Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Science Fiction., #erotic romance
“One of your people notified the Guardians that you were being held without charges and without record of a crime. She was very concerned and asked if anyone in the area could look into it. I looked into it and here you are.”
Amy cleared her throat. “Why am I
Blade grinned. “You are on my home world and in Lord Akutan’s care because he can protect you. I will make sure to notify him that you are here before I leave. You will be his honoured guest and it would be good if you learned the ways of Rai.”
“You are serious? How long do I need to be here?”
“Until we are sure you are safe. At that point, we can look into relocating you.” Blade sipped at her tea and put her cup down.
When the Guardian rose to her feet, Amy did the same with only two false starts.
Teriki was looking impressed despite herself.
They walked to the entry hall where Raucous was standing with a stack of shopping. “Oh, that is where you went.” Amy laughed.
He looked at her and then stared. “You are kidding. I cannot believe that you are the same creature we scooped up.”
Amy twisted her lips. “Believe it or not. Thank you for your help, it is most appreciated.”
Raucous looked to Blade. “Are you sure it wasn’t me in that picture?”
She elbowed him sharply. “Quiet, fool. Be well, know you are safe and get some rest, Amethyst. You have a lot to learn, and Teriki is a firm teacher.”
Amy bowed, and the Guardians left her alone with the housekeeper. She turned to Teriki and asked, “How do I address you?”
“Teriki, lady. We will get into etiquette tomorrow. Come now, I will give you a tour of your new home.”
The next hour was spent learning the ins and outs of the palace. Where she should and should not venture.
She lifted one of her long sleeves to her mouth and yawned as the moon rose high in the sky. “When is Lord Akutan expected home?”
Teriki shrugged. “Sometime in the next month. We never know. With little family on Rai, he comes and goes as he pleases.”
The luxury to come and go as she pleased was something that Amy could only dream of. At present, she was just happy that she could be somewhere safe where her life did not depend on sleeping lightly.
* * * *
Blade waited until they were leaving the atmosphere before she contacted her uncle.
He smiled, and his gold hair fell across one eye. “Dearest niece, what an unexpected call.”
“I am afraid that I have to ask a favour of you, Lord Akutan.”
“What is it, child?”
“I have stashed a female in your home. She is in danger and needs the protection that Rai can provide. Will you allow her to remain?” Blade bit her lip.
“Of course, Jinu. Any help I can offer to the Guardians.” Akutan smiled, and Blade had to admit that her uncle was still exceptionally handsome.
“Thank you, Uncle. It means a lot to me.” Blade smiled, and Lord Akutan disconnected the call.
She chortled evilly. “Now, they just need to meet and, hopefully, fireworks will ensue.”
“If not, can I have her?”
“She is not a pet. Charm’s mate got her file. She has talents with passing through matter. You are not worthy of her.” Blade sniffed and programmed their course for their home base.
“Why didn’t you tell either of them what was going on?”
“Because I don’t want to send either of them running. I have parked her in his house. They will meet eventually.”
Blade snickered and was satisfied in the knowledge that telling her uncle that there was a strange woman in his house who needed protection was sure to send him running back to the palace with as much dignity as he could muster. If there was one failing that her uncle had, it was his predictable curiosity.
* * * *
Lord Akutan sat in his rooms in Neekin province, and he made up his mind. Hospitality was important, and if there was some sad creature in his home, it behoved him to make her feel comfortable and introduce her to Rai.
He called his squire and had him prepare for a return trip home. In three days, he would be back home, and he could meet the mysterious guest that his niece had dropped off.
“Stand again.” Teriki adjusted her position, and it was easier this time.
Amy got up without grunting and then returned to a graceful kneeling posture before repeating the rise again.
Amy was embarrassed, but she had slept her first day away, rising only long enough to eat a meal that Teriki forced on her before she returned to sleep.
