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Resisting Maxu: Chapter 29

Meg kept her head buried below the rim of the carriage and cursed over and over in her head until they finally came to a jarring halt, her bowl hitting the ground and rocking in a circle until it finally stilled.

She poked her head up, hair a mess, eyes watering from the wind, and found Maxu showering the malginash with praise for the fabulous job she’d done.

A little disgruntled that this creature was stealing her mate away, she half climbed, half tumbled out of the carriage, landing on velvety soft red sand.

Maxu mumbled something to the creature, pointing to a distant hill topped with strange traffic cone shaped trees. Meg rose from the ground. She brushed sand off her pants as she readied to berate him for tossing her into a metal bucket thousands of feet in the sky, but then she spotted a crackling fire. Blankets, pillows, and drinks were laid out around it.

A small smile tugged at her lips. The gentle crunch of sand sounded as he neared. One look at his nervous, hopeful grin and all her annoyance dissolved.

With a feigned pained sigh, she asked, “Maxu, did you kidnap me for a date?”

“Yes.” He nodded without any hesitation.

“I suppose I won’t leave.” She sent a teasing grin toward him, and he sucked in a large breath, smiling down at her. “But we need to talk about—”

“First look at this,” he interrupted before spinning her around by her shoulders. Meg’s eyes went wide.

The city loomed in the distance, but it wasn’t the image of the ominous tower glittering with blue light and reflecting the white moons that made her gasp. It was the clouds.

They were fluffy and clustered together and…green. Their interiors lit with neon-lime explosions. The sight was unreal, magical.

“What is it?” she asked in a hushed voice.

“Cloud chasers. They’re seeding them. See?” He leaned down and pointed toward a fluffy cloud passing over one of the moons.

Through the glow of the bright light, she could see small dark figures silhouetted. Explosions colored the cloud in an acidic green. “It looks like fireworks or lightning.”

“They’re bombs of sorts. It’s the easiest way to disperse the chemical over a wide area. They add dye so that the riders can see where they’ve already treated.”

She let Maxu guide her away while keeping her eyes glued to the incredible sight. He eased her down onto the blanket surrounded by pillows, wrapped her palm around a bottle of mott, then, with a chuckle, lifted it to her lips for her. She couldn’t look away. The clouds were green. They were sparking. It was…amazing.

“I wanted to give you something too.”

Her attention slowly locked on to his words, and she tore her gaze away. “Give me something?” She set the bottle down, shaking her head. “Wait, wait, wait. We need to talk about Sikthand.”

“Let’s do this first. Then we can talk,” he pushed, fishing in his bag.

“You’re stalling!” she exclaimed.

He sat up straight, clutching a balled piece of trash in his hands. “I’m stalling,” he agreed. “But I brought you this because I think it’s yours.”

That left Meg at a loss. He lifted the balled-up paper, holding it out to her. She tilted her head at it, eyeing the trash.

At her confused look, Maxu explained, “I read in the directory that humans prefer gifts wrapped in paper.”

Despite the seriousness of this morning, despite the fact that her mate had done things in his past she shuddered to think of, she had to bite her lips together to keep from bursting out laughing.

He furrowed his brows. “Not right?” he asked, staring down at the paper ball. “It didn’t seem right, but I didn’t know…”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said, sucking in a deep breath. She took the paper ball out of his hands. His eyes were wide and there was a nervous stiffness to his lips as he watched her try to unwrap the thing without letting it tumble to the ground.

“Is this another thing you stole from my room back in Tremanta? Because taking my stuff then giving it back to me…isn’t…exactly…” Her face fell, heart stilling when the item came into view. She couldn’t breathe. Tears sprung free, flowing down her cheeks without warning as she ran her fingers over the smooth surface of her iPod. She turned it over, checking for the familiar nicks, and sucked in a choked sob when she found them. She slid her thumb over the dull scratches.

“How did you get this?” she whispered, hardly able to get the words past the lump in her throat.

“I broke into the tower where they keep the human items they’d recovered from the bunker sites. I thought I smelled the faintest hint of you on this and took a guess. Right?”

She sniffed, a watery laugh coming out of her. “Right.”

