Kiera's Home (Chapter One, page 1 of 7)

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A few weeks later

Kiera watched another of her lifemate's men succumb to the strange shield they claimed would protect them from the toxic air of their home planet of Anshan. The transparent goo exoskeleton resembled gelatin that made the warriors look out-of-focus, as if she was looking at them through the murky water of a pond.

Or like they're stuck in jell-o. It was hard not to smile when she pictured the manly, over-confident warriors floating like fruit in a jell-o salad, the kind her mother used to make.

When the fourth warrior was fully covered, the man holding the goo-gun turned to her. She glanced at her lifemate doubtfully. A'Ran's arms were crossed, and the look on his face warned her he was an eyelash away from changing his mind about letting her go to the planet. Towering above her, he was every bit the protective guardian and leader of his people.

At her hesitation, though, he stepped closer, sensing she was about to unleash an opinion that would probably reflect well upon him in the male-dominated Anshan society. A'Ran was close enough for her to touch, and she craned her neck back to gaze up at him. His savage features were too heavy for traditional male beauty, his olive complexion and dark hair reflective of the Anshan people he governed. He gazed down at her, dark eyes unreadable.

At six and a half feet tall, he was considered average in height among the Anshan warriors but he was a full head and shoulders taller than her. As always, when he was close enough for her to pick up the faintest scent of his musk, or to marvel at the contradiction of how tough he was with his warriors and how gentle he acted towards her, she was momentarily lost, gazing at him in admiration.

A'Ran cleared his throat.

Kiera blinked, aware everyone in the room was staring at her. "Does that stuff get in my lungs?" she asked somewhat nervously.

"You fought hard to come today, nishani," he reminded her. "I warned you it might not be pleasant, did I not?"

She'd won their argument earlier, not because he wanted her to go, but because he knew she was the only one who could fix the mess he created. He'd blown up the surface of the planet to free it from alien invaders weeks before, leaving a wasteland with a poisonous atmosphere.

As the nishani - ruler's mate - Kiera's job was to heal the planet. And its people. And its atmosphere. The entire Anshan society. She'd considered many times pointing out how crazy it sounded but was stopped by the hopeful looks of her lifemate and his family. No part of her wanted to disappoint someone as noble and good as A'Ran.

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