Paul’s Pursuit - S.E. Smith - ebook

Sacrifice, impossible dreams, and the ultimate predator…. Paul Grove loves two things in the world more than anything else: his daughter Trisha, and roaming the mountains and forests of Wyoming. One he would do anything for, the other is who he is. After Trisha and her friends disappeared, the tracks he found made no sense, the clues left behind unlike any he'd ever seen before. When his daughter returns - with a warrior from another world - Paul realizes he has to return with her to her new home or lose her forever. Morian Reykill is a High Priestess for the golden symbiots of their world known as The Gods' Blood. She is their protector and a member of the Royal House of Valdier. When her first mate is killed, she is devastated, for while he was not her true mate, they loved each other very much. She thought to join her mate in the next life, but something told her it was not yet her time. Paul Grove finds a second chance at love in the beautiful alien woman who takes his breath away, but when a madman threatens his new family, he will need all of the skills he learned in his life on Earth, plus a few more…. When Paul is in pursuit, his prey never gets away. 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: 225 (6x9) pages, 80,491 words

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Paul’s Pursuit

Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 6

S.E. Smith




Characters Relationships:


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23


A Warrior’s Heart

Sample of Ha’ven’s Song

Additional Books and Information

About the Author


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, 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


Copyright © 2013 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Publication June 2013

Cover Design by Melody Simmons

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

All characters, places, and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locale, or organizations is strictly coincidental.

Summary: Paul’s missing daughter suddenly appears with a warrior from another world, and he realizes he has to return with her to her new home or lose her forever.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-41-2

ISBN: 978-1-942562-05-4 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Science Fiction Romance. – Fiction. 2. Science Fiction – Fiction. 3. Paranormal – Fiction. 4. Romance – Fiction.}


Sacrifice, impossible dreams, and the ultimate predator….

Paul Grove loves two things in the world more than anything else: his daughter Trisha, and roaming the mountains and forests of Wyoming. One he would do anything for, the other is who he is. After Trisha and her friends disappeared, the tracks he found made no sense, the clues left behind unlike any he'd ever seen before. When his daughter returns - with a warrior from another world - Paul realizes he has to return with her to her new home or lose her forever.

Morian Reykill is a High Priestess for the golden symbiots of their world known as The Gods' Blood. She is their protector and a member of the Royal House of Valdier. When her first mate is killed, she is devastated, for while he was not her true mate, they loved each other very much. She thought to join her mate in the next life, but something told her it was not yet her time.

Paul Grove finds a second chance at love in the beautiful alien woman who takes his breath away, but when a madman threatens his new family and takes the woman he is determined to claim, he will need all of the skills he learned in his life on Earth, plus a few more….

When Paul is in pursuit, his prey never gets away.

Main Content: 225 (6x9) pages, 80,491 words

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!

Characters Relationships:

Jalo Reykill, Ruler of Valdier – Deceased,

mated to Morian Reykill, Priestess to the Hive

Five sons:

Zoran Reykill, Leader of the Valdier

mated to Abby Tanner:

one son: Zohar

Mandra Reykill, Commander of the warship D’stroyer,

mated to Ariel Hamm:

one son: Jabir

Kelan Reykill, Commander of the warship V’ager,

mated to Trisha Grove:

one son: Bálint

Trelon Reykill, Systems and security specialist,

mated to Cara Truman:

twin daughters: Amber and Jade

Creon Reykill, Spy/Operative,

mated to Carmen Walker:

twin daughters: Spring and Phoenix

Paul Grove Rancher, Scout, Wilderness Survival Trainer,

married to Evelyn Grove – Deceased,

true mate to Morian Reykill

Raffvin Reykill: Older brother to Jalo.

Vox d’Rojah: King of the Sarafin Warriors,

mated to Riley St. Claire

Ha’ven Ha’darra, Crown Prince of the Curizan,

mated to Emma Watson


Twenty-six years earlier

Paul Grove stood tall and proud as the cold breeze swirled around him. There was the promise of the first snow dancing in it, but he already felt a numbness that not even the cold weather could touch. He was a huge bear of a man, even though he was only twenty-one years old. He had always been big for his age and years of hard work on his parent’s ranch had sculptured his muscles early, giving him an even more formidable appearance.

He wore his black hair short simply because it was easier to maintain. At six and a half feet, he had lost the gangly limbs of just a few years earlier. His deeply tanned face reflected the hours he spent outside working in the wilds of Wyoming. Today, it was not his height or build that captured the attention of those standing around; it was the grief reflected in his dark brown eyes and the small bundle wrapped protectively in his arms.

