Abbie and the alien offi.., p.3
Abbie and the Alien Official (Intergalactic Brides 14), page 3
“Yes, I received the report this morning. But I like to hear you talk. Your voice is soft.”
Her cheeks burned a brighter shade of pink.
Their drinks and food arrived, the server dropping everything off at the table and scurrying off to hand out another order. Abbie stared at the plate and used the utensils to move things around, as she inspected each item.
“Try something,” he said.
She lifted a bite and took a nibble, and her eyes widened in surprise. She smiled widely as she began taking bites in earnest. He liked that she seemed to enjoy his world’s cuisine and couldn’t wait to introduce her to more new things, if she continued to see him. Just because he liked her, and they seemed to get along, didn’t mean she would accept him as a mate. It would be foolish to get ahead of himself.
“What is there to do here for fun?” she asked.
“We have downloaded some of your Earth movies and can watch them on the Vid-Comm units that are in every home, including your apartment. There’s also a community swimming pool, which was added after we studied Earth, as well as a park. I’m afraid my people are a hardworking lot and what time we don’t spend working, we spend at home talking with our families.”
“Do you have a family you spend time with?” she asked.
“My father was killed in battle and my mother died a year later of a broken heart. I have a younger brother who is a warrior. He spends most of his time off-world, but he’s here right now. When he’s home, we meet and have dinner a few times a week, but we both stay busy.”
“Is he mated?”
He stopped chewing. Was she asking because she might be interested in his brother? Or was she just being curious?
“He’s not mated,” Larimar said.
“So, neither of you have children?”
“No, but we both hope to someday. All Zelthranite males wish for families of their own. We’re a very family-oriented society.”
“I’ve always wanted a family of my own.” She smiled wistfully.
“Did you have a big family when you were growing up?”
“I had an alcoholic father who would just as soon beat us as speak to us, and a mother who cowered around him. She never lifted a finger to protect us, but I can’t blame her. She was just as scared of him as we were.”
“But you had siblings?” he asked.
“Three. When I was seventeen, I left home and never looked back. I’ve been on my own ever since.”
“So you had to grow up quickly,” he said. “I’m sorry you didn’t have a nice childhood. Zelthranite parents are strict, but we know from the beginning how much we’re loved. It’s sad that you never had that.”
“It’s why I want a family. I want to make sure my children have the kind of life I didn’t have. I want them to know they’re loved and wanted, and I will never raise my hand to any of them.”
“I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful mother,” Larimar said, envisioning her with a rounded stomach, pregnant with his child.
“What should we do after breakfast?” she asked.
His eyebrows lifted. “You want to do something else with me?”
Her cheeks flushed again. “I’m sorry. It was presumptuous of me to think you wouldn’t be busy today. And I know there are three other brides who arrived with me. I shouldn’t monopolize your time.”
“Why don’t I take you shopping when we leave here?” he suggested softly. “You’ll need more clothes than what Zlyer had purchased for you on Earth. You can buy one those swimsuit things and maybe we can go to the pool. Do you like to swim?”
“I never learned,” she admitted. “But I like floating around the shallow end. One of the apartments I lived in had a pool and I would do that on my days off.”
“You’re so fair you’ll likely burn under our suns. We have lotions that will protect you, so we’ll need some of that too.”
“Sunscreen?” she asked.
“It’s the Zelthranite version. What you sell on Earth wouldn’t protect you from our three suns. Even though the weather remains mild compared to some of the summers on Earth and other worlds, the rays can burn you quickly.”
“Then we definitely need some of that,” she said.
They pushed their empty plates aside and Larimar stood, holding his hand out to help her up. He placed a hand at her lower back, guiding her through the restaurant and back outside. The shops weren’t far, as everything in the vicinity of the Tower could be reached on foot. Only those living on the outer edges of town, or in other towns, used vitras to get around. Most people in Terran Prime walked.
“This city is known as Terran Prime,” he told her. “Once it was called Solaris.”
“Why keep the name Terran Prime if you tell the brides your true name?”
“It’s better that way. We only inform those who will likely mate with someone. Typically, you wouldn’t have been told until after the mating, but I have no doubt you’ll find someone. Those who are returned to Earth are better to still believe we are Terrans, until your government decides to say otherwise.”
“We have several shops that cater to human females and carry a wide selection of clothes and shoes for you. I’ll take you to the most popular one and then we’ll head over to the shop that carries swimsuits and those float things you mentioned.”
Abbie gripped his biceps again and fell into step beside him as they made their way to the first shop. It felt right having her hand resting there, and even though he towered over her by more than a foot, he had little doubt they would fit together perfectly if he ever had the privilege of holding her. Just the thought of taking her into his arms made his heart skip a beat. Being with Abbie made him feel young and carefree, something he would have to watch. As much as he’d love to spend every second of every day with her, he still had responsibilities to attend to.
