Goes with Chapter One. As stated, I’m sharing two for my mistake.
Stone twitched. The moment was gone and he said to Lee, “Tell me where he went. Then you leave.”
For the strangest reason Ellie cut in, “You can’t!” After all this, he’d let him go?
“I will,” Stone confirmed.
“Stone—” Ellie began. He couldn’t!
“Don’t,” Jack cut her off. Still holding her arm securely. Too securely. She frowned and shot him daggers. Then proceeded to try to pry off even one finger from her arm with a grumble. If he’d just let her go. Even digging her nails into his flesh achieved nothing.
Lee’s face relaxed. “The tunnels.” Stone gave Jack a quick glance. “The old system beneath ground,” Lee explained. “He went to Laghen Outpost. There is a drone there. He’ll take it. You let me leave? I’ll take you there.”
Stone once more stared at Jack. They seemed to be silently communicating something of importance. Ellie watched both of them. Whatever it was, she had no clue. Jack shoved her to the opposite side of the door. Closer to Lee and Stone. She stumbled to the right.
“What are you doing? You can’t let him leave.”
Lee was the doctor who’d performed all the tests on her as a child. He’d helped study her for her father. He was Claude’s most important advisor in many ways. At least in regard to Ellie. Before, it was her mother, Haley. And Stone had no problem letting that man leave? Just like that?
Stone eyed her. “I’m done with him.”
Lee fumbled for words. “Thank you, oh thank you.”
Stone said, “No.” He dragged Lee past Jack and Ellie. Instead of stopping by the door, he led him to a midpoint between the door and the window to the office. His free hand moved to the front of Lee’s chest, tangling in the lab coat and shirt beneath. “Thank you.” He raised him off his feet.
Lee understood and began to scream. “No, no, you said I could leave!”
Stone’s face changed, darkened. “I did. You are. We need time. You’re providing it.”
Ellie sucked in a breath as she realized what was happening. Stone spun in a circle and heaved Lee with every ounce of effort he possessed toward the window. It’s unbreakable!
Lee’s body slammed against the window then crumbled to the ground. A small wisp of a yelp escaped Ellie. Lee groaned. Coughed. Blood and spittle slid from his mouth. A few teeth fell out. Lines had formed in the window starting from the place of impact. Blood puddled in the center of the acrylic.
Lee moaned and attempted to get up. He gagged, spit a clot of blood. “Please. I . . . help.”
Stone grabbed Lee by the back of Lee’s shirt with one hand, and the waistband of his pants with another. “You are. Immensely.”
Ellie tucked her head into Jack, not wanting to see Lee flatten against the window again. Jack released her, but faced her toward the wall. She was unable to resist and peeked behind her. She should go. She should move. Leave.
Blood dribbled onto the floor beneath Lee’s limp body as he hung in Stone’s grip, suspended over the floor. He was barely conscious. Gurgling sounds came from his windpipe with each inhale and exhale.
Nothing she thought made her feet move. Jack strode to the window. He slammed his fist where Lee’s body first made impact. He hit it again and the window splintered. Then he stepped out of the way. Stone spun with Lee in his grip and released him with a grunt. Ellie couldn’t pull her attention from the window. He’d be smooshed into nothing. Nobody, not even one of her husbands could withstand that sort of impact. The bones would give.
Lee’s body bashed into the place he’d hit first. The window splintered outward at the same time blood sprayed from Lee’s mouth, eyes, body. Ellie ducked her face. When she was sure it was safe, she found Jack and Stone leaning out of the window, ensuring their distraction worked.
Jack gave Stone the barest of nods and worse, he looked pleased. It wasn’t like she didn’t know they enjoyed killing. They had been reigning champs in Kerlav’s arena her whole life and even before, because of that. But this . . . this seemed different. That look went through her nerves and they sprang loose. She reached for the handle of the office door.
As her fingers slid around the cold bar the command came from behind her, “Don’t,” Stone’s deep voice rumbled. The gravelly tone only made her nerves switch into manic speed. In the blink of an eye she had the door flying open. Ellie dove into the corridor beyond her father’s office, barreling down the hall to the elevator.
The sound of heavy footsteps came from behind her. Instead of bothering with the elevator where she spotted no lights on—meaning no electricity to the elevator—she caught the edge of a desk and swung around the other hall to make a break for the stairs.
Jack’s voice next, “Ellie, stop!”
Ellie’s ankle twisted on the spin and she cried out, tripping down the length of the hall. Using adrenaline alone, she crashed through the door. Using momentum more than anything else, she didn’t place her foot right and caught her injured ankle against the edge of the step. With a scream, her legs went out from under her.
Head over feet she went, her world dropping from in front of her and that metal landing coming on too quick. A door banged open. Her breath caught just before her face struck the landing. Her hands and body came next. She “oofed” against the ground and feet banged upward, not downward, her back to the wall, somehow not breaking her neck.