The next morning after a bath and breakfast, she was dressed elaborately once again, but this time, she was given critiques on every step, slide and movement that she made. The maids were watching her carefully, and she watched them as they effortlessly moved things around without snagging their sleeves. Of course, their sleeves were one quarter the width of the heavily ornamented ones that Amy was wearing.
“Good. Now, it is time for you to go for a walk on the exterior balcony. You need to work out the muscles pulled by the standing and sitting.”
“How did you come to work for his lordship?” She stepped into the wooden exterior sandals that clipped on over her house slippers.
“I worked for his sister’s family, and when his sister and her husband passed on, I came to work for Lord Akutan as nanny to his niece and then housekeeper when she was grown.” Teriki was wearing a matching set of shoes, and they walked back and forth on the wide balcony overlooking the drop to a ravine below.
“Tomorrow, you will go into town with Porali for stationery and ink. If you are on Rai, you need to know how to read and write. Much correspondence is still done the old fashioned way.” Teriki smiled, her weathered expression kind.
Amy had to ask. “Why am I safer on Rai than any other world?”
Teriki grinned. “Two reasons. The first is that we are a protected world. Only authorized vehicles, like those of the Guardians, can come and go. The second is that we are host to an ex-Guardian who has no trouble in expelling those who do manage to work through the grid.”
“Oh. That’s handy.”
“Indeed. We enjoy a security that few worlds can boast.”
Amy had to admit that it made her feel marginally better. She straightened her posture and continued to pace until the graceful walk that the others engaged in without effort came to her with practice.
Eating, pouring tea, etiquette and more walking took up the rest of her day. Amy didn’t have a chance to think about her previous life or what was going to happen next. She was embroiled in the present.
Morning involved more lessons, but then, she and Porali left the house and got into a chair that had been summoned for the event. The Asian customs and methods that she kept running into made her wonder where the traditions had originated. Here or there? The blonde heads and darker burnished gold were the norm, so the similarity ended at costume and culture. The large catlike eyes were also something that took some getting used to.
She swayed as the chair took her down the hill from the palace into the town.
Porali sat next to her, and she blushed as the locals pointed at the ornate chair coming down the hill.
“Have you never travelled by chair, Porali?”
“No, lady. It is a little unnerving.” The maid gripped the handle on the interior and tried to balance herself.
“Relax and move with the steps as much as you can.” Amy laughed. She had been on dozens of bucking ships, shuttles and transports. This was a day in calm seas in comparison.
When the chair stopped, Porali tumbled out as quickly as she could to assist Amy in rising with dignity. Teriki had also ordered them to get some hairpins because that was just something that was not shared between women.
The jeweller was their first stop. Porali introduced her. “This is Lady Amethyst Decker of Terra. Lord Akutan’s honoured guest. It will be charged to his account.”
The jeweller nodded, and after peering at her colouring, he brought out some lovely bronze pins with purple semi-precious stones.
Porali lifted the six-inch pins one by one and held them next to Amy’s eyes. She selected six long and six short pins, asking the proprietor to wrap them up.
He wrapped them and placed them in a silk drawstring bag.
Porali smiled, “And now, my lady, to the stationery shop.”
Amy walked next to Porali, not quite sure what the purpose was to her being part of this outing when she wasn’t even expected to venture an opinion.
The men on the street were taller than her by well over a foot. Their features were almost cruel with high cheekbones, feline eyes and narrow lips. Their clothing was far more comfortable than hers, wide-legged trousers, shirts that wrapped and were held in place with the obi-like sashes. Their sleeves were wide and some men wore robes with silken sleeves almost as long as hers.
As she walked through the shopping district with Porali, she realised that she was drawing a crowd. She stuck closer to her maid and had to wonder what was causing all the fuss. The women of Rai were far more elegant than she was, and they didn’t seem to be wobbling on their shoes.
* * * *
Lord Akutan pulled on his reins and spoke to one of his friends. “Lord Havik, what is everyone staring at?”
