Twin Dragons’ Destiny - S.E. Smith - ebook
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USA Today Bestseller! Twin dragons have been feared above all other dragon-shifters because of Barrack and Brogan, the original twin dragons, who became murderously insane. Their new story begins with their death. Barrack and Brogan remember their death – and it isn't a pleasant one. When the Goddess Aikaterina gives them a second chance at life – and at finding their true mate – they are willing to do whatever it takes to change their destiny. What they didn’t expect is that it would be so difficult! It turns out that their true mate is a human, a species they have limited knowledge about, from a planet that very few have ever visited because humans have not mastered space travel yet. Most humans, including their true mate, are completely unaware of life outside of their own solar system! With time running out, it doesn't take them long to realize that this may be one battle that will take all of their skills to win. Delilah Rosewater is haunted by dreams of her death. She doesn't understand why the dreams feel so real, or why she knows that time is running out for her. Her frustration strengthens as she searches for the one person she feels could understand her increasing panic - Sara Wilson. She is shocked when instead of finding Sara, she comes face-to-face with two irritating men who claim to be from another world! Caught in an unexpected snowstorm in the Appalachian Mountains, Delilah doesn't know what to think of the two men and their wild claims of a powerful Goddess, alien worlds, and new destinies…. Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story to transport readers out of this world! Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite. Main Content: 206 (6x9) pages, 65,949 words

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Twin Dragons' Destiny

Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 11

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Author’s Note:

Prologue

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

Epilogue

Sample of Touching Rune

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, Christel, Sally, Jolanda, Lisa, Laurelle, Debbie, 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

Science Fiction Romance

Twin Dragons’ Destiny

Copyright © 2018 by S. E. Smith

First E-Book Published April 24, 2018

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 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, or organizations are strictly coincidental and not intended by the author.

Summary: Twin Dragon warriors are given a second chance at life, but even second chances come with a deadline. Time is running out.

ISBN (paperback) 978-1-944125-15-8

ISBN (eBook) 978-1-944125-28-8

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Fantasy Romance – Fiction. 2. Paranormal Romance – Fiction. 3. Action/Adventure – Fiction. 4. Fantasy – Fiction. 5. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.com

Synopsis

USA Today Bestseller!

Twin dragons have been feared above all other dragon-shifters because of Barrack and Brogan, the original twin dragons, who became murderously insane. Their new story begins with their death.

Barrack and Brogan remember their death – and it isn't a pleasant one. When the Goddess Aikaterina gives them a second chance at life – and at finding their true mate – they are willing to do whatever it takes to change their destiny. What they didn’t expect is that it would be so difficult! It turns out that their true mate is a human, a species they have limited knowledge about, from a planet they have never visited. With time running out, it doesn't take them long to realize that this may be one battle that will take all of their skills to win.

Delilah Rosewater is haunted by dreams of her death. She doesn't understand why the dreams feel so real, or why she knows that time is running out for her. Her frustration strengthens as she searches for the one person she feels could understand her increasing panic - Sara Wilson. She is shocked when instead of finding Sara, she comes face-to-face with two irritating men who claim to be from another world!

Caught in an unexpected snowstorm in the Appalachian Mountains, Delilah doesn't know what to think of the two men and their wild claims of a powerful Goddess, alien worlds, and new destinies….

Main Content: 206 (6x9) pages, 65,949 words

Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story to transport readers out of this world! Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite.

Author’s Note:

For those who have not yet read the Dragon Lords of Valdier series, here is a little background.

The Valdier are dragon shifters. Only the Valdier and their mates can bond with the mysterious and powerful golden symbiots, who are, yes, symbiotic creatures, and these characters stand out with unique personalities all on their own! Each Valdier consists of three parts: the dragon, the man/woman, and their symbiot companion. They are friends with the Curizan (a species able to harness the energy around them) and the Sarafin (a cat shifting species).

The following is a character guide for those new to the series:

Cast of Characters:

Delilah Rosewater: Human

Barrack: One of the original Twin Dragons

Brogan: One of the original Twin Dragons

Barrack’s Symbiot: Whiskey

Brogan’s Symbiot: Gin

Delilah’s Rottweilers: Moonshine and Rum

Amber Delilah Rosewater: Delilah’s mother

Daniel Alvin Rosewater: Delilah’s father

Bane mated to Lesann: Barrack and Brogan’s parents

Merck – younger brother to Barrack and Brogan

Zoran Reykill, Leader of the Valdier

true mate to Abby Tanner: 

one son: Zohar 

Zoran’s symbiot: Goldie

Zohar’s symbiot: Truck

Mandra Reykill true mate to Ariel Hamm: 

one son: Jabir 

Mandra’s symbiot: Precious

Jabir’s symbiot: Munch

Kelan Reykill true mate to Trisha Grove (daughter of Paul Grove): 

one son: Bálint 

Kelan’s symbiot: Bio

Bálint’s symbiot: Tag

Trelon Reykill true mate to Cara Truman: 

twin daughters: Amber and Jade

one son: James 

James’ symbiot: Not Yet Named

Trelon’s symbiot: Symba

Amber’s symbiot: Treat

Jade’s symbiot: Trix

Creon Reykill true mate to Carmen Walker: 

twin daughters: Spring and Phoenix 

Creon’s symbiot: Harvey

Phoenix’s symbiot: Stardust

Spring’s symbiot: Little Bit

Paul Grove married Evelyn

one daughter: Trisha

Evelyn died from a brain aneurysm at age 19

Morian mated to Jalo Reykill

five sons: Zoran, Mandra, Kelan, Trelon, and Creon

Jalo died beneath a sudden avalanche of rocks while on a hunting trip with his brother.

Paul Grove true mate to Morian Reykill:

one daughter: Morah

Paul and Morian’s symbiot: Crash

Morah’s symbiot: Princess Buttercup

Cree and Calo Aryeh true mates to Melina Franklin:

one daughter: Hope

Calo’s symbiot: Teddy

Cree’s symbiot: Bear

Hope’s symbiot: Rainbow

Vox d’Rojah, King of the Sarafin

matedto Riley St. Claire: 

one son: Roam

twin daughters: Sacha and Pearl

Viper d'Rojah mated to Tina St. Claire: 

one son: Leo

Asim Kemark true mate to Pearl St. Claire

Ha’ven Ha’darra, Prince of the Curizan

mated to Emma Watson:

onedaughter: Alice

Adalard Ha’darra, Prince of the Curizan/younger brother of Ha’ven mated to Samara Lee

Jaguin, Valdier tracker mated to Sara Wilson

Olie ‘Ray’ Lister, real estate tycoon, married to Mabel Lister

Earl Helman – Mabel Lister’s brother

DeWayne Davis – Attorney at Law

Bubba Joe – friend of Delilah’s

Rudy – DeWayne’s cousin

Mason Andrews married to Ann Marie, Paul Grove’s Ranch Manager

Aikaterina: Unknown species; accepted as a Goddess to the Valdier, she is the oldest and most powerful of her kind.

Arilla and Arosa: Unknown species, still young for their kind, they are twins and thought to be Goddesses.

Prologue

Centuries before:

Aikaterina sat beside the river of gold, her fingers caressing the growing symbiots that would one day form a living companion for a dragon warrior. She drew strength from them, knowing that the essence of her blood would keep the dragons of Valdier safe for many centuries to come.

The Valdier considered her a ‘Goddess,’ but she wasn’t. Her species were wanderers, having no true home but the universe. They lived off of the energy around them. It was the essence of life to them, and without it, they would perish.

In reality, her species was probably more dependent on the Valdier than the dragon-shifting race were on them. After all, when she had first come to this world, it had been to die. The courage and spirit of the Valdier had given her new life, and in return, she had given them a touch of her essence – the living gold symbiots. In time, she had found others of her kind who were weak and dying like she had been, and she’d brought them here to heal.

A smile curved her lips when she saw Arosa and Arilla frolicking in the stream. Although the twins were thousands of years old, she still thought of them as infants. They reminded her of newborn stars. She had witnessed the creation of many celestial bodies and still found a star’s birth fascinating to observe. She had found Arosa and Arilla out in the cosmos, centuries ago, barely clinging to life.

Arilla looked up with a frown and slowly moved her hand as she tested the air. Confusion turned the young Goddess’s eyes a darker gold. Arilla looked at her and tilted her head.

“What is it that I feel, Aikaterina?” she asked.

Aikaterina looked up, feeling the disturbance as well. She closed her eyes and focused on the stream of energy flowing through the river. A great sadness filled her as she received a vision of the death of a rare set of twin dragons, the first to be born. She felt the intense pain of their symbiots as they watched the men and dragons die. They would need her now. The symbiots could not survive out there without their dragons.

Bowing her head, she allowed the wave of grief to pierce her. She called to the orphaned symbiots. Rising to her feet, she opened a portal for them to return to her. Behind them, she could see the smoke-filled remains of a village and hear the wails of grief. Two identical dragons lay dead amid the carnage.

She looked from them to the two young boys pressed against the side of one of the huts. Their words would forever haunt her, because deep down, she knew this was because of her interference. She was the one who had gifted the twins to the village for protection. She did so not long after she brought Arilla and Arosa to this world with her.

“Do you think…?” the young boy named Calo whispered, staring at the smoldering remains of the green and white dragon.

“No. You heard him. We will die in battle, like warriors, before we let this happen to us. We will do the honorable thing before we hurt another,” his twin brother, Cree, answered, his mouth tight with determination.

“We will die in battle,” Calo agreed, watching as their father’s symbiot healed him. “Or we will take each other’s life before we hurt another.”

The symbiots of Brogan and Barrack, the original twin dragons, fell weakly through the portal, unseen by the mortals in the village. Aikaterina caressed them, trying to give them comfort. The form she had taken shimmered and partially faded in response to the utter grief the symbiots shared with her.

This was a new feeling to her, one of excruciating pain and anguish. The constant search for hope only to have it ripped away time and time again – and the suffocating loneliness of knowing they would never feel the tender touch of their mate’s hand. She had never understood the loneliness that the men and their dragons felt until now.

“What is it, Aikaterina?” Arosa asked, floating over to her. “What is wrong with them?”

“Are they ill?” Arilla asked in concern.

Aikaterina gave the symbiots the command to return to the river. She was shocked when they resisted. They would surely perish if they did not return. She could already see their color fading until they were almost translucent. She gave the order again, this time a little more firmly. The creatures turned away from her, but they still did not return to the river. She watched with a puzzled expression as they retreated to a dark corner of the cavern and curled up around each other.

“The men given to them have died,” Aikaterina murmured.

“Couldn’t you have saved them like you saved us?” Arilla asked.

Aikaterina could understand how Arilla felt. It was a difficult thing to understand and accept why the species that gave them life and made their world so interesting should have to die.

“I fear that they have perished because of something I did,” Aikaterina confessed, turning and floating over to the two symbiots.

She gently stroked them, giving them a large amount of her essence. They tried to resist, but she refused to let them fade away. Instead, she encouraged them to share with her everything they had experienced while with Brogan and Barrack. The more they showed her, the more certain she was that she was the one responsible for the devastation.

Eventually, she did the only thing she could to alleviate their distress; she sent them into a deep sleep. Floating upward, she crossed the magnificent cavern to the platform where she had created a portal to the universe.

“Can we go with you, Aikaterina?” Arosa asked with a hopeful look.

“Not this time, Arosa. This journey I must make alone,” Aikaterina answered as she stepped through the opening.

Aikaterina walked through the burning village. As she did, time regressed. What she was doing would not be achieved without a personal cost. From this moment forward, the energy it would require to hold this thread of the future would place a heavy toll on her.

Her initial trip had been to the future to see if there was a way to undo the damage that she had unwittingly created. She would have to be extremely careful. The chance of affecting the fabric of time in the universe, and the destinies of others who resided in it, was one of the reasons her kind remained merely observers.

Her species had been born at the same time as the universe and was thrown outward with the explosion of the first atoms. Over millennia, they had grown powerful enough to create worlds – and destroy them. However, no matter how powerful her species became, they were also very vulnerable. They lived off the positive essence of all creatures. Most planets were devoid of life, thus over time, her species had faded away until there were only a few of them left.

Aikaterina watched Brogan struggle with an older warrior at the door to a quaint cottage. His gaze was locked on a frightened young girl standing next to her mother. Several other men from the village rushed forward to help the warrior protect his fragile family.

Aikaterina lifted her hand and ordered the twin dragons’ symbiots to restrain the brothers. Shocked expressions crossed all the warriors’ faces when the symbiots suddenly surged forward and wrapped powerful bands around the twin dragons.

“Release me,” Brogan demanded, struggling against the confines of his symbiot.

Barrack shifted into his dragon. The brilliant light green and white dragon strained to throw off his symbiot. Barrack roared in rage, trying to get to his brother.

“Barrack, Brogan, stop,” their father begged, his eyes filled with grief. “Please, my sons, do not make us kill you.”

“It is too late, Bane,” one of the warriors said. “The madness has overtaken their dragons. They can’t control them any longer. Creja, fulfill your promise. Kill them before their symbiots release them or turn on us,” one of the warriors demanded.

“Bane, they are right,” Creja stated in a harsh voice.

“Look at my sons, Creja, but think of your twins. It will only be a matter of time before they reach this point. There are no true mates for them. It may be better to strike them dead than to let them live knowing there is no hope, but could you do it?” Bane replied in a tortured voice.

“She is our true mate! She approached us,” Brogan growled, continuing to fight against his symbiot.

Creja shook his head. “Look inside yourself, Brogan. Neither you, nor your dragon or your symbiot desire the girl as a true mate. The same goes for your brother. Mula is not your chosen one. You are trying to convince your dragon that she is your mate to placate him,” he argued, pulling his sword free from his side.

“Our dragons need her, Creja. The loneliness is too much. With a mate, we will fight to protect the Valdier. I have to take her. I no longer have a choice,” Brogan argued.

Aikaterina lifted her hand, pausing time. She already knew what would happen from this point forward. She recognized the emotion in Brogan’s voice from what their symbiots had shown her. Her understanding of these emotions had grown over time and was one of the things that had attracted her to this world.

The Valdier were a fierce, proud, and passionate species, but in order for them to find their true mate, all three parts of who they were needed to agree and connect as one with their destined partner. It was a safeguard that she’d created to keep them from believing themselves all-powerful with the symbiots by their side. Perhaps it was another flaw on her part, but it was one she did not regret, for it gave life to her species in a different way.

She stopped between the two warriors. Their symbiots shimmered with color, knowing she was there. She swept her gaze over each of the twins.

“Release them,” she murmured to the symbiots.

The golden bodies melted and reformed in the shape of Werecats. Both symbiots sat protectively next to their men. Aikaterina transformed and became solid. While the form she took looked like a Valdier maiden, she had no intention of pretending to be anyone other than who she really was – a Goddess among the Valdier and creator of the symbiots.

“Awaken, warriors,” she ordered with a wave of her hand.

Brogan stumbled forward while Barrack turned in a graceful circle, his dragon searching for attackers. Both man and dragon froze when they saw her. Stunned disbelief temporarily pulled them from the edge of the madness that gripped them.

“What…?” Brogan started to growl, his voice fading when he realized everything around him was held in suspended animation.

Aikaterina watched Barrack shift back to his two-legged form, his gaze warily following his brother’s. They looked around them, noticing several dragons frozen in mid-flight while on the ground, men, women, children, and animals were frozen in different phases of motion. She studied their faces when both men turned their wary gazes her way.

“Walk with me,” she instructed, turning away.

Barrack looked at his brother as he felt his dragon retreat in submission, something he could never remember happening before. The fervor of his emerging madness had faded to confusion.

“Do you feel it too?” Brogan asked under his breath.

He gave a sharp nod. He ran his gaze over the woman’s figure as she walked away from them. Their symbiots docilely walked on each side of her.

Barrack started forward, following the woman from a short, safe distance. He kept his eyes fixed on her back, trying to figure out the reason for his dragon’s deference to her. Brogan fell into step beside him.

They looked intently around as they walked. Remorse filled Barrack when he saw the terror on the faces of those he had always thought of with respect. The women and children had been seeking refuge, there was fear in every warrior’s face. Their presence had clearly had a cataclysmic effect on the village.

“I have done this,” Brogan commented in a harsh, rough voice. His eyes fixed on the anguished expression on their mother’s face as she rushed forward - her hand held out to Creja, father to a set of young twin dragons. “I have brought dishonor to my family.”

“We both have,” Barrack agreed with a heavy heart.

Barrack could feel his brother trying to withdraw from him so he couldn’t feel his emotions. It was impossible, of course. Brogan shutting him out would be like trying to cut himself in half.

No matter how hard they tried to shield each other, their connection was too strong. That bond was what had led to their downfall today. The loneliness that they felt was magnified by that of their dragons. Their symbiots fed off their combined emotions and had become depressed and listless over the last few months to the point that nothing they did helped the creatures.

Shame coursed through Barrack. He knew that the young maiden Brogan had become fixated on was not their true mate. He was not even physically attracted to the girl, nor was his dragon or his symbiot. He knew Brogan really wasn’t either. Despite that, he had looked the other way. He’d hoped that if their dragons were convinced she was their mate, it might stave off the relentless emptiness gnawing at them and give them time to search other villages and cities for their true mate.

Brogan was the more volatile and, while he might deny it, emotional of the two brothers. His dragon had been pushing him to claim a female, any female, to fight off the madness. Unfortunately, Mula was the one to cross Brogan’s path several months ago. The young girl had flirted with both of them, unaware that Brogan’s dragon would consider her innocent, albeit blatant, invitation as serious. It was only when the girl realized that to flirt with one twin meant she received the intense attentions of both – at the same time – that she had retreated in panic.

Barrack did not blame the girl for her fear or for being unaware of what her light-hearted fun would provoke. He and Brogan recognized the impossibility of finding a true mate. They both understood that dealing with one dragon warrior was difficult enough. It was unheard of to find a woman who could handle two of them as mates. In the end, the best they could hope for was to die in battle before they both completely lost control. Today had proved their hope was for naught. Their worst nightmare had come true.

Focusing on the woman in front of him, he clenched his fists. Perhaps she was here to end their misery. If so, why not just do it and get it over with? After seeing the pain he was causing, he knew that neither he nor Brogan would resist.

“Who are you, and how did you do that?” Brogan finally demanded, coming to a stop several feet away when the woman paused on the bridge that crossed the river.

Barrack’s eyes followed the wave of his brother’s hand. The village looked surreal while frozen in time. He swallowed, unable to comprehend the power such a feat would take. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he and his brother were not already dead.

“You are not,” the woman murmured, gazing out along the river.

“I’m not what?” Barrack asked.

“Dead – yet,” she answered in a serene voice.

“Who are you?” Barrack demanded. His voice was hoarse with astonishment at the realization that, whoever this being was, she could read his mind.

“I am called Aikaterina by your people,” she replied, turning to look at them. She reached out and tenderly caressed the head of each of the symbiots. “I gave you a part of myself to help protect you.”

“Curse us, you mean,” Brogan retorted, his eyes growing dark with anger.

“Brogan,” Barrack warned before he turned to look at Aikaterina. “Are you telling us that you are the Goddess Aikaterina?”

Aikaterina bowed her head. “Yes. Your brother is correct. My gifts to you have become a curse,” she replied, lifting her hands from the symbiots’ necks. “The threads of time are not easy to manipulate for a reason. To change time is to change the fate of the future. Sometimes those paths cross each other and will right themselves, creating a future that will continue relatively undistorted. But, at other times, the threads become tangled or they break. If that should happen, the changes can have unexpected outcomes.”

Barrack frowned, trying to understand what the woman was telling them. Brogan growled under his breath that the woman talked in riddles. He reached out and gripped his brother’s arm when he started to turn away. Something told him that they would not be given another chance.

“What kind of unexpected outcomes? As in bad ones?” Barrack asked, his gaze locked on the woman’s face.

A small smile curved her lips. “Perhaps,” she responded.

“Perhaps? I thought you were all-powerful. Anyone who can do this has to know what is going to happen,” Brogan impatiently snapped.

She turned her intense gaze on Brogan. “Even the most powerful cannot predict what a species with free will will decide to do if they are given a second chance.” Her gaze moved to the village. “If you knew there was a true mate for you out in the universe, would you wait for her?”

“Yes!” Barrack was surprised when he heard Brogan’s strident response.

“Yes,” he replied, echoing his brother’s response in a softer tone. “If there is such a woman,” he added.

“There is… but…,” her voice faded and her eyes grew distant.

“I knew it. She is just giving us false hope, Barrack. There will never be a female who can handle us, much less our two dragons and our symbiots. This imaginary true mate would have to be accepted by all of us – and accept all of us in return,” Brogan growled in frustration.

“You are wrong, warrior. There will be one, but she, too, is destined to die young,” she replied, reaching out to touch their symbiots again.

“Die? How? Where is she?” Barrack demanded, stepping closer to her.

“I can change your fate, which will change hers, but like all things, nothing is guaranteed,” Aikaterina explained.

“Which means exactly what?” Brogan asked in a hard tone.

A shiver ran through Barrack when Aikaterina turned to look at Brogan. He saw Brogan’s head snap backwards, as if he had been struck. The sound of his brother’s hiss exploded through the air before he fell back several steps. Barrack automatically reached out to steady Brogan when his back hit the stone wall lining the bridge.

Through the connection he shared with his brother, Barrack felt Brogan’s deep and profound shock, far more than Barrack would have expected from a hands-off slap from a being that could freeze an entire town. Barrack looked between the two of them, and concentrated, but he was only able to gather the faintest impression that Aikaterina had shown Brogan something. Turning his head back toward the Goddess, he narrowed his eyes.

“You have a long wait ahead of you, warrior. I hope you learn to calm your temper before you find your mate, or she might calm it for you,” Aikaterina warned.

Barrack would have expected the warning to come with a touch of anger or even a little admonishment. The last thing he expected was the warning to come with a small, pleased smile. Did she hope Brogan would fail to calm his temper? Why?

“What do we do now?” Barrack stated.

Aikaterina looked at the village. He followed her gaze. She was looking at their mother and father.

“You must leave Valdier,” she stated quietly.

“You said…we have a long wait ahead of us?” Brogan asked in a surprisingly calm voice.

She turned to look at both of them. Barrack saw her caress their symbiots again with a gentle hand. Both of the Werecats purred and rubbed against her.

“Yes, your mate has not yet been born. Your symbiots will know when it is time. Look for a warrior named Jaguin. His mate Sara will know where you can find your mate,” she promised with a smile.

Barrack was about to ask her how but the words remained frozen on his lips as Aikaterina transformed. She no longer looked like a Valdier maiden, but something vastly more ethereal. Her body was the same color as the symbiots, but he could see through it. She was slowly rising from the bridge.

“Go, warriors, before your village wakes,” she softly ordered. “If they see you, then your fate will remain unchanged, as will your true mate’s.”

“Shift, Brogan,” Barrack said, feeling the urgency of his dragon pushing at him.

Brogan nodded. In seconds, both warriors had shifted to their dragon forms. Lifting off the ground, they flew over the village, heading north. Their symbiots flowed into one another and transformed into a large golden spaceship. Within seconds, the symbiots had reached the fleeing dragons.

Barrack felt the symbiot flow over his dragon form, pulling him inside the spaceship. A moment later, Brogan was beside him. They both shifted again, unsure of where they would go. All they knew was that as long as they remained on their home world, they – and their future true mate – would be in peril.

“There are Spaceports on the edge of the galaxy that are seldom visited by our kind. We could hire out,” Brogan suggested.

Barrack nodded, taking a seat in the chair that his symbiot formed. “We will stop and retrieve our stored items, then leave before anyone is the wiser,” he agreed. Their home had been deep in the mountains for several years now. They had moved there when they first felt the first hints of madness come upon them.

Minutes later, they landed outside of the crude cottage they had built at the foot of the mountain near a wide river. They retrieved their clothing, food, tools, and weapons before returning to the symbiot spaceship.

Barrack looked down as their symbiot ship rose. He reached up and rubbed his chest. This was the only home they had ever known. They had lived, worked, and fought here. He wasn’t sure if they would ever see Valdier or their parents again.

“We will return,” Brogan said, looking down at the forest where they had made their home.

“How can you be sure?” Barrack asked, looking at his brother.

Brogan met his gaze. Barrack was shocked to see a haunted expression in his brother’s eyes. He reached out, shocked again when he felt an unfamiliar wall blocking him from seeing Brogan’s thoughts. He looked back at Brogan with a confused frown.

“What did Aikaterina show you, Brogan?” Barrack asked.

Brogan blinked and turned his head to stare out the window as they accelerated out into space. As they moved farther away from Valdier, Barrack waited, unsure if Brogan was going to answer him or simply continue to stare into the vastness of space.

“She showed me our mate,” Brogan finally said, rising to his feet.

Barrack turned and followed Brogan with his eyes as his brother disappeared through the doorway. For a moment, jealousy ate at him. He wanted to see their mate. He wondered why Aikaterina hadn’t shared the image with him. Then, the moment faded as he remembered the haunted look in Brogan’s eyes. There was something Brogan was not sharing with him, something important.

Rising to his feet, he gazed out into space with a frown. This was the first time they hadn’t shared a secret. For some reason, Aikaterina must have decided only Brogan should know something about their true mate.

“We will find her,” he murmured.

I wait. Goddess say she need us, his dragon replied.

Barrack blinked in surprise, feeling a warmth and excitement in his dragon that he had not felt in decades.

“Yes, our mate will need us,” he agreed, a satisfied smile curving his lips.

Aikaterina watched over the village. The villagers would remember killing the twin dragons. Their memories would be fragmented, blurred, but there would be the knowledge that the twin dragons were dead. There would be grief, and she would need to pay close attention to the young twins, just in case, but she had seen their mate and knew that they would be strong until they finally met her.

The original twin dragons’ destinies were not yet set. They had centuries more to wait before their true mate would be born. She would have to give a guiding hand to help the threads of their lives intersect.

Unfortunately, the intersection she could supply would be very short-lived. The threads of time would once again be restored and the incident that would have occurred today in the village would become their reality if the twin dragons could not convince their true mate that they belonged together in that time – and if she did not accept them unconditionally and of her own free will. If they tried to force Delilah against her will, the natural progression of their union would create ripples that could have devastating effects. If that should happen, she would be forced to release her control on the threads and allow history to continue in the natural order.

Aikaterina rose in the air, allowing the gentle breeze to carry her. She must return to the Hive, the home she had made in the cavern offshore, and rest. It was a strain, holding onto the fabric of time. For her, time was irrelevant when calculated in the terms of years. Still, she would feel this strain until the twin dragons’ mate was born. She only hoped that the twin dragons, especially Brogan, would survive that long.

Chapter One

Outer rim of Valdier - Centuries later:

“Are you sure we were supposed to return here?” Barrack asked, pacing back and forth in the engine room of their spaceship.

“You felt the pull as well. Our symbiots said this was where we were supposed to go,” Brogan’s muffled voice snapped in irritation. “Hand me the splicer.”

Barrack grimaced and looked through the array of tools spread out across the floor. Currently, he could only see half of his brother’s body. The top half was under the power console that controlled the main engines.

“I thought you already repaired this,” Barrack commented, handing Brogan the splicer.

“I did. The damn part that two-faced Tiliqua sold to me was faulty. I knew I should have looked somewhere else. Those two-headed bastards are always looking to make a quick credit,” Brogan grumbled.

“I told….” Barrack started to say before he clamped his lips tightly together when Brogan slid out from under the console and shot him a heated glare.

“Not one word or I’ll let you repair it this time,” Brogan threatened.

Barrack gave his brother a sour look. “You know I hate working on machines. They hate me too,” he retorted.

Brogan snorted. “’Hate’ is a really mild version of the word I would use to describe you and anything to do with this spaceship,” he replied before pulling himself back under the console.

“I can’t believe after all this time, we are finally going to meet our true mate,” Barrack said, lowering himself down until he was sitting on the floor next to his brother.

“What you really mean is you can’t believe my dragon and I have kept our heads together this long without losing it,” Brogan said.

Barrack chuckled. “That too,” he admitted, leaning his head back. “What do you think she is like? Is she from our village or the city? Do you really think that she can handle both of us? Goddess! Just the thought of her between us makes me hard.”

Brogan listened as his older brother, by mere minutes, speculated about their true mate. He could understand Barrack’s excitement. If his brother’s dragon was bouncing around inside him like his was, then it was amazing that they had not shifted and destroyed their transport ship by now.

The image he kept close to his heart nearly choked him. Despite the passage of time, the image and the softly spoken names of those who would guide him and his brother to their true mate were as clear as when he had received them. They were the only things that had kept him sane.

Not that I was all that sane to start with, he thought, thinking of the long scars that ran down the side of his face and neck. He’d kept them deliberately to remind himself of the dangers he and his brother faced if they weren’t careful.

The scars were the result of a fight he had with a group of youths from the village. They had separated him from his brother and his symbiot in the hope of killing him. The youths had listened to the fears of their parents. He hadn’t understood at the time that his sometimes volatile temper had fed into their fear.

He had broken free and escaped, but not before he was injured. Their father had decided against punishing the youths, fearing it would cause more attacks. Instead, he had cautioned Brogan and Barrack to never be caught alone again or without their symbiots.

Brogan had a tighter grip on his control now, because of her. He focused on his mental image of their mate’s eyes, her sun-kissed, creamy mocha skin, her full lips, and her shoulder length black-brown hair streaked with gold. Throughout the years, he had clung to that image instead of the other one the Goddess had also shown him – the one of their mate lying peacefully upon the pristine white silk inside a small box, her life cut short when it had barely even begun. Two threads of life revealed – one when Delilah was older and one when she was a child. Only they had the power to change her path.

“She is beautiful,” he said.

“Tell me again,” Barrack ordered.

Brogan’s lips curved in wry amusement. If he had a credit for every time he had heard Barrack ask him that, they could have afforded a fleet of transports. He had tried to share the image, but nothing worked. It was strange. He could share everything else with Barrack except this.

“She has sun-kissed skin the color of the bark of the strongest trees in the forest, yet as smooth as the finest silk,” he began.

“Meaning she can handle the fiercest storms,” Barrack said.

“Yes. Her hair reaches just below her smooth shoulders where the dark strands are threaded with gold streaks,” Brogan continued, knowing what his brother would say next.

“The touch of the Goddess to guide us to her and let us know that she is ours,” Barrack replied with a sigh.

Brogan chuckled. “Yes,” he agreed.

He bit back another chuckle when he felt Barrack kick his foot. They’d had this discussion a million times before, yet Barrack was acting as if it was the first time. He winced when Barrack hit his leg.

“Ouch! Be careful, my leg is still sore,” he stated.

Barrack grunted. “It wouldn’t be if you’d let your symbiot run over you again. You should have known there would be another mercenary hiding behind the counter,” he stated.

“It’s still mad at me for refusing to wear my armor. Is that why you let me go in first, so that I would get the knife in the thigh instead of you?” Brogan demanded, wincing when he scraped his knuckles on the edge of the console. “Why do they make these panels so damn small? Do they think only the Tiliqua work on these things?”

“Probably…. Tell me about her lips,” Barrack said.

Brogan finished splicing the wires together and pulled himself out from under the console. He sat up and laid the splicer next to the rest of his tools. He gave his symbiot a rueful smile when the gold creature trotted into the room.

He lifted his bleeding hand. The symbiot snorted, but melted. Warmth surrounded his hand, healing his new cut before moving up his arm and down his body, repairing the bruises and the deep cut on his thigh, which he had sealed as best he could with a portable medical kit.

“Her lips were made for us. They are full and lush while her eyes are dark and inviting. They glitter with determination and amusement. She loves to laugh,” Brogan said, leaning his head against the edge of the console and breathing a sigh of relief as the dull ache in his thigh faded. “Her breasts….”

“Her breasts were made to fit in our hands,” Barrack finished, lifting his hands and studying his palms. “I wonder if she will mind that my hands are rough.”

Brogan raised an eyebrow at that comment. “Don’t get all regal on me. I doubt our mate expects to meet nobility,” he dryly stated.

Barrack shot him an exasperated look, then rolled to his feet. Brogan grinned at Barrack when his brother shook his head at him.

“I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about being mistaken for nobility,” Barrack stated, “but we are wealthy in our own right. We will have enough to build our mate a home anywhere she wishes, and we will buy her gowns – which, of course, we’ll rip off her luscious body – and then we’ll buy her more gowns and anything else she desires.”

“Why buy her gowns to rip off when we could just ask her to go naked?” Brogan asked, rising to his feet and collecting his tools. “My dragon would be happy if she remained in her dragon form for at least a century!”

“We could ask her about that,” Barrack agreed with a grin. “She could either remain naked or in her dragon form. Either would be acceptable.”

“I wonder if…,” Brogan started to say before he shook his head.

“You wonder what?” Barrack asked, helping Brogan put the tools back in the storage cabinet.

Brogan paused and looked at his brother. “I wonder how she will react when she meets us,” he said.

“She will love us at first sight,” Barrack said with confidence before he chuckled and slapped Brogan’s shoulder, reminding him of another bruise he forgot about. Brogan muttered a silent thank you to his symbiot when the creature moved over the tender spot. As he took the last of the tools from Barrack, the memory of their mate’s determined eyes flashed through his mind. Brogan wasn’t quite as confident as his brother about their reception. He wasn’t so sure what she had been looking at in the glimpse of her that the Goddess had given, but something told him that he and Barrack didn’t want to be on the receiving end of whatever had put that look in her eyes.

Earth: Alleghany County, NC - Current Day:

“DeWayne Davis, you’d better get your butt out of here before I load it full of lead,” Delilah Rosewater swore, pointing the empty shotgun at the small-town lawyer from West Jefferson.

“Now, Delilah, you can’t go pointing guns at people,” DeWayne sputtered defensively as he raised his hands and stumbled back down the uneven steps of the large wooden farmhouse. “I’ve got legitimate business here.”

Delilah nodded at the small sign nailed to the railing of the front porch. “For a lawyer, you sure don’t know how to read very well. The sign says ‘No Soliciting’. That means you, DeWayne,” she said, taking another step across the worn front porch.

“I’ve been authorized to make you an offer, Delilah. I know how much this house and property means to you, which is why I’m working to get you a good deal,” DeWayne explained, stumbling on the uneven stone walkway at the bottom of the steps.

“I’m not interested in selling. I don’t owe nobody nothing, – and the fact that you’ve got me mad enough to be talking like I don’t have a college education has just pissed me off even more. I don’t have time for this. Now, get in your car, DeWayne, and get off my property,” Delilah demanded.

DeWayne clenched his free hand while his other gripped the leather satchel. He glared up at where she was standing on the porch, and she knew from the way his jaw tightened that he wasn’t going to go this time without having his say. For once, she wished she had actually loaded her grandfather’s old shotgun.

“Mountain View Properties wants to make an offer on your property. Mr. Lister is willing to pay you twice the amount it’s worth, Delilah. I could write you a check by the end of the week if you agree,” DeWayne said, reaching into his worn, brown leather satchel.

“I tell you what, DeWayne, if you take those papers and put them in my burn barrel on the way out, I won’t think about shooting you in the ass. For the last time, I’m not selling my grandparents’ property. Not now, not ever! You think I don’t know what it is really worth? They aren’t offering me a fraction of the value! All they want to do is cut down all the trees on the mountain and turn the meadow into a golf course. It… is… not… happening,” she snarled the last part slowly so he could understand once and for all that she wasn’t interested.

“Delilah, listen… I can make a counter offer. You know the price of land has been going up. Lots of city folks are buying property in the mountains nowadays. You’ve got a lot of valuable land just sitting here going to waste. The views – well, if this were in California, you’d be a millionaire a dozen times over. Just think about it! You’ve still got your folk’s old house in town. You could sell this place and move back there. Hell, you work at the library! It is practically across the street from that house,” DeWayne said.

Delilah’s mouth tightened. That was his second mistake, thinking he could sweet talk her with the promise of money. His first one was coming out here. His third one was taking a step closer.

“You’ve been warned, DeWayne. For such a big-shot lawyer you sure don’t pay attention. I’m surprised that I have to remind you – again – that you should read the signs before you step on someone’s property, especially after they told you not to come back again after the last time you were here,” she commented, bracing the heavy gun against her side and reaching for the front door. “I’ll count to three before I open the door.”