Today, she will meet her destiny.
While attempting to escape a skinwalker bent on possessing her against her will, Maya runs into a forbidden cave. Instead of succumbing to her doom, she confronts her attacker and finds herself in a world so alien and dangerous, she prepares for a fate worse than death.
Crazed with fear, Maya fights unsuccessfully for her freedom until three powerful men rescue her from the cruel captors. Relieved, she soon discovers these men have their own expectations and methods to achieve the obedience they demand. She is now a captive of another kind, and at their insistence, she must complete her training as they claim her mind, body, heart, and soul.
Internationally renowned scientists Sterling, Paxton, and Zander can’t believe the terrified, uncontrollable woman is the one from Sterling’s dreams. Finding themselves irresistibly drawn to her, and against all recommendations, they quickly take possession of Maya. But danger lurks in many forms…
Publisher’s Note: This steamy reverse harem sci-fi romance contains elements of power exchange and ménage scenes.
Maya woke with a start. She was sucking in air. Hard. She reached for her throat trying to catch her breath. It was useless. Cold, damp skin met her hand as she struggled against the panic. In the darkness of her lodge, the dream seemed real even though the minuscule part of her brain that was functioning properly in the oxygen-deprived environment sent her a different message. She could breathe if she would not give in to the terror. Regardless of that sliver of thought, she rolled onto her side and up on her knees, desperate to regain control of her breath, her body. Her heart continued beating rapidly, much like the far-off drum in her vision. Her chest spasmed in an almost painful dance in response to the beat.
She slid her head to the right, seeking the security of her family. All were sleeping in their beds, but as she continued watching, for a split second, she encountered the same yellow green glint in the dark that had brought on her terror. They were the same as the creature’s eyes in her dream. In an instant, she stared at nothing but black empty space, but she recognized the coyote. Her heart gave a second frantic jump. That was a bad omen. It meant something terrible would happen. She had seen the owl before she went to bed carrying with it an omen of irreversible change.
Until a few days ago, Maya couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a terror in her sleep. Nor was she prone to remembering her night visions unless they were significant. She remembered every wild frightening detail of this dream. She chanted to push the fear away, but she dared not move further until all vestiges of the horror left, allowing her to think clearly. Many had reacted rashly to the chest pains, coming to a tragic end. That would not be her. She could relax the seized muscles squeezing her breast and calm the inner turmoil physically and mentally.
In the last month, she had dreamed every time she slept and yet, in the beginning it was just an impression, leaving no lingering memory. As time passed, she could recall more with each subsequent night message she received. The visions were so vibrant; she’d felt love, happiness, and contentment while walking in them. Seeing her future full of making love with one, two, and finally three men. If a man can afford more wives, he may choose them, but women only had one husband. Except the woman in grandmother’s story long ago.
Maya thought back to the stories her grandma had told her during childhood—when she disregarded the old woman’s words. Forcing herself to relax further, Maya could see the dream and its similarities to the story the old ones told.
Maya was a seer. One sent to her tribe by the spirits as a protector. Her inner eye could sometimes see danger, joy, solutions to problems, sorrow. She was both revered and feared because of her abilities. The tribal healer and the shaman took advantage of her gift in the beginning, saying they must be the ones to tell the tribe of the meanings of her visions. Grandmother had found out and set them straight. Because of the grumblings over the greedy men, Maya now went to the subject of her dreams, explained what she saw, and left the interpretation to those whom it affected. It worked better for her.
Last night, she dreamt she was like Mountain Sage Woman, the woman in the story. She remembered her elders’ teachings. “Long ago, when the True People were few due to war, there appeared in the village three brave warriors who chose a maiden and took her as their own. They had strong medicine and their tribe were powerful, living in peace high in the mountains. The men taught her their ways and loved her fiercely. She saved her tribe and many others with her knowledge and her visions. For many years, she lived in harmony with her husbands who shared their gifts with her.”
Maya had laughed at the ancient story as a child. Three husbands? She didn’t remember all the details but the ones she did left her with no doubt now that it was important to her life. She was like Sage Woman. Was that why her sleeping mind called to the warriors from a peculiar land? Were they her warriors? In her dream, as in the story, one dream walker was brown and known among his people for his protective strength, cunning, and wisdom; a revered leader that had the power over nature.
His friend was like the white man. His people sought him for his powers of healing, a famous medicine man of strange methods, curing not just the body, but also the mind and spirit. It was he that walked in her dreams with her the most and while their words were different, they could communicate with her as she slept. The third warrior was dark, a medicine man to the animal world. He spoke to the wildlife, knew their needs, calling to them, protecting them. They hid their tribe, which was strong, battling for peace. They all spoke strangely. Their appearance was foreign to her, but she experienced a sense of wellbeing and security with them. Maya fell back asleep as she wrapped herself in the comfort of their presence.
