If she’d had a choice, Ania Looren would have chosen death over becoming a demon host. But compelled to save her life, her mate, Captain Liam Synar made the decision for her.
Now her spirit grieves for what she has become because evil lives inside her again. Ania fears the great harm she can cause using the demon’s power.
Unfortunately, Liam’s reluctant embrace of being the demon's master, along with his refusal to discuss Malachi with her, once again leaves Ania facing her destiny alone.
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“So who won the fight?” Gwen asked, pushing open the door to the training room.
Ania frowned. “It was not a true competition. What is more important is that Synar surprised me and I let him get by with it. That’s what should matter to you from a warrior’s perspective.”
“Much of what Synar does these days surprises me. Before you got here, he was the most stoic male I had ever met. Now he is as anxiety ridden as any other creature. When I reported to him last, he actually yelled at me. So quit stalling and tell me who won the damn fight.” Gwen laughed as she removed her shoes and tucked them under the bench. “Did you beat Synar as badly as you do me? And can I watch next time?”
“Your competitive nature screams ‘Earthling’ to everyone who gets to know you,” Ania chastised.
But she did find herself thinking about Gwen’s question as she slipped off her own shoes. Truthfully, she hadn’t really thought of what happened during their fight as her losing to Synar or either of them winning. Fighting Synar wasn’t like fighting other people. She had merely been trying to prove a point, and maybe work off some justifiable anger.
“Winning is relative, but by your standards I would say I won. My body never hit the mat,” Ania finally said with a shrug.
Gwen examined the smaller female’s skinny frame and lack of roundness with a trained warrior’s eye. “Synar is not all that tall for a male, but you’re at least five inches shorter than him. I know because I’m as tall as he is. Are you telling me Synar kissed you and your feet never left the mat?”
Remembering Liam’s fierce embrace and her legs wrapped tightly around him, Ania sighed and frowned again. “I see your point. Perhaps the fight ended in a draw.”
“Too bad for you both that it didn’t end in one of your beds,” Gwen teased, grinning at her own joke. “If it makes you feel any better, right now I’m running from Zade. He keeps asking to speak to me privately. My instinct is to keep away from him, so that’s what I’ve been doing. You want to help me out by telling me what’s going on?”
Ania shook her head. “Why should I tell you what I see intuitively when you are able to see for yourself? If you are so concerned, use your intuition to discover the reason.”
Gwen ran a hand through her hair. “Not going to happen. Zade and I—Shades of Kellnor—we have a history, okay? Or at least we could have had one. I sort of threw myself at him when I first met him. I hadn’t felt that way about a male before him and truthfully haven’t felt like that for another since. Zade refused me very politely, which has worked out fine for both of us. Now I think he wants to break the news to me about his mating thing. I’m just not up for all that awkward stuff.”
Ania studied Gwen, blinking in disbelief. Dorian was finally chasing and now Gwen was running. They had traded places in their pursuit, but the end result remained their continued avoidance of involvement with each other. “You really need to learn to use your intuition. It rules you anyway, Gwen. I suggest you concede to it as soon as possible.”
“What’s so great about knowing the future? Zade can just go do what he needs to do. Let him mate someone. He doesn’t owe me any explanations. I admit I felt a twinge when you first mentioned it, but no male is worth dwelling on forever, no matter how nice he looks.”
Ania rose and took a deep breath, wrestling with the decision of telling Gwen or not telling Gwen about Dorian’s intentions towards her. When a creature rejected their intuition so adamantly, it had always seemed wrong to her to force them to epiphanies they did not seek on their own. Besides, who was she to put herself in the middle of Dorian and his mate? Deciding to let things happen as they would, Ania only smiled and gestured at the mat.
“Okay. Let’s go. I’m feeling lucky today,” Gwen said, looking down on the top of the shorter female’s head.
“Good for you. One should always begin on a positive note. However, I’m feeling like you’re going to be on the mat in the first two minutes again,” Ania teased back. “Unless you’ve magically learned some patience since last time we sparred.”
