Cosmos’ Promise - S.E. Smith - ebook
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The creator of the Gateway has a few secrets.... Cosmos Raines is one of the most brilliant inventors in the world, but his most profound creation must be hidden from Earth’s people. Already he has lost control of the Gateway, and he doesn’t want it to get worse! Not only has his best friend and her family moved to a new star system through his invention, but he now has a warehouse full of alien guests, including one beautiful female he can’t stop thinking about. In Baade, females are so few in numbers that they are protected to the point of captivity. Terra ‘Tag Krell Manok has spent her life in the shadows of her three older brothers and her father, Teriff, the high chancellor of Prime and a fierce warrior in his own right. No one defies Teriff and lives, but he has to deal with political machinations just like any other leader, which is why he sends his daughter through the Gateway. A clan is insisting that she be mated to one of their own, and Teriff needs to buy some time. The last thing Terra expects to find on the other side of the Gateway is her bond mate - in the form of a human male! Cosmos may not have been expecting the woman of his dreams to be an alien, but he knows one thing for sure - no one is going to take her away from him, not the clan who wants to use her nor her father who thinks all human males are worthless. 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: 184 (6x9) pages, 61,238 words

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Cosmos’ Promise

Cosmos’ Gateway Book 4

S. E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

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

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Ella and the Beast

Love S.E. Smith?

Characters’ Relationships in Cosmos’ Gateway

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

COSMOS’ PROMISE: COSMOS’ GATEWAY BOOK 4

Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Publication July 2013

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, locale or organizations is strictly coincidental.

Summary: Cosmos’s latest experiment has opened a gateway into a whole new world, and the inhabitants of that world are turning his life upside down.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-46-7 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-10-8 (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

The creator of the Gateway has a few secrets....

Cosmos Raines is one of the most brilliant inventors in the world, but his most profound creation must be hidden from Earth’s people. Already he has lost control of the Gateway, and he doesn’t want it to get worse! Not only has his best friend and her family moved to a new star system through his invention, but he now has a warehouse full of alien guests, including one beautiful female he can’t stop thinking about.

In Baade, females are so few in numbers that they are protected to the point of captivity. Terra ‘Tag Krell Manok has spent her life in the shadows of her three older brothers and her father, Teriff, the high chancellor of Prime and a fierce warrior in his own right. No one defies Teriff and lives, but he has to deal with political machinations just like any other leader, which is why he sends his daughter through the Gateway. A clan is insisting that she be mated to one of their own, and Teriff needs to buy some time. The last thing Terra expects to find on the other side of the Gateway is her bond mate - in the form of a human male!

Cosmos may not have been expecting the woman of his dreams to be an alien, but he knows one thing for sure - no one is going to take her away from him, not the clan who wants to use her nor her father who thinks all human males are worthless.

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: 184 (6x9) pages, 61,238 words

Chapter One

“RITA, run those numbers again for me and send it to my tablet,” Cosmos said distractedly as he reached up for the cup of coffee he had set on top of the file cabinet.

He took a huge gulp before he grimaced. It was not only ice cold, it tasted like shit. He must have forgotten to make a new batch last night - or was it this morning? He gave a blurry-eyed look at the watch on his wrist before he gave a command for it to just tell him the time. His eyes were so tired he couldn’t even read the damn thing anymore.

“RITA, on second thought, just tell me what it says,” Cosmos called out to the computer system he and Tilly Bell, the mom of his best friend, Tink, had designed.

Well, he had designed the super-computer, but Tilly had hacked into it one weekend when she was visiting her youngest daughter, Jasmine ‘Tinker’ Bell. Tilly had uploaded into his NOVAD computer system an experimental artificial intelligence program she had designed.

The program named RITA soon took over his entire system, learning and developing at an exponential rate to the point he just thought of it as another pain in his ass when she gave him attitude. RITA stood for Really Intelligent Technical Assistant. Cosmos had called her a few other things. After taking cold showers for almost a month in the middle of a Maine winter, he had learned to keep his less than ideal thoughts to himself.

