Chapter 1

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Eva moaned, her ears ringing with the clashing sounds of the spaceship crashing. The agony searing her leg clouded her mind, blurred her vision. Even though her shoulder lay against a sharp metal object, jabbing her back, the bloody leg hurt too much to move. She closed her eyes to steady her breathing, to block out the terrible carnage. A chill ran through her body. She shuddered and winced in pain.

Small screeching noises filled her ears. Debris settled, projecting creaky sounds around the aircraft. Each jarring echo made her heart jolt.

She forced her lids open and squinted to improve her vision, the scene around her hazy from the dust still settling throughout the spaceship wreckage. The captain’s chair lay on its side, its bottom still bolted to a warped deck. Her gaze roamed a little farther, and shivers shook her body at the recognition of her mother’s exquisitely manicured fingernails, the red lacquer still shiny on the charred hand that once cradled her as a baby. Blinking away the stinging tears, she turned away as if to deny the reality by defying its presence.

Please, someone be alive, she prayed. As she wiped tears and dust from her face, the floating particles made her cough, shooting jets of pain down her leg. She stared at the large pole across her limb. Blood puddled under the gash on her thigh. Damn! I’m losing too much blood. Wincing, she removed her jacket, bunched it up, and tried to push it on the wound. Survival instincts kicked in. The heavy beam pinning her made it difficult to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. She tried to push the massive rafter off her unresponsive leg, but it did not budge.

The effort brought a bout of nausea. Sweat beaded her forehead. Blood saturated the jacket, slicked her hands, draining her strength, bringing on chills and lightheadedness. Another quiet prayer from deep within her heart went out to God. Please make me die with the rest of my family. Warm tears streaked down her icy cheeks. Her nose stuffed from sobbing made it hard to breathe. With a slow movement, she wiped phlegm with her sleeve.

She turned to stare at the darkened bridge with its harsh emergency lighting. The seed of hope still lay in her that someone, anyone, would get up.

No one did.

The pain of death, the loss of blood stole her strength and her eyes fluttered closed, then the sensation of floating overtook her body.

***

Eva groaned. Her lids flickered open. She stared into a shiny round eye gazing back.

She gasped.

Fear took over her mind and body, fingers closed into fists while her body went rigid. The gigantic beast, a snow-white lizard, possibly, moved away as she focused. The corners of its mouth seemed to curl. Is the creature smiling? It can’t be. She shook her head in disbelief, her fear momentarily placed on hold. The monster moved farther away. Taking a few deep breaths, Eva assessed her surroundings and swallowed, moistening her parched throat then concentrated on calming the drumming of her heart that pained her ears. The ship had vanished. She sat in a cave on a foamy pad with no pain. Even the heavy beam across her legs was gone. Where am i? Her gaze returned to the lizard to make sure it had not moved. With a frown, she appraised the giant. It was stunning. The beast resembled a dragon from one of her childhood fairytale books. Only this snow-white dragon had legs and arms that almost resembled those of humans—even hands with fingers and leathery wings. In a silent exclamation she blinked several times to make sure what she saw was real. Even as its beauty transfixed her, she did not trust the huge thing towering over her.

She glimpsed around, wonderment seeped into her consciousness.

A cave.

The walls sparkled with a diffused aura of light that spread throughout the space and up into the dizzying heights of the ceiling. Diamonds. She’d never seen anything so magnificent, even though she had visited plenty of planets in her sixteen years.

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