Saving Verakko: Chapter 11

“Do you enjoy sweets as well?” Verakko turned around and slid his eyes shut in mortification.

An hour thinking of the best thing to ask to learn about her life, and that’s what comes out of your mouth? He piled the firewood he’d gathered into a corner and faced her again.

Lily gave him a curious half smile but answered, “Yeah. I have a huge sweet tooth.”

“Sweet tooth,” Verakko repeated, rolling the odd phrase over in his mind and finding he liked it.

She scattered piles of large leaves around the dirt. Verakko’s breathing deepened, and he became all too aware of the rough, wet fabric against his shaft. They both knew what was coming next. They’d need to remove their clothes in order to dry them, and the air would be too cold for her unclothed. She was making a bed. A bed wide enough to make it obvious it was for them both.

The more time he spent with Lily, the clearer to him it was how difficult it would be to be parted from her when they finally reached a city. It’d taken more strength than he knew he had to let her go after the sefa attack. Even thinking about how close she’d come to being hurt made a cold sweat break out over his skin.

He’d thought stopping anything physical from happening between them would keep him from becoming too attached to Lily, but he found that just being around her was enough to be drawn in—in a way he never had before. When she cried, he felt like a spike was being jabbed in his lungs. When she was happy, he had to actively try to keep himself from grinning.

Lily’s eyes were unfocused, and a smile played at her lips. “I was never allowed to have any sweets either.” She rolled her eyes. “Sugar, I mean. If I could find something sweet in the forest, I could have it.” She laid a few large, smooth leaves over the top of her cushioning base piles. “Whenever my aunt Cindy joined one of our trips, though, she would sneak me candy. I still remember the first time I ever tried a peanut butter cup.” Lily smiled over to him. “I think that’s the day I decided I wanted to emancipate myself. That small piece of candy made me wonder what other things I was missing out on.” Her eyes widened in exasperation. “A lot, as it turned out.”

He should’ve been working, building the fire or retrieving water, but he kept still. Was there anything he enjoyed more than just being with her? Listening to her talk or watching her move around?

“Emancipate yourself?” The word usage was unfamiliar to him.

Now done with the bed, she reached for the bow drill. He snatched it away before she could grab it. She pursed her lips at him. “You’ve done it for the past two days. It’s my turn.”

Verakko ignored her comment and began to work on the fire. “Emancipate is translating as set free. You set yourself free?”

She looked like she wanted to argue but instead let it go. “In a way. Where I’m from, parents are legally responsible for their children until the child turns eighteen. If a child petitions for emancipation before the age of eighteen, it means they become responsible for themselves.”

“Did your parents treat you poorly?”

“Not at all! I just didn’t want to live the type of life they lived anymore.” Lily hiked her shoulders. “They wanted to live in the forests. Making their own tools and connecting with nature. I wanted to be around people and technology and processed foods. I wanted to wear impractical clothing and sleep in a real bed I didn’t have to carry on my back during the day.”

“How demanding of you.” He smirked.

She grinned back. “You might not know from looking at me now, but I love the luxuries of civilization. I’ve actually become kind of a snob.”

“I doubt that.” Verakko had barely heard her complain, aside from her complaints about him those first few days.

Lily piled wood onto the small fire he’d started. “Trust me. As soon as we find Alex and I have some money to burn, I’m going to need you to take me to a spa, then to a bed.” Her cheeks flushed pink, and she worried her bottom lip. “I mean, show me where I can find a bed.”

He knew exactly which bed he’d like to direct her toward. “I’d be happy to pay for a spa trip. It’s the least I can do.”

“Well, I’d like to turn you down, being the independent woman I claim to be, but seeing as I’m in a situation where I don’t have anything but the clothes on my back and a winning personality, who am I to refuse a little help from friend?” Her smile faltered, and her eyes grew worried. “Verakko, what will happen to me? Are there homeless shelters or somewhere I’ll be able to stay while I get on my feet?”

The anxious curl of her brows set his nerves on edge. He wanted to explain to her that he’d be seeing to all of her needs and that never in her life would she find herself struggling to survive, but he couldn’t rightly promise her anything at the moment. “You won’t have to worry about that. Citizens in most of the cities on this planet are supplied free housing, food, clothing, and medical care. If you marry—” Verakko glanced away, hiding his scowl and the snarl rising in his throat, “—your husband will make sure you have everything you want for however long you remain with him.”

Lily remained quiet, thoughtful.

“Do you think you’d ever want to marry?” Could she hear the pathetically concealed interest in his voice?

