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					                         FERTILITY RITE



    …It was an imposing black marble structure with thick, ridged
columns—a tall, sprawling expanse, simple in design, with clean
straight lines evincing strength, and a golden domed roof overhead.
With the rising sun, a crimson hue seemed to provide the building with
a fierce, emanating aura of energy.
    Lura walked into the shadow of the entrance. She narrowed her
eyes, trying to penetrate the darkness, but was unable to see anything.
She’d never been to the Temple before and could not begin to imagine
what awaited her inside.
    Turning to survey the area around her, she noted a statue to the
right. She assumed it to be a replica of the God Vu. An unwinged
woman dressed in the silver robe of an initiate appeared to be polishing
the statue. Lura noted the girl was paying particular attention to
polishing the phallic protrusion, which, from the pictures in the book
she’d studied, was surprisingly accurate. Apparently Vu was very well
endowed indeed.
    An unexpected heat began to swirl inside her, coiling at the juncture
of her legs. An urge shot through her to touch the smooth ridged
surface of the cock, to test its hardness. She watched as the initiate
smoothed the cloth slowly over the phallus, up and down, swirling it in
circles over the bulbous head. Liquid coated Lura's thighs at the
thought of being penetrated by such beautiful strength…
           ALSO BY ADRIANNA DANE

The Diary Of Lillian Manchester, Book I: The Stranger
                   Eluria’s Enforcer
                  Esmerelda’s Secret
                   Graphic Liaisons
                     If You Dare…
                  Jebediah’s Promise
              Legend Of The Beesinger
                Nights In White Satin
                Realm Of The Ice God
                      Sylvie’s Gift
                        Whisper
FERTILITY RITE

             BY

  ADRIANNA DANE




AMBER QUILL PRESS, LLC
    http://www.amberquill.com
                    FERTILITY RITE
              AN AMBER QUILL PRESS BOOK


       This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters,
locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination,
or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons
     living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

                     Amber Quill Press, LLC
                   http://www.amberquill.com

                      All rights reserved.
         No portion of this book may be transmitted or
reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in
     writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief
           excerpts used for the purposes of review.

              Copyright © 2005 by Theresa Gallup
                     ISBN 1-59279-452-1
             Cover Art © 2005 Trace Edward Zaber



  Layout and Formatting provided by: ElementalAlchemy.com




      PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
        For my husband,
without whose support my dreams
    would never be realized.
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 1


     Her destiny awaited. Yet like the rampant jungle seeking to
consume the land, Lura’s wild nature sought to dominate her. Only by
constant vigilance would she have any hope of containing it until the
rite was completed. They had left it almost too late. It had become a
trial to maintain the veneer of civilized behavior, yet her inner battle
must remain hidden, lest anyone realize how close the danger lurked.
     How much longer could she still the savage needs roiling inside
her? Long enough to find her mate?
     Once she was united with him and the ritual was completed, she
would be safe from the calling of her predatory blood. It would be
stilled. At least that’s how it had always been. She could only hope it
would be no different for her.
     Lura’s home, Vrotia, was a planet with lush, rich soil, located
within the Virgoan constellation of stars. It lay near the hand of Virgo,
remaining hidden from those adventurers who would seek to conquer
                                   1
                             FERTILITY RITE

its lucrative agricultural society. Its formal ruling class was matriarchal
in structure; celestial guidance was provided in the form of the
Priestesses of the Justynian Order.
     The majority of Vrotian women were winged, their offspring
always female. If the abnormality of an absence of wings at birth
occurred, it was determined the female was destined to serve within the
Justynian Order. Normally, these females were imbued by Vu with
other gifts to compensate in service to the Gods.
     Lucky women, Lura thought. The savage appetite never lurked
near, threatening to turn them into the uncivilized beasts of their
ancient lineage. They had no fear of being consigned to the jungle at
the other side of the planet, to lose all sense of civilized, human
emotion—to live only for survival as their animal instincts took
control.
     It was only the winged females who had to fight their nature until
the mating could be achieved. Unwinged women didn’t have to wait for
Vu to reveal the identity of their mate. And live in perpetual fear that
one could not be found.
     And if a woman belonged to the upper hierarchy of Vrotian society
it was even worse. The Priestesses presided and determined the proper
matings for the Vrotian females of the ruling classes.
     Many of the secondary societies of Vrotia formed matings with
visitors to the planet, those who sought trade agreements, or had skills
of value to the welfare of the society. No outsider was granted
citizenship on Vrotia unless a mating could be arranged with a Vrotian
female.
     Lura stared out over the panoramic landscape of her mother’s
dominion, contemplating the commencement of her upcoming fertility
rite. She sat on a white marble bench in the garden awaiting her
mother’s return from the Temple of Vu. For a year now the High
Priestess Dymetra had worked to plot the exact time when Lura should

                                    2
                             FERTILITY RITE

mate. And then she must commune with Vu to determine which planet
her mate would be chosen from.
    All of this was done in the secrecy of the Temple under the
watchful guard of the Priestesses. Lura had tried to remain patient, but
each passing day the urgency inside her grew stronger. She’d felt the
ripening attempt to consume her. If the rite didn’t take place soon, the
primal instinct would begin to assert itself. She’d seen it happen in
others when the Fertility Rite was unable to be consummated. Whispers
about how and where they were taken abounded.
    The only thing that was known for sure was that they were banished
to the other side of Vrotia across the large Rava Ocean, to the lush,
heavy jungles, uninhabited by civilization, reverting to the huntresses
of long ago. They were spoken of in hushed tones; folkloric horror tales
abounded about their primeval ways and bloodthirsty tendencies. No
one ventured into the jungles of Vrotia without protection—and then
only rarely.
    Lura was no exception from most young women in that she feared
the worst. It had become a daily battle to fight the churning hunger and
need to hunt for fresh meat. She hated what it was doing to her. To help
her harness the untamed appetites rising inside, her mother had
removed the livestock to the far end of the estate so that Lura would not
be tempted. Neither of them spoke of the rising urges they both knew
lurked inside her.
    In the last six months Lura had confined herself to the main house
of the estate, no longer trusting her instincts. She longed to feel the rush
of the wind beneath her wings as she glided across the land, and
watched enviously as others took to the skies above her.
    All it would take was one mating to still the savage yearnings
beating inside her. The right mating. And so each day dragged as she
waited impatiently for the summons, afraid it would never arrive and
the day would appear when they would come for her, cage her, and

                                     3
                            FERTILITY RITE

escort her to the jungle. The nightmares had become more frequent, and
the waiting more painful with each passing hour.
    Until this morning.
    At the rising of the primary sun, a message had arrived from the
Temple, summoning her mother to attend Dymetra. Lura had been in
the sun house, attending the delicate qulorna flower seedlings in
preparation for planting the stronger ones in the garden in planting
season. Her mother had hurried out to inform her of the summons and
then had rushed away, not wanting to keep the Priestess waiting.
    Lura attended her chores, but an expectancy hung heavy inside her,
as though she stood poised at the edge of a Vergosian mountain peak
ready to glide with the clouds.
    It seemed her mother had been gone for hours. As much as Lura
wanted to go to the Temple to demand entrance, and answers, it was
forbidden. Unless summoned by a Priestess, no one entered the Temple
of Vu—it was a sacred place and its protection was guarded zealously.
Harsh punishment was exacted from those who disobeyed.
    The secondary sun was high in the sky and there was still no word.
Her chores were completed and now all she could do was wait.
    “Lura.” Her mother’s voice called out to her from the entrance hall
inside the house.
    Lura rose from her seat next to the fountain and hurried inside to
greet her. Pacing the tiled floor of the hallway outside the entry to the
informal reception room, her mother appeared agitated, clasping and
unclasping her hands in front of her. As Lura entered, Daleena look up.
    “I’m here, Mother. What did Dymetra say?”
    Her mother walked over to her, hugged her, then placed an arm
around her shoulders and led her toward the smaller, informal,
tranquility room. It was quieter, more intimate—and soundproof.
Daleena pulled the doors closed and drove home the locking
mechanism.

                                   4
                            FERTILITY RITE

    Lura sat on the long retiring chair and waited with hands clasped in
her lap for her mother to relate what had transpired at the Temple.
    Twenty-five years she’d waited for this moment. She had prepared
for the mating that was about to occur—kept her feathers well groomed
and pliant, read the books required, understood as much as possible the
expectations of the mating. Was eager for it. Her biggest concern was
whether she would be able to convince her mate to return with her to
Vrotia.
    Her mother had been unable to convince her father. Hence, Lura
had never known her sire. Would she be required to return to raise her
child alone?
    She inched close to the edge of the chair. “Well, Mother?” She tried
to be patient, to maintain the serenity of good manners demanded of all
Vrotian females. Her wings itched to expand in excitement, but she
managed with a determined will to contain them.
    A quick glance over her shoulder, and she was pleased to note that
they lay dormant, neatly aligned with the curve of her back. She had
folded the trailing, longer white feathers gently to each side of her
before she sat down.
    Her mother sat in a chair across from her. “Dymetra has completed
the calculations. Tomorrow you will be accepted into the Temple to
begin the Fertility Rite.”
    Nervousness and excitement danced together inside Lura. She’d
waited so long for the time to arrive. It was also a relief. Although the
full details of the ceremony were always kept secret from those who
had not been mated, she did not fear what was to come. She was
curious, but not afraid.
    “Tomorrow?” What she did know from friends of hers who had
undergone the ritual, she would be required to remain at the Temple for
at least seven days. That was apparently how long it took for the initial
Rite to be performed.

                                   5
                            FERTILITY RITE

    “Yes. They will prepare you for the first meeting with your chosen
one. Dymetra seems more excited than usual.” Daleena leaned forward
in her chair. “I believe there is something unusual in this mating,” she
continued in a hushed voice.
    Lura’s eyes widened. “U-Unusual? In what way?”
    Daleena reached out a hand to clasp one of Lura’s. “Oh, not in a
bad way. Rather than unusual, maybe I should have said special.
Something very special is about to take place.”
    “Did she say anything else?”
    “No. You know how the Priestesses are—everything is very
secretive.”
    Lura saw something in her eyes. There was more her mother wasn’t
telling her. “What else, Mother?”
    Her mother blinked and looked away, a blush rose in her cheeks.
“When I mated with your father twenty-five years ago on Kastra, he
was unable to return to Vrotia with me. There were—reasons. The
Priestesses continued to monitor his activities. Apparently, something
has changed.” It was a vague statement, but Lura felt there was a
wealth of meaning behind it.
    Kastra was in a galaxy far to the north of the Virgoan Constellation.
Her mother had described her father as a tall, dark man. He came from
a warrior race of beings—strong and virile, and extremely
confrontational. Considering their blood-thirsty heritage, it was
surprising to Lura that Vu had sanctioned such a mating. Vrotia was a
total opposite to Kastra. The planet had been in the middle of a civil
war at the time, and her father refused to leave his tribe to return with
her.
    “What aren’t you telling me?” she asked pointedly.
    “Now that you are of age, the Priestesses have agreed to allow me
to contact him again. It will be lonely once you have set up your own
household. I do not wish to remain alone and I may have an

                                   6
                            FERTILITY RITE

opportunity to re-establish my connection with him. My duties as your
protector and guardian will no longer be required.” She smiled. “But I
will always be your mother.”
    Lura put her hand over her mother’s. “I understand, Mother. I
wouldn’t want you to remain alone. I want you to be happy. And I
would be honored to finally greet my father.”
    “It will not occur until after the completion of your Fertility Rite.
Don’t worry about tomorrow. The Priestesses will guide you through
the ceremony.”
    “Do you know where my mate is from? What planet?”
    Her mother shook her head. “No. They gave me no details, other
than that the alignment was right. It is the third quarter of the cycle—a
good time for a new beginning.”
    Lura nodded. “It is my favorite time of the cycle, when the harvest
has been completed and the earth is readied for sleep. A peaceful time.”
    Daleena rose to her feet. “I will have Kimi prepare your bath. She
will attend your cleansing so you present to the Temple well groomed.
You must fast this evening in preparation, and this room must be
prepared for your meditations to Vu in thankfulness.”
    “Yes, Mother.”
    Daleena turned away, hurrying to the door. “So much to prepare so
you are ready.”
    “Mother,” Lura called. She could see her mother’s agitation in the
gentle flutter of her wings. Daleena turned back to her.
    “It will be all right. I am prepared and eager for the Rite to begin.”
    Her mother offered her a gentle smile and walked back to her. She
cupped her face with both hands, leaned down and placed a kiss on her
forehead.
    “You have been my joy, Lura. Remember that. The Rite—you may
fear and not understand immediately some of the intricacies involved. It
will feel strange to you. They are necessary and it is a progression that

                                    7
                            FERTILITY RITE

must occur. But you will know great pleasure and contentment before it
has ended.”
     “Don’t worry, Mother. I fear it far less than I do a reversion to the
ancient ways. I am eager for the Fertility Rite.”
     Daleena nodded and released her. “I must confer with Kimi and see
to it all is in order before your departure tomorrow.” She turned and
hurried from the room.
     Lura rose and walked slowly back out to the garden, seeing things
differently from an hour before. Suddenly everything seemed more
vivid, more alive, and anticipation soared through her. She was more
than eager for the unknown to begin.
     She walked to the edge of the sandstone walkway and looked out
over the dormant fields. What would he be like? She’d tried to imagine
over the last long months, but his face was never clear to her. From
reading the books, she knew the mechanics of mating and the male
physiology, but little more than that. He would touch her, his hard shaft
would enter her body, and he would plant his seed inside her. And
because it was her fertile cycle, a child would result from the mating.
     She splayed a hand across her stomach. What would it be like to
feel life growing inside her? To know she was the guiding hand of a
little girl who would wing her way into her life. A moment of fear
overwhelmed her in the knowledge of such great responsibility.
     Her mother had been required to raise her alone all these years
without her mate. Would she be as unlucky? She hoped not.
     After the cleansing ritual was completed this evening, and the
second sun had set, she would retreat to the tranquility room and pray
to Vu that all would be well with the mating. The pre-Ritual meditation
would continue until the rising of the primary sun. At its dawning her
mother would escort her to the Temple and she would be met at the
entrance arch by a Priestess.
     She looked up at the setting suns. Soon the wait would be over and

                                    8
                            FERTILITY RITE

her initiation into womanhood would begin—and there would be no
turning back. It was a blessed time and she was thankful Vu had finally
seen fit to grant her a mate.
    Would he be gentle? Or a fierce warrior like her father? What if he
didn’t want her? She shuddered at the thought of what it would mean.
She’d never seen one of the wild ones, but her imagination magnified
what she anticipated her life would be like. It wouldn’t really be a life
as she knew it, would it? The instinctive animal urges would command
her.
    Wheeling around, she refused to continue that train of thought. She
would complete the Fertility Rite, and her future and that of her child
would be secured. Her seduction would be successful. It had to be.




