A cowboy on Tarron? Unbelievable.Nyssa Dakros, potential hunter in training and dignitary escort, was tired of dealing with males who were only interested in her because of her family’s high-ranking status. And she absolutely refused—no matter how much a male persisted—to be claimed by one that wasn’t her destined mate. An annoying situation made worse by her mother’s interference and constant insistence that she choose from a group of undesirable men.When the circumstances surrounding the recent attacks on the vessels delivering ore from Rivean heat up, Dawson Walker, a quadrant security contractor, finds himself protecting the Earth ambassador on Tarron. The last thing he expected was to have an exasperating—trouble seems to follow everywhere—woman fall into his arms…literally.Rescued from a forced claiming attempt, Nyssa discovers the gorgeous human male who saved her is also her mate. How can she explain to someone who doesn’t understand or experience the primal instincts and urges of her people that he is meant to be with her forever?
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Tarron Hunters: Book 4
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Copyright © 2017 Nola Robertson
Edited by Linda Ingmanson
Published by Nola Robertson, 2017
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
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Excerpt from Stolen Surrender
This is not acceptable. There were many things in Nyssa’s life that weren’t acceptable, but having to deal with a malfunctioning transport was currently the worst.
“Shit,” she growled, using one of the many curse words she’d learned from the virtual she’d borrowed from Libby, her brother Erak’s human mate. She swept her fingers over the transport control panel, glaring at the display as if a visual threat would help. Nothing. She repeated her efforts two more times, her frustration and temper flaring with each swipe. Still nothing. No revving to life, no sensors activating, no movement whatsoever.
She groaned and smacked the panel, wishing she’d been allowed to use her own transport instead of this outdated piece of…oh yes, crap, another one of her favorite human words.
Being a Tarron, she’d spent her entire life on her home planet and had always wanted to visit Earth. The culture, the terminology, and the unique sayings, or rather slang, had always captivated her. Her favorite virtuals were the ones Libby called “Westerns.”
The males Libby referred to as cowboys were dangerous and always looked so damned sexy wearing the unusual hats with wide brims, boots, and tight pants. Even though the pants, known as jeans, had a way of accentuating their asses and made her mouth water, the hat held the most appeal.
Nyssa knew the virtuals either depicted imaginary viewings the humans had once called movies, or real events from Earth’s past. Libby had assured her that cowboys were rare but still existed in remote places on her planet. Nyssa had often fantasized about what she’d do with one of the males if she ever met one. Fantasies that involved both of them being naked.
Shaking herself for letting her mind wander, she returned her attention to the unresponsive display. At least the vehicle hadn’t broken down until after she’d finished escorting Alayna, the daughter of one of the visiting dignitaries, and returned her to the temporary guest quarters. She enjoyed spending time with the young Ledorrion nearing her eighteenth year. She reminded Nyssa of herself when she was that age, though she didn’t remember her flirtatious ways causing nearly the problems Alayna’s did.
Still innocent when it came to dealing with Tarron males, Alayna hadn’t understood what would happen when she vied for the attention of two at the same time. Both were friends, entering their early twenties, and not totally in control of their hormonally driven sexual urges yet. Nyssa was thankful they’d been in a public area. One frequented by other, older males who’d interceded and stopped the fight before any blood was shed.
Thinking about the chastising lecture she would have received from Alayna’s father if she’d been harmed made Nyssa shudder. The male was insufferably rude, arrogant, and very influential. If he learned about what happened, she would be blamed. He might insist she no longer be allowed to escort Alayna and, if he was irate enough, insist Nyssa be removed from her job. Not that she believed Ryos Davenger, commander of the hunter complex, would actually get rid of her, but he was dealing with other pressures and didn’t need the added stress.
Those pressures were the reason she’d been given the vehicle in the first place. The entire hunter command facility was on high-security lockdown. Over the last few months, several of the dryterron ore shipments leaving Rivean had been attacked, the crews killed, the ore stolen from the cargo bays, and the vessels set adrift. The council governing interplanetary trades had ordered the hunters, the quadrant law enforcers, to provide defensive support and put an end to the attacks. Decisive measures were taken, and the council initiated plans for a conference to be held with the dignitary representatives from all the planets that relied on the ore as a fuel source.
