Excerpts from Hearts of Ishira...
Arianna woke to a weight on her chest. She could barely breathe. It felt like something was holding her down. Her eyes popped open in surprise and a wee bit of panic, but having learned her lesson in the forest several days ago, she lay perfectly still until she could figure out what was happening.
She felt things breathing all around her, pressing close to her body. Very slowly, without moving, she rolled her eyes toward her chest. She squeaked at the sight of the big fluff-ball sitting there, wiggling its nose at her. She sensed no danger from the creature, just curiosity and a demand for attention. She moved her hand, which was covered by another of the creatures. Soft! Oh, so very soft! Their fur was fluffy and softer than angora or alpaca from back home. The thing on her hand chattered, then settled into a rhythmic thrumming not unlike that of a cat, though the thing on her chest looked more like a rabbit to her. Kind of a rabbit crossed with a squirrel, crossed with a chinchilla.
"Well, hi!" she breathed at the thing on her chest, relaxing and smiling at it. It stepped closer to her face, wiggling its nose as it sniffed at her mouth, her chin, her nose. She opened herself to it, allowing it to sense that she was no threat. Its many whiskers tickled. Giggling, she unearthed her right hand and tentatively stroked the thing. Her fingers sank through the fur, finding that its body was actually fairly small. But the fur was long and thick and fluffy. Very carefully, she moved to sit up, but the creatures surrounding her body chittered at her, sending out vibes of sleepy annoyance at being moved.
"I need to sit up," she told them, sending out images of her in a sitting position, but still with the critters around her. Reassured that they weren't being ousted from her bed, the things moved a bit. Arianna couldn't prop herself up. Softly, not wanting to scare the little fluff-balls, she called out for one of the warrior-medics standing guard at the door. The one that turned at her call was Jace, who grinned when he saw her dilemma.
"I see the kimis have found you," he said. Offering him a smile, she nodded.
"They must know a push-over when they sense one, I guess," she said ruefully. He nodded.
"You need assistance?"
"I just want to sit up a bit, so I can lavish some attention on these fur-balls. You call them kee-mees?"
"Aye," Jace said, quickly and efficiently helping her to sit up and propping her against the pillows. "The kimi was a treasured house pet back on our home world, valued for its soft fur and sweet disposition. These animals are even softer and have a touch of empathic abilities, which makes them wonderful pets, especially for the convalescing."
"They're so precious!" Arianna exclaimed softly, gently picking up the one that had been on her chest and hugging it to her. It chirred softly and thrummed beneath her stroking hands, happy.
"They also shed like mad," Jace grinned as she looked at her hand in surprise. There was a nice little handful of the long fluff in her palm and stuck to her fingers. "It's why we allow them the run of the place. They tend to lose little puffs of fiber as they go about their business. We pick them up, save them, and use them for various things. If these have adopted you for now, I'll get you a small basket to collect the fur. We'll need it, come winter."
Arianna wished she had her hand spindle. She'd sit and spin the fluff from these little guys all day. Ah well. Perhaps when she was allowed to get up and move around more, she could make one for herself.
"Thanks," she told Jace as he reached into his pocket for something.
"It is no trouble," he assured her, smiling softly. "You are delightful to help. Not at all like your companions over there."
His lip curled at the other girls who'd been stuck in the dorm with her. Amy and Alicia were, indeed, difficult patients, demanding this and that, instead of simply asking. They were the types that would have been popular back on an Earth college campus, and they knew it. While Amy was constantly throwing snide remarks Ri's way, at least she hadn't tried anything else since they'd been in the bunkhouse.
"I am doing my best to get them well enough to not have to deal with them any longer," he growled, low enough for only Arianna to hear. She chuckled. He pressed a syringe to her arm, making her yelp softly and glare up at him. He winked at her. "Another booster of the nanos and some pain-killer."
"At this rate, I'm going to sleep for a week!" she complained.
"That is the idea," Jace told her cheerfully. "The more you rest, the more quickly you'll heal, and then you can get out and see our world."
She grumbled at him. He simply grinned at her and winked. She sighed. He was so cute when he was in this mood. It positively melted her heart.
He tested her leg. It was still very sore and she instantly decided that she had no immediate plans to use it for anything. Fortunately, the pain-killer was quick to minimize the twinges from his poking and prodding. He then wrapped his big hands around her ribs, very lightly manipulating his fingers to see how she was healing. Leaning back, he shook his head. "The nanos have much to repair in you. I wish that the rest of the translators would come online so we could get you back to the infirmary. I'd really like to have you closer to hand, so that I can keep track of how you are healing." He winked again, his gaze going wicked. "Or my quarters. I could take very good care of you in my quarters."
She laughed. "I'm sure you could!"
Ri looked up at his face and realized that his eyes were still on her chest. Looking down, she saw that the neck of her gown had slipped, revealing the shadowy valley between her breasts. She blinked. What was wrong? He was staring at her in a decidedly unprofessional way again. When her eyes cut back up to his face, he had the decency to blush. He gave her a sheepish grin.
"Has anyone mentioned how long it has been since any of us have seen women?" he asked softly. She felt her face go up in flames and tugged the blanket up to her armpits.
"Maybe I should have some real clothes?" she asked pointedly. He chuckled. Then she blushed even harder. "And… a bathroom?"
"Ah, nature calls," he said, rising to his feet. With a little chitter of his own, Jace seemed to tell the kimis to move, then picked Arianna up in his arms when they obeyed him. She blinked, startled that they were so smart, but even more surprised at his use of mental energy to make it happen. Hunter had said he was the only one with Reader abilities among the men. Did he not sense his own second-in-command? She would have to remember to ask him about that, when she saw him again.
Jace carried her over to the bathroom, setting her right on the toilet. Since she hadn't been given any sort of underpants, that just expedited the process. She couldn't meet his eyes as he left the little room, closing the door behind him. She did her business as quickly as she could, then called out softly that she was done. When he opened the door, she was standing, no longer on the toilet. A girl had her dignity, after all. He arched a brow at her, but picked up on her embarrassment and chuckled. Then he wordlessly held out a piece of material. She took it. It was a fresh medical gown, but longer than the one she was wearing now. More of a loose, open tunic, really. Short, it came to just the middle of her thighs. And of course, it closed in back, like all hospital gowns seemed to.
"Some things really are universal, aren't they?" she muttered. Jace politely turned his back as she stripped out of her gown and quickly donned the new one, though why he would bother at this point, she had no idea. "You'll have to help me tie it."
Jace laughed, turning, and reached around her to fasten the thing. He stood closer to her than he probably had to, close enough for her to catch his enticing scent. It was spicy, like Hunter's, but with something else she couldn't put her finger on. Different, but just as stimulating as Hunter's scent. She blinked, realizing that the smell of him had much the same effect as his commander's. What in the world was wrong with her? At least Jace couldn't read her mind, like Hunter could. Her face heated anyway, just at the thought of being attracted to both men. That was not like her, at all. Okay, it was, but only in a distant sort of way. She'd never been attracted to two men at once that were actually attracted to her.
She decided that the meds were having an adverse affect on her libido, and tried to put it out of her mind. Jace was no more appropriate for her than Hunter was, and for the same reasons.
He caught her blush, though, and chucked her under the chin, raising her face to his gaze. "You blush quite prettily, little Ri, when you are close to me."
"I can't seem to help it," she admitted softly, wanting to be honest. "It's your scent, I think. I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable."
"It does," he assured her with a grin, "But only in that you are injured and I cannot court you as I would like."