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Resisting Maxu: Chapter 13

Meg slid into a short yellow dress and ran her palms over her hair and the frizz that had sprouted in the humid weather.

A headache was building in her temple from the harsh clench her jaw had been set in since leaving the eatery. He had her pillow. One of the ones she’d…

She still cringed with embarrassment every time she thought about it, though she knew she shouldn’t. It was a perfectly natural thing for a person to do. Women were sexual creatures, and she should feel no shame.

But even after Maxu had sauntered away and she’d stomped up to Daunet, intent on filling her in on the situation and asking her to force Maxu to give the pillow back, the words had stuck in her throat. In order to ask for Daunet’s help, she’d need to explain…everything.

Masturbation wasn’t something she’d ever talked openly about. Sex had warranted conversations with her mother since it was something a married couple did together, but when you were alone? That wasn’t something she’d heard discussed outside of a handful of scandalous conversations with girls at her school and a woefully unenlightening Sex Ed class.

The few conversations she’d had with Jeremy about it were no better. Early in their marriage, when she was still full of hope for her life with her husband, she’d asked him whether he ever jerked off when she wasn’t around.

He’d blustered about, assuring her he’d never disrespect her in that way and how she was more than enough for him. When he’d turned the question back on her, she’d felt trapped. Would admitting she touched herself when she was alone make him think he wasn’t enough? Did it mean she was being unfaithful?

Hiding and finding pleasure by herself had become so personal, so private, and so dear to her that having Maxu comment on it as if it were nothing was making her brain go haywire.

Meg straightened her dress in the mirror and frowned at the damn heat glowing red on her cheeks. She was an excessive blusher. Always had been. She hated it. And when she knew she was blushing, it only made her more embarrassed and in turn blush more. And it wasn’t a cute pinkening of the apples of her cheeks. It was a full red face.

The mid-length sleeves of her dress had her searching the room for temperature controls, so she slipped it off. Another reason she hated blushing—it was always accompanied by sweating for her. Sooo not attractive.

Meg pulled on a skimpier sky-blue dress and tore herself away from the bathroom. She was only going to the beach. There was no need for five more outfit changes.

“Will you just tell me what’s wrong?” Daunet asked from a chair that looked like it got stuck halfway between morphing into a beanbag.

“Nothing, nothing. He was just trying to embarrass me. He succeeded, but I’m fine.” If she thought Daunet would actually help her get her pillow back, she might’ve found the courage to explain the situation, but most Clecanians were so much freer with things relating to sex. Daunet probably wouldn’t think it was a big deal. And she certainly wouldn’t help her break into someone’s room because of something so silly.

“I still don’t know how he learned where we’d be,” Daunet assured once again.

Meg gave her a smile. Her guard had been making a great effort to prove she wasn’t the one who’d leaked their location.

“I know. It was probably Gamso. He’s been giving me the stink eye since we left Vondale. I bet he sent a message back, telling Maxu where we’d be.”

Daunet gazed into space, a skeptical wrinkle to her nose. “Possibly.” Her attention shifted back to Meg, who hovered near the door. “I could speak to Maxu. Maybe help him understand your needs.”

“No, that’s alright,” she rushed out. Apparently he understands my needs just fine. “Besides, if you’re going to be speaking to anybody, it should probably be Tara, don’t you think?”

Daunet’s gaze bounced around the room. “I don’t have anything to talk to her about,” she said, avoiding Meg’s eyes and rising to her feet.

Meg laughed. “Is that because you swallow your tongue every time she tries to talk to you? Why don’t you just tell her you like her?”

“I can’t, or…I won’t. Not until this tour is over. It would be unprofessional.”

“Unprofessional to talk to her?” Meg prodded, enjoying the shift in conversation.

“No, but I want to do more than talk to her, and I know that feeling will only grow stronger the more I get to know her. It would be best to wait. Then I can present myself more favorably.”

“I don’t get what the big deal is.”

