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Genre: M/M Erotic
Book two in the Bounty series
For months, Mace Simms has been seeking an antidote for the poison killing her mentor. Her only hope is Alec Roiten, a brilliant scientist hiding on a backwater planet. Posing as a research assistant, Mace offers the elusive genius all the help she can, ignoring the explosive chemistry between them. Soon they’re close to a cure.
But then Alec’s former love Byron shows up, attempting to claim a bounty on Alec’s head, and all that careful research gets left behind when they’re forced to flee. And when Byron realizes the tip-off about Alec was a ruse by his rivals to lure him out into the open to kill him, the bounty hunt turns into a three-person scramble for survival.
Byron wants his old lover back, Alec is consumed by a haunting secret about the poison he’s desperate to defeat, and Mace is caught between them. But she’s beginning to think that’s exactly where she belongs as the three are drawn together in their race against death.
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“Christine d’Abo gifts the reader with a daring combination of sci-fi space adventure, sexy and soulful ménage, and pirating with a conscience topped off with a bit of professional gunslinger and she makes it work, and work well... If you love reading strong characters, epic adventure, beautifully written sex with just a touch of BDSM and the promise of an HEA ending, let your fingers quickly find their way to Ellora’s Cave to buy Christine d’Abo’s No Remedy.” BlackRaven’s Reviews, Recommended Read, Top Pick of the Week
“Holy spaceballs!... No Remedy had everything good going for it. A space pirate, a bounty hunter and a scientist. There was all combinations of loving that really spiced up an already interesting concept and all the action just hit the spot. I highly recommendNo Remedy for anyone who likes sci-fi romance, m/m romance, ménage a trois, and excellent writing.” Book Binge Reviews
“This sequel to No Quarter continues to show off Christine D'Abo's wonderful writing skills bringing three people together in a time of desperate need for all of them. Even if they don't know it. Yet. Just like No Quarter I could not put No Remedy down. I was taken in and it just would not release until the end.....nope still hasn't released me.” Romance Writers Reviews
Mace Simms tugged uncomfortably on her lab coat before slipping into the consol chair to initiate the latest in her series of tests. Gods, please let it work this time. Her fingernails bit into the flesh of her palms as the scanner whirled up to full power, pulling the sample into its innards.
It had taken Mace the better part of three months to become familiar with the lab procedures Alec insisted she use in his lab. It was only when she could complete them to his satisfaction that he left her alone for more than five minutes at a time. Gods, he was so stubborn. The last thing she wanted was him hanging over her shoulder, questioning her every move.
The computer hummed pleasantly as it ran the last of the chemical analysis of their continued attempts at a cure for the ryana poison. Gritting her teeth, Mace tried to keep the memory of her last communication with Gar far from mind. She couldn’t bear to see the look of worry color his normally impassive face. Faolan had taken a turn for the worse in recent months. The ryana poison was now attacking his nervous system, turning him from a vivacious man who laughed with everyone into a shell of his former self. They’d hoped for ten years of good health before the poison got to this stage—they’d barely gotten three.
The computer beeped mournfully, announcing the end of its analysis. Huffing out a breath and shoving her short hair behind her ears, Mace triggered the readout and mentally rattled off the one and only prayer she knew. Numbers and compounds filled the screen, revealing a complex chemical breakdown of the interaction results. Mace leaned forward, pressing her fingertip to the screen as she followed the lines of text, trying to work out exactly what it meant. It was close, the compound had torn down the poison’s structure, but also destroyed the surrounding cells.
“Shit.” She fell back into her seat with a groan, pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes. This will kill Faolan faster than the poison.
“That doesn’t sound good.”
Mace turned her head and watched Alec stride into the room. She shivered as he scratched the back of his neck, her eyes drawn to the flex of the muscles of his arms and chest, barely concealed by his black, short sleeved shirt. Gods, he was a temptation she hadn’t anticipated when she’d set out to find Faolan’s cure. Having lived on a ship full of men since she was twelve years old, Mace had learned to control her impulses long before now.