His chest puffed with pride. “I had to take you far enough away from the city so we could use it. It wouldn’t work too close to the ore.”

Meg’s eyes shot up to his, her brows knitting. “Use it? But it’s broken. It was broken before I was abducted. And how could we get it to work anyway? We don’t have a charger or headphones or anything.”

“I gave it to a friend to repair. It’s one of the reasons I was gone for those two days. I didn’t know what it was when I found it, but my friend was able to figure it out. He gave me this.” Maxu reached into his bag and produced a flat piece of tech that he clipped to the back of the iPod, then lifted a couple of sound orbs, turning them on and letting them float in the air. Their gentle light pulsed as they waited to play music. “He assured me this would work.”

“I don’t… What do I…” She pressed the Menu button, fully expecting the old screen that had survived with her for decades to remain blank, but it lit up. She sucked in another laughing gasp.

“Show me what you like,” Maxu coaxed, gazing at her trembling smile as if it were his favorite drug.

Meg’s grin faded. She set the iPod down on the blanket. “I love it. I do. I want to listen to music with you. I want to show you all my favorite songs and see what you like.” Gripping his hands and, making sure he looked her in the eye, she pressed on. “But you need to tell me what happened here. Sikthand said—”

Maxu squeezed her hands. “I know what he said.” His throat bobbed with his slow swallow. “Are you sure you want to hear these things, vahpti?”

Meg forced herself to nod.

He sighed, his eyes sliding to the sand, then back to her. An air of resignation settled over him. Jaw tensing, his spine straightened. “What do you want to know?”


Maxu clenched and unclenched his jaw as he waited for Meg to ask her questions.

“The king…he said you tortured and killed his wife,” Meg began tentatively, failing to hide a wince.

This conversation needed to happen. Maxu knew that. But he didn’t enjoy not knowing how Meg would react to his past. He ran a tongue over his teeth, eyes lifting to the sky for an instant. “Is that what he said? It’s true in part,” he grated, watching her reaction. Her lips only twitched.

“My job wasn’t always pleasant, vahpti. I was paid to retrieve things, and sometimes, those things weren’t physical items. They were secrets.” Meg’s shoulders tensed as he spoke, and his muscles bunched in time with hers. “Sikthand employed me for many years and was obsessed with learning everyone’s secrets. Do you understand what I mean?”

She let out a small breath through her nose. “It means you hurt a lot of people while you worked for him.”

Maxu didn’t love hearing it in those words. They weren’t untrue, but…it was a job. It wasn’t as if he’d gotten into mercenary work because he was a sadist. He’d simply made himself jaded when it came to certain things.

His moral standards had grown into existence slowly. Small seeds planted in his heart after moments of regret. They’d grown over time, spreading through him until he’d found himself turning down projects that had seemed like they’d weigh heavy on his soul.

But when he’d been here? Maxu had been angry at the world. Resentful of his place in it. He’d let himself sink into that bitterness for far longer than he should’ve. That period of his life had been dark, but he didn’t exactly regret all of it. He’d matured here. He’d learned which parts of himself to accept and which to keep reins on.

“He hired me to find out many things. Yes,” Maxu agreed.

Brows knitting, Meg asked, “So he hired you to…question… his wife?”

“Japeshi.” Maxu shook his head. “She was a cloud chaser and a friend. Beautiful, funny. Sikthand was smitten. So when his eyes changed with preliminary recognition, he rejoiced. We all did. They married, believing the recognition would come, but the captain of the cloud chasers, Sikthand’s uncle, wasn’t convinced.”

Maxu’s lips slammed shut. Even he winced, recalling the slithering trepidation he’d felt when Urganish had come to him with a fat stack of credits and his suspicions.

Maxu swallowed. “Urganish hired me to question her.”

Meg raised a hand to her mouth. “Oh no.”

“I learned she’d been tricking Sikthand with help from his personal medic. She’d admitted to drugging him and allowing her lover to inject his eyes with a special powder. They use it for tattoos here. The particles are inserted under the skin and then various magnetic devices are used to draw in a design. The cones of the powder are so miniscule they’re invisible to the naked eye when turned on their side, but when they’re pulled straight? All she’d had to do was activate a magnet in her pocket and she could make his eyes turn black. She admitted to plotting to kill him, leaving her as the undisputed queen since she’d been his mate.”

