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Reclaiming their love, p.1
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       Reclaiming Their Love, p.1

         Part #4 of Wings of Artemis series by Rebecca Royce
 
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Reclaiming Their Love


  Reclaiming Their Love

  Wings of Artemis, book 4

  By: Rebecca Royce

  Reclaiming Their Love

  Wings of Artemis, book 4

  © Copyright 2016 Rebecca Royce

  Published by After Glows

  PO Box 224

  Middleburg, FL 32050

  AfterGlowsPublishing.com

  Digital ISBN: 978-1-944060-41-1

  Print ISBN: 978-1-944060-43-5

  Cover by Syneca Featherstone

  Formatting by AG Formatting

  All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

  AfterGlowsPublishing.com

  NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

  Dearest Reader,

  Thank you so much for picking up Reclaiming Their Love (Wings of Artemis #4). As I get asked this periodically, I thought I would address an issue here. The timeline of these stories—thanks to that pesky black hole—is fluid. As the series is designed to give each heroine two stories in her storyline that, overall, push the series storyline on, sometimes characters have stories going on at the same time. That’s why you can read these stories out of order without having to start at the beginning.

  This is Diana’s second book; her first story can be read in Crashing Into Destiny (Wings of Artemis #3). If you have already read Paloma’s first story, Meeting Them, then you have met the next heroine already. As Artemis jumps around in time, Reclaiming comes in between Loving Them and Saving Them, which will be released soon.

  If you are the kind of reader who wants to read books in chronological order, the order can be as follows:

  Melissa

  Kidnapped By Her Husbands http://books2read.com/kidnappedbyherhusbands

  Rescued By Their Wife http://books2read.com/RescuedByTheirWife

  Diana

  Crashing Into Destiny http://books2read.com/CrashingIntoDestiny

  Paloma

  Meeting Them (was first in the Falling for Them anthology, now released alone.) https://books2read.com/MeetingThem

  Diana

  Reclaiming Their Love

  Paloma

  Loving Them (coming July 11th, 2017)

  Saving Them (coming soon)

  And more to come…

  Hugs,

  Rebecca Royce

  CHAPTER ONE

  Home Again

  I did my hundredth crunch for the day while my mother’s morning announcement to Mars Station echoed from the speakers. I knew what she planned to tell the population. The time for us to leave had come. Sandler had been attacking us on the Station for years. We weren’t going to hold out much longer. The Council had decided to evacuate, to give Sandler the win.

  My mother disagreed with the vote. At least publicly. Privately, my family and friends were working on a plan to win—but one requiring us to look like we lost. Sandler would let his guard down. Then we’d end his reign of terror. For now, we had to leave.

  I didn’t care. One place was much the same as any other.

  I pictured their faces as I worked out. Sterling—my super-soldier who didn’t know his own heart. Damian—wounded inside with a shield around his emotions to cover the way life had broken his heart. Judge—sweet, bouncy, brilliant, ethical to his very core. Cash—brilliant, his mind always working, his constant need to control the world, to keep everyone safe. Lewis—kindhearted, lonely, always questioning whether he deserved…anything.

  My necklace, holding all five of my wedding rings, bounced while I finished my last sit-ups, slapping hard on my sweaty skin. I only let myself picture them three times a day. They still held my heart, and I didn’t want to listen to the endless, lonely drum of it beat out my loss. It was better to be numb.

  I grabbed a towel and wiped off. My family had gone over everything the night before. The kids—my siblings—had been evacuated with my uncles Cooper and C.J. to a place the family had acquired years before on a planet far from here. No one outside of our nearest and dearest knew about it. Those of us left on the Station were going to help with the evacuation and then board our own shuttles. My mom had wanted me to leave earlier, but I’d scoffed. I could be of more help here. I needed to be busy.

  For the last two years I’d kept myself endlessly moving. Time couldn’t catch me, grief couldn’t drown me, if I never let it get hold.

  Two years and three weeks earlier and on the other side of the universe, Evander Corporation had forcibly taken my husbands from me. The corporation had used chips implanted in their necks to pull them, against their wills, into pods that then launched into space. The act had left me behind. I’d only been with them because an attack had shoved my ship through a black hole. I loved them—Cash, Lewis, Damian, Sterling and Judge—with the kind of abandon that comes with finally believing happiness was possible.

  They’d loved me with similar devotion too.

  I’d been bitten by an Infected—a Zombie—and would have died if my family hadn’t shown up to save me. I could hardly remember the experience, and each day that I’d lived since then seemed exactly the same as the ones before it. Or maybe it had to do with the six months in a medically induced coma while Uncle Dane used my husbands’ research to fix me. Maybe I had brain damage. Everyone kept insisting I was fixed.

  Well, most of me.

  I should be feeling something, anything. But nothing came. Just a deep hole of nothingness. This was always the way after I let myself think about my loves. I got into the shower, letting the sweat wash off my body. This was my last day in my room. I had no idea what the new place would be like.

  I had no stuff to pack except my clothes.