                                   9
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 2


    A knock at the tranquility room door pulled Lura from her
meditation. She looked up and out the small overhead window, noting
the primary sun was just on the horizon. It was time for her to leave for
the Temple. She hoped her communion with Vu was sufficient to
secure her path.
    Rising from the cushions, she walked across the room to open the
door. Her mother stood there, waiting for her.
    “It is time to depart, Lura. Are you ready?”
    The night before, Kimi had cleaned her wings thoroughly, using a
whitening agent to enhance their color. Combing each feather with a
minuscule implement that separated and fluffed had seemed to take
hours until Kimi was satisfied. The long endfeathers were delicate and
fragile so she’d taken extra care with them.
    When the wings were groomed to her satisfaction, she massaged the
fragrant qulorna lotion into Lura’s skin, then combed her long white-
                                   10
                            FERTILITY RITE

blonde hair until it glimmered in the candlelight.
     Donning the silky white robe in preparation for the ritual, Kimi
bound the waist with a golden braided rope belt. A garland of small star
flowers was threaded through her hair. Kimi stood back and surveyed
her head to foot, then nodded her approval. Only then was Lura
allowed to go to the tranquility room to begin her meditations.
     “Yes, Mother, I’m ready.” The meditation to Vu had left her with a
mellow, quiet feeling inside. For a time the primitive urges were
subdued and she was eager to reach the Temple to begin before they
roused again.
     They walked the distance to the Temple across a green meadow
littered with wildflowers. Lura always loved the feel of cool grass
beneath her bare feet. She tingled with the fresh morning air and the
fire in the sky at daybreak.
     Feeling the greatest urge to soar into the blue expanse and glide
through the air to watch the primary sun rise above her, she felt the
flutter of her wings against her back. That moment before the first burst
of sunlight she felt so free with her wings outstretched catching the
pockets of wind and she’d dance in its embrace.
     Her wings were commanded by nature more than conscious will. It
took much training to usurp the natural instincts of her body, and there
were times when willpower could not supersede those instincts,
particularly in moments of extreme emotion or danger. But now was
not one of those moments, and they returned to lie peacefully at her
back.
     She stopped walking and inhaled deeply. Things would change the
moment they crested the hill, and she needed this moment to commune
with the earth.
     She allowed her wings their freedom and they extended to full
breadth as she threw her head back and her arms out and felt the
morning embrace her. It lasted but a moment when fear grabbed at her

                                   11
                            FERTILITY RITE

as she felt a primality begin to swamp through her. Opening her eyes,
she flashed a glance to the outcropping of trees to the left. She could
smell a presence there.
     Her eyes caught movement, dilated to focus in, and her senses rose
to full alert. Living prey awaited and she salivated at the thought. As
she turned toward the trees, a firm hand clamped down on her forearm.
She turned her head to protest and met her mother’s sharp
determination.
     “Control it, Lura. Don’t let it overtake you. If you fly for the doe
now, your opportunity for the mating will be destroyed.” They dueled
silently for long moments as Lura fought internally to control the rising
lust for the kill—to taste fresh meat.
     Slowly her wings collapsed against her back as she drove down the
primitive huntress who sought for control. What had begun as a simple
enjoyment of the morning had almost destroyed her. A shudder ran
through her at the near disaster that had been averted. She was caught
unaware and it could not happen again.
     She looked down at the ground, unable to meet her mother’s gaze,
then continued walking in hurried steps, eager to reach her destination.
     “Lura,” her mother called, but she couldn’t stop. She was
embarrassed and sickened by what had almost occurred. She felt her
mother’s hand at her shoulder. “It will be all right. Once the mating is
complete, the danger will be averted.”
     “I hate what it does to me. I’m afraid I can’t control it. You know
it’s why I haven’t flown for so many months. I fear what I will do.”
     “The Rite will change your chemistry, Lura. It will resolve the
primitive instincts, but it also somehow destroys the ability to mother
male children. I don’t know exactly why, but it is some type of
exchange. Either we revert to our savage beginnings or we carry only
female children and must mate outside our race. For some reason our
genes hold the dominant factor, and, for the most part, we create other

                                   12
                            FERTILITY RITE

winged beings like ourselves. It is the odd occasion when the wings are
absent, but in no case is there a male child. Maybe because of the
aggressive tendencies that are more prevalent in the males, somehow
Vu has altered our species.”
    “I know that, Mother. Do you think it is the species we mate with
that determines the ability to mother a male child? Or does Vu allow us
only those mates who will father daughters?”
    Her mother shook her head. “I don’t know—the Priestesses don’t
know. It is in the hands of Vu. No race is perfect. We lose one thing to
gain another. Some sort of balance to our civilization, I guess. But these
instincts to kill for food will disappear. You know me—I do not kill.
Your friends, once they mated, have not had the urges. Right?”
    “No, they haven’t. It has given me some sense of ease to know
that.”
    “Then let us get to the Temple and begin the ritual. The sooner it is
complete, the better it will be for you.”
    They reached the top of the hill and looked down into the valley.
The white arch at the beginning of the walkway leading to the Temple
of Vu rose glistening beneath the rays of the early morning light. Two
women with dark hair, robed in white stood at the entrance.
    “You must go the rest of the way alone, my dear. I will wait here to
see that you reach the arch safely.”
    A moment of panic seared through her. “You won’t go with me to
the arch? I thought we would have more time.”
    Her mother smiled. “The time has come, Lura. You must continue
this journey alone. Once the mating is complete and you return to
Vrotia, you will receive the land deed to your estate. I will not be here
when you get back.”
    “Why?”
    “Once I receive word of your success from Dymetra, I will journey
to Kastra. I don’t know how long I will be away, but I mean to

                                   13
                            FERTILITY RITE

convince your father to return. You will be long settled by the time I
return. And my granddaughter may be birthed by then.”
    “So much will change,” Lura whispered. It finally dawned on her
that a part of her life had now reached completion and a new path was
spread before her.
    “That is the way of life. Embrace it, daughter. Now go.”
    Her mother hugged her and then gently pushed her toward the path
leading down the other side of the hill. As she approached the arch, one
of the Priestesses stepped forward.
    Lura halted before them. “I have been summoned by Dymetra and
have permission to enter. I am Lura.”
    “We have been expecting you. Dymetra awaits.” The taller of the
women motioned for her to precede her down the path to the Temple.
Lura caught her first sight of the Temple as they rounded a bend in the
path, and to say it was impressive would have been an understatement.
    It was an imposing black marble structure with thick, ridged
columns—a tall, sprawling expanse, simple in design, with clean
straight lines evincing strength, and a golden domed roof overhead.
With the rising sun, a crimson hue seemed to provide the building with
a fierce, emanating aura of energy.
    The Priestess led her up the many steps leading to the entrance.
When they reached the top, she turned to Lura. “Wait here. I will
inform Dymetra you have arrived.”
    She walked into the shadow of the entrance. Lura narrowed her
eyes, trying to penetrate the darkness, but was unable to see anything.
She’d never been to the Temple before and could not begin to imagine
what awaited her inside.
    Turning to survey the area around her, she noted a statue to the
right. She assumed it to be a replica of the God Vu. An unwinged
woman dressed in the silver robe of an initiate appeared to be polishing
the statue. Lura noted the girl was paying particular attention to

                                  14
                            FERTILITY RITE

polishing the phallic protrusion, which, from the pictures in the book
she’d studied, was surprisingly accurate. Apparently Vu was very well
endowed indeed.
    Her curiosity drove her to wander over to watch the girl complete
her task and get a closer look at the statue. He gleamed beneath the
light of the newly-risen sun, and sparkled from the polishing. Her
interested gaze wandered over the definition of muscle and hard
contours, finally resting on the representation of the stiff, clearly-
defined shaft rising from between his legs.
    An unexpected heat began to swirl inside her, coiling at the juncture
of her legs. An urge shot through her to touch the smooth ridged
surface of the cock, to test its hardness. She watched as the initiate
smoothed the cloth slowly over the phallus, up and down, swirling it in
circles over the bulbous head. Liquid coated Lura's thighs at the
thought of being penetrated by such beautiful strength.
    Somewhere, her mate awaited. Would his cock be as worthy as the
one she now surveyed with anticipation? Never having seen a man
naked, she had no idea if they all measured the same or differently.
    “I see you are fascinated by Vu. He would be pleased with your
perusal.”
    Lura whirled around to face the speaker. This must be Dymetra. An
older woman with streaks of white threading through her dark hair, she
held the air of command about her. Dressed in the golden robe of
power girdled at the waist by a red sash, she still exhibited the lush
figure of a young girl rather than the maturity of her ancient age. Lura
surmised she must be well over one hundred by now.
    Lura dipped her head, clasping her hands before her. “I apologize,
Priestess. I should have waited at the entrance as directed.”
    “No need. The first glimpse of Vu always fascinates those who
have never been to the Temple before.” She turned toward the statue,
watching as the young initiate completed her task and gathered up her

                                   15
                           FERTILITY RITE

cleaning implements. “A very virile representation of the figure of a
man, don’t you think?”
     “Yes, Priestess.”
     “Are you nervous about what will take place?”
     “A little. But I am eager to begin.”
     Dymetra nodded. “I am not surprised. It has been a longer process
than usual. The alignment would not correspond correctly, but at last
we are ready. And we now understand the reason for delay. I believe
you will find it has been well worth the wait.”
     “My mother indicated there might be something unusual?”
     “Not usual, but special. I will explain later.” She turned toward a
tall priestess who waited silently behind her. “Dyanne, take Lura inside
and prepare her for the Temple Rite.”
     “Certainly, Dymetra.”
     She turned back to Lura and smiled. “Soon you will no longer need
to worry about the wildness you’ve been experiencing.”
     Lura looked at her in surprise. How had she known?
     Dymetra nodded. “All young women experience the call of the
huntress before the rite is completed. For you it has been worse, I can
see it lurking in your eyes. Go along with Dyanne.”
     Lura walked past her and followed Dyanne into the shadowed
recesses of the Temple. Dyanne picked up a torch from a sconce on the
wall at the entrance and led her inside. The passageway opened into a
large chamber with a circular altar at its center. The room was ringed
with candles contained in tall red glass containers on pedestals,
providing the room with an ethereal red glow. The floor was a smooth
white marble. Symbols were etched into the face of a circular ring of
black marble just outside the altar at the core.
     Passage doorways exited the room at regular intervals all the way
around the exterior.
     “Follow me,” Dyanne called her attention back to her. Lura trailed

                                  16
                            FERTILITY RITE

behind her as she turned into one of the walkways at the opposite side
of the chamber. Walking past several doors, suddenly she stopped and
entered one of the rooms. She turned and motioned for Lura to follow
her inside.
    It was a small room, similar to the size of a sleeping chamber. At
one side was a bathing tub filled with water, at the other side was a
small altar, similar to that in the tranquility room at home. On the same
side of the room as the tub was a sleeping mat next to the adjacent wall.
    Dyanne placed the torch in an iron sconce on the wall, then turned
back to Lura. “Remove your garments and step into the tub. You must
be cleansed once more before the sacred rite can begin.”
    With shaking hands, Lura removed the girdle at her waist and
placed it on a small bench at the side of the tub. Careful not to ruffle
her wings too much, she pulled her robe over her head and set it with
the girdle. It embarrassed her to be naked before this Priestess, who
was a stranger to her.
    Dyanne held out a goblet to her. “Drink this.”
    Lura took the goblet from her. “What is it?”
    “Nothing that will harm you. It is a fruited wine meant simply to
help you relax. Most young women are very nervous when they arrive.
I can tell you are extremely tense. It is not surprising or unexpected.”
    “I don’t know what to expect.”
    Dyanne nodded. “Drink the wine and then get into the bath,” she
directed.
    Lura lifted the goblet to her lips and drank down the sweetened fruit
drink. She handed the goblet back to Dyanne, who turned and walked
over to the altar. Setting down the goblet, she then lit an incense stick.
The aroma of jasmine filled the room.
    Lura stepped into the bath and slid downward. The water wasn’t too
hot or cold. Dyanne walked back to her and lifted her hair so that it
trailed outside the tub.

                                   17
                             FERTILITY RITE

    “Lean back, close your eyes, and relax, soak some of that tension
out. I assume you were meditating all night. It won’t hurt to rest a bit. I
will be back shortly.” Her hands stroked Lura’s hair. “Think of your
mate and the fact that you will soon be with him.”
    It wasn’t long before Lura’s eyelids grew heavy and she felt the
tension rushing out of her as the wine and the incense drew her
anxieties from her.




