Regarding the first scene: So, this installment does not follow, at all, what I proposed in my latest Q&A. However, I found myself tweaking this scene for days. It had to get posted. Truly. It’s for the best. However, I really loved playing with the flow of this scene and laying out Kinixys’s attraction to Rez.
Regarding the second scene: The second half of this chapter went much smoother. We get to spend some time alone with Rez before I send her running (wink, wink) back to Kinixys.
Kinixys was pissing against a tree when the human female called out him. “Akupara! Hey! Akupara!”
He sighed. Lately, why was the timing of all the females in his life so vastly inopportune?
Emys had assured him that the human would return to the crash site, but he hadn’t expected her so early. Warren’s sun had risen only a quarter hour ago. Yet, the female was about a half klick away, crashing through the undercanopy and disrupting his daily ablutions—a good whacking off followed by a long whiz.
Today, though, he’d woken up with the need to whiz soundly trumping whacking off, making this piss the most painful urination of his entire life. The rush of relief sent blissfully aching shudders through his body. Once his bladder was empty, he fully intended to address his second drainage issue.
Well, he had intended to do so.
“Akupara!” The female continued wandering about the forest and calling out in InterLingual. “Are you hurt?”
He scoffed at that absurd question. The desire to bellow back ‘Fuck, no!’ had him drawing a breath to fuel his lungs.
But, in truth, his pride was bruised. By posing that question, she obviously remembered his tumble down the slope.
He blew a grumbled exhale. There was nothing to be done about their first encounter, and a second one would never happen if she continued to shout, thus calling all the predators in Briarwood to her location.
No choice. He had to go to her.
Adjusting his hold on his cock, he shook away the last drops of urine. His whacking off, unfortunately, would have to wait.
“Do you need help?” Her voice echoed through the forest.
He gazed at his aching cock in his hand.
That… that was a rhetorical question? Wasn’t it?
A memory from yesterday—an image of the female gazing up at him in astonishment—had pearls of pre-cum beading on his tip.
Do you need help?
Honestly, fuck if he knew.
What he did know was that his reaction was wholly unexpected. His grip had mutinously tightened around his cock, and his rebellious arm was shaking against his restraint. A part of him longed to stroke himself as she watched. Her lust would deepen the rich hue of her brown eyes…
Shit. He needed to get a grip.
His cock twitched.
A fucking metaphorical grip.
The Akupara were on Warren’s to match Akupara females with human female genetic donors. This mission was Emys’s. His only purpose was to not fuck it up. Which, if Emys continued as she intended—no trussing, no nets, and actually ordering him to talk to the female—then ‘fucking it up’ would be the likely outcome.
He’d even warned his sibling, “I am the last person who should talk to your female.”
“Indeed, you are.” Emys had replied before she’d slipped off into the surrounding brush.
Staring at his poor aching cock, he rumbled lowly in frustration. If the female found him fisting himself, that would definitely be considered a ‘fuck up.’
“Akupara!” She called again.
Judging by the echoing carry of the female’s voice, her proximity was a non-issue. Regardless, he scanned his surroundings as he hastily tucked his stiff cock back inside his armor.
Dammit. He’d told the armorsmith that he required more girth in the crotch. And no, he wasn’t bragging at the moment. He was uncomfortably shoved into a cramped loin cop.
God, this was going to be disastrous.
He heaved a breath—expanding his chest and straightening his spine—then stomped off. Catching a glimpse of the human female between the trees, he was reminded of her features.
Small. No camouflage. So tempting to tackle.
Grumbling, he stomped on twigs and branches, hoping to avoid startling her with his arrival. For good measure, he brought his heel down, splintering a fallen tree limb.
She turned to him and stilled. Though, he could have sworn that he sensed a pulse move through her. Alertness. Bracing. Caution.
Now she demonstrates some sense? Why had she been calling to both him and every predator within the forest, only to look dumbfounded that he actually came?
But, he found that with each of his footfalls, he strode over the fallen limbs, no longer snapping them under his feet. He also hunched his shoulders, trying to pull in some of his bulk. His last breath—a bolstering inhale before he’d started toward her—was burning inside his lungs as his heart pounded slow and steady against his ribs.
By god, don’t run.
Each measured step reduced the distance between them. He gauged her as she studied him. The more he lumbered like an oaf, the more she eased. Her tension began falling away, as if she were stripping off rigid clothing.
Oh. He liked that visual.
What he liked even more was that she shifted her stance from ready-to-bolt, to softening her knees and shoulders. Her startled expression turned into relief, then wry amusement.
A small grin tucked the left corner of her mouth. “You roll like a stone, don’t you?”
Although her voice was light—not shrill with alarm—she cautiously watched him.