Pursing her lips, Daunet joined Meg, and they strode out of the room toward the beach. “The big deal?” Daunet arched a brow. “There are very few females on our planet, and of those females, a minuscule amount are attracted to other females. And of those, an even smaller amount are solely attracted to females. Many of my fellow guards already believe I should be working with the implantation center, trying to get pregnant since I won’t be taking part in any marriages. I’m not going to give them any more reason to think I’m unsuited for my role by flirting with a human when I’m supposed to be guarding another.”

Meg bowed her head, staring at the floor, suddenly ashamed for acting so flippantly. “You’re right. I’m sorry I didn’t think about that. I know most women feel all this pressure to be married and reproduce, but I just assumed…”

“You assumed that because I wasn’t forced into marriages with males that there weren’t other expectations placed on me. We all have our duty, and we all must decide how much of ourselves we can sacrifice to fulfill those obligations. I worked with the implantation center for a very long time before finally taking a break. I’ve done what I needed to do, and I may feel like I have to try again at some point, but for now, I like my job. I like protecting the females that are making those sacrifices, and I refuse to give anyone any reason to doubt my abilities.”

“I get it. I won’t tease you about it anymore.” Meg smiled and gave her elbow a nudge. “But you better believe that when this is over and it is time to talk to Tara, my jokes will resume.”

The corner of Daunet’s lips lifted, though she tried to hide it. “As long as you’re open to me coming to you for advice on the strange creatures that are humans.”

They navigated the spiraling hallways of the building, talking about the days ahead and carefully avoiding the topic of relationships until they were outside. Though it’d just come in less than an hour ago, the tide was already going back out. Something about the season and the two moons forced the ocean to change more often than on Earth. Or so Meg assumed, since she’d never actually been to an ocean on Earth.

As someone who’d only ever swam in lakes, rivers, and pools, the ocean still made her quite nervous. The expanse of it and the hidden currents that could drag you away—not to mention whatever creatures lurked within. There was no part of her that wanted to discover what the alien version of a shark looked like. No, she was content sitting on the sand and letting the sound of crashing water lull her into tranquility.

The voice inside that had started to feel more nagging than aspirational argued that new Meg would go swimming. She was so free with her body that she’d probably go naked like the Adenelese too.

Constantly pushing herself past her comfort zones was growing exhausting.

Odd indentations of varying sizes were strewn across the beach. They were concave, reminding her of the craters on Earth’s moon. Inside some depressions was a cushioned floor, perfect for lying around and sunbathing. Others had tables and chairs. And a few low ones closest to the ocean were even filled with the warm water that had been left behind from the tide.

She caught sight of a crater raised slightly higher than the others, and though she couldn’t yet see who was inside, she knew exactly who it had to be. Nirato, Uthen, and Heleax circled the crater, guarding the humans inside but ironically looking like sharks.

When Meg reached the stairs and joined the other humans, Daunet took her break, heading for the eatery. Though Meg understood that the guards were there to do a job, she sometimes still felt bad. They were in this beautiful place, lounging at the beach, yet her Clecanian friends had to work.

The women gave lazy hellos as she collapsed onto the soft floor. She scanned the sandy beach as if merely scoping the area, but really she was looking for one dark-haired masterpiece. He’d said he’d leave her alone, but she wouldn’t put it past him to lurk.

What would Maxu wear to go swimming? She squinted, searching a little harder.

“We haven’t seen him,” Sophia interrupted Meg’s casual, not-so-casual survey of the beach.

Meg was about to ask, “Haven’t seen who?” in her most spot-on impression of a nonchalant person when she caught the knowing stares of her travel buddies. Her shoulders dropped, and she groaned. “This is like a disease, I swear. Why am I even looking for him?” Meg waved her hand in the air. “How can I be so annoyed every second that I’m with him and still want to see him go for a swim?”

“Any straight woman with a libido would like to see that man go for a swim,” Lucy murmured, one hand draped over her eyes.

Meg grabbed what passed for sunglasses on Clecania. An object shaped like a headband that sat horizontally across your forehead. When it was activated, a holographic shield lowered over your eyes like a garage door coming down.

“Where’s Rita?” she asked.

“Oh, she went back to change. Said she wanted to do some yoga on the beach.”

