Prime Obsession

The Prime Chronicles

Monette Michaels

 

Chapter One

A resort on Tooh 2, Mu Arae Solar System

“Captain! Captain! Mel! Dammit, wake up!”

Galactic Alliance Captain Melina Grace Dmitros roused from her light nap in the sun. The tenseness in her second-in-command’s voice was vastly different than the relaxed, jovial mood from their earlier lunch with fellow officers. If she hadn’t known better, she would’ve thought they were back on the command deck of their battle cruiser Leonidas and not lying by a pool in a seaside resort on the garden planet of Tooh 2.

Turning her head slightly to the right, she growled, “What is it, Nowicki?”

“We’ve got a problem!”

Commander Royce Nowicki angled his head toward the poolside café where only ninety minutes earlier they’d officially kicked off Gold Squadron’s three-day leave. Prior to this well-deserved vacation, they, and Captain Garth Warten’s Blue Squadron, had spent three standard months chasing pirates all over the Mu Arae Solar System.

Mel did not want to hear about a problem. Not one. But Nowicki’s body language told her she needed to deal with whatever was bothering him. He did not raise false alarms.

Following Nowicki’s gaze, she not only saw, but heard the problem.

Ensign Steve Parker of Blue Squadron was in the process of taunting and threatening three large men. From the look of their clothing, they were part of some diplomatic team. Great, just what she needed, a political powder keg.

Removing her dark sunshades, she squinted more closely at the objects of Parker’s drunken rage. Depending on the race, the problem could be more or less serious.

It was more.

“Well, hell. Count on Parker to pick on the new Cejuru Prime ambassador to the Alliance. Is he suicidal or what?” She turned her head and glared at Nowicki. “And, dammit, how in the blazes did Parker get off Tooh 10? I thought he’d been confined to quarters for that last bout of insubordination.”

“Insubordination?” sputtered Nowicki, his eyes fiery with remembered rage. “The cretin almost got you killed!”

Mel rubbed her side where the healing wound was now merely a faint scar. The regen bed had done wonders for the superficial healing, but the underlying muscles and nerves were still knitting back together. Nature could only be helped along so much.

“Warten convinced me that he’d handle the matter. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But, at the very least, Parker was to be confined to quarters while the Admiral and Warten decided what to do with him.”

She scanned the pool area for Parker’s commanding officer as she reached for her cover-up. Settling potential galactic incidents in a bikini was not protocol.

“Warten’s not here,” Nowicki stated what she had already determined for herself. “He left the café after lunch, said something about a date with a pillow.”

“Sure. Fine,” she muttered as she struggled into the sheer silken chemise that had looked just right for a day by the pool, but now seemed all wrong for the coming confrontation. And that there would be a confrontation she had no doubt. Parker was a hothead; he wouldn’t back down. Dammit. “Garth is off tangling in the sheets with some tanned, voluptuous Tooh 2 cutie, and I get to clean up his mess.”

Spying two other of her senior officers, she turned to Nowicki. “Get J’ar and A’tem. Call for military security. Then clear the area around Parker. I don’t want any innocents hurt if the Prime decide to teach Parker a well-deserved lesson.”

“Captain, what are you gonna do? Maybe we should just let the Prime pound him.” Nowicki’s pale blue eyes glinted at the possibility.

“You didn’t wake me up so foreign dignitaries could beat up one of ours. You and I both know the Alliance does not need a galactic cluster fuck,” she stated. “The Prime are joining us after centuries of isolationism. We need their knowledge and skills in fighting the Antarean raiders. I’m still not sure what they need from us, but I do know the Galactic Alliance Counsel is thrilled that they’ve chosen to fight alongside us. But it isn’t a done deal.”

“Great,” snarled Nowicki. “So, you need to place yourself between Parker and danger—again—for the frigging peace of the galaxy. I should have just let you sleep and beat on the scum-sucking bastard myself.”

“You did the right thing. Parker would never have listened to you. Then you would’ve been thrown in the brig for fighting or, worse, injured, and I really would’ve been annoyed.” Raising one brow, she smiled. “Me? I outrank him. He hates my guts. And has always underestimated me. Plus, I owe him,” she touched the healing scar again, “and am hoping to have to use unreasonable force. So, your job is to keep everyone out of harm’s way. Understand?”

“Yeah, just be careful. He cheats.”

