Stavros pulled the jeep into his favorite parking space in front of the run down motel he’d lived in for the past five years. The hotel was not the worst place he’d lived in his ten thousand plus years of life, but it ranked up there. The white paint was flaking off the walls and the metal shutters were rusting and falling apart giving the building a sad and faded look. Inside was little better his fellow warriors were not the cleanest or neatest of beings and most of the common areas were so trashed they made a frat house look clean.
His fellow Ninmah warriors had bought the bankrupt hotel cheaply and converted it into their base of operations, with all the rooms there was plenty of space for the fifty plus warriors to each have their own room, while the old attached restaurant provided a meeting place as well as a place to cook meals.
Stavros sighed as he thought of the others, his so called comrades in arms, but even after ten thousand years he didn’t truly feel like a member of the Ninmah. He was one of only ten Ninmah warriors who was a black jaguar shifted, all the others were hybrid hyena and vampire bat shifters. Because he was different he’d never truly felt he belonged with them. It didn’t help that he was a good foot taller than the others and had jet black hair and cat green eyes while they had mottled black and grey hair and black eyes, or that the others all had a twisted sense of right and wrong and a pack mentality, while he as a cat preferred to be alone.
Well he had preferred to be alone until seven months ago when he’d stumbled upon his mate Rebecca. Rebecca was everything he could want in a mate and more, cute and curvy with deep green eyes and long wavy auburn hair. She was smart, really smart which he thought was sexy, kind, loving and a hard worker. Rebecca was also shy and loved plants, cats and books in equal measure, which was fine by him. He rather liked cats himself, and always had, even when the other warriors made fun of him he didn’t care, he’d just glare at them and they would back down.
Stavros was looking forward to an evening with Rebecca, or Becca as she preferred. A nice hot meal and then cuddling up with her on the sofa before a night of love making. They were also planning to celebrate tonight, Becca was pregnant with his son, his first child. She had gone to the doctor while he had been at work and texted him everything was good, that the baby was healthy and growing well, that she was doing well. Stavros had badly wanted to go but had been unable to get time off from his job as a security guard at the water plant, it galled him that having lived for ten thousand years, seen the rise of Kings and the fall of kingdoms he had to work a menial job. In truth he didn’t need the money, he had considerable wealth from his centuries of life but his job was his cover at the moment and it had given him something to do before he met Becca.
Stavros wanted to shout from the roof tops that after ten thousand years he not only had a mate but was going to be a father but he was afraid how the others would react. None of his fellow warriors had ever found their mates, and their jealousy had further inflamed their hate and rage against the Enki warriors and particularly their prince Galen Thanos who had not only found his mate but was expecting a child.
The others blamed the Enki warriors for their fall but it was not true. It was the master’s faults for when the masters left them behind on Earth they had caused a cataclysm that nearly whipped out the human race and left few females alive. Stavros knew it was not the Enki’s fault, they couldn’t help that human females found them irresistible, it was how they had been made. While the Enki had been the first to revolt against their masters and creators he could not blame truly them. The masters had wanted them to leave behind their wives and children, and not just leave them behind but let them all be wiped out as they were half breeds. Stavros knew now the anger, the rage they must have felt at having their wives and children ripped away from them. Rebeca was his world now, he would kill anyone that harmed her, kill anyone that threatened her.
Stavros reached for the door handle when his phone buzzed, with a frown he pulled it from his pocket to see that it was Akil another jaguar shifter and third in command. Stavros flipped on his phone as he stepped out of the jeep and looked towards his rooms picturing Rebecca waiting for him.
“What’s up?” Stavros demanded.
“Raaga has called a meeting, thirty minutes from now and you need to be there.” Akil said.
“And good evening to you too. What’s this about?” Stavros demanded in annoyance as his carefully planned evening with Rebecca was now destroyed.
“Just be here and be careful, it’s not good.” Akil said quietly before the phone went dead.
Stavros mumbled a stream of curses as he stepped around his jeep to open the back and pullout the gifts he bought for Rebecca. He pulled the key to their rooms from his pocket and headed towards the door of their quarters. After his people had purchased the hotel he’d selected two rooms with a connecting door on the ground floor, blocked in one outside door and then added a kitchen to the first room making an efficiency apartment. The others had laughed at his efforts but now that he was mated and had Rebecca he was glad he’d done it.
Stavros unlocked the door and stepped into his rooms, the wonderful aroma of baking chicken and biscuits wafted over him and he looked to the small kitchen to see Becca sitting at the kitchen table, working on her lap top with two of their three kittens on her lap. She looked up as he closed the door behind him and smiling broadly scooped the kittens up in her arms before hurrying to him, dumping the kittens on the sofa as she passed it.
