Redeeming Zorus Page 24

“I love you.” He spoke softly. “I need to be clearer with my thought processes to avoid further misunderstandings. I am debating leaving the council since I am not certain I want them to torment me on a daily basis. The probability of it is high. I worry that my son will cause more difficulties for us and I need to find a way to make him understand your value to me. I won’t trust him until that has been established.”

“You love your job, don’t you?”

He hesitated. “Yes. I enjoy my work.”

“Then deal with the shit. It will pass. They will grow bored of teasing you. Don’t quit your day job. I doubt I could support us on slave wages.”

He suddenly chuckled. “Your sayings always amuse me and I appreciate your attempt at humor.”

“Who is kidding?” Her chin lifted until she met his gaze. “I’m property here.”

Zorus’ humor fled. “I no longer am happy about the status of humans on Garden.”

“Then change the laws. It’s what your council does, right?”

A glint flickered in his gaze. “Yes.”

“So stay at your job and work on making me more than something you own.”

“You’re very smart.”

She couldn’t resist smiling. “For a human, you mean?”

He softly growled. “Don’t do that. I would punish anyone who dared to insult you that way.”

“Sorry. Stop growling and I’ll stop making smartass remarks. It was a joke.”

“It wasn’t humorous. Some of my people wouldn’t be happy with that law being changed but it wouldn’t affect many. There are currently less than thirty humans living on Garden.”

“That’s so few. How many cyborgs live here?”

“Thousands.” He gently released her but kept hold of her hand to lead her to one of the chairs. He sat and spread his thighs, indicating he wanted her to sit. “We are fine now, aren’t we?”

She curled up on his lap. “Yes. I’m just sorry for all the grief you’re getting over me.”

“I’d rather take it than the alternative of not having you in my life. I’m sorry for the miscommunication. We will have them but we need trust, Charlie.”

She hesitated. “You’ve slept with Alis in the past, haven’t you? She said something that implied it.”

“Yes.” His mouth tensed into a grim line. “It was before I met you. That’s how favors are exchanged. I mentioned this to you before.”

“Yeah. I remember.” Her fingers traced his jawline and then she looked deeply into his eyes. “You were really an ass**le once, weren’t you?”

His eyebrows shot up.

“That’s kind of shitty to bargain with women to have sex with you.”

“I never pressed them to offer me intercourse. You witnessed her actions. She came here on her own, removed her clothing, and would have attempted seduction if I didn’t have you in my life.”

“So you’re a victim?” She smirked.

“Charlie, are you upset that I had intercourse with Alis in the past? I must point out that it was before we met and I never foresaw you being a part of my life. I will never allow another female to bargain with me in that manner again. You are the only female who has permission to touch me. I would never risk losing you and you are the only one I want.”

She snuggled against his big body. “I’m a bit jealous. She had a really nice body.”

“I did not notice.”

She snorted. “Right. What happened to honesty?”

“I noticed but I find your pale, creamy skin much more attractive and your softness fascinates me. Your body makes me more aroused than I have ever experienced.” He didn’t look away from her while he spoke. “No other woman has ever affected me the way you do. I’ve never wanted any female as much as you, Charlie. That is the truth.”

“I believe you.” She beamed. “You’re super hot yourself and no one compares to you.”

His head turned and he groaned.

“What?”

“Someone is coming. If that female has decided to try to seduce me again I will lock her inside the elevator for a few hours to cool her down.”

“How do you…oh, that’s right. You can link to your system without touch. Doesn’t it tell you who is there?”

“We don’t have cameras on Garden. We hate them after being on Earth. It reminds us of our captivity. When it reaches our floor they will convey a message signal to me if I don’t automatically open the doors.”

A minute passed and suddenly Zorus tensed. He stood and eased Charlie to her feet in front of him. “Go to our room now. This is cyborg business and it is not a female.”

The stern look on his face told her something serious was about to go down. She hesitated.

“Please, Charlie. This is council business. It’s classified and has nothing to do with us.”

“Okay.”

She headed for the bedroom but she turned at the hallway when the elevator doors opened. A black-haired, tall cyborg wearing all black leather entered the apartment. She’d seen him before on the shuttle they’d transferred to when the cyborgs had paid off the human who had brought them from Earth.

“Onyx,” Zorus addressed him. “What has happened?”

Charlie wanted to eavesdrop but then kept right on going to the bedroom. She even closed the door though curiosity pricked her. She walked over to stare out window.

* * * * *

“Are we certain?” Zorus tried to suppress his worry.

Onyx grimly nodded. “No doubt about it. When we heard about the attack on Belta Station we investigated since it’s the closest one to us. The humans were slaughtered and it wasn’t pirates who did it. We found pieces of one nonhuman body they’d left behind in a section of the station that was destroyed by a bomb. It was definitely a Markus Model. It appears they must have killed the humans.”

