Category: Sneak Peeks

The Dragon Dimension – Caught in the Dragon Cove – by Ressa Empbra


Her… with bright-green eyes~

Working for a covert government agency, Iax travels the world… and beyond. She also journeys out of this world to other Realms in various Dimensions, which only a privileged few have knowledge of. Her job: Putting a halt to imminent battles and wars… before it’s too late.

Finding herself dropped into a heated battle in the Dragon Cove Realm of the Dragon Dimension, Iax assumes the usual; get in, get the job done, get out. Easy-peasy…

However, this mission is like no other, as it will change her life in ways she could have never imagined. Upon seeing the male she’s been sent to take down, a myriad of feelings – emotional and physical – overwhelm her. She never wanted a relationship; no time, no need for drama, nor desire… until he rocks her world.

Iax is headstrong, stubborn, and tough, but that may not be enough to fight a compulsion strong enough to set her aflame, mind, body, and soul. Logic and determination can’t always overcome what is genetically predetermined.

Him… with deep-emerald eyes~

A stalwart warrior and fierce Dragon-shifter, Mazar has served his Weyr all of his overlong life. Now he needs, with a crazed, burning passion, to find his Truemate, as the torments his unmated-kind suffer for so long are corroding his mind…

Kidnapping another Weyr Chief’s Truemate – an offense punishable by death – seemed like the perfect solution… at the time. But she is not his Truemate, the only one who can bring him relief. Worse, he has endangered his Weyr. What’s left of Mazar’s honor demands he make amends and accept his punishments.

His Weyr Chief may call for exile… or death. He will not fight it, knowing full-well that this most heinous act warrants his fate…

On his way to place his destiny in the hands of justice, fortune hands him the most painful irony. Mazar spots her; an odd, unfamiliar female upon a cliff-top. But how could it be, after so long, that his Truemate appears the very day he resigns himself to death? Can he fight it? Should he even try?

Them… together, Dragon-forms swathed in gold~

Join Iax and Mazar in the first instalment of The Dragon Dimension, as they battle logic, emotion, fate, and… themselves.

Get Caught in the Dragon Cove, where secrets and tempting passions lurking just out of sight, are all revealed…

**Contents Copyrighted 2011 by Theressa Branham**


The Dragon Dimension – Caught in the Dragon Cove

Chapter Three:

Another thirty or so minutes went by and just as Iax was about to have a shit-fit, they rounded a corner, and there it was! Finally! Wait. This can’t be right. With a small frown, she decided to make sure Gemma hadn’t taken a mental detour and gotten them lost, taking them to the wrong ‘small building.’

“Gemma, I thought you said a ‘small building,’ so what the fuck is this? Not a small building, that’s for damn sure.” Continually scanning their surroundings while trying to check out what Iax could only call a large and beautiful cabin, which stood right before them, she couldn’t wait to get inside, if this was even the right place. A soothing, hot bath sounded heavenly at the moment. Iax sighed.

“Yes, Iax, of course this is the correct place, and it is small, look at it. Another thing, we are going to work on this language you insist upon using all the time. It is not proper for a lady to speak in such a manner.” She lifted her chin in a dignified fashion and walked straight toward the cabin.

Opening the front door and entering the place, Iax was awestruck. Open structured, vaulted ceilings adorned with massive, wooden-beams; everything was the epitome of luxury.

“Well, girlfriend, you git ‘r dun and lemme know how it works out for ya,” she replied absently to Gemma’s declaration about her language. Knock yourself out trying, and good fucking luck while you’re at it, she thought, amused. “Better women and men have tried, all have failed. I tells ‘em like I sees ‘em, and I sees ‘em in my own way.” She couldn’t help chuckling at her friend’s perturbed expression.

Looking sadly defeated, Gemma shook her head as she walked over to a long hallway. Figuring the bedrooms were in that direction, Iax, still slack-jawed and only paying half attention to where she was walking, followed Gemma’s lead hoping to spot a bathroom with a nice Jacuzzi tub along the way.

There were old, crude-like tiles where woodwork was absent, and where those two were missing there were rough, clean rocks; both in all different sizes, shapes and colors. Everything was rustic such as an old wood-burning cookstove, hand-pumps for water, and stuff like that. But it was still luxurious, especially compared to the alternative of sleeping outside.

It’s such a gorgeous place, I could live here! Well, except for those flame-thrower dudes who would find and destroy me in no time, Iax conceded.

“Here are our bedchambers; we can each have our own. I hope you like this place. As I said, it is small but quite nice,” Gemma said.

Shaking her head, Iax was in disbelief over the woman thinking this place was small. Crazy broad must be used to a fucking palace. Iax sighed, missing her own place, or rather, her places. She didn’t realize she’d made the rather rude remark out loud until Gemma turned and scowled at her. “Sorry, just kidding,” Iax attempted to appease her friend; her much too sensitive friend.

Iax had been making bank since right out of high school. Somehow, someone had told someone else, and on down the line about Iax’s ‘mad-skillz’ in hand-to-hand fighting, as well as strategic combat, tactical planning, and her unnatural abilities with every weapon known to man. She had this nasty little habit of never missing her mark. Ever. After a few so-and-so’s had learned of her talents, they tracked her down and hooked her up lickety-split. Of course, it hadn’t hurt any to have Dear Old Dad working there, too.

She’d completed the required training everyone else had, which nearly killed most of the others also vying for positions in the C.I.A., causing a large number of them to dropout or be relieved during the process. It had been like watching flies drop.

But not Iax. She’d kept up, no problem, and excelled in each new trial much to the dismay of most the women, and all of the men. She hadn’t exactly made many friends—not that she cared—that’s not why she had been there.

It probably hadn’t helped when she openly laughed at those who were rudest to her, when their own exercises would go south. They would make utter asses of themselves on the daily, and sometimes even hourly. Which, or course, never failed to make her giddy and impossible for her to not poke, prod, and just in general, make fun of them. Quite openly. It had made for great fun, at least for her. So who cared?

She had passed every test and graduated top her class, and with the highest marks anyone had ever scored. Man or woman. Oh yeah, Iax was quite pleased with herself over that accomplishment.

Since then, she’d traveled the world many times over, even traveled to other Realms in the various Dimensions multiple times. Any time she traveled in her own place and time; Planet Earth—the here and now—she did it like anyone else, but in high style. Fancy helicopters, private leer jets, things like that. First-class all the way, baby.

She’d always been drawn to certain things, so that and her OCD issues had turned into high-dollar habits. Iax truly spent a hefty, or if she were to be honest with herself—but on this front she preferred to tell herself one white lie after another—an absurdly, asinine amount of her boodle to pay for her expensive fun and taste.

The important things in her life when, or if, work allowed her any time to enjoy them were things such as hi-tech toys, home decor, badass clothes, all the accessories to match; shoes, handbags, jackets, jewelry, etc. Of course, there was also her all-important coffee habit, Iax was always discovering and trying new gourmet coffees she found in shops and online. Can you say a-d-d-i-c-t-i-o-n? Iax certainly could, and in twenty-four different languages, too. Something else she was damn proud of.

However, when it came down to her away work—jobs away from Earth—things weren’t always so posh or fancy, nor were they easy since she didn’t get one single fucking clue about the job before taking off through that weird link thing.

Traveling to Realms and Dimensions was a surprise-a-fucking-minute. Her bosses, the bastards, knew she’d dig deep and do as much research possible to make a game plan well in advance. Problem was she would leave a trail, a digital footprint at the very least. Nobody could ever know we had peeps slipping in and out of alternate Dimensions and unknown Planes. Or so that was always the excuse they used for never giving her advanced notice. She would just find herself in a new location on another lovely O.W.O. vacay.

What-eve, no skin off my ass, Iax mused. She undoubtedly was one of, if not the best in the biz. Fast, smart, tough, along with a few other talents nobody else knew about. She even discovered a new one occasionally. Hey, a girl’s gotta have at least a few secrets, right? And Iax had secrets aplenty.

The O.W.O. Unit, aka: Outer Worldly Operations Unit, was a branch of the C.I.A. dedicated to intervening in any war already taking place, or preventing wars of an imminent nature, if possible. Somehow, they had found a way to communicate with the other Realms and Dimensions, but unfortunately, technology didn’t work in any of them. It would’ve been fantastic to have some tech-help each time.

Iax always wondered how she got to all the places she’d wound up in, especially since tech-goodies were of no assistance in any of them, but she still had no clue. She just simply ‘appeared’ and then ‘disappeared.’

The O.W.O. Unit had always treated her right. Iax had always painted herself with a patriotic, loyal, proud American brush. Yet this ‘Outer-Worldly-Shiz,’ fun as it was, still chapped her ass.

Wasn’t like the trusty old U.S. of A. didn’t have enough of their own troubles without always going balls-to-the-fucking-wall to help out so many other countries and causes. When, instead, they should be cleaning out their own closet first, before jumping ass-deep into every Tom, Dick and Harry’s problems.

There wasn’t much that pissed Iax off beyond all reason. Okay, that’s a lie, but this was one of her biggest hotspots. Everything was just so ass-backwards, not to mention the financial burdens; the entire situation made Iax a little bat-shit-crazy. It also never assuaged the deep guilt she harbored over her substantial personal wealth, even though she had earned every red cent, and then some.

Still, it made her feel guilty, with her strong feelings about wanting, or rather, needing to be able to help her own country before running to the rescue of everyone else. This was why she anonymously donated large chunks of cash to many deserving, American organizations. How could she not? Someone had to.

She didn’t require much in her personal life—if you could even call it that—other than her little secrets and wants. And she had more junk than anyone needed, so she’d slowed down on buying stupid things she didn’t need. Then she’d even found an incredible investment broker to manage her funds. With her employers covering all her expenses, she was financially able to help, so why not?

Women needed to run everything, Iax had long decided. Everything in the world would go so much smoother; people could hold their heads higher and stand taller because women would make it a much better place. It would be a life of all people thriving and being rightfully proud of their accomplishments, instead of how it had all become. What a shame. Aggravating, Iax owned.

Again, it always led back to those fuck-tard-loons, otherwise known as; typical men. The whole reason—or maybe the excuse?—she used and blamed for the kibosh always weighing heavily on her so-called social life. Okay, another lie. She’d never had one of those. Not really. She has a few awesome girlfriends in both of her places of residence.

