Using Fejo: Chapter 9

Their departure had taken longer than normal. Fejo was not pleased. He’d already been away from Vanessa for far longer than he’d wanted, and he could only hope she didn’t see his absence as insulting.

In addition to arguing with a stubborn Clecanian port officer concerning their departure papers and submitting his new itinerary, he’d finally made a point to meet Klinara’s males. They’d spoken only a little, and though it was clear they weren’t here to become valued members of the Ylare crew, they’d agreed to do the jobs he’d assigned without much grumbling.

Fejo had decided to focus on the positives of their temporary placement on his ship. Tetrans were notoriously strong and inexhaustible. He could use that strength to his advantage in the cargo bay. It needed to be reorganized anyway.

Pace increasing as he neared his room, he hoped the towering plate of food and drink he carried as an offering of apology would help smooth things over with Vanessa. When he reached his quarters and walked inside, he could smell her, but he didn’t immediately spot her for a moment. Panic set in. Had she left? Was she wandering around the ship?

His sharp nose homed in on her scent near the large couch in the alcove underneath the sleeping loft, but he didn’t see her there. His heart clenched as he finally spotted her wrapped in a blanket and curled in a dark corner, asleep.

Why was she lying there? Did she not sleep in a bed? He set the food down and rushed over to make sure she hadn’t somehow hurt herself, although nothing in the room seemed out of place.

She let out a soft groan as he gathered her into his arms and pulled her onto the couch. Then, all at once, she awoke, hands flashing out and gripping the edge of the couch as if she were about to fall.

“Lovely, it’s just me,” he crooned, trying to catch her frantic gaze.

Her dilated pupils locked onto him and her breathing slowed. “Sorry,” she panted. The color remained drained from her face as she tried to gather herself.

“What happened? Why were you in the corner?”

Her lips pursed in that pretty way they did whenever she was trying to hide emotion. He’d noticed it before when she’d been irritated or frightened or even when she’d been amused but hadn’t wanted to show it.

“Well, I was settling into the room and I thought I might go to sleep, but then I guess we started to leave and I saw space through the window, and… I mean, it’s ridiculous, but I just didn’t want to see it anymore.” She avoided looking at him, instead focusing on the ground.

Fejo cursed himself for not thinking of this sooner. Of course she didn’t want to look out the windows. She hadn’t wanted to look out of the window of the transport car either. Why hadn’t he put two and two together?

Was he really so concerned with trying to get her underneath him that he’d forgotten to take care of her other needs? Maybe he wasn’t fit to be a husband after all. He stood and crossed to the control panel on the wall, then programmed the window shutters to fall into place.

“You can look now,” he said, but she didn’t immediately turn. A knot he often got in the juncture of his shoulder and neck built in pressure.

When she finally stared at him a moment more, then turned to glance at the windows, the pressure lessened. “Was that an option this whole time?” Her tone was more exasperated than accusing, but he still felt ashamed he hadn’t thought of it sooner.

She rose and awkwardly folded the blanket she’d had cocooned around her, as if embarrassed. The only one who should’ve been embarrassed was him. But there was no time to sulk. He’d make it up to her.

Donning a smile, he pulled a retractable table out of the wall and populated every spare inch with the food he’d brought for her.

She looked at it and gave him a soft grin. “Looks great,” she commented, but she didn’t move to sit.

He wondered if she’d been eating well. She’d lost weight since that day in the market. That was plain to see. But had it been intentional? Or was her appetite affected for some reason?

Perhaps she just hadn’t found food she liked yet. He knew many species had a difficult time assimilating into new cultures and finding foods they preferred was a part of the process, which couldn’t be rushed. But she’d completed a preferences scan, and he’d made sure to study it so he’d have all the foods she might enjoy on board.

“Shall we eat?”

Vanessa nodded with a deep breath and crossed to the table. He extended two seats from the wall on either side of the table, then waited until she was seated and comfortable before sitting himself.

“Does any of this look familiar to you? Do you like any of these foods?”

She shot him a small smile. “I think you’ve brought me every food that exists. I’m sure I can find something I like.”

Pleasure fluttered in his chest. “How about mott?” he asked, extending a metal cup toward her. “Your taste scan estimated you’d prefer it to the sweeter beverages.”

Nodding, she accepted the cup. “Thank you.” She filled her plate and picked around, taking small bites here and there, but remained silent.

Fejo wasn’t used to this. He wanted to ask her questions about herself, about her life. Approximately how long it would take before she removed her clothes. But he didn’t know how to approach Vanessa. She was so different from any female he’d come across.

She didn’t seem to want attention or gifts or compliments or act acts of service. She didn’t appear to want him to do anything. He couldn’t decide if he should be happy or worried about that. It was nice not to have any expectations. But it was also terrifying. What could he do if not the things he’d been trained to do?

“Tell me about your life on Earth,” he tried while taking a bite of roasted, salty meat.

Her gaze was oddly nervous as it shot to him. Did he wear the same expression when people asked him about his past? “My life? Not much to tell.”

“You said you wanted us to get to know each other,” he tried, gauging her reaction.

The corner of her mouth lifted, and she took a miniscule bite of greens. “I did say that.” She looked up at him through her dark lashes and nodded. “How about we start with you, though? Um, did you grow up in Tremanta?”

The first question, and he already felt uncomfortable. “No, I came to Tremanta six years ago. Before that, I lived in Huvuita.”

She took another sip of mott, then her brow lifted. “Did you like it there?”

The knot in his shoulder throbbed. He took a sip of his own mott, a much larger sip than she’d taken. “It had its charms, but I never felt at home there.”

