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Below you’ll find the full Origins story. You can also download a .PDF here. Origins.PDF
Tethered Wings Origins
Nico Roth stirred his cold coffee and kept his eyes on the waitress, Trina. That’s what her name tag said, anyway. They’d been flirting ever since he’d started working for New World Construction a little over a month ago. Prior to that, he’d never dealt with humans; now he supervised a mixed crew helping to build the Genetic Realms corporate headquarters here in Vega.
The café was busy this morning. It wasn’t fancy, just decent breakfast food and Trina. The human laughed often, and treated her customers as if they were the most important beings in the world. She couldn’t make much money here, so maybe they were.
As a lead foreman, he made a decent income. The fact that the freckled blonde didn’t seem to mind he was a black man intrigued him. He’d heard that humans of color were equals in Anarica, but hadn’t quite believed it. Back in Mandori he was property, nothing more. She could just be treating him like everyone else, of course, but he didn’t think so. There was an energy between them. A spark.
She was serving breakfast to a couple at the table by the window now. That corner table was his preferred spot. It faced the bustling shops of main street outside and allowed him to sit with his back against the wall, which meant he could see Trina at all times. Unfortunately, he’d injured his left wing during a ball game, and had to drive in to town and was running late. He didn’t like being grounded when the weather was so good.
She finished taking their order, then headed his way. “You’re running late today.”
“I injured my wing a while back. Have to drive for the next week or so.”
She poured him a fresh coffee and lightly touched his shoulder. “Sorry to hear that. It must suck having to drive everywhere. So human of you.” The sparkle in her eyes belied her concern.
He smiled back at her. “Don’t know how you humans manage.”
“Having the usual?” She set the thermos of coffee on the table.
He checked his watch. Damn. He shouldn’t have stopped, but he liked to start his day like this. Maybe it was time to do more than flirt. What would it be like to make love to a human? Without wings, how did their whole climax thing work? He knew a few of his crew were dating humans, but he didn’t know them well enough to ask.
Constantly in motion, she tapped her foot as she waited for a reply.
“Not today. Just a to-go cup and a couple of those pastry things in the display case. I just wanted to see your smiling face before I headed to work.”
He wasn’t sure, but maybe the compliment had her blushing.
She stood there, not moving, as if trying to decide something. “Look, if uh you ever want to, I don’t know, get a drink or something after work…I mean if you’re not already seeing someone. Another sensari. Or human. Oh fuck. Never mind.” Her face had definitely gone red as she spun around and rushed off to the counter.
“That would be great,” Nico called after her, getting to his feet.
She stopped and glanced over her shoulder, a flirty smile pulling at her lips. “Yeah?”
He brought the carafe with him. “Yeah. Hand me a cup. I’ll pour while you get the Danish and the bill.”
Her smile was contagious. “So, what time do you get off work?” She slipped an extra roll into the bag before folding it closed.
“I should be able to head out by six or so.” He usually worked until past seven, but he could make an exception.
“They’ve opened up a new bar over by Tenth Street. Say it’s going to be a massive three-building complex when it’s finished.”
Nico was familiar with the place. He knew the foreman in charge of one of the buildings, since it was also a New World project. So far, there were only eight construction firms operating in Vega, which made it a relatively small community. The bar, called New Haven, was being designed for both humans and sensari. It would take years to complete, but they were opening each stage as soon as it was functioning. That presented a number of challenges from a construction standpoint, but humans and sensari needed places to mix and mingle.
Twenty years ago, co-development of a mixed-race country would have been unheard of, but Vega was growing faster than anyone anticipated. His Mandorian government was livid over the mass defection of sanhara, such as himself. But in Vega, he was free to do as he chose with plenty of opportunity for success for those willing to work hard. He could never return, of course, so it had been a risk, but he’d had little to lose.
Too far to fly, Mandori was a relatively short boat-ride away, and there wasn’t a shortage of those willing to ditch their citizenship for a chance at a new life.
Trina placed the bag and check on the counter. “How about we meet there at seven?”
“Sounds good. If you decide you can’t stand the way I dance or something, you can just leave. No hard feelings.” He hoped that didn’t happen. She was addictive.
She laughed and the sound rippled through him, enticing. “Works for me.”
He paid the bill with a healthy tip. “Since we haven’t been formally introduced, I’m Nico Roth. Head Foreman over at New World Construction.”
She extended her hand. “Trina Korathen. Head waitress at Garfunkles Diner. At your service.”
Her skin was soft and warm, but the grip was firm. Little sparks of electricity shot up his arm as they touched.
Her grin matched his own. He’d be willing to bet she’d felt those sparks too. He grabbed his coffee and breakfast, and left, grinning like a school boy. Like every sensari, he hoped to find his tether mate, but he was pushing forty. Maybe it was time to consider other options. He was looking forward to finding out what dating a human was like. If that handshake was any indication, he was definitely missing out.
Trina couldn’t help but admire Nico’s backside as he left the café. He was a little taller than her, with a muscular build that spoke of hard work. And an ass that looked like model material. At the moment his wings weren’t folded against his back as usual. How did that work, anyway? She’d love to run her hand over his extended wingspan. The thought brought a thrill that reached to her toes. She never tired of watching the sensari fly, and the thought of seeing this one naked with wings spread was enough to leave her breathless.
“Did that gorgeous hunk just ask you out? Please say yes.” Vee stood next to her with a stack of plates, eyebrows raised.
“I sort of asked him out. We’re meeting at New Haven tonight at seven.”
“Shh. Keep it down.”
“You have to tell me everything. I mean it, every single detail.” She put the plates down by the sink. “Are you going to sleep with him? You want to, right?”
“Vee, stop it. It’s just a date.” Then again, all Vega citizens were fully inoculated, and she’d been fantasizing about him since he started showing up. As long as he didn’t turn out to be a creep. Please don’t be a creep.
