The alien she’s hot for seems to hate her. But when they touch, sparks fly. Will their growing love survive a dangerous quest?
Emma: I’m pretty sure Teran hates me. Why else would this scarred dragon warrior avoid touching me, talking to me, or being around me? Yet when we’re sent on a quest to find a long-lost cache of precious stones that could save the kingdom, I’ll be flying for weeks in his arms. I have to guard my heart. Otherwise, he’ll break it.
Teran: I’m crazy about Emma, and I long to touch her, to bring about the Torrent–the ancient Driegon mating ritual. Our quest will throw us together, and it will be torture to hold myself back, but if I give in, I could endanger her life. But when rival factions attack, determined to keep us from finding the stones, I’ll do whatever it takes to protect her.
TERAN, the fourth standalone novel in the Brides of Driegon series by bestselling alien romance author Ava Ross. Each book in this series is a standalone, full-length story has on-the-page heat, aliens who look and act alien, a guaranteed happily ever after, no cheating, and no cliffhanger.
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About the Book
by Ava Ross
Brides of Driegon
April 30, 2021
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A Brides of Driegon Novel
© 2021 Ava Ross
After a mysterious disease swept across Earth, killing most of our male population, Earth women looked to the stars for romance. I mean, who wouldn’t?
When a ping reached Earth, a few of us freaked out. It’s all well and good to send out a signal when you’re not expecting anyone to respond. We soon discovered aliens not only existed, but they had also lost many of their females to the disease and were eager to meet us. Delegations were sent, and treaties were signed. Then the doctors did their thing; making sure everyone was genetically compatible.
The first mail-order bride arrangements were made, initially with aliens from the planet Crakair. When women found true love there, other races stepped up, eager to meet Earth women, as well. That’s when we decided to venture deep within the planet to meet Driegarians, an older Crakairian race who insisted they descended from dragons.
Sure. Like we believed that?
But…it was true. They had wings, tails, blue scales, and horns. And rumor had it they also breathed fire. A few women were intimidated but others—including me—shrugged it off. Love was about the person on the inside, not the outside.
Thousands of Earth women begged to be chosen, and a Driegon lottery was set up. I was among the first four Earth women selected. We landed on Crakair and were whisked to the subterranean caverns far below the planet’s surface. There, three of the initial group found fated mates through the Torrent, an ancient Driegon ritual cloaked in mystery.
I, Emmaline Indiana Jones—thanks for the name, Dad—was the last woman left. I liked one guy, Teran, but he was…resisting.
I was going to kill Teran. It was either that or I was going to cry. In the past, if a guy rejected me once, I was done. I’d move on. Why was I persisting with Teran?
I swiped at my eyes and watched as he pulled on thick gloves, easing the tops beneath his long-sleeved shirt. The shirt was tucked into his pants, and he wore black boots that rose over his ankles with the cuffs stuffed in. Add a scarf and we were guaranteed my skin would never meet his glorious blue scales.
Driegons had a thing about touch. As far as my three friends were concerned, one bit of contact with their “fated” mate and they began the Torrent—a secret mating ritual that proved he was “the one.” I’ve been eager to touch Teran for weeks, but he was equally determined that we would not touch. I thought we’d work our way around to it during our upcoming journey. We were about to leave on a quest to find a cache of long-lost zilena stones in the hope that one of them could save his brother, Rashe’s life.
Rashe was cursed. Actually his entire family was cursed. For six generations, the second son had died exactly one month after beginning the Torrent. The clock was ticking as Rashe had just started the Torrent with my best friend, Kristy. Teran and I had one month to find the mythical hidden cache of zilena stones and bring one back to mount in a sacred staff. The elder’s windra stick, to be precise. Once the staff was restored to its original form, the elder promised she could break the curse. Then Rashe and Kristy could live happily ever after.
I wasn’t sure I believed in curses, but I did believe in happily ever after.
Teran and I didn’t need to touch to find the stones. I was just greedy, hoping our forced time together would result in…well, touch.
