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Guarded: A Sci-Fi Alien Romance (Rebels of Sidyth Book 2) by Sabrina Kade (1)

CHAPTER ONE

York

 

“He’s watching you again.” There’s a hint of laughter in Layla’s voice as she glances towards the gaping hole at the front of the Gathering Room. My current accommodation is not the most welcoming, but considering I’m trapped on a rainy planet full of exiled Sidyths with nineteen other human entertainers, I guess I don’t have any reason to complain. There’s a place to piss, and there’s food and water being brought to us around the clock. And though I don’t like feeling like I’m in a cage for all these aliens to watch, I’m happy that so far their eyes are the only thing they’ve had on us.

“York.” Layla’s voice hits an annoying squeak. “Did you hear me? He’s watching you.”

I don’t need to turn around to know who she’s talking about.

It’s been a few days since me and nineteen other women were dropped off for an assignment by a group of very rude aliens and then escorted to a lovelier accommodation Sidyths like to call a Gathering Room, and I’ve noticed one of these intimidating creatures has been keeping an eye on me.

For what, I’m not sure, but it’s not like the enormous alien says anything.

A few days ago, the twenty of us were divided into two groups, and luckily, I was stuck in the larger one. It’s not like I want to talk to everyone and be social, but the more girls there are, the less action I’ll have to see – in theory. It’s been almost a week, and there’s six girls in the second lair and thirteen, including me, in the first lair. One of the only women I trust – Blythe – was taken on the first day by the prince of the Sidyths and hasn’t been seen since. None of the others have tried to claim a woman, but that doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. They could be waiting for a holiday of some sort. Who knows? I’m rarely content with a new assignment, and when I do get comfortable, I become bored easily.

I’m growing more comfortable, but I’m not bored. The seven-foot scaled alien watching me is enough to keep me on edge. He’s there almost every day. Standing. Silent. Waiting. Watching.

The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention almost every time he’s nearby.

Sidyths are not what most would consider a fun stop on the Human Whore tour. For one, they’re usually at least six and a half feet tall and pale like a Twilight vampire. They’re also covered in scales on various parts of their face, shoulders, arms, stomachs or legs. I’m pretty sure there’s also scales on their cocks because sometimes my secret admirer’s package slips free from his tiny shorts. Sidyths are also bulky and covered in lean muscle that could easily choke the life out of me if I don’t do what they ask.

The weirdest thing of all? None of them, not even Captain Dick Slip, has asked me to do anything. Or any of us, for that matter.

“You should say something to him.” Ellis pushes a few stray strands of curly hair away from her face so she can fix her intense brown eyes on mine. “Just so he’ll stop staring in here. It’s kind of creepy, you know?”

“Maybe Blythe knows what’s up with him,” Kansas calls in a bored tone. “She certainly seems to have gotten friendly enough with the prince.” She rolls her hazel eyes and shares a smirk with Alaska who doesn’t say anything.

She hardly ever does. Bitch is fucking cranky, and I can’t say I blame her.

It’s obvious Blythe is the only one enjoying her time on this planet filled with Sidyths. We haven’t seen her, but thanks to our translators it isn’t difficult to figure out how things have progressed. It’s annoying, to say the least, but I can’t get too upset with her. I want to believe she’s part of the reason the rest of the Sidyths have left us alone.

We haven’t been forced to give pleasure, receive pleasure, or do anything odd since arriving.

I’m not used to this amount of freedom. I’m not used to having a choice.

For years that’s all I wanted. I got tired of people telling me how smart I am, and how I could do anything I wanted with my life.

You have many options, York.

You’re talented, York.

Do you understand how lucky you are, York? Do you understand how much potential you have?

Despite the frightening stranger with the inadequate shorts, I’m still not upset about my predicament. Here I am, in a Sidyth lair with a bunch of intergalactic space whores waiting for the specifics of my assignment.

Most of the girls who sign up to become a Human Whore have obvious financial problems, but that isn’t the case with me. I only wanted something different. I wanted to escape my potential. Yes, I know I sound like a bratty princess, but if the same people who thought that saw me now, they’d laugh in my face. After all, they’d see my secret admirer with bulky arms crossed over a bulkier chest and searing golden yellow eyes that always seem to be watching what I’m up to.

Then there’s the mask on his face.

I don’t want to think about why he’s wearing that.

The rest of the entertainers continue to openly observe my secret admirer with nervous expressions. It’s been at least a week since Blythe was taken away by the prince and it’s only a matter of time before mask-boy claims me in the exact same way.

The more worrisome question is, what happens when I’m taken?

And why am I kind of excited to find out?

