Lost in Barbarian Space(5)

By: Anna Hackett

But that dangerous quest had also gained Colm’s friend his mate, and the Terran treasures they’d found, including the legendary sword, Durendal.

“Who is this cousin of Aurina’s?” Colm asked reluctantly. He’d never let his friend down before, and he didn’t plan to start today.

Colm took the wulver beast from Kavon and hefted it over the back of his hargon. The animal snorted steam in protest.

“Niklas Phoenix,” Kavon answered. “He is an astro-archeologist. He studies history and works for the Institute. His woman travels with him…as head of his security.”

Colm raised his brows. “His woman is his security?”

A small smile flashed on Kavon’s usually serious face. Since Aurina had come into his life, Kavon had shed much of the darkness of his childhood and smiled more frequently.

“Apparently. If Aurina has taught us anything, it is that women are capable of doing more things than we’ve ever imagined.”

Colm coughed to hide a laugh. Aurina did not let her warrior get away with riding over her, or ordering her around. Kavon had gotten very good at asking nicely—something with which most warlords had great difficulty.

Markarian women were the lifeblood of their society. Colm was well aware that, apart from their soft skin and delicious smells, women ran and contributed to most aspects of Markarian life. The head of Kavon’s mines was a woman, his head healer and scholar was a woman… Colm knew better than to underestimate a female. But they were not as physically strong as warriors, even with their nanami, and they were rarely warriors.

Colm scraped a hand through his long hair. “I still think I am better off here, training the warriors, rather than traipsing around the Wilds with these skyflyers.”

“I am still your warlord, Colm,” Kavon said quietly. “Besides, you have been training more lately than ever before. The warriors complain you drive them into the ground.” Kavon’s intense gaze drilled into him. “You keep driving yourself to be better, to hone your skills and your control.”

“As any dedicated warrior does, warlord.” This was a topic he wasn’t going to discuss with his friend.

“You know I hate it when you ‘warlord’ me. Anyway, you don’t have time to wiggle out of this assignment…they are due here on the hour. Will probably be waiting for us when we return to the estate.”

Kavon slapped Colm on the shoulder. “Come, let’s get this wulver beast back to be skinned and the meat delivered to the kitchens. Then you will need to prepare your sword.”

Colm frowned. “Why? I don’t need my sword to eat a feast.”

“I have promised our visitors a sword-fighting display before the feast. A fitting welcome to Markaria, don’t you think?” Kavon swung up onto his hargon beast.

Colm groaned and grabbed the reins of his hargon. The Great Warrior grant me patience. He heaved out a breath. The training he had planned, followed by a quiet dinner and possibly talking a willing female into his bed, looked like a distant dream.

Now, he would have to spend his time entertaining goggle-eyed outsiders who considered him a dumb, unthinking, fighting machine.

He nudged his hargon into a fast pace. Hopefully he could ride out his frustrations and at least face the skyflyers with his famous warrior control intact.

Chapter Two

Colm stood by Kavon’s side in the great hall. His hair was still wet from washing, and he was wearing new leather trousers—ones not stained with the blood of his hunt.

With his enhanced hearing, he could tell a group was approaching from the corridor outside. Footsteps and quiet murmurs.

Aurina entered first. The former deep-space scout was smiling, her pale skin glowing and her sunset-colored hair falling around her shoulders. When her gaze fell on her bondmate, her smile widened. Today, she was wearing typical Markarian dress—a leather corset and a long skirt that hit at mid-calf. She usually wore trousers and shirts, but she’d had to accommodate for the growing mound of her belly.

Kavon was going to be a father. Colm slid his hands behind his back, his fingers lacing tightly together. He was happy for his friend. If anyone deserved happiness, it was Kavon. But the idea was like salt into a wound Colm didn’t even know he had.