New Release!

No, not a new Brats book. Yet. But this is almost as good 😉

Kept is an erotic anthology featuring 6 brand new novellas by 6 bestselling authors, including Leia, Cari, and Sorcha. The blurb is below, along with THE WHOLE FIRST CHAPTER of Leia’s book because she’s here blogging while the other two lazy asses are doing god knows what. Blogger’s prerogative.

Anyway… Links are below. Hope you like it!

kept_sm From the darkest parts of the underworld, to aliens hunting on Earth, to planets far away, each of these capture-themed novellas by six bestselling authors takes you on a wild ride that will heat up your fantasies and keep you up all night long…reading. 

From Holly Roberts – Sergeant Kelly Myers fights a war that humans are losing but there may be a way out. Can she sacrifice her blood and body to a vampire to save her country or is Talon worse than the evil trying to kill them all?

From Angela Castle – For alien King K’marr, time is running short, he captures and claims the human Ashlyn Sawyer as his. Yet, Ash objects over his methods of persuasion. Can K’marr convince Ash they are Soul Bonds or will she let him succumb to the abyss of madness?

From Cari Silverwood’s new Preyfinder series – A Preyfinder is trained to withstand hardship and pain, but Jadd would rather kneel before a firestorm than leave his captive, Brittany, to be stalked and killed. The choice between love and loyalty to his soldier brothers may tear him in two.

From Sorcha Black – Lying tangled in her sheets each night, dreaming of sex, virginal Shiloh never meant to tempt the spying succubus. Even so, the accident of their mutual infatuation wouldn’t save Shiloh or Moth from the Council’s wrath.

From C.L. Scholey – Lost in a forest, poison ivy for an unwanted companion. Two hot aliens take the form of friends spirit her away aboard their alien vessel. Can life get any stranger for Cali? It can. Add some mind blowing sex and hang on!

From Leia Shaw – After accidentally turning off a device that could destroy earth, Maggie finds herself abducted by Baen, a man with an accent as sexy as his rugged looks. As he drags her to Scotland to fix it, chemistry between the two explodes, but is it enough for a happily ever after?






My Scottish Keeper

Chapter 1

Most people wanted to go home after a long day of work. I wanted to avoid it. The kennel had been slow lately so I’d been let out early. Now I had time to kill. Snow fell quietly to the ground, blanketing the busy city noises with a sense of calm.

I could go home – it’d be warm at least – but then Jared would have work for me to do, I’d protest, and we’d get into an argument. Dad would jump in and all hell would break loose. Inevitably, I’d end up packing the drugs for them to avoid having to deliver them. Not only was it cold as fuck but I didn’t trust their clients. But who would trust druggies? I tugged my pea coat tighter around my body. I wish I had a few dollars to spare. I’d sit in Starbucks with a cup of hot chocolate for a while.

Despite the cold, I took the long way home, lost in the crunching sound of snow beneath my Converse. At least I had a job where I could dress how I wanted. Alyssa had to wear heels to work. That was the difference between a vet tech and me. She was the face of the office. She got to smile and reassure the owners that the pets were in good hands. I worked in the back. The way back. Mostly, I took care of the dogs and cats in the kennel. Sometimes I helped at the groomers.

It didn’t matter to me. Work was a sanctuary, the animals my friends.

Fuck. How lame was that? I almost laughed at myself. Who was I? Snow White?

Bells rang in the distance, catching my attention. I looked toward the stone church up on the hill, set away from the main area of town. Coated in a layer of snow, in the stillness it looked like a photo from a coffee table book of some faraway place.

I wasn’t a religious person, but today something compelled me to visit the church. It wasn’t as if I had anything else to do. Maybe I’d find some spiritual solace, or at least somewhere to warm up. Ten minutes later, I reached the front step.

Thick wood doors greeted me, reminiscent of a medieval castle. I reached for the handle, wondering if churches ever closed. It was mid-afternoon. They had to stay open for sinners to repent and all that, right? It took a bit of pushing, but the door creaked open.

