Just hang in there. Remember… their HEA is coming!
There Be Mature Content Here
Please be advised that the following is intended for mature readers only.
Rez was lying on gel-like softness. Even though she was flat on her back with her eyes closed, she knew exactly where she was. The Bale. She recognized the distinctive ‘Akupara-esque’ tinge of antiseptic in the air.
That, and just like the last time she’d woken up in the Bale, she wasn’t alone.
It wasn’t Kin or Pyx or Jo in the room with her. First of all, she’d seen Kin get shot, pointblank. He was probably flatout on his own gel-cushion bed recovering.
Dear god, please let him be recovering.
Besides, if Pyx was here, he would be yammering non-stop. Jo? Her keen hearing would’ve already picked up the change of Rez’s breathing. Which meant Rez would currently be fending off an attack that Jo had always insisted was simply ‘the love strangles.’
However, the most telling was that her flash hairs were priming.
Really, it was a no brainer. Whoever was here would become a problem.
“I know you’re awake.” The person spoke InterLingual with a thick, Akupara accent, just like Kin, but carried a feminine resonance similar to Emys’s.
I know you’re awake.
Right. Rez almost scoffed. No way she was falling for that trick by actually responding.
Instead, she mentally took a self-diagnostic. Only minor aches lingered. Nothing was bandaged or sutured. No restraints held her down. Her legs felt sore, but not spent, and her flash hairs were already doing their thing.
She had no freaking idea what was about to be thrown at her, but she was healthy enough to dodge while jabbing a few punches. That’d do just fine.
The female Akupara sighed impatiently. “Our med-chambers monitor brainwave patterns.”
Well, then. Good to know.
The Akupara continued, “And to be honest, at first I doubted the readings. But then you’ve clearly demonstrated that the low-intelligence rating is accurate.”
Rez cracked her eyes open. She’d seen this Akupara woman before in Kin’s private quarters, and Pyx had filled her in during their run through Briarwood. She was the mysterious Coldhearted, Intensified; otherwise referred to as High Umara, Kin’s mom and liege.
“Well, thanks for proving my hunch right that you’d be a raging asshole.” Rez might talk shit, but she never started or took shit.
Seriously, there was a universally recognized distinction between all three of those scenarios.
She scowled up at the High Umara. “Where’s Kin?”
Wow. H.U. actually managed to pull off a pretty decent baffled expression.
“Sub-Commander Kinixys Strazar Dobar Umara, The Last of the Bale,” Rez shot back.
Look at her! Not once did she stumble over that long-ass title.
“You know,” she added, “my mate.”
Oh yes, she did. She dropped it like a badass. Kin was hers.
“Your mate, indeed. But The Last of the Bale?” Kin’s mom regrettably shook her head. “Not for much longer.”
That question was bait, and Rez knew it. So, you know what? Fuck Kin’s mom—
Crap. No. That was too harsh. After all, Kin could actually love the woman. She didn’t see how, but anything’s possible, right?
All right. New plan.
She would disengage from Kin’s mom until she could ask him a series of subtle, yet indicative questions that would rate his affection on a scale from “I’ll Take a Pulse Blast for My Mama” to “I’ll Shoot Her My Damn Self.”
In the meantime, she wasn’t in the mood for ‘you’re-obviously-screwing-with-me’ head games. She would just go find Kin and ask him about his status as The Last. Because as much as she hated to admit it, that ‘Not for much longer’ comment really, really generated too many horrible questions.
Rez sat up, not bothering to stifle her groans as she swung her legs—
Fucking again. They’d perched her on another goddamn pedestal bed. Like, seriously? It had no freaking rails! What if she’d rolled over in her sleep?
Muttering under her breath, she hopped off. Her feet were bare, but at least someone had dressed her in one of those flowy pants and tunics that the Akupara appeared to love so much. That was all any of them wore. Either creepy, matte black armor or billowy, linen-like sacks.
H.U. narrowed her eyes at her. “Where are you going?”
Yeah. Wouldn’t she like to know.
