Ha’ven’s Song - S.E. Smith - ebook
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2014 RomCon Readers’ Crown Winner! Ha’ven Ha’darra is Prince of the Curizans, a species known for their technology. Not even his best friends are aware of his magic, but his powers are getting out of hand, and soon they might find out first-hand what he can do. Emma has withdrawn from the world and wants nothing more than to fade into a peaceful death. After she was rescued by aliens, she was healed of her physical wounds, but they could not touch the ones deep inside her. Ha’ven, however, annoyingly ignites her temper, bringing her fully into the moment with his impossible claims that her magic reached out to merge with his, that they belong together…. 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: 207 (6x9) pages, 68,863 words

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Ha’ven’s Song

Curizan Warrior Book 1

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

Prologue

1. Curizan Home World of Ceran-Pax:

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

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

30. Five months later

Sample of Ella and the Beast

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, Lisa, Sally, Elizabeth (Beth), Laurelle, 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

HA’VEN’S SONG: CURIZAN WARRIOR BOOK 1

Copyright © 2013 by S.E. Smith

First E-Book Published November 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, locales, or organizations are strictly coincidental.

Summary: Emma Watson is a withdrawn and damaged human female, and once Ha’ven, Crown Prince of the Curizans, sees her, he can’t imagine loving anyone else.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-51-1 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-15-3 (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 Curizan have a secret, kept even from their closest allies, & Emma is more like them than she knows....

Ha’ven Ha’darra is Prince of the Curizans, a species known for their technology. Not even his best friends are aware of his magic, but his powers are getting out of hand, and soon they might find out first-hand what he can do.

Emma has withdrawn from the world and wants nothing more than to fade into a peaceful death. After she was rescued by aliens, she was healed of her physical wounds, but they could not touch the ones deep inside her. Ha’ven, however, annoyingly ignites her temper, bringing her fully into the moment with his impossible claims that her magic reached out to merge with his, that they belong together….

2014 RomCon Readers’ Crown Winner!

Prologue

Over a century ago a Great War raged between three of the fiercest species in a galaxy known as Heron Prime. The species were the dragon-shifting Valdier, the cat-shifting Sarafin, and the powerful Curizans, a species whose skills in technology were only surpassed by their ability to use and manipulate the energy surrounding them.

The war raged long and fierce for nearly a century as the skills of each species matched the other. It was only when two young princes and a very young king came together in a surprise alliance that it was discovered forces from within their own worlds were behind the war. These forces were determined to eliminate the ruling Houses so they could gain control and rule through deceit and terror.

The friendship that developed between Ha’ven Ha’darra, Prince of the Curizan, Vox d’Rojah, King of the Sarafin, and Creon Reykill, Prince of the Valdier became unbreakable as they worked together to bring peace to their people and capture those responsible for the death and destruction on each of their worlds.

The traitors, still determined to eliminate the royal families, had kidnapped Zoran Reykill, Leader of the Valdier in the hopes of restarting the war. Zoran, severely injured, escaped in his symbiot warship to an unknown planet in a distant star system. Landing on Earth, he is rescued by a young female. Claiming her as his mate, he returned to his world with her and several other females. On a return visit, other women from Earth were brought back to Valdier.

1

Curizan Home World of Ceran-Pax:

Ha’ven breathed deeply as he ran through the twisting paths. His focus was on reaching his living quarters and the re-enforced lower chamber beneath it. He cursed when he felt another blast of heated energy surging up inside his body.

I should have returned to my living quarters hours ago, he thought darkly.

He stumbled and slowed as he approached the fork in the path. He carefully scanned the huge garden that separated his home from those of his parents and brothers. Dread engulfed him as he realized he would not make it home in time as the surge built until he was breathing heavily from the effort of holding back the dark power inside him. His eyes shifted as he came to a stop at the crossway and he found himself staring up into the clear night sky wishing for a miracle. His eyes burned as he felt himself losing control.

Why? he demanded in silent agony. Why can’t Ifind a way to harness the deadly power that was unleashed during my captivity? How long will I be forced to suffer before it drives me mad or I kill those I care about?

