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Trigger Warnings

This book is intended for mature audiences due to explicit language and sexual content. Includes warfare and violence. Reference to death.

Divided Warriors

Series: Intergalactic Enosis: The Pyxis System

ISBN: 978-0-6489774-4-5

I’m a doctor. I save lives. I never considered I’d be the one in need of saving.

 

A Queen needs a doctor of River’s specialization—an ob-gyn, and a request is submitted to her hospital. She sees it as the perfect opportunity to break the monotony of her life, so she volunteers, assuming she’ll be heading to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or somewhere equally exotic. 
 

Not asking more questions is her first mistake, but it never crossed her mind that the Queen would be not of another country but of another planet.

Falling for the two clearly non-human escorts might be her second, but as they crash land on an alien planet and manage to survive, she wants both of them to save her and not just from the alien enemies approaching.

 

Now, if only the two males, who were complete opposites, stopped fighting long enough to see the woman standing in front of them, then maybe River would get her happily ever after.



Divided Warriors, book 3 in the Intergalactic Enosis: The Pyxis System series, is a science fiction alien warrior MFM ménage romance featuring a human female and two alien males that are determined to claim their fated mate. (No M/M). Happily ever after guaranteed!

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EXCERPT FROM DIVIDED WARRIORS (INTERGALACTIC ENOSIS: THE PYXIS SYSTEM, BOOK 3)
UNEDITED—SUBJECT TO CHANGE

Preface
Kali


Back on Saber.

I should have been dreaming, yet sleep evaded.
   Snuggled as I was between Rorc, who was lying on his stomach, and Mes, who had his arm draped over me, I should have been able to rest.
   Instead, I lay wet, dissatisfied, and aching. Deep and fervent longing filled me as I traced my mates’ naked bodies in our reflection in the mirrored ceiling.
   All of them had loved this feature when we’d stayed at the Wravukian palace, so Arana had warriors install them in our palatial chambers too.
   It had its advantages…I loved to watch their muscles ripple and their faces strain while they did everything in their power to make me orgasm as many times as possible before they reached their peaks.
   I trailed my fingers along Mes’s forearm.
   He didn’t even stir.
   Argh, I swear they do it on purpose.
   Let’s punish them. Then they’ll realize they’ve been neglecting your needs,
Dawn—my occasionally bloodthirsty sabertooth, and willing conspirator—said.
   A sigh escaped my lips. Unfortunately, drawing orgasms from me wasn’t something they did anymore. As my pregnancy progressed and my belly grew, they became more distant.
   Oh, they were still doting on me, the perfect mates really…except when it came to sex. Then they turned into guardians, like I was a fragile being about to break if they touched me intimately.
   It frustrated me to no end. My mood had soured, and my patience was wearing thin.
   I freely admitted that the first trimester hadn’t been easy.
   Morning sickness should be named differently because it didn’t just occur during mornings, but all freaking day long. Trying to keep food down had proved to be a challenge, and I’d ended up vomiting at least twice a day. I still did.
   My hormones were all over the place, and my sex drive, the same one that had been non-existent until recently, had skyrocketed.
   I was just going through what many women on Earth experienced while pregnant. My symptoms were nothing out of the ordinary.
   Was it fun? Definitely not.
   Was it scary? A little bit.
   I was certain, though, all first-time mothers felt similarly. Unfortunately, it drove my mates’ protective instincts through the roof. Especially since there’d never been another one like me, and they had no information on Humans.
   Telling my mates that what was happening was normal was not enough for Mes—who wanted scientific evidence. And until he got it, he’d decreed that we wouldn’t be mating, lest they hurt me or the babies.
   Well, if I have to lie awake, they should too.
   Having decided on their punishment for now, I was about to wake them up when suddenly an acute pain zinged through my lower abdomen and I felt liquid gush out of me. My eyes were still glued to the mirror, and I watched the color drain from my face and stain the sheet underneath my thighs. The room spun and became blurry.
   Dawn leaped to the surface. Her claws sprang through my fingers, but it was too late. Everything turned black.

