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Freeing Luka: Chapter 2

Alice roamed around her room and scanned the bare walls for the umpteenth time. There was no clock. There was never a clock, but she couldn’t help checking and rechecking. For all she knew, she could’ve slept for two hours or twelve.

There were very few things Alice was obsessive about. In most respects, she even considered herself laid back. Her house could be a mess without it frustrating her. Food could be slightly too cold. Wrinkled clothes weren’t a cause for concern. But not knowing what time it was always made her anxious. It wasn’t like she did anything with the information. She wasn’t rigidly early or constantly late. She just liked the comfort of knowing.

It was complete and utter bad luck that her wristwatch had stopped working the day before she’d been taken. Or had it been an omen? At the time, she hadn’t thought much of it. Just another electronic giving out after extended use. She always had her phone with her anyway, and the turquoise bicycle she rode everywhere had a watch mounted between the handlebars.

She began nibbling her short nails. Ripped from everything she knew, her whole measly existence on Earth, and she didn’t even have the small comfort of knowing the time. At this point, she’d even settle for a sundial. Her steps faltered, and she narrowed her eyes, glancing at the ceiling.

It won’t be the same sun. How long are the days on this planet?

She let out a short shriek into the empty room, fisting her hands at her sides. The one thing she could count on, the one thing that should’ve never changed, was now uncertain.

This is bullshit! she thought as she gnawed the cuticle of her index finger and continued pacing.

She was fixating on something that didn’t matter. She realized that. The fact that there was no clock wasn’t nearly as stressful as thinking about what might happen to her in here, but she couldn’t focus on that for too long without dread starting to bubble up, and this was no place to have a panic attack.

Already, every small sound she heard made her flinch and sprint into the bathroom. Any minute now, they could come through the door to take her, and she still wasn’t certain what she should do about that. Fight them tooth and nail?

Go along with it and search for an opportunity to escape, she told herself. There was no sense in fighting right now. It’d probably make things worse for her.

Trying to make herself busy, Alice tidied the already tidy room. She cleaned up the spilled water and carefully picked up the pieces of broken glass, none of which were large enough to use as a weapon, then looked around, annoyed there was nothing left to do.

The sound of approaching footsteps made her scramble toward the bathroom.

Grinding metal sounded before the door opened, and yellow eyes met hers. One of the men from yesterday glared at her. She knew his name was either Gishen or Sal, but he hadn’t been directly addressed, so she wasn’t sure which name belonged to him.

“Helas wants you to bathe. Knock on the door three times when you’re done. You’ll be given food after you’re done with Luka.” He moved to exit, not waiting for her reply, but she stopped him.

“Wait! I, uh…I don’t know how to use it,” she muttered, frustrated she had to ask her jailor for help over something that should be so simple.

She’d searched the small bathroom earlier after relieving herself to see if she could turn on the corner shower, but she hadn’t found any knobs or controls. The toilet had flushed on its own, so she’d swept her hand under the round opening in the ceiling she assumed water would come from. Nothing had happened.

Yellow eyes shot her a cruel, condescending smile. “Stupid human. Did you try standing underneath the faucet? The floor has pressure sensors, and the cleansing unit will activate automatically.”

She ground her teeth together and searched her blank mind for a good retort but found none. “Thank you…is it Gishen or Sal?”

He bristled. He must not like the fact that she knew his name. Good.

“It’s Sal.” He shot her another cold smirk. “But the only name you need to be thinking about today is Luka. He’s been in a particularly violent rage since yesterday. I’m sure he’ll be very excited to meet you.”

Alice felt the blood drain from her face. One look at Sal told her he must’ve seen it too, and she cursed the fact that he knew how his words affected her.

“I’ll be waiting outside. Don’t take long,” he said.

“Well, fuck you too,” Alice mumbled, walking to the bathroom and stripping off her jeans and T-shirt.

Seeing the state of the clothing in her hands, she decided if she survived through the day, she’d attempt to wash her clothes at night. She might be caged like an animal, but she didn’t have to feel or smell like one.

Cautiously, she placed one foot on the floor of the cleansing unit. Thick white foam poured from the faucet, rather than the water she’d expected. Alice swept her hand under the stream of foam and examined the fizzing substance tickling her skin.

