Larz clasped the training sword with both hands and swung it in a wide arc around his head, conquering his favourite patch of the Rocky Mountains.
This was the closest a Zyrgin warrior came to the human emotion of joy. The sword fit his hand like an extra limb. His body moving with strength and fluidity gifted to him by generations of the strongest blood on Zyrgin. Still swinging, he moved the sword to his left and then his right hand, increasing his speed until his movements became a blur.
Every day after his warrior duties, he came to this rocky patch on the mountain. Practiced to ensure he was worthy and ready for the day the leader of all Zyrgin territories would give him his sword of honor. That was the moment all warriors lived for. When their leader, who they called The Zyrgin, gifted them with a sword that would respond to the touch of a certain warrior only. Warriors from a strong bloodline, and some warriors born stronger, received swords that, with the aid of technology, could be made to shrink to nearly invisible size. To the enemy, it looked as if they disappeared and appeared as if by magic.
Many warriors used their cloaking technology to make it seem as if they had received such a sword from The Zyrgin.
Larz knew he’d never have to resort to such measures. He was from The Zyrgin’s bloodline, descended from the strongest Zyrgin that ever ruled.
Larz lunged sideways then stepped back, performing the sequence of the warrior conquering with his sword with ease. Instinctively compensating for the uneven boulder strewn patch he stood on. Though his movements were swift and smooth, as a warrior’s should be, today he performed without his usual fierce concentration.
Worry for his human occupied his mind. Months ago, shortly before his second change, he claimed Marcie as his breeder after they rescued her from a raider camp. Everyone else called her a loud, mean woman with ugly red hair. Not a day went by without one of the warriors offering to kill her or bring him a better human. When he looked at her, he saw his breeder. A woman he’d never give up.
If he claimed her after he went through his third change, it might mean he had to give up his need to do battle in their wars, to serve on the Zyrgin homeland. The friend of Natalie and Julia, Sarah had disappeared more than a year ago and it had taken many months to find her in a raider camp. She had been starved and bruised and told them Marcie was responsible for many of the things that happened to her in that camp. They may have rescued Marcie from a raider camp, but they were certain she was sent to infiltrate them. Her attitude made her very unpopular. Shortly after they brought her to their guesthouse, she’d tried to hurt Sarah and Sarah had been moved to live with Natalie. Larz had to go through his third change soon, or he might not be able to claim her.
From the time the first Zyrgin ruled, millions of centuries ago, Zyrgin warriors were not allowed to claim a breeder before their third change. It was a strange knowing each warrior carried within. Larz turned and decapitated an imaginary enemy behind him. His third change was months away, and he needed to claim Marcie before she got herself killed.
He stumbled and compensated for the uneven rock beneath his boots. Adding challenge to his workout, he closed his eyes. A warrior who owned a foul-mouthed human had to be prepared for anything.
This barren patch of the alien planet he was born on, this little piece of earth, always drew him. On the hard rock, where no trees grew and no reintroduced wildlife ventured, he was reminded of his home planet. Out here, with the exotic earth sun shining down on him, he could think about claiming a strangely compelling woman with a mean mouth and ugly red hair. Make plans for keeping her safe from the consequences of her actions.
Zorlof, his brother, ran up to him, his pre-second change body small, but stronger than that of a human male. Their doctor couldn’t explain why he took so much longer than Larz to go through his second change, but all indications were that he would be very strong once it did happen. Zyrgin warriors were born with the knowledge of battle, with strength in their small bodies. With each change their knowledge and strength grew. In Zorlof’s case, he suspected that strength and knowledge might be much stronger in him than the average warrior. Even taking into account their strong bloodline, Zorlof was taller and stronger than any pre-second change warrior born for centuries.
Zorlof easily leaped over a few boulders and increased his speed until he skidded to a halt in front of Larz.
“Marcie tried to kill Zanr to get to Sarah. She screamed she’d kill Sarah the whole time,” Zorlof said.
The mountain blurred around Larz and noise rang in his ears. Like their ship’s klaxon, instead of danger to the ship, it heralded danger to his human. Larz sank down on his knees and leaned his head on his sword. “That human will drive me to Solarian drink.”
