Zephon – A. M. Griffin

Aubrey Love, please come to the door. Your mate has arrived to retrieve you.” Angie cradled her stomach as nerves bubbled beneath her skin. This was it. All month after waking from stasis, she’d been dreading this moment. The spaceship had finally arrived on the planet Teague and her alien mate was here to collect her. Correction: Her twin sister’s alien mate was here to collect who he thought was his mate. I’m an imposter. That thought bounced off the walls of her brain. She’d had the same thought over and over again since viewing the first message Zephon had recorded for Aubrey. She’d watched the videos, from start to finish and witnessed how the alien had prepped his entire life for Aubrey. Now, Zephon would never get to meet her outgoing and smart sister. Angie watched the videos knowing she could never fill her sister’s shoes. Panic swelled in her chest. Zephon didn’t know Aubrey, but he’d been provided pictures of her —which Angie didn’t worry about since they were twins.

No, she worried that this alien would somehow see through the façade and know he wasn’t getting the bubbly woman from the videos he’d been sent. He’s going to find out the truth. When Angie didn’t immediately start making her way toward the exit, a large doorway into the unknown, the murmuring grew louder. Heads turned and eyes searched for Aubrey Love. A few gazes landed on her, but they didn’t recognize her. She hadn’t made any friends while onboard the spaceship because she’d been too afraid of slipping up and giving away her secret. She’d already had one slip up. Immediately after getting out of the stasis chamber, she’d been so confused that she’d told some ladies who’d bumped into her, her real name. She’d kicked herself and stayed in her room for three days afterward. “Aubrey Love, please come to the door. Your mate has arrived to retrieve you.” The message repeated. Right, then. I should get going. But she couldn’t move.

She glanced at her feet, willing them to step forward. Then she did it. One foot in front of the other. As she walked, the other women stepped to the side, creating a path for her. Some pointed, some murmured and some wished her their good luck. Angie tried to give them all a reassuring smile but she was sure she resembled a deer in headlights rather than a woman on her way to meet her mate. Angie made it to the door, heart lodged in her throat, sweat on her brow and paused. What was she supposed to do now? She glanced at one of the A.I.s that stood by the door, guarding it like a sentry. The A.I.s had been their benevolent guardians, watching over them during this journey. She couldn’t help but wonder what they would do if she turned on her heels and went back to her small bedroom. Would they drag her out kicking and screaming and make her go into the unknown to meet an alien she’d never met before? She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, nibbling on the sensitive skin.

Going back to her room wasn’t an option. She was where she wanted to be. Far, far away from her husband, David. David is long dead now. She sighed. Dead. Not only David, but Aubrey as well. Angie turned around to give the room and the other women one last look. It should’ve been Aubrey standing here, ready to start her new life, instead of Angie. Aubrey, who’d given up her spot so her twin sister could escape. Aubrey, who probably would’ve been friends with all the women here because she was a social butterfly and go-getter. So, no, Angie wouldn’t be running back to her room to hide. She would press on. And that’s what she did. She stepped out onto the ramp and walked down, toward the man, er, male, waiting for her.

Her insides flipped topsy-turvy and a wave of terror washed over her. The male was tall, about seven feet. He had to be nearly three hundred pounds. She couldn’t make out the shape of his body because of the snowsuit he wore, but she picked out hints of muscles under the bulk of the material. Her gaze caught on the jewels he wore on his fingers, ears and around his neck. From his videos, she knew that’s how his family made their money. They owned the largest jewel mines on Teague. She wasn’t afraid of this big and hairy alien. She’d watched him grow from an infant to the male he was now. What she feared more than anything was him finding out her secret and what he would do to her when he did. Angie didn’t know how she made it down the ramp without falling flat on her face. Her knees knocked together and her legs shook with each step. She stopped in front of him, a prayer on her lips thanking the stars that she hadn’t made a fool of herself. Yet. Zephon towered over her, his short hair slicked back.

Dark eyes assessed her from top to bottom. “Hello. I’m Aubrey.” A lie. Zephon continued to stare without saying a word. The intensity of his penetrating gaze had her swallowing. Her skin grew tight and she curled her hands at her side to keep from bolting. Angie steeled her spine and exhaled slowly. While she and Aubrey were identical twins, there were a few people who could tell them apart but usually those were people who had known them for years and learned to distinguish between their personalities. Zephon thrust a clawed hand with something clutched in its grasp toward her. “Here.” Angie frowned and accepted the small package. “Is this for me? Should I open it now or wait?” Another Yatur male stepped behind Zephon and cleared his throat. After a quick glance behind him, Zephon moved to the side and spoke. “You can open it on our way home.

