Ambushing Ariel - S.E. Smith - ebook
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Ariel's love for her sister Carmen and her best friend Trisha has always been a priority in her life, but now she is ready to start focusing on what she wants. After her fiancée unexpectedly ended their engagement, Ariel was searching to redefine herself, and finally decided to move to Wyoming to care for the neglected animals that she has always had a soft spot for – and then she found herself on a warship headed for a distant planet! The new plan is to escape and make her way back home. Mandra Reykill never expected to find his true mate so suddenly - or so painfully. He knew his older brother was returning home with his true mate and her friends, but never suspected his true mate could be among the women. His dragon is head over heels in love with the delicate beauty, his symbiot is enchanted with her gentle touch and kindness, but all Mandra the man gets is a stubborn female refusing to acknowledge his claim on her. To top it off, his orderly life is turned upside down when his home – and his warship – are infested with critters from all over the galaxy! How can one female possibly collect so many stray animals? Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of romance and adventure. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main Content: 223 (6x9) pages, 78,700 words

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Ambushing Ariel

Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 4

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Sample of Capture of the Defiance

Additional Books and Information

About the Author

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend, Linda, who not only encouraged me to write, but who also read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Christel, Sally, Jolanda, Lisa, Laurelle, Debbie, and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!

And a special thanks to Paul Heitsch, David Brenin, Samantha Cook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, and PJ Ochlan—the awesome voices behind my audiobooks!

—S.E. Smith

Montana Publishing

Science Fiction Romance

AMBUSHING ARIEL: DRAGON LORDS OF VALDIER BOOK 4

Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Publication October 2012

Cover Design by: Melody Simmons

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, or organizations are strictly coincidental and not intended by the author.

Summary: Ariel is stuck on a warship headed for a distant planet, but she’s determined to escape and make her way back home.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-39-9 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-03-0 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Science Fiction Romance. – Fiction. 2. Science Fiction – Fiction. 3. Paranormal – Fiction. 4. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

Ariel Hamm has always had a tender heart. Her love for her sister, Carmen, and her best friend, Trisha, has always been a priority in her life. But at twenty-eight, she is ready to start focusing on what she wants. After her fiancée unexpectedly ends their engagement, she is searching to redefine who she really is. She’s a pilot but knows flying is not her first love, and finally decides to move to Wyoming and care for the stray and neglected animals that have always captured her heart, but her plans change suddenly when she finds herself on a warship headed for a distant planet! The new plan is to escape and make her way back home.

Mandra Reykill never expects to find his true mate so unexpectedly - or so painfully. He knew his older brother was returning home with his true mate and her friends, but never suspected his true mate could be among the women. His dragon recognizes her immediately, and falls in love with the delicate beauty. His symbiot is enchanted with her gentle touch and kindness. Unfortunately, all Mandra the man gets is a stubborn female refusing to acknowledge his claim on her and determined to escape him at the first available moment.

To top it off, his nice, orderly life is suddenly turned upside down when his home – and his warship – are suddenly infested with creatures from all over the galaxy!

Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of romance and adventure. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite!

Main Content: 223 (6x9) pages, 78,700 words

Prologue

Ariel Hamm leaned down over the paper in front of her, studying the equations on it carefully. She bit her lip as she worked the problems. She wanted to get the rest of her work done so she could have some free time before bed. She was just finishing up the last one when a high pitched scream broke the silence. Her head jerked up and her mouth opened to form a small ‘O’. She stared wide-eyed at the big man sitting across from her reading the newspaper before jumping out of her seat and taking off down the hallway.

Henry Hamm shook his head and watched as his six year old daughter took off like a bullet before releasing a sigh. He wondered what it was going to be this time. He made it to the door leading into the bathroom just as Anna Hamm came barreling through it shaking.

He opened his arms and wrapped them around his wife who was mumbling curses under her breath. Glancing over his wife’s head, he saw Ariel bending over into the bathtub. She lifted something out of it, gently cradling it in her arms. When she turned around, her big brown eyes were swimming with tears and her little chin was trembling. It was not the look on her face that held Henry’s attention, though. It was what was in her arms. The small brown creature was trying to burrow down against her tiny body. Ariel stared wide-eyed at her dad waiting for his response.

“It’s alright, Anna. It’s just a prairie dog pup,” Henry said soothing his hand down his wife’s back.

“It’s not just a prairie dog pup, Henry Hamm,” Anna said glaring up at him. “It’s a whole litter of prairie dog pups!”

“But momma, Ariel had to help them. Mr. Wilson plowed them up and was going to drown them. Ariel couldn’t let them die,” five year old Carmen argued. “She had to take care of them. She’s their mommy now.”

Anna looked over her shoulder at her oldest daughter. Ariel stood protectively in front of the old fashion bathtub filled with yapping prairie dog pups. She then turned her gaze on her youngest standing defensively in front of Ariel. Shaking her head, she turned in her husband’s arms and regarded both of her daughters in exasperation. Last week it had been turtles, the week before lizards, the week before that… Anna shook her head again more firmly. Ever since Ariel was old enough to walk, she was bringing home every stray creature she could find and some that weren’t even a stray, like the neighbors’ cats, dogs, and chickens. The list went on and on.

