Touching Ice Page 12

An uncomfortable silence stretched as they watched each other. She’d obviously been a little too blunt and had stunned the cyborg speechless. Megan started when a loud buzz sounded in the room. Ice stood.

“It’s the food Blackie ordered.”

Megan didn’t recognize the cyborg who brought her meal. She wondered how many of them were on the ship in all but didn’t ask. Ice nodded at the other man and accepted the tray. The male at the door hesitated.

“Why feed her?”

“Silence,” Ice ordered him.

The man looked down at the tray of food, paled, and then nodded. “I see.”

The man glanced at Megan, a look of pity on his features, and then spun on his heel to walk away. The door closed and Ice faced her with tray in hand.

“Here is your meal.” He hesitated, looking uncertain, and took a step back, the movement opposite of his words. It was almost as if he didn’t want to feed her.

No one had ever accused Megan of being dimwitted. Why feed her? That cyborg had given her a look that reflected pity. She studied Ice and saw his grim expression.

“You are supposed to eat this.” Anger clearly sounded in his tone.

She wiggled back on the mattress until she ended up in the corner of the bed with her body pressed tightly to both walls. Panic welled inside her. “I’m not hungry,” she lied.

He looked away from her, stared instead at the floor for long seconds, and then his gaze lifted. Regret was an easy expression to read on his handsome face.

“Oh God.” Tears welled in her eyes as she stared into his beautiful ones. “I swore I wouldn’t tell anyone about you. I could have done that months ago but I didn’t. All I would have had to do was open up a communication with Earth to turn you in. I know you aren’t sure if you can trust me but if I’d tried to collect a reward for you, they would have been waiting to attack you the second you docked with Folion or even before you reached it.”

He watched her silently, holding the tray, his expression carefully cleared of emotion now.

“Please believe me. I’m no threat to you or your other cyborg people, Ice. I’d never hurt you in any way.”

“I tend to believe you. I gave you an opportunity to harm me yet you didn’t do it.”

The tray in his hands said otherwise. She could feel it in her gut, and also knew something had been done to the food. She stared into his shuttered gaze again, seeing the remote look.

“Is it poisoned?”

His mouth tensed, the only reaction he allowed to show. “No.”

“You’re lying.”

The big cyborg took a deep breath before he expelled it slowly. “It’s not poisoned but it is drugged with a strong sedative that will put you to sleep.”

“Why?” It hurt that he’d be a part of anything that would harm her. They’d shared so much in the time they’d spent together. Disbelief and shock tore at her. “Ice? Are you going to hurt me?” She fought back tears.

He looked away and then met her gaze. “I don’t want to cause you any harm.” His jaw clenched. “Believe that if nothing else.”

Megan watched as he seemed to struggle with whatever thoughts he had and then his face cleared of emotion.

“You are aware of us. We have a council and they have deemed it too risky to allow you to return to Earth with the knowledge you possess. We are close to our home world and your Earth Government may realize that if you were to talk to them. They could start searching this area, hunting for our planet and they would find it. While we have a defense system, we don’t want to test it. We enjoy the freedom to travel and do not want a war with Earth. We left your planet to avoid just that.”

“I’d never tell the government about you. I don’t know much about cyborgs but I heard every word you said about getting a real raw deal in the past when they made you and then tried to wipe you out.” She paused. “I’m not a fan of mass murder.”

“The council has determined that you are too much of a risk. They believe you are either a spy for Earth Government or that you are a bounty hunter searching for a large group of cyborgs to collect a reward.”

“That’s not true. I’m just a programmer who got offered a lot of money to live out in deep space on the Folion and my existence was deemed classified so some jackasses didn’t try to find me to attempt to use me to get control of Clara so they could steal it.”

He studied her. “I tend to believe you, if that matters, but orders have to be followed. It’s not my call to make.”

“So you’re going to drug me and then what?” Megan feared asking and suspected the answer already. The idea that he’d do that to her had her fighting tears again. She had believed she could trust him to never hurt her but she’d been wrong, obviously.

“Are you going to kill me?” Her voice broke.

Ice physically flinched. He took another slow, long breath. “It’s a method Earth Government trained cyborgs to use to take a life painlessly while the target slept but I can’t do it.” He suddenly spun, slamming the tray on the table. “I don’t want you to die but an order has been issued. I can’t disobey a direct order from the council but I find myself unable to comply either. We’re both in a hell of a lot of trouble, Megan.”

Chapter Six

The reality of Megan’s situation stunned, horrified, and kept her mute while she stared at Ice. The cyborg council wanted her dead, she had been deemed a threat to his people, and Ice had been given orders to kill her.

“Blackie lied to me about setting me free.”

“He did. It was his version of kindness to lure you into a sense of false security that your life had been spared so I could say goodbye to you without your tears or pleading for your life.”

