The Zoran’s Fated
Stars whizz on by. The Federation ship is moving so fast that the twinkling lights turn to stripes. We’re heading towards Earth, towards home, but in truth, every place where Daruk is, is home for me.
The streaks of starlight might have dazzled me weeks ago — but now I’m focusing on my lasagna, which is precariously close to burning!
“What’s that smell?” Daruk growls as he strides into the room.
Every day my mate looks more gorgeous to me. His golden skin is beautiful in every light, and the way he looks at me, with those radiant, blue eyes of his makes me tingle every single time.
“I’m making my favorite,” I tell him. “Now stop distracting me and sit down.”
For once, Daruk listens. He knows that when it comes to food, I mean business.
He pulls up a chair next to Grace Winters, who is eagerly awaiting my so-called homemade meal. As close as you can get to home-cooking a meal on a military starship, anyway.
“It smells good, Miss Rose!” she says. “Real good!”
“For the last time, call me Lilith,” I say. “You’re making me feel old. And I’m only a few years older than you, at best. We could be sisters.”
“Sorry,” she says with a smile. “I guess I still think you’re older because you took down those alien bastards so well.”
I did take down Admiral Bast, General Goran and Czar Baros rather well… the trio is in a cell below-deck right now. They’ll face a trial when we get to Earth, and get the justice that they deserve. But still, that’s no reason to call me miss!
“Uhh, no offense, Daruk,” Grace continues. “For an alien you’re alright.”
“None taken,” he growls. “I’d use language much fouler for those three…”
“But lets not,” I say as I place the steaming hot lasagne on the table. “Let’s eat instead.”
A silence fall over the room as we all dig in. I look around the room, anxiously awaiting their reactions.
“Oh, it’s so good,” Grace says with a mouthful. “I haven’t had a meal like this in forever. I could eat for two!”
When I think about what Grace has been through, I can’t help but shudder. She survived on her own for months, on an inhospitable alien world… she might look young, but she’s as fierce as they come.
“You eat as much as you like,” I tell her. “You deserve it.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t,” she protests.
Meanwhile, Daruk is eying his plate suspiciously.
“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “It’s not going to bite.”
My mate has been shielded from human influences his entire life. I’m slowly introducing him to all humanity has to offer (though the thing he shows the most interest in is, well, my body).
“Hm,” he growls. He takes a bite, and his eyes light up like a christmas tree.
“This is… this is good,” he says. He devours the meal like a barbarian, scarfing it all down in a record pace. He presents his empty plate to me. “More?”
“If I’d had known you liked it this much, I would have made an extra bowl!” I laugh.
The metallic door to our quarters slide open, and Captain Shepherd strides into the room. When the rogue Zorans made him slave away in the underground mines of New Exon the captain had lost a lot of weight and muscle mass, but I’m happy to see he’s close to being his old self again. Luckily, his captivity hasn’t put a damper on his good spirits.
“Ah, my three favorite people on my new ship,” he says. “How are you all doing?”
“We’re great, captain,” I answer.
“Please, call me Liam. You saved all our butts, you earned the right to break protocol. Is that… lasagna I smell?”
“It is,” I say, “though unfortunately, Daruk just ate the last piece.”
“Ah, I’m always late for your cooking. I will have to stop by more often!”
“Please do, Liam,” I answer.
The captain tips his hat and continues his round. I turn to Grace, who is savoring her meal.
“What is next for you, Grace?” I ask. “Any big plans for when you back to Earth?”
She nods enthusiastically. “The very first thing I’m going to do is visit my father and sister. I cannot even begin to describe how much I’ve missed them. What about you two?”
My eyes land on my Zoran mate, who is licking his plate clean.
“After we deliver our cargo to justice, well… we don’t have any big plans. And I like it that way. I’m going to introduce Daruk to Earth, and all its wonders. That’ll be more than enough excitement for the both of us.”
“Oh, you’ll have to come with me to visit my family! My sister is a great cook. You’ll love it. As far as the new wonders of the world go, her cooking is up there. Trust me.”
Daruk growls enthusiastically. “More food like this?” he asks.
Grace smiles. “I can’t promise it’s as good as Lilith’s cooking… but it’s close.”
“Is this the place?”
A freshly painted sign with “Winters Parts & Repair” hangs above a cozy looking shop. Daruk is holding my hand, the warmth coming from his touch heating me up — which is great, for it’s mid-winter and the snow all around is a foot deep.
“This is it,” Grace says. She takes a deep breath, and I notice her whole body is shivering.
“Do you think I should have called ahead?” she asks. “What if I give them a heart-attack?”
“Then they’ll die happy,” I joke, but her eyes widen. “That won’t happen, trust me. Go ahead. Knock.”