“What have you guys been up to?” Meg asked as she pulled out her reading pad, curious to learn more about these odd craters.

“Relaxing. Those guys came over and flirted a little.” Lucy pointed to a smaller crater where two men sat, peering in their direction every so often. Their warm, light purple skin, spotted with brown designs, covered broad shoulders and tapered waists; the men had the most fantastic examples of a swimmer’s build that Meg had ever seen. “Everyone was told they were allowed to come and meet us one by one, but not many have come over here.”

Meg nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. I read that beach time is a very special bonding experience for the Adenelese. Like family time on Earth. It’s generally considered rude to barge in on other groups. I’m surprised they came over at all. Were they nice?”

“Yeah, really nice, but I’m kind of over it.” Camille turned onto her belly so she could grin at Meg. “Remember that guy that we were talking to back in Vondale who said that line about my eyes looking like his favorite flower?”

Meg chuckled, “Yeah.”

“Well, it wasn’t bullshit.” Camille’s smile widened. “He took me to this crazy garden on the top level of the building, and sure enough, there were these gorgeous brown flowers growing over the rocks of this waterfall fountain thing.”

Meg’s brows knit. She sighed. “That’s so cute.”

“I know! Totally unexpected. He’s been sending me holo-messages since we left. I might be into him.”

“That’s awesome.” Meg tried to keep her grin genuine, but a small ounce of jealousy made it hard.

Someone sweet. Someone who gave her compliments and found flowers that matched her eyes and sent her romantic messages. That was what she wanted. Instead, she’d ended up with a temperamental demigod who did little more than growl at her, issue commands, steal her sex toys, and plow through every boundary she erected.

“What are you gonna do?” Meg asked.

Camille shrugged. She piled her coily dark brown hair into a bun, stretched out, and dropped her chin onto her crossed hands. “See where it goes for now, I guess. I’ve never talked to a guy like that. He wanted to know everything, and he didn’t even try to take me back to his room or ask to come to mine.”

“Well, if you do ever fool around with him, just get your bites healed quickly. Mine were so itchy on the ride this morning. I was mad at myself for not waking up early and going to the doctor to get them healed.”

All eyes turned to Sophia. Out of all of them—with maybe the exception of Rita when she lost herself in her head—Sophia was the quietest. The most sensitive. So hearing she’d let one of the fanged Vondalese bite her was more shocking than if Lucy had shown up in sweats with last night’s makeup on.

“What?” Tara asked, a wide grin spreading over her face. “You’ve turned down everyone who’s flirted so far. Why this guy?”

Sophia bit her lip, grinning back. Clearly, she’d been waiting to divulge this for a while now. She gave a tiny coquettish shrug. “What can I say? Back home I was really into vampires. I even had a…” She reached for her bicep, and her grin fell instantly.

Meg leaned forward, placing a hand on Sophia’s arm. The other women stiffened as well. “A tattoo?”

“Yeah,” Sophia smiled sadly. “A really rad design of Nosferatu I drew.”

“That’s so fucked up,” Camille whispered under her breath.

None of the women liked to talk about their abductions. Some, like Camille and Sophia, didn’t even remember it. They’d been stolen from Earth and kept in sleep pods until the Insurgent bunkers had been discovered and raided.

Apparently Sophia had been covered in tattoos on Earth. As an artist and graphic designer, she’d taken pride in designing most of them herself.

Whoever had taken Sophia had registered the tattoos as scars when they’d scanned and healed her. When she’d woken up, it was to find herself on an alien planet, her skin clear. Meg still remembered how hard it’d been for Sophia, for her mental health.

“It’s alright,” Sophia said, brightening. “I’ve come to terms with it, mostly. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to go on this tour. I want to feel inspired again. I know there are a few cities here where tattooing is common, and I’m excited to see how it’s done. Maybe I’ll even be able to tattoo some marks on my hands if I’m ever recognized.”

“You know what would be cool?” Camille pointed to her neck. “If you got two little puncture wounds on your neck here. You know, for your love of vamps and to commemorate the night you popped your fang cherry.”

