Haunting Blackie Page 19

“Crap. Okay.” She spun, pacing. “Are you and Gene included in the fourteen crew members you said were aboard?”

“Yes.”

“So if we count Varion on our side, it’s five against eleven. Those aren’t the greatest odds but it’s doable.”

“You’re not fighting if a confrontation takes place.”

She stilled to shoot him a frown. “Macho crap. I love you but pull that shit once we’re safe. Now isn’t the time, okay?”

“You are no match for a cyborg.”

“But I—”

“I took you down with one punch on the freighter. You were helpless once you lost consciousness.” His features morphed into a purely masculine expression of arrogance. “You will not fight.”

“But—”

He moved fast, manacling her wrists with both hands and jerking her against his body. His chin lowered and his gaze narrowed with intensity as she peered up at him, stunned.

“This is one order you will follow, Eve. I won’t risk losing you twice.” His tight grip on her eased but he didn’t let go. “I will protect you at any cost, even if that means knocking you out to make sure you don’t put yourself at risk again. Am I clear?”

“Very.” He was sexy when he was being protective and stern.

“You’re too important to me.”

“I understand.”

He released her wrists and stepped back. “Good. Gene and I will do all the fighting if it escalates to violence. You and Danica will stay far from any conflict.”

“I do have to point out that the cargo holds on shuttles aren’t that big so we’ll be in the line of fire.”

“Cyborgs have honor. We fight hand-to-hand with each other.”

“It sounds brutal but fair.” She could respect that. “Do you guys fight often?”

“Occasionally. It happens far more on assignments aboard ships than on Garden. It’s not generally acceptable but sometimes we irritate each other.” He shrugged. “It’s the side effect of turning off our emotion-suppression chips. We experience anger and need an outlet at times when we’re forced into close quarters for an extended amount of time.”

“I understand that too. My littermates and I sometimes used to get into some tussles.”

“What is a tussle?”

“A fight. Not brutal but we’d knock each other around. We’re highly emotional.”

“Have you and Danica fought?”

“Sometimes. It was never anything serious though. We’ve been together a lot of years so we’ve learned to avoid stepping on each other’s toes.”

He glanced down at her feet.

She laughed. “Not literally. I mean we know how to really piss each other off so we avoid doing it most of the time. We just agree to disagree on some topics.”

“Finish dressing.” Blackie turned his back and retrieved his own clothing. “We need to go to the cargo hold.”

Eve made do with some of Blackie’s exercise pants. She rolled the waist and legs, the fit not right, but they didn’t fall off. They sat side by side on the bunk to put on her shoes and his boots.

“You do have to admit I reacted faster to the threat than you did,” she softly stated.

“I wasn’t expecting Fleet to breach our quarters.”

She smiled, standing. “I’ll take that as you admitting I have a point.”

Blackie’s hand snagged hers and he peered at her from his seated position. “No more fighting, mate. My heart can’t take it.”

“You were afraid?”

“Yes. He could have done serious harm to you before I was able to get you away from him.”

“He’s the one being tended by a medic.”

“You took him by surprise with your swift actions. You are fast and attacked before he could shut off his pain receptors.”

“Yeah. I am.”

He stood. “No more fighting.”

She hated to agree but his grim expression convinced her she had given him a fright. “Okay. I won’t unless I absolutely have to.” She paused. “That’s the best you’re going to get. I won’t stand there and let you die if I can ever prevent it. That strong desire to protect the person you love flows both ways.”

“Understood.” His hold on her tightened as he tugged her toward the door and grabbed his weapon. “Stay close.” He released her to open the door.

Blackie was furious as the doors to his quarters slid open and his gaze lowered to the blood smears on the floor and the opposite wall in the hallway. He had seen Eve attack Fleet but she’d been too quick for him to reach before she’d taken him down. Part of Blackie experienced a sense of pride but it could have turned bad if Fleet hadn’t been injured so swiftly, preventing him from shutting off his pain receptors. A few more seconds and the injury she had inflicted wouldn’t have kept him down.

He glanced at the weapon in his hand. They weren’t the electronic ones they had taken onto the freighter. Those had been designed to cause pain instead of death. One shot would have killed Eve if Fleet had used his personal weapon. He shuddered at the thought of losing her.

No one attempted to stop them from reaching the cargo hold. He tapped the pad to announce their arrival. Long seconds passed before it opened. Gene wore loose black pants and gripped a weapon, which was pointed at Blackie’s chest. He lowered it.

“What is wrong?”

Blackie entered the cargo hold, glancing around. “Seal the doors. Fleet just paid us a visit by breaching my quarters.” Danica also held a weapon, a sharp knife. She had made a bed on the floor near the cot Gene had set up along the other wall. “We decided it would be safer to stick together until we reach Garden.”

“Damn it,” Danica hissed, climbing to her feet. “I knew it.” She kept hold of the blade. “Are you okay, Eve?”

“I’m fine.”