Tink’s parents, Tilly and Angus Bell, had practically adopted him when he and Tink met a little over four years ago while they were all camping at a campground not far from Calais, Maine. He and Tink had clicked, their minds and personalities made for the perfect balance of acceptance and respect. While he had hoped at one point that it might develop into something else, he realized that he would always see Tink as the little sister he never had. She had become not only the sister figure, but his best friend.

He found he could talk to her about anything. Her knowledge and ingenuity with motors and power generators blew him away and she loved to listen to his newest crazy ideas. When Tilly and Angus decided to move on when Tink was eighteen, she decided to stay. She moved into the third floor of the warehouse and a comfortable companionship had developed.

All of that changed a few months back when he needed help with his current project – a Gateway portal. He had been working on opening a doorway between two places on Earth, not two places between star systems!

He had asked Tink to work on the generators. He needed more power. He had planned to be there, but was called away to Chicago to meet up with his parents.

A shudder went through him as he remembered that morning when he arrived back unexpectedly. Fortunately for Tink and him, his parents cancelled out on him at the last minute. He didn’t even want to think what could have happened if they hadn’t.

Hell, he thought, who am I kidding? Look at what still happened!

The Gateway had been a huge success, at least from a scientific viewpoint. From a personal one, it was a disaster! His once quiet home was now crawling with aliens from another world.

Correction, Prime Warriors from Baade, he silently corrected himself.

Now, one of them was missing, two of them were out there somewhere looking for their ‘mates’ and another one was about to drive him out of his mind. The male that was missing and the two warriors running loose he could handle. The female who was currently sleeping in Tink’s former bedroom was totally another matter. He briefly closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to drive the image of the beautiful alien female out of his mind. None of the techniques he used to help him remain focused were working – at least not with her.

Grumbling under his breath, Cosmos walked over to the small kitchenette area, he had built into his lab and poured the remaining brew of coffee down the drain. He didn’t care what anyone said, Cowboy Coffee tasted like shit. He quickly made another pot, breathing in the fragrant aroma as it ground the fresh Kopi Luwak beans he special ordered. He didn’t give a damn about the origin of the beans, it was the jolt from these particular beans that he needed to stay alert.

I definitely need to be alert now that my latest project is a success, he thought wearily.

“Cosmos dear,” RITA’s voice hummed out in a voice that was an exact duplicate of Tilly Bell’s husky tones. “Your guest is awake.”

Cosmos bit back a curse and looked down at his left palm. In the center of it was a series of intricate circles. The damn things pulsed with life, pulling a smothered groan of pain from him as his body reacted to it. A wave of heat flooded him, rolling over his hypersensitive flesh until a light film of sweat coated his body as he fought against reacting to it. It was almost like she was stroking his skin with her long, delicate fingers.

What the hell have I gotten myself into? Cosmos muttered through clenched teeth as he felt her running her fingers over and over the mark.

His head fell forward and he tried to breath in deep, calming breaths to fight the reaction his body was having to her gentle strokes, but his damn cock was too busy pulsing to listen to him. With a loud curse, he pulled away from the counter and strode toward the doors leading out of his lab. He called out a short command to RITA to open them, bypassing the keypad. There was no way in hell he would have been able to push the damn buttons to exit the lab with the way his hands were shaking.

Who the hell needs to push buttons when they have an alien female doing it? he thought savagely. The aggravating female upstairs is doing enough of it to last me a lifetime. His whole body was trembling now with suppressed hunger, all thought of fatigue disappearing as the urgent need to claim the female upstairs took over.

Cosmos strode through the heavy metal doors that opened and took the stairs leading up to the second floor of the converted warehouse two at a time. He had purchased the old warehouse along the river when he was eighteen and spent millions upgrading and securing it. It had become his main living and research center.

