Wydawca: Montana Publishing Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 2012

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Opis ebooka Capturing Cara - S.E. Smith

Cara Truman is a pint-size pistol whose inquisitive nature has gotten her into trouble more than once, but this adventure took her farther than she ever expected – on a journey out of this world! Trelon Reykill thought he had his hands full. A militant group of Curizans had captured his brother Zoran, and he was busy trying to fortify the Valdier defenses against the Sarafin Warriors, even as his dragon was roaring for him to find a mate. He was furious about the first, excited about the second, and pissed about the last. The last thing he expected to find on the primitive planet his brother took refuge on was his true mate. Now, he has a whole new set of problems: Capturing Cara long enough to make her his. His symbiot loves her, his dragon wants her, and he can’t catch her. On top of all that, someone is trying to kill her…. 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: 203 (6x9) pages, 71,274 words

Opinie o ebooku Capturing Cara - S.E. Smith

Fragment ebooka Capturing Cara - S.E. Smith

Capturing Cara

Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 2

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

Voyage 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, Elizabeth (Beth), 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

CAPTURING CARA: Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 2

Copyright © 2012 by S.E. Smith

First E-Book Publication March 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, places, 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, locales or organizations are strictly coincidental.

Summary: Cara finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime when she’s taken aboard a spaceship headed to another world and discovers an alien warrior determined to catch her.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-37-5

ISBN: 978-1-942562-01-6 (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

Cara Truman is a pint-size pistol whose inquisitive nature has gotten her into trouble on more than one occasion, but this adventure took her farther than she ever expected – on a journey out of this world!

Trelon Reykill thought he had his hands full. A militant group of Curizans had captured his brother Zoran, and he was busy trying to fortify the Valdier defenses against the Sarafin Warriors, even as his dragon was roaring for him to find a mate. He was furious about the first, excited about the second, and pissed about the last. The last thing he expected to find on the primitive planet his brother has taken refuge on was his true mate.

Now, he has a whole new set of problems… capturing Cara long enough to make her his. His symbiot loves her, his dragon wants her, and he can’t catch her. On top of all that, someone is trying to kill her.

Prologue

“All stand for the honorable Judge Tineman,” the bailiff said in a deep, booming voice that echoed around the nearly empty courtroom. The five people in the small room that served as a courtroom in Tinville, Tennessee stood as an older man came into the room pulling a dark robe over his T-shirt and jeans.

After the judge had seated himself behind the huge podium, he pulled out a pair of reading glasses and glanced down at the papers in front of him. “What’s the first case, Bill?” he bit out to the prosecutor, who traveled from county to county in the poorer communities just as he did. They had been weaving their dance for the past twenty years.

“Case 101-283, the City of Tinville vs. Cara Jean Truman,” the squeaky voice of the prosecutor said.

Judge Tineman’s head jerked up as his eyes flew around the room. A small clearing of a voice drew his attention to the tiny figure standing next to a well-dressed woman of about forty. He briefly closed his eyes when he saw the small girl waving back at him.

A huge grin lit up the little girl’s face as she called out, “Hi, Uncle Wilfred!”

Wilfred Randall Tineman let out a groan as he stared at his nine-year-old goddaughter. Glancing down at the paperwork again, he saw she had been caught speeding down Main Street—on a riding lawn mower. It wouldn’t have been so bad except she had modified the engine and had been caught doing fifty miles an hour in a twenty-five mile an hour zone.

This wasn’t the first time he had seen his goddaughter in court, and he had a bad feeling it wouldn’t be the last. He closed his eyes as he took a deep breath and remembered his promise to Cara’s dearly departed mother. He had promised to help Cara’s dad, James, any way he could in making sure Cara was raised in a safe, happy home.

Wilfred cleared his throat and looked over at Bill who was trying to act like he wasn’t there. He then fixed a stern gaze on Cara. “Hi, honey. Now, do you want to tell me what in the hell you were doing driving fifty miles an hour?”

Chapter One

Cara jumped out of the taxi and hurried around to the back. She waited impatiently for the cab driver to unlock the trunk. She rolled her eyes when the young kid eyed her up and down before popping it open.

At five feet two and barely over a hundred pounds when she was wet, Cara was used to guys sizing her up—and usually finding her lacking. She had a head full of short, dark auburn hair with streaks of purple in it, a scattering of freckles across her small, perky nose, and a ready smile on lips just a little too full to be fashionable. Not to mention at twenty-four, she looked more like she was about fifteen. Unfortunately for her today, the young driver didn’t look much older than she did and had been eyeing her in the mirror ever since he had picked her up outside her apartment.

“So, would you like to go out sometime?” the pimple-faced driver asked nervously.