Mes

Kali’s panic brought us out of our slumber. Was she having another nightmare?
   Rorc turned sideways and raised his head. “Wake up, little one. It’s just a dream.”
   A metallic scent permeated the air, and Arana gasped, “Kali.”
   Pain seared through my forearm—Dawn’s claws had burst from Kali’s hand and raked me.
   What had me ignoring the pain, and all of us scrambling to our feet, though, was the red circle widening under her body.
   Our bond radiated with fear.
   “Mes, what’s happening?” Rorc’s first instinct was to act, yet he refrained from doing so because he trusted I’d do everything to help our mate, to fix whatever was wrong.
   Arana pushed him out of the way and was about to lift Kali’s body when a growl from Savage—my sabertooth—stopped him. “She’s still bleeding. I need to stop it before we move her to the Healer’s Hall,” I explained.
Images of his mother’s last moments blinded me for a moment, and his fear that the same virus was now claiming our mate had me in its grips.
   “Arana, look at Kali. What happened to your females isn’t being repeated.” I did my best to reassure him before I called forth my healing light and placed one palm over our mate’s heart and the other over her lower abdomen. Closing my eyes, I let everything else but our female disappear.
   Her heart rate was increased, and her breathing was loud and labored.
   Time was running out.
   I concentrated on her lower half. Her body transformed into a map of muscle, tissue, veins, bones and organs inside my mind. I saw our babies and heard their fast-beating hearts. They were aware something was wrong with their mother, but they were nestled safely in her uterus. I released the breath I’d been holding when I found the blood was coming from Kali’s cervix. I could temporarily fix that.
   Carefully targeting the problematic area with my healing light, I stopped the flow and repaired the damage. But our mate wasn’t out of danger yet.
   Picking her up in my arms, I secured her close to my chest so as not to jostle her, and raced to the Healers’ Hall where the med-pod was.
   “She needs a transfusion immediately,” I informed my Pair-bonds, who trailed behind us.
   Both of them remained silent while I laid her down, retrieved neutral blood and plasma units, inserted them in the med-pod’s transfusion portal, and activated the machine that would help her recover.
   Its adaptable protective capsule soon enfolded Kali. It stretched all over her, then shrank to mold around her body.
   Our offspring moved inside her swollen belly, and I clenched my fingers where I was holding on to the control panel, then closed my eyes and hung my head. My entire body shivered as the reality of how close we’d been to losing her—and them—sunk in. “She has a fucking fragment embedded in her cervix.” The sudden lump in my throat made speaking difficult. “I can’t remove it alone, and my Healers aren’t familiar with her physiology…we need to bring a Human Healer here.”
   Desperation filled me because it’d been a close call and I wasn’t willing to risk her. The darkness in me reared its ugly head, and Savage fought for control over our body. He wanted to expel its energy before it overpowered us and we ended up hurting those we loved.
   My Pair-bonds sensed my inner turmoil and placed their hands on my back, lending me their strength, allowing me to rein in my dark side once again. But I couldn’t stand still, so I started pacing.
   “How are we going to get the Earthling to come here?” Arana asked.
   Unbelievable. He was putting another’s life over our female’s. I exploded. “I. Don’t. Care.”
   Let’s challenge him. It’s time we took the reins. Savage snarled in my mind, equally furious.
   Maybe my sabertooth was right. I advanced on Arana. “No one is more important than Kali. We’ll do whatever the fuck it takes.”
   Rorc laughed out loud, and we zeroed in on him.
   “I’m really enjoying the role reversal we’ve got going on.” Grinning like a fool, he added, “Usually I’m the hot-headed Pair-bond.”
   Noticing the death stare I was giving him, he raised his arms up in surrender. He’d only been trying to lighten my mood to keep me from spiraling.
   “Of course Kali takes precedence over everyone else, Mes,” Arana interjected. “But our warriors need Human females. We can’t mess this up. Our request needs to go through the Intergalactic Enosis first.”
   “We can’t spare that much time—”
   The door opened and Grim—Urien’s sabertooth—burst in, followed by many sabertooths.
   Having my Pair-bonds with me usually lessened the impact others’ emotions had on me, but they caught us by surprise and without Kali’s shield that kept external feelings at bay, their panic hit me all at once. A thousand needles pierced my skull, the pain blinded me and muddled my thoughts. It would have brought me to my knees, if it weren’t for Savage’s strength.
   Arana, experiencing my feelings through our Sacred Bond and needing to protect me, ordered them to shift at the same time with a furious Rorc.
   The combined command blasted through the warriors, whose pained groans from the forced change echoed in the hall and around us.
   Urien, like those behind him, kneeled on the floor in front of us, panting. All of their faces etched with worry. “Is the Queen alright? We all felt her terror,” he asked while scanning the chamber.
   We knew he saw her when he swiftly sucked in a deep breath and staggered to his feet, trying to go to her.
   “What do you mean you all felt her?” Arana asked, taken aback by the new development.
   The tension in his body had both me and Rorc paying our undivided attention to their discussion.
   “Her terror…it woke us up.” He was shaken. “The same way she spoke in our minds at the Queen’s Fight.”
