Welcome to my stop on the SFR Station’s “April Fools for Love” blog event!
For my stop, I thought I’d offer a short story entitled “Three Little Words.” For those who have read Snowburn, this takes place about a week after the end of Snowburn and shortly before the beginning of Snowburn’s sequel, Throwing Fire.
I hope you enjoy!
I haven’t seen much of Ape lately. He’s probably been lying low, avoiding his sister’s wrath. Ape’s part in the run that brought Kez and me together, but also nearly killed her, came out afterwards. He may not have known the real purpose of the run, or who was behind it. But he was quick to volunteer his sister to take the fall. And Kez, being Kez, offered up her own flesh for his without a second thought. She’s a martyr when it comes to her family, my kitten. But she also holds a grudge. So she hasn’t had much to say to Ape since the run, and what she’s had to say, he hasn’t wanted to hear. Particularly since part of the post-mortem instructions that Old Man Tyng left us included an edict that Ape make an honest woman of his daughter. And Kez has insisted that Ape follow through.
So it’s a surprise when Ape pulls up a stool on the far side of the counter where I’m chopping tomallos for breakfast. He sits down, rests his elbows on the counter and puts his head in his hands.
“Early for you,” I remark. Kez’s crew are pretty dedicated night-owls.
Ape groans and looks up at me. I reassess. It’s not early for him, it’s late. Without another word, I toss a couple of handfuls of the tomallos into the grinder with an egg and a cup of cocomilk. Hand him a beaker of the resulting pink froth. He tilts his head back and downs it in one.
“Uh-huh. You’d better get some newskin on your neck before the girls notice,” I say, nodding at the red marks on his throat, revealed when his head was thrown back. Suck marks that I know Chiara did not put on him, since she’s still in Roysten, doing the meet-and-greet thing with the DeSal team.
He sinks on the stool, puts his head in one hand and closes the other around the side of his neck. Groans.
“Anyone we know?” I don’t really care who Ape spent the night with. What I care about is whether it’s someone who will tell Kez’s crew. Immature idiocy aside, Ape seems to really love Chiara. And she definitely loves him, although I have no idea why. Throwing that away over a drunk one-nighter seems like a waste.
“I don’t even know if it was a he or a she,” Ape mutters.
“Where’d you wake up?”
“Alley behind Bounce.”
The club Kez’s crew frequents. Could easily be someone we know. I shrug. It’s Ape’s problem in the end. I’ll tell Kez, so she’s forewarned. But Kez won’t tell Chiara. My kitten keeps secrets like no one I’ve ever known.
Ape rubs his hands over his red-blond crew cut. “I screwed up.”
I nod and keep chopping. If he’s looking for sympathy, he’s looking in the wrong place.
“How do you do it?” he asks.
I glance up at him. He’s asking me for relationship advice? “Do what?”
“Make Kez . . . you know.”
Happy? Sex. Lots and lots of sex. And trust. Trust doesn’t hurt. “Three words.”
“I’ve told Chi those three words already.” Ape shakes his head.
I doubt it. “I. Am. Sorry.”
Didn’t think so. “Works on all women. In all situations. As long as you mean it.”
Ape rubs his hands over his head again. He’d better not have lice, rubbing his head that close to my food.
“Watch,” I tell him.
I put everything down, wipe off my hands and walk over to the bathroom door. I tap open the door and beckon to Kez, who is standing at the sink, rubbing sealer over her teeth. Her implants are still new, so they need to be sealed every day. She looks at me in the mirror, lifts an eyebrow.
I wave two fingers at her.
She wipes the foam off her mouth and comes to me. Into my arms, the way she always does. I hug her as she looks up at me. Those big blue eyes full of trust and love and a little mischief, since we’re both only wearing bathrobes.
“I’m sorry,” I tell her.
“For what?” she asks.
“Interruptin’ you.” When she lifts an eyebrow, I say. “I just need a kiss.”
She beams. Goes up on her toes, wraps her arms around my neck, and gives me a deep, enthusiastic kiss. I kiss her back. Give her a little tongue and enjoy the sharp peppermint taste of her mouth. When she finally drops back onto her heels, I smile at her. Help her re-fasten her bathrobe.
“I’ll be out in a minute. I’m almost done,” she says. She scoots back into the bathroom, without even a glance at her brother.
I stroll back to the counter, pick up the knife and another tomallo and start chopping.
“It was the kiss,” Ape grumps.
“Followin’ those three words with a kiss doesn’t hurt,” I admit. “You think there’s anythin’ she wouldn’t forgive me right now?”
Ape hangs his head. “No.”
“Give it a try. You can practice on your sister. As long as you skip the kissin’ bit.” Kissing Kez is my job.
“I already told her I didn’t know about Tyng—” Ape begins huffily.
He is as thick as a thermobrick. I hold up the knife. “Three words,” I admonish.
Ape’s puffy face darkens. “Get off my back.”
I drive the knife into the counter a centimeter from his pinky finger.
“You asked me for advice,” I growl at him. “I’m the one who holds your sister when she wakes up screamin’ from the nightmares that run gave her. So don’t tell me what you did and didn’t know. I told you how to fix it. You don’t like my advice, ask someone else.”
Ape eases slowly back from the knife. Swallows. “Uh, okay.”
I yank the knife out of the pseudowood. Wipe it off before I start chopping again.
Ape slides off the stool. Towards the bathroom. Just before the door, he turns back. “Snow?”
I glance up. Gauge his expression. Nod before I go back to chopping.
Kez emerges from the bathroom, passes her brother without acknowledgement and joins me behind the counter. She wraps her arm around my waist. Leans into me. “Can I interrupt you now?”
“Uh-huh.” I put down the knife and turn to kiss her.
When we come up for air, she asks, “What were you and Ape talking about?”
“Dead puppies?” she asks mischievously.
“Nope. Three words.”
Both brows rise. “You and Ape were talking about those three words? Why?”
“Don’t think we’re talkin’ about the same three words.” I chuckle.
“What words were you talking about?”
“What I said to you when I opened the door.”
“You . . . uh.” Her brow furrows as she tries to remember. “You said you were sorry.”
Kez rolls her eyes at the now-closed bathroom door. “You’d have more luck teaching the rabbits to fly than you would getting Ape to say he’s sorry.”
“Better get them some itty bitty flight suits, then.”
“Seriously?” She wrinkles her chin and shrugs. “Well, we’ll see.”
“He already managed it once. First time’s the hardest.”
“He did?” She looks up at me, eyes searching my face. “He told you he was sorry? Really?”
“Wow. Well, stranger things have happened.”
“Yeah, I accepted his apology.” Turns out, those three words work on men, too.
Kez chuckles. “That is stranger.” She goes up on tip-toe and kisses my cheek before she turns to the counter. Surveys the huge mound of chopped tomallos. “Jeez, how many are we feeding?”
“Those are just for me. Get your own.”
She laughs. Bumps me with her hip. When I pass her a bowl, she starts cracking pagia eggs into it while I get on with the spicy salsa I like with our morning omelet.
Enjoy the story? Read all of Snowburn here!
There’s also another Hale and Kez short here!
Want more sci-fi romance? Visit the rest of the tour via the SFR Station!