DELROI WARRIOR 1
Delroi Warrior One
Love that breaks all the rules…
Every culture has its secrets, and Delroi is no different. When Sergei Trace, half Delroi half Earthling, arrived on his father’s home planet he expected some culture shock. He’s used to living in the shadows, on the fringes of life. On Delroi he’s thrust into the light.
Kayna Idis has a serious problem. She’s in love with the wrong man. Razor Deriq is everything she always wanted. Strong and steadfast. Sexy and fun. Then Sergei enters her life just as compelling in his own way. He’s dark and mysterious. Hard and unflinching. And she wonders if she can have them both.
Razor is determined to keep them both, but first he needs to find and eliminate the warriors threatening Kayna. Pairing up with Sergei for the task gives him the perfect opportunity for seduction, but will Sergei ever lower his shields enough to let him and Kayna in?
“Are you positive?”
Tallus gave her that get real look Kayna had seen from healers too many times. Like how dare she suggest he’d made a mistake with such a simple test. She’d been pretty sure of the result when she’d asked for this appointment, which was why she’d sworn him to secrecy first. The last thing she needed was her brothers getting wind that she was pregnant before she was ready to tell them. There was no telling how they’d react, but she expected yelling on all fronts. Probably threats against the warrior who’d dared touch her, too.
Ha! What a joke. She was a grown woman, a senior priestess, and a more than willing participant in the activities of a particular night a couple of months ago. Not that they’d ever recognize that. They didn’t like to see her as just as adult as they were. And this situation was going to prove difficult for everyone involved. Because this baby was not her mate’s. Tallus was still giving her the look.
“That’s the not the reaction this result usually garners. What’s wrong?” he asked. “I won’t tell anyone.”
She sighed. Her situation happened but it wasn’t exactly the norm.
“That’s because I’m about two months along, but I just met my der’lan a few days ago.”
“Ah. Why didn’t he come in with you?”
She made a bitter sound. “He doesn’t know. He doesn’t want a mate. He made that very clear.”
Tallus stared at her. She understood his shock. He assumed her mate was a warrior, but though Sergei Trace had Delroi DNA, he obviously wasn’t one of them. Fate was a bitch. Sergei might be her mate, but she was much better suited to the other man. The father of her child. They would go so well together if destiny just cooperated. That wasn’t in the cards though. And sitting here feeling sorry for herself was a waste of time. She had a meeting to get to and a move to prepare for. She jumped off the table and held her hand out to Tallus.
“I’m going to be late. Thanks for keeping this quiet, Tallus. I know it’s asking a lot.”
She was all too aware of the difficult situation she’d put him in. Her brother Jarek was one of his closest friends. Looking sympathetic, he gave a slight shake of his head.
“Don’t worry about it. You’re going to have to tell everyone soon, though. Especially the father and your der’lan.”
“I know,” she practically sighed.
“I want to see you after you get settled in the royal palace. Unless you’d prefer a different healer?”
She shook her head. She couldn’t imagine seeing a healer other than Tallus or Jarek.
“All right.” He tapped on his tablet. “I’m going to update your contact info in my file. Only my nurse can access it. I need to put in an emergency contact that can make decisions about the pregnancy if for some reason you can’t.”
Well, damn. “Razor Deriq.”
The look he leveled on her was one part shock and one part worry. He knew Razor of course. So did her brothers.
“He would have claimed you if you were his mate and damned the consequences,” he mused.
No doubt. “I’m sure he would have. But as you guessed, he’s not.”
“He’s the child’s father.” She didn’t have to say anything. Her face did it for her.
“Gods. Kayna.” He scrubbed a hand over his face.
Yeah. That summed up the situation nicely. Razor was from her father’s clan. She’d spent a lot of time with them over the years. Her brothers, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with their father. Kayna had never understood why, but it was a dislike they seemed to have applied to the entire clan. Razor was the one exception. The pregnancy was bound to cause some conflict. Hopefully, since she was moving to the royal palace on the northern continent in a few days, she’d be able to minimize the fall out. She had no intention of telling anyone in person or anytime soon.
