I thought my life was all mapped out: inherit the throne, bring more advanced technologies to the realm, further the interests of my people, and marry the girl my father chose for me; pretty simple, right? Sadly, my life wasn’t simple at all. The chaos started when a rival king from another realm brutally murdered my father, held my mother and sisters hostage, and then blackmailed me into marrying his spoilt witch of a daughter to save their lives. Did I tell you that I’d already signed a contract to marry the daughter of my father’s best friend? Of course, the bastards tried to kill her, but I was able to foil that act and hide her away. Who knew that my child bride would become this beautiful, brilliant, and fierce woman, determined to retake her place in my life? Finally, after years of being trapped in an existence I never wanted, I can see a glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel of my life.
My future was set, my husband selected, and my career path determined. I trained all my life to be his wife, his queen. It seemed that our journey into the happily ever after would never come. When he stumbled into my apartment after yet another vicious attack on his life, I’d had enough! If I didn’t do something now, our future would ever be lost. I knew I was supposed to wait for him to lead the way, but how can I ignore the constant threats on his life, the paralysis of our lives together, and standby and do nothing? Sometimes a woman has got to save her man even when he doesn’t realize he needs saving.
Thorne Winthrop, fourth king of the realm of Calison, presided over yet another unproductive meeting of the High Council. Nestled between the planets Earth and Mars, and shielded against detection by their superior technologies, the planet Parth contained four realms—Europon, Garmede, Calison, and Lokede. The Council was made up of the leaders from the four realms, and Calison, as the most wealthy and powerful realm, had led the Council for centuries.
In existence for over ten billion years, more than twice as long as life had existed on Earth, the inhabitants of Parth had the supreme knowledge that they were the true ancestors of the people of Earth. The story contained in the history books of Parth was that, about four billion years before, the four realms engaged in a massive war that ended with a peace treaty signed by the four kings. The fallout, however, was that all who had opposed the treaty were voluntarily exiled to Earth.
Frustrated yet again by the infighting and the constant bid for power by the council members, Thorne left the meeting and immediately sequestered himself in the sanctuary of his lab. With his glasses firmly anchored on the bridge of his nose, he settled in for a few hours of uninterrupted work. Despite his efforts to concentrate, he kept lamenting about the plight of their planet.
Thorne still felt that, given the ongoing disputes between the realms, the peace treaty was a useless document and had never been effective. This was clearly evident by the years of fighting that seemed to have, for centuries, plagued Parth. His father saw years of bloody feuds with the realm Lokede, their mortal enemy. His father’s father had ruled over the most brutal fighting of their people’s existence, and his grandfather’s father’s years of reign hadn’t been much better than that. The challenge was in overcoming the significant cultural differences between the realms.
The people of Lokede were nothing like the other realms. They were dishonorable, violent people, who were always up for a fight even when there was no need for one. They were brutal and behaved like vultures, willing to steal resources or take what they needed with brute force from the other realms instead of trying to develop their own lands. Nothing was worse in Thorne’s mind than lazy barbarians. However, although they were lazy, they were also intensely cunning, and this made dealing with them incredibly dangerous.
Case in point was his wife, Anastasia, who was from Lokede. He had had to exile Anastasia from Calison and send her back to her father’s realm after she’d repeatedly tried to have him assassinated. Now, after thirteen years, he’d yet again been forced to accept her back in the castle. Thorne knew that he always had to be on guard for threats to his life and especially now that Anastasia was back in the castle.
Laziness and brutality were not the only sins of the Lokede realm. They coveted Calison’s fortune more than anything. For centuries they had been trying to conquer Calison and claim their lands. Calison’s warriors had always been braver, more intelligent, and more skilled. They had easily defeated Lokede whenever an attack was mounted.
Garmede people were merchants. They would barter their own parents or their children if needed. Their only concern was the next deal. They were not fighters or farmers; they were traders, more likely to barter a weapon than to fire one. They relished their ability to make the best deals and accumulate wealth from it. Garmedians spent their entire life acquiring wealth that the Lokedian warriors skillfully negotiated or stole from them.