   “I’d hoped that was a one-off case.” My Pair-bond rubbed his bottom lip with his thumb, lost in thought. “Did Dawn make that?” He pointed to the four angry pink lines decorating my forearm. The edges of where the skin melded together, jagged and bumpy.
   “Yes.”
   “She shouldn’t have been able to shift partially yet. It takes many rotations to achieve such a feat. Her powers are growing,” Arana commented.
   An ominous cloud settled over us. We didn’t know whether there would be any repercussions to her gifts. Many were easy to control, but the stronger they were, the heavier the toll on the individual.
   Protect our mate. Savage paced within the confines of my mind, every few paces pushing against my boundaries, trying to take our body over, but we didn’t need his aggression. We needed a level head and a plan.
   “Is our Queen alright?” The pain was clear in Urien’s voice, who was standing next to the med-pod.
   “She will be. We’ll allow no other outcome,” I declared and stared pointedly at Arana.
   “Is she stable now?” He asked, and I nodded. The Saberian then turned toward the crowd and ordered, “Gwyr, stay with Kali. If anything changes, inform us immediately. Urien, come with us. Let’s move to the Communications Chamber.”
   “I want Zoltor to stay as well,” the Healer warrior asked, and I accepted his request. The more looking after our mate, the better.
   A commotion had Rorc running outside, Urien, Dag, and Aux right at his heels.
   I chuckled when I heard him cursing under his breath. Having others shadowing him annoyed my Pair-bond to no end. He was used to being the one doing the protecting, but he was now the Third King of Saber, and he had no choice but to allow the warriors to do their duty.
   After checking the updated report on med-pod and making sure Kali was safe and comfortable, I joined the others outside.
   “Return to your posts, warriors.” The King ordered, and the crowd started dispersing. “Admiral,” Rorc turned to Thora, “put your weapon away. No one will hurt the females here.”
   The Admiral’s emotions were like an angry volcano erupting—its spewing lava swallowing everything it came into contact with. The hatred and distrust emanating from him burned me with their intensity, but his expression revealed nothing. His hand holding the blaster steadied as he lowered it to his side.
   “Kings.” He acknowledged and briefly bowed his head. “I came to deliver the Mardonians per your Queen’s request.”
   One circle ago, my father had insisted on shipping the females back to their planet, but our stubborn mate would hear none of that. She had proclaimed them citizens of Saber and had demanded they’d be brought here immediately. I hadn’t expected him to accept. The last time I’d seen the King of Wravuk acquiesce so easily was when my mother was still alive.
   Kali’s uncanny ability to wrap those she met around her little fingers kept surprising me. She was extraordinary.
   The older female was shifting from one foot to the other, and there were scratches across her forearm where the youngling was clutching her.
   “Of course, they are welcome to stay here.” Arana was quick to say, wanting to put the fidgeting females at ease. “Tris, Kas,” he addressed the mother and then the daughter, “Ewen will accompany you to the guest chamber, and once Kali is up, we’ll find you a permanent dwelling.”
   “Thank you, my Kings.” If her verbal acknowledgment of our authority hadn’t been proof enough of where she stood, tilting her head to the side, declaring her submission made it very clear before the females followed the Royal Guard, leaving my Pair-bonds and myself alone with Thora and Urien, who’d stayed even though everyone was ordered to return to their positions.
   A rumble vibrated in Rorc’s chest, sounding loud in the quiet of the night. Brute didn’t like disobedience any more than his biped counterpart did.
   The leader of the Main Territory revealed his neck. “I need to help.” His tone was demanding, insistent.
   Arana’s eyes snapped the warrior’s way. A subconscious current of worry zinged from him through to our bond, alerting both me and Rorc that there was something we were unaware of. In the short time I’d known the Saberians, I came to care for them, to claim them as mine—Kali was solely to blame for that. So I let my walls fall, wanting to get a feel for Urien’s emotions, and see if there was any way I could help him.
   What I sensed shook me, and abruptly, I turned away from everyone.
   Arana’s brother—in all ways but blood—was hanging on by a thread. Grim’s blood-thirst was almost out of control. The warrior’s sheer will seemed to be the only thing controlling the dangerous sabertooth.
   Lethe, the bane of every unmated Saberian’s existence, would claim him soon and end his life, unless he found his mate.
   I shared what I discovered with my Pair-bonds, and it was as if I could see the gears turning in Rorc’s mind, already forming a plan.
   “First, we contact the Enosis,” Arana reiterated.
   “Yes, but we need a contingency plan, and I happen to have found the perfect one,” Rorc said, arms crossed and a look of superiority adorning his face.
   I doubted these two would stop antagonizing each other, no matter how much time passed.
   “I’ll leave you to it then,” Thora interjected. “I’m just asking for permission to stay on the surface tonight, so my crew can rest.”
   “You aren’t dismissed, Admiral,” Rorc replied, and since my father hadn’t stripped him of his rank yet—a hybrid in a position of power was a first—the Wravukian had to obey his superior. “Your assistance will be needed.”
   “Let’s take this meeting to the War Chamber. Urien, you’re coming too.” Arana said, turning on his heels to head to our destination with us behind him.