Unless Kin’s mom had the she-balls to call some guards, Rez was gonna do a self-guided tour of the Bale. And she’d start by blatantly ignoring a woman three-times her size as she strode from the room.
Well, she didn’t stride-stride. She put a little oomph in her step and zipped past Kin’s mom. Just testing the waters. No biggie.
Out in the hall, finding herself to be hale and whole, she ruthlessly muffled her relieved sigh. That nasty woman would not get under her skin.
Even though she sorta already had.
But she didn’t have to know it, now did she?
Rez tapped out a quick message with her foot—hoping her gut was right and that Jo was there somewhere—then turned left and set off.
Of course, Uber Hellbitch was fast on her heels, tingling Rez’s flash hairs.
What-the-fuck-ever. She had shit to do.
Find Kin and confess her secrets.
Find her girls and confess that she’d confessed their secrets when she’d confessed her secrets to Kin. (It’d be fine.)
Find an eternally safe haven from Kletka bounty hunters, who were totally being paid by the ‘somehow they’d survived’ ass-turd scientists.
Avoid donating eggs to the Akupara.
Then finally live out her life blissfully addicted to Kin’s dick.
Rez had a vague memory of her previous, panic-fueled run through the Bale’s corridors. She’d gotten the impression that it was one, big circle. Left? Right? It didn’t matter which way she went. Her race through the Bale would finish at the starting line.
Anxious to find Kin, she picked up her pace. As her feet slapped against the smooth corridor, she heard the rapid footfalls of Kin’s mother keeping up with her. Rez wasn’t running full speed. No reason to reveal the extent of her ability, was there?
Unlike last time, the corridors weren’t empty. Other Akupara travelled along at varied speeds. Some zipped. Some strolled. They all lowered their heads—just a dipping nod of acknowledgement—to the woman following her.
A child called out—in what she guessed to be—a cheerful hail in Akupara. The girl tugged on her own tunic as she beamed a proud smile at Rez.
Yeah, Rez got it. Both she and the youngster were outfitted in buttery yellow attire, while all the adults wore shades of brown.
Rez glanced over her shoulder, cocking an irritated brow at Kin’s mom. “Really? You put me in kid’s clothes?”
The High Umara simply shrugged. “Akupara clothing is tailored for maturity, not size.”
Fucking again with this woman. She really needed to find Kin.
As Rez continued, she noticed another difference about the corridor. Its curved walls were no longer unendingly smooth. Open doorways—randomly spaced along the inner loop of circle—disrupted the uniform surface. Which explained why, during her first race around the Bale, the doorway she’d run through led to a cliff’s edge. The outer loop of the circle must be the outer hull of the Bale.
Within the rooms, she saw Akupara engaging in tasks and leisure activities. Cooking, mending, reading, playing games… They lived as humans do. But with each open doorway she passed, Rez gradually slowed her pace. She stopped at one doorway and peered in, just to be sure.
The High Umara drew up next to her, standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Well, more like top-of-Rez’s-crown to the High Umara’s shoulder.
She slid her gaze to Kin’s mom, wanting to gauge her reaction, as she said, “There are hardly any children.”
“There are seven of them.” Kin’s mom kept her eyes firmly fixed forward.
Seven? But Rez must have passed forty to fifty adults.
“It’s why we were able to provide you clothing.” The High Umara turned to her. “We have them to spare.”
Rez held the other woman’s gaze, very aware of what was passing between them.
Oh, don’t go pressing your hands to your soft heart. It wasn’t that kinda moment. In no way had Kin’s mom been confiding in her because ‘we women gotta stick together’ bullshit.
That woman had speared Rez with a venomous scowl as she’d delivered her loathe-laden accusation. We have children’s clothing to spare.
Yep. Rez was totally gonna reverse her earlier decision. Fuck Kin’s mom. This woman was the worst.
Rez scowled right back at the High Umara and snarled, “You’re not gonna bully me into giving you my eggs.”
Kin’s mom turned fully toward her, squaring off. She raked her angry gaze over Rez from head to toe as they stood there, seething at one another.
H.U. didn’t know it, but she was playing chicken with a damn bull. There was no way in hell—
Kin’s mom strode away.
