LOVE WITHOUT LIMITS | Now Available
Excerpt of LOVE WITHOUT LIMITS by Niobia Bryant. ©2017. Published by Infinite Ink Presents… All rights reserved. May contain explicit language and sexual content. Translation of foreign words during their first use in the excerpt are in parentheses.
Life is never quite what you expect it to be. It is a series of unexpected events that can send you spiraling through phases of glorious good or hellish bad. Turned on your head. Pleasantly reclined on your back. Begging on your hands and knees. Standing resilient on your feet. Knocked flat on your behind.
One solitary tear raced down the beautiful mocha face of Aja Drakar. She didn’t dare raise her hand to swipe it away because more would follow. In the darkness, she felt the steady trickle of that lone tear, up until it dropped from the edge of her oval face so similar to her da’ee’s (mother’s). The high cheekbones, the feline eyes a startling shade of honey, the pale metallic gold moles on her chin and on her forehead that were characteristic of her people. Full lips that used to be ready to smile in a second and brown streaked hair flowed in soft waves nearly to her waist. All of it was a reflection of her.
Another tear fell.
Aja closed her eyes and fought back the instinct to release a deep guttural moan as a wave of pain radiated across her chest. Sorrow. It now ran so deep that she wondered if there was ever a moment she had truly been happy. Her people had suffered. Wounded. Dead. Enslaved.
She never expected there would be a race war.
She never expected there would be such violence and death.
She never thought she’d feel her Empath powers fade.
She never thought she’d lose her entire family.
She never thought she’d lose her freedom.
Life is never quite what you expect it to be.
72 hours earlier
“Nagaya (Hello), Aja.”
At the sound of her abbaa’s (father’s) words through the curtain hanging in the entrance to her diinqa (bedroom), Aja Drakar’s eyes opened as she lay in the ebony darkness of her diinqa. It didn’t take much to rouse her from her sleep. It had been that way since she was a child. One foot in the wake zone and the other in the slumber zone with just enough balance to keep her from being sleep deprived. Her family teased her that she was too curious to become completely inert.
“Nagaya,” she called out to him, her voice still thick with sleep.
Moments later she heard his footsteps carry him away from her door.
She released a soft grunt as she stretched her limbs and breathed deeply, preparing herself for whatever lay ahead for the day. When it came to life in their rugged region of the planet Nede, anything was possible. Homegrown food. Physical labor. Goojjoos (Huts)made of mud and rocks packed between the sturdy trunks of brilliant red trees. Illumination of the small windowless rooms came from stacks of glowing nkume stones harvested from the remote underground caves. Rudimentary cooking and eating utensils. Just one medic of increasing age to monitor the health of nearly a thousand people. One small hut to educate the children.
The basics of anything and everything.
The story of their exodus was a part of their folklore. Once the decision had been made to flee from Erised, the abuturoos (ancestors) plotted to hijack a xiyyaara (flying vehicle) and learn to navigate it. Thankfully no Empath was suspected. The assumption that the simple living Empaths wouldn’t need such a thing worked to their advantage. With much time and practice, the abuturoos soon were exploring planets in the Acirfa galaxy. Upon choosing what would become Planet Nede, that lone xiyyaara was used to transport the Empaths and their belongings in groups of fifty. Many trips were made, and the exodus was exhaustive on the Empaths and the xiyyaara. Without proper knowledge of maintenance and repair of the vehicle, it soon was nothing more than a broken-down eyesore. The Empaths were isolated on Nede and every day was a struggle to survive in their new environment.
The abuturoos of the Empath people had left behind the technological advances of their true home planet of Erised. They’d chosen happiness and freedom over the ability to acquire even the simplest creature comforts that Erised offered. Their way of life on Nede didn’t vary much from their humble life in the highlands of Kilo on Erised. That simplicity brought about the ridicule, scrutiny, judgment and harsh treatment by the ruling class of Jeynas on Erised. The Empaths desire for a slower-paced life, and their respect for nature, upon which they relied, was seen as foolish and weak. Thus, their decision to leave their planet Erised behind and start a new life for future generations.
Sighing a bit, Aja pushed aside her thoughts as the fire of anger and indignation stoked inside her at the thought of ever having to kowtow to anyone.
“Never,” she mouthed as she turned over onto her side atop the large round sac of dhotli (small animal) feathers.
Aja pulled her knees to her chest, releasing a small murmur of pleasure at the warmth of her smooth, cinnamon-brown skin-on-skin contact.
The heated body of a masculine would be fun to hold.
That thought made her smile.
