Claimed by Her Mates(3)

By: Grace Goodwin

I glanced at the closed door for a moment, worried that perhaps she’d called my fiancé and had sent for him. Sheer panic had me tugging at the restraints.

“Do not worry,” she said, her one hand raised to stop me. “You are safe here. While you’ve stated that the bruises on your body are from a fall, I felt it necessary to ensure that no one be allowed to see you before I send you off-planet.”

Obviously Warden Egara didn’t believe my ridiculous story, and I was reassured by her vehemence in protecting me. I’d never skied in my life. I didn’t even live anywhere near a mountain, but a reasonable excuse was required for the bruises on my body and it was the first thing that came to mind.

While I’d assumed the bruises would be uncovered, I’d had no idea that I would be stripped bare for medical tests, then placed in a hospital gown and put through a screening of completely inappropriate images and motion clips. I must have fallen asleep, for I could not have imagined any of it on my own.

“Thank you,” I replied.

I wasn’t used to people being kind. She remained quiet as if waiting for me to tell her the truth. Did I want to share what I knew now about my fiancé? He’d been so kind, sweeping me off my feet, until I learned the truth. I’d overheard him telling one of his men to kill someone who had made one of his real estate deals fall through. I’d thought the men he kept around were employees, bodyguards, but they were enforcers, men he used to intimidate and kill. Once I’d agreed to marry him, he’d assigned two of his men as my personal bodyguards. Even then I’d believed the reason was simply that he was rich and I needed extra protection. I’d thought him considerate and caring, watching out for me. Ha! I’d been so stupid. Even more stupid when I told him I was having second thoughts about our wedding. He’d gone ballistic, grabbed me and told me he was never letting me go. Never.

When I threatened to leave, he quietly and fervently explained that he owned me. I was his property as soon as I’d placed his engagement ring on my finger. He’d kill anyone I kissed, torture any man who touched me, and then punish me for the trouble.

I knew then I had to get away, but I’d have to find a way to escape. I’d gone to the mall in my car as if it were a normal day. The men who watched me always parked their car beside mine, followed me through the mall, but allowed me to roam inside the stores alone. Just in case, I veered directly for the lingerie department where I knew they always backed off, then weaved through several other stores, dropping my cell phone between two racks of clothes. I hurried to the bus stop and took the bus across town. From there I’d hired a taxi to the Interstellar Bride Program’s processing center.

I had no family, no friends left. When we’d begun dating he’d systematically removed everyone from my life I had cared about before I met him. One by one, he’d offered reasons for why they were no longer appropriate, no longer acceptable contacts. I was totally and completely alone in the world now, at his mercy. He’d even convinced me to give up my job, so I had no money of my own.

God help me, but even an alien was better than a psychotic, possessive man whose idea of punishment involved boxing practice, with me as the punching bag. I’d suffered it once. Never again. I might have been foolish, naïve, and even a little love-struck, but no longer.

I’d looked over my shoulder the entire trip to the processing center, afraid they’d track me down and stop me before I could enter the building. Once within the walls I felt safer, but I wouldn’t feel completely out of their reach until I was off-planet. Only then would I breathe easy, confident that my fiancé could never find me.

I’d heard about the Interstellar Bride Program for over a year, knowing that most women who participated were prisoners seeking an alternative to a harsh prison sentence. Some, I’d learned, were volunteers, but none could return. Once matched to an alien warrior and sent off-planet to their mate, they were no longer citizens of Earth and could not return. At first, it had sounded scary and ridiculous. Who would volunteer to leave Earth? How bad could their lives be to do such a thing? Now I knew. A woman’s life could turn very, very bad.

I needed to be as far away from my fiancé as possible and I worried that there would be no place on Earth that would be far enough. He would find me, then…

I’d thought he would be my family. Family. He’d chosen me to be his wife because I had none. I had no ties, no one to protect me, to keep me from marrying the asshole. He would never be my family. No one on Earth held any love for me. As a volunteer of the bride program, I was glad to know I couldn’t return. I didn’t want to be on Earth any longer. I didn’t want to have the fear of him hunting me lingering for the remainder of my life. And so I would go off-planet, to the only place he could never find me, never reach me again.

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