A half-breed outcast finds love.
A man saw him coming, saw the golden color of his eyes, the color that marked Kerrick as what he was.
Quickly the man grabbed his son and pulled him away from Kerrick’s path, as he passed the two, he heard the man mutter the word, “carrito.”
Kerrick ignored him, and rode on, even though his heart tightened painfully in his chest.
A carrito was a half-breed, a mix of the two races that inhabited Lore. The Calbros and the Tarties.
Kerrick was an outcast, unwanted by even his own mother. It was a fact he had learned to accept, even though he still resented it at times.
Kerrick held his head high, and continued down the street, toward the only boarding house in the area. He could hear the derisive comments, feel the contempt of the people, but he ignored it.
Finally he stopped in front of the boarding house and dismounted quickly. He looped the reins over the hitching post, took his saddle bags off the horse and stepped onto the front porch.
It was a pretty little house, especially for being in the slums, and Kerrick wondered for a moment what the owner was like and what made them establish a buisness in this part of town.
He walked up to the door and knocked softly, after a few moments, it was opened by a pretty woman with long brown hair. She saw the color of his eyes, and her own eyes widened, but then she spoke.
“Can I help you?”
Kerrick took off his hat, self-consciously aware of how dirty his long black hair was.
“I need a room,” he said, fully expecting the woman to refuse him, to slam the door in his face.
To his surprise she smiled and pushed the door open so he could enter.
“You’re in luck,” she said, “one of my borders just moved out. You can have his room.”
“This is our quiet part of the day,” she continued on as she led him up the stairs and to the room. “Most of my borders are working at the mines right now.”
She turned and looked at Kerrick, her hand on the door knob.
“Will you be working there?” She asked.
He just shook his head no, knowing what she was thinking.
“What buisness would a carrito have here, besides working in the mines.”
She didn’t ask him anymore questions, she just turned and opened the door to the room.
“The bathroom is down the hall,” she said, “I serve dinner at six, but it’s the only meal I provide, so you’ll have to fend for yourself the rest of the time.”
She smiled again, “my name’s Shaleah,” she said, “I hope you’re comfortable here.”
“I’m sure I will be,” he said, watching her intently.
Shaleah flushed and stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind her.
Kerrick crossed the room and locked the door, then he grabbed his saddle bags and set them on the dresser. He grabbed a com from one of the bags and flipped it on.
“I’m in, Shimon,” he said, “I’ve taken a room in a boarding house, located in the slums.”
“Good,” Shimon said, “now all you have to do is get Rafer to notice you, I’m sure that won’t take long. Don’t fail me on this Kerrick, this is our last target before the mission is complete.”
Kerrick smiled crookedly.
“I never have before,” he said, then clicked the com off.
Kerrick went down the stairs that evening. He had taken a bath and changed his clothes, now he felt a lot better. He heard the buzz of conversation in the dining room, right off the stairs and he stepped inside. As soon as he did the people seated around the table fell silent. Kerrick could feel their derisive stares, and he stood there, wondering if he should just leave.
Shaleah stood up from where she was sitting.
“I’m so glad you could make it to dinner,” she said, “there’s an empty chair next to me.”
He followed her around the table, and they both sat down.
Suddenly a man stood up, glaring at Kerrick.
“I refuse to sit at the same table as a dirty carrito,” he said.
Kerrick started to get up, but Shaleah put a hand on his arm.
She slowly stood up, and glared at the man.
“I will not let one of my boarders be bullied,” she said in a quiet voice. “This man has as much right to be here as you do, Solon. If you don’t like it, you can move out.”
Her gaze swept around the table.
“That goes for all of you,” she said, “this is my house, and I say he stays.”
Solon glared at her for a moment, then turned and stomped out of the room.
Shaleah sat down and began to eat as if nothing else happened, as did everyone else at the table.
For a moment Kerrick stared at Shaleah in astonishment, he had never had anyone stick up for him before.
She looked up at him, smiling again, and he quickly looked down at his food and began to eat.
After dinner, everyone scattered and Kerrick started up to his room.
“Do you want to sit with me for awhile?” Shaleah asked suddenly and Kerrick turned to look at her.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” he said, and started up the stairs.
“Wait,” she said, “I don’t even know your name.”
