Seeking Fate [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Moira Reid
eBook Category: Romance/Science Fiction
eBook Description: No one listens to Josephine Mattern. She has a solution to her company's ski resort project, but her boss won't consider it. In frustration, she skis away alone and has a terrible accident. Floating in and out of consciousness, she is carried deep into the woods by a stranger. He miraculously heals her and and breaks mind-boggling news: His name is Victor, and he has traveled across the galaxy to find her. An asteroid will destroy his planet, Vivimonde, and their king will eliminate every person on Earth and relocate the inhabitants of his planet before it hits. Vivimonde's oracle has spoken: Josephine can save them.
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2011
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4 Reader Ratings:
The sound of slogging boots joined the jerky movements of her body. Someone was carrying her. Shifting images of trees, mountains and driving snow flickered in her vision. The woods. The snow pelting her cheeks helped wake her but did nothing to alleviate the alternating pain in her chest, neck and right knee. She should be dead; she was sure of it. She couldn't get her mind to remember why, but each jarring step confirmed one thing--she wasn't dead.
"Where...are you taking me?" Jo couldn't speak above a whisper. Her chest was a fire of pain, her head too heavy to lift from the shoulder of the man carrying her. She closed her eyes against the painful swaying motion. She had to stay awake, had to find out...
What could have been moments or hours passed, and she awoke again. She tried to turn her head, and a sharp pain traveled along the base of her neck through the top of her skull. "Ohh."
"You're going to be all right. Don't talk." His voice, so low and deep, spun around her like the falling snow.
She lifted her heavy lids once more and forced her eyes to focus. A small cabin stood a dozen yards away, and they were moving toward it. "What...? Where...?"
The distance between them and the cabin closed in shifting scenes like splices of film cut from a motion picture. Wooden steps, a door, dark interior. The man kicked the door closed behind them, the abrupt silence of the room deafening.
She watched a sofa move toward her in the semi-darkness. No, she was moving toward it. Then, she was lying on it. She squeezed her eyes shut to still the agony threading through every pore in her body. She tried to sit up.
"Oh!" She willed the pain to stop.
"Stay there." Something soft stroked her face, and then a heavy warmth covered her body. She opened her eyes just enough to see him tuck the hem of a quilt under her chin.
She blinked to focus her vision. The man stood on the other side of the room in front of a stone, floor-to-ceiling fireplace, the outline of his enormous body barely visible in the dim light.
Even lying still, her back and leg ached, her neck seemed unattached to her body, and her face stung from the blustering cold air. How far had they come to get here? Where was here?
Jo slid her hand down toward her aching knee, the first tentative touch like a sledge hammer pounding a stone. "Oh, God."
"Give me a minute." His voice echoed through the small space and mingled with the clattering of metal tools and wood. "I can help you."
Her body began to shake with a cold permeating to her bones. She stared at the big man's back as the blurry vision lay kindling and logs on the andirons. He struck a long, thin match.
The blaze caught the dry wood, crackling and snapping. Reflections of golden firelight danced over him as large shadows undulated along the walls and sparse furnishings. But the motions along the walls dizzied her further, and she forced her gaze back to the man. He wore a navy blue snowsuit, large boots and a stocking cap, similar to every other skier in her group today.
Skiing in a group? Yes. She'd been skiing.
"What happened...?" She sucked in a deeper breath, ignoring the pain in her chest. "What happened to me?"
He returned and knelt beside her. Placing his hands on her forehead, he lifted her eyelids one at a time. "I didn't see it happen, but judging by the damage, I'd say you hit a tree."
"What is...the damage?"
"The tree fared better than you." He held her face in his hands and stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. A luxurious calm moved through her head, and she closed her eyes.
"So..." She gasped from the pain radiating from her knee and chest. "...sleepy."
"Yes, I know. Rest now."
The cabin and snow evaporated with the pain, and the image before her closed eyes shifted to a large meadow. A river cascaded down from a tall mountain range, spanning as far as she could see. Surrounded by trees and mountains and steeped with the sweet scent of some unknown flower, the image filled her like a warm sip of whiskey. Her feet were cool as she walked barefoot in the plush grass; the crisp air stroked her bare shoulders, which were warmed by a bright yellow sun.
