Nieve is just a human slave on an alien world. She doesn’t mean to fall for the handsome alien Thar'n. Besides, he’s going to choose her master’s daughter for his mate. Isn’t he?
Her master’s thunderous voice startled her, and she hurried to his chamber.
Nieve watched as her master impatiently paced in his room. He had been irritable ever since the visiting clan had agreed to stay with them. He’d been yelling not just at her but also at two other slaves and his children.
“There you are. Where were you?” He noticed her standing in the entrance. “Never mind. I need you to get the guest rooms ready,” he snapped. “Plans have changed and the Darkiri clan will be arriving tonight!”
Nieve’s eyes widened. None of the rooms were ready yet. The city had been buzzing with rumors that the Darkiri were one of the fiercest clans.
And she and Rose were on their own. One of the male slaves she could normally count on had been loaned to Akila’s son to help him with rebuilding a roof, and he wouldn’t return for two days.
“I need the three guest quarters ready in two hours.” His eyes were penetrating, almost imploring.
Nieve straightened her shoulders and gave him a little nod. “We’ll do our best, Master.”
A small smile appeared on the big man’s lips. “I know, Nieve… What would I do without you…”
She hurried through the halls to find Rose. “What would I do without you…” Pfft… Maybe he should kick his daughter in the ass! She was a good girl, but she was only looking for opponents to beat in combat instead of looking for a suitable partner. If she were out of the house, running this household would be a lot easier and less messy.
But Ayli, her master’s daughter, had no intention to find a partner. She’d already told Nieve in confidence that she didn’t mind giving birth to a few pups, but a partner…she wasn’t looking for that.
Nieve found Rose all the way at the back of the complex in the garden, tending to the plants and vegetables.
“Rose, I need your help. The guests aren’t coming in two days. They’re coming tonight!”
The girl turned around with a startled face. “Are you serious? Then we’re really fucked! The linen isn’t dry, and…and the bathrooms… I haven’t dusted or cleaned anything yet.”
“I know, I know.” Nieve put a hand over her face. With a desperate gesture, Nieve rubbed the tips of her fingers over her forehead where a slight headache was forming. “We’re going to have to divide up the chores. There’s three quarters that need to be done. We’ll start with the fabrics, then the bathrooms, and finally we’ll do the linens. You take the blue room and I’ll take the green one. We’ll do the yellow one last.”
“Was Master Akila angry when he told you?” Rose asked as they hurried back inside to get to work.
Nieve nodded. “It’s weird because he likes company. The other visiting clans never get him on edge like this. But he calmed down some when I said we’d do our best.”
“What is it about the Darkiri clan? Do you think he’s afraid of them?” Rose looked thoughtful. “He never snaps at us, and he’s been yelling at his own kids too.”
Nieve didn’t like the idea that Master Akila was afraid of anyone. “We’ve all heard that the Darkiri are not like the other clans. They’re more dangerous. Master Akila is a decent man,” Nieve said. “He’ll keep us safe.”
They split up when they got back inside. Nieve rushed to tidy the green room. She plumped the green fur pillows on the green sofa, and refreshed the basin of water so the guests could wash their hands. She dusted around the candles and plants.
Each room had the same furniture, and all the furniture and decorations were dyed to match the paint color on the door.
“Hey, did you cut your hair again?” Rose frowned at her as they met up in the yellow room. Her hair reached to her waist. She always kept it braided and decorated with beads, feathers, and colorful strips of fabric.
“Yup. It was getting too long again…” From the corner of her eye, Nieve saw Rose shake her head disapprovingly.
“Why don’t you want to blend in? I mean, with that short hair of yours, you stand out.” Rose shoved a pillow into a clean pillowcase.
Nieve grinned. “Come on, Rose. With or without long hair, we’ll always be different! We are human. Short, soft, big round eyes, a nose, blunt teeth, no tusks or claws and then our skin! Sorry to burst your bubble, sweetheart, but no matter how you’re trying to blend in, we’ll always look different from the Ky’Tain…”
Rose shrugged in resignation. “Whatever. We’re running out of time. The guests will arrive at any moment.”
“Oh, my god! I smell like a skunk.” Nieve bowed her head and sniffed. “Wow. I’m going to have to shower. I can hardly serve them food if I smell like this. Help me with these linens.”
The ship of the Darkiri clan had landed. The leader, his son and his commander had been taken to Akila’s complex. The rest of the Darkiri remained in and around the ship.
“Welcome, clan leader Ma’cté, and you too, Commander Ka’bté and Commander Thar’n… Welcome to my house. My slaves have prepared your quarters to make your stay as pleasant as possible.”
The three men nodded curtly to the clan leader.
“We thank you for your hospitality. I’m sorry to arrive early, but my son’s mate is about to give birth. We don’t want to be gone any longer than necessary.”
Akila nodded. Although it was not customary for a father to be present at the birth of a child in his clan, he knew that some did, especially the more violent clans.
“Congratulations on the new member of the family,” Akila said. “It seems like all I hear about are men and women struggling with infertility. Every pup born is a small miracle. May I ask how many pups you and your mate have?”
The man nodded proudly and began to laugh. “You can do that. If the delivery goes well, we can expect our fourth pup soon.”
Akila’s mouth fell open in surprise. Four pups? When was the last time anyone he knew had four pups?
“Oh, well then. I hope all goes well, indeed. Four young ones! You are a blessed man, if I may be so bold.”
Ka’bté grinned, showing sharp teeth. “Thank you, clan leader. The Darkiri should consider themselves lucky. Most of our men have fathered several young.”
The old leader looked at his guests in surprise. He had heard the rumors of their fertility, sure—any man knew rumors were just made up. But it sounded like they were true. “Then I hope that your stay here will also bear fruit.”
The Darkiri leader started to grin. “I think some of my men will certainly be prepared to do so…”
Akila brought his guests to their rooms. “This is your abode, clan leader. I hope you will like the quarters.”
As the two leaders exchanged pleasantries, Thar’n became aware of an interesting odor wafting through the hallway. As unobtrusively as possible, he tried to determine where the smell was coming from.
His leader entered his quarters and closed the door. The two remaining men followed Akila as he guided them to their rooms. The next room was for Ka’bté, and here too, the whole courtesy tune was played.
The smell was getting stronger. Thar’n had to force himself not to open his mouth wide to take in the smell even better.
“Are you all right, Commander?” The old clan leader looked at Thar’n.
The warrior nodded. He’d been staring into space. “My apologies. I was just deep in thought for a moment.”
Arriving at his quarters, Thar’n thanked his host just as his leader and co-commander had done, and stepped into his chamber. The smell in this room was much stronger. A shiver ran down his spine. A rustle of linens came from the sleeping area. Thar’n tiptoed into the bedroom.
All of a sudden, the door slid open and a small light-colored creature stepped out. Almost instantly, Thar’n realized that the interesting smell was from this human female.