Tink’s Neverland - S.E. Smith - ebook
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She touched his hand, and everything changed.... Jasmine “Tinker” Bell has always had a love for life, looking forward to any new adventure that happens to come along, but when a friend’s experiment creates a portal to another world, she finds herself immersed in far more adventure than she ever dreamed. J’kar ’Tag Krell Manok had given up hope of ever finding his bond mate. Then a pint-size female unlike anything he has ever seen suddenly appears on his spaceship to save the life of his brother, and disappears just as suddenly. He will do anything, follow her anywhere, to get her back - and he just might be able to do that, because she left a very important piece of technology behind... Discover new worlds, new species, and the hilarity that can ensue when Tink, an eternally optimistic, quirky, small town mechanic meets J’kar, a serious Prime warrior from a far-off galaxy who is used to being in control! Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of adventure and romance. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid scenes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main content: 203 (6x9) pages, 69,552 words

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Tink’s Neverland

Cosmos’ Gateway Book 1

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Synopsis

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Sample of Command Decision

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.

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

TINK’S NEVERLAND

Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Published December 2010

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 of 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: Tink connects with an alien man when she goes through a portal to another world.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-43-6 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-07-8 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

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

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

Jasmine “Tinker” Bell has always had a love for life, looking forward to any new adventure that happens to come along. When a friend’s experiment creates a portal to another world, she finds herself swept into a faraway star system she thought only existed in the movies.

J’kar ’Tag Krell Manok had given up hope of ever finding his bond mate. He is surprised when a pint-size female unlike anything he has ever seen suddenly appears on his spaceship to save the life of his brother during an attack. When she is suddenly taken from him, he will do anything to get her back and claim her.

Two different worlds collide when Tink, a mechanic in a small college town, meets J’kar, a Prime warrior from a far-off galaxy. When Tink’s life is in danger, only J’kar can save her. Now Tink has to decide if she is willing to give up everything she has ever known and loved to stay with the alien she has fallen in love with.

Will their worlds survive the collision or will they be torn apart?

Chapter One

“Hey, Tink, you were great tonight,” yelled one of the guys who had been trying to get Jasmine “Tinker” Bell’s attention all night.

There was a full house tonight at the local brewery called Purple Haze, where they made and sold all types of homemade beers and specialty dishes. It was a well-known college hangout and a great place to get picked up if that was what you were looking for.

The two guys walking away had been the two most aggressive in trying to get Tink’s attention. Tink made it a rule not to pick up anyone from the bar. She had bad enough luck with guys without having to add any other liabilities to her choices.

Tink raised her hand and gave an offhanded thanks before turning the opposite way. She and her band mates closed the brewery down tonight. At two o’clock in the morning, the only lights shining were the streetlights and occasional headlights from a car leaving the place, but she wasn’t worried.

The small college town of Calais, Maine was one of the safest in the country. Even if it wasn’t, anyone who had heard of Jasmine “Tinker” Bell knew better than to mess with the pint-size spitfire if they didn’t want a wrench upside their head. At five feet, four inches and one hundred ten pounds of toned muscle, Tink was known for her sense of humor and easy personality.

But when riled, she could take down even the toughest of mechanics in the town thanks to her mom’s determination that all her girls learn to defend themselves, even if it meant fighting dirty—which Tink had been known to do on occasion. Besides, if she wasn’t able to do it, then one of her two sisters or eleven fellow mechanics around town would do the job, and there wouldn’t be much left for the cops to pick up. Life was good as far as Tink was concerned, and she enjoyed it to the fullest.

Softly humming one of the songs she had played, she hung the guitar case over her shoulder and tightened the tool belt around her small waist. She’d promised her best friend, Cosmos, she would stop by the lab in the warehouse where they lived to look at a generator he needed her to work on. She’d picked up her tool belt from work to bring home with her earlier since she needed some of the special tools she had machined for the job. She loved working on some of the things Cosmos created, almost as much as she loved the big guy himself.

Cosmos might have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but it didn’t show. Cosmos’ parents made a mint off different patents they developed, and Cosmos was just like them. He’d had his doctorate by the time he was twenty-two and had bought the old warehouse near the river as a lab and house.

