Vidan was again reaching out to the stars: sadder and wiser…and cautious, unwilling to repeat the mistakes of the ancestors. The Commonwealth was born, reaching out to lost colonies and establishing new ones, rediscovering lost technology and how to navigate the star-ways. Many of the lost colonies not only survived but thrived–and they remembered their abandonment and the harsh centuries of the Downfall….
Lucas and Kay’li marry and anticipate a peaceful domestic life, when his duties as lieutenant governor and her duties as Scout recruiter and trainer allow. However, not all their enemies were caught during the revolution and they are still out in the wilderness of Chorillan, waiting for the perfect opportunity to take revenge.
Then a family vacation of exploration and camping, to hide Kay’li’s pregnancy from friends and foes, goes suspiciously, horribly wrong. They find sanctuary on the edge of the secret Azuli canyon, and intend to stay there until Kay’li gives birth…if their enemies don’t find them first.
GENRE: Science Fiction ISBN: 978-1-925574-26-5 ASIN: B07H31LQ2Y Word Count: 66, 884
Fall, Third Moon of the Military Government
“Let’s run away.”
Lucas laughed, but the sound caught in his throat as he looked up to see Kay’li braced in the open doorway of his office. He hadn’t seen her since they met for breakfast and kisses just before dawn. Lately, that short, quiet time in the morning seemed like the only personal, private time they could get. Between his new duties as Lieutenant Governor and her duties as liaison between the Scouts and the colony, everyone wanted some of their time. Lucas speculated that he spent more time with Dini, preparing to adopt the little girl, than he did with the woman he planned to marry.
Kay’li had looked fine this morning, relaxed and rested and smiling. Her color had been good. He couldn’t remember what they had for breakfast, but he remembered the taste and feel of every kiss and the clean scent of her damp hair.
Lucas wondered if the shadows of their hiding place in the courtyard garden hid the strain, and the shower she took on rising had washed away the bitterness in her scent. She looked frazzled now and he felt the tension radiating off her from six paces away. She wore her waist-length dark hair pulled back tight from her face, which only accentuated the shadows in her cheeks, the pallor of strain in her skin. Her knuckles were white from gripping the doorframe and gray shadows under her dark hazel eyes made them look sunken. A faint sourness from anger tinged her normally clean, warm scent.
“Run away,” he echoed, and got up from his desk.
“You said we’d try to go to the Azuli canyon for our honeymoon.” Kay’li dropped her voice as she finally came into the room. “Let’s jettison everything and go. And not come back.”
“Uh huh.” Understanding crashed down on him. Lucas slapped the door control on his desk and reached for her. The panel slid closed. He scooped Kay’li up in his arms and settled down on the couch in front of the open windows with her on his lap. “That reeking cousin of yours?” He bit back a growl as he felt the rock-hard tension filling her body.
“It’s not just Bain,” she moaned.
“He still thinks he has the right to give you away–”
“I’m not his to give away. I’m a grown woman, not a shipping crate full of equipment!”
“And he’s pressuring you to have the ceremony next week, before Daral and Elien can get here for the party. Who says we have to change our plans because his departure date got moved up?” Lucas guided her head down to rest on his shoulder and stroked up and down her back to soothe her.
We really have to get out of here, Lucas decided. He didn’t know if it was the rarity of their private moments, or just the constant frustration that made each touch and kiss so poignant. Just as he had warned Kay’li so long ago, she reacted to his touch and he reacted to her reaction, in a tightening spiral. Their lack of privacy and freedom to touch helped stave off the explosion, but that tactic wouldn’t hold forever.
“If the first Bain Kern was anything like this one, it’s a miracle the Scouts turned out the way they are,” Kay’li grumbled. “I have this vision of him declaring an emergency and dragging me off-planet, just so he can keep me in the Corps and keep ordering me around.”
“Not a chance. Every Wildling on the planet will revolt. If he wants Wildling Scouts, he has to be nice to you.”
“There’s nice, and then there’s his definition of nice. I can’t wait until we’re far away and totally alone.”
“We’re as alone as we’re going to get for a while.”
“That’s true.” Kay’li lifted her head off his shoulder and sat back enough to look in his eyes. “Does that door lock?”
“I have no idea.” He laughed, and she laughed with him as she tangled her fingers in his collar-length hair and leaned down, slowly, until their lips met. The sound turned into a groan at the first jolt of sweet, warm contact. The feel of Kay’li in his arms and the taste of her made him more dizzy and breathless than an entire bucket of chikey wine.
Lucas thought about trying to lock his door. That would mean moving Kay’li off his lap. Using all their time for kissing was far more important. Besides, who would barge into his office without ringing and asking permission?
“I like this part,” Kay’li whispered as she sat up more and adjusted her arms around his neck.
“From what I hear–” Kiss. “The rest is–” Kiss. “Pretty good, too.”
She laughed, the sound breaking with a squeak when he kissed the ticklish spot at the hinge of her jaw. Lucas looked forward to discovering all her ticklish spots and making her squeak like that as often as possible. He felt a shift in the air, like his door had opened, but Kay’li’s mouth, her scent, the warmth of her in his arms had all his attention.
