Ula has hidden from her own people in an effort to cease pressure from local government to create weapons against the Nine. When a man with wings comes knocking, she slams the door in his face.
Deniir has gotten as much information on the designer as he can, but seeing her taming some of the wild flying predators out back eases her rude dismissal of his presence. She is as wild as the beasts she uses to get airborne, and he sees the means to get her to follow him to the stars.
Offer her complete freedom and she will follow him wherever he leads.
“Are you sure this is her home?” Deniir turned to ask the woman who had escorted him up the mountain.
Niika smiled. “It is where she lives. This is as far as I will take you. Whether you succeed or fail, you do it on your own.”
He frowned. “You don’t visit her?”
“Of course I do. The third day after the second moon is full. We have a schedule but that isn’t suitable for your timeline, and she can see us from here, so you had better stop looming over me.” Niika grinned at him and crossed her arms over her chest.
Deniir snorted and turned to Niika’s mate. “Cavos, can’t you do something?”
He grinned. “I am doing something. I am letting you take my mate away from our restoration of the underground Stone Folk city. We have a life to begin, Deniir, and while I respect your mission, it is yours and not mine.”
Deniir stared up at the small door set into the side of the mountain, and he nodded. “Thank you for your assistance. I will take it from here.”
He shifted his cloak around him and made his way up the narrow path that led to the door in the stone. To his shock, he caught the gleam of small monitoring cameras as he progressed toward the entrance.
He stepped on the doormat laid out and knocked on the door in the cliff face. He heard rustling inside and the top half of the door swung open, and a woman with pale skin and crimson hair faced him. “What do you want?”
“Greetings, Ularica. My name is Deniir, and I am an engineer of the People of the Light on the Nine mother ship.”
She stared at him impassively and blinked slowly.
“Uh, well, you are invited to the mother ship in an effort to get you to tour the engineering department.”
She nodded. “Not interested. Please leave.”
To his surprise, she shut the upper half of the door, and he could hear her footsteps receding inside.
He heard a noise that was familiar. Birds. He followed a narrow path around the corner of the stone wall until the path ended. Sighing with curiosity, he removed his cloak and fluffed out his wings.
He flexed them a few times and then launched himself into the darkness of the space between mountains. His wing beats were heavy, but it eased as he worked out into the light and the warmer air lifted him until he was facing an entire flock of absolutely huge raptors.
The huge birds watched him warily as he settled on a thick jutting branch. He looked at the birds carefully, and he spotted two of them wearing what appeared to be saddles. The way the woman had been heading to the back of her home, she had something distracting on her mind, and there was nothing more distracting than flying. He simply had to wait, and perching in the tree was second nature.
She would come out to ride one of her birds, and he would make his pitch in the air.
Ula’s skill is in demand, especially by her people. But she refuses to use her talent to design a weapon to destroy the Nine, so she has become a recluse, allowing contact with only a few friends. Deniir is fascinated by the woman whose unconventional methods could help the Nine’s continued innovation. Can he convince Ula she can control what she designs? Will Ula see the opportunity as a blessing? And what of her surprising attraction to the male sent to convince her to reach for the stars?
Designing by Viola Grace is seventh in the Return of the Nine series. Ula is disillusioned with the government. She has the ability to solve problems in unconventional ways, but her government tries to force her to build a weapon. She is unwilling to use her talents in that manner and finds herself alone on her mountain. That is until she is brought to the attention of the Nine. Her design that allowed her friend to walk has led the Nine to appreciate what she can bring to the table; now they just need to convince her to leave her lair. Deniir has been chosen to beard the lioness in her den, so to speak. I enjoyed that Deniir appreciated Ula's intellect. He saw she was a bit stifled by the limitation she undertook to protect not only her but her inventions. I appreciated that he courted not only her mind, but her body. He teased her with something that had meaning to and for her. Their courtship was unconventional, but then so were Deniir and Ula. I loved that Ms. Grace tailored their individual quirks to the relationship they found themselves building. This story was sweet and individualized toward the characters involved. Ms. Grace realizes that one size fits all courtship is not always appropriate and gave us a slightly skewed take on Deniir and Ula. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to seeing more of the Nine find their happily ever after.
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