Her particular group of bff’s in Manhattan, New York was the kind who gathered once or twice a month for their girls’ night, which was always hosted by a different person in their little group. Iax wouldn’t mind having them at her place, but she’d rather they be elsewhere. She never knew when she may disappear, and that would be impossible to explain to her friends. Thank God it hadn’t happened yet.

Still, she wished she could host the gatherings, her place was hella-cool, and it had cost her a pretty penny. She had written a check—payment in full—at the closing, and garnered a whole a lot of strange looks from everyone in the room. It was more than rare for a woman so young to do such a thing, and all on her own. But she had, and owned her pad outright. Something she wouldn’t give up for any amount of anything.

I’ll be one of those flame-throwing-Dragon-fuckers before that day ever comes, she vowed.

Iax’s family had lived all over the U.S. due to her dad’s C.I.A. job. It had been difficult especially for her poor mama who hated moving, but knew going into the marriage that relocation was inevitable. Still, you didn’t have to ‘like’ something even though you knew what you were signing up for. They loved each other immeasurably, and that was enough.

At the ripe, yet still firm age of twenty-four, Iax had already lived more than most. She currently resided part-time in her stunning Manhattan pad in New York, USA, and spent the rest of her time in her cozy cabin in the small Colorado Mountain town of Pitkin. The place of her fondest childhood memories. No matter where her family lived, they had always taken the time to visit every summer for at least a week, sometimes two. That was, until it had to be sold when times got tight after her dad’s health had declined.

His health insurance was topnotch, but not enough for all the expenses he incurred. He was collecting his pension now and Iax’s folks lived a comfortable life, but the loss of the family cabin was a sadness. At least the money they got for the sale covered what his insurance didn’t, so they weren’t in debt. Still, Iax had always wanted to repurchase it, but either she didn’t have the funds, the time, or whatever; something always stood in the way.

Fortunately, after her first two years of being employed by the C.I.A., she’d finally made enough green to buy the cabin back. She loved it there more than anywhere else; the summers were better than most, and she would know. Winters, on the other hand, were harsh and almost unbearable, and when she did much of her traveling.

When she wasn’t traveling she lived in her fancy, plush, sickly expensive Manhattan Brownstone after having it entirely renovated. She had spared no expense on either place, each having the latest of everything. The best of the best. She could afford it, so why the hell not? Being in the position of either knowing ‘the man’ to fix things, or able to hire ‘the best’ for her security and electronic needs. She had a ‘station’—she called them—in each of her digs which made her feel more professional at home.

Iax had become so regimented and self-disciplined over the years, structure had become a large part of her life. If she didn’t have something to do, she made stuff up.

Her stations consisted of six separate computers with large screen monitors, stacked in two rows of three which hung over large, handmade desks. All of her stuff was state-of-the-art and allowed her to do anything one could ever imagine, tech-wise. She was also a tech-genius, which always came in handy.

She loved staying up nights just to check out things like weather patterns all over the world, or learn about different foods and things in different cultures. It boggled the mind, the many differences there were just in the basics such as how people dressed; something she always indulged in wherever she went.

Being excessively anal and a total perfectionist, her coworkers, friends, even her family had always given her shit about it. But really, what’s wrong with being organized? She never had quite understood their main malfunction regarding that.

Losers, they’re just jealous, she always told herself with a laugh, knowing her love for them couldn’t run deeper.

She hated downtime, one of the worst ‘four-letter-words’ in her opinion, and did everything in her power to stay busy. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” her mama had always told her, so her hands were only idle if she slept. Even then, she’d always been a fitful sleeper, when she did, so maybe her hands were on the move then, too.

That was another thing, she didn’t sleep much, just couldn’t, she always had too much on her mind. When one travels as much as Iax, even though all the travel plans, hotels, rental vehicles, and anything else one needed was already taken care of by some unseen entity, it still leaves one to worry over stupid shit: Are the flights all correct? What kind of room will I get once I arrive? Will I arrive at the correct location? And, on time? Will I like the food there? What about the language?

She’d found out firsthand how easy it was for an itinerary to go south when some dumb-fuck had made even the tiniest mistake in booking. Or through language barriers; sometimes words incorrectly interpreted could make for an extremely bunk travel plan. You never knew if you were going to end up where you were actually supposed to be.

Traveling as she did, she learned something new everywhere and every day. Some places were five-star resorts, and some were flee-ridden, half fallen-down shacks. Ya just never knew till ya got there.

She’d found herself sleeping on sidewalks pretending to be a street-bum more than once. A couple times she’d even had to take refuge in a park inside one of those jungle-gym do-dads. Not real comfy, but out of sight and doable. Anything to remain invisible.

And, the food? Seriously, she could not believe what some people considered ‘food,’ ‘delicacies’ even. It was easy to locate food vendors in the small, dusty, overcrowded foreign streets when she needed to. She would happily load up on fresh fruits and veggies before she’d even consider putting some of that nasty shit inside her body. Our body is our temple, or so she’d been told.

Language was never an issue, either. Since junior high school, Iax had always been extremely interested in other languages. She had taken a variety of available courses and after graduation when the C.I.A. had contacted her, they required her to learn more. Not a problem, since she loved learning new ones, anyway. She’d become fluent in twenty-four languages, including her own, English, and it was one of her most pride-filled accomplishments.

Well, that and all her mad-skillz, which she was more than thrilled to possess. Especially, since she’d started this whole hop-scotching-through-time thing about a year ago. Apparently, the C.I.A. had enough faith in her abilities to send her on the weirdest, most high-risk assignments they came across. Who-da-thunk there were actually whole other Dimensions out there? It had never crossed her mind.

Every time she would show up somewhere, Gemma was already there to guide, help, and keep her ass alive. She owed much to the woman and genuinely cared for her. Too bad she didn’t live in Iax’s real time and place; what a trip that would be for everyone. Although Gemma was somewhat of an anomaly, she definitely had powers and a vast knowledge of times, places, and histories pertaining to the various creatures, Realms, and Dimensions. Luckily, all the odd languages were covered in the woman’s arsenal, too. Even though Iax was wholly fluent on Earth, she knew they didn’t teach any other languages anywhere. Another awesome asset in having Gemma on her side.

The first time Iax had gone to another Dimension, upon her return she ‘landed’ on her own couch in her Manhattan pad in front of her superiors. She’d been frantic to locate Gemma, searching each room, under every piece of furniture, hoping and praying she’d find her. The woman had saved Iax’s ass and she wanted to thank and introduce her to her superiors. But she hadn’t been there, not a single sign of her was to be found.

Her main boss, Fred Travett, thought Iax had lost her mind. He’d even ordered her to see the company shrink to verify that she was still mentally stable. He feared that she’d been so traumatized by the whole thing, she may be useless to them after the incident. Thank God he had been wrong.

Fred was a close friend of her parents, and like an uncle to Iax. He’d always been extremely protective, always worrying and fussing over this and that. She knew he and her dad worked together for several years and even though he was at least twenty-years younger than her dad, they’d always been super close so she trusted him. But, in this particular case, she had to keep Gemma to herself even if the lie, or rather, the omission made her feel bad.

Iax had finally calmed down and realized that Gemma was from the other Dimension, and had obviously remained back in her own time and place. She had convinced Fred she’d just been so rattled upon returning home, she was simply confused. She never brought up Gemma around anyone ever again. Well, except for her folks; she knew she could trust them, and besides, they seemed to be genuinely interested in her O.W.O. Work—more so than she ever understood—and were able to keep her secrets.

When Iax had gone on her second trip, which was to the Amethyst Faerie Dragon Realm—one of her favorites so far—of course Gemma had been there waiting again. Iax had asked about her origins, abilities, and how and why she’d happened upon her both times. Gemma had brightly expressed that she was somewhat of a “Guardian Angel” for Iax. Stating wholeheartedly to Iax, “Someone has to do it, as you are far too careless for your own good.” They had already worked together eight-times, and Iax had come to trust Gemma with her very life; would trust anyone or anything she held dear to the woman.

Iax wasn’t exactly supposed to be out making friends on her away jobs so, in theory, that meant Gemma could be considered the enemy, or at least in league with them. No one was supposed to have knowledge of Iax, and since Gemma had plenty, it made her a target. By existing in the often unstable and dangerous alternate Dimensions during such tenuous times, such knowledge could be used against Iax. Another reason she still kept Gemma a secret; in case she was ever given the order to kill Gemma, taking her friend out was not an option.

Leaning back against the doorframe, Iax watched as Gemma drew the curtains back in the bedchamber she’d claimed. Always one to gravitate to all-things-nature, it didn’t surprise Iax that Gemma would want the curtains open so she could look outside often to see everything outdoors. Iax suspected it was a built-in mechanism to aid the woman in continually scanning their surroundings and always knowing what was doin’ and where.

Gemma reminded Iax of the mythical fey. She could picture her as a tree sprite, albeit an unusually large one, she was just so elegant, gorgeous, and lethal all at the same time. Having those magical powers may have added to the illusion a bit, too.

“So, where’s the bathroom, and what’re we gonna eat? I’m still starving,” Iax pointed out again. Her stomach was growling and starting to cramp. She hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before this little trip, and it was also contributing to her feeling almost out-of-body-like. She didn’t like not being in complete control of her body and mind. In this weakened state, mistakes could be made, accidents could happen.

“Of course you are hungry; it has been quite a long day for you. I have just the thing to bring you back around. Cop a squirt in the dining area and I shall be right there to fix you up.” Gemma beamed proudly.

Shaking her head with a small laugh, as she didn’t have the energy to do anything else, Iax was amused by Gemma slip-up again. “Babe, it’s cop a squat, but you’re trying and I respect that.” Still laughing, Iax turned back and went to find the ‘dining area.’

Iax was also always amused by Gemma’s old-world way of speaking and what she called things. At least here and now they didn’t have to whisper, although that was always a bucket-o-fun, it didn’t always cut it for her.

After eating a large bowl of tasty herbal-something-or-other soup, fresh bread Gemma had effortlessly and quickly whipped up, along with several kinds of fruits and nuts, Iax’s previously empty stomach was pleasantly full. The two cleaned the kitchen and then parted ways, going to their respective bedchambers.

Soaking in a steaming hot bath, Iax reflected on the day’s events and tried to figure out first, why the ‘bad-beastie’ had stolen Yoren from the Gordell-Dragon-Dude. It could be, just like at home, the dude was simply jealous and wanted the female for his own. Or, there could be a more nefarious plot afoot. Next, what was she supposed to do about any of it, in either case?

