The Tempting of Fate
The passengers were all moving slowly towards the forward cab, preparing to disembark, the flight attendants were busy with their duties. A small shock wave of heat, a quick flash of light and they appeared in the aft section of the cabin. One flight attendant saw them appear, she gasped and stepped back. Kane caught her around her waist, pulled her quickly to him and whispered to her mind in the Witching voice, ‘You did not see. Everything is as it should be.’ It reverberated inside her mind. She stood still for a moment, her eyes fixed, seeing nothing. Kane released her. Casually he said.
“Thank you and have a nice day.” He rolled the words over in a Scottish brogue. She caught herself staring at him, and why not. Wow! Tall, dark, handsome… dressed in black, toting a laptop. Businessman. Reeks of money and good taste. As he turned to walk away, she saw it. Whoa…wait…and wow again. His hair was pulled back, tied off, plaited and ran down the length of his back. Power. Oh yeah. Only men in power…and with power could afford to behave this way in the business world. He had his own, and he owned it. Where had she been that she hadn’t noticed him before. Reza spoke and drew her attention.
“Yes, thank you.” His voice startled her from her reverie that was Kane. Yum! Outlaw! Dark brown leather pants showed every muscle in his powerful long legs…and backside…she saw as he turned slightly to pick up his satchel. The casual light chocolate, loose knit sweater accentuated his golden brown skin. The darkest, most intense blue eyes she had ever seen, smiled at her. When he adjusted the strap to the satchel, she saw the tattoo that covered the back of his hand. She glanced to see that on the same side that the tattoo continued to run up the side of his neck, peeking out maybe three inches from under the neckline. It was tribal. She conjectured briefly on how much of his torso in between was adorned with it. She certainly would love to get a peek. He gave a quick wink and a nod as he narrowed his eyes on her, looking quickly into her mind to make certain that Kane’s suggestion had taken. Her mind seemed to be stuck in a feedback loop that included lust. His hand reached to brush her fingertips as he turned to walk away. She watched in rapt concentration as she conjectured as to where he might be staying. Maybe he would hit some of the local clubs. She was after all, on an overnighter. Maybe she should try to catch up to him. Maybe he would like some company. She heard a woman’s voice speak from behind her in a whisper.
“He looks good, but he’s really bad in bed. All…me, me, me, he can’t seem to get enough of himself.” Aju saw him glance back at her. Was that jealousy speaking? He grinned and continued his path. She felt heat flush her cheeks. Jealousy…absolutely not…well maybe just a little. Okay Damn it. The touching the fingers thing was a little…annoying.
The attendant looked to see the woman. Instant hate. She was small, beautiful and perfect. She wore a tight knit tube top, gold in color. And oh, those had to be fake! No one that has boobs like that, came by them naturally. Aju walked by her, low rider gauchos shaping her tight bottom, fitting snuggly. Even with the three-inch wedge sandals, she was small. Her burgundy wine colored hair was pulled back into a ponytail that sat high on her head and even with that, it still came down to the small of her back, wisps of hair framing her face. She wore no make-up other than a clear lip-gloss and she was flawless. The attendant squinted to see. Where those canary diamond studs in her ears? Her only other jewelry was a simple slender gold chain around her neck, which was mimicked as an anklet. The flight attendant glanced to her own comfortable loafers. Gawd, she hated real life.
They exited the plane onto the concourse. Meisha greeted Kane and Reza. Aju walked past with no acknowledgement. She moved on to where she was to be picked up at the passenger arrival area. Reza turned to watch her with longing. Kane and Meisha did likewise. Why not, she was a beautiful woman. Every other man was watching as well so they blended in nicely. Meisha had booked her suite at Gran Hotel La Florida Barcelona, in an effort to make her look like she was there on company business. The building dated back to 1925 and sat perched atop Mount Tibidabo. It was a privileged location that sported breathtaking and unsurpassed views of both Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. It was a very romantic and exclusive hotel that sported the highest level of privacy for their guests. It was twenty minutes from downtown Barcelona. This way the Varda Limo could pick up not only Aju, but some attention as well. That was, after all…the point.
