Authors: Lee-Ann Wallace
Tags: #Erotic Romance, #Science Fiction, #Adult
“Yes, I believe she’ll help me,” he told Tor’Arr, his hands closing into tight fists, holding himself still when he wanted to crow with joy. Three hundred and thirty cycles had passed, and there was not one when he hadn’t thought about her.
They looked at each other, Manik waiting for Tor’Arr to make his decision, his patience almost non-existent. Tor’Arr turned to look at Devral with a considering look on his face.
“It looks like we’re heading to Bextra then,” he said as he turned back to Manik. “This scientist had better come through, or I’ll be putting the whole crew in danger for nothing.”
Joy exploded in Manik’s chest and he had to work hard at containing his smile. He hoped she’d come through as well, for all their sakes, and he hoped she remembered him. If she didn’t remember him, he’d just have to remind her. He’d just have to convince her that there was something between them that was worth exploring.
I slumped back in my chair, exhausted, stressed, and almost out of time. Five days had passed since Cyakt Ralt had called me to tell me I was out of time. Five days I’d worked until my eyes had been almost falling out of my head. I’d barely slept, barely eaten, and had only been home long enough to cleanse that morning because I’d been disgusted by my own smell.
My lab was a bigger mess than it had ever been, I hadn’t found the time to clean it, and I’d made very little progress on the nanites. Part of the problem was my refusal to use live test subjects. There were plenty of sick people being studied on the station, and I could use anyone of them to test my theories, but I felt hesitant to inject the nanites into a person when I didn’t know what they would do.
They could very easily kill the person or do absolutely nothing. I didn’t have an endless supply of the nanites, so I couldn’t really afford to waste them. The funding I received had allowed me to clone a certain number of them to use in my research, but if I started injecting them into people, that supply would soon run dry and without any guaranteed results.
Proof that they would work was what I needed before I started live trials. I’d been concentrating on trying to unlock the coding to the nanites, but I’d had no success. I’d had blood samples sent to me from the containment ward for some of the terminal subjects just that morning. I was getting desperate. Time was running out, and I didn’t want to be replaced. I wanted the breakthrough to be mine. The technology I’d developed should have my name against it, and I wanted all my hard work to mean something.
I stared at the blood sample sitting closest to me. The blood was dark in the tube—too dark. The man it had come from was dying. He had only cycles to live, the disease so thick in his blood it had changed the colour from his natural purple to almost black. The cells were mutated and irregular.
The nanites were his only hope. None of the scientists working on a cure for his disease had made any progress. Millions of people from his home planet were also affected and would die on a daily basis if someone didn’t find some way to stop the disease.
I reached for the tube of blood and a sample collector. The disease was highly contagious. The medical staff had warned me about the dangers of handling it unprotected, but I had no plans to come into contact with the blood, and my species was known for its hardiness. We were hard to kill, and we rarely became ill. We lived extraordinarily long lives, allowing us to be one of the most advanced species in the known universe. Only the Torc lived longer than we did, and nobody knew how long they lived.
Inserting the sample collector into the end of the tube, I took a deep breath. I was at the end of the line with the nanites. I was running purely on feeling. I’d had a suspicion for the last few days, and I was about to put that suspicion to the test. Nothing I’d done to the nanites had resulted in them activating, but I hadn’t tried introducing them to a sickness, a wound or a disease. A lot of my time on the project had gone into working with the technicians to build my device and into studying the man that had started the whole process.
After sucking up a small sample of blood into the collector, I withdrew its sharp tip from the tube and hastily moved it towards the small dish of nanites sitting on the stage of my microscope. Looking through the ocular lens, I added one drop of the blood to the dish of nanites and watched with bated breath.
Nothing happened. The grey orbs of the nanites sat silent around the blood I’d added to the dish. I watched for long seconds, willing something to happen—anything to happen, but the nanites stayed silent and inactive. I blew out a breath in frustration.
I’d kind of expected something to happen, even though I had suspicions about the nanites that I’d held since I’d studied cyborgs.