Tarron was not a consumer of the ore, making it a neutral location. Because of their technologically advanced security protocols, the hunter command facility located near Madradie, the planet’s largest city, was chosen to host the discussions. Ryos wasn’t pleased with the choice, but had reluctantly agreed to the council’s decision.
In order to prevent potential death threats or the use of explosive devices to harm the visiting officials, Ryos had ramped up security for the entire facility. All personal vehicles were kept in a secure location far from the launch area and arriving vessels.
Anyone escorting or working with the visiting dignitaries and ambassadors had been ordered to use a vehicle from one of the heavily guarded, and regularly inspected, fleet of transports. Each vehicle was equipped with special systems designed for tracking and the ability to detect any tampering done to the control system.
Considering the layout of the buttons and lack of current design modifications on the display, Nyssa guessed the antiquated vehicle she’d been assigned had to be older than her twenty-six years of life. It was too bad all the new, actually working models had already been assigned based on priority. Babysitting a dignitary’s offspring didn’t qualify as important and ranked Nyssa at the bottom of the list.
If she’d officially been classified as a hunter and not as someone who’d only undergone the training, she might have qualified for a better vehicle. Ryos had hired her to work with the dignitaries and royals who regularly visited Tarron. Having dignitaries as parents, she was well equipped to deal with the high-ranking elite from numerous planets. Most of the time, she enjoyed the position. Other times, like today, she understood why her brother Erak, a hunter for many years, had hated being assigned escort duties and had gladly let her replace him.
Nyssa slumped back into the stiff pilot seat. She puffed out her frustration and stared out the viewing pane. The lot for parking transports was to her left, and the long row of individual buildings specifically designed for off-world guests was on her right. The colors of the smooth rock exteriors ranged from light to deeper, darker shades of gray. The single-level structures varied in size, some larger than others to accommodate the needs and size of the visiting parties.
If she wasn’t already running late and required to return the assigned vehicle to the other side of the facility, she’d abandon the piece of useless metal and walk.
Tarrons were descended from warriors, and their females were taught from an early age to be strong and self-reliant. She knew if she contacted Erak, he wouldn’t refuse to provide assistance. Of course, she’d have to endure one of his brotherly lectures, and after already suffering through a challenging day, she quickly decided to handle things herself.
She slammed her palm on the pad to release the lock, then shoved on the door and exited the vehicle. Reaching into the concealed compartment behind the seat, she sifted through the contents until she found the emergency repair tools. This should work. She retrieved a medium-sized metal cylinder with a sharp point on one end. Circling to the front of the transport, she activated the sensor and waited for the panel protecting the operation system to retract.
Nyssa excelled at mechanical complexities. After a quick inspection of the power grid, she determined a loose connection wasn’t the source of the problem. Curious by nature, and to the disappointment of her mother, she’d spent a considerable amount of time during her youth taking things apart and rebuilding them to discover how they worked.
Sometimes a strategically positioned tap to the console was all these older models needed to fix the problem. She raised her arm and concentrated on the spot she wanted to hit.
“Do you need some help?” Startled by the male voice coming from behind her, she stopped her hand inches from its target. There was a deep, smooth quality to his words, and unless her universal translator implant was in need of repair, his dialect was different from any she’d encountered before.
Great. Another male who thinks I am helpless. “No, I am fine, thank you,” Nyssa answered without turning around. She didn’t have time to waste discussing the best way to hurry her repairs. If she didn’t leave soon, she would be late for her scheduled meeting with Lyna and their evening out. She still needed to obtain her own transport before returning home to clean and change.
With all the security, and given their proximity to the guest quarters, she figured he had to be a staff member, and wasn’t worried about her safety. If she was wrong and he tried anything, the tool she held would work well as a weapon.
“Are you sure? Because I…” He moved closer, his body blocking the late-afternoon sun and casting a shadow on the console.
“I do not wish to be rude, but I am running late.” Nyssa continued to ignore him and raised her arm to strike again. “I am quite capable of fixing the problem myself.”
Fingers, firm yet gentle, curled around her wrist, stopping her from hitting the panel. “Darlin’, that’s an expensive piece of equipment you’re fixin’ to destroy.”