A rush of heat hit my cheeks and I was glad it wasn’t too much like a medieval castle and seemed to have modern plumbing. I took off my gloves and stuck them in the messenger bag hanging at my hip. I was in a small foyer, with a few benches on the side and a chandelier overhead. Two hallways broke off from the foyer, one on the left and one on the right.

“Hello?” I called. Nobody answered and I couldn’t hear any footsteps. I took a chance and went to the right, where it was slanted on an incline. Maybe I’d find a window overlooking the snowy town.

The corridor went up, like a ramp. There weren’t any windows in the hallway yet but curiosity and a break from the cold spurred me. Something about the place felt comfortable, homey even. Maybe it was just the warmth.

The hallway turned and turned again and I realized I was going in a circle up the building, like a spiral staircase only without the stairs. So far, there was no sign of life.

Finally, my path ended. Another wooden door stood in my way. There was no sign that said keep out or private. For all I knew, it was the bathroom. I pushed on it and it opened.

A blast of cold hit me and I almost slammed the door shut. Then the giant bell in the center of the room caught my eye. The tower was open on two sides, which made it drafty, but I was curious how the bell worked. Taking a quick look wouldn’t hurt anyone, and I’d wanted a view of the town anyway.

I studied the levers and gears around the bell, imagining how they operated. I wished I could see it in action. Maybe I could come back, just before the hour and watch them ring. If I happened to see someone in the building, I’d ask. It was too cold to stay for long so I turned to head back into the warmth. Just before I reached the door, a blue light caught my eye.

On the other side of the tower, something in the brick wall glowed.

What in the world?

I squinted then moved closer to get a better look. Was it some sort of gadget to control the bell? Upon closer inspection, I realized the light came from behind one of the bricks, which was loose. A secret hiding spot?

I shimmied the brick from its place and pulled out the glowing object.

Round, nearly flat with a dip in the middle, the piece of metal felt heavy in my hands. Two blue lights shone and a multitude of buttons sat between the lights. Unable to stop myself, I pressed one. Then I looked at the bell, expecting it to start ringing. Nothing happened.

I shrugged then went to put the gadget back. Voices sounded from outside the door. A man. I couldn’t make out any words but he sounded angry.


Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be here. I shoved the device in my coat pocket then frantically looked for somewhere to hide. There was some scaffolding I could climb but it seemed too rickety. The only thing that could conceal me was the bell. I ran then ducked underneath it. Just before the door flew open, I shoved my body between the walls of the bell, holding my weight with my hands pushed up against the walls then pulled my feet inside.

Heavy footsteps moved slowly around the tower. My heart mimicked the pounding of the stranger’s feet. I tried not to breathe. Whoever was out there circled the bell once then seemed to move back toward the door. The footsteps faded and I heard the door close.

I finally let out a breath of relief. That was close.

Something grabbed my ankle and I screamed. It yanked hard until I couldn’t hold myself up and I fell on my ass on the hard ground.

“Fuck!” I yelled, trying to shake free. I could feel my ass bruising already. “What are you doing?” Even if I shouldn’t have been there, what kind of priest acted so violently toward a visitor?

I looked up at my assailant and froze.

Holy. Fuck.

Fear surfaced – real fear. The kind that made my throat close up and my heart hammer so hard in my chest I thought I might be having a heart attack.

The biggest man I’d ever seen towered over me, still clutching my ankle, forcing me to lie back on my elbows.

“What are you doin’?” he rumbled in a thick accent. Not American. No, he couldn’t possibly be. He was too…thick. Rugged. He looked like a bear. Shaggy beard, long blond hair covering half his face. His wild eyes narrowed at me in suspicion.

The gadget dropped from my pocket and clattered on the ground. I’d forgotten I still had it. His gaze shifted to the thing then back to me. He dropped my foot and bent down.

I scrambled back, needing to be on my feet so I didn’t feel so helpless.

“Thief!” he bellowed.

He reached for me. I screamed again, hating that I sounded like such a girl. But, fuck, he was huge. And he looked ready to eat me alive.

