Chosen by Random.org, this hop's winner is...
with her post:
I was so glad to see that you were back on this one. It has a lot of potential and I can't wait to read more. As to what love has done for me. . . . It has taught me patience and how enduring takes real work. Some people think that love is a beautiful and perfect thing. It's not. It is beautiful but it is far from perfect. I have been with my husband for fourteen years and there have been some patches that have taken a lot of work to get through. We are stronger for it. Love that is easy and hasn't had to grow will only crumble when the shit hits the fan.
Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the hop and commented, sharing their thoughts and stories. Now, for everyone who didn't win, I hope you enjoy this last update!
Married to the Enemy Chapter Three
I lay next to Zaran. The bed was soft, and the sheets and blankets were soft, but I couldn’t relax. The heat of his body beside me warmed the side facing him so much that my other side felt icy cold. I cracked my eyes open. With the freak way my vision worked, he glowed a bright red. His chest rose and fell slowly.
He was asleep, clearly not bothered by having another man in his bed. I curled my legs up and rolled onto my side. What kind of a man had I married? How could he be the same man I’d heard whispered about? Zaran had showed me far more consideration than I ever expected.
His ways were definitely not Verlast ways. Zaran had been incensed when I told him about devotions. Did Nemberos not worship their gods? It felt wrong. I crossed my wrists over my chest and tucked my hands under my chin.
What would happen in the morning? Clearly my new husband thought he had to explain things to me. I had a lot to learn; I barely knew Verlast ways, much less Nembero. It felt more personal than that, though. He’d been flustered, his heart pounding, even after he unclenched his fists and tried to calm down.
“I can go lay down in the other room,” Zaran offered when I rubbed my face against the pillow and sighed.
Shit. He was awake. “I thought you were sleeping.” His heartbeat didn’t speed up. “I’m sorry. I’ll lay still.”
“I was thinking.” Zaran rolled onto his side to face me. I stared at him for a minute, then looked away, distracted for a moment by the sparkle of the liobi. Were they as bright to him? I wondered what he saw. The lights never really faded, thought it was nighttime, which would take some getting used to for me. A whole section began pulsing at the same time.
I blinked rapidly to clear the bright spot from my vision.
“Are the liobi bothering you? I can enclose the bed, if you would like.”
He could do what? “What do you mean?”
Zaran slid from the bed.
“Oh! You didn’t need to get up.” I couldn’t even get a man to sleep next to me on our first night. How was I supposed to keep him happy? I didn’t want to because my father told me to, but because I wanted a chance to be with someone who wanted to be with me.
I really thought Zaran and I might have a chance.
“It’s fine. Can you help me?”
I nodded. “What do I do?”
“You’ll have to get out of bed.”
I pushed back the covers and climbed down off the bed. I stopped, unsure of what to do next. At least the bed was high enough to hide my lower body.
“See that tie, right above the mattress?” I bent down and found the cloth. “Pull on one of the strands, but make sure you’re holding the cloth roll first.”
I grabbed the thin bunch of fabric, then tugged on the trailing edge of the string coming from the criss-crossing knot. It came undone.
Zaran stood up. “Now just lift the fabric up and over the posts on the corner of the bed. When it straightens, the cloth ridges will solidify and hold it firm.” We moved together, Zaran going slow and letting me follow his lead as we lifted the cloth and then walked to the foot of the bed.
“How do we get in?” I asked. I shivered. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long to get used to their chillier temperatures.
Zaran came over to my side of the bed. I fought the urge to cover myself as he passed within inches, but he didn’t stare at my body. He slid his hand gently along the hanging fabric until it sank in, then turned. “I can’t ever see it, but there’s a slit that separates here when you touch it.” He put his other hand in and drew it back. “I’ll hold it for you.”
I felt hopelessly awkward as I climbed in. My side brushed against his stomach and I shivered again. He was so warm!