A tall man stood in the distance along the bank of the river, his boots dug into the silt, his navy blue snowsuit reflecting the rays of sunshine and sparkling water.
"What are you doing here?"
He did not respond.
She moved toward him. "What are you--"
"This is the most beautiful place in the solar system."
Solar system? "We're in Virginia. Those are the Blue Ridge Mountains."
He stared over the river. "Yes, I know. Shh. You rest now." His voice echoed through the fresh air.
She continued walking toward him, but the sensation of warm, firm hands on her breasts stopped her. The light wind blew her hair across her face, and she stared down at her naked body. The sensation continued, grew firmer.
The contact resembled the touch of a man. She covered her breasts with her hands and looked up. He remained at the river bank. "What's happening?"
"It's all right. You're going to be okay."
He turned from the river toward her, his eyes reflecting the golden yellow of the cabin's fire.
The cabin. She opened her eyes, and the image of mountains and the stream disintegrated. Her snowsuit lay open to her waist, and his hands rested on the fleece thermal T-shirt covering her breasts. His face was inches from hers.
"Get your hands off me!" She grabbed his hands and shoved him.
The movement caught him off guard. He pinwheeled his arms and fell, sprawling onto the wood floor.
Jo yanked the quilt over her chest, her heart pounding in her ears. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
He rose from the floor, shook his head, then walked back to the other side of the room. Picking up a poker, he stabbed at the fire. "Glad to see you're feeling better."
She sat up and clutched the quilt to her chest. As she moved to stand, she screamed.
He did not turn around. "The knee probably still hurts."
Gritting her teeth to still the throbbing pain in her leg, she glared at him. "What do you think you were doing?"
"Checking for broken bones." He picked up a log, tossed it onto the hearth, then settled it into place with the poker.
The plank walls surrounding the fireplace were rough-hewn wood, brown and weathered. The fireplace, cast in the wall, was surrounded by smooth river rocks. The rustic place was old but didn't have the scent of age or disuse. Did the cabin belong to him?
"Are you a doctor?"
He put the poker back into the wrought-iron fireplace rack. "In a manner of speaking." He walked back to the sofa. "You going to let me take a look at that knee?"
She pulled the quilt tighter around her body and stared up at him, feigning bravery she did not feel. "Where did you come from?"
"Most recently? From a snow bank. If I hadn't, you'd still be lying there."
Lying in the snow. Yes. She'd been skiing then something cold and hurt and... The overwhelming shivering brought on by the trek through the blizzard conditions had subsided, but a rising fear trembled through her limbs.
The black diamond run. The mogul. The tree. As she sailed toward it, she'd known she was going to die, known that if she didn't die instantly, she would die in agony. But no matter what, she would die. The crash echoed in her ears once more. Her chest and knee had taken the brunt of the impact, and her head had scraped the side of the tree.
The others had taken another of the trails while she'd chosen the black diamond. Not smart, and in this case, it should have been deadly. How in the world had she survived that?
She'd bounced off the trunk and fell backward into the soft, loose snow. Lying in agony, she'd tried to scream, but her lungs would not cooperate. She'd heard moaning in her semi-conscious state and realized the gurgling was her own throat.
That misery hadn't been a dream. She'd been injured moments ago, and now nothing but a throbbing in her knee.
He folded his arms over his chest. "Remember it now?"
She clutched the quilt to her chest to still her trembling hands, sucking in a deep, painless breath. She glanced down at her chest, pressing her hand against her neck then down to her stomach. She was fine, as if the crash had never happened. The woodsy scent of his skin mingled with each easy, sweet breath of cool, fresh air.
She stared up at him. "I hit a tree."
He nodded, his eyes watching her. His face in the flickering halflight was unfamiliar; she would remember a face like that. A wave of pain moved up and down her leg, but her mind was clear enough to know he looked more like a male model who advertised outdoor sporting goods for a living than a doctor. In another place and time, she would think him handsome.
But this wasn't a different time, and she didn't know what place this was. She'd been hurt, and this man had carried her here, wherever here was, to safety.
So, why didn't she trust him? Why didn't she think for one moment that he was as he'd appeared? He'd brought her to a dry, warm place, covered her, and helped her. Aside from putting his hands on her breasts--which could have been to administer aid--he'd done nothing to make her doubt he had anything but the best, most altruistic, of intentions.
