“So,” Mac was out of breath as he heaved the bulk of the bodyguard into the small, yet well appointed room. “What are you and do you have a name?
The blond led the way into the room, then paused inside the door to give him a hard stare. He ignored her and took a moment to memorize the layout of the hotel room. Modest, it was no different from a hundred others. It housed a kitchenette small enough to make any type of cooking a challenge. The main area branched off into one room which he assumed led to a bedroom, but the lumpy looking sofa had a pillow and blanket neatly folded on one end. Further evidence that the gorilla was hired muscle rather than a lover.
Somehow that reassured him.
The furnishings were simple, yet comfortable in a shabby sort of way. It was definitely a hotel where everyone minded their own business. They’d passed a couple of people on their way up, yet no one commented when he and the blond staggered in, soaked to the skin and lugging the weight of a small mountain through the lobby.
This proved a man could move a mountain, Mac thought. He twisted his body until the gorilla angled over the sofa, then he dropped the big man onto the lumpy cushions. The gorilla groaned as he stretched out his massive legs and dropped his head back against the back of the sofa. Although he was handling the drug far better than Mac would have guessed, he was still experiencing its affects.
As Mac straightened he grimaced when a stinging pain radiated up his back. Damn! He was sure he had only taken a scratch from that weird glowing knife, but it still hurt like hell. And — unless he was very much mistaken, it was getting worse. He felt the heat radiate around the graze.
He turned away from the bodyguard to find the woman still just within the door, poised. For flight or fight, he’d bet. Question was, which one?
This evening was getting stranger by the second. If he didn’t know better, he’d say he was the one who had been drugged and dragged into some bizarre waking dream.
Going by the evidence of his eyes, he had a feeling the question of whether mankind was alone in the universe was about to be answered. No way in hell were those scaley things people in costumes. Even Hollywood couldn’t have come up with something so bizarre.
Which left only one explanation.
He cocked one eyebrow upward when she didn’t answer. “Let’s start with something real easy, lady. You got a name?”
Her chin came up in the same imperial manner he had noticed earlier. That gesture was beginning to irritate him. Her regal attitude tried to regulate him to the status of an underling, but he wasn’t falling for it. The grin he gave her was designed to infuriate. Going by the frown gathering on her brow, he’d succeeded.
Then he was distracted from his amusement when he noticed something else. Her eyes were now the color of dark storm clouds. He was sure she had ice blue eyes. No ... they’d been a pale gray. He shook his head. He was a trained observant and he couldn’t even say for sure what her eye color was. Pitiful, MacNaught.
“Yes, I have a name.” He again noticed her sing-song manner of speech. It feathered up and down his spine in a very intriguing way. Hell, with that voice, he’d listen to her read from a dictionary. It was steamy and cool at the same time and everything in between. Sexier than hell.
“It is Larissalyia Sarisekko Ashanti.”
He stared at her for several seconds, dumbfounded. The way she pronounced her name inserted vowels where he wouldn’t have guessed existed. He began to laugh. The movement irritated his back but he ignored it. “I couldn’t pronounce that on a bet. I’ll just call you Lacey.”
“You will do no such thing.”
“Look, lady. It’s late, I’m hurting and I’m really not in the mood to put up with a prima donna.” With slow deliberation, he stalked her, deliberately exuding intimidation. He was pleased to note she refused to back down. She had guts, he had to say that for her. If anything, that stubborn chin came up higher. This close, he saw that her eyes were no longer gray. Even has he watched, they bled into a deep brown with reddish specks emerging.
Shit. No wonder he couldn’t put a color to her eyes. They changed with her moods!
Before today, Mac would have said he didn’t believe in aliens. Tonight’s events proved him wrong.
Watching her closely, he picked out little hints of her otherworldliness. It wasn’t just the eyes — unusual though they were. Her hair color had to be natural ... for her. It certainly didn’t come out of a bottle. Under this lighting the luxurious tresses melted into a whole spectrum of colors which ranged from golden to reddish strands intermixed with the pale of near white blond. Besides being drop dead gorgeous, she had few other indications that she came from another world. Hell, she was probably from a different universe.
“I do not know who or what this prima donna is, but I assure you I am not accustomed to being treated this way.”
“Tough! Get used to it.”
“I will do no such thing, Earthman ...”
“The name is MacNaught ... Victor MacNaught, but I won’t answer to anything but Mac.”
“How about ‘barbarian’?” She shot back before she paused to draw a deep breath. The gesture did all sorts of interesting things to the front of that tight sweater. Mac had to concentrate to keep his gaze on her face.
