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Authors: Amy A. Bartol

Sea of Stars (21 page)

BOOK: Sea of Stars
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When Wayra sets a freeze-wrapped petite venish in front of me, I have trouble keeping my mouth from falling open. He also rests a small knife on the table. “I’ll teach you how to use it later.” I nod to him in acknowledgment. He moves aside and lets Jax through. Jax gives me their version of chocolate, called hohoban; it’s in the shape of flower petals. He also leaves me two sharp metal implements that resemble deadly chopsticks.

With both my eyebrows raised in surprise, I murmur, “These are for me, I assume.”

Grinning, they all nod and talk at once in what I gather are affirmative answers.

When they quiet, I murmur, “Thank you, guys, but I didn’t get you anything.” I look at Trey, who’s trying really hard not to laugh.

The Cavars, however, laugh at me like I’m an adorable idiot. Drex pipes up, “We’re not the ones who just agreed to commit to our gennet, so it wouldn’t be proper to give us a gift in return.”

Hollis explains, “The treats are to honor your announcement to commit to a lifetime of submitting to his will. We know what that’s like. You have our deepest condolences!” They all roar at that, like it’s the funniest thing imaginable.

“The weapons are a tribute because you saved our lives,” Jax explains.

Trey takes my left hand in his, turning it over so that my palm faces down. He encircles my wrist with an intricately scrolled silver armband. The armband immediately shrinks in size from what was clearly a male fit to a feminine size. After he touches the crest in the middle of the thick bracelet, a wicked-looking, sharp-pointed silver star emerges from within the bracelet; it’s magnetized to its cradle of metal, waiting to be touched and used. “Before I was able to locate you on the skywalk, I had to retrieve my spare wrist communicator from my room. I managed to get that as well while I was there. It belonged to my father; he gave it to me when I went to war the last time. Now I give it to you as payment for my life.” Trey takes the star from the top of the bracelet. “It’s a starcross.” He holds it up for me to see. I recognize it. Kyon has something similar to it that he used to kill Geteron in the interrogation room on the Ship of Skye. The star is like a boomerang; it returns to the bracelet after it’s thrown.

“I can’t take this,” I say, afraid of such a gift as this. It’s a family heirloom and I don’t even know if his family will accept me. “You can’t give me this.”

“I already gave it to you. You can’t give it back,” he counters, setting the starcross back on top of the bracelet. He touches the middle of the star-shaped metal; it slides back inside its home within the bracelet, concealed by the crest once more.

My fingertips pass over the etched crest on top of the bracelet reverently; it’s the Allairis crest. I’ve seen it on a ring that Victus wears. “But you saved me on the skywalk and at the palace. You’ve saved my life more times than I’ve saved yours.” I try to take the bracelet off so I can hand it back to him.

He won’t help me remove it. Instead, his hand covers mine on the silver bracelet. “It’s my
job
to protect you—not only as a Cavar, but as your intended consort.”

That’s stupid machismo thinking.
“And I’m not supposed to protect you in return?” I ask.

He blinks. “Well . . . no.”

“I’ll never understand you people,” I murmur in frustration.

“Yes, you do,” he replies, taking my hand in his. “You live by a code. So do we.”

“You know my code?” I ask him.

“I’m getting to know it.”

“Really?”

“From an early age, you’ve learned never to trust anyone but yourself. You let almost no one help you, but the ones you do allow into your life have special significance to you: you love them, even when sometimes you wish that you didn’t. Because when you love someone, Kricket, it means you’re completely loyal to that person, you’ll sacrifice anything for him—even your life. How am I doing so far?”

I shrug, noncommittal. “So you fancy yourself a code hacker?”

“On occasion,” he replies.

“I used to have a simpler code.”

“Let me guess: I’m an island.”

“Something like that. It wasn’t working out for me as well as I would’ve liked.”

“If it’s any consolation, I’m shipwrecked on your island. To use your words: deal with it.”

We’re interrupted then by music streaming in from the amazing sound system within the walls. Drex approaches me by the side of my chair. “I pulled the watch shift with Hollis. We’d like our dance now.”

