Things had gone black. Tasha could still hear Noelle calling her name. She forced her eyes open. Something was wrong here. She needed help.
Tasha’s eyes ached to close again, but Noelle was right there, her face nose to nose with the fallen woman. At least the kid didn’t look scared. She eyed Tasha with curiosity.
“Are you going to sleep, Tasha?”
Tasha tried to speak. She wanted to tell Noelle to call the Royal Guards posted outside the suite. They were supposed to check on them once an hour, and one had commed Tasha to do so just minutes earlier. Noelle couldn’t be left alone for an hour.
Somehow Tasha couldn’t remember how to open her mouth. Wasn’t that silly? Opening one’s mouth was such a simple thing. Everyone did it. Why couldn’t she?
Her eyes closed again. Tasha was so exhausted. She had to sleep.
Noelle’s thin, piping voice spoke again. “Hello. Tasha is tired. Wake up, Tasha. Talk to the Nobek.”
Oh good. Noelle had gone for help without being told. What a smart kid. Tasha would have to tell Jessica. Like mother, like daughter. So smart...
Tasha summoned one last bit of energy and pried her eyelids open. A man stood over her and Noelle, looking as if he was at the end of a long tunnel. He wasn’t wearing a red armored formsuit though. Not a Royal Guard. Who was this man bending over them?
Tasha saw him scoop Noelle up in one arm. He reached for Tasha with the other. Her arm floated upward, her wrist encased in his big hand. She couldn’t feel his grip.
Tasha took what she thought was a long blink. When her eyes opened again, she was out on the balcony outside one of the rooms of the Royal apartments. She gazed at the face of the man who had come into the nursery. She’d never seen him before. Who was he? What was he doing here? And why were they all outside?
He seemed to be holding her in one arm and Noelle in the other. The starlit sky stretched deep and black over his head, a breeze lifting heavy hair as black as the night from his almost feline features.
His lips moved. Moments later, Tasha heard his deep delayed voice, like a vid with the audio out of sync. “I am ready for pickup. Send the shuttle.”
Tasha looked at Noelle. The little girl stared back, her expression worried and confused. Her lips moved, forming Tasha’s name.
Something’s wrong. Really wrong. I don’t know this man. I need to get Noelle away from him.
Yet a blackness more pronounced than the stranger’s hair, even murkier than the night sky, grabbed at her. Tasha fell into its grip, her eyes closing as the dark curtain fell over her once again.