When the hunter becomes the hunted, all bets are off because love is on the line.
For Captain Mara Seni, being a bounty hunter is what she does, not who she is. But her latest bounty makes her question her job. He’s tall, dark and handsome. But a rapist? A murderer? And why is the victim in question more intent on keeping him than putting him in jail?
There’s something off about Lurin Vez, and it’s more than his good looks. Though she shouldn’t care, Mara’s not going to stop until she finds out the truth. But when the truth turns into a love brighter than the sun, it’s all she can do to withstand the heat.
Captain Mara Seni swore as the ship encountered another round of hostile fire from the Melan rebels.
“Damn ex-patriots.” She seethed as she fought to keep her ship in one piece. Not only had the rebels come out of nowhere in the middle of an asteroid storm, but they’d interrupted her crew’s attempts to subdue her thrashing and less-than-willing captive.
She narrowly guided the ship out of a speeding asteroid’s path and smiled grimly as she watched it destroy one of the three Melan ships tracking her.
“Damn it, release me, you heathen fethra.” A deep voice echoed through the hallway. “When I get free, I’m going to make you all pay for this,” he roared.
Swearing under her breath, Mara jockeyed her ship out of the storm and quickly thrust into hyperdrive. The minute her ship leapt out of the Melans’ sight, she exhaled with relief and left the controls to see to her prisoner.
She encountered him with the three members of her crew and stared in shock at his strength. Lurin Vez struggled under the two hulking Fas brothers and the quick-as-a-whip Catam of Mardu. The Fas brothers hailed from Ragga, a planet that bore the strongest men in the System. That Vez continued to struggle against them worried her, as did the knowledge that he’d committed a heinous crime. A man who could resist Raggas and a Mardu wouldn’t stop at simple murder if allowed to escape. More trouble she didn’t need.
“Ah, so the amber-eyed woman was not a mere figment of my imagination after all,” he rasped and stared at her with insolence. His light blue eyes fairly sizzled as they traced her from head to foot.
“That’s our captain,” Catam said quietly and knocked the captive back with a hard punch to his midsection. “Show some respect.”
Vez absorbed the blow without making a sound. Again Mara studied him curiously, wondering how a man who looked like this could have turned into a murdering rapist.
He had dark blue-black hair and sun-kissed skin. He towered over her, and Mara considered herself a tall woman. His muscular forearms led to thick biceps and a broad chest, visible through the sleeveless and ripped tunic he wore. Skin-tight, rak-hide leggings suggested similar strength in his powerful thighs.
But his face. Stars, Mara thought, irritated for having noticed. With a face like that and a body to match, this man should never have to resort to rape. High cheekbones and feline-shaped eyes gave him an exotic look, made even more stunning by his thickly lashed electric-blue eyes and full, sensuous lips. She’d bet her last bek he was Nebite, a man for whom pleasure was a way of life.
Mara watched those lips curve in sardonic amusement as she studied him.
“Like what you see?” His smooth voice beckoned her closer. For a startled moment, she almost stepped forward. Then she mentally shook herself and glared at her prisoner.
“You are Lurin Vez, are you not?” She coughed to clear the huskiness from her voice, suddenly conscious of her own sensuality.
His eyes lit but he said nothing, his gaze firmly on her mouth.
“He is,” Nu, the elder Fas brother, answered.
“We searched his belongings earlier and found this,” his brother, Set, added. He held out a System tag that clearly showed her prisoner’s likeness against the name Lurin Vez.
Mara smiled, and the prisoner blinked, his gaze leaving her lips to peruse the rest of her face. “Nobless Cari Elaran has a bounty on your head.” She watched but could detect no recognition at the name in his shuttered gaze. “We’ll have you at her estate in less than a week’s time, captive Vez.”
“Why are you doing this?” Lurin struggled against the Fas brothers again, straining to regain freedom from the shackles at his wrists and ankles.
“Come now, captive Vez.” Mara shook her head in disappointment, making a mental note to continue to address him as “captive”. He didn’t like it one bit. “You raped the Nobless’s virgin daughter and murdered her future mate. Surely you didn’t think that action would go unpunished?”
He stared at her in surprise. Mara waited patiently for him to refute the accusations; she could read the denial on his face.
“Is that what they told you?” he asked, his gaze intent on her face.
“Please, no more games.” Mara felt an odd sense of disappointment. Most of her bounties clung to feigned innocence until confronted with their guilt. For some reason, she’d thought Vez would be different. He possessed a core of strength that unfortunately went no further than the physical. “Nu, Set, take him to his new quarters. And, Catam, make sure all is clear for our journey to planet Jaron.”
Vez gave her an odd look but didn’t protest her crew’s handling. Perhaps now that his crimes had been brought into the open, he realized he had nothing with which to bargain.
Mara didn’t believe in bargaining with men regardless. She lived a simple life, a solitary existence devoted to her career as a bounty hunter. She had no use for pleasures of the flesh or emotional attachments. And though not overly satisfied with her lot in life, she did feel content.
Her job brought bursts of excitement, but Mara preferred it when the job went smoothly. Relieved that the crisis with Vez had been averted, she headed to the galley for some sustenance. Since the capture of her prisoner, she’d been awake and running on fumes for more than two days.
Mara grabbed a tray of food before she sat. Staring at the unappetizing fare, she thought about Vez and the circumstances surrounding the mysterious criminal.
From one of her many sources, Mara had received word that her latest quarry had been hiding out on one of the Melan moons, a smart move considering the Melans’ dislike for anything Jaronan—which included Nobless Cari Elaran, his accuser.
Disguised as a pleasurer, Mara had visited bar after bar on Sheias, Melan’s central moon where all information funneled. Soon armed with his whereabouts, she’d easily infiltrated the rebel club where Vez had been drinking by himself in a corner. For the right price, a serving girl agreed to tamper with his order.
The drug had worked surprisingly well, and the Fas brothers escorted him unhindered to her ship. They’d been sitting cloaked in space, waiting out the Melan rebel force’s movements, when her captive had revived.
She frowned and forced herself to eat. Vez had proven himself amazingly strong, almost defeating both Fas brothers until Catam had entered the scene. For Vez to have almost defeated not one, but two Raggas meant that he was no ordinary human. His unusual good looks could be attributed to any number of planetary inhabitants, but his strength made her wonder. Then there was the matter of his intoxicating voice. Something in his tenor hinted at a simmering power. A telepath, maybe? His overt sensuality spoke of something more. If she hadn’t known better, she might have thought him Thesha.
Even as she thought it, she scoffed at her overworked imagination.
The Thesha had been a legend for as long as she could remember. No matter that the nobles in the System still searched and raged about the sensually gifted race, Mara didn’t believe they existed anymore, if they even had in the first place. Imagine a race of men able to pleasure a female without cease. Obviously a tale created by depraved women.
“Captain?” Catam stepped quietly into the galley and waited for her to acknowledge him.
“We’re set for Jaron. I enabled the communicator should you wish to inform Nobless Cari that we’re on our way.” His sensual, golden eyes brightened with intensity as he stared at her, and Mara had the uneasy suspicion that she would need to make at least one stop before reaching Jaron.