If she had simply gone after Zanr, they would’ve laughed at the idea of a human woman trying to overcome a Zyrgin warrior. No warrior would give an attack from a human woman any serious attention, beyond ensuring she didn’t hurt herself. Threatening the Zyrgin’s breeder? Larz might not be able to save her.
His time was up. He had to choose between Marcie and being a warrior and probably his life. Give up everything that defined him to save that female who had no concept of honor. He didn’t understand her mean nature and why she hated Sarah this much? If she was sent to infiltrate them, wouldn’t it make more sense to befriend them?
Larz closed his eyes and prayed for patience. Would the woman never stop putting herself in danger? When he claimed her, he’d make sure she understood that such behavior would have severe consequences for her. Ever since they rescued Marcie from the raider camps six months ago, she’d angered every human and Zyrgin who came into contact with her.
“Choose another one,” Zorlof said.
Larz hit Zorlof with the flat of his sword and the boy barely staggered. He might be pre-second change but he was a strong little Drittsekk. “No, I want her,” Larz declared.
He had to choose between his life and Marcie, and he chose Marcie. Something deep inside him drove him to claim her.
He’d never walk on this planet that was not quite his, as a warrior. He threw back his head and shouted his agony. His roar echoed over the mountain. Repeated again and again, taunting him with his own agony. When he did what he had to do to save her, would he ever receive his sword from the leader of all Zyrgins? He roared harder. Would he be able to protect her?
When at last the rage subsided, he turned to Zorlof. “Is she hurt?”
Zorlof eyed his sword and stepped back from him. “Zanr had to hold her.” He hesitated before he added, “Firmly.”
Larz swore viciously in Zyrgin. She would’ve fought Zanr. The crazy human didn’t lack courage. Or maybe she lacked sense. He was inclined to go with the latter.
Zorlof took another step back. “She’s very slippery. He had no choice.”
Larz continued swearing.
“Are you sure you want that one? We can easily go get you another one.” Zorlof produced his handheld and scrolled. “What about her?”
Larz ignored the device shoved under his nose. The only way to save her, was to force his third change and claim her. Zyrgins went through three changes, during which they shed their skins and grew in tremendous bursts. Six months ago, he’d only gone through one change, had been on the verge of the second, when he saw her in a raider camp. A woman with ugly red hair and a mean mouth. During his second change, he’d screamed for her and she’d refused to come to him.
“What about this one.”
He ignored the image of a young human with beautiful black hair. Warriors had been showing him alternative options since the first time Marcie opened her mouth and spewed her venom.
What he contemplated doing might get him killed, or worse. Forcing a change, and especially a third change, was one of their biggest taboos. It was imprinted on him at birth, never to force a change. Zurian had been forced to go through his third change early by his father. Even now, in spite of his rank, there were some that shunned him. Many believed it was dangerous to allow him to stay alive.
“Where did they take her?” He’d been thinking of ways to induce his change. His best option was a nerve bomb. It would cause him pain, but no physical damage that would take time to heal.
“She’s under guard in the holding cells. The guard said if Zacar didn’t kill her and shut her up, he will.”
Larz bared his teeth. “If he touches her, I’ll kill him.”
“He knows you claimed her.”
“Did Zacar pass judgement?”
“He’s on the ship.”
Larz’s heartbeat sped up. If he could claim her fully before Zacar returned and passed judgment, he might still save her. He started running, Zorlof easily keeping pace with him. “Zacar would’ve been informed of what happened. The time it took for him to get back here from the ship might be enough for me to save Marcie.”
Zorlof managed to sigh in an irritating put-upon manner while running. “She’s not worthy, warrior of my blood.”
Larz ignored Zorlof’s opinion on Marcie. No one liked her, and he might have to confine her to their dwelling for her own good. Maybe for the rest of their lives. “Will you guard her until I claim her?”
