“Kohen!” Captain shouted my name.
“I’m fine.” I straddled Elliard. His face was pale, and his eyes were wide with shock. His hand was slack, his wrist pinioned between the fine bones by the thin blade. His fingers twitched spasmodically. “What you’re feeling is poison racing through your body from your heart pounding. You want to slow it down, to stop it, but you can’t. You have no control over your body. I have it all. See, there’s a paralytic on the knife, just like what got used on me.
“But I found a blade that had something else mixed in. Is it burning yet?” I glanced at his forehead. “Ahh, I see the sweat building. I think you’re starting to feel it. In a second, I’m going to pull out the blade and we’ll bandage your wrist and hide the wound. With the sweat and pale skin and how unresponsive you are, we have the perfect medical excuse to pull you out of here.”
Captain put his hand on my back. “Are you hurt?” He pulled me up. He ran his hands over my face and neck, then slid them over my arms. “There’s blood on your hand.”
“He didn’t hurt me. Calm down. It’s his blood, not mine.” I let Captain pull me away from his cousin. I glanced away briefly and Deke took over with the guards, pulling him and putting him on the stretcher I’d been hauled in on. Deke even produced a tiny folded packet from a pocket with a flourish, unfolding it into a sheet to cover his prone body.
They worked fast, but Captain was more focused on me than what was going on around us. I had to get him focused, get cleaned up, and get us back on mission. “I need something to get this blood off. Just in case holding the blade in between my fingers did give me a small cut.” I knew it didn’t, but that got him moving.
Captain jumped into action. He hauled me into the private bathing chamber Elliard’s office boasted and dumped my hands under the cleanser. In seconds the blood was gone, exposing unblemished skin. He turned my hand this way and that, checking all the skin. I shivered from the caress of his fingertips against the thin flesh barely covering sensitive nerves.
“Excuse us. Don’t mind the clean up crew.” Deke grunted and dropped a body from his shoulder. The guard dropped the alien’s legs. Deke used a foot to shove the body against the wall. “Figure we might be able to get a little more distance if these guys aren’t hiding in plain sight of anyone who comes into that bastard’s office.”
“Oh. Right.” Captain’s grip tightened on my hand. He blinked, then straightened. He took a few deep breaths, then his eyes refocused on me. This time they were clearer, focused and steady, not zipping back and forth to look everywhere I might be hiding an injury. “Shit. I did it again, didn’t I? Freaked out?”
“I was never like this before. But when I think about something happening to you, I lose it.”
He was the only one who’d ever felt that way about me. I pushed into his arms, getting as close to his body as I could without actually being inside him. I wrapped my arms around his back, knowing exactly what he meant. I’d put myself in danger to protect him from Elliard because I could not let anything happen to him. “It’s amazing. And sweet. And I’m sure you’ll stop freaking out eventually.”
Deke snorted as he came in with another body. “Doubt it. Captain’s got a thing for protecting some people.”
In the span of a heartbeat Captain went from liquid in my arms to rigid steel. “Kohen deserves that protection, all that we can provide him, and more. He’s nothing like—” He worked his jaw.
“Easy, there, Captain. I’m just saying you have a soft heart. We’re used to watching your back while you watch someone else’s. I’m glad you find the right one this time.” Deke cautiously approached Captain, holding out one arm.
Captain eyed him with a frosty glare, but then he thawed. He nodded once, matched his arm to Deke’s, and squeezed. “Is that the last guard?”
Back to business apparently. What the hell was all that? There was so much history between Captain and the crew, sometimes doubt crept in. Would I ever fit in with them? Know what they meant when they went all cryptic like that?
“One more. That shit on the knife Kohen picked will only last about halfway through the next shift. We gotta go and get that fucker to a hospital, or he’ll stroke out when the paralytic wears off and he starts screaming.”
“He’ll what?” I stared at Deke.
“I didn’t know you’d picked that particular knife. The poison is distilled from the chloridianvi cloud vapor on Tlofloxia IV. It’s pretty nasty and he’s definitely screaming as loudly as he can inside his mind right now. If the paralytic wears off before we can counter the poison—which is on the ship or at a toxic shock clinic at a local hospital—then he could cause a stroke.
“Not to mention I don’t want to hear his squalling. I heard him having sex one night while on guard duty outside his quarters, and he’s a screamer there too. Trust me when I say I’m shocked he even has balls with how high and screechy his voice gets.”
“You’re not mad… that I’m torturing him?” I’d expected some anger from them.
“Not really. With what he had done to you?” Captain put a hand on my cheek. “What is that old saying? An eye for an eye? It’s a drop in the bucket. Trust me, he will pay the rest he owes you and the other victims.”
“And you. He hurt you too.” And that’s why I was really torturing him.
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