Chapter One

Alexei walked down the street blending in with the shadows, a lesson his uncle taught him as a small male. Thoughts of his Uncle Ash brought a smile to his lips, but it was quickly erased as the sound of footsteps deliberately trying to be quiet caught his ear. He grew up understanding that war was coming; at times he thought it was a tale to make him study harder or come to an understanding with the beast he carried within, but lately…

His c-phone rang. So much for the element of surprise. Glancing at his wrist, he looked at the number as it appeared hovering over his hand, automatically feeling lighter when he saw who it was. Then he reminded himself that he was grown and shouldn’t be happy to get a call from her.

Feigning a deep sigh, he answered, “What’s up, Mom?”

His mother was Rena, the first human to mate with a Created as far as any of them knew and also the first to get pregnant and have a son. Seemed to him that his mom liked being first. His father was Aran. He was the oldest brother in their Created family. As far as they knew, the only Created older than Aran was Dante and his brothers.

“I haven’t heard from you today, and I missed you.”

His mother believed family stayed together and talked to each other, and sons were expected to call every day especially when they no longer lived in the house. Did it matter that he was grown, officially twenty-nine in human years? No, that didn’t matter to his mother at all.

“I’m coming to dinner tomorrow, Mom,” and it wasn’t because she made amazing food or that Dante would probably drop by with dessert. Nope, he actually missed her when she wasn’t around.

He’d hand in his alien card except he was brought up to love and respect his mother and family. One day he’d have his own family to dote on like his dad doted on them.

“I know, Alexei. I can’t wait to see you.”

“I feel the same. Mom, I have to go.”

“Stay safe,” she ended the call.

He’d hear all about this tomorrow; his mom always knew when he was about to fight.

Two males dropped from overhead. One landed on Alexei’s back while the other landed in front of him. The weight of the male on him forced him to his knees.

“Why are you following us?” the male pinning him down asked.

“Don’t ask him questions,” the other male barked out. “Just rip off his head, or we’ll be late.”

The spark of orange in the eyes of the speaker confirmed Alexei’s suspicions. He turned, allowing his human body to recede as the attacker tried to grab his head. His claws came out sharp and deadly catching the male in his arm. Alexei shrugged the screaming male off his back.

He jumped to his feet and glided to the side missing the sharp instrument the other male threw at him.

“Why are the two of you on my planet?” This was where he was born, that made this planet his. He would protect what belonged to him.

“Don’t get cocky, boy. We know what you are. I thought the Scientists weren’t making any more of you.” The male scratched his head frowning, “How old are you and how did you get here?”

Chatty aliens, just what he needed. “Since you have a gift for gab, why don’t you tell me why you’re here and who you’re meeting with.”

The male traded a glance with his partner who was still on the ground. “Alright, maybe you should know why you’re about to die,” the male on the ground replied.

“Yaksim sent us.” A guttural laugh came from the male standing as his body thickened and fangs exploded out of his mouth. “As for who we’re meeting, well, since you’ll be dead you won’t need the answer to that.”

Yaksim was the tainted created his father, and the rest of the Created fought against. He tried to kill his mother and the rest of his aunts. He nearly succeeded in driving his Aunt Dee insane. Alexei had no love for that name.

The male took out a weapon Alexei had only seen in his Uncle Hale’s virtual reality games. Thank you, Uncle Hale! He jumped as the weapon came at him. It went under his feet to attach to the other male on the ground. The male’s screams of pain intensified as silver blades came from the weapon going deep into his body. As quickly as the screams started they faded.

The male he was facing attacked him with rage, swiping at him with deadly claws. Alexei danced around him looking for an opening, the male’s anger making him sloppy. Dipping low, Alexei came up between the male’s arms letting his claws dig into the other male’s soft underbelly. He felt the tissue give as his claws tore their way upwards, warm blood running over his fingers.

Alexei stumbled back trying to hold down the coffee he drank earlier. What was he going to do now and how the hell was he going to explain this to his father? That male was never one to just accept what his son did.

His beast receded at the thought of their father, he shook his head. He couldn’t leave two alien bodies in the ally, someone would surely notice.

“Want some help?”

He turned to see Dante leaning against the wall. Funny how he seemed to blend in no matter where he was.

“They tried to kill me.” Did he sound like a young male again trying to sway his Uncle Dante?

Dante wasn’t his real uncle, at least not by blood, but he and his brothers were like siblings to his dad and uncles. One big happy family is what his mom always called them.

“I know; I watched the whole thing. Not bad for your first kill.”

“We rate kills now?”

Dante nodded his head and threw him a towel before turning his c-phone on.

“The kid made his first kill, the die has been cast. Get a couple of our brothers and come dispose of the bodies. Alert everyone to be on the lookout.”

Alexei knew that conversation was for his benefit. Dante didn’t need a phone to call his brothers. He had a sneaking suspicion Dante didn’t need a phone to call anyone, but he kept that thought to himself.

“What do we do now?” Alexei frowned, looking at the dead males. He killed them. He should be celebrating since he was now like his father, uncles and even Dante. But he felt oddly disappointed in himself.

“Alexei.”

He turned to face Dante.

“There is no glory in killing. After those two killed you, they had orders to start the war. Bring as much havoc and destruction to the city as possible. It would have set off a chain reaction in every city in the US and spread throughout the Earth. You stopped that for tonight and saved lives that would have been lost. If you are looking for a reason to be proud, be proud of the good you did not for taking the lives you had no other choice than to take.”

“Thank you.”

“Go home, Alexei.”

