ParaNormal Romance Reviewer’s Top Pick
They were the Guardians, sixteen special men and women with incredible powers who had sworn their lives to the protection of their galaxy, while upholding the laws of their world.
It was a world that, eons ago, had suffered a devastating plague that had rendered more than half its population unable to reproduce. As a result, in order to assure the survival of their species, the HandFast law was enacted. Every month, twenty couples were drawn by lottery. Couples whose sole purpose would then be procreation, the continuation of the species. For the length of one year, two complete strangers would follow the edicts of the HandFast, until the woman conceived. Once that was accomplished, the couple was no longer bound to each other, and they could go their separate ways while the child was given to a couple unable to bear children.
It was a cold and impersonal law, but it worked.
However, the Guardians were exempt from having their names drawn in the lottery. The very nature of their jobs, risking their lives day in and day out to protect their galaxy, precluded any thought of bearing children.
Which was why, when StarLight and Master Hunter heard their names called out to be HandFasted, their neat, orderly lives were turned upside-down. Gone was the comfortable companionship they'd known. Gone was the brother-sister working relationship and the friendship.
Now they would be forced into an intimacy neither had wanted, nor expected.
Neither would they be prepared for the overwhelming passion they would find in each other's bodies, as well as in their hearts.
And things would only get more complicated and dangerous. Because their names had been deliberately placed on the lottery, and the drawing had not been a fluke. Instead, it was the first step in destroying their world and every Guardian living.
She had felt him behind her, and it was as if he had lit up every nerve ending in her body.
Tonight, her mind kept echoing over and over. Tonight. Tonight. Tonight. Tonight.
She’d had to get away, but even the clearing skies hadn’t offered her a release from the emotional torment. There was no escaping the inevitable. There would be no going back once it was over.
Tonight. Tonight. Tonight. Tonight.
Far below she could see things were wrapping up. The emergency was over. Soon, everyone would pile back into Three for the trip home. Except she could fly back by herself, since it was a short distance.
And she would have to fly back. She couldn’t find some out-of-the-way moon and use it as a hiding place, like she used to do when she had been unable to take any more of whatever foster home she was in at that time. When everything had come down on her—the teasing, the cursing, the ranting and raving and threats and dire predictions.
As her power had developed, so had her body. By the age of fifteen, Star had found herself in possession of a woman’s physique, and an awesome ability. It had been partly out of necessity, and mostly out of defiance, that she’d settled upon the skin-tight body suit as her choice of attire. It absorbed the dark, invisible fields thrown out by the stars, fields which fed her as much as food filled her belly, while it also flaunted her flawless body, daring men to look but not touch.
She had never been ashamed of the way she looked, even though enough people had tried to beat her pride out of her, mentally and physically. Which was why she’d finally had enough before her eighteenth birthday, and took to space, abandoning everything and traveling from planet to planet, discovering people and dangers she’d never believed existed. Surviving day by day, week after week ... year after year.
There was no one out there she cared to trust, much less commit herself to. It had been by accident that she’d come across the Guardian transport ship with four members aboard. They were struggling to avoid the wormhole that had appeared out of nowhere, and threatened to swallow the craft. She’d collapsed the wormhole, then guided the disabled ship down to the nearest planet.
They had stepped out of the ship to stare slack-jawed at her, astounded by her powers and her looks. She was twenty-two and just beginning to bloom.
That was two years ago.
Since then, being a Guardian had given her a sense of belonging, and more of a family than she had ever experienced in the past. There had been a couple of the men she had briefly dated, but neither had lasted more than a week. They were good friends, more like big brothers. And, besides, the last thing she was looking for was an emotional commitment. She’d done just fine, not having anyone or anything wrapping around her heart, thank you. Life was so much better without that kind of weight dragging her down.
There had been one person, though, whom she’d never been able to figure out. Master Hunter had always been a quiet sort, keeping mostly to himself after hours. He was polite, but he was also strong and extremely trustworthy. Star often found herself drifting over next to him whenever an assignment got particularly hairy. It was as if she instinctively knew he could deflect any nastiness that threatened her, and heavens knew the first time she’d fallen against his warm wall of a chest in total exhaustion, she realized he would never take advantage of her. There would never be a stray hand to "accidentally" squeeze her bottom, or fingers running across her breasts.
He was safe and safety. And it had been relief to find him like an ever-present force whenever she needed him. He was always there for her. He always would be.
He was her guardian Guardian.
Which made the HandFast all the more terrifying. She was losing the man to whom she’d never had to worry about losing control. She was losing her friend and protector.
Her next thought came unbidden to the front of her mind. What kind of lover would he be? Would he approach the act with the cool, impersonal persona she saw nearly every day?
No. She shook her head. When she’d sought his embrace, and the safe protection of his arms, knowing she wouldn’t have to face any rankling or teasing as long as he held her, there had been a sense of tenderness in the hard muscle. In the way his warm hands stroked her hair that turned her into soft putty.
She put on an extra burst of speed, and a moment later she zipped through the outer atmospheric lock, away from the little moon, out into space.
What good was it doing to keep torturing herself with the what-ifs? No matter how much she was dreading the coming night, it would come. It would happen. He would take her body, whether her mind and spirit was in it or not. She could lie there, like she was supposed to, and let him have her. Use her, then leave. But she didn’t have to give him her heart. He couldn’t take her soul or her spirit. She would always keep them shielded from further hurt and degradation.
Do it and get it over with, she told herself, her mouth unconsciously setting into a grim line. And pray I conceive soon, instead of having to endure the entire year.