Dagger’s Hope - S.E. Smith - ebook
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USA Today Bestseller! New York Times Bestseller! Dagger is a Trivator warrior who feared nothing until he met a young, delicate human female who awakened his heart. Her gentle touch, soft voice, and shy sense of humor touch him in a way he never thought could happen. The thought of anything harming someone so beautiful fills him with terror. Jordan Sampson is slowly adjusting to her new life on a strange planet far away from war-torn Earth. She was seventeen when she was brought to the Trivator’s home world of Rathon along with her older sister, Jesse, and younger sister, Taylor. It’s been a few years since then, but trying to fit in with an alien society has been…difficult. There is only one hope that keeps her going: Dagger. He stirs something deep inside her and makes her feel whole. When Dagger is captured during a mission and sold to the illegal Fight Rings, it is only the memory of Jordan that keeps him going. Time blurs as he slowly sinks deeper and deeper into a world of violence and pain until he becomes more animal than Trivator. Jordan knows Dagger is out there, somewhere, and she cannot stop until she finds him. The fight to save Dagger takes Jordan on a journey that she hopes they both survive. The star system is a dangerous place for a young human female and a damaged Trivator warrior. Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of adventure and romance. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main Content: 173 (6x9) pages, 67,228 words

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Dagger’s Hope

The Alliance Book 3

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Synopsis

Chapter 1

2. Two and a half years before - Earth:

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

Sample of Tink’s Neverland

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

Dagger’s Hope: The Alliance Book 3

Copyright © 2015 by S.E. Smith

First E-Book Published March 2015

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: Dagger was sold into a fight ring where he’s slowly going insane, clinging to a single hope: Jordan.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-50-4 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-14-6 (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

USA Today Bestseller!

New York Times Bestseller!

Dagger is a Trivator warrior who feared nothing until he met a young, delicate human female who awakened his heart. Her gentle touch, soft voice, and her shy sense of humor touch him in a way he never thought could happen. The thought of anything harming something so beautiful and fragile fills him with terror.

Jordan Sampson is slowly adjusting to her new life on a strange planet far away from war-torn Earth. She was seventeen when she was brought to the Trivator’s home world of Rathon along with her older sister, Jesse, and younger sister, Taylor. It’s been a few years since then. Fear, confusion, and uncertainty of what the future holds threaten to drown her as she tries to fit in. There is only one hope that keeps her going. It is the handsome alien male that stirs something deep inside her and makes her feel whole.

When Dagger is captured during a mission and sold to the illegal Fight Rings, it is only the memory of Jordan that keeps him going. Time blurs as he slowly sinks deeper and deeper into a world of violence and pain until he becomes more animal than Trivator.

Jordan knows Dagger is out there, somewhere, and she cannot stop until she finds him. The fight to save Dagger takes Jordan on a journey that she hopes they both survive. The star system is a dangerous place for a young human female and a damaged Trivator warrior.

Chapter One

Dagger clung to the top of the cage holding him, his back pressed upward against the cold metal. He had braced his feet in the narrow slats and held onto the thick bars with his left hand as he watched the secondary door slowly open. In his right hand, he held a long chain filled with razor-sharp blades designed to slice through flesh and bone.

He ignored the blood running down his arm, watching disconnectedly as it dripped to the floor of the cage far below him. Holding his body perfectly still, he waited for the massive creature under him to turn. A sense of cold calculation kept his mind sharp, even as his body threatened to weaken from exhaustion.

“Fight, fight, fight, fight!” the crowd chanted, wanting him to drop down.

Dagger tuned out the crowd. He had seen what was about to be released into the cage with him and the other male long before they did. He knew if he was to survive, he had to use every skill he possessed.

As it was, three out of the four men that had been in the cage with him were already dead. The fourth man wouldn’t last long from the way he drunkenly staggered away from the door. The man was coated with blood, both from his own wounds and from the blood of the male he had just killed. The beast would attack the moment it caught the scent of him, which was why Dagger had turned and climbed up the woven half-dome bars that formed the cage.

He had killed two of the males that littered the ring. The crowds surrounding the cage had screamed for him to finish the other two men that were locked in a battle of life or death, but he had ignored their demands. He knew that he needed to conserve his strength for what was to come.

Instead, he fell back against the side of the cage and drew deep, calming breaths as his eyes roamed the arena searching for the one responsible for him being there. He knew the male was somewhere in the crowd watching him. Dagger could feel the male’s gloating gaze on him, just as he did every time he fought.

