Read an ExcerptThe Bad Boys Guide to the Galaxy
By KAREN KELLEY
BRAVA BOOKS Copyright © 2008 Karen Kelley
All right reserved.
Chapter One Sam Jones stepped on the elevator and pushed the button. His life was about to change for the better. Rest and relaxation, here I come. His only worries were going to be if the fish were biting and there was enough beer in the fridge.
He didn't want to think about the bad guys on the streets of Dallas. Hell, he and Nick had put away one of the biggest kingpins in the city and gotten commendations from the captain and the mayor.
With the help of Kia, of course. He couldn't leave her out. Man, she was something else. Nick had all the luck.
But they'd had to be extra careful where she was concerned. They'd shielded her from the press as much as possible. At the time, she'd come off as a happy but beautiful fiancée and nothing more. But then she didn't really look like an alien from the planet Nerak.
Now it was vacation time. He'd gone months without a decent day off, and he had a little two bedroom cabin in the piney woods of East Texas calling his name. He could almost smell the fish frying.
When the elevator stopped, he got off, whistling a jaunty tune as he strolled to Nick's apartment. Another fifteen minutes, and he'd be on his way.
He tapped on the door.
Nick opened it, then frowned when he saw who it was.
"Hey, buddy." Sam grinned.
Nick slammed the door.
Now that wasn't nice, and after everything he'd done for his friend. "Hey, did I say anything when you went on your honeymoon? No, not one word, and I had to partner with Hank the Skank. The man never bathes. He could stink a dog off a gut wagon. At least you're working with Trudy."
The door opened, and Nick glared at him. "You think Trudy's better than Hank?"
Sam stepped inside. "No." He chuckled. "You just have to tune her out. The woman never shuts up. At least with Hank, I could roll the window down."
"If I tune her out, then she pokes me in the ribs." He grimaced. "The last time I worked with her, I carried bruises for a solid week."
"I'll be back before you know it."
Nick could complain all he wanted, but Sam was leaving on vacation and nothing was going to stop him. He dug in his pocket. "Here are the keys to my apartment." He dropped them in Nick's open hand. "Just put the mail on the table."
"You're too damn happy about all this," Nick grumbled.
His deep sigh was full of contentment. "Why shouldn't I be? I haven't had any time off in six months, at least none to speak about. I'm ready for a little fishing, tossing back a few beers, and a whole lot of peace and quiet. There's nothing like my cabin in the springtime."
Kia came from the back of the apartment, all four of her shih tzus following right on her heels. You'd think they were her babies the way they trailed after her.
"Sam, I didn't know you were here," she said, smiling.
"I was just dropping off the keys to my apartment," he told her. He couldn't stop his grin from forming when he thought of all the hell she'd put Nick through. He was glad everything had worked out, but he'd take single life any day.
He looked around at the garish colors on the apartment walls. "By the way, I like what you've done with the apartment. Very psychedelic with the hot pinks and bright greens. Did Nick help you decorate?"
Nick shot him a look that said he was not amused. Sam kept his expression innocent-not that he thought Nick bought it.
"I did it while Nick was at work," Kia told him. "It was a surprise."
"Boy, was I surprised," Nick muttered, then quickly smiled at Kia. "You did a wonderful job. I love it. All our friends are envious."
"Oh, good! I was thinking about doing our bedroom next."
Sam smothered a laugh. If he didn't watch out, Nick would be poking him in the ribs.
"You're leaving for your cabin?" Kia asked.
He nodded as one of the pups jumped up, begging for attention from Nick.
"Have a good time, and try to relax. Nick said you don't relax enough. He said you should learn to bend the rules a little and let your hair down."
She studied him for a moment before looking at Nick, then back to him.
"I think that must be a figure of speech since your hair isn't long enough to let down. He also said you needed to get laid. Are you tired of standing?" She went on to the kitchen, not waiting for an answer.
"I'm not a bit tired," Sam called after her. "I think Nick needs to worry about his own life rather than mine." He looked pointedly at his friend. "And I do bend the rules. I just don't warp them completely out of shape like you do."
Nick cleared his throat and reached down for the pup. He picked up the ball of black and white fur, rubbing her behind the ears. For a man who'd sworn he'd never have a girly dog, Nick had changed his mind pretty fast.
And Nick thought he needed fixing?
He did sort of feel bad leaving Nick with Trudy. "Try to follow the rules while I'm gone, and I'll try to bend them a little."
Nick grinned. "You think I won't follow them?"
They both knew the answer to that. "Hell, no."
Nick shrugged. "I can't be like you. Life wasn't meant to be point A to point B. Sometimes you have to veer off the track to see what else life has to offer."
"That's why I worry about you, Nick. While I'm taking a little R&R, I won't be there to keep you out of trouble."
"Like Kia says, try to relax. You deserve it. I'll keep my nose clean, promise."
