» I never intended that the assassin villain from Your Planet or Mine? would come back as the hero of his own book. I actually planned to kill him! I had thought no way is this particular bad boy ever gonna be hero material. Not only was he a career killer, he wasn’t 100% human. He was as cold and heartless as the hardware installed inside his body. It wasn’t until he was settling in for a long night in a vacant warehouse that I saw what he’d been hiding from even me. My sexy, ruthless, extraterrestrial killer was lost and alone, and had every reason to feel that way.
From then on, Reef fascinated me. Knowing what I now did about his background, I was determined to give him the happy ending he deserved. And the heroine he deserved. So, I present to you their story, one that begins in a land far, far away...
2008 PEARL finalist
Siren Books Bestseller
"With her unique blend of science fiction and romance, Susan Grant has created another exciting and touching story. Reef has an interesting, tortured past and his chemistry with Evie is nothing short of steamy. Grant never fails to deliver. I’ve enjoyed each of her books even more than the previous. And this one is no exception. Each of her characters is unique and endearing. And the story includes plenty of romance, action, suspense, and alien technology. I’d like a REEF of my own, please." (posted 7.26.07)
-- Angela, www.scifichick.com
"Once again Grant has won my respect and admiration for another beautifully written romance. Can we say, autobuy?" (posted 7.26.07)
-- Kenda Montgomery
"This is Susan Grant's best book to date! She took one of the most dehumanized assassins and actually humanized him and what a great job she did! Whew!” (posted 7.26.07)
-- Kathy Boswell, Managing Editor, The Best Reviews
"This was a great book! Evie and Eriff are an amazing couple! I loved their story." (posted 7.26.07)
-- Krista, Coffee Time Romance
"How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days" is a truly remarkable love story that also brings the readers' attention to real and serious circumstance, the worldwide problem of child slavery. I highly recommend this tale for its message as well as its brilliant characterization." (posted 7.27.07)
-- Leslie Tramposch, Paranormal Romance
"Fortunately, Susan Grant recognized early in her “Otherworldly Men” trilogy that the trained assassin who targeted the first novel’s hero for termination was really a hero in disguise who just needed a little love, understanding, and brain surgery. For readers who want strong heroines and sexy alien hunks, she’s definitely still the go-to author.” (posted 9.2.07)
-- The Romance Reader
"I tore through this book with a big happy smile on my face and had a wonderful time while reading it. [I]n a market glutted with vampires, it’s a refreshing treat to read a good science fiction romance." (posted 9.2.07)
-- All About Romance
Reef wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious, but when he woke, a single question pounded inside his aching skull: why was he still alive? He shouldn’t be breathing. His heart shouldn’t be beating. Something had gone very wrong.
His senses came back one by one: the air was cool, and the ground under his back was hard. Dry...barren...a desert. He’d been left for dead in this arid place. A high desert--he remembered that much. Nevada, the Earthlings called it.
You’re screwed, he thought, using a newly acquired Earthling expression. Not only had he failed to take out his target, he was badly injured, his internal computers were failing, and his only means back home was sitting in a charred heap hidden by an invisibility program on a ranch near Sacramento, California.
A rock dug into his spine--a wake-up call back to a life he no longer wanted--had tried to terminate, actually, but apparently he’d had no more luck ending his own life than that of the man he’d been hired to kill.
What kind of interstellar assassin are you?
Why, he was the best. No one came close to his track record. With a 100% success rate, he’d been the no-arguments, number-one choice when shadowy figures high in the Coalition government decided to terminate a man identified as Prime-major Far Star, a fast-rising officer in the military. Reef had tracked him all the way to this out-of-the-way little world the locals called “Earth.” How was he to know that Earth was next on the Coalition acquisition list, and that Far Star had traveled here to save the female Earthling who was now his lover? Or that on atmospheric entry, Far Star would try to evade him in his desperation to warn the woman and the officer’s actions would cause both of their ships to crash, stranding them here?
It wasn’t as if Reef could phone home and inform his anonymous employers that he’d botched the mission and would they please come pick him up on their next swing past the planet? Who’d want to waste time retrieving an assassin who could not kill? An assassin who’d begged his quarry to end his life.
