I forced my way through the throng of beings milling about the Bouhek Intergalactic Games Center’s dock, following the glimpses of her beautiful blond hair as she fled from me.
Panic stabbed into my gut.
I can’t lose her. I must find her.
She…that fierce-eyed human woman with hair as bright as a yellow star…she’s my mate!
My body still tingled where our skin had met when I discovered her raiding my laboratory. I’d meant to apprehend a thief but, as soon as my hands met her bare arms, my tattoos flashed white.
Who is she? What’s her name? I must catch her!
My heart already ached for her presence, her company, even one more glimpse of her stunning eyes. Thelkor caught up to me, shouting as we ran.
“Why’re we running?”
“Thelkor! Thelkor! I found my mate!”
My heart squeezed in my chest. My eyes darted here and there, but I hadn’t found even a hint of where she’d run to. I slowed my pace. I turned, searching the crowd for a human among a galaxy’s worth of alien life forms.
“I…I lost sight of her… Where’d she go? Thelkor, can you see her?”
“What’s she look like, Storgin?”
“Human. Hair the color of sun-drenched Earth honey, hazel eyes. Tall for a human…. Perfection…a gaze like she’d blast me without thinking twice…”
Grief at the loss of my mate sunk into my gut. I struggled to breathe. My chest tightened, squeezing my organs. I turned to Thelkor, grabbing him by the upper arms.
“Thelkor, we must find her. Help me find her and I’ll never experiment on you again, I swear!”
Thelkor slapped me across the face. Stunned, I blinked.
“What’d you do that for?”
“Snap out of it, Storgin. You’re not making any sense.”
I tried to break from his grip and plow further into the crowd on my mad, desperate search for her…but Thelkor grabbed me by the shoulders and slammed me to the ground.
“Did you try any new foods? Were you anywhere near juniper berries? Have you tried any new ‘experiments’ on yourself?”
I struggled against his grip, kicking and trying to regain my feet. Thelkor sat on me. As one of the largest Mahdfel I’d ever seen, Thelkor’s move worked. Trying to move him felt like trying to move an entire starship with only my hands.
“I’m not intoxicated or hallucinating, Thelkor.”
I sighed deeply.
“I caught someone pilfering my lab. I grabbed the intruder and MY TATTOOS FLASHED!”
Thelkor’s eyes popped open about as far as they’d go without spilling the eyeballs out of his skull.
“I tried to catch her, Thelkor. I tried to catch up with her. We must find her…”
“I understand. Yes, we must find her, and we will. But let’s be smart about it, like the human women keep telling us.”
Thelkor grabbed the collar of my uniform shirt and shook me.
“Get ahold of yourself, Storgin! We’ll find her faster with help and surveillance footage than by running through Bouhek like you’ve lost your mind.”
The thought exploded in my mind like a supernova. I grabbed Thelkor’s collar.
“You’re right! To Goldie!”
Thelkor eyed me suspiciously.
“If I let you up, will you be a good Mahdfel and return to our ship?”
“What am I, a child?”
Thelkor looked like he was thinking hard about how to answer my question.
“I don’t know if I believe you…”
“I’ll bet you two-thousand galactic credits I can locate her before you do.”
“You have a bet.”
Thelkor leaped to his feet and sprinted Goldie’s way. I scrambled to my feet and ran with the energy of a Mahdfel in love. Thelkor had a head start, but I was fighting for my mate. I pulled up next to him, but he veered, pushing me directly toward into a tall pile of crates.
I leaped, landing atop the pile. I pushed off, leaping over a gaggle of tittering Akle. They trumpeted their trunks in alarm as I sailed over their leafy heads. I landed solidly on the deck and sprinted ahead of Thelkor.
He roared and surged forward, but I reached Goldie’s entrance three steps ahead of The Golden Meridian’s gunner. Evelyn, Olath’s mate, looked at me, cocking her head.
“What’s up, Storgin?”
“I’ll tell you, but I want to tell everyone at once.”
Evelyn nodded. I called Rachel, our pilot and Thelkor’s mate, on my comms bracelet.
“Rachel? I need you to call everyone to the galley ASAP.”
Rachel’s voice crackled over the comms.
“Everyone meet Storgin in the galley in five minutes.”
I ran for the galley, barely avoiding tripping over various supplies choking Goldie’s corridors. I made it without any major injuries. Evelyn and Olath sat together on the booth side of the galley table.
Thelkor followed me in and grabbed a seat on the bench side of the table. Olath and Evelyn cast questioning glances Thelkor’s way. Thelkor replied with a smile and a twinkle of his eye. Evelyn’s eyebrows shot up, but she didn’t push further.
Rachel walked in from the corridor to the bridge and sat in Thelkor’s lap. They smiled at each other with such love, I thought my heart would break right there.
What if I can’t find her… What if this is all the time I ever get with my mate? What if… No, Storgin. Stop it. The crew of The Golden Meridian have already performed miracles—we can find her. We will find her.
I felt a tugging on my pant leg. I looked down. Lucky, Evelyn’s kehppû, stared up at me.
“Not now, Lucky.”
Lucky disagreed and crawled up my leg by its mouth tentacles. Lucky looked a lot like Mr. Fluffbutt, Evelyn’s cat—except for the tentacles on its mouth.
“Lucky, I’m busy…”
Lucky refused to be deterred from climbing atop my head. Its tentacles massaged my scalp. I took a deep breath.
It’ll be fine. Fate has brought my mate and me together once. I just need to have faith…
Captain Timcur’s voice brought me back into the moment. He stood near the galley table, his mate, Nora, cuddled up beside him. With everyone present, I couldn’t hold my news inside any longer.
“It’s my turn! I found my mate!”