There was something about Alec, though. He wasn’t loud and boisterous like the men on the Belle Kurve. Alec had a quiet strength about him, making him more of a mystery to her than any other person she’d met. And while she wished he would relax enough to let her past the walls he’d erected, Mace enjoyed the flashes of his sarcastic sense of humor. Slowly, he was starting to trust her, even if he still refused to talk about his past.
Honestly, who was she to criticize him for keeping secrets?
Crossing her arms over her chest, Mace snorted. “Oh, it worked. It ripped the infected cells to shreds…along with the uninfected ones.”
Alec stood behind her chair, leaning forward until the back of her head pressed into his chest. She glanced up in time to watch him slide his glasses up the bridge of his nose, wondering again why he hadn’t undergone the operation to repair his corneas. He had the resources and credits available to have it done legally. Hell, he could probably perform the bloody operation on himself if he were so inclined.
Mace looked back at the screen as Alec reached ahead to advance the report. He seemed completely oblivious to how much of his body was pressed against hers. Hell, most of the time he didn’t show any awareness of her beyond being another functional piece of equipment in his lab. Mace wasn’t used to being ignored or blending into the background. That was more her brother’s style.
Gar had been the Guild’s best and most infamous hunter. If he was on the trail of a mark, nobody would know it until he was right on top of them—and then it was too late to do anything but give the hell up. On the other hand, Faolan had taught her the benefits of seizing life by the throat and living it to its full extent, which usually meant being the center of the attention.
“You’re right. Shit.” Alec’s voice rumbled in his chest. “We’re closer this time, so that’s promising.”
Mace rolled her eyes. “Sure, if killing the patient is forward progress.”
“Depends on the patient. If a Sayton happens to ingest the ryana, then we’ll have a cure ready to go.”
Mace rolled her eyes. “Too bad ryana only seems to affect humans.”
Alec stiffened and pulled back. “Be thankful it wasn’t more races.”
The loss of his contact was as unnerving as Alec’s reaction. He always withdrew whenever she tried to talk about the origins of the poison, and for the life of her, Mace couldn’t figure out why. Sliding her hands over the tops of her thighs, she turned to look at him.
His short cropped black hair looked like he’d been running his hands through it compulsively. He did that when he was stressed about something. He wasn’t wearing his lab coat, but as civilian or scientist, Alec always looked too tempting for her own good.
Dammit. The last thing Mace needed was to get tangled up in feelings for a man she would inevitably leave when she returned to the Belle Kurve. Mace would use him to get the cure for Faolan and then she’d get the hell off this stupid planet. She’d deal with her emotions once she knew Faolan was better.
Allowing herself a final, admiring glance at his mussed appearance, she said, “Good old Rusty trying to press you for credits again?” Mace leaned her elbow against the top of the chair and propped her chin in her hand. “I’m surprised he hasn’t stopped playing bully yet.”
Mace didn’t know the security officer’s real name, and frankly didn’t give a shit. She’d dubbed him Rusty based solely on the massive amounts of rust covering the UVA he drove. Planet Naveeo clearly wasn’t high on the Loyalist list of priorities when it came to new equipment. Hell, it was lucky to get the few cast-offs it did, given the reputation of most of the colony’s inhabitants.
Alec’s gaze dropped to her cleavage before quickly snapping back to her face. Those little slips were the only reason she knew he was attracted to her, although he was too professional to ever make a move. And she was too guarded to let him.
But it felt…good.
Maybe she should let him.
“Our friend wanted me to pay extra for my not-so-new colleague. Again.” Alec smirked as he nodded his chin in her direction. “Seems it’s hard work to keep the brutes from stealing you away. I set him straight, but if he gives you any trouble, let me know. I’m not going to let him get away with this bullshit any longer.”
Mace rolled her eyes, but sat up straighter. “Next time invite him over for a little sparring. I’d be more than happy to show him how little protection I need.”
“Not necessary. I showed him the imprint of your foot on my back and told him it was from a month ago.”
She grinned. “It really was a good kick.”
