Authors: Mardi Maxwell
Soren Valanson's mating fever has reached its limits and his death is eminent. As a Zarronian warrior he's determined to die in battle. He searches the Universe for a war and finds one on the planet of Krystali.
Skye is a Krystali enchantress. She can conjure the most deadly substance in the Universe but she can't use it to defend herself. For that she needs a worthy mate.
What are the odds that two people with the same problem will meet on a small frozen planet in the middle of nowhere?
Published by Mardi Maxwell
Copyright © 2015 by Mardi Maxwell
All cover art © Copyright 2015 by Mardi Maxwell
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 by the author.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
For centuries the peace loving inhabitants of the Xenti Galaxy passed down the tales of the fierce and relentless Zarronian warriors. According to the elders the warriors were the guardians of the galaxy but they only appeared when the Xentians were threatened. After centuries of peace, the younger Xentians had dismissed the tales as myths until the bloodthirsty Wrothians attacked and the Zarronians appeared.
The war between the nearly equally matched opponents lasted for ten annuals but ended when the Wrothian leader, Selik ad-San, discovered the Zarronians most closely guarded secret—the warriors were plagued with a mating fever and could only share it with a Zarronian female. If they didn't find a mate by age thirty-two the fever burned out of control, ending the warrior's life. Selik ad-San and his first in command Gorm ad-Jai attacked Zarronia with a virus designed to kill the females but leave the warriors alive to suffer and die alone.
Enraged and grief stricken by the deaths of their bondmates, daughters, and sisters, the Zarronians planned a final, ruthless battle. After ten cycles, and the loss of many Zarronian warriors, the Zarronians were victorious. Ever honorable, they allowed two damaged Wrothian worldships filled with children and females to escape.
The warriors returned to Zarronia believing they would soon be extinct. Eventually though their warrior instincts forced them to find a way to survive and they began searching the universe for compatible females. After eight annuals a genealogist found a diary in which his ancestor revealed he'd bonded with a Wrothian female. When he reported this to the High Council they swore him to secrecy and ordered three of their older starship commanders to find the Wrothians. The search took two annuals but eventually they were located on the planet of Zhang where they'd been forced to settle when their damaged worldships disintegrated.
The High Council immediately informed the warriors that compatible females had been found and revealed their identity. For two moon phases the warriors refused to take an enemy female as a bondmate. Finally the High Council declared that any warrior who refused to bond would be stripped of his warrior status and exiled to die alone in dishonor. Rather than lose their honor the warriors reluctantly relented even as they continued to search for other compatible races.
After many annuals more females were found on Earth but the use of ZL3, a drug created to help the warriors control their mating fever, had changed their DNA and now there were levels of mating. The first four levels depended on the female’s DNA.
At level one, a female could relieve a warrior's fever but she couldn’t bond with him or conceive. This was a female only a warrior on the verge of death would choose as fatherhood was coveted by every warrior.
A level two female could relieve a warrior's fever and carry his sons but she could not bond with the warrior. A level three female could share a warrior's fever, carry his children and bond with him but the connection was weak it was nearly non-existent. The mates could be away from each other for long periods of time and their fever could be controlled with ZL3 and meditation.
Level four females were the most coveted as they were comparable to the traditional bonding between Zarronian warriors and females. The female could take a warrior's fever, bond with him and have his children. The mates needed to be together and could only be away from each other for one to two moon phases.
Level five depended on the warrior's and the female's DNA. It occurred when a warrior with the right DNA met a level five female. This is what the scientists called a True Mating. The female triggered an intense mating response in the warrior and the bond was so intense the mates were unable to be without each other for more than two cycles. There were several dozen level five bonded couples on Zarronia.
Level six was the only ranking based solely on a warrior's DNA and it was a death sentence. There were several known level six warriors on Zarronia but no level six females had ever been found on Zhang, Earth, or anyone else.