While many considered him a nerd, Cosmos didn’t follow the typical description of one. He was six foot two with wide shoulders, long light-brown hair, and hazel eyes. The kind of eyes a girl could drown in—any girl except Tink, that was. She and Cosmos had developed a kinship more like siblings. So, when Tink’s family passed through the town, she’d decided it was time to try out her wings and moved into the top floor of the warehouse while Cosmos took the first and second floors as his own.

Tink’s family was as different as Cosmos’, which was probably why they gravitated to each other. Tink grew up traveling the country in a forty-foot motor home. Her parents, Angus and Tilly Bell, were the best parents any girl could have, and they had three children all living, learning, and growing in a mobile home with ten wheels that took them all over the country.

Tink’s father, Angus, was a well-known science fiction writer. He was one of the few authors who was not only very talented, but also very prolific and profitable. They could have lived on his income alone. He often stated his ideas came from his family and all the mischief they got into.

Her mom, a petite spitfire like her three daughters, was hell on wheels—literally. An accomplished mechanic who grew up working in her grandfather’s garage in a small town in Oklahoma, she loved to tinker on any type of engine. She was constantly upgrading the RV to greater power. She was also a computer geek who loved to design and develop software that engineering firms around the world used in developing power for all types of buildings. This skill provided a comfortable living, and she shared all her wonderful knowledge and skills with her daughters.

While all the traveling was great, when the family had pulled into the local campground for the summer when Tink was eighteen, Tink knew she was ready to stop moving. Tink met a group of boys camping nearby and fell in love with the quiet one out of the bunch, in a totally platonic way. The awkward boy had been Cosmos, and they had become best pals. When her parents determined it was time to head to the next great adventure, Tink decided to stay.

Her parents were sad to see their youngest and last child make the decision but were totally supportive. So monthly phone calls became Tink’s connection to a family that lived all over the country. Life was great then, and it still was four years later. At twenty-two, Tink couldn’t think how life could get any better. She had a great job at the local garage that did customized work, worked part-time for the college on all their miscellaneous equipment, helped Cosmos with the equipment he used for his experiments, and played with a small group of musicians a couple times a month at the brewery. Yep, life was great.

Turning right down Main Street and heading east two blocks, the river came into view. Over the small two-lane bridge and I’ll be home, she thought with a contented sigh.

The warehouse was dark except for a couple of soft lights shining out over the dark water from the first and third floors. Walking over the bridge, Tink stopped to listen to the soft sounds of the water flowing under it. She loved the sounds and smells of the town.

Sighing, she turned and headed over the bridge, thinking about the generator Cosmos wanted her to work on. Even if she didn’t know what half the stuff Cosmos talked about was or what he was working on, she did know the equipment and how it worked, and loved doing it.

She already had an idea of how to get more amps out of the generator and wanted to see if it would work. She didn’t know why Cosmos needed so much power. She would hate to have to pay the electric bill each month.

Cosmos insisted her electric was included as part of her monthly rent, when he let her pay it. She protested, but Cosmos stated it was too much hassle to try to determine the little she used from the large amount that he did. So, in exchange for her help with the equipment and the little she occasionally was able to slip to him, she had a huge living space at almost no cost.

Stepping up to the softly lit entrance, Tink punched the code into the electronic locking system on the heavy metal door. Tink installed it after Cosmos kept losing the keys to the door and locking himself out. The locking mechanism made a clicking noise, and the lock slid quietly open.

Pushing the door open, Tink closed the door and reset the lock. While Calais might be one of the safest cities in the country, Tink wasn’t a fool and didn’t take unnecessary risks.

“Better safe than sorry” was one of her parents’ favorite sayings. “Think of all possibilities before making a decision” was another saying, but Tink didn’t always follow that one, and it sometimes got her into trouble. Like the date she went on last week with the “Professor” from the engineering department at the college.

All he wanted was a quick tip in bed and a chance to see what Cosmos was up to. She figured that out about thirty minutes into the date when he kept trying to get her out of the restaurant and his hands down her pants. Forty-five minutes after the date had started, Tink was nursing bruised knuckles on her right hand where she punched the jerk after he didn’t listen to the word “stop” for the third time when he grabbed her ass. Enough was enough, and she didn’t appreciate getting groped in public by some pompous ass.