He turned and walked toward Shaleah.
“My name is Kerrick,” he said, “I thank you for defending me tonight, but we both know what I am and what it would do to your reputation if you were seen in my company to much.”
He turned and walked back up the stairs, leaving Shaleah alone in the hallway.
As soon as he got into his room, he closed the door, and leaned against it. He was finding himself attracted to Shaleah, but he knew that to pursue anything would be a danger to her and to the mission. He had to keep his distance.
He swore softly, then walked toward the bed. He stripped naked, and crawled in between the sheets, falling asleep instantly.
A sudden crashing noise made him sit up abruptly. He checked his croton watch and saw that it was one in the morning. He heard the crashing noise again and he jumped out of bed, grabbing his pants and putting them on quickly. He opened his door, running out in the hall. Shaleah appeared out of her bedroom, dressed in a long white nightgown, her long brown hair back in a braid.
“Stay here,” he said, and started down the stairs.
“Wait,” she said, and tossed him a laser rifle.
He caught the rifle, and looked at her, as other people from the boarding house crowded into the hall.
He slowly started down the stairs, the crashing noises intensifying as he approached the first floor. Suddenly a window shattered, as someone threw a brick through it. Kerrick cursed, and ran toward the front door, yanking it open. He saw several shadowy figures in the yard, who ran when he came out with the gun. He fired a couple of times, and hit one of them, but the wounded man’s companions dragged him away.
Kerrick looked around the yard, and realized that they had damaged the front of the house badly. He cursed again, knowing why they had done this. He walked back into the house, and picked up the brick. It had a note attached to it, that he pulled off and read.
“What does it say?” Shaleah’s sudden voice startled him and he turned, looking at her.
“Carrito get out of town,” he said, crumpling the note up in a ball and throwing it on the floor.
He pushed past her and started up the stairs.
“Wait,” she said, following him up. Outside his room he turned and looked at her.
“I have to leave,” he said, “I can’t allow you to be in danger.”
He walked into his room, then turned, when he heard the door close.
“You shouldn’t be in here,” he said.
“I don’t care,” she said, “you can’t leave.”
“Why do you care?” He asked, walking toward his saddle bags, “I’m just a dirty carrito.”
“Don’t you ever say that,” she said, grabbing his arm.
He turned and looked at the small white hand on his arm, then looked at her face.
For a moment they stared at each other, then he gathered her in his arms.
“This is madness,” he said softly, looking into her soft brown eyes.
Then he lowered his head, kissing her softly. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her body curving into his as he deepened the kiss. He slowly broke away from her, breathing heavily. She looked at him with passion glazed eyes, her mouth already swollen from his kiss.
Reluctantly he stepped away from her.
“I have to leave,” he said again, “I’ve probably just put you in more danger.”
“If I’m in danger, then you should stay and protect me,” she said.
Kerrick sighed, “you have no idea what you would be getting into,” he said.
“Kerrick,” she said, “I’m a grown woman, I can make my own decisions.”
He went over and placed his hands on her shoulders.
“Shaleah,” he said, “there are men after me, men who wouldn’t hesitate to use you as a pawn.”
She raised a hand, laying it on his cheek.
“I want you to stay,” she said, then kissed him again.
With a groan, he crushed her against him, ravishing her mouth with his own.
Finally they broke apart, and he gently held her.
“I’ll stay,” he said, “but at the first hint of trouble, I want you to go somewhere safe.”
She nodded and they kissed again. Finally they broke away from each other.
“You better go back to your room,” Kerrick said, “I don’t want you any more involved in this then you are.”
Shaleah looked at him intently.
“Who are you?” She asked, “why are you here?”
He shook his head, “I can’t tell you that,” he told her.
She nodded her head, then walked across the room and opened the door. She looked back at him for a moment, before stepping out in the hallway, then she was gone.
Slowly he walked toward the door and closed it, then leaned against it, and closed his eyes.
The next morning he walked downstairs to find Shaleah and a few of the men from the boarding house, cleaning up the mess from the night before. She smiled at him warmly, but the men glared at him, so he didn’t stop. He stepped off the porch and walked through town, toward the one place he knew he would find Rafer, at his saloon. He found it easily and stopped for a moment across the street. Slowly he pulled his hat down on his forehead, then stepped onto the street, walking across. He pushed the doors open and walked inside. The saloon was almost empty at this time of day, except for a few old men occupying a table beside the door and the barkeep. Ignoring the old men, he walked across the room toward the bar.
