Authors: Laura Jo Phillips
The Hearts of ICARUS Book Four
Laura Jo Phillips
Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen Honsinger
Cover art/design Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen Honsinger
All rights reserved.
Look for previews and coming release announcements at:
Other Books by Laura Jo Phillips
The Dracons’ Woman
Book One of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Lobos’ HeartSong
Book Two of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Katres’ Summer
Book Three of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Bearens’ Hope
Book Four of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Gryphon’s Dream
Book Five of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Vulpiran’s Honor
Book Six of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Falcorans’ Faith
Book Seven of the Soul-Linked Saga
The Tigrens’ Glory
Book Eight of the Soul-Linked Saga
Quest for the Moon Orb
The Orbs of Rathira, Book One
Quest for the Sun Orb
The Orbs of Rathira, Book Two
Quest for the Heart Orb
The Orbs of Rathira, Book Three
Mixed Blood, Book One
(Available under the name Kathleen Honsinger)
Mixed Blood, Book Two
Hearts of ICARUS, Book One
Hearts of ICARUS, Book Two
Hearts of ICARUS, Book Three
Hearts of ICARUS, Book Four
Books by Harvey Phillips and Paul Honsinger
To Honor You Call Us
Man of War, Book One
For Honor We Stand
Man of War, Book Two
Brothers In Valor
Man of War, Book Three
Visit the home of the Soul-Linked Saga online at:
or email Laura Jo at:
Salene Dracon left her room aboard the
, closed the door silently behind her, and began walking up the corridor. She’d spent the entire afternoon alone, playing entertainment vids in an effort to distract herself from thinking about the argument among the Gryphons, the Bearen-Hirus, Rayne and herself. Whenever she did think about it (which, despite her best efforts, happened about once every fifteen minutes) she cringed.
She’d never seen her sister so angry. Rayne had even used a swear word, which just proved how far out of hand the whole situation had gotten. Then Rayne’s Rami had gotten angry, and then the Gryphons had gotten angry before she, herself, had gotten angry. To top it all off, she’d made a bad situation worse by storming out of their stateroom rather than trying to talk it out. That was her greatest regret out of a morning filled with regrets.
The past few weeks had been the most difficult of her life, leaving her both physically and emotionally worn out. Now she was ready to put all of that behind her. They were all safe aboard the
they were on their way home to Jasan, and all that she’d hoped and prayed for had come to pass. And yet, somehow, she felt as though her men were still absent.
She needed them so much. Just one word, one touch, one look from their deep blue eyes to tell her that everything would be all right, would have made a world of difference. They’d never been particularly passionate toward her, but they’d always been gentle and loving and supportive. Until now. Instead of wrapping their strong arms around her and holding her close, they’d kept their distance from her ever since being rescued. And that was something they’d never done before.
At first, she thought it was because of their radiation burns, and she’d been angry at herself for even wanting to touch them when it was plain to see that it would cause them pain. But she soon realized it wasn’t just physical distance that they wanted. With every day that passed they retreated from her more and more, treating her almost like a stranger. An unwelcome stranger. Then, this morning, Rayne caught her crying which had touched off the ugly scene.
Salene told Rayne that she intended to wait a day or two for everyone to calm down before trying to speak with the Gryphons again, and she meant to do exactly that. She really had. But with each passing hour the need to go to them had gotten stronger and stronger until she just couldn’t fight it anymore. She had to see them. Now. Tonight. She had to make things right between them no matter what it took.
She could almost see how it would go. First she’d apologize for walking out, then they’d apologize for pushing her away. Then they’d talk the way they always did when there was a disagreement between them. And after that, she hoped with all of her being, they’d hold her, and comfort her, and everything would finally be the way it had always been.
Turning at the elevator bay, she crossed it, and turned again into the corridor opposite her own. As she walked, she wondered why she was so nervous. She knew her men well, had known them for over three years now. She loved them, they loved her, and while the morning’s events had been unusual, it certainly wasn’t the first time she’d gotten angry with them, or they with her. So why were her hands cold and shaky? Why was her heart beating too fast? Why was her mouth dry?