His eyes scanned over the packed arena. For a moment, he paused on the Drethulan sitting in the box seat high above the crowds. While Jolin Talja owned and operated the fight ring called The Hole now, he was second on Dagger’s list for termination.

No, he was searching for the one who thought he ‘owned’ him; the one that lent him to the owners of the illegal underground groups that enjoyed the profit of watching men and women like Dagger fight for survival. Dagger was an enigma. He had survived longer than any of the other fighters, so far, and was the most profitable one to date for both his ‘owner’ and those who bet on him to win.

His eyes froze on the third row up as a familiar set of beady black eyes stared intently back at him. For a moment, everything around Dagger narrowed to the one figure leisurely sitting back in the reserved box in the stands. Their eyes locked in a silent battle of will; one in triumph, the other in promise.

The pale white complexion of the male stood out among the other colorful spectators in the stands. He didn’t try to hide his face in an effort to remain anonymous. He knew that Dagger would search him out and he wanted to be found. A deep hatred burned bitterly inside Dagger, threatening to boil over until he thought he would explode.

He stared back at Cordus Kelman. The billionaire mercenary’s bald head shone brightly under the lights of the arena. He was on the most wanted list in numerous star systems. The bastard was smart enough to stay on the outskirts of the Alliance’s boundaries, not quite out of it, but not quite in it either.

Kelman stayed in the space that was considered primitive and dangerous to any who entered. It was a lawless area that no star system wanted to deal with because they knew that as long as the area existed, then those that inhabited it would stay out of their own regions. That had been true until Kelman attacked the planet where Hunter, Dagger, and several other Trivator forces were trying to regain control. The attack had turned out to be a trap.

Kelman had been the mastermind behind the staged battle that led to his capture. He didn’t know what happened to his partner, Edge. Dagger had been knocked unconscious when their transport had crashed. That had been over two years ago. Since then, Kelman had attended every fight Dagger had been forced to participate in. The mercenary watched him night after night, gloating at the rage and creeping insanity that was slowly taking over Dagger’s mind.

Dagger’s eyes broke contact when he heard the hoarse scream of the last male as the beast under him turned. The male hung by a leg for a brief moment before he disappeared down the creature’s throat. The sickening sound of bones being crushed was muted by the shrieks of the audience.

Dagger waited, the arm holding him locked at the elbow, in an effort to keep his body still as the beast turned in a circle, sniffing the air. The Gartaian was a mammoth gray creature that lived in the swampy areas of the planet Kepler-10. He had only seen images of them in some of the training videos he had watched during his downtime on board the different warships over the years.

The creature stood almost four meters high and weighed in at over ten thousand kilograms. A series of three tusks in varying sizes protruded from each side of its mouth, allowing it to uproot trees and other debris in its constant search for food, as well as provide protection for it. It was genetically enabled to eat and digest anything. The Gartaian’s tongue could reach out almost two meters, allowing it to drag its prey into its wide mouth. The teeth were thick and flat and were designed for crushing whatever it found before it swallowed the remains of its prey. Being crushed and eaten was not on Dagger’s list of ways to die.

The Gartaian had one weakness that Dagger knew of, it was virtually blind. It depended almost solely on its sense of smell. The one advantage Dagger had, was that the arena was coated in the blood of the dead men and covered his own scent.

He waited patiently until the beast turned in a semicircle, presenting its thick, gray back to him. Pushing off the bars with his feet, he released his grip and fell onto the creature’s back. The long, blade-filled chain in his hand swung around and under the beast’s chin. He bent forward, grabbing the end of it with the tips of his fingers as it swung back up on the other side of the creature’s neck.

Dagger tightened his grip on each end, knowing that if he lost the advantage he had, that it would all be over. Leaning back, the muscles in his arms strained as he pulled the razor sharp blades against the beast’s thick flesh. The loud, furious roar from it shook the arena.

Locking his knees behind the creature’s neck and pressing his heels into its massive shoulders, he began working his hands back and forth in a sawing motion. He was almost unseated when the beast swung around and slammed its body into the metal cage. The only thing saving him from being crushed between the huge body and the metal cage was that his left leg was pressed along the inside curve of its shoulder, protecting it.