He obeyed, moving into the shadows.  Alexei’s shoulders slumped, and his head bowed. The weight of the deaths sat heavily on his shoulders preventing him from the joy of knowing he could take care of both himself and the people around him.

 

*~*~*~*

 

The knock on the door brought her out of her thoughts.

“Who is it?”

“It’s your stud come to show you a good time.”

Amber laughed as she opened the door with a flick of her hand; going out with Ethan was always a good time. Mmm, he looked good. Dark skin that was flawless, deep brown eyes, and a freshly shaved head. Her friends would be drooling if they were here. His lips were just right for kissing, and his body was thick and muscular. The tall, dark, and handsome description fit him well. She loved his company. Unfortunately, he left her cold.

A pair of brown eyes with rings of green and blue around them haunted her. Turning away from useless dreams she focused on Ethan.

“Where are we going tonight?”

“I discovered the most amazing restaurant; I thought I’d take you there.” He grinned at her. “Or we could always stay in. You look amazing.”

She was wearing a skin tight dress; she was clueless as to what made her put it on. Usually, she wore something less form fitting when they went out because she didn’t want to lead him on.

“Ethan.” She wished she could be the one for him. Every time she saw him, she tried to convince her body that a life with this man was what she wanted, but it balked and betrayed her by staying dry as a bone.

“I know,” he raised a hand to stop her lecture. “Ethan, we’re just friends, maybe even sister and brother. You should go find yourself a nice woman and settle down; I’m not the one for you.” He parroted what she told him all the time.

“Yet you never pay attention to me.”

“Do I need to repeat myself, so you will understand, I pay attention then I simply ignore you. We would be amazing together, Amber. You have to know that.”

“If I was different, but I’m not. I’m just Amber, the one who has trouble becoming emotionally invested. You’ll wait forever for me, Ethan. Please don’t throw your life away on a dream.”

 

*~*~*~*

 

She’d already thrown hers away on a dream. She was so much like Ash, the Created who raised her from the age of six. It took her parents two years to come to terms with the reality that she was truly different. They finally conceded she was safer with Ash than she was with them. It was heart-wrenching when they moved away. Although she saw them every summer, she was well and truly tied to what was happening here. Moving her may have killed her.

They lived in sunny Florida; her mom loved it down there, no snow. She called her all the time. It wasn’t the same, but it was what they had, and she loved her mom for it.

That difference kept her from committing to Ethan. She was thirty-five and beginning to feel like her life was over. The clock her mom always talked about ticking seemed to have stopped. The one male she wanted didn’t know she existed, but the rest of the men on her planet were keenly aware of her.

She asked Nicolas once if he thought she gave off some type of pheromone that attracted men to her. Nicolas was the family physician; he took over her health care when she was young not wanting the wrong doctor to get his hands on her. His reply was yes. It was his opinion all human women gave off a slight pheromone, and that it kept the population alive. But she, being a more advanced human gave it off in higher doses.

She stayed in the shower longer after that. It was hard to hear that she stank and men liked the smell.

 

*~*~*~*

 

She gave a small shiver. Ethan came close his eyes a little less focused.

“Let’s go,” she put on her coat, picked up her purse, and directed him to the door that was still standing open. Hopefully, the fresh air would dispel whatever trance he was falling into.

The air outside was crisp and cool. There was a layer of newly fallen snow on the ground. She loved the sound of it crunching under her feet as they walked to his car. She lived in a condo with a doorman who kept an eye on her to make sure she made it to the car in one piece.

It was the only way she was able to move out of the house in which she grew up. Ash demanded she live somewhere safe and he paid Charlie, George, and Paul, the three doormen for her building, well to make sure she was safe. They loved her, and who wouldn’t love her, she had an overprotective father who would do anything to ensure her safety. Exactly what was she complaining about again?

“Tell me about this great new restaurant you found.” She twisted in the front seat as she got comfortable.

“I think it’s been there forever, but I never noticed it before.”

Her mouth tightened, and her eyes narrowed.

“You don’t say, where is it located?” She tried to keep her words light.

“It’s on Mt. Washington. You have to see it, Amber. It’s spectacular.”

He was right; it was beyond spectacular not that he could see it in all its beauty. If she could breathe fire, it would be coming from both nostrils. Very few people ever saw Dante’s restaurant. There was no reason for the man she was quasi-dating to see it. Dante was up to something.

She, of all people, knew Dante always had a plan up his sleeve and something was making her think she wouldn’t like this one at all.

“Amber.” His voice was sensual, sliding over her like silk.

“Ethan.”

A shudder started deep in her body catching her off guard. His hand reached out to cover her leg making her gag a little at the contact. She gently removed it.

“Two hands on the wheel,” her cheerful voice came out with a squeak.

Was she the cause of this? Ethan was usually a perfect gentleman with her. She wasn’t ignorant, she knew he wanted to sleep with her, but she had been embarrassingly honest with him. He knew a few things that even her best friend didn’t know, in fact, she thought of him as a best friend. That may have been the problem. If he were any other guy, she would have cut him out of her life by now.

He turned into the parking lot in front of Dante’s. Parking the car distracted him from her; he was such a perfectionist and prided himself on his driving and parking skills. There was so much about him that was wonderful; she spent hours asking herself why she couldn’t just fall into his arms.

“Amber,” he reached over, taking her hand into his.

A shiver went through her body. Coldness started in the pit of her stomach working its way out.

“Look at how you shiver when I touch you. You want me, I know you do.”

His eyes were fully dilated. They were so big she might be able to fall right through them. He lowered his head to kiss her. She jerked free and turned to jump out of the car. Her heart was racing while her breath came out in pants. What was she going to do? The touch of her best friend sickened her.

 

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