The stars glittered down at him, as if mocking him for his lack of self-control. His body was humming with pent-up power. He had wanted to get further away from the palace, but had been in meetings all day and had waited too long. Now, he feared he would be unable to control the excessive energy building inside his body like a volcano that had lain dormant for far too long. Colors swirled around his fisted hands, moving up his arms. He gritted his teeth, fighting against the energy threatening to scorch him from the inside out.

Drawing in a ragged breath, he glanced around the gardens once more to make sure no one was near him. With a loud groan he sank to his knees and unclenched his fists, spreading his hands palms down toward the ground. A shudder shook his tall, broad form as he closed his eyes. He released the long tentacles of energy that swirled around him before it burst downward into the soft soil. The ground buckled and moaned under the onslaught. A cry ripped from his lips as a powerful surge exploded from him. He knew everything within half a kilometer would be destroyed if he didn’t rein in the surge of power escaping his body. He breathed heavily as he pulled back, trying to regulate the flow, but it was useless. He was out of control… again. He could only hope he was far enough away from everyone as the power inside him broke free.

“No!” Ha’ven roared out, opening his glowing eyes and looking up to the stars. “No!” he groaned again, clenching his teeth as pain flooded his body as the raw power burst from him in waves resembling the effects of a massive stone being tossed into a still pool.

“Ha’ven!” His father yelled in a harsh voice. “Focus, son. Release it slowly. You can do it,” Melek said in a quieter voice. “I’ll help you if you can’t.”

Ha’ven hissed as he fought to control the ropes of swirling energy. He could feel the bands wrapping around his thick forearms. He drew in deep, steadying breaths, fighting to clear his mind of everything but the strands.

Closing his eyes, he focused the way his grandfather had taught him. He imagined the energy moving deep into the ground, nurturing the garden. Red and gold bands wove together, digging deeper in the darkening soil. He didn’t see the new life bursting from the ground, the trees stretching higher, or the vines winding along the lush soil. Just when he thought he might have control once again, another wave struck harder and longer this time.

Ha’ven threw his head back and roared as dark energy bands shot out like a supernova, flattening the new growth and shattering trees like toothpicks. Just as quickly, the swirling colors of energy faded, leaving him weak and sick. He fell forward onto his hands and lowered his head almost all the way to the ground. Breathing deeply, he fought against the paralyzing weakness threatening him. Forcing his head up, he looked over to where his father’s voice had called out.

He forced back the nausea and stared back the way he had come. He released a sigh of relief when he saw his father standing several meters behind him. He turned his face away so the man who had only recently come back into his life couldn’t see the shame on it.

Forcing himself into a sitting position, he slowly sat back on his heels until he was holding himself upright with his hands on his thighs. He continued to breathe deeply until the trembling finally stopped.

“You shouldn’t have followed me,” Ha’ven bit out in a dark, husky voice. He turned his head again to glare at the tall male as he slowly lowered his arms. The brilliant shield Melekhad thrown up dissolved as his hands fell silently to his side.

“I could have killed you,” Ha’ven growled as he rose on unsteady legs.

“You should have told me,” Melek said gruffly as he walked over to where Ha’ven was standing stiffly.

Ha’ven looked at his father and grimaced in distaste. “Tell you what? That I’ve lost control of my powers? That I’ll soon be too dangerous to be left alive?” he asked in disgust.

Melek laid his hand on Ha’ven’s shoulder. “I cannot help if you do not let me,” he replied quietly.

Ha’ven stood frozen for a moment before he shrugged in resignation. He looked at the destruction around him. He drew in a deep breath and focused, pulling on the power deep inside his body. This time he was in control as he raised his hands. He sent the winding flows of energy that he had gathered from around and inside him and directed it toward the broken and mangled vegetation.

Melek watched silently as the swirling bands touched the damage and knitted the shattered pieces back together. Deep down, he felt sorrow that his oldest son could not do the same to his own soul. Bitter regret tore at him that he had not been there when Ha’ven needed him.

Once Ha’ven had finished the repairs, he turned on silent feet and continued on his way to his living quarters. He knew his father walked by his side, quietly analyzing what he had seen. A part of him wanted to rant and rave at the man beside him to leave him alone while another realized that was never going to happen.

