There Be Mature Content Here
Please be advised that the following is intended for mature readers only.
Pyxis The Restrained
I step outta my thatched hut and stretch. Hunching my back, my carapace scutes pop and space apart.
Ah, Aku! That feels so damn good.
I take a deep inhale of the brisk morning air that smells like shit.
That’s good, too.
Pleased, I pivot and look at my thatch hut. It’s a rickety little hovel. But what it lacks in structural integrity is compensated by good old primal territorialism.
It’s all mine.
My spine lengthens as I widen my stance. Squaring my shoulders, I inhale—billowing my chest to full capacity as I fuel my lungs. Dominance races through me as I toss my head back, open my mouth, and roar—
“Holy fucking shit!”
I snap my mouth shut and pivot toward the shitters.
A flimsy plastic door springs open and Gary—eyes wide and mouth gaping—tumbles out.
“Oh!” I raise my hand in greeting. “Heya, Gary!”
The shitter’s door springs back, clipping his shoulder and knocking him off balance as he’s tugging his pants up from around his ankles.
Well, that dangling little bit begs sooo many questions.
I step forward, finger poised. “Is that—”
“Didn’t mean to wake ya, F.B.” Gary cuts me off.
I shrug. “Already awake. So, how do—”
“Sure did!” I rap my knuckles on my armor. “Locked up tight all night long.”
But still, I’m always eager to release the locks that keep my armor upright during my entire sleep cycle.
“Oh,” he nods as he fumbles with the fastenings on his pants, his gaze darting between me and his trembling hands—like he’s trying to keep an eye on two things at once.
“Not a morning person, are you, Gary?”
“Need help?” I take another step forward. “See, I’ve got—”
“No!” Gary lurches back, then shrieks as he rebounds off the plastic siding of the shitter. Flailing his arms for balance, he staggers to a stop in front of me.
His pants drop.
Yeah. A second look doesn’t answers any of my initial questions.
I point. “So, Gary—”
“Shitter’s free!” He yanks his pants up and white-knuckles the waistband. “If ya need it. Since ya don’t have a shitter in your…shed?”
“Hut,” I look back at my thatched hut and shrug, “I’d rather not give up the square footage, you know?”
I glance back at Gary. “No?”
“I mean, yes?” His voice matches his trembling hands. “I don’t got a shitter at my place.”
He gestures over his shoulder—supposedly toward his place.
And there go the pants again.
“Gosh darn it,” Gary mutters, snatching at his pants. “Really wish I had a private shitter.”
Jo had explained this to me the other day. With the deterioration of the settlement’s infrastructure along with the settlers’ evaporating knowledge-base for completing repairs, most of the equipment in the modulars didn’t work. So, some homes lacked power, for lights or cooking, and running water, for showers and shitters.
Which explains why the only place the settlers could spare was my thatched hut.
I turn and look at it again. Really taking it in.
Damn, this feels so good I heave a sigh and just bask.
Home, all fucking mine, home.
“Do you think I need curtains, Gary?”
“Gary? Gary!” I swivel around. “Gar—”
“Shit! Comin’ back! I’m comin’!” Gary hustles from around the backside of the shitter. He’s ducking his head and holding his hands up. “Thought ya was done with me. But I’m back. So no need to, um…”
Gary pales. “To, um…”
Looks like Gary needs some tapping again.
I reach out. “Great job keeping your pants up, Gary.”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Fuck.” He exhales as he shakes. “Thanks?”
“You’re welcome.” I smile at him.
Of course, I’m wearing my helmet so Gary can’t see that I’m smiling at him. So, we’re just stuck staring at one another.
“Hey!” I step toward my fucking awesome home. “Wanna come in? Gimme your thoughts on curtains?”
“Nooo,” he’s shaking his head, but as I look at him, he clears his throat, “ooow? Uh, now? You wanna chat about curtains now? ‘Cause now we gotta, um, go.”
Huh. “We do? Where?”
“We do?” I didn’t think I was patrolling anymore. “Jo said my new job would be badasser, not patrol.”