All my life I wanted something new and different. I wanted to escape. My parents’ friends always told me I was the stupidest smart person they knew, and maybe they were right.

After all, why else would I be so curious about the Sidyth with a mask over his mouth who never says anything?

“Still staring,” Ellis smirks towards the doorway, pointedly ignoring her own silent watcher across the room.

“Great.” I roll my eyes and try not to focus on the gigantic barbarian watching me. I have no idea what he’s up to, and I can’t decide whether I’m happy or not about having him observe me so closely. Was he asked to keep an eye on me or something? “Consider yourself lucky no one’s watching you—” and then I stop short, glancing over at Ellis’ sentinel.

She shrugs. “I don’t know. He doesn’t seem terrible.”

“Well, good for you,” I snort.

I turn away from my masked secret admirer, not exactly in the mood to be on display. The past few days have been rough and confusing enough. First, being a space whore isn’t the most glamorous occupation in the galaxy, but at least I’ve come to understand the routine. An alien says to spread my legs? I spread. An alien says he wants pleasure? I give it to him. Alien says he wants to give me pleasure (it happens occasionally), and I accept it. There’s something familiar about the system, but this right now? There’s nothing familiar here.

There’s twelve of us in this supposed Gathering Room, and Blythe’s with the former prince – or current prince. I don’t know. The other Sidyths don’t tell us anything, and their voices are low enough that I can’t always pick them up on the translator. There’re six other girls in a second lair with more Sidyths, including Alaska and Kansas’ other half of their posse – Arizona and Dakota. Alaska’s trying to be strong; she’s not used to being separated from her supposed family, but every time Sidyths talk, she’s listening very closely while pretending to be bored to death. That’s experience for you.

Rene and Devyn – who I’ve dubbed the work out twins – don’t say much to anyone but each other. I have a feeling that if we had met before here, they would have laughed at me for being a nerd and jogged back onto the soccer field slapping fives like idiots. I can’t stand either of them, so I let them be and put on a friendly face when they ask what’s up with my secret admirer.

Hell if I know.

I’m still recovering from the loss of Blythe; the cute, bi-racial chick with big tits – who was taken away by Korben – the Sidyth who runs things here on this planet. And though there are mutterings she’s doing okay and Korben’s Chosen her, I don’t want to believe Blythe has been so simple.

“Maybe he thinks you’re a troublemaker or something,” Sloane chirps, as clueless as ever.

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Alaska calls. “After all, York’s got a reputation just like the rest of us.”

I turn sharply towards Alaska. Now if Rene and Devyn give me nightmares about high school, it’s amazing I can look Alaska in the face at all. She’s everything I hated about high school girls because she’s everything I’m not. Alaska’s tall, slim, tan, and stunning. And while on paper we may sound like we look alike, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Aliens look at Alaska and go “wow,” and apparently aliens look at me and say—

“Too smart,” Alaska says, filling in my thoughts. “Everyone knows about the times you tried to escape an assignment, York.” She rolls her stunning blue eyes and flips a few blond waves over her tanned shoulder. The action is annoying because it reminds me of a hair commercial.

“I was bored.” I can’t help snapping back. After all, she’s not wrong. I was bored. My assignment with the Entlas was so good it was a downright yawn festival, so I tried to escape. To see if an Entla had a cruel bone in his hooved body.

The answer? Yes and no. I don’t talk about it if not asked.

“Either way,” Alaska continues, smirking over at Kansas. “You might as well talk to your stalker. Maybe he’ll tell us what the hell’s going on. Blythe totally betrayed us.”

“We don’t know that.” I don’t want to think about such a possibility. Blythe wouldn’t do that. She made a huge speech on the spacecraft here about being sisters and depending on each other. I had tried to play it off like it wasn’t a big deal, but her words meant something to me. I liked the idea of having someone I could talk to, and Blythe doesn’t strike me as an idiot.

But then that Sidyth swept her away, and no one’s seen or heard more than vague assurances since then.

“You think Blythe’s okay?” Sloane asks quietly. “The ugly one says she’s fine, but can we trust these guys?”

“I’m sure the prince is making her pleasure him,” Alaska chimes in. “Let’s not pretend spreading for aliens is torture. It’s part of the job.”

I can’t help but smirk. She has a point.

“At least no one’s said she’s dead yet,” Sloane drones on.

“Shut up. They can’t kill us unless they buy out our contracts,” Celeste grumbles.

It’s hard not to smile when I turn and find the Indian looking chick grimacing at Sloane before smirking at me. I remember Celeste. I’ve heard about how cruelly she was treated on some of her assignments, so it’s hard not to feel a little respect for her knowing she hasn’t been broken yet.