As a feminine who had lived close to thirty baras (years), Aja was no stranger to sexual indulgence. She and the rest of the Empaths lived with intense, simmering attractions because of their ability to connect emotionally with anyone through physical contact of any kind.
Sex could be quite fun.
Finding a body—a warm and willing body—was not an issue. Aja was an attractive feminine. Since she’d blossomed into womanhood over ten baras ago, she’d seen enough long stares, wolfish smiles, lingering touches and bold requests from masculines to make her aware of her appeal.
A mate in her qanddii (bed)? Easy. Getting him not to linger and yearn for more? Ridiculously hard.
Men wanted more than just to couple with her. They wanted to own her. Possess her body. Dominate her thoughts. Douse her innate fire.
Aja was having none of that.
She rolled over onto her back and sat up in the middle of her qanddii. As always, her eyes landed on the log wall and not the window for which she constantly yearned. She would love to look out at the beautiful and vibrant world in which they lived. Walking barefoot in the purple grass was her favorite pastime, especially when she snuck away to her secret coppice and stripped herself of her attire to let the orange aduu (sun) deepen the brown of her skin.
‘Today,’ Aja promised herself, as she removed the weighty square cloth covering the bowl of nkume stones on the small table by her qanddii. Immediately, the bright light surrounded her and cast a reflection off the dull red of the logs. It could have felt like standing in the middle of a fire, if not for the chill in the air.
Her cover, made of the clean and dried hides of yeeyyii (furry animal), fell to her lap. Goose bumps raced across her nakedness and hardened her nipples into twin tight buds that ached. She wished the nkumes were as useful for warmth as they were for light.
On the outskirts of the uninhabited lands surrounding the area where the Empath people had settled nearly half a jaarraa (century) ago, their small exploration team had discovered underground caves with walls made of stone that glowed. The discovery of nkumes had transformed life for the Empaths. Her abbaa, Malc Drakar, was a part of the research team trying, with such limited resources, to find other uses for the stones. Unfortunately, providing heat was not one.
Aja rushed the short distance across her diinqa to pour water from the pitcher into the bowl sitting beside it. She bent over the small table by the doorway and splashed her face with the water. Her body tensed for a few moments in reaction to its coldness. The feel of her fingers brushing against her cheeks registered. Aja closed her eyes and pressed her palms to her face and lightly tapped her fingertips against her eyelids.
When it came to knowing the look of her face, she might as well be blind. There was nothing to view the reflection of herself. The overt ardor of masculines let her know she was pretty and the constant reminders by her abbaa and younger brother, Llor, let her know she was the spitting image of her beautiful da’ee.
Still, I would love to see me.
Pushing aside her regret, Aja finished washing up, glad for the warm bath she had taken the night before to lessen her time being surrounded by the morning chill. Soon the ow’a (summer season) would begin, and the heat would reign so that she would have to shed some of her clothing—which was ideal for Aja. She would prefer wearing nothing at all…if it weren’t so distracting.
She reached for one of the few tunics she owned to cover her nakedness. It offered no comfort nor design. Unfortunately, it was new, and it took nearly fifty washings to soften the roughness of the plain, white cloth made by the weavers’ looms. The cut was simple and square, leaving her womanly curves to pure imagination.
Men, however, seemed to be pleased when finally given a peek at the body beneath the shapeless clothing. The thought made her smile as she twisted the soft waves of her waist-length hair atop her head. She left her small diinqa located just off the common area of their goojjoo. She stopped by the doorway to her brother’s diinqa and pulled back the rawhide curtain, not at all surprised to find it was already empty. The masculines in her family were complete opposites. Her abbaa? Brains. Her brother? Brawn.
Llor was undoubtedly helping to tend to the crops along with the other masculines assigned to farming duties, providing the food upon which their community depended. On Nede, team work was the key to their survival. No masculine or feminine stood alone fighting for his or her survival.
At the entrance to the alwaada (kitchen), Aja smiled and shifted her eyes away from her abbaa’s tall and firm body dwarfing her da’ee as he stood closely behind her and held her hips with his hands. He bent his head to whisper something in her ear. Her soft giggle told the tale of his intent.
It was that “can’t keep my eyes or hands off of you” kind of love and passion she wanted for herself.
Aja cleared her throat.
They pulled apart with much reluctance.
“I’ll go fetch some water,” Aja said, her voice soft and husky in their native tongue.
Quickly, she moved to the red wooden door and walked outside. She knew they would use those moments alone to enjoy the very thing she yearned for that morning. They had all night to enjoy themselves.