“More badass than patrollin’?”
Gary scratches his head. “Joyful said that?”
“Joyful? You mean Joia?”
Gary pales and stammers. “Yeah, um. Joia. Jo. Good ol’ Jo.”
“Of course Jo said that.” What? Does Gary actually think Joia, my bestest friend, would lie to me? “She’d said I should go where I’m needed.”
“Oh,” Gary says thoughtfully.
Which has me thinking as well. “Do you need me on patrol?”
Some people, like my sibling Emys, speak in riddles. Gary, here, speaks in questions.
I sigh. “All right. Let’s go find Benny.”
Gary’s shoulders slump. “Thank god.”
“But, you and I aren’t done, Gary.”
He whines. “Course we ain’t. Why wouldn’t we be?”
“Curtains,” I tell Gary as I tap him on the shoulder. “We gotta figure that shit out.”
Gary, Benny, and I spend another day squatting behind a fake bush.
Fine. It’s not as fabulous as monkeying around with Luna had been the other night. Spending time with Gary and Benny, staring at the emptiness of Briarwood, is also fabulous, but in a different, less exhilarating way.
See, I’ve patrolled with Gary and Benny before. Nothing new is happening right now.
But, last night with Luna had been fantastic. I’ve never monkeyed around before and it’s not what I’d thought it’d be.
Honestly, I had no fucking clue what I’d agreed to do with Luna. Which, if Jo had been there, she woulda glared at me and snapped, “Know before you try, Fanboy.”
But, asking questions before trying something new ruins the unexpectedness of it all. Kinda kills the thrill.
So Luna and I’d just stood in her small workspace inside the mine and stared at…something.
Don’t know what we were silently staring at, but it was fascinating.
Monkeying around had basically meant humming tunelessly, randomly picking up tools and components, fidgeting with them in our hands, and then tossing them back onto the workbench.
I’d tried it a few times, too. Even asked Luna if I was doing it correctly.
She’d said yes, but I think she didn’t want to discourage me because I wasn’t handling the tools like she was.
Her touch on the hard metal handles of the tools… how she’d stroked and gripped them…
No, that wasn’t my loincop. Though, my cock is hard. It always gets hard when I think of Luna.
That creaking was my damn gauntlets—well my hands—being a fucking tell-all that I’m not quite as I should be.
Meaning, I’m not an Akupara who’s composed and methodical as I hold the Bale above all.
See, right now, I’m not thinking about anything other than how fucking aroused I am for a female who isn’t even here to entice me.
This is a new experience for me. Which is fabulous, but also…unnerving.
Which is also another new experience.
I’m not sure I like it.
It’s called the Lunar Effect, my cock draws out on low, sex-starved groan.
By Aku. Jo would say that my cock’s being a dick. Which is just the human word for cock. So, my cock’s just being a fucking cock.
And can I really fault it for being itself?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I slide my gaze to Benny and Gary. They’re huddled together, farther away from me, driven off by my fucking, creaking armor.
“Acky!” A human comes running toward us. “I need the Acky!”
Acky—the human truncation of Akupara—is what some of the settlers call me. Only Benny and Gary call me F.B., for Fanboy.
And well, only Jo calls me Fanboy.
“Come! Quick!” The human man is wheezing. “Mayor… at your hangout.”
“Hut,” I say as I stand. But there’s a trepidation moving down my spine. “What of my hut?”
“Looks like someone blew down your shitshed,” Jo says.
She’s standing next me—her arms crossed over her chest and her shoulders stiff—as she stares at the remnants of my home.
You know what? Jo’s usually pretty sharp, spotting the things that other people miss. But this is one of those rare times when she’s not a sharpshooter, if you know what I mean.
“Nah,” I wave her off. “Blown things get carried up, not down.”
My thatched hut most definitely wasn’t blown up. It was torn down, twisted up, then stomped on.
Planting my hands on my hips, I nod once. Yep. I expected this.
