Challenging saber, p.5
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       Challenging Saber, p.5

           S. E. Smith
 
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  “You don’t what?” The voice repeated.

  “Leave me,” he mumbled before falling backwards.

  “I won’t,” she promised. “I won’t ever leave you.”

  *.*.*

  Eighteen months later:

  “Boiling oil,” Taylor muttered and held the pen to her lips and thought for a moment. “Naw, that would be a total waste of good oil.”

  Saber turned to glare at her. He gripped the arms of his airchair in an effort to keep from reaching out and wrapping them around Taylor’s neck. She would probably continue to ignore him as he did it. She ignored everything else he did and said.

  “You know, I can hear you thinking,” he snapped.

  Taylor looked up over her writing pad at him. “Spiders,” she said, tilting her head. “How do you feel about spiders?”

  “They are right up there with your gnomes,” he retorted, waving his hand to the unfinished kitchen counter.

  Taylor glanced over her shoulders at the dozens of strange little figurines that adorned the kitchen. She turned back and wrote something down. He snarled when she peered over her notepad at him.

  “Goblins,” she said with a grin, snapping her fingers. “I need goblins.”

  “How long are you going to continue to torture both of us with your insistence on coming over here every day?” Saber demanded, pressing the controls on his airchair until it stopped in front of her.

  Taylor grinned at him. “Until you grow a pair of balls and admit that you like me coming over,” she replied with a smile.

  “You aren’t going to go away, are you?” He finally muttered.

  “Nope,” she said with a shake of her head.

  “Why?” Saber asked, staring at her in confusion. “Look at me, Taylor. I am half the warrior I was. I may never walk again.”

  “Wrong!” Taylor snapped. “Hunter might never have walked again. He was the one with the broken back. You! You had a busted leg. Even if you had both legs gone, you could still walk. So, why don’t you get over your self-pity party, Saber? It’s beginning to get a bit old. I’m ready for a new song.”

  Saber scowled at Taylor, but all she did was scowl back at him. He couldn’t help it. His lip twitched. At first, he thought it was because he was mad, but the more they stared at each other, the more it twitched. He shook his head when the sound of a low snort escaped him. He meant it to come out as a growl, but it hadn’t.

  “You aren’t going to make me laugh,” he whispered with determination.

  “I’ll turn your bedroom pink again,” she threatened, staring at him with a decided smirk on her face.

  “I hate pink,” he muttered, his lips twitching again. “And gnomes.”

  Taylor raised her eyebrow. “Wait until I add the goblins and spiders,” she threatened.

  “You are a cruel female,” Saber hissed.

  Taylor smiled and shook her head. “No, I’m not,” she retorted in a quiet voice. “I’m a star who knows what she wants.”

  “And what is that?” Saber asked in a husky tone.

  “I want my old Saber back,” she whispered, staring into his eyes.

  Saber’s eyes shuttered and he pulled back on the controls. Turning around, he steered the airbike back in front of the windows. After several minutes of silence, he finally spoke.

  “The old Saber is gone, Taylor,” he murmured. “Go home. One day a warrior fit to protect you will come; accept him when he does.”

  He heard Taylor rise up off the lone piece of furniture in the house besides the bed in his bedroom. She walked over to him and pressed a kiss to his neck. He curled his fingers around the arms of the airchair to keep from pulling her into his lap.

  “I’ll see you tomorrow, Saber,” Taylor whispered in his ear before she straightened and walked back to collect her belongings. “Oh, and for the record, I’ve already picked the warrior I want. He just needs to get his head out of his ass long enough to realize it. Bye!”

  Saber didn’t say anything. Releasing the breath he had drawn in, he reached up and touched the spot on his neck that he swore felt like it was burning. Dropping his hand back down, he turned the airchair toward the one room that Taylor hadn’t been in. The door opened as he drew close.

