That kiss stayed with Red all night. She had been kissed before less anyone thinks she was totally innocent. Norquay’s kiss made all the others irrelevant and his was the sweetest, the nicest. It slid under her defenses and touched a part of her heart that was freezing even with the warm blood that ran through it. Norquay kissed her. She wanted to run through the castle aisles of Frozen singing songs of love and empowerment.

If there’s not a big musical number in your future the next best thing is a bath. Lots of hot water, jets, and bath bombs. Can you say perfect? She slid into the water allowing the heat to relax her muscles while it metaphorically washed her mind clean.

Her hands went to her nipples that tightened from the water and she wondered what it would feel like if it were Norquay’s hands. His skin and heat on her instead of her own. Would she enjoy it? Did she really want to be touched to be violated? A memory flashed a reminder of pain that could twist her apart, kill her with thoughts. Then Norquay’s voice came from the darkness telling her about being on his own. How he was rejected because of being thrown away by the very people who were supposed to love and care for him.

That voice gentle, yet rough calmed her down. Her body relaxed her mind went on a journey with his kiss as her touchstone. She wanted, needed, to change. If she waited until she was ready, that time would never come. What was important was in front of her, if she didn’t reach for it now, when she did it might be gone.

It was time to find out what made Norquay and his people so different. She bathed and clothed herself then headed for the kitchen.

“Elsa, I presume,” Teak winked at her.

Huh, that was strange seeing him wink. They may look human on the outside, but the gesture showed that something wasn’t quite right with them

“I tend to think of myself as Sleeping Beauty.”

“The beauty part makes sense.” She looked up to Norquay coming into the kitchen. Maybe the two of them had come to the same conclusions in different rooms.

“What would you do if I were your beauty?” He walked over to press his lip against hers.

Teak opened his mouth before closing it. He sat down to eat watching the two of them.

“I have never, not once, been able to stun him into silence. Already you have changed my life.” Norquay placed his hand over his heart while sending her a smile.

Red’s heart did a flip. She did notice his heart wasn’t where hers was, but she wasn’t about to complain. She had a big, gigantic, whooping crush on him. Laughter bubbled up before spilling out. For the first time in her life, she felt free. How do you walk through hell and find freedom on the other side? She didn’t know, and she’d seen enough people who never found their freedom or found it in a way she didn’t want to think about.

She was grateful, but life wasn’t over. With a sigh, she tore down her mental images of wonder woman and batwoman and all the other female heroes. They were replaced with the weary female she’d seen coming home from war and the woman who walked out of the perfect home on the outside that was filled with domestic violence. She replaced them with the woman who went to AA every day and held onto her sobriety with her fingernails and the one who went to NA and did the same. The faces of the women walking the street selling the only thing they had to get to food to feed themselves and their children. These women became her heroes. Why? Because physical strength will desert you one day. Real strength was born in pain and crises.

It was so easy to praise the wrong thing. All her life she thought she was weak. When in reality, she was stronger than she ever dreamed.

Teak’s glass hit the table hard bringing her back from where she drifted off to.

“Welcome back,” he got up and started clearing off the table. Red jumped up to help him. “I got this. I think it’s time for Norquay to talk to you before either of you go any further.”

“Let’s go for a drive?” he gave her an inquisitive look. His body saying this was important.

“I’d like that.”

“Bundle up and meet me at the front door.”

She went to her room and found a pair of thick socks, pairing them with army boots, a heavy coat, hat, and gloves, before going to meet him. They got into his car that he drove to the edge of the compound parking in front of a huge nondescript building. She followed him inside. Her mouth dropped open when she walked in. Those weren’t hover cars.

“Do you still want to go?”

Did she ever. “Are they like mini spaceships?”

“You can call them that or shuttles.”

“They can’t be shuttles.”

“Why?”

“Shuttles are like passenger vans, enough room to get people from point a to point b.”

“Point taken.”

“Can we call them flying saucers? They are round, oh my frickin’ god they are round.” She was bouncing up and down. Goosebumps were on her arms as she turned in circles looking at them. “Please! Please?” No longer able to contain herself she ran to one looking at it. When the door to one opened her heart went into palpitations before finding its normal rhythm. She ran to it going inside. Her voice floated out amazement coloring every word.

“How many people does it take to pilot this?” She asked when he came to stand behind her.

“One. Take a seat here. You’ll need to put this harness on you. Leaving your Earth’s atmosphere will not be like your rockets. Remember that any vehicle, space, street, or ocean can be dangerous.” He got her properly situated before he sat. His fingers played over the controls.