Vee nudged her in the ribs. “I mean it. Every detail.”
She helped Vee rinse the dishes and stack them in the washer.
The rest of the day dragged by in a haze of anticipation. She’d gone on a few dates since moving to Vega a little over five months ago, but nothing clicked. This would be her first with a sensari. The thought made her more than a little jittery. He’d dropped in nearly every morning for a month or more. Small talk was all they’d shared, but she had a good feeling about him. He was nice to everyone, not just her. Last week he’d offered to share his table with a local homeless man who was also a regular. The café offered a daily cup of coffee and a day-old sandwich to the homeless, something she was proud of.
When it finally came time to close, she could barely concentrate enough to balance the register. Her body tingled, and she was far more turned on than she ought to be. She knew, on some crazy level, that he was thinking about her too.
The drive to her apartment was filled with thoughts of what it would be like to dance with Nico’s arms around her. To kiss him.
Sensari kissed, right? Panic whipped through her when she realized she knew next to nothing about their personal lives. They married, she knew that much. Ok, now she was just being stupid. Why didn’t she watch more TV? She pulled into her assigned spot and rushed upstairs to shower and pick out something to wear.
An hour and a half later, she gave her keys to the valet and walked inside the New Haven bar. The place was already massive, and the plans called for two more buildings, all with multiple levels, different music genres, and platforms for the sensari to come and go without using the elevators or zigzagging escalators that would eventually span the buildings. It was sure to be spectacular when they finished.
A techno dance rhythm pulsed through the venue. She’d selected a black leather skirt and silk top. Three inch shoes that were a mash-up of boot and sandal completed the look. She felt confident and sexy, and hoped to hell he liked it. All he’d ever seen her in was the diner uniform. What if he thought she was being too provocative? Was she? She laughed. It didn’t matter. She was who she was. He could take it or leave it.
The music was perfect for dancing, but the club was huge, and they hadn’t picked a place to meet. She didn’t have his number either. Hmm.
“You look stunning.”
His breath was hot against her ear, and her body shivered.
“Love the shoes.” His hand trailed from her wrist to her elbow as he turned her to face him.
Damn, but he had a crazy effect on her. A deep buzz filled her body, and it was good. Really good. She took him in from toe to top, starting with fine leather boots that probably cost a fortune, black jeans and a tailored shirt that was unbuttoned to the chest. The sleeves were rolled up, and his wings provided a crazy cool background. The overall appearance was even better than she’d imagined. And she’d imagined plenty.
“You’re not so bad yourself,” she said, going for a sexy-flirty grin.
“Can I interest you in a drink?”
He could interest her in a lot more than that. “Absolutely. Wine. White. Dry.” Gah, she sounded like an idiot.
“You got it. I hope you don’t mind, I ran into a friend of mine a few minutes ago. He’s with his fiancée, and they’d love to meet you.”
“Sure, no problem.”
He led her around the edge of the dance floor to the far corner and a high top table.
The couple were both tall, thin, and blond. And both had partially-extended wings jutting out behind their shoulders.
Now that she thought of it, a lot of the sensari were displaying their wings. She almost never saw them at the diner.
“Robert and Darla, this is Trina.”
They were super friendly, and made her feel totally welcome.
Nico returned with their drinks and they bantered for a while. A popular tune came on and Robert took Darla’s hand and led her out onto the dance floor.
They were mesmerizing. Wings did something to their center of gravity, and they moved with a grace she’d never have. She wondered if coming here was such a good idea after all. She danced just fine for a human, but this…
Nico touched the back of her hand lightly, bringing her attention back to him. “Pretty good, huh?”
“They’re incredible.” She gave him an apologetic glance. “I don’t dance nearly that well.”
Nico laughed, and she felt it in her gut. It was a high, and she wanted more. “I hope not. Those two have been competing for nearly a decade.”
“How about we get through our first drink, then see how we do on the floor?”
She almost laughed, picturing them literally on the floor, but hadn’t yet gauged his sense of humor. “Liquid courage. Excellent idea.” Trina drank nearly half the glass in one pull.
Nico watched her with an amused look.
Embarrassment washed over her. “Sorry, not very lady-like.”
“I don’t want a lady, Trina. I just want you, whoever you are. Cheers.” He clinked her glass and finished his in three gulps. He set the glass down and made an exaggerated sound of satisfaction as he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
They both laughed. She raised her glass and finished it, the warmth of the alcohol spread through her and her nerves eased a notch.
Nico raised an eyebrow. “Are we ready?”
The band was in the middle of one of her favorite songs. “Totally. I haven’t been able to think of anything else all day.” It wasn’t the entire truth. She’d bet her life he’d been imagining the two of them in bed every bit as much as she had. Which was insane. Tumbling into bed on the first date never happened with her, but with Nico, everything felt different.
He held his hand out, his touch electric, just like before. He guided them to the floor, not deep in the middle, but on the fringe, with more room.
The song ended and a sultry beat washed through the room, one that lent itself to two styles of dance. Which would he choose?
Nico grinned and pulled her in to press against his chest. He held her hand in his and wrapped the other around her waist. Her breath caught, and her heart pounded.
Their bodies fit together perfectly as they moved to the underlying rhythm.
His face dropped to her ear, breath hot, and she shivered. He held her a fraction tighter. “So, how long have you lived in Vega?”
For the next hour they went back and forth in a frenzy of learning everything they could about each other. It was odd, but oh so right. She had the insane feeling this was home.
When Robert and Darla interrupted to say goodbye, Nico led them off the dance floor and back to the table. A waitress swooped in and set down two glasses of ice water, which they made short work of.
“Can I get you another glass of wine?” Nico asked.
Their eyes locked, and her heart beat double time. “No.” You know what I want.