                                    18
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 3


    Lura woke with a gasp when she felt two hands on her shoulders,
massaging gently. She turned her head to see who it was and leaned
back again when she saw Dyanne.
    “You startled me. How long was I asleep?”
    Her fingers felt wonderful, working out all the odd kinks and knots.
“Not long. But it’s time for you to get out.” When her hands fell away,
Lura wanted to ask her not to stop, but didn’t.
    As Lura stood, a long toweling robe was wrapped around her and
other hands helped her from the tub. She turned to discover two
initiates standing behind her.
    “Lie on the mat face down,” Dyanne instructed her once she was
thoroughly dried.
    She already felt totally relaxed.
    “What will happen now?”
    “You must be prepared to accept the wooden phallus.” Lura felt the
                                  19
                            FERTILITY RITE

woman's fingers press against the small of her back, then circle in tight,
pressing circles.
    “What?” Lura jerked around to rise.
    Dyanne encouraged her to lie back down. “Relax. It will be much
easier if you do so. I’m just going to help ease your muscles so you can
accept it with less pain. It will not be unpleasant.”
    It was difficult enough to disrobe and stand naked before the
Priestess. Even with her mind hazy from the wine, she felt uneasy.
    “What do you mean ‘accept the wooden phallus’? What exactly am
I going to be required to do?”
    “A special wooden phallus has been prepared for your ritual. When
you are ready, it will be brought to you. So that your mating goes
easier, and you are fully prepared to accept your mate, the veil of
chastity will be pierced by the phallus. The blooded phallus will then be
sacrificed to Vu, an offering to bless your union.”
    Lura’s mind was growing hazy as the knowledgeable hands eased
the tension from her body. The scent of the incense seemed thicker in
the air, numbing her mind.
    “I-I can’t think straight.” Her words sounded slurred to her. What
was happening?
    Dyanne’s hands were again at the small of her back, moving
downward across her buttocks.
    “You shouldn’t—” But she couldn’t complete the thought as
unfamiliar sensations seemed to assail her. No one had ever touched
her so intimately before. Even when Kimi attended her, she’d never
touched her in any personal fashion.
    “Think about your mate, Lura. Do you dream of him? What he will
look like?”
    “Yesssss,” she breathed, falling more deeply under the spell of the
Priestess's hands.
    “What does he look like in your dreams?” She felt Dyanne move

                                   20
                            FERTILITY RITE

her legs apart, then begin to knead her inner, sensitive thighs and move
downward along the backs of her legs. A tingle began to spiral inside
Lura. She tried to concentrate on answering her questions.
    “I don’t know what he looks like. I never see his face.”
    Hands moved across Lura’s calves and down to the arches of her
feet. That felt so good.
    “What about his body? What does he look like?” Dyanne's hands
stroked back up Lura’s legs. Swirling heat emanated from Lura,
beginning at her stomach and flaring outward.
    Lura moaned and felt a wetness begin to seep from her. Pleasurable
feelings began to swamp her. She needed something, but she didn’t
know what it was. Between the thought of her mate and Dyanne’s
hands, which now seemed to be teasing her nerve-endings into a fiery
need, her thoughts tumbled weightlessly.
    She parted her lips, taking in quick pants of breath, tried to regain
her composure, to think rationally, but the sensations overrode her
thoughts. Her hands balled into fists as she attempted to gain control of
her body.
    “I-I can’t think. I…he usually is at a distance, across a golden field
of wheat. I wake too soon.”
    “What do you fantasize he will be like?” The hands stopped
moving. “Turn over for me.”
    With sluggish movements, Lura managed to turn over onto her
back. Unclasping her hands, she placed them flat to the mat. As she
looked down, she was embarrassed to find her nipples tightly beaded
and, at the apex of her thighs, glistening beads of moisture sheened her
smooth skin. She turned her face to the wall, embarrassed at her
responsiveness to the Priestess.
    Dyanne began massaging her legs, slowly working upward.
    “You have a beautiful body, Lura. Your mate will be pleased, I am
sure.”

                                   21
                            FERTILITY RITE

    Lura tossed her head back and forth against the bed and bit her lip
as a fierce need to move against the hands speared through her. Hard as
she tried, she couldn’t stop the instinctive response of her body to
Dyanne’s ministrations.
    “Please stop. I feel like I’m on fire. I can’t seem to catch my
breath.”
    Dyanne stroked a hand across her ribs and down over her abdomen.
    “Relax. Go with the feelings. It will only serve to help you later.”
    “This can’t be right. I shouldn’t be feeling these things. Not here.
Not with you.”
    Lura gasped as she felt a slender finger penetrate her vagina. “What
are you doing?”
    Dyanne turned her head to the doorway. “Bring the phallus. She is
almost ready to embrace it.” She turned back to concentrate on Lura,
easing her finger in and out, then added a second.
    Lura struggled against the pleasure. “Please, stop.” Yet she couldn’t
seem to bring herself to force Dyanne to move away. Whatever she was
doing felt lovely, a fluid gliding pressure, sliding back and forth,
igniting the fire inside.
    “Do you truly wish to halt the ritual, Lura?” Her fingers stopped
moving. Her eyes locked with Lura’s, waiting for an answer.
    To end the ritual meant she would not meet her mate and it would
eventually culminate in her returning to the wild nature of her
ancestors. She didn’t want that.
    Leaning back, she tried to relax. “I don’t want to halt the ritual. It
must be completed.”
    “Am I hurting you?”
    “No. I don’t understand these feelings. I shouldn’t be having them.
You are not my mate.”
    Dyanne’s fingers began moving again as she continued stroking
Lura’s hip with her other hand.

                                   22
                            FERTILITY RITE

    “No, I am not. Your body responds to the pleasure. There is nothing
wrong in that. You will understand soon enough.” She removed her
fingers and stepped back from the bed. “Your body is ready to accept.”
    Lura felt an odd emptiness when Dyanne removed her hand. She
had been at the brink of something, yet she felt it had been lost
somehow.
    “Rise to your knees,” Dyanne instructed her.
    She did as she was asked.
    One of the initiates stood next to Dyanne, holding an object setting
on a white silken cloth.
    “Take the phallus from her.”
    Lura picked up the object and studied it. It was about six inches
long and not very heavy. Thick and shaped with the large, rounded
head of a man’s penis at one end, the other end flared outward.
    She found herself fascinated by it. It was made of the pristine white
wood of the albino tree, which was rare indeed; the wood of the albino
tree was only used in sacred ceremonies of the Temple.
    “This phallus is shaped in the form of a man’s penis. It is sufficient
to pierce the protective veil, but will not harm you. Do you
understand?”
    Lura nodded.
    “You must insert it into your vagina and stroke in and out. When
you are ready, you must thrust inward and break the barrier. You will
feel a slight pain, but this must be done to continue with the ritual.”
    “I understand.” She brought the shaft down to her wet and engorged
opening and centered the tip.
    “Do it slowly,” Dyanne cautioned, “there is no need to rush. Think
of your mate as you penetrate. Imagine how his shaft will feel thrusting
inside you, bringing you pleasure.”
    Lura pressed upward, and the head of the phallus entered,
separating her lips, widening her.

                                   23
                             FERTILITY RITE

    She felt Dyanne put an arm around her shoulders, steadying her,
leaning close to her side.
    “Your man’s penis will be much thicker and longer than this
replica. It will be warm, hot with life.”
    Lura eased the phallus deeper, pulled it out, and thrust inward
again. She felt her juices cover the phallus, making each penetration
easier, until it slid in and out with little friction, yet she could feel it
pressing against the walls of her channel. Vaguely, she heard the
chanting of the initiates in the background.
    Her hips began moving in a rhythm, in answer to the motions of her
hand and the visions in her mind inflamed by Dyanne’s words and the
music of the chants. Hands came from behind her and cupped her
breasts, kneading them, teasing the buds. Sensations swam through her.
The sounds, sensations, and scents flooded through her, around her.
    “I-I feel at the brink of something. Like I’m about to soar off a
cliff.”
    “Thrust home now,” Dyanne hissed in her ear.
    She pushed hard and felt a tear as the shaft broke through. Yet her
gasp came not from the pain, but from the pleasurable release which
washed over her in spasms as her first climax surged through her. She
felt herself spasming around the stiff shaft buried inside her.
    The Priestesses moved away from her. Throwing her head back,
Lura arched and her wings expanded in a rising joy she’d not
anticipated. She released a groan from deep inside, and a long whoosh
of breath rushed from her lungs. Her wings extended outward, curved
back and then flew forward, instinctively seeking to shield her
vulnerability. Her shudders eased and her wings slowly retreated to lie
against her back.
    She would have collapsed if Dyanne had not rushed forward again
and supported her as the vestiges of emotion ran rampant through her.
    Once she regained control, she eased the phallus from her passage.

                                    24
                             FERTILITY RITE

Glancing at it, she noticed it was tinged with red, the evidence of her
chasteness.
     One of the initiates held out the cloth and Lura laid the phallus onto
it. She carefully enfolded it into the silk.
     Dyanne helped her from the bed, and she stood on shaky legs.
     “Now we complete this part of the ritual. Dymetra and the other
priestesses await us. Come with me.”
     Lura went with Dyanne through the hallway and into the central
chamber. She stopped, daunted by the number of women gathered
there. Although she was naked, they were all clothed in hooded silk
robes, the colors indicating their station within the Temple. Each
woman held a red flickering candle and stood in a circle around the
room.
     It parted and Dymetra stepped forward. She received the silk
sheathed phallus from the initiate, who then stepped aside and took her
place with the others.
     Dymetra walked to Lura. “Come, my dear, we must prepare the
sacrifice. Lura hesitantly followed her to the center of the room before
the circular altar. Dymetra pulled back the silk and held the icon out to
Lura.
     “You must place this in the grooved center of the circle.”
     Lura took the phallus and knelt before the altar. Reaching over, she
positioned the phallus in an upright position and twisted it down until it
locked securely in the hollow core. There appeared to be an indented
well surrounding the center that was filled with some form of liquid.
     She rose to her feet and turned toward Dymetra.
     “Begin your chant to Vu as you touch this torch to the ring of oil.
Hand me the torch and kneel before the purification fire. By staring into
the cleansing flames, the face of your mate will be revealed to you.
When this part of the ritual is completed I will tell you more of your
future.”

                                    25
                            FERTILITY RITE

    Lura took the torch, leaned down and held it to the ring of oil,
which immediately broke into a roaring red-gold ring of flame. She
handed the torch back to Dymetra and quickly sank to her knees.
Clasping her hands before her, chanting as she’d been instructed, she
fixed her unwavering gaze on the golden flames.
    The phallus was soon engulfed by the fire, a pillar of raging flame.
As the fire roared higher with the added fuel, a vision did indeed
emerge in the form of a face.
    Lura stopped chanting, mesmerized by the handsome masculine
features revealed to her. Thick brown hair, strong, square jaw, intense
eyes. And then it disappeared. Unthinking, she reached a hand out,
wanting to see more, to touch his features. The heat of the inferno
reminded her where she was before burning her skin and she quickly
pulled her hand away. But the vision had been enough for her to be able
to recognize him when she saw him.
    “Rise, Lura. Your gift has been accepted by Vu and he has revealed
the face of your lover to you. The name of your mate is Nathan and he
comes from the planet Earth. He has been monitored over the last
several months and has been allowed visions of you through that time.
He will recognize you when you approach, but it will be up to you to
make him accept you as his mate. And to convince him to agree to
return with you to Vrotia.”
    Earth was a long way away from Vrotia. There were few mates who
came from Earth, so very little was known about the planet.
    “Will he accept what I am?” There were many civilizations who
feared the winged women of Vrotia, being familiar with only the old
folk stories of the primitive wild predators their race had once been.
    “I have faith you will convince him to love you and not to fear you.
Tonight and tomorrow you will rest. For the following five days you
will be educated in the ways of seduction. On the seventh day you will
be transported to Earth to complete the Fertility Rite.”

                                  26
                            FERTILITY RITE

    A long red robe was draped around her and Dyanne led her away.
Lura found the energy had seeped from her body and she was
exhausted by all that had transpired. There was an ache between her
legs. But foremost in her mind was the vision of the face revealed to
her during the sacrifice. His name was Nathan and he was from Earth.
Soon she would meet him in person. Seven days seemed like an
eternity.
                            *       *      *
    Lura awoke on the seventh day with the thought that finally it had
arrived. The knowledge she’d received had been overwhelming, but
necessary. She hoped she could remember everything when the time
came. It was obvious to her why the mating ceremonies remained
secret. So much information and knowledge of the actual ceremony
could send one fleeing for the jungles without experiencing its true
nature. If someone had told her what to expect before she’d arrived at
the Temple, she would have been terrified, much more so than in
knowing nothing about what was to take place. She could not fear what
she did not know.
    As she rose from the bed, one of the initiates entered the small cell
with a tray of food and set it on the table.
    “Your bath has been prepared. As soon as you have finished eating,
please go to the bathing room. Your travel clothing will be laid out for
you there. Dymetra will speak with you once you are ready to depart.
    “Thank you.”
    The initiate departed and Lura sat at the small table to eat. It was a
simple meal of bread, cheese, and a mead drink. She finished quickly,
then went to the bathing room to complete her preparations.
    Two hours later, dressed in a length of silky white material draped
over her and secured with a silver girdle, she walked the passageway to
Dymetra’s meeting room. On her feet were silver sandals that laced up
to just below her knees. Her wings had been fluffed and groomed
                                   27
                            FERTILITY RITE

thoroughly, her hair had been combed and now lay in silky golden curls
along her back. She was prepared to depart, but first…the meeting with
Dymetra.
    She hovered in the doorway as Dymetra sat engrossed in something
on her desk. Lura cleared her throat and she glanced up.
    “Come in, Lura. You look lovely. Please sit down.”
    She sank into a burgundy velvet-covered chair across from
Dymetra’s desk.
    “First, I will wish you much success and happiness on your journey.
May Vu grant you a safe passage. Dyanne informs me you are well
prepared for your journey.”
    “Thank you, Priestess.”
    Dymetra sat back in her chair and was silent for a long time. “In the
reading we have done, there are indications this mating will be of
special importance.”
    “In what way?”
    “It has not been made clear yet. But it must take place on the night
of the full eclipse of the Earth’s moon that is scheduled within the next
twenty-four hours. You will see it from Earth. The mating must take
place beneath the Tree of Life. You will know the correct place when
you see it.”
    Lura gulped. “An eclipse and the Tree of Life, as well as the first
meeting with my mate? How will I ever accomplish all that you ask?
Especially with only twenty-four hours in which to complete the
mating. I don’t know if I can do it.”
    “You are smarter—and stronger—than you imagine. I have faith in
your abilities. Your life and the future of Vrotia depend on it.” Dymetra
rose from her desk. “I don’t know the full import of this union, but it
will be revealed in time. Now go with the blessings of Vu.”
    Lura rose from her chair. “I’ll do my best, Priestess.”
    She left the room and headed down the passageway. So much to

                                   28
                            FERTILITY RITE

accomplish in so little time. How would she ever manage?
    She turned into the room containing the travel chamber. The
alignment had been plotted out and entered into the panel of the
chamber. All it would take was for her to enter the enclosure, and the
Priestess standing at the panel would press the button to engage the unit
that would teleport her to Earth.
    Stepping inside, she turned to face the Priestess. “I am ready.”
    “Blessings go with you.”
    Lura watched as she pressed the button.