If there was one thing he knew about his family, it was that they never turned their backs when one of them was in trouble. Hell, he was no different. He had sent his twin younger half-brothers, Adalard and Jazar, who everyone called Arrow because of his passion for archery, on missions that were supposed to ensure their safety. Instead, both had almost been killed by the assassins sent after them.

“Ha’ven,” Melek started to say in a quiet voice.

“You cannot help,” Ha’ven interrupted his father abruptly before stopping and turning to look at him. “There is nothing that can be done to save me,” he continued in a quieter voice. “What Aria unleashed is consuming me.”

Melek studied the grim expression on his son’s face. His own darkened as he thought back to the damage his cousin’s traitorous daughter had done. Aria had been born to the lineage of the Royal House of Ceran-Pax but she had been anything but satisfied with her pampered lifestyle. She had been greedy for power.

Aria had united with Ben’qumain, Ha’ven’s step-brother, in the hopes of ousting the Ha’darra family from power. Ben’qumain had been jealous of his older step-brother’s power as heir to the leadership of the Curizans. The two traitors had not been satisfied with bringing down just the Curizan ruling family though. They had joined in an alliance with Raffvin Reykill of the Valdier and rebels looking to overthrow the d’Rojah, the Sarafin ruling family, as well. Their plan was simple. They wanted to divide the three strongest species. They had been successful to a certain degree.

The Great War between the three species had been elaborately orchestrated by them. Thousands from each of the three had died unnecessarily. A plan that Melek felt guilty at not discovering sooner.

Melek put his hand on Ha’ven’s shoulder to stop his son from turning away from him. He knew he would do whatever was necessary to save the family he had only recently been able to claim. He would not lose a single one of them again. Not his beloved mate, Narissa, nor his three sons. He had quickly claimed Adalard and Arrow upon his return.

“There might be a way,” Melek insisted determinedly.

“How?” Ha’ven demanded, throwing his arm out and waving to the path behind them. “You saw what happened! I am slowly losing control. It grows more powerful each time. If I lose control at the wrong time, even your shield will not save you. Do you think I want to take a chance of killing you or mother or my brothers?”

“All I’m asking is that you do not give up,” Melek said. “I will not lose you. I spent too many years watching you from afar. I will not lose my family again now that I have regained it.”

Ha’ven opened his mouth to make a bitter retort, but swallowed it. He knew the sacrifice his biological father had had to make for his people. Even in the darkness, Ha’ven could see the lines of anguish around the corner of his father’s mouth.

As the second son of the ruling family, Melek had to step aside when the woman he loved was given to his older brother, Hermon, in an effort to strengthen the ruling family.

Hermon had not mated with the mother of his son, a woman from a lower social class. Ben’qumain was born just days after Narissa had given birth to Ha’ven who was conceived during the one brief night his mother and Melek had together before being torn apart.

Ben’qumain’s mother had sent her newborn son to Hermon in an attempt to undermine the new alliance between the royal houses. Instead, Narissa had taken on the responsibility of raising the two newborns as if they were her own. Six years later, she had given birth to twin boys, Adalard and Jazar. Ben’qumain’s resentment grew over time as it became obvious he had not inherited the powers that Ha’ven and his two younger brothers possessed.

During this time, Hermon had fallen in love with his new mate, unaware that her heart belonged to his younger brother or that Ha’ven was not his own son. Over time, Narissa had come to care deeply for Hermon although not with the deep passion that she had for Melek. Melek, out of respect for his brother’s rule, had chosen assignments that had kept him away from the palace as much as possible. He had commanded the Curizan military, eventually guiding and working alongside Ha’ven during the Great War when he was old enough. He had cherished his time with his son even if he could never claim him as such.

It was not until recently that Ha’ven discovered that not only had Ben’qumain been responsible for Hermon’s death, but that Melek was his true father. He had always respected Melek for his integrity, honor, and wit. Still, it was difficult to accept the male that he always thought of as his mentor was indeed also his father.

Fortunately, Melek had returned in time to prevent those working alongside his nephew from killing his mother and younger brothers. Zoran Reykill, King of the Valdier, had eventually killed Ben’qumain when he made the mistake of attacking Zoran’s human mate. Ha’ven’s lips curved as he thought of the dragon-shifting species they had fought in the war and who had eventually become one of their strongest allies.

