Draken Marcor is probably one of the only Aleucians who doesn’t hate being assigned to Hope. Taking over as Director of Education isn’t exactly his dream job, but it beats the hell out of living under his father’s thumb. The position also comes with certain perks—like access to the beautiful and perplexing kindergarten teacher who has filled his thoughts every day for nearly two years. Too bad she already belongs to someone else.
Jaiyu Zhao has been half in love with Draken since their first meeting. It doesn’t matter that he’s pushy and unreasonable, arrogant and frustrating. Her heart doesn’t seem to care that he’s the last person in the city she should get involved with. When he smiles at her, it makes it easy to forget that anything beyond a professional relationship would certainly end in disaster. Too bad he’s completely uninterested in her.
But even secrets and misunderstandings can’t keep the pair apart forever, especially when Draken is used to getting what he wants. And what he wants is to make Jaiyu his…forever.
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“I didn’t know you liked kids,” Jaiyu said when the door closed behind the chattering brood. “You’re really great with them.”
Draken shrugged. “Kids are easy. They don’t expect much.”
She didn’t know who had told him that lie, but that hadn’t been her experience at all. “I would disagree. It’s just that their expectations are different than adults.”
They expected adults to be safe and reassuring, to ask the right questions and know all the answers. They didn’t demand perfection, but they did require honesty. Kids hated being lied to, maybe even more than adults.
“Fair enough,” Draken conceded. In a casual move, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against his chest. “Are you ready to leave, isha?”
“Yes, but you don’t need to walk me.”
“I do, but it won’t just be me. Zevon and Aziza are going to help.”
That gave her pause. “Draken, I appreciate your concern, but I really don’t need a small army to escort me home.”
Draken gave her a droll look. “They’re coming to help you pack your stuff and—”
“—move it to my quarters.”
Sure she’d heard him wrong, Jaiyu gaped. “You want me to move in with you?”
Chuckling, he secured both arms around her waist as he dipped his head to rest their brows together. “Well, I am your boyfriend, after all.”
She wasn’t joking, though. “Are you sure about this?” The idea of moving in with him didn’t bother her as much as it probably should, but she didn’t want him asking out of some misguided sense of guilt. “I can request a transfer from Human Resources. This really isn’t your problem.”
His expression turned stony, and he growled as his arms tightened around her. “You are mine. Your problems are my problems. Don’t ever doubt that.”
Her heart fluttered at his possessive declaration, but it also confused her just as much. “Just like that? You won’t even kiss me, but you’re ready to stake a claim and move me into your quarters? Right.”
“Right,” he echoed, but there was no anger in his voice. “I wasn’t rejecting you. I was trying to give you time. I didn’t want you to think I was taking advantage of you after all the shit you went through with Jason.”
When he said it that way, it made a lot of sense. Her only defense was that in all the time she’d known him, she wouldn’t have listed patience as one of his virtues. If he wanted something, he took it. So, in her mind, if he wanted her, he’d have had her long ago.
Instead of trying to explain the inner workings of her mind, she settled on something simpler. Something that couldn’t be misconstrued. “I don’t need time.”
He stared at her, his eyes tracing every line of her face. Nodding once, he slid his hands up her back, over her shoulders, and along the column of her throat until they cradled her face. Another moment of pause, then his mouth was on hers, hard and searching, his tongue sliding past her gasp to plunge between her lips.
This was the male she knew, the one she’d wanted since the moment they’d met. He didn’t seek permission or approval. He made no allowances, demanding she keep pace with him rather than slowing to meet hers.
When it was either stop kissing him or pass out from lack of oxygen, she reluctantly wrenched her mouth away, burying her face against his shoulder as she gasped for breath. Her heart pounded so violently, her entire body trembled, and she arched against him, a silent plea for more.
Draken chuckled, but he didn’t cave. Nor did he offer her empty platitudes or flowery words. He didn’t question her resolve or ask if she was okay. Instead, he made her a single promise that meant more than any romantic murmurings ever would.
Brushing her hair back, he leaned close, growling the words against her ear. “You’ll never regret being mine.”
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Trick McCall isn’t like most humans in Hope. For one, he doesn’t mind the schedule or routines. He doesn’t care that someone is always watching him, and he actually prefers the Aleucian’s telepathy to verbal communication. Not a whole lot gets to him, and he doesn’t need much to be happy. In fact, the only thing that would make his life perfect is if a certain female would stop fighting and just agree to be his.
Assigned to Hope as punishment, Aziza Dakar is more confused by the human inhabitants than anything. They never do what she expects, and that’s doubly true for the gorgeous bartender who makes her want things she can never have. Claiming a human isn’t against the rules exactly, but she’s just a guard, a lowly grunt with zero authority. Besides, she’s already in enough trouble with the Council without waving a human mate in their faces.
But she can’t seem to get Trick out of her head. When he convinces her to spend just one day with him, she knows it will never be enough. Now, she just has to decide how much she’s willing to risk…and if the rewards are worth the consequences.