Zarronian Time Terms:
Micro-unit: minute (80 nano-units in a micro-unit)
Unit: hour (80 micro-units in a unit)
Cycle: day (30 units in a cycle)
Moon phase: month (Forty cycles in a moon phase)
Annual: year (twelve moon phases in an annual)
Sun rising: dawn
Sun zenith: noon
Birth cycle: birthday
Moon rising: evening
Female: a woman
Kourtisan: a mistress
Male: a warrior usually, sometimes other males
Bond: the act of a warrior sharing his mating fever with a female
Bondmate: a female who has accepted a warrior's fever
Mate: a bondmates' warrior
Saber-cat: a large ferocious cat-like creature, bronze fur with bluish-green eyes
Stinkgoat: a stinky goat-like creature. It produces pungent milk and cheese
Versnake: a small colorful snake, aggressive and deadly
Wolfen: a huge wolf-like animal, black fur with purple eyes
Tor: Zarronian god
Krystali – Skye's home planet; has two continents, Crimeryn and Edyn.
Edyn – smaller continent on Krystali; home of Skye.
Crimeryn – large continent on Krystali; home of the evil warriors.
Tundra – small frozen planet that orbits Krystali.
White krystal – used as weapons or to create useful objects such as shelters.
Dark krystal – deadly weapon conjured only by a krystal enchantress.
Krystal healer – female who can heal but can't conjure krystal.
Krystal conjurer – female who can conjure white krystal and heal white krystal injuries.
Krystal enchantress – rare female healer who can conjure white and dark krystal and heal both.
Krystal warrior – the mate of a Krystal conjurer.
Dark krystal warrior – the mate of a krystal enchantress
Farg – fuck Fargen- fucking
Groaners – indigenous people on Tundra
Soren fought the hands holding him down as his arms and legs were bound with heavy restraints. Sweat poured from his body as his fever intensified and the air above him glowed with a dark blue mist. His primitive growls of rage echoed in the stark room as he attempted to regain his freedom.
Rolf Stenson and Rune Haldorson tightened the restraints and stepped away giving Doctor Burlson room to move forward and press an injection gun against Soren's neck.
"This is the highest dose of ZL3 I can give him without killing him," Doctor Burlson said. "If it doesn't bring his mating fever down then, well, he won't make it."
Rune and I will stand watch tonight," Rolf said. As first-in-command, he and Soren had discussed this very scenario and he'd agreed to take command of the Venturer if Soren succumbed to his mating fever.
"I'll stay as well," Doctor Burlson said as Soren continued to fight against the restraints and curse them until heatwaves formed above his body, increasing the temperature in the room.
Rune slammed a fist into the open palm of his other hand, paced away from the bed holding Soren then returned and stood watching him struggle against the restraints. "Tor, why'd he have to be a level six warrior?"
"He's calming down," Rolf said. "Maybe it's helping."
"It won't help enough." Doctor Burlson shook his head. "Only finding his bondmate can save him now and we all know how impossible that is at his mating level."
Rolf cursed then settled into a warrior's stance, feet apart, arms crossed over his chest. "I promised him I'd let his father know when—." He couldn't finish the sentence. He and Soren had been like brothers since they'd first met at the warrior's academy when they were ten.
"He might make it through tonight," Doctor Burlson said.
"What happens if he does?" Rolf asked.
"I wish there was something I could do but this is the third time he's lost control of his fever in the last twelve cycles and the only treatment I have is no longer working," Doctor Burlson said with a sad shake of his head.
"So we just stand back and watch him die?" Rune's face was dark with anger.
Rolf planted both palms on the end of Soren's bed, looked at his friend for a moment, then focused on Rune. "No, he wants to die in battle so we're going to find him one."
# # #
Lost in a world of fire and ice, one moment Soren felt as if his body was on fire and the next he shivered with a cold so intense he thought he'd never be warm again. He knew he was dying as the fever consumed him. For a few nano-units it cooled then the flames increased as his need to find and bond with his mate overwhelmed him. He raged against his fate as the high dosage of ZL3 burned through his blood stream. His life would end here, in space, alone and yearning for his mate.
In a dream state, he found himself lying on a soft mat of blankets. The night sky shone above him yet he knew he was enclosed inside a shelter of some kind. A warm body rested next to him. He drew in a deep breath, caught her scent, and his fever rose but this time he welcomed it as he turned his head and looked at her.
Golden blonde hair in an intricate braid shone in the light that came through the walls. Soft breasts pressed into his side and a slender arm rested on his chest. He squeezed her hand and examined her long slender fingers before placing a kiss in the center of her palm. She woke and looked at him with solemn bright teal eyes. "I need you." Her voice was soft with an unfamiliar accent. "You must find me soon."