“On Earth, no. My last boyfriend proposed, but I turned him down. You said it’s different here, though, right? Only lasts for a few months. What’s the point of it? It sounds more like dating to me.”

A fiery mix of jealous rage and bitter approval roared through Verakko upon hearing she’d turned down her male. He made sure his voice was even when he answered, “The main goal of marriage is often pregnancy. Like I said, our people are going extinct. Females enter into short marriages to decide whether they want to have a child with their husbands, and then they can either extend the marriage from there and try to become pregnant or they can marry someone else.”

“What happens if a woman gets married but decides not to try for children?”

“If it’s clear she’s actively attempting to not become pregnant, it’ll be assumed she didn’t deem the male worthy. Nothing will happen specifically, but the male will have a harder time negotiating his next contract.”

Lily’s lips thinned. “Well then, definitely no marriage for me, at least not right now. I’m not even sure I want to have children.”

“Is that why you turned down your boyfriend?” Verakko questioned, stumbling over the odd phrase for the male she’d been interested in. He was intent not to make the same mistakes her last male had.

“No. On Earth, marriage is different. It’s meant to be for life, and ideally two people should marry because they’re in love and want to be together forever. Nathan was nice, but I just didn’t feel that thing.”


Lily lifted her hands to the fire. “You know. That thing. That spark. The feeling that you can’t go another minute without seeing the other person.” Shrugging, she continued, “I’m not sure I believe in marriage long-term, anyway. Fifty percent of them end in divorce.” Lily scowled in disgust. “You know how many of my married male clients at the salon have hit on me? It’s like they don’t even care about the person they’re married to anymore. Such assholes. And don’t even get me started on guys I’ve met who have girlfriends they somehow forgot to mention.”

Fuck. Would she consider Ziritha my girlfriend? He didn’t understand all the phrases she’d used, but the thought was clearHe wasn’t technically married, but in his culture, he was as good as married, and he’d venture a guess that was how Lily would see it as well.

Should I tell her about Ziritha nowNo, Verakko decided. I won’t be marrying Ziritha. I’ll find a loophole in the contract and somehow get Lily to agree to stay with me. There isn’t anything to reveal.

Lily continued, unaware of Verakko’s inner turmoil. “My parents were married my whole life, but they were more like companions than anything else. Friends who worked really well together. If they ever had a spark, it was long dead by the time I grew up. I don’t want to end up like that.”

Verakko shoved a hand through his hair, itching to throw something. Lily didn’t want a Clecanian marriage or an Earth marriage, and she may not even want children. He’d never particularly rejoiced at the idea of having children, but he’d also never thought about it much. A child would be a blessing, and it was his duty to do whatever he could to have one. Whether he actually wanted a child had never entered the equation. Verakko pondered this for a moment. When the image of Lily cradling a small girl with brown eyes popped into his mind and longing spread through his chest like warm liquid, he cursed.

She raised a brow and peered at him. “Do you want to get married?”

As was the case in the question of children, no one had ever asked him that before. Did he? It was an honor to be chosen for marriage, something all males strived for. He’d never considered any alternative. If he knew anything for certain, he knew he didn’t want a temporary marriage. He wanted a mate—Lily—for life. But this conversation had only made the situation more complicated. If he told her the truth and admitted he wanted to be with her, he might scare her off.

“It depends on who I’m marrying,” he replied at length.

 “And that’s up to your mother? You can’t pick yourself?”

Tell her the truth. “I’ll be obligated to marry who my mother chooses,” he said instead.

“And that’s why you ‘can’t.’”

Verakko stilled, realizing what she was referring to. Goddess, his mivassi was confusing. “If you don’t believe in marriages of any kind, then why do you care?”

Lily chuckled. “Is that how it is here? Marriage or nothing?” She sighed. “I’m not saying marriage is completely off the table—Earth-style marriage, that is,” she quickly corrected. “I just think it would have to be a pretty spectacular relationship for me to consider it. That’s why I like dating. You’re saying you can’t date?”

It took Verakko a moment to realize his mouth was hanging open. He’d learned a little about dating from the human named Alice and knew he’d love nothing more than to date Lily and convince her to stay with him forever. But that would take time, and time wasn’t an option for him right now. What could he say?

He could only manage a shake of his head.

Lily gazed into the fire, her brows knit in thought. Verakko wanted to shout. She’d been asking him the same types of questions he’d wanted to ask her. Were her questions meant to be asked for the same reason? Was she trying to figure out how to be with him?