Alec didn’t respond. His brown gaze slipped again, this time to the side of her neck. Gods, she could almost feel it like a touch on her skin, sending a shiver through her body. He hadn’t shaved yet today, giving him an uncharacteristic ruggedness. Alec stepped closer and Mace’s breath hitched.
“How long have you been at this today?” He reached out and tapped the tip of his finger against the chair’s top. “I don’t remember seeing you come in this morning.”
She watched, transfixed, as his light tapping continued. If Alec knew how many hours she’d been putting in, he would no doubt try to enforce the restrictions he’d previously put in place “for her own good.” His last lecture about overworking herself still stung.
His tapping increased in speed, but the rhythm remained constant. Mace couldn’t look away as her body relaxed. Something in the back of her mind tickled. Her mouth began to move before she could stop herself.
“I didn’t go home last night.”
The words slipped from her without conscious thought. The moment she’d spoken, Alec stopped the tapping, shaking her from the spell she’d slipped under. The sudden fog on her brain lifted and Mace snapped her head up to glare at Alec.
Alec reached forward and caught her chin in his hand. “Mace, you promised me you weren’t going to bury yourself in this work.”
What the hell? “I didn’t mean to say that.”
“Stop trying to deflect. You’ll kill yourself if you continue at this pace. I know, because I’ve seen it happen to enough of my colleagues.”
“Why did I tell you—?”
“I refuse to sit by and watch you burn yourself out.” Alec sighed as he shifted his hold and brushed his fingers against her jaw. “I’m taking you out to eat.”
Mace snapped her mouth shut, frowned and pulled away from his touch. “What?”
“Come on, up.”
“Move, Mace. If you expect to keep working for me, you’ll need to learn when to take some time to unwind. Flashes of brilliance can’t happen when you’re exhausted.”
“Says the man who slept here every night for two weeks straight last month.”
He snorted as he slipped an arm around her waist. “Completely different. And if I remember correctly, you gave me hell for doing that.”
“As I should have.”
“Well, consider this payment in kind.”
Alec towered over Mace as he guided her toward the exit. The last of her argument slipped away. Heat from his body bled through the thin material of his shirt as her body soaked it in. His tactile nature reminded her so much of Faolan. They both needed physical contact as a reminder that the ones they loved were still present—still safe.
“I’ve been told,” Alec whispered against her ear as they stepped out into the heat of the twin suns, “that Dail has come up with a new concoction he claims tastes exactly like Hydraxian ale. I suggest we go get a couple of mugs and a plate of narn. Both of us can relax for a change.”
Mace let Alec lead her through the square comprising the colony center, ignoring her natural impulses to pull away from his protective stance and show him she was more than capable of looking after herself. Despite their occasional sparring rounds, she had managed to maintain her cover of a relatively harmless scientist. As far as Alec was concerned, Mace’s sharp tongue was her most deadly weapon.
The bounty on Mace’s head was too big to risk her discovery.
“Drinks and narn. Sounds good to me.” She leaned a bit closer as they approached the bar. “But you can keep the ale. I swear Dail slipped something into mine the last time.”
Laughter greeted them as the door slid open, revealing darkness and the stench of unwashed bodies. Mace cringed, but kept moving forward until she found an empty booth to the side of the room. The artificial surface of the seat was pitted and sticky with a residue she thought best not to examine too closely. If it wasn’t for the fact this was the best place in the settlement to get food, she’d never have set foot in here twice.
Alec dropped into the seat opposite her, and with a quick push of his glasses, leaned across the table. “No arguments. We eat, drink, and then I’m escorting you back to your apartment so you can get some rest.”
The look of absolute seriousness immediately reminded Mace of her brother, how Gar would get when trying to convince Faolan to lie down or take his medication. Despite her deception, Mace really appreciated Alec’s genuine concern. It was touching. Screw that, it was downright sexy.
Rolling her eyes, she leaned back and crossed her arms. “Are you going to tuck me in too?”
Something flashed in his eyes. “Is that an invitation?”
They’d done this dance before without it going anywhere. Alec was too much of a gentleman to be anything but the proper boss, but she’d spent too many years out in space with more men than women to not instigate a little flirting. It wasn’t natural.