Zaran didn’t say anything about the contact. He dropped the cloth. It had felt so thin, I was sure it’d only block a little of the glowing stones’ light, but the whole bed was pitch black until Zaran opened his side and got back in bed.
“Better?” he asked.
He couldn’t see me. “Sorry, yes, it’s much better.” I could see his arms, upper chest, and head glowing still but it was muted. He must be cold too. I tugged on the blankets, pulling them higher.
“Kertyn?” Zaran’s voice was quiet.
He stretched an arm out. “You looked cold before. I know Verlast is a hot planet. It always takes me a little while to get used to the planet again when I’ve been on spaceships, with their controlled environments, so I bet you’re pretty miserable.”
“It’s not so bad.” I didn’t want him to think I was a complainer. Nembero was my home now.
“You don’t have to,” he said.
Married people didn’t shy away from pressing close to each other, even in public. I’d been secluded, but there were times my father demanded I put in personal appearances when rumors would grow too loud about him getting rid of his defective son. I was segregated and no one spoke to me, but I watched the way they all spoke and touched each other.
I inched forward across the bed. It seemed small before, but now it seemed huge as I crossed the open space between his side of the bed and mine. Zaran didn’t say anything, but he slid one arm flat on the bed. I kept my hips back but put my head on his chest. He curled his arm around me and tugged the blanket up, tucking it under my shoulder.
His warmth already radiated into the cocoon of blankets, creating a toasty pocket for us. He jumped when I rested my hand carefully on his chest. “Oh, brr.”
“Sorry!” I was about to jerk my hand back, but he dropped his palm on top of mine.
“It’s fine, just a little chilly.” His voice rumbled in his chest against my ear. I could hear and feel him speak at the same time. Most of his heat aura was shielded under the blankets, dimming the canopied bed until I could barely see. I closed my eyes.
“Since neither of us can sleep, why don’t we talk now?”
I let out my breath in a quick huff.
“I didn’t expect you to say that.” Our earlier attempt to talk hadn’t gone well. Zaran had been furious.
“We don’t have to, but I thought the darkness might make it… easier.”
I titled my head up, but could only see his neck and the rounded edge of his chin. “Why?”
Zaran chuckled. “Why indeed? The awkwardness of the subject, I guess.”
“Worshiping is awkward?” Sure, it had been difficult to learn. I had to relax my body and focus on my desire to serve Stygianius. “Or is this that sex you mentioned?”
My new husband muttered something I could feel but not hear. “What?”
I frowned. “If you’re not going to tell me what you’re thinking, how can we be honest with each other?” I’d never managed to lie to anyone.
“You’re right. I am upset about what happened to you, and I was cursing that priest you mentioned.”
“Why?” I lifted my head off his chest. “I don’t understand that.”
“Kertyn, he took advantage of you. You’re so… innocent. I can see that, and I’ve only known you for a little while. On Nembero, people don’t have sex to worship. We have sex to share pleasure with our partners, to please them and ourselves in ways that feel good.”
“And sex is…?” I had an idea, what I thought he meant, but I wanted to be sure.
Zaran coughed a little, but I could hear the laugh he was trying to hide. “What did I say?” I rested my chin just above his armpit and watched his pulse throb in his throat. It was steady, but faster than when he laid down. My head bobbed up and down as he gasped for air.
“I never expected to have to explain what sex was to my adult husband, that’s all.”
“Well, if you didn’t want to talk about it, why did you bring it up?” I was getting irked at the way he kept going back and forth.
“Man, I’m glad it’s dark right now. I’d be blushing so hard right now, even you’d be able to see it.”
Unable to stop myself, I stroked my hand down his chest, enjoying the silky smooth skin under my fingers. “I doubt it. You’re so dark, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” My hand was much lighter, a pink against the red. I knew in the light my white skin would look ghost pale against his jet black.
“That’s a good thing, right? I know the Verlast are pale.”