Note: These stories are not full length novels. Each book in the City of Hope series is approximately 15k words and can be read as a standalone.
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“You’re in my seat.”
Perched on a bench in the middle of the crowded mess hall, Trick McCall tensed, his body priming for a fight as he lowered his fork to the table. He’d mostly finished his meal, though he couldn’t have said what he’d eaten. The display on the replicator told him he’d ordered spaghetti, but pretty much everything on the menu tasted the same. Fuck, what he wouldn’t give for a steak and a giant baked potato with all the toppings.
“You deaf?” the beefy guy next to him asked. “I said—”
“I heard what you said.”
Glancing to his left, he blinked at the green shirt the man wore. It had been almost six months since the introduction of color to their wardrobes, and while he liked it a hell of a lot better than the constant sea of blinding white, he still hadn’t gotten used to it.
Calmly, he rose, stepped over the bench seat, and turned to face the asshole who had interrupted his lunch. The guy stood several inches shorter than his own six and a half feet, but he held his shoulders back and his spine rigid. A muscle in his jaw ticked, and his green eyes flashed with defiance as he slammed his tray down on the table next to Trick’s. He was young, full of testosterone and anger, but his mess of red curls made him look almost innocent. The kid even had freckles, for fuck sakes.
“Table’s all yours.” Leashing his own anger, Trick turned away to pick up his tray, which was why he didn’t see the meaty paw aimed at him until a fist connected solidly with his jaw.
His bottom lip split open from the impact, spraying blood across the ivory tabletop. The kid was spoiling for a fight, but Trick wasn’t going to be the one to give it to him. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, he grimaced when it came away bloody, but made no move toward his attacker. It wasn’t that he couldn’t fight. Heaven knew he’d been in his share of bar brawls. He always came out on top, and he always felt like shit for it afterwards.
“You’re barking up the wrong tree, kid. Enjoy your lunch.”
Trick shrugged. “Whatever you say.”
Menace sparked in those green irises, and the kid hauled his fist back again, but he never got a chance to land a second punch. Long, slender fingers wrapped in radiant, bronzed skin surrounded his wrist, twisted sharply, and jerked his hand behind his back, torquing it up between his shoulder blades.
“Again, Brian?” With the barest hint of a smile, the female guard swept the man’s legs, tripping him forward so that she could force his face down onto the table.
“What did I tell you about irritating me?”
Trick was instantly hard.
Thank fuck Star Donavan had convinced the director of Hope to change the dress code within the city, because he’d be giving the whole cafeteria an eyeful if he still had to wear those godforsaken white harem pants. Not only had bright, vibrant colors replaced the boring white, but she’d also made it possible for the residents to have access to the same leather pants the guards wore.
As it stood, his cock swelled, straining against the button fly of his leathers, and his pulse pounded up into his throat. Which was why it surprised him how steady he sounded when he spoke.
The female pinned him with her sapphire blue eyes. “Trick.” She nodded, her gaze settling on his busted lip. “You good?”
Other than his lip, nothing was bruised except his pride. “I’m good.”
“Hey!” Brian yelled, squirming beneath Aziza’s hold. “Let me go.”
Tangling her fingers in his red curls, she lifted his head a fraction of an inch, then slammed it back down on the metal table. Her nostrils flared, and her upper lip curled over her teeth to reveal the tips of her fangs.
Brian whimpered when she wrenched his arm higher up his back, but he was smart enough to shut his trap. Back on Earth, a crowd would have started to gather by that point, but sudden outbursts of violence weren’t so uncommon in the underground city. Putting that many people—especially that many men—together in tight quarters, it was bound to happen.
Officer Aziza Dakar was stunning. She had the kind of long, ebony hair a man could sink his fingers into, and those intense blue eyes sent a flash of heat through his veins every time she looked at him. He didn’t usually go for the biker-chic look, but damn if the black leather that encased her sleek curves didn’t flick his Bic.
“Thanks for the rescue,” he teased. “You’re my hero.”
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A new 3013 Novella, just for you!
Happy Fall, Y'All!
Half D’Aire, half Reema, Kylir T’Kari is no stranger to cruel words and mocking stares. Some fear him for his uniqueness, others despise him, but mostly, people just don’t understand him. The way he sees it, that’s their problem, not his. He’s comfortable with who he is. His parents swear he hung the stars, and the ragtag crew of the Storm Rideris like a second family. The only thing missing from his life is someone to call his own.
Tasked with traveling to Xenthian to find an antidote for the infertility plaguing Earth’s women, Lieutenant Astrid Strong first has to find a way to get there. Recruiting a capable pilot with a reliable ship is easy. Realizing the hybrid brings desires to the surface she would rather keep buried, not so much.
But fate is a funny thing, and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun it, can’t hide from it. Caught between a painful past and an uncertain future, she’s plagued with doubts and insecurities, and only time will tell if Kylir will be her curse…or her remedy.
