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Authors: Mel Teshco

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BOOK: GalacticInferno
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“Bonnie—”

Her bowl crashed to the floor as she clasped her head. A
memory hit her front and center.

* * * * *

She burst into the townhouse. “Katie, Sam!”

Lifting first one foot and then the other, she tugged off
her high heels and threw them aside. The damn things had near killed her feet
and ankles after the twelve-block hike to get to her ex-husband’s house.

I think about my feet after seeing three bodies on the way
over, huddled together in the back seat of their sedan?

She shivered. Somehow she’d conditioned herself against the
hard facts of the virus. She was more than aware she’d be seeing worse than
bodies in a car if she was one of the survivors.

“Hello!” she called.

She just made out Luke’s voice. “Ally, we’re down in the
cellar.”

“Nice,” she muttered. Luke stayed underground as far from
the airborne virus as he could get, while she all but waded through it.

She pushed open the cellar door.

“Shut it quick,” Luke ordered tersely.

She sidled through and slapped the door closed behind her,
making her way down the half dozen steps to the musty, unaired scent of the
large cellar, that was once used for storing expensive wines and unwanted
bric-a-brac.

Katie was a blur as she raced toward her and wrapped her
arms around her. “Don’t leave, Owly,” the little girl pleaded. “Don’t leave us
again.”

She bent and lifted the dark-haired angel high, holding her
close. “I missed you too,” she whispered, knowing she couldn’t promise what
Katie asked. Not without hurting her more.

Luke stepped forward, rumpled and bleary-eyed. “If we
survive this, Ally, I really do hope you’ll consider staying, too.”

She turned away, wondering what the hell she’d ever seen in
him. A dog barked once, capturing her attention and she glanced over at the
shaggy black and white animal, which Sam was holding on to as though he wasn’t
ever going to let go. “Hey, how’s Bonnie doing?” she asked him gently, taking
in Sam’s tear-stained eyes, his haggard little face.

When she’d left Luke, she’d bought his children the dog,
hoping Bonnie would help ease their pain and keep them company.

“She’s doing good so far,” Sam croaked.

“Then why so sad? Your doggy is beautiful and happy.”

“I’m scared,” he burst out. “I mean, who is going to feed
her, give her water and make sure she’s okay when we’re dead?”

* * * * *

“Kitten, are you okay?”

She came back to the present with a rush. She swallowed. The
bowl was tipped on its side with meat and vegetables thrown every which way
across the floor. “What a mess,” she said absently.

“Don’t worry about it; I’m more concerned about you right
now.” He stepped toward her and brushed a thumb across her trembling bottom
lip. “Did you have another memory?” he asked huskily.

She nodded. “Yes.” She looked up, feeling as though all her
color had leached right out of her face. “I bought Bonnie for Sam and Katie—my
stepchildren.”

I chose Bonnie. Loved her even before she became mine.

The mother ship slowed and Renate searched her face before murmuring,
“Then let’s go find her.”

Chapter Nine

 

Following Renate back through the maze of corridors and
stepping on then off a number of shields that took them to different levels,
her step faltered a little as they moved onto a half level where a U-shaped
control panel glowed faintly beneath blue-tinged down lights.

Lillian waited with her royal husbands, Dar, Ezra and
Maddox. She held out her slender hands to Ally. “I’m sorry to see you go so
soon.”

Ally inclined her head, resisting the urge to stoop lower
into a formal bow. “Earth is still my home, no matter its terrible state.”

Sadness touched Lillian’s face. “I understand.”

Dar spoke to her from beside the queen. “Take care of
Renate, he’s a good, honorable man.”

Ally smiled up at the powerful king with his beautiful, long
black hair. Up close he was much taller than she’d realized and a whole lot
more intimidating.

“Thank you, I will.”

She met Ezra’s narrowed, green stare next. But then his
aloof face relaxed into something close to a semblance of approval. With a nod
he murmured, “May you both be blessed with many children.”

She dropped her stare, unable to hold his eyes and shield
the truth. Unable to conceal the gnawing ache that was the void inside her that
would never be filled.

Before she could find something to say in return, Maddox
moved closer and said, “Be well. Our future may one day depend on you.” He
pressed a bag into her hand and added, “Seeds from our home planet. Look after
them, Renate will know what to do with them.”

She glanced up and Maddox and smiled. His gift was
priceless. She held in her hands future plants for healing, for longer living
and god only knew what else. “Thank you, Maddox, that’s very generous.”

He nodded, his blue eyes gleaming. “My generosity isn’t
without motive.”

“Oh?” Her throat dried, her belly twisting in forewarning.

Maddox turned to Renate. “I’m trusting Renate will fill you
in…?”

Renate stiffened beside her. “We have yet to have our talk,
but yes. That is my intention.”

Talk? Was it worse than she’d even imagined?

Lillian stepped forward then, breaking the tension as her
arms wrapped around Renate’s shoulders in a brief hug. “You take care of my
earth sister, okay?”