“I did not ask for you to help us,” she added.
“Honey, you wouldn’t have gotten out of that bar without my help.”
That shut her up for a second. He took the opportunity to glance around for a mirror. He spotted a large one which took up a good portion of the wall over a long table. Ignoring her, he made his way toward it.
“What were those scaley things, by the way?” He asked the question over his shoulder as he angled his back so that he could get a look at the wound. Yeah ... it was just a scratch, but damn it hurt.
He directed a glance at her through the mirror in time to find her watching him, a pensive look on her face. Her eyes had changed again, now a deep, deep blue. It was impossible to guess her thoughts.
Giving her head a shake she seemed to come to a decision. Using the mirror, he watched her approach and halt just behind him. Despite her obvious irritation, she eased the sliced material of his shirt from his back with gentle fingers. Even her light touch sent a shiver of reaction over his skin. At that moment he couldn’t say whether it was the pain or sexual.
Shaking her head again, she grasped the edges and tore his shirt open the rest of the way to expose the length of his back. Mac drew in a hissing breath as her movement sent shafts of pain down his spine.
“I apologize,” she murmured as she continued to inspect his back. “This must be tended before it is too late.”
“What? That scratch? It’s nothing. It’ll heal.”
“You took an injury from a Sinion blade, Earthman. The smallest wound will kill you unless it is treated.”
Listening to the beauty of her voice, Mac froze as her words sank in. “How late is too late?”
“We have time. Not much, but enough.”
She turned away and moved to the door that he assumed opened into the bedroom. She vanished inside. Long enough for Mac to begin sweating. What if she decided to allow him to die? That would eliminate the problem of what to do with him. He hadn’t given it any thought earlier, but from what that scaley thing ... Nicos ... said, he figured Earth was supposed to be kept ignorant of aliens visitors. What had the guy said? Unsanctioned by the Federation of Worlds? That sounded like a lot of inhabited worlds.
And all of them far more technologically advanced than Earth was.
It was a disquieting thought.
He used the mirror to take another look at his back. With his shirt hanging on either side of his back, he got an unobstructed view of the injury. Yeah, a redness was forming around the scratch, radiating a good inch outward. It also made him aware of the steadily growing pain.
Lacey returned with a small box in her hands. He felt a wave of relief. She wasn’t letting him die.
She set the box down on the tiny dining table and opened it. “Please, sit down.”
Without argument Mac turned the chair and straddled it with his back to her. He had to take her word in this. A Sinion blade was far beyond his experience. Or knowledge. He twisted his head to watch her in the mirror. He might have to trust her in this, but it didn’t mean he had to be gullible.
He saw a fat tube in the box as well as a tiny bottle that looked like it was made from a solid piece of crystal. She uncapped it and dipped one slender finger in to scoop out a generous measure of what looked like a clear salve. When the light hit it, tiny flecks of gold flared to life. Her touch was gentle as she smeared the salve over the scratch, careful to cover every bit of it as well as the surrounding flesh. Mac sighed with relief. The pain diminished on contact, an icy coolness sinking into his skin.
He was about to move when she placed one hand on his shoulder. He froze as his body immediately came to life. Damn! He’d never had such an intense reaction to a woman before.
“Please, you must not move.” Her concentration remained centered on his back as she reached out to pick up the tube. He couldn’t see what she pressed but the object ignited with a green light. Where she ran the tube over his back, the salve ignited with the same light. It was eerie to see his back glowing, but he felt the immediate relief as she slowly ran it over the length of the scratch, careful to leave no area untouched.
“Those scaley things, as you called them, were Kyrions,” she said after a long moment. Her tone was soft, losing that imperial note as she focused on his wound. “They are not very bright and are sometimes used as assassins by the more unsavory elements of the F.O.W.”
“That Nicos didn’t strike me as particularly stupid.” Mac closed his eyes, savoring the relief from pain. “Seemed to me he used the muscle to distract us so he could get close enough to grab you.”
He opened his eyes when she hesitated. “Nicos is a little different. He is a half-breed and not completely given over to his brutish heritage. This makes him a very valuable mercenary.”
“So when you say assassin, you’re saying they were sent to kill you.” Mac watched her expression in the mirror. She revealed little, keeping her attention on the tube, finally moving it away from his flesh to inspect her handiwork. She was meticulous, inspecting every inch of his back. Mac could almost feel the weight of her gaze. Finally she gave a satisfied nod.
“No,” she answered as she replaced the bottle and the tube in the box. There was a soft click as she shut it. “They were to take me alive.”