Just as we predicted, Hatchling Mine! The wind wanted our shelter because it was light as a kite. What shall we build with next…
As the echo of my father’s voice fades, I slide my gaze to Briarwood.
Plenty of wood.
I pivot as my heart pounds faster while my chest constricts itself tighter, and my legs just sorta…stumble for a step or three.
“Oh! Heya, Luna!”
Wow. Am I always this fucking loud?
Must be, because Luna winces while Jo mutters under her breath, “Fucking sick of this shit.”
I swivel back to Jo. “Sick of what shit?”
“The same shit, Fanboy,” she says as she slaps me on the shoulder. “The same fucking shit.”
Then she calls out to a human—Major Fuckup?—and goes striding over to him.
I turn to Luna. “Two-Four-Kay has a military? Because that would be great! If they need recruits, I could be a warrior again, instead of this badasser.”
Luna looks up at me and her brows furrow.
God, human facial hair is so damn cute on her. Benny and Gary have facial hair, but theirs’s not cute at all.
“Badasser?” Luna cocks her head.
“My title.” Luna just stares. “That Jo gave me.” She keeps staring. “For my new job.”
“Oh!” Luna’s face brightens. “You mean ambassador.”
“I am the badasser.” Wait. There’s one more syllable there, isn’t there? “I mean, Badasser Door.”
Yeah. That doesn’t make any fucking sense.
I lean toward Luna and whisper, “Please tell me that I’m not just some dumbass door operator. I know the settlement’s doors aren’t automated anymore, but really…”
She’s gaping at me.
“No, really. Tell me it’s not that.”
She blinks. “Um, it’s not that?”
I exhale a relieved breath. “Thank Aku. That’s good. ‘Cause I really tend to fuck up automated doors.” I glance at her. “They never open fast enough.”
“Ah,” She grasps her hands behind her back and looks around.
A good sized gathering of humans lingers about. I’m glad they’re keeping their distance. My little home might be knocked down, but the territory is still mine.
Luna shifts away. “Did you just say something?”
“Not all low and growly?”
I shake my head.
“Sounded kinda like ‘mine’?”
Huh. Did I say that aloud?
Luna’s looking from me to the ruins of my thatched hut.
“Oh.” Her expression lightens with understanding. “Mine. Your stuff. I’m so sorry. Did you lose anything in there?”
Now I’m gazing down at Luna, probably nailing a perfect copy of the confused look that she usually gives me. “Lose anything?”
“Any belongings?” She juts her adorable chin toward my home. “Was anything ruined or lost?”
“I don’t have anything to lose.” I’m dazed, still not quite sure I’m understanding her questions, so I shift gears to something that excites me, rather than fills me with unease. “Hey! Wanna help me build a new home outta wood?”
“You mean a cabin?”
“Sure.” But I’ve got no idea.
Humans have such odd words for normal things.
“Pyx,” she sighs. “It’s late.”
“Definitely late.” Though, is it?
Never really grasped how humans interpret time.
Luna’s glancing over her shoulder, looking at the rickety modulars of the settlement. Dim lights are activating as dusk settles. Some flicker to life, then snap into darkness. The rest just keep flickering. Not a single, steadfast glow amongst them.
Luna looks back to me. “Too late to start rebuilding.”
But I really don’t.
Luna seems certain, though.
But also hesitant.
She’s flashing too many conflicting signals. She’s even shifting on her feet—something people do when they’re done with me—but she’s not leaving. She kinda appears to be waiting.
Is she seeking permission? Because no one’s ever—
“Tomorrow, then,” I blurt out, forcing the stunned grittiness from my voice. “Just you and me. It will be fabulous.”
I nod then look back at the shadowy trees of Briarwood. I’d rather stare at those, pretending to contemplate choice lumber in the growing dark, than watch her walk away.
Only, she’s not walking away.
I can feel her. She’s still standing there, watching me.
“So, you’re good then?” she asks.
I parrot the human word back. “Okay.”
By Aku! What happened to Luna asking easy questions? Pit me chest-to-barrel against a pulse cannon anytime. I’d rather take direct artillery bombardment than dodge her softly lobbed interrogation grenades.
