Monday, December 9, 2019
Friday, December 6, 2019
2 2/3 cups white sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Cook sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 2-quart pot over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. (On humid days, use 1 tablespoon less water.) Cook, without stirring, to 300 degrees on candy thermometer (or hard ball stage).
Beat egg whites in 1-1/2-quart bowl until stiff peaks form. Continue to beat while pouring hot syrup in a thin stream into egg whites. Add vanilla; beat until mixture holds its shape and becomes slightly dull. (Mixture may become too stiff for electric mixer). Fold in nuts (if you choose).
Drop from buttered spoon onto waxed paper. Let stand at room temperature, turning candy over once, until outside of candy is firm--at least 12 hours. Store in airtight container.
Monday, December 2, 2019
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
**TUESDAY TEASER - BOUND BY LOVE rest of Chapter 4**
Time for more Harvest Young! This has not been beta read or edited.
A unit hour had passed, and there was no trace of Hamza. He’d taken a quick shower and changed clothes. Neo paced. That expression in Hamza’s eyes when Keyno pledged to him worried Neo. The absolute loathing wasn’t something he was accustomed to seeing.
Needing something to do, Neo opened the door to Jolak’s suite. Jolak still napped, so he shut it quietly. His stomach rumbled, so Neo wandered to the cramped kitchen area and ordered food. Standing at the modest dining table, he absently ate. Had Hamza eaten? He wished Hamza was here so he could ask, dammit.
There were a number of things he wanted to ask… like what was going above ground? There was so much damage, so many injuries, and his skills were needed, but he was, doing nothing. Okay, he was here because Hamza asked him to be, so he was doing something, but…. Hell, he didn’t know how Dayo and Szin or their young were. How were Raiden, Takeo, Ti, and Colt handling this? What of Dale and Chad? Or, shit, Kia and Laken? Outside of what Keyno had told them, Neo knew nothing. He hadn’t even seen his own dabba and dad.
He finished eating and collapsed on the couch. “Fuck,” he muttered to himself. “What am I doing? This isn’t about me. I didn’t lose my dabba. My whole life wasn’t just upended. I didn’t just become king because my dabba was murdered in cold blood.” He scrubbed his hands over his face, regretting that moment of selfishness. But dammit, someone could’ve at least commed him.
He barely finished that thought when a low tone echoed throughout the area. Elated that maybe he’d be told something finally, Neo jumped up, rushed to the door, and stabbed the wall plate granting permission for entrance. It slid open, and Neo’s breath caught. Low lighting from the hallway illuminated auburn hair threaded through with gray now and soft, big blue eyes bracketed by crow’s feet.
“Dad!” Relief flooded Neo. “Oh gods, dad!”
John wrapped his arms around Neo’s waist and hugged him. “My….” John’s voice broke. “My young.”
John hugged him as hard as he could, making Neo grunt. He closed his eyes, taking a moment to just… let go. His damn eyes started doing that burning thing again, and dammit, he was about to lose it there in front of the guards.
“Neo?” John rubbed his palms up and down Neo’s back. “I’m sorry. I wanted to be here sooner, but I also wanted to find—”
“Your dad’s turning red in the face, my friend. You, ah, might want to loosen your grip a bit.”
“Laken!” Neo gasped, opening his eyes. Giving his dad one last hug, he let go and reached for Laken. “How did I miss you standing there?” He demanded, pulling Laken into his embrace.
“I honestly have no idea. It’s not like you can’t hear when I’m around.” Laken smirked, the bells chiming sweetly in his hair as Neo lifted Laken off his feet.
“I am so glad to see you,” Neo whispered as he lowered Laken back to his feet. Neo’s heart yearned for Hamza, but if his mate couldn’t be here, then Laken was the next best thing. He truly was Neo’s best friend. More chimes caught his attention, and Neo glanced past Laken. Kia stood next to John. “Hey, Kai. Sorry, I seemed to have missed you too. I’m glad you’re here, though.”
“We came as fast as we could.” Kia glanced at the guards. “Shall we go inside?”
“Huh? Oh, sure. Okay.” Blushing, Neo squeezed Laken once more then ended the hug. “Sorry, I’m a little scattered.” Neo waved his hand, and the entrance reopened. “Please, come inside. Would anybody like a drink?”
“No thanks. We’ve all eaten,” John replied, perching on the couch. Kia sat next to him. Neo grabbed two of the kitchen chairs and carried them to the living area.
Laken settled onto one. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine.” Neo waved the question away. “Have either of you heard anything? Dad? Is dabba okay?”
“He is, I promise,” John said. “Things are in chaos, but we’re all okay.”
“More like controlled chaos,” Laken added. “There isn’t as much panic now, and a plan has been implemented.”
“I’ve been told there’s an emergency command center—I guess you’d call it—set up below ground for now. Szin and Dayo, along with Raiden and Takeo, are still in the temporary birthing suite,” John said. “They’ve been informed about what occurred. They asked about you and Hamza.”
