Mac gritted his teeth against the ache of unfulfilled desire. This was definitely getting to be a bad habit. If that no-neck gorilla interrupted them one more time, Mac was going to do him some bodily harm.
And probably get his ass kicked in the process.
The thought brought a flare of badly needed humor. While he had every confidence in his own abilities, he had seen the way the Mandujano warrior moved. His size belied both speed and dexterity. During their journey from Cyber Five to Chaos, he’d observed Tutsi conducting a series of exercises designed to build speed and endurance. The workouts lasted for hours, with neither a pause nor break to rest. It had been like watching a machine work. Never tiring and never slowing down.
Although Mac knew himself to be in prime shape, Tutsi far surpassed him in skill and power.
Making his way to the co-pilot chair, he forced himself to forget his discomfort, easing into the seat and arranging the folds of his robes over his lap. There was no need to conceal his hard on, but he didn’t want to cause Lacey any further embarrassment. The bodyguard’s surprised reaction hinted that she rarely indulged in relationships.
The thought sent a shaft of satisfaction through him.
“What about Sava?” he asked the bodyguard. “Will he talk?”
Tutsi raised one brow at his question, but he didn’t so much as glance at Lacey before he answered. “The little Strut will keep his mouth shut. I’ve made it clear if he wants to stay healthy it is in his best interest not to divulge that you are an unsanctioned barbarian.”
And this coming from a man who looked more Neanderthal than a modern man.
“I’m getting real tired of being referred to as a barbarian,” he muttered.
“Sava is also well aware that I have enough on him to have him put away for a very long time.” Lacey passed him and took her seat. She’d made some effort to straighten her hair, but it was a lost cause. The thick mane tumbled down her back in luxurious abandon. She flipped it over one shoulder in a practiced motion to avoid sitting on it. “He will keep his silence.”
“What will you do with him?”
“Let him reflect on his sins for awhile and then probably dump him off somewhere with enough currency to get himself back to Chaos.” She slanted him a look of inquiry. “Why? Did you think I would truly jettison him into space?”
“Personally? No. But you sounded pretty serious at the time.”
“That was for Sava’s benefit. I have a certain—reputation to uphold in this business. The Strut would not hesitate to take advantage of any weakness on our part.” She waved a hand in dismissal. “No, in their own way, beings such as Sava are valuable. There is always a need for a man of his talents. It would be a waste to dispose of him.”
“I’m sure he’d find that reassuring.” The soft ping of the console captured his attention and he twisted in his seat. A series of red lights flashed across the board while the screen scrolled messages he couldn’t read.
Startled, Lacey swung around to stare at the controls. She hissed several curses under her breath as she read over the data. “When did this come in?”
“What is it?”
“We are being followed.”
“You were otherwise occupied.” Tutsi’s tone was dry as he pushed himself away from the doorway and took his position at the navigational station.
Lacey shot him a filthy glance, which Tutsi ignored. Mac watched as she turned back to the console and punched in several commands. The viewing screens changed image a number of times before they centered on a barely discernable object.
“Damn.” The word was softly spoken by the woman beside him. “This could be trouble.”
“What is it?”
“F.O.W. Security. I get the feeling they didn’t care for the way we blasted off that rock.” Lacey didn’t take her gaze from the screen as she shook her head. “Who would have thought they’d stir themselves long enough to give chase?”
“What happens if we’re boarded?”
“Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t worry about them. They would issue a fine and perhaps give me a slap on the wrist for an unauthorized launch, but if they find you here…”
“They would arrest the three of us, impound the ship, fine the world of Kador into poverty and probably wipe your memory clean of everything you’ve ever known.” The Mandujano growled out the litany without turning from his station. “The penalties for harboring an unsanctioned alien are harsh, barbarian. I would have thought you’d realize that by now.”
“That’s only if they catch us.” Lacey reached under the console and extracted another keyboard hidden there. She attached it to the mainframe and cradled it in her lap. Her fingers flew over the keys, a bit slow at first, then with gathering speed. “Right now, F.O.W. doesn’t know whose ship this is. When I landed on Chaos, I registered with a false identification number. The Talon was officially logged in as the Millennium Falcon.” The smile she shot his way was full of mischief. “I watched your Star Wars film while I was in Seattle.”
There was a snort from behind. “Pure trash.”
“It was amusing.” The exchange had the earmarks of an ongoing argument. “Anyway, there is no way the F.O.W. could trace that identification back to the Talon.”
“The computer has located four possible destinations where we can lay low.” Tutsi swung around in his seat to face Lacey, awaiting her instructions. There was little to be heard other than the staccato of the keys as Lacey fed data into the computer.
“So, we’re back to the question of running.” Mac folded his hands across his stomach as he watched Lacey. When her fingers froze over the keyboard, he continued. “If your computer has come up with four locations, you can bet souMalocho’s men will have the same information.”
“The barbarian is correct, my lady.”
“You stay out of this!”
Mac kept his hands still, fighting the urge to reach out and smooth back that mass of hair. Lacey fell silent as she stared at the view screen. The other vessel was closer now. The double suns of this system reflected off an oblong, silvery ship. There were markings on the nose, but they were still too far away for Mac to guess what it was.
“What would you suggest?”
The question snapped his attention back to the woman.
The surge of possessiveness surprised him. He’d never felt so proprietary toward another person before. The thought of Lacey walking out of his life was intolerable. How she’d gone from abductor, to friend, to lover, to such a necessity was a mystery. Somehow she had wended her way into his heart, so deep he knew she was there to stay. He wanted to drag her off to his lair and keep her forever.
Perhaps he was more of a barbarian than he had suspected.