The Sun Sword

Lexxie Couper

Introduction

The Sol Edict, Book One. Author unknown.

The old gods, the Immortals, looked at what the worlds of man had become and wept. Their tears extinguished the burning hearts of the universes and for eons there was only cold. Darkness.

Millennia passed. The Immortals watched the worlds of man turn heartless and violent. Their grief turned to rage and their rage turned to resolve.

The Eldest reached into the very heart of existence and forged a blade from its simmering core. A blade of infinite light and never-ending dark. A blade to end life and begin it.

The Youngest saw the fates of the worlds of man and stole the blade, hiding it in the twin souls of life. The Youngest then placed a seed in time and the seed would be the true wielder. When the worlds of man balanced on the cusp of self-destruction, the lone warrior would find the hope and the hope would be the One Who Burns and the One Who Burns would be the end and the beginning.

The Eldest saw the seed and, furious at its possibility, perverted its form. The One Who Burns would not be alone. There would be another, one who burned just as fiercely. A fire of infinite rage. The False Fire.

And the worlds of man would suffer.

Or rejoice.

The Sol Prophecy. Book Fourteen. The Oracle.

The One Who Burns will walk the grounds of despair, soul empty of peace, heart ripe with hate.

The False Fire will walk the grounds of despair, soul empty of peace, heart ripe with hate.

Both shall be destroyed. Both shall be victorious. Both will bring death and darkness when the lone heart bleeds and the stone weeps.

An Account of the Failure of the Oracle. Cai of P’Helios

“The Oracle told us the Sun Sword will bring new life to the hearts of man in the hands of the One Who Burns.

The Oracle also told us the Sun Sword will bring brutal death to the hearts of man in the hands of the False Fire.

What the Oracle failed to tell us, the irritating old crone, was how to tell whom was whom.”

Prologue

Earth calendar 2445

Torin Kerridon walked down the rubbish-strewn street, studying the derelict buildings, stunted fauna, and polluted sky. So, this is Earth.

He curled his nose, moving his right hand closer to his disruptor. He didn’t expect anyone to attack him—he doubted anyone still living on the once-prosperous planet was healthy enough to pose any threat—but that didn’t mean he relaxed his guard.

You relaxed your guard, you died. That was the way of the Sol.

Besides, somewhere on this forgotten hunk of dying rock was a warrior of supreme force and skill. A warrior more deadly than the entire Sol Order combined. Even if he didn’t know it yet.

Stepping over a fallen tree, the leaves long dead, the branches withered and twisted as though tortured, Torin scanned the immediate area. The Old Seer had sworn the One Who Burns could be found somewhere in this vicinity. He’d been quite adamant about it in fact, almost having an apoplexy when Torin had voiced his doubt.

The old man had refused to listen to reason and, invoking the Sol Edict, had commanded Torin leave P’Helios immediately for the abandoned planet.

Casting a dubious look at the closest building, boarded-up windows doing little to hide its desolate decay, Torin shook his head. The Old Seer was never wrong. If he said the One Who Burns was here, he was here. Somewhere. The southern hemisphere of the planet had survived the Third Global with the least destruction, the planet’s ailing weather patterns saving it from the initial bio detonation. Torin looked up at the sky and scowled. Polluted storm clouds boiled and rolled above him. The Old Seer had drawn the constellation under which Torin would find the One Who Burns, sightless eyes staring at the parchment as he’d inked the angled five-starred cross. The map however was useless.

Returning his attention to the buildings around him, Torin continued forward. He didn’t need to see the stars to know he was in the correct location. The sensors on his ship, Helios Blade, indicated a significant number of life signs in this quadrant. The only sign of life on the eastern coastline of the large landmass to be exact—a paltry four hundred and forty-two souls. According to the Old Seer, the One Who Burns was among them.

Torin frowned, looking at the empty, desolate dwellings around him. How are you going to find him, Kerridon?

He let out a silent grunt, his skepticism pushed further by his bleak surrounds. The Old Seer had told him the One Who Burns would find him, but he couldn’t help wondering how.

“The One will come to you. Walk through the streets of dismay with want in your soul, belief in your heart and the One will come to you. This you must do. Or the hearts of man will be—”

His proclamation had ended there. The Old Seer’s sightless eyes had rolled back into his ancient head, he’d hitched in a sharp breath and died.

Torin clenched his fist, the memory of his Sol guide’s death still jarring. The Old Seer had charged him with a task and he must obey. He was the last of the Sol Order. The last warrior charged with the protection of the Sun Sword, the ultimate weapon in the known universes. A weapon forged by the Immortals and discovered by the Oracle. A weapon created to end all life and begin it. He needed to find the one who was born to wield the blade before the False Fire did. If he failed, the worlds of man would cease to—

A ball of solid steel smashed into his chest, hurling him backward. His heels tripped, his feet tangled and, before he knew it, he was on his back staring at the bruised, polluted sky. Pain radiated through him. Syunna, what was that?

He flipped his body from the filth-strewn ground, disruptor drawn.

And found a tiny slip of a girl no taller than his chest standing before him, green eyes burning with golden fire, short black hair a spiky crown of mess. She glared at him, a long, rusted steel pipe clenched in her small fists. “Whoever you are, you’re not welcome here,” she growled, her voice husky. And angry. Very angry.

Torin frowned, resisting the urge to lift his hand and rub his chest. By the gods, what had she hit him with?

What do you mean, she? Surely you don’t think this whelp put you on your arse, do you?

He returned his disruptor to its holster. “I have no issue with you, girl.” He began walking forward. “Move aside before I put you across my knee and—”

She threw herself at him. Feet first.

Her bootless heels struck his gut like two small balls of steel. He stumbled again, dumbstruck.

She swung the pipe, smashing it against his jaw as he fell.

White agony detonated in his head. He let out a shout of rage and indignation. How could a scrap of a child move so quickly? And hit so hard?

Before he could contemplate the answer, she straddled his chest, the steel pipe rammed under his chin. Choking him.

She glared down at him, the fury in her eyes seismic. “I will not let your kind touch me again.”

Torin stared at her, teeth clenched. “I’m not going to touch you. Now get off me before I give you a damn good—”

She didn’t let him finish. Fear flooded her eyes, turning the rage there to icy terror. She smashed the pipe against his face, his jaw, his shoulders, her tiny body trembling, her face set.

Pain erupted in his head. He let out a shout, more of surprise than agony, and grabbed at her wrists.

She was quick.

He was quicker.

Before she could strike him again with that cursed steel pipe, he yanked her body forward, threw her to ground beside him and rolled on top of her, pinning her beneath his weight.

“Get off me!” she screamed, thrashing, and bucking like a wild animal.

He dodged another attempted blow from her right hand, fighting to keep her wrists in his grip.

Syunna, she’s strong for a scrap.

“Get off me, get off me, get off me!”

Her scream grew louder with every word, her eyes wider and more terrified.

“Stop it!” he roared, smacking her wrists to the ground beside her head and staring down into her muck-smeared face. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Ha!” she barked. “I’ve heard that before. Right before one of your kind shoves his dick between my legs.”

Cold fury rolled through Torin. His gut clenched at the implication behind her words and he fixed her with a steady look. “I, Torin Kerridon, last command warrior of the Sol Order and keeper of the Sun Sword’s truth, swear I will never bring harm upon your body.” He relaxed his hold on her wrists. A little. “Nor shove my dick between your legs.”

She glared up at him, green eyes flashing golden chips of rage.

He loosened his hold a fraction more. “This is my word and I swear it to you on my honour.”

She stopped fighting against his weight, expression guarded. Wary. “I swear I will rip your dick off and shove it down your throat if you break your word.”

The words were full of promise and Torin didn’t doubt—if given the chance—she would be capable of doing just so. He frowned, his gut still tight. “What is your name, child?”

Her jaw bunched, defiant strength glinting in her unusual eyes, and she shifted beneath him. “I’m not a child. I’m almost twenty-one.”

