Having the Zetithian feline gene gives Larry Tshevnoe awesome beauty, fearsome strength, sensuality and sexual prowess unmatched by any other males in the universe. But it can make the quest for true love...complicated.
Enter childhood friend and fellow Zetithian Althea Banadänsk. Her empathic powers make her the only one who can show Larry what he truly desires, and she’ll do anything to help…even if that means hiding her desperate craving for him.
But when a distress call sends them off course—and into danger—they find more than their hearts are at stake. Now it’s up to them to become the champions of truth and justice throughout the galaxy…or risk losing it all.
About Cheryl Brooks:
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Cheryl Brooks is a former critical care nurse who resides in rural Indiana with her husband, two sons, two horses, four cats, and one dog. Her Cat Star Chronicles series was first published by Sourcebooks Casablanca in 2008, and includes Slave, Warrior, Rogue, Outcast, Fugitive, Hero, Virgin, Stud, Wildcat, and Rebel. Her Cowboy Heaven series includes the Cowboy Delight novella and two novels, Cowboy Heaven and Must Love Cowboys. Self-published works include Sex, Love, and a Purple Bikini, Midnight in Reno, The Soul Survivors Trilogy: Echoes From the Deep, Dreams From the Deep, and Justice From the Deep, and the Unlikely Lovers series: Unbridled, Uninhibited, Undeniable, and Unrivaled. Maverick is the first book in her new Cat Star Legacy series. Look for Mystic in January 2019. She has also published If You Could Read My Mind writing as Samantha R. Michaels. As a member of The Sextet, she has written eight erotic novellas published by Siren/Bookstrand. Her other interests include cooking, gardening, singing, and guitar playing.
Althea giggled. “You sound just like your mother.”
“Yeah, well, there are worse things,” Larry said, laughing along with her. “I happen to like my mom.”
“So do I.” A note of sadness slipped into her voice. “I miss her—and all you guys. Seems like everything changes as we get older.”
“I guess so.” His smoldering gaze met hers and held it as every trace of mirth vanished from his face. “I figured we’d all grow up eventually, but I never thought you’d run off and leave us like that.”
“You’re one to talk,” she shot back, a tad defensively. “You went off on your own ship with only a Scorillian for company.”
“Yes, but I actually visit my family once in a while. Geez, Al. Four years and not a single word from you?”
Althea didn’t need to be an empath to feel his pain. The anguish was right there in his facial expression, the sag of his shoulders, and the wistful note in his voice.
“I know it sounds strange, but it didn’t feel like four years to me. Time took on a rhythm of its own and sort of carried me along. Besides, sending deep space coms from Barada isn’t exactly easy.”
He exhaled sharply. “If you’d bothered to ask me before you left—which you didn’t—I could’ve given you a comsystem with an extended battery life and a range that would reach any planet in the quadrant. But no, you had to run off to hide in the jungle where no one could find you.”
“You found me.”
“Only because I needed you, Al. Not because I missed you.”
His words were like a knife to her soul, hurting far more than she ever would have expected. “I’m sorry. I hadn’t realized—”
“Of course you didn’t. You’ve always been so aloof. The only feelings you have are the ones you pick up from other people. Never your own.”
Her jaw dropped. She might’ve expected him to be angry but not to resort to that kind of personal attack. “I have feelings.”
“Oh, come on, Al. You’ve always acted like you were a notch above the rest of us, and you know it. You were the only one of your siblings to inherit your mother’s powers, and you liked it that way, because it gave you an excuse to set yourself apart from the rest of us.”
Her own temper flared. Stomping her foot, she bared her fangs. “Dammit, Larry. My ‘powers’ had nothing to do with it. Out of the five litters born on that ship, I was the only girl. How did you expect me to behave? Like one of the guys?”
His expression softened slightly. “We all loved you, Al. You could’ve at least loved us back.”
“I did,” she insisted. “I do. I just…” She shook her head, trying to make sense of it all while at the same time hoping she could make him understand. “If you’d grown up with other Zetithian girls, you’d know that being standoffish is a part of who we are.” She threw up her hands in a gesture of futility. “It’s genetic, Larry. We can’t help it. And when you add the Mordrial witch line on top of that, we—”
He snorted in disgust. “Look, I know all about that ‘finding The One’ crap. Okay, great. So I wasn’t The One and neither were any of my brothers. Big deal. I don’t know who you’ll wind up with, but I do know you’re sure as hell not gonna find the one man who can father your children on Barada Seven.”
“I know that,” she said quietly. “I’d come to the conclusion that such a man doesn’t exist, so I quit looking.”
To her surprise, he laughed. “You’re all of what, twenty-five? A little young to be giving up, don’t you think?”
“Maybe. Or maybe I’m just taking a break. Seems like everywhere we went, there were guys who had hopes of being that man. None of them even came close. I didn’t feel the slightest interest in any of them. It’s as though my Zetithian blood has made the possibility of finding someone even less likely than it would have been if my father had been Terran or some other species.”
“What about other Mordrials? I know we went to their homeworld a few times.”
She shook her head. “Granted, we were never there for very long, but—nothing.”
“And that’s why you came here?”
“One of the reasons.” She hesitated, catching her upper lip with her teeth. Making him understand was more important than she ever would have dreamed. “I know I’m not likely to meet my perfect mate on a planet populated with skinny orange toads, and I’m pretty sure the toads know it too. But I can actually relax here. I don’t know if you realize what that means to me.”
“Are you saying you don’t want to leave?”
For a moment, she almost said yes. But this was Larry, her lifelong friend, and she’d already given him her word. “No. I said I would help you, and I will. Just promise you’ll bring me back here when I’ve done as you asked.”
Once again, she didn’t need to be an empath to know what he was thinking. His expression and his silence said it all. Although he might give her his promise, he certainly didn’t want to.
“If that’s what you want,” he finally said. “Just don’t expect me or any of your family—or mine—to like it.” His eyes narrowed, his brow flattening to a nearly straight line. “I can tell them where I’m taking you, can’t I? Your whereabouts isn’t a secret anymore?”
“No. I was wrong to keep you all in the dark for so long. I wouldn’t mind a visit now and then. That is, if anyone is still speaking to me.”
“Oh, they’ll speak to you. They might not speak to me when they figure out I’ve known where you were all along.”
“You guessed, Larry,” she drawled. “You didn’t actually know.”
“I wasn’t guessing.” Chuckling, he ran a hand through his hair, looking simultaneously guilty and pleased with himself. “That bag of yours has a tracking device in it.”
“How did you—”
“Know you were planning to leave? Geez, Al. It didn’t take an empath to know you were about to run off into the blue.”
“Was I that obvious?”
“Maybe not to anyone else.” With a sly grin, he added, “But you were to me.”