inmate’ all over them,” the female said, walking up to the Antrox who was standing next to the one placing her suitcase next to the bed.

She smiled up at him and innocently fluttered her eyelashes. Instead of making the tall Antrox feel better, he actually took a hesitant step backward, looking at the male behind her for guidance. The one who had carried the strange large pink box looked relieved that she was focusing on someone other than him.

Vox’s blood heated to boiling when he saw her beautiful face glow in amusement as she watched the way the Antrox moved nervously around her. Her plump pink lips parted to show off smooth, even white teeth, and a small indent appeared on her cheek. He had never thought smooth-edged teeth were sexy before, but he decided right then and there he loved the way they looked on her.

The Antrox behind her nodded once to the other male and stepped back another step. The Antrox lowered his stunning rod and held out the key to the locking device. He motioned for the female to extend her hands in front of her. She did with a wide-eyed look and a nibble to her lower lip. Vox’s eyes followed the movement, and he almost groaned out loud as his cock swelled to a level of pain he had never encountered before.

The female gently rubbed her wrists and wiggled her little nose. “I hope you aren’t expecting a tip,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Because I have to say, I am not sure of the hospitality yet, much less the rest of the accommodations,” she added as she put her hands on her hips and tapped her booted foot.

“We must leave,” Antrox 264 said from behind her. “You will keep your mates calm and satisfied. They will be working the first shift so you may be near them.”

“Whatever,” the female said with a casual shrug. “I want clean towels brought in daily, and I’ll need a line of rope and several blankets delivered immediately.”

Antrox 264 nodded at the other guards to move toward the entrance to the cell. “Why do you need these items? They are not budgeted for workers.”

The female turned and glared at 264 through narrowed eyes, causing him to jerk backward another step. “Darling, put it in your budget unless you want me upset. You won’t like me when I am upset, do you understand? I am not a nice person when I am upset,” she said, taking a menacing step toward him with her eyes glittering with fury and determination. “Now go get me what I requested! Chop, chop!” she growled out with a snap of her fingers, causing all four guards to jump and hurry out.

Riley drew in a deep, calming breath to steady her nerves in preparation to meet her five new ‘mates’. She was shaking like a leaf on the inside, but she had learned a long, long time ago not to let it show. She put her hands back on her hips, drew in another deep, steady breath, and tossed her heavy mane of blond hair over her shoulder before turning around to face the five males again.

At five feet ten inches tall, she was a big woman. When you added in the fact that she was a solid size sixteen on a good day with double-D cup breasts, she was Xena on steroids. She had learned to live with her big-boned stature a long time ago.

She didn’t have much choice since she practically towered over everyone she’d ever met between the ages of four and eighteen while she was growing up. She had reached puberty early and had to live through all the Amazon and she-giant jokes that any sensitive young girl would have had to endure. Only, other sensitive young girls didn’t have Grandma Pearl raising them.

Grandma Pearl showed Riley how to punch anyone who made fun of her in the nose. When the fourth school’s social worker threatened Pearl that Children’s Services would take Riley and Tina away from her, Pearl showed Riley how to use her mouth as the weapon of choice after that. Riley had excelled at that much better than she had the physical forms of retaliation. Over the years she had plenty of opportunity to perfect her talent, as her grandma called it.

Releasing the breath she had been holding, Riley smiled brilliantly at the five alien males staring at her. “Well, boys, it looks like Auntie Riley is going to have to set some ground rules while we are together,” she said, looking at each one of the males carefully to assess how she was going to handle them.

Alien number one was about three and a half feet tall, had two heads, and looked like a combination of a lizard and ET. He was cute in his own special way. Each head had large, black eyes that moved nervously back and forth between her and the other four men. He was a dark green with areas of tan, black, and red on him running in long lines down his body. He was wearing a small leather vest and cloth, plaid-colored pants with child-size boots to match. He must have decided she posed less of a threat than the other males because he emitted a weak squeak and scurried for a corner of the room. She also decided he looked like a ‘Fred’.

Her eyes moved to the next alien creature. He—she was assuming it was a he, since the Stickman called him one—was almost eight feet tall. He towered over all of them, including the other three males standing next to him, but he just wasn’t all that scary.

