Fall hold 3, p.8
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       Fall (Hold #3), p.8

           Claire Kent
 
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“Farther sun. Near stars.”

  He was eyeing her soberly and with obvious astonishment. But he believed her. He might not understand the existence of a planet other than this one, but he believed her. “Lenna fall here?” he asked, very softly.

  The words struck her strangely, causing an ache in her chest. Finally, she nodded. “Fall here.”

  He adjusted her against him so both of his arms were wrapped around her. “Lenna hurt?”

  Ridiculously, her eyes were burning with emotion. She had no idea why. “Lenna good,” she murmured.

  “Lenna home.”

  She had no idea what to say to that, but she wouldn’t have contradicted him for the world.

  She tried to imagine a scenario in which she were somehow rescued from this planet and took Rone with her.

  He would be so confused, so unhappy, so shaken to the core of his soul. His world was only as high as the sky over this planet, and it would be wrong for her to want him to be any other way.

  This world wasn’t a fall for him. He loved it, was proud of it, worked to make it the best he could for him, for her, and for his tribe.

  If more people in the Coalition did the same, then the civilized universe would be far better than it was.

  “Lenna hurt?” he asked, snuffling at her face, where a tear had slid out of her eyes.

  “Lenna no hurt,” she managed to say.

  He rubbed his face against hers for a long time, until she couldn’t help but feel better. After a few minutes, she smiled and stroked his long braid.

  He smiled when she did, and he lowered his head again, nuzzling her neck and shoulders. She could feel the increasing tension in his body and was already getting a little turned on, but when he started to take off her top, she murmured, “Lenna cold.”

  He frowned at this predicament, but he improvised quickly by sliding his hands under the bottom of her top so he could rub her bare skin with his hands. He seemed to enjoy the way her nipples tightened under his touch because he kept tweaking and twirling them until Lena was squirming helplessly and moaning softly in pleasure.

  Eventually, he lifted her shirt enough to rub his face against her belly, and she got more and more excited as his face moved closer to her groin. She clutched at the animal skins beneath her and tried to stifle her vocal responses.

  Rone kept looking up at her face occasionally, obviously very pleased with his effect on her. When he slid off her loose trousers, he lowered his head so he could sniff at her pussy.

  She was very wet, very turned on. He obviously could smell how much because he made an appreciative growl in his throat.

  When he nuzzled at her arousal, she cried out and arched up.

  “Lenna warm now?” he asked with a little smile.

  It took her a minute to realize he was actually teasing her. “Lenna warm. Lenna good. Good, good.”

  He nuzzled her again until she couldn’t help but grind herself against his face.

  He grabbed one of her legs so he could hold her open. He knew where her clit was now. Ever since he’d watched her rub herself off during sex, he’d always tried to make her come. He seemed to get as much pleasure out of watching her come as coming himself. But he’d always used his hand.

  He’d never done this before.

  Parting her thighs to make room for his face, he rubbed her pussy with his face the way he always rubbed the rest of her body.

  She bit her bottom lip and bucked up at the surge of pleasure. Then she totally lost it when he started to lick her with his tongue.

  She came hard and long, unable to hold back the shameless moan as her head tossed back and forth on the bed.

  When she’d finally relaxed, Rone rose up onto his knees, his face damp and his eyes hot and pleased.

  “Good, good, good,” she mumbled, unable to articulate any other word. She reached out for his cock, which was visibly hard beneath his animal skins.

  “Rone fuck Lenna now?” he asked, sucking in a breath at her touch.

  “Yes. Rone fuck Lenna. Good.”

  He turned her over onto her hands and knees and quickly freed his cock. Then he parted her cheeks and guided himself into her hot, wet pussy.

  Both of them groaned at the penetration, and Lenna fisted her hands in the blankets beneath her at the tight, full feeling.

  Rone took her hard and fast, leaning over behind her. She was surrounded by his strong body, his hot skin, his fast breathing. She was vaguely aware that they weren’t alone. It was still dark in the cave, but those around them would obviously know what they were doing.

