Touching Ice Page 21

“Now wait a minute.” Megan reached out, grabbed the waist of his pants, and kept him from turning away. “I’m in shock and this isn’t about us. I’m terrified of those things. That’s what has me in knots.”

His body relaxed. “I won’t allow them to hurt you, Megan. I’d defend you against my own people so do you believe for a second that I’d just allow one of them to harm you?”

“Who’s going to protect you?” She frowned at him.

That question obviously stunned him. “You doubt my fighting skills and strength? I’m cyborg, Megan. I’m stronger and faster than your human males.”

She hesitated, biting her lower lip, and then released it. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she warned softly. “But you’re…” She shut up, not able to say it aloud.

“I’m what?” He stepped forward, his hands gripped her h*ps as he pulled her against him, their bodies flush against each other. “What am I?”

Megan had to clear her throat of the lump that formed there. “They appear human but they aren’t. You’re…” She hesitated.

“I’m what?” His voice deepened.

“Oh hell,” she sighed, holding onto his arms. “You’re outdated technology, Ice.

You’re sexy, hot, muscular, and kick ass but these Markus Models, they are advanced technology, cutting edge, and in a fight I think you’d lose. I don’t doubt how strong you are or how good of a fighter but these things are…really bad news.”

Ice’s eyebrows shot up.

“They heal really fast,” she said quickly. “Within minutes. It’s that new rejuvenating artificial skin they have. They don’t have bones, they have lightweight metals, and they are shielded. You shoot one of them in the head, which would normally take anything out, and they are going to get up. I saw some of the tests run on them to show how tough they were to investors. One of them walked through fire. It burned off his skin and he just kept going.”

His hands rubbed her hips. “You’re worried about me?”

“Yes. I’m worried about all of us. You, me, everyone on this ship and the Star you keep mentioning. I can’t stress enough how unstable the Markus Models are or how hard they would be to kill. You’re mostly flesh and blood. These things are androids with cloned flesh. They may appear more human than you do with your gray skin tone but trust me, they are machines.”

“Maybe they didn’t fix their electrical flaw so they will have a weakness in their design.”

“The company wouldn’t have unleashed them without fixing that.”

Ice sighed. “The council has spoken and I made the deal with them that you’d help evaluate these things. It’s going to happen. Perhaps they fixed the instability problems with them before they were put out by your company.”

“I doubt it since they are refusing to return the bots and are looking to hook up with cyborgs instead. That sure wasn’t in their programming so what else is wrong with them?”

“Earth Government thought we were flawed and wanted us exterminated. They were wrong, Megan. Perhaps you’re wrong.”

“I really hope I am but I don’t think so, Ice.” She leaned in and let her forehead rest against his chest. “I’m worried and scared.”

His hands slid around her, hugging her tightly to his body. “I will protect you.”

But who is going to protect you? She thought it but didn’t say it aloud. He thought he could handle anything but she doubted he’d ever gone against anything as scary as defense androids. Cyborgs had left Earth a long time ago and things had changed.

Warning him wasn’t going to change anything though.

“I came to change my uniform. I have a vid conference with the council.” He eased his hold. “I’ll return to you afterward. We’ll talk more then.”

Megan nodded against his chest and looked up at him. “Okay.” She didn’t want to let him go but she released him as she stepped back.

Ice quickly changed his pants, then donned a shirt, and put on his boots again. He gave her a lingering look before he left his quarters. He didn’t touch the pad and she realized he must be keeping his link to the ship active so he could remote control the doors.

Turning, she sank onto the bed, worried. A shiver ran down her spine. Ice had no idea what they were about to deal with but she had a pretty good idea this meeting wasn’t going to go well.

She started to think, trying to remember everything about the Markus Models that she’d been told or heard rumors about while she’d worked at the testing facility.

* * * * * “What is wrong?” Onyx stopped at the table and sat. “I’ve been watching you for five minutes and you didn’t even notice when I entered the room.”

Ice locked gazes with his friend. “The council ordered me to either hand Megan over since I refuse to kill her myself or I can form a family unit with her.”

“So you’re joining a family unit? I understand your grimness. We’re of the same mind on that issue but she is human. There are advantages to taking one as your female. She will be ordered to stay at your side since she won’t be trusted by other cyborgs. You’ll have constant access to her and you do not have to share her body with other males. I am surprised they offered to allow that, considering our status. We’ve both overbred so our DNA is no longer required.”

“I also informed them she is an expert on the Markus Models to make her valuable to them. We will be meeting their shuttle when the Star does, to bring Megan to that meeting.”

Shock widened Onyx’s eyes. “You did what? Why would you do that? Even I saw her terror when she spoke of them. She is convinced they are dangerous. I thought you wanted to protect her. If they are as unstable as she suggested then you are putting her at high risk.”

