The Challenge

The Challenge

Susan Kearney

May 2013 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-285-9

Domination. Desire. Destiny.

Our PriceUS$14.95
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He rules a future in which women are helpless, obedient, and always willing. She comes from a past in which a woman’s strength, brains, and courage are unquestioned. The challenge between them is timeless.

Secret Service agent Tessa Camen took a bullet meant for the president. She regains consciousness three hundred years in the future on a spaceship, naked in the arms of Kahn, a fierce warlord from the planet Rystan. He’s been expecting her. Tessa was whisked forward in time because her fighting abilities include a psychic talent like none other. Only she can defeat an enemy who threatens Earth. The fate of her home hangs in the balance. Once again, she’s called on to serve and protect her nation.

In Kahn’s world, women are meant to be ruled but also protected. He can seduce Tessa, but can he own her heart and mind? Can he put aside his beliefs about women to help her train for a brutal intergalactic test, The Challenge? If she loses, so does Earth.

Tessa and Kahn are caught in a war of wills set in a future where survival is a skill, power is an aphrodisiac, and love is a challenge that could destroy everything they cherish.


"…this is a hot, sexy, erotic read that will be a "challenge" to put down..." -- Patsy Kelley, Netgalley

"…a book of two people brought together by competition and finding love along the way." -- Ann Nguyen, Romance Junkies




"GUN! Brown trench coat at two o’clock. Five yards.” Tessa Camen, SAIC, special agent in charge, spoke clearly into her microphone, pinpointing the threat. It figured today had to be the day someone came after the president. But nobody was going to take out POTUS on her watch. No way in hell.

Tessa observed the counter sniper team on the roof zeroing-in on the shooter. Uniformed division officers dispersed through the crowd.

If only she had more time to remove the president from the danger. But instinct told Tessa that she had only split seconds to act.

Tessa uncoiled her bunched thigh muscles. Launching her body, twisting in the air, she tackled the president, covering the short politician’s body with her own.

They went down hard. Rolled behind the podium for cover. The president let out a gasp.

At least the president was still breathing. So far, so good.

The audience screamed and stampeded, creating a rioting mass exodus. Cries became wails as people bolted for the exits.

Tessa drew her Sig Sauer P229 from the holster, crawled over the president’s body, and positioned her torso between the shooter and the president. POTUS was not going to die. Not today. Not on Tessa’s detail.

Shots blasted, the noise deafening, the reek of gunpowder strong and bitter. Bullets raked the stage, shattering lights, shredding the curtains. Agents returned fire. The podium splintered into bits of wood. The audience bolted through smoke that clung like a shroud.

Shards of concrete stung Tessa’s face, neck, and hands. She blinked the blood from her eyes. "You hit, Madam President?”

"I don’t...” The supreme commander’s face was pale, her eyes wide with shock. But no blood. Only superficial scratches.

Safe. The satisfying thought offered Tessa only a measure of relief. "Stay still. I’ll be getting you out of here shortly.”

Tessa looked up. Fellow agents had closed on the assassin, pinning him down. Within seconds, the command she’d been expecting came through her earpiece. "Get POTUS away.”

She grabbed the president’s upper arm. "POTUS rolling.”

Half yanking, half carrying the president, Tessa zigzagged to the limo. From the disarray of panicking citizens, scurrying police, and busy Secret Service Agents, two well-dressed dark-haired men, stepped between POTUS and the limo. In contrast to the panicky rushing of everyone else, their movements were slow, deliberate, menacing. Trouble.

Tessa shoved the president behind her then shouted, "Get out of the way.”

As if they’d been choreographed to move as one, Mr. Trench Coat raised his gun. Mr. Calm as Ice advanced from her right.Years of training at the firing range and thousands of hours honing her martial arts skills allowed Tessa to react automatically. She took out Mr. Trench Coat with a head shot. As Mr. Calm As Ice aimed at the president, Tessa round house kicked, and her foot connected with his shoulder. He grunted, dropped his weapon, and stumbled into her with a wild lunge that knocked her gun from her hand.

