POWER

Dark Anomaly, book 2

Chapter 1

 

The impact was enormous. Much harder than I’d expected. The hull of our spaceship groaned and screeched. The walls warped and bulged. The panel closest to Val, one of our pilots, caved in, somehow breaking through the protective energy barrier around her chair. She screamed in pain as the armrest snapped, digging into her side.

Jose, the captain, had lost control during the landing, which turned into a crash. I’d caught the moment it happened. His eyes grew larger as he frantically ran his fingers over the control panel. His skin paled, and perspiration beaded on his forehead. No matter how hard he worked, he couldn’t prevent our ship from slamming into the edge of the anomaly harder than even the worst of the landings during our training sessions.

Then, all went still and dark.

A moment later, the auxiliary system kicked in, flicking on the lights.

“Val!” Jose climbed out of his seat and rushed to his second-in-command who doubled over in her seat. “Are you okay?”

“I’m pretty sure I broke my rib,” she groaned, pressing her hand to her side. “And I think I’m bleeding.

Like all of us, Val was wearing a pale-blue suit, covered with colorful logos from the collar to the boots. I saw no tearing in the material and no blood. It didn’t mean she wasn’t bleeding underneath it.

Lee, the scientist on board, clicked his seat belt off and jumped out of his chair. “We need to get her into the medical capsule.”

Val groaned softly as Lee led her to the wall with the medical bed concealed inside.

“How is everyone else doing?” Jose rose to his feet, surveying the rest of us—two on-board engineers and me, the movie producer.

Yes, that was what I was—the movie producer. My sole purpose on the team was to record everything that could later be assembled into a movie, a documentary, or a series to air for profit. The footage would also provide visual evidence of whatever we discovered here.

The Earth Space Coalition had stopped exploration of the Anomaly GR-A8502 shortly after the disappearance of the scientist Svetlana Kostyk. She had been part of the team studying the mysterious anomaly from a station that orbited the nearby water world Omphi. She’d gone missing during a solo mission a little over fifty years ago. Her ship had lost all communications with the station, and neither the ship nor Svetlana Kostyk had ever been found.

Passionate about her work and new discoveries, it was believed that Svetlana might have come too close to the Anomaly and had been sucked in along with her ship.

Instead of shedding some light on the mysterious Anomaly, Svetlana had only added more mystery to this celestial body. Her disappearance sparked a number of speculations on what might be inside it.

Five years ago, it had been proven that a solid core lay at the center of the unpredictable force field, renewing keen interest in exploring it further. The mission was deemed too risky by the Earth governments who refused to finance it. Luckily, several private corporations had stepped in, outfitting our expedition.

“Nadia? Are you okay?” Jose glanced my way, not leaving Val’s side.

I climbed out of my chair, unsteadily. “I’m fine, I think—”

A screeching noise cut me off, then a fountain of sparks shot from the wall. Another malfunction? Were we not done crashing yet?

Both engineers rushed to the wall but were forced to keep their distance as the spray of sparks fanned in a wide circle. The melting paneling material dripped to the floor.

“Get in the suits, everyone!” Jose ordered. “We have a hull breach.”

Lee quickly turned Val toward the hatch where our suits were kept. I ran after them.

With a slamming sound, an uneven oval cut-out of the wall fell in, followed by a smoky cloud with a chemical smell.

“What the—” I heard the confused voice of one of the engineers who was fully enveloped into the smoke. His voice was cut off by a wet crunchy sound I couldn’t place at first.

A tall, dark figure emerged from the dissipating smoke that rolled off his shoulders like a cloak.

Then the motionless body of the engineer came into view. He lay on the floor, his neck twisted at an unnatural angle. My stomach roiled when it dawned on me what that wet-snappy sound had been. The monster that had just barged onto our ship had snapped my teammate’s neck.

I stepped back, frozen in shock and horror. I’d never witnessed a murder before. Heck, I’d never seen any crime being committed right in front of me. Crime, in general, had been all but eliminated on all the main planets of the Federation, including Earth.

I kept staring at the motionless body on the floor, unable to move a muscle. The man who’d been a living, breathing, thinking individual just moments ago, was nothing but a corpse with its neck snapped.

Jose recovered first.

“We are a peaceful delegation!” He faced the newcomer—the errock, I recognized his species.

His yellow eyes narrowed as he gave each of us an assessing glare.

At least a few inches taller than the biggest man of my crew, the errock seemed twice as broad. His reddish skin darkened to gray on the hard ridges running along his arms and bald head. Wearing black pants, dark boots, and a wide utility belt, the male was topless.

