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       Dovis, p.6

           Laurann Dohner
 
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  He left Cathian’s side to watch the enemy on radar. They were increasing the distance between them. The Raxis shuttles weren’t built for speed and they had sustained some damage from York firing on them. He almost wished they’d boarded The Vorge, giving him a chance to kill every bastard who thought they could hurt his crew.

  His mind kept returning to Mari. The taste of her blood still lingered on his tongue, and he was uncomfortably aware of the state of his dick. It was semi-hard.

  He didn’t know if he should be horrified or worried that he found her sexually appealing. She wasn’t his type. Too fragile, small, and nonaggressive.

  He tapped the screen to his left, pulled up security feeds, and overrode privacy protocols to check on Mari inside her cabin. He could have just viewed her vitals…but he wanted to see her.

  The vid view showed that she lay on her bed sleeping, in the same position he’d left her. Her chest rose and fell as he watched.

  “Breaking rules of privacy? I’m shocked, Dovis.”

  Cathian’s soft whisper made him startle. He’d been unaware that his friend was walking up behind him, too focused on the human.

  “I’m just making sure Mari is staying down. I told her to remain at rest for an hour. Her body needs to heal, but she might feel fine even if she’s not yet. My saliva seems to give off a mild high.”

  Cathian chuckled. “I remember. Raff was actually talkative and nice while he healed. Laughing even. It was almost like he’d drank a lot of booze.”

  Dovis nodded. “She’s tiny and not Tryleskian. I have no idea how she’ll react. It’s why I activated the vid feed into her cabin.”

  “Understood.” Cathian hesitated. “You looked upset. Why?”

  He hesitated. “Something strange happened when I bit her.”

  Cathian crouched next to his seat, bracing his arm along the top of the console. “What?”

  Dovis hesitated.

  “We’re best friends. No secrets or lies are between us. I’ve told you everything about myself. Talk to me.”

  Dovis glanced back, making sure York remained at his station across the bridge. The Parri male had good hearing, but not if they kept their voices low enough. “My fangs throbbed while I bit her, and I felt…” He didn’t want to admit it.

  “Tell me.” Cathian leaned in closer.

  “You know of my childhood. I was abandoned by my parents after my mother birthed me. It’s shameful to be born in skin, like I was. It proved I was flawed, one of the unfortunate ones.”

  “That’s bullshit,” Cathian growled. “Your people are fucked up for that.”

  “Rarely do abandoned infants survive. They starve to death, or succumb to the elements, or are killed by animals. But there was an elder female who cared for me until I was old enough to fend for myself. Her mate had died and they’d never had children. The other villagers shunned her for rescuing me, giving me food and letting me sleep inside her home on a mat. She tried to convince them she treated me like a pet, and I suppose in some ways she did. But she also told me myths about ones like me, and why we were hated.”

  “What kind of myths?”

  “In my culture, it’s against the law to use my ability to heal by saliva and bite. I was four when I first learned I had it. Taznia had fallen, she was very aged, and she’d sliced open her arm badly. She couldn’t get it to stop bleeding and no one in the village would help her because she was kind to me. Instinct took over, and I began to lick her wound. The bleeding stopped and the wound sealed.”

  He paused, gathering his memories. “She made me swear to hide what I could do. Warned me that the others would kill me if they found out. She told me it was a death offense because those like me not only had the ability to heal, but to force others to be sexually drawn to them. Something in my saliva could make me desirable enough to take away free will.”

  Cathian’s eyes widened. “Ever test that out?”

  “Never. Before today, I’d only bitten Raff, and helped Taznia that once. She made me swear to never do that again for her. I kept my word. Even when she got sick and died.”

  “Raff didn’t try to hump you, did he?” His friend grinned. “That would have been amusing to see.”

  “He didn’t.” Dovis scowled. “That’s not funny. I actually worried about it, but he just seemed drunk.”

  “What are you concerned over then?”

  “When I bit Mari, it was different. My body reacted to her in a way it shouldn’t have.”