Tessa followed up with an elbow that cracked his rib. He grunted, bent over in pain, reached for a backup gun at his ankle.

"No you don’t.” Lunging forward, she slammed her knee into his face so hard his head snapped back.

A less muscular man’s neck would have broken. With another roar, he shook off her blow. He came at her again, this time more cautiously. Circling right, Tessa kept her body between him and the president.

When the guy advanced, leading with a strong right punch to her face, Tessa blocked and countered with multiple strikes to the knee and throat, softening him up before administering the death blow to the temple.

Tessa didn’t wait for his body to hit the ground before she scooped up her weapon, once again grabbing the president. POTUS’s limo squealed to a stop beside them. Tessa opened the door, shoved her charge into a prone position across the back seat.

Tessa slammed the door behind them and dived on top of her. "Go. Go. Go. Get us the hell out of here.”

The driver burned rubber, and the vehicle sped forward. Up ahead, a police siren blared. While they might not have the entire PPD, presidential protective detail, with them, at least they weren’t entirely alone, either.

Tessa released the breath she’d been holding and spoke through her microphone to the Deputy Director, reporting a break in security that left POTUS vulnerable to attack. "We don’t have the full PPD.”

"Underst—” Her radio went dead.

Oh, God. They were cut off from command. One thought came to mind and iced her blood. POTUS was now her responsibility alone.

Tessa angled her head, peering over the seat and dash. Up front, a black and white led the way, lights on, sirens shrieking.

Behind them, a tan sedan that was not part of their detail followed. When they changed lanes, so did the sedan. "We’ve picked up a tail.”

She needed backup, but with her microphone dead, she couldn’t call her detail. Think.

"Madame President, do you have a cell phone?”

She shook her head. "It was in my purse. I left it on the podium.” The president picked up the car’s phone and frowned. "Dead.”

"Sabotaged,” Tessa muttered. "Madam President, please strap on your seat belt.”

Damn. Damn. Damn. Tessa didn’t need her sweaty palms and ragged nerves to tell her that the president had been purposely isolated. Made vulnerable.

"Speed up. Lose the tail,” Tessa ordered the driver.

He did the opposite, jamming on his breaks, bringing the car to a screeching halt on the highway’s shoulder. Oh My God! Another betrayal.

At the sudden stop, the president yelped in surprise. The car’s momentum whiplashed Tessa forward then back against the seat. Her hand smacked the door. She dropped her weapon, and it slid under the seat. Ears ringing, vision blurred, she scrambled for her gun.

Tessa’s fingers closed on her weapon, but the chauffeur had his fully drawn. Cocked. Aimed at the president.

No way could the traitor miss.

Tessa didn’t hesitate. Muscles already contracted, she dived into the direct line of fire. At the same time, she raised her gun.

Too slow.

Too late.



Chapter One

"HAVE I DIED and gone to heaven?” Tessa muttered.

Without opening her eyes, she could feel heat permeating the deep chill that stole her energy as if she’d been frozen. Except for shivers and the tingling that slowly returned feeling to her numb limbs, there was no pain. No gunshot wound.

Just wondrous heat, like the touch of sun-kissed virile flesh. Toned, smooth skin sharing blessed warmth, rocking her. No, carrying her? A large gentle hand smoothed her hair from her forehead, and a deep masculine voice assured her that she would soon be warm.

"You will recover.”

Expecting the dream to fade, expecting to see a hospital room, a doctor, beeping machines, Tessa delayed opening her eyes. She didn’t want to face her fellow agents who would tell her the sad news that she’d failed her assignment and that the president was dead.

But she’d never been one to hide from reality. Tessa forced open her eyes.

