Chapter 1


Kaci brushed the dirt from her ripped jeans, drab t-shirt, and running shoes, trying to improve her appearance the best she could to make herself look presentable. With a tug on the elastic band in her ponytail, the mass of dark hair fell about her shoulders. She’d finished her day at the loading docks where she’d been running messages from one end to the other all day. If she’d taken the time to go home to the apartment she shared with five other women to change into a nice dress, she would have missed interviewing for this opportunity.

Not that she knew exactly what the job was. The room in the old, abandoned warehouse was filled with roughly forty women of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The only thing they all had in common appeared to be their gender. . . and desperate enough to interview for a job without knowing the details. Like her.

They’re looking for young women, Jason over at pier 37 had said.

What’s the job? She’d asked.

He’d shrugged. What do you care? You’re desperate for money, so go shake your ass and do whatever they want. 

She didn’t shake her ass for anyone, but Jason was right. She was desperate. Short of selling herself, she would take just about any job to make money and keep out of the reach of the gangs and the Brotherhood. The men of the Brotherhood only knew power, and they’d do anything for it, including joining forces with aliens. They were part of the reason Earth had fallen to the Coalition decades back. And they remained the biggest threat to Earth’s freedom, even though the Coalition had withdrawn over a year ago.

“Line up with the other females,” a large red keenta with two long, deadly-looking horns ordered when he spotted her standing by the door. A keenta. She’d seen one or two of the intimidating aliens after the Coalition fled Earth, but she’d never met one personally. Her eyes moved over him, spending a bit too much time on those impressive muscles and the silver tattoos that stood out against his dark red skin. The only guys who had muscles like that on Earth were troublemakers or dock workers. Often one and the same. And those massive horns on his head… the very thought of how easily he could impale a person made her shudder.

He strode closer, folding thick arms over his massive chest, making him appear like a giant redwood. Tall, massive, and unmovable.

“Well, female? Are you going to line up with the others?”

“Not sure,” she said, preparing to run back into the street.

“We don’t need a difficult female.”

“Why do you need a woman at all? Is this some bride matching thing?” If it was, she’d disappear before he could finish saying yes. She’d heard the horror stories of the women who’d left Earth voluntarily—and some not so voluntarily—when the Coalition was in charge. That was over two years ago and the new U.S. Government had returned all the rights to women, making them equal to men once again. As equal as women could be with no education, no ability to read or write, and no real way to protect themselves against the misogynist attitudes and violence that the aliens left behind when they fled. Law enforcement could only do so much.

“Why we need a female will not be disclosed until we’ve chosen one,” Big Red replied in a serious tone that made the hairs on her arms rise. This guy was no different than the human males she knew. He had an attitude and enough muscle mass to get what he wanted by force. 

Kaci sauntered over to him, swaying her hips more than usual, and giving him a huge smile. “Well, then, darlin’. I guess I’ll have to wait until you let all these other women leave before you tell me the details.”

“You are assuming a lot, female,” he said, his eyes raking over her.

An inexplicable shiver moved down her spine. To his credit, he didn’t linger on her chest or give her that stupid grin promising he’d get her in his bed by nightfall. At 5’8” she was taller than most of the women she knew, but damn, he had to be at least 6’5”, without factoring in his horns. With strong facial features and black eyes that appeared endless, the alien was definitely a ten. Not that she should be rating him considering she hated how the men from the apartment building across from hers held up numbers rating women who passed by.

Kaci shook her head, trying to drive the image of those juvenile men from her mind. This guy right here, this alien with the right amount of scruff on his face and a powerful body, wasn’t a pushover who caved to peer pressure. But she wasn’t exactly one to turn heads, not with the way she dressed and her lack of makeup. Good, because she was here for a job, not to ride a rollercoaster... or an alien.

Never show them what you’re thinkin’, Kaci, Ben drilled into her over and over.

Kaci flashed her biggest smile and twirled her hair with one finger while throwing out her chest enough to draw the keenta’s eyes.

“I cannot be baited or bribed, female,” he promptly said.

“Any male can be baited. But I’m not here to seduce you, Red.” She tied her hair back, stood straighter, and glared at him to show him she wasn’t some doll. “I’ll do just about any job, but I have the final say on whether I’m in or not. Is that clear?”

“I haven’t offered you the job, female.”

“You will. And my name’s Kaci.”

“She’s rather sure of herself,” a male said, coming in from the street. He looked human except for an extra set of arms below the first. An og’dal. She hadn’t seen one of them since the bride ships had been on Earth collecting young women. Hadn’t all the og’dals been branded war criminals?

