Resisting Maxu: Chapter 10

Nothing about this day had gone according to plan. Meg averted her gaze as yet another pair of angry eyes landed on her. According to the Vondalese, she’d gone from fun-loving single girl to mated, heartbreaking bitch in less than twenty-four hours.

Camille was trying to say something to her, but she couldn’t concentrate. For the zillionth time, she glanced over her shoulder, scanning the crowd for him.

Maxu, the hulking ghost of the hallway, had set up permanent residence in her mind. She’d been jittery all day, always searching for his scowling face around every corner. Each second she’d been sure he’d pop into whatever room she was occupying and haul her away while everyone watching did absolutely fucking nothing. And what was worse? He hadn’t appeared.

By midday, Meg’s nerves were so worn that she’d almost wished he’d show up. Just so she knew where he was. The suspense was too much.

On top of the constant paranoia that she was being watched, she’d also received crappy treatment from the Vondalese people. News of Maxu’s appearance and of her blatant dismissal of his mating claim had rallied the city against her. Their interview this afternoon had turned into nothing more than a thinly veiled roast of her morals.

What reason would a human have for disparaging the sacred honor of matehood?

Are most humans selfish?

She’d taken the blows through gritted teeth. Remained stony faced as the Vondale citizens leveled her with dirty looks. It felt like everyone was against her again. The pressure raining down on all sides was bringing up memories from her past that she wished would stay buried.

Neighbors at her church shooting her dirty looks after news had spread of her dalliance with Jeremy. Their pastor coming to her house to urge her to do the right thing. But it wasn’t just a small Midwest town looking at her as if she were garbage now, it was an advanced alien city.

How had this happened again? How had her hesitance to devote herself to a man, a stranger turned her into a cruel, selfish brat in everyone’s eyes? Their accusing stares and harsh whispers were breaking her apart little by little. The only thing keeping the tears at bay was the layer of anger she wrapped herself in.

She just had one more night in this fucked-up city. Tomorrow morning they’d leave, and she’d finally get a reprieve…from them at least. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do about her so-called mate. She took another deep swig from her glass and inhaled a thick breath. Just get through tonight.

At least she looked killer in the ruby-red frock she’d picked. The dress, with its mid-calf length, high collar, and long sleeves, might almost be called modest compared to the other outfits she’d been wearing. But the boning around her hips and waist, paired with the armpit-to-thigh slits held together by red laces, gave her a femme-fatale look that emboldened her. Well, that and the hard liquor she was downing like water on an empty stomach.

Does he like red?

The errant thought had her small sense of pride fizzling to nothing. No. She didn’t care what he liked. She hoped he hated red. She glanced around the party again, pointedly ignoring the sneer coming from Bantio, the man she’d flirted with yesterday before Maxu had dropped into her life like a grenade.

On some level, she knew he was her mate and that she’d have to acknowledge that reality sooner or later, but she couldn’t deal right now. She was too raw. Too panicked. She was a dog being backed into a corner, but this time, she wouldn’t cower and show her belly. She’d bite.

“Woman, hello?”

Meg peered up and found her human entourage staring at her. At least she had them. They’d been so supportive of her at the interview. Defending her actions and explaining the correct ways in which a Clecanian should approach their mate if they recognized them. Her heart had hurt with gratitude at their efforts. But she’d told them to stop before they’d left for the party.

Their defense of her was sweet, but it had only seemed to turn the Vondalese people against the rest of the humans in addition to Meg. They couldn’t accept that any human might defend the rejection of a mate, and her friends’ arguments only served to paint humans in a bad light. As creatures without understanding or compassion.

Yup. She was over Vondale and its judgmental citizens. If Maxu showed up right now, lifted her skirt, and bent her over this table, they’d probably cheer.

Meg downed the rest of her drink and scowled into her empty glass. Why the fuck did she keep visualizing scenarios like that? And why the fuck did it continue to send a flutter through her belly and a pulse through her core?

“What were you saying?” she asked, trying to force herself not to give into the impulse to glance over her shoulder again.

“What did you talk about after you were escorted from the party?” Sophia asked.