Urien

It was a fifty-fifty chance when I demanded I’d help that one of my Kings would tear my head off, but despite the dire situation with our Queen in danger, I’d been lucky. So I trailed after them, ignoring Grim’s attempts to take over our body and attack the Wravukian trailing behind us. My sabertooth hated placing ourselves in vulnerable positions. And usually I agreed, but I couldn’t let him influence me now. We were safe, and Kali needed all the assistance we could provide. So I followed them, ready to volunteer for whatever the males I’d give my life for had planned.
   Once we all sat at the round table, Arana initiated the virtual call.
   All the species participating in the Intergalactic Enosis appointed a Senator to represent them and take part in the Committees responsible for different matters and for creating laws and procedures the Enosis members abided by. 
   Every ten rotations, the Senators would elect sixteen beings who would act as Ambassadors—usually in charge of everything the Committees couldn’t handle. The Ambassador with the most votes was appointed the title of Cardinal Prime and had the final say in all escalated issues.
   I didn’t know how crazy my Royals’ plan was, but I was in nonetheless. No matter what the Enosis would decree. 
   The Delegates from the Preliminary Committee would be the ones answering Arana’s call and cataloging the request, but it would be at least a couple of circles before our issue was escalated, and we heard back from the Core Committee—who handled the affairs regarding primitive planets—about whether we were allowed to proceed or not.
   Slowly, a figure taller than me, with a strong broad back and dressed in partial armor, appeared through the holo-projector in the middle of the table, and my mouth fell open. “King Arana.” The mask covering this being’s face didn’t muffle his deep voice. “What a pleasant surprise. Have you reconsidered my proposition?”
Fuck. The situation must have been worse than I assumed because my warrior brother bypassed the Intergalactic Enosis’ established procedure and called the Cardinal Prime—Lord Mo’dta.
   “I wish I could say the same.” Arana’s grim tone had the imposing being straightening his shoulders. “This isn’t a social call. I’m here to collect one of the favors you owe me.”
   Everyone held their breath. My King’s move was bold.
   The head of the Intergalactic Enosis lifted his clawed fingers and took off his helmet. He retracted the white membrane that covered his narrowed eyes and locked his bright-orange gaze on Arana. “What is this about?”
Mine widened, partly because I was surprised and partly because the sight was terrifying. I’d never seen a Shartja, commonly known as Apex Hunters, without his armor’s mask. Even though our physiques were similarly built, his head with the horns where brows should have been, the protective membrane over his big round eyes, the lack of lips over his rows of sharp teeth, and the three mandibles on each side—like the ones our arachnids had—made for a dread-inducing sight.
   Arana didn’t seem disturbed at all, so I schooled my features and paid attention to their discussion.
   “We ask for permission to access a primitive planet and acquire one of their Healers.” My brother wasn’t in a mood to beat around the bush.
   Mo’dta crossed his arms, waiting, appraising my King silently. When he divulged no more information, the Cardinal Prime heaved a sigh. “Why would you need one from a primitive world? My Healers are at your disposal, you know that.”
   “My mate,” Arana started, but a loud growl—coming from Rorc—reverberated in the room, interrupting him and making Admiral Thora tense. “Our mate,” he corrected, “is in danger.”
   The image of the holo-projector went completely still, and I wondered whether it was a glitch or if the Head of the Enosis was just speechless. “Our?” he asked as his mandibles went slack and his jaw dropped.
   Ha. He was stunned.
   I grinned.
   Arana’s hand hovered above the holo-projector before tapping a key that allowed the whole chamber to be viewed through the projection. “Mo’dta, allow me to introduce my Pair-bonds—Second and Third King of Saber—Rorc and Mes.”
   The Hunter’s head jerked back. “Your female evoked an interspecies Sacred Union?” He asked, but before my brother could speak, he continued in a rush, “Which planet?”
   “Earth. We need to acquire one of their Healers as soon as possible,” Arana reiterated, drawing his mouth into a straight line, unease leaking through the connection we all had with our King.
   He wasn’t amused by the fact that the Cardinal Prime had ignored the introduction to his Pair-bonds, both of which had gone rigid, while he’d focused on the Queen.
   I hadn’t liked it either. We’d never warred against the Shartja but if the Apex Hunter got any funny ideas in his big head regarding our most prized female, he had another thing coming. Every single Saberian warrior would protect her till his last breath.
   Mo’dta leaned forward, his eyes practically glowing orange. “Earth…” he trailed off, his gaze turning inward for a moment before he caught himself and continued, “I allow you to request one of their Healers to assist you. You must protect the male and return him unharmed once his knowledge is no longer required.”
   “Of course,” Arana promised, in a rush to wrap up their meeting.
   “Expect my presence on Saber in a cycle’s time. I’m looking forward to making the acquaintance of your female,” he said, and it was like a dark cloud entered our chamber, lowering the temperature and causing chills to erupt on our skin. “Kings.” He nodded and his image disappeared as the connection was terminated.
   “That went well…” I let my voice trail off in a failed attempt to lighten the mood.
   Foolish male, Grim—who’d remained silent thus far—told me. How does lightening the mood help? Our Queen needs our help, let’s go pick up the Healer.
   Arana finding his mates was an event almost all Saberians rejoiced in. I was truly happy for my brother, but at the same time the joyful event dredged up a deep pain I thought I’d put to rest.
   It had been more than a hundred rotations since all the male warriors had left to defend the Zirgnoln, but I’d remembered the events as if it were yesterday because earlier that day I’d found my mate.