“What an ass**le. I mean, I guess for him it would be considered almost sweet but I don’t appreciate it.” She had to fight to think through the panic.

“Agreed. If it were up to me I would prefer to believe you and drop you off with the bots on Hixton Station just the way we originally planned but it is not in my authority to give you that. The safety of my people is at stake and the risk is too great to allow you to go free.”

“I don’t want to die,” she whispered.

“I can’t kill you.” He paused. “Blackie will most likely come here since I’m unable to do it. You will not die at my hands.”

She stared at him, fighting tears, and managed to hold them at bay. “Is that supposed to comfort me?”

“Yes.”

“It doesn’t.”

“I apologize. I can only stall for time before he comes to make certain the council’s orders were followed.”

“May I talk to this council? Maybe I can change their minds.”

“The decision has been made and nothing you could say would affect them. We have to follow orders or my ship will be in violation of the council.” He sighed. “We would both die then.”

Her brain struggled to take it all in but underneath the panic, she wondered at Ice’s inability to kill her. She had to know. “So why can’t you kill me yourself? Why not just shoot me or something? You’re strong enough to kill me in a hundred ways I can think up with your bare hands alone.”

He hesitated. “You fascinate me and I find myself feeling strangely protective of you. I am unable to carry out their order. They will be very displeased with me.”

“Thanks.” She wondered if he could pick up on sarcasm. When he frowned at her, she assumed that he could. “If this is how cyborgs are—they can just order women to be murdered—I can see why Earth Government wanted them dead. Apparently most of you are heartless bastards.”

He nodded. “We were made this way by them.”

“Don’t your leaders know the difference between right and wrong? Doesn’t this council have any compassion? Doesn’t it bother them just a tiny bit to kill an unarmed woman?”

“I do not know. I can only speak for myself, Megan.”

“But you’re going to allow someone on this ship to kill me?”

“I have no choice but I won’t allow anyone to cause you pain when they follow the order.”

“Don’t you see something seriously wrong with that?”

“Yes.”

“Then don’t do it. Just drop me off with the bots.”

“I have to follow orders even if I do not agree with them. They are the Cyborg Council and it is my duty to do as they demand even if I find it highly distasteful. I really don’t want you to die, Megan. I am attempting to think of a solution where you can be freed but I am coming up with nothing so far.”

She watched him while he stared back at her. In a lot of ways he was similar to the bots if he was compelled to follow orders and would be destroyed if he wouldn’t do as he was told—if he’d told her the truth about them killing him if he disobeyed a direct order. The programmer inside her understood the complexities of machines and how they kept within their guidelines. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.

“What are your orders exactly?”

“To kill you.”

“Today?”

“An exact time wasn’t specified but it’s implied that the order be followed quickly.

It is our way. Cyborgs aren’t known for procrastinating. The council deemed it too dangerous to allow you the opportunity to contact Earth Government.”

It might be something she could work with, a flaw in their programming, as it were.

She hesitated. “What if I were to stay on this ship?”

His eyebrows arched. “And what would be the point of that? You can’t stay in my quarters indefinitely.”

She hesitated. “Why not? I can’t contact anyone if I’m locked in your room, correct? That’s logical. If I’m no threat then there’s no reason to kill me.”

He said nothing.

Her gaze drifted around the small room. It would be cramped with the two of them sharing it. Her gaze landed and held on the handsome cyborg in front of her. She’d had plenty of fantasies about him and figured she could find lots of ways to keep amused if she were living with Ice. Life could be worse and he sure beat death.

She got to her feet. “You visited Folion five times in the past three months that I’m aware of.”

He frowned. “What does this have to do with stating your plan to stay on the ship to avoid the council’s sentencing?”

Would he go for it? She’d never been an overly forward type of woman. As a matter of fact, she enjoyed it when men pursued her, until she’d seen Ice. He’d had her tossing her old-fashioned thinking but she wanted him, had for a long time, and he could keep her alive if he’d agree to allow her to stay in his room.

“You like sex and you seemed to enjoy it with me the few times we’ve been together.”

He said nothing but his eyes narrowed.

“If you allow me to share your room with you then you get sex any time you want it.” She paused. “I know your quarters are small but we could have a hell of a lot of fun sharing your bed.”

His reaction was swift and unexpected. He growled low in his throat. “No. I will think of something else.”

“No?” Megan gaped at him, stunned. “Did you hear what I said? Free sex, as much of it as you can handle, and all you have to do is allow me stay here so you don’t have to kill me. You said you didn’t want that to happen to me so here’s a loophole for us both.”

“No,” he repeated. “If this is your plan, it is not a good one. I will think of another plan to save your life.” He paused. “I will not allow them to kill you if I can help it.”

She admitted it really stung that he’d said no as pain burned a little inside her chest.

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