We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Saving Verakko: Chapter 12

Alternative? Alternative. Freaking alternative! The word kept replaying in Lily’s mind over and over like a broken record. What did it mean?

She’d attempted to cool the immediate hurt and anger she’d felt when the meaning of Verakko’s pet name had settled in her mind. After lying awake for hours, sour and confused, she’d finally drifted to sleep, only to have one unpleasant dream after another rouse her.

A dream of Verakko marrying someone else while she watched from the sidelines had been first. Then had come a dream of her on her knees, begging a faceless, statuesque woman for a marriage contract. The woman had cackled in Lily’s face for what seemed like hours before Verakko had joined her, pointing and laughing at her ridiculous request.

Her last dream had involved a spiky-headed purple alien sitting down in her chair and asking for the usual cut and color. She’d stood frozen, gazing at its glimmering black spikes and wondering what to do until finally, it’d sneezed, shooting its head spikes into her face.

She’d bolted awake, naked, alone, and feeling vulnerable in far too many ways.

Verakko had returned soon after with a stick he’d guessed she could use to make a new toothbrush. All she could see when she looked at it was an image of him marrying another woman.

While brushing her teeth, she’d pondered whether the translator could be malfunctioning. As they’d bushwhacked their way through dense forest clinging to the edge of the river for hours, she’d decided alternative must be an odd phrase for someone not from his city.

Then, as the first drops of rain had begun to fall on their heads, she’d nervously wondered if it meant how it sounded. He would never marry her, so she was known as an alternative. An alternative to his wife. A second choice. Maybe even a mistress.

Her stomach remained tight and hollow, a shaky, timid urgency to shut down her emotional attachment before it was too late kept gnawing at her every time she caught Verakko’s gorgeous gaze.

It wasn’t really his fault. She’d made it clear she didn’t want to participate in a typical marriage. But she’d had every intention of asking Verakko whether they could agree to fake it. They could date by getting married but would only pretend to try for a child so he wouldn’t be looked down upon if they didn’t work out. After hearing that nickname, though, she wondered again if marriage was even an option. How hard would she have to work in order to be considered by his mother? Would she always be thought of as an alternative because she wasn’t “marriage material” or maybe because she was human?

Verakko had noticed her shift in mood and, after a few rocky attempts at conversation earlier in the day, had stopped attempting to speak with her. His eyes had been alight that morning when he’d presented her with her new toothbrush, but every time she’d avoided eye contact or had given him a forced smile or one-word answer, the light had dimmed a little more. After the trail had morphed into an overgrown mess and walking side by side became impossible, Verakko had taken the lead.

Lily winced as another tiny green insect nipped at her ankle. The slick, muddy ground was bringing out the creatures in droves. She wrapped her arms around herself for warmth and worried her lip while staring at Verakko’s back. His black shirt was soaking and clung to his broad shoulders as he sawed through vines and hanging saplings with his small knife, occasionally becoming frustrated and ripping apart the dense flora with his bare hands.

Alternative. Her heart clenched.

Not even the discovery of another flimsy flag and carved message from Alex had worked to lift her spirits.

I hate nature was all it had said. Lily agreed.

Verakko stopped abruptly and cursed, shaking his hand as though he’d hurt it. Lily tried to catch a glimpse of what had happened, but he continued on almost as quickly as he’d stopped. A few bloody drops on fallen leaves was the only evidence that he’d hurt himself.

A pang of guilt hit her. He was working so hard, trying to clear a path for her to traverse through, and all she could do was stew about something that was really her fault in the first place. He’d told her he couldn’t be with her. Told her how relationships in his city worked. She was the one who’d pushed for more, not him.

It scared her how close she felt to him. She’d only known him for a few days, after all. She could understand it if she’d been a little put out at the idea that they could never date. But this gut-wrenching sadness that made her want to tie him to a tree and never return to civilization? That was a reaction she’d never expected.

“Hold up,” she called over the sound of slowly building rain.

Verakko spun to her, second lid in place to guard his eyes from the rain. His hair fell to one side, and small droplets of water trailed from the pointed tips of his ears to his lobes and then down onto his slick biceps.

She pursed her lips. What right do you have to look so damn good! This isn’t a photoshoot.

“Did you hurt yourself?”

“It’s nothing,” he said automatically, balling his left hand into a fist.

Lily let out a defeated sigh and walked toward him, her soaking flats squeaking and squelching in the mud. She grabbed his hand and sent him a stern look until he uncurled his fingers, then winced. A deep gash ran through the center of his bright-green palm, leaking dark blood. “We should stop and find shelter until the rain lets up.”

“It’ll heal quickly. Don’t worry.” Verakko studied her, his shielded green eyes glowing faintly through his second lid. He looked as frustrated as she felt, except underneath it all she could also see longing and something that looked suspiciously like sadness.

Lily had never let the word impossible stop her. It was just a word. Nothing was impossible. But what if this truly was? What if she was giving her heart to a man who could never be with her?

A loud crash of thunder overhead made her jump and throw her hand over her chest.

Verakko’s lips curled inward as though he were smothering a grin.

The corners of her mouth twitched. “That wasn’t funny.”

He transformed his features into a comical display of serious agreement.