His arms tightened around the tiny body pressed up against him. Tears clouded his vision, but he refused to let them fall. He focused on the small, sweet warmth he held close to his heart. It was all he had left of Evelyn, his beautiful young wife who died less than a week ago from a brain aneurysm. A part of him wanted to rage at God for taking something so precious, so beautiful, far too early. Her beautiful brown eyes shining with love and laughter shimmered in his mind. The way she would dance around their little house with a laugh and a song on her lips still a vivid memory.

He had loved her forever, it seemed. When her family moved to town when she was in first grade and he was a big third grader, he swore that he would love her forever and take care of her. He remembered her parents kneeling down next to her curly head and promising that she would be fine. He had walked over and introduced himself. Ten minutes later, he was holding her small hand in his and walking her to class as her parents watched with worried eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Paul,” another one of their former classmates from school said. “If there is anything I can do….”

Paul nodded automatically, his arms drawing his tiny daughter closer as if to shield her from the looks of worry, sadness, and pity. He knew what many were thinking. That he was too young to be raising a little girl on his own. He had already had several offers to take his baby girl from him, to let others raise her. Hell, even Evelyn’s mom tried to insist she take Trisha and raise her. She tried to tell him it would be best if another woman raised his little girl. He had turned her down with barely restrained politeness.

“Paul,” Evelyn’s mom, Rosalie, walked over to him. “Let me take her.”

Paul turned his grief-stricken eyes on the woman who had changed over the last few years from a pleasant, if strict mother, into a first class bitch when it had come to her own daughter.

Rosalie had changed when Evelyn’s dad left her and Evelyn when Evelyn was in sixth grade. Paul had listened as Evelyn cried as she told him that nothing she did was good enough for her mother. He had doctored the bruises and welts on Evelyn’s delicate skin from the times her mother had gotten drunk and hit her over some small infraction.

He had even gone and warned Evelyn’s mother that if she ever hit her daughter again, he would show her no mercy. Her mother had tried to keep them apart, but he would have fought the entire world for his beautiful wife. He would do no less for his precious baby girl.

“No,” Paul said shortly, looking into eyes that would have reminded him of his wife if not for the anger and bitterness in them. “She is fine. She’s sleeping,” he added in a gentler tone.

“Give her to me,” Rosalie begged. “Haven’t you taken enough from me? Haven’t I lost enough? Let me raise my granddaughter. You are young. You can find another girl, marry, have more children. I’ll never have another Evelyn. I’ll never have another chance.”

Paul felt the rage building inside him as he listened to Rosalie. “You never appreciated the beautiful daughter you had. What makes you think I would ever let you take mine?” he asked in a cold, barely controlled voice. “I loved your daughter more than life itself, Rosalie. I love our daughter just as much. She is my life now. I am her father and I will always be her father. I will be there for her. I will be the one to teach her, guide her, and love her with every fiber of my being.”

Rosalie’s eyes grew as cold and bitter as the wind blowing through the graveyard. “We’ll see about that. I have money. I will fight for my daughter’s child. I will take her and raise her if it is the last thing I ever do. She will be mine!”

Paul felt a calm resolve course through him as Trisha shifted and raised her curly little head. She pulled her tiny thumb out of her mouth and looked up into his eyes. A small, innocent smile curved her tiny, pink lips and her dark brown eyes lit up with love and trust.

“Dada,” she giggled, leaning forward to hide her cold nose against his smooth cheek.

Paul looked at Rosalie with a new determination and maturity not often found in a twenty-one year old. He had discovered the painful lesson that life was not fair this past week. Perhaps fate had stepped in, knowing it was important for he and Evelyn to marry young. Evelyn might not have lived long, but she had given him something very precious in her short life; the knowledge of what it was to love and be loved and a beautiful daughter.

His hand moved up and cupped the back of Trisha’s curly head. He buried his nose in the wild curls; breathing in the fresh scent of the strawberry shampoo he had used on her hair earlier that morning. He refused to let anyone take his reason for living away from him without a fight. Right now, Trisha was the only thing keeping him moving forward through the grief and heartache threatening to consume and tear him apart. When he turned his eyes back to Rosalie, they were almost black with quiet rage.

Rosalie took a step back, her hand going to her throat as she recognized that she had just pushed her son-in-law too far. Subconsciously, she had always known that Paul would be a formidable opponent if cornered or provoked. A shiver coursed through her at the knowledge that he could also be a deadly one.

Paul shifted Trisha again and looked down at Evelyn’s mother with a cold, grim expression on his face. “I can promise you will never get your hands on my daughter, Rosalie,” Paul said before he turned and walked away without a backward look.

Twenty-one years before:

“What is this?” Paul asked quietly, kneeling down along the narrow animal trail.

A small bundle of long curls fell forward almost touching the ground as the tiny figure next to him squatted down. Small fingers reached out and barely touched the soft imprint in the moist soil. Trisha focused on the shape, picturing in her mind all the different animals that lived in the region and what their footprints looked like. She curled her hand around the small bow her dad had made for her before she looked up and around her with dark, serious eyes.

