Ruby waited for her chance. It had taken her over a month to make her way to the port on Affinia. She was dirty, hungry, but not the least bit deterred. She would not be some alien’s bride, least of all to any of the scum Bu’Tay had lined up, including that keenta Pennitch who had attacked her the second he got his hands on her. He hadn’t been her choice. This entire messed up situation hadn’t been her choice.
To escape Earth, she’d signed on as a mail order bride, agreeing to a contract that would be binding throughout the universe. Most of the women who signed that contract couldn’t even read the terms of the contract, but Ruby could. She’d be little more than a broodmare for a male she didn’t know, with no way to end the marriage, no way to return to Earth—not that she would ever consider that—and no way to earn her freedom. Not unless she got hold of some money to buy her own contract. Alien money she didn’t have or know how to get.
Freedom now stood before her in the form of a shiny ship at the port on Affinia, a small agricultural planet with very few cities and even fewer chances to permanently disappear into the vast universe. At second glance, the ship wasn’t exactly shiny. From stern to stern, scorch marks decorated that hunk of metal like the crew had pissed off one too many adversaries in their time. She wasn’t even sure the thing was sound enough to fly, but it was her only shot off of Affinia and away from Pennitch.
The crew of blue-skinned males with long black horns appeared ready to leave. The male outside the ship, the one easily distracted by the female port workers, had left his post more than once. Already, his eyes followed another female, a keenta. Red skinned, long hair swinging to her ass, and a good-sized rack.
“Predictable,” Ruby mumbled as the female shook her backside at the crewman, who followed her away from his ship.
Ruby ran across the grassy field onto the dirt clearing where only a half dozen ships rested. Her heart beat fast as she pushed all her energy into sprinting. She needed to make it aboard that ship before the blue-skinned alien turned around. The female keenta spotted her instead, grinning as Ruby launched herself onto the ship. She’d made it! Now, if only the woman didn’t rat her out.
As Ruby moved down the corridor, she tested every door she passed. The bridge, engine room, and operations areas would be manned. She needed a quiet place where no one would find her. The hold.
Except she couldn’t find the damn hold, only ladders that led up, not down to the belly of the ship. She scurried up the ladder as fast as she could. Two decks up, she found a long hallway with doors evenly spaced out. Crew quarters most likely.
Ruby climbed higher. Another deck up, she found the spaceship equivalent of an old, dusty attic, minus the dust. The sizeable space had boxes and metal components strewn about as if they’d been dumped here. A thin mattress and bedding lay on its side right beside complicated looking machinery. Definitely an attic, alien style. Perfect. The crew would have no reason to be up there.
The mattress and the entire storage space looked exceedingly clean, rather unlike the attics and basements she’d grown up hiding in. Ruby pulled the mattress out from between the beat-up crates and plopped down. As she lay back, she stared up at the ceiling. Or window, rather. Porthole? Whatever it was called, the transparent ceiling allowed her to watch the clouds roll by.
After so many weeks of running, it felt good to just sit and stare at clouds, even if they were tinted red, without having to worry about being caught. Ruby’s eyes grew heavy as the ship vibrated beneath her. Relief filled her. Finally, she’d be off of Affinia and out of Pennitch’s and Bu’Tay’s reach. The engines roared to life, quickly lulling her to sleep.
Ruby dreamt of Earth and all the misery there. No matter what she did, she couldn’t run fast or far enough from Carson. She’d leapt at the chance to escape aboard the og’dal’s ship without thinking about what would happen once she escaped. Now she knew. The males in the universe were all alike. But the Coalition didn’t rule every world out there. She’d learned that much.
As soon as she found a place where the Coalition had no power, she’d find a small house or even a damn box. She just needed a chance to build herself up again, without the Brotherhood, the Coalition, or Carson tearing her down. One problem at a time, her mom had always said, and she’d been right.
The ship lurched, knocking Ruby out of her dream. The clouds above had been swapped out for thousands of twinkling stars. The view was truly magnificent and so very welcome.
A throat being cleared snapped her eyes to a tall, handsome, and very blue male with horns. This wasn’t her first time seeing a male with horns. Pennitch had horns too, but his made him look like an animal. This male before her… everything about him sent a delicious shiver through her.
Dark blue arms folded over a massive chest as silver eyes glared at her and long black horns stood tall, proud. . . dangerous. Why he only wore pants and no shirt, she didn’t know, but his biceps flexed with restrained power. Long claws extended from behind his knuckles on his right hand though he lowered those to his side, probably figuring she wasn’t a threat. She wasn’t. Damn, she wished she had a gun or even a knife.
With barely a flex of his forearm, his claws retracted into his hands, but that didn’t make him any less lethal looking, especially with how his face twisted into a scowl. She’d seen pissed off men before, Carson at the top of that list, but this male. . . Clearly, she’d stowed away on the wrong ship.
“Stay away from me,” Ruby said as she scurried back on her hands and knees.
“Who are you?” the male said, with a deep and rather annoyed voice.
“None of your business.”
“Just the contrary. I’m Torin, the owner of this ship.”
His eyes traveled her body. She wasn’t much to behold in her dirty rags and tangled mass of red hair shoved into a hasty bun, but it wasn’t like she was looking for a date either. Quite the opposite. She just wanted a small place somewhere far from Earth, far from the males who thought they had a right to use her.
“You won’t touch me,” she said, putting as much backbone into her words as she could.
“Let me clarify who I am,” he said, as he took one very intimidating step toward her, close enough that he loomed over her. “I own this ship and everything on it, female, which now includes you.”