Authors: Gabriella Bradley
Tags: #shapeshifter,romance,fantasy,science fiction,gabriella bradly,cats
Table of Contents
Tirzah’s disobedience leads her to civilization and the man she dared not dream of.
Tirzah disobeys the rules of her tribe and ventures beyond the boundary into the forbidden zone convinced there has to be a more advanced species on the planet. Traveling mainly as her cat shape, she not only finds civilization, but also the man she believes to be her soul mate. His feline form is a black cat. How will her white furred tribe react to him?
Cain thinks he’s the only cat shifter on Earth until he scents another. To his astonishment, she’s a white cat and she speaks a very strange language. Will nature override social barriers and how can he get her out of his heart and into his arms?
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Gabriella Bradley
Cover art by Martine Jardin
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First Officer Calira opened her eyes and fought against the dizziness fogging her mind. She tried to focus, but everything was a blur. Closing her eyes for a few moments, she remembered hazily what had happened.
Her disorientation dissipated and she struggled out of the tight safety harness. Commander Opek, in the chair next to her, seemed to be in one piece and breathing steadily. “Captain, wake up,” she shouted.
Getting out of her chair, she stood, swaying for a moment. Every bone in her body ached from the pressure of hurtling through space and she presumed the impact of the crash hadn’t helped either. She’d passed out before they crashed.
Smoke spiraled from between seams and small tears in the structure of the ship. She coughed and waved her hand before her face, her eyes tearing from the stinging smoky haze. The navigation console was on fire. Their navigator’s head slumped forward, blood dripping from a wound in his head.
Grabbing a fire extinguisher, she quickly doused the small flames. She threw the extinguisher on the floor. “Darat, can you hear me? Wake up, Darat!” No response, not a flicker of life. There was a slowly spreading pool of blood on the console. She lifted his head carefully and eased him back. A jagged piece of metal was lodged in his forehead. His eyes were fixed and staring.
Calira knew he was gone. She shuddered and felt for a pulse anyway. A tear escaped. She’d really liked the older man. Well, old in her eyes. He was in his forties, married, with a family, a woman who was now without a mate, children with no father. Normally their lifespan was very long. Their species lived for hundreds of years.
Choking back a sob, she realized there was nothing she could do for Darat and hurried to see how the rest of the crew had fared. She prayed she’d find no more fatalities. There were sixteen of them in the craft. Fifteen, now that Darat was gone. She needed to wake everyone up, check to see if they were hurt, even alive, and get the survivors out of the craft in case it exploded.
The first crewmember she checked was Torzo, their medical officer. He was fine, although still unconscious. “Torzo, wake up. I need help here. Torzo!” After a few moments, he stirred and looked at her.
“Darat didn’t make it. You seem to be okay, but you’ll be sore as hell, like me. Every damn muscle in my body was pressurized by the impact.” She helped him out of the safety harness. After he stabilized himself with an injector and gave her a shot, he rushed to give aid where needed. The pain left her body almost instantly.
“Calira, get that fire extinguisher. We need to douse the fires before we lose the ship completely. Wake the rest of the crew up. Darat, any idea where we are?” The captain had regained consciousness and was busy checking some of the crew. “Torzo, I could use some help. Some of the crew are injured.”
“Darat is dead, Captain,” Calira told him. “And so is the navigation console.”
“Damn. What about the transmitter?”
“Smashed. We came down hard and the ship’s on fire.”
The rest of the crew were slowly coming around. They were all okay except for some abrasions and bruises. Torzo ran from one to the other mending their injuries.
It took them only moments to survey their situation and within minutes, the craft was a beehive of activity. They had to save whatever they could. They were sad, but had no time to grieve for their lost crewmember. The fires were quickly put out but all the wiring had been damaged beyond repair. There was, at least, no more danger of the ship blowing up.
“Where are we?” Zinpa, one of the female crewmembers and their science officer, asked.
“We don’t know yet. The view screens aren’t working. Nothing works. There’s only one way to find out,” the captain told her. “Tuk, get into your suit. Henke, you go with him. Find out what’s outside. Kalan and Halasha, take Darat and put his remains in a body bag. We’ll deal with a burial for him later.”
They worked hard. It didn’t take long for Opek and Calira to determine that although the craft was badly damaged, the fires were out. Each of them took to their stations to see if any of their instruments had survived the crash. Reports came in, one after another. At first inspection, most of their instruments, except their handhelds, were a total loss.
“We’ll have to open the hatches manually,” Tuk, ready in his suit, oxygen tank and helmet on, said. “That might not be easy if they’re warped.”
Much to their relief, the hatch opened quite easily. Tuk and Henke stepped into the exit chamber and closed it behind them.
Calira deftly worked her controls, stabbing at buttons with no success. She wondered what the two men would find outside. She took a moment to ponder what had happened.
They couldn’t get out of the path of the giant meteorite that had hurtled toward them. It should have smashed them into a million pieces. They had all expected to die. But there they were—all of the crew except one—alive, with nothing more serious than some bruises, small cuts, and aching bodies. She should be grateful, and she was in a way, but where the hell were they?