“It all depends,” Cara said with a mischievous smile. She moved quickly around the kid to grab her small backpack containing her extra clothes and a heavy tool belt. “You see, I have to get clearance on you first. My uncle is head of the Eastern Mafia so you will have to submit a blood sample,” Cara said as she handed the kid a twenty-dollar bill. “Not a big sample, of course, just a tube or two.”

The kid’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed nervously. “Blood sample? For a date?”

Cara grinned as she balanced the super-size coffee she had bought after leaving her apartment in one hand while picking up her tool belt with the other. “Of course.” She winked at the boy and leaned closer, whispering, “You know… in case you are an undercover cop.”

“Undercover cop…” the boy stuttered.

Cara nodded knowingly. “… Undercover cop. He has to make sure you are cleared, which means a full background check. If you are a cop, well… let’s just say you wouldn’t like it if he were to find out. Or maybe worse, a convict. You haven’t ever been arrested, have you? I hope you don’t do drugs!” Cara paused for effect. “He really hates that. I mean, if it’s business he might be able to understand as long as you aren’t cutting into his revenues, but doing them? That’s a big no-no. He says it leads to indiscretion, and he hates anyone who is… well, you know.”

“Well, maybe another time,” the kid said nervously, looking a little green. Cara chuckled as she watched him bounce off the driver’s door as he tried to get into the cab before he had it opened all the way.

God, she loved pulling someone’s chain. It really didn’t matter what you said as long as you said it convincingly enough. East Coast Mafia! What a joke! Her Uncle Wilfred, bless his soul, would be turning over in his grave if he knew what she had accused him of. Still, it had been fun to watch the kid’s face as he ate up what she was saying.

Ducking under the cover of the terminal, Cara glanced outside, thankful for the small covering that protected her from the majority of the heavy downpour. The day had begun with a weather front moving through rapidly. She had talked to Trish earlier; she’d seemed confident the front would be through by late morning so they could fly out.

Cara had been asked by the engineers at Boswell International to fly out with Trisha Grove and Ariel Hamm, who were piloting a new experimental business jet that Cara had been a lead mechanic on for the past two years. She was supposed to have them put it through a series of tests on the way back and monitor and record her findings.

Cara took a sip of her coffee and made her way through the private lounge area of the small airport that housed Boswell International’s fleet of streamlined business jets. Waving her security badge to one of the guys who worked the front desk, she moved through the sliding doors leading to the hanger.

“Cara!” Ariel called out from under one wing as she did a preflight inspection.

“Ariel!” Cara grinned as she met up with her and gave Ariel a quick hug. Ariel, Trisha, and Cara had been working together for the past five years at Boswell International and often hung out together on the weekends when they were all in town. Cara had been an only child growing up, so it had been natural when Ariel and Trisha took on the role of surrogate older sisters when they met her.

“Where’s Trish?” Cara asked, setting her tool belt and backpack down on the ground.

“She’s in the cabin doing a run-through. The new controls look like something out of a science fiction movie. We have been spending more time in the simulator this past week than at home,” Ariel said as she ran her hand over one of the wings.

“Yeah, I’ve been following along. I’ve gone over the specs from the simulator and analyzed the stress factors base on the tests you two have been doing,” Cara replied, bouncing from the undercarriage of the airframe to the wings before using the footholds to climb up to look over the engine.

Ariel tried following Cara but soon gave up as it was like watching a super-bouncy ball in motion. Shaking her head, she asked. “When did you do that? I heard they had you on two other projects as well as this one. Weren’t you in Detroit yesterday and Philadelphia the day before that?”

Cara shrugged her thin shoulders as she took a deep gulp of her coffee, “Yeah. Haven’t slept in almost seventy-two hours! I did it last night when I got back. I headed for the office to finish up and had just enough time to get a quick shower before I came here. The cab driver asked me out, but I told him my uncle was in charge of the East Coast Mafia and he would have to submit a blood test before I could go. Did you know that this baby can cut about forty-two minutes off most cross-country flights? Doesn’t sound like much, but over the year it adds up. I want to see just how fast she can go on the way back. I heard you were taking a passenger to California? Have you heard from Carmen lately? I wonder if the new engine design can be modified for the TX-11 Detroit is working on?”

“Hold up, hold up!” Ariel called out in exasperation. “You lost me after the cab driver. Since when was your uncle ever involved with the Mafia? I thought he was a judge or something.”

Cara lightly jumped down from the wing being careful not to spill her coffee. “He was. I just told the kid that Uncle Wilfred was some bad ass to get him to bug off.”

Ariel groaned. “Why did you want him to bug off? You do this every time! How are you ever going to get a guy to like you if you never give them the time of day?”

