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This Prince Charming is going after what he wants, even if Cinderella is playing hard to get.
Ella has had a hard life as a single mom who barely makes ends meet. But she’s never once asked for help, and she never would. When Valero barrels into her life asking for things she’s not ready to give, she holds herself back. Mostly. The thought of taking the sexy alien to bed is more than a little tempting… except he’s playing hard to get.
Valero has wanted a mate ever since he was old enough to think of having a family of his own. He’s never thought of claiming a female with a child in tow, but Connor’s amazing gaming skills intrigue the video game designer. Asking the small family to move in with him seems reasonable enough since he plans to claim them as his, but Ella’s commitment issues prove to be a problem.
What’s a geeky gamer to do when the Cinderella of his dreams wants sex, but nothing else?
For Jason. Thank you for pushing me to keep writing, even when the going gets tough. Without your love and support, none of these stories would be possible.
Valero growled as he jabbed at the buttons on the controller. Rory and her damned dragons! When she’d said she couldn’t beat this level, he’d thought it would be a piece of cake. How hard could a game be that centered around an adolescent purple dragon? Harder than fuck, that’s how hard.
“Bust the gem, turn the wheel,” he muttered as he went through the steps. Little green things attacked him. “Argh. Die, you little bastards!”
“My mama will wash your mouth out with soap,” said a small voice.
He glanced to his right and nearly dropped the controller when he saw a small human child. Where the hell had he come from?
“You’re doing that wrong,” the boy said.
No shit. That was why he’d been trying to put out the fires for the last half hour without success. What the hell did the small child know about it though? He held out the controller.
“Since you seem to know what you’re doing, want to show me how it’s done?” Valero asked.
The boy grinned from ear to ear, snatched the controller, and started playing with the finesse of an advanced gamer.
“How the hell did you know where the buckets were?” Valero asked.
“Soap,” the boy replied in response to his bad word. Apparently hell wasn’t allowed either. “And I have this game at home. I beat it on the second day. I probably would have done it sooner, but Mama wouldn’t let me stay up playing all night.”
The boy beat the level and handed the controller back.
“What other games can you play?” Valero asked. He’d never met such a young gamer before and he had to admit he was a little fascinated. He hadn’t even known such a small human could play video games.
“I have Minecraft, Sonic, Lego Harry Potter, Lego Star Wars, and a few others.”
“What about Halo or Gears of War?” Valero asked.
“Mama says they’re too violent for me. But I wish I could play them. The kid games are too easy. I don’t see why the adults are the only ones being challenged.”
Valero’s eyebrows went up. A challenging children’s game? Was there a market for such a thing? Unless this child was a gaming prodigy, then there were probably others out there feeling his same frustration. Definitely something worth looking into.
“What types of challenges would you like to see in a game?” Valero asked.
“Well, I like the time challenges where you have to complete so many tasks in a certain amount of time. I like the fighting levels in Lego Star Wars. But collecting stuff like the rings in Sonic or the gems in Spyro can be fun. I just wish you could do more with it.”
The kid was rather insightful for someone so young. And he was giving Valero an idea. His game company was still in the fledgling stages and he needed something new and edgy to put him on the map. Or so he’d thought. Maybe he was looking at the wrong demographic. He’d been thinking of a game adults would like where you blew up stuff, but if gamers were starting out as young as this kid, children who weren’t allowed to play the more violent games, then maybe he needed to tap into that audience. The only problem was that his game testers were Rory and Zwyk, and neither would be able to give him the information he needed.
“He’s not bothering you, is he?” a soft voice asked.
Valero stood and faced the woman, and damn near swallowed his tongue.
“I, um… No! He’s not bothering me. He actually helped me figure out the level on the game I was playing.”
She smiled a little. “He loves video games.”
“Can I play some more, Mama?” the little boy asked.
“Connor, this man was already playing. Mind your manners.”
Valero handed the controller back to Connor. “I think you’re doing a better job than I was. Why don’t you finish playing? Or if you prefer something else, Zwyk and Rory have a ton of games. I’m sure there’s at least a few your mother would approve of.”
“Can I, Mama?” he begged.
“All right. But if someone else wants a turn, you give them the controller.”