Now it was my turn to chuckle. He sounded insecure, a little hesitant. “Yes. I like it. A lot,” I admitted. “Verlast have black patches on their skin, but it’s rough and raised. Your skin is smooth and soft.
“You don’t have any spots?”
“No.” I shook my head, though he couldn’t see me. “It is another sign that I belong to Stygianius, besides my eyes. I have no color, anywhere.”
“I don’t know about that. You seemed a lovely pink shade earlier, when you came out of the bathroom.”
Of course he’d remember that. I’d asked him for honesty, so I wouldn’t hold anything back for me either. “I’ve never seen another man without his shirt on before.”
“Not even your priest?” Zaran asked the question as if he didn’t really wanted to, but couldn’t help himself.
“He never disrobed. I never saw him, never touched him.”
“And that’s why it was so wrong.” Zaran’s voice was grave and quiet. “He used you when he entered your body that way. Worship or not, however he justified it, he took from you without giving anything of himself back. Partners share their bodies to, they don’t create an inequality between them. It creates a bond, an intimacy, which brings two people close. You deserved better.”
I was quiet after his little speech, thinking about what Zaran said. If sex was entering… I’d had a lot of sex. But I’d never felt close to the priest, at all. It was all for Stygianius, a duty. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t about pleasure.
“If… If we’re married, and couples have sex to please each other and be close, will you have sex with me? Enter me?” I asked him.
His breath hitched. “Sometimes. Sometimes you’ll enter me. Sometimes we’ll do other things.”
I shoved myself up with my hand on his chest. I stared at his face. His eyes were closed, but he smirked like he knew I was staring at him, my mouth wide open. “You—you’d let me do that?”
“Yes. It’s not something I’ve done very often, but I like all different kinds of sex. A relationship means being equals, in and out of the bedroom. I was upset when you arrived because I was sure you were afraid of me. I don’t want someone who doesn’t want me.”
Did that mean he wanted me? “Was that in general, or—”
“You. I knew what you looked like, but the way you sat there and glared at us, with your eyes closed… and the way you talked to the Tuothic and insisted we listen to you. Well, it was pretty great. I expected someone who was either a stuck-up snob, or was a frightened little rabbit unable to look at me. You were neither.”
“Thanks. I think.” I laid back down, resting my head against his chest. “You use a lot of old Earth terms. I’ve never been compared to a small, furry creature before.”
“I’m surprised you know them, Kertyn. Most people just stare at me or pretend they know what I’m talking about.”
I shrugged, not that he could see it. “What else did I have to do? Ancient documents were all my father liked me to study. I was not part of the world, so what need did I have to know current events? Some of the old Earth stuff was interesting. Did you know they came in different colors too?”
“Yeah, not so hard to see the precedent.” Zaran stroked my arm. “You’re so pale, I can almost see you, even in the dark.”
That felt so good. I tried not to gasp, letting the air in my lungs out slowly. His hand was so warm. He cupped my arm with his whole hand, rubbing the palm up and down. He had the whipcord lean body of a spacer, but his hands were so big. They were calloused, unlike my soft palms.
I relaxed against Zaran’s body. His hand roamed up my arm to my shoulder. He rubbed hard, his fingers marking small circles. I closed my eyes and hummed. “Feels good.”
Warm tingles lingered wherever he touched. The tingles turned into chills up my spine when he touched the back of my neck.
“Tickle?” he asked hoarsely.
“Mmhmm.” He did it again, and I moaned. I leaned into his hand when he cupped my cheek.
“You’re touched starved,” Zaran said. “Aren’t you?”
All I knew was that I did not want him to stop.
“You can touch me too.” Zaran’s thumb stroked across my bottom lip. I hesitated. “If you want to.”
“Anywhere?” I traced small figure eights on his chest where my hand rested. The similarities between us were reassuring while our differences intrigued me.
