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Hsing’s hearts were racing in his chest. Pounding a double rhythm of fear.
Something had itched at the back of his neck as he’d watched his brother and their mate descend down the heliopad. He’d tried to go back to his duties, but he couldn’t leave his seat at the command deck. He peered down as though he could see through the atmosphere down onto the Earth. Of course he couldn’t see through the cloud cover. He maintained a link to Chen, though it grew heavier to hold onto the further his brother got away. His link to Shanti, which was a fragile connection when they were together, weakened the further away she got from him. Though she’d opened her body fully to him, she still kept a gate on her mind.
Hsing didn’t worry over that. They had plenty of time to fully bond. In the meantime, he sat at the command deck and peered down.
The time ticked by and Hsing became more and more agitated. The only reason he stayed in his seat and on the ship was because he felt Chen and through Chen he felt her. He knew his brother thought that Shanti would not return. Hsing harbored no such worry. She was theirs. And so he waited.
Until he felt a snap. The snap crashed into his chest and thudded down into his gut. Something was wrong. He reached out for Chen and caught glimpses of darkness and disunity. He reached out for
Shanti and all he felt was emptiness and solitude.
Dread flooded his mind, fear sang through his heart. Without any further information, Hsing leaped onto the heliopad and beamed down. He arrived at the coral reef. He searched around, but he didn’t see either one.
And then he heard it. Shanti’s voice calling out to him from the bond.
Hsing closed his eyes until he saw where she was. He was there in no time. He arrived a squat structure. They looked similar to the home he’d seen in his mother’s mind, only larger.
Hsing bypassed the knob burst through the door. And there she stood.
She flew into his arms. His hands came around her.
“Help me,” she said. “They took him.”
Hsing pulled her away from him and studied her lips. Her words didn’t make sense. Until he realized…where was Chen?
“They took him.” She tried to say more words, but her speech failed her. Shanti grasped his hands and showed him. And then Hsing saw.
Two of the Marred Ones held Chen in their grasp. One turned their eye on Shanti. Hsing’s hearts stopped at the possibility that they could’ve taken her. But they didn’t. Chen struggled and diverted all of their attention back to him. But now Chen was gone.
“Help me find him,” Shanti pleaded. “I can’t live without him.”
She had no idea how true that was. Shanti was clearly more attached to Chen than she was to him. Hsing knew he’d become unbalanced without his brother at his side. But he’d sink into madness like the marred ones without both Shanti and Chen. They had to find Chen.
Chen closed his eyes, opened his spirit, and reached out for his brother. “I can’t see him clearly.”
Darkness engulfed the link he shared with his twin.
“What if you touched Nirvana?” Shanti began unbuttoning her cloth. “You get a boost of power, right?”
Hsing covered her hands with his, stopping her motions. The fear in her eyes punched him in his gut. But she did have a point.
“Open yourself to me, Shanti.”
“Okay. Do we need to go to the bedroom?”
Hsing put his hands on her face. “No, little one. There is no time for that. I need you to let me into your soul.”
“How? How do I do that?”
Hsing took her hands in his own. “Breathe,” he said. “Calm your mind. Let me in.”
But she was a mass of nervous energy. Her thoughts running in every direction.
Hsing leaned down and kissed her lips. Slowly her mind began to focus on him. He poured everything he felt into her. He showed her his emotions at the loss of his parents, the weight of responsibility for his tribe on his shoulders, how much care he had for his brother, and his growing care for her.
She gasped and broke the kiss. Staring into his open eyes.
Hsing tried to shutter himself, but failed. So he turned from her. He’d never been so open and vulnerable in his entire lifetime, not even for his brother. Hsing’s instinct was to distance himself from her. He couldn’t make her unsee what she saw deep inside him. In this moment he truly understood the power a mate held over her males. She could cause him more damage than any adversary.
“I can see him,” she said.
Hsing turned back to her. “Show me.” He reached out his hand to her.
Shanti offered him her hand and then opened herself completely. Her mind’s eye was fuzzy, but he knew that in the haze they both saw was Chen. They couldn’t make him out clearly. He appeared to be slumped over and in pain.
“Chen,” she said out loud, but Hsing heard it ring in his head. “Chen we’re coming.”
She wrenched out of his grasp and headed for the door. “Let’s go.”
Hsing blinked. “You’re not going anywhere. You’ll stay here until I find him and bring him back.”
“No. If he dies, we die with him.”
“No. You’ll live. You can stay here and live a full life. You can choose another male, a human one. And stay on your planet.”
“I don’t want anyone else. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Hsing knew these words were not of him. They were of Chen. Though he had no doubts that Shanti’s body yearned for him, Chen was the one her heart yearned for.
“Either we come back with Chen. Or we don’t come back at all.”
Stay tuned next week for the next installment!