**Cover created by the amazing Jay Aheer
Facility. On the day that he’s able to escape he’s faced with one of the biggest surprises of his life.
something seriously wrong with one of the facilities. Something that she has to go and figure out for herself since she trusts no one else.
onto her crawler. He only wanted to get home, back to his people and away from
the slow death that her people were giving him.
realizes that he will have to protect her from more than just his people. Fin realizes that he would also have to protect her from hers as well.
now, she is his in every sense of the word for now and all time and nothing would come between them.
Adira went stiff as a board when the pistol was lifted to her temple. She took a deep breath and nodded. She understood what he was saying, understood and would comply. She had no idea who it was that had her, so she would play along until she could be free.
She listened to the man’s breathing and frowned. He was in pain; it was clear from how he was gasping for air but there was something more. He wasn’t breathing as an Imarian would, three sharp intakes of breath and one exhale.
Her stomach felt as if it were in knots. She felt ill because she suddenly knew that she wasn’t being held by someone that was on the island and had no idea who she was. She was being held by one of the Craegin that her people had kidnapped and had been torturing.
Stars. She was in deep trouble. “You really don’t want to do this,” she told the man. “I’m more trouble than I am worth. Ask anyone. I’m seriously not a good person to take hostage.”
“I don’t have what one would call a lot of choices here.” His voice was low, but she could hear the underlying growl that gave it a certain rough quality. “One way or another you are my ticket out of this hellish place. So you can either help me willingly, or I start to break bones. Nothing important, but I know the ones that will cause you immeasurable pain while still allowing you to function enough to get me free. The choice is up to you. What will it be?”
There was no choice. Adira was a lot of things, but able to withstand pain was not one of them. She just nodded. “What do you need?” She would get him to where he needed to be in order to get free. Then she would run as far and fast as she could.
He let out a harsh-sounding breath. “I need you to guide me to the ship bay here. Preferably to one of your crawlers. Then you and I are going to leave on that ship, and get me to a place where I can contact one of my own vessels to pick me up. If you behave yourself, don’t try anything to alert anyone, and generally do not make yourself an annoyance to me I might let you go free. Depends on how bad my mood is by that point.” She felt him shift slightly, his arm slowly letting go of her neck.
“We’re going to take the path of least resistance. No guards, as few cameras as possible, and you are not going to let anyone know anything is amiss in any way. I have zero problem shooting a woman, but I’d rather not have to drag you around at my heels to break free of here.”
Stars. “Okay,” she said with a wobbly voice. “Then the best way to go will be back the way that I came.” She had already killed a guard. This had to be her punishment. She knew it. She had killed one of her own people so this was the spirits’ way of punishing her. She was going to be this Craegin’s shield to get free of her people. “I have a crawler. I came over from one of our other worlds.”
The weapon lowered until it was pressed into her lower back, right on her spine. At that range he’d never miss, and if she wasn’t dead she’d definitely be paralyzed. “How many guards between here and the bay?” he asked. He’d given her a nudge to get her moving, but a hand on her arm slowed her pace. Adira couldn’t see much of him beyond the one arm down at his side. But she did notice he seemed to be limping, even dragging one of his legs slightly.
“None. There was one but he won’t be a problem.” The physician in her wanted to heal him. She wanted to reach out and find out what was wrong, but the prudent part of her kicked in and she knew that would be just plain dumb. She did, however, slow down. She ensured that she kept a pace that would keep them moving, but wouldn’t push him too far. She didn’t know what to expect of this Craegin, especially since the female captive had so easily sold out her people.
“What about the cameras? How many are we going to have to contend with once we’re past the holding areas?” The pressure of the weapon on her spine eased a little. She knew it was still there, but he wasn’t digging it in any longer. He might be injured, but she didn’t think for one moment he wasn’t aware of everything around him.
“None.” She had disabled them so that she could wheel the body out and dispose of it. Why hadn’t she thought to reenable them? “I had disabled them,” she told him. “I had been so caught up in my own mind that I forgot to reenable them,” she added honestly. “My crawler is the one closest to the exit doors as well, so there shouldn’t be anyone in the bays that will see us as that side is blocked from view by my crawler.”
“Good,” he grunted out. Suddenly his hand came up to her arm, pulling her to a stop. “Shh,” he hissed. The pressure of the weapon was back for a moment as the sound of boots on the tiled hall could be heard. They faded a few minutes later, and he released her arm. “Go.”
She nodded and went. There was something about his touch. It was odd. She didn’t focus on it, though. Instead, she concentrated on getting through this alive.
