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After a horrifying plane crash, Eve gets miraculously rescued by Thaniel, a tall and handsome man. They find themselves stranded in the jungle surrounded by danger, and Thaniel seems to have more secrets than answers about where they are. But one thing is for certain—the sparks between them grow bigger every step of the way…

Age Rating: 18+

 

Lost by ShawMcKnight is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Romance, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense novels.
Ali Albazaz, Founder and CEO of Inkitt, on BBC The Five-Month-Old Storytelling App Galatea Is Already A Multimillion-Dollar Business Paulo Coelho tells readers: buy my book after you've read it – if you liked it

Subgenres:

Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Thrillers, Fantasy, Exploration

 

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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

Chapter 1

Summary

After a horrifying plane crash, Eve gets miraculously rescued by Thaniel, a tall and handsome man. They find themselves stranded in the jungle surrounded by danger, and Thaniel seems to have more secrets than answers about where they are. But one thing is for certain—the sparks between them grow bigger every step of the way…

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: ShawMcKnight

Eve offered the flight attendant a gentle smile when her eyes momentarily touched on hers.

She must have noticed because she sought Eve’s friendly face many times as she announced that it shouldn’t be much longer for takeoff.

They were waiting for more passengers.

“That’s what you said over an hour ago.”

Eve couldn’t see the woman who felt it was her place to complain so loudly.

They were only separated by a thin curtain and a small passageway so that wasn’t enough to keep the irritated tone at bay.

“My father will hear about this. Thanks to you, I might even get my own jet out of this. He will be outraged. I’m outraged. No! I do not want your help with anything.

“I’m not dealing with you any longer. Where’s the other flight attendant? At least she pretends to be upset with my unhappiness.”

“I’m sure it won’t be much longer.” Mary Sue was written on her name tag. “As soon as we are able, we will serve refreshments.”

Closing the curtain didn’t keep the younger woman’s complaints at bay.

Eve said a silent prayer for poor Mary Sue and the other flight attendant. Poor little rich girl was not taking it easy on them.

Normally she would have felt a moment of guilt for judging the chit so quickly but hearing some of the things she was saying to those poor women, she decided the girl didn’t deserve her guilt.

She looked around the small plane to see if everyone else was just as uncomfortable as she was.

There weren’t many to check. There was a couple up ahead and across the aisle, but she was reading a book and his head was down.

The only reason she knew he wasn’t asleep was that now and then he would shake his head or pinch the bridge of his nose. So, he wasn’t happy either but at least he was nice enough to keep it to himself.

There were only two other people up ahead of her but all she could see of them were the back of their heads.

One of them had beautiful blond hair and Eve noticed when she boarded the plane that the other woman was gloriously pregnant.

The guy behind her had been all eyes when he boarded. There hadn’t been one person he hadn’t eyed but now he just looked straight ahead, unmoving.

Whoever they were waiting for was someone very important. Someone a lot more important than daddy’s little rich girl.

The guy up ahead of her was not the only one to arrive that had reacted the same as him. There were several who had proceeded to the front of the plane and two that were seated somewhere behind her.

Their eyes had touched on every person on this plane.

Hearing a chuckle and a giggle behind her, she smiled. Newlyweds! Had to be. They were so happy and in love that they hadn’t even noticed that they’d been sitting here for so long.

Mary Sue reopened the curtain with a relieved smile.

Only moments later the person important enough to delay an entire airport which was unheard of, stepped aboard. And strong big men surrounded him.

Wow, they were a handsome bunch. The fab five. They made no eye contact with anyone. She watched the man ahead of her give one brief nod to the man in the lead.

The first one looked like a mean Mr. Clean. He took the seat directly behind her. What was left of the fab five took the two rows of seats across from her.

Lord, they were an impressive lot.

Two younger men arrived and took the last two seats on that side. Nicely boxing in the guy, they were trying to protect.

He was handsome. Maybe a little too handsome for his own good. Flirting, he smiled in her direction. Her first thought was that he’d given her that smile more out of habit than he saw something he liked.

On the other hand, she saw kindness in his eyes, so she offered him a smile in return.

The man directly across from her leaned forward, blocking her view.

Eve’s smile grew, but she got the hint. The fab five and their charge were none of her business.

True to her word, as soon as the plane was in the air Mary Sure brought out the refreshments.

When she made it to her side, Eve offered the woman a soft smile. She looked exhausted, and the flight was just barely on its way.

