scroll down for excerpt Book 17 in the Heart & Soul series
Love – is one ever really prepared for all it entails? Marten thinks so!
Heart – the pathway to true love was never meant to be easy. Davan
knows all about that.
Soul – finding love is part of it, trust is another, and Cam is intent on
his soul mate cresting that last hurdle.
Love: Marten & Lysie
“I’d make a terrible father.”
Kiile looked up from the viscomm screen. “What?”
Marten turned from the window where he’d been watching Lysie lying in the sun. Katina was sitting in the shade reading, one hand absently patting her rounded belly. “Or I would if I wasn’t so prepared.”
“Prepared?” Eulie asked from his prone position on the sofa.
“Prepared,” Marten affirmed.
“What, did you study up on it?” Eulie opened one eye.
“Of course.” Marten eyed him as his friend started to smirk. “I’m always prepared.”
“Oh yes, you were well prepared when Lysie came along.”
“Lysie was an unexpected… surprise.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“But I got her in hand.”
“One of my finer accomplishments.” Marten sat down in one of the chairs. “And now I’m fully prepared for fatherhood.”
“You don’t say?” Leaning back in his chair, Kiile folded his arms and eyed him with amusement.
“You haven’t studied any of that literature that Sarcan gave us, have you?”
“I had a cursory glance. I rather thought I’d just wing it.”
Poor, deluded fool. “You can’t just wing it, Kiile.”
“Kiile probably can,” Eulie said. “You, Marten, probably can’t.”
Kiile raised one brow. “What’s the difference?”
“You’re having a normal babe. Marten, on the other hand, is having half Felys, half Argon babes.” Eulie opened one eye again and looked at his friend. “You’ve spent ages talking to Rilla and Marx both on the viscomm and when they’ve visited. I bet you saved the conversation and have read it many times, studying it up.”
“I’m prepared.” Taking up the mug of hot una, Marten took a sip and eyed his friend. “Being prepared is being one step ahead of anything.”
“Ah, now, you see, babes and mothers don’t come according to text.”
Vastly entertained, Kiile pushed his chair back, kicked his booted feet up onto the desk, crossed his ankles, and put his linked hands behind his head. “Is that right?”
“Of course.” Eulie gave a little yawn. “Any fool knows that.”
Marten raised one brow coolly.
“See, I have many brothers and sisters,” Eulie continued, blithely disregarding his friends’ shared amused glances.
“You’re number two in a family of four boys and three girls,” Marten said. “So that makes you an expert?”
“I’ve seen my mother through five pregnancies. Trust me, that makes me expert enough to tell you that babes and mothers do not follow text completely.”
Marten leapt on that statement. “Fine, I’ll give you that. But they do follow text in most things.”
“Pfft.” Eulie flicked his fingers lazily. “Piddling details. The general birth is the same, but the reactions and the babies’ behaviours are all different.”
“I’m getting confused,” Kiile said. “Are we talking the actual birth or after?”
“Mostly after, though the birth reactions can all be a bit different. For example…” Holding up his hand in the air, Eulie started to tick off his fingers with each point he made. “One: some wenches are controlled during birth, some are angry with their partners for putting them there, and some cry.”
“Angry?” Marten echoed. “Ridiculous.”
Eulie smirked knowingly.
“I didn’t put her there alone,” Marten continued. “Lysie is half to blame.”
“Trust me, when she’s trying to birth a babe and pain is rolling over her, someone is going to get the blame and it won’t be her.”
“You’ll see.” Eulie ticked off another finger. “After the birth, she’ll be all loving and oohing and aahing over the new addition. New additions, in your case, Marten.”
Marten smiled smugly and Kiile rolled his eyes.
“Three: now comes the sleepless nights and night feeds and things.”
“Lysie’s such a nocturnal creature right now, she’ll be fine with that.” Feeling very well done by, Marten leaned back and rested his ankle over his opposite knee.
Eulie just smiled knowingly. “And then those ankle biters start pooping and yelling, and the wenches will be tired and any sex you know of will go right out the window for awhile. Could be a long, long, looooong time.”
“You just made that ‘looooong time’ up.” Kiile grinned. “No Argon wench can go without love making that ‘looooong’.”
“True. But then,” Eulie looked slyly at Marten, “You’re wed to a Felys. It could be a looooong time before you ever have sex again.”
That thought hadn’t actually occurred to Marten. He frowned, trying to remember if Rilla had said anything about sex after the birth period. Oddly, he couldn’t remember the Felys healer saying anything about sex.
Kiile started to laugh.
The mirth was dancing in Eulie’s eyes.
“I have more on my mind than sex,” Marten snapped.
“Such as trying to handle five energetic Felys kits.”
Heart: Davan & Delias
Ambling along in the moonlight, Delias hummed to herself. She’d just left her friend’s home, her parents had left on a trading trip to Comll to deliver some goods to the Reeka settlement, and Red had left on a trading trip and wouldn’t be back for several weeks. That meant she had the house to herself. Peace and quiet.
The river was a soft glisten of gently moving, clear water. Stopping under the shelter of a tree, she gazed at the water, knowing it would be warm and refreshing. Lifting her arms, she stretched, noting the little ache in the small of her back. She’d broken some rules today, lifting things too heavy and being a little careless in her handling of the smaller bundles. Her annoyance with Davan being around so much had made her reckless. Luckily her parents didn’t know about her aches, or she’d have received a tongue lashing.
The water beckoned her and she nibbled her lower lip and eyed the glittering swirl. The merchants were all gone, and no Daamen man or boy who stumbled upon her would be a threat—they’d beat a retreat in a hurry. Any wench or child was perfectly safe on Daamen amongst their own kind.
Of course, going swimming alone was frowned upon for safety reasons, but who would know? Besides, the water was warm and would soothe her back. And there was no one to tattle on her.
Having made up her mind, Delias cast one more glance around before kicking off her sandals and whipping off her long gown. Her support garment and panties followed to lie discarded on the grass with the silk of her gown. Fastening her hair atop her head with a tie, she moved to the edge of the bank and waded into the water, sighing in satisfaction as the water slid up her body to encompass her waist.
Kicking off, she sliced through the water and proceeded to swim lazily, moving slowly, allowing the warmth of the water to lap at her body.
The night was so peaceful, the sound of night flyers in the forest nearby, the scent of the night blossoms filling the air, the splash of fish as they jumped out of the water and back down into the sparkling depths.
“Can anything be more perfect?” she murmured aloud.
Time slipped past and finally she started for the bank. Her feet found purchase on the ground and the water had just started to lap above her breasts when a deep voice growled angrily, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Delias froze. It couldn’t be…
“Don’t stop.” Davan stepped out from the shadows, and even though she couldn’t make out his features with the shadows cast from behind him, she could hear the anger in his voice.
Staying exactly where she was, Delias frowned. “What do you want?”
“I want you out of the water.”
“Really? I don’t think so.”
Coolly she looked him up and down. “Why don’t you go and harass someone else, Davan?”
Big hands settled on lean hips, making his giant frame seem even more menacing. “You don’t want me coming in after you, wench.”
“Oh, I’m so scared.” Scowling, she flicked her hand at him. “Go away. I’m not coming out until you’re gone.”
“’Tis too bad, wench. I’m not leaving until you’re out.”
“Oh, ’tis so?”
“Aye.” The bite in his tone was sharp.
Delias tossed her head. “If you’re hoping for a glimpse of flesh, Peacekeeper, I’m disappointed in you. You’re supposed to be protecting me, not asking me to come out naked in full view.”
Davan’s hissing inhale from between his clenched teeth was audible. “Are you telling me that you’re not just swimming alone, but you’re also naked?”
“My, aren’t you the quick-witted one.” Delias raised one brow haughtily.
Those long, strong legs took one step closer and the air was suddenly tangible with threat. “Get out of the water now, Delias.”
The shiver that went through her wasn’t exactly fear, but it wasn’t far from it. That and something else she wasn’t going to examine too closely. Just as she wasn’t going to take his orders. “Go away, Davan. I’m not interested in being bullied.”
“If you don’t get out right now, Delias, I’m coming in after you, and trust me, you don’t want that.”
She stared up at him, her thoughts starting to turn. It wasn’t the normal tone Davan used, and his approach wasn’t normal, either. Why was he in such a snit about her being naked in the water? “No Daamen man would touch me, so why the big performance?”
“The big performance, wench, is that there are visiting merchants here and any one of them could stumble across you. They wouldn’t look the other way.”
“’Tis no one here. They all left this afternoon.”
