Melting Iron Page 11

Frustration, anger, and desperation all hit her at once. She moved and blocked his way to the door. “Don’t you dare just stalk out. Don’t give me hope that I’m going to get the hell out of this room, dangle it in front of me, and then take it away.”

“You heard your options. You may agree to take my brand or move out of the way, Dawn.”

She blinked back tears. She’d be damned if she let him see that he’d made her cry. Iron frowned when she didn’t budge. His arms dropped to his sides and he took a few steps toward her, stopping inches in front of her.

“Move, Dawn. I am going to give you some time to weigh your options. When I return in the morning we’ll discuss this again.”

“In the morning? You’re not coming back tonight?”

He shook his head. “I think you need the time to reflect on your situation.”

“You’re punishing me, in other words,” she hotly accused. “Damn it, Iron. Don’t do this to me.”

“You are doing it to yourself. If you would just agree we would both be walking out of this room right now.”

“I have pride,” she said softly. “Don’t do this. Don’t force this on me. I’ll hate you.”

A muscle in his jaw flexed and his features softened. “I don’t wish that.”

“Then let’s find a compromise we can both live with.”

“What kind of compromise?”

She drew a blank for a few seconds and then swallowed. She’d never thought she’d ever get a tattoo in her life. Then again, she thought, I never thought I’d find myself in this kind of situation. A sudden idea entered her mind.

“I’ll get a tattoo if you get one as well.”

Dark red eyebrows arched. “I already have them.”

“You want me to have your name on my body then I want my name put on your body. That’s fair.”

Iron couldn’t hide his shock at her suggestion. He stepped back, a frown marring his features. “Is this a joke?”

“Is it? You tell me. I’ll agree to take your name on my skin if you take mine.”

His eyes closed and he took a deep breath before they opened again. “Just Dawn or do I have to carry your last name as well?”

It was her turn to be shocked. She hadn’t honestly thought he’d even consider it. “What do your tattoos mean?” She glanced at them. “I sure as hell can’t read them.”

“My name.” He touched his right shoulder. “This is Iron Cyborg and this…” He touched the marks on the left. “This is my rank.”

“Rank?”

“I’m an original, the first of my kind. We’re marked for generations and it shows my importance in my society as a commander of a ship.”

Licking her lips, Dawn swallowed hard. “Just my first name would work. Do I have to have your rank put on me too?”

“Yes.”

She looked at the tattoos on him again. They weren’t ugly or anything, just different, similar to ancient tribal markings. Her attention went back to his face to find that he still watched her. She put out her hand to him.

“It’s a deal then. I’ll take your name on me and you’ll put my name on you.”

Iron glanced down at her hand and then took it. She expected him to shake on it but instead he lifted her hand and to her surprise, he turned it palm up to brush a soft kiss on her wrist. He released her, jerked his head at the door, and sighed.

“We’ll go see Doc right now.”

Excitement hit Dawn at the prospect of leaving Iron’s quarters. She really had lost track of days. She was sure at least a week had passed. The doors slid open behind her, thanks to Iron silently signaling with his mind. She wished she had that ability, one she would find damn useful in her line of work, and turned to almost run out of the room. Just stepping through the doors into the hallway was exhilarating.

A hand clamped down on her upper arm, Iron’s fingers curling around it, and she stared up at him as he stepped up beside her. She gave him a dirty look.

“I’m not going to run.”

“I didn’t say you would. If you were considering it, there is nowhere to go. All the emergency pods have been deactivated.”

She kept silent as they walked, not about to explain to him that she could easily steal one of his precious life pods from the Star. She could hotwire anything with an engine. Of course she was also smart. While the Star’s life pods were fast, they weren’t built with large fuel tanks. She would burn up too much fuel trying to outrun the Star and when her reserves were low, she’d have to slow. The other ship would then be able to catch up with her easily and capture her again.

She wasn’t a novice in space either. She had no idea where she was but she figured she was in deep space, far from the regular outposts and space stations. Cyborgs would want to stay far off Earth Government radar. The only things out in deep space were obviously cyborgs and a hell of a lot of mutated pirates. She shivered as she walked, never wanting to come across them again.

Iron stopped walking and stared down at her. “Are you well?”

“I’m fine.”

“You looked frightened. I won’t allow anyone to harm you, Dawn. Do you doubt my ability to protect you?”

“You said something about the life pod and I was thinking how stupid it would be to take one, if you want the truth. I’m guessing we’re pretty far off the beaten paths of travel routes so there have to be a lot of pirates out this way.”

“Yes. There are. They like to stay far from the travel routes because they know the standard is to shoot at them upon sensor detection. You need not worry about the Star being attacked. The Rally and the Star are a team, both ship and shuttle travel together. It dissuades even the more aggressive pirates from attacking.”

She nodded. “You’re smart. Unfortunately those crazy bastards rarely do the sane thing. They’ve attacked the Vonder a few times over the past year.”