Zorlof was the warrior he was closest with. The only one he trusted to look after her. In spite of his shoving pictures of human women in his face all the time, Zorlof would never harm someone this important to Larz. Ever since Marcie had threatened that she’d poison the Zyrgin warriors or use her voodoo powers to kill them in their sleep, most warriors were careful around her. He looked up voodoo and came to the conclusion she liked to mess with their heads. At least Larz knew Zorlof wouldn’t try to kill her before he could claim her.
“She calls you alien and little shit and small dick. Why don’t you give her up?”
Larz had hoped to find a breeder who had honor. When Zacar and forty-nine warriors landed on earth two years ago, Zacar had taken Natalie as his breeder. Larz and Zorlof were the result of their union. Natalie would never betray Zacar. A year later Zurian had found Julia. She was a dangerous human, who managed to learn their language and tried to break into their equipment. She also had honor and would never betray them. Unlike Zacar and Zurian, Larz would never be able to claim his breeder had honor. He would have to guard against her betraying them.
He shrugged, he couldn’t explain to Zorlof why he’d never give up his human with her ugly hair. He suppressed a shudder, hair the color of an eye. “I don’t know. Something inside me won’t let her go. Will you guard her?” he asked again.
He and Zorlof had been birthed together. A rare occurrence among Zyrgins. It made them closer than warriors born from the same mother normally were.
Larz looked around him at the mountain he’d come to appreciate. This might be the last time he saw the trees Natalie planted. Heard the birds they’d reintroduced into the area. Humans had caused the extinction of most of the animal life on earth. In his heart, he was a Zyrgin warrior. A warrior about to commit one of the worst crimes a warrior could commit. He might die this day, and his one regret was that he’d never make the journey back and stand on the soil of his home planet. He refused to think about never receiving his honor sword.
He couldn’t claim Marcie until he’d gone through his third change, and he needed to fully claim her before they sentenced him. As his breeder, she’d be safe even after the execution. He was still surprised that Zacar had allowed him to claim her. She’d been kept in the guesthouse for when he went through his third change and fully claimed her. Kept on ice, she called it.
Zorlof, who was half his size, easily kept pace with him. “Zacar cannot protect you from the consequences if you force your change.”
“I don’t have a choice. You will understand when you claim your breeder.”
“I’ll stick to being a warrior,” Zorlof said.
Along with growing larger than a pre-second change warrior normally did, he seemed to have a strange sense of destiny.
At the entrance to the cave, they split. Zorlof went inside to the holding cells deep underground. Larz ran to the armory they’d built, a safe distance from where the breeders lived.
Booking out weapons was easy. He explained that he wanted to make sure he was proficient in the use of nerve bombs, and the warrior on duty signed one out to him without question. Since their second change, both he and Zorlof had access to explosives. Warriors had to be able to handle any weapon. He went outside, activated the bomb and, taking a deep breath, fell on it as it exploded, praying it was enough to trigger his third change.
His brain exploded out of his skull.
Larz woke to pain, bone-crushing, nausea-inducing pain. His head felt like one giant ache. He came to in the infirmary on the slab Viglar made them lay on when he healed their wounds.
Determined to get to Marcie and claim her before Zacar could order her execution, he surged up. Or tried to. He couldn’t move. He kept trying, struggling without managing to move even his hand. His new large hand. If a warrior could panic, that would be the moment he felt that emotion. He couldn’t be trapped, he had to get to Marcie. Viglar had activated the force field and it pinned him down on the infirmary bed. Larz flashed his fangs when he realized he’d been strapped down as well.
“Viglar,” he shouted.
His voice sounded strange, deeper and harsher. He couldn’t lift his head, his body was on fire and his head wanted to explode. And they had his breeder in a holding cell.
Viglar turned from the wall and came to stand next to him. “You’ll live, warrior.”
“I claim her, I claim the human Marcie as my breeder.” He tried to move, to lift his hand, to grab Viglar and make him understand and swore viciously when he couldn’t move.
Viglar ran a scanner over him. “She tried to kill Zanr to get to The Zyrgin’s breeder. She thought Sarah was still in the guesthouse. She’s a spy, planted in the camps to infiltrate us.”