He reminded Riley of the big tub of Jell-O in the movie Monsters vs. Aliens. He was green instead of blue, but he had ‘Bob’ written all over his wiggling body. He even left a light liquid that she hoped wasn’t radioactive or anything behind him.

He appeared to be wearing some type of robe over most of his body. She didn’t even want to think what might be under it. It was his eyes that gave her the feeling he wouldn’t hurt her. They were big, round, and the color of peach gumdrops with tiny black pupils in the center.

He was emitting a low humming noise that struck her as if he was terrified. She wasn’t sure what he was so scared of. So far, she felt like everything was going pretty damn good considering she had been kidnapped by aliens. At least Daddy and Dudley Dip-shit back in New Mexico couldn’t find her here.

Her eyes finally moved over the last three males. She felt like she needed an old fashioned fan like the women in the movies used to fan themselves to keep cool, because she could definitely feel the heat increase when she looked at them. The first one was hot!

He had his long hair pulled back at the nape of his neck. It was a long, golden blond with different shades coursing through it. He had patterns on his chest and left arm that looked like spots and was wearing a black vest, black pants, and black boots. Against his lighter color they really stood out. His dark golden brown eyes remained focused on her as she assessed him. He looked more curious about her than ‘interested’. Riley was thankful for that because she had a feeling that her mouth and her one physical ability to bop someone on the nose wouldn’t stop him for long if he decided to sink those sharp teeth of his into her.

Alien number four was the same height as the first one. She figured based on her own height they were probably about six feet four inches or so. It should have been nice to finally meet some guys she actually had to look up to except for the fact they were aliens!

Alien number four was looking at her with the same curiosity as number three had. He had more of a reddish-brown-colored hair and a darker tan. His hair was short and had stripes of darker reds and browns running through it. His eyes were a light greenish-tan color with specks of dark green in them.

He was dressed in the same type of clothing as the other guy. Riley assumed it must be a uniform of some sort. It was kind of like a biker outfit that the guys back home dressed up in on Sundays when they put their three-piece suits up for the weekend. Only she got the feeling these guys dressed like this all the time, and this wasn’t a costume to just look bad for a day. She got the impression from all the muscles on the guys that they were bad all the time.

Her impression proved correct when she finally looked at alien number five. She had avoided looking at him in the hope he was somehow less intense than the first time she saw him standing on the platform in the ‘Choosing’ room. If she thought he was hot from a distance, he was scorching up close!

It took everything inside Riley not to reach out and touch him just to see if he burnt her fingers. Thankfully, Grandma Pearl’s wonderful teachings saved her from that impulsive behavior. Pearl drilled into both her and Tina not to play with fire. Ever! Pearl explained that fire came in many different forms and most of them had two legs, one head that hung between them, and no brains to speak of. Riley thought her grandmother was like that because she and her daughter, Riley and Tina’s mom, had been left to fend on their own after the loves of their lives got them pregnant and left town.

It didn’t take long for her to realize it happened to others, as well. Pearl pointed out to Riley and Tina just how often when their friends or just girls that lived in their neighborhood would ignore the signs. One by one, Riley saw the girls in her neighborhood fall for the ‘bad boy’ only to be left at the first sign of another pretty face in the neighborhood, more often than not, with a baby to raise on their own.

Riley decided at twelve that she was not going to be one of those girls. Of course, that was also the same time that the dirty old man who ran the grocery store on the corner propositioned her. No, she was going to have a ring on her finger before she said yes to anything. She wasn’t going to get stuck raising a kid on her own like her grandma had or her mom would have if she would have stuck around. As far as Riley was concerned, the guy could put up or shut up.

It’s funny, in a way, Riley thought. That’s about the only thing Tina and I ever agreed on without ending up in a major yelling match first.

Riley looked back at the huge male glaring at her. Alien number five is not just screaming bad-to-the-bone,but he has an international market on it, Riley thought before a giggle escaped her. Make that an intergalactic market, she corrected silently as she saw his face darken at her laugh.

He was the same height as the other two, but seemed taller for some reason. Either way, he still towered over her by almost six inches. His black hair was cut short, almost military style. His upper chest was visible through the same black vest the other two were wearing.

He had darker spots across his chest that looked almost like a leopard’s, not that she had ever seen a real leopard before. Riley let her eyes roam down the eye candy, appreciating the tight fit of his… Her eyes widened when she saw the very distinctive bulge in the front of his pants. Her eyes flew up to his in surprise, and she fought to draw in a breath.

