Nightshine, p.11
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       Nightshine, p.11

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 11


  Suddenly it made sense why she hadn’t been able to pick up any thought streams last night. “We’re on an island. ”

  “That would explain why he didn’t secure us in the house. ” Sam made a slow three-sixty turn. “No boats, no way for us to leave, and no way to call for help. ”

  Now she noticed just how pristine the empty beach was: no litter, no lifeguard, not even a discarded cigarette butt. “Who kidnaps two strangers and dumps them in a mansion on a deserted island? And why?”

  “I wish I knew. ” Sam glanced back at the house. “You said you heard a recording over the speaker in the bedroom. Was it the sniper?”

  “No, the voice was different. Educated, more polite. He also spoke Spanish and English, but his accent was strange. ” She wished she could erase what he’d said from her mind, but his words still needled her. “He knew my name and yours. He called the house Séptima Casa. He said it was our new home. ”

  Samuel knew just enough Spanish to translate the name of the villa. “The Seventh House. ”

  “That’s not all he said. ” Her voice went flat as she told him the rest.

  “So if we follow the rules, become lovers, and don’t attempt to escape, we will want for nothing. ” Sam seemed bemused by the bizarre demands. “May I ask you a personal question?”

  She folded her arms. “I don’t care what the jerk said or how many pearls he puts in my hair; I’m not sleeping with you. ”

  “I never presumed that you would. ” He glanced down at her arms. “Charlotte, by any chance were you adopted as a child?”

  Of all the things he could have asked her. “This is not the time to play ‘Let’s Get to Know Each Other. ’ ”

  He gave her a direct look. “Answer me, please. It’s rather important. ”

  “No, I wasn’t adopted. ” Honesty made her add, “Not legally, anyway. I was abandoned when I was little. An older couple found me and took me in. ”

  “I know this is none of my business,” he said carefully, “but can you tell me how you came to be with your new family?”

  She didn’t have to tell him what had happened before she’d met the Marenas. “I was hungry, and my parents caught me in their backyard stealing tomatoes and peppers from their little vegetable garden. They didn’t have any family or kids, so they took me in and pretended I was theirs. They’d just moved to San Francisco, so none of the neighbors questioned it. ”

  He nodded. “Why didn’t they turn you over to the police?”

  “At the time, INS was having one of their crackdown sweeps through the city. Mama thought I might be a migrant kid, and was afraid I’d be deported and end up in a Mexican border orphanage. ” She looked down and nudged a piece of conch shell with her toe. “They didn’t have much, but they spent every penny they had to get me papers and stuff so I could stay with them and go to school. ”

  “Where are they now?”

  “Planting tomatoes and peppers in heaven, I hope. Papa died of a massive stroke my second year of college. ” She took in a deep breath. “Mama’s heart gave out a few months later. ”

  “I’m so sorry. ” His hand moved up to her shoulder. “I have one last question, and then I’ll stop prying, all right?”

  When she nodded, he asked, “When your parents found you in their garden, you had been tattooed, hadn’t you?”

  She felt sick. “Yeah. ”

  “May I see it?”

  She stepped back until she broke the contact between them and looked at the body ink curling over his collarbones. “It’s not as pretty as yours. ” She shrugged off the white lace wrap and turned her back on him, showing him the dark purple oval and the six blunt triangles inked on her shoulder. “Most people think it’s a lopsided sun. ”

  “It’s a turtle. ” He traced the center oval with his fingertip. “It’s actually quite adorable. ”

  “Glad you like it. ” She pulled on her shirt and faced him. “Now tell me how you knew that I’ve had it since I was a kid. ”

  “We are not random strangers abducted purely by chance,” he said. “I believe we were deliberately targeted, although I don’t know how he could have known where we would be. ” He saw her confusion. “My parents also adopted me, Charlotte. ”

  “And when your parents got you, you had that bird tattoo on your chest. ” Suddenly it all made sense. “Oh, no. ”

  “Don’t be afraid. ” He tried to put his arm around her shoulders.

  She shook her head, backing away from him. “He knew what we are. ” Wildly she looked around. “They’ll be coming for us. We have to find a place to hide. ” Her stomach surged, and she stumbled away, falling to her knees as she heaved.

