Текст книги

Lindsay Cummings
Zenith


Andi sighed and stepped forward, ready to pummel the answer out of the woman. But Dex lifted an arm.

“I’ll take your knowledge, and a pint of Griss.” He tossed the woman a golden Krev. “And while you’re at it, add on a double stack for my lady friend. She could use it.”

Andi scowled at him from the shadows of her hood.

The waitress smiled, tucking the Krev into the space between her breasts. She flicked her head toward a dark corner at the back of the room. “You’re looking for Soyina. She’s over there. Though I should warn you...she doesn’t like to be bothered. When you’re done with your business, feel free to come back. I’ll buy you a drink when my shift’s over.” With a wink, she went back to take orders from her other customers.

“There are other ways to get information, you know,” Andi said as Dex turned back to look at her.

He threw his head back and laughed so hard, she got a glimpse of a chipped tooth in the back of his mouth. Andi was pleased to see it. She’d broken it with her elbow long ago, and it was worth the tiny scar she still had as a trophy. That was the day she’d completely disarmed him during training for the first time. The day that led to their first kiss, which led to more kisses, and a night spent...

“Why are you laughing?” Andi growled.

Dex held out a hand for her to pass by, feigning courtesy she knew he didn’t possess. “There’s one thing you never did learn from me, Androma.”

“Loyalty?” Andi asked. “How to keep my mouth shut?”

“No.” Dex patted her on the cheek, then sidestepped her swing at his face. “How to have fun.”

With a laugh, he shot past her and headed toward the dark corner of the room, where their shadowed informant sat waiting.

* * *

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite small-balled bastard.”

“Dearest Soyina,” Dex said as he pulled up a chair across from the woman and slid into it backward, arms folded over the top. “How I’ve missed your heartfelt compliments.”

The last time he’d seen Soyina, they’d shared three bottles of Griss and locked themselves in the bathroom of a wealthy Tenebran’s mansion until morning.

The night had been glorious, but when he’d woken the next day, his Krevs were missing, and his pants along with them. He was tied to the golden toilet pipes, all his glory out for the poor servants to see.

Oh, what a lover she’d been. A little off course, but wasn’t everyone in Mirabel? Dex had never been one to choose his companions with care. His past with Andi was proof of that. Of course, he’d done plenty of wrong. More than he’d been able to stomach. He’d hated himself for it, and still did. If she would just talk to him, listen to his side of the story...

Focus, Dextro, he told himself.

He smiled now as he drank Soyina in.

She sat lazily across from him, her legs casually propped up against the table. Bloodstains—of that Dex was sure—marred her worn boots, equally as menacing as the smile on her rouged lips. Her hair was braided back from her face to reveal her lovely eyes. One brown, like Dex’s, the other a pale, ghostly white to match the lost souls of the prisoners she’d brutally tortured and killed on Lunamere. Writhing migratory tattoos swam across her skin, the patterns twisting and turning as they chose new locations on her body at random.

“You’re a brave woman, agreeing to meet me like this, Soyina,” Dex said now. “The last time I saw you...”

Laughter bubbled from her painted lips. “All fun and games, Dex.” She stared him down for a moment with those unsettling eyes. Then she downed her drink and turned to look at Andi. “You, little miss starlight,” she said, eyeing the tips of Andi’s white and purple braids, hanging from beneath her hood. “You, I have heard stories about. Let me get a look at that pretty little face.”

Andi didn’t move, a silent statue in the darkness.

“You’re better off trying to get in the good graces of the queen of Xen Ptera,” Dex said.

Godstars, what was he doing here, with two of the most fearsome women he’d ever been with? They were so similar it sent a shock running through him. One wrong move, and it was possible they could become...

He shuddered to think it.

...friends.

He could only imagine the hellstorm they’d rain down on him then.

A squeaky yellow droid rolled over and refilled Soyina’s mug, then turned to fill Andi’s.

She lifted a hand to stop it, the silent movement enough to send the droid rolling away into the crowd.

“My brainless colleague and I are not here for idle chitchat,” Andi said, hood still covering her face in shadows. “I believe Dextro here filled you in on the problem at hand?”

Soyina nodded. “He did.”

“And do you have what we require? Dex says you’re in the mood to cause a little trouble.”

Soyina giggled in a way that reminded Dex of the little gunner on Andi’s crew. To his surprise, he’d begun to like having her around. But he’d always had a soft spot for kids with attitudes.

“Show me your face, girl,” Soyina said, “and I’ll be your faithful servant.”

Andi sighed. Dex searched the room for something he could use as a weapon. He knew she could turn on Soyina in a flash, and they couldn’t afford that today.

To his surprise, Andi reached up and slid her hood back from her face, revealing herself to the other woman.

“Ahh,” Soyina said. She swung her feet off the table, then leaned forward to stop with her nose a mere inch from Andi’s face.

Soyina had a passion for darkness, and Androma Racella’s soul was the darkest of them all.

“Beautiful,” Soyina whispered, her breath blowing the hair back from Andi’s face. She ran a sharp fingernail down Andi’s metal cheek implant, the migratory tattoos swimming down her arm as if afraid.

Dex had to hand it to Andi. She didn’t flinch beneath Soyina’s stare. He allowed himself a moment to admire her finely sculpted face before looking away. She was beautiful, but he wasn’t allowed to think of her that way anymore. Not after what he’d done.

“I can almost taste the death on you,” Soyina breathed. “How many lives have you stolen, Bloody Baroness?”

Andi whirled on Dex. “You told her who I was?”

He shrugged, giving her the carefree look he knew she hated with every inch of her soul. “What can I say? Soyina’s a big fan.”

“Have you ever tortured anyone, Baroness?” Soyina asked, pulling Andi’s attention back to her. “I can only imagine the things you could do with that darkness you harbor. The Xen Pterran queen would be wise to hire you on as a colleague of mine. Or a mercenary, perhaps.”

“A colleague?” Andi raised a brow at Dex as she scooted back in her chair, clearly done with Soyina’s closeness.

Dex took a sip of his drink and nodded. “Soyina practices the art of torture,” he explained, smiling as Andi’s eyes widened a bit at his explanation. “She works on Lunamere as one of Queen Nor’s more forward ways of getting information out of the prisoners.”

“A nasty job, most would think,” Soyina said. She ran her fingers down her dark curls. “But it’s not without its certain charms.” She giggled, then folded her hands on the rickety table in front of her. Her tattoos swirled like a nebula across them, then trickled back toward her elbows. “Daggers and sparks of fire. Channels of electricity. The screams of the women are good and well, but the men...oh, they do so love to plead with me.”

Dex sighed as she continued.

“Of course, it’s not all bad,” Soyina said, twisting a braid around her fingertip. “When they die, I don’t always leave them dead.”
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