Sam chuckled. "I always relax at the cabin. You know me, I'm a natural born explorer." He could easily see himself traversing across new terrain in undiscovered lands. "If I'd been born a hundred years or so ago, I might've discovered all kinds of new countries."
Before Nick could comment, a loud rumble shook the apartment.
"Thunder?" Strange. He glanced out the window, but the sky looked bright and blue.
"Oh, no!" Kia rushed back to the living room, her face a shade paler. She grabbed the pup from Nick and hurried to the bedroom. The other three puppies followed.
"What is it?" Nick called after her.
Sam had never seen her this upset, except maybe when Nick had gotten shot. What was going on?
She hurried back into the living room after shutting the pups in the bedroom. "The Elders. I know the sound of their crafts."
"I won't let them take you," Nick said, his expression grim. "We've been through too much already. No one is going to come between us."
Her smile looked a little wobbly. "I told you that I wouldn't go back to Nerak, but sometimes we don't have a choice in what we want." She drew in a deep breath. "It sounds like they're landing on the roof. We'd better meet them."
"I'm not staying behind," Sam said and followed. Damn, after all these two had been through, this was the last thing they needed.
They quickly took the stairs to the roof.
"What about your neighbors?" Sam asked.
"Either working or old enough they probably didn't hear a thing."
Before Nick pushed the door open, he glanced over his shoulder with a troubled expression.
Sam's stomach churned. He'd heard about the Elders, the supreme rulers of Nerak. If they wanted to take Kia back with them, there wouldn't be a whole hell of a lot Nick and Sam could do. But he wouldn't tell Nick that.
"Don't worry, buddy. I've got your back," Sam tried to reassure him.
"I never thought you wouldn't." Their gazes met for a brief moment before Nick opened the door and they stepped out to the roof. Sam closed it firmly behind them.
"An Elder's craft," Kia breathed.
Sam had still been holding on to the belief they were worrying for nothing, and that it had been thunder ... or a sonic boom. What he was looking at wasn't either one.
A billowing gray cloud enveloped the tube-shaped craft now sitting on the roof. The door swished open, and a woman stepped out. She wore an emerald green silk robe, and her pale blond hair reached to her waist. But he couldn't see her face.
Kia's mouth dropped open, then snapped closed. She quickly bowed before the woman. "Greetings, Healer."
"This is an Elder?" Nick whispered.
"No, my sister, but she's also a healer." She waved for Nick to bow. He looked at Sam before shrugging and bending slightly at the waist.
"It isn't an Elder then?" Sam asked. So it might not be as bad as they'd first imagined. Kia had a lot of sisters.
"No," she whispered, head still bowed.
He might have thought about bowing if it had been an Elder, but one of Kia's sisters? Sam wasn't about to bow. Instead, he watched and waited to see what was about to happen.
The woman faced him as the rest of the gray cloud dissipated and looked Sam directly in the eye before one eyebrow rose disdainfully.
His stomach did a crazy flipflop as it hit him. This wasn't just any sister. This was the woman from the hologram. Kia had shown it to him when she'd tried to convince him that she was an alien.
Lara, her name was Lara. My God, she was more beautiful in person. In the hologram, she'd come across as ethereal, angelic, and pure.
But right now, she had her head held high and acted as if they should be paying homage since she'd gone to the trouble of gracing them with her presence.
Man, something must've happened on the flight here because she sure didn't act angelic.
"It's good to find you well, Sister," Lara said, turning her attention back to Kia.
"You stole an Elder's craft," Kia whispered. "You are in so much trouble."
Oh, great, Sam thought. They would have all of Nerak after them now. He raised his gaze to the sky but didn't see a legion of women warriors coming after them.
"Of course I didn't steal the craft," Lara said. "The Elders sent me to Earth. I'm here on a mission."
Kia stiffened. "I won't return to Nerak."
Nick draped an arm across Kia's shoulders. Sam stepped to her other side. They wouldn't let her go without a fight.
"I'm not here to take anyone home," Lara said. "There's trouble on our planet."
Kia squared her shoulders. "Someone has dared attack Nerak?"
"So, the warrior code enforcer still lives inside you. I would've hated for my sister to forget her heritage."
"Why have you come to Earth?" Kia asked, apparently deciding to let the chastising note in her sister's voice slide.
"There has been no attack ... yet. When our cousin's craft returned, there were aliens from earth on board-three men and a woman. One became ill and infected an Elder. I must find a cure before it's too late."
"Cast the invisibility shield around the craft and come inside," Kia told her. "I found out the hard way it's not good for anyone to learn where we come from."
"There are men with you," she said, not leaving the safety of the craft.
Kia looked at Nick, then him. "They are good men."
Both Lara's eyebrows rose. "There is such a thing?"
"Yeah, there're a few of us left on Earth," Sam told her. She might be beautiful, but when she opened her mouth, she reminded him of one of his ex-girlfriends-real uppity. Now he remembered why they'd split.
She turned her gaze on him, studied him for a moment, then just as quickly dismissed him as she focused once more on her sister. "I will go with you."
