Stealing Coal Page 28

Rune reached back, grabbed a handful of Jill’s shirt, and then used her other hand to push off from the wall. They floated down the hallway in a straight line.

“I feel stupid,” Jill muttered. “I should have asked you to do this when we left the room.”

“We are almost there.”

A scream suddenly pierced air. It gave Jill chills as the terrified sound cut out. Her heart pounded hard and Rune slowed their momentum by releasing Jill to open her arms, brushing the walls with her outstretched fingers. Jill bumped into her back but used her hands to cushion the impact.

“That was a male,” Rune stated.

“Human?”

“Do cyborgs scream?”

Jill bit her lip. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“I could access a door to remove us from a traveled corridor.”

“No.” Jill forced air into her lungs, trying to push down her fear. “We want to find the reason for the scream and I’m hoping its Coal.”

A whining noise nearly deafened Jill and lights blinded her as the power came back on. The gravity stabilizers also came back but someone had adjusted them to return slowly. Jill saw the deck coming slowly closer to her and released Rune, happy she wasn’t turned head down as her feet brushed the floor and then her knees.

The return of gravity had her fighting not to throw up. Her sluggish body seemed to suddenly weigh a ton. She lay on the floor where she’d landed. Rune didn’t seem to suffer any of the effects since she stood up quickly.

“Are you going to take a nap? This isn’t a good time to do that. You are in danger.”

Jill bit back a curse. “Really? I thought I’d just close my eyes for a few minutes.”

“That wouldn’t be wise.”

“It’s called sarcasm, Rune. Learn the definition of that word sometime. I’m trying to lift myself up but I have to readjust to the gravity.” Sweat broke out on Jill’s forehead as she pushed up with her arms. “Could you help me?”

Rune bent and gripped Jill to pull her to her unsteady feet. “Follow me. While I can’t severely harm humans I can push one back if one attempts to attack you.”

“That would be great.” Jill lifted her leg and took a lurching step. “I think they overcompensated on the gravity.”

Rune’s eyes shifted left.

“You don’t have to check.”

Weapons fire came from somewhere near them. “Gravity is unstable.” Rune met Jill’s annoyed gaze. “I’m missing one crew member’s life reading but two new ones have entered the Cutter. They are one corridor over, heading this way. Should we avoid them?”

“No!” Tears filled Jill’s eyes. “It’s got to be Coal.”

“This makes you feel sadness that he has boarded the Cutter?”

“No. These are happy tears. Just find the new life readings.”

“This way.” Rune spun around. “Follow me.”

Joy and excitement spurred Jill on. Weapons fire sounded again, someone yelled a curse, and then they were turning a corner. Rune suddenly stopped, her arms jerking out to the sides, and she blocked Jill from walking.

“I have a visual on two cyborgs and one crew member.”

Jill moved, going on tiptoe, and stared over Rune’s arm. One of the crew ran toward them but someone bigger tackled him, taking him down just feet from them. Coal landed on the man’s back, a knife flashing in the air as it raised and then he buried it deep in the back of the man’s neck. The guy screamed but with a vicious twist of his wrist, Coal ended the guy’s life. His head lifted and his dark, furious gaze met hers.

“Jill!” He pushed up, got to his feet, and tore the blade out of the body in the same motion. He wiped the bloody blade on his pants and stormed toward her.

Rune released the wall and shoved Coal hard, sending him flying back to prevent him from reaching Jill.

“No!” Jill yelled and then launched herself around Rune to reach Coal.

He grunted when he landed on the deck on his ass but his arms lifted when she threw her body at his. He dropped the knife when she slammed into him, both of them falling flat, and Jill grinned.

“You came for me.”

Coal’s eyebrow arched as he wrapped his arms around her where she lay sprawled on top of his body.

“I am the right man for you, not the human male.”

“Yes, you are.” Jill grabbed his face and planted a kiss on his beautiful mouth.

Chapter Fourteen

“It appears she changed her mind about wanting to end your relationship,” Sky stated calmly.

Jill tore her mouth away from Coal’s and she gaped at the other cyborg standing with his feet braced apart by their heads, hovering there looking dangerous but amused. He gripped a large rifle-type weapon in the cradle of his arms while he smiled at her.

“I never wanted to leave Coal.”

“That’s not what your message stated.” Sky shrugged. “I hear women do change their minds frequently but not all of my information is accurate.”

“I didn’t send Coal any message. That jerk drugged me and used the conversation I had with him to use my voice to mix one together.”

“That’s true,” Rune confirmed. “It’s a common practice Captain Varel and his men use to con potential victims to gain access to their banking accounts. They prod someone into a conversation then manipulate their words until they have enough sentence structures to fit their purpose. Most computer verifying voice programs are fooled but some are not.”

“Hello, gorgeous.” Sky cleared his throat. “Where have you been all my life?”

“Tell me how long you have been alive and I can give you a detailed account of my locations.” Rune smiled at him warmly.

“She’s an android named Rune,” Jill warned softly. “She hates to be touched so don’t hit on her.”