                                   29
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 4


     Nathan Callendar sat on his front porch and gazed out over the
acres of land that in seven days’ time would no longer be a part of his
life.
     The farm had been in his family for over one hundred years, but
there was no way around it. Another year like the last one and it
wouldn’t have been a question of selling, he would have lost it to the
bank for sure. Though this had been a good season, the market was still
down and this would be his best shot to at least come out with a shirt on
his back.
     A large conglomerate was interested and had purchased the land,
and the farm that had been his family’s livelihood would be merged
with the hundreds of thousands of acres they already owned.
     His brother, Carl, hadn’t been interested in the farm. He’d left as
soon as he’d graduated from high school and never looked back. He
now worked for a software company on the west coast.
                                   30
                             FERTILITY RITE

    His sister, Mae, told him there was no way she and her new
husband wanted any part of running the farm. She’d seen the way it had
sucked the life out of their mother and that wasn’t going to happen to
her.
    So they’d left it to him to manage the farm all on his own. The
previous year he’d had to let most of the regular workers go—just
couldn’t afford to keep them on. He’d had to settle for seasonal and
part-time help since then.
    While the others had gone on with their lives, he’d stayed behind. A
heart attack took his mother five years ago, then the following year
cancer had taken his father. And droughts had almost destroyed the
land.
    He hadn’t had an opportunity to think much about anything over the
last couple of years other than work—saving what his ancestors had
fought so hard to create. Yet now, he felt like a failure and felt like he’d
sold out. Honestly, he’d had no choice.
    It wasn’t until he’d signed the papers finalizing the deal that it hit
him he had nowhere to go. He was a farmer. What the hell did he do
now?
    The money from the sale would pay off the debts he’d incurred
trying to keep things afloat. Carl and Mae had been pissed when they
found out there wouldn’t be any money left over to divide, had
practically told him to his face they felt he’d mismanaged everything.
He’d been required to sit down with their accountants to explain every
last detail to their satisfaction. Money did nasty things to people
sometimes. Finally, they’d accepted that there really was no money, nor
would there be after the sale.
    His life had been dedicated to this farm. He’d never wanted more.
Well, other than a wife and a couple of kids. But there didn’t seem
enough time left in a day to go looking for a decent woman. Autumn
always seemed to make him restless. It was a time for family, as the

                                    31
                           FERTILITY RITE

holidays approached. Yet, here he was all alone. Mae and Carl had their
own families, their own lives.
    The way of life he’d always known was about to come to an end.
Too bad he had no idea what he was going to do next. Big cities
weren’t for him, yet he couldn’t see himself hiring out as a farm hand.
He’d need some time away before he made any monumental decisions.
    Leaning back, he closed his eyes. Maybe now he’d have the time to
socialize, maybe have a chance to start a relationship. He’d never had
the time before to do that. Oh, there’d been a few one-night stands, but
nothing that tempted him to want to know more about them. Nobody
he’d want to bring home to meet the family—if there’d been family to
bring them home to meet.
    Except maybe that girl he kept dreaming about. Now she was
something. She looked more like an angel, with that golden hair and a
smile to take your breath away. But she was strictly fantasy material,
someone he’d made up to help him get through the recent tough times.
    Since things had eased up for him, he’d tried to get her out of his
mind, but for some reason that just wasn’t happening. Every night he
went to bed, and there she’d be. He always woke up with the worst
hard-on imaginable.
    In what little spare time he had, he’d haunted the bars looking for
her, yet knowing he wasn’t going to find her. All he encountered by
doing that was some temporary relief—not one of the women he'd met
had lived up to the image he’d built in his mind of the perfect woman.
He didn’t much care for settling for second best.
    Maybe once he got off the farm, reality would settle back in for him
and he’d be able to find a woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life
with. Then his fantasy woman would disappear.
    But damn, she was one fine looking woman. Taller than many of
the women he knew, golden-skinned, almond-shaped cornflower blue
eyes, regal nose, full, sensuous lips, and a heart-shaped face.

                                  32
                            FERTILITY RITE

    She was always clad in some sort of Grecian or Roman outfit. It
clung to her every curve, outlining high, full breasts, belted to a narrow
waist, flared hips, and damn long legs.
    He remembered looking at her legs and thinking she was a runner,
because they were so tight and defined. With her tanned skin, he
thought she was someone who probably enjoyed the outdoors, and he
wondered what her hobbies were.
    Did she like bicycling? Maybe she liked hiking or rock climbing?
She looked like she was more than capable of it. And what was her
name?
    He felt his cock throb, just thinking about her again. He should
know better. Visualizing her only led to more frustration.
    But it was nights like this when he felt totally alone in the world.
There were no mountains around and the land was an ocean that went
on forever across the landscape, not another house in sight for miles. A
pain jabbed through his chest and he raised a hand to rub at it. He was
going to miss it. He’d spent his whole life here, why wouldn’t he?
    Carl and Mae apparently didn’t miss anything about it. It was a rare
occasion for either of them to visit. He expected they were pretty
relieved to not have to stop by any longer and be reminded what life
was like living on the farm.
    But the land had been everything to Nathan. He loved it, getting
down and digging his hand into a freshly plowed field, or pulling off a
new ear of corn. You could smell life out here. You could feel the cycle
of being born, living, and dying, and it starting all over again. Every
year. Renewal in the earth. It wasn’t the same in the city.
    The world went gray in the city. People forgot about what was
really important. He didn’t want any part of that. An uneasy feeling
crept through him, like he was displaced and didn’t belong anywhere. It
was a hard thing, cutting your ties with everything you’d known. He
was feeling rootless. And it scared the hell out of him.

                                   33
                            FERTILITY RITE

                            *      *       *
    Lura materialized at the end of a wide golden wheat field. Looking
around, she attempted to get her bearings, as she would need to return
to the same exact spot when it came time to return to Vrotia.
    The only thing she saw were miles and miles of wheat and corn, but
no dwelling. How in the world was she going to locate Nathan? Did she
dare try to fly, to obtain a bird’s eye view, so to speak? She certainly
could travel more quickly that way.
    Earthlings did not have wings like Vrotians, and she didn’t want to
startle anyone by having them see what appeared to be a human flying
in the sky.
    Language translations came easily to Vrotians, so she shouldn’t
have difficulty communicating with Nathan. There had been a book at
the Temple she’d been able to study to help her gain enough of an
understanding so they would be able to communicate.
    One thing she needed to find as quickly as possible was the location
of the Tree of Life. But that would probably happen once she found
Nathan. There was what appeared to be a dirt road directly in front of
her, and she decided her best course was to follow it to see where it
would lead—at least for a way. If she discovered nothing, she would
take to the sky as a last resort.
    It was a beautiful night with the stars sparkling overhead. She could
just make out the Virgoan Constellation in the far distance. Vrotia was
not visible from Earth.
    There was now a face to go with the shadowy figure in her dreams.
It was a strong face. His eyes were gentle and reminded her of the
meadows in early planting season, a rich deep green.
    The sounds of the night were all around her, the whispering of the
wheat as a gentle breeze sifted through it. Was it Nathan who cared for
these fields as far as the eye could see?
    She was certain the gods would not have decreed a mating with one
                                   34
                            FERTILITY RITE

who had no communion with the land. She needed a man by her side
who understood the earth, who listened to it. If he honored the nature of
the earth, there was a chance he could comprehend her own sometimes
wild nature—the merging of a wild thing with that of a civilized mortal
being. Would he agree to go back with her?
    There was so little time to make him understand their destiny. She
liked the land here, it reminded her of her mother’s estate on Vrotia.
    What would be his reaction when they met? Her attention was
diverted as she heard a rustle in the field next to her, and stopped to
listen closer. Above the voice of the wheat she heard it again, and her
predatory instinct rose and asserted itself.
    An overwhelming urge to give chase to whatever small animal
lurked there rode through her. It was a shocking reminder of how
important the completion of the ritual was to her humanity. If she didn’t
find him, if she didn’t locate the Tree of Life, it was unlikely she would
have a future to go back to on Vrotia.
    Quickening her footsteps, an urgency to find him, to connect with
him before she was overtaken by her ancestors, spun through her. She
began to run as the fear climbed inside her, trying to convince herself
she wasn’t running away from her own demons, but toward her future
mate.
    Again, she heard the sounds of creatures moving in the fields and
she ran faster, fighting the urge to stalk the unknown quarry. Overhead,
with her keen sight, she spotted an owl hunting in the night and she
shivered as the call of her nature tried to assert control.
    Turning a bend in the road she stopped short as she saw a soft
yellow light at the end of a side road. Slowly she began walking again,
toward the light, instinct telling her she had found him. Nathan was
inside the dwelling ahead, the man she’d come across light years to
find.
    A white fence surrounded the house, separating it from the acres of

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                             FERTILITY RITE

fields. A barn stood off to the left farther back. She opened the gate and
walked toward the house, her footsteps slowing as she moved toward
the porch. She could see the shadow of someone sitting in a chair there.
    It was a man. He rose to his feet when he saw her. Walking to the
edge of the porch, he stepped down onto the gravel walkway.
    “Can I help you?” he called out.
    “You are Nathan?” she responded, slowing her steps as she came
closer to the porch. It was him, she had no doubt. His was the face
she’d seen revealed to her in the sacrificial fire.
    She saw the surprise in his eye as they widened, and he abruptly
plopped down on the top step and rubbed a hand across his eyes.
    “Am I dreaming?” he said more to himself than her.
    She stopped before him. “No, you are awake. As am I. Do you
know who I am?”
    Her dress fluttered on a breeze; she could feel her nipples tighten to
hard beads. This was her mate and he appeared to be everything she
could have asked for in her lover.
    He shook his head as if trying to clear it. “This can’t be real. I made
you up in my imagination. Who are you?”
    “My name is Lura.” She knelt before him on the step, taking his
large, strong hands into hers. “I have come for you, Nathan. You
belong with me.” She lifted one of his hands to her lips and kissed the
work-roughened, callused palm.
    “Are you trying to tell me—what exactly are you saying?” He lifted
his other hand to her cheek and stroked it with his fingers. “My God,
you’re real!”
    “I have traveled from my planet, Vrotia, to be with you. You are my
mate, Nathan. It is our destiny.”
    He jerked his hands away and leaned back, closing his eyes. “This
cannot be happening. I’m sure I’ll wake up in a minute. You are not
real.”

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    “Oh, but I am. Let me show you.” She leaned close to him and
placed her lips against his. Feeling his response, she deepened the kiss,
stroked against his lips with her tongue.
    Zinging energy such as she’d never known sizzled through her. A
burning ball of fire settled in her stomach. His hands reached out and
gripped her hips, pulled her toward him as he took command of the
sensual connection between them.
    She felt his hands move upward tracing along her ribs, around to
her back. Then he stiffened, pulling away. “What the hell? You have
wings? Christ, you’re not human!”




                                   37
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 5


    Damn, this could not be happening. It wasn’t possible. Who the hell
was she?
    She was everything he’d imagined, yet more. She was possibly the
most beautiful woman he’d ever met. But, dammit, she had wings.
What the hell was she?
    He backed away from her and stood on the porch. Slowly, she rose
to her feet. His gaze dropped to her obviously hardened nipples
straining at the front of her—what the hell was she wearing? What did
you call it?
    Who the hell cared? He wanted to suck those hard little nubs, badly.
Whatever she was wearing had to come off. He needed to see all of her.
Okay, wings and all. Wings, for God’s sake. She had to be some kind of
alien. Alien. Here. In Kansas. On his farm.
    “Okay, I need a minute here.” He stepped backward and ran a hand
along his jaw. “Come inside—Lura? You said your name is Lura,
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                            FERTILITY RITE

right?” He needed to buy some time.
     She bit her soft, very kissable lower lip. It took all of his self-
control not to lean forward and suck that as well. She looked pretty
damn human to him. All the right parts in just the right places. And as
beautiful as he'd imagined. He needed to get a grip. Wanted to find out
more about her. Why was she here, for instance? What had she said?
Something about mating? He couldn’t have heard her right.
     “Yes, I am Lura.”
     “Well, come inside, Lura. And you can tell me exactly what you’re
doing here.”
     “Yes. I expect you are confused. I will try to explain.”
     He held the screen door open and she preceded him into the house.
He followed her and watched as she looked around the living room.
She seemed hesitant, inquisitive, but certainly not predatory. The Earth
women he knew were most assuredly the opposite—most assuredly
predatory, and definitely not hesitant. She might be alien. And have
wings. But she was all female and very tempting.
     “I take it this doesn’t look like your house from wherever you’re
from.”
     “I am from Vrotia. It is in the Virgoan Constellation. Do you know
it?”
     “Virgo. Well, yes, I guess so. You’re talking about the stars out
there.”
     She turned toward him and smiled. It was the prettiest damn smile,
shy yet sensual.
     “Uh, why don’t you sit down and I’ll get us something to drink.” He
started to walk toward the kitchen, then turned back. “What do you like
to drink? I have some orange juice, milk, or water, I guess. Unless you
want beer.”
     When she tilted her head to the side, he almost lost it for sure. Why
was he so drawn to her? He didn’t even know her. So, okay, he’d

                                   39
                            FERTILITY RITE

dreamed about her, but that wasn’t real.
    “Beer? What is that?”
    “It’s made from hops. It has alcohol in it, might make you a bit—
ah—mellow.”
    “It is like wine maybe? Or ale?”
    He sighed with relief. “Yes, sort of.”
    “Water would be fine, thank you.”
    “You got it. One water coming up.” For himself, he’d probably be
having a beer.
    He returned to the living room carrying a glass for her and a bottle
for him. He handed her the glass. Dropping onto a blue lounge chair, he
sat across from her. “So I guess you better tell me why you’re here.”
    He watched as she took a sip from her glass. “I am afraid you will
not understand.”
    “Try me.” He swigged a huge gulp of beer, thinking he was
probably going to need it.
    “As I said, I’m from Vrotia. Our mates are always chosen from
other planets. Like Earth. Sometimes other places.”
    “I see.” He didn’t see a damn thing. She could not possibly be
saying what he thought she was saying.
    “The High Priestess of the Justynian Order reads the signs for the
unattached females to determine who their mates will be. It has been
ordained that you are for me.”
    He took another swig from the bottle. It wasn’t helping. “You can’t
be serious.”
    “The gods would not be wrong in this.”
    “And what happens if I don’t choose to—uh—mate with you.”
    He saw a look of fear pass across her face. “We must complete the
fertility ritual or I will be lost.”
    “How so?” He wanted to comfort her, to make that look go away.
    “My nature will revert to that of my ancestors, a creature of the