Fighting back the urge to smack the interfering male, she yanked her hand free. “I said…” She spun and came face-to-face with the sexiest human male she’d ever seen. For the first time ever, words escaped her, and all she could do was gawk with her mouth hanging open. Warmth sizzled across every inch of her skin with a heat so strong, she feared melting was inevitable.
His six-foot height and muscular build easily matched any Tarron male. He had to be the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. Once her brain kicked in and she could think, she paused to peruse him from top to bottom. His attire—black shirt, pants, and military-style boots—was nothing similar to the outfits worn by the human recruits stationed at the facility. It confirmed her belief that he had arrived with one of the visiting officials.
His unusual and entrancing eyes possessed the same dark depth as one of their sacred arreinian pools, and she couldn’t stop staring at them. Short black hair covered his jaw, making her wonder what it would feel like to caress it with her fingertips. Tarron males didn’t grow facial hair, and all the human males she’d met, their numbers few, had smooth skin on their faces. Libby had explained how they used a device to remove the hair growth daily.
“Never seen a human before, beautiful?” He grinned, then gently lifted her chin with the pad of his finger.
Beautiful? She couldn’t tell if he was being serious or teasing her. Irritated by his question and shocked by the sensual sensation caused by his touch, Nyssa swallowed hard, struggling to find her voice again. “Of course, I have seen a human before.”
Dawson’s long afternoon meeting with the hunter commander, Ryos Davenger, to discuss security protocols had been successful. Ryos’s men were professional, intelligent, and strategically prepared to protect the off-planet dignitaries who’d be attending the conference to discuss the recent attacks on the ore ships departing from Rivean. The measures the team had implemented would make Dawson’s job a lot easier. Not that he’d be lax in his duties to protect Holten Walker. The ambassador from Earth was also his uncle and the man who’d pretty much raised him. Dawson would do anything necessary to protect him.
Earth’s technology wasn’t as advanced as that of some of the other planets in the quadrant. They, like several other worlds, still relied on the ore as a safe, effective power source. Without it, millions of lives would be at risk. It was one of the reasons he’d returned to Earth and accepted Holten’s request to accompany him.
Dawson didn’t mind space travel, but after the long trip to Tarron, he’d looked forward to a little exploration and spending some time outdoors. When Dathan, head of the security team, had offered to provide him transportation back to the elaborate set of buildings where most of the guests would be staying, he’d declined. Dawson did his best thinking when he was alone and wanted some space to ponder and evaluate recent events.
It wasn’t uncommon for Holten to use him as a sounding board to get another opinion. His uncle had provided him with copies of all the incident reports regarding the attacks on the ore vessels. Dawson had read the information several times and couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Nothing that brought them any closer to discovering who was responsible for the attacks.
Walking back to his temporary quarters had given him the opportunity to visually scrutinize the facility defenses and check for any flaws. By the time he’d made it halfway to his destination, he was convinced Ryos had done everything possible to secure the area.
When Dawson first arrived on the planet, the air was thicker and made breathing harder. With his lungs fully adjusted, he’d spent the remainder of his walk enjoying the turquoise and yellow plant life that comprised the majority of the colorful scenery. A scenery that had greatly improved the minute he’d discovered the woman hovering over the operation system of an older model transport.
Her skin was a golden tan, his first clue that she was a native of the planet. The silky, thick hair reaching the middle of her back contained at least three different shades of brown and begged to be touched. He couldn’t help admiring her long, slender legs or the way the fabric of her short skirt clung tightly to her hips.
Since his arrival, the only Tarrons he’d come in contact with were men. At first, he’d thought the elaborate markings he’d seen on the hunters were tattoos, but then he’d gotten a better look and realized they were a distinct trait of the planet’s inhabitants. The colors ranged from various shades of brown to the deepest, darkest black. She had the same markings, but hers were smaller in diameter and a medium shade of brown.
The fabric of her shirt stopped in the middle of her back, exposing a large portion of skin around her waist. Dawson noticed that the same tiny spots running below the thin straps on her shoulder ran along the side of her back and disappeared beneath the edge of her skirt. He wondered how much of her gorgeous ass was covered with markings, since nothing appeared past the hem.