“We don’t allow carrito in here,” the barkeep said, but Kerrick ignored him.
“Where’s Rafer?” He asked.
The barkeep shrugged.
“He never comes in this early in the day,” he said, “now get out.”
Kerrick leaned over the bar and grabbed the barkeep’s shirt.
“Maybe I won’t get out,” he told him, “maybe I’ll amble upstairs and look for him.”
The barkeep began to sweat.
“Look mister,” he blubbered, “I’m telling the truth. He never comes in before six.”
Kerrick let go of him and stepped back.
“You tell Rafer this,” he said quietly, “tell him that Kerrick Mclane is looking for him.”
Then he turned and walked out of the saloon.
He walked back to the boarding house, where the mess had been cleaned and the window had been boarded up. He went into the house and started up the stairs.
“Kerrick,” he heard Shaleah say to him, and he turned to look at her.
She looked so beautiful standing there, wearing a green dress that matched the color of her eyes, her long brown hair done up in a braid.
“I was wondering if you would like to come with me to pick berries,” she said, “I always ask a man to go along, because of it being so dangerous for a woman alone.”
He realized she was giving them the opportunity to be alone for awhile, so he nodded and started back down the stairs.
They got into the wagon, and drove through town, toward the only part of the wilderness that had been encroached on by civilization.
Finally he brought the wagon to a stop and hopped off, then helped her off.
“There’s some bleaberries,” she said, handing him a basket.
They picked two baskets full and then stopped for lunch.
“Tell me about your family,” Shaleah said, as they sat on the blanket together.
He looked away for a moment.
“My mother was a Calbros,” he began, “she was the daughter of a high ranking elder. One day she went with her parents to a peace conference on Malba. That’s where she met my father, he’s a Tarties merchant. They fell in love and ran off, intending to get married. My grandfather found them and told my mother that she would be disowned if she didn’t return home with him. Three months after she left my father, she found out she was pregnant with me. As soon as she had given birth, she sent me to live with my father, because she didn’t want it to be known that she had a carrito son.”
Shaleah gasped and moved over, laying her hand on Kerrick’s arm.
“I’m so sorry,” she said quietly.
“I went to the house she was living in once,” Kerrick said quietly, “she looked at me as if I was dirt. She told me that she had no son, then slammed the door in my face. I found out three years later, that she had been killed in a Tarties uprising soon after. I realized something that day, that I was no good, because even my mother didn’t want me.”
“That’s not true,” Shaleah said and Kerrick looked at her. “You’re wanted,” she continued.
Their eyes locked, then they leaned forward and kissed slowly.
Kerrick broke away reluctantly.
“I’m no good for you,” he told Shaleah. “I’ll just put you in danger.”
She put her hand on Kerrick’s cheek, and moved his head so he looked at her.
Kerrick closed his eyes, savoring the warmth of her hand against his cheek.
“I need to tell you something,” he finally said, “I’m an agent, working for the Lore government. Five months ago, there was a terrorist attack against a carrito village. Fifty people were killed. My partner and I have been working to track down these terrorists. We’ve gotten all of them, except for one. That’s why I’m here, I need to set a trap for Rafer Turns. I’m the best person for the job, because of what I am, I’ll attract his notice.”
He looked at Shaleah.
“I don’t want him to hurt you,” he said.
“I want to be with you Kerrick,” Shaleah said firmly, “I don’t care about who you are, I don’t care about the danger. All I care about is the fact that you’re a good man.”
Kerrick stood, then helped Shaleah up.
“We better get back,” he said, “it’s getting late.”
For a moment, they stood there, holding each other, reluctant to return to the boarding house. Then they went back to the wagon, and drove away.
The woods were silent for a few minutes, then a rustling was heard as Solon stepped out of the underbrush he had been hiding in. Rafer had paid him to follow the dirty half-breed. He stood there for a moment, then grinned. He had found the carrito’s weakness, and now him and the uppity bitch would pay.
