Healer's Garden

Healer's Garden

by Nina Pierce



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419961694
Publisher: Ellora's Cave Publishing
Publication date: 08/17/2010
Pages: 292
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.66(d)

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Chapter One

May, 2172

Jahara Hriznek stood at her window looking out over the mountains in the distance, their purple shadows drawn long across the desert expanse. Few helo-vehicles were out this time of day. It was much too hot for people to leave the climate-controlled confines of the city. It would be a few more hours still before the sun sat low enough on the horizon to make the commute across the blistering sands a safe one. Then, the nearly empty roadway three stories below would be filled with solar powered helo-vehicles and buses.

She would not be among the commuters winding their way from the Eastern Territory's capital city of Lexington into her little village of Valhena. Jahara had taken today off and now stood alone in her apartment wishing Merenith would come home early from the animal clinic. She needed her. Perhaps she should call her.

Had she known the messenger service would bring this horrid news, Jahara definitely would have worked at the hospital today and long hours into the night. Anything to avoid the projection disk weighing heavy in her hand.

Now, as she looked down at the disk, Jahara tried to swallow the hot tears of fear and anger. She shouldn't be so upset. She had known this was coming. She would be twenty-eight next month. It was law. Her birth-mother, the Dame of her family, had held off the inevitable as long as possible.

Jahara's position at the hospital as Medical Director had, up until this moment, kept her from fulfilling this obligation. But no woman, no matter how prestigious her position, ever ran from it. The thought soured in her stomach.

She'd known what the packet contained themoment she'd opened the door to find the government robot standing in the hall. She'd wanted to flee, but instead she leaned forward to let it do the retinal scan that proved the disk had found its way into her hands. She'd noted the official government seal over her Dame's image on the disk. Even offspring of the Chief Administrator of the Eastern Territory weren't exempt from this law enacted by Congress nearly a century earlier. Throwing the disk at the wall, she let out a feral sound of disgust.

"Well that's not very mature." Merenith's amused voice startled her.

In her despair, Jahara hadn't heard the hiss of the pneumatic door.

Her lover entered the living abode they'd purchased together nearly two years earlier. The short crop of blond swished about her chin as Merenith shook her head. Her pouty lips were pulled tight between her teeth to mask--humor? Concern? Jahara couldn't be sure. She walked to the willowy woman, seeking comfort in her arms.

"Jahara." Merenith rubbed at the tension bunched in her shoulders.

Jahara inhaled deeply, drawing solace from the scent of jasmine, hay and the earthy smell of the animals Merenith tended. Oh, if only they could stay this way forever and ignore the projection disk.

Merenith might be four years her junior, but Jahara believed she fit her like no other partner she'd ever had. Not that Jahara had had that many. It's just that Merenith seemed to compliment her in every sense of the word; she was the sun to her moon, the color painted on her drab canvas, the shadow that moved in synchronized harmony with her.

They were planning their commitment ceremony this summer--not an easy task for the birth child of an official high in the government. All the right people had to be invited, protocols needed to be followed, and correct etiquette observed. Jahara wanted to run away into the desert and complete the nuptials in private. But with her usual aplomb, Merenith accepted it all as part of who they were together.

"Jahara, having temper tantrums isn't going to change this." Merenith bent to brush the dust of the desert from her heavy work boots.

"You don't even know what it is I threw across the room."

Straightening, Merenith pressed her lips to Jahara's before speaking. "It's the invitation you've been denying would come."

Pushing her away, Jahara scowled.

"Oh, don't be so defensive," Merenith said. "Your Dame called me."

"M'Dame called you?"

"Since her office sent them out, she knew you'd get the disk today and be upset by the news. Why do you think I'm home so early?" Walking past her, Merenith skirted around the overstuffed furniture of the great room. She bent to straighten the bear rug in front of the fireplace that currently reflected the view of the mountains. "You want some wine? I think you could probably use some." The humor glinted deep in Merenith's blueberry eyes as she shot a glance over her shoulder before walking around the bar separating the living space from the cooking area.