“You’re doing a wonderful job, Mary Sue. Thank you for being so patient with us.”

“Thank You.” Her return smile was tired, but soft and kind.

“I’m Eve.”

“Can I get you something, Eve? We still have hours ahead of us.”

“Just water, please, then I shouldn’t be any more trouble. I plan on sleeping till we land.”

“I heard we are taking a small, fast detour but we are already so behind I hate to mention it.”

Eve patted her hand. “Don’t worry about me. I’m in no hurry. I can sleep here just as well as I can anywhere.”

Mary Sue chuckled and leaned in closer. “I don’t believe that will be true unless you have headphones or some earplugs.”

Chuckling, she grasped the other woman’s hand warmly. “I have it covered and if you need to borrow them, just let me know.”

Her pale blue eyes lit up as she groaned a little. “If only.”

Eve was still chuckling when she reached for her headphones. Several ahead of her already had theirs on.

Poor little rich girl was unhappy with the variety of refreshments and she was just about to explain just how unhappy she was.

The fab five all passed on refreshments and she could tell Mary Sue must have reminded them about the earplugs but only the one being guarded smiled and reached for his pair.

She couldn’t help it, she laughed out loud. Poor fab five, it looked like they wouldn’t be getting any relief from the whines of a spoiled child.

Unless mean Mr. Clean gagged her. He looked mean enough to do it.

Eve let her good side battle her bad side for a couple of moments. It was petty, it really was, but she really wanted to look behind her and see how Mr. Clean was handling all this.

The war within her continued longer than she would have liked, she even offered up a small prayer for strength, but she knew it would not do any good. Her curiosity always got the best of her.

Just ask her parents.

And since she couldn’t think of a subtle way of doing it, she didn’t try to be subtle. She just turned in her seat and cocked her head back.

At her burst of laughter, she slapped a hand over her mouth.

As she straightened in her seat, she didn’t miss the fab five next to her frowning. He didn’t look at her, he just frowned, and she knew it was meant for her. The only one to look at her was one of the younger boys.

Seeing how nervous he looked she took her headphones off.

Here they were trying to do their job, and she was being a royal pain.

“Sorry if I frightened you.”

Turning in her seat and cocking her head back she offered Mr. Clean an apology as well.

“I’m sorry for laughing at your expense. I promise to beg for God’s forgiveness and since he’s such a good and loving God, I’m sure he’ll give it to me, and I hope you can find it in your heart to do the same.”

His expression never changed. He looked ready to chew nails. She didn’t even try to cover her burst of laughter this time.

“Lord, I’m sorry. I just can’t help myself. You’re just too adorable. I mean no harm, I swear.” She offered Mr. Clean a smile. “For penance, if you can’t wear headphones then I won’t either.”

She held up a slim hand to show she was sincere. “And you’ve been most kind to not remark on my sin.”

Eve turned back around to find the whole fab five watching her now.

Her grin only grew. “I’m not crazy, I swear. He’s safe with me. I just get bored very easily.” She sighed. “Another of my faults, I know.”

Not one expression changed. They thought she was a loon. It was amazing how often she got that look.

“You won’t even know I’m here. I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open.” Smiling, she leaned back and got comfortable.

It always amazed anyone who knew her at how quickly she could fall asleep, and as quickly as she could fall asleep, she could wake up. She’d be alert and ready.

Her bestest friend Travis said it was a talent, but Eve knew it was because she’s had to be that way. If she had to be perfectly comfortable to sleep, then she would have never slept as a child.

And if she didn’t wake up alert then she would probably be dead by now.

Her first thought was she’d only been asleep for two or three hours. Her next thought was a fab five had spoken.

She looked to see which one.

He was big. Well built. Very handsome. He was the one who had silently suggested she mind her own business. His voice was smooth. Warm.

His tone nor his words gave a hint to what he was feeling but she could practically feel the anger coming off of him.

“Sampson, I asked you why you are out of your place.”

He stood, and she felt Mr. Clean do the same behind her.

“Well, I have this gun, you see.” He spoke casually as he pressed the gun, he was speaking about up against the guy who had eyed everyone earlier.

Tall and handsome started after him but two more with guns filed in. Mary Sue was roughly pushed to the side after one of the guys no longer needed her for a shield.

One pointed a gun at tall and handsome and the other jumped in the seat between the couple and the younger men of the group.

