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When She’s Married
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Escaped convict Vordigar has been hiding out on Risda III. When he’s scooped up by law enforcement, he has two choices – he can be shipped back to the Haven prison system, or he can marry one of the locals. Piper is from an alien race called ‘humans’ and she needs a mate to help her protect her farm from aggressive neighbors.
Vordigar’s not interested in forever. Or marrying. Or settling down. He’ll go along with Piper’s plans just until he can get off planet…or so he thinks.
Because one night in Piper’s bed changes everything.
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The jail on Risda III is an insult.
It’s not a real jail, just like this isn’t a legit civilized planet. There’s no climate control, because the local peace officers like the open air. All they do is open windows—windows!—and let in a breeze. It means it’s hotter than a sun flare in my cell, and my tunic is wet with sweat. There’s four of us prisoners in one cell, and the next cell over houses some very smelly, horned meat-stock that chew on hay and shit everywhere. Peppy cantina music plays in the next room and I can hear the two peace officers on duty talking about a high-stakes sticks game.
Keffing backwater farm planet on the outskirts of nowhere.
I flick a piece of hay off my sleeve and eye my surroundings with distaste as one of the meat-stock flicks its tail against the bars and lets out a stream of messy crap. The least they could do is get me a cell that doesn’t feel like I’m sleeping in a barn. I don’t even mind sharing it. Just…not with meat-stock. Or any other farm animal.
I hate this planet.
Or rather, I hate it now. I didn’t mind it so much, when, fresh out of prison, I thought I’d be able to blend in with the locals, hide out and just live my life. I didn’t mind that it was quiet and pastoral….but I’ve learned that the authorities here are much the same as the authorities on any other planet. They’re easily swayed and corrupt. The lords that oversee this place don’t pay them enough, so they do odd jobs on the side.
That’s what got me. It’s what always gets a man in the end. You escape one prison hellhole on the sly and for some reason, you get a bounty put on your head. It’s perfectly unreasonable. They should be thanking me and Tassen for showing them the weaknesses in their security, not demanding our return. Unfortunately, I’m the only one being returned. Tassen married a local woman and got amnesty for himself through a marriage law. I had the opportunity, but when I heard she was human, I withdrew my name.
There are certain things in the universe that are too much trouble—an asteroid belt in a shortcut, an easy bounty, and a human woman. I avoid all those things. Life’s too short to give yourself more trouble. Now I’m thinking I should have been smarter and said yes to the whole “marriage” thing. I could have agreed to it and kept out of this jail. Marriage doesn’t work with my plans, but neither does being recaptured as an escaped convict and being dropped back to Haven II. This time, there won’t be an escape. I’ll be kept in lockdown. Probably won’t ever breathe fresh air again.
One of the meat-stock grunts and lets out a torrent of fresh stink and I wave a hand in front of my face. The fresh air thing might not be so bad after all. Right now I’d welcome the scent of canned, recycled Haven air if it meant getting away from these damned meat-stock.
“They’re shitting again,” the prisoner next to me protests, rubbing a hand over his brow. “Can’t you get them out of here?”
“Pipe down,” one of the peace officers calls back from the next room. He makes no effort to get up. “Farmer az Itiria will be by to pick them up in a day or two. Until then, you’re just going to have to share space.”
The man—a szzt from the look of his hard, pebbled skin—just groans and mutters a curse in his own language. We’re sharing a cell, but unlike me, he’s not an escaped convict. I heard he killed his neighbor over a property dispute, so we’re heading to the same place more or less—an off world prison. Across from us sits a big praxiian, his massive frame entirely covered in fur. He absently licks his paw and watches us with slitted eyes, and I suspect he’s not one of the local drunks, himself. They wouldn’t put him in with us if he was. There’s a lizard type in the corner whose race escapes my mind at the moment, but we haven’t spoken. Not many friendly types waiting for a ride off this planet. Everyone’s here because they’re genuinely farming or they’re looking to hide out. It makes for a mixed local population…and a dangerous one.
Which, again, I was fine with until it backfired in my face.
So to speak.
The door opens in the other room and I hear the peace officers jump to their feet, chairs scraping. I tense, wondering if the prison shuttle is here already.
“Hello again,” says a breathless female voice. “My name is Piper. I…I spoke with someone earlier about my situation? You said you’d help me.”