Teak smiled at her when she walked into the kitchen helping that knot in her shoulders loosen.

“Something smells good.”

“Nothing special, I thought I’d go with pancakes and bacon. I got real maple syrup. The kind that will make you think you just left earth and traveled to heaven made from sweetness and light.

“Oh my God, why are you keeping the sweetness and light from me? Give me.” She used a finger to indicate that she was ready to eat trying to draw him nearer with the food.

“Sweetness and light? Is this breakfast or some new age movement?” Norquay asked walking into the kitchen.

“New age movement?”

“Historian,” he pointed to himself.

“How could I forget,” she rolled her eyes as Teak sat a plate in front of her. Norquay went to the fridge and came out with water and juice. “So good,” she moaned later.

“That’s why Red is my favorite person in this house. She knows good cooking when she tastes it.”

“Let me get this straight. I’ve saved your ass on more than one occasion and you toss me to the side because Red is moaning over your food? Wait, don’t answer that.” Teak laughed and gave them seconds.

“I was thinking about what you said last night?”

He looked like he wasn’t sure what she was talking about.

“You said not to jump to conclusions about who the man was after.”

“I did.”

“What if he was after me?”

“Why would a trained killer be after you?” Teak demanded.

She didn’t know they were thinking of him as a trained killer, but it made sense.

“I was thinking about how I have not heard from my father in a year. There are lots of parents out there who aren’t earning the parent of the year award. But my father is different. He would rather see me dead than happy.” She didn’t know whether to be happy or sad when no one argued with her.

“Why do you think that?” Norquay asked her.

“My father always believed that I would come home to the fold. All I needed was some time in the world to see how bad it was and to miss my mother. He always expected I’d come running back with my head tucked.  He’s not a bad judge of character he has the one thing I want, my mom.”

“Then why kill you? He could just kidnap you.”

“I spent some time thinking about that. First, he can’t get to me here. I’ve no doubt he knows where I am. I think he always knows where I am. I say that because General Murray mentioned that my family missed me and thought I was missing. Since I don’t go home regularly or call why would they think that? They wouldn’t unless I was being watched.”

She had stayed in this house for a year like she was a monk doing penance. There was no way they would have been able to see her while she was inside.

“You think someone is watching us?” Norquay got up heading towards the door. The compound was well away from the borders of their land. No one could stand on the border and see them, but that feeling of missing something was back.

“I don’t know, not really. I keep getting this feeling that makes no sense that I’m missing something.”

“My first inclination is to agree with you. To say this makes no sense and shrug it off. I would, but as I am learning humans have a deep connection to their planet and the world around them. That is as it should be.”

“Say that so I can understand it.”

“You should be connected to your planet. The same as the birds who know when it’s time to fly south or when the salmon know it’s time to lay eggs or the seasons know it’s time to change.”

“That’s sound like metaphysical thinking that I’ve stayed away from.”

“Staying away from something doesn’t mean it’s wrong. All I’m saying is that this is your planet. It makes sense that you’re tied to it.”

If he were from the Earth, she’d get into a big debate about this. But he wasn’t, worse yet he was from a planet that was destroyed. There was a possibility that he understood that tie between planet and native more than she ever would.

“Let’s say you’re right. That I am tied to the planet. What would that mean?”

“That the feeling you carry between your shoulder blades and on your shoulders isn’t a lie.”

“How do you know?”

“I watch you. I’ve noticed that your body tenses in those places when you start to look around like there is something close you can’t see.”

He was right, but no one, not her mother, not her trainers had ever picked up on that. That he paid such close attention to her was disconcerting. Then again it was nice to know someone who meant her no harm was looking at her deep enough to see what most missed.

“If you’re right, then what does that mean?”

“Don’t ignore your instincts.”

Like the ones that screamed wait for backup before you take off. She was too busy telling herself that she was wrong that she almost got herself and her two friends killed.

“I know what you’re thinking.”

She jumped not sure she liked that. One raised brow was all she was going to give in to.

“I know the look of guilt. It’s all over your face. How much guilt can one person feel that they are alive when the world is dead?” She went to him wrapping her arms around his waist. Of course, he understood guilt. They all must understand it. You don’t escape mass genocide without wondering why me.

“I almost got us killed because I didn’t wait for backup.”

“Why would you? You’ve been your backup all your life. It’s hard to rely on someone else when you’re used to taking care of you.”

“Darn it, you’re letting me off the hook too easily. You’re supposed to holler, rage, and threaten.”

“I save my rage for one target. Hollering has never gotten me anywhere, and threatening is a good way to get killed. I’d rather carry through with my decision as opposed to threatening about it. I’m like you, kill first asks questions later.”

She found her head shaking as a chuckle came from her core. “I don’t advocate that.”

“That probably helps to keep violence from the street.”

“What am I going to do with you?” She squeezed him tighter.

“I don’t know.” It was whispered softly as he took in her warmth.

The clearing of a throat pulled them apart. “I’m planning to be out of the house for the better part of the day. You’re on your own when it comes to lunch.”

“Are you leaving the compound?” Norquay asked.

“Rycal and I are going down to that little town Red likes to rave about. We want to try the coffee and the donut Em told us about.”

“Needless to say, you’ll be careful.”

“Needless to say. I’ll be back by five, time for your bath and all.” Teak laughed before he left the kitchen.

“I think I missed something.”

He walked her over to the couch. “When Teak first got his hands on me, I was at the annoying stage in life. Old enough to be considered grown, young enough to still need a parent. To put it mildly, I was wild. One day he got tired. Told me if I wanted to act like a child then he would treat me like a child. That meant I had a bath time as well as a bedtime. Remember, I met him on the ship. I was the only one with a time to be back in my room. I really went wild then. Teak was consistent. It took him two years of dealing with me before I sat down one day and realized no matter what I did he wasn’t going to leave me.”

“What happened after that?”

“I came in at the time he set and took a bath, ate dinner and went to bed. That’s when things started to change in my life. He trained me to be a soldier. He told me from the beginning I would never be as good as he was. It wasn’t my calling or my passion. He was right. According to Lyrek, I can kick ass with the best of them. Only a lucky few get trained by Teak. I guess it’s all history from that point forward.”

“You love him.”

“He’s the family I thought I’d never have. His telling me he’d be here by five was a way for both of us to save face. I didn’t have to tell him how much I was concerned about him, and he told me not to worry unless he didn’t show up at a certain time.”

“The two of you are so cute.”

“We are not cute. We are fierce porcoyan’s.”

“Uh huh, right.” She patted his chest before leaving the living room.

Norquay closed his eyes and tried not to smile as his byema shifted inside him placing one huge paw over his eyes.

Red added an extra wiggle to her walk, in case he was watching her walk out of the room. A peek over her shoulder proved he was watching. This is fun. She felt good like a sexy diva walking down the street with the guys giving her extra glances. She never wanted to be watched before. Then, she never knew Norquay before.

She picked up her phone before she threw herself on the bed in some dramatic teen fashion. There was a text waiting.

Douche bag: Bring your ass home now.

She grinned at her new name for Matthew. Then not understanding why she didn’t do this earlier she blocked his number.  Sit and spin she thought before going to take a shower.

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