“Stav your home.” Becca stood on tip toes as she wrapped her arms about his neck and pulled him down to her five foot three height. He willingly came as she covered his cheek in kisses.
“I missed you too kitten, something smells good.” Stav said giving her a kiss before stepping back.
“It’s baked chicken with white wine sauce and herbed stuffing with biscuits, a new recipe from my cook book.” Becca replied crossing back to the kitchen table to close her lap top and set it on a nearby book shelf.
“Sounds wonderful unfortunately I have to eat quickly, Raaga has called a meeting for thirty minutes from now and I have must be there.” Stavros set his bags and the one small box he was carrying down on the table as Becca tried to hide her obvious disappointment. “I’m sorry I know we were going to celebrate tonight, hopefully the meeting won’t last long. We will just celebrate afterwards okay. I’m sorry I missed your appointment, I felt so bad that I stopped and got these for you.”
“It’s okay, you had to work, and you have to go to the meeting, you’re an enforcer I get that. As long as we have cuddle time latter you’re forgiven, so what’s in the bags?” Becca asked.
“Take a look.” Stavros gave her a smile as Becca opened the first bag and squealed happily as she pulled out a ceramic planter shaped like a sleeping cat with a bunch of violets planted in the middle.
“It’s wonderful, I have the perfect place for it.” Becca stepped past Stavros and walked to the large metal shelf before the room’s only window. The shelf was already covered in plants, but Becca pushed some aside and slipped the violets into a prime spot before returning to Stav in the kitchen.
“Open this next.” Stavros held a tote bag out to Becca she nodded and reached inside to pull out two toys one a black cat plushy and the other a light blue teddy bear. “The cat’s for you the bear is for the baby, it’s really soft. I figured it isn’t too soon to start buying it stuff right?”
“They are both wonderful.” Becca hugged both toys to her then carefully put them back in the tote bag as Stavros handed her another bag.
Becca pulled three tins of gourmet cookies out setting them on the table. “You found my favorites. Thank you.”
Stavros shrugged before handing Becca the box. “Anything for you and now open this one.”
Becca set the shoe box sized box down on the table and pulled open the lid then gasped in surprise when a little black head popped out and dark smoky blue eyes looked up at her.
“It’s another kitten, oh Stav it’s adorable.” Becca scooped up the tiny kitten cradling it against her. “Where did you get it.”
“At work, I was out checking the pipes and heard this noise, I turned around and this little guy came tottering out of the weeds crying. I looked about but I couldn’t find his mom or any siblings, so I put him in my vest pocket and took him on my rounds with me. I gave him a bath in the men’s room sink on my lunch break and half my tuna sandwich, I though Blackie would be a good name.”
“It’s perfect, you can sit in my pocket while I get dinner on the table.” Becca kissed the kitten on the head then dropped it into the wide pocket on her apron before cleaning everything off the table. “Go get changed I’ll have dinner on the table in a second and thank you I love my presents.”
“You’re welcome Kitten I’ll be right back.” Stavros kissed Becca on the cheek again before hurrying into the other room to change and wash up for dinner.
Stavros peeled off his work clothes, throwing them onto the sole chair in the room before quickly washing up and changing into jeans and a black t-shirt. He stepped out of the room to see Becca had the food on the table and was sitting at the table waiting for him, Blackie cuddled against her chest.
Stavros gave her a smile and dropped to his seat as Becca pushed a platter covered in chicken towards him with a smile.
“How did I ever get so lucky?” He demanded as he spooned a huge portion onto his plate.
“I was thinking the same thing if it wasn’t for you I’d still be working at the diner and living in that one room roach infested hell hole.” Becca replied pushing the biscuits towards him.
“No I’m the lucky one I found you.” Stav said as he dived into his food and knew he meant it with every fiber of his being. Tomorrow he would show Becca the house he’d bought for her and their new baby, and then he would try to figure out how to get away from the others. He no longer needed them or even wanted to be around them, after thousands of years of not finding their mates they had all become violent and even insane and he would not let them hurt his mate.
Nothing mattered but Becca now, she was his world, if he had to he would go it alone or try and switch sides and offer his allegiance to the Enki warriors.
Thirty minutes later Stavros stepped into the crowded room and immediately saw Akil standing by the door, his friend nodded to him and motioned him over.
“What’s up?” Stav demanded and Akil motioned for him to be quiet.
