Eok Warriors, book 2
His lust could devour them.
Her love will free them both.
After being left for dead by her people, Aliena wakes up under the care of alien pirates. She escapes, only to be captured by a creature straight from her darkest nightmares, bent on the destruction of everything she holds dear.
An Eok warrior turned outlaw, Kamal is one to be reckoned with. He is on a mission for the Eok nation, and his only goal is to find and save the humans before he can return to his old life. He has no intention of allowing a headstrong human female to get in his way.
As Aliena embarks on a mission to rescue her uncle from Minister Knut’s clutches, Kamal is at a crossroads. If he chooses help the human, the price might well be his own life.
When the Mating Venom unleashes its torment, Kamal has to decide. Will he change his ways and claim Aliena’s heart, or is the life of an outlaw too hard to leave behind?
Publisher’s Note: This steamy, thrilling sci-fi romance is the second in the Eok Warriors series, however it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.
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Her steps were too slow and her legs were too weak. She wasn’t covering enough ground, and she knew it. Still, she couldn’t go any faster. Exhaustion had burrowed deep into her bones, leaving a bitter and acrid taste on the back of her tongue, making each slow step a battle. She had fallen twice already, and the last time, she hadn’t been sure she could get back up.
Everything was torture. Her boots were too big, and the melted snow inside made them heavy. The chilling dampness of the snow wrapped around her legs while the freezing wind dug inside the folds of her too large jacket. Her last reserves of energy were fading fast.
The synthetic leather clothing she’d stolen wasn’t meant for the harsh cold of the winter, but it was still better than the cotton gown. The pungent smell of the alien rose from the collar of the jacket, overpowering the clean scent of the forest as wind blew between pines and saplings. Every inch of it reminded her of the sick mind of the creature who wore it before, of what he’d intended to do to her. Of the fate she had to escape
Aliena paused, bracing her palm on an oak tree. The heavy stick she’d picked up earlier to help her walk fell in the snow and she left it there. Her vision was blurry from snow melting on her brows and falling in her eyes, and her breath came fast and shallow, a piercing pain stabbing her chest each time she inhaled.
She choked back a sob.
She had escaped, but she wouldn’t have the strength to get back to her people, not without taking the necessary precautions to hide her tracks. She was going to die out there, alone and cold, but it was still better than what the aliens had had in store for her.
Her knees buckled and she fell to the snow. With a deep exhalation, Aliena turned her back to the tree trunk and braced her tired body against it. That was it; she wasn’t going any farther. Her family had already lost so much, and now they were about to lose her, too.
I’m sorry, she thought. I’m not coming back.
Now that she’d let go, she was surprised at how easy it was to relax. She let her head rest against the hard bark and closed her eyes. The exhaustion she’d fought for so long took over like a tidal wave, settling on her shoulders with a wet weight. She allowed the cold to seep inside her pores, calming the fear and sadness to a dull ache inside her chest. She was too tired to care anymore.
Minutes came and went, she had no idea how long she had been there. She didn’t care.
A branch cracked somewhere behind the thicket of saplings to her left, and Aliena’s eyes snapped open. Fast, her hands dug in the snow, grabbing the heavy stick between stiff fingers.
Yes, she was tired and defeated, but the prospect of being devoured alive by an opportunistic predator was enough to chase the exhaustion away for a while. As quickly as she could, she pushed herself up to her feet and stood on high alert, her eyes fastened to the moving wall of greenery.
Hot tears of dread burned her eyelids as she steadied herself. Her only chance against a predator was to scare it off by standing up to it. Most weren’t looking for prey that could bite back, and her very life depended on how good she was at bluffing.
The saplings moved, then parted.
The blood drained from Aliena’s face as she locked gazes with the predator.
His eyes were the first thing she noticed as they fixed on her with a deadly intent. They were the pale, cold blue of fog over a lake during a frozen morning in the fall. Those were eyes made for violence and battle, without a trace of mercy. The eyes of a killer.