“Wherever you like.” Zaran stretched his arms out and then put them behind his head. He relaxed. His heart wasn’t slowing down though, if anything, it was speeding up. I started with his chest. He had firm pecs with small nipples. His were already hard. I ran my finger over one. The skin just around it was softer, though it hadn’t looked any different when I saw him naked. His body was one solid black tone, as much of it I’d seen in the light.
But in the dark he glowed red. Some spots were brighter than others. I stroked over his ribs, where the skin rippled over them, and then back up toward his neck. He seemed more sensitive wherever his skin was brighter red, gasping and arching into my touch. I sat up and the blankets fell down to my waist.
“Can I?” I waved my hand at the blanket.
Zaran reached out and ran the backs of his fingers along my side. “Can you what?”
“Sorry, I forgot you couldn’t see me.”
He opened his eyes, staring blindly toward me in the dark. “You can see?”
“I see heat. You glow red. Here”—I rubbed the center of his chest with my palm—“and here.” I stroked just the tips of my fingers across the hollow of his throat and along his jaw. He strangled a groan when I rubbed a circle over the sensitive lobe of his ear with the ball of my thumb. “Where you’re warmer, you glow brighter.”
“That’s amazing,” he said breathily.
“So can I? Slide the blankets down,” I added. “You said anywhere.”
“I did.” I saw him lick his lips. “You know I’m enjoying this, right?”
“Yes.” He’d made happy noises. I recognized that.
Zaran moved his legs, pulling with his feet, and the blankets slid down. I gasped. He had a thick erection, throbbing a bright red as it tapped against his belly button.
“I said I was enjoying you touching me.” Zaran reached down and touched himself, squeezing his shaft and sliding skin over the head and then back down.
“That’s what… I mean, from me….” Our talk from before began to solidify in my mind. This was what he meant by touching, reciprocating. Making your partner feel good, and feeling good while doing it too. I’d been so focused on watching him and feeling his skin that I hadn’t responded.
But now that I saw his erection and the way he was stroking it… I sucked in a big breath. I was growing hard. Zaran pressed his thumb against his slit, rubbing back and forth, then let go of his cock to lick his thumb, then suck it into his mouth.
I moaned. “I want to do that.”
“Oh hell.” Zaran reached for me. He brushed against my arm, then slid his hand down until he reached mine. “Do it. Touch my cock.”
He guided me to his… cock. The skin was soft, even softer than his chest and stomach. I could feel his heart beating against my fingers. I wrapped my hand around him, squeezing gently. My fingers wouldn’t touch together, he was so thick. My husband wrapped his hand around mine and guided me as I touched him for the first time. He slid our hands up and then back down.
I watched, fascinated. The next time we stroked up to the tip, I reached with my thumb, stroking it over the top. It was a little wet. The next few times we moved together, then Zaran let go. His hand fell to the side, curled into a fist.
This time I ran my finger over the head of his cock he was really wet. My thumb slid in the slick fluid dribbling out of his slit. I rolled onto my knees, then switched hands. I licked my thumb gingerly, then stuck my finger in my mouth and sucked on it, pulling it out with a pop.
His fluid tasted salty and a bitter, but the flavor wasn’t strong.
“Oh, god, you tasted it, didn’t you?” Zaran’s hips jerked, and his cock thrust up into my hand. I squeezed it, not sure what I should do. Zaran groaned louder. I did it again, sliding my hand at the same time, working with his thrusts.
My neglected length throbbed. How would it feel to have his hand on me? It felt amazing touching him. His entire body was heating up, growing brighter.
“Kertyn… come here….” Zaran reached out with his far hand. I took it. He yanked me over his body.
I yelped. “Zaran!” I straddled one of his legs, my knee tight to his balls.
He winced. “Ouch.” He let go of my hand and patted down my body, reaching my thigh. He tugged, sliding his legs together as I crouched over his body. I didn’t know what he wanted.
“Just this.” Zaran gripped my hips with his wide, rough hands. He yanked me up and down. Our cocks met, touched, and then rubbed together.
