Authors: Laura Jo Phillips
Tags: #Paranormal Romance
She looked up just in time to see Marqex dropped from the red dragon’s jaws, managing to get one arm up just before the elderly Narrasti landed on top of her. They crashed to the ground, landing hard, but again the kevlex protected her from serious injury. Summer twisted her body, struggling to get out from beneath the heavier Narrasti on top of her, and felt a sharp, stabbing pain pierce her abdomen. Ignoring it, she rolled free and leapt to her feet, already spinning toward the second head, then paused when she saw that it was in the midst of transforming from a dragon to a male Narrasti. It stared at her with hatred in its eyes, looking so much like William Winicke that for a moment she was thrown back in time. As she had then, she raised her sword and ran forward, already swinging as she covered the few short yards between them. Just before her blade sliced through Magoa’s neck, two of Darlene’s knives blossomed in his eyes, obliterating them. Then his head rolled in the dirt, coming to a stop against the head of the green dragon, and silence fell.
Summer lowered the katana just as Maxim, Loni, and Ran appeared from nowhere, surrounding her. She looked up at Maxim, then doubled over, gasping in pain. She dropped the
to the dirt and wrapped her arms around herself, the sudden gush of warmth running down her legs and the scent of her own blood telling her all she needed to know. She opened her mouth and screamed, a sound born not of fear or pain, but deep, heart wrenching sorrow.
Darlene ignored the tears on her cheeks as she bent to pick up Summer’s
. She turned around, surprised to find Aisling and Faith standing close to her, their eyes telling her that they, too, understood all that had happened. Neither woman attempted to utter platitudes that would have, frankly, irritated her, and for that she was thankful.
Her eyes went to the group of Narrasti surrounding the still form of Marqex and she shook her head sadly. Without Marqex, their peoples would not now be standing together in peace.
“Excuse me, Miss Flowers?” The voice was unfamiliar to Darlene, but it seemed to strike a chord within her. She turned to see a Lobo male-set standing beside the Falcorans who flanked Faith.
“Yes?” she asked. The Lobos’ eyes widened in obvious shock as they stared at her in breathless silence. Darlene had lived in the company of Clan Jasani for years, so it took her only a fraction of a second longer than it took them. For a fleeting moment she
them. Sensed their emotions change rapidly from surprise, to understanding, to regret, and finally, acceptance.
“Doc has asked us to offer you a ride back to the
,” the eldest of them said politely, his emotions hidden behind a stoic mask.
“Thank you,” Darlene said. “But the Falcorans have already offered, and I have accepted.” It was a lie, but the Lobos knew it, as did the Falcorans.
The Lobos turned to the Falcorans, bowed briefly, and walked away. Darlene watched after them, letting her imagination take wing for just a moment before she reeled it in and put it away. She met Tristan Falcoran’s gaze steadily. “They are mated,” she said.
“Yes,” he replied simply. He would tell her more about them, but only if she asked. She didn’t. Instead she looked in the direction the Lobos had gone one last time.
“I’m glad,” she said, meaning it. Then she turned away, her face composed. The Falcorans summoned the pilot of their shuttle and sent Darlene with them. When they were gone, Faith turned to Aisling.
“What was that about?” she asked softly.
“Darlene was meant to be the Lobo-Hirus’ Arima,” Aisling replied.
“Meant to be?”
“They are mated to a human woman,” Aisling said. “Have been for almost twenty years now. They are very happy, and have six sons.”
“Will they suffer now?” Faith asked. “Always wanting someone they can’t have?”
“No,” Tristan said. “They will not feel a sexual draw to her, or feel her emotions. None of those things will occur because their mating fangs have long been shed. They will only wonder.”
“That is enough,” Faith said, sad for the Lobos and Darlene. She couldn’t help but think that it would have been better for all of them had they never met.
Darlene went straight from the
shuttle bay to the infirmary, still carrying Summer’s
though the blood had been cleansed from the blade. She pushed the door open in time to see Maxim, cradling Summer in his arms, turn and vanish. Ran followed immediately, but Loni saw Darlene and waited.
“How is she?” Darlene asked as she handed the
“Her body is now healed,” Loni said. “It will take her mind a little longer.”