Judging by her sarcastic tone and the way her golden catlike eyes darkened to amber, he’d said or done something to offend her. When she tightened her grip on the tool, he thought she was going to take a swing at him.
Dawson had found out the hard way that what was considered chivalrous on Earth could be an insult in another culture. A couple of bad experiences had taught him to be prepared, to understand the customs of the inhabitants before visiting a new planet.
Prior to arriving, he’d done his research and was familiar with the high points of Tarron history and their basic rituals. What his limited information hadn’t provided was how to interact with their women. If he didn’t want to upset every woman he came in contact with, more specifically the one glaring at him, then he’d need more guidance. When he got back to his room, he planned to ask Kyllan, his good friend and business partner, if he knew the best way to deal with Tarron women. Being from Antheria, Kyllan was more knowledgeable about the different inhabitants in the quadrant.
Dawson enjoyed the company of women, but most of his interactions were brief and based on sex. His security contracts involved long hours, a lot of travel, and could be extremely dangerous. He didn’t have time for any long-term relationships and preferred to keep it that way.
The area specifically designated for the visiting dignitaries was in a secluded location. Her presence here meant there was a good chance he would see her again. He knew he should walk away, but there was something about this woman that drew him, piqued his interest, and, for the first time, he was seriously considering breaking his no-entanglement rule. “Maybe we can start over. My name is Dawson Walker, and I’m here for the conference.”
She eyed him suspiciously, then gave him a weak smile. “Nyssa Dakros.”
Dakros. No way it’s a coincidence. Dawson’s stomach clenched into a tight knot. One of the members on Ryos’s team had the same last name and had mentioned something about his recent joining. He knew a mate was the Tarron equivalent of a partner for life. It would be his luck to finally meet a woman he found extremely attractive only to discover she was another man’s wife. “One of the hunters I met earlier was named Erak Dakros.” He shifted his stance. “Do you know him?”
“Yes.” She narrowed her eyes. “Why?”
“He mentioned having a mate, and I thought you might be her.” Though he tried to sound casual, anxiety racked him.
“He is my brother.” Her gaze brightened, her lips slowly turning up into a sly smile as if she’d guessed why he was really asking. “I do not have a mate.”
The pressure in Dawson’s chest eased, and he grinned. My day is definitely improving. The small communication device attached to his belt buzzed. Or not. “Dawson here,” he said after triggering the link.
“Where are you?” Kyllan asked with an impatient snarl. “The ambassador requests your presence.”
So much for a little downtime. “Tell him I’ll be there shortly.” He snapped the device back on his belt and glanced at Nyssa. “I have to go.” Other than keeping a short distance at social events, which Holten was adamant about, either he or Kyllan stayed with the ambassador at all times. Dawson knew he should get back. Kyllan only referred to his uncle as the ambassador when there was a work-related problem. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like some help first?” Dawson stalled, waiting to see if she’d agree so he could spend a few more minutes with her.
“As I stated before, I am quite capable.” She turned and raised the tool again.
“Wait, you’ll damage…” Dawson took a step toward her but wasn’t quick enough to stop her from smacking the unit.
The transport engine immediately hummed to life. “Really.” She arched an eyebrow, then swiped the sensor activating the protective panel to seal the compartment. “It was nice meeting you, Dawson.” She smiled and slid inside the transport.
I’ll be damned. Dawson rubbed his chin and stepped back as she maneuvered the vehicle around him. Dumbfounded, he watched her disappear down the street. Not only had the intriguing woman resisted his charm, she’d left him with one hell of an uncomfortable erection. He jogged toward his quarters, determined to make sure their paths crossed again.
Nyssa hated sneaking around her own home, or rather her parents’ home, to avoid another confrontation with her mother. She’d be glad—more like ecstatic—when her mother and father returned to their regular duties, which included traveling to other cities and planets, so they’d stop interfering in her life.
She approached the staircase, wishing she still occupied the bedroom of her youth on the lower level. After she’d been caught bypassing security to slip out and meet with her friends, she’d been deemed a disappointment as an offspring and relocated to a room on the upper level. Far from any easily accessible exits, and, more importantly, any of the structure’s main access panels.