"You think this whole thing's funny?" Jahara could no longer hold back the tears that had threatened only moments ago. "Just because you've already fulfilled your obligation, you find the fact that now it's my turn rather amusing? Well let me tell you. The whole thing is disgusting and if my Dame wasn't administrator, I'd petition to get out of this thing once and for all. It's a stupid law anyway."

Merenith came out of the kitchen nook. Setting the wine bottle down with two glasses, one side of her mouth curved in a melancholy smile. "No, my sweet, I don't find this humorous at all. But you just said it yourself. You've used your position at the hospital and your Dame's place in the government to put this off since you were twenty. Now the time has come. No one gets around this law."

"Have you read the document?" Jahara pointed to the small piece of metal on the floor. "I have only two weeks to put things in order at the hospital. Two weeks!" Her voice echoed on the high ceiling where a fan churned the cooled air. "How do they think the Medical Director of a major healing facility can get things in order before being whisked away for two years?" Jahara couldn't bring herself to think about how this would affect her personal life. The rest of what she wanted to say caught on the lump in her throat.

"Jahara, my love." Merenith came to her, gently kissing the tears from her face. "Don't think about it. You won't be without me the whole time, I can visit you. They allow that." Holding her cheeks, Merenith pushed the black tendrils of hair from her face. It still amazed Jahara how Merenith automatically understood what she thought without having to explain.

"Let's not talk anymore about it. Tonight, let it be about us." Merenith brushed her lips feather light across her mouth. "Let me show you how much I love you. Let me help you forget."

Opening up to her, Merenith's tongue slid skillfully into her mouth. She needed to lose herself in their love. Jahara moaned as Merenith's hand gently cupped her breast, her thumb caressing the taut nipple. The tingle of pleasure replaced the cold fear.

"Jahara, let's do this in the shower and enjoy some of that monthly water allotment. I still have work on me."

Though they had done this many times, their touches held a sense of urgency. Standing bare foot on the cool tiles of the bathroom, they stripped each other naked, letting their tunics and breeches pool around their feet.

Jahara marveled as always at the beauty of Merenith's body. A descendent of the Olakuma clan, Merenith's ancestors had long ago lost any semblance of body hair. It was unnecessary in their life in the desert heat. Merenith's skin was all tawny satin, save for the velvety blond eyebrows and thick lashes that once protected her people from the harsh sand thrown up in the hot winds.

Reaching behind her, Merenith turned the faucet for the shower. This night, they would enjoy the cascading water, rather than cleanse themselves in the chemical wash. This shower would be for their pleasure. There was no need to rush. The thought quickened the tempo of Jahara's already racing heart. This was so much better than worrying about the holodisk and all the changes it would bring to their lives.

They stepped into the steam together. With painstaking restraint, Merenith massaged a slick film of suds over her body. Jahara grew dizzy with the desire turning her bones to liquid heat. Covered in bubbles, she slid against Merenith, savoring the feel of skin gliding against skin. Their breaths came out in little gasps of desperation. Teeth and tongues laved and suckled until their blood ran as hot as the water.

Jahara's hands circled her partner's breasts, the nipples tightening to little buds. Merenith's head fell back. She arched into Jahara's hands in absolute surrender, the water sluicing seductively down her torso. Washing away the foam, Jahara's lips and teeth replaced her fingers. Jahara sucked one pebbled point into her mouth. But she needed to give her so much more, to prove to herself she was capable of satisfying the woman she loved. Easing back, Jahara kissed her way up the gentle sweep of Merenith's neck.

Running her hand down Merenith's belly, Jahara let her fingers explore the silky soft skin between her lover's thighs. It was such a contrast to the triangle of black curls at the apex of her legs. Merenith arched her back, giving Jahara's fingers access to her partner's lovely sex, already wet with need. Plunging her fingers into its depths, she felt heady with the power she held in her hands. The gasp of pleasure from Merenith nearly drove her mad with want to bring her to orgasm.

