A slight breeze blew off the Atlantic Ocean, enough to break the heat of the day as it passed by. Lying on her beach towel, Callie faced the water, breathing a sigh of relief she allowed her muscles to relax. With the beach resort packed to capacity, the past few days had been long ones. But today was her one day to rest, before it all began again tomorrow. The rays of the sun caressed her face as she raised her chin to look directly into its fire. She wore slim dark sunglasses to shield her eyes, but she didn’t need them. The earth’s UV rays would not harm her.
The glasses were really a shield from prying eyes. Callie came from a planet where the sun was twice as large and bright, a beautiful world of vibrant colors if different foliage, bleached white sands but very few bodies of water. Nothing like what existed on earth. At first she had a hard time getting used to the immense ocean, and missed her sandy world. Too bad she could never return. But that suited her just fine. Not that she’d really done anything so wrong to be in exile, other than being born into a family of merchants. Merchants who ruled galaxies. It had not been her fault. No one consulted her, least of all her mother, on anything, especially the man who would be her husband.
“You will marry the heir, Callie,” her mother had announced one day after mid repast. “It has all been arranged. The contracts have already been signed, and the family will be here to bare witness in ten cycles time to the transfer. Then the combination of our businesses will make the new company the undisputed ruling entity in all known galaxies. We will have stakes in every significant transaction; no one would be able to stand against us.”
On Callie’s world arranged marriages were not unheard of, especially among the ruling merchants. It was her father who’d saved her, and sent her to this planet, giving her a chance to build something of her own. Someplace she would not be found. And the Narinds, her betroth family, would try to find her, if they knew she’d survived. They’d drag her back to marry their son and heir. What the hell was she supposed to do when she’d found out her mother traded her virginity for a business deal! She knew better than to protest to her mother, the head of the family business. Her mother ran the family the way she ran the business, in complete and total control.
What Mother neglected to mention was she’d also be queen of the known universe. Callie would have rolled her eyes at the glee on her mother’s face, but this was not funny. The woman wasn’t done. “Your children will be rulers of the universes.”
There it was, out at last. What was really important to her parent. “But Mother…what if I don’t want to get married?” The look on her mother’s face choked whatever else she might have said back down her throat.
“My marriage was done to further the business, as it has been done in my family time upon time. Why the contracts I brought to the marriage to your father made our combined companies the ruling merchant concern in two galaxies. I have no complaints and neither will you. As my family chose well for me, I can do no less for my child. So I have agreed, so it has already been done.” She’d left the room after that edict.
No, she found no sympathy with her mother. After the announcement, she waited until she could cry in her father’s arms. But even he couldn’t sway the woman who birthed her.
“I’m sorry, Callie,” her father said hugging her to him, like he used to do when she was a little girl. “Your mother feels she’s doing the right thing. There’s no changing her mind, and this is the only way to save jobs. The economies of many planets are affected by this marriage. After the contracts were signed and registered, the stocks tripled, and I can’t see a way out of our financial obligations. Your mother, as head of the business, feels we had no choice but to join the companies, but I won’t sacrifice you for our mistakes. I have a plan.”
“Is it true?” Callie asked. “If I don’t go through with this marriage, the Narind heir will have controlling interest in our business.”
“Yes. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing. So I don’t want you to worry about what I’m going to have you do.”
She stopped crying and wiped the tears from her face. “Look at me. I’m a mess.” Sitting up she faced her father and asked, “I’m an adult Zarian. Yet I still can not make my own decisions, something everyone else on our world and most of the galaxy of a certain age can do, but I do not have the right to choose my husband. All because I had the misfortune of being born into the ruling merchant family.”
“Many would kill to be born into this family,” her father had chided.
“I do not mean to sound ungrateful. I know more than most the privilege we enjoy, but I would trade it all to have a choice in my life. Because I have had none. What, what will happen if I refuse her, Father?”
“She will cut you off, my Callie. She has controlling interest and the power to make sure you are not advanced any credits. No one would take you in; no one would risk your mother’s response.”
“But you, you could help me.”
