He closed the rest of the distance, careful, so careful, and flattened his hands on what should have been her shoulders. Still that mist, that coolness. “Let me feel you,” he beseeched softly.

“Why?”

“Because you can. Because you’re not afraid.”

She didn’t stiffen, as he’d expected, but softened against him, leaning into his chest. Slowly, her body warmed, became solid. Her appeal, far greater. The scent of roses mated with his every cell, his mind clouded with more thoughts of kissing, touching, and he had to force himself back on track.

“Did you offer this bargain to the other planets you … visited?” Destroyed. He slid his hands down her back, along her spine, and stopped at the curve of her waist.

She nodded, her hair tickling his chin.

Perhaps she didn’t realize what she’d just admitted, but he did. Those planets had been unable to deliver, whatever it was. Which meant Mia, and therefore Earth, would most likely be unable to deliver. So he would have sacrificed himself for nothing. No thanks.

Closer he leaned … hoping to distract her with his nearness so that she wouldn’t notice that he had removed one of his hands from her body, was even then shifting that hand behind his back, reaching for the dart gun. “Maybe I can get it for you,” he whispered into her ear. “On my own.”

“Can’t.” Her eyes were luminous blue pools.

“Because I’m a man, and you need a woman?” His fingers curled around the hilt, even as he fought the urge to kiss the shell of her ear.

“No.”

“Your one-word answers are annoying.” Silkily said. He could ignore temptation no longer. He kissed the shell of her ear, soft, light. Her disease spread through bodily fluid. He could lick every inch of her skin and remain unaffected. A thought he shouldn’t have relished, but one he did. This close to her … yes, lick.

She sucked in a breath. “Sorry.”

“Why?” he insisted, forcing his mind to return to the mission. Not kissing, not licking. He fisted the back of her robe, preparing to strike. “Because I’m not in charge? Well, Mia isn’t either. Not really. There are a lot more powerful people out there.”

“I know.” She pulled from him, danced around him. He spun with her, never giving her a glimpse at what he still held behind his back. Thankfully, she stopped in the same position as before. Facing, close. “But I’ve been to many, many planets, and one thing is always the same. The military, especially the forces patrolling otherworlders, is revered. Unquestioned. Mia might have bosses, but her troops will obey her. Not her bosses.”

Again, he didn’t think she realized what she’d admitted. What she wanted involved the military, which involved national security. “Hate to break it to you, baby, but AIR is questioned all the damn time. There’s even an Alien Pride parade scheduled later this week, to protest the need for us.” Had she known what he’d been planning? Was that why she’d danced around him?

Her hands glided over his belt before tracing up his shirt. “Do you want me, Dallas?”

“What do you think?” He kissed the shell of her ear again. His tongue inched out, but just before contact, he lifted his head. No. “That’s not difficult to figure out, I’m sure.” He was hard as a rock, and that rock was pointed directly at her like a heat-seeking missile. He wanted to rub.

She chuckled. “True. You do, you want me. But your erection isn’t the reason I know. I’m a mind reader.”

He’d wondered. “Are you now?” If that was the case, he was in trouble. She would know that he’d called Mia. That Mia might be on her way. That he was still holding the gun. Yet here Trinity stood, unmoving, unafraid.

“Oh, yes. I am.”

Why tell him, then? Why give away the advantage? “Then tell me what I’m thinking.”

“That you’ll do anything to be with me.”

Maybe she could mind-read; maybe she couldn’t. But the true power, he realized, was that she could make him want whatever she said. She’d spoken, and the words had blasted through him, reshaping him, making him desperate. He would do anything to be with her.

Fight. You have to fight. She was a killer, he reminded himself. Dangerous. Destructive. He tried to force his hand into motion, to shoot her at last, but a heavy lethargy settled in his limb, stopping him. Before he could panic, he thought he heard hinges squeaking behind him.

The cavalry?

He spun Trinity with the arm still on her, the one still working. “You can read my mind? Tell me why I just did that?” Hopefully she would think he’d done it simply to test her ability, never realizing any agent who entered his living room would now have a direct shot at her back.

She gazed up at him, all little-girl innocence and burning sensuality. A sultry combination. How many men had fallen for that act? Countless, he was sure. Because it made his mouth water even though he knew the consequences.

“Don’t move me like that again,” she said.

“I won’t if you swear not to infect anyone else.”

Silence.

“Just give me time to think about your offer. Okay? Just a little time.” From the corner of his eye, he saw three black-clad agents tiptoe from the hallway, weapons drawn. Oh, yes. The cavalry was here.

Trinity smiled, a little sad now. “I’m sorry, Dallas.”

Stall her … “Because you won’t give me any time?”

“No. For your pain.”

They fired. She disappeared, and each of the rays—two stun and one pyre—slammed into his stomach.

Fuck! The burn was massive, consuming. He would have collapsed, would have grasped his stomach to staunch the flames, but the stun rays had frozen him in place.

In unison, the shocked agents ripped off their masks, and he saw Mia in the middle, Devyn at her left and Hector at her right.

Mia was pale as she rushed to him. “Shit! I’m so sorry. Get the medics in here,” she yelled over her shoulder. “Now!” Then she grabbed one of the shirts on his couch and pressed it into his wound.

Motherfucker! That pyre-fire was a kill wound, having burned a hole just below his ribs, scorching one side of his intestines. He’d endured this type of wound before. That’s when Kyrin had fed him Arcadian blood. He’d healed then, and he would heal now. That didn’t lessen the pain, though. He couldn’t even curse out loud.

“Fuck! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Mia babbled. “We thought she was unaware. We had a clear shot. We took it. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

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