Shades of Honor(6)

By: Sandy Williams

Rykus’s right fist, the one he’d used to pound Valt’s face into a bloody mess, tightened at his side. “How did you arrange the—”

The chamber door burst open.

Rykus spun and crouched, ready to charge the invaders, but the person barreling through the door wasn’t the enemy. It was Ash.

Their gazes met, clung, and her steps faltered. So did Rykus’s equilibrium. He wasn’t a soldier in that moment. He was the civilian, the man, who’d spent four days on the Fortune’s Citadel with the strongest, most beautiful woman in the KU.

His lapse in composure lasted barely a second. Ash’s even less than that. She looped her thumbs into the pockets of her uniform, and the urgency with which she’d entered melted away as if she hadn’t charged into a closed meeting with a panel consisting of the most powerful people in the Coalition.

When a smile pulled at the corner of Ash’s mouth, Rykus realized he was still poised to attack.

Stupid, he thought, forcing himself to straighten and relax. The Sariceans wouldn’t have sent ground troops here, not without an aerial bombardment first. It wasn’t their style.

No, this was Ash’s style. Always making an entrance, doing something unexpected and usually more than a little forbidden.

“These are closed proceedings, Lieutenant Ashdyn.” Tersa’s voice cut through the air. She and the other two members of the panel were standing.

Ash ignored the prime and kept her green eyes on him. “You fabricated the capsule manifest. Clever.”

“Not clever enough apparently.”

She snorted. “I’m not here to rescue you, Rip. I’m here for her.” She looked at the prime. “You might want to tell Hauch not to kill me.”

Tersa frowned. “Hauch?”

“Get on the famginn ground!”


Rykus took Hauch down so impressively, Ash almost felt bad for the guy. He was already injured thanks to her, and his head hit the ground hard. Hauch still tried to fight, tried to break Rykus’s hold and get to Ash, but her fail-safe was built for war. He had no trouble keeping Hauch down.

Ash rarely let others fight her battles, but she crossed her arms over her too-tight body armor and watched Rykus. She liked the way he moved. Everything he did, from the holds he used to the way he angled his powerful body proved his skill, his refinement.

He’d proved his skill and refinement in other ways not that long ago.

“Enough,” Minister Prime Tersa said from behind the long data-table. “Rykus, let him up. Hauch, stay where you are. Ashdyn—”

Footsteps from the corridor preceded Liles and Mandell. Ash cut between the armed soldiers and her fail-safe. Her hand went to the Covar holstered at her side, but she managed to clamp down on her instinct to draw it. These were Coalition men, her teammates, even if she didn’t want to accept them. Their weapons might be drawn and pointed at her, but she wasn’t going to escalate things further. Contrary to past accusations, she did not kill Coalition soldiers.

“Seeker’s God,” Tersa said. “Everyone stand down.”

Liles and Mandell didn’t take their eyes off Ash, but they heard the prime. The distrust in their gazes, especially in Liles’s, who knew what Ash was, put a sour taste in her mouth. But Liles hadn’t told the other two men that she was an anomaly. Lucky for her because Mandell might have assumed she’d snapped. It was a risk all non-loyalty-trained anomalies lived with, and she supposed she wouldn’t have blamed him for thinking it. She wasn’t exactly acting sane at the moment.

Liles lowered his weapon first. After a brief hesitation, Mandell followed the major’s example.

Tersa’s sharp blue eyes cut in Ash’s direction. “Are you pleased with yourself, Lieutenant?”

She let a smile bend her lips. “Actually—”

“Ash.” Her fail-safe’s voice was almost inaudible, but it shut her down. Her gaze slid his way. He was looking at her now, not at Hauch who was still immobilized on the ground. Ash worked to calm her reaction to Rykus—that almost physical drumbeat in her chest—and gave a casual shrug. Even before the loyalty training brainwashed her class of anomalies, she’d been drawn to him.

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