He grabbed my coat at my chest and yanked me to my feet as if I weighed nothing.

“I didn’t steal anything!”

He opened his mouth, his eyes wild with rage. I turned my head away, waiting for him to yell, but nothing happened. I dared a glance. He wasn’t looking at me. His brow furrowed and I followed his gaze. The metal gadget lay ignored on the floor, but the blue light had turned off.

He pulled me closer to his face then snarled, “What did you do?”

“I-I don’t know. Nothing!”

Without another word, he flung me to the side. I stumbled into the wall. What the fuck was happening? I eyed the door, wondering if I could make a run for it. The man picked the device off the ground and studied it.

Just as I was about to try for the door, it burst open. Another man, much smaller, rushed out into the cold.

“What is it, Baen?”

He wore a black robe with a white collar around his neck so I figured him to be the priest. Maybe he’d take my side. He was a man of God, right?

As they inspected the object, I crept closer to the door. Would they forget I was here?

“Has it done that before?” the priest asked.

“No. Never.”


“What does it mean?”

Almost there.

“I think it’s turned off.”


Right as I stepped over the threshold and into the hallway, a hand tangled in my hair and I yelped. Pain flared as he wrenched my head back to look at him.

“Where do you think you’re goin’?” To my surprise, he shoved me forward. He kept his hand in my hair, forcing me to bend over while we walked down the corridor.

I heard the priest’s feet shuffle against the ground behind us. “Baen, go easy on her. She’s just a girl.”

Yeah, you fucking giant, I’m just a girl!

I clamped my mouth shut before I got in more trouble.

“Aye. Do they think me weak? That I’d have pity just because she’s a wee lass?”

I made a mental note to appear wee-er when he finally let go of my hair. Pity might be my best hope.

“A thief is a thief,” he added.

Finally, I placed his accent. Scottish. What the hell was this Highlander on steroids doing in small town Maine? Had I been transported into some kind of Mel Gibson movie?

Down we went, to the foyer I’d come in, then through a door that led to a dark staircase. My scalp ached. I could almost feel clumps of my hair dislodging from the root.

“Ow!” I dared to complain. “You’re hurting me.”

Surprisingly, he loosened his grip. Not enough for me to do anything but go where he took me, but it hurt a bit less. The three of us descended a set of stone stairs that ended in a cellar.

Shit. I was so screwed.

A light clicked on to reveal what looked like mainly storage space. Except for a small section to the right, where a set of manacles hung from the wall. My stomach rolled and my knees started to shake. Panic hit, and hit hard. It took all I had to stay standing.

The man released my hair, obviously not concerned that I would flee. I had one exit and he was blocking it.

A patch of blood smeared on the wall near the manacles caught my eye. I gasped then backed away a few steps.

And this is where I die.

In a house of God. How ironic.

The man peered down at me, almost smirking. “Aye. That’s from the last man who tried to steal from me.”

My mind whirled. I knew I needed to defend myself, explain this was all a misunderstanding, but I couldn’t get my mouth to move. “I…I…”

They stared at me. The priest fiddled with a rosary, looking unsettled. The Scottish man merely raised his brows, waiting.

“Speak, girl,” he ordered. “Or has your courage abandoned you?”

I cleared my throat, steeling said courage. “I-I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I wasn’t trying to steal anything. I don’t even know what it is.”

“Then what are you doin’ here? Hiding in the bell tower, tinkerin’ with things that aren’t yours doesn’t seem verra innocent.”

“I’m sorry.” I gave them my best innocent wee lass face. “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m really sorry. I just came inside to warm up and I got a little lost. I ended up in the bell tower and it made me curious how it all worked so I just meant to walk around, that’s all. Then I saw the blue light in the brick and I thought maybe it controlled the bells. I don’t know what I was thinking. I shouldn’t have even come inside. I’m sorry.” I stopped rambling when I realized the guy called Baen was chuckling. It was hard to tell at first because it seemed so unnatural with all the scowl lines etched in his face. But his chest rumbled and white teeth showed between his lips.

He was laughing at me?

