Sometimes you just need to get drunk and fuck an android.

Fallon planned to do both as soon as the ship docked. For now, he stood on the observation deck of the Nix, staring at the misshapen blue bubble floating in the middle of the Jarvis Prime galaxy.

From this distance, the lights inside the bubble looked like all the other stars around it, but this was no star. Even from here, he could tell it was the Terraless Firma Weigh Station. The floating bastion of neon debauchery that perched on the remains of an exploded planet was as close to a home away from the ship as he got these days.

He stroked his horns and a tingle rushed through his body. Fallon couldn’t wait to hit the bars and Moxy’s Companion House. Her artificial humanoids could pass for the real thing, especially for a man suffering a dry spell. And if Fallon went any longer without female companionship, his genitals would turn to dust.

Fallon headed to the main deck and took his position at the controls. Captain Hawk sat in the center of the room. The flight crew fanned out around him in front of the various control panels, each focusing on the job that needed to be done.

As they neared the station, its jagged metal buildings and tiny, light-filled tentacles attached to fueling pods came into view. Neon signs pointed out gaming facilities, overnight accommodations, and an intergalactic shuttle stop—with daily service. All the things a legitimate space traveler might need. But it was the dark side of the station that Fallon was interested in. The side with only a few signs and very little light. His body tightened in anticipation.

“Pull her in slowly,” Hawk ordered.

“Aye, Captain.” Fallon guided the ship toward the closest tentacle, until the Nixfloated parallel to an empty refueling pod. The ship jerked against the gravitational tug, letting Fallon know it was safe to power down. “Last one to the bay buys the first round.”

Feet pounded the floor as twenty-eight of the thirty member crew wound their way down the smooth metal corridors, through the ever-tightening concentric circles that led to the cargo bay. Some cheated by taking the secret passages that were littered throughout the ship. Others headed to the transport cylinders.

Once in the cargo bay, crewmembers piled into what looked like cells. As soon as the last man stepped inside, the doors closed and part of the interlocking ship broke away from the main vessel and became a shuttle.

Three hours later, Fallon found himself seated at a bar, sipping on a drink and listening to the latest mix of space noise thumping in the background. The quips, pops, and quarks were followed by a soft bang.

He cocked his head. Impressive, he thought. Someone had managed to make a decent recording of a sun exploding. He tapped along, trying to lose himself in the music, grateful to be listening to something other than the constant yowling from the two cats in heat he’d been subjected to onboard ship.

Dressed in black leather pants and a tight flight shirt, Captain Hawk sat in the corner of the watering hole with Opal draped across his lap. She gently stroked Hawk’s long dark braids with her claws and nuzzled his light blue neck. The Phantom Warrior female shifter, who only a few months ago had been living on Planet Zaron, now held the position of Hawk’s mate. Fallon was still Hawk’s First on the ship, but he was under no illusion who really occupied the spot under the captain.

He stared at Opal. In the low lighting, the lithe female with short, dark hair looked fragile, but in this case appearances were deceptive. She was a skilled warrior, who at one time had been tasked with protecting Hades, the Phantom King. You didn’t get a job like that unless you were lethal.

Opal’s purr rose above the music to match Hawk’s. The sound made Fallon’s horns bristle. Things onboard the Nix hadn’t been the same since the captain found his mate. It had become downright...boring. Worse yet, they’d gone legit. No more slaving and no more smuggling.

Fallon didn’t miss slaving, since it was often more trouble than it was worth, but he did miss the thrill that came from smuggling.

He didn’t begrudge Hawk his happiness, but it sure put a dent in their business. They hadn’t picked up a single cargo since Opal came aboard. Fallon seemed to be the only one worried about the change in their leader. The rest of the crew remained unfazed or perhaps they’d simply accepted the change and mentally moved on.

Without the constant excitement, it became harder and harder to ignore the dissatisfaction growing inside him and the real reasons behind it. His gaze slid back to the blue liquor in his glass. Fallon picked up his drink and swirled the fluid around.

Behind him, Reaper and Mars played a game of toss the whirl. A loud curse disrupted the steady sound of the whirl’s suckered feet hitting the target wall. Fallon turned in time to see a tiny gray creature take off across the floor and scamper under a table. Mars was right on the whirl’s thorny tail, but didn’t reach the low-slung table in time. He cursed again, showing off his skill for languages, and garnered the attention of the restkeep running the place.

“If it gets away, you’re paying for it.” The restkeep’s hard gaze glided to the far side of the room where a Gormo sat munching on something with eight legs. “If he eats my whirl, it’s going to cost you double.”

Fallon chuckled. He didn’t think Mars would let the whirl get away. The man was used to wrangling small creatures. He’d had a familiar named Echo for as long as Fallon could recall. As the thought passed through his mind, Echo’s tiny wedge-shaped head popped up from one of Mars’s many coat pockets.

The mischievous creature had a mixture of yellow feathers and fur, along with startling, beady red eyes that glowed depending on its mood. The color of it clashed wildly with Mars’s onyx skin, but neither seemed to mind.

Mars reached down without looking and gently pushed Echo’s head back into his pocket. It let out a loud displeased squeak, then quieted down. “Don’t get any ideas,” Mars muttered.

With the excitement over, Fallon went back to his drink. He’d no sooner taken a sip, when a loud whoop came from the entrance of the cantina. For a moment, he thought it might be in reaction to the whirl’s unexpected presence, but the sound was quickly followed by a hearty laugh that had Fallon’s shoulders stiffening.

Memories of another time, another place flooded him. Memories he’d tried very hard to forget. The laugh came again—this time louder. His heart stuttered in his chest. How many years had it been? Eight? Ten?

Fallon took a deep breath and swiveled on his stool. His gaze locked on the dark- haired woman, surrounded by four burly space officers. It wasn’t possible... Yet, there

was something familiar about the woman other than her laugh. She had the same pointed chin and full lips that he remembered. Fallon had spent enough time kissing them to know. His gaze swept her from head to foot and his breath caught.