“Nothing good, remember last year when Raaga, Wada and the others went to Syria for a while, well they found something in a cave. Something that they have been keeping hidden from us.” Akil replied softly.
Stav frowned then looked towards the back of the old restaurant where a dais had been constructed, before he could ask Akil another question their leader Raaga and his lieutenant Saahir stepped onto the dais followed by his four chosen enforcers Wada, Enil, Set and Rashida.
A shiver of dread went down Stav’s spine, the four enforcers were the darkest and most twisted of the Ninmah warriors. Once created by the masters to protect humans at night and in the gold mines they had long ago forgotten their vows to serve and protect the human slaves and now enjoyed hurting them, something Akil and Stavros had no stomach for.
“Thank you for coming there is something that I need to tell you all my brothers.” Raaga said loudly bringing silence to the room. Raaga was a true born and a first born, one of the few Ninmah born to a human mother, most of the rest had been conceived in test tubes and grown in vats, never knowing a mother’s love or touch. Those vat born were especially violent and evil, and Stav had often wondered if being so artificially made had warped their minds.
Around the room the others mumbled comments for him to get on with it, earning growls from Saahir and Wada.
“Quiet all of you, last year Wada, Set and I followed Galen Thanos and his man Bowden to a dig in the desert, there we discovered their scientists had uncovered an ancient cave filled with technology hidden by the creator Damu.” Raaga said bringing a combination of hisses and growls of anger from the others.
Raaga held up his hands bring quiet. “ Wada, Set and I killed their men and managed to make off with two of their devices, devices that we have been studying till now.”
“Why have you not told this before?” Akil demanded earning nods from the others.
“We wanted to learn what the devices did before we told you of them, wanted to be sure they worked.” Raaga replied. “The first device is a healing sarcophagus created by Damu, there had been four sarcophagus’ in the cave but we were only able to capture one. Thanos and his men reinforced by human followers made off with the other threes, the other device we found in the cave and took was a star portal created by Utu.”
Stavros frowned nothing made by Utu was good. Two of the ancients had been tasked with creating guards for the early humans by the Masters, Damu had created the Enki by splicing human genes with lion genes and Utu had created the Ninmah by splicing human genes with jackals and bats. Damu had respected and even loved the human slaves he was tasked with protecting, while Utu thought of them only as low creatures no better than bugs. When the fall had happened and the Masters had said it was time to leave Earth they had tasked Damu and Utu and several of the other ancients with not only destroying the human slaves but the hybrid children that had come from unions of the Ninmah and Enki with humans.
Damu had refused to help, instead trying to protect the humans that he loved. He’d taken a human as a mate and she’d born him several children, children that the Masters said must die. During the fall when the Masters had begun trying to destroy the humans and their creations the Enki and the Ninmah it had been Damu who had given a star portal to the Enki and helped many of them escape the cataclysms. During the fall the Masters had captured Damu’s children and if not for Galen Thanos and his men the children would have died.
Utu had done nothing for the Ninmah but laugh as they called for help, he had left them all to die with the humans they were meant to guard. It was only because the Ninmah had been strong and cunning that they had escaped the devastation that had claimed most of the humans. But the treachery had left the Ninmah angry and in some cases insane.
“A star portal like the one the Enki have, then why haven’t we used it yet?” One man shouted.
“Silence.” Saahir bellowed.
“The portal was created by Utu and not Damu, it is powered by blood stones. We also have not been able to decipher all the operating instruction inscribed on its sides.” Raaga stated.
“Blood stones, it shall never work then.” Lamented another warrior.
“Nay, Wada and his men have already been working to charge the stones. I will let him explain.” Raaga said motioning for a thin warrior with long hair to step forward.
“My men and I have already begun to charge the stones, as you remember they need a blood sacrifice that is frightened or distraught to create a good charge. We have been selecting and terminating females in the city to charge some of the stones.” Wada stated.
“Then you and the others have been killing the women in the news?” Akil demanded. “Why wasn’t I told about any of this, it was my right to know.”
“Because you are soft hearted and would of protested, you and Stavros are not true Ninmah, your weak cat nature makes you soft.” Wada sneered.
“I will show you weak when I gut you.” Akil snapped starting to surge forward only to be held back by Stavros.
“Quiet, Akil has been a loyal officer for many years. Now continue.” Raaga said.
“We have killed thirty females so far, and learned that the more terrified they are the more power they give off, and the faster the stones are charged. But we believe to fully charge all fifty stones with enough power to open a portal we shall need many more lives.” Waada stated.
“How many more lives?” Stavros demanded.
