Dan dropped onto the chair next to us. “Fine. Make me act like a parrot. What are you doing?”
“Passing justice to another abused human.” I gently touched the swarthy, stubbled cheek. What a proud, distinctive face. His strong features looked like something from a misty legend. What did I know about Pamavirgins? “Do you like the ocean? You probably haven’t seen the ocean since BCM destroyed the coast right down to the Carolinas. They built ugly steel walls. They ruined the beach. Not where I am. The sea is ruined, but at least I see it—bad pun—but I see the waves.”
There. The closed eyelids trembled. I continued whispering. “You want to see the ocean again, right? BCM stole the ocean away from you. I live on the ocean, and I want to take you there to stay with me. I live right on the ocean’s edge. I live in a house that survives the Howlers. Imagine watching a Howler with me. Imagine the ocean roaring in full might.”
Dan moaned in confused agony. He sprang to his feet and poured out a tumbler full of soothing bourbon. Today’s wanton drinking turned expensive for him.
My fingers stroked the massacred hair. Soft bristles teased my flesh. “Listen, I’ll take you away from here. One time someone rescued me, and it thrills me to do the same for another human. Let me rescue you. Give me an ingredient. Talk, and we can watch the ocean together. Imagine watching the mighty water trying to wash the filth away from the sorry shores. The ocean tries to make everything clean. Someday it will win.”
The thick black eyelashes trembled again. I relaxed against the wall. “I’ll wait.”
Moments ticked past. Instead of barking at me, my overwhelmed Dan slumped back and shut his eyes. His glass barely remained in his fingers. His defeated posture told me how far I traveled here, but his defeated posture also told me he supported me. Bless his determined-to-clutch-comfort heart.
My trembling fingers continued stroking warm flesh. Wrong of me to admire this man, but his impressive physique told me he performed manual labor. He certainly wasn’t like the silly ManH men who played in the one remaining status gym. His hard, solid arm and chest muscles understood grueling work. I must be insane to want to be alone with someone who looked like cracking my back with one firm hug came naturally to him. My naughty gaze examined his thick, potent cock. What a lulu.
Intuition told me if I released this proud, tough man, he’d adhere to his word and not harm me. My intuition told me to trust Dan, and here I sat, alive.
My warrior’s body squirmed in silent struggle. I stiffened in anticipation. Please don’t let him overreact. Please. Eyelids slid open. Green eyes surrounded by appalling dark circles peered up at me in consideration. His cracked lips opened. He swallowed. A word rasped free. “Kudzu.”
Wonder filled my soul. “Kudzu.”
“The base is kudzu.” This time I heard the soft Southern burr spice his raspy voice. He twitched in pain. His eyes rolled up and saw Dan sipping at the bourbon. His gaze focused in amazement. “Care to share, ManH man?”
What did he mean? Right. “Of course.” I wagged my hand at Dan, who pressed my glass into my grasp. “Small sips, dude.”
“Why?” My bold Pamavirgin gulped down the remaining amber inch and sighed in bliss. A man after my own heart. He took a stern licking and still wanted his drink.
I stared at Dan. “I want these fucking chains and cuffs off this man.”
One word choked free. “Hasty.”
What? I stared down at the bourbon-loving warrior. “Hasty?”
A faint smile appeared. “The chains are showy nonsense, but keep the cuffs on. Treat me like a dangerous savage. Why should they trust me?” His pained eyes examined me in supreme question. “Will you really take me away from this horrible place?”
“I want to see the ocean roaring in fury. I want to see freedom again.”
“So be it.”
By now Dan sputtered in dread. “Hello, Devine, how are you going to convince them to let you take him away from here?”
Those warm summer eyes gazing at me from the pained purple hollows told me the truth. They told me I still owned a soul. They told me someone trusted me. “The renegade loner needs to work with this special man in peace and quiet. I’m the only man he trusts here. We need peace and quiet to make any progress.” I swallowed in disgust. “Tell them I want him as a toy, as a reward. Let me have him, and I’ll make sure the intel flows.” My fingers touched the rough infected mark on his neck. “Damn to the depths, he’s been chipped and dipped in a sloppy manner.”
“It’s standard procedure for field captives. The bullyboys aren’t picky about the insert jet’s sterile conditions.”
“Glad to hear you’re in the know about such nastiness, Dan.” I glared at my boss. I acted unfairly, but today everything irritated me. “Go ahead, man in the know. Work your special charms. Go play pocket ball. Tell them I need to take this man with me.”
“I hear and obey, you mouthy Brooks bastard. Fine. Only for you.” Dan slammed out the lab door.
I acted like an arrogant ass. That time I deserved Dan’s anger. Dan hated thinking he belonged to BCM, but why deny the truth? Bugger, I felt worse. I stared down at my battered new houseguest. “Don’t believe the toy nonsense. I tried to think what they’d believe, tried to think like them, which made me feel sick. What’s your name?”
I blinked in surprise. “Impressive. Native American?”
His eyelids crinkled in expressive glee. “Excellent, ManH man. Good to know someone in this decadent pit understands outside culture. My name is Pamunkey for fire.”
“Pamunkey?” The strange word sounded like a children’s game.
“An ancient Native American tribe near RichM. We trace our roots far beyond the white man despoiling the land. When the BCM monsters war against the land, they fight us. Since we do not live in the cities, many tribe members survived the B-Rain. We are a tough breed.” A twisted little smile added grim punctuation.
I envisioned Dan’s cropped hair growing even shorter. Boss, guess what, I planned on harboring a radical Native American! Thud. I squirmed in delight. “Excellent. It’s time to make this fire burn free from this damned place. Trust me. Tell me you trust me.”
Pokatawer offered me a lopsided grin. “Why not?”
“I need your real trust.”
“Why is my trust vital to you?”
Why? “I mean my words. The man who just left the room rescued me from a death sentence. It’s time I passed the gift along to another human.”
Pokatawer shook his head. “Really? Yours is a tale for later. I do trust you.” He blinked and shuddered. “I ache. Keeping the body limp during torment is difficult on the muscles. I need food, but first I need to sleep if only for a few minutes. The monsters do not allow us sleep. They take pride in keeping us awake. Three days sans sleep is ugly.”
My hatred deepened to a darker shade. “Want a little more bourbon?”
I slid out from under my captive and poured out another glassful. He sipped from the glass held to his lips. Those brilliant green eyes grew glassy in bliss. “Who are you?”
Sputtery laughter sounded. “My divine Sam.”
Did he hear me wrong? “No, it’s Devine.”
“Divine to me.” A final smile formed before my battered guest succumbed to tortured exhaustion. His black lashes shut in gentle closure.