He stepped closer and ran his fingers down her arm, sending a thrill though her body. “Look, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but—”
“Are you sure?”
Doubt hit hard. Was she sure? What would he think of her? What if he thought she did this all the time? Which, of course, he would.
He stood there, head slightly tilted and a sexy grin that had her melting.
She placed her hand on his chest. His heartbeat pounded, just like hers. “You need to know two things, then we’ll see.”
His head tilted farther.
“I’ve never…gone home with a man on the first night like this.”
“Yeah, I figured as much. For the record, neither have I.”
“You haven’t gone home with a man on the first date before?” she teased.
He burst out laughing. “With a woman. Not that I have any issue with gays; I just prefer other body parts.”
Trina couldn’t hold back the laugh. “Me too.”
“And the second thing?” He covered her hand with his sending little fireworks up her arm.
Her stomach tightened. This might be the one that made him walk, but she had to say it. “I don’t want a one night stand. Don’t worry,” she rushed on, “I’m not looking to get married tomorrow. I just don’t want, you know, that. If that’s all this is and you’re not interested in dating or anything, then we can just go home. Alone. Not together.” She needed to stop talking.
He gave her one of his increasingly familiar grins before leaning in and placing a feather-light kiss on her lips. A moan escaped her as he stepped back.
“I think we’re good to go.” He held out his hand and she took it.
Nico couldn’t quite believe the way this evening had played out. Everything about the human resonated with him. She had a wicked sense of humor, was truly stunning, and yet somewhat humble. His entire body responded to her. He wondered if she even knew what his enlarged wings signified. Humans had a very different attitude to attraction than sensari, he’d heard that much from his co-workers.
They made their way outside into the warm summer’s eve. As they approached the valet, he reached out and stopped her.
“Change your mind already?” Her smile told him she knew that wasn’t the case.
“This sounds so cliché, but your place or mine?” She was certainly the one more at risk here. He could be a psycho, but he wasn’t. And damned if he wasn’t absolutely sure that she sensed that.
“Good question. I guess your place?”
“That’s fine. How about you follow me.”
“In case I don’t like the way you dance?”
He laughed. Oh hell yes, he had it bad for this human. He kissed her before replying. The move caught them both by surprise, but it deepened quickly. Yeah, they needed to get to his place. He got her number and texted her the address in case she lost him.
The valet pulled up his car first. No way in hell was he fitting in there with his wings like this, so he lowered the convertible top before getting in. Pulling forward, he waited for her. She drove an older blue compact of some kind. His sporty coupe probably cost ten times as much. He hoped she liked it. He could see her sitting next to him on weekend road trips.
It was a short twenty-minute drive to his condo. Instead of going to the underground garage, he parked out front so she could park next to him.
His wings were hard as rocks, as was his cock. He reached down and positioned himself to be a little less obvious, but there really wasn’t much he could do.
He waited for her at the rear of her car. She got out, locked her door and walked straight up to him. Without a word, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her delicious body against his erection. She kissed with a passion and hunger that matched his own. His desire to get her up to his bedroom battled with his reluctance to stop what they were doing. He was approaching the edge when he finally broke off. “Come on, sexy.”
She giggled as he spun her, then led her with one hand at the small of her back. “Took you long enough.”
The curve of her ass was a tempting target, and he smacked it playfully with his right wing.
Her squeal of laughter echoed in the lobby as he pressed the Up button. He could have just flown her to the twelfth floor if his damn wing wasn’t acting up. That would have impressed her, no doubt. Although, she seemed plenty impressed as it was. Another time.
The elevator ride was a tangle of tongues and teasing caresses. He was glad old Mrs. Vanguild wasn’t around. She’d have been scowling at him for months. Would have been worth it, though.
He maneuvered to his front door and used his palm to access the flat. The entryway lights came on as they made their way down the hall, through the dining area, across the living room and over to the master suite.
She was ravenous, and he couldn’t get enough. She had his shirt and his belt off nearly instantly. He pulled off his boots while she peeled her shirt over her head, then unzipped that sexy skirt and let it fall to the floor.
He whipped her around and backed her against the wall. “Hold perfectly still.”
He finished undressing, then stood facing her, legs apart and arms crossed. His wings and erection throbbed at the sight of her.
Her palms were pressed against the wall and she wore nothing but a bra, a minuscule scrap of material masquerading as a thong, and those heels.
“You are so fucking beautiful, you know that?”
They were both drunk on this insane chemistry. If she’d been sensari…but she wasn’t. Humans didn’t tether, but if this was what it was going to be like with her, he didn’t give a fuck.
He reached behind her and unfastened her bra, moaning at the sight of her rounded tits. Taking one in his mouth, he slipped his fingers under the thin strip of her thong.
She was slick with desire as he slid his fingers inside. He moved to the other nipple. Rocking her pelvis, she closed her eyes and made little whimpering noises as he stroked her. She was soaked and so damn hot.
He withdrew and her eyes snapped open. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Nico wasn’t used to a woman with this kind of abandon, and he’d never enjoyed one more. “Foreplay?”
She shoved him backwards, kicked off her shoes, dropped her thong and continued propelling him to the bed. “That’s not necessary.”
He didn’t think he could get any harder, but damned if he didn’t. He sat and she motioned for him to slide toward the center of the bed. Doing as she said, he propped himself up on his arms as she straddled him. She played at the tip of his cock and his wings damn near exploded.
“You’re wet and ready for me, sexy.”
She leaned forward, placing a nipple where he could suck it into his mouth. “You have no idea.” She was ticking off some of his favorite fantasies, and he made sure to treat her breasts with equal attention. Shifting her weight, she devoured him with a kiss as she lowered herself onto him. His head spun. “Oh, hell yes. That’s it, kitten.” He grabbed a pillow under his head and leaned back. Her tits slapped as she pounded onto him. Reaching down, he stroked her clit.
