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(Read by Author Esther Mitchell)

Blood pumped thickly in her veins as she turned back the way she'd come, only to realize how far she'd actually come. She was more than a block into the Samod Quarantine. Dangerous. Calli picked up her pace, feeling suddenly exposed, as she reached into her jacket pocket for her dataphone. If there was someone out there, watching her, he wouldn't find her easy prey. She would have a witness, no matter what.


Her thoughts of a moment ago slapped her again, and sickening dizziness assaulted her. She'd just signed contracts that would place her squarely in the public eye of both Mars and Earth. The same precipice on which both Darren and Bryana were poised, when they fell.


A chill ran down Calli's spine, and she picked up her pace to a fast walk. Had she signed her own execution earlier, without even knowing it? Freaked now, she punched the numbers for the Section precinct, keeping an eye over her shoulder for pursuers. If she was going to die, she'd leave behind whatever clues she could.


A strong hand reached from behind her, closing over the dataphone, as a deep, southern drawl murmured against her ear. "I wouldn't do that, darlin'. People might think you're crazy."


She spun around, breaking his hold, even as her knee flew up straight into his groin. Her attacker folded over with an oath and sank to the ground with a groan of agony. Calli blinked as she stared down at a very familiar Stetson.


"Cade! Shit, are you okay?" She dropped to her knees beside him, worried.


He grunted, and winced as he tried to straighten. After a moment, he managed to speak, though still clearly winded. "Depends... on if you plan to... finish the job."


It wasn't funny at all, so she had no idea why she was suddenly laughing. But she laughed until her sides hurt and she was as out of breath as he.


"Glad you find it amusing." His voice sounded steadier, and Calli managed to pull herself together enough to look up, hoping he wasn't angry.


The twinkle in his eyes -- eyes she had never seen until this moment, but which were as warm as melted caramel -- arrested her breath completely, and froze her apology in her throat. She'd admired his body ever since she first met him, and the feel of his gaze was a yummy banana split of feelings. Now, with his hat tipped back on his head, she got the full effect of those eyes, and they were devastating.


He wasn't classically handsome, and certainly not boy-band cute -- a fact for which she was immensely grateful. His face held weathered lines of life, most prominently around his eyes, and his nose was aquiline and slightly crooked, making her wonder if he'd broken it at some point, and how. On any other man, his features might have been too much, even sinister. But the warm humor in his gaze turned his features captivating.


The air between them shifted, and his eyes flared with heat. Molten heat raced through Calli. Whatever this insane fire between them was, she was very much afraid it would turn her to nothing but ash, in the end.

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