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Resisting Maxu: Chapter 12

There was no other word to describe Adenelas but stunning. White sandy beaches and turquoise ocean for as far as the eye could see. Meg was in an exceptionally good mood today. For one thing, the weather was hot yet dry, with the perfect amount of soft breeze rolling in off the water. For another, the people of Adenelas were so open and welcoming, none of them knowing the drama that had taken place in Vondale.

She’d been scrubbed, buffed, wrapped in layers of voluminous, airy white fabric, and was now staring at the ocean and scrunching sand between her toes. The small twinge of guilt she felt at having tranqued Maxu couldn’t compare to the lightness her temporary freedom brought her.

Something about reclaiming a modicum of control had felt soooo good. Like finally finding that one piece of proof that allowed you to win an argument you’d been in for hours. Shooting him hadn’t been the healthiest way to deal with her issues, she could admit that—but damn, had it felt good to take control.

The other humans had known something was up. Her Cheshire grin had given them hints enough, but she waited until they were all safely on their way to Adenelas before revealing that she’d tricked him into staying behind. She didn’t reveal how, though. Daunet was the only one who knew, and though she’d been on board last night, she seemed regretful today. Meg couldn’t bring herself to feel too bad.

They’d just emerged from the first round of interviews and were heading toward their housing’s eatery. Meg hummed “I’m Walking on Sunshine.”

“You know he’s gonna be furious when he finds you again,” Tara warned while smoothing her wet hair. She’d seized the opportunity to jump into the ocean the first moment she could.

Daunet had been chastising Meg for not having a plan two hours after arriving in the city, but the image of Tara emerging from the water wet and sparkling had rendered her guard a wistful puddle.

“What’s he gonna do?” Meg grinned as they caught up to Camille, Lucy, Sophia, and Rita. “Barge into a party and claim his ownership? Oh, wait, he already did that.”

“True,” Tara muttered, unconvinced.

“Look,” Meg started, “it’s not permanent. I know he’ll catch up and I’ll have to deal with his wrath, but for now all I want to do is concentrate on having fun. We’re free for the night since they’re not having a party, there’s a gorgeous beach just waiting for a group of humans to sit and drink on, and I don’t have to even think about that pompous ass for the next three days.”

They rounded the corner to the eatery, and Meg tripped over her feet. Sitting in the center of the room, legs extended on the table while he relaxed back against his chair, was Maxu, looking as carefree as a person could.

“Uh-oh,” Sophia muttered.

Meg’s shock was slowly replaced by steam. He was dressed in a thin, clingy shirt, light pants, and was holding a screen in front of him. Reading, as if he’d been here on vacation for weeks. He didn’t even glance up as they entered, apparently too enthralled with whatever he was reading to be bothered.

“What are you doing here?” she hissed as she stomped over to his table. A few nearby patrons shot looks toward her.

Without glancing up, Maxu grinned. “I’m researching the human clitoris.”

His cheerful announcement was loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear. Meg’s brain short-circuited.

She was frozen in place for only a moment more before the snickering of her friends floated to her. Maxu relaxed his shoulders and resumed reading. Meg couldn’t even imagine how red she must’ve been at that moment. Her skin burned from embarrassment. The stares of everyone in the room were heavy on her.

How had he found her? And with enough time to lounge around like this? Her eyes narrowed. Daunet. Fists clenched, she spun and charged toward the small group of guards who’d been following at a respectable distance. Rather than stopping to have it out with a wide-eyed Daunet, she flew past, spitting mad. “I can’t believe you.”

Meg had only taken a few steps in the direction of her quaint, beautiful, lonely room when she halted. Why was she running again? Why did she have to go and hide away from the rest of the world when that was the opposite of what she wanted? He should be the one to leave.

Fat chance of that.

Strangely enough, she peeked over her shoulder and found he wasn’t following her. He’d been here for who knew how long, yet he hadn’t approached her or sought her out. Maybe this was his way of giving her space? Maybe he wouldn’t talk to her if she just ignored him.

She could feel all eyes on her as she walked back into the eatery and joined her friends at a lacquered flat surface that looked like it’d been ripped off the largest piece if coral she’d ever seen and repurposed into an irregular table.

The word clitoris floated toward her from somewhere nearby, and heat spread over her face once more.

With a careful half smile, Camille shrugged. “At least he’s not mad.”

