“So is all of this defensive?” Spartak asked, switching gears.
“No,” she said as she lunged forward and kicked him in the upper chest with her left foot, forcing him back. She then spun her left leg around, landed on it and hit him with a sideways kick with her right leg as she spun, throwing him off balance. She then swept his legs with her left leg as she spun again, making him land on his knees. She then pitched him on his face when she pushed his butt forward with her foot.
He roared as he got up and breathed heavily. He apparently did not like to lose.
She stepped backwards, not sure what he was going to do next. She kept herself balanced on the balls of her feet as she watched and waited.
He lunged at her, swinging with an open hand.
Recognizing this was a battle of wills rather than violence, she blocked his hand with her outside arm and jabbed him in the gut twice as he recovered from the surprise defense. He kept coming at her wildly with open hands and she deflected every attempt, getting jabs in repeatedly. He unexpectedly tried to sweep her feet out from under her, but she simply hopped from one foot to the other, kicking out once his foot had passed by her. He grabbed her foot with both hands before she made contact with his chest. She spun over her leg, landing facing forward as she pulled the leg he was holding towards her chest, throwing him off balance. She then used his momentum to throw him over her shoulder and on to his back, knocking the wind out of him.
He just laid there with his eyes closed and not breathing.
“Oh, God,” she said and rushed over, dropping to her knees next to him. She then leaned over him, checking his pulse. The next thing she knew, she was on her back, her arms pinned above her head, with three hundred plus pounds of an irritated man holding her against the mat. He held his face only a couple of inches above hers as he grinned.
“Once I figured out you fight dirty, it made it easier,” he chuckled.
“If this had been an actual fight, I would not have worried about hurting you, so you never would have gotten the chance to disable me,” she grumbled.
“You were worried about hurting me?” he teased. His eyes locked onto hers. When she licked her lips, his gaze shot to her lips. He hung there for several long seconds as if debating.
“Uh, Spartak?” she asked, bringing him out of his distraction. She felt his arousal and wasn’t quite sure what he would do about it. He was an unmated male, so he had no control over it at all.
Their eyes met again, and the room faded away. Spartak slowly lowered his lips towards hers, giving her an out if she really objected.
A throat clearing broke the spell.
Spartak jumped up and offered his hand to her to help her up. She took it and was pulled to her feet by his muscular arm. She then stepped away from him and looked to the floor instead of meeting his eyes.
“We will need to spar some more so I can see how this will benefit the Fleet. Thank you,” he said, turning and heading out of the gym like his ass was on fire.
Erica watched Spartak storm out of the gym. She wagged her eyebrows and said, “Wacca, wacca, wacca,” then laughed.
“We were just sparring,” said Danielle, blushing.
“I would bet my last dollar that your panties are damp,” laughed Erica. “Hell, mine are just from watching you two.”
“Enough of that,” said Danielle, grabbing her water bottle and taking a sip.
“That was, uh, wow,” stammered Bethany, staring at her mother like she had never seen her before.
“Just stop you two,” Danielle said, rolling her eyes. “He is the High Commander. He is just making sure I am not a threat to anyone.”
“I don’t think so. You have a ton of gold on your chest saying you are something special. I haven’t seen others with more than one role. You have three,” pointed out Erica, raising an eyebrow.
Danielle just looked at her. “Do you think he just gave these to me to get into my pants?”
“Of course not. The Fleet is his primary concern. He gave you those because he has been watching you and knows you will earn them,” said Erica. “I am teasing you because of the way he looks at you when he is watching you.”
“How does he look at me?” Danielle challenged.
“Like you are the last piece of cheesecake,” said Bethany, knowing her mother would understand that since she loved the desert.
“Exactly,” said Erica, pointing at Bethany.
* * *
Chatura sat with his senior leadership in the large conference room. He looked around the table, disgusted. “My mate is being kept from me. I want her and I want her now,” he shouted as he slammed his fist onto the table.
“I have checked with my informants and she has a 24-hour guard. The computer has had the protocols changed throughout the fleet and we cannot teleport onto the Gliesean without raising the alarm, not even if we went to another ship before heading there. Spartak and Evgen have been thorough,” explained Imotep, the head of security on the Kleponia.
“If I may ask, my Lord,” Bisap asked, keeping a deferential look on his face, “Why this female? There are over 2,300 unmated females in the fleet to choose from.”
“She is exquisite. Breaking her will be extremely satisfying,” snarled Chatura.
“Brother, she is not just any female. Spartak is very protective of her. She is now the fleet Medical Director and has been given Captain status in the fleet on top of being the Strategic Director for Earthlings,” said Thosad. “Pick another. This will not go well.”
“No,” he growled. “I want her.”
“But she will not be a woman to be satisfied with only being a mother. She has skills the fleet needs,” said Thosad. “Besides, she has a daughter. Any Earthling, especially an American, will not tolerate being separated or being subjugated. If you threaten her daughter as well, she will fight you even harder.”
“I do not care what she wants. I want the daughter, too,” Chatura snarled.