The lights came on automatically as she moved through the hallway leading to the lab, shaking Tink out of her musings of that disastrous date. Placing her hand on the palm-print scanner, Tink waited for the scan to finish and for the outer door to the lab to open. Moving to the second security scanner she sang the first verse of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

The voice-recognition program called out a greeting in a soft husky voice that sounded a lot like Tink’s mom, Tilly. “Welcome, Tinker Bell. I hope you had a nice night. Cosmos wanted me to give you a message. He had to fly out to Chicago to see his parents and will be gone for a couple of weeks. He hopes this doesn’t cause you any problems. He left his charge card if you need to get any parts or need anything. He can be reached at the following number.” Tink sighed again. She missed the big guy when he was gone. Oh, well. It would be her and RITA for a lonely couple of weeks.

“Thanks, RITA.”

RITA—Tink’s mom’s latest software program that Tink had modified—was an acronym for Really Intelligent Technical Assistant. Tink used her mom’s voice simply because it made her feel like she had family with her whenever she was at home.

RITA used an artificial intelligence program that Tink’s mom, Tilly, developed a couple of years ago to help with some engineering project for the government. Tink copied the basic program last year when she was visiting and was developing it during her spare time. RITA was now a very advanced and sophisticated program that learned and developed every day. She had become a substitute mother to Tink, often giving her advice, like “Do you really think you should go out with that professor?” or “You really should eat better.”

“How was your gig tonight, dear?” RITA asked. Her voice came through the audio system that was wired throughout the warehouse, which the software could access at will.

“It was awesome! Oh, RITA, I wish you could have heard it. Doug played better than he ever had on the drums, and Mike was smoking on the piano. Gloria didn’t show, so I didn’t have to risk her being pissed that I was playing the bass tonight.”

Tink spun around in a circle, her rainbow-colored high-top sneakers squeaking as she turned on the waxed concrete flooring. Her baby blue below-the-knee skirt swirled out around her like one of the dancing tulips from a movie, showing off her long legs encased in a pair of calf-length dark blue spandex tights. Her white peasant top slipped a little farther down one shoulder as she danced across the floor singing one of the sultry pop songs that were currently all the rage.

She slid the guitar strap from her shoulder and held the instrument in front of her like she was dancing with a man, her tool belt making soft, metallic clicks and clacks as she moved. As she danced around the room, her soft, short curls of golden-brown hair bobbed up and down with the motion. Tink’s hair and eyes were just two of her wonderful features that often gave her the appearance of a pixie or fairy.

Her wavy hair was light and flirty, matching her personality. It was the color of fall leaves with natural highlights of gold and amber. Her almond-shaped eyes were the color of melted dark chocolate, so dark, it felt like a person could drown in the depths.

Her figure showed her love of dancing and hard work. She moved with a natural grace she’d inherited from her mother, with long legs, long waist, and high firm breasts that were on the slightly plump side, making them seem a little large for her small frame. This used to be a problem until Tink learned to take advantage of her larger assets. Another wonderful lesson from her parents—“If you’ve got it, flaunt it, then knock the shit out of the problem.”

Yep, her parents were wise and wonderful people. She did just that when Mister Professor grabbed her that last time. He hadn’t known what hit him until it was too late because he had been looking at her breasts instead of her fists.

“That’s wonderful, dear. You know, I could short-circuit Gloria’s car the next time she takes it in for repair or hack into her computer and put a nice little virus in it,” RITA said with a hint of amusement.

“Thanks, RITA, but I don’t think that’s necessary…at least, not yet. If she keeps giving me a hard time I’ll let you have a go at her,” Tink replied with a slight laugh and a mischievous lift to her lips.

“Did you get a chance to run the configuration I sent to you this morning on the changes I wanted to make to the generator to get more amps out of it?” Tink asked as she walked over to the steps leading down to the lower section of the lab.

The lab took up most of the lower section of the warehouse and housed a split-level with the upper half for computers and the lower for the generators and power sources. The top level was filled with computer equipment and some type of console that controlled Cosmos’ latest experiment.

Tink ignored the console as she walked by, more interested in the lower level. The lower half was where the generator and electrical cabinets were located. Those were her babies. It also contained a strange metal framing that looked almost like a huge doorway. There were cables from the electrical panels and generator attached to metal cabinets that contained the necessary circuit breakers in case of a problem.

“Of course, dear. I sent some additional changes I made to your iPad. You should be able to pull it up. The changes you made were brilliant, and you should be able to pull an additional 11.52368 amps from the generator.”

“Cool!” Tink said as she skipped down the metal steps.