Meg forced a grin, letting her gaze fall everywhere except on the one spot it wanted to. The other women exchanged concerned looks, which she also ignored. From the ceiling a cylindrical food synthesizer lowered, and the women took their turns typing in their orders—or rather, they took turns telling Meg what they wanted and she typed in their orders, since none of them had remembered their translation glasses.

Sophia, Rita, Tara, Camille, and Lucy ruminated on the interview they’d just left and chatted happily about this and that. Meg listened since she was a lousy conversationalist at the moment. She tried to follow along, laughing at appropriate spots and nodding at others, but Maxu was like a damn beacon in the room and her gaze threatened to land on him whenever she let her guard down.

More frustrating than that, he seemed to not notice her, still immersed in his reading. She brooded on that for a moment. Pfft. Researching the human clitoris, she grumbled to herself. He had attempted to embarrass her with that little announcement. Payback of his own for her unceremonious escape. He probably wasn’t even reading about that.

Meg discreetly studied him under her lashes, ready to glance away at any second. He was gorgeous again, of course. As if nothing had even happened last night. She’d worried he’d broken his nose when he’d fallen. The boom of him hitting the floor had made remorse flare in her until she’d rolled him over and found him to be perfectly intact.

She hadn’t wanted for things to go that way. Hadn’t wanted to shoot her new mate in the leg. But what choice had she had? She hadn’t gotten anywhere in life by asking, so now she was a woman of action.

Looking at him now, she might’ve thought he’d fallen directly into a mud mask among a pile of pillows. His shirt was crafted from a light fabric that rested against his muscled torso so perfectly she could make out every hard bit of him. It had no sleeves, so she could also see his thick arms and the white birthmarks running over his skin like opalescent tattoos. When the markings reached his wrist, they started shifting from bright white to blue.

The mating marks curled over his knuckles and fingers, taunting her with their beauty. The delicate designs somehow complemented his strong hands. Meg bit her lip. Big hands. Big arms too. She was preoccupied with examining the veins running over his forearms when she noticed he was staring at her.

She jerked her gaze away, reaching for her glass and knocking it over. “Fuck balls,” she cursed under her breath as the women gathered napkins to clean up the spill. When a large, white cloth appeared, dangling in the center of the table, she didn’t have to look up to know who was holding it.

Meg hesitated, her spine stiff, but when the drip drip drip of her drink hitting the floor echoed in her ears like a drum, she snatched the cloth from his hand and mopped up the rest of her mess.

“I’d like to speak with my mate, if you are all finished eating.”

The splat of the wet cloth hitting the table preceded Meg shooting up from her chair. “Alright, guys. I’m all done. Are you? Let’s go.”

“Sit down, Meg, or I’ll plant you on my lap and hold you there.”

Meg leveled him with a glare. The women all rose slowly, not sure whether to leave with Meg or leave so Meg could talk to Maxu, but knowing with certainty it was time to leave.

Annoyance soured her insides. He could have just asked her to speak. Maybe she would have agreed if he’d been even a little pleasant about it, but now?

Meg rushed away from the table, hoping to call his bluff. She hadn’t made it halfway across the room before muscular arms were wrapped around her torso from behind and she was being hauled over to a smaller table on the outskirts of the room.

The patrons of the eatery stared as though this were entertaining. Maxu settled on a bench placed within an enormous shell, and just as he’d promised, she was forced onto his lap.

“Don’t test me, vahpti. I do what I say.”

Her friends approached the table, drawing even more attention. Heat crawled to the tips of her ears. Between gritted teeth, she hissed out, “Fine. I’ll talk to you. Let me go.”

To her surprise, he did—and quickly too. Maxu stood, lifting them both, set her on her feet, then crossed to the other side of the table and relaxed into the large domed shell bench identical to hers.

He sent a glare toward her friends waiting nearby, and it warmed her to witness them scowl right back.

Meg gave them a thankful smile. “Meet you at the beach soon.”

Once her friends had left, she asked “Did Daunet tell you where I’d be?” She darted another frown toward her guard, who didn’t notice as she was preoccupied with Tara. If she weren’t so pissed, Meg might’ve thought Daunet’s deer-in-headlights expression as Tara spoke to her was cute.

“No,” Maxu said.

She turned her glower on him instead. “Then who?”

