“I’ll still be happier if you keep up. That works better than you shouting out anything. We’re on the run, remember?” As if to hammer home the point, she nodded toward a pair of security guards standing in front of a tea kiosk. One watched the crowd while the other sipped from a thermal cup.
“Can do, Elise.” The name felt odd to use. An elegant, feminine name, it felt inadequate for describing the no-nonsense woman he’d seen take charge of the situation.
A situation she created, and controls, he reminded himself. A situation that started with the murder of your employer. A sudden stab of pain and guilt wrenched through him at the thought of Jalila, dead in her suite of rooms. He knew the feelings weren’t all real. Her surgeons had implanted his love and loyalty as easily as they had put in the memory cortex. But there had been real emotion as well, he was certain.
She had pulled him up from the bottom of the spire, and installed him as the bishop to her all-powerful queen. Her death threw everything into chaos. In that, Elise’s declared innocence made sense. Elise’s job became twice as difficult with a murder investigation surrounding it.
Still. Someone had killed Jalila. And that someone was at large. They could even be watching them now. A cold tingle tightened the skin between his shoulders.
He glanced over his shoulder at the two guards. The one without the cup had a hand to his jaw, mouthing in the universal sign of someone using a bone-induction communicator. The guard nodded and elbowed his partner, before stepping out into the crowd, scanning faces.
Na’im risked a glance at Elise, but she hadn’t noticed the guard. She continued to move forward through the crowd, heading for a way out. He tugged her around a corner, hopefully out of sight of the patrol. She opened her mouth to protest and he covered it with his.
She froze, one hand still balled into a fist on his shoulder, then relaxed and melted up against him. She stood shorter than Jalila, and he had to bend slightly to keep their lips matched. Not that she seemed to mind. Her hand traced his shoulder and his skin came alive, accompanied by a familiar tightness in his core.
He cupped one cheek of her ass, squeezing as he lifted her to him. She moaned in response, exploring with her tongue and claiming his mouth in turn. His whole body thrummed, his heightened nerves on fire with the need to give and receive pleasure.
Despite his body’s response, or perhaps because of it, he broke the kiss. Her gray gaze went soft as she leaned against him, lips tantalizingly parted. His mods kicked in, pointing out the increased swell of her lips, the capillary flush to her cheeks, the slight dilation of her pupils. Her level of arousal was easy to read, even if she denied it to herself. She’d enjoyed the kiss as much as he had. Desire sent the blood rushing to his cock. He checked for the guards to distract himself from his body’s response. They’d moved, scanning the crowd actively, but they had started off in the opposite direction. He took a deep breath to recover his center. “Sorry. The guards were looking for someone. I figured we needed to hide, so I improvised.”
She blinked and her eyes went from clouds to iron. “Good thinking.”