One thing Iax had learned well and at a very young age was, there were politics in every race, religion, age, country, time, and Dimension. Another thing she’d learned well was, politics always brought out the sheer worst in people. Since the Dragons were shifters, they obviously had a ‘people’ side, at least in some capacity, so there could be any number of reasons for this incident.

Now, she just had to find out if any of her thoughts were factual; tomorrow, after this decadent bath, and after a full night’s sleep. Both of which she felt she thoroughly deserved.


 **Contents Copyrighted 2011 by Theressa Branham**

Caught in the Dragon Cove

Chapter One:

Ten-Years Later

Date: December 25, 1987

Place: The United States Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, USA

World: Planet Earth

The young, fresh, extremely ambitious Special Agent enjoyed working closely with his new partner, and newfound idol, the now forty-one year old Special Agent David Conifurr, in Arlington, Virginia. All of their Operations were highly sensitive and Top-secret, even to the entire staff and anyone else who entered the massive, seven-story, over three-and-a-half-million square feet of office space that made up the United States Pentagon.

Although he couldn’t see it, except for lunch breaks, and of course, coming and going, being located directly across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., was just another bonus. Not to mention all the other various Memorials and Landmarks in the vicinity, he had decided Arlington was a magnificent place to live and work.

He’d moved here only a few months ago from Missoula, Montana, which he missed almost like a phantom limb. Montana was spectacular in its own right. It was one of the most peaceful places he’d ever been to. And, when he’d said there were significant differences between the two places, he had meant to say that there was no comparison, whatsoever.

Bounding into the shared office-space situated and cut off from the rest of the employees, buried in the storage areas in the bowels of the second-sub-level-story of the mammoth building, he loved it even though there were no windows or visible links to the outside world.

Although he didn’t like to admit it, everyone had been extraordinarily warm, welcoming, and plenty helpful when he had needed it at first. Navigating the beast-of-a-building was a nightmare in the beginning, but not so much now.

This specific day, he was practically vibrating with excitement. He was the newest, youngest employee in the O.W.O. Unit, or the Outer Worldly Operations Unit, and he reveled in the newness of it all. Being so green, he still had much to learn.

So far, he’d figured out that somehow, this division of the C.I.A. could communicate with their namesake: Outer Worldly Operations, also known as Dimensions and Realms apart from the only one widely known to humankind: Planet Earth.

They would receive Intel with just enough time to get a Special Agent or Agents into the Realm in whichever Dimension that was having problems. Said Agents, all of whom were highly trained, and extremely sharp at many tactical skills—along with other skill-sets which would blow one’s mind—would have a set amount of time to locate, and then fix the problem.

Once their assignment was complete, whatever it was that had enabled them to ‘go there’ was the same way they ‘got back’ here. Weird stuff, to be sure, but he didn’t work in that particular department. So, he figured, all in time. As long as he could hold on to this great job, he’d stay and all the while, he’d continue to learn.

Today, however, he had a wholly different reason for being so overly-ecstatic. He had news to deliver; incredible news, in fact, for his new partner and friend, Mr., or rather, Special Agent David Conifurr.

I like the sound of that for me, too. Special Agent Fred Travett. He sighed.

He would always be grateful, and he had no idea just how true his pensive thoughts would one day prove.

He’d been told of some of Agent Conifurr’s beginnings here, at the O.W.O. Unit, and how tragic things had been for him and his wife. All they had ever wanted, prayed night and day for, was to have a child of their own. They weren’t even greedy, they only wanted one. More would have been an enormous blessing, but all they had ever wanted, needed so desperately, was simply one-small healthy, happy bundle-of-joy to love, to call their own. Which they’d never had.

Though one would expect the couple to be somber, sullen, or possibly even rude, it just wasn’t their way. All anyone ever said about the pair was accomplished and honorable things; they donated time and money to all causes related to babies and children.

And they had always made sure some their coworkers, along with a few of their Church members, even many of their own neighbors never went without anything. They preferred anonymity for as many of their generous acts of kindness as possible, and obviously, they’d been seen doing volunteer works, but the monetary side was hush-hush.

Everyone said the couple had never wanted any credit; they simply wanted others to be happy. And, since they didn’t exactly have a whole brood of their own to raise and care for, they had the time, and even some extra funds to help cover some of the financial needs. But, it was never enough since there seemed to be no end to their giving—their true joy—to all of those in real need.

Mrs. Conifurr also held fundraisers, working in conjunction with their Church and other meaningful organizations to ensure the necessary funding to cover all of what they did. And they did a lot, she spent most of her time doing for, and taking care of others. She apparently lived for just that. They undoubtedly would have been the best parents ever.

Fred had never been so humbled than he was upon learning those things about his new partner and the man’s wife. And, he was not surprised to hear that Mr. Conifurr worshiped and loved Mrs. Conifurr more than anything, anywhere.

He could be tough and gruff. Born and bred on the mean-streets of New York City, the man really was threatening, even had the accent to back it up. He could be terribly intimidating, but Fred mostly just saw ‘him,’ the extraordinary man underneath it all, and how deeply he seemed to care for others, just like his wife did.

This was the key reason Fred was flying so high on this particular, fine Monday morning. Even if it was below zero outside, and the power kept going out, and the generators kept leaping back and forth from life to off, life to off.

East Coast winters were brutal, and they were right in the middle of a nasty, classic December ice-storm. He thought Montana had insufferable winters, and they did, but still… this was downright frigid. In any case, Fred almost couldn’t contain the joy flowing fast and free through his veins, warming him from the inside out.

This’ll be the best Christmas gift he’d ever have the pleasure to deliver. Even if it wasn’t from him, he was just so thrilled, elated even, to be delivering this specific, perfect gift to the most deserving couple he’d ever had the blessed honor of meeting.

Suddenly, he became nervous, his heart thudded heavily inside his chest, blood rushed loudly in his ears. “What if we’re all being presumptuous? Oh, Lord! What if it’s too late? They might think so. I hope not, but they are in their mid-forties,” he worried quietly out loud.

After a few deep, cleansing breaths, and more of the inner pep-talk, he was at Agent Conifurr’s office door. Breathe, it’s fine. They’ll be ecstatic, this is what they’ve always wanted—isn’t it? he tried to bolster himself.

Before he could square his shoulders and knock, the door swung open and Agent Conifurr ran right into Fred, practically knocking him over. “Whoa, there. Where’s the fire? You okay, Sir? I’m sorry, I-I was just gonna knock,” Fred rushed out in one breath.

“You’re fine, I’m fine. So, what did ya need, Kid?” Fred smiled. Only Agent Conifurr standing in his office-doorway as composed as he pleased, could get away with calling him ‘Kid,’ he thought, amused.

Okay Fred, you can do this, he told himself, a little more pep-talk. “Good, okay, um…” Gah! Just do it, you big Nancy-ass! Big breath… Ah, okay, I can do this.

Mr. Conifurr, clearing his throat, brought Fred out of his head, and he realized he was standing there gawking at the man he so respected, sweating and blushing like a damn fool! A damn female fool, at that! Shaking his head, sneaking in a quick, you’re a jackass-loser, to himself, he finally piped up and found his balls. “Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. Guess I didn’t get much sleep. Anyway, is the Misses still here? We, er, I have news that’ll affect you both, and it’d be best if I could tell you. Together, that is,” he finished. A relieved breath gushed from his lungs.

That wasn’t so hard, Nancy-ass, he reprimanded himself a moment longer.

“Yeah, sure, Son. What’s on your mind? Come on in, please have a seat.” He gestured to a chair for Fred to use, next to the lovely and beautiful Mrs. Conifurr.

He nodded as he politely brushed past her to claim the empty seat, asking, “How are you today, Mrs. Conifurr? Beautiful day, isn’t it?” What? Ugh! It’s not a beautiful day, it’s miserable outside! Damn fool! He sighed.

“Yes, Fred, I am well. Thank you.” Offering him a smile, he was grateful she didn’t remark about the “beautiful day” he’d just assured her existed. Fred let it go, and sat down just as Agent Conifurr claimed his seat across from them behind his large, too-organized desk.

“All right, Son, ya got us here, ya got our attention. What’s on your mind?” the older man asked, as the couple smiled pleasantly and expectantly at him.

You can do it, they’ll be the happiest they’ve ever been, they’ll have to be. He cleared his throat, wiped his still sweating brow on the back of his shirt sleeve, and smiled the best he could.

“Yes, and I thank you both for your time, I know how busy you both always are. Um, we have a, um… well, ya see, we have something. For you. A situation happened, and now we have it for you. If ya want it?” he finished, sweating even more while awaiting their reply. When did it get so hot in here? He couldn’t stop sweating!

Obviously, they’d have to at least think about it. Maybe even take a little time and talk it over. As the thought hit him, he shot to his feet knocking his now-vacant chair over backwards, and he heard it hit the floor. Ugh! You’re a damn klutz now, too? He huffed, frustrated.

“Got it. Sorry, just, this is a lot to take in. I get it if you’ll need some time, a talk, or whichever. I’ll give you more time. Just get back to me once you’ve decided, and we’ll take it from there.” He blushed. Again.

Busy trying to say the right things, keeping his brow wiped, and trying to get the fallen chair back into its original spot, he hadn’t noticed the expressions on their faces. They were glancing back and forth from each other to him, eyes full of concern and confusion.

He wrinkled his brow, not sure of what the problem was. Before he could ask, Agent Conifurr spoke. “Ah, why don’t ya sit back down a minute, ya don’t look so good. And while you’re at it, ya mind explainin’ what you’re ramblin’ about? What exactly would you like us to think and speak about? You’re not makin’ much sense, Son. Ya okay?” Agent Conifurr questioned, concern clear in his observing gaze.

Suddenly, the problem dawned on him. I’ve never been more humiliated in my life! Fred chastised himself. And by myself, even, what a jackass! You left out the whole thing! The actual ‘surprise-gift’ part! Shaking his head at his own ineptness, he didn’t think it was possible to get any redder in the face as he felt the heat radiating from his skin.

Lord, please strike me down now, I’m such a loser! he pleaded. If the floor would only open up and swallow him whole, he’d be grateful!

