heather lin book

Lady of Mars: Chapter 52

Leroy chose a table in the corner of the bar to wait for Capri. He wore jeans and the cleanest t-shirt he owned. His leg bounced, and his eyes moved from his beer glass to the door, over and over, until he was sure he had to look unhinged. His chest felt tight. He kept forgetting to breathe.

Despite his best efforts to remind himself that Capri had made her choice clear and he was on an important mission, he felt like he was on a date. He remembered everything about her vividly—the way she moved, her smile, her laugh. Shots might have had Capri the way Leroy wanted to, but he never made her laugh like he could. It meant something.

It just wasn’t enough.

The door opened, and his breath caught. Capri’s dress was simple, A-line. She wore a hood and the boots she’d acquired on her voyage with the crew. She was trying to look ordinary, but her curse—the curse of all beauties—was that they could never appear less than extraordinary.

One look at those silky, dark brown curls and stunning eyes, and she would attract attention.

She saw him, and relief flooded her face. She walked so fast she was nearly running, and Leroy barely managed to stand up in time to catch her. He closed his eyes for a moment and held her tightly. He let himself pretend, just for a moment, that she belonged to him.

When she pulled away, there were tears in her eyes. Her voiced trembled. “I never thought I’d see you again.”

He bit his lip to keep his soaring heart in place. She was speaking only as a friend. He smiled and glanced around, but no one had taken notice of them. She seemed to remember then that they were on a covert mission and sat down across from him.

“Is everything okay?” he asked.

“No,” she replied. “Ekon’s lost his mind. He implanted trackers in us.”

“What? Were you followed?” Leroy glanced around, looking for uniformed guards.

“No. I was tipped off before I left.”

Leroy released his breath. He’d never felt this much responsibility before, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to again. There was so much at stake—and more variables than he’d realized. “That’s lucky.”

“It is.”

Leroy realized the implication very suddenly. “Wait, in you?”

Capri swallowed and looked down at the reader in front of her. It would remain blank until she touched it. “Yes. I got it out.”

“Shit.” He looked around the table, searching for something encouraging and sympathetic to say instead of his usual bullshit. He could think of nothing. He slid his beer her way. “You need this more than I do.”

Capri laughed before raising the glass to her lips, and Leroy felt relieved. Maybe his usual bullshit was exactly what she needed.

“So what’s the plan?” Capri asked. “How can I help?”

Leroy fought a grimace. “You know he’s supposed to…”

“…die,” Capri finished, and her expression turned eerily blank in an attempt to keep her pain from showing. She chugged the rest of the beer and set the glass down on the table. “I know where they’re holding him, but I can’t talk my way through the guards. Ekon isn’t happy with me. I’m not sure there’s much I can do.”

“I think there is,” Leroy assured her. “Haddaway came to me, and he told me security will be light during the memorial. He’ll be transferred from his cell at 7:00pm.”

Capri nodded, thinking she understood what was expected of her. “I’ll find a way to get you guys in.”

Leroy gave her a lopsided grin, almost apologetic. She had no idea what he was about to ask. “It’s just me. Jax and the captain will come later on Gypsy Lass to act as decoys. We need you to get him out.”

“Oh.” Leroy watched as surprise, fear, doubt, and finally determination flashed in her eyes. “Okay,” she said in a steady voice.

“I made you a stun gun,” Leroy continued, producing a small, rectangular box from his pocket. “Just press this button and shove it somewhere soft. Whoever gets the shock will drop.”

She reached out, hand hovering over the object for a moment. He thought she might bail, but then she took it from him and slipped it into her pocket. She looked at him again, awaiting further instructions.

“It won’t knock them out,” he said. “How do you feel about inflicting head wounds?”

Capri swallowed and looked mildly queasy at the suggestion. “Not good.”

“Then it’ll have to be a drug. Propofol. Ketamine. Midazolam.”

“I’ll get my hands on something from the infirmary.”

“Great. Once you get to him he’ll know the best way out.”

She nodded. “I’ll try my best.”

Leroy smiled wanly. “I know you will.”

The words came out sadder than he’d intended, and she noticed. Her cheeks turned pink, but she reached across the table to squeeze his hand. She felt for him, but she couldn’t give him what he wanted. He knew it as well as she did.

 As she pulled her hand back, she brushed against the reader, and it turned on. An advertisement appeared for the King’s Auction. Her face turned white, and she wobbled dangerously in her chair. Leroy shot forward to grab her arm, but she waved him away.

“I’m okay,” she said, but her voice was a gasp.

“What is it?” he asked, glancing down at the ad with her. “You don’t need to be embarrassed. We knew you’d be…back to that again.”

He shrugged to show her it didn’t make a difference to him.

“I’m not,” she whispered.

Leroy hadn’t been expecting that. “Oh.”

She stood suddenly. “I have to go.”

He wanted to stop her, but they’d discussed all they needed to. He couldn’t hold her. She checked that her hood was in place and then turned back to him.

“I’ll get him out,” she said, with more confidence than she’d shown before. She attempted a smile. “Maybe one day I’ll make it out, too.”

Then she was gone, before Leroy could tell her he’d take her wherever she wanted to go.

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