Instead of a hospital room and her detail, she found herself in a space she didn’t recognize, alone with a stranger, her head pillowed on his shoulder. Her gaze locked stares with the amber eyes of a dark-haired giant, her hand curled intimately under the vest that didn’t fully cover his broad chest.

A bare chest? She must be hallucinating. Out of her head from painkillers, the result of a bullet ricocheting through her skull.

She blinked, expecting him to vanish. He didn’t.

Okay. He was real. Seriously real. Or she was crazy. She preferred the first option, but did a double check. Beneath her hand, his heart beat with disturbing regularity, and her fingers had somehow twisted around his crisp chest hair. She took a deep breath, and his scent reminded her of exotic spices and sandalwood soap.

He might be a dream man, but he was no fantasy. He was quite the living, breathing alpha male, carrying her as if she weighed nothing. No woman in her right mind could fail to appreciate such a gorgeous specimen. Yet no human naturally possessed eyes the color of his Tupelo-honey ones, the irises ringed with fiery gold, and framed by a perfect crescent of thick black lashes. He sported a strong nose, a square jaw that suggested stubbornness, carved cheekbones of a highborn savage, and flawless bronze skin of a hue that could knock a woman flat on her heels for a second look.

His generous mouth curled with a touch of sympathy, and yet his eyes shot off hints of irritation and impatience. "Are you warm?”

Hell, no.

She was cold, already craving a scalding cup of coffee. And naked. Naked in the strange man’s arms. In a room that resembled no hospital she’d ever seen, he laid down with her on a shimmering metallic platform.

Had she been taken hostage? Where the hell was she?

Before waking up in his arms, she’d leapt between a traitorous Secret Service Agent and POTUS. She recalled the driver’s betrayal. Was this man or his group holding the president, too?

Tessa suspected she was a prisoner, kept naked to make her feel vulnerable. Or had she somehow ended up in a sanatorium? But then where was her hospital gown? Where were her clothes and her gun? Her detail?

She tried to speak, but her dry throat only issued a weak croak.

The stranger briskly rubbed her arms, creating a friction that heated her numbed limbs. As he tended her, Tessa searched for an exit in the shimmering silver walls, floor, and ceiling, all bare of any adornments and constructed of an unrecognizable luminous gray substance that made her question her eyesight. During her years in foster homes, she’d seen some strange decor but nothing like the other-worldly walls that surrounded her.

She must be hallucinating.

But when she held up her hand that he’d finished rubbing, she clearly counted four fingers and one thumb. And the hunk was still there, watching her with those strange eyes, efficiently and briskly rubbing her other arm. Even into adulthood, she’d had nightmares of abandonment, of losing her parents and her home—but she’d never had a dream this weird.

Again, she tried to speak but managed only a soft grunt.

He picked up an odd-shaped vessel and held it to her lips. "Drink.”

She peered suspiciously at what appeared to be water. Hell, if he wanted to drug her, in her weakened state, he’d have no trouble. She parted her lips voluntarily.

Cool water slid down her parched throat. Greedily she emptied the vessel, and refreshed, her mind kept working. Where was she? What had happened to the president? Why had this stranger carried her? What was going on? Why was she so stiff? Her vocal cords so rusty?

As badly as she longed to ask questions, she followed training protocol. For fear that she might help the enemy, she didn’t ask her first questions out loud.


Assess the situation.

Gather information.

She forced out words that wouldn’t betray anyone. "Who are you?”

He’d moved those large, capable hands to her icy feet. "My name is Kahn.”

Of course his voice was as rich as Tupelo honey, warm and silky, but she ignored his stunning masculinity. The hard line of his jaw, his broad shoulders and eyes that watched her with smoldering intensity. Analyze. He’d answered her simply, with no embellishment, almost as if he expected her to panic if he said too much. She might be frightened, but she was too well trained to let her feelings, any feelings, overrule her good sense.

