With two girls, his parents' house was rarely a quiet place. One teen and one toddler, there was a steady stream of commotion that washed through the house and into their lives.
Four o' clock in the morning Buck closed the front door to his parents' house behind him gently. This was the time when everyone slept and he could enjoy the house alone and in silence.
Flopping on the sofa, Buck rested his head on one arm of the sofa and stretched his legs out to the other end. The fabric was worn and comfortable as only an old, broken-in piece of furniture could be.
With his forearm, he covered his eyes from the low light of the lamp his mother kept lit for him at night. At least she did after he'd broken her favorite vase stumbling in the dark. The vase she'd shaped with her own hands.
After a long night of filling out the report for the attack in the alley, his body relaxed into the beginning of sleep.
From the kitchen there was some chatter and occasionally voices rose in heated discussion then lowered to an average volume. Buck was sure Matt and Kathy were visiting.
But no matter how quiet the house would have been or how loud the voices in the kitchen got, there was only one voice Buck heard. He'd heard it once, earlier in the night but it echoed in his mind since. During his drive to the station, he heard her. Filling out the report on the incident in the alley, he heard her. His entire drive home, he heard her.
"Noke vot, alsolso."
"Thank you, officer," in perfect Tenctonese that he never knew a human mouth could achieve. The words simply thanked him but in her sultry voice, they might as well have been an invitation to her bed by the way his body reacted.
Those mesmerizing eyes focusing on him in a dark alley popped into his mind every time his eyes closed. A beautiful shade green that one would guess could not exist in nature, human or Tenctonese.
Even now his body heated at the thought of the tone of her voice and how it might sound humming along his body.
"Buck," his baby sister yawned from the top of the staircase and the tiny voice was as sobering as a cold shower. The rise in temperature throughout his body plummeted in an instant.
"What's all the noise?" she asked.
Rushing to the stairs, he took a seat on a step below his sister to see her eye to eye. "Shhh," he murmured and with a loosely balled fist, he pressed his knuckles gently against her temple and felt the small child's pulse. "Matt and Kathy are here."
Vesna smiled and rubbed her eyes. The couple in the house was nothing new to the family, although it was much later and much louder than usual.
About to take her hand to walk her back to her bedroom, Buck heard a voice at the bottom of the stairs. Vesna smiled as the person greeted them, "Hello, Buck… can I call you Buck?"
The world slowed and his body froze. When he finally regained his senses he turned to find those green eyes that haunted him all night staring at him again. Her full lips formed a smile and he felt the pink blood in his body coursing.
Again, she spoke perfectly in his language right down to properly placed clicks and accent. It wasn't until Vesna spoke that he realized he hadn't answered her question.
"Of course you can call him Buck. That's his name, silly," Vesna answered for him in the mish-mash of Tenctenglish. At least, that's what they called it nowadays.
Suddenly aware that his jaw froze when his body unfroze, Buck managed, with some difficulty, to ask, "Asona… you're here?"
A faint twitch at the corners of her mouth hinted that she restrained an amused smile. With a jerk of her thumb in the direction of the kitchen, Asona then sighed with a defiant pout, "They're planning my life in the kitchen."
Asona stepped closer, her full lips stretching into a sweet, friendly smile directed to the person beside Buck, "And what's your name?"
"Vesna," the child spoke proudly. Then her brow ridge furrowed and Buck figured she noticed the undeniably human features.
The woman offered a curt bow of her head, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Vesna."
The child giggled then bowed her head in response. Just before turning and running up the stairs, Vesna leaned in close to her brother and whispered in his ear-opening, "I like her, Buck. Keep her."
The two silently watched the girl leave and as the little form disappeared into the second floor, he prayed to their sacred patriarch Andarko that Asona didn't hear Vesna's words.
He struggled to turn his body toward her and bring his eyes to meet hers again, but when he did, those emerald green eyes trapped him. They locked him in place.
Why was she so enticing? Enhancing the features of her face, it bothered him that her spots contributed to her beauty so much. They weren't even hers, just tattoos she'd chosen to have applied to her skin. She was a human.
No matter what she was, he couldn't stop his body from reacting to the sound of her or the sight of her. Words were lost in his throat as he tried to speak, but only managed strangled exhales.
Saved by the commotion of two couples coming from the kitchen, Buck had the first full breath he hadn't had since he was aware Asona was in the room.
"We've worked out a compromise," Kathy smiled in Asona direction, but the human woman cast a skeptical eye at her Tenctonese friend.
"Yes," Buck's father agreed enthusiastically, "Asona requires around the clock protection and I'm sure Grazier will assign you, Buck." Buck felt one of his hearts stop.
"It's a perfect idea. He can stay with you during the night in your apartment and during the day we will have armed police officers protecting the office," Kathy completed the well thought out ambush.
Asona's eyes turned downward in thought then glanced in Buck's direction before her eyes returned to Kathy. "Has anyone asked Buck?"
"Oh, he wouldn't mind. Would you, Buck?" his mother finally joined in the ambush aiming all eyes in his direction, including a pair of green that caused his insides to hum. His second heart seized.
She had such an unsettling effect on him just by standing near him for minutes, what would he do with entire nights with her?
His mind churned, thinking of any and every way to get out of it politely. The only thing he could think of that might work was a long shot.
"I don't think she'd want me hanging around her apartment from one end of the night to the other," he tried to speak casually but even he noticed the doubt in his voice.
