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Their Accidental Bride (MFM)

Waterworld

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 34,619
Available Formats
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ePub
Mobi

To save the galaxy, she must love them both...

Mindrin Zeras has no idea she's about to become a bride to not one but two alien princes. But that's exactly what happens when she accidentally stumbles her way into an intergalactic wedding while trying to fix a malfunctioning elevator. Thanks to a treaty between the mar'don, the celestri, and humanity, the bride's identity is to remain secret until the ceremony begins, exactly when she finds herself at the altar. Talk about stressful work days. Now she's wed to both stunning, powerful males who seem eager and skilled enough to claim her in every way possible. There's only one little problem. Both believe they're marrying a bride painstakingly selected for them, not an imposter who was merely at the wrong place at the right time. She's rapidly losing her heart to these two aliens who make her soul soar and her body quiver, but if they discover the truth, the peace treaty might go up in flames.

Nothing will stop Prince Valdur from doing his duty. The mar'don are respected warriors, and Valdur is both fierce and dedicated to honoring his new mates in the name of peace. His little human bride has more than enough spirit and beauty to make her a challenge, even if he must overcome his possessive instincts and share her with Tyal. She might even make him smile, but there's something odd about her too, and Prince Valdur hates to be deceived. Meanwhile, the charming Prince Tyal has secrets of his own, and more than a few suspicions about his new bride. Tyal loves a mystery, but he's beginning to suspect that unraveling this one might not be the best idea. Only someone else seems to know who Mindrin really is, and they don't care how many are hurt when the truth finally comes to light...

Reader note: contains M/F/M ménage and hot romance elements

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE



The Falling Water Temple on Andurai



Before the Andurai Peace Accords, Mindrin Zeras believed she’d landed the best job in the Delfi system. Andurai was a stunning ocean planet. She had a low-stress career working as a sys/mech technician. And finally, her pay at the Falling Water Temple was more than enough to meet her needs. But since the signing of the peace accords, her opinion had changed drastically.

Of course she wanted the galactic peace to continue—who didn’t? And her pay was still fine, the planet still breath-taking, but the stress… Holy stars, her stress right now was off the charts. All the techs had been working in crisis mode ever since the announcement that the wedding between a mar’don, a celestri, and a human would be held at the Falling Water Temple.

The event would be the focus of the entire galaxy and had to be perfect. And right now, the biggest wedding ceremony in the galaxy—a marriage keeping war at bay and scheduled to happen in less than twenty minutes—was about to be derailed by a critical malfunction in one of the elevator lifts.

Mindrin hurried down an access corridor, trying not to panic, with her small GRX-D “Grixdee” maintenance robot flying at her side. She was confident she could deal with the problem, but how quickly was the vital question. The lift was crucial to bringing the bride to the central amphitheater, and if it didn’t work, this entire spectacle would fall on its face.

Mindrin had her tool box and her scanner, and with Grixdee matching her near-run, she’d almost reached the understage area below the temple’s amphitheater. The lighting in the windowless access corridor was blue-tinged from the transparent flow pipes that fed the thousand waterfalls throughout the temple. The ocean water gave off a cool glow thanks to all the bioluminescent cordekon and other plankton-like life drawn in through the temple’s water intakes.

She heard music and a great many voices ahead of her in the understage room where the lift was located. She took a deep breath to steady herself as she tried not to appear frantic. To get to the lift, she had to pass through the lift’s assembly room where the human delegation had gathered. She would keep her head down and ignore them and hopefully they would ignore her so she could do her job.

Two beefy security guards stopped her at the end of the corridor. She let one of them scan her credentials, trying not to fidget at the frustrating waste of time when she had so little to spare. The security guard went back and forth on his comm, talking with someone who sounded even grouchier than he did, until finally he waved her through with a scowl. She wasn’t intimidated by a suspicious glare from a no-tech meathead. She scowled right back as she hurried into the pre-stage assembly room and moved straight for the elevator lift.

