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

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Kenzie was barefoot, and the tunic she’d stolen from Mad draped over her like a dress that hung past her knees. She’d had to leave one of her knives behind, but she still had her favorite blade. She felt half naked with just the one blade and no underwear. She’d live.

Her feet were torn up, and she hoped she wasn’t bleeding. In her head, she made a list of the things she needed: more weapons, shoes, better clothes.

Food.

Ignoring her grumbling stomach, Kenzie planned. Guerran wasn’t safe, especially with people looking for her.

She’s managed to snag a piece of rope that was lying on Mad’s roof and had fashioned a belt out of it, cinching her waist in so the tunic felt a bit less likely to wave in the wind and make her flash everyone.

She still felt naked. And she smelled like Mad.

It was probably the shirt. She hoped it was the shirt. But she knew he was embedded in her skin after last night. His masculine scent enveloped her and made her yearn. Her body remembered every second of it and wanted to go back for more.

But Kenzie wasn’t on Guerran to find a man. She had to find her sister.

Luckily, she hadn’t abandoned all of her things in Mad’s apartment. She’d stashed her bag in a place Layala had claimed was safe enough for storage. She had to hope the woman was right about that.

Unfortunately, it was halfway across the territory, and she’d have to cross a good deal of the city to get there. Probably for the best. She didn’t know what Mad would tell King Jadirel’s man. There was a good chance he sold her out the second he opened the door.

Then why had he told her to hide?

Ugh! This was why she didn’t get involved. It screwed up her brain and made her think of things other than what she was supposed to be doing. Carise was all that mattered. Kenzie didn’t get to have fun flings with sexy alien men. All that did was lead to distraction and betrayal.

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She’d failed Carise once, she couldn’t do it again.

She slowed to a walk as she weaved through Jadirel’s territory. The streets were bustling today, with stalls lining the narrow road and people milling around.

Market day.

It gave her cover, but made moving more difficult. She couldn’t run. Running drew too much attention. So she walked and smiled and played the role of a happy woman on her shopping day.

No one cared that she didn’t wear shoes. She wasn’t the only barefoot shopper. Shoes seemed to be a luxury around here. At least the city was warm enough that her feet didn’t freeze. But she was going to have dirt embedded in her skin for weeks.

Her mind skipped ahead to her next step after she resupplied. She had two options: sneak into the slave market and try and find their records, or sneak into Jadirel’s compound to see if Carise was there.

Her instincts screamed at her that Jadirel was the one to go after. He kept people on their knees and in chains. There was nothing stopping him from purchasing her sister and… using her.

Kenzie shivered. She didn’t want to think of what he could be doing to Carise right then. She spent a good portion of her time forcing herself not to think of the horrors her baby sister could be suffering. That way led to despair and hopelessness. The first months of her journey, she’d had nightmares every night about the things slavers might do to Carise. It had taken a lot of work to push that out of her mind. Dwelling on it wouldn’t help.

As long as Carise was alive, she could be saved. They’d deal with the fallout afterwards.

Jadirel said he didn’t have Carise, but he was probably a liar. Mad said he hadn’t seen Carise, but he didn’t have the access he would need to confirm that. She needed to get in to check.

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But she didn’t want to get captured as a way in. That would leave her too vulnerable and make it that much harder to sneak out. No, Kenzie had to find a way to sneak in, see if Carise was there, and get out without being detected.

Easy peasy.

She hated Guerran already. Some of the planets she’d skipped across on her search to find Carise had been almost pleasant. This was a place of violence full of barbarians who’d sooner hold a woman captive than answer her questions.

But the men were hot.

No! She had to put Mad out of her mind. Last night was a bit of insanity that could not be repeated under any circumstances. She’d almost compromised her entire mission. She couldn’t put her trust in that man. He was close enough to Jadirel to sit beside him at the fights. That meant he was a danger to Kenzie.

It didn’t matter how safe she felt in his arms.

She thumped her palm against her forehead as if that would knock some sense into her. It didn’t do anything.

Her stomach grumbled, and she realized she hadn’t eaten anything since her meeting with Layala. There’d been food set aside for the fighters, but she’d been concerned it might have been drugged, so she kept away.

A full day without a meal made her grouchy. She could go longer if she had to, but a fed warrior was a competent warrior.

Delicious smells wafted from a few of the tents in the market. There’d been a few credits in her pockets, more than enough for a meal, but Kenzie’s clothes were back on Mad’s floor. The only thing of value she had was her knife, and she wasn’t about to barter that.

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She patted the tunic down, hoping to find a pocket, and had to bite back a cry of triumph when she found one with three small coins inside of it. They were crude and likely minted on Guerran, but she was pretty sure she had enough to purchase something to fill her stomach.

Breakfast and then supplies.

Her plan made, she wandered off towards the best smelling tent and made it halfway there before a giant of a Kru’dari bumped into her and nearly sent her sprawling to the ground.

He mumbled what might have been an apology before turning towards a tent filled with frilly, colorful dresses.

He didn’t look like the frilly, colorful dress type.

She glared after him as he pawed through dresses small enough for a person half his size.

Kenzie turned away. There was no reason to start a fight, especially not with the biggest Kru’dari in the market. She had to get food and get away. Mad could be chasing after her at any minute.

Her thoughts must have summoned him.

“Jaek! Hey!” he called out. It wasn’t her name, but the man by the dresses stiffened before stepping to the stall beside the dresses, which was selling all sorts of figurines.

Kenzie melted into the shadows behind the stalls. Breakfast would have to wait. She needed to get out of sight before Mad saw her and she ended up in even more trouble.

Or back in his bed.

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