My muscles are tensed, coiled in anticipation as my heart pounds in my ears. Shit, I’m bracing for more of her questions.
The soft padding of her footsteps has my shoulders drooping. She’s leaving. Thank fu—
“Nothing else?” She calls out.
My sagging spine jerks, straightening and snapping my back plates together. The mortifyingly sharp click from my carapace ricochets about.
An Akupara would’ve reprimanded me for my loss of composure—for shell cracking—before an Outbaler.
“No elses!” I call back.
“I’m elseless!” Eyes locked on Briarwood, I wave a hand like I’ve seen Jo do. “I’m all good!”
I’m also a babbling moron.
“So, you’re coming?”
“Later tonight!” But not much later. In fact, as soon as I’m alone—
Fuck being alone. My cock grumps.
I glance down at my loincop. “Still got control of my hands, you moron.”
Fucking hands, calling me out on my empty threat…
“You’re…?” Luna sounds confused. And closer. Shit. She’s coming back. “You’re staying here?”
I spin toward her. “I’m…”
Outta answers. I’m totally out. She cleared the entire fucking cache with a handful of questions.
“Are you gonna sleep here? Out in the open?”
“Done it before.”
Well, shit. I meant to give her an answer. But instead of rattling off something from a list of canned responses—you know, something that people wanna hear—I told her something.
That’s not good.
“Pyxis.” My name, spoken from her lips, greets me like the heat from a hearth. Her warm tone blasts me at first, then cocoons me in welcoming comfort. “Time to go.”
“Yeah. To someplace where there’s an actual roof over your head and a real bed under your back.” She holds out her hand. “I’m going home, Pyx, and I’m taking you with me.”
I gape at her.
…taking you with me…
By Aku, the way she renders me speechless is astonishing.
I slowly raise my hand and surrender it to her.
She huffs—a tiny sound that’s not fuming with aggravation, but with steadying resolve—and curls her tiny, bare hand around my gauntlet.
Well, that’s not accurate. She’s only grasping one of my fingers—which restricts a mere one-sixtieth of the lethal capacity of that hand—but that’s all she can grip. Her hold’s not secure at all and—Oh! We’re walking.
What’s even more fascinating? The delicate-looking skin on the underside of her wrist.
My heart kicks in my chest. During the course of my life, I’ve been ensnared, captured, and stranded. But…
“I’ve never been taken by a human before.” I stroke my unrestrained thumb over her wrist, but my armor blunts the sensation.
“Invited.” She squeezes my finger as she clears the breathiness from her voice. “You’re being invited.”
Taken. Invited. I’m not gonna split hairs with her.
Instead, I brush my thumb over her wrist again. “Outstanding.”
Luna the Baby Bunny
I pull open the rickety door of my modular and step inside. “Home, sweet home.”
Okay. I sound like an idiot.
It’s just that I’m kinda strung out. As I’d led Pyx here—moving at excruciatingly slow Outbaler speed through the dark alleys of the settlement—the hairs on the back of my neck had been tingling the entire way.
Heck, they’re still tingling.
Ohmygod! My ‘I’m brainless over a boy’ neck hairs are squealing, you gotta see the hottie following us!
Yes, I know there’s a… person behind us. How thrilling!
Turn around! Turn around! You so gotta turn around!
I’m not gonna turn around, so stop twisting yourselves into knots.
(Because unknotting neck hair freaking hurts. Don’t ask.)
Beside, if I do turn around, it would be to lead Pyx someplace else. Bringing him home is a super massive screw up. My master plan has always been: avoid him; fix him; resume avoiding him. Now I gotta come up with something to counteract my freaking impulsive, totally harebrained, invitation to my home.
“Home, sweet home,” Pyx echoes behind me. “It does smell sweet.”
“Yeah, well…” I mumble something about candy as I turn on the lantern that’s hanging nearby.
The click of the flip-switch is followed by the hiss of gas. As a warm glow slowly chases away the dark shadows inside the modular, I glance over my shoulder.