“Oh!” I’d touched myself before, in the silence and darkness of my room, but I’d never felt anyone’s skin against my own. We touched, groin to groin and belly to belly. His hands felt like fire against me.
I jerked back and then forward again. Knowing our cocks touched, feeling the pressure and pleasure… “I can’t stop!” It was too much, too intense.
“Don’t,” Zaran grunted. He let go of my hip, reaching back and palming my cheek. He ground us together as he pushed up from under me, rocking our bodies together in a sweaty tangle.
I let out a strangled moan. My balls were so tight they hurt and my cock was iron hard, unbending, thrusting and rubbing between our sandwiched bodies. One more rub from his belly sliding against mine and I lost it, shouting.
Zaran followed me over. The tang of cum flavored the air. Our bellies squelched together when my arms gave out and I collapsed, plastered to the front of my husband.
I gasped for air, enjoying his hands gentling me, rubbing my back, but unable to speak. Amazement at all I’d missed before, the excitement, the pleasure, the frenzy of the last moment before we both gave in to the final moment until we slipped over the peak… I’d die if it was any more intense!
And neither of us had been entered.
“Thank you,” I said when I could finally talk.
Zaran smiled. “Definitely my pleasure.” He chuckled.
“Should I get up?” I didn’t want to smother him.
“If you roll over, I’ll get a cleaner.”
“A cleaner?” I rolled over carefully, watching my knee this time.
“You don’t have cleaners on Verlast?” Zaran sat up and slid to the edge of the bed, running his hand along the side.
“Not that I know of.”
“What did you use to wash with?” he asked.
“A cloth, wet with water. Or I took a shower.”
“Ahh.” Zaran nodded. “We don’t have much water. Our planet is too cold. What we do have is precious; melting it takes fuel. Instead, we have cleaners. They remove dirt and other substances from the skin by sensing the molecular make-up and breaking everything down, then removing it.”
“Can I see it?”
“Sure.” Zaran held out a hand in the dark toward me, and I took it. It should have felt strange, the casual touch when I’d so seldom had anyone close, but it was rapidly becoming natural to touch him and have him touch me.
The twinkling rocks in the room blinded me briefly as we left the dark cocoon of the bed. I winced, expecting pain, but it didn’t hurt. I stumbled behind Zaran, but he kept me on my feet. We were in the bathroom before my sight adjusted.
A cleaner looked like a small black bar. When I’d been in the bathroom earlier, I’d mistaken it for soap but it hadn’t foamed when I rubbed it in the water in the basin.
“If you use cleaners, and water is so precious, why did a whole basin of it fill for me earlier?”
“It’s drinking water. There are microscopic holes in the basic that drain the water back into the reclamation system so that not a drop is wasted.”
“Oh.” I felt my face warm. “Sorry. I used it to clean my hands and face.”
Zaran chuckled. “You’re flushed again. It’s cute.”
I looked away, staring down at my feet. Wow, we were totally naked, and I hadn’t even thought about the fact that he could see my entire body now.
“Don’t worry. The water filters through so many layers, it’s pure again by the time it’s recollected. Let me show you how the cleaner works, then you can use it.”
Zaran tapped a button I’d missed on the end and the bar lit up. It glowed as he ran it over his hands and arms, and then his stomach and groin. I heated as he touched his groin, moving his cock and balls so the light touched everywhere. “See, easy.”
I couldn’t look up as I followed his example to see if he watched me. My cock dangled over my balls. I thought the skin might still be slick when I touched it, but the light left the top and sides clean and dry. “Amazing,” I said after I finished. “I thought new things would be scary, but it’s not.” Like the liobi, and the enclosed bed… and the sex.
My husband smiled when I got the nerve up to glance at him. “If you like that, I have so much more to show you.” I caught the double meaning and flushed again.
Zaran tilted his head back as he laughed again. “I think I’m going to spend a lot of time trying to make you do that.”
