Love's Quest #2
Mehanna has magic in her blood but she doesn’t know how to control it. The one time she tried went horribly wrong. She blames it on the fact she had no one to train her. She had been dumped on the planet as a child, with no memories, and left to her own devises. The only thing she can create without an issue is a piece of fruit.
Grinnell learns she has trapped the woman he needs in a mirror. In order to complete his mission he offers to help her find out where she came from and find someone to free the barou master. They find someone who helps Mehanna free the barou master and unlock her memories which reveals she has a real problem. She has a wizard coming for her. He wants her power and sent her to that planet on purpose.
Grinnell and Mehanna have to defeat this wizard before he destroys everything they hold dear.
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
~ A Pink Satin Romance ~
Grinnell sat in the cockpit of his ship and stared out at the stars. The freedom from the tyrant who had control of his home planet was a heady thing. Now he was in charge of the Emori space fleet created to explore as well as protect the planets in the system from another tyrant taking control ever again.
He had run several of the ships through maneuvers and was happy with their performance. Grinnell had a few more tests to run, and then he would be able to approve their latest class of ships. Then maybe he could have a few duras to himself. It would all depend on Astrid and Orla.
* * *
Astrid wiped her brow. She stood with Grenta in the ballroom with the massive doors open to the outside. Astrid was born with Barou blood, giving her the ability to create images that looked and felt real to anyone without it. Grenta continued to train her to be a Barou master, something she strived to be good at, but right now she just wanted a cool breeze and a cold drink.
“If I am pushing too hard, you must tell me,” said Grenta.
“You’re not.” Astrid placed her hands against the small of her back and stretched. “I just feel a little uncomfortable.”
Grenta didn’t believe a word. “Child, you’re six lunas along. If you need a break, then let’s take a break.”
“I would like a drink.” Astrid nodded to the young woman who was her personal handmaid. The young lady bowed and went to get refreshments.
Astrid gave her mate, Orla, a bright smile when he was the one who came out with a tray a few microns later.
“How are you feeling?”
“We feel good.” Astrid rubbed her protruding womb. “Maybe a little uncomfortable from time to time, but good.”
“I am very happy to hear that.” He put the tray on a small table against the wall, then placed one hand on top of hers as he placed a soft kiss against the corner of her mouth. “Can you take a break?”
“Of course,” said Grenta. “I’ll go check on Metan. He’s been working a little too hard.”
Astrid leaned into Orla’s strength as she watched her mentor leave. “What has he been working on?”
“I don’t know, but they’re both being secretive about it.” He wrapped his arms around her. “As much as they dote on you and our unborn child, I think it’s something special for the birth.”
“It must be, if he’s working on it this early.” As their hands rested on her abdomen, the baby chose that moment to kick. Astrid laughed. “And I think he’s happy about a gift.”
“So you think it’s a boy? I thought you didn’t want to know.”
“I don’t, but I just get this feeling.” The baby moved, and she felt it.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Orla, I am fine. Oh.” She stopped talking when their baby kicked her hard. “You’ve had how many doctors watch over me?”
“This is the first time a Barou and a Miran are having a child. I don’t want any harm to come to you or our baby.” He led her to a chair out on the balcony of the ballroom. The cloth covering the sitting area he had brought out to blocked the sun’s rays. “I just want everything to go right.”
“You worry too much. There have been no signs of trouble.” She took a seat. “I’m…”
“You’re what?” He had gone back in to get the tray. Once he set it on the table she sat at, he pulled up a chair. She didn’t respond and sat motionless. “Astrid, are you alright?”
She blinked a few times then looked at him.
“Oh, my.” He stood up. “I’ll be right back.”
“Now what was that all about?” Astrid brushed her hair out of her face. She braced her hand to lever herself up but found it a little too hard to do. The tray was next to her, so she picked up the drink and took a sip.
It didn’t take long before Grenta followed Orla back outside. She took one look at Astrid and said the same thing Orla did.
“Oh, my.” She pressed the back of her hand against Astrid’s pulse then moved it behind her ear.
“Have you ever seen this before?”
“Once.” Grenta looked at Astrid. “How do you feel?”
“Why does everyone keep asking me that? What is going on?” She created a hand mirror and held it up so she could see her face. “Oh, my.”
Orla sat in the chair he had occupied earlier and took her hands.
“So why is one pupil white?” Astrid asked Grenta.
