Thursday, March 30, 2017

December 8 (later), part 1

Who’s a lucky gal? Me. Me, me, me. And why am I lucky? Because Clan Seot couldn’t wait to see me after they were done with work this evening. When they commed to ask if they could come over, I barely let Seot get the words out before I answered, “Yes!”

A million times yes.

They were at my door in a twinkling. Talk about instant happiness. I was enthusiastically hugged and kissed. It could be I just as enthusiastically hugged and kissed back. Anrel received her due adoration every bit as joyfully. Cifa was beside himself with delight to hold her again. I’m positive he’s Anrel’s biggest fan in the entire universe.

We had dinner in the complex’s courtyard once all the smoochy-huggy stuff calmed down. I hate to sound needy, but it was terrific to be in the company of doting men again. If that makes me pathetic, so be it.

Sitting outdoors under a sunset-streaked sky with food and the bottle of bohut the men had so thoughtfully brought along was a treat. The nearby firepit blazed cheerfully even though it was warm outdoors. We sat far enough away that it didn’t add too much heat to enjoy.

“Now I must figure out how to ask how your stay with Clan Aslada was, without seeming too nosy,” Seot mused after we’d gotten comfortable. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “And to carefully extract information that will help us outdo them.”

I laughed. “Usually it’s Larten who tries to be devious. I’m shocked, Seot. You’re always so gentlemanly about my other options.”

His handsome face grew more devastating with a cheerful smile. “Ah, good. The ploy to be charming is working. Oops, did I say that out loud?”

I shook my head at him. “I see that dark heart of evil you’ve been keeping hidden. Oh, I’ve been so naïve!”

He hugged me close, laughing at our silly play. “But seriously, how did they treat you? Because if it wasn’t with perfect consideration, I will pull Dramok Aslada’s nose off his handsome face.”

“Stop it. Considering we spent so much time dealing with Mom, they showed themselves in a positive light.”

Cifa sighed, our conversation dimming his happiness. “I hate that it wasn’t in our power to do more for Matara Eve. I am glad you had men who were able to get her on the road to recovery and take care of you in a time of such great need.”

I winked at him. “Okay, guys. You can stop being good sports about my other suitors if you don’t feel like it. I know you put Anrel and me first, no matter how much you might dislike the situation.”

“Okay. I despise Clan Aslada and hope they disappear from existence,” Larten said.

I gave him a playful shove, laughing at how he spoke his mind. His tone had been mild, but I knew he didn’t tease. He meant every word he said.

Not that I agreed at all with him. Clan Aslada had been amazing during my stay with them, holding me together as Mom fought her way back into living. They’d been my rocks as she and I battled each other, trying to figure out our new relationship.

I refused to downplay their contribution. “Your rivals were patient with Mom, and that’s saying a lot considering the abuse she threw at them. They were wonderful to Anrel, which is always high on my list of priorities. They treated me like a princess and handled my storms with great grace. That’s what you’re up against,” I advised the men.

“Thank you for stating the situation so clearly,” Seot said, applauding me. “I appreciate being advised on our competition.”

“Just so long as you realize I have to return the favor,” I said. “I will visit with them again, under less stressful circumstances. They are worried that I was so consumed with getting Mom squared away that they didn’t get a fair chance to court me.”

Larten waved his hand in a show of non-concern. “They will weep and give up in despair when they hear how well we fit with you and Anrel. They will know they are not worthy to be your clan.”

I had to snuggle against him as I laughed harder than before. Larten’s exaggerated confidence never fails to amuse me. He snickered and hugged me close, giving me a loud kiss for good measure.

We had many excuses to laugh as we connected once more. A few serious topics popped up from time to time. Most notably – Dramok Nang.

Larten’s droll attitude turned dark when my former lover’s name came up. “I’ve been communicating with my sources and Nobek Oses to pin down Nang’s whereabouts. It’s been months now, and he’s not shown up anywhere we thought he might.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?” I asked.

The Nobek shrugged. “It could be he’s gotten himself into the kind of trouble that will keep him from returning to Kalquor.”

“You mean he might be dead.”

“I don’t want to say anything to upset you. He’s a danger to you, but I know you don’t want him hurt.” Larten kept his expression impassive as he said that. I knew he’d just as soon have Nang dead and no longer an issue, but he wasn’t about to say anything so callous. Especially since it was possible that Nang was Anrel’s biological father.

“Any other reasons no one has seen him?” I asked.

“He’s been delayed somewhere and remained hidden. Or he’s using a route that keeps him away from our people, which would keep him away from the Empire for an even longer time.” Larten shrugged. “It’s impossible to know, but I’m not going to stop asking questions. He will not sneak back onto this planet without our knowledge if I have anything to say about it.”

“With all that in mind, were you able to keep up with your training?” Seot asked me.

I grinned. “You bet. I have to say, Nobek Toleca was a terror. Larten, why do I get the idea he’d tear out someone’s throat just for the fun of it?”

“Because he would. But only if they were worth the effort of killing.”

I snorted at Larten’s sorry attempt to soothe my worries about the knife-fighting trainer he’d sent my way. I said, “He’d consider murdering opponents a way to express how much they’d impressed him. He’d see it as a compliment.”

“I think you’re right,” Larten chuckled.

We moved on to happier subjects, including our upcoming cruise the next week. I snickered as I said, “They should give my room here at the complex to someone else. I’m barely around to use it!”

Yep. I’m going to be packing again soon.

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