Huh. That was…anticlimactic.
And sorta dissatisfying.
It had her worrying if she’d flubbed somehow, enabling H.U. to win on a technicality. Which would be pure bullshit, because how was she supposed to know the Akupara’s rules for—
“Follow me if you want to see Kinixys,” the High Umara’s voice drifted back down the corridor.
Want to see? Good god, she was going outta her freaking mind, insanely desperate to see him!
She took off after Kin’s mom. If it turned out to be a trap or something shitty like that…
Well, she would just figure it out on the fly.
Right now her pounding pulse and fluttering stomach really needed Kin. Seriously, she fully expected him to exhale a gruff, exasperated sigh as he held her at bay by her tunic’s scruff. All to keep her from punching his mom.
Good god, did she need him.
Rez followed the High Umara through the corridor, noting that the woman didn’t turn them around. Glancing into a few open doorways, she realized that they were back in the medical section of the Bale.
She bit back her frantic questions. Why the medical section? Why not Kin’s quarters?
His mom entered a medical bay, and Rez numbly followed.
There was Kin, enclosed in a med-chamber.
She tried to swallow, but her throat was closing on her. “Is he all right?”
“All Akupara Bales are asking us the same question,” his mom replied coolly, “Disclose the status of The Last.”
Her tone had taken on a frustrated, disgusted edge. To Rez, it sounded like that last bit was Kin’s mom repeating a message. One that probably came from some higher Akupara authority who was demanding an update. It wasn’t some nosey ‘hope he feels better’ well-wishes that his mom could ignore.
“But, he’s Umara,” Rez blurted.
Well, fuck her and her fucking impulsivity.
She just couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Now she would have to see this to the end, trading ridiculous lines like she and Kin’s mom were reading from a crappy script.
“Seriously,” Rez gestured to Kin in the med-chamber. “He’s from your Bale. Why do the others even care?”
“He’s The Last of the Bale.” Her snide tone tagged on an unspoken ‘obviously.’
“Oh for the love of—” Rez heaved a dramatic groan. “Can we speed this up? Just tell me, H.U. Spit it out. Is he gonna live or not?”
Kin’s mom cocked her head. “Aych yoo?”
“That’s your takeaway?” Yeah, she totally shrilled at Kin’s mom. “H. U. InterLingual letters for your initials—”
The woman reared back and gasped, “You’re addressing me with initials!“
“To save time!” Rez threw her hands up. “I don’t get you guys! The Akupara are the fastest moving race in the whole entire universe, and y’all creep along like turtles!”
“Turtles are sacred—”
“Get to the damn point. Is he gonna live?”
Kin’s mom scoffed. “Of course he’s going to live. That’s a premium med-chamber. The male was showing signs of extreme exhaustion.”
Gonna punch her. Gonna punch her. Sooo gonna punch her.
Rez squeezed her eyes closed as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “So what, exactly, is the damn problem?”
“Ten words or less.” Rez pointed her finger at Kin’s mom. “I’ll be counting.”
The High Umara fumed silently, but Rez could see the wheels spinning in her head—leaving stinky black skid marks all over place. Good.
The High Umara huffed.
She pointed to Kin. “The Last.” Then lifted her arm, pointing upward. “Of all Akupara everywhere.”
“You’re wasting words on inflated phrases, H.U.”
The woman growled, then jabbed at Kin again. “He fails; they challenge.” She pointed to the corridor. “We lose status.” She pointed at the floor. “Remain here. Disgraced.”
Rez sucked in a breath, blinked, then said in a rush, “Could you repeat that, please?”
The High Umara sneered at her. “As The Last, he’s the most important Akupara in all of the Bales.”
Yeah. She totally agreed. Kin was a bonafide badass supreme.
The High Umara continued ranting at her. “Honorable males court Emys because—”
Got a feeling she wasn’t gonna like the next bit.
“Kinixys was supposed court and mate a highness from a prominent Bale.”
Yeah. That ‘next bit’ had sucked.
“And instead,” Kin’s mom pointed a damning finger at her. “We got you.”