This room was far more representative of the temple’s beauty than the access corridors. Huge windows at opened at either end of the room, giving sweeping views of the unending Andurai ocean and the clouds high in the atmosphere. The sunlight streaming in through the windows was bright, and the room’s floor had more of the big ocean water flow tunnels beneath transparent plasti-steel panels, making it seem as if the gathered people were walking on top of aquariums. Not counting the heavy security, at least twenty people were gathered here, many of them clustered around the bride. She ignored the dignitaries, advisors, and assistants and tried to catch a glimpse of the bride.

As expected, the woman was stunning. Probably had genetic code modifiers too, Mindrin guessed, though she tried not to be bitter about it. She was an auburn-haired, green-eyed beauty with perfect skin. She held herself with poise and dignity and didn’t seem the least bit nervous or stressed about the looming event. Her gorgeous bridal gown even made Mindrin feel a surge of clothing lust, even though she usually didn’t go in for apparel emphasizing form over function. The elegant wedding dress was made of shimmering venkose silk, with deep purples and blues and a scattering of illuminated diamonds.

Mindrin forced herself to stop being distracted and focus back on her vitally important task. She certainly didn’t have time to waste yearning to look as beautiful as the bride did and maybe wear something far more attractive than her technician uniform. Someone had to fix the lift. Otherwise this bride would be stuck here looking beautiful a hundred meters below the amphitheater stage, miss her wedding, disappoint billions of planets tuning in to the subspace video feeds to see it, and worst of all, jeopardize the future of the peace treaty.

No pressure.

She wove through the crowd with Grixdee floating beside her, trying not to growl at all the people in the way. She reached the far end of the room where the problematic lift rested in a five-meter wide, semi-circular alcove. She set her tool box down and ordered Grixdee to begin running system calibration scans.

An aide of some sort rushed over to her. “What is the meaning of this? You shouldn’t be here.” His voice was puffed with self-importance but also sharp with worry. Seems she wasn’t the only one stressed today.

She didn’t bother to look up from the data on her scanner. “If you want the bride to reach the main stage platform without a rocket pack, you need to back off and let me do my job.”

“She isn’t in any danger, is she?” he demanded.

“No, because unless I fix the servo firing sequence, this lift isn’t moving from this spot. Now, I can either waste more of my time explaining things to you, or you can keep quiet and let me do my job.” Usually she wasn’t so curt, but time was rapidly slipping away. She had no doubt that if she failed, it would cost her this job. The political marriage between not two but three different races—a mar’don prince, a celestri prince, and a Terras Alliance woman chosen by a quantum supercomputer to be the perfect match to them both—was one of the biggest events in the galaxy.

With an offended sniff, the aide left her alone. Thank the stars. She began to review the data coming from Grixdee’s deep scans, but a voice sounded in her earpiece, breaking her concentration. It was Brysen, her team supervisor in the temple’s high tech control booth. “Give me a status update.”

“Servo firing sequence failure,” she said. “Recalibrating the actuators now.”

“We need this finished yesterday, Mindrin. I have high level ambassadors demanding updates.”

“You want it done fast or do you want it done right?” She initiated another diagnostic, looking for program feedback loops. Something was definitely screwy here.

“Fast.”

She decided to ignore him, shifting her attention on the servo activation sequence Grixdee was fine-tuning. She stepped onto the lift, which was locked into position flush with the floor. At the center of the lift, she pulled the access hatch, and scanned the power-feed lines. Looking good for the most part, but one of the sequencers was still off. She began to adjust it with a grakon torque wrench. They’d just done a thorough maintenance check yesterday. How had this thing gone so wrong in such a short time?

And then Brysen decided to interrupt. Again. “What’s your status, Min? The wedding happens in minutes.”

“Working on it,” she growled. How did he expect her to concentrate when he was chattering in her ear every two seconds?

“Hurry!”