As I was still out of the matebond loop, I wasn’t completely sure what the Torrent entailed. From what I was told, flames would flash from him to me, but the fire wouldn’t burn. It would fade to sparks that would sink into my skin. After that, it was all over. I’d want lots of hot alien sex.
If Teran was involved, I already did.
I didn’t know what was worse: him avoiding my touch or him touching me only to discover we couldn’t Torrent.
“You are ready to leave?” he asked with what I took as a sneer. His tail flicked back and forth behind him, and his horns stood at attention. While I stared, he strapped a bag low on his back—it couldn’t rest higher because of his wings.
“Yes.” Blinking fast, I made sure my good luck backpack was secured on my back. Inside, I’d packed clothing for our journey in waterproof bags.
As an archaeologist, I’ve hauled this backpack throughout central Mexico, deep within the Valley of the Kings, and all the way to the top of Machu Picchu. Now it would venture beyond the alien Driegon kingdom.
A tiny, mouse-like creature skittered across the stones, pausing beside Teran’s black boot. Aw, cute. If I wasn’t stuck in my I-like-Teran-and-he’s-rejecting-me rut, I’d bend down and try to coax the little one close. Feed it a bit of one of the many protein bars I’d packed among my clothing. We’d hunt as we traveled, but I long ago learned to keep a few meals handy just in case.
As Teran took in the mouse, his eyes widened and he stepped up one level, onto the castle’s front stairs. He cringed from the creature until it ran into the bushes to the left of the steps.
“You’re not afraid of that tiny thing, are you?” I asked, more curious than mocking. He was seven-feet-tall—at least. Covered in thick scales. He had big claws where humans had thumbnails, spikes on his shoulders, and fluttery things on his forearms I heard could shoot immobilizing toxin. Add in his horns, and he’d provide a challenge to Godzilla.
“I am not afraid.” Yet he shook off a shudder.
Okay. File that in the I Don’t Understand Teran folder, a folder that was jam packed already.
“I want to make one thing clear before we head out,” I said bravely.
“Yes?” The scar slicing down the right side of his face ticked.
I sucked in a deep breath, hoping it brought courage. “I don’t expect you to touch me.” Was it wrong of me to long for his touch? Probably.
No, absolutely. I was crazy to crush on a guy who avoided me like I had cooties.
“It is best if you think this way,” he said gruffly. His gaze pinned me in place, and I swallowed hard, trying to push down the lump of pain.
Hope was a silly thing. It wrapped around your heart and squeezed tight. I couldn’t help it. I liked him despite his surly demeanor. When he was with his brother, he showed his softer side. Teran might act like a jerk with the rest of the world but underneath, he was pure mush. I kept hoping he would direct some of that lovey-mush at me.
“You do not need to go with me,” he said, his booted foot tapping on the flat stones laid across the open area in front of the castle. Behind him, the enormous stone structure dominated the cavern the Driegons called home. They’ve lived here longer than anyone remembered.
“I’m an archaeologist,” I said. “Finding long lost things was my specialty.”
“Back on Earth.”
My chin lifted. “Anywhere.”
“What do you feel you can contribute?”
I tapped my temple. “Knowledge. You’ll see.”
“I do not have a choice.” His lips thinned. “I was told I need to take you with me.”
I crossed my arms on my chest. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t, right?”
“You know the answer to that already.”
“Because you have to carry me.” It wasn’t like I could fly to the valley of the elders myself. Even if I could walk there, there was no way I could find the stones and return with one for the windra stick within a month. Speed was of the essence.
“Yes.” He tapped his sleeve with a claw as if testing its durability.
I flicked my hand to his completely covered body. “All you had to do was ask me not to touch you. Maybe I’m not interested in Torrenting with you.” That was a complete lie, but a girl needed to cling to the scraps of her pride.
Maybe it was time to shut off my heart, assuming I could. He made it clear he wasn’t interested, and I needed to respect that. Find someone new.