He and Creon Reykill, the youngest of the royal family, had become good friends after finding themselves trapped in the same mining tunnel during the war. Not long afterwards, Creon had met and fallen in love with his cousin, Aria, unaware of her devious plans for power.

Aria had used her connection to them both against them. She had used her knowledge of him to kidnap and imprison him. She had used Creon to find out information to help those trying to overthrow their governments. Eventually, Creon had learned of her betrayal and had saved his life.

Their alliance was sealed and Ha’ven knew he would do whatever he could to help Creon and his brothers defeat their uncle. Unfortunately, he still needed to deal with the Curizan traitors who had worked alongside Ben’qumain. They were now desperate to overthrow the ruling family because they knew the moment they were uncovered they would be sentenced to death for treason against their people.

“I… would appreciate any help you can give,” Ha’ven admitted reluctantly.

Melek nodded solemnly before he looked up at the stars shining high above. “The ancient archives might hold information. I will work with those in charge of keeping them,” he said, looking back at Ha’ven.

Ha’ven gave a brief nod. “Talk with Salvin. I trust him to keep the issue quiet,” Ha’ven replied. “I need to review a few things before Adalard and I leave in the morning for Valdier. A trap has been set for Raffvin. It is my understanding that things have changed that makes it likely we will soon eliminate another major leader in the rebellion.”

Melek drew in a deep breath and released it. “I will be glad when the rest have been brought to justice. I will work with Arrow to continue to uncover those here who are still working against the royal house.”

“Thank you,” Ha’ven said, turning to continue down the path.

“Ha’ven,” Melek called out quietly. Ha’ven turned and looked back at the dark shadow of his father. “Be careful. Your mother made me promise to tell you that.”

Ha’ven didn’t bother trying to stop the small grin that curved his lips as he looked back at the man who was fighting to find his place in his adult son’s life. He could see the concern, the pride, and the worry. This was one reason why he wanted to avoid all serious relationships. He had enough to worry about without adding a female into the mix.

“Now, where is the fun in that?” Ha’ven replied with a chuckle as he turned and disappeared into the darkness.

Melek released a sigh and shook his head. “That is exactly what your mother said you would say,” he muttered before he turned back toward his own living quarters.

Chapter Two

Ha’ven maneuvered the transport ship through the thick clouds almost ten kilometers from the royal palace on Valdier. He had left Ceran-Pax several days before with Adalard as his only companion. Only a select few on the planet knew he and Adalard were arriving. He had made the decision after talking extensively with Creon Reykill. Both men had decided it would be prudent if as few people as possible knew of his and Adalard’s presence.

Normally, he preferred traveling alone when he could, but Adalard had insisted on traveling with him. Ha’ven knew that his brother wanted to make sure for himself that Mandra had recovered from the wounds he had suffered while fighting Raffvin and his forces not long ago. His younger brother had taken a shine to the human woman Mandra Reykill had taken as his mate.

Personally, Ha’ven was beginning to think it best to avoid the species. When he had first heard about the females and had met Carmen, Creon’s mate, he had been curious. After all, it wasn’t often that he found himself hanging upside down from a female dragon’s tail, or trapped under a pile of bodies with her sitting on top of him and taking a nice size slice of his hair as a prize.

It was just, the more he was around them, the more he saw the pull they had on the other species and it worried him. He liked his freedom, and while he wouldn’t mind playing with one for a night or two, he had no desire to become entrapped by whatever spell they cast.

He honestly didn’t know what it was about them, but every single one of the Reykill brothers had fallen for one of them. If what Creon told him the other night was true, it wasn’t just the female of the species either.

Ha’ven had been shocked when Creon had informed him that his mother had been claimed by the father of the human female called Trisha. Ha’ven just hoped there weren’t any more of the species running around. If there were, he planned on avoiding them at all possible cost.

“I want to see how Ariel and Mandra are doing,” Adalard commented, breaking into his reverie as he switched on the landing gears. “You should have seen Bahadur trying to sweet talk Ariel away from Mandra.”

“Bahadur?” Ha’ven repeated in surprise, looking at his brother in shock. “That cold bastard wanted Mandra’s human mate for himself?”

Adalard chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, I think he is making plans to take a break when all this is over. He was fascinated by her and has been asking me to find out the location of her planet.”