Annoyed, I let loose a little growl. “Well, if you believe it was an accident, will you let me go now? It’s not very nice to drag girls into bloody cellars and scare them half to death. Isn’t this supposed to be a sacred place and all that shi – er, stuff?” I gave the priest an apologetic smile.

“Oh now look who’s turned into a spitfire,” Baen taunted. “The wee lass thinks she’s safe and scolds us for scarin’ her.”

I put my hands out in a peaceful gesture. “Look. If you don’t tell anyone about me touching whatever that gadget is, I won’t tell anyone about you going all caveman on me.” I pointed to my hair, probably a tangled mess now. Not that my brown curls could ever be called tame. “I’m pretty sure this counts as assault.”

His sarcastic smile faded in an instant. He took a step toward me and I gulped. I started to move back then thought better of it when I realized I’d only be closer to the torture chamber.

Instead, I tried to stand my ground, stood up straighter and looked him in the eye. I had rights. This was fucking America, not whatever land and time he’d been dropped in from.

“Now you look, girl,” he said, eerily quiet. “Your little curiosity did some serious damage.” His gaze bore into mine and I found I couldn’t look away. “And now you’re goin’ to fix it.”

Eyes, almost unnaturally green, kept my attention captive. Mesmerizing.

Wait. What?

I gave my head an inward shake, trying to clear whatever spell he cast. “Fix it? I don’t even know what it is. I have a phone. I can call someone for you if you –”

“Baen,” the priest said. “Must we involve the girl? She’s young. She’s frightened. This was clearly all a big accident.”

Baen swung his head to face the priest. “The Clypeum can only be controlled by the last person to touch it. In this case, that’s her. Somehow, in her curiosity,” he spat the word with disgust, “she managed to turn it off. We’ll need to bring it to the Order.”

Clypeum? The Order? This was a joke, right?

The priest frowned but nodded.

“I won’t harm her,” Baen said, softer now. “As long as she’s telling the truth.” He turned his gaze on me and glared.

I tried not to shrink back. If I was going to get anywhere with this man, I’d have to speak up for myself. Time to grow a backbone. I couldn’t with Jared, who I’d broken up with several times yet he continued to act as if it’d never happened. I put up with his lingering because my father pressured me to. He only wanted a partner in his drug business.

But this time, I was in deep shit.

“I’m telling the truth,” I explained, “but I can’t go anywhere with you. I have to work in the morning.” I had no idea what or where the Order was, but it didn’t sound like it was just around the block. “If you want, I can try to press some buttons to turn it back on but then I have to go.”

Baen stared at me for a moment, as if determining whether I was serious. Then he laughed. “Aye. Here, lass.” He thrust the object out to me. “Press some buttons.”

I stared at the device in his palm. Was this a trick?

“Go on,” he said, smirking. “Turn it on.”

“Okay.” Slowly, I took it from his hand. I studied the buttons, trying to remember what I’d done in the bell tower. I tried pressing one that looked familiar, but nothing happened. I tried another and another. When the thing didn’t light up, I admitted I had no idea what I was doing and sighed. “Maybe it needs a new battery.”

Baen’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “Guess that means you’ll be coming with me.” He plucked the thing from my hands and walked away.

“I have to get ready for Mass,” the priest said, eyeing the stairs.

My captor nodded and started rifling through boxes lined up against the other wall. “We’re leaving straight away.”

“Uh, where exactly are we going?” Maybe he’d make this easy and say the Lion’s Club downtown or something.


I felt the blood drain from my face. He didn’t even spare me a backward glance.

“Um.” How could I put this nicely? “That’s kind of impossible. I don’t have a passport.”

“You don’t need one.”

Fuck. The man acted like he had every intention of dragging me halfway across the world, whether I wanted to go or not. I took a step toward the stairs.

The priest frowned at me. “I’m sorry you got mixed up in this, child.” He took my hands in his. His skin felt papery but warm. And there was some strength there when he squeezed my hands.  “You can trust Baen. He has a good heart.”

The man had a heart?