I raised my eyebrows. I might get embarrassed easily, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. “Turnabout is fair play, you know.”
“Try all you like. I look forward to it.”
I shook my head, covering my mouth as a yawn surprised me. “C’mon, Kertyn, let’s go back to bed,” Zaran said. “We have a long time to learn how to embarrass each other.
I got up early while Kertyn slept. Before I got up, I touched his shoulder, shaking him slightly to check if he’d wake up, but he was solidly dreaming, the covers tucked against his neck against the morning chill. There was an old uniform in my closet, clean if a bit musty, from before the last campaign against Verlast.
I had a call to make and the Tuothic should be alerted before I did so. He was cranky when I pulled him away from his wife, but we went way back, so I knew his grumbles were harmless.
“What is it, Zaran?” Markin yawned. “It’s the morning after your Vagal night. You’re supposed to sleep ‘til mid-afternoon so everyone can tease you, not get up at the first turn of the clock.”
His joking was lost on me. I’d had time to consider what I’d learned from my husband the night before. I was grim when I explained about the devotions the filthy Verlast priest had forced Kertyn to participate in.
“I want to know if his father knew about this. My husband deserves to know that the man who took his innocence will be punished. If he knew, and sent his son who had been so recently sullied by such perversion, then I will demand recompense from the Verlast.”
Markin nodded once. “I understand.” He grimaced. “Breaking peace not yet a day old could look bad though.” He was the Tuothic, and it was his duty to think of all our people, but I was growing angrier the longer I thought about the amazement Kertyn showed whenever he was touched, or when I told him he could touch me.
“I don’t care!” I snapped. “Kertyn deserves peace.”
“Was he that upset? Verlast ways are not ours.”
“He’s Nembero now. He was from the moment the treaty promised him to me, yet the priest still touched him, used him. What would you have done, if Balla’s father had allowed such a thing to happen to her before you wed? I won’t stand for it.” I knew he would’ve killed Balla’s father and any other man who had a hand in harming his precious wife. I didn’t love Kertyn, not yet, but we had a chance to make something good out of the marriage forced on us. But not until the stain on the priest’s honor was expunged. I squared my shoulders. “I’m requesting permission to contact the Verlast king now.”
“You do realize it’s still the middle of the night their time,” he pointed out.
Markin sighed. “Fine. I understand how you feel”—he put a restraining hand on my shoulder—“but remember the men and women whose lives you hold in the balance of this wrong, both Verlast and Nembero.”
I scowled but nodded reluctantly. “I’ll try to avoid restarting the war.” I’d try, but if I had to I’d raze the priest’s temple to the ground with him inside, personally if necessary.
It took a while for the call to go through space. I paced angrily around the communications room, shoving the rolling chairs out of my way whenever I got too close to the conference table. Eventually a shimmering hologram appeared in the front of the room above the receiver.
“Is there a reason why I was summoned at such an ungodly hour?” Kertyn’s father’s voice held all the haughty affront I’d expected from his son. I sent another wordless prayer of thanks to the Nembero gods that hadn’t been so.
“Of course there is.” Markin bowed his head. Tynfor grudgingly accorded him the same hostility, barely holding his neck at the proper angle. “Your son arrived yesterday evening, and the treaty was fulfilled.”
“I was aware of that last night. What has the boy done now?” Tynfor’s eyes narrowed.
“He has done nothing!” I strode forward, standing squarely in front of the Verlast king’s hologram. “It is what was done to him that you must answer for!”
Tynfor reared back. Fear snaked across his narrow features before he smothered it and schooled his expression to a blank mask. “I beg your pardon?”
“Your son informed me that he was kept secluded, except for a Stygianius priest.”
The king spread his hands apart as he leaned forward. “For his own protection, due to his status as Chosen and the purpose the priest assured me he would one day be ready for… but only with daily instruction.”