The people of Europon, on the other hand, were constantly on a quest for peace, almost to the point of being passive. They looked to Calison to protect them while they worked tirelessly to harvest their lush lands. They always had more than enough food and resources for their people. However, this often tempted Garmedians and Lokedians to try stealing and pillaging from their lands. Calison had dedicated forces always stationed in Europon to offer protection against the other realms. The main goal of the people of Europon was to live in harmony with the planet. They were the happiest people in Parth. Happy to live conservatively, happy to live off the land, and they refused to engage in violence no matter what the provocation.
The differences among the kingdoms could also be seen in the skin tone of their people. The Lokede people had mostly pale ivory skin with blond hair and light-colored eyes. Garmedians had light olive skin with raven hair and brown eyes. The people of Europon possessed mostly different tones of brown skin with dark hair and dark eyes. However, the kingdom of Calison was home to a wide mix of skin tones and diverse eye colors. Thorne and his family had midnight-dark hair, an olive skin tone, and ocean blue eyes.
Thorne had been ruling for almost twenty years and maintained some semblance of peace with the democratically chosen leaders of the cities of Calison and with the other realms by brute strength of will, with the exception of Europon and a forced alliance with the realm of Lokede.
He had initially been only a revered scientist during the days of his father’s reign, and he didn’t have to get involved in the politics of Calison. His only pursuit had been for knowledge. When other young men had been honing their skills on the battlefield, he had been researching new energy and food sources for their planet. He had found it on the planet Earth. For years, Thorne had been traveling between Parth and Earth, after having perfected the ability to transfer molecules through time and space. While many in their world viewed Earth as a primitive relic of their old world, he had found many uses for the things the other planet took for granted.
As his father’s only son, he had been somewhat of a disappointment to this giant of a father, Stephen, who wanted a son to embrace being the ultimate warrior. Instead, Thorne preferred to contribute in other ways. Everyone knew that Calison had the best fighters, the most resources, and the better economy. King Stephen wanted to keep it that way. It wasn’t that Thorne wasn’t a fierce fighter. Quite the opposite in fact; he was one of the most skilled. As a scientist, knowledgeable in molecular energy, chemical engineering, biophysics, and neurology, he preferred to use other methods of improving his planet’s plight than using weapons of destruction. He had pleaded with his father that his work in building a powerful shield to protect his people was essential. However, his father preferred that he build a powerful weapon to destroy their enemies. Wanting to please his parent, Thorne had set out to do both. However, he had needed resources to achieve these goals. These resources could be found on Earth.
Thorne continued his visits to Earth to harvest the resources and was certain that he could finally succeed in achieving his ultimate goal to protect his people. It was too bad that his father wasn’t alive to see it.
Thorne considered the advancement of his lab after eighteen years and smiled. He was proud of the work he’d accomplished over the years. The lab itself was situated in a building apart from the castle. He employed almost twenty scientists and doctors from throughout Parth. They were the elite among the professionals on the planet. Being selected to work in Thorne’s lab was an honor and was coveted by all scientists. The facilities were extensive, well equipped, and spanned over several thousand square feet.
Thorne used the research in his lab to supply the numerous drugs for Parth and for his pharmaceutical companies on Earth. On Earth his companies were among the best, and he was a billionaire a few times over. He hadn’t physically visited Earth in years, but he electronically fulfilled his duties as chairman of the board. Much like his monthly reports from the executives of his numerous businesses on Earth, Thorne also received reports from his agents on earth, Charles and Amanda on Saina Bahar, his contracted child bride. He had reneged on the contract under intense duress. Although he hadn’t seen her in years, he was well aware of her every accomplishment, first in the local schools on the Turks and Caicos Islands and then later her graduation from a university in the United States. Saina was a protégé and had started at the university at the age of thirteen. Thorne couldn’t wait to bring her back to Calison and have her work with him in his lab. Her academic accomplishments on Earth far surpassed his every expectation. She was barely out of her teens and about to earn her third Ph.D.