“Hanson, what the hell?” The boy next to the window asked as a gun was pointed at him.

Eve looked as another arrived. He was smiling. “Sorry, Mitchell. You lose.”

She cut off a cry when the young man was killed right before her eyes.

The fab five stood. All of them wearing the same expression again. They were scary. Even more so than the ones with the guns.

“I wouldn’t. Your prince gets the next one. I swear I would like nothing better than putting a bullet between his eyes.”

Tall and handsome held up his hand and his men stilled.

Eve shook so badly she was afraid her teeth chattering would draw someone’s attention. She wanted to close her eyes, so she wouldn’t have to see the slump of the body.

Wouldn’t see the fear in Mary Sue’s eyes but her fear wouldn’t let her. She forced herself to take a deep breath.

“Sampson and Salin, put your guns down and you can live. Your friends are already dead. They just don’t know it yet.”

“That’s just like you, Thaniel. Always thinking you’re better than everyone. Always thinking you have the situation under control.

“Here’s a news flash, you don’t have control over anything. You have no clue what is going on around you.”

“I know you’re a traitor and Evan, you’ll have the death of a traitor.”

Evan continued to smile. “There’s more of us than you can know. We already have Prince Edward.”

He flicked his gun toward the man they were all protecting.

“We have Prince William now and we won’t stop until our beloved king is dead. Now stop moving toward me, Thaniel or some innocent people will die.”

“Like Mitchell?”

He had light hair and a charming smile.

“That was just the luck of the draw. It could have just as easily been dear Zared there. Hell, what am I saying? I plan on killing him too and you can’t stop me. We have guns and you don’t.”

Tall and handsome shrugged a shoulder. “I have my dagger and I plan on burying it in Hanson’s chest.”

“Oh, really? And how will you manage that?”

“Just waiting for the right moment.”

The other guy sighed. “Don’t worry, we all knew you’d have to be the second to go. Salin, kill him.”

There was gunfire, but it came from the front of the plane.

Almost instantly a knife went flying over her head.

It was a very large knife, and it was buried right to the hilt in Evan’s throat. She didn’t see the man at her side throw his knife, but true to his word, a knife was now buried in Hanson’s chest.

Dazed, Eve looked back at Evan. He looked stunned as he slipped to the floor of the plane slowly.

All hell was breaking loose around her, but she couldn’t take her eyes off that knife. How had Mr. Clean smuggled that onto a plane?

There were checkpoints. There were rules. She couldn’t even bring a bottle of water on board, but he could get a knife that size on here?

She had just turned to see where tall and handsome was when the plane lurched to the side then it dove forward. It sounded as if the whole front of the plane had come off.

Through the panic, she didn’t have time to comprehend anything except that tall and handsome was hanging onto the seat at her feet.

She reached for him, but the pressure was too strong. She didn’t give herself time to think about it; she unfastened her seatbelt before she had time to register what she was doing.

Eve fell against the seats in front of her even as she grabbed for the man. Grabbing a fist full of his shirt she wrapped her other arm around his shoulder.

Their eyes caught for just a moment then she closed her eyes as she used her legs to try to find something to hold on to. Then with a prayer, she heaved with all her might.

He helped, and she wasn’t too prideful to admit she couldn’t have done it without his help.

Thank God, tall and handsome was also big and strong. It was by the grace of God and a miracle he was able to pull himself up and into her seat.

The sound was so loud that it could steal a thought from a person’s head. Scared and exhausted after that small climb she was prepared to stay where she was.

She wrapped herself around his legs and tried to cover her head up.

Eve was startled when she was lifted into thin air thinking she was falling.

The wind ripped the scream from her. It wasn’t until she was slammed into a seat that she realized that he’d picked her up.

One of his huge arms was pressed across her chest, his other hand blindly searched for her seatbelt.

She knew if he could say something right now he’d be saying, help you dumbass. So, she did. Bringing one end across her belly, he latched it.

There was no way to know for sure what hit her but damn it hurt! There was just enough time to thank God that she would not be awake for the rest of this horrible ride.

It was dawn. She knew because that was her favorite time of day. The sky was just beginning to get a touch of pink to it.

The night sky was being chased away. Birds were raising and announcing to all that it was time to get up.

She could hear the birds. A lot of them but she couldn’t see crap. Her eyes refused to open. On top of that, she was having the worst headache of her life.

She was alive. Death wouldn’t hurt this much.

Was she in a tree?