As the door closed behind her, she leaned onto it and took a deep breath of air as she eyed the colorful landscape before her. Towering red trunk of trees that were more than ten times her height, with large blue-green triangle-shaped leaves, against a pale lavender sky as its backdrop. The caves and mountains in the distance were emerald green. The dirt beneath them was a dark and deep midnight blue, in sharp contrast to the thin blades of bluish-green grass that grew sparsely across the land.
The smell of nature was thick, and Aja inhaled deeply of it as she closed her eyes. It was early in the morning, with the aduu not yet fully set in the sky. Not many Empaths were up and milling about outside. The sounds of winged animals mingled with the heavy grunts of the masculines laboring in the fields off in the distance or those powering the crude water irrigation system.
She opened her eyes and shaded them with her hand as she turned to look down at their olla (village). Two rows of more than fifty dull red goojjoos were lined up and facing each other with some distance between them for privacy, yet still close enough for them to function as a community. The abuturoos believed the arrangement had been critical to their survival on the new planet.
The river was a quarter mile to the east. Close enough to serve as their primary water source and far enough to avoid flooding when the water level crested during the raining season, the rooba. To the north, in the highlands where the dirt was rich, the collective farm was over fifty acres. Those who were skilled tradesmen gave away their wares, as needed, at a large goojjoo, creating a marketplace under the shade of trees to the west. There was a communal area bordered with rocks and centered on a fire pit for large meetings or gatherings.
Aja’s body jumped slightly, startled by the sound of something tumbling to the floor inside. Her eyes widened, horrified at a rather vivid image of that something being her da’ee…beneath her abbaa. Shaking her head for clarity, she quickly moved away from the door and walked the wide path up the middle of the goojjoos.
“Nagaya,” she greeted everyone she met along the way.
A young child, no more than six, raced past her at full speed, his little feet kicking up dark blue dust as he ran. On impulse, she took off behind him, laughing when he looked back over his shoulder at her and picked up speed as he gave her a cocky wave.
She gave up, slowing down to a stop and bending over to press her hands on her knees as she breathed deeply. Her heart raced as a fine sheen of sweat ran down the groove between breasts. She felt exhilarated.
Aja loved life on Nede.
As she resumed her trek to retrieve water and passed the last goojjoo, she looked around. The clearing was ready for new growth. The fields were off in the distance, and she could see the sweat-soaked backs of the masculines as they swung their arms and sliced the air with their machetes. The trees in the background shadowed the sky.
Her steps slowed as the distant sound of methodical drumbeats filled the air. She tilted her head a bit to the left to focus on the message delivered from one of the few Empath families who had chosen to live miles away from the heart of the ollaa.
“A new life,” Aja said with a soft smile.
She turned to find Pintar Neek, the dawaa (medical and spiritual leader), standing behind her. She immediately bowed her head to him in respect, a sign of his status as their medical and spiritual leader, and because he was the eldest of the abuturoos.
Although his wooly hair was nearly white, his bronze skin was still tight and belied his age of more than a jaarraa. The whites of his eyes were still bright, and although his tunic nearly dwarfed his thin frame, he stood tall with his more than six feet height. The grip on his intricately carved staff, which rose more than eight feet, was sturdy. The small gold dot between his eyebrows and on his chin, typical of the Empath people that generally dimmed with age, was still bright.
He nodded in return.
She tilted her head to look up at him. “And Mova?” she asked of the laboring feminine.
“All is well,” Pintar said, his voice gruff.
There was no doubt he was right. Pintar just knew things, just as he would have sensed if something went wrong. It was another of the ways of the Empaths, the acute ability to sense emotions, and his was the most finely honed.
He spread his thick lips into a smile and revealed his lone tooth. “Tonight, we celebrate new life,” he said, in their native tongue, beating his staff against the packed dirt next to his bare feet.
“Everyone will enjoy the good news,” Aja said. “I will spread the word…”
Pintar’s eyes flashed with a white glow that covered the brown of his irises and the gold dots on his face illuminated.
Aja blinked. It happened so quickly that she might have doubted seeing it if she didn’t know better. “Is everything okay, Dawaa?” she asked, reaching out to lightly touch his wrist.
She gasped, filled with a surge of agony. She wrenched her hand away from Pintar and stumbled backward a step, releasing a shaky breath as she wiped away the tears that filled her ears.
Pintar frowned deeply.
Aja swallowed over a sudden lump in her throat as she wiped her hands over her eyes. “What is it, Dawaa?” she asked, her breathing labored.
“No worries,” he said, before turning to walk away.