Ellie whimpered and struggled to right herself. The world spun in dizzying, nauseous whirly wheels. Putting her back to the wall she leaned her head against the wall for a minute to get her bearings. A shadow moved below her and other doors clanged open from what sounded like everywhere. Up, down, turn around. Her ears rang, her head pulsed with stars and spots.
One of the otherbeings caught site of her at the same time she caught sight of him. He came from the floor below. Must’ve heard her scream and the sound of her fall. They were always great hunters. Blood slid down his chin. Lee. They made a snack of him. The otherbeing lurched up the stairs at a speed they shouldn’t possess. It was too damn unfair. They were barely alive! They should be slow, cumbersome even. Stairs clanged. Stairs banged. Shoes thudded. Heavy footsteps. He was five steps away.
Ellie shoved with both her bad ankle and her good one.
She muttered and heaved her body backward, scraping her palms against the landing, trying to get back to the stairs that led up. They were better than this.
Tears formed in her eyes. She tried to shove to her feet. It didn’t work. Her arms gave out. She spotted blood where she’d been. She reached up to her head. The man caught sight of the blood too and slid his gummy tongue over his lips. She scrambled to the corner. If moving nowhere was scrambling.
She flattened on her back, then rolled to kick him with her good foot. It struck him in the chin, his head snapped to the side, causing him to stumble back one stair. He reached to grab her with former Lee’s blood all over his fingers.
A large form dropped from above, slamming into the man. They tumbled down the stairs together. Ellie was faintly aware of the black shirt Jack had been wearing. The door banged open again below them. She heard more footsteps coming up.
Strong hands slid under her armpits and an enormous form blocked the fight from view. She went to scream. The scent of Stone’s body overwhelmed her. The familiar smell registering she was being saved, not killed.
Stone had her on her feet and his large calloused hand wrapped over her nose and mouth. With a slight tilt of his head and a very clear look, you don’t listen, do you? He released her mouth and slipped his arm beneath her knees, raising her effortlessly from the ground. All she could do was hold on and pray he didn’t throw her down the stairs for the rest of them. The grunts and groans below her weren’t much worse than the beast that held her.
Stone didn’t move when he picked her up. She went to ask why when Jack called out, “clear,” in a low voice.
Stone carried her down the stairs and toward Jack. Jack pushed the door open to the hallway, holding it there. That wasn’t the way out though. That was the way through the other offices and to Stone’s. Shadows moved above and below, heading their way. Stone and Ellie descended the stairs, crossed the threshold and entered the floor.
Once clear of the stairwell door, Jack shut it. When he grabbed a nearby desk, Ellie saw what appeared to be blood soaking his shirt. He dragged the desk over and turned it over to block the door. Not that it would stop anyone. Stone didn’t stop. He went to his office down the hall and around the corner to the right. She lost view of Jack when Stone turned the corner, then Jack came running past. Jack also sported a cut on his cheek.
The air slid over her ankle when his arm brushed against her foot. Exhaustion swept through her. Ellie’s head drooped backward. She jerked it upright, blinked a few times, widened her eyes to keep consciousness. Stone checked on her, but didn’t say a word.
She couldn’t resist the question. She had to speak or pass out. The pain in her ankle throbbed. Her head throbbed. The lights wanted to turn off. They neared Jack standing in front of Stone’s office. He nodded: the room was clear.
“Plan to kill me?”
As they entered Stone’s office, Jack said from behind her, “No.”
Jack shut the door. Stone eased her down into the chair in front of his desk. When he went around the desk, he removed a circular item from his pocket. From his other pocket came her vitamins her father had given him. Those were the vitamins he switched out. The ones he should’ve given her.
So what changed?
He’d always been Claude’s right-hand man. Always. For as long as Ellie could remember that man right there . . . he’d been the real child to Claude. Not her. Claude didn’t want a girl. He’d wanted a Stone. So why now did Stone suddenly defy her father and change her vitamins?
She remembered the transport ride. They’d brought her from that hilly place she’d never seen before on Eli’ane where Jeremiah, her other husband who’d suddenly disappeared, kept her. It’d been far hotter over there. She remembered that too. Nothing should’ve survived.
But that wasn’t important. What was important was the memory that slipped in. When they’d arrived at her father’s office earlier, Stone and Jack were pestering her about those vitamins. Those which were dutifully administered by that very same man.
He’d switched them.
Stone dropped the vitamins on the desk.
Jack went to the side window. “So far clear. Won’t stay long.”
“Your side,” Ellie began.
Jack raised his shirt to reveal a large cut across his midriff. “Will be fine,” he answered, then blotted the wound with his shirt, same he did with his cheek. Ellie shook her head at the two of them. They didn’t care one way or another about their wounds. Ever. It had always been her who forced them to tend to them.
She went to get up and Stone issued a stern look under his eyebrows without raising his head. “Keep your butt on that seat.”
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Under Empty Stars is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Kim Iverson
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