Authors: Brenna Lyons
Daveed moved closer to her, and he whispered to her. “You are safe at Spice. There is nothing to fear here.”
She looked up at him, offering a smile. Camera flashes went off all around them.
It was nearly seven, and Joy was still at her desk, slaving over new designs for the spring season. Her honey-colored hair made enticing curls around her face when it was down, and Daveed had dreamed of combing his fingers through them for the last month.
“Dinner?” he offered.
Joy looked up from her designs, checked the clock, then checked her watch with a shake of her head. “You want to talk to me, Daveed?”
He smiled. “If you wish to discuss business, we can. I just thought you might enjoy having dinner with me.”
She shied a bit on the chair, her expression wary. “That’s probably not a good idea.”
Daveed tried not to let his disappointment show. “Really? We both need to eat. Is there a reason we shouldn’t eat together?”
“I would hope Lyle explained that to you.” Her voice was calm and even, but her hands shook.
“The so-called news?” That didn’t bother her, did it?
“Daveed, the news will say you’re being inappropriate.”
“By having dinner with a colleague?” It burned to call her that when he wanted so much more from her.
Joy sighed. “The anti-Xxan guerrillas have attacked for less, you know.”
, I have never had problems talking to a woman before.
I’ve never wanted a woman like I want Joy before.
“What if I want to be
appropriate with you?”
Her eyes widened a bit, enticing him with the blue highlights that matched her jacket. “How…appropriate?” Fear wafted off of her in waves.
I’m scaring her away. I need to retreat.
“Never mind. This is the wrong time, I suppose.”
She straightened in her chair. “Daveed…”
He waited for her to find the words.
Joy cleared her throat. “Relationships… I mean
relationships in the workplace don’t often work out, and when they don’t, it becomes very difficult to work together in the aftermath. And with the perception problems—”
He nodded grimly, then tipped his head. “Have a good night, Joy. Don’t work too late.”
Daveed made his way out of the office. He stopped at the security office and ordered the guards to walk Joy to her vehicle. Then he ordered one of them to follow her back to the secured building, just to make sure she arrived safely.
That accomplished, he made his way to the nest, nursing what he suspected was a broken heart.
Nine days later
Joy snapped awake, her heart pounding and her breathing ragged. The sweet edge of climax still sang in her body. She moaned at the pull of the sheets against her peaked nipples.
The dream had been like dozens of others she’d had in the last week or a little more. It seemed they’d started when Daveed made the enigmatic statement about being “very appropriate” with her. She still wished she knew what that meant.
The dreams were persistent. In them, Daveed kissed her, touched her, thrust into her, hard and fast.
How many times had she woken, wanting him? At least four times every night, it seemed.
This wasn’t smart. Not smart at all. Hadn’t Tristan taught her that office flings were a bad idea?
But what if he wants more than a fling?
Xxanian men mated for life. Was that what he meant by “very appropriate”?
Just the thought sent a zing of pleasure through her. If she was certain Daveed wanted more, there would be no stopping her.
At least she was fairly certain about that.
What if he was saying he wasn’t interested in a relationship with her? She wasn’t about to suggest one, just to see what his answer would be. If Daveed Raashh wanted something from her, he would have to make a move.
Joy entered the lobby of the Spice Building and smiled to the guards at the desk. She’d nearly reached the elevator when the alarms sounded. She looked back at the desk, dismayed to see the guards dispersing toward the doors with weapons in hand.
“Get aboard the elevator,” one of them shouted at her. “Get aboard before the shields come down.”
Weapons fire cracked and sizzled, and Joy ducked. The elevator didn’t open. She closed her fist on the Identi-chip, wincing as a shot struck the wall above her.
Someone shouted, then cursed fluently and she forced herself not to look. She didn’t want to know if the injured party was friend or foe.
At last, the elevator doors started moving. Joy prepared to scramble inside.