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                           FERTILITY RITE

wild. A primitive predator once again.” She looked away from him. He
saw her hand tremble as she raised the glass to her lips.
    “What are you? Part bird, then?”
    “Not exactly. There are other creatures besides birds who have
wings you know.”
    “Well, yeah, sure. I know that. Like some insects have wings.”
    “I was thinking more along the lines of dragons.”
    “Dragons aren’t real.”
    “Really? Is that what your people believe? No matter. I guess you
could say we are part bird and to some extent we have evolved over the
centuries. But the gods play their tricks and if a female does not
complete the fertility rite she will revert to her baser instincts of
survival.”
    “So let me get this right. You’re here to mate and then you go
home? And I’m the lucky guy?”
    She fidgeted in her chair. “I am not here simply to mate. You are
my mate—the stars have ordained it. There is a difference. I hope to
convince you to return to Vrotia with me.”
    “And if I don’t want to go back with you? What then? You kill
me?”
    Her eyes widened as though shocked by his words. “No! How could
you think that?” She turned her head away from him. “Whether or not
you wish to return with me is your choice. But I would never hurt you.
My father did not return with my mother, but it does not change what
must be.”
    “What about love? Does that play any part in this?” He couldn’t
believe he was holding this conversation with her.
    “I would make you happy, Nathan. In all ways. Is it that you don’t
want to leave your land? The fields I passed, you are their keeper?
They are well tended.”
    He stood up. He couldn’t talk about this any more tonight. His

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                            FERTILITY RITE

brained felt fried. “Let’s talk about this tomorrow. It’s getting late. I
assume you don’t have anyplace to stay? How did you get here?”
    “Teleportation. I must return to the same spot to be transported back
to Vrotia. We have forty-eight hours before I must return.”
    “Forty-eight hours! That’s not long enough to get to know someone
before—” Every time he attempted to say something to her it seemed
he got tongue-tied. This situation was way outside of his comfort zone.
Did he want to take her to bed? Well, hell yes. Who wouldn’t? But like
this?
    “It is all the time we have before I must return.”
    He turned away from her. “Come with me. I’ll show you where you
can sleep. You can have my sister’s old room.”
    “She won’t mind?”
    “She’s been gone a long time. She’s married now. I guess that
would translate to mated for you.”
    “She was given her own estate to manage?”
    He snorted. “Hardly. She moved to the city and got a job. She and
her husband live in an apartment there.”
    He saw surprise in her eyes. “She left all this? Amazing. On Vrotia,
when a Vrotian mates, she is provided an estate, much like this. To live
in a city would not be something one chose to do if there was another
option. Like this. Tradespeople live in the cities—mostly those from
other planets who are mated with our winged women of the secondary
societies.”
    “Sounds complicated. So, what? Does the mate work for her?”
    “Goodness no, they are equal partners. Simply because he is not a
Vrotian does not make him a lesser citizen.”
    “So is there divorce on your planet?”
    “Divorce?”
    “Do mates ever split up?”
    “No. Never that I have heard of. Mating is for life.”

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    He opened a door and stepped aside. “You can sleep in here.”
    She started to move past him, but stopped in front of him. She was
so close, the silk of her hair brushed against his skin and he could smell
her subtly feminine fragrance.
    Placing her palms against his chest, she leaned close. “Are you sure
you wouldn’t like me to sleep with you, Nathan?”
    What an offer. But he had some thinking to do. “No. I don’t think
that would be a good idea. Get some sleep and we’ll talk again in the
morning.”
    “Very well. You have come to me in my dreams, as well, you
know. It would be very tempting to seduce you, but I do not want you
to regret when we come together, so I will wait. But not for much
longer.”
    She reached up and kissed him on the cheek. “Good night, Nathan.
Pleasant dreams.” She walked past him and into the room with a sway
of feminine hip that almost undid him. But his gaze moved upward and
was caught by the white wings lying against her back, reminding him
that he needed to think real carefully before he went any further with
this woman. After all, she could be here to suck the life out of him and
simply trying to ease his mind and make him drop his guard before
pouncing.
    Nah, now he was getting really carried away with his imagination.
Between the sale of the farm and this, he really needed to gain some
perspective. How the hell did one fuck a woman with wings who was
from another planet anyway? Did they do things differently? Damn, but
he really did want to find out. He felt like he’d just been dropped into
an episode of the Twilight Zone.
    Pivoting around, he strode away from the room before he threw all
his common sense out the window. Maybe he’d wake up in the
morning and find it really had been just a dream.
                            *       *      *
                                   43
                            FERTILITY RITE

    Once Nathan closed the door and walked away, Lura stood in the
center of the small room and looked around. Earth houses were indeed
vastly different from dwellings on Vrotia.
    There was what appeared to be a sleeping place raised on a wooden
platform. The room did not have the clean lines of a Vrotian sleeping
chamber, and the room where they sat earlier, though similar to a
greeting room, seemed closed and cluttered somehow.
    She sat down on the bed and removed her sandals. Kneeling before
the window she bowed her head and clasped her hands, repeating the
chant of thankfulness to Vu for bringing her safely to her destination.
Then she offered the chant of guidance in her task to convince Nathan
to return to her planet with her.
    In only the few hours they had spoken, she liked more and more
what she learned of him. And her body responded to his presence and
nearness, already accepting him.
    If he needed this night, she would allow for that. She did not mind
that he was a cautious man. That was good. It would serve him well on
Vrotia.
    But tomorrow night, it was imperative they come together, and it
must be beneath the Tree of Life. Tomorrow she had to find the Tree.
She chanted to Vu to enlist his help in completing her task.
    Rising to her feet, she removed the silver girdle and draped it across
the end of the bed. Then she unwound the length of silk cloth from
around her body and carefully laid it with the girdle. There was no
sleeping robe, so she settled for sleeping nude. She had become
accustomed to sleeping in the nude during her time at the Temple.
    Lying on the bed she felt the liquid of anticipation seep from
between her thighs. Although she’d been taught how to ease her
discomfort, she refused to anticipate the joining with Nathan. It would
be uncomfortable tonight, thinking of him, her body primed for
acceptance, but she would wait, knowing he would be well worth it.

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                           FERTILITY RITE

    She rolled over onto her side. So much was strange here, yet in
some ways the same. Would she be able to convince him to leave his
land and crops? Could she offer him enough to compensate for such a
loss?
    Her mother had been unable to convince her father to return with
her to Vrotia? Would she suffer the same fate? Be destined for a life
without her mate? Would one joining suffice to carry her through an
eternity without her partner? How had her mother survived so many
years alone? She’d never thought about it before. It frightened her to
consider it now. Whatever it took, she must convince Nathan to return
with her.




                                 45
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 6


    Sunlight streamed in through the window. Lura opened her eyes and
squinted at the harsh glare of bright morning light. She rose from the
bed, walked over to the window and peered out at the panoramic view.
It seemed odd there was only one sun offering light to this world.
    She turned away from the window and dressed quickly, wanting to
waste not a moment of her time on this strange, faraway planet. Unless
something unusual occurred, this would be the only opportunity she
would have to explore a world other than her own.
    Opening the bedroom door, she stepped out into the hallway and
turned to the right. The living room looked different bathed in daylight.
At least with the morning it didn’t seem as suffocating as it had last
night.
    There were brown containers lying around the room. Some were
filled with items, others were empty. On a small wooden table in a
corner she noticed pictures. After walking over, she bent down to get a
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                            FERTILITY RITE

better look at the images.
    A feeling of recognition washed over her and she carefully picked
up one of the framed pictures to look at it closer. Three children stood
in the foreground and there was a large tree behind them. It had to be
the Tree of Life.
    “Good morning.”
    Almost dropping the frame, she whirled around. Oh, he was indeed
a handsome man. There was a light stubble covering his jaw, and he
filled the doorway with his presence. She wanted to run across the
room, yank him inside and ravish him this very minute. Her body
throbbed with the desire to follow her thoughts. Suddenly, the room
seemed smaller. She set the frame back on the table.
    “Good morning. I hope I didn’t wake you.” His presence made her
nervous. She wanted him here with her, but she was afraid she would
do something wrong, causing him to retreat.
    “No, I went out to the barn to feed the animals. I’m afraid I’m
running a bit late this morning.” He moved into the room. “I still have a
lot of packing to get done.” He walked over to one of the boxes, picked
up an item, and then tossed it back down.
    “You are getting rid of all these things?”
    “No. Well, yes, sort of. I’ll be moving at the end of the week. I’m
waiting for my sister to drop by to decide what she wants to take with
her. If you’d come here a week later, I probably wouldn’t have been
here.”
    “You are leaving here? Why would you do that?”
    “I’ve had to sell the farm. It’s no longer mine.”
    “I don’t understand.”
    He walked over and sat on the couch. “Money pretty much makes
the world go round. If there’s not enough of it, a person can’t make a
go of it, and the government takes its generous share as well. The
wrong prices have been rising and the right prices have been falling.”

                                   47
                             FERTILITY RITE

     “Money?”
     “It’s a sort of paper used for purchasing and has value, more or less.
Our government prints it. We exchange it for goods or services.” He
laughed. “I guess it can be a bit complicated. You’d need a course on
marketing to understand how it all works. I take it you don’t use money
on your planet.”
     “It sounds the same as our coins.”
     “Yeah, we use coins as well. We lump it all together and call it
money.”
     “I don’t understand your ways. On my world, an exchange of goods
is acceptable, as good as the exchange of coins. If one does not have
enough silver, crops are used or skills exchanged. That is not how it is
done here? You could not exchange crops for what you need?”
     He shook his head. “Not really. As I said, it can get rather
complicated.” He stood up. “How about something to eat. I think
there’s still some food left here. I’m not sure we want to go out to a
restaurant, given your wings and all. It might be difficult to explain. It’s
a small town and people ask questions.”
     Nodding, she followed him into the kitchen. She could tell he didn’t
want to discuss the selling of his farm further so she didn’t push the
issue. But it did make her think there was more than a slim possibility it
would offer the excuse she needed to convince him to return with her.
If this land no longer belonged to him, she might be able to offer him
something he would want and need.
     She looked down at the plate he placed in front of her on the table.
It looked like eggs and some form of root potato.
     “You don’t eat scrambled eggs and hash browns on your planet?”
he asked as he sat across from her.
     She picked up what she assumed was an eating utensil next to the
plate. “Yes, we have eggs and potatoes.” She picked at the pasty
substance next to the eggs. She looked up at him. “The hash browns—

                                    48
                            FERTILITY RITE

these are the potatoes?”
    He chuckled. “Yes. I’m not a chef, but I get by.”
    Lura speared some of the eggs with the pronged utensil, brought it
to her mouth and tasted. She chewed and attempted to swallow the odd
concoction. “It is fine, Nathan. Thank you for fixing it.” She was sure
Vu would not mind a small prevarication of the truth in this instance.
    Nathan stabbed at his eggs. “You don’t have to eat it if it’s that
bad.”
    She attempted to look more enthusiastic than she felt. “No, they are
fine. Really. Do you think I could have a glass of water?” It would help
to have something to wash it all down with.
    He laughed again. “You’re a trooper that’s for sure. You won’t hurt
my feelings if you don’t want to eat it.” He got up and came back with
a glass of water for her.
    After they finished eating, Lura helped him with the dishes, and was
amazed at the mechanical device that apparently washed them
automatically.
    “You don’t have dishwashers on—where is it?”
    “Vrotia,” she leaned closer to the vibrating machine. “Amazing.
Our life is very simple.”
    “Just one of those things we take for granted, I guess.”
    She straightened back up. “Show me your land, Nathan.”
    “You want to see the farm?”
    She nodded. “Yes, I am interested. I want to explore, to see how
this world manages their properties. I couldn’t see much when I arrived
last evening.”
    “All right. There’s not much left I need to do before I leave at the
end of the week. Might as well take a stroll around the place one last
time.”
    She heard what seemed to be a sort of wistfulness in his voice.
“You do not want to leave here.”

                                  49
                            FERTILITY RITE

    He opened the back screen door for her and led her outside. “I don’t
have much choice. It’s been in my family for a long time, so it feels
odd leaving. But it’s the way it has to be. My brother and my sister
don’t have any interest in running the place and they could care less
what happens to it.”
    He walked down the steps and she joined him as he walked along
the dirt road she had followed last night to reach him. “I still find it
difficult to believe your brother and sister would leave all this.”
    He shrugged. “It was a hard life growing up here. They had to do
without a lot.”
    “But you stayed.”
    “I can survive on very little. Most of the stuff in the house belonged
to my parents. I like working the land.”
    “Your brother and sister have mates?”
    “Yes.”
    “What about you?” She stopped walking. “Or is there someone
special for you?” Wouldn’t the Priestess have known if there was? But
what if there was someone they hadn’t detected?
    “Haven’t had time.”
    Lura breathed a sigh of relief. She would not have wanted to pursue
him if someone loved him. It wouldn’t have been right.
    “What about now? What will you do when you leave here?”
    “I haven’t thought much about it. Don’t know what I’ll find. I never
thought I would do anything else other than farm the land.”
    “Then I have come at a good time.” She walked over toward the
thriving and fertile wheat field, parted the long stalks and walked
through. It felt good to feel the earth around her, beneath her. It was
healthy and succulent.
    “Where are you going?” he asked as he followed her into the field.
    “I like the sensations of the land beneath my feet. Is this your third
cycle here on Earth? The time of harvesting the crops and preparing for

                                   50
                            FERTILITY RITE

hibernation and the sleep of the earth?”
    “If you mean autumn, yes. I’ve hired someone to come in and
harvest the last of these crops. He’ll be by next week, after I’ve gone.”
    She held her hands out and brushed against the feathery stalks. It
felt like feathers whisking along the surface of her palms. Turning her
face to the sky, she laughed. Kneeling down, she quickly removed her
sandals, turned back, and threw them toward the road, so she could find
them later.
    “I love the feeling of the fertile dirt. The earth talks to you when
there is no barrier, did you know that? It energizes and sustains us.”
She turned to look at him over her shoulder. Then she turned around
and knelt at his feet. “Lift your foot.”
    “What do you think you’re doing?”
    “Have you never walked barefoot through the fields, felt the land
pulsing through you? Instilling you with its life?”
    She began to untie his heavy boots. Yanking hard, she removed the
first one, and his cloth covering, and started on the other one.
    “Wait a minute.” He tried to pull her to her feet, but she squirmed
away from him.
    Once she had the other boot and covering off, she threw those
toward the road as well.
    “Doesn’t the earth feel good to you? Those heavy boots were
strangling you. How in the world do you feel the land converse to you
with them on?”
    He looked down at his feet as though unable to believe he was
standing in the middle of his field in his bare feet.
    “My relatives would never believe I’m doing this. They’d think I
was crazy.”
    She turned and ran farther into the middle of the field until they
were totally surrounded on all sides by the tall golden crop. She waited
for him to catch up to her.