His face shone, metallic blue and bald, covered with a fine layer of melting snow, contrasting with the black synthetic leather of his uniform. His tall stature eclipsed the trees around, towering close to the tops of the young saplings at nearly seven feet. His broad shoulders heaved with deep, violence-filled breaths as he angled his entire bulky body toward her, moving forward with a single-minded purpose. Everything in the creature screamed male aggression, and it struck her with a mindless fear.
She knew what he was, and what he was, was a nightmare. Worse than a nightmare. He was Eok.
“Midnight God,” his voice cut the sentient silence of the forest, hoarse and deep. Irritated. Deadly. “How did you cover so much ground? Did you fly?”
“Stay where you are!” Aliena shouted, her heart pounding and her mind running in circles. She lifted the stick as she would a spear, straight out in front of her. She was only too conscious of its weakness, of her weakness, but she had nothing else to count on. Her hands gripped it so hard her knuckles screamed in agony and the tip of it shook, but she couldn’t stop it. “Don’t come any closer.”
The male stopped, his eyes squinting at her from the distance, his mouth curving with a cruel edge. He wasn’t happy, that much was clear.
“Don’t be foolish. You’re barely recovered.”
“Well,” she scanned the surrounding woods but found no refuge. She needed time to plan an escape. “I’m healthy enough now. You can go.”
The Eok straightened but stayed where he was. He glanced down at the stick, and the corners of his mouth curved in a mocking smirk. Slowly, he shook his head, like he couldn’t believe she didn’t immediately obey.
This spread anger on Aliena’s fear, steadying the stick and her buckling knees. She had been ready to fight a bear or a mountain lion. Instead, she was going to fight off this arrogant, self-confident Eok asshole.
“You’re freezing, and you’re barely standing on your own feet. You’re coming with me.”
“You wish,” Aliena countered, putting as much strength as she could behind the words, trying to gain a few more seconds. She raised the stick higher in a silent threat. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“You’re not?” the Eok said with a chuckle. “And how do you plan on escaping from me, Little Bird? You’re going to fly away?”
He still pointedly ignored her weapon, which felt more and more insignificant by the second. Aliena watched the Eok as he stalked toward her, his tall frame moving with an agility surprising for one so muscular. As he came closer, the fluttering of fear in her stomach morphed to an all-out hurricane, and she had to refrain from falling to her knees and begging for mercy.
The Eok’s skin, of a cold steel blue, was marred with a constellation of tiny bumps lining his features, giving him the appearance of a mythological monster. His cheekbones were higher and sharper than a human’s, and his strong nose was marred by three ridges. His heavy lips curved as if perpetually on the verge of a cruel laugh. He had the face of an angered God, as attractive as it was terrible. He was handsome—in the cruel, self-confident way of a predator—as he came to stand a mere ten feet in front of her. He stared her down in all his glorious strength, so much more than her that she felt like a mouse staring up a mountain lion. A creature of no importance, tiny and defenseless.
He was every bit as terrifying as Eoks were supposed to be, and that made a cool despair seep inside Aliena’s already defeated body. She might have been able to fight off the gray-skinned, pointy-eared alien, but this one was another affair entirely.
Aliena still locked gazes with the Eok, who crossed his arms and braced his shoulder against a large tree trunk. His long frame stilled as he looked at her.
Slowly, she lowered the stick.
“I know I can’t escape from you. Not now.” Aliena lifted her chin. She refused to let him know how small she felt, how helpless. “I’m not stupid.”
“Then don’t act like it.” The Eok extended his hand, his entire body radiating confidence and domination. “I’ve lost enough time as it is.”
His words sent a flash of anger across Aliena’s heart. He’d lost time tracking her, curing her, feeding her? She was nothing more than a pet to him, one that would pay back its investment soon.
“What will you do if I refuse?” She glared at him, holding the cold gray of his stare despite the trembling of her limbs. “Will you drag me through the snow? Tie me back on to that table?”
“I will do whatever it takes to ensure your safety.” The Eok lifted his chin slightly. His entire body tensed, as if to prove a point. As if she would offer the slightest challenge. “You already almost died twice, I’m not allowing you to endanger yourself more.”
Aliena scoffed. This male was getting under her skin with his arrogance.