Kerrick sat up in bed suddenly, he wasn’t sure what had awoken him. They had arrived back at the boarding house, to find that Solon had moved out. That should’ve relieved him, but instead he had felt troubled. After dinner was over, he had gone to his room, knowing that if he stayed downstairs, he wouldn’t be able to keep from touching Shaleah. He wouldn’t have her suffer because of him, and he knew if anyone found out about their relationship, she would. Now as he lay in the bed, he realized that he had heard something. Like someone had cried out for help, and quickly he got up, pulling on a pair of pants. He went to Shaleah’s room and knocked on the door, when he didn’t get any answer he tried the knob. The door opened and revealed that her bed hadn’t been slept in. He looked at his watch and realized it was after midnight, she should’ve been in bed by now. Quickly he ran down the stairs, and looked toward the front door. A note that had been tacked on it with a knife. He pulled it off, and read it.
“Carrito,” it said, “if you ever want to see the pretty lady alive again, you’ll come to the salt quarry. Rafer.”
Kerrick crumbled up the note and swore angrily. Then he turned and ran up the stairs, back to his room. He quickly pulled on a shirt, then grabbed his laser rifle, before clicking on the com.
“We have a problem Shimon,” he said, “Rafer has a hostage, he’s holding at the salt quarry.”
“Who?” Shimon asked and Kerrick paused.
“The lady who owns the boarding house,” he replied.
“You got involved with her didn’t you,” Shimon said, then cursed when Kerrick didn’t answer.
“You should never get involved when on a mission,” Shimon said, “it puts innocent people in danger.”
“I need backup for this,” Kerrick said, then clicked off the com without waiting for an answer.
He knew that Shimon would come through for him, he always did.
Turning, he left the room and went quickly down the stairs. He went to the stable and saddled his horse, mounting it and riding out into the street.
The salt quarry was two miles out of town, in the opposite direction of where he had gone with Shaleah. His heart tightened when he thought of her and he prayed she wasn’t hurt. He vowed that once he got her safely out of there, once he had finished what he had come to do. That he would walk away, she deserved better then what he could give her.
He dismounted outside the entrance to the road that led to the quarry. He was hoping for the element of surprise. Silently he made his way toward the quarry, hiding in the bushes at the edge of the clearing. He could see Shaleah sitting by a fire, her hands bound in front of her, and he was thankful that she seemed unhurt.
He felt the anger flare up inside of him when Rafer came into view. He knelt in front of Shaleah and reached a hand out to touch her.
She flinched away, glaring at him in anger.
“I know you let that dirty carrito touch you,” he said, “how about letting a real man do it.”
“Kerrick is more man then you are,” she said, then cried out when he slapped her.
Kerrick had to stop himself from going after the man. He knew that a stupid move like that could get him and possibly Shaleah killed.
Quickly and quietly he inched around until he could see how many men were with Rafer. There was five other men, and Kerrick knew he couldn’t fight them all. He would have to wait until help came.
Suddenly a rustle came from the bushes behind him and Kerrick turned quickly, raising his gun.
“Drop it, carrito,” Solon said, as he aimed a high powered laser rifle at Kerrick’s head.
Kerrick glared at him, and considered shooting quickly, but he knew that if he died Shaleah would be at their mercy.
He opened his hand and let the rifle drop to the ground.
Solon smirked and gestured toward the clearing with his rifle.
Kerrick went into the clearing, then fell to his knees when Solon hit him with the butt of his rifle.
Shaleah screamed his name and tried to get to her feet. Rafer pushed her back down to the ground roughly, then walked across the clearing to stand over Kerrick.
He stared at Kerrick for a moment, with a unreadable expression on his face. Then he kicked him in the face, knocking him to the ground and causing his nose to gush blood.
“It seems that I finally have you where I want you,” he said to Kerrick, “you’re going to pay for killing my friends.”
Kerrick struggled to his knees and glared up at Rafer.
“Your friends were terrorists,” he said, “they killed innocent people.”
“Carrito,” Rafer said, spitting the word.
Kerrick knelt on the ground and looked toward Solon, who still had his rifle trained on him. Suddenly a loud noise broke the still air and Solon looked away for a second.