Alas, he was wrong. He could, and he did get redder when Mrs. Conifurr got up from her seat and leaned over to press her bare-inner forearm against his forehead. Her beautiful face was tight and serious, brows wrinkled in deep concern. He felt like a child. A dumb, clumsy, didn’t-know-squat child.

Could this get any more embarrassing? he asked himself. Well, sure, of course it could and it most likely would. Just give me a minute, I’m sure I can one-up myself a few more times. He took a few deep breaths and tried to fix the disaster he’d just created. And, of all people to do it to and in front of? It’s okay, just fix it. He sighed.

“I’m fine, really. Thank you, Mrs. Conifurr, just tired and obviously my brain’s not working properly. Really, I’m okay.” He offered a kind smile, as she returned her own.

“Well, Son, what’s goin’ on? Ya need somethin’?” Agent Conifurr politely pressed, still eyeing him with too much knowledge behind that gaze. Fred felt a shudder go through him. As great a man as Agent Conifurr was, he truly never wanted to be on the man’s unpleasant side. Ever.

“Yeah, okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to jumble things up. I’ve just been so excited I guess I lost my head for a minute. Of course, you want to know what I’m rambling about.” He gave them both a sheepish, half-smile before continuing, “What I meant to say, was… is, um. Well, there’s a situation, and from it came something I think the two of you would be very interested in. To keep, I mean.” As he fumbled for the right words, he realized that seeing is believing. Besides, he was almost positive there would be no way they could say no once they saw and touched the surprise. He smiled again, feeling a little more confident.

He stood and gestured toward the office door, “Would you both mind coming with me? Then you can see for yourself. I think it’ll make your decision much easier this way, too.” The couple glanced at each other, then up at Fred, confusion written all over their faces, but he also picked up on their curiosity.

That’s all I needed. His smile widened.

The area utilized by the O.W.O. Unit was large, and even though it should have, it didn’t even make a dent on their level. There were also other back rooms where who-knew-what went on. Luckily for him, today Fred knew what was going on in one room, and he knew it was all good. As he led Agent and Mrs. Conifurr down the corridor and across a space taken up by row after row of metal shelving, he couldn’t help but smile. This is just too perfect! he agreed with himself.

Coming to another corridor lined with rooms, each door stood about twenty-five feet apart from the next, Fred lightly knocked a definite code-knock on the door marked ‘TOP-SECRET: HIGHEST CLEARANCE ONLY,’ in bold red-letters. Even Agent Conifurr raised a questioning brow at Fred as he simply looked on waiting for the door to be opened from the other side.

Only moments later, though it felt like much longer to Fred, the door quietly, slowly opened to reveal a small, dark-haired woman wearing a black skirt-suit, big glasses, and her hair pulled back in a severe bun. Recognizing Fred at once, the small slip of a woman stood back to allow him and the couple to enter the room. Afterward, she re-closed and re-locked the door.

“Dana.” Fred politely inclined his chin to her. She was so tiny, he couldn’t believe she’d made it through the physical training and landed herself a job here.

Filing those random thoughts away, he focused on why they were all here, gathered in the hard-edged, cold-feeling room. He glanced over his shoulder by the back wall to make sure nothing had changed, and sure enough, there it was. He smiled again.

“Mrs. Conifurr, Agent Conifurr, if you would please, could you come over here and take a look at this and tell us what you think?” He wanted to jump out of his skin by now, the excitement was too much! He had a strong feeling they’d say yes, he felt it in his bones. Please, let them say yes, this is what is best for all of them—let them say yes, he silently prayed.

The moment Mrs. Conifurr’s eyes found the small baby bassinet, her entire body stiffened just before she shot across the room to close the gap between them. She peeked tentatively down into the bassinet, and then leaned over to get a better look-see. “Oh my, It’s a baby. A newborn baby. What… I-I…” Mrs. Conifurr whispered, pressing the back of her right hand to her lips to stifle a small sob, as her left hand instinctively gravitated down to rest upon the newborn’s back.

Agent Conifurr shot a strange look at Fred, which he mistook for anger. Fred swallowed the lump in his throat that formed while he watched Mrs. Conifurr’s initial reaction to the baby.

What have we done? What have I done? I thought they’d be thrilled for sure, and want this. He hung his head in shame, feeling utterly defeated.

A sharp, strong clap on the back made him stumble forward two steps. His eyes snapped up and Agent Conifurr was still standing where he had been, but now he wore an almost silly grin on his face.

What the hell? Fred puzzled. I thought he was upset? This must be the most confusing day of my life.

“Son, ya mind tellin’ us what this is all about? The wife’s gettin’ herself worked up, and I think I know why. But I’d like to hear the words before this goes too far. Ya understand?” Agent Conifurr smirked, seemingly sure of his own thoughts.

Jackpot! Fred almost said out loud.

“Yes, Sir. I believe it is just what you’re thinking. You remember the file I was going over last week, the ones about the Agent who came back from the Amethyst Faerie Dragon Dimension, dead?” Agent Conifurr nodded. “Yeah, well, when he reappeared to wherever it was where he usually made the transition, they found this little one strapped to his chest. Thank God he landed on his back, but yeah, she appeared with him.”

“She? A baby girl? How…?” Agent Conifurr shook his head now, as if he could make sense of it quicker, but confusion flitted across his features again. Not so much in a bad way, but he was clearly confused. Who wouldn’t be? This was a bit much, even for the O.W.O. Unit.

Fred needed to figure out something to say that would calm the couple. They appeared highly emotional already. He could hear the quiet cries from Mrs. Conifurr, and see it in Agent Conifurr’s expression; they needed confirmation.

“Yes, Agent and Mrs. Conifurr, congratulations, it’s a baby girl! Merry Christmas!” Fred beamed a bright smile. “For all intents and purposes, she appears to be healthy and normal. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any outward-signs of any other type of ‘being,’ or anything. The Lab’s been monitoring her since she arrived, almost two-weeks ago. They didn’t find anything that would lead anyone to believe she wasn’t human, but only time will tell.” He shrugged a shoulder.

Agent Conifurr had made his way over to stand next to his wife, who was now holding and gently rocking the baby girl in her loving arms. It had to be the most tender, intimate thing Fred had ever eye-witnessed. He actually felt his eyes welling up with tears. Coughing into his hand, he quickly turned away, giving the couple a small measure of privacy while flicking away the silly tears falling from his own eyes. Man, you really are a Nancy-ass today, aren’t you? he scolded himself. Though, he couldn’t stop the smile from forming on his lips at the thought.

This was quite a day. He would have never guessed he’d get to be a part of something like this; bringing a family together, a new life with older lives. It was all the couple had ever wanted, and here it was. Finally. Literally, in their hands.

It was so quiet, he almost didn’t catch Mrs. Conifurr’s words when she spoke. “She’s so beautiful, David. So… so perfect. Is this real? Are they truly wanting us to take her in?” her voice quivered as she spoke, yet strengthened with each word.

This was perfect, and they would be the best parents for this orphaned, newborn baby girl. Life just didn’t get much better than this.

Fred almost forgot the instructions that had come with the baby. Not many, and it took the Lab all this time to decipher them, but they appeared to be necessary. He didn’t like this part, but it was a must. He cleared his throat.

“Ah, okay, first things first: Yes, this is real, and yes, she needs a home. Everyone thought you two were the best choice for obvious and more personal reasons.” The couple turned and gave him their full attention.

“And?” Agent Conifurr hedged.

“Yes, and, just because she hasn’t exhibited any behaviors or traits of another ‘being,’ doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Also, you’ll need to watch her diet carefully. She seems to tolerate regular baby formula fine for now. She also shows signs of extreme intelligence, and is an exceptionally fast learner. That’s probably an understatement, but there you have it. You’ll obviously need to watch her like a hawk at all times, even more so than a human baby. If she’s as smart and fast as they claim, who knows what she could be capable of?” He raised a brow.

The visibly thrilled couple nodded in unison as if they knew what he meant; their new baby girl would be a surprise-a-minute.

“On the instructions, they also found what they think is her name. Of course, it’s up to you, but as the Lab said it all seemed pretty important. It said her name was Iax Sarvias Eluhyax. Oh, I almost forgot, she appears to be—give or take a couple—about fourteen-days old.”

Fred expected a response, at least a strange expression, anything, but the only thing the couple seemed to be interested in at all was the newborn baby girl. Mrs. Conifurr continued to rock her gently, while her husband stood at her side, watching both of them with unshed tears of his own, and an elated, relieved expression on his face.

Yes. This is just what we’d hoped for, and exactly what they deserve. Now they can be a family, maybe stop spending so much time on everyone else, and start making their own family traditions and just be together. Perfect, Fred admitted to himself.

He sensed a propitious outcome for all. Happiness, and finally, all the love, laughter, and joy they so deserved. Then he heard Agent Conifurr’s announcement, his voice strong and proud. “Yep, her name is Iax Sarvias Eluhyax Conifurr. What ya think, sweetheart?” He gazed lovingly into his wife’s own tear-filled eyes, belying the large smile spreading across her beautiful, glowing face.

“I think it’s perfect, honey, absolutely perfect.” Peering back at the baby in her arms, bright green-eyes wide open to take in everything her gaze could touch on, the baby’s new mama asked, “What do you think, Iax [Eye-Axe] Sarvias [Sar-vee-us] Eluhyax [Aye-Lou-Axe] Conifurr? Do you like that, my precious?” she sounded out the unique name.

Iax, the tiny baby, then reached out to grab onto her new mama’s finger, then smiled the sweetest baby smile any of them had ever seen.

After a few moments of whispering, Mrs. and Agent Conifurr turned to face Fred, wide smiles filling their exuberant faces. “I think we’ll be callin’ her Iax Sarel Conifurr.  We’ll use ‘Sar’ and ‘El’ from the other two names. It’s unique, but not so strange that anyone, includin’ her, would have issues with it. The whole of those full names would raise too many questions, bein’ so uncommon and all. Her birth certificate will have the full names, of course, but she won’t need to see it for a long time. So until then, we’ll just say Sarel is a combination of a relative of mine, and one of the wife’s. What do ya think, Son?”

It was a heady feeling to be asked his opinion on such a matter. This was their baby now, and Fred had only been working here a short time. He was honored. “I believe you’re right. Sarel sounds pretty normal. And, if you think about it, people combine family names all the time. Besides, it’s not totally a lie; the Lab believes those were her birthparents’ names. So yes, I think it’s a perfect combination.”

