Not the Man She Thought

By: Paige Tyler

Chapter One

Laken Andara sat back in her seat, fingering the stem of her glass as she gazed out the window. The sky was clear today, and she watched as ships of every size and shape came and went from the spaceport located near the eatery where she was having lunch. As the headquarters of the Merchant Federation, her home planet of Tellune was a busy place, and she always came down here to watch the ships when she had a lot on her mind.

Seeing them often made her want to get on one and leave her problems behind. As bad as things had gotten lately, she would have done it today for sure if she had the money. Her father kept a tight rein on her spending accounts, though, so there were never enough credits in any of them to ever book a flight anywhere. All she could do was daydream. And shop of course. Her father always allowed her enough money for that since it kept her busy and out of his hair. She enjoyed shopping as much as the next girl, but it bothered her to know it was about all he thought her capable of doing.

Ironically, it was exactly what she’d come down here to do today. She needed something to take her mind off her problems, and the exotic stores the Marketplace offered had been just the distraction she’d needed. After spending a good chunk of her father’s money, she had almost forgotten her troubles. Until she’d stopped for lunch and seen all the space travelers. Listening to them talk and laugh about their latest missions only reminded her how stuck she really was, which promptly put her right back in her depressed mood again.

Beside Laken, her personal communicator rang, interrupting her thoughts. She reached for it eagerly, praying it was finally her fiancé Mallin calling to say he was on his way back to her. But her hopes were quickly dashed when she saw her father’s ident-number on the screen. Not wanting to talk to him, she put the com down on the table and let it continue to ring. In another moment, it would be diverted to her messages anyway. Besides, she already knew what he wanted. He was calling to remind her of the date she had that evening with yet another one of the suitors he was determined to marry her off to. Over the past several weeks, she had managed to chase off every guy he’d tried to foist her off on, but she wouldn’t be able to do that forever, no matter how rude she acted, or how much of a brat she was. Sooner or later, one of them would look past her faults and agree to marry her. Especially since her father was offering a very lucrative incentive to any man willing to put up with her. And when one did agree, her father would waste no time announcing the engagement.

She could refuse to marry the guy, of course, but if she did, her father would cut her off without a credit. Which would mean she’d have to find some way to support herself until Mallin came back, or until she could make enough money to go to him. But finding a job would be more difficult than it sounded. Not because she didn’t have any skills, but because her father would use his position and influence to make sure no one hired her. He had that kind of power on Tellune. It wasn’t that her father was a mean man, really; he was just overly controlling. That, and he valued his place in society more than he did his daughter’s happiness. Her lips curled bitterly at that.

Tellune had a very rigid society when it came to family honor and reputation. Her family had been among the leading merchants on the planet going back a dozen generations. Her father guarded the family reputation as if it were the most valuable thing he owned, much more valuable than a simple daughter. If he cared for her even half as much as he cared for his precious reputation, then he would have understood why she wanted to wait for Mallin’s return. But unfortunately, Mallin was an off-worlder, which was a big strike against him in her father’s book. To make matters worse, he had left without officially asking for her hand in marriage. While Laken was confident he would officially propose when he came back, her father wasn’t as convinced. He didn’t believe Mallin was coming back at all, but had just been amusing himself with her while on Tellune, which was why her father was determined to marry her off well and quickly before people began to whisper behind his back. Daughters of a Federation Merchant didn’t have dalliances and they didn’t have lovers. Her father was wrong, though. Mallin was coming back, she knew it in her heart.