For NaNoWriMo 2013, I started working on a collection of stories and scenes out of the Epsilon Universe entitled Epsilon: War Stories. In the midst of working on this project, I ended up writing some scenes that take place during the same period as Epsilon: Redeemer that might never make it into anything else.
The following scene is from Ren’s point of view, and it’s a pivotal point in the evolution of her relationship with Wil after the events of Epsilon: Broken Stars, so if you don’t want spoilers of any flavor for Broken Stars or Redeemer, don’t click below the break.
My fingers worried the flesh around an old scar as I knelt there, straddling his leg in the too-narrow bed, weathering a maelstrom of emotions churning in my gut–desire not the least among them.
Wil watched me from his prone position, one brow raised slightly. “What’s the matter?” he asked softly.
“This just feels familiar, that’s all,” I murmured. “Like I’ve done this before even though I know that I haven’t.”
Living without memory of your past–or bare shadows and vague hints of your past, as the case actually was–kind of sucks. There are some people who would think I’m lucky, that would tell me now I have the chance at a clean slate and a fresh start, but they’re not living my life. There’s a lot I would like to remember and I’m sure that outweighs whatever I might have wanted to forget.
Not that the Imperium had given me a choice in the matter either way.
Wil’s calloused fingers captured mine and squeezed gently. “Don’t torture yourself,” he said.
I was still trying to figure out how we’d ended up in the bed together. Maybe it was because there really wasn’t much to do on Parseval and we were both coming down from the high of secret missions completed for the Resistance. We’d gotten to talking in a spaceport dive and now here we were in a quiet motel a few blocks away.
It wasn’t that there was no attraction between he and I–there certainly was. I wasn’t even sure who I was trying to be faithful to, if they were dead or alive. There was someone he’d lost, too, I could see it in his face, see the pain when he looked at me. I must have reminded him of her a lot.
He’d called me by her name tonight, before, when he’d been on top of me with his face buried against my neck and my fingers buried in his hair, and it had felt strangely right.
Maybe he reminded me of whatever mystery fiancee had given me the ring I still wore, with the engraving signed with the letter “A.” I couldn’t be sure. Luc Ross might have known, but there was a lot he didn’t tell me.
Probably for my own good.
I smiled gently at Wil and nodded. “I shouldn’t. But sometimes it just happens.”
He smiled and squeezed my fingers again, then let go and settled back. He was Luc’s right hand–or his left, if you were inclined to believe that Sam Cooper handled most of the aboveboard work with me and Wil handled most of the more cloak and dagger operations with his co-pilot, Mackenzie Desantis. There was no mystery about what those two were doing tonight. It was only a matter of time before there was a ring on her finger. I suspected that Mac was just working up the courage to ask.
“Do you miss her?” I asked softly, my palm settling over that old scar. For the barest second, I could feel blood seeping between my fingers as I struggled to stop a wound there from bleeding his life out onto a ship’s bunk. Then the feeling was gone and I suppressed a shiver.
He seemed to know what I meant and closed his eyes. “Every damn day,” he whispered. “Every damn day, Ren, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.”
I stretched out next to him and pulled the blanket up over us both, cuddling against his side and enjoying the comfort of human companionship. He put an arm around me and tugged me a little closer with a soft sigh.
Whoever that woman had been, he still loved her even though she was gone.
There was a lot about Wil Terrel that was a mystery, but some things I knew for sure–like the fact that Wil Terrel wasn’t his real name. He and Mac told everyone otherwise, but they both worked for Alliance Intelligence and they were both out here on orders to help the Resistance. I knew that Wil would’ve done it without orders and I was starting to think that Mac might have, too, which certainly helped the two of them in maintaining their cover.
“I’m sorry,” I said after a moment, resting my head on his shoulder.
He sighed again. “So am I.”
He wasn’t the type of man to have a girl in every port. The fact that we’d tumbled into bed together meant something. Maybe both of our hearts had begun to heal from whatever grief we’d suffered–me in a life I could only barely remember in snippets and fragments, he in a life it seemed that sometimes he’d rather forget, a life when he’d loved a girl named Caren that he’d obviously lost somehow. Luc had told me once that Wil was a complicated man. I believed him because I’d seen very little evidence to the contrary.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
I felt him nod. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
I didn’t really think that he was, but I let it go. We’d been friends for a little while now–he’d been the one to find me when I ended up on Caldin, shivering and fevered and alone after my escape from Imperium custody. He’d brought me to the Resistance and they’d given me a new life. I liked to think that there were things I knew about him that no one else really did, but I was probably lying to myself.
Still, it was a nice thought.
“Should this have happened?”
I wasn’t sure if he was asking me or asking himself that question. I looked at him, brows knitting. “Huh?”
“This. What we just did–what we’re doing now.” His brows knit as he stared at the ceiling. “Should it be happening? Should it have happened in the first place?” He looked at the ring I still wore on my finger. “Are you still holding out hope he’ll find you?”
I followed his gaze and sighed softly. “I think he’s dead,” I said after a long, silent moment. “I…I’ve remembered enough to know that something bad happened to the two of us. I think he died in my arms sometime a little while before I was captured.”
He swallowed hard, pain flickering through his gaze. “That’s awful, Ren. I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t hurt as much as it should, I guess,” I said softly. I reached up and ran my fingers through his hair. “What about you? Are you still carrying a torch for someone back home?”
“I’ve been away for a long time,” he said. “Alone for less time, but still alone.”
“But there used to be someone.”
He nodded, eyes sliding shut again as I combed my fingers through his hair. “She’s forgotten about me by now.”
My stomach flipped and I shivered. “So does that answer your question?”
“About whether or not this should have happened.” I snuggled closer. “Neither of us have anyone to stand in our way, so I don’t think that it’s a problem that it did happen. As for what did it mean…I guess we’ll have to see.”
He relaxed markedly and sighed, one arm snaking around me and drawing me close. “I guess so,” he murmured, then buried his nose in my hair with a soft sigh. He fell asleep like that, hanging onto me like a man drowning, like I was all that was keeping him afloat.
We made love twice more in the darkness of the night.
In the morning he was gone and I was alone again.
The continued adventures of Wil, Ren, and all the rest will be chronicled in Epsilon: Redeemer, coming soon to an ebook retailer near you. Stay tuned to this blog for further updates.