The priest waved his hand in the air in the shape of a cross then walked silently up the stairs. And I was left alone with Mr. Manners, the unstable man-bear. How fast would I have to be to beat him up the stairs? I counted them in my head. There were only twelve.

“Don’t think of running, girl.”

I jumped at the sound of his voice. How did he know? He wasn’t even facing me.

“I’m in no mood to chase down disobedient women.”

Disobedient? That chafed. I let my pride fuel my courage. “Listen. I’m not…” I shifted my stance and cleared my throat. Come on, Maggie. Man up! “I’m not going with you.”

I grimaced, waiting for the ire. He ignored me as he continued his search through the boxes.

“Did you hear me?” I said, trying not to stammer this time. “I can’t be much help anyway. I suck at technology stuff. I can barely work my iphone. Everything I touch breaks.”

“Aye, I can believe that.” With a grunt, he heaved something out of a box then turned and dropped it on the ground. “Here we are.”

A canvas sack. Baen seemed pleased with it – he stared down at it, smiling. I wasn’t comforted.

“Um. Yeah, so…” I stepped back slowly. “To sum things up. No passport. Work in the morning. Not going. Best of luck.” Chancing fate, I turned for the stairs.

Baen was in my path before I saw him move. My mouth fell open as I stared at his chest. I could swear it was as wide as the stairwell. His defined pecs were visible through his thermal shirt. Jared was all skin and bones and sometimes made me feel like a heifer, even though I was considered average to most people. What would it be like to be with someone so…large? My gaze slipped to his crotch.

Fuck. My cheeks heated and I squeezed my eyes shut.

“I can force you,” he rumbled.

What? In my mind, he held a handful of my hair again, pushed me down on my knees, popped open my mouth with his finger on my chin…

“I can force you to come to Scotland,” he said.

Scotland? Oh. God! And here I’d been thinking…

What the fuck was wrong with me?

He’d manhandled me easily enough earlier. It wasn’t a stretch to believe he could make me do anything he wanted. Panic struck, hitting me square in the chest.

Breathe. Just breathe.

I thought back on what he’d said to the priest about the device. The last person to touch it while it was on controlled it. That was me. I had some power in this.

When I got my breathing under control, I looked up and gave him my best death glare. “You need me to turn it on. I won’t do it.”

He arched a brow. “You threatening me, lass?”

Lack of oxygen to my brain must’ve made me brave. “Yes.” I bit down on my lip to stop it from trembling. I wished I’d taken some kind of martial arts classes. Picturing myself karate chopping this guy was laughable. It’d be like trying to chop down a tree with my hand.

His chest puffed out as he rose to his full height, clearly trying to intimidate me with his size. I gulped. It was working.

Finally, he let out a defeated sigh. “I’ve been unfair to you. Sit down. I’ll explain everything and you can make up your own mind.” He gestured to a dusty chair near the boxes.

I stayed glued to my spot by the stairs. I was no sucker. This good cop routine wasn’t going to fool me. He was up to something.

A smile touched his lips. “You don’t trust me.”

“No kidding.”

“I’m no’ a monster.”

I snorted.

He braced his arm on the wall and stared down at me, smirking. “Where’s your courage, little spitfire? A moment ago you were threatenin’ me, now you’re too scared to learn the truth?”

The prideful side of me growled at his taunting. “Fine. I’ll hear what you have to say. But I’m not promising anything after that. And my threat still stands. I won’t help you if you try to force me.”

He reached toward my face and I flinched back. Frowning, he placed his fingers under my chin and tipped my head up. He assessed me, peering into my eyes as if he were trying to see inside my soul.

“A bonny thing,” he said, as if speaking to himself. “It’s too bad it’ll be pretend.” Without another word, he released me then walked past and sat down on an old couch.

“Huh?” What would be pretend? Nothing made sense yet and I was starting to wonder if it was all a dream. I pinched myself to check.


“Would you say you’re an open-minded girl?” he asked from the couch then gestured to the chair across from him.

