Liam is the most deliciously bothersome cyborg Emma has ever met. When he rescues her from a kidnap attempt, he decides he needs more time to get to know her so he heads to the far side of the galaxy instead of taking her home.More info →
It felt as if an army of nasty little hammer-wielding cyborgs had taken up residence inside her head, and they were an energetic bunch, the blows raining down hard and fast.
Emma opened her eyes a slit, desperately trying to remember where she was, and how she’d gotten there. One thing she was sure of – this wasn’t the bunk on her cute little interplanetary shuttle. It was way too uncomfortable for that.
Despite the fact that she’d just regained consciousness, it felt like she was vertical, in a standing position. She attempted to move, but found she couldn’t. Strange. She really was vertical. Her hands were fastened to the wall above her head. She tugged experimentally, but they didn’t budge.
Mag-lok cuffs? Hadn’t they been outlawed in the last inter-species treaty?
She took a deep breath, willing the pounding in her head to settle down. She needed to be able to think. Maybe the hammer wielding psychos were ready for a coffee break? Or maybe she could have them murdered by a rogue asteroid. It felt like one of those had slammed into her midsection.
What the hell happened to her?
The last thing she remembered, she’d been on a quick trip to one of the outer rim farming colonies to purchases some herbs for her store. Planet grown herbs were always preferable to the ones raised in the hydroponics labs on the orbital stations. She was pretty sure she hadn’t made it to her destination.
She remembered spotting an anomaly on her star holo-grid, out toward the energy ring that the high council had put in place to deflect incoming space debris. Common sense told her that it was probably a computer glitch, and she’d ignored it in her hurry to get her hands on some of the fresh, planet grown herbs. Try as she might, she couldn’t remember anything else. Maybe she’d been rammed by a bit of rogue space junk?
But that didn’t explain how she’d managed to end up attached to a wall.
A movement to her left caught her attention, and she tensed, turning her head to zassess the new threat.
Bad move. Her stomach lurched, threatening to discharge her last meal. She took a deep breath and willed it under control.
“About time you came around. I was starting to think I’d mistakenly captured a pampered cyborg female. Can’t imagine a human female fainting just because she ran low on oxygen. Especially not one as delectable as you.”
A large male stalked into her line of vision. He turned to adjust something on the control panel in front of him and she realized it wasn’t just any male. It was Liam, the most deliciously bothersome cyborg on all of Terras Five. Her traitorous body reacted eagerly to the sight of the one man she’d never been able to forget.
Given the way their last meeting had ended, she supposed she should feel scared, but all she could manage was pissed off. He’d disappeared without so much as a goodbye. She might have understood if he’d been called away on some kind of cyborg emergency, but he hadn’t bothered to call and explain. He could have called. He should have called, damn it!
Hoping she looks at least half as angry as she felt, she glared at him. “You have one hell of a nerve! Now get me down from here.”
He turned and regarded her with cool amusement. “And why would I do that?”
She lifted her brows, her voice dripping ice. Right now, he was much more bothersome than delicious. “Because I’m a citizen of the Alliance and if you don’t I’m going to kick your ass ten ways to Venus when I manage to free myself.”
“Well then of course I’ll let you down.” He turned back to his control panel. “Just as soon as I get myself out of the mess you’ve landed us in.”
“Mess I landed us in? What the hell are you talking about? I was peacefully going about my business, last I recall. How I managed to land in your none too gentle care should be an interesting story. I’ll be sure the interplanetary council hears all about it as soon as we’re planet side.”
She tried folding her hand as small as it went, but she still couldn’t slide it out of the cuffs. She suspected Liam had managed to program them to sense movement and tighten accordingly. His cyborg implants made working with tech almost instinctive, something else she found annoying about him. Well that, and the way her body responded to the sight of his well-muscled torso.
“The Tra’an would never have risked slipping inside the energy ring if you hadn’t thrown yourself at them, which necessitated me coming out of hiding to save your sorry little human ass. Couldn’t very well let them get their claws on a tasty little morsel like you. ”His gaze flickered over her. “Especially since I haven’t finished with you yet.”
As the realization hit, Emma winced. Oh crap. Those distortions in the space around her ship. She’d heard rumors of the Tra’an developing a cloaking device but security matters were always on a need to know basis and she wasn’t quite important enough to be included in those kinds of briefings. If the lizards had been skulking around the edge of the protected zone, an unarmed scout ship with a single female occupant would have been an irresistible lure. Still… “Who the hell asked you to come to my aid? I’m quite capable of looking after myself.”
That got his attention, and he didn’t look pleased. “Seriously? ‘Cause I can throw you back.” He snapped his fingers, frowning in mock concern. “Oh right. You’re ship got blown to a zillion itty bitty little pieces. I guess you’re stuck with me for now.”
“My ship was destroyed?” Why couldn’t she remember even the tiniest detail?