When she awoke, all she could think of was the tribal shaman, Lakan, and of the fear he evoked in her. He was an old lecher without a wife. One of his many vices was to seek the young unmarried women of the tribe for favors. They all tried to stay away from him if they could, to avoid his lecherous eyes and hands that were too invasive. His eyes sought Maya incessantly in his attempt to gain favor. He never hid his desire from her. He wanted her gifts to bring him honor and her youthfulness to fill his bed. He walked in her dreams of the last two nights. Those had gotten scary, causing her, even now as the early light cast a glow on the world, to shiver at the memory.
Maya came upon him yesterday and tried to turn around, but he had heard her. He reached out his hand and grabbed her wrist. Yanking her to his chest and leaning down as though he would put his lips on hers, she cried out her fear. Bile burned her throat as it violently raced up from her stomach in answer to her revulsion.
“Maya, oh thanks be to the Creator that I found you. Our father is waiting for you.” Her young brother bounced in his impatience to complete his task and return to his friends. “Hurry, Maya.”
Lakan didn’t move, his hot, vile breath curled its cold, gnarled fingers around her chest, squeezing. She tried to force her panic back and control her nausea as he spoke close to her lips.
“One day, Maya daughter of Rainwater, you’ll find that there is none to save you. Then, you’ll be mine and your gift will become my gift.”
“Maya let’s go.” For the first time, she was glad for her brother’s impatience. As they ran away from the shaman, she vomited, so strong was her revulsion. He had made his desires known many times, but this was as close as he’d come to violating her.
The tribal healer was old and had two observant wives, so he left Maya alone except to take credit for her dreams and what they meant, whenever he could. Her herbal remedies he claimed for his own.
Maya slowly slid from her bed, put on her deer hide moccasins, and stealthily left the lodge to find the healer. He’d be angry she woke him at this hour, but her mother had told her long ago that these men were there to warn and protect them. The time they were called upon didn’t matter. Maya needed answers quickly. Whatever evil lurked needed to be destroyed before harm came to her or her family. She was not always a good interpreter of her dreams, but the medicine man had proven that, at times, he was nearly as good as her grandmother.
He Who Sees Within was not happy Maya, daughter of Rainwater, came to his lodge before light. He’d have sent her away but his wives, who respected Maya’s gifts, admonished him.
“Old man, who are you to turn away a gift from the Great Spirit?”
He agreed to see her while making many grunts of dissatisfaction. Those noises changed to sounds of surprise and understanding when Maya explained of her month-long journey in her sleep, ultimately ending in two nights of fear.
“Maya, your grandmother was right. Your visions are valuable, foretelling events for others. But this time, they’re important to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are like Sage Woman. You are to have three husbands. The first man in your dreams is the healer of his tribe. He has called to you. The spirits sent him on a journey to find you. He has done so. The second is mighty in nature and is your protector. He has your understanding of medicinal herbs but has what you do not, power, strength, and great control. The last one is gentle. He speaks to the animals and they hear him. He comforts them and saves them from the rabid hunter. These men are your destiny, their mighty, hidden tribe, your home.”
“But the nightmares.”
The healer shook his head sadly. “These are troublesome and if you don’t find the answers, the coyote will devour you whole. Your calling will be unfulfilled. Your talents wasted.”
“But what is the answer? What must I do to fulfill my destiny?”
“Healing your people and those who walk this earth is your purpose, Maya. Do not reject your fate for it is why you were born, why your men were created for you. If you squander your abilities, they will be taken from you. Your men’s gifts will be less without yours. The more you use your abilities, the stronger they become. The less you use them the weaker.”
When she was younger, Grandmother had chastised the medicine man and shaman for leaning on her granddaughter’s gifts to make them great men. Soon afterwards, her beloved grandmother came down with a sickness. The tribe saw it as a punishment for her disrespect, but Maya knew it for what it was—a curse for her words of exposure. Maya had chanted and made teas, but her abilities hadn’t been exercised enough yet. She was still young. They were too weak against the shaman. When Grandmother died, Maya vowed to live by her words. Those words were never forgotten by those she spoke against, either.
The medicine man, after telling Maya the significance, had attempted to discount the dream.
“You have displeased the spirits and disrupted the balance of life.”
“Then why tell me of the warriors? Why show me their home and allow me to see the strangeness surrounding them?”
“I do not know. It is obvious to me that your dream walkers live in a place no person has seen or heard of, except in your mind. It is a foretelling of your own mind sickness. For who has ever heard of flashing lights like the sun and stars, smoking metal animals, things as tall as mountains, and noise so loud, one couldn’t speak or think clearly?”