  Inside was a training room that he had installed while Taylor was in school. Pulling the chair up to the side of one of the benches, he slowly scooted forward and grabbed the bar along the side. He pulled himself up, forcing his shaking good leg to remain stiff until he could turn and sit down.

  “Spiders,” he whispered with a chuckle as he began his nightly workout. “I really hope she wasn’t talking about real ones.”

  Chapter 7

  Present day:

  “I’m going over to Saber’s house. I might be back later,” Taylor hollered as she grabbed her jacket and slid it on before picking up her backpack.

  “Taylor, are you sure you should?” Jesse asked with a worried smile. “I overheard him telling Hunter to keep you away from the house.”

  Taylor rolled her eyes and shrugged. “Okay, then I’m going down to the Quikie Mart for an iced coffee,” she said.

  “Where is this Quikie Mart? I have never heard of it,” Hunter said, walking up to wrap one arm around Jesse and their five-year-old son, Lyon while holding one-year-old Leila in his other arm.

  “Quikie Mart! Quikie Mart! I want to go to the Quikie Mart!” Lyon demanded.

  Jesse snorted, drawing a giggle from Lyon who reached for her mouth. Taylor’s expression softened at the lovable little boy who had the entire household wrapped around his small fingers. Pulling her hair out from her jacket, she leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss against Lyon’s soft cheek.

  “That’s because those were only on Earth,” Jesse responded in a dry tone. “She’s going over to Saber’s house.”

  Taylor could feel Hunter’s eyes narrow on her stubborn expression. She didn’t care what he said, she was going – period. She was an adult now. She didn’t need to ask his permission to do anything.

  “Taylor,” Hunter started to say, but stopped when Taylor turned away.

  “He needs me, Hunter,” Taylor said in a quiet voice. “You know it and so do I.”

  Her shoulders relaxed when she heard his sigh of resignation. A smile tugged at her lips. That was what she loved about the Trivators, they were big bad teddy bears when it came to the women they loved. She knew deep down that Saber loved her. He just needed to understand that she loved him back to the very core of her soul and wasn’t going to give up on him because of his own stupid misconceptions of ‘not being a whole warrior’.

  A wave of longing sent an avalanche of feminine power through her. She had felt his reaction to her. His mouth might be saying one thing, but his body was definitely saying something different.

  “Good luck,” Hunter finally said with a hint of amusement in his voice. “He can be very stubborn.”

  Taylor nodded. “So am I,” she retorted with a grin. “Don’t wait up.”

  “Taylor,” Jesse said again in exasperation as her little sister walked out the door. “She’s playing with fire,” she said, turning to glare at Hunter with a pointed look.

  Hunter gazed down at his Amate with a soft smile. “And she is very good at it. She is right. He does need her, whether he is ready to admit it or not.”

  *.*.*

  Taylor jogged down the front steps and over to the small transport that Hunter had given her for her twenty-first birthday. She threw her backpack into the passenger seat and slid into the driver’s seat. Pulling the straps over her shoulders, she clipped the communications control onto her collar. With the expertise of hundreds of hours of flight time gained over the past two years, she pressed the power and rose into the air.

  Glancing down at the house below, she couldn’t help but feel a little sentimental. It had been her home for the past seven years. It was hard to believe that so much time had passed. Her life back on Earth seem
ed more like a dream than a reality.

  Turning her focus back to where she was going, she had to admit she was happy that it had. The people on Earth were slowly rebuilding, according to the reports she was reading and conversations with Razor, Hunter’s older brother, and Kali, his human wife…

  Or Amate, Taylor thought as she flew over the thick forest below.

  Still, Earth had a long way to go and a lot of rebuilding to do. A reluctant smile curved Taylor’s lips as she flew a path that she did twice a day; once in the morning and again every evening. Saber might be moody as hell most of the day, he might give her hell for coming every morning to bring him breakfast or give her the cold shoulder every evening, but he never told her to leave, not anymore. No, he might tell Hunter to tell her not to come, but he never told her because he knew she would just ignore him if he tried.

