Authors: Leslie Dicken
Drakor cleared his throat. She jumped and turned to look at him.
“Oh, I didn't hear you come in the room.”
He did not respond, merely stared at her. It was as if he could see through those layers of clothing to the supple skin underneath. His mouth watered for her taste. But his gut clenched at her threat.
Erin shrugged then took a bite of the item in her hand. Her eyes shifted again to the backyard.
Something of interest held her attention and he tried to find it. He saw the tall trees swaying back and forth. The layered, dark sky blowing overhead. Silver sheets of rain angled through the air toward the ground. Blades of grass flattened under the downpour.
Drakor gulped. He knew what she saw. The area under the shuttlecraft remained dry. But did Erin know what she saw? Did she know why the grass remained untouched?
He pulled his gaze from the yard to Erin again. She finished off the item in her hand, looked around for something and then licked her fingers.
“You liked that.” He must distract her.
“Very good. What's it called? Maybe I can get the recipe from your mother.”
Drakor didn't know what the recipe was. He didn't even know his mother tried to bake something. She must have bought the ingredients yesterday when they took Sitora to town. But why?
“You wanted to talk about Mickey's.”
Erin's sky-colored eyes blinked a few times. She bit her lip and he again had the urge to be the one nibbling it. He had to stop that. He had to stop thinking of holding her, of touching her. She was human. She could expose them. No amount of desire for her could change that.
“Yes,” she finally answered. “Let's go sit down out front again.”
Drakor pushed the door open. “After you.”
But as they started down the hallway, the front door swung open. Ankra walked in, followed by Greg.
“Afternoon,” Erin's brother said, running his fingers through his wet hair.
Ankra smiled and went to the staircase. “I will return,” she said.
Drakor watched her go up, jealousy pounding his heart. He knew she had mated with Greg. He could tell by her behavior, by the way in which her body moved, by the permanent grin on her face.
Drakor sighed and glanced over at Erin. She and Greg were whispering to one another in the far corner.
Ankra stood at the top of the steps and Erin passed by him to find her. “Yes?”
“Will you come upstairs for a moment?”
Erin went up the steps and Drakor had to look away from her retreating back. He heard the door to his sisters' room shut and so he headed over to Greg.
“Interesting place, here.” Erin's brother glanced about the room.
“Yes. I need information from you.”
Greg folded his arms across his chest. “Sure, shoot.”
“Where does one buy a condom?”
“What?” Greg coughed.
Drakor did not want to use one and probably wouldn't. But if he was ever in the position he found himself Saturday night, he wanted to have one for Erin to see. Then, maybe, he could convince her that he did not need one. He wasn't human, he couldn't pass along any disease to her, much less impregnate her with a child. Of course, he couldn't tell her that.
“Youâ¦you want a condom?” Greg's wide eyes and pale complexion showed he had not recovered from his initial surprise. Was it such an odd question?
“Yes. I need the location of where to purchase one.”
“Well, at the drugstore or the grocery store.” He took a step closer and lowered his voice. “Do you need one for Erin?”
Drakor did not answer what he thought was an obvious reply. “I will accompany you when you go to these stores again.”
Greg nodded and turned his gaze out the front windows. The sky color had lightened from a lead gray to the silver of the shuttlecraft. Rain still fell, but had eased considerably. Erin's small vehicle glistened with drops that reflected the sun. Somewhere, behind the house, the clouds must have separated.
“Look.” Greg pointed past the vehicles.
A rainbow arched from the dirt road to a spot behind the tallest tree. Drakor's stomach roiled and chills skated down his spine. Rainbows were uncommon on Elliac, despite the frequency of storms and blinding heat from the sun. Thus, their appearance often sparked suspicion and concern. Superstitious people would hide inside their homes until the curving shaft of colors disappeared. Folklore told a rainbow's appearance prophesied a tragedy to the viewer.
Greg leaned closer to the window, moving the heavy curtain aside. “That's so cool.”
