She shrugged. “They come through the portals for a visit, I guess.”

The muscles in my back jumped in anticipation of her next words. “Do you know where the portals are located?”


A wave of disappointment crashed through me. I reached up and brushed her hair aside. Her eyes closed, and she leaned into my touch.

“He never told me,” she added. “His only job for me was to take care of the sick.”

“If a human wanted to place an order, how would he do it?”

She pressed her lips together for a moment. “There’s a man, Jonathan Parker. He’s old money. Oil, I think. He hosts parties at his house, and people tell him what they want. He tells EenLi.”

I knew that the moment she spoke the name, every agent listening began searching our databases for Jonathan Parker. We’d have a printout of his entire history within minutes.

“Do you know the type of people EenLi is looking for now?”

She shook her head. “He never gives me those details.”

“What about dates? When is a shipment due?”

“I don’t know.” She bit her bottom lip and gripped my hand. “Can I go home now?” A beseeching note layered her voice. “I never hurt anyone, I promise. I took care of them.”

“I know you did. But you need to stay here a while longer in case we have any more questions. Besides that, you’re safe from EenLi here,” I added, squeezing her hand, “just like I promised.” But more than that, if we ever decided to use her as bait, she’d be readily available.

Callous, I know, but innocent lives came before this one woman. Sometimes bad things had to be done to facilitate peace.

“I’ll see that you’re fed and moved to a comfortable room. All right?”

“Yes,” she said reluctantly. “All right.”

“You did real good, Sahara. I’m proud of you.” Cupping her jaw, I inched upward and slowly brought my lips to hers. She immediately opened her mouth to deepen the kiss, but I kept it sweet, gentle, breathing in her scent and she mine. Feeling her softness, and she mine. She was a sad girl with a sad life, but she wasn’t evil. “You’ll tell me if you remember anything else, won’t you?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

I stood and stepped away, my fingers coasting over her jaw as I did. Giving her one last, lingering glance, I moved toward the door.

“Wait,” she called. She too stood, the chair skidding behind her.

I didn’t turn fully, but glanced over my shoulder. “Yes?”

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Eden Black.” I paused. “Alien assassin. Don’t worry. Iwill take care of EenLi.”

Her “thank you” echoed in my ears as the door closed behind me.

Chapter 6

Blanketing my features to reveal nothing, I sauntered into the observation room. Lucius sat alone. Ren had probably bailed the moment I’d stepped out of Interrogation. Either that or Lucius had kicked him out, not wanting an audience for what was about to happen.

I remained in the open doorway, taking in the scene and allowing my anticipation to unfurl. Lucius occupied the only chair, his gaze locked with mine, his legs splayed out in front of him, his arms locked behind his neck. Never had a man appeared more relaxed and at ease. He pushed a button on a remote he held, and the holoscreen went blank, blocking out Sahara’s image.

“Close the door,” he said in that rough, gravelly voice of his. I caught a hint of fury in the undertone.

Not so relaxed, after all.

A shiver trekked down my spine as I continued to stare over at the man, at my unwanted partner. I wanted to hear him say “Please,” but knew there was a better chance of EenLi’s head falling from the sky like manna.

I stepped inside, causing the double doors to slide closed automatically. Lucius tossed the remote on the floor. With every second that passed, something…murderous grew in his eyes, a gleam that belied his casual pose yet fit perfectly with his tone.

Feigning my own sense of nonchalance, I leaned one shoulder against the wall. “We’re alone now, Sparkie. Was there something you wanted to say to me? Something you needed to do?”

His gaze slitted, blocking every hint of color from those ice-blue lasers. He remained very still.

“Tsk, tsk. You know that’s not the required position.” I showed no mercy.

Still he remained standing.

“You lost.”

“I know.”

“Drop to your knees.”

“Why don’t you make this interesting,” he gritted out, “and take off your pants?”

His words supplied an image of him kneeling between my naked legs. I stopped a shiver before it could form. My brows winged up. “You reneging?”