What Adalard didn’t tell his older brother was that Ariel had mentioned a female back on her planet that she thought would be perfect for him as well. He wasn’t interested in anything permanent, like a life mate, but he wasn’t opposed to having a little fun. If this Samara that Ariel was talking about was half as interesting as Ariel, he wouldn’t mind meeting her and exploring the differences between her species and his own for a short period of time.

“Well, tell Bahadur no. I know I mentioned it might be interesting to play with one or two, but I’ve changed my mind about wanting to meet any of them,” Ha’ven said with a shudder. “The last thing we need is a bunch of this human species on our planet. You’ve seen how fast they have brought the Valdier royals to their knees – literally. Creon told me his mate beat him up and Mandra’s knocked him out!”

Adalard’s husky laughter filled the cockpit of the transport at the thought of the tiny females beating up males over twice their size. He joked with Ha’ven about some of the other stories he heard from members of the crew traveling with Mandra. He related tales from Ariel’s collection of pets to his own observations of watching her beat up the traders in the bar on the Spaceport where they had picked him up.

Ha’ven listened with half an ear, wondering what had happened to the huge dragon shifters that could change them. From what Adalard was telling him and from the little that he had seen, there was definitely something about the species that played havoc with his friends and their symbiots.

Hell, even Vox had fallen head over heels for a human female the Antrox had! The damn cat-shifter was as deadly as any of them and known to like having his women hard and fast. The human female had his furry friend so mixed up the Sarafin King was practically chasing his own tail the last time he had talked to him!

“If that is not enough, now they have younglings to worry about,” Adalard was saying as he finished the landing procedure as Ha’ven guided them to a clearing just large enough for the transport. “I know they are worried Raffvin or those working with him might try to attack them.”

Ha’ven looked sharply at Adalard before he turned his attention back to the final approach. Hovering over the thick grass, he set the transport down in the center of the small meadow. He turned off the engines with a wave of his hands, pulling the swirling bands of energy back into his body. Another benefit of traveling in the transport was he could use his own energy to power it, thus reducing the chance of a repeat of the other night.

“Creon told me of his daughters,” Ha’ven admitted. “I will do everything in my power to protect them and his mate.”

Adalard just nodded. He knew his own powers were considerable, but they paled in comparison to his older brother. Adalard and his twin had always looked up to Ha’ven who had protected them against Ben’qumain when they were still young and vulnerable. He had encouraged them to work together to develop the power held inside them. Since his captivity on the asteroid prison known as Hell, Ha’ven’s powers had grown until both he and Arrow worried about its effect on him.

“Ha’ven,” Adalard said, turning to look at his older brother as he started to rise. “Are you alright? The other night I felt…” Adalard’s voice faded as he studied the huge male across from him.

Ha’ven saw the concern on his younger brother’s face. His eyes swept over the long scar marring Adalard’s cheek. His brother refused to have it removed, stating it reminded him of the dangers around him.

“I’m fine,” Ha’ven said with a short nod. “Let’s see what plans have been set up. Raffvin is not the only danger. We still have traitors of our own to deal with.”

Adalard nodded and stood up. He followed his brother down the corridor and out through the small hatch located under the belly of the spacecraft. Once Adalard was clear of the transport, Ha’ven pressed a button on the belt wrapped low around his hips. The transport shimmered for a moment before disappearing.

The Curizans used a combination of technology and ‘magic’ as some of the worlds called it. In reality, they were able to gather energy from the world around them and harness it within their bodies. Once there, they could manipulate it to do whatever they desired.

Each Curizan was born with a different ability and level of control. Some used it for healing, some became better pilots, some better warriors. Those that ruled in the Royal House of Curizan could contain and manipulate it in ways beyond the limited abilities of most of the citizens of Ceran-Pax.

The Ha’darra family had ruled for centuries. Their power was boundless as Ha’ven was discovering. Never had the full extent of what they could do been explored as there had been a fear that, if unleashed, it could destroy not only the one who wielded it but the world itself.

Ha’ven had always thought it was a myth passed down through the centuries to warn those that followed of the dangers of absolute power. After all, a dead man could not rule a dead planet. Now, he knew the warnings were real. If he was unable to find a way of controlling the power building inside him soon, there would be no other choice but to eliminate the threat to his world.

