Reaver’s Kiss: Chapter Five


I stayed curled by the fire as a third moon joined the first two high overhead, passing out of sight behind the branches twisting above the clearing.

The words of Kyla’s message ran around and around in my mind.

The equipment I’m on wasn’t built for this and I’ve done terrible things to get enough power to send this out. No idea how long I have.

So here’s the important stuff: 

Get to the mountains.

Assume everything here will try to kill you.

Most of the natives are friendly, but not all of them.

They don’t have translator implants so won’t be able to understand you.

She’d laughed, and I almost saw her shaking her head at the absurdity of it all.

You’ve probably already figured that out, sorry.

If you meet one of the natives, tell them you need to get to the Sen’ki. That’s the name of one of the clans here. They won’t like it, but hopefully they’ll help.

Just get to the mountains. We’ve got a safe place there, and friends who’ll look for you.

Her voice got tight.

Be careful. Stay safe. And come home.

No matter how often I tried to send a message back, nothing had happened.

Kyla had spoken, followed by a stranger. From his words, it was obvious he was another native of this planet.

A Vak’ki, whatever that was.

Not one of Tirac’s favorite people, from his expression.

But that had been nothing compared to his reaction to the idea of us going to the mountains.

I wrapped my arms tighter around my knees.

There was something there that had made him angry, his face twisted into a snarl.

In the morning, he’d promised to show me something, hopefully something to explain it all.

Better than that, maybe he would show me the way to the mountains, where Kyla was.

How many of the rest of the girls were there?

Worry and exhaustion weighed on me but I couldn’t bear to sleep, instead waiting until daylight for answers.

Tirac wasn’t sleeping either, instead keeping watch over the camp.

Watching over me.

It was hard to tell if it was for my own safety, or to make sure I didn’t try to run off again.

Kyla had said most of the natives were friendly.

What about Tirac?

He had fed me, cared for me.

I still felt the pressure of his hands on my skin, tiny sparks that tingled for hours.

My thoughts spiraled as the flames grew low.

I poked at the fire with a stick, the crackling glow more soothing than I had expected.

Camping had never exactly been something I was interested in.

Had never had the option really.

The gardens back on the Dream were enough wilderness for me.

Wide manicured paths, beautiful banks with borders of blooming flowers.

And most importantly, nothing that would try to kill me.

But as I sat there listening to the rustling of the leaves, the uncanny hooting of the birds in the trees, feeding twigs into the crackling fire while waiting for the dawn, I had to admit…

This didn’t completely suck.

I glanced at Tirac, crouched at the other side of the fire pit, the tail that I still couldn’t quite believe in, coiled next to him.

Kyla had mentioned clans. Then where were the rest of his people?

Did he always live alone like this? 

All night, as he watched the shadows around us, he had sorted through a stack of branches, dragging them one at a time close to the fire, and then breaking them into pieces.

The smallest he’d used to keep the fire going, the rest he’d sorted into piles, judging by some criteria known only to him.

I could ask, I knew.

But the thought of another round of charades just felt overwhelming.

In the morning, he’d take me to the mountains. And then it wouldn’t matter what he was doing.

I’d meet up with Kyla and whoever else was with her, and then we’d find a way to get home.

Whatever he was doing with his growing pile of sticks wouldn’t be important at all.

I’d probably never see him again.

That’d be fine. Perfectly fine. 

Camping in a deadly jungle with a giant green striped alien with a tail had never been part of my plan.

My hand touched the back of my neck.

It would all be fine.

As the sky lightened into lavender, I sat up straighter.

But before I asked if it was time for us to go, a rumble rolled through the air.

“What is it?” I gasped, springing to my feet then stumbling to the side, my balance suddenly lost.

With a roar, Tirac sprang over the fire, wrapping me in his arms and carrying me down.

“Get off of me!” I pummeled against his broad chest, but he didn’t move, his elbows braced on either side of me, pinning me to the ground.

“It will be over soon,” he muttered.

Oh hell no.

I fought harder, desperate to escape him, but it was no use.

And then I froze.

In my frantic thrashing, I had failed to notice one important thing.

Tirac wasn’t moving.

Tirac wasn’t trying to do anything to me at all.

But the ground under us had come alive.

I went still, meeting his eyes.

“Earthquake,” he said

At that point, I didn’t need any further explanation, the world was filling me in quite nicely, thank you.

Something made a deafening crashing noise and he tucked me tighter against his chest, one hand curled protectively over the back of my head.

“Not much longer.”

This close, I couldn’t help but watch his lips, observing the mismatch of what he said to what the translator played in my ear.

That was the only reason I watched his lips so carefully.

They were full, strangely sensual in a face seemingly made of harsh plains.

Then he jolted, a deep grunt escaping him.

“Are you okay?”

Another jolt shook us, and I cursed at my inability to actually talk with him, to use real words and sentences.

“Good?” I asked, feeling like a complete idiot.

Of course, it wasn’t good.

Because I was pretty sure that branches, if not entire trees, were falling on him.

Him, and not me.

But instead of being annoyed, he just laughed.

“Good enough,” he answered. “I am stronger than you think, little one.”

In seconds, it was over.

The ground stilled, the birds began their songs all over again.

Tirac arched his back, pushing himself up to his knees, the fallen branches sliding away.

