An alien assassin could get used to life on Earth…
Zemanni has been called many things—shapeshifter, bounty hunter, assassin, Gray. But since being ripped apart by an angry Lyrian and barely managing to piece himself back together, the only word he can think of is “trapped”. Trapped in the form of Eric Peterson, and saddled with the biological needs and urges of a human—urges that center around the aggressively helpful woman giving him shelter.
Brooke knows her unhealthy need to rescue people is reaching a new level when she takes the wounded alien she finds hiding in her car back to her apartment. He’s gorgeous and rude and has glowing streaks of silver all over his body—a body he doesn’t seem to know what to do with. She has a few ideas…
After meeting Brooke, Zemanni begins to think that Earth is the perfect place to retire. Can he convince his many enemies that he’s truly out of the game, or will his past catch up to him before he can start a future with Brooke?
Main Content: Approximately 23,979 words, 118 (5.5 x 8.5) pages
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DURATION OF STAY
(THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY, Book Six)
Copyright © 2017 Cassandra Chandler
All rights reserved
“What’s your name?”
The Earthling was hovering over him. He wanted her to leave so he could deal with his humiliation privately.
“Cool.” She cleared her throat. “I mean, are you cool enough? Should I get some ice?”
“More cold water.”
“I guess they don’t have manners on your planet,” she mumbled, turning up the water to make the level rise. She took off her coat and tossed it into the hallway.
The water was heating quickly from the energy he was putting off. The parts of his body that were submerged felt better. He slid beneath the surface and let out a sigh. Through the water, he could hear the Earthling make a bothersome noise.
He remembered the form of a being with gills, and tried to modify his body so that he could siphon enough oxygen from the water to tell her to shut up. It was more out of habit than anything else, but his idiotic human body interpreted the thought as him wanting to breathe, even though he was submerged. Water rushed into his lungs.
How could it burn? It was water.
His body reacted with instincts encoded in the DNA he’d stolen from Eric Peterson—the man whose form Zemanni was trapped in. Between that, and the Earthling’s frantic attempts to pull him out of the water, he managed to sit up.
Water sprayed from his mouth and nose. He felt more burning deep in his chest. His body expelled it with coughs that wracked his body, further tiring him.
The Earthling pounded on his back, and kept repeating, “Are you okay?”
He glared at her as he sucked in breath after breath into his nearly functionless human lungs. He wondered how the species survived with only two when they were so inefficient.
Though he’d been assigned to Earth for months, he’d never stayed human this long. And without enough of the quicksilver that usually coursed through his natural form—allowing him to alter his shape at will—he couldn’t change even the simplest thing about himself.
He could feel his cells stabilizing based on the only DNA pattern they had available to them—human DNA.
“Are. You. Okay.” The woman was gripping his shoulders tightly, shaking him.
“Stop that,” he shouted.
“I’m not going to let you drown yourself in my tub.”
“I didn’t know I was going to drown.”
“How could you…” Her voice trailed off and she shook her head. “Earthlings need to breathe air.” She said the words loudly and with crisp enunciation, as if she thought he needed help to understand her.
“I know that.”
“So you were trying to drown yourself?”
“No, I… I just forgot for a moment.”
Forgot his two pathetic lungs. The single pounding organ that pumped the thin, runny blood through his human veins. His barely functional eyes and all of the hair, hair, hair everywhere, all over his body.
He grabbed a fistful of the stuff on top of his head and tugged on it, wishing he could pull off this weirdly sensitive skin. But then he couldn’t grow back another. He’d used almost every drop of quicksilver he had left in his system to piece himself back together after that Lyrian female had torn him to pieces.
“Stop.” The Earthling leaned forward, wrapping her arms around him.
At least this female only had two arms. And she didn’t seem like she was trying to kill him.
“Calm down,” she said. “I’m going to help you, if I can.”
Her embrace felt good. Comforting in a way that disgusted him. He shouldn’t need to be comforted. At the same time, the fact that she was offering… It made his chest feel tight, his internal pump—heart—suffused with strange energy.
There was a rich and powerful scent on her that flooded his awareness with her proximity.
“You smell delicious.” He wasn’t sure why he spoke the words out loud, unless it was from the sudden want surrounding the smell that flooded his senses.
His brain was different, too. His mouth, his speech centers. This stabilizing form was pushing all that he was familiar with about himself away and replacing it with feelings that were alien. Alien.
What a ridiculous species.
She jerked back from him, stumbling away until she hit the counter behind her. “You said you wouldn’t try to eat me.”
“What? No.” He shook his head, leaning heavily on his thighs. Hairy thighs. “Something on your clothing smells appealing.”
She sniffed her shirt experimentally. “All I smell is coffee.”
He’d smelled coffee before. But only when he was borrowing an Earthling’s form. Being trapped in this form was altering his perceptions to a troubling degree.
Vapor pits, he was becoming a human. He might be stuck this way forever.
His ship was destroyed, his supplies gone. He could try to negotiate with one of the groups of sentients on Earth that he’d been sent to hunt, offering an exchange of resources for the use of their communication systems. But if he managed to send a signal requesting help, his reputation would be ruined.
The greatest assassin in the galaxy, taken down by a pair of Lyrians who’d adopted an Earthling, of all things.
He’d known he was off his game. He had been ever since he’d taken on the DNA of Eric Peterson. Something in the Earthling’s genetic makeup had troubled Zemanni since the moment he’d sampled it. Strange impulses and distracting thoughts he couldn’t explain.
He’d never questioned what he did before. Never wanted more than to be the best at taking out targets and gathering power.
Now, he wanted… Zemanni didn’t understand what.
“Do you want some coffee?”
“Coffee.” She arched an eyebrow at him when he just stared at her. “Hello? What we were just talking about? It’s an Earth beverage that many of us enjoy.”
“I know what coffee is.”
“Oh my God. Did you use your shapeshifting abilities to become a giant asshole, or is that part of your natural form?”
He glared at her. She met his gaze and held it. It wasn’t something he was used to.
More strange stimulation coursed through his body—this time, primarily affecting his skin. It tingled, especially in his hands. His groin was also starting to feel…tight.
“Do you want some or not?” she said.
He needed to get more fluid into this form. With all the quicksilver he’d lost, he felt desiccated.
She turned toward the door, but stopped suddenly. “If I leave, are you going to try to drown again?”
“I wasn’t trying to drown in the first place.”
She reached for one of the silver handles above the bathtub and turned it. Cold water started spraying from a nozzle high above, like rain. The droplets stung where they struck his flesh, but the cold was soothing. She reached into the tub and pulled out a stopper that was keeping the now-warm water in place.
She smirked at him and said, “Just in case.”
As soon as she’d left the room, he muttered, “Infuriating Earthling.”