“I’ll try to go see them as soon as I can.” Neo rolled his neck, trying to make it pop. Maybe then the tension would ease. Hoping up, he started pacing. His skin was too tight and, and….. “Gods. I want this day to be over.”
John tilted his head as he stared at Neo. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Okay, no. I’m not fine.” Neo collapsed into the other chair. That tilt of the head got him every time. He rested his elbows on his knees and buried his head in his hands. “Nothing is fine. Hamza lost his dabba. He’s grieving and pissed beyond anything I’ve ever seen, and he’s worried about Jolak, and… and now he’s king, and he has to deal with the fallout from these multiple attacks, holy shit, dad, the things I saw on the way here were the stuff of nightmares, and I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing, and—”
At the soft voice, Neo’s head jerked up. Jolak stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame. “Where’s… where’s Duran?” Jolak scrubbed at his face. “Is he…. I need to see him.”
“He’s ready now,” John said. “I came to tell Neo, and I wanted to check on you. Kia wanted to come as well.”
Jolak nodded. “Thank you both. I need my friends around me right now. Where’s Hamza? Why aren’t you with him, Neo?”
“He….” Neo had no idea what to say. “He asked me remain here with you. He, um, also wanted to spend some time with Duran. Alone.”
Jolak frowned. “Always so independent, that young of mine. Being alone is not what he needs right now.”
If only Jolak knew. Neo didn’t say anything, though. Now was not the time.
“I want to see my mate. I also need to see my young.” Jolak’s posture straightened. “Comm Hamza and tell him to make the necessary arrangements, please. Also alert the guards that we’ll be leaving momentarily. Give me ten unit minutes to wash my face and to get awake, then I’ll be ready.”
Neo watched as Jolak strode back his room. This was the Jolak he grew up with: respectful, but firm. Jolak asked nicely first, and if that didn’t work, then he’d take matters into his own hands. In other words, Jolak would damn well walk the halls until he found his mate, if necessary.
Neo commed Hamza, sincerely hoping he answered. Otherwise, matters might get a bit intense.
Monday, November 11, 2019
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
**TUESDAY TEASER - BOUND BY LOVE Chapter 4**
Time for more Harvest Young! This has not been beta read or edited.
Chapter Four - Neo
Neo sat quietly as Keyno spoke to Hamza. He’d been at the hospital, so he’d missed what had transpired.
“At first we assumed they were hunting our king. Bold move on their part—beaming in during a strike, but it was logical. There was mass confusion. While Malk, Gibor, and I exchanged fire with the invaders, one managed to shoot Duran. It was nothing more than a lucky shot.” Pain flashed across Keyno’s face. “Then, abruptly, they transported out.”
“I wonder why,” Neo muttered.
“I believe the Onfre arrived,” Keyno said. “Which, at the time, we didn’t know why they left, just that they did. While Hamza took time to mourn privately, I started collecting data and conducted what debriefings I could. I found out they were actively searching for white headed males. Granted, they killed anyone male they found, but they were specifically looking for—”
“Oh gods,” Neo gasped. “They were hunting the royal family.”
“All males of the royal line have white hair.” Keyno growled, and his ears laid back against his head. “Yes, there are the tattoos on the neck, but only the white hair is inherited. Szin, of course, is the exception.”
Neo glanced at Hamza’s long white hair. Even though the tips are a soft lavender, there was no mistaking he was royalty.
“I truly believe the females were trying to wipe out the Royal family as revenge for not only taking what they consider their property, but for blowing up a battleship of theirs, which, by the way, fired on a starship of ours first.” Keyno met Hamza’s gaze. “And I must ask for your forgiveness. We were outnumbered, Hamza, and… and… when Duran was murdered, I momentarily froze. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Malk fired, killing the female who shot Duran. I learned later she was also targeting me, but… I failed my king, and I failed you.”
“Oh, bullshit,” Hamza raged. “That’s patently untrue, and you know it! I know you, and I know you would’ve given your life for him. As would Gibor and Malk! From what you said, we’re damn lucky they didn’t kill you.”
“It’s….” Stunned, Neo’s gaze bounded between Hamza and Keyno. “It’s a miracle we only lost one royal.”
Hamza pushed off the couch and kneeled next to Keyno. “I know how close you and my dabba were. To see what you did…. Keyno, I would’ve frozen too. They massacred our family in front of you. In cold blood. Please, do not, not for a unit second, think you failed. I don’t believe that, and neither would Dabba.”
Keyno tugged Hamza to his feet. Once Hamza stood, Keyno sank to his knees and bowed his head. “Thank you, my Highness, for your forgiveness. I’ll endeavor to do all I can to earn it.”
Hamza flinched. “Keyno—”
“No, Hamza. You are our king now. It’s time to take your rightful place.” Keyno raised his head, shaking his hair back, and stared up at Hamza. “I pledge myself to my new king, King Hamza!”
