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Authors: S E Gilchrist

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BOOK: Bargain With the Enemy
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Ursa said, ‘Leave it to me.'

Stephanie shared a smiling glance with the Darkon woman who bent down and took the nappy from the room. Gathering Mia back into her arms, Stephanie settled back against the sofa and rocked her gently.

Ice Man cleared his throat and appeared to check the data on the tech arm-band that ran from his wrist to his elbow.

‘We are cleared to depart. You will follow me and do not think to run off or the consequences will be unpleasant.' He turned to address his men. ‘Gather the holdalls.'

No sooner had Stephanie risen to her feet, then Ivo clamped his hand about her elbow and marched her towards the door.

***

Stephanie woke and flung off the blanket, feeling surprisingly chipper considering her circumstances. Stuck on Ice Man's battle-cruiser and with the prospect of being continually in his company over the next few weeks should have induced fear or at the very least, dismay.

But no, instead a sizzling energy buzzed through her veins. How long had it been since she'd experienced this sense of anticipation, excitement even, for the future?

Was it him?

Linking her hands above her head and giving her body a good stretch, she glared at the ceiling.
I need to focus on what's at stake here. As soon as Mia has been fed and settled again, I'll sneak a peek at our co-ordinates. When this ship is within cooee of another inhabited planet, I could nab a shuttle.

Or, I could take advantage of the free ride to Darkos.

Once on the planet, she could claim refugee status and state her claim for protection from Lord Tarak's Earth wife, Alana. Then Ice Man or any of his family wouldn't dare wrest Mia from her.

A little wait and we'll both be on our way home.

But home to what? Another job, located in some frigid, unsanitary outpost working for the government in an endless search for raw materials? She'd have to juggle motherhood with a career, as she had little savings and no family she could live with until she'd found a suitable place to rent.

John had left her with a surprisingly large debt she'd been forced to repay with the bonus the government had given her for volunteering as a colonist.

She had nothing left.

Then, there was the continuous worry of the threat of war. Before she'd left Earth, floods of refugees from smaller, nearby countries were arriving boat after boatload on her country's shores.

She couldn't blame them. With the rapid rise of sea levels and wild, unstable weather conditions, arable and livable land was shrinking. There was little food, little fresh water, populations that wouldn't stop growing and governments desperate to keep their people alive.

It's home.

It's all I've got.

A vision of Ivo's face popped into her head.

Refused to leave.

The way he'd smiled down at his niece, the tender and awed expression on his face had shot straight to Steph's heart. The knowledge that this man may have hidden depths unsettled her. It had also forced her to realise just how alone she was here in this world.

And how alone she would be back on Earth.

What if he could offer Mia a family life? Would her friend's daughter be better off here? She'd certainly never want for any material goods.

I made a promise.

Keep her safe.

Keep her loved.

And I do love her, more than I believed possible. To lose her now would be unbearable.

But what if Ivo could learn to love?

Shit, am I thinking of Mia or myself?

Frowning, she swung off the bunk and, after checking on Mia still sleeping in the tiny bunk beside hers, she headed off to the adjoining, minute cleansing room. After tending to her personal needs and brushing her teeth with brisk efficiency, she stomped back into her room only to freeze, her mouth dropping open.

Ice Man was bent over Mia's bunk.

And unless Stephanie was hallucinating, he appeared to be brushing his hand very gently over the little girl's hair.

Straightening, he turned around, his hooded gaze performing a leisurely sweep up and down her body.

Heat scorched over her face and neck. Beneath the silky, sleeveless, pale-green tunic she wore to sleep in, her nipples puckered into tight peaks, jutting against the material in such a way they captured his attention. And as he stared intently at her breasts, they tightened and swelled.

Damnit, damnit, damnit.

She drank in the sight of him, all raw power and muscle. Her gaze roamed his massive body and, feeling deliciously wanton, examined that oh-so-big bulge in his flight pants. What would it feel like to have him drive his throbbing cock inside her?