There was more of her now than there had been when he’d known her. And thatmore had Fallon’s mouth watering.

Wide hips and large breasts replaced the boney body he recalled. The body he knew so well, but hadn’t had a chance to fully explore. She’d always had a narrow waist, but her thighs were fuller. Perfect for gripping a man.

When they were teens, they used to joke about being able to look eye to eye, but these days the top of her head barely came to his shoulders.

Dora of Petron...

Was it really her? What were the chances that his rebellious little dreamer would show up here of all places? Ten years faded in a blink. Fallon forgot all about being a genetically enhanced smuggler, forgot about being the son of a wealthy merchant.

In his mind, he was the boy who’d dreamed about designing holographic gardens. The boy that he’d been on that dirt-well planet of Petron, staring at the girl whose braids he used to tug. The girl who he swore he’d come back for. The only girl that he’d ever loved. The girl he’d abandoned.

The thick plaits of hair that dropped to her waist were long gone. Fallon could still feel the soft texture sliding through his fingertips. The dark strands had always glowed under sunlight, giving Dora an ethereal appearance. As if the Goddess herself had kissed her head.

Fallon missed the braids, missed the girl.

This woman wore her hair loose, just a little past shoulder length. Better to tangle his fists in, when he took her. And there was no doubt that Fallon wanted her, even if she wasn’t Dora of Petron. She looked enough like her to let him pretend for a few hours.

Sharp gray eyes surveyed the room with one glance before swinging back to him. There was no recognition on her face. Why would there be after all these years?

Bitterness welled in his mouth and his head dropped. He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck. He was wrong. It wasn’t her. Dora would know him. To believe

otherwise would mean that he’d meant nothing to her and that was something Fallon couldn’t face. It wasn’t his Dora. Just someone who looked a little like her.

He took a deep breath, then grabbed his drink and downed half of it. The liquid burned his throat. Fallon welcomed the pain.

The woman’s eyes narrowed as her gaze locked on the horns that curved around his head—horns that had been barely coming in when he’d known the girl. She elbowed the man next to her. He leaned in close. Too close. And whispered in her ear.

The familiarity of the move brought on a maelstrom of unexpected fury. Just who was he? And how well did they know each other? Fallon was shocked by the swell of emotion. He would have thought that after ten years he would’ve moved beyond such things. Yet, he had the overwhelming need to gore a stranger with his horns.

The man said something else and the woman giggled. That laugh wrapped around Fallon and refused to let him go. Only one person he knew laughed like that...Dora. What he failed to recall was that the only time she did so was when she was up to no good.

“Twenty credits says I can rope that one.” She nodded in Fallon’s direction.

Fallon glanced behind him to see who she referred to, but there was no one there. Surely she didn’t mean him. Not his shy and unassuming Dora. Fallon turned back in time to see a rope coming for his head, a rope that looked familiar. He was so shocked that he didn’t even react.

The rope settled around his horns. The woman yanked hard, pulling him off his stool. Fallon fell to his knees. She was on him in a blink, looping the rope around his horns, then snatching up his feet. Within seconds, she had him trussed...and more turned on than he’d been in years.

Hawk and the rest of his crew looked at him and howled with laughter.

Fallon pulled at the rope, trying to break it, but it only tightened. He flexed his hands to reach the dagger strapped to his thigh. But it was no use. He was trapped. The woman’s luscious scent reached him and his teeth clenched. The combination of healing herbs and feminine musk sent his lust-fogged brain into overdrive. Fallon did the only thing he could to save himself. He grabbed onto his anger with both hands.

“Get this off me!” he bellowed.

The woman ignored his demand and turned to her companions. “Told you I could rope him. Now pay up.” She absently patted Fallon’s ridged, green horns. Her eyes widened on contact and she yanked her hand away. A thin layer of his essence clung to her skin, glistening in the low lighting. She ran her hand over her pants to get it off, but it was too late. His essence had already seeped into her body. Soon she’d be hungry for his touch.

Served her right, he thought.

She touched him again. Her caress sent shockwaves through Fallon, hardening him instantly. His horns were highly sensitive. They could be used as a weapon or for something far more sensual. But it wasn’t the touch that surprised him or his reaction to it. It was the fact that his horns secreted pheromones. During his many sexual encounters, he’d never once had that happen. Never once encountered a potential mate until now.

Of all the females in the universe, why did it have to be her?

He scowled. “Dora, untie me this instant!”

The woman’s mouth dropped open at the mention of her name. Startled gray eyes looked down at him. “F-Fallon?”

“Yes,” he ground out.

She scanned him from head to foot in disbelief, her gaze lingering on his straining muscles, then stumbled back. “What are you doing here?”

“Get this rope off me and I’ll tell you.”

“I didn’t know,” she said. “I was only proving a point.” Her fingers fluttered over his horns once more and the ache in his body intensified.

Why did she keep doing that? Couldn’t she see the effect it was having on him?

She tugged at the rope, releasing the knot. The bindings fell away from his body.

Fallon scrambled to his feet and scrubbed a hand over his horns to remove the last of the residue. Shock warred with embarrassment, but those emotions were nothing compared to the solar storm swirling inside him at seeing her again after all these years. Fallon didn’t think he’d ever see Dora again.

“What in sun’s fire were you thinking?” he yelled. “I could’ve shot you.” He tapped his blaster for emphasis.


“I didn’t teach you how to rope squawkers so you could use the skill to take down armed Moreans.” He snatched the rope off the floor before she could and studied it. Fallon brought the fibers to his nose and sniffed. Slightly frayed and sun-bleached, the rope still held the pungent aroma of the lemac leaves he’d used to make it. Their gazes met and held.

“I can’t believe you kept it,” he said.

It had taken him weeks to make. She’d wanted her own rope desperately. Had needed it to catch wounded animals, so she could heal them. Fallon had been more than happy to make the rope for her. He could still see the joy on her face, when he presented it to her in a bloom box.

