Alice Carmody was so excited, she nearly peed herself.
Her nervous bladder was an affliction she’d suffered all her life. During her first dance recital, at age five, she’d half-skipped off stage in search of the toilet. People had actually clapped. Her dance teacher told her it was her best work yet. Solo in the musical at ten, mid-note she’d raced out of the room. Afterwards, her father told her it was just as well as his ear drums couldn’t take much more. During her wedding proposal, she’d hopped around so much her soon-to-be fiancé had asked her if she was having a seizure.
She frowned, thinking about Frederick—her cheating, arrogant ex-fiancé. Urgh! She didn’t want to think about him. Especially not today. Today was a happy day, and she wasn’t about to let anything ruin this moment. Not her horrible ex, not her easily excited bladder. Nope, nothing would ruin the first time she stepped foot on Zerconia.
“Alice? What are you doing?” a male voice asked from behind her.
She turned, wobbling on her new high heels. She’d spent a good deal of her savings on these shoes. Not that they’d cost that much, but she was a bit low on credits. Thankfully the Earth Council was paying for this trip to Zerconia. Otherwise she’d never have been able to afford it. They’d even given her some credits. Which was lucky since she’d left home with just a few credits she’d stolen from her father. She still felt guilty about that. She planned to send them back to him as soon as she could.
Her cousin had offered to send her funds, but she’d refused. She had some pride after all. And he was already doing enough to help her. So what if she couldn’t buy little souvenirs at the stops they’d made during the journey? She didn’t need things.
“Here, let me help you, Alice.”
She peered up into his face, trying to pull the blurred image into features she recognized. “Mark?” Mark was a member of the transporter’s crew.
“Alice, where are your glasses?”
“In my luggage.”
“Why aren’t they on your face?”
Because they were ugly and she wished to look…well, not pretty, she knew she’d never be pretty. But the glasses covered what she thought was her best feature.
Okay, so it might be weird to think your eyebrows were your best feature. But Alice’s eyebrows were dark and full. They arched ever so slightly. She didn’t even shape them that way. They were completely natural. No one ever believed her, of course. She’d had plenty of women stop her to ask her where she’d had them done, only to storm off in a huff when she told them she never touched them.
So, today of all days, wearing glasses was out of the question.
Mark’s voice had been a bit snappish, but she didn’t take offense. She knew the Mark quite well by now. It had been a long journey from Earth to Zerconia. No doubt he was a bit testy because he was tired.
“Because I don’t want to wear them when we disembark. I want to make a good first impression.”
“Alice, we’re still two days out from Zerconia’s airspace.”
Oh, shoot. She looked away in an attempt to hide her embarrassment. She could’ve sworn she’d overheard one of the crew members say that today day was ‘the day.’ She was the first to admit she wasn’t good at keeping track of time or days…or anything for that matter.
Her mother called her flighty.
Her father just called her an idiot.
She pushed away those negative thoughts. She was free. She didn’t have to live under her father’s rule, to put up with him belittling her and her mother.
Alice took a deep breath and looked up at Mark, forcing herself to smile through her embarrassment.
“Whoops, must have got my days wrong.”
“Let me take you back to your room.”
“I’ll be fine.” She took a step back and nearly fell again. Drat! She should have practiced walking in these shoes first. “Thank you for your concern.”
“What the hell are you wearing on your feet?”
She peered down at her feet, blinking rapidly. While most people could have their vision issues fixed in less than ten minutes, with the aid of a laser, she was one of the few who could not.
“I know they’re shoes, but what are they doing on your feet?”
“Um, because that’s where shoes go. Mark, are you feeling all right? I know you’re tired—”
“I’m not tired,” he snapped. There was a pause. “I apologize. You’re right, I am tired. Are you sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable in flat shoes? With your glasses on?”
She patted his arm to let him know she forgave him. “You’re so sweet to worry about me, but I’ll be all right.”
“Not just you I’m worried about,” he muttered.
“What was that?” She peered up at him, trying to read his expression. Who was she kidding? He was so blurry she couldn’t tell his nose from his mouth. Maybe she should wear her glasses. She wanted to look nice for these Zerconian hunks, though. She was searching for a mate, after all. She should try to put in an effort, right?
Nerves tightened her stomach. What if none of them chose her? Would she be allowed to stay or would they make her go back to Earth? To her family?