Far Star had refused to accomplish that task, so Reef took over, shutting down his systems one by one. It didn’t work. A malfunction of the worst sort. Now here he was, stuck on this laughably primitive backwater planet.
Without warning, his body convulsed. Lightning flickered behind his eyes, and tingling in his scalp told him that his short black hair stood on end--both signs of an impending seizure. He used his computers to control the erratic impulses, but to no avail: his body went rigid as the seizure came on full force. Whiplashes of pain alternated between fiery hot and freezing cold, depending which confused nerve-ending was making the call. Agony compressed every cell in his body, squeezing the breath from him until it felt like he was being crushed between two heavy metal plates.
When he came to, the sun had moved significantly across the sky. The seizure left him trembling and exhausted and certain of the reason behind his inexplicable deterioration: His employers wanted him dead.
Before, he merely suspected it; now, convulsing and half-paralyzed, he was certain the termination order he’d downloaded with the information on Far Star had contained an embedded malicious code written to cause him to self-destruct.
And he knew why. The order to assassinate such a high-ranking, important officer as Far Star had been so heinous and irregular that there could be no witnesses. Easy solution: kill the REEF and erase all links to the crime. However, now there was no crime because Reef had failed in his mission.
Too bad no one told his computers that, he thought with a wince. He was going to self-destruct anyway.
A piercing screech from above wrenched his attention to the sky. Spots swam before his eyes. He blinked to clear his vision and the spots coalesced into birds, large birds, circling overhead with only an occasional flap of their sweeping wings.
He used the telephoto lens in his balky but still-operational retina implants to zoom closer. The birds were brown-black with a featherless, red heads, white bills, and yellow feet. Data scrolled behind his eyes: Earth species: Cathartes aura. Weight: 5.1 lbs. Length: 27.4 in. Wing span: 6 feet. Description: The Turkey Vulture is one of North America's largest birds of prey. Best known for their practice of feeding on dead animal carcasses, but will occasionally attack young and helpless animals, as well.
Young? Reef was in the prime of life! And helpless? Bah. He was a REEF-O1A, a Robotically Engineered Enemy Fighter; human-looking to the casual observer, but with enough bio-computer enhancements to earn him the official classification of “deadly weapon.” He was the galaxy’s most-feared assassin, raised since boyhood to kill. Not to be killed. He’d extricate himself from this situation, somehow, even with half his systems offline. REEF assassins never gave up. Not even death ended a REEF’s single-minded determination to complete a mission. Legend told of a fellow REEF whose bloodied and broken human body continued to slither behind its target after death, its inner components still whirring as they dragged the mutilated body toward the intended kill.
A shadow whooshed across his vision, interrupting his reverie. Something heavy thumped onto his chest. Reef shifted his gaze downward and made eye contact with one of the ugliest creatures he’d ever seen. To add insult to injury, the vulture tipped its head and looked him over with slight distaste as if disappointed he wasn’t dead yet.
Another scavenger landed nearby with a swishing of feathers and wind. It walked over to Reef and pecked his forearm. A little taste before the feast began? Gods, they were going to eat him alive.
No! Dying on his own terms was acceptable, but he refused to be picked apart by a repellent, feathered, garbage-consuming Earth creature.
Reef tried to get up, but the impulses wouldn’t travel from his brain to his arms and legs. His body, once always at his command, refused to obey him.
You can end it all another way. With his tongue, he felt for the self-destruct cap hidden in a recessed compartment behind his rearmost left molar. He’d been fitted with the apparatus in case he was apprehended by Earth authorities and could not escape. It would prevent Coalition technology from getting into Earthling hands. One brief flash of plasma, and there’d be nothing left of him to pick through.
No one will miss you. A broken piece of machinery, he no longer was of use to anyone. The realization left him feeling hollow inside. Lonely.
Reef made a hiss of displeasure. He didn’t like feeling lonely; he didn’t like feeling anything. It had always been the job of his command center to dispense nanomeds into his bloodstream as needed to suppress emotion. Now that command center was malfunctioning.
