Heather stood next to her commander, going over everything she had learned about Vespian society so far. He wanted to be sure she was ready for her next assignment. She found the idea of guarding the ambassador a bit boring, but she’d done this before. It shouldn’t be a long one. The man was only to be on Earth for a few days.
Her first glimpse of the Vespian ambassador caught her off-guard. She wasn’t sure what she expected, but it wasn’t seeing him coming in like some sort of rock star. Shirt missing, exposing tight, sculpted abs, along with well-muscled shoulders and arms. He was the stuff of most women’s wet dreams, and he dressed the part.
“That is the ambassador?” She couldn’t keep the shock out of her voice. His jet-black hair held a bit of a blue shine, and he kept running his fingers through the collar-length thick locks like he wanted to draw attention to it. He was tall, too. Had to be over seven feet; even for her six-foot-three frame, that was tall.
“I know it isn’t what you expect, but he is doing this for charity.” Her commander’s voice was laced with a touch of laughter. “From what I hear, he was talked into this. They wanted him to be one of the dates for this auction. That he refused.”
All she could do was stare. The women surrounding him were practically throwing themselves at him, reaching to touch whatever they could. Giggles and groans filled the air as their hands made contact with his muscled arms and legs.
How was she going to work with him now that she had seen this? She wasn’t sure if she could, with this flashing in her mind all the time.
Those women able to touch him tried to pull him toward them. Luckily, he had anchored himself well and had plenty of protection to keep them at bay. She was sure he reveled in the attention. He had a smile that could melt a polar ice cap.
“If it’s all right with you, sir, I’ll wait for this to end elsewhere.” She didn’t really want to see any more. If she was to treat him with any kind of professionalism, it would be smart for her to find another place to wait inside the embassy.
“That’s fine. This shouldn’t take very long.”
Heather turned around and climbed the steps to the large double doors. Her title of ice princess fit her well at this moment. Most women would enjoy watching this display, but it just made her uncomfortable.
Unable to stop herself, she turned one last time to watch the spectacle and found him staring right at her. Everything disappeared during that moment. Nothing else existed but the two of them connecting through the throng of the crowd. The moment she realized she was starting to attract attention, she broke eye contact and walked into the building.
What had just happened?
Her heart beat hard in her chest. No one ever affected her. That was one of the reasons she was brought in. Where all the other women had ended up sleeping with the man, she would be immune.
She needed something to calm herself down.
Meditation normally worked for her, but she needed someplace quiet and empty. She found just about every room occupied. She nodded and smiled as she entered and then left different rooms.
Eventually, she did find a quiet corridor. All she needed was a small alcove and a few minutes. She heard several sets of footsteps and sighed. Not this time. She turned back to find herself face to face with the ambassador with a small entourage.
Being this close to him set her body on fire. His gaze trapped her, heating her from the inside out. Training kept her from crumbling at his feet.
“Sorry, mistress, but this is the ambassador’s wing. No one is allowed down it but him and his most trusted guards.”
The man’s voice was pleasant, but she found she couldn’t look at anyone but the ambassador. She found herself drowning in his eyes. They were a golden tone with a deep amber ring around the edge. She had never seen anything like it.
Tearing her gaze from his, she blinked a couple times before she could focus on the man who spoke to her. “I am sorry. Guess I got a little lost.”
“Of course.” The man bowed to her. “One of these men will take you to your room.”
“Thank you.” She wiped her hands on her pants, a nervous gesture she had, and followed the man down the hall. It took every ounce of will power to not turn around to look at the ambassador again.
“And who is that?” Storm found the petite woman intriguing. She had such expressive eyes.
“She has been assigned to help you with the treaty.”
“Really?” He looked over his shoulder to watch her turn the corner. “I thought this race decided I was too difficult to work with. Their women can’t fight the pheromones I exude, and the men all want to kill me. Didn’t they say there was no one able to do this?”
“Yes, sir, but she’s been tested against your pheromones and fared better than anyone else. Plus, she has security training to protect you and their humans. You know these humans have wanted one of their own with you from the beginning. It was a compromise that the elders approved.”