Something, though. Something about him bothered her. What was going on in that mind of his? What was he considering as he gazed at her?
She scowled. Okay, he didn't look like her idea of a rapist or murderer, but what did one look like? Did it matter what he looked like? He'd had his hands on her breasts. Hadn't Ted Bundy been handsome?
"Why didn't you take me to a hospital? Or back to the lodge to my friends?"
"Your friends left you there. I brought you here."
His emphasis on the word startled her. What did he know about them? About her?
"Besides, I need to talk to you in private."
"Talk to me?" She shifted on the sofa and winced from the agony in her knee. She shivered again more from a creeping anxiety than the temperature of the room.
"Are you still cold?" He grabbed an afghan from the back of a nearby chair and draped it over the quilt. Returning to the fireplace, he stabbed the logs until they reddened, sending flames climbing up the flue.
His every motion was graceful and efficient. Though wearing heavy snow boots and a padded snowsuit, he moved like no man she'd ever seen. Pulling the blankets higher, she clutched them to her chest to still a rising unrest building in her stomach. "Why do you need to talk to me? I don't even know you."
"Yeah, but I know you."
Okay, enough was enough. "Look, I appreciate your helping me, but I don't know what you're talking about. And my friends are probably worried right now, wondering where I am. They could be searching for me as we speak."
The others would do something when she didn't return to the lodge. As irritating as Liz was, she didn't believe Liz wished her harm or would let her stay out all night in the freezing cold. Gregory wouldn't ignore the fact that she hadn't returned. But what if they went to bed and didn't check, didn't wait to see when she returned? What then? How long before they came looking for her, and when they did, would it be too late?
Her imagination was running away with her. She knew it, and she tried to quell the urges racing through her. Adrenaline pulsed through her body, the fight-or-flight reflex not injured in the slightest. She couldn't pinpoint the source of her unease, but her instincts were infallible.
"I need to get back." She tried once more to move, but waves of dizzying pain singed her leg all the way up her spine. The bone was broken. She wouldn't be putting any weight on it for a while. She pressed her fingertips to her temple.
"Head still hurt?"
"No." She'd snapped her neck around that tree, felt her face scrape the side of the rough bark. She would have laid bets on a concussion at a minimum, a spinal injury at worst. But as she smoothed her palm over both cheeks, she confirmed once more the impossible lack of pain or injury. Her face was as smooth and cool as it was before her rendezvous with the oak.
"Your color is better. You should let me look at that knee before we talk."
Maybe he was a doctor. When she'd asked, he'd said, "In a manner of speaking." Maybe he was a plastic surgeon or something like that. Still, he had been feeling her up while she was unconscious. Her nipples had hardened with the smooth stroke of his fingertips--she hadn't dreamed or imagined that.
"I'll talk to you, but for now, get me some ice for the knee. You're through touching me."
He did not move from his sentry post by the fireplace. "You're welcome, by the way."
"You're right; I'm sorry. Thank you."
"You would have died out there if I hadn't been following you." He strode toward her. "A little appreciation isn't out of line for someone who saved your life."
"Following me?" And once more, she realized that her impulses, no matter how inexplicable, were never wrong. She reached under the blanket into the pocket of her ski suit and slid her cell phone out. Feeling around for the emergency speed dial 911 button, she found it and pressed. "Okay, my attitude is changed. Thank you for saving my life."
"Yeah, I hear the loving kindness dripping off of you."
Okay, that was a little bit funny. For a kidnapper, he wasn't hard on the eyes nor was he without intelligence. "I do apologize. Would you mind getting me some ice for my knee, if it's not too much trouble?" They eyed each other until she added, "Please?"
He nodded. "Sure. Then we talk."
He got you out of the snow and into this warm place. Your head and chest aren't hurting anymore. He just wants to talk. Stay calm.
Ignoring his hands on her breasts, though? Forgetting the tingle of her flesh as his fingers grazed her nipples? Okay, that wasn't going to happen.
When he grabbed a plastic bag from the kitchen and went outside, she yanked the cell phone from under the quilt. No service. Damn it. She snapped the phone closed and shoved it back into her pocket, wincing as her knee shifted with the gesture.
