“What’s keeping you up?”

Red looked up as Norquay came into the living room. She was sitting in her pajamas (thank you shopping trip) and staring into the fire. All she could see was that big blob of sludge that was a man or a male. Rian was preforming something he called a genetic database looking for the markers to see if he was a human or a different species.

“Can’t sleep. I know you said he took something that would allow his body to decompose rapidly at his death. I’m having trouble understanding why.”

“Can I sit?”

“Please.” She was happy when he chose to sit next to her. She needed the heat; her pajamas and the fireplace weren’t doing enough to keep her warm. Someone lost his life because he targeted one of them. It should be simple, but she had struggled with this ever since she first entered the FBI as a trained analysis and then was detached to work for the general as a liaison. She could kill with the best of them, but she didn’t understand why someone would target someone else when the cost could be their life. She never understood it.

“Why do people find it so easy to kill?” Norquay moved closer wrapping an arm around her. She laid her head on his chest finding peace in his presence.

“I don’t have the answer to that. I’ve heard lots of reasoning not only on this planet but on every planet I’ve visited. None of this makes sense. We kill to protect ourselves or to protect others. Killing for the sport of killing is something I will never understand.”

“Did you ever?”

“Never for sport, never for personal gain.”

“I killed him, does that make me…”

“It makes you smart. He was going to kill you and just not you. Jade and Em would have been killed. That way whoever is targeted died and anyone with them.”

“I think he had to be after Jade. She is the queen.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions. It might have been random. Three beautiful and seemingly helpless females alone. One of you could have reminded him of an ex. Maybe you were targeted, but that takes us down a different track. No one knew you were going out.”

She nodded there wasn’t a good reason to think it was deliberate, but she couldn’t forget the feeling.

“I know you’re right.”

“You should get some sleep.” She nodded again agreeing with him but didn’t get up. “Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

She would have to figure out what was right first. It never mattered to her before if she lived or died. Maybe the thought of dying was how she planned to get from under her father’s thumb. She didn’t really know. There was something about seeing that man with the gun. The realization that if he shot first, everything she ever thought about in the dark would come to an end.

“I never slept with a guy before.” Her cheeks heated, and she looked up at him under her lashes. “I’m not talking about sex, although this applies to that. I’m talking I never laid in a bed and felt like someone wanted me to be there beside them. That they would fight for me at night if something happened. No one ever kept the bad dreams away.” She shut up realizing she was rambling.

“Everyone should have that experience.”

“I agree.”

“Red would you do me the honor of allowing me to hold you tonight? To stand between you and any bad dreams that might seek you out.”

She was going to laugh until she realized he was serious. Had he really offered to spend the night with her doing nothing but holding her?

“But won’t that be hard for you? I mean, you know, guys are sexual and when a woman is near, they can’t help themselves.”

“Whoever told you that was an asshole.”

She agreed, her dad was an asshole. Her hand lifted to her mouth as she pretended to yawn. When she looked up, she caught the twinkle in his eyes. He was on to her.

“I’m feeling tired. If you’re ready? He detangled himself from her and stood, his hand outstretched giving her the opportunity to accept or reject him.

Every reason to change her mind came to her. As much as she hated to admit it, she was still holding onto the things she had been taught as a child. Morality, right and wrong. Men only wanted one thing from women. Women were only meant for one thing and it was only right in the marriage bed. In all their teachings no one had ever told her why it was okay for a man to cheat on his moral wife or to beat her.

She stood and took his hand. There was no arguing right and wrong with her father. It was a simple fact to him, she was wrong.

“Are you sure you want to do this” They walked through the hallway to his room. It never dawned on her before now, how vulnerable she would be lying in the bed with another person.

Norquay’s room was done in green and white. There was a green comforter over his large bed that sat in the center of the room. They walked through a sitting room before they got to the bedroom. It reminded her of how her room was set up, but not quite as large.

There were several pictures on the wall of a planet she’d never seen before.

“Is this your home planet?”

“It is.”

One picture was taken from space. The others were from the planet. The one that captivated her the most was a picture of the night sky. It was lavender with two moons both shining a silvery light.

“Beautiful.”

“It was.” His fingers reached out to touch the picture with a loving touch. “Sometimes I forget, just for a second, then I think I’m going back. When reality sets in, it can be worse than when it happened.”

