Being captain of his own rescue ship is the life Liam Synar has always dreamed of living. Being master of a hereditary alien is not. Coveting Malachi's power, his exiled evil brother hunts for him, wanting to capture the demon that Liam's life mate now unknowingly hosts. Putting Malachi inside Ania two years ago had been an act to save her when she almost died saving him. If only the demon hadn't killed again.
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“Engage log. Record time and entire discussion, video and audio. Witnesses to this discussion are Lieutenant Dorian Zade, Spiritual Counselor, and Commander Gwen Jet, First Mate. Also present are Ambass—no strike that. Also present are Ania Looren, ship’s Peace Keeper, and Captain Liam Synar. Subject of discussion is. . .”
Synar stopped as Ania turned her gaze from the void of space outside the Liberator’s view port and back to him. She walked slowly to the conference table and sat down opposite his seat. He had no choice but to look directly into her eyes as he finished the entry.
“I am beyond ready to hear this, Synar. Please continue.” Ania folded her hands in her lap, trying to quell the rising anxiety threatening to overtake her.
“The subject of this discussion is my regretful revelation to Ania Looren that her body is being used to host a demon called Malachi.” The words came out in a rush, echoing on the air between them as he finished.
Ania shook her head and closed her eyes at Synar’s words, searching for the truth that seemed to be swirling inside her. The fluttering and cramping increased along with the pressure of her life force rushing around chaotically inside her physical form. A demon? She carried a demon inside her? How could she not have known?
“This is the secret you’ve been keeping from me? That I am being used to host a demon?” Ania repeated his words, numb with shock. “How did this come to be the truth?”
Synar looked away, unable to hold Ania’s accusing gaze while he explained. “On our mating day, we were attacked by a group of mercenaries who hoped to capture the demon’s host and gain control over his power. The host at that time was. . .”
“. . . First Mate Jonas Tangier,” Ania said suddenly, surprising all of them, including herself, when her mind suddenly filled with a perfect image of the deceased male. That kind of absolute intuitive knowing hadn’t happened to her in a very, very long time.
Ania stood, walking away from the table and from Synar. How could she have missed all the indicators of possession? A fluttering which was always followed by a sense of dread. Her loss of self. Her utter aloneness. Her spirit had simply refused to acknowledge it—or maybe the demon refused to acknowledge her spirit. Either way she was caught between two kinds of spiritual death.
Ania turned back to Synar and cleared her throat. “Am I right, Synar?”
“Yes. Jonas was Malachi’s former host,” Synar said quietly, holding her inquisitive gaze now that the first shock had passed. “The demon was able to subdue the attackers, but not before Jonas’s body was killed. During the attack, your body was critically wounded to the point of death. The demon went into you and basically saved your life by lending you his. It is the arrangement he has with his hosts.”
“So the demon just left Jonas’s dead body and came into my dying body because I was available and unable to prevent his possession?” Ania asked, reality starting to set in at last. “I am aware of the sacred contracts, Synar. That’s not how it works.”
Her mind raced now with the terrible knowledge. No wonder meditation was impossible. The dark entity within her likely wouldn’t let her commune with the Creators who imprisoned it. She hadn’t seen a demon in several centuries, but she remembered them. In fact, she had a healthy respect for their fate.
“What kind of demon do I carry?”
“Malachi is a linked demon and unable to act, beyond small ways, of his own accord. And to answer your previous question—Malachi’s master ordered him into your body,” Synar admitted at last.
Ania drew in a breath, mostly to hold in her scream. “So who is the master? More to the point—where is the master now since I am forever linked to both? I have a right to face him.”
Hearing Commander Jet draw in a sharp breath at her question, Ania turned to the fierce, younger female who was now swearing softly. She watched Dorian place a restraining hand on the female’s arm. Following the female’s glare, Ania’s gaze ended as she stared in disbelief at Synar’s unrepentant face. Synar? No. No—it couldn’t be. Surely Liam Synar had not mated her without telling her he was a demon master?
But as she studied his tight jaw and lips pressed in a single thin line, she felt the truth sweep though her life force with absolute surety. The Norblade male sitting calmly at his ship’s conference table had breached her centuries-old chaste body, and then given it over to his demon servant as a home.
As her formal mate, Synar would have been fully exercising his rights to do with her dying body as he wished. No one would have dared stop him. Still—she could scarcely take it in. He knew her, knew what she was, what she believed. She had spent over eight hundred years becoming enlightened. He should have known she would never want to be used for such a vile purpose, no matter the loss of her life.
