Shades of Allegiance Bonus Epilogue
Ash leaned back against the sofa, propped her feet on the low table, and watched Katie Monick pace the waiting room.
If she hadn’t spent the night and most of the morning in Rykus’s bed, Ash might be tense too. They were in the medical facility with the damn white walls, and one room over, the doctors had enclosed Arek into a psyche-mask.
They were trying to unlock him, to make him like her. Because Ash hadn’t been able to. That’s why Katie was pacing. It was very undoctor-like.
“He’ll be fine,” Ash said. “It’s only been a few hours. I’ve been locked in that thing for days and I turned out just fine.”
Beside her, Rykus snorted.
Ash refrained from elbowing him in the ribs. The past few days, every little aggression turned into something else, and straddling Rip now would be inappropriate. Probably.
“I’m not worried,” Katie said. “I’m impatient. This needs to work.”
Ash hoped it would work. Minister Prime Tersa and other top Coalition administrators had been dragging her from one meeting to another, asking her to scan the rooms to make sure there weren’t any telepaths present. She worked long hours, and it was exhausting to sit there and listen to the politicians discuss preserving and protecting the Coalition. Technically, they allowed Ash enough time to sleep, but that wasn’t actually happening much.
She leaned closer to Rykus and breathed in the scent of his aftershave. Sitting in the waiting room was exhausting. There was a much better way to pass the time.
Rykus shifted his focus from his comm-cuff to her. His mouth curved up. His eyes said soon.
Katie dropped into a chair across from them, and he returned his attention to his cuff.
Ash needed a distraction, so she swept her thoughts through the room next door like she’d done dozens of times before. This time it caught on something.
Had she felt him? She didn’t know how to do this. She’d communicated with War Chancellor Hagan before he’d been murdered, shot by a telepath or drone embedded into the forces sent to capture her on Ephron. His mind had been manipulated for several years though. Maybe the psyche-mask couldn’t open the same neural pathways.
Katie’s leg started jumping. That was definitely more than impatience. She was like an anomaly who’d just injected a booster and didn’t have an outlet for the hit of adrenaline.
Ash cocked her head. “Have you two sle—”
Katie’s gaze snapped to hers. “Of course not!”
“So that’s why you’re so uptight.”
“Ash,” Rykus warned.
“It’s sexual frustration.”
He shook his head.
“I’m not wrong.”
He looked toward the ceiling.
“Really. How can you not see it?”
He fastened his cuff around his wrist. “Too focused on you, I guess.” He pulled her close, kissed her, then stood. “I’ll check on him.”
Ash watched him walk away. When he exited, she turned her attention back to the room next door.
If you’re going to let this thing work, she thought at him, it needs to be now. Katie is about to break down doors. Are you two fucking?
No, came an emphatic response.
Ash smiled. But you want to be. I can see it in your mind.
Joking, Ash said. Just joking. Your brain is one big blank. Hope they didn’t screw you up.
Get out of my head, Ashdyn.
Katie’s gaze tracked her when she stood. “He’s conscious. Or a part of him is.”
Katie shot to her feet. She reached the door before Ash did and hooked left. Rykus stood beside the observation window one room over, talking to a doctor. Both men turned when Katie reached for the door handle.
“Hey,” the doctor said, trying to stop her.
“She’s talking to him.” Katie pushed into the room. “It’s done. Take it off.”
The doctor scrambled after her, leaving Ash alone in the corridor with Rykus. She stood beside him and looked through the window. Katie switched off the pysch-mask and unclasped the locking mechanisms. Ash could almost feel the electrodes retracting when she lifted it off Arek’s head.
Rykus put his arm around her.
Arek’s body jerked. Squinting eyes darted around the room until Katie lowered the light. His gaze locked on her, and he relaxed.
“We should give them some privacy,” Ash said.
“She’s not involved with him.” He did a horrible job of hiding the doubt in his voice.
Ash just smirked and watched Arek track Katie’s movements. She checked his vitals, then shined a light in his eyes. He grabbed it out of her hand and tossed it aside.
“He’s okay?” Rip asked.
She shrugged. “He’s Arek.”
“You’re communicating with him?”
You should kiss her.
Arek’s gaze darted toward the window. He glared.
“Yep,” Ash said. “We’re communicating.”
Rykus tightened his arm around her, then kissed her cheek. “I have a message I need to check. Try not to antagonize him too much.”
He walked a few paces down the hall.
Another doctor and an attendant entered Arek’s room.
It’s getting crowded in there. Want me to create a distraction so you can escape? Feel free to abduct Dr. Monick on your way out.
He kept his attention on Katie. You talk too much.
You don’t talk enough.
One of the doctors pressed a cube to the crook of Arek’s arm. He shoved the other man away before he could initiate the blood draw.
“Get out,” Arek barked.
The doctors protested. Well, most of the doctors did. Katie started shoving people toward the door.
Ash smiled. She liked Katie. The woman didn’t let people push her around.
She emptied the room. One of the doctors stopped just outside the door and looked at Ash. She recognized him. He’d been one of the faces she’d seen when she was loyalty trained. She didn’t know which time, but he looked like he wanted to hook her up to the scanners.
“Keep moving,” she said.
“But we need to see…”
She faced him and squared her shoulders.
He shifted beneath her icy glare. “Maybe later.”
He scrambled off, rushing past Rykus, who slowly walked toward her, comm-cuff squeezed in his hand.
Ash’s heart rate kicked up. “What’s wrong?”
His jaw clenched. “It’s a message from my father. He and my mom and brother are okay.”
The person he didn’t list hung in the air. Ash had met his family when Minister Prime Tersa insisted on stopping at Javery. The general and Rykus’s brother, a politician, had hated her because she was an anomaly. She’d chased a telepath from their home, and they’d responded by putting her in detainment. She might still be imprisoned there if Rykus’s sister hadn’t broken her out of her cell in exchange for a favor Ash hadn’t yet repaid.
“Taya is missing,” Rykus said.
Missing, not dead.
The fist of guilt wedged behind Ash’s sternum loosened some. Her impression of Taya was that she was resourceful, but impulsive. She’d had a plan to infiltrate a warehouse so that she could steal medications rogue Sariceans needed to survive away from their home planet.
Ash hadn’t told Rykus Taya’s plan. She hadn’t even told him how she’d escaped her cell.
She drew in a breath and braced herself. He wasn’t going to like this.
“Rip, I need to talk to you about your sister’s extracurricular activities.”