by Ava Ross
Mail Order Brides of Crakair
November 18, 2020
He’s a rough Vikir warrior. She’s a mostly proper librarian. Can an Earthling woman and a green-scaled alien find love together in the stars?
After she’s kidnapped by blue-skinned aliens, Taylor escapes and bails from an alien space station in a shuttle she has no clue how to drive. She crash lands on a nearby planet made up mostly of jungle. Once she finds her way off the planet, she’s determined to return to Earth. Until Wulf, her Crakairian “mate” comes to her rescue. He says he won’t fight her if she wants to return home, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to change her mind. He’s gruff and scaly and much too appealing. And his kisses? If she could keep her hands off him, she might be able to think straight. But with jungle creatures trying to eat them, going home might not be an option.
As head of his Vikir clan’s warrior regiment, Wulf is scarred and unrefined, the exact opposite of his sweet female mate who speaks in a sophisticated manner and loves books. When she tells him she’s thinking of returning to Earth, he decides to show her what she’ll be missing, even if he can only do this in a rough and bumbling way. But with jungle creatures hunting them, their biggest challenge will be escaping the planet.
Wulf is Book 5 in the Mail-Order Brides of Crakair Series. This standalone, full-length story has on-the-page heat, aliens who look and act alien, a guaranteed happily ever after, no cheating, and no cliffhanger.
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Taylor was going to kill the four-armed, blue-skinned alien jerk poking her in the spine.
“Go, you,” he grunted, gouging her with his taser stick. As she stumbled down the hallway, she shoved her hair off her face and peered around, taking in the smooth metal walls and tiled floor that hummed beneath her feet. The ambiance reminded her of when she’d boarded the star cruiser that would take her from Earth to Crakair. Then a bunch of blue-skinned alien guys boarded to kidnap her and her two friends. “Are we on some sort of space vessel?”
“Talk, do not.”
Another jab of his stick made her breath whoosh out. If he did it again, she was going to spin on her high
heel and smack him. Some people thought librarians were serene and gentle, as they went out of their way to avoid confrontation, but those people hadn’t met Taylor. Yes, she came across calm and proper on the outside, but inside, she simmered, waiting for the right moment to boil over.
They passed a series of windows, and she slowed to look out. Forget her earlier idea about a space vessel. Long metal posts extended from the craft and small, round, pods that could be ships or satellite stations hung in space. Not a space ship, but a space station.
About a week ago, and this was only a guess on her part based on when the aliens brought her food, she’d woken inside a small room, strapped to a table.
An evil blue alien with wings had poked and prodded her, thankfully knocking her out for most of it. Jokes about alien probes were the laugh of the party until reality set in and creepy blue guys gouged at your skin with sharp objects.
They released her restraints periodically to let her take care of business in the bucket sitting in one corner, only to tie her to the table after, as if they worried she’d escape. Truly, she would have fled all the way to Earth if she could hijack a shuttle.
A few moments ago, she woke up to find this particular tall, blue-skinned guy standing beside her stretcher, fever‐ ishly ripping at the bindings keeping her ankles pinned to the table. She’d thought—for all of about ten seconds—he was freeing her. Until he latched onto her arm and yanked her off the thin mattress.
She’d tumbled onto the floor. Sitting on her butt with her back pressed against the stretcher, she braced her aching elbow against her belly. “Fuck off, asshole.” Radical terminology right there for Taylor.
“Up, you get.” He kicked her in the thigh. “No hole of ass. No fuck.”
That was reassuring.
Hauling her up off the floor, he half-dragged her out into the hall, and when he brandished the taser stick in her face, she decided to do what he asked.
For now. But just watch out, jerk. One distracted moment, and she’d attack.
A few tears leaked from her eyes, but she sniffed and ignored them. Studies showed people cried when they were subjected to tense situations. Being kidnapped, knocked out by a lightning stick, poked and prodded for who knows what nefarious purpose, and then tied up each night was enough to make a girl weep. She earned these tears.
“Go. Quiet, you be,” he said, driving her away from the windows.
“Why are you talking like that?” she asked, her heels click-click-clicking down the hall. With each step, she cursed the shoes she’d been wearing when she was kidnapped. That would teach her not to insist on wearing a tee, comfy lounge pants, and sneakers instead of the pink juglier dress her protocol droid had insisted on. The stupid gown was snug from the waist down to her calves, making it impossible to run. And the loose, floaty top kept drooping forward, threatening to show off the fact she was braless.
“Escape, we do,” he said as if making friendly conver‐ sation. That idea was negated faster than she could appre‐ ciate it. “Hostage, you are. Go!” He stabbed her spine again.