She pulled her foot from the stranger’s hands, uncomfortable with the intimacy of his touch. Off kilter, she breathed deeply, but even the air didn’t smell normal here. Her body felt too heavy. Each breath took extra effort. Keeping calm was all very well, but suppose her good sense told her the correct reaction was panic?

Don’t go there.

She tried another innocuous question. "Why are you holding me?”

"I was carrying you to the warming chamber, but you awakened on your own.”

Although the freezing cold had diminished, she still felt chilled, yearned for coffee. "I’ve never heard of a warming chamber.”

"That’s because you’re not... I’m from Rystan.”

"Rystan? Is that—”

"Far away? Yes.”

He lay beside her and pulled her back against his side, sharing his heat. There was nothing sexual about his contact, but she didn’t appreciate being held so closely.

Tessa wanted to roll away, detach herself from his disturbing warmth, but then he would have a much better view of her nudity than he did with her lying pressed against him. Besides, she needed his heat to throw off her chills.

Or did she? She was warmer now. And she sure as hell wasn’t going to develop Stockholm syndrome and bond with her captor. But was she a prisoner?

Her silent tactic had gained her little information, so she did the unexpected, firing a slew of questions at him, hoping he might reveal more than he intended. "What happened to the president? What is this place? Where are my clothes?”

He shot her an I’m-not-falling-for-that-trick look. "I’m supposed to give you this.” He handed her an official-looking envelope.

"What is it?”

"Your people said it would explain everything. If you have more questions after reading this, I will try to answer them.”

He sounded cooperative and supportive, but his shoulders had tensed, and he regarded her with a careful watchfulness that reminded her of Master Chen, her martial arts instructor, when he’d considered her fifth request to take her on as his student. Her perseverance had paid off, and he’d finally agreed to train the persistent and skinny kid she’d once been. Master Chen had passed on three years ago, but if he could have been with her now, he would have advised her to assess, evaluate, and plan before taking physical action.

She allowed him to prop her head with his muscle-bound arm and kept the envelope between his gaze and her bare breasts. Stomach churning, she plucked the sheet of paper from the envelope, unfolded it, and focused on the letter. Was the document a forgery? The date, 2324, over three centuries in her future, must be a typo. When she examined the official seal at the top of the page from the desk of the President of the United States of North America, she almost crushed the paper with her fist and flung the hoax aside. She might not be up on politics, but there was no United States of North America. However, she overruled her temper and read the short note.

Dear Ms. Camen:

This letter will undoubtedly come as a shock to you, but our planet is in critical need of your services. Earth has been invited to join a galactic alliance. This union is not only propitious to our country, but possibly necessary to humanity’s continued survival. Earth desperately needs advanced technological help to clean our environment. The Federation of Planets will only accept us into their alliance if one of our species passes their "Challenge.” You are our chosen candidate and the good wishes, hopes, and prayers of all of humanity go with you.


Ron Capella

President, United States of North America

"Yeah, right.” She chuckled, wondering if her Secret Service bosses with their oddball imaginations had thought up this bizarre hoax to determine if she’d fully recovered from whatever had happened to her.

"You may not refuse,” Kahn told her, as if he expected her to take the letter seriously.

"One always has a choice.” She turned her head and inspected his strange amber eyes. "Great contact lenses. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen them in that exact shade of—”

"The language translator in my suit doesn’t always work properly. What is this contact—”

"Artificial lenses that correct vision or change eye color,” she answered, giving herself a moment to digest his offhand comment about a translator. His language was stilted but unaccented ,and that made reading his emotions difficult. Was it her imagination, or was he sincerely sympathetic to her predicament?

"We do not have contact lenses on Rystan.” He dismissed the subject.

"Oh, now I get it. Rystan is your planet. You’re an alien, and I’ve traveled through time.” She chortled. "Great scenario. Tell me more.”

"At the request of your government, Federation technology pulled you through time.”

She rolled her eyes.