My suspicion was the cranial implants the cyborgs and the man I was studying had somehow controlled the nanites in their bodies. I’d asked again and again when I’d been studying the cyborg what the purpose of the implants was, but the race that had created the cyborgs refused to tell me.
I’d been left completely in the dark and had started to form my own conclusions. What I’d never understood was why they would want to keep it a secret.
I checked the microscope again, hoping that the nanites had done something. I knew what they were capable of. I’d seen them heal critically wounded cyborgs, but these were still in the dish, the drop of blood sitting amongst them looking out of place and alien.
I slumped back in my chair, feeling the disappointment of failure heavily on me. I ran a hand through my short hair just as the door to my lab slid open. My head whipped around to look at the man standing in my doorway.
My eyes widened as disbelief shot through me. It was him! My mate. He’d returned to me. There he stood, just as I’d fantasised so many times.
His deep, smooth voice shimmered through me, lighting me up, sending my heart racing. My eyes widened at his casual tone before anger started to simmer inside me. I’d waited so long for him to come back, so long for him to walk through my door, and there he was.
I stared back at him, too stunned to say anything, my mind working at the speed of light trying to work out why he was here. Why now, when I didn’t have time for him, when I was on a deadline and could lose my position in a matter of days?
Getting my device up and working and proving to Cyakt Ralt that there was a chance for his people and his money had been well spent was my goal.
Anger swarmed inside me at the situation I was now in. I was angry because he’d walked through my door and obviously expected something of me. Rage swelled inside me because he’d made me wait so long that I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing him again. I was also angry because I wanted to be able to spend time with him and get to know him, but I didn’t have that time.
My tail flicked back and forth, sharp jerky movements that showed my emotional state if he knew how to read it. My emotions swirled around inside me and propelled me out of my seat.
Walking slowly forward, never letting my gaze move away from his, I stopped directly in front of him and looked up into his grey eyes. They were the colour of storm clouds on many planets I’d been to, darker around the edge and lighter in the middle. He stared down at me. His eyes were striking in the deep bronze of his skin. Thick black lashes surrounded them and made them sultry, almost feminine in their beauty.
Without any warning, I let fly, throwing punches and kicking with my legs. I wanted him to hurt as much as I’d hurt for the last three hundred and thirty-four cycles, wondering if he remembered me, wondering if he cared even a little bit.
None of my punches landed. He skilfully blocked them all, moving with a grace and ease that led me to believe he knew how to fight, and fight well. This only increased my anger and hurried my punches.
“Ellie, stop. I don’t want to hurt you.”
I grunted with my exertion, but didn’t let up.
“Ellie, stop,” he repeated.
His deep voice and the way he said my name caused desire to flare to life inside me.
Strong hands wrapped around my wrists and twisted my arms behind my back. He pulled me up against his hard chest, crushing my softer breasts against him.
Wiggling and twisting, I tried to get away until hard lips pressed against mine, forcing me to stay still. A small noise of shock escaped me as I looked into his eyes. The kiss started off hard, a forceful press of lips that sent more desire coiling through me, making my anger spike. I bit down on his soft full lower lip. A small warning. Not enough to hurt, just enough to tell him I wouldn’t be swayed by his kiss.
He pulled back, my teeth scraping across his lip, and stared down at me. I wanted to hit him again. How dare he think he could just turn up out of the blue and kiss me and everything would be alright. That I’d fall at his feet.
“I see that you’re angry, Ellie.”
Oh, he was smart! He received ten points for his conclusion.
“No, handsome. I’m not angry with you. I’m
I’ve waited three hundred and thirty-four cycles for you to come back and you think a kiss is going to make everything all right?”
His gaze roved over my face before coming back to meet mine.
“I don’t expect everything to be fine. I’ve wanted to come back and see you every cycle that’s passed since I had to leave, but I couldn’t. I thought about you every cycle, wondering if you waited for me. Wondering if you’d found someone else.”