She ignored him for the second time, running a calibration adjustment on the servo firing sequence. She was finding a lot of corrupted data, commands that were shunted off into feedback loops, and that was a serious problem—

The guard rails shot up around the circular lift platform, startling a squeak from her that had heads turning her way. On her scanner screen, the local override suddenly went into a cascading data fail before she could halt it. The servos hummed to life. Grixdee’s warning alarm went off, but it was too late.

The lift rose upward into the access tube, leaving the understage area behind. Dread turned her veins to ice as she caught a glimpse of security guards running toward her and the panicked expressions on the faces of the aides. Then the room was already below her and out of sight as the lift ascended the tube-shaped elevator shaft. She didn’t even have Grixdee along with her on the lift as she was rushed upward toward the temple’s amphitheater. The lift would stop at the main platform in the amphitheater, surrounded by hundreds of waiting galactic citizens, all expecting to see the bride-to-be. She’d be caught on the subspace video feed to the rest of the galaxy, trillions of galactic citizens all eagerly awaiting this momentous occasion…

Oh karzi balls. This was bad.

She darted over to the emergency stop panel and yanked it open. She pulled down the red lever. The lift continued to rise. She cursed and tried again. Nothing.

“What is going on with that lift, Min?” Brysen barked over her earpiece. “The readouts here say it’s rising toward the amphitheater.”

“I know,” she shot back through gritted teeth. “I’m on the lift now.”

Shocked silence came over the comm. “Did I copy you right? You’re on the lift? The ceremony is about to start. You can’t be on that stage.”

“I know.” She furiously used the interface on her scanner to try to subvert the loops and deactivate the servos, the main power, anything that would stop the lift from continuing its ascent. “The kill switch is caught in a feedback loop.”

“We’re trying to shut it down from here, but we can’t isolate the power-feed and stop it without—”

The hatch above her hissed open. She dropped her scanner and scrambled to her feet as the lift reached the end of its journey, raising her into the temple’s amphitheater. The lift seamlessly locked into place with the rest of the central platform and the guard rails lowered back into the floor.

Mindrin stood there wide-eyed, her breath caught in her throat, while she stared around her at the huge amphitheater. There was no way to sneak away unnoticed. Bright spotlights shown down from the upper arches, and she couldn’t escape the platform without suddenly being able to fly. She stood on the circular platform stage in the center of the amphitheater more than fifty meters above a deep pool of ocean water below her. The platform was at the top of a huge, thick column, through which she had just been lifted from the understage area. In the center of the platform was another pool, overflowing its edges into a channel that encircled the pool and ran out in the four cardinal directions to flow off the edge of the platform in a waterfall all the way to the pool below. Twenty meters from the railing at the edge of the platform, the tiered seating began. All the seats seemed to be filled. All those citizens watching her…

“Welcome, fortunate one,” the priest standing on the northern quadrant of the platform said. Feeling as if she were trapped in a dream where everything felt slow and disconnected, she turned to stare at him. He must have been brought in specifically for the ceremony because she didn’t recognize him from the temple. “You are early.”

She opened her mouth to say something—probably “help get me out of here!”—when an unfamiliar male voice sounded over her earpiece. It wasn’t Brysen. This man sounded military.

“Listen closely—Mindrin is it? I am Commander Dolzen of the Terras Alliance delegation. Do you understand the level of trouble we’re sitting in at the moment? Your face is being broadcast to an untold number of planets across the galaxy to billions who now believe you are the bride representing humanity in the peace accords.”

Her panic had reached mind-numbing levels. Luckily her feet seemed frozen in place, because right now she felt so lightheaded she might just fall over. “I-I realize it—”

“Good,” he snapped, cutting her off. “Because this treaty is the most important thing in the galaxy right now. Thousands of planets are counting on it. We’ve kept the bride’s identity a secret to this point, so as long as the two princes don’t see you on that platform, we can still salvage this space wreck. Now, before the princes arrive, I need you to finish fixing that lift and get the hell off that platform.”