Good on her for not dropping her guard.
Though, not grand for him. He disliked being assessed beyond his combat and tactical skills, and her brown eyes sparked with intelligence as she flicked her gaze over him.
“You don’t look injured.” She continued speaking InterLingual with an accent and proficiency that he’d yet to hear from any other human on Warren’s. “Unless, you don’t always move this slo—um, way.”
“I am unharmed.” There. He spoke. Mission accomplished.
“Ah, yeah.” She clenched her hands and shifted on her feet. “That’s pretty amazing, considering your shuttle disintegrated around you.”
It absolutely was an amazing feat. Since she’d duly offered up moderate praise, he remained silent. Boasting was beneath him.
A flush rushed her face, heating her cheeks and obscuring her ‘freckles’—he believed that they were called. He missed the vividness of the pattern on her skin. Although, now her cheeks looked warm to the touch.
The Akupara were drawn to warm things.
“Glad you’re not hurt.” She cast her gaze down. “I shouldn’t’ve left you like I did.”
Looking away was a sign of embarrassment, wasn’t it?
She shrugged, not raising her eyes. “When you fell down—”
“I am unharmed.”
So, her embarrassment was rooted in witnessing his deliberate roll down that damned slope. Her notion—that he fell—needed to be eradicated before it indeed harmed his reputation.
He was Sub-Commander Kinixys Strazar Dobar Umara, The Last, not only of his Bale, but of all the Akupara.
“Got it.” Her eyes widened. “You’re totally fine.” Then she took a cautious step back.
His heart kicked against his ribs. Don’t run.
“The tumble was…” he scrambled for something plausible to appease her, “disorienting.”
“Right.” She continued to eye him warily. “But, you’re not all jumbled up anymore, are you?”
He bit back the urge to elaborate. Language he thought to be ‘instructive’ others insisted was ‘rude.’ However, in this instance, he was strategically choosing to relax his exacting rigor regarding his reputation. It was the same tactic as ceasing fire while he sharpened his aim. Besides, once the female accepted Emys’s offer, he could explain the difference between misdirection and misstepping.
“That’s great. Really.” Her words rushed from her. “So, we kinda accept your offer. Can you take me to your Bale now?”
Wait. What? Surely she didn’t just—
“Well, not ‘take me’ to your Bale.” She swept her arm wide, indicating all of Briarwood. “Just point me in the right direction.”
By Aku, was she serious?
“I really need to go there. Now.” She rocked on her heels as she gazed up at him. Her eyes bore into him with hope and urgency. “Like, right now.”
She was serious.
“And, um, I’ll totally send someone back to help you.” Again, her face flushed. “I know that getting outta Briarwood can be a real bitc—hard. Really hard. I run through here all the time for Two-Four-Kay, and I don’t want you to stay lost forever. But, you know, I really need you to point me toward your Bale.”
He gaped at her. She was too much all at once. Intermittently cautious. Foolishly bold. Aggravatingly unobservant.
All that, and she was a runner.
He openly admitted that he was attracted to the female. However, his symptomatic reaction was due to the juvenile rivalry between his infallible instincts and his imbecilic impulses. His instincts blared that the female would wreck havoc on the Bale. His impulses clamored to tackle her. After the tackling—which would probably be immediately followed by her tears and his awkward apologies—he was damn sure that his impulses wouldn’t know what to do with her.
As he’d stated. His impulses were fucking idiots.
Emys, though, was patient, calculating, and deliberate. He knew his sibling’s mind, and her plan to woo this human female…?
His gut churned as he struggled to understand. Emys’s boggling interest in this female had foisted the burden of decision upon him.
Numbly, he raised his arm and pointed. “That way.”
The female turned her head, looking where he’d directed.
“Huh. Never’ve gone that way before.” She gave him a bright, almost eager, smile that eased some of the urgency in her eyes. “Well, thanks. A lot. Really, you’ve been a huge help. Like, a life saver and all.”
She backpedaled away as she rambled empty gratitude. Amazingly, not once did she stumble. She even sidestepped a tree before backing into it. After dodging another tree, she gave him a jerky wave before spinning around, readying to run off.
His whole body strained to lurch and sprint after her.
She spun back around. “And I’ll send help!”
And there she went again with the shouting. His impulses ordered him to tackle her, while his instincts proposed silencing her by—
“What’s your name?” She waved her arms, indicating the expansive forest behind her. “So, you know…”
Fuck he didn’t know.
“…when I tell the others who I ran into.”
But, ‘ran into?’ Such language.
“Kinixys Strazar Dobar Umara, The Last of the Bale,” he proclaimed.
