It wasn’t a common name, and she’d only known of it being used in reference to him. “Related to Emperor Nykyrian Quiakides?”
Her stomach hit the floor. This was getting interesting. No wonder Merjack wanted conclusive proof of Devyn’s activities. If Devyn was friends with the Quiakides family .
He had a lot of political pull.
Titanic political pull. The kind that could get one killed if they didn’t follow the exact letter of the law. Holy crap. Going after him was looking less and less promising.
Taryn dipped his head to her. “Nice to meet you, Alix.”
“You, too…” It was a lame response, but what else could she say? She, a petty slave, was sitting down across from a royal prince at a dive. She had no experience in anything even remotely similar to this.
Was she supposed to curtsy?
“Um, Your Highness,” she finished weakly.
Taryn waved her words away. “Don’t be so formal. We don’t play that shit here. If we’re not at court or a public function with my parents, I’m not royal.” He swept a gaze around at his men. “God knows my crew certainly doesn’t kiss my ass no matter how much I kick theirs.”
Sphinx grabbed Taryn’s bottle and drank out of it before he responded. “That depends on whether or not you’re holding a weapon in your hand.”
Devyn laughed. “Yeah, Taryn stinks like the rest of us. More so, most days.”
“Fuck you, Devyn.” The words were harsh, but Taryn’s tone was light.
“You are so not my type, Tar. But I do have—”
Taryn tossed a throwing knife at him.
Devyn caught it without flinching and put it on the table between them. “Testy, testy. What has you in such a foul mood?”
Taryn curled his lip in a look of supreme disgust. “Reen is flying with me. Need I say more?”
Alix frowned. “Reen?”
Omari let out an evil snicker. “His baby sister. They don’t really get a long.”
“Yeah, she’s seventeen going on four, and she’s been working my last nerve into an apoplexy. I swear if my parents weren’t so attached to her, I’d send her headfirst out an airlock.”
Devyn shook his head. “Why is she with you?”
“Absolutely don’t go there. Little brat’s been hanging around my neck like a noose. I tried to leave her at headquarters, but she snuck on board my ship when we headed here to meet you. I’d sell her to a slaver, but I don’t want to face my father—never know when those hard-wired assassin reflexes are going to eradicate all sense of paternal instinct.” He paused and looked at Vik. “Hey, Vik, any chance you might—”
“Forget it, bonebag. Your father doesn’t like mechas.”
“Don’t take that personally. He doesn’t like people, either. Hell, most days he barely tolerates me.”
Devyn laughed. “That’s so not true.”
Vik talked over him to respond to Taryn. “But he won’t dismantle you. Me, on the other hand…”
Taryn tsked at him. “You’re such a coward, mech.”
“Absolutely. Would have it no other way.”
Leaning closer to Alix, Devyn indicated the blond man next to Taryn. “That’s Sphinx, who, besides me, is the best pilot in the universe.”
Taryn arched a brow. “I seriously resent that.”
Devyn shrugged. “Resent it all you want, but it’s the truth.” He looked at Alix. “Taryn’s skills are much like my father’s. Filching and killing.”
Sphinx held his hand out to Alix. “Nice meeting you.”
The other man flipped his long curly hair over his shoulder before he sat forward. “I would be Mered. And I’m really good in bed.”
Wide-eyed at the unexpected introduction, she glanced around at the other men, who were either rolling their eyes or scoffing.
Taryn let out a long-suffering sigh. “Lack of self-esteem has never been an issue with Mered. Obviously.”
Sphinx laughed evilly. “Nah, but lack of hygiene has.”
Mered bristled. “You rank bastard. Can’t you see I’m trying to get laid?”
“With Devyn’s engineer? Give it up, buddy. He’d neuter you if you succeeded.
Mered looked at Devyn. “Dev, help a brother out.”
“I ain’t your pimp, boy. You better turn those desperate eyes elsewhere. What Alix does with her spare time is her business. But I’m thinking she’s got better sense and taste than to waste time on a stink-scab like you.”
Mered let out a tired breath. “I’m going to quit while I’m on the ground being viciously kicked by people who are supposed to be my friends… but I will remember this.” He took a drink of whisky. “Bastards.”
Sphinx poked his lips out. “Poor baby. Them mean old people picking on you again and hurting your little feelings?” He reached out sympathetically.
Mered knocked his arm off his shoulder. “You are so not right in the head, you twisted f**k.”
Ignoring them, Devyn sat forward in his chair and caught Taryn’s attention. “Did you get all the medical supplies I asked for?”
Taryn crossed his arms over his chest. “I got them, but you should know The League enforcers at Paradise City have been scanning cargoes for perillian and antibiotics for the last two weeks. Someone told them a large shipment would be coming in, and that its destination was for the rebel outposters in the mines. They don’t know it’s you, but they plan to put whoever they find with it under the jail.”
Her heart skipped a beat. The last thing she wanted was a run-in with The League. An elite military organization, The League had charters from all the major governments granting it the right to act as judge, jury and executioner against anyone it deemed a threat to intergalactic peace. More than one rumor claimed The League served only itself, and she knew crossing The League would be the last mistake she or Devyn ever made—even with his political pull.
Not even Taryn’s father could save them.
Devyn narrowed his eyes at Taryn. That cold, merciless look sent a chill down her spine. “Any idea who leaked?”
Taryn shook his head. “No, but I’d be real careful. You know what a hard-on The League has for you, anyway. They would literally kill to have this on you.”
“I’ll guard my back.”
“And I’ll guard the rest of you!”
Taryn let out a foul curse.