Torin suppressed the urge to smile. Almost twenty-one made her a child by his reasoning, and by his own advanced age. “What is your name, child?” he repeated, the need to know growing heavy in his gut.

Green eyes glinted. “Kala Rei. Now get off me.”

But Torin couldn’t move. He stared down at the dirty, skinny girl, every muscle in his body locked, frozen with disbelief, his heart a thumping beat, his blood roaring in his ears.

Kala Rei.

The name whispered by the Immortals. The name he’d known all his life.

Kala Rei.

The One Who Burns.

Chapter 1

Six Earth months later

Kala opened her eyes and gazed up at the low, metal ceiling. It hung above her head as it had for the last six months, a solid plane of dull grey that reflected no light and radiated no life. Closing her eyes again, she stayed stretched on her hard, narrow bunk and began a slow count of one hundred. With each number, she flexed and coiled the muscles in her body, the process beginning with her toes and ending with her fingers.

Heat flowed through her, the meditation routine waking her body, preparing her for what was to come.

What? Another day spent covered in sweat and blood? Your body aching, your muscles bruised? The bloody great big sword he makes you sleep with tearing your shoulders from their joints every time you swing it? This has to stop, Kala. The man is as crazy as a cut snake.

Opening her eyes again, she stared at her quarter’s ceiling and saw the God-cursed bastard who’d taken her from hell.

He was never far from her thoughts, Torin Kerridon. Not a minute passed during the hours she was awake when she didn’t think of him—curse him, wish he were dead. Pictured the massive sword he’d thrust into her hands the second she’d boarded his ship plunging into his hard, flat gut. Pictured the life fading from his storm-grey eyes.

Not a minute passed during the brief hours she slept when she didn’t dream of him—of his hands skimming her naked legs, his mouth brushing over the small swells of her breasts, his lips closing over one nipple to suckle on its puckered tip as his fingers caressed the other.

A tight dampness knotted in the pit of her belly and she let out a sharp growl. She snapped upright on her bunk, swung her legs around and dropped to the floor, punching out an endless number of pushups in an effort to rid her mind of those tormenting nighttime images.

It was an exercise in futility. It always was. Every morning she went through the same routine. The realization, the meditation, the memories, the wanting. Every morning she punished herself for her weakness with an absurd amount of pushups.

And you think Torin is the crazy one? You desire a man you long to see dead.

Letting the strength evaporate from her arms, back and shoulders, Kala slumped to the floor. She pressed her flushed forehead against its icy metal surface. Nothing made sense anymore. Six months ago she was fighting to survive on a long-forgotten planet, a lone female with no family or connections, forsaken as a child by a person whose face time had erased. A young girl forced to grow up by the harsh brutality of her existence, raped, assaulted and bashed repeatedly because of what was between her legs. A young girl praying for death to find her every night, fighting it with every molecule in her body when it came in the form of vile men with hard dicks and black souls. Six months ago, she knew the meaning of her existence—pain. Lots of pain. Now…

What would it be like? To be held by someone, loved by someone who didn’t want to hurt her? To be cherished and worshipped, not used and abused. Someone who touched her to bring her pleasure, not take it for himself?

Someone like Torin?

Flattening her palms against the chilly floor, she pushed herself to her feet and crossed the confining space of her quarters. A shower. She needed a shower. In exactly thirty minutes she would be covered in sweat again, the bastard Sol warrior pushing her body to its limits in that damn torture chamber he called a training room, but she needed to cleanse herself before the pain began.

A cold shower also afforded her the briefest moments of privacy. Torin Kerridon did not balk at walking into her quarters any time of the day or night—when he deemed training had begun, it began, regardless of the hour. When she stood inside her shower cubicle however, the cold water streaming over her flesh, through her tangle and dirt-free hair, over her lips and nipples, he respected her privacy.

And don’t you wish he didn’t. Don’t you wish he would storm into your quarters, smash his fist against the shower’s door control, wrap his fingers around your wrists and yank you from under the water, pulling you against his body and doing everything he could to make you feel—

Kala ground her teeth. “Stop it!”

She was just as insane as the man who’d taken her from Earth. He thought she was some long-prophesied warrior, destined to save the worlds of man from some unspeakable evil, and she thought he was—

Kala yanked the minimal clothing she wore to sleep from her body and stepped into the shower, shutting the thought down. It was lunacy. She didn’t desire him. He was an insane man with delusions of grandeur from a planet she’d never heard of, let alone been to. She was only going along for the ride because what he offered was better than what she’d spent the first twenty-one years of her life living. The dreams and fantasies stemmed from the simple fact he’d saved her from that life. That was it. Nothing more.

Yeah, right. You keep telling yourself that, Kala.

Punching the hydro stream control, she lifted her face into the cold blast of water, eyes squeezed shut, fists clenched. “Shut the fuck up.”

Two minutes later—skin like ice, centre like fire—she stepped from the tiny cubicle, dripping wet and still just as angry. She’d had enough. Today was the day she ended it. She’d let the insanity go on for too long.

It was time to tell Torin she wanted to—

“I am sorry. I did not intend—”

The hurried apology, spoken in a voice so deep it was almost a growl, made Kala jump and she spun about, her hands balling into fists instantly, her sex constricting just as fast.

Torin Kerridon stood in the entryway of her quarters, his massive frame almost filling it completely. His face appeared to be carved from stone, expressionless and unreadable, and his eyes studied the floor to the right of her feet. He shifted slightly and for a moment Kala wanted to burst out laughing. The man could probably kill an Earth grizzly with his bare hands and here he was looking nervous for finding her naked.

Make him more nervous, Kala. Make him sweat. Make him suffer.

The dark, unexpected thought whispered through her head and her nipples tightened, her pussy squeezing in a flutter of tight pulses. She locked her stare on his face, wanting those angry-sky eyes of his to turn her way. To look at her, see her. Wanting them to fill with carnal desire and tormented confusion.

She wanted to shout, “Look at me!”

But she didn’t.

She didn’t have to.

Torin swung his head toward her, his face a granite mask, his eyes…

Kala lifted her chin, her pulse pounding. His eyes were turbulent. They drilled into hers, as if he could not look elsewhere.

Make him.

A tight shiver rippled through her and her lips parted with a soft gasp. She straightened her spine and pulled a deep breath, letting her breasts rise as she did so.

Look at me.

His stare didn’t leave her face.

She touched the tip of her tongue to her bottom lip.

His nostrils flared.

Look at me. She took another breath, the pit of her stomach knotting. All of me. Please.

Torin’s jaw bunched. His nostrils flared again and then he turned in the entryway, presenting her the sight of his broad back, the blazing sun tattooed across its muscled expanse hidden by the worn leather vest he wore. “Training will begin in ten.” He threw the words over his shoulder in a blunt command. “Do not be late.”

Kala nodded, despite the fact he did not look at her. Torin stood motionless in the entryway, the silence growing so thick she could barely draw breath. A long second passed. Followed by an even longer one.

She stared at him. Willed him to turn around.

His fists clenched, his shoulders bunched and then, with a muttered curse in a language she didn’t understand, he strode away, disappearing from her sight.

Kala let out a choked sigh, closing her eyes and dropping her still-damp face into her still-damp hands. She had to get off this ship. She didn’t believe in prophesies and destinies and saviors. She believed in pain. And she’d had enough of it. Both physical and—since the hulking man with the grey eyes and insane ideas came into her life—emotional. It was time to leave it all behind and get away.

Storming to her bunk, she snatched up her training attire—leather trousers two sizes too big for her and the snakeskin vest she’d been wearing when Torin “rescued” her from Earth. They were the only two items of clothing she could wear. Her trousers—the original pair she’d worn back on Earth had disintegrated the minute she’d tried to clean them once coming aboard Helios Blade, leaving her with nothing but the snakeskin vest and her pride. Torin had given her the leather trousers when she’d come to him, angry, embarrassed and wrapped in a towel from the hips down. Where he’d procured them, she didn’t know. Despite their size, they would be too small for him. The quick look he’d given her in his own quarters, face expressionless, jaw clenched, spoke of displeasure and frustration.