“The one time I saw this was when a child had developed their Barou power in the womb, and not knowing better, the child started draining power from their mother.”
“You first said ‘a child,’ then said ‘their.’ Why?”
“Because there were two. Twins.”
“But I don’t think I’m having twins. I haven’t felt two moving inside.” She gripped Orla’s hand. “My stars, are you saying that our child is not only going to be a Miran, but also a very powerful Barou?”
“I don’t know, but there is a way to test you and the baby.”
“There is?” She felt relief wash over her. “Oh, Good.”
“It has to be done by the leader of the Barou.” Grenta tried not to show her worry, but Astrid saw it.
Astrid wanted to scream. How was she supposed to be tested when she couldn’t leave the planet at her stage of her pregnancy? Grenta had been banned by the council, so any Barou training she received from Grenta didn’t count.
“We’re talking about the same person who won’t recognize me as a Barou because I haven’t been tested properly.” Astrid tightened her hold on Orla’s hand. “And I’ve been ordered to stay here by the doctors until I give birth.”
“Then we must bring the leader of the Barou here,” said Orla.
* * *
Grinnell stepped into the garden of the palace. He found Orla waiting for him. “You sounded urgent.”
Orla gestured for Grinnell to walk with him. “I need you to bring the leader of the Barou here.”
“Um, you want me to go to the Barou planet, where no one but a Barou is allowed to step foot on and scoop her off her feet and bring her here?” Grinnell felt like he had walked into the middle of a crazy dream. What was going on?
Orla laughed. “If you pull that off, it will make you famous.”
“You mean infamous.”
“Grenta will get you clearance.”
“The woman who was banned by the same people you want me to steal their leader from?” That didn’t make Grinnell feel any better.
“You’re not stealing her.” Orla gave him a reassuring smile.
“I am if she says no.” Grinnell placed a hand on Orla’s shoulder. “I know you wouldn’t ask me to do this if it wasn’t important, and I’m pretty sure it involves Astrid, so you know I’m going to help no matter what. But it sure would make me feel better if I knew what was going on.”
“There has been a slight complication with my mate. Grenta has been in contact with the council and made them aware of Astrid. She also let them know she couldn’t travel because of her pregnancy.” Orla opened one of the doors that allowed them to enter the ballroom. “They will know you’re coming and will make sure you come back with the person we need to help my mate.”
“Is something wrong with the child?” Grinnell could sense the urgency in Orla’s voice. The thought of Astrid or the baby being in danger twisted in his gut. They were family.
“No, we’re just being cautious right now.” Orla slapped him on the back. “Would you like to join us for midmeal?”
“I do have some time before I can lift off.”
“Wonderful,” said a soft feminine voice behind him.
“My Queen, you look wonderful.” He bowed in front of Astrid. He felt her hands on his shoulders and he stood so they could hug. “You have two different color eyes?”
“Yeah, one of the reasons we’re asking for help from the Barou.” She stepped back and took Orla’s hand. “Grenta says it’s unusual and feels the leader of the Barou would be the one who will be able to tell me if there is a problem and how to deal with it.”
“I’ll get her as quickly as I can.” Now he understood.
“Don’t race off too quickly,” said Astrid. “You did promise to have a meal with us, and I feel wonderful. So you don’t have to break the light barrier to retrieve her.”
He nodded, then followed them into the family area of the palace. Astrid hadn’t wanted to be the queen of Emori after Varal was defeated, but the people had wanted her. When she’d told them she didn’t want the power, they’d agreed. So now she was a figurehead. She had the title but not the power, and that made her very happy.
Once he sat in the chair offered to him, he spoke to Orla. “And how is your father?”
“Much better.” Orla smiled. “He has destroyed anything my stupid brother created and repaired anything that idiot destroyed.”
Astrid nodded to the chef, who stood near the kitchen entrance. He snapped his heels together and headed back into the kitchen.
“There has been a steady flow of items to sell and trade to other planets. They love the unique creations the Draharians make and are clamoring for more.”
“That is good to hear,” said Orla. “And as time goes on, there will be more. There are many talented artists on Drahar. A lot went into hiding when Varal took control of my brother and imprisoned my father.”