The force of the blow was enough to bend the bars. The spectators standing near the cage jerked back, some screaming and falling as others pushed to get away from the long tongue snaking out. One female that had fallen wasn’t fast enough. Her loud, piercing scream filled the chaotic stands when the tongue slipped through the bars and wound around her ankle. Those surrounding her pushed to get away instead of helping her as the Gartaian pulled her forward.

The loud screams from the female suddenly died when her leg snapped and was ripped away as the Gartaian tried to pull her through the narrow slits. Dagger ignored everything, but his continued assault on the beast’s throat. He felt when the thick flesh gave way under the sharp blades and the softer flesh under the skin was opened to him.

The Gartaian stumbled as he sliced through the main artery in its neck. A wave of black blood poured from the pulsing wound, coating the floor of the arena in a thick, putrid stench as it flowed through the bars. Keeping a constant pressure, he waited until its front legs gave out on it and it began to collapse before he released the tip of the blade and swung it back around in a high arc.

The end of the deadly whip wrapped around the bar at the top of the cage. Dagger released his grip as the beast fell from under him, holding on to the end of the whip with both hands. The spectators’ cries and screams had turned to a stunned silence as the Gartaian drew in a last shuddering breath before its tongue rolled out of its mouth and its eyes glazed over in death.

Dagger could feel the hundreds of eyes on him as he hung from the center of the cage, his body slowly rotating. His own eyes stared back in rage as he glared back at them. It was only when his eyes swept over a lone figure, standing off to one side at the very top of the arena, that the fury dissolved.

He would have missed the slender, cloaked figure if he hadn’t been so high. He watched as pale hands reached up and slid the hood of the cloak back to reveal the face hidden in its shadow. For just a moment, no more than half of a second, his eyes locked with a pair of haunted hazel eyes.

Dagger’s throat worked up and down as he watched the figure quickly replace the hood and step back into the dark recess as another figure approached. His arms trembled as the last of his strength drained from him. Glancing down, he released his grip on the whip and dropped down onto the side of the dead Gartaian. He knelt on one knee and breathed deeply as confusion flooded his mind.

The loud applause from the spectators washed over him, pulsing through his exhausted mind. He rose up on the beast he had landed on, trying to see over the standing crowd. A loud hiss of rage escaped him when he felt the loop of the long poles around his wrists as the guards rushed to contain him. He fought briefly, trying desperately to see over the heads of the cheering crowd, but it was useless. Sliding off the back of the Gartaian, Dagger stiffened his shoulders as Kelman stepped into the entrance gate, slowly clapping his hands.

“Well done, Trivator,” Kelman mockingly chuckled. “I earned a year’s supply of Vaspian liquor off of this fight.”

Dagger jerked forward, dragging the guards on each side of him. Kelman took a step back, a narrow, thoughtful look on his face. Three more guards surged around Kelman. Dagger staggered when one of them hit him in the chest with a power rod. He trembled for a moment before his legs gave out as the man hit him again with another powerful shock.

“I… will… kill you,” Dagger hissed out as his head fell forward.

His shoulders burned as the guards holding him, dragged him out of the arena and back down to the cells three floors below the fight ring. Nausea and exhaustion competed with the pain from the deep cut on his shoulder and back. The pain and exhaustion he could handle. It was the nausea that was almost his undoing. Nausea that his fractured mind would be so desperate to see Jordan Sampson one last time that it would make him think she would be in such a place as The Hole.

“Never,” he whispered in a voice hoarse with disuse.

He blinked several times, trying to clear his vision in the dim lighting. The guards had dropped his body on the cold, hard stone floor. Two of them stood over him, holding his wrists to the floor as two more reattached the chains to the cuffs on his wrists and ankles.

Once that was done, the healer stepped into the cell. Kelman always sent the healer in after a fight to take care of his wounds. The mercenary wanted Dagger ready for the next competition.

His eyes closed as the healer doctored the wound on his arm and shoulder. The old male muttered nonsense under his breath before he slapped an injector to Dagger’s neck and depressed the trigger.

Dagger didn’t bother opening his eyes as the old man rose unsteadily back to his feet. A minute later, silence filled the long corridor. He was the only prisoner on this level. They had separated him from the others shortly after he arrived when he had incited several of the other fighters into attacking the guards.

Rolling over onto his back, he gazed up at the ceiling. He could feel the medicine coursing through his system, numbing the pain and pulling him toward sleep. Something told him that the old healer had defied orders when he gave him the injection.