She stopped in front of their room and reached out with her senses to test their moods. She could tell that they were inside, but not what they were feeling.
It’s just nerves,
she decided, shaking her head as she raised her hand and knocked twice on the door.
I’ve just made a really big mistake
, she thought, stilling with her hand up, poised to knock again. She lowered it slowly, her body already beginning to turn, her only thought to slip away as quickly as possible. Then the door opened and she looked up into Kar’s eyes, surprised by the sensation of dread that washed through her.
“Hello, Salene,” he said, the tone of his voice and the expression on his face completely neutral. Her heart skipped a beat, but she didn’t know why. “Would you like to come in?”
“Yes, please.” He stepped back and she entered to find Jon and Talus standing side by side in the middle of the room facing her. She stopped a few feet from them, frowning when neither spoke, not even to greet her. Kar closed the door and joined his brothers so that the three of them stood shoulder to shoulder, looking down at her with identically expressionless faces.
Even though their radiation burns were only partially healed she still thought they were gorgeous in a very masculine, rugged way, with bold features and wide mouths that usually appeared to be on the verge of a smile. The distinguishing characteristic between them was the color of their waist length silky straight hair that they always wore in a single thick braid down their backs. Talus’s was the color of dark, antique gold. Jon’s was a lighter, purer gold, and Kar’s was a pale sunny yellow. An inch short of six and a half feet tall, they towered over most of their fellow Clan Gryphons, though they were still considered a bit short compared to male-sets of other clans. They had the usual broad chests and heavy musculature common to Clan Gryphon, though they appeared less stocky because of their height.
She shifted her worried gaze from the half healed burns to their eyes. She’d never seen them look so cold. They didn’t even invite her to sit. Were they that angry with her?
“I want to apologize for what happened this morning,” she began since it was clear they weren’t going to speak first. “Rayne was angry, and then I got angry. It just got out of control before I knew what was happening and I should have found a way to stop it, but I didn’t. I’m really sorry.”
“There’s no need to apologize,” Talus said.
His voice was calm, which helped. “Thank you, but I’m still sorry.”
“We intended to speak with you in the morning anyway,” Talus continued, “but since you’re here now, there appears to be no reason to wait. Do you object?”
“No, go ahead,” she said warily, her stomach tightening though, once again, she didn’t know why.
“We will not be going through with the binding ceremony currently planned to take place shortly after we reach Jasan.”
“I agree that we should wait until you’re fully recovered. I should have thought of that myself, and once again, I’m sorry.”
“No. It’s not that.”
“What is it, then? Is it because I got angry earlier?”
“No, it’s not that either.” He sighed impatiently, as though he had an unpleasant task to perform and he wanted it done and over with. That pricked Salene’s temper, but she refused to let it show.
“What is it then?”
“We’re going to find the Doftles.”
“All right. I’ll go with you.”
“No. You will not.”
“Because we don’t want you to.”
Her heart stopped, then took off at a gallop. “How long?”
“How long what?”
“How long will you be gone? How long will it be before we can bond?” She shook her head. “Forget the bonding ceremony. It’s unimportant. How long before we link?”
“We can’t answer that question.”
“What do you mean you can’t answer it?” She intended to sound cool, like he did, but instead she sounded scared, which she hated.
“If you must have an answer, I’m afraid the best we can offer is
His response, so softly spoken, combined with the tone of his voice, and the way all three of them were looking at her, left no doubt in her mind as to his true meaning. She took a shaky breath. “You don’t want to link at all, do you?”
“The only reason for engaging in such a union would be to have children with you, which we have no desire for. Therefore no, we do not want to link with you.”
For a long moment she couldn’t breathe through the pain caused by his words. Only when the edges of her vision turned dark was she able to force air into her lungs, then breathe it out, then in again. The darkness retreated, but it was the pain of her fingernails biting into the palms of her hands that kept her upright. She focused on that pain, sharp and bright, and stepped back from the oblivion that beckoned. When she was certain that she had a firm grip on herself she looked up at Jon, and then to Kar, wondering why neither of them had spoken. They certainly hadn’t objected to anything Talus had said so she supposed it didn’t really matter.