Movement in the tall, bushy trees spanning the right side of the castle drew my eye. The mouse-like thing must have friends.
Teran looked that way. “What do you see?”
“Nothing.” I tightened my spine. “How are we going to do this? I mean…” Should I jump into his arms, would he sweep me off my feet, or would I be slung over his shoulder? “Let’s get this show on the road, okay?” I stepped closer to him, so near, his spicy scent hit me square in the chest. Should I put my arms around him? Leap up and secure my legs at his waist? Kinda wanted to do the latter, but clothing was in the way.
He lifted me off my feet, cradling me in his arms like he was about to carry me over the threshold.
An eep popped out of me. Oh, man, while I wasn’t paying attention, his muscles had cloned more muscles. His wings slipped from the umbar slots on his back and unfurled. A leap, and he soared toward the top of the cavern.
Things looked different from up here. The mountains hovered far in the distance, white-capped, though I heard it was a powdery substance, not snow. On our left the river raged. They diverted a portion of it to create a moat around the many-story stone castle.
Teran reached ear-popping height with the city spread out ahead of us. To leave the cavern, we’d take a tunnel on the opposite side. The river flowed through it, and I’d already seen the giant falls.
Good thing I wasn’t afraid of heights.
“I’m a virgin,” I said.
He huffed and smoke coiled behind us, a Driegon’s version of a laugh. “I will be gentle.”
Was he joking with me? I had to be hearing things. “I meant flying. I’m a flying virgin.”
“I will still be gentle.”
“Don’t tease me.”
“Because I might start to believe you mean it.” I was already half in love with him. If he were kind, I’d fall the rest of the way and there was only danger in tumbling off that cliff.
He grunted as he flew over the city.
I looked down, marveling at everything. The roof of the council building gleamed in the glow generated by spitzers, bugs that absorbed toxins from the air and converted them into light. There was no sun here, just the insects. As long as they remained stuck to the ceiling and didn’t snag in my hair, we’d remain friends. I hated bugs of any kind, which provided a challenge in a city buried far beneath the planet’s surface.
Small creatures I’d only seen late at night hung from the ceiling. Bailings, I think they were called. They ate the insects. Since I hated bugs, I loved bailings.
“Do you know where the valley of the elders is?” I asked.
“Far from here.” He dove down to avoid a cluster of deep blue birds winging their way above the city. The creatures squawked and attacked, beating at Teran with their claws and beaks.
I waved my arms, but they persisted.
Teran reeled around and roared, shooting flames at the birds.
Dragon flames confirmed.
The birds scattered, fleeing in multiple directions.
With a grunt, Teran kept flying.
“I waved my arms,” I said. “They would’ve taken off. No need to scorch them.”
“Flames took care of the issue, did they not?”
“You could’ve hurt them.”
“Do you know the yiskir bird?”
I watched his face, sensing a trick in his statement. “No.”
“If they get close enough, they spit.”
“I’ve been spit on before.” Spit up on, but it was basically the same thing. In between college semesters, I worked in the baby room at a day care.
He cocked one brow ridge and stared down at me sardonically. “Did that spit burn your…skin?”
“Not that I remember.” I snuggled closer to him, not cuddling so much as trying to make myself as small as possible. “Can yiskir spit burn scales?”
“Only if I do not wash it off quickly.”
I waved to our left. “The river’s there if you want to go swimming.” Would he take all his clothing off to do it?
“I am not interested in playing with the dosairs.”
I’d seen the alien version of a crocodile while walking with Kristy. Even watched as one leaped out of the water and snatched a flying creature from the air. That sight burned any lingering urge to take a swim from my mind.
Partway across the city, Teran dove down and landed in front of a tall stone building. Other stone structures surrounded us. A clunking sound behind me made me turn, and I watched as a Driegon pushing a cart loaded with fruit passed on the street. He glanced our way and nodded.