“I know. Now go!”

Striding toward the café, she opened up all six of her senses and observed the three Prime males, testing their emotional response to Parker’s insanity. The oldest one, the Ambassador—his name escaped her for the moment—spoke to Parker in what she could tell were low, calming tones. The Ambassador’s emotional aura read as cool and calm, a true diplomat. Not so for his two much younger associates; they were all red-hot anger barely controlled.

Knowing Parker, the diplomatic route would just set him off even more.

Mel approached the four men. Cautiously. Quietly. Her heightened senses became even more so as adrenaline poured into her system. Her heart pounded. She licked suddenly dry lips and took a deep, cleansing breath. Her muscles twitched, readying themselves for whatever might come.

As she’d expected, anger roiled off Parker in waves, probably exacerbated by alcohol consumption. She could smell him; it was as if he’d bathed in potent Tooh 2 whiskey. Alcohol notwithstanding, Parker always ran hot; his temper could boil over in a flash. Definitely not officer material. Coolness in the heat of battle was always best. He’d only made it to the rank of Ensign because of political connections. If he survived this incident, she’d have to insist he be sent away from the Mu Arae system. There was too much tension in this sector of the Milky Way as it was without adding loose cannons.

“Ensign Parker!” She stopped about three feet from his right side, in his peripheral line of sight. He’d have to turn his head to see her. “Stand down.”

“Go away, you fucking bitch!” he spat out. She could always count on Parker to be disrespectful, mentally adding insubordination to the list of charges against him. “This is a private conversation.”

“That’s Captain Fucking Bitch, to you, soldier.”

All three Prime turned their attention away from Parker. They eyed her bikini-suited body inadequately covered by the thin shift. Their pale amber gazes turned molten hot, darkening to the color of aged single malt scotch. She could smell, almost taste, the adrenaline levels shoot up in all three men. Their gazes projected a complex mix of emotions—concern for her, anger at Parker, and lust for her body.

Great. This could get ugly fast. A damn disaster in the making.

Historically, male Prime were described as overprotective of females and needed few reasons to fight. Right now, they had the perfect trifecta of excuses to hand Parker his head on an ancient Prime battle lance. Documented as the oldest humanoid race in the galaxy, the Prime hadn’t survived this long without learning how to fight to win. They sure as heck didn’t need her, a mere Terran female, to fight their battles. Yet, Parker would be dead meat if she left them to it. And a horrible diplomatic mess would then ensue, that most likely was the only thing holding the Prime back—for now.

If she handled the situation, Parker would be bruised, battered, and, hopefully, unconscious, and the new bond between the Prime and the Alliance could go forward. An additional plus, the new allies would see that Alliance female officers didn’t need alpha male warriors to fight their battles.

Taking a deep breath, she said, “Ensign Parker, you are under arrest. I am not even sure what you’re doing on Tooh 2. The last I heard Captain Warten had confined you to quarters.”

Parker turned his attention from the Prime toward her. Exactly what she’d wanted.

Her gaze fixed on Parker as she watched for his move.

In a calm, authoritative tone, her eyes never moving from her opponent, she said, “Ambassador. Gentleman. Please leave. I apologize on behalf of the Alliance if this man has insulted you or caused you any embarrassment. This is a military problem and I will handle it.”

Around her, she heard—and felt—her men clearing the café. She let the noise and emotions of the curious crowd pass over her. Her focus was divided between Parker and the Prime. All angry alpha males. The situation was fluid, highly charged. Anything could change at any time.

The Prime didn’t move away, but they didn’t attack either. Maybe that was the best she could hope for, that the three warriors would stand and observe—at least until they thought she needed assistance.

Mel wouldn’t let it come to that. Despite her smaller size as compared to the large Prime males, she was of above-average height for a Terran woman and extremely well-trained. She was also well aware of Parker’s weaknesses. Her strengths in battle were stamina, quickness, the ability to read her opponent, and, most often, her opponent’s overconfidence.

She stood quietly, balancing her weight on the balls of her feet, ready to move.

Increasing anger and hatred flowed from Parker in invisible waves so hot they swept across her skin like a volcanic windstorm.

Nothing and no one moved. It was if the area surrounding the café was encased in a bubble, isolating it from the rest of the resort.

Then Parker’s left eye twitched. His tell.

Her lips thinned into a grim smile. The three Prime males tensed as if to move.