She cried out his name and they came together. Her sweet cunt milked his cock, and his wings echoed the orgasm. Leaning forward, she stretched her arms over his head and gripped the spines of his wings. The action caused a cascade that blasted another orgasm from him. That voice he heard roaring in his ears was his own.
Her body stilled and her hair fell forward over his shoulders as she gazed into his eyes. “Did you just come again?”
He slipped his hands through her locks and pulled them away from her face, his cock still pulsing inside her. “Yes, ma’am.”
That surprised her. “Really?”
He nodded. “That was a first for me. To come again so quickly.”
“But I stopped moving.”
“You grabbed my spines, sexy. My wings. They’re erogenous zones.”
She let go reflexively. “I didn’t know. Did my weight hurt you?”
He laughed. “What do you think?”
“I didn’t know. Oh…of course. I wondered why there were so many wings on display at New Haven. Wow, so you get turned on and your wings get a hard-on.”
Had he ever enjoyed a woman’s company this much? “Something like that.”
“Isn’t that embarrassing?”
“Not at all. It’s part of our culture. We can’t hide it, so we don’t try. If I’m turned on by someone else’s mate, it’s a compliment.”
She trailed her fingers through his chest hair, and his wings pulsed with pleasure. “I can’t imagine human males walking around with hard-ons like that. It’s a funny thought, though.”
“They can’t always control it, can they?” That would be strange.
“No, not always but it’s easier to hide in most circumstances.” She tilted her head and brushed a finger across his lips.
He caught it with his teeth and sucked.
She made that little mewing sound and he let her go. “I’m looking forward to learning about you. About sensari.”
“And I you, little one.” In one swift move he had her flipped and on her back.
She smiled up at him. “Are we starting with an exploration of comparative endurance?”
He kissed her long and slow. Yeah, this human did it for him all right. He began rocking, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. She was a perfect fit and he was ready for more.
Nico woke to the sun streaming in through his condo’s windows. Should have closed the blinds last night. Last night. Trina lay facing him, sound asleep. The heat of her body radiated a surprising amount. Tangled locks covered her face, and he resisted the urge to brush them aside. He wanted to just watch her for a little longer.
They’d gone at it for hours, her desire matching his every step of the way. He’d had no idea humans could be so voracious. Every time he’d expected her to plead for a rest, she’d surprised him by coming at him with renewed hunger. The entire night had been like a dream. A dream he didn’t want to wake from.
No. This little human had captured his heart. The thought pinged around his head. Could it be he was in love with her?
Yes. The answer was soul deep. Pure joy had him laughing out loud.
Trina moaned, but didn’t wake.
Last night was way more than sex. He was sure of it, but would telling her how he felt push her away? He didn’t think so. The crazy thing was, he wanted to tell her. Him, Nico Roth, wanting to tell a woman he loved her? Well, there was a first time for everything. He reached out and brushed the hair from her face.
Something was wrong. He bolted upright. She was pale, and beads of perspiration dripped down her neck. “Trina, baby, wake up.”
Her hand came to her face and a whimper escaped her lips. Those beautiful lips he’d spent the night kissing were chapped and swollen. She blinked and cried out, covering her eyes. “Too bright. It hurts. It hurts so bad.” Her breathing was erratic, her skin a sickly pale hue.
“What hurts? Your head?” They’d only had one drink the entire night, so it couldn’t be a hangover.
“No. My body. Everything. Nico, something’s wrong.” Her voice shook.
He jumped up and grabbed his clothes. She needed a doctor, now. “There’s a human clinic not a block away. I’m going to get you there. Can you dress?” He could carry her there faster than their medics could make it here.
“No. I can’t. It hurts. Help me.”
He pulled his shoes on, terrified. What had happened? They’d both fallen asleep sated and exhausted. Had he been too hard on her? He prayed that wasn’t the case. He’d asked her repeatedly if she’d wanted to stop, but she’d refused.
She moaned again on the bed. He’d have to wrap her in the sheet. Pulling on his shirt he came around to her side of the bed and gently pulled the sheet off her to get it positioned, and froze.
His brain couldn’t process the nightmarish sight. It wasn’t possible. His ass slammed against his dresser as he stared. Help. She needed help. He dove for his phone and dialed the emergency number.
“Vega EMC. What is your emergency?”
What the hell was it? “I don’t know. I don’t understand. I need medics now. Something’s happened. To a human. Something bad. Hurry.”
Nico couldn’t take his eyes off Trina. Protruding from her back were shriveled, infantile wings. Impossible, and yet irrefutable. He had to be dreaming. Hallucinating. Something.
“Nico.” Her palm was pressed to her forehead. “What’s wrong with me.”
“I—” What could he say? He leaned over and gently touched the surface of one of the wings.
Trina sucked in a breath. “What was that?”
Like a multi-car pileup, words crashed together in his mind, but nothing coherent.
Trina squinted up at him. “Nico?”
He knelt down in front of her and stroked her face. “Medics are coming. You’re—you have—something. I don’t know. I don’t understand. You’re sick. I’ve called for help. They’re coming.”
Her eyes were filled with pain and confusion. “Sick?”
He nodded, unable to say the words. This was a nightmare. It wasn’t real. He kept his hand on her skin. Even now, she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
The doorbell chimed downstairs.
“I’ll be right back. That’s the medics.” He placed a feather-light kiss on her forehead and bolted for the stairs. Nearly going ass over head on the way down, he flung the door open. Two uniformed humans faced him, a small, middle-aged woman and a bulky male that looked like he was barely out of puberty, let alone a qualified medic.
“Did you call for an ambulance?”
“Yes, upstairs. Hurry.”
“Human or sensari?” The male asked. “We’re a human med team.”
“I know. It’s for a human.” Nico motioned them forward.
They followed him upstairs and into his bedroom.