What the hell was she getting herself into here? This wasn’t merely one alien looking for a woman to do who-knew-what, but several males of different races had banded together. Like the Coalition. Another shiver went down her spine and again she considered running. 

Except she needed money. Yesterday. She’d stick it out, wait to see what this job was about, one they couldn’t be bothered telling anyone the details.

“Too arrogant,” the keenta said, though she could almost swear she saw the corners of his mouth lift, hinting at a grin.

“Reminds me of you,” the og’dal added. No smile there at all.

“Enough of your insults, Ri’Nom,” Big Red said, his lips thinning. “Or I’ll stick you with kitchen duty tonight. Get Zirkov.”

Ri’Nom scrunched his face in a look of disgust. “Cooking and cleaning is for females.”

The comment mirrored the rest of the males on Earth, alien and human. Big Red didn’t move or say anything after that. He just stood there with his arms crossed over his huge chest, his gaze squarely on Kaci. 

“What about the rest of us?” a blonde woman said in the background. Kaci had almost forgotten about the other women who’d showed up for the mystery job. The ones who had lined up on command like lambs to the slaughter.

Big red ignored the blonde and shoved Ri’Nom toward the back office.

The og’dal patted one arm against his chest in what Kaci guessed was a salute, all while he maintained two arms on the blasters on his weapons belt riding his hips. These guys didn’t look or act like military, which ruled them out as Coalition spies—she hoped. The few aliens allowed to remain on Earth were not allowed to carry weapons. Which meant these aliens were likely here illegally. Or carrying weapons illegally. Either way, this job of theirs wasn’t going to be above board.

Sadly, none of that changed her situation. She needed the money too damn badly to be picky. It simply meant she had to be extra cautious not to get caught by the police or military.

“I’m serious, Red. Any job.”

He raised a brow. “You shouldn’t appear so easy, female.”

“Not easy. Desperate. I need the money.”

“Also not good. You let your enemies know too much and they’ll use it against you.” Damn, he sounded like Ben, though her surrogate father always added a smile after chastising her.

“Fine.” She’d let her guard around this alien. Kaci started bouncing on her heels as she ran all the information through her head. The need to run was taking over, but she was determined to get this job. Which meant deflecting the keenta. “Ah, shucks, Red. Here I thought we were starting to be friends. Not enemies.”

For some reason that she couldn’t fathom, he smiled. A rather nice smile. Not that she’d tell him that.

“Why do you need money so badly, female?”

“Is answering that a requisite for getting the job?” When he remained silent, she said, “I thought not. Let’s keep this professional then, okay, Red?”

“That’s not my name.”

“I didn’t think so, but you never told me your name.”

“You don’t need to know it.”

“Then we’ll stick with Red. It suits you.”

“Because I’m red?”

“Ooh, you’re smart for an alien.”

When he stepped closer, she resisted her instincts to back up. Instead, she stood her ground, flipped her hair back, and tilted her head to adjust for how close he was.

“Konnitch, enough,” boomed a heavy male voice from behind him.

Kaci wanted to take her eyes off the keenta, whose huge muscles rippled as if he were restraining himself. There was something about him that wouldn’t allow her to look away. Not fear, though given his size, she’d be smart to at least have some fear of this alien. But she didn’t. That alone shocked her.

When Red—Konnitch—finally stepped back, she realized her heart was racing and other parts of her were quite aware of the tower of maleness before her. She crossed her arms over her chest to cover her hard nipples. What the F was happening to her? Some bully of an alien challenged her to the mental equivalent of arm wrestling and her body decides to wake up and show off the girls? She needed to have a serious talk with herself after this. Maybe not wear such a thin bra, too.

“You’ve angered her,” the blue male—a zyanthan—said as he stopped beside the keenta.

“Nope,” Kaci corrected him, unfolding her arms to appear relaxed and easy-going. “It’s just cold in here. I’m ready for the details of this job.”

The zyanthan’s horns tilted back. “We have to choose the right woman first.”

“I am the right woman.”

The women behind her flung a few choice curses her way, but none of them bothered approaching the aliens. Kaci stood within arm’s reach of an og’dal, keenta, and zyanthan, each of which could easily over-power her. But could they outrun her?

She turned around to face the other women, using the move as a subtle way of putting more distance between her and the aliens. “Cool your jets, everyone. And you know you’re all thinking you wish you had my guts to do what I just did,” she said, using the opportunity to move closer to the women and farther from the aliens.

