THE MARKETPLACE SITUATED in the center of Rozun’s capitol was quiet that time of morning. It was something Cara still couldn’t get used to, considering that during the peak hours, just as the Rozian sun shimmered in the shifting, swirling sky, the marketplace was a crowded, bustling, loud place full of animated aliens and creatures, colors, and sounds.
The only aliens in the marketplace that early were the vendors who sold their goods, ranging from fresh meat and crops, to fabrics, to oils and spices, to home wares.
As Cara roamed down the center aisle, with stalls on both sides, the quiet rustlings as the vendors set up for a busy day reaching her ears, she smiled to herself. It was one of her favorite times of day, the calm before the storm. The air was cold and she pulled the furs that Devix had made for her tighter around her body. The cold season was coming. That was what Devix had told her.
It had been over two months since she’d first stepped foot on Rozun, since Devix had betrayed his own employer to bring her to his home colony, to safety. Six weeks ago, Sarkon had come to Rozun, to punish Devix and retrieve her. Six weeks ago, Devix had killed Sarkon and his scouts to protect her. Six weeks ago, Devix had confessed to her that she was his fated mate, his luxiva, the one female in the entire universe meant for him. And him for her.
Cara felt warmth in her chest, battling away the frigid cold that wound through her furred cloak. The same warmth she felt whenever she thought about Devix, who she’d left sleeping in their bed earlier that morning.
The begawwi vendor she frequented came into view, located towards the very end of the middle aisle of the marketplace. A hulking Krevorag appeared. He was situated behind his stall, bending over to heft pounds of the fresh meat into the clear containers to keep them cold.
When Devix had first introduced Cara to Okerwi, she’d frozen up. The Krevorags, aliens who resembled lizards with their yellow eyes and long tails, were the race that had originally captured her from Earth and kept her caged in the Pit. Cara still didn’t know how long she’d been kept prisoner, but she’d been trained to fear the Krevorags. So when she’d first seen Okerwi, she hadn’t reacted well. That had been over a month ago, however, and every time she was in the capitol, she made a point to do her business dealings with him, alone. Devix wouldn’t always be at her side and Cara knew she had to get over her fears if she wanted her restaurant to survive.
“Valetza,” she greeted in Rozian, approaching the obsidian-colored countertop of the stall.
Cara didn’t know much Rozian, but she’d picked up enough phrases over the past month to navigate her way around the markets and at her own restaurant.
Okerwi straightened, eyeing her without saying a word. She’d discovered that most aliens on Rozun were naturally suspicious beings. Devix had told her Rozun was a colony for those that had nowhere else to go. That it operated under a ‘don’t ask, won’t tell’ type of policy. The beings there minded their own business and Cara had learned not to take the frostiness she’d encountered to heart. None had been outright mean to her and she knew it would take time to develop relationships with the aliens she came into contact with.
Cara wouldn’t lie…it was intimidating. But this life, the life she’d started to build with Devix, was the life she wanted, the one she’d chosen over returning to Earth. And she was determined as hell to not only make her restaurant a success, but to integrate herself into life on Rozun.
It was part of the reason why Devix and Cara bought a small dwelling in the capitol. Commuting from their home in the southern region of Rozun to the capitol every day was not only expensive, but foolish. So, they spent a few days in the capitol, when the restaurant was open and when Devix could sell the pillerva pods, and the rest of the week at their true home, in their peaceful, private sanctuary, where it was just the two of them, and their forest, and their valley.
“Valetza,” Okweri rasped, hunching back over to retrieve a container from the floor of his stall. He brought it around the front and set it down at her feet. Cara had to crane her neck up to see him clearly, since he was almost as tall as her mate.
“Lifez pevi?” she asked. How much? in Rozian, even though Cara was sure her accent butchered the phrase. She couldn’t roll her tongue the way most beings could.
“Tigen,” he replied, jerking his head, which roughly translated to ‘the same.’ The same amount she’d been paying him whenever she was in need of begawwi meat.
Cara nodded her head and fetched the coins from the pouch she had clenched in her fist. Even though she’d insisted that Devix didn’t come with her on her morning rounds anymore, it was hard sometimes to shake her nerves. It would be easy for an alien to take advantage of her, which was Devix’s main fear. They’d had a nasty fight about it earlier in the month, but Cara had eventually persuaded him that she needed to learn her own way on Rozun if it was going to be her home.
Okerwi pocketed the coins that Cara handed him and then his eyes flickered up the road, towards her restaurant, where it was tucked into the quiet corner of the market. There wasn’t as much foot traffic there, but it was peaceful and quiet.