“That little thing is going to protect me?” If the elders approved, he wouldn’t fight it, but he couldn’t see it. Besides, it would be interesting to see if she could do her job as well as they said.
“She comes highly recommended. One of the planet’s best.”
“We shall see.”
Heather dressed for the formal meal. She checked her uniform in the mirror to make sure everything was in place. This assignment would isolate her from everyone she knew. Normally she would welcome it, but she feared she wouldn’t fare any better than those who had tried before her. The one thing she had been able to do before this meal was meditate. It had helped. She had been able to center herself and regain composure. She should be able to face the ambassador with poise now.
One more adjustment and she headed to the main hall where the meal would take place. She entered through the doors and took in her surroundings.
The dining hall bustled with waiters and servers greeting people and taking them to their proper seats. Taking a few calming breaths, she stepped into the room and waited her turn. It didn’t take too long before she was seated next to her commander.
“You sure I’m right for the job?” After her reaction to the ambassador earlier, she didn’t feel as confident in herself as her superiors seemed to be.
“Yes. You passed all the tests, and you are the best in security. He emits a natural pheromone that makes people either throw themselves at him or passionately hate him. You showed you were immune to it, so that makes you the perfect candidate.”
She sure didn’t feel like she was immune.
The room quieted as they prepared to introduce the ambassador to the crowd. Women sighed and tried to leave their seats to get closer to him. Men either had a big dopey grin or looked like they could kill him.
“This is what I need to protect him from? Just keep him locked up.” She kept her voice soft as she leaned toward her commander.
“That’s why you’re perfect for this.” His voice was just as soft. “You see the big picture. You know we can’t lock him up but understand he needs to be kept from other people. It’s just too dangerous to have him wandering around.”
“Yes, sir.” She felt the ambassador’s gaze on her. And as much as she wanted to melt at his feet like the rest of the women, she was better than that. Using all her training, she schooled her features and looked back. She had a job to do and nothing would deter her.
He gave her a smile that melted any resolve she had. There was no way she would be able to do this job. Time to get out before she got into trouble. “Sir, I’m not sure about this.”
“Admiral Barrington hand-picked you.”
That made her pause. The admiral had been there for her since she was at the academy.
“Look, I understand,” said her commander. “He’s got a personality that pushes the best of us.”
“You don’t seem to be affected.”
“I’m under sedation.” He showed her a small patch resting on his wrist under his jacket. “Everyone at this table is, except for you. You are our only hope if we want to be allies with this planet.”
If she felt something from being in the same room with him and she wasn’t sedated, just how bad was it for everyone else? She watched as the ambassador took his seat. A loud gong sounded, and the waiters started to deliver their food. The appetizers arrived first. “I don’t see how I am the only person for the job. There has to be someone else.”
“Lieutenant, you can argue with me all you want. I didn’t make this decision. The admiral did. You’ve been assigned. End of discussion.”
“Sorry, sir.” She took a couple bites. “It’s just I’m not sure I’m as immune as everyone thinks.”
“You’ll be fine.” He picked up the glass in front of him and downed it. Heather noticed the sheen of sweat on his brow. Even medicated he was having problems. “You’re feeling the effect of the pheromone. Nothing like everyone else in this room, but we knew you’d feel it a little. And every Vespian has it. It’s part of the race. That’s one of the reasons we can’t go to their planet and they picked one of their men they felt wouldn’t cause a war. His pheromones don’t have the strength that other visitors from their planet have had.”
“Why do we want them as allies?” She knew the answer, but the grain they had to offer seemed insignificant in the face of the problems they had to deal with just gaining them as allies.
“You know that grain would allow us to end hunger here, but it won’t grow on Earth. They can grow as much as we need and are willing to give it to us, but we have to prove ourselves.”
The appetizer was replaced with a salad.
“And I’m the one to do that? Are you sure they went through my record? I haven’t been the model soldier.”
“I know that, but you were the one chosen, so you do your duty and help the planet.” He speared a piece of lettuce with his fork.
Dinner went by pretty quickly. She did notice the air circulation was working overtime. Keeping the room clean so emotions were kept at a decent level.