“Mountain lion,” she whispered with wide eyes. “It is an old one from the size of the print. Do you think it is close?”

“You tell me,” Paul asked quietly smiling down proudly into her intense face. “How old do you think the track is?”

Trisha looked down at the track again before her eyes moved to the next one. “Not old. See how the leaves are pressed down into the print? It is still damp and firm. Maybe this morning,” she murmured.

“Good job, baby girl,” Paul said standing. “We need to get back to camp. Ariel and Carmen are going to camp out with us tonight.”

Trisha grinned excitedly up at her dad. “Is their daddy coming too?”

Paul laughed as he swung the large pack up onto his shoulder. “Yes. Their mom has gone to visit her sister so he figured it would be a nice break for the girls from his cooking.”

Trisha laughed as she skipped down the narrow animal trail. “Will we still get to talk to mommy tonight?”

Paul’s chest tightened at the innocent delight. Every night they would lie outside when the weather permitted and look up at the brilliant stars in the sky. And each night, he would pick a different one where his beautiful Evelyn would be looking down on them. He thanked her each and every night for giving him the precious gift that was skipping in front of him. It was only when he was out in the wilds with his baby girl or lying under the stars talking to his beautiful wife that he felt a sense of peace. His eyes drifted up to the clear, blue skies. He wondered if he would always feel that nagging feeling that there was someone else out there for him. He had searched but none of the women he had met so far calmed the restlessness in his soul.

His eyes jerked down suddenly as his ears picked up the changes in the forest. Trisha recognized the changes at the same time, her little body freezing into perfect stillness. The hair on the back of Paul’s neck stood up in warning.

“Trisha, come to me, baby girl,” he said quietly.

Trisha immediately stepped backwards, scanning the forest for whatever had caused both of them to realize that danger was near. Paul raised his rifle to his shoulder and widened his stance so that whatever came at them would have to go through him first.

“Trisha, get in the trees now,” he hissed out quietly. “Don’t come down until I tell you.”

He listened as Trisha scrambled over to a low tree branch and started climbing. He didn’t turn around to watch her. He let his ears guide him in knowing when his precious daughter was safe.

Out of the woods to his left, he heard a crack before the old mountain lion burst out in a rush of speed at him. Paul held his stance until he knew he had a clear shot. He held himself motionless, waiting. If he missed, it could leave the animal wounded, making it even more dangerous. He took his shot as it leaped. The force of the blast cut through the mountain lion’s heart, knocking it to the side where it rolled and disappeared into the high ferns covering the forest floor. Paul pulled the bolt back, releasing the spent shell and loaded another shell into the chamber with a calm efficiency built from years of training.

“Daddy,” Trisha whispered. “I can see it. It is the mountain lion. It’s not moving.”

“Stay there, baby girl. I need to make sure it is dead,” Paul said, walking slowly forward.

Paul moved through the ferns until he was next to the mountain lion. It had been a clean kill. It was unusual for one to be this far down the mountain. He knelt down next to the huge, old cat and did a quick inventory of it. It was very thin. He pulled back its upper lip and saw that its teeth were in bad shape. He looked down at its paws and could see the left back paw had a deep cut that was infected.

“It is time to seek the next life, old friend,” Paul said quietly as he rested his palm on the head of the old cat for a moment. “May the Earth take your body and keep it to nurture others.”

Paul stood and walked back to the tree where Trisha was standing on a limb watching him. “Come on down, baby girl. There is nothing we can do for him.”

He kept his eyes glued on Trisha as she climbed down, reaching up and swinging her down when she was close enough. He smiled down as the wild curls swirled around her as she clung to him for a moment. He was going to have a time brushing out the knots tonight.

He looked up one last time at the clear blue sky and thanked his beautiful wife for looking out for them. His heart lightened as if he could feel her smiling down on them.

One day, he thought, one day I am going to find the one woman who can fill my heart the way you did.

Chapter 1

Present day:

Paul ran his finger along the burn marks. He had been here a dozen times over the past six months. He refused to give up. He had been the one to find the cabin five miles beyond where the road ended. He was the one who had found the first of four bodies buried around it.

His stomach churned at the memory. When Trisha failed to show up when she promised, he had called. She always answered his calls if she could. If they missed each other, they would call the moment they got back no matter what time of the day or night.

Two days later, he had received a call from the California State Police. Trisha and several other women were missing. She had failed to return on a flight for Boswell International. The experimental business jet was still on the runway in Shelby, California.

He had driven through the night to get there. A new security system showed what happened in the dimly lit parking lot. The local sheriff had kidnapped Abby Tanner, an artist that his daughter and her childhood friend, Ariel, had been returning home from New York.