If not for Marna’s caring and generous heart, life for Erak and her would have been unbearable. The caregiver had lost her mate and never had offspring. She’d been with them for years, and Nyssa considered her to be more of a parent than her own. Most importantly, she understood Nyssa’s need for independence. She might caution her about bad decisions, advise her, support her, but Marna never tried to force her to be something she wasn’t.
Too bad Marna would be away from the city for the next two weeks helping her sister take care of her newborn child. Otherwise, Nyssa could have counted on her to help distract Renette.
It was times like this that Nyssa wished Erak lived closer and not in a secluded area on the opposite side of the city. His place had always been her refuge, and she’d made sure to leave some of her belongings there.
She stifled a groan, thinking about her current predicament, and realizing it was her own fault. She knew her parents were going to remain in the city for the duration of the conference, yet she hadn’t thought to take a change of clothing with her earlier when she’d left for her new assignment. If she had, she could have gone straight to Lyna’s place and avoided her mother completely.
So far, Nyssa had made it to her room, used the bathing unit, and dressed for the evening without being detected. Cautiously, she crept to the lower level, moving from one smooth stone step to the next. She paused in the middle of the staircase, listening for voices and scanning the spacious area below for any signs of movement. Greeted by silence and convinced she was alone, Nyssa descended the few remaining steps.
The only thing between her and freedom was a short corridor and the gathering room. She was a grown female, capable of making her own decisions, so why couldn’t she calm her racing pulse? Disgusted with herself, she shook her head and walked with confidence.
She rounded the corner, took two steps, and froze.
“Where do you think you are going?” Renette Dakros spoke in a harsh tone laced with the disappointment and disdain she’d practiced for years. Her mother rose gracefully from a nearby chair, her forceful presence filling the room as she blocked Nyssa’s path.
So close. Nyssa glanced longingly at the twenty feet separating her from the front entrance. She stifled a groan, taking a step backward to put some distance between them.
Renette placed her hands on her hips and clamped her lips together tighter than Nyssa thought possible. “Ariette and her brother Veros will be arriving shortly.” She glared, narrowing her golden eyes, which were several shades darker than Nyssa’s. “Was I not clear yesterday when I informed you about our royal guests and your required presence at the evening meal?”
Renette had been perfectly clear about her expectations. Nyssa simply chose to ignore her. She didn’t care that Veros was a Rysernian prince, nor did she care that he was unmated. She’d already heard enough stories from Erak about his unpleasant dealings with the siblings from Ryserna.
Normally, Nyssa made judgments about others based on her own observations and instincts. But because of her mother’s continued insistence that Veros would be the perfect male for her, she was willing to blindly trust her brother’s assessment. According to Erak, the prince was a sheraaat, or, as the humans would say—an asshole. Nyssa had no interest in meeting him, and she certainly didn’t want to sit through a meal trying to be polite to someone who would never be her perfect match.
Unless Nyssa was caught doing something deemed troublesome, her parents had little time for her and seldom gave her any attention. Unfortunately, once Erak had taken a mate, things had changed, and Nyssa was on Renette’s radar. Her overbearing mother was actively doing her best to find Nyssa a high-ranking diplomat to claim her. Lately, she’d resorted to inviting Nyssa to meals and having available males in attendance.
On one occasion, Renette had used welcoming Libby into the family as the excuse to get Nyssa to attend. Because she adored her brother’s mate and didn’t want to hurt her feelings, she’d suffered through the meal. Finally, after three hours, Nyssa couldn’t take any more of their male guest’s mundane bragging and unwanted groping. Her only enjoyment had been when she’d sprained his thumb after he’d reached under the table and slipped his hand between her thighs.
She didn’t know why her mother bothered. Nyssa wasn’t interested in attaining power or a higher status. She’d rather spend her life alone than be trapped with someone she didn’t care for, and she’d never agree to a joining with a male who was not her true mate.
Nyssa struggled against the urge to squirm as Renette’s scrutinizing glare studied her from top to bottom. “Your choice of outfits is inappropriate and unacceptable.” She made an all-encompassing wave with her hand. “Please go change immediately.”
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