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Title: Celeste and the Alien Bartender
Series: Intergalactic Brides #8
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre/Themes: Sci-fi Erotic Romance/First Contact
Length: 100 pages
A desperate mother. A determined alien. And a romance neither expected.
Zanar has made himself a home on Earth, where he owns Stardust Bar, popular with both aliens and humans. There’s only one thing missing from Zanar’s life. Despite his best efforts to impress the human females he meets, he’s still without a mate. At the age of twenty-six, it isn’t imperative for him to pair off and start a family just yet, but he’s lonely and ready to settle down. The last thing he expects is for Celeste to come into his life and turn it upside down.
After having been abducted by an alien race five years ago, Celeste is back on Earth. She’s spent those years as a slave on the planet Vaaden, where she had a precious daughter with her owner, Pynder. But when Pynder dies suddenly, his parents swoop in and snatch Sophie from Celeste’s arms before banishing her from their world. Celeste will do anything to get her daughter back, but falling in love with a bartender — or anyone else — was never part of the plan.
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Celeste paced the small confines of her quarters with her nearly six-month-old daughter, Sophie, clutched in her arms. The cool blue tones of the walls did nothing to ease her anxiety. Pynder, the Vaaden warrior who owned her, had claimed he would return soon with food and some new clothes for the baby. That had been hours ago, and still there was no sign of him. It wasn’t like Pynder to break his word.
Sophie grew restless, and Celeste knew the only way to calm her would be to put her in the sink and let her splash and play for a few minutes.
Undressing the little girl, she turned on the sink in the kitchen and allowed Sophie to splash to her heart’s content. Both Celeste and the counters were completely soaked by the time she dried Sophie off and put a fresh diaper and outfit on her. She was still adjusting to the diapers they had on Vaaden, but thankfully she didn’t have to wash them. All of her laundry was done elsewhere, and then Pynder brought it back to her. She assumed it went to the cleaners, or whatever the alien equivalent was to that.
She heard the door whoosh open and hurried to greet Pynder, a smile on her face. Except it wasn’t Pynder. Unease skittered down her spine. No one had ever come to her quarters except Pynder. He’d once told her that only he had access to the suite, but the couple standing in the doorway proved otherwise, even if the male did look like an older version of her owner. Were these Pynder’s parents? And if so, why were they in the slave quarters with such pinched expressions?
She’d been with Pynder for three years, and not once had his family come to visit. Something was very wrong, and the unease in her gut intensified until nausea welled up inside of her.
The woman came closer and snatched Sophie out of Celeste’s arms. “I’ll take the child. You take care of this… female.”
Celeste’s mouth dropped open, and she reached for her baby, but the male intercepted her. His hands closed on her arms like a vise and he squeezed as he hustled her through the door and down the corridor.
“Let me go!” Celeste yelled, struggling to break free and return to her child, her feet kicking out at anything she could reach. “I want my baby!”
“The child is Pynder’s, which makes her our granddaughter. She’ll be taken care of and raised properly.”
Her heart thudded in her chest. What did he mean she would be raised properly? Wasn’t Celeste going to raise her? What were they doing with her baby, and where was Pynder’s father taking her?
“Where’s Pynder? I want to see Pynder.” Fear clawed at her as they exited the slave quarters and the triple suns beat down. Celeste closed her eyes as the ground burned her bare feet.
“Pynder is gone.”
“Gone?” She struggled some more. She didn’t understand why Pynder would have left her behind. He might not love her, but he doted on Sophie and he would never abandon his daughter.
“Pynder was killed this afternoon in a fight. A warrior who has been at odds with Pynder since childhood challenged him for you and Pynder refused to give you up. They fought, and Pynder lost his life.” The man sneered. “If he hadn’t tried to hold onto you, he would still be alive.”
Her knees went out, and she would have collapsed onto the walkway if the male hadn’t been holding her up. She still didn’t know why Pynder’s mother had left with Sophie, or where his father was taking her now. Why were they being separated? Just because Pynder was gone didn’t mean she gave up her rights to Sophie, did it? There was still a lot she didn’t know about Vaaden.
“My wife wants to hold onto Pynder in any way that she can, and that means raising Sophie as her own. Unfortunately, you’re in the way, Celeste. I know Pynder cared for you, which is why I’m not subjecting you to the harems.”
Oh God. “A new owner?” she asked, barely recognizing her voice. She’d been with Pynder for three years and couldn’t stomach the thought of another warrior owning the right to use her body whenever he wished.
“No. I think it’s best if you leave Vaaden for good. We’re sending you back to Earth. There happens to be a shuttle leaving within the hour, and you will be on it. The Zelthranites have set up stations around Earth, and I’ve made arrangements for you to be transported to some place called Kentucky. You’ll have to speak to someone there about a room and clothes. I’m sure they’ll be only too happy to help, especially if you offer to use the tricks my son taught you to pay for any services.”