She’d squealed and threw her arms around his neck, then she’d done something he’d only dreamed about. Dora had kissed him. After that, they’d barely been able to keep their hands and lips off each other.

Her cheeks flooded with color. She snatched the rope out of his hands and took a step back.

The men with her sensed the change in the atmosphere around them and immediately came to her aid.

“Let us buy you a drink,” one of the crewmen said.
Fallon ignored him. “Why aren’t you on Petron?”
“There’s nothing there for me.” She wound the rope around her hand and tucked it

into a pouch that hung from the side of her flight suit.
Of all the places she could’ve turned up, she had to come to Terraless Firma. It hurt

to look at her, but a black hole couldn’t tear Fallon’s gaze away. It had been too long. He had thought about her too often. Dreamt about Dora when he allowed himself to feel homesick, to feel period.

“How did you get here?” he asked.

She stared at him for what felt like an eternity, then shrugged. “I’m the chief healer on the Anemone.”

“That’s a prestigious position.”
Her lips thinned. “You don’t have to sound so surprised.”

He wasn’t. Dora had come a long way from the poor merchant girl his family had traded with. As a teen, she’d always talked about wanting to be a healer. Her home became a sanctuary for every wounded creature she came across.

He recalled the day they’d gone for a walk and come across a family of injured tibbars. Dora had insisted they take all of them back to her home. It had taken him two hours to catch all the floppy-eared, bushy-tailed creatures. In the end, he’d had sweat pouring down his face and tibbars flowing out of his pockets. But the effort had been worth it the moment Dora smiled at him. She’d nursed every single one of them back to health. She had been so proud the day she’d released the tibbars back into the wild. Fallon had held Dora as the creatures scrambled away. She’d cried and he’d never felt so helpless.

It took years to become a healer and even more to move through the ranks. To do so in ten was an impressive feat and spoke volumes about her skill. Skill that would be highly prized by any ship.

She ran a trembling hand through her hair, brushing the dark tendrils away from her face, giving him a glimpse of the girl he once knew. It only made Fallon hurt more.

“What brings you to Terraless Firma?” she asked.

He opened his mouth to tell her the truth, but the words wouldn’t come out. Fallon’s face heated. Dora was living her dream. He’d given up on his long ago. “I’m on leave from...” He glanced to his crew, who were now openly gaping at them. “I’m on leave,” he said softly.

Confusion swept over her face. “I thought you’d have taken over your father’s Morean trading empire by now.”

He would have... That’s what everyone had expected, since Fallon was the only son in a wealthy merchant family, but his plans had changed after he’d backed out of running away with her. His father had used the moment to prey on his insecurities. He’d accused Dora of making him soft.

It had taken Fallon two years of toiling on Morea under his father’s watchful eye to dispel that notion. By the time he’d gotten up the nerve to go back to Petron for Dora, she was gone. She’d been the only woman he’d ever wanted. Without her, his position in his family’s business was meaningless.

You had told her that you’d run away with her. You didn’t go back. What did you expect?

Fallon had been so angry with himself, angry with his father for interfering in his love life, and angry with Dora for not waiting, that he’d hopped on the first ship out of the solar system. He’d barely been twenty.

The universe could be cruel to a pampered youth. The first lesson that Fallon had learned was that softness was a weakness and emotion could get you killed. After that, he’d done whatever was necessary to survive. He wasn’t proud of every choice, but had no room for regrets.

Now here she was—his greatest dream and biggest failure.
“Working with my father didn’t pan out,” he muttered.
“Do you still design holographic gardens?” she asked.
Fallon shifted from foot to foot, his discomfort growing. “I haven’t done that in

Dora’s frown returned. “That’s a shame. You were talented.”
He didn’t need the reminder.
“Over here, Dora,” one of the men shouted.
“I have to go. It was...nice to see you again,” she said, effectively dismissing him. Fallon watched Dora leave. She didn’t waver or look back. It was as if he truly

meant nothing to her, as if his essence had no effect on her whatsoever.
That was it? After all these years, that’s all she had to say to him? She couldn’t even

muster any anger.
Fallon wasn’t sure what made him madder: The fact that he didn’t warrant another

look or the fact that he couldn’t stop thinking about the feel of Dora’s hand upon his horns. He should’ve never taught her how to rope.

His gaze followed her shapely bottom as Dora made her way across the room to join her crewmen. A wall of smoke appeared in front of Fallon’s eyes, obscuring her. When it faded, his wraith-like crewmate, Reaper, stood before him.

“Stop doing that,” Fallon said. “You know I don’t like it when you pop in and out unexpectedly.” He’d appreciated Reaper’s abilities on several occasions, but Fallon never

lost sight of the fact that one miscalculation on Reaper’s part would leave him dead. No one survived the wraith-like Being passing through them.

Reaper shook out his long brown coat to smooth the wrinkles and snickered. “Thought you might need some help with the woman.”

Fallon glared at him. “When have I ever needed help with women?”

Reaper’s black eyes twinkled with mirth as he rubbed his chin. “Can’t think of any time off the top of my head, but then again, I don’t recall any female able to bind you like a squawker.”

“She got lucky,” Fallon said. “That’s all.”
Reaper’s dark brow rose. “Looked like more than luck to me. Do you know her?” “Not anymore,” he murmured.
Reaper blinked at that statement. “Fifty credits says you can’t take her down.” He

slapped the orange credit chip on the bar next to Fallon's drink.
Fallon shoved the credit away. He didn't want to touch Dora. Was afraid to, given

his reaction to her brush against his horns. “I don’t feel like getting my ass kicked by her friends.”

Reaper glanced over at the men surrounding Dora. “You could handle them all on your own, but if you want, I can take care of her friends.”

“I don’t think she’d appreciate you killing her crew,” Fallon said. “Neither would the Authority.”

“Who said anything about killing them?” Reaper asked. “Give me a little credit.” “Exactly what would you like me to do to her?” Fallon asked.
“Tie her up like she tied you,” Reaper said.
“With what?” he asked. “The twine in my drink?”