Leaning her guitar and oversize purse against the bottom step, Tink ran her hand through her hair and adjusted her tool belt. Moving over to the large generator located under the upper platform, Tink pulled out the tools she was going to need to open that bad boy up, and started to work. Luckily, tomorrow was Sunday, so it didn’t matter that it was going to be a long night. She could sleep in, and she was off Monday for the holiday weekend. Humming softly, she slowly slid under the generator to pull open the panel she needed to get into first.

She spent the next three hours working on the different modifications she had drawn out on the schematic. Finishing up the last modifications, she slid the panel back into place and tightened the screws down. Making sure she had all of her tools put back into her tool belt, she rose stiffly off the floor.

“Ugh, I think I’m getting too old for this!” Tink muttered under her breath as she slowly stretched out her tired muscles. “RITA, can you fire up Cosmos’ new program, and let’s test the generator out to see if I got everything?”

“Sure thing, dear. You sound beat. Do you want to wait until later?” RITA commented, even as she started the programming that would fire up the console.

RITA knew Tink enough to know she wouldn’t stop until she confirmed that the changes she’d made worked. If they didn’t test it now, Tink would go upstairs and worry that she should have changed this or done that.

Laughing, Tink let out a tired breath. “You know me better than that. Let me know when you get a power reading.”

Tink walked over to the metal stairs slowly, twisting this way and that to relieve her aching muscles from all the sitting, bending, and awkward leaning over she had done for over three hours. Glancing at her watch, she noticed it was almost five thirty in the morning.

Well, no coffee for me this morning if I plan on sleeping the day away, she thought tiredly.

As she moved past one of the panels on the wall next to the stairs Tink noticed some strange lanyards hanging next to it. Moving closer, she picked one up, turning it over and over in her palm. She glanced up again. There were four of them with small cylinder devices hanging from them. They were absolutely beautiful! The cylinders had carvings on them that matched the carving Cosmos put on the metal frame of the “doorway” thing. Tink could tell they were some type of electronic device. Tink placed the lanyard in the pocket of her skirt. She wanted to take a closer look at it when she wasn’t so tired. She would have plenty of time to replace it before Cosmos came back.

Bending over, Tink picked up her guitar and her oversize purse. Sliding the purse over one shoulder so it draped across her and sliding the guitar case strap over the other, Tink moved to climb the stairs leading to the upper floor and her long-awaited bed.

Chapter Two

Tink was just putting her foot on the first step when out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a strange light emitted from the metal “doorway.” The entire thing seemed to shimmer, and then it cleared up, opening to another room. The room was a soft gray with low lights emanating from the floor and ceiling. Tink blinked a couple of times, thinking she was hallucinating from being overtired.

What the…? She thought as she shook her head again to try to clear her eyesight.

No matter how much she shook her head or rubbed her eyes, the room was still there. Hesitating, she slowly put her foot back down onto the concrete floor of the lab. Turning, she walked toward the metal “doorway.” Glancing up, she looked at the metal surrounding the door, noticing there were a series of lights running faster and faster around it.

Shaking her head from the dizziness of watching the lights going around, she gently stretched her hand out to touch what should have been solid concrete where the wall of the lab should have been. She felt a slight tingling as her hand passed through the doorway but nothing that felt dangerous or disturbing. Tink pulled her hand back and glanced up toward where the console was with a frown.

“RITA, what do you make of this?” Tink asked in a slightly husky voice.

“I’m not sure, dear, but I don’t think it would hurt you. Why don’t you take a look and see what it is!” RITA replied, sounding almost eager.

Take a look? Was RITA nuts? Could a computer be nuts? Was Tink going nuts? Hooray, now all she was doing was thinking about nuts!

“What do the readings say?” Tink asked curiously.

“You were able to pull over 12.8695 amps out of the generator! What a wonderful increase, dear. It seems to be just what Cosmos needed to get his project running,” RITA said, sounding excited.

“Well, maybe you should power it down now that we know it worked. I’m not sure what Cosmos is doing, but if he can create a room that wasn’t there before, maybe I don’t want to mess with it,” Tink said, starting to turn around.

Tink hadn’t taken more than a step when she heard something coming from the other side of the “doorway.”

“What was that? RITA, did you pick up anything?” Turning back toward the doorway, Tink looked closer.