“How did she die?” Meg’s knit brows were wary, but at least Maxu could breathe knowing that was where his regretful involvement had ended.

“I relayed everything I’d learned to my employer, Urganish. He, in turn, told Sikthand. The king was forced to send both Japeshi and his vile medic to an off-world prison planet. News of their deaths came only a few months later. Sikthand was…shattered. The female he’d thought of as his mate was dead. He transferred the hurt of that betrayal onto us. Urganish was banished from the city, and I was asked to leave.”

“But why? She was plotting to kill him, and you exposed her.”

“Because I lifted the veil from his happiness,” Maxu explained. He’d had years to think through Sikthand’s anger, and his mind had always come back to this conclusion. “He thought he’d finally surrounded himself with people he could trust. His uncle, me, his new bride—and in one fell swoop, he learned all of us had been hiding secrets of our own from him. It didn’t matter that Urganish and I had done it to help him. I think part of him felt he could’ve been happy if the illusion hadn’t been stolen from him, that perhaps in time, she would have developed true feelings and admitted everything.”

She didn’t speak, and a lump formed in his throat. He tried to swallow it. “I’ve never claimed I was good, Meg.” Her gaze lifted to his. “I didn’t care about anything. People, honor, my family. All I wanted for so long was the thrill that came with reaching the goal I’d set for myself. Solving a problem. Acquiring the thing I was after. Learning the secret they didn’t want to divulge. Those accomplishments were the only things that brought me any peace. Everything else was irrelevant.”

Her brows were pained, her mouth thinned as she listened to him. She stared at his face, taking in his words, yet he felt transparent, as if she were weighing his heart even now. “Did you stop doing that kind of work after you left here?”

“I stopped doing it without good reason. Without solid proof. Only when I knew there was no other way.”

“Would you ever do it again?” she asked, her breathing deep.

He was about to say no. The word was almost out of his mouth, but then a thought hit and he stopped himself. “Meg, if I thought you were in danger…if you were taken… If anyone ever tries to hurt you, I will do anything.”

Meg chewed on her lip, brows furrowed. Maxu couldn’t manage to exhale as he waited.

Finally, she looked back up at him. With a tight smile, she breathed, “Okay.”

His brows lifted, his eyes zooming over her features. “Okay, what?”

Meg sucked in a long slow inhale and lifted her shoulders as if lost for words. “Okay, I accept what you’ve said. I don’t like what you did, I won’t lie about that. But I don’t think you’re the same person you used to be, so I’m choosing to move forward.” She sent him a small smile. “I think I struggled with it at first because we’re doing this out of order.”

Maxu inched closer. His mate wasn’t appalled. She wasn’t trying to run from him again. “What do you mean, out of order?”

She took a sip of her mott and gave him a half smile. “We became mates, then we had sex, and now we’re getting to know each other. Except we’re starting with the bombshells. Er…the big stuff,” she corrected at his confusion. “That’s not how it works on Earth. We start with the little things like learning each other’s favorite music, but we” —she gestured between them— “we’ve admitted our worst secrets first, and it’s tripping me up. I know you, but I also don’t know you at all,” she finished, offering the bottle of mott to him.

How could he be so lucky? His chest was tight as he stared at Meg, a green glow from the seeded clouds illuminating her dark hair. Understanding, gorgeous, smart—she was everything he’d ever wanted and everything he never knew to wish for.

“I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, vahpti.”

“I want to know everything. That way, when you reveal things to me like you did today, they aren’t as shocking because I’ll understand them within the context of your life. I won’t spiral into a default crisis mode. At least, that’s my working theory for now.”

That was all she wanted?

Maxu didn’t understand his mate, but perhaps she was right. If she needed to hear about all the trivialities of his life to feel connected to him, then he’d reveal them all.

Gripping her around the waist, he hauled her forward until her legs were draped over one thigh. “I was born in the city of Tremanta, the fifth child of my Traxian mother.”

Meg grinned up at him before resting her head on his chest.


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