Lord Havik bowed his head in deference. “The lady who is on a shopping trip. No one has seen her before, but she is surpassingly lovely.”
Akutan dismounted. “Where is this creature of loveliness?”
“In the stationery shop. She went in there with a maid a few moments ago. We are waiting for her to come out.”
Akutan grinned. “It is a good thing I am out of ink.” He walked through the crowd of men who bowed low as they realised who he was.
He entered the shop with curiosity burning in his mind. He glanced around and had no trouble finding the women that the crowd was waiting for.
The lady was poring over pens, and a slick black silk waterfall of hair hung down her back to her knees.
The proprietor returned from the back and froze in place when he noticed his other customer. “My lord, what can I do for you?”
The woman turned and looked toward him, meeting his gaze with a surprisingly frank look. He stood in shock as he took in the vivid purple of her eyes and their peculiar pupils. “The lady was here before me, please conclude her business.”
The servant at the woman’s side jerked in recognition. “Lord Akutan, welcome back.”
He blinked in shock as he recognized a member of his own household. “Porali. Thank you for the welcome.”
The woman frowned and then a hot-pink colour covered her cheeks. She offered him a graceful bow. “Lord Akutan, thank you for your hospitality.”
Her silken fall of hair almost reached the ground as she bowed with her slender fingers held together.
“You are my niece’s friend? Welcome to Rai.” He reached out and touched her cheek with two fingers. It went against every protocol, but he wanted to know if it was as soft as it looked.
“Thank you, my lord.” She straightened but kept her eyes averted.
He wanted nothing more than to lift her chin and stare into those eyes, but the proprietor was watching far too avidly. “What brings you into town today?”
She smiled, and the curve of her lips held his gaze, “Teriki is ordering me to learn how to read and write the common language of Rai. She did not wish me to dip into any of your possessions so authorized me to come and choose writing tools.”
He looked at the items on the table. They were good quality and not extravagant. She was not attempting to gain goods through him. That was something in her favour. “It seems you have purchased the ink I came in to obtain. May I offer you a ride back home?”
The thought of her plastered across his thighs was tempting.
Porali forestalled his fantasies. “My lord, she is not dressed for riding.”
He sighed at the practicality and stowed his fantasy. “Very well. I will see you when you return to my home.”
* * * *
Amy watched him sweep out in a flow of robes and nearly metallic gold hair. His eyes were dark bronze, but she could see the similarity with Blade. They really were related.
Sharp features marked every inch of him. Straight, sweeping brows were over those fascinating eyes, his nose was a sharp blade that complimented the clean cut of his lips and the elegant line of his jaw.
She watched the column of his neck flex as he spoke, and she guessed that he was a little more muscular than the average man of Rai. Something about him said
don’t mess with me,
and she was guessing that none of the locals did.
The two days of etiquette stopped her from staring at his face, but she swallowed nervously as the last flicker of silk disappeared from the doorway. Her heart was pounding, her palms were sweating and there was a distinct dampness between her thighs that told her the heat had not been contained to her cheeks. Just the sight of him aroused her, and now, he was going to be there when she returned to the palace.
There went her restful sleep.
The crowd had watched her get into the chair, and it had made her nervous. Getting out of the chair at the palace terrified her.
She bit her lip as she exited the chair, but it wasn’t Porali’s hand that was extended to assist her. Long, lean fingers with surprising strength helped her out of the chair and to her feet.
She kept her gaze averted, as tradition dictated. “Thank you, My Lord.”
He raised her chin with the back of one hand. “You do not need to stand on ceremony. I have been off world and am aware that our traditions can be restrictive.”
Amy tried to keep the hammering of her heart to herself, but she was sure that when she met his bronze gaze, he could read every pulse through her veins. “Thank you, Lord Akutan.”
He smiled, and his beautiful features outshone the sun. “You are welcome. Now, may I know your name?”