  Cathian opened his mouth but closed it. He finally asked, “You became aroused?”

  “Yes.”

  A small smile played at his friend’s lips.

  “Don’t. It’s not amusing.”

  “You think humans are weak and ugly. I told you there’s something amazing about Nara. She turns me on like no one ever has. Don’t feel ashamed if Mari sent blood to your shaft.”

  “When Mari woke, she smiled at me.”

  Cathian looked even more amused.

  “Stop. What if the myth is true, and Mari now feels sexually drawn to me? Perhaps it didn’t happen with Raff because he’s male.”

  Cathian stood. “You worry too much, Dovis. She’s a small alien, you can handle her. What you did was a good thing. We’ll keep an eye on her.” He glanced at the screen with a smirk. “Or you will. She’s alive. That’s all that matters. We’ll deal with it if there are any consequences.”

  Dovis nodded.

  “What are you two whispering about over there?”

  Dovis looked back, meeting York’s curious stare. “We’re discussing if you need training drills on weapons. You didn’t blow up those shuttles when you should have.”

  York snorted. “My orders were to keep them back, not blow them to hell. Accomplished!”

  Chapter Five

  Mari awoke feeling terrific and refreshed. Memories of what happened flashed through her mind as she sat up. That’s when she noticed her shirt was torn at her shoulder.

  She frowned, wondering how that had happened. Maybe when someone from the crew had dragged her out of the crawl space? It was a tight fit in there, over the center of the engines.

  She slid out of bed and entered the bathroom, using it and taking the time to get clean. Once dressed in a fresh outfit, she left her cabin, hunting for another crew member to see what was going on.

  She ran into Midgel when she entered the dining room. The alien was extremely shy but nice. “Are we safe from the pirates?”

  Midgel nodded. “We’ve met up with others and the engines are still running. I heard they’ll have the part we need at the station we’re heading for. How are you?”

  “I’m good. Hungry. Do you mind me having some leftovers? I didn’t feel like using the replicator in my room. Your cooking is much better than what those produce, even if it’s cold. I know it’s not yet mealtime.”

  “You got the engines working, Mari. I’ll make you something.”

  “You don’t have to go out of your way.”

  “I want to. Sit.”

  Mari smiled and took a seat. Midgel disappeared into her kitchen. No crew were allowed back there unless a repair was needed. Nara had told her Midgel guarded her cooking space as if it were a horde of treasure.

  Ten minutes later, the shy woman returned, carrying a plate of cooked meats and vegetables. It smelled delicious.

  “Thank you.”

  “You’re welcome.” Midgel rushed away after bringing her a drink, and didn’t return.

  Mari ate and put her empty dishes in the cleaner near the kitchen, going to the engine room next. No one was down there. She climbed the ladder, entering the crawl space. The panel remained opened and she peered inside, memories of being shocked until she blacked out first and foremost in her mind. It had hurt badly.

  The U coupling she’d rigged remained in place, blue energy flowing over it. She backed away, crawled out, and decided to leave the toolbox there, since she’d have to replace the part soon anyway.

  Next sh
e went to maintenance—staring in shock at her open locker and the new outfits that hung inside. They weren’t just for work, but also for off times.

  Dovis had said he’d have a jacket and other things made for her. He hadn’t lied. Even the fire suit looked to be her size. It was shiny, and the nicest, most expensive garment she’d ever owned. It was work related but that didn’t matter. That suit could save her life one day.

  She blinked back tears. The crew cared about her.

  “Mari, this is Captain Cathian. We’re in the dining room waiting for you to join us. Report now.”

  She started at hearing his voice going ship-wide through the speakers. She spun around, rushing toward the nearest lift. She wasn’t wearing a comm; had he been trying to contact her for long? He sounded rather angry.

  She ran when she arrived on the dining-room level and rushed inside, slightly out of breath. Captain Cathian stood inside the door with his arms crossed over his broad chest, a stern expression on his face. Nara stood next to him with an equally unpleased frown.

  “I’m so sorry.”