The table’s dedicated food synthesizer lowered from the ceiling, blocking their silent eye contact, and Maxu punched in a few commands. Without a word to her, he passed her a plate of bright seafood, a pair of delicately patterned ivory eating gloves, and a tall glass of something clear. It could’ve been water, but she’d been fooled before by drinks that looked strikingly similar to water.

When the column raised back into the ceiling, Meg eyed him with a lifted brow. “I’m not hungry.”

His expression remained stony. “You didn’t eat your food before.”

So he had been watching her a minute ago. Just much more covertly than she’d watched him. “Being stalked from city to city makes me lose my appetite.”

Maxu shrugged and pulled her plate toward him with a grin. “Well, stalking makes me rather hungry. We’re a perfect pair.” He popped a piece of spiny fish into his mouth with a crunch, foregoing the gloves which were much too tiny for his hands anyway.

She fiddled with the anemone-style design spanning the palm of one glove. Ignore. Ignore. Make him so annoyed with you he won’t want to spend time with you.

Maxu let out a slow breath, a muscle ticking in his jaw. She could see that temper flaring under the surface again. “Tell me about your life on Earth.”

She couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. The question was just so out of place. As if they were on a normal date. A date she’d attended willingly. I’ve never been on a real date, she reminded herself. Dates with Jeremy had always felt more like family outings. Quiet, awkward affairs where one or both of them were on their phones and he criticized how many drinks she ordered.

Under different circumstances, was Maxu the kind of man to orchestrate a romantic date? Pick her up, bring her flowers, take her to a nice restaurant where they could get to know each other better while gentle candlelight set the mood? An odd, nervous tingle crept between her shoulders. She took a sip of the water and choked, nearly spitting it out. It was water this time. Salt water.

She wanted to ask why he’d given her a cup of ocean or criticize him for acting as if they’d both agreed to sit here and get to know each other, but talking would ruin her plan to make him frustrated enough to leave her alone, so she went back to toying with the fingers of the eating glove silently.

“You will talk to me without all this…” He swept a hand over her. “…hostility.”

Her mouth dropped open, argumentative words ready to fly free, but she slammed it shut before they could get out.

Maxu’s broad shoulders hit the back of his shell seating alcove as he leaned away, crunched on another bit of seafood, and studied her tight lips. “You’ll talk to me—because if you do, I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the day.”

Meg crossed her arms. How could she stay silent with an offer like that on the table? “Really? You won’t follow me around?”

The patronizing sigh Maxu released made Meg want to walk away right then, but she knew he’d just pull her back. “I’ll still be here, but…I’ll do my best not to approach you.”

“Do your best—”

Maxu ground his jaw. “This is fair, Meg. You’re my mate. I don’t have to make these exceptions. I could drag you back to my home and no one would blame me, but I’m trying to compromise.”

“How romantic,” she drawled. “You really know how to make a girl feel special.”

“I won’t offer again,” he snapped.

“How long?”

Maxu glanced through the wide, arched entrance to the eatery where the waves could be seen rolling back and forth over the soft sand. “Until the tide hits that boulder.” He pointed toward a sparkling white rock made of a material similar to quartz.

She could survive until then, couldn’t she? An hour maybe? He was her mate, suffocating though the fact might’ve been, and eventually she’d have to spend more time with him. “Fine.”

“Earth. What was your life there like?”

Shit. Now she’d have to make something up. She hadn’t planned to have a truly honest conversation with Maxu. How could she? Her mate had throat-punched a man for vaguely insulting her not a day ago. What would he do if he found out she already had a husband back home?

Maxu couldn’t find out about Jeremy for no other reason than Jeremy’s safety. Her human husband hadn’t been the best, but he hadn’t been the worst either. He didn’t deserve to be maimed by a homicidal alien when travel to her planet was finally legal.

“I…was a home decorator.” Well, she was…kinda. Maybe not professionally, but she’d shined her turd of a house into something admirable and had enjoyed doing it.

Maxu narrowed his eyes. “That was your job?”

Does he know I’m lying? He looks like he knows. But how could he? Meg stilled her bouncing leg with a palm to her knee. “Mm-hmm.” Damn, why didn’t this guy blink? Was he trying to stare into her soul? Wait…could he? Some races on the planet had special abilities, but she couldn’t recall any who could read minds.