As her new Earthling friend Angel would say, fuck that shit. Well, she’d tell Razor, of course. He’d probably be thrilled. They might not be mates, but they’d been friends since they were kids. Lovers on and off again for the last few years. Why couldn’t he be her mate?
Because he didn’t make her feel like Sergei did. Didn’t make every hormone in her body sit up and take notice. Sergei was beautiful and dark and sexy and dangerous as hell. One night stand material. Not great mate or father material, he’d probably say. Whatever. She’d just described most of the warriors she knew, and the ones who were fathers were for the most part excellent at it.
She said goodbye and left for the meeting lost in her thoughts. For some reason Sergei thought he would make a bad mate despite the chemistry that raged between them. It sucked. He had no intention of ever claiming her. Of ever touching her. And she wanted him anyway. His father may be from Delroi, but he did not get the connection between mates at all. That was fine. She would remain unclaimed. But she’d have her daughter and she’d have Razor’s help. Though, she’d never have sex with him again.
She stopped in the middle of the corridor, stepping to the side when someone jostled her. That was something she hadn’t thought about yet. She had a mate, whether that bond was completed or not, and if not she was condemned to a non-existent sex life. For the rest of her life. That rat bastard. What do you know? More useful slang she’d learned from Angel. Who probably had no idea Kayna was cussing her brother in her mind. Yet another knot to add to this tangle. Sergei and Angel were twins, and she was pretty sure Tallus was Angel’s der’lan though they were taking things very slowly. She probably should have told him about Sergei. She was pretty confident Angel wouldn’t.
She wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh, cry, or scream at the absurdity of the situation. She didn’t have time for any of those options, though. There was too much prep work to do for the move and opening the goddess temple in the royal palace complex on the northern continent. Packing, recruiting priestess to join her. Her hand settled over her abdomen. Preparing for a baby. And damn, talk about symbolism.
Her pregnancy coinciding with the annual goddess rebirth celebration and reopening a temple? She wasn’t the only priestess in this condition, either. She knew of at least five, two of them her sisters-in-law. Huh. She hadn’t thought of that either, the three of them pregnant all at the same time? Could that really be a coincidence? Or was it divine? She’d have to talk to her mother it, but not today. She wasn’t ready to share it with anyone yet. Besides, Razor deserved to be the first to know. She’d tell him soon enough. For now, she had to get to the overchief’s meeting.
In his old life on Earth, Sergei Trace would have disappeared into the background. His codename wasn’t Shadow for nothing. Now, suddenly, he had a large extended family and they were determined he be all in, not a shadow on the fringes as he’d been most of his life. If it wasn’t for his father and his sister, he might have disappeared weeks ago. He knew that was probably the best for everyone; he’d always be a loner. But he couldn’t make himself leave. Not yet. Not until he was sure the people he loved were safe here.
He could feel himself being sucked into this world, though. He’d grown up on Earth, his father one of two survivors of a decades old crash. Dax had hid among the Earthlings, met his mate and had two children. Things had gone downhill from there. While the Earthlings hadn’t realized the three Traces were alien, one group had recognized Sergei and Angel’s considerable mental abilities. The Tel Group, a secret organization of telepaths and telekinetics, had manipulated the Alliance government behind the scenes for decades. They’d kept Angel prisoner, repressing her talent with drugs, in order to control Sergei. He’d been a Tel spy, yes, but officially he’d been a member of the ECF, the elite commando force. He hadn’t existed in any database anywhere.
The Delroi invasion of Earth hadn’t changed much of the inner workings of Tel. When his continued attempts to free his sister failed, he gave into his father’s wishes and contacted his cousin, Falkor, and his mate, Janice Hawkins, another former Tel agent. They helped him free his sister and father, and he helped them free three Tel prisoners and destroy their headquarters. Then he’d boarded a ship with all of them and come here to Delroi. Hard to believe that was only just five short weeks ago.
