heather lin book

Lady of Mars: Chapter 22

What the fuck had he been thinking? Ekon would be looking for her. Colin would be pissed. Capri was right; he hadn’t thought it through.

The man he had once been had seen the opportunity to play the hero again, leaving the man he was now to deal with the fucking consequences.

They’d have to take her back. He knew that much without talking to Colin. He also knew they were on a schedule, and the captain wouldn’t change it because of Brody’s stupidity. More than likely, he’d invite Ekon to come and collect her and probably offer him up along with her.

The king had so much shit to deal with right now that Brody expected they’d be stuck with the girl for a while—a constant reminder he hadn’t lost all his feeling, after all.

He clenched his fists and pounded on Leroy’s door with unnecessary force.

It slid open, and the younger man stood on the other side, a wireless ear bud in his right ear and a reader in one hand. A game flashed on the screen. His brown eyes turned suspicious when he saw who disturbed him.

“What’s up?”

“I need your clothes.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Brody scraped together his remaining patience, willing himself to make nice with the mechanic. “There’s a girl on board and she needs a change of clothes.”

“Oh.” His confusion morphed into unabashed curiosity. He looked down the hall towards Brody’s room, as if she might be standing in the corridor. “And the captain—”

“Doesn’t know,” he finished with a growl. The mechanic’s eyes lit up. “Don’t go thinkin’ you got anything on me. I’m about to go tell him.”

“Well, shit, let me get the popcorn.”

For the 731st time in four years, Brody found himself considering whether or not punching Leroy in the face would be worth the repercussions. He clenched his teeth, biting back the surge of violence, trying to do right by Capri in this small way.

“Are you gonna give her some clothes or not?”

“Sure.”

“She’s in my room.”

Brody needed to get the conversation with Colin over with, and he didn’t particularly want to be near Capri at the moment. Their emotions were running high, and he knew if he stepped foot in that door they’d wind up fighting or fucking.

You think you’re so different?

He felt a fresh rush of anger as he remembered her words. He clenched his fists and started walking away.

“What, you want me to take them?” Leroy asked.

“Yeah,” he said over his shoulder, not giving the younger man a chance to whine or argue.

He knew he’d take them to her, to satisfy his curiosity. That curiosity was why he was so good at his job. And why he was so goddamn annoying.

“Isn’t she naked? Aren’t you worried I’ll take her out from under you?”

His words were taunting. Brody stopped and turned at that, halfway to the cockpit. He laughed, a genuine rush of mirth. Leroy didn’t know who was waiting in that room. A prissy little mechanic and a lady of Mars. He didn’t stand a chance.

Leroy scowled and disappeared back inside his room. Brody finished his journey. The corridor seemed longer than usual. He set his jaw and braced himself. Jax sat at the controls. Colin stood behind him, looking at the screens over his shoulder. The windows in front of them were huge, letting them see any oncoming obstacles, but they were also video screens. They could view anything around the ship with the touch of a button.

Brody had learned a little bit about flying in his time on Gypsy Lass. No one asked him to land or take off, but he could keep it in the air if he had to.

He cleared his throat, and Colin straightened to give him his full attention.

“I need to speak to you.”

Colin raised his eyebrows slightly, waiting for him to continue.

“Alone,” Brody clarified.

Jax was unfazed, a pro at pretending not to hear things when he very likely heard everything. Colin led Brody into the lounge, but neither of them sat. Colin leaned against the wall, arms crossed, waiting for Brody to start. His expression gave nothing away, although he could count on one hand the number of times Brody had asked for a private audience.

He usually didn’t care who heard whatever he had to say; he usually didn’t care about anything.

“There’s a girl on board,” Brody said, looking him in the eye.

Colin straightened, and his eyebrows came together. “What do you mean? A stowaway?”

“No.”

“Well then why the hell is there a girl on my ship?”

Brody hesitated for the briefest moment, long enough for Colin’s eyes to narrow. He thought he knew the answer, and he probably did.

“I took her.”

“You took her.”

“Yes.”

Colin paused, either to process the information or to ensure his tight emotional control remained intact.

“Where did you take her from?

Brody thought he probably knew the answer to that already, too. Then Colin seemed to give up briefly, and anger flashed in his brown eyes. “Shots, I swear to God, if you say the palace—”

Brody just looked at him, prepared for whatever wrath the captain threw his way.

“Just tell me it wasn’t one of the ladies.”

Again, Brody said nothing, and the captain threw up his hands. “What the hell, Shots!”

“I knew her from before,” Brody said. “I was one of her guards.”

Colin stilled, eyes dark and penetrating. “And what else?”

Brody felt a spark of fury. He knew what the captain was thinking. He did bad things. He might be a bad man, but he’d loved his sister.

“It ain’t like that,” he growled. “She was a child. You know damn well I was true to her.”

He couldn’t bring himself to say Jill’s name. Referencing her at all was difficult. Pain clenched in his chest even as he denied the names and memories that made him hurt.

“Then what is it like? I’m losin’ patience.”

He was slipping into ‘Tole talk, the Ptolemy dialect, a sure sign he was pissed.

“Another guard broke her before Ekon got the chance, so she didn’t get the same arrangement as the other girls. Ekon started auctioning her off to fill his pockets. And then last night—”

“—he offered her up to that ‘guard’ as a reward,” Colin finished, remembering the scene. “So she came willingly?”

Brody didn’t answer.

“Then she didn’t mind her circumstances. You did.”

Brody ground his teeth together. He knew where this conversation would end. He didn’t need to be patronized in the meantime. But Colin was his captain, and he likely deserved it and worse.

“She just doesn’t think she has other options.”

“Does she?”

Again, Brody was silent.

“We have to take her back.”

“I know,” Brody said.

“We’ll be going back to Mars in one week. You’ll be explaining what happened to Ekon, and I’ll likely be lookin’ for a new gunman.” His voice was flat, betraying no opinion on the matter of his fate. But his ‘Tole talk was still there. “Until then, she’s your responsibility. Make sure she has what she needs, and make sure she doesn’t get in the way.”

Brody nodded. Colin returned to the cockpit.

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