“Brother!” said Thosad, shocked. “Our own people will not tolerate you taking both the mother and the daughter to wife.”
“Who said I would take both to wife?” said Chatura.
“There are too many without a female for you to have a mistress. This will not go unchallenged,” said Thosad, shaking his head. His brother had made a string of poor decisions through the years, but this had to be the worst.
* * *
“I do not want to go,” whined Bethany as she looked at her mother with a pitiful expression. “I am not ready for this. The whole point of trotting us out is to let them pick us as mates. I do not want this.”
“I understand, sweetheart, but it wasn’t optional,” said Danielle.
“This sucks,” groused Bethany.
“I understand. Really, I do. Let’s just go, stay a bit, and then leave. It’s not like I will agree to any of this. Especially for you. After the crap your Dad put me through, I am not to keen on this either,” said Danielle.
“Like Spartak is going to let anyone grab you,” said Bethany, rolling her eyes.
“You have been listening to Erica too much,” growled Danielle.
Bethany just laughed.
Fifteen minutes later they stood in the Dining Hall, holding a glass of a bubbly non-alcoholic beverage and shocked at the sheer number of men milling about them. Although there were over one-hundred-forty American females, there were easily five hundred males milling about them. “What the hell, Mom?” whispered Bethany.
“I had no idea. I knew the numbers, but I didn’t expect so many of them to show up all at once,” said Danielle just as a handsome middle-aged man dressed in military black with gray hair brushed away from his forehead sauntered up. She knew she had met him once before but couldn’t remember his name. Between his square jaw shaded with stubble and his grin, he had a definite rakish look about him. He was nearly as large as Spartak. His blue eyes sparkled as he looked Danielle over. Aengus growled when the man got too close to his charges.
“It is good to see you again, Danielle,” said Areson. He turned and looked at Bethany. “Miss Bethany,” he said, bowing slightly.
Just then, Erica walked up after retrieving a drink. She smiled at Areson.
He smiled back as he appraised her from head to foot. “I am Areson, I command the Gliesia,” he said as he picked up her hand and kissed her knuckles. He had felt her stiffen as his face had neared her hand. “I am not Kleponian. Do not fear me.”
“Sorry. It’s been a bit of a blur as everything has been coming at us,” she said.
“I understand. We have been told about what happened,” he said, smiling at Erica. “What is your name?”
“Erica,” she said, returning his smile.
“A beautiful name for a beautiful woman,” Areson said.
Danielle had to keep from laughing when Erica blushed.
Erica saw the barely restrained mirth and elbowed Danielle in the ribs without taking her eyes off of the handsome Commander.
A young officer came walking over, also dressed in black, his eyes focused solely on Bethany. Aengus growled at him before he got within five feet of his target. When he showed no effort to stop, Aengus stepped between the man and Bethany. “No,” said Aengus.
“Aw, come on. She is beautiful,” the man complained. “I just want to meet her.”
“Bogd, I said no. She is off-limits,” said Aengus.
“But,” said Bogd.
“Bogd,” said Danielle, diverting his attention. She introduced herself and watched his eyes widen. “So you have heard of me,” she said.
He nodded. His postured straightened when he noticed the Captain’s rank.
“Then that makes this easier,” she smiled with a chilling smile. “This is my daughter. She is seventeen. In the world she comes from, she is still a child. She will remain as such for now. Do you understand?” she asked him.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, swallowing hard. “May I introduce myself and talk to her over the communicator?” Bogd asked.
Areson growled at him again.
Danielle turned to Bethany, blocking the young man’s view. “You okay with that?” she asked.
Bethany peeked around her mother, before ducking back and blushing. She nodded.
Danielle turned back to Bogd and said, “Here is what you can do. I will allow a fifteen-minute recorded conversation each evening. You behave, and if Bethany is agreeable, they can continue. You misbehave, they are done.” She raised an eyebrow in challenge.
“How do I know what you would consider misbehaving?” he asked.
“Do you have a sister?” asked Danielle.
“Yes. My baby sister is aboard the Regista,” he said. “Why?”
“Just don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t want someone to say or do to your sister. Got it?” Danielle said.
“Ah,” he said, nodding. “I understand. Can I call tonight?”
“Yes. We are leaving soon. She will be in my quarters,” said Danielle.
Bogd bowed to Danielle and then stepped to the left to bow to Bethany, who blushed again. He stood up and stalked out of the Dining Hall.
Danielle turned back to her daughter. “You know you don’t have to talk to him, right?”
“Yes, but it’s okay. He is really cute. With that blonde hair and blue eyes, he looks like he would be a surfer dude at home,” giggled Bethany.
“Bogd is the Alpha Squad Commander,” said Aengus, turning his head to glare at the door again.
“What does that mean?” asked Bethany.
“It means he is a hell of a fighter pilot. He is disciplined and a good Commander. I do not tolerate any shenanigans from the men, but,” said Areson.
“But what?” asked Danielle.
“He is still is an unmated male and they cannot be trusted,” finished Aengus.
Both Danielle and Bethany started laughing. Erica just grinned at Areson.