Nerves morphed into panic. Her breath left her in a whoosh, her lungs tightening painfully. Spots danced in front of her eyes.
“Alice? Alice, you okay? Here, come sit down.”
She let Mark steer her to a bench seat and sat, dropping her head down between her knees.
“Sorry,” she told him when she caught her breath.
“I’ll call for the doctor.”
“No!” she half-yelled. She forced herself to smile. “I’m fine. Just felt a little dizzy is all. Been on the ship too long, I guess. I’d love some fresh air. Guess you were right. There’s no way I can walk in these shoes. I read somewhere that high heels make you look taller and slimmer.”
And she needed all the help she could in that department.
“Vanity is a sin, though, isn’t it?” At least that’s what her father always lectured whenever she’d tried to improve her appearance.
Mark cleared his throat, and she guessed he was growing impatient with her.
Men didn’t like to listen to women’s problems, as her mother liked to tell her. A woman should keep a peaceful home, should cater to her husband’s needs, should keep her opinions to herself…the list when on and on. Normally, Alice tuned out her mother’s voice by this point in the lecture.
She knew that not all men and women had a relationship like her parents. Most didn’t. But in the Church of the Enlightened Souls, men were head of the household and women were…well, women did what they were told.
Alice wasn’t very good at doing as she was told.
“Come on, I’m taking you back to your room. No arguments. You really shouldn’t be walking around without your glasses. Especially wearing those shoes.”
Alice nodded and let him help her back to her assigned room on board the Mariana. The transporter had been named after the Captain’s wife. It was a romantic gesture. What would it be like to have someone love her like that?
Perhaps her parents had loved her at one stage. But mostly they were disappointed in her. Once she was alone in her room, she pulled her glasses out of her luggage, putting them on. The room’s communicator buzzed as she was changing her shoes. She limped over, her right foot still encased in the high heel.
She placed her hand on the pad by the door without checking who it was. She knew everyone on the transporter.
“Hi, Alice.” Maisy stepped into her room with a smile.
“Hi!” Alice replied cheerfully. “Come in. Have a seat.”
Maisy sat down on her bed. The other woman was the closest friend Alice had, even though they’d only met at the beginning of this journey. Alice limped over towards her luggage.
“I’m so bored. I can’t wait until we land on Zerconia. This trip has been the pits.”
Alice thought the trip had been amazing. They’d had several stops, and she’d even managed to do a little sightseeing. The sheer number of different species she’d encountered had taken her breath away. Her father hadn’t allowed her to study other races, in his mind, there was only one race. The human one. She didn’t like to think of her father as racist, but the way he’d talked about alien races had made her think they were all intellectually inferior with no moral conscience and bad hygiene—actually, maybe it was her mother who’d told her that.
During this trip, she’d been determined to learn as much as she could about other races and their cultures. Especially the Zerconians. She’d even taught herself their language. She’d found it easier than she’d thought, so she’d downloaded a few other languages to learn and picked up those just as quickly. It seemed she had a real knack for languages.
It felt good to study something other than her father’s biblical teachings, which mainly consisted of preaching about how inferior women were, how all sins fell on their shoulders, and how it was their duty to be subservient to their husbands, fathers, and their God. She usually tuned out after a few minutes.
But she didn’t want to disagree with Maisy, so she simply nodded.
“Alice, why are you wearing two different shoes?”
She sighed. “I nearly tripped over in the high heels, so I thought I’d better change. From the way Mark reacted when he saw me in them, I don’t think I looked that good anyway.”
Maisy snorted. “Mark is a stick in the mud. And he’s rude.”
“He’s just tired. It’s been a long journey for him.”
“He doesn’t approve of what we’re doing,” Maisy told her.
Alice paused as she was removing her shoe. “What do you mean, he doesn’t approve?”
“I overheard him talking to Paul about how he thought we were whoring ourselves and how the Earth Council had basically sold us to the Zerconians.”
She sat back, dumbfounded. “But that’s not true. We’re not whoring ourselves. We haven’t been sold to the Zerconians.”
Maisy looked a little unsure. “Then why is the Earth Council paying for us to go to Zerconia? I didn’t really think about it before. I was just tired of working such long hours and living in a horrible little apartment. I wanted a better life, but what if we have been sold to the Zerconians?”
