Embark on a journey of deception and discovery with 'Iroth.' Falsely charged with murder, an alien shapeshifter hides in plain sight as a domesticated Great Dane, only to have his cover risked by the human who takes him in. This story of concealment and unexpected alliances is masterfully narrated, drawing listeners into a world where nothing is as it seems.
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- Alien Shapeshifter
- Abduction Romance
- Beauty and the Beast
- Adorable Animal Companion
- Noble Sacrifice
- Misunderstood Hero
Iroth was just after a quick buck when he came to Earth, but ends up accused of trying to assassinate the galactic crown prince. Forced into hiding, he transforms into one of the human’s primitive four-legged pets and takes refuge with a kind human female who loves dogs.
Maise expected to leave the charity auction with a hot date. Instead, she goes home with a wounded Great Dane and a whole lot of questions. When the giant canine transforms into a sultry blue alien with amazing turquoise eyes and asks for her help, she can’t refuse… until she helps him back onto his space ship, and he won’t let her leave.
She’s determined to find an escape, but the more time they spend together, the more she suspects he’s not the alien monster she imagined. But will her strength and kindness be enough to melt the armor around his heart?
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
Keeping his Iki’i shielded so any nearby Kirenai couldn’t identify him, Iroth adjusted the formal human clothing covering his matrix and took a moment to gather his senses. Using the teleport always left him woozy, and the transportation web around Earth had obviously been set up in a hurry, without the usual buffers to mitigate discomfort.
He inhaled slowly. The warm night air was full of the sound of chirping insects. Beneath his feet, fine blades of vegetation had been shorn to an even length, though he couldn’t discern the color in the feeble light coming from the poles several paces away. A few other Kirenai in the shape of blue humans were already moving along a concrete path toward the sounds of a gathering crowd.
He straightened his shoulders and stepped onto the trail. Tonight, he was on an exclusive guest list full of high-ranking dignitaries and wealthy merchants. The teal-blue human shape he now wore was similar to the one he grew up using—his mother was Fogarian—though his current form was taller, less hairy, and lacked claws and fangs. But it wasn’t the shape that made him uncomfortable, it was the role he needed to play.
Normally, he preferred to do his jobs as a servant or underling, blending in with the natives. He was a burendo, able to change both color and shape, though for this job he was to be obviously Kirenai. He charged his clients exorbitant prices, making a very comfortable living infiltrating events to gather diplomatic intel or smuggling contraband. Tonight he was after different cargo. Live cargo. And the only reason he’d agreed was because the purchase would be legal, for a client who didn’t want the transaction made in his own name.
Striding along the path, Iroth examined a pair of females who stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they watched the guests pass by. He’d worked with the black market long enough to have heard rumors about human captives capable of inciting passion in the most reticent partners. Tonight marked the first legal event for human bondservant contracts, and competition would be high.
The females he looked at now each wore a long dark gown, one with sparkles and the other with a skirt that turned sheer at mid-thigh to reveal shapely legs. Not bad looking, he acknowledged, smiling at them as he passed. The one in the sparkly dress locked eyes with him, and he opened his Iki’i briefly to feel her emotions.
She was curious and a bit nervous. He understood how she felt—the first job he’d hired himself out for had been thrilling and nerve-wracking, and he’d been glad when it was over. He could hardly imagine wanting to sell himself long-term to a single person.
He continued past them, heading toward a raised platform illuminated by lights. His gut churned and his matrix wanted to contract into the smallest form possible at the sight. No matter how many times he saw a stage, he always battled those feelings. You’re not revealing yourself to anyone, he reminded himself. He wouldn’t be changing color or escorted away by his parents in shame.
No one here knows what you are.
Still, he sat at a table at the outer edge of the audience, taking some comfort in knowing he could bolt at a moment’s notice. Although the emperor had forbidden ship landings on the planet and restricted access through the teleportation web, Iroth had managed to land an unmanned, cloaked ship outside the city several days ago. He’d only used the transportation web tonight in order to be documented as a bidding guest. But ever since he’d had a job go sideways and leave him stuck in the slums on a G’naxian moon for six revolutions, he made sure he always had alternate ways to get off-planet.
A human male approached his table carrying a tray with tall thin glasses of a golden beverage, and another human offered a selection of local food. Iroth politely took one of each but set them aside untouched. He’d never enjoyed foreign foods very much, plus he was too busy examining the human females gathering to one side of the stage. Each one possessed a quadruped, either on a leash or cradled like a baby. He hadn’t been warned this species required accommodations for an additional life form, and made a mental note to demand additional payment when he delivered the female.
A small white quadruped put his front paws against the legs of the female holding its leash, stubby tail wagging. It reminded him of a baby nezumi he’d found as a child, a downy creature with a stubby tail and long floppy ears. It had been cowering in one of the space station’s condenser pipes. Most residents considered the creatures pests, and the poorer families on the station hunted and ate them. But he’d put the baby into his pocket and taken it home, sneaking it crumbs of their precious food. When his father found out, he was furious. They’d eaten nezumi soup that very night.
Iroth shook off the memory and refocused on the human females. Now was not the time to fall into dark thoughts.
A black-haired beauty in a sleeveless burgundy dress caught his eye. The fabric was shimmery without being gaudy, and detailed with layered pleats across the bodice and a smooth skirt that draped effortlessly from her hips. Her rich golden brown skin reminded him of well-polished amai wood and made him wonder if she smelled as sweet.