She was grateful she could speak to her commander so candidly. It allowed her to voice her concerns without making a fool of herself. So now she had to protect the man as well as figure out what the planet had to do to prove themselves. She should have read the fine print before she accepted this assignment.
Once the meal was done they were led to another room for dancing and mingling.
“It’s time for me to leave. You’ve already seen your room, right? Is there anything you need from me before I go?”
“Take me with you?” she half-joked. “I’m not sure who my main contact is here. Normally we would have a meeting so I would know who I am to deal with. Why haven’t we done that?”
“Another concession. You will meet the people you will deal with tonight. So, have fun but stay sharp. Alcohol probably intensifies the problem.” He took his coat from one of the servants and headed toward the door.
She turned to the ballroom, scanning the area for anything out of the ordinary. As she started to do a second sweep she found her view blocked by a broad pair of shoulders.
“Care to dance?”
What a wonderfully deep voice. She looked up to find the ambassador standing in front of her. Much taller than the average human, he towered above her.
How did he do that? He was across the room only seconds ago. She did her best to ignore him. “I should be watching the crowd, Ambassador.”
“True, but dancing will allow you to study the whole group without looking like you’re doing some sort of study.” He stood beside and started to look around with her.
She knew her job better than that and knew she wasn’t looking obvious until he joined her. “No one noticed me until you came over here.”
He smiled at her slight rebuff. Offering her his hand, he didn’t give her a chance to say no again. Heather placed her hand in his, hoping this wouldn’t be a mistake on her part.
The warmth of his hand penetrated and heated her blood. If she was immune, she felt for the women who weren’t. Every time he looked at her or touched her, she felt it to her toes. Her body hummed at his close proximity. How was she going to do her job?
She needed to clear her mind. One calming breath and she turned her focus from the man who held her in his arms to their surroundings and the people who seemed hyper-focused on him.
One woman caught her attention. She kept lifting her head to see him. She was able to slip from her partner and was headed right for them.
“Um, we need to move. Let me lead.” She took control of their steps, maneuvering them out of the way. It didn’t take long before the woman was gathered by a few of the guards standing nearby and pulled out of danger.
“You have sharp eyes.”
“Thanks.” She saw a flash of silver. “Duck.”
He dipped her deep. Pressing their bodies together. She could feel the hardness of his thighs against hers. The angle he held her at allowed her to feel his member at her apex. It sent sparks of desire through her. Something she didn’t expect.
She watched a small dagger fly close but over their bodies. He reached his hand up and stopped the blade in midflight. With a slight flourish he tucked it into her jacket pocket.
His employees went to work subduing the man who threw it and led him out of the room like it was all in a day’s work. Her partner seemed to enjoy their intimacy, because he hadn’t straightened yet.
“Do you mind?” She tried to act indignant, but it was taking all her energy to keep her wits about her.
He straightened, taking her with him. “Just wanted to be sure the danger had passed.”
She doubted that but remained silent. Her body screamed when it wasn’t near his. Instinct was to snuggle up to him, to feel his warmth once again. It took all her willpower to keep her feet moving.
She could do this. All she had to do was focus, and not on him. She picked a safe location to bring her calm back to center. A couple of deep breaths and she felt in control once again.
“I’m fine, Ambassador.” She looked up at him, working hard on keeping her emotions under control.
“Don’t call me that.” A frown creased his handsome face as he moved her with the music.
“What?” Those damn eyes got the best of her. So clear and sharp, she wanted to stare into them for hours.
“Sorry, but we never had a meeting, remember?” She didn’t mean to sound snippy, but she couldn’t keep it out of her voice. “No one happened to mention your name in passing.”
“Ah, well, that makes sense. My name is quite hard for most humans to pronounce.”
Then why was he giving her such a hard time?
“But I have a simplified version that works for me and should be easy for you to say.” He smiled at her. “Call me Storm.”
“No sir, either, not from you.”
“Okay, Storm.” She wasn’t sure what to think. Why would he care what she called him? They barely knew each other. “Can we take a break? I’m starting to get evil looks from the women wanting to fawn all over you.”
“Of course.” He kept a hold of her hand, leading her to where his people stood. “This is Heather.”