With a growl, she picked up her pace, shuffling her feet along the tiled floor as fast as she could. “What do you mean by hostage?”
They reached the end of the hall, and he pushed her through a door and into a stairwell.
“Down,” he barked, and she scurried in that direction, hoping her legs didn’t trip her up and send her tumbling.
“Talk like this, all of us do,” he said.
This wasn’t worth quizzing him about. Maybe he watched a lot of Star Wars and idolized Yoda.
Speaking of Yoda, where was a lightsaber when she needed one? Actually, she needed Princess Leia to storm the space station and rescue her.
Instead, the hand she’d been dealt included a skinny blue guy, plus a useless pink dress and three-inch heels.
“Scream, you will not,” he said.
As if he could control it? If she wanted to scream, she sure as hell would. “Why do you need a hostage?”
“Yarris, I will go. Take you with, I do.”
She didn’t know where Yarris was, but the take you with part made her pause. “Why?”
“Escape, I will do.”
“Escape? From what I can tell, you’re free already,” she said over her shoulder. The lucky guy had wings and could avoid the StairMaster workout she was now being subjected to. He floated behind her, urging her on with his black stick. “What’s keeping you from getting out of here on your own?”
“Release me, they will not.”
“Ah.” Anxiety crawled through her belly on razor-sharp claws. “You’re going to use me as a shield so they don’t harm you during your escape attempt.”
“Go!” He thrust his weapon toward her.
She wasn’t sure she could withstand another blow like the one she’d taken the second day she was here, when she kneed the alien “doctor” in the chin, and he’d retaliated. Her skull pounded in sympathy, reminding her she liked her brain matter unscrambled.
If only she had taken karate instead of basket weaving at the local Y. Then she could spin and grab the stick from his hand. A few, well-placed kicks would show him how Earth women treated jerks.
That’s what Francis Mandrake, adventurer extraordi‐ naire and Taylor’s favorite fictional character, did when‐ ever she got into tough situations. She acted. Being a librarian meant Taylor got first dibs on new books before they hit the shelves, and the Francis Mandrake mysteries were worth staying up late to finish. Maybe Taylor could take a cue from Francis and look at this as an adventure. Easy to say when Francis toured the pyramids, stumbling over mummies with a hot guy by her side, while Taylor got…
They exited the stairwell, out into yet another hallway. At the alien’s urging, she rushed through the corridor and turned left at an intersection. Taylor went as fast as her skirt would allow, but she was winded already. Okay, she was wheezing. So what if she enjoyed sitting more than running around the library? Somebody had to man— woman—the front desk, and after the University made budget cuts, she couldn’t hire a work study student to do the job.
She struggled to keep ahead of the alien. Some shield she was. She wanted to protest, tell him to slow the H-E double hockey sticks down, but she had a feeling he wouldn’t listen.
Partway down a final hall, he dragged her into an alcove. A few beeps on a panel, and a door whooshed open. He shoved her inside and followed. After the door had closed, air puffed around them, making her hair whip around her face. Another door opened, and when she stepped out of the tiny antechamber, Taylor found herself in what looked like a taxi station for alien spaceships.
“One that there,” the blue guy said, pushing her toward the ships.
While she scurried in that direction, he flew toward a bank of computers and pushed a bunch of buttons. With a whoosh, a panel lifted on the side of the shiny blue-silver capsule at the front of the line.
“In,” he said, flying back over to her.
“We haven’t seen anyone,” she said. “You don’t need me as a hostage. Let me go!” She could find a place to hide and then look for her friends. Were they on the space station, too?
“Shoot, they will,” he said, poking her spine. “Die, I will not.”
“Do you really think they’ll care one way or another about me?”
Wait. Whoever ran this space station would shoot at them? Her belly flipped. She was going to be blasted from the sky. Why, oh why, had she let her mom talk her into applying for the Extraterrestrial Matchmaker Service?
Oh, yeah. Babies. Taylor wanted lots of babies. And Earth was fresh out of baby makers.
The alien dragged her through the door, and as it closed and latched behind them with a dull thud, he took her down a hall to a tiny room on the end with a big window, a panel with a bunch of dials, and two black chairs.
“Sit,” he said, shoving her down onto a hard metal seat. He dragged straps from behind her and bound her in place in four-point restraints, then did something behind her with the bindings.
“What are you doing?” she asked, cricking her neck around.
“Make sure, no leave you do.” “You’re binding me to the chair?”
“No escape.” Peering up at her, he sneered. “Never escape.”
“Where do you think I’m going to go, asshole? We’re in space.”
