Eliza's Miracle, page 1part #4 of The Mate Index Series
A Mate Index Alien Novella
©2019 by Samantha Sanders
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without explicit permission granted in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction intended for adult audiences only.
Editor: LY Publishing
Cover Artist: S.J. Sanders
Eliza Debrinksy frowned into the mirror, touching up the makeup along her jawline. It had been six months and twenty-one days since she had been assigned as the ambassador for Earth on the Intergalactic Space Station. It had been six months and twenty-one days since she had to cover a fresh bruise or mark with a liberal application of concealer.
Even still, she religiously applied it, covering the worst of the horrible scar that slashed down the side of her face. The makeup didn’t do much to hide it other than to tone down the worst of it. Few had the willingness to inquire of it, but when they did, she made sure to play it off as an unfortunate accident from her youth. Whether they suspect the lie or not, they let it go.
Her hand stilled briefly, remembering the hatred in her husband’s eyes when he thought she was flirting with another man. During one of the worst beatings of her life, he had decided that her face wouldn’t lure any man in again when he took a razor to it. She shuddered at the painful memories.
All of Earth thought her marriage was a perfect storybook relationship. Twenty-five years of marriage to a successful attorney and three beautiful children. After the mess that Ambassador Delaine had made, the countries had decided to send someone with a lighter touch. Eliza had been honored—and thrilled to get away from her husband for three month stretches at a time.
Though she hadn’t been able to separate from her husband earlier, being promoted to ambassador provided just what she needed. The only drawback was that once she arrived on the space station, she found herself in an almost exclusively male-dominated sphere, and she felt particularly uncomfortable in the presence of unmated men. The added stress wreaked havoc on her self-esteem issues.
It was such a daily battle that, after the first week, she immediately sought out a female counselor on the space station and arranged to meet twice a week. She never failed to attend a single session in all the months she’d been on the space station.
The female Garell proved to be not only a good listener but possessed an overall soothing presence. Unlike her therapists back on Earth, she didn’t judge Eliza for her unwillingness and inability to leave her marriage. She was more interested in bolstering Eliza’s mental and emotional wellbeing and encouraged Eliza to maintain her life independent of her spouse, for her own health.
Together, they worked through not only her self-esteem issues, but also the huge amount of anger she dealt with every day. Anger at herself, at her husband, at the world, and at the gods themselves. After a few months, she finally got to the point where she didn’t jump or flinch whenever men nearby raised their voices or moved too quickly near her.
But when it seemed like she’d taken a step forward, the two steps back came soon enough. Mostly this was due to the sporadic visits from her husband. Every two or three months, Charles would arrive for a weekend—or sometimes a full week—with a journalist in tow to capture their “happy reunion.” Eliza dreaded those trips as much as she dreaded the days where she would be released for holiday visits with her family.
After all, she was the face of Earth, just like she had been the face of her state as its senator.
But just the face.
No one realized that, behind the scenes, her husband ruthlessly oversaw both her campaign and her policies. She was thankful that his reach didn’t extend to the space station as much as he would like, although he insisted on speaking to her through the comm system every damn day.
So she grit her teeth and bore it. Knowing it was far worse when he came to visit and began to throw his weight around. And it was that time again already.
Her husband didn’t like aliens, and when he was out of the spotlight, he had no problem letting people know it. Oh, he would smile and play it up in front of the cameras, but when Earth’s media wasn’t watching, he was vicious and rude. He did his damnedest to sway her every action as ambassador, but he did not have the visas to stay, and she, following the advice of her therapist and her own peace of mind, made no effort to secure him one.
Instead, she made excuses for why it would look bad if she tried. After all, many of the other ambassadors didn’t have mates present with them. It could look bad if she had one with her. Appealing to his vanity was always a surefire strategy.
Her eldest daughter, Melanie, was the only family she had with her day to day. She had brought her up to the space station as her secretary and coordinator, arranging appointments and managing affairs with a rarely matched efficiency. She was also her mother’s cheerleader, and ever since they’d come to the space station, she’d been renewing her push that Eliza finally divorce the man she married just out of law school when she discovered that she was pregnant with Mel.
Mel knew the horrors of her marriage. She had sat in a corner and cried when her father had whipped Eliza with a cable cord for forgetting to remind him to pay the satellite company. She had sat and watched her daily routine of covering her bruises until she was finally old enough to leave the house and go to college. Mel had pursued the literary arts, and then, after graduation, had come back home to help organize her mother’s office and schedules.
The door chimed and she heard the quiet snick as it slid open, seconds before her daughter hollered through the small cabin. She winced slightly. Mel had never mastered the concept of “indoor voices.”
“Mom, are you up? I brought you what looks like it might pass for a bagel and some kind of sweet fruity spread—I think? I think it’s fruit, anyway. They had a white spread that may have been something like cream cheese, but it looked like someone had already eaten it once and regurgitated.”
Eliza couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m in here, in the bedroom, putting the finishing touches on. Come on in.”