It took every ounce of her willpower to open her eyes then she groaned, wishing she hadn’t when a new wave of pain washed over her.

When she heard a small groan at her side, her own pain was forgotten.

Tall and handsome stirred.

She survived her surroundings. They were in a tree, all right and that tree was on the side of a cliff. A high cliff.

On the good side, there were foot holes they could use, and they weren’t that far from the top. There was a chance they could climb out of this mess.

The bad side was that they were a very, very long way from the ground. Climbing down wasn’t an option. Crashing from their perch wasn’t an option. So, up it was.

“What are you looking at?”

Eve shook her head sadly. “Not what, who. There’s someone down there. They weren’t as lucky as us. Who do you think it is?”

“Can’t make out much but they’re wearing red.” He looked up, determining what she already had. “My men don’t wear red and no one in the back of the plane was wearing red either.”

“That poor soul.”

“If you don’t stop moving around like that, we will end up down there ourselves.” He stated dryly as he reached into his trunk for a short, thick knife.

“Sorry. I think there’s something in my shoulder. I was trying to reach it. A splinter, maybe.”

He reached behind her and quickly jerked a piece of metal out of her shoulder. It was as long as her arm and two fingers wide. And sharp.

With a flick, he tossed it away and ignored her sharp hiss of pain.

Thaniel cut the seatbelts out of the seats then he clicked and tied them all into a rope of sorts.

Free of her own seatbelt now, she felt the need to move about more carefully.

She was short but not necessarily small. She had curves. Hips. Breast. She didn’t mind them; she wasn’t one to worry about her weight much at all, but she worked out.

At least once a week. When she remembered to. Either way, she was stronger than she looked.

Smoothly, she turned in her seat and got to her feet and all without rocking the seats very much at all.

Gently, she stepped into the empty seat next to her. Next, she stepped out onto the branch of the tree.

It wasn’t a large tree, but it could hold her weight and the limbs would give her something better to hang on to. After she was settled, she turned to see him finishing up his job.

He handed her one end of his makeshift rope.

Nodding, she gripped it then wrapped some of it around her arm.

As soon as he moved the seats shifted. He stilled, but it was too late. The seats lurched to one side.

He had no time to even think about grabbing something to hold on to. He fell. Only the seats crashed below.

Eve braced for his weight, but nothing could have prepared her for his full weight. Her arm felt like it would be pulled off.

Trying to find her voice took a long time.

He was looking up at her. Waiting.

“Don’t fall.”

“That will depend on you, Eve.”

“I won’t let go.”

“Glad to hear it.”

She took a deep breath and rested her forehead against the limb in front of her. When she spoke again her voice was stronger. Her eyes held his. “I won’t let go but I can’t pull you up either.”

“I can pull myself up. When you’re ready.”

“I’m trying to not come undone.” She whispered. Tears ran down her face. Bravery was fading fast to panic. Hell, most people would be well past the panic stage by now, she told herself.

“I know.” Thaniel looked up into her eyes. “And you’re doing very well.” His voice was reassuring.

“We were in a plane crash.”

“I know.”

“There will be so many who didn’t make it.”

“I know.”

“I’m ready.”

That was all he was waiting for. Hand over hand, he made his way up. He made quick work of it and he didn’t pause when he reached the tree.

Watching him climb the cliff was impressive. He was big but not clumsy. This was a man who had to work out. Bet he didn’t forget to. She could have guessed that with just a glance at him.

He really was a gorgeous guy. Tall, dark, big, and strong. Confident. Dreamy. He had clear gray eyes.

She was laying here on the side of a cliff, hurting just about everywhere and ogling a man. Maybe that hit to the head had scrambled something.

As soon as he reached the top, he pulled her up and sat her next to him.

All that and he wasn’t even breathing hard.

“I’m sorry about your friends.”

His body went stiff. “They weren’t my friends. They were traitors.”

“They were your friends first.”

“They were traitors and that I ever thought otherwise is my failure.”

Eve touched his arm softly. “You’re being hard on yourself. You didn’t know.”

“It’s my job to know.”

Thaniel knelt at her side. He probed her shoulder where the metal had been sticking out then he finished ripping the sleeve of her shirt off. He tied it around her injury then he probed her other injured arm.

This time she couldn’t help her wince of pain, she slapped his hand away.

He ignored her.

“Do you think there’s more of us? There has to be.”

“See that smoke to our left?”

