Authors: Kaitlyn O'Connor
Tags: #romance, #erotic, #scifi, #futuristic, #erotic futuristic scifi
She thought that it had taken her
nearly a year to get to the point where she was managing to take
care of herself fairly well. She’d thought, at first, that she was
going to die. For a while, she almost hoped for it because she was
so tired of being hungry and thirsty all the time, so tired of just
being exhausted, and dirty, and cold or so hot she felt like she
would pass out.
She was so tired of torturing herself
with the memories of her failure to protect the little ones when
that was her job ….
There were a few times when she’d
considered just sitting down and waiting to die.
There’d even been times when she’d
considered going back. As hellish as life had been with Ralph at
least she hadn’t been hungry … much, or thirsty. She’d had fire and
covers to help keep her warm when it was cold. She hadn’t had to
trudge through snow or walk through a burning desert wasteland in
But then she remembered what it had
been like sharing a bed with Ralph and she thought she could endure
just about anything but that.
Death would be preferable to living
with a man like him.
Struggling to throw off the painful
memories, Lexa stopped, trying to get her bearings. It took an
effort to shake the ghosts from her mind enough to focus on her
present circumstances. It wasn’t often, anymore, that she allowed
the past to get a grip on her, but being tired always made her more
vulnerable to the memories and she was so tired she was staggering.
Huffing for breath, she took out a bottle, got another drink of
water, and stood staring at the night sky trying to decide whether
she was still heading the right way or not and if she’d put enough
distance between herself and that demon from hell.
She couldn’t decide whether she had or
not, but she finally decided that she was too tired to care at the
moment. She would just rest for a little bit and then she’d get up
and keep moving until she’d put that threat behind her as she’d put
Ralph behind her.
She was tempted to simply drop where
she stood, but she needed shelter of some kind. After surveying her
surroundings she finally spied a shadowy lump she thought was a
scraggly bush of some kind and trudged toward it. When she neared
it, she squinted her eyes and stared at it hard, trying to decide
if anything else had decided to take shelter beneath it and finally
looked around for a few rocks—just in case.
Nothing fled when she threw the rocks
so she dropped to her knees and crawled under it. There was a light
dusting of decaying leaves beneath it from seasons past, so she
scooped them up into a tight pile, to help insulate her from the
cold ground, took the ragged blanket she carried in her pack out
and covered herself the best she could. It was thin and far too
short, but when she’d curled into a tight ball, it mostly covered
her from her shoulders to her feet and she began to feel a little
warmer as she dropped to sleep like a rock.
Troublesome images flickered through
her mind, fragments of nightmarish dreams and memories. Her mind
kept switching back and forth from the raid of her childhood to the
battle in the streets of the village until the two became
hopelessly entangled and it was the dark angel who called himself
Gabriel who fought the raiders instead of Sir—Gabriel who carried
her away and Ralph who died because half of his head had been
Something nudged her, bringing her so
rapidly from a deep sleep that her eyeballs burned when her eyelids
flew open. Her eyes filled with tears, making it even harder to
bring whatever it was into focus.
Lexa sat up with a jolt, realizing
abruptly that it was the udai. He was standing over her, blocking
the weak light from the rising moon.
Slamming her fist down on the toe of
the boot he’d nudged her with hard enough to make her hand go numb,
she scrambled away from him and got to her feet. Any hope that
she’d incapacitated him, at all, was almost immediately dashed. An
arm came around her waist that felt like an iron band and knocked
the wind from her.
Struggling to catch her breath, unable
to choose a target, she began flailing her arms in every direction
and, when he jerked her off her feet, her legs. She managed to
connect with his body several times. She knew it by the pain that
shot through her hands and shins and feet.
And then he simply dropped
She landed on her ass hard enough it
felt like she’d driven her tailbone through her skull.
“The penalty for running from a
Lexa grabbed a handful of dirt and
rocks and flung in the direction of the voice then lurched to her
feet and tried to run again.
“The penalty for assaulting a lawgiver
…,” he said through gritted teeth.
“I didn’t do nothin’!” Lexa growled at
him as he grabbed her again.
“Why did you run?”
Lexa gasped in outrage. “I left!” she
growled. “I had every right to leave! I didn’t do nothin’
“Then you have nothing to be concerned
about,” he said evenly.
“Except rape by some … freak with
wings!” Lexa snarled.
He dropped her on her ass
Surprise, revulsion, a wholly
unexpected and unwarranted twinge of guilt, and anger hit Gah-re-al
in quick succession. He released the female as abruptly as if he’d
grabbed a molten piece of metal. “I am the Lawgiver, Gah-re-al …,”
he began stiffly, so outraged by the suggestion that he would
consider fucking a human at all, let alone a scrawny, filthy savage
like the one at his feet, that he responded to the accusation
before it occurred to him that the suggestion was so beneath
contempt it didn’t deserve a response at all.
“Jeee-zus Christ!” Lexa snapped, too
drunk with fatigue and unnerved to consider the wisdom of a verbal
attack—or lack of wisdom. “I got the name already,
“My name is Gah-re-al,” he said through
gritted teeth. “I am required to identify myself—by name—and state
my rank and purpose. And I am a Lawgiver. I only fuck women who
want me to fuck them. It is against my code—both personal and
professional—to rape—women. And I wouldn’t fuck a primi … human
female if I wanted sex.”
Lexa stared at him, struggling to
decipher the accent and then comprehend what he meant even when
she’d figured out what he’d said. “Sooo … females are off limits?