Her daughter popped into the bedroom like the energizer bunny. “Mom, you look fantastic! Being out in space away from the maniacal assholes really suits you. Now you just need to ditch dad and find a hot alien date—”
“Melanie Rose Debrinsky! I know you did not suggest that I leave your father to carry on with an alien.”
“You need to leave him regardless—carrying on with an alien, well, that’s one option. It could at least be fun.” She waggled her eyebrows playfully, making Eliza laugh again. “Someone sexy with lots of scales… ooh, or maybe tentacles? That would be something new,” Mel snickered.
Eliza rolled her eyes and ate the bagel-like bread. The consistency was about right, but the grain was definitely not from Earth. It had an odd, sweet, and tangy bite to it. Melanie settled on the bed, watching her expectantly.
“So…” Melanie drawled, a smile hitching her lips, “do you have any plans for dinner tonight?”
Eliza slowly lowered her bagel-thing and narrowed her eyes at her daughter. She was up to something. She had the wide-eyed, innocent look she got whenever she was plotting. “No, nothing planned.”
“Excellent,” she chirped happ
Eliza snapped her hand up. “Hold on there. Mel, are you sure that’s a good idea? Don’t jump into anything with anyone too fast, and please tell me this guy you’ve been seeing is one of the delegates from Earth. Not only will her your father lose his ever-lovin’ mind if you’re dating an alien, but we could both potentially get in a lot of trouble here. Technically, as an unmarried woman, you aren’t supposed to be here. They let me bring you only because I guaranteed you’d be under my personal supervision.”
She watched her daughter’s jaw jut out in a familiar stubborn look. No one could say that she wasn’t the spitting image of her mother at that age. Sometimes it was like looking at a photo from her youth, before she had met Charles. In front of her was a young woman who still had the option to do anything with her life.
That determined look confirmed her suspicion.
Mel’s male friend was not human.
“Mom, I’m not afraid of Dad. To be honest, I don’t care what he thinks of the guy I’m with. Your opinion is the one that matters to me, and I really want you to meet him. He’s such a great guy.”
Eliza sighed. “If the authorities on Earth found out—”
“They won’t! And even if they did, so what? This is what I want, and if I get in trouble for it, I’ll own up to it so that they can’t possibly put the blame on you. He’s so good to me, and we have so much in common. More importantly, I really love him. And if Earth forces you to fire me, well, I’ll still be here on the space station with Dareth, so it’s not like it will really change anything.”
She looked at Mel, studying her earnest expression. She worried as only a mother could worry, even more given her own past experience when it came to relationships.
But this was her daughter. Mel was smarter, more aware than she had been. And she was in love. Eliza couldn’t bear to oppose that. She wanted to see her daughter find happiness, and if this is what did it—well, they would just have to let things take their natural course and hope that it didn’t spectacularly backfire.
Lowering herself on the bed next to Mel, Eliza took her daughter’s hands in hers. “Okay then. Tell me about this young man… uh, male… I’ll be meeting.”
Mel’s face lit up. “Mom, he’s the best. Dareth is a Tagith. He’s thirty years old and works on the space station as both a representative of Tagess and as a counselor specializing in physical trauma when he is needed.”
Eliza’s eyebrows jerked up. “That sounds rather impressive, actually. How did you two meet?”
“I was going back to my quarters, trying to juggle my latte—let me just say I am so grateful the space station gave permits to that Earthen café right before we got here—and the file for the whole mess between Earth and Edokora… and I just ran into him. Dumped half a cup of scalding hot coffee right on him. Fortunately, Tagiths have a layer of water-resistant plating over their pectorals and upper abs, so no harm-no foul. He offered to buy me another drink and we hit it off. Since then, we’ve met up every day.” Mel sighed, her eyes soft and expression sappy.
Eliza grinned. It did sound like a pretty romantic beginning. Boy meets girl—girl almost accidentally maims boy—boy and girl fall hopelessly in love. Her daughter certainly looked that way. Meeting the young man would tell the tale if it was genuinely reciprocated.
The smile slipped. “Mel, I would love to… but your father will be here by tonight. You know there’s no way I can get away without him.”
She shrugged. “So bring him. I don’t care. I already warned Dareth what he’s like. He’s bringing his father too, so the entire family can meet. This will just get the worst of it out of the way.” A mischievous grin curled her lips. “Maybe Dad will flip his wig so bad that he’ll disown the family and we never have to see him again.”
“You said Dareth has family visiting?”
“Just his dad. It took him weeks to talk him into coming out for a visit. He worries about him, that’s all. Dareth’s sister just had a baby—fledgling, they call it—and doesn’t have the time to check in with him as much as she used to.”
Eliza frowned with concern. “Is there something wrong with him?”
“What? Oh… no! His mate died several years ago. He has just been having difficulties since her passing.”
Eliza made a sympathetic noise.