The quadruped on her leash had thick red-and-black fur over its back and a heavy white ruff that continued down to its front feet. The animal’s mouth hung open in what looked like a smile, and though his Iki’i was closed, he imagined the complete adoration the creature must have for the female.
Bid on her, a voice inside him urged. He pictured how she’d look splayed across the silken sheets of his bed, dewy-eyed and yearning for his next touch. Except he wasn’t buying a bondservant for himself. His client wanted breeding stock, and the woman in the burgundy dress deserved better. He forced his gaze away, examining the other females.
The lights went down, and the auction began with the booming voice of an auctioneer rattling off information too fast for his universal translator to process. Spotlights appeared across the stage, and the women paraded out with their pets as a group, performing some sort of rehearsed strut in time to a pulsing tune. Then they retreated to the sidelines.
Iroth folded his hands in his lap and waited as the women reappeared one-by-one, letting the first two come and go without bidding. The guests were competitive, and the bids were high. Iroth’s client had provided a generous allowance for the auction and said Iroth could keep whatever he didn’t spend, but at this rate, winning a female would require him to spend the full amount. Another reason to charge extra for the pet.
Sighing, he bid on the next woman and lost. He eventually won a small female in a pink dress named Susan, who had luscious curves and perfectly straight white teeth. She bounced down the stage steps, followed by a black quadruped with droopy ears and a long tail. The animal trotted up and stuck its head on his lap while the female set a tall green bottle and two empty glasses on the table. “Ish fremmich zeze genzuln!”
He blinked, trying to decipher her words while pushing the quadruped’s muzzle out of his crotch. The damn universal translator must be on the fritz. Glancing around to be certain any nearby Kirenai were otherwise occupied, he unshuttered his Iki’i a fraction, hoping it would allow him to glean some of her meaning. She was friendly and seemed to want to begin her bondservant duties by providing him a drink.
He smiled and nodded.
She set the bottle down and pulled out the chair next to him, scooting it so close that they brushed elbows. Her animal lay on the ground under the table, hot breath fanning his shins. Now that he had secured a female, he was ready to depart, but it would draw undue attention to leave before the auction was over. So he continued to smile and nod as the female chattered incoherently.
On stage, the woman in the burgundy dress appeared, knuckles white as she gripped the leash to her quadruped in both hands. The animal seemed to sense her mood, and nudged the back of her knee, herding her forward. His estimate of the creature’s value increased.
She slowly walked to the front of the stage as two Kirenai and a Khargal began a bidding war for her contract. He could barely contain himself from joining in. But what would he do with a second female? After a few volleys of bidding, the auctioneer declared a Kirenai at a table in the center the winner, and the woman descended the steps to greet the new owner of her contract. Jealousy heated Iroth’s center.
The female he’d purchased nudged his arm. Turning his head to look at her, his mouth collided with something that left a paste on his lips. He drew back instinctively, realizing she held a brown disk of food topped with a pale creamy substance.
“Servi.” She cringed and popped the item into her mouth, chewing. “Is good,” she said around the food.
She was pulsing with anxiety, struggling hard to make him like her. He licked the residue from his lips. The flavor wasn’t unpleasant, slightly sweet with a hint of oil. Her wash of relief reached him, and she smiled, raising her flute expectantly. He lifted his, and she clinked the glasses together before drinking. He sampled the bubbly alcohol, finding it acceptable, though he preferred tea.
The auction ended on an overpriced female in a blue dress, garnering a deafening roar of applause from the audience. Then a band struck up a lively tune.
“I leeb dis zong! Tancen?” Without waiting for his reply, his female grabbed his hand and pulled him toward a grassy area where two other couples were moving in time to the music.
Reminding himself this was likely the last evening the female might ever have on her home planet, he let her guide him through some rhythmic steps.
A scream shattered the music.
Iroth twisted toward the sound and saw a woman backing away from her chair in horror.
At the table next to her, a Kirenai half rose to his feet, quivered for a fraction of a second, and collapsed into his resting state. Another woman fell over backward in her chair.
Iroth stared, horrified. Kirenai didn’t shift to their resting states in public. Ever.
Humans began screaming and fleeing as Kirenai at other tables also collapsed. The two Khargals grabbed their females and flew up to the stage. A Fogarian tunneled into the ground. The two Kirenai who’d been dancing next to Iroth shuddered, turning into puddles right before his eyes.
He opened his Iki’i to the fullest, looking for an explanation. Are they dead? His species weren’t easy to kill. But he could detect no emotion, no signature coming from the Kirenai nearby. This was a massacre unlike any he’d known.
He looked for his female, intending to flee with her, and realized she was gone. He glanced back toward the tables. Only two other Kirenai remained standing besides himself. The nearest one stepped closer, and Iroth felt the sharp prod of inquiry along with a sense of ammonia against his Iki’i as the Kirenai sought his identity.
Kuzara, his Iki’i was open. He shut it down, but not before sensing a brief whiff of satisfaction from the other.
Iroth’s insides quivered. You’re going to be blamed for this. No one trusted a burendo.
Then, to his relief, the Kirenai shuddered and collapsed along with the others.
Feeling queasy, Iroth glanced toward the single remaining Kirenai who was now striding his direction with fury in his gaze. You can’t stick around for questioning. He had to blend in. It was what he was good at.
Taking a deep breath, he sealed his Iki’i deep inside and let his matrix relax, joining the rest of the fallen. Only a medical scanner could now tell he was alive.
He hoped he’d get a chance to slip away unnoticed before the real investigation began.