She hadn’t yet explained everything to her travel companions. Some of the women hadn’t even seen the ruckus yesterday, and she could make out the curiosity burning in their expressions. She relayed everything with a slight slur, wobbling on her heels.

There were a few moments of silence before Lucy whispered, “Did you feel anything? Like, does the mating instinct exist in you at all?”

What a complicated question. One her brain was not currently functional enough to tackle. She felt…something. A pull that forced her to think about him more than normal. “So back in Indiana, there was this diner me and—” Meg cleared her throat. She’d been a breath away from mentioning Jeremy. “That I used to go to, and this one time I went, the waiter handed me my check and it was wrong. I told him it was wrong. That I hadn’t ordered a side of hashbrowns, but he kept insisting I did. We argued about it until finally the manager came by and spoke to the kitchen. I was right, but that damn pimply waiter didn’t apologize or anything. Just said he’d take the charge off and left.”

“Okay,” Camille said slowly. She and Tara exchanged a worried glance. They must’ve thought she was losing her mind.

“It’ll make sense, I promise,” Meg assured. She frowned as she caught herself scanning the crowd again and continued. “Well, that happened, like, six years ago and it still sometimes pops into my head randomly. I’ll just be living my life and suddenly boom, this sour-faced waiter appears in my head and totally fucks with my mood. I end up thinking about what I should have said and how embarrassed I felt.” How Jeremy had just sat back and let her argue for him rather than defending her. Not even to corroborate the fact they hadn’t ordered the extra side. “It was so stupid and it doesn’t matter at all, but my brain keeps bringing it up. Do you guys have anything like that?”

Tara snorted. “Do I replay old fights in my head and torture myself over how I should have done them differently? I’m a woman. Of course I do.” The other women in the group chuckled.

“Well, that’s what it’s like. He keeps popping up in my thoughts, but not in a positive way. It’s like the connection is there, and every so often my brain just wants to remind me that he exists and that I’m in this shitty situation. It’s like I can’t not think about him or stew about him. It isn’t fun or romantic. I don’t feel like I’ve met my soulmate. I feel like I just discovered an inoperable tumor.” Meg’s words grew more heated and harsh as she spoke, her throat constricting with each word.

“Don’t hold anything back now,” Camille chuckled.

“So, you don’t like this guy at all?” Sophia asked in a higher pitch than normal. “You don’t find him attractive at least?”

Meg scowled down at her toes. “No,” she lied. “How can I like a tumor?”

“If you manage to stay strong on that, I’ll sell my right tit,” Lucy murmured.

Meg’s face scrunched in confusion. “What?” She found all four women staring at something behind her, and goose bumps flared over her neck.

“Your boy is here, and he cleaned up reeeeaaaal good.” Lucy’s gaze was fixed over Meg’s shoulder, and she was practically salivating.

“I’m a lesbian, but…I get it.” Tara’s brows just about disappeared into her hair line as she tried to take a drink while keeping Maxu in sight.

Meg froze. She’d stay strong. It didn’t matter how he looked. He’d been the world’s biggest asshole yesterday. He wants to take me away. Control me, she reminded herself firmly.

Awareness skittered over her back a moment before someone’s body heat invaded her personal-space bubble and melted against her spine.

“Hello.” His deep baritone slipped over her skin. Meg’s pulse picked up speed.

A few breathy hellos floated out of her so-called friends. Traitors, she grumbled to herself.

Taking a deep inhale, she gave a quick nod over her shoulder. Two seconds, if that. She only let herself look for two seconds before facing forward again, and yet her mouth had gone dry.

He was clean shaven. His dark hair combed, trimmed, and styled into a slick side-parted masterpiece that both showcased the thickness of his hair and his widow’s peak. With his chiseled jaw, full lips, and unfairly light eyes, he looked like he’d just stepped off an old Hollywood red carpet.

Meg concentrated on her glass, curling her toes to keep her reaction to him in check. How fucking dare he look so damn hot. It was unfair.

He must’ve realized she had no intention of turning around again because he stepped to her side and held out a glass of the exact liquor she’d been drinking. “I noticed you were empty.”

