Stealing Coal Page 4

“I’m going to send Roid in here to babysit our guest. Do not release him.”


“I thought you stated I’d be freed.” The cyborg’s raspy voice startled her.

Jill met his cold gaze. “I said I’d free you when we reached Hixton Station.”

He fought the chains, his body tensing when he strained, but the restraints held. Pure rage narrowed his glare.

“I’m not breeding with you.”

She took another step back, reeling from his staggering announcement, and skimmed her gaze over his gray skin. His words sank in and unless he spoke a different version of English, which she highly doubted, his words implied sex. She openly gawked at his powerfully built chest and ran her gaze down his long, massive body. She shivered with fear at the mere concept. He was the biggest male she’d ever seen, besides her bulky androids.

“No worries there. I’m not suicidal and you aren’t my type. I didn’t steal you for sex.”

“That’s why females keep males tied down and restrained. If you aren’t going to force breed me then release me now.”

“I don’t know you and I enjoy having the ability to keep breathing. You’re going to stay restrained until I know that you won’t hurt me.” She paused. “That will be when I have Arm push you onto Hixton and release you after you’re off my shuttle.”

He literally growled at her. It was a deep, scary sound that reminded her of a vicious dog she’d once found trapped in a ditch. She’d rescued it and the thing had promptly bitten her once she pulled it to higher ground. She subconsciously rubbed the scar on her upper arm. No good deed goes unpunished. She could still remember her aunt’s voice telling her that as she’d tended Jill’s wound twenty years earlier.

Jill backed up, putting more distance between them. “Okay then. You stay here and growl. I’m going to go pilot the shuttle but one of my androids will make sure you’re fed if you’re hungry. I’m well stocked so you’ll have plenty to eat as my guest.” Her gaze flicked over his body once more. He didn’t look as if they’d starved him. She turned away. “Just tell one of them you’re hungry when you want to eat.”

“What is it?”

She froze, and then frowned over her shoulder. The cyborg stared up at Arm, studying him with a perplexed expression. Arm watched him too. She took a deep breath.

“He’s a military android I found and salvaged. Earth Government had tossed him into a trash heap on a dump planet. His name is Arm and he’s not an ‘it’. I have two more of them, Roid and Fray. Please don’t call them anything but their names. I’m very fond of my guys. They won’t hurt you but they won’t take orders from you either. Their first priority is protecting me. They are loyal and it’s a rare trait these days that I appreciate.”

The cyborg frowned at her. “I’m going to break free and take control of your ship. I may show you mercy for saving me by not killing you.”

“Great,” Jill muttered, storming toward the door. “It’s official now. I really am a sucker. I’m going to have it tattooed on my ass in big block letters.”

Chapter Two

“He’s requesting to be freed from the chains.” Roid hesitated. “Arm stated he’s our man. We should release him. He isn’t acting irrational.”

Jill wished she’d learn to think before she did things. If she did, she wouldn’t end up in these messes. “He’s dangerous so, no, you can’t free him. He’s to remain locked down. Did you feed him?”

“Yes, Jill.” Roid watched her. His two-colored eyes were sparking, making her feel guilty for not being able to fix him properly. She had to look away not to flinch when his left eye flickered on and off rapidly.

“Just tend to him and make sure he has what he needs.” She checked the screen again to make sure the freighter wasn’t coming after them. She knew when they’d blown their docking door seals that it would slow the freighter down, hopefully damage the bigger ship enough to keep them from coming after her at all, while they made repairs. She wanted to put a lot of space between them before they recovered. “I’m going to stay here and keep monitoring space to make sure that freighter isn’t in range.”

“It would be irrational of them to hunt us.”

“They are people, not computers, and logic doesn’t mean a thing to them. Humans are emotional and they really seemed to want to keep the guy in the cargo hold. Some people get pretty testy when you steal something they highly value.” She hoped Roid understood.

“May I move him into your quarters?”

“Why?” The question surprised her. “I told you to keep the cargo hold warm so he’d be comfortable. I remember he’s not fully dressed.” The memory of the mostly na**d cyborg flashed in her mind. All those muscles he had were fascinating. She pushed that image aside, knowing how wrong it was. “If he’s cold, adjust the heat again.”

“You have a bed. Real people sleep on those.”

Jill turned her head, bit her lip, and looked directly into Roid’s sensors. “I don’t know how to explain it to you but that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“Is he not a real person?”

Shit and hell. Sometimes trying to teach androids things had to be the most difficult thing she faced in her day-to-day life. The androids tried hard to learn everything they could and she even considered them friends. She knew they weren’t actual living beings, but they had the ability to adjust as they picked up new facts to save in their programming, and they were all she had. She tried to go with logic since she couldn’t exactly tell Roid that there was no way she could sleep feet away from a chained male who wanted nothing better than to break free. As for having him sleep in her bed? She pushed that thought away fast, not even willing to go there.