Lex and Mars came up beside them. They both glanced at the credit on the bar and dug into their pockets. “We’re in!” they said in unison.

Fallon’s expression soured. “You don’t even know what’s going on.”
“Reaper’s bet that you can’t land the female,” Lex said. “Am I right?”
Close enough. Fallon glared at the fair-haired, blood-sucking alien grinning at him.

The situation was far more complicated than that. “I’m surprised Shadow doesn’t want in on this bet,” he said in an attempt to change the subject.

Lex shrugged. “The Sorce prefers other diversions.”

Given the dark magic that Shadow wielded, those diversions were something none of them wanted to think about.

“So what are you going to do about the female?” Lex winked at him.

Fallon groaned in frustration. He didn’t want anything to do with this Dora of Petron. This Dora was too bold, too outspoken. Nothing like the girl that he'd loved.

She was the last thing he needed—last thing he wanted. Like all Horned Moreans, Fallon preferred his women subservient. This Dora would rather kick him in the teeth than bow down before his hard body. He didn’t know this woman.

What would it be like to have a female who could stand as his equal? A lick of heat raced through his veins and his stomach fluttered. He felt himself harden all over again. Dora had managed to keep her expression calm until she turned away from Fallon.

In her first year of training in the healing arts, she’d learned how to remain calm and project confidence. Patients wouldn’t trust someone who easily panicked or who gasped at the first sight of a wound. She still couldn’t believe that it was him. Not after all these years.

She’d always imagined what it would be like to see Fallon again. She had even played out exactly how it would go in her head if she did. But the moment he’d said her name and Dora had gotten a good look at his handsome, pale green face, all the years of practiced indifference had slipped away. She’d gone from confident woman to insecure, lovesick girl in a flash and it had left her shaken to the core.

She couldn’t still love him. Not after what he’d done to her. It’s just the shock of seeing him again, she told herself. Dora took a seat next to her crewmen and covertly glanced his way.

Black flight pants encased his long legs, ending at his trim waist. He’d strapped a wicked looking dagger with a gold handle to his left thigh and a blaster to his right. The material encasing his wide chest and broad shoulders strained to conceal his muscles. His light green arms flexed as he opened and closed his hands.

With his square jaw, full lips and tilted sunrise colored eyes, he was still handsome, but there was a hardness to Fallon that hadn’t been there when they were young. The warmth that used to shimmer in his eyes was gone, replaced by jaded certainty.

Every inch of him had been honed to perfection. You didn’t get that way without enhancements. Dora wondered what he’d done to himself. Mercs, healers, soldiers, and criminals often altered their genetics in order to do their jobs more efficiently and to accelerate healing. She’d come across a few mercs over the years and had tried to treat their injuries. They’d refused. She’d had no choice, but to watch as their skin stitched itself back together before her eyes. She wondered what category Fallon fell under.

Her gaze shifted to the horns sprouting from his skull. Three inches above each ear, they’d barely protruded from his head when they were teens. Now the horns arched toward the back of his skull before swooping around in a half arc and ending in deadly points near his jawline.

Now that she had touched them, Dora couldn’t help but wonder what those ridged horns would feel like against her naked body. She brushed her hands over her pants once more to remove the sticky substance covering her fingers. Dora had heard the stories about Morean males’ sexual appetites and what they could do with their horns, but it had been hard for her to merge the memories of the insecure boy she’d loved with that carnal image.

Staring at Fallon across the bar, Dora had no problem seeing him in a new light. Every inch of him screamed typical Morean male. And it took everything she had not to run out of the bar.

What had happened to the softhearted dreamer? The one who designed a holographic garden just so she could stumble upon it during their walks? He’d loved surprising her, loved spending hours creating lavish environments. His sensitive nature put him at odds with his father, but it was what had drawn her to him in the first place.

Why hadn’t Fallon taken over his father’s business? He’d been groomed for the position since he was a child. His family’s wealth was one of the reasons their fathers had been so against their relationship. One, but not the only reason. His father hadn’t liked her influence on Fallon. He blamed her for his son’s big dreams. He believed she was the reason Fallon was so sensitive and why he had trouble concentrating. Placing blame was easier than accepting that his son was different.

While Fallon’s father focused on who to blame, her father spent his time doling out warnings. He had told Dora from the start that Fallon’s gentleness was an act and that he

only wanted to bed her. She should not expect anything more from a boy who was part of the Morean elite.

But Dora hadn’t believed him. She and Fallon had planned to defy their families and run away together. She’d thought for sure that she knew him better than anyone else. She had loved him with all her heart and had convinced herself that everyone—especially her father—was wrong about Fallon.

When the truth was finally revealed, and Fallon hadn’t returned for her like he’d promised, Dora had been devastated. She feared that he was the arrogant, domineering male that her father claimed. It didn’t help that the news of the Morean tossing her aside had spread throughout her whole village. Insidious whispers about him getting what he’d wanted had followed. It wasn’t true, but by then no one would listen.

For the first few months, Dora didn’t think she’d survive the pain—didn’t want to survive without Fallon. She’d destroyed every holographic garden that he’d created for her. Eventually, she’d pulled herself together and left Planet Petron determined to prove to Fallon, her family, and all the others that she was worth more than a quick roll in thefloffs. She’d harnessed her anger and used it to excel. She left the little girl she used to be behind in order to become an honored chief healer.

Yet, even after achieving everything she’d set out to do, Dora hadn’t found the peace she’d expected. She loved her job, but she’d never been able to shake her restlessness. A restlessness that Fallon seemed to stir up like a cosmic dust storm.

His sharp gaze found her and she shrank down in her seat, unable to face the one man she’d wanted to confront. The one man who’d laid waste to her heart. The one man in the universe she hated...and still loved.