Neo watched grief tighten Hamza’s features. But between one heart beat and the next, the sorrow fled. Nothing but fierce determination showed in Hamza’s stance and on his face now. And hatred. It gleamed in his eyes.
“You’re right. No more will I deny who I was born to be.” Hamza straightened. “Thank you, Captain Shou. I accept your pledge, gladly, and give one of my own: the Ne Rey will know my wrath. Now, stand.”
Neo’s world tilted. The cruelty shining in Hamza’s scared Neo to the very depths of his soul.
Keyno rose to his feet, bowed slightly at the waist, then straightened. “We stand with you, my king.”
“I would like to see my dabba, but I need to do it alone for now.” Hamza tuned to Neo. “Would you mind remaining here with Jolak, in case he wakes?”
Neo swallowed. “I… I guess. But Hamza, are you sure? That’s going to be….” Hard and emotional—devastatingly so.
“Just for now. We’ll go together later, but I need this. Please, stay with my dad?” Hamza crossed to Neo and sat next to him on the couch. He took Neo’s hand. “I can’t…. I trust you above all others and—”
Neo searched Hamza’s face. The coldness from a moment ago had retreated somewhat. It still worried Neo, but Hamza hadn’t totally shut himself off, thank all that was holy. “Love, you know every Tah’Narian would defend him with their very life.”
“I know, but… but it’s you here with him. You are my heart. My love. My everything, Neo. I need you to be here in case… in case I’m not and he wakes, that way he won’t be alone, and I don’t know how to explain how important this is to me, but—”
“Then I will be here with him.” Neo slid his other hand behind Hamza’s neck and gently tugged him closer until their foreheads met. He understood Jolak was Hamza’s dad and losing him was more than Hamza could stand. It wasn’t rational thinking, but Neo wasn’t sure just exactly how rational Hamza was right now. “I’ll take care of Jolak. I promise.”
“Thank you.” Hamza shuddered. “Thank you. I can’t lose him too, Neo. I know he’s safe, and there are guards outside, and maybe I’m being silly, but—”
“I get it. I do. I want to be there for you, but if this is where you need me, then this is where I’ll be. I love you.”
“And I love you.” Neo let his hand slide from behind Hamza’s neck.
Hamza leaned back. “I’ll be back soon.”
Monday, November 4, 2019
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Fearful, Foggy Night
© Patricia L. Cisco
Damp darkness befalls as gray fog settles in.
Frightening shadows lingering within.
Footsteps echo through the black, eerie night
With scrapings and rustlings, yet nothing in sight.
Misty clouds floating across the dull moon.
Heart stopping feelings of horror and doom.
Howling squeals pierce the smoggy air.
My heart pounding harder in panicky fear.
The faster and faster I try to race,
My shaky, weak legs won't keep up the pace.
A scary, awful blood-curdling scream.
I feel so faint, as if in a dream.
Ghostly eyes glowing in bushes distant,
Getting closer and closer in an instant.
Frozen stiff, I shut my eyes tight,
Holding my breath with all my might.
Then swishing past in the chilly breeze,
Opening one eye, I suddenly breathe.
Finally putting my fears at ease.
Oh, it's just Trick or Treaters on All Hallows' Eve!
Published: October 2017
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings: 25 or more (just depends on how many you want to make!)
25 Miniature Reeses Cups
Total Time 15 mins
Servings: 25 or more (just depends on how many you want to make!)
25 Miniature Reeses Cups
25 Thin Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (plan on having extra in case some don't break nicely)
1/3 cup Pre-made cream cheese frosting (or homemade)
50 Edible eyes
Remove the wrappers from the Reeses cups.
Break the cookies in half and then separate all of the pieces from one another so you now have four "bat wings". Scrape off the frosting and discard (or eat!)
Fill up a plastic bag with the store bought or homemade frosting. Cut off the tip of the bag and pipe frosting onto the back corners of the broken cookie pieces.
Press one cookie piece on the left of the Reeses cup and another cookie piece on the right of the Reeses cup.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Bound by Love - Rest of Chapter 3
Gibor flinched. “Of course. I… I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry, Hamza. Come, I’ll take you to where Neo and Jolak are.”
Grateful, Hamza let Gibor lead him away from that room full of death and heartache. Royal guards fell in behind them as they moved through narrow walkways. No one spoke, which relieved Hamza.
The less he had to think, the better. Instead he focused on the drab walls. This part of the palace wasn’t used often since it was mostly a bunker. Maybe that was why it was so cold. There were no polished floors, pretty draperies, or expensive knickknacks. If the royal family was here, then the cause was nothing good. Kind of like now.
Gibor stopped in front of a plain door with guards standing in front of it, hugged Hamza and left, taking the ones who followed them back with him. Hamza nodded to the males and opened the door.
The lights in the ceiling were set to low in the open living area. Two simple couches and a small entertainment center graced the room. He stepped inside, and it closed with a swish. The floor was stained concrete with a rug to soften sounds. There were no pictures in guiled frames. No windows to let in light. Off to the side was a reduplicator for food and other needs, along with a tiny table for dining. It was all very bare and so basic. And cold. So damn cold.