"I'm coming, little heart. Wait for me." His dream faded along with his fever and he slept at last.
# # #
Two cycles later, Soren flew his starglider toward an enemy fighter. At the last nano-unit he adjusted his course and flew beneath it while he fired at a second approaching ship. It disintegrated and he flew through the debris field with the sound of shrapnel pinging against his shield. With another quick thought he directed his starglider to perform a loop and the ship he'd passed appeared in his sights. He focused on it and ship's weapon system followed his eye movements. A burst of light shot out and the target exploded into a ball of fire. "Yes," he shouted before piloting his ship back into the midst of the battle.
Rune chuckled then said, "Your new mind-control weapon system is fast and deadly, Soren."
"Don't get too confident," Soren said. "Were still testing it."
Rune moved in behind another enemy and fired. Off in the distance dozens of shiny objects appeared and grew in size as they rapidly moved toward the fighting.
"Rune, take Alpha squad and handle the targets coming in behind you. Vandar, move Beta squad into a defensive line around Venturer. I'll handle these last two then I'll join you."
"If this is the best they have to offer they're in trouble," Vandar said.
"Keep your guard up," Soren warned. "You know how quickly things can change."
"Tor, don't say that," Rune said as he and his warriors fired at the approaching targets, destroying several of them. "These things aren't like any ships I've ever seen before."
Soren dealt with one of the two fighters then evaded the other one as it fired on him. With a curse he flew after it. "Just stay alert." He'd barely finished speaking when Rolf hailed him.
"Commander, we've scanned the approaching objects. There are no lifeforms on them."
"Damn it, they're drone decoys. Scan the area around the Venturer, Rolf. Look for anything unusual. Blank spots. Displacements." Soren fired again then hailed Rune. "No playing around. Take the targets out then get back to the starship." He fired on another target, disabling it but not destroying it. "Rolf, report."
"There are two Prezon warships approaching us. They'll reach us in ten micro-units."
"Acknowledged," Soren said. "Vandar, have half of your warriors cover the Venturer and the other half cover Rune and Alpha squad while they dock. As soon as they've boarded have Beta dock."
Vandar acknowledged the order with two clicks as his squad moved into position. Soren flew around the starship making sure there were no gaps in the defensive line.
As the battle continued the area around the Venturer became cluttered with debris. Pieces hit the shield causing small bursts of sparks before they bounced off and floated away. Soren continued firing on the drones as Vandar's warriors returned to the starship but his thoughts weren't on the battle. Rather they were on his mating fever. Even though he'd been drugged and confined the desperation he'd felt to find his mate had driven him into a killing rage.
He couldn't control the fever any longer and that made him extremely dangerous. His warriors had accepted the danger he posed to them and they'd protected him. They'd stood by him and had come on this journey knowing it would be his last. His death was only a cycle or two away, and he'd already written a letter to his family with a special note to his little niece, Rose. She was the closest he'd ever come to having a child of his own. He wanted her to know how much naming her had meant to him.
Rune hailed him, interrupting his thoughts. "Commander, my warriors are docked and I'm docking now."
Soren shook off his melancholy and acknowledged Rune's communication as he fired on another enemy pod. "Rolf, report."
"We have two more Prezon warships approaching," Rolf said.
"Have we received any information from the drone we sent into the wormhole?"
"Then, plot a course away from here that puts the Venturer on a course back toward Zarronia." Soren held his place at the end of the line.
"I've already done so but we'll have to go to warp drive to do it," Rolf said.
"Then do so," Soren said. Directly in front of him was the unknown wormhole they'd discovered.
The Prezon fighters had shown up just after they'd sent a probe into it. Since he didn't know where it led he didn't want to take the Venturer through it. His starship's purpose was exploration and it was made for speed and evasion not battle. They could take on one Prezon warship, maybe even two, but four was out of the question. He wouldn't risk his warriors' lives when he had a way to avoid the confrontation. Better for them to live and fight another cycle.
"Rolf, have you notified Zarronia that the Prezons are gathering in this sector?"
"Yes, Commander," Rolf said. "The Prezons have sent out four more fighters."
Soren piloted his ship toward shuttle bay one but stopped outside the entrance while he waited for the last of the starfighters to dock. "Rolf, how far out are the warships?"
