On the battlefield of desire, he has the advantage.
Eric Peterson has one goal: get his AWOL asset, Brendan, back to work on a classified communications relay his superiors want finished yesterday. When Eric tries to reconnect, a gorgeous—and strange—woman shows up in Brendan’s place, claiming to be an alien on a mission to save the planet.
Sorca has been sent to bring Eric to the Arbiter so that he can join the Department of Homeworld Security…or receive a mindwipe if he’s not interested. As the strongest soldier in the Coalition fleet, her plan is simple—ask him nicely, and if he says no, take him anyway. But the more contact she has with the Earthling, the more her thoughts turn from battling the human to bedding him.
The distraction could land them in the claws of an enemy they’ll never see coming, because Sorca isn’t the only alien on Earth. Will their missions align as well as their passions, or will they be lost to a force that no one sees coming?
Main Content: Approximately 28,303 words, 137 (5.5 x 8.5) pages
TIED UP IN CUSTOMS
(THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMEWORLD SECURITY, Book Four)
Copyright © 2017 Cassandra Chandler
All rights reserved
She laughed, bringing her free hand to his face to run a finger along his jaw. “Now, come with me. I have things to discuss with you that are not for others’ ears.”
What the hell? It was all part of the game, and he really did feel that he needed to find out what was going on. At least she’d stopped talking about “copulating”. Not that the idea was off-putting per se…
“Fine,” he said. “Take me to Brendan.”
She stepped up on her toes, sniffing Eric’s chest as she did. Her nose grazed his collarbone, setting off a chain reaction of goosebumps. Her arm was still wrapped around his waist, her body pressed against his.
She let out another of those self-satisfied purrs, but this time it was all about him. The attention was unsettling in the best and worst ways at once.
She might not be talking about copulating anymore, but he was pretty sure she was still thinking about it. Unfortunately, so was he.
“Eventually,” she said. “I wish to experience more of the pleasures your homew— Your home has to offer.”
For the first time, she’d stumbled over something, actually stopped herself instead of acting on whatever whim seemed to catch her fancy. She glanced around, as if checking to make sure no one had overheard her.
“Home-” something. What had she been about to say?
She stepped away from him, but grasped his wrist and pulled him after her. “There is a park nearby. It will give us privacy for our conversation and…rejuvenation.”
Her gaze slowly passed down his body before returning to his eyes. “Arenar is important to maintain peak efficiency.”
He let her pull him away from the wall. “Why do I have a feeling I’m going to regret this?”
“Your feeling is inaccurate. I promise you pleasure. There will be no regrets.”
He let out a laugh as he fell in step beside her. He couldn’t help himself.
“Are you always this confident?” he said.
“It is well earned.”
After they had walked for several minutes, she turned from the sidewalk onto a walking path that led into a forest. A wave of misgiving passed through him. No one was nearby, and the trail probably wasn’t heavily used this time of day. It would be a great place for an ambush.
When he hesitated, she said, “You have nothing to fear from me. I am sworn to protect you.”
That was a change from what he was used to. He was always the one cast in the role of protector.
He snorted, remembering that it was all part of the game. He started walking again, certain Brendan was somewhere in the woods, waiting for them to arrive. Eric just hoped there were no costumes involved. That would be awkward.
“Sworn to Brendan?” Eric asked.
She laughed. “Of course not. Sworn to my commanding officer, General Serath.”
“When did Brendan get the promotion?”
“I don’t understand.”
“I was making a joke. I assume Brendan will be playing the role of General Serath?”
“Playing the role?” Her eyebrows hitched up her forehead and her mouth dropped open. She started to laugh. And kept going, until she’d doubled over.
“Brendan could never pass for…” She struggled to catch her breath. “I mean…”
“Now I don’t understand,” Eric said. He felt like he should be irked, but her laughter was so pure, he felt himself smiling instead.
She shook her head as she straightened. “You will when you see Serath.”
“I look forward to it.”
“I suppose I should be calling him ‘Adam’, since that is the name he has now chosen for himself. I don’t know that I will ever think of him as anything other than Serath.”
“Have you worked with him for long?”
There was warmth in her tone when she spoke of this “Serath”. Maybe she did care about something. Odd that Eric felt a bit of a twinge at the thought of her caring for another man when they had just met and he was still fairly convinced that she was crazy.
The trail branched off, one path a gentle slope, and the other heading up at a steep angle. Sorca headed for the steep path. She was leading him deeper into the forest. The hike quickly went from pleasant to annoying as sweat trickled between his shoulder blades. She still didn’t seem winded at all.