No! She didn’t love him. Not anymore. To do so would make her a masochist. “You okay?” the crewman next to her asked.
Dora tore her gaze away from Fallon. “Yeah, I’m fine, Cooper.” She gave him a

weak smile.
“Who is he?” Cooper asked, a hint of jealousy in his voice.
“He’s someone I knew a long time ago.”
She and Cooper had gone out a few times. Nothing serious—at least on her part.

Dora didn’t do serious anymore. Work always came first, but she had planned to spend

her leave with Cooper. A few nights in a soft pallet with a handsome man was just what she needed to erase all memories of Fallon.

Cooper’s soft brown gaze warmed. “I thought for a minute that I might have some competition,” he said.

“There is no competition,” she said. Fallon would win hands down, but Dora wasn’t about to add that. “You have nothing to worry about.” She looked at Fallon. “Nothing at all.”

Fallon’s sensual lips flattened into a grim line as she stared at him and his hands curled into fists. Anger radiated from every green inch of him. What did he have to be mad about? She’d apologized for the roping incident.

He didn’t have the right to be angry about anything else. Fallon had lost that right, when he’d left her behind. She might not have been good enough for him then, but Dora’s current position put her above him. It was her turn to walk away.

Cooper stroked her shoulders. Normally, Dora would’ve found the caress pleasurable, but the gentle touch only added to her discomfort.

“Are you sure his arrival isn’t going to be a problem?” Cooper’s hand stilled.
Dora gave him a genuine smile. “Yes.” She wouldn’t allow it to be.
Fallon was part of her past. A painful past she had no wish to relive. Dora glanced at

the horned man who once held her future in his hands and felt a pang of regret. Stark, cold, and confident, he was nothing like the dreamer who’d wanted more out of life than what their families intended for them. This was a true Morean male. The kind of male she wanted nothing to do with.

You’re over him.

To prove it, she said, “Let’s have a drink, then get out of here. Okay?” Dora slid her fingers over Cooper’s hand.

Cooper’s grin turned feral. “Anything you want.”

Something bumped Dora’s foot. She squealed in surprise and looked under the table. “How’d you get here?” She picked up the gray whirl and stroked it under the chin. Its suckered feet clung to her hand and it cooed.

The restkeep noticed and hurried over to her table.

Dora gently handed the thorny creature back to its owner. The sooner she got out of here the better.

Fallon watched Dora’s crew close rank around her at the table. It was no surprise, since his would do the same once they stopped laughing at him. The man who'd whispered in Dora’s ear had slipped his meaty arm behind her back and gently stroked her shoulders like it was his right to touch her. Fallon's vision faded to red and a wave of possessiveness struck him.

“I’d be angry, too, if she’d embarrassed me that way.” Mars sounded nothing like the peacekeeper he was. “You going to take our bet or what?”

“Thought you were the diplomat of the bunch,” Fallon said to deflect the real reason he was mad.

Mars chuckled. “Not when it comes to seeing a woman kick your ass, even if she does have a way with whirls.”

Dora had always had a way with everyone and everything. She’d taught him to see past appearances, to respect lowly merchants and royalty alike. She had viewed the world through a lens of compassion and forced him to do the same. Dora saw him for who he truly was. Seeing himself through her eyes had made Fallon want to be a better man, made him want to live up to her expectations. This had nothing to do with embarrassment and everything to do with the past coming back to punch him in the throat.

“Just drop it,” Fallon said.

“Not going to happen,” Reaper said. “This is the first time in months that I’ve seen you excited about anything.”

“Yeah,” Lex said. “It’s nice to have the old Fallon back. We were starting to get worried that you might leave us.”

“What?” Fallon’s face heated. “Where’d you get that idea?” Leaving wasn’t an option. He had nowhere to go.

“Doesn’t matter,” Reaper said. “Just know we’re here to help.”
Fallon’s gaze slid to Dora. “I don’t need your help.” Not with this. Not with her.Lex’s violet eyes narrowed. “Then why are you hesitating?”
Why indeed?
“We could always take her,” Reaper said casually. “Sell her at the next stop.”

Fury swept through Fallon. He grabbed hold of Reaper’s collar and slammed him against the bar. “We aren’t taking her anywhere,” he snarled. “Keep your hands off her. Got it?”

Reaper’s black eyes widened. The surprise in them was quickly replaced by speculation. “Told you she wasn’t just some random female,” he said to the crew. He pulled another orange credit out of his coat pocket and slapped it down on the bar. “A hundred credits says you can’t bind her.”

Fallon shoved him away and glared at his crew. What was he doing? These men were his family. And like typical siblings, they’d goaded him into reacting. The smart thing to do was back down, but that wasn’t an option, especially now that he’d revealed so much.

Reaper hadn’t been serious when he’d suggested they take Dora. They’d gone legit. Hawk had made that clear. But now that the suggestion was in his mind, Fallon couldn’t help but consider it.

He couldn’t kidnap Dora. Could he? If he did, what then?
Could he make her listen to him? Maybe even get her to give him another chance?Both those thing would take time to accomplish. He’d need to get her alone. Taking

her might be the only way to buy him the time he needed. He glanced across the room. Dora and her crew settled their charges and gathered their things, then headed

toward the entrance. She glanced his way and a myriad of emotions crossed her face. Warning bells went off in his head. Fallon silenced them as panic overtook reason. “Do you want to say goodbye?” the handsome man beside her asked.
Dora met Fallon’s gaze. “No need,” she said. “He said his goodbyes a long time

Pain sliced through Fallon and his gut clenched. She was right. He had. He saw his

chance to explain the past disintegrate before his eyes and something inside of him wailed in anguish. Fallon turned to Reaper, not bothering to hide his desperation.

“Follow them,” he said. “Let me know where they go.”

Reaper gave him a savage grin and nodded once, then disappeared in a puff of smoke.


Fallon did his best to wait patiently at the bar for Reaper’s return. Hawk and Opal had headed back to the ship on a transit shuttle, opting to stay on it, instead of at one of the many accommodations scattered across the weigh station. They’d left the ship’s shuttles behind for the crew.

