Saving Verakko: Chapter 20


After Verakko had left, Lily had crawled into bed and replayed everything she’d learned. Verakko had lied, but a reasonable part of her understood why he’d done it. If he thought she was really his mate and he had no emotional attachment to his future wife yet couldn’t break off his engagement, she could see the difficult spot he must’ve been in. Had it been right for him to lie and keep so much from her? No. Did she understand why he’d done it? Unfortunately, yes.

More than anything, Lily was upset with herself. She hadn’t listened when he’d pushed her away; instead, she’d initiated most of their romantic encounters. She’d been the one to brush off his objections with false optimism, believing she understood the culture well enough. You will never understand a culture you haven’t been fully immersed in.

However, there was something she didn’t know if she could look past. He’d made decisions for her. Taken her choices away from her. Important choices that would affect her life in immeasurable ways. Could she forgive that?

She flipped onto her stomach and tried to clear her mind. The bed was the softest she’d ever laid in, and the room smelled more fragrant than seemed normal. It was almost like someone was burning a lilac candle that never dissipated.

It wasn’t unpleasant, but floral aromas weren’t her favorite, and all she could think about was how much better Verakko smelled. After staring unblinkingly at the inside of the blanket she’d cocooned around herself, she finally rose.

Quietly, she padded around the beautiful bedroom, feeling like an intruder. A small bathroom connected to her room presented a host of new questions. What should she use to brush her teeth? Where was the faucet for running water? And what the hell kind of mirror made her look so good, and where could she get one for herself?

As Lily examined herself, she realized something had happened to her body. Something not entirely unwelcome but felt like a violation nonetheless.

Desy had explained to her the elixir would rejuvenate her down to the cellular level and repair any damage present, but she’d just assumed it was the alien equivalent to a B12 shot. That it’d make her feel great but would ultimately not work any miracles.

As she looked in the mirror at her perfectly unblemished skin, strong, shiny nails, and thick lashes, she realized it hadn’t been an exaggeration. If they could do all that at a doctor’s office, then what the hell did they need a spa for?

She tugged at her shiny, dark hair in the mirror and tsked angrily. “I’ve spent years perfecting my highlights, and now they’re just gone!” She muttered a curse, swinging her locks behind her back.

While her appearance was radiant, her insides were a dark, jumbled mess. As soon as Verakko had left, she’d yearned for him to come back. It was so odd, this feeling that she wanted him to be in her eyeline, but also to not say a single goddamn word to him. How could such conflicting emotions all be directed toward one person?

She sighed and stared at herself in the mirror. “What are we gonna do?” Could she even stomach the idea of marrying someone else?

Just say it out loud and see how it feels.

Lily nibbled on her lip, afraid to listen to even herself. Finally, she leaned in closer to the mirror and said, “He’s my soulmate.” She frowned at the thrill that shot through her. “If that’s true, you ridiculous universe you, send me a sign.”

“Lily!”

She jumped as Verakko’s voice rang out from the first floor. She straightened and shot a sidelong glare at the mirror. “That wasn’t a sign; he probably heard me,” she hissed before leaving the bathroom.

When she reached the first floor, she didn’t immediately see him, then the familiar scent of cedar hit her nose. She fought to remain rigid as he stepped in front of her.

His eyes scanned her face as though he hadn’t seen her in weeks. Skin prickling with heat, she internally shook herself. He handed her another dark purple bottle—the first bottle lay untouched in her room. She stared at it but didn’t really see it, still too wrapped up in her own thoughts.

“Mott,” he said, drawing her attention. He aimed a pointed glance at the bottle she held loosely in her hand. “It’s alcohol. It isn’t a favorite among most females, but I didn’t have time to stock the kitchen while you were being healed. Dinner’s ready, I just have to bring it out.”

She tried to focus on what she needed to say. “Verakko, I appreciate the effort, but I need some time away from you to process how I’m feeling.”

Verakko rocked back on his heels, studying her. “I disagree.”

She blinked at him, making sure she’d heard the tone of finality in his voice correctly. “Excuse me?”

“I think that if you go off by yourself while still angry, you’ll start to second guess what we have and you’ll convince yourself everything must’ve been a lie, even though we both know that isn’t true.” The words were uttered calmly, but Lily saw the determination in his eyes. “You don’t have to decide anything this minute. You’ll need to learn from someone in the meantime anyway. You don’t know how to use any of our technology. You don’t even know how to stay away from Ripsli products, which I know you’re allergic to. And I can help you figure out what you need to do to pursue the career you want.” He stepped toward her and gripped her shoulders. “You helped me survive out in the forest when I knew so little. Let me help you survive here.”

