He ignored the question and pointed to the chair adjacent to him. Miles from the D’s, it seemed. “Sit there.”


After the way he’d treated her, she should flip him off and throw herself across Dallas and Devyn’s laps. Only Hector’s terror stopped her. That terror struck her and spread quickly. With forced casualness, she ambled to the chair he’d “reserved” for her and flopped down.

She peered over at him. He watched her as intensely as when he’d had his face between her legs, trying to judge her reaction. Heat slithered across her skin, and her belly quivered.

Don’t think about that magic tongue of his. She’d only want more from him. Want everything. Like sex in the shower to ease his fears about burning her. Not that she’d been thinking of ways to do that all f**king night.

He’d made his intentions clear. Romantically, they were done. He’d opted to let his fears rule him and that was fine. Whatever, she told herself again. She refused to beg for every scrap of his attention and affection.

“You’re going to learn to include me,” she told him. “This is my job, too, and there’s nothing you can do to get rid of me.” Try again, and I’ll gut you.

A play of emotions in those beautiful golden eyes. An increase of terror, a blend of relief, joy, even shame. “It’d be better if we worked separately.”

No mercy. “That’s not happening,” she said, as soft as she was able. “So let me help you kick things off. Why don’t you tell me what you found at Bobby’s house?”

One of his hands emerged to tug at his shirt collar. “How’d you know I was there?”

“I know all kinds of things.”

Several heartbeats of silence. “Did you know he was married?”

She frowned. “No. He was married?”

An abrupt nod.

“You’re sure?” Bobby had never hinted about being part of a committed relationship. Although his lack of dating might have been hint enough.

Another nod from Hector. He glanced at Dallas before pinning her with a resolved stare. “Wife was there, hiding. I picked up a handheld from his office, talked to her. She seemed genuinely upset by his death, genuinely surprised.”

“Genuine can be faked, I promise you.” Her implication: just like I faked it last night.

He popped his jaw, shrugged as if he didn’t care what she’d done. “Her name is Margarete. She’s Rakan, and I don’t know how they met. I—”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Devyn said, suddenly interested in the conversation. “You told us the wife was an otherworlder, not that she was a Rakan.”

Hector splayed his arms. “So?”

“So you’re an idiot. Rakans are rare.”

“I know that.”

“Did you know that slavers everywhere have a jones for the gold, and that’s the only way your Marks could have gotten her? Believe me, I once looked for one myself. For years. Their planet was in ruins, and the remaining people scattered—but not here. Marks bought her, I promise you.”

“Slavers?” Noelle asked. Buying and selling people. She knew it happened, but wow, not so close to home.

Devyn pursed his lips. “Oh, yes. There’s a bona fide sex market, auction houses, you name it, it’s out there. I used to attend those kinds of events and frequent those places myself, so I know what I’m talking about.”

“You really think Bobby bought her?” Hector asked, looking past the living room, into a place Noelle couldn’t see.

“Actually, I’m sure of it,” Devyn said, and he did sound confident. “I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever did the selling wants her back the moment he learns of Marks’s murder, if he didn’t do the murdering himself. That’s what I would have done, if I were rotten to the core, that is, but my evil is only skin-deep. I would have sold her, then killed to get her back. She’d make a damn fine profit, over and over again. You’d be smart to put a detail on her at all times.”

An idea tumbled through Noelle’s mind. Sex market. A rare Rakan. Blow the lid off …

She sat up straighter. All the women she’d seen in those photos had been pretty. Taken from their homes. Held captive. No ransom had been demanded. They hadn’t been beaten. Starved, yes, but that could have been because the skinny ones fetched a better price. Who knew?

Maybe nothing had been done to them yet because they hadn’t been sold. Maybe they were to have gone to a single buyer rather than seeing to hundreds in a single day. Slavery had to be a big business. Skeevy, disgusting, and to the one doing the selling, worth killing over, as Devyn had said.

They could be way off base, but … maybe they weren’t. Right now they had no other leads.

“I’ll put that detail on the Markses’ house, and I’ve got Margarete injected with our isotope tracker,” Hector said, fingers flying over the keyboard on his phone, already texting Mia, she was sure. Probably even checking Margarete’s location. “While I was there, I noticed the walls were reinforced metal. Those shields will keep any otherworlders from teleporting inside.”

“You still have contacts in the slaver world, Devyn?” Noelle asked.

Hector propped his elbows on his knees, leaning toward Devyn, riveted. He cared about the victims. Truly cared, wanted justice.

She liked that about him.

You softening, girlie? Look where that got you the last three times.

I’m hard as stone!

“Nope,” Devyn said. “About a year ago, a promising up-and-comer went missing. Gerard Hendrick, gone in a puff of smoke. He would have done anything to make a sale, was practically going door to door, then suddenly stopped. I didn’t care enough to check up on him. Then, before I started helping AIR out, I killed my last remaining foot in that door to save our very own Eden Black.”

Too bad. Would have made things easy.

Hector cleared his throat. “This is adding up to some heavy shit. We need to keep any connection between Marks, Margarete, and the slave market quiet. Not just because we might be wrong, but because we don’t want anyone going after our Rakan. Of course, that’s moot if the killer is the slaver. He already knows she’s there.”

“And the detail will catch him trying to grab her.” So, in a way, she was like bait.

They spent the next half hour tossing around other ideas, but nothing else stuck or felt even partially right. Not even the info Noelle kept to herself—for the moment. If Hector wanted to ditch her again, he’d have to fly blind.

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