Read Gladiator Online

Authors: Kate Lynd

Tags: #Post Apocalyptic Erotic Romance

Gladiator (9 page)

“My wife is insisting on helping me find my other children. And she wants to bring along our newborns. Isaiah here and Lucilla have agreed to come along as protection.”

“This is not part of the Seymour Empire. You are free to come and go as you please.”

“I wasn’t asking for that.”

“No, I don’t suppose a man like you would. Him,” he said pointing to Isaiah, “maybe, but not you. I suppose you’re wanting something.”

Tristan flashed an easy smile and said, “Transportation and weapons would be nice.”

The marine sized him up. “It’s easy to see why the Crown favored you. And why the Healer believes in you the way that she does. But I can’t spare those things. You can leave with what you brought in with you. But we’re fighting a war here. We need every last bullet.”

“My wife keeps telling me that she has to die in order for the planet and its people to be saved.”

“I know you don’t want to believe it. But you’ve felt her power. You know it’s true. You just refuse to accept it.” The pain and stress of protecting Alexandra and their children from the hands of men who would see them dead finally got to him. He grabbed the Marine by the throat and hurled him to the ground and pinned him there.

“Now you listen to me. I am not going to lose my family all over again. And if you, or any of your rebels, are directly or indirectly responsible for a hair on their head being harmed, you’d better be ready for hell. On second thoughts, I assure you I can make hell look like a picnic in comparison to what you’ll go through.”

Isaiah yanked Tristan off of the Marine. The Marine stood up and rubbed his neck gingerly.

“Everyone here has lost someone. Everyone. Don’t begin to think you’re the only one,” the Marine spat. “I lost my husband. He’s a favored Gladiator out west. What do you think that does to me?”

Tristan lunged at him again, only to be restrained by Isaiah. “They raped my wife and murdered her as I was forced to look on. Unable to do anything but look on. Do you understand what it feels like to hear your wife crying and screaming and begging for mercy? And when they were finished with her they sliced her throat and left her for dead like she was so much trash. I will not lose Alex the way I lost Hope. You’re either going to help me of your own free will—or I’ll make you do it...”

By this time, the rebels had formed a circle around the men. The Marine said nothing. Murmurs rumbled through the crowd when Alexandra and Lucilla, holding the babies, made their way through the crowd.

Alex looked at Tristan lovingly and took him in her arms. He held onto her and their child. She kissed his forehead and said, “It’s going to be okay. I’m here now. No one can hurt you.”

“I’m sorry, Miss, but I can’t provide you with a car or armaments.”

“It’s Mrs. Shane, please. And if you can’t give us a car then we’ll take a tank, some helmets and flap jackets and automatic service pistols.”

“You’re crazy.”

“I’m the only hope you ever have of breaking free of my sister and my father’s rule. So, we’ll take those things now.”

“I know everyone here thinks you’re the world’s only hope but the thought of sacrificing my life for yours feels like bullshit.”

“Lucilla,” she said, slipping out of the papoose.

“I’ll take her,” Isaiah said.

“Alex, don’t—” Tristan said, reaching out to pull her away.

She walked up to the Marine and said, “Give me your switchblade.”

“Are you nuts?” he asked.

“It seems you need a little convincing.”

“He’s not worth it Alex,” Tristan said harshly, grasping her elbow and pulling her back.

“Maybe not,” she said, touching her cheek to his and caressing the other side of his face with her fingertips. “But you are.”

The Marine smirked. “Here, take my best knife. Impress me.”

She got down on one knee and looked up at him and said coldly, “This isn’t for you.” She held her palm out and started to chant.

The Marine laughed. “Is this what you wanted my knife for? Look men she’s casting a spell.”

With a quick flick of the wrist she sliced her hand open and made it bleed. Strong gusts of wind began to kick up and swirl around. She continued to chant and slammed her hand to the ground and her hair blew back from her face and her eyes glowed a bright golden amber color. She continued to chant—and it began to rain. The thatches of dead grass began to bloom, green and thick. She threw her head back and cried out the chants until she shook so violently tears of blood ran down her face.