“She gets this from you, you know,” Anna began looking at her husband of seven years over her shoulder in frustration.

“I know,” Henry said with a small smile.

“I don’t like animals in the house,” Anna continued.

“I know,” Henry said, looking with a warning at Ariel when she started to protest.

“I don’t want any critters in my bathtub,” Anna insisted firmly.

“But… but where else is she going to put them?” Carmen asked puzzled. “Under her bed is full and so is her…,” Carmen stopped when Ariel bumped her with her elbow.

“Be quiet,” Ariel hissed out under her breath.

“Under her bed…?” Anna said, putting a hand to her throat. “Where else?” she asked, looking first at Ariel, whose eyes filled to overflowing again before turning a stern look on Carmen. “What else does she have in my house?” Anna asked, turning toward Ariel and Carmen’s bedroom.

“NO!” Ariel wailed tearfully. “Momma, please. They need me!”

Henry decided he better help his wife. She was from the city and still had a fear of all the different critters that lived in the ‘wilds of Wyoming’ as she put it. Anna walked into her daughters’ room and was about to get down on her hands and knees to look under the bed when Henry grabbed her around her plump waist.

“You better let me,” Henry said gruffly.

Ariel watched as her dad got down reluctantly on his hands and knees and began pulling out the cardboard boxes she had been collecting. The shoeboxes were carefully labeled with a crayon drawing of each animal and had holes punched in the tops. Ariel watched in despair as her dad pulled all six shoeboxes out, opening each carefully. Her collection of lizards, frogs, and turtles was growing. Next, he pulled out two larger boxes. One had several kittens and the other had a baby porcupine.

“Where are Earth did you get this?” Henry asked, amazed. Each box was carefully filled with water, food, and strips of old clothing from the scrap box.

“That’s what happened to all my quilting material!” Ariel’s mom exclaimed just as the phone rang.

Ariel’s mom hurried out of the room and down the hall to get it while her dad sat back on his heels. “Okay, what else do you have before your mother comes back in here?” he asked, looking at his oldest daughter struggling to keep the little prairie dog from escaping.

“She has Patrick and Sandy in my bed,” Carmen said helpfully. “Well… you do!” Carmen said, looking at Ariel innocently as Ariel gave her a frown.

“Who are Patrick and Sandy?” Henry asked before shaking his head. “Maybe I should be asking you not who they are but what they are?” He muttered.

Ariel tried to get in front of her dad to stop him, but he just picked her up, prairie dog and all, and set her to one side. Henry moved over to the other twin bed in the room and gently lifted the brightly colored, quilted covers back. He bit back a curse when he saw what was curled up under the covers.

“But Daddy, they were cold. It is getting too cold to leave them outside now and they might have babies and if they do then their babies will be cold and…” Ariel quit talking when she saw her father’s pale face.

“Oh, sweetheart, if your mom sees these two she’ll never come in the house again,” Henry said, looking at two three-foot long corn snakes curled up in the middle of Carmen’s bed.

“That’s why I’ve been sleeping with Ariel,” Carmen whispered looking at the snakes. “I don’t think they like me sleeping with them.”

Henry looked at his youngest daughter trying not laugh at her serious expression. He quickly threw the covers back over the two snakes when he heard his wife coming down the hall. He put his finger to his lips to make sure they knew not to say anything before turning to look at his furious wife.

“What is it now?” Henry asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“This is not funny, Henry! Ariel, what else do you have hidden in here?” Anna said, putting her hands on her rounded hips.

“N… nothing,” Ariel whispered, looking up at her mom.

“I just talked to Paul Grove. He seems to be missing his daughter. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?” Ariel’s mom asked sternly.

This time it was Carmen’s eyes that filled with tears. “But momma, she wants to be our sister and sisters are supposed to live together. We’ll take good care of her. I promise! I even shared my dinner with her,” Carmen sobbed out.

“Oh lord!” Henry said softly with a chuckle. “Where do you two have her hidden this time?”

A small noise came from the closet drawing all of their attention. Ariel’s mom walked over to it. She opened it tentatively at first before pulling the door wider once she found it was safe to do so. A small, curly haired girl of six smiled up innocently at them. She was sitting on a stack of folded blankets with a bottle of water and some cookies next to her. Ariel’s princess pillow and Carmen’s glow worm doll were lying next to her.

“Hi, Momma Hamm,” Trisha said, smiling up at Anna.

Thirty minutes later, Ariel, Carmen, Henry and Anna watched as the taillights of Paul Groves’ truck made its way slowly down the long, gravel driveway. Ariel’s shoulders drooped. She put her arm around Carmen who was still crying about losing her older sister. Anna bent over and picked up Carmen’s little body, cradling it against her and turned to enter the house. Just as she opened the door, her nose wiggled at the strong scent coming from inside.

