Bella has been trying to find a man who will see her for the smart and charming woman that she is. She wants them to look beyond the obvious. When she joins the Volunteers, she finds herself on a world where everyone around her hides their faces and you have to deal with their minds and positions in society. It takes getting used to, but she thrives.
Lord Akking runs a club where aliens can meet with the Kloa traders face to face. As Minister of Trade, Akking is cut a lot of slack, but when he has her assigned as his assistant, he has a lot more than just being face to face with her in mind.
Becoming the object of his affections is startlingly direct, and with nowhere to hide, she has to deal with her own desires and be honest about them.
Bella Banks sat up straight with a bland expression on her face. She had gone through the application process, but her skills were not exceptional.
“I understand, Recruiter Norz. I will be on my way. Apologies for wasting your time.” She inclined her head and smiled.
He blinked his huge black eyes. “What do you mean?”
“You just stated that I was currently unexceptional in my cognition or psychic talents. I thought that was what you were looking for.”
He sat back. “That was not the only quality. I believe that your self-containment is going to be an asset for you. Though you are beautiful by Terran standards, it will not help you in the position I have in mind.”
Bella leaned forward. “My face won’t matter?”
“No. In fact, if they agree, it will not even be visible.” He smiled slightly. “For the first time in your life, you will be able to be your true self, to an extent.”
Bella cocked her head. “To an extent?”
“The Kloa enjoy having their staff’s features covered. It creates an environment where their wishes hold sway and only the duty is left behind. They cannot favour those who work for them because they do not know who they are.”
“I would be a servant?”
“You would be an assistant, and you would be invisible. Based on the answers you have provided to me, that is your true desire. You want to be known by your work, not your appearance. The Court of Kloa in the Nyal Imperium is the place to do it. Are you interested?”
He didn’t have proper eyebrows, but the challenge in his tone was unmistakable.
“I would become a faceless bureaucrat? Done. What position is there for me to aspire to?”
Recruiter Norz chuckled. “You could go all the way to the top, to be an advisor to the ruling heads of Kloa.”
Bella mulled it over for a moment and then nodded. “Fine. Where do I sign?”
Bella is more than a pretty face. Too bad no one is willing to look beneath the surface in order to find out. So when she is offered the opportunity to be judged on her skills she jumps at the chance, even if the chance takes her into space. Lord Akking never expected to find his match. Can he convince her to take a chance on him or will Bella be nothing more than his assistant?
Object by Viola Grace is twenty-third in the Terran Times Second Wave series. This story can be read as a standalone. Bella was a complex character. She is so used to being judged by her looks alone, she is unsure how to act when her emotions are engaged. Lord Akking is determined to have her heart and Bella is unsure how to respond. I love that Ms. Grace gave us characters that were not quite as simple as they appeared at first glance. Both Lord Akking and Bella needed to look within themselves in order to have a future. I enjoyed the fact that Lord Akking appreciated the skills that Bella brought to the table even as he helped her move beyond her fears of the superficial. The courtship between Bella and her man was sweet. They talked and learned about each other. They were attracted to each other and Ms. Grace made the chemistry between them real and believable. This was a wonderfully quick read. It was thoughtful and emotional and well worth your time and money.
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