“Are you threatening me, Cinka?” Riley leaned toward her, his voice degrading into a fierce hiss. “Do you take Zaile for a fool? Do you?” Riley was sure that Zaile had picked up on his attraction to Cinka long ago. He just did not choose to believe it would go anywhere. It was Zaile who had made the points to mention how ironic it was for Maelinn to react the same as a Rishan to Littan contact and that because she was a hybrid she would not be able to bear children. How could she? There was too much genetic difference. He figured the only way she was even created was because of the Littan DNA’s ability to adapt and adjust itself to ensure survival. Zaile had said it, knowing the things Riley wanted.

Now, Riley was really mad, but had found the way to make Cinka behave. He withdrew, folding his arms and looking seriously at Cinka. “Go on.” He mocked her. “Go tell him if you want to. He’ll probably offended and get rid of you right then and there.” He tilted his head in contempt, rolling his eyes, “Sounds like a good idea. Well, go on Cinka. Go do it. I for one, will be glad to see you go.” It worked. Cinka opened her mouth to say something, then thought better of it and hmpthed. She turned and strode out of the room without another word. Hearing Riley raise his voice was a rarity. Maelinn stared at the floor a moment, feeling very down about the entire situation. Conflict was not something she enjoyed and like Zaile, preferred to avoid it. It was probably a bad habit to pick up, but she couldn’t help it.

“Don’t let her get to you, Maelinn.” Riley slid his arms around her in a comforting hug. “You are beautiful. You are smart and I love you.”

“You don’t think Zaile would send me away, do you, Riley?” She sniffed, a relaxed feeling overcoming her. “This is the only life I’ve known,..”

“Never.” Riley rested his chin on Maelinn’s shoulder. “He considers you his daughter. Never, Maelinn.”

Maelinn lifted her head. “Zaile tells me that is the way things are. That families are destined to be broken and scattered. That I should not fall for love. It only brings pain.”

“Maelinn, don’t say such things. Don’t let those words taint your perfect lips.” Riley wanted to see her smile. She didn’t get like this except for when Cinka was running her mouth. Otherwise, she was much more cheerful. He hated seeing her so bothered by someone whose opinion meant nothing.

“Don’t let your heart be weighed down by the chains of another. You have been done a great disservice by Zaile’s advice. He cares about you and doesn’t want you to be hurt by the same disappointments that bind him to his past. He is wrong, Maelinn, and it is Zaile who worries that you will leave him someday. I love you my gentle beauty, even if I can never taste a sweet kiss, for the simple fear that I would rob you of your free will. I love you and I always will.”