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Alien Hunter’s Fated Mate: Chapter Five

Mila

The ugly monster came at us, horrible huge teeth clacking and squirt eyes that bulged in triumph.

It raised its front claws and continued racing forward on its four hind legs.

From the oily hair barely cloaking green skin to the wide maw to the swinging, amphibious tail, it was a complete horror. Even when Ashur sunk two arrows into it, it kept coming.

If anything comes at us, just dig your heels into her sides and hang on.

No. I couldn’t leave him. A sword glittered in the fading light. I heard it chunking into the angry creature again and again. It roared in fury.

Awkwardly, I slid off the huge mount. But how could I help?

Searching the ground, I cast around for a big stick, settling on a big rock and grabbing it with both hands.

But as I rounded Murbai, I saw that Ashur had shredded the grotesque amphibian. His entire body was covered in blood, sword still slashing at the dying monster.

He didn’t see the other one coming up from behind.

“Ashur!” I cried.

The monster saw me, and probably thought I was an easier target. But as it neared, I bashed its teeth in, hurling the rock with a grunt.

It reeled back.

Ashur threw me a look, so angry, it looked like his eyes glowed.

But with a deft thrust, he speared the neck of the second rangungi.

The animal screamed, pawing at the blade.

Ashur withdrew the sword. Then with a savage cry, cleaved the horror’s skull.

A moment of savage battle followed as it batted the sword aside. To my shock, Ashur drove in barehanded. The two tumbled. Squealing, the creature tried to bring its back legs to bear. A crunch followed.

The second rangungi crashed in a heap next to its kin.

“What are you doing?” Ashur growled at me.

“Saving your hide!” I said.

“Find shelter,” he barked, voice a rasp. “Build a fire. I’ll find you.”

“But—”

“Do it!”

Before I could say more, he ran off into the trees. Was he hurt? He was hunched over as if in pain. Still, he moved faster than anyone I’d ever seen.

Distantly, I heard a splash.

Not sure what to make of it, I grabbed Murbai’s reins. “C’mon, girl. Let’s find a safe place.”

She whickered and didn’t bite me.

Huzzah.

I’ll find you.

The phrase stuck in my brain, an eerie echo of Niam’s words. But this couldn’t be what she meant…

Before last light, I found a stand of trees with several fallen trunks forming a natural lean-to. It wasn’t much, but it would keep the rain off and catch some heat from a fire.

Taking off my pack, I found the tinderbox. After giving Murbai a plesple, I found dry twigs and started a little fire. With the light of it, I found larger sticks for fuel. Quickly, I had a merry fire going.

“Why did you risk your life like that?”

Ashur stood behind me, only partly lit by the firelight. His hair hung, dripping. Water made his shirt tight against his frame, letting me see his torso was knotted with muscle. Boots squeaked from the wet.

“Did you dive in the river?”

“I was covered in blood.” He tossed a hunk of something into the bed of needles. “Here. The tail. The only good part of a rangungi. Why didn’t you ride off like I told you?”

“So I could save your backside is why,” I said. “I couldn’t leave you.”

“Couldn’t leave me,” he said. He removed his vest and tossed it aside. Then the shirt.

He had spots on his skin, running from his ears around to his back. The veiled torso was now revealed. A six pack of abs, slabs of pectoral muscles, all of him rock hard and perfect.

“I’ve only just found you,” he said. “A dancer in my dreams. A sweet fragrance I could only trail after. Laughter like distant birdsong. A wisp of longing. Do not risk yourself again. Our hearts are bound. I could not bear to live without you.”

What was this daft talk? I hardly knew the man. Yet his words spoke to me on a more physical level. I felt goosebumps in response. When he closed with me, I didn’t back away.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know my way out here. Maybe I should’ve listened.”

“Maybe?” He lunged forward, grabbing my arms. “You are precious. A beauty. Not something to be put in harm’s way.”

“I understand,” I said, hearing a quiver in my voice.

“Do you?” he said, pulling me even closer.

Did I?

Before I could think about it, he kissed me, his mouth hot against mine. It shocked me. Yet my body responded. For a moment, I held tight to him, kissing him just as firmly.

The touch of a man. I’d felt it before. But it was nothing like this. My mind was overwhelmed. Every fiber of me sang out in desire.

Oh, yes…

But no.

No.

“No!” I pushed him away, not wanting to.

Needing to.

“You want me,” he growled. “You are my mate.”

“I don’t know you!” I said. Keeping the tremor from my voice made me proud. “There’s important work to be done. I won’t have you pawing me. Holding me. Kissing me.”

“We are as one, Mila.” He folded his massive arms across his chest. “Feel me in your heart.”

“Feel this, Ashur.” I growled. “If you so much as touch me again, I will light out on you and escape into the woods. You’ll never find me. I’ll never speak to you again. Maybe I don’t know my way, but I’ll find it.”

But I need you. More than just to get through the woods, I thought.

And then wondered where the thought came from.

“Mila—”

I held up a hand. “Ah-ah. Do you hear me?”

Insects and nightflyers filled the night. The two of us were alone. He was big and so strong.

I should have been afraid. What could I do against such power?

But somehow, I wasn’t worried. Instinct, that was all I could think to call it, said he would never hurt me. That certainty gave me a flutter in my tummy.

“You know I would never hurt you,” he said.

More flutters. How could a stranger know my thoughts?

He pulled his knife, turning to the tail meat to butcher it.

“I hear you,” he grumbled.

I relaxed a little, until his eyes met mine.

“But you’ll die out here by yourself. Whatever you’re doing, I’ll be at your side.”

Like I could stop him.

“As long as you don’t interfere,” I said.

He glared at me. Then returned to his task. And pointedly didn’t respond.

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