“Trust me. This guy was not ‘the one.’” Cara said, motioning with two fingers. “He reminded me of the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. At least give me some credit for having taste. Besides, I was at least six years older! I’d feel like I was denying some poor girl her prom date.”

Cara swung under the airframe of the small business jet heading to inspect the other side. She could hear Ariel grumbling under her breath. It wasn’t her fault none of the guys Ariel and Trish kept introducing her to lit a flame inside her. Hell, she’d only had that flame lit once, and look where it had gotten her. Cara seldom reflected on the bad things that had happened to her in her life. What was the point? Shit happened. Then you either died or got over it.

Cara had done just that. She just made a point to never take another chance on loving someone again. Everyone she had ever loved had either left her or died. Well, with the exception of Ariel and Trish, and Cara always waited for one or the other to happen with them. They were test pilots, for crying out loud. There must be some type of short-term life expectancy for that!

God, Cara thought, if I’m not careful I’ll be in danger of becoming morose.

Since when did she give a rat’s ass about what anyone else thought about her? She had learned early on that the only one she could depend on was herself. Hell, her mom had died before she was a year old, and her dad couldn’t even keep her around once she had turned fourteen. Sure, she had been a handful. She was smarter than the average bear, after all.

She had been pissed as hell when her godfather and surrogate uncle, Wilfred, had found a boarding school for gifted kids like her. She had been sent away to live most of the year at a school devoted to expanding the creative skills of super smart kids.

She had excelled simply because she didn’t fit in. Most of the kids had come from upper-crust families with some title either before their name or after it. She had come from a small hick town in the mountains of Tennessee no one had ever heard of. Her one saving grace was her skill with any type of engine or computer. She could communicate with them on a level she couldn’t with another human being. Hell, even Trish and Ariel could only take her in small doses.

Cara was finishing up just as Trish was coming down the steps. “Hey, Trish.”

Trish turned and smiled. “Hey, Cara. Welcome aboard! Is this your first flight on the new Phantom Series?”

“Yeah. I’m really looking forward to putting her through the wringer,” Cara said, grabbing her backpack and tool belt. She turned to watch as a figure dressed all in black came out of the door leading from a side office. Her eyebrows rose in surprise, and she glanced at Trish. “Carmen coming too?”

“Yeah,” Trish said, watching as Ariel headed toward her sister. “Ariel got permission for Carmen to tag along. We’re heading to California to take an artist home. The Boswells had commissioned her to do a piece for them, and Carmen needed a lift,” Trish said. Glancing back one last time before she turned to head up the stairs of the jet, she said, “She’s still not doing too good.”

Cara looked back again. Carmen said something to her sister that must have pissed off Ariel royally. Ariel’s face had turned red, and she was standing there with her eyes closed in frustration. Cara grinned, as she herself often seemed to have that effect on Ariel. At least it wasn’t her this time.

Carmen gave both of them a quick nod as she moved to the back of the jet and buckled in. She pulled out her cell phone and began quietly speaking.

Okay, thought Cara, obviously there will be no communication with her this flight. Cara stored her tool belt and backpack in an overhead compartment and sat down. It is going to be a long flight. She groaned, silently praying she would be able to sleep through most of it. That was one reason she had stayed up so long. She was lucky to sleep four to five hours a night. She knew if she was awake for a seven- or eight-hour flight, she would be climbing out the emergency door! She had a terrible time with being claustrophobic and knew sitting in a tiny tin can would push her beyond what she could stand, even with the exercises the therapist had taught her.

“Hi, I’m Abby,” a voice said from the doorway of the jet.

“Cara,” Cara replied with a huge grin. “I’m the mechanic.”

Abby grinned. “I’m the artist.”

Cara’s eyes were drawn to the delicate gold bracelets encircling Abby’s slender wrists. She could almost feel the power coming off them! Most people would never see the delicate swirls moving within the gold, but Cara could not only see it, she could understand what it was trying to say. Unable to take her eyes off the gold bands, she reached out instinctively and touched first one, then the other.

“How you doing, little guys?” Cara murmured in a soft voice. “You taking good care of her? Now, aren’t you two the cutest little things I’ve ever seen.”

Cara could feel the warmth coming off the bracelets and watched the swirling patterns change as she touched and talked to them. These were living, breathing creatures. She was positive of it. It was almost as if they were begging her to keep their secret.

“I know, baby. I know,” Cara whispered. “Your secret is safe with me.”

Abby looked at Cara strangely, but Cara just smiled back. For some reason, she felt more at peace than she had in a long while. Cara buckled in as Ariel’s voice came over the intercom and asked everyone to make sure their personal belongings were stored securely and to please buckle up. The weather front had finally moved through, and they had received clearance for takeoff.

