Welcome to the Climax!
There Be Mature Content Here
Please be advised that the following is intended for mature readers only.
Rez shrieked she was dunked in icy cold water.
Good god! The Evil Iceberg had finally found her!
At least, that was her last thought before she shot awake, shrieking…
…with frigid water dipping down her face…
….which was quickly seeping into the bedding and soaking her ass.
Her heart pounded in alarm as she scanned the room for danger. Then she saw her.
“Fucking Joia!” She bellowed at her friend.
Friend? That bitch was still holding the damn bucket!
Rez seethed. “What the-ever—”
Jo cut her off. “Gonna stopped you right there.” Keeping her eyes on Rez, she held the bucket out behind her. “Reload.”
“Reload?” Rez asked as Pyx zipped into the room.
He swapped out Jo’s empty bucket for a new one that was sloshing over with water.
Confused, Rez flicked her attention between Jo and Pyx. “What—”
Jo doused her again.
And the water was still from the cold heart of an evil iceberg.
Rez roared as she shot outta the bed, only to get tangled in the sheets. Her reflexes—getting her hands out—saved her from a physically and embarrassingly painful face-plant.
Another bucket of cold water was dumped onto her.
Gonna punch her. Gonna punch her. So gonna punch her.
Kicking herself free from the twisted sheets, she popped up to her feet. Her fists were up, ready to throw a punch.
Jo stood there, bucket-free, with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. She shifted, cocking a hip out as she arched a brow.
Nope. Not happening. Rez was not rising to that silently nettling bait. Now that she’d stopped roaring like a rabid War-gator, the quarters were quiet. Way too quiet.
She cast her gaze around again. “Where’s Kin?”
Last night, after her wild ride had ended with her being wildly ridden, she and Kin had continued their strenuous activities in the bed. Two more…? No, three more times.
“Seriously,” she dropped her fists. “Where’s Kin?”
Jo rolled her eyes and heaved in frustration.
Know what, it was not fun being on the receiving end of Jo’s ‘for the love of god’ exasperation. She really had a gift for making you feel like a useless piece of shit.
“You two didn’t talk about Ryorin, did you?” Jo scoffed and shook her head. “Of course, you didn’t. Cuz if you did, you wouldn’t be here.”
Unease prickled Rez’s skin as dread crept up her spine. “Joia?”
Jo pinned her with a disgusted stare. “Pompous is challenging Meat Suit for his precious title.”
“The Last?” Her mind tumbled over. “Ryorin’s challenging Kin to be The Last?”
“Good,” Jo snapped. “I don’t gotta catch you up then.”
Jo didn’t have to catch her up. This was the exact scenario that Kin’s mom had warned her about using ten words or less.
He fails; they challenge.
A panicked moment of self-doubt rose. She frantically ran through her recollection of last night. Kin had said that he wanted a life with her and had acknowledged that there would be no children.
Yet, according to the High Umara, Kin’s only worth as The Last was as a fertile bachelor. So, then that meant—
Rez snarled. You know what? Fuck her uncertainty. Kin didn’t fail. He chose her.
Nah. Even better. He chose them.
Rez turned her attention to Jo. “Take me to that bullshit challenge, Jo.”
No need to ask if Jo knew where or when, because Jo always knew everything.
“Sure thing, Delorez,” Jo looked her over, head to toe.
“What?” Rez snapped.
“Trying to decide if I should mention that you’re naked.”
“And wet!” Pyx’s voice came from the corridor. “Again!”
Clothes. Then she was gonna punch some pompous, meddling Akupara in their throats.
Kin stood in the sand that covered the Challenge Pit.
All around him, Akupara entered The Shell, the inner heart of the Bale. Technically, they were in the largest chamber of the Umara baleship—a domed arena where the people of his Bale used to gather and gaze out at space. With the Umara baleship being grounded on Warren’s, the view above the dome was blue sky and drifting clouds.
Kin looked at out the lists. As expected, his mother was on a raised platform—one which required a staircase, not just a few stairs—surrounded by her self-serving, useless supporters. Due to the petty rivalries amongst his mother’s High Council, the Umara not only came to Warren’s, but had grounded their only means of departure.
