“You are my sister…”

She shot him a cool glance.

“Do not get emotional over it, Veral. We have no bonds between us. We share blood from our mother and father. I give you my loyalty and assistance because of it. It is nothing more. That I retained memories of it after my processing is unpleasant enough. I have no interest in dwelling on it further.”

He inclined his head, respecting her position. It was her choice.

“As you wish. And Malraha?”

His cousin snorted at that, her vibrissae coiling tightly and snapping with agitation.

“I asked Featha that. Although in her mind I am the angry sister who might kill your mate in cold blood, she had fostered another female under her wing far deadlier in her anger. Malraha is the daughter of a male our mother had a mating agreement with. He took another mate after she joined with our father, but he bred his hate into his daughter. He reported your mother’s plans to hide you, and when her grief became great, he reported her, too, in an attempt to ruin our house, and he murdered our father when his grief at his mate’s death made him vulnerable.”

She trembled with repressed fury.

“Featha killed him. She admitted this to me and acknowledged that she had hoped to reverse the damage her father did on the female to give her a better life. She did not realize that she had set a predator among us. We agreed that the only logical conclusion was that Malraha was replaying that same strategy against you. We tried to comm you multiple times until we decided that I would leave with Anahal as my escort.”

Veral’s brow rose. “She knew?”

Navesha chuffed drily.

“Featha knows most things that go on around the compound. She may have been blind in this one matter, but she is resourceful. She is the one who introduced Anahal to Mahame.”

Veral grunted, slowing as he shot around a corner. It was only by correcting his trajectory that he was barely able to avoid colliding with the female standing in the corridor, clutching her offspring. He staggered to a halt, head whipping to her, and was relieved to find that she was fine other than a slight tremor among her vibrissae. He gripped her forearm to steady her, and she sent a grateful look in his direction.

“Veral!” she breathed in relief. “My apologies, I am looking for Terri. She was supposed to meet me at the lower pools, but she never appeared. I know that Malraha said she had the layout, but I am worried that…”

Her voice was drowned out by the connection coming to life in his head.

“Veral, I have her coordinates. Sending them to you now. She is below the habitation zone heading toward the lower cooling pools. I do not think that Malraha is taking her there to swim,” the male growled.

His hand tightened on Dari’s arm before releasing her.

“Navesha, I have the coordinates of Terri nearing the cooling pools. We must hurry.”

“The cooling pools!” Dari hissed. “No, come this way. I know another way there that I discovered as a juvenile. It is rough, but it will get us there quicker than using the main halls. This way!”

The female shot off to the left, ducking through a narrow hall.

Veral did not have time to question it. He changed course to follow the female. Anything that would get him to his anastha before Malraha carried out whatever plans she had for his mate.

Dari led him through the narrow halls, cutting into an even smaller gap. It was tight, barely leaving room for his shoulder spines to pass as he raced after the limber female, moving swiftly despite her offspring tied tightly to her by a sling crossing her torso. At the very end, the crevice narrowed and he was forced to turn sideways to push through until at last he stepped out into the deep shadows of a cavernous room.

Malraha stood there in the artificial lighting set up around the room, arm upraised as she held Terri by throat, her voice taunting.

“I sent all my data and captured vids to the council. They know you are here, and they have evidence of the house’s treason against them. I will be spared as a loyal Argurma, but they will destroy this house. But for your daughter, I think I have a different plan now. I will show her the ‘mercy’ that was shown me.”

Fury roared through Veral as the female took his offspring and set her with the dorashnal before dragging Terri into the water. He was already up and moving, nearly blinded by his rage as Malraha drove his mate’s body into the water and held her down. Her eyes flicked up at him in surprise, and just when it appeared that the bubbles ceased, she dragged his mate back up from the water, holding her choking, gasping body in front of her like a shield, her blaster held against his mate’s head.

Everything within him stilled as he drew to a stop, tracking every move that Malraha made as she held his precious female in her grasp. The only sounds he was truly aware of was Terri’s weak, watery gasps for life and the soft hum of the fans that circulated the cool air coming off the pool.

“Drop your weapons, Veral,” she hissed.

He stilled only minutely, aware that she had not addressed anyone else. He did not look around, but his vibrissae vibrated as they moved around him. There was no one near him except the deranged female holding his mate hostage. The others were still hidden by the absolute darkness around the crevice, camouflaged behind a group jagged rocks that filled that part of the cavern.

“Release my mate,” he growled.

The female smirked, her vibrissae coiling about her slowly with their faint vibrations.


Tags: S.J. Sanders Argurma Salvager Science Fiction
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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