Lonnie and Rath sat at the table over several cartons of Chinese take-out. Rath stuffed a large shrimp into his mouth and then pointed at Lonnie with his chopsticks.
“So you think Nicholas was telling the truth?”
She nodded. “What he did tell me, yeah. But I think he’s still holding back. They want that Granolith back now for a reason.”
Rath grabbed a large amount of noodles and leaned back, dropping them into him mouth, and then talked around the food as he chewed. “Nicholas told you it’s because the war’s going bad,” he said. “Isn’t that enough reason?”
Lonnie shrugged. “I think the war’s going a lot worse than Nicholas let on. Maybe Khivar needs that Granolith to keep his position.”
Rath looked up. “So if we had it, we’d have a huge bargaining chip.”
“Exactly,” Lonnie said. “And Zan must know where it is, because no one else does.”
“I can’t believe he didn’t tell us,” Rath sneered. “Was he hoping to make a deal of his own?”
“Or maybe use it to kick Khivar’s ass,” Lonnie speculated. “But whatever he was planning, we need to talk to him. With that Granolith we can negotiate an end to this war and a return trip home.”
“Khivar ain’t gonna let Zan come back,” Rath scoffed, “no matter what kind of deal we make.”
Lonnie smiled. “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
“We need Zan to give us the Granolith, and he has to be at the summit, but after that,” she trailed off significantly.
Putting down his chopsticks, Rath picked up her phone, holding it out to her. “You should call him now, and see what he says.”
Lonnie took the phone, but sat, thoughtful. “We’ll have to be careful. We don’t want my dear brother to get suspicious that we’ve been meeting with Nicholas.”
She pressed the speed-dial for Zan’s number. “I’ll just ask him how the vacation is going.”
The phone didn’t even ring, but went straight to a message. “The user you are trying to reach is out of the coverage area. You can leave a message on voicemail.”
Lonnie felt a rush of anger, but composed herself to speak normally when the beep sounded. “Zan,” she purred, “just wanted to see if you and Ava are having a good time, and what you’re doing. Call me back.”
Snapping the phone shut, she looked at Rath. “He’d better call soon,” she snarled.
Max stopped the Jeep in the alley around the side of the Crashdown. He looked around briefly to make sure they were alone, and then he and Liz moved into each others’ arms at the same time. Their lips crashed together and they kissed passionately.
After long moments Max pulled back, sighing contentedly as he stroked Liz’s hair. “Today was incredible.”
Liz smiled. “Yeah,” she whispered. “It was perfect.”
“Do you feel okay?” Max asked concerned. “You’re not in pain or anything.”
Liz’s smile widened. Zan had asked her the same thing when they were getting dressed, and she gave Max the same answer. “No, I feel wonderful.”
She was a little sore in some of her muscles, but it was nothing she wanted Max to take away. She wanted to feel it.
Leaning against him, she put her head on his shoulder. “I wish I didn’t have to leave you.”
He placed a kiss on her head. “Me too. It would be so nice to hold you all night.”
Reluctantly Liz disengaged herself from him. “I better go.”
Max grasped the back of her head, bringing her in for a last kiss. “I love you,” he breathed.
Liz pressed her lips to his again. “I love you too.”
She got out of the Jeep, holding on to Max’s hand, stretching their arms out between them until they had to let go.
“I’ll pick you up for school tomorrow,” Max said eagerly.
“You can’t,” Liz said with a smile. “We can’t act any differently.”
Max sighed. “I know. I just want to spend time with you.”
“Me too,” she agreed. “I wish it could be a normal relationship, but for now…”
Max nodded. “We have to act like nothing’s changed.”
“Okay,” he said reluctantly, “I’ll see you at school.”
Liz watched him drive away and then headed into the Crashdown where Maria was working the dinner shift.
“Hey,” the blonde greeted her, hefting a tray full of dirty plates. “How did practice go?”
“Fine,” Liz said, as they walked together into the back room.
Maria set the tray aside and looked at Liz properly for the first time. “You look, different,” she said perceptively, “and you’re smiling.” Her head jerked back with realization. “Something happened with Zan, didn’t it?”
“No,” Liz lied, “of course not.” She hated lying to Maria, but she had to, at least for now.
Maria’s eyes narrowed as she looked at her friend, and Liz squirmed under her intense gaze.
“Nothing happened,” Liz said moving toward the stairs. “Max was there too. It was just, a good practice session.”
“Wait,” Maria said, her, brow creasing, “why was Max there?”
“Ummm,” Liz started, “he’s getting in extra practice.”
Maria nodded, but her gaze still lingered on Liz. “So what did you learn?”
Liz used the cover story she and Zan had come up with. “I’m getting better control.”
“And that’s why you look all happy,” Maria said skeptically.
“Yeah,” Liz said, still thinking her friend was seeing too much. She started up the stairs. “Ummm, I’ve got some homework to do, so I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“I’ll call you after my shift,” Maria yelled up the stairs after her. She shook her head, and went back to her job.
Liz didn’t exhale until she closed her bedroom door behind her. She should have known Maria would be able to see right through her. She just needed to be alone so she could sort out everything that happened.
If she couldn’t be with Max and Zan, then being alone was the next best thing.
Going into her bathroom, she stripped off her clothes and stepped under the spray of the shower. She hated to wash away the scent of Max and Zan on her skin, but she was afraid of who else might smell them, like Maria or her parents.
The hot water sluiced over her and she shivered with the contact. It felt as if every inch of her was over-sensitized from the lovemaking.
Washing herself, she winced as tender muscles protested her quick movements, and then smiled. The dull ache made the whole thing more real, a constant reminder of what had happened.
She’d stayed in bed with Zan and Max for over an hour afterward, talking, touching, just being together. It had been wonderful. A perfect first time.
Moving her hands over her body, she could still feel Max and Zan’s touch. She didn’t think she’d ever get enough of them. The lovemaking had temporarily dampened the incredible desire she’d had for weeks, but she could already feel it building again.
She would have been happy to stay in bed with them, making love all night.
They hadn’t used condoms. It seems none of them had even thought about it until afterward, but Zan had taken care of the situation, using his powers to make sure she wouldn’t conceive. She wasn’t sure about exactly what he’d done, she’d have to ask him later. He’d simply called it alien contraceptive.
He’d said goodbye to her at his place, and kissed her so sweetly that she could literally feel his love. She hadn’t wanted to leave him but they thought it might look suspicious if both Max and Zan had taken Liz home.
Finishing her shower, she put on a t-shirt and sweat-pants that she wore to bed. It wasn’t that late, but she felt pleasantly tired, and the sooner she went to sleep, the sooner the next day would begin, and she could be with Max and Zan again.
Tess went by the Crashdown, but for once Max wasn’t there. So she went to the only other place she knew he might go. The park.
It was getting dark by the time she arrived but she recognized him sitting on the bench from half-way across the park.
A smile crossed her lips. He was alone.
Maybe she could talk some sense into him.
As she got closer, she could see he looked relaxed, instead of his usual rigid posture, and he had a soft, dreamy smile on his face. For some reason, he was in a really good mood. It was a good time to talk to him. Maybe if she used a little of her powers, she could convince him.
Approaching him from the side, she didn’t speak until she was practically next to him. “Hi Max.”
A slight scowl marred the smooth lines of his face, and his smile dimmed. The last person he wanted to see was Tess. In his mind he’d been re-living every moment of his lovemaking with Liz, and Tess had definitely just put him out of the mood. But he’d promised Liz he’d be nice to her.
He sat up straighter, and he greeted her pleasantly. “Hey Tess. How are you?”
She shrugged slightly, sitting down near him. “I’m fine,” she said. “Just out for a walk, thinking.”
Max felt a tingling along his spine, like electricity was humming across his skin. It was an eerie sensation, and he’d felt it before. The last time, he’d assumed it was his alien side waking up, but now he recognized it for what it was. Tess’ power.
But he was aware of it now, and her power didn’t affect him. He knew it was because he was stronger, and he briefly wondered if it had anything to do with his connection with Zan and Liz.
Instead of confronting Tess though, he decided to see she was trying to do. He lowered his defenses just a little to see if he could get a feel of her power.
Instantly he could sense a soft, persuasive nudge in his mind. She wanted to convince him of something, so he played along. “What have you been thinking about?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“Well,” she said, smiling softly, “I was thinking since we are practicing our powers so much, maybe we should be trying to recover our memories from our other lives too.”
Max fought to keep the scowl of confusion off his face. Why was she bringing that up again?
When he didn’t cut her off immediately, she continued eagerly, thinking her power was working on him. “As you know, Nasedo taught me some techniques to remember our past, and maybe Zan and Ava can help with it.”
Max nodded. “And how would that help us?”
Tess sensed the hesitation in him, and used more of her power on him. “Max, if we knew why they wanted us dead, and remembered what we could do in our other life, it would be easier to win.”
He had to admit she was right, but he didn’t think it was the only reason she wanted to do it. She’d told him this before, over the summer, but he had always said no. Then she hadn’t mentioned it for a few months. So why was she using her powers so strongly to convince him now?
Out loud, he said, “I think that’s a good idea. When we get together tomorrow for practice we’ll bring it up, and get started.”
Tess scooted a little closer to him, her voice lowering seductively. “Well, you and I could try right now, and then we’d be able to show the others.”
Max felt a ripple of revulsion through his entire body. The last thing he wanted to do after making love with Liz was to spend time with Tess. He wished he hadn’t come to the park, and stayed in his room instead. But maybe Tess would have come looking for him there too.
He felt the urge to run away from her, but he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, and he also kept Liz’s warnings in mind.
“I do want to try it,” he said carefully, “but tonight just isn’t a good time. I had a really long day, and I’m so tired, and I still have a ton of homework to get through.”
He saw her face fall, and quickly added. “Why don’t you just tell me some things you remember.”
Tess was amazed that Max was able to resist her, but she was determined to take advantage of the situation. “Well,” she started, “I remember how much we were in love, and how you used to hold me at night, and …”
Max was surprised that was the memory she chose to share. Was that all this was, a lame attempt to try and seduce him?
He cut her off, feeling really uncomfortable. “But what do you remember about the political situation, or Khivar?”
Tess’ brow creased in frustration. “I don’t remember anything about that. It’s why I suggested trying to do it together.”
She smiled and touched his arm. “You know we’ll remember more if we get,” her voice lowered to a purr, “closer. You’ll remember how good we were together.”
Max had enough. He wasn’t going to sit and give Tess any encouragement after his beautiful afternoon with Liz. “Okay,” he said, getting to his feet, “I’ll see you tomorrow and we can work on it then,” and then quickly added, “at practice.”
With a wave, he jogged across the street and into his house.
Tess was stunned and fuming. How could Max get away from her so easily? Tomorrow she’d use more power and get him to listen to her, and if she had to plant memories in his head, she’d do that too.
Max was going to be hers, and they would go home together to reclaim their life. She’d do anything she had to, to make it happen.
After dinner, Liz was reading in her bed, when her phone rang. Glancing at the caller-ID, she smiled when she saw Zan’s number.
“Hey,” she greeted him softly.
“Hey baby,” he purred. “I just wanted to talk, since we can’t be together.”
Liz felt a rush of love for him, and tears pricked her eyes. “Zan,” she breathed.
“I wish I could hold you all night,” he said, “so you could feel my love. I want you to know that this isn’t just about sex for me, I really do love you.”
A single tear ran down Liz’s face. “I know you do,” she assured him. “Since we made love, I can feel strong emotions from you and Max.”
“And you couldn’t before?” he asked softly.
“No,” she said. “I could feel like your energy or something, and I knew when you were near, but now it’s stronger.”
Zan was curious. “I didn’t even consider that making love might strengthen our connection, but it makes sense.”
He paused, trying to feel Liz, and got a warm rush of contentment and happiness. “I can feel you more too. Before I could feel your desire, but now I can feel your more subtle emotions too.”
“What do you feel?” she asked curiously.
Zan smiled. “You feel satisfied and bit sleepy.”
She giggled. “That’s right.”
“I’m glad you can feel me,” he continued. “Everything happed so fast between us, and we don’t even know each other that well. We never even had a real date before we made love.”
“I know you,” Liz assured him. “I know you’re a good friend, a good leader, and a good man. You’re loyal and kind, you care about people, and you keep your friends safe. We may not know details, like favorite foods and colors, and stuff like that, but it will come.”
She smiled. “And I’m not worried that you only want sex. You did try to get me to go out with you, and get to know you. Maybe we did things a little backwards, but,” she blushed, “I really couldn’t wait longer to be with you.”
“Liz,” he growled, sending a shiver of desire through her. “I want you again right now,” he said.
“Me too,” she breathed.
“I just wish I could touch you,” he said. “I can feel that you want me, but I want to feel your skin.”
“I loved touching you too,” Liz said boldly, “and feeling your skin against mine. It was wonderful. It made me feel so close to you.”
“Damn,” Zan growled, “I can’t believe I have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to touch you again.”
“Me too,” she said. “It seems like forever away.”
Zan released a large sigh, “Well, since we can’t be together, why don’t you tell me more about yourself.”
Liz turned over, cuddling her pillow as a rush of love filled her. “What do you want to know?”
Lonnie paced back and forth, casting dark glances at her phone on a table. All day she had been waiting for Zan to call her back.
It had been hours, and still nothing.
With a growl, she snatched the phone up and pressed redial, but again she got the same message. He was still out of the coverage area.
She left another quick message and tossed the phone aside.
What the fuck was he doing?
She really had been stupid. She didn’t know where they were staying, and she had no contact information other than their cell phones.
Zan was powerful, but something could still happen to them. They could get mugged or be in a car wreck or get lost in the fucking desert.
A flash of anger and alarm went through her, but she damped them down quickly. Nothing was wrong, Zan was just cutting lose for once in his life. Maybe they went camping or something equally stupid. There was no need to worry.
Zan said he would be back in time for the summit, and he always kept his word.
Zan hung up the phone an hour later, feeling better than he ever had in his life. Liz loved him, they had spent the afternoon in bed together, and they had just spent the last hour learning all they could about each other.
For the first time in his life he felt truly content and like he belonged.
He was about to set his phone aside when he noticed he had two messages.
Curious, he glanced at the caller ID.
So it was beginning.
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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