Rating: 4 stars
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Kit is on the run from a mad scientist who wants to harvest her “magic” to create a race of super beings. She was kidnapped from her home on Star 8, a place of deep mysticism that celebrates the goddess Maga and the magic that Maga gifts her loyal followers, both innate and acquired. Kit has some abilities, but her full power will not manifest until she encounters her Maga-chosen Mate and their sexual joining occurs. Kit’s been waiting 25 years to be blessed with a Mate, and is on the verge of giving up. She barely escaped the torturous experiments, after all. Kit travels with her familiar, a cat called Nero, and is wholly unprepared, and unwilling, to return to her captors when she’s picked up by a Beast hybrid tracker called Ana.
Commander Ana’id Kinsel is a retired Peacekeeper who spent her career hunting down traffickers and criminals. Being a Beast hybrid meant she had enhanced senses to trace her prey, and she made good use of her skills. She now runs her late parents’ mechanic shop on Star 3, a closed planet. Her younger brother, Leylan, has been captured by a scientist to whom he owes a large gambling debt. The scientist is willing to trade Leylan’s release for the return of another person to his lab, a woman who escaped a few weeks ago. Ana doesn’t want to hunt down the woman, but she believes the scientist will kill Leylan through experimentation if he’s not recovered—and he’s the sum total of Ana’s remaining family.
Ana’s intrigued by Kit’s scent, and her tiny but voluptuous body. She doesn’t want to be a creeper, but following her scent trail over several locations has definitely piqued Ana’s interest. She’s not a believer in magic, but she can see and sense aspects of Kit’s form that are way beyond the norm—and Kit’s not happy about it. Kit knows immediately that this mercenary tracker has been sent by the scientist, but she’s not ready for Maga to intervene. Or, is she? Because the longer Kit and Ana spend in transit back to the scientist’s base, the more neither of them can resist the attraction between them. But what will happen if Ana turns over Kit? Can she? Or will she leave Leylan to his own fate and embrace the peace and love she feels with Kit in her arms?
This is an interesting forced-proximity, adversaries-to-lovers, fated mates romance. I loved Kit from the start, because she is so young and naïve and desperate to get her life going. She’s pure of heart and spirit before being kidnapped and used for nefarious purposes, and yet, she’s not willing to compromise her beliefs, even if it means being recaptured. Ana is a returning character from Stay With Me, the first book in the New World series, so we know her to be an honest and forthright person, to a fault. Her attempt to find Kit is anything but mercenary, but it does take her some time to get things going the right direction. Ana may have been as desperate to find a committed partner like Kit, but falling hard for a potential magic-wielder was not even on her radar.
I loved how different both of these women are, and yet their shared commitment to family was common ground. Their sweetness was evident in their close-quarter reactions: Ana finds ways to assuage Kit’s pains, while Kit watches over Ana in a moment of complete vulnerability—when immediate escape should have been her priority. Their brat/Domme dynamic was also fun and playful, considering the heaviness of their situation. There are some intense sexy moments, and also some dark experiences, especially once they confront the scientist. Ana had to let go of her stagnant thinking, particularly surrounding justifiable retribution for cruelty. And, Kit had to realize that her secretiveness was truly only hurting herself. A couple well-intentioned conversations from supporting characters did get the love story back on track at the climax. This is an interesting and sweet novella, with some very spicy bits in there for fun. I’m looking forward to reading on in this series.