When She's Lonely (Risdaverse) - Page 26

It's just another one of the many small things that have made me stupidly besotted with him. He never goes ridiculously out of his way to work around my hearing. It's the quietly done, tiny ways he includes me that make my chest ache with love.

No, I remind myself. It's lust. Nothing more. It's not allowed to be love.

I open the door with a smile on my lips, eyeing his empty hands. "Someone forgot to bring snacks again. You're lucky I'm a forgiving sort of woman."

Instead of teasing me back, he steps past me and heads inside, a shell-shocked look on his face.

Immediately, I grow worried. I scramble in front of him so I can watch his mouth move, my heart thudding in my chest. "What is it, Khex? What's wrong?"

He pulls out his data pad and offers it to me with that curiously blank look on his face. "I got a message from headquarters when I was flying over here." He looks dazed, and it's clear that he's still processing whatever was in the message.

Handing the data pad back to him, I shake my head. "I can't read your language. What's it say?"

"Right." Khex gives me a sheepish look and then runs his hand down his face. "The senator that had a grudge against me retired. My family has put in for me to have a position back on Homeworld. A prestigious one." His mouth twists in a half-smile. "I just got a promotion."

Oh.

My heart feels as if it's turning to shards of glass in my chest. I know Khex is the black sheep of his family and he hates how he left things. How he's an embarrassment to them and he regrets his past. I should be thrilled for him since we're friends but all I can think about is that Homeworld is nowhere close to Risda and I'll never see him again. Homeworlders don't visit humans on Risda. That's why Lord va'Rin lives here with his human mate and their children instead of back on his planet. They're not welcome there.

I'm losing my friend.

I'm losing my Khex. The one person in this universe that makes this planet and this farm bearable and fun.

I want to keen with grief. For a moment, everything inside me clenches up, and it's like I'm losing Earth and everything I knew all over again. I'm going to be left alone again. Abandoned. Lonely once more, just when I'm starting to feel like I can breathe again. I bite the inside of my cheek so hard that blood fills my mouth and manage a bright, cheery smile. "Congratulations," I manage to choke out. "That's incredible. You must be thrilled."

"I must be, right?" he agrees, but he doesn't sound convinced. He presses a palm to his forehead. "Kef, what if I take this position and they realize I'm still the galaxy's biggest kef-up? They'll be so disappointed in me." Khex has a frantic look on his face as he gazes down at me. "I haven't made anything of myself in their eyes."

My grief at losing him gets immediately shoved aside. I grab him by the hand and lead him to the sofa, sitting down with him. He needs to talk this out and he needs encouragement. I face him as I sit, tucking one leg under me. "Don't think of it like that. Everyone fucks up as a teenager."

"They don't fuck up like I did," he says solemnly, using human slang for once.

I shake my head, gaze locked on him as I hold his hand. "You've been doing good work here. Everyone in Port loves you. You've befriended everyone, even the hard-to-like characters. Look at me! All of you hated me when I first arrived and now I'm holding your hand on my sofa." I beam at him, projecting happiness even though I want to fling myself down on my bed and cry for a week straight. "Making a difference in people's lives, helping them rebuild what they've lost—those are not bad things, Khex. It's a noble position."

Khex's mouth twists and he squeezes my hands. "You do realize no one gets sent here because it's a noble position? The militia dumps their dead ends here on this planet. The ones with no prospects."

"Well that's clearly not true, because you're getting a promotion," I say loftily.

"Only because my family pulled strings." He shakes his head, gazing off at nothing.

"Because they miss you—"

He laughs, the sound surprisingly bitter. "Ash, Homeworld families aren't like your human ones. It's about status. Right now I'm not contributing any sort of status to my family name. If they bring me back, I have a chance to bring honor back to my name in some small way. That's why they want me back, nothing more."

I run my fingers lightly over his knuckles, because Khex is always smiling and laughing and enjoying himself. I don't like seeing him tortured like this. "It's a good thing," I remind him. "You've felt guilt about what happened, right? This is your chance to make things better. This is your chance to prove to them that you're not the boy you were so long ago. They don't know the new Khex. The mesakkah I know is kind and caring and thoughtful. Loyal and generous with his time. Considerate."

Tags: Ruby Dixon Fantasy
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