Friday, November 17, 2006

No Princess Need Apply -- Episode 7

alien romances

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Onward with No Princess Need Apply:

The kitchen was the size of an airplane hangar, and equipped with every appliance and tool known to cooking. Everywhere Summer looked she saw the gleam of white enamel, stainless steel and copper.

“Who’s your cook?” Summer asked as she stepped through the door. “Martha Stewart?”

“I have heard that name mentioned.”

Summer decided not to pursue that line of conversation, on the off chance that he wasn’t joking. Instead, she directed her Federally appointed watchdogs to put the grocery bags on the kitchen’s central worktable. They then retreated to an alcove occupied by a rustic-looking dining table and chairs. There was also a countertop television set and a coffee maker in that little corner of the world, Summer noticed. She took note of Cardon beginning to rummage through a cabinet, and Ricci turning on the television while Dalmer filled a carafe with water from the sink then took a seat at the table and watched her.

With the security men out of the way, she turned her attention to His Supremacy, Rawn Ruan, Emperor of the Kariin Empire. “Know how to use a knife?”

He looked momentarily puzzled. “I have training in several forms of primitive combat, both armed and unarmed.”

“Yeah, but do you know how to slice a clove of garlic?”

“That,” he admitted, “is something I have no training in.”

“Well, you’re about to learn.” She put her hands on her hips, and tilted her head playfully to one side. “If you’re going to hang out in my kitchen, Your Supremacy, you either have to get out of the way or help.” She pointed toward the security men. “Of course, you could always go bond with the boys and play poker or something.”

He glanced across the room. The aroma of brewing coffee wafted from that direction, as well as the murmuring white noise of the television set. He looked back at Summer. “I think I’ll learn how to slice garlic.”

She gave an emphatic nod. “Good for you.” Summer plucked a copper colander off an overhead row of pot hooks. She spotted a cutting board, and then a rack of knives. “You unpack the groceries,” she told Rawn. “I’ll gather the cooking stuff. This is going to be fun.”

“I think you’re right,” he agreed, giving her one of his deep-dimpled smiles. “Or, if not fun, at least a learning experience.” I’m all in favor of learning experiences.

Stick with me, kid, and you’ll learn a lot.

Ru was so surprised he almost dropped the mozzarella. It was fortunate that Summer’s attention was elsewhere for the moment, or she would have seen the shock on his face before he had time to hide it. Then she would ask him what was wrong, and, because lying was something that came hard to his nature, he would tell her that something wonderful had just happened. His initial impulse was to catch Summer in a possessive embrace, and kiss her the way he’d been wanting to kiss her since the moment they’d come face to face.

He continued to unpack groceries instead. For a great many reasons. Not the least of which was that Summer had shown very little interest in being kissed. She had shown a certain willingness to be his friend, which was making this whole encounter much harder than he’d thought it would be. Besides, he might have imagined the quick sharing of thoughts between the two of them. The humans of this world had as much ability for telepathy as any other human, but he’d noticed acute discomfort among Earth humans when thoughts were directed at them. Summer had quite firmly told him not to read her mind. It was difficult to believe that she had unconsciously read his.

Not only difficult to believe, but easier. Taking the easy way out was not his usual behavior pattern, but for the moment Rawn Ruan was willing to give it a try.

“What are you going to do with all this garlic, scare off vampires?” he asked, forcing himself to simply be with Summer, rather than speculate about improbabilities.

“Scare off vampires?” she answered, turning to take the trio of elephant garlic bulbs from him. “No way. I love vampires.”

“You’re in love with a vampire?”

He looked very serious, and she could almost swear there was a touch of jealousy in his voice. “I love vampire novels and movies. They aren’t real. Vampires are mythological fiction legend -- things. You know, like UFOs and alien invaders.”

“Is that irony, I detect, young woman?”

She nodded. “Uh huh. Some of the garlic’s for the pizza, the rest I’m going to roast. Trust me, you’ll like it.”

