Red wanted to open her mouth and say something stupid, but then she thought of her mom. That kept her quiet. She was already going out of her mind wondering how her mom was. She couldn’t imagine losing your planet and all the people on it, then the one person who pulled you through came up missing. It sounded like hell to her.

“You don’t think he could just be delayed?” There was no telling what could have delayed him, but if it helped to calm Norquay, she would volunteer thoughts until they knew Teak was safe.

“He’s not delayed. For some reason, he wasn’t able to reach out to me.”

“Then we help him.”

“He may not need help.”

“Umm, what?”

“Teak can take care of himself, but he doesn’t break his word. I can set a clock by him. He does what he says he will do. The fact that he’s not back tells me something is wrong. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s in trouble.”

“It’s the not knowing.”

“Yes.”

She reached out and laid her hand on his leg giving it a soft squeeze.  He understood that knowledge was in his eyes when he glanced her way. Lips moving silently, she sent up a prayer that Teak would be found alive and well. If there was time, she’d think about the fact that she could pray for another when she no longer had the faith to pray for herself. How could an all-knowing God leave her with a father that hurt not only her but her mother too?

“Is that his vehicle?” There was a black sleek car that looked like it could almost blend in with the scenery and disappear.

“It is.” Norquay pulled next to it.

“What’s that?” It shimmered in the sun and kept her from getting a look at the color.

“Blood.”

She went for her gun. Norquay stopped her. “You got lucky last time. A perfect shot, shots like that don’t happen often. Take this and whatever you do, don’t hit Teak or Rycal.” He moved out allowing her to get a feel for the weapon in her hand.

In her hand was an alien weapon. She didn’t know if she should raise it to the sky asking for a blessing from the alien gods or drop it like a poisonous snake.

“It’s coded to your body. No one that’s not you can use it.”

That made her feel better. Losing your gun in a battle could often mean your life if the wrong person retrieved it. Not that it had ever happened to her before – outside of training.

They stopped behind a building watching the area the blood led them to. There was no trace of it after this. Had the perp managed to get the blood flow stopped or wrapped? Was he still around?

“The blood trail is dry. Do you think he left?”

“He’s here, you can’t see him.”

“Are you saying he is invisible?”

“Yes, he’s using a personal cloaking device to hide his presence.”

“Teak?” Her stomach dropped; he could be dead while she was prattling about useless things.

“He’s alive.”

“How?”

“I can feel him. He’s sending out a low-level vibration that I can feel. The fact that he is still alive and unharmed tells me that whoever is after him, knows who he is.”

“They do?”

“Someone with a cloak who didn’t know him would come for him, thinking their cloak will shield them. Whoever is after him knows Teak is dangerous even in death. They are taking precautions.”  He placed his finger to his lips and took her behind several more buildings before they made it to the heavily treed area.

She stayed low as she followed him through the trees. A hand reached out and pulled her down. She almost had a heart attack before she realized it was Teak.

“I knew the two of you would come. I was hoping to have this finished before you got here.” Teak said, his voice low as to not draw attention. “Rycal and I were attacked as we approached the car. I sent him into hiding then drew the attacker away from the car and the town. He followed not realizing who I was. The minute he did he made himself scarce. I’ve been trying to draw him out, but he won’t get close enough.”

Teak stood and stretched his body changing from a male that was naturally blending in with his surroundings to the male that she had seen leaving the house.

Had his skin looked like it was camouflage? That was impossible, she shook her head just to remind herself. He must be using tech to make it look like he was part of the scenery. What could the military do with that kind of technology? They could win wars in months instead of years. If the average person got it, what would they do with it? Nothing, right?

The moral questions were adding up. How much did she tell General Murray? Where did she draw the line between what was good for America and what was good for the earth? Nothing stayed with the military if it did there wouldn’t be assault rifles in the hands of the citizens of the greatest nation. Her lips twisted; didn’t Rome consider themselves to be the greatest nation? Where were they now?

“Red?” Norquay touched her shoulder making her jump. She had zoned out.

“Sorry, I was wrestling with questions of morality.”

“It happens when you meet a race that is not only different than yours but more advanced. If I didn’t think you would make the right decision, I wouldn’t have revealed myself to you.” Teak gave her a wink that made her feel like she was on the inside, one of them.

“Let’s go get Rycal and head home.” Norquay gave them a sigh before he moved out.

“Don’t worry,” Teak whispered loudly. “He’s prone to moods.”

Red stopped her lips from quivering as she held her laughter in. “What happened to the perp?”

