Touch of Frost - S.E. Smith - ebook
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Frost travels the star systems, bringing intergalactic fugitives to justice, and this time it’s a maximum-security prisoner who has escaped, which would require quite a bit of skill and caution to handle under normal circumstances, but this fugitive has escaped to a distant, forbidden planet inhabited by a race that has not mastered space travel yet – which means this mission will probably get…complicated. Lacey Adams is a widow who owns an animal shelter in the small town of Magic, New Mexico… an unusual town, to say the least, but she’d never encountered an alien before, at least not that she knew of, and now there are two of them in her home! When Lacey is taken hostage by the fugitive, Frost is shocked to discover that his heart is not as frozen as he thought, and Lacey is a far more formidable opponent than either the fugitive or Frost could have imagined…. Internationally acclaimed author S.E. Smith brings another laugh-out-loud adventure to transport readers out of this world! Main Content: 160 (6x9) pages, 51,622 words

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Touch of Frost

Magic, New Mexico Book 1

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

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

Sample of Indiana Wild

Additional Books and Information

About the Author

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend Linda, who not only encouraged me to write but who also, read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Lisa, Sally, Elizabeth (Beth) 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

Paranormal Romance

TOUCH OF FROST: MAGIC, NEW MEXICO BOOK 1

Copyright © 2014 by S. E. Smith

First E-Book Published July 2014

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 resemblances to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations are strictly coincidental.

Summary: A fugitive from another star system attempts to take Lacey hostage, but Lacey is not easily taken, not by the fugitive and not by the Star Ranger who wants her for himself.

ISBN: 978-1-942562-66-5 (paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-942562-29-0 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Paranormal Romance – Fiction. 2. Paranormal – Fiction. 3. Science Fiction Romance – Fiction. 4. Science Fiction – Fiction. 5. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

Sci-fi and Paranormal Fantasy collide!

Frost is a Star Ranger. He travels the star systems, bringing intergalactic fugitives to justice. When a maximum-security fugitive escapes from the mining prison to a distant, forbidden planet inhabited by a race that has not mastered space travel yet, Frost is sent after him.

Lacey Adams is a widow who owns an animal shelter in the small town of Magic, New Mexico… an unusual town, to say the least. When Lacey is taken hostage by the fugitive, things become complicated as Frost discovers his heart is not as frozen as he thought, and Lacey proves to be a more formidable opponent than either the fugitive or Frost could have imagined…

Internationally acclaimed author S.E. Smith brings another laugh-out-loud adventure to transport readers out of this world!

Chapter One

Frost dropped down from the upper level of the Spaceport walkway, landing on silent feet. His eyes followed the small but deadly figure of the fugitive he had been seeking for the last week. The slight lift at the corner of his mouth was the only indication of his satisfaction. His target was very predictable, returning to his old hunting grounds at the first opportunity.

He straightened up from his half kneeling position, flickering a glance at the two men standing in the shadows of the seedy Port bar doorway. He ignored the men’s nervous glances as they moved deeper into the dark recesses of the bar. He did not have a warrant for anyone else on this Spaceport, so he didn’t bother wasting his time and energy on checking their status.

He had barely taken a step forward to follow when the communicator at his waist vibrated. He cast an annoyed glance at it before pressing the button to silence it. Almost immediately, it vibrated again. With a silent curse, he shut it off. Whatever headquarters wanted, it would have to wait. He was too close to his mark to stop now. Besides, it was easier to take care of the needed documentation after he had captured his target, since he could take care of both things at the same time.

He continued down the dark, narrow alleyway, turning right at the corner. Three doors to the end, the fugitive he was after paused to look over his shoulder. Frost stepped back into the entrance of a small shop dealing in herbs for medicinal purposes. The door behind him was sealed for the night, but there was enough space for him to remain hidden. The cold metal bars the shop owner used for security pressed against his back as he waited.

He lowered his eyelids to hide the glow of his light blue eyes. As a member of the Glacian species, his body was adapted to the cold, dark environments often found in space. He could regulate his body temperature to deal with extreme temperatures that would freeze most other species and could see very well in the dim light. These features were just two of the assets that made his race excel as Star Rangers, especially since most of those wanted by the law tended to gravitate to the less than desirable sections of the Spaceports.

Frost listened from his position as the fugitive named Gasper pounded on the door to the dark shop. From the low curses Gasper uttered, it didn’t appear whoever owned the shop was in a hurry to answer him. Frost tilted his head as the door creaked opened and the sound of metal on metal echoed as the security gate was unlocked.

