Alien Boyfriend for Christmas by Luna Kingsley

Chapter 1

Isabel

“Are you serious right now, Stanley?”I blink my eyes quickly to keep the tears from spilling over.

“I’m sorry,” Stanley says. He looks as disappointed as I feel so it’s hard to stay angry. It’s been almost a year since either of us have seen Earth, but he’s also losing out on the one thousand dollars I agreed to pay him. “We’re short-handed and the captain revoked my leave.”

“We’re supposed to head out on the transport that arrives in five days.” It’s like I’m living a nightmare. “Where am I going to find someone to take your place on such short notice?”

“You know I hate to do this to you, Izzy, but it’s out of my control. I’d never leave you on your own if it was up to me.”

My shoulders slump while I pout like a child who had her favorite toy taken away. The thought of facing Brad on my own makes my stomach churn, even though I shouldn’t care. I’m here on Niri, fulfilling my dreams. And yet, somehow, arriving home alone makes me feel like a failure. At least to those in the small midwestern town where I’m from I am. In their eyes, I need a man by my side and a ring on my finger to prove my worth. Accepting the invitation to be part of the first team of botanists to travel to Niri simply puts a damper on my dating life. That’s what the neighbors would say anyway.

With a quick squeeze of my shoulder, Stanley scrambles away and disappears back to his work station. He was looking forward to traveling home for the holidays…probably even more than me. Normally I wouldn’t miss being home for Christmas, but my mom’s unexpected health scare has put a damper on my normal upbeat attitude about the season. Instead of the constant buzzing excitement around this time of year, I’m filled with uncertainty about my mom and nerves about running into my ex-boyfriend while I’m home.

The last thing I want to do is face it all on my own.

“What’s going on with you? Are you feeling okay?” I realize I’m still standing in the same place where Stanley left me when my best friend Gina arrives. We received our PhD degrees together back on Earth and were fast friends from the moment we entered the program. It turns out we both started out as pre-med until we decided we enjoyed working with plants much more than people.

“Stanley’s leave was revoked. He can’t travel back to Earth with me.” She takes my arm and pulls me off to the side so we’re not standing in the middle of the warehouse.

“I’m sure you can find someone else who could go.” She tucks her long brown hair behind her ears and adjusts her cat-eye vintage black frames so they sit high on her nose. Her concern for my well-being is genuine and one of the many reasons I felt such an immediate connection with her.

“If the captain revoked Stanley’s vacation because we’re too short-handed, he’s not going to approve anyone else. I’ve been given an exception because my mom is sick.”

“Don’t give up yet. Ask around…see if anyone else could make it work before you give up hope.”

The other members of our team are starting to look, curious about what’s going on with me. “You’re right. I’ll ask around. It’ll be okay.” We walk back toward the center of the warehouse where the complex system of tubing, bins, and pumps are set up. We get natural light from the top of the warehouse for the plants, as well as the lighting system set up above the tubes for when it’s cloudy or when the seasons change. Now that the first set-up has done so well, a brand-new green house is being erected next door where we’ll set up a second system of hydroponics to help the necessary plants grow here on Niri.

It has been an adjustment since coming here. Earth is so full of green grass, trees, and plants, but Niri’s soil is of such a poor quality that hardly anything grows. For eleven months we’ve been working closely with the scientists of Niri to show them what we’ve found to be successful on Earth. And now it’s working here.

“Where do you want to start? I’ll let you pick sides.” Gina asks. The rest of our team stands at separate sections with their devices in their hands, recording notes and keeping track of their observations. Making sure the pumps are working and each tank has the appropriate level of water is necessary every day. After all these months of hard work, it would be a tragedy if the plants didn’t make it.

“I’ll check the pumps over here. Maybe I can talk to the others and see if anyone’s interested in a trip back home for Christmas.”

“Sounds good. But Izzy—if no one else can go with you, you’re going to be just fine. You’re better off without Brad. Hopefully you realize that by now.”

After giving Gina a tight hug, I move to the first system with my device clutched tightly in my hand. I’m just leaning down to follow the cord that leads to the pump when movement underneath the tubes startles me.

“Oh my gosh! What are you doing under there?”

I jump backward, knocking into another set of tubes behind me. Slowly, one of the Niri electricians pulls himself out from underneath the system I was just about to analyze. He stands slowly as if that’ll make him seem less threatening.

My hands clutch my chest while I try to slow my frantic heart. “You scared me.” My voice shakes as I take in the huge electrician now standing so close to me. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen him around, but we’ve never officially met. The mechanics and electricians don’t intermingle with us like the Niri scientists do. They intimidate me even though they’ve never given me a reason to be afraid of them. Still, they aren’t overly friendly. When they’re needed to fix something with the system or with the building, they arrive, do their work, and disappear again.

Now I’m gazing up at this ruggedly handsome alien, standing closer than I ever have before. Instead of opening my mouth to talk to him, I stare, finally getting the opportunity to study his features up close. His white shirt is soaked with sweat and streaked with grease but I’m captivated by the way it stretches and clings to the muscles that bulge under the material. His pants are loose around his waist but manage to outline the strength and size of his thighs. When my eyes finally make it to his face, he’s staring at me strangely. His eyes are the lightest of blues that match the color of his skin.

“I apologize for startling you,” he says. His words say one thing while the look he’s giving me tells me he thinks I need to work on my social skills. His voice is deep with the same strong accent as the rest of the Niri. Prior to arriving for this mission, our team was required to learn the language of the Niri species. We were surprised to find they were doing the same—learning how to speak English. Even though I knew the scientists spoke English, I didn’t expect the electricians to be able to as well. “I was called in to fix a glitchy outlet. It should work fine now, but let me know if you find any more issues with it.”

Before I can find my voice again to thank him, he slides his tools into his belt and saunters to the door. I stare after him, my eyes feasting on the perfection of his ass. For the first time since Brad broke my heart, a spark ignites inside of me.

“What was that all about?” Gina appears beside me again, or maybe she’s been here watching everything. I’ve been too distracted to know one way or the other. When the door slams shut behind the sexy electrician, I’m finally able to tear my eyes away in order to look at Gina.

She’s staring at me with a huge smile on her face, her eyes twinkling with delight.

“I didn’t see him under there,” I say stupidly. “He was fixing it.”

“He sure was fixing it, wasn’t he?”

She holds my stare for a few more seconds before bursting out in laughter. I stuff my mortification down before laughing just as hard. After that interaction, everyone probably thinks it’s my first time talking to a man.

“I don’t know what just came over me.” I’m shaking my head, staring at the closed door, wishing I could have a do-over.

“He’s really hot. Maybe he’s what you need to finally get over your loser ex.”

I shake my head even more adamantly now. “No, after everything with Brad, I promised myself I would put myself first. I plan on staying far away from men—even hot Niri workers.”

“Suit yourself,” Gina says. “But if we find anything else needs to be fixed, I’m sending you to find him. Maybe you’ll catch him in the shower.”

She gives me an exaggerated eye wink before hurrying off.

I finish my work for the day with a smile on my face for the first time in a long time.