At Topper’s house in Magic, N.M…
“Put the bags by the door, Stark. Let’s see… I have our plane tickets loaded in my cell phone. I have my travel pack and goodies. Okay. I guess we’re ready to go. Grab your backpack and let’s pop to the airport. I have to be there early so I can discreetly arrange for us to get a pass through security. I really don’t want to take a chance on what the x-ray machine might see in you. They aren’t exactly calibrated to look at aliens from Glacier.”
Stark set the bags by the door. He walked to a small bench and lifted the smaller pack to sling it over his shoulder. His sigh was loud and long. “I guess I’m ready to start our honeymoon.”
Topper chuckled. “Well, don’t sound so happy about it.”
“I am happy to be going anywhere with you,” Stark declared. “I just dread the transporting part.”
Topper rolled her eyes. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”
“Yes, I know. Why do you think I have concerns?”
“I don’t know. Magical transport is far safer than flying in a plane. Here,” she passed him two tablets. “Chew these thoroughly and then swallow.”
“Did Evanna make this medicine?” Stark asked, frowning suspiciously at the white tablets.
“No, they’re not magical tablets,” Topper said, her mouth twitching. Stark hadn’t gotten over Evanna’s exploding cupcakes yet. Her sister was such a joker. “I bought the tablets at the drugstore. They’ll settle your stomach and keep the nausea at bay.”
Sighing in resignation, Stark tossed them into his mouth and chewed while Topper watched him.
“All gone?” she asked sweetly.
When Stark nodded, Topper stepped close, looked up into his worried gaze, and hooked her arm through his. She gave it a quick squeeze. “Just remember that I love you,” she said.
And then they were off on their adventure.
On the planet of Glacier…
General Arctic stared and let his eyes narrow until they were no more than slits. He greatly enjoyed knowing the male seated across the table from him was getting nervous. Scaring his second in command was his favorite pastime these days.
“Why are you not on Earth, Captain Resig? I ordered you to follow Stark there and keep an eye on him.”
“General Stark sent all of us back through the portal before we could establish sufficient grounds to remain. He possesses a ring that can open a portal between Glacier and that primitive planet whenever and wherever he wants. He told his woman the Goddess Icela gave it to him.”
“Cut the crap, Captain. Stark is no longer a general. Do not address him with such respect.”
“Of course, General Arctic—Sir. My apologies for misspeaking.”
General Arctic huffed. “How could anyone believe that Goddess drivel Stark spouts? As if the patron goddess of Glacier would stoop to helping someone like Stark. He is unworthy. Why do you think Stark fled to the ice fields instead of taking a normal leadership role?”
Arctic held up a hand and glared. “It was a rhetorical question—one not requiring your response. I do expect an answer to my original demand.”
Resig drew in a deep breath. “General Star… I mean, Stark… didn’t give anyone much choice about returning to Glacier. His new mate was helping him make sure we left and she has a power unlike anything we’ve seen.”
“Mate? That female is no mate to him, Captain. She’s as expendable to Stark as all the other females who passed through his bed. The man has no honor about females.”
“But the Gen… I mean, Stark was being very specific in his address to her. And she looked at him like… I cannot adequately explain, except to say there was great admiration in her gaze… even while she was rebuking him.”
General Arctic shook his head. Whoever the woman was, she was most assuredly not Stark’s mate. A man like Stark didn’t value any woman highly enough to make her his mate. No one knew that better than he did. His own mate had spared him no detail about availing herself of the animal rustler’s sexual expertise… or his mate had until he’d chosen to end her worthless, cheating life.
Now all he had to do was take out the male who’d caused his female to stray. Then life would return to normal once more. He was Glacier’s highest ranked military officer and a man of considerable power. How hard could getting rid of one old and annoying Glacerian possibly be?
He drummed his fingers on the table. “Have you had any luck triangulating the occurrences of the portals?”
Captain Resig nodded. “Locations are random. We have noted they stay open only long enough for one person to pass through. Four Earth days of time separate one occurrence from the next. They have been opening fairly regularly. We have not seen any repeating patterns.”
“Terlorian testicles. Random is no help to us. What about the dispatched ships? How close are they?”
“Still searching for space warps that might land them in space closer to Earth. It would cut down travel time to a matter of months, instead of several years.”