He rested his elbows on the table, leaning toward her in a move that was meant to be casual yet felt anything but. The sharp cut of his jaw looked extra appetizing when he tilted his head like that. Meg tried not to notice. “How long did you do that for?”

“Five years.” She held eye contact.

“Lie.” The word was hard and devoid of emotion. “Did you enjoy your job?”

“Yes,” Meg breathed out. Her knee was hot from where her sweaty palm rested against it. Why did she suddenly feel like she was hiding a body under the table?

“Lie.” Maxu didn’t even seem phased by the idea he was being lied to.

Meg scrambled. Did she have a tell she didn’t know about? She took another sip of water to stall before remembering it was pure salt. This time she did spit it out. Luckily, she was able to catch it with one of the eating gloves.

“Do you miss Earth?” Maxu asked as he called down the food synthesizer and produced two new drinks. He handed one to Meg, and she eyed it warily.

Heck no, she didn’t miss Earth. But she couldn’t say that. He’d want to know why. What kind of person who was abducted and plopped on another planet without the hope of ever seeing their family again wouldn’t miss their home? “Yes, I miss it.”

“Our time won’t end until you speak to me honestly, vahpti.”

All her instincts told Meg to capitulate, to behave, but then that nickname stuck in her mind. Vahpti. He’d called her that the first night they’d met. Her translator identified it as some kind of insect. When she’d gotten back to her room, she’d dug a little deeper.

Vahpti were tiny gnat-like bugs who flew in little swarms and sought out small, dark areas to keep warm in cold climates. Ear cavities were a particular favorite.

Meg was an annoying buzz in his head. She supposed that was fair. After all, she’d likened Maxu to a tumor. Regardless, the word struck a sensitive chord.

She’d been a vahpti to Jeremy and her family. An annoying pest flitting around and buzzing in their ears. Was that all Maxu thought of her too? Why did that make her so…sad? It wasn’t like she’d given him much reason to feel differently.

“What did you really do back on Earth?” His gaze was expressionless, but his blue-green eyes were sharp, probing.

Meg wasn’t that lonely girl from Indiana anymore. She’d changed. She’d made sure of it. Her hair, her clothes, her comfort zones. Talking about the person she used to be was not only counterintuitive to her mission of leaving the past behind…it was painful.

She took an experimental sniff of the drink he’d selected for her and wrinkled her nose. The strong liquor reminded her of Pine-Sol. She took a substantial gulp anyway.

“Maxu, the real truth is I don’t want to talk about Earth. I’m not ready to share those kinds of things with you.”

His chin lifted at that. Meg studied him and arrived at a loss. He gave nothing away. How could someone who’d displayed their emotions so violently for the last few days also have the ability to hide them so successfully?

Maybe he wasn’t hiding them. Maybe he truly felt nothing in this moment.


A thousand questions swam through Maxu’s mind. His mate was a puzzle he couldn’t solve. He’d never encountered anything more vexing. Why had she lied about something so innocuous? Why had her whole demeanor shifted when he’d called out the lie? And where the fuck had the dejected sadness dimming her blue eyes come from?

She fiddled with the glove in front of her while Maxu attempted to mask the frustration building in him. How was he supposed to learn about his mate, like Rita had suggested, if she wouldn’t talk to him? And why did it make him so damn upset that his mate didn’t want to reveal all her troubles to him?

He wasn’t the kind of male to care about such things. It was true he had possessive inclinations he couldn’t quite control, but never before had he wanted to possess someone’s trust, their vulnerabilities. He’d never felt the pull to comfort or be comforted in return. He hated it, this fragility.

She spun the drink he’d gotten her on the table. At first, he’d ordered her the preferred beverage of the Adenelas people as a trick, something to appease the bit of ego she’d damaged last night. But the second time he’d gotten her a drink, he’d actually attempted to select something she might like. Though there was no reason it should, it grated to know he’d picked wrong. As if he was still failing her.

She winced as she took another gulp, forcing the liquid down. He laced his fingers together to keep from calling down the synthesizer and ordering her one of every beverage available so he could discover which she preferred.

Meg broke the silence first. “What do you do for work?”

His fingertips tightened where they were twined. “I’m mostly retired. I used to work as a mercenary.” His job had always been a source of pride for Maxu. His eldest brother, Theo, had moved into mercenary work when Maxu had still been in husbandry school and had helped him gain contacts early in his career. Maxu had excelled and now only took side jobs that interested him when life became dull. He’d been accepting more and more jobs before Meg had crashed into his every waking thought.