"They'll be within range in two micro-units."
"How close are the fighters?"
"Twenty nano-units," Rolf said.
Soren flew his starglider several kilometers out from the Venturer and held a position between it and the approaching ships. "Rolf, get the Venturer out of here."
"Soren—old friend—," Rolf said before his voice ground to a halt.
"Rolf, may you find your true mate and live long." Soren didn't look back. Instead with a fierce war cry he engaged the first two fighters, using every skill he had to evade their weapons. He took a very brief moment to glance at the Venturer. One split nano-unit she was there and the next she was gone. He smiled then flew a loop around one of the Prezons while focusing his weapons on another. His target exploded and he looped back in a counterclockwise pattern and took out the enemy he'd just passed. With a victory cry he aimed his weapons at the third ship and fired. Before he could locate the fourth fighter his glider took a hit to the side and began tumbling in space.
The seat formed to his body, holding him secure. He tried to regain control of his ship but before he could the enemy fired again and the violence of the explosion tossed him around the cockpit. He landed hard against the control panel, hitting his head and cracking his helmet. Grunting with pain, he maneuvered his body back into the seat and looked up as he reached for the controls. His hand froze when he saw the enemy closing in for the kill.
He thought about his family. His parents, his twin brother Thorn and his bondmate Daria, and their children, Dane, Dev, and Rose. The vision of little Rose smiling at him forced his survival instincts to kick in. Without thinking he pushed the toggle that would release the escape pod from his ship even as he acknowledged it was too late. It separated just as the enemy fired again and his ship disintegrated.
The force of the explosion slammed into him and threw him toward the wormhole. He fought to stay conscious but lost the battle when a large piece of debris crashed into him. The rescue pod floated at the edge of the wormhole for a nano-unit then suddenly disappeared into it and reappeared in a new and unknown galaxy a micro-unit later.
Two planets and two moons lay directly ahead of him. The escape pod drifted toward the smaller planet, picking up speed as it entered its gravity. The pull on the hull triggered the automatic landing procedure and managed to slow its descent just before it hit the surface of a frozen lake.
Shards of ice flew into the air and sprayed out behind it as the pod skidded across the lake and finally came to rest against several large boulders.
# # #
Skye leaned against the cool wall of her habitat while she watched the familiar but dreary terrain of her sanctuary. Loneliness ate away at her soul while the need to find a mate burned through her veins increasing the beat of her heart and the rhythm of her breathes. With every cycle that passed she felt herself weakening and had to fight to keep from giving into the hopelessness that filled her. Like many Krystali enchantresses she would die young without a mate to love and sustain her. She'd never be the mother of a strong son, or a precious daughter who would carry on her line. Only her twin brother, Berit, would honor her memory but eventually she'd be forgotten. As was right, she thought, then said, "Screw that. I don't want to be forgotten. I want to live."
Catching her reflection in the krystal window she stared at the black tattoo that surrounded her left eye. The damn thing marked her as a krystal enchantress and was the reason she lived alone and isolated on Tundra. Seeing it brought back memories of the times she'd tried to remove it by scrubbing her skin until it was raw and bloody. Of course when it healed the mark had always remained.
Resigned to her destin, she breathed on the krystal window, creating a haze of fog and cursed the males who kept trying to abduct her. Especially Merykh of Crimeryn. After his third attempt her brother, Berit, had hidden her on this frozen planet while he searched for a mate for her.
"Merykh, you bastard," she muttered while she drew a crude gesture in the fog on the window. "It isn’t my fault you're a disgusting bastard."
As a young child she'd believed it would be exciting to be wanted and pursued by handsome, strong warriors but the reality was a nightmare. She hadn't known about the deep feeling of repulsion she'd have to the wrong male. With a slight shudder she wished again that she'd been born a krystal healer or even a krystal conjurer. They didn't have this much trouble finding a mate which meant they didn't die young the way she would either.
On Krystali a healer could heal common injuries or illnesses but she couldn't conjure white krystal or heal herself. A krystal conjurer could conjure white krystal as a weapon. She could also heal any wound made by white krystal and manipulate it into needed items such as shelters, clothing and food.
Skye, though, was the rarest of the rare. She could do everything a healer or conjurer could do but she could also conjure dark krystal, a substance so deadly that the smallest sliver would kill a person within micro-units. If she'd been able to find a mate she would've given him the ability to cast dark krystal. That ability alone would've made him one of the most invincible and powerful warriors in the galaxy, perhaps in the universe.
