Something inside told her that if he left her, he’d never come back. Shahara had learned a long time ago to listen to that inner voice. She ran into the bathroom and hurriedly pulled her clothes out of the dryer.
Once dressed, she met Syn in his office by his desk.
“What are you doing?” he asked, looking her up and down.
“I’m going with you.”
“Like hell, nothing.” She stood toe to toe with him. “I’m going with you and you can’t stop me.”
Syn wanted to choke her even more than he wanted to beat the shit out of her brother. “It’s too dangerous for two. Stay here where it’s safe.”
Shahara arched an angry eyebrow. “I don’t think so. I started this with you and, by God, I’m going to finish it. And the last thing I need is some overly macho guy telling me that I can’t take the heat. If I can pull you out of prison, kick the ass of everyone who’s come at us so far, then I think I’m qualified to pilfer a map from your apartment.”
Syn clenched his teeth. He didn’t want her along. He was used to working alone and that’s the way he liked it.
He ignored the part of him which laughed a bitter denial.
Shahara grabbed her pack off the floor and slung it over her shoulder. “Okay, convict, what’s the plan?”
His teeth still clenched, Syn had half a notion to knock her over the head and leave her behind. But as stubborn as she was, she’d just come after him once she woke up.
With his luck, she’d lead about a dozen or more Rits to him.
At least if she were with him, he could keep his eye on her and make sure she didn’t do something stupid that would get them both caught. “All right, you can come. But if you so much as sneeze without my permission, I swear I’ll cut your throat and run for cover.”
Instead of angering her, his words made her smile.
She’s as crazy as the rest of her family.
But then what did that make him?
A first-rank idiot who deserves whatever the Rits do to you.
Syn growled low in his throat, wishing to the gods that he’d never been born. Without another word, he picked up his own pack and led her to the landing bay and into the belly of a small shuttle.
She dumped her pack in the copilot’s chair. “Why are we using a shuttle?” She took a seat in the navigator’s space.
He sighed, wondering why he’d ever involved himself with her. She was far too naive for the danger in his life. “If the Rits come after us, a freighter wouldn’t stand a prayer of escaping and a fighter would be too suspicious. I’m sure the authorities have a Search and Hold on every fighter that docks anywhere near Broma. Therefore we’re relegated to a shuttle.” That said, he took the helm and launched them.
Once they were safely away and he had their coordinates programmed in their directionals, Syn grabbed her pack out of the chair beside him and dropped it into her lap.
She looked up with a puzzled frown.
Opening it, he began pulling out various items. “This—” he held up a black, cloth hood, “Is part of your suit. You hook it up like this.” He pulled it on and showed her how to fasten the small metal hooks around the hem of the hood to the collar of their shirts. “The hood will protect you from any infrared or bio detectors they might use while scanning.”
“Are you serious?”
“Deadly,” he said quietly. “If I pull my hood out for any reason, whether you understand it or not, you do the same immediately and keep it on.”
Syn swallowed as her fingertips brushed against his hand. She took the hood from his grasp. For several seconds, he could do nothing except stare at her, wishing for things he knew he could never have.
I am a total idiot.
Clearing his throat, he forced himself to finish his instructions. He watched as she fastened the hood and then he checked it to make sure she’d done it correctly.
“Good.” Next he pulled out several explosives.
Shahara inclined her head to him. “Cloaking smoke, numbing gas, and a light bomb.” She touched each type of canister as she named it.
“Very good.” He repacked her gear and made sure her baton was back in its pocket. “Now take off your blaster and put it inside your pack.”
“Excuse me?” she asked in disbelief.
Shahara bristled at his stern command. She’d never been one to take orders without a fight. “Why?”
He took a deep breath as if he needed patience. “If light hits your silver blaster, it’ll reflect off the barrel. Why the hell do you think mine’s black? Also, the way you carry your blaster, it dangles loosely and could thump against something and alert our enemies to where we are. Something that would be very bad.”
Shahara narrowed her gaze at his sarcasm. “Is there anything else I do wrong, while you’re at it?”
Some of his anger dissipated. “It’s not wrong for what you do, but in my line of work, it’ll get you killed.”
Sighing at the harsh reality of his world, she put her hood within easy reach and prayed that this time everything went smoother for them.
Syn continued his warnings, “You also have to remember that if the authorities have the right equipment, the fuel inside your blaster will be picked up on their scanners.”
Now there was something she’d never heard of before. Dang, technology changed faster than she could keep up with it. “How is that possible?”
“Most blaster charges are coated with trissem to allow individual makers and suppliers to identify their merchandise. About a year ago, the authorities came out with a scanner that can pick up the trissem and expose a concealed weapon.”
“But how will putting it in the pack—”
“The pack is lined with deluva. To date, there’s no scanner that can infiltrate it. So long as we have them, we’re relatively safe.”
What did he do? Stay up every night researching all this? She unstrapped her blaster and did as he’d ordered. “You’re good at this.”
“Yeah, well, on the street a filch’s life expectancy is only twenty-two and I’m doing my best to double that.”
She flinched at his words. “You can’t be serious? Even League assassins have longer life expectancies than that.”
He turned to face her, his features completely stoic. “Assassins have a home quarter with allies. A filch has no one to trust. You’re just as likely to get it from a client as you are from an enforcer. Or a competitor. Believe me, I carry multiple scars from all three.”