With his lab becoming his sanctuary since becoming king, Thorne refocused on the work in front of him. He was analyzing the cancer cells that seemed to be killing so many humans on Earth. These cancerous cells had already mutated on Parth and had become even more deadly. On Earth, the cancer cells could take years to deplete the body; however, on Parth, cancer killed within hours. He was determined to find a cure for his people and for the people on Earth.
He trusted the scientists in the lab. They were men and women of integrity, physicians sworn to save life, not end it, and were in no way warriors. They had all been a team together for more than twenty years. It never occurred to him to be on his guard in the lab, as no one could enter who hadn’t passed a comprehensive security preclearance.
At the feel of a sharp pain and something burning into his back, Thorne knew he had just paid dearly for that lapse in judgment. His blind trust had allowed one of his scientists to come up behind him and slice his back with a laser sword. The blade was sharp and cut viciously, severing the bone and tissue of his spine.
Thorne roared in excruciating pain.
His assailant sliced him maliciously again, making another massive cut in his back, longer and deeper.
Screaming out again, Thorne fell from his chair to his knees. His glasses fell from his face, dropped to the tiled floor, and shattered. Unable to sustain his own weight, even on his knees, Thorne slumped to the cold floor. The debilitating pain reverberated throughout his body, making him lightheaded and paralyzed in his legs and arms. Bitter bile churned in his stomach. Given the immediate paralysis, Thorne knew that something poisonous had been injected into his blood stream. A toxic substance must have been on the blade.
His assailant wasn’t done with him however. Thorne screamed again as he felt a hard boot stamped into his back, and the blade was driven deeper into his body and then pulled out. Soon, he was in a pool of his own blood.
Thorne stared up into the eyes of a man he had known all his life, Raoul Kaushal. Raoul was one of the most highly acclaimed physicians on the planet. He was hundreds of years older than Thorne and had probably helped to bring him into the world.
Thorne was paralyzed both physically and psychologically. The sudden arrival of a few armed guards kept the other scientists from helping him. They were elite members of his armed forces, and they were kept away from him by the shield he had created. Raoul had just used it against Thorne. The hand-held shield was created to protect a person or a group of persons. Thorne had also created a massive shield that could protect Calison from an invasion. Raoul was the only other person to have access to all of that.
No other betrayal would have shocked Thorne more. Raoul was not just a scientist in his lab; Raoul had been a trusted advisor and a friend. He was the one man who knew just about every secret Thorne had, with the exception of Saina’s existence. Thorne had trusted no one with that secret.
Anger had not seeped in yet. Thorne was still too stunned and in such pain that he had no room for further emotion or analysis. He began to simply accept his fate, thinking that no one could possibly recover from such a mortal wound. The gleam of triumph in Raoul’s eyes alerted him that the scientist wasn’t done with him yet. Raoul came at him again with the sword, this time aiming for his head. Fuck no! That shit’s too gruesome. Thorne used his last bit of reserves out of sheer desperation. He thought of Saina and teleported to Earth.
Saina was sitting at a desk. She looked as though she was studying. However, Thorne didn’t recognize where he was. Nor did he recognize Saina. She had grown significantly since he had seen her last, more than five years ago. He had landed on her narrow bed in what looked like a college dorm room or a small apartment bedroom. Thorne didn’t even have the energy to warn her that he was there, but he didn’t have to worry.
Saina was as attuned to him as she’d ever been. She ran toward the bed. “God, Thorne, is that you?” She stared at him, and her gaze roamed over him anxiously. It was as though she had no idea where to touch first. His custom-made white trousers and tunic jacket, which fitted his massive body precisely, were covered with his blood. She visibly started to tremble with shock.