The FBI and State Police had taken over the investigation when it looked like one of their own was involved. Paul had pulled some strings and was given permission to help with the search due to his expertise in wilderness tracking.

It took three days to locate Abby and the sheriff's trucks. The motorcycle his surrogate daughter, Carmen Walker, had delivered before they landed was lying on the ground behind it, dark skid marks evidence that Carmen had laid the bike down in a hurry. During those three days Paul discovered things about the local sheriff, Clay Thomas, that chilled his blood.

Thomas was discharged from the Marines under suspicion of murdering women outside the base he had been assigned to in the Middle East. There was no proof because none of the women’s bodies were ever located. Paul called in more favors and received a copy of all the reports. He reviewed each report carefully and was able to piece together a chilling account of a man who enjoyed hurting others, women in particular.

Each family that was interviewed talked about how Thomas had stalked their wives, sisters, or daughters. They reported him to the local authorities, but nothing was ever done, even after their loved ones mysteriously disappeared. Thomas always had an alibi for where he was and was careful about making sure he wasn't followed when he left the base.

When Paul found the cabin, he knew they were dealing with a serial killer. The inside of the cabin held a wide variety of instruments designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain. Dried blood pooled between the wooden floor planks.

Paul had circled the property as investigators poured into the area. He needed to ‘see’ the area before all the ‘experts’ destroyed the evidence. He had expanded his circle until he came to the first grave. The body of the female had been dismembered before being wrapped in plastic and covered in a shallow grave. He found three more bodies before he felt sure there were no more.

A part of him died with each find. His biggest fear that Trisha, Ariel, or Carmen was one of the discarded females ate at him. It had taken two long months before the results showed none of the women were from the plane. He had traveled back and forth between his ranch in Wyoming and Shelby, California once a month since then revisiting the sites for more clues.

Now, he stood looking down at the burn marks on the trees. The fire investigator’s report was inconclusive. They could find no chemical residues and no explanations as to how or what could cause a fire that would burn hot enough to reduce a small section to ash without touching anything else.

The marks were extremely precise, as if they were directed from a source that could be fired. He had shown photos of the damage to experts in the military, but even they were baffled. One report stated no known source on Earth could have created a fire hot enough to cause that damage without igniting the forest around it.

Paul stood and looked at the spot where a very fine pile of ash was discovered by one young investigator. The analysis suggested it was human remains, but not even cremation could reduce a body to that fine an ash. He reached up and pulled a small, folded tissue from his pocket.

He opened it and looked down at the silver dollar size scale lying against the white tissue. He had found it tucked in between the bark of a tree near where the pile of ash had been discovered. It was dark red with a trace of dark green and gold along the edges. He had an analysis done on it at Wyoming State University. Hugh Little was a friend of his from high school and worked in the Bio-research department. A shiver ran down his spine as he remembered Hugh’s late night call.

“Hey Paul,” Hugh had said excitedly. “I, uh, listen I need you to call me as soon as you get back. That scale you sent me. I really need to talk to you about it.” Hugh had been so excited Paul had driven the extra two hundred and fifty miles to the campus where Hugh was a faculty member.

Hugh had greeted him with a pent-up excitement that Paul had never seen in the normally placid man. He had taken Paul back to his lab and began explaining his findings. Paul had listened carefully, but it was the images that held him captivated.

“The scale came from some type of live creature. I have no doubt about that. At first I thought it might be reptilian, but now I don't think it is. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It isn’t just the chemical makeup of the scale or even the size, but look at the scale when it is magnified,” Hugh explained.

Paul watched as the blurred image of the scale cleared and a very intricate pattern came into view. The edge was perfectly curved with a thin line of gold etched with dark green oblique lines cut along the edges. The red glowed with swirling colors, making it look like it was on fire. In the center of the scale was a symbol that looked like a spear. Paul walked closer, looking carefully at the pattern.

“Is it real?” he had asked Hugh in a quiet, thoughtful tone.

“Oh, it’s real alright. Do you see those swirling colors? I tried to take a small sample of it. It destroyed every needle I used. When I tried to cut through the scale, it melted my cutter,” Hugh replied. “I don’t know where you got this from but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never seen anything like it on Earth before.”

A cold wave of dread swept through Paul as he stared at the swirling red. That was the third time someone had said that same thing. He had retrieved the scale under protest from Hugh that he still needed to do more tests on it. Paul explained it was needed for the investigation for now, perhaps after Trisha was found he could send it back to him. For now, he needed it.

Paul tilted his head up to look at the overcast sky. It was going to rain soon. He could smell it in the air. Walking back to his truck, he looked around one more time, deep in thought, before sliding into the driver’s seat. He had one more person to visit before he returned home again. He had only discovered the name a couple of days ago. None of the investigators had thought the old woman who was a friend of the artist important enough to interview.