She'd loved John but he'd never made her feel such a heady rush of lust.

This must be that damn “pull” thing. I can't believe it's happening between Ice Man and me. Maybe I'm coming down with a virus. I should say something, do something, anything to get rid of this crazy feeling.

But her feet appeared to be rooted to the ground.

Her tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth as he prowled towards her. Stopping way too close, his proximity sucking all the air from the room and sending her blood pressure through the roof.

As if in a dream, she watched him raise both hands. Then he cupped her breasts, his palms taking their weight, his thumbs pressing down on her budding nipples. His hands were smooth and hot through the tunic as he rubbed the cool material over her flesh. What felt like an electric shock frizzed down her belly and lodged deep within her womb. Every atom of her femininity burst into needy life.

She swayed towards him on knees that wobbled.

His face was shuttered; all expression ruthlessly repressed as if he dared not allow a flicker of emotion or thought to be revealed. His fingers continued to tease and torment. How long had it been since he'd fondled a woman's breasts in his hands? Was this wild, tumultuous energy sizzling between them, merely the result of loneliness and a lack of companionship?

Her flesh swelled painfully beneath his touch, throbbing to be engulfed within his hot, moist mouth. And as if he'd read her needy thoughts, he tightened his hold, almost cruelly over her left breast while he cupped the other beneath his palm. Lifting it. He lowered his head, his lips slightly parted.

Stephanie gave a shuddering sigh when his mouth closed over her tip.

He sucked hard at her breast through the tunic.

Lust pooled, dampening her panties.

Her body throbbed with a hunger that made her dizzy and her blood thump like drums through her veins.

The muscles in her legs failed and Steph grabbed hold of his shoulders, leaning her slight weight against his heavier frame.

Through her tunic, his body heat blasted into her; a furnace that would burn her alive if she wasn't careful.

Trembling, she clung to him, her breath coming in uneven pants as he suckled and kissed first one breast then the other and then back to the first. His movements were jerky as if the intensity of his hunger surprised him.

‘Like ripe fruit,' he mumbled against her chest before renewing his suckling.

He slid one hand from her breast, roved it down her spine, pressing her lower body against the rigid length of his sex. Stephanie, her eyes half-closed, flung back her head and ground her tingling mound against him. She felt him rubbing his hand over her backside as he gripped and fondled each cheek. A gasp issued from her when he slipped his hand under her tunic to finger her sensitive folds over her paper-thin panties.

His breath ragged, he continued to suckle her while his fingers scrabbled about between her legs.

Then his hand was inside her panties and he pushed a hard finger deep into her pussy.

She moaned.

The sound surprised both of them, for he paused and Stephanie stiffened. Reality was a cold slap, like a wet nappy.
What on earth am I doing?

She shifted her feet, took back her weight and leant away from the temptation that was his body as guilt swamped her.

He removed his hands, stepped back and turned away.

Fussing with her clothes did little to ease the aching hunger of her trembling body and surprising tears stung the back of her eyes. A surreptitious peek in his direction had her gaping as he raised his hand to his mouth and slowly licked her juices from his finger.

With no further word, he stalked from her cabin, slamming the hatch shut behind him.

Alone, Stephanie collapsed onto the bunk and buried her hot face in her shaking hands.

I'm sorry, John.

***

In the Command Centre, Ivo watched on screen the two coffins being strapped down into position in readiness for the final ceremony once his ship cleared the exosphere and entered outer space.

There was a bleak emptiness residing inside his mind and heart, he doubted could ever be filled again. For despite his leanings towards his upbringing, he had cared deeply for his younger half-brother. Although they'd shared little time in their lives together, Ivo would miss his sibling greatly. More so, for all the times that could have been shared and weren't, for all the times that would now never be shared.

Ivo clenched his hands where they linked together behind his back and kept his head high. It would never do to allow one iota of emotion to be discerned by others. Any emotion was frowned upon by followers of the Traditionalist calling. And with a hand-picked crew, he was surrounded by like-minded warriors.