Verakko didn’t know how he should act with her. He couldn’t sleep with her. It’d be a breach of contract and result in him being drafted off-world, but he couldn’t push her away either. If he somehow managed to figure out a way out of his contract, he’d need her to like him. He had to keep her interested in him without crossing any of the lines he desperately wanted to cross.

Lily shivered again, and he cursed. The sun had almost set, and the night was only going to get colder; he couldn’t put this off any longer. “We need to get our clothes dry.”

Her gaze became heated, making him want to flee. “I agree.”

They’d eaten a small meal of nuts and fruit while setting up camp and had both agreed Verakko should wait until the following day to hunt. There was nothing left to do. No other distractions.

Silently, he rose and undressed, hanging his clothes on a nearby branch. He kept his eyes averted as he listened to her do the same.

Don’t look. Don’t look. Don’t look.

He laid on his side on the bed of leaves, leaving a sizable spot for Lily to lay in front of him. She’d be warm here, nestled between his considerable body heat and the fire. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her delicate feet walking toward him, and he slid his lids closed.

Her scent hit him first. Clean from the river but tinged with a light smoky scent, courtesy of their fire. Then the brush of her hair swept over his arm as she settled in front of him. Verakko kept his eyes squeezed tightly shut and tried to block out all thoughts of her naked body so close to his. She rested her head on his outstretched forearm, facing away from him and shattering the last bits of his control. What would be the harm? He’d only see her back, after all.

As soon as his eyes opened, he regretted it. She’d tucked her arms and legs into her body, and goosebumps had broken out on her bare arm, only a breath away. His hand rose of its own volition and hovered above her shoulder, not touching but close enough to feel the meager heat from her skin. With a defeated sigh, he allowed his hand to ghost over her rib cage and narrow waist, then up and along the flair of her hip. Her hips were thin, but the bone structure underneath hinted that they’d be lush once she regained the weight she’d lost during these past few weeks. They were the perfect shape to hold her steady while burying himself in her. His fingers flexed, and his shaft hardened.

Then he scented it. Her arousal. He couldn’t do this, wasn’t strong enough. In a hoarse whisper, he swayed, “Roll onto your back.”


The command rang through her mind, sticking like glue to the forefront of her thoughts, but she discarded the sway. She could feel heat from his palm as it glided over her curves, hovering maddeningly close. Her breath was coming in pants. She clenched her legs together tightly, trying to hide the smell of her arousal.

Verakko had said he couldn’t be with her even though he wanted to. Being naked together must be torture for him. She piled her hair underneath her and peered over her shoulder at him.

“Why?” she asked in a breathy voice.

His head dipped to her now-bare shoulder. A low, rattling growl emanated from somewhere deep inside him. “Because I want to see you.”

Her sex clenched, and she stifled a whimper. “Is that allowed?”

He propped himself on his elbow, and his heated gaze bore into her. “Looking is allowed.”

Lily bit her lip, releasing a shaky breath through her nose. Keeping her arms banded around her chest and her legs pressed firmly together, she rolled onto her back. The movement brought her even closer to Verakko, the left side of her body brushing against the front of his.

A hot, rigid bulge prodded her thigh, and she sucked in a breath. Verakko hissed at the touch.

Lily rested her head on Verakko’s forearm and watched him. His glowing emerald eyes trailed down her body hungrily. The tense hollows and valleys of his torso glimmered in the green firelight, and his chest rose and fell quickly. When his gaze stopped at the vee of her thighs, he licked a sharp fang. She felt the length of him pulse against her side.

A flush broke out all over her body. To know she was causing this reaction in a man like Verakko made her feel powerful. Lily wanted him to see all of her. She lowered her arms, exposing her breasts.

Verakko groaned. His large, warm palm hovered above her chest but didn’t touch, making her want to arch her back into his hands. The heat radiating off his palm as he swept it above her skin left a scorched trail in its wake. Her breathing became erratic, making her breasts quiver with every shaky exhalation.

“So beautiful, Lily,” he rasped. He dipped his head and blew hot air on her nipple. It pebbled instantly, and he grinned, then moved to excite the other nipple.

“You can’t touch me at all?” Another wave of smoky cedar hit her, and she felt like she was going to burst. Her sex was throbbing now, needing release.

“Not the way I want to. There would be consequences.” He ghosted his knuckles over her trembling belly then lower. “Open,” he commanded, hovering above the apex of her thighs.

This man is gonna kill me.

She spread her bent knees apart a few inches.

“Wider,” he growled.

Lily let her knees fall open, resting her leg on Verakko’s hip.

