Death chased Hope through the labyrinth of dark alleys. She didn't hear the assassin. He was as silent as a cat. She didn't smell him either, as he had no scent. But she felt his proximity in the crackle of the air and in the snap of energy connecting them, two strangers linked by a shared destiny, a professional killer and his willing victim.
A victim deserving of death.
Hope pushed her guilt away and hurried along the city streets, the street lighting growing dimmer and dimmer as she moved deeper behind rebellion lines. She walked briskly, her arms swinging, the coarse fabric of her pants rubbing against the self-inflicted scalpel wound on her upper thigh, sending shards of pain along her leg. Her haste was for her killer's safety, not hers. Her life was at its end, every step speeding her toward that grisly conclusion.
She had to die. It was the only way.
Raindrops rolled down her cheek, like the many teardrops she'd shed over the past three weeks. The acidity of the unnatural rain burned her skin, and Hope pulled her coat closer, its stark whiteness a beacon for the assassin. She glanced upward at the clouds permanently hanging over the city. They'd been there ever since she could remember, ever since she was born. She sighed, the tension pulling across her shoulders. That was one crime she wasn't responsible for.
The tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood up, and tingles of awareness shimmered down her spine. The assassin, Chac, was gaining on her. She had mere minutes of life left.
She'd thought she'd accept death peacefully, serenely, but she couldn't. Panic welled up inside. She wasn't ready to die, not yet. She needed more time.
Hope ran down the deserted streets, splashing through puddles, the water seeping through her pants, the burn driving her forward faster. Her muscles strained, and perspiration dripped between her shoulder blades under the medical pack she'd strapped to her back. She breathed heavily, the sound obscenely loud in the night.
She wanted to live. Oh God, of all the times to finally realize she wanted to live.
Hope leaped over a pile of trash, wary of what lay within. She didn't land. Electricity suddenly jolted her body, pushed her back, and threw her against a plastic-coated metal fence. The posts groaned with the impact, and the mesh swayed, but the barrier supported her weight.
Hope gasped as her arms and legs were spread wide by an invisible force. She pulled at her hands and found she couldn't move them. Her medical pack dug into her spine. Even her hair was pressed against the fence. He'd rendered her completely immobile.
The scientist in her was impressed. The woman was terrified. She hung a foot above the pavement, restrained and at the mercy of a man without any. Breathe in. She counted to five. Breathe out. She could do this. She had the strength.
A wave of energy rolled over her. It flicked her bootlaces. It caressed her calves, skimmed up her legs, fondled every inch of her. The electricity lingered over her pant-covered mons, diving past the fabric barrier to curl her private hair, pulling at the short strands, dipping into her wetness. Hope's face heated, and her lips parted as her passion rose.
That extension of him dragged along her stomach to cup her breasts, lifting, exploring, tweaking her nipples. She moaned. It had been so long since someone, anyone, had touched her like this, and this was not merely any man. This was Chac, the assassin she'd obsessed over for years, the face haunting her most erotic dreams.
The current split into three entities, one running along each arm, the third stroking her face with the gentlest of touches, prodding at her lips, learning the curve of her cheek, wafting across her forehead.
"Chac," she whispered. What was he doing? She didn't deserve his tenderness.
A solid form separated from the shadows, the assassin's stride loose and casual yet menacing all the same. He was taller than Hope had expected, her elevated face level with his, and his shoulders were broader, blocking the streetlight.
A shimmering arc of blue energy passed from one big hand to the other, illuminating him, and she inhaled sharply. He was sinfully handsome, far better looking than her collection of hoarded images indicated. His short, spiky hair was pure white, his pale features were strong and defined, and his square jaw jutted.
He was perfect, and Hope felt renewed confidence in her decision. There was no better way to die than having this beautiful, vengeful creature take her life.
"This is a dangerous route for a walk, Doctor Keller." His voice was the deep rumble of thunder, and she trembled with feminine appreciation. A long black leather coat swirled around his muscular physique. He was dressed in black from the tips of his army boots to the crew neck of his body-hugging T-shirt.
Hope yearned to lean into his strength, borrow it for her own. She couldn't, as the force pulsating from Chac didn't allow for any movement.
"You know who I am?"
Did he know as much about her as she knew about him? She scanned his expressionless face, scientific curiosity and a less rational excitement crowding out her fear. "I do."
Chac nodded, his mouth flattened into a grim white line. Silver flashed in his electric blue eyes, shooting out from his pupils like tiny lightning bolts. "But do you know what I am?"
He raised his hand, and Hope flinched, expecting pain and death. Instead, his finger hovered inches away from her cheek, static buzzing over her skin like the softest caress.
She frowned, confused by his words and his actions and the feelings swirling inside her. He hadn't killed his prey immediately. He was playing with her like a cat might play with a mouse, and that contradicted all her research. "You're Chac. You--"
"Not who I am." He sliced into her response with bone-chilling abruptness. "What I am." His tone was bitter. "I am model 953702."
Chac snapped his fingers, and Hope's hair clip flew into his palm, her hair cascading down her back in a riot of curls. He crushed the offending accessory in his hand, and the discarded metal fragments clinked on the pavement.