At almost twenty-seven, he was a multi-billionaire in his own right. His defense and security systems made up almost fifty percent of his inventions, but his other inventions and systems’ developments in the medical, environmental, and space research fields made up the rest. Both of his parents were world-renowned scientists, though he seldom saw them. They were currently in Asia working on different projects.

“RITA, where is she?” Cosmos gritted out as he reached the top of the stairs leading into his living quarters. His eyes flashed to the set of stairs leading up to the third floor that used to belong to Tink.

“Cosmos,” a soft, startled voice said. “Is something wrong?”

Cosmos’ eyes drank in the slender figure of the female hesitating on the bottom step. She was absent-mindedly stroking the palm of her left hand. Each delicate stroke caused the flames burning inside him to burst even hotter. Like a moth drawn to a light, Cosmos jerked forward closing the space between him and the dark haired beauty looking at him in innocent confusion.

“Yes, damn you. There is something wrong,” he said hoarsely as he slid his large hands around her smaller ones in an effort to get her to stop the torture she was inflicting.

“What….?”

Cosmos didn’t give the beautiful, silver-eyed female a chance to say another word. His lips crushed hers in a savage, burning kiss. His hands let go of hers as he slid them around her narrow waist, pulling her closer to his throbbing length.

“Terra,” he groaned softly. “You are killing me with your touch. I promised your brother I would protect you with my life, but I swear if you don’t stop I’ll take you right here and now.”

Terra ‘Tag Krell Manok’s soft gasp died on her lips as Cosmos once again claimed them with his own. Her body melted into his as his fingers gently kneaded her hips. Her hands slowly crept up until she could bury them in the silky brown strands of hair touching the back of his collar, pulling him even closer.

How could I have ever thought of human males as being weak? she wondered vaguely as his strong arms pulled her close.

Cosmos was lost in the sensations coursing through his body. Everything in him was focused on the slender female standing in the circle of his arms. She was only a couple of inches shorter than his six feet two inches. Her long black hair hung down her back like a silky waterfall. The temptation to wind it around his fingers so he could hold her to him was too tempting to resist. He shuddered as her hands rose up to grasp his broad shoulders, her fingernails curling into his hard flesh before moving to entwine with his shaggy hair.

A soft moan escaped him as he pulled back far enough to gaze down into her dark silver eyes. His hazel eyes glittered with frustration, annoyance and desire as unfamiliar emotions crashed through the defenses he had carefully erected over a lifetime of being different.

He had created a very elaborate picture of himself to the outer world. While considered a bit of a playboy nerd to those who read the newspapers, gossip magazines, and tabloids, he was just the opposite. He might have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but it didn’t show.

His parents had made a mint off of the different patents they developed and he was just like them in that regard. He had also earned his doctorate by the time he was twenty-two. He modified the warehouse he was living in near the river and designed it as a combination lab/home so he would have a nondescript place to live that would draw little attention as he followed his true passion.

The image he created fit in with what he wanted the world to believe. Even Tink, his best friend and former roommate, was unaware of ninety percent of what he did. It was safer for her, or it had been before she got swept off her feet by a huge Prime warrior from Baade.

He used the carefully conceived misconception of Cosmos Raines to hide the work he did. He had begun building the outer shell he needed as a cover when he was sixteen. Now, his billion dollar companies were run by some of the smartest, deadliest men and women in the world.

He had carefully selected each of them with the help of RITA over the past six years. His desire to make a difference in the world had not come from comic book heroes, but from seeing the damage being done through his own experiences. He had been the target of kidnappers since he was little more than a toddler. First, by governments and madmen around the world who wanted to use his parents then later because of his own abilities. He had surpassed his parents long ago.

News and academic institutions claimed he was smarter than Einstein. Cosmos could care less if he was or not. He only knew he had been given a special gift that he planned to use for good. He was careful about the military contracts he approved.

