Haunting Blackie Page 29

“Yes.”

“It doesn’t matter where we are then. On a planet or another shuttle.”

“I’d enjoy being a council member.” His voice lowered. “I never hoped to be offered a position. Only a few have opened since it was established.”

“You don’t hold elections every few years for positions the way Earth Government does?”

“No. A member is good at what they do or they are replaced by someone the remaining members ask to join. Our system works well.”

“Take the job then,” she urged. “I hope it pays well too because I have no idea how I’m going to help support us. I meant to ask you about that. I don’t suppose you guys need a few bounty hunters to chase down criminals here, do you?”

“We don’t have a monetary system the way Earth does and crime is rare on Garden. Everyone is given housing, clothing and food. Your service status does earn you better living spaces in the buildings with superior views and larger quarters.”

Eve let that settle in. “Seriously?”

“Yes.”

“What if you’re on the bottom floor? Is it bad? Do they make those cyborgs live in a closet-sized room and wear secondhand clothing?”

He chuckled. “No. They are all comfortable living spaces but we value the views. That’s deemed important. Everyone has access to clothing and food in the same amounts. We only ask for what we need. It is how our award system works. It is merit based, but no one suffers or does without.”

“That’s so weird but cool if the system really works.”

He reached out and fingered a lock of her hair. “Don’t compare cyborgs to humans. Our population never starves or needs to endure bad living conditions.”

“I think I might like this place.”

“It’s your home now.”

Zorus interrupted them when he entered the hallway. “Let’s go to my office.”

Eve took Blackie’s hand and they followed the council member. They didn’t speak until they reached his office and the door closed.

“You could have warned me.” Blackie sighed.

Zorus shrugged. “I thought it would mean more if you heard it from them. You deserve to be on the council. Your dedication has always been noted.” He shifted his focus to Eve. “I hope your encounter with Parlis and Jazel hasn’t prejudiced you against the other members. You have just joined a family unit with Blackie and you should know that it is customary that a male joined in a family unit asks the woman for permission to change his status. You should really consider the good he could do as a council member before you order him to decline.”

“We’re mated but I’m not a control freak. It’s Blackie’s decision to make.”

Zorus chuckled. “You chose well, Blackie. Forming a family unit with a human was the best thing to ever happen to me when I met Charlie. They are so unlike our women.”

“Thank you.” She’d take that as a compliment after everything she’d been told about cyborg women. “Blackie said you could arrange for us to formally get married. I told him we’re already mated so it doesn’t really matter but he likes things all legal like.”

“We want to have a small joining ceremony with just a few guests.”

Zorus rounded his desk and picked up an electronic device. “I can arrange that. How soon?”

“Tonight.” Blackie didn’t hesitate.

“Done.” Zorus glanced between them. “Do you have a list of who you’d like to attend?”

Blackie started to speak but the door suddenly flew open and slammed into the wall from the force. Eve spun, expecting an attack. The woman cyborg who stomped in wasn’t holding a weapon but her hands were fisted at her sides. She was tall, muscular, and wore a dark uniform.

Zorus placed the pad down on his desk with a loud thump. “What are you doing here, Fusion? You dare enter my office without an appointment?”

The woman halted, glared at him then gave Eve a concentrated examination from head to foot. She finally centered her anger on Blackie. “I just read the report. You brought her to Garden and plan to form a family unit? Is that correct?”

Eve instantly disliked the other woman. “Who are you?”

The cyborg ignored her. “We have a prior agreement, Blackie. I came to protest your application.”

Blackie’s anger was clear. “You have no right to file a protest.”

Eve’s heart did a number in her chest as the implications became clear. She peered up at her mate. “Who is she?” Eve whispered as jealousy tore through her. She imagined any woman who had come to protest their marriage must be an ex-lover of his. Blackie’s gaze snapped toward her but before he could answer the woman continued.

“I do have that right,” the woman spoke before he could. “He once stated that he’d consider joining my family unit before all others.”

“She’s someone I’ve served with aboard several vessels.” He took a threatening step closer to the cyborg. “I only said that to avoid an argument. The words were not a contract of obligation. It was a polite refusal.”

Fusion shrugged. “The words were still stated. You will join my family unit.”

“I refuse!” Blackie spun on Zorus. “I did not obligate myself to anything.”

Eve studied the other woman and hated how much it hurt, picturing Blackie touching and kissing her. His taste in women wasn’t that great, she decided. The woman was attractive enough but she was Eve’s opposite in coloring and size.

“Fusion,” Zorus cleared his throat, “this is unacceptable. Leave my office. You are causing a scene.”

“I don’t care.” She actually stomped her foot. “I want him. Refuse his request and add him to my family unit. We’ll finally be even for what you owe me.”

“What is going on?” Eve hadn’t expected anyone to show up and try to steal her mate. “Blackie?” She latched on to his arm, demanding his attention.

He clasped his hand over hers, trapping it in place as he met her gaze. “I don’t know.”