                                   51
                            FERTILITY RITE

    “What are you doing now?” he asked as he stopped behind her.
    She turned toward him and leaned close. “No one can see us here.
Kiss me, Nathan. Please.”
    “I don’t think this is a very good idea.”
    She couldn’t wait any longer. She reached up, drew his head down
to her, and pressed her lips to his. His mouth was firm and tempting.
She could taste the bitterness of the coffee he’d drunk with his
breakfast, mixed with a flavor of mint.
    She felt herself responding to him, her body coming to life, like the
qulorna flower opening to the second sun. She pressed closer to him.
    Thrusting her tongue between his lips, she tasted more of him. She
felt her wings flutter gently against her back, as the pulsing need to
mate with him began to spread through her. Fearing the movement of
her wings would startle him, she made a conscious effort to control
their movements.
    She also tried to command the haze of need she felt as her body
flooded with the pleasure of his presence. She pulled back slowly and
licked her lips. The control on the natural instincts of her body was
about to overwhelm her. Nathan wasn’t ready to accept her, let alone
deal with what would happen with her wings if she succumbed to her
desire.
    “That was nice. I tasted mint, but I don’t recall any mint with
breakfast.”
    He put a hand up to his mouth. “No. That would have been
toothpaste, or maybe the mouthwash from when I brushed my teeth this
morning.”
    “Ah, yes. We use a special blend of herbs for the care of our teeth to
keep them strong and healthy. You tasted good.”
    “Lura, I think we should be getting back.”
    “Are you afraid of me, Nathan? Do you think I plan to hurt you?”
She studied him, trying to understand why he was still so hesitant.

                                   52
                             FERTILITY RITE

    “No, it isn’t that.”
    “Then what? Maybe it is that you don’t find me a desirable mate?
You would prefer another?” She hadn’t thought of that, but it was quite
possible.
    “Hell, no.” He hesitated. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to swear. It’s just
that I’m not sure this is right.”
    “What could be wrong about it? I desire you, and if you desire me
as well”—she moved closer to him—“then how could this be wrong?”
    “You’re looking for a lifetime mate, so you say. I’m not sure I’m
the man to be that for you.”
    “Why? You say you are leaving this farm. And I sense it is not your
choice. I can offer you something you desire. To return with me to
Vrotia will guarantee you will again be offered an opportunity to work
the land. And no one can take that away from you. It is not our way.”
    “But you’re telling me I would need to leave Earth, leave my family
and everything I know.”
    She stroked the side of his face, liking the rough texture of the day’s
beard growth against her skin. “Would it be such a hardship, Nathan?
To have what you desire? And me as well?”
    He clasped her hand between both of his, then brought it to his
mouth and placed a kiss at its center. “How do you know we’re even
compatible? You have wings, I don’t. You come from a planet I didn’t
even know existed. How can you be sure I would fit in with your
culture?”
    She raised her other hand to his face. “I know. That is enough. Vu
would not have chosen you for me if we were not meant to be. I know
you are right for me.”
    He dropped her hand. “I’m real confused right now, Lura. Moving
away from here and you showing up. I don’t want to make a mistake,
either way. I want to be certain I’m making the right decision.”
    “Love me, Nathan, and you will know it was meant to be. If, when

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                            FERTILITY RITE

the time comes, you choose not to accompany me, then so be it. I will
accept your decision. Let us take this chance to be together. When it is
time for me to leave, then you can decide whether to go or to stay. But
let’s not throw away the time we have right now. Please.”




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                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 7


    Nathan fixed dinner and Lura helped clean up. It felt natural to be
with him like this, as though it had always been. She liked starting the
dishwasher and listening to its steady hum and swishing sounds. They
spent the afternoon adding more items to the boxes Nathan was
packing. Before dinner Lura had gone with him to the barn to feed the
animals. She had planned to ask him about the Tree, but they had ended
up discussing other things and the time passed more swiftly than she
expected.
    She needed more time—wanted it. There was so much to learn.
Sipping at a cup of tea, she now stood staring out the back door,
waiting for Nathan to finish straightening up the kitchen. From the
picture, it looked like the Tree was located somewhere nearby. The
scenery looked the same. Now the sun had set and again the land was
cloaked in darkness, except for the light of the moon. No matter how
much she wanted it to be different, there was no more time.
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                             FERTILITY RITE

    “Tell me about the photograph of you and your sister and brother.”
    “Which one? What do you want to know?”
    “You were younger and you were standing in front of a tree. Where
was it taken?” She turned back toward the room to look at him.
Walking over to the counter, she set her cup down, and waited for his
answer.
    “Shoot. That was taken a long time ago. It was out back, about a
mile away, at the far corner of that large stretch of fallow land back
behind the barn.”
    “Take me there.”
    “Now?” his voice held a note of disbelief.
    She walked back to the door. “Yes. Right now. Show me the tree.”
She stepped outside onto the porch and waited.
    Shaking his head, she watched him grab an object from a drawer in
the kitchen, and he joined her. “Well, okay, if that’s what you want.”
    “What is that?”
    He held it up. It looked like a long yellow tube that flared out at one
end. It almost looked like—
    “This?” He flicked on a switch and the ground was illuminated by
light.
    She looked up at him. “It is some sort of lantern?”
    “Yeah. We call it a flashlight. It works with batteries.”
    “Batteries?”
    “Hmm. Guess you don’t know about them either, huh?”
    “No. We use lanterns and candles to light our way in the darkness.”
    They stepped off the porch and headed in the direction of the barn.
Lura’s heart thumped in her chest. She knew the tree in the picture was
the one she sought. She’d felt the recognition inside as she stared at it.
It was a large, old tree, with a wide trunk, scarred by many years of life.
The branches were profuse, thick, arrowing out in all directions,
pointing to the sky and beyond. It protected and was nurtured by the

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earth. And it was beneath that Tree a life would be created.
    She reached out and clasped Nathan's hand as they walked in the
silent darkness. She took it as a good sign when he did not pull away
from her. The night teemed with life all around them.
    The silhouette of the tree stood tall and sturdy against the inky night
sky. “It has been here a long time.”
    He stopped next to its wide trunk, pointing the flashlight upward.
“It’s seen a lot here. My father was going to chop it down at one point,
but something made him change his mind. I was never sure what it was.
It’s been here for as long as I can remember, and it never seems to
change. In a lot of the real old pictures, it’s standing in the background.
As though it’s waiting for something, sort of standing guard.”
    He had his back to her and she removed first the silver girdle and
then the length of silk. “It’s been waiting for this moment. Nathan, look
at me.”
    Slowly, he turned toward her. She saw his eyes widen. “Lura—”
    She walked toward him. “Make love to me. Right now, beneath this
tree.”
    “Why here? What in the world made you decide we had to make
love right this minute?”
    She took the flashlight from his hand, flicked the switch, and
dropped it to the ground. Turning back to him, she reached out and
pulled the tails of his blue shirt out of his worn jeans and slid her hands
beneath it. Yes, firm, thick muscles met her questing fingers. A strong
heart beat rapidly beneath her touch. “Tonight there will be an eclipse
of your moon. This moment has been foretold by the Priestess.”
    Her quick fingers unbuttoned his shirt and pushed it from his
shoulders, then she lowered her mouth to his chest, felt the heat
emanating from him. With her tongue she circled the hardened nipples
of his flat chest. She sucked a nipple into her mouth as she brought her
hands down to the waistband of his pants.

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    “Love me,” she whispered against his skin as her hands unfastened
his pants, slid the zipper down, then pushed them over his lean hips.
    “Damn, Lura, you make it hard for a man to resist,” he rasped out.
His hands rose to cup her breasts. A shaft of pleasure raced through her
at his warm, sure touch.
    “Yes, Nathan, touch me. Make me yours.” She slid the pants down
his legs, and his cock sprang free, hard and thick, ready for her. “They
taught me how to please you at the Temple.” She touched his cock with
her hand, slid her fingers along its smooth length, swirled her fingers
over the tip, and felt his anticipation seep out, covering her fingers.
    Kneeling in front of him, she removed the last of his clothing, then
took his thick shaft into her hands and looked up at him. “I have never
been with a man. I am ready to take you into my body, but no man’s
cock has ever entered me before this moment. I want you to know that
you will be the first. And the only.”
    She lowered her head and took his cock into her mouth, easing her
tongue over the head, sucking him inside. Wrapping one hand around
the firm base, she ran her other hand up and over his stomach and felt
his abdomen muscles tighten. She slid her mouth up and down his
length, drawing him deeper each time, easing the muscles of her throat
to take as much of him as she could.
    Her womb contracted with the need to be filled by him and she felt
her own liquid pleasure release and coat her thighs. She had anticipated
this moment, prepared for him, and wanted him more than she could
have ever imagined.
    He groaned and his hands cupped her face. “Enough, honey, come
here and let me love you. I’m going to come right now if you don’t stop
what you’re doing.” He thrust his hips as an exclamation to his words.
    Lura lifted her head. “I want to taste you. I am not afraid to know
you in this way. Give me your seed.” And she drew him once again
into her mouth, tasted the salty passion of his pre-cum, and sucked

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harder, swirling her tongue beneath the ridge of the head, teasing at the
slit in the tip.
     She felt him tighten, felt the tension in his body coil like a spring,
tighter and tighter. He yelled, his fingers twisted in her hair, and he
orgasmed in long, pulsing bursts as she swallowed. It was her first real
taste of a man’s passion and she was not displeased by its flavor. She
savored this part of him, and licked him clean, felt him soften, felt the
tension ease from his body.
     But she did not stop, and instead licked and coaxed him back to
rigid attention, cupping and kneading his muscled buttocks. It did not
take long before his cock was again hard.
     “Enough,” he said, as he pulled her to her feet. “I don’t know how
you’re different from Earth women. What you want.” He took her lips
and pressed between them with his tongue.
     She drank from him, sucking him inside, pressing her body against
him. Her wings extended, arching backward, swooping forward, then
back yet again.
     One of his hands moved down her body to press against her smooth,
hairless mound. She shifted her legs to give him access to her center.
She felt two thick fingers slip inside her, widen her in preparation.
     He lifted his head to look down at her. “You’re wet already, honey.
Are you excited? Do you want my cock inside you?”
     “Yes, Nathan,” she moaned as his fingers slid in and out.
     “You’re tight. So tight and wet. I’m dying to get inside you, but I
want to be sure you’re ready for me.” He teased at the curve of her ear
with his breath, his tongue. “You say you got ready for me. How did
you prepare? What did you do on your planet?” His fingers sliding in
and out were making it difficult for her to concentrate on his questions.
     “There was a-a phallus I used.”
     He retreated and began teasing at her clitoris. “Did you
masturbate?”

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                             FERTILITY RITE

    “Wh-what?” A fire began to sear through her and all she wanted
was to have it quenched by him.
    His fingers again penetrated her. “Did you fuck yourself with your
fingers? Like this? Did you make yourself come? God, I wish I’d been
there.”
    She arched her hips; her wings undulated against her back. “Yes,”
she cried. “Please, I can’t take any more.”
    He pumped his fingers back and forth, snaked his arm around her
waist and pulled her closer. “Yes, you can,” he growled. “Tell me what
you want, Lura. Show me.”
    Finally, the fire consumed her. She pushed him hard against the
trunk of the tree and his fingers retreated from inside her. He lifted her,
positioned his cock at her entrance, and sank into her wet pussy with
one powerful thrust. She wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled
him deeper still.
    “Yes, that’s what I want, what I need. Deeper.”
    He gripped her hips, pulled her up, then back down. She tightened
her legs, arched her back, and pulled him deeper, felt him ground inside
her, then he was pumping fast and hard, deep and tight, filling her,
driving her upward. Flying was never like this. What she experienced
now was beyond this world, beyond Vrotia.
    It was a pleasure that carried her outside her body. He thickened
and filled her, pushing against her vaginal walls until there was room
for nothing else. Thrust and retreat. Again and again. Now it was she
who felt like a coil ready to spring, and she released, exploding into
minute particles, shattering all around him. In seconds, he followed her
and his seed spilled into her, driving her into another climax, or maybe
it was only part of the first.
    Winding her arms tightly around his neck, she held on for dear life,
wanted it never to end and her wings extended, flashes of white against
the ebony night. “Move away from the tree,” she gasped. When he did,

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her wings enveloped them both.
    He sank to his knees, carrying them both safely to the ground. He
held her in his arms like that, buried deep inside her.
    “My God, you take my breath away,” he said.
    Her wings slowly extended outward and returned to their resting
place at her back and he stroked them with his hands.
    “Do you find them repulsive?” she whispered against his neck.
    “No. There’s nothing about you that I find repulsive. You’ve
haunted me for months, and the minute you got here I knew I had to
have you.”
    He was still hard inside her and he began moving his hips. In slow
strokes he thrust inside her, lowering her to the ground, rising above
her.
    She met his movements, felt the desire building within her again. “I
know Earth women don’t have wings, and I thought you might find
them repugnant.”
    He pumped against her. “I was surprised, but I can’t imagine you
without them.” He rolled to the side carrying her with him and slowly
lay back against the ground. “Ride me. I don’t want to hurt you, but
you feel too good for me to stop.”
    His passion and hers had lubricated her so she moved easily over
his hard, steely length with little difficulty. “It feels good to have you
here. It is right and perfect.”
    She began to ride him faster, until climax again overtook her and,
pulling him deep inside, she felt him slip over the precipice as well.
    He rose to a sitting position and clasped her to him, just as her
wings again surrounded them both.
    Coming back to reality, she gazed at the sky and realized it was
completely dark—the Earth moon was in full eclipse. Tears pooled in
her eyes and she buried her head in the curve of Nathan’s neck.
    He pulled her up gently and slid from her. “What is it? Are you

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crying? Did I hurt you?”
    She shook her head and sniffled. “I’m so happy. And yet, sad.”
    He leaned back against the ground and pulled her close, again
stroking along the length of her wings. “I wish I could give you the
answer you’re waiting for, but I just don’t have one yet. It’s a big step.”
    She hugged him tighter. “I know that. I want you with me more
than anything, but I understand. You have family here. And my race is
different from yours. Our society is different. I want you to be sure
when you decide.”
    “I have to admit, I’m torn. I don’t want to give you up.”
    She stroked his back, liking the feel of his hard, sweat-slickened
skin. Wanting to feel him inside her again. Needing to share every
minute possible with him. Because if he didn’t go back with her, she
would never know this bliss again.
    “I will accept whatever you decide.” She looked up at him and
raised a hand to cup his face. “I know this is probably difficult for you
to believe as we have known each other for such a short time, but I do
love you. I would not want you to be unhappy, and if staying here
would be better for you, then that is what I want for you.”
    “If you could stay here—”
    She felt the sadness well up inside her. “You know that isn’t
possible. I am too different from your people. They would not
understand.”
    “You’re right, of course. Dammit. I wish it were easier. Loving
someone shouldn’t be this damn hard. Do the men have wings on
Vrotia?”
    “No. They come from other planets. It is only the women who have
wings.”
    “So, I guess I wouldn’t be out of place? Like you would be here?”
    “No. You would fit well on my world. And I believe the lifestyle
there would please you. And the land would challenge you.”