“That’s ridiculous, Maisy. We’re allied to the Zerconians; the Earth Council is merely trying to help them. They need mates, or their race will die out. The recruitment officer I spoke to on Earth said we can leave when the Mariana departs Zerconia again in four weeks.” If they hadn’t met their mate by then. And she desperately hoped she would find her mate.
Because she couldn’t go back.
Her cousin had offered her a home, but she couldn’t be a burden to him. He had his own life, and she needed to create a life for herself.
“Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true, Alice,” Maisy told her.
Alice straightened her shoulders, feeling a little naive. “Of course it doesn’t. But they were very genuine.”
“People lie. All the time. You’ve got to start protecting yourself, Alice. You’re so innocent, I worry about you.”
“Don’t worry about me. I can look after myself.” She was a little annoyed. She wasn’t some naïve fool, she just liked to believe that most people were good and kind and honest. But she also didn’t want to anger Maisy.
“Just try not to be too trusting.”
“Everything will be fine. We’re both going to find our Zerconian hunk and live happily ever after.”
“Well, I have heard these aliens are to die for,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows. “If you know what I mean.”
Alice didn’t. But she didn’t want to look like an idiot, so she nodded.
She didn’t understand why Maisy had decided to come to Zerconia if she didn’t truly believe she would find her mate. It didn’t matter, Alice knew everything would be okay.
It had to be.
A jolt sent her flying off the bed. She landed on the floor with a groan, every bone in her body aching.
“Sugar, that hurts,” she muttered, pushing herself up, so she was sitting. As she reached up to grab her glasses from where she’d left them on the bedside table last night, siren blasts filled the air.
“That can’t be good.” They’d had practice drills for emergency evacuations, but never at night. And it seemed kind of silly to have one when they were two days out from Zerconia. She brushed her hand against her glasses, sending them flying.
“Oh, sugar plums!”
Maisy often teased that she wouldn’t know a good swear word if it came up and bit her on the ass. But her parents had believed swearing was the devil speaking through her and the few times they’d caught her swearing, they’d ‘purged’ her of the devil. Alice had quickly learned to swap her swear words for something more acceptable, even if she did sound a fool.
On hands and knees, trying to think past the panic clouding her mind, she searched around for her glasses. “Come on. Come on.”
She’d never make it to the evacuation area without her glasses.
“Evacuate immediately. This is not a drill. Get to your escape shuttles. Evacuate immediately.”
“Oh God, please help me,” she prayed.
Finally, her fingertips encountered something circular and metal, and she let out a thankful cry as she drew her glasses on. Quickly pulling on a pair of pants, a sweatshirt, and some shoes, she grabbed her communicator and slipped it onto her wrist as she took off racing down the passage towards the escape shuttles. As she rounded the corner, she came to a skidding stop, barely managing not to body slam the woman in front of her. She reached out and grabbed the woman to stop them both from falling over.
The woman turned, her arms coming up defensively, a cry of fear escaping.
“I’m so sorry,” Alice panted, giving the other woman an apologetic look. She hadn’t spoken to the tall, blonde woman before, but she knew who she was. Everyone knew about Sophie. Alice tried not to listen to gossip, it was another of the devil’s instruments, but it had been hard not to hear some of the comments or to wonder about the bruises on Sophie’s face and the defensive way she held herself.
She rarely came out of her room, even taking her meals there with her sister, Saffron. Where Sophie was tall and thin with honey-blonde hair, her sister was shorter, rounder, her hair dark. Saffron took care of Sophie ferociously, glaring at anyone who even looked at her wrong.
Alice wondered where Saffron was and why were all these women standing around in outside the evacuation area? Shouldn’t they be taking their seats on the escape shuttles? Where were the crew?
“I was racing to get here, and I got a bit carried away. Sorry, I should have been watching where I was going.”
She watched as Sophie’s breathing slowed. She still looked frightened, her face pale, eyes wide and unfocused in her too-thin face.
“Sorry,” Sophie told her.
“Not your fault. Totally mine.” Alice held her hands out to her sides, uncertain why she did it. Even though Sophie was thin, she was still bigger than Alice. But something about Sophie seemed infinitely fragile.
There was nothing fragile about Alice. She’d built up plenty of muscle working in out in the fields with the other women in her father’s congregation. Even when she’d still been at school, she would get up early and work then come home to more chores.
“Um, what is everyone doing out here? Is it another drill? Where is your sister? Isn’t she here with you?”
Sophie blinked at her.
