Resisting Maxu: Chapter 18

Where the hell is he? Meg stared out of the cruiser window, sulking. It’d been two whole days. They’d arrived in and departed from a city, and she hadn’t seen Maxu once.

She began chewing on her sore lip, then forced herself to stop. She’d already gnawed on it enough that it looked like she’d painted one half with red lipstick.

What had happened? She thought they’d finally been getting more comfortable with each other, to the point of wondering whether she and Maxu could not only have a cordial relationship or a purely sexual one but a meaningful connection. But then he just ghosted her? After weeks of chasing her down and forcing himself into her life? Seriously. What. The. Hell?

She thought maybe she’d seen him a couple of times, lurking in the back of a crowd or disappearing around a distant corner, but was it just her mind playing tricks?

Was he alright? Was he dead? Did he not know the next city they were going to?

She gnawed at her lip again, gaze falling to her feet as a cruel voice whispered in her mind, What if I did something wrong? Was I being a know-it-all?

Had she been too over the top when they’d fooled around in his room?

No man wants a woman who behaves like a slut. Her mother had used that line to get her point across more than once. A flush of shame made her clammy. Had she been too…enthusiastic?

Her fists clenched. No. She had nothing to feel ashamed about. And if Maxu found the way she expressed herself unattractive, then he just wasn’t the right man for her and that was all there was to it.

Someone snorted with laughter, breaking Meg out of her spiral. Daunet sat on the other side of the cruiser with a hand slapped over her mouth, appearing appalled at the sound she’d just emitted. Meg tried not to let her jealousy get to her.

They were sharing a cruiser with Tara and Gamso today. Initially, it’d been like pulling teeth to get Daunet to speak at all, but eventually she and Tara had bonded over some famed sculptural artist Meg had never heard of.

The two women now sat on the opposite side of the cruiser, chatting. A grin remained sprawled across Tara’s face, while Daunet tried and failed to hold back her own smile.

Meg studied the faint crinkles that appeared around Daunet’s eyes, brought out by her wide grin. She couldn’t remember seeing those before. Not like this anyway.

How selfish was she? Her friends were practically floating with joy, and all Meg could do was glare at them bitterly. How had she gotten here? A week ago, she’d been determined not to settle down with any man—but especially not a man like Maxu. Now it took all her strength to keep her expression neutral when she thought of him.

One great orgasm and I’m putty. How pathetic.

It had been great, though. She’d never expected to enjoy having her wrists tied up, but, damn, she had. Something about surrendering control like that was liberating.

“Does it feel different?” Gamso, who’d remained silent for most of the ride, was staring at her.

“Pardon?” she asked.

“Being apart from him. I couldn’t help but notice he hasn’t been around for a few days, and you seem upset. I was just wondering—with the mating bond and all—if you felt anything out of the ordinary.”

Meg let out a sigh. Gamso’s expression was so curious, so hopeful. “Not more than the usual annoyance I might feel at him taking off without a word.”

“Oh.” His head turned down, and he deflated in front of her eyes, making guilt spike.

“I mean, I think maybe I’m more annoyed with him than I would be if he were just some guy who disappeared for a couple days.” It was a stretch, but it might not be untrue.

Gamso grinned into space at that. “Wonderful.”

“I just can’t get a good read on him. I don’t understand what he wants. First, he chases me down, annoys the crap out of me by always invading my personal space, and then when I want him around, he vanishes.” Meg threw up her hands, staring into the blank wall of the cruiser.

“He sounds frightened to me,” Gamso murmured with a sad smile.

“Frightened?” Meg had to contain a chuckle. She couldn’t imagine anything that could frighten Maxu.

“The males on our planet have to get used to rejection, but we never fully grow numb to it. We spend our whole lives being judged. Did we get good enough grades? Do we have pleasant enough features? Would we make excellent fathers? It’s not as difficult as a female’s place in this world, but it’s still hard.” He avoided her gaze. “It takes a toll.”

Meg stared down at her feet. He didn’t show it all the time, but Meg was sure she’d spotted glimpses of vulnerability behind Maxu’s eyes a few times now. Was Gamso right? Was Maxu afraid of rejection?

What a pair they made. Meg was afraid of having a controlling, distant relationship, which had pushed her to avoid them completely. And Maxu was afraid of rejection, which had pushed him to be cold and controlling to hide his insecurities. But she was beginning to see who he really was.

“How do you manage it, Gamso?” What had Maxu gone through? What were all the men of this planet going through every day?

“You learn to expect it. Ignoring the feeling of failure.” With a shrug and empty chuckle, he added, “Some males don’t mind. They enjoy the challenge of rising to the occasion. Being the best. But some rail against it. Maxu refused to participate in any ceremonies. Every few years he’d break the law to get out of it.” Gamso straightened, dropping his head against the seat. “Sometimes I wish I felt that way. We live on a lonely planet. The way Maxu dealt with it was to not be a part of it, to isolate himself even more. I can only imagine how it may crush a male to be rejected by their mate too. It hurts when a female turns you down for marriage, but how could you cope if your fated one found you lacking as well?”

Meg’s heart felt like it was being squeezed in a fist. She hadn’t often heard people complain about the customs of this planet, the troubles that the uneven balance of genders created. Her heart broke for them. Was that what Maxu was going through now?

She didn’t feel guilty for how she’d reacted to learning she had a mate. Her freedom, her goals for herself… The way Maxu had approached her had made it seem like those were all going to be torn away from her at any second.

But she’d come to realize that he was more than the uncaring, temperamental guy he presented to the world. Every time they interacted, he chipped away at her fears bit by bit. Now she had to figure out how to chip away at his.

“Thank you, Gamso,” she said. “That really helped. It’s wonderful to meet a man who’s so introspective. Earth women are going to love you.”

She grinned when his brows rose in surprise. The corner of his mouth curled, and he stared at the ground dreamily.


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