(Note: this excerpt from Alien Mischief is unedited)
I pulled the compression band over my head, slipped my arms through it, and tugged it over my torso to flatten my modest breasts. I donned my shirt and tucked it in carefully to avoid dislodging the sock stuffed in my pants. A quick comb through my boy-cut short hair, a dismissive smirk, and I was ready.
“How do I look?”
“Like the jerk people think you are,” Garnet replied.
“That’s what I was shooting for.”
“You nailed it. The women on the ship hate you. How long are going to continue this ruse?”
“Until I win the lottery,” I quipped.
She focused a direct, but sympathetic gaze on my face. “Mads…Matt’s been gone three years now,” she said gently. “Isn’t it about time—”
“This has nothing to do with that!” Sure, I’d gone through a hard time, but I was on an even keel now. The disguise was a lark. I was fine. I glowered at Garnet.
She raised her hands in self-defense. “Okay, okay, whatever you say.”
Anger deflated, leaving me feeling ashamed. My bestie had stood by me through thick and thin, comforting me with a soft shoulder, boxes of tissues, and a bottomless bottle of wine. No matter what time I called her, she answered. She came running whenever I needed her. I couldn’t have gotten through Matt’s death without her.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just proving a point to Dayton.”
Garnet’s lip curled with amusement. “Has your brother conceded you’re right?”
“Not in so many words.” In no words, unless you counted, “This is the craziest fucking thing you’ve ever done,” a concession. Honestly? I never expected the charade to last this long. It had been intended as a short-term stunt to prove a point. Sibling rivalry spurred me on. I had to be right.
Then the money had suckered me in, getting me accustomed to a certain lifestyle like being debt free. I’d paid off the wedding that never happened and my student loans. Still, I’d never admit it to my brother or Garnet, but I might have let the pretense get a tad out of control.
“Why don’t you tell the exchange program the truth? You’ve been a great employee for two and a half years, they might understand—”
“That I misrepresented myself and lied on my employment application?” I shook my head. “Of course, if I was a man, they’d forgive me.”
“Because men call the shots.” She rolled her eyes. She’d sided with my brother. Garnet tended to go with the flow, while I tilted at windmills. Her words, not mine. She’d thought I was crazy to pretend to be a man.
She might have been right. Maybe. The jury was still out.
“If you don’t think men need only to snap their fingers to get what they want, then why are you here? Why are you on the SS Masquerade flying across the galaxy to become an alien’s bride? Why not stay on Earth and find yourself a nice accountant or ‘net programmer?” I said.
It blew me away that Garnet had chosen to go to Dakon. After me telling her how crazy these women were, what did she do? She applied to the program! Not only that, she gave my name as a reference to ensure she got accepted.
I couldn’t be mad at her, because she was my best friend, so I directed my frustration at the other women who would settle for a man, any man, instead of holding out for true love. They thought becoming a mail order bride to an alien would solve everything, but they didn’t know what they were in for. A smokin’ hot alien couldn’t compensate for the primitive, frozen wasteland he lived on. Unless you’d been to Dakon, which I had twice before, you had no idea what cold was.
“Not everyone can be lucky enough to find true love,” she said.
While women outnumbered men, the true shortage was in marriage-minded, monogamous men. That animal topped the endangered species list. With an abundance of females to choose from, men had discovered they didn’t need to commit to get laid—so they didn’t. With women kowtowing to them and currying their favor, men had gotten spoiled and had begun to expect—and receive—preferential treatment from women and society.
Sexism was on rise. Which had been the point I’d tried to get my brother to understand.
However, I knew good men and true love did still exist because I’d been fortunate enough to experience it. I couldn’t and wouldn’t settle for anything less. If that resulted in me staying single for the rest of my life, then, so be it.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” I said to Garnet. I’d done everything I could to talk her out of it. Besides the fact that she was making a bad choice, I hated to lose my best friend.
I didn’t intend to work for the exchange program forever, and when I quit this gig, I might never see her again since commercial leisure travel to Dakon didn’t exist. Only exchange program, cargo, and mining ships flew there.
This trip had been bittersweet. Since I had few friends on board—the women passengers did hate me—it was great to have her company, but saying goodbye would be very, very hard.
“How could I resist such horned, alien hotness?” Garnet quipped.
I couldn’t refute they were sexy as hell. Handsomeness seemed coded into their DNA, because I’d never seen an ugly Dakonian. Or a short one. They were all over seven feet, with bronzed skin and the cutest damn horns poking out of their near-black hair.
A mental image of an uber-masculine Dakonian called Enoki popped into my head. Tall, muscular, ruggedly handsome, horns a-twitchin’. Talk about alien hotness—whew! Not that I had a thing for him. On my two previous visits, we’d exchanged a few cordial words, and I looked forward to seeing his friendly face after the rudeness of the women passengers.
I went to flip my long hair over my shoulder, encountered air, and dropped my hand. After two and a half years, I hadn’t gotten used to having a man’s short haircut.
Would I see Enoki this trip? He headed the Council of Dakon, the planet’s ruling body, and directed the mate selection process, which I assumed he could participate in. Would he select a woman this go-round? He’d be quite a catch. If a woman had to hook up with an alien, Enoki wouldn’t be a bad one.
My stomach gave a little flutter, and I shook off thoughts of Enoki and returned my attention to Garnet. “I never should have shown you those vids.” I’d blame myself if this didn’t work out for her. I’d expected her to roll her eyes and share my amusement at how these desperate women had fawned over the Dakonians, not sign up for the program!
Just because some alien dude oozed sex appeal didn’t mean you should lose your head. If these women weren’t careful, they’d spoil another planet full of men.
Matt had been one of the good ones. I doubted I’d ever meet anyone to compare to him.
Garnet planted her hands on her ample hips. “I can’t believe you think I’m the crazy one. Who’s the one with a sock stuffed into her pants? Sometimes you scare me. Is there anything you won’t do?”
Alien Mischief blurb
My name is Madison Altman. Don’t think because I’ve disguised myself as a man and have accepted a job that takes me away from Earth that I’m running away from love. That’s not true. I met the love of my life–but he was killed on our wedding day.
Chaperoning crazy women traveling to Dakon to become the mail order brides of aliens is just a way to pay the bills. Unfortunately, on this latest assignment, the ship returned to Earth without me! Luckily, Enoki came to my rescue. He might be hot, and sexy as hell with his gravelly voice and throbbing horns, but he believes I’m a man, and we’re friends, not lovers. That’s how I want it. That’s how it has to be. As soon Enoki can get me a flight to Earth, I’m leaving this frozen planet for good.
I’m Enoki, leader of Dakon. For the longest time, whispers in the wind told me my Fated mate was coming. Whispers turned to shouts when the recent shipment of females arrived, but none of them were mine. I must accept the Fates were wrong. I’ll never get a mate.
My purpose now is to help the stranded Earth man return to his home planet. Even though Madison is a Terran, we’ve developed a strong bond. I know I’ll miss him, but because we’re friends, I intend to do everything I can to help him leave.
Why do the whispers tell me not to let him go?