Without her, he appeared to have had no problem getting through them all.
But what concerned her were the bloody footprints that were so large, they could only belong to one being. And there was a lot of blood.
Terrified for Dancer, she followed the footsteps, taking care to pay attention so that no one came up behind her. By the time she reached the bay, she was afraid of what she might find.
“Shoot him, Uncle Hauk! Blow his minsid head off!”
Sumi stayed in the shadows as she saw Thia being held by the man who had told Dancer to surrender. Her young face was battered and her lips bleeding. As her old memories surged, Sumi wanted blood. How dare they harm a girl Thia’s age!
His hand perfectly steady, in spite of the blood on him, Dancer eyeballed the man. Dancer’s lips and face were swollen and bleeding. “Kill her and you know what happens next. They’ll be scooping your brains up with a ladle for weeks.”
Darice was tied and gagged while Bastien lay in a heap near Dancer. He appeared dead.
Sumi turned her attention back to Thia and realized the man had target fixation as he watched Dancer. He had no idea that she was here.
Moving silently, she positioned herself so that she had a clear shot to the assassin’s head.
Thia’s gaze slid to her, but she gave no outward clue to the men that she saw her. All the fear faded from her eyes as she knew instantly what Sumi was about to do.
With a single nod, Sumi held up three fingers to let the girl know when to expect the shot. When she got to her fist, Thia picked her feet up and dropped straight to the ground at the same time Sumi fired.
The man staggered back and Dancer unloaded on him. No one moved until he stopped shooting. Only then did Thia look up with tears in her eyes as Dancer ran to her.
Sumi went to Darice, who didn’t move at all. He was completely frozen. “Darice? Are you in shock?”
He blinked slowly as he scanned the room full of bodies and then looked to his uncle. It appeared he couldn’t comprehend what Dancer had done. He frowned at Sumi. “But he works in IT.”
She laughed at Darice’s confusion. “He doesn’t work IT, sweetie.” Ruffling his hair, she cut Darice loose and went to check on Bastien.
“Is he alive?” Dancer asked.
She glanced over her shoulder to see Dancer with Thia in his arms. “Yeah, but they beat him terribly.”
Thia looked up at Dancer. “He refused to tell them anything about you or the base.”
“Damn right,” Bastien breathed, then groaned as he rolled himself over. Hissing, he grimaced. “Bastards hit like kindergarten girls. I think one of them even pulled my hair and said I had cooties.”
Snorting, Dancer set Thia down beside her and Bastien. “I’m going to call for an evac.” He placed every one of his weapons down beside them, except for his two prized Andarion blasters. He changed out their cartridges before he tucked them into his holsters. “Anything moves, shoot it with extreme prejudice.”
Sumi dropped her gaze to his side and leg where he was bleeding profusely. “We need to tend those.”
“Call first. I’ll be back in a few.”
“You’re a stubborn beast, Dancer Hauk!” she called as he made his way to the door.
He turned back to grin at her. “You forgot to add sexy to that list.”
“Nah, that might go to your big fat head!”
Laughing, he vanished into the hallway.
Darice still looked shell-shocked. “How did he move like that?”
Thia rolled her eyes. “Uncle Hauk is a war hero, Darice. One of the best of his breed.”
Still lying on his back, Bastien turned his head toward Thia. “He’s Akuma, isn’t he?”
Thia gave him a blank stare. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, you do. But that’s all right. He told me he was Sentella. Only one being I’ve heard of who’s almost seven feet tall and fights like that. Damn.” He laughed bitterly. “And here I offered to help him.” His maniacal laughter ended with a sharp groan.
Sumi moved to help him with his wounds as best she could. “Thank you, by the way.”
Bastien scowled at her. “For what? Getting my ass kicked or bleeding on the floor?”
“Keeping them safe.”
Bastien quirked his lips. “It’s good to play hero again. Forgot how much I missed it.” Sucking his breath in sharply as she touched the cut on his forehead, he growled at her. “Then again, this shit sucks! Gah, what was I thinking?”
But she could tell by the gleam in his eyes that much like Dancer, Bastien lived for the fight, too.
Hauk sighed at the sorry condition of the subspace equipment. It appeared to have been idle since Aksel died. The dust and extreme weather conditions had done a number on it.
But within a few minutes, he had it mostly working.
At least he hoped he did.
Flipping it on, he set the coordinates for Nykyrian’s link and pressed the record. “Hey, drey. I’m calling to let you know that we’re fine, but taking heavy fire. I have a tracker in my back and am about to head out alone to keep my pursuers away from the kids.” He paused to grimace as pain racked him. “I’m sending them to Canyon Point. Fain will know where that is. Be aware, we’ve picked up two others with us. A woman named Sumi and a man Fain knows. Bastien Cabarro. Don’t shoot the friendlies, especially the woman. It’ll piss me off, if you do. We will keep Thia safe, but I need…” He hissed again as he fought down the pain. “I need you guys. Don’t drag your asses.”
His breathing ragged, he sent the message and got up to rejoin the others. He shivered from the agony of his wounds, and blood loss. But he refused to go down. They needed him and he wasn’t about to let them get hurt.
His entire body protesting, he limped back toward the bay. It’d take a couple of hours for that transmission to reach Nyk. A couple more for everyone to scramble. Half a day to get here.
In the meantime, he had a few more things to take care of.
Pacing the room, Sumi chewed her nail, debating whether or not she should go after Dancer to make sure he was all right. She was just about to leave and check on him when the door opened.
By the slowness of his movements, she could tell he was in a lot of pain. With a smile, he touched her chin then looked to Bastien. “Bas? Anything in this place you need?”