Lily blinked, furious that he was right. He briefly squeezed her shoulders, then dropped his hands. Unsure what else to say, she looked down at her bottle and took a sip. The liquid stung as it slid down her throat.

“Just a few days,” she confirmed, weakly clutching the bottle against her chest.

“Yes, miv—Lily,” he amended and disappeared through the door to the odd kitchen.

Sparks of static electricity crackled over her scalp at the almost-uttered pet name. Scowling, she wondered if she should question him about the name again. Taking another long pull from the bottle, she retreated into the living room, deciding against it. She was far too susceptible to Verakko’s particular brand of sweet talk as it was. She settled herself on the odd half bed, half couch.

How did I get here? Lily shook her head in exasperation and watched the silver glowing orbs bob around the ceiling. It wasn’t as if she’d had much say in the matter; this was an alien planet, after all. Verakko was right, she didn’t know how to do anything for herself, but with a flare of irritation, she realized she was allowing that to be true.

Lily stood again, intent to ask the right questions this time. Questions about each and every device in the house and what it did. Questions about the food being prepared. How it was being prepared. Where she could buy it. How it needed to be stored. But she only made it a few determined steps before bumping into Verakko exiting the kitchen. “Can you show me how the appliances in the kitchen work?”

He smiled and moved past her to a small shining panel on the wall. “Yes, but not right now. The food is ready.” Skating his fingers across the screen without looking at her, he programmed something.

Lily took an instinctive step back as the large couches began to move, sinking into the floor. A small table and chairs, made completely of a clear material that looked like glass, rose to the center of the room.

“Tomorrow, then,” Lily said, her attention divided as the dark tint on the enormous windows faded and a gorgeous view of the glittering black desert came into view.

Verakko stopped fiddling with the control and faced her.

Lily forced her focus back to him. “Then tonight, I want you to answer all of my questions, and I mean all of them. Truthfully. No more leaving upsetting information out. I have the right to know what I’m in for.”

He stepped toward her. She could feel the heat radiating off his body, and from this close, she could also see that beneath his calm, strong demeanor was a hint of anguish. “I’ll tell you everything.” He turned and walked back toward the kitchen. “Over dinner. You need to eat.”

Lily rolled her eyes and stomped toward the windows, mott in hand. “Impossible man,” she muttered under her breath. Only one crescent moon was visible at the moment, but the sky was clear and sparkling—the portion of sky she could see anyway. The large flat roofs of the other buildings crowded nearby blocked the full view overhead. She looked down and guessed the house was at least fifty stories up. She pressed her hand to the glass, angling her head to squint toward the ground.

“Do you need another drink?” Verakko intoned from behind her, making her jump.

She spun and found him standing near the table, now set with food and cutlery. She glanced down to her mostly untouched bottle and shook her head. Lily studied him and noticed his body language was off. His shoulders were tensed, fists clenched, and he forced his eyes to remain on hers, not as though he wanted to look at her, but as if he were trying to not look anywhere else.

He cleared his throat, and for the briefest moment his eyes slid to her palm, still flattened against the window, then back to her. As realization hit, a sudden impulse to run over and soothe him forced her feet to take an involuntary step in his direction.

“It’s the windows, isn’t it? Why in the world would you buy a house this high up if you’re afraid of heights?”

“It isn’t normally a problem, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t stand so close to them.” He puffed out his chest and sat down, avoiding eye contact. “It was the floor Ziritha suggested.”

Lily came to join him at the table, brows drawn. “She made you buy this place even after you told her how uncomfortable heights make you?”

“Why would I have told her?” He scowled, reclining in his chair.

“Seems like something important to talk about before buying a house in a skyscraper.” Lily shrugged. “You told me.”

His gaze turned serious. “You’re different.” Verakko looked at his food and added in a mumble, “You’re the only one I’ve told the story of my fall to.”

Lily’s heart squeezed in her chest. The only one?

She gave herself a mental shake and studied her food. Odd gray cubes were covered in a charcoal-colored sauce that smelled savory and a little familiar.

“I kept it simple. I didn’t know how much you’d want to eat, and I didn’t know if you’d prefer to remain a vegetarian now that you have the choice once again.”