Very slowly, he eased to his feet, inching his big body higher and higher. I gave my cuticles my attention. I heard his teeth grind together, even thought I heard his jawbone crack. I flicked him an insouciant glance and patted my mouth to smother a fake yawn. That murderous gleam had branched from his eyes and now consumed his expression.

His black clothes rustled as he moved to his knees.

I studied my cuticles again, waiting, my breath suspended, the casual pretense the only thing keeping me from gaping.

“You did a…good job,” he ground out. When the last word left his mouth, he sprang up. He wiped the dust from his knees, keeping his gaze locked with mine.

I hadn’t thought he’d do it. What a puzzle he was. I could have nodded, said nothing, and saved him at least a hint of his stubborn pride. I could have…but I didn’t. “Don’t ever underestimate me again. You’ll end up on your knees every time.”

He ran his tongue over his teeth, but didn’t reply.

“Next time, research your suspect before you interrogate her. That’s where you went wrong.”

His entire face bloomed red—in embarrassment, in renewed fury. Renewed? No. I doubted he’d ever lost the first batch of fury. He didn’t like losing, but more importantly, he didn’t like losing to me. A spoiled princess. Well, too damn bad. He’d gotten the best of me from the moment we’d met, so I intended to savor this victory.

“You were doomed to fail before you even stepped foot into Interrogation. I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. You refused to consider the possibility that I might know something you didn’t. Well, guess what? I’d followed her for days. I knew her, knew everything about her. Your silly pride cost you this war.”

“War?” He chuckled, the sound devoid of humor. “That was only a minor skirmish, cookie.”

I rolled my eyes. “Big talk for a loser.”

Lucius stalked a menacing step toward me. “You did good, all right. There. That’s twice I’ve told you. I meant it then, I mean it now. But one day we’ll have a reckoning, you and I.”

I moved toward him, closing even more of the gap, a rush of adrenaline quickening the blood flow through my veins. “I do believe we will—if one of us doesn’t kill the other first.”

“I’m going to fuck you, Eden.” He stepped closer. “Killing is optional. After.”

My nostrils flared as I closed the remaining distance. I was excited, I admit it. Our noses touched, and my beaded nipples pushed into his chest. His breath fanned my lips, brushing every crevice. The scent of cinnamon and honey instantly enveloped us. Our heated exchange was playing havoc with my hormones. “You’ll never have me.”

Lucius never turned his attention from me. “Get a new goddamn perfume!” he shouted.

I blinked, felt a glimmer of satisfaction. “Why? Does this one bother you?”

He ran his tongue over teeth and flatly refused to answer. “Do you even give a shit about this case? Do you want to know what we have on Jonathan Parker or not?”

I stalked away from Lucius and to the door, opened it wide, and called for Ren. When he appeared, I said, “Make Sahara Rose comfortable. And be nice to her.”

Ren flicked Lucius a nervous glance, then rushed off to do as he was told. I didn’t turn around but remained braced at the entrance. “What do you know about Parker?” Feigning nonchalance, I rebound my hair.

“I’ll tell you about him over lunch,” he said, relish in his tone. He liked knowing something I didn’t. He liked choosing when and where he’d tell me.

Since he’d gotten on his knees for me, I gave him this victory. Just barely. “I was just about to suggest that,” I said with a faux casual shrug.

At my easy compliance, his lips dipped in a frown. He’d expected a fight, I know. “Let’s get out of here. Too many ears.”

“We’ll need the keys to the Hummer.”

“I pocketed them,” he said, dangling the set from his fingers.

My hands tightened at my sides. I didn’t like that he’d thought that far ahead and I hadn’t. I strode from the room without a word, knowing he followed directly behind me. As we left the farmhouse, I had the last laugh, however. Several men whistled and waved good-bye to “Agent Luscious.”

Lucius purchased half a dozen drive-thru burritos and tossed the sack into my lap. I held them without complaint as he drove for over an hour. Finally, he eased into a hidden thicket located in a richly treed patch of land—privately owned land that was well watered. He cut the locks off the gate and sneaked us inside.

Both of us, I noticed, continually checked the mirrors, making sure we weren’t followed by anyone. The fewer who knew our business, the less chance there was of leaks.

He told the car to park, grabbed the sack, and said, “We’ll eat now, then talk.”

I caught the burrito he carelessly flung my way and ate what I could, but my appetite had yet to fully return. Plus, I preferred sweet, sugary foods. Always had. I often wondered what type of food grew on Raka, what I’d be eating if I was there.

It was sad that I didn’t know much about my own people or my home planet. There simply weren’t many Rakans left here to ask, hunted as we were. Michael once hired a Rakan tutor for me, but that had lasted less than six months. The man had taken a day off and never returned.

I knew the planet had two small suns, three large moons, and massive amounts of water. I knew there had never been a war, the crime rate was low, and the penalty for any crime was death. I knew the entire population was ruled by an iron-willed dictator and that many Rakans had left simply to escape him.

Is that why my parents had left? I so would have loved to ask them. To know them. They’d been taken from me so suddenly. Singing me to sleep one minute, lying in pools of their own blood the next. Murdered. Obliterated. I missed them more than I could ever say.

Leaning back in my seat, I waited patiently while Lucius consumed the thick, greasy wraps. He chewed slowly, sensually, like a man who savored every bite. I watched the way his mouth and throat moved in harmony, and unbidden images of him partaking ofme invaded my mind. I forced my attention to the window.

Apparently, he didn’t like my change of focus. “Let’s take a walk,” he said, throwing the last wrapper in the back seat with the others.

We exited on our respective sides. Lush, green trees filled the entire area, providing a luxurious shade. I stashed my hat and sunglasses on the car’s dash. Fresh, vibrant air wrapped us in a welcome breeze. I’d traveled the world, many times, but I rarely experienced nature like this.

The tranquil area surprised me. “New Dallas has been under a dry spell since EenLi and his men arrived. How is this glen possible?”

“Michael keeps it well watered,” Lucius said, reaching my side.

My eyes narrowed, and I experienced a spark of anger that Lucius knew something about my father that I didn’t…until I recalled that Michaelhad told me about buying a patch of land in New Dallas. I’d forgotten. He owned so much land. Now, if I could just get him to tell me about Lucius.

“So what’s your real name, O man of many identities? I seriously doubt it’s Lucius.”

“I have a lot of names,” he answered vaguely.

We walked slowly, keeping pace beside each other, zigzagging through the thick trees and branches. Leaves and twigs snapped beneath our feet.

“I realize that,” I said. “But I want to know yourreal name.”

He glanced down at me. “I’ll give you three guesses.”

“We’re alone, and there’s no chance of anyone listening in on our conversation. You can tell me.”

“Maybe I only tell women I’ve seen naked.”

“Is your name Bastard?” I fluttered my lashes at him.

“Wrong.” A hint of amusement laced his tone. “Only two guesses left.”

Frowning, I stopped and stomped my foot. When I realized what I had done, my frown intensified. I hated when I reverted to my old princess ways. “That wasn’t a true guess, so you can’t count it.”

“Too bad,” he said, never slowing. “I am.”

My frown became a scowl, and I jumped back into motion. “Forget it. Don’t tell me.”

“I wasn’t going to. But now that I have your permission not to, I feel so much better,” he said, sarcasm dripping from each word.

“You are such a jerk.”

A teasing light sparkled in his eyes, softening his entire face. “My mother always told me women like mysterious men. If I tell you, I’ll lose my mystery.”

“You have a mother?” I hadn’t meant the question to sound so shocked, but the words whipped out of my mouth before I could stop them.

“Yes, I had a mother. I didn’t get much time with her, but she was very real. What, did you think I’d been spawned magically from fairy dust?”