I on the other hand cover up my fears with bitchiness. I cover up my insecurities with smartassery, but it’s not like I lack much. My family doesn’t have financial issues like the rest of the girls here. My family’s well off. College was paid for, and I had a horse growing up. On paper I don’t belong here because I chose to be a space whore, not for the money but for the chance to find something different.

I’ve found different, alright.

He’s standing in the doorway.

I should be happy I’m on an assignment with some familiar faces – lots of them. Who doesn’t know Arizona and her creepy created family? Who doesn’t know Devyn and Rene? Who doesn’t know Celeste and Blythe, or the creepy, quiet girl who never speaks at the second lair? Being stuck in a Gathering Room on a planet full of exiled Sidyths isn’t a bad situation for a space whore, and it’s great not to have to give or take pleasure around the clock with or without consent. Plus, it’s rainy here, and the land above the underground lair looks a lot like Earth, except for the strange pink and lavender fog occasionally rolling in. It’s even alright that it’s freaking close to ninety degrees here all the time because Sidyths love heat – so much that they have heat lamps – called sun rayers – blasting during all hours of the day.

I slap my thighs and stand, ignoring how the Sidyth in the doorway straightens with my sudden movement.

Well damn, maybe he does think I’m a troublemaker.

“Alright, we need to make sure if Blythe ever comes back with her little prince that we get some answers. Am I right?” I turn towards Alaska and Kansas, trying not to feel intimidated. They may be pretty but I’m smart, dammit. That has to mean something. Somewhere.

“I agree,” Sloane chirps, coming to my side.

It’s a good and bad thing she agrees with me so readily. Luckily, it ends up mostly being a good thing, because the workout twins shrug in agreement, along with Celeste, Aoi, Krista, Rhyan, Ellis, and Layla. Eventually, we’re all standing in an awkward circle, except Alaska and Kansas who don’t move, but I know they’re listening. If they have a reputation for being experienced, I guess mine is for being smart enough to pay attention to.

As for the last girl, the most beautiful chick I’ve ever seen in my life – Lacey – she remains in a corner by herself with a sour expression.

What-the-fuck-ever.

I take a deep breath. “I know we all kind of got to know each other on the ship. We all know why we’re here, right? No one here is completely clueless about what we’re expected to do, other than that idiot, Phoebe.”

“Give me a break,” Kansas smirks. “No one’s as stupid as her.” Her lower lip juts out. “Maybe Sloane.”

“Hey, I know what I signed up for!” the redhead squeals.

“And you, newbie?” Kansas turns her attention towards the youngest looking one out of all us. Layla’s gorgeous, but she has the face of a high school reality star. “Do you know why we’re here?”

She frowns. “I may be a newbie but I know exactly why I’m here.”

“And that’s for what?” Alaska arches an eyebrow.

“To entertain aliens for money.”

“And you know what entertaining means, right?” I try not to sound bored, but I don’t want to get into details. “Entertainer is a word on the contract to draw girls in. We’re not entertaining anyone – well, I suppose we are in a way.”

“I’m going to have to fuck aliens to get money sent home to my brother,” Layla says stiffly, and my eyes widen. “Does that answer your question?”

That’s a good and bad thing she’s not as jaded as some of the other newbies.

Entertainer. The term is such a joke. We’re nothing but Human Whores, sold to the highest bidder and forced to spread our legs for their pleasure. Beyond Earth, humans are nothing more than pets and playthings. Dogs and dolls. And while it’s great I don’t have to say this all aloud, I’m a little worried someone as young looking as Layla is already set and prepared to be nothing but a toy for a perverted alien’s amusement.

“I guess now that we’re done with pleasantries, we can get this started.”

“Hey, York. I bet Prince-y’s getting things started with Blythe right now.” Alaska frowns despite her teasing tone. “And all this bullshit about how he’s Chosen her? Doesn’t that top-heavy idiot know what that means?”

My frown deepens further than Alaska’s. I don’t want the others—

“It’s bad to be Chosen?” Layla asks. “Why?”

“Get with the program,” Kansas snaps. “He’s a Sidyth. They all are. And this isn’t their home planet. The only reason we’re here is probably because they don’t want their brothers to find out what they’re up to. Humans aren’t cheap.” She rolls her eyes. “We’ll probably be sent to the surface, and they’ll hunt us for sport.”

“Hunt us?” Layla’s humungous brown eyes widen. “But… but that’s not…”

“I thought you said you knew what you were in for?” Alaska’s obviously enjoying shaking up a newbie.

