I returned his glare with one of my own.

“That I was doing the job I told you I’d do?”

“Not quite,” he grumbled.

“That I’m a capable woman?”

“Damn it, Eden.” His warm breath whipped over my face. “This isn’t about your silly need to prove you’re as strong and capable as I am.”

“Silly!” was all I could get out. “Silly?”

“In case you didn’t notice, it’s dawn. I expected you an hour ago. At least. You would have worried had I been gone so long, and don’t try to deny it.” When I remained stubbornly silent, he added, “Wouldn’t you?”

“Yes. Are you happy?” I shoved him off and jolted up. “Yes, I would have worried about you.”

Satisfied with that, he dropped beside me and pulled me down. “Tell me everything that happened.”

“Jonathan called EenLi,” I said, relaxing into the curve of his side. “They’ve set up the abduction for me, and Jonathan canceled the order for the other girl. I don’t know why. He just said she wouldn’t work.”

“When?” His tone became hard as granite. “Where?”

“They didn’t discuss details. It was apparent they had spoken about me before.”

Lucius rubbed his neck, his expression darkening. “I don’t like this.”

“Like what? This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

“I don’t like the plan. Letting them take you.”

“Why the hell not? It’s a good plan. And right now it’s the only way to save the other slaves EenLi has taken. It’s the only way to find out how he’s using solar flares as portals.”

“You could get hurt.”

I rolled my eyes. “Aren’t you the man who told me he’d kill me if I got in his way? Aren’t you the man who cares about no one and nothing?”

“That was before,” he mumbled, looking away from me.

I knew the feeling. I shouldn’t have had sex with him the first time, and damn well shouldn’t have again. But I had, and there was no going back. I couldn’t pretend to dislike him anymore. I liked him. Too much.

“Damn it.” He jumped to his feet. “We should never have gotten involved, because I can’t stop worrying about you. I won’t return here,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.” He reached inside his pants pocket and withdrew a small syringe. Sparkling red liquid swirled inside. He handed it to me. “We don’t know when they’ll strike, and I can’t be with you when they do.”

“Is this the isotope?”

“Yes. Inject it into your leg. I’d do it, but…”

He didn’t want to hurt me. I tried not to soften toward him yet another degree. I wrapped my fingers around the vial, jabbed the needle into my thigh—suppressing a wince at the sharp sting—and pushed. Burning warmth spread from my leg, branching throughout the rest of me. I glared up at Lucius as I shoved the empty syringe into his palm. “Done.”

“Thank you.”

I dropped my head in my hands. “This has all happened much faster than I imagined,” I said, and we both knew I meant more than the case. I didn’t know how to deal with Lucius right now, though. With us.

“Too fast?” He chuckled, but the sound lacked any hint of humor. “Maybe. But from now on, we think about the case. Nothing else. Your life could depend on it.”

Chapter 19

Two days passed without a single abduction attempt. Two angst-filled days.

I spent them accompanying the ambassador on her rounds, translating idle chatter and more in-depth conversations about discrimination, while projecting a carefree facade. I’d seen Lucius only once, at a party hosted by one of the ambassador’s friends of a friend. He’d remained a safe distance from me but had watched me the whole evening.

His gaze had been a living entity, reminding me of the way he’d kissed and caressed me, the way he’d brought me to climax so many times. I’d forced myself to ignore him, to think only of the case.

The following day, I received another message from Colin and used the cell unit Lucius brought me to read it to him. The conversation was short and sweet.

“I have a friend working on solar flares, and he told me he’s begun experimenting with small, inanimate objects to find out just what type of magnetic device would be most conducive to molecular transference within a solar flare. So far he’s had no luck.”

His frustration crackled over the line. “I was hoping for more by now.”

“I know. But he did mention that a small, molecule-based magnet would work best. It offers photomodulated magnetization, can store data, and offers magnetic shielding and induction. And, unlike metal-based magnets, it can be deposited as a thin, transparent film or even inserted within another object.”

“Yeah, but can something so small generate enough power to transport a body astronomically?”

“I’ll ask.”

“Let me know if you learn anything else.”

And that was it, the end of our conversation.

I disconnected and lay in bed, moonlight bathing me. Agent Luc was already asleep in the bathroom. I didn’t want to take a chance that she’d be hurt when I was taken.When would I be taken? I hated waiting.

A cricket hummed a lazy tune, and a cool, dew-scented breeze wafted through the open windows. I was making it easy for my abductors. I was also prepared. I wore silver sleep pants and a clinging silver top. They allowed easy movement, but were difficult to pull off. Of course, I had two knives strapped to me—one at the small of my back, the other on the inside of my thigh. My hair clips were too aberrant for bed, as was the anklet. Part of me expected Lucius to arrive at any moment, but he stayed true to his word and didn’t visit.

I glared up at the domed ceiling. Men! Who understood them? Not me, certainly. Well, that’s not true. I’d once thought I understood them. They needed sex, food, and water to survive, and their every action hinged on whichever need took prominence. Lucius was…different.

He worked hard, kept his mind on the prize. He did what was necessary for success, despite his own needs and wants. I respected that. I respectedhim. He was the best agent I’d ever come across. A partner I hadn’t wanted, but couldn’t deny had been the best thing to happen to this case.

Had I not been so lost in my thoughts, I never would have been caught so unaware. A hand whipped out from the darkness and pinched my nose closed. Panic rocked me at first, and I instinctively grasped at the hand to push it away. I even opened my mouth to suck in a breath. The man, whoever he was, dumped a tart liquid down my throat the moment I parted my lips. I tried to spit it out, but he smothered both my nose and mouth, forcing me to swallow.

“There you go,” he said, his voice low and soothing. I didn’t recognize his voice. “Sleep now,” he added gently. “We won’t hurt you.”

