LENGTH: 60k words, 240 pages
Trouble, she was. Big trouble. HIS trouble.
New Earth humans call him Alien, but it is they who are strange. His fierce appearance and stilted speech ensure no human bride will choose him. Such things only matter if you care, and for now, Darcone does not.
On his planet, he is revered as a mighty warrior. On Earth, he meekly serves as an Admiral’s guard. Why does he stay on this nearly hostile planet? Because answering to humans is still preferable to obeying the wishes of his family to mate with a woman he does not want.
Humans and their drama—he wants no part of it. No. That is a lie. He wants her at any cost. He’s always wanted Bri. But a good bride, the woman is not.
Fierce, Commander Bri is—and noble, but still a female. The idea of her ever being in danger makes him in growl in fury, fueled by emotions he’s never felt before. Caring points only to one truth—a truth Darcone wishes with all his oversized heart to deny.
Has he really been waiting two hundred years to make Brianna McNamara his?
READ AN EXCERPT
Commander Brianna MacNamara adjusted her uncomfortable new uniform jacket and sighed as she came out of her bedroom. Nate didn’t wear anything this stupid around the ship. Why did she have to? Most of the time Nate wore his white healer’s coat.
She glanced at the tiny dining table where her mega-intelligent sister sat working on her portable and drinking a cup of what Angus and Erin called tea. This morning she could use a couple cups of herbal stimulant herself. She headed into the kitchen, made herself a cup, and carried it out to the table with a plant protein energy bar.
“I don’t get it. Why aren’t you moving into the Admiral’s quarters with him?” Bri asked.
Sheena looked up and grinned. “Am I cramping your swinging lifestyle? I promise to be quiet and stay in my room when all those amorous men in your life come around.”
“Ha. Ha.” Brianna jerked on her clothing, trying to keep the front from riding up. “I swear, this is like wearing a restraint coat for the mentally deranged… and trust me, I know that for a fact. I went undercover as one once.”
“Bet that was fun.”
“It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t boring either.” Bri tugged at the jacket fasteners only to discover it didn’t help anything. “I really hate this damn thing.” She narrowed her eyes as she looked at her sister. “And you are cramping my style. How am I supposed to lure a reluctant alien to my bed when my sister is constantly here?”
Sheena laughed and sipped her tea. “I need to keep my own space for just a bit longer. After I visit with the Guardians, I’ll be able to make personal decisions a bit easier.”
“And that’s another thing… why am I not allowed to go see the Guardians with the rest of my family?” Bri demanded.
“It’s not like that. Nate’s not allowed to go either,” Sheena said soothingly. “The Guardians limit visitation because of the security risks. Director John will meet up with Angus, Erin, and me.”
Brianna couldn’t help fidgeting further under her sister’s stare. “What?”
“Are you nervous?” Sheena asked.
“Of course not,” Bri said, holding up her wrist. “Got my ultrasonic alien restraint bracelet already. Not that I think I’m going to need it, but it was part of the rest of the crap Nate insisted I have.”
“Your jacket doesn’t fit. It’s obvious that it was made for a man and not a woman with curves. Surely he can’t expect you to wear that every day.”
Bri lifted both hands. “What am I going to do? Nate’s my boss now. He’s making me wear it.”
Sheena shrugged. “Go see the clothing tailors Director John sent to make Angus’s kilts.”
Bri smiled, beaming at her sister. “Great idea. That’s why you get the big bucks. I’m going there right after I finish my tea and meet the crew this morning. I need some room for the girls to breathe.” She lifted her cup and took a healthy sip.
Snorting, Sheena lifted her cup too. “Tea. I still think that’s the craziest word I ever heard. What’s wrong with just calling it an herbal stimulant? It’s interesting how different our universe is compared to the one where Angus and Erin used to live.”
“I wouldn’t want to go there… not if they’re anything to go by. But I do think they have good priorities and great characters because of their lack of technological drama.”
Sheena nodded. “I’ve thought the same.”
A knock on the door sent Bri sighing. “That’s the Lieutenant Commander. He’s not happy that his boss got replaced by a female. Don’t those cavemen realize the Provost they work for is one? These men really need to get off this fucking ship more than two weeks a year.”
Sheena chuckled into her drink. “There you go—making trouble already and you haven’t even begun your first day.”
Grinning, Bri opened the door and got an abrupt head nod and a growl. “Did you just growl at me, Lieutenant?”
“No, sir… I mean, ma’am.”
