Book 5 of the Vespian Way Hesitant Desire
Available at Phaze
Heather swore she’d never go back to Aruka after a mission had gone bad. The planet had an archaic view of women and Heather fought against those views, angering one man to the point of whipping her. Now Earth has requested she rescue a missing woman on that planet. She wants to say no, but Storm has already accepted for her, as long as he accompanies her. They hoped it would be a quick in and out assignment but didn’t expect to run into the man carrying such hatred for her all these years. Now they have to try to finish their mission while evading the man who’s only goal is to make Heather pay for her crimes.
Heather had a few minutes before she needed to get to council chambers for the afternoon and was taking advantage to play with her children.
“There is a communiqué from Admiral Barrister.”
“Thank you, Cim.” After picking up her daughter and putting her in the play area that Storm had created for the twins, she went for her son. Once she had them settled, she returned to the living room. “Go ahead and put Bear on the main screen.”
“Good morning, Commander.”
“How are you, Admiral?” He was awful formal. Why did he call her commander?
“We need your help.”
“You don’t mess around, do you, sir.” Great, another assignment. She had tried to leave security several times but Earth wouldn’t take her resignation. She sat on the couch.
“Time is of the essence.” He looked off screen for a moment and nodded before he focused back on her. “The daughter of the ambassador from Basuya has been kidnapped and only your expertise will work.”
“You know Vespian protocol, sir. You have to ask the ambassador before you can even approach me.”
“I know that and he has given his permission as long as he gets to accompany you.”
She smiled. Her mate always sought to protect her. “What do you need?”
“The ambassador and his family were learning about Aruka.”
“Oh, no thank you.” She didn’t want to hear anything else. The last time she had been on that planet she came close to spending the rest of her life as a slave and swore she would never go back.
“You are an officer of Earth’s military. You don’t get to refuse.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” From his tone, she knew better than to say anything else.
Bear steepled his fingers as he chose his next words. “Heather, you know the native language, have more personal knowledge of their society’s dos and don’ts, and firsthand knowledge of the land. I don’t have anyone else I can send and we must get her back as quickly as we can.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
“Let me guess.” Heather pinched her nose. Anger filled her as she realized she couldn’t say no. “You’re trying to sign a treaty with them and getting the daughter back will make sure that happens.”
“When can you leave?” He didn’t answer her question so she had to be right.
“How come I seem to be the one you turn to when you need to make sure treaties are getting signed all of the sudden?” She muttered the words to herself but knew Bear heard her. Heather sighed as the data stream on the young woman she was to find filled the screen. “What do you know?”
“Not a lot right now. I have included your old file as well as everything you need for this mission. Storm has the same file.”
“Oh, great.” Now her mate would learn about one of her not so great missions. The only good thing about it was he could say no after he read what happened to her.
“I have explained to Storm I need you to leave as soon as possible. She has been missing three days.”
“Three days?” Her eyes widened. A couple of hours were all a kidnapper needed on that planet. Three days would leave them with a very cold trail to follow. She stood, knowing every minute she wasted could mean failure in finding the girl. “I’ll send a message when we’re on our way.”
She ended the communiqué and walked into the playroom to look at the twins. Their naming ceremony was just a few days away. Would the council allow them to postpone it? “You know I love you two very much.”
“Yes, mama.” He son toddled over and hugged her leg.
“I need to go help someone’s little girl make it back home.” She leaned down to pick him up. “Goodness you’re getting heavy.”
“And you will. You need to take care of your sister and listen to your uncle and aunt. No more grabbing his nose.” She touched his with gentle fingers.
Her son’s bottom lips poked out.
“He wants to protect your sister as much as you do. That is why he goes to her first. You need to let him know you want to be picked up first and he’ll realize he’s favoring your sister without knowing it.” Heather stooped to pick up her daughter as well when the doors open.
“You really do like trying to get yourself into trouble. You know they are too big for you to pick them up like that anymore, yet I catch you continuing to try.” He took their son out of her arms so she could pick up her daughter. He then offered her his hand so she could stand without too much of a problem. “Old habits die hard, don’t they?”
“Read the file already I see.” She brushed a few hairs out of her face, waiting for him to chastise her.
“You’re still my heart.”
“Yeah.” She never wanted to think about that assignment again, yet here it was, rearing its ugly head. “I knew you’d be happy to see how bad that got before I was able to turn it around.”
“I now see why Bear feels you are the best.” He headed toward the doors and waited outside for her to join him. “Anyone else would have ended up dead. Including me. You did what you had to do to get the job done.”
“I lost control.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I was a woman. When I first arrived the people who pretended to buy me wanted to brand me which I fought. Then I broke the number one rule and fought with a man.” Did he read the whole file? She had made mistake after mistake on that planet and had never forgotten about it. Heather moved down the hall, holding her daughter close. “Have you spoken to the council?”