She made several twists and turns, being stopped a few times by the rather large male that held a weapon at her head, and finally they were before the bay doors. “When we enter we need to be fast. Get on my crawler. I need to make a call to the booth. There is audio as well as visual so you will have to stand far to the left behind a console and have to trust me. I really don’t want to die, so I will get you out of here.” She would have somehow gotten him free anyway because she didn’t believe in the tortures her people were inflicting upon this male.
His hand was on her arm again, holding tight. “Say or do the wrong thing when you talk to them and you won’t live long enough to make another mistake. If need be I can fly this thing out of here, but I’d really rather not have to do it with your blood all over the console.” He gave a light but firm squeeze of her arm, then let go. “Move,” he said under his breath.
She nodded and moved as quickly as his pace would allow to her crawler. The medical insignia on the side denoted it to be the head of their Medical Ministry, her. Her hand to the panel at the side had the doors sliding open and engines starting. She explained, “I’m still a doctor. My crafts need to be able to go the moment I get in, just in case of an emergency.”
No words came from him, just a grunt. A hard hand landed on her shoulder as soon as they stepped into the crawler. She could see the weapon out of her periphery as it was sweeping around the space. He was ensuring they were alone in the small craft. The hand eased and gave her the smallest of pushes toward the cockpit as the doors sealed behind them with a hiss of air.
Adira settled into the pilot’s seat and strapped in. Looking back at the male, she viewed him for the first time. He was large and impressive, handsome even. He was also severely injured. “Stand just to the left there,” she told him as she pointed to a console. “Now, please. They are beeping to get through.” She adjusted herself slightly, and when he was hidden pulled up the view screen. “Sorry that took so long, gentlemen. I had to take another call. I have an emergency on Talaxia five. I need clearance to scuttle quickly.”
The man on the screen was looking around the inside of her cockpit. “Likely a good thing you’re getting out of here now, Doc. Sounds like there’s an escapee in one of the wards. No clue how the freak got loose, but he’s extremely dangerous. He’s killed three of our men already, the spirits only know what he’d do to a woman,” he said. The hangar bay doors began to open. “You are clear for departure. Head straight out, and stay in the lane until you clear the beacons. Safe journeys.”
“Thank you.” She winced. Oh God, had he really killed three men? Or was the man she killed one of those? She closed off the view screen, then looked back. “You might want to hold on to something.” She began to move her crawler into place and took off as quickly as she typically would in any emergency situation.
Ten minutes later they were free of the planet and she looked to him once more. “Where are we headed?” She knew that he had said to a planet where his people could pick him up, but she had no idea where.
Easing around the equipment board he’d hidden behind, the Craegin male came forward. He leaned over the console to input some coordinates. “There,” he said. “Set the autopilot, and then we’re going to check the rest of this crawler over.” There wasn’t a whole lot left to check, except for the kitchenette, a tiny medical bay, the small sleeping quarters, and the bathing room that approximated to less than a closet amount of space. Crawlers were meant for short runs, not for comfort. Beyond that there was a storage area, but it wasn’t accessible from inside, only from the exterior of the craft.
Once she’d set the autopilot, he leaned in once more to type something else in. A quick glance showed he’d just locked down the entire panel. Without the code he’d entered she couldn’t call out, or fly the craft. Which meant she had to keep him alive if she wanted to survive this. “Stay here,” he ordered. Now that she couldn’t alert anyone to the fact she was a hostage, he likely felt secure in leaving her in the space. A hard look from his bright gray eyes under the heavy fall of badly tangled black hair, and he turned to leave the cockpit.
He had to keep his head lowered to move through the spaces, being taller than the average Imarian male. She noticed he was also broader, more heavily muscled than an Imarian. Not that she should be noticing anything about him, but it was hard not to when he seemed to take up so much of the space around her.
“Since you have locked everything down you should let me have a look at your injuries.” She should just let him bleed to death, but with him having locked her out of her own ship that would end very badly for her. “It’s beneficial to me for you to survive. The least I can do is tend to your injuries. I am a medical doctor, allow me to assist you.”
A derisive snort was her only answer as he continued away from her. He disappeared from view a couple of times, checking out the additional spaces afforded on the craft. Finally he reappeared from the sleeping quarters and signaled her toward him.
Adira cautiously moved forward. “Yes?” she asked as she looked up into his gray eyes. They were actually rather beautiful and ringed with a bright green that captured her interest. Adira shook her head. No, not her interest, something else. “I have a full medical bay. It’s very small but it has everything that we could offer. I could close your wounds and do a scan of your leg to find out what’s wrong with it. If you will let me?” She couldn’t push him to do as she asked, but she itched to ensure that he was okay.