“I will bring,” Okerwi grunted, in English, which surprised Cara so much that she could only blink up at him.
“What?” she asked.
He jerked his head down to the heavy container the meat was sealed in, a container that Cara could lift and bring to her restaurant, albeit slowly.
“I will bring,” he grunted again and hefted it up as if it weighed nothing.
The American in her was about to reject his help. It was on the tip of her tongue to say, “Oh no, you don’t have to…”
Then Cara bit that tongue. It was cold and her fingers were warm tucked into her furs. Okerwi had never offered to help her before and she wondered if this was progress, if she’d finally cracked his hard shell, just a bit.
“Okay,” she murmured. “Thank you.”
Rozians didn’t have a phrase that translated to ‘thank you,’ but she said it often enough in English, even though whomever she was speaking to looked at her oddly when she did. She thanked all the vendors she worked with, all the customers that ate at her restaurant, although, admittedly, it wasn’t many.
Okerwi walked ahead of her in silence, his long strides taking him to her restaurant far quicker than hers ever could. From a short distance away, she saw him place the container at the opening of her stall and he passed her on his way back to his own.
He didn’t say anything when she said ‘thank you’ again. He simply jerked his head in a nod and passed her by. Over her shoulder, Cara watched him walk away and she sighed, wondering if she should’ve invited him inside for a free meal. Maybe if he tried her food, it’d help break the ice.
Cara’s gaze returned to the stall that she’d come to view as her own. It wasn’t much, but it was one of the larger stalls in the marketplace. Towards the back, was an open kitchen—or at least her modified version of one. The front of the stall was open air, like patio dining, although Cara hoped one day they’d be able to enclose the space, especially with the cold season approaching. Until then, Devix had created a fire pit in the center for warmth, with the tables and chairs they’d built together radiating around it.
Cara smiled when she saw it, feeling pride fill her breast. It was small and clean, but cozy. Slightly more rustic than what she was used to, but hey, beggars couldn’t be choosers. She already had plans of renovation in her head, but she wanted to use the money she generated from the restaurant to pay for them. It baffled and irked Devix that she wouldn’t use his money, which he insisted was ‘their’ money. Apparently, when it came to fated mates, everything was shared.
It was hard to explain to him, but Cara needed to do this for herself. She had something to prove to Rozun and she didn’t want to do it with the money Devix had worked hard for, before he’d ever known she’d existed. The independent streak in her wouldn’t settle for anything less.
She named her restaurant ‘Earth.’ It had seemed strange to her at first, calling it that, but it made sense. It was a simple English word that Rozians could pronounce. It was where she was from, her own slice of home. And the idea of a restaurant was native only to Earth, from what Cara had gathered. Not many had understood the concept at first, but Cara had only been open about three weeks and already she was seeing familiar faces frequenting.
While Earth had been mostly empty for the first week or so as word got out, now she was proud that she had a steady flow of customers throughout the day. And while the few tables she had weren’t always filled whenever she was open, at least one or two of them were.
That was progress to Cara. She’d take it. It would take time for Rozians to accept her, to accept her business. But repeat customers were…excellent.
And eventually, she knew her restaurant would be a success. She was confident enough in her culinary skills, in her dishes that she’d carefully curated and tested. Her simple menu was segmented into three different flavor profiles, depending on the kind of flavors a species preferred. So far, it was working.
Cara began her daily mornings tasks, which included sweeping the floor of debris that had blown in from the night before, wiping down the tables and menus, lighting the fire pit the way Devix had taught her, before making her way behind the counter to the open kitchen.
Her kitchen was simple for now. Devix had built her a working sink and stove range, once she’d tried to explain what it was. An actual oven was out of the question at the moment, but Devix said that once they expanded the restaurant, he could make one for her. They already had a working one at home, one he’d surprised her with.
So, Cara began prepping once she dragged the container of begawwi the rest of the way inside. She only created three types of dishes a day, each with a separate flavor profiles, with different roots and sides and spices, but all surrounding around her choice of meat. Begawwi was the most versatile, which was why she frequented Okerwi’s stall. Sometimes, Devix hunted begawwi for her, but since they’d been in the capitol for three days already and were planning to return home later that evening, Okerwi was her first choice.
Cara was halfway peeling all the burxit roots when her spine tingled, her body aware of his presence before her mind was.
When she glanced up from her work, her heart skipped a beat when she saw Devix, her mate, shadowing the entrance of her stall, watching her.
And even though she’d just said goodbye to him that morning, although he’d been half-asleep at the time, Cara felt like she hadn’t seen him in days and she went around the counter immediately to greet him.