A tall, dark-haired man was fighting with… Tink shook her head again. A… What the hell is that? Tink moved closer as the man raised his sword. Holy crap, the guy had a huge sword! The man looked like he was fighting a big iguana! The other creature was hissing, its tongue moving in and out as it swung what looked like a double-edged sword toward the tall, dark-haired man. The dark-haired man moved backward trying to stay out of the iguana dude’s reach. He was holding his right arm close to his body like he was hurt, and he was dragging his left leg.

Tink glanced down at it as he moved by and saw blood flowing from a deep gash that had to hurt like hell. As he moved by, Tink saw the dark-haired man’s face for the first time. The man’s features caused Tink to gasp. He looked more like a kid! Not more than sixteen or seventeen! The iguana dude raised his double-edged sword over his head and struck a particularly brutal blow on the sword arm of the dark-haired boy. The power of the blow caused the boy to fall backward where he lay sprawled on the floor of the hallway. The iguana dude roared with triumph and raised his sword over his head in order to deal a death blow.

Derik knew his time had come. He knew death would come quickly now. When their ship was attacked, he gripped his battle-sword, ready to defend his shipmates and his brothers. A feeling of regret surged through him as he thought of his parents’ and brothers’ reaction to his death.

He was only seventeen planet cycles old and had begged and pestered his father and older brothers to let him join them on this trade mission to a nearby star system. Everything was fine until they’d received a distress call from a starship two clicks ago. They were the closest ship and offered to help. The signals coming from the ship identified it as a class-five passenger starship on course to Caldara Four to drop off its passengers. The distress signal also identified multiple system failures, including environmental.

Responding to the distress signal, they encountered the Juangans instead. The Juangans had obviously hijacked the starship. They used it as a decoy in an effort to get unsuspecting ships to come to its rescue. They were a fierce species that preyed on anything that moved and were known for their brutal treatment not only of each other, but of any species they encountered. They were not picky about who or what they ate. They were known to even sacrifice members of their own crew to fulfill their grisly appetites.

Derik was a member of the Prime, a proud warrior people who lived in a galaxy that had several habitable planets. There were three planets in the Prime system that supplied a wide variety of materials the Prime used for trading with other nearby galaxies, though only one was fully inhabited. Baade was the home world of the Prime.

Two smaller planets, Lacertae and Carafe, had only small, isolated cargo ports, mining facilities, and military sites. Their most important resource was the crystals that helped to power their world and their ships. Mined on the smallest of the three planets, Carafe, the crystals were heavily protected. Their ship on this trip had not contained a cargo of the crystal, but of fruits and other natural products the nearby galaxy of Grus used for their space stations and planetary needs.

While this ship was a military warship, they used it sometimes to transport products to nearby galaxies as a cover to gather and observe data on the neighboring inhabitants. They had already dropped the shipment off and were returning with a variety of materials that could not be found on their home planet.

One of the things they would have liked to have found were females from the other galaxy that were a match for their men. Women on their home planet were held in very high regard. Unfortunately, there were not very many women available. Most of the women on Prime were already spoken for through the mating rites which were performed as soon as the female came of age. The problem was the birth rate of females remained low, making it difficult for the unmated males to find mates.

Prime males were matched to their mates though a mating rite ceremony, and if no match was made, life for the unattached males meant a solitary existence. The mating rites were a chemical reaction that occurred when a Prime male had a physical and emotional chemical reaction bonding them to a female. The males become overwhelmed with feelings of possessiveness, protectiveness, and sexual desire. A mating mark, a series of intricate circles denoting the unbreakable bond between mates, appeared on the palm of the male and the matching female when they come into contact with each other. Each mark was as individualized as the bonded pair. It would not appear until the male and female reached the age of mating.

Due to the decline in the birthrate of females, fewer and fewer males were finding mates. This decline had reached an almost critical level. The Prime males were desperately looking for an alternative solution.

One of the main reasons for the trips to other galaxies was the hope of finding a compatible species that could procreate with the Prime males. A mating rite had never been done outside their species before, even though some of their males had tried to bond with other species from nearby galaxies. All had failed. Procreation was impossible without the mating rite and with the fact the species found so far were either incompatible or downright unappealing to the males. It was hard to get turned on to a green, scaly creature with six arms and four legs, or one who had more hair on her body than a Prime Tookey, a long-haired, long-limbed creature found in the thick forest of the mountainous region of Prime.