“What do you want, Gasper?” the low growl of a woman’s voice whispered. “I thought you were serving time on Jallus III.”

“I was,” Gasper stated bluntly. “Let me in, Newmar. I have business with your husband.”

“Not any longer. Hassur is dead,” Newmar replied.

“Then I have business with you,” Gasper snapped, glancing over his shoulder again. “I need weapons.”

“I don’t sell weapons,” Newmar snapped. “That is what killed Hassur. I told him it would end badly if he didn’t stop, but he wouldn’t listen. I only deal in fabrics now.”

“Surely you have something? I need a new identity as well. You know how to do that. At least you can give me that,” Gasper rasped in disbelief.

“Go away, Gasper,” Newmar said. “I don’t do that anymore either. I have a child to think of, especially now that Hassur is gone.”

“I need a weapon and a new identity and you are going to get them for me,” Gasper snarled.

Frost’s mouth tightened when he heard the female cry out and the sound of screeching metal as the security door was yanked open. The sound of flesh meeting flesh and a young child’s cry pulled Frost from his hiding spot.

He moved swiftly down the alleyway. Gasper had already disappeared inside the small storefront. Frost could see the female lying on the floor, one hand against her mouth and the other gripping the hand of a small girl.

“Please, don’t hurt us,” Newmar whimpered. “Please, she is all I have left.”

“If you want to keep her, then find me the weapons I need and get me a new security pass,” Gasper threatened in a low, dangerous voice. “I know Hassur must have had some stashed away.”

“Don’t bother,” Frost commented calmly as he stepped into the room. “He won’t need it.”

Frost ignored the harsh curse that escaped Gasper. He was prepared for the other male’s reaction. He had studied the lizard species well. He raised his arm to deflect the long, forked tongue that shot out at him. The rough skin wrapped around his wrist instead of taking out his eyes.

Before Gasper could swing his long, jagged tail at him, Frost dropped his fingers to the tongue and focused. Shards of frost shot out from where he touched, running up the long, rough tongue. He deepened the cold until the reddish skin turned to a faint whitish-pink color. Gasper’s eyes widened in horror and pain before his knees buckled under him as Frost wrapped his hand around the long tongue and twisted it. The sickening sound of ice breaking pulled a terrified, muffled scream from Gasper.

“From my research, that is one part of your body that will not grow back,” Frost commented as he snapped the remains of Gasper’s tongue from around his wrist. “You are hereby remanded to the custody of the Coalition under violation of the Star Act four-fifty-two, Region…”

Frost never finished his sentence. Gasper, choking on the remains of his tongue, reached for the knife he had in the waistband of his pants. Gasper threw the knife he had grabbed underhanded in the hopes of catching Frost off-guard. Those hopes died at the same time as he did.

Frost, seeing the movement of the other man’s hand, shot out his right hand, sending sharp blades of ice that pierced Gasper’s neck and chest while swinging up with the sword of ice he held in his left hand to slice through the blade coming toward him.

“… the penalty is death,” Frost finished, ignoring the screams from the woman and child. “If you should resist.”

Frost sighed as he stared disgruntledly down at the dead male. He hated it when they resisted, which was pretty much all the time. It always involved more documentation on his part.

Pulling the communicator off of his belt, he turned it on with a swipe of his thumb. He ignored the bored face that brightened up when the communications officer saw it was him. Instead, he quickly punched in the code for a Reaction Team.

“Hi Frost, Passion was trying to reach you. She isn’t very happy with you right now,” Scarlet told him as the request processed.

“What else is new? I need a cleanup team,” he bit out.

“Like you said, what else is new?” Scarlet joked. “I’ll send one once you’ve sent your position. I’m patching you over to Passion. She said the moment you made contact to let her know.”

“Don’t….” Frost started to say before sucking in a frustrated breath as Passion, the commanding officer of the Star Rangers, came on.

“I could say the same thing for you,” Passion snapped out. “You know you aren’t supposed to shut off your comlink.”

“I was busy,” Frost retorted. “The damn thing went off just as I was about to apprehend Gasper.”

“Apprehend my ass. You mean kill the bastard,” Passion retorted. “I have an urgent assignment for you.”

Frost glanced at the door Newmar had disappeared through with her daughter before looking down at the mangled body of Gasper. This was supposed to be his last assignment before returning to his world. He had more than enough credits saved up so that he wouldn’t have to work another day in his life if he didn’t want to. He did want to work, only this time, it would be at something he enjoyed. He missed his home world and wanted to join his older brother back on Glacier. It was past time for him to join Rime at the huge casino and hotel business they had been building over the past fifteen years.