Finally, EenLi’s men had arrived.

I almost laughed through my fading panic. “What did you give me? Poison?” I demanded of my attacker, as any sane woman would. I kicked at him and, like a scared little female, scooted toward the headboard.

A black mask concealed his features, but he couldn’t hide the strength and size of his frame. Only slighter shorter than Lucius, he filled out his black military fatigues menacingly. “I gave you an opiate to help you sleep,” he said. “We don’t want to kill you, I promise.”

That showed exactly what he knew about Rakas. Not a damn thing. I was impervious to opiates and most other human drugs. He would have had better luck with a nice aged Scotch or rich brandy.

“I’ll scream,” I said, making my words slur.

He chuckled. “Screaming won’t matter, little girl. We drugged everyone else inside the house, too. They’re sleeping the night away.”

“You…bastard.” I pretended relaxation, however, and after a few seconds, gave a grade A performance of falling unconscious. Contrary to what Lucius said, my acting didnot suck, thank you very much.

EenLi’s men agreed with me. “That was easy,” one of them said.

If the man decided to rape me, I’d have a miraculous awakening, however, and show them just how sweet I could be. There were some things I wouldnot do for my job.

Shockingly, he softly kissed my forehead, a gentle, innocent pressing of lips against skin. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, Jonathan had made it very clear I wasn’t to be harmed in any way. EenLi had probably sent his sweetest abductors.

What a lovely oxymoron.

“Look at this gold,” he whispered.

“Pretty,” another man said, awed. I didn’t recognize his voice, either. “Do you know how much money we’d make selling her skin?”

“You won’t be hurting her. We’re to deliver her as we found her.We’ll be cut into tiny pieces and sold if we harm her.”

“I know, I know.” He sighed. “But…maybe we could cut off some of her hair. Maybe a few strands,” he rushed on. “Nothing that would be noticed.”


“Why not? We—”

“No. Now shut up. We’re running out of time.”

Strong arms slid under me and lifted. I let my head loll, but not before I caught a whiff of expensive, musky cologne. The scent could not have masked dirty flesh or rotting clothes. No, whoever carried me was clean and well groomed, obviously nicely paid and not the cheap labor EenLi usually used.

Cologne pushed out a breath. “Let’s get out of here.”

I was gently carried to the balcony, the same balcony Lucius had first used to enter my room. Of course, I’d removed the extra pins when I learned my abduction was being planned, making entry into my room easy.

Being an agent, I’d stalked and hunted victims. I’d never been one myself. Letting these men cart me away warred against every instinct I possessed. My mind wanted me to fight, to prevent this from happening. To kill. How could I allow these men to make me a slave?

There was no better way to find and destroy EenLi and save the others he had enslaved. I knew it, and took what comfort I could in the fact that these men hadn’t patted me down and didn’t know about my blades. Most likely, they hadn’t considered that an other-worlder interpreter—and a peace-loving Raka, at that—would be armed.

The two men took turns holding me as they harnessed themselves to a wire, then I too was strapped in and braced against one of them. Cool night air slithered around me as I was lowered to the ground.

“Careful, careful,” said a rough voice from the window.

“I am careful,” the man holding me replied.

“You’re letting her dangle. Grip her tighter.”

Wind kicked up, and my body shook precariously. I, too, almost shouted an order to be held tighter.

“Screw you,” he said, his voice hard with rebellion. “If I hold her any tighter, I’ll cut off her air and she’ll die.” The bastard squeezed my breast (purposefully) as he tightened his hold to make a point.

Feigning a muscle spasm, I slammed my fist into his balls (also purposefully). He howled in pain, a tortured squeak that echoed in my ears.

“Bitch,” Smashed Balls growled when he caught his breath.

I think he meant to backhand me, but Expensive Cologne stopped him with a menacing, “Hurt her, and I’ll kill you myself.”

My captor cursed under his breath. I could hear the wheels turning inside his mind as he decided whether slapping me around would be worth his death. “She busted my nuts.”

“She’s fucking asleep, you ass-wipe. Let’s just get her out of here before you alert security.”

“Security is napping.”

“With all your howling, they won’t sleep much longer.” Pause. “Damn it, now you’re holding hertoo tightly. She’s turning blue.”

“Do you hear her complaining?” Smashed Balls snapped.

“She’s asleep, asshole.” Another burst of wind circled us. “She can’t complain. Release your death grip.”

“You should have fucking carried her down yourself.”

When the ground touched my feet, I put no weight on my legs, instead letting them buckle as if I were slumbering peacefully. My captor had to brace my entire weight.

He grunted. “She’s heavier than she looks.”

“Or you’re weaker thanyou look.”

“Get down here and hold her yourself. And I hope like hell she slams a fist intoyour nuts,” he added softly.

I heard the click of metal as Expensive Cologne reached the ground. He liberated me, hefting me into his arms. Immediately he began running, causing my neck, arms, and legs to bounce up and down. They were being paid to keep me unharmed, but at this rate they were going to break me in half. Finally, the three of us reached the getaway vehicle. About that time, a shout sounded in the distance. Lights turned on and illuminated the area.

“See what you did?” Cologne growled.

“Fucking hell,” Smashed Balls bellowed. “Drive, just drive.”

I was chucked unceremoniously into the back seat and left in a heap as the two men jammed themselves beside me. The sound of squealing tires erupted.

I almost sighed. My abduction was a success. For all of us.

Chapter 20

The car ride proved to be long and tedious. The men, now three in number because of the driver, talked and laughed about my fate.

“He’s going to do her hard,” one of them said.

They were talking about Lucius, who was to be my new master. My reaction? Mental eye-roll and gag. The fact that Lucius had already “done” me pretty damn hard didn’t factor into the picture.