Tulip left Bor and Lilly’s quarters and made her way back to her room. Considering the circumstances, that had gone pretty well, she thought as she slowly made her way down the long hall.
At first, she had expected Bor to be furious at the stranger on his ship, but it seemed like his joy at having Korom back was far greater than any anger he may have felt towards her. She couldn’t blame him. Just the thought of Korom being back on the ship, walking the halls once again made her feel ten times safer. She wasn’t sure why. Maybe because he had promised to keep her safe. Maybe because she knew that he could take care of just about any threat that came their way. Or maybe because the idea of him not being around at all made her sick to her stomach. Either way, she was glad he was back. Bor looked happy and more relaxed. Even Lilly looked like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
As she turned the corner, she saw two warriors heading her way. She eased to the side, pressing her back against the wall, and let them pass. They bowed their heads in greeting, calling her the same thing she had heard all the warriors call her since they came on board this ship. Luraya. She had no idea what that meant, but she noticed the warriors called Rose and Violet the same thing.
Smiling at them as they passed, she moved on until she reached her room. As she stepped in, the light turned on. When she raised her eyes she gasped as she froze in her spot. The door slid closed behind her, locking her in the small space with Korom.
He turned when she entered, two of the three data pads she had stolen in his hands. A small smile curled his lips as his brows raised.
She blushed, “I can explain.”
He shook his head, placed the pads back on her small side table and sat down on the bed.
“There is no need. I know who you took them from, when, and every thing you did with them.”
Tulip stood stock still, her heart pounding at why he was here.
“Um… Am I in trouble?”
He tilted his head to the side, smiled, then shook his head. “No. But I will ask you not to steal any more. If you want one, all you need to do is ask for one. Although I can’t imagine what you would need more for.”
Tulip swallowed, her mind racing. “What, um… What are you doing here?”
He took in a long, deep breath then said, “I was hoping we could talk.”
She shifted, unsure of what to do. The room she was assigned was a cramped space, with only enough space for the bed, a small side desk and a chair. Korom sat in the center of the bed, taking up most of the space, and the chair was right in front of him. If she sat there, they would be almost face to face. As much as that idea appealed to her, she was nowhere near brave enough to do something like that.
“Talk about what?” She asked, deciding that standing exactly where she was was the best option.
He shifted to the side, then patted the bed beside him. “Will you sit?”
Heat exploded over her cheeks as vivid images of her and Korom on her bed, but in far more intimate positions than just sitting next to each other flashed in her mind.
Lowering her face so he wouldn’t see, Tulip nodded and slowly made her way to the bed. She eased down on the very edge, her hands sweaty as her heart beat a million miles an hour.
“What do you want to talk about?” She asked, not daring to look up at him. His fresh, woodsy scent filled her nose and it made her body come alive once again.
Korom sighed, and she felt him tense again. Risking a look, Tulip glanced up at him to see a darkness take over his features.
“I have a brother,” He said simply.
Tulip stilled. Her earlier thoughts faded away at the realization that he was struggling with this new information.
She turned slightly to face him, “Do you remember him at all?”
Korom shook his head, “No. I was only an infant when my parents were killed. All my life I have only known Bor and his family. The Keep is the only home I have ever known.”
She chewed her lip for a second before she asked the next question.
“Do you want to find him?”
He turned to meet her eyes then. It still amazed her just how stunning his deep, dark brown eyes were, framed by thick, long black lashes.
He paused for a moment, then said, “I don’t know. I do, because he is the last of my family. He is one of very few of my species left. I want to speak with him, learn about my mother and father. About our home. But I fear that he may be lost. The life he lived after he was taken may have corrupted his mind completely. He may not even remember our parents or our home.”
“I can’t tell you what to do, Korom. All I can tell you is this. If one of my sisters were missing... If I had the chance to find her and bring her home. It wouldn’t matter what state of mind she was in. I would move heaven and earth to find her, help her and bring her home.”
“That is because you know who your sisters are. You've spent your life with them, grew up with them and love them completely. I never met my brother. I never knew the kind of male he was.”
Tulip nodded, “True. But he’s blood. He’s family. My father always told us that family is more important than anything else. That family could be blood, it could be close friends, or adopted family, like you and Bor. It’s up to you to decide who you want to consider as family. And once that choice is made, there is no going back. If you go down this road and decide that you want to find him, then you can’t give up if it gets hard. I have no doubt that the life your brother lived has shaped him into a man you might not like, but that is all the more reason to help him find his way back to who he was meant to be. I’ve only met two Miasms in my whole life, and both of them are honorable, good men. If he’s anything like you, and I believe he will be, then give him a chance.”