At present, he leaned against the wall in a meeting room that was standing room only, next to his twin cousins, Falkor and Barak. Barak, a few minutes older, was chief of the Saber clan, the most powerful clan in the south and leader of all the other southern clans. The only chief in the room more powerful was Daggar Torfa, the warrior overchief. Barak wore that power well. There was a buffer of space around them and no one had approached.
Looking around, Sergei tried to guess at the reason for the meeting. If his cousins knew they hadn’t felt the need to share with him. They’d been here at the Keep for several days to join in the rebirth celebration of the goddess cult. He’d heard the story so many times he could recite it in his sleep. The Delroi had three gods representing each caste: warrior, artist, and healer. Once they’d also worshipped a goddess who represented all three aspects of the gods, though she had been abandoned by all but the goddess cult for centuries. The Keep kept her worship alive, hence the yearly celebration. This year it was better attended than ever.
The cult believed a centuries old prophecy that three female aliens representing each caste would return the goddess to her former place as an equal was coming true in the form of three recent arrivals to the Keep–Kareena, Parker, and Zola. The three Tel prisoners he’d helped rescue on Earth. Kareena and Parker were enemies of Tel, but Zola had once been part of the inner circle. That alone had been enough to get him to the Keep for this week long party. Who knew what her crimes or motivations were? Turned out not nefarious. She’d just wanted to be free like the rest of them.
The celebration had come to an end two days ago with an attempt on Daggar’s life by Delroi and Tel rebels. Daggar had been expecting it, however. Sergei was confident there would be no more rebel uprisings during Daggar’s rule. But because of the celebration most of the major clan chief’s were here in the Keep, home of the old religion. Daggar had ordered everyone to stay until he could set up this meeting. Sergei didn’t think it was as simple as a show of authority. Finally, the overchief and his brother, Alrik, entered the room. Roarr Idis, chief of the clan of the Keep entered behind him with his sister, Kayna.
Sergei took a moment to soak in the sight of her. She moved with the grace of an assassin, all smooth and silent, no wasted movement. She was dressed in what he’d come to think of as her goddess uniform. Unlike most Delroi women, who adopted an ultra-feminine look, members of the goddess cult dressed more like warriors. From the rumors he’d heard, they trained like warriors too.
She wore dun colored combat pants and boots, weapons riding her hips. Her top was sleeveless, cropped at her belly button, and the deep red that only priestesses wore in the Keep. Her honey blond hair was pulled back in a braid that hit her mid-back. And she was his. His der’lan, the mate of his heart. He’d known the moment they were introduced. Delroi males had another half, a destined mate. The Delroi invaded Earth because their female birth rate had dropped dangerously low and they’d hoped to finds mates on Earth. A matter of survival.
He was half human, however. He hadn’t expected to find a der’lan. He’d been on Delroi once in his capacity as a Tel spy and had felt an affinity for the planet, for Saber City that he couldn’t explain. The desert spoke to him. Called him. But Kayna…she drew him like a siren. And he couldn’t have her.
Like she knew he was thinking about her, Kayna met his gaze for moment, no doubt as drawn to him as he was to her. Anyone else would have thought she looked like serene, but he could tell something was bothering her. He started to reach out telepathically and ask if she was okay, but she turned to focus on something her brother said. Which was a good thing since he’d vowed to keep his distance, right?
“Guess that answers one question,” his cousin Barak said, distracting him. Sergei heard curiosity in the other man’s voice.
“What?” Sergei asked dismissively, hoping he could head off a conversation he didn’t want to have. Unfortunately, he’d agreed to the rules of this world and he couldn’t refuse to answer questions put to him by his clan chief even if they were related.
“We’ve wondered if our sons who have Earthling mothers would have der’lans,” Falkor said softly.
Thankfully, Alrik called the meeting to order and Sergei was spared from framing a reply. How could he explain that yes, their sons could mate if they met the right woman, but he himself would never claim the one his soul craved? The best thing he could do for her, the kindest, would be to stay the hell away. Thank god, they were heading back to Saber City after this meeting. Everyone was already packed and ready to go. They were heading straight to the shuttles from here.
