It all comes down to this. The truth about what started the war between the Imarian and Craegin is coming out, along with the fact that there is one true royal left. One man to rule them all.
Markus Rothschild wants to live a simple, quiet life but when faced with the truth of what’s happening in his world, he knows he has no choice but to take his rightful place.
Paisley Ralston is a woman who loves teaching small children. She’s never even held a weapon, let alone fired one. Playing bodyguard to the royal heir is the last thing she expected to do. But when Markus’s security team is sabotaged, she may be his only hope.
Paisley didn’t realize that meeting Markus meant finding her mate. Hidden in a special bunker, Paisley and Markus will test their limits and prepare for what’s coming. Together they will come out stronger, bonded, and ready to face both galaxies.
Hanging the towel on the rack after he finished drying off, Markus quickly dressed in civilian clothing. Since he was not on the destroyer, he had brought civvies for his stay mostly. It felt a little odd not to be dressing in his uniform; he practically lived in one even during his downtime on their home world, but he only had a couple clean ones with him, should they be required.
Once dressed he returned to the bedroom to unpack his bag into a dresser. They had weapons, and the bunker was definitely secure. He had to give the marshal props for that.
He headed for the kitchen area once he had things put away to find Paisley. Markus could smell something coming from that direction. It smelled good, whatever it might be. Not as good as Paisley had smelled when he’d held her close, but it would do in the interim.
He already knew she was his other half. He’d felt the pull to her the moment he had seen her in her mother’s office. And when they’d stepped into that tube and he’d touched her it was cemented in his mind just who and what she was to him. The missing part to completing him and removing the vague emptiness that existed within him. Like all Craegins born, there was always another individual out there in their territory who held that missing piece. It was the ceremony, the act of making love together, that completed the bonding or as they called it, Krathle-tri Vox, the Catching of Souls.
Her back was to him when he entered the kitchen. She was humming to herself. It was soft, and he only caught the occasional note, but it sounded vaguely familiar. Soothing. Moving in closer, he stayed back out of range when he noticed she had a knife in hand to chop up vegetables. No way was he going to startle someone with a blade in hand. She may not be military trained, but everyone had that basic instinct to protect themselves when startled by spinning to face the “threat.”
He cleared his throat to get her attention.
Paisley turned and grinned at him, and he felt his gut tighten. Damn, he could become accustomed to her smile. “Hey.” She set down the utensils she was working with and approached him. “Did the shower help you feel better?” He couldn’t help but notice the way her gaze skimmed down his body. He liked that she noticed him and that he affected her as much as she affected him. “I hope you’re hungry. Food will be ready soon.”
“Starving,” he told her. Markus moved in closer to her and peered over her shoulder. “Looks good. Anything I can do to help?”
“If you will just grab the drinks that I have in the cooler, that would be great. The plates are already out. The cooler is to your left. You can’t miss it.”
“I can do that,” he said. Following her directions and the pointed finger, he found the cooler tucked in among the cabinets. After finding out what she wanted, he took the drinks to the table. Then because he had nothing else to do he sat down at the table to watch her while she worked. She had a grace to her that pulled his interest back and had his body humming happily in anticipation. Paisley had long, flowing red hair that she kept pushing out of her face. Tiny freckles dotted her shoulders, teasing him, making him want to look under her shirt to see if the freckles went further than just her shoulders.
Unable to sit still any longer, he got up to help her. They spent the time cooking, talking, and getting to know each other. From time to time they would brush against each other, their hands touching and both of them looking at each other as if they had felt something. He had, but he didn’t know if she had.
Once they had finished with their meal, both of them moved into the living space.
She glanced at the chair beside the sofa, hesitating for a moment before she settled onto the sofa with him. Then she flipped on the screen, which took up most of the wall, with a small handheld remote. There before them was now a peaceful ocean view.
How much should he share with her? He wasn’t certain if he even should tell her that he felt something for her, because of the danger that he was in just from him being him. He wanted to. He wanted to take her into his arms and kiss her delicious-looking pink lips, but it wouldn’t be fair to her because it would bring her into danger, and while he was certain he could protect himself, he wasn’t sure that he would be able to keep her safe at all times as well.
She surprised him when she said, “I want to know more about you, Markus. Tell me about life on board a starship, please? I’ve never left the planet. I have this thing with flying, so I stay close to home.”
She was so cute. She had a thing with flying? That was certainly interesting. “Sometimes it’s hard to find a moment for yourself,” he told her. “I would go into the zero gravity area just so that I could have some time to think without listening to others constantly coming to me for this or that.”
“It sounds a little oppressive.”
“It’s not. I loved what I did because I believed in it. I loved being in the air and doing what I did because it meant that I was making a difference. I fought for our people because it was what I was born to do. I just didn’t know the extent of it.”
“And now you have me here with you. I’m here as part of keeping you out of the skies. You must really hate me.”
He saw sadness on her face and even though they had just technically met he knew he had to tell her. There was danger coming for him but he needed her as much as he needed his weapons.
He had to have her. To hell with the consequences. He needed her in his life. “Paisley…” He reached out to touch her hand, moving to take it into his, and pulled her close to his body. “I feel something for you.”
“I feel something for you, too.” Their hands touched, fingers twined, and he simply focused on that feeling for a moment and savored her words. She felt something for him.
“I also worry for you,” he admitted. He leaned in and brushed his lips to her cheek. “I worry that this life is going to be too dangerous to have you close to me but I can’t seem to let you go. Ever.”
She had moved in closer to him. He hadn’t failed to notice that she seemed to want to touch him as much as he wanted to touch her. He dipped his head just a bit and brushed his lips to her hand that he held, just caressing her knuckles with his lips. He felt it and knew she felt the small spark that fanned between them as well.
He decided to go all in and said, “You feel the mating bond, too. You are mine. You know that, I know it, and while it would be far safer for you to not be a part of my life, I have to have you. I need you in my life, now and always. Will you be mine?”
He saw the surprise on her face, then her tentative nod. When she accepted, he did the only thing he could in that moment and kissed her. He kissed her like a man starved and in many ways he was; he was starved for the other half of his soul.