“No one’s around,” he said. “Why don’t you tell me more about what’s going on here?” He needed to know the rules of the game if he was going to play.
“You know Brendan has been trying to contact an advanced alien species.”
Oh, here we go…
Aliens. He should have guessed it when Brendan’s note mentioned the planet being in danger. When she’d stopped herself earlier, he would bet she’d been about to say, “Homeworld”.
“Everybody needs a hobby,” Eric said. “What of it?”
“Of course he did.”
“You’re not surprised?” She glanced over at him, a puzzled look on her face.
“He’s a genius, especially with communications systems. If anyone could make contact with aliens, it would be Brendan.”
“Your faith in him is encouraging. But a knowledge of technology will not be sufficient for him to lead Earth’s First Contact Committee.”
“First contact? Oh, right. With the aliens.” Eric managed to keep himself from snorting.
Brendan and his…friend…had obviously put a lot of thought and effort into this. Sorca was absolutely throwing herself into the part. She sounded and acted like she believed every word she said. Every crazy word.
“So, are you one of those aliens he contacted?” Eric asked.
“Convenient that you happen to look like an Earthling.”
“It is.” She nodded, taking the comment totally seriously. “Being able to move about freely with most Earthlings none the wiser will assist us in protecting your planet.”
Even though it was a game, Eric still felt a tremor of misgiving flow through him. He lived every day with more knowledge of the precarious balance of human existence on Earth than most people had to deal with. The thought of aliens joining the mix—with their own ways, needs, and agendas—was unnerving.
“Brendan and Serath will provide you with the details,” she said. “But first…”
She stepped off the trail into a small clearing. The grass had actually been mowed. It grew thick where the trees didn’t block the sun overhead.
“Nice park,” he said.
She smiled at him over her shoulder, walking deeper into the field. “Kira told me about this. ‘Blades of grass’. I wish to experience it.”
“Experience it how?”
Sorca sat and untied her boots, then pulled them off and tossed them aside. Her socks quickly followed. Digging her toes into the greenery surrounding her, she let out a long sigh. The acerbic remark he’d been about to make stuck on his tongue when she smiled up at him. It was such a genuine look of happiness.
Damn, she was a good actress.
“Join me,” she said. “The blades are cool and do not cut.”
“I’m aware. This is my planet, remember?”
She laughed as she stood. “What is an everyday occurrence for you is something I have never experienced.” She looked down at her feet, lifting one then the other slowly, almost as if she was kneading the ground. “It tickles!”
For a fraction of a second, he wondered if this really was a game. Her joy seemed so authentic. He couldn’t read any signs of deceit in her expressions—and he’d been trained to detect them.
But that would mean she was an alien. That would be crazy.
“Join me.” She reached her hand to him.
This was all part of the game. Brendan was going all-out to help Eric relax and have some fun. He might as well enjoy himself.
“What the hell.” He pulled off his shoes and threw them on the pile she had created.
“And the fiber covering,” she said.
“Fiber covering? Oh, you mean my socks.”
“You really are thinking of everything.”
“It’s a simple matter. You will enjoy the grass more if it comes in direct contact with your skin. And I did promise you pleasure.”
Heat coursed through him again. There were all kinds of pleasure he could think of that he would love to enjoy with a strong, beautiful woman. Even if she seemed a little…off.
Because she was an alien.
He pulled off his socks and tossed them on the pile. The grass was cool beneath his feet, blades prickling along the sides. It did feel good, and some of his tension eased.
Sorca let Brendan’s shirt slide to the ground. Maybe she wanted to feel the wind better or—
Eric’s thoughts froze as she pulled her own shirt over her head and dropped it on the growing pile of clothing. The sun seemed to caress the smooth skin of her back, highlighting the lines of her muscles and shoulder blades. She turned, her arms stretched toward the sun, giving him a glorious view of her full breasts.
“Stars, this feels amazing,” she said.
Eric stammered for a moment, only finding words when she started to unfasten her jeans. “Sorca, what are you doing?”
“Removing my clothing. You should do the same.”
He had thought she was kidding with her talk of copulating and pleasure. But then, she certainly did look extremely happy—even with something as simple as feeling the grass on her feet and the sun on her skin.
She pushed down her jeans and stepped out of them. Instead of standing again, she dropped to the ground and stretched.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Enjoying the grass.” She propped herself up on one elbow. “What are you doing?”
Honestly? He was enjoying watching her enjoying the grass.
The sun gleamed along the line of her side and hips. He wanted to trace it with his fingers, to feel the mix of strength and softness he could see with his eyes. He wanted to roll her over in the soft grass and…copulate.