“Commander will do,” Bri said sharply, wanting to keep her gender out of it if she could. She softened her rebuke with a polite head nod.
“No, Commander. I did not growl at you. Your sister’s guard did.”
Bri looked to the side and narrowed her gaze at the alien now glaring at her. Darcone was snarling as he checked out her outfit.
She looked down at herself. “I know. Jacket fits like shit, doesn’t it? But I can’t walk around shirtless like you all day… at least not and get anything done.”
“Good idea, command is not,” Darcone said.
“Right,” Bri said, stiffening her spine. “Women on your planet aren’t warriors, are they?”
“No. Protect females, we do.”
Bri breathed in, searching for calm. It just wasn’t there. She glared at Darcone. “I eat danger for breakfast so don’t mess with me, Darcone. I took this damn job, and I plan to do it.”
She turned to her fellow crew member who’d gone pale the moment she’d started arguing with Darcone. “Lead the way, Lieutenant. Time to meet my crew,” she said, ignoring the man’s bobbing head as he stared fearfully at Darcone.
It didn’t help matters that the alien’s growl of displeasure followed both of them down the hallway. She swung around again and pointed a finger at him. “Don’t make me use my alien ass-kicker bracelet on my first damn day. Nate would be very unhappy with you if you make me do that.”
“Listen to yelling, I will not. Go… be no trouble. I will know,” Darcone ordered gruffly.
When Bri laughed loudly at the fiercely spoken threat, her Lieutenant nearly pissed himself in alarm. The man probably thought Darcone would come after them. She wished the alien would—damn it. Darcone’s gender bias didn’t bode well for her plans to seduce him.
After the eighty years she’d known the alien, Darcone had to have figured out by now that she was not a female meant for keeping safe from life. Her father—the original Angus—hadn’t raised her to be that kind of woman. The current Angus would be laughing his ass off at Darcone’s growling. He’d tell the ‘pointy-eared bastard’ that he was going to have to get over himself. But neither of the two MacNamara males she adored were going to be able to help her adjust to her new job or Darcone’s disappointment in her.
If the beginning of it was anything to go by, this was going to be a very, very long first day.
Bri wanted to rant over the antiquated processes she found were being used to run the ship, but that would have made her new crew more scared of her than they already were. It was no wonder the ship ran as poorly as it did.
The standard operating procedures hadn’t been updated in a hundred years. That was completely Nate’s fault—for sure—but no excuse for her to allow it to continue. Her all-male crew nearly had a heart attack when she picked up their printed copy of the airship’s emergency manual and tossed it in the nearest trash receptacle. No one wasted such a treasure as paper without great cause.
“We’re going to put together a new set of procedures immediately,” she told them. “Lieutenant Jarvis will be making recommendations to me about the work. I will be choosing two people who will be assigned to the job. Upon completion of the task, those two people will receive an extra week of leave.”
That got some raised eyebrows and some nodding heads.
“First rule on the new protocol list—Admiral Tiberius has directed me that he is not to be awakened in the middle of the night except in the event of death or direct attack. The Lieutenant and I will rotate schedules for being on call for emergencies. One of us will make the determination to escalate to the Admiral if necessary.”
Bri talked for an hour, boring herself as much as them, but she was determined to get the grumbling over with as quickly as she could this week. Once she ran out of things to say, she thanked them for their time, turned command over to the Lieutenant for two hours, and went in search of the kilt makers.
Good thing the kilt makers were easy on the eye. Their affectionate banter and jabbering about fashion got on her nerves in two minutes. Checking them out passed the time in a mildly entertaining way.
“No. No. No,” Matthew said. “That jacket is all wrong for you. Evan, look at this. Is this even something we can work with? It’s that standard issue crap the ship’s crew wears.”
“Droll,” Evan declared, putting down the project he’d been working on.
Bri sighed as Matthew called his partner over so Evan could also grope her boobs and shoulders through the stiff cloth. While it was the most she’d been touched by men in a while, the couple’s obvious love and admiration for each other kept her from enjoying the attention like she might have under other conditions.
No, there was no use flirting or asking if they wanted to share her, even though sex with two handsome men would have gone a long way toward clearing her mind of lust. The alien bastard who kept growling at her for stupid reasons sure didn’t seem inclined to relieve her horniness. She hadn’t even thought about sex in months until Darcone had kissed her the day Sheena arrived. The bastard hadn’t come near her since she’d nearly gotten killed by Nate’s evil father.
