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Glass Hearts - Sample

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Chapter 2

Thorn woke me with the carb rations. I ate, sitting in the bed, eyes heavy. I had held my shield throughout most of the night, stubbornly unwilling to give her the opportunity to get back into Thorn’s mind, although she had probably given up long before. I understood, now, why he had had me demonstrate that I could shield. He had wanted her to know we had a defence against her, which meant she had done this before...

I used the waste disposal and staggered back to the bed, crawling into the warmth of Thorn’s arms.

He yawned. “I could sleep for longer,” he told me groggily. “Restless night.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Sleep.”

I felt better when I next woke.

“Do you need more carbs?” he asked me, sounding more alert.

“I had better,” I wasn’t happy about it. I sat up and ate. Eating regular carb rations did help with the nausea.

He smiled up at me from the pillow. “I have never seen anyone eat carb rations with such a scowl,” he commented.

I nudged him with my knee. “It’s alright for you,” I told him. “You come and job done. I’m the one stuck eating every six hours or vomiting, and that’s just the start of it...”

He grinned. “I like it this way,” he said.

“Hmph,” I arched a brow at him. “I will get you back for that remark.”

“Really?” His grin widened, and he tugged me down, and under him, kissing along my jaw to my pulse point whilst his hands warmed my skin. My laughter caught on a moan, and I pulled him to me, answering his body with my own until we were both sweaty and replete. “I think I won,” he kissed my neck lazily.

“Oh, no, I definitely won,” I replied smugly sated.

“You’re welcome,” his lips curled into a smile against my skin.

“So,” I dreaded this conversation, but it had to be done. “The woman in red...” He groaned and buried his face into me. I stroked my hands up his back and through his tangled hair. “Thorn,” I said gently. “She’s going to be trouble. I have to know.”

“I have it under control,” he replied without moving.

“No, you don’t. She was in your dreams last night.”

I felt the tension rip through him. “What do you mean?” He asked cautiously.

“She was in your dreams. You woke me, tossing and turning, and I could feel her there. She was using her telepathy to put herself in your mind.”

He rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling, scowling and embarrassed. “Yes,” he confessed. “It isn’t the first time she’s done that. She is, for one of my people, an exceptional telepath.”

“One without scruples. I shielded you,” I informed him. “But I can’t do that every night, all night. So, I need to know what I need to know to resolve the issue.”

He turned on his side, frowning at me, his almost colourless eyes concerned. “Briar, this is not - ”

“Yes,” I told him, flatly. “It is my problem.”

He smoothed my hair out of my face. “I don’t know where to begin.”

“Your people commit to your mates for life, but you obviously have sex with people not mates...”

He flushed and flopped back onto his back, putting his arms behind his head. “This is going to be an awkward conversation,” he complained. “Of course, we have sex. It is a long life, Briar, and sometimes finding the right person takes a while. But once we commit... It is a commitment and we remain monogamous without exception.”

“So, at some point, you and this woman were having sex - ” I started. He sighed out a breath, uncomfortable with the topic. “You were having sex with her. And then you stopped having sex together. Why?”

“Briar I - ” he stopped, drew in a deep breath, held it, and released it. “You have limited knowledge of these things, I have to remember that,” he muttered, more to himself than me. He blew out a breath. “It was just sex, Briar. It is just what consenting adults do. We both knew it wasn’t going anywhere. Just, for a time, we enjoyed each other.

“These things end, normally, because they cease to be convenient. She was different, however. She likes to... Collect people, I guess. Trophies of conquests. She has to be in control of the interactions, and she decides when it ceases to be convenient. I was sent on a mission and did not return to her. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. She didn’t mean that much to me, and it had ceased to be convenient, so I moved on. And I hadn’t seen the other side of her, then, so I didn’t appreciate what I was getting myself into.”

“What did she do?” I was fascinated.

“At first, it was just rumours. Implications that I had leaked information, sensitive information. It could have been the end of my career,” he was scowling. “It was an unethical use of her ability, to rifle through other’s thoughts. Normally it is not an issue. Random thoughts and dreams don’t mean much. But, after a lengthy association, and with her strength of ability... She must have put enough random thoughts together to imply I had been speaking out of turn.

“Luckily for me, it was not the first time she had pulled a similar stunt with an elite force member, and the senior members decided to resolve the issue by sending me on a mission far away...”

“My world,” I realised. “Ash told me it was because you assassinated someone inconvenient...”