Ignoring Synar’s concerned gaze on her, Ania walked across the room until a solid mass of blue wall blocked further exit. Panic rose in her and along with it a primal scream, her survival mechanisms kicking in at last. She opened her mouth to call out in pain, but only an eerie panicked silence escaped.
A cramp hit her midsection with the force of a fist, but she knew what it was now. The thought of what was inside her angered Ania beyond anything she had felt in hundreds of years.
Needing some outlet for her rage, she drew back her fist and rammed it forward, blasting through three layers of wall as if it were nothing. Pulling her sore hand back, she studied it like a child studies something it doesn’t understand. It had been a bit painful, but mere moments later there wasn’t a single scratch on her to indicate the effort.
Ania turned slowly around and faced the male who had condemned her spirit. Pleiadians lived for thousands of years. No wonder her stoic parents had been crying. They knew as well. Everyone had known but her, and only because Synar hadn’t wanted her to know. He probably had ordered the demon to keep her confused on matters. Did he really hate her so much?
“You purposely put something vile and evil inside me. Why, Liam? You knew my beliefs. Why did you not honor them and let me die? I was your mate. You owed me your honor.”
She clutched at her stomach and bent with the pain as the demon struggled within her, punishing her for her words, maybe even for her thoughts. Defying the darkness living inside, she pulled herself straight, moving out of reach just as Synar lunged from the chair. “Stay away. Do not touch me.”
“I put Malachi inside you because I could not watch you die when I had the power to save you.” Saying it aloud was such a great relief that Synar wanted to sink to the floor at Ania’s feet.
Ania backed away from him further. Power to save her, Liam had said. It was always about power with males. Despair wrapped around her like a cloak to know she had tied herself to this one.
“But don’t you see, Synar? What you have done to me—this is death. The laser blast I took for you did not hurt this much. I would gladly have died.”
She turned away then, clenching her hands into fists. Then suddenly, she was whirling back to confront him, the anger refusing to be held inside any longer.
“Your rejection of me as your mate felt like death too, Liam Synar. I figured it was divine punishment for the mistake I made agreeing to become your mate in the first place. But how could you hide this kind of truth from me? The demon used me to kill three other beings, and I have no memory of it. Your actions in giving me to him were both foolish and selfish.”
“Aye—they were selfish,” Synar agreed, still sure his pain was no less than Ania’s. He reached out to grab her chin, only to have his hand violently knocked away. The rejection of his touch hurt more than he’d expected. “I would do the same thing again to extend your life. Malachi is vicious when provoked, but he is always good to his hosts. He has been in my family almost since he was turned to a demon. Being his master is not my choice. You must try to understand the situation from my perspective.”
Ania sneered. “Your perspective? I well see your perspective. You are a spoiled child seeking to be forgiven for what you consider a small exercise of your will over mine. What do you know of the demon’s kind? I specifically chose not to follow the path of Malachi’s species. I dedicated myself to living a different life.”
“Can you not see that I did this for your good?” Synar demanded.
“No. I cannot. Remove the demon from me at once and let my body die, Synar.”
“No—at least, not yet. I cannot refuse you forever, but I also cannot risk the demon not having a host at this time. No action can be taken until another host can be found.”
His stomach heaved at the thought of Ania lifeless, never to be reanimated.
Ania closed her eyes and fought to calm the turmoil inside her. Getting angrier would solve nothing, but how could she be calm? Now even the memories of the caring she had once felt from him were meaningless. Liam Synar was a stranger. Worse, she realized he had always been one, even the day she mated him.
“How did what we found together become this unholy alliance?” Ania asked.
“I understand your point of view, and yet I will continue to value your physical life until other arrangements can be made,” Synar said, his voice husky with shame, but also full of his determination to adhere to what he was saying.
From the depths of her, Ania felt the demon offer up several centuries’ worth of old memories. In them she saw a passionate, risk-taking female who had warred until her whole culture had collectively devoted itself to peace.
She had all but forgotten herself as a young girl not even a century old, forgotten that it had been the warrior who had come first.
Then just as clearly, she saw why the demon had chosen that precise moment to give those memories back to her. Synar was treating her like an enemy treats a prisoner of war, like an object to be used as he saw fit. He held both their lives in his control, but perhaps it didn’t have to be like that. By the will of the Creators, she had never been anyone’s prisoner for long.
