Spthifius - Miranda Martin

Chapter 1


“You’re kidding,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m not fucking him. Nope, no way.”

Kiara’s stare doesn’t waver. She doesn’t blink. How does she do that? Everyone blinks, except her. Have I ever seen her blink? Even once?

Maybe she’s not really human. Or maybe they did something to her in the marines. Have I seen Adeline blink? I think I have. Yeah, I’m sure I have. She blinks, so it’s only Kiara. Weird.

“Savannah!” Kiara hisses and looks furtively around to make sure no one is paying attention to us.


“We need you to do this,” she says. “I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. Vital, even.”

“I… can’t,” I say. “No, no way. Not him.”

Kiara frowns, then she huffs and shakes her head.

“I can’t make you,” she says. “but Savannah…”

She trails off, and I don’t want to look. I don’t want to see her blinkless eyes boring into me, measuring my soul or whatever, but her silence pulls at my attention until I finally look. She shakes her head, causing the tight ringlets of her hair to bounce around her face, which softens the harshness of her unblinking gaze.

“Kiara, I… can’t,” I say again. “Why me?”

She looks away and stares out on the training grounds. The gladiators spar and do whatever it is they’re doing out there. Kiara inhales deeply then looks around again. No one is close to us, but I can’t stay out here long. They’ll be expecting me back in the kitchen, and if I’m not there when they want, it’s not good.

“I’ve seen you looking at him and him looking at you,” she says. “You’re the most logical choice.”

“But why?” I ask. Butterflies have taken up arms in my stomach.

“I need to know if we can trust him,” she whispers, leaning in close. “If he’s tied in with one of us, then we’ll know he’s on the level.”

“And you want me to sleep with him?”

“No!” she says, raising her voice then looking around quickly to see if anyone is paying attention. Two of the house guards look in our direction. “Damn it. No, just… can we trust him?”

I sigh, lifting the tub of dirty dishes from the gladiators’ breakfast and resting it on my hip.

“I’ll think about it,” I say, walking towards the kitchen.

“That’s all I can ask,” Kiara says then goes to train with the guys.

I wish I could train with the guys. It would beat the hell out of my dishpan hands. As soon as I step into the kitchen, sweat beads on my forehead and back. The large ovens are going all day long. It’s miserable.

The dishes rattle loudly as I drop them onto the counter next to the sinks.

“Ho!” Vina exclaims. “Do not break Domina’s dishes. Do not be lazy!”

“Sorry, Vina,” I say, feeling anything but sorry.

Kennedy carries pots over and adds them to the ever-growing pile. She sets them down carefully then rearranges the stacks so she can linger longer.

“You think they’d have air conditioning,” I grouse, running a fresh round of hot water into the sink.

“I think they do, upstairs,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“Probably,” I agree.

“I can dry for you,” she says, looking over her shoulder at Vina.

“Great,” I say, setting to work scrubbing the dishes.

“It could be worse,” Kennedy says.

“Could it? Really?” I ask.

“Sure,” she says.

“How?” I ask.

“Well…” she idly dries a plate and chews her lip. “We could be dead. Or we could be starving. Or we could be sex slaves.”

“Okay, I’ll give you those cases are worse,” I say. “Except for the last one, since that’s what Kiara is asking me to do.”

“What?” she exclaims, dropping the pan in her hands, which clatters loudly.

“Oi!” Vina yells. “I’ll have you whipped if you break anything else. Less talk, more work.”

“Yes, Vina,” Kennedy says, sputtering, then she looks at me in disbelief.

“Who? What? Why? Girl, talk to me,” she says.

I glance over my shoulder to make sure that we’re not being eavesdropped on before I speak.

“She wants me to ‘get close’ to Spthifius,” I say.

“Which one is that?”

“The green one, with the tusks,” I say.

“Ooohhh,” she says. “Really?”

“Yeah,” I say, attacking the pot in my hands with the steel brush in a futile attempt to remove the baked-on crust.

“But… why?”

“He claims,” I pause, look around again, then continue. “that he can contact the free movement.”

“Free movement? What’s that?”

“Part of her plan to get us free,” I shrug. “I don’t know.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” I say.

The warring butterflies in my stomach feel like they’ve mounted horses and are