“Yes,” he agreed. “And she was leaking that information, which could have brought the wrath of that family down upon me and my family. The senior members of the elite force disputed the rumours and promoted it as a spurned lover causing issues. The assassination had been in the news reports, so the death wasn’t a secret. Thankfully, the family accepted it as truth.”

“And then?” There was more, I was sure of it.

“And then,” he laughed without humour. “She put a bounty on me. I, narrowly, avoided the first two attempts to collect on it, before leaving. When I returned, she had had several other high-profile conquests in between, and that had distracted her.”

“Until the adverts,” I realised.

He shrugged his shoulder. “With everything that had happened in between, to be honest, she had slipped my mind.”

“Is it coincidence we’re on this ship?” I asked him.

“I think so,” he considered it. “It is more likely she invested in the ship purely because of her current conquest’s occupation... I don’t think I was ever that important to her that she would go to so much effort. The rumours and the bounty, they were spiteful and inconvenient, and she won in that she drove me into hiding of a sorts... But to go to so much effort as to start this relationship, invest in a ship, and arrange our transportation onboard? I don’t think it’s even really possible. She couldn’t have known when we were leaving, and she wouldn’t have rearranged the departure just for me. So, yes, I think it’s just coincidence.”

“So, basically, you’re the one that got away before she was done playing with you,” which was, I thought, amused, entirely in character for my mate. “Then rubbed salt in the wound by appearing on her screen whenever she watches her favourite vid, and, when you appeared on the passenger list of her ship, she saw the opportunity to show you she can still cause you trouble.”

“Yes,” he rolled back onto his side to face me and pressed his lips against my skin. “I think that sums it up.”

I nodded. “We can deal with this.”

“What are you thinking?” he asked cautiously. “You can’t just atomise her, Briar. This is not the fourth world, there would be legal repercussions.”

“I don’t need to atomise her,” I assured him, “I can just reclaim our title as the most dangerous people in the room.”

He met my gaze. “I think dinner will be interesting tonight,” he commented.

We dressed and went to use the exercise facilities in our blacks. I was accustomed to the various devices now, and Thorn had created a regime for me to follow, so we went about our separate tasks. The room was busy, it was interesting to see the wide range of exercises the silver ones performed.

I began on one of the tracks that ran to nowhere. The man who worked out next to me almost slipped on the track when he saw me. “Hey,” he said, panting. “You’re...”

“Yes,” I put the headset on to end the conversation. It played fast paced music and showed me running between trees. When I reached the required mark, I stopped, and went to the water dispenser.

Thorn lifted weights with the man who had sat beside me at dinner the night before. They talked quietly and I could not hear the words. I went to the next machine. Thorn walked over to the machine beside me, grinned at me, wiped his hands off on his trousers, and reached up to grasp the pole above his head, before lifting himself up. I admired the flex of his arm muscles. It certainly made my own exercises pass easier with a nice view, I thought, smugly.

“Shall we spar?” he asked me, resting between sets. “In quarter of a turn?”

“Yes.” I was aware of frequent glances our way. “I feel like I am on display,” I complained to him as he reached back up for the pole. He laughed.

I moved to the next machine. “Hello,” the woman next to me, said.

“Hello,” I replied, politely.

“I’m assigned to your outpost,” she told me. “Medic. Obstetrics. You should watch the weight you’re lifting. The hormones during pregnancy cause ligaments to relax. You should begin adjusting your exercise routine accordingly.”

“Ah,” I was taken aback that my pregnancy was common knowledge. “Thank you. What’s obstetrics?”

“Pregnancy and delivery,” she smiled easily. “I’ll be looking after you, I imagine, so I might as well start now. I can send you alternative workouts to consider.”

“My mate tells me what to do...” I glanced over my shoulder at him.

“I’ll send them to him, then.”

“How is it that you know?” I wondered.

She laughed. “You don’t have a sign on your forehead, if that’s what you’re wondering,” she told me. “Your mate announced it at dinner last night, didn’t he? Everyone in the room knew within a quarter of a turn, I imagine.”

“Oh, great,” I flushed.

“You’re embarrassed,” she was confused.

“Well, it’s sort of private, or at least it is on my world,” I replied. “Having everyone know is sort of like inviting everyone into the bedroom. Here is evidence my mate and I have sex; would you like to watch?”