Although with Alec it was different. She knew he wouldn’t take her up on it. Not really. He was safe.
Mace tucked the hair that had fallen forward behind her ear, cocking her head to the side. “Does it matter?”
“Yes.” His voice sounded rough.
“You’ve never agreed before.” She caught herself fidgeting and quickly sat on her hands. “Why would this time be different?”
“You weren’t serious before.”
She wasn’t serious now. Was she?
“Alec! You bastard.”
Mace’s gaze snapped to Dail as the short Cybrax waddled in their direction. She smiled at Alec’s sigh and silently thanked the obnoxious bar owner for saving her from confronting her rising attraction to Alec. Now wasn’t the time to give in to her lust. She was still too far away from getting her hands on a cure.
“Dail, I thought you were off world,” Alec said with enough amusement to almost sound friendly.
The Cybrax made a high-pitched squeak that Mace recognized as his equivalent of a snort. “Is that why I find you gracing my establishment?” Dail reached over and lifted Mace’s hand to his lips. “And you brought your beautiful assistant as well. I am truly honored.”
Slimy lips smeared across her skin, sending a shiver of disgust through her. “I’ve been told you have new ale,” she managed to say with a smile. “The temptation was too much for me to resist.”
Dail let loose another squeak. “You need to improve your dissembling abilities, my dear. You’ve far too honest a face for anyone to believe your lies.”
Mace found it hard not to laugh. Instead she simply shrugged and gave him a small smile. “What can I say? My parents raised me to always tell the truth.”
Never mind that both her parents had been murdered and she’d been taught to lie by the best pirate in the sector.
Alec growled softly as he liberated Mace’s hand from Dail. “If you think you can tear yourself away from molesting my assistant, we could stand to have some food and drink. But if you can’t provide us with any, we can try over at Dominars.” Alec smirked.
Her skin tingled as he methodically rubbed her pulse point with his thumb. Mace knew she should move away. Increasingly, she was finding it harder to resist his pull.
Alec looked back as Dail shouted out an order to one of the waitresses. Lifting an eyebrow, he increased the pressure of the contact, but slowed the pace. He was waiting for her to respond, withdraw her hand, make a snarky comment or one of the other million things she normally did to keep him at bay.
“You’ve never taken me up on it before.”
“You weren’t serious before.”
Seemingly oblivious to the silent dance before him, Dail turned back and squeaked. “Hard to find good help out here on the fringe. Shalaya will bring your order soon enough.”
“Thanks, Dail.” Alec finally released Mace and leaned back in the chair. “Just make sure it isn’t drugged this time. I’d hate to have to slip a diarrheic into your water supply again.”
“You bastard! That was you?”
“They’ll never be able to trace it back to me. It was due to a sudden bout of spoiled food resulting from improper storage. My tests will confirm this, naturally.” Alec tapped his finger against his lips.
Mace giggled at the look of horror on the Cybraxian’s face. “Know thy enemy, Dail.”
“Shalaya! Hold that order.” Dail scurried away, shouting orders in his native language.
Alec’s grin told Mace how much he’d enjoyed his little rebellion. She relished these brief moments where she saw the flashes of the man he must have been before coming to Naveeo. She didn’t think Alec was necessarily being punished, but people didn’t choose to live in a dung-hole like this voluntarily. Something must have happened to have brought him here.
Tucking her hair behind her ear once again, Mace leaned closer. “Did you really put something in the water?”
“Would you think any less of me if I had?”
“Not at all.” Licking her lips, Mace dipped her head closer. “In fact, I might have to give you a proper thank you.”
“Then I most certainly did. Twice the dose of what Dail reported, in fact.” Alec reached forward to brush Mace’s forearm where it rested on the table. “So, about that thank you.”
Biting her lower lip, Mace slid her arm so it pressed against his. Alec’s body radiated heat. Her skin tingled as she soaked it in. Lust flared low in her gut, making her pussy clenched and her breath hitched. It has been so long since she’d been with a man, even longer since she’d been with someone who could satisfy her particular needs. While Mace didn’t know what Alec would be like in bed, she couldn’t risk finding out.