She didn’t have a chance to. An arm reached out of the half-opened doors and dragged her inside. Joy’s scream of fear ended at the sound of Xxan trilling from her rescuer’s mouth.
The doors reversed, starting to close when they were only half-open. He pressed her to the wall and shielded her with his body.
Daveed shoved her hard against the wall, and pain sliced along her chin and cheek. The doors slammed shut, the elevator dropped faster than it usually did…then stopped with a jerk, and what could only be blast doors shut around them.
“You’re…you’re safe, Joy,” he breathed. “Safe with me.”
Hot liquid streamed down her neck and chest, soaking through her clothing. Realization that he was bleeding hit her hard. How badly was he hurt?
Joy looked up at him, wincing at his dilated eyes and gasping breaths. Daveed opened his mouth as if to say something, then collapsed, landing hard on the floor of the elevator.
She looked down at Daveed, her heart stuttering at the sheer volume of orange blood soaking through his shirt and jacket. Joy launched for the emergency cabinet and dragged it open. There had to be an emergency medical kit inside. She pulled it out, then snatched up the cell phone from the sheath beside it and opened it.
A voice came over it before she could figure out what to dial. “Stay calm. You are inside the blast chamber.”
“Daveed has been shot. What do I do?” She knelt to his side and started pulling supplies out of the small duffel.
“How bad is it?”
Blood made lazy tracks from beneath his shoulder.
Most likely the entry wound.
“He’s bleeding out fast, I think. What do I need?”
“The green bag.” In the background, she could hear other voices relaying the information.
Most likely to first responders or SLAL. Or both.
Joy rifled through the pile, found the green bag, and ripped it open. “What now?”
“Pull out the yellow pouch. Place the medicated towels over the worst of the wounds and press hard on them. It will slow his bleeding.”
Turning Daveed to his side to find the entry wound wasn’t easy, but she managed to get a towel on each side before she let him drop again. Joy squeezed tight, hoping for the best.
“Done?” the voice asked.
“Done, but he needs help. He’s already lost a lot of blood.” A trickle let her know that she’d only slowed the flow and not stopped it. “And he’s still bleeding.”
“On its way.”
The blast doors shifted, and the elevator started to rise.
Joy pressed down harder, cursing aloud at the fact that Daveed continued to bleed faster than she was comfortable with. “Don’t you
die on me, Daveed. Don’t you dare.”
The elevator stopped, but the doors didn’t open.
“Where is that help?” she demanded.
“Five minutes away.”
“I don’t know if he has
There was a moment of silence. Even the voices in the background went still.
A buzzing voice on the other side of the phone had her breathing a sigh of relief. “Twenty seconds.” It wasn’t the same man she’d been talking to moments before, but it was giving the answer Daveed needed.
The doors started opening, and Joy held her breath. She looked over her shoulder and sobbed at the sight of Karl loping toward them.
He vaulted across Daveed’s legs, landing smoothly on the opposite side of his body from her. “Keep pressure on,” he ordered.
Joy nodded, and he lifted Daveed from the floor as if he weighed no more than she did. She rushed to stay even with him. They jogged to the shuttle, Daveed between them.
Her heel caught on the edge of a roof tile, and the shoe whipped off her foot in mid-step. She hobbled along without it. At the step up into the shuttle, she levered the other shoe off and went in barefoot.
They lowered Daveed to the floor, and Karl spun away to the door, barking out orders in Xxan. He looked back at Joy, wide-eyed. “Your shoes,” he shouted.
“Don’t be stupid,” Joy replied. “Just get Daveed to a doctor.”
The shuttle rose and turned, and Joy gasped at the sight of the building rushing away as the door closed. She took a calming breath as it locked. Air rushed past her as the craft pressurized.
“Go, Arren,” Karl ordered.
The sudden movement jerked Joy to one side. Then the anti-grav systems kicked in, and she shifted back into a comfortable position.