“I knew I’d have to have sex,” Layla snaps. “Not that I’d be hunted down.”

“You think we’re going to die?” Sloane asks, voice cracking. “I don’t want to die.”

“No one’s going to die.” I roll my eyes. The last thing I need is a bunch of girls crying because Alaska and Kansas are bitches. But I’m still kind of afraid of them, so I don’t turn my anger towards them, and instead round my attention back to Layla and Sloane. “You guys have to keep your shit together. We’ve got to be smart. It’s been days. Blythe’s alive. You heard the others. She’s doing okay, isn’t she?”

“Depends on your version of okay, I guess,” Alaska calls. “Personally, I don’t think being hunted for sport is any type of okay. No matter how good the pleasure beforehand.”

My shoulders bunch together, and I take a few deep breaths. If I start getting upset, then everyone’s going to get upset – other than Alaska and Kansas. They think they’re so great because they’ve seen it all, and while I haven’t seen every dirty corner the galaxy has to offer, I’m certainly not a newbie who can be frightened off with a few well-worded nightmares.

“What if they’re lying?” Sloane’s eyes are wide like Layla’s. “What if we’re all going to be hunted?”

“I guess you’re shit out of luck.” Kansas elbows Alaska who snickers into her hand.

Sloane is not amused. “How can you be so nonchalant about this?”

“Nonchalant,” Alaska laughs.

“That’s a big word. Be careful you don’t choke on it.”

“Enough!” I shout over Kansas and Alaska, cackling like mean girls in a high school movie. “Geezus, this isn’t helping. I’m telling you we need to think about this logically, and all you’re trying to do is scare each other. We need to look at the facts.” I steal a look over my shoulder, not wanting to think about a certain Sidyth listening in and mentally recording every word to be reported back to the prince.

“Fact one. We’ve been separated from some of the others here. That’s not unusual. And though I’m worried about that little one the Toda bastard hit, I’m sure Arizona will take care of her.” I glare at Alaska, daring her to disagree because that would mean putting down her supposed family member. “Fact two. Blythe’s been taken by a Sidyth. A prince, from what we gathered. She’s been gone a few days, and we hear what the others are saying. She’s okay. Chosen or not, I want to believe she’s okay.”

“If you knew what I knew—”

“Fact three.” I’m barely able to interrupt Alaska without my cheeks turning pink. “Despite being put in this room and being gawked at like we’re salmon at the fish market, no one’s put a hand on us. Those are facts, ladies. Facts we can’t ignore.”

“And the one watching you?” Ellis dares to ask. “What is your fact about that?”

“Well…” My eyes trail curiously back to the doorway, and sure enough, the masked alien remains in the opening of the Gathering Room, arms crossed. I shouldn’t delight in how much attention he’s paying to me. I’m sure there’s a reason, and it’s probably nothing good, but I can’t stop the small throbbing between my thighs.

“Oh God, not you too.” Alaska sneers. “Seriously, what is wrong with you?”

“Shut up. Would you rather he come in here?” I turn around and face the masked stranger. “Hey, you!”

“Shut up,” Sloane hisses, trying to reach for my arm. I yank it away, and Ellis quickly touches my shoulder.

“Seriously, York,” she says. “Are you kidding?”

The masked Sidyth’s eyes widen over the crest of his mask. I snicker and hope I’m not making a huge mistake. Because while yes, this Sidyth is definitely interested in me, no one knows exactly what for. And now I’ve drawn more attention to myself. But I can’t stand how Alaska and Kansas are acting; like they run shit because of seniority.

It’s not my fault I’m not thirty.

“Yeah, you,” I call to the massive stranger in the doorway. He uncrosses his arms and cocks his head to the side, acknowledging my words without any of his own. “You going to tell us what the plans are for us any time soon, or are we supposed to cool our heels up in here?”

He doesn’t answer, but another Sidyth appears next to him.

“Enough talking,” he rumbles. He’s bigger than the masked stranger and dude is fugly.

It’s hard not to shudder, so I narrow my eyes. The masked one didn’t say anything or tell me to shut up. Maybe he can’t talk, and that’s fine. I’m so tired of being trapped in this room with twelve other women. We’re on a rainy planet, which I love, but we’re being kept underground. But despite everything, there’s no proof anyone’s been hurt yet. Everything we’ve experienced so far isn’t typical Sidyth behavior. Alaska knows that. I know that. Even the newbies are starting to get antsy about how unconventional this situation is.

