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I lifted my gaze, caught by the most beautiful light blue eyes I’d ever seen. His sharp-featured face held a soft layer of black stubble along a masculine jaw, and true concern narrowed his eyes as he looked me over. Shock nearly sent me to my feet as something inside me warmed. Instead, I tilted my head to bring some of my hair over my face. This way, when my owner came back, he wouldn’t catch me staring.
“Hey,” the man breathed, reaching out to gently push my hair out of my eyes.
I flinched. No one touched me without my owner’s permission.
The human pulled his hand back, black eyebrows meeting in a frown. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I won’t hurt you.”
The sound of a door slamming outside the room made me flinch again. “You shouldn’t be in here,” I whispered.
“Gorgeous, nobody tells me where I can and can’t be, so don’t worry. I’m sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be. What’s your name?”
Another crash sounded and fear stiffened my spine. “If my owner finds you in here, he’ll kill you.”
“It would be a real shame to erase this beauty from the worlds, wouldn’t you say?” He gestured at his lean, compact body, which was covered in strange dark blue pants and a long-sleeved black shirt. His grin faltered. “Owner? So you aren’t here of your own volition?” Blue eyes dipped as he took in my thighs. “No, I can see you aren’t.” His lips tightened.
It was then I noticed the odd gun in his hand, the way he kept partially facing the door—ready—like he waited for someone else to come through it. “I’m not supposed to see anyone other than my owner. Please. Go.”
“What if this is a rescue?” He reached for my face again with his free hand, his fingers hesitating inches from my cheek. “Sorry. It’s actually hard not to touch you. You have the most stunning skin and eyes.”
“Rescue?” I’d been here longer than I could remember. Shut out from the real world, not allowed to watch news vids, talk to hardly anyone other than my owner—if he let me talk at all. I still didn’t understand why he’d bought me. He couldn’t get it up for women and more often than not, took his frustration over this out on my body. Especially since he’d murdered his last toy—a young Gwinarian male my owner had let me visit when I was good, when I didn’t cower before the weapons. There were six healing strips on my inner thighs that proved cowering or not no longer mattered. He’d even made me sharpen the knife before he’d used it on me.
He said he bought me because I’m unique among Gwinarians. Made sense. His obsession for my race bordered on psychotic. Deep pain still throbbed in my heart over the loss of that sweet teenager.
“Do you want to go home?” He turned to face the door, but watched me out of the corner of his eye.
Grief slashed through me before I schooled my expression. “My home was destroyed years ago.”
He frowned again. “Just how long have you been locked up like this? Don’t you know about Kithra’s rebuild?”
I rose on my knees, pushing my hair off my face this time as I boldly met his eyes. I opened my mouth to ask questions, then slammed it shut as a masculine roar sounded from down the passageway. I knew that yell and every hair on my body stood. Jumping up, I ran to the closet and palmed it open before returning to the human to wrap my fingers around his arm. His very solid, strong and warm arm. Surprised again by my body’s response to him, I shoved the feeling aside as real terror quickly took over. “He has guards and handlers and they’re just as sadistic as he is. You have to hide. I’ll find a way to get you out later.” I tried to pull him toward the closet.
He wasn’t a tall man, maybe five feet eight, and he was built tight, but coiled strength kept him firmly in place. “I don’t think you understand what’s going on here.”
“How did you even get down here?” Para Lashin’s security was top notch. He kept this entire sub floor of the entertainment ship as his home. Guards stood at every entrance and cameras filled every available space above. He kept me so carefully guarded, I hadn’t seen another person outside of him or his guards since the last government official had come for dinner…and a night with me.
I didn’t know this human, but something told me he deserved saving. I tried to pull his arm again before stopping to look into those sharp eyes. We were the same height. “Listen to me. You have to hide. I’ve seen him kill others for just looking at me. And he didn’t do it quickly.”
He looked down at my hand on his arm before blinking long, dark lashes back up at me. They should have made him look feminine, but his face was too sharp, too masculine. Those lashes softened the icy-blue eyes and his curved grin sent foreign warmth sliding through my limbs again. Briefly, briefly, I wondered what it would be like if I begged him to take me away.
“You are simply stunning with your big eyes and lips and those acres of golden skin. And all the freckles… The Gwinarians I saw recently were beautiful too, but you take my breath away.”
My hand tightened on him. “You recently saw Gwinarians?”
He touched my face, sliding his thumb over my chin. Surprised, I didn’t flinch; I bit my lip and stepped back instead. It would be better if my owner didn’t find him touching me. “He’ll kill you. I promise.” I tried to smile and failed. It had been so long, I’d forgotten how. “I agree. It would be a shame to erase the world of your beauty, so please hide.”
“Aw.” He winked. “Flattery will get you everywhere.”
The sounds of fighting made me spin to run toward the door.