  She didn’t even care. She wanted them to know how hard Rone was taking her, how good he was making her feel.

  She’d never felt this way in her life before, but she couldn’t deny the feeling now.

  He fucked her from behind until she came again, stifling her scream of pleasure in the blankets. Then he pulled out and turned her over. He was starting to kneel between her legs, but she pulled him down into missionary position so she could wrap her arms around him.

  It took him a minute to figure out this new position, but he soon built up another fast, rough rhythm as she tightened her legs around him and pulled the blanket up to cover them.

  He rubbed his face against hers as they moved together, and it felt like Lenna’s heart would burst out of her chest. She held on to him tightly and gave herself over to the feeling, crying out uninhibitedly as he brought her to climax again just before he came himself.

  Both of them were breathless and clingy afterwards. Rone kept nuzzling her cheek, her jaw, her shoulder, and he was mumbling words it took her a minute to hear clearly.

  “Lenna good. Lenna home. Lenna home.”

  At least for the moment, it felt like she was.

  ***

  A few days later, the snow finally melted enough for them to come out of the cave.

  Lenna had spent most of her life on a space ship, so she wasn’t inclined to get cabin fever. She was surprised, however, by how happy she was to see the sky again, the sun, the familiar trees near the cave, the mountains beyond them.

  Everyone seemed excited, even though they had to trudge through the remaining snow. After breakfast, Mara and Lenna gathered up the bedding and carried it outside to clean, hanging it up afterwards on big bare branches to air out in the cold, fresh air.

  They were laughing over the men’s attempt to make holes in the ice to fish, and Lenna was hit with the strange realization that she really liked Mara.

  Mara was gentle and intelligent, and she had a sense of humor. She never complained, even though she was a former mate of the tribe’s leader, and therefore would never have a mate again. She had two sons. One had already left the tribe, as boys did when they hit puberty. The other must be almost twelve. Soon he would leave too, and she would never see him again.

  Mara didn’t seem sad about this fact. She was proud of her boy—proud that he would become a man soon who was capable of making it on his own.

  Lenna could almost—almost—understand why his leaving wasn’t a source of grief.

  He couldn’t stay here. Only weak men didn’t leave the tribe they were born into, and no mother would want her son to be weak.

  As she laughed with Mara, Lenna looked across the river to where Rone was carefully trying to carve out a hole in the ice. He glanced up, as if he sensed she was watching him, and their eyes met across the distance.

  He smiled, and he was still smiling when he looked back down at the ice.

  Lenna was still smiling too as she started back to the cave to get the rest of Rone’s blankets from his bed.

  Before she reached the cave entrance, a sound made her pause. It was a soft bleating, like a whimper, coming from behind a cluster of large rocks nearby.

  She went to investigate and found a very young fawn—one of the deer-like animals that moved in herds and were the main source of food for the tribe.

  It was tiny and sprawled out in the snow, crying helplessly.

  Lenna
ran toward it, kneeling down to see what was wrong. It tried to pull away from her instinctively, but its back right leg was obviously injured and half its tail was gone, clawed away in a raw gash.

  A predator—maybe one of those wolves—had obviously attacked it. Lenna didn’t know how it had gotten away, unless the wolf had caught its mother and been too distracted to follow it.

  Either way, she couldn’t just leave it here. The poor little thing was helpless. It would freeze or starve to death, and it might attract predators, which they didn’t want lurking around the cave.

  She gathered it up into her arms. It fought her, of course, but it wasn’t strong enough to get away. Eventually, it went limp, its big dark eyes staring up at her pitifully.

  She brought it into the cave and was using medicinal herbs on its injury when Mara came in.

  “Deer hurt,” Lenna said, when the other woman stared at her in amazement.

  Mara shook her head. “Deer young. No eat.” They only hunted mature animals—never the very young.

  Lenna was horrified about the idea of eating this poor little thing. “No eat. Hurt. Baby. Stay here.”