“I know what’s wrong with it. I was there when they did it,” he said. No, it was more of a snarl, given the curl of his lip. “Inside. You’re going to sit on the edge of the bunk and not move while I clean up. I need to get the blood off of me so I can evaluate the exact amount of damage your colleagues inflicted.”
She winced and nodded. “I know that this isn’t a good time to tell you this.” She settled on the bunk and watched him as he moved. “And please don’t shoot me for telling you this truth.” She was chewing her lower lip as she watched him and gasped at the injuries that he wore. “By the stars, how can you even be mobile?” Gone was what she was going to tell him about the Craegin female. Instead her medical training kicked in and she wanted to heal.
He turned a cold look on her as he dropped the coat and shirt he’d removed to the floor. “Sheer will to not die in an Imarian testing facility. It’s amazing what the body and mind can do when the goals are so simple. Do not move,” he warned again. He took the pistol, and one other she hadn’t realized he had, and set them inside the shower—up high so they wouldn’t get wet, and where he could easily reach them but she couldn’t. He turned on the water and dropped his pants. No warning, no closing the small sliding door, nothing. Down they went, and a moment later his ass disappeared behind the sliding pane of the enclosement.
Adi simply watched him. Her mouth had gone suddenly dry and her mind went places that an Imarian held captive by a Craegin should never go. He was stunning. His height was massive, over two meters tall, easily, and his build was thick but it was the markings on his body that captured her attention. Well, that and the musculature and his ass. By the mother, his ass was impressive. “I’m sorry that you were taken,” she told him honestly. “There was a Craegin female that was held there as well.” Please don’t let them be related, she prayed.
“So I’d heard.” His words were barely loud enough for her to hear. “She was the one feeding your people information about us. Once I’m back I’ll be ensuring that anything we’d done prior is never done the same again. I will not allow our people to be easy prey for you sick freaks.”
“How did you know?” she asked with a frown and tilt of her head. “Yes, she has been feeding my people information for years, from what I surmised. They are sick.” She mumbled that last part. She didn’t protest on the sick freaks comment, because he had that right. Sadly. Her people weren’t supposed to ever take prisoners of war and abuse them as this man had been abused. “She watched. She took glee in telling me that when they did their first procedure on you she was able to watch. I’m so sorry.” Her people had a lot to answer for, but not every being who was Imarian was a sick freak, as he had stated.
“It’s amazing what we can hear in that place. They figure since we’re all going to die they don’t need to watch their words.” She watched him tip his head back, his face into the spray. He was tall enough that his shoulders, neck, and head were above the partition. The water shut off a moment later, and he shook his head before slicking his hair back from his face. He locked eyes with her as he pushed the partition aside and stepped out to collect a towel.
“Holy mother,” she whispered a moment before she turned her face from him. He was…there weren’t words to describe the perfection of this man. Even with the injuries that he had sustained he was impressive. Her gaze had gone straight to his cock and she had to bite her lip at the memory of that brief glance. He was soft, but his shaft hung low and was thick. He was very large, all over, and he made her heart do things that no Imarian had ever made her do before.
She could hear him toweling off. A soft clunk sounded, and she shot him a look to see he’d collected the laser pistols. The towel was wrapped around his waist, barely covering everything of importance. He was peering into the mirror on the wall, twisting this way and that to get a look at all the damage done. His back was a mass of bruises, as were his legs and arms. His chest had some bruising, but older from the colors she could see. Fresh nicks and cuts were all over his body. The leg he’d been favoring, though, looked the worst. His leg looked as if there was a heavy bruise that was practically fully black from his knee up to somewhere under the towel. She cringed at the sight. The pain that he was in had to be terrible. She hurt for the man. Obviously someone had repeatedly struck that leg.
“Will you please let me scan your leg at least? I know you have no reason at all to trust me, with what they did to you, but I need you to understand that it’s hurting me to see you hurting, especially since I can do something about it.” She wanted to help him. He could think all that he wanted about her people, but seeing him injured was hurting her. She had never hurt before like this. It was as if she could feel his pain.
He turned his head slowly to give her a look. She could practically see him thinking through all the options, considering every angle, and coming to a decision. With a small jerk of his head he gave her permission. “I need something to wear. This towel is not exactly comfortable over the wounds inflicted on a certain part of my anatomy. I need pants at the very least, but a shirt wouldn’t be amiss either.”