For a moment, I gazed up at him kneeling over me, the dark curtain of his hair backlit by the early morning sun, and a thrill ran through me.

Alien. Utterly strange.

Maybe it was sleep deprivation. Maybe it was the last effects of the gas from the pods. Or shock at crashing landing here, and an earthquake.

But for just a moment, I missed his arms around me, the feel of his chest pressing into mine.

My thoughts drifted, and I shook myself.

And that was enough of that, Allison.

I turned and looked at the devastation in the clearing.

It hasn’t been as bad as it sounded, only a few trees had fallen.


“Oh no!” 

I ran back to the crushed shell of the pod, staring at horror at the massive tree that lay across it.

There were things in there, emergency supplies, medicine.  

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what. It hadn’t seemed even remotely possible that I’d need to be familiar with the exact contents of the escape pod.

Even last night I had thought I would have more time, would be able to sort through it in the morning, and get whatever I needed.

I shouldn’t have waited.

Shoving at the tree trunk did nothing other than spike my anxiety higher.

“Let me in!” I shouted at it, but not surprisingly, the tree didn’t answer.

“Wait, let me look.” Tirac had come up behind me, his hand on my shoulder pulling me back, keeping me from flinging myself at the wreck.

“Please, I need to get inside,” I begged. He couldn’t understand me, I knew that.

But somehow it didn’t matter. He’d fix it. I knew he would.

Gently, he moved me to the side, setting his shoulder against the column of wood.

A flash of guilt ran through me.

His back had just been hammered by trees not five minutes before.

And now I asked him to do it again.

I was better than that, wasn’t I?

“It’s all right. It’s my fault I didn’t take things out sooner.”

Raising an eyebrow at my stream of sounds, he just shoved against the tree trunk harder.

“Tirac, you can stop now, it’s okay.” I tugged at his waist, but he was as immovable as the tree itself.

Until unbelievably, he managed to shift the tree out of the deep crease it had made in the side of the pod, and then with one last mighty shove, rolled it to the side.

For a brief moment, hope bubbled in my chest. Sure, I was still stuck here, and sure, it was pretty scary, but I’d take any sort of victory.

I needed one.

But it wasn’t to be.

No matter how I mashed at the control panel, tried to pry the metal open, nothing worked.

The lid was stuck, jammed fast.

I stepped back, fighting back the tears welling in my eyes.

It was just stuff. It wasn’t important, I tried to tell myself. I don’t even know what was in there.

Tirac tried to jam his fingers into the seam of metal, but he failed as well.

“I am sorry,” he said softly. “It would take more tools than I have with me to open it.”

I sniffed, nodded sharply.

Just stuff.

“New plan,” I told myself, more than him. “I’ll get to Kyla and the others. I don’t need what’s in there. It’ll be fine.”

But first, the basic needs of my body finally caught up with me. The series of gestures and expressions I needed to use to tell Tirac I needed a bush and a little privacy was almost as humiliating as wondering which leaves were safe, and which were some sort of alien poison ivy.

Done, I rejoined him by the pod and tried to focus on the new goal.

“Sen’ki?” I asked hopefully.

Tirac might not like them, whoever they were. But that’s where Kyla said to go, off into their mountains.

So that’s where I was going.

His face hardened. “I will show you,” was his only answer.

Oh. That didn’t sound good.

The sun rose high above us as we made our way through the jungle, but I still couldn’t see any mountains.

It’s just because the trees are so tall, I told myself.

It was true.

Despite the downed trees all around us, the jungle was thick, silver barked trunks twisting up and over us, their branches curving off in a tangle, each capped off with a cloud of blue and green leaves.

“It’s beautiful.”

Tirac glanced back at me, but didn’t say anything.

My chest tightened, just a bit.

He’d been quiet ever since I insisted on going to see the Sen’ki.

Maybe Kyla was wrong. Tirac had done nothing but try to keep me safe, to help me. And if he thought it was a bad idea, maybe I should listen to him.

No. Get to the others.

Figure things out from there.

The further we walked, the more fallen trees I saw.

“This can’t be all from this morning, can it?”

I tried to remember everything I’d ever heard about earthquakes.

New Chicago wasn’t really known for them.

Before I figured it out, a pale peak arose far in the distance, rising over a vast jungle that lay before us.

“There?” I pointed, bouncing on my toes. “Is that it?”

“Yes,” he answered, clearly not needing to understand anything other than my enthusiasm. “Wait.”

And in a few moments I saw why.

My gaze drawn up to the peak, I hadn’t noticed the dark slash across the ground in front of us.

As we approached it stretched out to a wide chasm, blocking our path.

“What is this?” I whispered, as a heartrending lurch clenched at my chest.

Like a giant hand had broken a cookie into two pieces. 

The land was divided into here and there.

And the gap between the two was far too broad to cross.

Legs shaky, I took a few faltering steps closer to the edge before Tirac’s arm around my shoulder drew me back.

“This morning was not the first quake to strike this land,” he explained. “Days ago the ground shook harder, longer. I was out hunting, and when the quake was over, this had appeared.”  He gestured to the chasm before us. “I am trapped here as much as you.”

The chasm before me seemed to echo with his words.


I didn’t have a plan for this.

Now I didn’t have anything at all.

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