Errocks were a civilized nation. Yet this individual’s behavior was that of a feral, murderous animal.

The second engineer suddenly leaped on the newcomer’s back with a laser knife clutched in his hand.

With a grunt, the errock grabbed the engineer’s head and yanked it, twisting it with his hands. The human’s neck snapped with the same wet cracking noise I’d heard earlier. I swayed on my feet, ready to barf.

“Oh, my God…” Val whimpered. She staggered backwards to the wall while pressing an arm to her side. Her face as white as the wall behind her, she slid to the floor.

“Run!” Jose shoved me aside, grabbing a long, heavy tool from the shelf in the suit storage.

Run! But where?

According to the glowing sign over the airlock by the control panel, outer space lay behind it. I had no time to get into my spacesuit. We were trapped on the ship, with the huge, murderous errock blocking the only exit he’d created. Where did he come from? Why was he killing everyone unprovoked?

I had no idea, but it was clear he wasn’t going to stop. A murderous glimmer in his eyes, lips curved in a menacing smile, he faced Jose.

I anxiously darted my gaze along the walls and the ceiling around me, searching for an escape route, a place to hide, anything. Running to our sleeping cabin would only make it easier for the errock to corner me there.

My body shook. Everything inside me vibrated with horror and the need to escape.

The escape capsule!

Tripping over my feet, I dashed for the round door next to the suit storage.

From the corner of my eye, I caught the sight of Jose being hurled against the wall by the monstrous errock. Our captain’s head dangled awkwardly, only attached to his body with muscles and skin.

Lee ran for the opening the errock had cut out, probably hoping to escape that way.

Val was lying on the floor next to the round table in our common area in the middle of the ship.

“Val!” I yelled. “Here!”

Curled into a ball, she didn’t move. Was she dead, too? The monster must’ve gotten her already.

“Lee!” I screamed, stabbing my fingers into the control panel next to the entrance of the escape capsule. The door slid open, and I climbed in.

I poked my head out, searching for Lee. The errock held him over his head. He slammed our scientist over his knee, snapping the man’s spine in half.

My head span, terror lodging tight in my throat. I hit the panel on the other side of the door, locking myself inside.

The capsule was designed to take us off the Anomaly upon completion of our mission if the ship failed.

My entire team had been annihilated in seconds. Screw the mission, the documentary I was supposed to make, and the astronomical reward I’d been promised.

With trembling fingers, I strapped myself into one of the six seats inside the capsule and initiated the take-off sequence on the on-board computer.

I was the last survivor of our ill-fated expedition, and I was getting out of here.

A red warning flashed on the control panel in front of me.

“Not enough power to complete the take-off sequence.”

What exactly did it mean? I feverishly searched my brain for any mention of this message during my year-long training for this mission.

The capsule was much smaller than the spaceship. Its engines, however, were many times more powerful than the ship’s. The sole purpose of this thing was to take us off the Anomaly. Why wouldn’t it do just that?

Had something been damaged during our crash landing? I punched more buttons on the control panel, trying to troubleshoot the problem.

The dreadfully familiar sound scrapped against the capsule door from the outside.

The errock!

He had murdered my crew and was now cutting through the door of the capsule to get to me, too.

Again and again, I re-started the launch sequence, getting the same message.

“Not enough power.”

The shower of hot sparks blew into the capsule. The errock was cutting through the door, and I was trapped here, like a mouse in a jar, with nowhere left to run.

Panic shot through me.

“How much power do you need? To lift off a capsule the size of a bus?” I yelled at the control panel. Shaking with anger and fear, I punched it with my fists.

I heard a loud thud behind me. The fine hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I sensed his presence inside the capsule. His heavy breathing reached my ear.

I didn’t want to turn around and face him. Everything inside me urged me to curl into a ball and make myself invisible. Only, there was no place to hide in the capsule.

I’d been cornered.

“Where do you think you’re going?” the errock growled, mockingly.

Hearing him speak somehow made him even more monstrous. He obviously was a self-aware, intelligent being, not an enraged animal. Yet, he had killed my entire team in cold blood.

His words spurred me into action. I scrambled to the wall, avoiding his hands as he reached for me, then scurried for the opening he’d just made.

If I made it past him, I could get off the ship the way he had come. Fingers crossed, there were no more creatures like him out there.

Tripping over my hands and feet in panic, I climbed out of the opening and back into the spaceship.

“Not so fast.” The errock’s heavy hand swiped me off my feet.

