Using Fejo: Chapter 6


Heart racing, Vanessa sat on her bed and picked at her nails. Three days had gone by in a flash. Sharp pain drew her attention to her thumb, where a small bead of blood was forming. Frowning, she sucked the blood from her cuticle, then sat on her hands to keep from making them look any worse.

Was she really going to do this? Any moment now, Fejo would arrive. In a matter of seconds or minutes or hours, she’d be on her way to an actual spaceship. What would it look like? Would she have to learn to float around gracefully, like they did on the space station? Would it be small and cramped and cold? Though she’d been brought to Clecania presumably on a spaceship, she’d been unconscious for all of it.

The last thing she could remember from Earth was walking home in the rain after a particularly dreadful night. Memories of her fight with Julie flickered to life, and her limbs clenched, her stomach turning. Bile rose past the lump in her throat. She squeezed her eyes shut. Don’t think about it! Don’t think about it!

Shoving the memories down until they were buried was something Vanessa had gotten good at over the past month. She’d learned quickly that remembering that night consistently made her crumble under the weight of her guilt. She couldn’t afford to crumble right now. Focus on the present.

What would space be like? Was she even capable of flying through the vast emptiness and not losing her mind? Astronauts trained for decades to be able to go into space, didn’t they? What if once they took off she had a complete breakdown and became a danger to everyone? She’d traveled through space without ever experiencing it. Now, she’d be experiencing it all.

Her arms tingled, and she removed her hands from under her thighs, shaking off the pins and needles. She took a moment to flex her shoulders as well. Why the hell hadn’t she asked Luka about this? Why hadn’t she asked anybody about this?

She’d spent the past three days with Luka, Rhaego, Daisy, and Alice, planning and re-planning her escape once she reached the Lentri Port. They talked about how she’d need to act with Fejo. Both Rhaego and Luka had given her some tips on how to act to show interest without taking things further than they needed to go. In other words, ways to stall.

Vanessa now realized she’d been so preoccupied with figuring out how to meet up with Vitash at Lentri Port while keeping Fejo happy at an arm’s length, she hadn’t taken time to think about the fact she’d be on a real-life spaceship. In space.

She examined her outfit and second-guessed her choices once again. On top, she wore a thin long-sleeved white shirt made of an odd fuzzy material that was somehow incredibly warm and a black undershirt just in case she got overheated.

On the bottom she wore soft, loose black pants. The perfect material for comfortable traveling. The only pieces of clothing she didn’t question were the three pairs of thick underwear she’d donned. The fact that Fejo could smell every time he turned her on put her at a distinct disadvantage. One she couldn’t have right now. She needed to hold the power, and she needed to be able to lie about not being in the mood.

Vanessa had learned two things during the ceremony. One, Fejo was not nearly as unbearable as she’d remembered. And two, he was not all talk. Considering he’d claimed to have never kissed before, he’d performed like a damn expert. Just as he’d told her weeks ago, his bravado wasn’t cockiness, it was confidence. If he could kiss like that on his first try, she didn’t even want to think about how capable he’d be in other ways. No. It’d be a very bad idea to sleep with him, and she was going to avoid it, if at all possible.

But damn. He was charming and handsome and so clearly ready to take her to bed. It was going to be a job in and of itself to keep her guard up, even if it was only for a few days. He had a way of sparking electricity across every nerve whenever he was close. If Fejo wanted a wife as badly as all the other men on this planet and put his mind to seducing her? Well, shit. This was going to be near impossible.

“Stay in the room.” She thought about the advice Luka had given her. He’d explained many wives liked to acclimate to their new home for a few days before socializing with their husbands. Vanessa’s plan was to stay in her room alone as much as possible using this excuse. If she did ever see Fejo, she’d be pleasant but distant, which Rhaego had explained indicated she was neither pleased nor displeased. They all hoped this attitude would make Fejo try harder, so when she asked to go down to Lentri Port with him, he’d agree in order to make her happy, even if he didn’t want her to go.

Purple light flashed across the ceiling, telling her someone was at the door. She froze. Her gaze rocketed to her “suitcase,” a waist-high, floating white cube that was programmed to follow her around like a puppy. The letters were in there. She knew they were, since she’d anxiously checked and rechecked multiple times. Despite telling her brain this, though, her fingers still twitched.