“This must be what passes for a shower around here,” she said to herself, noting that the grime covering her hand had vanished wherever the thick froth bubbled.

She stepped into the falling foam, spreading it around so it coated all of her exposed skin. After she was covered, she stepped from underneath the faucet, allowing the fizzy substance to slowly pop and crackle then melt away, leaving her skin clean.

Worst. Shower. Ever.

She did her best to finger-comb her tangled hair, but the drying foam and lack of conditioner made that downright impossible, so she smoothed it as much as she could and then stood frozen, gazing at the cell door. Sal had told her to hurry, but she couldn’t seem to command her feet to move. If she didn’t go, he’d come in. It was inevitable. She might as well meet her fate with her head held high.

Eventually, she found the courage to pound on the door three times then jumped back when it opened.

Sal studied her appearance. “Did you use the toilet?”

Alice grimaced at the personal question. “That’s really none of your business.”

Leaning against the door frame, he shrugged. “Suit yourself. There’s no toilet in his cell.”

She blinked, indignation for Luka roaring through her. “Why… How… Do you expect him to just go on the floor?”

He crossed his arms over his chest defensively. “He spends his evenings in a different cell and is only brought there during the day for testing.”

She said nothing but shot him a withering glare. The distraction to her razor-thin nerves was welcome, outrage preferable to hysteria.

He held her glare for a moment, then stood aside, motioning for her to exit the room ahead of him. He didn’t move out of the doorway, so she slid by, clinging to the wall as she passed the burly alien.

His large palm wrapped around her upper arm while they walked down the hall, and she had to bite her tongue to keep from complaining.

Anxiety started to crawl up her spine. Is this my last day on Earth? A crazed giggle burst from her, and Sal shot her a perplexed look. Of course it isn’t! My last day on Earth was who knows how long ago. This might be my last day on this shitty, damned, godforsaken— Stop. Stop. Calm down. No use falling apart now. Think about something else.

“Do you know what time it is?” she asked, forcing her voice to sound polite.

He glanced sidelong at her with a scowl. “Why?”

“Because I like to know the time.”

He focused ahead of him and was silent for a moment. “You should stop caring about things like that.” His words were cruel, but they lacked venom, as if he were giving her hard advice rather than taunting her. All the same, the little bit of hope for normalcy she’d clung to dissolved.

When they reached the room a few doors away, Sal pounded on the metal twice in quick succession. Nausea rolled through her when the door opened and Helas appeared, throwing her a toothy smile. Today he wore another jacket in a lighter shade of yellow. Maybe it was an alien version of a lab coat. Or maybe he has the worst sense of style in the universe.

“Thank you, Sal. Please put her in the room,” he said, moving out of the doorway.

Sal shoved her unceremoniously into the small cell, less than half the size of hers. In a flash, she hunched over, pulling her arms in protectively and balling her fists. Her eyes flew to the chained man kneeling on the floor only a few feet away. His large arms were shackled behind his back, and his head lolled in front of him. Was he asleep?

“Don’t worry,” Helas announced. “He’s passed out for now. I’ll wake him when I get to the control room.”

She glanced at Helas, then back to the man. Even slumped, she could tell he was huge. His bare chest and torso were heavily muscled, and although he was kneeling, his head rose to her rib cage. He had to be well over six feet when standing.

Her breathing quickened, and her throat felt like it was constricting. She lunged toward Helas and the door. Luka was too large. What if he broke free?

Helas shoved her to the floor. “You will stay here. He’s chained to the wall. If his marks appear, I’ll let you out.”

Luka grunted in sleep, and she stilled, eyes wide.

“Looks like he’s waking up,” Helas exclaimed, clapping his hands together. “I’d better get to the control room. I’ll be watching.” He pointed above the doorway to a small lens mounted on the stone.

Before she could move, the door was closed and locked.

Alice sat perfectly still in the corner of the room for long moments, watching the man and trying to control her breathing. Cold sweat broke out over her body.

He can’t get free, she reminded herself, examining the taut chain connecting his shackled wrists to the wall behind him.

When she’d first glimpsed Luka, he’d been completely naked. Now, she was relieved to see, he wore soft, loose pants that hung low on his hips.