Dark smoke rose into the sky. There seemed to be a pattern to it. Eve smiled. “A signal?”

“Yes.”

“What do you think it means?”

“My prince is alive.”

She touched his arm again. “That’s wonderful news.”

He took her hand off him and held it at an angle then he jerked her arm back into place.

“Oh, dear God.” That came after her scream and a few curses. “That was so not called for. You’ve never heard of warning someone?”

He cut her other sleeve away.

“I’m not sure I like you. You’re not that friendly and you don’t talk unless you must. It’s irritating.”

Her complaints fell on deaf ears. He bent her arm and laid it across her chest, using her sleeve to tie it into place.

“Let’s go.”

Sending a dirty look at his back she got to her feet to follow. She knew that he would leave her if she got too far behind.

Or if she became any more trouble than she’d already been. Less than a couple yards away they both came to a stop.

Death. One could try to prepare for it, but one was never prepared for it. “Lord, please take her into your arms. Heal her body, heart, and soul. Please, I beg you, take her home to rest.”

Eve gave a quick swipe at her tears then she fixed Mary Sue’s clothes so that everything looked as neatly as she could get it.

“I’ll tell your family of how kind and brave you were. I’m glad I got to meet you.”

Shakily, she got to her feet. He stood not too far away. This body belonged to none other than Sampson.

“We need to move on.” That was his only statement.

Her prayer for Sampson was silent. She really hoped he finds peace and forgiveness. He must have been a very troubled soul to have done all this.

She dreaded finding more of what they’d found here. Death and an overwhelming sense of loss. It had been all around her as a child. Villages struck with sickness. Cities torn apart by storms. By wars.

All the places where her father could guide lost souls. And where her father went to ministry, his family went to be by his side.

Where Carl Johannsen embraced the weakness in others, he forbade it in his only child. She’d told her first prayer over a woman who had passed away at five years old.

Tears streaming down her face all the while her father was in the background preaching to her on how death was a part of life. To mourn the death was to mourn the life.

She wondered what her father would say if he knew that she still found that hard to do.

Not that she didn’t believe Mary Sue would go on to a better place. She believed that with all her heart, but she was gone from this world, and this world still needed her.

***

When he saw the next body, he hoped she wouldn’t see it and she didn’t.

Eve followed not too far back, and he knew how hard it was becoming for her. Her steps were becoming wobbly, and she’d zoned out a few moments ago.

Everyone had a breaking point, and he didn’t think he wanted to be around when this woman reached hers.

Ryley stepped out of the trees and fell into step with him.

“Report.”

“Jordan has the prince and isn’t letting anyone else close to him. Both are well. Sebastian is looking for his knife. Xavier and I are on the lookout and Steven is searching for any of our missing men.

Zared has a bad head wound. Everyone else has minor ailments.”

Ryley’s pause was only slight, but it was enough for him to brace for the next bit of news.

“Roman’s gone. And Salin. Thomas and Eric are missing.”

Roman. His half-brother and like him a PreK2 warrior. Younger than him by a good ten years but not as young as his brother Zared.

He was quick to smile but had he’d been loyal? How would he ever know? How did he even know Ryley could be trusted? He’d only become a K2 a few years back.

“Sebastian thinks we aren’t far from Dunbar land.”

He’d guessed as much himself.

Their king had one true enemy. King Royce of Dunbar.

They all lived on an island called the Isle of Zebulous. Two warring kingdoms only separated by a jungle. A large amazon jungle that was forbidden to enter.

Not just because it was dangerous, nor because of the small tribes that occupied it but because it had been the order by the first true king. King Dumas

“I want Thomas and Eric found. I want to know if they are still a threat.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ryley, keep your eyes open. Trust no one.”

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

Chapter 2

Gas fumes were overpowering. Any fires seemed to have burned out, but the smell of smoke still filled the air. There was sound all around them, but the people made no sound.

They gathered about just sitting, dazed and not moving. Some stared off and others had their eyes closed.

Suitcases, clothes, and paper littered about. Bodies were left where they laid. Large, ugly pieces of the airplane decorated the landscape.

Where did one begin?

She began with the person closest to her. Asking if they were all right before she moved on to the next. And the next.

Her mother was a firm believer that the best way to help people in a time of need was to make them help themselves.

“Keep them too busy for a pity party.” Her mom would know exactly what to do right now. This is what her parents lived for. Her, she had wanted as far as she could get from this kind of life.