Larimar pushed open the shop door and ushered her inside. The place was small from what he’d heard, by Earth standards anyway, but it had a little bit of everything she would need. He watched as she perused the shelves, almost seeming hesitant to pick anything out to try on. When she put back the fifth item in a row, he decided to find out exactly why she wasn’t buying anything. The last sundress she’d put back would have looked fetching on her.
He moved in closer and peered over her shoulder, catching her staring at the price tag with a frown on her face. He knew there was no way she could interpret the tag, as everything was set for the money on his world. Was she worried it was too costly? And if so, had he not explained well enough that she wouldn’t incur the cost of whatever she purchased?
“Why aren’t you buying anything?” he asked.
“I’m sure whatever I have already is sufficient.”
“Abbie,” he said softly. “Your mate will cover the cost of whatever you wish to purchase. He would gladly accept the burden of a shopping trip or three, if it made you happy to have new things.”
“But what if it’s too expensive? I can’t tell how much anything costs. I don’t want to put him in debt before we’re even married.”
He smiled, smoothing the lip she was worrying with her teeth. “Abbie, buy whatever you want. I will personally pay for anything you purchase today, and I can afford quite a bit. My money is used for little since I don’t have a mate or children, and I’m very seldom off-world because of my responsibilities. I work and do little else. Let me spoil you a little today.”
He placed a finger over her lips. “No buts. Buy anything you want.”
She nodded and faced the racks of clothes again. Larimar moved back and watched her shop, but she still was a little hesitant. After she’d picked up a handful of things, she started off to the dressing room, but he drew her to a halt.
“Abbie, you have four outfits in your hand, and I know only three were purchased for you on Earth. You need more clothes. And please don’t argue. Let me do this for you.”
“Why would you want to buy m
“Because you need them and I like taking care of you.”
She bit her lip and faced the racks again. After selecting a few more things, she turned to him and he pointed to the clothes once more. When he was satisfied she had enough items, he gave a nod for her to go try her clothes on. He’d never thought it would be so much trouble to get a female to spend money. But he supposed with her upbringing, she probably hadn’t had much growing up, and she’d earned everything she’d had since then. It would probably be hard for her to let someone take care of her, but he was determined to do it.
After paying for the items that fit, and encouraging her to pick out some shoes, he arranged for her items to be delivered to her apartment before steering her further down the string of shops in search of a swimsuit. His blood heated at the thought of her in very little clothing, and he hoped he didn’t embarrass himself. His swim trunks were at home, and he planned to take her there after her next purchase. Not only for her to change and him as well, but in hopes she might see his home and decide he would be a good mate.
He had no idea what Earth women sought in a life partner, but he wanted to be whatever it was Abbie needed and wanted.
Abbie stared in awe at the house in front of her. They’d passed many along the way, but none were as grand as this one. A much larger one stood by itself up on a hill, and she was thankful they hadn’t gone there. It looked imposing and almost cold, but the one in front of her exuded warmth with the splashes of color across the lawn as random flowers clustered here and there.
Larimar led her up to the door, her bags from the swim shop clutched in his hand. He waved a wrist over the door lock and it popped open. She didn’t know what type of stone the floor was made of, but she liked the pale blue color. Following him deeper into the house, she took everything in, not wanting to miss anything. He led her up a winding staircase to a second level that had six doors, three on either side of the stairs.
He went to the left and she followed along behind. When he reached the second door, he pushed it open and motioned for her to enter. It was a spacious room with an attached bathroom. The bedding looking to be some sort of silk or satin equivalent, and she itched to run her fingers across it to see if it felt as soft as it looked. The room was done in pale grays and blues, the walls almost a silvery color. It was a soothing room, and one she wouldn’t mind spending more time in, if she were here for any reason other than to just change her clothes.
“This is one of my guest rooms,” Larimar said. “Make yourself at home. I won’t be long and I’ll meet you at the top of the stairs.”
She nodded, still looking around the room. When the door clicked shut, she opened one of the sacks he’d left behind. She’d never been daring before in her swimwear, but she’d wanted to make a lasting impression on the alien hottie, so she’d chosen a green two-piece that would accent her curves. It didn’t take her long to change and apply the sun lotion, but she wasn’t ready to leave the room just yet.
Walking over to the bed, she reached out and brushed her fingers over the bedding, sighing at the divine texture. What would it be like to sleep on something so soft, so decadent? Curiosity got the better of her and she made her way into the attached bathroom and explored for a moment. For a guest room, the space was rather large, and it made her wonder just how big his bedroom and bathroom were. And then she wondered if she’d ever get close enough to him to actually see them. He seemed open and welcoming, but it didn’t mean he saw her as mate-worthy.
Abbie grabbed her float and beach towel out of the other bag and made her way to the staircase. Larimar was leaning against the railing, staring out the window that covered most of the wall above his front door. He smiled warmly when he saw her, his gaze caressing her from head to toe.