That’s right. He’d proclaimed it. He’d dropped his tone low and unleashed the thunderous roll of his name. Hopefully, his impulses would settle with that gratuitous chest pounding.
There, you insufferable idiots. The female knew his fucking name. Now stand the fuck down.
“Cool!” She winked at him. “Last but not least, right?”
What? No. That wasn’t ‘right’ at all.
He took a step toward her with his mouth open in reply, but she’d already spun back around. He watched as she jogged away at a speed that he could easily overtake if he disregarded his duty to the Bale. But, since he was honorable, she was out of reach.
Well, it was for the best. That female was ill-suited to be a genetic donor for a Bale as auspicious as Umara.
“Sibling Mine,” Emys said from beside him. He knew she was there. After all, she’d left him alone to be bait without a snare. “You sent her south.”
Damn straight he sent the female south. Never would he direct her toward the Bale.
Emys stared after the female, then turned her gaze back to him. “But she accepted the offer.”
“Kinda,” he grumbled.
Whatever the hell ‘kinda’ meant.
Emys stood next to him, and her silent criticism plus his own bafflement ignited his anger that had been smoldering since he’d awakened.
He snapped at Emys, “She’s not suited for the Bale.”
His instincts said so. Not in those exact words, but he’d gotten the gist of it. Whenever he thought of that female and the Bale, a fierce desire to protect flared inside of him.
Emys again stared after the long-gone human. “She is perfect, Sibling Mine.”
“How could you possibly know? I’m the one who’s actually spoken—”
Fuck. He hated being the last to grasp a notion.
“Before the crash.” He glared at Emys. “You said we were following a human female in Briarwood.”
Hell, Emys had already chosen.
His head pounded, “I don’t understand. That female is simply too…”
Too careless with her own well-being. Too quick to draw conclusions. Too trusting. Too eager. Too distracting. Too damn tempt—
“Come,” Emys slapped him on the shoulder as she headed off south. “We’ll catch up to her. She’ll have to sleep at some point, yes?”
Rez glanced over her shoulder and grumbled bitterly.
Rust-colored dust swirled behind her, kicked up by her lumbering feet as she half-assed it across the shrub-steppe of Warren’s Chaparral.
Stupid dust cloud.
Hours ago, when the dense bushes and trees of Briarwood had begun to thin out, yielding to the low-water shrubs that dotted Warren’s Chaparral, Rez had paused in utter astonishment. Before her was a wide open space. Except for the far off mountains, she had an almost unobscured, 360-degree view of her surroundings.
No one was there.
Her heart had pounded in excitement as she’d torn off across the dry, cracked dirt. She’d gone a good half-dozen klicks before she noticed the dust trail. A klick-long plume of dirt particles stretched behind her, pointing to her like an accusing finger. You!
She had to assume that the Akupara had shuttles, and supposedly a spaceship in high orbit, to monitor a sizable vicinity around their Bale. A klick-long streak of dust across the shrub-steppe would blaze like a signal flare.
Immediately, she knew what this was: Cosmic Payback. All because she didn’t rescue Kin and bring him along.
(And forget thinking of him as ‘Kinixys’ or tacking on ‘the Last.’ She didn’t want to spare the mental time and energy on excess syllables.)
Besides, she was already on a rescue mission to save Two-Four-Kay. There had been no other option available to her. She needed to go fast, and Kin moved too freaking slow.
Yet, even knowing that Kin could never maintain her barely-trotting pace, several times she’d caught herself pivoting back around.
What did she expect to find? That the alien who was built like a mountain and moved like a glacier would suddenly appear behind her?
Maybe. Just a bit? A super tiny bit.
She did kinda enjoy how he’d spoken way less than two dozen words to her. And as her gaze had trailed over his towering body—over and over—she hadn’t even minded that it took him several seconds to speak. Plus, his rumbly voice just warmed her insides, soothing her always-on-high-alert flash hairs…
She blinked. Far in the distance was the edge of Briarwood.
For all the—she’d done it again. She’d turned her stupid self around to look for him.
You know what? This was all bullshit.
Everything that had happened wasn’t solely on her head. Cosmic Payback needed a swift kick-to-the-balls reality check. Certain things in play were outside of her control. Such as: Natural Selection being an incompetent shithead—and obviously not qualified to make evolutionary design decisions—by prioritizing form over function.
Seriously, what the hell was Natural Selection thinking when it evolved the Akupara?
Kin had freaking marble columns for thighs and calves, yet that abundant musculature contributed hardly any power to his forward momentum. And she really wasn’t asking for much. Loping? Strolling? Hell, skipping? Just one little locomotion adaptation that produced speed greater than 25 cm per year.