“This was my last assignment,” Frost growled.

“No, the one I’m about to give you is your last,” Passion stated. “There has been an escape from Maxprime.”

“Max…” Frost clenched the communicator in his hand. “Who?”

“Taar,” Passion replied quietly. “This is top secret, Frost. You brought him in. I lost five good Star Rangers before that. You know how he thinks.”

“No one knows how that bastard thinks,” Frost growled. “How did he escape?”

“He killed eight guards as he was being transported for execution,” Passion stated coldly, looking to the side at the screen holding the details. “I’ll send you what we have. Frost, there is one more thing.”

“Isn’t there always,” he muttered under his breath before glaring at the dark red-skinned face of Passion. “Well, are you going to make me guess or are you going to tell me?”

Passion glanced away from the screen before returning her focus to it. Leaning forward, she stared intently into his eyes. The skin on the nape of his neck crawled. The only time that Passion acted like this was when something went wrong… very, very wrong.

“The tracker on the ship he stole shows he is heading for an undeveloped star system. There is only one planet in the region that he is heading to that has life on it. Reports from the database state that the species living there is very primitive.”

Frost grimaced with distaste. He hated primitive planets. They either tried to make him into a God of some sort or kill him. Either case didn’t sit well with him.

“How primitive? Have they mastered space travel?” he asked bluntly.

Passion shook her head. “No, not that we have any information on and there are no recorded instances of the species interacting with traders. The last reports we have indicate they had the rudimentary concepts of building with primitive tools and they believe they are the only life forms that exist.”

“Great! Can’t you just initiate the self-destruct on the transport he stole?” Frost asked.

Passion’s face twisted in distaste. “Taar stole the Warden’s private transport. The Warden had the self-destruct on the vessel deactivated. He didn’t want to take the chance of a disgruntled employee or one of the inmates gaining access to the coding and blowing him up.”

“Instead, he violates a direct procedure and has now endangered a primitive planet with limited defenses against someone like Taar,” Frost snapped back.

“I know that and you know that, Frost. This is why you must go after him. Taar killed hundreds before you captured him, including five of my best Star Rangers,” Passion said quietly. “One of the newest transports is on route to you. I’ll take care of the documentation for Gasper.”

“When will it arrive?” Frost asked in aggravation.

“Within the hour,” Passion responded. “And Frost, this time kill the bastard. That is a direct order from the Coalition. They do not want to take the chance on him escaping again.”

“They should have thought about that the first time I was ordered to go after him,” Frost replied, heatedly. “I’ll go, but this is it, Passion. My time as a Star Ranger is finished.”

“I understand,” Passion agreed with a tired sigh. “Just be careful and try to keep all knowledge of extraterrestrial life hidden. The Directors have given you permission to wipe the memories of any primitive species that you encounter.”

“And if I can’t?” Frost asked cynically. “What do they want me to do then?”

“Just use your best judgment, Frost,” Passion ordered. “If it becomes necessary to eliminate them as well, then do so. Out.”

Frost growled low under his breath. He had sworn he would protect and bring justice to the Coalition. It would appear that protection and justice did not lean toward lesser species. This was another reason why it was time to get out. He was tired of doing the Coalition's, namely the elected Director’s, dirty work.

He turned as a soft knock sounded on the outer door of the small shop. Several members of the RT, the Reaction Team, nodded to him as they entered. He quickly explained that the two females in the back were not to be disturbed. After making sure that his orders would be followed, he stepped back out into the dark alley. This time, he turned left, heading to the upper levels where the transport would arrive.

Chapter Two

Lacey sighed as Ginger, the beautiful three year old Golden Retriever that had been dropped off at the Touch of Magic Animal Shelter two weeks ago, wagged her tail as she stepped into the large airy barn. The sound of puppies growling in the stall behind her brought a smile to Lacey’s lips. The smile felt stiff and unfamiliar, but at least it was a smile.

“Hey, girl,” Lacey murmured softly. “How are your babies doing today?”

A wet lick of a tongue and a tired sigh answered Lacey’s question. A malnourished Ginger and her litter of four puppies had been dropped off a little over six weeks ago at the gate leading to the animal shelter Lacey and her husband, Sean, had started six years before.

Lacey sent a wave of warmth through her fingers to the tired mother. The smile on her lips widened when Ginger picked up the bright orange tennis ball she liked to carry and stood up with renewed energy. Lacey reached down and took it, ignoring the dampness. With a flick of her wrist, she tossed the ball into the outer courtyard area.