The blood in her veins froze at his words. Once, she would have loved returning to Earth, but without Sophie? She had no doubt that her precious baby’s grandparents were going to take good care of her, but Celeste wanted to hold her at night, watch her grow up, and help raise her. It wasn’t fair that her baby had been ripped from her arms and now she was being sent to another world, unable to even see Sophie from a distance. Yes, as a slave she had no rights, but what about her baby’s rights? Didn’t Sophie have the right to stay with her mother?
They neared the transport station, a place Celeste had only seen once when she’d arrived on Vaaden. At the time, she’d been terrified and wondered what would happen to her on the new world. It hadn’t taken long for someone to explain that she was going to be a sex slave, and it had turned her stomach. Then Pynder had entered the holding cell where she’d been kept until she could be claimed. He’d been distant and a little cold, at first, but his cerulean eyes had captured her, and it hadn’t taken long for her to admit that maybe she could come to care for him. His hard layers had softened over the years, and he’d become a friend at the very least.
And she had to admit that the sex between them had been explosive.
She’d had two miscarriages during their time together, but finally a pregnancy had taken. Pynder had explained that it was common practice for a warrior to have his slave get an abortion, but for some reason, he’d wanted a child with her. They’d tried often, and when Sophie was born, it was the happiest she’d ever seen Pynder. Her own heart had filled with love for the small bundle, and they’d begun acting more like a family than a slave and owner, despite the fact she remained in the slave quarters.
The shuttle gleamed in the sunlight, and she still struggled to break free. When Pynder’s father climbed the steps, dragging her along, she renewed her fight, wanting to stay on Vaaden and be near her child, whatever the cost. He wrestled her into a seat and then she felt a sharp prick in her neck. Celeste cried out and grabbed at the area as an iciness spread through her veins and her body became sluggish.
“You’ve been sedated,” Pynder’s father said. “It will wear off, but by then, you’ll be in a sleep stasis until you reach Earth’s atmosphere. Pynder spoke of you often, and I’m sorry things had to happen this way. His daughter meant everything to him, and we will treat her accordingly. Be assured, she’ll want for nothing, and will be given every opportunity a Vaaden female has, despite the fact she’s half-human.”
His words eased her worry for Sophie, but only marginally. It didn’t change the fact she was never going to see her daughter again, something that was completely unacceptable. Celeste vowed that no matter what it took, however long she had to fight, she would get Sophie back.
Her body refused to respond, and only her eyes would move. She watched as Pynder’s father left the shuttle and the doors slid shut. The shuttle rumbled around her, the seat vibrating, as they prepared for take-off. As the shuttle rose into the air, the hiss of the sleep aid filled the compartment, and within moments, everything went black.
When next she woke, she could see Earth outside her window and knew that her daughter was out of her reach, perhaps forever. Her heart was heavy and sobs racked her body as she wept for the child she loved more than anything. She didn’t know what was to become of her, and she worried that Sophie would forget her if she hadn’t already. At only six months old, how likely was it that she would remember the woman who had given her birth?
Celeste tried to wipe away her tears as they entered Earth’s atmosphere and the shuttle rocked around her. As much as her heart ached, and as much as she wanted nothing more than to sob until all her tears dried up, she knew that it wouldn’t get her anywhere. She had to be brave now, and resourceful. Earth had once been her home, but it had been years since she’d been there. For all she knew, her family was gone or wouldn’t want her anymore. Especially after they heard what had happened to her.
First, she needed to speak with the Zelthranites at the station on Earth, and see if anyone could help her. She didn’t know if they would want to confront the Vaadens or not, and she still had no idea where she would sleep for the night, or what she would wear. The slave garment barely covered her slight form and was diaphanous. Definitely not something she would have chosen to wear, around strangers or otherwise.
The shuttle had a bone-jarring landing, and Celeste’s heart began to race. She didn’t know what to expect when the shuttle doors opened, and she had no idea how much Earth might have changed. If there were alien stations around the world, then that told her things were definitely not as she’d left them. Aliens had been whispered about when she’d last been on Earth nearly five years ago, but there hadn’t been any definite sightings, no confirmation that life existed outside of her world. But after being taken first by pirates, then sold to the Vaadens, she knew that most of the missing women on Earth had been abducted, which explained why their bodies were never found.
The doors opened, and her jaw dropped when a lavender-skinned alien stepped on board. His midnight colored hair hung halfway down his back, and his eyes were the striking color of pansies. He gave her an easy smile as he approached. Whoever he was, his height and build were rather impressive. The leather of his vest and pants creaked as he knelt in front of her.
“My name is Thrace,” he said. “Welcome back to Earth.”