The Gala Lover by Kara Wills
lightly erotic fantasy/futuristic romance
Cover Art by Steve Lenker, Mina Carter, and Winterheart Design
Winner of the Rekindled contest held in conjunction with Avoid Writer's Hell
Aisia Alistare stands as the last hope for the survival of the human race. Her duty as Nyne is to bond and mate, but the only man she can see herself with was taken from her six years earlier by the gods’ revered warriors: The Gala.
Jericho Geordineous can’t believe his luck when his latest mission, to bring an assassin to justice, lands him in the same room as Aisia. For years he believed her dead after her planet was destroyed by the Nyne assassin. Unwilling to let her slip through his fingers again, he resolves to keep her bonding ceremony from taking place.
Jericho and Aisia reignite their lost love, but someone is keeping a close watch on the two. The Nyne assassin has one more family to destroy, leaving the human race unprotected from the gods.
Can the reunion of Jericho and Aisia withstand the powerful evil determined to ruin them both?
Kanya lifted her skirt and hurried from the room, carelessly bouncing off the commander as he entered.
The reptilian curl of Varek’s mouth grew, as did the inferno of hunger in his eyes. Nothing could calm the hint of menace feeding those black flames. How did anyone see him swoon-worthy?
“Well, well. I see we have a small dilemma to overcome,” Varek said, dark humor twining through his voice. Aisia took one determined step back as he reached for her hands.
“I would consider my dislike of you more than a small dilemma…sir,” Aisia corrected. In one swift motion, Varek snagged hold of her arms and yanked her to him. She struggled to free herself from his iron grip only to succeed in having him zap her with a hint of magic, leaving her skin hot where his hands touched her. She sneered, “I don’t care who you are or what power you wield over our races, I don’t like you. Nor will I grow to like you.”
Varek twisted her arms behind her back and crushed her flush against his body. “You poor, jaded creature.”
Aisia bit back the urge to scream. Fighting a man with his strength and power was foolish. He just proved he held no respect for the laws forbidding a sorcerer to use magic on any Nyne.
Bile rose in the back of her throat. Oh Gods, this could not be her destiny. It could not!
Aisia turned her face away as he leaned in. His bristled beard scratched the delicate flesh of her cheek. His hot breath drew a path to her ear, and his lips brushed over her lobe.
“Dislike me all you wish. Come morning, you will belong to me. Your father has agreed to a marriage contract and his signature is binding.” His calloused hand slid along the column of her throat, his thumb caressing her bottom lip. Aisia squeezed her eyes shut, silently begging the gods for him to retract his agreement and leave. “Have you forgotten your duty to the human race? With every other Nyne having been killed by assassins, your becoming my mate is crucial for the humans to survive. Without a child of your Nyne bloodline, war will be waged and Earth shall be destroyed.”
Aisia’s breath ceased. The chilling reality of her situation came back to light. This marriage was one of convenience, not love. She had to protect the humans from becoming extinct, which meant sacrificing her hope for true love to prevent a catastrophic, intergalactic war.
That was her duty as the last of the Nyne.
Opening her eyes, she searched for something to focus on besides Varek. Her gaze landed on her future mate’s commander, posed beside the closed doors like an elaborate leather-and-steel clad statue.
Aisia’s heart skipped. No. It couldn’t be possible.
“You wouldn’t want to watch the homeland of your ancestors blow to nothing but a mass of space rock would you?”
Varek’s question echoed in her mind, but she couldn’t tear her gaze from the man standing a dozen feet away. The golden hues of his hair glittered beneath a sliver of sunlight pouring through the windows. Time had not grayed the angelic strands. The godlike perfection of his sun-kissed complexion was marred by a single scar over his left cheek. His strong jaw twitched, the only movement the man exhibited. Even the blues of his crystalline eyes contained a cool disassociation that did little to ease the suddenly sick flutter in her stomach.
Varek tightened his grip on her wrist.
“You will submit to me Aisia. This is the only warning I’ll grant you. As my rightful mate, you will do as I say. I do not take lightly to a woman’s inconsiderate tongue,” he said.
Aisia couldn’t be bothered arguing with him. Not while his commander weakened her at the knees and cast a haze through her mind. Her gaze dropped to his folded arms. The broad width of his muscular shoulders shocked her. He had been a moderately built young man last she remembered. Now he stood a solid and powerfully built soldier, worthy of fighting for the gods.
Black ink created a magnificent design that scrawled over his arms, but her attention soon moved to his wrist.
A sigh escaped her before she could swallow it down. Every muscle in her body relaxed, if only for a moment.
Not mated. Every member of the Gala wore a golden wrist cuff as a sign of their allegiance to the gods. A second band would have been placed above the first had he been mated.
If he had not been mated off to some unworthy high priestess, why didn’t he appear happier to be here? Why did he stare at her like she was a stranger? A commoner undeserving of his attention?
Could Kanya be right and he not remember her?
“Will you comply with my demands, or should we begin with a lesson in acceptable wife behavior?” Varek growled. This time, his biting tone snapped her out of her trance. She leaned back and caught his eyes.
“Try me, you bastard. No one controls me. Not even you,” she said. Poison coated her words, pouring from the confusion and anger welling in her soul. “I am not your wife yet. You will not dare lay a finger on me. I’m sure your commander wouldn’t allow it.”
“That Gala will do nothing unless I command it of him.”
“Since when do the gods assign anyone of human or Merodian blood their own personal Gala escort? They are soldiers to the gods, not to us.”
Varek’s smile melted into a scowl. Aisia cocked her head in a show of defiance. She dared not look over his shoulder. No. Varek couldn’t suspect his assigned Gala was her long lost Jericho. If he ever discovered their past, he would surely condemn his commander to death.
“Release me before I call my guards and have you escorted from my sight,” Aisia warned. She tugged her arms. “Now.”
“You’d be wise not to forget what I said.” The glowing black flames in his eyes smoldered. “Ia.”
“It’s Aisia to you.”
“For another twenty-four hours.” Varek released her wrists and stepped back with his arms extended to either side of him. He bowed, the glowering malice in his eyes searing her with Hade’s promise of what would come. “I expect to see you for midday meal. Do not disappoint me.”
Varek straightened and spun on his heels. The Gala opened a door for him as he stormed from the room. Aisia’s strength failed, and her façade shattered. She began to approach the Gala. Nothing, not even a spark of recognition, reflected in his eyes as they lingered on her.
“Jericho? Is that really you?” she whispered. Her fingers knotted under her chin. Tears flooded her eyes. Pain bolted through her heart, ripping open weak scars. The Gala blinked, then turned and left the room in Varek’s wake.
Aisia’s knees buckled and failed. She sunk to the cold marble floor, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. He may not have answered her, but she saw it a split second before he left. A flash of recognition.
She had a reason to fight for her freedom and cling to her fast-fading hope.