Lost in Barbarian Space(6)

By: Anna Hackett

Colm would never be a father.

Aurina’s laughter brought Colm back. When Kavon wasn’t dragging her to their rooms, she spent most of her time helping with Kavon’s mining operations. The woman was fascinated with rocks, and now assisted the mining superintendent.

The man who followed Aurina into the hall was tall and broad across the shoulders, with dark hair. This had to be Niklas Phoenix. If he’d been born on Markaria, he would have been a warrior. To think he was a scholar was strange. His blue gaze moved around the hall in a way that told Colm the man had catalogued everything in an instant.

For a second, Colm didn’t really pay attention to the woman by Phoenix’s side, but once Colm focused on her, he wondered how he hadn’t noticed her the second she’d moved into the hall.

She moved like the darken beasts. A smooth, steady glide with the promise she could explode into action. She wore some sort of dark armor that molded to her tall, slim form. Markarians all had dark shades of hair and dark bronze skin. This woman had hair like moonlight and eyes the color of jewels in a box.

And she was deadly.

Colm tensed, his hand itching to reach for his sword. He was a warrior, and even without his nanami buzzing at him, he sensed danger.

“Be nice,” he heard Phoenix murmur to the woman.

She didn’t respond.

Another woman stepped forward. Colm turned his attention to her and his eyes narrowed.

She looked almost as deadly as the first, even though they were a complete contrast. She wore a black-and-gray uniform, and stood with a straight spine. Where the first woman was lean, this woman’s uniform was filled with toned curves. Colm let himself look. Markarian women were leaner and muscular, so he found the curves…intriguing.

Not that this woman was soft. Far from it. She was younger than the other, and the way she held herself—she kept her feet spread, her balance even—he could tell she was ready to react. She had laser pistols holstered at her hips, and some strange black cylinder dangled from her belt.

Her hair…he sucked in another breath. It looked like sunlight and gold. It was pulled back tightly in a long tail that swayed behind her. Her skin was a golden color, and her face was alert and serious—she didn’t think she was here to enjoy herself.

Her gaze lifted and met his. Colm held it. Her eyes were a fascinating pale green.

He saw her nostrils flare, like she was scenting the air…scenting him. He suppressed a frown. She couldn’t have nanami like Markarians, so was she…enhanced in some other way?

It was a little mystery Colm intended to solve.

“Ho-ly cow.” The piping voice broke the silence. A young girl pushed forward and did a graceful twirl. “This place is rocking. Almost like a castle.” A gusty sigh. “I always wanted to live in a castle.”

Colm’s eyes widened. This girl was in her late teens, and her hair was a shocking shade of pink. Like the flower of a wenga vine.

The girl’s bold gaze landed on Colm, taking in his chest and form in a way that made him damned uncomfortable.

“Holy muscles.” She peered at him more closely. “Big guy, your muscles have muscles.”

Phoenix cleared his throat. “Lala…it’s polite to greet people before you start commenting on their appearance.” He shook his head. “Actually, I’d prefer if you didn’t comment on anyone’s appearance.”

The pink-haired girl shrugged and pulled something from her top pocket. She popped it in her mouth and started chewing. “You got it, Nik. My lips are sealed.”

A look crossed the man’s face and it told Colm the man wasn’t buying the girl’s assurances.

Kavon moved forward and all gazes moved to him.

“I am Kavon Mal Dor. Welcome to Markaria.” He put his arm around Aurina and tugged her to his side.

Colm watched the woman press into her warrior’s side. Love, security, acceptance.

He’d never seen a connection like theirs growing up. All he could remember was his father’s shouts and fists and his mother’s screams and sobs.

He looked away from Kavon and Aurina and noticed the golden-haired woman watching him with a curious frown.

Looked like she didn’t miss much. Colm would have to remember that.