For a moment, Dagger fought to keep his eyes open, but exhaustion pulled at him. His mind wandered aimlessly before a beautiful, pale face rose to push everything else away. Jordan. It was her face that he saw in the quiet solitude of his cell between fights.

He was afraid he was finally losing his hold on sanity. He could have sworn he saw her, but he knew that was impossible. Regret and loneliness sent a chill through his body. Releasing the tight control he kept over his mind, he opened his memories, hoping they would warm him for the few hours he would be given until the next fight.

“Please,” he whispered in a soft, rusty voice. “Please keep her safe.”

He gave up on trying to stay awake. Instead, he thought back to the first time he saw Jordan Sampson. Regret burned through him that he wouldn't be able to keep the promise he gave to her the last time he saw her. It was that promise and the one and only time he had kissed her that gave him hope and the determination to fight until his dying breath.

An unfamiliar burning in his eyes caused them to water. He would never admit the tear that squeezed past his tightly closed eyelids. Because to admit it, would be to admit that he had given up all hope of ever seeing her again.

2

Two and a half years before - Earth:

“The female went this way,” Dagger said, rising from where he had been kneeling beside a burnt out human transport. They were in a narrow alley several blocks from the warehouse where Hunter had been held prisoner. They were trying to find the human female that had released Hunter from where he was being held captive. “Are you sure this isn’t another trap, Hunter?”

“This is no trap,” Hunter replied in a clipped tone, gazing around in frustration. “I have to find her… tonight.”

Dagger shrugged and watched as another shadowy figure stepped up and laid his hand on Hunter’s shoulder. Out of the three of them, Saber was the most easy-going and optimistic. Dagger turned away so he could continue following the trail of blood the human female left behind.

Personally, he thought his friend was making a huge mistake trying to locate her. So far, he wasn’t that impressed with most of the humans he had met over the last four years. Of course, the ones they encountered were usually the ones trying to kill him, Saber, and Hunter.

There were some good ones, too, he had to admit. He had respect for the difficult task the human military was having trying to control their people. Still, he thought it better to keep a distance from the humans as much as possible, especially with their tour here almost completed.

“We’ll find her,” Saber promised before turning to look up at the dark sky with a scowl. “Why did we have to get stuck in a region where it pisses down on us all the time?”

A gruff chuckle escaped Dagger. “Because you were the one who decided it would be fun to try to introduce Jag to the human nurse that wanted to thread your skin together when you got cut during our mission six months ago, Saber. You should have known better than to piss off your commanding officer,” he retorted. “I’ve found more blood this way. We’d better find your missing warrior soon while we still have the scent of her blood to follow, Hunter, or we’ll be doing it the hard way. I don’t relish trying to look in every hole that she could hide in.”

“How was I supposed to know that she was vicious? She was a healer! Aren’t all healers supposed to be gentle?” Saber grumbled and shook his head, slinging water droplets everywhere. “I still don’t think it warranted being sent here. I heard that a place called Hawaii was nice.”

“Well, you won’t get to find out,” Dagger said, glancing down to see if he could find the faint trail again. “Personally, I can’t wait to get off this rock. Our time is almost up here. I’m ready for a change.”

“What are you going to do?” Hunter asked distractedly. He paused and frowned when he saw the faint outline of a bloody palm print on the side of the brick building. Touching it, he raised his fingers to his nose. “This is hers.”

Dagger shrugged. He didn’t know what he would do when his tour expired in a few months. He might enlist into the same division his older brother Trig was assigned to or go off on his own. He didn't have much to tie him to Rathon. He had a home there, but hadn't spent more than a dozen nights in it in over ten years.

Hunter was scheduled to return to his duties back on Rathon. Maybe Saber would join as well. After all, the three of them had made a great team over the last ten years. With Hunter gone and their required duty completed, he and Saber could do some exploring. There was a new star system that had joined the Alliance and he wouldn’t mind seeing what it was like.

Hell, it would even be nice to return home for some real female company. It had been four years since he’d had a chance to be with a female that could match him in the bedroom. The human females were pleasant, but the two he spent any time with had done little to heat his blood. He was beginning to think that would never happen.

“Probably join up with Trig,” Dagger replied with a shrug, frowning when he couldn't find any more tracks. “Saber, do you see anything?”

“No, her tracks have disappeared again,” Saber bit out in frustration, walking in a slow circle before stopping to glance around the rubble of buildings littering the area. “She must have doubled back again. She’s good at doing that.”

