If she knew then what she knew now. Wasn’t that the way of the world? Waking up in Norquay’s arms was heaven. She knew that, but this was more heavenly. She was no longer a virgin. True, she lost that status over a year ago, but that was a pesky piece of skin. This was a moment where the innocence of not knowing the pleasure of her abraza was replaced with the joy of knowing what it felt like to become one. There was no comparing the two. Given a choice she would have liked for them to occur at the same time since she didn’t have that choice, she’d hold on to what she found.

“How are you feeling?” She loved the sound of his voice. His hand stroked up and down her back making her shiver in need.

“A little sore.”

“A hot bath will help that.”

She nodded but didn’t say anything. She wanted to stay in bed, forget the rest of the day and the rest of the world.

He leaned over and kissed her before getting out of bed. He went into the bathroom when came back, he picked her up carrying her into the bathroom. The tub was filling, the heat of the water making the bathroom feel cozy. The jets were on and a bath bomb was making the water the blue-green color of the ocean.

“You, me, hot water,” he gave her a lazy smile.

“Perfect.” He put her in, then stepped in behind her sliding down into the heated water.

“This is perfect,” she let out a sigh.

“A little on the hot side.”

“You ran the bath.”

“Rumor has it that earth women like to scald themselves while bathing.”

She snickered, “I don’t know about all earth women, but I do.” Leaning back against his chest, she let the magic of the hot water work on her stiff limbs.

Building castles in the sky. That was something she never did. When her eyes closed this time, she could see a future for herself. One that included a happy home, her mom, and children. They would be half-alien, and she would be proud to call them hers. The mixing of her blood with someone who wasn’t ordained as pure by her family didn’t bother her at all. She imagined children with green eyes and dark skin. Or red hair and blue eyes that twinkled. She even saw them become the cutest little furry animals.

Wait, were they born humanoid? She might have drowned if he wasn’t behind her.

“I think we need to talk about children.”

“Children?”

“You know six pounds (Lord, please let them be six pounds) of screaming, pissing mess.”

“I’ve never heard a child described like that.”

“I call them as I see them. You’re trying to get me off track. Please tell me all children are born in their humanoid forms. Will they like change in the middle of the store when I try to buy them clothes?”

“Yes and no. They are born in their humanoid form unless you choose to give birth in your byema form. Children don’t have control over their changes until they hit puberty until then it is the parents that control their changes. Every child must change at minimum once every six of your months. Since it can be dangerous for a child to change in public, they only change when the parent commands it.”

She flopped against his chest. The stress that was building released with her sigh. This was going to work.

“Will we have children?”

“We will when you’re ready. We have time. A girl and a boy with your grit. Watch out world.”

“A girl and boy with your training and compassion. Surround by our love. They’ll be able to do anything.”

Norquay made sweet love to her bringing her to a climax with nothing but his fingers and his vision of their future whispered in her ear.

 

“Mom,” Red stood outside her mother’s door waiting for her to invite her in.

“Come in, baby.” That was all it took. She was running to her mother, tears rolling down her face making her sight hazy.

“I’m so sorry, mom. I should have been there sooner.”

“Don’t say that. I’m the one that’s sorry. He bragged about what he did to you. Your father didn’t do anything, he didn’t say anything. It was the ending, I didn’t care if I died, but I wouldn’t die attached to him. He laughed himself silly when he got those divorce papers. Then he threatened me and threw them in the fire.” She dragged her hand over her face trying to stem the tears that mingled with her daughters.

“I’m free, you came for me.”

“I came mom, I wish it had been sooner.”

“Your timing was perfect. It allowed you to rescue Bella and Tabitha.”

“You adopted them.”

“I wanted to try to set them free, the same way I tried to set you free.”

“You set me free, mom.” Red curled around her much to skinny mother. “You need to eat.”

“Don’t worry about me. Teak, that very kind man has been making sure I eat. He tempts me to eat more than I ever have. According to him, the birds eat more than I do.”

Red agreed with Teak. Her father made sure her mother stayed at one hundred or smaller. Her mom was never meant to be that small. “I’ll have to remember to thank him.”

“He’s nice.” Her mother’s cheeks flushed and for a minute they vied with her mother’s red hair.