Big Red raised an eyebrow again, as he turned to the zyanthan, who shrugged. Kaci squashed a chuckle as she joined the other women. She’d confused the aliens. Good. 

“Everyone line up, facing me,” Zirkov said without delay. As soon as the women stood shoulder to shoulder, Zirkov walked the line while glancing at a photo he held. “If your hair is gold or red, you are dismissed. Leave.”

Twenty-two women left the building, muttering complaints along the way. The remaining eighteen women closed the gaps, with Kaci at one end. Again Zirkov walked the line, this time eliminating those who were shorter and talker than Kaci.

Ri’Nom inspected the five remaining women. “They all look alike. Any will do.”

“That one has blue eyes. Leave,” Konnitch said. “And the one with short hair, too. Go.”

“This one,” Zirkov said, pointing to the women to Kaci’s left. The woman was biting her lower lip and didn’t look the least bit happy at having been chosen. “You other two can leave,” Zirkov said to Kaci and the third woman.

Holding her head up high, Kaci ignored Zirkov and Ri’Nom as she strolled to Konnitch. It was a nice name, almost sounded Hawaiian, a place she’d always wanted to visit.

“You can leave now, female,” Konnitch repeated Zirkov’s words.

“I heard your boss over there fine, Red. I just came to tell you where you can find me tomorrow.”

“Why would I need to know where to find you?”

“Because the woman you picked won’t last through whatever it is, you have to tell her. When she backs out of this job, you’ll come looking for me.”

“That will not happen.”

“Piers 35 through 48, Red. I’ll be the one in sneakers running messages back and forth.” Kaci winked and turned, sashaying her hips as she exited the warehouse.

The moment the door slammed shut behind her, she let out a huge breath and suddenly felt drained. She needed that job, and she’d done everything she could think of to make herself stand out above the other women.

As often happened, people—and now aliens—passed over her like she was nothing. Something about her screamed ordinary to the rest of the universe, even when she was grouped with a bunch of women with the same body size and coloring. Not that she wanted anyone to notice her, really, but for once, just once, she wanted to feel special. And more immediately, she wanted another job so she could pay for the drugs her dealer Alex was bringing tomorrow.

* * *


Konnitch watched from inside the warehouse at Pier 35. The female—Kaci—raced in, dropped an envelope off at the foreman’s desk, grabbed a package from the neighboring bin, and raced off before he could call out to her. She’d done this twice in the last half hour, running messages and items all over the docks. Since the Coalition had left to fight the Grud, Earth had been dedicated primarily to shoring up its defenses to prevent another alien invasion. Those tasked with moving food, medicine, building materials, and other necessities to the populace were on their own when it came to basics, including communications. The communication grid the humans had rebuilt was limited to government and military use.

This female, with the constant smile, cheery disposition, and confidence that matched any keenta, was a runner, tasked with keeping the communication going between vital areas of the port. It explained why she was in such excellent shape. And perfect for his op.

“I’ll grab her for you when she returns,” the human foreman Branson said as he returned to his desk and opened the letter she’d delivered. “You’re not going to take her away for long, are you? She’s my best runner. As hard a worker as any man here, but a hell of a lot prettier to look at.

A growl slipped from Konnitch. He didn’t like the male looking at Kaci that way, not that it should matter to him. She was nothing more than another human female, one he needed for his op. As she’d predicted, the female that Zirkov had chosen had fled when he’d explained why they needed her. She didn’t have Kaci’s daring and fortitude. He needed that. Rather, his op needed that.

“I don’t require your assistance,” Konnitch said, glaring at the foreman. The males of this world failed to understand how precious their females were. Humans viewed them as breeders, nothing more. 

“Suit yourself. I have work to do.” The man left his office and started shouting at several dock workers who’d been standing around idle. One of the workers, a tall male with no hair and metal studs lining his lower lip shoved Branson in the chest. Clearly, the foreman didn’t hold the respect of his workers.

“Stop that!” Kaci shouted from deeper within the warehouse. Konnitch spun around to see she had entered from a side door. A male with tattoos of barbed wire and flowers covering his neck and arms pinned her against the wall. She slipped under his arm. “Touch me again and I’ll—”

“What? Complain to Branson? He’s not gonna fire me, and you know it. As for you, you owe me.” When the human’s hand clamped on Kaci, she relaxed and let him pull her back into his embrace.

Konnitch strutted toward her, then she patted the male’s chest and stepped back. “We’re over, Xavier.”

“I’ll say when we’re over. And that won’t be until I get what I paid for.”

