When She's Lonely (Risdaverse) - Page 20


"Oh." I blink, absorbing this. He's not ditching me. It's a party invite. The first one I've been invited to since I arrived. For some reason I thought a party would be part of my “past” existence as Ashley Wendell on Earth. "A cookie exchange is where everyone bakes a batch of cookies and you bring them and swap them with others. I'm not a good baker."

"I told them that, yeah. But it seems Lucy wants you there because she thinks you need friends."

I do need friends. But I don't know how that's going to work if they figure out my secret. Most of the time I can fake it, using a person's mouth-movements to fill in the context for the conversation if I miss a word or a sound. But parties are tricky things, because the sounds stack up on one another and I miss a lot more of the conversations than I get. "Wait. Do they think me and you…" I gesture between the two of us. "That we're a thing? Dating?"

"What?" Khex shakes his head quickly. "Us? Gods, no. They just know we're friends."

Man, he didn't have to answer that quite so fast. It's a little depressing. "Gotcha. Well, I guess it can't be that terrible, can it? I'll just listen and not talk."

"Are you sure?" He looks worried as he gazes down at me. "I don't want you to feel uncomfortable."

I shake my head. "It's fine. It's totally fine." I tap a finger on my chin. "I wonder what I should bring."

"Anything but meat," Khex says, and makes a face.

CHAPTER 12

ASHLEY

A few days later, I sit next to Khex in his air-sled, a plate of dry, terrible cookies in my lap. There's an anxious knot in my throat that I can't shake, though I've done everything I can to pump myself up. My hair is up in a smooth, long ponytail that makes my face look thinner. My dressiest bodysuit is on, hugging my curves, and I've dabbed a bit of color on my lips. I look pretty good…but it doesn't change the fact that I don't know these people and I don't have my hearing aids and they could all hate me.

And to make matters worse, my cookies turned out like shit. I tried using these sickly sweet, dried fruits that are a bit like figs as a topping, but when I baked them, they turned hard as rocks. So now I'm bringing tooth-breakers to a party where I don't know anyone. "Who all is going to be here again?" I ask Khex as the air-sled descends.

He glances over at me as he pulls up to the small house that's awfully close to town. "Lucy and her mate Rektar, of course. Her friend Piper and her mate. A female named Chloe who has a mate, too. And some female that has a praxiian mate, though I've forgotten her name at the moment." He shrugs. "Why?"

"So they're all married except for us?" I hiss at him. "Seriously?"

Khex blinks at me, a clueless male. "Is that…bad?"

"They're all going to ask us when we're getting married," I moan. This is a disaster and I haven't even set foot in the door. "You know they're all going to be trying to push us together. Married people can't stand it when people are single. It's like they have some sort of compulsion to make sure that everyone pairs up and starts shitting out kids."

He laughs, shaking his head as he lowers the sled into a parking position. "Don't be ridiculous. They know we're not together. I've made that quite clear."

My mouth twists unpleasantly at that. I can just imagine how that conversation went. Oh, Ashley? Ugh, no. She's clingy and lonely but we're just friends. We just fix the equipment she breaks and she bakes me terrible food and we watch vids together. We're buddies, nothing more. And yet I keep having sexy dream after sexy dream about him. They're non-stop now…probably because I've been feverishly masturbating to mental images of him and that cocky grin of his every time I get a chance. "Khex," I whine. "This is going to be the longest afternoon of my life."

"It'll be fun," he reassures me, reaching over to squeeze my shoulder. "They'll love you."

They don't love me.

Or rather, Lucy does, but Lucy is as vibrant as she is sweet. She's slightly louder than others just by her exuberant nature, and shoves cookies and glasses of wine into everyone's hands constantly, as if she's determined to make sure everyone has an amazing time. The other women are a bit more hesitant, and while they're friendly enough, they talk about babies and teething and what passes for diapers on this world and I have nothing to contribute to the conversation. Sometimes they lean in and whisper conspiratorially and then break into laughter. Since I catch none of it, I spend a lot of time pretending to go along with the conversation and fake-chuckling.


Tags: Ruby Dixon Fantasy
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