Stealing Coal Page 23

“I believe him,” Jill announced. “Only my father would have shared that story and only with someone he trusted. It’s also just like my father to have tried to give me to another man in marriage. He always had an annoying way of thinking he knew what would be best for me no matter how misguided it turned out to be.”

Flint hesitated. “You will not undock with the Jenny but I will allow you to speak to her privately after you return the councilman to us. Once he is safely aboard we’ll send her to talk to you on your ship…alone.”

“No!” Coal glared at Flint. “He could harm her.”

“He knew her father, they were friends, and he seems reasonable. I understand the logic of him wishing to speak to her without us present to sway her answers.” Flint took a deep breath. “He won’t undock from us and it will alleviate any concerns he may have.”

Jill realized Coal looked about ready to snap. Killing the captain who had possession of the cyborg would be bad. The crew would probably kill the cyborg in retaliation, attack the Jenny, and the captain had a much better ship than her shuttle. She stepped forward and turned to face Coal.

“He won’t hurt me, Coal. I’ll be fine. It’s one short conversation and then I’ll be right back.” Her voice lowered. “I need you to trust me, calm down, and don’t lose control, okay?”

She watched him take deep breaths, emotions battling across his handsome features, and it touched her how worried he obviously felt for her. She forced a smile and nodded at him.

He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple showing, and rage finally won dominance in his expression. “A short conversation and if you aren’t back soon,” his gaze lifted to narrow on the other shuttle’s captain, his look turning ice cold and deadly, “I will come for you.”

“Good enough.” Relief had her relaxing. She nodded at Flint. “We have a deal.”

Captain Varel backed up. “Transfer the payment and I’ll have your man come aboard. I’ll be waiting for Jillian on the other side of the docking sleeve. No harm will come to her. You have my word as a gentleman.”

Jill resisted rolling her eyes. Her father never hung out with men of good standing or even decent people. She didn’t think the guy posed a threat to her though. Big Jim wouldn’t have trusted just anyone. She inched closer to Coal and faced the docking doors, curious to see what a cyborg councilman looked like.

“Payment is transferred,” Onyx said softly. “Check your account.”

The captain gaped. “How? You haven’t gone near a terminal.”

Flint sighed. “We don’t need to. Please check your account. You’ll find the payment transferred.”

One of the captain’s crew lifted a pad to enter commands to their bank. It only took a few seconds for him to get confirmation. “It’s been paid in full. I signaled for them to transfer him.”

“Your man is on his way.” Captain Varel smiled at Jill. “I’ll see you in a few minutes when you’ve had time to catch up with your friend, Jillian.”

She didn’t correct the guy who obviously thought she knew the councilman. She watched the crew of the other shuttle back out of the Jenny’s cargo hold. The tension in the room seemed to grow stronger instead of lessoning. Flint turned to meet Jill’s gaze.

“Zorus isn’t friendly toward humans. Why don’t you please go wait in the hallway?”

She shook her head. “I’m fine.”

He frowned. “Fine. Stay far away from him.” His gaze shifted to Coal. “Don’t allow her to speak to the councilman. It will only make him irritated and you want that family unit request to be approved easily. He’ll have a say in it now that he’s back.”

Jill held her tongue but a dozen questions filled her head. She glanced around the room, seeing a lot of tension. Sky walked toward the other door to meet the councilman and show him to his room. Jill had been asked to give up her room in order for the man to have privacy. She’d agreed since it seemed important. If she were going to live with cyborgs, she didn’t want to start by pissing off some bigwig in Coal’s world.

All of a sudden, a tall, black-haired cyborg strolled into her cargo hold. A human woman followed him, looking a bit stunned and perhaps frightened. Flint and the man spoke but Jill couldn’t hear much at all. They kept their tones soft and with her all the way across the room with Coal mostly blocking her, only a few words were distinguishable.

“Why does it look as if they are going to deck each other?” she whispered softly to Coal.

He backed up, touching her, and lowered his tone. “Councilman Zorus isn’t well liked. He’s made enemies.”

“Well, he is some big-shot council guy. I’ve never met a politician yet that I liked but somebody has to do that job.”

The new cyborg walked across the cargo hold, moving closer to them with the human woman in tow but instead of opening the door to the corridor to lead the couple to the captain’s quarters, Sky suddenly blocked the door. The couple stopped. The woman looked irritated and yanked against the hold of the cyborg who gripped her. She jerked out of his grasp.

“What did he mean about buying me?” The woman definitely didn’t sound happy.

The black-haired councilman turned his gaze on her. “I had to buy you from the humans to obtain your release.”

Coal tensed when it seemed the human and the council guy started to argue about how much he’d paid for her and she wanted to repay him. Jill’s eyebrows rose. The council guy intimidated her but the woman stood up to him, though he towered over her. He looked mean, cold, and then he ignored her, asking which shuttle they were on. The woman grabbed the guy.

“Talk to me. How much do I owe you?”