As Lillian stepped back, Renate said, “You have my word.”

Dar and Maddox said their goodbyes, each calling Renate
their brother, each clearly not wanting him to leave. But it was Ezra who
surprised Ally the most as he stepped forward and clasped Renate on the
shoulders.

“My true brother. Perhaps your earth woman is right? I’ve
brought our parents’ fight between us and made it our own. Perhaps our time
apart will heal at least some of the pain I’ve caused?”

Renate nodded and clasped Ezra on the shoulders in turn. “I
can leave now in peace with that hope.”

Then Renate stepped back, one hand clasping hers before he
turned and led her to a mat-like shield on the floor behind them. Ally didn’t
look at the aliens or the human woman—queen—behind them. Somehow she couldn’t.
Tears were threatening even as she looked upward, focusing on the blurring, big
white balls of light floating high above them, creating an ambient light.

Strange how close she felt to the very people she’d once
feared.

As the shield lowered them quickly out of sight she leaned
into Renate and murmured, “I’m really going to miss them.”

Renate propped his chin on her head. “Me too.” She looked up
and he smiled. “But we’re going to make a new, exciting life for ourselves.”

“We are,” she said, breathless and more than a little
excited. But as she stepped off the shield and into the bowels of the ship, her
breath tightened. She gripped the bag Maddox had given her. “I feel…odd.”

Renate slid an arm around her shoulders and guided her
along. “It’s only natural in this part of the ship. It’s a different atmosphere
down here, a different pressure. You get used to it.”

It was the strangest sensation, as if she were floating on
air while the oxygen burned down her throat and into her lungs. She was only
too relieved when she followed him onto another, large shield, as big as a
platform.

Bracing his legs apart, Renate instructed, “Hang on to me.”

Wrapping her arms around his taut waist, the shield beneath
them abruptly dropped, freefall, the ground far below rushing up to meet them.
Then the motion slowed and they drifted the last few yards on to the ground.

As the shield pulled into itself beneath them and they
stepped onto the earth, Ally stumbled. Renate helped to right her as she
gasped, “I think I’ve still got my sea legs.”

His breath fanned her scalp as he murmured, “I guess I’m
used to the motion. You’ll feel right again in a few minutes.”

She looked around, seeing the alley behind them, the
warehouse just yards away. She shook off any instability. “There’s no time.
Bonnie might be here.”

She moved into a run, sudden panic assailing her as she pushed
past the dog carcasses sprawled on the warehouse steps, their flesh buzzing
with flies, past her backpack Renate had abandoned to save her. “Bonnie!” She
scanned the area, but nothing moved, nothing made a sound.

She turned to Renate, who was even then shouldering her
backpack. He held his hand out for the seed pouch, and as he carefully placed
that into the backpack she said, “Bonnie will be back at the house we stayed
in, she’s got to be. She’s waiting for me.”

He nodded. “Then we’ll go there.”

Ally was all too glad of the shared silence as they began
the walk to the house she’d called home for so many weeks…months. A scavenging
crow called out from high overhead and another one cawed in answer somewhere
more distant. But it was times like these Ally really noticed the lack of human
noise. No drone of planes in the sky, no buzz of mowers in yards, no excited
chatter of children, no traffic whooshing past.

That sort of profound emptiness still sometimes caught her
unawares. But with Renate by her side, somehow the eerie silence wasn’t
unwelcome.

Besides which, she knew now there were other survivors. And
now with Maddox gifting them with his seeds that could heal and prolong life,
living happily on earth was possible once again.

Only when they passed the hardware store with its shattered
window glinting on the pavement, did she break their unspoken code of silence
and say breathlessly, “We’re almost there.”

She launched into a run and Renate easily kept pace beside
her.

The looming jacaranda tree in the front yard seemed almost a
tribute, welcoming them back. “Bonnie,” she shouted, sprinting through the ugly
olive-green gate. She slowed to a walk and searched the yard. “Bonnie!”

Renate put a hand on her shoulder. “The front door is open,
she might be inside.”

She sucked in an unsteady breath and turned to him, pressing
her face into his chest and closing her eyes in reluctance. She didn’t want to
find Bonnie dead in there—or almost worse, not in there at all.

“Come on,” Renate said, taking charge.

She followed him and they proceeded to search every room,
even the rooms where the doors were shut.

Ally was…numb as she retraced her footsteps back into the
lounge room. She bit her lip and stared at the portraits on the feature wall.
As she lifted an unsteady hand to trace one of the photos, she absently
wondered why it felt as though she’d done this very same thing half a century
before, not just days ago.

Renate’s hands curled over her shoulders from behind, a
comforting touch. “Are you okay?”

She released an unsteady breath. “No. Not really.” She
closed her eyes for a moment, feeling Bonnie’s loss as deeply as her inability
to conceive. “Renate, I’m sorry I can’t give you a family like…like this.”

