“Mmm. Zora?” The Emperor ran his hand up her back, and turned his head enough to break the kiss for a moment.
“As much as I’m enjoying this,” His fingers wound into her hair. “And I can’t believe I’m going to say it, but…”
“Don’t say it.” She knew it was stupid, knew whatever he had to say would be right, but her hormones had spiked to full-blown uncontrollable. She ran her lips down the side of his neck and waited for his resolve to crumble.
“We really need to talk about this first.”
Damn him. How could he maintain rational thinking at a time like this? Her skin burned where his hands settled, and she hadn’t been this revved up since…well, since that night they’d spent together on his planet. Too long. She wasn’t about to give up so easily. It just wouldn’t be Zora-like. She nibbled on his ear, and heard his breath catch. Take that, Emperor.
“Right.” He found her lips again and pulled her body into his. Too close, he’d have to notice the change in her shape eventually, but at that second, she could have cared less. “We can talk later,” he mumbled.
Better. In all honesty, it would feel good to let the cat out of the bag, almost as good as the kissing did. She’d grown tired of hiding it, even more tired of the ugly wardrobe. Iggy’s hands drifted down her back. He’d work it out any second now.
The heavy tread of footsteps rattled the floor grid. Zora felt Ignatius stiffen. His hands fell away a second before her metal-headed brother-in-law burst around the corner. “There you are.” He kept running, passed them without slowing his steps. “Pirates. I need you on the bridge.”
“Right.” Ignatius had the courtesy to squeeze her hand before he darted away with Rook.
Zora stared after them. The pirates had found them. Of course they had. She’d known they’d never make Mercur Omega without Zander catching on. Still, the son-of-a-bitch might have waited five minutes longer. But no, the inconsiderate bastard would blow them to bits before she could even assuage her libido.
She growled. The baby kicked, reminding her that she had more to lose than a good time, and Zora stomped toward the bridge. If they survived long enough to be boarded, maybe she could find a way to sneak in a little revenge before they executed her.
Before she even rounded the last corner, she heard the shouting. Murray, no doubt in full panic. Zora’s hand went to her belly and she sighed. It was bad, no doubt. Any second now. She could hear the laser blasts, in fact, and Rook’s deep voice rumbling orders.
“Ignatius, can you lock on that?”
She’d never get to tell him about the baby. Zora bit her lip. She hadn’t really wanted to, had she?
“They’re coming back around!” Murray’s voice twisted into a shrill alarm.
If he knew it might be Crantok’s, would he still want her?
“I’ve got incoming ships.”
“More of them?”
She contemplated waiting it out in the hallway. Did it really matter in which room she died?
“Three more from starboard.” How Rook kept calm, she couldn’t guess, unless he’d retained more than a semblance of his android characteristics. Her hands were shaking and she couldn’t even see the enemy coming.
“Firing.” Iggy’s voice pulled her forward. If it didn’t matter, then she may as well be with them at the end.
The bridge screen tilted as she entered, and she stumbled into the door frame as the ship banked left. Murray stood behind Rook’s chair, holding on for dear life while her husband flipped the Slug One out of the line of fire for one more second.
Ignatius had weapons. He didn’t glance up from the controls, couldn’t if the huge triangle onscreen were what she thought it was. Zora slipped along the wall and dropped into the nearest couch while the pirate ship closed in for the kill…again. They wouldn’t get lucky twice. Zander had left his message. This time, he had no reason not to take them out or board them. She couldn’t even guess which would be worse.
“We’re being hailed.” Rook’s hands flew over the toggles.
“Zander?” Murray leaned into the next tilt and almost lost her grip on the chair. Zora watched the scene in slow motion, trying to figure out where the flames would come from, which console would explode first.
“No.” On the view screen, Zander’s ship veered to the right, banking enough to flash them a slim peek at its underbelly. “It seems our new arrivals are not pirate friendly.”
Light streaked across the viewer, and the pirate ship slid into an evasive dive. Zora frowned and watched its engines shrink. A small cruiser shot past them, so close, she could feel the shields tremble through the couch. It streaked after the retreating frigate with guns blazing.
“Slug One, are you getting this?” Rook broadcast the hail through the cabin. “Slug One, respond.”
“Affirmative. This is Slug One. Identify please.”
“Planetary Security,” the voice paused, and Zora heard a throat clear. No doubt, something to do with the fact that they were hell and gone from any planet. “Mercu Omega, Primary Unit, Sir. Are you damaged?”
“We took a shot to the port engines,” Rook answered. “But we’re stable.”
“That is above and beyond what I’d expect from Planetary Security.” Rook sounded suspicious, and Zora wholeheartedly approved. Damn time he grew some sense. For all they knew this rescue was another trick.
“I believe we have a vested interest in your safe arrival,” the man continued.
Yeah, them and ever other entrepreneur in the Sector. Who knew what kind of friends Zander had, or how many of them he’d told about their slug babies.
“Can you confirm your identification, please?”
Zora held her breath. She dug her fingers into the couch padding and waited for the shot that would tear their bridge in two.
She counted heartbeats when the comm. went silent. The screen showed only a field of stars, the battle long since whisked ahead or called off out of sight. The two remaining ships would be keeping pace to either side of them. Guarding or holding hostage, who knew for certain?
“They’re sending a file, Murray?”
“Right.” Her sister slid away from Rook at last and slid into the co-pilot’s chair. She poked at the computer controls and stared at the console readout.
Rook spun his chair toward her, but Ignatius didn’t flinch from his focus. Zora had no doubt he was ready to fire on a word. Maybe less.
“It’s them,” Murray said. “They’re legit.”
“You’re certain?” Rook leaned forward.
“Yes. They have the stats and the original agreement.”
“They might have stolen that.” She couldn’t help it. Someone had to point it out. Still, the looks she earned made her regret it instantly. “Never mind.”
Even Ignatius turned to face her now, but his expression at least, she could enjoy. She shrugged and winked at him, and was rewarded when his shoulders relaxed. He grinned back.
“I think we’ll take that tow,” Rook said.
Whatever. Even if these guys weren’t the cavalry, they probably beat Zander’s crew by a fair mile. Zora leaned back and matched Ignatius’ look with a wide smile of her own. She hoped Murray was right, that her hippy planet had come to save them. The day had started out so well, it would have been a damn shame to end it dead.