Of course he’d been thoughtful enough to think about that. He couldn’t have made this easy, could he? Been a lying ass through and through? No, he had to have just enough reasonable explanations and sweet gestures to make her question everything.

Lily scooped up a small amount of food with the odd flat spoon he’d provided. She wasn’t particularly hungry, though she couldn’t recall the last time she’d eaten, but she was curious to try the unappealing gray slop that smelled so much better than it looked.

The sauce was bright and citrusy while the gray cubes underneath were savory with a slight crunch. She chewed thoughtfully and decided she liked it. The motionless alien across from her drew her eyes. He hadn’t touched his food but was watching her intensely, a muscle ticking in his jaw.

Lily sighed and set down her odd utensil, then took a long pull from the bottle, wincing as it burned a path down her throat.

Time to get some clarity.

***

Verakko flexed his hands, now free of the paint. It had felt beyond wrong to have them hidden, but Lily’s continuous nervous glances toward them made him wonder if he should paint them again to make her more comfortable.

He took a swig from his own bottle, having already downed an entire one in preparation, but every bit of him, from his toes to the tips of his ears, felt shaky and nervous. How did one convince the other half of their soul to accept them?

“Alright, first,” she said, peering at his hands again, “when did those appear?”

“After you were stung,” he answered, shifting in his seat.

Lily’s jaw clenched, and she crossed her arms over her chest. “Why didn’t I see them before, when I woke up?”

“Because I made Desy cover them.”

She lifted a brow. “Were you planning on hiding them from me?

“No. I didn’t want anyone else to see them and report them to my mother.

“And she would force us to be together because…?”

“We’re mates,” he said shortly.

She bobbed her head with wide eyes and studied the marks again. Wordlessly she rose and began pacing back and forth in front of the windows. He had to quell the instinct to pull her away to a less anxiety-spiking area.

What are you feeling? His throat worked, and he clamped his mouth shut to prevent the sway building in his throat.

She pinched the bridge of her nose and squeezed her eyes shut. “You’re telling me that marks you’ve never had before magically appeared on your wrists because we have some kind of connection you can’t have with anyone else?” She leveled her disbelieving gaze at him.

A corner of his mouth turned down at the simplicity of her explanation. Was it even possible to describe the magnitude of what marks meant to someone who came from a world without them? “Yes, I suppose.”

“Well, why don’t I have any then? I’m your mate, but you’re not mine?”

Verakko shot to his feet, unable to contain a growl. Lily leveled a furious glare on him that, without words, settled him.

He took a deep, calming breath before answering. “No. I am your mate and you’re mine, but humans apparently don’t get them. Maybe you’ve evolved past them, or maybe it’s a malfunction unique to humans. I don’t have that answer, but what I do know from the other mated humans I’ve met is that there is some sense of recognition lingering inside.”

“Because I’m half Clecanian, or descended from Clecanians or…” She threw her arms in the air, a wild look lighting her eyes. “Or whatever the hell humans are.” Her gaze turned desperate. “I don’t understand. How could those just appear out of nowhere? Why didn’t they appear sooner?”

“Something happened to me when I saw you collapse. I don’t know how else to explain it, but every obstacle that’d been weighing on me since I met you just went away. All I could think about was that I might lose you.” He ached to reach out and grab her but forced himself not to. “It was the most afraid I’ve ever been in my life. I never doubted I could protect you. I knew I could fight a Strigi or a sefa to keep you safe, but…” He swallowed, ice sliding down his spine at the mere memory, “I can’t fight poison.”

Lily shifted her shoulders and nibbled her lip but remained silent.

He crossed to her, ignoring the spike of fear at the view through the windows. “I won’t force you, though. If you tell me you don’t want to be with me, I’ll do my best to stay away.”

“Can’t you convince your mom to—”

“I can convince my mother of very little. She already granted me the favor of allowing me to reside with you for three days before she announces your existence to the city. She won’t do more.”

“What will happen then? After her announcement?”

Verakko stifled another growl rising in his throat. He knew what would happen, and he wondered if he had the strength to weather it. “Males and their family matriarchs will visit. See if they recognize you or see if you’ll open negotiations with them.”

“What if I say no?”

“If you don’t choose, I’m afraid whoever is assigned as your guardian at that time will choose for you.” At Lily’s look of disgust, Verakko explained, “The only thing required from you during a marriage is cohabitation. You won’t even have to speak to the male if you don’t want to, as long as it’s part of your contract.”