“Is there a key or a start button to fire it up?” She asked as he strapped in.

“It works on the input of multiple commands. Like the key in a car there is a command that starts the propulsion drive.”

“Propulsion?”

“The… flying saucer isn’t moving, but the drive is online. When I enter the next command, it will link to the kinetic drive, which will link to another drive before we take off. I’m not an engineer. The words I use are because they are available in your language. The concepts of them you have are basic, the drives are way beyond that and beyond my understanding.”

“That makes me feel so much better.”

“It does?”

“Un-huh I was beginning to believe you were too smart for your own good.”

He flashed her a smile. “Hold on.”

The roof of the building disappeared and then they were lifting.

“My stomach,” she clutched at herself. When the pressure eased, she took a deep breath. “What did you do?”

“Our gravity is denser than yours. When we lifted off porcoyan gravity standards filled the ship. I adjusted it to earth standard for gravity.”

“Thanks.”

“Your welcome, watch.”

She was overcome with the beauty of the earth. There was something of seeing it up here that made her feel like the earth and life would go on forever. The endless blue sky that stretched out in every direction. Up here was as unexplored as the depth of the sea. To think, that she someone how rated enough to be allowed to leave the earth and be seduced by the void of space made her heart pound faster.  When they left the earth, there was a tug like the earth was trying to keep them from escaping the pleasure of her shores. Then she was free. Space beckoned to her wide, dark and mysterious. A lover that slipped through closed doors to bring her the delights she only dreamed about.

He unbuckled before doing the same for her.

“I’m in space!” Red walked to the viewscreen that gave her a view that she had never seen before. There were thousands of questions she wanted to ask like how the windows weren’t cold how they didn’t bust from the cold. Then she remembered he wasn’t an engineer. Him giving her the specs on a flying saucer was just about her ability to explain a car engine.

“Where are we going?”

“I thought I’d take you to see the ship. We won’t enter it today, but we’ll take a tour of the outside.”

She would have screamed, but her throat worked, and her mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Instead, she threw herself into his arms and planted fast kisses all over his face.

“I should have brought you here sooner,” he muttered before taking her hand. “Four people can sit up here. There is room for ten more to sit here.” He took her to the partition directly behind the saucer section. They walked down a ramp. “Back here we have bunks if needed as well as sanitation facilities and a mess hall. Over here,” he took her to another room. “Is where we can spend some downtime depending on how long the mission is.”

“Did I tell you, thank you? If not, thanks.” She kissed him allowing her whole body to go pliant in his arms. “The first human – porcoyan kiss in space.”

“Maybe, I have a feeling the king has brought the queen here.”

“Drat, well almost.” They walked back to the saucer section.

Red took a seat in her chair watching the beauty of space. “You did a lot to get me alone. I don’t know if I should be scared or flattered.”

“When it comes to the two of us, always know your special.”

She turned to face him giving her full attention. Space was beautiful, but it had nothing on Norquay.

“I love your eyes. The blue looks like the night stars shine in the background making them magical.”

He reached over and took her hand. “I want to tell you some things about the porcoyan that you won’t just pick up being around us. Things we haven’t shared with your government. None of this will bring harm to you or your planet.”

“I’ve heard some things that I have held close to my chest. I would like to hear about them from you.”

“There are too many differences for me to go through them all. Some of them are relevant to you and your people. One is that we have an incredibly long life span.”

“How long, a hundred years or a couple of thousand years?”

“Forty thousand in your terms of years or more.”

“That is impossible. I mean, a body would wear out before it even got close to that age.”

“Red I am well passed my zenith and I am not the oldest among our crew, neither is Teak.”

“But how?”

“I don’t know.”

She nodded. If she knew how they grew old, then she would challenge him, but she didn’t. It changed things though. She’d be dead in a blink of an eye. Her stomach twisted a sense of loss sat on her shoulders weighing the down.

“I’ll be gone before you remember my name.” Was that misery in her voice? It was. She had never expected to want anyone. For most of her life, she desired to be the cat lady. Now, when she realized she could have anything, life took away the one person she wanted.

“Why did Lyrek marry Jade?” She’d drown in misery later. Maybe. She’d even take up drinking. Everyone deserved a vice.

“When a porcoyan takes an abraza, their life extends to match their mates.”

Now wasn’t that a kick in the gut, and a game-changer.

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