I set aside the thought that maybe Tank only liked me for this “aura of serenity” thing, and caught a sense of stomach curdling fear and despair from Tank. From the way Aiden talked about Luna vradins and all, I figured he had no plans to see me walk away on a permanent basis, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t go home.
“Let me check some understandings here, okay?” I asked, moving out from behind Tank to look Aiden in the eye.
Vyk translated and Aiden nodded.
“First, as a newly changed chicka boo, vradin, whatever, there’s a lot I have to learn, just to not accidentally do something stupid and hurt someone else or myself or stuff, right?”
“Okay, second, my family are likely going ape-shit with worry for me. That’s just a given. So, third, you here in Nimala have trade agreements or something like that with Tank’s people back on Earth?”
Aiden narrowed his eyes, but slowly nodded confirmation of the third point.
“Is there any reason I can’t go back- let me finish!” I added the last when Aiden started to puff up. “Just head back to settle my affairs, make sure my dad and my cousins don’t have any reason to freak out and worry like hells bells, and I come back to learn what it means to be vradin and all?”
I had a thought and looked at Tank, asking, “Technology stuff works here, right? I can bring my tablet and still read my books and stuff with a solar charger?”
Tank shrugged. “It’s worth trying, but there hasn’t been any reason to try bringing tech over for trading. No demand. We mostly keep the trade open just so we don’t lose touch with our people.”
Aiden rocked back and forth on his feet, from toes to heels and back again. Then he nodded, and Vyk translated, “This would be acceptable. About twenty days to calm your family’s nerves and return? If any of your family members want to return with you, they would be welcome, too.”
I looked to Tank. “Was there any official notice of my disappearance?”
“A lot, yes. The text you sent me showed the guys who had made the first grab attempt pulling into the gas station and made it clear they were … another of the races of men born of Nimala, and then you didn’t answer. I made the store attendant show me the surveillance video to get the direction they took off in, and the store manager called in the police while the pack assembled for pursuit. One of the officers on call must have been pretty on the ball, because your cousin the sergeant called within ten minutes hoping I’d already caught up to them.”
I chewed my lip, and thought about what that would mean. “I know I’ve been gone for at least a couple days.”
“Nimala’s day cycle is kind of close to Earth’s, so figure this is the fourth day from your kidnapping,” Tank said.
“Shit fire fuck damn,” I grumbled, then blushed for having used my out-loud voice.
Tank shrugged. “It is what it is. We’ll be three, maybe five more days back to the Door.”
Carl spoke up. “Perry knew the logistics of a chase through the Doors, and I had him calling in favors to keep this quiet before it could blow up into a media storm. Zoe will just have to keep to saying that she was unconscious throughout the kidnapping when her family asks her about it, and we can stone wall the locals with security clearance run arounds. It may cost us a few freebies in the south or the sandbox, but its not like we’ve been running those jobs for the money, any how.”
I said, “I can do that for the official version, but Dad and Dan are going to smell a fink, and Grammie is going to know beyond a doubt that I’m lying. She can read me too well. I think it will be better to tell them I was hallucinating for most of this time, because that will be a lot easier to slip by, and it means that I can reassure them that I wasn’t raped.”
All the men growled at that, Aiden’s eyes nearly shooting real sparks. He and Vyk had a quick exchange, and I looked to Tank, feeling a kind of sick worry start. “I wasn’t raped,” I said, more to reassure myself than because I was certain beyond doubt, given Aiden’s anger. “Wouldn’t I have felt, I don’t know, bruised or something?”
Tank said, “The Night Kind aren’t given to sexual abuse, but the way they kept you under meant they took some of your blood and injected you with some of their venom. Being made helpless like that is a violation that most vradin will react to the way American’s react to violent sexual assault.”
I took a deep breath in relief and head butted Tank’s bicep. “Don’t scare me like that again, please.”
He looked at me like I had just grown a second head. “I scared you?!”
I smiled up at Tank and said, “You’re my man. It’s always your fault, and I had the good sense to pick you when it’s a good faulting.”
He frowned at me. “I don’t think that’s how this whole relationship thing works.”
I gave him a beautific smile. “Absolutely that’s how it works. I said so.”
Carl and Vyk grinned openly at Tank, while the two vradin wolfs, I guess that’s the more appropriate way to name the werewolves, they lolled their tongues out in canine grins. Aiden’s expression went just a little blank after Vyk translated the exchange.
Tank kissed the crown of my head.
I looked back to Aiden. “Three weeks is going to be pushing it for settling my family, unless I can make regular trips back, like Sunday dinner for the month after type of regular trips back.”
While Vyk was translating for Aiden, I looked to Tank. “How close is the Earth-side of the Door to Tacoma?”
Tank draped an arm around me, and I was just suddenly aware again that he was nekkid-naked. “It’s on Mount Rainer. With the hike to the road, three, three and half hours to downtown.”
I looked back to Aiden. “Is there some place near the Nimala side of the Door that I could live while I learn about being vradin? If I can go back and forth, then I can get started with the learning while wrapping up things at home.”
Aiden’s frowny face lightened a bit, and Vyk translated. “Trader’s Rest is one of the land mark shelters. You may work with your teacher there until you require fewer return trips, and your teacher shall accompany you back and forth.”