Unfortunately, his thick, sculpted legs were purely for show. She suspected the same about his flat abs, tight backside, barrel chest, and hulking shoulders. Yep. All seven-ish feet of his rugged body was pretty useless and unnecessarily sexy.
No. Wait. Regrettably sexy? Ridiculously sexy?
Fuck. Didn’t matter.
What mattered was that none of that was her fault!
Since he really was helplessly slow, then she probably shouldn’t have left him… for a second time. Which meant, that she should really go rescue him… for a second time.
She hung her head and sighed. Dammit. Just, dammit.
She knew that saving Kin would then lead to the Akupara saving Two-Four-Kay; thus saving Joia and Luna. Which would finally earn her months of solitude in the forest.
Okay. Her new, new New Plan was in effect.
Which was a good thing because as she took in her wide open surroundings, she had no clue where she was. This had never happened to her before. By simply moving fast enough, she could map every nook and cranny in a maze in no time.
But in Warren’s Chaparral? Out in the open? Mapping this terrain might only take her a few hours, but at what cost? That the Akupara would discover her secret? That they would then tell Rogers and the settlers, thus endangering Joia and Luna as well?
So. Yeah. She really needed Kin to clarify his shitty directions.
Actually, she needed him to guide her, and admitting that was like letting cement set around her feet.
She felt uncomfortably aggravated and humiliated.
Whatever. She just wanted to get it all over with.
As she jogged back toward Briarwood, a large burst of dust shot up in the distance. Stopping to look, she noticed that it didn’t mushroom up, like an explosion, but blew up and out in jagged streaks before dissipating.
Another v-pattern burst of dust happened again, parallel to her yet farther off. She sucked in a ragged breath. Those were impact sites. Each burst of dust was created by something—or someone—landing hard and fast on the dirt.
Her heart ached as she stared in disbelief. Joia’s brother—Jacobe—had been a bounder. That was the mutation given to him by the scientists at the lab.
All of them—Rez, Joia, Jacobe, and Luna—were near supersonic, but the others couldn’t sustain their speed for long. Rez, though, ran like she was charged by an infinitely energized battery, enabling her to zip about for hours and hours. Just like Joia could decipher endlessly, and Jacobe used to cover several klicks in a single bound, then continue bounding over and over again.
Rez and the girls thought that they’d lost him when the ship had crashed. The scientists’ barge had split apart once it hit Warren’s atmosphere, scattering chunks of the hull across the planet’s largest continent. In the aftermath of the crash, Luna had found Rez. Together they’d found Joia. There had been no sign of Jacobe.
A third dust burst shot into the air. If it was Jacobe, he was heading deeper into Warren’s Chaparral.
Rez fisted her hands and swore. Goddammit, Cosmic Payback! Was this because she never went looking for him? That she never used her speed to comb the continent searching? Joia had never asked her…
But Rez had also never offered because she wasn’t a hero. She was a runner who specialized in running away.
In a split second she made her decision. Sprinting off, she let the rusty dust of Warren’s Chaparral point to her like a laser target. Here. Here. Here.
If that was Jacobe bounding around out there, he’d hopefully recognize her velocity trail and investigate.
If it wasn’t Jacobe? Well, then she could better hunt whoever that was on her home turf. No way anyone could bound like that in the wooded density of Briarwood. The advantage was hers.
It took her minutes to backtrack what had originally taken her hours to travel. Warren’s sun had already started its descent for the day. How far could Kin have walked since she’d left him? Surely he would be along the same route. He did point her in this direction and all.
Rez slowed about twenty klicks from the crash site. Being so overly precautious irritated her, but it was entirely possible that Kin had trudged that far. However, as the last shadows from the setting sun melded with the darkness, she saw no sign of him. Recklessly she hurried her pace, jolting to a stop within the tree line.
She crept into the clearing created by the crashed shuttle. No Kin.
Her night vision was shit, so it was possible that she’d missed some sign of him as the sunlight was fading. But she wouldn’t risk a light now. Not with both Kin and that unknown bounder out there.
Her frustration and desperation swelled inside of her. She wanted to punch something as her mind kept flashing between the explosion at the mine and Luna’s sweet, compassionate face.
Since running wasn’t an option right now, all she wanted was to crawl into one of her boltholes. Curl up. Close her eyes. Pretend that none of this was her problem to solve.
But she couldn’t do that.
If Kin had spent one night at the crash site, he would probably spend a second night as well. She bet that he was following some Akupara rescue protocol—something that took a damn decade to execute.
Whatever. What mattered was that he returned.
If not? Then she would run him down and rescue his big, hulking ass anyway. She had a shit ton to do with no time to spare.
Chapter Four is now finished. I’ve turned on commenting and have added my thoughts.
As always, thank you so much for reading!