Six months later, Kala knew he still harbored those same emotions. Whatever Torin Kerridon, last command warrior of the Sol Order and keeper of the Sun Sword’s truth had expected to find on Earth, she knew she wasn’t it.

A boy. He was expecting to find a boy. A male. The One Who Bloody Burns, not some little girl. Someone strong and hard. Someone not you.

Grinding her teeth, the familiar thought scratching at her nerves, Kala snatched up the long, thick blade tangled in the sheets of her bunk. She lifted its tip level with her eyes. It was sharp. Wicked in its lethal edge. She’d spent every day since coming aboard Torin’s ship with it in her hands. Learning how to use it, fight with it. Kill with it. It was ancient. A weapon from a lifetime ago.

It was also an imposter. Not the sword of which Torin believed her to be the destined wielder. That sword—the Sun Sword—she had yet to see, let alone hold.

“Not until you are ready.”

The memory of his proclamation uttered to her the seventh day aboard his ship sent a ball of angry heat down into her belly. She swung the training sword down, the swoosh it made cutting the air like the sound of old ice shearing in two. Something in his eyes, something dark, something troubled, told Kala there was more to Torin’s reticence than her current physical ability. Whatever it was however, the warrior refused to divulge and any time she pressed him—which she did almost every day—he increased the punishing intensity of her training.

With a sharp shake of her head and a low snort of disgust, she cast the small room one last look. It had been her home for half an Earth solar cycle, the longest she’d ever stayed in one place, the longest she’d ever felt safe, but enough was enough.

She tightened her grip on the heavy sword and walked through the doorway. It was time to go. Before she went just as insane as the Sol warrior.

* * * *

Torin stood in the training room—an area in Helios Blade’s aft dedicated to the preparation of the One Who Burns, equipped with every weapon Kala needed to be proficient with, every weapon she needed to be an expert at defending against. His eyes were closed and he pulled deep, steady breaths of his ship’s artificial air into his lungs through his nose, forcing the heat in his body to subside.

The shower. Syunna. He’d found her in the shower.

Well, technically, just out of the shower.

Curse it. Were the old gods taunting him for fun, tormenting him to see his suffering, or was there a purpose to their actions?

Unbidden, an image of the bane of his existence stepping from the shower cubicle flooded his head. Glistening beads of water trickled down her small lithe body, charting seductive paths over her breasts and belly and thighs and he wanted nothing more than to follow them with his tongue. Her drenched hair clung to her back and shoulders like black silk, highlighting the column of her neck, the straightness of her posture, her sinewy but still feminine muscles moving under her smooth brown skin with fluid strength.

A scalding knot of repressed hunger tightened in the pit of his belly, making his groin stir and his pulse quicken.

He bunched his fists, forcing the base response aside. That he harbored such carnal wants disgusted him. Filled him with contempt. Kala Rei was the last hope for the worlds of man against a future too horrific to ponder. She was not an object to desire. To lust after.

Oh, but you do desire her, Kerridon. You do lust after her. Every minute of every hour of every gods-cursed day.

He pulled in another deep breath, slower this time, directing the thrumming urgency in his body to subside. The last six months had been a long, drawn-out torture with no end in sight. Every time the One Who Burns drew close to him—her skin wet with perspiration, her chest heaving with exertion, her eyes blazing with hate and rage—his blood turned hot and his balls grew tight. Every time she crossed his path outside the training area—on her way to the galley or her quarters, her body uncharged with the wild energy of his preparation, her steps wary, her expression more so—he wanted to take her into his arms, hold her close to his heart and make her feel safe.

He retired to his quarters every night, exhausted from the sheer willpower it took to not throw her against the wall of his ship and take her every time he saw her, to not show her the rapture of true pleasure and the serenity of complete rapture. The training of the Sol warrior was the most brutal and grueling in the known universes but what he endured in the presence of the One Who Burns, the tiny slip of a female no taller than his chin, made that training look like a high-summer picnic.

He had but one hope and one hope only. Get her to the Sun Sword as soon as possible. Get her to the Immortals’ weapon before the False Fire. See the weapon in her hand, its true and destined wielder, and then get as far from her as possible. Before he did what he swore to her six months ago on the dying surface of planet Earth he would never do. Stick his dick between her legs.

A low growl rumbled in the base of his throat and he dug his fingers into his palms. Time was his enemy, their enemy. All would be lost if he didn’t find the Sun Sword soon.

All will be lost if you don’t remove yourself from Kala Rei’s presence soon.

Torin growled again. That was not possible. Until the sword was found, until the One Who Burns held it in her grasp, he could never leave her presence. It was too dangerous for the worlds of man. It was too dangerous for her.

And whenever her green eyes raze your form, Torin Kerridon, it is too dangerous for you too.

“By the gods,” he muttered, shaking his head, “if I could resurrect the Old Seer I would strangle him.”

A soft scratching behind Torin made him tense. He sucked in a sharp breath, the air about him suddenly sweet and intoxicating. He caught his groan—part frustration, part carnal want, part self-loathing desperation—before it could rumble up his throat.

She had arrived. The One Who Burns. She stood but a few feet away, waiting for his very command.

Then command her to—

Opening his eyes, he studied the wall opposite. The training room’s array of weapons adorned its metal span, all deadly in the right hands, all beyond deadly in his. It had only taken six months for Kala to be a master at each, no matter their origin in space or time. Just as the Old Seer had foretold.

He clenched his teeth, her prowess reigniting the heat in his groin. “You are thirty-five seconds late.”

He could feel the hot hate in her glare.

“Yes.”

The single word turned his already too-fast pulse to a rapid tattoo. He felt Kala shift on her feet, the air around him rippling with the slight movement, the noise like a loud hiss over the hum of his ship’s propulsion engines. There was a low scraping sound, metal on leather, followed by the sound of her feet shifting again.

His mouth went dry and he curled his fingers into fists. “We do not train with the sword today.”

Silence met his blunt statement. So absolute he could hear his own heart hammering. She was surprised. Thrown off-guard.

He swallowed, throat tight. “Today we train hand-to-hand combat.”

Are you mad? You are going to touch her? Skin-to-skin, flesh-to-flesh? Do you really want to torture yourself more than you already are?

“Hand-to-hand?”

Her voice was steady, cut with that same confronting aggression he’d heard the very first time he saw her, blocking his path on Earth. But underneath the clipped syllables, a waver reverberated. A tremble so slight he almost missed it.

He scowled, the realization making his skin prickle. He spent hours convincing himself every day she was the ultimate warrior of destiny, and with just three words his tenuous conviction was shattered. She unnerved him. Unsettled him. Weakened him.

Dangerous, Torin Kerridon. “The One Who Burns will be your undoing. And your end.”

The Old Seer’s words slipped through his head, spoken over a decade ago but as clear as if only just uttered.

Teeth ground, he turned, fixing his stare on the child standing in the room’s entryway. She held the training sword in her right hand—a long, broad blade of hybrid tempered steel with a core of compressed actinide—as if she’d been born with it in her grasp, her chin jutted in stubborn defiance, her green-gold eyes glinting with uncertainty.

He skimmed his gaze over her coiled perfection, partially hidden by her attire, his throat squeezing tighter still as the memory of her wet, glistening body smashed into his mind.

She’s not a child, Kerridon. She’s never been a child. No matter how hard you try to fool yourself otherwise, she is a woman.

Ignoring the all-too-alluring thought, he gave her a curt nod. “Hand-to-hand. You need to learn how to defeat your enemies with only your hands and feet. How to use your body to bring about their demise.”

An ambiguous light flickered in her gaze and he saw her breasts rise with a sudden intake of breath. “Use my body…” She trailed away, catching her bottom lip with her teeth.

The sight sent a shard of something hot and thick into Torin’s gut. Syunna, he wanted to bite that lip. Bite it, nibble on it, suck it. He sank his nails harder into his palms, keeping his feet planted to the floor. “We begin,” he instructed, readying himself for what was to come next. “Attack me.”