I don’t want to hold up anyone else here to collect their mate.” Angie nodded and followed in the direction he motioned. Zephon fell into step beside her. “I’m Zephon.” She chuckled nervously. “I assumed.” The male who’d stood behind him also began walking, following them. Angie gave a quick glance his way. “He’s with us?” “He’s Hami, our head bodyguard.” Zephon led her down a nondescript hallway. “Why do we need bodyguards? Is it dangerous here?” From what she’d learned of Teague, the crime rate was low. It was a working-class planet that had a system of buy, sell and trade set up, like Earth. “We need the protection for my business.” Zephon held open a door for her but to get through she had to brush past his body. Heat radiated from him.

The cologne he wore tickled her nose. “I thought I told you about them during one of my holovids.” Right. The holovids that every time she watched, she couldn’t get over the feeling she was an imposter stealing her sister’s life. Those holovids. “You probably did.” She chuckled nervously again. “I learned so much my brain feels like mush.” “That’s understandable.” He stopped her in front of a white tube that didn’t have any wheels and hovered a few feet from the ground. A vehicle, she guessed. Another Yatur male, who’d been standing by the vehicle when they approached, opened the door. It swung up instead of out. Zephon cupped her elbow and helped her inside before climbing in. They were in a roomy compartment with two rows of seats that faced each other.

She sat on one side and Zephon sat on the other. His scent filled the cabin area. She couldn’t figure out what it reminded her of, but it smelled earthy, yet floral with a hint of…she didn’t know, but she liked it. Around them, doors opened and closed. The other two males getting into the front section she assumed. The vehicle lurched forward and her heart jumped. Angie clutched the box tightly in her lap. Zeph tipped his head toward her hands. “You can open it now if you wish.” His voice was so deep and rich, almost grumbly. Something else she’d grown to like while on the spaceship. Angie nodded because she didn’t trust herself to speak. With shaking fingers, she opened the box. Inside was a necklace. No, not a necklace–a work of art.

It was burgundy, gold and heavy. She held it up, studying it in the light. “Whoa! This is…” “If you don’t like it, I can get you another. You said your favorite jewel was sapphire but I didn’t know what that translated to here.” Angie didn’t have a favorite jewel. She liked diamonds because who didn’t, but besides that, she hadn’t thought too much about it. Aubrey had a thing for sapphires and rubies. Aubrey would love this. Angie’s eyes misted. The loss of her twin weighed on her. She was in a strange place with a strange man in a strange car and she didn’t have a soul to tell any of this to. She was alone. Now and forever. Zephon’s mouth turned down and he leaned forward to reach for the necklace. “I’m sorry.

I’ll get you something else.” Angie jerked back and clasped the box and necklace to her chest. “No, I love it. Can I please keep it?” Zephon settled back in his seat and it creaked under his weight. A frown pierced his brow but he said, “Of course.” She glanced out the window. It was a blur of lights and buildings. The lump forming in her throat made it difficult to take a deep breath. “Do you live far?” “From the Capital City? Yes. But we’re almost home.” “I-I don’t understand. We live far, but we’re almost home?” She tried not to think about the multitude of feelings that sprung in her head at saying the word “we” and “home”. “Our home is on the other side of the planet. It won’t take us long to get there because we’ll be —” The vehicle careened upward, cutting off his words. Angie fell back with a grunt.

Then their vehicle leveled off. “We’re traveling at hyper-speed now.” Hyper-peed?! Angie fumbled around, looking frantically for a seatbelt and couldn’t find any strap to secure herself. They had hyper-speed but no seatbelts?! “When we get there it’ll be in the middle of the night. I know you must be tired from such a long journey but I planned a meal for you before going to bed.” Zephon shifted in his seat, unconcerned their deaths were potentially imminent. Then his words sank in and any thoughts of dying in a fiery crash faded. Bed. Of course, he would mention a bed. That was the sole reason for her being here. Zephon expected them to have sex and he also expected her to produce a child. Unfortunately, the latter had already occurred since she was currently pregnant. Chapter Two Zephon had waited his entire life for Aubrey. Now she was here, really here and he didn’t know what to do, or how to act. He’d grown up hiding his feelings.

