"Don't care," Teeg dipped his hand in my bathwater, brushing my left nipple with a knuckle.
"Teeg, you can't let sex force you to commit a major mistake-you need Karathia in your Alliance."
"And Karathia may need us, too. Have you thought about that? If he hadn't come on board, he was in danger of becoming isolated. Karathia would be locked into trading with only non-Alliance worlds, and that leaves pirates and Giffelithi Dwarves. He'd be paying through the nose for anything not produced on Karathia. And nowadays, that's a lot."
"Well, gee, maybe he can get one of those dwarf women to marry him," I snapped. Yeah, I wasn't in a good mood where Wylend was concerned.
"Erland seems to think he was just angry and went overboard. He'll come to his senses."
"Well, too bad it's too late where I'm concerned." I moved to get out of the tub.
"No, sweetheart, I didn't mean to upset you or interrupt your bath. Drew told me you spent the day cooking for Desh's, so they wouldn't go belly up."
"And I told Drew that if he told you where I was, I'd kick his ass. He's got an ass-kicking coming his way."
"Baby, don't," Teeg made my nipples peak just by stroking a finger across each one. There are times when I'd like to shout at my traitorous body. Teeg knew what to do, every time, to make it respond to him. Had Chash known when he was seventeen that this was the way it would be? I slid down in the water, just from the thought.
"Come on; don't try to drown yourself now." Teeg pulled me up again, getting the sleeve of his expensive silk shirt wet.
"I need to get out before I fall asleep," I said. Teeg pulled me out of the water. Then dried me off with a huge towel. Kissed me while drying my hair, rubbed his erection against my belly, removed his clothing, settled me on the granite sink and made me come-twice. And he didn't even have to bite to do it.
"You're sleeping with me," he said softly. I thought we'd sleep there at the house. Teeg had other ideas, folding me to his bedroom on Campiaa.
"You need to go see Mom," Teeg informed me the following morning, after making love again. "While I'd like to stay in bed all day, I have meetings. Go see Mom. Promise me." He put a finger against my lips before leaning down to kiss them.
"And what am I supposed to tell her? Does she have meetings, too?"
"I already sent mindspeech-there is a meeting and they're waiting for you now."
"Joy. I love meetings."
"Reah, you promised."
I hadn't, but I wasn't going to get into an argument with Teeg San Gerxon. "What's my last name?" I asked. "Where you're concerned?"
"On paper it's San Gerxon. I'll get it officially changed on Le-Ath Veronis. It'll be Montegue there."
"Go." He swatted my behind lightly. I went.
"Oh, shit." I thought it would only be Lissa and Gavin, maybe. I was wrong. So very wrong. I recognized a few people, but not all of them. Kiarra was there, with Merrill, Adam and Pheligar, Kiarra's Larentii mate. Nearly all the others I assumed were Saa Thalarr-that race of beings selected and redesigned to combat the Ra'Ak.
Spawn Hunters were foot soldiers in that army-the Saa Thalarr were the elite fighters-they could shapeshift into giant animals suitable for fighting Ra'Ak. Karzac was one of several healers who worked with them and the Spawn Hunters. Rumor had it that Karzac was the oldest healer working with them at the moment, and he was more than fifteen thousand years old. As a physician, he had the experience to back him up, every time.
"Reah, we waited until you could join us," Kiarra stood. She was going to run this, I supposed. I expected Lissa to do it. That meant that the information was generated by the Saa Thalarr and not Le-Ath Veronis.
"You can sit with us," Drew grinned at me. I owe you that ass-kicking, I sent to him. He laughed. I sat between him and Drake. The next two hours were taken up in a very educational presentation. At the end, I added my files from my comp-vid to the growing evidence that at least five Ra'Ak were ill-mentally and physically. Somehow, a warlock was doing this to them by feeding them spelled and tainted teenagers.
"Nefrigar told me they were ill," I was pointing out the scale deterioration that I'd recorded and expanded on the screen in Lissa's library.
"You saw Nefrigar?" Kiarra sounded surprised. Her hair was nearly as white as mine and great-aunt Glinda's, but not quite as long. She was beautiful, though, and her mates watched her carefully. Why did some women have all the luck? I had mates who didn't seem to have time for me unless they wanted sex. Somewhere there must be a flaw in me or something. I breathed out a frustrated sigh at the thought.
Reah, there's not a damn thing wrong with you, Drake sent. Wylend needs that ass-kicking. He was reading my thoughts, just as anybody else could. I really needed to learn how to shield them and my conversations.
