(picking up from the last excerpt here.)
“Let’s go home, Coulter…Daris.” Nare had to correct herself. Coulter was his human name. He had introduced himself as Agent Coulter, but he really was Corou Daris. Time to acknowledge that.
When he turned, she caught a sad look in his eyes and something more.
“Coulter…” Anita stepped around from the other side, clearly expecting that she was in charge. “Take us down to the Wyoming base.”
Shadows danced on his cheeks.
Hoping to sway him and feeling sympathetic to whatever he must have endured as a pawn of the humans, Nare reached out and clasped her fingers around his black-gloved hand. “How long has it been?”
“A long time,” he said quietly.
“That makes two of us.”
He shook his head and took her fingers in his as if needing to grasp something familiar. “It’s not that easy for me,” he murmured.
“Why? You were Shirukan. You’re not anymore.” The Shirukan had been used specifically to kill Keepers with the goal of obtaining all the shards of the Starfire Crystal. Her acceptance and trust should count for more than anyone’s, since she was a Crystal Keeper, the most valuable of their prey. He had to realize that.
He pinched her fingertips in his. “It’s not that.”
She waited, but he said nothing more.
With the Shirat Empire’s biggest threat destroyed, they couldn’t retain their influence. He had nothing to fear, if that’s why he hesitated.
He didn’t know.
“It’s gone, Daris.”
He looked up, his brow furrowed in question.
“Soriel confirmed it—Heffin’s Gate is destroyed.” In the silence, Nare held her breath. She wanted to go home, but he was the one flying the ship. This was her last card to play to convince him.
“Are you certain?”
Anita’s tone grated on her nerves. Nare’s blue wings ruffled behind her but she took a breath to calm herself and refused to take her eyes off Daris when she said, “Soriel was in contact with the Starfire, and they knew that Raea destroyed the machine with their power. That’s what gave me the idea to destroy NeoGen Labs. Heffin’s Gate is gone, but Soriel warned that there’s another threat. If this is what he meant…”
After a deep breath, Daris gave a nod and his wings relaxed. “All right,” he said in a tone of defeat.
She squeezed of his fingers in an effort to push aside whatever bothered him. “You’re not alone.”
He stared at her in a way that sent a blush warming from inside and rising to her face, and she looked down at their hands. Self-consciousness made her slide her hand away and fidget. Something about him intrigued her since he had caught her in the air after she destroyed the NeoGen Labs building. The moment he grabbed her hands in his, before he ever donned the gloves, something linked between them, but the way he had numbed her arms by pressing his fingertips into her wrists and had then agreed to take her prisoner for Tarolis had killed any curiosity. Proving himself to be an ally after pissing her off should have turned her off, but there was something about him, and something in the way he looked at her, that tugged at her curiosity and her sympathy.
Nare shook the thought away with a flimsy smile meant to hide her unease. Damn him. Daris intrigued her. That was all. She wanted to know his secrets, the hint of what had linked them before she lost the resonance from the pressure on her wrists. And part of her wanted to help him face whatever it was that had made him flee to Earth, besides the part of her that simply wanted to return home.
“Don’t you dare!”
“We will return after learning more, Agent Cross,” Nare said matter-of-factly. “Earth isn’t prepared to deal with this. You’re going to need assistance, if this is something bigger than the Shirat Empire.”
Anita gave her a dark look. “You will not open that portal, Miss Kaershon.”
“Crystal Keeper Nare,” she corrected and caught a sideways smile from Daris that warmed her in his amusement. He understood her point, but he was Inari. That was something Anita would never be and probably hated. In that situation, Anita was the outsider.
Nare stepped around the round control station into the open center of the triangle of three such stations. Four seats fixed to the floor remained empty along the arched front console, like the three along the flat wall behind them.
A crescent of the blue Earth loomed in the forward view. She couldn’t open a portal there. Or she could, but she didn’t want to risk being so close.
“Turn us away. I’ll set up the portal in open space.”
Irritation shuddered through Nare at Anita’s questioning of their every move. “You have no authority here, Agent Cross. Sit down and shut up. If I lose concentration…well, remember what nearly happened in the brig a little while ago, and then imagine us disintegrating completely.”
She sounded far more confident then she felt. The memory of her near-fatal mistake lingered as a shadow of doubt in her mind.
“Agent Daris Coulter,” Anita said in a sharp voice. “If you know what’s best for you, you will take us down.”
Nare held her breath. Coulter was his human name. Corou Daris was Inari, not human. If he listened to that woman, they’d never find the answers they sought. This was bigger than Earth or Inar’Ahben alone, but at least her people had experience in these matters to give them a better chance of facing whatever threat might be spreading.
He gave Anita a cool look of defiance and, without a word, returned to the controls. Good for him.
“You should sit down, Agent Cross,” he said, his hands moving over the controls.
Finally. Now, Nare could get to work taking them home.
Note: This is not a final version and may be subject to change before the book is released in September 2013.
If you like what you’re reading, Soriel (Starfire Angels: Revelations Book 1) and Deception (Starfire Angels: Revelations 1.5) are currently available from online retailers.