Stealing Coal Page 5

“Your repeated attempts at wit are failures.”

“It’s a good thing I’m not a comedian then or I’d be out of a job.” She turned, moving toward the storage lockers, and yanked open the lower ones, sure that she had cleansing foam containers stored in one of them. The third one she opened contained two bottles of the stuff. She grabbed one and turned, kicking the door closed with her boot. “If you don’t want Roid to clean you then I guess I’ll have to do it.”

The cyborg watched angrily. “Set me free.”

“We’ve been over this. The Jenny is all I have and I’m not about to risk losing her to you.”

“The Jenny?”

“That’s the name of this shuttle. It used to belong to my father but he died a year ago and left it to me.”

That got some flicker of emotion from him. “I’m familiar with human relationships. Where is your male? You must have one. I demand to speak to him. Males are more reasonable than females.”

“Good luck with that. Last I heard, my ex-husband had set up shop on Saturn but he moves around a lot.” She stopped near him and studied the nozzle of the container. “And bite your tongue over that last remark. I’d call my ex a lot of things but reasonable would never be one of them. If he were here running this outfit you’d still be on that freighter with those jerks who liked to punch and torture you. He’s not one to do anything nice for anyone else unless there is something in it for him.” She twisted the cap and a hiss sounded, the small nozzle lifting as it filled. “I lost a trade contact saving your ass so that sure didn’t benefit me.”

“Why did you do it?”

She lifted her gaze, meeting his. “I told you, I’m a sucker but I’m well aware of my flaws. I always had this thing about rescuing stray animals since I used to be pretty lonely growing up. I guess, now that I’m an adult, I’ve chosen to save people.” She inched closer. “Close your eyes and I’ll hose you down. Have you ever used cleansing foam before? You don’t want it to get into your eyes. It doesn’t hurt but it won’t feel good either. It will eat away the oatmeal but not your skin. It melts harmlessly into water.”

He watched her silently. She expected him to struggle or attempt something but he didn’t move. She bit her lip, glanced down his body, and her gaze froze on his shorts.

“I refuse to breed with you.”

Her gaze jerked to his face. “What is up with you and sex? I’m not going to tear your shorts off and attack you.”

“You were staring at my groin.”

“I’m trying to think of a way to hose you down without getting your shorts wet. I doubt you’d be comfortable with them drying on your body.” A horrible thought crossed her mind. “Um, how do you go to the bathroom?”

“You think of this now that I’ve been on your ship for over twenty-four hours?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think about it at all. I’m not used to having someone who needs to go.” She frowned. “Do you go?” Heat warmed her cheeks as she set the canister down on the floor by him. “Sorry. That’s kind of a personal question.”

“Your android has assisted me.”

She didn’t ask how he’d done that and didn’t want to know either. “Good. Great.” Embarrassment still flowed through her. She should have considered all his needs, not just making sure he had been kept warm and given access to food. “Got any ideas?”

“Release me. You haven’t harmed me and for that reason, I’ll allow you to live.”

“Gee, thanks.” She gave him a forced smile. “Aren’t you a sweetheart? I guess for a guy who won’t even give his name or say thank you for saving his life, that’s a huge concession.”

“Could you at least release one of my arms? I could clean and feed myself.”

“And you could also use your free hand to release the rest of your limbs.” She shook her head. “I’m not that stupid. Too softhearted, sure. Flat-out dumb, never.”

His eyes narrowed. “Release me.”

“Tell me your name.”

“If I do, will you release me?”

She shook her head. “Nope. You will take over my shuttle. It’s all I have and that’s no way to say ‘thank you’ to me. I did save your life. Has anyone here hit you? No. Those men who had you were going to sell you to fight in death matches.”

He frowned, a look of confusion on his strong, handsome features.

“They lock you in a big cage with another fighter or…” her gaze roamed down his impressive body again, “two fighters if the opponent is huge. I’m guessing they would have had a team of men take you on. There’s only two ways to get out once they lock you in one of those cages. You’re either killed or you have to be the one who does the killing.”

“Truth?”

“No. I just made it up to see that surprised look on your face.” She rolled her eyes, shook her head, and stared at him. “Of course it’s the truth! Why would I make up that horrible stuff? I wish someone would shut them down but it will never happen. People bet on the fights and they charge people a lot of credits to watch them. It’s probably pretty profitable but I can’t help but feel sorry for the men fighting. I always suspected that not all of their fighters were there willingly and now I’m sure. The people who run them were going to buy you off that captain and force you to fight.”

“I would have refused.”

“Then you would have allowed them to beat you to death. I’m certain they don’t exactly ask if you want to go inside the cage. You would have been tossed in with people who knew the only way to survive would be to kill you.”

His frown deepened. Jill sighed.

“All I can think to do is to cover you with something, tug down your shorts so you’re not…exposed. I’ll tug them back up once you dry enough not to get them damp. I can do your lower half later.”