He frowned before he shook his head and straightened. “One cannot hole in ass be.”
“Suits you, buddy.” She struggled against the bindings, but he pinned her too well.
He rounded her chair and sat in the other, where he strapped himself in. Leaning forward, he pressed multiple buttons on the console. The vehicle trembled and shifted ahead with a few jerks.
“Maybe you should hire a driver?” she said.
He ignored her.
“Where are you taking me?” she half-shrieked. So much for mimicking brave Francis Mandrake. She’d reverted back to plain old librarian Taylor already.
“Noisy, you are.”
He hadn’t seen anything yet. “Irritating, you are. Tell me where you’re taking me.”
The vehicle jolted forward. A hole opened in the wall ahead, revealing stars and endless black space.
The alien pointed to the hole. “To Yarris we go.” “You mentioned that before. Where is Yarris?” “Home new yours.”
Home? She didn’t like this, not one bit. “Take me back to the Crakairian star cruiser, and I’ll make sure they reward you.” Perhaps. They’d pay a ransom to free her, wouldn’t they?
Wulf would. Maybe. Damn, she hoped so. But how could she know? She hadn’t met him yet. He might find it easy to forget her.
“Yarris, we go. No star cruiser.” “I don’t want to go to Yarris.”
He scowled before returning his attention to his driving, which was a good thing. He had a lead foot, and he was touchy with the wheel. Sadly, in this way, Taylor was also not like Francis, who could ride a camel all day long without a twinge of an upset stomach. Bile churned in Taylor’s belly as motion sickness took hold. Vomiting would not make this situation better. If they lost gravity, it would float around the cabin. Her hair was disgusting enough already. She hadn’t bathed or washed it in a week.
With a whine of the engines, the vehicle shot out through the hole, the tip of one wing banging against the side of the opening. The alien maneuvered the craft around and pointed it toward a distant planet that looked nothing like Earth. Thankfully, the vehicle leveled off and stopped jerking in all directions.
This was not the fun adventure Taylor looked forward to when she’d signed up to be a mail-order bride.
Over a year ago, a mysterious ailment had swept through the galaxy, killing most of the women on the distant planet, Crakair, and the men on Earth. All seemed lost until a ping from Crakair was picked up with an invita‐ tion to share resources. At first, the Earthlings shouted no. Establish communication with an alien planet? How could they dare? But a contingent of Crakairians arrived, including Crown Prince Axil, and the governments on Earth had warmed to the idea.
The Crakairians came bearing treaties and advanced technology, including security systems to protect Earth from other, unfriendly planets. As Taylor had recently discovered, there were hostile worlds out here. The Crakairians gave Earth the chance to take a big step forward, into a new future.
The Crakairian government proposed something astonishing. Crakairians and humans were genetically compatible; why not arrange marriages? That was when the Earth-to-Crakair Extraterrestrial Matchmaking Service had been born. At first, Earth women laughed. I mean, who’d want to travel to Crakair to marry a tall, green alien groom?
A few brave women volunteered and the matches worked out. The guys were hot, sweet, and, rumor had it, awesome lovers. This was a chance to have a marriage and a family, something nearly impossible back on Earth.
Taylor had joined the most recent group. By now, she should have arrived on Crakair and met her groom, the Vikir warrior, Wulf. If things worked out and she chose to stay on Crakair after the ten-day trial period, they would have proceeded with their relationship with a goal of marriage.
What would Wulf do now? For all she knew, he gave up on her and ordered a new mail-order bride from Earth.
The idea burned through her. She shouldn’t feel jeal‐ ous. He wasn’t hers—yet. But she did, especially after watching the video he sent her, where he talked about how he’d cherish her and treat her fairly. She’d read the kind‐ ness in his dark eyes. Swoon.
Deep in her heart, she looked forward to meeting and getting to know him. Hell, even having sex with him if they connected. She had hope for her future. So much for that idea. Her dreams had been torched when she was kidnapped off the star cruiser.
As if all that mattered now. She and her alien hostage-taker were barreling toward a planet Earthlings had never heard of. Taylor worried she’d die there.
Meeting Wulf was no longer an option.
A few more tweaks on the dash by the blue guy, and the vehicle picked up speed.
When a voice crackled through the speaker, he jumped and darted a panicked glance her way. Someone spoke again, but Taylor didn’t understand. The blue guy’s gaze met hers, and he cackled.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Shoot us, they will not.” He sagged in his chair, settled his four arms on the armrests, and propped his heels up on the dash.
Lucky her to avoid being blasted to smithereens only to wind up stranded with a blue guy on a distant planet. “What are you going to do to me when we land?”