Asona reached for the banister of the stairs and leaned on it, her eyes looking directly at him when she spoke the words that made him picture humming down her spine, "I don't mind having you in my apartment, Buck. You are very welcome."
"Besides," Matt chortled, "it's Buck and a patrol car at night or whisked away at some secret SUTSSA compound."
Asona's eyes widened, "A patrol car too?" Her body slumped and Buck could tell she was finally defeated.
Buck wasn't sure what Matt meant by his reference to a SUTSSA compound but the thought didn't weigh too heavily in his mind as he watched Asona discuss the particulars with his parents, Matt, and Kathy.
He couldn't help but study the way her lush lashes dusted her cheeks or how her lips pouted whenever that secret compound was mentioned. No longer just focused on her tattooed spots, Buck focused on the shapeliness of her jaw, her neck, and her shoulders.
It wasn't until he heard his name repeated several times in his mind that he realized it was just catching up to reality. His name wasn't just in his mind but his parents trying to get his attention. Finally he snapped out of whatever trance he was in, to notice.
There were some details discussed between his parents, Matt, Kathy, and Asona but had no idea what they were.
When he felt his eyes flush, his mother rescued him by explaining that Asona would stay in their house for the night and in the morning Buck would drive her to work. There was no question that he would, at least as far as his parents and Kathy were concerned. It wasn't as though he could find his voice long enough to participate in the conversation.
Laying on his bed with his head supported by his folded arms, Buck stared at the ceiling of his trailer. He'd never been so grateful for having the RV his parents allowed him to use in the driveway as a makeshift apartment as he was at the moment.
Not only was it a great way to save his money for a first house instead of an apartment. But most important, in the living room of his parents' house, only half a driveway and a walk through the front door away, was a woman that occupied every thought he'd had since he'd met her.
Before leaving, he saw his mother lay out the nicer sheets she reserved for guests only on the couch with pillows. Buck couldn't help but wonder if those sheets would smell like her in the morning. He hadn't noticed until that moment that he'd remembered everything about her, including her scent of apples and jasmine.
Why didn't she smell like other humans? Especially in the summer, his people had to make use of several cans of air fresheners. Here was one human that he not only could tolerate but actually smelled sweet and alluring to him.
A tap at his RV door broke his concentration from the one thing, the one person he wished he could push out of his mind. He opened the RV door and there she was to greet him.
"May I come in?" the tone of her words was sweet and caressed his imagination as he thought of the mouth they came from and the tongue that manipulated the sounds.
He couldn't speak and could barely move enough to give her room for entrance.
As Asona entered his trailer, her shoulder brushed his arm from the cramped quarters. Her eyes looked around the small area at nothing in particular.
"I just wanted to thank you for tonight."
Buck tried to explain that his partner Pam scared the perpetrator away but the words came out strained and mashed. Heat rushed to his eyes and he knew he was blushing. His only hope was that she, as a human, didn't notice that Tenctonese blush differently.
"Do I make you nervous?" she asked him.
He should've known she knew how Tenctonese blushed. Spotted as a Tenctonese woman would be, speaking their language as a native speaker would, even her mannerisms were what one would expect from a woman of his people, it should've been expected that she would know such things.
When she took a step closer to him, he responded by involuntarily stepping away. What did he fear?
The warm smile faded and was replaced with one far more forced and uncomfortable. She bid him good night and moved to leave the trailer but as she walked passed him, Buck inhaled her scent deeply. She must have heard him because she turned and her eyes scanned his face quickly.
Buck tried to smile and say goodbye but she surprised him by pressing her lips against his. It was pleasant as he'd experienced years ago with another woman.
Her lips pulled away and she then pressed the side of her head to his. To humans, it was such a simple gesture but for Tenctonese, it aroused the senses. Even now he felt his blood rush to his genitals.
Watching her leave the RV and walking back to the house, Buck knew he was not going to get much sleep this night.
After George saw their guests to their car and Susan spread the sheets and pillows along the sofa, both made their way to the kitchen to allow Asona time to adjust to her makeshift bed.
George grabbed a container of spoiled milk from the refrigerator and set out two glasses while Susan cleared the snacks of vegetables she'd set out for their guests.
"That poor girl," Susan looked up at her husband from her bent position at the fridge.
George filled the first glass halfway and began pouring into the second. The scowl on his face was the telltale sign of something more pressing on his mind than the emotional well-being of the strange human girl.
"I wonder why Kathy is so adamant about protecting her," he spoke to himself aloud while closing the container of rotten milk, sniffing it just before returning it to the fridge over Susan's shoulder.
After closing the refrigerator, Susan leaned against the wooden counter to take her glass of chilled, expired milk. For a second, while inhaling the strong aroma, she considered how strange spoiled, pasteurized milk could produce such a beautiful product.
Reminded quickly of their current conversation by the seemingly permanent scowl of her husband, she had to admit Kathy was acting strange. Although their friend wouldn't explain why Asona and several other human women were so important, she did let slip during their conversation that it was something important found in their blood.
George was the first to react when they heard the front door open and close. He rushed into the living room and made his way to the side windows of the front door, with Susan close behind, just in time to watch Asona walk to the RV and enter.
Susan turned to her husband, "Did you see Buck? Did you see his eyes whenever he looks at her?"
Finally the scowl on her husband's face softened and in moments was replaced with a tentative smile, "She does have great taste in spots."
The two, with their milk in hand, made their way up the stairs and to their bedroom as Susan added, "I like her."