Trina hadn’t moved, and her eyes were closed.
“Trina?” God, don’t let her be dead.
The woman set to work checking her pulse. “What happened?”
“We, I don’t know, we spent the night together. She was fine, I swear. She was like this when I woke.”
“Her breathing is shallow and her temp is dangerously high. Possibly the flu. There’s a nasty strain going around.” Her voice was calm and steady, nothing like the torrent raging inside Nico.
“You don’t understand,” Nico said. “It’s not the flu.”
The woman tossed him a quizzical look. “What do you mean?”
“Look at her back.”
She leaned over. “For the love of all that’s Holy.” She stood up and stepped back a few paces. “You said she was human. That is no human.”
The other medic walked around the bed at the same time, and whistled. “Aw, come on man. What kind of joke is this?” He leaned in for a closer look. “Great makeup job.”
“It’s not a joke. She needs help!” Nico crouched down next to Trina again. “Baby, are you awake?”
Her hand snaked out from the sheet and grabbed his.
“Help her, god damn it!”
The woman recovered first. “Her fever isn’t fake. She needs help one way or another. Get the stretcher up here stat.”
“I’ll carry her downstairs,” Nico said.
The man ran from the room, his footsteps echoing across the hall.
“You swear she’s human?” The woman asked.
Nico kissed the back of her hand. “I never actually asked her if she was human. I mean, she had no wings, so what else would she be?”
The medic walked around to the other side of the bed. “I don’t know what to make of this.”
“That’s why she needs doctors. Trina, I have to get you down the stairs now. I’m going to carry you.”
A weak moan was the only response.
Nico slide his arms underneath her as gently as he could.
“I’m not sure I’d touch them if I were you.” The woman said.
He scowled at her and flung his wings wide. “Honey, if this is contagious, I’ve already got it.”
His comment shocked her back into professional mode. He couldn’t blame her.
Trina cried out as he lifted her off the bed.
“Hold on, the sheet is tangled with the…” She looked at Nico. “Does she know?” she whispered.
He shook his head.
Starting at the corner, she removed the sheet from between Trina’s wings and bunched it up over her stomach. Nico got to the bottom of the stairs just as the other medic arrived with the gurney.
“Help me lay her on her side,” Nico said leaning over.
They got her settled and the woman rattled off a string of instructions as they moved down the hall toward the elevators. After pushing the button, she turned to Nico. “Are you related?”
“You’ll have to drive yourself, then. Or fly,” she waved at his wings, “Whatever. We’re taking her to Vega Gen. No idea where she’ll go from there.”
“On my way.” He spun and ran upstairs to dress and get his wallet and keys.
Nico arrived at the hospital forty minutes later with Trina’s purse. He felt a deep sense of detachment as he made his way to the information desk. It was as though everyone and everything was nothing more than a prop on a stage. An illusion.
A woman sat behind a counter, speaking to one of her coworkers. “I told her he was bad news from the start, but would she listen to me? No. She went and moved in with him anyway.”
Nico cleared his throat.
The woman turned. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for a friend. She would have just come into the ER. Name’s Trina.”
Damn, she’d told him, but he couldn’t remember. “I don’t know. Look, she’s really sick. I need to see her.”
“Are you a relative?” The woman glanced at him over the top of her glasses.
“No. Just a friend. She’s alone in there.” He should have lied and said they were married, or something.
“You can have a seat in the waiting room. I’ll see what I can find.” She slid a sign-in sheet across the counter to him. “Fill this out.”
He entered his name, then, feeling guilty, he rifled through her purse for some identification. He found her wallet and pulled out her Vega ID. Trina Korathen. “The doctors probably should know her full name.”
“Have you contacted her family?”
“What? No. I don’t know them.”
She fetched the sign-in sheet with a disapproving look. “Is the purse hers?”
“Why don’t you let me take that. I’ll see it gets to her.”
He handed over the bag reluctantly. He was so damn helpless.
The front doors slid open and a group of professionally-dressed men and woman rushed in. They spoke in hushed, animated tones.
Nico heard wings and human. His gut tightened. They were going to Trina. He thanked the woman and hurried after the group.
“Excuse me,” the woman called out after him. “The waiting room is the other way.”
He ignored her and slipped into the door just as they passed through.
A physician in a white coat approached them. “David, it’s good to see you.”
A gray-haired man shook the extended hand. “You too. Not sure what to make of your call, but I’ve assembled the team you requested.”
The doctor eyed Nico questioningly. “Is he with you?”
David turned to Nico. “No.”
“I’m Nico. Trying to find Trina Korathen.”
The woman from the greeting station rushed through the door followed by a security guard. “I’m sorry, Dr. Long. I told him to go to the waiting room.” She crossed her arms accusingly.
Nico turned to the doctor. “You know the woman I’m talking about. Just came in. She’s a human. With w—”
“That’s enough,” Dr. Long said. “You were with her before,” he looked at the woman and guard, “the accident?”
Accident, like hell. “Yes.”
“It’s all right, Mrs. Callow. I’ll take it from here.”
“Are you sure? This is highly irregular.”
She turned and left with a parting scowl.
Dr. Long extended his hand and introduced himself. “Come with me.” The doctor led them down a hallway and stopped at an empty room. “I’d like to ask you some questions.”
“I want to see her,” Nico said.
“Not until we notify her next of kin.”
Panic shot through him. “Please tell me she isn’t dead.”
“No. But as you must realize, this is unprecedented. David,” he turned to the gray-haired man. “The patient is in the isolation unit. Dr. Kondic is waiting for you and your team.”
The man nodded and left.
Dr. Long motioned to the door and they entered a small room with a single table and chairs. “Please, have a seat.”
Nico sat hesitantly.
“Now, you say she’s human, but do you know for sure?”
“It’s not like I go around DNA testing everyone I meet, doc. She didn’t have wings, so she’s human right?”