“I’ll find these warriors. I’ll fulfill my destiny as their woman. I can feel the pull of their spirits to me.”
He scoffed and expelled her from his home.
It sounded crazy, but she also knew her visions were telling her something specific. It was as though she were speaking to the men, especially the people healer. The three warriors were so handsome, it created a longing in her to find them for herself. She ached for them. Unfortunately, her tribe did not produce anyone that fit the description of those who came to her in her sleep and there were none she wanted outside of them. She could feel her restless spirit.
The sun had risen on a cloudless day as Maya walked away from the medicine man’s lodge. She was no closer to understanding her dream because she didn’t know where these men were. How could they be her mates? Reaching home, she greeted the children playing games and went in to start her daily chores. The warriors were hunting. They would return soon with enough work to last hours. If she wanted to gather fruit, she’d need to go now. She grabbed a willow sling going in search of late summer fruit to dry. She’d add them to the winter provisions when all would be thankful for a taste of summer in the cold months ahead.
Leaving her favorite spot heavy with fruit, she meandered back, gathering herbs as she passed them. She drew out one of the peaches she’d picked and took a hungry bite. The warm, almost over ripe juiciness of the sweet fruit dripped from her chin. She wiped it with her forearm, laughing at the mess she was making. A soft swishing in the bushes stopped her gaiety.
At first, she wasn’t sure she heard anything. Then a bird flew from the tree over her head and she immediately stilled to listen. There it was again. It couldn’t be an animal because the steps were too careful. These movements were measured. Unlike animals that walked without concern if they were on the move, these were more human. Man would continue stealthily in hopes of disguising their location but failing miserably.
She worried that if it were a hunter she’d be thought of as game. Even though most hunters were skilled and careful, young boys just learning the skill, might make a mistake and send their arrow in her direction. She wanted to avoid the likelihood of any tragedy, so she hummed. If it were a larger animal, the human sound would discourage them from continuing. However, the covert advance continued.
“I hear you Maya, daughter of Rainwater. I have come for you.”
She heard his movements change to a run, signaling her to do the same. The vines ripped at her legs, the limbs from the bushes and low trees tore at her face, her clothing. She cried out as her untied hair tangled in the limbs. She had to slow as she tried to pull her tresses out of the shrub. She could hear him getting closer. Not daring to spend another second in releasing her hair, she yanked, hard, and continued to run. Her scalp tingled. Her side hurt from the effort to run faster and her legs were achy and painful.
“Stop running, Maya. Give up, you’re mine.” She could hear his breath becoming more labored.
A limb slapped her in the face, hitting her eyes, momentarily causing her to lose her sight. She stumbled. And still he came. She saw the edge of the forbidden cave ahead. She knew the stories told about those who entered the cave and never returned, but it was her only choice. There was nowhere else to run for the river canyon was ahead, and Lakan was behind her.
As she approached the mouth of the ancient cave, she heard the shaman’s steps falter. In her near exhaustion, promise sprung like a well of cool water as she hoped he was running out of energy as well. Or maybe the cave was giving him pause. She’d have to test the ancient stories. If he continued, there would be no alternative, for she would not submit to him.
She shivered as a memory of the old men telling their stories about the cave came to mind. “If you disobey the warning, you’ll go and meet your destiny, for you’ll never return.”
“I’ve trapped you, my little Maya. Now you must give yourself to me.”
Maya’s soul called out. My warriors, where are you? Please save me. Take me from here.
Lakan’s voice was raspy and his breathing hard as he stopped merely four body lengths from her. Her own chest was heaving with the effort to draw breath. Her fear was making breathing even more difficult. She gazed into the darkness behind her and turned back to his lecherous face in front of her. The vile man was triumphant and stood taller as though he had already claimed his victory, but she would not give in to him. She’d not go to him or allow him to take her. She would die first.
She took a step backward. “Come then and claim your prize. If you dare.”
“Do you think I won’t? I am the shaman; this cave does not frighten me.” But she could see his hesitation and pushed her advantage.
She backed in a little farther to where the darkness was a mere few steps behind her. She stopped. Taunted him. “I can smell your fear.”
He laughed, but it was humorless and laced with an apprehension that she could almost taste. It equaled her own. She took another step back. Now the shadowy fingers of the dark depths nearly touched her. He took a step forward, and she took a step back. She waited him out to see what he’d do, advance on her or turn way. He advanced, then went to his haunches.
“The stories are true Maya. The darkness has almost overcome you, and once it does, you’ll not return. You won’t see your parents, or your younger brother. Your family, your friends, all gone. Your life will be over. Come out and we’ll strike a bargain.”
