Monday, March 20, 2017
December 7, part 1
It was getting late when I boarded the private shuttle Clan Aslada had hired for my return to the Matara Complex, my lips tingling from dozens of last-minute goodbye kisses. Jaon had returned in time to see me off. He was the most ardent of the trio as we parted. He’d not been happy to find out I would be gone for the next few weeks, but since he had to head back out to catch another bad guy the very next day, he admitted it was probably the right thing to do.
Imdiko Snoy was stoic as he handed off Anrel, but I was betting on him sobbing his heart out later. His eyes were too bright with unshed tears as he patted the top of her head and asked me to let him know how she was doing. He made me feel guilty as hell for taking my own daughter with me.
The shuttle they had hired was small but super nice, with attendants and a full bar. I didn’t discover the boatload of presents until we were in the air and away, because Clan Aslada had made the attendants hide them from me until I was gone. My heart thumped painfully to see expensively wrapped packages for both me and Anrel. The guys always spent extravagantly when it came to us. I couldn’t bear to open the first gift yet, feeling too raw in my heart at the moment.
I settled in my seat gingerly, my bottom too sore to appreciate the cozy chair. It was still not recovered from its last spanking. I could have taken a pain inhibitor, but I liked being reminded of why sitting felt uncomfortable. Draped across a man’s lap, his hand falling on my flesh over and over…it got me warm just thinking about it.
That brought the sense of loneliness down on me harder than the emotion that had driven me to leave Clan Aslada behind for the next few weeks. I hoped this momentary break wasn’t a huge mistake.
I knew of one way to allay my sudden plunge of spirits. Well, besides the one drink I allowed myself to sip, my responsibility to Anrel sleeping on my lap foremost on my mind. Feeling slutty—after all, I was leaving Clan Aslada on the posh private shuttle they’d booked for my trip—I commed Clan Seot.
I had high hopes of catching at least one of them at home. They were several hours behind the Esofu Continent. While it was late where I was, I thought they’d have perhaps finished dinner and were settling in for the evening. Lucky me; all three men answered the com after a few seconds. The vid sprang to life before me, giving me an unequalled view of masculine beauty.
“Shalia!” Dramok Seot boomed, his ridiculously handsome face stretched in a wide, happy grin. He cringed a little as he saw Anrel was fast asleep. Fortunately, my child could probably sleep through a hurricane. In a much quieter voice, Seot asked, “Tell me you’re on your way back.”
“Less than an hour before touchdown,” I answered, trying not to be to overt in my ogling. You’d have thought I’d never seen men before from the way my heart beat faster at the sight of the guys. Especially after a diet of Clan Aslada. But Clan Seot is its own category of deliciousness.
Seot himself is everything I’ve ever thought a clan leader should be. Besides panty-melting gorgeous, he’s strong without being dictatorial. I’ve seen him calm his clanmates…okay, and me…with the mildest of looks or tones. He doesn’t flaunt his power because he doesn’t have to. You sense it from the moment you enter his presence. It’s an utterly benign dominion that he exercises, but never at anyone’s disadvantage. He makes everyone’s welfare his priority.
“Perfect!” Imdiko Cifa said, his boyish face too sweet to truly belong to his hulking body. “While you were gone, I decided to put a few more upgrades on our newest ship. It will be ready to launch next week, if you’re able to go. Oh, look at that adorable little baby. She’s so precious when she’s asleep.”
Ha. Cifa thinks Anrel is adorable when she’s got baby food smeared all over her and is in a bad mood. I often think I’m a distant second to Anrel in Cifa’s heart. Not that I mind. I want whatever clan I end up with to think the sun rises and sets on my daughter. Cifa fits that mold. He’s been wrapped around her itty-bitty pinkie from the moment he first saw her. He was born to be some little girl’s daddy.
I winked at him. “She’s been fussed over quite a bit while we’ve been gone. You won’t have to work too hard to pick up where you left off on spoiling her.”
He pretended to be offended. “I beg to differ. I have everything intention of indulging her until no one else can stand her but me. That way I get her all to myself.”