“The punishment for her actions are now mine to take.” Larz should’ve killed an Eduki. Given her the pelt before anyone could’ve stopped him. His pride had baulked at giving such an unworthy woman the pelt of a brave Eduki. Now she would suffer for his arrogance.
Viglar leaned over him. His chin temptingly close for a good punch. “Are you sure about this? I’m the only one who has heard you. Once you claim her, there’s no going back.”
“She has no honor.”
“I still claim her.”
“We can get you another one. They’re plentiful.”
Larz tried to kick and punch, but the force field held him down. “I wish you woumbers would stop saying that.”
Viglar reached out and pinched a nerve on his neck. Larz jerked, couldn’t move, held still by the force field, acid burning through his veins.
“You want to rethink what you just called me?” Viglar asked. He might be a healer but he was warrior first. No warrior with honor would stand being called a woumber. Implying that a warrior would touch another warrior’s pregnant breeder was the worst insult.
“I shouldn’t have called you a woumber,” Larz acknowledged.
Viglar’s features distorted and disappeared and the next time Larz became aware, his body jerked with painful spasms. His bones stretched, all of him aching.
Larz jerked against the restraints Viglar had used to strap him to the examination table. They cut into his wrists and ankles, but they held. At least, he could move his body. Viglar must have turned off the force field because he wasn’t pressed onto the examination table anymore. They hadn’t moved him to the holding cells, which meant he’d be allowed to claim Marcie before judgment was passed.
“Marcie,” he said—or tried to say. No sound emerged.
“You’re almost through it. Rest now,” Viglar said.
“Marcie,” he grated.
“They’re bringing her, stop calling for her. You are acting like a weak human,” Viglar said.
“Larz, are you all right? Zorlof said you forced your change,” Natalie said from the doorway.
Larz gritted his teeth, the last thing he needed now was Natalie trying to mother him in front of the other warriors. Her human emotions caused enough trouble for the warriors. It was bad enough that Zacar had to beat a warrior every other Tuesday for betting that they could get into the infirmary and have Natalie cuddle them. A kiss to the head could give a warrior freedom from two guard duties. Of course, Zacar objected to the betting going on around his breeder but, no matter how many times he beat the Zyrgin spirit out of them, the betting continued.
A soft hand on his forehead. “He has a fever.”
“It is normal. He is almost through it,” Viglar said.
Natalie kept her cool hand on his brow. Larz almost moaned at the relief.
“Why is he tied up?” Her frowning face appeared above his own.
All he needed was for her to kiss and cuddle him, and his humiliation would be complete.
“He had the fever. He could harm himself if he jerks around.”
She stroked her hand over his head and Larz gritted his teeth. Zacar had made it clear that he and Zorlof should react like human sons to Natalie, or they’d never see the day they received their swords. Larz barely controlled flashing a fang. They had to play childish human games with her and, lately, they were expected to acknowledge weak babies as blood.
“He’s grown as big as Zacar.”
“He shouldn’t have forced it,” Viglar told her.
“Will he be all right? Is it over?”
“Most of it. I’m keeping the restraints on simply as a precaution,” Viglar said.
She cupped Larz’s head with a tender hand. “How do you feel, Larz?”
“I’m fine, Mother,” he said. He’d never get used to addressing another man’s breeder. She touched him all the time, in spite of Zacar’s objections. Larz had just forced his third change. He didn’t need to be caught by Zacar with Natalie cupping his face. She might be his mother, but she was Zacar’s breeder first. Larz wouldn’t admit it, even under threat of torture, but he actually preferred the human way. Having a mother who would fight anyone to get to his side if he was hurt.
“Our son will be all right Natalie,” Zacar said from the doorway. To please her, he always used human terminology when talking about Larz and Zacar. “But you should not witness this.”
Larz bared his teeth in frustration. He had hoped Zacar would remain on the ship longer. If Zacar refused his claim on Marcie, Larz would have to rescue her from the holding cells and run with her. If they went to the unclaimed galaxies, maybe The Zyrgin couldn’t find them.
Natalie frowned at Zacar. “I’m his mother, why shouldn’t I witness it?”