Kerrick took advantage of the Solon’s lapse and dove at Rafer, knocking him down. Dimly he heard the loud report of the laser rifle and felt the sting as it hit his flesh. But he was in a killing rage and he began to choke Rafer. He struggled with Kerrick, then slowly went limp as the life left his body. Kerrick let his hands drop from Rafer’s neck, then tried to stand up. He realized that his clothes were soaked with blood, and that he had been shot in the back. Slowly he began to fall, then strong arms caught him, lowering him to the ground. He looked up and realized that Shimon and Shaleah knelt over him, worried expressions on there faces and he smiled.
“You made it,” he said to Shimon, who nodded gravely.
“Help’s coming Kerrick,” Shaleah said, but her voice sounded strangely far away.
He saw the darkness close in on him, slowly surrounding him, until everything went black.
Shaleah bit her lip to keep from crying as Shimon gently pulled her out of the way. The healers worked feverishly on Kerrick, trying to save him, but she worried that it wasn’t enough.
She had almost shouted for joy when Shimon and his team burst into the clearing. But then Solon managed to get a shot off, before he was subdued and Kerrick was wounded. As she stood there, watching them, she realized with a start that she loved him.
“Please, let him live,” she prayed, “let me be able to tell him how I feel.”
“We need to get him to Malba,” one of the healers said, “there isn’t anything we can do here.”
As they loaded him in the wagon, Shaleah prayed that they would make it in time.
“Don’t worry,” Shimon said, “Kerrick is a fighter. He’ll be alright.”
Shaleah hoped he was right, but as they followed the wagon, she worried anyways.
Shaleah paced the hallway of the healing center. Kerrick had been in surgery for hours there had been no news.
She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them back up. Every time she shut them, she saw Kerrick, laying on the ground. His life’s blood pouring from the wound in his back.
She turned when she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. Shimon walked toward her, looking like he had aged in a day.
“Any news,” he asked and she shook her head.
“None,” she said.
“You should go get something to eat or get some rest,” he said.
“I want to be here when Kerrick gets out of surgery,” she said stubbornly and he stared at her for a moment.
“You love him don’t you,” he finally said, and she flushed.
“Is it that obvious?” She asked, and he smiled.
“It’s a good thing,” he told her, “Kerrick needs some love in his life.”
Just then a doctor in a black robe stepped out into the hallway.
“Shaleah Manson?” He asked and she nodded her head.
“We have a very lucky man,” the doctor said, “the laser blast missed all the vital organs. It hit an artery, but we were able to stitch it up with no problem. He’ll recover, but he’s lost a lot of blood, so it’ll take time. I hope you have somewhere he can recuperate.”
“Yes I do,” Shaleah said, “when can he leave the healing center?”
“In a couple of days,” the doctor said.
“Can I see him?” She asked, and the doctor nodded.
“Just for a few moments,” he said, “he needs his rest.”
Shaleah looked toward Shimon, but he waved her on.
“Go in alone,” he said, “I’ll see him later.”
She stepped into Kerrick’s room and stopped just inside the door, staring at him for a moment.
He looked so pale, laying there in the bed, and she felt a wave of love and thankfulness go through her.
Slowly she walked toward the bed, sitting in a chair and grasping Kerrick’s hand.
“I have something to tell you,” she said, hoping that his eyes would open at the sound of her voice. They didn’t, so she continued on. “I always dreamed about the man I would fall in love with. I thought about what he would look like, what he would sound like. Those dreams, don’t compare at all to the real thing.” She looked at him, and laughed. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love you and I wish you were awake to hear me say the words.”
She stood up and walked toward the door, before turning and looking at him.
“I’ll tell you this again, when you’re actually awake to hear me,” she said to him, then walked out the door, closing it softly behind her.
As soon as the door shut, Kerrick opened his eyes and frowned, thinking about what she had just said.
Shimon came into Kerrick’s room quietly, he looked at his friend, who appeared to be sleeping and turned to go.
“Shimon,” he heard Kerrick’s voice weakly say, and he turned back around.
“How are you feeling?” He asked him, and Kerrick smiled grimly.
“Like I’ve been shot by a laser,” he said.
He looked at Shimon intently for a moment.
“I want you to do me a favor,” he said quietly. “I want you take care of Shaleah.”
Shimon frowned, “why do I need to take care of her?” He asked and Kerrick sighed.
“We both know what kind of life she’ll lead as a carrito’s wife,” he said, “I refuse to let that happen to her.”