Cara kept glancing at the bracelets on Abby’s wrists, giggling and winking as the swirls moved in and out of each other. Once they were in the air, Carmen conked out, and Cara took the opportunity to check out the plane. Okay, Cara admitted to herself, she checked it out three or four times before she felt sure they were safe enough it wasn’t going to come apart in midair. That would really suck, the not-so-positive side of herself thought.

By the time she was done, she had finished her supersize coffee, and despite all the caffeine, she felt the pull of exhaustion. Seventy-two-plus hours was her limit, she thought drowsily, before she sank into dreams of little gold bracelets turning into birds.

Chapter Two

A little over four hours later, Cara stretched out her arms and legs, shooting the little gold symbiot on Abby’s wrists a wink as she sat all the way up. Trish was announcing they would be landing shortly. Cara glanced at Carmen, who had removed her sleep mask and was busy pulling a leather jacket out of her duffle bag before turning to look out of the small window of the jet.

“So, how long before we land?” Cara asked. “Cool, not a cloud in sight. Man, this is a little bitty place, isn’t it? Looks like the town I grew up in.”

Abby laughed in excitement. “Yes, it is small, but it’s home.”

“Looks like you have a reason to be back. Is he cute? Does he have a brother?” Cara asked mischievously.

“Yes, he is, and yes, he has four brothers,” Abby replied distractedly before she realized what she had just said.

Laughing, Cara stretched again. “Busted! Well, if they are cute, point me in their direction. I’m always looking for a good time in a small town.”

Abby couldn’t help but laugh. Cara had the kind of personality that no one could resist falling in love with. She was a ball of energy. Even sitting still she moved around.

Cara saw Abby’s amused smile and couldn’t help the rueful grin that curved her lips, “I’m a little ADHD. I couldn’t sit still if my life depended on it, and I only sleep about four hours a night if I’m lucky. Drives everyone nuts, but I get a lot done. I have an IQ out the wazoo. Needless to say, most people—and all men—can’t stand being around me for more than five minutes. Oh, but I do love to drive them crazy first.”

Abby chuckled. “Well, you haven’t driven me crazy yet, and I have thoroughly enjoyed your company.”

Twenty minutes later, Cara stood up, stretching her arms and legs. God, she was so happy they had finally landed. Luckily, she had gotten some much-needed sleep, and with a little caffeine, she would be almost ready for round two—as long as it didn’t mean a return flight that night.

She was going to have to think up some type of excuse to get Ariel and Trisha to postpone the return trip until at least sometime tomorrow. Cara’s mind was running through a hundred different reasons when Ariel’s voice came on to say they would be at the gate in just a few minutes. When Ariel thanked everyone for flying Hamm Air, the only airline where pigs did fly, Cara couldn’t contain the laugh that burst out. She absolutely adored these two women who could make life so much fun.

The airport was dark except for the few lights on some of the nearby hangers, the airport terminal, and the blue running lights on the runway. Cara climbed down the steps of the jet as soon as the plane had stopped. Taking a deep breath of the cool, fresh night air, Cara felt the tension begin to melt from her neck and shoulders.

You know, Cara berated herself silently, if you had picked a different career than being a jet mechanic, you wouldn’t have to worry about flying in a tin can! What was sad was that Cara really loved to fly—she just didn’t like the claustrophobia that came with it. If she could live her life flying in a biplane or floating in a hot-air balloon she would be in heaven.

Cara turned to watch as Ariel and Trish climbed down out of the jet, followed by Abby, who had grabbed her overnight bag. Carmen hadn’t come out yet as she was talking on her cell phone to someone. Cara had a feeling she didn’t want to have to spend any more time than necessary around any of them, especially Ariel. Abby was looking between the three of them with an expression like she was trying to get her nerve up to say something but wasn’t sure how to.

“It’s really late for you to head out tonight. Would you like to stay at my place for the night? It’s a little ways up the mountain, but it is really beautiful. I have an extra bedroom if you don’t mind doubling up and an oversized couch that makes a great bed,” Abby said, looking nervously back and forth between the three of them.

Cara let out a sigh of relief. Yes, she thought, the perfect excuse!

“Sounds great to me!” Cara said, stretching again in exaggeration. “I’d go bonkers if I had to get back in that tin can tonight. I’d love to meet your man. You said he had some brothers? Any chance of meeting them between tonight and tomorrow morning? I love meeting new guys. I’m trying to break my record of driving them off. I think the longest any guy has put up with me has been ten minutes.”

Trisha and Ariel laughed. “Ah, Cara, I think that Dougie guy lasted twelve. What do you think, Ariel?”