She wanted to accept the glass. Her dry throat sorely needed some lubrication, but she’d let her windpipe crack and blister before taking it. It was a crazy comparison, but something in her drunken emotional mind likened accepting this drink to accepting him. And she couldn’t do that. “No, thank you.”

His long thick fingers and the blue markings circling them held the glass out for a moment longer. “Very well.” There was a slight grunt to his voice, as if he were annoyed with her refusal. She darted an irritated look at him to show the feeling was mutual, and she was snared.

Maxu lifted her glass to his perfectly formed lips, slid his eyes closed, and tipped the amber liquid into his mouth. The high black collar of his shirt climbed halfway up his tanned neck. Bright white birthmarks crept out of his collar and came to a point along his jaw.

Meg couldn’t stop her gaze from fixating on the thick muscles of his throat as they worked to swallow the liquor in one gulp. Spine straight, he lowered the glass, looked down his nose at her, and released a slow rumble of approval.

She didn’t know if the sound was meant to praise the quality of the drink or her, but Meg shivered all the same. Inky black crept into the corners of his pale eyes as they traveled over her face and rested on her mouth.

Meg slammed her lips together, only now realizing they’d been parted in awe as she watched Maxu simply exist. She turned back to her friends, hoping for some sympathy, but all wore identical mischievous half grins. Like her life was some gasp-worthy reality TV show they were watching play out before their eyes.

She needed to get ahold of herself. Put him in his place. She aimed a saccharine smile his way and jiggled her glass between her fingers. “Looks like I need a refill. I’m going to go get myself a drink.”

A hushed “oooh” that raised in pitch near the end echoed from one of the women behind her as she turned on her heel and power walked to the automated bar. Don’t trip. Don’t trip. Don’t trip.

She managed to make it to the machine without too much tottering and programed in her drink of choice. She could sense him closing in even before he brushed against her arm. “Meg. Will you face me?”

Her jaw tightened. Was he asking? Calmly?

“Please.” She could almost feel the effort it had taken him to push that one word out.

Taking a drink to steel herself, she turned and tipped her chin up so she could meet his gaze. His jacket buttoned on his shoulder and hugged his wide chest. The tailor had known what they were doing. It was simple yet angular. Cut in such a way that Meg’s primal brain screamed to see if the body underneath could possibly be as wide and thick as the lines of the jacket made him out to be.

“Yes?” she croaked.

A muscle ticked in his jaw. “I…” His heavy brows slashed down over his eyes. “Apologize for yesterday.”

Her focus caught on a vein throbbing in his throat. “Really?” she said with a raised brow, taking in the hard set of his jaw and the rigidness of his stance. “Because it feels like you’re apologizing with a gun to your head.”

His gaze shot to the sky, searching for patience. When he peered back down at her, he’d placed a terrifying smile on his face, though she thought he might mean it to be reassuring. “I am. I shouldn’t have approached you in that way. I’d been searching for weeks, and I’d been locked up before that…” His words died and his Adam’s apple bobbed. “Let’s just say I was a little out of my mind.”

Locked up? Could this get any worse? What had he been locked up for?

He took a step closer to her, hands raised on either side of her arms. She tensed instantly. His nostrils flared, and he licked his lips, rubbing them together in a slow movement full of frustration. His hands dropped. “I’d like to start over with you. If I—”

“Hello.” Bantio walked up and grinned at Maxu. “I wanted to come introduce myself and congratulate you on your marks.”

Bantio refused to look her way. She took another sip to hide her glower. Maybe Maxu had done her a favor. She’d almost taken this asshole back to her room without ever knowing what a dick he truly was.

Meg glanced back at Maxu, who’d become as still as stone. She didn’t know whether to be worried or chuckle at the scene. Dark warning radiated off her mate as he continued to stare directly at her, his head slightly bent as it had been when he’d been interrupted. The vein in his neck bulged and the muscles in his jaw worked as if he was gathering every ounce of willpower he had.

She tucked one hand into the crook of her elbow and let her drink dangle loosely at chin height. With a curious brow lift to Maxu, she waited to see what he would do. His eyes raced between hers as if he was trying to gauge what she expected from him.