The fire in Kala’s eyes flared brighter. She stared at him, a frown pulling at her eyebrows. The muscles in her arms and shoulders flexed, the sword’s tip swaying a fraction at her feet. He saw her swallow, once, twice.

“Tell me why you need me.”

Her calmly spoken command took him by surprise. He narrowed his eyes, his thumping heartbeat leaping into his closed throat. “Do you ignore my order, Kala Rei? Attack me.”

She shook her head. “Tell me why you need me first. Why you need me on your ship with you. Why you took me from Earth.”

“You know this, Kala Rei. The One Who Burns must take possession of the Sun Sword before the False Fire.”

Her stare remained fixed on his. “Why?”

She’d asked about the False Fire more than once. He’d never answered her.

“Why?”

The question was sharp, and yet Torin’s pulse quickened at the hint of frustrated desperation in its single syllable. “If the False Fire takes the Immortals’ blade before the One Who Burns, the worlds of man will suffer untold agony.”

If she was shocked by his sudden divulgement of information she did not show it. “Is that the only reason?” Her stare never wavered from his face. “A sword in someone’s hands?”

He bit back his own frustration. “It is not just a sword, Kala. And the False Fire is not just ‘someone’.” He paused, his mouth dry. “You are not just ‘someone’.”

She stood motionless. “Who am I then, Torin Kerridon? To you?”

He looked at her, keeping his face free of expression. “You are the One Who Burns.”

Her lips parted at the title and she flicked her tongue over their soft fullness before giving him an unreadable stare. “Then tell me, who do I burn for?”

Me.

The word almost fell from Torin’s mouth before he could stop it. He growled, letting Kala see his contemptuous anger. Gods pray that she believed it directed at her. “Attack me now, wielder of the Sun Sword, or I will break your back and spit on your pain.”

Disgust flooded her face. Misery shone in her eyes. She threw her training sword aside and ran at him, her knuckles white. As always, her speed astounded him, her natural grace arousing him. She feigned left, her right arm swinging into a wide arc, as if to smash her fist into his jaw, just as she dropped into a low spin and punched her left heel into his gut.

Or would have, if he’d not snatched her ankle mid-air and flipped her onto her back.

She slammed onto the floor, the wind bursting from her in a choked grunt. He grabbed her calf with his other hand, his grip on her ankle tightening as he twisted her leg until she lay half on her side, half on her belly. “Too obvious, Kala,” he stated, looking down her leg into her face. The pain he saw in her eyes made his chest ache with guilt and regret, but he denied it power. “And too slow. You will need to do better before I give you what you want.”

Her jaw clenched, her eyes becoming heavy-lidded. “What I want.” She jackknifed her body, using his hold on her leg to act as a counter pivot, slicing her other leg up into a swift arc as she slammed down into the side of his knee. He buckled, red-hot pain lashing up his leg into his hip and gut. Kala didn’t hesitate. She twisted in his grip, smacking her shin against his calf. New pain detonated in his knee but he switched it off, flinging her onto her stomach with a savage flick of her leg and ramming his foot between her shoulder blades.

“You are better than this, Kala Rei.” His gut squirmed, as it did every training session, the thought of causing her any harm like blades dipped in acid slicing into his body. “You had me on the ground in half the time back on Earth.” He pressed his foot harder to her back, his stare fixed on her profile as she struggled beneath his pinning hold. “What is on your mind to stop you doing so again?”

“You,” she snarled.

His heart stopped, his whole body stilling.

She took advantage of his aberrant hesitation, twisting on the floor to smash her elbow into his ankle. The blow would have been awkward, ineffectual—if he’d been focused on holding her to the ground with his foot.

He stumbled forward, the pain in his knee bursting with new white heat as his full weight crashed down on it.

Kala was on her feet in a second, slamming her heel into the small of his back. He careened several steps forward, new pain detonating up his spine. It sank into the base of his skull before, with the same preternatural speed that kept him alive through umpteen bloody battles, he flung himself into a deep cartwheel and swung his foot upward, straight into her chin.

She arched backward, arms flailing. Before she could regain her balance, he rammed his body into hers, his blood roaring in his ears. He drove her backward until she slammed against the training room’s cold metal wall. De-atomizers, gutting blades, pulse pistols and twin scythes jolted from their hooks, clattering to the floor in a jarring cacophony. Torin didn’t care. His hands curled into fists around Kala’s wrists and he pinned her to the wall, his stare fixed on her wide, stunned eyes. “Concentrate,” he snapped, a carnal fire igniting in his groin at the feel of her firm softness pressed against him. “Stop thinking of me and think of your training.”

“I can’t.”

Pulse growing fast, he closed his fists harder around her wrists, glaring at her. “Can’t what, Kala Rei?”

“I can’t stop thinking about you.”

The fire in Torin’s groin erupted at her blunt confession. He gazed down into her face, felt her heart thumping behind her breast, a rapid beat that sent waves of vibrations into his body. Pulling in a sharp breath, he tasted her sweat on the air. Tasted the musk of a desire he never dreamt possible there too.

He dropped his stare to her mouth, to the lips he’d longed to claim for what felt like an eternity. The tip of her tongue flicked out, wet them, the action so quick Torin doubted Kala even knew she’d done it. Fresh blood surged into his cock, turned it into a rigid length grinding against her belly. She shifted beneath him, pushing her hips forward. Aligning her sex closer to his erection.

Syunna, take her. Take her now!

The deafening order roared through his head. He gazed at her mouth. Felt her body against his. Smelt her musk on the air. Tasted it on his breath.

Take her!

He shoved himself away from her, the abrupt absence of her heat on his flesh, against his body, was like an icy burn. Heart smashing in his throat, his balls and cock harder than steel, he turned his back on her, refusing to look at her face. By the gods, what was wrong with him? He’d given her his word. He’d sworn he would not touch her so. He’d sworn he would never—

“Coward.”

He froze, Kala’s flat whisper stabbing into him. Infuriating him. Igniting him. He spun, hands snaring her wrists before she could move, slamming her to the wall, his hips and thighs pinning her beneath his weight. He stared down into her face, denying the panic he saw there, every molecule in his body brittle, strained to breaking point. “I am no coward, Kala Rei.”

Her lips parted. To say what, he didn’t know. Or care. Not when she felt so soft and firm against his body.

He couldn’t fight himself any longer. He crushed her mouth with his, forcing her legs apart with his knees before rubbing his right one against the junction of her thighs. Her soft heat scalded his flesh through the course leather of his trousers and he growled, the sound rumbling up his chest into his throat. Kala’s lips parted to the noise, her low whimper flooding his groin with potent need as she met his tongue with hers.

His head swam. He dragged his hands down her arms, down her ribcage, plunging his tongue deeper into her mouth as he grabbed the cheeks of her arse and yanked her sex to his straining cock. She arched against him, sliding her arms around his shoulders, tangling her fingers in his hair. Another whimper escaped her and she rolled her hips, pressing her spread sex firmer against his knee.

Torin groaned, raking one hand from her arse to cup and squeeze her breast, the fire in the pit of his gut, his groin, his chest, borderline frantic. He captured her nipple, the subtle snakeskin of her vest doing nothing to hide the puckered hardness from his touch.

Another wave of raw giddiness flooded his head. His touch. He pulled her closer. He was touching her. Really touching her.

Stop it. Now.

He shut the voice out, dragging his mouth from her lips to score a line along her jaw, up to her ear. She rolled her head, offering her throat to his mouth. He nipped the delicate flesh beneath her ear, pressed his tongue to the wild pulse there. She groaned, a low hitching sound unlike any he’d heard her make before and she closed her hands tighter in his hair, as if she feared letting him go.

“I will never let you go, Kala,” he murmured into her ear, nipping at her earlobe with his teeth. “You are—”

Mine.

The word whispered through Torin’s head, possessive and dominating.

Uncontrolled.