He was stripping away some of my anger, but I wasn’t ready to let it go. “Why haven’t you come back until now?”
I stared up into his eyes, waiting for him to answer me. The conclusion Prixy had come up with surfaced in my mind. I waited with my breath caught for his answer.
“I couldn’t come back, Ellie, because it was too dangerous. The risk of being captured was too high.”
Thoughts whirled around in my head, my anger starting to subside at the mystery he presented. “But you’re here now. What made you come back?”
He let go of one of my hands and stroked his warm hand up my arm. Tingles spread out from where he grazed his hand along my bare skin. I barely managed to control the shiver that raced down my spine. Warm fingers stroked up my neck and slid into my hair, his palm cupping my cheek.
“I couldn’t stay away, Ellie. I came back at the first opportunity I had. I’ve been thinking about you and haven’t been able to get one thought out of my mind. Don’t bite me this time.”
His husky words sent heat spreading through me like a wild fire.
His head descended and his warm lips pressed against mine, a soft gentle press, until I started to kiss him back. The tip of his tongue stroked the seam of my lips, encouraging me to open for him, which I did. Closing my eyes, I let myself be swept up in his kiss, my anger eased by his assertion that he’d thought of me so much.
I’d wanted this. I’d thought about what it would be like to kiss him from the minute I’d known he was my mate. From the minute I’d caught his scent in the bar and realised I’d finally found him. All the long years I’d waited, never having more than casual relationships. Always hoping that my mate would find his way to me. Then, he’d disappeared.
The kiss deepened and I relaxed against him, all the fight draining out of me. His tongue stroked mine, exploring my mouth, tasting me as I tasted him back. He was divine, masculine with a hint of sweetness, like he’d just eaten dessert and the flavour lingered in his mouth.
His hands were warm against the bare skin of my wrist and cheek, holding me firmly. He wasn’t hurting me, but I knew if I started to struggle, those strong hands would hold me captive for the full impact of his kiss.
Moaning a little at the soft slide of his tongue against mine, the taste of him in my mouth, the fire he was kindling low in my body, I pressed against him, pushing my aching breasts against his hard chest. He started to pull back. I followed his mouth with my own, rising on tiptoe to keep our lips pressed together to keep the taste of him in my mouth.
He managed to disengage our lips and pressed his forehead against mine, the warm press of his skin against mine sending tingles through me.
His voice was a rough rasp, filled with desire and longing. Opening my eyes, I stared up into the molten heat of his grey ones. A sense of calm washed over me for the first time in more cycles than I could count. He was here, with me, and I wasn’t going to let him escape easily this time.
“You’re finally here,” I said, looking up to Manik, my voice filled with all the emotion that was flooding me.
“Yeah, I’m finally here, and we don’t ever have to be apart again. I needed a really good reason to convince my captain to return here, and when I had it, I made sure we came straight here,” Manik said.
His words settled inside me and warmed what had become a cold and lonely place. It warmed the part of me that had given up hope that he would ever return, the part of me that ached every time I thought of him.
“So, what was this really good reason you discovered to come back?” My natural curiosity kicked in. If Prixy was right and they had something to do with Vrentis’ missing research, it must have been a pretty good reason.
“We picked up a life pod, and the person inside has nanites and cranial implants like a cyborg, but has no muscular or skeletal enhancements. I thought of you straight away. The woman in the life pod is in stasis, and her nanites are inactive. I don’t know how to wake her up. I don’t even know how she was put into stasis in the first place. I convinced my captain you were the only person who could help.”
I leant against Manik, a little disappointed that he hadn’t returned solely for me, that the connection I’d felt with him hadn’t been strong enough to bring him back to me. He was right, though. I probably was the only person who could help.
“We have a man who came out of a life pod who sounds just like the woman you’re describing. Unfortunately, I haven’t had any success in waking him up, either. His cranial implants are unlike those found in cyborgs. We haven’t even been able to get a computer to sync with them so we have no idea what they are for or what functions they perform.”