Maybe just one more time. She leapt over to the cube, placed her palm on the top panel to unlock the print-activated device, and dug through the contents. There, tucked inside a silk bag Rita had sewn a secret pocket in, were the letters given to her by all the human women she’d been able to talk to in private.

She ran her fingers over the oddly thick paper the women had somehow gotten their hands on in the generally paperless temple. A few weren’t written on paper at all but torn pieces of cloth. The purple flash from the ceiling made her breath stutter.

What Vanessa was doing was important. It was important for her, obviously. But also for these women and their families. She’d taken on something bigger than herself, and she hoped to whatever deities actually existed that she wouldn’t fuck it up like she had every other important thing in her life.

Palms gone sweaty, she closed up the pouch and let out a shaky breath. Precious cargo.

When she took a few steps forward, the white cube inched toward her. She gazed around the beautiful house she’d been provided as she walked to the front door. Through the high-tech kitchen, large glass doors revealed the glittering water her floating house rested on.

Metli, a member of the Queen’s council, had told her that at this time of year, the glowing bilom that lived in the Pearl Lake were preparing for their mating season. They would shed their scales and, in turn, those scales would fertilize the lake bed, producing glorious colors in the floating blooms.

A pang of sadness hit her. Despite her determination to get off this planet, she had to admit, she’d grown fond of this place. Clecania was magical. She had a beautiful home, friends, and endless opportunities. If Julie was still alive and decided she wanted to stay on Earth, Vanessa would have to find another dead-end job and another tiny, run-down apartment. But if she stayed here…

With a huff, she turned away from the window and walked to the door. No. She’d do the right thing for once in her life. Staying here would be the easy thing to do, but it wouldn’t be right. She pulled the door open with a bit more force than necessary, and there stood Fejo.

His dark hair was characteristically mussed and his dazzling smile was plastered on wide enough to make the dimple in his cheek pop. Vanessa caught herself ogling the warm, olive skin of his chest. Had he’d tanned since she’d last seen him?

“Ah, my exquisite wife!” he boomed with so much over-the-top enthusiasm, she couldn’t keep her scowl at bay.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like compliments, but sometimes when Fejo was speaking to her, she felt as if his words were scripted. Like he routinely called everyone exquisite or lovely or gorgeous. His practiced schmoozing made her feel like nothing he said to her was authentic.

He caught her grimace before she could hide it. His wide, toothy smile relaxed and tipped up at the corner, making it a bit crooked but also more…real. “As happy to see me as ever, I see.”

Vanessa cursed inwardly. He was reading her the same way she was reading him. “Sorry. I’m…just getting used to being called ‘wife.’”

“Shall I call you something else?” He moved in close, and his scent hit her nose. “How about divine Vanessa, who haunts my dreams?”

Her eyes watered with the effort not to roll them. Fejo took in her expression and saw something that made his smile brighten just a little more.

“Wife is fine,” she said as she scooted past him. A loud beep sounded from the suitcase, and they both looked down to find it was stuck inside the house, blocked in by Fejo’s sturdy leather-pant-covered legs. What animal does leather come from around here? Vanessa thought, taking in the black, buttery-soft fabric. She’d never owned real leather. Too expensive.

He stepped aside and closed the door behind the suitcase robot, which rushed to her side. “Is that all you have?”

All the possessions I have on this world. “Yeah. It’s not like the aliens who took me brought along my wardrobe.”

With a smooth gesture forward from Fejo, they walked side by side. “Well, I’ve picked out many new items I hope you’ll like. I have them all waiting on the ship, and anything you don’t like we can replace at our first port stop.”

Vanessa was trying to listen, and she distantly registered how generous it seemed he’d been for her, but it took almost all of her concentration to keep her gaze locked on the ground.

Daisy, Alice, and Rita had begged and pleaded to see her off today. Vanessa had somehow convinced them to stay home. She already felt an aching sadness creeping into her heart. After all the shit they’d been through together, they were her family. It would make everything so much harder if she had to say goodbye to them right now.

Even though they’d agreed to stay home, though, she’d bet the contents of the suitcase floating behind her that they were all currently staring at her on Rita’s porch, the only place in any of their houses that would have a good view of the path to the exit. Don’t look.

