Who knew that saving a fae duke’s life could earn you a one-way ticket to another planet? Brooke Donovan certainly didn’t. But that’s exactly what happens when she rescues one from a speeding car. Now, not only does she have to learn how to be a member of the royal court and acclimate to life on a magical new planet, but she must also deal with her overwhelming attraction to the duke—a man who fully intends to return to Earth, leaving Brooke galaxies away.
Duke Kerren Aodhan of Weylan Barrows never intended to return home. He’d been bored there for far too long and was ready to start fresh on Earth. But his near-death experience changed everything. Now obligated to help Brooke settle into her new life, Kerren has to return to his home on Sidera Luminis—at least temporarily. The return unearths more unseen obstacles, however. Mainly, can he keep his growing feelings for her from trapping him on his home world forever?
Circumstances seem determined to keep them apart, but fate (and an eccentric matchmaker named Euphrasie Hudson) has other ideas.
Brooke crossed her legs and sipped a sweet, iced tea while scanning the walkway outside the cafe. Each time a young man stopped and entered, she held her breath, wondering if her date had finally arrived. This was why she hated blind dates. The last thing she needed was to appear desperate, yet here she was, eagle eyes narrowing on every man not already attached to someone else.
She brushed at her peach dress, a fitted, sleeveless affair that clung to her curves in all the right ways. The soft color was one of her favorites, playing up her barely sun-kissed skin and new vibrant hair color. Just because she didn’t want the date didn’t mean she wasn’t going to dress her best.
Looking up, she noticed a man in a sky-blue polo and khakis heading her way, attention focused on the red sweater she’d hung on the chair opposite her own. It was the flag, so to speak, in case he didn’t recognize her from the photo.
He walked over, a smile on his face.
“That’s me,” she responded.
He sat, glancing around. She leaned forward to shake his hand, and he took it reluctantly. Up close she noticed that his smile seemed stressed.
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
“No. Just wanted to make sure I had the right person,” he said.
She sat back and slid a menu his way. “If there’s another Brooke here with my face and sweater, I’d be running.”
He nodded and frowned down at the menu. She studied him. The breeze blew over his stiffly pomaded blonde hair, not moving a single strand. His face was handsome but forgettable, as if there were such a thing as a perfect generic.
An expensive watch decorated his wrist and an onyx ring stood out like a mountain on his hand. His shoes looked like the sort billionaires wore on yachts.
Yet another reason she didn’t like blind dates. Perhaps she didn’t have a type, but she certainly had a ‘not my type,’ and this guy was it. Be nice. Maybe he’s really sweet. Begrudgingly, she recalled the adage that opposites attract.
He blinked up at her. “Oh, sorry. Yeah. Ethan. Guess I’m a little out of sorts.”
“Anna didn’t mention what you do.”
Holding his menu and leaning back in his seat he shrugged. “I like to think of myself as a renaissance man.”
Oh, dear gods. She tried not to cringe outwardly. “Okay…go on?”
“I’ve tried my hand at a few things. I did accounting for years, great at it but I wanted something with more passion. I think my place is in business management.”
“What sort of business?”
“Any. My dad’s working on pulling some strings, listening around. Meanwhile, I’ve been moonlighting—I guess you could say—as a model.”
Brooke’s eyebrows threatened to lift high enough to leave her face entirely. She cleared her throat and took a sip of her tea before responding, “I’m sorry—how do you know Anna?”
“She did my taxes last year and we kept in touch. I thought maybe we had something…you know, chemistry, but I guess then I wouldn’t be here.”
Brooke smiled and glanced down at her menu, even though she already knew what she wanted.
“Are you getting a salad?” he asked.
She pursed her lips and met his eyes. Careful. “I don’t eat salad when I’m at a restaurant. I can rip apart lettuce and sprinkle dressing on it at home and save ten dollars.”
“Yeah…I get it, I guess.” Ethan tossed his menu on the table and leaned forward. “Look, your face is really pretty for a large woman, but you’re not what I expected.”
Brooke arched a brow. “Anna said you saw my picture. Though, I guess my hair was blonde then.” She twirled a long, dark ruby tendril around her finger. “This is new. I think it’s called ‘Red Velvet.’ Something delicious.”
“It was just your face, and the angle…I guess there was cleavage, and don’t get me wrong, I’m a boob guy, but that’s a lot of—”
Her smile faded, and she released the lock of hair from her grasp. “You can go now.”
“You don’t have to take it personally. I support body positivity; I just can’t see us doing things together. I’m a really active guy,” he reasoned.
“Don’t take it personally that I’m ‘pretty for a large woman,’ is that really what you think is body positive?” she asked calmly. She narrowed her blue eyes on him and allowed her usual resting bitch face to shine through. “You didn’t even need to sit down and waste my time. You aren’t doing me a favor by telling me to eat salad and revealing that you’d rather be banging Anna.”
“Why are you being a bitch about it, I’m the one who was deceived.”
“Are you still here? You need to walk away before you kill my appetite,” she said coldly. “And you know I take food seriously.”
He stood, face and composure annoyed. “Whatever.”