“Wait here.” He lowered my feet and strode away from me, toward the two story cut stone building. Knocking on the door, he leaned his palm against the frame while waiting. Pale pink flowers grew in a window box near the door, their vines trailing over the box to dangle almost to the scruffy dirt ground. Funny to find this splash of color among all this gray.
I scooted over to him. “Where are we going?”
“I am here to obtain a timepiece. You are supposed to be waiting over there.” He flicked his durclaw toward the opening of the alley.
“A timepiece. You mean like a watch?”
“I mean like a timepiece that will tick off the daelas. I need to ensure we return within thirty daelas. We will travel through caverns that do not mark daelas as we do here in Driegon. I will not arrive back too late.”
Before I could speak, someone opened the door.
“Yes?” an older Zoad snarled, his gaze flicking from me to Teran.
His fangs gave his heritage away. While all the aliens here were Driegons, two Clans lived in the city, the Zoads who were displaced from their homes after a flood, and the Remeron Clan who formed the city ages ago. They had an uneasy truce that the elder promised would be solidified once we returned with the stone.
This Zoad acted as many did, almost as surly as Teran. They weren’t happy they had to share the city with the Remerons.
“Timepiece,” Teran barked.
“I see.” The Zoad’s beady gaze drifted to me again, and his eyes darkened further. Driegons had reptilian eyes with inner slits that opened and closed to let in light. Their eyes were one solid color, black in this Zoad’s case.
“Wait here.” He slammed the door in Teran’s face.
Teran grumbled but did not turn. Sever spikes rigid on the top of his head, his boot tapped on the cobblestone walkway.
The door opened again and the Zoad handed Teran a small pouch. He said nothing, just smacked the door closed again.
Teran slid the timepiece out of the pouch and onto his palm.
I leaned over. “The dial’s pointing to one.”
“Today is daela one.” He flicked his durclaw at the thirty mark. “We need to return before then.”
“Good. Okay.” I sucked in a breath. “We better get going, then.”
After stuffing the timepiece into his pocket, he lifted me again. His wings spread wide.
As he flew upward, the door opened again and the Zoad stepped out. He scowled as he watched us soar higher then turned and scurried down the alley.
I shrugged off the chill running down my spine.
We left the city behind, and Teran coasted lower, approaching the tunnel between this cavern to the next. The river flowed through the passage.
“You’re confident the cache of stones can be found in the valley?” I asked.
“Why what?” The glance he gave me contained true curiosity, not scorn as I expected.
“How can you know it’s there? If it was, someone would’ve found it by now.”
“The valley is not easy to get to or transverse.”
“Among other things, so I have heard.”
“We’ll sneak in, then. You’re lucky. I’m good at sneaking.” And fighting, but there was no reason to brag. Back home and before he died, he trained me; I essentially had a black belt in karate. But Dad was a former Navy Seal and once he got out of the military, he turned himself into his own version of a prepper. He dragged me into the woods whenever he could to teach me survival tricks. By the time I was seven, we lived deep in the woods, off the grid. Among other things, his training included being able to sneak up on prey or get away from a beastie before it knew anyone was nearby.
“So, we’ll fly for days—daelas?” I asked, using the Driegon word.
“Ten or twelve.”
“Six or eight daelas to find the stones.”
It wasn’t bad riding like this. His heart beat steadily in my ear, and he was warm. Toasty like an oven. If nothing else, I wouldn’t be cold during this adventure.
“You’re gonna be tired by the time we get there,” I said. “Worn out. Once we land in the valley, you can hang back and let me handle the rest.”
“Really. You can kick back, put your feet up, pour a brewskie, and relax. I’ll locate the stones while you’re recovering, and then you can wing me back home.”
Funny how he zoned in on that word in my inflammatory statement. I had to admit, I was taunting him. I mean, the guy put on gloves to keep from touching me.
But now he was teasing. I wasn’t sure how to handle this version of Teran. He was talking. Directly to me. Not turning and fleeing whenever I came near.
“Driegon is my home now,” I said with quiet dignity.
“You do not have a mate.”
