Your running is over, a little devil in her mind hissed.
In front of her was another cluster of Arcardian guards, guns trained on her. At the head of them was Dex, a smug grin plastered across his face.
* * *
She’d walked right into his trap for the second time today.
Dex would have patted himself on the back, if not for the crowd of Patrolmen around him.
“Are you ready to talk, or do you want to kill a few more of my men?” he asked, knowing Andi had no choice but to obey. She was vastly outnumbered, no matter how skilled she was with those swords. Not unless she wanted to be shot by hundreds of paralyzing light bullets before she could take a single step.
The look she gave him would’ve made a lesser man cringe, but he stared straight into those light gray eyes, meeting her challenge head-on.
She said nothing. Instead, she holstered her remaining blade and crossed her arms over her black suit, the glowing cuffs on her forearms catching his eye. He’d paid for those varillium cuffs himself, a gift that had saved her life ten times over. They were unbreakable, just like her swords. But the cuffs weren’t just an accessory. They held together the burned flesh on her wrists from an accident long ago. She didn’t have the privilege of seeing a doctor at the time, so her skin had become damaged beyond repair.
Without Dex’s gift, she wouldn’t have the full function of her wrists and forearms—likely wouldn’t have the strength to lift those swords she was so fond of.
It gave him a sick kind of pleasure to know she still had the cuffs, a reminder of his kindness to her when she was at her weakest. A part of him she could never shed from herself.
Dex turned to the blue-uniformed guard standing closest to her.
“Take her weapons.” The burly, horned man looked like he would rather jump out the airlock. “Now,” Dex said more sharply, and the guard rushed to action.
Andi spat in the man’s face as he pulled her swords out of their harness and the gun out of her thigh holster.
“You’re going to regret this,” Andi said, her voice low and menacing.
He glared at her with red-and-white striped eyes. “I’m not so sure that I will.”
She looked up behind her to where the rest of the Marauders were grouped at the top of the ladder.
“If they move, my guards will shoot.” Dex waved a hand, and half the men angled their light rifles upward toward Andi’s motionless crew.
The pilot from Adhira, the giantess beside her. And the red-headed child, glaring down at Dex with all the cold calculation of a seasoned killer.
He wouldn’t show mercy toward them if they continued to fight, and he knew Andi sensed that. She looked up at her crew and said, “Stand down. Do what he says.”
“We can take them, Andi, they’re not—” Lira started.
“That’s enough, Lira,” Andi growled. “It’s over.” He knew she hated to say those words.
Dex clapped his hands.
“Now that is the drama I’ve been waiting for.” Satisfied, he turned toward two guards with badges adorning their uniforms. It took a hell of a lot of work to attain Arcardian officer status, and yet here these two were, bowing their heads to Dex’s every command. “Officer Hurley, your squad will guard the crew. Officer Fraser, follow me and bring your men to guard Captain Racella.”
They made their way down the long metal corridor. The blue light from Andi’s cuffs bounced along the hallway. Four guards surrounded Andi like a box, while the other two were positioned on each end of the line.
Six men, plus Dex, would be enough. She wouldn’t fight while her crew was in danger. As they walked, Dex’s memories took over, his body moving on instinct through the familiar halls of the ship. They passed several doors before stopping at the glass door that led to the meeting room. Dex placed his hand on the scanner next to the door, but it remained as dead as the rest of the ship.
Andi grinned smugly. Dex smiled back, lifted his gun and shot the glass.
A growl rumbled up through her chest, but Dex simply shrugged and said, “I can replace it. The Marauder is mine again.” Then he stepped over the shattered glass and into the room. “Set up the Box.” He stepped aside as the guards brought in a thin silver box no longer than his forearm. The symbol of Arcardius, an exploding star, was engraved on the side. They set the Box on the table and lined up against the back wall of the room, hauling Andi with them.
“Please, do take a seat,” Dex said to Andi, sweeping his arm out in a grand gesture. “I am nothing if not a good host.”
Disgust flashed in her eyes. She did not sit. Instead, she stood with her back up against the wall, her gray eyes roving left and right.
Dex had taught her well.
“Suit yourself,” he said, walking to the opposite side of the conference table, where he plopped down into a chair.
The tension in the room was a living beast. Dex could practically feel it breathing down his neck. So he leaned back in his chair, propped his boots up on the glass table next to the Box and focused all his attention on Andi.
She glared at him, cold as the metal wall she leaned against. “What the hell do you want?”
Oh, this was good. Better than good. It was the best damned thing Dex had experienced in years.
For four years, Andi had been on the run from the fate that awaited her on Arcardius. High-ranking, war-hardened soldiers had been sent to track her down. Other criminals, capable of slinking through the shadows, had tried to find her. Even the general himself, and his personal Spectre guards, had gone out looking a time or two. But after every effort, every Krev spent to discover the fugitive, Dex had been the one to catch her.
Fate was a beautiful thing.
“Just a moment now,” he said, relishing this time, the feel of Andi’s eyes boring into his. “We have another guest joining us before we start.”
Dex waited for her onslaught of questions and was surprised when none came.
She simply stood there, hands balled into fists at her sides, stabbing at him with her cold, unfeeling stare.
“Relax, Andi,” Dex drawled. “You used to love spending time alone with me.”
He knew they were anything but alone, with four guards stationed around the room and two just outside the shattered door, but it felt as if they were. Just like that fateful day on the fire moon.
“You don’t know anything about what I used to love,” Andi said.
She narrowed her eyes, and he waited for her to serenade him with the list of colorful words she loved using—some that Dex had taught her himself—when the Box suddenly chimed. A funnel of light shone out of its side onto the blank wall at the front of the room.
This pulled their attention away from each other and toward the man whose face appeared across from them on the wall.
Andi went rigid.
For the first time today, despite everything Dex had thrown at her, she actually looked stricken. Shocked. Pained.
“Hello, Androma,” the man on the screen said. “I’ve been searching for you for a very, very long time.”
Dex smiled. This was worth more than all the Krevs in the galaxy.
Chapter Seven (#u2c495123-a205-5bed-8b1b-b7611314f030)