Arctic banged his large fist on the table. If he hadn’t been so frustrated with the Captain’s report, he would have laughed at making the cowering male jump out of his seat.
“Would you like to spend the evening in solitary, Captain Resig? If not, then tell me something good.”
Arctic snorted when the now nervous male backed up a few more steps.
“We know where Gen… I mean, we know where Stark is on Earth. He’ll be there for the next ten days. According to the stories being told by Star Ranger Frost’s family, Stark is on his Earth honeymoon with his mat… uh, with the woman he’s been living with since he relocated to that primitive planet.”
“After portal travel there was sanctioned, I studied all Earth’s territories. State Stark’s location,” Arctic ordered.
“Alaska, sir. More precisely… a small community called Seward.”
“Hmm… the current seasonal weather in that area imitates the colder weather on Glacier.”
“Yes, General. I believe that is correct.”
Arctic drew himself up and stood to pace. What the hell was Stark up to? The council approved his relocation to that primitive planet, but had refused to explain why to their military leader—to him. No. They were forcing him to find out for himself. Typical of those secretive Labadorian Sacks. Bastards… all of them.
Arctic huffed. “Alaska. That’s where Star Ranger Thor crashed and disappeared, isn’t it?”
Resig nodded. “Yes. I believe that is also correct, but his crash there was never confirmed. No trace of Star Ranger Thor or his ship was ever discovered in our discreet searches. No trace of the criminal he was chasing was ever found either. Both vehicles stopped transmitting shortly after they allegedly hit the planet. I believe that was nearly an earth century ago.”
Arctic waved that away. “Laral was a thief, not a true criminal. Thor botched the mission… typical for that rogue. They both probably froze to death somewhere in the wilderness. It would have been like crashing in the ice fields during a raging ice storm. Survival would have been nearly impossible, even if they both stayed in their crafts. No one could have survived all this time without being discovered.”
“Indeed,” Resig said. “Stark is the only male I know who’s managed to thrive in conditions like those in the ice fields. But why he would choose to live out there alone?”
Arctic snorted. “That male was never alone. He always had plenty of female company. In a way, he was living every male’s dream. They lined up for him and he availed himself of all.”
“How fortunate. Having regular female company is a happy circumstance for any male,” Resig declared, immediately wishing the comment unsaid when he received a glare in reply. “What do you want us to do now, General?”
“Find me a portal to that planet—any portal—to this Alaska place on Earth. Stark’s up to something there, Resig. I intend to find out what. And this time I’m not leaving it to the likes of an incompetent like you.”
Aura shook her head. “Check again, Destiny. Are you sure you read Topper’s life thread correctly? This shouldn’t be happening to her—not now. She’s just about to have her sixty-second birthday. She’s entering her crone prime.”
Destiny narrowed her gaze and glared. “After all these millennia, you have a lot of nerve doubting my reading, Aura. Being sixty witch years is very different from that age in a non-magical. In fact, even humans don’t have to let a seasoned age mean anything to their life span these days. Wasn’t it you who said age is merely a number, not a determiner?”
Aura huffed. “I was waxing poetic, not talking about math, Destiny. I simply detest calculations.”
Fortune raised her voice. “Now, now, sisters… I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this anomaly we’ve discovered. Gaia would never have done such a thing lightly. We all know the mother of the earth is compassionate above all others.”
“Yes, but… Fortune! The timing is so… well, unfortunate. Can’t you do something?” Aura said.
Fortune snorted. “Don’t blame the witch’s unusual future on me. I didn’t write this outcome into Topper’s fate. She wrote it herself when she chose someone from another planet for a life mate. Everything that’s come after is setting a new precedent. Lacey’s life is different now as well.”
Aura sighed. “Lacey is young and resilient and thinks she’ll live forever. This is all going to be a complete shock to Topper. It’s the last thing a witch like her is ever going to believe could happen. And Gaia or not… how can we let this happen to her? We’re supposed to be Topper’s friends, Fortune. She’ll never forgive us. Worse… she may never cook for us again. What will we do about dinner out then?”
Destiny lifted her chin. “We’re the fates. None of us is a warning kind of friend, Aura. What about Stark Naked? His fate and Topper’s are tied together now. This affects him too, you know. Should we inform Icela of what we’ve seen?”
