Authors: S. E. Smith
By S. E. Smith
I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend Linda who not only encouraged me to write but who also read the manuscript.
—S. E. Smith
Science Fiction Romance
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Smith
First E-Book Publication October 2012
Cover Design by S. E. Smith
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 from the author.
All characters, places, and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations are strictly coincidental.
Ariel Hamm has always had a tender heart. Her love for her sister, Carmen, and her best friend, Trisha, has always been a priority in her life. But at twenty-eight, she is ready to start focusing on what she wants. After her fiancée unexpectedly ends their engagement, she is searching to redefine who she really is. A pilot for Boswell International, she knows flying is not her first love. Unhappy, she finally makes a decision based on what she wants – to live on the property she purchased in Wyoming and care for the stray and neglected animals that have always captured her heart.
Her plans change suddenly when she finds herself on a warship headed for a distant planet. Determined never to let another man distract her from her dream or break her heart, Ariel makes plans to escape and make her way back home no matter what. What she doesn’t expect is the alien male who is just as determined to keep her by his side!
Mandra Reykill never expects to find his true mate so unexpectedly - or so painfully. He knows his older brother is returning home with his true mate and her friends but never suspected his true mate could be among the women. His dragon recognizes her immediately and falls in love with the delicate beauty. His symbiot is enchanted with her gentle touch and kindness. Unfortunately, all Mandra the man gets is a stubborn female refusing to acknowledge his claim on her and determined to escape him at the first available moment. To top it off, his nice, orderly life is suddenly turned upside down when he finds his home – and his warship – suddenly infested with creatures from all over the galaxy that are just as taken with his mate as his dragon and his symbiot.
Now, he needs to find a way to convince Ariel he is the alien for her while trying to keep his sanity! But, he is not the only alien wanting to claim Ariel; another has set his sights on Ariel and is just as determined to claim her.
Can Mandra convince the stubborn human female who has captured his heart their future together can be her new dream before she escapes him forever?
Ariel Hamm leaned down over the paper in front of her, studying the equations on it carefully. She bit her lip as she worked the problems. She wanted to get the rest of her work done so she could have some free time before bed. She was just finishing up the last one when a high pitched scream broke the silence. Her head jerked up and her mouth opened to form a small ‘O’. She stared wide-eyed at the big man sitting across from her reading the newspaper before jumping out of her seat and taking off down the hallway.
Henry Hamm shook his head and watched as his six year old daughter took off like a bullet before releasing a sigh. He wondered what it was going to be this time. He made it to the door leading into the bathroom just as Anna Hamm came barreling through it shaking.
He opened his arms and wrapped them around his wife who was mumbling curses under her breath. Glancing over his wife’s head, he saw Ariel bending over into the bathtub. She lifted something out of it, gently cradling it in her arms. When she turned around, her big brown eyes were swimming with tears and her little chin was trembling. It was not the look on her face that held Henry’s attention, though. It was what was in her arms. The small brown creature was trying to burrow down against her tiny body. Ariel stared wide-eyed at her dad waiting for his response.
“It’s alright, Anna. It’s just a prairie dog pup,” Henry said soothing his hand down his wife’s back.
“It’s not just a prairie dog pup, Henry Hamm,” Anna said glaring up at him. “It’s a whole litter of prairie dog pups!”
“But momma, Ariel had to help them. Mr. Wilson plowed them up and was going to drown them. Ariel couldn’t let them die,” five year old Carmen argued. “She had to take care of them. She’s their mommy now.”
Anna looked over her shoulder at her oldest daughter. Ariel stood protectively in front of the old fashion bathtub filled with yapping prairie dog pups. She then turned her gaze on her youngest standing defensively in front of Ariel. Shaking her head, she turned in her husband’s arms and regarded both of her daughters in exasperation. Last week it had been turtles, the week before lizards, the week before that… Anna shook her head again more firmly. Ever since Ariel was old enough to walk she was bringing home every stray creature she could find and some that weren’t even a stray, like the neighbors’ cats, dogs, and chickens. The list went on and on.
“She gets this from you, you know,” Anna began looking at her husband of seven years over her shoulder in frustration.
“I know,” Henry said with a small smile.
“I don’t like animals in the house,” Anna continued.
“I know,” Henry said looking with a warning at Ariel when she started to protest.
“I don’t want any critters in my bathtub,” Anna insisted firmly.
“But… but where else is she going to put them?” Carmen asked puzzled. “Under her bed is full and so is her…,” Carmen stopped when Ariel bumped her with her elbow.
“Be quiet,” Ariel hissed out under her breath.
“Under her bed…?” Anna said putting a hand to her throat. “Where else?” She asked looking first at Ariel whose eyes filled to overflowing again before turning a stern look on Carmen. “What else does she have in my house?” Anna asked turning toward Ariel and Carmen’s bedroom.
“NO!” Ariel wailed tearfully. “Momma, please. They need me!”
Henry decided he better help his wife. She was from the city and still had a fear of all the different critters that lived in the ‘wilds of Wyoming’ as she put it. Anna walked into her daughters’ room and was about to get down on her hands and knees to look under the bed when Henry grabbed her around her plump waist.
“You better let me,” Henry said gruffly.