Her eyes were drawn to a large bruise running along his rib cage. Anger flared in her again. Had they kicked him? As she scanned his body, she saw his pale tattoos curving around other small cuts and bruises, some almost healed, some fresh.

She began to relax. This abused man, Luka, wasn’t her enemy. She needed to remember that. He was a prisoner just like her. Maybe he isn’t as dangerous as Helas made him out to be. They were probably trying to scare me. Even as she thought this, the memory of Luka snarling as his black eyes bored into her crossed her mind, and her panic resume.

A loud zap echoed in the small room, making the chains rattle. Luka’s body seized, and then he bellowed in pain, struggling to get out of his chains before abruptly stilling.

He turned his head toward her, and through his dark brown tangled hair she saw his eyes focus on her. His pupils were so dilated that she could only make out the faintest hint of icy-blue iris. As she watched, both the whites of his eyes and the iris were enveloped in black.

His nostrils flared, and he tried to turn his body more fully toward her. The deep black of his eyes and the wildness of his appearance made him look like something out of a horror film. Alice’s throat constricted. She swung her focus to the ground, unable to hold his unnatural gaze.

“That m-means you r-recognize me, right?” Her voice shook with fear even as she tried to keep calm.

Glancing up, she found he’d tilted his head at her like an animal.

She inhaled as deeply as she could, but she couldn’t seem to catch her breath.

He started to tug at his hands, rattling the chain. When she scooted farther away, tears blurring her vision, he snarled and began to struggle harder. His muscles strained with the effort, and he never took his eyes off her.

An ominous groan from the metal base the chain was attached to had her tucking her body into a ball. She threw her hands around her head and began to rock.

No, no, no. He was going to break free, and if he had the strength to break free, he’d surely rip her apart, whether he meant to or not.

Tears dripped onto her denim-clad thighs as she waited for the sound of snapping metal, but it never came. With her head still tucked protectively against her hands, she raised her eyes a few inches to see what had happened to Luka.

He was breathing heavily and straining against his chains, but he’d stopped trying to break free. When he saw her face, his brows drew together. He blinked and shook his head like he was attempting to clear it.

Through the curtain of tangled hair, he peered at her again. His eyes were still black, but they looked more aware than they had a moment ago.

“Are you still in there, Luka?” she asked quietly.

His lids narrowed, but he didn’t answer.

He could’ve broken free just then; they both knew it. He’d stopped, though, controlled himself. “Thank you for stopping.”

Luka seemed to relax incrementally when she spoke, so between her short breaths, she kept talking.

“How long have you been here? Were you captured, or is holding people hostage normal on this planet?” Unsurprisingly, he didn’t answer, but she found talking to him had a calming effect on her too. Her heartbeat slowed to a normal rate, and her breaths grew even.

Judging from the dark matted hair that hung in front of his face, he’d been here a while. She found herself longing to push his hair back and look at him more fully.

Since it appeared to calm him and definitely calmed her, she continued speaking out loud. “Are you not answering because you can’t understand me, or because the drug in your system is messing with your mind?” Alice scooted an inch toward him.

For as long as she could remember, Alice had always held a soft spot for injured and broken things. Her mother, along with her friends at work and school, had constantly chided her for being too nice. When she was a child, she remembered walking around their house, looking for bugs to catch and release into the wild. Her mother hated bugs and killed them on sight.

As she got older, and rescuing bugs had turned into rehabilitating small injured animals, Alice had decided she wanted to become a veterinarian. At present, she was putting herself through college by working at a sleazy bar.

If there was ever a creature in more need of help and tenderness than Luka, she couldn’t imagine it. She studied him, her heart breaking more as each new injury was revealed.

Even dirtied and bruised, she could tell he was handsome. His shoulders and chest were broad and chiseled. The pearlescent markings she’d seen on Mr. Yellow-Eyes, Sal, and Helas also ran over Luka, but in a different pattern. They were vine-like and curved over his body, delicate against his overall powerful physique. Her eyes followed one particularly beautiful marking as it trailed down his six pack and disappeared beneath his pant line.

Alice gasped, and her gaze darted to the ceiling, her cheeks heating, when she noticed the outline of a huge erection could be seen through his thin pants. Whatever drug they’d given him must really be working.