Her background story had been meticulously designed and planted. Rumors were already circulating that she was a security expert that specialized in the design of lethal response security systems, which were highly illegal. The Physician did not know her identity so she was their ‘ace in the hole’. Reza and Kane were… to the public eye, trying to make it look as if they were simply visiting from Scotland. Meisha had even made it look like they had taken a commercial flight and had gone through customs. A gesture. No one was really trying to fool themselves. The Physician had been around for a long time. He had been cleaver in all of his dealings. This ‘Physician’ had real skills. He would know that they were there. He might even know why they had come. They were hoping he would conjecture that they were about to add security to the Varda estate that made its’ home in the nearby countryside.
Meisha was doing his time as a watcher, monitoring the wyrdings that would occasionally snap and take people from earth to somewhere else in the universe, as well, they would occasionally bring someone or something to earth. He and his assorted crews would run them down when this happened. Aju was to meet with them in a place of both elegance and decadence.
Meisha had been to this place on many occasions. It was a private club. It had no name. However, the regular clientele called it ‘SDS’ or ‘Seven’. Meisha had uncovered that it alluded to the Seven Deadly Sins. It had been owned by the same woman for the past sixty years and it had never seemed to go out of fashion. It was also rumored that it was her grand daughter that managed the place and she just happened to be the spitting image of her mother and grandmother before her. Meisha knew that there was something unnatural about it. He had also conjectured that it had always been the same woman. Yes… something unnatural had touched this place.
Tonight they would sit together in a private area of this private club and discuss business. Someone would see. Someone would run their identities through a database and see that three of the Varda had met with a security expert. Someone would take this information back to the physician.
Reza and Kane went with Meisha from the airport to the Varda estate, chauffeured there by Meisha in his Hummer. Kane barely spoke. Reza felt bad. Meisha knew why. Meisha kept the conversation going by asking about Torrein and Taial. He wanted blow-by-blow details. He was hoping to get home to see both of them soon, if only for a short time. But he was waiting for Taial to get out of stasis. Meisha was excited about the prospect of going to Renaj-cou-daia to see Torrein and to meet Dulci. He was glad that his brother was blissfully happy with his new mate.
He had also been very happy to hear that they spent their time plotting a coup that would put her blood father in power over the Renajians. Not that he wanted war… he just wanted to see a change in power in their favor. It would be the first time in their history since the Sulkar came to rule Renaj. Meisha’s exuberant need to be in the loop only proved to make Reza even more tense. He did not want to discus his current state of affairs. He had almost lost Aju. The worst part was that he had not even known that it was Aju until she lay dying. Thoughts of just the day and the night before kept coming back to him. He had been happy in that short time and more peaceful than he had ever been. And now he could not seem to get the knots out of his shoulders. They arrived at the Varda estate and made themselves comfortable to wait, giving Aju time to get settled in at her hotel.
After the appropriate amount of time they shifted to Aju’s room at La Florida. She called the meeting to order the moment they arrived. They went over the details of several different contingency plans based on a variety of diverse scenarios.
When Aju had said, “We are here to find Leeanan” she did not have to look to feel Kane’s back stiffened. She did not have to reach out to feel with her senses what Kane was feeling. An undertone of suppressed anger worked its way through the room. Reza only then felt it himself. Kane was angry with him. He blamed him for Leeanan’s abduction, and the child…Reza’s child…that was growing inside his woman.
Reza always got his way with women. He was smooth and sexually aggressive. Aju knew this way first hand. This was how he had behaved with her in their first encounter. Even if she had not wanted him, it would have been his price to save her stallion and she was certain that he would have justified it with his “You know you want me baby” attitude. And needless to say, any other woman would have been glad to have him. He was indeed just too magnificent to pass up. He oozed sex appeal and flaunted his masculine prowess. She seriously doubted that any woman he turned his attention to had ever turned him down. Not to mention the fact that he wore his arrogance in a most appealing way. It came off as power… and he had that as well.
