When I crash land on a hostile planet, a hot alien pilot must defy intergalactic rules and save me by claiming me as his mate.
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- Painfully Shy Heroine
- Alien Shapeshifter
- Crash Landing & Forced Proximity
- Adorable Animal Companion
- Laugh-out-loud Humor
- Protective Lover
Adventure? Not my style. Yet, thanks to my sisters, I'm on an intergalactic singles cruise, lost in the allure of a mysterious shuttle pilot with shimmering blue skin and a smile that unsettles my world.
As a steadfast pilot for a prestigious interstellar cruise line, my rules are clear: no fraternizing with passengers. But regulations crumble when confronted by destiny, and from the moment Tamara boarded, she was my fate.
When a crash leaves us stranded on a planet with indigenous beings too eager for female newcomers, I must claim her to keep her safe. But this isn't just a simple mating; it's a bond that would tether us to each other for eternity...
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
Do aliens ever get motion sick? I can’t stop the thought rolling around in my head as our limo turns down the palm-tree-lined street leading to the spaceport. My stomach roils, despite the prescription patch my sister, Suzanne, affixed behind my ear. I got through a commercial flight and a car ride, but I dread boarding the space shuttle that will transport us to the cruise ship waiting in orbit.
I stare out the window and chew my nail, my other hand clutched in Beanie’s fur. My six-pound chihuahua is laid back, as usual, a ball of heat on my lap. My sisters tried to talk me out of bringing him along, but this entire escapade is so far outside my comfort zone, I’m worried even he won't provide enough emotional support. Why did I let them talk me into this?
Suzanne grabs my wrist, pulling my hand away from my mouth. Her red-gold hair falls in a perfect swish over her forehead, and her green eyes are compassionate. “Stop it, Tamara. You’re going to ruin your manicure.”
I curl my fingers into my palm to hide the chipped red paint. I’m not really a mani-pedi kind of person, but my sisters insisted I had to dress up to travel first class. After several hours of travel, I'm feeling anything but classy. And we haven’t even made it into space yet. My green peekaboo blouse keeps slipping off my shoulders, and the stretchy waistband has rolled uncomfortably down under my belly. I wish I’d put my foot down about the clothes. Or put my foot down about this entire trip.
But I’ve never been good at standing up for myself.
All three of my sisters chatter excitedly about their upcoming plans, but I’m barely listening until my twin sister, Jennifer, nudges my knee. “I said, let me see your phone.”
She’s sitting across from us with her back to the driver. The enormous case containing her astronomy equipment rests on the seat beside her. She’s dreamed of going to space since we were kids, and is the main reason I couldn’t say no to the trip.
“Why do you want our phones?” Our younger sister, Bethany, clutches the sparkly case of her phone against her chest. As usual, she looks stunning in her flouncy yellow sundress, her wavy auburn hair freshly cut and styled. Our little sister is outgoing, loud, and always looks like she’s about ready to go on TV—which makes sense because she hosts a popular television cooking show.
Jennifer wrestles Bethany’s phone out of her grip. “I’m installing an app that will let us document any spatial events or anomalies.”
I hand my phone over without a word. I know better than to argue.
“I’m not going on this cruise to spend my time gathering data for you.” Suzanne tries to snatch her phone back, but Jennifer bats her hand away. “The only research I want to do is which alien has the tightest abs.”
“Chill,” Jennifer says. “I’m amping up our Bluetooth signals so the phones will stay tethered, even without cell service. That way, we can keep track of each other while we’re fending off horny aliens.”
“God, I hope they’re horny.” Suzanne sighs. “I’ve swiped nothing but duds on Bumble lately.” Newly divorced with both kids off to college, Suzanne’s a free agent for the first time in nineteen years. Another reason I can’t say no to this trip.
I, on the other hand, have zero desire to meet eligible men, let alone alien men, not with my track record. My last boyfriend gave me the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech, then promptly moved in with another woman. Other than the mandatory parties we’re to attend, I plan on holing up in my room with Beanie and my latest embroidery project.
Bethany leans over my lap to peer out the tinted window. “I see the shuttle!”
“Whoa.” Suzanne crowds in, her elbow pressing me back against the seat. “Those are aliens!”
I squirm and shove her off me, feeling nauseous. “You’re making me sick.”
“Really, Tamara?” Bethany backs off. “Are you ever going to let that go? It was a million years ago.”
Suzanne pushes aside my hair to check behind my ear. “Is the patch not working?”
“Stop.” I shrug her hand away. “I just need space.”
Memories of my tenth-grade trip to Europe still haunt me. I’d embarrassed myself by barfing all over the flight attendant’s shoes. Afterward, the other kids ridiculed me mercilessly, and for the rest of high school I was called the vomit queen.
I roll down the window, and muggy air that smells like hot pavement blasts me in the face. Ahead on the tarmac, I see something that looks like an enormous purple rosebud resting on its side. My throat tightens.
One side of the ship is rolled open to form a ramp, and three broad-shouldered men wearing white uniforms wait at the base. Their skin is blue, just like in the Hallmark movies. It seems like every television show has featured a blue alien hero since an alien prince came to Earth looking for a mate last year.
The limo rolls to a stop about thirty feet from the ramp. Before the driver can get out to open our door, Suzanne flings it open and clambers out with Bethany right on her heels. Jennifer opens the door on our side, tugging her case from the seat.
I take my time gathering Beanie back into my purse and putting on my sunglasses. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Teeth clenched, I step out of the limo onto the tarmac, heat permeating the thin soles of my sandals. My mouth goes dry as I look up at the big alien ship. The lavender surface sparkles slightly in the sunlight and has ribbed veins like an actual rose petal. How can this possibly be strong enough to go into space?