Lily stared out the window silently for a moment, then her gaze shot back to Verakko’s. “Wait…what’s in your contract? What will you have to do?”

His stomach roiled. “I had to buy this house and stock it according to her preferences. I need to prepare her dinner unless asked not to, and I’m required to dine with her once per week.” He balled his fists. “And the contract states that we’ll attempt a pregnancy.”

Lily’s hand covered her mouth, and she stepped back.

“I won’t, though! I can’t.” When she remained unconvinced, he added, “You are my mate. I won’t be able to be with anyone else.”

“As in physically?” She took a few steps toward him. “Are there physical side effects?”

“Yes. I’m faster, stronger, and my sway should be more powerful as well.”

Please don’t ask. Please don’t ask.

“What about if I say no? Would anything happen to you, physically?”

She asked. Verakko inwardly groaned. Lily was strong and wouldn’t be pushed into anything easily, but one of her weaknesses was her compassion. If he told her about what would happen to him if she chose to deny their bond, she’d feel pressure to remain with him whether she wanted him or not. But he’d agreed to tell her everything. The good and the bad. “I’d rather not say.”

She titled her head at him and crossed her arms, waiting.

“I don’t know how severe the effects would be, but all accounts of Clecanians being separated from their mates seem to indicate varying levels of illness over time.”

Lily’s shoulders fell, and her brows drew together. She stared up at him, worry clear in her eyes. If the situation was different, that look would’ve melted every bone in his body. Concern for her mate shining in her eyes. He never would’ve dreamed he’d see it.

“You’d get sick?” she whispered, searching his gaze. “How long would it take? Are you feeling sick now?” Her gaze roamed over his body again, more slowly this time.

“No, I’m fine. I’m with you now. Separation for extended periods of time is what would affect me. It isn’t the same for all Clecanians, but I’d grow incrementally weaker. Be more prone to illness. From the accounts I’ve heard, my mental state would suffer more than anything else. Depression. Fits of rage. But, again, this has never happened before. The mating bond has always been reciprocated equally. There was never a question of whether two people would be together. I do know that the longer we remain together, the worse it’d be if we were separated. It could be that if you decided you didn’t want to be with me, I wouldn’t feel as many effects. We haven’t been together long. I’ve only had my marks for a day, after all.” Verakko shushed the voice in his head screaming that what he said was a lie. It wasn’t. He didn’t know what would happen if she left him. He only knew that every fiber of him revolted against the notion, but he couldn’t say one way or the other what being away from her would do.

Lily’s eyes watered, and she hid her face from him. All he wanted to do was touch her, but he didn’t know whether it would do more harm than good, so he stood there with muscles clenched, waiting for her to say something, anything.

When she finally faced him, he saw the evidence of wetness around her eyes. “What if in a year I choose to leave this planet? What if the laws change and I can go back to Earth? You want to be with me, forever? Monogamously?”

For every second of every day I’m alive. He took a step toward her and tried to work out what he should say. She was already so wary of him and skittish of relationships in general. Would she want to hear the truth? “I’d follow you anywhere, mivassi. If your face is the only one I see for the rest of my life, I’ll die a happy male.”

Her chin trembled, and she sniffed. “What happens if you break your contract but don’t reveal your marks?”

“Eventually, once I do reveal them, we’d be allowed to be together as mates, but otherwise I’d never be allowed to get married again. And I’d be sent away. For years. Unless the laws change, you’d be forced to marry once per year while I’m away.”

His throat tightened. To not see her for years? To know she’d be forced to marry at least two other males and be powerless to do anything about it? What if he returned to find her smitten with someone else? Or worse…gone. She’d pointed out something to him he hadn’t yet considered. Lily wasn’t required to remain on Clecania after her year was over. Would she leave? “If that’s what you need, I’ll do it.”

Her features softened. She crossed her arms around her waist. “You’d do that for me? Even though you could force me to be with you by revealing your marks?”

Verakko let out a rough bark of laughter. “It’s not like I haven’t thought about it. I have arguments with myself every few minutes about doing just that. It’s unnatural for me to hold back. It’s not what’s supposed to happen. Mates have always felt the pull equally. There is no doubt.” He closed the distance between them, relieved she didn’t step away, and rested his hands on her upper arms. “Every part of me knows you’re mine. But I want all of you, and I know that if I force you into it, a part of you will always resent me.”