“I should have a medical uniform that will fit you.” She pointed to the drawer to his left. “There should be one in there. It might be a bit short on you but the male who wore it was rather overweight, so it should fit across your chest. I hope.” She winced and chewed her lip again. “I’m so sorry.” She seemed to continue to say that to him, but there weren’t enough words to tell him just how horrified she was that her people had done this to him.
“Your words hold no meaning to me, Imarian, so you may as well quit spouting them,” he said coldly with his eyes narrowed. Digging through the drawer, he pulled out pants and slipped them on. They were definitely short, only coming down to the top of his calves. He was a lot taller than the average Imarian, and definitely taller than her coworker. The shirt he pulled on after dropping the towel to the floor. It was definitely tight, but he seemed to have no loss of movement. “Good enough,” he muttered.
She nodded. “We should go into the medical bay. There’s a handheld scanner there and I can check to ensure that they didn’t break the bone. If they have, then I can put you into an air cast to help ease the pain.” Cocking her head to the side, she asked, “Are you going to be okay if I get up and go get medical ready for you?”
His head whipped around to look at her. “We’ll go together,” he said. He picked up one of the laser pistols and quickly took it apart, dropping the parts, except for the power source, into the disposal unit. He picked up the other one, but kept it down at his leg as he waved her out into the corridor.
“Okay.” She moved away from the large Craegin and toward medical bay. Looking over her shoulder she saw him following slowly behind her. Once that was done she pulled down supplies. “If you will have a seat on the bay bed there? I will scan you from head to toe. I would feel much better knowing that you are at least mostly healed before you go to your people.”
He eyed her up and down for a long moment before moving to the bed. Easing up on it slowly, he let out a hissing breath. Not that his face showed any of his discomfort, though. Once he was laying down she moved closer to him and saw he still had one hell of a grip on the weapon.
“I won’t hurt you. I know you have no reason at all to believe me but I will not hurt you,” she assured him. “It’s not who I am. I’m a healer,” she told him quietly. “Oh this is not good.” She paused the scan over his knee and bit her lower lip. “It looks as if they have dislocated your knee. I can set it and that will ease much of your pain.”
The Craegin gave her a grunt, but didn’t move. Adira was going to take that as acceptance of the help she was offering. He also didn’t shoot her, so that was a huge plus. “Apparently not all your healers have the same beliefs as you do.”
“I can’t speak for them, only me. I can’t believe that they did this. We have laws in place for a reason.” She was muttering as she spoke to him. “No one is supposed to ever be subjected to the pain and suffering that you were submitted to. For that I am so sorry. I want to kill my people for doing this.” Especially in her facility. She was not pleased at all.
The look on his face said he didn’t believe her. “If you plan on fixing my leg, sooner would be appreciated. I’ll need all the time possible to heal before we reach our destination. Especially since it won’t be in friendly territory, for you.”
“You aren’t going to put me off at a neutral planet?” she asked with a frown and sat back on her heels on the floor in front of him. “Oh stars.” She was so totally screwed. She was never going to live through this one. “Okay.” At least she could set his knee and help him heal, that was what she could do.
“There are no neutral planets anymore,” he said. “There are only ones slightly less hostile than the others. The one we’re aiming for is the least hostile around. But if your brethren weren’t so determined to exterminate us we wouldn’t have this problem. Would we?” he asked with a hard look at her.
Sadly he had a point there, but she didn’t say anything. Instead Adi worked on his leg, then passed him a medical hypospray. “You should give this to yourself to help you with your healing. It’s only vitamins, it shouldn’t harm you.”
He took the hypospray, looking it over a moment, then tossed it aside. “No drugs, nothing from an Imarian. I’ve been given more shots since my arrival than I have in my entire life. No more.
Especially something I didn’t load myself from supplies I trust. Fix my leg, or move so I can get up.”
She nodded and put her hand on his knee. “It’s going to hurt,” she told him only a moment before she popped his knee back into place. “So sorry,” she said once more and moved back. Standing, she looked over him. “No drugs, then. Sorry I offered them to you.” Maybe she should drug herself and be done with it.
He hadn’t even flinched. Either his pain was already so great he hadn’t felt what she’d done, or he was so well trained he’d been able to hide the reaction. She had a feeling it might have been a little of both. Easing to a sitting position, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and slowly put weight onto his leg. “Better,” he muttered. “You really shouldn’t be apologizing to anyone, especially your enemy. It leaves you in a weakened position, more so than you currently are in.”