IMPERIAL HAVEN by Anne Kane
Mating Season Book Three
Caitlin is a high-class data thief. She knows how to get in and out of a mark's house without detection, but this time something went wrong. Kyran not only caught her red-handed, tapping into his computer system, he also seems to think they have some kind of bond-mate thing going.
What's a girl to do when the bounty hunter you were stealing from turns out to be an Imperial Were-Panther with the hots for you?
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Mating Season: Imperial Haven
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Copyright ©2011 Anne Kane
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Caitlyn peered around the edge of the railing and studied the ship in dock slip number eighty-seven. A long-range scouting vehicle, it belonged to a bounty hunter named Kyran. What kind of name was that anyway? Kyran? Sounded like a small parasite that the fish on her home planet feasted on.
Satisfied that the docking corridor was empty, she scurried over to the ship and held the sonar lock pick over the security box. It hummed for a few seconds before a soft click let her know the lock was now disarmed. Pocketing the small device, she slid open the heavy outer hatch and entered the spaceship.
Inside, the layout looked exactly as her research had led her to expect. The Mark IV was a popular vehicle, noted for its reliability and low energy consumption. Corridors branched off in two directions from where she stood. The one on the right should lead to the crew quarters and galley, the left to the bridge and all of the computer equipment.
Caitlyn headed left. Talk about a sweet deal. She just needed to locate Mr. Bounty Hunter's main files and download a copy of the new engine specs he'd been bragging about in the Spaceport tavern last nightfall. Her client was offering big bucks for them, and she could use a fat commission right about now. What with the government lackeys declaring a galaxy-wide crackdown on smuggling, the data theft business hadn't been so good lately.
She'd been stealing data almost as long as she'd been breathing the rarified oxygen that passed for an atmosphere on the mining droids. She'd discovered early on that her small stature and innocent face were assets she could exploit. The space enforcers had never even come close to catching her. Once she'd started working data dumps on a regular basis, she'd set up a double blind drop system to make sure even the clients didn't see who she was.
When she turned the corner, the corridor widened out to the bridge. She stopped, staring around in admiration. The walls were sheets of polished titanium, glowing richly in the low light of the ship's systems. A state-of-the-art pilot's chair sat dead center of the room, overlooking the navigation and communication station. A complicated array of computer banks lined the walls to the left, and she headed toward them. The info she needed would be stored somewhere in their hard drives.
An unfamiliar chill slithered down her back, and she turned to study the room carefully. Nothing but empty space greeted her, and she shrugged, turning back to the task at hand. She needed to take a break, maybe after this job. Her nerves were shot. The heist last month had gone badly, leaving a sour taste in her mouth, and now she was sensing things that weren't there. Not good. In this job, you needed nerves of steel.
Spying an access terminal, she glided across the room and pulled her mane of golden hair aside to expose the input jack just behind her ear. Plugging one end of the download cable into it, she slid the receiver into the data port. Images immediately flooded through the link, blinding her with their sheer volume, and she closed her eyes to concentrate. It took a few minutes to bring the flow under control so she could sort through it, looking for the plans that she wanted. This was the mind-numbingly boring part.
The bounty hunter was organized, she'd give him that. The data banks were neatly arranged, information stacked by subject. She skimmed past star charts and weapons schematics, financial data and the ship's supply logs. The man kept records of everything! She found the technical data stored in the back corner of the drive, and began the tedious job of scanning each string of code. It had to be in here somewhere, and when she found it her money troubles would be over. At least for now.
The bounty hunter came out of nowhere, grasping her wrists and snapping on the magnetic cuffs before she had time to react and pull her consciousness out of the computer banks. He pulled her arms up over her head, and the magnetic cuffs snapped into position against the metal frame of the ship, leaving her standing spread-eagled in front of him. With a sardonic grin, he reached up to pull the download cable out of the jack in her head.
She felt so incredibly helpless, not something she had a lot of experience with. She looked up the long muscular length of her captor's sculpted body. In person, he looked a whole lot more intimidating than he had in the vid pic she'd dug up on the station's news feed. At least six and a half feet tall, his skintight uni-suit did nothing to hide the sleek ropes of muscle that rippled across his massive chest. Dark hair hung to his shoulders and framed a face more rugged than handsome.
His eyes, though, were what held her attention. Dark as a Zargonian night sky and with swirling hazel streaks, they sent shivers of lust dancing up her spine.
She should be terrified, but all her treacherous mind could think of was how good his hands would feel on her naked body.
"Looking for something?" His voice was deep and husky, the kind of voice that could make the meteor report sound sexy.
"No, just passing by and thought I'd take a look at your system." She ignored the sinking feeling in her gut and pasted a cheerful smile on her face. "I've never been aboard a ship like this before. It's very impressive."
"Well, it's your lucky day then." His lopsided grin didn't do much to reassure her, especially with those eyes boring into her very soul. "You'll be getting a free ride on her."
"Oh, that's nice of you, but I'm afraid I won't be able to take you up on that. I have a commitment elsewhere tonight. Lovely as they are, I'm going to have to ask you to remove the bracelets."
Kyran shook his head, his eyes darkening even more. "I'm afraid that's out of the question. You'll have to send your regrets." He took one step forward, placing a hand on either side of her head and trapping her between the wall and his considerable bulk.
Warm breath feathered teasingly along her cheek as he brought his face close to sear a kiss across her lips. He slid his tongue across the seam of her lips, his mouth hard and demanding.
Caitlyn's body reacted immediately, insatiable lust flooding through every cell. She opened her mouth, something in her unable to resist his combination of domination and seduction. Kyran lifted his head for a second, and disappointment shivered through her. None of the news vids had mentioned what an amazing kisser he was.
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