Authors: Autumn Dawn
Tags: #scifi action adventure romance shape shifter
He stared at her from beneath lowered
lashes. “I was the one who was unwise, my dear. I have
underestimated many things. However, I will not press you at this
time. Have a good evening.”
As if she could, now.
Keeping her expression neutral, Gem made her
rounds, giving her regrets, and then returned to the family
apartments. She didn’t hear any yelling as she entered, so Brandy
must not have come back. Just as well. She didn’t want her sister
The suite’s kitchen and living room were
grouped together in an open design. Their father had favored simple
yet comfortable furniture, so the room was chock full of
overstuffed, dark leather chairs. The upholstery was fraying, but
Gem hadn’t gotten around to replacing it yet. Such furniture cost
money that could be better used elsewhere. Nonetheless, Gem
suddenly wanted to toss it all and start over.
Voices came from her father’s room, and she
made herself walk over to see what was going on. Not that she cared
so much what they were doing at that moment, but she knew she would
Blue took one look at her face and
stiffened. “Did someone shoot at you again?”
She looked away. “No. It was nothing.”
Knowing he would press, she nonetheless
insisted, “It was nothing.” Then she admitted, “An old suitor was
at the wake. Just…memories.”
Blue’s gaze narrowed. “That rich importer
Gem stared at him. “How did you know?”
Blue shrugged. “Heard about him when I was
still hanging out in the bar. A couple of guys were discussing
your…assets. One miner thought a man could take it easy if he
married you. His buddy piped up and said you were practically
engaged to a rich importer already. ’Nother guy said, Nah, he’d
broke with you, that he wanted a girl with more money.”
Brutal but accurate, Gem guessed. She looked
away, her eyes stinging. She canted her head in farewell and headed
for her room before any tears fell.
She should have locked her door. She was
just drawing breath for a really big sob when it opened. Blue poked
his head in and saw her sitting on her bed.
He winced. “My big mouth. Look, he’s scum
and you shouldn’t be crying over him. What you need is a stiff
drink and a good boxing match.”
She choked, and swiped quickly at the tears
that hadn’t quit falling. “I don’t box.” She laughed.
He snorted. “To watch, then. Or…I could
teach you some dirty fighting, if it would make you feel
A picture of them wrestling on the floor
came to her mind, which made her shake her head. No, that wouldn’t
be good. Not now.
Blue muttered something, moved close and
knelt at her feet, pulled off her shoe.
Startled, she jerked back, but he had a firm
grip. “What are you doing?”
“Sacrificing myself,” he muttered. “It’s
better than spending the evening cursing my flapping gums. You
ought not take seriously everything that comes out of them.”
She didn’t want to
relax, but he had gentle hands, and that was a tender spot he was
“See how your foot is all curled up? Nervous
habit with your toes, I’d bet. You need to quit that. One of these
days your foot will cramp in your shoe and stay that way.” For him,
he was using a solicitous tone.
“I don’t…need you to do this,” she
whispered. Her throat was too tight to say anything else.
His fingers gently worked each toe; then he
moved up to her ankles. He took his time, and his motions made her
relax against her will. Slowly, he brought her foot to his mouth
and kissed it.
“What are you doing?” she gasped.
His hands moved up her calf and worked the
muscles there. Sure and strong, they soothed away the tension; and
made her shudder.
He did, but he also went to work on the
other foot, easing it a couple of inches away from the first and
continuing to knead.
Gem fought the muddled morass of her
feelings. More than just her foot hurt, and here Blue was, invading
her space, a perfect scapegoat for her wounded heart. “What is it
you want, Blue? My inn? Think you can make a fortune through
He kissed her foot, moved up to her ankle
and then her calf. His eyes lifted, meeting hers. Their blue color
was smokier than normal. “It’s not money I want,” he said.
A sob caught in her throat. Warring feelings
buzzed through her blood, made her dizzy. “You want to bed me? Is
that it? The way you always talk to me…”
His admission slid through her like hot
steel. “Bed you, kiss you…lick my way up one leg and down the
other…with a lengthy pause in between.” He widened her thighs an
inch by moving her foot, and stared between them.