Paul pulled the clipboard off the dash and looked down at the address. Edna Grey, age sixty-six, family friend of Abby Tanner. Grey had known Abby’s grandparents who had raised her. She had worked with them in the entertainment field before retiring.

Abby often watched her animals when Grey visited her children, according to some of the leads he had talked to. Paul laid the clipboard down on the seat next to him and started the big Ford 250 diesel. He backed up, making a three-point turn so he could head back down the mountain.

Turning onto the highway, he turned his windshield wipers on as the rain began to fall. He hoped to God that this Edna Grey could give him some information he could use. He was running out of leads.

He rubbed his chest over his heart. He knew his baby girl was still alive. He could feel her. It wasn’t like when Evelyn died.

Then, he knew she was gone. He could feel the emptiness in his heart. He had known something had happened before he received the phone call from his mom who had been visiting when Evelyn collapsed.

No, Trisha was still alive. He could feel her calling to him. It was almost as strong as the other feeling he had been having lately. That his life was about to change. He felt restless, as if something called to him, telling him that the emptiness he had felt for so long was about to be filled to overflowing.

Paul turned his blinker on and slowed to make the narrow turn onto the long, gravel driveway. He could see a large, two story house at the end of the drive through the rain-smeared windshield. A large wraparound porch seemed to welcome visitors to sit and stay for a while.

He pulled up along the curved drive in front of the steps and shut off the engine. Opening the door, he pulled his large Stetson down lower to protect his face from the cold drizzle. He strode over to the front steps of the porch, taking them two at a time.

A low barking sounded on the other side of the door. Before he could even raise his hand to knock, the door opened to reveal the soft face of a woman in her mid-sixties. She had her long, dark gray hair in a braid down her back and was dressed in a pair of well-worn jeans with a solid blue button up shirt tucked in at the waist. She didn’t say anything for a moment before she smiled and opened the screen door. A large golden retriever stood beside her with a lime green tennis ball in its mouth, its long tail wagging back and forth.

“Ms. Grey, my name is Paul Grove,” Paul said removing his hat and holding it between his hands nervously. “My daughter is Trisha Grove. She was the pilot of the plane returning your friend Abby Tanner.”

Edna nodded as tears filled her eyes. “Come in. I’ve been expecting someone to come.”

Paul bowed his head in acknowledgement as he walked on silent feet into the house. He looked around as his eyes adjusted to the dim interior. His eyes noticed everything in one sweep. He saw the photos of famous singers and actors mixed in with pictures of Edna’s family along one wall, before his eyes swept over the display case filled with awards.

“Follow me,” Edna said, moving toward the back of the house.

Paul glanced up the stairs, noting the worn but polished wood on the steps. His eyes moved to take in the formal sitting room before he passed by it. He followed Edna through the narrow hallway until they came into a bright, very modern kitchen. Large windows lined the back, letting in plenty of natural lighting. Edna waved him to sit at the worn, white table near the window while she put some water on to boil.

“I’m going to tell you a tale, Paul Grove. You are probably going to think I am a senile old woman who is living in a fantasy world. I’m not,” Edna said, looking pointedly at Paul with a firm, but reassuring smile. “Whether you want to believe me or not is up to you. I can only tell you what I know and what I suspect.”

“Is my daughter alive?” Paul asked in a deep, rough voice.

Edna smiled as the water boiled, not looking at Paul at first, but at the steam coming out of the top of the kettle. “Let me tell you my tale and then I will ask you that question.”

Edna poured the boiling water into two cups. She reached up and opened a cabinet and pulled out a couple of tea bags and placed them in the cups. Placing each cup on a saucer, she picked them up and carried them over to the table, setting one in front of Paul and the other in front of her seat before she sat down. The golden retriever came into the room and curled up at her feet, dropping the ball between his front paws before resting his chin on it with a small whine.

“Bo misses Abby,” Edna said before she blew on her tea and took a sip. “So do I but she is in a better place. At least, I believe she is.”

“Where do you think she is?” Paul asked, wrapping his cold hands around the cup, but not drinking any of the fragrant brew.

Edna released a sigh before she looked at Paul with clear, intelligent eyes. “Six months ago I dropped my dog, Bo, and my mule, Gloria, off at Abby’s place up in the mountains. Abby inherited the cabin from her grandparents. She was born and raised there and never planned to leave,” Edna explained, pausing to take a sip of her drink.

Paul didn’t say a word. He just waited until Edna was ready to continue. He found that if he waited and listened long enough, he would learn more than trying to rush a person’s story.

Edna nodded and smiled at Paul. “Abby would like you. You are a patient man, Paul Grove. Abby had been working on a fancy stain glass piece for the Boswells. Your daughter, Trisha, was the pilot on the flight I understand.”

