Wynter’s Warrior by Mardi Maxwell

Wynter’s Warrior (The Mating Challenge Book 1) by Mardi Maxwell

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Wynter’s Warrior (The Mating Challenge Book 1) by Mardi Maxwell


With only six days to train with her warrior for the rigorous test ahead, tensions run high. If Wynter isn’t strong enough to survive the life threatening challenge, Zaryq will be forced to let her go. Losing the Mating Challenge is not an option.

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Chapter One

A news van pulled up to the curb. Before coming to a full stop, the side door slid open and a large man jumped out. He lifted a camera to his shoulder and panned it over the crowd of women.

Standing in line, waiting to get into the theater, Wynter read the logo on the side of the vehicle and crossed her fingers. Please, please, please don’t let it be that bitch Misty. Not when I’m this close to escaping.

She hid behind the woman in front of her, peeking over her shoulder and seeing an expensive pair of Louboutin stilettoes come into view, followed by a petite platinum blond in a designer suit.

Bending her knees, Wynter tried to hide the height she’d inherited from her father. “Damn, just my luck,” she mumbled, drawing the attention of the woman in front of her.

“Hi, are you talking to me?” the woman asked as she turned around.

Wynter tried to smile but failed. Grimacing, and thinking quickly, she pointed to the news van. “The reporters have arrived and here I am in jeans and no makeup. Casual Friday at work, you know?”

The woman laughed. “Usually I’d be dressed casually too but I told my boss I wanted the day off.” She leaned forward and looked toward the van. “Is that Misty Cruise?”

“Yes, that’s her alright,” Wynter said, making an effort to keep the disgust from her voice.

The woman smiled. “I’m excited about meeting some of the aliens, but seeing her in person is almost as exciting. Maybe she’ll interview me. I’ve never been on TV before.”

Damn, I hope not because then I’ll be on TV and not in a good way.

There was no escaping from her escape attempt, Wynter thought, then cursed her luck. She was trapped between a brick wall to her left and multiple lines of women to her right. There were open areas between the lines for reporters and security, but if she tried to leave now she’d only end up drawing unwanted attention to herself.

The woman held out her hand. “I’m Emily.”

I’m doomed, Wynter thought before pulling herself together. She shook the hand Emily offered and gave her the name on the fake ID she’d bought in college, “I’m Karen. Nice to meet you.” She peered around Emily and saw Misty twenty feet away interviewing an older lady who waved her hands around as she spoke. An image of the lady slapping the crap out of Misty popped into her mind. She smothered a laugh and watched as her old college rival ended the interview and moved to a younger woman.

In a few minutes Misty would reach her and she’d be busted. The news that Senator Fields’ and Senator Franklin’s daughter had volunteered to be the mate of an alien warrior would go viral. It would hit the big networks immediately and in time for her parents to send their security detail to stop her. She’d be ‘escorted’ back to the estate and held there until she gave in and married Howard Murphy III. A man chosen for her by her parents, and one she had no intention of marrying. Ever.

Glancing up, she saw Misty standing ten feet away. She slouched lower even though the muscles of her thighs were on fire. Her knees wobbled and she placed her hand on the brick wall to steady herself.

“Are you okay?” Emily asked, reaching for her. “You look like you’re about to faint.”

“Just feeling so excited,” Wynter said, as she desperately searched the area around her for a door or window to duck into. At this point she’d climb into a dumpster if there was one nearby. There wasn’t and she was screwed. Sighing, she resigned herself to losing her one and only chance to have a life of her own.

Emily reached out to pat her shoulder and the large tote she carried slid down her arm and fell to the ground before she could catch it. It popped open, spilling its contents everywhere. “Oh, my gosh.”

