heather lin book

Lady of Mars: Chapter 59

Leroy had said exactly what Capri needed to hear: “I don’t expect anything. Just let me do this for you.”

She knew how he felt, and she didn’t want to hurt him. But she needed something from someone, and there he was, giving her permission to lean on him.

She still couldn’t bring herself to want him. The one she did want was reckless, hard as stone, and so very scared of loving her.

Once inside, she sat down hard on a bottom bunk. Brody had settled into the cockpit to view their surroundings, check for coordinates—to look for any information, she imagined, that would give him some sense of control. He must be as exhausted as she was, but he was still moving, still searching, still avoiding.

She watched him dig around in a small fridge and come up with a ready-made protein pack. He shoved hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and cold bacon into his mouth like a starving man. She realized he probably was.

Leroy returned, pulling up the folding stairs as he went. “Gypsy Lass is gone,” he said, voice rich with his usual infectious excitement. “We’ve gotta go before the U.N. catches up to them and finds out you’re not on board.”

He went to the pilot’s chair to plug in coordinates, ignoring Brody’s presence in the co-pilot’s seat. “We’ll stop at New Earth to refuel, and then we’ll rendezvous on Venus. He turned briefly to shoot Capri a grin. “Once we’re back on board the ship we’ll figure out what to do with you.”

Capri mustered a smile in return, but it was a sad one, and the mechanic’s brow furrowed.

“I’m not going with you,” she explained, her voice sounding surer than she felt.

Brody turned his head to look at her.

“What do you mean?” Leroy asked.

“I’ll stay on New Earth. Ekon’s out of control. Someone needs to tell the U.N.”

“They’ve never cared about the shit he’s done,” Brody said.

“I don’t think they know everything. You don’t, either.”

He glanced at her cheek.

“More than that,” she said softly.

The ship was taking off. Leroy had to concentrate, since he wasn’t much of a flyer, but she knew he was listening.

“There’s another girl acting as the Prize. The cycle won’t end unless someone makes it end. He told us we were getting vaccines and injected us with tracking devices.” Brody’s gaze dropped to her right arm. He was realizing that both pieces of jewelry were being used to cover a wound. “And Marianne is pregnant. He’ll have an heir.”

As always, Brody’s face revealed little, but he was tense. She knew he’d assumed she would be his problem.

“Haddaway thinks it’s a bad idea,” she admitted. “But I have to try.”

The ship was sailing on its own now, but still Leroy said nothing, facing the screens instead of her.

“Did Haddaway say it was a bad idea or a pointless idea?” Brody asked finally. “Bad means there might be trouble.”

Capri’s cheeks grew hot as she lied. “I’m not sure.”

He held her gaze. Brody knew her too well. He always would. He’d seen her at her worst often enough, and he’d brought out her best. They’d always share a bond, but their lives were traveling in opposite directions.

She couldn’t think about the fact she’d never see him again, or she’d cry. Leroy turned then, and she saw that the mechanic felt the same way about her. He gave her a weak smile. “I’ll miss you, Capri.”

“I’ll miss you, too.”

*

Capri had only meant to close her eyes for a few moments, but exhaustion took her and she slept for hours on the small bunk. By the time she woke, the interior lights were off, and Leroy was snoring in the bunk across from her.

She spotted the back of Brody’s head sticking up above the pilot’s chair. It was his turn to make sure the small ship stayed on course. Through the video screens, she could see stars, an occasional meteorite or piece of space trash, and another ship in the distance.

She joined him, sitting in the seat beside him. It was a simple ship, meant to be flown by families with a temporary license. She was surprised to find she knew what each gauge meant, what each lever did. She could fly the thing, if she had to.

Brody glanced at her. Capri thought it might be his only acknowledgement until he handed her a snack bar and a bottle of water. After that, he kept his eyes on the screens, and she ate slowly, staring with him in silence. He broke it.

“What happened?” he asked in a low voice, so as not to wake Leroy.

His voice was deep, and she felt it more than heard it. He was looking at her right cheek, which stung more than the left. It must have looked worse, too.

“He tried to use me.”

“Tried?”

“Tried.”

He grunted, and she caught the dark look in his eyes before he turned back to the screen. His thoughts were on murder, but they both knew killing a king was a great deal more involved than killing some thug in an alley or a greedy rebel.

That was why she had to take him down another way.

“You’re set on it?” he asked, and she nodded.

He nodded. Then he turned back to her, and she saw something else there, something she felt, too. Her heart fluttered.

She stood and went past the bunks, undressing outside of the small closet of a bathroom and entering naked. Leroy had the foresight to bring some of Brody’s belongings with him, fresh clothes and a tote of guns, but no one had known Capri would be there. She’d have to change back into the grimy dress once she was clean.

She didn’t mind. She needed that dress. The small diamonds she’d earned during her stay on Gypsy Lass were sewn carefully into the seams.

It wasn’t long before the door opened and closed, and she felt Brody’s presence behind her. He stood near enough that she felt his breath on her shoulder, and there was a pause before his deep voice rumbled.

“I can’t give you what you want.”

“You don’t know what I want.”

Another pause, and then his lips landed on her neck, nipping and kissing the place where it met her shoulder. His left hand reached for her breast, and his right went lower. She gasped softly in time to his tantalizing rhythm, trying to stay quiet while Leroy’s snores continued on the other side of the flimsy wall. Brody’s breath was heavy, his muscles tense. She could feel the weight of him, thick and scorching against the small of her back.

He stopped then and turned her around, brown eyes smoldering. Things said and unsaid hung between them, but none of it seemed to matter now. They would have each other one more time, for the very last time. The moment was bittersweet. Her face had to betray all kinds of emotion, but he remained guarded.

His dark eyes moved to her swollen lip. His thumb brushed the scar from the bullet wound he’d mended—and, in his mind, caused—and he pressed his lips gently against the fresh, self-inflicted wound on her other arm.

Then he took her mouth hard, sweeping his tongue inside, cleansing and possessive. Capri stroked the coarse, damp hair of his chest with her left hand and reached her right between them, reveling in the way his breath caught.

He growled low in his throat and lifted her, pressing her against the slippery wall. It was cold against her back; Brody blazed against her front. The stark contrast made her shiver, honing her senses. The rest of the world was nonexistent. She lifted her hips, and he drove home.

Capri bit down on his shoulder to keep from crying out, and he grunted—pleasure and pain.

She wanted it to last forever, but the momentum was already building between them, desperate and electric. She dug her nails into his back, and he groaned, bucking against her, losing control. There was no stopping the wave now, and they crashed together, shaking and panting, until it ebbed.

They held each other, pretending for a moment that things between them were simple. Then Brody released his hold, and she slid down his hard body to stand on shaking legs. He grasped her hair, tugged gently, and kissed her forehead.

“You take the next shift at the helm,” he said. Pride and sorrow swelled in Capri’s chest. Then he left her alone.

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