Again Kin’s mom sneered at her, “And we won’t even get any eggs.”
Rez’s head throbbed. Hell, her heart throbbed as well. Kin had never told her that he was the Akupara’s Most Eligible Bachelor. Then again, she’d never shared her secret—Most Wanted Lab Experiment Escapee—either.
Hurting, Rez shook her head. “I have reasons. There are people—”
“Premium med-chambers.” Kin’s mom jutted her chin toward Kin—who was in such a chamber.
“What the hell is that suppose to mean?”
“It means that when Kinixys and Emys first brought you to the Bale and demanded that you be healed, I knew soon after.” She wryly shook her head. “Yet I let Kinixys pursue his suit anyway, because I’d assumed you would do what was best for him and decline.”
Rez stared at Kin’s mom. She hated the woman. Hated her.
“What do you know?” Rez grated out.
Kin’s mom pierced her with another furious scowl. “You’re sterile.”
Kinixys swung the med-chamber open. Bolting upright, he scanned the medical bay. His gaze snapped instinctively to Rez—my mate.
Something was wrong.
Although Rez had turned her head to look at him, her face was frozen in a startled expression while her shoulders were squared off against his mother. The High Umara, who’d yet to look at him, glared at his mate with a vicious smirk twisting her mouth.
Correction. Several somethings were wrong.
He climbed out of the med-chamber, banging his limbs against the sides in his haste. Hell, he probably looked like a ten ton toddler scrambling out of a crib. It didn’t help that his heart rate had kicked into an all out sprint, alerted by the heavy tension in the room.
“Now that you are awake, Hatchling Mine,” his mother seethed. “We can—”
“By Aku, Rez.” Ignoring his mother, he strode to Rez and cupped her upturned face. “I’m sorry. They were supposed to get me the nano-second you woke up.”
That was a shit excuse, so he refused to brace himself from her response. He’d accepted her disappointment, even her anger, without complaint.
Gripping his wrist, Rez shook her head, only managing slight side-to-side movements because he still cupped her face. “Kin. It’s all right.”
His heart increased its pace, matching her rushed, flustered reply. He’d expected her disappointment, not assurances that sounded alarmingly apologetic.
She squeezed his wrist. “Really. It’s only been—”
“Kinixys!” His mother snapped.
In response, his instincts roared in ferocious protectiveness. But rather than driving him to charge forth, his instincts banked its rage—waiting for his impulses and intellect to set it loose—because all three were in agreement: Rez came first, then he could eliminate threats.
Everything else—even whatever that had been from the High Umara—could wait until his mate’s gaze was no longer a mixture of dread and remorse.
He lowered his face closer to hers, narrowing his focus onto her, and softly prompted, “It’s only been?”
She flicked her eyes to his mother, then back to him.
“A few minutes.” She dropped her gaze and shrugged. “No big deal.”
No big deal?
He could feel her trembling like a frightened rabbit in his hands. Could hear her struggling to kept her tone careless and her voice smooth. And in what universe was ‘a few minutes’ not unbearable for her to endure?
His chest steadily began to heave with deeper and deeper breaths. Rage, confusion, and alarm fumed from his nostrils. He lifted his head and glared at the High Umara.
What the hell had his mother done?
His mother met his gaze with smug self-satisfaction.
A low, threatening growl rumbled from his throat.
He felt Rez squeeze his wrist again, “Kin, listen—”
“She’s sterile.” His mother spoke to him in Akupara, viciously cutting across Rez’s rapid-fire plea.
As his mother grinned triumphantly at him, Rez snapped something back at her.
He heard them both sparring with scathing snarls, but he wasn’t listening to the words.
His impulses released the reins on his riled-up instincts. But his intellect held on long enough to turn him, directing him toward a target for his rage. He smashed his fists into the med-chamber, demolishing it. The resounding boom of destruction cut off all other voices and sounds in the room.
Which was fucking perfect, because he needed a damn moment.
Just a moment…
At the sound of his mother’s voice, he spun around at his true speed, scooped Rez into his arms, and ran. His military training kicked in—protect Rez at all costs while they fell-back and regrouped.