She didn’t bother watching him leave. Glancing over her shoulder, she flagged the waitress and ordered the chicken alfredo with a cup of the house tomato basil soup. She passed on the complimentary side salad.
Pulling out her phone, she composed a text in her head, something that would say ‘what the fuck were you thinking?’ as politely as possible. Anna was her supervisor, after all. She couldn’t burn that bridge, no matter how tenuous the support.
“It’s a shame you had to waste even a minute of your time with that poor specimen of a man,” a woman said from nearby. She’d stopped at Brooke’s shoulder and peered down with twinkling gray eyes and a gentle smile. The sunlight glowed through her wild salt and pepper curls, giving her an almost ethereal appearance.
“I didn’t realize I’d made a scene,” Brooke admitted.
“You didn’t. My hearing is just a little more sensitive than most.” The woman extended a hand covered in gemstone rings and tinkling with large bangles around her wrist. “Euphrasie.”
Brooke took the woman’s hand and gave it a quick shake. “Brooke Donovan.”
“May I sit?” Euphrasie asked. “The weather is gorgeous, and the patio is full. I’m just having some tea.”
Brooke gestured to the empty seat. The stranger had an instant calming effect that she couldn’t turn down. She’d barely spoken, but her voice was breezy and light, as if she’d never had a stressful moment in her life. Brooke could use that sort of energy. “Of course. I don’t mind eating alone but I won’t say no to the company.”
The elder woman shook out the flowing green caftan she wore and sat. “Thank you.” She fingered the menu and peered at Brooke. “Not to focus on something I’m sure you’re eager to forget, but I’m in the dating business, and I absolutely hate to see a bad match.”
“Which is why I wasn’t looking for it.”
“It was a foolish set-up. My boss thought it would work, which is about par. Anna’s a genius at her job, but her social skills are severely lacking.”
“A shame. You handled it well enough. That’s impressive.” Euphrasie’s head tilted. “Perhaps a professional matchmaker would do better?”
Brooke chuckled lightly. “Ah, thanks. But no. Between my job and the volunteer work I do for the historical society, I don’t have time for dates.”
“Except bad ones?” Euphrasie asked. “I’m kidding. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on your career. And you said…historical society?”
“I handle tours, mostly. Occasionally pitch in at a fundraiser or two.”
“Fascinating.” Euphrasie smile grew, and her eyes sparkled as if she were plotting something. “But just between us, if you were ever to be in the market for a man, what interests you?”
The waitress returned, placing a hot aromatic tea before Euphrasie and arranging Brooke’s pasta and soup on the table.
Brooke stirred the soup, a bit impressed by the woman’s determination. “To be honest, I think I want too much. Luckily, if I’m meant to be alone, I’ll cope.”
“Nonsense. Granted, perhaps some people prefer solitude, but for those who wish it, there is someone for everyone.” Euphrasie seemed to size Brooke up. “My clientele is different. Shifters, mostly. They tend to have a knack for having more than enough love.”
“Love is nice. But the path to get there is the trick,” Brooke replied. “I won’t lie. I’ve met great men before—don’t for a minute think that losers like Ethan make up the majority of my experience. I’m a curvy woman, but I usually attract the men who fawn over that.”
Euphrasie nodded and took a delicate sip of her tea before motioning Brooke to continue. “But?”
“But,” Brooke drew out the word, arranging her thoughts, “I may be expecting too much. I want to settle down, but I don’t want to settle, if you know what I mean. I don’t want to have a partner that makes me wonder ‘what if,’ I want someone who I know is the best for me, no doubts at all.”
“That’s how love should be. What are your expectations?”
“I want someone serious but fun. The kind of guy who will join me at fancy parties and not complain about wearing a tie but will do shots with me later when we’re done schmoozing with co-workers. Classy when it’s necessary but never arrogant. On top of that, he can’t be afraid to step out of this city or this state, or this country for that matter, because I love exploring unfamiliar places and I’ve always wanted to share that.”
“Go on,” Euphrasie urged.
Brooke looked to the sky, imagining her dream catch. There was a guilty pleasure that came from sharing this with a stranger. Euphrasie didn’t seem as judgmental as her friends, who regularly insisted that her perfect man wouldn’t exist unless she dropped a few requirements.
Besides, there was something disarming about Euphrasie. Maybe the spiritual boho chic appearance combined with her age and the way she sounded relaxed and wise all at once. She was more apparition than human somehow. Brooke sensed she could confide anything with her.
“Sometimes men are sweet and doting, but in the wrong spirit. I’m not a delicate flower, and I hate being underestimated. The guy for me would care for me but not patronize me.”
“None of these things sound like too much to me,” Euphrasie said. She wafted her fingers over her tea and inhaled the steam for a moment before pinning Brooke with a mischievous grin. “But you’re skipping the meat of the matter.”
“The sex, of course.”
Brooke chuckled. “I knew I liked you. Yes, I want all the fabulous, passionate sex. So, you see, I want a sexy, smart, funny, talented lover. With his suitcases packed.” She sighed. “A girl can dream.”
Euphrasie sipped her tea and stared off thoughtfully. After a moment she nodded. “I guess you need someone out of this world.”