I should have said no. I should have walked away, but I was powerless to resist him.
I don’t remember a time I wasn’t hopelessly in love with Gabe Turner. He’s every fantasy I’ve ever had come to life, but I’m not supposed to want him. He’s gorgeous and cocky and totally wrong for me. Plus, he’s my brother’s best friend, which means he’s completely off limits.
Anyway, it’s not like he sees me as anything but a brat.
After that last kiss, I’m not so sure…
WARNING: This book contains one over the top alpha, a sassy heroine, and enough laughs to crack a rib. If laugh-out-loud insta-love with lots of sexy time isn’t your thing, this story probably isn’t for you.
Holding onto what was left of my dignity, I hurried out of the bathroom. Once we were back in the main bar, Gabe pushed in front of me, snagging my hand to make sure I followed him out. As we weaved through the crowd, some random guy handed me a shot glass. Obviously, he’d lost track of how many people were in his group and had handed it to me by mistake. Shrugging, I raised the glass to my lips and drank it down, then coughed. My throat felt like it was on fire.
Tequila was a killer.
Gabe glanced back at me, and I discreetly slid the empty glass onto a table and smiled up at him. His frown told me I hadn’t pulled off the innocent look I had been going for. Or maybe I had and that was what made him so suspicious.
When we were back on the street, I playfully swung his hand. Something had changed, and suddenly, it felt like we were actually holding hands like a real couple. A low, smoldering heat burned in my belly, and I tried to keep my voice light when I said, “Thanks for bribing those guys.”
His eyes narrowed. “I don’t think I heard that right. Did you actually just thank me for something?”
I bumped my hip against him. “You’re pretty nice when you aren’t being so bossy.”
“And you can be sweet when you aren’t being a pain in my ass.”
When he let go of my hand, I immediately missed him. Needing to put some space between me and the focus of my ridiculous crush, I didn’t protest as he walked me the two blocks to my hotel. Like a good warden, he insisted on escorting me to my room. I realized he was still holding my bright green yard cup in the elevator, and after taking the keycard out of my purse, I took it from him.
As we got to the end of the hallway, I heard laughter rising above the music coming from behind the closed door. Sharing a glance with Gabe, I used the key, then pushed the door open. Two steps into the room, I came to a dead stop. The two friends I was staying with were with three men I’d never seen before…and they were all naked.
“Layla! We were wondering where you were.” Grace Prescott blushed as she sat up on one of the queen beds and pulled a blanket over herself. She was one of the first people I’d met at college, and we managed to stay close friends after she’d moved back to New York at the end of our first year.
But this was definitely more of her than I ever wanted to see.
Then again, at least she wasn’t sandwiched between two naked men like her friend Julie was. She sent me a smile that turned sly as it shifted over to Gabe. “Why don’t you guys grab a drink and join us?”
“Get your things,” Gabe ordered in a low, furious voice. “We’re leaving.”
“What?” I stood frozen in place. “What?”
The third man sat down on the pullout bed where I was supposed to sleep and reached for the Tulane T-shirt I had left there earlier. When he placed it over his lap, I wanted to groan. Great, there was a naked ass on my bed, and now his dick was wearing my shirt. I wondered if the fire alarms would go off if I burned that shirt on the small balcony attached to the room.
When Gabe swatted me on the ass, I gasped in surprise. God, there were way too many asses in the room right now. A hysterical giggle burst from my lips before I could hold it back. The situation was so ridiculous, I couldn’t help myself.
“Get. Your. Things. Now.”
“What? I…umm…things,” I repeated with a nod.
It didn’t take me long to grab my toiletry carrier and makeup bag from the bathroom. My cheeks flushed with heat as I shoved my things into my bag while trying to avoid looking at any of the naked bodies in the room. I yelped as I turned and found Gabe standing right next to me instead of by the door. Lifting my bag as if it weighed nothing, he put his other arm around my waist and practically carried me toward the exit.
“I’ll call you later,” Grace yelled as the door closed behind us.
Back in the elevator, I watched the numbers counting down as we headed toward the lobby level. The absurdity of the last few minutes left me feeling kind of queasy. It wasn’t that I disapproved of the situation. Grace and her friend were free to do whatever they wanted. But since I was still a virgin, that was way more than I could handle.
“My hotel is on the next block. You can stay in my suite tonight. It’s two levels, so there’s plenty of room.” His tone was clipped, and I could tell that he was still angry.
As the elevator doors opened, I said, “I’m sorry.”
I wasn’t sure exactly. Unable to look at him yet, I simply shrugged as we crossed the lobby. “That you’re stuck with me tonight. They probably called, but I haven’t checked my phone. I didn’t know my friends were planning an orgy. Well, I don’t think it was planned. It sort of looked like a…”
“A spontaneous orgy?”
He laughed. “I think most are.”
The cool night air felt good against my heated skin as we walked outside, but my stomach continued to flip and churn. That last shot had been a bad idea…and the alcohol was finally catching up with me. As I moved to the side to avoid a large group of people, I stumbled, and a wave of dizziness swept over me.
Uh oh. This wasn’t good.
If I could just close my eyes for a few seconds…
“What is it, brat?”
“I think I’m going to—”
The last thing I heard was his vicious curse before I passed out.
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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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.”