And regrouping needed to happen as soon as possible. Because as Kin strategically relocated them, his mate struggled in his arms the entire time.
“Fucking. Let. Me. Go.” She snarled at him.
His non-negotiable reply boomed off the rock walls. An awareness stirred in the back of his mind. Sea cave.
Fine. Whatever. Where didn’t matter. He was obsessively focused on who said what.
Let me go.
Tightening his hold, he trapped Rez’s hands against his chest. Snaking one hand into her hair, he modulated his grip on her soft curls and tilted her face up.
Flexing his muscles, he reined in his trembling limbs without increasing his hold.
“I will never let you go.” He tugged on her hair—light, but insistent pulls that reinforced his claim. She needed to know—Scratch that. She needed to accept that he would never waver in this regard. “You’re mine.”
Frustration and fear tore through him. He couldn’t lose her. Not when he had a full, soul-shattering understanding of what it would mean to be without her.
Awareness tingled again, rattling against his delusional and detrimental solution to tie her up forever. Her wellbeing.
He blinked and everything snapped into piercing clarity.
Rez was thrashing wildly in his arms. Her face was flushed with her exertion as she railed, wheezing curses with each labored breath.
Was…? Was spit dripping down his face? And…?
He glanced down.
Yes. Rez was attacking his crotch-—with fast and furious, yet totally futile kicks—because he’d yet to tell her the truth about his people’s physical invulnerability.
He was an unbelievable ass.
Pressing his lips to her crown, he uttered an apology stricken with his own self-loathing for being such a selfish, obtuse idiot. Then he released her.
Rez stumbled back a step. He visibly assessed her, frantically scanning her head to toe. Her hair was tousled. Her clothing was rumpled. Her chest was heaving as she gave him a stunned, wild-eyed look that twisted his gut.
She blinked, and praise Aku, her outrage wiped out her flailing panic.
“What the fuck, Kin?” She jabbed her finger at him. “You don’t own me.”
He bit back a pained, whining moan because her hand was trembling.
“Not you,” she said. “Not Rogers. Not the scientists. No one owns me.”
Those last, venomously snarled words, had him growling like a crazed beast.
Then again, why would he behave any other way? When an Akupara would hollow himself out so that his beloved could be sheltered inside him, everything contained beneath the shell was set loose.
Brash and brutish. Impatient and demanding. Riled and fixated.
At his core, he was as primal and possessive as fucking hell.
You don’t own me.
Inaccurate, yet true. He didn’t own her; just like she didn’t own him. They had given themselves to one another. He was hers as well. If he stepped aside now without hesitation—easily folding to his mother’s meddling…
Well, then how sincere was his claim to be her mate?
But Rez wasn’t Akupara, and Kin was abysmal with sentiment. Coming to an understanding would require Aku’ s intervention.
“I don’t want to own you,” he blurted as his mind scrambled for reasons. “I just don’t want you to leave me.”
Rez reared back and huffed. “Leave you?”
“Yes. Don’t go. Don’t leave me.” Please don’t.
He shifted on his feet, re-centering his mass as he sucked in a breath that expanded his chest. The Akupara were near-to-perfectly indestructible on the outside. Yet here he was, getting ready to lean into a blast that would obliterate his heart without scratching his plastron.
“Don’t leave?” Rez blinked as her brow furrowed in confusion. “I was gonna come right back.”
Kin’s mind stumbled, scrambling to understand. “Come right back?”
“Sure.” Rez gestured over his shoulder. “After I got done kicking your mom’s ass.”
Kicking his mom’s…
“Kin,” Rez folded her arms and huffed, “she’s a horrible person.”
Accurate, plus entirely true.
Speaking of accuracy, he looked at his mate again. Really looked at her.
“You’re trembling,” he said quietly.
“Because I’m pissed.” She jutted her chin, indicated somewhere behind him. “Whatever she spat at you in Akupara turned you feral in under a second.”
Was that all the time that had passed? He would have sworn that he’d controlled himself longer…
“She told you I was sterile, didn’t she?”
He snapped his attention to Rez, expecting to see pain or sorrow on her face. Instead, she placidly regarded him, giving him no indication of her feelings.