“How long have you known her?”
“I don’t know. A few months. We were on a date last night.”
“You were on a date when this transformation began?”
“No. No, we went back to my place.”
“What exactly were you doing when it started?”
Nico didn’t like the man’s attitude. “Sleeping, I guess.”
He was really pissing him off now. “She spent the night. We had sex and we fell asleep. She was like that when I woke this morning.”
“You did nothing else to her?”
He made it sound cheap. Bastard. There was nothing cheap about last night. “We made love. I want to see her.”
Dr. Long stood. “I need you to stay here. I’m sending a nurse in to take some blood samples.” He stepped outside the door and a moment later the security guard was back.
Nico jumped to his feet. “Am I being kept here?”
“Doctors orders. For now,” the man said.
A nurse entered a moment later, rolling a cart with medical supplies. “Hello, Luv. Dr. Long has asked for some bloodwork. Do I have your permission?” Her cheerful attitude was a total contrast to the chaos in his head.
“Have a seat then. Not squeamish about blood, are you?”
“No, I’m fine.” Fear clawed at his gut as he sank into the chair. What was happening? He hadn’t done anything to her, but what if they didn’t believe him? The doc had made it sound like it was his fault. Was it?
Trina sat with her legs hanging over the hospital bed in the isolation ward. Her parents had been here since she woke a day and a half ago, but could only talk to her through the speakers. Doctors and nurses came in a steady stream wearing hazmat suits. She was surprised there was any blood left in her after all they had taken.
She’d cried more than she thought humanly possible, but she wasn’t sure she was human anymore. She hadn’t been able to sit up until this morning, and that’s when they finally showed her the cause of the intense pain in her back.
How do you wrap your head around the fact you have wings? They’d already doubled in size from when they brought her in. And she could feel them. Appendages she hadn’t had two days prior were growing. It wasn’t possible, and yet here she was.
The researchers had questioned her for hours, but she had nothing helpful to say. They’d taken a great interest in Nico. Asked a lot of questions about him. But she didn’t really know him that well. She wanted to, though. That night had meant something. At least, it had to her. Why hadn’t he shown up yet?
“Are you hungry?” Her mother’s voice came over the intercom. She looked horrible, poor thing.
“I could eat. Mom, you need to get some sleep.”
“I can’t sleep. Maybe later. How are you feeling, sweetheart?”
“Better.” They’d given her pain meds, but she was already tapering off the heavy doses of the previous day and a half.
“I’ll have the nurse bring you lunch.”
Trina stood, taking a moment to find her balance. Given the growth of her wings, her center of gravity was a moving target. She walked over to the glass, arms splayed for balance.
“Are you sure you should be walking?” Her father asked, now standing next to her mom.
“I think I need to, Dad. I feel like I have to move.”
Dr. Taylor, who’d been her primary physician since they arrive in Vega, entered the observation room. “How are you feeling?”
“Better.” She was really getting tired of that question.
“She’s hungry,” her mother said.
“Hold off for a few. They’re coming in for x-rays. You can eat when they’re done.”
“Should she be having all these x-rays?” her father asked. “What about the radiation?”
“It’s a low dose, and we need to see how she’s developing.”
Doctor Kondic arrived next. She had the craziest spiked hair and was super young, but was apparently brilliant, as all the other docs, both human and sensari, seemed to defer to her. “You’re developing precisely the way a young sensari would. How does it feel to stand?”
“Good, actually,” Trina said.
“Go with your gut then.” Dr. Kondic consulted a chart. “If the current rate of growth continues, you’ll have full-sized wings in approximately a week. Give or take.”
“What if they keep growing?” Trina asked.
Dr. Kondic raised an eyebrow. “Let’s just wait and see what happens.”
Easy for her to say. “When can I get out of here? Have you found anything contagious? Anything at all with all those tests you’re running?”
“Your DNA is changing. That’s why we have to take a steady stream of blood tests.”
“Changing how, exactly?” her mother asked.
“It’s an intriguing combination of human and sensari. She’s presenting exactly like a child of a human and sensari pairing.”
“How is that possible?” Her dad asked.
“We have no idea.”
“Mom, has, um, anyone come to see me?”
They’d listened to all the questioning. Knew she’d been with a sensari male the night before she’d changed.
“No one. I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
The fact he hadn’t come surprised her. Hurt her too. Everything about that night had been magical. He’d made her laugh till she cried. She longed to see him. Wanted to be held in those strong arms of his. “I’ll be right back.” She went to the bathroom and closed the door. She didn’t want them to see how much that news bothered her.
The sound of the lab techs setting up the equipment came through the door. Their voices muted within the suits.
Wiping the tears from her cheeks, she stared into the mirror. Her parents were here and she was alive. Strangely, she felt as though she was getting stronger. How far would this whole thing go? Would she be able to fly? The thought was exhilarating. Something good could come of this. Unless they wouldn’t let her go, but surely they couldn’t keep her here indefinitely?
There was a deep-seated unease in her gut. She was probably still in shock. The psychologist had likened it to when a person loses an arm or a leg. There was a long process involved in coming to terms with the loss. But this wasn’t a loss, was it?
She blew her nose and returned for her x-rays.
A week. It had been a full week since she’d sprouted wings. She was, in fact, getting stronger every day. Her wings were a stunning blue-black color, and she was starting to be able to move them. Halting, jerky motions that looked more like muscle spasms than anything. They’d outfitted her with loose-fitting sensari tops, and her parents had brought pants and things from her apartment, which was under quarantine. It was a hell of a lot better than those damn hospital gowns.
The doctors had also allowed her parents to come into the isolation ward without the stupid hazmat suits. It felt nice to have a proper hug. They were being closely monitored for any ill effects, but so far there was nothing.