He kept explaining. "You should have awakened slowly in the warming chamber, instead of on your own and in my arms. For that startlement, I am sorry.” He narrowed those amber eyes on her, and all traces of any commiseration he might have harbored instantly vanished. "Most candidates are volunteers.”

"So that disqualifies me? I’m free to go?”

"Coercion is not forbidden. Just highly unusual.”

"Yeah, no doubt that would skew the chances of success.”

"We won’t let that happen.”

"Really?” She sighed. "Not that I’m buying your story but suppose I don’t cooperate?”

"I do not understand why Earth picked you. Most worlds chose a volunteer, a respected thinker, or a great warrior. But, you will accept the Challenge, woman. "

"My name is Tessa. And if I don’t meet your standards, you can just send me home.”

"Mental strength and the ability to adapt are more important than physical strength. Although you are smaller and more delicate in appearance than the women of Rystan, I understand you have had physical training.”

Damn. She’d been hoping he was unaware of her martial arts background.

When his gaze strayed from her face to her breasts, she jerked the paper back up to block his view. "Where are my clothes?”

"You won’t need them.”

She bit back an impatient snort. "Why not?”

"Because the Challenge requires you to develop your psi abilities—”

Oh this story just kept getting better and better. "Psi abilities?”

"Using your mind to adjust the suit I’m about to give you.”

Her frustration escalated. "Look, even if I believed this,” she shook the paper at him, "I don’t have psi abilities, so there’s no point in me taking this Challenge. I don’t want a suit, either. Just give me back my own clothes, thank-you-very-much.”

He continued with almost robotic patience. Yet, a gleam in his eyes told her he wasn’t quite as composed as he pretended. "Every humanoid has the potential to develop psi abilities—even females.”

She pounced on that remark. "Even females?” She narrowed her gaze. "You aren’t holding my sex against me, are you?”

"First contact with other races presents a multitude of complications, but it’s unusual for a world to choose a female.”

"You didn’t answer my question.”

"To prepare for this mission, I have studied classified Federation reports depicting a variety of beings. Quite frankly, I’m thankful that you haven’t found my appearance so repulsive—”

She laughed. "You’ve got to be kidding me.”

"When humanoid Rigellians were contacted by the Osarians, a highly intelligent race of eight-tentacled creatures covered with slime, the Rigellian candidate went comatose. But if the Osarians could succeed against such odds, then so will I. And no matter your sex, it’s still my job to train you for the Challenge.”

He didn’t sound happy with her. And he certainly seemed determined to convince her of this far-fetched scenario. So she’d play along some more. "What’s the Challenge?”

"According to the Federation rules, I’m not allowed to give you any information except about how to develop your psi powers.”

"Seriously? How convenient. "Especially since she couldn’t poke holes in his story if he wouldn’t elaborate.

He perused her with those alien eyes, as if judging her and finding her lacking. "Most candidates are not as sarcastic as you are.”

She frowned. "If I have to live with your rules, you can live with my sarcasm.”

He raised an eyebrow. "We have good reasons for our rules. For example, candidates are not permitted to have any living family.”

"Why not?”

"When an Oxdonite candidate failed to return to his world after failing the Challenge, his relatives waged war on the Federation seeking revenge for their loss.”

At his explanation her stomach curled in a hard knot. His explanation was elaborate, detailed. Outrageous. Yet, it hung together in a way that was too bizarre to have been created just to make her reveal presidential security protocols. And if his story wasn’t a lie... no, she wasn’t that gullible.

"What are the other candidate requirements?”

"No contender may be a scientist.”

"What do you have against scientists?”

"Nothing. But when Parse of Dandmere stole alien technology and sold secrets to his people, scientists were banned from taking the Challenge.”

"Let me get this straight, "she muttered.

"That would be good.”

Because she could have sworn he was teasing, she took a little of the bite out of her words. "Look, mister. You try stepping in front of a bullet and waking up naked in a stranger’s arms, and we’ll see how amiable you are to swallowing some insane science fiction story.”