  Mara’s eyes widened in astonishment. “No stay. Deer. No baby.”

  Since Lenna didn’t know how to argue with a worldview that saw animals as nothing but food, she just shrugged and kept tending the deer. After she’d worked on its wounds, she tried a variety of vegetables until she found a couple that the deer would eat.

  After a while, Rone came in, and Lenna realized that Mara must have gone to get him to let him know his mate was doing something very strange.

  Rone crouched down beside where Lenna was sitting. “Deer no stay.”

  “Deer stay,” Lenna said matter-of-factly. She knew they would think this was bizarre, so she wasn’t going to get angry. But she wasn’t going to let this poor little animal die.

  It needed her. It already seemed to trust her, nuzzling her hand gently, maybe looking for more to eat.

  “No food,” Rone said, pushing Lenna’s hand away from the deer. “Winter.”

  She frowned at him, realizing he was worried that they couldn’t spare food for an animal during the winter. “Deer eat Lenna food. Deer stay. Baby.” She stroked the soft fur. “Baby. Stay here until no hurt.”

  Rone shook his head, looking between the deer and Lenna helplessly. Then he finally shrugged and stood up. “Lenna no obey Rone.”

  Her eyes shot up with a surge of indignation, but when she saw his face she realized he was amused by her stubbornness rather than annoyed. She smiled at him. “Lenna no obey Rone.”

  ***

  So for the next two weeks, Lenna took care of the injured fawn. Fortunately, the weather was decent—cold but not snowing—so she was able to go outside and forage for food for the animal without using up the tribe’s store.

  Slowly, the fawn started to heal, and soon it could walk with a limp. It seemed to have grown quite attached to Lenna, and she loved the way it would nestle against her. She knew the rest of the tribe thought she was crazy for caring for an animal, but as long as she cleaned up after it and didn’t waste their food on it, no one complained.

  But eventually it snowed heavily again, and once again the tribe was trapped in the cave, unable to get outside. Lenna gave the fawn half of her own share of food, but she knew some of the others—namely Tamen—were bristling with indignation at the waste.

  Whenever Tamen started to object, however, Rone stood between them.

  Tamen might be the lead alpha of the tribe, but Rone wasn’t letting anyone act against his mate.

  A few days into the snowstorm, however, Rone was outside digging out a path. It was almost mealtime, and Tamen came over to where Lenna was sitting on the bed, stroking the fawn beside her.

  “No good food,” he said, looking down at her stonily. “Eat deer.”

  “No!” she gasped, pulling the animal closer to her. “Deer baby.”

  “Deer food.” Tamen’s face was as cold as ice. He’d obviously been bristling about this for a while, and he was using Rone’s absence to make his move.

  “No!” Lenna scrambled up, picking up the deer and hurrying away from Tamen, toward the entrance of the cave. “Rone, Rone!”

  Tamen kept advancing, however, and Rone didn’t make an appearance. He must be too far away to hear her.

  She wasn’t strong enough to stop him, and there was no one in this cave who would help her. Or could help her. Mara was looking at her with obvious sympathy, but also fear. If she tried to challenge Tamen, she would have no one to take care of her.

  Lenna couldn’t blame her for not taking that risk.

  Not over a deer.

  This tribe didn’t understand pets. It only understood nature. Animals were food or for leaving alone. You didn’t bring one into the household.

  “Rone!” Lenna called again, trapped between Tamen and the icy cold outside the cave.

  He still didn’t hear her.

  Tamen was about to reach for the deer when Desh was suddenly beside her. He grabbed the fawn from Lenna’s hands and stepped outside with it.

  When he returned, the deer was no longer in his arms.

  “Desh!” Lenna gasped, speaking their common language. “What did you do?”

  “I’m really sorry, but it was the only thing to do. I let it go outside. If you kept it any longer, Tamen would have killed it. And if Rone comes back, you’re risking a civil war in the tribe. You don’t want that, do you?”

  Of course she didn’t want that. It would have been wrong to put Rone in that position. Desh was right, of course.

