Seducing Stag Page 8

“Is that what you tried? How did that work out for you?”

“I didn’t pick that damn shuttle up on sensors. It docked and they attacked before I knew what was happening. I would have run if I’d seen it coming.”

“Are you familiar with Genesis Four S-class shuttles?”

“I’ve never heard of them.”

“They’re new, top-of-the-line, and can outrun most existing ships, especially an old freighter like yours. They are also heavily shielded to prevent damage. You would have run and they’d have caught you, boarded you anyway, and your crew would still be dead. This shuttle is faster than your freighter, and I knew they’d still catch up to us.”

She lowered her gaze, taking in that information. It helped alleviate her guilt a little. It sounded as though the Pride had never stood a chance.

“Nala?”

She looked back at him, holding his gaze. It was impossible not to notice his good looks or how incredibly blue and vivid his eyes were.

“This was our only possibility for survival. I can’t allow the Markus Models to capture any of my crew.”

“You might have signed their death warrants anyway when you flew us into the Pitch.”

“To avoid death wasn’t my priority. We have information they can’t ever obtain. Capture isn’t an option.”

“What kind of info?”

“Where other cyborgs are. They want to trade that information to Earth Government. Only a limited number of the Markus Models escaped, so we theorize they want to start a conflict between Earth and my kind. Earth Government would send battle cruisers to kill us, and it would make it easier for them to slip back to the planet and free more of their models once security around Earth wasn’t as tight.”

She held up her hand. “Stop. You’re telling me androids are plotting all this? It sounds like some kind of coup.”

“Yes.”

“They are machines. Who programmed them? Rebels? Military?”

“It doesn’t matter. They believe they are sentient but they aren’t.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

He frowned again, narrowing his eyes. Anger showed on his face when a muscle in his jaw clenched. “We are sentient. They are not. They have hive-brain thinking, all linked together. We’re individuals. We don’t wish to exterminate innocent life. They believe they are the only beings worthy of existing.”

“So they’re control freaks?”

“They judge Earthers as inferior and kill any they find.”

“Would they pretend I’m an android when I’m not one?”

He stood. “Don’t insult me. I’m nothing similar to the Markus Models. They killed at least one of your crew members by dissecting him while he was still alive.”

She reeled back, her stomach heaving. It was a fight to avoid throwing up the food she’d just gotten down. God, don’t ask who it was. She didn’t want to know. It hadn’t been her father. His body had been dressed and on the floor.

“I apologize. That was harsh. But you piss me off. Don’t make accusations like that, it’s a deep insult to be compared to the Markus Models.”

She forced her chin up and glared at him. “So you’ve never killed people before?”

“Only in self-defense.”

“What’s your version of that, just to be clear?”

“When they attacked or meant to do us harm first.”

“I guess we can agree on one thing. Our definition of that is the same.”

“I’m going to shower before sleep. I’ve been up for nearly twenty-nine hours.”

He moved past her, entered the cleansing unit, and she managed to pick at more of her food, trying to eat as much of it as her stomach would allow. It might be a while before he fed her again.

It didn’t take the cyborg long to get clean, since the unit was only on for about two minutes. It opened and Nala turned her head.

Shock hit hard as he stepped out only sporting a towel wrapped around his waist. The fork clattered to the floor.

Her gaze flickered down his body, taking it all in. No hair showed on his chest. His nipples were two flat disks, darker in color. Muscles were clearly defined along the tops of his shoulders, down his hulking arms, and all along his abdomen. He had a broad upper body but his waist thinned to narrow hips, then flared out again under the short towel, displaying muscular thighs. A little bit of hair adorned his legs but not much.

He had the best body she’d ever seen, by a long shot. Sure, her crew had taken off their shirts sometimes to work when the cooling system had failed. They were all hairy, older, and she hadn’t paid much attention. She couldn’t exactly say that about Stag.

He might be a jerk, but he was a really hot one. He’d been designed to be attractive to the eye in every way, and the company who’d made him had been right on target. Handsome, perfect physique to attract a buyer’s eye, and sleek enough that anyone with a heartbeat would want to touch him.

She lifted her gaze to his chest again. Some light scars marred his smooth skin. They looked like tiny white lines on his soft gray skin tone, some of them jagged. It took effort for her to blink and force her head to turn away. “I think you forgot to put something on,” she managed to say.

“These are my quarters. I wear a uniform while I’m on shift. I enjoy relaxing when I’m alone.”

“Well, I’m here, and I’d appreciate it if you could at least wear pants.”

“Your desires aren’t my concern.”

That word hit a nerve with her. It had been six years, nine months, and thankfully she’d forgotten how many days since she’d left Earth. Add in a few more weeks before that and it was the last time she’d had a boyfriend. Most women her age had a lover, or even a few, but she’d had a crew of men her father had chosen because they were as crabby as him.

Every man she’d met at pickup and delivery sites had been chased off if they even looked at her twice. That had been the down side of working with her dad and his friends. They had been overprotective. No guy had a chance of getting near her without a laser gun pointed at him.

They’d visited stations to take breaks but her crew never allowed her go anywhere alone. She’d put her foot down on her twenty-fourth birthday and confronted her dad. It had been over four years at that point since she’d had sex. They’d both been embarrassed by the conversation, but she’d won. He’d agreed to let her to visit an automated brothel. He’d agreed sex bots were safer than letting her into a bar to pick up a real guy. It had been her bad luck that they didn’t host any male bots. She’d returned to the Pride frustrated.

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