The fire in the pit warmed her as she wound her arms around his neck, pulling him down so she could kiss him.
She gasped against his lips when that little spark of connection raced through her, as it always did. What she felt for the alien male before her was…unparalleled. She’d never felt anything like it before and she knew she never would again. Only him. Only Devix.
“Good morning,” she whispered.
“Tervax rixa,” he murmured back to her in Luxirian, watching her with those electric blue eyes she loved so much. Now, they flickered around her restaurant before settling back on her. “Your vendor stops went well?”
Cara knew it bothered him that she’d insisted on opening up the restaurant alone. It bothered him a lot. One thing she’d realized about her male—an underlying trait that all Luxirian males seemed to possess, from what Devix told her—was his need to protect and provide for his female. Cara was his female, undeniably. He worried about her well-being whenever she was away from him, not only because she was his fated mate, but because humans in general were weak and small compared to other alien species. And although Devix continued to train her, to teach her how to defend herself, he still worried. Cara could understand his fear. If their circumstances were flipped, Cara would be worried out of her mind too. If something had ever happened to him…
It was unfathomable.
“Yes,” she whispered, running her fingers down the hair he’d finally let begin to grow out. He’d shorn it because of his exile, because he’d felt like he’d deserved exile. Every day that it grew longer, Cara rejoiced. It was beautiful and dark and thick and never deserved to be cut again. “Okerwi brought over the meat.”
His brow ticked up. “From his stall?”
“That’s progress, right?” she asked, unable to resist kissing him again. They hadn’t had sex that morning because Cara had accidentally slept in a little later than expected…because of her insatiable mate the night before. Never had she ever thought she could have sex multiple times a day and still need more. Her mate was that good.
“Tev,” he said. “I would say so. For a Krevorag.”
Cara smiled. “Come and sit. I’ll make you breakfast before your morning rush, okay?”
Devix’s pillerva pods sold out before early afternoon most days. Aliens began lining up outside his own stall before he even finished setting up. Though most beings were wary of an exiled Luxirian—an exiled Luxirian warrior—they sure didn’t mind eagerly waiting for his arrival.
Of course, the pillerva pods were seasonal and soon, the trees around their home would be stripped bare and Rozians would have to wait another crop rotation. But their income from the pods was almost obscene and they could more than afford the wait, especially if Cara brought in more money from the restaurant.
Devix nodded. “I would never say no to your food, female.”
“I know,” she teased. Her male loved her food. Ironically, he hated the pillerva pods, but that was the only thing he couldn’t palate, mostly because it was too sweet. Luxirians mostly liked meat and roots, go figure.
Cara returned to the kitchen but Devix didn’t sit down at the table, he followed her. And he distracted her as she cut off a generous slice of the fresh begawwi meat, coming up behind her and nibbling at her neck.
“Female,” he rumbled in her ear when she squirmed against him, trying to focus on the task at hand and failing.
“Yes?” she asked, voice slightly breathless.
“I cannot wait until we return to our dwelling tonight,” he rasped against her neck. “I cannot wait until we are alone, with no beings around, so that I can make you moan and scream as loud as I wish.”
Cara shivered against him, need swarming her belly. Being in the capitol was nice because she was close to the restaurant and Devix was close to his stall. But their true happy place was their home.
“I can’t wait either,” she whispered, feeling his hand slip underneath her fur coverings. She gasped when his fingers found her center, when they found her already wet and aching. “Devix.”
Her only answer was a growl that she felt reverberate down her spine. Her body clenched, pleasure crashing down on her, when he inserted his finger inside, his thumb thrumming against her clit, the wicked, wicked male.
If she was in their own kitchen, back in their home in the southern region, she’d turn in his arms, hop up on the countertop, and open her legs wide. She’d let him drape her legs over his shoulders as he tongued her pussy, she’d let him make her cum before he slowly inched his delicious cock inside her, where it always belonged, where she never wanted him to leave. She’d let him flip her over and take her from behind as he spanked her backside, because it turned both of them on.
But they weren’t in their own kitchen. And they both knew it.
With a groan, Devix stopped and let his fingers drift away. She turned in his arms and gave him a desperate kiss. It was a promise, a need, an apology, all at once.
“Later tonight,” she whispered to him, “you will have me wherever and however you please. And I will have you too.”
Devix squeezed her backside, eliciting a throbbing thrill inside her. “I know, luxiva. And we will have each other wherever and however all night long.”
“Looking forward to it,” she teased, her whisper falling across his velvety lips. With one last kiss, she pulled back and said, “Now, no more distractions. I want to make my male some breakfast.”