“—the bed…” Fejo continued to talk, and she could feel his full focus was on her, but she only caught bits of what he said. Something about breaking a bed?

“Uh-huh. Sounds great.” They were directly next to Rita’s house now. Don’t look. She chewed on her bottom lip.

“Sounds great? I’m glad to hear it.” Fejo stepped in front of her and pulled her in close, pressing her body into his with powerful hands at her back. Her gaze shot up to his face on instinct. “I thought you were going to need more convincing.”

Don’t l— Too late. Vanessa’s peripheral vision had caught movement, and she’d turned her head before realizing it. There on the small floating patio hanging off the back of Rita’s house stood Alice, Luka, Rita, and Daisy. Alice was wiping at her eyes, while Luka’s desperate attention remained focused on the top of her head. He pulled her against his chest.

Rita, unfazed as always, smiled and blew her a kiss. Daisy had her head leaning against Rita’s shoulder. Nether Rita nor Daisy were crying, but Daisy’s gaze bore into her even from this distance. She’d been the most outspoken about this being a bad idea.

Vanessa’s heart swelled until tears pricked her eyes.

“Oh, Vanessa.” Fejo peered down into her watery eyes. He didn’t loosen his hold, and she wanted to wrench out of his grip. She hated when people saw her cry. Especially men. Especially this man. “I knew humans were a bit more emotional, but look at how upset they are. You are truly an interesting species.”

She wiped at her eyes and pulled out of his grasp, stumbling back a step when, to her surprise, he released her instantly. Righting herself and keeping her gaze turned downward, she stepped past him and almost jogged across the floating glass platforms to the towering Pearl Temple gates on the shore.

“Are—” Fejo tried to speak, but Vanessa could hear someone getting ready to console her from a mile out and she didn’t want it.

“Is that our ride?” She pointed to the solitary floating cruiser a few feet ahead and made for it without waiting for an answer.

His footfalls sounded behind her. “It is.”

When she climbed into the cruiser and sat on the long bench, she half expected him to keep trying to talk to her, but he didn’t. She was grateful. She’d have been more grateful if he wasn’t staring so hard at her, though.

Thankfully, Fejo remained silent and assessing for the entire ride. It was wasted time, she knew. She should’ve asked questions like the guys had instructed. Showing interest, but keeping distant. Instead, she allowed herself to sulk, already missing her new Clecanian family.

When the cruiser finally pulled to a stop, she stepped out and turned in place. What the hell was she looking at? A giant black cable rose from the earth and disappeared into the clouds like some sleek giant’s beanstalk. Small black cars zoomed up one side of the cable. And large cars, the size of semitrucks, slowly lifted up the other side.

“What is this? Is the ship somewhere around here?” Vanessa turned and looked behind Fejo, who was still watching her but this time with curiosity shining on his handsome face.

He ushered her ahead toward the never-ending cable. “We don’t launch ships from the ground. They’re built up in the Clecanian spaceport and remain space-locked. Only personal pods and a couple styles of small ship are permitted to land on Clecanian soil. And even those are quite rare.”

Her neck craned so far back a strong wind might’ve knocked her over. She watched one large car traveling along the cable disappear into the cloud layer far above. Though the air outside was pleasantly warm, a chill rushed over her skin.

“So…” She glanced at Fejo, panic tightening her chest. “So, we’re going to be riding into space in a small metal box.”

“No, no.” Fejo shook his head and continued to guide her forward, though she’d dug her heels into the dirt. “I’d say medium at least.”

His joking tone irked. Especially now when every primal instinct she had told her to run. Humans didn’t belong in space. This was insane. At least in a spaceship, she could hide in a corner and pretend like their bumpy takeoff was just airplane turbulence. But now there were multiple steps? She had to muster enough courage to board two separate transports in space?

She spun away from him and paced a few steps, relaxing at the calming sight of trees and mountains on the horizon. No eerie black beanstalks to a cold, dead vacuum in this direction.

“Vanessa, it’s perfectly safe. I wouldn’t bring you if it weren’t.”

She put her hands on her knees and took a few breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth to combat the nausea in her gut. “Just give me a minute.”

