"Are you trying to pick a fight, angel?" Elliot growled, unable to stop the rasp of need in his voice. He hoped she couldn't recognize it for what it was. "I'm the wrong man."

 

She crossed her slim, well-toned arms, reminding him she wasn't just a pretty face. As the child of a First Family, and one with significant stakes in one of Mars' most successful Supercompanies, Katya was at risk from the moment she was born. Her parents had her in self-defense training as soon as she could walk, and she took to it like a fish to water. Elliot spent a large portion of the past thirteen years praying she stuck to her training. More than anything, his sanity depended on knowing she was safe.

 

His attention skimmed over, and he admired the way her crossed arms pushed up her breasts into soft, plump mounds -- a constant reminder of what he couldn't touch. He blinked, gave himself an internal shake, and watched her lips stretch in a smirk. "Something pops to mind about protesting too much. You're two for two, Davies."

 

He lifted one brow in surprise at the bitter undertone to her voice. Who was this woman? Certainly not the girl he remembered. As a girl, Katya was gracious and vivacious. Her zest for life, back then, made him dizzy. It was one of the things he missed most about her, over the years.

 

The woman before him now was different -- sharp and sarcastic. His mood darkened, wanting his sunshine girl back. Who took away your halo, angel?  "Now who's being rude?"

 

She sighed, and the anger dropped from her face. The defeated, weary expression suddenly in its place churned his gut. She reminded him of Naomi. He didn't like it. "Sorry. I guess I can't help it. You tend to bring out the worst in me."

 

He opened his mouth to deny it, to remind her of how close they'd once been, but snapped his jaws shut with a frown as he caught sight of Damien, ushering Tara quickly toward the front door. The moment they disappeared from sight, Elliot's special dataphone buzzed. He snatched it from his pocket, activated the unit, and muttered, "What's going on?"

 

"He's here." Damien's voice snapped with dark fury. "Tara saw someone she thinks is Drummond."

 

Dread plunged through Elliot. From the moment Crystopher Hardasty reported in that Arlo Drummond, self-proclaimed leader of the Free Mars Coalition, got his hands on a deadly biotoxin, he feared this very event. It was the only reason he could convince Damien to bring Tara along. As a spacer and pirate, she had first-hand contact with Free Mars and Drummond. Even more importantly, she'd seen the group's money partner -- an interplanetary terrorist known only as the Lion.

 

Elliot spent the time since praying he was wrong about the Lion's destination and target. If the Lion released the toxin he stole on Earth in this crowd of Martian dignitaries -- many of whom were either full Psi or had the genetics for it -- the results would be catastrophic on an interplanetary level. A swift glance at Katya filled him with a fear so intense, it nearly brought him to his knees. He had to get her out of here, keep her safe. But he also had a job to do.

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

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