“…so the clan wings are being reopened. The warrior you send to fill this post will be a blood relative, accompanied by no more than twenty warriors and their families, those that have them.” Daggar cast a hard look around the room. “Do not send me your trouble makers.”
Fuck. What he had just missed? After a jumble of voices rose then fell silent, Daggar continued.
“The one exception will be the Clan of the Keep. Kayna will be coming to reopen the goddess temple in the warrior palace. Reza Stian will captain the clan’s warriors. If you have any questions find Alrik or Barak. They know my mind in this and will schedule the departures.”
With that Daggar left and Falkor stepped into the milling crowd. The volume grew by the second and he spoke in a loud booming voice.
“Southern chiefs!” There was a sudden hush. He held up his comm. “We meet in Saber City tomorrow. You’ll be sent instructions. Questions will wait until then.”
Sergei felt the frustration and anger in the crowd as he followed his cousins out of the room. They left the Keep and went to the shuttles. Most of their people were already on board. Only Britt and Janice waited, Barak’s and Falkor’s mates. Inside he sat between his father and sister while the others took the opposite bench. Barak gave him an inscrutable look that made him go still deep inside.
“If you’d been here longer I’d let you pick your own warriors, but you don’t know most of the clan yet and they don’t know you. I’m giving you Grim. He’ll help you choose.”
Grim was the master sergeant in the elite guard platoon that Barak had stuck Sergei with when they’d come from Earth. He had understood then that it was to see what he was capable of. If an Earthling assassin was worthy of being called a Delroi warrior. So far he’d passed every test the grizzled old warrior came up with and had the tattoos down his arm to prove it. He’d had most of the markings southern warriors had already, at his father’s insistence. He hadn’t finished them—those on his arm that could be easily seen or his neck and face—because it was so important he be able to blend in. Of course, that was before he’d moved here.
“What are we picking warriors for?” he asked, though he had a bad feeling he didn’t want to hear the response.
He hadn’t been paying enough attention when Daggar started speaking, but he guessed the overchief was demanding the clan chiefs send him warriors in their line of successions. A kind of hostage exchange without the exchange. It was one way to minimize the chance of another rebellion rising. Barak grinned.
“Daggar’s failsafe. Hopefully, other clan chiefs will have the good sense to not sanction rebellion again.” He paused a moment. “Tallus has agreed to take over your treatment, Dax,” Barak told his father.
Tallus was the overchief’s personal healer, widely considered the best on the planet. If anyone could treat the degenerative disease that had struck his father a few years ago, it was probably Tallus.
“I assume you would prefer to be near him,” Barak said.
“You don’t have a choice, Sergei,” Falkor interjected. “We need a Trace in the palace. Barak has to stay in the south and Daggar is sending me on a mission to Earth.”
Sergei wasn’t sure if he should consider this a show of faith or an act of desperation. It didn’t make a lot of sense to send him to Daggar’s palace if they thought he was going to fuck it up, though. He nodded.
“When do we leave?”
“Two days. I need you there before the other southern clans arrive. They’ll be answering to you. Grim will be your second. Let him guide you,” Barak ordered again.
Angelia squeezed his arm. “What about me? I don’t want to stay here without you and Dad.”
“Angel comes with us.”
Barak agreed easily. “Of course. She’s your sister. Your responsibility until she mates.”
He kept his expression smooth through Angel’s exasperated mental growl. “What a bunch of chauvinists.”
He didn’t dare tell her he understood where the instinct came from. The need to protect his family was something he would never consider fighting. God help everyone if he ever claimed his mate. He was already a lethal killer. Mating might damned well turn him into a monster. His protectiveness could easily turn brutal. No. He wouldn’t go that route. It would be better to forget she existed. To let her go. He remembered Daggar’s words about the Idis family representative and bit back a groan. How could he avoid her when they would be in the same place and she had a growing friendship with his sister? He’d find a way. Somehow.
Kayna stood with Reza and some of her brother’s other warriors in the massive temple complex in the royal palace. The last time she’d seen it she’d been a little girl. None of the awe had worn off. She imagined raising her daughter here, in this majestic place. It wasn’t the Keep. Nothing compared to it. But it was pretty damned cool, she had to admit.