He drew her away from Larz. “It is not seemly for you to touch another warrior.”
She threw her hands into the air. “Another warrior? He’s my son. He needs me.”
“He is a warrior. Many warriors have gone through their third change alone.”
Natalie twisted her hair and jerked. “Well, my son doesn’t need to.”
Larz shuddered. Solerian ticks crawled into his veins and ate their way out of his body. Zyrgins were never bothered by extreme heat or cold, engineered to be able to fight under any conditions. Now the examination table in the doctor’s infirmary was cold against his skin. Instead of soothing, the metal against his back and legs was like a giant flat ice pic. He was vaguely aware of Zacar leaving with a still-protesting Natalie.
“Marcie,” he shouted.
“Stop making a fool of yourself over that unworthy female,” Viglar said.
“No.” Larz tried to struggle, to ignore the pain that racked his body. He clenched his jaw when he jerked with involuntary spasms of pain. The woman he chose was a traitor to her own kind. He’d defied his leader for an unworthy a female. Still, he couldn’t give her up. “She’s mine. I have to claim her.”
Zacar came back and waited while Viglar pressed a tube against Larz’s neck. Larz felt a sting as the pain subsided.
“The worst is over. If you had waited for your third change to come naturally, the pain wouldn’t be this severe,” Viglar said.
“And I wouldn’t have to tell Natalie that I have to pass judgement on her son,” Zacar bit out.
“You would’ve passed judgement on Marcie before I could get her safe,” Larz snarled in Zyrgin.
In a few short months, she’d managed to alienate everyone around her. Why would she try to kill a warrior? She had to know she was no match for any of them and that they’d never allow her near Sarah. Did she somehow find out about their prophecy about a woman from a far-off planet who would come to The Zyrgin and return his honor?
“You should choose another one,” Viglar said.
Larz was getting tired of hearing about alternatives. If he wanted another breeder, he would’ve found one himself. “Fuck you both.”
“Bring her here,” Zacar said to one of the warriors standing guard outside the infirmary.
They waited for the warrior to retrieve her from the holding cells deep beneath the cave. Viglar continued to monitor his equipment and Zacar waited with that eerie calm he could project. Larz stared down at his new body. He looked more like Zacar than himself, his veins more pronounced, his feet huge. He suppressed rage at the thought of never being able to use his body the way it was designed to be used. As a warrior.
“I don’t care what you are or how strong you are, if you don’t let me out for air, I’ll kill every one of you freaks,” Marcie shrieked from outside the infirmary.
Her voice could break good Zyrgin steel.
Larz tried to break free from the restraints holding him. She was hurt. Even through the shrill aggression in her voice, he heard it.
“What have you done to her? If you’ve hurt her, I’ll beat the Zyrgin spirit out of all of you.”
“Get your ugly alien paws off me,” Marcie snarled.
A warrior who looked ready to either commit murder or run away, dragged her into the infirmary. He had no choice but to drag her. She kicked and screamed and several times almost slipped out of his hold. While the warrior tried not to hurt her, she didn’t hold back from trying to kick the Zyrgin spirit out of him. It was difficult to judge while she struggled like that, but Larz thought she had lost weight since he saw her a few days ago. She still had round hips and thighs and full breasts, but the shirt didn’t stretch as tight over her chest. She’d also changed her eyebrows and lashes to black since their last meeting. She’d threatened and complained until they provided her with what she called make-up. He wished she’d asked for something to color her hair as well. Though, lately, he’d begun to think the red hair ensured none of the other warriors would realize how truly beautiful she was.
“Let me go, you bastards, where are you taking me?” she shrilled. Her red hair stood wild around her face and her skin was paler than usual. Her freckles stood out in stark contrast. She had a wild trapped look in her eyes. She wiped her sleeve where the guard had held her and looked around. “Great, more silver walls.”
The warrior let go of her and, rubbing his ear, hurried to the door to stand guard. “I can go catch another one for you,” he offered. “There’s plenty of them around the cities.”
Larz showed him a palm without claws and tracked Marcie. She appeared to be looking for a weapon, her eyes darting all around.
