Worlds of Lemuria: Earth Colony, Book 1
by Rosalie Redd
Ebook ISBN: 9781944419004
Print ISBN: 9781944419011
[ SciFi Shifter Romance, MF ]
Gods from the planet Lemuria start a war over Earth’s most precious resource—water. In the midst of chaos, a king discovers an untouchable female, one who may be the last hope for his dwindling species and his empty heart.
Note: Prologue omitted.
Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest Mountains
Stale air and mildew assailed Melissa’s nose. She tried to swallow, but the thick smell coated her throat. Lifting her head, she opened her eyes. Light blinded her, sending a sharp jolt of pain through her skull. Where am I?
She stood erect, her backside pressed against a solid, cold surface. Dampness coated her skin. A thin line of drool spilled from her mouth and onto her chin. She raised her hand to wipe the wetness away, only to discover chains bound her wrists. The iron manacles rattled, echoing off the cement walls. A drop of fear weaseled its way into her mind. She inhaled, and a wave of dizziness passed over her.
The pungent smell of rubbing alcohol filtered into the cell, the telltale sign of Gossum. Melissa’s throat constricted, and she gagged. She’d never get used to that stench, not as long as she lived. She winced. That might not be for much longer.
Memories of the Gossum attack raised her pulse and made her shiver. She didn’t want to think about why this had happened, why she’d left the safety of her Pride, but she couldn’t stop herself. Her heart clenched, and she choked back a sob.
She’d left Denver in search of another Pride, one where maybe, just maybe, she’d be accepted for who she was and not ridiculed for being different. As the only Dren in recent memory to conceive and birth a child, the rest of the Pride either hated her from petty jealousy or wanted to own her. She’d traveled as far as Portland, Oregon, before her need to feed drove her to seek a human male.
Luring a man out of a grocery store late at night, she couldn’t bring herself to drink from him. He would’ve found the sensation pleasurable, and she wouldn’t have taken enough blood to kill him, but the human frailty reflected in his eyes, and his likeness to William, her dead mate, had squashed any desire of feeding. She’d fled the scene as far as her feet would take her.
Her enemy found her as she’d stumbled into the warehouse district. Weak from her unwillingness to feed, she wasn’t able to maintain her shield. They’d caught her between the old brick buildings. She shuddered at the recollection.
Denver seemed so far away. A ball of regret grew in her stomach. If she’d stayed, she’d be Demir’s concubine by now. As ruler of the Pride, he’d wanted her to come to him on her own. When she hadn’t, he’d become so enraged she’d feared for her life. What would become of her now? Despair lodged itself in her chest, festering, building until a layer of sweat coated her body.
“Don’t fear. They can smell it,” a masculine voice said. “They’ll be back soon enough.”
Across the room, a tall male stood shackled to the wall. Not only did he have arm and leg chains, but cuffs surrounded his neck and torso as well. One arm had a design etched into his skin that ended with four dark lines down the back of his hand. Intelligence shone from one pale blue eye. The other one was darkened with bruising and swollen shut. He looked like he’d seen more than his share of pain and heartache. Although his short brown hair didn’t have any grey, the lines in his face indicated he wasn’t young. Neither Gossum nor human, he was a species she’d never met.
“Who are you—and where are we?” she asked.
“I’m Gaetan. We’re in the Gossum’s care, so to speak.” His voice was rough, strained.
“Why capture us? Why not just kill us?” The bastard Gossum killed her mate and young son the year before. Her mind fought the horrific images and memories, anything to stop her from going insane with grief. She bit the side of her mouth to stifle a wail of sorrow. Still, a soft whimper escaped.
“That is the question of the hour,” he said.
Cuts and bruises marred his arms and legs. When he breathed, his breaths were shallow as if he were in great pain. His left leg was smaller than his right and misshapen, forcing him to lean to the left. They had tortured him. When would they come back to finish the job?
Footsteps approached from the hallway. She tensed, and her pulse pounded in tune with each step.
A Gossum’s massive body filled the entrance to her cell. The light from the corridor illuminated him from behind, and his face was a mask of shadows. He snickered. The low sound chilled her arms.
The large male stepped into the chamber, and his features became visible in the dim light. His grim face accentuated his bulbous nose. The brim of his cap covered the back of his neck.
From prior experience with Gossum, she knew he wore the hat to hide his bald head and the beginning of the hard scales that ran down his back. Although once human, he no longer required his eyelids to protect his hard, lizard-like, black eyes. They reflected the light with an eerie shine.
“Ah, good, you’re awake. Are you ready to chat?” His menacing voice rasped with venom.
Melissa clamped her lips tight. The steady drip of water nearby echoed against the bare walls. Her damp hair hung in her eyes, the bitterly cold strands clung to her cheeks and arms.