They nodded. He didn’t need to say any more. They knew who she was. She had been hired to keep the man safe, yet she didn’t know anyone in his entourage. How was she supposed to do her job without the proper information?
“You going to introduce me to everyone? Or I am supposed to guess as I work with each of them?” Somehow, she had lost control of the situation.
“Watching you guess might be fun.” He grinned as he wrapped an arm around her to make the proper introductions. Not one name could she repeat.
Why did he feel a need to touch her when it seemed that the women nearby were becoming jealous of her? She could feel it building around them. Someone might have to protect her if he kept this up, but his grip was strong, and she didn’t want to make a scene.
“Question. Do each of you have a simple version of your names, or am I going to have to come up with ones I can say and remember?”
“We all have simpler names you should be able to say, mistress. Mine is Fridon.”
An older man brought them drinks, bringing her attention back to Storm. She thanked the server as she took hers.
“Why did you thank him?” asked Storm.
“Because it’s the polite thing to do.” She wished she could move and put a little space between them, but he still had his arm around her and she wasn’t real sure how to break his hold without seeming rude.
“But it’s his job.” His curiosity was evident.
“True, but we all want to be told we’re doing a good job from time to time. Thanking him lets him know I appreciate what he does for a living.” She found it interesting that his question was so genuine.
“Interesting. Our people accept their position and do their job without question.”
She scratched her head, wondering how to explain it better. It had to be something he was familiar with. A grin covered her face when she came up with the perfect subject. “When you are intimate with a woman, do you show your appreciation, or do you just expect her to understand because she was doing her job?”
“When I am intimate with a woman I always show my appreciation with my partner. I do that during the act.” He said it softly, his face very close to her ear.
Okay, that was the wrong subject matter. She felt it all the way to her toes. Fear had her stepping away from him, breaking his hold on her. Being rude wasn’t part of her worry. Him being too close was.
It didn’t seem to faze him. Storm just stepped next to her and wrapped his arm around her once again. And that was the way the rest of the evening went. When she found an opportunity to move away from him he found a way to come back into contact with her. Her whole being was in a heightened state of arousal. It took all her strength not to jump on him and beg him to have his way with her there with everyone watching.
When the evening finally came to an end she practically dashed to her room and headed straight for the shower. It was going to be long and cold and hopefully would help with her libido.
Storm sat on the couch in his suite, contemplating the evening.
“You pushed her hard, sir. Why?”
“I’m not sure, Fridon.” He leaned forward as he spoke. “I don’t need protection, and we know that, but for some reason the elders decided I needed to have it. Out of all the candidates they had, they picked her. Why?”
“We’ve been raised to never question them, sir. You know that.” The young man got up and poured himself a glass of water. “Want some?”
“No. I need a clear head.” Water had an alcoholic effect on his race.
“So why did you push so hard?” Fridon sat across from Storm.
“I wanted to see what would happen if she was hit with the full force of our pheromones. I knew it could have caused a little trouble, but our air system would remove a lot of it as long as I didn’t walk through the crowd.”
“And what did you learn?” The elders assigned Fridon to keep an eye on Storm. For some reason they had a special interest in the human and him.
“That she is very strong. I could feel her desire, yet she refused to act on it. A weaker woman wouldn’t have been able to resist.”
“You want her.” He said it matter-of-factly. Storm never turned down a bed partner, and this was the first time he had walked away without one. Any of the women there tonight would have accommodated him.
“What?” He sat back. Was it that obvious? “No, but she has piqued my interest.”
“So, she has passed your test?”
“I wonder how she passed the elders’ one.”
He hadn’t thought about why they picked her. Now he had to worry about that. Sleep wasn’t going to come easy to him.
Heather found it difficult to sleep. Three cold showers later and she still hadn’t gotten her libido under control. She had thought about calling her commander and quitting but ended up jumping back into the shower. Meditation had worked a little, yet not enough to relax her for sleep.
She paced her room, wondering what would work. Perhaps if she snuck down to the kitchen she could get a hot toddy of some sort to quiet her nerves and allow her to sleep. Her simple nightgown covered her well enough, so she left the matching robe behind.
