Resisting Maxu: Chapter 8

Camille and Meg sat at a floating table with two gorgeous Vondalese men, yet Meg couldn’t keep her attention from flicking over her shoulder. Daunet grinned back at her while she reclined against the wall. Meg frowned.

Apparently, Daunet and Gamso—who’d also been offended by Lucy and Meg’s lie concerning matehood—had taken it upon themselves to tell any party interested in either woman that they were mated. Punishing them for lying by telling the same lie. Hypocritical? Yes. Effective? Undoubtedly.

Meg had almost been attracted enough to a man yesterday to invite him back to her room, but then Daunet had casually announced that Meg’s mate was attempting to reach her. The guy she’d been talking to was so taken aback that he’d barely had time to shoot a look of disgust in her direction before sprinting away.

Her armed guard had learned what cockblocking was only a few days ago, and yet she’d mastered it.

Meg refocused on the man in front of her. Navy skin, a square jaw, and intricate tattoos running over his scalp rather than hair. He grinned at her, his fangs flashing along with his glittering purple irises.

“Your eyes are really beautiful,” he repeated. She’d come to realize there were many differences between the Clecanians, but one thing the men in particular had in common was a penchant for rote flattery. At first, she’d basked in it, never wanting the praise to end. But after the fortieth time her eyes were vaguely complimented and after hearing the same accolades uttered to all other women in the room, the words had lost their charm. The compliments weren’t specific to her, they were more a courtesy like “good morning” or “have a nice day.” Polite, but shallow.

As if to mirror her thoughts, the man across from Camille scooted closer and said, “Yes, and yours are a shade I’ve only seen in the most beautiful flower.”

Camille rolled her eyes and smiled. “Really? Do you hear that, Meg? Apparently his favorite color of flower is brown.” Meg held in a chuckle as the two men exchanged a confused glance.

Still, neither Camille nor Meg was repelled. The men were sweet and flirting the way they’d been taught to. It wasn’t their fault their methods weren’t exactly working on humans.

“Try harder.” Camille leaned forward and shot the man across from her a teasing smile with just a hint of a challenge. “Tell me something I’ve never heard before.”

Meg’s suitor, Bantio, listened, and his gaze became far off as he, too, tried to think of a unique compliment.

Camille’s man—Rikad, Meg thought—straightened at her challenge. A true grin, one that was different from his charming, practiced smiles, spread over his face and he seemed to study Camille with renewed interest.

“I enjoyed watching your dimples appear when you spoke of your job working with Earth beasts during your interview this afternoon. I wonder how I could make you smile so they deepen even more.”

Camille’s grin widened at that, her dimples pulling in.

“Marvelous,” Rikad breathed.

“Okay. You have my attention,” Camille said, propping her chin on her hand.

“Shall I show you the flower I was speaking of?” He lifted a large palm to her.

Camille glanced at Meg and whispered, “You good?”

“Fantastic.” Meg smirked back and watched as an eager Rikad shot to his feet.

“Do you guys use your fangs for anything specific?” Meg asked Bantio while taking another swig of her drink.

His eyes lingered on the retreating backs of Camille and Rikad. “Huh?”

They were seated on the top floor of a three-story event space. It wasn’t exactly a restaurant or a bar or a club, although food and drinks were available and rhythmic music pulsed from the floating sound orbs above. Vondale was a city of people watchers, and this space seemed to be designed for just that.

The two lower levels were filled with birdcage-like structures that boasted elegant inset seating and curated lighting. They hung throughout the two floors, and fashionable attendees of the party chose their spots based on illumination and position. Those who were the most extravagantly outfitted chose rooms near the center where they could be seen from every angle. There were even little paths circling all the enclosures where people could walk and admire everyone without ever speaking to them.

Meg had asked to be seated on this higher level because it was an open space. Everyone still gawked at each other, including her, but the floating tables and chairs scattered throughout this quiet level made her feel a little more comfortable and less like a human in a display case.

