A low, masculine chuckle echoed in the alley. "Dead-end, thief."
Her heart slammed in her throat. Blood and Fate, not again? She turned sharply to look behind her. Her pursuer was little more than a silhouette of broad-shouldered moving blackness, yet he filled the alley with his intimidating presence.
Damn it! She'd known he was close, but she hadn't thought he was that close! How, by burning fury, was he finding her so fast? The stupid, stubborn brute ... She turned her back on him and set her gloved hands on the steel wall, but it was too slippery with night condensation to climb. Shit, shit, shit!
"You are out of options, thief." His chuckle echoed at her back. "Yield, and save yourself some grief."
She backed up against the steel wall and dropped into a fighter's crouch with her fists raised. "I'm not down yet!"
"But you will be." He stepped across a small beam of light that cut through the misty darkness to caress his sculpted, overlapping black body armor. It shimmered with oily iridescence, as though made of midnight rainbows. Silver gleamed in the frost white of his hair. Shadows deepened the pale and brutally handsome lines of his high cheekbones and strong jaw. Pairs of silver rings glittered in the lobes of his pointed ears, accentuating the decorative cuts along the lower arches. The long tail of his severe braid fell well past his broad shoulders and swung at his narrow waist as he approached. "You will go down, and you will yield."
Fallon felt her pulse beat in her throat. He was fully armored, and all she had was a thin layer of battered leather. Fate and damnation, she didn't want to fight him again, but she didn't have a whole lot of choice. "You haven't caught me yet."
"Oh, no?" His white brows rose over bright, amused sapphire-blue eyes. Feline green-gold reflected in their depths. His full lips curved into a cruel smile. "Have it your way." The points of his canines gleamed. "But there's only one way out..." He opened his arms, his hands pointedly empty of the weapons she knew he carried, daring her to get past him.
She took the dare in a flurry of fists and feet.
The exchange of fists, kicks, and curses was vicious and short. He trapped her arm and grappled her into a chokehold with both of her wrists wedged up to the center of her back, wrapped in one large paw.
She was just too damned tired.
"This hunt is over, thief." His breath was harsh and hot against her ear. "You lose."
Fallon sucked a breath past the armored arm jammed across her windpipe. Bloody Fate, he has a tight grip. Smart move on his part; she was very limber. If he gave her the smallest increment, she would wiggle free. She arched her spine, coming up on her toes to relieve the ache. Not that it did much good. He was more than a head and a half taller, and his shoulders were twice hers in width. He didn't look nearly this big when he introduced himself in the bar. But then, he hadn't been wearing pointy black armor, either.
She sucked air past his chokehold. "Sobehk, you are cutting off the circulation in my arms."
"Oh, really?" Sobehk's chuckle made the hair on her arms rise. "That's too bad, Fallon. Or should I say, Isabeau Torne Fallon?"
Fallon froze. He knew her whole name? Where, by fury, had he heard that? Not even her boss knew more than her handle!
"Do you yield?" His voice was a sinister purr in her ear. "Or do I need to break something?"
Damn it, she couldn't afford the time off to heal a broken arm. "All right, fine, I yield. So now what?"
"Now, you go down." His foot hooked hers and she fell to her knees. He dropped down on one knee with her, keeping her wrists jammed tight up against her spine, with his arm snug around her throat. "And you stay down."
Fallon hissed to keep from yelping and arched back sharply. The uneven pavement dug into her knees, and both shoulders were painfully close to dislocation. "Take it easy on the arms, you big brute. I'm not a marine cyborg!" She was robotically augmented for agility, not power.
"No, but you are one slippery thief." His hand tightened on her wrists. "I'm not taking any chances with losing you again."
She bit back an escaping whimper. "Yeah, I'm a thief. What did you expect? This is a smuggling outpost--everybody's a thief." She wriggled her fingers, but all she could feel was his damned body armor. It had to be some kind of titanium alloy; he moved like it didn't weigh more than paper, but there wasn't a drop of give to it. She hadn't been able to land a single effective blow. Her foot was still bruised from that last kick she'd aimed at his kidneys. This really sucks...
Damn it! She didn't have time for this shit. She set her teeth. "Look, whatever you intend to do to me--beat me, fuck me, or whatever ... Can you hurry up and get it over with? I have shit to get done."