Neo, sitting on the couch, unwound his legs from underneath him and stood. He didn’t speak, just stood there… waiting. Hamza had never been so happy to see someone as he was to see Neo. He crossed the room, his feet moving of their own accord, and threw himself at Neo. Neo staggered but kept his feet. Wrapping his arms around Hamza, he held on tightly. One hand crept up Hamza’s back and buried itself under Hamza’s hair.
The touch helped ground him, but the screams of pain, of denial, stayed locked deep inside. How he wanted to cry, but there was nothing. Just… nothing, except the black hatred growing within him.
“I have you, love. It’s okay.” Neo rubbed his other hand up and down Hamza’s back.
But it wasn’t okay. It would never be okay again. Hamza had lost his dabba, and nothing could change that.
“I was worried about you.” Hamza forced the words past his tight throat.
“I was scared stupid about you,” Neo admitted. “When I heard the palace and the planetary defense building were under attack, I damn near panicked. Hamza, I’m so—”
“I… I can’t talk about dabba yet, Neo. It doesn’t seem real, and I can’t accept it, and gods above, how dad wailed broke me, and what the hell am I going to do, and the palace took a major hit, and we must secure it, but so did other cities, and so many people are hurt or dead, and, and, and we’re at war, but we’ve been at peace since I’ve been alive, so how do I war against an enemy when I have no experience whatsoever, and, and, by all that is holy, everything is just so… so—”
“Hey, hey, I need you to breathe.” Neo let go of Hamza and leaned back. “You’re about to hyperventilate.”
“I….” Hamza gasped. He started to shake. There simply wasn’t enough air in the room, and the walls were closing in on him. And fuck, why was it so cold? “I… it’s too much!”
“Oh-kay, you’re going to sit down.” Neo pulled Hamza to the couch, pushed him down, and knelt beside him. He clasped Hamza’s wrist. “Too fast,” he muttered. “Your skin is like ice too. Damn.”
“Where do I start?” Hamza jerked his hand free and leaped to his feet. Neo stood too.
“What about our fleet? What about our fighters? And what about the starships? How much damage occurred and had significant?” Hamza sweat dripped into his eyes. How was that even possible when he was so fucking cold? He glared at Neo, who was now standing by the small dining table, digging around in a black bag.
“The Onfe are here too. How could I have forgotten them? Do I need to officially greet them? How do I do that?” Hamza’s vison was going wonky again, but he plowed on regardless. “Fuck, I need Ti.” He jumped when Neo grasped his arm. “He’ll know what to do. He’ll tell me the protocol for—fuck! What… what did you just…. What was that?”
“Sedative.” Neo placed the hydrosedative-spray on the table. “You’re on the verge of a panic attack and very possibly going into shock.”
“How much of a sedative did you—well, shit.” Hamza swayed. Creeping fatigue washed over him. He blinked owlishly at Neo.
“Time to rest, love.” Neo ducked under Hamza’s arm, wrapped an arm around Hamza’s waist, and braced him. He walked Hamza toward another door off the living area. “Bedroom’s through here.”
“You tranqued me.” Hamza accused. Holy shit was the room was spinning now.
“Sure did.” Neo opened the door and led Hamza to a bed. He eased Hamza onto it. “Down you go.”
Hamza could barely keep his eyes opened. All he wanted to do was sleep. “Not… not….” What was he saying? “Yeah. Cool.” He sank into the bedding and groaned.
Neo pulled off Hamza’s boot then covered him with a blanket. “I know, but it was better than the panic attack you were heading for.”
“Tah’Narians don’t have…. Tah’Narians don’t… huh? What was I…?” Hamza slurred.
“Oh bullshit. And as a doctor, that’s my medical opinion too.” Neo sat next to Hamza.
“How’s it get so dark?”
“It’s dark because your eyes are close. Now, go to sleep, dammit.”
* * * *
Hamza lurched up in bed, his heart racing. Something… something was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. The feeling nagged at him, refusing to be ignored, but he shied away. Whatever lurked at the edge of his mind was not something he wanted to think about. Off-kilter, he scanned the unfamiliar room. This was not his and Neo’s bedroom. In fact, he was pretty sure he’d never seen this area before. Where was he? Why was he here? And where was here?
That nagging feeling turned into a tsunami of memories and images from the past several…. Shit. Neo had knocked his ass out. How long had he been asleep? He swung his feet—where the hell were his boots?—over the side of the bed and stood. Oh, wait until he saw Neo again. He was going to….
The door opened, and Neo leaned against the frame, arms crossed. “Okay, before you start yelling, I did what I had to do. I’d do it again, just so you know. You were close to losing control. Next, you’ve been asleep for three unit hours. That’s all. I’ve kept an eye on your dad too. He’s still out, and probably will be all night. What I injected him with was stronger than what I used on you. Finally, if you’re going to yell, go ahead and get it our of your system because everyone wants to see you. They’ve just been waiting for you to wake up.”
Hamza deflated. Yes, he was upset Neo tranqued him, but how could he argue when Neo did it because he cared?
“No yelling?” Neo asked, eyebrow raised.
“No. But I reserve the right to do so later.”
Neo grinned. “Sounds fair.” He came into the room and wrapped his arms around Hamza. “I am sorry I sedated you without asking, but you were in shock and teetering on the edge of a panic attack.”
“I know.” Hamza allowed himself a moment to cuddle and enjoy the heat from Neo’s body. “And I do feel… well, not really better, but more in control. I’m not so cold either.”
“That’s shock, love.”
“I figured. So, thanks. Can I have something to drink? My mouth’s dry.”
“Already fixed and sitting on the dining table. I put your boots over there,” Neo pointed. “I also fixed you food. And before you say it, I know you’re not hungry, but you need to eat. Doctor’s orders.”
Hamza smirked. “You use that way too often when you want your way.”
“You better believe it. Come on.” Neo took Hamza’s hand and lead him to the table. They sat, and Hamza gulped the water. Knowing Neo watched, Hamza ate what he could.
When he finished, Hamza cleared his throat and mentally prepared himself for what was coming. “Have you spoken to anyone since you knocked me out?”
“Keyno commed me right after I got you in bed and said he was handling everything. He asked me to let him know when you woke up. So, I know less than you, I imagine.”
“How did you know…. I mean, how did you know to come?”
“The Royal Physician sent someone to get me from the hospital. We transported to the palace, but a guard met me. He brought me.” Neo explained what the hospital was dealing with when he got word. He then briefly described what he saw when he arrived at the palace.
Hamza nodded. He wasn’t ready to face those images. Not yet. Instead, he glanced at the closed door across the room. “Is my dad in there?”
“He is. Like I said, I’ve been checking on him. He’s asleep. Would you like to see him though?”
“Yes. I need to… to make sure he’s okay, you know?” How could he explain the overwhelming urge to make sure his dad was alive, that he was still breathing? That he was whole, even if Hamza had seen him just unit hours earlier.
Neo stood and held out his hand. “I do.”
Together they peeked in. Jolak was sleeping… well, not necessarily soundly, but he was out.
“Thank you,” Hamza said, closing the door. He rolled his neck, popping it. He followed Neo back to the living area and sat. “Keyno said everyone was okay?”
“That’s what I was told. There’s no reason to think he’d lie.”
“No, he wouldn’t. I… gods, Neo. I don’t know where to start. There’s so much to do.” What was it Keyno said? Small steps. Right.
“I say we start by getting in touch with Keyno.”
The use of ‘we’ didn’t escape Hamza’s notice, and he appreciated what Neo was doing. It did help him not feel quite so along.
Hamza pressed his comm.
Monday, October 28, 2019
Halloween is right around the corner! Whoot! It's my favorite time of the year. Ready then for some... vampire kisses? *cackle* And yes, for THIS Monday, there will be sucking. ;)
Friday, October 25, 2019
This white chocolate bark is probably the most simple from-scratch Halloween treat you can make.
YIELDS: 4 - 6
PREP TIME: 0 HOURS 10 MINS
TOTAL TIME: 0 HOURS 30 MINS
2 c. white chocolate, chopped
15 drops Flo-Coat Candy Coating
1 drop purple food coloring
1 drop green food coloring
1 drop orange food coloring
2 tbsp. large Halloween-colored nonpareils
1 tbsp. Halloween-colored sprinkles
Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until completely melted.
Divide 3 tablespoons melted white chocolate into three separate bowls. Add five drops Flo-Coat and one drop of food coloring to each bowl; stir to combine.
Pour remaining white chocolate onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate until it's 1/8"- to 1/4"-thick. Drizzle colored chocolate on top and drag a toothpick to create swirls. Dust top with nonpareils and sprinkles.
Transfer to the refrigerator to set, 20 minutes. Break into pieces to serve.
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Chapter Three – Hamza
Hamza’s head pounded. Or was it his heart echoing in his ears? Jolak’s wail sliced across his nerves. He wanted to yank his dabba off that damn thing and demand he open his eyes. To get up. Hamza clenched his fists and something popped. The urge to rip and tear, to snarl and hiss, was overpowering. The anger rose higher. He struggled to breathe, and his vision wavered. In the background, Jolak continued to mourn, and the sound stabbed at Hamza.
Gods help him, he couldn’t do this.
A memory flashed through his head—of him and his dabba, climbing trees. Laughter drifted on the warm breeze. Jolak stood on the ground, peering up at them and shaking his head. Leaves tumbled in a graceful dance as his dabba showed him how to slink through the branches, stalking prey from up high.
“Like this, dabba?” Hamza prowled gingerly along a branch. No leaves moved.
“Yes. Well done, my young. Be silent and move gently as you stalk. You have the advantage since prey rarely think to look for attack from above.”