“What does that mean, exactly?” She tipped her head at him. “Do you do illegal things? Is that why you were locked up before?”

Maxu’s shoulders straightened at that. Was there judgment in her voice? Or was he imagining it? “I chose to be locked up.”

Her brows furrowed. “Who’d choose that?”

“Someone who doesn’t want to take part in the marriage ceremony and knows that having a recent incarceration on their record is the only way to get out of it.” The terse bite to his words had her mouth curling into a frown.

“Why don’t you want to participate in the marriage ceremony? Aren’t most guys dying to be picked?” Her tone had tightened in response to his, the temporary amicable conversation they’d been having threatening to turn sour again. He might be able to recover it with his next words, but he was defensive and pushing her back to a combative state felt far safer than explaining the truth. That he hated being judged and tested.

He couldn’t open himself up and explain that since his parents had had six healthy children—a miracle five times over—he’d been raised with the knowledge females wanted him mainly because he had more potential to father children.

He let his temper take over, and though he knew he’d regret not trying harder in the long run, the immediate sense of his guard being raised was a relief. “It may surprise you to know that not all males want a wife to bow down to for three months.”

“I didn’t say all males. I said most guys. And sorry if you chasing me across the world and claiming I was yours forever gave me the false impression that you actually wanted to have a relationship with a woman,” Meg snapped back.

Maxu relished the fire warming her gaze. Fighting was familiar. Easy. “A marriage is not a relationship. It’s a test. I have no interest in being tested and judged.”

“Oh, right? That’s why you announced to the entire room that you were studying up on the human…” Meg had been leaning forward, immersed in their sparring, but her words faded out as if she hadn’t meant to say the thought aloud.

He’d assumed his announcement might’ve been mildly embarrassing, but he hadn’t predicted she’d be this shy about such a thing. Maxu smirked as red spread over her cheeks. She avoided his gaze, taking another pained drink. How wickedly adorable.

“I was just curious how a human could find pleasure with something so soft,” he rumbled, leaning forward even more.

Her fingertips on her glass tightened, her body going still. Meg squinted up at him. “What are you talking about?”

“A Clecanian female’s pleasure center is deep inside. They need long…instruments”—he continued, grinning at the blush traveling to the tips of her ears and down her chest—“to reach their orgasm. But when I was searching your old rooms to find you, I noticed you only needed a pillow. So I researched why that might be.”

Meg’s eyes were wide and horrified, her skin growing redder by the second. He didn’t quite understand why this topic made her so uncomfortable. Were humans one of those prudish species? Or was his mate particularly shy about such things? Either way, he was enjoying teasing her immensely.

“You…you found…? How…?” Her mouth closed, and she swallowed. “That is such a violation, and it’s none of your business how I…”

Her gaze darted to the ocean and locked on the still-exposed boulder. He only had a few more minutes before the rising tide reached it.

“I’d argue that as your mate, it very much is my business. I believe I understand how it works now, though I’m going to inspect the pillow again later to make sure I can picture the process.”

As intended, Meg’s eyes flew to his. How far down could he make that flush spread? If he was shocking enough, would it reach her nipples?

“What are you talking about? Inspect what pillow?” Her words were hushed. She scanned the room, ensuring no one was listening in.

“Your pillow.” He grinned, not matching her low voice in the slightest. “From Kitibard.”

Her thunderstruck expression held for only a moment before her lip curled. “You kept it, you freak? Why would you… It doesn’t matter. Give it back.”

Maxu tipped his head back and forth, making a show of considering her demand. “No. I’ve grown quite fond of it.”

“Give. It. Back,” she whisper-shouted. “It’s not yours.”

“Well, to be fair, it’s not yours either. It belonged to the Kitibardians, and then I stole it. Really, it’s mine now.” Maxu rose from his seat and tipped his head toward the water as it splashed across the pale white boulder. “Looks like our time’s up. I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the day. I think I’ll head back to my room to…rest.”

Meg’s mouth was hanging open as Maxu turned to walk away. After a moment of stunned silence, he heard her scramble out of her seat. Unfortunately, she didn’t follow him, instead bolting toward her guard, but he didn’t mind. Meg would seek him out eventually if only to tell him off once she regained her composure, and he couldn’t wait to see how she’d retaliate.


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