  He suddenly grinned. “For what? Saving our asses?”

  He stepped out of the way, and she realized the entire crew had gathered inside the dining room. Even the silent Raff, who never spoke to her or looked her way, had come. They were all staring at her, including the Pods.

  Nara came forward. “You can’t miss your party.”

  “My what?” She was stunned.

  “We’re celebrating not being boarded by pirates because you saved the day!”

  “It was technically still night,” Marrow called out. “My ass was sleeping until I was woken. She saved the night and then the day.”

  Mari didn’t know what to say except the truth. “I was just doing my job.”

  “You did more than that.” Nara kept hold of her, leading her toward the tables where the crew sat. “I asked Midgel to make you a cake.”

  “I’ve never had a cake before.”

  Nara froze, staring at her with wide eyes, and then her bottom lip trembled. “Never? What about your birthday parties?”

  “There were no parties. Why would I get cake for my birthdays?”

  Nara released her and pointed to a seat. “I’m getting you a drink. Me too. A strong one.” She stormed off, muttering something under her breath.

  Marrow asked, “Why do you want to hunt down her parents and kill them?” Her gaze tracked Nara.

  “You suck at girl talk, remember? Just seal your lips. I said that low so Mari wouldn’t hear me. Thanks for broadcasting it.”

  Marrow frowned, looking at York. “What did I do?”

  York snorted. “We all hate your parents, Mari. You should know that.”

  She shrugged, not offended. “I don’t like them either.” It was no secret that her parents had sold her to the Teki.

  “Sit,” Captain Cathian ordered.

  She took a seat by York. He was friendly and always nice to her. “You did good, Mari.”

  “Thank you.” She was slightly embarrassed by all the attention. Her gaze drifted to Dovis in the corner. He sat away from everyone, much like Raff did. More flashes of memory returned…of him leaning over her, telling her to stay in bed.

  Had that really happened? She wasn’t sure. If not, it was odd that she’d dream about Dovis.

  Midgel came out of the kitchen with a large, white round thing. The scent of fruit filled the room as she set it down on the table, smiling at her. “Berry cake. It’s a favorite of the crew. I hope you enjoy it.”

  Mari stared at it, unsure what to do.

  Nara returned with two glasses, placing them down, and took a long knife from Midgel. The shy cook fled, returning with more silverware and small plates. Mari watched as Nara cut the round food into slices and put them on plates, shoving one her way. Mari picked up a fork and took a tiny bite.

  Sweetness and the bright taste of berries flooded her mouth.

  “This is good!”

  “Cake always is. When is your birthday? You should get one every year.”

  Mari shrugged. “I don’t know. My parents never told me or mentioned a date I was born.”

  Nara opened her mouth but then closed it, looking angry again.

  “We can assign her a date,” Captain Cathian said gently, taking a seat next to Nara. “Calm, Nara. Your face is doing that red thing that makes me worry.”

  “Fine.” Nara forced a smile. “The day you were freed can be your official birthdate now. Every year, we’ll celebrate it with a cake. Lots of it, to make up for all the years you missed. Do you know how old you are?”

  She shook her head. “No. Maybe twenty-five? I’m not sure.”

  Nara growled.

  It surprised Mari. “I didn’t know humans made that sound.”

  “I’m life-locked to a Tryleskian. I learned it.”

  Captain Cathian chuckled. “She even lifts her upper lip to flash smooth teeth at me if she’s really irritated. It’s adorable. Do you know how many years you were with the Teki?”

  “No. I think about fifteen years, though. I just know for certain how old I was when I was sold. They haggled a lot over the price, and my age was a part of it. I was too young to be a sex slave for the station’s brothel because it would offend some customers. Most humans the Teki buy are sent there. That’s when they decided to put me in engine repairs. I was small enough to fit inside thruster shafts and they could drop me into intake pits to clean them out. I was supposed to transfer to the brothel when I turned sixteen, but K’pa, the Teki who purchased me, had noticed how much work I could do. He kept me in repairs instead. He said I was more valuable doing that work.”

