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Mad tried not to think about why he’d tossed and turned the night before. He’d spent most of his evenings alone on Guerran. Last night was no outlier.
But it was a night without Kenzie.
He truly was going mad if one night with a woman had spoiled him for sleeping alone. Especially when the woman greeted him with a knife to the throat. He’d much rather wake to breakfast. Or lips around his cock.
But he’d done his part, and now he got to see Kenzie again. Excitement surged in him and he couldn’t quash it. He’d spent six years on Guerran with no purpose other than survival.
At least now he was helping someone.
Where was the someone he was supposed to be helping?
Mad got to the meeting spot early and made sure he wasn’t followed. Jadirel wasn’t the type to micromanage, but now that word had gotten out about Mad killing Tyze, there were others who’d be after him. Life was cutthroat on Guerran.
Had someone found Kenzie? Alarm surged, and his fingers ached to grab his axe and start busting heads.
Kenzie was his.
And there was the madness again.
Kenzie was her own. She was on a mission, and she’d be leaving the planet as soon as it was done. There was no future for them. They existed for this one moment of time, and then she’d be nothing more than a memory.
You could go with her.
The dangerous thought danced across his mind. To go with her was to sacrifice every hope he had for returning home. He didn’t know the human. He couldn’t give up on his family like that.
Mad looked down the street, hoping to spot the human. She wasn’t walking towards him. He didn’t see her at all. He tried not to worry. If Jadirel had caught her, word would have reached Mad.
Of course, word could take a while to travel.
No. She hadn’t been caught. He had to believe that.
Something pulled his gaze up, and he saw a figure on the roof across the street. It could have been anyone. They were wearing a hood and too far away from him to make out features. But something in the way the figure held themselves told Mad it was Kenzie.
He rushed across the street and up the stairs of the building before she could run away.
And there she was, dark cloak overhead, knives strapped exactly where he expected them, and a Guerran-style tunic covering the rest of her. He liked her better in his own clothes, but seeing her in the clothes of this land was almost as good.
“Trying to blend in?” he asked. “You’re too short for it.” Kru’dari towered over humans, at least as far as he’d seen of the humans on Guerran. There weren’t many of them. Maybe the taller ones were hidden on another planet. But as it was, Mad was more than a head taller than Kenzie.
All the better to shield her from danger.
“Blending here isn’t an issue. You should have seen some of the places I’ve been.” Her hand rested on one of her knives, and her eyes were wary.
“I’d love to hear a story.” Mad had been born on Krudare and shipped off to Guerran shortly after his twenty-sixth birthday. He only knew stories of other planets. Kenzie had traveled the galaxy.
And he was sure she’d give up every experience if it meant getting her sister back.
Her fingers gripped the handle of her knife, but she didn’t pull it out.
“So we’re back to that. Are you ever going to trust me?” He could still feel the ghostly imprint of her knife against his throat. If she’d pressed just a little harder, he might still carry her mark.
And why did that thought send a jolt of awareness to his cock?
He’d worn simple clothes today rather than his fighting leathers. He’d wanted to blend in as best he could, and wool was far less remarkable than his usual getup. But these simple clothes hid nothing, and if he didn’t get himself under control he’d be on full display for his human.
Not that he minded. He wanted her to remember him in all his glory.
“Can a person ever trust a traitor?” She dropped her hand from the knife, but the question stabbed him all the same.
“Someone’s been telling stories.” Mad had hoped he could have a quiet existence on Guerran, but news of his conviction traveled fast. By the time he’d landed on the planet, it seemed like everyone knew he was a cowardly traitor.
He’d forced himself not to care. But with Kenzie, he wanted her to know the truth. “I was given an order to kill civilians. Intelligence said one of the king’s enemies was hiding in a small village. It was deemed safer to level the town rather than infiltrate to find the criminal. Things may have turned out alright for me if I quietly refused and spoke to my commander privately. Instead, I warned one of the villagers and they all dispersed. The army hunted them down one by one. I refused to participate. They threw me in a cell, and here I am. The traitor.”
He wasn’t ashamed of what he’d done, even if it had besmirched the Damari name. He had to have his own ethics, or he was worth nothing. But sometimes he wished he hadn’t been sent out at all that day. If he hadn’t been assigned to that unit, he wouldn’t have rebelled.
Kenzie watched him silently. Half the roof was between them, but it was like they were in their own little world. Some soft sounds from the street below drifted up, but this building was taller than any of the surrounding structures. “You protected people and they labeled you a traitor.” It wasn’t a question.
“It may be hard to believe but—”
“It’s not,” she said, cutting him off. “Your planet isn’t the only place with a fucked up idea of justice.” She looked disillusioned, and Mad wanted to comfort her. He wanted to prove to her that not everything was a ruin of ideals and optimism.
A hard ask on Guerran.
Mad sucked in a ragged breath as the rest of her words rushed over him. “No one has believed me in a very long time.” He took a step towards her, as if he was being dragged by a wild animal.
Kenzie seemed to brace herself and remained rooted in place. “You’re doing something to me.” She spat the words out past a mouth that didn’t seem willing to speak them. “What’s your aim?”
Mad didn’t step back. If anything, her words only spurred him on. Mate. The temptation whispered through his head and wrapped chains around his soul. A fated mate was something almost unheard of on Guerran. Kru’dari could mate one another as a way to exchange energy without the hand of fate, but that wasn’t what Mad was feeling.
No, he felt drawn to Kenzie in a way he couldn’t completely comprehend. His cock was a steel rod in his pants, and if she gave a hint of want, he’d take her right there.
He needed her. He wanted her. He’d had her. But it wasn’t enough. It never would be, not until she wore his mark and accepted she was his.
The possessive insanity should have made him back away. Kenzie didn’t plan to stay on Guerran for long. She wasn’t meant for him.
But fate was a fickle master.
“I’m not doing anything to you.” His voice was gravelly.
Kenzie closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “What did you find out about my sister?” Her hands curled into fists and she leaned back.
Mad had to stay where he was. He didn’t want her using one of her blades on him again. But he didn’t step back. He wouldn’t budge until she demanded it. “There was nothing in the auction house. No record of Carise.”
She sucked in a breath and let it out. Another woman might have screamed. Kenzie’s face was blank, not a hint of emotion, and Mad realized she must be holding on by a mere thread. If she let herself vent, she’d never stop screaming.
He wanted to hold her and tell her all would be well. But that wasn’t a promise he could make. Not when her sister could be in some hellhole where myriad tortures awaited.
“Stop it!” Kenzie demanded.
“I’m not doing anything. You want answers? Ask the hand of fate.” He didn’t step closer. He didn’t reach out to touch her. But it took iron hard control to stay rooted in place.
“This isn’t me.” She glared at him, teeth bared and ready for a fight. “I don’t get distracted. You have to be doing something to me.”
If he said he suspected she might be his mate, she would run, and he’d never see her again. Mad didn’t need to be a psychic to know it was true. So he did the wiser thing and said nothing.
Kenzie lunged forward and kissed him.
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