  A part of her acknowledged that she had fallen for him the first time she saw him. They’d had their issues. He called her a kid, she called him an old man, but the constant banter back and forth had kept her going in the strange new world she’d found herself in.

  Taylor sighed as she thought of everything that they had been through over the last five years. One of the most painful things was waiting to grow up. She would have accepted him at sixteen, but deep down, she reluctantly agreed that Hunter, Jesse… and even Saber, had been right. She needed time to grow up and learn more about her new life. Of course, she wouldn’t have admitted it, at least not then.

  Her life had changed and she’d found her focus almost five years ago. It had taken the near death of Saber and Hunter during a mission to give her life the inspiration and focus she needed. Hunter had received a severe spinal injury that almost paralyzed him while Saber had been critically injured to the point the healers were unsure whether he would live.

  Saber required numerous operations, the last one just two months ago, to put him back together. The damage had been unbelievable. His right leg had suffered most of the damage. His upper thigh bone had been shattered; the muscles and nerves shredded as well as dozens of other hairline fractures. In addition, a deadly infection had set in by the time he and Hunter were rescued.

  Five years later, he could now walk without his cane – most of the time, but he needed it when he was tired. He was still in a lot of pain which is what concerned Taylor. The constant nagging pain was evident by the permanent lines around his mouth and the shadows under his eyes.

  Taylor knew the physical therapy was helping him. Every morning she would bring him breakfast and sit with him, chatting about her classes, what she was learning, and anything else she could think of until he finished. Then, she would start working on his leg.

  He had balked at first, but she had persisted, refusing to leave until he did it. The first year afterward had been a trial. Saber had refused to do the physical therapy the healers had ordered. It took a while, but she discovered the reason was that the bone was not healing properly and it was excruciating.

  She glanced down at the ground. She was almost there. Saber lived off the beaten path, almost thirty kilometers outside the town of Trivas. She was surprised the road leading to it hadn’t been renamed Taylor Way. She had definitely made the journey enough times over the years to have it renamed after her.

  She and Saber had worked on the place before his injuries. Of course, he hadn’t been able to work on it the first year while he was in the hospital. She had spent most of her time with him there, until his release. After his discharge, it had taken almost six months before he would finally restart the work that needed to be done. He had withdrawn into the house and tried to become a hermit. Unfortunately for him, Taylor was just as determined that he rejoin the land of the living, even if it meant she had to pull him back into it kicking and screaming. Eventually, they began working on the construction of the house again.

  She decided it had been good therapy for both of them. It had helped them work through the changes in their lives and given her the direction she needed to make her career choice of being a Physical Therapist with a focus in Developmental Research. She wanted to help those with extensive injuries like Hunter and Saber.

  Now, after five years and her persistence, it was almost complete… with a few additions of garden trolls, gnomes, and other incentives whenever he was being a bonehead to her. It had become a running joke with them; he makes her mad, she creates something straight out of a Halloween movie to get back.

  Or I change the color of the house on him when he isn’t looking, she thought with a mischievous grin.

  “Okay,” Taylor breathed out the breath she was holding. “I hope tonight goes well. The big oaf better not start cheering when I tell him my news, otherwise he might need to be in traction again.”

  She guided the transport over the trees and gently touched down in the front courtyard. She shut down the engine and unclipped the straps. Opening the door, she grabbed her backpack before sliding out. She shut the door and walked around the transport just as the front door opened.

  Her heart skipped and she felt the familiar warmth spread through her. The desire for him had grown hotter and stronger the older she got, and right about now, she was ready to rip Saber’s clothes off and have her wicked way with him. She just needed to figure out a way to do it since he was a good head and a half taller than her.

  “Hey,” she said with an easy smile.

  “It’s late,” Saber replied bluntly. “I thought you’d finally taken the hint and decided not to come.”