He froze, the inferno in his core extinguished immediately. Syunna, what was he doing? He was Sol, keeper of the Sun Sword’s truth, not possessor of the One Who Burns. His job was to train her, prepare her, not use her for his own carnal gratification.

He lifted his head and stared down into her heavy-lidded eyes.

Eyes that grew wider the farther he drew away from her. Eyes that shimmered with confusion, disbelief. Pain.

Anger.

He took a step backward, his whole body—not just his groin but his gut, his chest, his throat—aching from what he was doing. What he was about to do.

His solemn oath from six months ago came back to him: “I will never stick my dick between your legs.” The words haunted him. An oath he’d made the first time he’d pressed his body to hers, before he’d known who she was. What she was. His gut churned. “Kala…”

She stared at him, an emotionless mask falling over her face.

A second before she smashed her fist into his jaw.

* * * *

Zroya Gr’h stood over the naked female cowering at his feet on the floor of her bedroom, his gaze tracing the bowed curve of her spine, the toe of his boot tracing the swell of her compressed breast. His dick grew hard in his trousers and he chuckled, dropping into a crouch beside her sniveling form. “Tell me where the Sun Sword is, cunt, and I will not hurt you.” He skimmed the palm of his hand over her trembling shoulders, the heat from her body warming his flesh. She shuddered, flinching from his closeness. He tsked, moving his hand up to her head, following the delicate curve of her skull. She was a pretty young thing—small, petite, her creamy brown skin like smooth velvet, her thick black hair like a cascading river of midnight ink. Tilting his head to the side, he snatched a handful of that glossy curtain and smashed her face into the floor.

She cried out, fighting against him, scratching at his hold, but he pressed harder on the back of her head, ignoring her feeble attempts to escape. He tsked again, giving her a pitying smile. “Tell me where the Sun Sword is, False Fire, or I will break every bone in your body and fuck you until you drown in your own blood.”

The stupid female screeched and bucked and thrashed. “I don’t know. I’m not… I’m…” She blubbered on and on, professing ignorance, her cries growing choked and gurgled as the stone beneath her head turned bright red.

His cock stiffened further and he flicked his gaze down the line of her back to her arse. His mouth filled with saliva and he grinned. “I shall take you in the arse first, I think. Pump you full of my seed. Would you like that? Bury myself in your arse until you scream for mercy.”

She sobbed and bucked again, scratching at his hand. “Don’t…gods, please, don’t, don’t!”

“Enough!” a dry, low voice cracked.

Zroya jerked his stare from the female’s backside and snapped his attention to the old man standing in the doorway on the other side of the dimly lit room. He frowned, chest heavy, holding his tongue even as he held the fistful of cool, silken hair in his grip.

The old man took a step forward, white eyes narrowing. His tongue flicked out in rapid succession, tasting the air. He stood motionless for a long moment, a cloudy fog filling his eyes, his expression blank. Empty. “She is not the one, Zroya.” He cast the sobbing girl a look devoid of connection. “This is not the False Fire you seek.”

Zroya bared his teeth, the proclamation sending a jagged spear of sheer fury into his gut. Not the False Fire. Which meant the useless female would not know the location of that destined to be his.

Fuck.

He studied the old man before him, the rage at his wasted time twisting through the abject reverence and fear he felt for the prophet. “What shall I do with her, master, if she is not the one we seek?”

The old man turned, his long black coat stitched with intricate silver thread flaring into a wide arc, revealing a glimpse of fine silver-mesh trousers and two skinned, bloody rabbit corpses hanging from his belt. “I care little, Zroya,” he answered over his shoulder. With a limping gait, he stepped from the doorway into another part of the female’s home, lost to Zroya’s sight. “Enjoy yourself.”

The last command floated to Zroya’s ears and his lips spread into a pleased smile, his stare returning to the almost lifeless woman’s naked form once again. “Yes, master,” he murmured.

With infinite care, he removed his hand from her hair, gently sliding his fingertips past the bloody mess of her face to tuck them under her wet, tacky chin. Raising her head, he gazed into her swollen eyes. “Pl-please,” she sobbed, snot and blood pissing from her shattered nose. “Please don’t…hurt me.”

Zroya showed her his teeth in a wide smile. “I must do what my master tells me to do, pl’yat.” He smashed his fist into her nose, grinning at the fountain of blood erupting from its ruptured hole. “I will enjoy myself.”

He rose to his feet and slammed his boot into her neck, sending her backward in a limp arc, following her progression with his gaze as she slid across the floor with a thud. In two steps he closed the distance between them, standing over her, his dick hard, his breath even. “Until my master tells me he has found the False Fire, the cunt who dares pretend to be the wielder of the Immortals’ blade, who dares hold what is rightfully mine, I will enjoy myself.” He lifted his right foot and placed it on the other side of her body, against her hipbone, looking down at her with another pitying smile. “With you.”

He moved his hands to the buckle at his waist, his smile turning into a serene grin. “Until it is the False Fire beneath me, submitting to me, you shall accept my wrath. The wrath of the One Who Burns.” He gave the pathetic blubbering female a slow wink. “Aren’t you lucky.”

Chapter 2

The bastard didn’t fall.

Kala glared at the cursed Sol warrior, her knuckles burning with white pain, her shoulder throbbing with dull heat. She shook her head, biting back the bitter sob threatening to escape her. The hardest punch she could throw and he didn’t even flinch. Sour self-disgust and contempt curdled in her belly. She turned her head, unable to look at him, to see him—the cause of her humiliation—any longer. “I am leaving.”

He didn’t respond to her flat statement, at least not aloud. Kala pushed herself from the wall, chest feeling like it was about to be crushed by an imploding quasar, her throat so tight she could barely breathe. She turned back to him, risking one last look before she got the hell off his ship. She was done with this shit.

He stood before her, motionless, expression revealing nothing, his eyes unreadable. The only sign something bothered him was the coiled steel in his muscles and the bunching of his jaw.

Something? What, like rejecting you? He is the last command warrior of the Sol Order, Kala. Keeper of the Sun fucking Sword’s truth. Do you really think he cares he’s just ripped your heart from your chest and crushed it beneath his heel?

Hot hate cut through her and, fists clenched, she shoved past him, scooping her sword up from the floor and storming from the training room. Her body ached—not from the physical beating Torin had given her, but from the physical hunger he’d denied it.

Christ, Kala. You are a bloody fool.

Gut twisting, she headed for her quarters, willing the ache deep within her core to go away. She needed to gather her things and—

A cold emptiness flooded through her and she faltered to a halt, her lips prickling with numb grief. Her things? What things? She didn’t have any things. What she stood in now was all she possessed in this world.

The heavy weight in her hand drew her tormented attention and she lowered her head, gazing at the training sword still in her grasp. She snarled, throwing it aside, the coldness in her being turning to icy disgust. It didn’t belong to her. All it was was a poor imitation of a weapon she was never intended to hold, a ludicrous myth spoken of in hushed tones by idiots who believed the worlds of man had once been better than they were now.

The Sun Sword. A weapon as powerful as the sun itself. Kala shook her head, the bile in the back of her throat hot. As if such a sword existed.

As if she—an abandoned earthling with no memory of her past before puberty—was the one born to wield it.

And yet, you’d almost begun to believe Torin’s bullshit. You almost believed you had a purpose. Worth. That your existence meant something to someone.

Biting back a growl of self-contempt, she started walking again, heading toward Helios Blade’s hull. For six months the deep-space class vessel had been her home. She knew every inch of its interior, every item within its structure, including the small inter-star skip nestled in its bowel. The streamline short-range shuttle may only get her one hyper-jump away from Torin Kerridon, but that was one hyper-jump farther than where she was now.

Far enough to forget how stupid she’d been. How monumentally naive.

And if he follows you?

Kala curled her fists. A lifetime of pain and fear, of being hunted by the animals calling themselves men on Earth’s surface had taught her one thing—how to become invisible. If she didn’t want him to, the Sol warrior would never find her.

Who are you kidding, Kala? If Torin Kerridon wanted to find you, he would. If he wanted to find you.