Pyx is crossing the threshold.
He should look like a freaking nightmare come to slaughter me since his matte black armor is absorbing the light. Not a single reflection of light flickers across his body. Rather, he’s stooping down, turning sideways as he goes, and easing his towering, bulking self through the human-sized doorway. His steps are soft and cautious, but his helmet is swiveling side-to-side-to-side.
Don’t know why he’s so excited. There’s not much to see.
“That’s where Jo and I sleep.” I point at set of narrow bunkbeds that are built into the wall off to the right.
Only, Jo doesn’t sleep there anymore. She’s staying at The Tower now.
Ignoring the squeeze in my chest, I point to the bed-and-loft combo directly across from the door. “That’s Rez’s spot. She wanted by the door.”
Actually—being the totally awesome badass that she is—she insisted on it.
“Any shitheads dumb enough to break in,” Rez had said, cracking her knuckles as she claimed her bed. “Will get tossed out by their broken necks.”
Sometimes Rez says the most endearingly bloodthirsty things…
Freaking fudge. My throat’s closing on me.
I cough—because I’ve got allergies and stuff—as I point toward the other end of the modular. “Kitchenette, but it’s more like roulette with a revolver.”
“Ah,” Pyx nods. “I understood none of those words.”
I mumble something about Ancient Earth sayings not always translating into InterLingual. Which is for the best. Kinda don’t wanna explain why my cooking area—where I make candy-vitamins—is comprised of boobytraps.
Why is that? Well, because my clueless attempts at repairs have weaponized the appliances; turning them into rigged explosives, just waiting for someone to cut the wrong wire.
Okay. Moving on…
“Finally, behold!” I gesture grandly to the narrow stall by the door. “The golden throne room!”
Pyx gasps, “You’re heir to a throne?”
Well, now I feel like an ass. “Uh, no. It’s just a lav.”
He cocks his helmet at me.
He nods. “Got it. Gary wants one.”
I’m sure Gary does. Our—well, my modular has one the few remaining, flushable toilets in Two-Four-Kay. Even though my joke fell flat, I truly do have a golden throne in my possession.
Which isn’t as awesome as it sounds. In fact, it’s kinda a curse, because everyone in Two-Four-Kay wants to be king.
“So, yeah.” I sweep my hands out and give Pyx a ‘isn’t it great?’ smile. “That’s it.”
“So, that’s it.” Pyx nods his head once, plants his hands on his hips, and does his head swiveling again.
I look around as well. Five of my puny human strides gets me from end-to-end.
Not because I’ve recently been spending my solitary nights pacing or anything like that.
I nod again. “Yep. It’s all that.”
Ugh. I’m a babbling idiot.
“Outstanding.” Pyx points at the floor. “What’s that?”
Huh. I hadn’t been sure if he’d notice that.
“A trapdoor. There’s a storage area under there.”
“Fabulous.” He redirects his pointing finger. “So, what’s under there?”
Okay, Pyx has caught me off guard. He’s pointing right at our secret trapdoor that’s hidden under Rez’s bed.
I bat my gaze from where Pyx’s pointing back to him. I don’t even care that I’m gaping in surprise. Seriously, he’s earned my astonished look.
I’m impressed. “Wanna see it?”
Why did I even bother asking? I’m already taking the stride-and-a-half to Rez’s bed while Pyx’s excited gasp fills the modular.
And, just to be clear, an Akupara gasping in excitement isn’t want you think it is. Pyx expresses interest with a low, reverberating hiss that’s dripping with his hunger for more…
…to hear more…
…to see more…
…to feel more…
My hands shake as I slip them under the mattress and press my finger to the pea-sized bio-lock. It’s something we salvaged from the scientists’ ship. Trust me, I didn’t install it. Rez found the component, and Jo did everything else.
As I lift the bed, the pistons underneath hiss and the familiar, musky smell of our bolthole blasts me.
Well, my bolthole.
