An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.
The door crackled closed. Duncan hung their cloaks. “Ye’ve already seen the common area.” He indicated the room she woke up in earlier today.
A whoosh of cold air startled her as Ferly Mor’s hand reached through the vapor to place food bowls on the sideboard next to a giant hanging water dispenser. Could she feel more like a caged rat?
“Suppertime. But first, let me show ye the rest of our home.” Duncan opened the middle door on the back wall and turned on a little flashlight-looking thing that illuminated the closet-sized room containing a familiar orange flowerpot and a pitcher and bowl sitting atop a wooden table. “The privy.”
“No shower? No sink?”
“No, lass. Ye can wash up in any one of the bathing pools in the Yard.”
“Great,” she mumbled. “More being naked in front of strangers.”
“Ye’ll find towels under the privy table.” He left the bathroom and entered an open doorway. “My chamber.”
She needn’t step inside. The overfilled bookshelves, knickknacks, and trinkets crammed in every conceivable space had been visible through transparent walls from Ferly Mor’s apartment. Did the Hyboreans steal these things from Earth? If anyone lost something back home, they could find it in Duncan’s seven by ten foot room.
In the far corner loomed the same pillow bedding as in the breeding box. She stepped back in case Duncan suddenly got the same idea Max and Regan had.
“This is your home now. Ye’re free to go anywhere ye wish. Except in here.” He retrieved a key from his pocket and unlocked the door at the rear of his bedroom. “This is my private horde of the malt.”
Duncan cracked open the hinged door just enough to fit through, not that she’d be able to see inside anyway, since the door opened out in her direction. Boxes shuffled. They were, no doubt, the tower of boxes that blocked the view from the alien’s apartment. Was he hiding the alcohol from Ferly Mor?
More boxes shuffled and glasses clinked before Duncan emerged with three bottles of whiskey. He shut and locked the door.
“If anyone asks ye for some, ye must fetch me. I’ll no’ have ye accidentally giving away the good stuff to just anybody. And if Regan ever received the lesser quality—” He shuddered. “It’s best ye not be on the receiving end of his anger, aye?”
Addy nodded. She didn’t want to see Regan in a good mood, never mind seeing him going ballistic.
Duncan took great care in packing up the bottles before calling for Tess. “Can ye show Addy her bed? I’ve a delivery to make.”
Addy followed Tess into the last room, which was L-shaped with the short end wrapping behind the “privy” as Duncan called it. At least she’d have complete privacy in the one place that mattered. “Where’s the squeaky exercise wheel?”
“Never mind.” Addy stared out into the darkened Yard.
“The observation walls are transparent one way,” Tess said, reading Addy’s mind. “All you can see from the outside is the mural.”
“Does everyone have observation walls like this?”
“Of course. The Hyboreans love nature. They like to view the Yard habitat.”
“View it or monitor it?”
“It’s not like they keep a sharp eye on every little thing we do. We have a great amount of freedom.”
Ha. What did Tess know about freedom? She’d been born a captive. To her, voyeuristic aliens were normal. To Addy, they posed another challenge for escape. How on earth would she get out of here if Big Hairy Brother was watching?
Perhaps Tess was right that the aliens didn’t monitor every little thing. After all, they hadn’t chased after her when she fled from Duncan. Maybe the aliens viewed people with mild interest, kind of like she did when watching aquarium fish.
That could explain how someone was able to escape.
He escaped. He got caught. He was killed. Max’s haunting voice invaded her thoughts. What had happened to Max after being pulled from the breeding box?
“Where does Max live? Duncan told me he’s not from the Yard.”
“He lived here with the other gladiators some years ago, but his master sold him.” Tess arranged long body pillows on the floor for Addy’s bed. “When he comes back for breeding or for the infirmary, he stays at HuBReC’s kennel.”
“The survival race is a brutal sport.”