There were four towering, stone temples in front of her arranged in a semicircle. One for each god representing the healer, artist, and warrior castes. The goddess temple stood at one end next to the warrior temple. It had been unoccupied for centuries though the high priestesses had kept in maintained down through the years. On the outside at least.
Waiting before them were the high priests of the gods, all in formal attire. Perhaps she should have dressed for the occasion. Instead she was in her usual clothes: boots, pants, top, and weapons. It would have to do. She was the senior priestess here now. They needed to accept her as she was. Or not. She didn’t really care.
“Let’s get this over with,” she muttered to Reza, who’d insisted on accompanying her.
He claimed it was because she was unfamiliar with the palace, but she knew it was because he wanted to gauge the reaction of the northern warriors to a priestess walking among them. She could have told him she was an empath, but it was a tightly held secret and she didn’t see the need to share it with him. She didn’t need a bodyguard even if he tried to fill the role. She only wanted one man guarding her body.
Her gaze went back to the welcoming party. In addition to the priests, the overchief and his mate, Kendall, waited with Alrik and his mate, Laney. Where was Sergei? Had someone decided the southern clans didn’t need to be represented or had he declined to come? She knew he was in the palace. He’d arrived shortly before her last night.
The hell with that. A southern clan, the Keep, had kept the goddess worship alive, and the clan that ruled the south—the Traces and their Saber clan—should be here. Barak and Falkor wouldn’t have left her standing alone when the goddess returned to the north. Was Sergei that determined not to claim her? He couldn’t even spend five minutes in her company? Fine. She straightened her spine, but Reza stopped her when she would have stepped forward.
“Hold up,” he said, a slight tilt of his chin indicating she should look behind her.
A group of southern warriors approached them, not quite hurrying. It wasn’t until they drew close that she recognized Angel and Sergei. He’d finished his tattoos. The marks of his family and clan stretched down the side of his face and neck. His eyes were the usual cold reserve that threatened to drive her crazy. He stopped in front of her with a slight inclination of his head.
Not exactly a warm reception. She buried disappointment that could easily grow into pain or rage. How had she ended up stuck with the only Delroi male in existence that didn’t want a mate? They couldn’t be together anyway. She had her baby to think of. She’d told Razor by comm yesterday but they hadn’t been able to meet yet. He’d be in the palace with her father later that day.
She held his gaze a moment hoping to see a flicker of emotion—any emotion—since she got nothing from him with her talent. He was a telepath, his shields too strong for her abilities to breach. When she saw no response, she turned and strode towards the waiting priests. At least they wanted to talk to her.
They stepped forward to greet her. She’d spoken to each of them by vid conference when the decision had been made to reopen the temple. The warrior high priest, Daggar and Alrik’s uncle Geir, seemed the most pleased by the decision. Kusta, the artist high priest, and Olin, the healer high priest, were reserved though she sensed cautious optimism. After the hellos were said, Geir turned to her.
“You brought no priestesses with you?”
“They’ll be here next week. No one’s been inside in the temple in years. It needs to be prepared.”
“Of course. We’d be happy to help.”
She smiled at his attempt to get inside the goddess temple. “If the help is female and sanctioned by the goddess, I’d be pleased for the assistance.”
He laughed. “Of course.” He turned aside and swept out his arm. “Your temple, priestess.”
As she moved forward, Angel fell into step beside her. Reza and her warriors fell in behind them. They’d probably guard the door until Kayna came back out. She set her palm on the plate that opened one of the smaller doors across the front of the temple and stepped inside. She stepped over the threshold and the interior lights slowly began coming on. Angel followed her and the door sealed them inside. It took a few minutes for all the lights to come on, and what they illuminated wasn’t good. The large anteroom was littered with what remained of the new service bots that had been delivered just a few days ago. She drew her laser pistol.
“You should wait outside, Angel.”
“No way,” she replied, pulling a dagger from her boot.
Kayna arched an eyebrow and Angel shrugged. “Sergei wasn’t the only one raised to be an assassin. I may still be weak, but I’m not useless.”