Wynter glanced at Misty, saw her moving closer and said, “Look Misty is coming this way. I’ll grab your stuff while you talk to her.” She dropped to her knees and began gathering items and tossing them back into the tote. The familiar tap- tap-tap of stiletto heels stopped somewhere behind her, paralyzing her with fear. Sighing, she glanced back, expecting to see Misty staring down at her. Instead she was met by a montage of legs and hope filled her. The women, eager to speak to a celebrity, crowded around Emily effectively blocking her from view. Thankful for the reprieve, Wynter continued picking up Emily’s belongings while listening to Emily have a fangirl moment.

“Oh, I can’t believe I’m meeting you. I watch you on TV all the time, Misty,” Emily said.

“Well, thank you, Emily. I’m always happy to get a chance to chat with my viewers,” Misty said, then asked as if they were old friends. “Tell me, what brought you here today?”

Wynter rolled her eyes. She’d heard that same teasing tone of voice from Misty in the past and lived to regret it.

Emily laughed. “You said on your program last night that the aliens want women of all ages. I’m almost forty and still single; this might be my chance to catch a husband.”

“Well, good luck in your hunt but just between the two of us, we’ve been told it will be the aliens who’ll be doing the chasing and the catching,” Misty said.

“I’m curious to find out if that’s true,” Emily said. “It would be nice to be pursued for a change.”

“You’ll have to let me know as reporters aren’t allowed into the building—.”

Thank god. That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.

Wynter heard Emily promise to do that then Misty moved on. Breathing a sigh of relief, she picked up the last item, dropped it into the bag, and stood up. A quick glance around assured her that there weren’t more reporters lurking nearby. Emily reached for the tote just as the doors of the megaplex theater were flung open and locked into place.

A wave of excitement traveled through the line of women as they hurried toward the building. Wynter dug her ID out of her pocket as she entered the building. The picture of a twenty-something brunette wearing glasses looked enough like her to get her into a club when she was underage. Now, she hoped it would pass closer scrutiny. When her turn came to hand over her identity, she smiled and held it out while trying not to stare at the pale blue alien woman with short dark blue hair. Instead of taking it the woman pointed a very long finger to a machine on the counter.

“Slide the card into the device.” The alien female spoke the words very precisely, then abruptly added, “Please.”

Wynter searched for a slot, found it and slid the card into it. “Do I press a button or—.” The machine beeped and the card popped out. “I guess not.”

The female stared at her for a moment then handed her a paper with strange writing on it and pointed again, but this time to a set of doors marked with a large symbol. “Go there. Go left. Sit down in the gold section. Be quiet.”

Wynter pocketed her ID and walked toward the door. This was it. No backing out now. Reaching the door, she held up the paper and compared the writing on it to the symbol on the door. Towards the bottom of the page she found the same symbol. Only one other line was below it and she wondered if it was a name or title of some kind. Deciding she’d eventually find out what it meant she pulled the door open and entered a dimly lit hallway.

Directly ahead of her a wall curved to the left or the right. She went left as she’d been told and followed the dimly lit hall as it slanted up and around. At the top she stepped out into a large theater that had been separated into ten areas. Each section was designated by different colored chairs. Her section, the gold section, was in the center. Only seven rows held women while the other areas were nearly full. A stage blocked the screen where the latest blockbuster had been shown last week.

Glancing toward the back, where the room was in deep shadow, she decided to sneak up there and hide in a dark corner. She’d just taken a step in that direction when a stream of warm air flowed over the back of her neck. Shivering, she turned and came nose to bare chest with a man. Gasping, she stepped back and looked up.

On the defense, she examined him. An open vest crisscrossed his chest and was tucked into a wide leather belt. The deep V-neck left his chest bare, exposing the thick black lines of a tattoo that disappeared beneath the material. She studied the muscles beneath the markings for a moment, whispered a quiet, “Wow,” and looked up. A stunning pair of green eyes flecked with streaks of gold held her in place. He wasn’t human, but alien, and definitely a warrior.

Surprised, and a little nervous, she did what she always did and said the first thing that popped into her mind, “You shouldn’t sneak up on people. It startles them.”