“If that is what you want to do, I would always support you. But you wouldn’t be able to stay here, you and I both know it’s not beyond your mother to force the marriage, and you would be welcome in very few civilized places. You know the temper your mother has, it may be years before she can bring herself to forgive you. I don’t want to see you hurt or lose status amongst us. There is another choice.”
The truth of his words tore at her heart. “Is there, Father?”
“Yes. I promise.”
The shrill cry of a sea bird flying overhead woke Callie from a sleep filled with memories. When she opened her eyes, the sun hung much lower on the water than it had when she’d closed them, turning the horizon golden. Her first conscious thought picked up on the threads of her dream that was no dream. Her father had indeed helped her. He got her off their world and sent her to an unknown universe. Unknown that is to all, but a select few, like her father. More man of science than business, he studied the stars. Years ago he’d discovered a planet in another universe that had a sun and inhabited humanoids similar to themselves.
At the time, her mother thought his interest in less advanced cultures an interesting little hobby, but since no profit was involved promptly forgot about and dismissed the discovery, as did everyone else. But her father had continued to study the planet with the blue atmosphere and its inhabitance, and knew she would be able to fit in there. And she did.
Sighing she took her thermos out of the small bag at her side, gulping down all of the water, still cold in spite of her hour in the sun. Standing up, she put the thermos back in her bag and draped it across her shoulder. She shook the sand off her towel and wrapped it around her waist, before reaching for the coin on the chain around her neck. More than a piece of jewelry or her good luck charm. It also carried the last of the technology from the ship’s database before she destroyed it. Her father warned the ship had to be destroyed; it could be used to track her. If she ever wanted to return to her home world the necklace held the means for her to contact him. But deep in her heart she knew she’d never use the knowledge, for better or worse, so far better, earth was home. She kept the technology as a link to her father.
Callie bent down to pick up her sandals, when she straightened the movements of a swimmer some ten miles out in the water caught her attention. She hadn’t noticed him before. Even from that distance she could tell the body in the water appeared to be male. She wondered if he’d swum out from the beach or from the boat anchored even further behind him, either way it was an unusually long swim. Although she didn’t need to do it, she raised her hand above her glasses as though to shade her eyes, but really lowered her sunglasses to better see him. The UV protection coated on the lens weakened her vision range. It was still vastly better than humans but without the glasses it would be sharper.
Without the covering over her eyes, the figure out in the water became clearer. She blinked, my gods! The man must have swum ten miles already, and still had more to go. Mesmerized, she watched his arms glide out of the ocean. Long lean fingers sliced effortlessly through the water. Shoulders and biceps bulged with the necessary muscle and strength allowing everything to work together for him to swim at the speed he did. If she didn’t know better she’d swear he was one of the mermen from Farris Pei. But since she could see no fins, she was fairly certain it was a human male out there, just one in exceptional shape.
Callie didn’t realize she moved until she stood at the edge of the tide. Stationed at a point when he stood he would be able to see her, she waited for him to come to her. As the distance closed between them the more of him she could see. The sun glistened off hair so blonde it was almost white, but she couldn’t quite make out his facial features. The way he moved struck her as odd, he almost never seemed to raise his head to breathe as he swam.
Finally, he reached a point where he could stand in the water. At least six feet four inches of perfect man rose out of the ocean, water reluctantly dripped from a body fashioned by a loving god’s hand. Broad shoulders appeared first narrowing into a slender waist. With each step, the ridges of his abs rippled as he moved, the remaining droplets glistened off skin bare to the waistband of his swim trunks. He raised his hands to push wet shoulder length hair back and away from his face, revealing a face sculptured by a master craftsman, one without flaw.
“Oh, Mercy!” When his head snapped up, she knew she’d said the words out loud, and he’d heard. Eyes the color of sapphire stones found on this planet, zeroed in on her. Callie could do nothing but take a step forward as he continued moving in her direction. The warm tide slapping at her ankles helped to bring her back to her senses. She stopped, refusing to let the current drag her out to him, or his eyes pull her further to him. Planting her feet into the hot sand, she didn’t flee. Not this time.
