Authors: S. E. Smith
Cosmos’ Gateway Book 5
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. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Lisa, Sally, Elizabeth (Beth) and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!
—S. E. Smith
A Very Special Note:
This story is for my dad who came down with Spinal Meningitis when he was 12 and woke up to a silent world. He was the best dad a girl could ever have and I miss him very, very much. Thank you, Dad, for being the best father a girl could wish for and for giving me so many wonderful memories. I love you~ Susan
Science Fiction Romance
MERRICK’S MAIDEN: COSMOS’ GATEWAY BOOK 5
Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Smith
First E-Book Publication December 2014
Cover Design by Melody Simmons
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 is strictly coincidental.
Merrick Ta’Duran is the powerful leader of the Eastern Mountain Clan on the Prime world of Baade. His people, known as the Ghosts of the Forests, live high in the Eastern mountains. Merrick feels the weight of responsibility as the males within his clan become desperate to find mates among the few remaining females. When word comes that a new species has been discovered, he knows he must do what is right for his people - even if it means traveling to a strange, alien realm to do it.
Merrick’s world changes when he is injured and captured by a ruthless group of humans. Drugged and held against his will, he is the subject of experiments and testing as the humans try to discover where he came from and duplicate his strength and ability to heal quickly. After months of captivity, he fears his life will end on the strange world until one chance encounter gives him hope.
Addie Banks’ world has been one of silence since a devastating illness when she was sixteen. Determined to stand on her own two feet, she goes to school during the day and works at night to put herself through college. Her life unexpectedly changes when she stumbles across something she wasn’t supposed to see while at work. Now, she hears a voice in her head - and it is driving her crazy. Her only hope for peace is to help the creature talking to her escape from the men holding him.
Merrick knows the female who helps him is his bond mate. She may deny it. She may fight it. She may even try to run from it, but it won’t matter. She is his and he will do everything he can to convince her, hold her, even kidnap her if that is what it takes to make her realize that they belong together.
Will Addie hear the love and longing in Merrick’s voice? Can she trust and accept the new life he has to offer? Or, will a ruthless killer silence him before she gets a chance?
Six years before:
“Hi, Addie! Are you coming to the party this weekend?” Pam asked as she came up behind Addie in the hallway at Centennial High School in Portland, Oregon.
Addie Banks pushed her blonde hair back with a tired sigh. She hadn’t been feeling well all day, but didn’t want to miss the big chemistry test she had spent two days studying her butt off for. A shiver shook her thin frame as she gave Pam a smile.
“I hope so,” Addie said as she closed her backpack and slung it over her shoulder. “I’m not feeling so good. I’m not staying after school today. Ted said he would give me a ride home.”
Pam wrinkled her nose. Ted was Addie’s best bud, even if he wasn’t one of the ‘in’ guys to hang with. Honestly, she didn’t know what Addie saw in the guy except that he had lived next door to her since kindergarten. The guy was such a dork and had a face that looked like it had been put through a meat grinder since he turned thirteen.
“I don’t know why you hang out with Ted,” Pam muttered, turning and running her eyes appreciatively over a couple of the boys that walked by. “He’s such a dweeb. It’s just going to hurt your image if you are seen in his car, you know that, don’t you?”
Addie would have rolled her eyes at Pam’s self-centered attitude if her head hadn’t hurt so damn bad. Instead, she turned toward the doors leading out to the parking lot. She was just thankful the day was over and she could go home.
“Ted is a really sweet guy,” Addie replied, walking toward the exit. “His face isn’t that bad. He has a minor acne problem, but it is clearing up.”
“He has braces!” Pam retorted as Ted walked up to them.
“Which means he’ll have straight teeth when he gets them off,” Addie replied in exasperation.
“Hi Ted,” Pam mumbled, giving Ted a false smile.
“Hey, Pam,” Ted grinned as he reached for Addie’s backpack. “I’ll carry that, Addie. It looks heavy.”
“Thanks, Ted,” Addie breathed easier as she felt the heavy weight disappear. “I’ll talk to you later, Pam.”
“’K,” Pam replied. “Call me later.”
“I will,” Addie said, wincing and shivering. “Thanks for giving me a ride, Ted.”
“Anytime, Addie,” Ted replied, looking at Addie’s flushed face. “Are you okay?”
“I’m not feeling too good,” Addie admitted.