She did a little perusing herself, taking in the broad expanse of his bare chest and smiling a little when she saw his black and gray swim trunks. The man looked fine, very fine, and she couldn’t believe that he was still single. Surely, the other brides had noticed how attractive he was? Abbie found it hard to believe that no one had shown him any attention since the program had started. She’d still been in high school when the program had launched, but she remembered hearing about it on the news.
“You look beautiful,” he murmured. “Are you ready to have some fun?”
“Promise you won’t let me drown?”
“You have my word that you will be completely safe. We don’t have a lifeguard on duty, but perhaps we should create such a position since we’re getting so many human mates on our world. I wonder how many others can’t swim?”
“I’ve met several people on my world who can’t. If your children play there too, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra set of eyes watching over the water,” Abbie said. “What if the parents were busy talking and a child fell in?”
“I’ll bring it up at the next council meeting.”
“I think I’m as prepared as I can be, but maybe I should have bought a cover-up to wear on the way to the pool. I don’t want people staring at me.”
“Abbie, if they stare, it’s because you’re a beautiful woman. Plenty of people go to the pool just in their swimwear.”
She nodded and reached up to wrap her hand around his arm. The first time she’d done it had been more of way to touch him in an acceptable manner. Now she just liked how it felt to hold onto him. She felt protected standing by his side. Even though they’d just met, she had no doubt that if anything happened, he would protect her at all costs. There was something about the way he looked at her, almost a longing in his gaze, as if she were everything he’d always wanted.
Abbie knew exactly how he felt because he was certainly what she’d been searching for her entire life. And it didn’t have anything to do with his position on this world, or his large home. He made her feel safe, cherished, just by standing in his presence. She valued that far more than riches.
Larimar guided her out of the house and back toward the part of town where the community pool lay. The area was fenced off with something that looked like black wrought iron, but she doubted that’s what it was. Not unless they’d brought it here from her world. It was possible they’d done exactly that, especially if they were trying to mimic the pools on Earth. The lounge chairs lining the length of the pool on both sides definitely looked like they came from Earth. She wondered just how many things they’d brought from her world in an effort to make the brides feel more at home.
Larimar removed the towel from his shoulder and tossed it onto a lounger before taking hers and setting it on the chair next to his. He reached out a hand to take the float from her and he motioned for her to have a seat.
“It won’t take me long to blow this up.”
“Have lots of experience with it, do you?” she asked with a smile.
He shrugged. “A lot of the kids are fond of them and I try to help out when I’m here. I have more air than the females do, so it makes sense for me to blow the toys up.”
Her cheeks warmed. Great. Now he was going to think of her as a child since it seemed only Zelthranite kids used the pool floats. Maybe learning to swim would be a good idea, and she wondered if they taught lessons. Might be another thing to mention to Larimar for him to discuss with his council. Their children had to learn to swim somehow, right? So why not include any adults who didn’t know how?
He stopped puffing air into the float. “What’s that look for?”
“Do your children take swim lessons?”
“No. We’re born with the ability to swim. At least, the fully Terran children have been. The new generation seems to be hit and miss. Some know how, and others cling to their parents in the water, as if they’re frightened.”
She bit her lip. “What if you offered swim lessons and not just for children but for anyone who can’t swim?”
“Do you want to learn how?” he asked softly.
“Yes, but maybe not when the
“If you truly wish to learn, I will be happy to teach you.”
“I’d like that, just not today.”
He nodded and went back to blowing up her float. When he was finished, he held out a hand, helping her off the lounger. Tingles raced up her arm when he didn’t release her right away. Instead, he held onto her as they descended the steps into the shallow end of the pool. He held the float still as she climbed onto it, stretching out on her back.
Larimar gripped the side of the float and began moving toward the deep end. When he was chest deep, he stopped and folded his arms, leaning them on the float next to her. Abbie rolled to her side, not caring if she tanned unevenly. Larimar reached out to run his finger across her cheek and she wanted to lean into that touch.
“Why did you apply to the bride program?” he asked.
“You read my application, right?”
“Honestly, I skimmed over it. The council is supposed to read every application that meets our requirements, but I admit I didn’t pay as close attention as I should have.”
“Maybe if someone had paid closer attention, the blonde wouldn’t have passed and been flown here.”
He winced. “You may have a point. Perhaps we’ve gotten too lax. The last thing we want or need are troublemakers.”
“To answer your question, the idea of finding my forever guy was too appealing to pass up. I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t meet anyone, but better to try and fail than not try at all.”
“Because your acceptance was overlooked, you’re owed some money. All accepted brides receive compensation for giving the program a try.”
She thought about it a moment. “If I return to my world without a mate, I will accept the money. But if I make my home here, I won’t need it. I’d rather have the money donated to a charity on Earth if I remain on Zelthrane-3.”
by Jessica Coulter Smith / Romance / Young Adult / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes