Authors: Monette Michaels
While his body loosened up, he couldn’t shut down his mind. His mind’s eye created all sorts of horrible images and worst-case-scenarios concerning his little mate.
His lips twisted in a self-deprecatory grin. Now he knew how his brother Wulf had felt when first learning of Mel; she’d also been a Lost One and was now the co-captain of the
. He could especially relate to his brother Huw’s extreme turmoil over mating with Nadia, a Terran who had the latent DNA to be marked by a Prime. Both women had been exposed to peril, and his brothers reacted just as he did now.
Mating was a Prime imperative and had never been taken lightly by their society. Finding a compatible female with whom to mate was even more crucial now with a negative population growth. A Prime’s
was the center of his personal universe. Danger to such a precious being wasn’t taken lightly.
Iolyn rubbed a soapy hand over the faded mating mark on his chest. He’d received the mark during a particularly vicious siege of the Cejuru solar system by the Antareans. Under a dire state of emergency, the Elder Council had made the extreme decision to expose all unmarked males and females, no matter their age, to one another. The bond mark wasn’t determined by sex hormones, but instead was initiated by an olfactory neuro-chemical reaction when a male was exposed to the scent of his perfect genetic mate. After the bonding ceremony, all the women and children were sent away so they wouldn’t be killed during the conflagration.
Iolyn had been one-standard-year-old at the time. He never knew the name of the child with whom he’d bonded.
As one of the heirs of the leader of the Prime, he wasn’t sent away. He, his brothers, and mother had been hidden away on Cejuru Borus, an isolated planetoid in the Cejuru system. The Antareans totally bypassed what they saw as a desolate, uninhabitable rock.
After the Antareans had been defeated and driven back into Andromeda Galaxy, the women and children began coming home. But Brianna hadn’t. She, and dozens of other women and children, had become the Lost Ones.
’s last mission failed to find any surviving Lost Ones, Iolyn had been on the cusp of making the decision to search for a non-Prime mate, one he could mark and mate as Huw had with Nadia, something which had been previously inconceivable.
He was relieved he hadn’t begun that search. Brianna would complete the mind-body-soul trinity with him. He’d be whole for the first time in his life. His
marking would again bloom with color and vitality.
“Thanks and blessed be the One,” he murmured. “Protect Brianna until I can do so myself.” And then he planned to protect, cherish, and love her for the rest of their lives and beyond.
After drying off and getting dressed, he sat at his desk and pulled up the official Alliance files on Dr. Brianna Martin on the monitor.
The three-dimensional color image was lifelike. He traced her features with a shaking finger and imagined how soft and warm her creamy golden skin would be.
Her pillowy lips were unsmiling, but her amber eyes sparked with humor and joy. Her glossy, dark hair was twisted on top of her head. A couple of wavy tresses had escaped and framed her oval-shaped face. He’d wager her hair was thick and silky in texture. He could almost feel the long curls caressing his naked chest, brushing over his
marking, and inciting him to a state of painful arousal as he held her close in their bed.
He groaned and shuddered—was forced to adjust his cock as it hardened at the thought of having her beneath him, taking him deeply inside her sex. “
torture yourself, why don’t you?” he muttered.
Soon. Patience. It will happen
was a very beautiful woman. An intelligent one. She was a woman any man would wish to claim as his own.
He fisted his hands. No, he couldn’t…wouldn’t think about any other males she might have been with. He couldn’t expect her to be a virgin. She was raised as a Terran. She would have dated, experimented sexually. He growled and could feel his rage heating once more. He took several deep breaths and beat his anger back.
He’d be surprised if she were very experienced, though. His sister-kin Mel had told him once that intimacy with other men had been doable, but felt wrong, uncomfortable. Nadia had admitted the same once she met Huw and began to bond to him. And Nadia was a Terran with latent Prime DNA.
Once Iolyn had completed the final physical bonding with Brianna, she’d be his and no other would dare touch her ever again.
“Brianna.” He liked the sound of her name on his lips. He’d looked up the origins of the name. It was Terran Irish and meant “strong.”
And she would’ve had to have been. At the tender age of one-standard-year, she’d survived an evacuation in a time of war, pursuit by the enemy, and a crash landing, according to the records the Alliance had eventually found once they knew where to look, and who knew what other dangers as she’d grown.
Her Terran parents had named her well. He would tell them so when he took Brianna home to visit the people who’d nurtured her, kept her safe…for him.
Brianna’s official file didn’t contain much about her life before she left Gliese 581C, a farming planet. Her adoptive parents, John and Mary Martin, were descendants of farmers who’d emigrated from Earth to the water planets of the Gliese system and tilled the scattered, fertile land masses.
He imagined his
must’ve lived an idyllic childhood before she went off-planet to attend university and achieved multiple degrees with highest honors. His mate’s research in hominid species genetics, in particular cross-hominid fertility, was cutting edge. This would make her a target of the Pure Bloods and any hominid-hating race such as the Antareans, even if she hadn’t been his mate. Being his
just placed a bigger target on her back.
This worried him. Brianna wouldn’t have the training to protect herself as Mel had as an Alliance military officer. Brianna would need him to protect her—and for the moment, he couldn’t.
As his worries and fear about what could be happening to his mate took over his mind once more, his com unit beeped.
“Yes?” The word barely escaped past the tension-tightened muscles of his throat.
“Iolyn…” Wulf’s voice was low and filled with an emotion that had dread settling in Iolyn’s gut and raising the hairs on the nape of his neck. “…come to the Captain’s Board Room. We have news.”
Iolyn surged from his chair, knocking it over. He grabbed his com unit and ran from his quarters.
“What happened? Is Brianna all right?” He couldn’t keep the panic out of his voice. He slammed his palm on the elevator pad and grunted his relief when the door opened immediately. “Command Deck,” he ordered even before the doors had closed.
“Lia has received a secure and scrambled video transmission from Brianna. You need to see it. Out.”
Soon he’d see…hear his
for the first time. Just the sound of her voice would call to the bond between them. The result would be both pleasure and pain as his heart, body, and mind would demand the final step to complete the
At this point, he’d take anything of his mate he could get.
Iolyn raced from the elevator and cut across the Command Deck. He was vaguely aware that every soldier and officer on duty stared after him. They knew—and cared—about his good fortune. The unmated Prime males among them envied him the blessed gift of a
As he ran into the Captain’s Board Room, the occupants turned to face him. He ignored them. Ignored the tension in the air. His attention was fixed on the large video screen over Wulf’s shoulder.
There she was, his Brianna, frozen in Pause mode. She was beautiful—but fear darkened her amber eyes and worry etched creases on her pale forehead.
“What happened? Why did she call Lia?” Iolyn walked to the screen and traced the tense muscles lining her throat. He swore he could almost feel her pulse pounding against the fragile skin over her carotid as her body processed stress hormones. His eyes narrowed as he assimilated the rest of the image. “She’s in a public place. Not under guard. Why isn’t she under guard? The Alliance Military was to send her one. Captain Sinclair told Tor so.”
“She has a guard. A Volusian who’d been sent to protect her and her lab team before we knew she was a Lost One. As for the other guards…the ones Admiral Nelson ordered…well, you’ll see and hear,” Wulf said. “Please, brother…come…sit next to me. We’ll play the whole call. You
to hear her voice.”
His older brother approached and touched his arm, then lowered his voice, “I remember what Mel’s voice did for me. It will bring you some relief for a short while.”
It also would be torture. His body’s neurochemistry would awaken his mating urges. He wouldn’t be quite sane until he had her in his arms.
“Sit. Listen,” Wulf said. “You’ll tune in to her feelings better than we can.”
“I don’t need to hear her voice to recognize she’s frightened.” Iolyn moved to a seat to the left of Wulf’s at the head of the long steel-and-stone conference table. He turned to look at the others present—Wulf’s mate Mel sat to Wulf’s right, his other brother Huw and his mate Nadia sat next to Mel, and Dr. Lia Morgan and her mate Joen Dakkin were next to him.
Lia’s gaze was filled with understanding. “Iolyn…”
The doctor would try to reassure him, and he wasn’t having any platitudes. He cut her off. “She needs me.” The words were a low growl.
I need her.
“Tone it down, Iolyn,” Lia’s mate warned.
“Joen, please, you’re not helping, love.” Lia stroked Joen’s face, then smiled at Iolyn. “We understand what you’re going through, Iolyn. Yes, she’s scared. She has a right to be, but she has also made all the right moves to put distance between her and danger. She’s safe for the moment and will remain so until we get to her. Believe in that.”
Lia spoke in what Iolyn thought of as her doctor voice. He could’ve been bleeding out, seconds away from death, and she’d use that same tone of voice to make his last moments calmer.
Nadia chimed in. “Iolyn, Brianna’s smart. She called Lia as soon as she realized the danger had escalated beyond the original stalker creep.”
“Escalated?” The dark fire of his rage came up his throat and escaped as a buzz-saw growl which was soon echoed by the other three men in the room—and every Prime male within one deck. The floor began to shake and objects vibrated on solid surfaces.
“Stop it!” Mel ordered. “Now isn’t the time to go bat-shit crazy with all the growling and snarling. Save the
for when you really need it.”
Iolyn closed his eyes and willed his fury back inside until it boiled and popped under his skin. He knew he and the other Prime who’d joined in the buildup had succeeded in dampening the effects of their battle rage when the three women sighed their relief. As battle-mates, they fed and built on the emotions of
Iolyn turned toward Wulf and said, his voice harsh from unspent anger, “No one answered my question—where are the military guards? One Volusian isn’t doing it for me. What in Balcon’s Balls name happened?”
Wulf grimaced. “It’s on her message. But the short version is two men showed up. Brianna and the Volusian protecting her determined they were imposters.”
“There has to be a leak at the highest Command levels. The word of Brianna’s existence was either sold or given to one of our enemies as soon as Brianna contacted Alliance Command the first time,” Mel said. “Brianna’s existence was marked as need-to-know.”
“The Prime Elder Council would also have been informed,” Huw added. “All Lost Ones are reported to the Council for verification since the Council keeps the database of the
Iolyn’s stomach lurched. “So, it could be any of the Prime’s enemies or the rebels.”
“Or someone totally new,” Wulf added.
“Great.” Iolyn grunted. “You mentioned a Volusian protecting her…” He should be protecting her, not some stranger.
“The Volusian,” Wulf said, a wry twist to his mouth, “is V’niko, a former member of the Volusian Special Forces. He’s also Commander A’tem’s cousin. V’niko requested the assignment to protect Brianna and her lab team because she is the reason he has twins with his Terran wife.”
Iolyn let out a breath and muttered, “That’s a
“Yes.” Wulf gripped his brother’s arm and squeezed. “Now, listen to Brianna’s message.” He hit the Play mode.
“Lia…” Brianna’s voice was low and melodious despite the tension in her voice. The sound shot straight to his heart and then hit his groin—hard.
Iolyn almost moaned out loud as something buried deep inside him surged forward and filled him from head to toe with a life force he could only have felt once before—when he’d marked Brianna as his mate. He massaged his mark as it tingled and itched and…burned.
His brothers chuckled at his gesture and Joen smiled. They must’ve had the same reaction to their mates.
“…the man stalking me, a Dornian by the name of Jotak M’tali, tried to kidnap me after I reported him to the Alliance Military.”
Ansu bhau! Ne! Ne!
” Iolyn surged from his seat and stormed around the room.
A cursed Dornian. A nomadic species and weaker cousins to the Antareans and Erians. Thieves. Liars. Con men. Mercenaries. Kidnappers of women.
Dornian. How did he get near my mate?” He glared at Wulf.
“He was the Chief of Security for the research laboratory,” Wulf said.
“How in Balcon’s Balls did he get hired by the Alliance?” Iolyn raged.
“That’s being looked into by Admiral Nelson,” Wulf said. “The Alliance Military Police stationed on Oz are tracking him now. M’tali might already be off-planet and heading for his family caravan. Now, sit down, Iolyn.”
Iolyn looked at the video monitor. Wulf had stopped the call playback at the beginning of Iolyn’s loss of control, freezing his precious, fragile Brianna’s image once more. Her eyes pleaded for help.