Somebody is horny, she thought in dismay, staring into the intense, burning tawny eyes.

“Okay,” Riley said, rubbing her hands together. “First rule. That is your side of the cave and this is mine. You stay on your side, and you remain in one piece. You come on my side, and I cut your dicks off and feed them to you for breakfast,” she said with a small smile and raised eyebrows. “I claim dibs on the bathroom for exactly thirty minutes every morning, and one hour every night, alone,” she added as she turned and walked over to where her suitcase had been dropped next to the bed.

She bent over to unzip one of the side pockets. A low, rumbling growl behind her had her reaching in quickly to grab the item she had been hoping to retrieve since she had first been taken. Her hand wrapped around the small, leather-covered device with a relieved sigh. She turned just as the huge male took a step toward where she was bent over. She looked up into the glittering eyes and swore silently. It looked like she was going to have to prove she would follow through on her instructions.

“Get back on your side of the room. Now!” Riley growled out, clutching the small device in her hand. “You stay! Bad alien. You are not to come on this side of the room!” she said fiercely, pointing her finger to the side where the other males stood.

“You are mine!” the huge male growled out as he took another menacing step toward her. “I claim you.”

Riley’s temper flared at his outrageous claim. “Last warning. Get your ass back on your side of the room, or I’ll do it for you,” she snarled back, straightening to her full height.

Vox grinned, showing off his pearly white sharp teeth. “I’d like to see you try,” he smirked, taking another step toward her until he was within arm’s reach of the female he knew was his mate.

Riley smiled, and a sparkle of devious delight glittered in her eyes as she looked up at the huge male towering over her. “Oh, darling, you really shouldn’t have said that,” she said right before she pressed the device she was holding against his chest and pressed the button on the small Taser.

Vox’s eyes widened briefly before a curse tore through him as his body jerked. His chest burned as the explosive shock jolted him backward where he collapsed on the hard stone floor. His body twitched as his muscles reacted to the powerful shot of electricity that it had received.

His jaw clenched tightly as he fought the painful effects, but it was useless. He had absolutely no control over his muscles. It was ten times more painful than the shocks from his collar or from the stunning rods he had received from the Antrox.

He forced his eyes to follow the female as she put her hands back on her hips and tossed her head back with a glare at his men who were growling at her. Tor and Lodar snarled in rage as they grabbed him by his arms and pulled him away from the female who was standing back near the bed, hissing at them and snapping her teeth. His eyes flickered to hers, and he saw the brief flash of fear before she concealed it.

Chapter Three

“How are you feeling?” Lodar asked quietly.

Vox grimaced as he rubbed his chest. Twin burn marks stung as his hand moved over them. His eyes followed the female as she worked to hang a curtain wall with the items the Antrox guard brought in almost thirty minutes before.

She was humming under her breath a tune he had never heard before. It had taken him almost an hour to recover the full use of his limbs without feeling like he was going to fall on his face. He tugged at the collar around his neck and cursed when he felt the small shock. His muscles reacted to it instantly as they were still a little twitchy from the heavy jolt they had received a short while ago.

“Pissed!” Vox growled out in a low voice as his eyes followed the movement of the female as she bent over again. “Guall’s balls, if she bends over one more time,” he swore as he felt his cock rubbing painfully against the front of his pants. “She is my mate,” he muttered in a low voice to both his men.

Tor and Lodar looked at Vox in astonishment before turning to look curiously at the figure of the female trying to build a wall with blankets in the narrow room. After she had touched Vox and knocked him on his ass, she had the Gelatian move the bed closer to the wall.

She proceeded to pull a piece of white rock out of the huge bag she had draped across her body. The bag had all types of different stones and images on it, and it had taken her several long minutes to find what she was looking for. After she found it, she had gotten down on her hands and knees and drawn an uneven heavy white line down the middle of the room.

She had looked so proud of herself when she finished that none of them, save Vox who was still lying on the floor twitching, knew what to say. She had proceeded to tell them who she was, and that they were to stay on their side of the line or she would rip their heads off and shove it up their asses.