“Oh heavens!” Anna exclaimed covering her nose with her free hand. “I thought you threw the left over cabbage out in the trash can outside.”

Henry frowned as he moved into the house sniffing. “I did. It was picked up this morning by the garbage truck.”

“Oh, that’s not the cabbage,” Carmen said, sniffing and holding her nose. “That’s Ariel’s new kittens she found. The ones with the pretty white stripe down their backs. She’s keeping them in the laundry room.”

Henry couldn’t hold back the laughter any longer. “I’ll find them and take them out,” he said as his wife turned and headed back outside, shaking her head in resignation.

“But Daddy, they need me!” Ariel cried pitifully as she followed her dad into the house.

Chapter One

Present Day

Ariel rubbed her aching head and pushed a strand of long, straight white-blonde hair back behind her ear before looking down at the still figure lying in the bed. Carmen’s coloring looked better today than it did yesterday. Ariel reached down to touch Carmen’s forehead. She wanted to make sure Carmen wasn’t running a fever. Ariel had just leaned over when she felt a hand slide across her ass.

Swinging around in annoyance, Ariel’s dark brown eyes flared with anger at the unwanted touch. She growled out a warning to one of the warriors in the medical wing who happened to ‘bump’ into her. Ariel bared her teeth and snarled at the huge warrior. The warrior looked at her with a hot gaze before moving out of her reach.

“Your face is going to get stuck like that and I’ll be damn if I’m going to be the one looking at it for the rest of my life,” Carmen whispered.

Ariel’s eyes filled with tears at her little sister’s softly spoken words. “It’s about damn time you opened your eyes,” Ariel said hoarsely.

Carmen didn’t reply. Ariel watched as her sister’s eyes widened as she took in her surroundings. Ariel knew Carmen was going to be pissed when she realized where they were. It was still hard for her to take in.

“Where the hell are we?” Carmen asked as she struggled to sit up.

Ariel reached around and helped her into a sitting position before she answered her. “You aren’t going to believe this, but some really weird shit has happened to us.”

Carmen’s eyes locked in on Ariel’s serious expression. “Tell me,” she said as her lips compressed into a straight line.

Ariel glanced around her. Trisha was dozing in a chair nearby with a huge golden creature next to her. The thing had attached itself to Trisha the moment they were brought aboard the alien warship. She looked at the huge men who were lying down or sitting up in almost every available spot. Ariel had stood guard over her sister and Trisha with a long metal bar she dismantled from a small movable table.

She tried to look at the room through her sister’s eyes. It was hard to see much with all the men lying or sitting around. The bare, off-gray walls were smooth with one set of double doors leading out of it to the far left.

The room itself wasn’t all that big, maybe the size of a hospital emergency waiting room but it was full. There were a half-dozen narrow beds, a few portable tables, and about as many chairs. One wall had a long, dark-tinted window that lead to another small room.

Ariel knew that was where the doctor, or healer as the men referred to him, was most of the time. The lights dimmed and brightened on a verbal command she was still trying to figure out. Not long after they arrived, the doctor had inserted some type of device into their ears and they were able to understand what the men were saying. When the doc first did it to Trisha, Ariel was ready to kill him until Trisha stopped her. Neither Trisha nor she had been outside the room yet. They didn’t want to leave Carmen alone and defenseless.

“How much do you remember?” Ariel asked hesitantly, looking back at Carmen who was frowning.

“Obviously not enough!” Carmen muttered in a low voice, glaring at a couple of men who were staring at her with open lust. “Just tell me where the hell we are, so we can get the fuck out of here.”

“We’re on an alien spaceship,” Ariel replied quietly. “These bastards are more than what they seem,” Ariel said, nodding to the men surrounding them. “After we chased the guy who kidnapped Abby into the woods these three creatures that looked like dragons from some science fiction movie appeared. The bastard that took Abby stabbed you…” Ariel’s voice faded as she looked down at her hands for a moment. “You were dying, Carmen. You should be dead from the wounds you received. These three dragons burned the guy to a crisp and transported us here using some Star Trek type shit,” Ariel said looking at her sister.

Carmen stared at Ariel for a moment before looking around her at all the men. “What the fuck are they doing in here?” she asked quietly.

Ariel couldn’t quite keep the smile from her face. “I’ve been listening to some of them. I guess one of the men turned all dragonzilla on their asses and busted them up pretty good before they could get him to calm down. There were more, but they have slowly been leaving,” Ariel murmured glancing at Trisha as she sat up slowly with a grimace of pain.

“Neither one of us have left your side,” Ariel said, nodding to Trisha who forced out a stiff smile.

“Hey, girlfriend,” Trisha whispered. “Welcome back to the land of Oz.”

Carmen looked around her with a raised eyebrow. “No shit, Dorothy. So, how do we get off this pile of bolts and back home. I’ve got business that needs to be finished,” Carmen said, swinging her legs over the side of the narrow bed.

Ariel watched as her sister grabbed her side. “Are you in pain?”