Addie waved as Ted pulled out of the driveway. She had told him he could just park at his house two houses down, but he had said it was no big deal to drop her off since she wasn’t feeling good. She didn’t want to tell him that that was an understatement. She was freezing and hurt all over.
Addie pushed open the front door and dropped her backpack on the floor. A low moan escaped her as she touched her head. Her forehead was burning up.
“Mom?” Addie called out, gripping the back of the couch as she stumbled. “Mom?”
“I’m in the kitchen,” her mom called back. “You’re home early.”
“I… Mom, I don’t feel so good,” Addie choked out as another wave of excruciating pain swept through her head.
“What?” Helen Banks said as she stepped into the living room. “Addie!”
Addie heard her mother’s cry, but it sounded as if it was from the end of a long tunnel. The pain in her head exploded and she felt her body falling. Fear and panic swept through her as her muscles suddenly began jerking by themselves. The cry for help was frozen in her throat as wave after wave of pain swamped her body before darkness finally overcame her.
Addie woke several times. She heard her mom’s pleas and her dad’s quiet questions, but they were disjointed and sounded strange. She was vaguely aware of flashing lights and blurred images of people around her frantically talking. The sunlight sent shafts of pain through her, sending her back into the darkness.
A little while later, she felt her body being lifted again. She tried to focus on what was happening, but the rapidly flashing lights overhead made her nauseous. Afraid, she closed her eyes. A silent tear escaped and slid down the side of her face.
I don’t want to die,
she thought vaguely.
I have so much to live for.
Four days later, Addie blinked sleepily. A frown creased her brow as she looked at a balloon floating by the bed. The words ‘Get Well Soon’ in a middle of the Teddy Bear's stomach confused her. Her eyes moved to the flowers in the windowsill.
She turned when she felt a movement on her right side. Her mom was standing up and leaning over her. A concerned smile curved Addie’s lips as she stared up at her mom. Tears were streaming down her mom’s tired face.
Addie tilted her head, puzzled. She saw her mom’s mouth moving, but nothing was coming out of it. Her head turned when the door opened. She blinked again when she saw a man in a white coat. Her eyes flickered to the name on it, . W. H. Harris.
“Hi, Addie, I’m Doctor Harris,” the man said as he came to stand next to the bed.
“She just woke up,” Helen said in relief. “Addie, how are you feeling, honey?”
Addie glanced back and forth as fear, panic, and confusion swept through her. She saw their mouths moving, but she couldn’t hear what was being said. Raising her right hand, she weakly touched her ear to see if there was anything covering them. Her fingers skimmed over her ear.
“Addie, what is it?” Helen asked, threading her fingers through Addie’s when she held her hand out to her.
“I can’t hear you,” Addie whispered, staring up at her mom. “Mom, why can’t I hear you?”
Helen Banks’ eyes widened in horror. Addie’s eyes jerked from her mother to the doctor as they stared down at her in concern. She saw him move his lips, but she didn’t know what he was saying. Tears of frustration filled her eyes as she stared back and forth. Why couldn’t she hear them?
Two months later, Addie sat in the back seat of her parent’s Honda CRV staring blindly out the window. She knew her parents were talking, but she didn’t bother trying to figure out what they were saying. They had just left another specialist, the fifth in as many weeks.
No tears burned her eyes this time. She had promised herself that she wouldn’t cry any more. She was tired of crying, it didn’t do any good. Since the day she woke up in the hospital, there had been too many. She had cried, ranted, and finally just pulled away from everyone.
At first, the silence almost suffocated her. She was used to always having some type of background noise on. She loved listening to music and talking with her parents and friends. Shoot, she even talked to herself when there was no one else to talk to!
Now, there was nothing. She was beginning to understand some of the things being said between the doctors and her parents by watching their expressions and picking out a few words on their lips.
This specialist told them the same thing as the others. It was very likely that she would never be able to hear again. The high, prolonged fever from the bacterial Spinal Meningitis she had contracted had silenced her world forever. They believed she contracted it from swimming at their cottage house the weekend before.
Addie watched dispassionately as a motorcycle stopped next to them. She couldn’t hear the rumble of it as the guy waited for the light to turn green. She placed her hand against the glass, feeling the vibration from it, instead. Closing her eyes, a deep sadness washed over her. Never again would she hear the sounds that she had taken for granted. A silent tear ran down her cheek. She let it.
Maybe there was room for one more tear
, she thought as it finally sank in that she would never hear again.
Just one more.