If her parents were good God-fearing people who only wanted to help people in their time of need then what did that make her? All she wanted as a child was a real home. A real school. Friends.

She had felt so selfish wanting those things.

It was her grandmother who taught her self-worth. She doesn’t know what she would have done without her Grans.

And she wasn’t selfish, she was human.

“How are you feeling?”

“No contractions so far. The only thing that seems to hurt is my head, and that’s understandable.”

The woman opened her big blue eyes, and they held a ton of fear.

“As a doctor, I can see where everything seems to be fine. As a woman, I’m freaking out. How can I be all right? How can he be all right? We fell out of the sky.”

Eve squeezed her hand with a gentle smile. “What would you tell someone else in your condition?”

“To stay off their feet and to count kicks.”

“Then that’s what you will do.”

Seeing a duffle bag not too far away, Eve dragged it over.

“Could you go through this? See if there’s anything we can use in it? We will need bandages and medical supplies. Water and food. I’ll check back with you soon.”

“I had a medical bag. I’d be so appreciative if you could find it for me. I’d love to hear the baby’s heartbeat right now.”

“I’ll do my absolute best, I promise. My name’s Eve.”

“I’m Beth.”

“I’ll keep an eye on you as I work. If you need me wave.”

In less than an hour, she had everyone helping. Beth and the newlyweds were going through bags.

A handsome man named Paul, the other flight attendant, and a woman named LouLou were rummaging through what was left of the plane, collecting anything that could be useful.

Eve was delighted to see her old backpack but more so to see Beth’s shiny black medical bag.

She allowed herself to witness Beth’s relieved smile before she went back to work.

Grabbing two water bottles, she headed for the pack that huddled together. They were in deep conversation, but it came to a close when they noticed her coming toward them.

Thaniel was the only one who didn’t look her way. “You know what to do.” He ordered and all but one of the men left.

A tall man, a man even taller than Thaniel paused at her side. He had long dark hair tied back and a hawkish nose.

Mr. Clean had a mean look about him, but she found him adorable. This man was far from adorable. He was scary.

Thaniel crossed his arms over his chest. “He wants the water.”

She smiled at her foolish thoughts. “Yes, of course. I wish there was more.”

Once they were alone Eve sighed and let some of her tension go. “There’s very little water and even less food.” She sighed again but then smiled softly. “But it looks like Beth’s baby is okay. No worry signs so far. That’s a relief.”

He finally looked at her but had no comment.

“She’s a doctor. She might be able to help your friend. He doesn’t look too good.”

“He’s my brother. And he’ll be fine.”

To her that sounded like an order. “Is it true that you know where we are?”

He seemed to debate rather than answer her, then he shrugged. “Yes.”

She waited, but he didn’t go on. He received an irritated look. “So help should be on the way?”

“No. There won’t be any help coming.”

She paled.

Thaniel nodded and a man she hadn’t known was standing behind her stepped forward.

“We found Eric and Evan, sir. Eric had a gunshot wound. No sign of Thomas.”

For all of his trouble, he only received a nod.

That earned him another irritated look from Eve on behalf of the man at his side.

This man wasn’t scary. Or too large. He was just a man. Beautiful with wavy blond hair and bright green eyes.

If she had to guess she’d say he was still in his twenties. He was injured and favoring his left leg.

When he glanced her way, she asked him. “Why won’t help be coming?” He waited for Thaniel’s nod before he answered her. “There is no help, Miss. Not where we are.”

“Where are we?”

“Purgatory.”

Seeing Thaniel’s frown, the other man grimace. “I’m not trying to scare you but that is what we call it. It’s forbidden land. If anyone comes at all, it won’t be to help.”

Eve looked at Thaniel when she asked her next question. She didn’t expect him to be the one to answer, but she wanted to see his face.

“When you leave in the morning, you are planning on taking us with you, right?”

“That is still being decided on.”

“Is it?” She asked a little too sweetly. “Could you excuse us…? What was your name?”

“Xavier, Miss.”

“Xavier, thank you for answering my questions so honestly. Could you give me a moment alone with tall, um your leader?”

He looked to Thaniel and she could see him debating on rather he wanted to give his approval. With another nod, Xavier went away.

***

Her honey color eyes flashed gold when she was riled. He pretended not to notice as she marched right up to him.