“Come, female,” a deep, rough voice said, startling her.

Goosebumps spread over her skin at his rumbled command, and for a moment, she had the inexplicable urge to do as he said. “Uh, no thanks. I’m good right here,” she said, with an awkward chuckle.

“Come!” he commanded, giving his chains a hard, fast tug.

When she still didn’t move, he began pulling on his chains with more force. Alice couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or bad thing that he seemed to know what he was doing. On the one hand, he was threatening her by showing he’d break his chains if she didn’t get closer. On the other, it meant he wasn’t completely lost to whatever drug coursed through his system. Luka was still making decisions, and she hoped that meant he had more control over himself than she’d been led to believe.

When the metal gave another low groan, she blurted, “Okay!”

Slowly, she scooted toward him, ready to bolt at any second. When she was within a few feet, she stopped.

He growled low in his throat. “Closer.”

Heartbeat pounding furiously, she moved until they were separated by only a foot and waited.

Why did he want her to come to him? So far, he wasn’t trying to do anything to her. He just looked her over. His gaze traveled up and down her body, lingering where all men’s gazes lingered. She chuckled to herself. I guess boobs are universally appealing.

When his stare returned to her face, he attempted to shake the strands of hair out of his eyes fruitlessly.

Without thinking, she reached up and smoothed the dark brown mass back, making sure she didn’t pull at any tangles.

The bone structure she uncovered was gorgeous. Dark, heavy brows framed his black eyes. A small white tattoo wound its way from his forehead to his high cheekbone. When she started to pull her hand away, he leaned his cheek into her palm and closed his eyes.

He looked like he was deeply savoring this simple touch, and it made Alice’s heart squeeze painfully in her chest. After being locked up for so long, Luka probably needed a little gentleness. Surprise, followed by warmth, spread through her when she heard a rumbling purr emanate from his chest.

“You’re just a big, scary cat, aren’t you,” she whispered.

Eyes flashing open, he turned his mouth toward her hand and gave her lower palm a hot, wet kiss. A jolt of pleasure shot to her core. She pulled her hand away, clutching it to her chest.

He gave a weak growl and leaned toward her as far as he could.

She held up what she hoped was a stern finger. “Nope!” Her breath was shaky as she spoke, and his eyes focused on her waggling finger. “We aren’t going to be doing any of that. You’re not in the right state of mind, and I don’t even know you.”

His eyes narrowed at her words, but he did sit back.

She let out a relieved sigh. “Good boy, tiger.”

This could work, she thought hopefully.

Luka didn’t seem to be able to understand most of what she said, but he could speak a little and backed off when she told him to. Maybe coming in here every day and talking with him wouldn’t be so bad.

Oddly, out of the few aliens she’d met so far, Luka made her feel the safest. He was turned on and could get out of his chains at any minute, but he hadn’t. Apart from the scalding kiss to her palm, which she could still feel and had liked way too much for her own good, he hadn’t done anything too bad to her.

If he thought he was her mate, would he even be protective of her? It’d make sense. On Earth, male animals protected the females. It was instinct. Maybe it was in her best interest to get those marks to show up after all.

Helas had said Luka’s mating marks would appear on his hands and wrists. She craned her neck, trying to peek behind him, but his hands were bound too tightly. She’d have to crawl around him in order to get a good look, and she didn’t trust him enough to do that yet.

“My name is Alice. Your name is Luka,” she said, motioning first to herself, then to him.

He tilted his head again but didn’t respond.

“It’s okay.” She tried to make her voice reassuring, “I can just talk for both of us. I’m good at that.”

A low grinding from the door sounded, smothering the calmness she’d been feeling. Alice dashed into the corner when the door to the cell opened, revealing a pleased Helas and Sal.

Luka snarled and began pulling on his chains, struggling toward her.

“Secure him!” Helas barked.

Sal ran forward and attempted to zap Luka with a long metallic stick, but Luka rammed his shoulder into the man’s belly. The force of the blow caused his chains to break.

Keeping his eyes on Helas and Sal, Luka backed up into the corner in front of Alice.

Is he shielding me?