“I trust you.” Rawn began tossing Italian tomatoes at her, which she caught one by one and put into a bowl in the sink. “And I’ll have you know,” he said while they were tomato tossing, “that the Kariin Empire has nothing to do with UFOs. I don’t know any more about UFOs than your Earth governments do.”

“I see.” She began to run hot water over the tomatoes so they would peel easier. She kept her back to him, and her tone light as she said,

“And you don’t know anything about alien abductions?”

She wished she didn’t have her back to him. Because when he stepped up close behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, it made her feel warm and protected when that was the last thing she wanted from him. It made her regret her resentment of this whole situation when she had every reason to be resentful.

“I’ve only had one alien abducted, Summer,” he told her. “How fortunate for me that she can cook.”

His tone was as unconcerned as hers had been. Her insouciance was a charade. She wondered if he knew that, or if he would care if he did. And what sort of charade was he playing?

“Oh, I’m a complete domestic goddess,” she responded. “Equally talented in the kitchen, sewing room, laundry, bed-- “
“Room,” he finished for her, turning the word into a curious question.

“Yeah,” she said, though the word came out as a choked croak.

Implications and expectations and possibilities hung in the small space between them. Summer could hear the drone of the television, the faint murmur of the men across the room talking, the aroma of fresh coffee, but all she was aware of was Rawn Ruan. Not the Emperor of the Kariin Empire, but Rawn, big and solid and male, frightening and utterly fascinating.

She was used to men touching her, but in an impersonal way, as a living mannequin, something to bend and shape and pose, not as a woman. Rawn Ruan made her feel every inch a woman, even when he wasn’t touching her. Physical contact with him made her melt inside. Heat, as well as a slowly spreading need, radiated from where his hands touched her shoulders. It permeated through her, and made her long to turn into his embrace, press herself against his very solid form and turn her mouth up in a plea for a kiss.

What stopped her was the sharp needle of awareness that penetrated right through her heart. She was nothing more than a living mannequin to Rawn. She was a body he’d imperiously picked out of a catalog. Of course he was imperious, it came with the job of being Emperor. Only unlike the far more egotistical designers she worked for, Rawn wanted much more from her than to wear his clothes. In fact, what he had in mind was just the opposite of wearing clothes.

If she was going to do her country, her species, any service, she knew she should give in to the impulse to turn. She should take Rawn in her arms, instigate making love to him. She should act like what she was, not that she was willing to give her official position in the Imperial Household a name. She did make herself acknowledge that what she was here for was to be sexually available, not cook pizza. She just wished Rawn would show some overt interest in her, command her to his bedroom or something, instead of hanging out with her and being so sweet and kind and funny and lovable that her heart and her head were on the verge of forgetting he was the all-powerful enemy alien conqueror and not this really great guy she was incredibly attracted to.

She sighed, at the same time as she took a mental deep breath.

He said, “You’re mind’s not on peeling tomatoes, Summer.”

“You could say that again. Don’t.” She shrugged away from his touch. “Give me some room to work, please.” When he stepped back she turned and pointed to the other side of the room. “I’ve decided that I don’t need any help. Dinner’ll get done much faster if I work on my own. Without conversation,” she added when he opened his mouth. She shooed him toward the table and television. “Go. Catch up on the news or something.”

He looked at his watch. She hadn’t noticed before that he was wearing one. Come to think of it, what he was wearing on his wrist didn’t exactly look like a watch, but it must be, because he said, “It’s almost time for Entertainment Tonight.”

“Just leave me alone, okay?”

He gave her a concerned glance, but he went.

Without anyone hovering over her, Summer forced herself to concentrate on cooking and nothing else and soon had dinner in the oven. She set a timer, and cleaned up after herself. Then, with nothing to do but wait, and no excuse to be elsewhere, she drifted over to where the four men sat drinking coffee and watching television.

“Entertainment Tonight’s not still on, is it?” she asked as she glanced from a wall clock to the television set.

“It’s a news special,” Dalmer answered.