“Am I crazy or is this not all your fault? Because you got on our airplane it was high jacked. Because of the detour we took, because of you, no one even knows where we are, but you do.

“And you could get us out of here but you’re choosing to leave us behind? Let’s not forget that whoever is out there looking for you and your prince might find us first.”

She never raised her voice, if anything her voice kept getting softer and softer. “You wouldn’t really do that, would you?” Unshed tears sparkled in her eyes. “I won’t believe that of you.”

The truth was not what she was wanting to hear. Because the truth was that his only concern was for his prince.

With Prince Edward already missing and the king ill, his country couldn’t afford to lose Prince William. His loyalties lay with his prince.

He’d die for him. He’d leave every one of these people behind and doom them all for his prince.

“Have everyone ready. We will leave anyone who gives us trouble or anyone who slows us down. Do you understand this, Eve?”

When she nodded a few tears fell to her cheek. She paused in leaving to ask one more thing. “Were you for or against bringing us?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes. It matters to me.” She didn’t wait for an answer.

Sebastian joined him and they both watched her walk away.

“Why did you let her think you would leave them?”

“I would have. I will leave them, if it’s called for.”

“Why are we bringing them? They will be more trouble than they are worth.”

His answer was long in coming. “She saved my life. Twice.”

Sebastian looked at him. “She’s very…odd.”

“Yes.”

“And daddy’s girl is being quiet right now, but that will not last much longer. The shock will wear off and she’s going to be pure hell.”

“Yes.”

“That other one is a looker though. I nearly swallowed my tongue at my first glance at her.”

Thaniel was still watching Eve. She picked her way through everyone, stopping to talk and smile at each one.

He knew who Sebastian was talking about. The long-legged model. “Leave her alone. Prince William will notice her as well.

“In fact, leave them all alone. If you take out the newlywed and the pregnant lady, that doesn’t give him many to choose from.”

And his prince grew bored so easily. Prince William was nothing like his father except for when it came to women.

“I’ll tell the men. Which means I better let Xavier know.”

“What’s your feel on Thomas?”

“No way he made it and we may never find the body. No one out of a seat belt made it.”

“And your feel on the men we have left?”

“Hell, if I know. Yesterday I would have staked my life on all your men being loyal to you and the prince.”

He would have too and because of that Mitchell was dead. And Roman. Countless other innocent people.

“Jordan has the whole vow thing going. I think to save Prince William he would kill us all then ask if we are traitors later.”

“He has reasons to hate King Lamar.”

“True but our prince has earned his loyalty and Jordan won’t be forgetting that.”

Thaniel rubbed the back of his neck and fought a groan.

“I know all of this will weigh heavy on you but don’t doubt your instincts. You’ve trained and busted your ass your whole life to become the PreK2 leader. I trust you and your instinct. What’s your feel?”

He looked at his friend. They were the same age and had been friends since they could walk. “Evan was cocky. I was ordering his transfer once we reached home. Hanson and Sampson were good soldiers.

“Never any trouble out of them but they kept to themselves. Maybe that was a sign.”

“There were no signs, or you would have seen them.”

“I trusted them.”

“Of course, you did. Salin hated you. You kicked his ass but good during the trials.”

“Salin was lazy. He wanted to be good, but he lacked the commitment and discipline. He insulted me by challenging me after only two years on this unit.”

Sebastian smiled. “You made him see the error of his ways.”

He grunted.

Sebastian grew serious again. “You didn’t handpick this unit and if you could have, they wouldn’t have been on it.”

One didn’t choose a unit to be on, they fought to be on a unit, and the last man standing won. These days K2 was the unit to be on. Men admired Thaniel, and they had hope in their prince.

Being K1 was a prize that everyone covets but the king was dying, and K2 was protecting their future king.

Sebastian knew Thaniel could have to wrestle a place from anyone in the K1 unit. He also knew he didn’t do it because he was waiting for Prince William to become king.

He didn’t do it because the hope that lived in all their people, lived strong in Thaniel. Hope that Prince William would be a good and just king. A better king.

“If you could handpick a unit who would it be?”

Since he had thought about this before the answer was easy. “Jordan. His loyalties run deep. If I had to fight him, I wouldn’t bet against him.”

“Nor would I. He’s badass.”

“You.”

“That’s a given.”

“Against my better judgment.” He looked away when he offered his praise. “You’re a pain in the ass but you always know what I want before I ask for it.”

Thaniel was hard on his men but he also believed in giving praise when praise was earned.