Carmen snorted. “Hell no! Just wondering how long I’ve been out if I’m healed from the wounds I received. I know it was bad. I’ve been shot and stabbed enough times to know when it is,” she said, feeling her side first before she moved to touch her upper chest where the wounds should have been.

Ariel and Trisha both shook their heads. “It’s only been a couple of days.”

Carmen’s eyes widened at that. “Shit!” Carmen muttered touching her chest again. “So, what is the game plan?”

Ariel looked at Trisha who nodded tentatively. Ariel smiled as the huge gold creature came to stand next to Trisha. It was back into the shape of a big dog again. Every time one of the warriors would get too close to Trisha, it would change shape and snarl at them. If they could get it on their side it, would be a big bonus. Somehow, Ariel got the feeling it was protecting Trisha for a reason and leaving wasn’t one of them.

“Trisha remembers how to get us back to the spot where we came on board the ship. We figure if we can get to it, we can force someone there to zap us back down. We go our merry way and they go theirs. We both decided it would be better not to say anything about what happened to anyone back down on Earth about aliens and shit. The last thing we want to do is end up in a padded room,” Ariel whispered frowning as two men tried to approach them.

Ariel tapped the table leg against the palm of her hand, looking at them with an expression that said ‘advance at your own risk’. Both men looked at each other hesitantly before turning to leave. Another man came in and Ariel released a deep breath in relief. It was the doctor who was taking care of Carmen. He was the only one on board that didn’t raise any warning flags in her gut, at least not yet.

“Hey doc, when can we blow this joint?” Ariel called out.

The healer, Zoltin, glanced at Ariel and shook his head. He found the human females to be very charming. It was a shame his dragon didn’t go crazy over them. He might have tried to mate with one of them if it had. It appeared to find them entertaining and was curious about them but not in the way it would have reacted if one of the females had been his true mate.

His gaze moved between the three. He frowned as he looked at the one with the light brown curly hair. Lord Kelan’s symbiot was very protective of her. He was more concerned with the way she was moving, as if in pain. He tried early to approach her to ask if she was alright, but she brushed off his concern, saying she must have been sitting in an awkward position too long. His lips curved as he watched her fingers lightly stroke the symbiot at her side. Whether she was aware of it or not, she was the true mate of their commander. It would be interesting to see how things worked out between them. She seemed to be a very unusual female.

He looked at the other two females. It was obvious they were related. Both had the same white blonde hair and peach coloring. Their facial features were the same with the dark brown eyes, small nose, and full lips, though one was definitely curvier than the other.

Zoltin walked over to examine the one who had been gravely wounded. He pulled out his scanner and reached up to start at her forehead. He no sooner had his hand up in the air than he found himself face down on the bed with his arm locked behind his back in a painful position that immobilized him. He lay still, stunned at the strength behind the small body holding him.

“Uh… Carmen?” Trisha whispered. “That’s the doc. I don’t think you have to worry about him being a bad guy. He is the one who has been taking care of you.”

Carmen looked down at the guy she had pinned to the bed for a moment before she slowly let his arm go and stepped back. Ariel put her hand out to steady Carmen when she wobbled a little. Carmen gave her big sister a grateful nod to let her know she was okay.

“Sorry about that doc. Carmen can be a little sensitive sometimes,” Ariel said helping Zoltin back onto his feet.

Carmen tossed her head at the comment. “Cautious… not sensitive,” Carmen replied shortly.

Ariel looked at Carmen for a moment sadly. “Not cautious enough or you wouldn’t have been two breaths away from death. You are taking way too many chances lately,” Ariel said quietly. “Look what happened to you in Prague.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Carmen muttered, moving back toward the bed and sitting down again as her legs began to shake. “I made it out.”

“Yeah… with a bullet wound and a concussion,” Ariel retorted.

Ariel stopped when she felt Trisha touch her arm. “I think we need to focus on getting out of here. It looks like most of the men have cleared out. Now would be a good time to leave,” Trisha said under her breath.

Ariel gave a brisk nod. “Doc, how is my sister? Is she healed enough to get out of here?” Ariel asked Zoltin who was rubbing his arm and looking warily at Carmen.

Zoltin glanced at Ariel. “I would like to scan her vitals to see if the healing is complete. I am not familiar enough with your species to know if our healing accelerators work. Normally, her mate’s symbiot would heal her, but since she is not claimed that is not an option,” Zoltin said calmly.

“Go ahead, doc. I won’t kick your ass as long as you don’t try anything,” Carmen said calmly.

Ariel watched in frustration as the doctor ran the scanner over Carmen from her head down to her toes. She could feel Carmen’s anger. It was almost like she was pissed off that she didn’t die. Ariel continued to watch as the doctor asked Carmen several questions which she answered in short responses.

Ariel’s heart was heavy with worry for her little sister. Carmen hadn’t been the same since her husband was murdered three years ago. He was killed during the same incident that almost claimed Carmen. In a way, it was almost like she had died with him. It was just her body and her lust for revenge that was keeping her alive right now. Ariel bit back a curse. Carmen was all the family Ariel had left in the world. Well, except for Trisha and Cara, who she adopted. Even as much as she loved both of her surrogate sisters, they weren’t the same as her sister.