Mac twisted around in the chair to face her. Her glance flicked over to the bodyguard stretched out on the sofa. Mac ignored him. The gorilla would be out for a few more hours.
Again she hesitated. He could almost see her consider and discard several explanations. And dammed if her eyes had changed again. Now they were a deep emerald green. He figured this meant one of two things. Either she intended to lie or she was being cautious with how much to reveal. This could get interesting.
“I suspect I am to be held ... hostage,” she allowed in a cautious tone.
The glance she shot him was annoyed. Mac was almost amused to see gray bleed into her eyes to replace the green. Okay. Gray was for irritation.
“Is that your favorite word?”
“It’s effective.” Mac stretched his arms upward, relieved he felt no pain, no discomfort. Nothing. Twisting once more he used the mirror to peer at his back, shocked to see smooth, unblemished skin. “Damn. It’s gone!”
“The Miratortian is a healing agent that is absorbed into your skin. They are microbiological creatures and will continue to heal as long as there is a need for it. They will then be ... excreted naturally.”
She shot him a startled glance, then smiled reluctantly. “Yes, pissed out.”
“Handy. Earth could use something like that.”
She was shaking her head before he finished. Her expression closed up again as her eye color bled back to that emerald green. “The technology of the F.O.W. will not be released to an unsanctioned world.”
“Why is Earth unsanctioned?” Mac couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. Here he was speaking with a real live alien. No one would believe him. Hell, he was having trouble believing it.
He held up a hand when she parted her lips to answer. “Never mind. We’ll get back to that later. We’re getting off the subject here. Hostage against what?”
“You are persistent!” She gave him a frustrated look.
“Part of my charm. Look, Lacey. I just want to help. Don’t make me pull every bit of information out of you.”
“Stop calling me Lacey. My name is Larissalyia.”
“Honey, I couldn’t pronounce that sober, much less with a buzz. It’s either going to be Lacey or I’ll have to call you honey, babe or lady.”
She continued to stare at him with annoyance ... gray again ... before she finally gave an abrupt nod. “Very well, barbarian, call me Lacey if you must.” Her voice changed to a mutter. “It won’t be for long, anyway.”
Mac frowned. He got the feeling he wasn’t supposed to hear that last part.
Picking up the small box, she stood. “I will return in a moment.” Her hips in those tight leather pants swayed as she returned to the bedroom. Mac’s gaze didn’t leave that impressive portion of her anatomy until she passed from sight.
With a sigh he leaned forward to rest his chin on his linked hands. He’d seen enough science fiction movies to know that not all aliens were humanoid. That cantina scene in Star Wars certainly pointed to that conclusion. It would be arrogant of mankind to suppose all intelligent life had to look like them. He wondered how many worlds comprised this Federation of Worlds Lacey had mentioned. From the sound of it, he guessed quite a few.
Mac took another glance around the room. Nothing indicated its occupants were anything other than the usual tourists who flocked to Seattle. He saw a number of items one could pick up in any corner store. A bottle of Coke, a slew of chocolate bars, a small tin of coffee and another one of cocoa mix.
He smiled. Someone had a sweet tooth.
From where he sat, there wasn’t anything which looked alien. Other than the gorilla, of course, and even he looked perfectly human. In a hormone gone wild sort of way.
Mac frowned as he stared at the bodyguard. His breathing had changed. Not quite as deep as it had been earlier. Was he still out of it? Or was he faking?
Mac was about to check when Lacey returned. In her hands she carried another small box, this one dark blue in color. She gave him an intense look before she set it on the table. He was somewhat disappointed to see she had changed to a loose pair of khaki trousers and a vaguely military looking jacket of the same color. Low-heeled boots encased her feet and she had pulled her gorgeous hair back into a long tail that trailed down her back to her buttocks. With her hair up, he saw the numerous gems encircling her right ear. Each stone was a different color. All of them looked valuable.
Over her shoulder she carried a bag that looked like a knapsack. It already bulged, yet she moved to the table below the mirror and began stuffing the items he had noticed earlier into it.
Evidently they were leaving.
Mac nodded toward the bodyguard. “Does he have a name?”
Returning to the table she struggled to fasten the straps. “It is Tutsi.”
“Tootsie? You’re kidding, right?”
“What is this kidding?”
“Joking. Making a jest.”
“Ah ... no, I am not kidding. Tutsi is a Mandujano warrior. He has been with my family for many cycles.”
She continued to wrestle with the straps, at the same time glancing around to make sure nothing was being left behind.