Honestly, he could only criticize the High Council to a point. Because of their irresponsible bickering, he’d found his mate.
Though, now that he had Rez, the sooner Emys mated and produced hatchlings, the sooner his mother’s influence would decline. If his mother cursed the Umara with one more disastrous decision—essentially falling before stepping down—their Bale would fall with her.
At the opposite end of the field, The Alast—Ryorin’s Bale—had similar accommodations. Only, theirs was a hovering platform, serving as both a flagrant misuse of resources plus a blatant display of their wealth.
This was what his Bale needed, and what he’d failed to provide for his people.
“Hoy!” Ryorin called to him from across the sands as he strode toward him. “Kinixys Strazar Dubar Umara, The…” Ryorin’s swagger wavered along with his overly pompous hail. “Yes, well, um, well met, Kinixys.”
For all the miserable fucks ever.
“What do you want, Ryorin?” Kin grated out, but then quickly added, “And no. I won’t rehearse with you.”
Truly, he and Ryorin had already hammered out the sequence of upcoming events. They would duel. Kin would fall, but only after—as Ryorin had insisted—they’d made it ‘look good.’ Whatever the hell that meant.
Kin’s plan was simple. Just as he would at the beginning of any challenge, he would take a few hits while assessing his opponent. Then, in this particular case, he would do his damned best not to exploit Ryorin’s numerous weakness.
“Rehearse.” Ryorin scoffed, but his dismissal was undermined by his gaze. It was darting all over the lists. “Where is the human female?”
Kin’s carapace plates clicked together—the Akupara equivalent of raising his hackles—as he snarled. “You mean, my mate?”
His threat went right over Ryorin’s head, who was too preoccupied with scanning the growing gathering of spectators.
A tingle of unease had Kin studying the other male. “Ryorin, we have a deal.”
“Indeed.” Ryorin kept scanning the crowd. “You’ll get your ship.”
The male jerked, his spine snapping straight.
Pivoting to see what had captured Ryorin’s attention, he heard his mate before he saw her.
“What the fuck?” Rez’s shout carried across the list. “We’re outside?”
Kin found himself scanning just as determinedly as Ryorin had been. There she was, entering The Shell by the wooden pillars of his mother’s platform.
He zipped over to her, catching her baffled, yet oddly pissed off, rant.
“This is the middle of the damn ship!” She threw her arms out. “How the hell are we outside?”
“My mate,” he opened his arms to embrace—
She punched him in the throat. “Fuck you, Kin.”
Ah, they were back to that again, were they?
“What the hell you wearing, Meat Suit?” Jo, who was standing with his mate, shrilled. She slapped her hands over her eyes. “Some things can’t be unseen!”
He glanced down at his attire. Nothing was amiss. “It’s my combat loin cop.”
“It’s like someone turned a lead pipe into a banana hammock.” Jo, still shielding her eyes, winged out her elbow and nudged his mate. “He’s got a chainmail thong between his clappers, ain’t he?”
Rez made a spinning motion with her finger. “About face, Kin.”
Confused, he turned but kept his gaze on Rez. Her eyes trailed down to his backside and widened.
“Yep,” she squeaked out. “It’s flossing the Great Divide.”
He had no idea what they were going on about. The garment was purely ceremonial. Like his cock actually needed armor? Ridiculous.
“Rez,” he turned, facing her, “listen—”
“No,” she snapped, “You listen.” Then she jerked. “Wait a second. That’s my line. No stealing my line, Kin.” She jabbed a finger at him. “We will not be one of those cutesy ass couples who repeat one another. Got it?”
No. He did not ‘have it’ because he had no clue what she was talking about. But that didn’t mean he was an idiot, either. Whatever it was, he’d figure it out later.
He nodded, once and firm. “Got it.”
Rez snarled, while Joia groaned and muttered, “What did she just say, Meat Suit?”
Nothing logical, but again, he wasn’t an idiot. He would just deal with this later. Right now, he needed a few words with his mate.