Thorne didn’t blame her; in seconds, his blood soaked her tiny bed.
“What have you allowed them to do to you?” Saina whispered angrily despite the tears that clogged her voice.
He couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, and couldn’t prevent his life from draining from him now. His blood poured from him as though someone had turned on a faucet. Thorne tried to speak, but no sound came. Mind-numbing pain raked through his body, and blood filled his mouth, choking him and preventing him from breathing.
Saina hovered over him, her brows wrinkled with concern and concentration.
Staring at her and drinking in every inch of her beautiful face, he fought the slow demise of his body. It was a useless endeavor as his heart rate slowed. He wanted desperately to touch her, but his hand refused to move. It was as if the message from his brain wasn’t reaching any of his limbs anymore. Involuntarily trying to clear his throat, he coughed, and another tremendous burst of pain ricocheted throughout his body. Unable to scream, he closed his eyes in agony.
Saina reached out and gently palmed his face. She immediately screamed as though she were a wounded animal but didn’t release her hold on him.
Thorne opened his eyes in shock to see her bowed over him in pain. He felt her healing touch down to his bones, and the pain lessened but didn’t disappear. It was as if the pain was slowly being drained from his body and pushed into hers.
“No!” he tried to say, but it came out garbled. Blood trapped his speech.
Saina wasn’t listening to him anyway. Moaning in pain, she had her head bent as if in prayer and simply held him gently. Where her palm touched on his face felt like the epicenter of a great source of energy. Thorne was helpless in stopping her from hurting herself. And there was no mistake that she was determined to take on his pain.
She bent farther over him as if under a great weight. Silent tears streamed down her face. She moved one hand down his body, reached under him to roam her palm over the gaping wounds at his back, and immediately the bleeding slowed until it stopped completely. Even the blood in his mouth evaporated and disappeared, allowing him to breathe again.
Despite her healing touch, Thorne knew that it was too late. He had lost too much blood. He closed his eyes again, trying to block out the pain that still obliterated most of his senses.
“Thorne, please,” she whispered hoarsely. Her eyes were cloudy with emotion. “You’ve given up.” Her voice was laced with surprise and accusation. She frowned down on him, clearly not happy with him.
He didn’t try to deny it.
“I won’t let you do this.” She bent toward him again and then started to tenderly caress his face, run her fingers through his hair, and deliver gentle kisses to his brow.
The tender whispers directly into his mind should have shocked him, but nothing about her was going to shock him today. She was impressive in her strength and determination. After a few seconds, he felt at peace, soothed despite the pain to his wrecked body. An overwhelming sense of calm and love engulfed him. The feeling was so pure and sweet he was at first stunned that such feeling could exist. How was she doing this? He’d always been puzzled by his change in emotions when around her. Even as a child she’d been able to impact his psychological wellbeing.
“Saina?” he croaked. His throat still felt clogged with blood even though it wasn’t. The ease with which she loved and cared for him seemed to permeate her every gesture, her touch and the way she looked him, such empathy. Her pain was the same as his, and yet she held on to him.
“Don’t try to talk,” she admonished. “You need to regain your strength. I need you to fight!”
“Let go, Saina. I don’t want you to hurt anymore,” he whispered through the pain.
“I can’t let you go. Help me heal your body, your mind. Why can’t I heal what’s killing you? I’ve stopped the bleeding and closed your wounds. What am I not seeing?”
“I don’t think that even you can save me. Conserve your strength. You’ll need it when I’m gone.”
“No! Tell me what happened.”
Thorne was shocked by the fire in her eyes and voice. Saina’s people were not known for excessive emotion. Her next words stunned him even more.
“I won’t let those bastards win.”
Thorne was fascinated by this beautiful creature. He smiled sadly. Too bad he wouldn’t be around to appreciate such a unique woman. He felt himself slipping even further away from her. The pain had now gone, but the weakness in his limbs and the dullness to his senses remained.