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     He pulled her head down to lay against his chest. “Hey, look at the
sky. You were right. There was an eclipse.”
     As Dymetra had predicted. And already, Lura knew a life had been
created inside her. A precious child begotten under the watchful guard
of the Tree of Life beneath an eclipsed moon. She shivered at what
these combined signs might mean.
     Nathan sat up. “Come on, we need to get dressed. You’re cold and
it’s late. I want to get you back to the house.”
     She stood up and stepped toward her clothing. Once dressed, she
turned back to him. “Does this mean I have to sleep alone again
tonight?”
     He walked toward her and pulled her into his arms. “Not tonight.
Tonight you’ll be in my bed, in my arms.”
     She leaned against him as they walked back to the house. This
would be her last night on Earth. Tomorrow night she would teleport
back to Vrotia. Either with him or without him. She clung to him
tighter as they entered the warmth of the house.




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                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 8


     Nathan awoke to a pleasurable moist tongue stroking his chest.
After the night they’d just passed, he knew exactly who it belonged to.
Lura was delving downward, and he now felt her lips at his stomach,
knew what her goal was.
     Heavy breathing filled the air as dawn light filtered into the room.
Her lips were at the curve of his hip, her tongue drawing a path of fire
along his pelvis toward his burgeoning cock.
     He moved his hand to cup the back of her head, to touch her soft
hair, sifting his fingers through the thick golden locks. As he gazed out
the window at the endless fields, felt her mouth, smelled her wonderful
scent, he knew what his choice must be. The land and this woman were
all that mattered to him. If it was possible to have both, he wasn’t about
to turn down the chance to have them.
     She offered him an opportunity to fulfill his dreams—to achieve
everything he could possibly want. Land to till, a woman to love, and
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                            FERTILITY RITE

the possibility of children to nurture. He asked no more than that from
life.
     Either he took this opportunity or he knew the rest of his life would
be empty and meaningless and he would always regret turning his back
on what she offered. Could remaining on Earth really measure up to
what he would be losing if he let her leave without him? Was it worth
taking the risk that it wouldn’t be what he expected?
     Her mouth enclosed his cock, sending sensations zinging through
him. He felt the flutter of her wings as they expanded outward. Even
their presence no longer seemed out of place, but simply a part of who
she was, and what he loved about her. Because he did love her.
     This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grasp happiness, and
he wasn’t going to let it get away from him. Not if there was something
he could do about it.
     All things came to pass for a reason, even the bad things. Two days
ago he wouldn’t have thought that was true, but today, it was like the
world was a different place.
     Her mouth worked magic on his body, her tongue sliding and her
hot mouth engulfing him. Her soft hands cupped his balls, kneading
and stroking. The blaze of desire sizzled through him, building,
building—and he exploded into space, flying without the need for
wings from the Earth into the stratosphere. He shouted and bucked
beneath her.
     Her hands stroked his body as she eased him from her mouth and
slid up and over him. She smiled and brought her lips to his, fusing
them together, her tongue thrusting and retreating, teasing, seducing..
     He met her demands, his tongue tangling with hers, his hands
kneading her satiny, rounded cheeks, drawing her closer still, stroking
his semi-erect cock between the lips of her wet pussy. He cupped her
face, raised his head to look at her. Her eyes were dilated, heavy with
desire and he was sure it matched the look in his own eyes.

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    Cupping her neck, he pulled her back to him, once again claiming
her lips with his. Wrapping his arms around her, he turned and splayed
her beneath him, rising above her. Careful of her wings, he eased her
back gently. Her wings spanned outward, curving to either side and he
settled between her legs, his cock nestled at the entrance to her moist
center. He altered his angle and entered, sliding deep inside her. She
was so slick and hot, sucking him in, accepting him completely.
    This was indeed heaven, encompassing a happiness he’d never
thought possible before, filling the loneliness he’d experienced over the
years. She was made to be loved by him, fitting him perfectly. He
swirled his hips, grazing his cock against her sweet spot, and her moan
was a throaty purr of pleasure.
    From one night of passion he already knew her body, what made
her crazy with desire. He knew caressing her feathers provided her a
sense of contentment and ease, whereas stroking her hot center ignited
a blazing fire deep inside her that only he could extinguish. Kissing at
the nape of her neck sent shivers coursing through her.
    And her sensuous, luscious mouth was an erotic haven for his
tongue, for his prick, for any part of his body she so desired to lick,
suck, or kiss.
    Again, he grazed her engorged clit and he felt the change in her as
she rose to reach that pinnacle of pleasure. Once more, and she
shattered in his arms, her wings surrounding them in their protective
shield, sheltering them, melding them together. The scent of her earthy
fragrance encompassed them both.
    One more thrust of his hips and his seed poured into her with hot
spurts of his own liquid pleasure, offering her the evidence of his deep
desire to be one with her.
    The raging pulses lessened and he withdrew from her, easing
himself away, attempting to regain his control. Her wings eased back
and he pulled her against his side.

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    “Now that’s what I call the way to start the day.”
    He felt her lips curve in a smile against his chest, tickling him. “I
wanted it to be a good day for you.” She looked up at him. “Did it
please you?”
    His fingers nestled within the feathers of her wings, caressing
lightly. “So much, Lura, it’s hard to define what I feel.”
    “Do I make you happy, Nathan? Does this make you happy?”
    “You know you do. How can you doubt it? Can’t you feel how
much you please me?”
    “I think so, but I am still unsure.”
    “Well, don’t be.” He released her and rolled from the bed. “Time to
get up. I’m going to take a shower and then go out and feed the
animals. I’ll fix breakfast when I get back.”
    He watched as Lura rose from the bed in a fluid movement. He’d
give anything to just keep her in bed all day, but there was still a lot to
be put in order before he left the farm.
    Looking at her in the sunlight streaming through the window, he
noticed there was something different about her. Walking around the
end of the bed he pulled her toward the window.
    “You look different this morning.”
    She raised her head to look at him. “In what way?”
    “You seem—I’m not quite sure how to put it. Your skin tone seems
deeper, almost bronze in the light. Yesterday it appeared to be a hint of
caramel. And your wings—they’re not white, they look more golden
with a sheen of sparkle to them. God, you’re stunning, yet so unearthly.
I’m afraid to touch you again.”
    He saw fear cross her gaze. “I’ve never known it to occur before,
the change of color.” He saw her eyes wander frantically over him. She
visibly relaxed. “You are the same, there has been no change, thank
goodness.”
    She turned and walked away from him, hurrying toward the

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mirrored bureau. She hesitated before gazing at her own reflection.
    Touching her breasts, her hands slid down over her flat abdomen,
and across her thighs. It was too much for him, and he walked toward
her, unable to resist touching her.
    He came up behind her, grasped her hands and splayed them across
her stomach, moving them downward toward her heat. He bent close to
her ear.
    “You are so beautiful. It arouses me to watch you. Touch yourself. I
want to watch you pleasure yourself.”
    Her gaze met his in the mirror. He watched in the reflection as her
fingers slid between her lips, inside her pussy, and she arched against
him. He raised one of his hands and brought it to her breast, watching
her reactions in the mirror. Her eyes dilated with passion, her body
poised for release. She dropped her head back against his shoulder and
her eyelids fluttered closed.
    He teased her dusky nipple to attention, cupped the weight of her
firm breast. “Make yourself come, Lura. Let me watch you.”
    Her fingers were shiny with her juices as she thrust in and out. He
wanted to taste them, but he wanted her to orgasm first. He plucked at
her nipple with his forefinger and thumb, pulling, then easing back, and
he felt her body tighten. He lowered his mouth to her neck, sucking
fiercely at her tempting flesh.
    Easing his arms around her body, he allowed room for her wings to
extend outward. He felt her release in the quiver of her body, and
whirling her about, grasped her close to him as her wings instinctively
curled to enclose them.
    He felt her shudder as he held her close, her fingers still buried
inside her pussy. He lowered his head to capture her groans of ecstasy
with his mouth, swallowing eagerly her responses of pleasure. As the
waves subsided, he reached down and grasped her hand, removed her
fingers from her dripping core, and brought them to his mouth.

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    He sucked them inside, tasting her sweet flavoring, relishing it, then
he released them. “That was so beautiful. I can’t tell you how much I
enjoyed watching you like that.”
    She wrapped her arms around him and they stood there for long
moments, just holding each other. Finally, her wings settled back to
rest. He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the bathroom.
    “Time to get cleaned up. Come with me.”
    “I thought you were going to take a shower?”
    “We are.”
                            *       *      *
    The change in color worried Lura. She leaned down to retrieve
another clean cup from the dishwasher. She’d never known it to happen
before. But Dymetra had said there was something special about this
mating, so maybe it had to do with that. After emptying the dishwasher,
she busied herself making coffee while Nathan was out feeding the
animals in the barn.
    He loved her, she knew he did. No one could be as gentle as he was
with her and not care. She placed a hand over her flat stomach. A child
had already begun life inside her and she wanted Nathan with her when
she was born.
    If he chose to stay behind, it would destroy her bit by bit through
eternity to be without him.
    She would never allow her child to suffer and she would always be
surrounded by love just as Lura had when she was growing up. She
understood now how lonely her mother must have been. How had she
stood it all those years?
    She had told Nathan she would prepare breakfast, but found there
were no eggs left. Watching Nathan use the stove, she wanted to try it
herself. These mechanical devices intrigued her. He’d assured her he
would bring some back in from the barn when he returned so she could
try out the stove.
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    Still, she worried. Their time was growing short and there were only
a few hours left before she must depart. They had not discussed it
further. More because she feared what his answer would be.
    “Who the hell are you?” A woman’s voice screamed from behind
her.
    Shocked by a visitor, she swung around and her wings fluttered
outward in agitation, in instinctive preparation for flight.
    “Oh, my God! What are you?”
    The woman looked like she was going to faint. The expression on
her face was filled with horror. As Lura watched, it turned to one of
disgust.
    Lura made a conscious effort to control her wings and they again
lay in repose at her back. The woman advanced into the room, her
hands fisted and raised in a threatening manner.
    Lura retreated several steps until she was pinned against the
counter.
    “What have you done with my brother?”
    Lura couldn’t find her voice to answer. She was so shocked by the
intruder she couldn’t think of a response. So this was Nathan’s sister,
Mae. She would not engage her in battle. Her only recourse was to
retreat. Frantically, she looked around the kitchen for a way around her,
but there was none.
    “I-I’ve done nothing. He’s outside, feeding the animals. He should
be back shortly.” She pointed to the chair. “Please sit down.”
    Again, she took a step toward Lura. “Who are you to act like you
own this place? This house belongs to my family. What kind of
monstrosity are you, anyway? Where did you come from? If you’ve
hurt my brother, I’ll kill you.”
    Lura winced at the threatening tone of Mae’s voice. If the woman
touched her, she would be forced to defend herself, and she didn’t want
to hurt Nathan’s sister.

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    “Tell me, damn you! What are you doing here!”
    “That’s enough, Mae!”
    Lura breathed a sigh of relief and collapsed against the counter at
the sound of Nathan’s angry voice. He stood in the doorway holding a
basket filled with eggs.
    Mae whirled around to face her brother. “Nathan, you’re all right.
What is this—thing—here? You’d better call the sheriff, or at the very
least the Department of Environmental Conservation. What kind of
animal is it?”
    Lura couldn’t stand to listen any longer. She turned and raced out of
the room. She couldn’t bear to hear what Nathan’s response was going
to be.
    Did he also think of her as an animal? She stood before the
bedroom window with her arms wrapped around her middle. If there
was a way at that moment to destroy her wings, to sever them from her
body, she would do it. But to do that would cause her death and she had
a child to think of now.
    “Lura.”
    She stiffened as she heard his voice behind her.
    “Look at me. Please.”
    She shook her head and closed her eyes. “I cannot. Your sister hates
me. She thinks I am an animal. I have embarrassed you.”
    She felt his strong hands on her shoulders. He began to stroke her
wings. “She embarrassed herself—no one else. She doesn’t understand.
You took her by surprise, but it was no excuse for her to hurt you the
way she did.”
    “She is your sister—your family. They would never accept me. Nor
accept what we have together. They would not believe you left with me
willingly. She is only trying to protect you from harm.”
    He pulled her back against him. “That’s not true. They would
accept you—”

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                            FERTILITY RITE

    She pulled away from him and walked across the room. She turned
back to him, but couldn’t look at him. “I must leave tonight, Nathan.
There’s no more time.” She heaved a sigh as though preparing to carry
a heavy burden. “I know you will not return with me. We are too
different. I will miss you, Nathan.”
    “Dammit, we aren’t finished with this conversation, but I have to go
back out there and calm her down. You aren’t going anywhere until
we’ve talked, do you hear me?”
    She didn’t want to draw this out any longer, it hurt too much.
    He strode across the room and grabbed her by the shoulders. “Do
you hear me?”
    Finally, she nodded her head.
    “Say it. Promise me you won’t do anything until we can talk.”
    “All right,” she whispered, “I will wait for you to return.”
    He released her and stalked out of the bedroom.
    What more could he possibly say? Even if he had at one time
thought to accompany her, his sister would surely talk him out of it.
    But she had promised him, and therefore she would wait.