Ariel sank down on the chair, watching and listening as the doctor continued to ask Carmen different questions. She was so tired. It had been a long couple of days. First, there was the long flight across country from New York to California. Trisha and her were in the final process of testing out a new business jet for Boswell International where they worked. It was supposed to be a simple flight to take home an artist the Boswells’ had commissioned to do a piece for.

She was planning on it being her last flight. She had been dreading telling Trisha that she had resigned her position to move back home to Wyoming. She was going to do what she had always dreamed of doing - running an animal shelter for abandoned and neglected animals. She had been saving for years for it and between the money she saved and the money she inherited when her parents were killed in a car crash when she was in college, she finally had enough. She had planned everything out. Everything, that is, except the end of my engagement, Ariel thought. Eric… Ariel slammed the brakes on her thoughts. She refused to think about him. It was over and she was finally free.

She didn’t plan for this unexpected trip either. The routine flight was okay, it was what happened next that seemed like a dream. Some guy kidnapped Abby, the artist, in the parking lot of the small airport they landed at in Shelby, California. Carmen and Cara saw what happened.

Carmen ended up chasing them on a motorbike she had delivered before they landed while Cara hotwired Abby’s truck. After a chase that still had her bones rattling, they found Carmen stabbed and dying and three huge-ass dragons breathing fire. It turns out one of the dragons, or aliens, had the hots for Abby and was the guy she was returning home to. They had all joked about him having brothers, but damn, how were they to know the guy was from another planet?

Ariel felt a small smile curve her lips as she watched the doctor move away from Carmen who was scowling at him in annoyance. She would happily admit to being selfish. She was glad everything had turned out the way it did; otherwise her sister would have died. She wanted her sister to live, even if her sister didn’t want to any more. She knew deep down there was no way Carmen would have survived her injuries on Earth.

Carmen lay back down against the pillows on the bed suddenly exhausted. “Damn, dying takes a lot out of you.”

“Almost…” Ariel murmured as she got up out of the chair and moved closer to her sister. “… Almost dying. It takes a lot out of your family too,” Ariel whispered as she brushed Carmen’s short hair back away from her forehead tenderly.

Carmen turned her head into Ariel’s hand. “I love you,” Carmen whispered, looking up into Ariel’s eyes. “I’m sorry I’m such a pain in the ass.”

Ariel chuckled under her breath. “Who else would watch my back if not you?” Ariel teased.

Ariel saw Carmen’s eyes flicker to Trisha for a moment and knew what Carmen was thinking. “It isn’t the same, Carmen. She can never replace you,” Ariel said gently.

Carmen’s eyes glittered for a moment before she closed them tightly. Ariel stood leaning against the bed. She stroked Carmen’s hair until she knew her little sister was asleep. She closed her eyes tightly against the pain in her chest. It hurt so much every time she came close to losing her.

In a way, she lost Carmen three years ago when Scott was murdered. She really was lucky that things didn’t work out between her and Eric. At first, the pain was unbearable, but over the past year it was beginning to numb a little. Still, the pain of loving someone so much then losing them was unimaginable. Ariel opened her eyes and stared down at the relaxed face of her sister.

Never, she promised herself silently. Never again would she allow herself to love a man and give him the power to hurt her.

She never wanted to experience the pain of manipulation or rejection again. Looking at her sister, she knew the consequence of trying to live with the never ending pain of loss. It was slowly killing her sister. Neither option sounded good to her. It was better to focus on the animals she loved so much. She would give all her love to them.

Chapter Two

The doctor insisted Carmen spend another night in medical. He was concerned with her loss of blood and wanted to make sure she was completely recovered. Ariel glanced around the room. Trisha was sitting in a chair near the wall where she could stretch out a little. The huge gold creature curled up at her feet. The room was almost completely empty now. Only a couple of men remained in the medical unit. It was late. At least it felt that way, according to her body’s internal clock. She and Carmen were talking quietly about what happened.

“What about Cara?” Carmen asked softly, not wanting to disturb Trisha who looked totally exhausted. “Was she able to get away?”

“I don't know for sure. I haven't seen her so I'm hoping she did,” Ariel replied. “She was near Abby. Abby, Cara and the other guy were still on the road when we were beamed up here. It still blows my mind the technology they have. I sure as hell hope they are friendly and not planning on attacking the Earth. We would be at a hell of a disadvantage if they do,” Ariel whispered looking around.

Carmen nodded. “Have they seemed threatening at all?”

“No,” Ariel frowned, “just the opposite, in fact. They were determined to save Abby and when I begged them to help you, they did. We've been treated exceptionally well.”

“How is it I understand everything they are saying? I hear what is coming out of their mouth and it isn't English, but in my mind, I understand everything,” Carmen said running her hand over her left ear.

“They put some type of translator in our ears. Whatever it is, it translates whatever we are saying to them and from them to us,” Ariel replied, looking with a dark frown at one of the men still in the medical unit. He had been staring at them for quite some time.