She walked around the room and wrapped her arms around him. She understood that on a personal level. After all the damage, the heartache, and the panic attacks, then that ‘what could I have done differently thought’ comes to play. If I was paying attention, I could have avoided this. She gave too much of her time to the hours of thinking she should have known, realized, acted differently.

“There was nothing you could do. All you can do now is the one thing they would have wanted. Live your life to the best of your ability.”

That was what her mom wanted for her. I have gladly sacrificed my life so you can have one.

Norquay pulled back his green comforter waiting until she climbed onto the bed before joining her. He pulled the cover-up then outstretched his arm in an invitation for her to join him.

Red moved closer feeling weird at first. The sensation passed as she felt comfortable in his arms. It felt like she was being welcomed home. Closing her eyes, she fell asleep. She never felt the fingers that clenched gently on her arm as the male who held her found the first bit of equilibrium in his life since his planet was torn apart.

 

She was warm and happy. When was the last time she slept without a nightmare plaguing her? Most mornings it felt like she ran a marathon that took her all night to win. Her legs moved kicking something hard. Her eyes flew open to find Norquay watching her with a smile on his face.

“How did you sleep?”

“Well, better than well. It was a restful sleep.”

“No nightmares?”

“Nope, I think your muscles chased them away.”

“I knew they were good for something.”

She laughed before she traced his bicep with one finger. “Definitely built to keep nightmares away.”

“Red,” he moved closer to her. His eyes were locked on her lips. “I want to kiss you. Just say no.”

“Norquay,

Her breath caught in her throat strangling any answer she might have given.

“Just a no,” his lips came closer. “A shake of your head will do it.”

She stayed still waiting for the first press of his lips against hers. Not knowing what would happen, how she would respond as he lowered his lips to hers.

The press of his lips was warm, sweet, there was a faint blast of heat that died quickly. His lips were moving away before she got a chance to feel them against hers. She chased him coming close with her mouth, but not close enough to make the first move.

His head lowered again until his lips were pressed against hers. This time he kept them there. She opened her mouth on a sigh liking the feel of lips on lips. When his tongue darted in, she was startled, but the taste of him along with the heat quickly made her chase his tongue. The kiss was gentle and sweet at first as she got used to the foreign feeling. Then slowly he took more control of her mouth making the kiss hotter. She found herself twitching needing to move as her body hummed and reached for something she couldn’t name.

Panting she pulled back needing to breathe. Foreign sensations moved through her making her ache. The desire to stretch her back and beg for something she wasn’t sure she wanted was riding her hard.

“All you will ever have to say is no,” he whispered to her before pressing another closed-mouth kiss on her.

Red placed her fingers on her lips as he got up and went into the bathroom.

What had she done? Strike that why hadn’t she done it sooner? She might have been a virgin, but that in no way made her ignorant of the world. Why now? Why not a different time in the past? The answer was simple although she wasn’t sure she wanted to accept the truth.  She needed trust. There was no way she trusted the men before Norquay who had come on to her. She didn’t think a simple no would stop them.

It was more than that too.  She hadn’t known them. None of them wanted to stick around for the Juliette show. It would have meant walking through her demons with her. None of the men she had met were interested in that side of her. Day after day, month after month, Norquay sat on the other side of that door and listened to her cry, rail, and scream. He talked softly until she calmed down enough to listen and she learned a lot about the male who felt rejected growing up. She was willing to bet that the only person who knew more about him than her was Teak.

Trust it was such a little thing and yet it was the biggest thing in her world. Nothing could or would happen without that five-letter word. She pulled herself out of bed and walked back to her room while Norquay was still in the bathroom.

Sitting on her bed she opened her phone pulling up a picture of her mom. It was one of the happy times when her mother was all smiles. The bruises she carried around couldn’t be seen. They had been working in the kitchen laughing. Now she didn’t know if her mom was still alive and she was making out with an alien male.

I know you tried to raise me right mom, but I’m not sure you did. How could I leave you there with him? How come I haven’t found a way to get you free? How had a year passed without a phone call from her mom or a threat from her father? A shiver walked her spine. Her father wasn’t one to take defeat lying down. She reevaluated the attack a couple of days ago. Could that man have been coming after her?

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