There can be no doubt that this baby, the unique Iax Sarvias Eluhyax Conifurr, was and always will be remarkable. World, you’d better watch out, remarkable doesn’t even come close to covering this one. Not only that, but she’ll be a true force to be reckoned with, Fred qualified, feeling like he was floating on cloud-nine. He’d never been psychic or anything, but he had the strongest, strangest feeling about this baby girl; she would surpass any and everyone’s expectations and then some.

He smiled, watching the overjoyed couple cooing and gently touching the baby girl’s face, her golden hair, and of course, all ten of her perfect little fingers and toes.

**Contents Copyrighted 2011 by Theressa Branham**

Caught in the Dragon Cove

Chapter Two:

Present Day

Date: December 2011—Earth Calendar

Time: Unknown—Still Daylight

Place: Dragon Cove Realm

World: The Dragon Dimension

Superior Life Form: Dragon-Shifters (Maintain human-like forms unless provoked, senses a threat, and in planned or unavoidable battles).

Dragons, Dragons and more Dragons. Every size, shape, and color of which the brain could conceive. Beautiful. Scary. Amazing. Only three of the words that came to mind instantaneously. Some with soft, leathery-looking hides, others were tough, almost steely-looking. And surprisingly, several even looked as if they might be ‘friendly,’ if a Dragon could be considered friendly. Many looked territorial, extremely dangerous.

Iax was grateful she hadn’t caught their notice… yet. They’d most likely breathe fire and brimstone on her, incinerating her in mere seconds. The next three words that came to mind were; well, fu-uck me. It was all so bizarre, yet somehow beautiful at the same time.

Dragons flying overhead, running, or maybe—as it was hard to tell from a distance—they were merely skimming over the surface of land charred beyond repair, only scant inches below them. Many were launching themselves at one another, furiously swiping at others with massive, dangerously strong tails. Others colliding, tangling in thunderous claps midair, rolling and diving as they fell hard to the ground landing in large heaps with loud, sickening thuds, sounding imminently final. There were so many, at least a couple hundred, and it seemed such a waste to maim, destroy, or even harm such beauty.

The land and vegetation all looked as if it would go up into flames at any moment now as lava seeped lazily, and rolled slowly all around them as far as the eye could see down into the valley. Tall mountain peaks proudly loomed like sentinels on either side of the vast valley-floor.

Another waste of immeasurable proportions. It was a beautiful area; large copses of antique-looking trees in various types and sizes scattered over the mountainsides, uniquely attractive large and smaller bushes, wildflowers, and on and on. Such a waste.

How did I get here? she speculated. It had never been explained to her, other than some kind of weird ‘link’ thing. She’d be sure to corner Fred when she got back and find out exactly how, or what made these fun little ‘trips’ even possible. For now, there wasn’t time to worry about it.

She’d visited many different places while ‘hop-scotching-it-through-time,’ as she called it, in just under a year. Different time periods, people, shifters, animals, and alternate Realms from many of the different Dimensions. Everything had always seemed so surreal, possibly imagined, but not. This wasn’t her first rodeo; everything here was all-too-real.

The scene was breathtaking, both beautiful and dismal. The sky, which seemed to run forever in either direction of the seemingly enormous valley, was painted in vibrant swaths of purples, oranges, pinkish-corals, as well as different hues of greens and blues.

All the visuals were totally at odds with the sounds and explosions blasting all around her. Carrying on the wind with it all were the putrid, noxious odors, worse than the charred vegetation; charred hide. Everything on, and including parts of, the actual ground was melted to oblivion.

Iax wanted to retch at the smells and sights—it truly was disheartening—but that would give away her presence, something she most definitely did not want to happen. The massive explosions rocked her entire body, her throbbing head was begging for relief.

She needed to know where she was, what was happening, and why the hell she’d ended up here. Well, truth tell, she knew the here; The Dragon Dimension. But in which Realm? There were several: Each Realm consisted of various groups made up of a specific type of Dragon-shifter, all of whom inhabited their own territory;,the claim they staked upon their creation. Each group, a family or village of shifters, was called a Weyr; much like a Clan, Tribe, or some other such grouping. It was almost unheard of for a Dragon-shifter from one Realm to visit another, as they usually kept to themselves.

Although Iax had been to a few of the different Realms, she still didn’t know exactly how many there were. She could be wrong, but she thought this one in particular was the Dragon Cove Realm. The inhabitants were essentially your typical human-like beings who just so happened to be able to shape-shift into their Dragon-forms.

That covered the here part, but the why? She had no clue. Something she knew for certain was, one minute, she’d been sippin’ a vente mocha latte, trying on some killer heels, and the next… she was here. Fucking awesome. Not! She quietly snorted.

Iax learned on her previous ‘vacays,’ she had to remain focused, concentrate on every detail.

If only she could’ve landed somewhere poolside, apple-tini and a great book in hand. Oh, and maybe even one of those hot cabana boys massaging her feet, fanning her while feeding her grapes and berries. Not that she drank; Iax never enjoyed it after watching peeps she truly cared for fall apart—and worse—because of their drinking problem. Still, it sure sounded sensational, and would’ve made a much better vacay; so worth her time and trouble. Shoulders slumping, she sighed again.

I wish I had my Zune, all this noise is driving me fucking nuts, she grumbled inwardly as a groovy tune was running through her mind, bringing up questions about her mental state; what’s wrong with me? Why do I feel like this? I’m going crazy… Just to name a few. How àpropos.

Alas, fun was not meant to be had, at least not yet, and not here. Convincing herself that one of these times she’d certainly make the other trip happen. At least she’d give it one helluva shot, anyway.

Meanwhile, she was here, it was hot, dry, nasty, and she had a job to do. It was obvious that she was here due to the flame-throwers who evidently didn’t know how to channel their anger in a healthy way. Now, she needed to figure out exactly what was going on, and what she would do about it.

Hmm, she thought dryly, better check my bod and see what kind of goods I brought forth this time. Please let there be a canteen of cold water somewhere on my person.

Night’s darkness was closing in quickly, and the charred air around her was cooling just a tad as she hid under the cover of boulders and burnt trees. Her continual sweating could spell grim news for her, and soon.

Iax wasn’t fooled for even a second to think hiding would save her ass for long, these kinds of creatures always sniffed out anyone or anything different from themselves, all-too-soon.

Also, if she died here, she actually died, for real. Not an option, even though her real life wasn’t going quite her way, she still wasn’t ready to die.

She needed to reach Gemma, her ‘tour guide,’ as she called her. Gemma always knew what to do, where to go, and why the hell Iax was brought to, well, wherever it was she always ended up. Gemma was impressive like that, always had all the answers and knew just what to do.

To be honest, Gemma was more like a giant jigsaw puzzle; all the pieces were there and they were fascinating pieces, it was just hard to fit them all together sometimes. But, in the end, they always got the job done, even if the puzzle didn’t always come out perfect, it did come out done.

And, Iax got to continue living, for real.

Although she was frustrated enough to scream, she knew better. Screaming wasn’t necessary anyway, she could simply use mental projection, and Gemma would magically appear.

Here’s lookin’ at you, Gemma. Iax hoped fervently. Closing her eyes, she sent her thoughts out in a wide arc to summon her buddy. After the third try, Iax started getting pissed. She was hot, sweating, tired, a little hungry and, even though she shouldn’t—‘cause it seemed rather inappropriate—she had a deep craving for BBQ food.

Shaking her head to clear the random thoughts, she peered around hoping to see Gemma wandering somewhere close by, as always in a daze with a beautiful smile on her even more beautiful face.

Gemma always appeared clueless, but man, the sister should never be underestimated; she’s brilliant, and not one to be fucked with.

Still waiting, looking about again… nothing. Where is she? Dammit, I hate when this happens and she doesn’t show up right away! she grumbled inwardly, then using the same method, she shouted for Gemma. Big mistake! All that did was amplify her already hellacious headache. Ugh! Smooth doin’, Ace!

Iax started at the reply that came right next to her ear!

“Oh, bother, dear, do not have a hit-attack, I am here already. I am here.”

Like a welcomed flood, relief flowed through Iax’s veins cooling her overheated system at hearing the voice, but it did nothing good for her newfound headache or her nerves. Without thinking first, she snapped, “Gemma! Why do you always have to scare me? Shit! And, how many times I gotta ask you to please not sneak up on me, yet you keep doing it?” Iax hissed out.

Perfectly arched brows raised, Gemma replied, “Well, it seems that someone’s panties are in a wait. Really, Iax, you need to chill. Is this not what you have advised me to do so many times? And, look, I have. You, on the other hand, are so pumpy. Humph. You are welcome for me showing up, as I always do!” She sat down on a large rock, elbows on her knees, chin resting in her upraised palms.

Trying for patience, Iax didn’t want to start things out on a bad note, but she never could help herself from correcting people, either. “Okay Gemma, A; it’s panties in a wad not a wait, and two; it’s jumpy not pumpy, okay?  And, you’re right, thank you for always showing up and helping me. I really do appreciate it.” She let out a long, slow breath before continuing, “I’m sorry, I’m just pissed. I was having a great day, drooling over a hottie at the mall, having a coffee… thing, fixin’ to buy some kick-ass heels, and all of a sudden, I’m here.” She opened her arms wide and turned in a half circle to encompass the scene unfolding all around them.

“And, it’s heart attack, not hit attack—which by the way—I am not having. If you’re going to use my stuff, please try to get it right.” She waved a negligent hand toward the fiery scene in front of them, and asked, “Now, what’s the scoop on all this?”

“Well, my dear, you must not have a potty-party, we shall see you through this as we always do.” Gemma smiled innocently, knowing very well that she was riding on Iax’s last nerve.

Iax knew the woman thought it was entertaining to poke at her from time to time, but now was not good. Gritting her teeth, she tried to calm down and not blow a gasket. “Gemma, it’s pity-party, not potty-party, and I am not having one of those, either,” she finished, offering her friend a fake smile. Breathe, just breathe slowly. She’s here to help, ya gotta be more patient, Iax attempted to calm her hot-tired-self. Ahhh… better.

She was more than grateful to Gemma since, after all, the woman had saved her ass in more than one scrape, but she always got her euphemisms wrong. Sometimes it was truly funny, but others, it was a waste of precious time. Still, potty-party? She almost laughed out loud upon reflection, it was pretty hilarious! Snap out of it, Iax, and focus! It’s go-time!