A professional killer cannot afford to feel... Reef made fists on the dirt as visions of the kills he’d accomplished over the years flickered through his mind. The vast majority of the hits had been quick, even instant, but there had been a few that hadn’t gone as planned. In his mind’s eye, he saw the stares of shock before he administered the final blow; he heard the futile pleas for clemency...
Stop! Feelings kept coming, and he could not shut them off. He didn’t know how. How did humans cope? The pointed tip of his tongue hovered over the explosive device behind his molar. One press and it’d be all over...
But a distant rumbling grabbed his attention. With his acute senses, he honed in on the sound and analyzed it. It was an Earth vehicle. Designation: Truck.
Annoyed, he pulled his tongue away from the explosives. Killing an Earthling along with himself would be sloppy.
Pebbles and grit popped under tires as the truck pulled off the road and onto the shoulder and stopped. A tall male jumped down from the old truck. He wore jeans, a plaid shirt, and cowboy boots. His skin was browned and wrinkled from a lifetime spent outside in this harsh climate. Mirrored sunglasses covered his eyes. His silver hair was cropped close to his head and styled to look flat on top. He was older, late sixties or early seventies, perhaps, but he was lean and muscled, in excellent shape. A former military man: Reef knew the look.
A large, black plastic bag swung from his hand as he sauntered over. “Shoo,” he said to the vultures congregating nearby. He shook open the plastic bag--the body-sized plastic bag. Then he froze, seeing Reef conscious. “You’re alive.”
“Disappointed, Earthling?” Reef sneered, his voice hoarse and despicably faint.
“Are you in pain? Can you walk?”
“No and no.” Reef knew his answering glare was startling blue and cold as ice. Even this military man, whom he suspected was a lot tougher than he appeared, flinched at his infamous stare.
The Earthling glanced around, as if unsure what to do. Then he shoved fingers through his close-cropped hair and tossed aside the bag. “I came here expecting road kill.”
“Major Far Star said you’d died.”
“And here I am. Alive.” Gods knew he’d tried not to be. “State your identity, Earthling.”
The man crouched next to him. “I’m called the Handyman. The missus--she’s the Gatekeeper.”
The Gatekeeper? The Handyman? Codenames.
“Best to get you back to the farm right away. There, me and the missus will patch you up, and do what we can for you, technology permitting.”
Earthling charity--bah! But his options were few. He weighed allowing Far Star’s Earthling minion to rescue him versus being picked apart like carrion by oversized, flea-bitten birds. Or maybe he’d just vaporize himself.
If you terminate yourself, won’t that give the people who want you dead exactly what they desire?
A valid point, that. Perhaps he’d leave his fate up to the gods. Let them sort out his destiny, for he wanted no more to do with it.
The Handyman sauntered to his truck, unlocked the back, and returned, tugging on a pair of gloves. “We’d better get going. Don’t want our nosy government friends to find you. They wanted to get their hands on Far Star, you know, but he’s off limits. He’s a hero. You, on the other hand, are fair game. The Men in Black are looking for your corpse as we speak.”
Reef downloaded the term from his intermittent databank: Men in Black: English. Colloquial term for secret government officials assigned to investigate the presence of extraterrestrials. Definition refers to the dark hue of the suits and sunglasses worn. Often employ unconventional and unauthorized methods of arrest and detention.
Reef managed a snort. “Maltreatment at the hands of rogue Earth bureaucrats? I think not.” He struggled to get up and sparks erupted in his eyes, agony slicing through his brain. He choked back a cry of as the metal plates squeezed, crushing him.
The Earthling was at his side in an instant, shoving something in his mouth and behind his head to cushion his skull. “Hang on, boy. Hang on. There’s help for you back at the farm.”
Reef’s hands contracted into fists, knuckles scraping over the coarse sand as he rode waves of agony. This time, he decided, he really was dying.
When the seizure passed, he was in far worse shape than after the one before. Another and he probably wouldn’t wake up, he thought hopefully.
Far Star’s minion slid gloved hands under his shoulders and dragged him to the truck. He was stronger than he looked and finally wrestled Reef’s limp body into the vehicle.
With one final thud, Reef, the most feared assassin in the galaxy, bred to kill from boyhood, half-man, half-machine, the apex of Coalition technology, landed on his back in the rear of an Earthling’s battered old pickup truck.