I shrugged then sat where he indicated. “Well, I kissed a girl once but…” It’d been my best friend and a silly high school experiment to check if we were lesbians. Now I understood it didn’t exactly work that way.

“Now that’s a pleasant visual, but no’ what I mean.” He chuckled. “I mean, do you believe in extra-terrestrials, things of that nature?”

“Oh.” I thought for a moment. Right now I was being held prisoner in a church cellar by a Scottish brute – I supposed anything was possible. Plus, I wanted to hear more so I nodded. “Sure. I guess.”

He shifted on the couch, leaned toward me. “In the earliest centuries of Anno Domini –”

“Anno what?”

“Anno Domini. The time period AD. So, roughly two thousand years ago, give or take. An alien race found the earth and sought to use its resources. Back then there were no weapons to fight them of course. Human were still a young species. But just like there are both good people and bad people here on earth, it is so beyond our world too. Another type of extra-terrestrial believed in protecting planets like ours from being harvested for our resources. After they fought our war for us, they gave five alien devices to five religious leaders to take care of. These are called the Clypeom. They scramble the signals coming from earth so other aliens can’t tell what resources we have here. It’s a deterrent for exploration. It keeps us safe. All five must be working, spread across the globe, to keep us hidden. When one fails, it weakens the shield. So you see how important these devices are?” He paused and gave me an expectant look.

I nodded numbly. Aliens? Either the guy was fucked in the head or he was messing with me.

“The aliens that made the devices also genetically engineered a race of humans that were bigger, stronger, faster, in order to help the religious leaders hide and protect the Clypeom.”

“Uh-huh.” Smile and nod.

“That’s my people. The Order. We’ve been charged with breeding, raising, and training generations of our kind. We protect the earth.”

I waited for the punch-line. Moments passed and it didn’t come. “You’re shitting, me right?”

He scowled. “You’ve a nasty mouth, girl.”

I couldn’t believe I was wasting my time with this. Jared would be expecting me home any minute. I was officially creeped out, losing my patience, and ready to go home.

“First of all, my name isn’t ‘girl.’ It’s Maggie.” Why was I telling him this? “Second of all, if this is your idea of a joke, it isn’t funny. And if it’s not a joke, and you really believe it, then I think you need help. But it can’t be me. I’m sorry, but this is waaaay beyond my comfort zone.”

I stood up to leave, hoping that he’d finally end this stupid prank and let me go.

He rolled his eyes. “I’m no’ yanking your chain. If you’re going to force me to prove it, I will.”

In my frustration, I perched a hand on my hip and glared. “It’s only fair. You’ve been doing all the forcing till now.”

For a moment, he just stared at me. Then he broke character and smiled. “Cocky lass.” He rose from the couch with a sigh.

“My name is –”

“Maggie. Aye, I know. My ears work fine.” Without another word, he disappeared around the corner, in the back of the cellar.

It was too dark to see him and I thought about making a run for the stairs. Something kept me there though. Curiosity? A morbid fascination with seeing this through? It didn’t matter. He returned only a minute later.

His brows rose when he saw me. “You’re still here. Finished trying to run, eh?”

I wasn’t going to dignify that with an answer.

“Or was it your curiosity again? Come here.” He beckoned me with a wave of his hand.

I just stared.

“Come on, Maggie girl.” He grinned. “I won’t bite.”

Maggie girl? It was an improvement, I supposed. But I wasn’t quite sold on the not biting part. With a heavy sigh, I crossed the room and stood close enough to see what he was holding while still keeping my distance. “This should be interesting.”

“Try no’ to panic. I have no smelling salts if ye should faint.” He chuckled at his joke.

This close, I caught a small twinkle in his eye. When he wasn’t yelling at me or mocking me, he might’ve had a good personality. For a bear.

I gave my head a shake. Or maybe I was imaging it. “If I was the fainting type, it would’ve happened by now.” I braced myself anyway, not at all as confident as I tried to sound.

Baen opened his hand to reveal a long pen-like metal stick. I’d never seen anything like it but I wasn’t exactly the most worldly of girls. I’d only ever been as far as the coast and that was with my friend’s family back in high school. I feigned a look of disinterest. The key to being cool, I’d found, was to appear constantly unimpressed.

