As soon as he blew this circus, Solo would hunt the males down. Then they would complete their mission and destroy Star.
Wait. Their mission.
Sell him to the same circus we sold the AIR agent to.
“The AIR agent,” Star had said. One of the missing.
Solo studied the captives one more time. His gaze snared on the Teran, who had finally twisted to face him. Her. She was the agent. He’d seen her photo on the wall of Michael’s office.
Her name was Kitten, and she was with New Chicago’s Alien Investigation and Removal team, trained to kill with her bare hands, to withstand the worst of torture, and, if necessary, to “catnip the hell out of someone,” whatever that meant.
Her tangled hair belonged to a tabby cat, shades of gold, brown, black, and even streaks of flax intermingling. Her ears were tipped into sharp little points, and far cuter than his when he was angry. She had uptilted eyes of amber, high cheekbones, and lips curved into a deep frown. She was pretty in a very feminine, mischievous way—or would have been, with a little weight added to her body. Had she been starved?
Probably. But even still, a flicker of relief sparked inside his chest. To find and save this agent’s life, he would have been willing to endure another explosion. He wouldn’t leave without her.
As he adjusted his plan of escape to include two, she hissed at him. “What are you staring at, newbie? I will gut you!”
Dr. E puffed up with anger. “She won’t be able to gut you if you remove her hands!”
“Search for understanding as for hidden treasure,” X said. “She has been hurt, and so in turn she hurts others to try and protect herself from further abuse.”
Solo forced himself to look away from the ungrateful Teran before he allowed his temper to overtake him. If he did, Kitten would kill herself just to save herself from being killed by him. And she’d be smart to do so!
He would still escape with her, but now he doubted he’d be nice about it. He didn’t care whether she’d been hurt or not.
Fine. He did. Whatever.
A man who had to be on stilts crossed his path. And yet, the male’s legs were covered by pants, and he looked to be balanced on bare feet rather than wooden posts. But . . . that couldn’t be right. He was too tall, those legs too thin.
A female no more than three feet high waddled behind him. At least, Solo assumed she was female. She had large br**sts and wore a pink tank and glittery micro-miniskirt, but she also had a long, thick beard, with beads interwoven throughout the dark locks of hair—
No, not hair. Couldn’t be. The strands moved and hissed and bared tiny white fangs. Snakes, he realized. Her beard was comprised of hundreds of tiny snakes, their eyes red and glowing.
Another female trailed behind her, spraying fire from her mouth without any help from a torch. She laughed as the otherworlders in the cages scrambled backward to avoid being burned, but that laughter died the moment her gaze landed on Solo. She stopped midstep, her gaze sweeping over him.
“Well, well. What do we have here?”
He studied her in turn. Young, with a definite muscle tone someone of Solo’s size and strength needed in a female. Otherwise he could accidentally snap her spine in two.
She was attractive, with bold features, green eyes that would have been pretty if they had not been glazed with inflated pride, and a slick fall of dark, shoulder-length hair streaked with pink. There were three spiders tattooed on each of her arms, each of a different size.
“Rebuke her,” X commanded, surprising him. X was the lover, not the fighter. “Send her away.”
“Don’t rebuke her. Look at her. She likes it naughty, guaranteed,” Dr. E replied.
X growled low in his throat. “Evil spreads, and we must not catch hers.”
Dr. E rubbed his hands together with glee. “Hello! I’m willing for Solo to catch whatever she’s got.”
Yeah. Dr. E wouldn’t mind if Solo caught something nasty, just as long as the little hell-raiser could watch him catch it.
X snapped, “Beauty often hides a beast.”
Dr. E hummed his approval. “Good point. Let’s get her clothes off and make sure.”
They could go on all day.
Solo lifted his chin, gripped the bars in front of him, and shook the entire enclosure. He hoped to scare the woman and assert his dominance, but also to stealthily check the lock on the door. With only a glance, he could tell it was new, meant to open only when the proper fingerprint was scanned. Unfortunately, it was also titanium and held steady.
Unfazed by his outburst, she sauntered closer to him. “Did you see my new talent? Spraying fire? I just acquired it, and already I’m quite good.”
She spoke as though it would have been just as easy to acquire a new shirt.
“But enough about me and my magnificence,” she continued. “Jecis finally took my advice and brought in an attraction the masses will fear. You’re as big as a bear and as fierce as a lion, aren’t you? I am pleased.”
Solo reached through the bars, determined to grab her. Grinning, she jumped out of reach.
“Uh, uh, uh. None of that, or I’ll be forced to punish my tasty new toy.”
He had been called many things in his life, but never that.
“I want her more with every second that passes,” Dr. E said with a dreamy sigh.
X shook his head, saying, “She’s not the woman for you, Solo.”
“Ohhhh, what a shocker. X doesn’t want to throw a party in your pants. Well, guess what? I do! It’s been too long.”
“Silence,” Solo growled, and the female began to sputter with indignation. Dr. E wanted every woman Solo encountered, and X wanted none. But Solo wasn’t a slave to his desires. The handful of times he had taken a lover, he’d walked away feeling dirty and disgusting. Because—shame fought to overtake him—if the females did not leave broken and bloody, they did not leave happy.
He only attracted women with a dark side: those who wanted the monster in their beds rather than the man—those who wanted a slap rather than a kiss, a slice of his claws rather than a caress.
On the job, that was fine. Whatever. He would do anything to anyone, without any remorse. He simply blanked his mind, buried his emotions. That was the only way he could do the terrible things that supposedly needed doing. But to harm the very females he was supposed to protect? The very females he wanted only to please? His parents had taught him better.
The female quieted and glared at him. “You did not just order me to be silent. I am your mistress, and you are my slave.”