"What are we going to do about this?" A beautiful man with shoulder-length dark hair, pulled back and tied with a leather thong, stood and asked.
"Lisster, I've had three meetings with Belen, and we still haven't come up with a good solution. This falls outside every rule we've ever made or revised," Kiarra answered him.
Leopard shapeshifter, before he came over, Drew informed me. Has spots on his back and legs, he added.
Not tattooed? I asked.
Born that way, Drake was listening in.
"We don't need another incident like the one on Boodreatis," a beautiful, strawberry-blonde stood and said. Her hair was slightly darker than Lissa's, I noticed.
That's our mom, Drake was smiling as he watched his mother.
You mean you didn't spring up from the pumpkin patch? I teased him.
Whenever we papered the house or repainted Dad's dojo bright purple, she accused us of being someone else's, Drew ducked his head to hide the grin.
"The Guardian says this is a problem that belongs to the Dark Realm," another blonde stood.
Conner, Drew said. She is the Guardian-just not all the time. She speaks for her when she's Conner.
I need a map to understand that, I replied.
"The Ru'Kani Ne'Vanir says the same thing," a honey-blonde woman stood next.
Aunt Gracie-she's the avenging angel, Drake informed me.
"So the Dark Realm is expected to deal with this?" Lissa asked. As well she should-Le-Ath Veronis was unofficial Dark Realm Headquarters. Before, it was Kifirin, but then the High Demons stood aside long ago and allowed the Ra'Ak to destroy almost all of it.
"That's what I'm seeing." The woman Drew had called Conner nodded.
"As long as I keep this body, I'm limited on what I can do," Lissa said, irritation in her voice. I hadn't heard that-what did that mean? Would Teeg know? I made a mental note to ask him. Drake and Drew were grimly silent on Lissa's statement.
"If I knew where the fuckers were, I'd go now and kill every stinking one of them. And the warlock, too." The words were out of my mouth before I'd even thought to voice them. I was also standing and breathing hard. I don't know if anyone present had seen the carnage at the college on Boodreatis, but I had. I'd certainly seen the interviews with weeping parents, all asking why their child had been taken. I'd wept for days on Beliphar, not just from Wylend's desertion and accusations, but for them, too. Lives lost-and for nothing.
Kiarra stared at me, as did everyone else in the room. "This is the one who can heal cores?" I heard a soft voice near the back.
"Yes. I can heal cores. It isn't difficult," I snapped. "But these murderous things are always a step ahead of me, somehow. I've stood in bedrooms where they've left young girls behind, stinking and wrapped in plastic because they asphyxiated them while they were raped. I saw that gymnasium filled with bodies of students, all changed to monsters their families wouldn't recognize. I don't understand this. What are they hoping to gain from this? The warlock indulges his sick fantasies, even as he leaps from body to body in a soul-shift to stay alive. If I could get my hands on any of them," I didn't finish, my hands were clenched in anger and my voice had become a hiss.
"Then perhaps this assignment should be handed to you," Kiarra nodded. I don't think she understood-it didn't need to be handed to me-I'd already taken it, with or without permission.
"You keep talking," I made a motion with my hands at the crowd in general. "I'll start looking." I skipped away.
"Do you see how simple her solution?" Belen appeared, seemingly satisfied about something. As one of the Nameless Ones, he was prevented from interfering with any of Kifirin's races. Officially. He shone, there in Lissa's library. The Saa Thalarr were accustomed to his presence. Lissa and one or two others knew of him but hadn't seen him very often.
"You mean just go off and hunt them?" Drew asked. "Without permission?"
"What you do with your own time is your affair," Belen replied. "Unless you break the primary rules."
"Dude, I don't think this breaks the primary rules," Drake grinned at his brother. Both disappeared.
The warlock was so weary he barely remembered his name. Shifting from one body to the next, with the resulting residual memories, had a multitude of names crowding his mind. What he clung to now was the knowledge of the spells-the ones to keep him alive and skipping from body to body to remain that way, leaving dying bodies in his wake to satisfy the growing demands of five crazed monsters.
The warlock couldn't put his finger on the cause of the insanity, but he slept with one eye open at all times. He'd watched while Ansen and Morsen Strand, followed by Hendars Klar, had all disappeared down thick, scaly throats. He couldn't escape the Ra'Ak, either-they watched him closely, expecting him to keep their hunger for young flesh sated.