Finally, a mask descended over his features, and he straightened. He gave a small smile and nod toward the man, who was wildly unaware of the thick tension rolling off Maxu in waves. “I appreciate that. Thank you.” He turned back to Meg determinedly, but Bantio didn’t take the hint.

“Yeah, I also wanted to apologize for yesterday. She told me she had no mate. She insisted, actually.”

The urge to argue rose in her throat, but she’d tried and tried over the course of the day with no success. These people believed what they wanted to believe. For the first time, though, Meg didn’t feel overlooked because she was a woman. It was clear his poor opinion was due to her humanness. She couldn’t decide if that was a step up or not.

“I understand,” Maxu rasped, the rumble in his voice dangerously close to a growl. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, I’m trying to have a conversation with my mate.”

“Of course! Of course! And for the record, I really hope things improve for you. I mean, to be locked together with a female who lies like that—”

Meg hadn’t yet had the opportunity to be offended by the little leech’s words when Maxu’s fist flashed out and connected with the man’s throat. She stared in horror as Bantio collapsed, clutching at his neck and making pitiful gurgling sounds.

Partygoers nearby rushed over to help, staring between her and Maxu with thunderstruck expressions. When she finally tore her gaze away from the man still struggling to get air through his windpipe, she found Maxu’s eyes closed again. A slight wince on his face, as though he knew he’d made a mistake.

“Nope.” Meg downed the rest of her drink, dropped the glass onto the table and hustled toward the exit. She heard a strangled roar behind her and picked up her pace. “I’m out,” she called to Daunet, who’d watched the entire conversation escalate while chatting with Heleax.

“Okay. Let’s—”

“I’ll escort her,” Maxu’s harsh growl interrupted Daunet, and Meg skidded to a halt. She spun and eyed her guard, her friend. Daunet’s gaze bounced between them before finally settling on Meg. She wanted to shriek at the apologetic look Daunet was giving her. Her guard nodded to Maxu and remained in place, allowing the last person on this planet she wanted following her home to follow her home.

Meg power walked as quickly as she could on the five-inch heels she’d been so excited to wear yesterday. Heels were rare on this planet but common in Vondale. On Earth, she’d seldom had the opportunity to wear flashy heels, so she’d jumped at the chance to strap on the sexy red shoes. She regretted her decision now as the point caught on an uneven bit of ground. Her ankle twisted before she caught herself and continued stomping away.

“Wait. Please.”

Meg scoffed without turning around. “Only you can make the word please sound like a command, I swear.”

He huffed at her back and fell into step beside her. Cheeks already flaming from her almost fall, they burned even hotter when she caught his slow gait. She was almost out of breath, practically sprinting, and he was moving at a stroll. Pushing her shoulders back, she tried to walk faster.

“I couldn’t help it. He insulted you.”

“So you crushed his windpipe?” She wheezed out a laugh.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him shrug. “I would’ve preferred to tear it out, but I assumed you’d be unhappy about that.”

Meg lurched to a halt. He gripped her elbow when she stumbled backward, but she wrenched it out of his hold. “That doesn’t make me feel better.” Her chest heaved and beads of sweat dripped down her spine. “What are you going to do? Throat-punch every guy who’s a dick to me?”

“I’m not unreasonable, female.” His eyes narrowed at her and a stubborn frown darkened his features. “Please, let me know where you’d like me to punch him instead, and I’ll be sure to aim there next time.”

“Ha-ha,” she said without humor. She caught enough of her breath to walk again, but he grabbed her arm before she could start down the hallway.

“You’re going to break your ankle.” He grunted. She squawked as he scooped her into his arms and set off in the direction of her room.

“Put me down.” She wriggled in his hold, but it was of no use. His grip on her thighs and rib cage was unbreakable.

“Stop flailing, or I’ll throw you over my shoulder.”

“You wouldn’t.”

He shot her a dark grin. “Wouldn’t plant your pert ass right next to my face? It’s all I want to do. Just give me a reason.”