In reply, Liam flicked his hand across the panel and the forward display screen blossomed to life.
Emma’s jaw dropped in shock as she stared at what remained of her little shuttle.
The smile on the big cyborg’s face was tinged with something undefined. Fear? For her? “Kaboom. Nothing left but a collection of tiny little bits of metal floating around in space.”
Wow. Really, tiny bits. “How did you manage to get me off of there alive?”
He shrugged one of those amazingly muscular shoulders. “Timing is everything. Plus, I’m good. Really good. Scare off a few lizards, rescue a damsel in distress. All in a day’s work.”
She really should feel grateful to him for saving her life, but Emma felt a twinge of annoyance. The guy had a smart-ass answer for everything. He was the most arrogant male she’d ever met. Plus, he could have stashed her in sick bay instead of plastering her against the wall of the bridge.
Something about the story bothered her, probably because it made her sound like an idiot. Or maybe she just felt a tiny bit guilty for her recklessness? Why had she ignored the anomalies on her screen?
She studied the display. Not a single sign of the Tra’an. Maybe he’d blown up her ship just to get his hand on her, and made up the part about the Tra’an? The anomaly she’d seen could easily have been caused by a ripple in the time space continuum. Invisible Tra’an were a convenient excuse.
As if he could read her mind, Liam looked up at the screen, his fingers dancing across the control panel. The display darkened, and suddenly she could see not one, but five anomalies. The rippled sectors stood out in stark contrast against the darker background.
She frowned at the screen. “How did you do that? Those are the Tran’an ships, aren’t they?”
“It’s a reverse image. The cloaking device is set to mirror normal space back at the observer, but if I switch my monitor panels to negative display mode, the image being reflected back stands out like a sore thumb.” He fiddled with the panel a bit more. “Didn’t want you thinking I’d blown up your ship and kidnapped you just because I was eager to go another few rounds with you. I prefer my breeders willing.”
Emma gasped. “Seriously?” And what did he mean, breeder. She was not a cyborg female, her worth measured by the children she could bear.
“Seriously. Despite what you think of me, I don’t have to force myself on females.” Turning on his heel, he sauntered over to her. “That’s what you humans think we do, isn’t it? Capture and imprison available young human females to use as brood mares, keep them on their backs or pregnant in order to further our cyborg breeding programs?”
She opened her mouth, but couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Although there was a huge grain of truth in his statement, when he put it like that, it sounded ridiculous.
Most Cyborg females felt their way of life was far superior to that of their counterparts in the human world. They choose who they allowed to father their children, and were well compensated with a soft life for their efforts. They never had to worry about food or shelter. Human females, on the other hand, were forced to fight alongside their male counterparts, and often had to defend themselves against unwanted male attention as well.
A small percentage of human females willingly surrendered themselves to the cyborg lifestyle on their own each sun-cycle.
“Not got a quick answer for that one? Why am I not surprised?” His eyes darkened as he lifted a hand to run one finger down the line of neck and lower, trailing across the swell of her breasts. “I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind adding you to my stable.”
His stable? “Whoa!” Emma struggled to free herself from the cuffs. “I am not one of your cyborg females. You can’t just decide to take me because you happened to catch me in a weak moment.”
“Actually.” The corner of his lip curled in a disturbingly sexy smile. “It looks to me like I can. You aren’t in any position to stop me, now are you?”
Now why did that make her womb clench in anticipation? She should be thinking up ways to get herself out of this mess, instead of wondering if his hands would feel as good as she remembered on her naked flesh.
“Someone is going to notice I’m missing when my store remains closed. And that someone is going to send someone looking for me when I don’t return.” Wow, that was lame. She might as well have admitted she needed help to get away from him.
Liam gestured at the display screen. “When they see that, your someone is going to regretfully assign your store space to a new shopkeeper. Hopefully she’ll wait a parsec or two before she tosses everything in the trash. That might give you time to get back there and claim your personal effects.”
Emma studied the itty, bitty pieces of metal floating in the display grid, and sighed. He was right. No one in their right mind would go looking for a survivor after seeing that level of destruction. “I sure hope they remember to water the plants.”
He stared at her for a long moment, disbelief furrowing his brow. “You were almost killed, captured by the Tra’an, and your biggest worry is whether, or not someone thinks to water your plants?”
She forced herself to relax. If he was going to hurt her, he would have done it while she was unconscious. “Some of those plants are rare specimens, herbs that have taken me years to cultivate. If they aren’t taken care of properly they’ll die and I’ll have to start all over again. That’s assuming I can find seedlings to use as starters.”
She cocked her head. “If you’re not planning on dragging me back to your cave for a session of dungeon master, why am I strung up on this wall like a carcass waiting for the butcher?”
“You could be waiting for something else.” He traced the curve of her hip with one hand, sending flickers of sizzling heat dancing across the surface of her skin. “Such as a night of phenomenal love-making. I hear some of you human females like to play with bondage, pretend you’re not a willing participant.”