She knew what he must be, men on this planet did not look as he did. Off worlder, someone hired by the Narinds to find and bring her back. Well she wasn’t going. No one, no one could make her. There were a few people on the beach; he couldn’t take her in front of witnesses. Because he’d have to use force to get her to leave earth.
His presence could only mean one thing. Her father’s plan hadn’t worked.
Callie had taken a hydro out one day on one of the few bodies of water on her home world, Zar, as she’d done from time to time, and she and her father had faked a freak hydro accident. They’d rigged it to explode because of a malfunction, so no remains could be recovered. In reality, she’d only been on board long enough to get out of sight, before jumping off to swim back to shore. Her father waited for her, putting her on one of his modified space transport crafts moments after the explosion. Somehow, something must have gone wrong.
While happy and adjusted to her new world she’d come to love, at times she still missed her father. Callie found she had the business gene after all, in fact it held dominance. But while she’d been financially successful on earth, and had made a few good friends, she was truly close to no one. How could she be? Although she looked human, her skin was a burnt amber as people with African ancestry sometime had, her hair, such a dark chocolate color it appeared black was waist length and wavy like someone from the South Pacific, and she’d been told by a date once her face had an exotic look like she had mixed race ancestry. Nope not mixed, just not of the human race variety. But when asked about her ethnicity, she’d say she was born in New York but her mother was from the Caribbean and her father was from Milan, they didn’t question her appearance further, or the way she misspoke at times, people assumed American English wasn’t her first language.
The one thing she could not explain away were her eyes. She kept them hidden by wearing special contacts designed by her ship to hide not only their true color, like antique gold, but also the shape of her irises. They were oval like a cat’s. While human eyes could have a cat like shape the iris didn’t dilate into a vertical slit. Since she wasn’t human, the same rules did not apply.
But despite the draw backs she was happy, even though there was no one special in her life. “Sorry, Dad,” she said, using an American term. “I’m happy, but still no love.”
She owned the small exclusive beach resort in Wilmington, NC. Two years ago, shortly after her arrival on earth, she’d used the information her father had given her and stored in her star transport. Before entering the earth’s satellite range, she’d jammed any signal capable of picking up her transport. By the time it landed in the ocean it had changed in appearance from a space craft to a water craft used on earth. She’d lived on the boat for all of a week, learning about the area, mastering the language and creating a life history on the planet for herself. Connecting the star transport craft’s technology to the Internet, she even filed paper work for a salvage dive. Humans conducted business much like her own people did. Where there was commerce there had to be records. Some things remained constant.
The dives were for fun, and the paper work all for show. Thanks to her father and the computer on the transport she’d located a sunken ship. Although she could have created any currency she chose with the ships technology, she’d have no way to explain her sudden wealth. Her father wanted her to live in a manner suitable to her station, and not bring any suspicion onto herself. To do that she had to be able to live in the open, without fear of anyone uncovering her secrets. So he found a way to create her life as a human, using the transport ships technology. While the sunken ship she found was of earth, off worlder technology created a chest full of Spanish gold, which she pulled from its cargo hold.
When she sailed into the Wilmington port and contacted the proper authorities all her paper work was in order. Later, when the chest and the gold were examined, they were found to be genuine, and her claim to the find certified. The entire ‘find’ but for one piece she wore around her neck, she auctioned off. By the time the tally was done, she was one very wealthy woman. Her mother would have been proud. And she had also been lucky. The entire thing was kept low key except to a few in the treasure hunting and collecting world. There had been an even larger more widely publicized find on the other side of the world that made hers look insignificant, which suited her just fine.
One of the first things she did with the money was buy the little resort where she’d first come ashore and befriended the older couple who ran it. They’d been more than willing to sell it for the cash she offered. And her life on earth began. A life she would not give up without one hell of fight.
She returned to her current problem, as the out worlder got nearer. Anticipation hummed at his approach. To her surprise, he did not stop in front of her. His eyes shifted beyond her right shoulder, without pause he walked around her never uttering a word. She spun around to make sure he didn’t come up behind her. Even in her shock she admired the ass plastered against the dark wet swim pants hanging low on lean hips. His broad back was almost as perfect as the front. He never turned, just kept walking up the beach.