She slapped him across the face. “I’m not a whore.”

“Never said you were. But all those dinners cost me a pretty penny.”

Her cheeks reddened. Konnitch loved the color on her. Reminded him of the females back home, few though there were.

“Feel cheated?” she shot back at the male. “Too bad. I never promised you anything.”

“You have it too good— Oomph.” Xavier doubled over, clutching his balls.

Drekk. After kneeing the guy in the balls, the female shot out of the warehouse at what had to be top speed for a human. Fast even for a keenta. If he didn’t move now, he’d lose her and he couldn’t afford that. 

Konnitch chased after Kaci, knocking that human sartog over on his way out of the warehouse. Catching up to Kaci took longer than he expected. More than five minutes, and he probably only caught her because she stopped for a series of trucks passing through the main gate of the docks.

“Kaci?” he called out, but she didn’t hear him over the noise of the trucks. He placed a hand on her shoulder and she spun around, startled. Her fist nearly connected with his jaw. 

She looked upset and tense, but when she recognized him, she plastered on a smile, trying to hide the tears pooling in her eyes.

“Hey, look who’s here. Big Red himself. What’s up? How’s that other woman working out?”

Drekk, she had an annoying way of pointing out she’d been right. And yet he admired her confidence. Most females on this world avoided talking to aliens, let alone standing up to them.

“Are you still available for the job?”

“What happened to the other woman?”

“She got scared.”

“Of you or the job?”

“I did nothing to the female.”

“I didn’t say you did. What’s the job, Red?”

“My name is Konnitch.”

“I know. But Red is shorter. And fits.”

He glanced at his skin, then hers. “Why are your people obsessed with skin color?”

She frowned. “You’re right. Do you have a rank I could use?”

“I have... a title. But not here. Later.”

Her eyes narrowed. “What precisely is this job?”

“It’s similar to your present one. I’ve been watching you run back and forth on the docks this morning. You are perfect for what we need.”

“So, you need a runner.” She bounced on her heels as her face lit. “Right up my alley. Where am I running to?”

“You’d be running a preset course between several warehouses not far from here. And it has to be tonight.”

“Okay...” she said, drawing out the word, her voice filled with suspicion. “Are you stealing something?”

“In a manner of speaking. There’s a woman who’s being held in a warehouse against her will. I will be creating a diversion to enable her to escape. My plan to rescue Gabriella falls apart without you.”

Kaci relaxed a bit. “I’m all for helping another woman, especially one who’s been kidnapped. So that makes you some type of police?”

Konnitch quickly glanced to make sure no one nearby would hear. After all, he had to guard his identity long enough to get close to Gabriella’s kidnappers and distract them. “I’m a marshal. We work for GI7.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Never heard of it.”

“Galactic Intelligence Sector 7 is part of a multi-planet alliance dedicated to ensuring the Coalition and Grud do not return to their previous strength. When we’re on Earth, we coordinate our efforts with Earth Intelligence, which is a part of the Department of Alien Affairs.”

“That explains why you’re carrying blasters.”

“In part, though we’d do so despite local rules.”

“You don’t respect humans and our laws, do you?”

He’d never said that. But he wasn’t precisely the best at obeying the law, which was why he’d had to flee Keenar. “We are governed by GI7, but we work with Earth Intelligence.”

“You’re avoiding my question. And don’t lie to me. I’ll know if you’re lying.”

He didn’t know why she expected him to lie. He might avoid the truth, as she’d figured out, but he never lied. There was no need to. “Humans are a unique species, but many of their laws are arcane. We try to abide when possible.”

“I guess that means you do what you have to, despite the law.”

He nodded. This female was perhaps too insightful. She could be trouble if he wasn’t careful, but he didn’t have time to find and vet another.

“Don’t worry, Red. Your lack of morals won’t keep me from taking this job. As I said, I need the money.”

“I did not say I lack morals.”

“You just twist them to fit your needs,” she said.

He couldn’t be mad at her, not when she pegged him so accurately. But he didn’t like the slur of being called Red. He’d put up with it if it meant getting her help. After all, he’d put up with much worse in his life than a mere insult from such a tiny female. And she was tiny. Barely came up to his chin, and she didn’t have much meat on her. The females he’d been had all been sturdy, with enough flesh to grip. This female was shapely but lean from all the running she did. And yet something was intriguing about her.

“So, when, where, how far do I need to run? What’s the route? What obstacles should I expect? And how does my running help this other woman escape whoever has her?”