He inhaled deeply, and a rattling purr reverberated through his exhale. “Goddess, Lily. Your scent is enough to push any male over the edge.” His palm curled just over her mound, making more liquid heat pool in her core.

“No one would have to know,” she urged, past the embarrassment. I’m practically begging him!

His hand raised to her cheek, and he stared down at her. “If I touched you, I wouldn’t ever be able to stop. I won’t risk giving you up later for a few minutes of pleasure now.” He licked a fang and stared at her neck. “No matter how much I may want to.”

Lily’s heart stuttered. Screw this! “Does it work both ways?”

“Does what work both ways?” He leaned down and breathed a line of scalding air against her ear and neck.

Her mind took a moment to come back to the present. “Can…can I touch you?”

Verakko froze, his breathing becoming labored. She took his silence as an opening and slid her hand between them and around his shaft.

His body jerked, and he hissed out a curse she couldn’t understand. He was large and hot in her palm. The silky skin felt delicate, yet the hardness and sheer size of him was anything but. She began to slide her palm farther down, but he caught her hand, circling it with his own.

His gaze was furious, the muscles in his neck corded in anger, but she didn’t sense it was directed at her. After a few breaths passed, he removed her palm from his cock and silently shook his head.

Lily glared back at him, frustrated beyond belief before finally trailing her fingers down her own stomach. His attention snapped to the movement of her hand as it traveled lower, and his brows lifted as though he were in pain.

When she slid her index and middle fingers through her slick folds, he exhaled a miserable groan. “Show me what you like.”

Lily slipped two fingers inside her sheath, then removed them and ran the wet tips over her clit. Her hips twitched at the contact.

Verakko narrowed his eyes. “Let me see.”

She tilted her hips toward Verakko’s dark, intent stare and applied more pressure to the small circles she was drawing around her clit. He let out an appreciative hiss.

Lily watched breathlessly as his hand trailed down and he gripped his own shaft. She whimpered aloud, and her core clenched again. This isn’t enough! She was empty, hollow. She needed him inside her.

She pressed a finger of her other hand inside her core to combat the ache. The hard muscles of Verakko’s bicep bulged as he ran his hand up and down his length in slow, fluid motions. She couldn’t look away. She’d never done anything like this with another man, certainly not in front of a man.

“Lily, look at me.”

She met Verakko’s serious gaze. The quick movements of her fingers became more frantic. She moaned, and his eyes locked onto her mouth.

“Let me sway you,” he rumbled. His forearm rose a fraction, making her head to rest in the crook of his elbow. He lifted his forearm more, pinning her head against his bicep and forcing her to remain focused on his face.

Her rhythm faltered, and she peered up at him in confusion.

He ran a pointed tongue over his lips. “Please trust me. Open yourself up to it.”

Tentatively, she nodded, readying to let his sway through. Heat flooded her core anew, wondering what he might try to do.

Deep, velvety soft words echoed through her mind. “Imagine my shaft filling you, reaching all the places inside you can’t reach.”

Suddenly, Lily’s fingers felt larger, the sensation of being filled more intense. She arched her back, and her eyes slid closed.

“Keep your eyes on me. You want me to see you come.”

Lily’s eyes flashed open. Verakko hovered only a few inches above her, staring down into her eyes. Low moans and sighs poured out of her now. An electric current flashed between her clit and her inner walls with every swipe of her fingers. She could feel his fist pumping faster behind her thigh, the mere brush of his knuckles enough to make her tingle all over.

Lily’s hips started to jerk erratically.

“Come hard, mivassi.”

The sway echoed through her mind a split second before she broke apart. Her gaze, still focused dutifully on Verakko’s, grew watery. Suddenly he roared, and his body stiffened. Then, without warning, his lips were on hers.

She moaned into his mouth, shuddering as the last of her climax sizzled through her. For a moment, he remained still, just holding his lips in place.

Fearing he’d get ahold of his senses and pull away, she coaxed his lips open with her tongue. When they did, she deepened the kiss, sweeping her tongue against his until he gradually responded. Verakko drew her bottom lip into his mouth. She felt the faintest brush of fang and sighed, letting her lids drift closed. The sound seemed to spur him on. His chest rumbled with a resonant purr that traveled all the way to his tongue. He tilted his head, taking charge of the kiss.

His pointed, strong tongue flicked against hers, making heat pool in her belly once again. She ran her tongue along one of his fangs, marveling at how they scared her and turned her on at the same time.

Verakko pulled away, breathing hard, and stared down into her eyes. “Careful. You might cut yourself.”