Fine. It wasn’t like she needed Darcone to be happy. She’d given up that fantasy when she was twenty for real. If he still didn’t want her sixty years later, then she didn’t want him either. Well, she didn’t want to want him—which was practically the same thing.
“It’s Commander,” Bri said tightly.
Matthew chuckled. “Okay, Commander Sweetums… give me that jacket. You’re to never wear something like this again while Evan and I are on the ship.” He turned to his grinning partner. “She’s your size more than mine, Evan. Get your leather-look coat from our personal chest. The commander can wear it until we get her alterations done. It looks formal enough for that stiff-ass she works for to leave her alone about her clothing.”
“Hey,” Bri said, laughing about their opinion of Nate. “That’s Admiral Stiff-Ass to you two jokers.”
Matthew huffed. “When he lets us out of the bowels of this flying can he adores and puts us up on a regular deck, only then will I properly respect your Admiral.”
Bri grinned and saluted. When Evan returned with a blue-gray faux leather garment, he only had to hold it up for her to willingly shrug it on. Real leather had been outlawed centuries ago when the world stopped eating the animals it came from. But whatever this was made of, the fabric was amazing. It hugged her upper body like the best-fitting glove ever. Her moan of pleasure had both men chuckling.
“It’s heat-sensitive and molds to the person wearing it. No female has ever had that on. I’m surprised it could accommodate your ample bosom so well, but good for us, eh?”
Bri turned to a fitting mirror propped against a gray metal wall. “This jacket is truly beautiful.” She turned to Evan. “Thank you for the loan.”
Evan grinned and brought over a span of plaid cloth. “Slip the jacket off a second.”
“Do I have to?” Bri asked, her mouth forming into a sardonic smirk. “That looks familiar.”
“As it should. Come on—off with it. Only for a few seconds, Commander. Then you can put it right back on,” Evan promised.
Bri let the jacket slide down her arms and caught it in her hands. Before she had time to process what he was doing, Evan had the plaid wrapped over her shoulder and around her waist. He looped it and fastened the dangling ends with an enormous metal pin that looked like a weapon. A Celtic symbol from several millenniums ago hung like an antique jewel from it.
While Bri was inspecting herself, and wondering what in hell she was wearing, Evan appeared again with her Commander tag. It didn’t have her name on it, just her title. That was all she was supposed to be called during duty anyway.
Evan fastened it to the band of plaid just above her breast, then took the jacket from her and held it out again.
“Nicely done, Oh Love Of My Life,” Matthew said, admiring her outfit while Evan beamed over the praise.
Bri grinned at the men. “Isn’t this the plaid you used to make Angus’s kilt?”
“Indeed it is,” Evan said. “We were instructed to be as historically accurate as possible. Men wore kilts. Women did as well… or long skirts. Both wore sashes when they weren’t wearing their clan colors otherwise. I thought this sash was particularly appropriate, with you being a true MacNamara and all.”
Bri nodded and turned to the mirror. The outfit looked so good, it made her realize her dark hair was shaggy and needed a haircut. “Much better, fellas… much, much better. Can this be my new uniform?”
Both men chuckled and shrugged.
Bri ran a hand through her hair. “I guess I need to visit the barber.”
“No!” Both Matthew and Evan yelled, shaking their heads.
“The man knows nothing about styling hair. You need to find someone with real talent or just don’t bother,” Matthew advised.
Bri laughed. “I have to do something. My hair is out of airship regulation. Where do you suggest I look for a stylist? It’s not like we can have one flown in.”
Evan gave her a stern look. “You’re making this harder than it needs to be. I recommend starting in the women’s common area. Surely one of those abductees has to have a bit of experience with cutting hair. The barber will make you look like the Admiral. You do not want that.”
Bri grunted in answer. “Good point. Looking in the women’s area is a reasonable place to start. What have I got to lose?”
“Only all ability to look fantastic in that outfit if you go to the barber,” Evan informed her with a raised brow and a smirk.
Grinning, Bri reached out and hugged the teasing man. She moved to Matthew and did the same. “You two just made this day a little less shitty for me. Thank you. I won’t forget it.”
“The pleasure was ours, Commander,” Matthew answered with a polite head bow.
Bri started to the door.
“Shall I call an escort guard for you, Commander?” Evan asked.
“No. I’m safe on my own. Wait…” She turned to Evan. “Call for one. Tell them I said to send Darcone.”