“Oh, at least twelve, maybe even thirteen minutes,” Ariel added.

Cara laughed out loud. She knew exactly who they were talking about: her last blind date the two of them had set her up with about a week ago. They had surprised her at dinner with a physics professor from the local university who lived across the hall from Trisha.

It turned out the surprise had been on them when the guy had started puffing on his inhaler within about two minutes of meeting her. It might have been due to her recitation of Stephen Hawking’s theory of black holes in excruciating detail, and how relationships could be correlated to it. “You two are nuts. You were so drunk.” Cara suspected that had played the biggest part in their kidnapping of the poor professor more than actually trying to find her a man.

“You can’t even remember his name. It was Douglas. Not Dougie,” Cara said in a perfect imitation of Douglas’s outraged, nasally voice. Of course, she was the one who had nicknamed him Dougie, knowing it would irritate the uptight scholarly ass, whose opinion of her clearly was that if brains were dynamite, she wouldn’t have enough to blow her nose. Ariel, Trish, and Abby burst out laughing. “Oh yeah, good ole Dougie,” Trish said, wiping her eyes. “How could we forget?”

Trish looked at Abby and smiled. “Unlike some people we know, Ariel and I both need at least eight hours of sleep more than once a month to survive. We would love to take you up on both of your offers.”

Abby frowned. “Both of my offers?”

“Yeah, bed and brothers.” Cara, Ariel, and Trish smirked.

“I appreciate the offer, but I think I’ll skip. I had transportation delivered earlier. I think I’ll head out as I slept most of the trip,” Carmen said quietly as she came up as if out of nowhere.

Cara listened as Ariel tried to talk to her sister, but it was obvious to her Carmen had already made up her mind. Cara felt bad for both of them. She didn’t know Carmen that well, only what Ariel had told her. But she did know Ariel and didn’t like to see the pain in her friend’s eyes as she watched her sister walk away.

Turning, Cara was relieved when she heard Abby say she was going to get her truck. “Sounds great,” Cara said with relief. She headed for the jet, calling out over her shoulder, “It won’t take me but a minute.”

Less, if I can manage it, thought Cara as she climbed into the jet. God, I hate closed-in spaces. Grabbing her tool belt and backpack, she counted twenty-three seconds. Yup, nothing like a little claustrophobia to get her butt in gear.

“I’ll catch up with Abby, and see you guys in a few minutes,” Cara said as she jumped down off the steps of the jet.

“Okay. It’ll take us about ten minutes or so to close everything up,” Trish said, glancing worriedly at Ariel, who was silently watching Carmen walk away into the darkness.

Cara touched Ariel’s arm gently as she walked by her in silent support. Ariel gave Cara a sad smile before she turned around and followed Trish into the jet.

Cara decided she needed to give Ariel something else to think about. Maybe if the brothers Abby knew were any fun, they could distract Ariel for a while. Hell, maybe if the brothers were any fun they could distract her for a while. It wasn’t as if they were going to be around long enough to fall in love with any of the guys, and there wasn’t any harm in having some fun, even if it was only for a couple of hours.

Cara grinned as she hurried to catch up with Abby. The idea of maybe doing some heavy petting cheered Cara up. She might not want to go all the way with a guy, at least none of the ones she knew, but that didn’t mean she didn’t like to cuddle and kiss. The way she looked at it, it was like watching the Circuit de Monaco. A girl could enjoy the looks and sounds, appreciate the performance, but could call it quits if she didn’t like how it was going.

Yup, thought Cara, I could handle a little excitement tonight!

Chapter Three

Trelon growled under his breath as he held his bleeding knuckles out to his symbiot. It was the second time in as many minutes that he’d needed to be healed. At the rate he was going, he was never going to get the modifications to the engines done on the crystal drive he was working on.

“Thanks, my friend,” Trelon said with a deep affection in his voice. The relationship between the Valdier warrior, his dragon, and his symbiot was so deep one could not be separated from the others. The golden shape of a huge cat swirled with colors at the affection it heard in Trelon’s voice. Within seconds, small bands of gold separated to encase his hand in a mesh of gold metal, forming a flexible glove.

Trelon laughed, “Getting tired of healing me so soon, my friend? Thank you again for your assistance.” The huge golden cat shimmered with an array of colors before settling down beside Trelon to study what he was doing.

Trelon tried to focus on the job at hand. He was working on some modifications to the engines that combined the energy from the symbiot on board and the crystals they were using to power their vessel. So far, he had cut several days off their journey to the primitive planet his older brother, Zoran, had found refuge on. Trelon had buried his fear from his other brothers when he had first heard Zoran’s call for help. He had been afraid his new defense system had malfunctioned.

