He's found the perfect place for them to live. Will she love it or bite his head off?
|Her nostrils flared as she glared at the dust carpeting the ground. Karyox fought down a nervous chuckle and shuffled his feet, kicking up more dirt. His wife lifted a lip, ready to snarl.
“It's a bit of a fixer-upper,” Karyox blurted before she could tear into him. Keeping a wary eye on her claws, he gestured out across the barren land. “Not a soul has stepped foot on it until now. With a bit of terraforming, we'll have this baby gleaming with green trees and grass in no time. Cousin Juigo's promised to help transport in some water. With some elbow grease, we could have streams, ponds, rivers . . . even waterfalls!”
He chanced turning his back on her, expecting any minute to feel her teeth sinking into his shoulders. That agony would be better than the daggers she was throwing with her eyes. With a little shudder, he recalled that her great, great grandmother had been one hundred precent basilisk.
“Juigo?” her voice grated like nails on a chalkboard. “Juigo doesn't do anything for free. What does he want in return for these waterfalls?”
Her hand touched his back and he flinched. “Well, um, nothing much. Just, uh, one of the moons.” Her fingers clenched his tunic and her nails scrapped through the fabric to his back. “We can spare one of the little ones!” he squeaked, trying to ignore the pressure on his flesh. His heartbeat stopped slamming against his chest as she released his garment and patted his shoulder.
“You're becoming almost as crafty as the Giakxists” Now her voice was silky and smooth. Karyox felt himself relax. Summoned up his courage, he wrapped an arm around her thick waist.
“Just imagine it, darling.” He flung out a free hand and pointed to their left. “We'll have a massive forest to the west, an ocean to the east —“
“This spot can remain a desert,” she said. Karyox tensed until she giggled. “It'll be perfect for a Sandworm Ranch!”
“Kelvin's been wanting his own business,” Karyox mused. “He could easily take over this area.”
“No son of mine is going to ranch for a living!” she snapped.
“But, Nebula —“
“Are you arguing with me, Karyox?”
He paused, feeling the panic rise from his belly to his throat. From the corner of his eye he watched her brows furrow. “Of course not, my love. You—you're perfectly right. Kelvin would never do as a rancher he'd be better off as a . . . a . . .” he trailed off, at a loss for words.
“A starship captain,” Nebula growled. Her voice softened as she gazed up at the stars. “Or perhaps a scientist of some sort. Or a lawyer . . . “
“Exactly!” he forced his lips to smile and nodded in agreement. “We'll find someone else to run the ranch. So,” he gulped, desperate to change the subject, “What do you think? This planet could be a good investment for our future, right?”
Nebula sniffed and tapped a claw against her lips. “Well, if we could rent out the seventeen moons, it would basically pay for the mortgage on this planet —“
Karyox gulped and forced the words past his frozen throat. “Sixteen moons. I, uh, promised Blurk he could have one if he landscaped the planet for us.”
“Let me guess,” she snarled. “It's just one of the little ones, eh?”
He wiped away a trickle of sweat dripping down the back of his neck. “Of course! He wants the ice moon. Plans on starting an ice skating rink.” Her dark eyes fixed unblinking on his. “D-d-does it feel hot t-to you?” he stuttered.
“Fine. We'll have sixteen moons to pay off the debt.”
“Actually,” he licked his dry lips and eased his arm away from her body. He quickly calculated how fast he could make it to the ship before she could catch him. “Actually, it's ten.”
“What!” Her screech made his ears ring. Karyox stepped back a pace, ready to run.
“Yeah, Bolide and Walii both get one 'cause they've got the terraformer. My sister traded us our new ship with the promise that she'd get one of the moons. . .”
“Not the smallest, I imagine,” Nebula said with a snort. He bit his lip and nodded. They both knew his sister always took the biggest and best of everything.
“And then there's Vazzu —“
“Enough! You've traded away almost fifty percent of our moons before we even own them, Karyox!
Her glare froze him in place. Knowing it could very well be the end of him, Karyox opened his mouth. “More like eighty-nine percent of them. . . It takes assets to terraform these days, my love!”
Nebula closed her eyes and Karyox inched back another step. His wife was quiet. Too quiet. His eyes flickered from her sharp claws, to her pointy teeth. Their marriage had made it thirty-two years. Over three decades he had walked on eggshells; had let Nebula win every argument and make every decision just so she wouldn't tear his throat out. He had a feeling they wouldn't make it to their thirty-third anniversary.
Nebula's eyes popped open. A slow smile lifted the corners of her warty mouth. “I can see this means a lot to you so, let's do it,” she murmured. She stretched out a hand and with trembling fingers, he took it.
Karyox pressed a kiss against her green cheek. “I love you,” he whispered.
“You better,” she laughed, her fangs sparkling under the glow of the eighteen moons.
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