Without warning, Fejo snatched her hand from her knee and spun her around in an expertly executed twirl. When he pulled her to a stop and drew her in, her vision wavered for a moment, not yet recognizing the world had stopped spinning. Anger flared and brought heat to her cheeks. All she’d asked for was a freaking minute of—

Her now-focused gaze caught on a large, glittering, blood-red gem strung on a gold chain. It sat on an unfolded piece of shining black fabric in his large palm, as though he’d been carrying it around in his pocket and had assessed this to be the best moment to show it to her.

Fejo swept aside the long, black hair that had fallen over her chest during her twirl, letting his fingertips glide along the fabric covering her top with just a little too much pressure. “I found this beauty at the bottom of the Furufet Sea when I was diving to retrieve lost cargo on Hedety.”

He draped the chain over Vanessa’s neck. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from the gem now dangling between her breasts. It caught the light, flashing and glimmering. The center glowed in the sun like it had imprisoned a small flame.

“We’d accidentally trapped a Nuglisian adolescent onboard, and his mother was quite unhappy. Took us a solid week to patch up the side of our ship and retrieve our goods after she tore a hole in the hull.”

Finally snapping out of her stupor, Vanessa shook her head and moved to lift the necklace off. It was far too nice. She couldn’t accept it, no matter how badly she wanted to.

“Ah-ah.” Fejo stilled her hands and stepped in close.

His crisp, salty smell almost brought to life the mental image of him diving into a dark, churning ocean and finding the necklace. He slid his hands along the sides of her neck and lifted her hair so the chain sat against the heated skin at her nape. She sucked in a shaky inhale.

“It looks like it belongs on you. Though…” He pinched the chain loosely and let it slide between his fingers as he followed it down. The backs of his knuckles brushed against her covered breasts, leaving a scalding trail on her skin even through her shirt. His fingers came to a stop at the jewel. “I did hope you’d be wearing less the first time I saw it on you.”

Vanessa hated how breathless her voice sounded when she asked, “Then why did you give it to me now?”

He studied her face, and she noticed the slight flare of his nostrils. His brows furrowed, and he leaned in to sniff her again.

Fuck. Did he wonder why she didn’t smell turned on? The three sets of underwear must’ve been doing their job because Vanessa was on fire, her sex clenching and wet and ready for this handsome, jewel-giving Lothario to fill her up.

“I’ve learned sometimes a good jolt is just what we need to get over our fear.” He spoke calmly, but his brows remained furrowed, his expression puzzled.

His words finally settled over her and she felt the heat return to her cheeks, this time in embarrassment. She wasn’t some child in need of distraction. She could take care of herself. If he’d just given her another minute, she’d have been fine. Instead of saying any of this to him, though, she lifted her chin and reveled in his confusion. Finally, his suave moves weren’t having the desired effect—or at least he thought they weren’t.

“Something wrong?” Vanessa trilled as she made her way toward the large black cable. It hurt her ever-present pride to admit his little trick had worked. She’d gotten so distracted by the gift and by his delicious presence that her fear felt like a distant memory.

Fejo roved his gaze over her body as they walked, pausing at her pelvis. He met her gaze again. This time, his stare was assessing. Watchful. Was he figuring her out? Did he know why she was really here? And how the fuck did serious, astute Fejo look even sexier than charming Fejo?

Vanessa broke the eye contact and stared ahead dutifully, forcing herself not to inch closer to the floating suitcase behind her. She spotted a handful of people in line by a large black door and saw a cable car ease to a stop behind it. “That must be where we board.” She pointed at the door and faced him.

He continued to scrutinize her for a moment longer before the grin returned to his defined lips. “Indeed, it is.” He strolled forward, turning back to make sure she was following.

They took their place in line, and Vanessa began to sweat. The guard was turning someone away. Loudly.

“You haven’t been cleared,” he repeated while holding up a small screen to the furious man at the head of the line.

“I was cleared three weeks ago!” the pale Lignas man argued, pushing out his chest.

Dropping the screen to his side, the guard scowled. “Well, you aren’t anymore. Get out of the way, or I’ll have you escorted.”

Vanessa jumped when Fejo leaned down and whispered, “Don’t worry. We’re cleared.”

She gave him a shaky nod and fiddled with the gorgeous jewel hanging from her neck. She dragged it back and forth over the chain, the resulting zip of metal on bumpy metal relaxing her.

