Nightshine, p.21
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       Nightshine, p.21

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 21


  A guttural roaring sound swelled in her ears, punctuated by a dull thud and the sound of a body hitting the ground. Through the watery slits of her eyes she saw Samuel facedown in the sand, and that was the blow she couldn’t take. The cry that burst from her lips rang out as she collapsed.

  Sand, blood, tears, pain; that was her new world until she heard Sam’s voice calling her name.

  A shadow fell across her as Segundo bent down and turned her face toward him. “The next time you or your man break the rules, Ms. Marena, I will allow three guards to spend ten minutes with you to do whatever they like. I’m afraid they like many unpleasant, painful things. Mr. Taske will also be tied up and made to watch every moment of it. Please nod if you understand. ”

  Charlie moved her head up and down.

  “Very good. ” He released her and straightened.

  “Charlotte. ” Samuel crawled up beside her, blood streaking his face. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her into him as he looked up. “She needs a doctor. ”

  “Not this time. ”

  “For God’s sake, man—”

  “There is no doctor here. ” Segundo slid his pistol into his waistband. “I suggest you take Ms. Marena up to the house and see to her wounds. The rules are still in effect, as they will be for the duration of your life on the island. You will not attempt to escape, and you have until dawn tomorrow to have sexual intercourse. ” He snapped his fingers, and the guards followed him up the beach.

  Charlie pressed her hot, throbbing face against the coolness of Samuel’s chest, and a string of wretched, horrible laughs came out of her. “Have sex. Like this. ” The laughter became sobs.

  “Charlotte. ” He held her with one arm as she wept, and gently wiped the blood and tears from her face. “I have to get you up to the house. ”

  “Wait. ” She forced her eyes open. “Where did they shoot you?”

  “No one shot me. One of them clouted me with the end of his rifle. ” He reached up to touch his temple. “It’s just a cut. ”

  “Good. I’m in no shape to dig a slug out of your head. ” She struggled into a sitting position, moaning a little as her ribs and shoulders protested the movements. “I think I can walk. With some help, maybe. ”

  Samuel carefully lifted her, holding her by the waist until she straightened, and then swept her up into his arms.

  “You’re hurt,” she reminded him.

  “It’s not even bleeding now. ” He walked slowly across the sand with her, but when he reached the walkway he picked up the pace. “How well do you heal?”

  “Takyn fast. ” She grimaced as she touched her lip. “By tomorrow I’ll just have some bruises and scabs. Sam, those men didn’t bring us here to ransom us, or to chop us up and sell our parts to GenHance. But you already know that. ”

  “I considered the possibilities. ” He looked down at her. “There’s only one explanation that makes sense of this place, the rules, and some of things Segundo said. ”

  “We’re not hostages, and this isn’t a prison. ” As much as she hurt, part of her had gone numb, just as it had that day long ago when she had crawled out of San Francisco Bay. “It’s a menagerie. ”

  Chapter 9

  The sound of the tide mingled with birdsong as the sun rose over the bay and illuminated the row of cottages hemming the edge of the beach road. Drew Riordan’s voice took on a slight rasp as he finished explaining to Agent Flores exactly why he’d impersonated a federal agent and come to Mexico to find Samuel Taske and Charlotte Marena.

  Drew did hold back some details, like the exact nature of Takyn abilities, but to justify his actions he had to tell her about GenHance and why the biotech corporation was hunting them. Now that Genaro was in Mexico and had to know Drew was here, he needed Gracie’s help more than ever.

  As for what Gracie thought, he couldn’t tell. She sat very still, wearing the perfect poker face as she listened to every word.

  Once he had finished, he noticed that Gracie had turned to watch the sunrise through the back windows of the cottage. For the first time in hours Drew became aware of his surroundings. Gracie’s front room, airy and spotless, all snow-white and dark blue. Everywhere he looked there was some reminder of the sea, from the watercolors of boats she had hung in long parallel rows along the walls to the sun-bleached fishing nets she had wound around her curtain rods. A curio cabinet displayed a collection of polished abalone shells: all perfect specimens. Misty hunks of sea glass occupied a beautiful bowl carved out of driftwood next to an old brass ship’s compass, its needle still dutifully pointing north.

  “You live here so you can be close to the water,” he said as he sifted his fingers through the bits of wave-polished glass. “I wouldn’t have guessed that about you. ”

  “My papi—my father—is a fisherman. I grew up by the sea. ” She sounded wistful.