His arm tightened on her throat. "What? Do you have a quota or something, thief?"
She turned her head slightly and sucked in a small breath past his chokehold. "Or something..." Blood and Fate, yeah, she had a quota; everyone on this blasted outpost had some kind of quota to fill. She was lucky that she was damned good at filling hers, because this stupid game of hide-and-seek had taken far too much of her productive time. "Just do it, all right?"
"I'll get to it when I'm damned good and ready." Sobehk's voice rumbled in a deep growl. "If you wanted a quick end to this, you should have yielded two days ago when I caught you the first time."
Fallon snorted. "You could have given up two days ago when I got away the first time."
"Too bad for you." Sobehk actually chuckled. "Once I start a hunt, I finish it." His long teeth caught the lobe of her ear in a tender bite. "You shouldn't have picked me for a target."
Fallon tilted her head away from his mouth. "You shouldn't have pissed me off!"
He nipped at her exposed throat. "What? Don't you like sex?" He made a sound that might have been a growl, but it sounded a lot closer to an actual feline purr.
Fallon shivered in spite of herself. "Sure, I like sex--with guys that aren't assholes!" She tried to twist, even a little, but his grip on her arms was far too tight. "Look, grabbing people and kissing them within seconds of stating your name is not the way to pick up women."
"Is that so?" He purred right into the curve of her ear. "Then why did you kiss me back?"
Fallon felt her face heat. She had kissed him back; Sobehk was a damned good kisser. "So I kissed you, big fat hairy deal. That didn't mean I wanted to have sex in the middle of a crowded bar."
"Are you sure?" His deep chuckle curled straight down into her gut. "I didn't hear any complaints until after I had your bare tit in one hand and you were ready to cum on my other."
"Of course not!" Fallon scowled as her cheeks flushed with more heat. "I was flat down on the table with your tongue shoved down my throat. I had to bite you to get your mouth off mine so I could tell you to stop."
"I thought you were just being affectionate." His voice practically purred ... then the sound drifted into a growl. "Until you took off on me."
Fallon pitched her voice as sweet as sugar. "And I thought you were just being a perverted asshole, which is why I took off on you."
Sobehk stiffened and his voice rumbled deep in his chest. "Is that why you took my turbo glider?"
"Well, yeah." She winced under the increased pressure. If he gripped her any tighter, he was going to break her arm. "You pissed me off!"
Sobehk relaxed slightly and barked out a laugh. "You were pissed because I almost made you cum right there in front of everybody."
Fallon ground her teeth. She remembered only too well exactly how close--and how fast--he had brought her to the trembling edge of orgasm. He was damned attractive, in a big, scary kind of way, and he was really good with his hands and his mouth. She had spent over an hour with her fingers in her wet flesh, trying to ease the burning hunger he had stirred in her before she had fled. The smug bastard ... "And you're pissed now because it took you three days to catch me."
"Fuck, yeah, I'm pissed! Because of you, I'm way behind schedule. But I've got you now, and you're gonna pay for holding me up--with your ass." The brute was grinning; she could tell by his voice.
She scowled. "What, do you have a quota to fill?"
"Not anymore." Sobehk's voice purred with innuendo. "Your nipples are hard. I think you like being caught."
Her nipples were hard, and it pissed her off even more. "I think you like being a bastard."
"Oh, I do. I love being a bastard to slippery little thieves who really need to have their asses smacked for taking things that don't belong to them."
"I don't know why you bothered chasing me; you got your glider back the next day!" Damn it, she couldn't reach anything with her fingers...
"I'm bothering because I've been rock hard since that night in the bar--and I fully intend to do something about it." He dropped his arm, releasing her throat, and slammed a hand between her shoulder blades, shoving her face down onto the pavement. "And your tight little ass is gonna feel really sweet around my dick as I empty my balls in it."
Fallon had to turn her head or breathe concrete. What? Does he plan to ass-fuck me? Bloody Fate, I hope not! When he'd had her lying flat down on the bar's table she had felt one monster of an erection pressing against her stomach. She honestly didn't think she could fit something that big up her butt. "Hey, I have a perfectly good pussy!"
"Don't worry, I'll get that, too." His grip shifted on her wrists as he reached for something she couldn't see. "Hold still."