“He’s real but he needs to be where he is. Real people don’t share a bed or quarters unless they are a couple, which we’re not. He’s going to have to make do until we reach Hixton Station. While I’m thinking about it, could you please go through storage and see if you can locate some of those discarded men’s clothing we have onboard and see if something might fit our guest? That way he’s got an outfit to wear when we drop him off.”

The idea of leaving the cyborg in nothing but the skimpy, loose shorts he wore had her imagining what he’d look like standing up. Probably pretty terrifying, she thought, then sighed. She really didn’t need the trouble stealing him had created but leaving him behind would have bothered her more. She looked up from the screen to find the android still watching her.


“Are you ill?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“You’ve been less talkative since we left the freighter.”

“I’ve had you babysitting our guest. It’s not that I don’t want to chat with you but I’m avoiding the cargo hold.”


Yeah, why? Her mind paused on that silent question.

“You have a real person onboard to talk to but you haven’t gone to see him. I don’t understand. Logic states that you would spend as much time as possible with him. You are always lonely, Jill. We’re aware that we lack certain qualities other people who are real would give you.”

“You’re real to me.” She reached out and touched his hard-shelled body, rubbing what passed for his skin, feeling cool rubbery substance under her fingertips on his arm. “Did he ever tell you his name? It’s hard to speak to someone when they won’t talk back.”

“He refuses.”

Her hand dropped. “I’m fine. I’m just a bit worried about that freighter coming after us. He’s probably worth a lot of money to them and they aren’t going to just let him go without trying to recover their loss.”

Roid turned away to leave the piloting section of the shuttle. “He is requesting you.”

“Well, shit,” Jill muttered as she stood. She wondered what kind of threats the cyborg would make this time. She dreaded every step of the way. If it were up to her, she’d avoid him the entire trip to Hixton.

Warm air hit her as the doors whished open and she hoped she hadn’t set it too high for his comfort. Then again, she didn’t want her mostly na**d guest to be chilled. What she saw when she stared at him made her jaw drop open.

“Shit!” Her astonished gaze drifted over his chest, his lower chin, and his throat. “What happened?”

A dark, angry gaze met hers. “Your android fed me.”

“It’s all over you,” she pointed out. “He’s fed me when I’ve been sick a few times. He’s good at it.”

A black eyebrow arched. “Release me and I promise not to kill you.”

“Yeah, you’re going to take over my shuttle. I heard you the first time. I think I’ll pass. Let me call Roid in here and he’ll clean you up. I’m so sorry about the mess. I have no idea why this happened.”

“I won’t eat what he attempted to feed me but he wouldn’t stop putting it inside my mouth.” His unusually rough voice deepened. “Keep him away from me.”

“What’s wrong with oatmeal? It’s my favorite. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy my breakfast choice but it’s morning shift. He’s trying to feed you what he thinks a human would want to eat. He’s really gentle and wouldn’t hurt you.” Her gaze flashed over the oatmeal on his skin. “Did you fight him while he spooned it out to you?”

The man growled. “Clean me. It itches.”

Clean him? No way, she thought, shaking her head. “I’ll get Roid to do that for you.”

“I said to keep him away from me,” he snarled. His chin tilted up to stare at Arm. “And why is he holding on to this thing still?”

Jill moved closer. “I told him to dig in and hold you so that’s exactly what he’s doing. He embedded himself into the floor when we escaped from that freighter to keep you from rolling around. That freight table you’re on isn’t secured to anything and I highly doubt you’d have enjoyed slamming into a wall or worse, toppling over. I figured he could pull double duty by securing you in place and keep you company. He is a great companion if you will allow him to tell you the jokes he knows.”

“I want to talk to your male.”

“My male?” She blinked. “If you mean my husband, I’m not married.”

“I demand to talk to the captain or your commander, whichever term you use, but the male in charge of this ship.”

She moved closer and stopped a few feet from him. “You are talking to the person in charge. That’s me. This is my shuttle and I’m the only breathing person onboard besides you.”

Shock crossed his features for a few heartbeats before he hid it. “You’re a woman.”

She looked down her chest to the cle**age peeking out of her shirt and then grinned, meeting his dark gaze. “Yes, I am. What was your first clue?”

He ignored her attempted humor. “You’re human. It is too dangerous for you to travel in space completely alone. Human males are vicious to females.”

“Sometimes, but I’m not alone. I have Arm, Droid, and Fray.”

His attention flickered to Arm’s face and then back to Jill’s.

“They are androids. They have advanced programming and can adapt and learn.” She paused. “Do you want to tell me your name now?”

He glared at her in response.

“Okay.” She sighed. “So, what do you eat?” Her focus dropped to his bare chest. “The oatmeal obviously doesn’t suit you.”

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