Dull pain blossomed in her chest at the thought and she quickened her pace, shutting all emotions down as she hurried to the shuttle bay. Emotions were a weakness she couldn’t afford.

The shuttle bay door was locked when she arrived, the passageway leading to it dark. Floor lights flickered into muted life as she stepped onto the grid, casting a dull yellow glow around her feet that barely penetrated the blackness. She fumbled with the locking mechanism, her heart hammering in her ears. The back of her neck itched, as if someone watched her, his stare unseen in the shrouding darkness but felt all the same.

Torin?

Kala’s throat squeezed tight at the sound of his name in her head, her sex fluttering in traitorous response. She threw a quick look over her shoulder, squinting into the dense shadows.

The blackness devoured her sight and, frowning, she turned back to the locking panel. Torin wasn’t there. He would not expect her to be here. His arrogance would have him believe she had returned to her quarters after their exchange in the training room, sulking over what happened. His unending belief in the Sun Sword and her role as the savior of mankind would not allow him to imagine her words “I’m leaving” to mean anything but leaving the training session.

Besides, she couldn’t detect his distinct scent on the stale, still air.

She levered open the panel, the lack of light making the task difficult, the continuing itch on the back of her neck making her want to fidget. The sensation of being watched grew stronger, heavier. She shot another furtive look over her shoulder, almost expecting to see someone standing directly behind her.

Nothing.

Just blackness.

“You’re going mad, Kala,” she muttered, scanning the lock’s internal components with her fingertips. The low thrum of Helios Blade’s engines tickled the soles of her feet and the pit of her belly, making the task more difficult than it should. The itch continued and she ground her teeth against its inescapable annoyance. Just her mind playing tricks on her, that’s all. Just her screwed up, masochistic mind trying to mess with her. Prevent her doing what she had to do—leave.

Finding what she hoped was the releasing mechanism, she activated its function. A sharp breath of relief burst from her as the door slid open. She hurried inside, the shuttle bay lights automatically switching on as she crossed the short distance to the sleeping skip.

Harsh white light flooded the bay and she blinked, her eyes reacting to the sudden illumination. Without thought, her body coiled into readiness. Close to two hundred days of Torin’s unrelenting training so much a part of who she was now, she was ready to fight before being aware of it. She dashed around the skip’s pointed bow on silent feet, the scowl on her face feeling strained, the weight on her chest and in her sex feeling numb. Reaching the vessel’s sole hatch, she rested her palm on its locking release.

This was it. Two minutes to power up, thirty seconds to open the shuttle bay doors, two seconds to blast the hell away from Torin Kerridon.

And then what? Keep running? Keep hiding?

Kala closed her eyes, her stomach churning. Yes. Keep running. What other option did she have?

No matter how well you hide, he will find you. He will come after you.

Pressing her forehead to the cold steel hatch, Kala caught her bottom lip with her teeth. Torin would come after her, but not for the reasons she wished he would.

The pulse in her neck thumped hard, and she let out a groaning hiss. She had to go. She had to.

But you’re not. Are you?

Pressing her hand flat against the hatch release, she opened her eyes and stared at the side of the skip.

Are you?

Barely able to draw breath, she straightened away from the skip and turned.

Torin stood directly behind her, his grey eyes haunted, his face carved from stone. “Don’t go.”

She stared at him, her heart slamming into her throat. “Okay.”

His nostrils flared at her simple response and, with the same preternatural strength she’s seen so many times in the training room, he wrapped his arms around her waist and yanked her to his body, his mouth claiming hers with furious savagery.

Raw and rapturous pleasure consumed her. She gave herself to the kiss, raking her hands up his strong, hard arms, the back of his neck, tangling her fingers in the thick softness of his hair. Every molecule in her body sang with joy. She pushed herself closer to his firmness, wanting to feel every inch of him against her. With a low growl and a quick tightening of his embrace, he slid his hands to her arse and hauled her from the floor.

She wrapped her legs around his hips, locked her ankles behind his back and rolled her sex over the length of his trapped erection. The friction sent exquisite ribbons of squeezing heat into her core and she moaned.

Torin reacted to the low sound. His tongue plunged deeper into her mouth, flicked at her teeth. He bit on her bottom lip, sucked the bruise with gentle pressure, his hands cupping her arse, a low, primal groan rumbling in his chest.

Yes yes yes yes!

The inane word repeated itself in Kala’s mind, growing faster, more feverish with each hard caress of Torin’s hands, with every stabbing flick of his tongue in her mouth. She rolled her hips, bowing her back to grind her pussy to his cock. Its massive length punished her soft folds, even through the leather of their trousers, and she reveled in the pleasure. He’d followed her. He wanted her. Not for what he believed her to be, but for what she was—a woman.

His woman.

Yes, his woman. His.

Tearing her mouth from his, she gave him her neck, wanting to feel his lips and teeth scoring the sensitive flesh there. He complied, raining a scalding trail of wild kisses up to the little dip behind her ear, down to the curve of her shoulder and back to her jaw again, sending a ripple of concentrated delight through her.

“By the gods, I should not crave you like this,” he murmured against her cheek, his voice tortured. “This is not what the Old Seer foresaw.”

Who gives a fuck what some old bloke saw? Kala wanted to say, but the words wouldn’t come, asphyxiated by the exquisite pleasure consuming her. She closed her eyes, whimpering as Torin’s lips returned to her ear. He traced the shallow inner shell with the tip of his tongue, the wet caress making her pussy constrict and the pit of her belly twist. She arched her back again, pressing her sex to his rock-hard cock, thrusting her breasts forward. Please, she wanted to beg. Please take me.

As if hearing her unspoken plea, Torin pressed her against the side of the skip and spread his legs enough to support her weight. Staring into her eyes, nostrils flaring, he slid his hands from her arse, raking them over her hips, up her ribcage to the swell of her breasts. “Syunna, forgive me,” he whispered on a hoarse breath, before hooking his fingers beneath the edge of her vest and yanking the snakeskin apart.

Her breasts tumbled free, only to be claimed immediately by his strong hands.

He captured her nipples between his fingers, pinched them with a gentle force that mocked the inferno in his eyes.

“Yes!” Kala moaned, liquid electricity shooting through her core. She bucked, the raw pleasure from Torin’s touch flooding her pussy with tight heat.

“Syunna, Kala, you are beautiful.” He yanked her farther up his body, the sodden junction of her thighs sliding up the flatness of his abdomen until, with a groan both angry and desperate, he closed his lips around one peaked nipple and sucked on it. Hard.

Ribbons of pure ecstasy knotted in her core. She cried out, arching her spine more, holding his head still. Her sex constricted, flooded with moisture. He growled around her nipple and bit down on it with his teeth, his thumb and forefinger treating the puckered tip of her other breast with equal ferocity. Kala gasped, something molten and heavy building between her legs. The soles of her feet tingled. Her heart hammered.

Christ, what was happening?

Torin suckled harder, teasing with tongue and teeth and lips, the rhythm of his mouth in perfect harmony with the increasing flutters in her cunt. She threw back her head, staring with blank wonder and terror at the grey metal ceiling. The tension mounting in her very centre grew tighter. Her sex constricted, pulsing in erratic waves. Each throb made her gasp, as if something beyond her understanding tried to render her defenseless. Unmade. She sucked in a swift breath, the constricting throb radiating through her body. Consuming her. God, what was happening? Oh, God, what was Torin doing to her?

She squirmed in his hold, the squeezing heat building, growing heavier, tighter. She fisted his hair, rolled her eyes, her breath rapid, shallow. The pressure in her centre spread, grew thicker. Came in mounting waves of liquid fire.

Oh…oh…what…what…

Torin tore his left hand from her breast and, with a groan that was more a guttural growl, he plunged it between their bodies, sinking his finger into her folds in one fluid move.

He scissored them inside her sex, wriggled them deeper, his mouth still sucking on her breast, his tongue still lathing her nipple.