“Yes.” That word burned his throat like a hot coal.
They stood in silence. Kin’s entire body thrummed like he would detonate with so much—rage, frustration, sorrow—all for Rez. But icy anxiety countered his rising temper because she’d yet to reveal her thoughts.
She ran her gaze over him. “Got any questions for me?”
Yes. By Aku, he had a mountain of questions. But mentally he fumbled, desperately seeking words that wouldn’t cause harm.
His struggle must have been obvious, because she nodded. “Fine, I’ll start you off. No, I have no idea if what she said is true.”
She paused, and her gaze drifted over his shoulder, as if she were recalling a memory.
“But, I don’t think I am.” She returned her gaze to him. “It would’ve defeated the whole purpose of keeping me alive. The scientists enjoyed torturing me, but I did my damned best to make it an expensive pastime for them. They had to hire new guards and replace lab equipment on a weekly basis.” She shrugged. “So, why bother if there wasn’t some bigger picture payoff, right?”
A hot, intense buzzing started in the room, only to be cut off with a sharp crack.
Kin blinked. His mate glared up at him, her chest brushing against his plastron.
“We need to work on this, Kin,” she gritted out.
He dropped his gaze from her fiercely determined eyes to her hand that she cradled to her chest. The sharp crack that he’d heard… “Did you slap me?”
“Yes.” She flicked her gaze away and murmured. “Never doing that again.” Then she speared him again with her glare. “And you’re gonna stop doing this mindless-rage bullshit.” She mumbled once again as she shook her head in bewilderment. “Twice in so many minutes.”
If only she knew that since they’d mated in her burrow, he’d actually gone berserker twice as many times.
“I need you here with me,” he heard the uncertainty that cracked her resolute tone, “to deal with this shit, Kin.”
He took her into his arms, his heart hurting—squeezing in sympathy, yet swelling with love. “That’s how I ‘deal with shit’. By going into a rage and killing them all.”
She heaved a deep, expelling sigh. “We are perfect for one another.”
They absolutely were.
They were also absolutely atrocious about sharing their burdens.
She’d never mentioned the scientists before, but their existence didn’t surprise him. Based on her wondrous and unique abilities, he’d already guessed that some greedy and amoral organization had manipulated her genetics. He just hadn’t fathomed that they’d been sadistic monsters.
Again, white-hot rage began to flare inside of him, and he could feel himself slipping.
Well, that wouldn’t do. Rez had just finished begging him—while also exposing her fears—to restrain his feral side. He would not fail her.
Instead, he might as well plunge into this new and terrifying territory of their mating—full disclosure.
“I’m going to dismember every one of those scientists. Slowly.” He gave her an affectionate squeeze, hoping to hide the tremors caused by pushing down his rage. “I am Akupara. In this matter, I will be patient and persistent.”
“They’re dead, Kin.” She snarled before continuing, “At least, I killed the fuckers who personally hurt me.”
Ah, he understood her disgruntled frustration. “You cut off the hands, because the head was out of reach.”
She squeezed him again. “We are just so damn perfect for one another.”
They were perfect. Even more so… “You are perfect, my mate.”
She went still in his arms. “Maybe we should, um, slow down on this whole mate thing.”
Rez. Slow. Impossible.
Kin pulled back, holding her at arm’s length, needing to know what upset her.
Her eyes glistened and her voice thickened with emotion. “Because if what your mom said is true…”
“I desire you above all things, Rez.” He swallowed back the lump in his throat. His mate was hurting. He was Akupara. He would not baulk now. Full disclosure. “Hatchlings are a blessing, but finding a mate like you is a miracle.”
He held his tongue, letting her trail off. He sensed that she was fumbling to gather her thoughts as well. Besides, he’d spoken plain, but true words about his feelings. If she needed time to process it all, she had it. He’d already given her the rest of his life.
She cleared her throat. “My plan has always been to get sterilized if it could be done safely.”
He followed her meaning. That primitive clinic at Two-Four-Kay was unsuitable. But he didn’t understand her decision to undergo the procedure.