“No,” Hunter murmured, looking at the pile of concrete lying at a forty-five degree angle across the road from them. “She is here. I can feel it in my gut.”

“Yeah, but where is here?” Dagger asked, running his hand through his long white hair. “There is a mountain of rubble that she could be hiding in.”

He watched as Hunter walked ahead of him, his eyes focused on the ground. He crossed the road and knelt, looking at something on the ground. Dagger followed behind him, noticing the slight heel indent in the dirt as well when he got closer.

He almost called out a warning when Hunter suddenly disappeared down a narrow opening between two large slabs. When Hunter didn’t reappear, he glanced at Saber and shrugged. Stepping up to the dark recess, he saw that it actually slid downward. He could barely make out Hunter’s figure in the darkness below.

Ducking his head, he stepped onto the thick slab of concrete and slid down until he was standing next to his friend. A moment later, Saber was standing next to him. He shook his head in amazement. In the confines of the enclosed area, he could smell the blood of the female mixed with additional scents. He had to admit, Hunter’s female was smart.

He nodded when Hunter held up his hand before signaling them that there were more humans in the area. He could hear a soft murmur of voices and caught the faint glow and the scent of a fire. Moving silently, he flanked Hunter’s left side as they moved toward the group.

The area was littered with trapped vehicles. Some of the vehicles were crushed from where parts of the building had collapsed, while others remained intact, trapped in what was now an underground tomb. They moved through the dark area with ease, heading for the faint flicker of light. Stepping around a thick concrete support, all three of them froze for a moment as they took in the heart-wrenching scene in front of them.

Nestled in the corner between the thick walls of the underground parking garage and a dark blue transport on the other side were two human females. They both appeared to be very young. One sat beside the makeshift fire pit constructed of building debris while the other lay on the hard ground. What was heart-wrenching was the realization that this cold, dark and stark area was their home.

Dagger’s eyes swept over the first figure before settling on the second. He drew in a swift breath and stared at the female lying weakly on the makeshift pallet on the cold concrete floor. He had been totally unprepared for the sudden onslaught of emotion that hit him when he saw her pale, heart-shaped face.

She was facing his direction, giving him an unobstructed view of her pain-filled eyes. It felt like he had been struck in the chest. In fact, his hand actually started to rub at the discomfort. He watched the small figure of the other female rise with a steaming cup in her hand. She quickly moved to help her companion who struggled to sit up.

His eyes were arrested by the sheer delicate beauty in the female that was leaning weakly against the other young woman, as if she didn’t have the strength to do so on her own. The firelight highlighted her delicate bone structure as she gazed at her companion. In the dim light, he could see dark bruises marring the pale skin of her right cheek when the other woman brushed her hair back from her face. Fury churned inside him, making his eyes glow with a dark, dangerous light.

He watched as she turned to smother her cough. It was obvious that it left her even weaker. A sick feeling washed over him as he wondered if this was the female Hunter was searching for. He hoped not.

The thought of his friend claiming the fragile human made him almost double over as another wave of emotion hit him… jealousy. The strange primitive instinct to protect and care for the female gripped him tightly in its grasp as she struggled to keep from sinking back down to the pallet. It was obvious that she was both ill and hurt.

Dagger glanced at Hunter to see his reaction to the scene in front of him. He almost fell to his knees in relief when his friend glanced at him with a dark frown and shook his head. He nodded when Hunter raised his hand and held up two fingers before raising a third one.

Dagger breathed a sigh of relief. There were three females. Three! Neither one of the two was the one Hunter was searching for. Dagger turned his attention back to the two by the fire. His eyes narrowed as he watched the younger one help his female to sit up again when she started to slide back down.

Mine, he thought in stunned disbelief. My female.

Dagger barely registered the softly spoken words as the two women talked. His eyes were glued to the pale face, trembling hands and fragile form as she moaned and closed her eyes in pain. It took every ounce of discipline he had to remain still. His body shook as he fought to remain in position. He couldn’t compromise the mission. He repeated that over and over as he clenched his fists.

“Are you still hurting a lot, Jordan?” the young female asked with concern. “Maybe Jesse found some medicine for you when she was out tonight. I think your fever isn’t as bad as it was earlier.”

“I’m… I’m okay, Taylor,” Jordan whispered in a low, husky voice. “Where is Jesse? It shouldn’t take her this long.”