I’ll never have the chance to find my bond mate, Derik thought, disheartened as he stared into the cold, dead eyes of the Juangan standing over him.

He stared defiantly at the Juangan, determined to end his life with honor. The Juangan took one step toward Derik, then suddenly stopped. Its mouth opened slowly, and a green slime slowly trickled down its chin. It slowly dropped to its knees before pitching face-first toward Derik. Derik scooted back, looking down at the dead Juangan with wonder before glancing up to see which of his fellow warriors came to his rescue.

“Ja tasn meszk talkock,”he muttered. “I must be dreaming.”

Derik stared at the vision in front of him. It was a goddess! It could only be that as he had never in his life seen anything so beautiful. Behind the vision, a shimmering wall of color swirled in the narrow corridor. The vision of the goddess before him appeared out of it. Light danced around her, and she looked like she was—furious. All he could do was look at the tiny figure standing before him. She truly was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, and she had just saved his life!

Chapter Three

Tink didn’t know what else to do. When she saw the boy fall and the iguana intent on cutting him in half, she moved without thinking. Grabbing her hammer out of her tool belt, she stepped through the doorway and up behind the iguana dude when he moved by the opening of the doorway.

When he raised his sword, she knew she couldn’t let the boy die, so she did what any self-respecting girl would do in the same situation, she popped Iguana Dude in the back of the head with her hammer. She had no idea his head would crack like a walnut, spilling green goop all down his back.

“Gross!” Tink cried out, lowering her hammer coated in the green slime and bent over to wipe it clean on the back of the creature’s clothing.

Glancing at the boy on the floor, Tink gingerly stepped over the dead iguana dude’s body so she could see how badly he was hurt. From the amount of blood, it looked pretty bad. Tink slowly put her hammer in her tool belt and shrugged the straps of the guitar and her oversize purse off her shoulders. She set them down next to the wall and held out her hands, palms up. The last thing she wanted to do was frighten the poor kid and have him attack her.

“It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.” Tink spoke softly. “I just want to see if we can stop some of that bleeding.” Tink smiled a reassuring smile and took another hesitant step toward the boy.

Derik looked at the beautiful creature moving toward him. He couldn’t understand what she was saying, but could tell she was trying to reassure him.

I must have died and gone to the world of the gods and goddesses. That’s what happened, he thought to himself.

He didn’t think the next plane of life would have hurt the way he did, but it was the only explanation. How else could a goddess appear suddenly to save his life?

Derik watched as she pulled her smaller bag toward her. She seemed to be looking for something in it. When she found what she was looking for, she turned to him with a triumphant smile. Derik caught his breath at how her face became even more beautiful as she smiled. She was saying something, but he didn’t understand what it was. He only knew she could do whatever she wanted with him. He was happy just looking at her.

Tink pulled her oversize purse toward her. She always carried a small first-aid kit with her. When you were a mechanic and worked on machinery, you were always getting cuts and scrapes. She pulled the small plastic case containing bandages and antibiotic creams out with a triumphant smile.

“And the guys say I’m paranoid!” she muttered under her breath.

Turning toward the boy, who continued to stare at her like he had never seen a woman before, Tink smiled softly and tried to explain what she was doing. He really is adorable, Tink thought as she watched his eyes following her every movement.

“I’m going to see if I can stop some of this bleeding. It might hurt a little while I’m doing this, but everything will be okay once we get you patched up enough to get to a hospital. Although I don’t have a clue how I’m going to explain Mr. Iguana Dude to the police.” Tink pulled on a pair of blue latex-free gloves and pulled out the butterfly bandages, gauze, larger bandages, and antibiotic cream.

“Let’s look at your leg first,” Tink said softly as she scooted forward on her knees until she was next to Derik’s leg.

Pulling out her razor knife, she cut his pant leg from the knee to the top of his thigh. Tink drew in a sharp breath when she saw how deep the wound was. It had to be at least four inches long and half an inch deep.

Taking a clean piece of gauze, she cleaned the wound as best she could and slowly pulled the edges together, running a small amount of antibiotic cream along the cut, then using most of her butterfly bandages to hold it together. Once she was done with that, she pulled out some gauze patches and laid them carefully over the wound and followed it up by taking a roll of gauze and winding it around the boy’s leg, slowly reaching up and under to make sure it held the butterfly bandages in place.