Carmen’s eyes followed to where Ariel was looking. She saw the huge man staring at her with open desire. Carmen shook her head and smirked. Didn't seem to matter what species a man was, if he had a dick he was horny.

Unfortunately for big boy there, he was lusting after the wrong woman. Carmen gave the guy a look that told him in no uncertain terms he was barking up the wrong tree. Even more unfortunate for him, he didn't seem to understand the message. Carmen nudged Ariel when she saw the look in the guy's eyes change to determination. It looked like it was ass-whipping time.

“Ariel, wake Trisha,” Carmen whispered to Ariel while she sat up in the narrow bed and swung her legs over the side.

Ariel looked at the guy who was walking toward them with a shake of her head. Some guys just had to learn the hard way. Any bozo with a brain should have been able to interpret from the look in Carmen’s eyes shit was about to hit the fan. Ariel turned and nudged Trisha’s leg gently. Trisha jerked up, startled, looking around her in confusion for a moment before her eyes widened on the huge male stopping in front of Carmen.

“Female,” the huge male said quietly but determinedly. “I am called Tammit. I am healed. I heard the healer say he was releasing you tomorrow. I wish to claim you and have sex with you. You will come with me,” Tammit said in a deep voice.

Carmen’s eyes narrowed on the huge man standing in front of her. What the fuck did they feed these guys, growth hormones in their baby bottles? Her eyes swung briefly to Ariel, who was moving closer to her. Carmen let her eyes turn back to the man and raised one delicately arched eyebrow.

“I don’t give a damn what your name is and care even less what you wish for. If you don’t get the fuck away from me, I’m going to rearrange your balls into your throat,” Carmen said with an amused twist to her lips. Did this big oaf really think he could just say ‘I wish to claim you and have sex’ and she was supposed to go all girly on his ass? Maybe she could have a little fun before she jumped this pile of nuts and bolts.

Tammit frowned as he listened to the translation. “You will not speak to me in such a manner. I am a Valdier Warrior. Females do not talk to their warriors in such a manner. I will forgive you this time because you are new to our ways. I will have to teach you the proper way to address a Valdier warrior or you will be punished,” Tammit said slowly like he was talking to a species with a lower intelligence. “Do not worry, white-hair. I will make sure you enjoy the punishment.”

Ariel grimaced as she listened to what Tammit was saying. “Uh, Tammit, is it?” Ariel started to say.

Tammit looked briefly at Ariel, his eyes darkening. “I am attracted to you also. I was not sure which female I wanted to claim. I decided on this one since she needs more protection. You can be claimed by my brother when we return to Valdier. Do you worry, little human. You will be taken care of very well,” Tammit glanced at Trisha who was standing looking at him with a stunned expression on her face. “You have already been claimed by our commander. I will not approach you.”

Trisha’s face flushed a dark red at his comment and her fists clenched. “Carmen, if you don’t kick his ass, I’m going to,” Trisha snapped out in disbelief.

“Oh darling, you don’t have to worry,” Carmen said in a sugary soft voice. “He will never have a misunderstanding about a human female’s ability to ‘protect’ herself or her intelligence once I’m finished with him.”

“Tammit,” Ariel said firmly, trying to give the guy one last chance before he got his ass royally kicked. “If you know what is good for you, you will turn around, walk away, and forget you ever saw any of us.”

Tammit looked back at Ariel with a small amused smile. “My brother will like you. Perhaps he will share you,” Tammit said curiously.

Ariel stared at Tammit for an instant before she looked at her sister with a disbelieving shake of her head. “Carmen, kick his ass.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Carmen said just before she brought her foot up into Tammit’s crotch as hard as she could.

Tammit’s eyes widened for a moment before he dropped to one knee as his breath exploded out of him. Carmen picked up the metal tray next to her bed and swung it as hard as she could. She practically wrapped the silver tray around the side of Tammit’s head with the strength behind her swing. She quickly jumped off the bed and landed on his back where he had fallen and pulled his arm up behind him. Carmen pressed her knee into the center of Tammit’s back trying to get a good hold on him. It was difficult as he was built like a Sherman tank.

“If you fucking talk to me without my permission again I’ll hurt your ass. Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth now?” Carmen hissed into the huge warrior’s ear.

Ariel heard Tammit’s deep growl right before he surged up knocking Carmen backwards. Ariel swung the metal table leg without thinking and hit Tammit in the stomach at the same time Carmen’s foot connected with his chin sending him flying backwards into another table which collapsed with a loud bang as Tammit hit the floor.

“What is going on?” Zoltin asked loudly as he hurried out of his office.

He stood to one side as Tammit rolled over onto his hands and knees looking at Ariel and Carmen with a deep scowl. Zoltin’s eyes widened as he saw Carmen, Ariel, and Trisha move into a defensive stance. Tammit snarled as he spit out blood from his busted lip.

Wiping his hand across his mouth, he growled out at Carmen. “You should not have done that female. I have claimed you and you will obey me.”