Karl was already in motion, pulling down medical supplies. He landed hard on his knees, then reached for her face with a cloth in hand.
Joy recoiled. “What is
with you?” Daveed was injured, and he was trying to clean her face?
“You’re bleeding. A female —”
“Daveed is bleeding
. We don’t have time to waste on this.”
He hesitated, then set the cloth aside. Karl threw himself fully into his work. In short order, he had an IV of what she suspected was crossbred Xxanian blood hooked up. Moments later, he’d placed wrist bands on Daveed. By the tones they were emitting, Joy guessed they were tracking his vital signs and transmitting them to SLAL.
The overhead speakers came to life, and a mixture of Xxan and English overlapped. Mostly Xxan, which left Joy more than a little lost.
“Three minutes,” Arren yelled in response to something in Xxan.
He can’t mean when we’ll be there. It’s usually a forty minute or longer trip to the space station.
an emergency. Maybe they cleared lanes.
The shuttle came down on its struts with a light bounce, and Karl had the door open a few heartbeats later. Human and crossbred doctors poured into the shuttle. Two of them took over for Joy, and she moved to the far corner to let them work.
The five doctors and Karl hefted Daveed out and onto a gurney. They sprinted away fast enough to make her head spin.
Joy sat on the plush floor of the shuttle, stunned. She wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. The last thing she wanted was to end up in their way.
Or somewhere on the space station I shouldn’t be. It is a military station.
Arren made his way out of the cockpit, his dark glasses hooked onto the neckline of his t-shirt. He offered his hand to help her to her feet. “Come on. We should have someone tend to you too.”
“Can they?” It was out before Joy reasoned it was a stupid question to ask.
He smiled widely, showing his human front teeth and Xxanian rear ones. “Sure. They can treat almost any type of life up here.”
She took his hand and allowed Arren to help her up with a whispered “Thanks.”
The landing bay was all but deserted. A lone soldier appeared and disappeared again between the stacks of supply crates. They crossed it in silence.
A warning alarm sounded moments before another shuttle bounced in harder than Arren had. Joy winced and glanced around, anticipating the rush of a second medical team. They didn’t appear.
The engines screeched to an unnatural stop, and the door burst out. Joy took an unsteady step back at the sight of the hulking pureblood Xxanian stalking their direction.
He had the look of a father who’d been told his son had been grievously injured. The fact that Raashh was here and not cleaving those responsible in two surprised her, given what she’d learned about their race in school.
The string of Xxan rumbling from the elder started halfway across the landing bay from them. Whatever Arren said in response resulted in a snort and a bark of order from his
The change in mood came in a heartbeat. The moment Raashh looked Joy’s direction, his entire body tensed. His ridge plates rose, as did the frills atop his massive head. Raashh roared, showing his hunting teeth, and his frills shook in warning.
Joy pressed to the wall behind her, shaking hard. There was no question he intended to rip her to pieces, and she had no idea why.
Am I too close to Arren for his comfort? Is protecting his young instinctual for him?
Arren stepped between them, growling and grumbling. Hisses and trills followed. The noises Raashh made in response implied he intended to go through Arren if he had to.
The young Xxanian snapped and switched to English. “She couldn’t order Daveed not to bleed. Neither can you. She saved his life. Don’t forget it.”
Joy hoped that was true, but considering the amount of blood Daveed had lost, that wasn’t certain.
The elder’s frills folded in, and he tipped his head to Joy. One big hand came down on Arren’s head, and he ruffled his son’s hair, leaving his curls in disarray. Then Raashh stalked down the corridor.
“What did he say?” Joy asked, trying to reason that the crisis was over and her knees could stop shaking. Her knees weren’t listening, it seemed.
“He warned me not to fly into a war zone again, even if my brother dies next time. I’m a Subdominant. I would not make a good warrior.”
Joy rolled her eyes. “And?”
“He told me to see to your care and comfort. Raashh—and I are in your debt, Ms. Patterson.”