“Your fangs. Are they functional?” Meg already knew the answer, but she’d found that not everyone she’d met appreciated how much she’d already learned about their culture. They seemed to prefer the idea of an uninformed Class Four–planet human who they could dazzle with alien knowledge. Meg didn’t really mind pretending not to know things. At least it gave her topics for conversation.

Bantio smiled and launched into a heated explanation of how his people used their fangs. She half listened. The music had changed, and she couldn’t help but concentrate on the interesting beat being created by some kind of percussive instrument she was unfamiliar with. When it wouldn’t feel like she was interrupting or uninterested, she’d have to ask for the name of this song so she could listen to it later.

Meg liked Clecanian music, yet she couldn’t help but miss her playlists. Music on this planet was mostly instrumental, and when there was singing, the background melody was soft or nonexistent. Many places felt that combining singing and instrumental music lessened the impact of each rather than enhanced them both.

A loud crash from below had both her and Bantio jumping. She craned her neck to look down the revolving staircase but couldn’t see anything.

Bantio pulled his chair forward until their knees were brushing together. “I can show you,” he rasped, his light purple gaze heating.

It took her a moment to recall what he’d been talking about. Fangs. Right…oh.

Despite the slight boredom she’d felt while talking with Bantio, her heart thrummed in her chest and heat crept into her belly.

A part of her thought, This guy? Really?

He was gorgeous, but she’d met a lot of gorgeous men who were far more charismatic and suave. As unexpected as her reaction might be, she was just happy she felt something finally.

This is it. I’m going to see what it’s like to be with another man. She took in a shaky breath. “Yes. Uh. I’d like that.”

“Oh, Meg. I forgot to tell you—”

Meg nearly fell out of her chair in an attempt to stop Daunet from saying what she’d crept up behind her to say. “Damn it! Don’t! I told you I’m sorry.”

Daunet had plastered a confused look on her face. “Oh, I was just going to remind you that your mate had called.” Without a care in the world, her guard flounced away.

Meg’s lids slid closed, and she let out a slow breath through her nose. When she turned back around, Bantio had leapt three feet away and was staring with wide accusatory eyes.

“You have a mate?”

Another crash and a few heated shouts echoed from downstairs. Who was fighting, and what had set them off?

“No. She’s joking. I don’t have a mate.”

The man narrowed his eyes at her. “Why would she joke about that?” he asked.

“Because she can’t get the girl she wants into bed and she’s taking it out on me,” Meg shouted loudly enough for Daunet to hear in her spot across the room.

Bantio peered over his shoulder when a deep bellow echoed from downstairs.

Meg stood and crossed to him. Dammit all if she was going to let the only man who’d caused a twitch of excitement in her belly from falling prey to Daunet’s silly payback. She clasped Bantio’s hand, and his attention shifted back to her. “I promise, I don’t have a mate.”

“You!” Both she and Bantio jumped when a deep voice echoed through the crowded space, bouncing off the glass and metal walls.

A man with dark hair, black eyes, and a murderous expression stood at the top of the revolving staircase, legs planted apart, hands balled into fists.

Damn, she was glad she wasn’t “you.” That person was about to have a very unpleasant day if the bulging stiff muscles of this man had anything to say about it.

Meg glanced over her shoulder, trying to figure out who was about to be murdered. When she saw no one making a run for it, she looked back.

Hair rose on the back of her neck, Bantio’s hand slipping from her palm. She couldn’t see the enraged man’s pupils past the complete blackness of his eyes, but she somehow felt his gaze on her. Two guards from the balcony below suddenly collided with his back. Rather than be tackled, he only stumbled forward a step. She moved to the left, then to the right, testing a theory she couldn’t bear to voice. His face rotated, following her progress. Crap.

Meg crept backward slowly, cursing as she bumped into a chair. Daunet appeared at the edge of the room, pulling a knife, but her movements slowed when her eyes locked onto something, and widened.