A frown marred Iron’s lips as he hit the button to call for the lift. “The Vonder is a large station. It would be suicide for them to attack it. We wouldn’t even do that.”

“Yeah, well, nobody said pirates were bright. We have a kick-ass defense system but its slow getting parts out to us from Earth sometimes. We had four of our lasers go down after we took some fragment hits from a passing comet so we had a blind side that one of their ships slid through before we could turn the station. We were in spin mode, enabling us to continuously fire at them.”

Iron watched her with that same frown on his face as the lift doors opened and he led her inside. “Did they breach the Vonder?”

“Uh, no, not in the way you’d think.” Dawn sighed. “I was outside in a space suit repairing hull dents we’d sustained from those same fragment hits we took when they attacked. I barely made it into the docking doors before they were hooking up and blowing out the hatch I’d just come through, to gain entry. You know what I did to the Rally’s docking room? Think bigger. I blew out a section of hull after they boarded that area of the station to keep them from reaching the living areas with my crew.”

Iron looked stunned as he stared mutely at her.

“I watched them die, heard them screaming until the air was gone. It was hell. I had to vent their remains before I started to patch the hole so I could seal it up and reestablish oxygen. I had less than twenty minutes of air in my tanks by the time I was done. If the patch hadn’t held I would have suffocated too. I couldn’t walk outside to the docking port on the other side of the station since we were spinning to keep those bastards off us. My tether wouldn’t have been strong enough. My ass would have been tossed out into space.”

Full lips pressed tightly together. “Your job was very dangerous, Dawn. I am glad you will never do it again.”

She wasn’t about to tell him that once she escaped from him that going back to the Vonder was exactly what she’d do. It was her home now and they needed her. Other mechanics had come and gone in the past eight years to assist her but they never stayed. It was a lonely, shitty job with too many hours and too many repairs to keep up with but the pay was too damn good to walk away from.

The lift doors slid open when it stopped. Dawn peered out into the large cargo area and to her stunned disbelief saw over a dozen cyborg males in skimpy, thin outfits tossing each other around on thick mats on the floor. Iron gripped her arm again to tug her out of the lift.

“We exercise here to keep physically maintained. Do not be alarmed. The fighting is not genuine.”

The men stopped what they were doing as Dawn was pulled into the room. All attention focused on her and she glanced at each male, seeing their open interest instantly. Iron muttered something so softly she missed his words.

“What?”

“I was hoping that none of them would be working out at this hour.”

“You’re going to give me a tattoo in here? Seriously?”

Iron jerked his head. “Look.”

She followed his gaze and saw that in the far corner a Med area had been set up. She was shocked when a human older man walked into the room. His white hair put him at over fifty in age—a thin-framed man in good physical shape from the firmness of his muscular arms. A scar was evident, which had her guessing someone had sliced open his face with a thick blade once. The guy openly stared at Dawn for a few seconds before he shot a dirty look at Iron.

“Another one? Seriously? I’m going to run out of magnetic ink, damn it. I told Flint I’m low on it after I branded the last woman brought to me.”

“Is there enough?” Iron tensed. “It’s important to me.”

The doctor hesitated. “Yeah.” The man turned his attention on Dawn, studying her.

She stared back at him. “You are owned by them too?”

The man shook his head before he turned away, going to a cupboard along the wall. “No. I was rescued and freed by them. I was assigned to the Star when she left Earth’s orbit after she was cleared for flight. I was one of three medical staff members assigned to her.” He rummaged and pulled out a few things. “The Star was taken by pirates and they killed most of the crew, ransomed some of the lucky ones back to Earth, or sold them to some of the outer posts as sex workers.” He set four cases on one of the only two med beds. “I’m the only one they kept aboard since I’m a medic. They kept me pretty damn busy, considering how messed up they are physically.”

Surprise tore through Dawn. “Pirates were able to take this thing? How the hell did they do that?” Dawn frowned at Iron. “You said this was a Class-A ship. That means it’s fully armored, has state-of-the-art defensive weapons and it’s not that old. As far as ships go it’s a damn baby so it’s got to be pretty impressive technology. How were pirates able to get control of it?”

The medic cleared his throat. “Our captain was straight out of the academy. His father was some big shot who got his precious boy assigned.” He glanced at Dawn. “Call me Doc. You both need to remove your shirts.” He opened another case. “As I was saying, the captain was green and an idiot. We ran into a group of pirates with four ships docked together in a cluster who instantly surrendered as we approached them claiming they were dead in space with mechanical failures. Captain Tillis wouldn’t listen when the crew tried to tell him to just kill them. Instead he docked the Star directly to them, thinking he was saving lives, and of course they attacked the second they were aboard. They’d had more of their ships hiding behind a moon, had filled those four linked ships over capacity from all the men from the hidden ships so at least fifty of those bastards were able to walk right onto the Star.”

“Shit.” Dawn shook her head. “Didn’t your captain scan for life signs first or have security teams ready to open fire on them if it was a trick?”

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