I fell face down. Then the enormous weight of the errock crashed on top of me.

Nearly crushed under him, I could barely breathe. Clawing at the floor tiles with my fingers, I attempted to crawl from under him, but that was like trying to shift a tank off me.

“I’ll fuck you fast before anyone gets here,” he growled in my ear, yanking at my suit. “But I will fuck you, even if it’s the last thing I do.”

He hooked his fingers into the neckline of my suit from behind, and tugged it down, almost choking me. The material held, frustrating him. Painfully grabbing on to my shoulder and hip, he flipped me over.

I came face to face with my attacker. The look in his yellow eyes terrified me even more than his actions. There was no thought in them, no emotion other than the unhinged, feral lust.

Pinning my hips under his pelvis, he straddled me.

The moment his chest lifted off mine, I greedily sucked some air into my oxygen starved lungs.

“Female,” he smirked, pawing at my breasts through the suit. Leaning closer, he sniffed my neck. “Smell good, too. Good enough to eat.” He dragged his tongue down my throat.

“No. Please…” I whimpered, already knowing that my pleas would make no difference to him. He acted as if he didn’t even hear them, sniffing down my body.

Hooking his arms under my knees, he yanked them open and dropped his head between my thighs.

Around my core, I felt the heat of his mouth through the suit. Then a sharp pain blinded me as he bit down.

Anger cut through the terror from the pain. I thrashed in his arms, slamming my fists at his bald head. The three hard ridges running along his skull hurt my hands, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything other than getting as far away from this monster as possible.

“Yeah, fight me.” Satisfaction was thick in his growl as he effortlessly caught my both hands in one of his and fisted his other hand in my hair.

Tears sprang to my eyes at the pain on my scalp as he yanked.

“You didn’t wait for me, Nocc,” a new deep voice suddenly sounded from above us. “It’s against the rules to board a new ship on your own.”

Through the blurry film of tears, I saw another errock standing by. His arms folded across his chest, he seemed unaffected by the horrors that one of his species had inflicted on my spaceship and my person.

Did he come to join my attacker?

The thought made me wish I’d been killed along with Lee, Val, and the rest of my crew.

“Fuck off, Wyck,” the one called Nocc gritted through his teeth. His hand in my hair, he yanked my head back, grinding his crotch against me.

I screamed again at the sudden pain in my neck. It felt like it would snap any minute. Maybe he would kill me sooner than later?

Wyck, the second errock, grabbed Nocc around his throat and shoved him off me. I was able to draw a full breath once again.

“What the fuck!” Nocc leaped to his feet with a speed shocking for his size.

Wyck shifted from foot to foot, as if confused by his own action.

“You’re killing her,” he muttered.

“Not yet. First, I’m going to fuck her!” Nocc bellowed, lunging for me again. “You can stay and watch, but don’t you dare get in my way.”

I rolled on the floor, scrambling away from him. Nocc tripped over my foot with a long, filthy curse.

Wyck quickly stepped over my legs, placing himself between Nocc and me.

“Kill those who are aggressive,” he said. “Let the captain deal with the rest. Those are the rules for each new ship’s arrival.”

“Since when do you care about his rules?”

“There is no need to kill her.” It sounded more like a suggestion than a call to action. My defender wasn’t that passionate about defending me.

“I’m not killing her,” Nocc snarled. “I’m fucking her. Just as soon as I get her out of that damn suit.”

“Fucking and killing is the same in your case,” Wyck observed calmly.

“In our case, Wyck.” Nocc shoved at the other errock’s shoulder. “Don’t you forget that. Errocks are one and the same around here.” He threw a lustful look down at me. “Help me strip her. I’ll let you have what’s left of her after me.”

Thankfully, Wyck didn’t seem convinced.

“Vrateus will need to see her first.”

“Him? You know what will happen once he gets here. Nothing!” Nocc spat through his teeth. “I want my fun. Now.”

He licked his lips, glancing down at me again.

“I think you should wait.” That came as just another suggestion, though there was a certain power in Wyck’s voice.

“Why? Is it because he’s made you the leader of his guard?” Nocc scoffed. “Maybe you think he’ll give you the female?”

Both of them appeared too absorbed by their arguing to pay me much attention. Pulling my legs up, I crab-walked away from them.

A hissing growl behind me sent a chill of dread down my spine. Swinging my head around, I came face to face with a creature that could’ve only come from a nightmare. All of it felt like a horrible dream.

