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Exile’s Hunter Chapter Six: Free Sci-fi Romance

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The pit wasn’t the worst place she’d ever fought, especially when a med tech came over and injected her with something that made the pain in her ribs fade to nothingness before slathering a cream over her and telling her she’d be fine by morning. Whatever was in the cream made her skin tingle, but the injection didn’t make her loopy, so Kenzie was calling that a win.

Her heart still raced and she was giddy from the fight. She’d known she would win. A person couldn’t walk into a potential death match with anything but the utmost confidence in victory. Even better, she hadn’t needed to kill anyone. Kenzie knew how to use her blade to end a life, but she’d seen enough death. She didn’t want to deal it. Not even to an asshole who’d attacked her earlier that day.

But even with the giddiness still riding high, she knew she had to find a way out of the fighters’ quarters. Already some of the pit fighters were eyeing her as a potential threat and she didn’t want to deal with that. She wasn’t sure how challenges were supposed to work and she didn’t want to find out.

And Jadirel was likely to come looking for her. Or rather, he’d send a flunky.

She could fight off flunkies, but it was always safer to flee than fight.

And what about Carise? Kenzie had spent the entire time since leaving Jadirel’s palace wondering if the exile king had lied about purchasing her sister. At the time, he’d seemed taunting and truthful. But he kept humans in bondage.

She had to find a way into his palace and check. And if she could find a way to free all those he’d enslaved, all the better. They deserved to be free, and he deserved payback for throwing her into the pit.

Kenzie needed to get out of there and find a place to rest for now. Nights weren’t long on Guerran, but she was tired. She ducked out of the fighters’ quarters and into the hallway that led to the arena and the exit. There was a distant roar of the crowd, cheering on another fight, and the hallway was deserted.

Except for one Kru’dari coming her way.

Kenzie couldn’t move. She stared at him and her body was on fire. It was the adrenaline from the fight and the avalanche of anxiety from the last few days that rooted her in place.

He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.

It didn’t even matter that he wasn’t a man. Those sorts of technicalities faded away the further a human got away from Earth.

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He was nearly seven feet tall, with muscles rippling under his leather and furs. He dressed like the exiled warriors who roamed the streets, ready to fight at a moment’s notice. There was a scary looking axe strapped to his back.

She wasn’t sure she could beat him if he dragged her into the pit.

But his expression was kind.

As he got closer, she caught sight of gray eyes and wanted to lose herself in them. His nose had a hump in it, like it had been broken at least once. And there was a scar through one eyebrow.

He kept his hair cropped short on the sides, but it was longer on the top and swooped to the right, drawing even more attention to that eyebrow scar, pointing like an arrow.

And when he spotted her, his face blossomed into a smile, and Kenzie’s heart threatened to explode.

One word, and she’d follow wherever he led. After years of traipsing across the galaxy, it was like looking at her home. One she hadn’t known she’d been searching for. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and let go, let him take the load and beg for his help.

Fuck. She was going crazy.

She’d heard of planets where aliens exuded hormones that could make a woman lose her mind. But not here. Not on Guerran.

Clearly it had been too long since she’d taken anyone to bed. Could she take him?

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Between her thighs? Certainly. On the battlefield? Not without a lot of planning.

He closed the distance between them and stood close. Too close. She could smell his scent, masculine and leathery, with a hint of soap. This was a warrior who knew how to keep clean. That was always a plus.

She wanted to reach out and touch him. She wanted to grab the leather strap crossing his chest and use it to drag him into a private corner and have her way with him.

God, it would be fun.

She wanted to kiss him almost more than her next breath.

Kenzie didn’t know what had come over her, and she couldn’t fight it. Not when he was looking at her like she was something precious.

“I saw your fight,” he said, voice nice and low, perfect for filthy promises. “Baryn is lucky.”

He’d noticed that. Perhaps Kenzie should have been worried. Instead, she smiled. “That’s twice today I’ve kicked his ass.” Bragging? Sure. But she’d earned it.

The man laughed. “He’ll want payback.”

“He knows if he comes at me a third time, I’ll end him.” That had been her promise while she held her knife to his throat and his life in her hands. Whether he’d keep away from her remained to be seen.

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“I’m Mad.”

A name, not the emotion. “Kenzie.” He had to already know, as it had been announced before the fight.

“Kenzie.” He tasted her name and it was sweet on his lips. She wanted him whispering it to her in private.

“I need to get out of here.” She wasn’t about to look a gift warrior in the mouth. Mad didn’t seem eager to drag her to Jadirel, and he could get her past the guards that were bound to be posted at the exit.

As for what she’d do with him after that? Well, she’d figure it out later.

He took her hand and it dwarfed hers, but instead of a threat, it made Kenzie feel safe. She followed him down the hall and watched as he had a private word with the two huge Kru’dari guarding the exit.

Getting past them on her own would have been… difficult.

They let her and Mad pass, and then they were free in the warm night air. They’d walked a bit before Mad came to a stop, the roars from the pit barely audible at this distance. “King Jadirel is going to be searching for you,” he warned.

“Not surprising.” She’d met petty kings and rulers just like him, and she’d survived every one. She wasn’t scared of Jadirel. She’d lost the ability to be scared of anything except failing to find Carise or learning her sister was dead. “Are you planning to take me to him?”

“The thought of you in his bed enrages me. I’d tear down his palace to stop it.”

They’d exchanged a handful of words. Kenzie couldn’t trust Mad. It would be beyond irresponsible to do anything except walk away right that moment. Instead, she tugged on his arm until he moved closer.

“Why? Do you want to take me yourself?”

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