Tink glanced up a couple of times to make sure she wasn’t hurting the dark-haired boy too much. She smiled gently at him as she continued to work on patching up his leg. He really was adorable with his dark hair falling down over his forehead and his silver—silver?—eyes gazing at her with a look of pure adoration. He reminded her of a lost puppy looking at someone who had decided to take him home.

“Okay, your leg is done as best I can fix it right here and now. Let me take a look at your arm. You know, you really shouldn’t have pissed off someone bigger than you without someone to cover your back,” Tink said in a teasing voice, trying to distract the boy. His staring was beginning to make her feel self-conscious.

Pointing to his arm, Tink smiled gently again. “I need to take a look at your arm,” she said.

Derik looked down at his arm. Realizing she was pointing to it, he held it out for her to mend. He watched as she pulled a sharp knife from her strange-looking belt and cut his shirtsleeve from his elbow to his shoulder.

She smiled again at him and reached for the same type of materials that she used for his leg. He realized his leg didn’t hurt as much as it had. The beautiful goddess smiled at him again as she began cleaning and bandaging his arm. When she was done, she leaned over, pushing a tuft of hair from his forehead with a gentle hand. Derik’s breath caught in his throat as he felt her lay her palm against his cheek.

“All done. I think we should try to get you out of here in case any more of those things come looking for their friend,” Tink said as she nodded her head toward the dead Juangan.

She quickly cleaned up all the leftover first-aid materials, packing them back into the case and putting it back in her purse. Sliding her purse over her shoulder so it crossed over the front of her, Tink moved over to the boy’s unhurt side. Bending her knees, she leaned over and helped him stand slowly. He wobbled a little, but then straightened up.

Grabbing her guitar with her other hand, she wrapped her arm around his waist, and they slowly began a shuffling walk down the corridor with Derik’s arm around Tink’s shoulder on one side and holding onto his sword and the wall with the other.

In all the confusion of what had happened, Tink didn’t even realize the “doorway” that brought her to this strange hallway was no longer there. Tink stopped at the spot she came through earlier. Blinking rapidly, she looked around, glancing back and forth as much as she could while trapped under the weight of the boy’s arm.

She studied both sides of the corridor for a good ten feet on either side. There was no opening! She couldn’t see Cosmos’ lab or even a glimmer of the doorway she came through.

Beginning to feel a sense of panic, Tink took a deep breath. The boy holding onto her said something and pointed toward the end of the corridor. Tink didn’t understand a word of what he said, but figured he knew where she needed to take him. She would come back after she got him some help and find the doorway. Nodding to the boy to show she understood what he was trying to tell her, Tink took one last look before moving toward what looked to be a door.

Chapter Four

Derik glanced down at the woman holding him around his waist. He noticed she seemed to be looking for something as she kept glancing around the corridor as they walked down it. She had a funny expression on her face as they walked toward the elevator. He knew his brothers had defeated the remaining Juangans who boarded the warship. He was listening carefully to the communicator he had in his ear to see what was going on.

It was a relief as J’kar, his older brother and commander of the warship, had ordered them not to use the communicators during the battle for fear the Juangans might use it against them. They hadn’t had much contact with that species and didn’t know what level their technology development was. Their current files on the Juangans just documented how dangerous and deadly they were.

J’kar was giving the all clear to use the communicators again. Derik wanted to head to the bridge to see what damage was done to the warship. He wanted to know how many brave warriors were hurt or killed during the battle.

“J’kar,” Derik said into the communicator. “What is your location?”

Listening to the response, Derik looked down at the woman who stopped to look up at him, and nodded toward the end of the corridor.

“Takq waga,” hesaid, nodding his head again toward the door at the end of the corridor. “This way.”

Moving slowly toward the door, Tink held tight onto the boy’s waist so he wouldn’t fall. She knew his leg had to be killing him. She had seen enough cuts to know this one had to hurt like hell.

She glanced up in surprise when the door opened automatically to reveal a type of elevator. Walking through the opened door Tink glanced one last time down the corridor, hoping against hope to see a glimmer of a doorway to Cosmos’ lab. Where had it taken her? Would she be able to get back? Holy hell, she couldn’t wait to tell Cosmos, her parents, and her sisters about this place!