Shahara drew her leg up into her chair and thought about his words. She’d never before considered how much danger such a life would hold. It was terrifying. At least as a tracer, she only had to worry about her targets getting her. While she did compete with others for missions, tracers didn’t kill each other over them.
“Yet you trusted Digger, Nykyrian, Darling and the Mothers.”
“I also trusted Caillen.”
A lump burned her throat. Did Syn hate her for her brother’s words?
“I’m really sorry, Syn.”
He didn’t say anything as he turned back to the controls.
For several minutes, Shahara sat in her chair, watching him run data through the computer. The light of the console flickered across the handsome planes of his face. Desperately, she wanted to take him in her arms and hold him tight, but he held himself so rigidly that she was afraid to even try.
A light began to blink. Syn sat back and looked at it, then thumped it with his fingertip.
“What was that?” she asked, suddenly anxious.
“A malfunctioning light.”
They both fell silent while Shahara wondered about his thoughts. Would he ever forgive Caillen for what he’d said?
Her brother’s words had been harsh and if she were lucky enough to have a friend like Syn, she’d never betray him.
At that thought, her stomach flipped and she considered the irony of life. What Caillen had said to him was not nearly as bad as what she was doing to him.
What am I going to do?
Syn watched her from the corner of his eye while he continued to test various scenarios with the computer strategist. She sat in her chair with one leg drawn up beside her as she absently twisted a finger in her mahogany hair.
He sighed. This was not the way he’d wanted his morning to turn out. He’d wanted to spend hours holding her, exploring her body, and instead he was headed straight into suicide with a hangover and a fury that was so raw in his throat he could taste the acid.
Damn you, Caillen.
But then, what did it really matter? He’d known better than to ever hope for anything. How many times would he try for something and watch as all his hard work crumbled around him?
Well, this time, he’d learned his lesson. Shahara was only experiencing halo syndrome. It was common enough. Hell, he’d taught a number of classes to interns about it back when he’d been a doctor. He’d saved her life and taken care of her so she naturally looked at him as a guardian angel and had deluded herself with infatuation. But once all this was over, she’d gradually come to her senses and see him for what he really was.
A no-account thief.
And she was a tracer, a seax no less.
There had never been two more incompatible people born. To even hope for one more moment in her arms was complete madness.
No, he had to keep his distance. For her sake as much as his own.
He closed his eyes and tried to banish the ache that seized him over the thought of letting her go. She doesn’t belong to you. You were meant to be alone. Why do you fight it?
Because all he really wanted in life was for one person to say “I love you” and have them mean it. Just one human being to stay with him no matter what.
How he damned such thoughts. They’d tortured him all the nights of his life.
No more. He was done with it all.
To hell with love and to hell with people. He didn’t need either one.
As soon as he could, he’d dump her and that would be that. And if his heart and soul didn’t like it, then they could both go to hell and roast. He’d had plenty of disappointments over the years and, at this point in his life, he was used to its bitter taste.
He was definitely done with her.
Shahara came awake as someone touched her gently on her arm. Instinctively, she came awake with her blaster drawn and aimed at his head.
Syn caught the barrel and disarmed her before she could shoot him . . . again. “Are you all right?”
She started to fight back until she realized who it was. She calmed instantly, grateful she hadn’t inadvertently hurt him. “Sorry about that.”
He shook it off without offense. “It’s okay. I do the same thing myself.” He returned the blaster to her.
Sliding it back into her holster, she yawned. “Where are we?”
“Broma. I landed almost twenty minutes ago.” He picked her pack up off the floor in front of her feet and handed it to her.
“Why didn’t you wake me sooner?”
“You looked like you needed the sleep, but we’ve only got about three hours of darkness left. So we need to get out of here soon.”
Shahara rubbed her eyes and yawned again. “Okay, Captain. After you.”
He arched a brow. “What? No convict insult?”
She stood up and placed her hand against his cheek. Even though his tone was steady and even, she had the distinct impression that he only brought it up because her use of the word offended him. “I see you, Syn. I know what you are.”
Syn didn’t respond as his body erupted at the sensation of her gentle touch.
Don’t be an idiot. Mara touched you with a loving hand once upon a time, too.
And it had been a lie. First time he did something Shahara didn’t like, she’d turn on him just like Kiara had done after they’d risked their lives to save hers. In one second of confession, he’d been reduced down to the filth of his past.
Just like Mara and Paden.
Just like Caillen.
The truth of his past had never set him free. It only enslaved him more.
And he was tired of it.
Stepping back from her, he pulled on a pair of black gloves, then handed her a matching set.
Shahara wanted to curse as she saw the veil come down over his face. He’d retreated back into himself and she had no idea why. Disappointed, she accepted the gloves, noting the little bubbles of hard-formed plastic that lined the palm and fingers. Tracing some with her finger, she looked up with a puzzled frown.
“We’re going to rappel down the side of my building. Those should keep you from slipping.”
Her body went cold. “Rappel?”
“Just don’t look down.”
Her stomach shrank at the thought. “You are one seriously sadistic bastard, aren’t you?”
“It comes with being a Wade,” he said in a tone so low she wasn’t sure she heard it.