“Ha’ven, are you ready?” Adalard asked, touching his arm. “The transporter room is ready when you are.”

“Give them the go,” Ha’ven said as he jerked and muttered a low curse as he realized that Adalard was still looking at him with concern.

Seconds later, he and Adalard were in the central transport room inside the palace. If he had been on one of the larger Curizan warships, he would have just materialized down to the room, but there was no way they could leave the transport in space uninhabited. It contained new technology that he and Adalard had recently developed.

The small, yet sleek, transport was perfect for missions like this. It was designed so a small crew of two or three could travel for months in it quite comfortably if necessary or for stealth missions like this one. They had designed it to work specifically with the power they could manipulate. The weapons, navigation, and shields were enhanced as they fed their powers directly into it.

He mostly used the transport for short trips such as this, preferring to travel alone when possible. At first, he planned to travel by warship with Bahadur and Adalard, but after a lengthy discussion with Melek and his brothers, they had decided to send several of their trusted generals, including Bahadur, to deal with some of the rebel bases that Arrow had recently discovered.

Arrow would lead the effort while Adalard and he worked with the Valdier. Raffvin was one of the key instigators behind the rebellion and one of the most deadly. He needed to be stopped once and for all.

He breathed deeply as he felt the energy surrounding him as the controller locked onto his position. His eyes narrowed as he felt the energy of the transporter beam meld with the energy inside him. He did not feel the disorientation that many others complained about at first. He could see and feel his body breaking into the smallest form and reveled in the sense of freedom it gave him. He almost groaned as he felt his body rematerialize on the platform.

I really need to figure out how to do that on my own, he thought before his eyes met the dark golden ones of Creon Reykill.

Chapter Three

“Zoran has called a meeting,” Creon explained as they walked through the corridors of the Valdier palace. “Dola’s mate will be there as well. He has a plan that he believes will work. Have you found out anything else about those on your world that were working with Ben’qumain?”

“Yes, it would seem even in death my former stepbrother is causing trouble,” Ha’ven said heavily.

“I’m just glad he is dead,” Adalard said, running his fingers along the long scar on his cheek. “I wish I had been there when Zoran burned him.”

Ha’ven didn’t respond. He had been there. In fact, he had been the one to draw Ben’qumain’s power away from him so he could not use it to attack Zoran. While his stepbrother had been royalty, he had not been very powerful. That was one of the things he had been jealous of in Ha’ven. Unfortunately, Aria had been and had known how to imprison Ha’ven. What neither of them expected was the power that she would unwittingly unleash during his time on Hell.

The men strode down the long, gleaming hallways. Glossy white and black marble glistened on the floors and walls. Ha’ven shot his friend an amused look. He didn’t want to say anything but his friend looked like he had been held on the asteroid and tortured as well. Lines of exhaustion showed around his eyes and mouth, not to mention his hair was bound crookedly behind him as if it had been done in haste.

“How is mated life treating you?” Ha’ven couldn’t resist asking. “You look...” He finished his comment with a wave at Creon’s hair instead.

“What?” Creon responded distractedly before he released a small grin. “Mated life is great,” he said, ignoring Adalard’s choked cough of disbelief. “It is being a father that is… challenging. Having two tiny females is nerve-wracking. They are so small. I fear I’ll hurt them just picking them up. Carmen insists they are tougher than they look but I do not understand how that is possible. You should see Trelon,” he added with a huge grin. “If you think I look bad, he looks a million times worse. I don’t think he has slept more than a few hours at a time since his two were born.”

Ha’ven’s shook his head. “I am just glad it is you and not me, my friend,” he said in distaste. “I can’t believe you and Vox have fallen for this species. What is it about them that made both of you lose your control?”

Creon stopped in the hallway and studied his friend. He wasn’t the only one looking tired. Something was wrong with Ha’ven. He knew the huge Curizan warrior well enough to know better than to ask though. If he was patient, he would learn what was bothering his friend. Despite the tiredness, he could also see curiosity shining in his intense stare as well.

“She fills the empty space inside me,” Creon said quietly. “I was worried when I returned with her to her world.”

“Why?” Adalard asked, moving to stand next to his brother. “What happened?”