“It’s what she wants,” Shimon said, “she loves you, she wants to be with you.”
“I know that,” he said heatedly, “but what happened with Rafer could happen again. I won’t allow that.”
“What about what she wants?” Shimon asked, “shouldn’t she have a say in this?”
Kerrick looked toward the window.
“She’ll thank me eventually,” he said, “after she realizes what life would’ve been like for her as the wife of a carrito.”
He looked at Shimon.
“I want you to tell her that I don’t want her here anymore. Tell her to go home now.”
Kerrick turned toward the window again, refusing to say anymore, and Shimon stood up sighing heavily.
He walked toward the door, then turned and looked at Kerrick.
“You’re a fool,” he said, “she loves you.”
Then he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind him.
Shaleah stood there and for a moment he stopped and stared at her.
“What’s the matter?” She asked in a concerned voice, “is something wrong with Kerrick?”
“Kerrick told me to tell you to go home,” he said, “he doesn’t want you here anymore. He thinks that what happened with Rafer will happen again if you two continue your relationship. He thinks it’s better if you part now.”
“So that’s it,” Shaleah demanded, “I’m just supposed to leave because the man I love is afraid?”
Shimon went to her and pulled her in his arms.
“He’ll come to his senses,” he told her, “I know he will.”
She pulled away and walked toward the door.
“By then it might be to late,” she said without turning around, then left the healing center.
“You’re the biggest fool in the world Kerrick Mclane,” Shimon muttered, before going out the door after her.
A month passed and Kerrick mended enough to leave the healing center. But he still refused to see her or let her see him. Finally she realized she had to move on with her life.
“I’m selling the boarding house,” she told Shimon, “it’s time for me to move on.”
“Where will you go?” He asked and she shrugged.
“There’s nothing for me here anymore,” she said, then went up the stairs to her room.
“Enough is enough,” Shimon thought, he knew that Kerrick was as miserable as Shaleah, but to pigheaded to anything about it.
He left the boarding house and mounted his horse, kicking it into a gallop he rode to Kerrick’s campsite.
“You’re a bloody fool you know,” he told Kerrick as soon as he saw him.
“So you’ve been telling me,” Kerrick said.
“She’s leaving, because of you,” Shimon said, “if you don’t stop being so stubborn, you’re going to lose her.”
“I’d rather lose her now,” Kerrick said, “it’s better this way.”
“Better for who?” Shimon asked, “not for Shaleah. And from the way you look, not for you either.”
Kerrick looked away.
“Do you love her?” Shimon asked, “because she loves you.”
“She loves me now,” Kerrick said, “but how will she feel after a few years of being a Carrito’s wife? How will she feel when she experiences the disdain and prejudice?”
“I think you need to let her make that decision,” Shimon said quietly, “she’s stronger then you realize.”
He turned his horse around and galloped back toward town, leaving Kerrick alone to think.
Shaleah sat in the house alone, it was noon, so the other boarders were working. She didn’t know where Shimon was, she hadn’t seen him all day. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the chair. As she thought of Kerrick, tears began to well up in her eyes and trickle down her face. She thought he loved her, but apparently that wasn’t enough.
Suddenly she felt a soft touch against her cheek, that wiped her tears away and she opened her eyes. Kerrick knelt next to her chair, and she blinked, wondering if it was a dream.
“Shaleah,” he said quietly, and she threw herself into his arms with a glad cry.
He held her for a moment, then drew away and looked at her.
“I love you,” he said, “I want to marry you. But I’m afraid.”
“Afraid of what?” She asked.
“Afraid of how people will treat you,” he told her, “afraid that you’ll grow to hate me.”
She gently cupped his cheek with her hand.
“I could never hate you,” she said, “I love you to much for that.”
He stood up, bringing her with him, and kissed her lightly.
“Then you’ll marry me?” He asked and she nodded.
“When?” She asked and he smiled, before going out the door.
Shaleah’s eyes widened when he came back in, followed by a priest, and Shimon.
They stood before the priest and he began,
“Dearly beloved, we gather here today . . . ”
And Shaleah married the only man she would ever love in the front room of her boarding house. They went on to have five children, and Kerrick became a respected member of the community. As for Shimon, his life would take a different path then there’s. But that’s another story.