“Go have some fun, girl. I’ll look after your babies for a little while,” Lacey told the wagging Golden before she called out to Evan, one of her part-time helpers, who had picked up the ball as it rolled by him. Lacey watched as he began to play with Ginger. “Thanks, Evan.”

“No problem, Lacey,” Evan called back cheerfully.

Lacey sighed again as she turned back toward the stall containing the puppies. She knew it was crazy for her to be down in the dumps today, but not even the sunshine outside could soothe her restless soul. A sense of apprehension swept through her as she thought of the unusual storm that had rolled through last night. She could smell the change in the air. Something was coming.

“Yes, something is coming,” Topper said, leaning against the door to the stall.

Lacey jumped, startled as her eccentric aunt’s tiny head popped up. Today her hair was a blaze of purple that matched her eyes. Lacey couldn’t stop the chuckle that escaped her.

At almost sixty, Topper was just one of the colorful residents of Magic, New Mexico. The town, aptly named due its unusual assortment of residents, was home to a strange mixture of people from all over the world. It was a place where people could be themselves without fear of being labeled bizarre, threatening, or being hunted down for research. Topper was just one of those residents.

“Topper, I thought you were in Bermuda!” Lacey exclaimed. “You scared the daylights out of me.”

“I was, dear, but I could feel your sadness all the way there. I thought you might like a bit of company,” Topper said cheerfully.

Lacey looked skeptically at her aunt. “I’m fine,” she started to say before she stopped short. Rolling her eyes, she knew her aunt didn’t believe her when her bottom lip stuck out. “Okay, so I’m not ‘fine’, but I will be.”

“Sean wouldn’t want you to feel sad, love,” Topper commented, opening the door to the stall. “Come in and sit with the new babies. They are so much stronger now.”

Lacey’s mouth drooped at Sean’s name. No, he wouldn’t have wanted her to be sad. He loved life and would have wanted her to embrace the beauty surrounding her and to appreciate every day for the joy it could bring. She missed him so much.

Lacey started again as a withered hand captured the tear that began to slide down her cheek. She released the breath she didn’t realize she was holding as the glistening drop rose into the air and burst into a million tiny diamonds.

Sean’s laughing face formed for a brief moment. Lacey closed her eyes as warmth brushed across her cheeks, eyelids and lips. When she opened her eyes, a deep sense of calm swept through her, lifting her mood.

“Thank you, Aunty,” Lacey murmured.

“Anytime, child. Now, look at what these darling little fur balls can do,” Topper replied, grabbing Lacey’s hand and pulling her down into the hay next to the litter of rambunctious eight week old puppies.

Lacey covered her face as the puppies realized they had a new play toy, namely her. Laughing, Lacey couldn’t quite protect her face as the tiny mouths pulled on her hair and licked her chin. She was gasping for breath by the time they all piled onto her stomach and chest to wrestle with each other.

Dropping her hands, she lay back against the fresh hay as all but the runt of the litter hurried over to their mother to play as Ginger came back in to check on her family. Soon, the puppies were piled on top of each other, content after their feeding and play time. Well, all of them except for the runt. Little Bit was busy working on the top button of Lacey’s red blouse. How anyone could just dump such a wonderful little family, Lacey would never understand as she ran her hands over the blondish-brown pup.

“I felt a change in the air,” Lacey murmured as she continued to stroke the puppy that had settled down for a nap. “Something is coming.”

“I felt it too. There will be a battle between good and evil,” Topper replied, stroking her purple hair. “But it will be more than that.”

Lacey glanced at her aunt in surprise. Premonition was one of Topper’s specialties. She could sense things better than Lacey. If only she had been here when…

“It would not have stopped what happened, Lacey. It was Sean’s time to go. You have to accept that, love,” Topper said gently.

“Maybe if I had been there instead of staying here…” Lacey began as she gently picked up the drowsy puppy in her hands and sat up. Cradling it against her chest, she drew in a deep breath. “You’re right, you know. Sean told me the same thing. He knew that it was his time. I just miss him.”

Lacey thought back to the bus accident that took her young husband’s life three years before. Sean had gone to see his parents who were visiting an old family friend in Sante Fe. His car was in the local garage so Sean had taken the bus. A tire on the bus blew out as it rounded a curve in the road. The blowout had sent the bus careening into an oncoming semi-trailer carrying a load of concrete culvert pipes.