  Taylor walked up the steps to the house and patted Saber on the chest as she walked by him. “Ha-ha. You have the coolest sense of humor,” she remarked with a mischievous grin. “Did I ever mention that I find that incredibly sexy?”

  Saber’s moody expression flashed to one of pure panic before he covered it with the mask he thought hid his true feelings. What he didn’t realize was that Taylor could see the little nerve in his jaw pulsing. Once she had him under her, or over, whichever way he wanted to start, she might tell him about it.

  “You know I don’t like you returning to Hunter and Jesse’s house after dark,” he grumbled, following her into the house and shutting the door behind him.

  Taylor nodded and flashed him another smile. She walked down the wide hallway into the living area. She loved this room now that it was finished. It was huge with curved walls that rose up to reveal a series of clear panels that on command could go from clear to shade to complete darkness. The back wall was actually a series of doors that opened all the way and disappeared into the walls on each side so the room became part of the outer garden. In some ways it was similar to Hunter and Jesse’s house, but this one was brighter, more open and gave her a sense of peace.

  “I really love this room,” she said with a sigh, turning to face him.

  “I know,” Saber replied, moving to relieve the pressure on his bad leg.

  Taylor’s eyes immediately noticed the move. “Have you been doing your exercises?” She asked, dropping her backpack next to the couch and kicking off her shoes.

  Saber scowled at her. “Yes,” he bit out in a rough tone. “It’s just a little stiff today.”

  “Let me take a look,” she ordered, waving to the couch.

  The scowl on Saber’s face turned even darker. Taylor could tell he was going to argue, he always did. It had become a routine for them. What he didn’t know was tonight was going to be different if she had any say in the matter – which she always did.

  “I said I was alright,” Saber growled even as he walked toward the couch.

  “Lie down and let me take a look at it,” she said, noticing that his short hair was still a little damp from his shower. “Did you take a hot shower or a cold one?”

  “A cold one,” Saber grumbled, sitting down on the edge of the couch and turning to lie down on it. “I knew you were coming.”

  Taylor chuckled and raised an eyebrow at him. “Is that because I make you all hot and bothered, old m
an?” She asked as she knelt on the floor next to him.

  She carefully removed the thigh to calf brace he wore and set it on the floor next to her. She studied the long scars that zigzagged down his leg. Most wounds could be healed with minimum scarring; only the worst ones could not. Saber’s leg reflected the devastation of damage done to the bone, muscle, and nerves. Two newly healed incisions caught her attention. They hadn’t been there this morning.

  “I’m not that old,” Saber defended with a reluctant curve of his lips. “Yes, you make me hot. I want to wring your neck for not listening to me.”

  Taylor ran her hands tenderly over the scarred skin of his right leg. She could feel the knots in the muscles. Using a combination of her weight and pressure, she worked on each one. A low hiss escaped Saber when a particularly tight one released. Almost immediately, she could feel his body melt back into the couch. Her magic touch, as he liked to call it, was working.

  “Leila has another tooth,” Taylor said, knowing that talking often took Saber’s mind off of what she was doing.

  “She already had a mouthful,” Saber said in a tight voice.

  “Jesse said it is her two-year-old molars, I think,” she said, rubbing his hot skin. “Lyon is learning to climb. Jesse and Hunter have to watch him like a hawk.”

  Saber frowned and glanced down at Taylor. “A hawk?” He asked in a husky voice.

  “Yes,” she murmured, getting lost in the feelings she got whenever she touched him. “It’s a type of bird of prey back home. They have incredible eyesight.”

  Taylor glanced at Saber when she felt him stiffen. “You still think of Earth as your home?” He asked with a frown.

  Taylor looked down at where her hands were working the muscle of his calf and shook her head. She would always think of Earth as her home, but it wasn’t where she wanted to live any more. No, her place was here, in this house, beside Saber. That is where home was now.

 
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