“Alec,” Mace kept her voice low as she spoke, “while I’ve known you for a few months now, I can’t say I know much about you.”
“Not much to say.” Alec traced a pattern on the skin of her arm. “Just trying to help people where I can.”
“Without taking anything in return?” Mace cocked an eyebrow. “I know this will sound jaded, but people don’t do the types of things you do without wanting something back.”
“I’m a selfless kind of guy.”
“While I’m not arguing your point, I also know there’s more to it than that.”
Alec broke contact, but didn’t quite pull away. She could tell from the expression on his face that he was fighting some sort of internal battle. “Mace, I don’t think you would like me very much if you heard the full story.”
“Everyone has secrets.”
Mace wasn’t sure how to respond. She somehow knew the words she chose would shape their relationship going forward. “Yes, even me. I’ve always said it’s not the secret itself so much as how we choose to deal with the consequences of living with it.”
Before Alec could respond, light flooded the bar. The front door had been pushed open. Silence spread across the room as everyone took in the new-comers—three men, dressed head to toe in brown drax leather. The hairs on the back of Mace’s neck stood up. Bounty hunters.
Turning to face Alec, Mace tried coming up with an excuse to get them out of there. She was shocked to see a flash of panic on his face, followed by bleak determination. Why the hell would he care that bounty hunters had just walked into the bar? There was a small chance they weren’t even here for her. Many of the colony’s inhabitants weren’t high-class citizens and any of them could have a bounty on their heads. Unless Alec’s secret went deeper than she could imagine, there wasn’t any reason for him to panic.
Me, on the other hand…
Alec grabbed her hand and squeezed hard. “Mind if we get this order to go?”
Despite having lived the life of a meek researcher these past few months, Mace’s pirate instincts roared back to life in a heartbeat. She was particularly good at avoiding bounty hunters. Reaching out to snag two mugs of ale from the passing waitress, she thrust one into Alec’s grip.
“Follow my lead,” she whispered before slugging back half the mug.
“Mace, what the hell?”
Standing up quickly, Mace made sure to throw in an exaggerated wobble as she laughed. Strategically keeping her back to the trio, she slammed the mug down on the table and started to sing.
“Oh, carna, the things you do to meeeeee.” Mace pulled Alec’s arm, urging him to his feet. “Oh, carna, you can never leave me beeeeeee.”
“Mace,” he hissed.
Get up, she mouthed, stumbling backward to bump into the table behind her. The action allowed her turn her head to get a glimpse of the hunters. Her little drunken act seemed to be of no interest to them, just as she had hoped. For an intelligent man, Alec’s lack of understanding was frustrating as hell. The man completely lacked a devious nature.
Mace grabbed his hand and twirled in a drunken circle in an abysmal attempt at a dance spin. “Take me home, carna. Take meeeee home.”
Not wanting to push her luck, Mace tugged Alec with her, leading him toward the public toilets and the back door. She tripped over her feet, sending Alec’s body crashing into hers as they stumbled into the dark hallway. Ignoring the firm press of his thighs against her ass and the heat of his chest seeping through her thin shirt, Mace bit back a groan and forced herself continued on.
The second they were far enough down the hall to be hidden, Mace stopped moving. She pressed her hand to Alec’s mouth when he tried to speak, pushing him backward until he was against the wall. From this vantage point she could look out into the bar without being noticed.
A minute passed and Mace thought their luck would hold out. Of course, Dail’s high-pitched squeak echoed above the normal bar noise and disabused her of that notion.Shit. Of course, the slimy little Cybraxian would turn her over in a micron if he knew how much of a bounty she currently wore around her neck.
Looking back at Alec, Mace ignored how hot he looked with her hand gagging him. “We need to get out of here.”
He nodded, cautiously reaching up to pull her hand from his mouth. “I’m pretty sure Dail keeps this door locked.”
“Not a problem.” Mace grinned as she patted Alec’s cheek. “I have a bit of experience in that area.”
“Why do I get the feeling you haven’t told me everything about your work history?”