“Sorry.” Alice laughed even she could hear the hint of hysteria in the noise. “I always talk too much when I’m nervous or excited or well, anytime, really. But, what’s happening?”
“I don’t know,” Sophie told her. “My sister is trying to find out what’s going on.”
Someone screeched, a sound filled with anger. Another woman cried out in fear. Ahead of them, a group of women broke into chatter, some bursting into tears.
What was going on?
A sinking feeling developed in Alice’s stomach as the ship gave another lurch and she flew sideways. Sophie, whose balance seemed to be unaffected, reached out and grabbed onto Alice, steadying her.
Suddenly, Sophie was pulled back and Saffron, her sister, glared at Alice angrily. “What are you doing?”
Alice shrank back, this woman scared the bejeezus out of her. Despite being just a few inches taller than Alice, she appeared to loom over her, her dark eyes flashing bright with temper.
“Saff, it’s okay. She wasn’t doing anything. She nearly fell, so I helped her.” Sophie’s voice was soft, soothing. She reached out and touched her sister’s arm. Saffron didn’t move, but she did relax slightly.
Or was that just Alice’s wishful thinking?
Feeling like a mouse trapped in a cat’s gaze, Alice had to force herself not to turn and run. Never run when faced with a predator and right now, Saffron looked exactly like a predator.
“What’s going on? Why is everyone so upset?” Sophie asked, tugging on her sister’s arm.
Saffron half-turned, although she kept her gaze on Alice. What did she think Alice would do? Attack them both with her mad ninja skills? She could barely get out of bed without tripping over, she was hardly a threat.
“Did someone die?” Alice asked.
“Yeah, us,” Saffron said grimly. She must have finally deemed Alice as safe, because she faced Sophie, clasping her by the shoulders. “I’m going to keep you safe, okay?”
Sophie didn’t look reassured by the promise. “Saffron, what’s going on? Is it just a drill? Where are the crew?”
It was odd that there was no crew around. Usually, they’d have been close by during a drill, directing everyone where to go.
“This isn’t everyone,” Alice said, studying the group. Where was Maisy? “Have some people already evacuated?”
“Yes and they’ve taken all the escape shuttles with them,” Saffron told her grimly.
“We’re all going to die,” a woman screeched before collapsing in a faint.
Alice nearly rushed over until she saw the women half-open her eyes, take a quick glance around, then close her eyes again.
“Drama queen.” Saffron snorted then grabbed her sister’s arm. “Come on, I’m getting you somewhere safe.”
Alice stepped in their path. She swallowed heavily at the angry look on Saffron’s face. “What do you mean, safe? What is happening?”
“That is happening.” Saffron pointed out the portal window behind Alice.
Turning, Alice squinted out of the window. “What is that?” Outside something loomed close, seemingly consuming all the airspace around the transporter. The size of a small planet, it looked like a large, black mass. With blinking lights.
“It’s a spaceship.”
It was like no spaceship that Alice had ever seen. But then, she wasn’t exactly clued up on spaceships. Ask her for a certain bible verse, she was your girl. Spaceships, not so much.
“We’re coming awfully close to it, aren’t we?” She licked her lips nervously.
“We’re trapped in its tractor beam,” Saffron told her. “It’s slowly pulling us on board to do God knows what with us.”
“Who are they?”
“Who the fuck knows?” the other woman snapped. “But my gut tells me they ain’t the fucking Girl Scouts.”
Alice’s stomach was sending her the same message.
“If the fucking crew hadn’t abandoned us. We might have stood a chance to get away. Now we’re like sitting ducks.”
“They took all the escape shuttles? But why? There were more than enough for all of us.” Alice placed her hand over her nervous stomach. What was happening? Was it just a few hours ago that she’d gone to sleep with a smile on her face, excited about the future?
Now she seemed to be trapped in a nightmare.
“Who knows? Because they wanted to fuck with us? They must have taken some of the women with them.”
Alice looked over the group again. There had been about sixty women on the ship traveling to Zerconia. Saffron was right; a few of them were missing. Including Maisy. Alice hoped she was all right.
“The cowards didn’t want to wait for everyone,” Saffron said.
Sophie held a hand up to her mouth, looking ill.
“I’m so sorry, Saff. This is my fault.”
“Shut up,” Saffron said, the gentleness of her tone belying her words. “No, it wasn’t. It’s those dipshits running this crap show who are at fault. Not your fault you were busy puking in the bathroom when that fucking tractor beam locked on.”
