Loves Bewitching Thief

scroll down for excerpt              Book 6 in the Heart & Soul series

**

All Lysie did was steal the handsome Argon’s jewels – twice. She hadn’t
bargained on being trapped on his ship.

Marten had her now, a Felys female with tortoiseshell hair, a purr to curl
a man’s toes – and coming dangerously into heat.

The cyborg just wants to kill her.

 

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**

The necklace was gone. Holding the wet cloth gingerly to the back of his head, Marten scowled into the mirror.
“Have to find another present for your mother?” Red asked sympathetically.
Marten glanced at the giant trader reflected in the mirror. “I’m going to buy back on Argon where it’s safe and there are no little thieves hanging around.”
“Mmm.”
“What are you doing here anyway?”
“Trading, what else?”
“You didn’t tell me you were heading for this planet.”
“You didn’t tell me you were heading here.” Red looked around the room. “Nice. Bit too fancy for me, though.”
“No one invited you to stay.”
“Nasty. Belts on the head don’t put you in a very good frame of mind, do they?”
Swivelling around in the chair, Marten glared at him. “Look, I’ve been robbed twice by a short-arsed smart mouth. I’ve a huge reward out for her capture, and been told in no uncertain terms that it’s extremely unlikely she’ll be found, giving that she’s using disguises.”
“You’re sure she’s the same one that robbed you on Kyros?”
“No doubt about it. Why are you grinning?”
Red straightened from where he leaned against the wall. “‘Tis not often a lass isn’t panting after you.”
“If I lay hands on that witch, she’ll be doing more than panting. She’ll be screaming for mercy.”
Red grinned wider.
Disgusted, Marten threw the cloth on the table. “I’m going back to Argon. I’ve had enough of holidays to last me a year.”
“Wasn’t relaxing for you, but I’m sure Katina will find it most entertaining.”
“Shut up, Red.”
Chuckling, his friend followed Marten from the room.
Brice met him at the bottom of the elegant staircase. “I’m sorry, Marten, I had no idea that girl was a thief.”
“Too busy admiring her breasts?”
“That’s not fair. She had ample charms and offered them to me.”
“I’ve news for you, Brice. That wench offered them to everyone, and collected without paying up.”
Brice followed him to the door. “Once she’s found and the necklace retrieved, I’ll send it to you.”
“Do me a favour. When you find her, hang her by the necklace, then send it to me.”
Red guffawed.
Scowling, Marten stepped down onto the boardwalk and strode down the street. All he wanted was get into his fleet craft and leave. Go home. Forget this miserable holiday and go back to work.
Whistling tunelessly, Red strode along beside him.
Marten ignored the admiring glances cast his way, the yearning in many of the wenches’ eyes. The resentment in the men’s’. He didn’t want anything to do with the female of the species at the moment.
Marten parted company with Red near a tavern. Through the window he could see the Daamen traders enjoying themselves with ale and wenches. There were plenty of willing wenches drawn to the dangerously good-looking giants with their cheerful demeanour and gentle ways with the fairer sex. The only time they’d leave the traders would be if an Argon was in the vicinity.
Ignoring the laughing waves and knowing looks the traders sent him through the window, Marten continued onward. All he wanted was to leave this cursed place and go home to Argon. And forget about the little thief. His hands actually itched at the thought of coming into contact with her. Still, it wasn’t likely, so he should push her out of his mind.
Entering the docking bay, he strode past the Daamen trading ship and through the barrier protecting his own fleet craft. Smaller than the trading ship, it was nevertheless big enough for him. He stepped up into the doorway, strode down a short passage and turned to his left. Walking down the short corridor, he entered the control cabin and started the engines, which came to life silently. Within minutes the fleet craft lifted from the ground until it cleared the docking bay. Turning the craft in midair, Marten set the coordinates and watched through the main screen as the ground slid past beneath his craft. He stayed in the cabin until the planet was far behind, enjoying watching the stars pass before the space shield. Once out of the normal traffic vicinity, he put the craft on auto pilot and left the cabin.
Humming quietly to himself, he passed the entrance on his right and continued down to the dining cabin. The further he left the planet behind him, the more relaxed he became. Until he thought about the thief.
Crossing the dining cabin, he passed the marble-topped table and two straight-backed chairs. Stopping before the upright cool box, he selected a cold drink and sipped thoughtfully at it. Trying to wipe the memory of the cocky little thief from his mind, he started to calculate how long it would take to get home to Argon.
