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soft smile from her perch on the edge of the bed.  Hello.
His eyes raked over her.  Feeling better?
 Yes. She fingered the hem of the tunic she wore. It was huge, reaching to
her knees, but it was as soft as butter and felt wonderful against her skin. In a
self-conscious gesture, she smoothed her tousled hair, glad she d freshened
up before he came back.
Before he d left her earlier, Tristan had pointed out where she could clean up.
She d peeled off her sweat-soaked robe and stepped into the micro-cleanser,
the ship s version of a shower. She d stared blankly at the empty cubicle, not
knowing what to do. She d jumped when a female voice announced cleansing
would commence in ten seconds. Ava felt foolish as she d closed her eyes,
anticipating a rush of water. It was more of a spray mist combined with a
warm gush of air and took no longer than a minute. But she felt refreshed and
totally clean. On Eros, it was still the old-fashioned spigot with water. After her
cleansing, she d looked around Tristan s spartan quarters. There were no
personal items around, no indication that it was even his.
 I want to thank you for getting me out of the isolation cell. I ve never liked
that place, she confessed with a little shudder. Though she was thankful she
was no longer in there, she had other pressing things to worry about. She had
no doubt that she d have to face the consequences of her escape. By now,
Malek would undoubtedly have been informed of what happened. That
hateful man had leverage to use against her her brother. She didn t want to
endanger Kell s life.  I need you to take me back.
Ava swallowed and fought the immediate swell of panic inside her. Forcing
herself to remain calm, she faced him squarely.  You don t understand. I need
to go back there or things will be worse for me.
Tristan didn t move a muscle, yet he suddenly looked more dangerous in her
eyes, more frightening.  Are you in any danger?
Her eyes flew to his. The muscle in his jaw ticked and his lips were pulled into
a grim line.  You can t get involved.
 I became involved when you took me deep inside your body last night, he
She flushed but shook her head stubbornly. She couldn t risk Kell s safety
inside the High Council s compound.  I can t bring you into this. Please
understand, she beseeched him.  I need to go back to the surface right now.
Tristan crossed his arms over his chest.  I want some answers, Ava.
Ava turned away, clenching her fists in frustration.  While I am grateful that
you freed me from the isolation cell, my life is really none of your business.
Malek would surely administer a more severe punishment once she got back.
Nobody had ever escaped from an isolation cell. But she would gladly accept
it to spare her brother any more suffering.
 I want to help you, Tristan said roughly.  I can t do that if you don t tell me
the truth. His tone lowered, became persuasive.  Tell me what s going on.
She turned away, wringing her hands together. She knew next to nothing
about this big, strong warrior. He d taken her body, given her unbelievable
pleasure, and for one night alleviated the loneliness of her life. Alternately
rough and gentle, he d made sure of her pleasure first before his. She trusted
him, that s all she knew. Would he be willing to help her get her brother out of
the compound and away from this planet? Hope began to slowly unfurl in her
chest. The promise of a new start, a new life, beckoned. If Tristan could help
Kell, why not tell him?
Ava took a deep breath. I might as well start from the beginning.  I m a half-
breed. Erosians are not known for their tolerance for mixed species. They re
fanatic about the purity of the gene pool. She couldn t hide the deep
resentment in her tone.  Half-breeds are ostracized, not allowed to mingle
with regular society. Second-class citizens, she added bitterly.
 I know.
Her gaze flew to his.  You know?
 You re half Karn alian, Ava. One of my people, he revealed.  Our home
planet is Karn al. The Prime Ruler sent a platoon of Cyborgs out to scour the
different galaxies for Karn alians that escaped during the Pagan Wars.
Huh?  I don t know what you re talking about. She shook her head in
confusion.  My mother was a native Erosian, but I never knew who my father
Tristan sighed.  A race called the Pagans once occupied many worlds and
destroyed whole planets. They came to Karn al and slaughtered and
enslaved our people. Many were able to escape. We fought a long war before
we were successful in driving the Pagans out.
Ava couldn t believe what she was hearing. Aleesia Summerlin never
mentioned anything about Karn al to her children when she was alive. Her
brow wrinkled, confused and shock by what Tristan was telling her.
 Our numbers were so depleted that our race is still in danger of extinction.
The Pagans, or what s left of them, have vowed revenge on Karn al. They are
hunting down the Karn alians who escaped their initial invasion and killing
 Your people are dying?
His lips twisted.  Not of any disease, no. But we have virtually no women to
bear children. And if the Pagans find our people before we do, they ll surely
kill them.
Ava stood up and paced the room. This was all too much to take in.  You re a
C-cyborg? she croaked through dry lips.
His eyes were enigmatic.  When the Pagans came, they killed or imprisoned
most of the able-bodied men of our world. The women were systematically
raped and killed. The children were maimed in different ways to ensure they
wouldn t grow up to fight against them.
Ava was aghast at the brutality he spoke of.  You were one of the children?
Tristan nodded, lingering anger in his eyes. He raised his right arm.  My arm
was cut off here  He indicated his shoulder.  The same was done to others,
some a foot, a limb, an eye. The Pagans made a sport of it, deciding which
part to cut off a helpless child.
She swallowed, her heart constricting at the horror of what he d had to suffer.
 Oh, Tristan.
 An underground rebellion eventually formed. Scientists built a secret
subterranean facility and spirited away all the children. The Pagans never
bothered to look, assuming the children just died. His eyes took on a faraway
look.  It took a long time before we all grew up and trained to be warriors. By
the time we did, most of our people had died. He focused his intense dark
eyes on her.  Karn alians emit a unique energy reading. My men called me
back to the ship this morning to inform me about you. You re part-Karn alian,
Ava. And I m taking you back with me.
This was too much to take in, to try to understand. The only thing she could
focus on now was that she and Kell finally had a way to get away from their
horrible existence and start a brand-new life somewhere else.  I m not leaving
without Kell.
His eyes narrowed to angry, tiny slits.  Is he your lover?
 He s my brother, Ava informed him with some exasperation, not noticing
that he d gone completely still.  He s being held in the High Council s
compound to ensure my cooperation, she finished bitterly.
 For what?
Her lashes lowered.  As a half-breed. I m forbidden from being a pleasure
worker. But the High Council has struck a deal with the Neehaleese King. I m
to be his wife.
The heat in his eyes as they roamed over her singed her.  I won t allow that,
he declared with chilling softness.
She shivered, whether from the intensity of his gaze or the underlying
violence in his tone, she didn t know.  It ll start a war.
He stepped closer to her, close enough to make her nipples tighten in
anticipation.  We ll be gone from here before it gets to that. He stroked her
cheek.  I ll get your brother out, Ava. That I promise you. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]