“I’ll be helping her escape. You’ll be the decoy once she does. Your coloring and features are similar to Gabriella’s. Once she escapes, Zirkov, the zyanthan you met yesterday, will lead her to a warehouse where you’ll be waiting. You’ll switch clothes with her, quickly, then head out to catch the attention of those pursuing her. And lead them away from where we need to take her.”

“Will they have guns?”

“Yes, but they’ll want her alive, so you won’t be in danger. If you can outrun them.”

She lifted her chin. “I can outrun anyone. I outran you, didn’t I?”

She’d known she was behind him? Then why did she swing at him? Konnitch shook his head. The answers didn’t matter. He handed her a piece of paper. “The address for tonight. Be there no later than 8. The pay is seventy-five credits.”

Her eyes widened. “For that type of money, I’ll run circles around these assholes.” Then she thought about it, her smile disappearing. “What’s the catch?”

“I don’t lie, female. Everything I said is the truth.”

“Everyone lies. You’re offering a lot of money for a simple job.”

“There is risk here. If you’re too slow, they’ll catch you.”

“Then I deserve hazard pay. An additional twenty-five credits.” When he opened his mouth to object, she added, “And they won’t catch me.”

He liked her bravado, even though it was foolhardy. As fast as she was, she could trip, turn down the wrong street into a dead end... No plan was foolproof. He and his people had learned that long ago.

“You are correct,” he said. “They won’t catch you because we will go over the route and plans thoroughly and leave no room for error.” Now he felt like he was lying to her, and it didn’t sit well with him. But she was right about hazard pay. Another twenty-five credits meant nothing if it secured her help. “A hundred credits it is. No more.”

“That catch, Red? What aren’t you telling me?” Her smile widened. “Don’t worry. I won’t up the price again, but the more information I have, the better my chances of succeeding.”

Drekk, she was smart, perhaps too smart. He needed her to follow his plan precisely, not to be an independent thinker. “The people you’ll be leading away from Gabriella so she can escape are dangerous.”

“How dangerous? Exactly who kidnapped her, and why?”

“The why is unimportant, but she’s now under the protection of GI7.”

“You mean once you help her escape.”


“Who has her?” Kaci repeated her question, showing a relentlessness he hadn’t expected in an Earth female.

“The Brotherhood,” he said.

Her face went pale, and he feared she’d turn down the job like the other woman had the moment she’d heard the Brotherhood would be chasing her. The Brotherhood had been scouring the city looking for Gabriella Evans for a week. They’d finally found and kidnapped her two nights ago. Zirkov had a picture of the female and a location... one that was too heavily guarded for them to go in as a strike team without risking everyone, including the female. That’s when Konnitch had devised the plan to help her escape with the help of a decoy, while Zirkov fled with Gabriella. They’d used a similar ploy with Jaikov on Karthika, though they hadn’t employed a decoy exactly, not a live one at least.

“Okay, Konnitch,” Kaci said, her arms unfolding. “I’ll do it.”

She used his name. Curious. “No conditions?” he asked, suspicious.

This female wasn’t like any others he’d met. She seemed to understand the danger of the situation, but also admitted she was desperate. Perhaps she didn’t realize he and the other marshals were desperate too. The chance of mission success increased ten-fold, with her serving as a decoy.

Kaci tilted her head. “I said I wouldn’t up the price again. Don’t second-guess me or my abilities. You made an offer, and I accepted. You keep your end of the deal, I’ll keep mine. And I want half my credits up front.”

Konnitch had a meeting with the Brotherhood in an hour. The Brotherhood responded well to aliens and their technology, so he’d met one of their men and pretended to be an arms dealer. Konnitch couldn’t push off this meeting without risking Gabriella’s life. The Brotherhood would only hold her long enough to learn what, if any, evidence she had against their leader, Anton, then they’d kill her. She was a liability to them, too much to chance letting her live long. This escape was happening whether Konnitch had a decoy lined up or not. It was the perfect opportunity for Kaci to demand more than the hundred credits.

“I’ve transferred your payment ahead of time.” He took out his comm and pulled up proof of transfer.

“All of it? You transferred all of it to my account before I’ve done the job?”

The surprise in her voice did something to him that he didn’t expect. It was as if no one had ever fully trusted her. Or perhaps she’d been cheated too many times that she no longer trusted people. He understood that.

“I told you once before that I don’t lie. I expect you to do the job as agreed upon.” He showed her his comm, knowing the majority of humans didn’t own comms or datapads. All their precious resources went to the military and government. If only the humans understood, their most precious resource was their females.