She moved first, yelling at the Prime. “Stay out of it.”

Mel dodged Parker’s lurching move to grab her. Her fist drove into his stomach like a cannonball. Roaring in rage, he grabbed the strap of her cover up and ripped the garment away as she twisted and spun out of his reach. The silken fabric slid down her body to tangle at her feet. Leaping out of the puddle of silk, she sent a hard front kick to his gut, knocking him away from her. The percussion from the solid hit traveled up her leg into the healing laser wound across her obliques.

She grunted at the sharp, stabbing pain. Sublimating the ache, she turned it into responsive anger, anger that this shithead had ruined her first leave in half a standard year.

Like the bullheaded son of a bitch he was, Parker charged her. Anticipating his move, she stepped to the side, throwing a side kick to his groin. He turned just enough that she merely caught the edge of his hip.

“How’s the side, bitch?” Parker taunted in a raspy voice as he circled her. He threw a booted kick at her healing wound as she spun away. His foot glanced off it.

Mel hissed, swearing under her breath. Moving fluidly, she delivered a reverse head kick. With the full power of her pelvic girdle, she caught him on the jaw. Hard. Really hard.

Holding his jaw, shock in his eyes, Parker staggered back. He bled from where he’d bitten his lip. He rubbed his jaw, shifting it from side-to-side.

Damn. Too bad, she hadn’t broken it.

Spitting out blood and a tooth, he snarled as he circled, looking for an opportunity to hurt her. “They threw me out of the military because of you, bitch. You deserve whatever I dish out.”

She stared at him, not answering. Why waste her breath? She needed it for the fight. Parker had always been an impatient fighter, always wasting energy. He’d be flagging, while she still had energy in reserve.

She’d have reserves, that is, if the pain from her reinjured side did not weaken her first. Pushing the throbbing agony to a place deep within her brain, she breathed slowly, deeply. Waiting.

“Captain?” Nowicki sounded scared. He knew her fighting ability, knew she could beat Parker. So, why all the concern?

Hell, she must look worse than she felt.

She sensed the three Prime moving closer, as if to render assistance. After all the trouble and pain she’d gone through to get Parker’s attention away from the diplomatic team, she wasn’t going to allow them to intervene, no matter how bad she looked.

“Stay out of this, Nowicki!” she snarled. “That’s an order. Just keep everyone out of the way.”

Parker was distracted by the exchange between her and Nowicki. His feral gaze looked beyond her to where Nowicki stood.

Using his momentary mental lapse, she went on the attack. Sweeping low with her dominant leg, she kicked Parker’s legs out from under him. He recovered just enough to go only to his knees. As he struggled to get up, she kicked his jaw, the loud whack from her sandals echoing off the walls of the café patio.

This time the jaw broke. Her mouth twisted into a satisfied smile as she pictured him in prison, eating all his meals through a straw.

Continuing to use his off-balanced position to her advantage, she kicked him in the ribs and got off a shot at his nose before he managed to scramble backwards like a crab and use a low wall to struggle to his feet.

He charged her, all technique gone, acting only on his rage. Since Parker had a longer reach, both in his arms and legs, the only way she could beat him was to stay out of his way, keep him off-balance, and wear him down.

For the next two minutes, she did just that, coolly dancing around the enraged man, punishing him with hard, well-placed hits and kicks.

She took a few glancing punches and her side throbbed like a son-of-a-bitch. While there was no blood, indicating that the regen seal held on the surface, she knew something inside had given away. She was fading fast. She needed to end the fight.

After another well-placed kick that spun Parker into a table, Mel danced on her toes. She breathed deeply, blocking the pain, waiting to see what he would do next, watching for an opening to take him down once and for all.

Nowicki’s “He’s got a knife” sounded just as she caught a glint of light reflecting off something in Parker’s hand.

Then he rushed her.

Surprising him, she moved into him with a twist of her body. She grabbed his knife-hand by the wrist and broke it, using a technique she’d learned from reading ancient Prime training manuals.

Bellowing with pain, he dropped the knife.

In a continuation move, she turned even more into him, then maneuvered him over her hip, flinging him away from her. He hit a retaining wall with his head and then slumped onto the ground, unconscious.

From the rush with the knife to Parker hitting the floor was a matter of mere seconds.

As military security ran over to the downed man, Nowicki reached her side and placed a supporting arm around her naked, sweaty middle. “You okay, Captain?”