The words had heat coursing through her belly, and a small part of her wanted to keep squirming to see what he’d do. But that must’ve been the alcohol talking. Instead, she crossed her arms over her chest and stared ahead.

He carried her through the halls silently, but she could feel his gaze searing her. Meg tried not to notice the warm muscles of his torso rubbing against her side as he walked. She breathed through her mouth to keep his scent from making her dizzy. Musk and earth and something herbal she couldn’t place.

“You look beautiful tonight. I didn’t get the chance to tell you before.”

She wished he would stop rumbling his words like that. Each one shot sparks through her bloodstream, making it bubble like champagne. His stupid voice. She was sure that was why his compliment almost made her want to grin. “What about my silly shoes?”

“Are they silly?”

She’d hoped her comment would make him spew something about how ridiculous the heels were. How it was just like a woman to wear something so painful and then need to be carried home. “They’re pretty impractical,” she pushed. Just say something annoying so I can remember not to like being carried by you.

His hand flexed on her knees, and one fingertip found bare skin under the hem of her dress. Meg inhaled a deep breath when he brushed his thumb over the side of her calf. That’s an erogenous zone I didn’t know I had.

“Well?” she prodded when he didn’t answer.

He glanced down at her, the side of his mouth curling upward. “You don’t want to know my thoughts on the matter.”

Some of the heat pooling in her core cooled at that. “Yes, I do.”

“Well, to me something impractical serves no good purpose.” He cleared his throat. “I watched you walk away from me several times tonight, and I can tell you from where I was standing, they served a very useful purpose.”

It took Meg a moment to understand what he was saying. When she did, the heat between her legs and on her cheeks rushed back.

He let out a short growl and grinned. “Or maybe you did want to know my thoughts.”

“What do you mean?”

He met her gaze, and she was transfixed by the devastating combination of seafoam-green eyes and even white teeth. He bent his head, inhaling, then brushed his nose with hers before retreating an inch. “I can smell you. Remember?”

Meg could only blink at him, heart thundering in her chest a mile a minute.

No. No. No. She forced her gaze away. Stay strong.

They’d reached the last turn before her hallway, passing the curious guards keeping all other people trying to visit the humans wing at bay. Maxu’s steps slowed. He was stalling.

“I could walk faster than this on my own.”

Rather than respond to her complaint, he slowed even more. “I won’t force you back to Tremanta with me.”

Her thinned lips relaxed as she searched his expression. Was he being serious?

“I realize it wasn’t right of me to demand you abandon your work simply because I want you to.” His jaw was tight, features stony, but she sensed it was because he was uncomfortable, not disingenuous. How often did a man like this concede defeat or apologize?

He’d stopped moving altogether, and Meg realized they’d reached her door. The muscles of his throat worked, and he squeezed her against his body for a moment, as if fighting with himself to let her go. Finally he did, setting her on her feet and taking the smallest of steps away.

“I really appreciate that.” She rested a hand on his arm and tried to inject her tone with the gratitude she felt. A weight had lifted at his words. If he was telling the truth, that meant she could stop flinching every time a new person appeared in the room. She wouldn’t have the constant worry that at any second, she’d be spirited away.

Maxu’s gaze riveted to her hand where she touched him. Black crept in at the corners of his eyes.

With a cough, she let her fingers fall to her side. Now that the threat of being carried off like a cavewoman was gone, something about Maxu softened. Her panic had clouded it before, but he wasn’t so bad. He had a temper. In all honesty, so did she. He was handsome and broody and handsome and willing to admit when he was wrong…and handsome.

“I’m sorry I bit you,” she grumbled with a half smile. “I hope I didn’t cause too much damage. Is it all healed now?”

The hard slash of his brows relaxed as she spoke. He lifted his hand, and she could just make out a half moon of pale scars. She winced. “Oh no. They weren’t able to fix the scars?”

Wait, that didn’t make any sense. The doctors and technology here could fix almost anything.

His gaze turned heated as he studied the teeth marks on his hand. “I asked them not to. I enjoy seeing them.”

Meg’s breath caught in her throat. Was that hot or psychotic? Her mind couldn’t quite decide. Her heartbeat, now pulsing warmly between her legs, told Meg her body had made a choice, though. “You’re an odd duck, aren’t you?”