The Valdier had been at peace with the Sarafin warriors for the past hundred or so years, but that did not mean it would last. The peace was kept only because of a promise that the first-born daughter of the king of Valdier would be given in marriage to the first-born son of the king of Sarafin. Unfortunately for the Sarafin, Trelon’s father neglected to inform them that females were few and far between. In fact, no daughters had been born into the ruling family of Valdier in centuries. Trelon grimaced.

If the Valdier had been truthful to the Sarafin, they would have admitted that the population of females was steadily declining. Their scientists were not sure exactly why, but they believed it was due to the symbiotic relationship the males had with their symbiot and their dragon.

There had been a time of great wars between the Curizans, the Valdier, and the Sarafin. Because of the wars, more males were needed. Over time, the females began breeding more and more warriors. The problems became critical when the wars ended. The females continued to produce warriors, and over time the difference between the population of males and females reached a turning point—there were more males than females.

About three hundred years before, this discrepancy in numbers had finally forced the Valdier to look outside their own galaxy in a desperate search for females. Unfortunately, they encountered another problem, their symbiot, and oftentimes their dragon, refused to true mate with the females. While the males could enjoy sexual release and some pleasure, they never achieved the fulfillment of a true mate—acceptance from all three parts of themselves. Only with a true mate could the dragon fire take hold and a male find total sexual satisfaction.

Trelon leaned his head back against the cold metal of the compartment he was working in and drew in a deep breath. His dragon was getting impatient for a mate. Unless he could find his true mate, the growing hunger and discomfort would continue to eat away at him from the inside. Gritting his teeth, he tried to force his dragon to calm down. It wasn’t like there was a damn thing he could do about it. Out of all the women he had been with over the years not a damn one could satisfy all three parts of him.

Hell, he was lucky he had ever gotten laid. His dragon really didn’t care so much what the female was like if he was in the mood for a good fuck. It would tolerate the female long enough to scratch the itch, but it wouldn’t bite one of them no matter how much he’d tried to trick it into doing so.

Then there was his symbiot. He and his dragon had to practically beg it not to kill the females he had bedded. The only way he had been able to get any relief had been to demand that it stay across the room from them when he was with a woman. There had been a time or two when he’d even had to send it off to play in the forest if it really didn’t like the female.

He didn’t know what he was going to do if he didn’t find a woman soon. Perhaps he should take N’tasha up on her offer. Even though his symbiot couldn’t stand her, his dragon was tolerant enough to let him bed her a few times a week. It was better than nothing, even though the likelihood of their mating producing a child was very small, Trelon thought with a sigh of regret.

Cara hurried across the tarmac and squeezed through the gate she had seen Abby going through. She could feel her energy level escalating as she moved. A few hours of sleep, the cool night air, being out of the plane, and the thought of having fun had her adrenaline pumping. She wanted to catch up with Abby so she could drill her about the brothers and see if there was a chance to cheer Ariel up a little.

Cara frowned when she saw someone coming up out of the shadows behind Abby. The guy kept his face turned so she couldn’t really make out his features. A sense of unease ran down her spine. She hoped Abby knew the guy because she was definitely getting bad vibes from the way he was moving up behind her without calling out a greeting. Cara decided she better call out a warning when she noticed Abby jerk in surprise.

“Hey, Abby! You okay?” Cara asked as she moved toward the truck. “Ariel and Trisha are on their way. It didn’t take…” Cara’s words died off as she saw Abby crumple against the man.

The man’s head jerked up when he heard Cara call out. Pulling a gun from behind him, he aimed it at Cara and pulled the trigger. Cara dropped her backpack and tool belt and was already hitting the pavement when a soft pop went off, barely missing her. Within moments the man had picked Abby up and slung her over his shoulder, letting off another round of gunfire as he moved. Cara rolled toward a golf cart parked nearby and hid behind the small front wheels, for once glad that she was so small. Cara was breathing hard through her nose, quickly thinking through one strategy after another when she felt a hand on her arm, causing her to let out a small scream.

“Shush. It’s me—Carmen,” Carmen said, kneeling next to Cara. She looked up when she saw Ariel and Trisha running toward them.

“Shit, what happened?” Trisha said, breathing out a sigh of relief when she saw Cara turn and sit up. Before Cara could say anything, Carmen spoke up in a low voice.

“Some asshole waylaid Abby. From the little I was able to gather, he isn’t too happy she didn’t choose him instead of this Zoran guy. He stuck her with something and has her cuffed. I’m going to follow him. Keep your line open; I might need some backup,” Carmen said before running toward a motorcycle hidden in the dark between two hangers.