“I’m so glad I got your hair, mom.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. My hair and your father’s eyes and his stubbornness. It looks so much better on you than it ever did on him.” They stayed curled up together. Her mother whispered in her ear telling stories of times past like she used to do when Red was a child. They were transported to a time when true love was respected, and women had a right to their own futures. Red always thought this was the past. Now she was old enough to know that this was her mother’s hope for the future. They had come a long way, but they hadn’t arrived yet.

Much later, Teak came in with a tray. “Lunchtime. Red, are you staying?”

“I can go to the kitchen.”

“No, you can’t. Rial doesn’t want you out of bed. You’re still recovering. He thinks you can be up and sit with us for Christmas dinner.”

“I have so much to be thankful for this year.”

Red leaned over and kissed her before she got up. “I’m going to find Norquay. Mom, I can’t wait for you to meet him. He’s my heart.”

“I can’t wait, baby.” The smile on her lips brightened her eyes.

Red left feeling like everything was going to work out. She headed toward Bella and Tabitha’s room. This was her home, and they were her guests. The word home tantalized her. It might be harder to accept than anything else. She had a home where she was loved and accepted, a place where she was respected and looked upon as an equal. No more curling up in the center of her bed afraid of the knock on the door that meant her father had come for her. It wasn’t over yet. She couldn’t make herself believe that, but she was going to hang on for all she was worth.

“Bella?” Red gave a light knock to her partially opened door.

“Juliette,” she tried to sit up in bed. She was worse off than peaches and Rial refused to allow her out of bed. She was cathed, that’s how serious he was. “Come in please.”

“Call me Red. Even my mom calls me that.”

“Momma P, she’s an amazing woman,” a small smile landed briefly in her lips before disappearing

“She is, I’m only just beginning to realize how much love she has to give How are you and Tabitha feeling?” Tabitha was peeking out from behind her mother. She looked like she might be six years old, but she was ten. She was severely malnourished.

“We’ve been getting food. I’ll do whatever you want me to. Please, not Tabitha, I’m begging you.”

“You don’t have to beg, no one, not you or Tabitha will be hurt by anyone in this compound. All you have to do is eat and regain your strength. That way you’ll be able to protect your girl.”

“I brought food.” Rycal was standing in the doorway with a tray overflowing with food.

Lyra started clapping. “Food momma, we can eat again. I told you I was being a good girl.”

“You’re the best,” Bella whispered.

“Even bad girls eat three times a day here, plus snacks. I know, they feed me.” Red laughed to cover the ache in her chest. She wanted to demand Bella tell her what happened, then she put herself in that place. Some things only get spilled when trust was established.

“I’ll go so you can eat. Rycal make sure they get pie. Teak made it this morning, and it’s awesome.”

“Momma, what’s pie?”

Red ran out of the room. It was the only way to keep her from seeking vengeance in blood.

She kicked her shoes off before collapsing onto the couch next to Norquay.

“You made the rounds?” She nodded unable to speak. “You want to kill someone?” She nodded again this time a small smile curved her lips.  “I wanted to do the same. What will happen when we find out their story?”

“We’ll rage while we remember that killing them won’t make the world better.” She was rather proud of herself that was the right answer, even if she didn’t agree with it.

“It will make that corner of the world better, but evil demolished leaves a space for a greater evil to infiltrate.”

“I sincerely hope you’re wrong. If that were the case my world would be getting worse, not better.” Maybe he was right, after all, every time she saw the seed of hope, despair crushed it. “I saw a man on a red horse riding along the plains everywhere the horse stepped war broke out. Between enemies, between friends, between lovers, and parents. In his wake came a black horse bringing with it pestilence, there was a sickness the world could not shake. Then a pale horse came spreading the only cure there was death for a weary soul that could take no more. Where is the white horse? Is he the bringer of life or the harbinger of our final doom?”

“Red?”

“I wonder these things and so much more in the middle of the night when most of the world is asleep. I wonder how many people are there like me out there? Are we so consumed with making a living that everything else goes to the wayside? The answer is yes and no. If the whole world carried the burden placed upon my shoulders, we would get nowhere.”

“You are what you were always meant to be.”

“I wonder what that is, then I remember Peter lost his head to Harold. I like my head, Norquay. I don’t want to lose it.”

“Then we’ll fight together. We’ll live or die together.”

“Ignore me, sometimes I act like a drunk wondering the mysteries of life. Let’s see if Teak left us any food or if the only one, he thought about was my mom.” He wrapped his arm around her as they walked into the kitchen. His eyes burned bright with a darkness she never saw.

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