  I dried off and took a good look at the scar on my arm. The place where the Zombie had bitten me never healed. A large, ugly patch of dried skin. It was paler than the rest of me, which was difficult to fathom, but there it was. Once a week, my Uncle Dane injected with me a serum he’d made to stop the dead skin underneath from spreading. I’d have to do it forever. Sometimes it took fifty shots to get it right. Every Monday. Nine sharp. By the time he finished, I was usually silently crying. I couldn’t help it. Pain was pain. At least the physical kind.

  I never fussed. I never objected.

  I endured. That was life.

  After dressing myself in a black skirt, black boots that made me look taller and fiercer, and a black turtleneck sweater to match, I checked the mirror to make sure I’d gotten the look I wanted. No one bothered the girl dressed in black. It matched my dark hair and eyes. I grabbed my backpack, swinging it over my shoulder. My clothes and the serum I needed were inside. Dane had given me three months’ worth in case, for some reason, we were separated. Nothing could be taken for granted anymore, not even us getting onto the same ship.

  If I had to, I could inject myself.

  My communicator beeped, and I answered. My mother was on the other line. I didn’t say hello. I knew what she wanted. “I’m on my way there now. I’ll be on the shuttle in an hour.”

  “Just making sure you didn’t overslee
p.”

  I fingered one of my wedding rings around my neck. “I never sleep. Not possible to overdo it on two hours a night.”

  She sighed. “I want to talk again when we get there. Wes will recreate the time device that moved you through the black hole, the one that didn’t allow the black hole to shoot you out in a different time. He’ll do it. We’ll take you. After we get set up in the new location.”

  “I don’t know where they are, and every minute we’re here, their timeline hurtles forward. Time moves faster there. The second I arrived here, they were probably ten years older. Or more. I’ll see you on the shuttle. Be careful. Sandler wants you as much as the station. They want to break the Alexander reign.” That wasn’t exactly accurate. He’d tried to kill me and would still like to. If I died, it would destroy my mother. He wanted my death to break her. But we never discussed that. I wouldn’t be used. I think we both understood how far I was willing to go to make sure I was neither killed nor kidnapped. I would vanish, if I had to. I’d find somewhere to go where no one would ever find me again.

  Not telling her didn’t mean she didn’t know. In the time I’d been away, my people had discovered a lot of things, including the Sandler’s objectives of universal domination. The Sandlers had a playbook, a step-by-step map to success. Each objective brought them closer to the next one. Capturing my mother was something to check off.

  She refused to cower.

  “Uncle Nolan and your father are flanking me. You be careful, too.”

  No one hid as well as I did.

  I disconnected our call and walked fast from my small apartment onto the main pathway, which would take me to the shuttle where my family waited. The only people left on the station were either leaving today or riding out the Sandler takeover, which was crazy. Most everyone else had fled a long time ago. Sandler wanted the station, and some people didn’t care who ran it. I hoped they weren’t all beheaded by the end of the day.

  Two people nodded at me. They wouldn’t have before I’d gotten sucked through the black hole and come back having survived a Zombie bite. I’d gone from odd to exotic. I couldn’t for the life of me remember their names.

  The only people whose opinion mattered to me were probably fifty or sixty years old on the other side of the universe. I hoped they had wives. I hoped they’d made lives. I knew they’d loved me. I could still feel them in my soul. I would always be married to them. But I didn’t wish my loneliness on their existences. Just the opposite. I wanted them to be happy.

  And to remember me well.

  Even if what I really wanted was to claw out their wives’ eyes.

  I hurried. The sooner I got on the ship, the better. Time moved forward; it always did. This would be another phase in my life.

  Maybe they hadn’t all remarried. Maybe some of them would miss me forever, too. Okay, maybe all of them had. I groaned. Diana Mallory, crazy and lonely…

  The hallway was crowded, and I drifted into a slow-moving crowd. I didn’t have far to go. I forced myself to relax and put up with the inconvenience. There had been a time that I wouldn’t have cared, when I wasn’t running from a human enemy and time itself.

  Now, anything that got in my way made me want to throw things, and I had, actually. When I’d first woken up back at home and not with my loves, I’d thrown anything and everything I could get my hands on. I’d hurled medical equipment, food, and my shoes at anyone stupid enough to get in my way. Then that had all passed, and left in its wake was the nothingness that had become me. The vast emptiness of my soul…

  A movement caught my attention. I glanced left. There were a million things happening in the promenade. What made my mind stand up and pay attention when all I wanted to do was get this done? A man stood, leaning against one of the closed bakeries. He pulled his hoodie over his head and looked left and right. I stopped moving, and the person behind me oomphed into my behind. I said a quick sorry and ran ahead a bit to get a better look at the guy. It seemed as though my husbands appeared to me in the faces of other people a hundred times a week. It’s never them.

  Despite my own family’s story about getting through the black hole, the likelihood my guys could pull it off while they were under the thumb of Evander was slim to none. It had taken my family eight years to reconnect. If the exact same thing were to happen, it was six years at least until I could see them, and even then the chances were zilch.