Ania felt the demon fluttering in approval at her rebellion, the feeling in her gut so familiar that she wondered why she had not connected to it before.
“You may be master of the Demon of Synar, but you will never be my master, Liam. One day soon I will take back control of the destiny you have exploited for your own purposes. Neither you, nor your demon, will stop me. This is my new vow to you and replaces all former ones I have ever made.”
Ania took a step toward Liam, unsurprised when he backed away. Her skin felt on fire. Her eyes burned in her head. And her body readied itself for defense against her false protector. “Between us now there can be no peace. You should be grateful you are not more my enemy or your life would be forfeit as well. Ai lee na cum silane.”
Synar paled at her words, spoken adeptly in the ancient tongue that all creatures feared. How did Ania know it so well? The remaining energy remnants of Ania’s compassion for him were suddenly wrenched away as he stood meeting her angry glare. His demon-possessed mate had just shut him out of her spirit and taken back her energy. The personal distance between them now was worse than any he had created by leaving her alone so long. Some invisible cord between them had been cut, and before him stood a stranger.
Ania turned her back on the male who had done this to her to face another she thought had been a friend. Her illusion of Dorian’s loyalty to her was gone now. It was difficult to choose whose betrayal hurt worse. She would have killed her physical body by her own hand if the demon would have allowed it.
“You knew this was done to me and yet you said nothing. Despite Liam’s insistence that he is the demon’s master, it’s obvious he has little understanding. But you know, Dorian Zade. You have betrayed my trust and a friendship of many centuries. For what gain, I ask you now?”
“Perfect clarity was denied to me in this matter except for one fact, Ania. It was not your destiny to die that day. I believed that as well.” Dorian’s heart was saddened by his old friend’s reaction, even though he had seen how deeply she would be hurt. The reality was more painful than his vision. “Liam’s guilt made him a coward. My affection for you both made me one as well in choosing whose trust to risk losing. I was waiting for the will of the Creators. I believe that is what is happening now.”
Ania laughed bitterly and lifted her arms.
“Arrogant males abound across all species, which is why I never sought to align with one. You and Liam are both fools as well as cowards. Raging fires of Helios, Dorian. What gives you or Synar the right to determine anyone’s destiny but your own? My life while I lived freely was given over to easing the pain and suffering of all creatures, not in increasing the risk of harm to them. I could have destroyed all the people on my planet because of you and Synar.”
“I could not control what was done to you, neither the attack nor Liam’s actions to save you. It was also not my place to make the decision for Liam to tell you his truth,” Dorian argued, trying in vain to defend his choice. “Liam ordered the demon to protect you and do no harm. From my observations, this has come to pass. The Greggors were the exception.”
“Aye. The Greggors deserved to die. Maybe others do as well.”
She swung back to Synar who was staring at her in shock, muttering streams of words that had both males calling her name in alarm.
“Ania! Stop cursing us,” Dorian ordered, watching the Khalsa warrior awaken from her centuries-old sleep. He was more afraid than anyone in the room because the last thing any of them needed was the demon to share that power in her. Finally he understood what his loyalty to Liam had cost his teacher and friend. “Okay, I was wrong. Liam was wrong. But do not condemn us with your words. There are many on the Liberator who do not deserve your wrath.”
“Fine, but now do you see?” Ania demanded. “The demon could have at any point used my power to curse and kill as much as he used his own. Over the centuries I made myself a healer, an instrument of good. Against my will, Synar made me an instrument of evil again. Now I am a bringer of mass destruction and death, not just an individual assassin. I will not allow my physical body to be used in such a manner.”
She looked between the two males who were staring at her. “One way or the other, with or without anyone’s permission, I will have my death and cease to feed the demon.”
Ania turned and left the room, not waiting to be dismissed from the meeting. Who would stop her? Power rose within her and the demon fluttered in approval.
For the second time in her life, she knew what it was to hate herself.
About the Author
Donna McDonald is a best selling author in Contemporary Romance and Humor, and lately has been climbing the Science Fiction list as well.
Science Fiction reviewers are calling McDonald “a literary alchemist effortlessly blending science fiction and romance”. Contemporary and humor reviewers often write to tell her that the books keep them up reading and laughing all night. She likes both compliments and hopes they stay true forever.
McDonald’s idea of success is to be sitting next to someone on a plane and find out they are laughing at something in one of her books. This would of course be while she was heading off on her next adventure to feed her creative soul.