“We need wheels,” Ariel muttered darkly, watching as a truck peeled out from the airport. Carmen didn’t bother turning on the lights on her bike. She pulled the fast but quiet Yamaha YAF-R1 motorcycle after the truck, popping up onto one wheel when she floored it.

“On it,” Cara said shakily, moving toward Abby’s truck. Within seconds she had the engine running. Cara couldn’t help but wish she could tell her Uncle Wilfred that hot-wiring cars in her early teens had done her some good in life. She remembered when she was twelve and had taken the sheriff’s car for a spin. She had been pissed at the sheriff for some reason she couldn’t even remember now. She had left it parked outside of old Widow Miller’s house. How was she supposed to know that the sheriff had been having an affair with Widow Miller and his wife would try to shoot him? She had only been twelve, for crying out loud!

Of course, after that little incident everyone in town knew about Widow Miller and the sheriff. Needless to say, the sheriff didn’t get reelected that fall. When her Uncle Wilfred found out what had happened, he had given her the third degree and made her work in the sheriff’s garage after school for the remainder of the school year under the new sheriff.

Cara was grinning like a fool when Ariel and Trisha jumped in the front seat and looked at her funny. She couldn’t help the silly grin on her face. “I used to have a problem with taking vehicles for a spin.”

Cara slid the truck into gear as soon as the two women had buckled up and tore off after Carmen and the truck. “Call Carmen; ask her which direction.”

Cara listened with one ear to the conversation between Ariel and Carmen and kept the other on the revving of the truck’s engine, trying to get a feel for how much power she could get out of it. It was important to know the vehicle you were driving, especially if you were going to be driving at a high rate of speed on unknown roads. She didn’t want to take a chance of taking a curve too fast or having the engine seize on her in the middle of a turn.

“Should we call the local authorities?” Cara asked as she turned the wheel sharply, punching the gas pedal as far as it would go. “Damn, I need to work on her truck. The acceleration on this thing sucks.” Cara wondered distractedly if Abby ever drove the poor thing over the speed limit. It was acting more like a granny-mobile than a pickup truck!

Trisha rolled her eyes. “Only you would be thinking about something like that while chasing down bad guys in the middle of nowhere.”

“Hey, I can work on more than one thing at a time,” Cara said as she took another turn, sliding the truck around and fishtailing a little. Oops, turn, turn, turn, straighten, don’t over correct—that’s good.

Cara’s thoughts were all over the place as the adrenaline began pumping through her in high gear. Tires are a little bald on the back, transmission could use a tune-up,and one of the cylinders is missing slightly. She could work with that.

Maybe if the brothers are really cute, I can talk Ariel and Trish into staying an extra couple of days. It isn’t like the Boswells are in a hurry to get their jet back, since it’s still in production. That will give me time to work on Abby’s truck. Of course, Cara inserted into her running commentary to herself, we have to get Abby back first and kick some bad-guy butt. Cara felt confident that shouldn’t take too long between the four—five, if you counted Abby—women. Hell, Cara thought with a rueful grin, knowing Carmen, there might not even be anything left for the rest of us to kick!

Both Ariel and Trisha let out a string of expletives they had learned while in the Air Force when Cara made the next turn, barely keeping all four tires on the pavement. Cara just laughed. She had taken more than one joyride in her life and had never been caught by the police who had been chasing her.

Chapter Four

Trelon had spent the previous night studying all the signals coming from the planet below them. He had to admit, from space the planet was very beautiful, and he was somewhat excited about learning more about it. What he really wanted to learn more about was the female who had not only captured his brother’s heart, but had been accepted by his symbiot and his dragon. Trelon had a hard time wrapping his mind around the fact that his brother had found a true mate with a female who was of a different species.

When he had first gazed upon Abby, he had been taken in by her gentle beauty and grace. She seemed so delicate compared to their females, but the symbol of the dragon’s mark on her neck showed she had the strength of a Valdier warrior. Now, as he gazed around the meadow where he and the others had transported, he could appreciate some of the things Zoran had mentioned during their conversations.

Trelon had spent the day exploring and helping to prepare Zoran’s mother symbiot for the journey back to their warship in space. Zoran, Kelan, and he were walking across the meadow when he noticed a change in Zoran.

“Zoran, all is well?” Trelon asked, noticing his brother’s sudden stillness.

Zoran looked at Trelon as if coming out of a daze. “She has returned.”

Trelon and Kelan grinned at their brother, noticing a difference in him already. Zoran was not the only one impatient for his mate’s return; they could practically hear Zoran’s dragon roar with the desire to see her as well.

Trelon couldn’t help but feel a pang of envy and, he admitted, jealousy. He could feel his dragon demanding for him to go look for a female. Pushing down the impatient clawing inside him, he let his hand drift down to his symbiot, which was walking beside him, stroking his hand over the sleek head. He would not get his hopes up. The likelihood of finding another true mate on this primitive planet was probably smaller than a nanobot.