With practiced hands, Merenith massaged the weighty flesh of Jahara's full breasts. Jahara watched her partner's fingers pinch and pull at her nipples, making them red and sensitive. Merenith knew how to bring her to the edge of tenderness without actual pain. The searing need made her insides ache and Jahara knew she dripped with moisture both inside and out.

Jahara reached for one of the neuro stimulators they kept in the shower. Bringing her hand between their bodies, Jahara's fingers found Merenith's sweet bud and stroked the sensitive nub as she slid the stimulator deep into her lover. The apparatus was designed to pulse in rhythm with a woman's contracting muscles, heightening the orgasmic release.

"I want to do this together," Merenith said, as she turned Jahara so her back leaned against the strong muscles of her torso, the soft roundness of Merenith's breasts pressed against her heated flesh. Merenith's skilled fingers, still slippery with soap, massaged her back, and then moved to her stomach in gentle circles.

Merenith's hands slid down her belly, spreading Jahara's legs to explore. The tips of her fingers flirted with the spot tingling with a thousand pinpoints of heat. Jahara's knees went soft as Merenith filled her aching body with a second stimulator. The pleasant stretch of her internal muscles, combined with the electrical pulses, sent frissons of pleasure jolting to her fingers and toes. The wave of bliss rose within her, but refused to carry her to the release Jahara so desperately sought. She willed herself to give into the myriad sensations Merenith's mouth and hands were offering.

"Relax, my love. Let the stimulator do its work," Merenith whispered into her ear, before pulling Jahara's lobe through her teeth.

Merenith's hands ran up and down Jahara's body, trailing sparks of pleasure over her heated flesh. Merenith rotated her once again until they were standing face to face. Her mouth caught Jahara's in a deep kiss that stole all the air from Jahara's lungs. The vibration of Merenith's moans sent shivers down her spine. With the stimulators nestled deeply inside them both, Jahara hoped they would climax together.

Pulling away, Merenith worked her mouth down Jahara's body, sucking and nipping at Jahara's skin. Merenith's tongue plunged seductively into her navel. Jahara brought her hands to her breasts, pinching and kneading. The delightful pain helped ease the ache of need the stimulator couldn't seem to relieve.

Kneeling before Jahara, Merenith smiled up at her through the rainbow of spray falling from the showerhead. "Lean against the wall, Jahara." Merenith lifted Jahara's leg, setting it on her shoulder. "I want to drink your sweet nectar."

The fingers of one hand deftly massaged the swollen lips of Jahara's sex, working their way to her clitoris, while the other stroked circles in her own slick folds. Jahara gasped when Merenith's satin tongue slid over the bud, as her fingers rimmed the tight muscles of her anus. Jahara's world became a dizzying mix of fingers, teeth, tongue and stimulator, all sucking and probing.

"Jahara, you taste so good." Merenith's mouth pulled loudly at the moisture pouring from her. When Merenith's lips wrapped around her clitoris, Jahara let go of her breasts and gripped Merenith's shoulders, riding the rising tide of ecstasy.

While Jahara bucked wildly against her face, Merenith's fingers continued to pulse in rhythm to the rocking. Jahara's climax finally came in slow, undulating waves. Pulsing her hips, Jahara felt it slide her into a gentle, but satisfying release. Merenith's head fell back and she let out a primal cry of ecstasy. Jahara watched through shuttered lashes as her lover's muscles grew taut and her body shuddered with the waves of her own orgasm rolling through her.

Jahara had done nothing.

The neuro stimulator had done all the work. Merenith had not needed her to find sexual fulfillment. Jahara tried not to let the disappointment overshadow the warmth of the closeness they'd just shared. Yet the familiar emptiness settled itself deep within the pit of her stomach. Something was missing. Jahara had never been able to identify exactly what it was, but it filled her with profound sadness even as she slid into Merenith's waiting arms.