Pulling her toward him, he hoisted her over his shoulder and strode away.
“Hey!” Rez cried. ” Put me down, or you’ll be shitting your armored thon—”
He set her down.
“Oh.” She tugged her shirt down. “Well, then.”
Truly, she was incredibly riled up this morning. He’d only strode a few paces away.
“You are angry with me, mate.”
So, his instincts were correct. “Because I did not wake you.”
She glared at him. “Why the hell didn’t you?”
He heard the quiver in her voice. She wanted to know his answer, but she was dreading it as well. He could guess why.
As he’d said several times now, he wasn’t an idiot. She thought she’d done something to offend him, thus he didn’t tell her about the challenge. But the truth was the exact opposite.
“Because,” he slid his palm onto her cheek. “I didn’t want you to see me lose.”
She gaped up at him, and he could see that she didn’t truly understand. But he was out of time.
The Call to Challenge, formally beaten out drums, boomed within The Shell.
He dipped down, kissed her, and then strode toward his humiliating defeat.
Rez watched Kin walk back to the sand pit. With the phantom press of Kin’s kiss lingering on her lips, she threw her arm out at his retreating back.
“What the hell did that mean?” She looked about, but Jo still had her hands over her eyes. “Seriously, Jo!”
Her friend shrugged. “Got me.”
“It is his pride.”
Rez turned to see Emys descending the stairs of the raised platform. And damn, as usual, the woman made any surface under her feet a badass catwalk. The slinky swagger in her steps was just—
“Are you listening to me, Rez?” Emys asked, tilting her head although her expression and tone was void of concern.
“Uh, no.” Rez gave herself a mental shake. “Could you repeat that?”
Emys slowly ran her gaze over Rez, and she felt like a bug under a lens.
“In the Umara’s eyes and the eyes of all the Bales,” Emys said calmly, “without his title, Kinixys will be viewed as a failure.”
“Well, then they’re a bunch of blind, stupid shits,” Rez snapped. “Losing to Pompous the Ass won’t change who Kin is.”
Emys dipped her chin. “A truth for you and me alone, it would appear.”
“Hey,” Jo piped up, her hands over her eyes. “I know Meat Suit is the Best of All Badass Wannabes.”
A small smile lifted the corner of Emys’s mouth. “Then the three of us know.” She glanced at Jo and frowned. “I think.”
“Kin has to know that about me.” Rez raised her voice, speaking over a roaring cheer from the crowd. God, she couldn’t look toward the sand pit. “His title doesn’t impress me.”
“True,” Jo added. “She called him ‘Last but Not Least.'”
Rez watched Emys try to stifle her grimace as she repeated, “Not Least.”
Yeah, yeah. Rez had finally caught on. The Akupara detested all things fast and first and fabulous.
Rez placed her hand on Emys’s arm and squeezed plaintively. “So why doesn’t he want me to watch?”
“Because he fears your disappointment,” Emys said with a sigh. “That he will become less in your eyes if you actually witness his defeat.”
Okay. Something was definitely not being discussed, and it was pissing her off.
“Why would I think less of him?” Rez asked hotly. “If Ryorin beats him out—”
Both Emys and Jo scoffed, and the realization socked Rez right in the gut.
She batted her astonished gaze between Emys and Jo. “Kin’s gonna throw the fight?”
“Throw?” Emys asked.
“Fake his defeat,” Jo said.
“Ah, yes.” Emys turned back to Rez. “He will be throwing the fight. It will be most interesting to see how, though.”
Rez looked at the sand pit. The challenge had already started. Kin was squaring off with Ryorin—who also wore a flashy metal thong, but whatever.
She turned back to Emys. “Are you saying everyone here knows that Kin is the better fighter?”
Despite all the time that she’d been spending with Kin, it still amazed her that he was built like a mountain, but moved like a landslide. Not that long ago she’d thought that he moved like a glacier. But even she could see that Kin was holding back as he grappled with Ryorin.