   She’d come to the Main Territory from the South to protect Queen Aenthear and Caeleah while all the males were off-planet. I was so certain that she’d be there the moment we returned, that I’d barely spoken to her. Wanting to remain focused on the upcoming battle, I didn’t allow the bond to strengthen when I knew we’d be apart for a while and the distance would have only brought us pain.
   Little did I know that Yenoctonia—the day we lost all our females—would rob me of the opportunity to get to know her…to cherish her…to create a family with her.
   I was devastated, but since the bond hadn’t been established, I could still function. Helping Arana rebuild our society had further softened the loss. Being needed by so many others had taken my mind off my own troubles until at some point the pain faded completely.
   From the moment Arana found his mates, Grim’s mood gradually but steadily deteriorated. I had chalked it up to the new reality we had to get used to. He was still our brother, but he now had two Pair-bonds who were there to assist him, so he no longer needed our help.
   Hope we’d still be useful had bloomed when I’d seen the size of the Human female. Then we’d fought the Queen’s Fight and lost. Kali had demonstrated how strong she was, not only by establishing a mind-link with every Saberian alive, but by asserting her dominance over everyone but her mates.
   She definitely didn’t need us. She was powerful, and she’d proved just how much when she stopped the Southern and Western Territories’ rebellion…the one we, the Royal Guards, and the Elite warriors had failed to prevent.
   Observing the Sacred Mates together was like rubbing salt in wounds I thought had been healed. I was wrong, and my sabertooth started slipping slowly down the path to Lethe, and I didn’t know how to stop him. The Creator had blessed us with a Sacred Mate, but we’d lost her. There was nothing on the horizon for us, and it fucking tore me apart.
   So Grim suggesting to help now was a big deal. It meant he hadn’t given up completely, and maybe we’d escape Lethe—the madness that would end us both—for a little while longer.
   The sound of Mes’s fist connecting to the table pulled me back to the present. “We have the Intergalactic Enosis’ permission. We need to act now,” the usually calm Arch-healer said.
   Arana turned to his other Pair-bond. “Rorc, what’s the plan?” He asked.
   “We’ll lure a Healer to us.” The Second King started pacing around the chamber, breathing even and exuding tranquility as he shared his idea. “We’ll need to be near Earth’s orbit, but we’ll advertise that a hefty payment will be given to the Earthling who is willing to travel to an unknown destination to assist with a Queen’s difficult pregnancy.” He stopped as if considering what he had just proposed, then continued, “Yes, and we won’t divulge any other information until the Human has arrived on Saber for privacy reasons.”
   “I’ll go fetch the Earthling.” Thora volunteered.
   Why would he want to help us? A Wravukian Admiral with his own fleet was the last person I’d expect to step forward for such a mission.
   “No need. I’ll bring the Healer here,” I declared.
   “And how familiar are you with intergalactic travel, Saberian?” His condescending tone grated on my nerves.
   I opened my mouth to tell him exactly what I thought when Rorc said, “It’s not a one-male job. Both of you will go, and you’ll be rewarded upon your return.”
   The mistrust was a knife slicing me deeply. “Arana, I will not fail my Queen,” I appealed. “I don’t require a reward, and there’s no reason to involve an outsider.”
   Something passed between the Sacred Mates that I couldn’t decipher.
   “You’ll both go,” my brother decreed, and I could not deny him. I nodded my assent.
   “I do not require a material reward either, but I wish for something in return,” the Wravukian said, and locked gazes with Rorc.
   “What is it you want, Admiral?” Arana asked.
   When he remained silent, Rorc nudged him. “It’s not my story to tell. Go on, Thora. This might be the only chance you’ll ever get.”
   These two had history, and it made me curious. What was so important that the Wravukian would give up a financial reward for?
   The older male squared his shoulders and planted his feet wide apart. “I demand Ivar Al-Jurjani be punished for his crime.” He clenched and unclenched his fists before continuing on a tart tone, “He killed my Chosen Mate.”
   Curling my upper lip at him, I let the snarl brewing in my chest out. Simultaneously, I stepped back, putting more distance between us because I wanted to punch him for accusing a Saberian Warrior of such a serious crime.
   “That old male has no tact,” Rorc mumbled under his breath, but thanks to our enhanced senses, I heard him just fine.
   And maybe in any other instance, I’d have found his comment funny, but not now.
   “Do you have proof?” Arana asked.
   Thora clenched his jaw and ground his teeth. “I don’t. But I was the one who cost him his right eye.” Volunteering no more details, he simply waited for the Saberian King’s reaction.
   Arana let the silence stretch, measuring the Wravukian, and I could tell by the tightness on Thora’s face that he expected his request to be declined. “Your accusation is of a despicable crime. Before we pass judgment, we will set up a hearing with both of you present, Admiral,” my brother said.
   “That is acceptable, thank you.” The Wravukian bowed respectfully.
   “As soon as the sun rises in the horizon, Urien will come get you, so make the needed arrangements for your departure,” Rorc instructed. “You’ll travel with the S-950 as time is of essence and that’s the fastest ship at our disposal.” Then he turned to me. “Inform Mok to add Thora’s biometrics to the navigational system before you depart.”
   I agreed, and when no one had anything else to add, the Third King of Saber said, “That is all for now. We’ll be in constant communication for anything else that may come up,” wrapping up our meeting.
   And for the first time in a while the hollowness in my chest that somehow felt heavy was replaced by lightness as excitement for the hunt filled both me and Grim.