Emma snorted. “Some maybe, but definitely not me and not with cyborgs. I don’t appreciate being hurt while I’m having sex.”
The smile was genuine this time, mischief dancing in those amazing eyes. “Sex with me isn’t going to hurt, unless human females can die from too much pleasure?”
She lifted one brow. “Not too sure of yourself, are you?”
He shrugged, the look on his face decidedly smug. “Never had any complaints.”
“Good to know. Just in case I’m ever really that desperate.”
He lifted one brow. “Is that a challenge?”
She stared at him in silence for one long moment, not a hardship by any means. He was an amazing delicious specimen of a male. Tall and muscular, his broad shoulders tapered to a mouthwatering butt. Thick ropes of muscles crisscrossed his entire body, outlined in minute detail by the tight spacesuit he currently wore. His face was hard and angular, his jaw solidly square. She knew from their previous encounter that he was used to getting his own way, and when he did she wouldn’t mind one bit.
Cyborgs weren’t genetically different from humans, they were actually offshoots of the same species. The humans who had elected to form the cyborg nation opted for a rigorously selective breeding program to give their children the best genetics possible. When the males were toddlers, they were implanted with the cybernetic enhancements that fused to their skeletal and nervous systems, growing with the child until adulthood. The females weren’t enhanced, as the scientists feared what those enhancements might do to their reproductive abilities. In reality, there was no genetic difference between a human and a cyborg female. Hence, the fear that the cyborg nation kidnapped unwary human females to use in their breeding programs.
Emma tilted her head to look down her nose at him. “No, just a statement of fact.” She paused. “Now could you please get me down off this wall? I’m starting to lose the feelings in my hand.”
“I’d think a tough woman like you would be used to a bit of discomfort. Think of it as foreplay.” He flipped the display back to normal, fiddling with the input board in front of him.
“Since we won’t be doing anything requiring foreplay, I don’t think the discomfort is warranted. Now could you let me down?” She paused. Begging just wasn’t in her nature, but she really wanted to get down. Taking a deep breath, she tried to not to let her irritation show on her face. “Please?”
He turned then, and grinned up at her. His eyes danced with mirth. “I bet that was one of the most difficult things you’ve done this moon cycle.”
“Close.” She arched one brow. “Did it work?”
He shook his head. “No, but you get top marks for effort. Unfortunately, I can’t have you running loose on my ship when I need to concentrate all my attention on slipping out of the reach of the Tra’an. I don’t think either of us are interested in tasting their hospitality.”
“True, but if you let me down, I can call the space station for help. There’s a platoon of military personnel stationed there.” She paused as the realization sunk in. “You ran the other way when you picked me up, didn’t you? We could have been safely inside the security zone of my home system by now but we’re not. Where are we?”
“You catch on fast. I like a female with brains. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it wise to show up on a human planet with one of their females held captive and a wild story about Tra’an infiltrating their sector.” He walked over to stand in front of her, and the emotions swirling in the depths of his eyes sent a hint of alarm racing through her.
“Do you have any idea how delectable you look hanging on that wall?” Cupping her chin in his hand, he closed his mouth over hers.
He tasted warm and male and very much in charge. Emma didn’t respond at first, willing herself to remain passive under Liam’s invading mouth, but there’s only so much a girl can take. She’d been attacked, had her ship blown to bits and been taken captive by a cyborg. She needed to take action. To do something to burn off the adrenalin coursing through her body and if this was the only action being offered, so be it.
The roar of blood rushing through her veins, the intense desire kindled by the touch of his lips on hers, sent all common-sense fleeing. Liam’s scent flooded her senses and all she could think of was his body buried deep inside her, quenching the fire that had ignited at the first touch of his lips on her.
Opening her mouth, she bit down on his lower lip, daring him to retaliate. The metallic taste of blood filled her senses. On some level, she knew this was a bad idea. A really bad idea. Baiting a cyborg was tantamount to insanity, especially in her current position.
Liam let out a deep growl, wordlessly accepting her challenge. His mouth moved aggressively over hers, plundering willfully, his tongue dancing through every nook and cranny.
He had the upper hand, and they both knew it.
Emma moved her head, forcing him to follow. It was a small victory, one quickly forgotten as desire overwhelmed her. Darts of liquid heat danced down her spine, and she offered herself up to him. Using her tongue as a weapon, she engaged him in an erotic duel that sent her libido soaring.
Everything about this deliciously bothersome cyborg made her senses tingle. She shouldn’t feel this way. It was bad. Worse than bad, it was self-defeating. If she let him take her, there would be no going back. Cyborgs were not known for their generosity. What they considered theirs, they held onto with a fierceness that would put a moon cat to shame.
Still, it was only a kiss. And maybe a quick coupling to relieve the tension. They’d been here before. No harm in a do-over, right?