“And if I agree to be with you, there’s no going back? Even if we become unhappy?”

“Never,” he said truthfully. “I’m barely holding myself back from you even now. If you tell me you’ll be mine, that’ll be it for me. I’ll never be able to let you go. But I will do everything in my power to make sure you never become unhappy.”

“And I only have two weeks to decide,” she whispered to herself.

“I’m set to be married in two weeks, but it’d be best if we didn’t live together after my mother announces your existence to the city. If I saw other males trying to court you, I…” Verakko let his hands drop, worried he’d accidentally squeeze her too tight at the thought. “It’d be better for everyone if I wasn’t there to see it.”

Lily stared at the ground and nodded silently. Her brows were drawn, and she nibbled her lip, the way she always did whenever she was thinking hard about something, but there was such miserable conflict on her face as well. He lifted her chin until she met his eyes, and his chest constricted. She’d had an elixir while at the medbay, yet she looked more exhausted than ever.

“Why don’t I take you to your room and let you get some sleep?”

Lily let out a sigh. “I doubt I’m gonna be sleeping anytime soon.”

Verakko pushed his luck and swept her long hair off her face, then cupped her cheek. A purr lit in his chest when her eyes slowly shut at the contact. I still have a chance. “Let me help. I can sway you to fall asleep.”

“Verakko, I…” she began to argue, her gaze becoming stern, but then her face fell and she groaned. “Actually, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”

He led her up the stairs to his room. He should’ve led her to the room he’d prepared for Ziri, but something about putting her into his bed had felt right. Verakko frowned as they reached the door. Did that mean he’d have to sleep in the other room?

In the forest, he and Lily had slept close together. He’d held her in his arms the last two nights, something he’d never imagined he’d be able to do with a female. Lily hadn’t indicated it was odd for her. Did human couples share beds the way he knew some other alien cultures did?

When they reached the darkened room, she turned to him and her cheeks pinkened. “Do you have anything else I can wear?”

His shoulders slumped a little. Why would she pick him if he couldn’t show her he’d provide for her? The damn clothiers of this city insisted on selling clothes the ancient way, in physical stores rather than virtually, and he’d only had time to pick one outfit for each of them before returning to her. “My shirt?” he offered, whipping it off just in case. “I haven’t moved any clothes in yet. I’ll make sure to get more tomorrow. You can pick them out if you’d like.”

Lily eyed his shirt, then took it. “Thanks.”

She fiddled with the clasp at her waist. He should leave now, give her some privacy, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

The clasp remained locked in place and she let out a huff, tossing his shirt on the bed to get a better grip on the small piece of gold metal. She peered up at him, cheeks now red. “I got it off earlier, but the damn thing won’t— Ow!”

He sped toward her. She lifted her finger to her mouth and sucked on it while glaring at her own waist.

He bit his lip to keep from grinning. “Can I?” he said, gesturing at her waist.

She crinkled her brows and studied him while still sucking on her injured finger. Slowly, she nodded.

The metal of the clasp had caught in an odd way, forcing him to snap it in two. He swept the fabric behind her back and gazed down at her. She was so close. He could wrap an arm around her waist and pull her in for a kiss so easily.

She peered up into his eyes when he didn’t move away, and he saw her breathing deepen. With slow movements, he ran his hands up to the clasp on her left arm, then let the fabric fall open.

He held her gaze and moved to unhook the clasp on her other arm, then the one on her back. He let his hands linger on the small of her back and tugged her in close. Her hands came up to rest on his shoulders. Verakko tried to shake himself. He couldn’t imagine how overwhelmed and emotional Lily might be feeling right now, and he was taking advantage. He rolled the fabric down over her waist and let it pool on the ground at her feet.

He kept his eyes on hers and stifled a groan when her gaze flicked toward his mouth.

But dammit, he was feeling the same way she was, except he also had the added frustration of experiencing the ache of not claiming his mate.

Her lips parted on an exhale. He let out a defeated growl and pulled her flush against him. The feel of her soft breasts on his bare chest had his cock shooting hard in an instant. He gripped her around the back of her neck and slanted his mouth over hers. A groan tore from him at the ecstasy of her small tongue swiping against his. She slid her arms around his neck, lifting to her toes and driving him crazy with the slow, lusty swipes of her tongue. The faint scent of her arousal was masked under the thick underwear he’d given her. His fingers itched to rip them off.