“So what the hell is going on out there?” She gestured toward the sand pit. “If everyone knows Kin’s the best and that his defeat is a big ol’ fake, then why does this even matter! Just slap a ‘Last’ ribbon on Ryorin’s chest and be done with it!”
Suddenly Emys was nose to nose with Rez and snarling. “It took my sibling two decades to earn that ‘slapped on ribbon.’ He brutally sacrificed the best of himself to win that ‘farce’ of a title. Now Ryorin will strip that honor from him one humiliating blow after another. A lesser male will beat my sibling into the sands, all so that he can keep you.”
“You don’t scare me, Emys,” Rez snarled back.
Okay. Totally not true.
Emys terrified her way more than Pyx’s shift into a hellhound had done.
“I get it,” Rez said. “Kin is giving up something really damn important to be with me, but,” she pointed back toward the sand pit, “something about this whole shit pile is pure bullshit.”
Emys stepped back, “Shit pile?”
Which had Rez turning on her know-it-all-friend. “Why the hell aren’t you helping me, Jo?”
Jo pointed her elbow at Emys. “Cuz I don’t trust her. You know, the chick who’s next in line to run this shitshow. Who had her fiancé under her thumb until, like, two days ago. Who handpicked you to scramble your eggs together. Who oversaw the liberation of Two-Four-Kay when her forces were outnumbered ten-to-one. And who put Rogers in his fucking place without scuffing the toe of her badass boots.” Jo shrugged. “Don’t trust her.”
Gaping at Emys, Rez tumbled through Jo’s accusations while Kin’s sister shifted uncomfortably with a wary look on her face.
“You can stop this?” Rez asked, her voice so damn hopeful.
“I cannot.” Emys broke Rez’s gaze to stare at the sand pit. “Ryorin called a lawful challenge.”
Jo scoffed. “Ryorin’s a douche who’s giving Kin a spaceship for the title. Is that lawful?”
“What?” Rez cried as she caught Emys stiffening. “Wait. You knew all this, Emys?”
“Yes.” Emys turned back to Rez, her tone unapologetic. “We need the ship more than we need Kinixys’s title. It salvages something from all of this.”
The culmination of Kin’s honor was being degraded for an ‘under-the-table’ spaceship trade.
If that was Kin and Emys’s plan, it was a shit plan. Already, she’d seen Kin hit the sand several times. She didn’t know how long he had to submit to Ryorin’s hits until his defeat has been ‘sold’ to the crowd, but it didn’t look like Ryorin was pulling his punches.
Fuck that guy. She wanted to punch him in the throat so bad—
Then it hit her. The perfect, bestest New Plan—
Nope. Scratch that.
Her Last Plan.
Kinixys slowly climbed back onto his feet. Belatedly, he remembered to pause with his hands on his knees. He even heaved a few times to ‘make it look good.’
But honestly, there wasn’t much else he could do. By the looks of his opponent, Ryorin’s hands would give out before making his defeat look believable.
Above him, Ryorin paced and swore under his own heaving breaths. The male was clearly out of his depth. Once this farce of a challenge was over, Ryorin would never be able to hold the title. Hell, a toddler could chall—
By Aku, that was Rez.
Kin slowly straightened his back, though his head remained lowered as he gawked at his mate. She stood beside him with a fiercely determined look on her face.
Which was utterly adorable, but based on past experience, meant a disaster was about to unfold.
She glared up at him. “I’m challenging you for the title of The Last.”
Yep. A disaster.
“That is not how it’s done!” Ryorin cried out. “I’ve already challenged him.”
Rez kept her eyes on him, but tilted her head toward Ryorin. “Is Pompous telling the truth?”
“Yes.” He saw no reason to lie, mostly because he had no idea what she was hoping to accomplish. “You must wait and then challenge the victor.”
“Right.” Rez pivoted to Ryorin. “I’m coming for you, Pompous.”
His mate crackled her knuckles, and precious, bubbly popping sounds came from her tiny hands.
By Aku, she truly was.
Kin snapped his attention to Ryorin, catching the other male mid-scoff. Ryorin swallowed back the rest of his insulting amusement at Rez’s declaration. He must have seen the protective fury in Kin’s face and knew what it meant.
