It was the blonde holding her up who answered in that thick country accent. “Welcome to Hell, Natasha Salter. ‘Cause that’s where you are.” She jerked her head towards the other woman offering support. “Amy here recognized you as the cousin of the empress. And of course there’s no mistaking the hair on this little gal.” She stroked Noelle’s head with a tired smile. “The Basma finally snagged himself a couple of the royals. He must be full of himself right now.”
The mention of the Basma triggered Tasha’s memory at last. The woman identified as Amy and the other two who looked familiar had gone missing in recent months. The Basma had claimed responsibility for the disappearances.
Tasha drew a stunned breath. “You’re all – you’re the women who were abducted these last few years?”
The blonde nodded. “That’s us.”
Tasha’s mind reeled. She and Noelle had been kidnapped. The Nobek who had appeared in Noelle’s nursery had taken them somewhere after Tasha had been incapacitated.
Was I drugged? Was that why the shel had a strange smell?
Tasha’s heart thundered as she realized that somehow enemies had gotten past the Royal Guards standing watch over the Royal House. Despite the supposed impossibility of such an occurrence, she and Noelle had been taken from the home.
The spike of adrenaline cleared the last of the fog of Tasha’s mind. It brought a surge of energy to her still-heavy body, enough to allow her to swing her legs over the side of the pallet and plant her feet on the dirt floor. The wood beneath her body creaked tiredly, as if it also had seen too much trouble. Noelle moved back, scrubbing tears off her cheeks. She looked up at Tasha, her expression imploring her cousin to get them out of this mess.
Tasha had another look around. She recognized the building as a portable shelter, the kind used by the Kalquorian military for temporary quarters out in the field.
“We’re still on Kalquor,” she reassured herself.
Amy shook her head. “No, but you can see it from here.”
The blonde nodded. “We’re on Lobam.”
Tasha stared at them, not believing. It wasn’t possible to take Noelle off Kalquor. There were state-of-the-art safeguards in place that prevented it.
“There is no way that could happen.” She stood, her heart pounding faster than ever. Her knees wobbled a little, but otherwise she seemed to have shaken off the effects of whatever drug had been used on her. With Noelle clinging to her skirt, Tasha went to the door. The women in her path moved aside, as silent and gray as ghosts.
Tasha stepped into the doorway, feeling the heat of the sun beating down on her. She stared at the sky, her mouth stretching open in a silent, horrified scream.
High in the sky hung a familiar greenish-blue planet. Kalquor. It was true. The Basma had taken them away from a situation deemed absolutely secure.