Yasmin Olvera has a man problem. Her brother is in jail for murder, her ex-fiance has inconveniently forgotten he dumped her, and someone is leaving dead animals on her stoop. The last thing she needs is another male thrown into the mix, even a strong extra-terrestrial warrior who's crossed the galaxy to aid her.
Benar Q'Mhel has better things to do than babysit a helpless Terran female, no matter how attractive she is. Sure, somebody's after her, and in a nasty way, but does she really need an elite mercenary-soldier to solve her problem?
But as the situation escalates, Benar begins to reconsider the tough-minded Yasmin and her place in his life, and she begins to wonder if love might be the key to solving her man problem once and for all.
Excerpt from Chapter One
Yasmin Olvera curled up on her sofa with a fresh cup of hot cocoa cupped between her hands. A fire burned brightly in the insert installed in the creek rock fireplace. It was snowing outside, a rare treat as the seasons neared the change from fall into winter. She loved the snow, loved watching it fall, loved being outside in the crisp air and catching snowflakes on her tongue as they drifted to the earth. Just the thought of it should make her happy.
Somehow, though, it was simply one more misery among a year of unhappiness.
Yasmin blew gently across the top of her cocoa. There’d been too many changes over the past few months. Most of them had come about after Marty Benfield had broken off their engagement. Him, she didn’t miss at all. He could keep his archaic notions about immigration to himself, thank you very much, and she’d be just fine not having to explain repeatedly something he already knew, that she was the second generation of her family to be born in the States and a successful businesswoman in her own right.
It should’ve been enough. If he’d loved her, maybe it would’ve been, but he hadn’t. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have shed her faster than a NASCAR driver at Talladega when her brother’s old gang started making trouble.
That trouble had chased Yasmin’s best friend, Rachel Hunter, right off Earth and halfway around the galaxy, along with her daughters and Rachel’s handsome fiancé, Dyuvad ab Mhij, a man who’d been born on another planet. Talk about a whopper of a surprise. To think, there really was intelligent life living among the stars, and some of it was human.
The fire hissed and popped. Yasmin sipped her cocoa, savoring the rich chocolate creaminess, and sighed. Mmm, perfect. Maybe everything in her life wasn’t great, but she had a solid business, built by her own hands into the best florist in the county, and she had her health. A lot of people couldn’t say the same.
Then again, a lot of people weren’t greeted first thing in the morning by mauled animals left on their front porches.
A shiver snaked down Yasmin’s spine. She really had to figure out what to do about that, and soon.
At least she couldn’t blame Marty for that little mess.
The porch creaked outside her front door, and Yasmin’s heart leapt into her throat. She glanced at the clock on the mantel. Ten eighteen, far too late for visitors. Surely it was too early for them to leave their little surprises, though.
She set her cocoa on the coffee table and grabbed the aluminum baseball bat Rachel’s brother, Fate, had insisted she keep, in lieu of the gun he’d given her that she hadn’t a clue how to use. It didn’t have to be trouble outside. An animal could’ve wandered onto the porch. A bear, maybe. Fate had spotted one a couple of weeks back and warned her to keep a wary eye out for it.
The porch’s aging floorboards creaked again.
Yasmin’s hands tightened on the grip of the bat. Sure, that’s what it was. A bear, searching for its last meal before it crawled into a cave and slept ‘til spring.
Something heavy hit the front door, and Yasmin shrieked. She covered her mouth and backed slowly away. Whatever was out there, it wasn’t a bear, unless bears had started standing upright and knocking on the door.
She inhaled slowly, then dropped her hand away from her mouth. “Who’s there?”
“Benar Q’Mhel,” a gruff voice said.
Yasmin sagged against the sofa’s cushioned arm. Dyuvad had promised he’d send his brother to check on her, but that was weeks ago. She’d forgotten all about the famed mercenary-soldier in the meantime. Who wouldn’t, with the holidays and everything else going on?
She kept a firm grip around the bat, just in case, scurried to the door, and swung it open on a man dressed in a black, chest-hugging turtleneck tucked into sturdy, black cargo pants under a knee-length leather coat. Hard, midnight blue eyes, completely devoid of expression above high cheekbones, stared down at her from inches above her own head. His nose was sharper than Dyuvad’s and not quite as wide, but his cheeks had the same hollow look of a sculpture and a little dimple softened his chin, exactly like his younger brother’s.
Their hair was different, though. Dyuvad kept his short. This man had twisted his black locks into a stubby ponytail at the nape of his neck. Two thin braids hung from his left temple, adding a rakish hint to his dangerous aura.
He shifted his hold on the strap of the black duffel slung across his shoulder. “Lady Yasmin?”
The last of Yasmin’s nerves faded. She loosened her grip on the bat and leaned it against the wall beside the front door. This man had to be Dyuvad’s brother or somebody from the same planet. No man on Earth was polite enough to call a woman lady unless she’d earned the title, and sometimes not even then.
She stepped aside and motioned Benar in, then closed the door behind him, shutting out the cold. “I hope those clothes are warmer than they look.”
The words were as flat as his eyes. They dropped into the space between them, so heavy, Yasmin could just about hear each syllable hitting the hardwood floor.
She cleared her throat and tried again. “Would you like something to eat or drink? Some cocoa, maybe. I just made some and—”
She closed her mouth around her offer of hospitality.
“Show me your abode.”
“Sure,” she said slowly. “Why am I showing you my house?”
His impassive gaze swept once around the great room, then landed on her. “How many other rooms are there?”
“Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pantry, and a laundry room.” She pointed at the ceiling. “A half attic upstairs. Look, Dyuvad said—”
Benar’s hand shot out and gripped her upper arm. “Where are the exits?”
His gloved fingers were gentle, holding her firmly. Yasmin tugged at her arm and got exactly nowhere. “This and the door leading out of my bedroom onto the back porch are it. Can I have my arm back now?”
“Show me the back exit.”
“Kinda need my arm for that,” she muttered.
He arched an imperious, black eyebrow. “Show me the exit now, woman.”
Well, that sealed it. This man was definitely related to Rachel’s fiancé. Domineering Dyuvad had stepped in and saved Rachel’s bacon, but he’d done it exactly the way he’d wanted to, without thought or consideration for the fact that it was Rachel’s bacon to save, not his.
Yasmin jerked her arm out of Benar’s grip and stuck her chin out. So what if it was her bacon in the fire now? This mess was hers and hers alone, and she could handle it without a high and mighty alien warrior getting in her way.