Fortune nodded sadly. “Yes, we should. Can I just say our work sucks at times?”
Destiny looked at Aura. “For the love of all that is holy, will you please find me a deserving bad guy to kill. I need a positive distraction from this.”
“How about the bad guy coming from Glacier to kill Stark? He’s really bad. Icela told me so,” Aura declared.
Fortune nodded. “That’s right. Great. I’m in,” she said. “So who’s going to tell Icela and coordinate the portals?”
“Let’s use the intergalactic cauldron so we can all talk to her. We might need the power of three before we’re done,” Aura said.
“Agreed,” Fortune replied. “Destiny, are you with us?”
Destiny snorted at her bloodthirsty siblings… and then she smiled. There was one more being’s fate intertwined with Topper’s and Stark’s. Someone they were all overlooking. Maybe they just needed to think more creatively.
“Give me one more moment,” Destiny answered.
Then she bent over the cauldron once more and began tugging at threads.
At the Albuquerque, New Mexico Airport…
The plane was enormous by Earth standards, but not sized well for seven-foot tall aliens. The female flight attendant who showed them to their seats rubbed against Stark—not once, but twice—as he slid his large muscular frame into the first-class seat beside hers.
The second rub had been a deliberate ass graze. Topper saw the flirtatious move exactly for what it was and noticed Stark deliberately ignored it. Her anger would have been appeased by his non-reaction, but the woman giggled over what she’d gotten by with doing and shrugged as Topper glared at her.
Stark was hers—legally, physically, spiritually—and every other way. Topper was not going to let some airplane floozy in a blue button-up shirt mess with him on their honeymoon. The woman could take those wings on her lapel and shove them up her twenty-something, highly-toned ass.
She thought briefly about turning the perky blonde woman into a large toad, but then who would bring them ice water on the very long flight they had from Albuquerque to Anchorage? This trip, including the plane ride, was part of her wedding present to Stark. She was nothing if not a witch of her word and he’d been asking to fly for months.
So transmutations were out of the question, at least until they reached Anchorage.
Topper huffed quietly about her lack of revenge options and settled for a longer, harder glare, which sent the young woman finally turning her attention to the next set of first-class passengers boarding.
Still mad about the woman’s actions, she turned to Stark. “I know you wanted to see what it was like to fly in an Earth plane, but if that flight attendant touches anything else of yours, we’re magically transporting out of here before I do something vile to her. Explaining our absences to the pilot will give her something more productive to do than flirt with my husband.”
Stark smiled widely as he turned his full attention to his fiery-tempered, jealous mate. Goddess, he was so in love with his witch. For the twentieth time that day, he wished they were alone so he could have her under him screaming her pleasure again. He seemed to never tire of doing so which was an unexpected miracle for a man of his age and experience. Topper was both dream woman and the ultimate challenge. That tepid promise she’d made never to turn him into a jackass again had in no way ruled out other species. Only a stupid male would relax his guard around a female of her power.
“After being with you, I can barely remember the other women I’ve bedded. Why on Earth or any other planet would I be interested in a helpless human when I already have a powerful witch?”
Topper rolled her eyes. “Well, for starters, the woman looks half my age… and she’s at least six inches taller. She’d probably look quite nice hanging off your arm. Other men would certainly envy you—human and magical.”
Stark shrugged, the perfect stalling tactic of most human males, he’d learned. He looked up at the metal ceiling of the Earth plane, which was a mere three point seven inches above his head. The space he sat in at the moment was more constricting than any seat on any intergalactic ship he’d ever flown. It amazed him that they were in the larger seating area of the transport vehicle. His height had precluded them sitting in any of the average seats.
Stark looked back at his mate, puzzled to see temper-driven emotional distress still dancing in Topper’s eyes… and over a female who hadn’t moved him a bit. For all his witch’s enormous power, Topper was still insecure about her feminine charms. He found it odd since she had absolutely no reason to be.
“I believe the female is more like one-seventh your age based on the estimation I’ve gleaned from your scattered and mostly unhelpful hints about the actual span your life cycle. It is likely that I have space ranger uniforms tens times older than her. To be completely blunt—I prefer my partners to be experienced and adventurous, not childish and entitled.”
Topper snorted. “Are you saying that nice stuff because we’re on our honeymoon or just to make me quit complaining about her?”