“Okay, Gemma, what do we know about what’s going on here? Obviously the flame-throwers are pissed off, attacking each other and—” Squinting to see better, Iax tried to get a better visual on what was doin’ further up, and back down both ends of the valley, as well as on the mountains standing tall on either side. Trying to discern any possible other creatures or whatevers, she was unable to detect anything other than the huge, colorful dudes making jerky of each other and everything else in sight.

“Well, Iax. Gordell—a master-beastie whom is most likely picking his teeth with the bones of the much smaller-beasties as we speak—is very pissed off, as you say. It would seem his Truemate, Yoren, was stolen by another beastie-pack. Mind you, I am explaining this in a way you will understand better. These are the unofficial terms, you see.” She beamed a proud smile.

“Alrighty, then. So, who’s the other pack that stole what’s-her-name, and why’d they even do it to begin with?” Iax asked.

She’d done a quick, not-so-thorough inventory of herself. Every time she hop-scotched-it-through-time, she always had several supplies and was dressed in appropriate attire pertaining to the situation she’d be facing. And, though her supplies were always somewhat meager, they had saved her ass before. It was far better than nothing at all.

Rummaging around inside the large, lightweight pack that was strapped on her back upon her arrival, she found familiar, yet equally disgusting packets of ‘puke-powder’—Yum!—ick, was more like it. They were the kind of ‘meals’ where you simply add-water-and-eat. The nutritional value was unmatched. The taste? Not so much. Again, they’d saved her life in the past and were kind of better than nothing. Still, it was some of the most rank, nastiest shit Iax had ever consumed, which was saying a lot considering the woman had traveled the world many times over, and had vacayed in several Realms of the various alternate Dimensions.

As always, she also found pre-filled vitamin packets, all ready to go. Some of the buggers were huge, but they kept a person healthy. Who knew what you’d come across in a place like this? Health was all important.

The pack also held your basic, standard-issue military eating utensils; a metal plate, cup, fork, knife, and spoon. And there was a Swiss Army Knife with so many goodies in it, she couldn’t wait to play with them all.

There were two canteens shaped sort of like a small laptop, about two-inches deep and made of a flexible, seemingly indestructible material. They could be stored in several different compartments in the backpack, even folded to fit into a pocket when empty, if necessary. She decided the pack had too many little pockets and compartments to mess with at the moment, but she was pretty sure it held clothing, and everything else she’d need to eat, clean, even first-aid herself when need be. And it would be needed, that was a given.

One of the coolest things about these vacays was, all the battle-wounds she received while she was there, disappeared when she finally got home. Ah, home… Iax already wanted to go back. Focus!

Some claim that scars on men are sexy—so why not on women as well?—she had often wondered. To be honest, she had loved a few of her battle-wounds; they were like mementos, little reminders of what she’d done while saving the World and beyond. Some of her missions, though grueling and often deadly, left her full of pride at the end of the day. A few of her scars could’ve told some kick-ass tales. Others? Not so much, as most were nasty and awful, so ultimately, she hadn’t minded losing them.

Realizing Gemma was speaking in her proper, singsong voice, Iax decided it would be a good idea to pay attention. Although, at least a third of what the woman said made not a lick of sense, the other two-thirds was usually imperative.

Taking a long pull from her canteen, pleasantly surprised to find it was still cold, she turned to face a decidedly flustered Gemma. “Sorry Chicka, ya lost me back there. What was that?” Smiling brightly, Iax stifled a laugh at the expression on Gemma’s face. Poor thing, Iax thought, I seriously should stop being rude to her. “I’m sorry. I was going through my bag-o-goodies, guess I got distracted. I’m all ears now, so please, carry on.” Saluting Gemma with a straight face, Iax clicked her booted-heels together, giving the woman her full attention, in earnest.

“I-I was relaying to you the answer to your previous question, Iax. You asked me why Yoren was taken. I was explaining that I do not know the whole of it, yet. If you could simply pay me the courtesy of listening, you would have some knowledge by this time. I do not speak for my own self, you know.” With a resigned sigh, Gemma glanced around, taking in the hot-pocket they had landed themselves in.

“I am sure it has something to do with the fact that Yoren is young and beautiful, therefore, the boss of the bad-beasties wanted her for himself. Such typical male behavior, do you not think?”

Gemma wore a faraway, thoughtful expression that wrinkled her face brought out a few lines in her forehead, and around her pursed lips. She looked rather upset, in general, about ‘typical male behavior,’ yet none of it took away from her beauty.

“You’re on the money honey, men pull some pretty lame shit to get women. I don’t know what the hell they’re thinking. If some Jack-fuck decided he wanted me and I was already taken, he wouldn’t stand a chance. What a dick-move. Stealing me would only serve to piss me off, not to mention my own man, if I had one…” mumbling the last part under her breath, Iax continued, “Look around. Obviously, Yoren’s dude is highly pissed, and I don’t blame him a bit. But all this destruction is a bit extreme. Oh well, I guess to each his or her own, right?”

Checking the scenery once more, Iax shook her head in disgust. Thank God, men on Earth don’t go quite this postal or the entire planet would be disintegrated in mere days over ‘their women’!

She pictured a group of caveman-dudes pounding their hairy, dirty chests, chanting and spewing lame, degrading shit about ‘their women’ while pulling said women around their camps by their long hair. Jeesh! To think, those things actually happened, and to some point they still do to this day. Loons, all a bunch of fuck-tards! Iax huffed in exasperation.

“Lemme get this straight; Gordell and Yoren went up the hill to fetch a…? Pail of something. They turned around, to see on the ground, other badass-beastie dude thinking; Yo Bitch, you don’t need him ‘cause now ya got me, and I’m better. Gordell rebelled, and then decided he’d rather his enemy be dead… er.” Okay, lame, but still some funny shit. Giggling to herself, Iax was unquestionably delirious.

Staring at Iax as if she had totally lost her grip on reality, which maybe she was correct, Gemma slowly shook her head, her expression one of utter disbelief. “Oh, Iax, are you well? There was something wrong with what you just said. Do you not agree?” Her overlarge, violet-eyes looked a bit too concerned as they rested on Iax, clearly feeling sympathetic for her.

Laughing quietly, Iax replied. “Ah Gemma, I’m fine, really. I’m just tired and being a smart-ass. I’m an expert, do you not agree?” Lips twitching, Iax wanted to laugh again but she suppressed the urge for fear of drawing unwanted attention their way.

“Anyhoo, don’t you think we’d best get out of here? Don’t get me wrong, I love what they’ve done with the place and all, but it’s a smidgen hot, I’m tired, hungry, and we need to go somewhere safe so we can make a plan. What say, let’s boot-scoot and get the hell outta here? Or maybe ‘let’s get outta hell’ would be more àpropos.”

Iax did laugh at herself then, quietly as possible. Gemma shook her head again, her long, silky, molasses-colored tresses gliding over her shoulders and bouncing softly around her face. She even wore a half-smile on her mug, finally. There was no doubt for even a moment that this job could and most likely would get dangerous, but there was no rule saying they couldn’t at least try to keep up their lively spirits during the interim.

“Perhaps you are correct, Iax. And, yes I agree, you are quite the expert smart-ass.” Gemma quietly laughed at herself.

Iax thought those words just sounded wrong coming from the exotic, proper, ladylike Gemma, whose looks totally belied her persona. She could kick ass, and never pulled any punches.

After re-strapping her pack onto her back and glancing one last time around their surroundings, Iax took another swallow of the heavenly water before re-stashing it. Helping Gemma up off her rock, they started out in the direction behind them, toward the nearest mountain.

The entire mountain terrain was covered in thick trees, most of which were still intact; only a few here and there had become collateral damage in the fire-throw-down.

Iax was thankful when the temps dropped enough so she wasn’t sweating any longer while they continued to climb. Then once it became noticeably cooler, she was thankful again as she pulled out a lightweight, yet warm jacket from her pack. Shrugging into it, they took a much needed break.

After drinking from her cool canteen, she wiped her refreshed mouth on the back of her sleeve—no one ever insulted Iax by accusing her of being a lady—then she reached out and offered her canteen to Gemma.

All in all, it took two solid hours to complete their trek up through the densely populated forest to the mountaintop. From there, the view was astonishing. The Dragons had settled, at least for now, probably temporarily out of fire. Too bad they couldn’t just plug-in somewhere for a quick recharge, Iax thought with a chuckle. She was in desperate need of sleep. Her thoughts were just too silly especially for her, and her brain kept taking timeouts.

“Gemma, how much further are we going? I’m so tired I think I could sleep standing up. And these new steel-toed boots are kickin’ my ass. I’ve got some killer blisters on my heels and a few on my toes. Cool kicks and all, but owe! Please, tell me we’re close?”

Gazing out around them as she whined, which bothered her ‘cause Iax don’t do whining, she suddenly recalled another question she had for Gemma. “This is probably a stupid question, but are the Dragons all shifters? I know in the past all the ‘creatures’ we’ve encountered have been, but those guys are enormous! How in the hell does a mere body transform into something that big, then back into a regular body again without it killing them?”

She sat on a fallen log, removed the offending boots from her much abused feet, and waited for Gemma’s answer.

Gemma was, as usual, already gathering flowers and things sprouting from the ground. Experience reminded Iax of the stuff Gemma could make from the natural habitat wherever they were, and how much better it tasted than the nasty ass puke-powder. Always smelled better, too.

After a few moments of silence, Gemma joined Iax on the log, procuring her finds into a leather pouch secured at her waist. Gemma wore all leather, and not that modern-day, treated crap, but the roughhewn, quality stuff from way back before ‘back in the day.’ Not to mention, she was a knockout; rockin’ bod, all that thick, silky hair, gorgeous features, beautiful voice, and her eyes! Violet freakin’ eyes! Gemma was a five-feet-ten-inch-tall package of perfection.

Iax wasn’t lacking, not in the least. Standing a proud six-feet tall with long, wavy, golden-blond hair, bright green, almond-shaped eyes, and a flawless complexion. Her thick, pouty, raspberry-shaded lips accented her heart-shaped face.

As for her body, well she’d always been proud of that. Iax worked hard to attain and maintain her form. She wasn’t heavily muscled, but exceptionally strong, nonetheless. Her long, shapely legs and arms were smooth, sculpted from perfect muscle tone.

