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The Mysterious Metamorphosing Page 320


Portrait of Khyel & Nikki Copyright &copy1995 JS



PAGE 320

"Turn a bit,'' Nikki said.

Embarrassment came on the heels of sluggish understanding. "Rings, boy, you don't have to---''

"Not the first time, brother.'' A gentle shove pushed him half over, pillows wedged at his back kept him there as a weight depressed the mattress behind him. "Almost had you yesterday, but you faded on me again.''

And then the brush was chasing the lizards out.

He sighed and relaxed his nose into the pillow, managing to work an arm around to support his body in its ludicrous position, a position no amount of ridicule, regardless how public, could convince him to change at that moment.

He let himself drift with the rhythmic strokes, the meaning of life reduced to such stimulation, and was nearing catatonia when:

"Rings,'' he muttered to the pillow. "The Council meeting. Gareg's bogs. I promised him, and if we don't get something underway---''

"Relax. The Council knows. The meetings have been postponed. I sent a message to Gari.'' A hand stroked his temple, smoothing the hair back with a gentle, fingertip massage. Tension abated. "Do me a favor?''

"For this,'' he answered on a pillowed sigh, "anything.''

Another stroke of the brush, another touch of fingertips. "Next time---say something, will you?''

"Next time, I'll have the sense to order the coach, and let you stay home where you belong. I should never have asked you out in such weather.''

The strokes stopped.

"That's not---'' Nikki's voice caught on what sounded disturbingly like a sob, broke on a heartfelt curse. Something hard bounced off the wainscotting and thudded to the floor.

Pillows meant to support became a trap, a barrier keeping him from seeing Nikki and the origin of that sound. A surge of urgency gave him strength and he thrust himself about, tumbling the obstructing pillows to the floor, and the sight of Nikki's exhaustion, plain now he opened his eyes to see, drove the sunlight from the room.

"Nikki, what's wrong?''

Tense. Stricken. Angry. That tired young face reflected every emotion roused in the young mind's search for explanation.

Copyright 1995 by Jane S Fancher
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