“Oh, oh.” Her strangled gasp ripped from her raw throat. She writhed in his arms, blank stare fixed on the bay’s ceiling, her teeth pulling at her bottom lip. Control. She was losing—

“Fuck,” Torin ground against her breast, cupping it with savage fingers. “I want you, Kala. I want you so fucking much I am in agony.” He shoved his hips higher, the thick length of his erection grinding high against her inner thigh a testament to his words. “I want…I want…” His mouth scored a fierce path to her other breast and he took her nipple with his lips and teeth, suckling so hard, shooting tendrils of pain laced through her pleasure.

She whimpered, the pain unlike any she knew—wicked and intoxicating and potent. She wanted to experience it again. She wanted him to stop. To let her catch her breath. To regain control. She wanted to lose control. She wanted…

Torin mauled her breast with his hand and sucked her nipple again, his feral groan vibrating through his chest into the pit of her belly.

Oh…oh…

Her pussy throbbed, heavy with incomprehensible heat.

Oh, God, what is…

Torin drove his fingers deeper, burying them into that heavy, gripping heat. Stroked the inner walls of her sex with unrelenting force.

She bucked against him, the tiny button hidden in her folds grinding against the base knuckle of his fingers. Liquid electricity shot through her. Her pulse pounded in her neck and she whimpered again, closing her eyes. Christ, she felt like she was going to—

Torin’s mouth tore from her breast and, his chest having, he gazed into her eyes. “What have you done to me, Kala? Gods, I’ve never hungered for something as much as I…”

He didn’t finish and she couldn’t blame him. How could she when she was incapable of speech herself? Incapable of understanding what was happening to her, let alone Torin?

Another raw groan rumbled in his chest and he dropped his head to her breast again, closing his lips around her aching nipple and suckling once more.

She arched her back, the brief moment of damned, torturous respite over, her body burning hotter with every drawing sensation Torin’s mouth wrought on her breast. With every plunging thrust of his fingers.

He shifted his hand—barely a fraction—and new pleasure rushed through her as he pressed his fingertips to the inside wall of her sex. Hot pleasure. Wet pleasure.

“Oh, Kala,” he moaned against her breast. “You are so tight. So tight and so fucking wet.” He shoved his fingers higher, deeper into her folds and bit down on her nipple.

Clamping, contracting tension detonated through Kala’s centre. She screamed, the exquisite, terrifying sensation taking possession of every muscle of her body. She thrashed in Torin’s embrace, unable to think, to control herself. Waves of choking pleasure crashed over her, tore through her. She cried out, control deserting her. Each shudder, each contraction of her sex around Torin’s penetrating fingers crashed through her like an exploding star, stealing her ability to exist.

Pleasure claimed her. Terror following instantly. She couldn’t stop it. She couldn’t control it. It felt so good but she was drowning in it, losing control. Losing her.

It’s too much. Too much. Oh, God, it feels so good, so…

The shudders grew faster, stronger, the heavy tension tighter. She rolled her head, unable to comprehend what was happening to her. Her breath grew shorter, her pulse pounding, her body fighting the raw, wild sensations consuming it.

Too much, I can’t, I can’t, stop, stop.

She writhed in Torin’s hold, against his thrusting fingers, the crotch of her trousers sodden with moisture, her sex thick with pulsing pressure. She couldn’t control herself. She couldn’t control her body. She couldn’t…she couldn’t…

Oh, God, it’s too much, it’s too much, I can’t, I can’t, I—

“Can’t, no, no, stop, stop, stop!”

Her cry ripped from her throat, loud and rent with fear.

And Torin stiffened, his head jerking from her breast, his fingers stilling in her sex.

He stared at her, stunned disbelief flooding his face before, with a snarl of absolute disgust, he threw her out of his arms and stormed from the shuttle bay. Without a word or backward glance.

Kala stared at the gaping doorway, her body still claimed by the shudders of her overwhelming pleasure. She slumped against the skip’s metal hull. Its icy surface scalded her flushed flesh, but she didn’t care. She welcomed the physical pain. It was something she understood, something she knew.

Her heart pounded with cruel force, crushed by Torin’s brutal desertion and yet still beating. Still keeping her alive.

He’d left her. Torin had left her. The only man to ever give her pleasure, the only man she ever wanted to do so and he’d walked away from her.

She fell to her knees, her stare locked on the empty shuttle bay door, her breath caught in her throat. God, he’d left her alone. What did she do now?

* * * *

What in the name of Syunna are you doing?

Torin stormed through his ship, barely controlling the urge to smash his fists against the metal walls. He headed for the cockpit, his body so charged with disgusted loathing he felt like someone had stuck a blade into his gut. By the gods, he was a monster.

Torin Kerridon, last command warrior of the Sol Order. Keeper of the Sun Sword’s truth.

Rapist.

He drove his blunt nails into his palms and slammed open the cockpit door, punching a sequence into the navi-comp and dropping into the captain’s chair.

Rapist.

The heinous word rolled through his head like diseased fog, sickening him. He ground his teeth, his gut churning. The one thing he’d sworn to Kala before taking her from Earth, the one thing he’d promised—never to stick his dick between her legs—and he’d come so close to destroying that oath.

He stared out at the never-ending blackness of deep space, Kala’s cries reverberating through his head, an endless loop he couldn’t silence or ignore. He’d thought them cries of pleasure. He’d thought them the sounds of her release. His blood had been roaring in his ears, his own pleasure so absolute at finally being with her the way he’d longed to for so long he’d been deafened to her terror.

Can’t, no, no, stop, stop, stop!

Kala screamed in his head again and he let out a choked sob, dropping his face into his hands.

Syunna, what had he done?

You know what you’ve done. You lost control. Forgot who you are. Forgot who she is. The question is what are you going to do now?

What did he do now?

Leave her alone. Let her have some space.

Let her climb aboard the skip and leave.

He let out a sharp growl, slamming his fist onto the control deck. By the gods, he couldn’t let her do that. He couldn’t let her leave.

Why? Because you haven’t had your fill of her yet?

Contemptuous disgust coated his mouth at the vile question and he shook his head. No. Because she was the One Who Burns. The fate of mankind rested on her tiny body. In her hands, the Sun Sword would end the rise of malevolence destroying the known universes. In her hands, the Immortals’ blade would bring light where there was only dark.

What does that mean? You have spent the entire thirty-four years of your life believing an ambiguous notion told by an old man who claimed to see it in the stars. Every aspect of who you are has been built around a prophecy that makes no gods-cursed sense. What if the whole thing is a lie? What if the Sun Sword doesn’t exist at all? What if—

Torin smashed his fists onto the control deck again, his snarl of furious frustration gouging at his throat. No. He could not believe that. The Sol were older than any other warriors in the known universes. They were the guardians and protectors of the known universes’ one true weapon. They were selected at birth, trained from that moment. They were the most feared and hunted soldiers to live. Men selected by the Oracle for their infinite, violent rage, a furious power controlled and contained by disciplined faith. If the Sun Sword and the prophecy were all a fabrication then what was the meaning of his own existence?

“You, Torin Kerridon, are the last of the Sol now. All your brother warriors have been butchered.” The Old Seer’s voice echoed through his head, a blunt declaration from a decade ago. His jaw bunched and his fists squeezed tighter. “It is your task and your task alone to find and ready the One Who Burns. No one else must do this. If you do not, the False Fire will prevail. If you do not, all will be lost.”

The Old Seer had never questioned the prophecy. No matter how cruel and demanding and ambiguous the words that came to him in his visions, the old man had remained true.

“As you must, Kerridon.”

Opening his eyes, Torin stared out the cockpit viewscreen. If he was to question his belief now, did he do so solely because of his dangerous desire for Kala Rei? He’d never questioned his role in the prophecy before—he’d seen too many predicted events unfold, too many brutal deaths and travesties committed in the name of the Sun Sword. He existed for one thing and one thing only—to see the ultimate weapon in the hands of the ultimate warrior. Did he turn his back on that existence now? In the hands of the False Fire—the one the Old Seer foretold would hunger the sword with murderous intent—the Immortal’s blade was an instrument of death. Did he deny everything he knew and pray the prophecy was nothing but a lie?

