Ferrix stood back, watching Kat and Rae as they helped Caprice with her bags, a care package she’d put together for their trip back to Erion. His jaw hardened at leaving Earth without taking Kat with him. A stack of bakery boxes in Caprice’s arms teetered dangerously, threatening to topple over the edge of the bags and fall to the floor.
Rae reached forward to grab the pile of boxes. “Let me help you with that before you drop it.”
Caprice rolled her eyes. “I’ve got this. I’ve got this.”
Rae laughed. “Famous last words.”
Kat’s laugh rang through the foyer, and their eyes met. He sensed the wariness in her eyes but also the curiosity. She was beautiful, kind, and intelligent—everything he could ever want in a mate. The mating markings on his chest pulsed when he looked at her, and he knew what it meant. He had crossed twenty light years to find his fated mate. The likelihood was astronomical, but it felt like a cosmic inevitability.
Ferrix remembered the day they had met. Kat, short for Katherine, had been practically naked, which didn’t help matters. She had clutched a towel wrapped around her and another wound around her wet hair piled on her head. Her gaze had swept over Ferrix as if she could devour him, and his pants had grown far too snug around his groin. Her lips had pursed, and her head had tilted to one side. When she had licked her lips and frowned, he had wondered what they would taste like and imagined it as he sniffed the air, inhaling her scent.
Now, he could see the conflict in her eyes. She was attracted to him, but she was also afraid. He could smell her fear, and it made his heart race. He didn’t want to scare her, but he couldn’t deny his desire.
Kat shook her head. “You’re going to drop it!”
The boxes were shifting precariously when Xavi’s hands snaked out from around Rae, and he quickly grabbed the top package before it toppled over.
Caprice winked. “Thanks, handsome.”
“Do you want me to help you finish packing?” Caprice gazed at Rae sympathetically.
“No, but thank you. I’ll be fine. I’m almost finished. Nin said to bring anything sentimental and clothes.”
Nin nudged Caprice’s arm. “You can help me carry things out to the ship.”
“I want to help too.” Ferrix grabbed the bags from Caprice, anything to distract himself and keep his mind off leaving Kat behind. Her eyes shimmered with regret, longing, and shadows of an emotion Ferrix couldn’t sense even when he scanned her thoughts.
“I think I’ve got it covered,” Xavi muttered before focusing on Caprice again. Caprice smiled back as she followed him to the backyard.
Nin trailed behind them. “I really appreciate you helping. This will take a while, and we want to be ready to leave as soon as we return from our excursion into the city for those Philly Tacos that F.U.C.K.D.E.E.P says we must try at least once.”
F.U.C.K.D.E.E.P stood for First Universal Conscious Knowledge Desk Early Edition Program, but the artificial intelligence that operated their ship was wrong more times than it was right.
“And, of course, mates for Xavi and I.” Ferrix said, but his voice lacked enthusiasm at the prospect of taking anyone back to Erion other than the curvy woman standing before him.
Kat appeared even less pleased when Ferrix mentioned his intentions, but she didn’t say anything as she grabbed the large suitcase Rae had packed. Ferrix followed Kat as they made their way to the cloaked ship in the backyard.
When they reached the spaceship, his brother Nin tapped the digital display attached to the band around his wrist. “F.U.C.K.D.E.E.P uncloak the ship and open the hatch.”
The ship’s side door slid open with a hiss, revealing the interior of the spacious vessel. The ship’s inside was dimly lit, with a soft white light emanating from the ceiling. The walls were a sleek, dark grey. Ferrix couldn’t pry his gaze away from Kat even when Nin invited everyone inside. They all piled into the spaceship, which appeared larger on the inside than on the outside. The interior was spacious, with plenty of room to move around. Comfortable-looking chairs and couches were scattered around the ship, a large kitchen area, and a dining table. At the front of the vessel was a control panel with a large viewscreen.
Caprice’s eyes lit up. “Wow, is this like a Tardis?”