“We estimate a thousand, to that end we have purchased a location to create a device guaranteed to create maximum terror before killing the females.” Set said earning nods from the others.
A thousand females, a thousand was a monstrous number, even knowing thirty females had died so far sickened Stavros. Stavros had been true born, he still remembered his mother a gentle woman with black hair and dark eyes, she’d been the daughter of a chief who had thought he had been fathered by one of their gods. In the few years she had been allowed to raise him she had taught him to revere all life whether it be animal or human.
“You can’t be serious, you can’t kill a thousand females tis monstrous, and the humans will not stand for it. You risk all of us with such a mad plan, and to do what open a portal, a portal to where?” Akil snarled.
“We don’t know, at the moment we can’t activate the portal or direct it, we need someone to translate the writing on the device. The only being we know that can do this is prince Galen’s mate, his female according to our spies translated all the inscriptions on the other devices found in the cave. She shall have to be taken.” Raaga replied. “As for the deaths if we are careful the females shall not be missed till we are finished, and if they are missed nothing will lead the pathetic humans to us.”
“You have lost your minds. The humans are not stupid, they have cameras everywhere. All it takes is one mistake by one of you and it will bring the authorities right to us. And what of the Enki, do you think they will sit by and let you take their new princess, or that they will let you slaughter a thousand females?” Akil shouted.
“They will not be able to stop us, they are weak and few here most of them are spread throughout the world.” Raaga sneered. “In addition to taking Galen’s mate there is another female we must take, she works with the police and has been at all the locations where we have left the bodies, she is also of interest to Liam Cherevin”
Stavros mumbled a curse as he exchanged a look with Akil, he knew Liam and Keith Cherevin personally, in the distant past they had fought side by side as crusaders in the Holy Lands. If Liam was interested in a female it would be a bad idea to mess with her, and a worse idea to mess with a female police officer.
“What is she called?” Stavros demanded.
“Dr. Danielle Troy.” Raaga replied. “She is small and weak, she will be easy to take. Men will be assigned to follow her and when there is a chance she shall be taken. She will be brought to the new location for questioning and then sacrificed.”
Stavros exchanged a look with Akil, what the others proposed was madness that would only lead to their destruction. Akil tapped Stavros on the shoulder as he jerked his head towards the door. Stavros followed Akil out the side door of the restaurant and then a few feet from the building to step into the shadowed recess of the outside stair well.
“They have all lost their minds.” Stavros growled softly looking about nervously.
“I agree their jealousy of the others has turned to twisted hatred. They still blame the others for what happened thousands of years ago, it disgusts me that I, that we are a part of them.” Akil snarled.
“I agree with you, but what shall we do? We can’t let them murder all these women.” Stavros protested.
“I agree with you but we are few and they are many, and you have your woman to think of. For now we stay quiet and go along with them no matter how it disgusts us, and we look for a way to contact the others, to warn them what is about to happen. Were you not once friends with the Cherevin brothers?” Akil demanded
“Once long ago, but I don’t know if they would remember me or listen to me.” Stavros protested.
“Then you will have to wait till there is a time to talk to them, to warn them what is going to happen. But for now you need to take your woman away from here. Do you have some place safe to take her?”
“Very well you are right though it sickens me. And yes I have a place I can take Becca, some place safe.” Stavros said thinking of the new house he’d had bought for Becca, it was far outside the city and surrounded by a high fence, with a state of the art security system.
“Good now take her from here, I will go back into the meeting and watch and listen. I will call you tomorrow and we will talk more.” Akil said.
“Thank you and be careful.” Stavros replied.
Akil shrugged. “None would challenge me I was true born like you, now go.”
Stavros nodded then without looking back hurried down the sidewalk to his rooms pulling his key from his pocket as he went. He would have to tell Becca what had happened, she would not be happy , nor would she be happy being forced to move so quickly but all that mattered was her safety and that of their unborn. He would kill every one of the Ninmah if they so much as touched her, if the female Raaga and the others wanted to capture was truly Liam and Keith’s mate there would be no place safe on the planet for the Ninmah to hide. The brothers had been royal enforcers in the past famed for their skill at fighting, only a mad man would touch their female or try to take prince Galen’s woman.
Stavros sopped before his door starring at it for a moment as he thought of how he would tell Becca. He had lived over thirty thousand years, fought in more battles than he could count yet he stood before his door afraid of upsetting one small female, but the female was the most important thing in his long, long life, all that mattered was keeping her safe, making her happy again would come latter, taking a deep breath Stavros pushed his door open and stepped into his place closing the door softly behind him.