“She said she had a cut she needed to clean,” Taylor replied as she slid her arm around to balance Jordan when she started to slide back down onto the pallet. “She’ll be back any minute. You need to eat. This will help you get stronger.”

Glazed hazel eyes blinked and a weak smile curved the female named Jordan’s lips as the younger girl held the steaming cup up to her mouth. He didn’t miss the way her hands trembled as she weakly took the nourishment. His body jerked forward in protest as her softly spoken words ripped through him.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be strong again,” Jordan whispered, dark despair making her words echo with sorrow.

Dagger had to strain to hear Jordan’s soft words. When they registered, the unfamiliar wave of alarm and a fierce determination to help her gripped him. He could hear the pain and exhaustion in her response. A cold fury burned in him at the human males that had hurt her. He had no doubt that is what happened as he stared at her face.

“Don’t!” Taylor hissed, holding the cup up to Jordan’s lips. “We promised each other we would never give up. It is okay to feel down. You deserve it after… well, you deserve it, but don’t ever give up, Jordan. We need you. I need you.”

“I can do this,” Jordan whispered. “You need to eat too.”

He watched as the young female called Taylor, reluctantly handed the battered cup of soup to Jordan. He felt his body start forward when the cup shook in her hand. She needed immediate medical attention.

All thought of the mission, the need to find the other female, disappeared from his mind as he watched her. He ignored Hunter as he moved off into the darkness. With a determination born out of confusion and concern, he silently stepped forward.

She will be safe and strong once again, he thought as he stepped into the faint light cast by the fire. I will make sure that she is.

Jordan didn’t want to admit to her little sister just how weak she was. There was no way that she would be able to continue if they should have to move again. She was pretty sure that at least one of her ribs had been broken when the man had attacked her the other night in the alley.

Bitter tears glittered in her eyes. She had made a stupid mistake. She should have realized that Jesse wasn’t behind her. If she had waited…

No, she thought in resignation. If I had waited, both Jesse and I would have been attacked and Taylor would have been alone.

Jordan tried to still the trembling in her hands. She didn’t think she would ever feel warm or full or safe again. She felt… dirty, both inside and out. A small part of her wanted to just give up. She felt like if she could just lie down and close her eyes, she could just let go and never wake up again.

Her eyes flickered to Taylor. If it wasn’t for her older sister, Jesse, and Taylor, she would. She was tired of running and of being scared and of always being hungry and exhausted.

She was… Her eyes widened when a black, menacing shadow moved out of the darkness. Golden yellow eyes glowed in the dim light cast by their small fire. In the back of her mind, she registered that there were two separate shapes moving toward them, but her eyes were locked with the pair staring at her.

Long white hair hung down past the man’s shoulders. He was dressed all in black, making it even more difficult to see him. She knew immediately that he wasn’t human. He was too confident, too muscular, and even more dangerous than the ones they had encountered on the streets over the last few years.

No, this was a killing machine, a Trivator warrior, an… alien. Her hand began to shake uncontrollably, spilling some of the precious liquid in it onto the blanket wrapped around her legs. Her eyes grew wider as he continued to approach them, a low growl escaped him, causing her to begin to pant in distress.

“What’s wrong?” Taylor asked, turning around.

“Run,” Jordan forced out, never taking her eyes off of the men walking toward them. “Find Jesse and run, Taylor. Now!”

A low cry escaped Taylor. Jordan dropped the cup of soup and tried to rise in an effort to give Taylor time to escape. She paled and almost fainted at the pain running through her at the movement. Opening her mouth, she was about to order Taylor to run again when her little sister erupted into a flurry of rage.

The years of playing softball helped when Taylor grabbed several pieces of the concrete they were using to bank the fire and threw them. Low curses escaped one of the huge men when a piece caught him in the stomach. Jordan tried to push off the ground again, only to fall back onto the pallet with a loud cry of pain.

The sound distracted Taylor, giving the male she was hitting a chance to rush her. Her loud curses filled the underground garage when he wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off her feet. That didn’t stop Taylor. She wildly kicked out and slammed her head back against the man’s chin.

“Ouch! You little shewta,” the man growled. “Stop before you get hurt!”

“I’m not the one going to be hurting,” Taylor promised as she kicked her heel into his shin again. “Let me go! I’m going to tear you apart! I’m going to barbeque your remains and feed them to the wild dogs. I’m going to…”

“Enough,” the male holding her grunted when she snapped her teeth at him. “You are a bloodthirsty creature.”