His face turned red at her silence, but he remained calm. He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. His yellow and black high-tops stood out like a beacon. He could still pass as human, given the right clothing to cover his hairless body and neck scales.
“Ignoring me won’t help your cause,” he said.
“Don’t give in to his demands.” Gaetan pulled against his chains.
Their jailer sauntered over to Gaetan. “Still with us, I see.” He touched Gaetan’s face, raking a claw over his cheek.
Gaetan snarled, and his good eye glowed with specks of gold.
“Oh, yeah, we’re making progress.” The vile creature chuckled. He turned toward Melissa, and a chilling smile revealed his serrated teeth, the ones he hid from the humans.
She shivered at the sight. Her life couldn’t end this way, at the hands of her enemy. Memories of Seth and William raced through her mind, and a knot of determination formed in her stomach. She would fight for them, to honor their memory.
She yanked on her chains but only succeeded in opening cuts on her wrists. Blood trickled over her arm and dripped onto the concrete floor. She wanted to scream her rage at the Gossum, but she held her anger in check, barely.
Like a black cloud, their captor’s presence filled the room. Even in his nonchalance his gaze pierced her, held her in place, while a cool bead of sweat rolled down the back of her neck. She feared him, but she wouldn’t give her tormentor the satisfaction of seeing her weakness.
“Tell me your name, my dear.” His soft and encouraging voice belied his evil intent.
She refused to speak, and instead, raised her chin.
“C’mon now, how is telling me your name going to hurt?” The corner of his mouth pulled into a smile. He returned to Gaetan and pointed, a claw extending like a crooked tree branch from his bony finger near the prisoner’s good eye. “I like the sound of his howl. Would you like to hear it?”
Heat flushed through her body. Hatred burned in her gut for what they’d done to Gaetan. She wouldn’t be the cause of more pain.
“Melissa,” she spat. “My name is Melissa.”
“Ah, much better. My name is Ram. Now we are acquainted.” Ram placed his index finger next to his mouth and looked at the ceiling. “So, Melissa, about that shield of yours. I could do so much with it.”
Melissa flinched at the mention of her gift. She tried to power her energy, but there wasn’t even a spark. She held Ram’s gaze and struggled to control her shaking knees.
“It’s too bad I need you alive to get your blood. Lemurians disintegrate so quickly once dead that I can’t get it fast enough.” Ram tsked. “So, I’ll give you a chance to cooperate.”
“I won’t give my shield to you.” Melissa curled her hands into fists. He wanted her magical power, but no way would she give her special skill to the enemy.
Ram’s smile turned into a grimace, and his easygoing demeanor evaporated. He became rigid, his muscles bunching in his arms and legs. His elongated tongue whipped in and out of his mouth, the dangerous spur at the tip coming close to her face.
She recoiled, and her head struck the hard cement wall. Stars swam in her vision, but she refused to succumb to the darkness. Dread snaked its way into her heart.
“As you wish.” Ram snapped his fingers.
One of his brood entered the room carrying a cast iron bucket. The top of a branding iron extended over the lip. A towel wrapped around the end protected the handle from the heat within the kettle. The smell of smoldering coal joined with the odors of sweat and fear.
Melissa’s pulse quickened. She swallowed, but nothing went down. Her throat was too parched.
Ram grabbed the branding iron.
Adrenaline rushed through her body. “Wh-what is that for?”
“It’s your incentive.”
“No, don’t, not her. Take me.” Gaetan’s voice, weak and rough, carried across the room.
Melissa glanced at him. They’d just met, but his willingness to protect her spoke volumes about his character.
Ram snapped to attention. “Oh, I intend to get what I need from you, Stiyaha. That abnormal strength of yours will be mine, just not yet. I will take her gift first.”
Ram turned his focus back to Melissa. “I want your shield, and I want it now.”
He closed the distance, the branding iron’s heat radiating in the space between them. Her legs shook, making the shackles at her ankles clank together like an eerie wind chime. Her fear ratcheted up another level, sending a shiver of terror over her shoulders. She hated him all the more.
“Are you willing to bargain? Or are you going to be stubborn?” Ram leaned in, and his breath reeked of liquor. “I know you’re Lemurian, but you’re not Stiyaha. You must not be from around here. Tell me what you are,” he purred, as he drew the back of a finger down the side of her face.
She flinched at his touch, but she wouldn’t let him intimidate her. Making eye contact with her enemy, she held her ground.
“If you lead me to others like you, I’ll let you walk away, unscathed,” he said.
She bared her fangs. “I would never sell out my kind. I will fight you every step of the way.”
“Well, now, that’s what I thought you’d say.” His eyes gleamed with delight, and his mouth curved into a grin. “Let’s play, shall we?”