Not in them, but she was having a problem. Nico was becoming an obsession. She couldn’t stop thinking about him. There was an empty space in her soul, and somehow, he was the only one who could fill it. But, he wasn’t coming. Hadn’t shown up, and no one could tell her anything about him.
Two days ago, her story had been leaked to the press, and there was a steady stream of medical professionals now clambering to get at her. As was the press, but so far they had been kept at bay. The president of Vega himself had come to see her. She’d insisted on having a TV brought into the room.
Her photos were plastered everywhere, as were scores of mockups. Guesses at what she must look like now. Some were damn accurate, but others were grotesque caricatures. Parodies of who she might be. More and more, she felt like a one-person freak show.
And still, no Nico.
Nico sat at the bar of the Seven Falls pub next to his brother, Rye. They were on their fourth beer and he had no intention of stopping.
It had been a week since they’d taken Trina to the hospital. He’d been detained for three days, but they’d finally let him go home with express instructions not to say anything least he endanger her well-being.
He’d told Rye straight away, of course. He hadn’t believed him at first. Nearly had him convinced it had been a hallucination, a bad trip of some kind.
There was no denying it once the news broke. Trina was all over the press. Not that he needed television to see her face. It was indelibly inked on his mind, as were her scent and the feel of her hair.
So far, his name had been kept out of it, but that shit storm was coming.
“I have to see her, Rye. Make sure she’s ok. I need to talk to her.” To hold her. He hadn’t been able to think of anything else. And it was escalating. He wasn’t sleeping, and always agitated. Alcohol helped.
“Easy, Nic,” Rye said, turning to face him squarely. “You feel all right? You look pale.”
The thought of not seeing Trina again felt like a death sentence. “I need to see her.”
“Just how badly do you think you need to see her?”
“What kind of a question is that?”
“Maybe an important one. Think about it. What exactly is going on with you? You two flirted for what? A month, two?”
“Closer to three.”
“Ok, but only one date, and you slept together.”
Nico had his brother by the collar, ready to punch him. “Don’t say it like that. Like it was cheap.”
“Woah, it’s ok.” Rye held his hands up. “I didn’t mean anything. Just making sure I got the timing right.”
“That’s right.” He let go of his shirt. “Why?”
“Nic, you’re a confirmed bachelor. When was the last time you obsessed over a woman?”
“Trina isn’t just a woman.”
Rye raised an eyebrow. “That’s what I mean. Now, tell me exactly what you’re feeling.”
“Crazed. Anxious. Empty. I need to see her. Hold her.”
“You need her.”
“Yes, what are you getting at?”
Rye shook his head. “You can be pretty clueless at times.”
“Sounds like a tether to me.”
Time stopped. He replayed every second of that night. It was ethereal. Magical. Just the way every mated sensari described the tethering process. “But, she’s human.” And yet, it felt right.
“With wings. Did they ever tell you what they found?”
“They won’t say shit to me.”
“If this is a tether, it’s going to get worse the longer you two are apart.”
It also meant Trina was suffering, too.
The thought of seeing her had his wings and cock hardening. A tether made so much sense. They should be together. No, they needed to be together. “You’re right.” A laugh escaped without warning. “You’re brilliant. Cover my tab. I’m going to the hospital.”
Nico entered the visitor center the way he had every day since he’d been released. The woman behind the desk was packing up for the day and didn’t even meet his eyes. “No change in status.”
“I need to see Dr. Long.”
“Dr. Long isn’t seeing anyone right now.”
“Tell him he needs to see me or I’m going to the press.” He didn’t know what the hell he’d do with the press, but he could make some noise.
She met his gaze then. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just tell him. Now.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Dr. Long approached from the doors behind him. “I was going to call you. Please come with me.”
Nico fell in step next to the man. “You have to let me see her, Doc.”
“I will, but first we need to deal with her family.”
“Her family? Are they here? Why hasn’t she contacted me?”
“She doesn’t know you’ve come to see her.”
Rage exploded within. “Enough of this bullshit. I see her now.”
Dr. Long held the security door and motioned for him to go in. “It wasn’t my decision. It was her mother’s. I’m sure you can see how difficult this is for everyone involved. She’s simply trying to protect her child.”
“Then why am I here now? Why change your mind?” Nico demanded.
“There has been a certain development. One that involves you.”
“What kind of development?” he asked, even though he knew.
They made their way to the small room he’d originally been detained in. “I’m not staying in here again.”
“I just want to explain before we go in. We’ve been monitoring her blood levels from the beginning. There’s been a series of fascinating mutations to her base DNA. At first, it was simply a genetic permutation that is present in all sensari. Extraordinary enough to be sure. Two days ago, she presented with a marker. I ran it through the marker database and came up empty. So I ordered a check on your blood samples.”
“We have the same marker,” Nico said.
“We’re tethered. Son of a bitch, my brother was right. You have to let me see her. Now.”
“We still have her mother to contend with.”
“Sorry, but dear mom is going to have to wait.” Nico marched out of the room and down the hall toward the isolation ward.
Dr. Long caught up to him. “I think we can handle this better.”
“Tried it your way. I’ve been an idiot waiting for you doctors to let me see her. Not anymore.”
Nico stopped and faced the man. “She’s my mate, and I haven’t seen her since we tethered. I know humans don’t do that, but you know what it’s like to love someone. I’m done waiting.”
A pained expression crossed the doctor’s face, and he nodded. “All right. Come with me.”
Dr. Long swiped his badge on a panel, and the doors opened.
Raised voices came from farther down the hall.
“You have to let me out!”
“Trina!” Nico ran and rounded a corner to find her, with an older couple, facing a security guard and a handful of medical staff.
Her gaze held him in a vice grip.
She stood with a shocked expression. “Nico.”
“I’m here.” He walked closer, desperate to hold her, but unsure. “I’ve been coming every day, but they wouldn’t let me see you.”
