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Mated To The Vikens (Interstellar Brides Book 8)(3)

By:Grace Goodwin

Leaning back in the curved chair, I stared at the ceiling and tried to get my bearings. That dream, God, it had to have been a dream, had been the most amazing thing ever. It was the best dream I’d had since I’d been arrested. In fact, it had been the only dream. Nightmares, on the other hand, haunted me every time I dared close my eyes and try to rest.

“Is the testing over?” I asked. If she needed to do that again, I wouldn’t object.

I rolled my head to the side to watch as she ran her fingers over the small tablet she held. “Yes, the testing is finished.”

“So I’ve been matched?”

She looked up, offered me a quick smile, then glanced at the tablet again. “Yes. To Viken.”

Viken. I’d heard of the small planet that was part of the Interstellar Coalition, but that was all. Earth hadn’t been involved for long and I’d been too busy with legal proceedings and survival to waste time reading about alien civilizations.

She walked to a small desk against the wall on the opposite side of the testing room and sat down. “I need to ask some additional questions to continue your processing. For the record, please state your name.”

“Sophia Antonelli.”

“And the crime for which you were convicted?”

“Fraud. Money Laundering. Forgery. Illegal transport of goods across state lines. Smuggling.” There were a couple more, smaller offenses, but that about covered the laundry list. “Is that sufficient?”

“Yes, that will do.” Warden Egara’s fingers flew across her tablet as she continued. “Are you currently, or have you ever been married?”

“No.” I’d been married to my job, not a man. I'd been an art dealer, nothing exotic. Hell, what could be so harmless about a degree in Art History? Look where that got me. In prison, where the only chance to avoid long, miserable years of confinement meant volunteering to be an alien’s bride.

“Have you produced biological offspring?”

“No.” You had to have sex to get pregnant, and I was living a two-year dry spell.

“For the record, Miss Antonelli, as an eligible, fertile female in your prime, you had two options available to you to serve out your sentence, twenty-five years in the Carswell Penitentiary located in Fort Worth, Texas.”

“No, thank you.” Prison orange was not my color.

Warden Egara smiled patiently and continued on in a monotone voice, as if reading the words. “Or volunteer service in the Interstellar Bride Program. I am pleased to tell you that the system has made a successful match and you will be sent to a member planet. As a bride, you might never return to Earth, as all travel will be determined and controlled by your new planet’s laws and customs. You will surrender your citizenship of Earth and become an official citizen of your new world.”

I hadn’t really thought about that. How could I not be a citizen of Earth? Was that even possible?

My belly clenched as the full impact of my decision settled in my bones. There was a small amount of time each day, seconds really, when I had yet to fully awaken, that I forgot what I’d become. Forgot what the Corellis had done to me and just how far I’d fallen.

“Your convictions carry a twenty-five-year sentence, yet you’ve elected to serve out your sentence under the direction of the Interstellar Bride Program. You have been assigned to a mate per testing protocols and will be transported off-planet, never to return to Earth. Do you understand what this alternative entails?”

“Yes.” I wouldn’t survive a year in prison, let alone two decades. I’d been incarcerated for six months awaiting trial, and that had felt like six years. Any alternative was better than a prison cell. One man. Three. Whatever. The true price was a one-way ticket to outer space. I was going to be just like the brides I’d read about in history books, the mail-order brides sent to the Wild West. I was going on a grand adventure and hoping for the best.

Not that I had a choice. I had no reason to stay on Earth. The Corelli family had ruined my life’s work and my reputation. My business assets had been seized. I had no job, no contacts, no life. And, the bottom line? I had committed the crimes. Yes, the Corellis had threatened me, bullied me, but I’d still had a choice.

As much as I wished I’d never made the bargain with Vincent Corelli for the money to pay for my mother’s expensive cancer treatments, I wouldn’t trade the extra time with her for anything.

I’d do it all again. So what if I’d smuggled his merchandise inside my art shipments in trade? I never hurt anyone. And when my mother finally did die, I’d assumed my work with the mafia was finished.