“Sure, no problem.” She lied through her teeth as she shrugged off his aid. Shoving her fingers through the hair that had escaped from her tightly woven French braid, she said in a harsh whisper, “Let go, Royce. I need to talk to the three Prime, make sure they know that Parker is not representative of the Alliance.”

“Fuck the Alliance and fuck the damn Prime,” growled Nowicki.

Mel cast a cold steely glare at her second-in-command. “Drop it, Commander. I’m fine.”

If she let him know just how tired and in pain she really was, he’d natter at her like an old woman. She couldn’t permit the high-ranking Prime to see her pain or exhaustion. She couldn’t allow Nowicki to undermine her authority. They’d never countenance their military working in tandem with Alliance female officers if they perceived them as weak.

“No, you’re not,” Nowicki said as he pulled her into his strength, angry stubbornness etched in every angle of his body. “You’re bruised, bleeding, and pale.”

The Prime observed the two of them carefully. Nowicki didn’t understand what drove her to stand on her own two feet and now was not the time to take him aside and explain. He needed a diversion, a task that would dissipate some of his need to care for her.

She removed his arm from her waist. “Get a med kit from security. You can patch me up. I have the duty to smooth this over. I represent the Alliance,” she lowered her voice even more so that only he could hear. “We can’t show weakness, Royce. Understand?”

Nowicki nodded, then mumbled under his breath, something that sounded like “damn fool woman.”

Mel stopped her forward motion toward the Prime and the late-arriving Captain Warten. “What did you say?” Her left eyebrow raised.

“Nothing. Just sit down for chrissakes. I’ll find something to cover you up. You’re damn near naked!”

Mel choked back a laugh and the comment that he hadn’t mentioned her near nakedness by the pool; she figured her second-in-command was riled enough. He never would’ve ordered her to do anything in front of civilians if he hadn’t been so upset. She must look really wiped out. Unfortunately, she did feel a tad bit light in the head; she had to be bleeding internally again. That one kick Parker had gotten in had done more damage than she’d thought.

Pushing aside the urge to hold her right side, she straightened to her full five-foot-eight-inch height and approached the group of men watching her. Garth Warten, Blue Squadron’s captain, had joined the Prime, and all four of them observed her approach with varying levels of concern. Garth’s gaze had guilt underlying it. As it should. Parker should never have been on Tooh 2.

“Gentlemen,” she addressed the Prime.

Her hypersensitive ability to read emotional auras registered conflicting emotions from the Prime. Concern. Anger. Admiration. And, once again, lust.

The last reading bothered her the most. Just what she needed—three Prime males ogling her. “I would like to apologize again for Ensign Parker’s rude and insubordinate behavior towards you. Please understand that his attitudes are not representative of the Alliance.”

The Prime said nothing. Damn, she hated diplomacy.

She waited, silently urging them to accept her apology soon so that she could go somewhere and collapse.

Their amber-gold gazes suddenly turned even hotter as they fixed on an area just above her right hip bone. Her birthmark, they were staring at her birthmark.

Instead of the lust she expected from them, she read surprise … amazement … joy in their reaction to her marking.

It was odd that she could read them so accurately. The extra sixth sense, or gut instinct as she liked to call it, that she used to read people was working overtime. Or, maybe the Prime males’ strong emotions stimulated her sixth sense. She’d never been able to read others this easily; in fact, during her fight with Parker, her senses had been more preternaturally sensitive than usual.

She shook her head, causing the room to spin around her. Damn, Parker had hit her harder than she’d thought. The puzzle of the Prime’s reaction to her and their effect on her already unusual psychic gifts would have to be solved later. Right now, she needed to get the diplomacy handled so her men could take her to a hospital. Nowicki was right—she needed medical attention—and soon.

“Excuse my lack of dress, gentlemen, but I was on leave.” And why she felt the need to explain herself, she’d never know. And why weren’t they saying anything?

Capturing their gazes, she all but dared them to continue scoping out her body. To a man, they smiled and shifted their perusal to her face. Smug amusement was the emotion of the moment. Damn them. Men! She foresaw issues with the all-male Prime military fighting alongside Alliance female soldiers, and she made a mental note to send a memo to the Admiral about that.

“Here, Captain!” Nowicki thrust a shirt at her. “Put this around you while I check on your injuries.”

