Read an Excerpt
Close Encounters of the Sexy Kind
By KAREN KELLEY
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Karen Kelley
All right reserved.
Chapter One"I'm going crazy," Mala murmured. Jumping to her feet, she strode to the plate glass window overlooking the pristine city surrounding her town house.
The planet Nerak, where the light never faded and everything was white. So horribly white-colorless, stark and cold. Just like everything on her planet.
"Would you like a hormone smoothie?" Barton asked over the monitoring system.
She stuck her tongue out. "No, I wouldn't like a smoothie."
A small aero unit whizzed past, rattling her window. Everything moved too fast. Instant gratification. Sad? Drink a happy smoothie. Tired? Drink an energy smoothie. Horny? Drink a hormone smoothie. Everything was a quick fix.
"You get this way every year. I'm only suggesting a smoothie because it usually calms you."
She cocked an eyebrow. "Maybe because it has a sedative in it?"
"We could copulate." A door that blended with the wall whisked silently open.
She turned as Barton stepped inside the room. He was like no other. Six feet, three inches of rugged, sexy male. Blond hair, blue eyes ... she should be happy. She should. Shouldn't she?
Then why was she so frustrated?
"It's been three years, twenty-one days, fourteen hours, twenty-two minutes and nine seconds since you've had an orgasm," he informed her.
And he was driving her crazy. She didn't want perfection, but Barton was exactly the way she'd ordered him. A gift from her cousin on Mala's twenty-first birthday. Together they had chosen everything about him. He was their creation.
At the time, her older cousin, Kia, had been going through a rebellious period and had smuggled a catalog of male specimens into Mala's apartment. Barton was born from a sketch they'd compiled.
But they had taken their creation a step further. They'd practically breathed life into him. At least, as much life as could be breathed into a companion unit. Barton had all the emotions of any Nerakian.
He was the perfect male.
He was still perfect five years later.
Everything about her life was perfect.
She hated it.
"You're grinding your teeth again. I take it sex is not an option."
"No, sex is not an option." She turned back to the window.
"Ahh, what?" she asked without turning around.
"You've been looking at that book again."
She stiffened, then quickly relaxed her shoulders. "What book?" That was the most un-innocent sounding question she'd ever asked.
"You're being evasive, aren't you? You know perfectly well what book I mean. The one from your grandmother's travels. The one about that other place ... Earth."
Why had she even thought she could fool him? He'd been around her too long. There was nothing she could hide. So why did she even try? She might as well confess. But first things first.
Her eyes narrowed as she faced him. "You swear on the promise stones that you won't say a word? Even if they threaten to remove your microchip?"
His chin jutted forward. "Have I ever betrayed you?"
"Sorry." Damn, she had to remember that Barton was special. Although very analytical, he still had feelings. She'd made sure of that even though her cousin had warned against adding the sensitivity chip ... among others. But she didn't want just a companion unit. She had to have more than a machine. Well, she'd certainly gotten more than she bargained for with Barton.
She went to the bookcase and pulled three reference books from the shelf and reached to the back of the case, pushing a hidden button. Her fingers tingled when they brushed over the book-her grandmother's diary, and even more precious ... the film.
She glanced behind her before bringing them out. "Hide the window."
Barton waved a hand and the window disappeared, soft lights automatically came on, and only then did she bring the materials out.
"Do you realize how much trouble you can get into by just having these documents?"
"Of course I do," she told him as she carried everything to the lounging sofa. "They barred distant travel after my grandmother's last voyage-the year I was born. They said our society was being tarnished by the ideas that were brought back.
"You do realize the Coalition is looking out for your best interests. From the small amount of information on space travel that I have programmed into my system, Earth is by far the most untamable."
"But don't you see, that's what makes it so exciting. People can actually think for themselves. They don't have a Coalition of Elders telling them what's in their best interest. They're allowed to make their own mistakes. They can grow and learn from them."
She placed the film in the change port. A hologram filled the room with sound and color. She could almost reach out and touch the trees, could almost feel the spray from the waterfall as it cascaded over the mountain and splashed down into the pond.
She inhaled. "I wonder what it smells like on Earth?"
She frowned at Barton before letting the unfolding scenes capture her attention once more.
The hologram wasn't much different than the ones she inserted into the port when she wanted to go to a park or just get away from the noise inside the town bubble. This hologram really existed. That was the difference.
Her grandmother had labeled the documentary an XXX-rated Western movie. Whatever that meant.
Not that it mattered that much. This was her proof there was more in the universe than Nerak.
There was even a title on the box: Callie Does The Sheriff. She wished her grandmother had explained more instead of leaving so many unanswered questions.