Lily released a quick chuckle then sighed. She stared up into Verakko’s eyes and smothered the nasty urge to lift onto her toes and press a kiss to his smirking lips.

My alternative.

Verakko’s smile faltered, and his dark brows drew together, the silence between them heavy.

“I think we should keep going if you’re able.” Verakko slipped his shirt off and shoved it over her head before she could protest. The fabric was soaking, just like her own clothing, but the heat from his body still clung to the wet shirt.

Warmth spread through Lily’s chest despite the icy rain.

“I’m confident this river leads to my home city. I’ll ask my mother to send a group of her soldiers out to search for Alex if she isn’t already there.” He gave a weak smile. “I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of living out here.”

“Your mother’s soldiers?” Lily asked, unnerved. “Why does your mother have soldiers?”

Verakko licked a fang with his tongue, and his gaze darted. “She’s the queen of my city.”

Lily blinked. The queen? “You’re a…a prince?”

A crease formed on his forehead, and he scanned her face. Was she as pale as she felt? “I suppose.”

“You’ll be king someday?”

Verakko scrunched his brows together in confusion. “No. The people will choose her successor with her input. As her child, I’m excluded from consideration.”

Alternative, a voice whispered in her ear, making her stomach flip. No wonder he’d told her it would never work! Her breathing hitched, and she turned away from him, then back. This would be all they could ever have. Stolen moments in a forest, away from prying eyes. Alien planet or not, a queen was a queen. Lily deflated. She’d never had a shot.

I asked him if he’d like to date. A hysterical laugh burst out of her at the thought, earning a perplexed look from Verakko.

“We should cover as much ground as we can in this weather. The Strigi won’t fly through a storm like this.” His lips thinned for a moment, then he said, “I can carry you.”

“No,” Lily blurted, taking a step back.

The skin around his eyes tightened, and a muscle ticked in his jaw.

Her heart thumped against her chest in protest. He was hurting; she could see it in his eyes. His confusion and sadness. Guilt swamped her. She’d pushed for this with her idiotic positivity. Thinking she could win over his mother and it’d all work out. She’d made a man from a planet low on females care for a female he could never have.

“What happened, Lily?” His voice was strong, forceful even. He didn’t need to elaborate—they both knew what he was referring to.

“Last night, that name you called me,” she began, knowing she had to hear it from him in order to truly move on. “It translated as alternative. Does that mean alternative to your wife?”

As his shoulders bunched and the muscles in his jaw worked, her hopes sputtered out. He nodded. “Technically, yes. But it means more than that to me. It means I’d never feel for anyone else what I feel for you.”

“I think…” She gulped. “I think you were right. We should keep our distance from each other.”

“Why?” he asked as if he knew it was the right thing to do but needed to be convinced of it himself.

“Because—” she looked around wildly, “—it seems like that nickname is more special than it sounds, but it’s still a term for someone who isn’t your wife, and I can’t be in that type of relationship. Seeing you with someone else, even if it’s just a temporary arrangement…it would hurt me. It’d be better for both of us if we stopped this now.” Was she already past the point of no return? Lily felt like she’d be sick. She took a deep breath in and out, then pushed past him and muttered, “I’m sorry.”


Verakko trudged after Lily, feeling lower than the mud beneath her flimsy soles.

He’d gone too far last night. She’d trusted him, let him in her mind, slept in his arms. She’d whispered sweet words to him, and all the while he’d been wondering how to get out of his tangle of lies.

Alternative. His translator had taken a moment to choose the word, reciting mivassi, then alternative, indicating it wasn’t a direct translation. But it was close enough. Mivassi was a word that referred to a claimed alternative to your chosen spouse while under contract. Only used in the rarest of instances when a person recognized their mate while married to another.

Lids sliding shut, he hung his head. Her glassy eyes had made it clear she thought he was referring to her as a female second to his wife. Should he clarify? What would be the point?

He couldn’t claim her as his mivassi. He had no evidence. If his eyes had changed or if his marks had appeared, he could claim her and his contract would be void, but without any evidence that she was his, the claim would be rejected and he’d have to honor his contract to Ziritha. Explaining the name may only give her false hope that he could get out of his marriage.

An equally upsetting outcome of him clarifying the true meaning of mivassi was that it may scare her. Claiming someone as a mivassi was the equivalent of announcing you’d unintentionally found your mate. Lily would be expected to stay with him forever. Knowing the physical and mental ramifications of being apart from one’s mate, his mother would no doubt ensure she remained with him. By force if necessary. Verakko was almost one hundred percent certain Lily wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.

Either way, he shouldn’t have used the name. It had been accidental, springing to his lips so readily. Likely because he’d grown up hearing it used as a term of endearment. He’d have to make an effort to not use it again. The depressing truth was, when all was said and done, he hadn’t recognized her and had no right to call her mivassi.

Another bolt of lightning lit the gray sky. Verakko glared into the pouring rain. When he focused on his path again, he found Lily had disappeared around a corner.

He sprinted forward, an unreasonable panic clogging his lungs. He’d just rounded the corner when he skidded to a halt. She stood on the edge of the river, gazing into the distance.

They’d reached the fork.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode