War's End – Excerpt

"Sit down." Renjiro's terse words filled Selina with pain and sadness.

She acceded to his request in silence, holding her throbbing hand against her breast. He squatted before her, his face close to hers, his dark eyes shadowed. His touch was gentle as his fingers traced the line of her jaw. They shook a little and she felt the glancing caress. It warmed her.

He touched a raw spot on her chin and she hissed involuntarily.

"Where else are you injured?"

Selina shook her head.

"Captain Codecko? Selina?"

His gentle words nearly undid her. Tears burned in her eyes and she blinked, hoping to banish them. It didn't work though. They dripped down her face, scalding her frozen cheeks.

Now his hands dropped to her shoulders. "Where else are you hurt, Selina?" His gaze was hypnotic. It drew her words without thought.

"My hand, ribs, and the top of my head."

He frowned and started tugging at her shirt, pulling it free of the loose-fitting pants.

"What… What are you doing?"

He glanced at her, his face taut and strained. "I'm checking your injuries."

Selina blushed, the heat creeping over her face as she pushed at his hands. "No! You can't do that!"

"Just bloody watch me." His rough words surprised her and her hands dropped away. He continued his almost feverish work at her buttons and very quickly he had the shirt open. Selina thanked whatever had made her fasten a bra over her very tiny breasts. With gentle movements, he brushed the old material of her shirt to one side. He hissed through clenched teeth at what he saw. "You need a medic."

"I'm fine. I've lived through this before. Of greater concern to me is whether I'm going to be charged for causing the riot. I was just—"

"I know. Having a quiet drink. We checked the spy eyes. You will be free to go, so long as we can put together a suitable argument. But I have a proposition. One that would help you, I think."

In her experience, propositions never ended well, but she was desperate enough to listen to what he had to say. So she watched in mute silence as he rose. He backed away as she quickly refastened her shirt. Then he paced to the end of the room and back.

"I've just received a communiqué that there's some Indies about to plan an attack on this moon base. I need people I can trust to get information for me."

She waited. But as he started pacing again, it seemed she would need to ask the question. "What's in it for me?"

He stilled.

Selina held her breath. Waiting.

"I might be able to swing an official citizenship for you."

Just like that, he could brush away all the difficulties she had faced since the end of the war. But trusting people didn't come easily. Not for her. "You can just click your fingers and make that happen?"

He faced her again. His eyes shone almost feverishly bright under the lighting of the room. "No. But I know someone who might be able to make it happen, if you agree."

"Why? Why would you help me?"

He smiled. "Because I owe you."