It was a necessity in his household. His mother didn’t like extremes. She couldn’t handle when he was happy and couldn’t take it when he was sad, so he’d adopted a middle ground of not showing any emotion at all. That seemed to appease her. With Aubrey, Zephon wanted something different. She was everything he’d expected and more. He expected her short stature. He’d seen many other species who didn’t have body hair like the Yatur, so he wasn’t taken aback by her smooth, light brown skin. The one thing he hadn’t counted on was his gut reaction to her. She was his mate. Every molecule of his being knew it. Except when he’d studied her holopics growing up, there was no spark, nothing confirming the feeling that she would be his. Then when he’d finally seen her in the flesh at the transport station, the spark came like a thunderbolt. The holopics hadn’t done her justice. She was radiant.

A flash of bright light on a dismal and cloudy day. The ride to his house was fast. He wanted it to be faster. The hovercar slowed and angled down. Aubrey pressed her face to the window. The only thing she would see this time of the night was the guiding system that lit up as the hovercar neared. The flashing lights illuminated the way, leading into the underground garage where he kept his fleet of transportation vehicles. Once they came to a stop, Hami opened the door. They were met with warm air as they exited the hovercar and stepped on the bridge in the vehicle garage. Aubrey was off to the side, twisting her hands together. “Is there anything you need from us at the moment?” Hami asked. “Not tonight,” Zephon told him. “I’m sure my mate will want to eat her meal now.” He turned his head to Aubrey, both nervous and excited that he’d said the words “my mate” and that she stood before him. “It’s been a trying day.

” Aubrey’s gaze darted between him and Hami. “I would appreciate a hot bath and bed. There weren’t any baths on the ship. It’s crazy what I’m craving these days.” Panic flashed behind her eyes at her last sentence. Maybe she wondered if he had a bathing chamber or not. The smile Zephon gave her was easy, meant to quell the worry in her eyes. “I’ll prepare one for you myself.” Another fearful glance. What was amiss? Hami glanced at Zephon and raised an eyebrow. He’d seen the same emotion written across Aubrey’s face as well. “I’ll be fine,” Zephon assured him. Aubrey was probably scared, but she wasn’t dangerous. She’d traveled across the galaxy to reach him. She was on a strange planet with a strange male.

If their places were changed, he would most likely be scared as well. Hami dipped his head and he and the other guards left. They wouldn’t leave the compound since they lived on Zephon’s sprawling estate, but they would go to the guard quarters where the security cameras overseeing the grounds were located. Zephon stretched his arm toward the door leading to the main house. “This way.” Aubrey took a step forward then paused. “I don’t like leading when I don’t know where I’m going. It’s silly actually, but I hate to keep looking over my shoulder while someone is pointing this way or that. If you don’t mind, I’ll follow you.” Changing positions, Zephon led the way through the back hallways. The reason he’d wanted her in front of him was so he could see the reaction on her face as she walked through the house he’d built for her. He’d studied her likes and dislikes enough that he was certain he knew her tastes and what she would appreciate in her home. He wanted to make sure he got everything right and if anything needed changing, he would do so immediately. As he walked, he glanced over his shoulder, trying to gauge her reaction. All he witnessed were her shy smiles in return and an occasional yawn.

They finally made it to their bedroom door and Zephon’s heart thrummed. He’d taken special care with decorating this room. On some of the pictures she’d uploaded to send to him, she’d been in what he’d guessed was her bedroom. He’d tried to mimic the color scheme as much as possible so she would be comfortable in a space that was semi-familiar to her. Zephon opened the door and stepped to the side. “This is our room.” Deep red slashes darkened the gold tint of her skin. Fear rolled from her in waves. “Our room?” Zephon couldn’t contain his own confusion. “Yes, our room. Is there a problem?” “Um…I know we’re mated and all, but I was wondering if…” She gulped and poked her head inside then straightened to look at him. Her face crumpled and she buried it in her palms. Aubrey doesn’t want to be with me. The thought hit him hard. He hadn’t considered this possibility.

She’d just learned of his existence for two months—not counting her two-hundred-year stasis sleep—while he’d wanted her for a lifetime. Pain he’d never felt before stabbed at his heart. “You stay here and I’ll take one of the empty rooms.” Rooms he’d hoped to fill with children one day. He knew the goal was to have female children, but Zephon didn’t care; male or female, it didn’t matter. He hoped to hear the pitter patter of little feet filling his—their—home one day. Soft cries


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Updated: 14 January 2022 — 11:31

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