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Taken by Her Mates(4)

By:Grace Goodwin

A dark oily dread filled my gut.

“They rejected you specifically, not all Earth transport.” She sighed, and I felt like I’d just been told I was the ugliest girl in first grade. Yup, the feeling was dead on. I’d felt it before, many times when I was the one who was denied something. Friends, lovers, jobs, family. I should have been used to it, but I wasn’t. That was what made me stupid, to have hope. I hadn’t realized how much I wanted to be matched to someone, someone who was just for me until I was denied. As usual.

“There is another transport occurring right now from our Bride Processing Unit in Asia, so I know it’s not the system. For some reason, you are not being allowed to go. The message was sent by the Prime, himself.”

The Prime? What the hell was a prime?

“You mean my mate?”

She shook her head absently. “No. The Prime. The ruler of their planet. The ruler of Prillon Prime.”

His title was named after the planet itself and I was rejected by him. Great.

“Like their king?” Holy shit. Their king wasn’t going to allow me to claim my mate? I’d never met this warrior mate I’d been matched to, but he was supposed to be mine and now that I was being denied, the small kernel of hope, yup, it had been hope. Shit. The hope I’d carried in my chest fizzled and died. It hurt.

“Yes. He is the ruler of several planets, actually, and the commander of the entire interstellar fleet,” she mumbled as she looked away, unable to hold my gaze.

I cringed inwardly, nausea rising in my throat at her words. I’d been rejected by the alien king of an entire planet? Was I that bad? I was a little bossy and probably somewhat a pain in the ass. A little intense for a woman, but what woman didn’t like to shoot guns and fight bad guys? Shit. The Prime wanted some genteel prim miss for a match to Prillon. That had to be it. Was it?

My mind in a daze, I asked the only question I could. “Why? Is it because they think I’m a drug dealer?”

I’d rather be rejected as a supposed drug dealer than a tomboy.

“Miss Smith, they don’t think you’re a drug dealer. They know you are a convicted drug dealer. But no, I have sent convicted murderers off-world before. I don’t know why they are doing this.”

She shook her head sadly and pressed a series of buttons on her tablet. I was lifted further from the water, the smooth glide distracting as I looked down at my body to discover that all my hair was gone. My head ached horribly from the new implants in my skull and my mind buzzed with noise, like static electricity crackling over a speaker.

As my body was placed back on the exam chair, Warden Egara brought a dry gray blanket to drape over me. “I’m so sorry, Jessica. This has never happened before. I will have to send a formal inquiry to the Interstellar Coalition to find out what has happened.”

I was naked and dripping bluish water and I had a scratchy blanket over me, still strapped to the stupid table. How much more miserable could I get? “How long will that take?” The buzzing in my head increased.

“Several weeks, at least.” Her quiet words were suddenly like a bullhorn an inch away from my eardrum and I winced.

She tilted her head when I cringed and left me for a moment, returning with an injection tube, which she pressed to the side of my neck. I flinched.

The momentary sting was worth it, as the pain in my head faded in seconds.

“I’m sorry about your discomfort. Most brides sleep through the neurostim integration process.” She watched me, her eyes soft and round, kinder than at any time I’d seen her. I blinked at the change, then realized what she offered wasn’t concern, it was pity. I couldn’t even get shipped off planet without something going wrong.

“What’s a neurostim?”

“It’s a neural implant that allows your mind to adopt new languages and customs. You will now be able to understand and speak any new language within a few minutes, including all the languages of Earth. This technology is only meant for those going off-planet, but since it seems you are remaining, it is quite a perk.”

I blinked and tried to process what she was telling me. A perk? This was my consolation prize, the ability to speak and understand other languages? “Any language?”

She nodded once, clearly pleased with the technology, but also still confused and disappointed at my rejection. “Absolutely. Earthen or coalition.”

Since I was no longer going to a coalition planet, I didn’t figure that would do me much good. I had some kind of super-chip in my head that was going to allow me to understand foreign television programs or foreigners at the airport. Great. Just what I always dreamed about. I would have rather had a free car or a trip to Hawaii. Maybe some cash.