The scent of charred human flesh blended with the odor of cigar smoke and expensive Scotch as the meeting continued. Cologne took up residence behind me and gripped my shoulders to once more hold me in place. I didn’t protest.

I was ready to get this “purchase” over with.

“Jonathan, Hunter, Devyn,” EenLi said with another evil grin. “Let the bidding begin.”

At his words, I didn’t panic. So they were having a bidding war for me. Lucius and I had suspected that might happen. My gaze traveled to his. Yes, he was supposed to buy me, then purchase our way to another planet for “legal” reasons. Once we had that information, we were to kill EenLi. Now, there was a very good chance someone else would purchase me.

Lucius appeared relaxed, totally calm, as if he knew exactly what to do. Good. I knew he’d do everything in his power to win me, and if he didn’t, he’d do what needed to be done. As would I. I trusted him. Fully and completely, I realized. And I was pretty sure he trusted me.

“Turn around,” EenLi commanded me in an imperious tone.

My cheeks reddened at being treated like one of his “cattle.” Every man present was watching me, studying me, looking for flaws. The Targon rubbed his jaw, his expression blank, as his gaze raked over me.

Cologne’s grip on me tightened. “Do it.”

If I didn’t turn for them, I would be forced. And there would be no more reprieves for me under the guise of keeping me un-bruised. I saw that knowledge in EenLi’s now glowing red eyes.You want to get the sale over with, remember?

I lifted my chin and turned. Slowly. Giving them all a chance to look their fill at my sheer, pink-clad curves. I felt the heat of their gazes touching me everywhere, stripping me.

How many times had the other women endured this? How many times had they been forced to display their bodies for men they despised? My hands shook with the force of my humiliation. And beneath it all, a new sense of respect and admiration for the five women locked below grew within me. They were survivors.

Yes, Iwould save them; my determination increased all the more. No matter what was required of me.

When I faced the men again, EenLi was smiling happily from the screen, his ugly face stretched into a toothy monstrosity. Red faded to pink. “I’m almost tempted to keep the little agent for myself,” he said. “She’s powerful under all that delicacy.”

So. Hedid know that I was an agent. It was probably why he was here on the holoscreen and not in person. I was only surprised he wasn’t gloating about capturing me.

“Whatever your price,” Lucius said, his rough, gravelly voice claiming me, “I’ll pay.”

“And I’ll double that.” Jonathan.

Lucius hissed in a breath. “What did you say?”

“You heard me.” Jonathan became defensive. “I want her, too. You didn’t think I helped you out of the goodness of my heart, did you?” He tapped his cigar ashes on Lucius’s expensive Italian loafers. “Please tell me you aren’t that stupid.”

My partner snarled low in his throat—and I didn’t think it was mere pretense. “I can’t believe you’re going through with this. She’s mine. You knew I wanted her.”

“We’ll see about that, won’t we?” Jonathan arched his brows, his expression haughty.

Deadly silence filled the room, slithering along the walls like a snake ready to strike.Come on, boys. Just buy me already.

Leaning forward, Lucius said darkly, “Are you sure you want to take me on?”

Jonathan laughed nervously and assumed a feigned casual pose, legs stretched, hands linked over the lapels of his dark blue jacket. “You can have her when I’m done with her.”

“Neither of you will have her.” The Targon had remained silent until that point, and now his deep timbre echoed off the walls. As he studied me, he caressed the gold band he wore around his neck, his fingers circling the ugly brown stone in the middle. “I’ll take her,” he said, as if that settled the entire matter.

“Numbers, gentlemen.” EenLi rubbed his hands together like a greedy child. “I need actual figures.”

“One million.” Jonathan.

“Two.” The Targon.

“Five.” Lucius. He relaxed in his seat, growing more assured of his victory. Whatever monetary capital was needed, he would pay. Or pretend to pay, I should say.

The Targon countered. “Five million Earth dollars, plus two Targon warriors.”

“Done.” Grinning, EenLi clapped his hands. “The woman is yours.”

“No.” In a dark, fluid motion, Lucius jumped to his feet.