His dabba leap from the tree, landing in a crouch. Standing, he prowled toward his mate, who grinned from ear to ear. His dad chuckled, then turned and ran.
His dabba huffed, hands on hips.
Hamza snickered. No one could catch his dad. The male was as fast as the wind. It was a trait of his people. “You waited too long, dabba,” Hamza shouted from the tree.
“Indeed, my young. But that’s okay. I know where to find your dad.”
Giggling, Hamza leaped, and his dabba caught him. “Let’s track him!”
“Fine idea, although I don’t know if that’s necessary. I bet he’s in the kitchens. And I bet Cook will have something tasty for a young who did very well in his training today.”
“Will dad get a treat too?”
“I’ll make certain he does… later.”
He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead. The refrain beat in his head, an endless cycle. He couldn’t lose his dabba. He… he depended on him, on his wisdom, on his thoughtfulness. There was still so much for Hamza learn. He… oh gods, he wasn’t ready to rule.
His chest tightened. The sound of harsh panting echoed in his ears.
As king, his people would seek his guidance. But who was he to be giving out any type of advice? Sweat beaded at his hairline. Everyone would want something from him. Demand something. Or look to him for reassurance. How was he expected to handle all that? The thought alone sent his heart skittering.
What if he screwed up? Or accidently made an ally mad? Or offended someone important? His dabba was the one with the smooth tongue and the ability to handle other species. He needed his dabba to get off that fucking medibed and… and not be… be…. Darkness crept into his vision.
His chest hurt. His nose burned. If only he could draw a breath, then maybe he could… what? Make all this go away? Make it so his dabba was hale and hearty? Make it so his dabba was king, as he should be?
Hamza knew that voice, knew it as well as he knew his own. His mate was concerned, and he couldn’t stand the thought of worrying Neo. That… that was not acceptable. The raging panic backed off a bit. He gasped, air finally filling his lungs. His vision cleared as the panic subsided. Neo stood in front of Hamza. In Neo’s face, Hamza saw pain. Sadness. And… worry?
“Neo?” His hands trembled as he reached Neo. An overwhelming sense of helplessness swamped Hamza, but the madness eased back. “Oh gods, Neo.”
“Easy, love.” Neo glided into Hamza’s arms and pulled Hamza’s head to his chest. “I’m… gods, Hamza. I’m so sorry.” Neo’s voice quivered. “So damn sorry.”
Hamza whined quietly.
“What about Jolak?” Neo whispered, tightening his grip on Hamza. “Should we, I don’t know, do something?”
By all that was sacred, how could he have overlooked his dad? He’d lost his dabba, but Jolak lost a mate. He pulled out of Neo’s arm, horrified by his self-centeredness, and flew around the medibed.
Jolak’s cries continued as he rocked, still holding Duran’s hand. Falling to his knees, Hamza stared at his dad. Only then did he recognize Jolak’s raw wailing was more than just a painfilled racket. It was how his people mourned—how they sang loved ones on to the next plane of existence.
Jolak grasped Hamza’s other hand, shoved his grief aside, and helped sing his dabba on to the afterlife.
* * * *
Hamza had no idea how long they sang, but his throat was so dry it clicked when he tried to swallow. He’d lost feeling in his legs too. His dad slumped against him, finally silent, and Hamza wrapped his arm around Jolak.
“Jolak? Can you stand? Can we…. Are you ready to leave now?” Neo asked, hovering close by.
Jolak nodded, then closed his eyes.
Neo’s worried glance landed on Hamza as he helped Jolak up, then swept Jolak into his arms. Turning, he left the bleak room. Several royal guards fell in around Neo. Numb, Hamza watched as Neo walk away. He had no idea where Neo was taking his dad, which was something he needed to know, but his mind was heavy, and his thoughts moved like molasses.
Keyno caught Hamza by the elbow and helped him stand. His legs cramped from being in one position for so long, but he ignored the discomfort. At least he felt something besides mind-numbing grief. Once he was on his feet, Keyno released him.
A few unit seconds later, a cup of water was thrust in front of Hamza’s face. “Here. Drink.”
After the first sip, Hamza chugged the rest. The refreshingly sweet, clean taste on his tongue was delightful. When he was satisfied, Keyno took it and returned with another full cup. Hamza downed it too and placed it on a nearby stand. “Thank you.”
Keyno laid a hand on Hamza’s shoulder. “Go with them. Take a few unit hours to rest, to grieve alone, and to get your head back on straight. Go be with your family, Hamza. They both need you, and you need them.”
“But, but… I should—” He glanced at his dabba’s body. Wasn’t there protocol for this? He shuddered at the mere thought.
“This is not something you need to do. Let me handle preparing his body.”
“I… I can’t ask you to do that.” But oh, he wanted to.
“You don’t have to ask. I’m offering.” Keyno patted Hamza on the back. “He’ll have family with him during this time. He might’ve been my uncle, Hamza, but Duran was your dabba. Such memories will do you no good. I’ll contact you when Duran is… prepared. Please, let me do this for you.”