But not males?” she asked more carefully for
Even in the darkness she could see his
face change colors. “Rape is off limits. There are always plenty of
willing partners and that isn’t against the law. I don’t break the
laws. I enforce them.”
“But you said ….”
“Get up!” he growled.
“I’d already be up if you didn’t keep
dumping me on my ass,” Lexa muttered, getting to her feet with an
effort and rubbing her abused posterior.
He stared at her coldly for several
“What?” she demanded irritably, as
unnerved by the look as she was resentful of it.
His lips tightened. “The village is
Lexa stared into the darkness glumly.
She was still tired. She didn’t think she could possibly have slept
long before he’d woken her. “How far?”
“Does it matter?”
“Maybe not to you,” she muttered
resentfully. Sighing loudly, she gathered her belongings and headed
in the direction he’d indicated since she was pretty sure she
couldn’t gather enough strength to make a break for it even if the
opportunity presented itself. She could see the dark outline of
what she assumed was the outermost buildings of the village and it
looked like a very long walk to her.
“Is there some particular reason you’re
walking that way?”
Instantly insulted all over again by
the tone of his voice, Lexa sent him a resentful glance. She hurt
all over. No surprise when she’d been in three different scuffles
in a matter of hours and had had just enough time to begin to feel
the muscle strain and bruises. She was tired, both physically and
emotionally from her recent visit to the village they were
approaching and it was the last place she wanted to go so she was
in no great hurry. “Like what?”
“My boots don’t fit all that
“Because they aren’t mine,” she
Lexa felt her heart skip a beat at the
tone. Reminded abruptly that he was some self-appointed
judge-jury-and-executioner, she regretted her bluntness. “He wasn’t
using them no more.”
“You traded for them.”
“I asked him nicely,” she said
sarcastically since he hadn’t seemed to notice, or at least hadn’t
taken violent exception, to her lack of respect.
“And he was alright with you taking his
boots?” Gah-re-al asked sardonically.
“It seemed that way to me. He didn’t
complain when I took them.”
“Because he was asleep? Or
“Because he was dead. Looked like he’d
been that way for a while, too. He was all rotted and shit,” Lexa
He made a sound that drew her
attention, but it was too dark to tell what emotion had prompted
it. “You removed the boots you’re wearing from a rotting corpse?”
he said in a strange voice.
“Don’t tell me there’s a law against
that, too? Because if there is, I didn’t know, so you can’t say I
did nothin’ wrong.”
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse,”
Gah-re-al retorted coldly, although why he was so repulsed by her
robbing the dead when, in the scheme of things, that wasn’t as bad
as murdering to rob, he didn’t know.
Lexa stopped abruptly and gaped at him.
“You are shitting me, man! You’re saying I could be penaltied for
breaking a law I didn’t even know about? Well that’s just …. That’s
just completely stupid!”
“Move! The word is penalized.
Primitives don’t even know their own language anymore,” he muttered
under his breath. “You know right from wrong?”
Lexa glared at her toes. It wasn’t hard
to figure out that he meant her when he said primitives. Arrogant
bastard! “You’re saying it’s wrong to take things from dead people
that don’t need them no more? And I should be penalized because I
shoulda known that it was wrong and done without shoes so these
could rot with him?”
It flickered through Gah-re-al’s mind
that the khabler robbed the dead. They didn’t see it that way,
naturally enough, because the ‘graves’ they robbed where generally
those of ancient civilizations and they were in pursuit of
knowledge that could only be obtained that way. It was quibbling,
though, to argue that that was right because it was the pursuit of
knowledge and what the primitive had done was wrong when it
pertained to her survival.
It wasn’t his place to approve or
disapprove of the laws, though, he reminded himself. He’d been
given them and ordered to enforce them.
It made him uncomfortable, however, to
find himself questioning the unyielding nature of the law, to have
it even flicker through his mind that there could be circumstances
where it might be wrong to uphold the letter of the law.
“Do you have a name you’re known by,
Lexa sent him a look of surprise.
“Why?” she asked suspiciously, more unnerved by the thought that he
could use it to identify her than flattered that he’d apparently
condescended to consider her an individual worthy of being called
Annoyance flickered through Gah-re-al.
“I’ll need it for my report,” he hedged.
“That’s what I thought,” Lexa
He sent her a look that was a mixture
of surprise and irritation. “You understand report?”
Not exactly, but she wasn’t about to
admit it. The comment seemed to bear up her suspicion, though, that
he just wanted to be able to identify her. She’d seen posters here
and there in her travels offering rewards for bad people that had
done very bad things. It always had a drawing of the person’s face
and a name when they knew it. “Because of the boots?”
He stared at her blankly for a moment.
“I haven’t ascertained what crimes you have committed … yet. That’s
why I’m taking you for questioning.”
Lexa felt her belly cramp at that.
She’d seen the way Ralph questioned people that had information he
wanted. She tensed all over, scanning the terrain for any
possibility of escape.
“So you are guilty of something,” he
“How the hell would I know?” Lexa
snapped crossly. “I don’t know your laws!”
“But you thought about running as soon
as I mentioned questioning you.”
“I seen the way Ralph questioned
people. Didn’t make no difference what they said, he just kept
right on torturing them till they died or he got tired.”
“Who is Ralph?” he asked
Lexa felt her heart jerk in her chest
and cursed herself inwardly for giving him something to identify
her with when she’d been determined she wasn’t going to. “A man I
ran into once,” she said reluctantly.