“How long do I hold this for?” Anastasia asked. She had successfully maneuvered the piece of sheet metal in place over the top of Mikel’s dots of glue. “Five seconds? Thirty?”
“Nope. Sit back, get comfortable; we’re going to be here a while.” Mikel grabbed a box of food rations and plopped himself on the floor to prove his point.
“When we get back on the planet, the first thing I’m doing is letting everyone know they’ve got it all wrong. Alien technology is positively prehistoric.” She snatched a food bar, “What the hell are we supposed to do for ten hours?”
“You could tell me about your life as Anastasia,” Mikel blurted out before he had a chance to think. He hated to admit how curious he was, but the entire course of her life and plans had shifted overnight, and yet here she was, taking it in stride. How?
She gave a sarcastic laugh. “You want to hear about the time before I died and became this monstrosity? Is the requirement for sitting here being bored too?”
Stupid. Anastasia didn’t owe him any backstory. “I’m sorry, you’re right. You don’t have to—”
“I’m joking.” She sighed, “You know, alien, you really do need to adopt a sense of humor. I’m three hundred years old; nothing about me is boring.”
Mikel let out a breath and gave her a nervous smile. “Okay, I’ll try, but you’ve gotta admit, you don’t make this easy. You don’t even use your real name. I mean, what is your real name? Anastasia…?”
“Barrister. Not likely the name I was born with, but that was the name of the family that found me. Witches, if you can believe it. One of the most powerful witch families in Glimmerbrook.” She laughed, but there was a sad note in it. “I still take that as a point of pride, even if witches are terrible, and I’ve unwavering dedication to making every last one suffer.”
“I said I would handle it,” Alice hissed. She felt irrationally grumpy–probably from lack of sleep—and desperately ashamed at the same time. Turns out, the Underworld was a death trap because of its shoddy construction and the literal monsters creeping through it.
She could feel Vlad’s eyes on her, but she pointedly did not look at him.
“You are handling it,” he replied in the tone of someone who everyone trusted to fix a problem. He went to kiss her, but she put a hand over his face and pushed him back.
“How can I be handling it when everyone knows that I’m going on patrol with you?”
“Is this about the Martin women always being in charge?”
“What?” she dropped her hand.
“The Martin women. In charge and apparently fond of swords.”
Alice gave him a bewildered look. She didn’t have a sword, and the entire Martin family was mortal except for her. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. My family is under attack, and they need me to protect them, which I’m trying to do because this is my realm.”
“You are protecting them,” Vlad said, “Now, would you like a snack before we go?”
A snack? Was he fucking with her? “I don’t need a snack! I’m not a child!”
He didn’t say the words “you’re pregnant and hungry all the time,” but he was thinking it.
Apparently, her body was thinking it too. Her stomach rumbled. “One snack,” she allowed. “But do not look smug about it.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said, pausing to kiss her hand.