Carmen snorted. “I’ll see you and any other asshole who thinks that in hell first. Come on, baby boy, don’t you have anything better in you? If this is what a Valdier warrior fights like, I’m amazed you guys have the nerve to call yourselves warriors.”

Ariel looked at her sister and shook her head. Only Carmen would grab a bull by its balls and call it a pussy. Ariel looked at Trisha who was shaking her head as well. It was going to be another bar fight scenario.

“You ready for this?” Ariel asked Trisha who came up behind her.

“Oh yeah,” Trisha said, picking up another metal tray and twirled it in her hands. “Let’s kick some ass.”

Tammit was so busy watching Carmen he did not notice Zoltin calling for security to come to the medical unit. He was furious! He had claimed the female before anyone else. He knew the other men had wanted her, but were cautious of approaching her due to her size. They did not understand the looks she was giving were probably because she was afraid of them. Most females liked the attention of a Valdier warrior, but these females were small.

Females were few and far between and he wanted one of his own. He knew the minute he saw her lying unconscious on the bed that she needed to be protected. She looked so small and pale. He remembered seeing her when she was first brought on board the warship. Her small body covered in blood and her life force slipping away from her. He wanted to kill the male who would harm something so delicate and fragile. How could any male want to hurt something so beautiful?

Now, all he could think about was whipping her ass for daring to talk to him like she did. The fact that she had caused him considerable pain was bad, but he admired her determination to show him that she would be a fearless mate for a warrior like him. He needed to let her know she did not need to prove she was tough. He was more than capable of being strong enough for the both of them.

Tammit stood up. “Stop female! You do not need to prove you will be a strong mate for me. I will protect you from ever being harmed again,” Tammit said determinedly. He rubbed his crotch which was still throbbing before glancing at Ariel. “You will be protected too. My brother will care for you. If you do not wish for us to share between us, we will not.”

Ariel looked in disbelief at the huge male standing in front of them. She caught Carmen’s eye roll and heard Trisha’s muttered ‘dumbass’. Ariel tensed when another man who had been in the medical unit came over to stand next to Tammit.

“I wish to claim the other female. If you can claim one, then I want the other. Your brother is not here. He will have to get his own,” the dark-haired man growled out in challenge.

“What did they put in the water, dumb and dumber pills?” Trisha asked quietly.

Ariel took a deep breath. She could feel things were about to get way out of hand and someone, namely two huge-ass warriors, were about to get hurt if things didn’t calm down really quick. Ariel looked down at the gold creature lying on the floor near Trisha. It was looking back and forth as if curious. She wondered why the men weren’t trying to lay a claim to Trisha. What was it Tammit said…Trisha had already been claimed by their commander. Ariel felt a shiver go down her spine. It was time to get the hell out of there. Something strange was going on and she didn’t like all this ‘claiming’ talk.

“Carmen,” Ariel called out quietly.

“What?” Carmen hissed out from under her breath. Her eyes never left the men standing in front of them.

“I want to go home,” Ariel whispered.

Carmen’s eyes flickered to Ariel’s for a moment. It was as if she knew Ariel was suddenly getting nervous about something. Ariel didn’t get nervous over just anything. Something was going on and she was missing it. Carmen nodded. She heard the worry in her sister’s voice and knew it was time to find a way home.

“Sorry boys, no more playing around,” Carmen said standing up straight. “It is time for us to return to our home world. I hope you understand.”

Tammit took a menacing step forward. “You belong to me now. I have claimed you. You will be coming home with me.”

Carmen shook her head. “No, I won’t,” she replied coolly staring back at the huge warrior defiantly.

Everything went to hell when Tammit moved to grab Carmen. Carmen stepped into him and gripped his arm, throwing him over her hip. At the same time, the other man moved to grab Ariel.

Ariel swung low nailing him in the balls, then swept her leg out knocking his feet out from under him. In the meantime, Carmen was using every move she and Scott ever learned as a bodyguard to take Tammit down and keep him there. She nailed him over and over with a left, then a right hook to the jaw. The door opened suddenly and two security guards came rushing in. They moved to grab Carmen who had Tammit in a headlock and was slowly squeezing his throat to get him to pass out.

Trisha reacted when they reached for Carmen hitting one of them upside the head with a heavy metal tray. He dropped to the floor unconscious. When the other guard turned on her, the golden symbiot attacked him, taking him down and sitting on him so he couldn't move.

Zoltin was trying to call for more assistance at the same time as he was ducking under the assault of Ariel, who was beating on the other man using a combination of judo and kick-boxing. At one point, the security guard who had been knocked out staggered to his feet only to find himself being shoved headfirst into the wall where he collapsed again.

“Enough!” Zoltin finally yelled loud enough to be heard.

Carmen stumbled backwards, breathing heavily, Ariel lowered the table leg but kept it in front of her, and Trisha froze with a very bent metal tray raised above her head. All three women looked at Zoltin in silence. Zoltin looked around his medical unit in disbelief. Several tables were lying in pieces, one of the tinted windows between his office and the unit was cracked, there was a hole in the wall, and three out of the four men were unconscious.