Creon looked down the long corridor for several long moments before he turned back to face both men. His face was grim. He glanced around once more before he nodded toward a small alcove near a set of windows. He walked over to it and leaned back against the wall near the long windows that looked out over the central garden.

“Carmen needed closure,” Creon began, looking fiercely at both men. “Her first mate was murdered and she was gravely wounded by a very dangerous male back on her world while she was protecting the youngling of another. She was pregnant when she was attacked and lost her babe as well. She wanted…” Creon paused, drawing in a deep breath as he turned to look out over the gardens. “She needed the closure before she could accept her new life. She wanted to find and eliminate the male who had taken so much from her. I knew she would not be able to move on unless she was able to do this.”

Adalard cursed under his breath. “I cannot hold that against her, but how could you risk placing her in the same danger again?” he asked in disbelief. “She was carrying your younglings at the time, wasn’t she?”

Creon turned and scowled at Adalard. “Yes, but you have met Ariel. Carmen is even more stubborn than her sister! What do you think would have happened if I had denied her? She and Ariel had already tried to escape once. Do you truly think I would take a chance with her life? It was the only way I could think to keep her with me. She… she came close to ending her life more than once. I was not about to take the chance of it happening again,” Creon retorted tersely.

Ha’ven put his hand on Creon’s arm. “We give no judgment of your decision, Creon. I, better than most, know you would never purposely endanger those you care about,” he said quietly.

Creon’s eyes jerked to Ha’ven’s. He saw no recrimination in them even if it would have been justified. It was his fault that Ha’ven had been captured and tortured. It had been his stubborn refusal to believe Aria, the woman he thought he loved, would betray him.

His denial had almost cost Ha’ven his life. He had killed Aria, drawing every traitorous act she committed from her before he gave her the relief of death. After he and Vox had rescued Ha’ven from the prison he had been held in, he had wished he had taken even more time in killing the bitch.

Creon’s eyes flickered to Adalard who nodded in agreement. “I meant no disrespect, Creon. It is just hard to believe females react so differently. Even our females are not fighters in the true sense. They can be lying, deceitful bitches, but they do not know how to fight as a warrior. I have seen Mandra’s mate in action. I can just imagine what your mate must be like,” he said with a twisted grin.

“I made sure she was protected at all times, not that it made much difference. She still took matters into her own hands. Shortly after we returned to her world a man she knew contacted her and told her where she could find the human she hunted. I, along with Carmen, Jaguin, and Gunner, went to confront him,” Creon paused and his eyes turned a dark gold, revealing his anger. “The male had two females in the room with him. Both females had been brutally beaten and tortured. He did this in retribution for an injury that he blamed on Carmen. The human looked for any female that remotely resembled my mate. Once found, he would torture and kill them. According to one of the females we rescued, he had already killed two others shortly before we arrived.”

Ha’ven hissed as he stepped back. He knew all too well what it felt like to be tortured. The feeling of being helpless. The feelings of hopelessness and finally the rage at being at the mercy and control of another. Then came the next wave of feelings.

The wish to escape from the pain, whether through death or by any other means. He could not imagine someone inflicting such pain against innocent women simply for the pleasure of causing it. It went against every principle inside him.

“What of the females?” Adalard asked curiously. “You returned with them?”

Creon nodded. “Yes, one of them is Jaguin’s life mate,” he said.

Ha’ven turned as the door across from them opened and Zoran stood in the doorway frowning at them. Mated life must be good for the huge leader of the Valdier because it wasn’t exhaustion causing the frown on his face, it looked more like impatience as his eyes darted down the corridor.

“What are you doing there? I want to get this over with,” Zoran growled out. “Abby and Zohar will be waiting dinner if we don’t get this over with soon.”

Ha’ven rolled his eyes. “As usual, I see you are your typically pleasant self,” he drawled out as he stepped out of the alcove first.

“Shut up, Ha’ven,” Zoran retorted. “Creon should have let me burn your ass. I don’t know why he likes to hang with you and that fur ball so much.”

“Maybe because we don’t have a stick up our asses like you?” Ha’ven couldn’t help the taunt about how uptight Zoran usually was about everything.