Drex pulls me into an area next to the dining room. Thanks to my private tutor, Tofer, I’m well acquainted with all of their popular formal dances, as well as some of the informal ones. Drex chooses an informal dance called the Hop Step, which is literally a really fast hop-step-clap kind of dance. I’m quickly passed around from dance partner to dance partner, until my cheeks are rosy and I’m out of breath.

The tempo of the music slows and I find myself in Trey’s arms. The Cavars have all suspiciously cleared out and left us alone in the elegant room. I don’t think that what we’re doing now can be called dancing by the standards of either Ethar or Earth. Trey’s hand strokes my hair as I rest my head on his solid chest; we sway to the rhythm as the music plays.

It’s late when Trey gets into bed. Stretching out beneath the blankets, he pulls me against him, burying his nose in my hair. His skin is cold, like he’s been outside and he smells of night air. I turn toward him and smile sleepily. “Hi,” I whisper.

“I love that word,” he says. “It used to make me look up for something high, did you know that?”

I giggle and shake my head. “I didn’t,” I admit.

“Now I know that it’s your way of greeting people, but you say it differently to me,” he says, smiling.

“I do?”

“Yes. You say it breathlessly to me,” he explains.

“Well that’s because I haven’t really been saying ‘hi’ to you; I’ve been saying: ‘I love you.


He kisses the hollow between the valley of my neck and shoulder. I gasp softly, my hand reaching out and gripping his bicep, feeling the smooth skin over powerful muscle. My hand moves to his back and strokes him over the woven tapestry of muscles that make up the intricate texture that’s Trey.

“I’m slowly learning all the subtle nuances of you, Kricket. I want to discover your every thought . . .” his kisses travel down me, over my clavicle “. . . your every look . . .” he kisses the pink tip of one breast, and I inhale deeply “. . . every curve . . .” he moves farther to kiss my stomach “. . . and every other freckle.”

I giggle as much at his comment as at the feel of his bristly skin against my sensitive flesh. Grasping his face, I make him look at my eyes. “Why every
other
freckle?” I ask him. “Why not all of them?”

“Well, I didn’t want to sound obsessed, and also some freckles aren’t as good-natured as others.” As I laugh harder, Trey rises on his elbow, smiling down at me. “That’s the sound that I want to live in for the rest of my life.”

I rise on my elbow to meet his lips with mine. He sits up and pulls me onto his lap so that we’re face-to-face. He makes love to me then, eye to eye and skin to skin. I watch his every expression and he watches mine.

Just after I call out Trey’s name in a breathless haze of pleasure, I hear a feminine voice speak from across the bedroom. “You’ve been hard to locate.” I stiffen in Trey’s arms. Looking over my shoulder, I find the Bee priestess seated in one of the tall wing-backed chairs that are facing the bed. Her legs are draped over the arm of it with her back against the other arm.

“How did you get in here?” I demand, as outrage and fear war inside me. Outrage wins.

“Who are you talking to?” Trey asks, startled by my abrupt change in demeanor.

I wave my hand at the blond girl in the chair. “An Alameeda priestess,” I growl my response. Slipping from his lap, I pull the sheet up to my chest as I face the Bee.

“Where is she?” Trey asks, reaching for his pants on the floor near the bed.

“In the chair.” I nod my head toward where she’s slouching. “Can’t you see her?”

“No,” he growls in response.

She looks at her fingernails. “Well, technically, I’m not really here. I’m just projecting myself here. Normally, no one can see me. You are the first person who’s been able to detect my presence.”

“Who are you? What do you want?” I ask.

“My name is Nezra and I want you to die,” she answers honestly.

“Well, Nezra, I don’t think I’ll accommodate you. I sort of enjoy breathing,” I reply.

Trey whispers in my ear, “Keep her talking while I alert the others for a random change in plan.” I nod.

Nezra watches Trey slip on his shirt and gather the clothes I had on earlier, bringing them to me. He leans down and kisses me, before moving quickly to the door. When he’s gone, Nezra says, “So the big Rafian soldier is your lover. Felicitations, little sister; I didn’t think you’d have it in you to defy the Brotherhood in this way. You surprise me.”