She threw her head back and laughed, wiping tears from her eyes and doubling over with it. “Oh,” she moaned out, breathless. “I think I am going to enjoy your world.” She blew out a couple of breaths, trying to regain her composure. “We don’t view it that way, obviously.”

“Obviously,” I repeated, dryly.

“If you have any questions in the meantime,” she said, “tell your mate to find me.”

“And how do I do that?” I wondered. “When none of you use names? Find me the new medic for our second world outpost? Is there more than one of you?”

“He’ll know,” she replied confidently. “It was nice to meet you,” she moved on to her next machine.

I shifted exercises. Thorn joined me. “What was that about?” he asked me, intrigued.

“She’s a medic going to our outpost. She does ob-something... babies and pregnancy,” I told him, embarrassed. “She told me I needed to adjust my routine because hormones relax ligaments, whatever that means.”

“Ah,” he tilted his head. “That is something to consider.”

“She said she’d send you something, and to contact her with questions.”

“That’s useful,” he decided. “But hardly hilarious.”

“Apparently you’re not the only person who finds me funny,” I replied.

He regarded me and smiled. “I’d be surprised if it were so. Shall we spar?”

We moved onto an empty area where the ground was softer under foot. I was improving under his instruction, although I offered him no challenge. When we were both sweating and panting, he decided we’d had enough.

“We should take it a bit easier,” he told me.

“Pregnancy,” I wrinkled my nose at him.

“Exactly,” he nodded.

“The man you were speaking to...” I asked him as we made our way back to our room.

He threw me a grin. “An old friend,” he told me, “who came to the right conclusion as to the pecking order.”

“You enjoy being at the top,” I scolded as we entered the room.

“I do.” His tone of voice caused a shiver up my spine. I turned to him. His eyes were dark, and his lips wore a wicked grin. “Shall I show you how much I enjoy it?” He stalked me across the room.

We spent the rest of the day in bed, wrapped in each other, until an alarm from his armour stirred us. “Evening meal in an hour,” he told me.

I stretched. “Good. Let’s get it done.”

We showered and he brought out a black dress and the black outfit he had worn the day after he had been shot. “Willow was right,” he said, “black sends a certain message.”

“And hides blood.”

He laughed.

When we entered the elevator, the occupants fell silent and shuffled back, making space. No one asked questions. They seemed to sense that trouble was afoot, and there was an air of anticipation as they followed us to the evening meal.

The ceiling screens glowed with sunset, and the ground beneath our feet was of lush purple grass. We were led to the main table again. I had wondered if she would arrange it so, demoting us to a lesser table would give her some satisfaction, but not as much, I suspected, as being able to provoke us directly.

We did not take our seats. Thorn selected two drinks off the tray. He wore a ring on his smallest finger, and discretely tapped it to the glasses before making his selection.

“What is that?” I asked him, touching the ring.

“Test,” he murmured, drawing me against him as he had the night before. “In case they mixed up the additives in the glasses. There’s a code of conduct with such things, but I wouldn’t put it beyond our hosts...”

“The drink colours let you know the contents,” I realised.


The man from the gym and the evening meal the night before walked up to us. “We are table companions again,” he said as he joined us. “Not surprising, really. She likes to fill her table with past conquests and set them to sparring.”

I glanced at him. Thorn had not mentioned that this man had also been one of the red woman’s conquests, but, regarding him now, I wasn’t surprised. He was handsome in the same way as Thorn, with an edge of danger and darkness rather than a symmetry of feature.

“It will be an interesting meal,” Thorn replied with quiet certainty. They exchanged a look, and the man raised his eyebrows.

“I’ll follow your lead,” he murmured, and turned to stand at Thorn’s side.

“Briar’s lead,” Thorn replied under his breath.

The man inclined his head. “So, the stories are true?” he asked unobtrusively.

“The ones I have heard... Understated.”

The man shifted a little. “That’s...”


A thoughtful silence settled between them.

As if on cue, the red woman entered the room with the ship’s captain. The red woman dressed in red again. Where the dress the night before had clung to every curve, this one showed more skin than it covered, and the red glittered with jewels. The captain wore a dark red to complement her. They made an entrance, drawing every eye, and glided confidently across the room.

The red woman smirked at me as she passed. I met her eyes, neutrally. I saw uncertainty pass over her features. She had expected anger and fire. We followed them to the table and took our seats.

“Did you sleep well?” the red woman asked Thorn, smugly.

“Very well, thank you,” he replied mildly. “I always do with my mate at my side.”

