Book 2 in the Saints and Sinners Series
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John Hunter can’t refuse a request from his birth father to find his soon to be stepsister. But finding Mila means finding trouble, because it follows her everywhere. All he wants is to get her back to Earth and get his father off his back. Problem is, Mila has other plans.
Mila doesn’t need an overgrown Neanderthal in her way. She has a mission to accomplish. So what if she is a thrill junkie and that is the only reason she works for the good guys. She does her job, and does it well.
But before she can dump Hunter, her little game becomes a little more dangerous than she expected. So, getting his help means keeping him around, and keeping him around makes it impossible to keep her hands off him. But even if she does end up in bed with him a few times…okay a lot of times…it doesn’t mean she wants him butting in her business. And that is just what John does best. Uncovering her secrets could get both of them killed…if they don’t kill each other first.
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Book 2 in the Saints and Sinners Series
The cloak of silence that filled the room usually suited John Hunter. He tended to avoid any kind of unnecessary conversation. People were a nuisance to be tolerated and he tried his best to shun acquaintances who felt the need to talk. This was different. But then, he never felt comfortable about his birth father.
“I’m glad you answered my request,” Lord Franklin Westing said.
Irritation threaded his voice. Aristocrats hated to ask for favors. Especially from their bastard sons. He sat behind his desk, dressed in the habitual suit, his hair neatly trimmed, his face showing little evidence of his age. Hunter knew this wasn’t easy for him and that made the trip back to Earth worth it.
Hunter, being the ass that he was, decided to push his father’s anger.
“I thought it was more like a universal royal summons.”
The only telltale signs of his father’s anger were the narrowing of his brown eyes and the tightening of his lips. A few seconds passed. The only sound in the room was the ticking of an antique clock as the men stared each other down.
His father conceded, but only to ask the favor. “Be that as it may, I need help with a matter that I know is in your area.”
“My area?” And just how the fuck did he know about it? Hunter’s job was covert and he was constantly working as the quadrant’s Director of Operations. Most people thought he owned and operated an outpost for travelers.
His father laughed without humor. “The job I hold affords me knowledge of many operations.” He paused, as if measuring what to say next. “I’ve known about your work for a while. But that is neither here nor there.”
“Of course, sir.” Sarcasm dripped from Hunter’s words, but once again his father ignored him. “So, what is it that you need help with?”
“I suppose you’ve heard about my upcoming marriage?”
“Well, it seems that my soon-to-be-stepdaughter has gone missing.”
“What do you mean, missing?”
He cleared his throat. “Janet, Mila’s mother, said she hadn’t seen her in a while. The girl is a bit on the wild side. She rarely stays here on Earth. Usually doesn’t contact her mother for months at a time.”
“How long has she been gone this time?”
“Janet isn’t sure.”
Hunter didn’t say anything at first. The fact that this woman wanted him to go find her irresponsible party-girl daughter irritated him. That the request came from a father he wanted nothing to do with, well, that was just icing on the cake.
“Her mother isn’t sure when she left? Doesn’t she know what her daughter does, who she socializes with?”
“John, I’m not the one you should be angry with, and the truth is, Mila is an adult. What she does and where she goes isn’t our business. At least, it wasn’t until I received this transmission.”
Hunter took the digital transcriber and clicked the “on” switch. The message was clear and concise.
Five trillion Earth credits, or you’ll never see her alive again.
“I wouldn’t bother you, but I know the work that you do for the government has trained you for search and rescue. The last report from the men I sent to find her was that she was in your quadrant.” He sighed and, for the first time, looked all of his fifty-eight years. “Janet is so upset that she’s sedated. We always knew the girl was a bit untamed, but we had no idea something like this would happen.”
“You have any leads?”
“The only thing my investigators could find was that she was seen with a couple of Nikiraki’s men.”
Every muscle in Hunter’s body tensed, his blood freezing over. “Nikiraki?”
His father nodded, his gaze never wavering from Hunter’s. “That’s all we can find out. She was seen with them, then she wasn’t.”
“What the hell is she doing hanging around scum like Nikiraki?”
The older man’s eyebrows rose at the anger in Hunter’s voice. He’d actually surprised himself. He didn’t know the girl, but he knew Nikiraki, knew what he was capable of. Society gals weren’t Nikiraki’s type, especially if their going missing would cause a fuss.
“We don’t know. I barely know Mila. She seems to be a nice enough girl, but she has been on Earth so little since I got involved with her mother. Really, since the death of her father.”
“So, you want me to find her.”
“I ask you because I know that if anyone can find her, you can.”
Normally, Hunter figured most people would view that as a plus. In his estimation, his father had run out of options and found someone he didn’t have to pay.