“Are we leaving?” Mac took the bag from her and easily fastened the straps, taking a second to heft it. It weighed a ton.
“Yes. Nicos knows we are in this vicinity. He will not rest until he finds me.”
“Which brings us back to the question of why you’re hostage material.”
“We do not have time for this.”
“We’ll make time.”
Irritation flashed over her face before she glanced beyond his shoulder. “Tutsi!”
Mac swore under his breath as he swung around but he was too late. The bodyguard stood behind him without his ever hearing him.
Before Mac could react, Tutsi pinned his arms against his sides and lifted him until his feet dangled a good foot off the ground. Mac couldn’t get any leverage. Even slamming his head back did little good since he struck the bodyguard in the heavily padded muscles of his upper chest. The guy didn’t even grunt with the impact. He gave no notice to Mac’s struggles.
Mac twisted forward as Lacey opened the blue box and pull out another tube, this one shorter than the previous one. Without a word, she reached up to press it against the side of his neck even as he fought against the gorilla. There was a tiny sting and a hissing sound.
“Damn you!” He snarled. An odd lethargic sensation raced through his body. Slowly, his head fell back against the bodyguard’s chest as he lost all usage of his limbs. He was still able to see and glared his fury at the woman as she peered into his eyes. His mind remained sharp, cataloguing and processing as much information as he could.
“He is very disrespectful, M’Lady.” The gorilla rumble over Mac’s head. He noticed Tutsi continued to speak in English. All the better. The more he knew, the better he could defend himself when this stuff wore off.
What a fucking fool he’d been to trust her. This day was going from bad to worse. First Joanna, now Lacey.
She shook her head with regret. “The barbarian has no way of knowing who I am, Tutsi.”
“Will you wipe his memory, M’Lady?”
Mac’s mind went blank with shock. Sonofabitch!
“There is no time. I suspect Nicos will be here within the hour with reinforcements. He cannot return to souMalocho empty- handed. That would be a death sentence for him.”
Through the fog beginning to edge his peripheral vision, Mac watched as she stuffed the blue box into one of the pockets of her baggy trousers.
His consciousness was on borrowed time. Already his hearing was fading.
“I cannot take a chance of a hurried memory wipe. That would do more damage than good. We will bring him with us and do it when time allows.”
“You wish to bring the Earthman with us? Is that wise?”
“Perhaps not, but it is for both our safety and his. Nicos will not hesitate to harm him if he thinks I have any attachment to him.”
“And do you, M’Lady?”
“You overstep yourself.” Mac saw her raise that imperious chin again, her voice freezing over. “How can I have feelings for this man? He is a barbarian.”
“Yet you fret over his safety.”
“The safety of all of us. I cannot take a chance he has seen or heard something which might be used to track us after we leave here.”
Mac’s head fell forward as the drug began to spiral him into the black hole of unconsciousness. He felt the bodyguard’s arms loosen enough to twist him around and sling him over his shoulder. His upper torso and arms hung down the man’s muscular back like a broken marionette. Mac fought to hold onto cognizance long enough to hear the rest of their argument.
“Your father will be displeased if you were to return to Kador with an Earthman.”
“Then we’ll sell him into slavery.” Her snarled words were the last thing Mac heard before the darkness swallowed him up.
Praise for PROMISE FOR TOMORROW:
Fallen Angel Review- November 2007
By: Jean – Five Angel Review
“The author skillfully blends science fiction and romance, resulting in a balanced but suspenseful plot. The multiple plotlines serve to increase the tension leading to a grand climax in which all is resolved. I really enjoyed this novel.”
Romance Reviews Today – March 2008
By Vi Janaway
“PROMISE FOR TOMORROW, a rousing delight of a read. Danger, deceit, betrayal, love, and surprises both good and bad, abound and surround them all. An excellent story of an intriguing culture and a paradise that should remain unspoiled with dreamy style and colorful prose. Get it, read it, KEEP it.”
Awards Promise For Tomorrow 4 ½ Stars. It also made the "TOP PICK" list of books.
Praise for FORGET ABOUT TOMORROW:
Romantic Times Magazine Says:
“This action-filled thrill ride is full of romance and suspense. Readers will delight in this fast-paced, engaging novel.”
Coffee Times Reviews Says:
“Ms. Kreger has a talent for drawing out the action in such a way as to keep the reader on their toes until the very last page. It is full of more twists and turns than you would find on a roller coaster… I highly recommend it!.”
Fallen Angel Reviews:
“I like the author’s writing style, which is fairly straightforward and robust, because it moves the action of the plot along without dallying and is colorful without being overly flowery.”