Life. Death.

The beginning of the future or the end of existence.

All hanging in the balance because he couldn’t keep his desire for Kala Rei under cursed control.

He dragged his hands through his hair, the dull ache in his knuckles telling him he’d hit the control deck harder than he should. “Good,” he snarled, shifting in his seat as he adjusted the co-ordinates of Helios Blade’s trajectory. Pain was good. He deserved to feel it.

Pushing himself from his chair, he activated the auto-pilot and left the cockpit, heading for the training room.

He needed to feel pain. More pain.

A lot of pain.

* * * *

Zroya strode across the marbled centre court of the Solaris Nuns’ compound on P’Helios Prime, the squirming weight he dragged behind him impeding his speed not one micro-second.

“Let me go, you fuck!” the weight screamed, scratching at his wrist with torn, ragged, blood-seeping fingernails. “Let me go, let me go, let me go!”

“Hush,” he soothed over his shoulder. He tightened his grip on the female’s long dark hair, his gaze never wavering from his master standing motionless on the temple steps.

The prophet’s white eyes were closed, his leathery face slack and reposed.

“Let me go!” the Solaris slut pretending to be the One Who Burns screeched. She thrashed, her broken legs flopping uselessly against the smooth marble floor.

Zroya curled his lip. The False Fire had tried to defend herself against his unexpected attack by kicking him. Kicking him. Striking out at his groin with her feet when he’d wrapped his hands around her neck and squeezed.

He’d punished her for her stupidity, of course, smashing his fist to her nose, shattering both her knees with his heels. The squeals of her pain flooded his groin with hot lust and he’d almost mounted her there and then. But for his master waiting in the temple.

There were preparations to be made before he could subjugate the False Fire. Rituals to perform. After those rituals, however…

A tight spasm shot through Zroya’s cock. “Then we shall have our fun, False Fire.”

“Let me go, you dumb fuck!” the writhing, scratching, thrashing female screeched, clawing at his wrist. “I’m not—”

“Hush,” he said again, snapping his arm forward. “Your language is unacceptable.”

The female screamed, her hands scrambling at his fist in her hair.

“Hush or I shall bite the tongue from your mouth.”

His blunt promise shut her up. “That is better.” Who would have thought a nun would be so troublesome? He chuckled, walking faster, his gaze still locked on his master. Who would have thought the False Fire would be a Solaris Nun? It was an entirely entertaining revelation, however. He’d never fucked a virgin before, let alone one sanctified by the old gods. “Behave yourself and all will be well.”

Sniveling sobs followed his lie, the futile struggles ceasing. He nodded. “Much better.”

He strode the remaining distance to the temple in silence, his body already prepared for what was to come. Once the Sun Sword was his, well…if the female wanted to scream again, he would not stop her.

“Master.” He reached the temple steps and dropped to his knee, dragging the False Fire’s face down to the cold marble floor by his foot. “She refuses to give me the Sun Sword or reveal its location.”

The prophet, the wise one who had found him as a starving child in the sinful streets of Cortallia, selling his body and mouth to depraved men with depraved hands for a scrap of something to eat, lifted his face to the bruised-purple sky. “She refuses because she does not know.”

As always, the stripped-rawness of his master’s voice sent ribbons of bliss through Zroya’s being, despite his unexpected statement. “She does not know?” He turned his head to stare at the female shaking with silent sobs on the floor beside him.

“I told you I—” she began to shriek, bulging eyes streaming blood and tears.

He slammed her face against the marble and she stopped.

“I have seen her.”

His master’s calm statement struck Zroya hard and he jerked his stare up. “Seen?”

The prophet tilted his head to the side, long white hair sliding over his thin shoulder, the stone beads threaded in its strands clattering together in a soft tinkle. “She is on a ship. Within its belly.” He rolled his neck, returning his unseeing eyes to Zroya’s face. “She is…” a small smile played with the corners of his mouth and Zroya barely suppressed his rapturous cringe. When his master smiled, pain ensued. White, cleansing pain. “She is angry.”

Snapping to his feet, Zroya gazed into the prophet’s face. “Where?”

His master’s eyelids fluttered and he stroked the rotting rabbits on his belt, the clotting blood sticking to the tips of his fingers. “Close.”

Hot wire curled into a knot in Zroya’s gut and he stiffened. Close. His balls grew heavy, his fists clenched. He flicked a glance at the thing on the floor at his feet. Close.

A hot hiss sliced the air and he jerked his stare back to his master, stepping back a step at the expression the prophet wore. Fury. And fear. “Master?”

“She is not alone.” His master’s tongue flicked past his lips, his white eyes fixed on the space directly above Zroya’s head. The seams in his leathery face etched deeper, and he hissed again, the sound unlike any Zroya had heard him make. “She is with—” He stopped and spun about, robe swirling, the cloying stench of the rotting rabbits rolling from him in a thick wave as he walked up the temple steps.

Zroya blinked, his master’s behavior surprising him. Did he follow? Did he wait?

“Kill the female,” the prophet’s shout rose above the hiccupping sobs at his ankle. “And bring her heart. There is much to be learned before we find the False Fire.”

Zroya watched his master hurry away, an uncomfortable tension twisting in his belly. Who or what would make his master scared?

“Wh-what are…” the bleeding thing at his feet gurgled and he blinked, turning his stare from his master’s back to the female on the floor.

“What am I going to do with you?” he finished for her with a grin. “Well, now the fun begins.”

For some reason, the bleeding, broken thing began to scream.

* * * *

It wasn’t enough. Torin’s sweat stung his eyes like acid, his body ached with fatigue, every sinew, every muscle worked beyond their physical limit and still it wasn’t enough.

He stood in the centre of the training room, head bowed, perspiration dripping from his chin, the tip of his nose, turning the mat at his feet a dark metallic stain of old blood.

He didn’t know what to do next. For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do. Go to Kala? Beg her forgiveness? Leave her alone? Hand her a gutting blade and tell her to sink it into his stomach?

He closed his eyes, the pain in his body was nothing compared to the torture in his soul. He didn’t know. He just didn’t—

The soft hiss of the entryway door behind him made him freeze.

Silence followed the mechanical sound, nothing audible indicating Kala had entered the training area. But he knew she had. Not just because the room’s still, artificial air shifted about him, not just because the almost imperceptible vibrations from her feather-light footfalls rippled up though his legs, but because he was more aware of her than he had any right being.

He didn’t move. If she’d come to kill him…

Silence stretched. Grew thicker. Suffocating.

Look at her.

He lifted his head and turned, the knot in his gut twisting tenfold, the icy energy in his muscles at breaking point.

Kala stood but a mere stride behind him, her face composed, her eyes unreadable. In her hand, gripped loosely by slender fingers marred with calluses from countless training sessions, hung the long blade he’d given her in preparation for the Sun Sword, its cold silver length parallel with her right thigh, its pointed tip brushing the bone of her ankle.

He studied her, every molecule in his body straining for her touch, her heat, every atom of his soul despising that craven response. After everything he’d done to her, everything… “Why are you here?” he asked, his voice flat. Unwelcoming.

Kala didn’t move. Her expression didn’t change. But the knuckles of her right hand, the hand gripping her sword, grew white.

Torin’s chest tightened, his body preparing for her attack.

And what, Kerridon? Kill or be killed?

He gritted his teeth, staring at her.

The One Who Burns will be your undoing. And your end.

Was this the end of which the Old Seer spoke? He had trained her well. She was an instrument of death, a natural warrior in the deceptive guise of a young, vulnerable woman. With hate in her soul, powering her blows and strikes, he doubted the fight would last long. He would be dead before the sweat beaded on her forehead.

Syunna, I welcome it.

“Why are you here?” he repeated, a sense of calm acceptance flowing over him.

“To train.”

Her answer, spoken on a steady breath, filled his heart with elation. And dread.

She was letting him live.

By the gods, how was he to survive?

~

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