He had a top notch group of men and women overseeing that division of his corporation. Each and every one of them owed him for their life or the life of a loved one. He never asked for payment, those that he helped out volunteered. Most he accepted, a few he had declined based on the information he had about them. He swore them to loyalty and confidentiality. In return, they would never have to worry about their financial security ever again.

Cosmos pulled in a deep breath as he felt the soft hands caressing his neck. “We….,” he began before closing his eyes in frustration when he was interrupted by the only person in the world he swore was smarter than even him.

“Oh good, you’re out of your hole,” a cheerful voice chirped out in a voice way too full of merriment. “Morning, Terra, sweetheart. Did you sleep well?” The voice asked with a slightly amused tone that pulled on Cosmos’ last nerve.

Terra took a step back from Cosmos and let her hands drop to her sides before she turned to look at the tiny figure with an amused smile of her own. “Pleasant morning to you, Tilly. Is Angus awake?”

“Oh heavens, yes. He should be back from his walk any minute now. How about I fix us some breakfast? Angus loves a good breakfast in the morning. He says it gives him the energy to make it through a day with me,” Tilly said with a knowing grin. “Cosmos, go take a shower, dear. You look like you have been up all night.”

Cosmos opened his eyes and glared at Tilly with a dark frown. “I have been. I got home late and had some work to do in the lab. We had a slight problem last night. What the hell are you and Angus doing here? I thought you were on Baade still,” he growled out before flushing when Tilly raised her eyebrow at him. “Sorry,” he muttered, running his hand over the back of his neck. He glanced at Terra’s pale cheeks. “Your family is fine,” he assured her hesitantly when she looked at him with worry reflected in her eyes.

Tilly came over and placed her hand on his arm. “We were. I wanted to be here to hear about what happened. No one was telling us anything back on Baade. Go take your shower,” she urged gently. “I’ll fix us something to eat and you can tell us what happened when you get out. Angus will be back by then,” she added before turning and heading toward the small kitchen area.

Cosmos watched as Tilly disappeared into the kitchen. He turned and started walking across the spacious living area. He paused at the entrance to the hallway leading to his bedroom. He turned slightly and looked at Terra who was standing in the same spot, staring down at her left hand. With a muttered oath, he walked back to her.

Gently reaching out, he cupped her hand in his and ran his thumb over the intricate circles that were visible on her palm. He looked down at it for a moment before he cupped her lowered chin in his other hand and tilted it until she was forced to look at him. He smiled down at her before he brushed a light kiss across her lips.

“Everything will be alright,” he promised her.

She smiled up at him with a smile that reflected her uncertainty. “I know,” she whispered. “Go get refreshed. I will help Tilly with the morning meal.”

Cosmos nodded again before he turned and strode back down the hallway. His mind was going in a hundred different directions. He both appreciated and hated when it did that. It was as if all his nerve-endings were trying to work at the same time and information was being processed in exponential amounts. He really needed to lay off the caffeine. It never helped, especially when he was exhausted.

Chapter Two

Cosmos ripped the black T-shirt off over his head, balling it up and tossing it toward the hamper in the corner as he entered his room. His muscles rippled as he rolled his shoulders, the long scar across his back stretching as he rolled them forward. The scar on his side pulled, showing a long white line as he twisted around to kick off his shoes.

He bent and pulled off his socks before he reached for the buttons on his black cargo pants. He pushed them and his boxers down. Stepping out of one leg, he caught the other leg with his foot and pulled it off before tossing them in the hamper behind his shirt. His body was taut from the workout last night and lack of sleep. Their mission had been successful, but not without casualties. He felt each one personally. The men that were wounded or killed were a part of his responsibility. It didn’t matter that they had volunteered, he still felt responsible.