                                  72
                            FERTILITY RITE




                     CHAPTER 9


    “Mae, what in the hell are you doing here? You should have called
first.”
    His sister sat on the living room couch, looking totally out of place
in the old farmhouse. He watched as she lit a cigarette and inhaled
deeply, then blew the smoke out, setting the cigarette in a jar lid, using
it as a makeshift ashtray on the table next to her.
    “I suppose you’ve got all the ashtrays packed.” She turned her gaze
toward him. “Who is she?” Mae, the eldest sister, always trying to
demand things.
    “She’s none of your business. I asked you a question.”
    “You’re the one who wanted me to come out here to get Mom’s
things. So here I am. Now, answer my question. Or more to the point,
what is she?”
    He sat in the recliner across from her. “You might as well know,
I’m leaving with her tonight, and I won’t be back.”
                                   73
                            FERTILITY RITE

    “Dammit, Nathan, what are you trying to say? You’re leaving for
where?”
    “Don’t go all ballistic, Mae. You and Carl and I haven’t been that
close over the years.”
    “You’re my brother, Nathan. I worry about you.”
    Nathan snorted. “Give me a break, Mae. You couldn’t get away
from this farm fast enough and you know it. Carl wasn’t much better.
Well, I guess it’s finally my turn. I’ve found what I’ve been looking for
and I’m not going to give her up.”
    “She’s not human. How can she be what you’re looking for?”
    He shook his head. “You’ll never be able to understand. True, she’s
alien, but I love her and I’m going with her. I won’t see you again after
today, and you’ll have to tell Carl. But don’t worry about me. I’ll
finally have everything I’ve wanted.”
    “You expect me to tell Carl you’ve gone off with some alien
creature? You’ve got to be kidding. What would Mom and Dad say?”
    “They aren’t here, Mae. I won’t let you use them. Don’t try laying
some sort of guilt trip on me.” He stood up. “There’s nothing more to
talk about. I need to get back to her, to try to repair some of the damage
you did with your bad manners.”
    “You’re acting like a fool, Nathan. What if she gets you to her
planet and they use you for food or something?”
    He laughed. “You’ve got quite an imagination. You watch too
many science fiction movies.” He refused to admit he’d thought
something very similar himself at first. “That won’t happen, and even if
it did, it wouldn’t matter, because I can’t live without her, and that
means going with her no matter what happens.”
    “I should have you committed. Just think about this Nathan. If you
turned her in to one of those tabloid magazines, you could have enough
money to save your precious farm.”
    Nathan flew out of his seat and strode across the room. He grabbed

                                   74
                             FERTILITY RITE

Mae by the shoulders and lifted her from the couch. “If you even so
much as think about going to one of those newspapers, I’ll never
forgive you. I think it’s time for you to go. And don’t cause any more
trouble.” He released her and she fell, gasping, back onto the couch.
    “I can’t believe you threatened me, your own sister,” she gasped
and put a hand to her trembling red glossed lips. “What has she done to
you?”
    “Well believe. Screw this up for me and hell will feel like the
Antarctic when I’m through with you.” He reached into his pocket and
pulled out a keychain. He removed one key. “Here’s the key to the
house. Come back in a few days. We’ll be gone by then.” He placed the
key into the palm of her hand and closed her fingers over it.
    Slowly, Mae rose from the couch. She looked down at the key in
her hand. “You really mean to do this?”
    “Yes, I do.”
    “Are you sure those wing things are real? That this isn’t just a ploy
to get your attention?”
    He smiled. “No, they’re real. She comes from a planet a long
distance away. I won’t be coming back.”
    He was surprised when he saw tears pool in her eyes. Mae never
cried. “I’ll miss you, Nathan. Please don’t do this. You should be here
with your family.”
    He shook his head. “Mae, you’ll all be fine. You and Carl have your
own lives and you’ve done what you want with them. I need to do this.
I need to be with her.”
    Her lower lip quivered and she bit down on it. “All right. I’ll talk to
Carl. I’ll try to make him understand—even if I don’t myself.” She
turned and picked up her purse, then turned back to him. “Is there
anything I can do? I don’t like leaving like this.”
    He led her to the front door. “There’s nothing else. Just let me do
what I need to do, and don’t mess this up for me.”

                                    75
                            FERTILITY RITE

    Suddenly she turned and threw her arms around his shoulders and
hugged him. “I’ll miss you. You take care of yourself.”
    He hugged her back. “I will, sis, don’t worry. You be happy and tell
Carl to do the same.”
    “I will.” She released him and walked out the door.
    Nathan watched her get into her car and drive away. One problem
solved. Now he had to convince Lura he loved her and that she wasn’t
going anywhere without him.
    He walked into the bedroom and Lura sat curled up in a chair
staring out the window.
    “What are you looking at?”
    She stiffened, but didn’t turn at his words. “You have one sun here.
It seems strange. I was just wondering how you manage without the
second sun.”
    “You have two suns on Vrotia?”
    “Yes. The first brings the dawn. The second rises approximately
two hours later, and intensifies the heat and light. It does not appear in
the fourth cycle. That’s when everything hibernates.”
    “What cycle is your planet in now?”
    “It is the third cycle. The time of harvest, when the earth is fat and
plump with that which will carry us through until the second cycle
begins again. In the first cycle we will prepare for the planting. There
are many ceremonies to be performed in anticipation of a fruitful
planting season.”
    He was quiet for a long time. He would miss the conveniences on
Earth, but he also looked forward to a new beginning on Vrotia. He
walked over to her and knelt down in front of her. Taking her hands in
his, he brought them to his lips.
    “I’m going back with you.”
    He felt her still beneath his touch. She turned her head toward him,
her gaze luminous and intense, unbelieving. “What did you say?” she

                                   76
                            FERTILITY RITE

whispered.
     “I said, I’m going with you. I love you.”
     Tears spilled down her cheeks. “Wh-what about your sister, your
family?”
     He reached up to brush at the tears. “They’ll get along fine without
me. I’ve told Mae, she’ll let Carl know.”
     “I can’t believe you mean it.”
     “None of this means anything without you. I’m willing to take a
chance. I trust you, Lura. And I want to spend the rest of my life with
you.”
     She leaned forward and wound her arms around his neck. He held
her close.
     “I carry your child, Nathan.” Her voice was soft, hardly a whisper,
but he heard it and his heart stopped beating at her words.
     “You’re pregnant? How can you know this soon?” His arms
tightened around her.
     “I know. I can feel the changes in my body.”
     “Is that why your skin tone has darkened and your wings have
turned gold?”
     “I don’t know. I’ve never seen it happen before. I will have to ask
the Priestess when we return.” She leaned back and looked at him,
studying his face. “You are sure, Nathan?”
     “I’m very sure. When do we leave?”
     “Tonight, when the moon is full in the sky.”
     He reached a hand out to caress her abdomen. “A child. I still can’t
believe it. Possibly a son. This travel won’t hurt you or the baby will
it?”
     “No. It has been done many times. Nathan?” He heard a note of
worry in her voice.
     “What is it? Is something wrong? Something you’re not telling
me?”

                                   77
                            FERTILITY RITE

    “No, nothing is wrong. But I don’t want you to be disappointed. I
know all men would like a son. Vrotian women do not bear male
children—they only have females. It’s one of the reason we must mate
with males of other planets.”
    He hadn’t considered that. No possibility of a son to carry on his
name. Was it really that important? He smiled. “If she’s anywhere as
pretty as you, I’m a doomed man. She’ll probably get spoiled rotten.”
    Then Lura did cry, in great, heaving gulps. Nathan lifted her and
held her against him, caressing her wings. He had committed himself to
a life with a beautiful creature of fantasy who, it turned out, was real.
How could anyone turn a gift like that away. In his mind he could
picture their daughter, a small, delicate replica of her mother.
                            *      *       *
    Nathan locked the deadbolt on the door and followed Lura out into
the night. There was no need for him to take anything with him. He did
carry a few photos of his family as remembrances, but the rest he didn’t
need. He left a letter for Mae and one for Carl. Earlier in the day he’d
gone to the family lawyer and had him draw up a will and a power of
attorney, naming his siblings as executors and attorneys-in-fact,
respectively. He figured that should cover all bases if there was
anything he hadn’t thought to take care of.
    He had no regrets for the course he was about to embark on. He
knew it was the right choice for him. Lura stood in the middle of the
dirt road, waiting for him. He looked back at the house. The farm had
been the center of his existence for all of his life, and he was about to
close that chapter.
    The next steps he took would lead him down a new path and a new
world he was eager to see. Not long ago, he had no idea what he was
going to do with his life and had felt like he was groundless and lost.
So much had occurred in the last forty-eight hours.
    He turned and walked toward his future. He clasped Lura’s hand.
Wherever it led, he wouldn’t be following it alone.
                                   78
                            FERTILITY RITE




                      EPILOGUE


    Lura screamed at the top of her lungs as the band of pain shredded
whatever dignity she thought a woman should bear during childbirth.
Dymetra had been summoned the moment the pains began and her
water had broken.
    She hunched over and tensed as another pain wound through her
body. This child would not wait to be born. There seemed to be no
surcease between the arcs of torment as wave after wave drove through
her.
    “Lura, lie down. This child will be born today.”
    She leaned against the wall, a hand pressed against the hard flesh of
her stomach, her other hand clenched. “You think I don’t know that?
This child has made her intentions well known to me.”
    Another band of pain had her biting down on her lip. “Where is
Nathan? Didn’t Kimi send a servant to the fields with a message?”
    Dymetra walked over and took her arm, leading her to the bed. “I’m
                                   79
                            FERTILITY RITE

sure he will be here soon. He was in the farthest field. It will take time
for him to return.”
    She panted, trying to survive as another pain swamped her. “I want
him with me. I want him to see her born.”
    Dymetra positioned her legs and examined her. “I’m not sure this
child will wait for her father.”
    “This child will listen to her mother. She will wait for him.”
    “Lura!”
    She swept her gaze to the door. That wild-eyed man must be her
husband. She’d never seen him look so frazzled. She liked that word.
Nathan had taught her many such words over the last six months. Kimi
flew into the room behind him.
    “Cleanse your hands, Kimi. I will need your assistance,” Dymetra
directed.
    Nathan had given her such joy, and there were moments when she
was so happy she thought she was dreaming. He fit into their society
with ease.
    Lura tightened as another fierce pain enveloped her. Her six months
of pregnancy was about to culminate in the birth of their child, a life
they had created together, and she couldn’t wait to hold her.
    She reached out a hand to him. “I’m fine Nathan, but our child is
about to enter this world.”
    He rushed over to her side. “I’m here, Lura. Right here.”
    “I would not let her be born until you came, Husband.” Another one
of Nathan’s word. He liked it when she called him that.
    “It’s time, Lura. Support her, Nathan. Lura, bear down, hard.”
    Time seemed to stand still as the pains lengthened and seemed
never-ending. Finally, after another long, drawn out scream
reverberated around the room, a child was born. As the echo of Lura’s
screams subsided, the lusty cry of a newborn followed.
    Lura looked up at Nathan and laughed. “She’s here, Nathan.”

                                   80
                           FERTILITY RITE

    He leaned down and kissed her. “I love you, Lura.” He looked up at
Dymetra, who seemed to have an odd look in her eyes.
    “Kimi, take this child and bathe it. We are not done here.”
    “What are you—” Lura could not finish the thought as another
wracking pain encompassed her.
    “Nathan, help her. There is yet another child.”
    “That can’t be!” Lura cried. “There has never been such a thing.”
    “Bear down and let this child be born.”
    Nathan held her as she pushed. Took a breath. And pushed again.
Eventually another strong wail cried out as Nathan eased her sweat-
soaked and exhausted body back onto the bed.
    Lura looked at Dymetra, whose eyes were round with what
appeared to be shock.
    “What is it?” Lura cried, trying to sit up as Nathan supported her.
    Dymetra started to speak, but no words came out. She shook her
head and walked around the bed, motioning for Kimi to join her. They
presented the two children to their parents.
    “Lura, you have twin…sons. You are both truly blessed by Vu. As
is all of Vrotia. These children offer the hope of a new beginning for
our world. Your love has blessed us all.”




                                  81
                       ADRIANNA DANE


Theresa Gallup uses the pen names of Tess Maynard and Adrianna
Dane. Theresa has been writing since the age of 10. A legal secretary
for 30 years, she is currently working on another erotic romance, as
well as a full-length romantic mystery/suspense. She has been married
for 30 years and has three grown children (a daughter and twin sons),
and is a new grandmother.

Writing as Tess Maynard, her first published short story appeared in the
ezine, The Whispering Forest, in January of 2004. Writing as Adrianna
Dane, where adding sensual heat to romance is her motto, Esmerelda’s
Secret was her first foray into the erotic romance genre.

Having traveled and lived from the East Coast to the West Coast,
Theresa receives inspiration for her stories from a variety of sources,
including music and poetry, and her tastes are eclectic.

For more information about current projects, visit Theresa’s websites at
www.tessmaynard.com or www.adriannadane.com.

                           *       *      *

      Don’t miss Legend Of The Beesinger, by Adrianna Dane,
            available now from Amber Quill Press, LLC

A curse has been laid on Blakely, and before the next full moon,
Gerrick must discover a way to end it or he and all the people of his
land will die. Their only hope is for Gerrick to find the fabled honey
elixir. He travels to the Isle of the Singer and discovers not only the
magic elixir, but the one woman whose song touches his soul.

The Beesinger, Ambrosia de la Courte, a mortal, serves Oriana, the
Mistress of the Elixir and an immortal goddess. Her family owes a
long-standing debt in payment of past sins to the goddess, and
Ambrosia, as the eldest daughter, is committed to a lifetime of service
as Beesinger. To allow herself to love the handsome stranger who
needs her help and calls to her heart would mean the destruction of her
whole family, and Gerrick as well.

When the fates intervene, choices must be made. Will their love
survive? Or will the fickleness of the gods destroy them forever?
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