She took quick steps to catch up with his long strides. “Dawaa,” she called out, her heart racing.
He didn’t stop, his staff striking the ground with each step.
She reached out to touch him, but pulled her hand back at the last moment, not wanting to experience the pain again. So, she stood there, her fingers lightly resting against her chest where her heart continued to pound almost as loud as kettle drums.
The glowing of his eyes meant that he’d had a vision. What had he seen that filled him with such despair?
“Did something go wrong with the labor?” she wondered aloud as she reluctantly turned to continue her journey to retrieve water.
She glanced over her shoulder just as Pintar entered the goojjoo of another abuturoo.
She trusted in Pintar, but she also trusted in what she felt.
I’ll tell my abbaa about it when I get back.
Filled with confusion, and seeking balance after encountering such an intense emotion, she forged ahead. “Ow!” Aja cried out as she slammed into someone. Her hands splayed against an undeniably hard chest.
Desire filled her, and her entire body tingled with an excitement that hardened her nipples and infused the fleshy bud between her thighs with heat.
Aja looked up as warm hands settled on her upper arms to steady her. She smiled at her brother’s best friend, Juuba Huuntu. He was a skilled farmer, a well-respected leader on the rise in their ollaa and proponent of the Empaths advancing themselves technologically. “Nagaya,” she said, removing her hand pressed against the opening of his tunic.
The amorous feelings subsided. They were not her own. Her touch had connected to his desire for her.
Although Juuba was a tall and handsome masculine with a muscular build that could compete with a carved statue, the feelings Aja had for him was platonic. Her power of connecting with feeling through touch had made her well aware of his feelings for her years ago, and he was aware of hers for him.
The metallic gold spots on his face glowed until the moment he let his hands drop from her arms, breaking their connection. She instantly saw the regret in his eyes through the smile he gave her.
“Where you headed?”
Aja shifted her eyes over to her brother, Llor, standing and holding a large basket filled with mkpuru (sticky and sweet fruit).
He was boyishly handsome with a round face and clean-shaven head. He had inherited his shorter stature from their da’ee, but every bit of his rotund frame was might and strength. He was loving, charming and always quick to laugh and smile.
Aja adored him.
“Our parents were in need of some alone time,” she said, with a deliberate arch of her brow.
Both Llor and Juuba groaned in feigned disgust.
She chuckled. “I’m off to get water,” she said, glancing up at Juuba. She noticed him looking over her shoulder.
Aja turned to find a group of young womenfolk walking towards them. His expression was quite familiar. Juuba’s feelings for her apparently didn’t interfere with his lust for others. It was well known he was rarely alone at night.
“Juuba, Juuba, Juuba,” Aja said, with only a slightly playful mocking as she looked at him.
His eyes shifted back down to hers with a twinkle in the depths of his gaze, before eyeing the feminines as they passed. He slapped his hand against Llor’s arm and jerked his head in their direction.
Aja eyed her brother. His attention was on the young females as well. She rolled her eyes upwards briefly before releasing the knot of her thick hair and reaching for the basket of mkpuru to steady atop her head. “Go, you’re both in heat,” she teased, causing her brother to look at her in surprise.
They took off—almost as quickly as the little boy she’d chased earlier.
“You bring the water!” she yelled at him, taking one of the sweet, juicy fruits from the basket and wiping it against her tunic before taking a big bite.
She walked smoothly and steadily with the basket on her head. The aduu was now bright orange in the sky and knocked a bit of the chill off the air. Aja neared the goojjoo Pintar had entered. Her eyes lingered on the weathered red wood door.
Somehow, she knew that wasn’t true.
The air was filled with the beating of drums mingled with the stomping of feet against the ground, and the high-pitched guttural cries of celebration as the Empaths danced around the roaring fire in the center of the pit. The entire ollaa was in attendance. Laughter and joy filled the air. Roasted meats and alkoolii (alcohol) were in abundance. The merriment would go on long into the night.
Every birth was celebrated and seen as a symbol of growth for their people. It was a tribute to their history and all the obstacles they overcame with the bold decision to explore and inhabit a new planet.
“Ayyaaneeffachuu (celebratory cry)!” Pintar bellowed at the top of his lungs, raising his staff high into the air.
“Ayyaaneeffachuu!” Aja and the rest of the Empaths returned the triumphant roar.
Aja was dancing, and with each person, she touched she could feel their joy and float upon it. She tossed her head back and laughed as she moved her hips and feet to the sounds of the drumbeats.
“Ayyaaneeffachuu,” a voice began to sing in tune with the drums.