A three-headed animal the size of a large dog scowled and hissed at me. Each of its mouths possessed several rows of sharp translucent teeth. A wet roar vibrated in all three of its throats.

I choked on my next breath as the monster lunged for me. With a clank, the chain around its middle neck stretched, yanking the beast backwards. It was chained to the railing on the wall I realized with relief as I scurried out of its reach.

Now, I was trapped between the three-headed hissing monstrosity and the two giant errocks.

“Get out of my way!” Nocc roared, sending a powerful blow at Wyck’s jaw. The other errock staggered back, shaking his head.

“Fuck you, Nocc!” he yelled, lunging into a counterattack a moment later.

The two collided like giant boulders crashing into each other with the aftershock of the impact reverberating through the entire ship.

“You’re not getting her, boy,” Nocc squeezed through his clenched teeth, punching Wyck in the ribs.

“I am your fucking leader, Nocc!” Wyck pummeled Nocc’s head, landing one blow after another. How the other errockremained conscious and upright after that beating was beyond me.

Frantically, I searched for a way around them. With the escape capsule proven useless, I needed to sneak past them to the cut-out that Nocc had made in the hull of the ship. I had no idea what lay beyond it, but it couldn’t be much worse than what threatened me in here.

Stifling my whimpers of horror, I crawled over to Lee’s broken body. Jose was lying just a short distance away from him. Both dead. Val was gone, though. Did Nocc move her? Or was she still alive? The hope that she might’ve survived this nightmare and got away rose inside me.

Maybe I could get out of here, too?

My hope was quickly squashed as someone blocked the exit—a group of aliens, it appeared. Though, I had no chance to see who exactly or how many.

“What is going on here?” A tall male entered.

I quickly retreated to the animal on the chain. Ironically, the horrible beast seemed to be less threatening than the men. At least the animal would just kill me quickly. A shudder of fear and misery rolled through me at my utter lack of options.

Hardly sparing me a glance, the newcomer moved toward the errocks. He was dressed better than them in a white voluminous shirt, tall boots, and dark brown pants. He had a white stripe of fur on his head and a long, fluffy tail. His species seemed familiar, like I’d seen them in a picture somewhere.

Themul.

I remembered the name for his kind. They came from a small, obscure planet on the fringes of the Federation. I’d never met one in person before.

Brought down to his knees, Nocc smeared blood on his face with the back of his hand. He spoke to the newcomer, “This does not concern you. You already have a female. You can’t have them all.”

Wyck had pummeled him hard enough to break skin on his lip and possibly the cartridge in his nose. The two had fought like savage beasts. Over me, “the female?” Did I somehow land in pre-historic times? Unfortunately for me, the lives of women weren’t great back then.

I searched the floor for anything I could use as a weapon.

“So, you have fought, I see,” the newcomer said to the errocks. “Wyck won?”

Nocc leaped to his feet. “He is not getting her!”

Other aliens started to climb in through the opening. There were several different species. I recognized a dimo, his tall bulky body covered in hard plates similar to a rhinoceros, a few yourlus with clusters of pale-blue tentacles instead of arms and legs, and at least one black-and-beige ognat, with eight pairs of skinny limbs all along his oblong body.

“He did best you,” the themul said to Nocc.

My gaze fell on the handle of the laser knife under Lee’s foot. One of the engineers had dropped it. Keeping an eye on the males debating who “deserved” to rape me first, I scooted closer to Lee’s dead body.

The arguing grew louder.

“No one is getting the female!” the themul shouted fiercely over the noise. “No one!”

He lifted his hand, holding a gun. The sight of the weapon sent a new shiver of dread down my spine.

Sliding my hand under Lee’s foot, I swiped the knife handle quickly and hid it inside the long sleeve of my bodysuit. The laser utility knife was a tool, not a real a weapon. Still, having something to defend myself with made me feel a little better.

“She will be brought to the mess hall, weekly.” The themul said, making me snap to attention. “You’ll be getting your entertainment back.”

This man appeared to have authority over the rest of them. The errocks had stopped fighting in his presence. Those who had come later kept their distance, remaining close to the opening in the wall.

“As the leader of my personal guard, Wyck will have the honor of taking care of the female,” the themul announced.

What possibly could “taking care” mean in this place? I nervously balled my hands into fists, expecting Wyck to attack me any minute.

Nocc growled. Spitting on the floor, he threw a heated glare at the themul then stormed out, shoving everyone out of his way.

The man in the white shirt definitely was in charge here. Now, he was giving instructions to Wyck.

“What about the second female?” Wyck asked.