She returned her attention to the waterfall. The woman washed herself beneath the spray of water, her thin pink dress transparent as she slid a small white brick over her body. From the expression on the woman's face, the sensation must have been enjoyable.
Her grandmother's journal had described something similar and called it bathing. She said it was a barbaric custom Earth people did to cleanse their bodies.
How odd they had to run a white brick over their body. Every morning, Mala went to the chamber, waved her hand and beams of light rid her body of bacteria.
But the woman did seem excited. For a moment, she wished she had a white brick to rub over her body. It looked much more enjoyable than beams of light she never felt.
Sighing, she watched what happened next, even though she'd secretly watched the film before.
The woman hadn't seen the man yet. When she turned from the waterfall, her pupils dilated.
The man sat atop a four-legged beast, gazing upon her, but there was something in his eyes that made Mala's thighs tremble. It was as if no one else existed for him.
He climbed off the animal, the shiny metal star he wore on his shirt sparkled in the sunlight. She held her breath, watching his face and the lazy look he gave her before he sat on a rock and pulled off his boots.
"Sheriff, what are you doing?" The woman's voice trembled.
"What I should've done a long time ago, Callie May."
He removed his clothes before stepping into the water, every inch of his backside displayed for Mala's enjoyment. Muscles rippled as he waded farther out, then dove beneath the murky green water.
When Sheriff emerged, he was beside Callie May, taking her into his arms, lowering his mouth to hers. He moved his hand to her breast, massaging.
Mala could barely swallow, let alone breathe, her gaze riveted on the couple.
Sheriff tugged the front of Callie's dress and it opened. "I want to see you, darlin'. You've been teasin' me for a long time."
"But we're out in the open." She glanced furtively around, her eyes wide, but Mala didn't think she looked that upset. "What if someone sees?" she said in a breathless voice.
"I don't care." He cupped her breast before lowering his head and covering it with his mouth. He suckled for a moment, then raised his head. "I'm going to make love to you, baby. The hot, dirty kind. You ain't never had an orgasm like you're gonna have with me."
"Isn't he magnificent?" Mala breathed.
"This was what I was designed from? He seems rather savage if you ask me." Barton sniffed.
Sometimes she wanted to remove Barton's sensitivity chip. She turned off the hologram. "It's a primitive planet. I've read my grandmother's journal. The beast the man sat upon is a horse." She frowned. "Or maybe a cow. I'm not quite sure. Her journals are a little difficult to translate. She was only there to gather the minimum amount of information. Her time on the planet was very brief."
"And the couple in the hologram? They were about to copulate?"
"I'm not sure. I think so." She bit her bottom lip. "Yes, I'm almost certain of it. Some of the film was damaged so I'm not positive how their encounter ended. I think they joined, but it was more intense than just copulating, more going on than relieving stress."
"Would you like me to do what Sheriff did? I can, you know."
How did she tell him something would be lost in the process? She didn't want to join for the sake of release. She wanted someone who would ... who would make love to her. Was that asking too much?
"Why are you so fascinated with Earth?" He changed the subject. "It's not like you'll ever go there."
A half smile played around her lips.
"I have her journal. It contains all the information I would need to survive." She took a deep breath. "I know where they store the space travel crafts."
"Those old scraps of metal? I doubt you'd be able to get one of them out of its port." His beautiful blue eyes grew round. "You don't actually plan ..."
"Yes!" She flung her arms wide and twirled around the room. "Barton, I don't belong here. I want to experience life, not watch it on a hologram. I want to know what dirt feels like. I want to walk barefoot through a meadow. I want to stand beneath a waterfall."
"But you can do that now."
"No, a hologram isn't the same. I don't want to find myself transported to a make-believe park. I want the real thing."
"But with reality comes other things-like pain. There are no thorns to step upon in the Coalition's Safety Travels. You can have the pleasure without being hurt. It's perfect."
She plopped down on the lounging sofa and drew her knees up. "Don't you see? I don't want perfection. I want to experience everything."
"I ... see."
Now she'd hurt his feelings. Barton had been programmed to see to her every need. There were no men left on her planet. He was the perfect male specimen.
"You're my friend," she told him. "But I need more. Please try to understand that it's not you. It's me."
He raised his chin. "When are we making the journey?"
She flinched. This was the hard part, but she couldn't risk putting him in danger. "Just me. I won't take a chance with you." When he opened his mouth, she hurried on. "Besides, the Coalition won't even realize I'm gone if you're here. I just want to see what this planet is like. I'll be gone no longer than a few rotations."
He hesitated. "You'll swear on the promise stones?"
"I still don't like it. They may be closer to us in language and atmosphere, but their culture is so far behind ours. How will you manage?"