Cosmos gave the command for the shower to start at the pre-programmed temperature he liked. He ran his hand over his jaw. He wouldn’t bother shaving. He had a light coating of whiskers, but he was too damn exhausted to worry about it. Stepping under the hot spray, he stretched his arms above his head, resting them on the tiled surface, and let the water fall over his tired body. His mind replayed every move that the teams made last night.

He had coordinated a mission to cover Tansy Bell, Tilly and Angus Bell’s middle daughter, who was a government operative. The mission that had covered half a world, from Russia to the United States, had cumulated late last night at the Canadian Ambassador’s house.

Tansy and her Russian counterparts were supposed to target Craig Knapp, the Senior Director for the Collaborative Partnership against Terrorism, or CPAT. This was the group Tansy had belonged to before she found out they set her up to be killed. If that wasn’t bad enough, she had a Russian billionaire named Boris Avilov hunting her as well. It turned out Craig Knapp was lining his pocket with Avilov’s cash. Tansy found that out almost too late. If not for the help of a huge Prime warrior named Mak, she would have been dead.

Cosmos had RITA relay the information that Tansy had recovered from Avilov to his computer system so he could review the data she had stolen. In it were the details of the planned assassination of the President of the United States, Askew Thomas. What was not surprising to Cosmos was the fact that the Vice-President was working with Avilov and others, including Knapp, to see that it happened. The Vice President had his own agenda and it was not remaining in the political shadow of Thomas.

Unfortunately, Tansy, having the stubborn-headed, independent soul that was the makeup of the Bell females, was exposed by one of her former operatives who recognized her, even though she was in disguise. Now, he was missing one Prime warrior and another two who were searching for the Russian females, Natasha and Helene Baskov, who were kidnapped at the same time as Tansy. The only good thing that had come out of last night was that Craig Knapp would soon be a dead man and Mak had taken Tansy back to his world to be healed. Cosmos just hoped he kept her ass there.

He had been having RITA run the license plate numbers on every vehicle that drove through the intersections near the Canadian Ambassador’s house. Every surveillance camera in the region had been uploaded to RITA who was enhancing and examining every clue available to help locate the women and Merrick, the huge Prime warrior who seemed to have disappeared into thin air with them.

“Cosmos?” Tilly’s voice called from his bedroom. “If you don’t get a move on, I’m sending Terra in to help get you out of there!” she threatened.

Cosmos groaned as he quickly ordered the shower off. “I’ll be out in just a minute,” he yelled out.

“My goodness, where did you get that scar from? That looks like a new one,” Tilly said from the bathroom door.

“Jesus, Tilly!” Cosmos yelped out as he kept his body turned. Hopefully, the glass was fogged up enough from the heat of the shower so maybe she couldn’t see too much. “Will you get out?” he choked back in embarrassment.

Tilly’s husky laugh echoed in the spacious room, but he could tell she had turned. “It isn’t like I’ve never seen a naked man before,” she chuckled. “You should see Angus. I swear that man can….” Her voice thankfully faded as she walked away.

Cosmos’ head dropped forward as he shook his head. “Only Tilly Bell can make me feel like a twelve year old again,” he muttered with a chuckle. “And the last thing I need right now is to think of what Angus looks like naked,” he added with a shudder as he opened the glass door and reached for a towel.

“Oh!” a startled voice gasped.

Cosmos’ head jerked around at the gasp. He closed his eyes as he felt his cock react to the presence standing in his bathroom. He knew there would be no hiding his erection, even with the towel he had in front of him. He reluctantly opened his eyes to stare at the silver ones that were gazing at him with a combination of shy curiosity, wonder, and desire. A small part of him was a little annoyed that he was the only one feeling a little self-conscious right now.

“Let me guess,” he said dryly. “Tilly?”

Terra nodded, reluctantly raising her eyes to meet his. “You are built very similar to the Prime males,” she observed as her eyes followed a droplet of water as it ran down his chest. “You are paler and have more hair on your chest,” she murmured as her eyes continued to follow the drop of water as it coursed its way further down. She drew in a sharp breath and took a step forward. “What happened to you?” she demanded when she saw a jagged scar on his hip.