Hamza rubbed his eyes. The warmth of Keyno’s hand seeped through his shirt. “I don’t know where Neo took my dad.”
He couldn’t even keep up with his mate, how was he supposed to handle being king? Wildly he glanced around and noticed Gibor standing off to the side. How had Hamza missed him? Malk stood next to Gibor too. What kind of Tah’Narian was he to be so oblivious? And where was the rest of his friends and family? “I don’t even know if everyone is okay. Gods, I don’t know what happened to my own dabba!”
“The guards will show you where to go. Also, Szin and Dayo are fine, as is everyone else. I’ll explain what happened after you’ve had a chance to rest. Go. I’ll handle things until the time you can take back over.”
“You…. That is permissible?”
“I am of the royal family, so I can stand in your stead for a few unit hours. I have no desire to rule, you know that. You are the one who’ll take our king’s place, but for now? Go be a young morning his beloved dabba. If anything should arise, if those females should dare to return, I’ll notify you immediately.”
Hamza nodded. Right then it was all he could manage. “Thank you.” Fuck it. Maybe it wasn’t the Tah’Narian thing to do, but he flung his arms around Keyno.
“Small steps, Hamza,” Keyno whispered, hugging Hamza. “For now, small steps. We’ll….” Keyno cleared his throat. “We’ll get through this.”
Hamza gulped at the hitch in Keyno’s voice. So lost in his own grief, he’d forgotten Keyno suffered also. His dabba was Keyno’s uncle. And gods above, he had no idea what Keyno had seen or had to do during the attack. “Are… are you okay?”
“I am unharmed too. I promise. Now go.”
“Okay.” Hamza couldn’t resist giving Keyno one more squeeze, then he moved away.
Gibor joined them. “Your Highness, if you’re—”
His stomach dropped, and Hamza grabbed Gibor’s elbow. “Oh gods, no. Not yet. Just… just Hamza. Just like always. I’m not ready for…. I can’t yet—”
Gibor flinched. “Of course. I… I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry, Hamza. Come, I’ll take you to where Neo and Jolak are.”
Monday, October 21, 2019
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
It's time for Tuesday Teaser, and time for more Harvest Young. I think I'm going with Bound by Love for Hamza's book, mainly because the last book with be called Bound by War. You know... love and war theme? It seems like this book would fit the war title, but Laken's book is last and his mate really fits that whole idea.
TRAUMA FROM A BOMBING/ GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF WOUNDED
rest of Chapter Two
Neo pulled his hands out of the young male’s chest, stepped back, and yanked off his gloves, dumping them on the floor. He didn’t even have time to find a fresh lab coat before the guard flipped open his communicator.
They transported into hell.
Ash, and what appeared to be shredded scraps of paper, rained down. Black smoke billowed skyward from the section of the palace that had been destroyed. It looked as if a giant hand had dug into it and scooped out part of the structure.
Twisted metal and broken concrete lay smoldering on top of nearby flyers, which were burning, adding to the smoke. The scent of burnt plastic, metals, and plasma rose into the sky. From where Neo stood, he could see into the twisted support beams of the upper floor. Mangled wires, blowing in the breeze, hung from ceilings.
The heat was stifling. Males sat on the ground, staring sightlessly. Some wept. Others screamed. Guards rushed about, calling out orders. Palace doctors sought to treat the survivors. The palace’s red alert blared, adding to the chaos.
“Good. Gods.” Neo honestly couldn’t understand what he was seeing. It just… didn’t compute. Taking a step, he stumbled over something. Grabbing the guard’s arm to steady himself, he glanced down. “Oh. Oh… fuck.”
A hand. A fucking hand had tripped him. There wasn’t a body attached to it, either. It was an ash covered, mutilated hand with what looked like red meat and a bone sticking out.
The guard next to him heaved.
In every direction he looked there was blood splatter, body parts, pieces of clothing… and the gods only knew what he was standing in. And ash. There was a lot of ash. It continued to fall from the sky, covering every damn surface. This… this couldn’t be happening. The palace was the most fortified structure on the whole damn planet, so why was part of it in shambles? What of all the people inside it? What about….
Neo spun toward the guard and grasped him by his shirt. “My family! My mate! You tell me right fucking now, dammit. Are they okay?”
“There’s been no word from the Planetary Defense building, remember, my prince? Transporters work, but communication is spotty. The last transmission said to get you here quickly and that it was urgent. That’s all I know.”
“Hey!” Another royal guard yelled, waving his arms. “Here. Over here. I’m to escort Prince Neo!”
A groan caught his attention, and Neo turned. Nearby someone lay. His instinct to aid the wounded kicked in, and he ran to them, dropping to his knees next to a badly broken and bleeding body.
The guard yanked Neo right back to his feet. “No! There isn’t time. We must go. I can’t stress how urgent that is.”
There wasn’t time to help someone? How could he leave the male there? Gods, he couldn’t even tell if he recognized the person since half of his face was melted off. It was just gone. And limbs were blown off. How was he even alive? As he watched, the male’s eyes opened, and he gasped. His mangled body arched off the floor… then fell back, collapsing.