“She’s a strong woman,” Darlene said.
“She is,” Loni agreed.
“Go, be with her,” Darlene said, stepping back. “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”
Loni nodded, then vanished as his brothers had.
“Are you all right?” Doc asked.
“I’m worried for Summer,” she replied. “How is she, really?”
“As Loni said, she’s fine,” Doc said. “Her body has already healed. Did you know she was pregnant?”
“Yes, she told me before we left Jasan, but swore me to secrecy because she didn’t want her Rami to stop her from coming to Onddo,” she explained.
“They didn’t know?” Doc asked, shocked.
“They knew,” Darlene said, smiling faintly. “She told them the other day, but they’d already figured it out by then.”
“That’s good,” Doc said. “This would have been a truly awful way for them to learn such news.”
Darlene nodded in agreement, reminded of her own news. “I have things to share with you.”
“Yes?” Doc asked. He stepped closer to her, and they stared into each others eyes for a long moment. “What is it that I’m seeing?” Doc asked curiously.
Darlene smiled, surprising him. “I will tell you that in a moment,” she said. “First, I want to tell you something else.”
Doc nodded. “As I told you, I had this strange feeling for years that I was supposed to wait for something, though I didn’t know what.” Doc nodded again, his body going tense though he didn’t let it show. “I just discovered what it was. I was meant to be an Arima.”
For an instant, Doc felt as though the ground beneath his feet had opened up and he was falling into a deep and endless pit. Her words repeated themselves in his mind and he pulled himself up short. “
“Yes,” Darlene said. “That was my confusion. I know for sure, because the confusion is gone now. My mind is clear, as is my heart.”
“I met a Lobo male-set who are already mated,” Darlene said. “I know nothing more of them, not even their names, and I don’t need to, or want to. I know all I need to know.”
The rush of relief that flooded Doc was greater than the fear he’d experienced immediately preceding it. He gasped for air, shaking his head at Darlene’s concern. “I’m fine, darlin’, just a bit shocked.”
“Well, hang onto your mustache Doc, because I have something else to tell you that’s even more shocking,” Darlene said.
“Hang on to my mustache?” Doc asked archly, inwardly surprised and pleased by Darlene’s light hearted tone. “Well, out with it. I’m an old man, you know, I ain’t got forever.”
Darlene rolled her eyes and smiled, a true, honest to goodness smile that stretched wide across her face and lit up her eyes. “You are going to be a father.”
Everything inside of Doc stilled for one, eternal moment. A moment he would remember and treasure every day for the remainder of his life, no matter how long that was. He pulled Darlene into his arms, burying his face in her neck, completely unashamed of the tears that leaked from his eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you more than I can say.”
Darlene squeezed him gently, then relaxed into his arms. She was sad for Summer, and her Rami. She was sad for the Narrasti over the loss of their matriarch. But this was her moment. She’d never dreamed of this, never dared to imagine it. But it was hers, and she would soak up every scintilla of joy that it held.
“You better marry me now,” Doc said gruffly into her neck.
“And if I don’t?” Darlene asked, unable to resist teasing him.
“Well, now,” he drawled, “there’s a world where if a man wants a bride, he picks her up, tosses her over his shoulder and runs off with her. I can’t rightly remember the name of it, but I’ll find it and take you there. Don’t think I won’t.”
“I’d never doubt anything you told me,” Darlene said.
Doc stilled again, then sighed. “So you do believe I love you, do you?”
“Of course I believe it,” Darlene said, surprised that he’d doubted that, of all things. “About this marriage business, are you going to expect me to wear a dress and carry flowers?”
“Hell, darlin’, you can wear a sack and carry a bouquet of knives if you want, so long as you say
at the end.”
“In that case, I suppose I can go along with it,” Darlene said. Doc chuckled as he squeezed her more tightly. She leaned her head back and looked into his eyes. “I love you, Doc.”
“I love you, too, Darlene.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Jo lives in the Arizona desert with her loving husband, their two children, one very large dog and two interesting cats. Laura Jo loves to hear from her readers. Visit her website at www.laurajophillips.com to see when the next installment in the Orbs of Rathira series is coming, and sign her guestbook. Or, email her directly at [email protected]
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