“I see.” Though she didn’t, really. If Max had been hospitalized often, how come he didn’t have any scars? Not that she’d been checking for scars on his naked body. Her cheeks warmed. She turned away before Tess could see her blush and flopped down on her bedding, shoes and all. She was not about to undress in front of the alien. For all she knew, he was watching her right now. “Night,” she mumbled into a pillow.
“Don’t you want supper?”
“No. I’m beyond exhausted.”
“Of course you are. Good night, Addy. I’ll leave the lightstick here.” The room darkened. A blanket covered her, and exhaustion took over.
* * *
Addy woke the next day intent on learning more about this godforsaken planet in order to find a way to escape. Ferly Mor had other ideas. He brought her to HuBReC’s infirmary, where she’d been poked, prodded, and shot with some supersized injection pen filled with who-knew-what.
As if the medical exam hadn’t been humiliating enough, the damn alien brought her to the yard to train her!
Outside of Duncan’s home, Addy stared down the furry, gray beast with her teeth clenched so tightly her head ached. Hot, heaving breaths expelled through her nostrils like an irate bull. Only this bull refused to charge.
Crouched down twenty feet away, Ferly Mor sounded a musical tune on his silver headband.
“Och, Addy, just go to him.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “No way.”
Ferly Mor held out a square chocolate cookie and sent happy telepathic feelings as the ringtone played again.
She didn’t budge.
He faced Duncan. A different ringtone sounded, and Duncan walked to him to receive his cookie. “That’s all he wants ye to do, lassie.”
“Call me Lassie again, and I’ll punch your Scottish mouth.” She turned her back on them. “I’m not a freaking dog.”
A queer uneasiness fell over her. Angry vibes infiltrated her body. A moment ago, the alien was merely frustrated, but now he was outright mad. Had she pushed her luck with that about-face?
She spun back to see they weren’t alone. A black Hyborean, a foot or two larger than Ferly Mor, faced off with him and pointed a leathery finger in her direction. Though they made no noise, the remembered sound of snarls and growls filled her head.
Somehow, she had caused this fight.
At their feet, Duncan looked back and forth from one to the other as if he followed the conversation. His eyes grew wide, and his cheeks lost what little color they had.
The black alien strode forward, it’s dark, angry gaze boring into her.
Ferly Mor snatched her up, holding tight enough to snap her spine. She sensed him pleading with the black fur Hyborean.
When Black Fur nodded, the pressure on her spine eased, and Ferly Mor set her on the ground. Legs giving out, she fell on her butt.
The aliens faced each other. With ceremony, they simultaneously placed two fingers on their lips before using the same hand to slap each other’s chests. They each covered the hand touching them with their free hand.
Perhaps Duncan would’ve explained the ritual if he hadn’t appeared too frightened to speak, though he did have the presence of mind to help her stand.
Black Fur seized Ferly Mor’s silver headband and placed it on his own head. Both Hyboreans walked the same distance away and then faced her. Ferly Mor knelt down and held out the chocolate cookie. The ringtone sounded from Black Fur’s headband. She sensed them both calling.
Who was she supposed to go to?
A sharp pain jolted her body. It wasn’t nearly the same intensity as in the breeding box, but it was enough to warrant a jump backward. The tone played again.
“Go to Ferly Mor, lass.”
Another zap had her running for his furry body. She jumped into his arms. He hugged her and stroked the hair from her eyes before setting her down with her reward.
Black Fur shoved the headband into Ferly Mor’s hands, giving him a curt nod that could have meant, “That’s how you train a human.” He strode off.
Duncan squeezed Addy’s shoulders. “Ye did well, lass.”
“What was all that about? Who was that other Hyborean?”
Duncan sat, then flopped back on the grass with his hand over his heart. “It doesna matter now.”
Like hell it doesn’t.
Ferly Mor tousled her hair before creating distance between them and playing the ringtone again. Not wanting repeat shock therapy, she popped the cookie into her mouth and hurried to him the first time.
After six more sweet treats, training day—and her abject humiliation—finally ceased.
Thanks for reading! See you next week for Chapter 9!
Stay safe out there!
Romance with a rebel heart