Aja turned and clapped her hands excitedly as she recognized her da’ee’s voice. Shia Drakar beautifully sang as she stood by the firelight with the night winds lightly blowing the thick strands of her hair up into the air. The moment seemed surreal. The song she chose was entirely in their native tongue and spoke of celebrating love and family.
Aja’s eyes shifted to her abbaa standing there gazing at his lifemate, exuding all the love he obviously had for her. The Empaths began to encircle her. Aja lost sight of her parents in the crowd even as her da’ee’s singing continued to ring loud and clear. She climbed atop a flat rock, but as soon as she rose to her full height, the choral was drowned out by a shrill war cry that pierced the air.
The drums stopped. Shia’s voice faded. The Empaths danced no more.
The air became tense as they all turned to look at Pintar.
“Danger is on the way,” he roared, his eyes now glowing as he stomped his staff against the ground.
As Aja scrambled down from the rock, amongst her people’s shrieks of fear, she thought of the agony she felt from Pintar earlier that day. Her heart raced as she looked around for her parents and brother in the melee of bodies all headed back towards their goojjoos for shelter.
The ground beneath them shook, and in the distance, a cloud rose up from a fire.
‘What is this?’ she wondered, her heart racing wildly. Fear was her adrenaline.
She spotted a small girl huddled by a large rock, crying, with her eyes were wide with panic.
Another cloud of smoke was framed by the fire from which it came. It was closer this time.
Before Aja could reach the child, another feminine paused in her flight to scoop the little one up into her arms. For that Aja was relieved.
A fiery ball shot across the dark purple skies. Moments later it landed against a goojjoo that instantly exploded in flames.
Cries of pain filled the air.
They were under attack, and their aggressor had just claimed lives.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Aja moaned. Even as she continued to run at full speed, she looked around for her family members.
There was nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The weapons of the Empaths were spears, bows, and arrows. How could they win? How could they survive?
The agony she felt at that moment equaled that of Pintar’s, and she felt weakened by it. Defeated.
Another shrill war cry filled the air.
A stream of bright, blue light shot across the air and landed on one of the masculines. His entire body had stiffened before he collapsed with a look of pure horror on his face.
Those who witnessed it, turned in the direction of the light just as a group of laser gun-toting figures in all-black emerged from the darkness.
Who are they?
Aja stopped and looked around. Their attackers encircled the goojjoos. The numbers were close to a few thousand. She was filled with rage and had to fight to keep from racing at one of the attackers to claw out their eyes. She clenched her fists so tightly her nails pierced the flesh of her palms. She panted hard with each breath.
Laser beams filled the air. Victims killed with ease. Goojjoos destroyed. Fires lit.
Time seemed to slow down as she spotted her brother. He stopped and picked up a large rock to fling at the attackers with all his might. Aja ran through the crowd towards him. “Llor!” she cried out.
A laser beam landed on the rock in the air with accuracy, and it exploded, sending the pieces down upon the heads of Empaths before landing on his chest with deadly precision.
Llor’s body fell to the ground.
“No!” she roared, her mouth wide open, the veins in her neck stretching, her face twisted with rage and agony.
She reached him and fell to the ground beside him, pulling his head onto her lap. His body was limp. Lifeless. The gold dots on his forehead faded. Aja planted a kiss against his brow as she released a gut-wrenching cry.
A strong hand gripped her arm. She lifted her head like a wild animal under attack to stare at one of the invaders, his face hidden by a leather mask. She wrenched from his grasp, nearly growling as she reached behind him to hit the back of his knee sharply. His body buckled. She rose, and Llor’s body hit the ground softly as she elbowed the back of her attacker’s head and then punched his temple in quick-fire succession.
She was relentless. She would not go easily.
The leather-masked assailant fell flat onto Llor’s body. A hand grabbed the laser gun he’d dropped. Aja looked up, and her heart burst to see her abbaa as he bit his bottom lip fiercely and fired off laser shots.
Aja gasped as she felt a stinging pain in her calf. She looked down to see the invader she thought she’d defeated had press a metal tube against her leg. Her body went numb before slumping to the ground. Her eyes felt heavy.
Just before they closed, she saw her da’ee run up to her abbaa as he continued to aim and strike. A laser sliced through his heart just as her da’ee pressed her body to his from behind.
Both their bodies had frozen before they slumped to the ground together, their bodies still entwined.
She was too numb with grief to feel pride that for at least a few precious moments, they had fought back and won.
To enjoy more of the developing love story of Aja and Anansi, purchase your copy of LOVE WITHOUT LIMITS.