“One of these days, pretty boy, you won’t have your fancy technology to hide behind,” Zoran snapped, but the amused gleam in his eye took the bite out of his words.

Ha’ven chuckled. “Never. It is as much a part of me as your dragon and symbiot are of you.” He didn’t add it was more than technology that protected him.

“Greetings, Lady Ariel, Lady Reykill,” Adalard spoke up as he came in the room behind his brother. “May I say you both look as enchanting as ever. I see Bahadur has not been able to entice you away from the huge ass dragon who has claimed you, Lady Ariel.”

Mandra’s dark growl rippled through the air as he pulled Ariel closer to his hard body. His eyes darted past Ha’ven and Adalard to Creon. He watched his little brother shake his head showing that Bahadur was not there. He released the breath he had drawn in.

“You are going to need a new general if that bastard doesn’t stop sending her gifts. I’m going to cut him into little pieces and send him back to his home world in a very small box,” Mandra growled in a deep voice.

Morian’s and Ariel’s laughter filled the room as the men began competing to discover the best way to kill Bahadur. Even Ha’ven couldn’t resist adding a few suggestions. Things did not calm back down until a strange male quietly entered the room.

Ha’ven’s eyes swept over Paul Grove as he entered. A ripple of unease brushed over Ha’ven as he realized that this male had in a matter of seconds taken note of everything in the room and he had no doubt that the male would be a deadly opponent if confronted. The male’s gaze settled on Morian Reykill who flushed a delicate pink before she and Ariel quietly excused themselves.

“Paul,” Zoran called out from where he had taken a seat at the head of the large rosewood table. “I would like to introduce you to some of the most experienced and deadly warriors in the known galaxies.”

Ha’ven rolled his eyes at Zoran’s introduction. “Don’t forget the best looking,” Ha’ven drawled out.

That comment started the group of men going again. Ha’ven sat back, a small grin curving his lips as he listened to the jokes, rude comments, and watched the even ruder gestures being exchanged. This was good. It built a comradeship between the warriors that would make them stronger.

You fought harder for those you trusted and respected, he thought as he watched Calo, one of Creon’s fierce warriors, throw a small knife at his younger brother who caught it with ease. Things didn’t calm down again until Creon erupted in impatience.

“Enough!” Creon impatiently growled. “Adalard, if you aren’t careful you are going to end up with another scar to match the one on your face. Let’s get back to business,” he said in exasperation as he glared at the men sitting around the large table. “The babies didn’t sleep well last night,” he added sheepishly as he sat back in his seat.

“Mine never do,” Trelon Reykill groaned out, running his hands through his tousled hair. “They escaped again last night. They are up to something new. I just know it.”

“This is why I never want to find a mate. It turns a man….” Ha’ven muttered in a low voice.

“…. Into a man,” Paul said, standing up.

Ha’ven raised his eyebrow at Paul’s interruption, but listened silently as the male continued to outline what had happened and the plans to finally trap and kill Raffvin Reykill. He leaned forward, listening intently. There was something about the male that was… strange. He looked at Adalard who returned his glance with a small nod. Ha’ven focused inward, pulling on the power inside him and muttered a small meditation chant under his breath to help him focus the power.

Everything in the room faded as power pulsed out from his body to the other male. A golden glow formed around the male, casting him in a mist of the shimmering color. Within seconds, Ha’ven was focused back on the room and staring at the male with a combination of mild shock and curiosity. This was a very powerful male who had been touched by the Goddess herself.

Ha’ven shook his head to clear the vision as another large male suddenly entered the room. A grin broke across his face as he recognized the short dark hair, equally dark scowl, and vivid spots showing under the black vest the male wore. Intense eyes narrowed on Paul Grove before the Sarafin King opened his mouth and put his foot in it as usual.

“Who are you?” Vox asked, sniffing loudly. “You look and smell human, but there is another smell on you.”

Ha’ven chuckled as a chorus of smothered chortles met his statement. The huge cat-shifter had a habit of saying what was on his mind and it almost always ended in either a riot or trouble of some type. It took another ten minutes before the human was finally able to calm everyone down again.

Yes, if I have to go into battle I can think of no one else I would want by my side than the men in this room, Ha’ven thought as he flexed his fist to keep the power that he had drawn from building even further.