Which made putting this female in danger hard, even though it was necessary. The very idea of putting her in danger didn’t sit well with him, except this plan was rock solid. Both he and Zirkov had gone over every facet. Ri’Nom too, but he objected on the grounds that they couldn’t rely on a female to do her part, claiming women were unpredictable. Typical og’dal. Ri’Nom didn’t think much of females, but he had the integrity of any marshal, willing to put his life on the line to ensure their safety along with the people they’d saved and protected over the past two years. Ri’Nom had only been with their team for six months and had a lot to learn, but he wasn’t morally bereft like the og’dals who’d joined the Coalition.

This female with the shiny dark hair and the hazel eyes that lit up when he’d mentioned paying her in full glanced at his comm so fast it suddenly occurred to him she might not be able to read like the majority of females on Earth. The Coalition had forbidden them from receiving an education. 

“I can read it to you if you need,” he offered, trying not to offend her. Time was short and easing into the subject of what she could and couldn’t do would take time he didn’t have.

“I’m not dumb.” She spoke with a feisty bite in her words as she stood straighter, threw her chin up, and her chest out. By the three balls of Havvis, the female had a shapely figure, despite how lean she was. Those exquisite breasts would fit the palms of his hands perfectly.

“Eyes up here, soldier boy.”

“Not a soldier. I didn’t pass the entrance exam.” Drekk, why did he tell her that? That part of his past held no relevance here, and it certainly wouldn’t impress the female, even if that’s what he was trying to do. Which he wasn’t.

His eyes wandered down her body again, heating the kai marks on his chest. He’d love to run his tongue along her neck and then dip down between her breasts. Those utterly delectable mounds he pictured all too easily.

When he heard her laugh, his eyes snapped to her face. She was grinning as if she knew what he was thinking. Divulging his failure had never received that reaction before. These humans were an odd lot from what he’d seen.

Then again, the problem wasn’t the female, but hundreds of years of biology. Kai marks had a way of controlling a male, driving him to mate if he wasn’t careful. Once the lust fever ended, many males found themselves fully mated… to females they never wanted. Konnitch swore he’d never let that happen.

And yet her reaction intrigued him. She smiled at the same time she’d insisted he not look at her body.

“You don’t like me looking at you? Why? Your body is appealing. You’ve taken care of it, unlike some of the humans I’ve seen.”

“You’re rather judgmental, aren’t you?”

“I’m not judging. I’m observing.”

“Then observe up here,” she said, drawing an imaginary circle around her face. “And no lower.”

He sensed telling her he enjoyed looking at her lower half would not help the situation. “I never said you were dumb,” he said instead, returning to where their conversation had begun to devolve. “Lack of education or training is not an indication of low intelligence, merely circumstance. I know the history of your people and what the Coalition did here. It’s no different from what they’ve done on other worlds, which is why I work with Galactic Intelligence, to ensure the Coalition doesn’t rise to power again.

“Sorry,” she added quickly a second before a huge smile spread over her face. “I didn’t get much sleep last night. Ignore me.”

Ignoring her had been his plan, but she made that hard. The more he spoke with her, the more he wanted to understand why she was so different from other females, and why she was suddenly so defensive. 

“Do all human males assume their females lack intelligence?”

“You’re a strange creature, Red, even for an alien.”

Again with calling him Red. Such disrespect would not be tolerated on his world, even from a female, not that many remained. Drekk. He was the one who hadn’t remained.

“I gave you a choice before,” he said, sternly this time. “Call me Konnitch or Marshal.” He glanced around the area, eyeing a few nearby dock workers. “No, don’t call me Marshal. It might jeopardize this mission. Be at 1500 Barracuda Street within the hour, female.”

“My name is Kaci. Calling me female is a sign of disrespect here.”

“So it is,” he said, staring at her. He would not argue over semantics with her, but if she continued ignoring his name, he would do the same with her. She tucked that smile of hers away while her eyes narrowed and her head tilted as she tried to figure him out. The fire of his kai marks erupted with such intensity, he reached out to a nearby pole to steady himself. The fire spread through his chest, arms, and back. Fortunately, he wore a shirt, so she wouldn’t see the changes in his marks. Though it had been many years, he recognized the first stage of kai’tetch all too well.

His drekking mating cycle chose the most inopportune time to strike. And with a human female, no less. He’d have to squelch the desire to mate because this wasn’t the time or place, especially not with her… Kaci, a human female too tiny and quarrelsome to take all of his cocks together.