She bit back the urge to ask what was wrong with Sophie. Now wasn’t the time. Alice stared out at the frightened faces of the women left behind and knew she had to do something to help them. What she could do, she had no idea, but their frightened cries tore through her.
“Why didn’t they leave us a couple of shuttles?” she murmured, thinking aloud.
“Cause they’re assholes,” Saffron replied.
Her mind raced. The big ship pulling them on board looked menacing, but maybe Saffron was wrong. Maybe the people occupying the ship of doom were good.
Except, if they were the good guys why were they pulling their transporter onto their ship? Why would the crew have abandoned them?
“Hey, everyone. Hey!” she called out loudly, but no one looked at her. The women continued to weep and wail, their cries reaching a painful crescendo.
She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Hey!”
Alice was aware Saffron and Sophie were looking at her strangely.
“You want their attention?” Saffron asked.
Well, yeah, wasn’t that obvious? Alice bit back the sarcastic retort.
Saffron let out an ear-piercing whistle. Many of the women slammed their hands over their ears, then turned to stare at the three of them.
“All of you, shut up and listen.” Saffron turned to her. “There you go.”
“Ah, thanks,” Alice said. What else could she say? At least the other woman had gotten their attention. “Listen, looks like we’re in a bit of trouble here.”
“We’re all gonna die!” Angie screeched, raising her hands in the air. Immediately, the women around her started to yell and cry, each of them trying to be heard.
“Jesus, they’re a bunch of nitwits. The Zerconians probably paid someone to kidnap us just so they didn’t end up with these idiots as mates.”
“Not helping,” Alice snapped at Saffron. “If you don’t have anything useful to say then maybe you could keep your thoughts to yourself.”
Shocked at herself, she immediately wished she could take the words back.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”
Saffron let out a hoot of laughter that had several women turning and staring. “Didn’t think you had it in you, little mouse. Good on you.”
Before Alice could digest that praise, if it was actually praise, Sophie grabbed Saffron’s arm. “We’re getting close.”
They were running out of time. “Can you whistle again?”
Saffron grinned. “Sure thing, little mouse.”
Alice grimaced at the nickname. Once more, Saffron’s whistle had everyone quietening and turning.
“You’ve all got to hide,” Alice told them quickly. “We don’t know who is out there,” she pointed out the portal at the big ship, which was way too close, “but we have to guess they’re not the good guys.”
“The crew will come back for us,” Maria argued. She was a gorgeous blonde who was always surrounded by a group of friends. Popular, confident, pretty, all the things Alice longed to be. “We need to wait here. Once they realize we’re missing, they’ll return for us, and we have to be ready to go.”
“They’re not coming back, you idiot,” Saffron told her.
Alice winced, knowing she’d never convince the other women now. Maria crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Saffron. “Like I’m going to listen to you. I don’t even know why they let you on this ship, you’re more masculine than most men.”
Saffron stepped forward, her fists clenched. Alice stepped quickly between the two women.
“We don’t have time to argue. You have to hide. The crew isn’t coming back.” At least Maisy was safe.
She felt a stab of hurt. Don’t be silly, Alice. It was ridiculous to feel hurt that Maisy had left without her. It was good that at least one of them was safe.
“They’re not going to listen,” Saffron told her. “I’ve got to go. I have to make sure Sophie is safe. Good luck, little mouse.”
She watched as Saffron took off, pulling Sophie along behind her. The fragile blonde turned back and gave her a half-wave. Alice looked back, torn. Every instinct she had was screaming at her to hide, but she didn’t feel like she could just leave these women here.
“Please, come hide,” she begged the woman closest to her. What was her name? Alice was so full of fear it was hard for her to think. Bianca, that was it. “Please, Bianca.”
Bianca just shook her head, her eyes wide with fright. “I’m waiting here.”
Alice tried to convince a few more women to hide with her, but they all refused. If she was going to have time to hide properly, she needed to go. With a heavy heart, she raced away. Where to go, though? She couldn’t go to her room, that was too obvious. Down to the cargo area. There were more places to hide down there and hopefully she could find some food and water. Who knew how long she’d need to hide.
Making her way into the cargo area, she studied a few of the crates until she spotted one that was big enough to fit her. She moved the heavy lid and nearly jumped for joy when she saw it was filled with hydration pouches.
