Bane started to go left, but something stopped him. Was that… yes, he heard a laugh, one he knew well. Ariana was to the right.
Changing directions, he walked as stealthily as he could. When he reached a large room, he peered around the corner. What he saw shocked him to his core. Ariana stood with two Tarnan warriors, smiling and apparently having a good time. He wasn’t sure what was going on. He’d been a day’s journey behind her, had worried about her safety, but it appeared she was being taken care of.
He’d been told she was being held against her will, possibly even hurt. Instead, he found her well and having a nice time. Had Lafre lied to him? Had she merely seen the pirates take Ari and made up a story to suit her own purposes? There was no way to extract her without making his presence known. Stepping into the room, he waited until the warriors took notice of him. It didn’t take long.
“Keshpan,” the tallest one growled.
Ariana turned and her eyes widened when she saw him. With a squeal, she flew across the room and launched herself into his arms, relieving any doubts he’d had. He held her tight, breathed her in, then put her behind him.
“I don’t want trouble,” he told the warriors. “But I’m taking her with me.”
The tallest one folded his arms over his chest. “Have you taken care of the threat to her safety? We won’t let you have her if the woman who arranged all of this will still be free to harm her again.”
So they were feeling protective of her already. At least he was comforted with the thought that they wouldn’t have harmed her. Taken her to their home planet, yes, but hurt her, no.
“We’ll go straight to the Prime Minister when we return to Keshpa,” Bane vowed. “I want Lafre out of Ariana’s life, permanently. I agree that as long as Lafre is free, Ari is in danger. It’s obvious the woman will go to any lengths to bond with me.”
The more muscular of the two eyed him up and down. “You don’t look like much to me. Personally, I don’t see the draw. I think Ariana would be better off with one of us. We could protect her better than you can.”
Bane had little doubt that they spoke the truth, but he would die trying. The Tarnans wanted her because she was female and for no other reason. Bane wanted her because he loved her, more than anything. He needed her more than he needed to breathe. She was essential to him.
“I won’t let Ari go. She’s mine, and she’ll always be mine,” Bane told them.
The warriors nodded, obviously understanding the depth of his feelings for Ariana. He was glad he wouldn’t have to fight them. While he would give it everything he had, something told him he wouldn’t win against them. They were far more experienced and much larger.
“Take me home,” Ariana said, looking up at him with love and trust.
Bane pressed a finger to his ear. “Cael, bring us on board.”
Entwined (Intergalactic Loyalties #1)
Available Feb 6, 2014 by Changeling Press
(c) 2014, Jessica Coulter Smith