“Very funny,” Gwen said, taking her stance.
An hour later her top was drenched in sweat while Ania was completely dry still. And it wasn’t because Pleiadian females didn’t sweat. Ania just didn’t sweat when fighting with her. From her hated position of being flat on the mat, Gwen sighed hard and promised herself she would change that in time even if it killed her.
Reaching down, Ania easily pulled her determined pupil to her feet. “You did better today, Gwen.” She grinned when her praise was answered with a snort.
“How many years did you say it took you to master your moves?”
“It took a long time—at least fifty Earth years.”
Gwen groaned. “No wonder Earthlings don’t become Khalsas. None of them live long enough. My father says members of his family live on average around three hundred years. With my mixed genetic heritage, I could die tomorrow or live a few centuries. I’ll keep training though if you’ll keep teaching me.”
Ania bowed her head to Gwen respectfully, pleased when her new pupil returned the gesture naturally. There were some things in Gwen that were changing rapidly. Then there were others that would probably never change. Ania smiled, thinking about several of them that were going to annoy Dorian far more than they would ever annoy her.
“Let me phrase my answer in your favorite terms, Gwen. I have no problem ‘kicking your ass’ every day, though fighting you often makes me want to engage Dorian for a proper workout.”
“Now that I look forward to seeing—you and Zade going at each other. Even feeling like I do, I’d still love to see him kick your ass,” Gwen said, putting her shoes back on again.
Ania laughed. “Well, that would probably not take much in his case. He’s been practicing for centuries. I haven’t.”
Gwen snorted. “I’m trying to imagine a whole military trained like you. Who did the Khalsas fight?”
“Demons—for one,” Ania said easily, standing and stretching.
Gwen shook her head in surprise. “Does that help you deal with your personal situation?”
Ania frowned as she answered. “Not really. I have been reading all I can about demons. There were many things I did not know, that my training never covered. Malachi is not the scary ‘unknown’ entity in me now. He is Malachi, and I think of him that way. I have decided that he is bowing to the will of the Creators of All just like the rest of us.”
“Are you trying to make friends with him or something?” Gwen prodded as they headed back to their rooms.
They walked in silence until they came to where they needed to go separate ways.
“I guess something like that,” Ania admitted finally, stealing a full look at Gwen as they walked. “If I can find ways to deal with your volatile Earthling nature, dealing with a demon can’t be much more difficult. Right?”
“That was an unprovoked insult,” Gwen exclaimed, reaching out a hand and shoving a laughing Ania into the nearest wall. “Not so tough off the mat, are you?”
“I’m starting to like you, Gwen. I don’t want to hurt you,” Ania said truthfully, rubbing her arm as she veered off to head to her room. “Enjoy your day off.”
“Thanks. Maybe I’ll see you at the meal this evening,” Gwen said, breaking into a quick jog to cover the distance down the hall faster. She was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon with Chiang.
Dorian paced the room as he dressed. So far he had let Gwen get by with ignoring him. Now his patience had reached its limit. Hearing a knock on his door, his spirit leapt inside him, then quieted immediately as he realized it wasn’t her. He opened the door to Synar who—shock of shocks—waited for an invitation before bursting in this time. The tension in Liam’s face had new problem written all over it. Sighing in resignation, Dorian gestured his friend and captain inside with a sweep of his hand.
“Were you heading somewhere?” Synar asked, surprised to find his Siren friend dressed in more clothes than usual with several hours left before his duty began.
Dorian nodded as he frowned. “Yes. I am planning to claim my mate today—if I can manage to catch her alone for two minutes. Gwen has been ignoring me for several days.”
Synar smiled. “Maybe she’s finally using her intuition.”
“Very amusing, but not helpful. Where did Ania sleep last night?” Dorian asked.
“Do not project your bad mood onto me. You’re very tense, Dorian. I haven’t seen you this way in many years. Did you really think that when you were ready, Gwen Jet would just go along with your mating plans without any objections?”