Varal had been the general of Emori’s army. Astrid’s father had trusted him, not knowing that Varal had designs to take control. He’d killed Astrid’s father, thinking he could marry Astrid to become the ruler of Emori. When he learned that Astrid had been betrothed to the heir to the throne on Darhar, Varal went to that planet, signed a treaty with Orla’s brother and forced Orla’s parents into hiding. Orla’s stupid brother had seen this as an opportunity to take over. He pretended to be Astrid’s intended. Varal had no clue who Astrid’s betrothed was, and Orla’s brother took advantage of that.
“A lot realized there was something wrong when your mother went to visit family and never returned, Orla,” Astrid responded. She looked up as people started to flow in with their food.
“Really?” asked Grinnell.
“Orla’s father didn’t want Varal to use her to control him. He was also smart enough to make his son believe she was killed in an accident before she could come home,” said Astrid. She sat back when her meal was placed in front of her. “When I finally met her, I realized where Orla got his intelligence from.”
“You make me sound like some sort of brainiac.” Orla nodded as someone placed his meal in front of him as well.
“Oh, my stars, you hacked my father’s computer system, then you hacked the general’s system when we were on the ship Grinnell stole. You are brilliant, and so is your mother.”
“Then I should say thank you. It’s not every dura that my mate gives me a compliment in public.”
“This isn’t public. Grinnell is family, and he would never repeat anything I say here. Neither would the staff.” She gave him a sweet smile. “No one heard a thing.”
Orla laughed. “I see. Then the next time I do something and you compliment me, I should make sure it is on the main news feed so I will have witnesses.”
“You can try sweetheart but remember we women stick together. And there are women who work for the newsfeeds. They’re the interviewers, or on the staff. There might be an accident and the information gets deleted.”
“And I’d have no evidence?” He grinned as he looked at her.
She just smiled.
Grinnell watched their interaction with rapt attention. Once Varal had been defeated and life went back to normal, Astrid and Orla’s relationship changed from protector and victim to a happy couple. Something he was glad to see. “You look wonderful, Astrid.”
“You are too kind, Grinnell.”
“She doesn’t agree, my friend. It seems her womb has knocked over one too many items and now she feels like a warbling grenat.”
“Those big, lumbering birds?” Grinnell looked at her like she had lost her mind. “Why do women always feel that way as they get closer to their child’s birth? You are beautiful and graceful, and you barely show.”
She nodded as a tear slipped down her cheek.
“What did I say?” Grinnell looked at Orla.
“Astrid’s emotions are a little out of control. Your compliment touched her.” He got up and placed his hand on her shoulder in support. “The crying is new. It started when my mate realized that some of her favorite clothes no longer fit.”
“I heard that all emotions can be heightened during pregnancy. It’s not unusual for that to happen.”
Astrid rolled her eyes at his comment.
“Did I say something wrong?” Wow, how many times was he going to say something that would get some sort of negative reaction?
“I’m sorry, Grinnell,” Astrid replied. “Everyone seems to have some great wisdom they feel they must tell me. Another lovely thing that has been happening is that every woman with children wants to tell me their lovely little birthing horrors.”
“Oh dear,” said Grinnell. “That explains a lot.”
“And please don’t tell me that the joy of holding my child will wash away the pain that could happen with childbirth.”
“I wouldn’t dare.” He looked at Orla. “Another wonderful story?”
She nodded. Astrid grimaced as she rubbed her head.
“Are you okay?” asked Orla.
She looked up at him and smiled.
Grinnell watched her rest her head against Orla’s shoulder as her eyes rolled into the back of her head. He stood in fear, afraid if Orla moved, her head would drop and she would hurt herself. A few securs later, she blinked and was okay. Grinnell didn’t know what to think. “How often does that happen?”
“What happened?” asked Astrid.
Orla looked at him.
“Oh, your eyes were the same color for an instant, but now you’re back to the one white and one violet.” He wasn't about to tell her she had passed out for a few securs.
“So there is hope,” she sighed. “I’m sorry, Grinnell, but I’m feeling a little drained. I think I should go rest a little before Grenta asks me to work on my Barou training a little more.”
“Of course.” He bowed as she turned then waited as Orla escorted her out of the room.
Grenta entered as they left. She spoke softly to Astrid for a few securs before approaching Grinnell.
“I have contacted the Barou council, and they have let me know that our leader went on a walkabout.” She gave him a slight bow to acknowledge him.
He bowed back. “What is that?”
“Basically, she has stepped away from her position as leader to reflect on what she wants to do next.”
