In this scene, Luc, an immortal warrior, is having lunch with the three-year-old half-human, half-feline Kin he’s rescued.
Luc finished a sandwich and pulled out his mobile, working while the boy gobbled up his own sandwich, crunched all his carrot sticks and drank all his milk. But then Senthys stuffed his mouth with apple slices as if he thought someone would take away whatever he didn’t eat. Perhaps at the Academy, they had.
“Take those out of your mouth.” Luc held the plate for him. “One bite at a time, please.”
Head down, Senthys obeyed. “Can I still eat them?”
“You may.” Luc wiped the boy’s mouth. “In this house, no one will take away your food. Not ever.” He had never disciplined his Deshai by denying them meals. How could anyone do such a thing to a child?
When imprisoned, Pietas had been chained in the dark and starved for over a year. If Luc couldn’t bear the thought of his king going hungry, how could he tolerate it for a boy?
Once Senthys finished his apple, he pointed to a small bowl. “What’s that?”
Luc tipped it toward himself. “Raisins.”
The boy wrinkled up his nose. “They look scary.”
“Raisins?” He tilted the bowl again. How did one convince a child raisins weren’t scary? How had he convinced recruits to try things they balked at? Familiarity. He’d made them carry unloaded weapons for days before training them on the devices. Luc picked one up. “Smell.” He pulled his hand back before the boy could.
Senthys blinked and looked up at him.
“Remember,” Luc told him. “Smell. Don’t eat it yet.”
“Okay.” As Luc held it for him, Senthys leaned closer, sniffing. “It’s sweet.”
“That’s because there’s magic inside them.”
The boy’s eyes widened. “There is? Can I see the magic?”
Stifling a smile, Luc chose one and offered it. “You try. Squeeze it. Like this.” He pressed it between first finger and thumb.
Senthys pressed, frowning in concentration. “Ew! Brown stuff came out.” He dropped it and wiped that hand on his shirt.
“The squishy part is the magic coming out.”
“It is?” Senthys picked the raisin back up, peering at it.
Now came the part Luc liked. Showing recruits the benefits and seeing them embrace the challenge. “Raisins give you magic energy to run and hit a ball. They help you play hide and seek.”
“Can they help me get magic coins out of my hair?”
“Hmm.” The sleight of hand had been Luc’s attempt to distract him from crying. “If you eat them long enough and study how to do it.”
“Can I have a raisin?”
“I don’t know.” Luc pretended to consider it. “You’d have to eat the whole bowl to get enough magic. I don’t know if you can eat that many.”
“Oh, I can!” Senthys clapped, bouncing in his seat. “I can eat them!”
“I squished this one, so I’ll eat it. Okay with you?” Luc held it up to his mouth.
Senthys opened his.
“You want it?” Luc offered it.
The boy nodded.
“Okay, here we go.” Using slow motions, Luc reached toward him as Senthys leaned forward. At the last second, Luc yanked it back and popped the raisin in his own mouth. He opened his eyes wide, teasing the boy. “Mine.”
With a peal of laughter, Senthys grabbed a raisin and offered it to Luc, but yanked it back and made the same face.
Luc clacked his teeth together, pretending to bite the air.
Senthys stuck the raisin in his own mouth and threw out his arms toward Luc.
When Luc hugged him, the boy kissed his cheek and put his head on Luc’s shoulder. “I love you, Sen’dai.”
He hugged the boy tight. How could vows be right if they forced him to say good-bye?
Senthys lifted his head. “Why are you sad?”
Luc brushed back the boy’s hair. “Because I never want you to grow up. I want you to stay little like you are right now, forever.”
A Stolen Heart
A pirate with a monstrous past can never be trusted with an innocent child. He must ensure the child is protected, safe, nowhere near danger. Nowhere near him. Even if this little boy has already stolen his heart…
Universal buy link https://books2read.com/u/mZK1zB
Kayelle Allen writes Sci Fi with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role-playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She is the author of multiple books, novellas, and short stories. She’s also a US Navy veteran and has been married so long she’s tenured.
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