“Ally,” he said hoarsely. “You don’t understand. That’s what
I wanted to talk to you about.”

Please don’t tell me I’m not good enough for you now.

Her hand dropped. She opened her eyes and turned to him. But
then other feelings overcame her, a duplicate to how she’d felt when Maddox had
earlier insinuated…stuff. “You’re not wanting to break up with because I’m
infertile, are you?” she breathed.

He frowned. “What? No!” His frown deepened as her words
seemingly fully registered. “Children or not, you must know I’ll love you to my
last dying breath.”

“Then what is this…talk you wanted to have?”

He cupped her face, his hands warm on her suddenly cold
cheeks. “That medicine Maddox gave you to heal your body from the dog attack—”

She nodded, a cold wind barreling through her veins as he
continued.

“—would have fixed any other problems you might have had as
well.”

Her eyes went wide even as her pulse jerked like a fish on a
hook. “So you’re saying I can have children now?”

His smile was mirrored in his beautiful eyes. “Yes.”

The shriek of joy she emitted sounded far away, as though it
was someone else’s voice. She threw herself into his arms, holding tight. “I
can’t believe it.” Her heart was warm in her chest, her love for Renate
spilling over. She pulled back a little and looked up. “Are you sure? I mean,
really sure?”

“I’m sure.”

She drew back a little further, viewing his reserve. “Then
what’s wrong?” She sucked in a sudden breath, her heart crashing. “Oh. My. God.
I promised my first born daughter to Lillian’s son,” she whispered.

He didn’t say anything for a minute, just let the truth wash
over her as she adjusted to this latest revelation. Her voice cracked. “And
they’ll find us again, won’t they.”

It wasn’t a question but he nodded anyway. “I’m afraid so,
kitten. When our daughter comes of age, she will become Carèche’s most sought-after
queen-to-be.”

She slid a hand along her flat belly. “Perhaps we will never
have a daughter? Lillian may never have a son?”

Renate nodded. “Perhaps.” But his expression revealed the
unlikelihood.

She closed her eyes, feeling the blood rush from her face.
“What have I done?” She tore her eyelids apart and looked up at him, her stare
burning. “I should have listened to you, should have trusted you.” She
swallowed back a rush of self-pity. “You must think me a stupid fool.”

“No. That is the old Ally talking,” he said gently. “The
Ally I know realizes I love her deeply and see not only a beautiful woman, but
one who is strong, loyal and smart. One who’d choose to live away from the
people she could make a new life with to find the one friend who kept her
sane.”

“Bonnie,” she whispered. She bit her bottom lip, clearing
her mind, her emotions. “You’re right. I can’t give up on her now. I have to
find her.”

“Yes.” His eyes smoldered. “That’s the Ally I know and
love.”

Her smile wobbled. “Thank you.”

His kiss was hard, possessive and quick. His stare
withholding much of the passion she’d earlier glimpsed as he asked, “Any ideas
of where else she might be? A place she loved?”

She shook her head, “No, I—” Her mouth dropped open, the
vision she’d had earlier rushing back. “Of course!” She put a hand over her
mouth. “I think I know where she is.”

Renate shrugged off the backpack and dug out a bottle of
water. He handed it to her with a pleased nod. “How far away?”

She took a long sip, calculating the walking distance. She
knew Sydney well, but she’d always used public service to get from A to Z. “I’m
guessing four, maybe five hours.”

She handed back the bottled water and he took a mouthful
before recapping and replacing it carefully into the backpack. “Then we’ll take
the motorbike I saw a few blocks from here.”

As they walked out the front door she asked, “You know how
to ride?”

“You could say that.” His smile was more a frown as he
added, “Before my planet’s population was decimated I was the undefeated
cercanne champion.”

“Cercanne?”

“It’s a form of your humans’ motorbike racing.” He shook his
head. “You’d have to see it to believe it.”

And suddenly she really did want to see it, wanted to
personally witness his skill. Minutes later she really was experiencing his
riding abilities firsthand. He pushed the motorbike through the carnage on the
streets, dodging cars and debris and often sticking to the sidewalk.

She pointed directions, but mostly she simply clung on to
Renate and enjoyed the wind whipping through her hair. Her clasp tightened
around his waist. The office building she’d once worked at shimmered out of the
smoke haze ahead, as though it was a mirage emerging in slow motion. She
pointed to the building. “That’s where I used to work.”

Seemed so hard to believe now that she’d seen her career as
the pinnacle of her life, her greatest achievement. Funny how death kicked that
notion right in the guts.

Minutes later she was directing Renate to Luke’s townhouse.
And even before he’d parked the motorbike a dog limped out, barking with
unrestrained excitement.

Ally jumped off the bike, laughing and crying all at the
same time as she raced over to Bonnie and hugged her tight. “You’re safe,” she
shouted, “you’re safe!”

BOOK: GalacticInferno
6.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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