Home > Worse Guy(2)

Worse Guy(2)
Author: Ruby Dixon

"No, but you might," Novis says, flicking his finger over his data pad. "The refugee is Crulden."

I don't recognize the name, but Riffin does. He stiffens and steps between me and his boss. "Sir, no. Bee is far too delicate to work with him—"

"Lord va'Rin said that the other one"—his voice drops low—"showed great success and willingness to cooperate once there was a female involved. We can try this."

"Sir, she's my female." Riffin sounds pissed. "I don't want her anywhere near him. It's out of the question."

Well, I'm pissed too. Riffin isn't my owner, and I hate that these two twits are talking over me as if I'm not even here. "I want the job," I say stubbornly. "I can work with anyone." The refugee is male, so he's probably a little unruly, but it's nothing I can't handle. A little sweetness and a willingness to listen go a long way. I can have this guy eating out of my hand in a week. "I'll work with this Crulden."

"Sir," Riffin says, leaning in. He gives his officer a meaningful look and they eyeball each other. "It's dangerous."

"We'll have her well protected, cadet," Novis promises my boyfriend. "Don't worry. She'll fail at taming him, and she'll leave both of us alone about this job request."

"I can hear both of you," I exclaim. "I'm not deaf, just short!"

Novis ignores me and gives Riffin a smug smile. "She has a week. If he doesn't show improvement in that week, the entire thing is off. Then we all walk away winners." He nods at my mesakkah boyfriend, barely glances at me, and then marches down the hall with his data pad. "Have her at the security barracks first thing in the morning. No perfumes. Crulden has a sensitive nose." He pauses and looks back at Riffin. "And no mating."

I make a sound of protest that's ignored by everyone. "We're just dating!"

 

 

I'm so mad at Riffin for interfering that I give him the silent treatment for the rest of the day, and when he tries to comm me that night, I ignore him again. Here I am, trying to be a bastion of cheerfulness and they acted like I was as dumb as a stump. I'm determined to show them, though.

They think I'm going to fail at helping this refugee—this Crulden—but they don't know just how determined humans can be. Riffin calls me repeatedly throughout the night, but I know he wants the kiss I promised in exchange for him getting me a meeting with his boss. Ugh. Riffin is sweet enough, and handsome, but he's a terrible kisser and does nothing for me in the slightest. I've never been a particularly sexual creature, and the few rounds of sex I've had were uninspiring, to say the least. That hasn't changed now that I'm surrounded by aliens at all turns. I know some women find happiness with aliens and there are some happy with their husbands. It's one reason why I've agreed to “date” Riffin. I don't want to be a laundress forever and Riffin wants a human mate. We've had a few dates in Port and every time I try to break it off with him because I'm not feeling it (and I'm really, really not), Riffin insists I give him another chance.

I know we're mutually using each other. I know he likes the “street cred” he gets from the other guardsmen that work at Lord va'Rin's estate. They don't like that the port custodians—militia soldiers of low rank sent to police Port itself—have good relationships with the human females and one's even mated. It's a pissing war to see who can get a human mate first, and Riffin is determined to win. I need to shut it down and tell Riffin he deserves better than a mate who gets grossed out by the thought of kissing him, and I was just about to…except I needed to talk to his commander.

And I've promised a kiss. With tongue. I try not to shudder at the thought. Last time we did that, Riffin blasted his tongue in my mouth so hard I thought I'd choke. It was not fun, and I'm definitely not looking forward to this next round.

But that's something to worry about some other time. I'm going to focus on my job with this Crulden guy, and I'm going to rock it. I don't know if he's alien or just a scarred and somewhat feral human, so I try to prepare that night every way I can. I take a long shower using unscented soaps and pull out a tunic and leggings made of subtle colors, in case brighter shades bother him. I braid my hair back and practice smiling without showing teeth. I dig through my box of “human stuff” looking for the only reading material I have—a comic book in French—and write down lists of songs I can remember from Earth. Music is sometimes a good memory cue, and I want to go in with all the tools I can.

I get a good night's sleep, and when I wake up in the morning, I'm rested, recharged, and ready to go. I dress quickly and head downstairs for breakfast. The boardinghouse at Port is fairly empty right now. It's me and one other woman, a new white woman named Melanie with blonde hair and a bright smile. She arrived last week and is waiting for a farm to be prepared for her. Melanie beams at me from the kitchen table when I arrive, handing me a bowl. "Good morning! You look happy."

"I'm starting a new job today," I tell her. "Social work. I'm helping with a test case and then once I ace that, I'm going to see about helping all the new settlers here."

"That sounds exciting." Melanie's eyes go wide. "What kind of test case?"

"Don't know," I admit. "Some gentleman the garrison has in quarantine because he's not adjusting well." I pile my bowl full of the grain-like porridge mixed with fruit. It's the breakfast here every day, and while it's not exciting, it's food. I remember far too many nights in alien “livestock” pens where we had to fight over small portions, and I'm grateful for whatever we get here. I thump down next to Melanie and begin to eat quickly. "Riffin should be here to pick me up soon."

Melanie gives me a dreamy look, propping her chin up on one hand. "You've really got it all coming together, Bee. You're so lucky."

Am I? Or am I just determined to hustle until it all makes sense? I'm not entirely sure, but I know I can't sit around and wait for the universe to do me any favors. It's already shown me that won't happen.

 

 

2

 

 

ASSHOLE/CRULDEN

 

I watch the guardsmen skulk around the barracks, my eyes slitted. I pretend to be asleep, because they let their guard down when they think I'm not looking, or when I'm resting. It tells me everything about the soldiers here, and so I pretend to sleep a lot. My arms are stun-cuffed to one of the bars at the front of the cage, and I know it's so they can shock me into submission whenever they want. Thanks to my last master, though, I've built up a good tolerance to stuns, and now I just pretend they affect me.

And I watch.

Something is different about today, I decide. There's a lot of the guardsmen around this morning, their sweaty, nervous scents flooding my senses with the need to hunt. I could take that one, I decide, as one approaches the bars with my food. He's practically dripping with nervousness, and it makes me want to bare my teeth with hunger. He sets the tray down and slides it toward my cage, frowning to himself when it stops short a good distance from the bars.

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