Drakor took a deep breath. He shouldn't worry. They weren't on Elliac, they were on Earth, where rainbows were viewed with awe and excitement.
But if that were the case, then why was dread snaking its way into his heart?
Erin couldn't stop tickling Sitora. The little girl giggled until she nearly fell off her bed. It seemed strange to have a grown woman like Ankra sharing a room with such a small child, but neither sister seemed to mind.
As was typical in the rest of the house, the bedroom looked as if it were torn out of a Victorian Home magazine. An ornately carved mantle, similar to the one in the parlor, covered an unused fireplace. Busy wallpaper and border ran around the room, while the hardwood floors were covered with several throw rugs. Ankra and Sitora each had their own four-poster bed roofed with a green canopy.
This house was like a dream or a bed and breakfast or a museum. Erin still couldn't understand why Drakor and his family lived here, nor how this house was built. Tomorrow, she would have to verify the land and tax recordation.
“Maybe I should check on Greg,” Ankra said. She gave her sister a stern look and then opened the bedroom door. “I'll be back up in a moment.”
Once Ankra was gone Sitora rushed over to Erin and plopped down on the floor next to her. In a low voice, she asked, “Why do you use a kitchen?”
“The room downstairs with the sink and the stove. Do you use it a lot? What can you make in there?”
Erin cocked her head. She didn't understand Sitora's questions. “Your mother just made some delicious bread in there, using the oven. Doesn't she cook and bake for all of you?”
“Mother just wanted to try it. She's never used one before.”
Erin just didn't understand why these people were so clueless with such a basic necessity of life. If they didn't know how to use a kitchen, did that mean they were so wealthy at one time that a servant did all the work?
Since she couldn't come with a useful response, Erin decided more tickling was in order. She ran her fingers along Sitora's neck and the girl squealed and scooted away. They scrambled along the floor after each other, until Sitora crawled under her bed. Erin flattened onto her stomach to go after her.
But instead of reaching her target, her gaze landed on something else. Under the chest of drawers, she saw a small flat screen. It looked like the PDA Greg carried, but about half the size. She couldn't see any buttons on it anywhere, in fact, it appeared to be nothing but the screen itself.
Her reporting instinct kicked into high gear. Was it broken? Were there more pieces to it? More importantly, did it hold information that could tell her about this odd family?
Erin stretched her hand toward it, but it was so far back toward the wall she couldn't get it.
“You can't get me!” Sitora taunted in her accented voice.
Erin reached out for the small screen again. If she only had a few more inchesâ¦just two or threeâ¦
The door of the room slammed shut and Erin yanked her arm back.
“They are leaving!”
Erin got to her feet and faced Ankra. “Who's leaving?”
“Greg and Drakor. My brother wants something at a store and your brother is taking him.”
“Oh.” Erin had to admit she was a little disappointed. She hardly got five minutes with Drakor since she got here and she certainly never had a moment to discuss Mickey's. Not that it really mattered.
Oh damn! She left her notebook down there!
Erin ran past Ankra and burst out of the room. She took the steps two at a time and got to the bottom just as the guys were heading out the door.
“Hey, did you see the rainbow outside?” Greg said to her, pulling his keys out of his pocket.
“No.” She turned to look out the window in the parlor room, but a hand clamped on her arm.
Erin's gaze fell on Drakor. His face had the usual sheen and ruddiness, but his eyes stopped her with their fear. She wanted to ask him why he cared about something like that, but she couldn't. Something about the way he held her seeped concern under her skin.
She couldn't understand how a rainbow could cause her harm, but it mattered to him and it just didn't seem worth debating.
“Okay,” she whispered. “I won't look.”
He relaxed. “Perhaps we will work on your story another day.”
Her story? Oh, he meant the one about Mickey's. “Of course, another time. I'd really appreciate your help.”
Drakor let go of her arm and followed Greg outside. Once the door clicked shut, Erin raced to the couch and snatched her notebook.