She gritted her teeth, biting back her sarcastic thanks for pointing out the glaringly obvious. If she didn’t fix the lift, the only other option was throwing herself over the railing and hoping she survived a long plunge into the pool of water below. It took all her self-control not to stand there quaking in the near-blinding lights. Her ears were ringing, and her mouth was drier than sand. She didn’t have much time. Fixing the lift would be tougher without Grixdee here, but now that the lift had safely docked, she could access its subroutines—

Ceremonial music began to play over the temple’s loudspeakers. The hatches in the western and the southern quadrants of the platform opened at the same instant. She froze, her heart lurching in her chest and cold fear in her stomach. She could only watch helplessly as the two lifts brought the alien princes onto the platform.

She didn’t know which one to gape at first. The mar’don prince stood on the quadrant directly across from her. He was huge, at least two meters tall. His head was shaved. His skin color was striking, an unforgettable gradient of orange-red that reminded her of the sunset. He had dark eyes that seemed to bore into her. His chest was massively broad, and her heart skipped quite a few beats when she noticed his arms were thicker than her thighs. He wore what was unmistakably a military uniform, although it was different than anything she’d ever seen before. Wide features, square jaw that looked like it could break mountains, two gleaming metal earrings that looked like spikes. Everything about him screamed power and strength.

Beside the mar’don, the celestri prince seemed almost small. To her, he was a size closer to a human male. His skin was a silvery blue, his eyes another shade of blue, and he held himself with unmistakable grace and dignity. His hair was black and long, twisted into a braid and secured with a silver clasp. His clothing was a perfectly tailored Llenso suit and coat in the celestri style. Knee-high boots, coattails, a coat and shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbows. Black and silver tattoos decorated his arms and even his neck. She wondered what the symbols meant.

In her earpiece, she heard He cursed in several galactic languages. “It’s too late. They’ve both seen you.” More curses, which weren’t helping calm her panic any. “We can’t back out now or we’ll endanger the entire peace accord. Listen to me very closely, Technician Mindrin. You need to play the role.”

“What do you mean, play the role?” she whispered. She had a deeply bad feeling that she knew exactly what he meant, and it had to do with both of those stunning alien males here on the platform with her. They were both watching her with such intensity that her heart began racing until it was pounding like crazy. And it wasn’t the good kind of crazy, but more like heart seizure crazy.

“I don’t think I need to spell it out for you. You need to complete the ceremony and marry them—”

“No way. I’m out of here,” she interrupted, starting toward the access panel. She’d finish fixing the lift as millions of planets watched, and she’d escape this nightmare. Then she would catch the next deep space freighter for the outer systems, because she was never going to be able to show her face again.

“The terms of the peace accords were extremely specific to prevent any corruption, manipulation, or undue influence. The two princes are to first see their bride together, in the presence of a water priest, at this exact time. It’s all a copy of the previous ceremony, laid out in excruciating detail. But listen, all the accords require is a human female to bind with them, because this isn’t about the Terras Alliance. Not really. Any human female will do.”

“Sorry. That doesn’t make me feel any better.” She was sweating now. In the stands, the crowd was growing restless. She could hear their murmurs over the music. Both princes were watching her and seemed to be catching on that something was wrong. The priest asked her if she felt okay, and she smiled at him. Or at least she tried to smile. She might’ve looked more like a grinning skull right then, she wasn’t sure.

“This is no longer about you, Mindrin,” Commander Dolzen continued in an urgent voice. “This is about the galaxy. It has been since the moment you sent that lift on its way up.”

“I didn’t send it up,” she whispered harshly. “The actuators—”

“Doesn’t matter. If you leave, you could kick us back to the years of strife and instability the peace accords ended. This could mean war.”

She stood there with her mouth open, not knowing what to say, and all her thoughts spinning through her mind. It was utterly and completely unfair to put this on her shoulders. Because of a faulty actuator, she was now the savior of the universe or something and that was insanity. She stood there, frozen, unable to decide the right thing to do, praying this was a nightmare she would wake up from any second now.

Any second now…

But the nightmare wouldn’t end.

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