“Not really. Why?”
“We need to get going. Boldorians are pack bastards. In case they put out a beacon during this last round, I think it best we vacate.”
Bastien stood then fell back down. “Well, ain’t this a bitch? Could have sworn I was further from the floor than this a second ago.”
Dancer snorted. He held his hand out and pulled Bastien to his feet. They both grimaced in unison. He stepped away from Bastien. “Darice, help the man.”
To her shock, Darice did so without complaint. He offered Bastien his shoulder and together, they headed for the door.
Dancer paused to check on Thia. “You okay, kisa?”
Her arms folded over her chest, she had a strange look in her eyes as she swept her gaze around the building. “Do you know where my mother died?”
Dancer winced at her question. “Don’t, baby.”
Tears welled in her eyes as she glanced up at him. “Kiara won’t ever talk about it. My father, either. I just want to know if she suffered much.”
Pulling her into his arms, Dancer cradled her head with his hand. “No, baby, she didn’t.” He hated to lie to her, but the truth would serve no purpose other than to make her feel worse. He placed a kiss to her forehead. “Aksel owns enough of your soul. Don’t let him take any more from you. He’s not worth one molecule of your tears.”
She hugged him then. “Thank you. For everything.”
He nodded. “Love you, Thee.”
“You, too.” She kissed his cheek before she followed after Darice and Bastien.
Sumi moved to help Dancer. “You look like you’re about to fall over.”
Draping his arm over her shoulders, he gave a light squeeze as they walked toward the door. “I’m fine.”
She didn’t believe it for a minute. “Your eyes are still as red as they can be.”
He said nothing as they left the building. The kids and Bastien were at the airbees. There were four of them, but only three had enough fuel in them to go very far. And that was only after Bastien siphoned the tank on one of them to add to it.
Dancer handed Bastien a bag of additional weapons. “Did you get your things?”
“Good.” Dancer pulled out a small handheld control then pressed it. An instant later, the entire building blew apart.
Bastien gaped indignantly. “My p**n ! You Andarion bastard! You didn’t tell me you were going to blow my shit up.”
Dancer cut a dry stare toward him. “Be glad I let you get out first.”
Sighing, Bastien rolled his eyes. “You are Fain’s brother. Just like him… bastard. All right, so what are we doing?”
“I’m taking the four of you to the Point then coming back for Illyse. I’ll be on the move until the others get here.” He handed Bastien one of the trackers that was set to his TD. “Give this to Thia’s father and they’ll find me.”
Sumi moved to stand in front of him. “I’m not leaving you. You’re wounded.”
“Let’s argue about this later. We need to get out of here in case some of the Boldorians are around to see the explosion.”
She wanted to argue, but knew he was right.
Sumi took the first airbee. Thia climbed on the back of hers. Bastien pulled himself on another and Hauk took the third. Darice went to sit behind his uncle. When he wrapped his arms around Dancer’s waist, she noted the softening of Dancer’s features. He patted Darice’s arms then took off.
They followed him to a small oasis at the base of Mount Grenalyn. In spite of the desert climate, it was strangely lush and green, with a rapid stream that ran through it.
Dancer parked and helped Darice off as they joined him.
When he started to leave them, Sumi caught his arm and held him in place. “You are hurt and bleeding. If you think for one second that I’m going to stand here and watch you leave without those wounds being tended, you’re… even more insane than I think you are. And I will follow you.”
Laying his hand against her cheek, he stroked her chin with his thumb. “I refuse to endanger you.”
“You know, Dancer. Heroic is one thing. Moronic is quite another.” She turned his airbee off. “Now get your ass over there, soldier, and sit!” She pointed to where Thia was unpacking their things. “And let me see how bad you’re hurt. Then we’ll revisit this whole death quest you seem to have.”
He shook his head at her. “You are so bossy. I’d eat anyone else who talked to me like this.”
“Promises, promises. Now move!”
Hauk wanted to argue, but honestly, he couldn’t muster the energy or drive. So he obeyed her orders, even though it wasn’t in his nature to do such. Sighing, he slung his leg over the airbee and allowed her to lead him to a softer area near the water.
In the back of his mind, he knew Darice was watching and making mental notes for Dariana. Yet he no longer cared. Darice already thought him the lowest of the low. He’d tried over the years to salvage his nephew’s opinion of him, and it was time to realize that he couldn’t. Darice would think what he would. There was nothing Hauk could do about it.
Lying down, he stared up at the side of the mountain where he’d once dangled helplessly and almost fallen to his death. Come to think of it, Keris had landed just a few feet from where he currently lay.
But he didn’t want to think about the past. It was too brutal a place to dwell.
Sumi sat down next to him and opened his shirt. She gasped at the sight of the wound across his ribs that stung like Tondarion fire scorpions. “Dancer!”
He didn’t speak as she cleaned it and continued fussing at him over it. Sick as it sounded, he enjoyed her anger over his injuries. Rather he dragged his knuckle along her jaw and watched her with hooded eyes. She was so incredibly beautiful and even more so while wearing the painted pattern of his family on her face.
All he wanted was to go back to this morning and make love to her again. To taste her lips and nibble every inch of her body.
Strange, he knew he was in pain, but with her so close, he didn’t care. The only thing that mattered to him was keeping her safe and protected. Making sure that no one ever hurt her.
His gaze fell to her arm and again, he felt the adrenaline surge that begged him to go back and slap the corpses of every assassin who had endangered her life.
Taking her hand, he kissed her knuckles.
Sumi tried not to let his actions soften her. But it was too late. Especially while he looked at her with that adoring expression.
It made her ache to kiss him.