A preliminary fork

The very raw manuscript of “Goddess’ Crusade” is complete. I need to make at least two passes through it to check coherency, then pass it onto my copyeditor. I admit, this a one of the oddest stories I’ve been told to write down. At two points I tossed my hands in the air and walked away from the laptop.

As this is toward the end of the book, I don’t want to post spoilers, so I’ll post sex, instead.

Leading her small entourage a few miles west, Faustina was fairly sure her eyes brightened on their own when she beheld the Huntsville City Building, built after the town recovered from the Change and had electric power reestablished in-part by her parents.  She had sent a message just as she left the hospital and was a little disappointed that the mayor was not out front to greet her.  His lover.

Entering the main door with Poul and another for security, Faustina was a little mollified to see the front secretary already standing. 

“Is it general or empress, today?” the middle-aged woman asked with a little smile.

“Yes,” Faustina said to confound her.  “May I see the Mayor?”

“Of course!” The woman opened her arm to the right.  “You know the way, I believe?”

Several steps later had her knock once as she opened his office door and took in a deep breath.  Robert Wade was seated at his desk with his suit coat draped over the back of his chair while talking into a landline phone.  Looking up, he gave her a great smile and held up the index finger of his right hand, daring to tell his Empress to wait.

“I’m going to de-horse myself in the showers,” she called.  “Back in a bit!”

She told her aide to wait there and her security legionary to stand just outside the building’s locker room.  Shucking all of her horsehair covered uniform into a pile, Faustina sent a message to their small fort just south of Madkin Mountain and next to the fission reactor, Chibi, so named by her mother, for clean clothes to be sent.  She had just flushed the toilet and stood when the door opened.

Never self-conscious, Faustina let her eyes take in Wade as she placed her hands onto her hips while he did the same.

“I’d not forgotten how beautiful you are, Faustina, but I do enjoy the reminder!” he smiled at her.

“I guess I’ll have to send you dirty pictures of me whenever I have signal from now on,” she grinned right back.  “Although, you might change your mind when I turn around.”

“What?  You chapped your butt riding aga – Oh, my God, Faustina!  Are you all right!” he cried, seeing the fresh scars from her shoulders down to the backs of her thighs.

She pushed one of the two shower curtains aside and turned a handle to let the water warm up while talking over her shoulder.

“I am getting better, and, honestly, faster than even a demi-human should, Robert,” Faustina explained, moving one of the worn but laundered towels a little closer.  “And, sorry to say, I died again.  Got better, though!”

“That’s how many times, now?” he asked with his hands just on her upper arms, away from her back.  She allowed herself to shudder at his touch.

“Three-and-a-half.” She adjusted the water temperature.  “It is becoming a bad habit of mine, I admit.  Hey!”

She looked back again, this time a little coy.

“If you’re gentle, I’ll let you wash my back, Robert…”

Faustina didn’t bother to pull the curtain shut and lathered up in more than one way watching him remove and neatly fold his clothes.  Makes sense, she thought.  A mayor has to look the part just as a general or empress does.  Turning, she saw he was just as agitated as she was.  She deliberately slowed her heart beat and blood pressure while rinsing the soap out of her hair and off her front.

“These wounds are barely closed, Faustina,” he said into her ear in the little shower stall.  She recalled he was a trained medic in the city’s militia.  “I’ll use the soap and my hands but I am not scrubbing you.”

“That will be fine, Robert,” she said in a husky voice, stepping forward so the water fell on him and handing the bar back to him.  He started at her neck and worked steadily down.  At one point, to get the backs of her legs, he had to squat down.  His breath against her backside provoked another shudder.

“There,” he said, standing.  “Turn around and rinse off.”

“No,” she ordered.  “You back up and I’ll rinse off this way.”

Faustina eased away from the wall into the water as she slowly bent over further, getting the soap off of her back.  With the water at her neck, she was very aware of her lover’s reaction.  She looked over her shoulder again.

“Go on,” she smiled at him.  “Just keep your hands off my back!  Ooooh!  Robert!”

They had toweled off and she was watching him get dressed with a little disappointment when there was a scratch at the door.

“You uniform is here, General,” her legionary said.  Because she could, she opened the door naked and took it from him.

“Since this was pleasure before business,” Wade said, adjusting his tie in the mirror, “what is on this afternoon’s agenda?”

“Firstly, allow me to correct you:  this is pleasure before business before pleasure.  I do not plan to have you out of my sight until morning!” He watch her tilt her head, as if listening.  “Or later.  But, to address your question, I want to bring you completely up to speed on what has happened in the imperium, the recruitment of Legion Six from the area between here and Chattanooga, and the politics of Knoxville.”

“Oh,” he said, surprised at so much.  “Should I have dinner brought in?”

“Yes.  Can we stay at your parents’ house tonight?”

“If you are willing to complicate your life like that, yes,” he held her bright turquoise eyes.  “My family are not my personal staff or your legionaries; our secret will be out, Faustina.”

“You answered that very quickly, for a human, Robert.” Her eyes twinkled.

“I’ve given it some thought.  We humans are slow, as you well know.”

“I prefer a slow pace,” she replied, letting her eyes drop from his to his pants.  “Then your parents’ place it is.  I have survived many battles in this world and the Void.  I wonder if I will survive your mother and little sister?”

He paused with his hand on the doorknob.

“My mother will try to glare you to death.” He opened the door.  “Mirrim?  Wear body armor.  See you in a few minutes, General Hartmann!”

The last, she knew, was to keep up pretenses for her guard, who, she could tell, was not deceived one little bit.

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