Once we arrived to Earth, the Admiral, the Czar and the General were handed over to the Federation. A trial will start, but it’ll take sometime to gather all of the evidence. Our statements weren’t needed right at this moment, so we accepted Grace’s invitation to join her family.
I now realize she wasn’t just being friendly — she’s also quite anxious. I can see why… to her father and her sister she’s a ghost. She was kidnapped, and they haven’t heard from her in forever… She has no idea what is waiting for her at home.
Grace knocks on the door.
“Come in,” a deep, low voice growls from inside.
All three of us look at each other. A voice that low and powerful can only belong to a Zoran warrior… but what would it be doing here, in this hovercar repair shop?
Hesitantly, Grace pushed the door open.
The inside of the shop is every bit as warm and cozy as it looked from outside. There’s Christmas decorations hanging all around us, twinkling lights snaking across the ceiling, ornaments placed all over the place. It’s pleasantly warm, a welcome change from the cold outside.
A red Zoran slides out from underneath a hovercar, his face stained with grease and oil.
My hunch was right. I’ve never seen a Zoran in overalls before, and it’s a peculiar sight… though I have to admit, his tall frame fills the thing very well.
“Welco…” he starts, but his voice falters when his radiant eyes land on Grace.
“Hi,” Grace says. “I’m looking for—”
“Aria!” the Zoran growls.
“Uhh, yeah, that’s right,” Grace says.
“What is it?” a singsong voice calls down from somewhere upstairs.
“Come down here!” the Zoran says.
Footsteps echo down the hall, the stairs creaking as a woman makes her way down, huffing and puffing. “This better be good,” I hear, “I can barely walk with this belly.”
“Oh, it is,” the Zoran answers. “It is.”
The woman turns the corner and for a brief moment, the room is so silent you could hear a pin drop.
Then the two women explode in a mixture of surprise, shock and joy, their voices reaching a pitch so high I can barely hear it myself.
Aria looks just like her younger sister. Her hair, her eyes, her nose — they could very well pass for twins. The striking difference between the two is that Grace’s hardships have made her lean and thin, while Aria is quite curvy, with a round belly that can only mean one thing…
“I am,” Aria answers, “I am pregnant!”
A myriad of emotions flash across the two sister’s faces. Shock, surprise, delight and pure, unbridled happiness follow each other in quick succession. They fall into each others arms, crying as much as they are laughing as they exchange information at a record pace in a way that only sisters can.
The red Zoran walks up to us and shakes my hand.
“Name is Dost,” he growls. “Are you two responsible for bringing Grace back home?”
“No, she didn’t need our help, she’s one tough cookie,” I say.
“You are too modest,” Daruk says, placing his hand on the small of my back. “Lilith didn’t just save Grace, but was well.”
Dost drops to one knee in front of me, bowing his head. “We are in your debt, Lilith,” he says.
“Oh please, get up,” I say, my cheeks turning red. “I did what anyone would do.”
A new voice calls out from upstairs.
Moments later, an old man shuffles around the corner, and his eyes grow as wide as saucers when they land on Grace.
“Papa!” she exclaims as she runs towards her father.
Tears stream down his face as they hug. I feel blessed for being able to witness such pure happiness, but it also feels like I’m intruding on this very personal moment.
“Maybe we should go,” I whisper to my mate. “Let them enjoy their evening.”
“Oh no, you can’t!” Dost growls.
Damn those alien warriors and their heightened senses.
“You are our honored guests! You must stay!”
Grace points us out to her sister and father, no doubt giving them a bare-bones version of how we escaped from the clutches of Czar Baros and those scheming Zoran.
Moments later I’m trapped in a group hug, kisses landing on my cheeks, palms shaking my hands. The Winters family thanks me over and over again, until I notice tears are streaming down my own cheeks as well.
“We should go,” I protest again, fighting back my tears. “It’s the holidays, I don’t mean to intrude.”
“Nonsense,” Aria Winters says. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re family too. We are forever in your debt. The least we can do is offer a meal and a warm bed.”
I never had a family of my own, growing up as an orphan… but these people welcome me among their own, open their homes, their hearts to me and Daruk…
I couldn’t be happier.
“Come,” Daruk says. “Accept.”
“Okay,” I say, my defenses worn down. “We stay.”
Dost hugs my Zoran mate, slapping him on the shoulder. “You’re going to love it here, brother,” he growls. “I have this drink that’ll knock you off your feet…”
The red warrior guides my mate into the kitchen, while the two Winters sisters take my hands and drag me towards a couch, in front of a crackling fire. A warm cup of Key’s & Bey’s tea is placed in front of me, and Aria sits down on my left, Grace to my right.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a family.
“Now,” Aria says, “Tell me everything.”