It felt like an eternity had passed by the time Reaper reappeared. His form solidified, then he picked up what was left of Fallon’s drink and tossed it down his throat. Reaper hissed, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“What happened? Where’d they go?” Fallon asked. If they went back to theAnemone, then he was screwed.

Reaper held up a finger.
Fallon shoved it aside. “Did you find them?”
Reaper’s dark gaze locked on him and he hesitated. “I did,” he said.
“And?” he asked impatiently.
Reaper ordered two more drinks. “And I don’t think you’re going to like what I

Fallon gripped the side of the bar to keep from punching Reaper in the face. “Just

tell me.”
Reaper paid for the drinks, then slid one in front of Fallon. “You’re going to need

Fallon automatically grabbed the glass, though he didn’t take a drink.
“They went into the accommodations at the far end of the weigh station,” Reaper

That wasn’t anything unusual. Anyone familiar with Terraless Firma knew that the

quietest rooms were at the end of the station. Most uninformed travelers booked space nearest the shuttle and the fuel pods, so they wouldn’t have far to walk. They didn’t know how noisy ships fueling all night could get. Why was Reaper being so cagey?

“The woman and the big male who was with her are sharing a room.” Reaper lifted his drink and took a long pull from it.

The glass in Fallon’s hand shattered, sending his drink spilling across the bar. “Knew you weren't going to take the news well,” Reaper said.
Lex and Mars noticed the commotion and came over to where they stood. “What's going on? Did you find the woman?” Lex asked.

“I found her alright,” Reaper said. “She’s bunked up with the dark-haired humanoid.”

“Uh-oh.” Lex’s violet eyes widened and he took a step back. “You going to be okay?”

Fallon brushed his hands over his pants to remove the moisture and sharp shards from his skin. Already his implanted tech was pushing them out. Soon smooth skin would return. “I’ll be fine.” His gaze slid to Reaper. “Just as soon as you tell me what room they’re in.”

This proved that they were through, but Fallon was going to have his confrontation. Even if he had to toss Dora’s companion out of the room and provoke her into one.

“Let’s go,” Fallon said. There was no time to lose. 

The second the door closed behind her, Dora knew she’d made a mistake inviting Cooper back to her room. She had always been pleased with the man’s lovemaking. Hadn’t thought she needed anything more...until she’d laid eyes on Fallon.

Dora had no intention of going back for the green-skinned Morean. He’d never come back for her. But she could no longer fool herself into believing that what she had with Cooper was enough. Would ever be enough. It didn’t help that she couldn’t stop thinking about Fallon.

Cooper sat on the cushioned pallet and pulled his shirt off. The move left his dark hair disheveled. He tossed his shirt onto the floor beside his shoes and ran a hand over his broad chest.

It gave him a seductive look that Dora had seen before, but it normally came after they’d spent a few hours rolling around a pallet.

Cooper caught her looking at him and grinned. “What are you waiting for?” He patted the spot beside him, then reached for the closure on the front of his pants to release his shaft.

Dora liked Cooper’s cock, but she wasn’t in the mood to see it right now. She opened her mouth to send him away. Before she could utter a sound, the metal door to her room came crashing down. Dora screamed and her heart jumped into her throat. She glanced around her for anything that could be used as a weapon, but other than a pallet and a couple of chairs there was nothing in the room. Unfortunately, due to gravitational concerns, those seats were bolted to the floor.

She patted her pockets. A rope wasn’t much of a weapon, especially against a blaster. Dora looked to Cooper for help. He hadn’t moved a muscle. He stared at the door with his mouth open.

“Cooper?” she said to jolt him into action.
He didn’t even turn his head.
“Cooper!” she shouted his name again.
A large shadow fell across the room. Dora trembled and took a step back. She had

heard stories about people being taken from their rooms and sold on the dark market, but had never thought it could happen to her.

She glanced out the porthole at the flashing neon outside. People scurried from building to building. Dora waved her arms and shouted, forgetting that you could only see one way through the thick, soundproof glass. She turned back to face the threat.

The shadow grew, filling the room. “For Goddess sake, Cooper, do something!”

Cooper trembled and the color drained from his face, as Fallon stepped through the doorway, chest heaving, veins bulging and horns lowered like some sexy demi-god beast. He inhaled deeply and let out what sounded like a snort. His yellow eyes narrowed as they locked on Cooper’s half-naked form and his muscles tensed.

“Fallon, don’t!” Dora yelled, but there was no stopping him.

He crossed the room in two strides and grabbed Cooper by the throat, yanking him off the pallet.

“Get out!” Fallon growled.

Cooper seemed to finally snap out of his shocked stupor. “What do you think you’re doing? Release me this instant or I’ll call the Authority.” He struggled, attempting to break Fallon’s grasp.

Fallon laughed in his face. “Do I look like I care about the Authority? Call them.” He tossed Cooper into the waiting arms of his crewmates. “Lex, you’re up.”

A fair-haired man stepped forward and looked into Cooper eyes. He whispered something Dora couldn’t hear. A second later, Cooper slumped in his arms. Was he dead?

“What in caldron fires is wrong with you?” Dora shouted. “You can’t just barge into a room and kill someone.”

Fallon stepped into her space, blocking her view of Cooper and the other men. Heat poured off his body as he crowded her and a rich spicy scent emanated from his skin. “I can. And I have.”

Who was this man? He was a stranger.

A stranger that made Dora’s heart race with excitement and her lower lip tremble with fear.

Fallon’s gaze locked on her mouth and his eyes widened. “Don’t!” He swallowed hard.

The barked command only made her lip tremble worse. Had Dora not been watching him so closely, she wouldn’t have seen Fallon flinch. She also wouldn’t have glimpsed the pain roiling beneath his angry exterior. Maybe there was more to this arrogant Morean than she thought.

“Your lover will be fine,” he muttered, then nodded to his crew. They lifted Cooper off his feet and carried him into the hall, then pulled the broken door back into place as they left.