“The sooner you two get married, the better,” Nobi said, his voice thick with repressed laughter.
Lucas groaned and hid his face against Kay’li’s neck. She laughed, the sound as sweet as her scent had become during their short reprieve.
“No, don’t move on my account. Does my heart good to see you two acting like normal engaged folk.” Nobi settled down on the edge of Lucas’ desk. “Saw Kay’li stomping past my office and figured something was wrong. Glad you two worked it out.”
“We haven’t,” she grumbled. “We just got…distracted.”
“Distraction is a good tactical move.” He winked. “What’s the problem?”
They explained the continuing problem with Commander General Bain Kern trying to hijack their wedding festivities. Nobi growled a string of foreign words that Lucas suspected were particularly vicious curses.
“Only one solution.” Nobi stood up and moved around to sit in Lucas’s desk chair. “Elope. Run away.” He shot them a frown when Kay’li muffled a burst of laughter. “Get out of here right now. There’s nothing so important to the fate of the planet that you can’t let it sit for a week or two. Maybe three.”
“Three weeks?” Lucas blurted. A jolt of adrenaline and anticipation shot through him at the thought of being away from Port and Government House and enough paperwork to drown an entire outpost, for three weeks. Alone with Kay’li.
“Bain will track us down,” Kay’li objected.
“Not if I overrule him. I’m the head of the government here, the last I heard. Unless he wants to file charges against me, there’s not a thing he can do.” Nobi’s expression turned smug as he tapped commands into Lucas’ computer.
“We can’t just take off,” she murmured.
“Yes, you can. I’ll take care of Dini and explain to your friends. Three weeks ought to be enough time to plan a big bash to celebrate when you return.” He nodded for emphasis. “And I know Daral will forgive you if you let him throw you a big bash out there at Safe Landing.”
A flash of lightning made the three jump. Lucas groaned as he looked outside and saw the thickening gray storm clouds.
“What’s wrong with that?” Nobi gestured at the sheets of rain that fell as if on his signal.
“Camping out in the rain isn’t my idea of a honeymoon.” Kay’li slid off Lucas’ lap and moved over to stand in front of the desk, arms crossed, frowning down at Nobi.
“Do I have to do all your thinking for you?” Nobi leaned forward, elbows on the desk. “In the rain, no one can follow your trail or sneak up on you.”
Lucas laughed, realizing that was a problem he hadn’t considered. Between his more mischievous friends, men who wanted a chance to court Kay’li, and some prejudiced idiots who didn’t want her to marry a Wildling, they would be fools not to expect some interference during their honeymoon.
“Guaranteed privacy,” Nobi continued. “Just another excuse to keep each other warm. Do I have to teach you two everything?”
“What did my parents do, for their wedding?” Kay’li asked softly.
“Ian put up with the big society wedding to make nice with your grandmother. He was the most miserable man you ever could have seen, but for Miranda, he’d have done worse.” Nobi nodded once for emphasis. “You’re all set. Just sign the pad, and you’re married. With the governor of the colony for witness, I might add. Can’t make it any more official than that.” He stood up and gestured for them to take his place at the computer.
Kay’li snatched up the stylus to sign the datapad. A faint flush of excitement painted her cheeks and her eyes sparkled when she finished. Lucas choked, then realized it was laughter trying to burst out. He signed his name and wrapped his arms tight around her.
“Hi, Mistress Aidan,” Lucas whispered as he bent his head to kiss her.
“Hold on there,” Nobi said, gesturing like he’d push them apart. “No kissing until you make your vows.”
“We already did,” Kay’li whispered. She raised her scarred thumb. “A long, long time ago.”
“Forever and always. Together. Partners in everything,” Lucas said, nodding. He twined his fingers with hers and pressed their thumbs together so the scars met. Their kiss sent a reverberation through him and filled the darkness behind his closed eyes with blue sparks, like Azuli eyes.
Later, when he told Kay’li about that moment, with the rain drumming against their tent, she laughed.
“They’re letting you know they approve,” she whispered, and snuggled closer in the warmth of their blankets.
Nobi sighed in satisfaction as he returned to his office and settled down in his desk chair. He picked up a picture cube and studied the image of Ian and Miranda, laughing, with two-year-old Kay’li asleep in her father’s arms.
“She’s all set,” he whispered, hoping their spirits could hear him. “Just like you always wanted.”
Three taps on the doorframe drew him out of his thoughts. He looked up to see Seth Aidan come into the office. The two men grinned at each other.
“It worked?” Seth helped himself to the carafe of spyce before settling into the chair in front of the desk.
“Easier than we thought. Call Daral before he throws out his communication pack like he’s been threatening, and tell him to start putting that party together.” Nobi rubbed his hands in anticipation. “I get the honor of disappointing Cousin Bain.”
“You’re an evil man, Governor Cole.”
“I just want those two to be happy.”
“Then let’s drink to a quiet life and that house they want out in the middle of the forest, lots of children and growing old together.” Seth bowed his pale head over his cup, regrets darkening his eyes. Then he lifted it in salute to Nobi and drank deeply.