“Xavier’s a beast. None are as quick as him.” He added, “Except for me.”

“He’s a flop.”

“He’s a lady’s man, true, and that’s a flaw but one that our prince enjoys. You only dislike him because he’s so pretty.”

“It’s embarrassing having someone who looks like that in the unit.”

Thaniel allowed himself a chuckle.

“It’s an honor to be in this unit and that’s what I see when I look at him. He feels honored to be here. Proud. Steven too. I’ve known him as long as I’ve known you. He’s a good man. A good fighter.”

“And Ryley and Zared?” Sebastian asked.

Both were new to the group. Neither had earned their place yet. “If I had to pick a young one to train, Ryley is a good choice. He works hard. He has potential.”

He looked at his brother. They didn’t share the same mother, but he’s lived with them since he was eight. The sad truth was; he didn’t know Zared as well as he should.

He knew that until he lived with them, he hadn’t known a moment of kindness or love.

Then Thaniel’s mom had taken him in. That was her way. A more loving person had never been born. She adored Zared. If for that reason and none other, he hoped he didn’t have to kill the boy.

“He was uneasy all morning.”

“I noticed but I won’t believe it of him. He looks up to you, Thaniel.”

“Keep an eye on him.”

“I think you just answered your own question. You know who you can trust, and you know who to be wary of. What do you think she’s doing?”

Instinctively, his eyes searched for Eve.

He didn’t like this habit he was developing. His eyes searched her out more than he cared for. He didn’t like feeling beholden to her. “She will be trouble.”

She’d taken her makeshift sling off. It would hurt but she didn’t let it show.

“More than the pretty little rich girl?”

“Yes.” His answer was given softly because Eve chose that moment to pause in her duty to look their way again. She did that a lot as well.

“What is she doing?”

“Looking for shoes that fit. It’s the reasonable thing to do.”

“Yes, but why is she crying?”

“She doesn’t like taking anything from them.”

They watched her straighten the woman’s blouse then smooth back her hair.

“She is weird. Is she talking to the dead woman?”

“Praying. She does that a lot.”

Once she was happy with the woman’s appearance, she dragged the next body across the clearing.

“Send Ryley and Xavier to help her. And Sebastian, have that talk with Xavier before you send him. Afterward, help Steven. I don’t want to go deeper into this jungle with only some daggers.”

“You and me both.”

“Find that locked chest with our weapons.”

He walked away grumbling about finding a nearby shopping center while he was at it.

***

Eve didn’t let it bother her that they caught her watching them once again. She was afraid if she took her eyes off of them, they would be gone.

The two of them were as different in looks as they could be. Sebastian would be considered tall when he wasn’t standing next to his leader. He was wide and thick with muscles.

Thaniel was strong but his muscles were compact. He was made for speed and agility. If she compared them to animals, Thaniel would be a panther and Sebastian would be a rhino.

These men were fighters.

She looked at her rag-tag group. A very pregnant woman, a very spoiled, pampered chit, a super-thin, super beautiful supermodel. The newlyweds, who were barely more than children.

The flight attendant with her too red to be real hair color wasn’t overly nice but at least she’d gotten up to help.

Daddy’s girl wasn’t doing anything but shooting daggers at everyone who looked her way. And to round off their group they had an architect and a preacher’s daughter.

She watched Sebastian walk away then let her eyes fall back on Thaniel. She raised her chin, she wouldn’t let it bother her if he thought she was crazy.

Yes, she was bawling her eyes out and she wouldn’t pretend her heart wasn’t breaking.

Preparing the mother and her teenage daughter for burial had been almost too much to bear. For the rest of her life, that moment would haunt her every time she closed her eyes.

She wanted to curl up in a ball and let everything and everyone around her fall away.

But she wouldn’t. She’d make sure every lost soul received the respect and honor they deserve.

“Ma’am, you want me to carry her for you?”

Eve smiled through her tears.

“No, thank you. I can manage but I could use your help.”

She pointed out to where she was dragging the bodies. “It was the softest ground I could find. One large one will do. I was going to use pieces of the plane to dig with.”

“We’ll see to it.”

“I can’t thank you enough.”

Next, she offered her sad smile to Thaniel, who still stood just across the small clearing they were in. “Thank you.” She mouthed the words.

He inclined his head.

Moving her arm, the wrong way she winced. Resting wasn’t an option, so she went back to work.

 

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