“I’m waiting for the right guy to ask me out.”
His scar twitched and a pulse ticked in his temple. “Who is this…right guy?”
“Indiana Jones, but he’s back on Earth.”
A growl rumbled in his chest, but he couldn’t be jealous.
“However, since Indie’s not here, I’ll have to settle,” I said purely to taunt him. “When we return to Driegon, I’ll find someone. There are still plenty of guys I haven’t touched, and I’m sure one of them will spark a Torrent inside me.”
“None of them will Torrent with you,” he said, diving down and entering the tunnel.
“Why do you think that?” I asked, a bit irritated but mostly hurt. Did he hate me that much?
Overhead, a few scattered spitzer bugs generated barely enough light to see my hand in front of my face. I couldn’t see his face, let alone read it. His tone was neutral. I heard Driegons saw well in the dark. Just my luck he’d see the sadness I couldn’t hide.
“Because,” he finally said.
“Not really an answer.”
“We will discuss this later.”
Hate was probably too strong a word. He was indifferent. Yet… Since we left the castle, I’ve seen a side to Teran I knew existed but never thought he’d share with me. It was sad, really, this jumble of lust and affection I carried for him. I should shut my emotions off and forget about him. I would once we returned triumphant from our quest.
Below us, the river narrowed, frothing against the steep banks. It swept over a series of falls, plunging downward, and the tunnel went with it. Aria had gone over the falls while out swimming. She and Drace were kidnapped when they reached shore. They wound up in a Zoad village far from here where Drace was forced to fight one of the clansmen to keep him from claiming Aria. He met his grandmother there, Miska, the elder who sent us on this quest.
Teran dove down, following the falls, then flew low, skimming above the water.
“Watch out or a dosair will nibble on your tail,” I said. I was taunting him again, trying to get any kind of reaction out of him.
His snort echoed around us.
“One point for me,” I said.
“What does this one-point mean?”
I grinned up at him, enjoying the way his deep blue scales gleamed in the low light. “It means I win.”
“Everything,” I said with satisfaction.
He blinked several times before his flinty gaze met mine. “You have won nothing.”
I poked his chest, wondering if he could feel it through the rubbery material he encased himself with. “Wait and see.”
He shook his head, and his horns…
“I don’t believe I’ve seen your horns move before,” I said.
“They are not moving,” he growled.
“Could’ve fooled me. They’re curving down as if they want to touch me.” Did I dare believe the Torrent was beginning between us? Kristy told me the first sign for the male was his horns curling toward a fated mate.
“They are not curving. They do not wish to touch you.”
“What about that?” I pointed to his tail hovering near my right foot. “That’s quite a trick, flying with your tail moseying around wherever it pleases. One would think you need it for balance.”
He flicked the limb back behind him, and he banked to the right, leaving the river and taking an offshoot from the tunnel. He entered another passage that was equally dark and gloomy. “My tail is not…moo-see-ing around.”
“I’d say not. Who’d want their tail doing something like that? Frankly, I think it wants to touch me. Like your horns.” And the thought made me giddy. What would I do if he coiled his tail around my leg like Torrent males did with their mates?
“My tail does not wish to touch you,” he snapped. His wings slowed as we coasted out of the tunnel, following an offshoot of the river into a new cavern.
Vines hung everywhere, making it a challenge for Teran to fly across the big open area. The scent of blooming flowers clung to the air like honey drizzling off a spoon. Below, pale blue moss covered the floor of the cavern. Or what looked like moss. It was hard to tell while flying a hundred feet above the ground. This must be what eagles see while soaring over a mossy meadow.
“Beware the scent,” he said.
“What does that mean?”
“It can make you sleepy.”
“What about you?” If it affected me, it would him, right?
“I am not impacted.”
“Then how do you know I am?” Another yawn slipped out.
He chuckled. “Sleep. I will fly and you will rest.”
“But I’m wide…” The world crowded in, threatening to take me away. My eyelids slid closed. “I’m awake.”