* * * *

The night hung heavy in the desert, like the unsettled feelings surrounding them. Sitting in the light of the holographic fire, their shadows danced on the walls of the apartment. Jahara held the disk in one hand, a glass of wine in the other. They'd already eaten a simple meal of soy protein and vegetables. They'd taken time to walk in the park across from the living complex feeling the heat of the day relinquish itself to the cool desert winds of evening. They'd talked about their days, skirting any mention of the projection disk or the impact it would have on their lives. But like an elephant standing between them, the pronouncement on the disk could no longer be ignored.

"Merenith, how did you survive this, this place?" Jahara shook the piece of metal in her hand.

"What, the Garden of Serenity?" Merenith asked, staring at the flickering light.

"Of course, The Garden. All the stories I've heard, it sounds so awful. One of my birth-sisters swears copulating with a man is the most animalistic ritual she ever had to endure. The other gave up her government position to raise both her birth child and that of her partner's. But neither sister talks about actually birthing the babies, only about the mating and the pregnancy. I can't imagine being a human incubator for nine months!" A shudder of disgust shook her body. "Not one child--but two! And at my age. What are they thinking?"

Merenith was uncharacteristically silent.

Pressing a small button, the disjointed head of her Dame appeared and Jahara listened again to the words she hoped never to hear. "Jahara Hriznek, we are pleased to inform you..." Jahara looked up at Merenith. "They're kidding me, right? They think I'm happy about this?"

Merenith poured more wine into her empty glass, but didn't meet Jahara's probing gaze.

"...that you have been chosen to report to The Garden of Serenity, located in the southern section of the Eastern Territory, no later than 1400 on June the first, 2172. It is so ordered by decree of Congress, written on the Fourth day of July, 2076: In order to reestablish the human population and create a more heterogeneous gene pool; we mandate every woman before the age of thirty must birth; if physically able, two healthy infants..."

Jahara closed down the projection. "Blah, blah, blah..." Jahara gulped her wine. "I particularly like the part about the extensive blood work and wellness-checks that must be completed before I go." Jahara threw the disk at the fire, watching it clatter unharmed through the hologram. If only she could burn it and pretend this had never happened.

"If you ask me, it's all a crockadung! It's not my fault they used up the frozen sperm supply. Look at us, our clan ancestors had the right idea, keeping the bloodlines clean by using only specific breeders." Jahara held her hands in the air as if she were on display. "I think it's a stupid law written by a group of old-fashioned, uneducated women desperate to have sex with men. Gross." Jahara's supper rolled uncomfortably in her stomach.

She continued, "I think the re-population plan is going just fine without my help. How can they expect a professional woman to give up her life for two years just to birth offspring?" Jahara looked at Merenith sipping her wine and contemplating the question she'd just posed. This was her third glass, very unlike Merenith.

"It's not horrible," Merenith said at last. "Unpleasant definitely, but not the worst thing that could happen." She stared blindly at the flames and Jahara knew she was thinking back to her own time at the Garden. "Think of it like a vacation. You haven't had one of those in years." Curving one corner of her mouth, Merenith turned to Jahara, lifting her shoulder. "I didn't mind being pregnant. The birthing stuff isn't even so bad, especially if the offspring are male. You just leave them at the Garden. I'm not even sure what they did with him. The girl I birthed was harder to leave behind, but I had no way of caring for her at the time. I know she's at some school where they love her."

Merenith turned her gaze back to the flames. "I didn't grow up with my birth family like you, Jahara. The school taught me everything I needed to know. I loved the girls there as if they were my birth-sisters. The teachers loved us like a true Dame would love her own birth child." Merenith stared pensively at the fire. They had talked about her upbringing, but Jahara never realized until this moment how truly different life had been for Merenith.

