Lucius must have sensed my presence because he was suddenly right beside me, glaring down at me. Luc jumped up and propped herself at the foot of the bed, watching our interaction.

“Where.The hell. Have you been?” Lucius gritted out softly, menacingly. “What took you so goddamn long?”

“He wasn’t at home. I had to search for him.”

His eyes flashed with furious fire as he lowered his head closer to me, so close our noses touched. “Do you have any idea—any f**king idea—what I’ve been imagining?”

I returned his glare with one of my own.

“That I was doing the job I told you I’d do?”

“Not quite,” he grumbled.

“That I’m a capable woman?”

“Damn it, Eden.” His warm breath whipped over my face. “This isn’t about your silly need to prove you’re as strong and capable as I am.”

“Silly!” was all I could get out. “Silly?”

“In case you didn’t notice, it’s dawn. I expected you an hour ago. At least. You would have worried had I been gone so long, and don’t try to deny it.” When I remained stubbornly silent, he added, “Wouldn’t you?”

“Yes. Are you happy?” I shoved him off and jolted up. “Yes, I would have worried about you.”

Satisfied with that, he dropped beside me and pulled me down. “Tell me everything that happened.”

“Jonathan called EenLi,” I said, relaxing into the curve of his side. “They’ve set up the abduction for me, and Jonathan canceled the order for the other girl. I don’t know why. He just said she wouldn’t work.”

“When?” His tone became hard as granite. “Where?”

“They didn’t discuss details. It was apparent they had spoken about me before.”

Lucius rubbed his neck, his expression darkening. “I don’t like this.”

“Like what? This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

“I don’t like the plan. Letting them take you.”

“Why the hell not? It’s a good plan. And right now it’s the only way to save the other slaves EenLi has taken. It’s the only way to find out how he’s using solar flares as portals.”

“You could get hurt.”

I rolled my eyes. “Aren’t you the man who told me he’d kill me if I got in his way? Aren’t you the man who cares about no one and nothing?”

“That was before,” he mumbled, looking away from me.

I knew the feeling. I shouldn’t have had sex with him the first time, and damn well shouldn’t have again. But I had, and there was no going back. I couldn’t pretend to dislike him anymore. I liked him. Too much.

“Damn it.” He jumped to his feet. “We should never have gotten involved, because I can’t stop worrying about you. I won’t return here,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.” He reached inside his pants pocket and withdrew a small syringe. Sparkling red liquid swirled inside. He handed it to me. “We don’t know when they’ll strike, and I can’t be with you when they do.”

“Is this the isotope?”

“Yes. Inject it into your leg. I’d do it, but…”

He didn’t want to hurt me. I tried not to soften toward him yet another degree. I wrapped my fingers around the vial, jabbed the needle into my thigh—suppressing a wince at the sharp sting—and pushed. Burning warmth spread from my leg, branching throughout the rest of me. I glared up at Lucius as I shoved the empty syringe into his palm. “Done.”

“Thank you.”

I dropped my head in my hands. “This has all happened much faster than I imagined,” I said, and we both knew I meant more than the case. I didn’t know how to deal with Lucius right now, though. With us.

“Too fast?” He chuckled, but the sound lacked any hint of humor. “Maybe. But from now on, we think about the case. Nothing else. Your life could depend on it.”

Chapter 19

Two days passed without a single abduction attempt. Two angst-filled days.

I spent them accompanying the ambassador on her rounds, translating idle chatter and more in-depth conversations about discrimination, while projecting a carefree facade. I’d seen Lucius only once, at a party hosted by one of the ambassador’s friends of a friend. He’d remained a safe distance from me but had watched me the whole evening.

His gaze had been a living entity, reminding me of the way he’d kissed and caressed me, the way he’d brought me to climax so many times. I’d forced myself to ignore him, to think only of the case.

The following day, I received another message from Colin and used the cell unit Lucius brought me to read it to him. The conversation was short and sweet.

“I have a friend working on solar flares, and he told me he’s begun experimenting with small, inanimate objects to find out just what type of magnetic device would be most conducive to molecular transference within a solar flare. So far he’s had no luck.”

His frustration crackled over the line. “I was hoping for more by now.”

“I know. But he did mention that a small, molecule-based magnet would work best. It offers photomodulated magnetization, can store data, and offers magnetic shielding and induction. And, unlike metal-based magnets, it can be deposited as a thin, transparent film or even inserted within another object.”

“Yeah, but can something so small generate enough power to transport a body astronomically?”

“I’ll ask.”

“Let me know if you learn anything else.”

And that was it, the end of our conversation.

I disconnected and lay in bed, moonlight bathing me. Agent Luc was already asleep in the bathroom. I didn’t want to take a chance that she’d be hurt when I was taken.When would I be taken? I hated waiting.

A cricket hummed a lazy tune, and a cool, dew-scented breeze wafted through the open windows. I was making it easy for my abductors. I was also prepared. I wore silver sleep pants and a clinging silver top. They allowed easy movement, but were difficult to pull off. Of course, I had two knives strapped to me—one at the small of my back, the other on the inside of my thigh. My hair clips were too aberrant for bed, as was the anklet. Part of me expected Lucius to arrive at any moment, but he stayed true to his word and didn’t visit.

I glared up at the domed ceiling. Men! Who understood them? Not me, certainly. Well, that’s not true. I’d once thought I understood them. They needed sex, food, and water to survive, and their every action hinged on whichever need took prominence. Lucius was…different.