Sophia’s eyes widened with excitement. “That is such an amazing idea! I’m totally doing that.”

“Did it hurt?” Lucy propped herself on her arms behind her, soaking up the sun.

Sophia shook her head very slowly, her coy grin reemerging. “Nope.”

They all laughed.

“I can’t even imagine that. To be honest, Rikad’s fangs kind of freak me out. I’ve been bitten by one too many dogs to want that.” Camille winced and brushed her hand over the unblemished brown skin of her forearm where Meg assumed scars had once been.

“Oh, that’s right. You owned a dog daycare, right?” Tara asked.

Camille nodded with a warm smile, her dimples popping. “Yeah. Barks ‘R’ Us.” She rolled her eyes, and her smile turned mildly annoyed. “I didn’t name it. My partner thought it was the funniest thing in the world. He took care of the daycare and grooming side, and I ran all of our training programs.” She shook her head with a distant look. “I could whip even the most aggressive dogs into shape like that.” She snapped her fingers.

Meg melted against a triangular pillow and listened as the women talked about their lives back on Earth. The good, the bad. What they missed. What they loved about Clecania. 

It was wonderful. Diverting. So it took her a while to figure out why her chest had grown so tight. Why there was a frog lodged in her throat as Tara described the ridiculous conversation she’d gotten in with an Adenelese man earlier that day in which she’d tried to describe a Guinea pig.

Each woman was her own person, with her own interests, goals, and flaws. Tara was sarcastic and caring. She loved the outdoors and was the first to notice when someone was upset. But she took on too much, never allowing herself to have as much fun as she wanted everyone else to have.

Camille was intelligent and honest, always willing to look at things from every perspective, but she was also stubborn and a little lost. She’d prided herself on her work. Then “the Raleigh dog whisperer” had been brought to a planet with no dogs. 

Bright, bubbly, and overtly sexual, Lucy lit up every room she walked into, and yet there was a sadness there, something hidden, as if she wanted to make everyone believe she was perfect.

Sophia was quiet and introverted yet had the kind of artistic mind that saw beauty in everything. She tended to retreat into her own head far too often, though, and overanalyzed everything.

And Rita. Meg didn’t know if she had the words to describe Rita. The woman seemed like she had answers for everything. Like she knew what life was about. What made her happy and what didn’t make her happy, and somehow always existed in a state of perfect equilibrium. The problem was that she could often detach herself from others. Meg supposed it was a way to maintain that equilibrium.

Friends. Meg finally had friends. Friends who weren’t picked for her or the people she tried to force herself to like because they were the only ones of her age left in her small hometown. And maybe this tightening in her chest was because she could see them all so well. Their positives and negatives. She could appreciate their personalities and how confident they were in their own ways.

But if they had to describe her, what would they say?

Meg. The girl who doesn’t know who she is.

She sometimes felt like Peter Pan, except she’d wanted to grow up and just never had. She’d thought she’d known who she wanted to be, but when she imagined someone describing her as the words she’d tried to embody—exciting, sexy, vivacious, spontaneous, wild—they didn’t feel right. She had a mounting fear that she was trying to force her square self into a round hole.

Still, she smiled as her friends chatted, hiding the miserable knowledge that they didn’t really know her either. How could she feel so full and so hollow at the same time? So excited to be where she was, and so nervous to go back to her room and be alone with herself.

“Wait, what did you do on Earth again, Meg?” Tara asked.

Her throat tightened even more. She shot to her feet while speeding through a nonanswer. “A little of this, a little of that. I hadn’t really settled on a career yet.”

She squinted up at the sun. Since watches were uncommon in many cities on Clecania, she’d gotten pretty good at figuring out the time by the sun.

“If I had to guess, we have maybe three hours till sunset.” And she was going to pull herself out of this internal pity party and have a good time if it killed her. “I’m getting drinks. Who wants one?”

Sophia and Tara raised their hands.

Lucy shook her head. “Not for me, thanks. I don’t want to be puffy for tomorrow.”

“Maybe in a bit,” Camille answered while picking at her nails.

Meg gathered an escort—Nirato—and a floating tray of drinks at the eatery.