  Still, the guy to the side seemed so damned familiar. He stepped toward the crowd, his hoodie falling back again.

  It was … him. It … was Damian.

  How was he here? My heart rate kicked up till it pounded so loudly it drowned out all other sounds. I ran. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t call his name. My boots struck loudly on the floor with every move I made. I slammed into someone, couldn’t even apologize, and grabbed Damian’s arm.

  He whirled around, facing me. Recognition flooded his expression. I knew this man—love, wonder, awe, disbelief—they all played in his gaze until utter joy took their place. “Di-Diana.” His voice shook, and then his arms were around me.

  “Diana.” He said again, tugging me close, so tightly I could hardly breathe. “We thought…when we docked today, everyone was leaving. We thought you were gone. Judge was working on some plans … but I told them I had to give it a last look. You’re here. You’re here.”

  I breathed him in. He smelled … right. One of my guys. My love. Two years without him and we’d almost missed each other. “Damian. Damian. Damian.” I kept saying his name, almost unable to utter anything else. There were things … I had to think, I had to say. “I’d just thought—literally seconds ago—that I’d never see you again, not ever.” A sob threatened, and I shoved it away. I had to think, I had to make myself function through the most elation I’d ever experienced. “We-we have to get out of here now. It’s not safe. Where are the others? I don’t know what to do. I think I’m in shock.”

  He nodded, his eyes narrowing. “The others are on Artemis. Come on. I’ve got you, Diana. I’ve got you.”

  I grabbed my communicator and sent my mom a message. It was brief, unclear, but I hoped she got the gist that I had found one of my husbands and was getting on Artemis. I’d meet her on the planet. Or maybe I said nothing coherent. I didn’t know. Things were somehow both fast and slow; had the Station tilted?

  Damian took my hand. His strong fingers held me tight, anchored me when things spun around us. “How did you get here?” I shouted to be heard over the crowd.

  “Later.” He yelled back. “I-I can’t think. If you’re not safe, I’ll get you safe. Please.”

  His words told me that I wasn’t alone in my brain shutting down to basic functions. Would it come back? I really didn’t know. I never could deny his please. We walked for what felt like forever but eventually made into the docking station. Artemis was three-quarters of the way down. Like they suddenly popped into existence, Sterling and Cash were talking outside of the ship, and I could hardly trust my own eyes. There they were. They were … there.

  I…

  Sterling saw me first, or maybe he heard my heartbeat—I didn’t know which. He leapt into a run and had his arms around me in seconds. I hung on. What was he saying? Sorry? What was he sorry for? I pressed my forehead to his chest. His heart beat and beat and beat. I could hear it. Didn’t that make it real? And then I was being passed into Cash’s waiting hug. He said some things too. Love. Yes, I loved him, too. But I couldn’t think.

  “Cash.” I touched his face. He felt real, not a hallucination.

  I’d dreamed this moment a million times. I wanted to be in it. I shook my head. Why couldn’t I focus?

  Lewis and Judge were suddenly there too. They were all hugging me, all touching me. There was so much noise.

  I breathed out. “Hi.”

  “She’s going to faint.” Lewis’ voice pushed through. “Let’s give her some air.” His arm was around my waist. “Come inside. Sit down. Someone go get her water.”

 
I was soon on one of the couches from Orion. It didn’t belong on Artemis. It was supposed to be on the other side of the universe. But then again, so were my husbands. They must have brought furniture onto Artemis. Strange, small details made their way into my mind while large, important things couldn’t get through. A blanket was around me, water in my hand, and they were all snuggled near me, either on the couch or the floor next to it.

  I held out my hand. “We have to get off this station. I need to think. I keep saying that because it’s true. Um, I’m so happy you’re here. You can’t know.” My voice shook. “I…”

  Sterling kissed my cheek. He sat to my left. I leaned on Cash, who stroked my arm. Damian was right in front of me, kneeling down. Lewis and Judge were each touching my knees. They were so beautiful.

  “Where do you want to go?” Sterling kissed my cheek again. “I’ll put in the coordinates.”

  I had them memorized. My mother had insisted. Either I told him or Sterling had learned to read minds. He disappeared into the cockpit, likely to enter the designated coordinates and get us launched. Lewis took his place.

  He touched my arm, over the dead skin. “How are you here? Please don’t get me wrong; this is what I hoped for. But you should be dead. I want to know what he did and … why your arm has this one spot of dead skin. Is it going to spread? Is it still healing? What is your prognosis?”

  “Please don’t look at it. I mean, I guess you’re going to have to look at it. One of you will have to give me my injections until we get to where we’re going. Or I can do it. Don’t look. It’s gross.”

  Cash actually kissed the yucky part of skin. “It’s not gross. You’re alive. Help us understand.”

  “You’ll have to talk to Dane. He’s the one who did it. All I know is he used your research, and he could manage to fix all of me except right here. This has to be constantly managed, stopped from taking over again. Every Monday.”

 
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