“How do you know he is like me?”
“Because you both came from the same place. You have the same blood in your veins.”
Korom stayed quiet for a long moment, just staring at her. Tulip finally lowered her eyes, her cheeks warming under his intense stare.
She looked up, “Yes?”
“For making this decision much easier for me. If you will allow it, I would like to come speak with you again, soon.”
She nodded, “I’d like that.”
He didn’t move, just watched her for what felt like minutes, but was probably only a few seconds. She couldn’t read the expression on his face, but when he finally took a long breath and stood, she instantly missed the heat from his body. It was then that she realized just how close they had been sitting.
Before he could leave, Tulip asked, “What does Luraya mean?”
He grinned, his face softening as he said, “It is a term used on Toria. The best translation I can think of is Princess.”
She frowned, “Princess?”
“Yes. You are the Lady of Toria’s blood sister. That makes you, Rose and Violet Luraya’s on our world.”
“Oh,” Was all Tulip could say. Her mind once again flew with information, the questions building up to a point where she thought she would burst.
Korom must have noticed her drift off into her own mind, because he came to her, placed his hand on her cheek and lifted her face. Her eyes locked with his and he said, “I will come back to speak with you again tomorrow. You can ask me all the questions I can see running through your mind then. Sleep, Tulip. You need rest.”
She wanted to protest, but just then, Wisp flew out from under her hair and brushed over her face. It obviously agreed with Korom.
With a chuckle, he stepped back and left her room. Tulip sagged onto her bed with a huge smile on her face. What had just happened? Korom, of all people, was in her room. He had come to her. He willingly came here seeking her out to speak with her. Just the thought had butterflies racing in her belly.
She bit her lip and looked up at the closed door to her bedroom. He had said he would come back tomorrow to speak with her again. If he meant it, then she had to write down all the questions she wanted to ask him before her mind got too out of control. Grabbing the data pad off the side table, Tulip settled into bed and began typing.
Several hours later, when she could no longer see the words on the screen, Tulip placed the pad down beside her and snuggled into her blanket. It only took her a few minutes to fall fast asleep.
Through the night, she dreamt of Korom, of the Keep, of the new world they would soon be arriving on. Tulip knew that dreams came from memories our brains gathered throughout our lifetime, but what she saw in her mind was nothing like she had ever seen before. Vivid images of a huge white stone structure with black stone paths around it. Tall blue, green and red trees spread out around the building in an endless wave. People in strange clothing walked the streets, smiling and waving at her. She saw a huge bedroom, with tall, narrow windows looking out at a distant city. Warm, strong arms wrapping around her, holding her to a solid, hot body as she gazed out at the scene beyond the windows.
The next morning, when Tulip woke from a sleep so deep, so peaceful she wasn’t sure she’d ever slept so well, she found that Wisp was nowhere to be found.
“Wisp?” She called in a groggy, sleepy voice. Her tiny friend didn’t appear, making Tulip frown. It had been there when she went to sleep, and now it was gone. Had Korom called it back? Taken it away from her? Why?
Getting out of bed, Tulip showered and dressed before heading to the main eating hall for breakfast. As she entered, she spotted Lilly, Rose and Violet sitting with Bor, Keel, Tark and Korom at a large table at the back of the room.
Rose saw her first, waving her over. Tulip sat down at the table beside Violet, and poured herself some of the delicious fruit juice in a large jug. She had no idea what it was made from, but she loved the stuff.
Taking a long sip, she glanced over at Korom across the table from the rim of her glass. He was watching her, a concerned frown on his face.
“So,” Lilly said, making Tulip tear her eyes off Korom to look at her sister, “Bor tells me that tomorrow we should arrive on Toria. I can’t wait. How are you guys doing with all this?”
Tulip waited as Rose answered, “I’m ok, Lil. I was a little nervous at first, but I kinda like the idea of starting in a new place where there are no Spinners, no death and destruction. I still have no idea what I’m going to do with my life there, but I’ll figure it out.”
“What about you, Vi?”
Violet spoke with food in her mouth, her excitement clear even in her mumbled words, “I can’t freaking wait!”
They all laughed, before Lilly turned to Tulip. “And you?”
Tulip blushed at all the eyes now fixed on her and lowered her gaze to the table. “I’m okay.” Was all she managed to say.
“Tulip?” Lilly said.
Tulip glanced up at her sister, and hated the worried look in her eyes. To reassure her, she blurted out, “I’m fine. I swear. I have a new guardian angel on my side now, so I’m not as scared as I was.”