Reaver’s Hunt: Chapter Four


Who the hell was this guy? Bronze skin—wings? He stood more than a head taller than me. I was reminded of an action-hero star, a Greek statue.

Enormous as he was, his frame was cut, super muscular, and from a dearth of clothes, I could see most of him.

Should I run? The run-in with the giant bear had stoked my adrenalin. A split second before I could take off running—

“Good,” he grunted, lips pulled back to reveal slightly pointed canines.

What the?

He’d swooped through the trees, killed a blue monster bear twice his size with a medieval spear—wait, monster bear. “Is that good to eat?” I had never eaten bear, monstrous, blue or otherwise. If I could smoke a bunch of bear meat, I’d be set for months.

When the statuesque angel guy made a so-so gesture with his hand—why my sudden sense of relief? I had to laugh.

From his clumsy pantomime (not like mine was better) and gestures, he wanted us to get out of here.

I’d tried to explain that I had prepped for months here, worked hard to ready myself for a colder season.

Words bounced off him.


“Females,” he had said. “Human females.”

Were they the girls from the Dream? Had they landed here? Sarah, Allison, Kyla, everyone?

Somehow, my co-workers from the space cruise gig had survived, and were somewhere on this surreal planet. And this bronze god knew them.

My heart thudded as something else clicked.

This was Bashful. Not some cute little gnome hiding in the bushes. A giant angel guy watching from above.

Was it because of the others that he was spying on me, stalking me?

I held up the necklace with one hand, and pointed at him with the other. My brows went up, questioning.

Did my angel blush? He nodded, though his eyes would not meet mine. Bashful indeed.

“C’mon, Bashful. Let me get packed.” I led him to my shelter.

He did the “we gotta get outta this place” miming.

“I get it, but I want to grab things I need.” I didn’t have a chance when the leather lions smashed my escape pod around. This time, I was going to prepare a little.

With a little bit of lacing, the basket turned into a backpack.

“See, now I’m ready!”

Oh, shit.

He leaned against the largest rock, head down, massive bladed spear already slung back into its sheath. He was glossy with sweat, golden eyes foggy. When I put a hand on his forehead, he burned with fever. This close to him, I could smell him, cinnamon-y and herbaceous. His skin beneath my hand started a static shock in my brain.

I shook myself.

Stop it.

He’s sick.

But from what? He was in amazing shape while he was fighting that bear thing. What could have happened?

Then I saw the injury on his arm, the scratches were surrounded by darkening skin. I remembered his blush.

“This looks bad,” I said.

For a second, it looked like he understood. But the next second, he lifted me off the ground like I was a child.

Then powerful legs pistoned, wings hit the air with a drum like thump, and we were airborne.

He held me so close to him I could feel his heat, his fever. My poor Bash! At the same time, if he dropped me—I threw my arms around his neck.

He murmured, but sounded almost content.

We whipped through the night sky. Two moons hung low, a third rising on the opposite horizon. Distantly I saw the glow of fires, of lights. Yet we flew hard in the opposite direction.

“Bash, where are we going?”

He didn’t answer, just kept flying.

Mountains rose on the right. I hadn’t noticed before, but the peaks were now covered in snow.

I was glad I’d put my vest on. The only other clothing I owned were leggings and a blouse that I’d been wearing when the ship exploded. Wind cut to the bone at this height.

But my rescuer didn’t notice. When I could see the sharp planes of his face, the square jaw, high cheekbones, his expression was one of determination.

He did not respond to my words.

Relentlessly, we crossed the night sky.

When all the moons set, and the sky purpled to the east, I thought we might fly forever. Wings flapped, tirelessly. Thickly muscled arms held me, moving not an inch in all our time in the sky.

There were worse things on this planet, I thought. Being carried around by a hunky winged dude wasn’t so bad. My worry was his fever. His flight—was it delirium?

Medicine wasn’t my thing. I didn’t know if he was suffering from infection, a toxin, or if this caveman behavior was normal.

He swooped nearer a mountain, lighting on a pathway. I moved to get down, but he only held me tighter.

Speaking in his language, he carried me along the steep path.

“I can’t understand you,” I murmured. If I’d still had a working commbangle, maybe I could have.

But I didn’t, so here we were, with charades and the few words he’d learned from someone.

Taking me… somewhere that he couldn’t, wouldn’t explain.

The path ended at a cliff, a round stone making the end of the trail. Finally, he put me down, but only long enough to roll that enormous stone out of the way.

Beyond was a cave. Bashful directed me inside. Both of us had to crouch down, the ceiling was low. He managed to roll the rock back in place from inside.

Before I could make my way down a narrow tunnel somehow aglow with pink light, he scooped me up again.

“This is going to go much easier if I walk,” I said.

He said nothing, only continued to carry me, hunched over, into the narrow stone throat.

I felt a tinge of fear. What was this winged caveman going to do to me in this cave?

Sure, he’d saved me from getting eaten, but since then he hadn’t been making much sense.

Soon, it felt like the cave opened up and I felt myself laid on a bed of something soft.

I braced myself. Even sick, I’d never be able to fight him off.

But he moved away, his steps oddly shuffling.

With a few scritches, the walls around me illuminated. He was striking a fire. In a moment, the cavern was aglow. On a rock shelf above the nest of leaves, baskets not unlike my own.

Bashful staggered around the room. He knocked a basket over and dried roots and fish rained on my head. Abashed, he sagged against the wall.

“You need to sit down, Mister.” I patted the grass next to me.

He shook his head negative, pointing back up the narrow cave.

“No one’s coming in here. C’mon. Sit with me.”

It took a while. Finally, he acquiesced, either from my urging or his own loss of strength. I gave him some of the dried fish from my hair.

“C’mon, Bashful. Starve a cold feed a fever.” Is that how it went? Halfheartedly, he chewed some dried fish. There were waterskins (squee!) on the shelf, and both of us were parched.

The moment he got some water down, his bronze skin glistened with sweat.

“My poor baby. My poor Bashful,” I said softly.

He leaned forward. Those amazing golden eyes pulled me in, calling to something deep within me.

For a second, I thought he was going to kiss me.

And for another second, I thought maybe I would be alright with that.

There might have been the smallest twinge of disappointment when he lay his head on my shoulder.

“Aw, it’s okay. It’s okay, baby,” I said. With the hem of my shirt, I dried his face.

For the first time, I got a good look at him. I marveled at the complex muscles around his wings. Shoulders and biceps were rounded, more solid than muscle should be. His hands were the size of baseball gloves.

They roved over me, patting, less trying to feel me out, more like he wanted to make sure I was really there.

“I’m fine, there’s nothing for you to worry about.” I stroked his powerful arms, and in response they wrapped around me and pulled me down.

There wasn’t time to consider my options. In a moment, he breathing lengthened, evened out.

Holding me close, he fell asleep.

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