Note: this scene takes place while Sam, Mercury, Lo and Carn are traveling from the wilderness planet to Haverlee.
Mercury held the mace over his head, prepared to strike. Lying on the ground beneath him, Seneca breathed easily. A flick of his trust-filled eyes warned Mercury to brace for an attack from behind.
He was ready when it came. Jupiter jerked him away with enough force to send them both flying. The thwack of his brother hitting the dirt, and the clank of bone and metal registered as the impact slammed through Mercury’s body. Air whooshed from his lungs. Pain ricocheted along his spine and his right arm went suddenly numb.
When he could get a breath, it came with the smell of dirt, and leather, and blood. He tried to roll and Jupiter moaned. It was then he realized the spike attached to the gauntlet on his right arm had pierced Jupiter’s chest. He quickly tugged at the laces and got to his knees leaving the spike in place. A loud pop and his shoulder snapped back into the socket.
He scrambled over Jupiter and did his best to make it appear he was pinning him, driving the spike forward. Nothing could be father from the truth. “How bad,” he whispered.
Jupiter’s response came on a gasp. “Bad.”
Mercury threw back his head and howled.
He heard Carn running toward him. One last moment before he’d have to return to the fight. He leaned low and whispered in Jupiter’s ear. “Hold on, brother.”
As Carn’s hands pulled him away, he watched Jupiter’s eyes close, his body go slack. It would be the last conscious moment Jupiter would ever have and Mercury would never forget it.
“Mercury?” Samantha’s voice pulled him away from death and the memories he couldn’t put to rest.
Enveloped in her honeyed scent, he opened his eyes to see her leaning across him. Her riot of hair tumbled loose around her face in spirals of gold and brown and red. Her full lips were stretched tight with worry and her gaze surveyed his face with concern.
“You were moaning in your sleep.”
She stroked a hand over his chest, beneath the light sheet he’d pulled over them. He’d finally pulled her away from the ship’s controls and into a bed. She still wore her under-tunic and underwear but he’d talked her into taking off the rest. The smooth soft silk of her thigh slid along his hip and her toes tickled across the skin near his knee.
“Sleep,” he commanded. “All is well.”
He hated that he’d woken her. It was the first rest she’d had since before they’d boarded the ship.
Samantha pressed her face to his shoulder and her breath whispered across his skin. “I think we have company.”
Mercury glanced toward the door. A worried Lo stood silent, back against the frame. He’d no doubt heard Mercury from across the hall. Pressing a kiss to the top of Samantha’s head he tightened his arm around her. “Do you mind?”
“Of course not.”
Mercury nodded to Lo. His dark-eyed brother glided into the room and somehow found space between Samantha and the wall. Not much space, he was sure. He could see Lo’s nose buried in her hair. It was the biggest bed of all the rooms, but it was a tight fit for three of them.
Carn padded in to join them. He took a place at the foot of the bed, his back propped against the wall and his legs stretched out over theirs. His calves pressed against Mercury’s shins lightly. Enough to notice, but not enough to make him feel trapped. Carn’s way of saying I’m here for you.
He met Carn’s steady stare with a silent nod of thanks then snuggled Samantha tighter. He’d failed his brothers in the arena, but somehow they didn’t blame him. Under Carn’s watchful vigilance, he slept.