Thinking back to the night that they had been together in the desert, when he had discovered she was still a virgin, he had stopped. He had stepped away. It had been she that instigated what had finally happened. She had gently, and knowingly, offered herself up to him. She had stepped forward after he had stepped back. She had wanted to know him in the most carnal of ways. She had wanted him to be aggressive and take her. She had wanted him to inspire her passion because she knew it would have been difficult for her to go forward, if he had not. He had been exactly what she wanted, exactly what she needed. He had only come to her at her invitation. Reza had cooed sweet things in her ear, encouraging the heat that was flowing in her veins and scalding her body. There was something to this man. He seemed almost surprised that she had wanted to continue. She felt his awe, and a certain reverence when he had come to her.
Aju turned to look at Kane. He stood with his back to the room. She felt him struggling to focus his attention on finding Leeanan as he fought the urge to pummel Reza to the ground. This would have been the battle for all times. At one time, Kane had occupied the position that Reza now held. They both had the same training. And…both were Varda. Uncle and nephew. Kane was considerably older and had wisdom and patience on his side… and as Varda… each time he would make the shift, he would return his body to its most positive state of being. Even though he was well over two thousand Beddian years old, he looked no more than a man of twenty-eight…maybe thirty. He had lived for centuries under the rule of the Sulkar and had fought in two of the most brutal wars in the history of the League worlds. He was perfect, powerful and motivated.
Reza had fought in both these wars himself. But the Rule of the Sulkar was at its demise by the time he had reached his man age. For a moment, Aju felt sorry for him. But in a strange way, she understood what Reza’s motive had been. He had taken Leeanan into his protection in hopes of keeping the Sulkar from recapturing her. But being Reza, he could not resist the temptation of a beautiful, fragile woman. He had bedded her. That in itself was forgivable. At that time, no one knew that the Physician had made a powerful new accelerant for Mandusa, the Sulkar, who had given it to Leeanan. Even with the Varda’s ability to control conception…she had conceived. The reality of it suddenly hit home to her. Leeanan might not survive the accelerant. It would draw upon her already fragile body and within a month’s time…and that time was up…Reza’s child would be born. The Sulkar had a plan for that child…the Varda child. This had to be her priority. Luckily, both Kane and Reza had the same priority. There would be no compromise. Leeanan and the child would be coming home with them.
As Kane stood with his back to the room, he drew in a slow deep breath…let it out even slower. He knew that he had to put aside his anger at Reza. He needed to focus on Leeanan. He hoped that the Ezdras woman, Aju…Reza’s newest conquest, could help in this. He also hoped that Zee was correct in her vision that the Physician had a residence on Earth, in Spain…either in Barcelona or in Seville, and near Alcazar. His fingers moved the drape aside only a few inches to stare into the night. He saw more than most. As Varda, his sight was exceptionally acute. His hands shoved themselves into his pockets as he realized that it was not just Reza that he was angry with. He was angry with himself. He wondered how many times he had gone to visit his brother, King Baj-rei, and sat with him over lunch or supper. Leeanan had been a mere kitchen maid. The food that he ate had most probably been prepared by her… touched by her… and he never stopped to feel… just feel. If he had, he most likely would have detected her energy emanation folded into the food. And if he had, he would have acted upon it immediately. If he had been paying attention, she would have been safe inside his Keep in the middle of the Black Forest of the Sacred Sanji, and none of this horror would have come to her. Now she was in the hands of a monster, and with a child coming.
As he stood staring, focused on nothing but his insight, he felt a wave of despair wash through the room. He turned to look and found Reza sitting at the edge of the bed. His focus fixed in concentration. His emotions about to consume him and his concern for both Leeanan and his child knotted in his gut. He thought for a moment that maybe the Sulkar Mandusa…or Udan, or whatever he was calling himself now, was right after all. Maybe the Varda had lived in peaceful co-existence for so long that they were letting their guard down. Kane’s vision narrowed as he searched his mind, he wasn’t certain that they could get any more guarded or prepared.