“Never mind, Nowicki, I’ll take care of her injuries.” Captain Warten took her arm and sat her in chair.

Finally her fellow captain had decided to make his presence felt. Jerk. If she hadn’t needed to sit down so badly, she’d have yelled at him for being the reason she was in this situation to begin with.

“Mel, are you okay?” Garth stared into her eyes. “Damn, your whole right side is one big bruise. What the fuck were you thinking, taking on Parker in your condition? Give me that kit, Nowicki.”

He snagged the kit from her second-in-command and found an ice gun and applied it to her right side. She shuddered as the cold treatment numbed the throbbing bruise. “Parker is out of the service. He should never have been here.”

“I totally agree,” she said with a hiss as Warten swept the ice treatment over her bruise once more, jabbing a rib in the process. After which, he stuffed her into the shirt Nowicki had provided. “Where’d you learn your first aid? From the Marquis de Sade?”

“Sorry.” Warten’s lips tilted up at the edges, then thinned with concern as his gaze swept over her face. “Ensign J’ar, call over to the hospital and have them send a vehicle for your Captain. Stat.”

Touching her colleague’s arm, she said in a low tone, “Garth, I can find my own way to the hospital. I’m fine. Really.”

Nowicki yelled over her shoulder, all irate alpha-male. “Dammit, Mel! Parker all but killed you on that last mission and now he’s had another chance. Let us take care of you!”

“Captain Dmitros.” The oldest of the three Prime approached her, a troubled smile on his strongly hewn face. “I believe your fellow officers are concerned because you are as pale as the sands on the Tooh 2 beaches. If we could be of assistance, our vehicle is outside. We can take you to the hospital so that you can be checked over, thus assuring all of us that you are truly well.”

“Thank you, Ambassador … I’m sorry, I can’t remember your name.” She smiled at the man who reminded her a lot of her scholarly father, only a lot bigger and assuredly more deadly. His eyes—while smiling at her—hid a stronger will behind them. He would not desist until she agreed to go to the hospital. Again, reminding him of her father.

“Ambassador Tor Maren.” He bowed his head to her, then gestured to the other two men with him. “Allow me to present Huw and Iolyn Caradoc, number two and three sons to the leader of the Prime, Ilar Caradoc.”

The two dark-haired males bowed their heads in greeting.

Caradoc? Rifling through her memory, she finally placed the name. Caradoc was the most prominent family on Cejuru Prime from a royal line that went back to the beginning of Prime history. Her mother and father, space archaeologists and historians who specialized in ancient Prime sites, would be thrilled to hear she’d met them. The Caradocs were featured prominently in most of the historical documents her parents had found and catalogued on their digs. She’d grown up on the dig sites and practically learned Prime as she learned English and her parents’ native Greek. She knew their planet’s history as well as or even better than Earth’s.

Mel tried to stand.

“No, Captain,” Huw said. “Please do not rise. We no longer are treated as royalty. Now, our family is just part of the Prime leading council. We are mere politicians, here to help finalize the formal alignment of our planet with the Gallactic Alliance.”

“Why did you fight that man?” Iolyn asked, his brow creased in puzzlement. “You know we are warriors; we could have handled the situation.”

“I meant no insult to your fighting prowess. But Parker is—was—an Alliance military problem. If you had defended yourselves and killed him, then there would’ve been a political disaster.”

The three Prime nodded, acknowledging the truth of her conclusion.

Ambassador Maren said, “Ah, yes, a definite consideration. Thank you for aiding us in avoiding a diplomatic nightmare of universal proportions. We are in your debt. By the way, where did you learn your fighting techniques? You are quite effective for a female.”

Mel gritted her teeth against a knee-jerk response to the man’s unabashed male chauvinism. Instead, she said, “My military training encompassed all sorts of hand-to-hand and street fighting techniques. You will find that all Alliance military personnel are proficient in some form of hand-to-hand combat.”

“But you used other, shall we say, more unusual techniques,” the Ambassador said.

“Oh, you mean the maneuver with the wrist? Caught that, did you?” She smiled, then grimaced as a wave of dizziness swept over her. Haltingly, she explained, “I found the technique on a very old data disk discovered in an underground Prime site on Obam IV.”

“Obam IV?” Huw asked.

