The Power of Three(6)

By: Kate Pearce

“I’m well aware that the decisions I make in the Senate have caused this war to drag on, and—”

“You don’t like being reminded up close and personal of the cost of those decisions?” Esca gestured at his leg, which despite all his declarations to the contrary, still hurt like frek. “I do my job. You can’t protect me from everything.”

“I know that you wouldn’t be the extraordinary leader and tactician you are if you were any different. I just wish you were more careful sometimes.”

“I’m a special ops soldier. I’m not paid to be careful.”

Ash swung around to study him. “You were offered a promotion out of the field. Why didn’t you take it?”

Esca took a long slow breath. “How the frek do you know about that?”

“I was informed by the military.” Ash paused. “It would’ve been nice if you’d mentioned it to me yourself.”

“Really, or did you tell them what you wanted to happen?” Esca glared at his companion. “Dammit, Ash.”

“I didn’t ask.”

Esca’s skeptical expression made Ash stiffen and slam down his shields. “I’ve expressed my concern. You’ve told me it’s irrelevant. I accept that. Have a successful trip.” He rose from the couch. “Goodnight, Second.”

Esca forced himself to remain still and seethe quietly. Even with their unique psychic link, sometimes Ash could be the devil to understand. He certainly didn’t need the male who practically ran the Senate treating him like a little lost puppy. None of Ash’s colleagues would believe their leader had a weakness like him. Sometimes he didn’t believe it himself.

He resolutely stared out over the city. His bags were packed and he was going on the next mission. If he didn’t go…

With a curse, he heaved himself upright and went through to Ash’s rooms, not bothering to knock. His First Male was seated at his desk working, his expression absorbed. He looked older than his thirty-four years, more careworn and exhausted. Despite Ash’s calm exterior, Esca knew better than anyone the tremendous strain his mate was under.

“You work too hard.” Esca leaned against the door. There was no reply and the deliberate static in Ash’s mind stopped Esca from communicating properly with him. “Ash.”

Without turning, Ash finally replied. “There’s an emergency vote coming up. I have to deal with it.”

“Ash.” Esca pushed through the psychic fog as hard as he could. “I’m sorry.”

“As you so rightly put it, I’m not your mother. If anyone should be apologizing, it’s me. I promised I’d never interfere with your career.”

“You said you didn’t.” Esca looked up at the ceiling and then back down at the floor. He was so crap with words. “I behaved like an ass. We’re mated. You have a right to be worried about me.” He sucked in a breath. “It’s just that if I don’t go back now, I’m scared I’ll never go back, and I’ll be stuck behind a desk for the rest of my life.”

Ash turned to look at him, his features a perfect mask, his smile the political one Esca hated. He shrugged. “Then go.”

“What do you know about this mission that I don’t?” Esca asked slowly.

“Nothing.” Ash turned back to his screen, which now showed the floor of the Senate and the votes coming in. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Don’t freking lie to me.”

“It’s not a matter of policy or actual knowledge.” He sighed. “It’s more a personal sense of disquiet that I didn’t want to mention because you already think I’m overprotecting you.”

“Like a premonition?”


“And what is it you fear?”

“That this time you won’t come back.”

Esca exhaled like he’d been punched in the gut. “Great. Thanks. I appreciate your confidence in me.”

“That’s not what I meant.” The screen flashed a warning and began to count down the seconds. Ash glanced back. “Esca, just let me attend to this vote, and—”

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