He let his rattling purr rumble against their connected bodies and smirked at her answering gasp. He forced her backward while deepening the kiss until her backside hit the edge of the bed. His large bed had been crafted especially for his frame and rose to Lily’s waist. Gripping her hips, he lifted her onto the bed, then hooked an arm around her lower back and pulled her hips against his.

When he ground his hard length against the sensitive spot at the apex of her thighs, she released a moan so sweet he might’ve come right there. But then she pulled away.

Breathing hard, she stared up into his eyes. He had her hips pinned open against his and leaned his upper body over her, so she propped her arms behind her and leaned away. He exhaled a growl at what he saw in her stare. Clarity.

“Before, you said this wasn’t allowed. I’m assuming that has something to do with your engagement.”

Verakko forced himself to answer honestly, though his contractual obligations to another female were the last thing he wanted to talk about at that particular moment. “Before I knew you were my mate…” He emphasized the word and forced his gaze to remain on her face and not slither down to see her exposed body now open to view. “Ziritha knows I’m here with you. This is technically a violation, but—”

Lily shook her head and interrupted. “I don’t want to hurt any woman by doing this with you right now, in her house no less.”

Verakko scowled. “This isn’t hurting anyone. Ziri doesn’t see me or this place like that.” How to make her understand that the betrayal Lily thought Ziritha may feel was so far from the truth.

Lily stared at his mouth for a moment, and he thought she may reconsider, but then her brows drew together and she plucked his shirt from where he’d thrown it. “I hear what you’re telling me logically, but I still have a lifetime of Earth experience making me feel shitty about this. Until I see for myself that people who are married don’t have bonds like I’m used to, I don’t think we should do this.”

He growled and snatched the shirt out of her hands.

“Verakko,” she said in a warning tone. She reached for the shirt and missed, jiggling her breasts in a devastating way in the process.

Frown securely in place and balls aching with unrelieved lust already, he righted the shirt and held it above her head. He sent her a frustrated look and saw a small smile playing at her lips before she lifted her arms and allowed him to slide the shirt down. He’d committed a few crimes in the past week, but covering up her glorious body felt like the worst one yet.

He took his time pulling the fabric down to her hips, making sure to brush his knuckles against her nipples as he did. She shivered at the contact. When his shirt was on, he rested his balled fists on either side of her hips and focused on her face, letting her see his frustration. To be fair, he supposed he deserved it.

They remained silent for a while, just staring, the air between them tense.

“May I sleep here with you, Lily?”

She bit the inside of her cheek and considered him.

She neither agreed nor refused when she said, “I’m still mad at you.”

The small uttered statement stung more than it should’ve. Her words lacked venom, but he could hear the truth behind them. Mad wasn’t the right emotion. It was a mask for hurt. The type of hurt that would be the biggest obstacle against him. What he’d done to her for the past week might not have cut her deeply enough to sever ties with him, but it would seed doubt. The kind of doubt that would take longer than he had to squash.

To his mivassi, with all her considerable know-how and abiding confidence, doubt in her own feelings toward him would hurt his cause more than anything.

“I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you if you let me.”

Lily swallowed but said nothing.

“I’ll start now by helping you fall asleep.” He straightened and watched as she buried herself under a mound of blankets. Removing his pants, he slipped into bed beside her and programmed the lights to dim.

Hoping beyond hope she’d allow it, he pulled her in close to his chest and swept the hair from her neck. If she minded his shaft, now fully erect again and cradled against her bottom, she didn’t say. He ran his nose along the column of her neck and felt goosebumps erupt over her arms.

“Ready?”

She hesitated a moment, each millisecond of doubt in him another blow to the gut. One day they’d get to a place where she trusted him implicitly again, and until then, he’d need to be patient. At length, she nodded.

“Sleep deeply, mivassi, and have only pleasant dreams. You’ll wake in the morning renewed and ready for a long day.” He continued to sway the last words after her body had grown limp and her breathing even.

Verakko remained in place, petting her hair and running his knuckles over her cheek, all while thinking of ways he could expedite her decision.

A thought struck him and he disregarded it, but it continued to flicker to the forefront of his thoughts, demanding to be considered. It may not go over well at first, but it could end up being just the thing she needed to understand. She might not believe him about the position he was in, yet there was one person she would believe.

Verakko slipped his arm from under Lily’s head and retrieved his communicator from the kitchen.

After a few moments, the call connected. “I need a favor.”

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