Revealed:Brides of the Kindred(2)

By: Evangeline Anderson

Nadiah had brushed his question off. “I’m fine. Just give me the clothes.”

Against his better judgment, Rast had done as she asked. Nadiah had hesitated, then took a deep breath and plunged her hand into the plastic evidence bag as though it contained hot coals instead of discarded clothing.

“Well?” Rast had asked, looking at her anxiously. “What do you see?”

Nadiah had opened her mouth to reply and then everything had happened at once.

One minute she’d been touching the clothes he’d brought from the crime scene—the ones Elise Darden had been wearing on the day of her abduction—and the next minute she had given a cry and clutched at her chest, just below her heart. Then her eyes rolled up and she collapsed like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

It was a good thing he was there to catch her, Rast thought grimly as he shifted his arm to cradle her neck more securely. She would have slid right off the nondescript grey couch they were sitting on and banged her head on the floor if he hadn’t grabbed her. But now what was he going to do?

Several of the Kindred warriors in the HKR building had come to his harsh shout and one of them had called Commander Sylvan on the viewscreen. Rast had wanted to call nine-one-one but apparently Sylvan was a doctor—his instructions were to sit tight until he appeared. But how long is he going to take? Rast wondered, looking anxiously down at Nadiah’s lovely but unconscious face. She didn’t seem to be having any kind of seizure or attack but her pulse was weak and thready and her respiration was light and quick—not to mention faint enough to worry the hell out of him.

Rast knew he should probably lay her down on the couch but somehow he couldn’t bear to stop holding her. He needed her in his arms—needed to keep her safe any way he could. It was stupid but he had a fear that if he stopped touching her she would disappear, that her lovely porcelain skin would melt away to nothing like a princess in a fairy tale and he would never see her again. So he held her carefully but firmly to him and continued to pat her cheeks and murmur her name.

“Nadiah? Nadiah, please…”

“I’m here. What happened?”

Rast looked up in relief to see Sylvan standing there. The tall, blond Kindred had a small silver satchel slung over one broad shoulder—obviously the alien equivalent of an Earth doctor’s little black bag. He pulled a tiny credit card sized scanner from it and began waving it over Nadiah’s face without waiting for an answer.

“She fainted,” Rast said, still holding Nadiah’s still form close to his chest. “The minute she touched the evidence I asked her to look at.” He shook his head. “It’s my fault—I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. I never should have asked her to put herself through that.”

Sylvan finished the scan and put the tiny instrument back into his satchel. “It’s not your fault, Rast,” he said grimly. “This has nothing to do with your search for the missing girl.”

“What does it have to do with, then?” Rast demanded. “Is she sick? Diabetic or something? Is she…” There was a sudden lump in his throat but he forced himself to go on. “She doesn’t have anything…anything terminal, does she?”

Sylvan shook his head. “Not in the way that you mean, no. Though I do fear the long term effects of what is troubling her may eventually kill her.” He sighed. “To form a blood bond in one so young, before the heart’s true desires can manifest is reckless and cruel. But then, no one ever accused my people of being too compassionate.”

“What are you talking about?” Rast felt himself go cold. “She said something about that to me before—something about a bond—but she would never go into detail. What does it mean?”

“Never mind.” Sylvan shook his head again. “Just give her to me. I’ll take her up to the Mother Ship and tend to her.” He held out his arms for the limp form.

Rast started to hand Nadiah over…and stopped. “No.” He heard the stubbornness in his own voice but he didn’t care. “No, I…I can’t.”

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