Alix turned around at the sound of a sultry female voice. Her mouth opened in stunned surprise. The most beautiful woman she’d ever seen leaned over Devyn and kissed his cheek.
Hair as black as space cascaded from the top of an assassin’s skullcap down to the woman’s tiny waist. Unbelievably tall and dressed in a skimpy black suit that barely covered the necessary parts of her body, the woman had a figure she would kill for. She wore one blaster strapped to her left hip, and the silver handle of a dagger peeped out of the top of her shiny black thigh-high boots.
Meeting the woman’s friendly gaze, she realized the stranger was Andarion—a fierce race of predators who were rumored to eat human meat.
But not even the oddity of Andarion eyes—white irises surrounded by a very thin ring of red—or her long fangs detracted from the beauty of her face.
Devyn kissed her cheek in return. “Someone needs to tie a bell on you. I hate the way you sneak up behind me.”
The woman laughed before making her way around the table to hug Sway, then Vik. “Oh, I’ve missed you guys.” She emphasized her words with a tight squeeze to Vik. “So where’s Golan?”
Devyn scoffed. “He was arrested and detained. Alix here is our new engineer.”
“Hi.” She took a seat between Sway and Omari. “I’m Zarina, but you can call me Rina.” She cut a hostile glare to her brother. “Not Reen. I really hate that.”
“Gah, I need to have that tattooed to my forehead.” Taryn looked at Sphinx. “You know a good artist at this station?”
Sphinx hit him playfully on the arm. “One day she’s going to shoot you and I’m going to laugh my ass off while you bleed from it.”
Taryn didn’t seem the least bit concerned as he turned his attention back to his younger sister. “Did you lock Strife in the ladies’ room again? I swear, Reen, if I have to bail him out one more time because of—”
“Relax, you obnoxious pirate-snot. I only kicked him.” She pointed toward the door.
Alix turned to see a gorgeous man drawing near. Like Omari, he had a head full of riotous curls that fell against features that were sharp and virtually perfect, only his hair was dark auburn instead of Omari’s dark brown. With a small goatee, he was dressed in a gunmetal-gray battlesuit.
Holding his crotch, he was limping and scowling at Zarina. The mere fact that he could still be hot while doing that …
It said it all.
“You—” he snarled at Taryn. “Do. Not. Pay. Me. Enough. I want a raise right now or I quit.”
Taryn glared at his sister. “It’s coming out of your trust fund.”
“Oh, that’s not fair.”
“Yes, it is. I can’t replace Strife. He’s the best damned assassin in the universe. You, on the other hand… I’ve got another sister.”
She made a rude noise at him. “Excuse me, Mr. I-Have-a-Twin. You’re less unique than I am and I must say Tiernan is by far the nicer of you two.”
“Then please, go stay with him. I would sell my soul to be rid of you.” He looked over at Sphinx. “Can’t you nudge her into submission?”
“Are you kidding? As stubborn as she is? I’d fry my brain trying.”
Alix was still stunned over Zarina’s appearance. She couldn’t believe her brother let her parade around dressed in something so skimpy at her age, and the fact that she was armed.
Devyn leaned over and whispered in Alix’s ear. Chills went down her arms as his breath tickled her skin. “Can I ask a huge favor from you?”
Please let it start with the words “Get nak*d in my room.”
He pulled his debit card out and handed it to her. “Could you take Rina somewhere else to eat while I do business?”
She wasn’t so sure about that. Zarina didn’t seem exactly malleable.
In fact, the girl was already glowering at both of them. “Don’t tell me.” Her next words were spoken in a mocking tone. “We’ve got business to discuss. Would you mind giving us a few minutes ‘cause you’re a girl and we’re going to play at being men?”
Taryn tipped his bottle to his sister in a mock salute. “Since you already knew our thoughts, why did you disturb us?”
She pierced him with a malevolent glare. “Suck an asteroid berry, you pirate-snot.” She glanced at the men around her, all of whom were trying to stifle their laughter at her words.
Realizing they weren’t going to interfere on her behalf, she sniffed in mock hurt. “Fine.” She lifted her chin defiantly. “Sit around being inconsiderate asses… and you wonder why none of you are married.”
Sway cleared his throat meaningfully.
Zarina scoffed at him. “Oh, shush. You don’t count. You had an arranged marriage. These losers can’t get a girl for more than the three and a half minutes it takes them to embarrass themselves with their feeble gropings that always disappoint.”
It was Vik’s turn to clear his throat. “On behalf of the mecha population, we don’t suffer from certain biological frailties that plague organic life forms.”
“Thanks, Vik,” Taryn said sarcastically. “Way to defend us, buddy.”
“Well, I have been told—”
“Uh-uh-uh.” Taryn cut Vik off. “You’ve done enough damage, mech. Just sit there and be quiet before we organics seek revenge.”
Zarina stood. “You know, Alix, men suck. Really. They are the worst. Come with me. I need an estrogen fix before their chromosomal defects contaminate me any further.”
Still somewhat confused, Alix followed Zarina out of the pub.
She didn’t know what to make of this. Part of her said that she should stay and spy on what the men were doing, but hearsay wasn’t proof. She needed hard-core, irrefutable documentation of Devyn’s activities, and they didn’t strike her as being stupid enough to have that on them in a public forum.
Not even in this place, where illegal activities were happening all over.
Zarina stopped in the hallway, turned around, and glared at the door. Her eyes glittered with malice as she leaned against the outside wall, crossed her arms over her chest, and tapped her fingers against her upper arms. “How can you love and hate someone so much?”
Alix had no idea. She’d never had emotions that conflicting. Hers were basic. She loved her mother and sister, and hated her father. But then, her life had always been one of simplistic survival mode.