“Has that ever happened before?” Lily exhaled, unable to keep a grin from spreading across her face. “Have you ever accidentally bitten someone while kissing?”

His hand reached up, brushing her hair from her damp forehead. “I’ve never kissed anyone like that before,” he said quietly.

Lily stilled and pressed her cheek to his bicep, the muscles jumping at her touch. “Never? You didn’t even learn about it in that school?”

“Kissing on the mouth isn’t often done on this planet.” Verakko smirked, then pulled a section of leaf from between them, forcing her to lie on her side once again. She felt heat rise on her cheeks. He was cleaning up after himself, she realized.

He wrapped an arm around her waist from behind and tugged her snuggly against his chest. She stretched, curling into him, and just about melted. His warmth enveloped her, and the odd purr still rumbling through his chest soothed her even more. The scent of cedar smoke clung to their bodies.

Verakko swept the hair from her neck and inhaled deeply. She felt the slightest trace of his fangs over the sensitive flesh. “Do you ever… Never mind.”

“Do I ever what?” he crooned, gripping her more firmly around the waist.

Lily bit her lip. Did she really want to know? “Do you ever bite people?”

She felt a chuckle rumble through him. “Still worried I’m going to eat you?”

She brushed her fingers up and down the forearms resting on her waist. Hairless? How weird. The vibration against her back increased. He must’ve liked that. “You keep looking at my neck and licking your chops. What else am I supposed to think?”

He grunted, and his hot breath fanned over the skin below her ear. Goosebumps erupted on her arms, and she burrowed deeper into the warmth of his chest. “We do. During marriages. Or with mates.” She jumped when he playfully snapped his teeth together at her ear and rasped, “Or enemies.”

Lily shivered. “Does it hurt?”

Verakko settled behind her and released a contented exhale. “Only if you’re an enemy.”

Don’t ask. Don’t ask. Don’t ask. “Verakko?”

“Hmm?” he murmured into her hair.

“You’re touching me and…and we kissed. Isn’t that breaking the rules?”

She felt him stiffen and cursed herself for ruining the moment.

He let out a defeated sigh and relaxed against her again. “It is, but I couldn’t help it. I’ve wanted to kiss you since the first time I saw you. And the rest of this touching? Well…” He gently rocked his hips into her ass. She gasped at the semi-firm erection trapped between their bodies. “This is for survival. No way around it.”

“Oh really?” she chuckled, arching her bottom toward him and making him hiss. “I think our clothes might be dry by now.”

His arm around her waist tightened. “Definitely not.”

Lily giggled and gazed into the crackling flames. An old memory played through her mind again, and she smiled. “When I was younger,” she began, stroking his arm, “my family went on a trek through Turkey. I met a boy on our way. He was my first kiss.”

Verakko’s other arm, crossed in front of her shoulders, pulling her against his chest even more. “Why are you telling me this?” His voice was almost a growl.

Lily flushed at the thought he might be jealous. “In that part of Turkey, a lot of the wood you use for campfires is cedar. The one and only time we kissed, I remember it felt like every part of my body was tied in a knot. I couldn’t catch my breath or slow down my heartbeat. My stomach was hollow and full at the same time. It was wonderful. I’d never felt so alive or nervous or excited.” Verakko’s muscles tensed under her hands. If she listened closely, she thought she might even hear his molars being ground into dust, but he remained silent. “And the one thing I remember from that night,” she continued, “other than the kiss itself—which was terrible by the way—was the smell of burning cedar. Whenever I smell that scent, I instantly remember how I felt that night. It makes me happy and nervous in the best way.”

Lily turned her upper body so she could look at Verakko. His lips were thinned, and his jaw was set in a harsh clench.

She took a chance and leaned in. To her delight, he didn’t move away. She pressed a soft kiss to his firm lips. “That’s what you smell like to me. Cedar.”

Verakko’s eyes widened for a moment, the bright green irises darkening until they almost looked black. The corner of his mouth slowly lifted, the tension in his body evaporating. He kissed her again, and a sudden purr vibrated through his lips, tickling her.

Heat rose on her cheeks at the intimacy of the moment. She rolled to her side, grinning privately. She’d never told another living soul about that night or about how she’d been searching for that feeling every day of her life since. “I just thought you should know.”

“Thank you for telling me, mivassi.”

Lily frowned as the word rang through her translator again. He’d said it earlier as well, but she’d been distracted to say the least. It was one of the words that didn’t have a direct translation, which meant the voice that echoed in her ear stuttered its closest approximation, out of time with the speaker.

Mivassi. My alternative.



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