“What second female?” the themul replied sharply.

“When I got here, there were two females, at first.”

Two?

Wyck had seen Val, then. Where did she go? I hoped for her sake that she’d managed to hide on the ship somewhere.

One of the aliens called the themul “captain,” confirming my assumption that he must be the figure of authority here.

I took a bracing breath.

“You’re the leader here,” I addressed the captain.

“Was there another human female on the ship?” he asked me. “Where did she go?”

“Another?” I stared at him. There was no way I would tell him about Val. If she had managed to hide, she’d be better off staying hidden. “No. Just me. I’m the only one left alive,” I said quickly. “Listen, I’m appealing to you as the leader—”

“No,” the captain cut me off. “Wyck is in charge of you. Tell him what you need. Wyck, take her out of here, the rest of you…” he faced the males filling in the space. “You all will have to help me remove the equipment tonight.”

Everyone seemed to be moving on, leaving Wyck, the errock who had just fought for the right to rape me, “in charge” of me.

Panic spiked hot inside me. “Captain!” I scrambled to my feet.

“Listen,” Wyck spoke to me. “What’s your name?”

“I’m not talking to you,” I dismissed him quickly, moving after the captain who had already started to organize his crew.

Wyck strode to me. I’d never realized how massive errocks really were. Maybe because I’d never stood next to one this close before. Or maybe this one was especially huge, even for his kind.

Much taller than an average human male, Wyck towered over me. His chest was above my eye level, his bulging muscles partially concealed by a short leather vest that was open in the middle.

“Fine,” he said. “Don’t talk to me, then. I don’t care about anything you have to say, anyway.”

He wrapped his enormous hand around my arm, dragging me toward the opening in the wall as if I were nothing more than a fly.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Wyck

“Let me go!” The female thrashed in his grip as he took her out into the corridor.

Her scent, maddeningly tantalizing, assaulted his senses. Warm and feminine, she smelled…sweet, like the pollen sugar Svetlana used in her baking. Suddenly, he wondered if the female’s skin would also taste sweet if he licked it…

“Get your filthy paws off me!” She made another attempt to yank her arm out of his hand.

The males, crowding the corridor, snickered and leered. Some laughed openly.

Wyck closed his eyes for a moment and quickly exhaled the air rich with her enticing sweetness. Reining in the wild urges her presence had caused wasn’t easy, but he needed to focus. He was the newly appointed leader of the captain’s personal guard, and he would be damned if he’d let this woman humiliate him in front of the crew.

“Move it.” He clenched his jaw, shoving her ahead of him.

The crew parted as he walked her down the corridor, but he lacked the authority of Vrateus to command their respect. They didn’t remain quiet.

“Hey, Wyck, are you going to have fun with her?” Someone shouted from the back of the crowd.

“Can I get in on it, too?” Another one chuckled eagerly.

“Listen, you lost a bet three days ago. I want her to pay for you.” Krakhil, the dimo, unceremoniously reached out and grabbed her thigh, making the female squeal and jump.

“Out of the way,” Wyck growled low, shoving the dimo aside with his shoulder.

He didn’t ask for the female to be placed in his care. Now that this task had been assigned to him, however, he couldn’t fail. He already sensed that looking after her would bring its share of trouble.

The female made another attempt to twist out of his grip.

“Let me go, I said.” She even stomped her foot. Cute. But useless, nevertheless.

He didn’t waste words on her, dragging her along, past the crowd.

“Do you hear me at all?” she raised her voice. “Are you too dumb to understand? I’m not going anywhere with you, or with anyone of your kind. Not after what happened on the ship.”

She shoved her elbow into his ribs, hitting the flashlight in the pocket of his vest. The pointy end of the flashlight’s handle painfully jammed into his side, sending a flash of irritation through him.

“Stop this.” He yanked her arm sharply.

She cried out. The high-pitched sound brought him to a stop.

“You dislocated my shoulder!” she yelled, grabbing onto her arm with her other hand. “It hurts like hell!”

Was she really that fragile?

He let go of her, just in case, then stared, unsure what to do next.

She stopped screaming abruptly. Spinning on her heel, she bolted down the corridor, away from him.

A sly, little liar.

He stalked after her, being in no particular hurry. She disappeared out of sight, running around a bend in the corridor, but there was nowhere for her to run. She wouldn’t get far.

The corridor lay inside the outer layer of the Dark Anomaly’s disk, stretching along the entire habitable sector. It was long but not endless. The female wasn’t familiar with the layout of the Anomaly. She’d never find a place to hide where he wouldn’t find her. Besides, her scent trailed in a strong alluring tendril behind her, guiding him.

The female’s sharp cry made him move faster, though. It seemed she hadn’t made it far after all.

As he turned around the corner, the female came into view. Lying on the floor, she kicked her feet at Kex and Tezul who both tried to climb on top of her.

Instead of rushing to her rescue, Wyck slowed his pace.

Kex was a yourlu. The purple, four-armed Tezul was a bretoin. Both were horny but not hungry. Had she been attacked by one of the inherently cannibalistic types like ognats or kreers, he’d be worried about her being bitten and—depending on the location of the bite—seriously injured or even killed.

These two would simply try to get into her pants. Since Nocc’s actions hadn’t taught her to be cautious, Wyck decided to fall back and let these two teach her another lesson.

He was far less articulate than Vrateus, the captain, to eloquently explain to this female the dangers of running around the Dark Anomaly on her own. He also lacked the captain’s patience. Showing her what awaited her was much more efficient than telling, in his opinion.

He sauntered toward the trio rolling on the floor. Tezul used his six limbs to catch and immobilize the legs of the female, while Kex slithered his tentacles into the opening of her neckline, yanking the closure of her suit down. The two sides of it fell open.

The sight of the delicate globes of her partially exposed breasts momentarily stopped Wyck in his tracks. The impact of rushing desire felt like a physical blow to his groin. He swallowed a groan as both his cocks throbbed in the tight confines of his pants. Her sweet scent seemed to have permeated his entire being.

With a grunt, the female arched her back, freeing her arm. Something bright flashed in her hand, then half of one of Kex’s tentacles dropped to the floor with a wet, sloppy sound.

The female had a weapon!

And she’d sliced Kex’s tentacle off.

Alarm jolted him out of the stupor that his raging lust had plunged him into.

Kex wailed in pain. Tezul didn’t seem to notice anything at all, busy with fitting himself between her legs while ignoring her suit.

Grabbing Kex by the scruff of the short, tattered shirt he wore, Wyck tossed him aside. Next, he kicked Tezul off her. Whimpering and glaring at him, both scurried away.

“Come.” He reached for the female’s upper arm again, but she kept brandishing the knife in her hand.

Sitting up jerkily, she suddenly stabbed the blade into his side.

The pain zigzagged through him, the more acute as it was unexpected.

“What the fuck!” he roared, shock and anger rolling through him in swells. To his relief, however, at least his desire had subsided. “Why me?”

“Why not?” she bit out, her breathing ragged, her expression startled, as though her jamming the laser between his ribs surprised her as well. “Are you any better than them?”

She yanked the closure of her suit back up.

He certainly didn’t believe himself to be better—or worse—than anyone else on the Dark Anomaly. He was simply a part of the crew. One of them.

“Give it to me!” He wrestled her back to the ground.

Stradling her thighs, he pressed her arm to the floor then forced her fingers open to release the knife handle.

“No!” She slammed her free fist into the side of his head.

The blow was more infuriating than painful. The wriggling of her lithe body under him rushed blood to his groin, all over again.

“Would you stop?” He leaped off her, shoving the laser handle into a pocket on his vest.

“Give me back my knife.” Propped on her elbows, she glowered at him from the floor.

Her suit was primly closed all the way up to her throat now. But there was something about her position—her bent legs open, her breasts thrust upward—that made him momentarily lose focus.

She jumped up to her feet, going for the pocket where he’d put her knife. “I need it back!”

“And I need you to listen to me!” He caught her arms and gave her a shake.

This was not going well. His ability to concentrate around her was severely impaired, and he needed all his mental power to keep her safe. It didn’t help that she seemed to be dead set on getting herself in trouble.

Immobilized in his grip, she glared at him, her eyes wide open, wild and…green, like the plants in Malahki’s garden. Fear shone vividly through her expression. He sensed her body vibrating with it. Fear often made people make irrational decisions and act rashly, didn’t it?

Maybe he should try to calm her down first before attempting to talk any sense into her.

“You need to listen to me,” he said again, softer this time. Closing his eyes for a moment, he inhaled deeply. Her scent rushed in, filling his lungs, but he ignored it the best he could and loosened his grip on her arms somewhat. “What’s your name?” He asked again, keeping his voice low and calm.

She blinked, releasing a shuddered breath.

“Nadia.” Her voice trembled.

“My job is to keep you safe, Nadia. Don’t make me fail at it.”

All Rights Reserved. Copyright @Marina Simcoe

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