"And what do we have here?" Ryland reached out and snagged the woman's arm as she tried to slip past him. "Did you really think you could scurry around the bowels of my ship without me noticing?" With a quick twist of his wrist, he snapped a set of immobilizer cuffs over her hands and smiled grimly when numbness slowly stilled her flailing limbs.
She let loose with a string of inventive curses, some of which he'd be willing to bet were anatomically impossible. What did she expect? Stowing away on a bounty hunter's ship had to be one of the stupidest things a sentient being could do.
Despite his anger at the inconvenience her presence on his ship would cost him, he let out an appreciative whistle while his gaze swept over her lithe body. She looked even more delectable in person than she had on the vid scans. He'd been too preoccupied with the new intel he'd gathered on his current target to detect her presence until the ship was well away from the docking ring.
Last sleep cycle, she'd grown careless and triggered an intruder alert on the lower decks. He'd searched for signs of a pirate attack before he'd realized the intruder was a lone female, scavenging food from one of the dispensers. She must have stowed away during his last docking. A runaway slave, most likely. There were quite a few slave farms in this sector where the slaves, both male and female, were bred for looks and a high sex drive.
Angry red chafe marks at her wrists and ankles suggested a less than caring owner, which would explain her willingness to risk the harsh penalties for running. He didn't approve of beings who mishandled their slaves, so he felt no compulsion to return her to whomever she'd fled from. Grunner, the serial killer he was tracking, already had a good head start. Returning the woman to her owner would set him back at least two solar cycles, and possibly give the killer enough time to find another victim.
She'd chosen his ship; she could take the consequences.
He held her at arm's length while she continued to curse. Ample curves softened the lean lines of her slender body and a mane of dark, shaggy hair framed her round face before tumbling down her back in an untamed mass. Her green eyes slanted upward, giving her a slightly exotic look. Right now, those eyes glared up at him and she twisted helplessly in his grasp. For a slave, she had quite a temper.
Which might explain the marks on her wrists and ankles.
He really didn't have time to deal with an abused female right now. On the other hand, he couldn't very well throw her in the brig and forget about her. He jerked her forward with a little more force than necessary. "What's your name?"
"Anaya. Who the hell are you?" She snarled another oath when he refused to loosen his grip on her arm.
"I'm Ryland, the owner of this shuttle, so you can shut up, Anaya, and pay attention."
The woman fell silent and stared up at him with a stunned expression on her lovely face. If he didn't know better, he'd swear no one had ever told her to be quiet before.
He lifted her hands and stared pointedly at the angry red welts on her wrists. "I don't approve of abusing one's property. There are a number of ways to administer discipline without leaving marks on the flesh. I don't have time to play nursemaid, so if you don't want me to return you to your master, you'd better come to an arrangement with me."
She looked confused. Just what he needed, a slow-witted female to deal with. He took an exasperated breath and tried to think of a way to explain the situation in simple terms.
He grasped her shoulders and glared into her amazingly bright green eyes. "I don't want to waste the time necessary to turn around and take you back." He stroked his finger down the front of her tight suit, noting the way her nipples hardened under the light touch. He smiled darkly. "You can be my pet body slave and stay on board, or I can call your master and arrange to have you returned to him--or her--at the next port." He traced the delicate structure of her cheekbones. "Your choice."
The woman's jaw dropped open and she stuttered, "Y-you want me to be your b-body slave? Like a sex slave?"
He nodded. "I'm not a gentle man, but I won't intentionally hurt you. Having my own body slave on board might prove to be interesting." He raised a brow quizzically, a thought suddenly occurring. "You're not running from a bond-mate, are you?" That would bring up a whole other set of problems he didn't even want to consider.
"No!" Those gorgeous green eyes widened in alarm. "I'm not mated."
He relaxed a bit, surprised at the relief he felt at her answer. "Well? Do we have a deal?"
"Ummm. Sure." She looked down, shuffling her feet on the deck. "Deal. Just don't send me back."
The submissive stance was so obviously against her nature, Ryland grinned. The little minx thought she could fool him with a bit of third-rate acting. "Good. While I'd love to sample your talents right now, I have some work to do." He swept her up in his arms, tossing her over his shoulder before striding out the door.
Heading down the corridor, he ran an assessing hand over the smooth curves of her butt. She dangled helplessly, her head bouncing awkwardly against his back. He'd always been partial to a firm ass. The woman squirmed uncomfortably, her hands still restrained behind her. "Easy now. Don't want any more marks on that luscious body of yours." He brought his hand down smartly and laughed at her strangled gasp. "This voyage is looking up."
He used his neural implants to open the door to the holding cell, ignoring her stream of colorful insults, and tossed her into the anti-grav stasis field. He'd have to teach her to hold her tongue. For a body slave, she had a shocking lack of control.
He could tell by her stunned expression the exact second she felt the effects of the stasis field. It held her suspended within its parameters, unable to move her limbs. He reached in and straightened her so that she stood upright and wouldn't suffer any ill effects. His military-grade neural net automatically negated the field's attempt to control him. "I can't have you running loose on the ship just yet. You'll be safe here until I have time to deal with you."
He grinned at the shocked look on her face as he backed out of the cell. Turning, he sauntered down the corridor in the direction of the bridge, cheerfully whistling his favorite tune off key.