When she returned, climbing into the crater, no one turned to look at her. She passed out the drinks, then crawled forward on her knees, curious to see what had captured their attention.

“I can’t tell if you’re about to be happy or angry,” Camille murmured without glancing at her.


Camille, Lucy, and Tara all pointed to an area farther down the beach, and Meg squinted.

“Oh,” she breathed, letting out all the air in her chest. She grasped behind her blindly for her drink, almost knocking it over.

Rita was doing her yoga, happy as could be in a lime-green amorphous piece of billowing clothing. And next to her, following each movement as if he were a celebrity having a private lesson on the Malibu coastline, was a shirtless Maxu.

Slow as could be, Meg lowered into her seat and activated her sunglasses. The warm, salty breeze had grown hotter in the late afternoon, and beads of sweat collected between her shoulder blades as she watched Maxu’s glistening, powerful body lower into warrior something or other. “How is he a yoga guy?” Even Meg had never had the patience for yoga.

“Yeah. He read more boxing to me,” Lucy commented, one side of her face scrunched up as she stared.

“Do they know each other?” Tara asked over her shoulder. She picked up her own reading pad and turned away from the spectacle making Meg drool.

“Rita was the only human not hanging out here near Meg.” Lucy shrugged. “Maybe he’s thinking she’ll put in a good word or something?”

“Or maybe he’s just over there showing off his six-pack ’cause he knows I can see,” Meg grunted.

“So you are into him.” Camille grinned, flipping around to face her.

A moment of confusion washed over Meg. “Did I say that out loud?”

The women all laughed, and some of the tension bunching her shoulders relaxed.

“Look, I never said he wasn’t attractive. Obviously he is. From this distance, he’s even hotter because I can’t hear him bossing me around.”

A soft snore echoed from Sophia, fast asleep on her stomach.

“But he’s keeping his distance like he said. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“He’s just playing nice until he gets what he wants. If I let my guard down—poof, six months will have gone by and I’ll be stuck in his house following all the rules he’s sneakily incorporated until I have no control left.”

All eyes turned to her, curious and concerned. “That’s kind of a stretch. Is that a personal example, Meg?” Tara asked.

Crap, she’d said too much. They’d only look at her like a sad little weakling if she explained, though, so she brushed it off. “Just a guess.”

They appeared unconvinced, but Lucy moved on anyway. “Yeah, but what are you gonna do? It’s not like he’s gonna be content standing one hundred feet away forever.”

“I don’t know,” Meg groaned. “I was thinking about it last night, and I wondered if maybe he might be open to some kind of platonic relationship. I did some research and it seems like the mating bond makes you feel like you have to be near the other person and protect them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be romantic. Couldn’t we just live in the same house and lead our separate lives?”

“What about sex?” Camille asked. “Don’t mated couples feel this intense urge to be with their mate?”

“The text I read was not super clear, but yeah. It was implied,” Meg grumbled.

“Do you have something against having sex with him?” Lucy asked, tipping her head to the side as Maxu got into a plank, the curves of his abs and the muscles in his forearms all rigid while he held the pose.

“I don’t like him. And I don’t trust him. He’s controlling, and he doesn’t really care what I think or how I feel.”

Lucy chuckled. “It’s been a few days. How do you know if you like him or not or if you could learn to trust him if you refuse to talk to him?”

Maxu and Rita stared at each other, and Rita waved her arms around, trying to explain something. She made a diving movement with her body, and he listened, hands on hips, impressive chest reflecting the sun.

Meg was feeling more and more like a petulant child with each reasonable word out of her friends’ mouths. The truth was it was easier to paint him in a certain light. If she hated him, she wouldn’t trust him. If she didn’t trust him, there was no way he could let her down.

“No.” Meg shook her head. “You guys don’t understand. I need to be with someone who values my feelings, and after what he pulled today…”

“What did he pull? You mean forcing you to talk to him?”

Meg froze. Crap. “Yeah,” she lied.

Tara rotated, and Camille’s eyes narrowed.

“What else did he do, Meg? You’re a terrible liar.”