She considered us. She could tell that we had regrouped after the night and was trying to determine our plan. The servers came with the food; shared platters this time, set in the centre of the table. There was a flurry of activity as people served themselves. I let Thorn fill my plate.

“Quite a romantic story,” the man on my other side, Thorn’s friend, offered. “The two of you. I have seen the adverts, of course.”

Thorn laughed. “Yes, rather embarrassing,” he said comfortably, taking a mouthful of his drink. “Apparently, they had no shortage of footage, my brother in law tells me. I have only seen a couple, myself.”

“They do their job well,” the man replied, smiling. “And make the fourth world look very appealing.”

“The realities are somewhat harsher,” Thorn supplied.

“We’d be interested to hear,” the man gestured to the table. We had everyone’s attention.

“Obviously the inhabitants can be somewhat hostile,” Thorn turned his glass between his fingers. I saw him tap his ring against it again discretely. “The facilities are considerably less than we are used to. What’s available depends very much on how established the outpost is. A newer outpost may not have running water, power, or accommodation.”

“Iso-pods,” the woman who had spoken the night before grimaced.

“Yes,” Thorn nodded. “And rations.”

“Gah,” she muttered.

“Much of the time is spent getting facilities established, initially. The local inhabitants can cause some issues, as well. They are known to attack our outposts.”

“Do they not understand what we offer them?” the ship’s captain enquired.

“We don’t offer much of value to them,” Thorn replied evenly, reaching across me to take my drink. I saw he tapped his ring against my glass before taking a sip. “They have gotten along without power and running water for several generations. As the outposts get more established, we can support the local population with food and medical provisions, and repairs to infrastructure, but it does take a while to get there and in the interim there is a void where our presence is more of a threat than a benefit.”

They digested this.

“Are they all as empowered as your mate?” the man beside me asked.

“There are a wide range of powers. My mate is the most powerful discovered to date.”

“And how powerful is that?”

“She tests off the charts.”

“That’s considerable,” the captain raised her eyebrows. “You demonstrated your shield to us last night,” she said to me. “I am told you have some telepathic ability, and I have seen on the adverts you grow and atomise plants. And the first world is circulating footage of you doing the same to people...”

“Yes,” I met her gaze.

“How does that work?” she asked me, with genuine interest. “I have never heard of such an ability.”

“I have always called it life and death,” I said. “My people do not have a language for it, really, as we don’t use our abilities openly. Everything has life, every living creature, every plant, even stones and soil... I see it as,” I smiled at my mate fondly, “hair, like my one’s hair to be precise. Shimmering silver and in many silken fine strands or threads. I can put my own life energy into things and take away life energy from others.”

“Take away life energy...?” The man, Thorn’s ally, prompted.

“Yes. There are many things I can do with it. If I just rest my energy upon it, just be present in that space, people react as if I have placed my foot upon their throat. They grow uncomfortable, their heart beats faster, they find it harder to breathe... I can pull the life from them, and, if I don’t break the threads, return it to them. I think, if I held it out of them for long enough, the threads would shrivel and perish on their own, and the person would die. I haven’t tried that yet,” I smiled at the woman in red: teeth only. The table, and the tables immediately around us, had grown very still and quiet. “If I pull sharply on the life, the threads snap, and the person...” I blew across the palm of my hand.

The captain sat back in her seat. “That is a disturbing ability.”

Thorn nodded solemnly. “We haven’t established a range for her ability, yet. She can manipulate energy without being in direct contact with it, as you saw in the adverts. She can atomise people without being even in the same room as them.”

“Would you like a demonstration?” I offered, holding the red woman’s gaze.

She swallowed.

“Of the milder effects, only, of course,” Thorn added, congenially. “We don’t atomise people without due course.”

“I don’t like killing things,” I agreed, “without sufficient motivation.”

“I think this is one power it is best we do not see a demonstration of,” the captain replied, glancing at the woman in red with warning in her eyes. “But we thank you for the offer.”

I smiled, pleasantly, and picked up my eating implements.

“How is it that they let you free amongst us?” the woman in red said, suddenly, with revulsion. “You are a danger to everyone.”

“We are sitting in a room of people trained to kill, are we not?” I replied evenly. “Every single person here is a danger to everyone else. But if you specifically mean power... Isn’t that the reason why your people want ours? Because the power is dangerous to others? Someone with the gift of air once told me she could take away the ability to breathe in the space of a heartbeat. I don’t doubt that someone with water could draw the water from within the body. Someone with fire...? Or a telepath? They can dip into minds when and as they please and make people do what, exactly...?