  But that poor little deer, all by itself in the cold.

  Her eyes were burning as she looked back at Tamen, resenting him more than she ever had before.

  “Deer young,” Desh said firmly. “No eat. Gone now.”

  Tamen’s eyes narrowed at this act of defiance from someone on the fringes, but he didn’t argue. He just turned his back and returned to his side of the cave.

  Lenna stood shaking, staring out into the dark.

  “Just let it go, Lenna. I’m really sorry.”

  She nodded at Desh, reaching out to touch him lightly before he walked away.

  She knew he was right. She had to let it go. But she couldn’t stop herself from stepping outside just to see if she could see it.

  It was so cold and the wind was so strong she could barely breathe, and she couldn’t see a thing past the swirling snow.

  Her little deer was going to die out here.

  “Lenna!” a rough voice came from nearby, nearly drowned out by the wind.

  Before she could turn around, a big man had approached her and picked her up bodily, tossing her over his shoulder to carry her back inside.

  Rone.

  It was Rone.

  He carried her over to his bed and wrapped his arms around her, obviously trying to get her warm again. “Cold danger,” he said roughly. “No leave cave. No leave cave.”

  Her teeth were chattering, and she was still close to tears. She did her best to explain to Rone what had happened.

  When Rone understood, he sucked in a breath and stood up, turning toward Tamen with a glare colder than she’d ever seen on his face before.

  Remembering Desh’s words, she grabbed for his leg, which was the only part of him she could reach. “No. Rone no. Stay with Lenna. Stay.”

  For a moment, she wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but he eventually relented and lowered himself into the bed with her. They were sitting up, their backs against the wall, and he wrapped both of his arms around her. “Lenna lost deer,” he muttered. “Lenna deer home.”

  She almost cried because it was so clear that Rone understood this was a loss for her. He might not have ever seen someone treat an animal this way, but he understood her.

  He cared about her.

  She managed to control herself as she shuddered in his embrace. “Lenna good.”

  “No.” He stroked her hair. “Lenna hurt.”<
br />
  She was hurt. Her poor little baby deer was probably dying right now out there in the snow.

  But she couldn’t let Rone get into a real fight with Tamen. The two men were evenly matched. There was no telling who would win such a fight. She couldn’t take that risk. What if Tamen would seriously injure Rone? What if he would kill him?

  There was absolutely no way she would let that happen.

  And at least Rone knew she was sad.

  It meant something—that he understood.

  Seven

  “So does Rone know you came out with me this afternoon?” Desh asked, the brisk wind blowing his hair back and the bright sun burnishing it almost golden.

  Lenna made a face at him. “We have an understanding.”

  “And is the understanding that you don’t tell him when you hang out with me and he doesn’t get angry about it?” Desh’s mouth twitched just slightly.

  Lenna couldn’t help but laugh. Rone was away from the cave all day, hunting small animals now that the snow had finally melted and the weather started to warm up. She tried to respect Rone’s worldview and so made a point of not spending too much time with Desh, since she didn’t want Rone to get jealous or confused. But Desh wasn’t any sort of threat to her relationship to Rone.

  Desh was her friend. She had few enough as it was, and she wasn’t going to lose him.

  So when he’d told her he was going out this afternoon to practice hunting, she’d decided to go with him. After being trapped for the month of winter, she wanted to get out in the sunshine and stretch her legs anyway.

  The big herds of grazers wouldn’t start coming back through this area for another several weeks, but the small mammals were beginning to come out of hiding, now that the weather had turned. So far, Desh had come close to killing two of them—but each time he had missed.

  She took a deep breath. “It almost smells like spring.”

  “It’s still pretty cold to call it spring yet.”

  “I know. But you can smell soil and…and something almost warm. That smells like spring to me.”

  “How does a city girl like you even know what spring smells like?”

  She slanted her eyes over at Desh and saw that he was smiling. “Even on Earth, you can still smell it occasionally.”

 
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