Viglar started to release the restraints. Larz sat up on the doctor’s examination table. He tried to get up but the restraints kept him back. He jerked against them, never taking his eyes of Marcie. “Let me go.”
“When you are calm,” Viglar said.
Marcie adjusted her shirt and looked around her with mean narrowed eyes. Her gaze passed him only to jerk back.
They stared at each other in silence. Few humans were brave enough—few men of any race were—to try outstaring a Zyrgin warrior. Marcie lifted her chin and held his stare with her green eyes. Almost daring him to kiss the defiance off her face. Human eyes didn’t change color but hers managed to shoot sparks. Each spark showing him anger, defiance and scorn.
“Come here,” Larz snarled.
She gestured up and down his body with a scornful hand and she stepped away. “What the hell happened to you?”
He had no doubt if he’d told her to step back she would’ve come to stand next to him.
“You were ugly enough when you were small, now that you’ve grown, you’ve become one ugly fucker. I bet that mealy faced mother of yours ran screaming when she saw you.”
His blood rushed through his veins, the way it did before a hunt. She recognised him, even after he’d grown to warrior size. She couldn’t question the size of his male parts anymore. Doing that in front of his fellow warriors was one of her tricks. Though, it didn’t stop her finding other insults.
Zacar stepped forward. “You do not insult my breeder.”
She threw up her hands and smirked at Zacar. “All right, all right, I’ll let the little breeder do her breeding in peace.”
Larz wanted to close his eyes, but if he did, Zacar could kill her with one swipe of his claws before Larz could react. Viglar released the rest of the cuffs and Larz stood, only one cuff on his wrist remained. He had to concentrate and use every bit of will he had to remain upright.
He moved to focus Zacar’s attention on him. “I will teach her respect,” he told Zacar in the old language.
Zacar made a rude noise through his nose. “Good luck with that.”
Larz’s human seemed to have shrunk to impossibly small proportions. The examination table that had reached his chest was now thigh high. Everything around him looked smaller. He didn’t demand clothes, allowed her to have a good look at her Zyrgin warrior. Now she could see he was strong enough to protect her and provide for her. That his male parts were not the size of needles.
“So what happened to you, did the doctor have to inject you to cure you of smallitis.” She laughed at her own joke.
“I went through my third change. I have claimed you.” He sounded strange, more like Zacar than himself.
“Wasn’t it enough that you stuck me in that dark hole? Now you want to force your repulsive body on me.”
This human with her unnatural hair would learn honor and respect. He strained against the belts still holding his left wrist, and it snapped before Viglar could undo it. “Come here, human.”
“I’m not coming anywhere near you. You look ready to fall and crush someone with you big ass body.”
“I claim her. It is my right to take her punishment,” he said to Zacar in their language. He had to make Zacar acknowledge her as his breeder or her mouth would get her killed.
“There will be consequences,” Zacar said.
“I know.” Larz walked to his human and, for one awful moment, was not sure his legs would hold him.
He flashed a fang in satisfaction when her eyes widened. The last time he stood in front of her, she’d been taller than him. He enjoyed towering over her now. “I will not call you breeder,” he told her.
He might have claimed her to save her life, but he wouldn’t ever honor her with that title.
Marcie moved as if she wanted to step back and then checked herself. He didn’t think she had it in her to back down.
She lifted her chin at him. “News flash, creep, I don’t want to be claimed by any of you alien freaks.” She sneered at his lower body. “And put some clothes on. You’ll make me go blind with that ugly little thing.”
“You will not refuse my claim.”
“Oh, yes, I will.” She snapped her fingers. “Didn’t you hear me? Put some clothes on freak.”
He crossed his arms and planted his feet wide apart to hide the lingering weakness from the third change. He wouldn’t grab clothes as if he wanted to hide himself from her. “You are not given a choice, human. You are claimed.”
Her lips pulled into a sneer, she looked him up and down, stared blatantly at his male parts in a way no seemly breeder would. “You might have grown a little, but the important bits stayed small.”