If Kin’s mate was going to challenge Ryorin, Kin would leave the other male in such a state that Rez could take him down with sneeze.
In other words, Kin was going to kick Ryorin’s ass before losing to him.
Why hadn’t he thought of that plan earlier?
“I know, right?” Rez nudged him with her shoulder. “Best damn plan I’ve ever had.”
Ryorin, who had been standing there gawking, shook his head and pointed at Kin. “We have an arrangement, Kinixys.”
“A bullshit arrangement,” Rez spat back, “and you know it. A ship isn’t worth his honor, you piece of shit.”
Astonished, Kin gaped at his mate. “And how do you know about the ship?”
“Someone with big ears and a bigger mouth told me.” She ran her gaze over Kin, assessing him. “Listen, Kin—”
“Sub-Commander Kinixys Strazar Dubar Umara, The Last of the Bale!” His sibling’s voice boomed throughout The Shell.
Kin spun, and in stunned silence, watched Emys stride toward him wearing her ceremonial armor.
Next to him, Rez whistled. “Goddamn, Kin. All three of you got some badass genes.” Then she mumbled. “Gotta be from your papa.”
Emys called out again, “I challenge you.”
“Hey!” His mate jabbed a finger at his sibling. “I was here first! Get in line!”
An indignant gasped rose up from the crowd, but Kin could give a fuck about Akupara decorum.
Rez was the first and only one there to defend him. She wasn’t gazing at him in disappointment, but was fiercely protecting him.
By Aku, he could only imagine the heated look that he was giving her. Never in his entire life had he wanted to both devour, yet shelter someone. His emotions had not been this tumultuous even when he’d thrown himself into his bid to become The Last.
Ryorin lurched forward and hissed. “I was here fir—” He bit back the word, but it was too late. “Before either of you. Kinixys and I will finish this.”
“Then afterward, I will challenge you,” Emys said with her typical calmness. “Is that what you wish, Ryorin? To face me?”
Kin watched as many emotions raced over Ryorin’s face. He almost pitied the male who was having such a public display of bad form. To be seen scrambling, rushing to make a decision.
With color rising on his face, Ryorin heaved a frustrated snarl.
“I withdraw,” he spoke loud and clear. “The challenge is yours, Commander Emys Avain Kythe Umara, Scute of the Bale.” Then he lowered his voice, speaking to their small gathering. “May Aku damn the Umara.”
Ryorin spun on his heel, and something in the male must have snapped, because he raced off the list at his true speed.
“Huh,” Rez sounded both shocked yet disappointed. “So, that’s it? It’s finished?”
His spine stiffened. “Not quite.”
Rez groaned as her shoulders drooped. “Why is this taking so long? Just point me at what I gotta punch.”
“Mate, your part is done.” Kin cupped her cheek. As he gazed down at his ferocious—yet physically vulnerable—mate, all concerns about his worthiness in her eyes faded away. “But now I need you to return to Joia so that Emys can kick my ass.”
“Right,” his mate chuckled. But when he remained silent, her eyes widened. “Shit. You’re serious.”
“I am.” He was also elated and so very relieved.
Plus a little embarrassed that he hadn’t thought of this solution sooner.
Rez rose up on her toes, hauling herself by anchoring her hands on his shoulders.
“Shit, Kin,” she whispered hastily into his ear. “Emys is scary as fuck.”
He chuckled as he wrapped his arms around his mate, hugging her. “She always has been. It is an honor to fall to her.”
Rez pulled back and narrowed her eyes at him. “All right.”
Ah, his mate. Always so suspicious.
She dropped back onto her heels. Darting her gaze between him and his sibling, she nodded. “All right. Emys, make it look good. Just don’t damage his cock.”
With that, she zipped back to Joia.
Emys walked up to him, but her gaze was locked on Rez. “Your mate is… interesting, Sibling Mine.”
“No.” He grinned. “She’s fucking perfect.”
This chapter is complete! I’ve enabled commenting and have added my own thoughts as well.
As always, thank you so much for reading!