“I’ll do it.”
There was no use arguing. It was better to just go along, do the job and get it over with. Franklin always got his way, no matter what the situation. The only thing he hadn’t won was Hunter wearing the name Westing. That he had refused, and his father had no choice but to accept that fact.
Franklin handed him another electronic file disk. “All the information I have on Mila from the investigators is in there. Including an up-to-date pic.”
Hunter paged through the file, barely noticing the reports, deciding to read those later. He paused at the picture of Mila Simmons. A tumble of red curls spilled over bare shoulders, which were the color of fine ivory. Her full lips curved into a seductive smile. Eyes the color of Sumari jade sparkled into the camera. Hunter was sure they were altered in some way. No human had eyes with color that pure without some laser work or chemicals.
“You think you can find her?”
The worry in his father’s voice irritated him almost as much as the jealousy that surged. At age thirty-five, he should be past juvenile feelings, but apparently old habits die a slow death.
“Probably not too hard. Not a lot of human redheads running around my area.”
His father released a breath, his shoulder muscles seemingly going lax. “Good. Janet…she wouldn’t take it well if something happened to her daughter. Mila is all she has left of her husband and the two of them weathered a lot together. If she lost Mila, it would kill her.”
Uncomfortable with his rising resentment toward the woman and her daughter, Hunter stood. He headed to the door, then without turning around, he said, “I’ll let you know what I find out.”
He didn’t wait for his father’s response, just let the door slide shut silently behind him.
Mila had done some stupid things in her life. At the age of five, she’d thought she knew how to swim, jumped into the Blue River on Venus and almost drowned. There was that time she tried to steal that telecommunicator when she was fifteen and her mother had had to pick her up at the local law enforcement depot. Then there was the marriage that had lasted three days in bliss and five months in Universal Court fighting over her money. But she had never, in all her thirty years, acted as stupidly as her captors.
George and Harry. That’s what she called them. Seated in a chair in the coldest damn room she’d ever been in, Mila couldn’t figure out which one disgusted her more. George was almost a foot under her five-foot-five-inch frame, but that was common of the Derant species. What wasn’t normal was being almost as round as he was tall. She had no idea how he actually moved around. Every movement was an effort, his purple skin gleaming with perspiration that smelled of Deviana mold and he gasped for air.
Harry was a different matter altogether. Taller than her by a few inches, he was as thin as a Bullriver reed and human. Kind of. She figured he might be a result of the mutant experiments gone bad. Really, really bad. He looked human, but his teeth were canine. Long, pointed fangs hung out of each corner of his mouth, his eyes gleaming with a yellowish tint.
And then there was the drooling.
She looked away from them as they bickered about nothing in particular. There wasn’t much in the room. It actually resembled a lab. Long metal tables lined the walls, and the remains of digital lab fixtures littered the surface of them. She figured George and Harry had found an abandoned science station and put it to use.
There were two doors. She knew they were unsecured because when she’d first awakened, she pretended to sleep. Both had come in and gone out without any kind of pass code, or a retinal scan or fingerprint scan, for that matter. After reassuring herself that she still had the electronic file she needed, she pretended to wake up. Assheads had no idea. It had been enough for her to notice they were careless with security and their weapons, both of which were stored to the right of her, just a few feet away.
“Did you thend the methage?” George asked. His lisp did nothing for him.
Harry glared at him, his eyes narrowing, until George cowered. “Of course I did.” He turned his attention back to her. His forked tongue shot out, licking his chops as if waiting for a meal. A small stream of slime leaked from his mouth. She reminded herself that stupid didn’t mean these two weren’t dangerous.
“Why haven’t we heard yet?” George’s whiney voice became shrill.
The expression on Harry’s face went from evil to annoyed in a heartbeat. He cut a look at George, then sighed.
“I sent the transmission two linear hours ago.” Again he looked at her and smiled, although Mila was sure there was nothing pleasant in that smile. He closed the distance between them. “I’m sure we can find a way to occupy our time.”
Mila suppressed the urge to kick the bastard in the balls, as well as the urge to vomit. Either one would probably deter his plans. Or, she thought, looking at him, not. She figured that someone like Harry liked females to be scared. Lord knew anyone who wasn’t scared of fucking a monster like him would have to be insane. So she smiled.
He paused, apparently taken aback by her attitude. It was enough. She lifted her foot, hitting him squarely in the groin. Harry doubled over far enough for her to then knee his face. Flying back, he howled, then collapsed on the floor. George, of course, watched the whole thing without moving, his face turning a brighter shade of purple. This was the one shot she would have and Mila took it.