  A snarl came from across the room. She turned her head, seeing it was Dovis. Again. He didn’t look up but he seemed furious as usual.

  She glanced at the rest of the crew. Their angry expressions mirrored Dovis’s. She thought about how dangerous engine work was, and figured they didn’t like the idea of a kid being at risk.

  “I survived. I was smart and learned fast. It’s only risky if you stay too long inside one of the shafts, because you run out of oxygen in your mask. It was an honor to get to stay in repairs. I didn’t want to be a brothel worker.” She felt no shame admitting that. “I worked twice as hard as everyone else to avoid being sent there.”

  Nara reached out and gripped her hand. “No wonder you were willing to give your life for ours. You poor thing. You don’t realize how important you are. Well, that shit has changed. You’re part of The Vorge crew now. You matter, Mari. No more crazy stunts like what you did this morning.” She shot a glare in Dovis’s direction. “Someone will stop you next time.”

  “I arrived too late,” he protested. “I would have stopped her if I hadn’t. She was already down when I reached her and hauled her out of the shaft.”

  “You refused to take her to the android,” Nara pointed out. “Instead, you carried her to her room.”

  York cleared his throat. “No fighting, crew. It turned out fine. Worst case, those pirates would have boarded us and died. We’re mean sons of bitches. Between me, Cathian, Raff, and Dovis, they all would have been killed. Don’t risk your life again, Mari.”

  “What am I? Invisible? I can fight, you blue idiot,” Marrow snapped. “Add me to that list.”

  “And Marrow,” York grumbled. “Although she gets upset when blood gets splattered on her. I’m referring to Angus Twelve.”

  She growled at him. “It wasn’t splatter that bothered me when you had to kill those two slavers who tried to grab me on that supply run. I had no problem with their blood. It was the head you threw at my chest! That was gross.”

  “I didn’t mean for it to hit you. It just flew that way when I killed the slaver.” York grinned.

  Marrow rolled her eyes. “Fair.”

  “No more bickering. Mari must think we’re savages.” Captain Cathian chuckled. “Nobody share Raff stories.” He winked at her. “Watch out for the silent ones,” he whispered lo
udly.

  Raff snorted from across the room but didn’t say or respond in any other way.

  Mari liked her new crewmates.

  The Pods drew her attention when they turned her way, smiling.

  One spoke. “They like you, too.”

  She relaxed and smiled, believing the Pod. She didn’t think he’d lie to her.

  Her gaze went to Dovis again. He’d taken her to her room? That memory of waking to find him hovering over her must be true. She needed to thank him.

  Dovis dug into his food, ignoring the rest of the crew now that they’d given Mari her cake and were having dinner. He relaxed in his chair. She hadn’t acted strange at all, or even paid him much attention. The myths Taznia told him must have been bullshit. He’d been afraid Mari would show him greater interest. His fears were laid to rest.

  He was glad he’d bitten and healed her, though. No regrets.

  The crew laughed and chatted. He glanced over at Raff, the other crew member who didn’t like to socialize much. Raff had his own issues. Dovis didn’t know all of them but he’d learned enough. Being the bastard son of Cathian’s uncle had to be tough.

  Raff looked full Tryleskian, but he wasn’t. His mother had been some other alien race, a woman his father had spent his heat with while stranded on a planet for five months after a shuttle crash. Once his father had been rescued, he hadn’t wanted to lay claim to her or the son she carried inside her body. The medical scans had shown only one infant. To a Tryleskian, that would come as a shock, since their females always carried between two to five infants while pregnant.

  Raff had been raised on his mother’s dangerous planet. When Cathian learned of him, The Vorge made a stop on Gluttren Four to find the now grown child. It was a total hellhole of a colony. Raff had stuck out big time, with his height and muscular body. They’d approached the male, offering him a job on the crew, and Raff had agreed, eager to escape the life of an assassin.

  Dovis stood and got a second helping of dinner. He kept his attention focused on his food when he retook his seat, digging in.

 
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