Barefoot, she tiptoed down the hall from her room to the central section of the house. Most of the help had gone to bed so she shouldn’t run into anyone along the way. As she turned another corner she heard a faint noise. Her sixth sense kicked in and told her something was wrong. She needed a place to hide until whatever she sensed had gone past and she could follow them. A small alcove beckoned, and she slipped inside. Steel strong arms wrapped around her waist as a large hand covered her mouth.
No one could ever hold her. She proceeded to fight whoever had her and found herself flipped around and staring into the golden eyes of Storm. What was he doing here?
He dragged her into a small door in the alcove and pushed it gently closed. The confined space intensified the feelings she had been trying to banish. Her nipples got hard just because he held her.
Storm slid one of his legs between hers, pulling her up onto it so they could see eye to eye. The nightgown she wore rode up on her, leaving her core naked against the soft cloth she now rested against. She opened her mouth to protest and realized her mistake too late.
His head dipped toward hers, his mouth covering her lips as his tongue invaded. He cradled her head in his hand, angling it to give him better access to her.
She tried to hold back. Wanted to break the kiss altogether but her willpower deserted her in the onslaught of the passion. Everything screamed for more. She fell into the desire swirling through her, giving as much as he would take.
He deepened the kiss, his hands leaving her waist and head to slide up under the gown, touching the fevered flesh beneath.
She felt them on her buttocks, then slide up her back and around to her breasts. The pebbled tips ached for more as he caressed them. He shifted her, her legs wrapping around him to maintain the contact. Now she could press her core against the hardened length of him. Her whole being was on fire.
It affected him as much as her because she felt the tremor race through him.
Just as fast as it started, it stopped. She found herself on her feet as the door opened and several guards faced them.
“Everything all right, sir?”
“Yes.” His voice came out deeper than normal. He cleared his throat and spoke again. “We ducked in here when the intruders drew close. Did you get them?”
“Yes, sir. We found them just outside of this area. Looks like they turned on each other; we found them all fighting when we arrived. They’ve been moved to security to be questioned whenever you’re ready.”
“Good. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He gently touched her shoulder. “Do you wish to join the interrogation?”
She nodded. Talking was out of the question. She wondered if the guards could see her disheveled look and swollen lips. If they did they showed no reaction.
Storm offered her his hand, which she took, and they followed the men to the security section.
“You might not like the way we do things around here, but it is our way,” he said.
He had kept his distance from her, allowing her to regain some control. What had gotten into her? She never behaved like this before. Most men who showed her any attention learned quickly she didn’t want it. Yet with Storm she practically threw herself at him. What was wrong with her?
Keeping her gaze averted she swore she noticed the two wet marks on his clothes. One on his thigh and the other over his groin. Their clothing was the self-cleaning type all the other planets used, wasn’t it? Heat filled her cheeks. Imagined or not, she did that to him. What must he think of her?
Relief filled her when they entered the security section. Something to draw her focus.
Two of the guards stepped into the room. One held a strange looking weapon.
“Tell us why you invaded the ambassador’s home.”
The four men just stared at them.
“Do you know what this is?” The guard with the weapon asked. “It’s from our planet on Vespia.” He turned it on a low setting, pressing it against the stomach of one of the intruders, causing him to crumple to the ground. He turned it up a notch and aimed it at the next man.
“We know nothing.” His answer wasn’t what they wanted to hear. The guard pressed it against the neck of the second man, causing him to cry out in pain before crumpling as well. A large burn mark showed on his throat.
“It is designed to help with our animals. We can use it on the lightest setting.” He pointed to the first man on the floor. “To keep them from wandering. The highest setting kills.” He moved it to the top notch and sliced through a table sitting in the room. “Clean and precise. Now, why are you here?”
Sweat broke out on the brow of the third one. “I didn’t get paid enough to die.”
“Shut up,” said one of the other two. “How do you know they won’t kill you after you talk?”
“I’d rather die at their hands than his.” He looked up at the guards, fear dancing in his eyes. “We were hired to get the woman. We don’t know why, just following orders.”
She looked at Storm. “Woman?”
“That is the question, isn’t it?”