“As well as three other women who I care about very much,” Paul agreed. “Trisha was the pilot. Two of her childhood friends were also on board as well as another young girl my daughter and Ariel had adopted under their care.”

“Yes, I read about them in the paper. It is what was not in the paper that you need to know,” Edna said leaning forward. “When I returned to pick up Bo and Gloria after visiting my son and daughter-in-law, I found Abby was no longer alone. There was a man there. He was unlike anything I had ever seen before. There was a wildness, a power to him that was not.... normal.”

Paul’s face tightened into an unmoving mask. “Do you think he hurt Abby?”

Edna shook her head and leaned back in her chair. “Just the opposite. I think he saved Abby…. and your daughter and the other women.”

“Why do you think that?” Paul asked stiffly. “You admit there was something off about him. What was different?”

The smile on Edna’s face faded as her eyes darkened with memories. “Because he loved her and swore that he would do everything in his power to protect her and make her happy. I believed him. You see, his name was Zoran Reykill and he was an alien from another world,” Edna said carefully.

Paul’s mouth tightened as he returned Edna’s unwavering stare. “You expect me to believe my daughter was kidnapped by aliens?” he asked in a deep, unemotional voice.

“Not kidnapped so much as rescued,” Edna responded lightly, taking a sip of her tea. “I told you I was concerned when I saw a strange man with Abby. You have to understand, Abby is a very quiet, reserved person. She does not open herself up to others very easily. She was perfectly happy being alone on her mountain. This man was extremely large, even bigger than you. He had black hair that hung down his back and solid gold eyes with elongated pupils. He understood what I was saying, but I was unable to understand him until….,” her voice faded as she remembered the golden ship in the high meadow.

“Until….” Paul encouraged quietly.

“Until he took me to his spaceship,” Edna replied lightly. “Zoran took me up to the high meadow not far from the cabin. There was nothing there at first then out of nowhere a huge, golden spaceship appeared. It was floating above the ground by several feet. It was alive. I could see the swirling colors and it shivered as I approached it. Zoran touched it and a doorway with steps suddenly appeared. He took me inside. Seats of gold formed under us and a panel appeared. I could understand what he was saying while we were inside the golden ship.” Edna looked up at Paul with determination reflected in her eyes. “He told me he crashed on our world and Abby found him. She cared for him and he knew she was his true mate. He told me he was going to take her with him when he left. I’m not making this up. I have no proof, but what I have told you. Whether you want to believe me or not is up to you. Can you explain some of the things you’ve found? You are not the only one who has done your research, Mr. Grove. I know what evidence was left and I know what your background is. What have your findings suggested?” Edna pressed.

Paul tore his gaze from Edna’s to look out the window. He could see the barn where an old mule stood outside in the light rain. His eyes moved to the mountains in the distance before he turned his gaze back to the woman sitting across from him.

“That something not from this Earth was there,” he responded quietly.

Edna nodded slowly. “Now, I’ll ask you the question that you asked me. Is your daughter alive?” she asked quietly, laying her hand gently on top of his.

Paul looked down at his untouched cup of tea and swallowed over the lump in his throat. Tears burned the back of his eyes as he pictured his beautiful baby girl. He wondered if she was happy. If she was safe. If she missed him as much as he missed her. Paul looked up before he finally nodded.

“Yes, she is still alive. But, I don’t know what to do now. How can I bring her home if she was taken to another world?” Paul asked, voicing his fear to this woman who gave him the only answers that were beginning to make sense.

Edna sat back. “Something tells me she won’t be any happier being away from you than you are from her. If she is even half as tenacious as you are, it wouldn’t surprise me if the aliens return. When that time comes, perhaps it will not be for you to bring her home but for her to take you with her.”

Paul looked at Edna for several long moments. For the first time in six months, he felt hope beginning to build inside him. He spent the next hour with Edna. He asked her question after question trying to learn everything he could about this Zoran Reykill and his golden ship. He politely declined dinner telling Edna he had a lot of things to think about on the long drive home.

He nodded his head to Edna and Bo as he pulled away, heading back to his ranch. He made a series of calls on the long drive home. He had a lot of things to settle. If his baby girl had gone to the stars like she had always promised she was going to then he had a few things to set in place. He had promised her if she ever went he would be going with her.

Chapter 2

Morian Reykill released a sigh as she carefully touched the new plant she had just transplanted. She looked over the atrium she had created in the hopes of finding a place where she could find a measure of peace. She smiled and shook her head. It was ridiculous to feel so lonely. Her life was filled to overflowing if she would just accept what she had been given.

All five of her sons had found their true mates. There were still things that needed to be smoothed out, but they would find their way. She just might need to help a little. The beautiful creatures they had returned with were unlike anything she had ever encountered before…. and very stubborn.

