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.Marlix and Urazi, both large men, could handle the animals, but could Anika? And she didn’t want to stray too far from the village.“Not far,” Anika answered, gesturing to the wagon’s bed, which contained a number of baskets.“But when those are full, we will not be able to carry them.”“All of those?” Tara counted six.“That’s a lot of picking.”“The work will pass quickly.”So they boarded the conveyance and bounced out of the Enclave, waving to the sentries at the exit.Anika handled the reins adeptly, guiding the animals with a judicious application of the quirt.Tara’s respect for her grew.“I haven’t seen many females driving conveyances.”“They do not.They ride in the back with the supplies.But I have learned to do many things since I arrived at the Enclave.” She glanced at Tara.“You will be leaving soon.”“When Alpha says.” Tara liked how his title rolled off her lips.The resonance stirred an ache between her thighs and filled her with satisfaction, and despite some misgivings, she knew she had arrived home.In this alien world with an alien man, she had found her place.What major life decision was made with 100 percent certainty? Nor had she surrendered all her free will.She was out with Anika, wasn’t she? And as a Terran, she could return to Earth at any time she pleased.“You call him Alpha?” Anika raised her eyebrows.“Yes.We have discussed it, and I agreed to become his breeder.”Anika glanced at her out of the corner of her eye.“A female does not choose to become the breeder of an Alpha.”Tara recalled her punishment, Marlix’s demand of proper address, and his announcement she would be his female.No, she had had little choice there—at first.But then he had relented and asked her.“Alpha makes concessions because I am Terran,” she said.“The son of my sire has changed once again.” Anika pulled the conveyance off the lane and halted it.“From here we walk.”Tara jumped from her seat and felt a strong jolt in her nipple.They each grabbed three baskets from the wagon bed.“We will go this way.” Anika gestured toward a thicket of brush.Tara eyed the heavy shrubbery.“I don’t see a path.”“There is not.If there were, it would not be a secret.” Anika winked.Holding the baskets high, they tromped across ground overgrown by vines and through bushes that scratched at their legs.Anika wore a double-sleeved Enclave shift, while Tara wore two Parseon ones, so their arms, at least, were protected.Tara went through uniforms at the rate of one or two a day—every time they had sex.For some reason, Marlix derived satisfaction in ripping them.She stifled a giggle.Maybe he had a shift-ripping fetish.The double shifts concealed the ring marking her as Alpha’s breeder, a necessary secret around the Enclave, since Marlix was still incognito.Only Anika knew his identity.So she assumed.“Does Jergan know Marlix is Alpha?”“He did not at first, but once he learned of our kinship, he deduced it.I convinced him to remain silent.”Tara stubbed her booted foot on an exposed root.A barefooted Anika sprang lightly though the woods.“How do you walk over such terrain without shoes?” Tara asked.She shrugged.“I am used to it.”Branches nicked Tara’s face.Scratches crisscrossed her legs from the knees down.Her arms ached from holding the baskets above her head to prevent them from snagging on brambles.Just when she feared she couldn’t hold them aloft anymore, they halted in a small clearing—an area perhaps half the size of Tara and Marlix’s hut.“We are here.” Anika dropped her load to the ground and swept her arm in an arc.Tara dumped her baskets and surveyed the small-leafed bushes, their branches drooping under the weight of reddish-brown nuts the size of acorns.“The mother lode.” Tara nodded.“I do not understand what that means,” Anika admitted in a way that reminded her of Marlix.She was indeed the sister of the same mister.How many times had he said something similar? Except he’d understood more than she’d presumed.He’d spanked her for every single name she’d called him.From time to time, she still experienced tingling in her butt cheeks from the sudon.“Mother lode means a lot.A main vein or supply,” Tara explained.“Then, yes, it is a mother lode.”“Have you ever been paddled with a sudon?” She blurted out.“Many times.” Anika smiled.“I doubt there is a female alive who has not had her buttocks burned by the tail of the baronian ilyx.Do not rub your skin afterward,” she advised.“It will worsen the sting.”“I wish somebody had warned me,” Tara muttered.“Does Jergan use the sudon on you?” A personal, intrusive question, but as she and Marlix would leave soon, this might be her last chance to ascertain the parameters of normal.“He does.When I push him too far.Protocol is flexible at the Enclave, and males and females freely congregate, but the males still rule the domicile.Even though Jergan is beta, I must obey him.” Anika nimbly plucked nuts as she spoke.“But he is very permissive with me.”Tara moved to one of the heavily laden bushes and grabbed one of the hard-shelled fruits.Something pierced her skin, and she cried out.She yanked her hand away to find her finger bleeding.“I forgot to warn you about the thorns,” Anika apologized.Tara sucked her finger and eyed the bush.Now that she examined it closer, she could see the branches were loaded with needlelike spurs.She glanced at the half-dozen baskets [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]