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I opened up my System and clicked on Kesstel’s name to send a PM. [Where are you? Do you know where the campsite is?] As soon as I hit send, I looked up and noticed a group of people coming my way.

A moment later, President Price, Blake, and their posse — plus another guy who I didn’t know — appeared at the end of the street. I hadn’t even realized I’d gotten so close to the other team’s area. Several abandoned cars and a bunch of garbage lay between us. Hopefully, they wouldn’t notice me.

As soon as the thought passed my mind, Penny paused and looked over at me, as usual the first one to detect me. Mark noticed and followed her look, which notified the rest of the group. Price instantly turned and walked toward me, the rest following.

I groaned inwardly. Was I fast enough to run away from them? I was still thirty levels lower than Price. It was a big enough difference that I doubted I’d get far. Not to mention, Penny was faster and could actually perceive my Stealth mode. In theory, they shouldn’t try anything while we were on a mission, right? Psh, yeah right.

A PM from Kesstel popped up. Right as I went to open it up, Price spoke up.

“Evening, Miss Dehvro. I’m surprised to see you out by yourself.” He put on a cordial smile that nearly cracked his face in half.

My mouth twitched. “Right. I was just on my way back. I’ll see you there.”

Price’s narrow eyes looked me up and down, taking in my very messy appearance. “It really is too dangerous for a … Huntress like you to be out in the open, alone like this. Since we’re all going to the same place, why don’t we go together?” Price asked, as if he was the most considerate gentleman in the world. Never mind the fact that he was looking at me like a piece of meat with a price tag.

Huntress, huh? I bet that wasn’t the original word he was thinking of. Still, I didn’t mind it so much. Just watching the disgruntled look on Blake’s face made it worth it. “Thanks, but no thanks,” I said. “I can get back on my own.” As soon as Kesstel told me where to go. I reached out to finally open the PM Kesstel had sent.

“Hey, didn’t you hear my cousin?” Blake demanded.

The man I didn’t know lunged over and grabbed my wrist before I could step back. “Something like you should show more respect to your superiors.” As he scolded me, he quickly glanced at Price and Blake, clearly looking for praise.

What the hell? Who was this guy? Didn’t all the people on this expedition have good credentials? Why was this guy sucking up to them? Then I noticed the Stone Mace symbol on his sleeve. Oh, he was one of their people. No wonder he was a brown noser.

I scowled and jerked my wrist. “Let go.”

His hand tightened, making my wrist hurt.

Price simply watched, a small light of amusement in his eyes. Apparently he was done trying to cater towards a tiny E.

My fist tightened, itching for the feel of my kindjal in it. If this guy didn’t let me go in three seconds, I was going to make him let go. Seriously, if he didn’t know how to use this hand properly, he didn’t need it anymore.

Blake stepped forward. “He’s right. Backing or not, something like you —”

There was a blur of movement as something shot over my shoulder, the air pressure ruffling my fringe in my face. A split second later, a palm gripped the man’s face. An arm wrapped around me and locked me against the warm chest behind. At the same time, the man was thrown at a car beside Blake so hard that the car slid back several feet. He collapsed to the ground, unconscious.

I blinked, still trying to catch up on everything because it happened so fast. The only reason I didn’t struggle against the hold locking me into place was because I recognized the presence of the man behind me.

Kesstel’s now free hand touched under my chin and lifted my face so that the other four people could get a good look at me. “This young lady is mine,” Kesstel announced. His aura seeped out of him, thick with anger. “Anyone who touches her will die a very, very painful death. I will not give you another chance.”

The Hunters dropped to the ground one by one under Kesstel’s pressure. Face pale and covered in sweat, President Price looked up with an unwilling expression. Blake, the weakest person, was bent over on his hands and knees, gasping for air.

My eyes were wide from Kesstel’s possessive words.

I was still trying to process them when Kesstel shifted my body around until I was truly in his arms and surrounded by his freshly showered smell. I looked up, still shocked as he cradled the back of my head with a large hand and pressed it to his chest. Then he moved. Air blasted around me as Kesstel ran and jumped so fast that I could barely make out the desolate city as it passed.