His lower jaw dropped. "You don’t believe me?”

She rolled her eyes at the strange metallic ceiling. "Can a politician talk?”

"Excuse me?”

"Can a gun shoot?”

"If it’s loaded with a projectile. "

She sighed in exasperation. Sarcasm was no fun when he took everything she said literally.

Apparently he’d drawn his own conclusion over their failure to communicate. In the space of a heartbeat, Kahn stood, took her hand, and yanked her to her feet.

He hadn’t sat up, but he straightened his legs like a normal person. One moment he’d been lying on the platform, the next he’d been upright.

"How did you do that?”


"Go from prone to vertical so quickly that I didn’t even see a blur.”

"You ask a lot of questions, woman.”

"Tessa,” she corrected through gritted teeth.

"We need to talk to your people.”

"Really?” He’d said we. That implied she wouldn’t have to deal with Kahn by herself. Although she didn’t want to get her hopes up, she’d love to let her superior know she’d survived. "That would be awesome.” Tessa took a step and ignored her stiff muscles. "How about my clothes? "

"You look fine the way you are. "

Fine? Fine was one of those wishy-washy words like nice, and she didn’t know whether or not she’d been complimented or insulted.

I don’t see you running around butt naked.” She frowned at him. "Didn’t you mention that you were supposed to give me a suit?”

The infuriating giant ignored her comment and tugged her, protesting, over to a wall. She’d thought he’d been big when he’d been lying down. But now that he was on his feet and looming over her, she had to crane her stiff neck to see his face. He had to be close to six feet six inches, with muscles on his muscles. Not an ounce of fat marred his powerful frame, and she could see a lot of it, even with his vest and trousers that clung low around his hips.

But his graceful walk, with no excess movement, impressed her the most—until the wall that had previously appeared a shimmering gray metal transformed into a communications viewscreen that would have made Captain Kirk jealous.

How had Kahn activated the mechanism? She’d watched carefully, and he hadn’t touched anything. Nor had he spoken. She’d never seen technology so advanced, and fear spiked as she wondered exactly who had captured her. "How did you—?”

A woman’s face appeared on the screen.

"Get me the president,” Kahn requested.

Oh God. The viewscreen could be two-way. "Can that woman see me?”

"Only your head.”

The woman on the screen looked directly at Kahn. "The president is currently in the middle of a press conference. Can the secretary of state be of service instead?”

"Yes, please.”

She’d been abducted by an alien with manners. The ludicrous thought almost made her laugh.

Only a moment lapsed before a distinguished gray-haired gentleman’s face filled the screen. Tessa had met the secretary of state, and that man most certainly wasn’t him.

He nodded to Tessa. "I hope you suffered no ill effects from your journey.”

Kahn broke into the conversation. "She doesn’t believe that we pulled her out of time or that she’s on my spaceship and that we’re orbiting Earth.”

Pulled her out of time? Spaceship orbiting Earth? Sheesh. Next he’d be telling her that he was God and about to issue the Ten Commandments, all of which she should obey without question.

"Look,” Tessa tried to keep her aggravation from her tone, "I’d like to go home and return to duty.”

"That isn’t possible,” the so-called secretary spoke gravely. "Alien technology pulled you and the bullet out of time, right before the bullet would have killed you.”

"The president?”

"Your brave actions saved her.”

"How?” she asked suspiciously.

"When you threw yourself in front of the president, it gave the police extra seconds to rush in. The assassin didn’t have time to pull the trigger twice.”

"Thank God. She’s alive.”

"She didn’t die that day, but she has been dead for over two and a half centuries,” the politician said with a perfectly straight face.

Two and a half centuries? Right. The time travel thing again. And he’d mentioned aliens.

"The Federation technology didn’t alter our history, but it saved your life, "said the fake secretary of state. "So in a way you owe us.”

"Oh, really.”

"Absolutely. We saved your life because you fit all of the alien requirements.”