“It wasn’t relevant at the time, but let’s say my credentials are a bit more robust than I let on. Come on.”
Mace dropped to her knees in front of the door panel, quickly prying it open with the knife she kept tucked into her boot. She could feel Alec’s gaze watching every flick of her hands as she rewired the controls. A few taps on the keys and the door slid silently open.
“I’d appreciate an updated resume when we get back to your place.”
Looking up at him in surprise, she stood, not bothering to cover up her handiwork. “Why my place?” Gods, it would be the first place they’d look.
Alec wrapped his fingers around her biceps and pulled her out the door. “Trust me when I say they are after me. I’ll get you safely to your apartment and then I’ll disappear.”
Why the hell were bounty hunters after Alec? “Even if that were true, if you think I’m going to let you scurry off into the sunset without an explanation, you’re insane.”
“Later. Just move.”
Mace gritted her teeth against her annoyance as he shoved her out the door. She hated playing the hapless loyalist woman with no skills to defend herself. She hadn’t been raised to believe the government was there to protect and keep her safe. Mace knew first-hand how little the corrupt men in power would do to help those in their care.
Alec wasn’t a man like that, but she still…
The crowd in the square had dissipated since their entrance into the bar. Many of the colonists existed on the fringe of society and wouldn’t willingly place themselves in the path of the hunters. Keeping their heads down, they stuck to skirting around the perimeter until they reached one of the cross alleys.
Alec released her arm and laced his hand with hers as they increased their pace. Her living quarters were in one of the newer buildings near the outskirts of the colony. Mace had specifically chosen it in the event she needed to make a quick escape. At the rate her day was going, it would be sooner than later.
Mace wasn’t sure if it was her paranoia kicking in, but as they rounded the corner, her building’s front door in sight, a prickle of awareness made her skin tingle. Someone was watching. She jerked her hand free from Alec, sidestepping his attempt to hold her back as she jogged ahead. The security scanner was cool under her palm, the flash of light bright in the rapidly approaching evening.
“I shouldn’t come in,” Alec said, his voice sounding tight. “I’ll put you in more danger.”
“The only danger you’re in right now is of me killing you if you think about leaving without giving me some answers first.”
The door clicked open, giving Mace room to yank Alec in behind her as she moved forward. Neither of them spoke, waiting until they were safely on the other side of her apartment door.
Alec moved immediately to the window, looking out the one-way glass. “I don’t think anyone followed us.”
“It won’t take those hunters long to figure out where we went.”
“I’m sorry you got mixed up in this.” Scrubbing a hand down his face, Alec turned to lean against the wall. “I didn’t think they’d find me.”
“What the hell is going on?” Mace marched to the safe where she kept her weapon hidden. “Why would bounty hunters come after a scientist?”
The low whine of a blaster being activated filled the momentary pause. Shit, she’d made a rookie mistake of not checking the room for intruders the moment she got in. Not wanting to distract herself by looking at Alec, she turned her head toward the origin of the noise.
Standing in the doorway to her bed-chamber was a tall man, dressed head to toe in black. His eyes were hidden behind a fitted pair of radiation goggles. He’d shaved his head down to stubble, giving him a rugged look. His attention was fixed completely on Alec, who stared back as if he were seeing a ghost.
“The lady has asked an excellent question.” The stranger had a gravelly voice, like he was suffering the after-effects of shouting for hours. He lifted the blaster an inch higher, his aim fixed somewhere near the middle of Alec’s chest. “One I would like an answer to myself.”
It was obvious the bounty hunter didn’t consider her a threat. She might have enough time before he realized his mistake to get her own blaster free of the safe. Mace was about to make her move when Alec stepped forward away from the wall. She couldn’t tear her eyes from him as he staggered two steps closer to the stranger, a look of pained remorse fixed firmly in place.
“Answer the question, Alec.” The man thumbed the energy setting up a notch. “Why the hell did a bounty order come in to the Guild to bring you in dead?”
“My Gods,” Alec muttered. “Byron?”
The man nodded and smirked. “Miss me?”
Christine d'Abo © 2007