What was incredible was she had said it while giving them a beautiful, dimpled smile. Tor and Lodar had looked at each other and finally had to turn their backs to her so she wouldn’t see them laughing silently. The thought that a line drawn in white would keep a Sarafin warrior from crossing it if they wanted to was more than they could handle without laughing, at least until they looked at Vox who was still sprawled out in a twitching mess on the floor.

Moments later, an Antrox guard delivered the items she had requested with a confused frown. She had blown the guard a kiss after she grabbed the items and deposited them on the bed. The guard paled as he glanced down where Vox was lying on the floor, jerking. He left quickly after that.

“Oh, Bob, honey, can you be a sweetheart and help me for a moment again?” the husky voice called out from where she stood balanced precariously on a large rock. “Fred, baby, just hold the line for a few more minutes. I think I’ve got it this time.”

“She is called Riley St. Claire from Denver, Colorado—wherever that is,” Tor said in amusement as he watched her almost fall off the rock again. “She is…a most unusual creature.”

“Do you know what she is besides being a hair up my cat’s ass?” Vox snorted before he looked at Lodar who was anxiously watching as the female teetered for a moment before regaining her balance.

“No, I’ve never seen a female like that before,” Lodar ground out through clenched teeth as she wobbled again. “Most species I know have some sort of instinct for self-preservation. This one seems to be lacking that particular trait. She has fallen off that rock three times now, and it is a miracle she hasn’t broken her neck!”

Vox gritted his teeth. He was well aware of how many times she had fallen. Tor caught her once—barely—Lodar the second time, and she’d landed on the Tiliqua she kept calling Fred the last time. He had not been able to catch her because he still couldn’t even stand without falling on his own face, thanks to her. Now even his jaw was sore from grinding his teeth every time she almost fell, bent over, or just thrust her— He groaned again as his cock jerked in response to her bending over and affectionately patting Fred on one of his heads.

“You are just such a sweetheart,” she cooed. “Bob, you cute bowl of key lime Jell-O, can you hook the other end of the rope on the wall like you did on this side?”

The huge body of the Gelatian started to move toward Riley to take the rope she was holding out but stopped when Vox emitted a low, dangerous snarl. The huge being trembled in terror. Its head turned back and forth between Riley and Vox. Vox rose stiffly and glared at the creature in warning.

“My lord,” Bob choked out. “The female— She—” the creature stuttered out before his voice faded.

“Oh, just ignore him, you scrumptious dessert. He’s all growl and no howl,” Riley said before she giggled. “Oh, that was so good! Do you get it? All growl, no howl? Damn, sometimes I’m just good.”

“Sarafin warriors do not howl,” Vox said through clenched teeth as he took a step toward the female. “Female, if you ever shock me again I’ll turn you over my knee and spank your big ass until it is as red as the Brighton dwarf star.”

Riley turned and wobbled dangerously for a second on the rock where she was standing. She glared at the huge figure threatening her. She was as tall as he was now. She reached her hand down along her side, easing the small cylinder she had taken out of her luggage and slipped into the pocket of her skirt into her hand. Her eyes glittered dangerously, and her lips pulled back but it was not into a smile.

Oh, like hell he did not just say I have a big ass, Riley thought viciously.

Her lips pinched together into a pucker before relaxing. “As you said earlier, Saraprick,” she replied in a quiet, sarcastic voice. “I’d like to see you try.”

Vox smiled at the challenge. He was going to enjoy getting his hands on her luscious body finally! He was going to finish the curtain wall, bend her over, and take her hard and fast.

“And as you said, you really shouldn’t have said that!” he purred out as he walked slowly toward her.

“Vox,” Tor murmured from behind his friend and leader. “I don’t think that is a good idea,” he said, getting a bad feeling from the look in the female’s eyes.

She did not look like she was worried. In fact, she looked like she was out for blood—Vox’s blood if he had to guess.

“She doesn’t have her weapon on her,” Vox responded, nodding to where the small Taser lay on the bed. “She’ll be purring like a kitten once I’ve claimed her.” Vox smiled as his eyes glittered possessively. “That’s what you need, isn’t it, little cat? A good fucking.”

Riley’s face flushed at the dark promise in the huge male’s voice. “I am so going to enjoy putting your ass on the ground again!” she hissed out, trying not to give in to the desire to turn tail and run.

The problem with running was there was nowhere to go in the small room. The second problem was that she had learned a long, long time ago if you didn’t stand up to a bully when you had a chance, you might never be given another one. She gripped the cylinder, waiting until he took another step closer to her.