“I’m not for sale.”
He cackled again and tweaked more dials. The ship shifted course, still aiming for the planet below.
Yarris grew bigger and bigger until it filled the entire window in front of them.
She didn’t know what to do. At the library, she ruled. When she asked someone—politely—to do something, they did it. If someone was loud or rude, she would ask them to leave and they’d march out the front door. That life had not prepared her for this moment, and the realiza‐ tion scorched through her like her grannie’s hot sauce. Sure, with her friends, Taylor was bold. Much too chatty, actually, if she was being honest with herself. Inside, Taylor was still the shy girl on the school bus who was too afraid to say a peep because talking might draw the attention of bullies.
For the first time since the aliens attacked the ship and kidnapped her, she was truly frightened. Over the past week, she’d survived on adrenaline, fear, and bravado, the trademarks that made her a solid librarian. Through it all, she’d been convinced she’d be rescued.
Her chest ached, and she rubbed it. The ache wouldn’t go away, because… No one was ever going to find her on Yarris. How could they? It wasn’t as if she could leave a bread crumb trail behind in the stars.
Her lower lip trembled, but she bit back her tears, refusing to let them fall. Fuck bravery. Fuck trying to turn herself into cocky Francis Mandrake. Francis was fake.
But so was Taylor.
She hated giving the blue guy sitting beside her the satisfaction of seeing her weep.
Stiffening her spine and sniffing back her tears, she remained stoic as the ship hurtled toward Yarris and the end of her dreams.
When they entered the outer atmosphere, the shake of the ship rattled her teeth. She clutched the armrests, grateful she’d been strapped down. Otherwise, she feared she’d be projected through the windscreen. The ship bucked, like a beast trying to break free from restraints. A bang rang out, and she tipped her head back to stare at the ceiling. Seeing no dents surprised her.
“What was that?” she asked, her voice shaking as badly as her body.
“Silence!” He leaned forward and banged on the dials. “Don’t break the ship,” Taylor said hoarsely. “You’ll
mess things up and make us crash.”
“Assholed up already, it is,” he snarled. “Crash, we will.”
“What do you mean we’re going to crash?” She flicked her hand at the controls. “Drive this wreck. Land us on the planet.” To think, she’d been worried about what might happen tomorrow or the next day when it appeared her life would be over in about twelve seconds.
The ship rushed closer to the planet, and the blurs of blue and green merged into masses of green, purple, and light pink. Which was land and which was water?
“Drive, cannot do.” He lifted his hands in the air and shook them, then flopped them onto his thighs.
“What do you mean? You grab the wheel—wherever that is, and you steer this thing. You land us on the freakin’ planet!”
He shrugged. “Useless, you are.”
“It’s not my fault. You’re the one who kidnapped me from the kidnappers and tried to escape to Yarris.”
“Over, it is.”
Not if she had any say in it. “So much for selling me in a yard sale. In case you didn’t know, I didn’t volunteer for this mission.” Her hands hurt from gripping the armrests. “What can we do?”
“Nothing.” His head dropped, and he curled forward. “Try, damn you.”
He didn’t move. He didn’t flinch when she leaned side‐ ways and smacked his arm.
“Great. Give up, why don’t you?” she said through tears of frustration. “Like that’ll help.” Looking around, she tried to find something that would indicate how to drive this thing, but none of the dials had labels, and she didn’t see a stick shift or dials that might give her control. Taylor might talk a lot and cry more than she should, but she also hated letting fate take the wheel.
When she turned back to the window, she gulped. Fate had already decided.
The ground rushed up too fast. Was it good she was strapped down and would never get free? That would keep her from smacking against the windshield on impact, right? During Safety Week at the library, they showed older— okay, very old—films for the kids who hung out in the after‐ noons until their parents got home from work. One of the films highlighted the importance of wearing a seatbelt.
Her heart rattled behind her ribcage. Breathing normally was not an option.
Taylor was about to experience what happened when a vehicle going a billion miles an hour impacted with a planet. The end result in the film hadn’t been pretty, and those vehicles had only been going fifty-five miles per hour. She had to shut the film off before it finished. Kids had run from the room to vomit. Furious, Taylor mailed it back to the company, telling them never to suggest that movie for children again.
As she began to make out trees, mountains, and rivers, a cold sweat trickled down her spine. This was it. Her life would end on a world far from Earth. No one would mourn her loss.
Her mom… Did she know Taylor had been kidnapped? Tay could picture her mother waiting by the phone for the call that would never come. How long before everyone gave up on her?
