The first thing she became aware of was the silence. But it wasn’t an absolute silence. There was an almost inaudible hum surrounding her. Low and soothing. It made her feel…


It was a beautiful revelation to realize she didn’t feel anything. The pain was gone. Her thirst was gone. Her head was clear, her mind focused.

And then she remembered.

Paya opened her eyes to semi-darkness. Pale lights shone in the distance, hazy and out of focus. She reached out to them only to encounter something solid. Clear. Transparent.

As soon as she touched it, a soft glow emanated around her, surrounding her until she could see the dome-like lid arching above her. That’s when she knew it was the lid that belonged to the box the Terrans called a med bed. Which meant she was inside their ship, their flying building.

How she’d gotten here remained somewhat fuzzy. But she hadn’t dreamed it or fantasized it.

Her prayers had been answered.

Paya pressed her palm to the lid. It was warm and vibrated slightly. It was real. She was here. She was away from the temple, and she was alive.


She banged her fist against the lid. “Ivan?”

There was a click, and the lid began to rise. A dark form appeared almost directly above her, out of eyesight range unless she tilted her head back, but she didn’t need to. She wasn’t afraid. These were friends. They wouldn’t harm her. They’d saved her, and that thought alone eased her mind.

Before the lid was all the way up, Ivan moved around to look down at her. A big smile lit up his face.

“Hello. How do you feel?”

“There is no pain.”

He nodded. “Wayd has your pain receptors dampened.” He held up a hand. “That means you won’t feel any while your body heals. Now, I need to ask you a couple of questions. Do you feel like answering them?”

“I will tell you anything you want to hear. I owe you my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay you for that.”

“You’re welcome. Now, while you were unconscious, we had a brief skirmish with the Ya. As you can see, we won. We were also able to save the town the Ya had targeted. Ray and Zane are getting ready to go back down to the village and ask the residents who are still there about getting some food for you. I need the names of some of those foods so we can bring it up to the ship where we can replicate it.”

“You can prepare my kind of food?”

“We can try. Wayd is a genius when it comes to that sort of thing. You see, he breaks it down to its basic molecular structure and…” Ivan chuckled. “I’ve confused you again. Let’s just say he’ll do his best. In the meantime, the guys hope they can bring back enough to sustain you until we can recreate our own.”

“Can I try some of your food?”

He nodded. “We can give you little tastes, but it can’t be much. We’ll have to watch you to see if you have any sort of reaction to it before we give you more. We know you must be very hungry.”

She was and she admitted it. “But I’m not as hungry as I was earlier.”

“That’s because we put a drip in you.”


“You were dehydrated.”

“I was thirsty.”


“So when you dripped in me…”

“It helped to assuage your hunger a little. Not completely, but enough to allow you to heal faster.”

Paya looked behind him. “Are we alone?”

“Yes. For now. Why? Do I need to get Wayd?”

“I would like to sit up.”

He reached for her, drawing his arms around her and lifting her to where she could sit with her knees bent on the med bed. The position was awkward as she couldn’t spread her wings. Ivan seemed to understand her dilemma and put his hands on her again.

“Here. Let’s turn you around. There. Better?”

He had her swivel until her legs dangled over the side. This new position enabled her to spread her wings. She was surprised when Ivan ran a hand down one of them. His touch was like a caress.

“They’re as soft and velvety as they look,” he commented.

She already missed the feel of his arms around her, and the revelation shook her to the core. Normally, she abhorred a male’s touch. Now more than ever. Yet, Ivan’s touch was different. It didn’t bother her when his hand stroked her. Or when his arms held her.

She fought to admit it, but she wanted more from him, but…

Holding me is all he can do. It’s all I can allow him to do. I cannot let him be any more familiar with me. It wouldn’t be right or fair to him.

“Let me know if you start to feel woozy.”


He tapped the side of his head. “Like you’re going to pass out.”

Paya slowly shook her head. “I’m fine…for now. Ivan, did you really defeat the Ya?”

He briefly explained what happened, his pride and excitement making her smile back.

“Then the Ya are gone?”

His face fell. “No, damn it. We scanned that entire area, plus several kilometers beyond it, but there’s no sign of the ship we struck. We’re figuring it survived our attack and left.”

“Do you believe it’ll come back?”

“Either it will, or another Ya ship will take its place.”