Resisting alien invaders is easy. Protecting her heart is another story…
Leah’s plans for the weekend didn’t include dealing with an alien invasion in her kitchen. But there’s something about the wary, vulnerable, refugee half-breed Gabriel that compels her to hide him when the authorities come knocking on her door.
Gabriel has good reason to be suspicious of both humans and his own kind alike. He’s a halfling—half human, half Dar—the product of a breeding program undertaken for one purpose. To use the offspring’s inbred powers to influence humans on a deeply emotional level. So deep, they won’t know until too late that the Dar have gained more than a toehold on Earth.
Raised in subhuman conditions, all Gabriel knows of life is how to endure it. Then Leah opens his eyes to a life richer than any he’s ever known. Suddenly he’s not so sure he wants to be a pawn in the Dar’s non-violent, but no less insidious, plans.
Leah and Gabriel go on the run to seek help from the government, only to discover the invasion’s tentacles have gotten there ahead of them. In the final confrontation, the bond Leah and Gabriel have forged may be more than an emotional haven. It could save her world.
Leah tried to recall all that she’d heard of the Dar.
Murderous. Cold-blooded. Strong. That last she certainly believed. He’d gotten the knife from her hand with no effort, and after a couple of years of hefting boxes and kegs, she was no weakling. Far worse, in her opinion, was the way lust whispered through her body when he touched her. The Dar’s mind-control supposedly didn’t work on humans. Then why was she so flipping confused?
The creature had been in her house an hour and she still didn’t know what to do. Stop him? Help him? But he appeared to be making the decision for her.
“Rope?” he asked.
Getting him out of her house apparently would be simple and he wouldn’t harm her. She should have felt more relief.
“It’ll be really difficult to live outside the law,” she said, wondering why she warned him. “What if anyone discovered what you are? You might be killed. There’ll be mobs after you.”
“Yes, so I understand. But that is not the worst thing that could happen. I must say my view of my future is much brighter since I ate such marvelous food. Thank you.” A half smile crossed his face again. “And I know that’s the phrase I want.”
She went to the utility drawer and handed the Dar the length of rope she kept there. Then a sudden wave of panic hit her when she remembered how she’d set up a retreat from her life. Her birthday present for herself had been several days off with no responsibilities—and no one looking for her.
“Sit,” he said.
She sat and immediately twisted in the chair to face him. “Wait. Listen. I might end up tied up here for days. I mean a friend might stop by, but maybe not.”
He crouched in front of her, holding the rope loosely in his hands.
“You could trust me not to call anyone,” she said, halfheartedly.
His quiet voice was firm. “I’m sorry.”
She almost believed him. “You could lock me in the bathroom. It would take me a while to get out of there,” she lied.
“I suppose that would be a solution.” He rose to his feet. “Less uncomfortable for you as well.”
What a strange conversation. Almost as if they were going over plans for a work project.
He tucked the rope into his belt and knuckled his eyes.
“Look,” she said. “You’re exhausted. I can see that. Why don’t you, ah, lock me in the bathroom and sleep for a while.”
He frowned or rather a tiny crease formed on his forehead. He didn’t go for big emotional displays. “I have interrupted your life enough, Leah Parisi. I’ll leave as soon as I can.”
He had to be kidding. She almost felt embarrassed about the fact that she planned to deceive him again.
They walked to the bathroom and her stomach turned when he insisted on going in to examine the room.
“Ah,” he said as he peered into the laundry chute. And without another word he pulled out the rope and undid a length of it.
“What will you do?” Her heart sank. He’d kill her or beat her. At best he’d leave her tied up. When would anyone think to come find her? The blessed peace of being alone for three days now seemed life-threatening.
“I can’t think,” he said. “I am assaulted by your sexuality and my exhaustion. I can certainly take care of one of those problems. And for obvious reasons,” he looked at the chute with that hint of a frown, “I’m now less worried about imposing on you.”
She held back the urge to apologize. For God’s sake, she hadn’t owed an alien intruder the truth.
He carried a chair into the bedroom and made her sit. With quick deft motions, he tied her to the chair. Then he dropped down across the unmade bed, sideways. Fluke, that wretched animal, jumped up next to him and curled into a purring ball.
She studied the Dar who slept sprawled across her bed. Not like she had a choice about the view.
His body lay so quietly he barely seemed to breathe. Perhaps Dar were really some kind of undead creatures. The strange dark figure looked huge against the lavender and blue flowered quilt her Auntie Louise had made for the room.
Leah’s hands began to tingle and she yanked at the cord a bit. She made circles with her feet.
Assaulted by her sexuality, he’d said. Ha. What the hell did that mean?
No, she knew exactly what it meant because the asshole had the same effect on her. His generous mouth, those spooky eyes, the wide, high cheekbones, his long-limbed body. No one had said that the fiery gold of their eyes could be lovely or that the faint scent of cinnamon wood was subtle and pleasant. Not a horrible stench as some described it. Maybe it was stronger on full Dar.
He sighed and a long finger twitched. So much for the notion that he’d died in his sleep. She examined the lean body, but of course he gulped down her food like a starving animal so they must not have fed him enough. Nor had they given him lessons on table manners. He wore drab green trousers and matching shirt. Not exactly a uniform but it echoed it. And no jacket or gloves or scarf. Great plan to drop him off with not enough clothes. What were those Dar thinking?
He rolled onto his back and the rotten Fluke stretched and lightly kneaded his paws on the Dar’s stomach. She wondered if that belly would be hard. Was his skin identical to a human’s? Did he have hair on his body?
Holy crap, he was doing it to her again. Assaulted by her sexuality? That was a laugh. When he touched her she was paralyzed and her limbs grew too heavy to move. At first she thought it was fear—okay, at first it was. But even as she planned to escape him, run for help, her body planned against her.
Yes, touch me, her skin had begged. Please keep caressing my wrist, move up my arm. Oh, her insides twisted when she understood that she hadn’t imagined that brief feather touch on her wrist.
She wiggled her hand again and yanked. And pulled on the leg that was tied around the chair rungs. She pulled so hard that there was a sharp crack and the chair broke. Leah tumbled over sideways.
When she opened her eyes again, she was looking at a pair of worn brown boots planted on the rug next to her head.
“Leah Parisi, do you never give up?” He sounded amused, not annoyed.
“Believe it or not, I didn’t mean to break my chair. I was just—I was trying to get the circulation going in my legs.”
He squatted next to her and unknotted the ropes. Her struggles must have pulled the knots tight yet he easily worked his long fingers into the rope and pulled her free. When he reached under her arms and hauled her to her feet, she felt as lightweight as a child.
She covered her nervousness by picking up the pieces of rope and chair. “Why’d you help? Why didn’t you just leave me here on the floor and leave?”
He shrugged, a thoroughly human gesture, yet as exaggerated as Italian opera. “You were lying sideways on the floor and it didn’t look comfortable.”
She began to laugh. For some reason, his ridiculous concern hit her as hysterically funny. Here was one of the creatures who’d tried to destroy her planet and he was fretting that she wasn’t comfortable. She laughed so hard she had to sit at the edge of the bed. She dropped the pieces of chair and covered her face with her hands.
Copyright © SUMMER DEVON