Seconds later, he came to a stop and set my feet down. “You’re a mess,” he muttered. “Did you roll in a sand hill?” A towel appeared in his hand. He wet it with a water bottle then started to gently wipe my face clean. Now that I had a good look at him, I realized he was dressed casually. It was obvious he was done for the day.

I propped a hand on his arm and let him clean my face. When I thought it was good enough, I leaned back and looked around. We were on top of a tall building with the whole city spread out before us. The red and orange sunset lit up the already reddish brown color of the crumbling city, making the reds pop all the more. The hot colors blended and contrasted with the shadows the buildings cast as the tall structures cut through the dying sun like knives. It really was quite the sight to see.

But that wasn’t what was really on my mind.

“‘This young lady is mine,’” I whispered. Then I glanced up at Kesstel’s diamond blue eyes. “Yours, huh?”

His mouth twitched and he tilted his head up to look at the sunset. His hands tightened around the towel.

I could tell he was thinking. Since I wanted to know what it was, I didn’t break the silence. Truth be told, my heart was still pounding from this statement. I didn’t even fully know how I felt about it, but I know that I didn’t hate his possessive words. They made my chest feel like it was full of soda bubbles, shifting and bursting while my heart did flips and little fireworks went off in my mind. It was uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time. I wanted to run away from the feeling, but I didn’t want to miss out on what else Kesstel had to say. In the end, I was so torn, I just stayed still.

“You are mine,” Kesstel said slowly. “More than anyone else in this world, you could only be mine.” He looked down into my eyes. “You are no longer an Earthling. Because of that, when this world collapses, I can take you away with me. You and I won’t have to be alone when we move to the next world. We could have a constant companion, someone we always feel familiar with in a world of strangers.”

My eyes widened. That wasn’t exactly what I thought he was going to say. “Is that why you’re always so nice to me? You want a constant companion?”

His lips thinned. “It was to begin with,” he admitted. “And even a little now. I just wanted someone, anyone or anything, like an anchor I could hold onto in the endless battle I was thrust into. Even if I couldn’t feel anything for them, it didn’t matter. When I realized that you were changing and I might be able to take you with me to the next worlds, I figured out that you could be that someone. That’s why I forced my way into your life.”

My mouth dropped open but I couldn’t find any words to say. I’d never thought that might be a reason he wanted to be with me.

“But that isn’t the case now.” He reached out, took my hand and started to meticulously wipe it clean. “It can’t be just anyone anymore. It has to be you.”

It took everything in me to not wiggle away from the ticklish touch. The damp towel was cold on my fingers, but his skin was so warm on mine. It would be so easy to turn my hand over and hold his. “So, if Earth actually collapsed — which I’m going to make sure that it doesn’t — and if I agreed to go with you, what would that make us? Friends, friends with benefits, or something more solid? What exactly do you want from me?”

He took my other hand and started to clean that one. “Originally, I just wanted to be friends. I wanted a familiar smiling face I could see every day. Now, I admit my feelings have changed. But I’d never degrade you to friends with benefits. My mother would never rest in peace if you knew she raised a scoundrel.” The corner of his mouth kicked up, for the first time revealing a bit of a smile since I cornered him in this discussion. “It’s an all-or-nothing thing with me.” Towel disappeared and he cupped my cheek softly so I could only look into his serious eyes. “I want more. I want everything when it comes to you.” He paused. “But I’m also not going to force you into anything you don’t want. I respect you more than that. So I’ll be content as long as you stay by my side, where you can be safe and neither of us have to be alone.”

I swallowed hard and lowered my head. There was so much in his words that I didn’t even know how to feel about. It felt wonderful to know that he had romantic feelings for me, but at the same time, it felt forced. Were they his real feelings? Or was it because of my special constitution that soothed the chaotic energy of the crystal in his chest? “How do you know that you don’t feel that way just because I’m the only one that makes you feel emotions? And you’re not clinging to me because of that?”

The corner of his mouth kicked up. “I also thought about that. But even before I became a Boss, I’d never felt like this for another woman.”

Heat colored my cheeks and my heart was pounding a million beats per minute. Get a hold of yourself, I thought. Right now was the worst time to even consider a relationship. I looked toward the dying sunset. “How do you know you’re the only one for me? What if we go to another world and I fall in love with a man over there?”

“I have confidence in my looks,” Kesstel said flatly. “Not to mention, you’re just like me. Someone who stays guarded against everyone else. I haven’t seen you open up to anyone else as much as you have to me, either.” There was a challenge in his tone.

My fingers tapped on my thigh. “You’re … not wrong about that.”

Then Kesstel shrugged. “And in the end, if you did take interest in another person, I’d just have to make that person disappear.” He was so nonchalant about that declaration.

I gasped and whacked him on the shoulder. “That’s not something to joke about!”

“Who said I was joking?” He smirked.

I rolled my eyes. “Right. Anything your lordship says is fact.” Then I paused, turning serious again. “If this world collapses, I’ll go with you. And if this world doesn’t, I’ll still stay with you.” I looked into his eyes. “Honestly, I don’t know how to feel. I’m not looking for a relationship right now. But I know that when you were gone, I was lonely. I threw myself into hunting monsters, but even that didn’t distract me enough to forget about missing you. I don’t want to feel that again. I don’t want you to be alone anymore either.” Slowly I reached out. My fingers hesitated a second before I touched his pale cheek just under his eyes that fascinated me so much. Feeling the warm skin under my touch, I became bolder and ran my fingers over his face, touching and feeling this perfectly sculpted face.

He closed his eyes and lowered his head, letting me touch as much as I wanted. His hands reached out and gently rested on my waist.

My heart jumped and I had to swallow a couple times before I was sure I could talk in a calm voice. “I’ll go with you anywhere you want … but why can’t you make Earth your new home?”

He opened his eyes and focused on me. The red light of the sunset darkened the pale blue shade to a true blue.

“You want revenge for your planet, I know. But I don’t want to watch you kill yourself,” I said softly. “I want to see you live with me. For me. I want to see your face everyday and see the faces of my family everyday. Maybe it’s selfish to want that. But when it comes to the people I care about, I am selfish.”

He grabbed my hand and pressed my fingers to his lips.

My eyes widened and blush burned my cheeks. “I don’t see why we both can’t get what we want. We can work together and save this world. Then you can come back here and live together with me. Earth can be your new home. No more jumping from world to world, no more starting over in a strange place. No more fighting.”

“It sounds like a dream.” Kesstel’s lips brushed against my fingertips. “One I wish I could believe in.”

“Then tell me,” I asked. “What would happen to me after we find the parasitic planet? If you kill yourself killing that, what would happen to me? Would I die on it with you? Or would I pop up on another planet and live the life that you’re living now, alone on a foreign planet with no one by my side? Is that what you want by bringing me with you?”

He paused and a razor glint sharpened in his eyes. “No. I don’t want that.”

I shook my head. “I don’t want that either.”

“However, I can’t see a way to save this planet,” Kesstel said. “It’s already too infected. Even if the parasitic planet dies, this world will still collapse.”

*****

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About the author

MichelleRReid

Bio: I am an author, mother, wife, and jack of all trades. I mean, every mom is, but I’ve found that through my research for different stories, I’ve picked up a lot of random (and sometimes actually useful) knowledge and skills.
I’ve had a vivid imagination since I was a child. And as much as I wish I could actually live in the worlds in my head, the closest I can get is with the words I put on the page. These characters are like real people to me. The funny lines they say, their emotions that make my heart bleed, the amazing things they can do that I physically can’t, the adventures and sights that I can see in my head. I love sharing those things with my readers and hope that they can feel at least a part of what I do.
I do have other works that are published through Amazon. They are not LitPRG, but I'm still really proud of them. Check them out if you have the chance.

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