It was time for a change
River


Why did I agree to come to Dark Angel on a Friday night again? Having the weekend off was a rarity for me. I could have been snuggling under my soft new duvet that made me feel like I was surrounded by heavenly clouds, instead of sitting on an uncomfortable stool at the overcrowded bar.
   It was all my best friend’s fault, that’s why.
   I was a badass doctor, one of the best in the field because the motivation driving me was solid. I’d taken a vow to try my hardest to not let another woman lose her baby. Seeing my loving mother slowly wither away after the fourth time she lost a child, unable to bear the pain of another loss, was what solidified my future.
   All my parents had wanted was for me to have a sibling, so that I wouldn’t feel alone. What they never realized, though, was that the only thing I needed was them. Soon after my mother passed away, my dad followed. They were soul mates. Their love was so strong that not even death could keep them apart for long.
   Their relationship had been imperfectly perfect, and I wanted what they’d had. I’d witnessed the real thing—true love—and I couldn’t accept anything less than that.
   Unfortunately, that led to me being in my early thirties single and a virgin. And it was not for lack of having men ogle me. According to some, I was quite attractive. I had an hourglass figure that all the men seemed to love lately. My face was feminine with likable features—my full lips seemed to attract a lot of attention as well as my light-green, almond-shaped eyes.
   Yet I didn’t see what others saw—I was not one of those women who could play men at their fingertips. To me, what was within mattered more than the outer shell. Because we did grow old and we did lose what youth offered, and what we were left with was our souls.
   Yeah, I had set the bar too high.
   My best friend said I’d set it to fail.
   Others said it was an old-fashioned notion to wait for Mr. Right and that I should let it go.
   But I knew that the person I wanted was out there. Too bad I didn’t have the slightest idea where he might be in the world.
   “Where are you, doc?” Serina’s voice brought me out of my reverie, and I focused on her, but she didn’t give me a chance to explain. “When your eyes go dreamy like that, I know you are either thinking of your parents or of your mythical creature. The elusive Mr. One.”
   She knew me all too well. In another life we would have been sisters.
   “It amazes me that you can get lost inside your head in a place like this!” She huffed as she slowly swirled the liquid in the glass she was holding before lifting the cocktail and taking a sip—her eyes scanning the place.
   Dark Angel attracted a certain clientele like blood drew sharks. It was full of people in suits—full of ambitious men and women eager to climb the corporate ladder, and entrepreneurs of all ages. This place seemed to cater to the upper crust despite its less-than-glamorous location.
   I didn’t belong in that world, and the music was a tad too loud for my liking, but it was one of Serina’s favorite places to grab a drink.
   Letting my gaze roam the dimly lit pub, I noticed there were quite a few men in various states of inebriation blatantly looking at her.
   My best friend, who could have easily become a model, was striking. Her blond hair and electric-blue eyes turned every man she met into putty in her hands. Her lithe body was what every man wished he had under him. But what nobody knew at first glance was that she was one of the smartest people in the world. Her IQ was off the charts and she had a job many coveted.
   “It’s easy. I am a doctor.” I stuck my tongue out at her and her melodious laughter attracted more stares from those near us. “If I hadn’t found a way to block out distractions I’d never have graduated med school.”
   Serina lifted her nose in the air all hoity-toity and pinned me with her stare. “River Claire Margeaux, are you calling me a distraction?”
   Now it was my turn to giggle at her silliness. “Of course not, Miss Younc. I’d never commit such an atrocity.”
   She tapped my arm with the back of her hand. “Liar,” she accused playfully, and my smile grew wider.