The little boy gave a whoop and leapt onto the couch to settle in and play the game. Valero smiled at his enthusiasm before facing the mother once more. He moved a little closer and held out his hand. “I’m Valero.”
His hand closed over hers and a little jolt went up his arm. Since moving to Earth, he’d never felt such an instant attraction to someone before. He’d gone on dates, but they were lacking. There was humor glinting in her eyes as she smiled a little wider and he realized he was staring at her like an idiot and hadn’t released her hand. “Do you play?” he asked.
“Me? Um, no. I’ve never understood the draw of video games. I’m more of a reader.”
He leaned against the sofa and folded his arms over his chest, feeling a bit of a thrill when her gaze was drawn to his muscles and she licked her lips. Good. The attraction wasn’t one sided. The question was, what did he want to do about it? He’d never dated a mother before. He knew others of his kind had adopted human children as their own, like Reyvor and his houseful of girls.
“What do you like to read?” he asked.
“Romances.” Her cheeks flushed. “I like the hope in them. No matter how dire the heroine’s circumstances in the beginning, she always finds her happily-ever-after. Whether it’s a knight rescuing her from a tower, a billionaire who falls for the poor waitress, or a shapeshifter who finds his mate, everyone falls in love at the end and all their dreams come true.”
He smiled. “And what’s your dream?”
Her expression sobered. “To provide a happy and stable home life for my son. I hate telling him he can’t have things, or wondering if he’ll have a good Christmas or birthday. And I’m tired of struggling to pay the rent.”
She blinked at him in surprise, as if she hadn’t meant to admit so much to a complete stranger. He’d been told he was a good listener and people divulged secrets to him even if they didn’t want to. His family had tried to get him to become a warrior, a spy to be exact. Valero hadn’t had the slightest bit of interest in it. He’d gone through the warrior training, but in the end, he’d been miserable. When others of his kind started making their homes on Earth, he’d jumped at the chance for a new start. A chance to be anything he wanted. It hadn’t taken him long to discover video games, and shortly after that, he’d figured out how to create them and had discovered his true passion.
“I’m sorry,” Ella said. “I don’t know why I said all that.”
“Not to pry, but are things hard at home? Since you’re here alone, I’m assuming Connor’s father isn’t in the picture?” At least, he was hoping the bastard was long gone.
“No, we split up in high school and I haven’t seen him since. Not in person anyway.”
His brow furrowed. “How do you see him if not in person?”
“He’s a football star now. I would sometimes see his college games on TV and now he plays for an NFL team. He’s done well for himself, but he’s not part of our lives. He didn’t even want to know if I was having a boy or girl, so I had him sign away his rights to Connor.”
“Your job doesn’t provide everything you need?” he asked.
“I can only work part time while Connor is in school, and all I know how to do is waitress. I took some computer classes in high school, but all of the office jobs around here are full time. Whatever extra money would be in my check would just go straight to daycare, and I don’t like the idea of strangers raising my son.”
What the woman needed was a husband, but he wasn’t about to say any such thing to her. No, he wasn’t about to offer his services no matter how tempting. With that fiery red hair of hers, she’d probably slap the hell out of him for even suggesting it. He’d discovered early on, and the hard way, that redheads were feisty and quick to temper. That didn’t mean he couldn’t help her though.
About the Author
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and spills over from her professional life into her personal one. When she went on that first date with her husband, she never expected to hear the words “marry me” pop out of his mouth — and judging by the shocked look on his face, he hadn’t meant to say them either. But, being the hopeless romantic that she is, Jessica said yes and they’ve been married since 2000.
Jessica firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world. She’s often gazed at the stars and wondered what, or who, else might be out there. Who’s to say that hunky model on the hottest romance bestseller isn’t really from some far off galaxy? Maybe that blue Martian you saw at Halloween wasn’t really in costume. After all, there’s an awful lot of space out there for us to be the only ones living in it.
Jessica loves to hear from her readers! You can follow her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jessicacoultersmithauthor and Twitter https://twitter.com/kitcatjms. Visit her website: http://www.jessicacoultersmith.com. Want to be noticed of new releases or special discounts? Sign up for her newsletter! http://eepurl.com/bwPvbT.
Find more Changeling Press books by Jessica Coulter Smith at http://www.changelingpress.com/author.php?uid=144.