Tristan had to stop her. Unless he did, her ritual would kill her. And he couldn’t allow that. But as he went to move her eyes rolled, and she folded limply to the ground.

The wind died. The rain stopped. And he dropped to his knees at her side and cradled her head in his hands. The sky, for the first time in ten years, was clear and filled with stars. But instead of feeling the amazement and joy that came with the Earth’s rebirth he was mired in rage and grief.

“Oh my God,” the Marine stammered, “I’m so sorry. I should’ve been…”

Tristan lifted her up and pressed her gored hand to his chest, and whispered in their private language. And as his chest began to glow so did her hand. He kissed her mouth and they levitated off the ground, their bodies illuminated. Suddenly she came to and began to kiss him back. Their mouths parted and they lowered to the ground. She rested her head to his shoulder and held onto him.

He picked up the knife and slipped it into his pocket, and looked up at the Marine. “We’ll take that tank now.”

“Men, take them to the hangar. Get them whatever they want, and provide them with as much food and munitions as it will hold.” Turning to Tristan and Alex he said, “Accept my apologies.”

Tristan weighed his next words carefully and said, “There will be a time when she needs everyone. She says it will be in D.C. again. When you are called, I expect you to be there.” He got to his feet and gave Isaiah and Lucilla a quick glance. Hope and Daniel seemed fine. “Let’s roll.”

That was not something Tristan wanted to ever witness again. Bringing her back, the next time, might prove more difficult. Or perhaps…what he dreaded most of all…impossible.

 

Chapter Nine

 

Fitting four adults and two babies into a tank in the dead of winter might have seemed like an impossible job, had it not been for the new-found generosity of the Rebels. They donated one of their larger reconfigured tanks. It still wasn’t comfortable but it would have to do. With Alexandra having no privacy to nurse the children, she was forced to use a modesty blanket. He remembered a time when he’d been an ass to Hope just because she wanted to nurse at home in front of him and nowhere else. Alexandra looked up at him as he gave Isaiah the control and she handed him his just-fed daughter to him for burping.

As she re-arranged the blanket and prepared to feed Daniel, she touched his arm and said, “She accepted you as you were Tristan. You were her hero in the end. She knew you were fighting to get to her.”

He gazed down at their daughter and kissed her forehead. “What would I do without you?” he asked, smiling.

“You would have led the rebellion without me.”

“I am no one’s leader.”

“Just as you’re no one’s Protector?”

He scooted closer to her and enjoyed their moment together as a family. “I can’t wait until all of this is behind us and the queen and the prophecy are just distant memories.”

“No matter what happens, the queen and the prophecy will be facts that irreparably changed my life. They brought me to you. And as hideous and powerful as both are, we can beat them.”

“I saw what you did back there. I know what the implications are. But you don’t have to walk willingly into that light.”

“I want to believe that, Tristan. I don’t want to die. Not now that I’ve found you. And not now that we have Hope and Daniel. But people depend on me. People like Isaiah, who risked everything because he knew I was who I said I was. And Lucilla, who made the decision to stay with us rather than be with Damien.”

“And me? Do I not get a say in your fate?” he asked tenderly.

She smiled and cradled his cheek. “You’ve risked most of all. You had every reason just to do as the queen said. You were living like a rock star. And you chose to give it up to protect me. I suppose you’re depending on me too now, for a myriad of reasons I never thought about.”

He kissed her wrist and said, “Just don’t wear your death wish badge so obviously, hmm?”

She leaned her temple to his shoulder and said, “For you, I would do anything.”

Lucilla looked at them, and reminisced wistfully, “I remember when Damien was like him. This war. The fighting. It just changed him. I kept thinking he could get past it—until he tried to kill you the way that he did.”

“I’m sorry I went at him like that. I just…I don’t know what hit me…I was under a lot of stress.”

“We all are,” Alex said. “You still love him, don’t you?”

“I love the man I married. Not the one who called me whore every night, once away from everyone’s earshot.”

“You are not one,” Alex said.

“Gladiators aren’t angels.”

“How could you be?” Alex said tenderly. “Forced into slavery and treated like animals…it can bring out the uglier side of a person. My sister and father got their kicks off it. And I’m sorry they made you their victims.”

