Home > Alien Mercenary's Bride

Alien Mercenary's Bride
Author: Mina Carter


Prologue

 

 

It was the shittiest little market in the back end of beyond but Marika didn’t care. It might have been dirty and rough, mud from the ground staining the hem of her expensive dnarhiat silk gown, but it had potential. Every breath she took in was scented with the fumes from poorly maintained generators and the ships in the yard just outside town.

It smelled like desperation and freedom.

“Your father wouldn’t like you being here,” Dav, her bodyguard, rumbled. His disapproval was written in every line of his body and his craggy, cliff-like face.

“My father doesn’t like anything I do.” Marika shrugged one shoulder in an elegant display of nonchalance. She knew without checking in a mirror that her expression was set to “resting bitch face.” She was an Ingrassia. It was expected and a cover she used often. Right now, she’d never needed it more. If Dav had any idea what she was thinking of doing…

His silence was more telling than if he’d argued with her. Anton Ingrassia was a difficult man to please with a hair trigger temper and zero patience. She, more than most, knew that of old. As his daughter and the celebrated apple of his eye, the most damage he could inflict on her was with his fists although he was careful never to mark her face. His business partners or those who crossed him were often less fortunate. People would disappear, and she’d learned not to ask. She turned a blind eye and tried to be the Ingrassia princess everyone believed her to be.

The poison princess had killed all three of her grooms. However, her luck had run out, and the next one would kill her instead.

She closed her eyes for a moment, getting herself under control. Maxim Martell was an animal. A “business” partner of her father’s, he was a brute. Every time she’d met him, his dark-eyed gaze made her feel queasy, like she needed a month-long bath when he looked over her slender form. Gossip said he liked to inflict pain on his sexual partners and not in a way that was fun for them. Only for him. He’d killed his previous two wives. The second hadn’t lasted the month.

A shiver hit her. From the sick lust in his eyes whenever he looked at her during the years he’d been trying to persuade her father to sell her to him in marriage, she knew she wouldn’t last the week…

Locking the thoughts away quickly, she focused on her surroundings. As far as Dav was concerned, she just liked to come to the flea market on Praxis-Four. It was the ass end of the Aridas system, a place polite society didn’t even like to think about, much less acknowledge.

The more adventurous youngsters might venture out to the bars and whorehouses with a small army of bodyguards so they could then later boast to their friends that they’d rubbed shoulders with the mercenaries and ruffians who congregated here. They bought the high-priced designer drugs their bodyguards deemed safe enough to spoon-feed them rather than the real shit served to the desperate and hopeless in the bars. It was such a regular thing that the brothels brought in more expensive girls every Friday.

She shook her head as she wandered through the narrow aisles, pretending to browse. Had she been “normal,” she would still have found the market fascinating. Like life, all manner of shit fell until it was caught here, but between the random flotsam and jetsam, occasionally a treasure could be found. Like a moon-bright sapphire hiding in all the costume jewelry or a rare vintage of Tvetchian whiskey in the racks of the wine merchant.

Or a “princess” desperate for a way out of yet another wedding.

Keeping her expression neutral, she browsed the aisles, aware of Dav’s disapproving presence behind her. She wasn’t really looking at anything in the stalls. Instead, her attention was all on the people in the market. She needed a way to ditch Dav and his hidden partner, Lenar, and a way off this planet—in that order. The pair were like bloodhounds. Totally loyal to her father, they couldn’t be bribed or threatened, and they’d follow her to the ends of the galaxy unless she got rid of them first.

Her stomach clenched at the idea of how. Despite her reputation, she couldn’t kill them or pay someone to have them killed, even though there were plenty of candidates on Praxis-Four. No, she needed another way to get rid of the pair... like a riot in the market or something. She looked around in assessment, but other than losing her shit and starting to flip tables, how the hell did she start a riot?

A deep laugh came from behind her, the sound pleasing as it shivered along her skin. Someone bumped into her, almost taking her off her feet.

“Oh, I’m so sorry—”

She turned to find herself looking up at a mountain—a man mountain.

The biggest guy she’d ever seen stood behind her. Bright blue eyes pierced her, holding her captive on the spot without touching her. Her heart rate kicked up a notch as she couldn’t stop looking. Those blue eyes sat over a straight nose and full lips nestled within a heavy beard she instantly wanted to touch to see if it was as soft as it looked.

Her gaze skipped down. His clothes screamed mercenary and he wasn’t trying to hide it. Shoulders the size of a transport tanker were covered with a heavy overcoat, the open front hinting at combats and thigh straps for a weapons rig. The weapons didn’t hold her attention, but his thighs certainly did. Thickly muscled and powerful...

God, what would riding him be like?

“No, no…” She smiled. “Totally my fault.” Her voice rose a little and she lifted a hand. The movement stopped Dav surging toward him, and another movement out of the corner of her eye told her that Lenar had emerged as well.

Her lips compressed. Obviously, they considered tall, bearded and handsome here a threat. Well... so did she, but in a totally different way.

“Please, accept my apologies. Mr...”

“Errrr… Altav.”

He looked surprised, his voice a deep, pleasing rumble and she smiled. Altav. It was unusual but rolled off the tongue. Easy to scream... She wondered where it was from. Perhaps from one of the outer colony systems. It almost sounded Edanian... and wouldn’t that be a turnup for the books. The Edanian system crime lords had been nipping at her father’s heels in the neutral territories for years. The idea of using an Edanian mercenary to gain her freedom seemed like… poetic justice.

His gaze flicked down her in an assessment similar to the one she’d just given him. She bit back her shiver at his appraisal, wondering if he liked what he saw. The small hope died a quick death. How many times had her father told her not to get her hopes up? That she was too small, too plain, and not curvy enough to attract a man’s attention... He told her how he’d had to buy her grooms’ agreement to marry her in one of his favorite rants.

“A pleasure to meet you, Altav.” She held out her hand with a smile, forced to shake her head in reprimand as Dav growled in warning. She was only talking for heaven’s sake.

She held her breath as the big man reached out, waiting for that first touch of his skin against hers. Before he could touch her, though, the man with him shoulder-barged him aside. Tall with scruffy blond hair, he was dressed like Altav but he’d barely registered on her.

“A pleasure to meet you as well, Miss Ingrassia. But I’m afraid we really have to be going. Our ship is about…” He shoulder-barged Altav again. The bigger man hardly moved; his blue eyes locked onto Marika. “To leave without us. Come on, big man. You know how pissy the boss gets if we’re late.”

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