“I’ll reduce your sentence if you choose another one,” Zacar said.
Larz had to fight the urge to look down and check to see if he’d shrunken like she claimed. It was a miracle no one had killed her in the six months they’d held her in the guest house. Even Natalie stayed away from her. He ignored Zacar’s offer. If he could’ve let her go, he would’ve a long time ago.
“You may take a shuttle and choose a breeder from anywhere on this planet,” Zacar said in English.
She tossed her head. “Yeah, listen to Daddy and find yourself another fuck buddy.”
Larz advanced on her, but stopped when Viglar slapped something against his chest. ”Your new uniform, get dressed and get her out of my infirmary,” he said in Zyrgin.
Without looking away from her, Larz pulled the silver uniform pants over his narrow hips. He saw her swallow and flick a brief glance over his naked body. In spite of her words, he’d seen interest in her gaze. Deliberately, he slowed his movements. Natalie and Julia frequently forgot how acute a Zyrgin’s hearing was. The news that human women liked the muscled bodies of the warriors had spread like space disease among the warriors. Larz had felt her glance, like a touch, on his abs, his stomach, and lower.
He pulled on the new-size boots and she looked intently when he stepped into it.
“How do you do that?”
Ignoring her question he advanced on her again. “I will fuck you every day.”
“In your dreams, green freak,” she said.
Again, he had the impression that she would’ve liked to step back, but she wouldn’t let herself. She turned subtly sideways, as if subconsciously presenting a smaller target.
He advanced slowly, savored stalking her like food. “You will beg for my touch.”
She snorted rudely.
“You will not be allowed to bargain for hours.” If he lived, he’d fuck every punishment out of her soft human hide. Maybe finding pleasure with her would compensate him for what he was about to lose.
She frowned at him, making vertical lines appear on her brow. “Hours of what? Never mind, just back off, freak.” She snapped her fingers when he didn’t stop. “I said back off.”
One of these days, she’d snap her fingers at the wrong Zyrgin.
“Snapping of fingers will stop now.”
“She needs to be gone from my infirmary,” Viglar said again. He spoke in Zyrgin, obviously not wanting to draw her attention.
She threw her hair over her shoulder. “When you were a little freak, you didn’t intimidate me and you don’t now, either.”
“You’d better start to be,” Larz told her with grim humor, taking her by the arm. You’d never think it to look at her, but the warriors gave up any privilege to avoid guard duty with her. Her mouth alone added several inches to her stature. “You are safe only because I want you.”
He gentled his grip. The way she wielded that pink human mouth as a weapon, she never appeared her size. Holding her against him, the top of her head didn’t even reach his shoulders. The last time he held her like that, they were about the same height. Now he enjoyed that he towered over her. With this woman, he’d need every advantage he could get.
“I will beg The Zyrgin for mercy for your actions if you choose another one,” Zacar said.
It was a testament to how much he disliked Marcie. A Zyrgin warrior went down on their knees to show respect to their leader. Never to beg for mercy.
Larz looked at Zacar. “She is mine. I cannot let her die,” he said in the old language.
She snapped her fingers at him. “So you grew, you’re still tiny in my eyes. And get your paws off me.”
Yes, it would be a miracle if his woman lived through the next few months. Already Zacar and Zurian had offered to kill her, and Viglar had assured him he could put her down humanely. And Larz had to admit, if only to himself, sometimes the thought of strangling her crossed his mind.
“I cannot let her die,” he said again.
For a long time Zacar stared at him while Marcie struggled in his arms and railed at him. “You will be punished, human,” Zacar said.
Everything inside Larz froze. He turned to face his leader. “Allow me to claim her. I will present myself for punishment afterward. It is a warrior’s right to take his breeders punishment.”
“She tried to hurt The Zyrgin’s breeder. We know she is a spy, planted in the camps. Sarah told us of her evil nature. Marcie must die.”
“Would you be able to stand by and see Natalie killed? Even if she was a spy?”
Silence. Larz and Zacar stared at each other, both of them ignoring Marcie’s shrill demands to be let go.
“No,” Zacar said at last.