Several servants moved around them to clean the room for the next time Astrid and Orla entered it. Grinnell gestured for Grenta to step outside for a micron.
“Great, at least I don’t have to face the council.” He felt more comfortable away from all the extra ears. He was pretty sure Grenta felt the same way. “Any idea where she went?”
“They believe she went into the nomad zone.” She watched for a reaction.
His eyes got big, and he took a step back.
“No, no, no, no, no. I’m not going there.” He shook his head. “Are you kidding? That’s where a lot of Varal’s soldiers ran to when they learned he had been defeated.”
“I know that.” Grenta looked past his shoulder, making him turn around. “It is also where you lived while Varal was in charge. You know how to get in and out without detection.”
“I had one of Varal’s best ships then.” He noticed Orla coming toward them. “I’m not piloting an attack ship now. My ship is more for exploring.”
“That’s why you’re not taking your normal ship,” said Orla as he rejoined them. “Those soldiers knew if they surrendered, they would have to face their crimes. From what I’ve heard, they just want to be left alone. You’re going in one of my newer ships, but one of our best, just in case.”
“And if they decide to take the ship because of that?”
Orla grinned. Grinnell had stolen one of General Varal’s ships when he’d decided he had enough of Varal’s dictatorship. He’d chosen one of his best because he didn’t want to get caught. Now he feared someone would do the same to him. “I think you’ll find this ship to be perfect.”
Grinnell nodded, but he didn’t believe him.
“Come. Let me show you your new ship.” Orla led the way. He stepped into a land cruiser with the royal crest and waited for Grenta and Grinnell to join him. The micron they were seated he took off.
“You love this thing, don’t you?” Grenta asked through gritted teeth.
“You still haven’t gotten used to riding in vehicles?” asked Grinnell.
“Never cared for them.” She had a white-knuckle grip on the chair she sat in.
“She also thinks I race everywhere.” Orla turned to look at her and gave her a wink.
“Keep your eyes on where we’re going.” Grenta made a little circular motion so he would turn around.
Orla laughed as he focused on landing the craft inside the massive hanger Varal had built for his fleet. “Since we took this place over, we’ve created several elite vessels. The one you’ll be using is my personal favorite. I created it for my family. It has two sleeping quarters, a small mess hall, and a hanger deck, but there is a lot of storage area that can be converted into more living space if needed. I figured as my family expanded, I could convert the extra space into whatever we need.”
“What sort of weapons does it have?” asked Grinnell.
“Enough to protect the ship ten times over.” He stopped in front of a sleek ship. “I think you’re going to fall for this ship.”
“And if I do?”
“Oh, I know you will. And if you bring back the leader of the Barou, I’ll make you one of your own.”
* * *
Grinnell waited for clearance from the hanger command and took off the secur he got it.
“Smooth,” he said to himself. Once he was out of the main flight lanes, he took it through a few maneuvers.
“Damn, Orla might be right,” he said to himself. “This is nice.”
He spent the next few horas getting to know the ship. By the time he hit the border of the nomad zone, he knew the ship backwards and forwards.
“Gods, I hate this place.” It reminded him of his time running. He was good at hiding, but he didn’t want to do that anymore. The planet the leader was on was a few horas away, so he decided to go through the woman’s file once more.
He found it fascinating that even though men could also be Barou masters, no man had ever held the position of leader. They didn’t have the stamina to make it through the tests. The current leader, Lawaya, had been off planet for over six lunas, which was the longest any leader had ever been away. In the past, she had kept up her communication with the council in case she was needed, but they hadn’t heard from her in three lunas.
If Grenta hadn’t contacted them, no one would have known about her disappearance. Secrecy was their second name. All he knew was what Grenta had taught him. From the file he had, this Lawaya was going to be difficult. He hoped he could be as convincing as everyone expected him to be.
The planet came into view until it was the only thing filling his viewscreen. Using the data in the file, he scanned for Lawaya but found no trace of her. This place was riddled with caves; could she be in one that his scanners couldn’t penetrate?
“Change the scan for heat signatures and filter out all metals but iron.” He watched as the computer did as he asked, but that didn’t work either. Grinnell drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Any suggestions?”
“There is a rare compound in the body of a Barou that helps with their power,” stated the computer. “Although each scan has included it we haven’t tried scanning for just that compound, no matter how minute.”
It took a few microns, but they got a hit.
“Set us down as close as you can. I don’t plan on staying long.”