“It was where I spent most of my childhood and where my parents still live,” she grasped the arm of the chair, but her surroundings continued to swirl. “Uh, they supervise a dig there. They are Prime site experts in the Alliance Space Archaeology Institute.”

“We must meet your parents some day,” the Ambassador said as he gently covered her hand with his. “They have raised a very strong and lovely daughter. May we escort you to the hospital? You are extremely white, and I sense your colleagues are very upset.”

“Thank you. I do feel a little shaky.” And sick to her stomach.

Nowicki snorted and mumbled “About damn time.”

Mel threw her second-in-command a nasty look, and regretted the quick movement almost as soon as she’d done it.

Using the chair arm and the Ambassdor’s strong hand, she levered herself into a standing position. As he assisted her toward the exit, the world began to reel. Hot and cold shivers raced over her body as white, yellow and red flashes and dots swept across her line of vision.

As she fainted into the arms of the Prime Ambassador, Nowicki swore colorfully in the background. She’d have to remember to cite him for language unbecoming an officer when she felt better.

* * * *

Maren stood outside the private hospital room he’d insisted upon for Melina Dmitros. He couldn’t call her by her military title, because she just didn’t seem like a military officer—despite the fact she’d single-handedly taken out a large Terran male while recovering from what her fellow officers had assured him had been a life-threatening laser blast.

“She is a Prime female. How did she end up on Obam IV and then in the Alliance military?” Huw asked. “She should be on the home planet, safe and protected as all our women are.”

“She is one of the Lost Ones,” concluded Maren. “She has her gemate sign. All the female evacuees, even the infants, were exposed to potential mates prior to the exodus. You know most never returned when the planet’s security was once again ensured. They were thought dead. Now, we know at least one survived.”

A feeling of contentment, hope and sheer joy at her discovery swirled through Maren. Huw and Iolyn would be thinking and feeling the same as he. They had found a mate for one lucky Prime male. Melina Dmitros’s discovery raised the possibility that there could be more gemate in the galaxy, cut off with no way to return to Cejuru Prime.

Why had they never considered such a possibility? But he knew why. It was a well-known fact that as long as a Prime breathed they would find a way to return home. But now, he realized, the youngest Lost Ones would not know who they were—or where they really belonged. It was obvious that Melina had been raised as, and considered herself, Terran.

“There could be others out there,” Iolyn stated Maren’s thought out loud, a tinge of hope in his voice.

Iolyn and Huw, along with their eldest brother Wulf, were just a few of the Prime males with no mates. Their world had lost so many women from attacks by their mortal enemies the Antareans and a declining birth rate among the surviving females. The population growth on Cejuru Prime was less than zero. Without enough Prime females, there would be no future for their species.

This lack of fertile females had been the main reason the Prime Council agreed to end centuries of isolation from the rest of the galaxy.

Their race was on the verge of extinction. By joining the Alliance, the Prime could mingle and learn of the other humanoid races, many of which had Prime DNA from the millennia of space exploration by their ancestors. The mateless Prime males might be able to find compatible females and create a new generation of Prime.

Not the best solution, but the most viable. There were some on the home planet that would rather keep the bloodlines pure. But their leading geneticists warned of serious mutations if the current Prime bloodlines continued to intermingle, with the end result still being extinction. Even now, unmated females exposed to males were unable to generate the gemate sign, which was an indicator of an optimal match and the guarantee the children of such a match would be strong, intelligent, and healthy.

New blood—outside blood—was called for.

Maren smiled fondly at the two younger men. To them, Melina’s appearance at this moment in time was a miracle. He hoped she would be one of the Caradoc’s gemate. Huw, Iolyn and Wulf were like sons to him, his only family after he lost his wife, his sisters, and his mother in the Antarean sieges.

But the percentages were against them.

“Yes, Iolyn, there could be others, but that does not change the need for new blood,” he reminded them. “One small woman will not save the Prime.”

The brothers nodded.

The doctor treating Melina approached and smiled at them. “Captain Dmitros will be fine. A day or two on the regen bed and she’ll be back to where she was before she tangled with the big brute in the emergency room. By the way, she did a lot of damage to him. Broken ribs, jaw and wrist to name a few of the worst.”

Satisfaction and pride surged through Maren at Melina’s accomplishments. A strong Prime female for a Prime male warrior. The Prime Leading Council would be ecstatic when he informed them of her existence.

“Thank you, Doctor. May we step in to see her?”