"Grandmother's book." She raised the journal. "I've studied it very carefully. I know their favorite saying is, well, hell, and that it's early summer on the planet. I have everything I need right here." She tapped her finger on the book.
What she was about to embark on finally sunk into her brain. She was going to Earth. A slow smile curved her lips. Maybe she'd even meet the man in the hologram. The one called Sheriff.
* * *
Earth! It was beautiful. A big round ... ball. Much bigger than she'd expected. A lot bigger than Nerak. Her planet wasn't much more than a dot in the sky.
But Earth sparkled.
Mala sighed with utter joy and tried to focus, but it wasn't that easy. She was here-at least, almost. Her palms began to sweat. Her heart beat faster. This was it, and the most important part so she had to stay calm.
The craft began to shake as she entered the atmospheric pull. Her grandmother hadn't mentioned such violent movement, but then, the craft hadn't been nearly as old, either.
"Please don't fall apart," she breathed, grasping the guidance bar and manually steering the craft. She would be fine. She was almost positive. Her coordinates were exactly with her grandmother's-sort of.
She pointed the craft toward Earth. It plunged downward.
Here I go!
The blue sky filled her glass shield. She was moving faster than she could maneuver the small ship. Mountains whizzed past with her barely having time to get out of the way.
She dodged it; limbs slapped the side of her craft.
She steered to the right, then the left.
Oh, no, this wasn't good. Things were moving way too fast!
Her head rammed against the craft's guidance panel as the craft jerked and bumped to a grinding stop.
Dry, powdery dust swirled behind Mason McKinley's Jeep like a small tornado in the fading light of day. If they didn't get some rain soon, his small ranch would dry up and blow away. He glanced upward. Not a dark cloud in the sky. He wished he could say the same about his life.
Too many complications.
He stopped in front of his modest log home and killed the engine, slipping the keys into his jeans pocket as he climbed out and started toward the house. His dog, Blue, jumped out of the open back and took off at a run chasing an imaginary jackrabbit.
Good old Blue. He shook his head. The dog wouldn't know what to do if he ever caught a rabbit.
The radio on his hip crackled.
He stopped, one foot on the bottom step, knowing the dispatcher at the office was about to speak.
"Sheriff, we have a situation."
Francine's new word this week-situation. Everything was a situation.
He removed his Stetson and ran a weary hand through his hair before taking the radio out of the leather holster and keying the mike. "What kind of situation?"
"Harlan says he saw a flying saucer."
He gritted his teeth and counted to ten. If Harlan didn't stop this nonsense, he was going to lock him up for disturbing the peace-namely his.
Mason's gaze shot toward the town he'd just left. The reporters from The National Gossip were still at the motel. Somehow, Harlan had convinced them Bigfoot roamed the surrounding woods. Bigfoot, of all things! How could anyone actually believe that kind of nonsense?
Now there were about three reporters wandering around their small Texas town in search of anything they could claim was the mythical beast. They weren't even looking at it from a scientific point. They were only in it to make a buck, but all they'd accomplished was pissing off a lot of people who in turn kept the phone lines to his office lit up.
Jimmy Wilson said some idiot was snapping pictures of his Braham Bull. Mason shook his head. Old Red was the meanest bull in the county. The reporter was lucky to get back across the fence before the angry animal trampled him.
His radio crackled again.
"Sheriff, he said it was on the north side of your property. Close to the highway. Said there was a bright light-like maybe it crashed."
He keyed the radio again. "It was probably one of the big rigs going around Devils Curve. You know when it gets close to dusk the lights flicker about. People have been reporting spaceships for years now."
"You want me to tell him that?"
Harlan wouldn't give him any peace until he checked it out. Damn, how the hell had his life become so problematic? His gaze moved to the barn. He hadn't ridden Dancer in a couple of days. The ride would do them both good and he still had a couple of hours before it got good and dark.
"Tell him I'll check it out."
"Ow!" Mala's head pounded horribly. Was this what physical pain felt like? She wasn't sure she liked it. In fact, she was positive she didn't like it.
Tentatively, she reached up and lightly touched her forehead. Her finger came away wet ... and tinged red. Oh, no, she was starting the deep sleep cycle, her lifeblood draining from her body.
Her bottom lip trembled. Not before she set foot on Earth. She'd at least have that much before the air left her body.
Except the door didn't open when she stood in front of it and waved her arm. She manually pushed on the button.
Nothing. Not even a little squeak. It didn't budge.
Now what? She didn't want to fade away without at least stepping on Earth's surface. That wouldn't be fair at all.
Excerpted from Close Encounters of the Sexy Kind by KAREN KELLEY Copyright © 2007 by Karen Kelley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.