“You don’t need to be scared,” Garjah said. He hurried over to the bed and sat next to me. The bunk edge sank under his weight. I leaned against him. The scent was even better straight from the source.
Timok stepped closer, and I snapped my head up. He eased back, raising his hands. “Okay, so I’m going to say the bonding is not yet complete.”
“You think?” I wanted to snap, and I was probably shorter than I even thought that came out considering I couldn’t stop glaring at him.
Garjah wrapped an arm around my back and put a hand on my leg. “What do you think needs to happen?”
“You claimed him?”
“Of course.” Garjah blithely shared information I wasn’t sure I wanted Timok to know. I clenched my jaw. “But we didn’t—”
“He doesn’t need to know what we did.” Maybe it was because I’d only stuck to humans before. I’d never had sex with an alien, not even one that had been known to our kind for generations. There were species very compatible with us and some not so much. Plunging into the unknown had been scary but exhilarating and Garjah had made me feel amazing.
And it was our first time together. Telling Timok about it felt like tainting the memory. It was bad enough he was disturbing the afterglow. I glared at him, my shoulders tense.
“I can smell it, you know. And I shared those vids and documents.” Timok pursed his thin lips. “You need to lose those human sensibilities about answering personal questions and do it fast.”
“Why?” All my suspicious nature came out in that one word, and there was no way I could try to hide it behind a naïve and curious tone. Not when I still felt like ripping his face off if he didn’t back up a few more steps to get his scent out of our space.
“The Kardoval will need to know about the mutation you’re going through. The more tests I can do now, and the questions those results can answer, the less poking and prodding you will go through later.” He looked thoughtful. “Maybe. A single result is rarely trusted. They may wish to run all my tests again.”
“Stars.” I remembered what Garjah said about the Kardoval. They were ‘all’. They basically held all the knowledge for the species, so they were the only ones capable of making the informed decisions for the group. In short, their word was law.
And I was about to become their lab animal. Captive, tested, probed, studied, and tested again.
Wild laughter broke out of me before I could suppress it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I’d come to Ardra to study it and the universe had decided my wild, impulsive decision merited a cosmic comeuppance. I went from the researcher to the researchee.
With a helping of experimental crap floating through my body turning me into something never seen before. That might get me killed. To turned into a monster.
I still wanted to kill Timok. Maybe even more now. My eyes were burning, and my nose was running, but I couldn’t stop laughing even as my chest hurt and my throat grew tight.
When I woke up, it was dark. I knew I was still in Garjah’s room, on his bunk, because the scent of sex still clung to it. It was faded now and another scent mixed into the covers.
Bouncer was curled up next to me, and I had one arm over his side.
I closed my eyes, blocking out the night, and curled out my cerops friend. He and I were in the same boat. Forever changed, unable to go home again, going far away from everything we ever knew. How would he deal with space?
Had we taken off yet?
Where was Garjah? The last thing I remembered was losing it when I realized they were taking me back to their sector of space to meet their leaders who Timok seemed to think would be all up in my face with questions and tests I wouldn’t like so I better just get over it. Yep, quality way to end an evening where I’d gotten sexed up for the first time in… nope, I was going to count all the months. I didn’t have enough fingers and my toes were comfortable covered under the blankets.
A vid popped up on the shelf beside the bed. “Essell? Are you awake?” It was Garjah, looking and sounding uncertain. Bouncer huffed and curled up tighter. I swiped a hand through the image.
“Are you calm? Is it okay if I come back?”
“Was I not calm before?” I’d just been laughing, right?
“I— um, you were not welcoming and your vitals were not doing well, Timok said. Not until I thought to get Bouncer.”
Reading between the lines of what he did not say, and the expression on his face, I’d rejected his touch when I lost my shit and, even sedated, didn’t do well. Stars. I sighed. “Thank you for bringing him.” I ran a hand down Bouncer’s muscled side and his skin rippled. One ear twitched and I could almost read the irritation. “You could come back now.” I did want him here. “But can Bouncer stay?”
“Of course. I will be there soon.”
Soon meant almost before I could reach out and swipe through the now blank vid screen image. He must have been very close. Garjah paused inside the door and I sat up on the end of the bunk. “I have been working. I should shower.”
“You should come over here first.” I needed to touch him, to at least give him a hug to remove that wary look from his face. When he started to shake his head, I made the choice for him and got up.
Two steps closer to him, and the scent hit me. “Who touched you?” I hissed.Want more flash?