He watched her mouth form the words. Those eyes on her lips sent heat rushing to where they rested. She licked her lips, cooling them, and he tracked every stroke of her tongue. He looked back into her eyes when she stopped. Wondering what he’d do if she licked them again she followed through on the thought and his eyes dropped to her mouth again. Biting her lip, she released it and licked it again. This time when his eyes met hers they’d darkened and the gold streaks were gone. A feeling of having displeased him swept through her as her long neglected voice of self-preservation advised her to run. As usual, she ignored it and said, “This meeting is for women only. You shouldn’t be here.”

The corners of his lips twitched before he asked, “Can you make me leave?”

She swept her eyes over him, taking in the size of him, then shrugged. “Probably not.”

He took a step closer to her and pointed to her section. “Sit there.”

A shiver of arousal slid through her, generated by the scent of his body and the sound of his voice. Perversely, she moved closer and drew in a deep breath. He smelled of rain- swept air, cool grass and something unknown to her. The combination was intoxicating. Leaning toward him, she sighed and let her eyes drift closed.

He grasped her waist and gave it a quick squeeze. “Behave.”

Jerking away, she reminded herself how close she was to freedom, and pointed to the darkness above them. “I want to sit up there.”

“No. There you will be alone and vulnerable to attack.”

She huffed out a laugh and looked around. “Who would attack me here?”

Instead of answering, he stroked her cheek with a long, callous-tipped finger. “Little Earthling, someday you will roar, but this is not that day.”

His breath was warm on the bare skin of her neck. She shivered then shivered again when he clasped her arm and gently led her toward the other women. At the seventh row, he stopped and turned her to face the seats. “Sit and listen. These qualities are important in a warrior’s mate.” As soon as he finished speaking, he swatted her butt once, hard.

“Ouch,” she squeaked and swiveled around to admonish him but he was gone, moving fast toward the bottom of the theater and disappearing through a door another warrior held open.

Several nearby women laughed and one asked her, “Did that hurt as much as it sounded like it did?”

Wynter nodded and rubbed her bottom while she looked for an empty seat. Spotting one a third of the way into the row she made her way to it, trying to avoid stepping on people’s feet and apologizing when she heard a squeak of pain. Reaching the seat, she dropped into it, closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. She’d made it. She should be feeling relieved. Instead she felt stirred up after her encounter with the alien warrior. If they were all that sensual then the women of Earth were in big trouble. Just a few minutes in his presence had her stirred up and the crotch of her jeans damp with arousal. The men her parents had allowed her to date couldn’t hold a candle to him.

Her parents were as dangerous as rattlesnakes, and just as uncaring, and her life wasn’t the indulgent one outsiders believed it to be. All she could remember was being forced to do things she didn’t want to do. To dress and behave a certain way. To attend the right parties, make the right friends, and go to the right schools. She’d watched as one acquaintance after another had been more or less sold into marriages so their families could become wealthier and more powerful. In her case both of her parents were senators. One in each political party so all their bases were covered. They were wealthy, powerful, and dangerous.

Whenever she’d refused one of their demands they’d threaten to send her Aunt Annie away. Their callousness enraged her as Annie had sacrificed her own life to raise her while they’d done the political rounds. They knew she loved her so much that she’d eventually give in and do as they demanded, even if it meant marrying Howard Murphy—a man as corrupt as her parents, and his father, Senator Murphy.

But, Annie had surprised her with plans of her own. Over the years she’d gotten to know Jim, the brother of the neighbor’s chauffer, and they planned to marry. Wynter had been overjoyed for her and had encouraged her to grab happiness while she could but Annie had refused. She was determined to postpone her own marriage until they figured out a way for Wynter to escape. Just when they’d been at their wit’s end, Earth’s leaders had announced the presence of the aliens.

Wynter’s Warrior (The Mating Challenge Book 1) by Mardi Maxwell
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