Blackie paused, studying Danica’s bed. He turned to shoot a questioning look at Gene.

“I offered. She refused to take my bunk or share it.”

Eve left his side to go study one of the panels by the exterior door. He watched her, wondering why.

“Already done,” Danica sighed. “It’s totally disabled.”

Eve spun, flashing her sister a grin. “I had no doubt you’d already thought of that.”

“Thought of what?” Blackie was confused.

Danica hugged her waist. “They aren’t going to be able to auto open those doors from the command center or anywhere else. I even used a torch to seal the suckers while Gene was away getting food. I didn’t want to end up sucked into space.”

“Those doors won’t open with life signs registering in the cargo hold. I told you this,” Gene offered, placing his weapons on his bunk.

“Yada, yada,” Danica muttered. “Cyborgs. You guys could hack anything so don’t bite my ass about being paranoid.”

Gene’s mouth fell open. “I wouldn’t bite your ass.”

Eve chuckled. “She meant she’s not taking any chances and she doesn’t want you to give her any lip over it. Um, I don’t think that’s unreasonable. It’s better to think of all the ways someone can kill you and try like hell to screw up their plans.”

“We’d totally blow the doors to vent out pirates so I thought of that first,” Danica pointed out. “They can’t shut down our air either, to suffocate us. I kind of dealt with that scenario too by crawling through the vents and making damn sure they can’t close. The seals are gone and I wedged them in an open position. It was a pretty tight fit so I can’t see a cyborg getting in there to reverse what I did. Even if they send out a cyborg in a space suit to blow the doors from the exterior, it’s going to take a portion of the shuttle with us and it will suck out the air through the rest of the living areas they can’t seal off.”

“You didn’t tell me this.” Gene frowned.

“You would have just bitched at me about how cyborgs have honor and wouldn’t do that. Heard it the first time and still don’t believe all of you are great guys. No offense.”

“None taken. It wasn’t necessary though. I had already disabled the exterior doors by severing the link between them and the computer. It was only possible to open them from inside this hold.” He didn’t appear happy as he frowned at Danica. “You crawled through the air vents?”

“I just said that.”

“You could have gotten stuck.”

“I wouldn’t have gotten jammed up in there. I took off my clothes and greased up.”

His mouth fell open again. Blackie understood his stunned response.

“Drais Three.” Eve chuckled. “Good one.”

“What does that space station have to do with this?” Blackie frowned.

“They arrested us once.” His mate laughed. “We had brought in a large number and they didn’t want to pay the bounty. Um, I mean a criminal we captured with a high price on his head. They didn’t want to pay us when we turned him over to the authorities. The jerk who runs the prison there thought he could keep the reward and score some extra credits by selling two women to skin traders. We stripped down and smeared the greasy crap they called food over our bodies. The vents there weren’t too big but we made it through them into the next room. That guard never knew what hit him. We stole his keys, got our clothes back and took our criminal to Draven Six. They paid us without any bullshit.”

“We kind of took some of their weapons with us for the effort.” Danica winked. “You know, we were owed something for the twelve hours we were stuck in that damn cell.”

Blackie glowered at Eve. “Your job was dangerous.”

“Everything is these days. We filed a report and that jerk lost his post.”

“He’s probably cleaning toilets now. A pair of good bounty hunters is more useful than some bloated jerk who would pull that shit. We’re rare because most people in our profession aren’t nuts enough to be that far out in space. The one who runs Draven Six was pissed because the creep we captured had ripped off supply shuttles. We put that loser out of business.” Danica sat down. “So, we’re stuck in here for the duration?” She glanced at the crates packed along one wall. “I don’t suppose those have any liquor in them, do they? I could totally use a drink or six.”

“No,” Gene said and sighed. “I already told you that.”

“Yeah, but you lie to me.”

His eyebrow rose. “I don’t know why you continue to accuse me of that. Those crates contain building materials we traded for.”

“Garden is a dry planet, isn’t it?” Danica shook her head. “We’re going to hell, Eve.”

“There is plenty of water.” Gene frowned at her. “Most of the surface is—”

“No booze, no fun,” Danica cut him off. “I don’t give a damn if most of your planet is wet. I’m talking alcohol.”

“You’ll survive.” Eve crossed the room, reading the sides of the crates.

“They won’t have chocolate either,” Danica announced.

His mate softly cursed. “Rub it in.”

Blackie glanced at Gene. His friend shrugged. He took a deep breath and released it. “I’m sure we can manufacture anything you want once we reach Garden. Our food replicators are excellent.”

“I need a drink now,” Danica stated. “It’s going to feel like forever until we reach that planet, isn’t it?”

Eve stopped her perusal of the crate labels. “Let’s hope so. I’ll take boredom over the excitement of someone trying to come at us again.” She returned to Blackie’s side. “Where do you want to sleep? There are some pads stacked between the blue boxes. It won’t be the most comfortable thing to use as a bed but it will do.”

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