Flint ignored her too, explaining to Councilman Zorus that the ship belonged to Jill and that she and Coal were a couple. He also explained why they’d needed the shuttle to get them closer to Earth and gave Zorus a message the council had asked Flint to relay. A bored expression remained on the other cyborg’s features. He finally nodded.

“I want clothing and a secure com link to the council.”

“Fine.” Flint moved closer. “Who is she and what do you want done with her?”

“She belongs to me.” The new cyborg stated. “She isn’t your concern.”

The tension level in the room jumped by leaps and bounds. Even Coal seemed to turn to stone. Jill didn’t know why it alarmed everyone so much but she knew she didn’t like someone saying they had bought and now owned another person as if that woman didn’t have a say in the matter.

Sky suddenly moved. “Give her to me, Councilman Zorus. I’ve taken enough of your shit for you to owe me. I’ll even buy her from you.”

Their voices lowered too much for Jill to hear but she could see raw anger on Sky’s features. They argued softly and then suddenly Sky lunged, nearly slamming his chest against the councilman’s. His words rang clear in the cargo hold.

“You’re a sick bastard who gets off on killing humans. You even made a few of them believe you were their friend before you attacked. You’re the one who demanded all humans be made nothing but property on our planet and you’ve tried to order every female killed who hooked up with one of us. I’m sorry you survived, if you want the truth. I’d have been happier if you’d died on Earth. I won’t stand by and watch you turn on this female. You’ve killed your last damn human.” He pushed Zorus hard. “I want ownership of her and I’ll fight you for it.”

The human woman backed up as the two men went at each other. Jill gasped, stunned at seeing two cyborgs exchanging punches. Coal spun, an arm gripping her waist, and she suddenly found herself pinned against the bulkhead with his body pressing her tightly against it. She had to wiggle a little but when she finally freed her head enough to peer around him, what she saw made her gasp.

The human woman had a weapon aimed at the cyborgs, a terrified expression on her features, and the councilman yelled out a warning for no one to fire. He threatened to kill anyone who shot the woman. The crazy guy then stepped directly into the path of her weapon, shielding her from the other weapons pointed at her, including Coal’s, which he’d drawn, then twisted to take aim, keeping Jill pinned at the same time.

“Move out of the way. We don’t have a clear shot.” Flint ordered Zorus.

“Let her shoot him,” Sky offered. “Just don’t kill her. Aim for her shoulder so she’ll survive. She’s just scared.”

The crazy new cyborg didn’t move but instead spoke softly to the woman. Jill strained to hear the conversation but she was too far away. Whatever the cyborg said had the woman’s hand wavering, the gun lowering slightly but not enough not to shoot him if he came at her. Jill pushed hard on Coal.

“Let me go. I can talk to her. She’s scared and I don’t blame her.”

“Stay out of it,” Coal whispered. “It’s a dangerous situation. I don’t want you hurt.”

Frustration had her biting back a curse but sudden movement drew her attention. The woman had been distracted by something. It gave the councilman an opportunity to lunge. He tackled the smaller woman and both of them hit the floor. Jill saw the man tear the weapon from the woman’s fingers and then yell out.

“Get a medic. Her head is bleeding.”

Jill softly cursed before raising her voice to be heard. “Someone get Arm in here right now.”

Coal released her from the wall. “He’s a military android with medic training.”

“I’m on it.” Onyx closed his eyes.

“That’s just weird how they don’t need to turn on a com system or type or talk into an access panel to control everything on my ship.”

Coal smiled. “I’m glad you think that since I’m unable to do it.”

She rubbed against him, her gaze straying to the downed couple on the floor. The councilman hovered over the woman, looking downright terrifying in his obvious rage. The woman lay unmoving.

Flint approached. “I want to return to the Star.” He lowered his gaze to Jill. “Go talk to Captain Varel. After you conclude your meeting with him, we will be on our way.” He paused, his attention turning to the doors that opened to allow Arm to enter, carrying a medical kit. “Please hurry.”

“I will.” Jill smiled at Coal. “This won’t take long.”

Coal wanted to argue with Flint and Jill. The idea of her going alone onto the human shuttle didn’t sit well with him. “It could be dangerous.”

Jill took a deep breath. “It’s going to be fine. This guy knew my dad. I know his friends aren’t exactly the types you want to invite to dinner but he seemed concerned. I’ll just tell him everything is great. It won’t take long. Even slimeballs have a sense of duty when it comes to looking out for the families of their friends.”

Her words didn’t set him at ease. “If you don’t come back soon, I will come get you.”

She grinned and her hand rubbed the front of his shirt over his belly. “I know you will.” She winked. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” The fierce emotion gripped him. “I just want to protect you.”

“It’s going to be fine.”

“Let her go,” Flint ordered. “The longer you stall this, the longer we remain here.”

With a pat, Jill released him. “Don’t worry so much, Coal. I’ll be back before you know it.”

He fought every instinct to grab her when she turned away. He held still. Jill seemed to like some independence. Forcing her to remain on the Jenny would only cause problems.

“She will return soon,” Flint reminded him, his attention turning to the scene unfolding with the human woman and Zorus. “I’m more concerned about that.”

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