The doctor frowned. “She’s asleep.”

“We won’t disturb her,” Maren rushed to reassure the man. He could tell the doctor did not want to let three large unknown males, even though they wore their diplomatic emblems, enter her room. “Just to assure ourselves that she is recovering. She was very pale.”

“Internal bleeding. But three units of blood took care of that.”

Maren winced. So much blood loss? How had she stayed upright and finished the apayebo off? Huw and Iolyn all but growled at the doctor’s words, muttering gutter Prime epithets.

The doctor scanned their faces and obviously saw what he needed to see. He nodded. “I heard she got hurt on your behalf. But please don’t stay long.”

The doctor’s communicator trilled at him, and he strode away, taking an emergency call.

Interpreting his companions’ anger correctly, Maren held out his hand. “No, you can not kill the man Parker. Not after Melina risked her health to keep us from becoming involved in a serious diplomatic incident. It is far more important to read her gemate sign so that we can determine which Prime male has his mate back. Both of you must approach her, take in her scent, touch her hand—she might belong to one of you.”

“Not mine,” Huw said, the sadness in his eyes easy to read for those who knew him well. “I have no gemat marking. But Iolyn does—as does Wulf.”

Iolyn smiled. “Even if she is not mine, she will be the perfect mate for some lucky Prime male.”

Huw frowned. “We can’t take her with us, Maren—the Alliance would come after her. She is an officer—an important one from what her men told us.”

“No, but we can let nature and the power of the imprinting take its course. We just need to get her mate near her. Proximity, pheromones, and hormones will do the rest,” Maren stated.

“Maybe she has another mate already,” Huw said. “She has both Terrans and Volusians in her crew, both of those races have traces of our DNA in them and are compatible sexually.”

Maren threw both young men a smile as he approached Melina’s bed. “She isn’t married as the Alliance calls mating. I asked. Her second-in-command was quick to tell me that she keeps all men at a distance. I think he was warning me off, because he wishes her for himself. Yet, she is his superior, so he settles, for now, in protecting her from others.”

Iolyn grunted. “He is a stronger man than I. I could not be near my mate and not touch her. I would make her mine and warn all others off.”

Huw nodded at his brother’s statement. “As would I.”

“Commander Nowicki is conflicted,” Maren said. “Also, I did not get the impression Melina thinks of him in that way.”

Iolyn smiled. “Nor did I. She treats him as a brother.”

Huw gazed at the woman in the bed and uttered a low growl. “She is very beautiful. And her muscled body is very female. She fights just as Prime female warriors of old did, before our women had to stop fighting alongside their mates.”

Maren nodded. “She is a beauty. Her dark hair and green eyes are very common among our women. My sisters had the same coloring.” His brow creased as he studied her face. “She does remind me of someone, but I can’t place it. I do know that the people who raised her are not Prime—I had them checked out while they brought her to the room. They are Terrans from a place called Greece.”

Iolyn approached the bed. Leaning over, he inhaled deeply, then lightly stroked the back of her hand as it lay on top of the bedcovers. He shook his head. “She is not mine. My mark is not responding.”

Huw touched his brother’s shoulder in sympathy.

“Watch the door,” Maren ordered. “I will check the gemate sign.”

Lifting the sheet just enough to expose her hip and still protect her nudity, he found the intricate marking. He reverently traced the symbol that appeared on every Prime female when first exposed to the touch and scent of their perfect mate. Each imprinting created a unique set of markings—one on the female on her hip and one on the male on his chest near his heart. Exact matches in design.

Melina mumbled and twitched at his light touch, then settled back into a deep sleep.

Pulling his data pad from his pocket, he scanned the image into it and ordered a search of the Prime genetics database. All gemate symbols were stored at the time of imprinting and linked to their corresponding male match.

The data pad quickly beeped with a result.

Maren gasped, then rechecked the small screen. His eyes had not failed him. Melina Dmitros was truly the miracle he proclaimed her. Doubly so.

Happiness as he hadn’t experienced in the longest time surged through every pore in his body, making him feel years younger.

Reverently, he pulled the blanket over her. Stroking the back of one finger across her pale cheek, he whispered, “Welcome back, little one.”

He turned. “Huw. Iolyn. Meet your brother’s mate. My precious niece, Olivia Maren-Wor neé Melina Dmitros.”

 

 

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