She whirled on the older woman. “You told me he hadn’t come. Hadn’t called.”
He felt her pain across their nascent tether. “Every day, Trina. No one will ever keep me away again.”
She wore a look of confusion.
“We’re talking across a tether. Our tether.” She probably had no idea what that meant. Humans didn’t tether.
“We’re tethered, Trina,” he said.
“What does that mean?” The older woman rounded on Nico. “What did you do to my daughter?”
All chaos broke out as she lunged for him.
The man grabbed her around the waist.
“Is he responsible for this?” Her voice rose in a sharp staccato. “I want him arrested.”
Trina stepped between them.
She wasn’t calming down. More like spiraling into full-blown hysterics.
“I need to talk to Nico. Alone,” Trina said over her mother’s screams.
Dr. Long ordered a sedative, and two nurses helped Trina’s father escort her out of the room.
The two faced each other.
He had to touch her. Had to explain.
Trina started to speak a few times before she could form a coherent sentence. “Did you do this to me?”
“No. Well, yes, but no. I mean Dr. Long said you have my marker. I don’t know how. I sure as hell didn’t do anything on purpose.” Except maybe falling in love with her.
“What’s a marker?”
“It’s a DNA marker that’s unique to every sensari. Kind of like fingerprints in humans. When sensari find their mate and tether, their markers merge into a unique signature. One they share for the rest of their life. Dr. Long just told me that we now have the same marker. Don’t you feel it? The need to…touch.”
“How are you talking in my head?”
“Tethered mates can communicate telepathically.”
She watched his still lips with fascination. “Telepathically.”
“Try it.” He took another step closer.
“I don’t know how.”
Another step. “Just talk to me in your mind. Focus on me. She was scared, confused, angry, but she wanted him. “Focus on me.”
Her voice in his head was a balm to his soul. He’d craved her without knowing it. One more step and he was inches away from her. Could smell the citrus scent of her shampoo. He clenched his fists at his sides, desperate to touch, but needing to let her sort this out.
“I’m here. I would have busted my way in sooner, had I known.” He reached up slowly and placed his palm on her cheek. The touch sent a surge of energy through their tether. It was a fix. A necessity so primal he needed it more than air.
She leaned into the caress, a tear sliding down her face. “I’ve felt so empty. So lost.”
He took her in his arms then, and cried along with her. “We shouldn’t have been apart. Tethered mates need to be together, especially in the beginning. I didn’t know.”
She squeezed him with surprising force and cried harder.
“It’s ok. It’s all going to be all right. I swear, I’m never leaving you again. It makes sense now, though. The intensity of our night together. I’d never been so happy.”
Trina nodded and wiped her tears. “It was perfect. I couldn’t believe you left me.”
Her pain at his abandonment ripped his heart. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life making that up to you.”
Her head tilted. “There were times during the day I felt better. Almost at peace, and then I was left empty again. It was you. Here. I feel it now.” She placed her hand over her heart.
“Yes. I felt it too, but I didn’t understand. I still don’t. Not really. How is this possible?”
Trina laughed, and it was the most serene sound he’d ever heard. “You’re asking me?”
He marveled at her beauty a moment, then kissed her. A piece of her meshed with him in that kiss, filling a void he’d never known existed.
Reluctantly, he pulled apart.
She smiled up at him and wiped a tear from his face. “You’re crying.”
“So are you.”
Being with her was everything he ever needed. Always would be. “I don’t know what happens now, Trina, but you’ll never be alone again.”
Nico had been true to his word. In the three months since she’d become a human-sensari hybrid, Trina had never been alone again. Even when he wasn’t physically with her, she felt his presence across their tether. It was an extraordinary thing to experience. There was no human equivalent.
On the third week following her change, she and Nico went public. The uproar had been staggering.
The Mandorian government had gone so far as to demand that she be delivered to them.
Backed by the Anarican government, Vega refused.
She now lived with Nico in his secure condo. Vega’s president, Durand, had provided security from the day they left the hospital. She was a celebrity. Everyone wanted a piece of her, from product endorsements to television and radio shows.
There was a dark side too, of course. Those who called her monster or worse.
Her mother had eventually come around. There was no denying the love she and Nico shared.
She’d agreed to allow continued testing, but they were down to a weekly visit for blood tests. Everything had stabilized after the sixth week. Her wings were fully grown, and she had started flying.
Nico had figured out the mechanics of developing her wings. She’d gone through grueling physical therapy. The doctors had explained that she was literally developing new neural pathways while she worked the wings. Turned out there was a sexual component to the process as well.
She started out using a physical therapist, but that had been a disaster. Only Nico could work her through the routine necessary, and more often than not, it ended in a full-blown orgasm that included their wings. They were erogenous zones, and it was a beautiful process indeed.
They didn’t know what the future held, but they knew they’d be together. Neither had ever known such contentment.
Would there be more like her? No one knew. What had sparked the transformation was still a mystery. There were hundreds of mixed couples in Vega, but so far she was the only hybrid.
If there were more, they would have her and Nico’s help, that was certain. A part of her hoped for more. Wanted to be not quite such a freak of nature. For now, they’d take it one day at a time. Together.
If you missed the pre-order bonus material you can check it out below.
I am giving you an insight to the early days of Vega and the couple who started everything. I wanted to share some of my process with you. The first group of photos are from one of my many notebooks. This is brain-storming and a whole lot of What Ifs (you’ll see that as WI).
I wanted to share some of my process with you. The first group of photos are from one of my many notebooks. This is brain-storming and a whole lot of What Ifs (you’ll see that as WI).
The second group is another thing I do when creating my story arcs. I love sticky notes and whiteboards. They are stringed together. No idea why I took 3 photos in stead of one. Live and learn!
Cheers everyone! I hope you have a brilliant day!