Colonist's Wife
Author:Kylie Scott

Colonist's Wife by Kylie Scott

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

2088

 

 

A Mining Colony on the Moon Esther, Circling Jupiter

 

Day One

 

 

 

Wives went last.

 

The ship shuddered and groaned again beneath her feet like some big metal beast shaking itself off. Louise stood to the side of the cargo bay doors and let all the important company people disembark first down the gangway. No one even gave her a second look. People strode alongside the small transports that rolled out, raising plumes of gray dust when they hit the surface. The whole thing unfolded with military precision until finally only she remained.

 

It was time to meet her husband.

 

She could do this. She could. But gods, it was cold. A bitter wind blew in, whipping up her jacket and scalding her cheeks. Grit stung her eyes. Outside was not inviting. After three months of being shut up onboard it should have been, but no—not even remotely. Her feet sat flat and firm against the metal decking, immobile. Maybe her marrow had frozen. She wiggled her toes inside her boots, scrunched and curled them. They still worked. It had to be her head at fault. Months of burgeoning excitement had given way to nerves.

 

Louise straightened her spine and stared out into the grayness. No more delaying—time to go. She had to physically make her bones unlock and will her muscles to move, one small step at a time. Her husband would be waiting.

 

Louise, not Jo, marched herself down the shuttle’s gangway. Jo no longer existed. She was Louise Foster, wife of Gideon, and she could do this.

 

Carefully, she stepped down onto the moon’s surface, knees liquid and nerves shot. Gravel slid beneath her feet and she pitched forward, all balance gone. The ground flew up to meet her in a dizzying rush. Just as suddenly, it jolted to a bone-jarring stop. Shit. A strong hand grasped her elbow and a steady grip hauled her upright.

 

“Careful,” a man said, and released her.

 

“Thank you.” Louise took a deep breath and reined in the palpitations, waited for her head to stop spinning. What a perfect first impression. Embarrassment rolled right through her, heating her despite the chill.

 

“You all right?”

 

“Yes.” Louise forced a smile and took her first good look at her savior. “I’m…”

 

Oh no. No. They’d said Gideon would meet her but this was not the man she’d married. It couldn’t be. The man in the pictures the marriage coordinator had sent her had dimples and a lopsided grin. He’d seemed sweet and non-threatening. But this guy…he was tall and lean with bloodshot eyes a demon would envy. He had a three-day growth of stubble and a head of short, dark hair beyond disarray. On one side of his head it stuck out in clumps as if he had fallen asleep in something liquid and evil. Someone might have recently hosed him off a barroom floor, because gods, the smell of him. She had no words.

 

Something was very wrong here. Something was very wrong and also, she thought she might puke. Bile burned the back of her throat and she sucked in long, slow breaths, trying not to gag. The landing had riled her stomach. Not an easy win.

 

“You all right?” he asked again in a voice as rough as the ground.

 

She nodded fervently, studied the topmost tip of his right ear. “Mmm-hmm.”

 

“I’m Adam Elliot,” he said, as if it should mean something. It didn’t.

 

“Okay. Hi. Where’s Gideon?”

 

“Gideon?” His scowl singed the top of her head and baked her already addled brain. They’d said returning to natural gravity took some getting used to, but this was crazy—and where was her husband? This must be what unclaimed luggage felt like. “You haven’t been told?”

 

“Been told what?”

 

“Shit.” The man, Adam Elliot, pinched his lips and mumbled a few more expletives. “Gideon’s dead. He died in an accident four weeks back. I’m his replacement.”

 

“Replacement?” Her brain stuttered and flat-out refused to comprehend. “Like as in the mines?”

 

“Like as in your husband.”

 

“M-my…”

 

“I’m your husband, Louise,” he repeated, slowly this time.

 

She just stared at him, bewildered, while the wind howled around them. “Is this a joke?”

 

“No. My name was brought up on the waiting list after Gideon’s death.” He avoided her eyes and stared off into the distance as if embarrassed. “That’s how the marriage contracts work. Things are a little different on Esther.”

 

Was he even sober? Doubtful. She should ask someone what had really happened. Someone in authority who didn’t reek of liquor.

 

“Come on, we need to get moving.” He started off across the rocky ground, keeping a watch on her out of the corner of his eye. Maybe he thought she might bolt. Her eyes strayed back to the shuttle. How tempting. But they probably wouldn’t let her back on board.

 

Louise clamped her mouth shut and followed. Adam Elliot, her husband. She did her best to stay downwind.