A chuckle escaped as the little bloom opened up briefly only to close up tight as if mad about being moved from where it had been to a new home. The women were much like this little plant. They were not sure this is where they wanted to be either. In time, they would stretch out their roots and find their way, making a new home in this strange new world they had been brought to.

So much had happened in the past few months. Morian closed her eyes as pain flared inside her as she thought of her mate. That his own brother had taken his life tore at her heart. She had always been thankful when she had been joined with Jalo.

He had been a gentle, kind, and intelligent male who had won her heart with his tenderness. He had been patient with her, getting to know her before they had come together. His dragon had tolerated her because she was a priestess for the Hive.

His symbiot respected her for the same reason, but they did not have the burning passion that the man had for her. She had known she was not Jalo’s true mate and had even accepted that if he should ever find his true mate that she might be cast to the side, loving him from a distance. But, he had not found another female that was accepted by the three parts that made the man. In fact, he appeared content to be with her despite the hunger she knew burned deep inside him.

It had been Raffvin’s idea to go hunting the week Jalo died. The reports that came back said it was an accident. His dragon had been crushed under a sudden rock fall. Raffvin had supposedly been killed as well, but his body was never found. Morian knew why now. He had murdered his brother and tried to murder her sons as well while hiding behind his own faked death.

Morian’s hands trembled when she thought of losing any more of her family. She didn’t think she could survive another loss like that. It had devastated her when Zoran had disappeared.

His return had been a blessing, for he had returned with a species that was accepted by both their symbiots and their dragons. Females were rare on Valdier. The few that were of age had already been mated.

Unfortunately, few females were being born. Their scientists believed it was a combination of their male’s dominant personalities and the need for warriors during the Great War. But, even though the Great War between the Sarafin, the Curizans, and the Valdier had ended over a hundred years before, few females continued to be born.

The need for mates for the adult males was reaching a critical level. Many Valdier warriors were looking to the Sarafin and Curizans for mates now. The biggest issue was finding a female all three parts of the male would accept. If the male was lucky, he might find one the three parts tolerated at best. Over time, the need and hunger of his dragon and the unhappiness of his symbiot would eventually rip the couple apart if they were not careful. At worse, one or both parts of him might not accept the female and would try to kill her.

Morian was thankful her sons would not face this issue any longer. Now, they just needed to learn to understand and accept their mates for the independent, strong-willed women that they were.

Personally, Morian appreciated their free will. She had often gotten in trouble for her own wayward behavior. Jalo had tolerated it, but as a young girl, she had often been disciplined for doing things a female was not supposed to do.

She was fortunate as a priestess to the Hive and the Queen Mother to the Dragon Lords she was given more freedom than other women on Valdier. Most women were closely guarded by their mates and not allowed to travel freely in the way she did now that she was unmated.

“Morian,” Abby’s voice called out from the door of the Atrium.

Morian smiled as she thought of her beautiful, quiet new daughter. Abby was her oldest son Zoran’s true mate. Her gentle touch and quiet manner hid a strength that had already proven she was no delicate flower to be hidden away.

The sound of a baby’s laugh had Morian washing her hands anxiously. Abby had recently given birth to a baby boy. Her first great child. Cara, Trelon’s mate, had delivered twin babies shortly after Abby. They were the first girls born to the royal house in centuries and were already proving they were going to be a replica of their mother. They were just a few months old and already turning over and trying to scoot.

“Abby,” Morian called out in delight, holding her arms out for her new great son who screeched with joy when he saw her. “How is my wonderful baby boy?” Morian cooed softly.

“Oh, he is doing great,” Abby said with a tired sigh. “I am not so sure about your oldest son though. He is about to drive me up the wall!”

Morian’s chuckle filled the atrium and drew another gurgle of laughter out of Zohar. “What has he done now?”

Abby moved over to sit down on the bench near the center fountain. She pushed her heavy length of dark brown hair back and relaxed. A smile playing on her lips as she watched her son try to pull some of Morian’s hair free from the twist she kept it in. That was why her hair was down. Zohar screamed whenever she put it up and he couldn’t grab it. Zoran had insisted it remain free so his son could touch it whenever he pleased.

“He won’t let me put my hair up for one thing. If I try, he takes it down because he says Zohar doesn’t like it up. I think he is just as bad. I threatened to cut it off once, but he….” Abby blushed as she remembered what Zoran had threatened to do to her if she even thought of cutting her hair.

Morian’s eyes glittered with humor as she looked over at Abby. “His father was the same way. I was going to cut my hair once. I even had the shears in my hand when he came in and caught me,” Morian chuckled as her own face turned a rosy color. “He kept me tied to the bed for three days.”

“Three days?” Abby gasped in disbelief. “What did you do?”

“I enjoyed it so much I threatened to cut my hair at least once a month after that until….” Morian’s voice faded as her eyes grew sad. “Until he was murdered.”

