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Worse Guy(5)
Author: Ruby Dixon

He reaches for one of the food bars and has to shove his face into his cuffed hands to eat. Crumbs spray everywhere, and one of the guards makes a disgusted sound. "Filthy keffing animal. I don't know why we're even trying."

This is what he considers “trying”? Good lord. I watch as Crulden hastily shoves the bars into his mouth, and then even more crumbs litter his skin and the floor around him. No one goes to clean them up, or even offers him a drink, and my throat feels dry just watching this. I lick my lips, glancing at the guards. "When does he drink?"

The guards completely ignore me, nudging each other and sharing something on a data pad.

I clear my throat, getting to my feet. "Excuse me, gentlemen." I make my voice super sweet and girly. "I'm so sorry to bother you but can I ask a question?"

This time, my saccharine tone gets a response. One of the men turns to me with that dismissive smile on his face. "What can I help you with, female?"

It took me a long time to get used to being called “female” by aliens. Here, it's a replacement for “ma'am” and isn't meant as insulting as it sounds. Still, it sets my teeth on edge. I continue to beam at the guard, gesturing at Crulden's rather filthy rooms. "When does he get a drink? His food looks very dry." I point at the unused sink and toilet attached to the wall. "Wouldn't it make sense to let him free so he can handle his business?"

The guard shakes his head. "That would be a very bad idea. You've seen how he reacts to the slightest hint of freedom." He puts a hand on my shoulder, his expression affectionate. "But if it'll make you feel better, when he starts to look parched, we hose him and his cage down."

"Oh, I see." It doesn't make me feel better, but I've also learned to pick my battles. I keep smiling as I sit down on the stool again to watch. My mind races despite my calm demeanor, and when they get out a hose and spray Crulden down like he's a zoo animal, I bite my tongue. When they finally hose his empty bowl down to give him something to drink, I say nothing. And when they laugh about all of it and act like typical, thoughtless fools, I remain silent.

It's not that they're evil. They're just young and don't view Crulden as a person. To them, he's little more than a rabid dog they're being forced to watch until he messes up enough for them to get rid of him. It's clear that they're not going to give him a fair shake. Heck, if I was treated like this, I'd probably react with teeth first, too.

When it grows late, I stifle my yawns, continuing to watch over Crulden as the guards change shifts. I don't know what I'm hoping for—for him to talk to someone? To speak? To ask for his cuffs to be removed? He acts as he always does—he pretends to be asleep and watches everyone.

"You're still here?" Riffin asks from over my shoulder, startling me.

I jump, my hand going to my pounding heart. "Don't sneak up on me."

He frowns, looking at our surroundings. I'm in the same spot in the busy hall, the guards clustered near the door and chatting. Crulden's still in his cage behind a thick, heavy door. Riffin didn't exactly sneak up, but I wasn't paying attention. I've just been too caught up in trying to mentally solve the problem that is Crulden.

"You shouldn't be here late," Riffin says. "It's dangerous. Let me walk you back to the boarding house."

I want to protest, but it's clear I need to rethink my strategy. I won't be able to help Crulden—or get the job I want—sitting on my butt in a hallway, ignored by everyone. So I should head home, sleep, and come to this fresh in the morning. I nod at Riffin and get to my feet. He puts a possessive hand on my shoulder, and I glance at the cell (because that's what it is, no matter what they call it) one last time.

Crulden's eyes are gleaming slits, and I know he's watching as I leave.

 

 

It's a long walk to the boarding house, so I'm not entirely surprised when Riffin borrows one of the air-sleds from the guard house and gives me a ride home. I want to protest, but the truth is that I do need that escorted ride back home. Lord va'Rin is doing his best to make Risda safe, but wherever there are humans, there are people willing to prey on them, and sometimes it's just not safe.

I hate that Riffin's going to want something in exchange, though. He always does.

So I let Riffin guide me up to the doors of the boarding house, but when he looks expectantly inside, I steadfastly ignore it. I stop on the porch and smile. "Thank you, Riffin. I appreciate your thoughtfulness."

"How appreciative are you?" He reaches out and touches my cheek with his thumb. If I was attracted to him, I might find that sexy. As it is, it just sends a shudder up my spine. It's not that Riffin's a bad guy. It's just…I don't know. He's easily manipulated, which makes me think he's not that smart, and I like a smart man. Of course, it's that whole “easy to manipulate” that makes him the perfect boyfriend, so I suppose I can't complain too much.

He's also a terrible kisser, and just his touch turns me off. His mouth tastes stale against mine and I've started to dread the kisses he feels are his right as my boyfriend. I guess he's not wrong. If he's my boyfriend, I should want him to kiss me, right? I shouldn't be relieved when he's too busy to be around that day. I shouldn't be holding him at arm's length.

So I tilt my face up, a silent invitation for a kiss.

Riffin is immediately on me, his thick tongue shoving through my lips and jackhammering into my mouth. I try to go along with it, to find some pleasure in his enthusiasm, but when he doesn't slow down, I go still and wait for it to be over, like usual. His breath tastes like old protein bars and I try not to gag when he gets overly slobbery. He just needs to learn how to kiss, I remind myself.

I just…don't want to be the one to do it.

Not for the first time, I think I should break up with Riffin. I know he's not interested in me. He wants a human as a mate, because several of the mesakkah men have claimed mates and settled down here. It's a status symbol to him, along with the promise of kinky alien (human) sex. He wants the other males he works with to be jealous of him and his status. He's eager to show them that he's special enough to get a human female. That he's part of some exclusive, dick-swinging club the guardsmen are setting up amongst themselves.

Too bad for him I'm not interested in sex. That need was killed years ago, when I was first captured. Now I just tolerate his caresses and dole them out as special favors and hope he doesn't ask for more.

At some point, it won't be enough. But for now? Riffin is happy. When I break the kiss, he beams at me and I do my best not to wipe my lips. "You still owe me from before," he says, ruining the moment. "When will you let me in so we can mate? Other males do not have to wait months for their female to accept them."

Ugh. I lose every ounce of sympathy I had for the guy. "Then maybe you should find yourself another female. I told you I don't want to be rushed, Riffin. You keep pushing me and I don't like it."

Riffin gives me a woeful look that almost makes me feel bad. Almost. Then I remember he just whined about not getting laid and I don't feel so terrible about it. "Bee, I just want my mate."

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