Stepbrother Jerk

By: Natasha Knight

“Do. Not. Touch. Me. Again.”

Rowan’s mouth fell open and she stopped breathing altogether at the deep, dark rumble that was his voice. His black hair was thick and his face was covered with a beard she’d only ever seen in old pictures. Since the epidemic that killed so many and rendered the majority of the population sterile, the men no longer grew facial hair, or if they did, it was nothing like this. She watched as he lifted the guard who had his attention off his feet, still holding him by his neck.

The guard gurgled and kicked his legs, his face growing redder, but the man, the man she knew was one who lived in one of the settlements outside of the colonies, held him there and looked over each of the other seven guards who stood and watched in disbelief.

“I am not your prisoner,” he said. “Do not make that mistake again.” With that, he let go of the man he held and let him fall with a thud to the floor.

It was in that moment that he turned his gaze in her direction. His eyes were a color she’d never seen within the colony, a bright, clear, almost magnetic cobalt blue. Within them, she glimpsed something she did not expect to find there: intelligence. The men from outside of the colonies lived like beasts. They were violent, barbaric. It’s what she had been taught all her life.

For a long moment, his eyes bore into hers until the guards who held her suddenly became animated again.

“Move,” one said.

They tugged her forward and she went, glancing once over her shoulder to find him still watching her. She’d never seen anything like him before, his skin was darkened by the sun and hair covered his arms and part of his face. His right arm and the side of his neck were decorated in some sort of ink, the pattern the most intricate art she had ever seen.

“He’s right,” came Commander Norrin’s voice from back in the corridor. “Silas is our guest, aren’t you?” he asked the large man. No answer came from Silas. “You will treat him with respect,” Commander Norrin finished.

Guest? Rowan wondered, but she had no time to think on it when the door opened before her and she eyed the doctors waiting there, all in white coats, their hands already gloved, the room stinking of sterilizing solution, the cold steel table fitted with restraints empty and waiting for her. That was when she realized her ordeal had only just begun.

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