She propped her elbow on the table and studied him. “Do you feel at home in Tremanta?”

He forced a grin and gestured around. “I feel most at home here on my ship.”

Her lips pursed, and he knew he wasn’t saying the right thing. He didn’t have much practice talking about himself. “And what do you do on this ship exactly? I was told you were a merchant. Do you work for someone?”

He tried not to let out a grunt of frustration. Yet another question he couldn’t easily answer. He could give her the response he gave to most Tremantians, but it didn’t feel right to keep up his lie with her. He glanced at her mostly full plate. “I can get you other food if you’d prefer.”

She followed his gaze and shook her head. “That’s okay. I’m good. Sorry, I don’t eat much.”

“Have you tried these?” he asked, holding up a pastry the scanner had estimated would be a favorite.

Vanessa looked at the pastry as if it had insulted her but seemed resigned to eat it anyway. The light brightening her eyes on her first taste had his chest puffing. She finished the rest of the pastry in two bites, then sucked on her fingers, making his cock stir in his pants.

She caught his pointed gaze on her mouth and quickly lowered her hands. Her cheeks turned pink once again. “That was very good. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like it before.”

He’d bring her mountains of them at every opportunity. “Now tell me about your home.”

“I’m from Denver. It’s high up in the middle of the country and surrounded by mountains.” She peeked up at him while reaching for another pastry. “It’s a nice city. Lots of sunshine and outdoor activities.” She trailed off and nibbled on her pastry.

“Did you like it there? Do you miss it?” Fejo didn’t get the feeling she liked her home city much. She spoke about it the same way he spoke about Huvuita. Acknowledging the pleasant bits, but always in a detached sort of way, as though describing a nice place to visit rather than somewhere he felt he belonged.

“I miss some things.” Vanessa stiffened and gulped, her lips turning down like she’d just tasted something vile. She slowly set the pastry aside and gave it an inscrutable look. Schooling her features, she glanced back up at him. “I’d rather not talk about it right now, if that’s okay? It’s hard to think about Earth.”

Fejo wanted to slap himself. Of course it was painful for her to talk about what she missed. They ate in silence, and Fejo wracked his brain. She didn’t want to talk about herself, and he didn’t want to talk about himself. Where did that leave them?

No brilliant ideas came to him, so instead, he continued to fill his belly with all the food she hadn’t eaten. It ended up being most of the food on the table. Fejo had always had an extraordinarily substantial appetite.

She watched him quietly while sipping on her mott. How to turn this awkwardness around? When he’d cleared the food from the table, he clapped his hands together. “How about a massage? You’ve had a stressful day.”

Vanessa choked a bit on her mott before answering. “Ah, no, I don’t—”

He cut her off before she could argue. “I can see how tight your shoulders are from here. What are you afraid of? I already know that my touch excites you. How about if I promise it’ll only be a massage?”

“Yeah, I haven’t heard that one before,” she muttered.

He stood and removed his coat, stashing away his knives, then rolled up the sleeves of his shirt to his elbows. “But have you ever heard it from a Clecanian?”

She eyed his now-exposed forearms, and he smelled a hint of her arousal creeping through whatever barriers she was wearing. He still couldn’t understand why she wanted to hide her natural scent from him, but he chalked it up to human modesty. “I don’t know.”

“You can keep your shirt on.” After she still said nothing, he added, “This is what husbands do for their wives, lovely.”

Her lips pursed, and she took a deep breath through her nose. “I suppose just for a few minutes.”

Yes. Finally, he could show off some skill. Though he hadn’t gone to the coveted husbandry schools in Tremanta, he’d studied in his own way and felt his talent in most areas were on par with any Tremantian male, if not better.

He extended a hand toward her, and she looked at it warily before taking it and letting him guide her up the curving stairs to the bed.

“Lie down.” He gestured to the mattress.

She crossed her legs and perched on the edge of the mattress. “How about I just sit instead?”

“Whatever my gorgeous, particular wife wants.”

“I’m not particular. I’m just—”

As soon as his hands landed on her shoulders, whatever she’d been saying stuttered out and a soft moan replaced it.

His shaft grew rigid and painful against his pants, but he ignored it. The feel of her delicate shoulders under his palms was glorious, and he marveled at how badly she’d needed his touch. Deep knots and tight muscles could be found just about everywhere.

What’d caused her this much stress? He kicked himself mentally. She’d been taken from her home by the Insurgents, locked in a cell, and then had been expected to merge into regular society like nothing had happened. Of course she was stressed.

Her soft moans continued to leak out of her as if she couldn’t help them, and her body became limp and pliant in his hands. The mott she still held in her right hand tipped toward the bed, forgotten. He snatched it away, and she didn’t seem to notice.

Fejo swept her hair aside and reveled in the sweet burst of her scent, then he began working on her neck. Her body kept leaning farther and farther over until he was sure she’d fallen asleep.

As gently as he could, he tucked her under the covers, then stood. He knew he should leave and go to his alcove underneath the loft, but he remained glued in place, just staring at her beautiful—yet somehow haunted—face.

Even in sleep, her brows crinkled and her lips pursed as though she were fighting off some imaginary threat with her sarcasm and wit. He wanted to fight those battles for her and see a true smile light her features. He finally tore his gaze away and shuffled to the lower level.

It would happen one day. He just had to keep trying. He plopped down onto his couch and crossed his arms behind his head, reminded himself that life was good. He had a ship. He had money. He had respect. And he had a wife.

Today was just the first day of their marriage. He’d never been married before, and they weren’t even from the same planet. Awkwardness was to be expected. But that was okay. They’d learn how to open up to each other eventually. They had time.

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