   Two guys that had been staring at us for the last hour seemed to have found the courage to approach us because they got up and started walking our way.
   This was the part I hated, because I wasn’t interested in what these men wanted ninety-nine percent of the time.
   “Hello, ladies. Can we buy you a drink?” the bolder of the two asked.
   Dark-chocolate hair, light-blue eyes, and a dark-gray pressed suit. He was good-looking and he knew it. He exuded arrogance. He was definitely the one-night-stand type and he had his sights locked on Serina.
   His friend, equally handsome with boyish looks and a dimpled chin, moved next to me and slid his hand inconspicuously behind me.
   Serina did not miss my flinch. She knew how I felt about this type of man, and although she had no problem having one-night stands, when we were out together, she always declined any offers. That was one more reason why I loved her. She was considerate of other people’s feelings.
   The one who had talked had the nerve to touch her hair and tuck it behind her ear.
   Her eyes grew cold at the liberties they took. “We can buy our own drinks. Thank you.” Her strict tone made our mood clear.
   Not that it deterred them.
   “Aw! Don’t be like that, honey. Let us show you a good time,” the guy ogling Serina insisted, not taking the hint. His whiskey-scented breath hit her in the face, making her pucker her lips in disdain.
   She crossed her arms in front of her and the action lifted her breasts. His eyes immediately dropped to her bust. “Eyes up here, loverboy.” Leveling her gaze on him like a Queen dealing with an annoying peasant, she continued, “We were already having a great time before you interrupted. Now do you want me to call Daemon to make it clear to you?”
   We came here so often, we were on a first name basis with the staff.
   “Daemon?” the second asked, not understanding who we were referring to.
   Out of thin air, like we had somehow summoned Dark Angel’s bouncer, he appeared next to Serina. His imposing height towering over the other two. He had the sleeves of his pristine white shirt folded over the elbows, and the bulging muscles of his broad chest—along with his rope-like arms—demonstrated that he was not someone they wanted to mess with.
   “Serina, River,” he growled in greeting, “are these men bothering you?” His eyebrows furrowed over his brooding eyes as he turned his attention to the two guys.
   They instantly stepped backward. “No man, we just wanted to say hi to the ladies.” The light-haired one said and they both turned and walked away.
   Daemon gave Serina a disapproving look and left without a word.
   “Well…that was fun,” Serina blurted out while her eyes tracked Daemon until he disappeared from our view.
   “I think he likes you…but more importantly, I think you like him,” I teased while feeling the truth in my statement.
   “As if! The day Daemon likes me will be when hell freezes over.” She huffed, but pink infused her cheeks. “Did you see the contempt in his eyes? What’s his problem?”
   I chuckled and was going to tease her about skipping over the fact that she liked him, when she threw me a mischievous look that promised retribution. In a contest of wills with her, I’d end up losing, so I chose to let it go. After all, she had stood up for us, and torturing her wouldn’t show my gratitude.
   “Thank you for that.” I told her sincerely.
   “For what?” She asked, sobering just as fast as my mood changed.
   “You know,” I raised my hand in front of her and counted using my fingers, “ one, for standing up to them, and two, for not saying anything to me for cockblocking you.”
   Her eyebrows nearly reached her hairline, and she pretended to be aghast at my words. “Did you just say…cock?” Then she touched her forehead with the back of her hand, as if she was about to faint. “Where is the world leading to?”
   Her antics cracked me up. “Oh shut up,” I said with a smile.
   Despite my initial hesitation, I was grateful Serina had once again convinced me to get out of the house. It was so nice going out with my best friend. We’d laugh, we’d act a little bit silly, and we would definitely have fun. It was like we were teenagers all over again, except we’d get all the cocktails our hearts desired.

