Page 1 of 76 - United (Alienated #3)
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Chapter One



L’eihr: The Final Frontier

Greetings, earthlings!

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you—that’s a new blog header up there. Welcome to UNITED, your exclusive source for sneak peeks into the first integrated L’eihr-Human colony. I hope you brought your sunscreen, because we’re headed to the beach, baby! You heard me. The colony is set on a lush, tropical island located on the opposite side of the planet from the main continent.


It’s not too late to apply for passage…

We’re looking for a few good humans to round out our first group of settlers, especially those with a background in agriculture or mechanical engineering. Your skills could help build a whole new society, and if that doesn’t get your motor running, I don’t know what will.

Remember, among the requirements for settlers are a full-scale IQ of at least 130, general wellness, and a healthy reproductive system. (Sorry. I don’t make the rules.) You can download an application online and visit your local Earth Council office for a physical examination and mental screening.

I hope to see you around.

I’ll be the one sporting a goofy smile and a perpetual sunburn.

Posted by Cara Sweeney

Cara closed her laptop, taking care to muffle the click so she didn’t wake Aelyx, who was snoring lightly from the bunk they shared in her ship’s quarters. He slept with one muscled arm curled beneath his head, his loose honey-brown locks hiding his eyes. As if sensing her absence, he grumbled and hugged her pillow to his chest, then gave a contented sigh and murmured something in his native language before drifting off again.

It made her smile.

In the weeks since they’d left Earth, she’d grown accustomed to sleeping in his arms, too. No matter how quietly either of them padded about the room in the morning, the other would inevitably wake within minutes. They’d become synchronized in their movements, much like the trio of moons that orbited the planet five hundred miles below their feet.

On silent tiptoes, Cara made her way to the porthole and gazed past the darkness of space to her new home. L’eihr was barely visible as a ring of light as it eclipsed the distant sun, but she could still picture it from her last visit—an orb of muted indigo dotted with thousands of tiny islands and two continents, one of which housed the entire population of their race.

Of course, that was about to change.

Once the medics were done quarantining them for Earth cooties, Cara and Aelyx would shuttle down to the colony and begin their new life together. The prospect made her heart flutter. They’d have the whole community to themselves for the first couple of weeks while she finished negotiating the colony charter. It would almost be like a vacation. And they were long overdue for some fun in the sun.

Thwarting coups and saving alliances was hard work.

“It’s too early to get up.” Aelyx’s voice was rough with sleep in a way that never failed to make her tummy do backflips. When he stretched both arms above his head, it drew her gaze to the contours of his tawny chest and his flat slab of a belly, even more scrumptious without a “button.” He yawned and murmured, “Come back to bed.”

He didn’t need to ask her twice.

Cara climbed beneath the covers and rested her cheek on the perfectly hollowed spot where his shoulder met his chest. His skin was warm, carrying with it the unique, spicy-sweet scent she’d grown to crave more than h’ali, the L’eihr equivalent of coffee. While he wrapped both arms around her and drew her close, she placed a palm over his heart to gauge the strength and rhythm of its beats.

“How’s the ticker?” she asked, peeking at him through her lashes.

“Strong.” He covered her hand with his and pressed down so she could feel a steady thump. “Healthy.” A wicked grin curved his mouth, and with mischief in his voice, he nuzzled her ear and added, “Ready for anything.”

Cara let her eyelids drift shut when he gently took her earlobe between his teeth. She didn’t know if she had the strength to turn him down this time. Two weeks ago, a L’eihr weapon had stopped Aelyx’s heart. It was a miracle she’d been able to get it beating again, and since then, she’d insisted on giving him a chance to recover before they played their respective v-cards.

Keeping those cards in their pockets hadn’t been easy—for either of them.

But with his lips brushing a wayward trail down the side of her neck, Cara was feeling awfully ready, too. Chills broke out across her skin in delicious contrast to the heated blood rushing through her veins. Then he bit that magical place at the top of her shoulder, and her resolve folded faster than a stadium seat.

“Are you sure?” she whispered. “I don’t want to send you back to the great beyond.”

Aelyx paused long enough to lock their gazes, sharing a brief snippet of his emotions through Silent Speech. A rush of desire flooded over her, and after that, there was no more chitchat…

Until a few moments later, when their com-spheres buzzed an alert.

“Fasha,” Aelyx swore, raking a hand through his hair. He rolled onto his back and groaned loud enough to vibrate the pillow. “How do they always know?” He jabbed an index finger toward the unused top bunk. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a camera up there.”

Cara took a second to steady her breathing before answering the summons. Its signature frequency told her the call came from The Way—L’eihr’s governing body, which now included her as the Chief Human Consultant. Her colleagues weren’t spying. She and Aelyx simply had rotten luck.

“One of these days, we’ll catch a break.” She handed over his sphere, and together they spoke their passkeys while tugging the blanket high enough to conceal any exposed skin.

An image of the head Elder flickered to life, stooped in her miniature form atop the mattress. If Alona was surprised to see them together under the covers, she didn’t let it show. Her faded chrome eyes betrayed no emotion as she lifted two fingers in the usual L’eihr greeting and droned, “I have wonderful news.”

You’d never know it from her tone, but that was normal for the Elders. They’d practically bred the life out of themselves several generations ago. That was why they needed humans to diversify the gene pool. Cara returned the greeting and waited for her leader to continue.

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