Ariel watched as her dad got down reluctantly on his hands and knees and began pulling out the cardboard boxes she had been collecting. The shoeboxes were carefully labeled with a crayon drawing of each animal and had holes punched in the tops. Ariel watched in despair as her dad pulled all six shoeboxes out, opening each carefully. Her collection of lizards, frogs, and turtles was growing. Next, he pulled out two larger boxes. One had several kittens and the other had a baby porcupine.
“Where are Earth did you get this?” Henry asked amazed. Each box was carefully filled with water, food, and strips of old clothing from the scrap box.
“That’s what happened to all my quilting material!” Ariel’s mom exclaimed just as the phone rang.
Ariel’s mom hurried out of the room and down the hall to get it while her dad sat back on his heels. “Okay, what else do you have before your mother comes back in here?” He asked looking at his oldest daughter struggling to keep the little prairie dog from escaping.
“She has Patrick and Sandy in my bed,” Carmen said helpfully. “Well… you do!” Carmen said looking at Ariel innocently as Ariel gave her a frown.
“Who are Patrick and Sandy?” Henry asked before shaking his head. “Maybe I should be asking you not who they are but what they are?” He muttered.
Ariel tried to get in front of her dad to stop him but he just picked her up, prairie dog and all, and set her to one side. Henry moved over to the other twin bed in the room and gently lifted the brightly colored, quilted covers back. He bit back a curse when he saw what was curled up under the covers.
“But daddy, they were cold. It is getting too cold to leave them outside now and they might have babies and if they do then their babies will be cold and…” Ariel quit talking when she saw her father’s pale face.
“Oh, sweetheart, if your mom sees these two she’ll never come in the house again,” Henry said looking at two three-foot long corn snakes curled up in the middle of Carmen’s bed.
“That’s why I’ve been sleeping with Ariel,” Carmen whispered looking at the snakes. “I don’t think they like me sleeping with them.”
Henry looked at his youngest daughter trying not laugh at her serious expression. He quickly threw the covers back over the two snakes when he heard his wife coming down the hall. He put his finger to his lips to make sure they knew not to say anything before turning to look at his furious wife.
“What is it now?” Henry asked trying to keep a straight face.
“This is not funny, Henry! Ariel, what else do you have hidden in here?” Anna said putting her hands on her rounded hips.
“N… nothing,” Ariel whispered looking up at her mom.
“I just talked to Paul Grove. He seems to be missing his daughter. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?” Ariel’s mom asked sternly.
This time it was Carmen’s eyes that filled with tears. “But momma, she wants to be our sister and sisters are supposed to live together. We’ll take good care of her. I promise! I even shared my dinner with her,” Carmen sobbed out.
“Oh lord!” Henry said softly with a chuckle. “Where do you two have her hidden this time?”
A small noise came from the closet drawing all of their attention. Ariel’s mom walked over to it. She opened it tentatively at first before pulling the door wider once she found it was safe to do so. A small, curly haired girl of six smiled up innocently at them. She was sitting on a stack of folded blankets with a bottle of water and some cookies next to her. Ariel’s princess pillow and Carmen’s glow worm doll were lying next to her.
“Hi, Momma Hamm,” Trisha said smiling up at Anna.
Thirty minutes later, Ariel, Carmen, Henry and Anna watched as the taillights of Paul Groves’ truck made its way slowly down the long, gravel driveway. Ariel’s shoulders drooped. She put her arm around Carmen who was still crying about losing her older sister. Anna bent over and picked up Carmen’s little body, cradling it against her and turned to enter the house. Just as she opened the door, her nose wiggled at the strong scent coming from inside.
“Oh heavens!” Anna exclaimed covering her nose with her free hand. “I thought you threw the left over cabbage out in the trash can outside.”
Henry frowned as he moved into the house sniffing. “I did. It was picked up this morning by the garbage truck.”
“Oh, that’s not the cabbage,” Carmen said sniffing and holding her nose. “That’s Ariel’s new kittens she found. The ones with the pretty white stripe down their backs. She’s keeping them in the laundry room.”
Henry couldn’t hold back the laughter any longer. “I’ll find them and take them out,” he said as his wife turned and headed back outside, shaking her head in resignation.
“But daddy, they need me!” Ariel cried pitifully as she followed her dad into the house.
Ariel rubbed her aching head and pushed a strand of long, straight white-blonde hair back behind her ear before looking down at the still figure lying in the bed. Carmen’s coloring looked better today than it did yesterday. Ariel reached down to touch Carmen’s forehead. She wanted to make sure Carmen wasn’t running a fever. Ariel had just leaned over when she felt a hand slide across her ass.
Swinging around in annoyance, Ariel’s dark brown eyes flared with anger at the unwanted touch. She growled out a warning to one of the warriors in the medical wing who happened to ‘bump’ into her. Ariel bared her teeth and snarled at the huge warrior. The warrior looked at her with a hot gaze before moving out of her reach.
“Your face is going to get stuck like that and I’ll be damn if I’m going to be the one looking at it for the rest of my life,” Carmen whispered.
Ariel’s eyes filled with tears at her little sister’s softly spoken words. “It’s about damn time you opened your eyes,” Ariel said hoarsely.
Carmen didn’t reply. Ariel watched as her sister’s eyes widened as she took in her surroundings. Ariel knew Carmen was going to be pissed when she realized where they were. It was still hard for her to take in.
“Where the hell are we?” Carmen asked as she struggled to sit up.