Minutes later, he returned with a plastic kitchen-sized garbage bag half filled with snow. He set it on the floor next to her then walked over to the fire and stoked the blaze once more. "There's no cell service out here. In case you were wondering."
How did he...? His back facing her, she measured her options as she measured his physique. She couldn't overpower him; that was for sure. Throw something huge and heavy at him and break his neck? Yeah, on the verge of more than a little satisfying at the moment, but not reasonable. Wait until he falls asleep and sneak out? Not on this knee, and she didn't intend to be here that long. Find a land phone in this cabin and call for help? Could work, assuming this cabin had one.
As she ran over the options, he returned to the sofa, picked up the bag, and reached for the blankets covering her.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Putting this bag of snow on your knee unless you think you can lift it yourself."
That was an impossibility. "Look, how do I know I can trust you?"
"I didn't ask you to trust me." He shook his head. "Look, you're not unattractive, but if I was going to do something besides save your life, I'd have done it already. All right?"
She schooled her features in what she hoped was an intimidating glare. "Don't pretend you weren't touching my breasts. You're not a doctor, are you?"
He tilted his head to the side and pursed his lips. "I told you I was checking your chest for broken bones. I wasn't just copping a feel."
There was something in his eyes. "You're lying."
His face reddened, whether from embarrassment or anger she wasn't quite sure. "You were in pain; now you're not. I'm a hell of a doctor."
"You felt me up! Admit it!"
He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I said I wasn't just copping a feel."
Interesting. She pulled the blanket tighter around her neck, exposing her calves and knees. "All right then. You can put that bag on my knee now."
He opened his eyes, nodded once, and punched the bag of snow until it had a long, narrow indentation. He lowered it over one leg of her ski pants.
"It won't work as well through the insulation." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Let me remove the pants."
She laughed, the sound as ugly and as close to a snort as she could muster. "Pass."
He blew out a long breath. "I can keep my eyes shut, if that makes any difference."
He walked to the closest armchair and sat down. "In addition to multiple skin lacerations, pieces of your spinal vertebrae tore into cord tissues and were pressing down on the nerves that send signals to your brain. Your skull was also fractured--I repaired all that damage, but your right leg is still broken, probably in multiple places."
"What? How do you know--"
"I enjoyed touching your body while I was healing you. I admit that." He took a deep breath. "But if you don't let me do it again, bone marrow could escape into your bloodstream and travel to your heart, resulting in a heart attack, or to your lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism, or to your brain, resulting in stroke. A broken femur can also damage a femoral artery, and you could bleed out. In short, you could die."
She tried to process all the medical terminology. "There's no way you could know all that. Who are you?"
Victor schooled his features in direct contrast to the look of shock and distrust on hers. He'd planned everything he was going to say on his trip to find her. Her collision with the tree had rendered those plans moot. His attempts at improvising weren't working well, either.
This situation was less than ideal, and the truth would be a shock her body might not process well in its current state. Her blood pressure was already elevated. He hadn't had a chance to perform a full examination of her leg, but the possibilities he'd outlined remained. Perhaps the cooling of the injury would buy him enough time to explain. She wasn't going to let him anywhere near her without the truth.
"Victor. I'm from the planet Vivemonde."
"From the planet..." Her voice was low and shaky, and her skin had paled. "What are you talking about?"
"I came here to find you and bring you a message from the Auquerel."
She blinked, and her mouth hung open.
"You were unconscious by the time I reached you. I carried you here because I had two choices: take you to a human medical facility and watch you die, or bring you here and make you live. Dead, you are of no use to me or anyone else. Alive--" He let his voice trail off. Alive, he had a small chance of convincing her of what she had to do.
"And you made me live?" Her eyes were wide now, the irises surrounded by white as bright as the snow outside.
"Your spine and skull suffered worst from the impact, but two of the four broken ribs had punctured one of your lungs. Your breathing was erratic, and I did what I could to help your breathing during the trek. I carried you as quickly as I could, knowing I had to get closer to your skin to heal all the wounds before you died.
"I'd planned to tell you all this when you were healthy, but you wouldn't have survived if I hadn't healed your head and back injuries. Healing those first, however, brought you back to consciousness, necessitating explanations I am now making and do not have time for."