“This is alarming. Out of all the stations for them to attack, I won’t believe it was coincidental that it happened to be that one.”

“That’s what I figured too but I wanted to come to you first. We need to call the council together.”

“There’s no way they could locate Garden from any information they obtained from those humans. We are always careful to conceal our identities.”

“They located where we do our main trading. If they start searching, they could eventually find this planet. It may take them a while but I’m alarmed they got this close.”

“I am as well.”

A chill ran down Zorus’ spine. The Markus Model androids were Earth Government’s failed attempt to create another workforce of humanoid-looking advanced robotic hybrids by regenerating organic materials. They were to take the place of cyborgs. The Markus Models had once fooled Zorus into believing they wanted asylum but instead they’d wanted to capture cyborgs to trade for their counterparts being held prisoner on Earth.

“We need to be on high alert. From now on we only do deep-space trading far from here. If they are somehow able to track our interaction with humans we need to lead them along a false trail. From now on, we reduce all contact with any and all stations. We’ll need to assign sentry ships to warn us if they enter this system. I want the Star to return to Garden and the Rally is to remain in orbit. I also want the Vontage to return. Contact both Flint and Steel and give them my orders. If there’s a fight, our priority is defending Garden.”

“Agreed,” Onyx sighed. “We really don’t need more enemies.”

“I believed we had destroyed those androids. How is this possible? I was informed by Flint that they were blown up on the Earth shuttle Nugget after our life pods launched.”

Onyx shrugged. “I don’t know. My guess is that more of them escaped from Earth.” Onyx paused. “I hope you aren’t going to be as stubborn about them as you were in the past. Flint is returning on the Star as we speak and fully expects difficulties with you. We don’t need to run studies on something that dangerous to figure out how Earth has made advancements in technology. We just need to kill them if they come after us again.”

“I learned my lesson.” Guilt and a little embarrassment spread through Zorus at the memory of believing the androids would make strong allies against Earth Government. Instead they’d attacked cyborgs and that’s how Zorus had ended up on a life pod that had delivered him into the hands of humans on Earth. “I am capable of it.”

Onyx nodded. “How is it working out with your human? It’s the main topic today—about what happened at the council meeting.” A grin curved his lips. “I still can’t believe you have one.”

“Go ahead. Make a disparaging remark if it makes you content to insult me.”

“That wasn’t my intention. I used to dislike them too but spending time with Ice and Megan has changed my mind. Megan is pretty terrific. If your human is half as good for you as Ice’s wife has been for him, then I just wish you well.”

The tension eased from Zorus. “I don’t want to discuss Charlie but thank you. I’ll meet you at the council building in ten minutes. I have contacted them and they are on their way now.”

Onyx frowned. “You did?”

“We have a separate link we use to communicate with each other in emergencies. I’ve related what you’ve told me. I need to tell Charlie that I have to attend this meeting. Go.”

He watched Onyx leave and then took a few deep breaths. He’d brought Charlie to Garden believing she’d be safe but now they were under a new threat. Those Markus Model androids were dangerous and obviously hunting cyborgs. Their new adversary had succeeded, where Earth Government had not, by attacking a station they used regularly for trading. He didn’t believe in coincidences. He went in search of Charlie.

She stood inside their bedroom at the window, staring outside, when he entered. Uncertainty was etched her features when she met his gaze. “Is everything okay?”

He hesitated. “We made an enemy recently who is causing some trouble. I’m sure it will be fine but I need to return to the council building. We need to discuss the threat and take precautions to protect our people immediately.”

“Is this about me?”

He pulled her into his arms, inhaling her feminine scent, and rubbed his cheek against the crown of her head when she hugged him back. “No, love. Have you ever heard of Markus Models?”

She paled. “Those are those crazy defense-model androids that were on the news on Earth some weeks ago.”

“What did it say?” He made a mental note to have someone hack into Earth’s news bulletins to research any mention of the androids. “Do you remember?”

“Something about some of them malfunctioned and a number of employees at a large manufacturing company were killed. Some of the models escaped. They had a photo of what one looked like flashing on vid screens. They wanted the public to notify the authorities if we saw any of them. They were listed as extremely dangerous.”

“They want to find cyborgs and use us to trade for the freedom of more of their kind from Earth.” He shouldn’t have shared that with her but he did it anyway. She was his female and he trusted her. “That’s what the meeting is about.”

“Thank you for telling me. Are they as dangerous as I heard?”

He remembered the disturbing androids with vivid clarity. They had given him the creeps. “Yes.”

“Will they find Garden?”

“No.” He hoped not anyway. “We are taking measures to prevent that.”

Her body softened in his hold as her fear drained away. “Good.”

He brushed a kiss on her temple. “I’ll return soon.”

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