She drew a circle around the crude drawing then fed up with her pity party she stuck her tongue out at her reflection, and mumbled, "Stop being pathetic." The action drew an involuntary smile from her. With a laugh she began to turn away when a silver object falling from the sky caught her attention. Dark smoke trailed behind it as it seemed to slow down just before it hit the middle of a frozen lake, skidded across the surface and crashed into the shore. A geyser of ice flew into the air but she didn't see it settle as she was already scrambling into her outdoor wear. Black leather pants, shirt and boots covered by a black hooded cloak and gloves to protect her fingers from the freezing temperatures.
Excited, that something was happening to break the intolerable boredom, she leapt down the steps of her shelter to the lower level. With a sweep of her hand she conjured a door, hurried through it and ran as fast as she could toward the crash site. As she followed the path she thanked the gods for breaking the monotony of her existence then remembered the dangers of her isolated home and searched the area around her. Spotting a line of figures moving down the side of a distant mountain, their dark furs a sharp contrast to the snow and ice of the path they followed, she knew she wasn't the only witness to the crash.
"Farg," she mumbled as she identified a hunting party from the local tribe that she called Groaners because of the grunts and groans they made when they communicated. They were primitive and believed that by devouring their enemy they would be given his or her strength. Something that made her gag every time she thought about it. She watched them for a moment and decided she'd reach the object and have fifteen micro-units to examine it and leave before they arrived. She certainly didn't want to get trapped by them again as she had the last time she'd been out and hadn't paid attention to her surroundings.
She'd been forced to conjure a shelter around herself in front of them. They'd hung around for three cycles and poked at the shelter with their spears while they'd tried to figure out where'd she'd gone. Smiling, she remembered how each night she'd moved her shelter a few feet closer to their fire and puzzled them even more. When she'd grown weary of the game she'd snuck away while they slept. Now, they actively hunted her and she always had to be on guard.
Frowning at the memory of how everything always went wrong she ran around several large boulders then squeezed through a crevice in the rock. When she stepped out her boot slipped on a patch of ice and sent her tumbling down the path. A sharp screech of pain echoed in the valley when an inconveniently placed rock at the edge of the lake stopped her fall. Winded, she lay there for a moment then forced herself to get up. She held her bruised side while she hobbled toward the object unaware that several dead weeds were tangled in her braid. Finally reaching it, she bent over and moaned with pain while she caught her breath.
The object was about the size of a small glider but oval in shape. She made a circuit around it with the ice cracking beneath her feet. Finally, she approached the ship, touched it and jumped back. When it wobbled then settled again she laughed at herself and made a fist and tapped on it. It sounded hallow.
Heat rose from it filling the air with steam and forming a puddle of melting ice beneath it. Standing back, she chewed on the tip of a gloved finger and decided it must be laying on the door. She pushed and rocked it until it rolled over and revealed another rounded and dented surface but no door. Frustrated, knowing she was running out of time, she ran her hands over the scorched surface and found a small area that felt different. She pressed on it and with a hiss a section swung open revealing a cockpit filled with smoke. Wires hung from a smashed panel sending out a shower of sparks toward the lone occupant.
Gasping with fear, she stepped back, expecting to be attacked. When nothing happened she took a cautious step closer and looked at him and for some reason tears filled her eyes when she saw his lifeless body. "Get a grip Skye."
She waited another moment then reached out and touched him. He was huge, perhaps almost seven feet tall. He had long black hair but the sides were cut shorter revealing an intricate tattoo. She ran her finger down several of the tattooed lines then traced over the black swirls and other shapes between them before turning his face toward her. Smears of blood covered his forehead and coated dark brows that curved above closed eyes outlined with thick, straight lashes. His mouth was beautiful. The lower lip full. The upper lip sharply sculpted.
An object stuck up behind his head and was probably the cause of some of his head trauma. She gently rolled his head to the side and determined it was the handle of a beautiful but expensive warrior's sword. Sighing with regret that he'd died so brutally she turned his face toward her again. High cheekbones and a firm, stubborn looking chin led to a strong muscled neck and broad shoulders.