The rest of the group falls silent as the fugly one pulls away from the doorway, but Scary McSmallShorts remains. I still haven’t got the slightest idea what he’s thinking, but he’s still watching me. Maybe calling out to him wasn’t such a brave idea. Despite my intelligence, I’m not a bitch like Kansas or a withdrawn know-it-all like Alaska. I don’t want any trouble simply for the sake of trouble.

If I could just see Blythe. If I know she’s okay, I’m sure my true confidence would return. I need to know she’s okay and not being raped by one of these yellow-eyed monsters.

Someone rests their hand on my arm, and I jump slightly, turning to find Ellis. At a few inches shy of five feet tall, she’s about as scary as a poodle, but she’s got maturity and determination I can’t help but warm up to.

“You shouldn’t draw too much attention to yourself until we figure out what’s going on,” she says calmly.

“We need to know if Blythe’s okay.” I nod at my own statement, and luckily Ellis agrees. So do Sloane and Celeste. Work out twins are already doing pushups in a corner, and some of the others, who I don’t know very well, huddle together and talk amongst themselves.

I wish there was a way to bring us all together.

Blythe.

Blythe is the answer to everything. If the Sidyths can’t prove the one taken from us is okay, then we’ll know to be afraid. Afraid of what, I’m not sure yet. Sidyths aren’t known for their kindness towards anything – let alone Human Whores. I’ve heard the stories, but I haven’t been with one myself, and Alaska and Kansas seem to be the most outspoken about their past experiences. They’ve been telling the others about one of their late family members – Washington – and how she was hunted down after one of the top hierarchy members chose her, and she agreed. I can’t think being Chosen is a bad thing. Dude in the doorway makes my thighs wet, but I don’t want to be dumped into a forest all Hunger Games-style while he hunts me down.

We’re not being raped, but we’re not free either. I try to focus on some of the positives.

There’s rain above. Cool air and oxygen. This planet is the closest I’ve felt to home, and yet I’m trapped underground with twelve other girls and a masked secret admirer.

I want to get out, but I can’t make it past the masked Sidyth, let alone the enormous fugly one.

I slump down against a wall; Sloane and Ellis quickly come beside me. Celeste eyes us warily but eventually joins our tiny makeshift circle.

“If Blythe was hurt, I’m sure we’d know,” Sloane says softly.

“Yeah.” I bob my head and press my lips together. “Still, it’s been over a week. Why the hell hasn’t she come by to see us?”

“Maybe she’s not allowed,” Sloane reasons.

“Yeah,” Ellis agrees. “I mean, if it’s like Alaska and Kansas say, they’re at least trying to isolate her. I guess this is how they court females?”

“Trust me,” Celeste groans. “This is not how they court females. For one, females court the males.”

Sloane’s eyes widen. “Really?”

She nods. “Yeah. The females are the true aggressors. That’s probably why these guys brought us here. If the female gets jealous, she’ll kill anyone on sight.” She wraps her arms tightly around her chest. “They pull you in like this – their killing method is almost identical to their mating method – and they basically squeeze you. If they’re trying to mate and, the male comes, then she’ll release. It’s a victory.”

“And if she’s… uh… not mating?” Sloane asks quietly.

Celeste’s dark eyes flash up to Sloane’s. “You figure it out. You’re not that stupid.”

“Don’t be so sure.” Kansas snickers from a corner.

I ignore them. “Facts,” I say to my tiny group. “We have to think about the facts otherwise we’re all going to drive ourselves crazy. We’re not hurt. Even when I called the masked one, he didn’t come here and beat me up, did he? And we’ve heard bits and pieces of conversations they have between each other. If the prince guy was hurting Blythe, don’t you think they would have talked about it? If they’re so cruel, don’t you think they’d be laughing their asses off about how weak human women are compared to Sidyth women?”

No one says anything.

“We have to believe this is just another weird ass assignment. We have to believe Blythe is alright.”

Another pregnant pause.

“Do you think things could be okay?” Sloane asks. “They’re Sidyths. You heard Alaska and Kansas—”

“Those two don’t know everything.” I can’t resist rolling my eyes before shooting a look at Celeste, too. “I’m sorry, but Sidyths may have a reputation of being cruel, but they’re not stupid. If Blythe was dead, they’d want us to know about it. They’d want us to freak out about it. They’d want us to know there’s no hope. They taste fear, and I bet they can get off on it. But they haven’t. They’ve been cracking jokes about how she’s resisting him, and how she tried to escape. We heard the prince roughed up one of his brothers up for touching her.”

“It could all be a game,” Celeste says. “This could all be some elaborate scheme to make us feel comfortable, so it’s more fun when they hunt us down.”

