In a universe where assassins make the law, everyone lives in fear—except for Syn. Born of an illicit scandal that once rocked a dynasty, he always knew how to survive on the bloodthirsty streets. But that was then, and the future is now…
Syn was raised as a tech-thief until his livelihood uncovered a truth that could end his life. He tried to destroy the evidence, and has been on the run ever since. Now trained as an assassin, he allows no one to threaten him. Ever. He is the darkness that swallows his enemies whole.
Shahara Dagan is the best bounty hunter in the universe. When Syn comes back on the radar, she’s the only one who can bring him to justice. There’s only one problem: Syn is a close family friend who’s helped out the Dagans countless times. But if she saves him, both of their lives will be on the line. Is Syn’s protection worth the risk? The only hope Shahara has is to find the evidence he buried long ago. Now it’s kill or be killed—and they, the predators, have just become the hunted…
Shahara moaned, her temples throbbing a painful beat. Blinking open her eyes, she wondered why she felt so terrible. Her sight focused on the white stucco wall before her where a beautiful Chinergov painting hung. As she stared at the impressionist’s interpretation of a huge black bird in flight, she instantly remembered what had happened.
Where she was.
That slippery bastard had shot her!
With a gasp, she sat up, her head protesting the sudden movement. Ignoring the pain, she forced her blurry eyesight to clear and scanned the room.
It was empty. Thank goodness.
Silence buzzed in her ears and she wondered where Syn had gone.
Why he’d left her alone?
Well, she didn’t care about the answer. As long as he wasn’t here, he couldn’t kill her, or keep her from leaving. Stealthily, in case he was in the bedroom or bathroom, she slid off the couch.
Without a sound, she crossed to the door and reached for the controls. Before her fingers touched the keypad, she glanced up and gnashed her teeth in frustration. He’d reactivated the scanner.
You double bastard, rat punk!
You didn’t really think he’d make it easy for you, did you? No, but a woman could always hope for a brain injury that would leave him stupid and make it easier on her.
She wanted to curse and strike out at the almost invisible beams that cross-hatched the door, but she knew if she did that, they’d singe her flesh with a burn far worse than any fire. Worst of all, they’d trip an alarm.
She was at his mercy.
Instinctively, she reached for her weapons. As expected, they were gone along with the lockbox she’d used to breach the security system earlier.
Clenching her fists, she wished she could strangle Syn. Without her lockbox, she had no hope of guessing the scanner’s code. Grimson had designed his security systems too carefully and the number sequences were too intricate to ever be guessed by random choice, or remembered from her earlier success.
There was a nine in it…
Yeah, that wasn’t exactly helpful.
Sighing, she looked around the room. She wasn’t just going to stand here waiting for him to come back and discover she was awake. There had to be a weapon somewhere in this giant mausoleum.
She headed to the kitchen.
Maybe you should look for him first…
No. Better to get a weapon. If he happened to be in one of the other rooms, she didn’t want him to know she was awake until she had some way to protect herself.
Gah, my head hurts.
It’s what you deserve for letting him get the drop on you and you’re lucky that’s all he did.
Carefully, quietly, she opened cabinets and drawers seeking a knife, but instead, all she found were empty shelves. No cutlery at all- not even a rusty spoon.
Frowning, she opened the equally empty refrigerator. What did the man live on? Air?
Aggravated at not finding anything, she had to force herself not to slam the cabinet shut- in case he was in the other room. She crossed her arms over her chest and glanced at the counter. Again she saw a bottle of wine resting near the sink.
Not quite her weapon of choice, but in a pinch…
A determined smile curved her lips. It should serve to at least knock him senseless for a moment or two. That should be long enough to pull a weapon off his body.
She picked up the bottle and glanced at the blue and gold label. “Hmm, vintage.” Good year too. This bottle alone would probably make her fighter payments for six months. Such a shame to waste premium Gondarion grade on a worthless criminal.
Sliding her fingers around the cool, slick glass neck, she gripped the bottle and went hunting. With practiced, stalking strides, she inched toward the bedroom, then paused. The door to the bedroom slid upwards which would give him ample time to pull a blaster on her and shoot her again.
Her head pounded even more, reminding her the last thing she needed was another sharp blast.
There had to be something else…
She smiled as she noticed the partially opened door of the bathroom… it might also swing open into the bedroom.
It was her best shot.
Changing course, she headed for it.
She tried to calm the pounding beat of her heart that sent even more sharp pulses of pain to her head and played havoc with her eyesight. Damn him for that particular misery. She gripped the bottle in her icy, clammy hands and slipped inside the bathroom.
It was empty.
Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she crept toward the door on the opposite side which also had a knob. So far, everything looked good.
As silently as she could, she pushed the door open, relieved the hinges didn’t creak.
She took a step into his room, then froze in shocked disbelief.
She didn’t know what she’d expected, but it definitely wasn’t the sight greeting her.
On the opposite side of the room, Syn knelt on a red, embroidered prayer cloth, his head sedately bowed, his eyes reverently closed. His ebony hair, pulled back into a ponytail, hung just past his wide shoulders.
He wore a pair of black leather pants and a loose, black silk shirt, the cuffs rolled back from his wrists. She could see the tiniest bit of white bandage on the arm where she’d cut him earlier and a bit of scroll work from a tattoo it covered. His gloved hands rested on his knees, turned palm upwards and before him lay an opened prayer book. The light glinted off two silver hoops in his left ear.
Even while he rested she could detect his aura of restrained lethal power. See the outline of steely muscles beneath the leather and silk, and for some unknown reason she wished she could hear the masculine, musical cadence of his voice while he whispered a prayer.
What are you? Insane?
He’s a felon.
She tightened her grip on the bottle. Pray? How could anyone with his brutal reputation be so hypocritical?
The thought sent anger pouring through her.
Her eyes focused on the blaster strapped to his left hip and a slow smile spread across her face. That was the ticket to freedom.
Without making a sound to alert him to her presence or intentions, she snuck across the room and reached for his weapon. His hand closed around hers before she could snatch the blaster free.
He glared up at her with eyes that were….
As dark as sin.
And every bit as frigid and evil.
With a curse, Shahara raised the bottle to strike him.
Quicker than she could blink, he pulled the blaster free and held it under her chin. “I don’t like scars,” he gritted between his teeth in that deep baritone voice that sent a shiver down her spine. “And I really hate people who mess up my house. Put the bottle down, slowly, and take a step back.”
Shahara weighed her options as she felt the cold barrel of his blaster pressing against her jaw. The air around her sizzled with his anger and ferocity. Two things belied by blank, emotionless eyes that stared into hers.
She knew he would kill her without a second thought.
BORN OF FIRE by Sherrilyn Kenyon
© 2009, St. Martin’s Press