“Well, you’ve already gone a long way in righting their wrongs,” Tristan said, cradling her and their twins close.

Lucilla turned away, disconsolate.

“It’s not enough, Tristan,” Alex murmured.

He knew what she was contemplating. But he didn’t want her to do it. Each time she healed someone, it was harder and harder to bring her back from the brink. Yet he knew if she made up her mind to do something she would do it—whether he liked it or not. Especially if she saw someone suffering and decided to help them. And as much as he feared losing her to it, he knew her power to soothe and heal was what had drawn him to her in the first place.

“Lucilla, would you take a look and see if we’re being followed?” Tristan asked.

She positioned herself and looked through the telescope. “Coast is clear. In fact there’s a wooded area ahead where we could camp out for the night.”

“Isaiah, hide us well. I think my wife has something in mind and I’m not going to be able to talk her out of it.”

“You understand, don’t you, that I have no choice?”

“I understand no such thing. All I can do is what I promised. Which is to protect your life with mine. This goes against that very instinct.”

“What is she talking about?” Lucilla asked as she lowered the scope and prepared to open the hatch.

“She’s going to heal you.”

Lucilla looked stunned. “I can’t accept that. Not in view of what happened just a week ago. I’ve watched Tristan fight to bring you back and after what Damien did… I can’t accept the offer.”

The tank came to a stop and Tristan opened the hatch. “I’m afraid you have no more say in this than I do. Alex will do what she feels she has to.”

Tristan looked at a pensive Isaiah and said, “Help them out. Make sure the children are safe. I’ll start building the shelters and gathering firewood.”

With that he hoisted himself out of the tank. Suddenly he felt a jolt of energy surge through him. He looked to his left and saw they were near water. He thought of the hot soapy baths with Alex at the rebel base and felt hot and sticky all over.

The wood was gathered quickly and soon the first makeshift shelter was up. He started fashioning a cradle where his children could sleep. His aching muscles screamed for respite. Tristan was chasing daylight. He and Isaiah worked at double time to get the second shelter up.

“Isaiah…”

The young guard was almost young enough to be his son. “Yes, sir?”

“I’m going to need you to take care of the twins and Lucilla tonight.”

“Anything, for you.”

“I mean it, Isaiah. If anything happens to my kids, I’m going to hold you personally responsible.”

“I was there when those kids were born. They may not be mine, but I consider you all my family.”

“And Lucilla?”

“You know how I feel about her. But she’s been so damaged I wonder if it’s such a good idea for Alex to even try doing what you said she was going to do.”

“I’m a husband. Not a slave-driver. But if it were up to me I would take her away from all of this and just shield her and our children from what’s left of this godforsaken planet.”

“Then why don’t you?”

He looked at the way Alex was soothing their son to put down next to their already sleeping daughter, and then looked back at the guard. “It’s not up to me. Now go get my children and secure them in your quarters for the night.”

Tristan felt a jolt of energy surge through him again. When he felt Alex’s forehead and hands at his back, he cleared his throat. Then the nature of their connection was practically electric. Her proximity was enough to arouse him sexually.

“I need you with me on this tonight. I know you’re scared but only you have the power and strength to bring me back from something like this.”

He turned around to face her, wrapping his arm around her waist and cradling the back of her head with his other hand he pressed his lips to her crown. “She shouldn’t be queen you know. Your father shouldn’t be king either. How’d it ever come down to a young woman like you saving the world? You should be in college. Not a mother on the run, trying to save every damaged soul you meet.”

She looked up at him and said, “It’s who I am. It’s what I do. It is my mission, my destiny. It’s the only way I can make up for not protecting my brother from our family.”

“I hardly think your brother would want you to sacrifice your life for a world that clearly doesn’t deserve it.”

“Of course the world doesn’t. But there a lot of people who do.”

“Like Lucilla.”

“Yeah,” she said sweetly, “like Lucilla. She saved my life when Damien was determined to destroy it. I owe her a healed heart. So she can at least see the man who would more than gladly take Damien’s place, and love her the way you love me.”

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