I giggled at him. I know Cifa would never do anything in opposition to Anrel’s best interests. He might dote on her, but I was sure he’d draw the line at letting her become a brat.
“A cruise next week, huh?” I had been looking forward to the prospect of playing on one of the oceangoing vessels owned by Cifa and his siblings for months. It was supposed to be the height of luxury. Of course, after staying in the grandiose Clan Aslada mansion for several weeks, my idea of luxury had been expanded quite a bit. It’s made me suspect I might be more of a beer and burger kind of gal, rather than champagne and caviar. Yet Clan Seot seemed so laid back despite their wealth. I’m a bit dazzled by their life, but not overwhelmed.
“Right. I told you my brother and sister are bringing their clans too, and we’d hoped your mother would join us. How is she?” Being a natural caregiver, Cifa switched from what he wanted to the needs of others in a flash.
“She’s doing well in the Galactic Council’s rehab facility. She sounds almost like a different person now that she’s away from all our drama.” I kept hidden the twinge of hurt I felt.
“Excellent. It’s too bad she won’t be on the trip. Do you have anyone else you’d like to bring? There are still two cabins available for your friends. They can bring along any clan they are considering too.”
“I can ask Candy and Katrina,” I said. The idea made me happy. “Though Katrina’s clan has gone back to Earth, so she’d be solo. By the way, you have to stop calling Candy ‘Matara Hubba-hubba’. I think it embarrasses her.”
Cifa slapped his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing too loud and waking Anrel. His first encounter with Candy and her vocal appreciation of Clan Seot’s physical attributes was always fodder for amusement.
Speaking of appreciation of physical attributes, I turned my attention to the dark and silent third of the clan. “Are you like most Nobeks in that a relaxing vacation is not something to look forward to?”
When Larten smiles, which is often for a Nobek, it’s like looking at pure decadence. Sort of like the biggest, most luscious hot fudge sundae that has ever existed. You know it’s evil, that you’re better off backing away from it, but you’ve got to indulge anyway. He was wearing that smile as he looked at me, making my insides all twisty-turny.
“Actually, any chance to get away from my meathead trainees is greatly appreciated,” he said. “Especially if it means seeing you in a soaksuit. Or less.” He leered without shame.
I laughed. Larten always makes me laugh, despite the fact he looks like danger personified. He trains young Nobeks in camps allotted for the ferocious breed. He never misses a chance to insult them. His scorn is usually hilarious in nature, as long as one isn’t the trainee he’s smearing the reputation of. I think he’s thought up a billion uses for the skins of useless students: from Tragoom loincloths to his personal toilet paper.
Cifa had his handheld out, tapping on it like the world’s fastest typist. “Do you think Candy will bring a potential clan?”
I gave him an uncomfortable smile. “Um, maybe. I have a feeling it might be just a Nobek, if he can take the time off.”
That got raised eyebrows from all three men. “Oh, this is sounding like good gossip,” Cifa enthused. “Go on.”
I told them about Nobek Stidmun and Candy’s suspicion that she was a one-man woman. “They’re crazy about each other. I thought it was just infatuation at first, but I think Candy might be right. He might be the only man she can love.”
“Hmm. That will present a few problems down the road,” Seot mused. “I don’t envy them that, given our society’s norms. Still, who’s to tell them they’re wrong if they love and want only each other?”
“Earther ways,” Cifa said, his gaze a little distant. “One man and one woman. Seems kind of lonely to me. But romantic too. Imagine that, to be someone’s one-and-only.” He gave Seot and Larten sly looks.
“I’ll check my food and drink for poison from now on. Seot, leave a note to be found in the event of our sudden deaths, detailing our suspicions that Cifa wanted Shalia all to himself,” Larten deadpanned.
Cifa laughed and nudged him. “You know better than that, my Nobek,” he said. Adoration shone in his eyes as he looked at his clanmate. Seot shook his head and chuckled at the pair. Those three are so good together.
Because I can never seem to shut up around them, we talked all the way up until the shuttle reached the landing pad. We promised to see each other in person soon.