Two weeks. Two weeks to think about that damn thief and the two expensive pieces of jewellery she’d stolen from him. His hand tightened on the glass he held, and it gave an ominous crack. If he got his hands on her… The glass splintered, and he swore as the cold liquid spilled down the front of his uniform.
“Damn it,” he muttered. It was all her fault. Even when she wasn’t near, she spelled disaster for him.
Throwing the broken pieces of the glass into the disposal unit beside the cool box, Marten left the dining cabin and went to the sleeping cabin opposite. Opening the cabin door, he took one step in, and instinct made him look up in time to see the wooden statue descending with deadly intent towards his head.
Ten years of being a personal bodyguard to one of the Argon leaders had given him lightning reflexes. He caught the descending statue in one hand and wrenched it away to drop discarded to the floor, while simultaneously bending at the knees and slamming his elbow into his shorter assailant’s stomach.
The assailant’s stomach was a lot softer than he expected.
A very feminine ‘oof!’ of pain registered, right before he caught the little thief as she sagged to the floor.
“God Almighty!” was all he could think to say, while lowering her carefully to the thick floor coverings. “Are you okay? Speak to me!”
“You…” She battled to draw in an agonized breath. “… bastard…”
Oh yes, she’d live.
Watching her leaning forward on her knees, trying to regain her breath properly, Martin felt guilt assail him. She looked so tiny, all huddled up and in pain. He’d never struck a wench in his life. Though it wasn’t your fault, he told himself. How were you to know it was her, ready to knock you senseless again?
The argument didn’t wash away the guilt. Coming down on one knee beside her, he wrapped one arm around her waist in support as she gasped away. Well, she wouldn’t die, that was one thing.
“Are you all right now?” he asked quietly.
She hissed in a way eerily similar to a lycat.
Startled, he pulled away, but when she swayed forward and braced herself on one arm, he quickly resumed his supportive position.
While he waited, his gaze ran over her hair, caught by the golden locks. Mixed in was several strands of black…and ginger? He looked closer. With her head bent forward and the curls tumbling over one shoulder, the nape of her neck was exposed. The black hair was coming from beneath the a wig line. It figured. That explained the hair changes of texture and colour.
Shaking his head, Marten wondered what else was fake on the little thief. The press of a bountiful bosom against his thigh was certainly real enough, and the enticing scent of cinnamon that seeped into his senses was the same. Well, once she regained her breath he was going to find out. Sorry he might be for hitting her, but he was not forgiving. She owed him big, and he meant to collect.
Once he was sure she was recovered enough to collect.
After several minutes, she straightened slowly until she sat back on her heels. Turning her head, she looked up and met his inscrutable gaze.
“Happy now?” Lysie asked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You hit me. You caused me pain. Is that enough revenge?”
“You’re the thief and intruder, wench. You tell me.”
“It was enough.” Placing one hand on his thigh, she pushed herself up carefully. “More than enough. I’ve learned my lesson and I’m going now.”
“Are you just?” In one smooth motion, the Argon straightened to his full height, then proceeded to gaze down at her.
He did it without bending his head forward, so that he was looking down his regal nose at her. Gee, surprise me some more.
“Yes.” Lysie started for the open door, only to stop when a grey-clad arm shot past her nose, and a big hand slapped against the door frame, effectively blocking the way.
She eyed the arm warily. This didn’t bode well, but she’d been in worse fixes and gotten away. No different here. Ducking her head, she made to go under the arm. And smacked into a hard body, as the Argon deftly thwarted her attempt by shifting himself into her path.
Backing away, she frowned up at him. “Look, Argon, I know you’re a little upset.”
“Upset?” The tone changed, and so did his inscrutable expression. His cool grey eyes narrowed, the nostrils of his aristocratic nose flared, and those sensuous lips above his determined, square jaw tightened. “You have no idea how upset I am.”
“Look, I know I led you astray at the hotel -”
“You knocked me unconscious.”
“Well, yes, but -”
“And stole from me.”
“I did not!”
He held out his hand. “I’ll have that necklace, if you please.”
“What necklace?”
“Don’t push it, wench. You’re in enough trouble as it is without adding lying to your list of crimes.”
She was incensed. “Crimes? How dare you. You make it seem as though I’m some kind of criminal.”
“You are a criminal. There’s a reward out for you.”
“There is?” She wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or not. Alarm followed quickly. “A reward? Who the hell did that?”
“I did.”
“Of all the dumb…what for? Because of that little tap on the head?”
His mouth tightened even more. “That clout laid me out, wench. I’ve a knot on the back of my head the size of your fist.”