Jumping out of the chair, she ran to Harry’s weapon. Her heart flip-flopped when she noticed it was a Jackson-Meyers 9500.
What a righteous piece of machinery.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time to “ooohh” and “ahhh” over it. She grabbed the weapon, made sure it was loaded and faced the assheads. Harry hadn’t quit howling since she’d first hit him and George had walked maybe three steps and was breathing heavily.
“Listen, guys—and I am using that term loosely—this has been a lot of fun, but, well, I have plans.”
“You don’t know how to uthe that,” George said between gasps.
To prove him wrong, she shot off a round an inch in front of his feet. “I hate to tell both of you, but you picked the wrong heiress to fuck with.”
Without another word, she ran to the door, smiling when it opened automatically. They didn’t even think to lock the damn door. She leaned her head out of the doorway, looking in both directions. No guard. Stepping out, she faced the room. Harry was trying to stand. George was three feet from where she’d last seen him. The door slid shut behind her and she used the butt of her weapon to smash the instrument panel and jam the door.
She looked one way, then the other. The hall didn’t give her any clue to where she was. As she suspected, this looked like a research facility, with bare hallways and next to no sign of people. But the halls were dark, the lighting out in places, so she assumed there was a good chance there wasn’t anyone about. Those two probably had no backup at all. Idiots.
She turned to her right, figuring it was as good as the left, and started running. Her captors might be stupid, but it didn’t take much to get a jammed door opened. As she turned the corner, she ran into someone large. And fucking hard. She practically bounced off whoever it was.
Fingers wrapped around her upper arm, dark-skinned and, thankfully, human. When she looked up—and it took a long time because he was a tall one—she gulped. Jesus. Long dreadlocks hung about his shoulders. Even in the dimly lit hallway, she could see his strong jaw, full lips, high cheekbones, broad nose and black eyes.
“What the bloody hell are you doing?” he asked, his uppercrust English accent threading his words.
At first she didn’t respond. No one talked to Mila that way.
“What does it look like I’m doing, asshead? I’m trying to get my ass out of here.”
His eyes widened, then narrowed, irritation flashing in them. There was something vaguely familiar about them, but she knew she’d have remembered meeting this man.
He took a deep breath before speaking. “Listen, sweetheart, I’m not here by choice. So I’d appreciate it if you would shut the fuck up and just come along with me.”
She wrenched her arm free, then brought her weapon up and pointed it directly at his groin. It was a tactic she’d used more than once because it would bring any sane man to his knees. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the usual reaction human men had when faced with a gun pointed at their most prized possessions. He looked even more irritated. Moving faster than she’d expected, he grabbed her weapon, pulled it free and then grabbed her arm with his other hand.
“I don’t have time for this guanashit.” He slung the strap of her weapon over his shoulder. Without asking, he just started dragging her down the hallway. She tried to dig in her heels, but he paid no attention. “Interrupt my work, freaking travel halfway to the fucking Genarla Sector just to save your lily white rich ass, and now I have to put up with your complaining. I’ll tell you something—Franklin owes me for this.”
In a flash, it hit her where she’d seen him before. Her mother’s fiancé had an illegitimate son. She’d seen his picture on Franklin’s desk and then a few more in his library at home. As she tried to wrap her mind around the fact that her soon-to-be stepfather had sent his bastard son to save her, said son continued pulling her down the hall. Really, he made her feel like a five-year-old.
“Like I have the time because some little debutante gets herself in trouble and needs someone to pick up the pieces so she can go to her next party.”
Now that was just too much. “I hate to point this out, but I was doing just fine without you. And another thing, I was never—”
An explosion from the direction of the room where she’d left George and Harry interrupted her. Both of them looked behind them. Smoke billowed around the corner. The acrid smell of chemicals filled the air. Shouting started, along with heavy gunfire and the sound of more than one person running in their direction. It sounded like George and Harry had made some friends.
“Shit. Do you know how many there are?”
Even as annoyed as she was with his tone, she knew he was her best chance out of there now.
“There were only two in the room. I didn’t see anyone else.”
He muttered under his breath and pulled her in front of him, releasing her arm. “Didn’t you check on guards? I didn’t see any and I wasn’t going to hunt any up. I was locked in a room. What is your excuse?”
“I didn’t see any and I wasn’t going to hunt any up.”
He snorted but said nothing else as he ushered her down the hall. Picking up speed, she began running, his footsteps sounding behind her.
“Turn right,” he said when they reached another corner. She complied, but shots rang out behind them as they turned the corner. “Dammit. Pick it up, Mila—we need to get to the ship.”
