“So,” Zora shivered a bit in the late air and eyed Iggy sideways. “How did you find all that out?”
They walked, at his suggestion, down Cyrus 4’s wide avenue. The Police station faded to a dim glow behind them, the ghosts from her past appeased by a little party and a lot of hugs and well-wishing. Now, she and the Emperor strolled toward the port hangars, his suit coat slung across her shoulders and a wedge of awkward, unanswered questions between them.
“I have a knack for research,” he said. His eyes might have twinkled mischievously, but it easily could have been the street neons.
“I’d rather Murray didn’t know.”
“She’s very invested in her opinion of me.”
“Zora.” He stopped walking, and she took a few steps before she realized it and turned to face him. “You’ve probably done more good works on the sly than I have, and that’s saying something. Why not be proud of it?”
“It’s not me.” She shrugged. “I have a reputation to think about.” She tried her usual swagger, but it didn’t work on him. He shook his head, tapped one foot and waited. “I really do.”
“That’s not it,” he said. “That’s not why you hide it.”
“Well, why do you think?”
“You tell me.”
Damn. None of her tricks worked with this guy. He was quiet, calm, and completely in control. Zora couldn’t tell if that made her furious or terribly horny.
“Maybe I just don’t want people to think I do it to atone. You know?” She sighed and looked at her feet. “I mean, they would. They’d think I did it because I feel guilty or something.”
“Then they don’t know you very well, do they?” He stepped toward her, and she almost leaned away. The guy had her pegged from all directions—not something she was used to.
“I suppose not.”
“Because I don’t believe you feel guilty, Zora. I think, maybe, you don’t have any reason to.”
“Shit. Maybe you’re not so good at research. I’ve done things.”
“No you don’t.”
They stared at each other for a second. Then Ignatius reached out, grabbed her shoulders and pulled her into a kiss. She should have been able to handle it. She was good at kisses—hell, she had a trophy somewhere that proved it. Still, Iggy had her outmatched. One touch of his lips and her knees liquefied. Her body tingled to life and tried its best to crawl straight through him.
She almost let it, but when her midsection got involved, her last little secret would be exposed. With a groan of disappointment, she pulled back and attempted to untangle her limbs from his. He held on, her Emperor, and he looked her directly in the eye.
“Nothing. I’m—it’s just. The street and public.”
“Are you serious?”
“No. I mean yes. But, it’s cold out and…”
“Zora.” He leaned forward, and she braced herself. Maybe it would be okay if he knew? They could work it out. The baby was probably his, wasn’t it? And he knew enough about her that they could try to find a middle ground. Maybe.
His belt beeped. He ignored it at first, but the chime continued, and eventually he dropped his grip on her arms and retrieved the com clipped at his waist. He answered it, “yeah?” and she thought she heard a whisper of irritation in that note.
Murray’s voice howled through the device, loud enough for anyone within a block to hear it. Full panic mode, Zora called it. “They port authority is searching the ship.”
“Ah Crap.” Zora said. She clamped a hand over her mouth too late.
“Is that Zor? Did you find her?” Murray managed to sound irritated as well, like it was all Zora’s fault, like she’d asked to be arrested and dragged away.
“I’m with her now.” Ignatius smiled and shook his head. “Are the eggs okay?”
“They’re messing with the incubators,” Murray said. “But Rook is back there.”
“Don’t let them in my room.” Zora shrugged at his raised eyebrow. “I mean, not that they’d want to search there, but just don’t let them.”
“We’re on our way.” Iggy clicked the come off, and looked a question at her. When she shrugged again, he let her off the hook. “Shall we run or snag a cab?”
“Captain said he’d work on the Port thing.” Zora watched Iggy stare up and down the street. A few vehicles still slid past them, but she imagined the majority the area’s taxis were focusing on the concert arena. “No taxis?”
“He probably hasn’t had time.” Iggy took her hand, triggering a spark or two just from the contact. “I hate to say it, but it looks like we’re on foot.”
The hangars weren’t too far away. Under normal circumstances, she’d have happily run with him. There was enough of a dare in his look, the hint of a devilish streak she wouldn’t have guessed at a few hours prior. She’d have loved to take his bait, but she couldn’t afford that luxury. She might be fit, but she was pretty sure a jog like that in her condition would have nasty repercussions.
She shook her head and watched Ignatius deflate. His eyes dropped and he nodded, but she could tell she’d disappointed him. He should have gotten used to that by now. She was Zora, the screw off, no matter what he thought of her secret good deeds. Better to squash the delusion now than let it fester.
“Hand me the com,” she said. He passed her the device. “I’ll get us a ride.”
She heard it in his voice, a touch of jealousy and something close to anger. Well, this was what she did in a crisis situation. Now was certainly not the time to try and change. “Yeah. The Captain.” She put the call through and waited for the cavalry to answer. Now wasn’t the time to change anything.