God. I miss my girls. Even Rez’s bedding smells only like soap lard, no longer carrying her distinctive, clover scent.
“Fan-fucking-tastic!” Pyx is directly behind me, his front pressed to my back, as he leans over me—which a towering alien can easily do to a five-foot-nothing human—and gazes into the dark space.
“It kinda is, isn’t it?”
Behind me, pressed up against me, Pyx is trembling. “Can we?”
I don’t make him clarify his question. It’s so adorably obvious what he wants.
“Really,” I laugh as I nod. “I’ve—”
Pyx is already gone.
Like, he’d moved so freaking fast, that he’s vanished gone.
And there’s a breeze—a stirring of air—chilling my back.
I sigh. “Been down there hundreds of times.”
“This is fucking fanstanding!” Poor guy. He’s so stimulated that he’s mashing up fantastic and outstanding. “There’s so much stu—Buttons! There are buttons down here!”
Oh. Yeah. I’d forgotten about those. Hehe.
“Can I push the buttons, Luna?”
I’m already shimming myself down into the bolthole. Seriously? How’d he get down the ladder so freaking fast?
“I jumped,” Pyx says over my squeals.
Yeah, I’m squealing. You would be too, if you suddenly lost all contact with the ladder.
That, and Pyx’s holding me up by my hips—my squishy, so squishy hips.
“Jumping’s faster,” he continues to ramble excitedly. “I never get to jump outside of the Bale all that much.” He sets me before a panel of buttons. “And I never get to press any buttons.”
Right. The buttons.
I mean, he’s set me right before an open hatch, but all the guy sees are the broken buttons. How do I tell him that they don’t work?
I got it. “Oh, look!”
I point toward the open hatch and down a dark tunnel beyond.
Pyx’s overly-stimulated hiss fills the underground chamber.
Fine. We’re not in a chamber. We’re in an abandoned portion of the gold mine.
I know. I know. Why, in all the ever-loving-fudges, are there abandoned mining tunnels directly under the homes of Two-Four-Kay?
Because Rogers, Jr., the settlement’s former mayor, as well as his father, Rogers, Sr., are incomprehensible idiots.
…and possibly evil…
But Jo says that I sometimes get the two confused.
Anyway, Rez, Jo and I used the Rogerses’ egregious negligence with civic-safety to our advantage. Despite the years we’d all spent in cramped cells on the scientists’ ship, living in the modular had been worse. You should have seen us…
Seen? Heck, you should’ve felt the tension between us. We weren’t three friends turned roommates. Thanks to the lab experiments, we were three traumatized escapees—each modified with deadly abilities—living inside a pressure cooker.
It wasn’t working.
So, we decided to dig an addition—just like we’d dug boltholes scattered throughout Briarwood—and found the tunnel.
“Fuck me!” Pyx thrills.
Now? My shebits perk up. Like, right now? Don’t play with us, Pyx. Unless you’re really playing with us. Because, then, by all means, play with us.
“Can we go there?” He’s quickly shifting his attention from the tunnel to me. Tunnel. Me. Tunnel. Me. “Let’s go there.”
I should be exhausted. Completely beat. Pyx’s visibly vibrating in front of me. He’s the kinda person who, because he’s so energetic, tends to drain the energy of those around him.
But, I’m not drained. I’m kinda pumped up. And I’ve got this huge smile on my face. I’m just beaming with pride over what my friends and I’d achieved when we discovered this place. And I want to show it to him.
A single word bubbles up. “Sure.”
“Fabulous!” Pyx is fidgeting with his wrist.
A narrow beam of light, coming from his gauntlet, cuts into the darkness of the tunnel, revealing a rusted piece of machinery.
“Yeah, it doesn’t go all that far.” I didn’t have the heart to tell Pyx that the tunnel wasn’t that impressive.
He sucks in a breath. “What’s that?”
I look from his rigid body to the long lost and forgotten mining drill. “The mine’s primary drill.”
“Primary drill,” he says, sounding awed.
I start walking down the short tunnel. “This is where it died.”
“Finally broke down for the last time. So, they left it.”
