I enjoyed August’s previous adventure so much I couldn’t help but add to it. Let’s call this part 2 – click here if you want to read Part 1.
When the ground disappeared beneath my feet the obscenity was wrenched free and I was falling into darkness. I wrapped my arms tighter around SB, using him as an anchor. I might not like him, but at least I wasn’t going to down the rabbit hole alone.
Alice wasn’t waiting for me at the bottom and, thankfully, no white rabbits either. What I did find was a giant headache and a whole lot of darkness.
But hey, at least it was warm. This was accentuated by the fact SB still had his arms wrapped around me. He made no attempt to move. But then he’d always been a shark.
“Okay, pretty boy, you can let go now,” I muttered, pushing against his chest.
The muscles bunched beneath my fingers, reminding me that, besides the dangerous mouth and retractable claws, he had the body of a man. Something I didn’t wish to dwell on, since I’d been celibate for two long years.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, finally letting go. His voice told me he knew exactly what was going through my head.
“How much you disgust me.”
His laughter filled the darkness and grated along my nerves. “Whatever you say.”
While I was thinking dark thoughts, I felt around to ensure there were no nasty surprises. We’d landed on a spongy substance that was still cushioning the lower half of my body, and it was just my luck to find myself sitting on a monster. One waiting to spring up and devour me.
“What are you hoping to find?” SB asked from somewhere above me and I froze, unreasonably annoyed he had me at a disadvantage.
“Don’t tell me you can see in the dark,” I said, pushing to my feet.
“Okay, I won’t tell you that.”
I started to count to ten in my head, and got as far as three before I gave up. “What do you see?”
“The outline of a tunnel, which opens up on your left.”
His voice had lost its cocky edge and I wondered if he sensed something in the darkness. I had to give him some credit because his instincts were never wrong. The Gourats were an ancient race; primal, calculated and incredibly focused.
I rolled my eyes and hoped he couldn’t see the movement. I’d gone from disliking him to wondering about his other talents. I didn’t remember hitting my head, but clearly something had dislodged itself.
“Let’s go check it out,” he said suddenly, and I felt rather than heard him move towards me. “If you take my hand, I’ll lead the way.” He waited a few beats. “Unless you’re afraid.”
“The day I’m afraid of you, is the day I lay down my weapon.”
He laughed again and took my hand. “It probably isn’t the right time to tell you that you lost your weapon.”
“Damn it,” I muttered. I really loved that axe. And now I was alone without protection. I’d seen SB in the arena. He enjoyed inflicting pain.
“Oh, relax. I’m not going to eat you,” he said, and he actually sounded offended.
The quip died on my tongue as I thought back to when I’d been ejected onto this god-awful planet. “How come you’re here anyway? You’re one of Donovan’s best fighters.”
I’d assumed it was his punishment too. But he hadn’t been part of the tournament and he’d won his match. It was all becoming clear now. “Were you sent here to kill me?” I asked. It would explain why he’d looked at me like I was a prize.
“What would you say if I told you I was?” he asked quietly. There was no menace in his voice, just simple curiosity.
“I’d say let’s go, pretty boy. Let’s settle this now.” It was a stupid move to start a fight with no weapon and zero visibility. As disadvantages went, it couldn’t get any worse.
“You really want to fight me right now?” he stopped suddenly, dropping my hand and leaving me floundering in the dark.
“I’m not going to make this easy for you,” I said, trying to keep the nerves from my voice.
His laugh was hollow. “Why would you start now?”
The silence hung between us, heavy and thick. “What are you waiting for?” I whispered, closing my eyes and trying to tune into my other senses. He was close, I could feel him.
“I got off the ship because I wanted to protect you,” he said and I almost flinched when I heard his voice next to my ear. “I’ve been protecting you since the moment you were dumped by the Guild.”
I swallowed, no longer afraid for my life, but my sanity. “Why?” I asked, taking a step back and bumping into a wall.
I only had a moment to wonder at the fact it was as soft and versatile as the ground beneath my feet.
SB had taken a step towards me. I could feel his breath on my cheek. “What does it matter? I disgust you, remember?”
This was crazy, my mind screamed at me. I didn’t even like him. He insulted me every chance he got and I was thinking about kissing him in the dark. “What would you say if I told you I lied?” I asked, wishing I could see his face.
In response he closed his mouth over mine in a searing kiss I felt all the way to my toes. He really did have a dangerous mouth.