Rawn pulled out the chair beside his, and she took a seat. Cardon poured her a cup of coffee. She took a sip while she watched a car commercial. “What’s it about?”

Rawn touched her cheek. “You.”

Summer shot to her feet. “Me!” Rawn grabbed her wrist and tugged her back down. She would have fled the room, but he kept his grasp on her. “What do you mean it’s about me?”

“Watch,” he suggested.

Summer gritted her teeth. Her impulse was to toss her coffee cup at either the screen or the Kariin Emperor, but she curbed her temper and looked at the television as the commercial break ended.

The face of a rather famous news anchor that had no business being involved in gossip-mongering yellow journalism appeared on the screen.

“Who is Summer?” he asked. The picture switched to a view of McCloud Island from the mainland as he continued in voice-over. “We sent Mark Lawrence to her hometown to try to trace the roots and reasons why this woman has caught the attention of the most powerful man in the universe.”

“That’s me,” Rawn said brightly.

“Don’t sound so flattered,” Summer grumbled. “And don’t look so amused. This isn’t funny.” She groaned as another reporter began to talk.

“McCloud Island in Lake Huron, located a mile off the coast of Michigan’s desolate and isolated Upper Peninsula.”

“Ha!” Summer snorted. “Do you know how many thousands of tourists show up on that isolated and desolate coast every year? Where do these people get their copy? Nobody bothers with research.”

“Don’t they?” Rawn asked.

“Hush,” Cardon said. “I’m trying to listen to this.”

Summer simmered with indignation while the reporter continued.

“With only four hundred permanent residents, and perched just ten miles from the Canadian border, McCloud Island is only accessible by ferry or private boat. During Prohibition this twenty-five square mile island was a favorite drop off point for whiskey smuggling.”

Cardon gave her a sardonic look. “Your folks used to be bootleggers?”

Some of Summer’s angry tension eased at his joking tone. “Think I’d tell a revenuer that?” Cardon chuckled. She saw that Rawn was puzzled
by their interplay, but didn’t try to explain. She just said, “It’s an Earth thing.”

“I see.”

Rawn knew that there were a great many things he did not see, despite all his preparation. For example, when the news reporter interviewed the ferry pilot, and the pilot replied, “I know the girl, all right. She’s still too skinny. Ran off to New York and doesn’t come home often enough.” why did Summer giggle instead of expressing outrage?

“Didn’t he just insult you?”

“Oh, that’s just Uncle Harry,” she answered. “He doesn’t think anybody should ever leave the island, even if he does own the ferry service. He thinks every woman under two hundred pounds is skinny. Bless him.”

When asked his opinion of the former resident’s liaison with the Kariin emperor, Uncle Harry answered, “That’s none of your business. Not any of my business to have an opinion, either. Not until I hear what her Mama has to say about it.”

“Finding out Summer’s family’s opinion has proved a difficult task.” The scene changed to show the reporter standing on a deeply rutted dirt road that cut through a thick stand of pine and tamarack trees. “There are No Trespassing signs posted all over the overgrown property belonging to Summer’s mother. Reclusiveness seems to be the norm among these rural island dwellers.”

“Yeah,” Summer said to the television. “To keep out hunters during deer season, you idiot. Some of us don’t want our dogs and cows and kids shot by drunken tourist hunters. He makes it sound like there’s something nasty going on that we don’t want anybody to know about.”

“Yeah,” Ricci answered. “I hate the media.”

“Amen,” Cardon and Dalmer chimed in.

Rawn was both pleased and upset by the Earth humans’ interchange. Pleased at gathering knowledge, upset because of the way it was gathered.

“This rundown property has been in Summer’s family for generations. She is the first member of her clan to venture out into the world. Her mother lives in a cabin deep in the woods with five other children, all under the age of seventeen.”

“The cabin has six bedrooms, four baths and its own boat dock,” Summer complained. “But he makes it sound like we’re trailer trash. And Jason’s nearly nineteen.”

“You have brothers and sisters?” Rawn asked.