It was no skin off his nose what she thought about him. Hell, the sooner he left for his cabin the better. Just as soon as he made sure Nick and Kia were okay. And he wasn't leaving until he did.
He let everyone go in front of him, watching Lara as she took in her surroundings. She seemed cautious but curious until she looked down at the floor. Then she quickly raised her hem.
Hell, the floor looked clean to him. He didn't see a problem. Apparently, Miss High and Mighty did, though.
Nick shut the door behind them after everyone was inside, and they all turned as one to look at Lara.
Man, he shouldn't have looked directly into her pale green eyes. He'd never seen eyes the color of hers. They drew him in, made him feel as if she were caressing his soul.
Maybe she was like Medusa because he was starting to feel as if she could turn him to stone-at least one part of his anatomy. God, she was sexy as hell. He wouldn't argue that.
Not that he was even remotely interested since he'd witnessed firsthand her haughty attitude. Nope, he didn't want any part of that.
"It's imperative that I find a cure for the Elder," Lara repeated. She tilted her head to the side. "What is that scratching noise? It's very unnerving."
"The puppies," Kia said and went to let them out.
Lara took a cautious step back as they came barreling out from the other room and headed right toward her.
"They won't hurt you," Kia said.
Tentatively, Lara leaned down and touched one. When it licked her finger, she jumped. "It tried to eat me," she said accusingly, rubbing her finger.
"The puppy was showing you affection, that's all," Kia told her, picking one up and holding it close. She nuzzled her face in the softness of the fur.
Lara didn't look at all comforted by this knowledge as she straightened. "You've succumbed to Earth's temptations," she lightly scolded.
What person didn't want to pet a puppy? So what if Kia was tempted to cuddle them? What difference did that make?
"Which Elder is it, and what do we need to do to help find the cure?" Kia returned to the subject at hand, looking genuinely worried as she set the puppy back on the floor.
Kia drew in a sharp breath.
Sam felt sorry for her. He knew the Elders were the ones who ruled Nerak. This one must mean a lot to her.
"The disease came from Earth, so this is where I'll need to find the cure," Lara explained. "I must test the plants and see if one of them will work as a remedy."
"Yes, of course. We have plants here." Nick said.
Lara looked at Nick, then just as quickly turned back to Kia. Sam frowned. This Nerakian was starting to piss him off.
"I'll work here then. You'll take me to where these plants grow."
"We don't actually have a place here," Nick tried to explain.
"Then you lied?"
"No, not exactly," Nick said. "This is the city. Plants grow in the country, unless a nursery will work. That's a place where people grow plants from seeds and cuttings."
"You will take me to the country. I need to test them in their natural environment."
"Do you even know what you're looking for?" Sam asked. He wondered if she realized how many plants there were on Earth.
"I'll know it when I find it. I only need one that will react with the chemicals I will be adding."
Kia and Nick looked toward him at the same time and acted as if he was supposed to say something.
"What?" he finally asked.
"You can take her to your cabin," they spoke in unison.
"Me? Uh-uh. I'm not taking her with me." This was his vacation, and he damn sure didn't want to spend it with this ... this Nerakian who thought she was better than everyone else.
"Please, Sam," Kia pleaded. "For me?"
This wasn't right. Not right at all. They shouldn't even ask. Not that it was going to do them a bit of good.
"I'm not taking her to my cabin."
"But ..." Kia started.
He shook his head. "No way, nohow. It's not going to happen."
Chapter Two "How much farther is this cabin?" Lara sat stiff as a board on the passenger side of his pickup.
Was she afraid she might accidentally touch him and soil herself? Oh, hell, he'd hate for that to happen. It would be a crying shame.
"Don't you ever get tired of asking the same question?" Sam glared across the seat at her.
"You keep saying the same thing, 'not long,' but I think you're lying because we're still not there. So, how long before we arrive at this cabin where I'll be able to do my research?"
"Not long ...." He watched her mouth turn downward.
What the hell was he supposed to say? She probably didn't know what a mile was. When she continued to stare at him, he decided he wasn't going to win this round.
"We're about to turn off the highway, then we'll go down another road until we get to the cattle guard and cross it. We'll go over a small ridge, and the cabin is sitting in the middle of a cluster of pine trees. There, are you satisfied?"
"Don't you have a craft that goes airborne?" she asked, changing the subject. "This ride is very uncomfortable. I can feel every bump. On Nerak, we have aero units. The ride is quite enjoyable."
"Well, you're not on Nerak. You're on Earth, and no, we don't have aero units for everyone to fly around in."
"That's because this is an inferior planet." She turned her gaze out the window.
He really liked his pickup and had gotten a sweet deal when he'd traded in his car. It was a rusty brown-more rust than brown-but he planned to have it sanded and repainted someday.
Excerpted from The Bad Boys Guide to the Galaxy by KAREN KELLEY Copyright © 2008 by Karen Kelley. Excerpted by permission.
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