She’d never expected anyone to take this ridiculous story to such extremes. She frowned at Kahn. "Because I’ve no family and I’m not a scientist?”

Kahn’s lips twitched. "And because you’re a virgin.”

"My sexual status is none of your damn business.” She glared at the fake Secretary of State. "And the government had no legal right to check my private medical files, either.” That she’d been too busy working to have much of a social life should have been no one’s concern but her own. Master Chen had strictly forbidden personal contact inside or outside the dojo, claiming the students’ minds must be clear to concentrate on his teachings.

Eventually, she’d found love... but he’d died before they could...

And later, the people in her detail had been like a surrogate family, the men her age like brothers. She’d been content.

Now these strangers wanted her to believe she’d been uprooted once again. Tessa clamped down hard on a very real, very scary burning in her gut. "Mr. Secretary, can you offer me any proof that you are who you say you are or that you pulled me out of time?”


She jerked her thumb at Kahn. "Or that he’s from outer space?”


"Or that I’m on a friggin’ spaceship?”

"Mr. Secretary,” Kahn interrupted. "I will answer those questions to her satisfaction. We won’t take any more of your time. Thanks for your help.”

All of a sudden the viewscreen went blank, and Tessa floated upward. She didn’t struggle, but noted that when her motion ceased and her breasts leveled off at the height of Kahn’s face, his eyes glinted in satisfaction or appreciation. She didn’t want to think about which.

"A neat trick. I suppose you turned off your spaceship’s artificial gravity.”

Kahn nodded. "I used my psi abilities.”

Despite the churning in her stomach and a strange tightness in her throat, she didn’t believe a word he said. NASA had come up with a simulator that nullified gravity.

"Put me down.”

At her request, her body descended until her bare feet supported her once more. With the return of gravity, tension eased from her shoulders. While hanging in mid-air, she hadn’t been able to think of much more than her bobbing breasts, and though Kahn had kept his face mostly neutral, she’d seen his lip curl in amusement, telling her he wasn’t immune to her situation.

But he kept his tone formal. "You don’t believe your own people. Perhaps you’ll believe your eyes.”

"Would you like to visit Earth?”

"Yes.” She eyed him warily. "You’ll let me go home? "

"Of course. But you can’t stay,” he warned. "It would have been difficult enough for someone from this time to accept all the changes and difficulties ahead, but you have the added handicap of being a woman out of the distant past. While I don’t like taking you back to Earth, it’s necessary to make you understand that you have indeed traveled into the future.”

She put the idea of time travel from her mind. He was taking her home, and she tried not to let her elation show. "Didn’t you mention a suit?”

"But it will be a shame to cover such fine proportions.”

She bit back a snarl at the word fine and held out her hand, palm up. "The suit?”

Kahn opened a wall compartment and pulled out a black shiny leotard that had arms and legs, gloves for her fingers, and boots for her toes, and even a hood to cover her head. Tessa wasted no time donning the outfit, pleased to finally cover her nudity. Initially, the suit was too large, but the material quickly constricted to cover her like shrink-wrap. The catlike suit might cling to every curve, but at least she was covered. Progress.

And then the entire garment turned transparent. Oddly, she could still feel the material clinging to her.


He laughed, his tone full of rich amusement at her expense.

Kahn didn’t give her time to ask more questions or complain about her see-through clothing. He tugged her into a moving corridor. Speechless with wonder, she glided past marvels of machinery that pulsed with light, crystal sculptures that served no purpose that she could see, amazing colorful metallic shapes, and unusual sounds that hummed, clicked, and emitted musical tones.

A thousand questions zoomed through her head, but she picked the one most important to her immediate future. "Where are you taking me?”

"This ship is too large to land on your world. We’ll take a shuttle down to Earth.”

How considerate of him to take her exactly where she wished to go.

As if reading her thoughts, Kahn spoke with conviction. "You won’t believe the truth until you see your world with your own eyes.”


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