After the third moon war, after Taj was killed and Rei-shaw was presumed killed, his brother Baj-rei, King of Beddia had moved forward with a vengeance... in secret. He prepared for the day when they would have to defend Beddia and her people from the entire League of Planets… maybe even the Federation and the Alliance worlds as well. And he had not stopped. Somewhere deep inside him, he had never trusted that the Sulkar would not return. They had run for their lives and had inhabited many worlds outside of League space. Still he believed that maybe the Varda themselves were living lax. Maybe they needed a little adversity to help keep their senses honed. It had been proven that only difficult circumstances provoked the evolution of a specie… survival of the fittest and all. Aju was quick to speak. She wanted a quick review before going to the club.
“We must assume that this physician already knows who we are and why we are here and is prepared for us. There are eyes and ears everywhere. Information is easy to come by, or easily purchased. Do not forget that there still might be traitors within your household. Also, we must keep in mind that the physician shares his renegade shifter with Mandusa. I have no doubt that he watches for his chance to steal Sasha for his master. While doing this I am certain that he is free to roam Beddia, to even be close to the royal house. Sasha has been the only one to every get a look at him and this renegade shifter knows that Sasha saw him. He also knows that she would share her mind with us and therefore we would know him. He might have changed his identity as well. Also, keep in mind that Mandusa has had the physician change his disguise. He looks as an entirely new person now. We do not know how easy this procedure is for the Physician to perform. Mandusa sat with us, ate with us, lived among us for many years and we never knew that he be Sulkar. Remember this and do not let your guard down. Always assume the worse case scenario in dealing with everyone. We do not know if the trap I set for him on Renaj was successful. He may still live. Also, as Codan-rei spoke before he was placed into stasis… that the physician trains his Dragoons here on Earth. Let us try to avoid conflict with these creatures. Codan speaks that they are dangerous…even for Varda. We have no advantage or disadvantage here. A few things could play out here. The Physician will know that we are here and either summon us, or set traps for us. He will do this if he wishes a confrontation. If this happens, we will divide. I will keep him busy and you will go for Leeanan and the child. He will know this strategy and be prepared…so be prepared. Or he will seek to keep hidden from us… in which case we will have to work harder.
We will also assume that he knows who I am, or that I am someone who has agreed to work with you. We must act accordingly. Tonight we look for information and let our presence be known while going through our facade. If the Physician is a fool, he will think me to be the person that my cover story speaks me to be. In which case I believe he will try to discover just exactly what the Varda are doing with a Lethal Response specialist. However, I do not believe that this man is a fool. We will investigate the leads Meisha has compiled for us and then later we will move through the streets and try to listen to minds and feel what is on the air.” At that, she picked up a small satchel and a suit bag and walked to the bathroom. Once the door had closed Kane took this moment to turn to Reza.
“I need to hear from you that you regret your behavior. I need for you to speak that you regret denying me my request for Leeanan to come to my home and be safe there. You must speak these things to me in truth before I will be able to put away my anger and turn my attention to what is most important… saving my lifemate… and your child.” Reza heard the pain in Kane’s voice…something that he had created. Reza stood and turned slowly to Kane.
“I did not know that she was your lifemate… and neither did you. Aidan never had the chance to tell me of your request before she was taken. I was committed to protect her from the Sulkar. I intended it with my full heart. I saw what she suffered at the hands of this creature. I did not know of the new accelerant. I had no way of knowing what it was capable of doing. Your lifemate is a beautiful and gentle woman. When I met her, she had no mate, no one to care for her. She was alone and afraid. She had been tricked and trapped, beaten and abused… raped and tortured. Her mind had been manipulated by the technologies that the physician had implanted in her. She never knew why she obeyed him…and was twisted by the fact that she did. She thought herself sick and deserving of his abuse. When I met her, she was contemplating taking her own life. I meant only to give her hope and safety. You might not like what I speak next, but…I held her gently and I made love to her softly. I thought only of her pleasure. I saw her mind and it was, to her, her first and only good experience with this act that she had ever known. I offered her my home and I bought her a dress and combs for her hair. No one had ever given anything to her before this. I held her at night so her nightmares would not consumer her. And they were indeed vicious and voracious. I made her laugh and no one had ever done this for her before either. I did not know that this shifter would perform the master shift to claim her from amidst my guards. And let us not forget Kane, that the master shift…the Subarashi, can be performed even through a shield. Nothing… no one could have protected her. Not even you. If you need to hear me speak my regret, then it is yours. I regret that I was unable to keep her safe. I regret that she has fallen back into the hands of these monsters. I do not however regret that she carries my child. It was my hearts true desire. The Maaz-ra-dune saw this and acted upon it swiftly. I am sorry Kane…but I cannot regret my child. I just cannot.”