Finally, back on his feet, Sal retrieved the metal stick from the floor and limped to Luka, his gaze flashing toward Alice momentarily. Had that been fear for her illuminated in his eyes? Can’t be.

Helas removed a slim silver weapon of his own and began stalking toward them. Luka crouched further, ready to pounce.

“Luka, stop! They’re gonna hurt you!” Alice cried from behind him.

When the men were within arm’s reach, Luka lunged, using his body weight and legs to land blows on each man. Alice couldn’t help but marvel at the strength and skill he was able to access even with his arms tied behind his back.

As he shot his leg out behind him, connecting solidly with Sal’s chest, Helas shoved the metal stick into Luka’s bruised ribs, making him roar in pain and convulse. Before he could get his bearings, Sal had joined Helas and was shocking him from the other side.

Excruciating seconds passed, then Luka fell to his knees, his eyes glued to Alice’s.

“You’re going to kill him! Stop!” she screamed, tears running down her cheeks.

When he was lying on the floor, unable to hold himself up, Helas took a small cylinder out of his pocket and sprayed a fine mist in Luka’s face. Almost instantly, his body went limp.

“Get her to her cell,” Helas said, letting loose a savage kick to Luka’s ribs.

As Sal passed him to retrieve her, he looked down at Luka with a sneer.

Alice ran forward, dodging Sal, and pulled at Helas’ arm, trying to put distance between him and the motionless Luka, but it was no use. Everyone here was so much stronger than her. She’d always been content with being gangly and just a little too thin, but right now, she detested her slight frame, how weak she wasThey could beat him to death, and all she’d be able to do was watch.

Her measly efforts seemed to have some effect, because Helas shrugged her off and turned to exit through the open door. Sal followed, grabbing her roughly by the arm. With a grimace, he dragged her out of the room, down the hall, and to her cell, ignoring her pleas to make sure Luka was alright.

He pushed her through her open cell door, but before releasing her, hissed, “Stop!” Darting a glance over his shoulder, he continued, “You need to be worried about yourself. Follow the rules.” He held her stare, inhaling deeply. Before closing the door in her face, he whispered, “You can’t help him.”

Once alone, Alice’s gaze whizzed around unseeing, and salty tears poured down her cheeks. She was furious they’d injured Luka and miserable that she couldn’t do anything about it. She felt so helpless…was so helpless.

Alice forced herself to ponder Sal’s parting words. Was he right?

She began pacing around her room, absently rubbing her palm on her hip. Under the circumstances, Luka had been incredibly controlled, but as soon as he’d gotten free, he’d lost that control. He’d fought without thinking, maybe out of some instinct to protect her, but it’d been stupid. There was no way he could’ve won in his drugged state. How many more impulsive things would he do? As she thought, her gaze kept slipping toward the wall in the direction of Luka’s cell.

Don’t think about him! Already she could feel herself caring more about his safety than her own, and in a place like this, that was stupid. She inwardly cursed. She’d jumped into the fray today. How idiotic had that been? There was a difference between standing up for someone and putting yourself in the line of fire. Helas had only flung her away this time, but what if he got angry with her next time and hurt her? She wouldn’t put it past him.

If she didn’t watch out for herself, both physically and mentally, she wouldn’t survive. What would happen to her sanity if she got too attached to Luka, became too invested in his well-being, just to have Helas decide he didn’t need Luka anymore?

Sal’s words from earlier replayed in her mind: “You should stop caring about things like that.”

Nothing was certain here. Not time, not Luka, and not her future. She needed to start doing what she was rarely able to do. She had to try and put herself first, even if it meant being cold and uncaring.

Her head bowed. “Luka doesn’t deserve that.” Steeling herself and clenching her fists, she attempted to lock down her emotions. “It doesn’t matter what he deserves. None of us deserve this. I need to look out for myself, like Mom said.” She began pacing and biting her nails. “He probably isn’t even a good guy. He protected me, but I’m just an object to him. He doesn’t care about what I want.”

She knew her words were lies the moment she uttered them. An unwelcome whisper snaked through her mind. He did care.

Taking a few deep breaths, she attempted to calm her warring emotions.

She looked down at the palm he’d kissed and felt the telltale flutter of butterflies in her stomach.



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