Zoran looked at both of his brothers with a grin. “Soon you will meet my true mate.”

Trelon couldn’t help but laugh and tease Zoran and his dragon with all the things he and Kelan would do to keep him occupied so he couldn’t be alone with his mate. Trelon playfully punched Kelan on the arm and motioned with his head for Kelan to grab Zoran so they could wrestle him to the ground. Trelon was just reaching for Zoran when he noticed him suddenly frowning.

“Abby will not be returning alone. There are three females with her,” Zoran said with a frown of discontent. Trelon bit back a grin. It was obvious his older brother did not want to share Abby with anyone right now.

Trelon couldn’t help the low chuckle that escaped as he responded to Zoran’s displeasure. “Perhaps she brings our true mates to us,” Trelon teased, pushing down the roar of hope that rushed out of his dragon at the mention of the females. “I, for one, am not ready, but perhaps Kelan, Mandra, and Creon might appreciate having one. I still have much to taste before I settle for one female.”

Kelan laughed, grabbing Trelon around the neck. “You believe yourself a bull dragon to satisfy so many females. It takes that many because none could ever put up with you for long.”

Zoran laughed as he watched his brothers joking around. Trelon twisted and pushed his brother off him. It had been a running joke among the brothers about Trelon’s fortitude among the women in the hopes of finding his true mate. Trelon reached around, and just about had Kelan in a headlock when he heard Zoran’s roar of rage.

Without thinking, he called forth his dragon. In the blink of an eye, he had changed forms and was lifting off the ground, his symbiot transforming to gold armor around his dragon. He didn’t question Zoran. He had learned during the many battles they had fought against both the Curizans and the Sarafin to trust in his brother and in his own dragon’s instinct.

Calling out in dragon-speak, Trelon listened as Zoran explained how Abby was in danger.

“Do you know who it is?” Trelon asked as he flew up beside Zoran.

“Yes. It is the same man who has been after Abby for years. He has become more aggressive over the past week. He wishes to claim Abby for his own. I will kill him,” Zoran said with a growl. Trelon’s own thoughts flew back to the gentle memory of Abby held securely in his brother’s arms and blushing as she looked from his brother to the men on board the warship. He growled deeply; no one messed with his brother’s true mate and lived. No one.

Cara gripped the steering wheel with a determination that belied her tiny figure as she wrestled to make the turn off the highway onto the gravel road without rolling. Ariel and Trish were cussing up a blue streak. The truck slid dangerously close to the trees that bordered each side of the road. Cara had to admit, even she was impressed with Carmen’s driving. Hell, she was having a hard time keeping a two-ton pickup on all four wheels. She was definitely going to grill Carmen on how she was able to keep upright on a motorcycle.

Cara bit back an expletive of her own when she hit a particularly deep pothole. The headlights of the truck bounced up and down wildly, giving the already dark night a more sinister feel. Cara twisted the steering wheel sharply to the left to miss another hole, then had to make sure she didn’t over correct when the wheels hit a soft spot.

“Do you see her?” Trish asked anxiously. “I can barely see a thing. I would hate for Carmen to wreck in the middle of the road and not see her until too late.”

“She’s fine. I think I saw some brake lights up ahead through the trees,” Ariel bit out between bumps. “God, Cara. Do you think you could hit any more ruts?” Ariel cried out after Cara hit a particularly bad hole and knocked her into Trish. Cara heard Trish groan as her head hit the passenger-side window.

“I’m doing the best I can. It is darker than shit out here, and I don’t think this road has ever been graded! You try driving over twenty miles an hour on it, and see if you can do any better,” Cara said crossly as she swerved to miss a branch lying half in and half out of the road. The sound of metal being scraped was loud as another branch ran down the side of the truck.

“I can fix that,” Cara said loudly over the screeching. She had no sooner gotten past the fallen debris when a flash behind the truck drew her attention.

“Son of a bitch! What was that?” Cara bit out, seeing flames erupting behind the truck through the rearview mirror.

Ariel twisted around trying to see out the back window. “I don’t know. You didn’t hit the gas tank or anything, did you?”

“Of course, she didn’t,” Trish said, holding onto the dashboard. “Otherwise that would have been us. Just don’t give her any ideas!”

Ariel was just about to reply when she was thrown forward suddenly as Cara slammed on the brakes, sliding sideways in an attempt to miss the motorcycle that was lying behind the pickup truck of the bastard who had taken Abby. Another flash of light flared before the trees in front of the truck carrying Abby burst into flames, throwing several huge trees across the road and blocking any further passage.