The world of the Zarain shapeshifters is dangerous and unpredictable, with oppressors and wild beasts never more than a short distance away. So when Zaden spots his mate just as she is disappearing through the travel gate to another planet, he becomes determined to find her again before something else does.
Tara and her companions are searching for a safe place to colonize when a band of brutes descends upon them. Having never seen shifters before, Tara’s first instinct is to flee them. But their alpha male seems determined not to let that happen. And despite her anger and lingering fear, Tara doesn’t completely mind being Zaden’s captive.
Zaden stopped where the path split into two roads. The group had separated. Two women had taken the right path. His woman had gone with two others on the trail to the left.
“Naral, go after the women who went to the right. We’ll meet back here and return to the gatehouse.” He turned in time to see the man nod. “Tell them that we have the others.”
While it wasn’t true at the moment, it would be by the time that they met again. Even if he had to toss his woman, screaming and clawing over his shoulder, she’dbe coming with them. If he had her, the other two with her would probably follow.
He knew he was getting closer to her. The scent he followed was stronger. He noticed that there was something unusual about that fragrance—something not quite human.
Before he saw the women, he heard the murmur of their voices. They were still together. He couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but he did pick outthree distinct female tones.
Zaden followed the scent trail around a bend in the path. He stopped as he sawthe women just standing on the stone road talking. They were looking up the roadand their backs were to him. Their hoods had been thrown back and they weredeeply immersed in their discussion.
A tall blond woman pointed down the path to a crumbling stone column. A redhead of average height shook her head and said something so quietly that he didn’tcatch it. They both looked to the petite dark skinned, brunette standing betweenthem as if waiting for her opinion.
“Tara’s right. No-one’s been here for a long time.” The brunette pushed her hair back.
“There’s a reason for that.” Zaden smiled, enjoying their surprise.
All three women whirled around to face him. The surprise was quickly hidden as the women stepped away from each other. They all moved their staffs in front oftheir bodies. Their grip assured him that they knew how to use the weapon.
“Why’s that?” The tiny dark haired woman barked the question.
“The gate on this planet doesn’t work for long periods of time. We’re going back to the gate now.” Zaden folded his arms across his chest and waited.
The redhead tilted her head her braid falling forward the end dangling above herwaist. She just watched him for a moment. Green eyes narrowed. “Well, go. We’renot keeping you here.”
Zaden held back a growl and reminded himself that the women weren’t shifters. A shifter female would recognize an alpha male and wouldn’t waste time arguingwith him. He focused his attention on the bold woman. He didn’t doubt that inthe past men had always done exactly what she wanted. This would definitely be adifferent experience for her.
“You’re coming with us.” Zaden took a step forward and two of the staffs loweredas if to keep him from approaching any closer.
“No, take your orders and your cautions and get off the planet if being here scares you so much.” Full pink lips curved up into a smile as the redheadallowed the bottom of her staff to rest on the ground.
Zaden lunged forward, knocking aside one staff and dancing around the blunt end of the other. Before any of the women could react, he wrapped his hand aroundthe redhead’s upper arm and tugged her close, taking her staff and throwing it into the bushes. A red tinge climbed her pale creamy cheeks as she struggled topull free.
Her scent rose around him with her exertions. His cock hardened and his teethl engthened. The need to claim her, to change her slammed through him. When he saw the frightened look on her face, he resisted the urge to pull her into his arms and reassure her. She wouldn’t believe him and would probably knee him for his efforts.
“You’re only choice is over my shoulder or at my side. I’m not leaving you here.The gate could stop working at any time.” He leaned down, locking his eyes with hers.
He heard a whoosh and then felt a staff across his upper back. Turning, he glared at the black haired woman raising the rod for another blow. He glowered at her until she dropped her weapon. At that moment, a solid kick landed on his ankle then a fist collided with his jaw.
He cursed, turned, dipped down and lifted her over his shoulder. As she squirmed and promised to gut him, he turned to the other two women. They stood there staring at him with wide eyes. He wasn’t in the mood to offer them any comfort.
“If you want to make sure she’s safe, follow me.” He spun on his heel and strode down the cobbled path, his long stride carrying him back toward the gatehouse.
The woman on his back wriggled and swung her fist, her blow landing on his thigh. Zaden lifted his palm from her well rounded rear end. He smacked her buttocks just once.
“Settle down. You’re not going anywhere.” He smiled as he heard a low growl. “My name is Zaden Arcinian.”
“Doesn’t matter. You’re going to be dead soon.” The woman slid her hands under his black leather vest and sank her nails into his stomach.
He lifted his hand pushed her feet up just enough to give her the feeling that she was slipping off his shoulder. She gasped and clung to him until his hand once again settled over her buttocks. He could practically here her gritting her teeth in frustration and anger. She had no idea that hurting her was the last thing he would ever do. He was more than willing to use her ignorance.
“It’s good manners to respond in kind when someone gives you their name.” He looked over his shoulder when he heard a slight noise. The other two women weref ollowing and Varon trailed after them, carrying the redhead’s bag.
He frowned. According to everything he’d been told, she should be relaxed now. Her only thought should be getting closer to him. His scent should have her thinking of sex and more sex. Either someone had exaggerated the effectivenessof Zarain scent on humans or his mate was a special case. She burned with anger, her scent sharp and clear.
“And it’s such excellent manners to toss a woman over your shoulder and cart her away without her permission.” She took in a deep breath and relaxed. “I’m getting dizzy.”
“In some cultures, it’s the ultimate compliment to a woman.” He kept walking until they’d reached the fork in the path. He stopped walking and waited for Naral. “Now, tell me your name. What will my knowing your name matter if you kill me?”
“My name is Tara.” She placed her hand in the middle of his back and pushed herself up. “Please, let me down.” Each word sounded as if it had been pulled from her.
“You didn’t want to walk earlier.” He lifted her off his shoulder and put her on her feet. When she tried to move away from him, he slipped his fingers around her wrist and shook his head. “You have this one opportunity to walk on your own, but try to run or fight me and you’ll go back over my shoulder.”
She bit her lip. Her white teeth worried at her lip for a moment before she lowered her head just once. When he released her wrist, she stayed where she was. Clearly, she didn’t like being told what to do. She’d finally seemed to realize that this was a battle she couldn’t win.
“If we go with you to the gate and off of this world, you’ll leave us to ourjourney.” The petite black haired woman drew his attention.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to answer her. The answer would have sent them all into an immediate panic. Naral followed very slim blond woman and blue eyed brunette down the cobbled path.