“Trey’s my intended consort.”

She laughs mockingly. “You’re either really brave or really stupid. Kyon will kill him in front of you when he gets here. You know that, don’t you?”

“I’ll kill him if he tries,” I counter savagely.

She straightens in the chair at once, anger showing on her beautiful face. “I’ll kill you if you harm him. You don’t deserve Kyon.”

“Ugh, gross! Do you like him?” I pretend to vomit in my mouth a little before I slip the black sleeveless blouse over my head once more, pulling it down over me.

“He was supposed to be
my
consort, but our mother ruined it all.”


Our
mother? You mean you’re my sister?” I ask. I’m unable to think for a second.

“Half sister,” she amends with disgust. “I’m not blood-tainted like you. I’m full-blooded Alameeda.”

“We have the same mother?” I repeat, stunned.

“That’s about all we have in common.”

“Did she raise you? How old were you when she—”

“—faked her own death?”

I stare at her in shock.

“She faked her own death so that she could leave me. Does that sound familiar?” Nezra asks.

I feel like I can’t breathe. “What?” is all I can muster at the moment.

“You don’t really think she’s dead, do you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“She’s far too brilliant to die from Crue. Maybe she just wanted to get away from you.”

I want to kill her.
“How come Kyon never mentioned you to me?” I ask incredulously.

“He doesn’t like talking about me,” she says.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s too painful a subject for him,” she lies.

I snort and decide that she’s pathological. “Uh-huh. You’re a lurker, aren’t you?” I pull on my pants and then get up from the bed to put on the belt.

She gasps audibly. “I’m a priestess! It’s an honor to be in my presence!”

I roll my eyes. “Who are you people? You’re so conceited! You must bore him to death. No wonder he said he’s tired of inane blonds. I can only assume he means you.”

“I am
highly
intelligent,” she growls, pointing her sharp fingernail at me. “If you must know, my suit was awarded to his cousin, Chandrum, instead of to him!” She’s breathing hard, as if what I said offends her.

“So they forced you to commit to Chandrum instead of Kyon?” I ask with an aloof air, putting on one boot and buckling it.

“Yes,” she nods.

“Why’d you let that happen? Why didn’t you fight for him?”

She makes a derogatory sound. “No one fights the Brotherhood. That’s a ridiculous statement.”

I pull on the second black boot. “Well, why’d they choose Chandrum for you and not Kyon?”

She ignores my question. “Why haven’t you left the city yet?” she asks. “You’re hiding like cowards here. Kyon will be here soon. It’s like you’re waiting for him.”

“I’m not waiting for him. The Cavars have been infecting your drones so you freaks can’t use them to kill civilians. Why has it taken you so long to find me?” I bait her.

“You’ve been blocking me. Ever since I tried to kill you in your cell, you’ve been reluctant to let me near you. I guess I’ve caught you at a weak moment,” she smiles, nodding toward the bed.

“There was nothing weak about that moment. Did you tell Kyon I’m here?” I ask.

“Oh, he knows. If you’re too stupid to use your gifts to find out what he’s planning and stay ahead of him, then you deserve to have him find you and kill your lover.”

“As soon as I do figure it out, you’d best run, Nezra. I could maybe excuse you for trying to kill me in my cell—I’d chalk it up to sibling rivalry—but now you’re starting to piss me off.” I walk past her, gather up the floating crystals in my arms, and take them to the black lacquer case that contains both of the sonic sayzer cuffs as well as all the weapons I was given at dinner. I put them in the box as well.

Taking a deep breath, I try to think more clearly. I take out one of the silver cuffs. Slipping it on my arm, I move my fingers, making the weapon elongate into a sleeve. I walk past Nezra again, returning to the zero-gravity apparatus. Shutting it off, I gather it from the floor. It, too, goes into the weapons’ box, next to the crystals and the other cuff.

BOOK: Sea of Stars
8.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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