Daily instruction? “You have to be fucking kidding me!” I roared. “Daily instruction? Did you never check on him, or speak to your son? Did you never find out what that instruction was?”
Tynfor frowned. “Of course not. Tuothic, we have peace between us, yet you allow your man to speak to me in such a way. It is unseemly,” he complained.
“He is not speaking as my warrior, but as your son’s husband,” Markin stated.
“Please.” Tynfor rolled his eyes. “What, is the boy too stupid to understand his place or something?”
Rage threatened to swamp me. My desire to throttle the man until he could no longer speak was near unmanageable. If he’d been in front of me in person, I wouldn’t have controlled it at all.
“Your son’s treatment at the hands of the bastard you allowed close to Kertyn did leave him completely unknowing of how a husband acts, yes, but not because he’s stupid. Kertyn told me of the devotions this priest”—I spat the title out—“forced upon every day. That man used my husband, invaded his body and took his own perverted pleasure for years. Years!” I raged. “Even until the very morning he left for Nembero. Kertyn had no idea what sex was, or how a marriage couple should treat each other, because all he’d ever known in his life was abuse! I had to explain everything to him, just so he’d understand why I was so angry, because he thought I was rejecting him for what you allowed.”
Tynfor raised one eyebrow. “If the priest said they were performing devotions, then undoubtedly that was so. The ways of those dedicated to Stygianius are beyond me. My son was Chosen by the god, and as such, belonged to the priest. He was only given to you because that was the price your priests stated the gods demanded to end the war.” The man’s voice was mild, as if being told his son had been used was of no consequence, like Kertyn was a thing and not a human being.
I staggered back. Markin caught me.
“If the boy is too much trouble, or you feel he is sullied by his duty to his god, then send him back. I severed our ties when he was sent to your planet, but I’m sure Stygianius priests would find him a place.” Tynfor grinned cruelly.
“You bastard son of a bitch.” His expression didn’t change as the old insult washed over him without his understanding, but Markin knew exactly what I said. His jaw was clenched.
“Your son was offered by treaty to the Nembero in marriage. He is no longer a Verlast, and shall never set foot on your planet again. And if you, or any of your people, ever come near him or my planet”—Markin pointed at the hologram— “I will allow Zaran to obliterate Verlast down to its last atom.”
Tynfor’s spots paled.
“Do I make myself clear?” Markin stood regally in front of the Verlast king as he issued his ultimatum.
“Abundantly. Do not contact me again. I have no son, nor any link to your planet.” Tynfor cut the transmission.
I braced myself against the back of a chair, struggling to calm. Marking was little better. He sank into a chair and rubbed his forehead. “That could have gone worse,” he muttered.
“You threatened genocide on an entire planet.”
Markin straightened. “And I meant it. That man was unbelievable. If his people allow him to rule, when he permits such atrocities, then they deserve what he will do to them. Nembero will not be the only planet he attempts to take advantage of, mark my words.”
“Should we send out messages to our allies?” The loose confederation of planets colonized eons ago by human refugees from Earth were all sovereign, but some understood the power and advantages of creating alliances.
“I will speak to my council. You’ve done enough, Zaran, more than anyone should have to.”
I shook my head. “Someone had to be the one in charge, to make those decisions.”
“But now you have a chance to forget what you had no choice in. You did what you had to protect our people, and ensure our survival. You don’t have to be that man anymore. Go, be with your new husband, and teach him all about his new home.”
“Is that an order?” I smiled at Markin.
“Of course. Your Tuothic demands you go to bed so he can get back to his own. And no getting up before the third turning, at least!”
Laughing was the last thing I’d expected to do when I walked out of the communications room. I wished I could tell Kertyn that his father would punish the priest who’d hurt him, but the cold bastard’s reaction was even harsher. I didn’t have to tell him; Kertyn would never go back to Verlast.
He was a Nembero now. I quickened my steps, eater to show him how a Nembero husband woke his partner on their Vagal morn.