Twenty explorer ships had left their home planet, Alishur, to scour the galaxy to find a new home for their civilization. Their planet was on the brink of destruction. A meteor, a hundred times the size of Alishur, was on its way. It would shatter the planet into oblivion. They only had months to find a suitable planet to which they could evacuate their people. Calira hoped the other ships had more success so her people could safely relocate. Tears welled when she thought about her parents, her brother and two sisters, and the rest of her family. Would she ever see them again?
The hatch opened. Tuk and Henke were back, carrying their helmets instead of wearing them.
“So?” the commander asked tersely.
Tuk handed him his enviro meter. Opek studied the small screen. “Mm, plenty of oxygen, heavy vegetation, life forms, some are mammals. What’s it like out there?”
“Hard to tell. Our craft is lodged between trees. The vegetation is so thick and wild, we decided not to go any farther,” Henke said.
“Well, for now, let’s see if we can repair the damage. I’d like to know which planet we’re on, which solar system it’s in. That meteorite has thrown us so far out of our galaxy, only the gods know where we are.” Opek turned back to his instruments.
“Most of it is beyond repair,” Calira said. “Unless we can find help on this planet, I don’t know if our ship will ever fly again.”
Opek nodded. “The enviro meter detected life forms. Maybe a few of us should go and find them and just hope they’re human, not hostiles, and that they’re technologically advanced enough to give us aid.” He stood and joined them.
“I’ll go,” Calira volunteered.
Tuk and Henke nodded. “We’ll have to shift,” Tuk said. “We can’t navigate through the heavy vegetation in human form.” They took their suits off, followed by their clothing.
Calira and Opek stripped. Tuk opened the hatch and waited for the others to follow him into the exit chamber. “Leave it open so we can get some oxygen into the ship and air out the smoke,” the commander told Calira. The air in the craft was still heavy with acrid smoke and it was hard to breathe. With nothing functional, they couldn’t turn on the air cleansing system. If they’d been forced to stay in the ship, they’d have run out of oxygen and suffocated within a day.
Another thing to be grateful for—breathable air, Calira thought. At least dying in a crash would have been instant. Suffocation was not a pleasant thought. She climbed down the narrow emergency ladder and stepped onto mossy ground. It was twilight. Above them, an umbrella of verdant green blocked the last of the light. They stood close to the trunk of a giant tree and closed their eyes. Within seconds, four snow-white cats, at least four feet in height at the shoulder, were ready to explore.
Calira looked at her surroundings. Tuk and Henke hadn’t been kidding when they’d said the vegetation was heavy. Always a lover of nature, she admired the foreign plants and shrubbery. Some leaves were so big, a human could sleep on one. Looking up at their ship, she saw how badly damaged the exterior was. Two giant trees had broken the fall as the ship had crashed through the thick foliage and branches. It was wedged firmly between the trees, resting on several very thick branches.
, Opek ordered. His voice communicated into her thoughts.
Calira always loved the feeling of freedom as a cat, the ability to move fast, to defeat enemies easily. She eagerly followed Opek into the thick shrubbery.
As they moved on, she took in everything around her, the strange plants, flowers, ferns, and vines. Opek stopped for a moment to relieve himself. The scent would lead them back to their ship. They would all take turns doing this during their trek through the forest.
Calira held her breath for a moment. The male pheromones that emanated from her mates never failed to turn her on. Even through the seriousness of their situation, she felt twinges of desire, but she quickly squashed them. How could she want to mate right now? And with whom? Before they’d left on their mission, she’d met a man whom she felt could be her future mate. Now, unless they were able to find help to repair their ship, he was lost to her forever.
They continued as fast as they could, often scattering flocks of multi-colored birds. Some were small or medium sized, others were huge. Calira pushed down the desire to chase some of the larger ones. She wondered if they were edible. Their normal fare mainly consisted of greens, nuts, fruit, fish and fowl. Wherever this place was, it was beautiful in its primitive untouched state. She’d never seen anything like it, not on any of the planets they’d visited.
They ran and walked for hours, sometimes climbing trees and transferring from tree to tree if the vegetation was too thick near the ground. Here and there, Calira spotted small dots of sky high above, a blue sky, as opposed to their own yellow sky.
I hear the sound of people,
Opek said and stopped.
Slow down and move forward carefully. We don’t know if they’re friendly and we don’t want to show ourselves in this form. We know nothing about this planet or its species.
They crept forward on their bellies until they saw a small clearing with a number of crude dwellings. Calira gasped. Yes, there were people, but hardly the kind they’d hoped to find. Their bodies were much like their own human form, except they were much smaller. Their skin was a copper hue with strange black symbols painted on their faces, their bodies and limbs, and their hair was matted and black. They were naked and looked dirty. The men had white protrusions growing from their nostrils. Children played in various areas. Women were busy with large green leaves, berries and what looked like fruits. Some of them had a suckling on their hip.