Monday morning broke with a cool spring breeze showing the last vestiges of winter before summer’s heat. Conor tossed his suitcase into the back of the SUV and hopped into the passenger seat. Parker drove them to Kerrigan’s house, pausing briefly to acknowledge the gate guard. Conor recognized him as one of Colonel Eli’s men he had seen around Vokrizin. “Jamison is a good man. He will make sure nothing happens to Miss Lokir’s house while you all are away,” Parker said. Conor just nodded. They pulled up to Kerrigan’s house and Parker honked twice. Conor jumped out when he saw the four ladies exit with several bags each. He and Parker quickly moved to help and filled the back of the SUV with bags, nearly completely blocking any hope of looking out the back window. “Guess you are moving out. No plans to return?” Conor asked. Kerrigan replied smoothly, “I am sure I will be back. This isn’t a fraction of what is in that house.” Parker closed the trunk and addressed everyone, “The Co
Targu Province. Saturday night “A toast! To our good brother Kelan, for without him, many of us would still be scrapping the bottom of the barrel here in Velyki!” declared Darren Krellis. “Here, here!” chorused the room. "My family thanks you for letting us take over this place and turn it into the exclusive club Velykie can be proud of!" Darren declared. Kelan Benedict stood and saluted the room with his wine glass and took a swig. “Brothers and lovely guests,” he began, eyeing the ladies around the room dressed in tight-fitting evening gowns. “Tonight, I thank you for this gracious meal. Hopefully, the future will bring mutual benefit as the Benedict family begins its absorption of Velyki and then Targu!” There was a round of cheers and Kelan slumped back into his seat, wrapping his arm around Clarise, a tall attractive blonde dressed in a red dress that did wonders for her figure. “Brother Kelan,” came a grading voice beside him as someone sat down on the couch. Kelan took h
“That was crazy,” Conor said as they headed across the street. Kerrigan slipped up beside him, slipping her hand into his, “I get the feeling that our lives will always attract crazy.” Conor sighed, “It does seem that way. Let’s see how Mr. Arroz is doing.” Conor gave Kerrigan’s hand a gentle squeeze as they crossed the street and stepped into the spice shop. A small bell sounded as they walked in. “Be right up!” came the bellow from the back room. Conor pointed to the glass case that protected the world from the hottest spice known, Abrasax’s wrath. “Now, any idea how we can get Kelan and perhaps Nyman to swallow that whole jar?” Kerrigan giggled, “I have a few I would like to feed it to. Think Mr. Arroz will part with the whole jar?” “Depends if he thinks he can replace it,” Conor said as Faolon brushed past him. “Hey, Faolan! Sit! PRALL!” Faolan came back and sat at his feet. Kerrigan looked up at him, “She just wants to sniff. This whole place is full of new smells.” “I k
Conor and Kerrigan rode in companionable silence for most of the trip back to town, content to rest from the day’s climbing. They sat, each leaning against opposing car windows, but their legs met, touching from knee to heel. Conor felt their fingers brush and gently laced his with hers, enjoying how her hand fit so perfectly with his. It was near dinner time when they finally turned onto the street near the Spice Emporium. As Parker pulled into a parking space at the far end of the street, Conor noticed the Grizlehut. It had been a long time since he had thought about his old job. While his condominium home was at the far end of the street, he never come down this way anymore. Too often, Parker would be waiting for him, and they would simply drive the other direction to get to Vokrizin. Conor reached for the door and realized Kerrigan was completely passed out against her window. He leaned over and gently shook her shoulder. As she came awake, Conor saw a flash of panic cross her fa
He changed his hand position and reached, finding the quickdraw dangling from its anchor. He clipped the rope in and began his attempt to crest the bulge in the rock. As he pivoted, he realized the angle he was moving to would erase any grip he had on that hold. As he thought this, he felt a weightless sensation as he began to fall away from the rock. The rope went taught and jerked him mid-air as Kerrigan was pulled off her feet, flying fifteen feet in the air. She managed to hold the rope in its breaking position but her head was dangerously close to his feet. When he had caught his breath, Conor looked down into Kerrigan’s terrified green eyes. “Fancy meeting you up here. Think we could meet up again, once we are safely on the ground?” Kerrigan gawked at him for a second before smiling, “I suppose I could let you down, but You are at my mercy. I might just have to leave you up here like a pinata.” Conor chuckled as he watched her slowly release tension, lowering herself back dow
“OK, now it's time for you to try. Who is up first?” Conor volunteered. “Fine, Kerrigan, you are on belay. I will back you up and walk you through each step. I want you both to understand, Lead climbing like this places your life in the hands of your partner. If you don’t trust each other and learn not only to communicate but to anticipate each other’s needs, you will fail and likely hurt each other.” Kerrigan looked dubiously at Parker. “Conor is easily 50 pounds heavier than me!” Parker eyed Conor’s muscular but toned form, “You are what? 200 or 210 pounds these days?” “Last I checked, yea, right at 205.” “Should be fine. Kerrigan, you just have to learn to brace yourself correctly. You could go for a ride but if you use the skills I taught you earlier you could even belay me, and I am 230 pounds these days. Climbing is about technique as much as it is about skill. Now, let's get Conor tied in.” Parker tied the end of the climbing rope to Conor’s harness and showed Kerrigan.
Conor leaned against the SUV with Parker standing across from him checking through a few bags of gear. “We have three ropes, harnesses for everyone, belay devices, and four full sets of quickdraws. I am also bringing a few crash pads. I don’t plan on you needing to use them but we will put them along the base just in case. Here, try these on.” Parker tossed a pair of strange shoes to him. Conor looked at the shoes that had a sharp curve to the toe and the sole was a flat rubber that followed the arch curve. The tan material seemed to be some sort of soft doeskin or very supple leather. Conor tried to pull the shoe on but his toes cramped and they were shoved into the tight shoes. “Umm, I think these are too small.” Parker walked over and check them. “your heal fits right?” “Yea, but my toes are all curled” “Painfully curled or just uncomfortably curled?” Conor considered before finally replying, “just uncomfortable. My shoes are normally a bit loose.” “Then they fit perfectly.
Kerrigan spent the next day walking around the property at her house with Faolan. It had been a while since they had been able to just play, and she took this opportunity to play fetch. Thankfully her right arm still functioned, though being it was her off-hand, it was a bit awkward to throw. She figured this was good training for anything that might injure her dominant arm. Mercifully she had awoken almost entirely pain-free. The pills the Colonel had given her had truly worked wonders overnight and she had to admit, she was looking forward to being able to learn to climb the sheer rock faces near the waterfall tomorrow. The day passed rather uneventfully, and as the sun set Kerrigan found herself curled up on the back porch on one of their outdoor couches, with Faolan warming her feet with her furry mass. Reilynn stepped out a few minutes later with two glasses of wine and handed one to Kerrigan as Gabriella come out behind her. the girls each sank into chairs and leaned back, look