"Really, it's not so bad." Merenith's voice lilted into a false cheerfulness. "Besides, you already know what to expect. You came with me during foaling season last year. It's a lot like that." She drained the last of the burgundy liquid.

"Those mares looked particularly uncomfortable. I remember a lot of braying and kicking and blood. Lots of blood."

"Oh, for goodness sake, Jahara, if anyone was listening to you, they'd never know you were a skilled healer." Merenith's voice grew louder with each word. "Blood? That's the last thing that should be upsetting you." Pushing up from the floor, Merenith stalked into the kitchen.

Jahara followed her. "Mer, what's going on?" She had no idea what had caused this vehement reaction in her partner.

Merenith thrust the glass so hard into the cleansing station, it shattered. Jahara saw the droplets of blood running from her partner's hand and moved to help.

"I've got it. Just don't touch me right now," Merenith said on a shaky breath.

"Merenith, just let me stop the blood." Reaching for her again, Jahara felt helpless as Merenith wrenched her arm away from her contact.

She rounded on Jahara, her face flush with anger, her eyes welling with sadness. "You, you, you. That's all you think about, Jahara. You. Well, what in Hades about me?" Merenith's head fell forward and her shoulders quaked with the sobs she released.

"Mer." Jahara took Merenith's hand in hers and let the warmth of her healing power flow through her. Their hands glowed white with the energy emanating from Jahara's palm. The flow of blood from Merenith's hand stopped, the ripped flesh came back together, and the scab repaired instantly to healthy skin.

Jahara brought Merenith's healed hand to her lips, gently kissing the spot where the glass had torn her flesh. "Merenith, you're right. This isn't just about me. I'm sorry if I made it sound like that. It's about us." Lifting Merenith's chin, she kissed her gently. "One month, one week, one day, it's too much time to be away from you. You are my life. I don't know how I'm going to survive."

"I love you so much, Jahara. All I keep wondering is what will happen to me if you choose not to come back to me? What if you fall in love with another ... or worse?"

Jahara knew she spoke of tribes of men and women rumored to be living outside the law. Jahara could never understand how a woman could choose that life, men were barbarians. How could it possibly be true?

"Since we were young, we heard those rumors," Jahara said, wiping a tear from Merenith's cheek. "They're just children's tales meant to frighten. No more real than the black horseman or the bloodthirsty animals who steal you away into the night. They can't be true. There is no reason a woman would give up all we've worked so hard to build." Jahara waved her hand around their beautiful home. "The only men I've dealt with at the medical center come in with injuries they caused by their own stupidity. Men are only good for physical labor and breeding. Why would any woman choose to make a life with that?" Stooping, Jahara looked into Merenith's lowered eyes still glistening with tears. "The plague may have decimated the male population, but it gifted us with so much." Jahara lifted Merenith's healed hand. "The power to heal, to communicate with animals." She kissed her long fingers. "The power of telepathy, telekinesis, visions, and intellect. We have so much. Women are meant to be their own leaders. Now, have you ever met a man with any of those gifts? Especially intellect?"

Merenith giggled a nasally laugh. "No, I can't say I have. Not in all the time I spent at the Garden or in my years since."

"You're beautiful, funny, smart, and above all, you're the only one who tolerates the tidal wave of emotions that overtake me. Neither my Dame nor my birth-sisters could put up with that. I can't imagine there's a man on this earth willing to have me longer than it takes to impregnate me. I mean really, can you?"

They both laughed at the absurdity of her statement.

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Healer's Garden 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
edcsdc More than 1 year ago
This one is a winner! Multi-layered characters, suspense and romance make this an excellent book. Brenimyn is a worthy hero. Strong moral fiber, intelligent, compassionate and determined to follow his heart. Jahara took a little longer to find her strength. I enjoyed seeing the changes she went through as she discovered that the world she knew was filled with ill founded prejudice, callousness and lies. While she struggled with letting go of her old life, she does let her heart lead her to what was right. Highly recommended Adult read