Eight people had died instantly including Sean. As his spirit released from his body, Lacey had awoken from a dream where she had been sitting beside him. Her screams were so loud that they had carried on the wind, drawing her sisters and aunt from their houses almost a quarter mile from the shelter that she and Sean had built.

“He still watches over you, love. He is a pretty stubborn spirit,” Topper said with a satisfied nod.

“I need to let him go,” Lacey replied softly. “But, I don’t want to.”

Topper patted Lacey’s hand. “I don’t think it’s you, dear. Sean wants to make sure that you are not alone before he is ready to leave. This is not about what you want, but what he is determined for you to have.”

Lacey glanced stubbornly up into the dancing purple eyes of her Aunt. She shook her head in determination. She would never again open herself to such pain. She would never allow herself to love someone the way she had loved Sean. She would… well, she would put a hex on any man first before she would allow herself to love again, she thought in defiance.

“So, what do you think is going to happen?” Lacey asked curiously, wanting to change the subject. “You said there would be a battle between good and evil. What type? Is it something we should warn Theo about?”

Theo was the local sheriff of Magic. It had taken a while after he first arrived to understand the strange residents, but after a few months, he had reluctantly begun to listen to them when they told him something was about to happen. This might be another one of those times if both Lacey and Topper were feeling the same sense of pending danger.

“No,” Topper murmured, stroking her hair again. “No, I think this time Theo should stay out of it. There will be another law man who will deal with the situation.”

Lacey groaned and shook her head. “Theo isn’t going to like another law man on his turf without his knowing. You know how protective he is now that he knows everyone.”

“He won’t have much to say about this one,” Topper replied as her eyes began to glow with delight, as if she was seeing something that had surprised her. “No, he won’t and neither will…”

“Neither will who?” Lacey asked with a frown.

“Nothing to worry about, dear. Everything will work out for the best,” Topper said, standing suddenly. With a wink, she tapped Little Bit on her head. The puppy jerked awake in Lacey’s arms, a small growl escaping her at being startled awake. “You, you little devil, are going to be a wonderful protector.”

Lacey carefully set Little Bit down by her sleeping brothers and sisters. Immediately, the tiny puppy pushed through the sleeping pile and settled on top of the others. Lacey shook her head at Topper’s confusing statement.

“What…” Lacey started to say when she realized she was alone again. “Oh, Topper, what am I going to do with you?”

Lacey placed her hands on her hips and glanced down at Ginger who lifted her head up and blinked sleepily at her. Well, there was no use wondering what was to come. Things always happened for a reason. Sometimes they were for the best, other times it was hard to see where the good could be. Still, it wasn’t a part of Lacey’s personality to focus on the bad for long.

“Okay, I have chores to do. If she comes back, warn me next time, will you?” Lacey asked in exasperation.

Ginger answered her by laying her head back down and closing her eyes. Lacey chuckled. She felt like doing the same thing after a sleepless night. Still, she had eighteen animals of various breeds that she needed to attend to. Evan was a great help, but at thirteen there was only so much he could do.

Lacey quietly stepped out of the stall and closed the door behind her. A special doggy-door in it would allow Ginger to come and go while keeping the puppies safe.

A smile, this time a little easier than before, lit Lacey’s face as she stepped out of the barn and raised her face to the sun. For just an instant, she swore she could feel Sean’s fingers running down her cheek. For the first time in three years, the heaviness that had threatened to drown her felt lighter.

Soon, Lacey, Sean’s voice whispered as he watched over her. Soon, my love, there will be another who will make you smile and laugh again.

Chapter Three

Frost settled the transport he had been given in the desert not far from the damaged vessel Taar had stolen. He quickly went through the procedures to shut down and secure the spaceship. Unstrapping, he rose stiffly from the pilot’s seat.

Even with the advanced technology and engine system, he had arrived at least a day behind Taar. He cursed the Warden of the mining prison for the hundredth time. Not only had the male disengaged the self-destruct on the spaceship that he had commandeered from a pirate imprisoned there, the ship had been modified, giving Taar the needed power and resources to travel this far.

Frost checked the readings on the console. The atmosphere was conducive for life. He grimaced when he noted the temperatures. It was dark and cold now, but it would heat up once the sun came up.

“Computer, scan for surrounding life forms,” Frost ordered.

He opened a side compartment and pulled on a vest containing the necessary tools and weapons he would need. Taar was deadly. If he was lucky, Frost hoped to catch him before he reached any of the habitats containing the local species. If not, he would have to follow the line of dead bodies. There was no doubt in his mind that Taar would leave one. It was a pattern of the Learian; find, use, kill, move on to the next food source.