Kane stood staring at his nephew and knew that he spoke the truth. For some reason he had thought Reza unfeeling and insensitive, selfish and egotistical. But seeing him standing there, he knew he had been wrong. Reza had just behaved in this way for so long he knew of nothing else. He was certain that at many times his cockiness was a cover up for deeper feelings. Kane glanced to the bathroom door. His brother, Reza’s father… had spoken to him of the Azsusina of Ezdras and the situation that was unfolding. The woman in the other room was Reza’s lifemate and he was about to screw that up too. Reza just simply did not know how to let go and allow things to unfold. He always had to control and demand. Take… because he knew no other way. Kane remembered Reza as a young boy. With three older brothers and six younger siblings, he was always caught in the middle. He always had to struggle to set himself apart from the others in his father’s eyes. But he never had to. Baj-rei had a very special kind of love for Reza. They were so very much alike. Reza added,
“I can only hope that she remembers these things and that she remembers my promise and has faith that I will come for her. I have spoken my words to the Maaz-ra-dune that she clings to this short time that we had together and that it strengthens her and gives her hope.” Kane found that he had softened his opinion of Reza. He simply said,
“Thank you. I needed to hear you speak it. Now let’s go find Leeanan and your girl child.”
Aju had listened from the other room. Reza was a good man…despite his posturing. The door to the bathroom opened and Aju stepped out. Both men turned to look. Kane heard Reza draw a startled breath and saw his eyes. At first glance, he was mesmerized…at second thought…he was appalled. Men were about to look at her the way he did…in out and out lust…and…absolutely NOT! She wore red. Her long hair Burgundy red hair was worn down, parted on the side and smoothed into a pageboy. One side dropped to slip over one eye, reminiscent of the thirties of old Earth and gave her the look of mystery. The neckline of her dress dropped low showing just a perfect amount of tempting cleavage. The hemline was well above the knee, closer to…well above the thigh. It fit her like a second skin showing the decadent curves that belonged exclusively to him. He noticed that the material was slightly glittery and as he blinked to look closer, his eyes focused. Was it see through? He could swear he could see through it… sort of. Was that the shadow of a thong underneath? Even in four-inch heels, she still looked petite. Her big eyes were made even more noticeable by the fact that she wore make-up….Makeup! Her full lush lips were a passionate shade of deep red that drew attention directly to her mouth. Her complexion was flawless. She wore ruby earrings from the Harry Winston Tiara collection. She wore a bracelet of rubies as well. It was at least an inch and a half thick and at the underside of her wrist housed what looked to be a watch but was really a scanner.
When she turned to check her image in the mirror, his jaw dropped. It had no back. It swooped down so low that you could also see…well…you could almost see… NO…absolutely no way she was wearing this. Kane heard Reza say
“What are you wearing? Surely, you do not think to go out in public this way?” When she spoke the words, they cut her as deeply as any blade could.
“My King has assigned me this mission. Kane has also requested my services. I am the Azsusina of Ezdras and I am about to work under cover. It will not be the first time nor will it be the last. The idea here is to draw attention. I believe that my costume will accomplish this. Now…are you ready?” Kane jumped in,
“We are ready.” Stepping to her, he said,
“In this…” His eyes momentarily perused her. Reza balked. Was this Kane’s idea of revenge?
“you will draw the attention that we need. It is a shrewd disguise.” She said,
“I will meet you there.” She stepped away from him picked up her laptop, her bag and walked out the door. Reza stood staring after her. He held his feelings in check. Kane shifted back to the Varda estate in the lush northern countryside. Just desserts were always the sweetest. He just wished that he did not feel this way.