Sticks and Stones by RE Sheahan

Book 4 in the Storm of Arranon Series

Erynn is heartbroken but there is no time to mourn, Dhoran and his evil forces are growing stronger. Desperate to stop him, Erynn races back to her home planet of Korin in search of a legendary artifact that might stop Dhoran once and for all.

The secret mission is full of dangers and complications. Jaer, the Anbas warrior sent along to protect her, no longer remembers the relationship they once shared. Even without his memories he must learn to trust Erynn and her abilities or all will be lost.

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Erynn stood staring up at large wet flakes falling to the sidewalk and street, covering everything in an icy slush. A transport hurried past, spraying freezing water in its wake. Erynn stepped back, under the portico, and into the wash of the bright Med Unit’s symbol lights to avoid the shower.

Jaer’s voice came from behind her. “Did you call for transportation to take you back to Leathan’s?”

She spun to stare into dark eyes as he moved in front of her. She shook her head. “No,” she whispered. She cleared her throat, her voice stronger. “I can walk.”

“I’m sure you can. Come on.” Jaer took her arm and guided her around the side of the building, walking toward a small vehicle in the parking area. He unlocked the doors using a remote device.

She climbed inside, the spicy scent of him strong here, and settled back in the seat.

He started the vehicle and warmth blew over her from the vents. As the windows heated, melting the icy blanket of snow, he turned to her. “I hear you and I were friends.”

She nodded, keeping her gaze out the front, watching the window clear.

“When did I meet you, and where? Here? On Arranon?”

“No. On Korin.” She turned to face him. “You and Tiar came to Korin with Cale to try and talk with government leaders about the alien invasion. But like Cale said, it was too late. The alien agents were well infiltrated into the economic and political sub structure of our worlds. The invasion came before Cale had a chance to talk with . . . anyone who could help.”

“Your father, Commanding General Yager, that’s when he was killed.”

She stared out the now clear front window and worried that spot on her lip. “Murdered.”

Jaer glanced behind and backed the vehicle out of the lined space it occupied. “When you and I were friends, I mean . . .” He sighed. “I don’t remember you, Captain. I don’t remember anything about us, about when we were friends.” He pulled out onto the empty street. “I wish I did.”

Erynn let out a derisive laugh, and shook her head.

“I do. Really. You don’t know what it’s like.” Jaer sighed. “Never mind. What was our relationship like? Did we—”

“No. We didn’t.” She stared at him, her jaw muscles bunching.

“Why do you assume I was going to ask you about sex?”

“Because you were.”

“No. I wasn’t.” He chuckled.

“Yes you were.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“Fine. We argued a lot. About a lot of things. Mostly when you tried to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.” Her lips curved at this memory.

He chuckled again. “I can see that. Who won?”

At the same time they both said, “I did.”

Erynn laughed. “See?” Her stomach growled.

Jaer grinned at her. “When did you eat last?”

Frowning, she took a moment to consider his question.

“If you have to think about it, it’s been too long. No wonder you’re so skinny.”

Her frown deepened. “I am not. You’ve lost weight too, you know. Besides, I’ve been busy. Meals were often scarce and far between when I was . . . Never mind.”

“More secrets?”

“No. No secrets. I’m hungry and I’m tired and I don’t feel like explaining it all right now.”

He nodded. “I can accept that.” He turned down a street heading away from Leathan’s.

“Where are you going?” She turned and stared out the back window. “Leathan’s is that way.”

“I’m taking you to get something to eat.” Jaer held up his hand. “I promise no questions and you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.” He parked in front of a small, but brightly lit establishment.

Jaer opened the door for her, following her into the all night café. The space was warm, the lights minimum, and the place blessedly quiet. After the brightness and din of the conference room, Erynn needed a little silence and time to decompress. She chose a booth at the back and they sat opposite each other.

Erynn flipped through the menu screen, finding the achcear, red berries and thinly sliced nuts in cream sauce she had come to love while on Arranon.

“You know what you want already?”

“Yes. I’m pretty simple.”

Jaer activated the selector at the back of the rectangular table. The device glowed to life and he glanced at Erynn, his head tipped.

“Achcear, this one.” She tapped the screen. “And Kree, lots of ice.

Jaer stared at the selector and frowned.

Erynn watched his eyes cloud over. “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“I didn’t mean to—upset you.”

“How do you know—”

“You frowned, hesitated. I’m good at reading body language. Remember?”

“I had a, ummm, I’m not even sure what to call what happens to me sometimes. Flashes? Breaks in the veil? Insights? You’ve ordered the same thing, the achcear, and Kree. I know how much you like them, especially the Kree with extra ice.”

“Yes. That’s why I said I’m sorry. I should have thought about what I did.”

Tipping his head, he smiled at her. “Never apologize for who you are.”

Erynn couldn’t stop a grin from breaking over her face. “Okay, I won’t.”