“His name is Cooper,” she said.
“His name is unimportant,” he snarled.
In all the years she’d known him, Fallon had only lied to her one time. She didn’t

think he’d lie about this, especially after seeing the look on his face when he had Cooper by the throat. Fallon had wanted to kill him. If Cooper was dead, he’d tell her.

Her anger ignited. “Explain yourself!” Dora put her hands on her hips to hide the quivering and glared at him. “You have no right to be here. You were not invited.”

All Fallon wanted to do was kill the man, especially now that he knew how much Cooper meant to Dora. He could still smell the male’s scent in her room, on her pallet. The stench seemed to be in every breath he took. It stroked his fury, fueled his rage.

Why him? Why take him into her bed, into her body? Fallon belonged there. Not some weak male who didn’t even have the decency to fight for her when challenged.

It didn’t matter that Fallon hadn’t given him the chance. What if it hadn’t been him at the door? What if it had been someone else? Another slaver?

Anything could be happening to Dora right now. The thought terrified him. It was a good thing that his crew had taken the man away or Fallon would’ve hurt him.

“Are you going to explain what you’re doing here?” Dora asked. “I don’t appreciate having my plans interrupted.”

Fallon’s lip curled in disgust. “If a male isn’t willing to fight for you, then he doesn’t deserve to bed you.”

Her expression turned thunderous. “On that, we can agree. So get out!”

He’d walked right into that one, but Fallon wasn’t about to give up. “You can’t tell me that you feel nothing for me,” he said.

Dora’s gaze leveled on him. “Yes, I can,” she said.

“You lie,” he said. “I can smell your desire.” Fallon snarled and closed the distance between them. He grabbed Dora by her shirt and yanked her into his arms.

“What do you think—”

His mouth came down upon hers in mid-protest. The second their lips touched, the heat simmering between them went supernova. All the years fell away and they were once again Dora and Fallon, two hungry kids who could never get enough of each other.

His grip on her tightened and he deepened the embrace. The sweet taste of her mouth went straight to his head. Oh how he’d missed this, missed her. Fallon savored, unable to get enough. His fingers brushed her shirt, grazing the soft swell of her breast. There were too many clothes between them. Fallon wanted to strip her bare, to see what he’d been missing for the past ten years. He touched her again and felt her nipples plump beneath his hands.

Flames shot down his abdomen and settled into his shaft. His flight suit material stretched to the breaking point. Fallon had never been so hard in his life. He swirled his tongue around hers. Her body melted against his and Dora moaned.

The sound sent spikes of joy through him. Fallon hadn’t heard the luscious noise in forever. Yet, he had never forgotten it. The tightness in his chest eased and he felt like he could breathe for the first time in forever.

“I want you,” he murmured against her kiss-swollen lips, then cupped her sex and squeezed.

“No!” Dora shoved him away and took a step back.

Her rejection burned like acid. Fallon could smell her need. That particular savory scent hadn’t been in the room when he’d arrived. The thought brought him up short. Why hadn’t it been? Dora and the male had been about to have sex. Yet, desire had only emanated from one of them. Why? The truth hit him upside his head.

“You want me,” he rasped.

“That was never an issue. All that wanting you entailed was the problem,” she said. “Besides, my body’s response doesn’t mean anything. I wanted Cooper, too. Would’ve had him if you hadn’t interrupted.”

Her barb struck its target, even though he knew it was a lie. Pain blossomed in Fallon’s chest. He shoved the agony aside. Coming here to try to talk to her had been a mistake. The damage he’d done all those years ago was irreparable.

Fallon inhaled, preparing to apologize, and caught the rich aroma of aroused female. Dora’s desire should’ve faded with her anger, but if anything, it had increased. Was it due to his essence or something else entirely? Fallon needed to know. His resolve hardened.

“We need to talk,” he said. There’d be plenty of time for fucking later.

“There’s nothing left to say.” Dora crossed her arms over her chest, but not before he caught sight of her hard nipples. “You made your feelings clear long ago.”

Fallon shook his head in frustration. “You need to listen,” he said. “You haven’t heard the whole story.”

Dora balked. “I am done listening to you,” she said. “The last time I did, I found myself rejected by my village and labeled a pallet warmer. Do you have any idea what it

is like to be an innocent with that kind of reputation? Of course you don’t. How could you? Nobody cares how many pallets you warm.”

Heat flooded Fallon’s face and his hands curled into fists. A pallet warmer? How could they think such a thing about Dora? She’d been so sweet. So naïve. He’d had no idea his cowardice behavior had caused her village to turn on her. No wonder she hated him.

Had Fallon known, he would have... Would’ve... Would’ve what? There’d been a good reason why he hadn’t come back for her when he’d said he would. Those circumstances hadn’t changed.

His jaw clenched. “Sorry.” The word sounded rusty in his throat. Fallon couldn’t remember the last time he’d apologized to anyone.

Dora gave him a bitter laugh. “Too late.”

Fallon licked his lips. Dora’s gaze followed his tongue’s progress. He could still taste her sweetness. He did it again. To his surprise, her pupils flared.

“You claim to hate me but your body weeps for my touch like mine weeps for yours,” he said.

“Do not entwine sex with emotions. I don’t,” she said. “It’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.”

“Will you at least let me explain what happened?” Once he did, Fallon would leave her in peace, though it would be hard to walk away.

“No,” she said. “There is nothing you can say to make up for the past. Now get out. I’m not going to ask you again.”

He growled in frustration and strode to the broken door.

Dora snorted. “I see nothing’s changed,” she said. “The only thing you’ve ever been good at is leaving.”

Fallon froze next to the door. “It’s not the only thing I’m good at,” he murmured. A smile ghosted his mouth as he ran his hand over the metal, then opened the door. “I’m not going anywhere, Dora. Not until you listen.” He slowly turned to face her. Fallon only had one regret in his life and he was looking at her.

“You have no choice but to leave,” she said.

“I have one choice,” Fallon said. “But you’re not going to like it.” He pulled out his blaster and pointed the weapon at her.