He was dressed in an open black vest that left his massive, muscled arms and chest bare except for the blood that covered him. Wide gold and platinum armbands with bright red gems circled his upper arms. Black leather pants covered his legs and black boots protected his feet. Even in death he was the image of what she'd dreamt a warrior should be—strong and handsome and she couldn't help but wonder if he would have made a worthy mate.
She began to lower the door and let his ship be his tomb when he shivered, startling her. With a small cry of surprise she moved closer and ran her gloved hands over him, identifying multiple broken bones and deep cuts over the parts of his body she could see. Dark red blood flowed from gashes on his chest and temple. She removed her gloves, laid her hands on his cheeks and felt his life force slipping away.
Glancing at the sky she wondered if the gods were watching. "I hope you know what you're doing. We all know this is going to get me in trouble." She didn't expect a response so didn’t waste her time waiting for one. Instead she grabbed his arms and pulled even though she knew she was hurting him. He didn't moan or pull away from her but he also didn't budge so she pulled harder and he fell toward her. She let him land against her belly before she slowly stepped back and let his weight roll the pod until the opening was closer to the ground.
The ice cracked again just as the sound of the approaching tribesmen reached her. "Sorry about this," she said, then biting her lower lip, she grabbed his arms and dragged him toward the largest of the boulders.
"Why are you so fargen big?" she mumbled as she dropped his arms. Behind her she heard a loud cracking sound and turned just in time to see the pod break through the ice and sink into the depths of the lake. "Well, that solves the problem of what to do with that."
With only nano-units to spare, she thanked the gods that their lives had been spared then called on the elements. The air shimmered and the bloody tracks she'd made disappeared as a shelter formed around her and the warrior. Skye knew that from the outside it blended in with the other boulders even though from the inside it was clear. She breathed a short sigh of relief and plopped down next to the warrior just as the Groaners burst into the clearing.
Most of them stayed back from the broken ice but a foolish one went closer and almost fell through. The others pulled him to safety as their leader appeared and began shouting and gesturing. After a few moments they turned and began leaving the area but the leader stopped and sniffed the air and Skye knew he'd caught her scent and the scent of the warrior's blood. He roared with anger at the loss of an easy meal then followed his men.
She dismissed them and looked at the male she'd rescued while she wondered if this meant he belonged to her. Wasn't there something about saving a person's life that meant they owed you a life debt? She leaned toward him and whispered, "If you owe me a life debt I wouldn't mind if you woke up and was the kind of warrior who could save my life."
Her only answer was the rising and falling of his chest as he fought to live. His clothes were soaked with blood so she conjured a krystal knife and used it to cut them away. Once he was naked, she ran her hands over him, carefully cataloguing each injury. His right wrist and both legs were broken. A massive bruise was forming over his chest and belly where he'd broken several ribs and had internal injuries.
Krystal enchantresses needed the love and companionship of their family or mate to remain strong but she'd been alone for the last two moon phases. The last time Berit had visited her it had been hard to tell him that her death was drawing near. Saddened by the memory and his reaction she moved her palms over the warrior's body and began trying to heal him. Where his internal organs were damaged and bleeding she lingered and felt them begin to function again. Little by little she healed the most critical injuries then even though she was exhausted she went back and tried to heal more of his wounds, determined that he would live.
While she worked some of his memories flooded into her mind. She learned his name but more importantly she discovered that he needed a mate as much as she did. As the connection between them grew stronger she saw the many battles he'd fought and that he was a warrior whose honor was his life.
Knowing she'd found a worthy mate too late she continued to work until she collapsed against him. Lying there, hearing his heartbeat slow she knew he would die this cycle but he would not die alone. She used the last of her strength to clean his body of all traces of blood then she decorated the inside of their shelter, now their tomb, with swirls of precious gems. On the outside she wrote their names and what had happened so her brother would know that she'd found her mate before she died. She removed her clothes, laid down next to him with her head on his shoulder and allowed her tears to fall as she grew colder and he grew hotter. He struggled for another breath and his eyes opened revealing the most beautiful aqua eyes she'd ever seen even though they were filled with pain. Skye brushed her fingers over his cheek. "Hello, Soren."
"Little heart." He stared at her then grimaced with pain when he drew in another breath.
