Published by Soul Mate Publishing Genres: Romance, Sci Fi
Source: Amazon, Amazon Unlimited
A warm hand touched hers. Kira jumped, disoriented. Trapped. White walls. Confining. Hopelessness.
A gentle stroking along her cheek pulled her back to the present. Her eyes focused. There, before her, stood Kaegen, alive and untouched by the needles. “Commander,” she said, struggling to think of something to say to hide her distress.
“Pilot,” he replied, green eyes warm and once more at ease. The soldier in him had retreated when the prison guard had exited. At last, she understood. This side of him, the gentler side, was only for her.
For days, she had been asking about him, worrying that she would find an empty shell the next time she saw him. But here he was, standing only inches from her, heat radiating from his body, calling to her, alive and whole. She’d felt so cold inside, so empty and alone without him. She wanted, needed, that quiet strength of his, that confidence that made her believe everything would be fine, his unspoken promise that life held as much pleasure as it did pain.
His unique musk that reminded her of the riverbank calmed her enough to take a deep breath and relax. Strong yet gentle fingers glided over her cheeks, her jaw, and down her throat, as if he too was trying to discern if this encounter was real.
It had been nearly two weeks since she’d felt the touch of his hand on hers, or the press of determined lips on her mouth, challenging her to take her pleasure from him. His thumb brushed over her lips and she opened her mouth, hoping, longing to be kissed, but he only continued to touch her neck, throat, and collarbones with the lightest touch, as if she were fragile and might break.
At last, she allowed herself to take in and memorize every nuance of the man who created such confusion, such need within her. Kira drew her fingers to his split lip, gently touching the angry cut she wanted to kiss, to take away the pain. When had he ceased to be the enemy? Even now, with his split lip and the bruises covering his arms, neck, and face, she could only see the man on the riverbank, the man who’d risked himself for her, the man who had made her feel alive and valued. She felt like she had known him a lifetime. His eyes closed as her fingers traced a line from his neck to the new skin implant on his shoulder. They had treated his wounds, only to beat and ultimately slate him for mindwipe.
She reached out, lightly cupping his bruised cheek. “I’m sorry.”
“You’ve done nothing to be sorry for, shaiya.” He drew her hand to his lips and lightly kissed her fingertips.
A bellow from down the hall made her jump. Kira leaned against the door. The dim light above, the four walls, the stale air . . .
Tal’s brow furrowed. “Pilot?” he called, his voice laced with worry.
“This place . . .” She scanned the room again, unable to suppress the shudder that traveled through her. “Why did you save me?” she blurted out. The words sounded more like an accusation than the words of someone who desperately needed to know the truth. She guessed they were a bit of both.
“Life-debt,” he said, with practiced ease. “You saved my life.”
She’d had only two days in his presence, and most of those were memories she’d rather forget. But she knew, without a doubt, that he was lying. “A soldier must have the mettle to kill. Do you remember telling me that, Commander?”
“Yes,” he said, his voice level.
She closed her eyes. All she could see were the mindwipe needles that would soon pierce his skull. “You should have left me there to die.”
He sailed forward and entwined his fingers in her hair, working their way along her jaw and down to her neck. A lover’s touch, memorizing every detail. Intoxicating. The feel of his fingers dancing over her skin was utterly intoxicating. The feel of his hand, the promise it held, would help her through the long days and lonely nights ahead, but it wouldn’t be enough.
How could she have lived her life without ever knowing a touch could speak louder than words? She did not deserve his touch or him. She had come here on orders, to betray his trust. “The risk—”
“Was necessary,” he said a second before a soft, delicious kiss landed behind her ear.
She pressed her palms to his chest, intending to push him away. Then another kiss, more delicate than the last, caressed her cheek. Mindwipe. If she failed, they’d mindwipe him. “A soldier must also have the mettle to let another die,” she whispered in his ear. “I meant nothing to you, you should have left me to my fate.”
Anger, pure and swift, swept over him as if she had dealt him an unforgivable blow. The soldier had re-emerged for a split second, long enough to tell her that he still saw her as a Deridian, his enemy. He turned his back to her. She should not be here. Whatever this was between them wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
“I was not prepared to discuss us,” he said.
Us? Kira sank to the cot. The scratchy cotton against her palms reminded her of just who and where she was. “There is no ‘us’, Commander,” she said, staring down at the floor.
Thickly-muscled thighs barely hidden by thin, yellow prison pants appeared before her. She lowered her gaze to his feet, because she couldn’t bear to look up at him. What if she saw that grin that made her heart speed up? What if he wore his stoic face, the one that said nothing could hurt him, even though deep down she knew that wasn’t true.
Warm fingers touched her chin and guided her head up. “Then why are you here?” he asked.
I don’t know.
“Why are you here?” he insisted, his voice gaining in intensity as he knelt before her.
He trusted her. She could feel it in her soul. He had no reason to trust her, of all people, yet he did. If he knew her past, he wouldn’t trust her, he’d turn away like all the others. Yet her past was not the issue here. She couldn’t let Kaegen be punished for her wrongs. For him to trust her as he did was an honor she could not ignore, even if the trust was sorely misplaced. Her father would have liked him, this man of unerring faith and loyalty. No, she could not let her people mindwipe Kaegen. He needed to return home. One way or another, she’d find a way to get him there, away from her people who would mindwipe him without a second thought.
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