Dora’s eyes widened and she took a step back. “What are you doing?”
Fallon fired.
She never got a chance to scream before he shot her, but her shocked expression said

it all. Fallon caught Dora before she hit the floor. He lifted her easily, then settled her over his shoulder. Despite what she thought, their conversation was far from over.


Reaper stood at the end of the hall, waiting. Fallon wasn’t surprised to see him. The wraith seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to trouble. He arched a brow when he saw Dora hanging over Fallon’s shoulder.

“I take it she’s coming with us?” Reaper asked.
“For now,” Fallon said.
Reaper grinned. “Can’t say that I’m surprised,” he said. “Wouldn’t want to be you

when she wakes up.”
The door opened beside them and a man they didn’t recognize stepped out of the

room. He took one look at them, then his curious gaze slid to Dora. When he saw her, his eyes widened.

“What are you doing with our healer?” he asked.
Fallon pulled his blaster out and shot the man. He fell to the floor with a thud. “You can’t stun everybody you encounter,” Reaper said.
Fallon ignored him. “Where are the others?” he asked. “We have to leave. They

won’t be out long.”
“I’ll notify them to meet us at the shuttles,” Reaper said. “Do you want me to carry

her? I can conceal her better than you can.”
Fallon’s grip on Dora tightened. “That won’t be necessary.”
Reaper chuckled. “Figured as much.”
“Just round everyone up,” Fallon said. “We have to get out of here before someone

notifies the Authority.”
“Her ship is going to come after us, you know,” Reaper said.
“Let them come,” Fallon said. “It won’t be the first vessel that we needed to evade.” “True,” Reaper said. “But it might be the most important.”
“Go!” Fallon said.
It didn’t take Reaper long to locate the rest of Hawk’s crew and get them back to the

shuttles. Fallon waited impatiently for everyone to get strapped in. Only when the

engines roared to life, did he relax a little. When they arrived on the ship, Fallon headed toward the transport cylinders.

“Where are you going?” Mars asked.

“To my quarters.” Fallon ignored his crews’ shocked expressions. So what if he’d never brought a woman to his room. It didn’t make Dora special.

“Don't you want to put her in one of the holding chambers?” Mars asked.

“No,” he said. That was where they used to keep the slaves and the pallet warmers. Dora was no slave and she sure as Petron wasn’t a pallet warmer. Besides, Fallon didn’t want her to wake up inside a holding cell. Dora would be mad enough once she realized what he’d done. He didn’t want to add to her anger.

He left his crew in the cargo bay and proceeded to his quarters. Fallon placed Dora on his pallet and slipped her shoes off. She’d be out for at least another hour—long enough for him to let Hawk know what was going on. He stopped by the door and glanced back. Seeing her there made his gut clench. How many times had he imagined Dora lying beside him? Too many to count. Now she was finally here. The question was for how long?

He forced himself to leave before he could change his mind. Fallon punched in a code that would lock his room, then headed to Hawk’s quarters. He didn’t want to interrupt the captain, but he’d done this without permission and would accept whatever punishment Hawk deemed necessary. Fallon placed his hand next to Hawk’s door.

A light flashed under his palm, registering his presence. A moment later, the door opened and Hawk stood in the doorway, chest bare and a blanket wrapped around his hips. He blinked at Fallon. “This better be an emergency.”

Fallon cleared his throat. “I’ve abducted a female,” he said. “I am reporting myself for violating the rules.” He straightened to his full height. “The rest of the crew were only following my orders.”

Hawk leaned against the doorframe, giving Fallon a view of Opal splayed across the captain’s pallet—naked.

He kept his gaze averted.
“Does this female happen to carry a rope?” Hawk asked.
Fallon flushed. “She does.” He kept his voice low so they wouldn’t be overheard.

“Did you bring her aboard for the purpose of selling her?”
Fallon’s gaze locked on Hawk’s. “No!”
“I see,” Hawk said.
“She’s a healer,” Fallon added. “We could use her onboard.”
“True,” Hawk said. “But I’m not sure how useful she’ll be since she’s been taken

against her will. Who is she?”
“Someone I knew a long time ago,” he muttered.
Hawk’s black brow rose and his amber gaze sharpened. “Is this the woman from

Fallon couldn’t believe that Hawk remembered Dora. He’d only mentioned her once

years ago and hadn’t gone into a lot of detail. “Yes.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he said.
He didn’t and his expression must’ve said so.
Hawk laughed. “That’s what I thought,” he said. “You have a week, then she goes

back. Understand? Now get us out of orbit before her ship realizes she’s missing.” “Aye, Captain.” Fallon straightened to attention.
“Oh, and First,” Hawk said, stopping him short.
Fallon’s shoulders hunched at the use of his title. “Yes, Captain?”

“You have cleaning duty for the next six months,” he said.
“Aye, Captain.”
The door closed.
Fallon let out the breath he was holding and hurried toward the bridge. He was

grateful to be let off so easily. Hawk had given him a week with Dora and he was determined to make the best of it. Now if only he could get her to cooperate.

Hawk closed the door and stalked toward the bed. “What did he do?” Opal asked.

“Snagged the female who roped him.”
She laughed. “That’s uncharacteristic, especially for Fallon. He’s not the type to

attach himself to any female. What does he plan to do with her?”
Hawk thought about it. “I don’t think he knows. I’ve never seen him like this.”

Opal stretched out on the pallet, arching her back so her nipples stabbed skyward. “I’m sure given some time he’ll think of something. I could suggest a few things,” she said, stroking herself. “But I’ve learned it’s best not to get between a mating pair.”

“Who said anything about them mating?” Hawk laughed. “No doubt he’ll have her, but mating isn’t Fallon’s style.”

Opal gave him a knowing smile. “It wasn’t yours either until you met me.” She ran her claws over her abdomen before dipping them between her spread thighs and opening herself to him.

Hawk felt himself harden. The woman had a point.


© 2023 by Jordan Summers