The ship jolted, and she slammed against the crate, groaning as her hip took the majority of the impact. She was going to be black and blue by tomorrow.
“Least of your worries, Alice,” she muttered as she removed enough hydration pouches to allow her to fit inside. She climbed into the crate. Reaching up, she pulled the lid of the crate across as far as she could manage.
Sitting back, she panted, exhausted and trembling. The urge to draw herself into a ball and cry was almost overwhelming. She felt so alone and scared, and she wished she’d gone with Saffron and Sophie. At least then she wouldn’t be on her own.
“Coulda woulda shoulda. Got to make the best of a bad situation, Alice.” Now she was talking to herself. Not a good sign.
She looked down at her communicator and turned it on. She just prayed that she’d be able to reach him.
He was her only chance.
Jaxan looked down at the glass of Sola in his hand, swirling it around. A burst of laughter hit him, and he looked over to find Mila, one of the human mates, laughing as she danced with the Empress, who looked to be having some sort of fit. But since the Emperor stood close by, Jaxan decided it wasn’t anything he needed to be concerned about, although, with the way she was flinging herself about, he was worried she was going to injure herself or someone else. He was used to Empress Zoey’s strange and unpredictable ways, but he’d never seen her do, um, whatever it was she was doing.
“What is she doing?” Toriq asked from beside him.
His huge friend didn’t talk much. He didn’t enjoy socializing, so Jaxan was surprised he was here tonight, at Macon and Annabel’s mating ceremony. Toriq hadn’t been to any of the human-Zerconian social interactions. Empress Zoey called them mixers.
They were gatherings where Zerconian warriors were encouraged to interact with the human females in the hopes they might find their human mate. Jaxan glanced over at Macon and Annabel. It was good to see them looking so happy. Macon had barely frowned all night. Which meant he was practically ecstatic with joy.
Jaxan took a sip of Sola. Although he had attended all the mixers, he hadn’t found his mate. He was disappointed, even though he had known it was unlikely he would find her. That group of human females had left a few weeks ago. There was another transporter due to arrive in a few days with more females, but he wasn’t certain he could stand to go through the disappointment time and time again.
Except, what choice did he have? There were so few Zerconian females that nearly all had found their mate. He couldn’t give up. If he didn’t find his mate, he would eventually fall victim to the mating fever.
And that was a certain death sentence.
“Whatever she’s doing it looks painful.” Safan winced. He stood on Jaxan’s other side and watched Empress Zoey spin around then fling her arms in the air.
She dropped to the ground onto her side and pulled her knees up to her chest, clasping them tightly. “Spin me,” she yelled.
Annabel grabbed her feet and pulled, running in a circle, making the Empress spin on the ground. Jaxan shook his head, perplexed.
“She’s dancing.” He looked behind him as Annabel’s human brother, Rich, stepped up next to them. “Well, sort of. Not sure I’ve seen dancing that bad in a while.”
Jaxan puffed up. “Are you saying our Empress is not good at dancing?” It was true this did not resemble any dancing that Jaxan had seen before, but the Empress was human. Maybe this was a type of dance on Earth.
“Yes.” Rich grinned. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
Safan and Toriq turned, flanking him. The three of them had always been close. They were like brothers, even though Safan had lived for many years on Moran. Jaxan knew he was lucky to have his friends, they kept him grounded when the need for a mate seemed to be nearly overwhelming.
“That is our Empress you speak of,” Safan told him with an uncharacteristic frown. All the warriors were loyal to Zoey. Not just because she was the Empress, but because she’d saved their Emperor, saved them all in a way. Before Zoey and Dex mated, no one had known that the Zerconians could mate with humans. Their race had been dying, and now they had hope.
“Does that mean I have to lie and say she’s a good dancer?” Rich asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes,” Toriq told him, looming over the much smaller male.
But the human male appeared to be too stupid to realize when he was being threatened because he simply grinned. “You Zerconians are hilarious.”
“We do not joke,” Jaxan told him.
“No, that’s what makes you even funnier.” Rich turned and walked away, whistling a tune.
“That male is trouble,” Toriq said.
Jaxan nodded. He couldn’t agree more. He would be keeping an eye on the human male. It did not matter that he was Annabel’s brother. The human male was up to something, and Jaxan was determined that his people would not suffer from whatever the male plotted.