Cosmos jerked back a step as she came closer. If his self-control was hanging by a thread earlier, it was non-existent now. At least, it was until her words hit him like a MACK truck. A dark frown crossed his face and his fist clenched on the towel.

“What the hell do you mean ‘I’m built similar to Prime males’?” he asked darkly. “Just how many have you known?”

Terra’s hand stilled as she reached out to touch the jagged scar. She looked up at him with a raised eyebrow that was so damn like Tilly’s he could feel the heat rushing to his cheeks. What the hell was wrong with him? This was worse than hitting puberty in the middle of a Physics conference with nothing but a bunch of old people and a copy of Playboy to keep you sane.

Terra pulled back and crossed her arms in front of her. “I’m a healer for my people,” she stated in a frosty tone. “It was part of my training to observe the physical attributes of the male body. How many I have known is none of your business unless you are willing to answer the same question! Just how many females have you known?” she snapped back.

Cosmos didn’t think his face could get any hotter. “I shouldn’t have said that,” he admitted, looking away for a moment. “Ah, hell!” he muttered with a shake of his head.

A husky chuckle escaped him when he realized he was standing there holding a towel in front of him in the hopes of retaining a slight semblance of modesty for Terra. What he had forgotten was that his bathroom walls were mostly mirrors. Between the ones behind him and the ones to the side, Terra was getting almost a full view. With a shrug of his broad shoulders, he continued to wipe the water from his chest and hair before moving lower.

“What are you doing?” Terra asked in a choked voice as her eyes followed the towel. “Where did you get all those scars from?”

Cosmos’ lips tightened. He didn’t need to look in a mirror to know what she was seeing. He had scars from bullets, knives, and more than one explosion marring his tanned skin. He had grown accustomed to them. He wasn’t actively participating in as many missions as he used to, only the ones that were personal, or were a huge risk for his men, those he still oversaw.

“I need to get dressed or Tilly will be back in here,” Cosmos said, tossing the towel to one side and brushing by her. “The last thing I need is for her to launch into a description of Angus in the buff again,” he said gruffly.

Terra’s eyes followed Cosmos. He was a breathtaking male. The muscles in his shoulders were deceptively hidden in the clothes he wore. His back contained at least five separate scars that she knew had not only been painful, but must have come close to killing him. She had learned much from RITA over the past several months to gain a better understanding of the human anatomy in order to help Jasmine ‘Tinker’ Bell and her sister, Hannah, with their pregnancies.

A swell of heat rushed through her as he bent over and pulled a pair of tight, black boxers up over his taut buttocks. She felt her nipples harden with desire as she watched him dress. Everything inside her wanted to walk over and pull his clothing back off, throw him on his bed, and take possession of him. Her eyes widened in shock at the primitive, almost savage, need that was washing over her. She was confused by it. She had always been under the impression that the females of her race did not care for such physical contact, yet she was burning with a need that was about to drive her out of control. She remembered her mother talking recently about her feelings for their father. They hadn’t really discussed anything in detail. While she had been curious as to her mother’s recent behavior, the idea of discussing her mother and father’s sexual habits made her feel – uncomfortable for some reason. The curiosity had become so overwhelming that she had finally broken down and asked Tink and Tilly about it. She had even watched the vidcom that had been recorded of Tink on her brother J’kar’s warship. She had been giving the warriors instruction on something called ‘oral’ sex.

“Will you perform oral sex on me?” she asked out loud before she realized what she was saying.

“Will I what….?!” Cosmos choked out, right before falling face first onto the floor with a loud thud when his foot got tangled up in his pant leg as he was putting it through.

“Oh Cosmos, are you hurt?” Terra asked, rushing forward to where he was lying on the floor, his pants caught around his ankles. She knelt beside him and tried to gently roll him over so she could check to see if he had a head injury. “Cosmos?”