Maya moved her foot against a rock large enough to use as a weapon, small enough to wield with accuracy. She stooped to grab it and stood again so as not to lose her advantage. Placing it in her sling, she remembered the fruit. Maya wondered if she could leave the cave and hit him hard giving her a chance to run past him back in the direction of the camp. No, it would never work. He was an older man but a wily one.
She had to decide: either put the stories to the test or walk out of the cave. The blood that ran from her torn skin and dripped down her arms and legs was now attracting insects. She decided if he rushed her, she would run further into the cave. No matter what happened, she’d stand here for as long as he stayed where he was. She’d only move when he did.
Then, right before her eyes, Lakan took several steps back and lay in the brush. She couldn’t see him for the vegetation but when next there was a movement she gasped. Instead of the shaman, a coyote was tracking her. Lakan was nowhere to be seen. Did the coyote kill him? Or did he do the unthinkable? Had he shifted?
Her shock at what she’d just witnessed stole her thoughts, freezing her in place until the animal started his measured stalking toward her. As he deliberately advanced, his aura almost mocked her. Her mind jolted into play and her body responded to the screaming in her head to run. Terrified, she had no options left, nowhere to go, no escape open. Her choices were to allow him to take her, violate her, and then kill her, for he wouldn’t risk her telling of his deed, or go farther into the cave. In that split second, she knew there was no choice. Her fate would be fulfilled today.
Maya heard the screaming and when she realized it was her own, she had to force herself to stop. It was not helpful, and the effort used up her energy. She called out to her lovers. Come to me, find me, save me. She slowed as she discovered she was fully enclosed in darkness, but she could see the scene ahead of her. The mouth of the cave was light.
Where was he? Where did the trickster go? Maya frantically sought to locate the large coyote, but he was nowhere. Panic seized her breast in lightning streaks of pain. Clutching her throbbing bosom, she thought he had gone, but she could feel him in the cold darkness. Very cold. The predator was quiet, but she could hear his labored breathing. She reminded herself he could normally walk without a sound. She tried to track the rasping due to the rapid rise and fall of his chest, but all she could discern was her own.
A wild cry came from her right. The cloth around her neck jerked. Hot rancid breath accompanied the attack. Teeth grabbed the sling, twisting it hard. She yanked the pouch away. Drawing out several of the gathered fruit to throw at the snout she could barely make out, she aimed in the dark. Grunts and growls intermingled as woman and beast battled. Her hand fell to the stone.
Her aim was true, and the soft thud of the creature as he dropped down on all fours added another dimension. He had released her sling completely, but Lakan’s animal form was stronger than his human shape. Maya ran without seeing her path. The farther she went, the darker and danker and more frigid it became, even in the heat of the day. Once again, she couldn’t hear his steps behind her. She stopped and waited while she caught her breath. The cave seemed to have no end. The fear of the total darkness encompassed her once again, adding to the uncontrolled breathing and trembling that had overtaken her.
The light from entrance never changed regardless of how far she ran. Then suddenly, it too, disappeared. She was disoriented. A shriek resounded in the emptiness. It was a horrifying, disembodied sound. Then a snarl and a howl followed as the coyote approached her. As he drew closer, she could see his eyes. They glowed in the dark the eerily yellow green of a shape shifter, a skinwalker. She had seen it in the darkness of the morning in her dreams, and when she awoke.
Maya turn to run farther into the blackness of nowhere. Sharp ice crystals lined the walls of the cave, cutting her skin sharply when she fell against them. Finally, when she knew she was exhausted and could go no farther she spied a glow ahead that grew larger. As she advanced, she heard noises like many trumpeter swans. Gathering the last of her strength, she went into the brightness. She called to her warriors as she entered the place of light and noise.
Suddenly, she was standing in blinding light, disorienting her as much as the darkness had and there was a whisper in her ear, in her head, familiar and comforting. Even though she couldn’t understand the words, she understood he was calling for her protection. His words were joined by two more, strong and encouraging. She soon could hear nothing but their voices as she crossed into the brightness.
As though in a lightning storm, fully surrounded by crackling blue air, the words of her warriors stopped. Total silence reigned. It was next replaced by a cacophony of unfamiliar sounds. The world was bursting with it. She was overwhelmed by noise, objects tall as mountains, smoke, and balls of light were everywhere. Maya turned to retreat, running into a rocky wall—solid, hard, and unyielding. Sprawled before her was an evil place like nothing she’d ever seen or dreamed.
No coyote. No shaman. No Lakan. No skinwalker. But she was here and as she looked up again, she saw strangely dressed men who were yelling as they ran towards her. As they grabbed her harshly, she became part of the chaos surrounding her. She wondered if she were dreaming again. But these weren’t her dream walker warriors.
This was her destiny. She knew today she’d find it or surely die trying.