“Let her go,” Jordan pleaded, lying on the pallet violently shivering. “Please, she is just a child. Please don’t hurt her.”

“She is no child,” the man replied with a hiss. “She is a vicious creature with sharp teeth! That hurts! Let go of my arm. I will feed you real food.”

Jordan couldn’t understand what Taylor was saying. She had her teeth buried in the man’s arm and was growling like the old dog they used to have. She started when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning her head, she released a low squeak of fright before crying out again when she tried to move away. Her eyes filled with tears of pain and she moaned as she wrapped her arm protectively around her ribs.

“Please,” she begged hoarsely, gripping the hand that moved to touch her bruised cheek. “Please, don’t hurt her.”

The face gazing down at her, the one that looked so fierce and menacing just moments before, softened. The dark yellow-gold eyes still glowed, but instead of burning fury, they held concern. Unable to hold her head up any longer, she let her head fall back to the backpack that she was using as a pillow.

“Relax, little warrior,” he whispered, glancing at where his friend was still trying to get a firm grip on the other female. A slight smile curved the corner of his lips when Saber released another loud curse. “I think it is my friend who may need to be rescued.”

Jordan’s eyes flickered to where Taylor had slipped out of the man’s hold and was now on his back with her arms wrapped around his neck and her legs around his waist. She would have been more worried if not for the look of exasperation on the man’s face as he twirled around in a circle trying to get his hands on her little sister again.

Turning her head back to the man staring down at her, she bit her lip. A shiver shook her as the cold, pain, and reaction started to set in. Her eyelids fluttered closed for a moment only to pop back open when she felt a warm, rough palm against her bruised cheek.

“Who did this to you?” the man demanded in a low voice.

Fear, despair, and shame filled her and she closed her eyes again. Suddenly, everything was too much, the pain and the feeling of being powerless to protect Taylor and Jesse hit her hard. Her body and mind were shutting down on her. Between the beating, the lack of food, and her inability to help protect those she loved, she felt more of a hindrance than ever.

“Just don’t… hurt them,” she whispered, turning her face into his warmth as the shivers from the cold and her fever began to uncontrollably shake her body.

“Saber,” Dagger growled in impatience. “This female needs immediate medical assistance.”

“So do I!” Saber snapped back before he winced as the teeth that had been gnawing on his arm a few minutes before now attached to his ear. “Son of a… Will you stop?! You’ve drawn blood again. We are trying to help you!”

The teeth attached to Saber’s ear and the hands around his neck disappeared as if the piranha on his back suddenly vanished into thin air. Turning, he glared at the tiny female’s back as she darted around the fire and fell to her knees next to the one lying on the pallet.

“Jordan,” Taylor cried out when Jordan didn’t respond. The hint of fear thickening it. “Jordan, oh god. You have to help her.”

“We need to leave,” another deep voice said. “This one is injured and needs medical attention as well.”

Dagger nodded when he smelled the blood from the limp figure in Hunter’s arms. He looked up into the dark eyes of the small female that had attacked Saber. She gazed back at him in fear, but there was something else in her gaze as well. A touch of hope and a silent plea for help.

“We will get medical assistance for your companions,” he promised.

“Sisters,” Taylor whispered, rising to her feet and looking back and forth between Jesse and Jordan. “They are my sisters, my family, the only ones I have left since Dad was killed.”

“Saber, call a retrieval transport,” Hunter ordered with a sharp look at his friend. “We will return with them to the compound.”

Dagger noticed that Saber cast a wary look at Taylor and nodded. He grinned when he saw Saber rub his throbbing ear before he touched the comlink at his collar and muttered into it in their native language. Dagger’s eyes were drawn to the half dozen teeth marks on Saber’s arm. His friend was right, the young human was a vicious little thing.

Dagger jerked awake when he heard the sound of footsteps approach. Rolling onto his stomach, a low feral growl escaped him as he rose to his feet. His hands wrapped around the chains at his wrists, twisting them to test their strength. They had replaced them while he was in the cage.

“I hope you are rested,” one of the guards said, stepping up to the door of Dagger’s prison cell. “Eat! You will need every bit of it. You are back in the cage in two hours. I have a lot of money on you to win.”

The guard slid the paper-thin tray of food under the door of the cell before hastily jerking back when Dagger stepped forward, straining to break free. He ignored the food. Instead, he focused on the guard’s face. He was going to kill every single one of them.

“Eat,” the guard ordered before turning.