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Larissa awoke with a snort. She wiped the trail of drool across her face with the back of her hand and sat up. Her head pounded with an unfamiliar ache. As she rubbed her temples with her fingertips, groaning at the sensation, she came back to full awareness and to the reality that she was not alone.
She looked up to find Kerrigan slumped in the Captain’s chair, his boots up on the desk. He stared at her with dark eyes, the flecks of grey through his short black mop of hair glistening in the gentle cabin candlelight.
“Morning,” he said with about as much charm and cheer as an undertaker addressing a corpse.
“Is it?” She wiped a second line of drool away as she looked around the cabin for any sign of morning. The small pair of round windows at one end appeared to be painted black.
“You know you snore?” Kerrigan said as he changed his legs around, crossing the left over the right and keeping his boots on the desk.
“I do not snore. What are you doing in here?”
“You snore and you drool. It’s not particularly attractive.”
“Well, I’m very sorry you’re not seeing me at my best, Mister Kerrigan.” She rubbed her head again, trying to push away the pain of too much sleep.
“I’m still a Colonel, Miss Markus. Does Holt appreciate your drooling?”
Her hands fell from her face and she gripped the edge of the bed. Holt. The ache in her head instantly sank straight to her heart. It hurt, like taking an arrow in the chest. The cabin disappeared into a haze and she focused on the last image of him, leaving her alone, yet again. She wished he were here right now, if for no other reason than to give Kerrigan another pummelling.
“I let you escape, didn’t I? Why are you being such an ass?” she said, trying desperately to push Holt from her thoughts.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” Kerrigan finally took his boots off the desk and sat upright.
“What does it matter to you?” Larissa stood and grabbed the pitcher of water off the desk, taking a large gulp straight from it instead of pouring some into a cup.
“It’s nice to know I don’t have to keep looking over my shoulder anymore. That’s rude, you know. Other people might want to drink some.”
Without thinking, she swallowed half the mouthful and promptly spat the remaining water back into the jug, then slammed it back on the desk and fixed Kerrigan with a dark glare.
He opened his mouth to speak, then promptly snapped it shut again as the door opened. Larissa straightened her back and felt her bones give a satisfying crack as Elena entered the room followed by Cid and the ship’s Captain.
“Larissa, Colonel.” Elena nodded to them both. The Captain marched straight behind his desk and pointed his finger at Kerrigan, flicking it side to side. Kerrigan promptly stood and vacated the seat as directed.
Larissa opened her mouth to speak, intending to ask what was going on and why no one had spoken to her in two days, then changed her mind. The memory of a guard smacking her around the head for speaking out of turn flooded back just in time.
“We will arrive in the Capital Eudonin soon,” Elena said as she picked a glass from the tray and poured a measure of water into it. Larissa glanced over at Kerrigan, who appeared to chew on his lip, and she couldn’t help but do the same. “You will all be taken directly to the Empress for further discussion and consideration. I have come here this morning to teach the three of you some manners. My sister isn’t as amenable as I am, and if you set a foot wrong, you’ll find yourselves in our dungeons…at best.”
“At best?” Cid said with a look of horror on his face.
“Don’t worry, Mister Mendle. If you follow my instructions, you’ll do fine.”
Despite Elena’s crooning assurances, Cid’s expression did not settle. Elena took a delicate sip from her glass. Larissa pursed her lips as she tried to suppress the childish giggle that threatened to burst.