She gasped. “I’m n-not…I…” She couldn’t make
her brain work. Instead, she pushed at him, but she had no
strength. She was shocked. That was what it was.
“One kiss,” he said darkly, and then crawled
atop her, dragging her up the bed. He settled himself between her
thighs, making her gulp. Her lungs were working so hard, and it
felt like she was trying to drag wet, heavy air into them. She’d
never felt the weight of a man before, never known what it would do
to her body.
“Hyna!” she gasped.
“Blue,” he growled against her mouth. “Just
They heard a door slam, then Brandy’s voice
rising in anger. Blue had left Gem’s bedroom door open, but it was
Zsak her sister was yelling at…for now.
Blue cursed. Vividly and thoroughly. For a
moment he refused to move, maybe couldn’t. Then he rolled off Gem,
getting to his feet with another oath. Disoriented, Gem sat up,
staring at the door with confusion.
Brandy appeared. Her angry expression grew
suspicious. “What’s going on in here?”
Gem struggled to look normal, though it was
difficult to focus. “Nothing! He didn’t even kiss me.” She made it
to her knees and glanced at Blue. He rolled his eyes and looked
Brandy shot Blue a look of disgust. “You
were seducing her, weren’t you? I knew it! Wrecking my father’s
room, worming your way in here…you just want to get into her bed,
He folded his arms and stared at her.
“Have you no shame? You’re diseased, aren’t
you? You’ll bring disease to my sister…and babies! You’ll get her
with child and leave. How dare you? Don’t you have any…?” Brandy
ranted on and on. She just wouldn’t shut up.
Blue glanced at Gem’s belly, then her face.
He looked away. A tiny smile began to play at the corners of his
mouth. Soon he was fighting an actual grin.
“What are you smiling at?” Brandy screamed.
She looked ready to hyperventilate.
Zsak walked up behind her, listening. He
gave her a wide-eyed look and drew her forcibly from the room. “I
think they need to talk,” he told Gem’s sister. “And you need to
“He…he…” Brandy wheezed.
“We’ll leave the door open. Come here. I’ll
find you a bag.” He took her across the room and made her lie down
on the couch, coached her to slow down and breathe.
Blue looked at Gem. She was sitting on the
bed, still dazed. “Well, that was a near thing. Guess it was a good
thing your sister was here to save you from my big bad self.”
She blew out a breath and looked away.
“I’d better get back to work,” he said. With
one last scorching look, he shook his head as if with deep regret.
He sauntered to the door, hesitated in the doorway. There he
turned, scanned her again…and winked.
She drew a deep, shuddering breath. Eyes
closed, she spared a moment to wish Brandy had taken longer to get
home. That he’d closed the door. That…something. Well, maybe a
closed door would have been bad. He wasn’t “the one,” but at least
a kiss would have ended the tension between them. Of course, giving
an inch to a man like Blue would be like tossing him the whole
mile. A fool’s bet; that’s what he was.
In the sitting room, Brandy hadn’t calmed
down. She’d reached full steam and was now beginning to boil over.
Taking pity on Zsak, who was murmuring rather helplessly, Gem slid
off the bed and went to calm her sister before she sprang a
Brandy had at least started breathing
normally, if not talking coherently, but at the sight of Gem she
started to hyperventilate again. Seeing that reinforcements had
arrived, Zsak fled.
“Touchy chick,” he muttered as he entered
the command center that he and Blue were setting up in the girls’
father’s bedroom. The two men exchanged a look and a silent laugh.
Blue got back to work.
“Was she worth it?” Zsak asked. His tone was
“Never found out,” Blue replied. He paused,
screwdriver in hand, and stared at the wall, unseeing.
“There’ll be a next time,” Zsak assured him.
“Hand me that clutch of wires, would you? No, the yellow ones.”
“How could you? We hardly know him!”
Gem considered which subject to tackle
first. “All our rooms are rented. I already agreed to pay for the
equipment and it won’t do any good sitting around.”
“But Daddy’s room?”
“He’s not using it, sis, and I think Dad
would approve. He’d be pretty upset if I were shot.”
Brandy nodded, allowing for that. “But you
still don’t know anything about these guys.” She lowered her voice.