“Informally. I spoke to my mother who contacted the rest of the council and they understand. The decision is ours.”
“Great.” She had hoped someone would say no, but so far nothing was going to stop her from reliving something she’d rather leave in the past. “You know I don’t want to do this.”
“But you won’t leave that girl to be trapped on that world.”
He knew her too well. The thought of what the girl would go through if she didn’t try to bring her home drove her to face her demons. She walked into the medlab with Storm on her heels. “Kuarto.”
“Heather? They’re not sick. I just saw them, so why are you here?” His voice held an annoyed tone. He had complained before that she worried too much about the health of the twins.
“I know, and I promise I didn’t bring them here for another check-up. I need a favor. Can you and Toki babysit for a few days?” She placed her daughter in the crib he had set up for the twins. “Earth’s government has asked us to go on a mission and we need to leave immediately.”
“What about the naming ceremony?” His frown showed his confusion.
“Storm has spoken to his mother and she understands. The one thing we need to do is formally approach the council and ask permission, but we already know they’re going to say yes. Can you ask Toki if she could postpone it for a few days? We’d really appreciate it.” She touched her daughter on the head, not wanting to leave her or their son, but she knew she had to do this.
“Then Storm is going with you.” Kuarto looked at Storm for answers before he reached for their son.
“Yes.” Storm patted his son on the head as he settled in his mate’s brother’s arms. “So we’re relying on you and Toki to care for these two until we get back.”
“That won’t be a problem. You know that.” He kissed their son on the head before he set him down next to his sister. “Can I help you with anything?”
“We’re going to need some physical alterations to fit into Arukan society,” said Heather. She fought hard to keep her anger and frustration inside. She knew she was focusing on the task at hand instead of her brother’s curiosity, but if she wasn’t careful she just might lose the tight hold she had on her emotions.
“Arukan? Have you been there?” He grabbed his scanner plus his pad and walked to the computer to pull up a three dimensional image of Heather and Storm.
“I have.” She kept her features under tight control, trying not to show how the memory of the place made her feel.
“So you know how women are treated there.”
All she could do was nod.
“Anyone else going with you two?” Kuarto looked at Heather for a moment before he started to alter their images to get the desired look for the race there. He never missed a thing and she wondered what he suspected. He didn’t ask her anything else as he used his pad, the screen, and their images to get what he wanted.
“Fridon will be coming as well.” Heather couldn’t keep the flatness out of her voice.
Kuarto nodded and loaded his image as well. “You realize you’re all a little tall for this race.”
“Yes.” Heather hated this. The last time she was on this planet her height had been one of the reasons she was so coveted. That and her hair. No one on the planet had such light hair. Then there was the length. The shortness of it made them think she had been punished by her master and then sent away because whatever she had done had been so bad he never wanted to see her again. It made her a target for many reasons and now she had to go back and face that reality again. “We’ll have to work around that.”
“And women are second class citizens with no power?” He watched her face as he brought up the subject again.
“I am all too aware of my status there.” She refused to rise to the bait as she watched him make the changes. Her fair skin turned golden with the sparkle the people from the planet had. They all looked like they had glitter on them from the way their skin sparkled in all types of light. “Can you make that stick?”
“Let me guess, the last time you went there you went just as you are.”
“Earth doctors couldn’t change my skin tone and hair color. My chip didn’t allow it.”
“Well, we have the ancient computer who knows your DNA so we should be able to make the proper changes.” Kuarto circled her image, bobbing her ears so they came to a point like the people from the planet. Then he changed her hair color. “One down, two to go.” Now that he had made the changes to her image all he had to do was press a button for Storm’s and Fridon’s images to switch. In an instant they all looked like the natives.
“I’m going down to the main compound to work on our outfits.” Heather headed out the door. Kuarto had what he needed to get them physically ready, now it was her turn to make sure their clothing fit as well.
“She seems very upset about this,” Kuarto commented as he continued to work on their images, perfecting their looks. “Can I assume the last time she was there it didn’t go well for her?”
“Not the way she wanted, but she still had a successful mission.” Storm pointed to the images. “How long before you’re done?”
“I should have a chip to implant in about fifteen minutes.”
“Good. I’m going to see what I can do to calm my mate.” Storm strode out of the medlab and headed to the ancient complex. Using his implant, he contacted Fridon and made him aware of the mission and let him know he had to visit the medlab to get the changes necessary for the mission to be a success. When he entered the lab he saw another three dimensional image of the three of them all lined up as Heather worked on the outfits. His and Fridon’s outfits were pretty nondescript. Tunics and flowing pants. Typical for an arid planet like the one they were going to. “My heart?”