She tried to keep a good tan; one never knew where they would be from one minute to the next, so it was only wise in case you ended up in a place with no protection from the sun. Getting sunburned always put a damper on one’s mood and ability to keep oneself alert and alive.

Together, they equated two super-smokin-hot-babes. Iax smiled to herself, she’d have some serious competition if Gemma lived in the modern world with her. Not that she ever minded some healthy competition, but still.

Gemma’s voice brought her back to reality. “Yes, all the beings here are Dragons and shifters. I do not know the makeup of their genetics, nor do I pretend to know how they do it, as you said, being so large as their Dragon, then regular sized in their human-like form.” She shrugged a shoulder. “We shall arrive at a small building soon, it is not far now. We can make our plan, and eat, drink, sleep, or whatever else we may require. I studied the area before you arrived, and I believe I have an accurate account of the landscape. Also, I believe I may know where Yoren has been taken to. If we can get her back, it will halt this warring.”

She smiled at Iax for a moment before noticing the blisters on her feet. “Oh, my! Here, let me help you. I have just the thing to give your poor feet some relief. I am sorry, I did not realize you were in so much pain.” How sweet, Iax thought. They did hurt, but nothing she couldn’t handle. Still, the relief was a welcome offer.

“Thanks Gemma, I’d appreciate anything you could do.” Iax watched Gemma pull out a short, rounded, corked jar from her pack. Removing the cork, Gemma reached three fingers in and scooped out a large amount of some pasty-looking ointment. Iax reached over to take it into her own palm, but Gemma gestured for her to turn around, indicating that she preferred to apply the stuff on Iax’s sorely blistered feet. With a shrug, Iax complied.

“Ahhh, thanks a bazillion times over, Gemma. Whatever’s in your stuff took away all the pain and the blisters even look better. You’re awesome.” Only minutes after Gemma had applied her gunk to Iax’s blisters, it was as if they had never even been. Iax excitedly re-donned her socks, pushed her now happy-feet back into her boots, and they headed off to find the small building.

**Contents Copyrighted 2011 by Theressa Branham**


Thirty-Four Years Ago

Date: December 25, 1977

Time: 04:48 Hours

Place: Virginia Hospital Center—Maternity Ward

601 South Carlin Springs Road, Arlington, Virginia, USA

World: Planet Earth

To witness their stillborn baby girl being taken away as if she had never even been, made today the worst day of his entire life. His love, his reason for living, would have such a difficult time after this. He would too, yet he would cope. But with the whole ‘maternal-instincts’ thing and all, it had to be much harder for a mama. Especially one who’d been trying so hard, and patiently waiting like a Saint, for this very day. Now, he was unable to erase the last few moments from his mind’s eye; probably never could….

“Oh, I can’t. I-I… just… can’t…” she quietly cried out, her weakened voice trailing off. Huffing and puffing, she was unable to bear down or endure the excruciating pain for another moment, as absolute exhaustion finally took its toll. Only moments later, she felt herself fading away and welcomed the heavy pull of a beautiful, unconscious state-of-oblivion.

For him, thirty-one year old David Conifurr, the love of his life lay unmoving in her sterile hospital bed. He was amazed she had lasted even this long. Elise Conifurr was frail and worn-out, even at her young thirty-years of age. Her pregnancy had been… complicated, to say the least. Even though they knew from experience the risk they’d be facing, they’d had to try again.

His still magnificent bride of just over ten-years had been looking forward to this life changing event; the moment when she would finally bring their perfect, precious bundle-of-love into the world. He knew she longed for the loving bond one has with their own child; they both did.

From their first meeting, that moment when he had gazed into her vivid, dazzling hazel-eyes, he knew without a doubt, she was the one for him. Not only was she his other or better half, but his everything; the air he breathed, and the sunshine in his darkest of times. He was a man blessed, and knew how fortunate he was to have her in his life. But he’d also always felt that he wasn’t good enough for her, not by an extremely long shot.

Standing next to her bed, gazing sadly yet fondly down on her unconscious form in the unfeeling hospital room, he cried silent tears of the deepest sadness he had never known. And it hurt—literally—as if his heart and soul were being torn into two pieces. His chest was squeezing, iron fingers gripping around his heart, tighter and tighter to the point he felt the pain grow and worsen. Clutching at his chest with one hand, while still holding her petite, beautiful hand in his other, he willed his pain to subside, and hers, too.

Elise had done everything as right as anyone could, to ensure each pregnancy would be successful, only to suffer one miscarriage after another. Oh, of course, she would act as if it never hurt too badly, but he knew it had to hurt. It did for him, and he wasn’t even the one who had to go through the physical parts of it all. However, he did feel each loss deeply.

And, when she had actually carried their child to eight and a half months this time around, nothing could have dampened her joy, her absolute, utter jubilation over her dream—their dream—coming true.

To see this happen, though, David was afraid for her and what she may, or may not do, as she dealt with their loss. Even more frightening, would she try something crazy, such as try to take her own life, or maybe even his? Or possibly even both of theirs?

David didn’t, and couldn’t know. But he could, and did pray; he prayed for God to comfort and get them through this together.

He knew that all-too-often, after a couple suffered this kind of loss they drifted apart or at least the majority of them did, eventually going through an ugly divorce. He couldn’t live without her, he also knew.

So he continued to pray, it was really all he had left.


**Contents Copyrighted 2011 by Theressa Branham**

The Krascheam Chronicles: Guided:

~Prologue ~


*Long ago in a land far away, lived a warrior named Thandayar – Claimer and Guider of souls to the Afterlife – belonging to a shape-shifting Corvus clan who settled in a land they named Thoridian, in the world of Krascheam. Many other clans had also settled there, staking claims on their own land, attempting to live in peace. Unfortunately, peace can be elusive, clans will war and grudges will develop. Each clan had their own work to do, as they strove to live peacefully and keep to themselves. Until a young maiden became overwrought with jealousy and her desire for vengeance. Lives changed as a result of her treachery and scorn. Many, many lives changed…*


  ~Thandayar’s Story~

It had been six hundred years since He lost His Mate. Since He was happy. Since Fiona was birthed. Since He failed Himself, and His clan, when He and Pandarius had been wrong about Sredanas’ soul needing to be guided to the Afterlife.

So many things He had been wrong about. So many failures. So many losses. He had sought revenge, trying to destroy the clan responsible for all the carnage and death for six hundred years. Another failure in such a long, twisted line of them.

But, there was one thing He had never done again. Actually, two. The first being, He never, ever made another mistake in his Claiming duties. And, He most certainly had never even had a single thought about falling in love again.

Oh, there had been many offers. Chances at so-called ‘happiness.’ But no, He knew. Thandayar knew there would never be another woman or Mate for Him again. If He lived another thousand years or more, it was not possible.

His heart died that day, along with the loves of His life. His unborn babe whom He would never know. He would never have the honor of doing those Fatherly duties He had already set His mind, his heart and his very soul to. Never get to cradle their babe in His loving arms, change a nappy, feed, rock, walk, talk or sing to sleep.

There would be no teaching of skills, nor how to master the powers of which His son or daughter would surely have been born with. Nor would He get to give His son ‘woman’ advice. He shook His head in part bitter-amusement, and part bone-marrow-deep sadness.

He would also never get to chase away any young men, whom would most certainly have swarmed around her, had they been blessed with a beautiful baby girl. A precious girl whom would surely have had the look of her Mam, His Mate, His beautiful Bredania.

There would never be those frustrating moments, ‘Mam-daughter’ talks of boys or fork-tongued-friends telling untruths of her behind her back. Or those sweet, precious moments of happy-heart-melting-joy when a boy gave her a first kiss, or simply held her hand.

Of course with Bredania’s patience and kind, pureness of heart, she could have handled all of those things and more. But Him…? He let out a low, bittersweet laugh.

He would have most likely wanted to take such a boy out back and tan his hide, or at least scare half the life out of such a brazen boy who would dare do such things to His daughter.

But alas, those memories would always have to remain sad, bitter fantasies alive only in Thandayar’s heart, mind and soul. Fantasies that probably were not very mentally or emotionally healthy, but fantasies that kept Him more sane and better rooted in the here and now, than He knew He would be without them.

To come so close, close enough He could almost feel himself holding their babe in His arms, watching over both of the loves of His life. Ah, their babe, whom He could imagine nestled so safely and lovingly in its Mam’s arms while suckling at her breasts…

It still made no sense to Him, no matter how he assessed the scenario. How could anyone love another so much, so fully and completely, only to lose them, then simply forget of their existence?

How could anyone simply up and walk away from those ‘almosts’, and forget all about those people they had loved more than their wildest imaginings, yet they could let them go. As many of his clans-folk had done.

Never to speak, nor think of them again… It was sadder still, to think of those poor souls. One had to hold on to those precious, ‘almost’ gifts, keep them forever engraved into one’s heart, mind and soul.

He felt certain He could not have gone on at all, without those things. With no real or imagined memories, none of His own fantasies, He surely would have died of a broken heart. People say it is not possible, to die like that, but He knew.

It had to be true. Just the pain from the loss alone was so intense, so sharp and relentless, He almost had not survived it way back then, when He lost his Bredania.

And when it dawned on Him that the babe was lost to Him as well, of all the blows. One of the worst, most pain-filled moments of His long, empty life, was then.


Thandayar had gone to the temporary camp He had made for His family. He had constructed a cozy tent of several large hides from a recent, successful hunt. It was one of the larger tents in their latest temporary settlement.

He had taken some left over hides, some clothes making fabrics, linens and other such goods, and had partitioned off sections of a decent size so each person or couple, as it were, would have a basic bedchamber of sorts.

The men had made very comfortable sleeping pallets on the soft ground for their slumber and for the women who were becoming weaker with the sickness.

He and His clansmen had thought of their ‘new home’ as wonderful. It was of a great size, even though they knew it to be only temporary. They all agreed wholeheartedly that they may as well be comfortable no matter the place or circumstances.

The clan had camped in that area for about three months. Bredania’s was now in the confinement stage of her condition. She had been feeling surprisingly well for several days. A very comforting thought, considering how badly she had felt from the babe sickness of the early morns.

This day, when He came into their makeshift bedchamber, she had lain on her side on their pallet made up with crisp linens and enough freshly cleaned, or freshly beaten-shook out furs.

The pallet worked perfectly to keep them warm at night. Although they did not require much assistance in that area, they always kept each other warm in the cool hours of the night, and the equally cool hours of the early morn.