The human behind me hefted out a huge sigh. “As much fun as this conversation is, you need to move away from the door. I have a feeling it’s about to bust—”
The ship had old-fashioned doors that swung rather than slid into walls. This one slammed open and a broad-shouldered, tall man with wild blond hair stormed into the room. He turned and fired at someone behind him before banging the door closed and leaning against it. His wide chest rose and fell fast as he breathed hard, his green eyes going over the human’s body. “So, you’re fine. Good.” Tension left those shoulders as if he was relieved. “We seem to be cornered. Really think we should have followed your plan.”
“Now you say that. Gods, Anders. I told you to stay back. I’m much better at sneaking into places than you are.”
“That’s because you’re small.”
“I’m not small, asshole.”
The big blond’s gaze landed on me. He tensed up again, standing straight away from the door. “Oh.”
Silence filled the room as he stared, while outside the sounds of fighting grew louder. I couldn’t believe they weren’t doing something. Hiding, holding their guns on the door—anything. Fear made my stomach clench and it wasn’t for me. I had no idea who they were or why there were here, but something told me they didn’t deserve what my owner would do. I swallowed the heavy lump in my throat, opened my mouth to beg them to leave, and stiffened when the blond’s eyes snapped to my lips, his nostrils flaring, his eyes narrowing. Pure shock zapped my system. What was it about these two?
The human behind me chuckled. “First time I’ve seen you stunned into silence. Pretty, isn’t she?”
“Pretty doesn’t come close to the right description for this one.” His green gaze roamed my body with warm appreciation, until he got to the long wounds on my thighs. His free hand closed into a fist as he took a step toward me, eyes narrowing. “You with Para Lashin, sweetheart?”
He talked funny, his deep, sexy voice drawing out the vowels like they came out of his mouth on curves. My belly fluttered.
“You ask for those lines on that pretty skin?”
The dark-haired man growled. “Of course she didn’t, Anders.”
“Really? Did you forget we’re on an entertainment ship? Some people like pain. She could be a customer.” He looked at my legs again. “Though, those don’t look none too pleasurable. Too thick. Too deep. One looks bad.”
I didn’t have to look down to know which one. It burned deeper than the other five, had bled a lot more. Without medical supplies or even a needle for stitches, I’d had to tie scarves tight around my thighs to hold the wound closed.
He clenched his jaw. “Lashin do that to you?”
Something crashed into the door behind the blond man and I gasped, expecting my owner and his guards to barrel through the door and kill these humans. I didn’t want to see anyone else killed, especially not these men. They were so full of life. Knowing I’d probably be executed for this, I ran to the corner of the room and swiped all electronics off a shoulder-high shelf, revealing a keypad built into the wall. I typed in a series of numbers and letters. A paneled wall slid open and I pointed inside. “There are weapons in here and another way out. Please hurry.” I’d been here so long, my owner didn’t bother hiding combinations—though the first time he’d used the code in front of me, I’d expected to die every time I was in his presence for the next month.
“Aw, her rescue is becoming ours.” The dark-haired man walked toward me with purpose and intent in every taut step. Face down, eyes cast up toward me, he didn’t stop until he stood close enough for me to feel his breath brush over my lips. “Anders, I don’t think this woman is with Para Lashin on purpose. I believe she’s a slave.” His eyes dropped to my lips before that dark frown returned. “We came to watch Lashin being carted off to prison.”
“We were just supposed to locate him and turn him over to the enforcers, but the captain here decided we should sneak aboard and help.”
One black eyebrow lifted. “And you didn’t want to come? What was that about finding files off the grid?”
“Yeah, well, I don’t see anything worth stealing in this room. Other than the obvious, of course.” He looked at me.
The captain nodded. “We won’t be stealing her.” He looked at me. “Will you come with us? We’ll take you home.”
“You’re asking her?” Anders released a loud, long-suffering sigh. I got the feeling he did this a lot around the other human. “Claybourne, just grab her and go. I’m sure Juniper and the others can hold Lashin and what guards he has left back, but I’ve changed my mind about letting the government take him.” He turned, knuckles white around his laser gun. “I’m gonna kill him.”
The blond ignored him, striding toward the door. My heart beat so hard in my chest, I was terrified it would push through my ribs.
The man—Claybourne, Anders had called him—hurried to Anders and grabbed his arm. “Anders, listen to me. There are too many out there. The guys are in a good spot at the end of this passageway. They’ll get away before the enforcers get here, but you know Juniper has strict orders to wait up until that moment. I want Lashin on Bastilleen. Think about the absolute hell he’ll go through. There are probably former victims of his there, and now that the worlds will soon know about what he did to Kithra, how much worse will it be?”
Kithra? I burned with questions but had spent too many years conditioned to keep silent.
Anders stared down at Claybourne, glanced at me, then returned to the shorter man, his expression softening. True affection blazed through the anger. “Grab the pretty girl, Captain.”