Dorian knew Synar would think him completely arrogant if he answered yes, but actually he had figured that Gwen would at least be open to hearing his offer. She was in most ways a logical being. He knew he still affected her as a male, knew she felt desire for him. Claiming was only a matter of connecting all the dots that were already there. While Sirens weren’t the only species to have figured out the energy settings of mating, they were one of the few that truly respected the power of such intimate connections.
“Gwen is meant to be my mate, Liam. That’s just an energetic fact. If she is not yet consciously aware of our connection, I intend to educate her. I could draw her to me with my mating vibrations without appealing to her logic, but I do not want to force her into our relationship,” Dorian said tightly, shaking his head as he started to pace. “I should never have turned her away in the first place. I made a mistake two years ago. Now all I can do is try to rectify it.”
“Do you think admitting your mistake is going to win Gwen over?” Synar asked. “If so, I hope you have better luck than I did apologizing to Ania.”
“Something must have worked for you because I felt your and Ania’s bonding vibration last evening.”
“Raging fires of Helios, Dorian.” Synar had to work to keep his face from flushing. It never occurred to Dorian to spare anyone’s sensibilities.
“What did you expect, Liam? You know I’m aware when anyone on this ship bonds with anyone else. It’s a bloody curse while I’m trying to abstain.”
“Thank the Creators I’m not a Siren then,” Synar said, grinning at Dorian’s pained expression. “My time with Ania was two minutes and one vibration long. She assures me she doesn’t need anything physical from me, but she’ll let me know if she ever does.”
“Ania lies to you and to herself. She’s just hurt still. The female part of her is wounded,” Dorian supplied, patting Synar’s shoulder in comfort. “Do not lose faith. I have seen your relationship with Ania is meant to be, but to have it, you will have to compromise more than she will. Be prepared.”
Synar laughed because for once Dorian was in worse trouble than him. “I advise you to have faith also, my friend. Gwen now guards the keys to herself with a warrior’s mind set against an enemy. Don’t turn your back on your fierce mate until you truly win her over. It will not be an easy task.”
“I can be a formidable enemy, but I can also be a determined mate. Now I see that the centuries are very long without a female to warm your bed. I am done being alone. Gwen will be warming my sheets shortly.”
“Well, I guess I will believe it to be a truth for you two when I see it happen,” Synar said, walking to the door.
“Did you just come by to offer your poor encouragement to me or did you have another purpose in seeking me out?” Dorian asked, letting his tone indicate his disbelief about Gwen rejecting him.
Synar laughed softly over his friend’s bravado, but with little enjoyment. It was more fun to tease about Gwen and Dorian fighting than to have to inform Dorian about the real reason he’d sought him out.
“The documents from Ania’s inquiry were filed today. They announce she is Malachi’s host. It won’t be long before Conor starts trying to find a way to get to the demon again. If he has means to hire a ship, it will be even worse.”
Dorian shrugged. “It was always inevitable that your brother would come after you and the demon. You need to tell Ania about Conor so she can prepare.”
“Tell her that in addition to giving her body to a demon, my evil brother will soon be trying to kill her as well? No. Ania has enough to worry about,” Synar said, opening the door.
Dorian shook his head. “You underestimate her. Ania is much more than you have discovered yet. Ask her about her life when she met me.”
“There is no benefit in discussing the past,” Synar said on a humorless laugh. “I would rather Ania focus on the future and stop asking me for her death. I’m running out of ways to say no.”
“There are many circumstances worse than death. Keep strong where Ania is concerned. She will always need you,” Dorian said, but he could tell Liam had already tuned him out.
“Let me know when you finally confront Gwen. I’ll send someone to mop up the spilled life force from the floor,” Synar joked, nodding as he left.
When the door closed behind Synar, Dorian walked to the ship’s com port on his wall and touched the screen.
“How may I assist you, Lieutenant Zade?” the computer asked.
“Report present location of Commander Jet,” Dorian demanded, as he had several times over the last few days.
“Commander Gwen Jet is in her quarters.”
Dorian removed his hand from the screen and walked determinedly to the door. This time he was not going to be put off.
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.