“Tardis?” Xavi responded with a quizzical brow raised.
Caprice shrugged. “It’s a mythical ship that travels through time on a television show called Doctor Who.”
Xavi shook his head. “I do not know this Doctor Who you speak of.”
Ferrix watched his brother as he pressed a few buttons on a dashboard with many lights and controls. They glowed a bright green throughout the dimly lit space. A computerized voice began to speak, and Nin turned toward the holographic display that materialized. The display showed a star map with a blinking red dot representing their current location. Nin traced his finger along the map and followed their route to arrive on Earth. It would be a long journey back to Erion.
“What are you doing?” Rae asked.
“I’m programming coordinates into the ship. When we get back, we can leave immediately.”
Nin took off his sweat-stained shirt, revealing his muscled chest and broad shoulders. He headed down the stairs toward their sleeping quarters. Caprice and Xavi began storing the food in a high-tech kitchen, their movements efficient and practiced. Rae grabbed her suitcase, which Kat had left near the entrance, and lugged it down the stairs, her arms shaking with the effort. Kat stepped toward the open hatch door. The heavy metal door creaked as it swung wider.
Ferrix’s eyes lingered on Kat’s body. He took in her every curve, and how her hips flared out and waist dipped in. He wanted nothing more than to touch and kiss her, to make her his own. But at the same time, he was terrified of her rejection. He wanted nothing more than to see her eyes light up when she told him she loved him, but he wasn’t sure if he would ever hear those words.
He stepped closer to her, blocking her path. “Stay with me, Kat.”
She bit her bottom lip as she avoided his gaze. “And do what? Where would I stay? What would I do? I can’t leave my business behind or...”
He knew who she was thinking about because the images were apparent in her thoughts. Ferrix gripped her shoulder, and her body went rigid. He rubbed it to soothe her, but she wiggled away from his touch. “You’ll stay with me.”
She shook her head, and her hair swayed around her shoulders. “You don’t understand. I can’t go with you. My entire life is on Earth.”
A knot formed in his throat. “You are my life.”
“How can I be your life?” She waved her finger between them. “You don’t know me.”
Ferrix growled as he took a step closer to her. “I know enough. I know you’re my mate, and we’re meant to be together.”
Her eyes glistened. “No, we’re not. This is crazy, and I can’t just go with you.”
“Yes, you can.” He grabbed her hand, and her fingers interlaced with his. The instant they touched, his markings lit up, and his heart beat a ragged rhythm.
Kat swallowed, and her eyes widened. “What’s happening?”
Ferrix was conflicted. He knew that the odds of finding a mate were astronomically low, but he couldn’t help but feel drawn to this woman. The last time Ferrix heard of a human mating with an Olethian was before his time, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was meant to be. He realized that she was right. Earth was her home, and this was her life. He was an alien, and it wasn’t fair of him to ask this of her. But he couldn’t let her go. He tried to think of a way to make her understand that they belonged together, but a threatening female voice drew his attention before he could speak.
“Let go of her, you fucking alien!” Ruth yelled.
Ferrix turned. Ruth, the woman from the HOA who had complained about Rae’s patchy lawn yesterday, stood in the doorway and held a blaster aimed straight at him. He hadn’t noticed her coming aboard the ship, so distracted by Kat. It wasn’t like the ancient warrior not to detect a menacing presence. Now she had a gun that could kill the woman he loved. Ferrix dropped Kat’s arm, holding his hands out in a non-threatening gesture as he stepped toward the woman. Ruth’s grip on the blaster tightened, and Ferrix could see the fear in her eyes. She was going to shoot him, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
“Don’t move, or I’ll shoot!” The blaster shook in Ruth’s hands as she screamed.
Ferrix’s heart raced as he heard footsteps running towards them. He knew he had to protect Kat at all costs, but he was terrified of what would happen if Ruth fired her gun. All his plans for the future would be destroyed, but he couldn’t let anything happen to Kat. He put himself in front of her, using his body as a shield.