She not only saw his struggle to live but felt it and something inside her leapt to life. She couldn't let him die. She sat up and held his face between her palms while she looked into his eyes. "Soren, say you want me."
He groaned with pain and his eyes began to close. She tapped his cheek. "No, stay awake." He struggled to open his eyes and succeeded. "Your mating fever is killing you. My need for a worthy mate is killing me. I can save us but you have to say you want me." By coercing him into accepting her claim she was breaking the first law. The penalty if she was caught was death.
"Want you," he said, his voice weak as he struggled to pull in another breath.
She held his head and forced him to meet her eyes. "I claim you, Soren. My heart is yours to cherish. My life is yours to protect. I willingly give my powers to you for all time." She opened his mouth then breathed her life force into his body before she moved back and waited to see if she was in time to save them. Slowly his body began to heal itself. The bruises and scars on his body faded until his bronze flesh was unblemished. A blue mist with black swirls flowed from his body toward hers.
He opened his eyes and with a roar came up into a crouch and leapt toward her, taking her down to the soft mat she'd made for him earlier. His huge body caged her as one of his hands curved around her nape and lifted her mouth to his. His lips blazed hot against hers, forcing them open so his tongue could sweep inside. He explored her mouth, learning her taste. The kiss went on and on until she was breathless and burning. She wiggled and pulled him closer, spreading her legs and giving him room to move between them. Joyfully, she stroked his body, touching as much of him as she could reach, encouraging him to complete the bond between them. Wave after wave of her power slid through the mist of his desire and pushed them toward a burning need for each other.
He slid kisses over her cheeks and neck then down her body, over soft breasts with hard nipples and onto her bare mound where he breathed in and tasted her scent before he moved to her feet. Each kiss he left on her skin as he moved back up her body branded her as his. She claimed them just as she'd claimed him.
She wrapped her legs around his back and felt him place the head of his cock against her and thrust. She welcomed him and he kissed her, hard, his tongue stroking hers while he withdrew then pressed in again.
Skye kissed his neck, his cheeks, and his lips. His mouth covered hers and he kissed her deeply pushing their arousal higher and higher. She moved her hands to his shoulders and caressed him, urging him on. "Please, oh, oh, yes." She gasped his name when an unbearable rush of pleasure exploded through her, shaking her.
He groaned, tightened his arms around her then shuddered as he came. A moment later he collapsed and his weight pressed her into the soft mat beneath them. She kissed his cheek and he lifted up far enough that their eyes met. Skye smiled, brushed her hand over his head and heard him moan with pleasure. A sense of joy filled her. They were alive and she'd found her mate. She raised up onto her elbows and kissed him. "Soren," she breathed his name in wonder. "My Soren. My mate."
He kissed her then moved to the side but kept his arms around her before he rested his head on her breast and with a sigh fell asleep. While he rested she thought about their situation. Claiming him without his informed consent was a risky move on her part. She could only hope that when she told him she'd done it to save their lives he'd understand and accept their mating.
It was the way of her people that once a mate was chosen love quickly followed. Even now her love for him blazed inside her. If he objected to her claim he had the right to go to the Krystali Kouncil and lodge a complaint. Something she definitely wanted to avoid although in her experience warriors were unpredictable and difficult to deal with at the best of times.
She'd talk to him in the morning. He would have to accept her once he understood that only he could give her the life force she needed to survive. Satisfied with her decision she curled her body around his and fell asleep.
He opened his eyes and sat up. His movements woke the female next to him. She stretched, revealing that she was naked beneath the blanket that covered her. Bright teal eyes opened and glanced his way. She smiled and his heart skipped a beat before he controlled his heated reaction to her presence. In a deep gravelly voice he asked, "Where are we? What is this place?"
She reached out and touched his arm. "This is our shelter. How do you feel? Any pain?"
He rubbed his aching temple. "Who are you?"
"You don't remember me?" she asked.
The sound of her surprised voice with an undertone of relief raised the hairs on the back of his neck in warning. He watched her closely when he answered her. "No."
She hesitated then touched his arm again. "I'm Skye, your mate."
"My mate?" He fought to keep the suspicion out of his voice while he focused on her, trying to remember her and drew a blank. Reaching out, he traced the black tattoo that surrounded her left eye then slid his fingers over her soft cheek to her mouth and full lower lip. She surprised him by leaning toward him and accepting his touch. He tested her attachment to him by sliding his hands over her creamy skin and down her neck to her breasts. Her nipples hardened beneath his palms. He caught her shy smile.