“What if they’re behind it all?”
Gem considered for a moment. “Well, I can’t
say I didn’t wonder that myself. The detectives didn’t like either
of them being around yesterday. Still, when I checked with my
friend about Blue, he really didn’t have much to tell me other than
things Blue admitted himself. I suppose I could make a call about
Zsak, though if there’d been anything in his history to report, the
police probably would have given it up.”
“It’s not just me who’s worried,” Brandy
“No. You’re being reasonable and looking out
for me. Look, Blue was in the IC’s peacekeeping forces, and Zsak
was, too, from what he says. So, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll make a
call to the on-base IC military police and explain what…”
“No calls,” Brandy cut in. “We’ll go in
person first thing tomorrow. Both of us. I’m sure between the two
of us we can find a cop who’s interested in our case.”
“Either that or look extremely silly,” Gem
Now that she had a plan of action, Brandy
seemed to be feeling much better. She sat up and said, “I don’t
care if we look dumb. I’d rather be seen as a flake than be killed
by a psycho.”
Gem raised her eyebrows, letting the moment
pass. She wasn’t going to go into any other issue right now.
Her sister stood up, steadying herself on
the back of the couch. “Gem?” she said. “No more kissing.”
Gem raised her brows again and looked away.
She wasn’t going to say anything. She had a feeling she shouldn’t
be making any such promises.
Kissing seemed to be the last thing on
Blue’s mind the next day. He met Gem and her sister on the front
drive as they prepared to enter a rented transport. Gem took a
moment to regret not owning her own vehicle (they were imported and
hideously expensive) so she could have raced out of her garage
before he saw them. Then again, owning a car might not have given
them enough time. The new surveillance system was working.
Blue opened his mouth.
“Don’t start,” Brandy butted in. “We have
some private business to see to, and we don’t need you.”
His eyes glittered, but his tone was mild.
“You willing to bet your life on it?”
“Today? Yeah, I am.” Brandy gestured to the
holstered guns she and Gem wore. “We’re armed and alert. We’ll be
fine for one short trip.”
Blue slanted a look of contempt at their
weapons. “Those won’t stop a
assassin. You agreeing to
She sighed. “We can’t take you with us. Not
this time. I’m sorry.”
He glanced to the side. “Take Jaq, then.” He
looked back at Gem, his eyes hard. “He’s an old man, but he’s still
good in a fight.”
“You getting in, ladies?” their driver
“Just a sec,” Gem replied. Brandy climbed
into the vehicle.
For a moment, Gem looked at Blue. She
pondered the dangers she’d already been subjected to, and what
might yet lurk in her future. After only a second she said, “Go get
Blue ran inside the inn and came out with
Jaq in under a minute. Whatever he’d said to the old man must have
been persuasive, because Jaq looked obstinate. The old man took one
look at Gem’s gun and held out his hand. “Give me that before you
hurt yourself, and get in. I don’t have all day.”
Gem did as he asked, slid into the transport
and watched as Jaq buckled her holster around his slim hips. By the
time she glanced out the window, the transport had already pulled
away from the curb. Disquiet settled in the pit of her stomach.
“What did Blue say to you, Jaq?” she
The old man looked at her sideways. “He
said, ‘That damn fool woman is leaving with her brainless sister
and thinks she’s protected.’ I put Helda in charge and came out to
babysit.” A small smile played at his mouth.
Brandy snorted in disgust and looked out the
Gem closed her eyes and smiled. Helda was a
formidable woman; skinny, silent and fierce, the old blonde could
terrorize the meanest drunk with a look, just by opening her eyes
wide. But that wasn’t why she was smiling.
“Do you like him, Jaq?”
The old man glanced at her sidelong. “He’s
It was high praise, coming from Jaq. Gem
looked out the window and tried to think reasonable thoughts.
The town whizzed by, sleek glass-and-steel
blocks capped by some domes and spires. Here and there an old
stone-fronted building elbowed aside more modern structures,
testament to some rebellious architect. Gem loved the chaos, the
mix of styles of Polaris; it fit the residents. Human and alien,
all lived together in harmony most of the time.