Unlike Gilford, these men looked tough and dangerous ─ out of place for the serene village. Dried blood darkened one man’s pant leg and a dirty bandage was wrapped around the other’s forearm. Their anger pounded against Toemeka. Under their gaze, she felt their suspicion and her skin crawled as she realized she’d let down her guard too soon.
What has Michio gotten me into?
Rich, colorful tapestries draped the walls and patterned rugs covered the stone floor. An imposing woman radiating authority, confidence and strength sat beside a large fireplace where a fire crackled. She was dressed in a navy caftan with gold trim and wore her hair gracefully swept up on her head. Silver streaks lightened the woman’s brown hair along her temples and fine age lines radiated from the corners of her eyes.
Michio bowed in greeting. “It’s good to see you again, Embrosa. You look elegant.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you came, Michio. It’s been too long.” Embrosa rose and clasped Michio’s hands in hers, looking upon him with deep warmth in her eyes. “You look well and in good health.” She was nearly the same height as him even though he was a tall man.
Finally Embrosa turned and fastened her powerful eyes on Toemeka. “This must be the Coalition agent.” Her voice lost its former warmth.
“Yes, this is Toemeka Ganti.” Michio put his hand on Toemeka’s back. The gesture felt intimate and natural. “Toemeka, this is Embrosa, the Resistance leader.”
Toemeka smiled. “It’s good to meet you. Michio didn’t tell me where we were going.”
Embrosa’s brow wrinkled. “There is a great need for secrecy. Michio, did you blindfold her?”
“No, I wanted to find out if she could see the Temple.”
He nodded. “She’s sensitive to the unseen forces.”
“That doesn’t make her a positive channel,” Embrosa said. “Samrat Condor’s priestesses are also psychically aware.” She stepped to the fire and held her palms toward the flames.
“True. Make your own judgment.”
Toemeka wondered why Michio didn’t defend her. At the falls it seemed as if something special existed between them. “If you want to know something about me, ask,” she said.
“I intend to. Sit down.” Embrosa gestured to a wooden bench across from her. Toemeka complied. The bench creaked as Michio sat down beside her with his warm thigh pressed snuggly against hers. Overheated from the warmth of the fire, Toemeka slipped off her jacket.
“Why did you meet Commander Rochambeau at The Twisted Sisters?” Embrosa asked.
“I didn’t meet him there. I went to find my partner, Erling.” She glanced at the two guards, concerned that they blocked the only exit.
Embrosa’s eyes sparked with anger. “No, you deliberately met Rochambeau and have been on good terms with him ever since. You’re really a spy for Samrat Condor.”
“No, I ─”
“You’re developing an oscillator for him.”
Toemeka grimaced. She shifted her position so her thigh wasn’t touching Michio’s and tried to catch his eye, but his gaze remained focused on Embrosa. “I’m not developing it for Samrat Condor,” she said. “I’m developing it for the Coalition.”
“You’re a priestess and a master of spells and illusions. You’ve deceived even Michio.”
Toemeka shook her head. “That’s not true, I ─”
“You told the space pirate at the bar you were a Samrat priestesses and you told Commander Rochambeau how the oscillator worked.”
How did Embrosa know so much? She felt Michio tense beside her. She sent Michio a telepathic message. You set me up.
Just answer the questions honestly.
The guards moved threateningly close.
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