As a special Father’s Day treat, I’m sharing one of my favorite scenes from The Department of Homeworld Security—the scene where Craig meets (and adopts) Henry.
(Family movie night with Craig would be awesome! He might not share his popcorn, though.)
Craig and Barbara and their adopted family are favorites among my readers, and with me as well. Read on for an excerpt from Entry Visa!
(THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY, Book Five)
Copyright © 2017 Cassandra Chandler
All rights reserved
Henry didn’t know how to respond to Craig’s statement. He was having trouble forming coherent thoughts. To make things worse, his nose started to tingle a moment before he let out a huge sneeze. He managed to turn his head to the side at the last instant.
Craig pounded two of his hands into the ground on either side of Henry’s legs and let out an ear-splitting roar that sounded like a cross between an angry bear and a constipated elephant. Henry caught a glimpse of teeth as he fell backward—so many teeth—like the inside of a Great White’s mouth.
“Please don’t eat me,” he yelled. “It was just a sneeze.”
“What is ‘sneeeeeze’?” Craig drew out the word.
“It’s an involuntary reaction to being exposed to allergens, bright light, or cold.” Henry recited the definition like he was back in front of his class. “It’s just how the human body clears out its sinus passages and nostrils.”
Craig glared at Henry for what felt like a long time. He wasn’t sure if he should be trying to make eye contact or avoid it. The last thing he wanted to do was make Craig feel challenged.
After a few more moments, Craig sat back on the ground. “Sneeze is weird.”
“Yeah.” Henry stifled another near-hysterical laugh. He didn’t know what might set Craig off.
“This whole situation is kind of weird to me, too,” Henry continued. “But I promise, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Craig’s lips twitched up on one side. A smirk? Henry wondered if it meant the same thing to a Lyrian.
“Not that I could if I tried,” Henry said. “But I wouldn’t try. I’m not that kind of person.”
“And what kind of person are you?”
Henry sat up, very slowly. “I’m a biology teacher. I study the lifeforms on my planet and teach children about them.”
“A noble task.” Craig’s eyebrows rose. He looked sincerely impressed.
Henry couldn’t keep himself from letting out a little snort of derision. “I wish all the other Earthlings felt that way.” When Craig cocked his head to the side, Henry added, “Many of the people where I’m from don’t actually value teachers much.”
“That’s foolish,” Craig said.
“Tell me about it. I’m Henry, by the way. That’s my name.”
They sat on the ground, Craig staring intently at Henry, while Henry did his best to only make occasional eye contact. The ground was freezing, and the cold started to get to him. He pulled his coat around himself more tightly.
“You lack fur,” Craig said.
“Yeah. For the most part.” Henry laughed, then ruffled his hair. “I have this, at least.”
“That is insufficient.”
“Well, I forgot my hat and scarf at home. And my gloves.” He dropped his hands onto his lap just as his stomach let out a loud gurgle.
Craig was on him again in an instant, teeth bared as he knocked Henry backward onto the ground.
“It was just my stomach growling,” Henry yelled.
Craig kept hovering over Henry, but seemed to relax.
“Is it angry?” Craig asked.
“What? No.” Henry let out a little laugh, more relief than amusement. “It means I’m hungry. I sort of forgot to eat breakfast this morning, too.”
Craig exhaled sharply. “Earthling, where are your parents?”
Even if Craig wasn’t an alien, he couldn’t have known how his question would hit Henry right in the gut. He almost preferred when the Lyrian was getting in his face. Terror was easier to handle than the weight of his grief.
When he’d been talking to Vay, it was the first time that Henry had felt anywhere close to normal in as long as he could remember. He’d been careful to avoid the topic of his parents—which was probably part of why he hadn’t learned much about her own upbringing.
“They died a couple of months ago,” Henry said. “Car accident.”
Craig’s eyebrows rose again, his jaw going slack so that his mouth hung open. “You’re an orphan?”
“I guess so, technically. But I’m self-sufficient.”
“You ventured into a cold environment without proper coverings and neglected to feed yourself.”
Henry shook his head and laughed. “Well, when you put it like that…” He wished Craig would give him a little more space “I’m dealing with it. I’m twenty-six, I can—”
“Twenty-six? As in twenty-six Earth solar cycles?”
“Yes.” Henry didn’t like the way Craig was looking at him. Was that pity? Concern? “Which means I’m an adult. I can take care of myself.”
“Obviously not.” Craig puffed out another breath, looming even closer. He slid two of his arms under Henry’s back and picked him up with no apparent effort.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking you someplace warm where there is food.”
Craig wrapped even more of his arms across Henry’s body, holding him close to his chest. His fur was unbelievably soft and warm. It was like being carried by a giant kitten. A many-armed, bizarrely protective kitten.
“This isn’t necessary,” Henry said.
“Of course it isn’t.”
It might have been Henry’s imagination, but he thought there was a bit of a purring noise coming from Craig’s chest as he spoke. The condescension came through loud and clear, even if it was intended kindly.
“I’m glad you see it that way.” He waited for Craig to put him down. Instead, the Lyrian kept walking, his stride carrying them quickly through the forest. “Um, Craig?”
“You can put me down now. Like I said, I can take care of myself.”
Craig chuckled. “Your mental acuity seems to be suffering. Perhaps you need sleep as well.”
“I don’t need sleep.”
If Henry fell asleep—which was never going to happen while he was in the care of an alien—he might miss his time with Vay later. The fact that his mind immediately went to her when he was being carried through the forest by an alien Sasquatch told him how far gone his heart already was.
“I am a full-grown adult,” Henry said.
“Nestlings are so cute at this stage. They’ve just grown their first pair of arms and think they can take on the world.”
“I don’t want to take on the— Wait, did you say first pair of arms?”
Craig ignored the statement.
“I’ve been watching you roam around the forest for a while now,” he said. “What were you looking for?”
Henry let out a defeated sigh. “You.”
“Well, then. Congratulations.”