Suzanne is already strolling up the ramp, grinning like a Cheshire cat and chatting with an alien carrying two of their over-sized suitcases. Another alien has hoisted Jennifer’s enormous astronomy case from the car while Jennifer flutters around like a worried mother hen. I’m struck by how similar all the blue guys seem to appear, a bit like blue Ken dolls in matching white uniforms.
Bethany looks toward me, eyes hidden behind gold-mirrored designer shades. “Ready?”
I nod but remain rooted in place as my sister strolls toward the ramp without me.
The limo pulls away, too, leaving me standing sentinel on the tarmac with the sun beating down on my head. Sweat rolls down my cleavage and sticks my shirt against my back. Beanie is probably cooking alive in my purse. Swallowing my impending terror, I move toward the waiting ramp.
A baffle wall just inside the open hatch blocks my view of the shuttle’s interior, but I can hear cheerful chatter from inside. My sisters are too excited to notice I’m missing. If I don’t get on, will the shuttle leave without me?
I pivot, taking a wistful look at the hangars surrounding the airfield. I see a couple of guys standing in the shade against one wall, smoking. Even though I don’t smoke, I’m tempted to go ask them for a puff, just for an excuse to delay boarding.
“Are you ready?”
I jump at the sudden deep voice, catching my purse before it slips completely off my shoulder. Poor Beanie whines as he’s jostled inside. A tall blue man in a white uniform stands on the shuttle ramp watching me intently. He looks less human than the ones who helped my sisters, with eyes that are slightly too big for his chiseled face, but he’s dressed in the same white one-piece uniform. His deep blue hair is lustrous and thick, shorter along the sides and curling against his collar in the back.
His gaze lowers to my purse, and nervous guilt rocks through me. The cruise line hadn’t asked about paperwork for Beanie, and I figured it was better to ask forgiveness than permission, especially since some facilities don’t consider emotional support dogs true service animals. Now all I can think is that my sisters will kill me if Beanie gets us banned from the trip.
The alien steps forward and reaches for my purse. “Allow me to assist.”
I adjust my purse under my arm protectively, and Beanie whines again. The alien frowns and draws his hand back.
“It’s a service animal,” I assure him. “He doesn’t bite, I promise.”
The alien moves sideways, keeping his gaze on my bag. His muscles are quite evident under his uniform, and I can’t help wondering if he looks human under his clothes. I bite my lip, my heart beating faster as he shifts his gaze back to mine. The moment his midnight blue eyes meet mine, I’m swept by a moment of vertigo, and my thundering heart goes into overdrive. Holy shit, the TV shows didn’t do their alien heroes justice. To be fair, the shows only had access to human actors painted blue, but damn, if a real Kirenai ever took to the screen, he’d be an immediate superstar. I’ve never felt this kind of attraction to a man in my life, let alone one I just met.
“The pattern is a remarkable likeness.” His voice feels like heavy silk settling over my skin.
I blink dumbly at him a moment, trying to make sense of his comment. “Um, what?”
He gestures toward my purse. “I’ve never seen this type of artwork before.”
I look down at it, realizing he must mean the embroidered image of Beanie. “Oh! Thank you. I sell custom embroidery on Etsy.”
“You made it?”
“Yes.” I automatically fumble inside the bag for one of my cards and hold it out. “If you’re interested, let me know. I can work from a picture.”
He glances down without taking it. “Perhaps another time.” He gestures toward the hatch. “We are running behind schedule. Please follow me.”
Disappointment floods me as he strides up the ramp without looking back, and I kick myself. He was just being polite. No way a hot guy like him is interested—not in me or my embroidery. At least he didn’t kick me off the trip because of Beanie.
I hurry up the ramp, towing my suitcase behind me. Inside the shuttle, the alien ducks through a round doorway which immediately spirals closed behind him. In the other direction, the passenger area is lined with plush red chairs, some obviously not proportioned for humans.
One of the blue alien stewards urges me down the aisle. “This way, miss. May I take your suitcase? We’re about to take off.”
I gulp, suddenly realizing who I was talking to down on the tarmac. The pilot. The pilot himself came to make certain I got on board. Now I feel like everyone is looking at me, judging me for making them late. Great start to the trip. I relinquish the handle of my suitcase, spotting Suzanne and Bethany sitting next to each other near a window. Jennifer is hovering behind the porter who’s manhandling her massive telescope case down the aisle at the back.
A whooshing sound heralds what I assume must be the ramp furling closed, and the floor begins to vibrate softly. My stomach lurches, and I flail one hand to support myself against the nearby wall, fighting back the vivid memory of my tenth-grade trip. Do not vomit.
The steward puts a hand to my elbow. “Are you all right, miss?”
Afraid to open my mouth, I nod fiercely and plop down in the nearest seat. The sunlight streaming through the window slices across my face as the shuttle pivots. We’re moving. Terror grips my heart, and I search for a seatbelt. There are none. Don’t these aliens have safety protocols? I squeeze my eyes shut, breathing slowly through my nose.
Beanie wriggles free of the bag, settling on my lap. I stroke his shoulders and rump, not sure if he’s calming me or the other way around at this point.
Someone takes a seat next to me, and I crack one eye to see Jennifer looking at me with a raised eyebrow. “Patch still not working?”
I make a sour face. “I’m super sensitive, all right?”
Jennifer sighs. “Okay, sorry. But if you’re going to sit there with your eyes closed, can I at least have the window seat?”
Clenching my teeth, I push to my feet and let her swap. “I hope you know how much you owe me for all this.”
“I know, I know. Thanks.” Jennifer turns and presses her face to the window.
I sit stiffly in the other seat and squeeze my eyes shut, forcing myself to keep my touch gentle as I pet Beanie’s back. If I manage to finish this cruise without embarrassing myself again, it will be a miracle.