Zoltin’s eyes flickered over to where Tammit was laid out on his back. His face was a bloody mess. The man Ariel had fought didn’t look much better and the one Trisha had just hit and pushed into the wall was lying face down so he couldn’t see how much damage was done.

Zoltin had been about to say something when the doors to the medical unit opened again. Jarak, the V’ager’s head of security, stood at the door looking in disbelief at the destruction in the medical unit. His gaze swept to the three men lying unconscious on the floor in a bloody heap before moving to where one of his security men was pinned under the commander’s symbiot. It was growling menacingly at the man who remained frozen under it.

“What in all the names of the Gods and Goddesses is happening?” Jarak asked in disbelief.

His eyes narrowed on the three human females who were still frozen in place. He watched as the light-haired female with the short hair stood up straighter and smoothed the top of the medical gown down over the front of her as if she didn’t have a concern in the world. His gaze moved to the other female who had long, curly hair. He watched as she slowly lowered the tray she was holding over her head and let it drop with a clang to the floor, grimacing at the loud noise in the now silent room. He finally looked at the one standing in front of the others. She was holding a piece of a table in her hand and glared rebelliously at him when he pointedly looked at it.

“Jerk,” Zoltin said, clearing his throat. “Perhaps, you could find other arrangements for the females. It might be safer for the crew if they were not… exposed to them at this time.”

“We want to be returned to our planet,” Ariel said taking a step forward.

“Yeah,” Carmen said, moving up beside Ariel. “Now! I’ve got things to take care of and the sooner you return us the sooner you can get your ship back in shape.”

Jarak gritted his teeth. First the transporter room, then the tiny human female who was systematically destroying everything, now this! He wished he had never heard of these females. They were more trouble than they were worth. If it was not for the fact that three of them had been claimed by the royal family, he would happily have dumped them back on their planet and made sure there was absolutely no record of the location anywhere in their data systems. Unfortunately, they were no longer near the females’ star system and it would be impossible to return them since at least three out of the five had been claimed.

Jarak took one more look around the room and released a deep sigh of resignation. “I will escort you to a room. You two will stay together. The other one…,” Jarak said, nodding toward Trisha. “… Will be escorted to a different one.” Jarak waved his hand when all three women started to protest. “The only rooms available are too small to accommodate all three of you. I have been given my orders. You will have to discuss your return to your planet with the commander of the V’ager when he is available.”

Chapter Three

Mandra Reykill moved through the thick forest easily. He, his younger brother, Creon, and two other warriors were doing a quick training exercise. Mandra didn’t want to admit he needed it to burn off some of the restless energy he was feeling since his older brother’s capture and subsequent rescue from a band of renegaded Curizan militants. Mandra swerved to miss a large branch on a tree, keeping to the shadows so the light wouldn’t reflect off of the silver in his scales. His massive sapphire body blended well with the dapple shades of the woods. His huge wings barely made a sound as they swept up and down.

Want a mate, his dragon growled out unexpectedly, should be looking for mate, not playing.

We are not playing! We are training, Mandra growled back. What do you want me to do? Start looking under the rocks for a mate for us?

Mandra bit back a curse when his symbiot let images of rocks being flipped over so they could look under them appear in his mind. That was all he needed, his symbiot’s sense of humor added to his dragon’s irritation at not having a mate. Between the two of them, they were about ready to drive him crazy.

Why did the Gods and Goddesses have to bless me with a grouchy dragon and a symbiot with an immature sense of humor? Mandra thought before releasing a deep groan. He should know by now payback was a bitch and his symbiot was a great one for paying him back whenever he got cranky with it.

Shit! Mandra thought as he felt the gold bands on his arms and legs and the gold armor protecting his body dissolve. Mandra’s dragon snapped its huge jaws as one of the bands of gold transformed into a tiny flying creature and flew in front of it, causing the huge sapphire shape to roll in midair to avoid hitting it.

Mandra’s curse turned into a huge torrent of curses when the gold threads reformed between two huge trees into a type of netting. Before Mandra could pull up out of the turn he was in, he found himself tangled in it. His dragon roared out in rage at being caught so unexpectedly. What was worse, the harder he tried to escape the more tangled he became until he was forced to lie quietly in the golden web waiting for the damn thing to forgive him.

I’m sorry, alright! I didn’t mean it. You have a wonderful sense of humor. You are the light of my life. You …, Mandra grimaced as more threads wrapped around the huge forearms of his dragon, … are not going to forgive me this time very easily.

The gold threads shook in response. Mandra let his head fall back until it was cradled in the threads. He was there for almost thirty minutes when he saw his brother and two of their best trackers coming up under him laughing.

Mandra lifted his huge sapphire head and growled menacing at them. The muscles of his dragon rippled as he strained to break free so he could have the last laugh when he beat their asses into the ground. His golden eyes flared with flames of hostility and embarrassment at being caught by his own symbiot.