“It is the person in which the ability is contained that decides the danger the ability presents to others by using it as ethically as they can. Don’t you agree?” I tasted my food. It was not as good as that served by Bastian and Verity, but it was better than rations. “My ability is just more transparently dangerous, but perhaps that is because the circumstances under which I have had to develop it, has resulted in its usage in that way. If your people had not come, perhaps I would have grown plants and healed animals for the rest of my life, and never explored the darker side of my ability.

“I am,” I remembered a phrase Thorn had once spoken to the white one, “a product of your worlds’ arrival upon mine.”

“Your mate is responsible for the outposts,” the woman in red said between her teeth. “He is to blame for the plight of your people, more than anyone else.”

“The outposts were already there,” I retorted. “The first world had two, and the third world one. The second world was marking people ready to extract them back to your planet. Thorn didn’t bring your people to our planet - he just adjusted the circumstances under which they were there to be more favourable for my people.”

“So, you think the outposts are more favourable?” the captain asked.

“I think they have the potential to be, of the three options.”

The man beside me began a conversation with the woman on his other side, about the potential of the outposts, and conversation picked up and began to flow freely around us. I ate my meal, and watched the woman in red argue in whispers, behind smiling teeth, with the ship’s captain.

When she rose from the table and made her way to the bathroom, I set aside my meal. “Excuse me,” I murmured to Thorn as I stood.

“Briar,” he cautioned.

I touched his cheek and smiled.

I entered the bathroom as she washed her hands in the sink. She met my eyes in the mirror, and I saw her pause, before regaining her composure. “You do not frighten me,” she said, turning. “A hundred people saw you follow me into this room.”

“That is true,” I told her smiling. “I merely came to use the waste disposal. I am finding pregnancy sits heavy upon the bladder.”

“Use it then,” she turned back to the mirror and drew a device from a hidden pocket of her minimal dress, and held it to her nose, inhaling.

“I don’t need to be in the same room as you, after all,” I said, and waited until she looked at me again through the mirror, “to atomise you. You would do well to remember that, before troubling my mate’s sleep again.”

I entered one of the small enclosures which separated the waste disposals and used it. When I returned to the table, she was not there.

“Forgive my companion,” the ship’s captain said to me, “she finds herself indisposed.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” I replied insincerely.

The remainder of the meal passed unremarkably. Thorn’s ally was entertaining, regaling the table with stories of misadventure and accident. Once the final course was removed, and drinks flowed more liberally, along with other substances I could not recognise, Thorn excused us.

“We don’t want to be here for the rest,” he told me as we withdrew into the hallway. “They’ll get increasingly intoxicated, and things will get... what was that phrase? Ah, yes, there will be compromising, embarrassing or complicated situations as a result.”

“More interesting to watch,” I decided, “than to participate in.”

“I agree,” he grinned at me. “Especially as we have just extricated ourselves from a complicated situation.”

“Do you think it worked?” I wondered.

“I don’t know what you said to her in the bathroom,” he said, “but she was as pale as a ghost as she exited and did not return to the table.”

“I told her that if she bothered your dreams again, I would atomise her.”

“That would do it,” he chuckled. We had the elevator to ourselves. He drew me against him, smoothing his hands down my dress with a little groan. “I am finding,” he leaned down and tasted my jawline, “having the most dangerous woman on the ship on my arm rather... stimulating.”

“What was in your drink tonight?” I wondered and shivered as he found a sensitive point.

“Aphrodisiac,” he pulled back as the doors hissed open, his hair dishevelled. “This is us.” I tugged my dress back to order as he drew me down the corridor after him. “Someone dropped it in my drink as we were being served. I didn’t see the culprit, but I could taste the grit of it. I was distracted and drank enough that I am starting to feel the effects now.

“It’s going to be a long night as a result,” he warned, with a grin of sinful promise.

As we entered the room, he spun me into his arms, and caught my mouth with his, fierce with hunger and fire. We tangled in my dress as he tried to remove it from me without breaking the kiss. I laughed breathlessly as we extricated me from the cloth. His eyes were bright with wickedness as he brought me down upon the bed.

When he eventually ran out of energy and fell asleep, heavy and snoring, draped over me, his sleep was undisturbed. I ran my hands up his back and smiled contentedly as I held him to me.

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