How could she be so stupid? It had been sitting here since she went to the kitchen for the bread. Damn, what if Drakor looked through it? If he saw the notes on himself he may not want to see her anymore. It didn't seem that way, not when he just mentioned helping her with her story another day. It didn't seem like he read through it at all.
Clutching the notebook to her side, Erin headed back up the steps to say good-bye to Ankra and Sitora. The door to their room was closed. She went to knock on it when one down the hall opened.
Erin looked over to see Brundor ambling toward the stairs. He stopped when he saw her standing there. He glanced around and then came over to her.
“Where is my brother?” His voice was low, edgy.
She noticed sweat collecting on his brow and color blooming on his cheeks. His dark eyes bore down on hers, hot and desperate.
Erin's stomach pitched, her heart raced. But she'd be damned if she was going to let this guy see her fear. “He went out. I was just going in to see your sisters.”
Brundor closed the gap between them. She was no comparison to his tall, lanky frame, though she knew enough evasive moves to bring him to his knees.
“They can't keep me locked away forever.”
His hot breath on her face brought the taste of bile up her throat. He reached out to her face and Erin squeezed her eyes shut, ready to yell the moment he touched her. She wouldn't cause a scene if it wasn't necessary. No, she had too much invested in this family now to see it all shot to hell with hysterics.
But nothing happened other than Brundor's triumphant laugh echoing in her ears.
“You do have cash with you, right?”
Drakor patted his pants pocket. He had plenty of human money. Father had seen to it that they each had enough to purchase whatever was necessary. Long ago Elliacians had given up physical money. All transactions were electronic. Most children had never seen a coin or paper note before.
They entered the drugstore and the aisles of clutter and flashy packaging startled Drakor. Where were the electronic monitors to display the items? The keypads to place an order and compute the financial transactions?
He shook his head and followed Greg down an aisle. All items to his left looked like objects for babies. Diapers, bibs, pacifiers, toys, shampoos. He stopped and stared at the smiling baby on the food jar. For a moment, Drakor's throat tightened and his chest ached. It seemed a child would not be in his future.
“Come on,” Greg called from the next aisle over. “They're down this way.”
Drakor caught up with him, pushing away the thoughts of children and home.
A short male approached them. Though clearly an adult, he looked several Earth years younger and his nervousness proved it. Brown eyes darted to Greg and then to his watch. A light-eyed female came up to him and laced her arm through his. She looked familiar, like someone he met recently.
“Jay?” Greg went over to the stranger and shook his hand. “A surprise to catch you out here. And who's this lovely lady?”
The red-haired female smiled and chewed something in her mouth.
“This is Renee, my girlfriend.”
She stuck out her hand and Greg shook it. “Nice to meet you.”
The short male nodded and licked his lips. “This is my boss, Mr. Price.”
Greg turned and waved him over. “This is a friend of mine, Drakor.” He lowered his voice. “I never did get your last name.”
Not that again. He ignored the comment and nodded, saying nothing.
Greg clapped the male on the shoulder. “Jay, here, is the one I was telling you about. He's a bright guy.”
Jay gave a half-smile that did not reach his eyes. A few beads of sweat formed on his forehead. “Oh, well, we'll see. Once the patent comes throughâ¦”
“Don't be so modest.” Greg laughed. “Your idea is absolutely brilliant. I wish I'd hired you three years ago. We'll get that patent and then you'll have a mighty large bonus.” He turned to the female. “I'm sure you'd be happy about that.”
She winked and continued to chew the thing between her teeth. The sound tickled Drakor's eardrum and he suddenly remembered who she reminded him ofâthat female from the dance club. The one that Erin didn't like. This wasn't the same person, but they were very much alike.
“So you took the afternoon off?” Greg asked.
Jay squirmed and wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I-I had some things to do today. You weren't in the office to check with, so Cindy told me to just go.”