“Oh dear!” Tilly exclaimed from the doorway. “What happened? Is he alright?” she asked, rushing forward. “ANGUS! We need you, sweetheart! Cosmos has fainted.”

Cosmos lay perfectly still and tried to breathe deeply to calm his racing mind. A part of him was wishing he could have invented a time machine so he could go back and warn his other self not to create the damn Gateway. The other part couldn’t help but see the humor of the situation. At twenty-seven, he was, for the first time, totally unprepared for what was happening in his life.

Cosmos let Terra roll him over onto his back. He stared up into her confused and worried eyes for a moment before he placed both of his palms on her cheeks and pulled her down, giving her a hard, possessive kiss that left her sprawled across his chest. He continued to kiss her until he was sure he could say something without making a total ass of himself.

“Well, it looks like Terra has the situation under control,” Angus said from the doorway. “Mm, Tilly sweetheart, you wouldn’t be feeling a little faint yourself would you, darling. I think you might need a little mouth to mouth yourself,” he added with a low growl.

“Oh Angus,” Tilly giggled. “I was just telling Cosmos that you still turn me on when you….”

Cosmos broke off the kiss with a loud groan. “Enough! I don’t want a picture of Angus nude stuck in my head!” he bit out before turning to glare up at Angus who was chuckling. “You need to have a talk with your wife about walking into other men’s bathrooms when they are in the shower,” he growled out.

Angus pulled a blushing Tilly into his arms and bent her over it. “It wouldn’t do any good,” Angus laughed. “She would just distract me and we’d end up making love. Isn’t that right, honey?”

“You better believe it, big guy,” Tilly whispered staring up at Angus with a soft expression. “How you can still make my heart go crazy after all these years will always amaze me,” she admitted with a deep sigh of contentment.

Angus brushed a kiss across his wife’s lips before pulling her back up so she could stand next to him. He looked at Cosmos with a grin before shrugging his shoulders. Tilly was the light of his life and he wasn’t ashamed to show it.

“Breakfast is getting cold,” Angus said. “I’d like to eat before we get any more interruptions. I don’t know about you kids, but I’m starving,” he added turning Tilly around and gently pushing her out of the room.

Cosmos looked back up at Terra who was watching with wide-eyes as Angus slapped Tilly lightly on the ass as they exited the room. Both of them could hear the giggles and low murmurs as the two older Bells headed back toward the kitchen. Cosmos waited until Terra looked back down at him with a bemused expression on her face.

“Yes,” he responded as her mouth opened. “They have always been like that since the day I met them and from what Tink says, all her life.”

“Oh,” Terra said before she pushed up on his chest so she could sit back. She watched as he sat up and pulled his pants up to his knees before he stood and pulled them the rest of the way up. “Will you?”

“Will I what?” Cosmos said as he fastened his pants.

He reached for a dark blue button-up shirt hanging on the peg near the door. He shrugged it on and began buttoning before looking at her when she didn’t reply at first. She was watching his fingers as they moved down the row of buttons.

“Perform oral sex on me?” Terra asked hesitantly from where she was still kneeling on the light bamboo-covered floor.

Cosmos looked down into her inquiring eyes. A chuckle burst from his lips as he bent down and grabbed her hands to pull her up. Once she was standing in front of him, he gripped her by the hips and pulled her against his hard length, showing her how much he was reacting to her closeness.

“With pleasure,” Cosmos murmured before he turned her toward the door and the direction of the kitchen. “With total pleasure,” he repeated as he smacked her on the ass as she walked through the door, drawing a startled squeak from her.

Chapter Three

“Can you pass the eggs?” Angus asked as he reached for a couple of slices of whole wheat toast.

Tilly reached over and handed the bowl of scrambled eggs to Angus. She pulled a couple of pieces of toast onto her plate and spread strawberry jam on them. She waited until everyone had a full plate before she broached the subject of last night.