“Melanie, I’m not sure if your dad—”
“Mom, it’s good. I swear. Dareth’s dad is a bit grumpy, but he is a sweet guy. If nothing else, seeing dad in the flesh will confirm everything I have told them. Unless dad is uncharacteristically polite or something. Just promise you’ll come.”
Eliza sighed and managed a small smile. “Okay, Mel. I’ll come. With your father in tow—if I have to.”
Zerik frowned at the replicator. Dareth was fussing with some gadget or another in the small kitchenette of his quarters. Zerik had no use for such nonsense. He liked functional equipment as much as another male, but some of these things just seemed ridiculously a bit much. Soon enough, males would not even have to think; they would just bring out another gadget to do that for them. What was wrong with just cooking one’s food? Dareth was reared on food that was hunted, grown, and cooked by Lia’s hand.
He felt that same old dull ache in his heart.
He still missed his mate, even though his memory of her grew dimmer as the years passed. When the morning came that he couldn’t remember the exact features of her face, or the way her laugh sounded, it had terrified him. Even now, he couldn’t believe it had already been ten years since her passing.
And now he was far from his home, thanks to his eldest fledgling. He flapped his wings in irritation. It just was not natural for their kind to spend long days shut away from the skies. Despite Dareth insisting that the space station was built with the comfort of flying species in mind, Zerik did not like it. He did not like being surrounded day in and day out in cold metal.
“How do you work this thing again?” he growled.
“Ena, what are you trying to get? Don’t overdo it. Remember, we are joining Melanie and her family tonight.”
He grunted in acknowledgment. He liked Melanie. If his olo had to go and mate with a human, he at least had the good taste to pick a good one. She was a sweet little female. She had warned him that he might have to suffer through meeting her ena, but he couldn’t see how it could possibly be that bad. Females were often embarrassed by overprotective sires. Perhaps that was it.
“I just wished for a bit of nevarot.”
His olo cocked his brow, shifting the delicate crest of feathers there that faded into two gold horns. “A little strong for this early, is it not?”
Zerik snorted. “It is hardly early. At home, I enjoy a small shot of nevarot to warm my soul when I wake. Have for years. Your ama and I would enjoy it every morning before we broke our fast. Nothing gets the fire in a Tagith’s blood going like a bit of nevarot.”
Dareth’s lips twitched. “Yes, I seem to recall that.”
Zerik narrowed his eyes. “I do not recall seeing you enjoy nevarot in some time, now that I think of it.”
Dareth shrugged, unconcerned. “Though she does not complain, I know it bothers Melanie to be around males who enjoy fermented and distilled drinks. She becomes nervous, and I would rather not do that to my mate.”
He pointed a craggy short claw at the young male. “One way or another, fire is in our blood, olo. I hope your female can accept that part of you.”
The young male grinned. “Trust me, ena. She definitely has seen the fire and has welcomed it, or she would not have been able to become my mate.”
“So, her family—do they know you have mated?”
He watched his olo freeze and chuckled. Clearly his mate’s family didn’t know yet.
“No, ena, we have not had much of an opportunity. As you may or may not be aware, her ama is the new Earthen ambassador. Melanie is often kept busy herself, shoulderi
He gave his olo a shrewd look as the male punched in a program into the replicator. “And what if it is not such happy news to them? Are you both prepared for that possibility?”
Dareth slowly nodded and handed him the drink. “Yes, ena. We both acknowledge that possibility. We want to give them the opportunity, though. If they do not share our joy, then it is not necessary for us. We have each other.”
Zerik nodded sagely and sipped at the strong liquor. He didn’t pay much attention to interstellar goings-on had no direct relation to the Tagess, not like some busybodies he knew.
However, he remembered seeing an image of the new ambassador from Earth when the trial with the Edokora had wrapped up. She had taken over only in the final days, after the previous ambassador was dismissed from his position and shipped out to the prison planet with his co-conspirator. The image had been from far away and wasn’t particularly clear, but she seemed to resemble her ala. He wondered if the ama had any of the compassionate temperament possessed by her offspring.
Not that he cared. He grunted down into his drink. He just did not want to see his offspring hurt by the callous attitudes of Melanie’s family. It was common knowledge that Earthers were collectively intolerant, although the mates who came from the planet seemed to be an exception as far as he had heard.
Maybe there was a reason they are all leaving, he thought in amusement.
The door chimed and opened as a young human female with long dark curls pinned haphazardly to the top of her head ran in, her cheeks flushing with excitement and dark blue eyes sparkling with happiness.
It had taken some time for him to get used to looking at humans. Tagiths didn’t have hair. Aside from the brush of feathers on their foreheads and a pair of horns sprouting from their brows, their skulls were smooth, studded with small horns over a heavy protective plating that developed within the first year after hatching. They also didn’t have such variety in coloring. Tagith eye colors ranged from yellow to orange or red. Their feathers were a mixture of the same hues, and their flesh a dull golden tone. Her dark hair, blue eyes, and pale skin were a wholly exotic contrast to Dareth.
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