“I didn’t hit you with my fist, so how could it be that size?”
“Don’t play word games with me. You’re in a whole heap of trouble, thief, and you’ll be paying for it. Starting with the return of my necklace.”
“It was for you? I didn’t think you were the type to wear one.” She started to back away. “It really wouldn’t have suited you, anyway.”
“Like the brooch wouldn’t have, either?” He followed her, stalking her every move.
“Brooch?”
“Sold it by now, I suppose. What did you spend it on? Drink? Wild times? Wasted it, I suppose. But you still have the necklace, I’d wager. You’d better pray you do still have it.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I think that tap on the head scrambled something.”
Her knees hit the bunk behind her, and she started to edge sideways.
The Argon prowled after her, matching her step for step. Except his steps were bigger, which meant he was gaining on her. Lysie moved a little faster.
“Don’t run, wench. There’s nowhere to go.” His hand shot out and wrapped around her upper arm, jerking her forward.
She couldn’t help herself. She spat and hissed at the sudden movement, straining back.
The Argon’s eyes narrowed even more as he looked her up and down curiously. “What are you, wench?”
“I’m a female, what do you think?”
“No. There’s more about you than meets the eye.” His gaze suddenly switched to her hair. “Let’s have a look at the real you, shall we?”
His free hand reached out and snagged in her wig, pulling it from her head with one tug and tossing it aside. Immediately her own hair tumbled free to the middle of her back, a riot of black streaked with ginger and white.
“What are you staring at?” she asked tartly. “Haven’t you ever seen hair before?”
“Not this colour.” He gaped. “Good God, what have you got on your head? The fur of a tortoiseshell lycat?”
“How dare you! This happens to be my natural colour!”
“You’re kidding, right?” Taking a handful of her hair, he brought it up for closer inspection. “What’d you do, dye it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. This is my natural hair colour, now bug off.” Snatching her hair from his hand, she threw her head back and glared up at him. “If you’ve had enough revenge insulting me, I’ll leave now.”
“You’re not going anywhere.” The reply was automatic, because he was still fascinated with her hair. “Stand still.”
“Oh yes, lord and master. I’ll do your bidding, sir.”
“It’s so soft,” he marvelled, stroking his hand down a long lock and twining it around his finger. “Like a lycat’s fur.”
“It’s not fur, it’s hair. You’re a little slow, aren’t you?”
The Argon’s gaze slid from her hair to her face. Releasing her hair, he caught the tip of her chin between his finger and thumb and tilted her face from side to side. Lysie knew he was looking at her rather pointed face, and waited for the realization to sink in.
“You’re almost feline in your features,” he murmured. “Fascinating. Even your eyes are round like a lycats, just tilted slightly at the corners. I didn’t really notice before.”
“That’s because all you were after was a good shag.” She batted his hand away. “Do you mind? You’re making me feel like a freak.”
“What colour are your eyes?”
“My eyes?”
“They were black in Kyros, then blue at the hotel on Pekar. What is your real colour?”
“Pink with purple spots.” By Jocat, the sex god believed her. Look at his eyes widen.
“Take the lenses out so I can see.”
“What difference does it make? I’m leaving anyway, you’ll never see me again.”
That finally got his attention. His gaze narrowed.
“So, it’s goodbye and hoo roo. I won’t see you later, which will be a blessing for us both, I’m sure.” Stepping around him, Lysie walked towards the door. “Me and my sore stomach, which is still throbbing from your cruel blow, will depart.”
“Is that right? You don’t listen very well, do you?”
“My hearing is excellent. It’s yours I’d be worried about.” If I cared.
She was more than a little relieved that he didn’t stop her from leaving. Obviously all talk and no action. Feeling a bit more in control of the situation, Lysie stepped out of the sleeping cabin and marched down the corridor with a purposeful stride. Turning into the entryway, she pressed the escape button.
Nothing happened. Muttering beneath her breath, she pressed it again. Still nothing.
“Oh, for Delcat’s sake!” She glanced up at the round porthole higher up in the door and made a jump.
Her jump was easily high enough to enable her to see out.
Into space.
Oh, this wasn’t good.
Another jump, and she saw the stars in the distance and black, empty space. Standing facing the door, she stared blankly at it. All right, we’re in space. But we haven’t been up for long. Have we? When did we come up? I don’t remember feeling us leave the planet.
“I told you, you’re not going anywhere.”
Her heart thudding a little, Lysie turned around slowly to see the Argon leaning with one shoulder against the wall near her. His grey eyes held the light of anger tamped down with perverse amusement at her plight.

**

copyright Angela Verdenius