Tink took a deep breath and released it, letting the questions melt away as the doors closed soundlessly before her. There would be time to answer them after she got the kid to a real doctor. As the elevator moved, Tink gripped the dark-haired boy a little tighter to prevent the motion from causing him to lose his balance as he swayed.

She knew he had lost a lot of blood, and the last thing she wanted was for him to fall down unconscious and go into shock. No, all she wanted to do was find someone or somewhere to lay him down so he could get the rest and medical care he needed, and she could do a little exploring, then find her way home.

Yep, that sounds like a great plan, she thought to herself.

The elevator lights flickered as it passed each level, finally slowing to a stop. The doors opened to another long corridor. Only this corridor wasn’t deserted. There were two huge black-haired men standing in the corridor which opened to another room at the end.

Tink stood frozen, totally forgetting the boy next to her or the men in the corridor. In front of her the corridor opened into another room that looked like one of Cosmos’ control centers or something out of Star Trek. She could see a variety of lights flashing and more men in that room. Even that didn’t seem to have much of an impact. No, what caught and held Tink’s attention was what was at the very front of the room. A huge clear window looked out into deep space. Tink could feel her mouth dropping open as she moved slowly forward down the corridor toward the window that seemed to look into the very heavens themselves.

J’kar looked over a screen showing damage reports from around the ship. He was furious that the Juangans not only had the nerve to attack one of their warships but that they had the nerve to attack his warship. He barked out orders to a young warrior, who immediately turned and left.

“J’kar,” another tall warrior called out quietly as he came to stand next to him. “Have you heard from Derik?”

His quiet voice did not reflect the worry he felt. He knew his younger brother had gotten separated from the group of warriors he was fighting with, and he had most likely not survived the fighting. He felt the weight of guilt upon his shoulders.

His younger brother was not experienced in battle, and Borj had been the one to assure his parents he would watch over him on this voyage. They’d lost four warriors during the siege, and he feared his little brother would be the fifth.

“Yes, Borj,” J’kar said as he turned to his brother who was two planet cycles younger than his own thirty. “He checked in a few minutes ago and said he would be here shortly.”

Borj let out a silent sigh of relief as he looked at his older brother. He could tell by his stance that his brother was furious with not only the Juangans but with himself for having walked into the trap they set. J’kar was tall even by Prime standards, a full three inches taller than himself. At six feet six, he towered over most of the warriors. He had wide, muscular shoulders developed from years of training. His black hair was cut short, and his dark silver eyes flashed, reflecting his current rage. Dressed in all black from his form-fitting shirt to his black boots, he made an impressive obstacle not even the Juangans could ignore.

For the past five hundred planet cycles, the ’Tag Krell Manok had ruled the Prime galaxy, bringing technology and prosperity to its people. No one would dare to challenge their rule… at least no one who wanted to live. The one thing they hadn’t been able to do, though, was bring more females to the population. Now, things were getting critical.

“You should get that cut on your arm looked at,” Borj said, knowing full well his brother wouldn’t until everything was back to normal as much as it could be.

“It can wait,” J’kar replied impatiently. “Have you sent the security team to make sure all Juangans have been killed? I also want to make sure a team has been sent to the other ship. It is ours now.”

“Lan has his security doing a thorough search of the ship. He has also dispatched a team which has already taken control of the other starship. The Juangans had been overconfident and left only two behind to maintain it. They are dead,” Borj said in a calm voice.

Out of the four brothers, he was known for his ability to never be ruffled. His calm, quiet manner was in direct contrast to his older brother’s assertive directness and his youngest brother’s eager, cheerful personality. His third brother, Mak, was a combination of himself and his older brother. He was currently commanding one of their other warships in search of women from yet another galaxy they had only briefly traded with over the past two planet cycles.

Borj inhaled a deep breath when he saw two men helping his bloodied, white-faced younger brother onto the bridge. Borj and J’kar started forward moving quickly toward the group, concern etched on their faces. J’kar muttered into the communicator for the healer to meet them on the bridge as he took in the bloodied bandages on Derik’s leg and arm and his pale complexion.

Chapter Five

Tink hadn’t known what to expect when the doors of the elevator opened, but it sure never entered her mind she would find herself in outer space! As she stepped out of the elevator, the men in the corridor rushed forward. At first, Tink thought she was going to be roadkill from the looks on their faces, but the boy said something that changed their expression from murder to curiosity.