Lost in Barbarian Space(9)

By: Anna Hackett

She dragged a finger down the hilt and into the deeper engravings. There were wicked sharp points just above the hilt. This was a sword built to kill.

“It is forged from metals from our mines,” Colm said. “When a warrior enters his training, his sword is forged especially for him.”

Honor felt herself practically salivating over the weapon. She stroked it again. “These decorative points are gorgeous, but aren’t you at risk of cutting yourself on them?”

“A warrior trains until that does not happen.” He smiled. “And we wear these.”

He held out one arm and she got a closer look at his custom-made gauntlets on his forearms. “These are beautiful.” She touched the leather. “Whoever made them is very skilled.”

“Here. Try the sword.” Colm opened his arms and gestured her closer.

She hesitated…for a second. She moved closer, feeling the heat pouring off him and the scent of healthy sweat and man. He pressed her hands around the hilt and his arms closed around her.

Honor stilled. She and Nera had just spoken about not getting too close to these warriors, and here she was, practically in the arms of one.

But he wasn’t the enemy. She blew out a breath. They weren’t in combat.

With his help, she lifted the sword. “Oh, it’s so much heavier than I thought.” She tilted her head back. “You guys make it look easy.”

“Our nanami.”

Hmm. Well, the amount of increased strength those little bugs gave them was huge.

She moved the sword in a few arcs, conscious of Colm’s hands resting on her wrists.

“You’re strong,” he murmured.

She tried not to bristle. Yes, she was strong, and no, she wasn’t some dainty, ultra-feminine woman. She’d seen the Markarian women among the crowd. They were tall and lean, but all wore skirts and had long, flowing hair.

She understood clearly she wasn’t a warrior’s idea of the perfect woman. Hell, she was pretty sure she was no man’s idea of the perfect woman. She set her shoulders back. And she was perfectly fine with that.

“The blade likes you.”

Honor blinked. “Excuse me?”

The warrior smiled, and that turned his rugged face into something that made her stomach clench hard.

“The metal,” he said, “is also infused with nanami.”

She looked at the gleam of silver again. “It’s…alive?”

“Sort of. Nanami don’t think like we do, but they work with us, sense things from the environment, from us. They help us move the blade faster.”

“Amazing,” she breathed. She was getting a feel for the sword now. She looked at Colm. “I think I can manage on my own.”

He stared at her for a second and Honor noted that his eyes were a deep, rich brown. Almost as gorgeous as the bronze, metallic sheen of his skin.

He inclined his head and stepped back.

Honor hefted the sword. God, it was heavy. She moved it through the air, mimicking the movements he’d shown her. Then she moved, trying out a few of the moves she’d seen the warriors using in the arena.

When she glanced up, Colm was watching her intently. She couldn’t read him well yet, but she was sure she’d just seen his eyes flicker gold. She wondered what that meant.

“You are a fast learner, Agent Brandall. But it takes many years of intense training to master the sword.”

Oh, really? The sheer arrogance in his tone made her straighten. She lifted the sword. “Fancy a match?”

He raised his brows, incredulous. “You want to fight me?”

“You don’t think I can?” she asked silkily.

Another flicker of gold in his brown eyes. “You are a guest on my world, and a woman. I will not see you hurt.”

She snorted. “Mal Kor, I’m a security agent, a soldier.”

“And I am a warrior. We vow to protect those who are not as strong as us.”

There was the firm ring of conviction in his voice. She admired that. But she was no delicate flower in need of a hero. “I can protect myself.” She raised a brow. “Not afraid, are you?”

He looked like he was waging an internal battle. “Very well, Honor Brandall. Take the sword.” He called out for another weapon, and a young warrior rushed forward and gave Colm a new blade.