EenLi’s eyes narrowed to tiny slits. “I will find you another Raka, Hunter.”

“I wantthis one.” He pointed to me. “She’s mine. She was promised to me. Findhim another.”

“Actually, she was promised to me.” Jonathan gripped his cigar so tightly it snapped in half.

“Please tell me you were not foolish enough to think I’d save her for you, Jonathan,” EenLi said, repeating the man’s earlier words to Lucius. “I already own your soul. What need have I to keep you happy?” To Lucius he said, “I respected your father, and I will be happy to work with you in the future to secure you another Raka. As for this one, a better offer came along.”

“She’s mine, goddamn you,” Lucius growled. “This is bad for business. What will your other clients say when they realize you aren’t a man of your word?”

Another silence erupted, this one heavier than the last.

EenLi’s skin pulsed a dark crimson. “Do not make me your enemy.” His lips pressed together, providing only a tight slit for his words.

Lucius stalked toward the screen. “Let’s talk about this.”


As I listened, I realized EenLi had always meant to sell me to the Targon. What better way to gain an alliance with such invincible warriors? After losing Mris-ste and discovering he himself was a government target for elimination, EenLi probably saw this as his opportunity to acquire an impenetrable shield. Or two.

“I want to talk,” Lucius insisted. “Man to man. Face to face.

“Ha. You’re angry enough to try and kill me right now.”

I knew what he was doing, trying to draw EenLi out, and I approved. However, I didn’t want to be taken from this building until the women below were safe. I’d have to put up some kind of fight, perhaps race down there. Then…what? I guess we’d find out. I stealthily inched my fingers toward the small blade strapped to my back.

The Targon eased to his feet, his eyes watching my every move. I’d never seen eyes like his. Like molten flames of gold, glowing hotly, almost hypnotically. His clean-cut features were lit with amusement.

“Come to me,” he said, even his voice layered with a hypnotic quality.

Oddly, I was compelled to obey. Something deep inside me heard and responded to his voice, wanting to do everything in my power to please him. The rest of the room faded until I saw only the Targon. My thoughts scattered, realigning around his beautiful image.

“Come,” he said again.

Focus, Eden. Focus. Do not listen to his voice. Think only of what you need to do.Fight. Yes, I needed to fight, to save the women. With that thought, I snapped out of his spell. Where was he vulnerable? His neck? His chest? I’d never killed a Targon before.

“Come,” he said for the third time.

I moved toward him, sliding my blade out of its strap. I used my wrist and arm to shield it from his view.

Lucius jumped in front of me and faced the Targon. “Since Wayne is refusing to meet with me, I’ll deal with you. Let me buy her from you. I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“She is no longer for sale,” the other-worlder said with a hint of irritation.

“You’re not taking her off this planet.”

I touched my fingers to Lucius’s back, silently letting him know I knew what I had to do andwould do it. He didn’t step aside. I knew he’d felt my touch, however, because his muscles clenched at first contact.

The Targon raised his brows. “If you plan to stop me, human, I suggest you not even try. People tend to get hurt when they annoy me.”

“Now that our business is concluded,” EenLi interjected, as someone approached his image from behind. “I will leave you alone to collect your prize. I expect those Targon warriors on my doorstep tomorrow morning, Devyn.”

The holoscreen went blank.

Jonathan reached toward Lucius, but Lucius grabbed his arm and twisted, snapping the bone. Jonathan howled in pain and dropped to his knees. Then Lucius sprang at the Targon. Without ever moving an inch, the other-worlder somehow forced Lucius to the ground beside Jonathan.

I too sprang forward, my knife raised and ready for insertion. But in the next instant, my feet froze in place and the knife dropped from my hand. I couldn’t move. Could barely breathe.

“Do not panic, little Raka.” The Targon sent me a gentle smile. “I’ll release you from the paralysis soon enough.”

The bastard was controlling me with his mind. Panic coiled inside me, but I fought against it, trying to erect some sort of shield against him. His power proved too strong, however.