She turned and spotted some clean rags she used for wiping down spills on the decks. She walked over and grabbed a few then turned to face the glaring cyborg. Her plan didn’t seem to amuse him and he definitely didn’t appear happy with it.

“Got any other ideas? If you’d allow one of the androids do this we wouldn’t have to worry about embarrassment on either of our parts.”

“Your cheeks are pink.” He stared at her, continuing to frown.

She blushed more. “I’m not comfortable with this either but that oatmeal has to come off. It’s on your lower stomach too. I guess I could hand wash you but that’s not something I want to do either. You’ve already accused me of wanting to rape you. I’m not giving you any ammunition for more of that crap by touching you.”

Something in his dark eyes changed, a little of the coolness leaving. “You really do not wish to force sex on me?”

“Hell no!” The idea horrified her.

“You do not enjoy sex with males?” His eyebrow arched as his expression totally relaxed. “I have known females who enjoy touching other females exclusively.”

It was Jill’s turn to frown. “I’m not into women. I’m not into anyone.”

“You have sex with droids?” His focus shifted to Arm and his expression turned to one of horrified shock. His gaze flew back to Jill. “Are they sex droids equipped for sexual relations?”

“No!” Jill had to close her mouth—it had fallen open at that remark. She shook her head. “What is wrong with you? They aren’t sex anything. They don’t even have those parts or that kind of programming. What is it with you and your obsession over sex?”

“You’re human and have urges. It’s basic needs.”

“Well, I don’t have needs, as you put it. I’ve been there and done that. It wasn’t anything worth repeating, especially now that I don’t have a man bitching at me until I give in just to shut him up so he doesn’t get mad. Sex is for men, not women. Only guys get pleasure from it.”

His stunned expression was easy for her to read.

Embarrassment had her clearing her throat. “What?”

“Sex is very pleasurable for women as well as men.”

“Not in my experience.”

“You stated you once had a male.”

“Ex-husband. Yeah. He happened to be an ass**le and it only became worse when he was in the mood to touch me. I grew up in a remote area where I never got to be around men. When I turned twenty-five my father sent some men to my aunt’s place, ones he approved of, and told me to pick one. I chose my ex because he seemed the nicest out of the bunch. That was a big mistake on my part. I should have picked the scarred freak who resembled a serial killer. I bet he’d have been nicer to me.”

“Your male didn’t attempt to make sex pleasurable for you when he touched you?”

Jill looked away from his curious, intense gaze. “No. He turned out to be a real bastard. He laughed at me for all those stories I had read about sex. He said I had to be the biggest idiot he’d ever met right before he spun me around, shoved me over the bed, and hurt me the first time we had sex. It was all downhill from there. I was stuck with him for three years until my father realized how bad it had become for me. He saved my ass and got me away from my ex-husband. I never left my aunt’s farm again until last year. My aunt swore sex wasn’t all about pain and humiliation but no thanks on ever allowing a guy to touch me after what I survived. The only men I meet are ass**les. Would you want the captain of that freighter touching you?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Me neither.”

“It’s a human father’s job to protect you. That’s what fathers do for their children. He allowed a male to abuse you for that length of time?”

Jill walked forward and dropped the large rag over his lap to cover him from ribs to thigh. She refused to look at his face when she shook her head. “We rarely spoke. Every communication he sent put me in danger. My father wasn’t well liked and if anyone had known he had a daughter then his enemies would have come after me to get back at him. The first time we spoke, and I told him how miserable it had gotten, he sent men to get me off my ex’s ship to return me to my aunt.”

“Are you afraid of sex?” His voice softened.

She glanced at his face. “Let’s just say you’re totally safe from me molesting you, okay? Ready? I’m going to reach up the sides of your legs and tug down your shorts but you’ll remain covered.”

He frowned but nodded sharply.

Jill hesitated. She really didn’t want to get that close to the intimidating cyborg. She had to lean over him. Her hands shook when she reached under the rag and gripped the bottom of his shorts. Her wrists brushed against hot skin that she tried to ignore.

The cyborg helped her by lifting his h*ps slightly as she slowly tugged the shorts down. She kept her attention on the line of the rag that dragged down from his ribs to his lower hip region, only stopping when his groin area nearly became exposed. The shorts ended up near his knees and definitely safe from getting wet. She released the material and backed up.

“Okay. That wasn’t so hard.”

He watched her as she bent and grabbed the foaming-cleanser canister. She checked the nozzle, turned it for use, and then met his gaze.

“Close your eyes and hold your breath. It tingles a bit but in about thirty seconds it will melt into water. Just don’t open your eyes. I’m going to get you from head to waist, okay?”

He didn’t answer her but he closed his eyes and pulled a deep breath into his lungs. Jill took that for agreement and started to spray him down. White foam coated his head, his face, neck, and she made sure to get his arms too when she covered him in a thick layer of the stuff.

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