“Which just goes to prove you don’t know everything, doesn’t it? A small group of merchants arrived this evening. Now get out of the damned water, for I’ll not tell you again.”
Now she could understand his concern, but still… “I’m not coming out with you standing there.”
Without further hesitation, Davan strode to the edge of the bank.
He was coming in after her! A thrill of fear shot through her and Delias held up one dripping hand. “Stop! Wait! Davan, nay!”
The water was actually lapping at the toe of his boot when he halted. “’Tis your final chance, Delias.”
“But I can’t…you’re there…I won’t come out naked!” she finally burst out.
“I’m not leaving.” Anger still threaded his voice.
“You can’t possible expect me to come out of here naked? In front of you?”
Soul: Cam & Sabra
Sabra walked into the dining cabin, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear that had escaped her bun. Her gaze fell on Cam where he leaned against the long food counter, a mug of steaming una in one hand.
Dark eyes twinkling, he eyed her over the rim. His long, curly hair was neatly fastened back in its usual ponytail. The man was like a dangerous dessert, delicious and tempting and with a devilish side to him.
“I rather preferred you dishevelled and naked in my bunk,” he drawled.
“We can’t all have what we want all the time.” Crossing to him, she went up on tiptoes and when he obligingly leaned down, she kissed him lightly on the lips.
“Mmmm.” He smacked his lips. “Yummy.”
Sliding an arm around her waist, Cam handed her a glass of icy berry juice – and aye, he knew her favourite and kept it on the ship at all times – and led her over to the big armchairs that were fastened to the floor on the other side of the dining cabin. Sabra slouched down in one of the armchairs and he sat in the one opposite.
“So,” he said, “here on business? Or just passing through?”
“Isn’t passing through and business the same thing?”
“Oh, lass.” He shook his head in mock sadness. “’Tis no answer.”
Sabra grinned and took a sip of the berry juice, savouring the sweetness.
“I heard about that little ruckus back home.”
Sabra’s smile faded. “Oh?”
“Aye.” Cam rested the mug on the armrest and laconically rested one booted ankle on the opposite knee. “Davan has been tied up in knots almost ever since, so they tell me.”
“Really?” She studied Cam’s face, trying to gauge what he was thinking. As usual, his expression was calm, his gaze steady.
“Overly protective now and driving Delias crazy. Though,” he winked, “he was always hovering over her and driving her crazy, so ’tis no big change there.”
“Nay.” Sabra took another sip of juice.
Cam’s gaze sharpened. “Something wrong, lass?”
“You’ve heard nothing else?”
“I heard you and Marly were there.”
One dark brow rose. “And?”
The condensation from the glass was cold against her fingers. “Did you hear why Delias got into that situation?”
“Because you asked her to help.” There was no condemnation on his face, but his expression was thoughtful as he watched her.
“Aye, I did.” Placing the glass down on the low coffee table, Sabra leaned back in the armchair, placed her elbows on the armrests and rested her chin on her linked hands.
Cam studied her quietly.
She met his gaze steadily, wondering what he was thinking. A little afraid to know.
“All right, lass,” he finally said. “What troubles you?”
“What makes you think I’m troubled?”
“Sabra.” There was a hint of censure in his deep voice.
Just the way he said her name so simply made her heart leap a little. Sabra rubbed her bottom lip with her thumb while she wondered exactly how to broach the subject.
As usual, he knew her thoughts. “Sabra, you had good reason for what you did.”
“Are you so sure?”
“One day you might not think so. One day I could make a decision that you won’t like.”
“Lass.” He leaned forward in the chair, his dark eyes so knowing. “Liking a decision has nothing to do with it. No matter what you say or do, I’ll be there for you. Always.”
She had to swallow the stupid lump that came into her throat.
Reaching out, he placed one big hand on her knee and squeezed gently. “Nothing you could do would ever make me think less of you.”
“You can’t tell me that you approve of me placing Delias in a position to get hurt.”
“You were there,” he replied simply.
“You have absolute faith in me.”
“One day I could disappoint you.”
Not one more word passed his lips. Instead, he caught her hand, tugged her up and pulled her to him and down onto his lap. Wrapping his arms around her, he cuddled her against him and tucked her head under his chin.
It was such a simple, warm gesture of love and acceptance, and it made her relax totally. With a sigh, she snuggled closer.
The peace didn’t last long. Her communicator on her jacket gave a small beep and with a sigh, she sat upright, pulled the ear piece from her pocket and slid it into her ear out of sight. “Aye?”
“A settlement has been hit,” Marly’s voice came through clearly.
“Coming.” Sabra looked at Cam.
“Work calling?” he guessed.
“Aye.” Leaning forward, she kissed him gently on the lips. “I love you, Cam.”
“I love you, Sabra.”
It was the same words they always said to each other when they parted. Neither had to say out loud that those words could be the last they ever heard the other speak, but it was a knowledge between them.
Cam walked her to the bottom of the trade ship ramp. He kissed her one last time, soft but quick, and she left the safe, warm haven of his arms and strode over to the small ship where Marly and Freeman waited.
Just before she entered the ship, she glanced over her shoulder to see her big, gentle giant leaning against one of the iron ramp arms, his gaze on her. He smiled slightly and raised his hand. She smiled back and then entered the spaceship.
Once on board, Marly greeted her with news. She didn’t even notice the change in herself. Minutes ago she’d been Cam’s wife, now she was a Security Officer, and the hunt had just become more intensified.
~ * ~
The peacekeepers were grimfaced as they went about their business. The ruins smouldered, the bodies were fresh. Carrion eaters circled the skies awaiting the chance to feast on dead flesh.
Miles away a planet shuttle lifted from a settlement, the travellers settling in for the long flight to the next planet.
Out in space, a spaceship, bristling with lasers, waited for the next prey. In one of the cabins, a woman knew she’d done something to survive for a little longer, and she cried.
~ * ~
How he loved the fear on the faces of the travellers. Harten strode down the aisle, his laser in one fist. These travellers were quiet, fearful, but none tried to fight. Some of the women sobbed and he saw some really pretty ones amongst them. One in particular he wanted, the one with the rich brown hair with that intriguing blonde patch in it.
Four of his men spread out along the big planet shuttle, two behind him ready to round up the travellers and two moving into the next carriage.
Stopping beside her seat, he gestured with his laser. “Stand up.”
She did so slowly, surprising him with how tall she was, at least half a head taller than himself. What a novelty, not many women stood this tall. Her head was bowed.
Grabbing her chin in hard fingers, he jerked her face up. Oh yes, this one was pretty, all right. Cobalt eyes, so piercing and… hard?
Startled, he blinked. He couldn’t believe it when metal pressed against his abdomen and he looked down to see the tip of a laser resting against his abdomen.
“Surprise,” she said softly.
“What the – ”
“You’re under arrest, arsehole.”
Recovering from his surprise, Harten gave a harsh bark of laughter. “Me?”
One fine, dark brow arched. “You think you shouldn’t be?”
“I think you’re a dumb bitch.” His upper lip curled as he glanced around at the other travellers huddled in their seats. “I don’t see anyone else willing to help you. You’re incredibly stupid to think you can take me on your own.”
“What makes you think I’m on my own?”
“Problem?” One of men called from the end of the carriage.
It was more than obvious that his men didn’t have a clue that this woman had him at laser point, but Harten wasn’t worried. “Nothing I can’t handle,” he called back.
The woman looked him directly in the eye, not a sign of fear on her pretty face. He’d soon fix that. “I’ll have you grovelling at my feet within the hour,” he promised her.
The tip of the laser pressed harder against his abdomen. “’Tis right?”
“Yeah.” He grabbed her wrist. “Kill me if you can.”
“I’d rather you just come with me, all nice and quiet.”
“Harten?” One of his men called.
“Not now,” he grated.
“There’s something wrong with these travellers!”
Harten glared over his shoulder. “Damn it! Deal with it! I’m busy!”
“There’re no travellers here!”
“What the hell are you on about? I can see the bloody travellers myself!”
“I’m telling you, Harten, they’re not real!”
Ignoring the laser tip against his abdomen, Harten reached out to grab the nearest traveller only to have his hand go through thin air. The traveller wavered in his seat, popped and was gone.
In front of his disbelieving eyes, every traveller vanished.
“Surprised now?” the woman drawled.
“What the hell…?” He swung his head around and glared up at her.
“A little visual imaging.” She pressed the tip harder against him. “Hands up, slaver. You’re under arrest.”
“By you and what army?”
“I don’t need an army.” She smiled. “I’m IPS Security.”
coyright Angela Verdenius