“We are…sorry,” Talus said stiffly.
“Sorry?” She laughed, a harsh sound she’d never made before. “You’re
. Is that supposed to make me feel better?”
Talus didn’t answer. All three of them just stood there, though they now wore identical expressions of regret. On a sudden impulse she reached out with her senses, stunned to find that she didn’t
any regret coming from them. No regret, no sorrow, no sadness, no pain and, worst of all, no love. Her heart shattered.
“You’re breaking faith with me,” she said, needing to put it into plain words, stark and bare.
“If you wish to put it that way, yes,” Talus said.
?” Salene asked, shocked by his casual, cavalier attitude.
Divorce did not exist for Clan Jasani. Once a male-set found their destined mate their choice was simple. They either accepted her, or they did not. No ceremonies or rituals were required. The only precept was that they could not have sex with her until after they’d made their intention known to her. Since they were incapable of ever having sex with any other female after scenting their
for the first time, engaging in a sexual relationship with her
and then leaving her appeared as though they’d used her for sex alone. That was an intolerable way to treat the woman meant to be the most important person in their lives. Once the decision was made and shared, regardless of what it was, whether or not they had sex was their own business.
For a bit more than three years the Gryphons had accepted Salene. They spent time with her, and they let it be known to friends and family that they loved her and intended to soul-link with her. They designed, built, and furnished a home together, and they planned a bonding ceremony. And, unfortunately for them, they’d begun a sexual relationship with her on the night of Tani’s wedding. It was the first and only time but it
happened, and since they’d been in her stateroom two doors down from her parents onboard the
at the time,
it wasn’t a secret. They’d even had breakfast with her parents the following morning.
Without that they
have been able to do this without being completely ruined. But having sex with her just once after claiming that they intended to soul-link with her was as good as a sworn oath. There truly was no honorable way for them to end their relationship, or
with her, unless she’d done something so heinous that it forced them to denounce her permanently. Something as heinous as what they were now doing to her.
This action would cost the Gryphons dearly. At best they would be ostracized, reviled, possibly denounced and banished from their own clan, if not Jasan itself. At worst, they would meet painful, violent deaths as they fell victim to the blood rages of male-sets infuriated by their blatant disregard of the code all clan males lived by, and their unimaginable insult to her. It wasn’t just because she was a member of the royal family, either. For any male-set to break faith with their destined Arima, no matter who she might be, was an inexcusable act.
She shuddered at the thought of the consequences this would bring down on their heads. Consequences that they were fully aware of. That they would knowingly risk dishonor and death to be free of her told her more than she wanted to know about their true feelings. She’d always known they weren’t sexually attracted to her, and she knew she hadn’t even come close to rocking their world the one time they’d slept together, but she’d always believed that they loved her. Apparently she’d been wrong. That, or the lack of passion between them had overcome their love. If that was the case, could she really blame them? She didn’t think so.
According to Jasani law and custom, Salene now had a couple of choices. She could either perform the
, the ritual of denouncement against them, or she could sever their bond. If she denounced them, she’d have to tell her family since it would affect them, too, which meant it would become public almost immediately. As badly as she hurt at the moment, she loved them and always would. She couldn’t bear the idea of their lives being destroyed, or ended, just because they didn’t want her.
Severing their bond was the only choice she’d be able to live with. Since they weren’t soul-linked, their bond was emotional rather than physical. That made the severing a simple, straightforward matter requiring no more than a few words. Best of all, it would only affect the four of them, which meant that it could remain private.
She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and raised her eyes to meet their calm, cool gazes one last time. “Talus, Jonus, and Karius Gryphon, by your own admission you have broken faith with me, thereby dishonoring me, and yourselves,” she said in a clear voice that shook only a little. “Therefore I, Salene Dracon, invoke my right by ancient law to sever the bond forged between us.” She swallowed hard, then completed the simple ritual. “By my will, by my right, by my word, this bond is severed.”