“Is she your ex-lover?”

He appeared horrified. “No. I never tested our compatibility.”

“What the hell does that mean? The council asked that about Danica and Gene but I couldn’t exactly say anything at the time.”

“It is when a male and female have sex and share living quarters to see if they are an acceptable match.”

“You never f**ked her?”

“No.”

Eve believed him. Anger surged as she returned her attention to the equally livid cyborg woman. “I don’t know what your problem is but we’re already mated. It’s a done deal. You can’t have him.”

“You have no say in this.”

“Don’t speak to my mate that way,” Blackie warned. “You’re the one who has no say in this, Fusion.”

That comment motivated Fusion to shoot him a dirty look. “She’s human and canine. She is beneath you.”

“Enough!” Zorus roared the word. It took him a second to get his temper under control, judging by his expression. “Leave, Fusion. Do not insult that woman again. She deserves our respect.”

“I know what she is. I read the report from the council. She’s a dog! Pat her on the head and then tell her to fetch another male.”

It was a deliberate insult and Eve felt her claws slide out of her fingertips. She wanted to smack Fusion. She tugged out of Blackie’s hold as a soft, warning growl emanated from the back of her throat. “At least I’m wanted by him. You’re sounding kind of pathetic by trying to force a man to be with you. Grab a clue, supposedly superior. I might be a canine unit but you’re the bitch in this room.”

Blackie wrapped his arm around her waist, his hold firm enough to keep her in place if she lunged to attack. It upset her that he felt protective of the cyborg woman. She tore her attention from the woman, pissed off that he would see her hurt expression.

“I won’t allow you to fight.”

“You dare insult me?” Fusion sounded closer. “Let’s fight for him, dog. I’ll put you in your place.”

Eve turned her head, glared at the woman. She struggled in her mate’s hold, more than ready to draw blood. Blackie wrapped his other arm around her, his hold comparable to thick bands of steel. He lifted her in front of him until her feet left the floor and pressed his lips against her ear.

“Eve,” he crooned, “calm down. She’s attempting to provoke you.”

“And she’s succeeding. Let me at her.”

Zorus stepped between her and her target, his back to Eve as he faced Fusion.

“Leave the council chambers now, Fusion. That is an order. You came here to start trouble but I won’t allow it. Blackie refused your offer. Go.”

“No,” the woman spat. “You are going to add him to my family unit. I need his status.”

What the hell is going on? Eve wiggled to see around the tall cyborg in her path but her mate refused to let her down. She could have used her claws to tear into his arms to force him to release her but it wasn’t an option. She could never injure him.

“I see.” Zorus’ tone changed to a softer one. “I completely understand.”

“I knew you would.” A smug smile curved the cyborg woman’s lips. “I expect the upgrade immediately and for you to give that little dog to someone else to care for. I don’t want her anywhere near Blackie. I don’t allow my men to touch anyone else.”

Panic set in. “NO! She can’t have my mate.” Eve renewed her struggles. “I’ll kill her first.”

“Zorus!” Blackie sounded equally shaken. “You can’t agree to this. I refuse!”

The male didn’t even glance back at them. “You admitted to reading council files and it was mentioned Blackie would replace Parlis on the council.”

“I deserve it. Darius was given the highest status and now I’ll have the same as my brother.”

“You deserve something,” Zorus agreed. “Fine, Fusion. We’ll do this here in front of witnesses. In the past you’ve attempted to use our biological connection to manipulate me and get your way. You are the product of theft from my body while I was being held on Earth. They didn’t ask if I’d donate my sperm for the experiments that created you. I wouldn’t have even known of your existence if it weren’t for the tests we performed to discover possible defects in breeding pacts because of our unknown genetic connections. You will never be my daughter in a familial sense.”

Eve stopped wiggling to get free of Blackie’s hold, realizing Zorus wasn’t agreeing to hand him over to Fusion. She calmed enough to follow the conversation.

Zorus continued after an awkward silence. “I wish I had reared you. You might have turned out better but it is doubtful after the mistakes I made with my son. You have always wanted what he was given but it didn’t make him a better individual. I know exactly how cruel and calculating you are. I will never forget the reports I was shown six years ago when you were allowed to interrogate a human male who was captured. It gave me nightmares and that is difficult to do. I’ve also paid attention to the medical reports that were filed about your two males. You’re abusive to them, yet they can’t complain or they’d never be allowed to join another family unit. You’d be that vindictive if they attempted to leave by stating they were unworthy of other women.”

“That’s not true. I don’t abuse my men.” Fusion didn’t sound sincere though. Her voice had cracked a little.

“Don’t lie to me,” Zorus demanded in an icy tone. “Steel filed a complaint about your mental state while you were assigned to his ship when he refused your attempts to gain his status. That is when I looked deeper into your life. Every time one of your family unit males is on Garden, they end up in Medical with various injuries after spending time with you. I have let it slide, though, because of our association. No more.”

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