Still grinning, he flung a gold torque at me. Like a snake, the band wrapped itself at the base of my throat, not tight enough to choke, just tight enough to ensure it stayed in place. I flicked a horrified gaze down; an amber gem stone winked up at me. I wanted so badly to tear at the band, but couldn’t. I returned my gaze to Lucius, staring helplessly at him, just as horrified.

Since hitting the carpet, he’d had yet to move.

“What did you do to him?” I demanded.

“He merely sleeps,” the Targon said.

Proving the other-worlder’s words, Lucius moaned. His eyes opened, and he weakly raised his head. When he spied me, he attempted to crawl to me, to protect me.

“I think he needs to sleep permanently,” Jonathan said, whipping out an old gun. I couldn’t do anything but scream, locked in place as I was, as he fired. A bullet lodged itself just below Lucius’s left shoulder, causing his entire body to spasm. In his heart?

Cold rage slashed inside me. The Targon removed his focus from me and frowned down at the now-bleeding Lucius. His inattention released me from paralysis. I immediately picked up my blade and, without a second’s thought, hurtled it at Jonathan. The sharp metal sliced into his throat. His eyes widened, and he gurgled as his knees gave out and he sank to the ground. I leaped forward and was just reaching for the blade when a dark cloud covered my mind. Sinking…sinking…I fought past it, cutting with mental claws.

Unexpectedly, the fog lifted. “What’s happening?” I asked, dazed.

The Targon blinked in surprise. “You have mental shields, though they are not very strong.” He sighed, and I froze in place once again. He withdrew a small vial from his pocket, pushed my hair out of my face, and forced the contents down my throat. I choked it back, but it was too late to spit out the bitter liquid. I knew the moment the taste of it hit my tongue that it wasn’t an opiate like Cologne had given me.

This man had done his homework on Rakas. He knew the human medicine called antihistamine, when mixed with alcohol, knocked us out every time. When lethargy hit me, it hit swiftly and full force. The last picture to drift through my mind was of Lucius, covered in his own blood.

Chapter 23

The image of Lucius’s strong vibrant body, bloody and lifeless, slammed past a black fog of lethargy and into my mind. “Lucius!” I screamed. The sound of his name echoed all around me.

“Welcome to Targon,” whispered through my mind.

Targon. No. No! My eyelids popped open. My breath was coming in short, erratic pants, like I’d just run a marathon uphill. I searched for another person, but saw no one. Had I been dreaming…a nightmare, perhaps? No. I bit my bottom lip, creating a sharp sting and a bead of blood. Lucius had really been shot. I remembered the auction for me and the booming sound of Jonathan’s gun being fired, remembered the metallic smell of human blood.

Lucius, I thought, a wave of panic overtaking me. I had to get to him. He was now injured and defenseless in a house full of EenLi’s guards, and no one knew he was there but me. I wouldnot allow myself to think of him as…No, I wouldn’t.

The women, too, were helpless. I had to save them.

I jerked upright, taking the soft white comforter draping my body with me. My gaze shot throughout the room. Unfamiliar. Wide and open. White gauze billowed from the many windows and doors. I was seated on a white pallet of velvetlike cushions. There were no guards posted that I could see.

Where the hell was I?


I wasn’t sure if the isotope I’d ingested had traced me here, and there wasn’t time to find out. An other-world rescue seemed impossible, anyway, since we did not have all the facts about solar flares. No, I’d have to free myself. Quickly.

God, I needed to get home.

I shoved my way out from the covers and stood. My legs were shaky, making me wonder just how long I’d been asleep. At least the Targon hadn’t stripped me. He’d left me in the pink harem costume. I reached up, but the necklace he’d thrown at me was gone. I needed it to pass through a solar flare. Where was it?

Breathing a deep inhalation of sweet, flowery air, I scanned the spacious room again. Would he have hidden the necklace in a fruit bowl? No. Empty. A drawer…maybe he had tucked it inside. I bounded forward, but skidded to a stop when I heard him speak.

“I am so happy you are, at last, awake,” his rich, sensual voice said from behind me.