Seducing Stag Page 31

“I don’t. Explain.”

“Bram is so hot. The city is mostly underground. You can go up at night when the sun isn’t baking the surface but it’s really barren. The air felt weird too, very dry and heavy. It’s the same with Scorch. They named that one appropriately. It’s a hundred and fifty degrees in the shade when the surface is exposed to their sun, but there’s a lot of water underground. Tons of cavern systems. It’s pretty but who wants to live in…well, water caves? Ever been?”


“They built on the water because while the surface is dry, it’s too hot. And rivers are veined everywhere under the ground. There are very few accessible underground surfaces not covered in water. They build everything boat style.”

“It sounds fascinating.”

“It was great to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

“And the third?” He was curious, enjoyed watching her facial expressions as she talked. She didn’t attempt to hide her emotions.

“Klaus is too cold.” She hugged her arms, as if the memory made her chilled. “It snows year round. They joked it was named after Santa Claus, just using a K instead because of the trees. They lost about fifty people when they first settled there, before they figured it out. Killer trees. No thanks.”

That surprised him. “How did colonists die because of the trees? Were they poisonous?”

“The trees are alive. They eat anything they can grab. People included. I thought they were joking, you know, messing with the tourists, but the guy I delivered supplies to showed me a vid of one of the trees snatching up some of the local wildlife. The damn thing threw out a branch, grabbed up one of the hundred-pound sheep-looking beast that roams the surface, and the trunk opened. It shoved the poor thing inside it. Dinner was served. They’re rooted to the ground but the limbs can move and the trunks bend. He told me to stay at least three hundred yards away from them to be safe.”

“Are they sentient?”

“Who cares? Did you miss the part where they eat people?”

“I was wondering if they could communicate. They might see the colonists as invaders to their planet. The trees might act in self-defense, rather than viewing it as murder.”

She grinned. “You’re so cute. Look at you thinking of the poor trees.”

“It’s a valid point.”

“It is.” Her smile remained. “What if they are sentient? Would you go hug a tree and make friends?”

He narrowed his eyes, studying her. “Are you mocking me?”

“No, but I am amused. You hear about killer trees and you’re thinking about their motives. I didn’t care why they ate people. It just freaked me out, and I couldn’t fly out of there fast enough. What a horrible way to go. No thanks.”

“We have life forms on the planet we settled on, and we live in peace with them.”

“Are they killer trees?” She sobered, fear showing in her eyes.

“No. They are amphibian-humanoid life forms with intelligence. We built our city away from their ocean, on land, where they don’t seem to venture much. It was paramount to us not to make them feel threatened or invaded by our presence.”


Nala liked the way Stag spoke about the aliens. “You care about them.”

“Of course. I’m certain they were afraid when we first landed on the surface and they became aware of us. We went out of our way to show no aggression and establish communications, but they ran from us. We set up a camp near the beach, allowed them to watch and learn about us, hoping they’d finally approach. They didn’t as the weeks passed. We used the time to learn where they avoided travel, did terrestrial scans to make certain nothing under the ground was a danger, and chose that location to settle our city.”

“Nice.” It really was. “How are they situated technology wise?”

He shook his head. “They don’t seem to have any.”

That stunned her. “None?”

“We’ve done some scans with fly drones at a distance but didn’t want to be too invasive, to avoid frightening them. They have built small cities under water and in caves near the beaches. They are impressive designs, but we’ve never picked up any indication that they are far advanced. They have lighting though. It could be from a natural source. We detected some lava tubes under the ocean floor in the shallow parts where they habitat.”

“So you just let them be?”

“You sound surprised.” His tone took on a sharp edge.

She fought the urge to touch him but didn’t dare. “Don’t pick a fight with me. You tend to do that. It’s just that most people who settle on planets aren’t so courteous of the local inhabitants.”

“You mean Earthers do that.”

He spat that title, making it clear it was an insult. She decided to tackle the issue head-on. “Enough. I’m not your enemy, Stag. EG screwed me over too. No, I wasn’t enslaved or created by them. Did you hear me when I said they stole my grandfather’s company? Running it was supposed to be my future. They took that away. I could be bitter and angry, but I chose to seek an adventure instead. I bought a freighter and flew into space.”

He just watched her. She hated noticing how his long and dark eyelashes really made the blue of his eyes appear breathtaking. She liked him a little too much, and actually found his prickly personality a bit appealing. She always knew where she stood with Stag.

The evening before flashed, and so did the earlier conversation they’d had before leaving his quarters.

Stag broke the silence. “You should hate Earth Government. They are responsible for you leaving your home planet, and they created the Markus Models that attacked your ship.”

“Wow. Ever heard of looking for a bright side? I got to spend just over six years with my dad. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. He never would have retired or left the military if I’d stayed on Earth. He hated even visiting there.”

“Now he’s dead, and you’re left with nothing.”

That hurt. She turned her head away, staring at her lap. “Thanks for pointing that out.”

“Nala,” he rasped. “I apologize.” He reached over and rested his hand on the small of her back. “You will be treated well by our council. They are nothing similar to your government.”

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