Colonist's Wife
Author:Kylie Scott

“Yeah.” He hovered over her, frozen. In truth, he couldn’t have moved to save himself and he couldn’t have said why.


The hand dropped from his long-sleeved T-shirt but her drowsy gaze remained on him. She wasn’t awake. Not really. He shouldn’t have disturbed her. Sniffing her while she slept. What the hell had he been thinking?


“It’s okay. Go back to sleep,” he said.


She said nothing, dark eyes peering back at him.


“You’re safe.”


“Okay.” The eyelids drooped and she turned her head away from the light and him.


Adam crept off the mattress, eyes on her the whole time. The stranger in his bed, for better or for worse. His wife, courtesy of Gideon dying and a contract signed before either of them had ever met. How binding could it be? What did such a joining even mean?


She looked so soft in sleep. He lost track of how long he stood there, staring at his wife.






Chapter Three



Day Three



The marriage coordinator’s office was a bastion of beige. Louise perched on the edge of the well-stuffed sofa with a strained smile, hands in her lap, shoulders back and spine whip-straight. Her neck ached. It felt like posing for a school photo, endlessly, being on her very best behavior.


Unfortunately she had dirt crusted beneath her fingernails. Surreptitiously, she tucked them under the palms of her hands, curled them out of sight.


A line of certificates hung on the wall. After almost half an hour of studying them, she pretty much had their contents memorized. It stopped her from giving in to the temptation to pick out the muck from under her nails and litter the pristine carpet. Because that would be petty and rude.


Christiana, the counselor, delicately cleared her throat and turned to the com unit sitting on the arm of her chair for the hundredth time. The woman had it down to a fine art. First a subtle twist of the head followed by a stroke of the finger to bring the com screen to life. Then her shiny pink lips would open to release a little irritated huff of breath.


“I don’t think he’s coming,” Louise said, because after twenty-nine minutes someone needed to state the obvious. “He probably got held up at work or something…”


“Unusual for a first session.” Perfectly arched brows drew tight. “How does that make you feel, Louise?”


“I feel we should try re-scheduling.”


“Not the practicalities, Louise—your emotional response.” Pink lips twisted into a dry smile. “Please.”


“Unsurprised? We’ve been together for less than forty-eight hours—discussing the marriage seems premature,” she said. Christiana’s gaze dropped to Louise’s lap, where her fingers fiddled. “And nervous. I feel nervous.”


“I’m here to help you, not judge you, Louise. You don’t have to feel nervous.”


And yet her shirt clung wetly beneath her arms and her jaw ached. Go figure. “All right.”


“Why don’t you tell me about what you’ve been doing since you got here?” the counselor invited.


“Well, I’ve been volunteering down in the horticultural division. This morning we were transferring seedlings. Mostly leafy greens for consumption.” Because there was more than the one central garden down there, the entire level had been given over to feeding the colony. There were aquaponic set-ups spanning entire rooms. It was the strangest thing, but she loved it. It energized her.


The counselor nodded but her eyes said something was wrong. A test had been failed. “That’s good, but I thought we could talk about your marriage. How are things going with Adam?”


Oh. Him.


Her gaze slid back to the certificates on the wall with their fancy gilt print. Confessing she hadn’t seen her husband since her arrival didn’t seem wise. She’d gone to sleep alone and woken up alone, again. The only evidence of their inhabiting the same space was the indentation left in his pillow. “Slowly but surely. There’s no rush, right?”


“Right. But it’s important to work on establishing a bond that can see you through any early relationship hiccups. Have you been physically intimate yet?” Christiana picked up her com unit and her fingers danced across the screen. “Louise?”


Physically intimate. Nice wording. It might be Christiana’s job, but still. Her prurient interest made Louise’s skin crawl. It was tempting to lie, but this woman could likely pick out a falsehood two planets off. The DA had always said to stick as close to the truth as possible. What little of it she’d been allowed to own.


“No. We haven’t been physically intimate.”


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