She looked over her shoulder and would have cursed at him, but that was when she noticed the guard droids hot on their tails. Damn. Droids were the worst because they could care less about getting hit. Flesh-colored rubber covered the metallic base. Once they spotted you, you were bat shit out of luck. They just came at you until they malfunctioned.
Another rain of shots bounced off the walls, sparks flying off the metal. She turned her attention to the expanse of hallway in front of her. Using every ounce of the adrenaline pumping through her, she concentrated on getting the hell out of there.
“Mila, get to the end of the hall, hook a left,” he shouted over the continued gunfire. She could barely hear him, but she knew better than to slow down or stop. She nodded. “The doors to the hangar are there. No code, it should open. Can you start the craft?”
She didn’t even think to argue. It wasn’t a new situation for her, and she knew how to handle herself—probably better than he would expect. As she turned the corner, she caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye. He stood, legs braced apart, the butt of his firearm against his waist as he held off the droids. A thrill of heat lanced down her spine, but she ignored it and ran to the craft.
Knowing their time was limited, she rushed up the ramp leading into the craft. She didn’t even pause to sigh over the fact he had a Spindel 9345, black and gold, the latest and fastest of the smaller crafts. Once on board, she checked out the confines, reassuring herself no one had snuck on board. When she reached the cockpit, she paused, momentarily dazzled by the shiny control panel with its lights and up to date gadgets. Shaking her head, she jumped into the captain’s seat and flipped a few switches, then started up the computer.
The engines flared just as he came rushing toward the craft, a barrage of shots bouncing off the walls around him, a few even hitting the ship. He disappeared beneath the front of the ship and a moment later she heard his footsteps on the ramp. She pushed the switch to close it as soon as she heard him inside the ship.
Droids began pouring into the bay area as they continued to fire on the ship. Bright flashes of light sparked off the ship telling her it was ammunition proof. Of course it did have its vulnerable spots and knowing it was only a matter of time before they hit something vital, she decided to take off without waiting for her “savior” to get to the cockpit.
She flipped a few more switches and took hold of the steering mechanism. The roar of the engines was almost deafening in the small bay, even from inside the ship. Ignoring it, she pulled the ship around, barely missing one of the walls.
A crash sounded in the back of the craft.
“Where the fuck did you learn to fly?”
She ignored his comment as she flew out of the bay, sliding between the closing doors. As she sped away, she checked the sensors, noting that the ship didn’t seem to have a tail. They apparently didn’t expect her to have a way out of there, and if it hadn’t been for him, they would have been right. Angry footsteps sounded behind her.
“Woman, you don’t know how to fly.”
Glancing back at him, she noticed a trickle of blood running down the side of his face. She smiled sweetly.
“Bash your head?”
His eyes narrowed. “Yeah, thanks to your flying skills. Get up. I’ll take it from here.”
She wanted to argue, but the look on his face said he might just punch her. After hitting the autopilot, she stood and moved aside to let him take the seat. Their bodies brushed and hers reacted. It was really normal after what they had been through, the adrenaline coursing through her, the thrill of the chase. Not to mention the masculine scent of musky, sweaty man.
Oh Lord. Her nipples tightened. She loved a man who liked action, in and out of the bedroom. Arousal hummed through her. Reminding herself it was just an occupational hazard didn’t seem to help. Mila always liked a good chase and a good fuck afterward. But the moment passed as he collapsed in the chair. He apparently was oblivious to the sizzle she felt.
“Now I remember why I avoid debutantes.”
Mila didn’t bother hiding her irritation. She was thankful he’d shown up when he did, but she knew she’d have figured out a way to get out of there. She always did.
“I didn’t ask for your help.”
For a few seconds, the man said not a word. Then he leaned in, bringing his face within inches of hers. Even irritated as she was, she couldn’t help but notice that he was a beautiful man with high cheekbones, dreadlocks, blacker-than-sin eyes and full, sensuous lips, even if those lips were sneering at her. He almost made her sigh. He’d taste as good as fresh Venial strawberries in their second spring. Dressed all in black, his shirt clung to the contours of his chest, accentuating his pecs.
She’d love to run her hands, her mouth, over his chest. Another flash of heat spiraled through her. Liquid heat filled her stomach and then dropped between her legs. She shifted, the fabric of her pants rubbing against her already-sensitized skin. Lord, she would love to have him, take him, be taken by him. The hum of arousal strengthened—her pussy throbbed. It was a fantasy that she definitely wanted to bring to reality.
Then he ruined it by opening his mouth.
“Guess what, Mila? I don’t care. I’m doing a favor. One I don’t want to do. If I were you, I’d sit down and shut the fuck up or I’ll make sure you can’t talk one way or another.”
End of Excerpt
by Melissa Schroeder
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