“She is definitely at risk with the council. They reversed the order to have her killed since they have a use for her now. It wasn’t a hardship to agree to form a family unit with her so they believe she’s got loyalty to me.”

“You have emotions for her.”

“I do.” Ice took a sip of his drink and ignored his food tray. “It angered me when I saw her distress after I informed her of the conditions for the reversal of their order. I believed she was upset at joining a family unit with me but instead her fear stems from meeting that enemy shuttle.”

“So she agreed to the family unit arrangement?”

Ice hesitated. “I didn’t ask her. I said I informed her. As a human I do not need her permission since on Garden they are considered property.”

“Did you inform her of this?”

“No. I am not without intelligence.”

Onyx grinned. “Your limbs are intact and I don’t see any visible damage. Human women must be very different from our females. If you’d informed one of them of that fact they would have attacked you.”

“Megan is nothing similar to our females in that regard.”

“However she is, it obviously instills great faith in you since you’re willing to put so much trust in her. You know she could use these defense models to attack us.”

“She wouldn’t do that.” Ice glared at his friend. “I…trust her.” It amazed him as that truth struck him but saying it aloud made him come to terms with it. “I really do trust her, Onyx. She’s honest with me and she is worried about my safety over her own.”

“I’m willing to rely on your judgment even if I do think you’ve been compromised by her influence. I’d trust you over anyone else I’ve ever known in my life. I’ll inform the men and we’ll ready for that meeting. I assume you want me to secure all information so they can’t hack into our systems.”

“Yes. You know what to do.”

“Of course.” Onyx nodded. “Go spend time with your female and I’ll take care of everything.”

Ice stood. “Thank you.”

“I believe some things are worth keeping. I personally wouldn’t hook up with a human but she’s not in my bed so I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose her.”

“She really matters to me.”

“Then do what you must to keep her. If that means we’re facing danger when we go to that meeting then at least it will be an interesting day. It was getting a little boring around here now that we no longer have use of the sex bots. Some of the males are feeling a little sexual frustration after adjusting to regular pleasure. If it comes to a fight, it may be to our advantage. There is nothing worse than a testy male.”

Ice disposed of his untouched food and walked through the ship. He had a lot to consider. He finally returned to his room and to Megan. He’d come to a decision.

* * * * * Ice appeared tired and grim when he walked into his quarters. Megan stopped pacing and stared at him. She took a deep breath.

“I thought about this family unit thing while you were gone. This council of yours needs me and I’m willing to face my deepest fears to interact with the Markus Models for them but I won’t allow you to be forced into marrying me against your will. Have them touch me so they know I’m not lying and I’ll tell them I’m on your side. It’s the truth and I’d never want any of your people hurt. They’ll believe me then, right? Do they have that lie detector ability the way you do?”

Ice paused inside the door and then walked slowly toward her. “They could do that.”

“I don’t want you forced into something you don’t want to do just to save me, Ice. I don’t want you unhappy or miserable. I really don’t want you to grow to hate and resent me.”

He paused, studying her. “You’ve been thinking of ways to circumvent a family unit with me out of a belief that I object to joining into a contract with you?”

“I know you don’t want to get attached. You kept me in your quarters on the condition that didn’t happen and now they are forcing you to be locked to me, right? I don’t want to hurt you in any way.”

Something in his eyes softened. “What about your emotions on the matter? What are your thoughts of forming a family unit with me?”

She hesitated, surprised that he’d asked her what she felt and thought. “Um…I wouldn’t be opposed but not at the price it would cost you.”

“It wouldn’t cost me, Megan. We already share quarters and it’s an arrangement that is working for both of us. I agreed to the council’s terms and refuse to negotiate with them again for you. I made an ideal bargain with them.”

“But―”

He cut her off. “That’s it, Megan. It’s done. I filed the paperwork and transmitted it.

I’m just waiting for the official filing on Garden. We’re contracted in a family unit.”

“But you don’t want to be tied down. You don’t want―”

Ice closed the distance and grabbed Megan, jerking her against him to stare into her stunned gaze. “I want you.”

She stared up into those beautiful silvery-blue eyes and saw raw emotion shining there. It hit her like a brick as she identified the look he gave her. Her heart raced and her hands reached up to grip his shoulders as she inched up on tiptoe to get closer to his face, to make sure she was seeing right.

The truth hit her then. “You love me, don’t you?”

Ice’s gaze drifted from hers, darting around the room, focusing anywhere but on her. Megan leaned closer into him, her hands sliding up his neck until she cupped his face. She had to blink back tears. He didn’t deny it.

“Ice?” she whispered. “Look at me, please?”

He sighed and glanced down. “Yes.”

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