“And who do you think you are, to allow me anything?” She flipped her hair away from her face, unable and unwilling to give way, even if she knew the outcome of any physical struggle.
“Kamal, son of Enlon of the Erynian tribe,” the Eok answered, bending down in a parody of reverence, one hand over his heart and the other arm extended. He never took his eyes off her, and the twinkle of amusement in them made her grit her teeth. “Captain of the Mellark, fastest ship this side of the Ring, and smuggler extraordinaire. At your service.”
Kamal straightened, his eyes not missing a hair of her reaction. She couldn’t help it, her throat closed and her jaw clenched. She bit down on her tongue, and the taste of blood shook some sense into her.
“Smuggler?” She could almost taste it, the despair, coming back to her. He was nothing but a ruthless criminal, driven by profit only. She was his key to riches beyond imagination. “You’re a pirate?”
“Smuggler, pirate,” Kamal opened his hands in a universal gesture of agreement, and his smile widened, sparkling and white, revealing two elongated fangs, “facilitator, and even mercenary, if the pay is high enough.”
A shiver of fear ran up her spine. He did it on purpose, exposing his fangs like that, she was sure of it.
“So that’s what you want from me. Turn me into a profit?” Aliena chuckled, a dry, hopeless little sound, a sound so unlike her that she shivered hearing it. “Isn’t that what Eok warriors do? Take females by force? Do it, then, like the monster you are.”
The Eok paused, his brows drawing closer together, and the smirk fading from his face. His eyes were unreadable, but his shoulders were no longer relaxed. His muscles were taut under his uniform, and his neck tight with the clenching of his jaw.
“I would much rather have you come willingly with me.” Kamal kept still but his eyes shone with something she couldn’t decipher. “But, one way or the other, I’m not leaving you out there to die.”
“What do you care?” Her voice was small, and she hated the note of hope underlying it, but as much as she tried, she couldn’t make herself not care. She wanted to live. “What you want to do to me is worse than death, anyway.”
Surprise etched the handsome face, swiftly followed by an expression best described as outrage.
“And what is it exactly you think I intend to do with you that I didn’t have time to do while you were on my ship?”
“What all males want to do with human females.” She didn’t have the heart to say more. The bleak prospect of life as a human slave didn’t need any words to describe its misery. “Use me. Sell me.”
This struck a chord. Kamal straightened, his face no longer amused. He was angry at the accusation.
“Since you came into my care, you have been treated for malnutrition, double pneumonia, and severe cold burn.” The Eok spoke slowly, each word carefully articulated. “Never have you been harmed.”
“Stealing girls from their families? Selling them for profit?” Aliena countered, once again feeling her anger flaring up. Now that she’d brought the memory back, she couldn’t deny how it made her feel. “Is that what you call no harm?”
The Eok stilled, then his eyes reduced to slits.
“I am not a slave merchant.”
“No? Then why are you keeping me?” She obstinately refused to look at his still proffered hand. “Why not give me food and let me go?”
The Eok groaned and let his hand fall at his side.
“You are the most obstinate female I have ever encountered.” He took the few steps that separated them, glaring down at her from his regal height. “I swear that no harm will come to you. Now, I will take you back, whether you scream and kick or don’t.”
Without giving her time to answer or think, Kamal bent, swooping her off her feet, then cradled her against his chest as he turned around and walked away. Her arms wrapped around his neck in an impulsive gesture and Aliena stared, too shocked to react as she was carried away at a brisk pace.
Her first instinct was to fight him off, but as soon as the thought crossed her mind, she abandoned it. She was too tired, too cold and, most of all, she knew he was right. She wasn’t going to be able to escape.
Kamal looked straight ahead, not glancing down as he made his way over the uneven ground of the forest. Already the heat coming off him in irresistible waves was making her exhausted body crave more of his touch. In silence, she studied his profile, the line of his jaw, strong and square, the fleshy curve of his lips, screaming of lust and passion. Of cruel pleasures where pain and ecstasy mixed in a dangerous dance.
His face stirred something inside her, a jagged edge of attraction and fear, but as soon as it came up, she pushed it down. She was a prisoner, and no matter how attractive her golden cage was, she had to find a way to escape it.