“Like you said, I got the hands, but not the head.” She shrugged, but he knew the motion for what it was—a defensive deflection. Her shield against harmful thoughts and emotions. “Kletka bounty hunters finding us on Warren’s was some pretty shitty luck, but not a complete surprise. You know, was gonna happen sooner or later. Right?”
Not an Akupara saying, but he understood what it conveyed.
“Right,” he dutifully answered.
“If they captured me or my…” He could hear it. She’d hit her limit as her voice cracked. “I can’t condemn a child to that.”
Neither would he.
“The outer shell of the Akupara is impervious.” By Aku, his entire body thrummed with anxious energy as he revealed his people’s most closely held secret.
“Yeah,” she sniffled. “I figured that out on my own. You guys aren’t soft shells about your thoughts and feelings. Well, except for Pyx.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” she scrubbed at her red nose with the back of her hand, “here I am all ‘lemme tell you about my worst fucking nightmare’ and you counter with…” Another one of her shrugs. “I dunno. Bragging about emotional invincibility.”
Very well. She had a point. He sucked at this.
“Our shells,” he spaced out each word. “They make us incredibly hard to kill.”
She laughed—a dry, sarcastic chuckle. “Right. I saw you get hit with a pulse blast, Kin. You just woke up in a med-chamber.”
He shook his head. “No. What happened is that you held my shit armor to your chest, got shot anyway, and as your body lit up—in what I am assuming was agonizing pain—you missed the part where I got shot twice before I tore the Kletka hunters into bloody clumps.”
She stared at him, blinking mutely, before echoing hollowly, “Bloody clumps.”
“Reduced them to gristle and pulp.”
Her eyes widened. “You were naked.”
“It’s telling that you’ve accurately recalled my nakedness, my mate.”
She frowned and rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”
That ribbing was too good to pass up. Plus, she appeared more settled, returning to her wonderfully bristling self. But he needed her to know one more thing.
“All Akupara have this imperviousness to physical harm.” He dipped his head, catching her eye. “Even our hatchlings who possess a portion of their DNA from a non-Akupara egg donor.”
He watched her absorb that information. Emotions flickered across her expression.
“I hear what you’re saying, Kin.” Likewise, he heard the skepticism in her voice. But he respected her caution, considering what was at stake. “Invincible babies would be the absolute best, but these scientists,” she grimaced, “might actually enjoy that challenge.”
He couldn’t argue with her. His mate obviously knew the minds of those demented monsters better than he did. However, one day, he would become thoroughly familiar with their inner workings as well. Such as, the order in which their internal organs could be removed before their bodies expired.
But that exciting and stimulating hands-on challenge would be for another day. Something to truly look forward to.
In the meantime, he had plenty of stimulating excitement due to his obsession with all things Rez. With her kissable lips pursed, she silently studied him, but he could see the wheels in her head turning.
She frowned, nodding her head once as she said, “New plan.”
“New plan?” When was there an old plan?
She turned toward him and squared her shoulders. “Eliminate the what ifs.”
He’d years of experience eliminating a multitude of things. Although he’d no clue what an ‘ifs’ was, he’d reduce it to ashes for her.
“Come on.” She took determined strides toward the back of the sea cave, heading for the entrance into the Bale. “We’re gonna meet this elephant head on.”
“Elephant? What happen to the ifs?”
“Two birds, one stone, Kin.”
That made… no sense. Mathematically or figuratively.
But look at him anyway. He was practically tripping over his own feet to avoid stepping on her heels. All so that he could stay close to her and protect her from ifs, elephants, birds, and—
He couldn’t taken it any longer.
Zipping in front of her, he blocked the entrance into the Bale. “What exactly are we doing?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but he cut her off.
“No more human phrases.” Truly, they were nonsensical. “Just point at what you want me to kill.”
Her tender smile lit up her eyes and stole his breath.
Stole? No. His breath. His heart. He gave it all to her.
“That is so thoughtful of you, Kin.” She reached up and cupped his cheek. The heat from her palm poured into him, soothing him. “But before we go raise some hell, let’s find out if my ovaries work.”
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