“They won’t hunt you down unless you’re stupid enough to consent to them,” Alaska calls over, finally offering a useful piece of information. “Sidyths are all about consent. They like knowing they’re in control, and if you don’t let them choose you, they can’t hunt you down. It’s part of their fucked up traditions.”

“So, to stay alive,” Ellis reasons, “we can’t fall for one.”

“Don’t go rom-com on me.” Alaska rolls her eyes. “Don’t fall for their shit. If they say they love you and want you to choose them, don’t. That’s consent, bitches, and once they have it, you’re basically theirs. They think they own you, and there’s nothing a Sidyth male enjoys more than proving females are weak. Sidyth males can’t love women. Not really. Their entire existence is to prove they’re not as weak as women. It’s the only reason a king runs their planet and not a queen.” She rolls her eyes and returns to speaking in a low voice with Kansas, the work out twins, and Lacey.

“Heartwarming,” I mutter, unable to resist a trace of sarcasm in my voice, but I can’t help myself. Alaska’s right. This could all be an elaborate game to make us seem weak.

Come on, Blythe. I need some reassurance…

“Holy fuck,” Ellis mutters.

“What?” I ask in a bored tone.

“Shit.”

“What?” I turn around, and as soon as I see what’s caught Ellis’ attention, I rise to my feet. I can’t help the scowl on my face, but it quickly shifts to a smile. Blythe. She’s alive. She’s okay.

“Blythe?” The bitch grins before I turn back towards Sloane and Ellis. “I’m not losing my mind, right? Blythe’s standing right there.”

“It’s me,” she says, rushing forward. I can’t help embracing her; she’s the same age as me, but the warm touch reminds me of hugs I used to get from my grandma – other than her enormous chest. “Oh my God, I was so worried about you guys…”

“Worried about us? Bitch, we were worried about you!” I laugh into her shoulder and try to remember everything I talked to the others about the past few days. Answers. I need to get answers. “These pale bastards won’t tell us anything. We only managed to figure out the one who took you is royal.” As much as I’m enjoying the embrace, I push away and lock my eyes on hers. “Seriously though, are you okay?”

“I’m fine. York, I never thought you’d be the one who worried about me.”

She’s laughing, and I can’t help myself. I still have to make sure she’s real. I run my fingers through her hair and touch her cheeks. I don’t care about how stupid I look, and as everyone’s starting to get a clue that it’s her and she’s okay, the rest of the girls stand and come closer.

Enough pleasantries. “It’s true?” I blurt. “No one’s hurt you?”

“I’m fine. I’m sorry I took so long.” Blythe’s rambling nervously and stealing occasional glances at the Sidyth behind her. This must be the prince. “Korben hasn’t done anything terrible. He’s not like the Sidyths we’ve been around.”

I narrow my eyes. “They’ve all been coming to look at us,” I say, letting her know we’re as okay as we could be. And it’s true. They haven’t been bad. The Sidyths are always trying to take care of us – at least the ones that will talk to us. I don’t bother to mention the masked stalker, but the more I explain, and the more I look at Blythe, the less I’m worried. In fact, Blythe’s more concerned we’re the ones who should be looked after.

“What about Arizona?” Alaska stands. “Does anyone give a shit about them?”

Blythe flushes, glancing over her shoulder. “I’ll talk to Korben. He’s kind of in charge here.”

Alaska finally saunters over. I can’t stand how intimidated I am of her, but she has a presence, not to mention a point.

“He’ll listen to you?” Alaska drones.

“Of course.”

Alaska rolls her eyes, a sight I’ve grown overly accustomed to these past few days. “They’re Sidyths, Blythe. Don’t forget that. Hopefully, you haven’t gotten yourself into anything stupid.”

Blythe’s blush deepens against her mahogany skin. I can tell this is a sensitive subject for her, but I want to believe she’s not betrayed us because a Sidyth’s shown her kindness. She narrows her eyes, probably growing as infuriated with Alaska as I’ve been, but I can’t defend her. Though I am relieved she’s okay.

“You know what? I don’t care because all that matters to me is I haven’t been touched. Or raped. And that seems like a pretty good deal so far.” Krista. She’s dark, and one of the girls I haven’t gotten to know very well, and yet, she voices the facts I wanted everyone to focus on. “I’ve never been on any assignment where I didn’t have to spread my legs the first night. If the worst thing to happen is creepos leer at me, I can make it work.”

“It’s never that easy,” Alaska snaps, losing her cool demeanor. I can’t blame her. Blythe’s back, but she literally has nothing to offer us other than she’s getting pleasured by a Sidyth prince. “She’s pleasuring him,” Alaska continues. “Or he’s been pleasuring her. Either way, it looks like she’s already developed feelings for a Sidyth.” Alaska shakes her head, and it’s hard not to feel embarrassed for Blythe.

