Betrayed and sold into slavery after her father’s death, Rory Banks finds herself dancing on the Exos, a deep-space pleasure ship. So when a stranger breaks open her cage and offers her a way out, she grabs it and runs.
Kal Marks and his brothers are space mercenaries and traders who have spent the past ten years searching for their younger sister. Their hunt has led them to the Exos and to Rory, who they hope will have information. But Kal never counted on wanting Rory or on the sexual tension and scorching heat that blazes between them. This mission just got a lot more complicated.
Aurora Banks had seen just about everything in her twenty-two years of living, and most of it wasn’t pretty. But this was the last thing she’d expected to happen when she was shoved into the dancing cage a few hours ago.
The man standing before her with his hand out was tall and broad and downright intimidating. His eyes were a piercing green, and his silky black hair fell around his shoulders. A thick scar ran from just below his eye by his nose all the way out to his ear.
If she were totally honest, he was handsome in a rough-looking way. Not that it mattered. He was a way out of this nightmare. Rory only hoped she wasn’t jumping from one bad situation to an even worse one.
Trusting her instincts, she reached out and took his hand. It was warm and strong as it closed around hers and pulled her to the edge of the cage. He lifted her down from her gilded prison, wrapped one strong arm around her, and hustled her toward the wide red door that blocked their path to freedom.
“The guards.” She had to yell to be heard above the din of the yelling and fighting. They called themselves bouncers, but they were here to do more than keep the peace. Their main job was to make sure they didn’t lose any of the merchandise or the money. And all the women on board were considered prime merchandise.
“You let me worry about them.” Her liberator reached inside his shirt and drew out a compact-sized blaster.
Something crashed behind her, and she automatically began to look toward it. He caught her chin and turned her face away. “Look forward, not back.”
That was good advice. She ignored the noise and the fighting and hurried to keep up.
One man, a Crebian by the looks of his greenish-blue skin, tried to stop them. The man beside her didn’t even pause. He simply raised his hand and shot the blaster. The Crebian fell to the floor, and the men around him stepped back, giving them a wide berth.
Rory didn’t know how her rescuer had managed to get the weapon on board the Exos, as there were stringent controls in place to keep such a thing from happening. She should know as she’d spent the past month trying to find a weak spot in their security system so she could plan her escape.
They pushed their way through the door. The man beside her tightened his grip on her wrist. His urgency became hers. “Run,” he told her. Giving no thought to the mistake she could be making, Rory ran, her bare feet slapping against the metal floor as she was practically dragged behind him.
“We’re coming in hot.”
At first, she thought he was talking to her. It took her a moment to realize he was speaking into a communication device strapped to his wrist. And it wasn’t just any communication device. This one was top-of-the-line and went for at least one-thousand Alliance credits, maybe more.
Who was this guy? Laborers and miners didn’t waste their hard-earned money on fancy communication devices. They tended to splurge on booze and women when they had a few extra credits.
“Roger that,” a deep voice replied. “Hurry the fuck up.”
Rory shivered. Whoever the voice belonged to, he did not sound happy.
“Just fire up the engines and be ready for anything.” He picked up his pace. “Not much farther,” he told her. “We’re docked at J portal.”
Rory glanced at the sign on the wall. They’d just passed the H portal. She did her best to keep up with the pace he set, but it wasn’t easy. She wasn’t used to having to run for her life.
He stopped suddenly, slammed her body against the wall, and threw himself on top of her. She heard the sound of a blaster, and then his big body jerked against hers.
Rory screamed. Her rescuer had been shot. She wasn’t going back to the cage. She wasn’t. She scrambled for the blaster in his hand even as the pounding of boots got closer. But when she lunged for the weapon, it was already out of reach.
Her liberator whirled around and returned the guard’s fire, the blaster steady in his hand. She peeked around his shoulder in time to see the two burly guards drop to the deck. “Come on.” He tugged her behind him, practically dragging her. She tripped but managed to stay on her feet.
The J deck came into view. Instead of relaxing, she grew even tenser. She knew better than to think this was over. No woman had ever been taken off the Exos. The captain wouldn’t allow it to happen. His reputation was on the line. If one woman was taken, then many would see all of them as fair game. The Exos would be constantly under attack. Pleasure ships stayed in business by being utterly ruthless to any who broke their rules and by having impenetrable defenses.
The panel whooshed open, and he practically threw her through it. “Get on the ship. Now.”
A fairly large deep-space-class trader was docked on the other side of the portal. The door to the vessel slid open, and a man stood there in full body armor, holding a massive blaster cradled in his arms.
Rory moved closer to her rescuer and clutched the hem of his shirt. He didn’t pay her any attention as he was too busy peering around the panel. “Come on. Come on,” he muttered under his breath. It occurred to her that he must have had an accomplice, someone who had aided him in her escape.
The man with the massive weapon beckoned her forward, but she wasn’t going anywhere. Not without the man beside her. She may not know his name, but she trusted him more than the unknown man waving her toward the ship. He’d protected her from the guard’s blasters. She’d be dead if he hadn’t.