The colonists thought the chaki were ugly troll-like beings, but harmless. They were wrong ….
Kaya grew up without her mother and without any knowledge of the world her people had come from. Kept in poverty and ignorance, no living humans had any notion of what it was the chaki wanted from them. For the chosen never returned to tell any tales.
The shifter, Rahn, who befriended her as a child and mentored her into adulthood, is her protector. Lord Mordan is the half-breed chaki aristocrat who selects her from among the chosen as his consort.
But Kaya is the one true chosen--handpicked by fate to free her people from the chains of the chaki to freedom.
Rahn could not actually recall a time when he had not loved Kaya. The desire for her, the yearning to take her as his mate was new, but the love—that went much further back—to a time beyond his memory because each time he retrieved another and played it in his mind, it was always colored by love.
It was not to be, of course.
She was not one of his kind, not one his people—not even of his world.
None of that mattered to him, but it mattered to her. She did not see him as he saw her—a perfect creation. She saw him as a friend, he thought, but more specifically, an alien being. He did not think she had ever seen past that … barrier.
He knew she had not looked upon him with the heart of a lover.
He pushed the thought from his mind, knowing it was his own fault, at least in part—not just because of what he was, but because he had never shown her his other self.
The self that might have been more acceptable to her in the way he wanted.
Because he was reluctant to give up what he had. He was afraid the other self that he hid would not appeal to her and then he would lose what he had—her trust and her affection.
She would not look at him the same if she discovered the secret.
But it was not only his secret. It was his people’s secret and not his to share even if he wanted to.
He shook his thoughts off and tried to focus on his task, but it was a waste of time when his task was one he did only because it needed to be done, not because he relished working the fields.
In any case, it was the time for the choosing and he feared every time that she would be chosen and lost to him forever. He was tense with the waiting and wondering, the frustration of knowing that her fate was not in his hands. He could not save her. He could not change it. No one could but the evil bastards who had conceived the notion of the choosing—the chaki.
Finally, when he had reached the point where he felt like he might explode, he heard her call—and then he did explode.
Rahn! Come! Please hurry! Hurry! They’re coming!
* * * *
Kaya had spent most of her life fearing the contest—the choosing. When she had been too young to be among those chosen, she’d been afraid because the people who were taken never returned and she was afraid that someone dear to her would be taken.
Then they came and took her older sister.
Her last memory was of the chaki leading her sister off to one of the wagons filled already with ‘contestants’ for the games. She had run after her, clung to her until the chaki guard had knocked her down and kicked her. By the time she managed to recover enough to get up and try to ‘rescue’ her sister again, they had already pulled away. She chased the wagon anyway until she finally collapsed in the dirt and threw up.
She had been nearing the age of selection herself when they took her older brother.
Knowing it was useless, she had tried to stop them anyway.
And the results had been the same.
Next time, she thought, they will come for me and there will be no one to try to save me.
She had fled the settlement then, seeking a quite place to expend her grief, her fear of being alone.
That was when Rahn had found her—completely distracted her from her grief because he had scared her witless.
She had never seen one of the flying beasts of Quilla up close—the dragons of Quilla. They were huge, frightening creatures at a distance.
Up close—far more terrifying and Kaya was petrified—unable to move, hardly daring to breathe.
He had studied her for many long moments while she struggled to keep from passing out. “Why cry?” he said in a deep, growly voice, the sounds so mangled by his vocal chords that it was many moments before she realized they were words, and then what the words were.
Or perhaps it was because she was scared witless?
Published: October 2021
Word Count: 33,019
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance/horror
Available formats: Epub, PDF, RTF, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
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