Neo watched him die. “Gods. Gods damn it!”
It was that moment—surround by unimaginable horror—Neo wanted to cry. To yell. Instead, he had to keep moving, keep going onward toward the next horror. He glanced down, seeing the blood bright against the gray ash on his clothes. Then he took a deep breath, because he knew it didn’t matter. There was going to be more death. More pain. And whatever awaited him was bound to upset him more than this.
Neo tried to shut out the screams of pain as he was dragged along. “But….” Neo tried to stop but his guard tightened his grip on Neo’s arm. “Just a damn minute! I thought I was needed at the Royal Physician’s office.”
The male huffed as they came to a stop by the one waiting. “I said the Royal Physician needed you, not that we were going to the Royal Physician’s office, Prince Neo.”
“Parts of the palace aren’t safe. Medical and the Royal Physician’s office sustained extensive damage. They are… not functionable. The royal family and their friends have been moved to an underground bunker. The Royal Physician has set up a temporary site there for now. Szin and Dayo are there, along with your dad and dabba. I will escort you.”
Sustained massive damage? But Szin and Dayo were there, giving birth. How is this even happening? “Why didn’t we transport in?”
“We’ve managed to get that area shielded, just in case.”
They followed the Royal guard for several blocks. The Darkkit palace was a spiraling complex, thank the gods. Not all of it had sustained damage. They entered the back of the palace and passed through several security checkpoints as they descended farther underground. Fear lingered in the guards faces as Neo passed them.
An uncomfortable feeling settled in the pit of his stomach as they hurried onward. The royal guard led them to a room, which also had numerous males on duty. Grief and anger sat heavy on the air. He could practically taste it.
As they drew nearer, a pain-filled wail reached their ears. Neo broke into a run, his instinct going into overdrive. It’s bad. It’s really, really bad. Fuck. The guards lowered their head as he rushed into a rather drab room. He skidded to a halt, the incredibly bright lights hurting his eyes. Blinking frantically, he swiped at his face, which made matters worse. A hand holding a scrap of cloth appeared in front of him.
“Here, Prince Neo.”
Taking the cloth, he wiped his face. He folded it once he was done, but the soot on it surprised him. Was he covered in ash? Since there wasn’t anything he could do about it, he stuck the cloth in his lab coat pocket. The stench of burned flesh slapped him in the face. Dread washed through him. He knew that scent… he smelled it too often in the last unit hour.
On a medibed in the middle of the room sprawled King Duran, and Neo hurried to his side. His eyes were open, but they stared sightlessly at the ceiling. A cloudy film already covered them. A dried trail of blood marred the king’s mouth. His body was still, no movement at all. No wonder, since King Duran’s chest was torn apart, the ribs protecting his heart shattered. Even the heart muscle was a mangled mess. But the massive wound was cauterized, and only laser pistols would leave behind this kind of damage. There was nothing Neo could do.
He glanced around the room. Jolak knelt next to the bed, holding the king’s limp hand. Keyno was there. So was Neo’s dabba, Doc. Where was Dale, Chad, Gibor and his dad, John? Were they with Szin and Dayo? Were they all being kept somewhere else?
Neo blinked, trying to get his brain to function as that damn wailing raked across his nerves. That unholy sound came from Jolak, and Neo’s head ache from the high-pitched crying. His eyes stung, and his nose suddenly burned. He had seen death, especially in the last unit hour, but this? His heart refused to accept what his mind already knew. King Duran was dead.
He started toward Jolak, unsure what he could do, but the grief pouring out of Jolak demanded Neo do something.
Keyno stepped forward and placed his hand on Neo’s arm. He shook his head. “I know you want to comfort him but wait,” Keyno said softly. “This is how his people guide a loved one’s spirit to its home in the afterlife.” Keyno jerked his head toward Hamza instead. “You mate, on the other hand, is close to losing control.”
Concerned, Neo turned toward Hamza. Hamza stood on the other side on the medibed, staring down at his dabba with clenched fists. He faced Neo, his lips pulled back, exposing the tips of his fangs. Neo’s stomach dropped, even as relief flooded him. Hamza was okay. He was in one piece, at least physically. But mentally? The devastation and wild anger on Hamza’s face terrified Neo. He’d never seen such unadulterated hatred. Hamza looked back down at King Duran.
“Hamza?” Neo whispered. He hurried around the medibed to Hamza’s side. But once he was there, he didn’t know what to do. The vibe surrounding Neo screamed not to touch. His body was bulked up in a dominance display too. Behind Hamza, his tail whipped angrily.
Gently Neo rested his hand on Hamza’s back, and Hamza flinched. A menacing hiss escaped Hamza, but Neo didn’t move away. Hamza would never hurt him. He knew that, but Keyno was right. Hamza was on the edge of losing control.
He wasn’t sure Hamza even knew where he was or who was with him right then.