“You said you didn’t have a mate,” Bantio shouted while scrambling away, palms raised toward the dark-haired man who’d just flung one guard off his arm as if they were a fly. The other guard went tumbling down the stairs when the man spun out of reach and slammed a boot into his chest.

He sprinted toward Meg, dodging floating tables and clearing furniture with a leap. Shock kept her feet rooted in place, though she should’ve been bolting out of the way like everyone else.

The wild man closed in, and she slammed her eyes shut. This can’t be how I die.

He crashed into her like a train, knocking the breath from her lungs with an umph. The two steel bands of his arms locked around her middle, and he lifted her above his eyeline. She was still trying to suck the breath that had been knocked out of her back in when his face disappeared into the crook of her neck. He inhaled so deeply that his expanding chest forced a last wheeze to escape her crushed lungs.

The world around her was still, everyone staring in their direction rather than helping. The man began trailing his nose and parted lips over her throat, her hair, her ear, and her manic gaze landed on Daunet in the crowd. “Help me,” she gasped.

Daunet blinked, then motioned for the other guards to follow as she edged closer.

What the hell was going on? Meg tried to wiggle her arms, but they were welded to her sides under the man’s bulky biceps. Hot and wet, his tongue laved a spot under her ear, and Meg shivered. His answering purr shot sparks through her belly, and she was suddenly very aware of a hard bulge pressing into her hip.

“Maxu?” Daunet called from a few feet away.

All at once, the man’s body tensed.

“You know this lunatic?” Meg coughed as she fought for air. Spots danced across her vision. “Is that why you’ve all just been standing there?”

The man loosened his grip at her gasped words and pulled back enough to peer into her eyes. The most beautiful seafoam-green eyes she’d ever seen stared back at her. Though he’d relaxed his hold, Meg found her breath still caught in her throat.

Scraggly black hair covered his jaw and fell in knots around his ears. His eyes were bloodshot and weighed down by dark circles, but Meg’s pulse sped up all the same. He was striking, beautiful…dangerous.

“You don’t recognize your mate?” he rasped in a harsh whisper. His gaze narrowed, his lip curling in accusation as though he were furious at her.

“You must have me confused,” Meg tried after swallowing hard. “I don’t have a mate.”

His glare lingered on her mouth when she spoke. “Don’t toy with me, female.”

“Maxu, put her down and we’ll get this sorted.”

Meg’s head and hanging legs flapped in the wind like a ragdoll when the man—Maxu—spun toward Daunet. “She’s mine, Daunet. You see my marks.”

Meg had been taken aback by Maxu’s actions, surprised, scared even, but as she heard the tone of pure ownership in his words, anger flared hot and visceral.

“But…she doesn’t…” Daunet’s words were weak, which only spurred on Meg’s rage.

She began struggling with all her energy, kicking and baring her teeth. He only met her gaze and lifted a brow.

“I don’t belong to anyone, asshole. Put. Me. Down.”

The corner of Maxu’s lips quirked up at her struggling, which resulted in little more than a vibration under his strong hold. “You know, little mate, I’ve been dreaming about you since you abandoned me in Tremanta.”

“Abandoned you? What are you—”

“And,” he continued, raising his voice over hers, “I’m glad to find you have some fire in you.” He removed one of his arms, but the other remained in place, somehow keeping her pressed to him just as immovably as before. He held his hand up to her face, and she stilled. Bright blue marks circled his wrists and curled around his fingers. Meg’s throat went dry when she took in the broken, bloodied skin underneath the swirling blue marks on his knuckles. “But make no mistake, you are mine.”

Red invaded her vision. His imperious tone, his possessive hold—and what made her even angrier was the heat easing through her sex as a result of his imperious tone and possessive hold. She would not go back to being trapped. Never again.

His hand was still flexed in front of her face, and she glared at the marks. His smirk widened, turning her feral. Before she realized what she was doing, she lunged forward and sank her teeth into the meaty area below his pinky until she tasted blood.

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