Despite her years of hiding everything she wanted to say and do, Meg was beginning to learn how bad of a liar she was. She’d always thought she was a good liar, dammit. Why hadn’t anyone ever told her before?

Her heart clenched a little at the idea that maybe they hadn’t told her because they hadn’t cared enough to call her out. “It’s nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Was it bad?” Camille sat up a little straighter.

Tara’s playful grin was suddenly replaced by thin lips at Camille’s words. “What did he do?” This time, her words weren’t curious. They were firm.

Was she going to have to say this? Really? “He…” She peered around the group, already feeling the heat rising on her neck. Meg downed the rest of her drink in one painful gulp. “I used…something…in my room to…” She swallowed. “Show myself a good time…and he…took that thing.”

“Huh?” Lucy’s brows were furrowed and one side of her mouth curled down.

Camille peered up to the sky and pointed back and forth with her finger, as if attempting to solve a riddle in her head.

Still looking stern rather than angry, Tara’s eyes widened in realization first. “Oh.”

“Oh?” Camille asked, propping herself up on one arm to peer back at Tara. She took one look at Tara, whose lips had disappeared into her mouth to hide her grin, and whirled toward Meg. “Oh,” she repeated in a deeper octave.

Lucy clicked her tongue. “Hello? Fill me in, please?”

Camille flashed her white teeth in a grin. “Meg got freaky with something in her room, and Maxu stole it.”

“What?!” Lucy laughed loudly enough that Sophia bolted upright with a gasp.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” she croaked, head spinning as she tried to hold open her eyes while they adjusted to the bright sun.

Lucy patted her calf, giggling. “Nothing. Sorry. Go back to sleep. I’ll tell you later.”

Apparently, Sophia’s Vondalese fling had sucked out all her energy because she only grumbled and plopped back down.

“He told you he stole it?” Lucy whispered. Leaning in close. “For what?”

Camille focused on the ground, a line forming on her forehead. “Is that hot? Or creepy? Or is it both?”

“What was the thing? Was there a gift basket somewhere I missed?” Tara joked.

“That’s beside the point!” Meg waved her hand and glanced back over to Maxu, who was now holding a perfect handstand. At least he wouldn’t see how red she was.

“What do you think he’s doing with it?” Camille whispered to Lucy with a scrunched nose, as if they were having a private conversation.

Lucy grinned back. “I think it depends on what it is, no?”

“Focus!” Meg clapped. “Anyway. It seemed like he told me about it just to embarrass me. He doesn’t care about my feelings.” When the girls still looked unconvinced, Meg tossed her hands up. “He broke into my room and took it without permission! It’s…a really serious breach of privacy, and it upset me.”

“Okay, okay.” Tara used her best calming voice, hands raised ahead of her. “I hear you. And if it’s that important, why don’t you ask him to give it back?”

“I did,” Meg all but yelled. “He said no! He said it was his now.”

“I’m leaning toward hot, to be honest,” Camille added quite unhelpfully.

“Then, steal it back.” Lucy shrugged.

All eyes turned to her. “Steal it?” Meg asked.

“Yeah,” she shrugged again. “Clearly you can’t play normal games with this guy. Asking didn’t work and he doesn’t seem too respectful of authority, so it’s not like you could get a policeman or something to intervene—not that they would ’cause that makes no sense. So beat him at his own game. Steal it back.”

Meg’s mind caught on that, lingering for a long time on how delicious it would be to know he’d gotten back to his room to find it missing. She grinned, then faltered. “I’ve never broken in anywhere. How would I even get into his room?”

“Honey,” Lucy started with a devious grin, “take a leaf out of his book. Both cities have now bent over backward to accommodate his requests because he keeps explaining he’s your mate, right? Well…” When no one caught on, Lucy rolled her eyes to the sky. “Just tell the housing guy you need your print added to his door. He’s your mate. I bet they won’t even blink.”

Lucy was right. This whole time she’d been approaching this situation like a human. Arguing the way a human would, without ever considering the newfound power she had as a recognized mate.

A small smile played across Meg’s lips.


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