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Chapter Twenty-one

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Kita scraped her plate clean of the wonderful butternut squash linguine and vegan mac and cheese. Everyone was eating or relaxing around a set of benches behind the DFAC.

"Good?" said Kimmy. She was enjoying a burger.

"Very. I didn't know the DFAC cooks took orders."

Kimmy chuckled. "It came from my chef. Once I'm gone, you'll get your own."

"What am I going to do with a chef?"

"You'll have more than a chef. You'll have a complete staff," said Kimmy.

Kita's jaw dropped. She had always done everything for herself. "How am I going to keep a staff busy? It's just Arcee and me."

"I expect you and Arcee to be busy doing other things besides cooking and cleaning."

"I guess. I thought I'd be living here for the rest of my life," said Kita.

"That would be pretty dull. Even the regular Area Fifty-one staff lives in Vegas and are flown in every day."

"You'll get used to government life quick," said Adrestia. She now had the rank of colonel and was dressed in jeans, camisole, and leather jacket.

"I guess Vegas won't be bad," Kita said with a shrug.

Kimmy laughed. "You'll get your pick of where you want to live, but Arcee will have to remain hidden."

"I don't want to do that." Kita looked up at Arcee.

"Outside of battle, my form does not matter to me. But, whatever house you get will have to have high ceilings and wide doorways, unless you want tire marks on the floor."

"Do you leave tire marks?" said Kimmy.

"Not rubber, but I can if I drive through something."

Kimmy tapped Kita on the arm and leaned into her ear. "Can I talk to you?"

"Ah, sure."

"I mean away from everyone else."

"Oh, ok. I'll be back, Arcee," said Kita.

"Of course. I will be here," said Arcee as her eyes brightened.

Kita got up from the picnic bench and followed Kimmy around the side of the DFAC away from the others.

"Did—did I do something wrong?" said Kita.

"No, no," said Kimmy. "You're not in trouble. I am. I—I wanted to apologize for saying I own you. I did not mean to drive you into the desert. I was upset because I'm not used to having my authority challenged openly. I'm sorry. I hope you don't hate me."

Kita shrugged. "I don't hate you. It meant a lot that you came up to the mountain with Arcee and Nicole. You didn't have to. It was my problem to get over."

"I—I wanted to make sure you were ok. I...like...you. You're very special, and no one treats me like you do."

"I thought I'd been pretty nasty."

"You were standing up for yourself. You don't see me as the princess, you see me as a person, and that means a lot—more than I can tell you."

Kita smiled and looked into Kimmy's chocolate brown eyes. Kimmy smiled back. It was the first time Kita had seen her smile, and her heart skipped a beat. Whoa, what am I thinking? I'm sure there is a prince somewhere. "I, ah—you took me seriously and treated me like I was more than a junkyard girl. You look normal to me. Ah, I mean, you're not normal. You're very pretty. I just—"

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