Those furs served exceptionally well in at least one other manner. They had several layers neatly spread out underneath them, to add as much comfort as possible for his beautiful, precious, perfect mate, and their miracle.

The unborn babe Bredania had carried so well for almost nine months. Those added furs underneath them made for the softest and warmest floor pallet He had ever slept upon.

Forced to pack what they could in the small amount of time alloted to them, their Heavenly bed had been left behind. But this pallet was a great second in the running of anywhere He had ever lain His head of a night.

Now, there she lay on her side, facing the back wall of their makeshift bedchamber. She heard someone enter and carefully, slowly rolled her ballooned body over, her head making the turn first.

Her eyes sparkled with the purest love He had ever witnessed. She smiled at Him and their gazes remained locked upon each other’s.

Thandayar was already crossing their bedchamber as she gracefully offered an uncovered, perfectly toned arm toward Him. He reached her side in three strides, gently taking her hand in His, and smoothing His other hand up the length of her bare arm till He reached her shoulder.

Neither of them needing to voice a single word, as they always knew instinctively how the other felt, what they needed, wanted or anything else. No, they could not ‘read’ each other in the sense that they could read strangers, people not of their clan.

But they knew everything, from the depths of their very souls, and that was only another reason they were full certain they were true Mates. That kind of connection was very rare.

One had to feel more than merely blessed, or to be of an exception, to find, then to live and enjoy the kind of love they had. They had thrived and relished and lived their every moment for one another.

They had been together every possible moment that wasn’t calling Him away to retrieve and guide souls to the Afterlife, or her to help birth babes, working with the herbalists of the clan, or anything else she could help with.

Thandayar and Bredania both were generous with their time, their knowledge and they both loved being able to help whomever was in need, as long as they were able.

Even if there was something neither of them knew much of, they still would go. It never does hurt to have another pair of hands, another brain, or simply another warm body for moral support.

Thandayar stilled Himself, then knelt next to the pallet, her soft hand in His own, and leaned way over. Being seven feet tall and kneeling on the floor, yes, it was a long way to lean over to kiss her. But more than worth it.

He would lean like that, or do whatever, no matter the discomfort, He would do it all a million times over just to give her simply one small, sweet, perfectly placed kiss on her lovely, supple lips. Oh, how He loved her. No, not love, He worshiped the very ground she walked upon and always would.

Especially now that she carried His babe… their babe. He would do absolutely any and everything for her, for them both. Including any little, or big thing she would ask of Him. Which to His dismay, was not much. Bredania was an independent woman. Did not like having to rely on others for any reason.

Lucky for Him though, since she had been with child and consequently started swelling and rounding out in all of her glowing beauty, she had needed His help more and more.

Not for anything He had considered difficult, only to reach something she could not, or to fetch water, chores such as those which required more height or strength than she possessed.

Anything to spend time together. As shy as she had been around the rest of the clan, she was so different now that she was with child. Happy, carefree, but mostly around Him. She did have a few friends, even a very close friend, Gwenlesh.

Still, what a very lucky man. Yes, very lucky in deed. He was well aware of this fact. A fact which made His heart swell to overflowing with more love for her every day. He often wondered if one’s heart could actually explode from the natural force of love.

With a love as strong as theirs, not once did He consider whether she had loved Him in equal measures. No, He knew. She always made sure of that. But now…


Going back in time, wanting to keep going, further and further till the first day they had met, out in that wild herb field when He got His first glimpse of her.

Beautiful, golden hair flowing in the light breeze, shining like spun gold. She looked so carefree, so happy and unguarded. Alone, in her own little world several paces out in the field, smelling, cutting and simply relishing her time spent working with the flowers and herbs.

He had never seen anything like this. Like her… And that first glimpse was all it took for Him. He was awestruck. Then, He actually fell off His horse! Nobody nor anything had ever literally unbalanced Him before. Ever. She was the epitome of perfection.

Then she turned to see what all the fuss and noise was behind her. Which, incidentally, had been His very own clansmen, laughing! Full, deep, throwing-their-heads-back laughing at Him for tumbling from His horse. He was quite certain His mount was snickering, too.

He was doing His level best to gain a proper foothold and to look at least half way like a man-full-grown and not a green, untried youth. Although that was exactly how He had felt.

Grinning to Himself for only a fraction of a moment, He remembered where His thoughts had been heading. Yes, the pain was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking when He drudged up those memories.

Still, reminding Himself of His very own take on feelings from a few moments ago, good or bad, they were His memories and they were all He had of her now. Of them…


Bredania scooted and wriggled her body about, until she found a comfortable position on their pallet. He carefully helped her, not wanting hurting her from His own strength. Then she reached over and patted one of her adorable, small hands on the pallet next to her.

A gesture for Him to lie down. He did not need to be asked twice. For a certainty, no further invitation was ever needed from her, for He would lie down in a bed of broken glass simply to be next to her. To them…

He laid next to her on His side so He could see her. Then He rested one overly large, very gentle hand over the mound of her quickly swelling belly. She had maintained all along that she had absolutely loved being with child.

Never once had He heard her even so much as grumble from discomfort. She was His rock. Solid enough for them both, and she would be the best Mam in all of History. Thandayar knew this to be for a certainty, as well. How could it be any other way?

Stretching His long, massive body out as far as possible, He sidled up next to her as close as He could get. His left hand still resting on her belly, softly massaging their babe through her skin stretched so taut, for their babe.

It brought a tear to His eyes, that her poor little body had gone through so many changes for their babe. Truly a gem, she was.

He positioned His right arm over her head and reached down, around to her other side, His hand coming to rest around her right arm.

He could not get close enough to her, but He also did not dare push any limits, for fear of harming her, or them.

When she giggled, He gazed into her hypnotic, violet eyes… As always, He completely forgot whatever He had thought about.

Would He ever be able to function in any capacity of a man-full-grown around her? She told Him that she would not break from just His touch, especially since He had always used so much care in His every move, regarding her.

They both lay there until they dozed off. He came awake with a start some time later and had a horrible feeling. He normally would have jumped up quickly, but as always, He was acutely aware of her presence, still lying in His arms. He extracted Himself ever so gently out from under and around her sleeping form, as not to wake her.

Then, He realized what the matter was; She, His Mate, His lover, His best friend was not breathing. He thought perhaps He was imagining things, perhaps overreacting with all the others in His clan being so sick and dying.

It could not be. Not her… But it was. His Bredania had breathed her last. And she had done it while He slept. While He was being her protector, her defender, her everything…

By the Sacred Moon! How could this have happened? And in such a peaceful silence in His own arms? How?! He slowly sat up, never taking His tormented gaze from her lifeless, still beautiful face.

Except to allow Himself a heart-wrenching moment to let His now tear-filled eyes travel down her body, to the large mound of her belly. Their babe… No! That moment, He lost all ability to think, to breathe properly, to know what to do.

He stretched out His right arm and with a shaky hand, very gently placed it atop the crest of her swollen belly. Their babe. Then He had a thought. Perhaps it was not too late.

Perhaps the strongest of their clan could gather quickly and possibly bring her back to Him. They could heal her. And the babe. There was a chance the babe could survive, even if she did not.

Even as tears streamed like a waterfall down His saddened, heartsick face, He knew He had to act now. Rising up, His heavy head fell back as He let out the loudest, most feral war cry anyone had heard before.

Within only moments, other clans-folk were swarming about their tent to see what had happened. He granted entry to only the best after trying in vain to dry His tears. They all, including their Leader, Pandarius, had gathered around Bredania’s lifeless form still carrying their babe.

They worked one of the strongest healings any of them had ever attempted. Willing it with their minds and hearts to work.Thandayar was hopeful, yet stayed back and gave them room to work.

After a small eternity, they each turned to look at Thandayar. He was kneeling, resting back on His haunches, face in His hands and eyes closed. He felt the shift in the air, then He knew. It was too late. Not just for His mate, for their unborn babe also…

From that day forward, He would never be the same again. He would hunt down and find those responsible for this ‘sickness’. He was full certain someone, somehow had inflicted it upon them. But for what reason? It mattered not…

That day, the nice-happy-always-had-time-for-anyone Thandayar died, there in the same room with His Mate and unborn babe… No more of the Thandayar they all loved and knew for so long. After the bifurcation He had suffered, He was no longer a whole, merely a half. And, He was now dead. At least on the inside…

*One does not always know what the change of tides will bring. One’s mind can change when they feel the right shift in the atmosphere, or sense a new presence in their world. Especially when they instinctively know that presence is most likely paramount in solving most, if not all of the problems their clan has suffered for so many centuries. Changing one’s heart, however, is sometimes futile. Asking for help is propitious for some, impossible for others. Fight it as you may, Fate is inexorable, stronger, and has bigger plans for us all* 

The Krascheam Chronicles: Guided  –  Copyright © 2010 by Theressa M. Branham

Synopsis: The Krascheam Chronicles: Guided

 After developing and living with a host of health conditions and various medical problems stemming from an auto accident for almost twenty-years, Maggy finds herself being offered the opportunity of a lifetime! Little does she know that her ‘healing’ is less about herself, and more about helping others…

Following a ‘meeting’ with a speaking-time-traveling-owl, who also happens to be a seer, Maggy is guided to an entirely, and literally, different time and place; the World of Krascheam. Once there, she meets healers, shape-shifters, other seers, soul-guiders as well as many other good and bad people…

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Very few people ever get to spend time on both sides of the fence. If they do, they don’t usually come away with positive experiences from each…

We don’t often get that chance to experience it, but once someone goes through the trials and tribulations Maggy does, you start realizing that the universe is a much larger place than anyone could have ever imagined. And, that sometimes your own troubles seem rather minuscule in comparison… 

Seeing is not always believing and sometimes we must simply take a leap of Faith. Trust simply for the sake of believing, that great things can and will happen, if you merely give them a chance…

After being put in the middle, Maggy realizes she may have the power to bring old enemies together by helping solve some of the haunting mysteries of past grudges. Along the way, she finds out she is stronger than she ever knew…

Wanting to help her new friends more than anything, she puts her best foot forward in an attempt to do what she can. The whole while, waiting patiently for her healing and wondering:

Will that ever happen? Will she be able to help the warring clans? Will anything ever work out correctly? Will she even be able to help in time?





The Krascheam Chronicles: Guided  –  Copyright © 2010 by Theressa M. Branham

%d bloggers like this: