“No,” he gritted. “Never.”

“Yes, Hector, yes. Touch me. Please, touch me. I love it when you touch me.”

Yeah, he thought again. He was going to touch her. Touch her everywhere. Was going to brand her, own her, become all that she knew, all that she wanted to know. Was even reaching for her …

His balls drew up tight, sensation ramping … ramping … Oh, hallelujah! He squeezed the head of his penis and jetted white-hot into his palm. Finally, finally, thank you God, finally.

When his shudders at last calmed, he simply stood there, sliding down from the high, the pleasure, and glorying in his success.

His. Success. The two words echoed inside his mind. He’d done it. He’d actually gotten himself off without hurting himself or anyone else.

It was a miracle. It was … his salvation. Whispers of excitement rushed through him. From this moment on, he could take care of himself. More words echoed. He could actually take care of himself!

His body must be immune to the heat and the atomizing. And damn, he should have realized that sooner. Felt stupid that he hadn’t, and yet that still didn’t dampen his joy.

Grinning, he walked into the hallway bathroom, tossed the gloves, washed up, and righted his clothing. The itching and burning in his arms had subdued completely. He was utterly calm, under control. It was like his slate had just been wiped clean. He felt wonderfully normal.

And now, any time his arms acted up, or his need became too much, he could take care of himself and feel this way again. He wouldn’t have to call a hooker. He found himself laughing, the sound rusty.

He went to his bedroom and sat at the edge of his bed—such a terrible start to his day, with such a spectacular finish—then dialed Mia Snow, his bitch on wheels of a temporary boss. Jack Pagosa, his real boss, had taken a leave of absence for heart problems or some shit like that and had left Mia in charge of the New Chicago offices.

Truth be told, Hector had been a little surprised by Jack’s choice. Mia was a good agent, one of the best, certainly, but Hector had been on staff just as long as she had, and had just as many arrests and kills. Same with Dallas. Hell, same with Ghost and Jaxon. And Jaxon was the most diplomatic of them all. Or rather, he used to be.

Probably didn’t hurt that Snow was dating one of the most powerful men on Earth. An Arcadian who was as rich as Noelle, maybe richer, with the ability to move faster than the speed of light, control people with his mind, and predict the future.

Hector was a little envious of Kyrin’s openness. The guy didn’t care who knew about his origins or his powers. How nice would it be to have that kind of freedom? To just be who he was, unconcerned about anything else?

But Hector’s abilities destroyed, caused pain, and with pain came fear. Fear brought a whole new pot of problems to the table. Someone—probably multiple someones—would want to put him down to “protect” the innocent.

“This is Snow,” she said five rings in.

“Hey. It’s Hector.” No preliminaries, just the facts. “Where are my girls being held?”

Breath crackled over the connection. “You beat me to the punch. I was just about to call you.”

The tension in her voice distressed him. Mia wasn’t touchy-feely by nature, and hardly anything threw her off her game. Took something major to upset her. “What’s wrong?”

“They’re missing.”

“Missing?” His happiness vanished in an instant. His fingers squeezed the cell, nearly cracking the plastic. Relax. “Tell me.”

“They were in the hospital, hooked to IVs, with guards at their doors. Doctor goes in to check on one, and she’s gone. He thinks she left on her own, so he goes to the next room. She’s gone. Same deal with the rest.”

“Any witnesses?”

“No one. I’m sending a team to dust for prints, check for voice recordings, but …”

“You don’t think you’ll get anything.” Recorders were set up strategically throughout the city, and because alien voices were so different from that of humans, in ways humans couldn’t detect without the proper machinery, those recorders only picked up otherworlder conversations.

When you had a location and a time, pinpointing specific conversations was easy. However, otherworlders knew about the recorders and knew to commit their crimes quietly.

“Correct,” Mia said. “I’ve already watched video feed and there was no one coming in or out of their room except the medical staff. And none of the staff wheeled anything out that was big enough to hold a body.”

“The women could have fought whoever grabbed them. Maybe they said something during the struggle.” They were alien, so their voices would have been recorded.

“I’ll let you dig through the recordings.”

“The hospital will be my first stop.” For someone to grab the girls so quickly, so effortlessly, and without drawing a single bit of notice, teleportation had to be in play. “Any Arcadians working there?”

“A few, and I’ve already got men hunting their locations to pull them in for questioning.”

They thought alike. “Good.”

A lot of Arcadians could teleport, yes, but there were ways to prevent them from doing so. Like certain metals that were mined from other planets. Expensive as hell to acquire, and hard as hell to drag through one wormhole after another—the standard way to planet hop—but AIR HQ and all AIR vehicles were comprised of the necessary materials.

If you weren’t near AIR or your vehicle, lasercuffs worked just as well. They weren’t metal, but the light they produced bonded to skin, any kind of skin. When an Arcadian was restrained that way, and he teleported, the bands would heat, just like Hector’s arms, and his hands would literally melt off. Brutal, but necessary. AIR had to take precautions to protect the innocent.

“So here’s a question,” Hector said. “How did the abductor know the girls were in the hospital?”

“We aren’t sure,” she said. “Too many options. A chatty or even corrupt hospital employee. A chatty or corrupt friend of a hospital employee. The spread of idle gossip to the wrong people. An isotope tracker. Maybe one of the girls called someone, and that call was traced. We’re checking the lines, but the other theories require more time to investigate.”

His free hand fisted. “The MO for this abduction, as well as the other one, is similar. Therefore, it’s safe to say that whoever took our first batch of girls took our second.”

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