Both men shivered. “Are you sure?” Matthew asked. “He’s…”
“The scariest alien on the ship?” Bri suggested. Two nods had her chuckling. “I find him sexy.”
“Sexy?” Matthew repeated in shock, mock shivering at the thought. “He oozes male juju for sure, but those cold eyes of his…”
Bri smiled wide. “I like his eyes. That glare of his gives me all sorts of wicked thoughts.”
Evan looked at Matthew. They stared at each other for a moment, then grinned. Bri was envious of that intimate, unspoken communication. She secretly longed to know someone that well, but it just hadn’t happened in her life.
Darcone stiffened when she opened the door. He looked at her new outfit, frowned hard, and then dismissed his perusal. Bri narrowed her gaze on him. “I need to go to the women’s common area.”
His short nod and continued silence got on her nerves. Now she regretted calling him.
Giving a terse wave to the kilt makers, Bri closed their door and started toward the stairs. If he wasn’t talking to her, then fuck him and his shirtless chest. She wasn’t going to talk either. His hand on her arm stopped her on the first platform.
“Forgot, I did.”
She turned to the next level. “Forgot what?”
Darcone’s answer was to grip her arm harder. He swept the jacket open and slid his hand down the plaid sash from shoulder to breast, making her nipples jump to attention
“Family,” Darcone said slowly, his fingers tapping just above her breast.
Like the horny idiot she was, she glanced down at his fingers. The sight sent heat flooding through her. Her nipple got harder. She looked up, glared, and backed away.
“Yes. I’m wearing the MacNamara plaid. Everyone around here is going to have to get used to it.”
Bri started up the next set of steps. Again, Darcone’s grip stopped her from moving on to the next level platform. “It’s going to take all damn day to walk there if you’re going to keep stopping us every few steps.”
“Much anger, you have. Tame it… I wish…”
“You wish what?” Bri demanded.
The irritated question was all she got out before his mouth was on hers. His arm snaking around her waist to pull her flush against him made her completely forget everything else. His chest was a series of hard-stacked muscles on more muscles. It felt like being pressed against heaven to her.
The growl rumbling free of his throat echoed inside her mouth as his tongue parted her non-resistant lips. Her arms slid up his chest until her hands gripped his shoulders. The few horny thoughts she’d had about the kilt makers paled in comparison to the burning need consuming her now. She wanted to get her long-time alien fantasy alone for about a week. Or at least until her brain cleared and her body settled down.
What was with that growling thing he did around her? Darcone growled all the damn time, but with her it was… she couldn’t describe it. But it was different. It called to her body, made it do things that she had no control over. She was standing alone and staring at him when she finally realized he’d pulled away and put a fair amount of distance between their bodies.
“Bad idea, this is,” he said softly.
Bri shook her head and ran a now-shaking hand through her unruly hair. Passion had always done this to her. It robbed her of all self-control. With Darcone, though, she didn’t care—which was worse. Wanting him was her weakness.
“A bad idea—right. Because I’m commander of this ship? Or because I’m too young? Or maybe it’s because you’re still holding out hope to get an already-tamed woman who’ll do whatever you want without arguing with you.”
“All good reasons,” Darcone said in agreement.
Bri glared fiercely. “Well, don’t worry that stupid alien brain of yours about me. I’m sure Erin and Angus will find you an equally stupid female eventually. You just better hope Sheena can keep the matchmakers alive for another couple hundred years because it’s going to take that fucking long to find a female willing to take on your fickle ass.”
Ignoring Darcone’s angry growl over her statements—a dissonance of sound she was all too familiar with—Bri bounded up the rest of the metal stairs, not stopping until she reached the door leading to the passenger level. This time she put real energy into walking toward her destination and didn’t stop until she reached the women’s common area.
She kept her focus on the door as she spoke. If she looked at him now, she was going to take a swing at his head. She was that wound up over him. “I won’t be requiring an escort in the future. I just wanted your company today so you could see me in my spiffy new commander clothes, but fuck that girly shit. I can see now that wanting your company for any reason only makes me your fool. I’ll definitely mind my own business from now on.”
Darcone sighed heavily, biting back his growl. “No harm I meant.”
“I’m tougher than that. No harm was done. You still made your point.”
“No point made,” Darcone denied.
Bri glared at him and pounded a fist against her chest. “You rejected me—message received, Darcone. You have me wanting to growl back and I don’t have time for this f**ing nonsense.”
She didn’t bother saying goodbye. They’d said enough for one day.
Connected Books: ALIENS IN KILTS