  Sam knelt beside her and pulled back her hair, bracing her with his other arm as she emptied her stomach into the water. When the last of her heaving subsided, he dampened the hem of his shirt and used it to wipe her mouth. “It’s all right, my dear. ”

  “No, it’s not. ” She staggered to her feet, breathing in deeply. “There’s a biotech company that hunts people like us for our DNA. Sam, they’ll kill us for it. ”

  “I know very well what GenHance has been doing,” he told her. “But if they had abducted us, I believe we’d already be dead and dissected. ”

  Another shock wave went through her. “How do you know that?”

  “I belong to a very private online group. People like us who have been sharing information about our unusual talents. ” His eyes narrowed. “As, I suspect, you do. ”

  “Your hands. ” She glanced at them and then his face. “Jesus. You’re Paracelsus. ”

  Colotl watched as the two newcomers rose from the sand and walked back to their villa. When they passed by his position, he did not breathe or move. The woman, as dark as the man was fair, appeared bigger and stronger than their women. She resembled one of the master’s concubines, but she didn’t move or speak like one. He found the moments when she had shown her anger to the man and then vomited into the sea particularly intriguing.

  So was their body art. Phoenix and turtle. Colotl had never seen such markings, but he sensed the power radiating from both of them.

  Once he heard them enter the house, he drew back into the green shadows and made his way to the cave, where the other men waited. Gathering like this was dangerous at any time, but the master’s unknown sentinel seemed to be less vigilant during the day.

  “Why did you not bring him?” Ihiyo, always impatient, asked as soon as he joined them.

  “He is an American. ” He knelt down to drink from the spring, but the reflection rippling on the surface of the water made him sit back on his haunches. He could hide from everything but his own face. “So is the woman. They speak like the steward. ”

  “Their scents are strong in the air. The woman has been bled. ” Tzinacan dropped a pebble into the spring. “And the man smells of the master’s blood. ”

  Ihiyo and the other four men all began to talk at once. When their voices grew too loud, Colotl stood and lifted his hands for silence.

  “They have only just arrived. For now, we will watch them. ” He glanced at Liniz. “What did you see last night?”

  “She was afraid at first, but she composed herself quickly. She gave the man her blood by tube, and then sewed up a wound in his side. ” When Ihiyo made a rude remark, Liniz scowled at him. “She saved his life. ”

  “That is what they want us to think,” Ihiyo snapped. “Pici’s time is coming. What will this woman do to her when it begins? What if she comes after your Xochi?”

  “If she tries to do anything,” Liniz said flatly, “I will slit her throat. ”

  “Brothers. ” Colotl rose and touched Liniz’s shoulder briefly before he addressed the others. “For now, we will watch. Each of us, in three-hour shifts. The next boat will come tomorrow. Ihiyo, you are the closest; you will go first. Report to Tlemi before sunset. I need to know everything they do. ”

  Ihiyo’s expression darkened. “What if no boat arrives?”

  “Then we will know a little more about them. ” Colotl gestured toward the narrow entrance to the cave.

  “Go now. ”

  Each of the men picked up his bundles, shouldering them before he filed out. Only Liniz lingered, and when they were alone he took a small black stone blade from his pocket and offered it to Colotl. The stone’s beveled edge reflected the light with tiny prisms.

  “I know what you are going to say,” Liniz told him. “But as soon as I saw him stand, I had to make it. He is almost as big as the master. ”

  Colotl tested the edge of the stone weapon, which sliced into his fingertip the moment he touched it. “You take too many chances, my friend. ”

  “Ihiyo forgets that I would do whatever I must to protect what is mine. ” He held out his left hand and splayed the stumps of two missing fingers. “Do not make the same mistake, brother. ” He removed a string of fish from the water and strode out.

  Colotl used one of the hidden paths to make his way back to the other side of the island. He heard the sound of splashing as he emerged from the forest, and changed direction to walk into the water garden.

  Tlemi’s long red hair blazed in the sunlight as she stood naked in the center of the saltwater pool and fed bits of seaweed and fish to the baby sea turtles she kept there. The freckles that covered every inch of her resembled golden lace hugging her skin.

  “You were a long time,” she said without looking at him.

  “The mangoes by the stream were not yet ripe. ” He dropped his bundle on the grass and stripped off his shirt and shorts before he stepped into the pool. Immediately a swarm of the small green-and-black reptiles surrounded him, bumping their bullet-shaped heads against his thighs. “They are growing fast. ”
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