He fumbled with the gadget for a moment then grabbed my wrist and yanked me to him. I resisted, panicked, but he overpowered me easily.

“What are you doing?” I shouted.

Ignoring me, he tucked me under his arm, held out the fancy pen thing, and pressed a button. A tingly sensation swept over me then a blast of cold air.


The cellar faded away and I was thrown, violently, onto a patch of grass. The wind was knocked out of me and my whole body ached from the fall. When I caught my breath, I let out a groan and lifted my head.

Baen was smirking down at me. He put out his hand. “It takes some getting’ used to.”

I took his hand and he hauled me to my feet. A gust of wind whipped by, throwing my hair into my face. I swiped it away. Green hills surrounded us. Boulders dotted along them, creating small cliffs. A few trees stuck out from the ground. We were standing under one with wide branches that cast shade overhead. Not that we needed it. Above us, gray clouds hung in a depressing sky. We weren’t in Westburg, Maine anymore.

I started to hyperventilate. My mind whirled. We’d been transported by some technological device. Aliens were real. Were we even on earth anymore? Aliens were real. I had to say it a few times over before it sank in. They could come here. They could destroy us. And, fuck, I’d screwed up the shield! I’d fucking doomed the world!

“Oh god!” My chest ached as it became harder and harder to breathe.

A big hand grasped me around the back of the neck. Warm. Commanding. He squeezed then gave me a shake. “Breathe, lass.”

“I can’t!” I was going to pass out. Where the hell were smelling salts when you needed them?

I finally sucked in a deep breath. “Oh god. What do we do? We’re fucked. Damn my stupid curiosity!”

“Calm down, Maggie.”

I couldn’t. Maggie Turner was not a hero. I’d never done anything remarkable in all of my twenty four years. Now I was expected to fix an alien shield and save the world? Baen didn’t understand just how much I was the wrong person for the job.

My breath came out faster, shallower. The world spun. Then pain flared across my scalp. Baen had his hand in my hair again. He yanked my head back and looked me in the eye.

“Stop it,” he ordered.

Something about the pain and the firmness of his voice grounded me. My breathing slowed. Tears pricked my eyes.

“Don’t cry.”

Another order. Surprising myself, I blinked back the tears. Why did my body obey him? Worse than that, why were my girly bits getting all warm and tingly?

He shook me once. “You will stop this now, girl, or we will have a problem.”

Finally, I could breathe enough to speak. “You can’t order me to stop panicking.” But he just had. The pain kept me distracted from the fear. I tried to pull away then winced when he only held me tighter. “And we already have a problem.” The whole end of the world thing seemed pretty big to me.

“Aye, we do.” He let go and chuckled. “You need to get used to obeying me or this will no’ be pleasant.”

“I assure you it’s no picnic now,” I grumbled, rubbing my head. That was an understatement. And what did he mean by obeying? Was I going from being one man’s doormat to another? This was continuing a pattern I’d already vowed to end. “Listen. You might be in charge of that Clippy thing, but you are not in charge of me.”

“Clypeom.” He smirked then swept his gaze down my body. “We’ll get to that later. For now, you understand why you must help me, don’t you?”

I nodded numbly. This was too surreal.

“And you’ll come with me willingly to my people?”

Again, I nodded. Or maybe I hadn’t stopped. I let my mind haze over. Survival tactic, I supposed.

“And you’ll do anything it takes to fix the shield?”

Why was I nodding again? I put a hand on my forehead to stop my bobbling. Anything could mean…well, anything. And I already suspected there was something he was keeping from me.

“I have your word that you will cooperate?”

Was he really giving me a choice? It seemed not. “I’ll do my best,” I managed to choke out.

Maggie and her man-bear, out to save the world. This was shaping up to be a B-rated sci-fi movie gone horribly wrong.

He smiled and patted my head. “Good girl.”

Good girl? I ignored the urge to growl and bite him.