“He took off when you and Norquay showed up. He had false hope that he could take me given my advanced years. When my protégé turned up, he left.”

Advanced years? That male didn’t look like he was a day over forty. She looked at him again out of the side of one eye. If she had met him first. She never wanted a daddy, but… He was anything but old.

“Do you know what he was?” Norquay asked as they came out of the wooded area and made their way back to the car.

Teak stopped and disappeared into one of the buildings coming out with Rycal.

“I missed the fun,” Rycal grumbled. “That old male,” he pointed to Teak, “likes to do his dirty work alone.” A great sigh left his lips before he turned around and left them standing there.

She would have thought he was upset, but if his eyes twinkled any more, they wouldn’t need a Christmas Tree.

“We need a tree, a real one, fresh pine scent, etc.…”

“Why do we need a tree?” Teak looked at her. “There are plenty on our land.”

“They celebrate Christmas. It is to celebrate the birth of their God.” Norquay told them. “I’ve been studying that holiday.”

“What have you found out?” Red asked as they stopped at the cars. Teak and Rycal got into the one Teak was driving. She got into the car with Norquay.

“No one can confirm the date of birth of your God. He is a God, so that is not unusual. I know that Christmas is the merging with another pagan holiday. A way to make everyone happy.”

“Don’t tell the Christians that.”

“I won’t. Do you celebrate?”

“I do. It might seem strange considering my background. The thing is there is so much evil in the world I honestly can’t believe there isn’t a source of pure love somewhere. I decided that pure love was the Lord.”

“You believe in your God?”

“So strange to hear you put it that way. I believe in the God of the universe. Does that mean he is not your God, or does it mean he’s the same God with a different name? That question could drive someone crazy. I have lots of questions and not enough answers. I don’t ever expect them all to be answered on this side of the veil. I could become a scholar in Hebrew and Greek and then take on translating the bible for myself. I hate to think of doing that. I also think the bible would be different from the one we read today. I totally believe the original word is the word of God. Too bad he didn’t give it to us in English. As man we interpret things from our viewpoint. Isn’t that what interpretation is all about? Do you believe there is a God?”

“I have always believed there is someone or something.”

“Then your planet was destroyed, and you wondered how a benevolent God could allow that to happen.”

“Yes.”

She wanted to say to him welcome to her world, but she didn’t. This was the perfect time to ponder her moral questions. She wasn’t going to turn her new gun over. There were enough guns and violence on the street, they didn’t need to add another one to the mix.

“I was wondering how Jade and Em decide they wanted to be married…” married wasn’t the right word. Jade told her it was mating, and it was different from marriage.

“What brought that up?”

Her cheeks pinked. Because guns and sex went together, right? No, it was because she was sitting here in the car with the scent of apples when you first bite into then and the scent of the woods making her a little hungry, slightly dizzy, and extremely needy. She never thought she could be this way. If asked, she would have sworn, she was broken. Now she was throbbing. Hell, a pussy could actually throb it wasn’t something just in a book. Now she wanted to know what else it could do. What else could she feel? Also, it was better than trying to figure out the moral dilemma of the year.

“Are you attracted to someone Red? Is there someone you think about at night? Do you want to feel his hands on you, touching you, stroking your beautiful skin?”

Well hell, wasn’t he supposed to wine and dine her before he seduced her?

“I know he would like to touch you. What male wouldn’t want that? Your all curves and fire. Would he burn his hands if he reached out or would you bank that fire enough to let him taste you?”

Say whatever you want about her, but she knew he was talking about her lips. Not the ones on her face. She could see it when her eyes closed. He would kiss down her body. Those lips that she had watched through slitted eyelids kissing down her body. A shiver worked its way up her spine. Would his hands follow the same path? She squirmed in her seat.

When had he become important to her? Was it the nights he spent outside her door, his very presence comforting her? Was it the times she talked to him pretending he couldn’t hear when she knew he could? Or was it when he talked to her knowing she could hear but pretending otherwise? There was no answer to her question. Then why today?

That she had an answer for. Today combined with what happened when she went Black Friday shopping reminded her that life was not a guarantee. Any minute one of them could be taking their last breath. She spent so much time – it felt like eons – but it was only years, scared to live. Her father had taken that from her, Matthew had taken that from her. In order to live she sacrificed the only person she ever loved, her mother. There would be no more blending in with the woodwork, no more denying that she was a human, hormonal woman who wanted to feel it all.

“What if his name was Norquay?”

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