“Barely. Why not sleep?”
No real reason. I wasn’t worried he’d dump me; he had too much honor for that.
“Do you trust me to keep you safe?” he asked as if he read my mind.
“Then rest. I will wake you later when we land.”
“Sorry you have to carry me.”
“I… actually, I do not mind. Not too much.”
That statement almost perked me up. But the scent of the flowers tugged my mind away on gentle waves. I drifted to…
I woke and the cloying smell of the flowers was gone. Stretching, I looked around as Teran continued to fly. “We left the vine valley.”
“Three caverns ago.”
He took us into a narrow tunnel where his wings brushed the stone walls on either side.
“Three, huh? How many hours—denjars was I asleep?”
“Three, four. I am not completely sure.”
“We’re making progress, then.”
“Yes. We will stop in a few more denjars for a break.”
He exited the tunnel into a large, lush cavern that had to be half a mile long. The ground of this one was peppered with ginormous, pale pink plants with lacy branches like ferns. Lavender fleiffers danced around the deep green stalks topped with pale purple flowers. A dense forest encroached on the valley, marching across from the other side.
“Is this where you find fleiffers to contract with?” I asked. The Driegons didn’t manufacture anything. They traded for whatever they needed, from the skeletal Fritzen who kept the castle running in exchange for a curative powder, to the fluff ball rescern they used for living intercoms. They contracted with the fleiffers to provide hair adornment. The butterfly-like creatures also functioned as clips. At first, using bugs for everyday tasks made my skin quiver, but I was getting used to it. Mostly. I’d never love bugs, but I didn’t mind fleiffers.
“I do not know where we obtain the fleiffers,” he snarled.
I sighed. “Are you always so grumpy?”
“I am not grumpy.”
I rolled my eyes. If he weren’t so cute, I’d be irritated with him. “I think you’re acting this way because you’re attracted to me. Like a junior high boy, you’re pulling my braid.”
“What… What is a braid?”
“Hair woven together.”
“Despite this…hair weaving, your statement is not true.” He flew over the ferns, and a few fleiffers dipped up to follow us. They were pretty, for bugs.
“If you like me, just say so,” I said, taunting again. “No need to be snarly all the time.” Though I did find it mildly exciting.
“I do not like you. I am not attracted to you.” He coasted over the ferns, and the fleiffers scattered like chicks from hawks.
“Then what’s with the rubber suit?”
“You know why I wear it.”
I sighed. “You don’t want to touch me.” Which…maybe he didn’t like me after all. My emotions were a yo-yo.
He frowned and slowed, glancing back toward the tunnel.
I peered over his shoulder but didn’t see anything except a cloud of fleiffers darting back to the flowers in Teran’s wake. Nothing to be worried about there.
We flew up over the forest, thick stands of trees standing sentinel, watching over the fleiffers.
His pace picked up, and he sped toward a tunnel beyond the forest.
“What is it?” I asked, picking up his unease.
“Nothing.” His gaze flashed behind us again, and his wings flapped at a more rapid pace.
“You saw something.”
“Should we be—”
A thump, and Teran spiraled to the right. His breathing shuddered, and he corrected and continued flying, but his wings only put in a half-hearted effort.
Twisting, he looked back at his right flank. “Fuck.”
His urgent gaze met mine. “When we reach the ground, I want you to run into the deepest part of the woods. Climb a tree if you can. Hide.”
My heart racing, I wiggled in his grasp, trying to sit up so I could see better. “What’s going on?”
“You hear me, Emma? Run. Hide.” His wings flapped slower. Losing elevation, his tail brushed treetops.
“Teran…” I swallowed back my fear. Giving in to it would do us no good. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“I’ve been shot.”
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AVA ROSS fell for men with unusual features when she first watched Star Wars, where alien creatures have gone mainstream. She lives in New England with her husband (who is sadly not an alien, though he is still cute in his own way), her kids, and assorted pets, including a yorkie pup and three cats.
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