The prince isn’t alone in the room now, flanked by the masked Sidyth and the fugly one.

Blythe nervously bites on her lower lip, and right as she’s about to speak, her little prince storms up to her side. I’m the only one who doesn’t move away – after all, Prince isn’t half as scary as his buddy and mask boy. Besides, if Alaska and Kansas want to run their mouths but show fear, I’ll step up to the plate. Prince seems a little shocked I haven’t moved, and I swear a hiss comes from his lips as he pulls Blythe closer to his pale, exposed chest.

“I have never taken advantage of my Chosen.”

I start to open my mouth. I want to believe him. I want to believe something, and sadly, the main reason stands a few inches behind Korben. If Prince hasn’t harmed Blythe, then maybe the masked Sidyth won’t hurt me.

“No harm will come to you.”

There’s no mistaking it, Prince boy is hissing in Alaska’s direction. Good.

“My brothers know they are not to touch or harm any of the human women in any way. You were not brought here to be touched or pleasured without consent. Blythe is with me because she wants to be.”

I feel the truth in his words. Abandoning the rest of the girls, I stand closer to Blythe and Prince. “You know what? I believe him.”

“You do?” Ellis seems surprised. “You think…”

“She doesn’t look like she’s been raped to me.” I brandish my hand up and down Blythe’s frame, doing a quick scan to make sure Prince hasn’t sucked the skin between her breasts. Looks relatively clear. “If she was miserable, the big guy wouldn’t be so willing to let us see her. It doesn’t make sense. Sidyths are cruel, but they’re not stupid.”

Korben stiffens, and Blythe attempts to calm him. I’m watching them both carefully. Looking for any signs of betrayal, but whatever’s going on between the two of them might be the real deal.

But a question remains unanswered, and if I don’t ask it, I’m worried no one’s going to ask. “If we’re not here to get raped and carry babies, what exactly do these guys want with us?”

Prince boy hisses, but Blythe seems to calm him with a squeeze on the arm. “I don’t want you guys hanging out in this room anymore. It’s cruel.”

It’s not a direct answer, but it is an interesting one.

“This is the safest place for the women,” Prince-y grumbles.

Blythe continues to look up at him with a soft expression before turning back to us. “No one wants to spend their time here while Sidyths check them out.”

“This is how things are usually done,” Prince rumbles. “Women do not usually wish to interact unless mating is involved.”

“Human women?” Blythe forces him to clarify.

“Sidyth women.”

“Exactly. We’re not Sidyths, Korben.” The two start to talk to each other in low voices, and hope blossoms in my chest.

Unfortunately, I’m brought back to reality when a certain gorgeous blond ruins everything.

“We should stay here unless one of us is needed. I don’t like the idea of us being broken up into different rooms because this one had a few orgasms.”

Poor Blythe. She’s blushing. I don’t ever remember her flushing before we got here or on the ship, and wanting to believe in her, I hustle to her side. She seems relieved, and though Prince has started hissing again, I decide to take a stand.

“For now, I say we give these guys a chance. Look at Blythe. She’s alright, isn’t she? Lacey? Devyn?” My eyes trail to the doorway. “And that big guy? He—”

“Azan,” Prince hisses.

“R-right,” I stammer, trying to keep my own blush from forming. No one’s going to take me seriously if I come down with a crush as obvious as Blythe’s. “He hasn’t done anything, right?”

“Like I want to be a Sidyth’s Chosen.” Alaska crosses her arms, glaring at me from across the room. “You all seem to forget what that means.”

“Don’t,” Prince hisses.

“Where are the hunting grounds, eh? Where are you planning to kill us? What was the price? What was the bounty, huh?” Oh God. Not this again.

“Kill? Hunting grounds?” Sloane gasps, apparently suffering from short-term memory.

I thought we covered this already.

“Or haven’t you heard?” Alaska says, spinning away and facing Blythe directly. “Once you consent to a Sidyth male choosing you, he’s going to kill you. You know that, right?”

“That’s for Sidyth females.” Blythe stammers slightly, making me worried.

“No. That’s what Prince-y told you. The truth is, that’s what Sidyths do. They choose a female, and they woo her, simply to prove how simple we are. They get off on it. And when you choose them? When they hear you say the words that you want them as much as they want you? That’s when they kill you. They dump you in some open area and hunt you for sport.”

“That’s different!” Blythe squeaks.

“You may have tricked her, but you’re never going to trick me. If I don’t say I choose any of you, I’ll be able to live. I know your so-called customs, and I’m not going to die.”