Her pants rang out in the small cabin yet she barely moved. Her brain had shut down. Saliva pooled in her mouth, and bile crept up her throat. She was going to hurl and even the threat of the loss of gravity couldn’t stop it.
The ground rushed closer and, with a jarring roar, they made impact, hitting hard and skimming along the surface. They decimated trees and bushes with their clumsy passage. Flipping up and over a giant boulder, they smacked down on the other side. The ship spun to the right and then tumbled end over end so many times, Taylor lost count.
Her head snapped left and right, and her gaze blurred.
She let loose a scream.
Beside her, the blue alien groaned, though the sound barely reached her through the screaming crunch of metal giving way to unforgiving ground.
With a thud that thrust her against her restraints, the ship came to a stop and…
Taylor woke dangling from the straps pinning her to the chair.
Was the ship upside down? No, it was on its side and Taylor hung upside down, thanks to the alien for pinning her to the chair.
“Blue guy?” she croaked.
No sound reached her other than a humming buzz, dull thuds, and bird calls, which made no sense. The space‐ ship had gone silent.
Twisting her head, she peered to where the blue alien had been sitting. He should be below her, maybe still bent forward like people did in airplane brochures, the fliers you were supposed to study as the stewards stood in the front of the plane talking about who should get the oxygen mask first.
Pain arced down her spine as she shifted around, but she had to see how the alien was doing.
Oh. No chair. No blue alien sitting beside her.
“Blue guy?” Panic bubbled up in her voice. What the hell…?
Warm, balmy air swirled through the tiny cabin, drawing her attention to the big window, and she couldn’t hold back her gasp. Light poured in where the glass had been. Something vaguely resembling a dragon‐ fly, except it was the size of a house cat, buzzed past her head. It flitted around the cabin before zipping back outside.
Taylor’s jaw dropped open dramatically.
Beyond where the glass should be, a profusion of plants made up of blue, pink, and purple grew so thickly, her gaze couldn’t penetrate more than five feet. Had they crashed in a jungle?
The plants shifted in rhythmic jolts as if the earth moved beneath them or a marching band was coming her way.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Her skin prickled, and her heart leaped into her throat.
Taylor had seen Jurassic Park.
Frying pan? Meet fire.
Why hadn’t she quizzed the blue guy about Yarris while she had the chance?
Where was he, anyway? He kidnapped her from her kidnappers and bailed the moment they hit the planet, taking his chair along with him.
Spattered stains on the wall below where he should be drew her eye, and she squinted, trying to interpret the pattern. Dusky and gleaming, they reminded her of the aftereffect of an explosion.
A quick brush of her hands on her body proved she had no obvious injury. So where had the blood…?
She gulped and held her breath until her lungs ached.
Don’t move. Don’t make a freakin’ sound.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Something roared near the window opening, its growling voice slamming across Taylor like a hot, moist tsunami. Her mouth went dry as she scrunched in her chair, trying to make herself as small as possible.
A purplish arm the length and width of a kayak with two-foot long claws shot inside the small capsule. It raked through the rubble and dragged out wires and computer parts.
“Blue guy?” she whispered. Please, please, please. If only he was here with a laser pistol in his hand.
No blue guy. No laser.
Her heart blasted up into her throat as the thumps came closer. She wasn’t a hostage any longer. Taylor had become bait, a tasty lure dangling from a fishing line.
In true, maiden in distress fashion, Taylor could barely hold back her scream.
Grunts erupted outside. Had the creature outside invited the neighbors to the feast?
The owner of the clawed kayak arm, a beast made up of six legs and deep purple skin, lowered itself onto the ground in front of where the window used to be. It peered inside the cabin with a solitary, gleaming yellow eye, its attention fixed on her.
As it reached inside to extract her like someone using a pick to pull meat from a lobster claw, Taylor yelped.
“Haiii!” someone yelled outside.
A tall green dude dressed in tight black leather pants and what looked like a fur shirt leaped from the top of the ship and landed on the beast’s back. He hefted a sword high and, with a grunt, drove the blade down through the creature’s head.
To celebrate the release of WULF by Ava Ross, we’re giving away a paperback copy of Vork, the first novel in the Mail Order Brides of Crakair series!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will receive paperback copy of Vork by Ava Ross. This giveaway is administered by BookMojo on behalf of Ava Ross. Giveaway ends 12/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST. a Rafflecopter giveaway
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About the Author
AVA ROSS fell for men with unusual features when she first watched Star Wars, where alien creatures have gone mainstream. She lives in New England with her husband (who is sadly not an alien, though he is still cute in his own way), her kids, and assorted pets, including a yorkie pup and three cats.