Once the ship touched down, he powered everything off and stepped onto the ground. It smelled so fresh here. The mouth of the cave was a little further than he would like, but the ship was still visible when he got to it.
He checked the exterior, looking for footprints or waste, but there was no evidence of anyone living here. The dark cave looked abandoned, but as he walked around a weird vibration went up his legs. What caused that? “Okay, that wasn’t normal. Computer, what does your scan show?”
“There is an electronic barrier there.”
“One that is shorting out?”
“I don’t think that is what’s happening, but the material it is made from isn’t top of the line, which is why you felt the surge.”
“How strong is it?”
“It will keep you out and will last for duras.”
That figured. He wanted to get in and out quickly, but if Lawaya was hiding behind that barrier, he wasn’t going to get what he wanted. Astrid needed this woman, so he wouldn’t leave without her, but he was tempted.
Grinnell walked up to the force field and pressed his hand against it. “If that doesn’t get their attention, nothing will.”
He saw the weapon first.
“You’re not wanted here,” said a female voice.
Was that Lawaya? Why was she hiding? And why did she pull a weapon? Was she in trouble? He didn’t have time for this. “Nonetheless, I’m here, and I need to speak to Lawaya.”
“Not until I speak with Lawaya.” The woman talking didn’t admit she was Lawaya, but if she was, wouldn’t she use her Barou powers to disguise herself? “You can ignore me all you want, but I’m not leaving until I speak to Lawaya.”
A young female arm grabbed his hand and pulled him into the cave. “Can you hide your ship?”
He hit a button on the metal band on his wrist and the ship vanished from sight.
She nodded and scanned the horizon.
“There isn’t a soul out there.”
“Ha!” She glared at him. “That shows what you know.”
Grinnell couldn’t help it. He rolled his eyes as he tapped his wrist. “Computer, are you picking up anything?”
“Two males are moving in on the cave as we speak.”
So he had been wrong. “Where did they come from?”
“There is a small town nearby. It’s close enough that our arrival could have caught their attention.”
“You showed them where we were,” the young woman scolded.
“This is something I can easily fix.” It would take nothing to send them back the way they came.
“How?” She looked like she wanted to hit him.
He frowned. Why would she be so angry over this? “Computer, how far away are they from you?”
“Several klicks. They are approaching the cave from the opposite direction of my location.”
“Then we can pretend that I found nothing and leave.” He gave the young woman a knowing smile. These men will think he had left and be on their way, then he could get what he came for and be on his way as well.
“Yes. I can move to a remote location until you need me.”
“Perfect.” He looked at the woman.
“You—you can’t stay here.” She pressed her hand against her throat as she took a step back.
Not the reaction he expected. Didn’t she realize he meant her no harm? “It’s not permanent. I came to speak to Lawaya. Once I do, I’ll get out of your hair.”
“Um, you can’t.” Fear radiated from her. Looking behind her, she continued, “She’s not here.”
“Then you know where she is.” Good. He did find the right person to take him to Lawaya.
“No.” She blinked her overly bright eyes as she shook her head.
Grinnell noticed when he tried to make eye contact with her, she started looking everywhere but at him. She was lying, but why?
He heard his ship take off and knew the edge of the cave she had dragged him into had a good vantage point to watch their intruders. How he was going to handle her lying he wasn’t sure, but now he couldn’t go anywhere, so he was going to have to figure it out.
They watched the two men as they saw Grinnell’s ship take off.
“His ship left?” asked one.
“You think he took her with him?” asked the other.
“I don’t think he was here long enough to accomplish that.” The one speaking looked at the other. “Let’s set up camp. Once we’re done, I’ll contact our leader and let them know what transpired here. The stranger could come back.”
“See? Told you.” The young woman was close enough to whisper in his ear.
“Who is it they want?” He turned and watched her as she stared out at the men setting up camp.
“Lawaya.” She moved away from the mouth of the cave. “I overheard them say something about needing a Barou for some mission the last time they were here.”
“So they believe she is here as well.” At least he had confirmation that Lawaya was on the planet if she wasn’t in the cave he stood in.
“I’d know if she was here, and I promise she’s not.”
She sure was adamant about it.
“Then where is she?” He wasn’t going to leave until he found Lawaya. Perhaps if he kept at it, he’d get a straight answer.
The young woman’s gaze dropped to the floor. “I don’t know.”