 

Time flew by fast and we soon found ourselves bumbling loudly outside my house.
   “Shhhhh!” I lifted my finger in front of my mouth, almost dropping my keys and losing my balance.
Serina bent at the waist from laughing so hard and almost fell forward before she slapped her hand on the door to steady herself.
   After a few tries I managed to put the key in the right hole and turn it to the right direction. I opened the door without noticing my best friend had been using it as a way to stay upright.
   She ended up sprawling across the floor and laughing even harder.
   I could not keep my giggles in either. “Oh my God! Are you okay?”
   Managing to close the door and help Serina to her feet took some serious effort.
   Darn it, I’m drunk.
   With my arm around her waist I tried to move us to the living room to our left. She would not budge. I turned to look at her questioningly.
   “You know I love you, right?” she blurted in a serious tone.
   “Of course. I love you too. Are you going to get all sappy with me?” I half-jokingly replied.
   But she didn’t laugh. All mirth had been scrapped off her face. “I prefer sleeping here, with you, because you have a home.” Her tone conveyed the importance of her message.
   My buzz started wearing off, and I felt a headache coming on. I ignored it.
   “You have a home too, silly!” I interjected, but she just shook her head.
   “You remind me of Dorin,” she said. “She was the only one who loved me and made me feel like I had a home for once in my life.”
   Dorin was one of the foster parents Serina had while growing up. She had a rough childhood, to say the least.
   I made a snap decision. “Well you know what? This is your house too. I will add you to the deed and the title so that when I die, this is all yours.”
   Unexpectedly, she started tearing.
   I’d only wanted to make her feel better. We’d met during the most difficult period of my life, and she’d stayed—not balking when I pushed her away because I was depressed and each day was too painful. She became the sister I never had, a sister of the heart, which to me was, so much more important because I’d chosen her.
   If only my parents had been open to adoption. Maybe then our paths would have crossed sooner. Maybe then we would have been real sisters. Maybe then they would still be alive. That train of thought only held heartache for me, and I cut it off, immediately returning my focus to the present.
   “Serina?”
   “Don’t ever say that,” she chastised between sobs. “You will not die.”
   My inebriated mind came up with an idea, and I just blurted it, “Alright. We will find a vampire and make him bite us. That way we’ll live forever. How about that?”
   My proposal was on the crazy side—even to my own ears, but it seemed to appease her, and her sobs soon turned to hiccups. Stumbling only four times, I led her to the guest bedroom, which was basically her room since she stayed so often at my place, and helped her settle. No sooner than I turned my back, she started snoring lightly.
   Adorable. If I swung that way, I would definitely pursue her.
   People thought her obnoxious and intimidating, but only because they didn’t know her. They only saw the outer shell. The hard-core, professional, not-taking-anyone’s-bullshit woman.
   I knew better.
   She had a big heart. Every chance she got she spread love, and always made time to help others.
   Closing the door softly, I went to my bathroom and got in the shower.
   A long bath would have been lovely, but it was just one of those nights when sleep was tugging at the edges of my consciousness.
   Quickly cleaning the tobacco smell from my body and hair, I changed into the fluffiest bathrobe I owned and headed straight to my bed. I fell like a brick on the mattress.
   I’d thought sleep would take me right away, but it was an hour later, and I was still looking at the ceiling.
   Good thing it’s my day off tomorrow because no one likes Dr. Zombie, I thought to myself as I got up and opened the French balcony doors.
   The slight breeze felt refreshing on my face.
   I lifted my gaze to the sky. The jewels decorating it seemed brighter than usual, and I was taken aback by their beauty.
   How would it feel flying among them? Freeing, I bet.
   From my periphery I saw a blazing star falling. I closed my eyes and made a wish. Please God, send my other half my way.
   A deep sigh escaped my lips. I should at some point give up on this childish habit. It was pointless. A had a better chance of winning the lottery than actually finding a man who’d see the real me and like her.
   Most doctors I knew were married to other scientists, who prioritized their careers over their marriages.
   Are you any different? A little voice whispered in my head.
I’d been spending most of my time in my lab and the theater, unless Serina dragged me out for a drink, or a girls night in. I was shy, and for the most part, introverted. What was I doing to open myself to opportunities? Absolutely nothing.
   It was time for a change.
   I wanted to return home after an exhausting day and be greeted by my husband. Have him ease the guilt of the times I would fail to help a woman, and rejoice with me when I would succeed. Was I asking too much? I was incapable of stopping my research or helping others, that was ingrained in who I was, but my family would be my top priority, and I’d make time for my man and our children.
   The night sky carried a tranquility that slowly sipped into me as I gazed at all the constellations. My eyelids had become too heavy, so I turned around and headed towards my bed, leaving the doors open. The night breeze provided a lovely caress, and as I closed my eyes I fantasized that my man’s gentle touch would feel the same way.

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