"You arrogant son of a bitch!"
Fenris stepped out of the way of the oncoming plate with an exaggerated ease, and set his cup of coffee to one side before he turned to face the oncoming storm packaged in the body of a slender, blonde woman.
"Shit!" The two other crew members in the mess room ducked under the plasti—coated table. The plate didn't shatter, nor did the next two that missed their mark.
"Stand still so I can hit you!" A cup hit the wall behind him, avoided as easily as the plate had been.
"No," he spared a glance for the two beneath the table and flashed a smile at the crew members. For now they were safe, as long as the woman didn't try to actively include them in the fight. With the way Serene acted their safety might come to an end any minute now. "Was there something wrong with having this discussion in private?"
"I tried. You've been avoiding me for the last three days!" Serene reached for the edge of a table, yanking on it for a moment before she flushed. "How the hell am I supposed to be able to talk to you if you're never fucking there? Or worse! That stupid do not disturb lock on the door. That was fooling no one. Who were you with? Who was she? Half the fucking crew if I know you!"
"Yes, they're still bolted down." He rubbed at a spot on his white shirt, watching her through half lowered lids. If his attitude pissed her off, then so be it, she deserved it with what she was pulling now. "Standard operating procedure, remember?" All right, so maybe that hadn't been the wisest thing to say. "And I wasn't avoiding you, this time. It might have escaped your attention, but we were threading through the belt. We have two, count it, two pilots capable of that maneuver, and even I need sleep on occasions."
"I tried talking to you last week! Who was she? Tell me who you were screwing this time?" She screamed, her hands clenched into tight fists.
"Now, that time I was avoiding you." He glanced at the coffee and his mouth watered. Her timing sucked. "As for whom I'm screwing? No one."
"You think I'm going to buy that?"
"I don't care if you do, or don't. It's the truth." He took a half step to his left. "I've never lied to you, Serene. You might not like the truth, but I don't lie to members of my crew, or to bed mates."
"Bed mates? How many have there been?" Her sensual mouth twisted into an angry snarl. "Did you fuck her?" She jabbed one hand toward the woman beneath the table.
"Why not? Not your type?"
"I'm not hers."
"Bastard." The deadpan word stopped the woman in her tracks.
"I'm a bastard Serene, not an asshole."Fenris MacTire folded his arms, crossed one leg in front of the other, his booted toes touching the deck as he leaned against the bulkhead. "If you're going to call me something at least get it right."
"There's a difference?" Serene reached for the next plate, eyeing up the distance between them.
"There is to me." He gave a slight shrug. "An asshole doesn't give a shit, or warnings. A bastard warns you what's in store. I'm a bastard. In both senses of the word. I hid nothing from you, Serene. Not a damn thing."
"You used me!" Her knuckles white, jaw set as she glared at him. "I joined this ship because of you!"
"No, you used yourself. I told you how it would be and you joined my crew because I pay damned well. Isn't that what you told me?"
"You let me crawl into your damn bed!"
"No one forced you!" His gaze narrowed.
"I was in love!"
"You knew what you were doing."
The two beneath the table groaned.
"Captain, for the love of the Five —— we only came in for breakfast!" Derek called out from his hiding place.
If nothing else he owed it to his crew to try and calm the woman down. Fenris took a deep breath and kept his voice even. "Serene, I warned you that you'd be better off staying on the planet. I told you clearly, I don't love you. I was never going to love you. I made it clear, if you joined the crew you would be a member of the crew, not my woman. If you managed to warp that into some hidden promise, you did that to yourself."
"You made love to me!" Serene shrieked.
"I had sex with you. Good sex. Mind blowing sex. But it was nothing more than sex, which I made clear from the very beginning. You wanted it, I enjoyed it, and I didn't lead you on. You couldn't even say I hinted that there would be more. I didn't. Ever."
"You used me like a bloody whore! You —— you gave me a berth because you wanted to fuck me!"
"No, I gave you a berth because you're a damn good astro navigator. The sex didn't even come into it. If you can't accept that, then you'll pack your gear and leave the ship when we dock."
The color drained from Serene's face. "You wouldn't just dump me out here. Y— you can't!"
"Yes, I could, and I will. With your pay, and enough to make it back home." Sure, that would eat into his personal credit limit, but it had to be done. Even though he'd warned Serene, damn near painted it out in mile high letters for her, he wasn't about to abandon her with no way out…
"You piece of shit!" Serene slid her side arm from its holster.
"Put. The. Gun. Away." His let his voice drop into a low growl. It didn't matter what wrongs she thought he'd done to her. Drawing a weapon on a crew member, regardless of who it was, went too far.
"Make me!" Her finger tightened on the trigger.
His muscles tightened. His gaze fastened on her hand, on the finger that curled around the trigger. Had she taken the safety off? He didn't have the time to think about that. One table in the way, and a bench, both bolted into place.
"Serene." He put every ounce of warning he could into that single word, though his gaze never moved from her face.
Years of living and working on a high gravity planet now paid off. He half leapt, half dived across the table, his reflexes faster than most, his strength easily double that of normal men. His left hand grabbed the gun by the barrel, twisting it from her grasp as he thumbed the safety, making sure it was locked. His right arm wrapped about her waist as he brought her to the deck, pinning her beneath his body.
All right, so he'd made a mistake in letting Serene join the crew, but it was one he was about to rectify.
* * * * *
Mara paced across the cell and cursed beneath her breath. Whatever the plan had been, this hadn't been a part of it. All right, she should have seen it coming. Diving into the middle of a bar fight had been stupid. Fun, but stupid. If she'd avoided the fight entirely, she'd have stood out a mile, which wasn't something she could risk. The fact she'd enjoyed getting in a few punches had nothing to do with it…
Now she paid for her part in the fight by pacing the length of the cell. The charges were small ones, just as long as someone was willing to pay her bond, but therein lay the problem. Her cred stick had been lost, in the middle of the fight, and if she told the Peacekeepers who she really was, then she'd be facing more than a temporary stint in the cell the minute the word reached the wrong people.
She patted her locks of multi—colored hair. At least like this it was unlikely anyone would recognize her. But how long would it be before someone ran a gen scan on her? Her cover would be useless at that point.
Mara glared at the security cam in the corner. She couldn't take the chance that she wasn't being watched, which left her pacing, and waiting, instead of using other means to get out of the cell. Someone had to pay the bond before she could leave the cell and she had no one she could call on here. The station was a new one for her and her ship wouldn't be returning for at least another week. That was six days and twenty hours too long.
"My own stupid fault," she muttered and turned on her heel, pacing back across the cell. Her muscles ached as she walked, the fresh bruises and split lip reminded her all too clearly of the fight she'd been in.
The main door to the block hissed open.
"Let me fucking go!" A woman's voice echoed off the walls. "He set me up — that bastard set me up!" The blonde struggled as she was led through the cells to an empty one.