The line moved quickly and, luckily, no one else was turned away. When they reached the front, Fejo greeted the guard at the door with a hearty slap on the shoulder. It seemed they knew each other. She let out a relieved breath and wiped her forehead.

He gestured widely. “My wife, Vanessa.”

The guard grinned at her, then at Fejo as if saying well done. He scanned Fejo’s outstretched communicator, and Vanessa held her breath, letting it out again when his device beeped and the guard nodded. “Please surrender any Port Clecania–noncompliant weapons before stepping through the scanner,” the guard recited as if he said it a hundred times a day.

Weapons? Vanessa didn’t have any weapons, let alone noncompliant ones. Whatever that meant. “I don’t have any,” she said with a small shake of her head.

Satisfied, he nodded and glanced back at Fejo with raised brows.

To her surprise, Fejo spread his jacket and revealed a small collection of blades. “Only compliant weapons here.”

Icy fear lifted the hair on her neck. Did he carry those all the time? And if so, why? Izzo had told her Fejo was dangerous. That he’d killed and done other terrible things. She hadn’t really believed him. It was difficult to imagine Fejo hurting anyone when he flashed that charming grin.

But what if he did have a dark side? Did he use those knives to protect himself? Or was he the one others needed protection from? How would he treat her if he found out she was using him for a ride?

Vanessa’s mouth went dry.

“Then please just step through the scanner.” The towering metal doors behind the guard opened. One of the metal cable cars bound for the spaceport waited for its passengers only a few feet away. A faint green iridescence shimmered in the space where the large metal doors had once been.

Vanessa eyed the shimmer. Was it like an X-ray? With a jolt, she remembered that although she had no weapons, she certainly had a stack of hidden letters in her bag. “What does the scanner scan for?” she asked while trying to mentally reassure herself that even if the guard spotted the letters on an X-ray, he’d have no reason to say anything about them. They were harmless.

“Weapons.” Fejo shrugged and stepped through the green film wobbling in the doorway. “Or anything that may damage the port and risk the lives of thousands of travelers.”

Then I’m good. Stop acting so worried, or he’s gonna know something’s up! Straightening her spine, she forced herself to walk through the doorway. No alarms blared to life, and the burly guard at the gate gave them a wave. Vanessa let out a breath.

They boarded the small metal box—definitely small, not medium—and the car rose. It didn’t feel like they were moving fast, but the rapidly shrinking landscape visible through the large window told her differently.

Her breathing increased as she stared, transfixed, through the window. A flash of cold sweat made her shiver. When they were high enough that she could see the actual curvature of the planet, she let out a pitiful gurgling sound.

A broad chest suddenly cut off her view. “Careful, or you may break that chain.” Fejo said, stepping forward and guiding her with his own movements until her back was to the window.

She followed his gaze and found that she was a white-knuckle gripping the gem he’d given her. She hadn’t realized. “Oh, sorry,” she mumbled absently. The sickening, curious urge to turn and peer out the window was strong, but she knew she shouldn’t. It was all too overwhelming too soon. Why had she ever thought she could do this?

“Look at me, lovely,” Fejo crooned.

She did. The corners of his eyes creased in a gentle smile. Did he also look worried? Heartless killers wouldn’t be worried, would they? He stepped toward her and grasped her waist, then with far too little effort, hoisted her up and sat her on her floating suitcase.

Leaning in until she could feel the heat wafting off his body, he gave her a crooked smile. He ran his warm palms over her upper thighs and rumbled, “I could distract you if you’d like.”

Between the adrenaline spiking in her system and the gall of this alien, she couldn’t contain her burst of laughter. “Man, you don’t give up, do you?”

He lifted a brow and twisted his mouth to the side, considering her rhetorical question. “You’re my wife. Giving up would be tantamount to sacrilege. Besides…” He ran his gaze slowly down her body. “Can you blame me?”

A low, rattling buzz sounded, and Vanessa couldn’t keep her hands from shooting out and gripping Fejo’s forearms. “What was that?” she squeaked.

“Unfortunately, our ride is about to end.” He stepped back and helped her off her suitcase. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to head straight to my ship so I can get you settled and introduce you to my crew before they rush to prepare everything for our departure.”

“Fine with me.” Vanessa stared hard at the door to the room, refusing to so much as peek into the open space that was surely glaring at her from the other side of the window.

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