Arguing continues, and as much as I want to believe we’re not going to be hunted for sport, it’s hard when Blythe’s been with a Sidyth for days and immediately questioning his motives for wanting her. I want to believe in her. I do, but it doesn’t help that Alaska has a friend who was killed by a Sidyth and a prince who hasn’t told us what we’re supposed to be doing here if not spreading our legs and carrying their offspring.

“I’ve seen others hunted.” Korben’s voice rumbles deeply into my earpiece. His friends step closer for support, but it’s not like he needs it. None of us are going to stand up to him. We’re used to being mistreated.

“Humans?” Alaska asks.

His silence gives any answer we’d need.

“You see?” Alaska sneers, launching into another dramatic speech.

Geezus, I don’t understand how anyone can stand being around her. Her reputation says she’s supposed to be submissive to the point of being bored, but she’s been mouthy and cranky since the trip here. Maybe Sidyths did kill Washington.

“Are you going to kill us all or not?”

Sloane squeaks, and more of the girls shuffle to the back of the room.

“You have to trust me,” Blythe says. “Korben and the others aren’t going to kill us. Korben’s been nothing but kind and protective. And in our line of work, there isn’t much more we can hope for. I think if they wanted going to kill us, they wouldn’t go through all this nonsense. No one rents out a planet to hunt Human Whores. We’re not worth that much. I know you’re all confused and frightened by this assignment, but I promise you it’s nothing like you’ve had before. Korben may be a Sidyth but he’s a good one. He’s here because he’s not like the ones we’ve been with.”

I narrow my eyes, still looking to see if one of them, or both, is lying to us. It wouldn’t be difficult. Blythe might agree with him to save her own skin, and if there’s one thing I learned about Blythe from the others, it’s that she only thinks about herself. Some of the stories Celeste told me made the hairs on my arms stand on end. And now, suddenly, Blythe wants us all to believe in her, amd that one of the most feared races in the galaxy is nothing but good?

My eyes find the masked Sidyth, Azan, and his gaze meets mine with such a piercing look that I almost don’t catch Blythe’s next words.

“Once you get to know some of the others, I bet you’ll feel the same way I do.”

“And they will get to know you,” Korben hisses.

I can’t tear my attention away from Azan. He’s completely in the Gathering Room now, and for some reason, I want to talk to him. What does his voice sound like? – either in his language or in my translator? And though he hasn’t said anything to me directly, I can’t help but think if he wanted to hurt me – or any of us – he would have been able to do so with ease. But instead, he’s brought us water from hollowed out roots. The fugly one’s asked if we want food or if the temperature in the room is too hot. No one’s pulled us away as Korben did with Blythe. That has to count for something!

“They have been kind,” I say, exaggerating a bit, so Blythe doesn’t feel isolated. It’s not her fault the prince chose her first. “The one with the mask? He’s nice. He’s gentle. I know he’s paying special attention to me.” I look at the prince, daring him to negate me, but he merely lowers his head, shifting an uncomfortable gaze towards Azan – who of course, remains silent.

Korben doesn’t argue. I bet he knows what I’m doing, and I’ll bet he’ll appreciate it.

“See?” Blythe squeaks, getting a bit of her confidence back. “Things aren’t as dire as Alaska’s making it out to be. What did Phoebe say on the ship? Maybe, at the end of the day, all people are good or some shit? Well, maybe that’s not completely true, but until Korben – or any of the others – prove there’s a hidden agenda, I’m going to go with the flow. Let’s face it. This may be as good as it gets for us.”

Her speech sucks until she tacks on something extra.

“You’ll all have a chance to find out what I mean because Korben’s not going to force any of you to stay in this room any longer.”

“I’m not?”

I can’t help but smirk. Prince boy sounds completely befuddled.

“Can we go to the rain?” Ellis starts to sound excited again.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing the skies again,” Sloane agrees as more nervous chatter fills the room.

I feel two Sidyths looking at me, and though Blythe seems completely clueless, I think she realizes things are getting a little crowded in here and asks her prince to leave. For a moment, I don’t think there’s any way he’ll go, but he merely drops a kiss to her forehead and turns his frowning face in my direction.

“I see I was right to have him watch over you.”

My nostrils flare with annoyance. He doesn’t have to say it. Of course, he’s asked Azan to watch over me. I should have known it was more than attraction. Disappointment blossoms in my chest.

Suddenly, I want Korben to go. Azan too. All of them.

I feel strange. Let down. Hurt, but not shocked.

Maybe I’m numb because this entire flirtation thing with the masked one was all in my head the entire time.

 

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