"I was designed for only one purpose, sweet Hope." The cold-blooded assassin leaned forward and nuzzled her neck, the tip of his nose bumping against her right earlobe as he inhaled and exhaled deeply, his breath warm on her skin. Hope's heart raced, and her fingers twitched. Her arms and legs remained pinned in place while the rest of her body was now free. "And that is to kill."
She relaxed into her restraints. His directive to kill was consistent with her findings. Chac, one of the Rebellion's top assassins, hunted Agency scientists, eliminating their presence completely, with not a single brain cell left behind for regeneration.
Tonight she counted on that thoroughness.
"Then kill me quickly." Hope lifted her chin, offering her fragile neck to him. With one squeeze of his deadly hands, her life would be over.
The corners of his lips curled upward, and he slowly, seductively traced her jugular with his ethereal fingers, pleasure rippling out from his touch. Hope gritted her teeth and fought her feelings. She didn't deserve joy. She deserved only pain.
"That's what you want me to do, isn't it?" he purred, his lips inches away from hers. "To kill you quickly?" Chac tilted his head, examining her.
No. Her soul screamed its defiance. "Yes." Hope forced out the correct response. She met his gaze, temporarily losing her fear in his electric blue irises. Her death was the only logical solution.
Chac's humorless smile chilled her. "Then I won't kill you quickly, sweet Hope." He pulled back her white coat, deftly manipulating the coarse fabric without touching it. He was a wonder of biological engineering, and she marveled at his abilities.
Her thinking stuttered to a stop as electricity pulsed over her breasts, the energy surging around her cotton-covered flesh in smaller and smaller circles. She stared at him in amazement. No one had ever touched her like that, with reverence, with care, as though she were a lover, not a scientist. "Chac?" What was he doing to her?
"Not at all quickly."
He pinched her nipples with his ghostly fingers, and she cried out, arching toward him. It was her body's natural response to the electrical charge, Hope frantically reasoned, the explanation easing her shame.
"With you, I'll take my time," he murmured, making a current flow over her breasts, back and forth, back and forth, making her toes curl and her pussy moisten.
He couldn't take his time. The risk of the Agency recapturing her was too great. "No. Please, do it quickly," she begged, her voice thin with desperation and need. "You have to."
"I have to?"
Chac stopped his exploration. He lifted his head and fixed that dynamic blue and silver gaze upon her. She faced him squarely, feigning bravery.
"Why is that, Hope?" He lazily stroked her cheek.
She liked how he said her name, as though he savored the sound on his lips. "Because to wait is to go against your nature, Chac. Killing is what you're designed for." She didn't share with him the real reason, as the less he knew, the safer he'd be. "You said so yourself."
He pulled his hands away with a snap. "And you knew that was my nature." Chac veered closer to her, his chest brushing against her breasts, and a tingle that had nothing to do with his deadly fingers ran through her. His breath warmed her skin, and his gaze held hers.
"You know I'm designed to kill, yet you came looking for me."
Chac paused, allowing her time to dispute his statement, but she didn't dispute it, because it was true. She had looked for him, deliberately venturing into his territory.
"Is this one of your experiments, Doctor?"
Was this one of her experiments? Pain pierced Hope, a sharp scalpel slice to her gut, and she raised her face to the cloud-covered sky, blinking back tears. No, this action would make the world a better place. "I--" Her voice broke.
"Wait." Chac held up a finger, and a spark jumped from that digit to her mouth, numbing her lips. "They're coming." Lightning bolts flashed across his blue eyes in an internal storm so dazzling she gazed at him with awe. "But you knew that, didn't you, Hope?"
"No." Bile rose in her throat. If they found her, they'd force her to help them kill more people, and the evil she'd caused would never stop. "Chac, you have to--"
"I have to...nothing." He crouched, his right shoulder pressing into her stomach. "If you thought to capture me, you thought wrong."
Chac released her, and she dropped forward, slung over his body. Electric pulses secured her to him.
"You're the one captured."
Her presence put him in danger, as the Agency would stop at nothing to get her back. "Chac--"
"Silence." He slapped her ass with a charge, and she stopped her protests, overwhelmed by her confusing feelings of arousal and humiliation. As though sensing her conflict, Chac chuckled, the sound low and deep, and he took off running, carrying her weight effortlessly. Hope placed her hands on his leather-clad back to steady herself, felt his muscles contract and stretch under her palms.
As he sprinted through the maze of side streets, Chac stroked her legs with electric pulses, moving from the outside of her thighs inward. His caresses connected with her wound, and she inhaled sharply, the pain decimating all pleasure. His touch retreated and then advanced, probing, prodding.
Hope thrashed, trying to get away from his searching currents. Chac slapped her ass again, his electric fingertips catching the edge of her abused flesh, and she bit her lip, holding back a whimper.
Chac returned to his exploration of her wound, tapping the tender spot again and again, escalating her pain until the agony finally overwhelmed her. "Chac." Hope whispered her killer's name as she fell into the swirling blackness.