Summer sighed. “Brothers. Five brothers.”

“When I tried to speak with Summer’s mother, the camera crew and I were greeted with a shotgun -- “

“High powered rifle,” Summer interjected.

“-- blast and told that we had better obey the No Trespassing signs if we knew what was good for us.”

“Way to go, Mama!”

“When we approached the local sheriff -- “

“Uncle Dan.”

“-- we were escorted back to the ferry dock. Whatever the mysterious supermodel’s secrets,” Mark Lawrence ended on an ominous note. “The people of McCloud Island are keeping them.”

The “Special Report” continued, with stock footage of her walking up and down runways in various designers’ clothes, a shot of her at the opening of a trendy restaurant, brief clips of the commercials she was in, and a montage of her face on magazine covers while the announcer speculated on how she’d encountered His Supremacy. Eventually, the camera cut back to the anchor’s face, as he said, “An undisclosed source in the State Department refused to deny that Summer attended a closed-door meeting with a Cabinet member yesterday.
Meanwhile, the rumor that His Supremacy commanded Summer to become his mistress continues to circulate. If this rumor proves to have any foundation, what could this sort of behavior on the Kariins part mean for the rest of humanity?”

Summer went to take the pizzas out of the oven at this point. Rawn didn’t fail to notice that she’d gone pale, or that the three Earth males gave him furtive, but hostile glances. Rawn followed Summer to the other side of the kitchen. He would have offered to help as she busied herself with taking the food from the oven, and plates and cutlery from cabinets and drawers, but sensed she wanted no contact with him.

“Summer.” He spoke softly, but with all the command that came from years of rule. “I promise you that no one from your world will take harm from our being here.”

She stared at him, studied him, and he was once again amazed at the depths – of spirit, emotion, intelligence -- in her wide blue eyes. He could not tell if what he’d said had in any way eased her fears, but he did notice that she was holding up a very large knife.
Fortunately, she didn’t seem to be aware of holding a weapon in the Emperor’s presence. She turned from him and began to slice the first of the two large pizzas she’d made, unaware of the shadows that had gathered around her for a moment.

Rawn moved forward, and edged her away from the worktable. “Let me. You cooked, I’ll serve. Come and get it,” he called to the other men.
He smiled at Summer. “This smells good.”

Cardon, Dalmer and Ricci took their plates and returned to the table, and the television. Rawn and Summer stayed where they were.

Summer leaned against the sink, her back to the window, while he rolled up his sleeves, then perched himself on the stainless steel worktable and dug into the best pizza he’d tasted since arriving on this world.

“Better than at home,” he said as he leaned over to scoop up a second piece off the cooling pizza stone.

Summer looked both amazed and suspicious. “You really do have pizza on Kariin? Or whatever your home planet’s called?”

“Kari. Actually, my mother’s from Duslane. I was mostly raised there. The Duslaneins make wonderful pizza. though they call it bread pie.”

“Bread pie?”

“Uh huh.”

“How interesting.”

“Very.” He wiped his fingers on a blue checked napkin. “You done?”
Summer turned and put her plate in the sink. She’d been thinking that maybe she ought to take a second piece, and a third. Maybe she should get fat, then maybe he wouldn’t want her. He was the Emperor, after all, not Uncle Harry, who loved women any old way they came, and not just for their looks. She wished she wasn’t beautiful. She wished –

“Finished?” he asked again.

She turned back to face him. “Yes.”

He hopped down off the table. “Good. Now we’ll have sex.”

3 comments:

  1. david gray10:03 PM EST

    Aagh! Oh, you're cruel, you are with your chapter-end hooks. Write on, dear lady, write on!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this story. Great dialogue!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oooooooh. grrrrrrrrrr. I sure hope Rawn's kidding there, woman -- Summer hasn't put the big knife away yet! teehee

    Please ma'am, may we have some more?

    Lynne,
    still chuckling over Durslanian bread pie - ahh, pizza, it's truly the universal comfort food, n'est-ce pas?

    ReplyDelete