“I do have one more question.”
“Let’s have it.” He sounded resigned, but also…disappointed.
“What’s your mom like?”
“I—” He stopped abruptly and snapped his mouth closed. His lips parted, and he tried again, only to stop just as suddenly.
“Come on,” she encouraged. “Tell me. What’s her name?”
Finally, the steel in his eyes softened, and the tension in his shoulders melted away. “Her name is Soira. She’s smart and funny, and she has the best laugh. She’s a bit of a neat freak, but a terrible cook. She packs too much every time she leaves home, and yet, she always forgets something important. She always sang to me when I was little, and she still makes me soup when I’m sick.”
Astrid smiled, and her eyes welled with unshed tears. “She sounds amazing.”
“What about your father?”
“Ah, I thought you said just one more question?”
She laughed. “It’s more like 1-B.”
“All right, then,” he allowed.
It took him much longer to gather his thoughts about his dad, which told her a lot right there. “Start with his name.”
That got a small smile out of him. “Kasar. He’s smart, like my mom, but more disciplined. He’s fluent in three languages, and he’s embarrassed by the fact that he needs a language converter for the others.” His expression turned thoughtful, indulgent. “He’s competitive, but he always lets my mom win—games, arguments, it doesn’t matter. Every time he contacts me, before he says goodbye, he always tells me he’s proud of me.”
There was no stopping the tears this time. “You’re very lucky.”
“I know.” Sitting up straighter in his seat, he cleared his throat. “What about you? Are you close with your parents?”
Astrid used the sleeves of the borrowed jacket to wipe her eyes as she shook her head. “Not really.”
She didn’t have memories of her mother singing to her, and she had very few recollections of her fathers at all. They spoke on occasion, and she saw them during holidays. They didn’t even know about the hell she’d been through with Henry, and if she did tell them, they would no doubt blame it on her for being so weak.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
It was nice of him to say, but her reality didn’t sadden her. “We don’t hate each other or anything. They didn’t dump me at the Academy and disappear like a lot of other parents.” That had to count for something. “We’re just not that close.”
She wasn’t close with anyone. She knew people, worked with them, but she wouldn’t call them friends. Maybe that was why no one had noticed when she’d had a personality transplant while under the influence of the xili drug. No one knew her well enough to tell the difference.
Either way, dwelling in the past wouldn’t change anything, and she didn’t want to talk about her family anymore. Time to change the subject.
“Okay, if anyone can engage the autopilot to get from point A to point B, why do I need a pilot to take me to Xenthian?”
“Well, the most obvious reason is that it’s not your vessel.” He winked at her. “Otherwise, there are a couple of reasons. First, in case something goes wrong or the autopilot fails. Second, because Xenthian doesn’t have automated docking bays, so someone—meaning me—will have to set us down outside of the citadel.”
“They don’t have docking bays? What about landing pads?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Well, not yet,” he added. “Just a big, grassy knoll.”
Astrid frowned. For some reason, she’d expected the Xenon to be much further along in their technological advances. “You know a lot about it. Have you been to Xenthian before?”
Swiveling back to the console, he dipped his head. “Just once.”
“Oh, good.” She’d done as much research as she could, but there still wasn’t much information on the race. “What’s the protocol when I meet Vasili Blackthorn?” She inched to the edge of her seat and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Do I offer my hand? Lower my head? Not make eye contact?”
To her surprise and annoyance, Kylir laughed. “You’re meeting a king, not a stray dog.”
Oh. Right. Point taken. “So, should I bow?” She’d never met a king before, but that was what people did in those old fairy tales. “Yeah, I should bow.”
“I think you should probably just take a deep breath and relax. The Vasera is a former elite, and she’ll likely be the one to greet you.”
Commander Ivy Dalton of the exploration vessel known as the Dreamweaver.Crash landed on Xenthian. Mated to the ruler of the planet. Now, Vasera Ivy Blackthorn. A star—and infertile human female—who had recently given birth to the first Xenon-human hybrid in recorded history after being miraculously healed by something extraordinary on the planet.
It was a mystery, a puzzle to be solved, and the sole purpose for Astrid’s journey. If she could cure the virus left over from the war with the Zyphir, maybe things would finally start to change on Earth. If she could reverse the disease that still rendered so many women barren, there would be no need for fertility testing. No need to mark little girls as special or lacking before they really even knew who they were.
If any woman could conceive, the importance placed on fertility would be null. The special few who bore the scroll tattoo wouldn’t have to worry that a pair of elites might claim them against their will. Parents wouldn’t sell off their daughters. People would bond because of love, not duty.
Eradicating the virus was only the catalyst, though, the start to finding a solution for the real problem. No matter how long it took, she wouldn’t quit. She wouldn’t give up. Failure was not an option.
“How long until we land?”
In answer, Kylir pointed through the wide window in front of them. “We’re here.” He didn’t look at her, but the corner of his mouth curled slightly. “Welcome to Xenthian.”