With one smooth step, he invaded her bubble again. His head dipped, and he brushed his cheek against hers, pointedly inhaling. Tingles broke out over her scalp, her breaths shallow.

“I don’t know what a duck is, but if I am, then so are you.” His hot breath brushed over her ear.

Heart racing and cheeks hot, Meg dug her nails into her palms. It would be a bad idea to reach out and pull him down for a kiss. Sure, he was her mate, but he’d just told her he was going to give her some space. Running her hands up his shoulders would only send the wrong message.

It was a good thing he was going away. Meg didn’t know how she’d keep herself from pouncing on him like an animal in heat otherwise.

“Um…so, when are you leaving?” she breathed, trying to ignore the forward sway of her body when he straightened away from her.

“Leaving?” A flash of something akin to hurt altered his calm expression for an instant.

Her brows furrowed. “Yeah. I think it’s a good idea we take some space from each other. I realize you’re my mate and we’ll have to figure out some system to deal with that in the future, but you offering to leave me for now really takes a load off my mind. I feel like I can breathe, you know?”

He let out a dark chuckle that made her hair stand on end. “I’m not going anywhere, vahpti.”

Meg blinked at him. “But…you said—”

“I said I wouldn’t force you home with me. I didn’t say anything about leaving you.” His tone was firm, gruff. “You’re my mate. I’m not going to let you out of my sight.”

His words came down on her like a boot squashing her moment of relief under its heel. Anger bubbled in her stomach. How could she have been so stupid? Of course he wasn’t going to give her space. “What are you going to do? Stalk me around the world?”

“Yes,” he answered simply.

Meg took in a long breath. Maybe this could still be salvaged. He’d been reasonable a minute ago. A man who could admit when he was wrong was the kind of man who’d listen to sense, wasn’t he?

“Look,” she forced a smile, “I understand it will be hard to ignore the bond. Maybe you could come see me once a week. That would relieve those side effects while also giving me the space I’m asking for.”

His chin lifted, and for a moment she thought he might consider it.

“No.” The single word was as hard as cement.

Meg stomped her foot. “You can’t just say no! Does it matter to you at all what I want?”

Maxu considered her for a moment. She wanted to scream when he took in her outraged glare and grinned. “It matters very much to me what you want. But how am I to learn what you want—what you really want—if I’m gone?”

Meg jerked her head back. “Is my translator broken or something?” She tapped her ear sarcastically. “Testing. One, two, three.”

“We’re mated now, and I don’t believe acting as if we aren’t is beneficial for either of us. Besides, I need to stay close by to make sure you’re safe.”

“That’s a bullshit excuse. I have guards, and every city provides guards as well.”

He shrugged and took a step back. “Even with all your guards, I was able to get to you.”

“That’s different,” she sputtered, following him as he continued to back away. If he thought he was getting out of this fight that easily, he had another thing coming. “They saw your marks, and Daunet knew who you were. If you’d been a stranger, they would have never let you through.”

“I’ll be able to ensure that’s the case if I’m nearby.”

“I’m not… You’re not…” Meg huffed a muffled scream. With a deep breath, she studied Maxu. So damn confident. “Just because you’re here doesn’t mean I have to acknowledge you.”

“Going to ignore me, are you?” His face lit with an amused smile, and the stupid butterflies in Meg’s stomach took notice. Why did he have to be so bone-meltingly hot?

“And what’s so funny about that?”

“We’re mated. I don’t think you could ignore me if you tried.”

Her teeth vibrated together as she slammed her mouth shut. She turned on her heel and stomped back toward her room. I can’t ignore him? Yeah, right. Just watch me, jackass.

His gaze burned into her back as she clumsily activated her door and squeezed through. Once inside, she paced, fuming. Who was he to tell her what she did and did not want? It wasn’t not like she was turning down their bond. She just needed some time to come to terms with it. Time without him.

Meg undid the fastenings of her shoes, plopped them off, then sunk on her bed with arms and legs crossed, staring daggers at her door.


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