Abby stood up and walked over to where Morian was sitting on the edge of the fountain with Zohar. “I’m so sorry, Morian,” Abby said, placing her hand on Morian’s shoulder.

Morian looked up and shook her head. “It has been many years, but I still miss him. He was a good mate. I miss the way we used to just talk,” she admitted softly. With another shake of her head, she smiled. “So, how were you able to sneak out without Zoran knowing?”

“She didn’t,” a deep voice growled out from the shadowed path leading up to the fountain.

Abby rolled her eyes and sat down next to Morian. “Hi sweetheart.”

“Don’t you ‘Hi sweetheart’ me,” he growled out as he walked up to her. “I thought I told you to stay in our rooms. You need to rest. Zohar woke you a half dozen times last night,” he said, pulling Abby to her feet and into his arms.

Abby relaxed against Zoran’s chest, enjoying his warm skin against her cheek. “He wasn’t the only one,” she muttered darkly.

This time it was Zoran who turned a little red. “Yes, well, you smelled extremely sweet,” he whispered flickering a glance at his mother who raised her eyebrow at him. “Well, she did. The milk she produces for Zohar is.....,” he started to add defensively.

Abby groaned cutting him off as she hid her hot face in his chest. “That is more information than your mother needed to know,” she groaned out.

“Yes, it is,” Morian chuckled. “But like I said before, he is like his father.”

Zoran’s mouth dropped open before snapping shut and he shook his head. “That’s it. Time to go back to our rooms. Come here, little warrior. Let’s go put you down for a nap. I think your Dola needs a nap as well.”

Morian chuckled when Zohar glared mutinously at his father before scrunching his face up and letting out a loud wail when Zoran carefully untangled his little fingers from the hair he had pulled loose. Zoran grimaced at the high pitched cry and looked at Abby, desperation clearly written on his face. Abby raised her eyebrow and shook her head as she reached out and scooped Zohar back into her arms. The minute his little fingers wrapped around her long, dark strands he gave a little hiccup and quieted down, a soft sigh escaping him as he buried his face in her neck.

“This is why you must never cut your hair,” Zoran said stubbornly. “I do not like it when he cries. It hurts my ears.”

Morian chuckled as she listened to Abby and Zoran walk away, arguing about how Zohar needed to learn he could not always have his way just to keep him from crying. She remembered having the same arguments with Jalo. She hoped Abby had more luck than she did. Jalo loved his sons and she knew they got into more mischief than they should have because they had him wrapped around their fingers.

She turned on the cool stone seat and gazed out over the atrium that was her sanctuary. She dipped her fingers into the clear water of the center tranquility pool, swirling the water around absently as the silence grew to the point that instead of being comforting, it was almost suffocating her. She let her eyes drop down to gaze at the ripples she had made in the water. She couldn't help but think her life was like the rippling water.

“What is wrong with me?” she whispered to herself. “Why do I feel so restless? Why do I feel this growing hunger inside me?”

She turned her head when she heard the sound of leaves rustling in the thick ferns on the left side of the pool. A huge golden shape emerged from the shadows. Jalo’s symbiot had become her constant companion since his death.

She had been stunned when it refused to leave her after Jalo’s death to return to the Hive. She had even taken it down to the Hive herself. When Jalo’s symbiot had re-emerged from the river of the Gods, it had immersed her smaller symbiot into its form to become even stronger; both in strength and in binding with the essence of her dragon and her. That was something it hadn’t been able to do before. Since that time, it was seldom more than a few feet from her.

“What is it?” Morian asked softly, puzzled, but the rapidly shimmering colors swirling over its body. “You feel it too, don’t you? As if something is about to happen,” she said looking around again. She closed her eyes, seeking deep inside her for what could cause the feeling.

Mate, our mate is coming, her dragon stirred for the first time in a long time. I can feel him.

Morian’s eyes snapped open in shock. She pulled her trembling hand from the water. She didn’t even feel the dampness of the water on her fingers as she pushed back the strand of black hair that Zohar had pulled free.

A mate, she choked out to her dragon. That is impossible. I have no mate. Jalo is gone.

Not Jalo, her dragon growled out, raising her head and tilting her head upward toward the clear glass dome. Our true mate comes. He comes to protect us.

No, Morian said fiercely. No, I won’t let myself care for another male again. I won’t take the chance of losing him. You will listen to me on this! she demanded as she felt the snort of her dragon.

Morian stomped her feet in frustration when her dragon just turned with a grunt and settled down with a contented sigh. The blasted thing was not going to listen to her, she just knew it. The damn thing had gotten her into more trouble than she could count when she was younger. It had settled down a bit when she mated with Jalo and had the boys, but she could feel that same sense of expectation which ALWAYS meant trouble.