  “You miss your home?”

  “Of course. Sometimes I wish I could live there again. Life in the village is . . . not so complicated. ” Her mouth tightened. “But I can never go back. ”

  “Are you on bad terms with your folks or something?”

  “Papi understands what I do, and why. He only wished different for me. ” She forced a smile. “Do your parents know about how special you are?”

  He nodded. “They found out when I was a kid. ”

  Telling Gracie that he was the result of an illicit genetic experiment performed on him as an infant didn’t bother Drew. Being made Takyn hadn’t been his choice, and feeling shame over the gifts it had bestowed on him would be the same as regretting winning the lottery. But for a moment he wished he could be an ordinary guy who didn’t bring along the kind of baggage that would scare the hell out of any woman.

  “How did they treat you after they discovered what you were?” she asked.

  “They were worried, and probably a little terrified, but they definitely wanted to protect me. I guess if anything, it brought us closer together. ” He thought of the last conversation he’d had with his mother, just before leaving Monterey. “I don’t get home too often, but maybe after this is over I’ll have a chance. ”

  “If you are not caught, or arrested,” she pointed out. “Or, if this Genaro is as vicious as you say, killed. ”

  “Everything I’ve told you is real, Gracie. ” He leaned forward, holding her gaze. “It’s happening right now. I’d love to walk away, especially now that I’ve seen Genaro here, but I can’t. If I don’t find Samuel before they do, my friend will end up on a dissection table. I can’t allow that. ”

  She gave him an odd look. “Even if it means sacrificing your own life for his?”

  “If I do this right, nobody dies. ” He grinned. “Unless you still want me dead. ”

  “Dead, you would be of no use to anyone. ” Abruptly she stood. “We have much to do. I will make us some breakfast. ”

  “Is your amazing hot chocolate included?” he asked as he followed her into the tiny kitchen.

  “If you like. ” She handed him a pan and a container of milk. “I will show you how to make it. ”

  They worked side by side at her tiny stove, and while Drew stirred the hot chocolate to keep it from scalding he watched her set out eggs, black beans, chopped ham, and a small block of cheese. “Is that going to be an omelet?”

  “Something better. ” She broke four eggs into a skillet, frying them before removing them to a plate and taking a jug from the fridge. She poured yellow batter from the jug into the pan, forming a large circle, which she flipped over until it was golden brown. She scooped two of the eggs to top the pancake, and then deftly added the rest of the ingredients.

  “I didn’t know you could make a pancake into a burrito,” he told her as he hunted through her cabinets for two cups.

  “This is not a pancake or burrito. ” She transferred the contents of the pan to a plate before she started on a second serving. “I’m maki
ng huevos motuleños. ”

  “Does that mean ‘Mexican Eggs Benedict’ ? ”

  She gave him a dry look. “It means eggs Motul-style. ”

  As Gracie finished cooking, Drew set the little kitchen table and filled their cups with the hot chocolate. She brought the plates over and sat down beside him.

  Drew breathed in the tantalizing aroma rising from the plate. “Oh, God. I’m never going to be able to eat Taco Bell again, am I?”

  “Probably not,” she advised him.

  From the first bite of the spicy, eggy concoction, Drew fell in love, and wolfed down his portion at starving-man speed.

  “We should go to my village,” Gracie said unexpectedly. “It’s not far from the city, and my father has a good boat. There is an English scientist who lives on a small island near the zone. He was given permission to put cameras in the protected areas to record the island birds that he studies. If your friends are hiding there, he may have seen them land. ”

  “I’d like to talk to him,” he said, “but what about your job here?”

  “I am due some leave time. ” She didn’t seem concerned.

  When he noticed Gracie only picking at her meal he put down his fork. “What’s wrong? Don’t tell me you’re dieting. ”

  “I’m not very hungry. I should change and pack some things for the journey. Here. ” She pushed her plate toward him and got up to walk out of the kitchen.

  “Gracie. ” As she stopped, Drew saw how she kept her back toward him, and the rigid set of her shoulders. As much as he needed her, he had disrupted her life and put her in an impossible situation. He had to give her an out. “If you’re having second thoughts, it’s okay. I’ll take off on my own. ”

  “You said this Jonah Genaro, he will do anything to catch you and kill you,” she said. “My duty is to preserve life. ”

  Drew frowned. “Gracie, you don’t have to do anything. I’m not your responsibility. ”
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