Stark firmed his lips to keep from smiling too widely. After Topper’s insane reaction to her sisters stopping by and catching him naked on several occasions, he’d also learned a hard lesson about being too honest. He’d made a colossal mistake once in asking his mate what the big deal about his nudity was. Topper had left in a huff and hadn’t returned for hours. He’d had no idea where she’d gone and it had nearly driven him insane.
“I assure you I meant every word. I barely noticed the woman, other than that she was annoying you,” he promised.
“I don’t get it. We both have blue hair and are wearing matching rings. You’d think that alone would signal to the entire world that we’re a couple,” Topper declared.
Stark reached up and ran a hand across his short blue locks. He tended to forget about his strange hair color until he looked at Topper and saw hers. But then… Topper was always changing hers… and now often changing his.
Topper changed hair colors the way some women changed shoes. It had taken him months to stop being shocked when he accidentally saw his reflection and whatever change his witch mate had made to his appearance that day, a permission he’d granted her almost from the beginning of their mated relationship.
“Yes, my love. One would think our matching appearances would be enough,” he said.
Topper pushed back in her deeply cushioned seat and frowned. “She was just being so… obvious. It was like I wasn’t even sitting here. Gaia only knows what she might have tried to do if you’d been completely alone.”
“I love it when you get jealous, but you truly have no reason to be in this case. The only female my eyes are capable of seeing today is you,” he said quietly.
Topper squirmed when Stark’s hand reached over into her seat and landed on her leg just above her knee. Her gaze sought his out, but all she saw was his confusion over her feelings. She closed her eyes and felt her face grow warm. His methods of proving his interest made her entire body blush.
“I’m sorry, Stark. It’s just I’ve never cared before if…” Topper let the sentence fall off and stopped talking, not able yet to fully admit her feelings of insecurity about having Stark in her life.
Her relationships with men before him hadn’t included wanting sole ownership the way she did with him. Her sigh of resignation about her dilemma was much louder than she’d hoped as she shook her head.
Seconds later, she let out a nervous squeak noise when Stark’s hand slid backwards up her yoga pants clad leg until his fingers rested lightly against the inside of her thigh nearly rubbing against her crotch. His intimate touch brought back memories of the night before… and the three months of nights before that. Stark had thoroughly reintroduced her to lust and given her a few very interesting lessons on what she’d been missing out on before he came along.
“Keep that rubbing up and my problems will be solved. We’ll get thrown off the plane for bad behavior.”
Stark grinned as he shrugged again. “I’ll tell them it’s our honeymoon. I’m sure they’ll understand. Apparently all sorts of madness is forgiven when you’re feeding off each other’s pheromones. I read much about it when I realized how similar it was to our Glacieran mating frenzy. I expect we’ll both be feeling our respective reactions to each other for quite some time.”
Topper put her hand over his and with a ragged breath pushed his fingers back down towards her knee again. Stark gripped her leg tightly when she stopped the glide, and then he smiled in that sexy way she loved. Her stomach did its normal belly-flop when he growled softly at her restraint. A purely feminine shiver of pleasure swept through every cell, a physical reaction only this man—this alien—had managed to draw from her former dormant body.
“I can have us to Anchorage in ten seconds or less. Say the word and it’s done,” Topper whispered.
Stark withdrew his hand slowly and shook his head. He leaned over her and clicked the seat belt around her middle. Such a flimsy restraint served little purpose, but securing his mate in her seat did make him feel better. Taking care of Topper always did.
“We brought adequate reading material and electronics. We’ve prepared for this ride for days. I can wait until we reach our final destination. Plus, I would rather not be ill from magical transport when we arrive.”
Topper sighed and nodded, pulling her attention away from her sexy husband. Maybe she could give the flight attendant a big old wart on her nose. That would teach the floozy not to flirt.
“No,” Stark said firmly.
“Stay out of my head, Alien. We agreed to no brain spying,” Topper said firmly.
“Stop glaring at her then. I didn’t have time to see your plans for her, but your mind is clouded and dark around her image. Someone of your power should never harm an innocent bystander,” Stark advised.
Topper rolled her eyes. “If that woman is innocent, I’ll eat my ceremonial witch hat.”
—Thanks for reading—