“Last chance, big boy,” Riley warned softly. “Step back over the white line and leave me alone, or I’ll have to put you down again.”

Vox almost paused at the soft warning he heard in her voice. There was a trace of steel that told him she wasn’t going to run. She would stand and fight him tooth for tooth, claw for claw. His eyes stared deeply into hers, and he saw a resolution in them. She would not back down. His pride in her grew at her fierce determination to face him even though he could see the slight trembling in her hand as she pushed a long strand of white blond curls behind her ear. She was a worthy mate for a king.

“You are mine, little kitten,” Vox responded gently. “You will accept what the gods have given you. Come to me willingly or come to me fighting, but come to me you will.”

Riley shook her head and tightly pinched her lips together in determination. “Sorry, dude, I’ve seen enough alien movies to know that it never turns out good for the supporting actors. Since I’ve never been a heroine, this is a no-win situation for me. I’d just as soon go down fighting.”

Vox’s grin widened. “I always did like a good fight before I fucked,” he said, reaching to grab her off the rock.

“Your choice,” Riley muttered, holding her breath as she held the small cylinder up and depressed the button.

Vox’s roar filled the small room as the pepper spray hit him in the face. Riley stood frozen on the rock, pressing her hands over her ears as his loud curses and pain-filled roar continued to echo. He fell back several steps, grabbing at his face, before he fell to his knees in agony.

“What did you do?” Lodar asked in horror as he tried to help Vox who was rocking back and forth on his knees emitting low mewing sounds of pain.

“It will stop hurting if he washes his eyes out…I think,” Riley whispered. “I’ve never actually had to use it before, but that is what the directions say to do.”

“You’ve never used this weapon before?” Tor said as he gripped Vox’s shoulder and tried to see what was causing his friend so much pain.

“Well, I warned him!” Riley said defensively. “It’s his fault for not listening.”

“Female,” Vox hissed out painfully. “I’m going to strangle you when I can see again.”

“If you even think of it, I’ll…I’ll…” Riley threatened back. “I don’t know what I’ll do but it is going to hurt you more than me!”

“Not if I can help it,” Vox groaned as Lodar laid a cool, damp cloth over his burning eyes.

Hell, he needed one for his nose, throat, and mouth as well. When she raised her hand he had thought she was just trying to warn him to stay back. He had not expected her to have anything in it. Both of her hands had been empty except for the rope she was trying to hand the Gelatian just minutes before. He had made sure she didn’t have anything in them after the first time. Where in Guall’s balls she got her hands on the device she used on him he didn’t know, but he was going to be damn careful the next time he got near her! Gods, his eyes, nose, mouth, and throat burned!

“Just…just keep away from me, and I won’t have to hurt you again,” she muttered before turning to the Gelatian and the Tiliqua. “Come on, guys, help me get this wall built before Saraprick gets on his high horse again.”

Riley glanced at the green, gelatinous being and smiled when he shook and moved backward instead. “It’s okay, darling. It won’t take but a moment. I won’t hurt you, you tub of gorgeous green.”

“He is not gorgeous,” Vox growled out hoarsely, trying to glare at the female through blurry, burning eyes. “You will not speak to him like that. I am your mate!”

Riley glared back at the huge, seething male who was glaring at her with watery red eyes. She felt her pulse rocket at his deep growl, and that just made her madder. She would not let her body react to some overzealous, pompous alien, no matter how cute he was!

She brought to her mind the last five alien movies she saw and reminded herself that not a one of them ended well for the humans. Just look at what happened to Sigourney Weaver. She not only had that alien bursting out of her—she became one! There was no way that Riley was going to take a chance of that happening to her.

“I don’t believe I was talking to you,” Riley growled back. “Now, go bother someone else for a little while. Bob, honey, get your green body over here this instant. I think I feel a headache coming on, and I want to rest in peace for a little while.”

“Female”—Vox bit out in warning, wiping at his eyes—“If you need help, I will give it.”

“My name is Riley. Riley St. Claire from Denver, Colorado, not female. Don’t forget it.” Riley sniffed indignantly and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear as she tried to balance on the rock without falling off it again. “Now, let Lodar help you. He seems to know what to do. And quit making that god-awful growling noise. It is beginning to get on my nerves.”