She closed her mouth and cleared her throat. "You said you have a message."
"Yes. From the Auquerel."
"From the what?"
"The oracle on our planet."
She shook her head, sat up straighter, and winced with pain. "You're nuts. I want to call the lodge right now and get out of here."
"I can't let you do that until I convey the message."
She blinked again and shook her head. "I'm trapped with a lunatic. Fine. Give me the message then get me the hell out of here!" She lay her head back on the cushion and closed her eyes.
Her blood pressure was dropping. He was beside her in two strides and yanked the bag of melting snow from her leg. Placing both of his hands on the cold slickness of her ski suit, he tried to concentrate.
"Oh boondan." He could not let her die. He had to get closer to her skin. Yanking a knife from his pocket, he sliced the leg of the down-filled ski suit from her ankle to her upper thigh, exposing the ribbed thermal underwear clinging to her flesh.
Her eyes snapped open. "Don't touch me."
He placed both hands on the fabric. The radiated heat would take a few seconds longer to reach her skin, but he couldn't waste time cutting it away now.
Bone marrow had reached her bloodstream. She had mere moments. He needed to focus, to mend the injury, but the memory of his palm along the curve of her breast clouded his concentration. "Josephine, take deep breaths."
The scent of female pheromones drifted through the air, and he clenched his teeth to ward off their effect. Focus. Don't let her die. He'd touched her breasts, had kept his hands on her longer than necessary to repair the damage. He'd ignored the females of his own species for so long, he'd forgotten how soft they were. But this is a human. Inappropriate and verging on lust, the memory of what he'd done clouded his ability to concentrate and would kill her if he didn't get it out of his head.
Closing his eyes, he pushed the memory of her face and body out of his mind with a physical effort. He wasn't too late; he couldn't be too late.
"Victor." Her whisper moved through him, but he did not allow himself to open his eyes.
The sound of the human name on her lips laced through his concentration, separated it, dismantled it. "I said, don't talk!"
He removed the marrow from the vena cava, but he hadn't yet repaired the knee when she spoke again, a low, soft moaning of his name.
Boondan. Palming humans was forbidden, but he had no other choice. A mild palming would quiet her for the moments he needed to keep her alive. He held his palm toward her face.
"Oh, my God." She slipped farther down into the cushions and grabbed one of his hands, wrenching it to her breast. She squeezed until her firm flesh was cupped in his hand. "Kiss me." Wrapping her hand around his neck, she pulled him to her, pressing her soft, moist lips to his mouth. She stroked her tongue over his bottom lip and whispered his name again.
Heat flooded from both of his hands, radiating from every part of his body. This was not the response he'd expected, but the healing power flowed through him now in waves. He yanked his hand away from her breast and pressed it to her knee. The repair of the bones, arteries and bloodstream happened almost instantaneously.
The power of the palm had allowed him to heal her injuries, but now she held the power. Every beat of her heart called to him. He'd used the mildest palming. How had this happened? The scent of her pheromones filled the room, and his entire being ached for her. His lips parted against hers. No effort on his part could overcome his body's physical response, but he struggled against his mounting loss of control.
Every moment he didn't push himself away slowed until he was surrounded in complete sensation--her sweet taste, her luscious scent, her soft skin, her rapid breathing. Seeing her body would sweep away any hope he had left. He closed his eyes tighter and fought against his body's inescapable response. Get up. Get up now.
Her tongue sank deeper into his mouth, and the sound of her sigh hardened his body to the point of pain. "Open your eyes, Victor."
His efforts to resist were futile. With just one glance, his control snapped.
"Your shirt, Jo. Take it off."
She released him long enough to yank her thermal top over her head. It fell to the floor as she pressed her lips to his once again. She grabbed the zipper on his jacket, slid it down, and pushed the restrictive clothing off his shoulders.
When she grasped the tail of his shirt, he ended the kiss, pulled the shirt over his head in one swift movement, then took her into his arms. She wrapped both arms around his neck and kissed him again, pressing her naked breasts against his chest. The sweet taste of her mouth and hunger of her kiss stroked his flesh. Her hands followed.
We have to stop. I have to stop. The thoughts were there, his good intentions intact, but the ability to follow through had fled with his first touch.