Frost checked the weapons. Blasters were useless. The energy pulses bounced off the thick, leathery skin of the Learian. The sharp explosives would stun him momentarily, but unless Frost was close, Taar would recover before he could strike. The only way to kill the beast was holding him still long enough to remove his head from his shoulders.

He had captured him by freezing the bastard the last time. It had taken him two weeks to recover from the amount of energy he had expended during the fight. If he had not laid a trap and been close enough to wrap the energy cuffs around Taar’s neck, hands and feet, he would have been the sixth dead Star Ranger.

“Surrounding area shows four dead life forms,” the computer stated. “Analysis indicates that death occurred within the last hour. Tracking patterns and the remains show the fugitive you are seeking continuing in a north-by-northeast path.”

“Information confirmed. Computer, begin the comprehensive elimination of evidence of Tridbarrian transport. All evidence of vessel must be erased,” Frost ordered. “Set self-destruct of this vessel for five days, four hours, thirty-two minutes unless I give verbal cancelation.”

“Directive confirmed, the self-destruct sequence has begun, elimination of Tridbarrian transport has commenced,” the computer replied.

Frost rolled his head back and forth to relieve the tension before he pressed his hand against the panel to open the outer door. He stepped down the ramp as it lowered to the dry sand and gravel soil. Drawing in a deep breath, he let the cold, fresh air rush through his body. Re-energized, he glanced at the speckled landscape, documenting key formations as a reference point.

He skimmed down through the readings on the scanner. A small dot blinked steadily. There were life forms ten clicks from his position. Taar would be hungry and would head for the nearest source of food. Nothing else showed on the close-range scanner.

Pocketing the device, Frost glanced up at the night sky. It would be light in approximately two hours. Taar would make it to the life forms before he did.

Hopefully, he would be able to catch him after he had eaten. The Learian would be slower and more lethargic if he was full. What would really help was if he came upon Taar while he was feeding. If he could catch the male when he was distracted that would be the best option, not to mention the safest.

Frost took off at a steady pace across the dark landscape. He concentrated on the terrain in front of him, ignoring the beauty of it. He had a lot of ground to cover if he was to arrive at the dwellings before the sun rose too high in the sky to give him adequate cover.

He focused on the different scenarios he might encounter with Taar as he ran. He needed to determine the most humane way to eliminate any of the native inhabitants he might come across if wiping their memories didn’t work.

Taar’s lip curled back as he sniffed the air. His stomach rumbled, reminding him that it had been over a week since he’d had a decent meal. The few small creatures he had caught shortly after he crashed barely constituted a snack.

The fresh fragrance of meat and blood poured through him as he drew in another deep breath. He could feel the pounding of blood as it flowed through the veins of the creatures close by.

His dark eyes moved over the different buildings as he tried to determine which one to attack first. His mouth watered as he watched several large creatures move restlessly around in a small arena. He was about to begin with them when the sound of another creature broke through his concentration.

A small furry mammal with golden hair covering its body was sounding a loud alarm. He snarled and stepped out from the shadows of the small clump of trees. The creature backed up toward the large brown building behind it, growling menacingly at him.

“Ginger, what is it, girl?” a voice called out from the large white structure he had been eyeing as well.

Taar slipped back into the shadows as another creature belonging to this strange world stepped out into the early morning light. The sweet scent of her blood danced in the wind, teasing him. Hunger burned through him like boiling acid, churning his stomach and heating his blood. This was the one he wanted to sink his teeth into last. He would savor the creature’s sweet blood as he slowly drained it from her. He would need to feed on the other creatures first. His hunger was too great to control. His eyes moved to the golden creature that was whining and growling at him at the same time. He would start with that one.

Lacey glanced around the courtyard. Something was there; something she had never felt before. A sense of unease swept through her. With a glance at the gate to the corral, she slid the lock back and the gate slowly opened. The two horses and one mule bolted out of the enclosure. She didn’t worry about them. They would head for the open pasture area that separated her and her aunt and sisters’ homes.

Her hand wrapped tightly around the steaming cup of coffee she had just poured when she heard Ginger’s frantic barking. The hair on the back of the Golden was standing straight up and the sound of distress in her voice told Lacey that the unease she’d been feeling was based on a genuine danger. Unsure of where the threat was, Lacey walked calmly over to Ginger and sent a wave of warmth to the young mother. She also muttered a swift protection spell for her and Ginger as a precaution.