“Cosmos,” Tilly began quietly. “Tell us what happened. Is Tansy….?” Her voice faded as fear blossomed.

Angus reached over and squeezed her hand. Both of the older Bells were worried about their middle daughter. Tansy thought she kept what she did a secret from them, but Tilly had been following her daughter’s activities for years. She knew that Tansy had to deal with her own ghosts, some of which scared Tilly half to death. She couldn’t help but be proud of her daughter’s work trying to make the world a better/safer place to live, but she also couldn’t help but wish someone else would do it now. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could pretend that she was ignorant of the danger her daughter was constantly in.

Cosmos looked up from where he was pouring coffee into his cup from the carafe that Terra had placed on the table in front of him. He looked down at his cup as he thought of how much information to give her. He didn’t want her to worry, but he also knew there were other dangers and that he was going to have to explain.

He set the carafe down and picked up his cup before looking at the woman who had been as much of a mother to him as his own. “Tansy will be fine. I received information that Mak was able to rescue her and has returned to his world with her.” He watched as Tilly and Angus both glanced at each other with relieved sighs before he continued. “She was injured, though. The last report I received was that she was still unconscious, but the healers on Baade felt it was due more to exhaustion than the physical injuries that have already been taken care of.”

Tilly just nodded, unable to respond. “Thank you, Cosmos. For everything,” Angus said for the both of them.

Cosmos shrugged off the compliment, uncomfortable with the praise. “There are still others out there that need to be brought home safely and I lost two good men last night,” he said picking at the food on his plate.

“Which men?” Terra asked, folding her hands in her lap as she waited in fear. “Derik…. My father?”

Cosmos shook his head. “No, they are safe, though Derik didn’t return for a few hours. I haven’t had a chance to find out exactly what happened at the warehouse where Tansy was taken. Two of my men were killed last night in one of the fire fights. One had a sister and mother and the other didn’t have any family. I have accounts set up to take care of surviving family members should something like this happen. Merrick has disappeared. He went after some of the men who were shooting at us. Rico had some of his men retrace Merrick’s path, but all they found were the dead bodies of the men who’d tried to kill the team members. It is as if he disappeared into thin air,” Cosmos said. “I have RITA reviewing every surveillance camera in the area for information. In addition, both Natasha and Helene are still missing as well. I have Garrett working with Rico, Lan and Brock to locate them. RITA was able to get the tag of at least one of the vehicles and possibly the other.”

“I have already relayed the information to the teams,” RITA responded in a cheerful voice. “You might want to eat a little faster, guys. Your company is coming up the street.”

Cosmos froze in the process of taking a drink of his quickly cooling coffee. “What do you mean, company?” he growled tensely.

“I was following the transmissions and decided it might be prudent to keep an eye on any new traffic coming into Calais. It would appear Mr. Avilov might want to disappear but he isn’t above sending a few of his men to visit. Can you imagine? He actually thinks to harm Tansy’s family and kill you as well from the communications I intercepted,” RITA chuckled.

Cosmos pushed away from the table, standing up and leaning forward with his hands splayed on the smooth surface. “How many and how long have you known they were in town?” Cosmos bit out in aggravation to RITA.

“Oh, she told me about an hour ago but she said we should have time for you to get a shower and eat something,” Tilly replied as she quickly stuffed a piece of toast into her mouth and shooed Terra to hurry as well. “Angus needed to eat if he was going to be fighting for our lives. He gets low blood sugar and that is never good,” she added as she scooped up a forkful of eggs.

Cosmos looked across the table at Tilly in disbelief. “You knew about this and didn’t tell me?” he demanded as he straightened up and glared at her.

Tilly waved her fork at his plate. “Of course,” she admonished. “What good would worrying about it have done? They were going to come anyway. Now, eat something. You’ll feel better if you have something in your stomach.”