She turned to look at him. “I hate this, Storm. Women have no power. They aren’t allowed to speak to men unless spoken to. They can’t own any property. Most women are the slaves of the family. There for breeding and doing all the work.”
“The men don’t do any of the work?”
“None of the labor. That is left to the women.” She pressed a button and worked on the intricate details of the garments. “The admiral has set up our identities already. You are a man of wealth and power. I am your most prized possession.”
“That much is true.” He stepped up to her and touched her cheek. “You will not be alone on this mission.”
“I know, but it’s the memories that get the best of me.” She pressed her face into his hand.
“Do you wish to talk about it?” He could feel her distress over this mission, but nothing else. She had locked everything else deep inside.
“No.” She gave him a smile, but he could see the sadness in her eyes. “Maybe when this mission is over I will, but right now I’m not ready. It’s something I had tried to forget. I need to come to terms before I can tell you anything.”
“What are you doing now?” He turned back toward the images, knowing it was time to change the subject.
“Making sure our garments are ready. Men of power have a brand or mark that adorns their clothing. It is also on all their possessions.” She tapped her pad. “What would you like as a brand?”
“How about this?” He lifted her hair and gently brushed her mark. “No one can deny that you are mine if it is on my clothes.”
Her smile was more genuine. “It also might keep them from branding me with your mark if I already have one.” She put the pattern on his and Fridon’s garment. Once she was happy with the image, she made several other outfits so they would have the proper garments to change to when they had to.
Storm watched as she brought up her image. Her Vespian gown disappeared and was replaced with an outfit he swore was appropriate only for the bedroom. “That is what you must wear?”
“My heart, my eyes will be glowing the whole time we’re on that planet.” The two piece dress left a lot of skin exposed. The bejeweled top had demicups that he was sure wouldn’t contain Heather’s breasts for long and the skirt sat so low on her hips he wondered how it stayed up.
She gave him a fleeting smile then worked on the image, putting the mark on her outfit as well. There was a band at the top of the skirt about six inches wide made out of the same thin material as his and Fridon’s clothes, then a border of it on the bottom. Everything in between was a thin transparent material. There was also a thin strip of cloth that held his mark half way down her upper arm, but he didn’t see any other straps that would keep her top on.
“Can I see you in that?” If she had that on all the time he wasn’t sure he could keep his hands to himself.
“Storm.” She didn’t want to have that awful outfit on before she had to.
“My heart, if just this image is making my desire for you skyrocket, then I need to see what the real thing is going to do. I need to be able to control myself.”
That got a laugh out of her. “You have never tried before.”
“I can’t help that your luscious body calls to me, begging for my touch.” He grinned as he pulled her into his embrace.
“I know your one track mind and there is a lot to do. I need to show you how to use my chain.”
“You’ll have my undivided attention in that.” He looked at the image once again. “I know you see the outfit as degrading. What better way to wipe that feeling from you then to have me worship your body while wearing it.”
“So you think it will empower me?”
“Has in the past.” His need for her was getting stronger by the second. “One wonderful memory to burn away the others.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, probably talking to the ancient computer. Her dress disappeared to be replaced with the outfit she hated so much.
She took his breath away. His hands had to touch her. They gently followed the edge of the small top, causing goosebumps to rise where his fingers had been. Sliding along the edge of the skirt, his touch caused her to take a sharp intake of breath. It was one of her more sensitive spots. He noticed a small gold chain around her waist. A long length of it fell to the floor.
“What is this?” He picked it up. The lightweight material didn’t look like it would take much abuse.
“Excuse me?” He heard the flatness of her voice. It angered her. Another thing she resented. His libido needed to wait so he could find out why.
“Like a pet I have a leach that you control.”
He was starting to understand why she hated this so much. To treat women in such a way went against his beliefs as well. “And you must wear it?”
“And you need to know how to use it to control me.”
“I have never been able to do that,” he joked as he continued to slide his hands over her soft skin. Time to defuse the strong anger she felt.
“Storm.” She stopped him then placed the end of the chain in his hands. “It’s all in the flick of the wrist.” She made a few movements to show him what she was talking about. “My place is behind you as we walk. If you wish to stop, you drop your hand to signal me.” She showed him what she meant. She went through several other movements.
“And what if I wish to show you affection?”
“I don’t know.” She looked sad. “I never saw any of the men show affection to their women. But I do know some of the commands for different sexual poses.”“Perhaps I need to make a few of my own commands.” He started drawing the chain to him so she had to step closer. “Like when I want to kiss you I’ll just drag you to my side.” He lowered his mouth to hers, drawing her tongue out to dance with his. Tension flowed out