Sky’s grin died and his pale eyes seemed to glow. “No. Life can’t be that cruel.” His gaze ran the length of the leggy android and then softly cursed. “Now I finally get that old Earth saying—‘if it looks too good to be true then it probably is’. She’s perfect.”

“I have flaws,” Rune kept her smile in place.

“Not from where I’m standing.” Sky suddenly released the weapon handle to brush his palm quickly down the front of his leather pants while he adjusted his stance, obviously in some discomfort. “Down, boy.”

Rune followed his hand with her gaze. “You have something alive in your pants?”

“Not for long.” Sky’s features hardened. “Sometimes it’s good to be able to go numb in certain places when I set my mind to ignore shit.”

Coal recovered from his shock of being knocked over by Jill, his body turning them until he rolled on top, and pinned her to the deck under him. His beautiful gaze searched hers. “I didn’t care if you sent that message or not. It was irrelevant. You said yes after I gave you time to make certain you wanted to join a family unit with me. I’m holding you to it.”

Jill’s fingers trembled as she caressed his jawline, happy beyond words that he’d really come for her. “I love you, Coal.”

“This isn’t the time for the lovey-dovey crap,” Sky reminded them gently. “I’ve hacked their system and we have company coming.”

Coal braced his hands on the deck, pushed up, and straightened. He leaned down to offer her his hand. She gripped it tightly and he effortlessly pulled her to her feet.

“How close?” Coal bent to retrieve his knife, shoved it into the holder strapped to his hip, and rage hardened his features.

“Too damn close.” Sky gripped his weapon again with both hands. “Rune? Is that your name? You need to move. You’re blocking my shot.”

Coal didn’t move or release Jill. His gaze locked with hers. “Did he harm you? Did he touch you?”

Jill’s mouth opened but Rune spoke first.

“He tried to soil her with his sexual fluids and frightened her but I interrupted before he could force use of her body. She isn’t strong enough to have stopped him.”

“Oh shit,” Jill muttered, seeing a murderous look enter Coal’s gaze.

He lifted his head to look at Sky. “The captain is mine.”

“Good. Turn around then because he and four crew members are about to find us.” Sky jerked his head toward where Rune stood. “They are closing fast.”

The second Coal released her hand, spun, and planted his big body in front of her, Jill knew with certainty that Captain Barney Varel would be dead if Coal got his way. She waved frantically at Rune.

“Come on.”

“Return to the Jenny now,” Coal ordered.

Rune walked casually toward them as if she weren’t aware of the danger they were in. Jill nearly envied the android. Fear inched up her spine for Coal’s safety. “Let’s just go. The docking door is right there. You’ve damaged the Cutter badly enough that I doubt it can give chase.”

“Go to the Jenny now.” Coal’s tone sounded unusually harsh.

He’s going to kill them all, Jill thought, backing away. If Captain Varel survived, he’d come after her. She knew that deep down. Her father had meant to protect her but instead he’d unknowingly made her a target for anyone who learned about his money when he’d made Jill the only key to access it.

She paused at the docking door, watching as Coal and Sky separated, getting behind crates piled by the doorway to the interior area of the ship. They both looked ready for battle with their weapons pointed in that direction. Jill hesitated and then inched toward the life pod to hunker down behind it.

“What are we doing?” Rune stood next to her, watching her with a curious look fixed on her features.

Jill reached up and gripped the android’s hand at her side. “Crouch down. We’re hiding. I’m not leaving Coal behind,” she whispered. “Lower your voice too.”

Rune hesitated before lowering to her knees. “Why?” She whispered back.

“I love him and if he gets into trouble, I’m going to try to save him.”

Rune frowned. “You have no weapons.”

“It doesn’t matter. I can’t wait for him in my ship just praying and pacing until he returns to me in one piece.”

“I don’t understand the logic in―”

“Silence,” Jill hissed as the doors to the interior of the shuttle slid open.

One of the crew inched into the cargo hold gripping a portable laser cannon. Terror struck Jill when she saw it. One of those could literally cut a person in half with just one zap. Sky suddenly moved, lifted his own weapon, and fired. He aimed with deadly accuracy. The man screamed when his chest opened up.

Blood poured down the man’s body. His distress lowered to a soft whimper before he fell over. The laser cannon skidded a few feet across the deck. Bile rose in Jill’s throat at the gruesome sight but she fought it down, peeking around the nose of the life pod. She tried to ignore the guy’s blood slowly spreading on the deck as it drained out of the dying man.

The doors remained open. The silence in the room became stifling to Jill as she waited to see what would happen next.

“I just want Jillian,” Captain Varel yelled out. “You can have the shuttle without a fight. Let’s make a deal.”

The enraged growl that came from Coal reached Jill’s ears, though it wasn’t that loud. His voice rose when he spoke. “I will never allow you to have her but I will allow you a choice in how you die.”

Silence stretched again. “I’ll buy her from you,” Varel offered. “Name your price.”

“You can fight in a hand-to-hand battle with me or with weapons,” Coal countered. “Your choice.” He paused. “We have an armored military droid that I will send in after you.”

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