“They left it?”
My heart squeezes in my chest at his confusion—his struggle to understand—that’s thickening his voice.
“They kinda had to,” I tell him, gentling my voice. “They had no way to repair it, which means they had no way to move it.”
“This is happening to all the original tech and equipment on Warren’s.” I gesture to the rocky ceiling above us. “Even at the other settlements. Everything’s turning into pieces of junk.”
“Um, it means it’s broken and useless.”
He roves the light’s beam over the drill whose engine is on my workbench.
Well, I think it’s its engine.
“Broken is one thing,” Pyx says as he lowers his light and turns to me. “Useless is another.”
“True,” I tell him as I start walking back down the tunnel.
He’s right. Useless things aren’t always broken, and broken things aren’t always useless. But that doesn’t stop the frustration—over my utter lack of talent for fixing things—from swelling inside of me.
He stops walking and turns to shines his light on the drill again. “But they left it anyways.”
Because, in this case, fixing the drill proved to be beyond the settlers’ abilities. So they’d left it. Eventually, they’d forgotten about it.
I would give anything to do the same, but I can’t.
“Also true.” I say over my shoulder to Pyx. “But I found it, and I’m gonna fix it.”
“By monkeying around?”
Oh, Pyx. He didn’t mean anything by it, but as I keep walking, I have to both force my feet to move while stopping my shoulders from drooping. And it’s hard—because I’m an uncoordinated person, not because my feeling are hurt.
“Yep.” I grasp the ladder. “I’m gonna monkey the crap outta that drill.”
Pyx gasps, “Oh! That sounds—”
“Nothing like it sounds.”
His disappointed sigh has me glancing back at him.
Unbelievable. Pyx’s shoulders are drooping.
With my foot on the ladder’s bottom rung, I twist to face him. “Do you wanna help—”
“Yes!” His hands grasp my hips.
“With the drill!” I shriek, holding onto the ladder like it’s a freaking life preserver. “The drill, Pyx!”
“I know,” he says as he yanks me free from the ladder, cradles me in a one-arm hold, and starts to climb. “I can do all three.”
Of course, he can. He’s climbing this ladder like a damn champ, so the drill—
“Wait?” I glance up at him. “All three?”
“Hold you. Fix the drill. Build my cabin.” He sets me down gently. “And the best part?”
“Uh…” Best part?
See, all I’d heard was hold, drill, erect. So, like, all the parts are the best parts.
“Not that stuff.”
Crap! Am I speaking out loud?
“You’re more mumbling that speaking.”
“Oh my god.” Mortification heats my face.
Pyx dismissively waves his hand at me. “It’s adorable when you do it.”
“When I—” I snap my mouth shut because my voice is all high pitched and shrilly. I take a deep breath. “How long have I been doing this?”
You know what? I’m gonna change my mind. This is totally shrill-worthy.
“Pyx! What have I been saying?”
He shrugs. “Stuff.”
“Stuff?” I replay his shrug in my mind. He’s eager, yet bashful. But he’s also pressing closer to me, and…
Is he puffing up his chest?
After being in the cool, spacious tunnel, the modular is kinda hot and stifling.
My stomach drops. “What stuff, Pyx?”
“Stuff I wanna try.”
Oh. Not good. This is not good.
This is freaking perfect! My shebits cheer.
No. This is bad. Very bad. I wanna dive back into the bolthole. Alone. Never to poke my idiotic head out ever again.
“Luna,” Pyx says.
He’s close. So freaking close to me.
I must have been staring at the bolthole as I contemplated my life as a mole girl, because he’s got his huge hands gently cupping my cheeks and turning me to face him.
His armored thumbs stroke my flaming cheeks. “I’ll try anything with you, Luna.”
I know. Good god, do I know.
That’s the problem.
This chapter is complete! I’ve enabled commenting and have added my own thoughts as well.
As always, thank you so much for reading!
From Slow & Steady: The Velveteen Tortoise
Copyright © 2020, 2021 by Bex McLynn
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