Even lying down he could tell she was tall. He pushed the blanket away and ran his hands down her body to her ankles and measured them with his fingers. She was fine-boned with smooth, flawless skin. He trailed his hands up her legs and over her voluptuous hips before measuring her slender waist with his hands. His thumbs pressed into her softly rounded belly. She wiggled and he lowered himself over her, clasped her head with his hands and pressed his fingers into her intricately braided blond hair before he plucked a dead weed from the curls. He held it up, showing it to her.
"I fell down the path." She smiled again. "It must have gotten caught in my hair then."
He stared into her eyes, judging the truthfulness of her statement then lowered his mouth to hers when he decided she wasn't lying. He rubbed his mouth back and forth over her lips then licked them. She tasted and felt familiar but when he searched his memory he realized he couldn't remember anything about her or himself, not even his name. A flair of panic rose up inside him but he stifled it, looked away from her and decided he had no choice but to accept the situation. For now.
After a moment he moved away from her and pressed on the jeweled wall of the shelter. It gave and his fingers sank into it. He pulled his hand back then pressed in again "What is this substance?"
Skye wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and sat up. "It's krystal." She touched his arm. "Do you remember the crash?"
He thought for a moment, drew a blank and rubbed his temple again. "No."
She wrapped the blanket around herself, tucked the corner in between her breasts and sat up. "Your ship crashed and you were injured. I had to get you out of it quickly as the Groaners were coming."
"It's what I call the local tribe. They're primitive and very dangerous if they catch you out in the open. Fortunately they make a lot of noise so you can hear them coming. Anyway, I got you out of your ship and hid us before they arrived."
He looked outside. "Where is the ship now?"
"It crashed onto the frozen lake then skidded into those boulders." She pointed to the boulders next to their shelter where the ice had been disturbed. "I barely got you out before it broke through and sank into the lake."
He traced the swirling design on the wall with his fingertip. "You built this?" He looked at her. "How?"
"Some Krystali females can conjure white krystal to make shelters or other natural objects." She picked up a blanket and the knife she'd made and offered them to him. "Like these."
He rubbed the cloth between two fingers before he examined the knife. "Only the females make this?"
"Yes, only females can conjure krystal."
"Where does it come from?"
Skye waved her hands through the air. "From the elements. The air, water and earth."
He wasn't sure he believed her. "Make one of these weapons you speak of."
"Hold out your hand," she said.
He did, slowly, suspiciously, and a nano-unit later a five inch long white krystal shard and a three inch long dark krystal shard appeared on his palm. He turned them from side to side. The white one had small specks of different colors in it and reflected the light. The dark one seemed to absorb it. He held them up and it was then the tip of the dark one glowed with a red light and he heard Skye gasp. He sent her a questioning look.
She reached out and touched the red tip. "Dark krystal is pure black but ours is also red." She touched one of his armbands. "The stones on your bands were red but they've changed as well. Now they have dark krystal in them."
Soren tossed the shards into the air and caught them. The dark one nicked his finger. He licked the wound and felt Skye's eyes follow his actions. "What's the difference between them?"
"The white one can injure or kill an enemy depending on where it strikes them. The dark krystal is deadly. Being struck by the tiniest piece will kill a person within a couple micro-units."
He held up his finger. "Yet I've been cut by it and still live."
"As my mate this krystal is a part of us so it won't kill you."
He looked through the walls of their shelter. "Can our enemies see us?"
"The walls are clear from the inside but from the outside they match the boulders around us. I can change the color if you like but we're safe here. Even dark krystal can't penetrate them."
He struggled to make sense of everything she'd told him. He thought about it while he looked her over. She was beautiful but not a warrior. "How do you use this krystal as a weapon?"
Skye smiled. "I don't. Krystali females only conjure the krystal. We're healers so we can't use it as a weapon, not even to protect ourselves. The ability to cast krystal is a gift a krystal conjurer or krystal enchantress, like me, gives to her mate. When we joined I gave my powers to you. That's why your hand sank into the wall and the dark krystal didn't kill you—it allows you to manipulate it. As a dark krystal warrior you're now one of the most powerful and deadly warriors in the galaxy."