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.“You will not speak my wife’s name again,” Hassrick said.“Now, do as you were told.”Anger boiled up inside Falkon.There was little he could do with his hands shackled, yet he had an overpowering urge to try, and only the sight of Ashlynne coming down the stairs kept him from attacking.By Jupiter’s rings, she looked like an angel.She wore a dress of some clingy pink material that outlined every curve.Her hair was coiled atop her head and held in place by a jeweled clip; one long curl fell over her shoulder.She stopped near Hassrick.“What’s going on?” she asked, nodding in Falkon’s direction.“What happened to him?”“A little discipline is all,” Hassrick retorted.“Get in.We’re late.”One of the bodyguards shoved Falkon into the backseat and sat down beside him.The second bodyguard took the other side.Hassrick activated the shackles on his feet.Moments later, they were speeding through the city toward the space dock.* * * * *Ashlynne settled herself in her seat.Pulling a palm-sized portareader from her pocket, she selected a book and pretended to read, but the words on the screen were a blur.She was going home, only her home was gone, her parents were gone, and she was as much a prisoner as Falkon.She had dared not protest when Hassrick locked him in the cargo hold.She could still see the angry cut on his cheek, the blood dripping from the wound, the barely restrained anger in his eyes.She had to be careful, for both of them.The Hassrick cruiser was sleek and fast.Hassrick rode up front, with the pilot, leaving her blessedly alone.Now that it was too late, it occurred to her that she might have made a serious mistake in insisting Falkon go with them to Tierde.In her anxiety to have Falkon with her, she had forgotten that Drade was waiting on Tierde.They arrived at Enjine Base Nine late that night.Hassrick had called ahead and made arrangements for a room.Ashlynne bit back her protest when Falkon was taken to the detention level, telling herself it would only be for one night.Their room was small, just a bedroom with bathing facilities adjoining, nothing like Commander Casman’s lavish quarters.She undressed in the bathroom, then slipped under the covers of one of the twin beds.She could hear Hassrick’s voice coming from the bathroom, though she couldn’t distinguish the words.She wondered who he was talking to so late, but she didn’t really care.Tomorrow they would be back at the mine.She didn’t want to see it again, didn’t want to be reminded of what had happened there, of all she had lost.With a sigh, she burrowed under the covers and closed her eyes, wondering if the nightmare would ever end.Chapter Twenty-FiveThe mine looked much as she remembered.The buildings which had been destroyed had been replaced.There was a new domicile for the mine manager; new cells for the slaves.For there were slaves.Almost a dozen of them.The slaves emerged from the bowels of the mine just as they arrived, eleven men fitted with the heavy collars that marked them as slaves, their faces and bodies covered with layers of fine black baneite dust.The prisoners came out of the mine one by one and made their way to the cells, looking neither right nor left.It bothered her, their complete lack of interest in what was going on around them.A guard trailed behind them, closing the cell doors, which locked automatically.She slid a glance at Falkon, who was standing beside her, his hands securely shackled.She could feel the tension radiating from him as he contemplated returning to the mine.She had pleaded with Niklaus to let Falkon work up at the house, but he had adamantly refused.“We have servants,” he had replied coldly.“We don’t need a dirty slave.”She heard Falkon swear softly, turned to follow his gaze.A tall man with cropped brown hair and pale brown eyes was striding toward them.He moved with the pride and arrogance that seemed to be characteristic of all military men, whatever their allegiance.She recognized him immediately as the man she had seen interviewed on the tele-screen.Drade.The man behind the attack on Falkon’s home.A smile broke over Drade’s face when he saw Falkon.“Niklaus!” he exclaimed.“You’ll get a fat reward for bringing him in.”Hassrick grinned as he shook the other man’s hand.“I’m counting on it.”Drade laughed good-naturedly.“You should have it by the end of the week.Not that you need it.”“Excuse me,” Ashlynne said, “but Number Four belongs to me.”Niklaus glared at her.Drade lifted one brow.“And who is this?”“My wife.Ashlynne, this is Drade.He’s been looking after the mine.”“Ah, Lady Hassrick, it is indeed a pleasure to meet you.”“Number Four belongs to my family.”Drade smiled expansively.“Be that as it may, he’s an escaped slave.”“How can that be,” she asked quietly, “seeing as how he is here?”Drade looked at Hassrick and grinned.“A good point.”“He was never an escaped slave,” Ashlynne said.“When we were attacked, he escorted me to safety.I would not be here today if it weren’t for his loyalty and devotion.I will not have him executed.”Niklaus took Drade aside.Ashlynne could not hear their words, but she had the feeling that Niklaus was telling Drade that it was necessary to keep Falkon alive.“Very well,” Drade said.“We’ll pretend he’s not here.” He clapped Niklaus on the back.“I’m afraid that means you can’t claim the reward.”Niklaus’ smile seemed to fade a little around the edge as he muttered, “As you said, I don’t need it.”“Indeed.”A look that could only be called conspiratorial passed between the two men.“Well,” Niklaus said, “we’ll leave him in your capable hands.”“Don’t worry about Number Four,” Drade replied.“I’ll take good care of him.”Was it her imagination, or was there a very real threat in those words? But she had no time to wonder.Taking her by the arm, Niklaus led her to a waiting shuttle and hurried her inside.She looked out the window, her gaze lingering on Falkon, wondering if she would ever see him again.* * * * *Ashlynne stared at the house, unable to believe her eyes.“How?” she asked.“When?”“Men working round the clock,” Hassrick replied.She shook her head.A new house stood where hers had been.A bigger house, three stories high, surrounded by a high wall.The windows were of Hodorian stained glass, very rare, very expensive.The grounds were landscaped with exotic plants and flowering shrubs.A large swimming pool had replaced the lake she had loved.She saw a new barn in the distance.“Well, shall we go in?”She nodded, amazed that he had built a house so quickly.He had hired a staff, too, a cook, a maid, a housekeeper, someone to tend the grounds, a groom to look after the three horses that had been sent ahead.She nodded as he introduced her to the staff.The cook was a grim-faced man named Ogger, the housekeeper looked like she had just graduated from school [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]