He'd never felt so alone in his life.

Not for the first time since his last meeting with Neo, his brother's impassioned words resounded inside Ivo's head railing against their sterile upbringing, painting a picture of a vastly different life. What would it be like to have a family? A real family, like the one Neo had spoken of and had thrown his Traditionalist upbringing aside, to seek. To experience the wonder of a true mate sleeping by your side.

To hold and caress and care for someone other than a dead cause.

Well, he'd certainly been holding and caressing someone.

Heat flooded him.

Firing the lust he'd been unable to douse since the moment he laid eyes on her.

But more than lust had woken, for now the demand to claim her as his one howled inside his essence.

Casting his gaze skyward, Ivo forced his body to co-operate; to forget and cease this throbbing hunger to bury himself deep between the soft legs of the Earth female.
This is your brother's mate you lust for; it is forbidden!

And yet he could recall in minute detail the sweet taste of her on his tongue, the satiny feel of her flesh beneath his hands, the lusciousness of her breasts pressing against his chest.

The memory of the loving glances she bestowed on the infant was implanted inside his brain.

He'd been envious, had wondered what it would feel like to have her look at him in such a manner, to see her eyes glowing with warmth and love, her mouth curve upwards into a tender smile.

Have her look at him with approval instead of the suspicious glares she blasted him with at every opportunity.

I want more from her than lust.

One full rone he'd wasted in the cleansing tube set on the lowest temperature possible.

Another two rones, he'd spent fighting and exercising in the sparring ring until he'd been called to attend the Command Centre.

The only thing that had stopped him from pulling down her underclothes and driving his pulsing cock into her damp heat had been one unmistakable truth.

She is my brother's mate. She can never be mine.

That one simple fact ate like draptile acid in his gut.

She may never be mine, but what I can do is ensure her safety and the safety of my brother's child. And this I vow to do.

But for now there was a more important matter to attend to, the overseeing of his brother's final journey.

He switched his gaze back onto the screen to check the proceedings.

Claudo Ren, the Darkon Keeper of the Dead for Ivo's battle-cruiser, consulted with the Relic soldier who'd piloted the shuttle carrying the bodies from Verrilous. As Ivo watched, Claudo stabbed at his personal compu screen with his finger before giving a short nod and turned aside to address Ivo through his personal comms.

‘Problem?' queried Ivo, slowly uncurling his damp fists.

Claudo walked a short distance away from the surrounding soldiers and lowered his voice. ‘Sir, I have data you will wish to view for yourself. Uploading now.'

Ivo examined the intel.

Then re-read it.

Disbelief, anger, relief, exultation!
All this and more hammered his body. His head reeled and it took every atom of self-control not to rush from the Command Centre and force the truth from her.

He asked slowly while his mind grappled with the ramifications, ‘This intel has been verified, Claudo?'

‘Affirmative, sir. The Relic captain, Joran Melda, was acquainted with both Ensign Neo and his Earth mate. He has certified their identification and reported both met their deaths on Verrilous. Their bodies have also been checked by our medic against our records for Ensign Neo. There is no mistake.'

‘Continue and advise me when the ceremony will begin. I will contact Captain Melda and thank him for his assistance. Ensure the Relic pilot is compensated before he departs.'

Ivo switched off the comms but continued to glare at the now blank screen.

She was not the mother.

She had never lain with his brother.

She had lied.

Why? To protect Neo's offspring or herself?

Who was she? Was she, indeed, a thief? A deserter? A true refugee? An innocent caught up in events beyond her control?

Perhaps she sought to gain the status of being a high-ranking Darkon's mate.

Whatever her reasons, it was immaterial. For now the only barrier that had kept him at a distance was void.

His blood, hot and heavy, did a slow pulse through his veins, flooding his cock and swelling his seed sacs. He would take her, assuage his needs until he no longer ached at the mere thought of her. Once this was done, as he had no doubt it would be, he would send her on her way.

BOOK: Bargain With the Enemy
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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