The weakness was from years of captivity, but she’d regained a lot in the weeks since she’d been free.
“How’s your telepathy?”
“One hundred percent.”
They searched the bottom floor room by room. It was similar to the temple at the Keep. There were meditation rooms, chapels, a library, offices, and a gymnasium with a pool. It was dusty, but they found no more debris so they way their way through the second floor apartments, and finally to the third floor. Half of it was a garden covered by a large glass dome. There was nothing alive. The water fountain in the center no longer functioned. The other half was the high priestess’s apartment. She was almost afraid to walk into it, but it was more of the same. She re-holstered her pistol.
“Now what?” Angel asked.
She sighed. “I inform my mother and get the mess cleaned up. Change all the codes. Someone got in here somehow. And I need to check the surveillance. Maybe we can identify our vandals.”
“You think it was more than one?”
“Don’t you?” she asked, going back to the first floor communication room. She sensed anger from more than one person. Men. “You don’t sense residual power or something?”
She looked over her shoulder to see Angel shake her head. “My talent doesn’t work like that. I’m not an empath.”
She didn’t respond to that. Had Angel figured out what she was? She’d find out in time. It sure as hell wasn’t the only secret she was keeping. Suddenly, Angel laughed. Damn. Had she let that thought slip? The problem with telepaths was you had to always be on guard.
“Don’t worry, Kayna. Your secrets are yours, as far as I’m concerned. Watch out for my brother, though. He’ll figure out your talent if you spend any time with him.”
She huffed. “You don’t have to worry about that happening.”
They entered the right room and Kayna turned the power on the equipment. It needed to be upgraded, but it would wait until she could get priestesses there to do it.
“Give it time. He’ll come around,” Angel said softly.
Kayna wasn’t sure if she wanted him to if it had to be put that way. Thankfully, the screens were flickering on so she was saved from responding. The temple’s outside cameras were set for motion. Most people thought they were turned off, but they would wake from their dormant state anytime someone got close enough to touch the doors. She didn’t have to go far to find images of three men entering one of the side doors at the rear of temple, between it and warrior’s temple next door. She didn’t recognize any of them. They had no facial tattoos so were presumably from the north. They carried some kind of device that bypassed the key plates. Fuck.
“This ain’t good,” Angel said.
She sent copies of the video to her mother and to Reza. Both had access to facial recognition programs she didn’t have installed here yet.
“How are you going to keep them out if they come back? I can’t imagine you’d want to put warrior guards on the outside.”
She snorted. “Absolutely not, though my brothers would happily assign me a squad of warriors every time I leave my quarters. No, I had something else in mind.”
She brought up a screen that showed the temple’s interior security and defense schematics. This temple was almost as old as the one in the Keep, but the defenses that dated back from the old warrior clan wars had never been removed here. The hologram showed the interior corridors and rooms on the first floor, criss-crossed with lasers. They were random, floor to ceiling, and they oscillated. Anyone trying to get in without the right code would be sliced to pieces.
“Fuck. This is hardcore, Kayna,” Angel asked, a little bit of awe in her voice.
She wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but she liked the sound of it. She pushed a few buttons. First to turn the lasers off and another set of instructions to turn them back on when she exited the temple.
“It’s coded to me. If anyone else tries to enter…” She shrugged.
“You’re a little evil, Kayna. I like it.” She grinned. “My brother will never know what hit him.”
She had no idea how to respond to that, though she could guess what it meant. Sergei didn’t want anything to do with her, but hitting him was damned tempting.
“That isn’t going to happen.”
She was resolved to it. She would be resolved. Damn it. How had everything got so crazy so fast? She would respect Sergei’s wish to remain unmated. Didn’t have much choice there, did she? But she needed to get enough time alone with him to explain about her pregnancy before it became common knowledge. He didn’t need to hear about it from someone else. He may not want to claim her but those instincts could get out of control. The last thing she needed was to start a clan war or get someone killed. The trick was getting Sergei alone, but when they walked outside he was gone.