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Saved by Venom 3 (Grabbed)(5)

By:Lolita Lopez

The moment the blocks clapped together again, Venom shoved off the slick, muddy ground and raced onto the field. He tracked the woman he wanted as he sprinted to intercept her. She was in the middle of the pack but seemed terrible at navigating. From what he could tell, she was angling for a section of the woods clear off the course. His lips twitched with amusement. He’d have to make sure to program her personal tablet with a map app for navigating the ship.

Venom noticed another man closing in on him. He shot the guy a hard look to warn him off the prize he had selected. The airman put up both hands to show he wanted no problems and pointed to a brunette nearing the tree line. “I’m after that one, sir.”

“The blonde’s mine.” He kicked his pace into high gear and started to gain on the woman he wanted. She had disappeared into the dense woods. Panic gripped his gut. Would she evade him now?

Considering the way she had been unable to even run in a straight line from the starting point to the forest, he doubted it. When he hit the tree line, he slowed his speed just enough to get his bearings. He scanned the snowy forest floor and found her tiny footprints. With a path to follow, he hurried after her.

Another minute into the pursuit, Venom spotted the bright-pink shoes discarded near a tree. His heart leapt into his throat. Didn’t she realize how dangerous it was to run barefoot in the damned snow?

“Shit.” Growling, he surged forward in search of her. He had to find her quickly and before she got frostbite.

So focused on finding her, Venom missed the telltale sign of a hunter’s mark on the trees surrounding him. His boot hit the spongy trigger of a trap a millisecond before his brain alerted him to the mistake he’d made. With a chilling snap, two metal halves of the trap slammed shut on his leg.

“Fuck!” His pained shout ricocheted off the trees. Caught, he fell forward onto his knees and hands. His jaws ground at the excruciating bite compressing his leg. The reinforced webbing and nanofibers of his boots kept the gnarly metal snare from piercing his skin and crippling him but the terrible squeezing grip knocked the air right out of his lungs.

A wave of panic seized him. Despondence quickly overwhelmed him. He had two choices now. He could try to jerk the chain free and bust the trap or he could use the signal flare tucked into the pocket of his pants to call for help. Once the flare was lit he was officially disqualified from the Grab. Even if he had his collar around her neck, they would set her free and send him home empty-handed.

Either way, he had lost his reward. He had lost her.

* * * * *

Dizzy gasped at the terrible, pained shout that echoed in the forest. Birds scattered as the guttural groan tore the stillness. She slid to a stop in the freezing-cold snow and tried to slow her ragged breaths. Was that a man?

Was it the man?

She gulped hard and licked her lips. Glancing back in the direction of the awful sound, she tried to decide what to do. A sky warrior like the rugged, intimidating one who had been eying her would only make a sound like that if he was in big trouble.

The race officials had warned them that people hunted in these wounds. The gun laws out here weren’t like the strict zero-tolerance laws in The City. It was rumored everyone in the sticks had a weapon. Maybe the sky warrior chasing her had been shot? Did he need help?

She warred with her conscience only a moment before exhaling roughly and turning back in the direction she’d come. Pressing a hand to her temple, she tried to gain control over the vertigo threatening to swamp her. She hated this damn sickness! Running and playing had been nearly impossible as a child. She couldn’t predict when the waves of nausea and dizziness would hit her but they usually happened at the worst times.

Like right now.

Bracing herself on a tree, Dizzy closed her eyes. She inhaled steadying breaths and performed a series of slow maneuvers that usually helped abate the uncomfortable swirling some. Today, thankfully, it worked. She managed to get moving again without feeling as though she was going to puke or fall flat on her face.

The sounds of a struggle met her ears. She heard rattling chains and grunting. Hiding behind a tree, Dizzy licked her lips and gathered her courage before sliding to the side and peeking out at him.

Seated on the snow, he gripped a long, thick chain in both gloved hands and jerked hard. Her eyes widened at his shocking display of strength. When her gaze moved lower, she gasped at the sight of the awful-looking trap closed around his lower leg. The snow around his leg remained white and pristine, so he wasn’t bleeding badly. Even so, the injury he would sustain if the trap wasn’t removed quickly would be a terrible one.

Trembling with cold and fear, she stepped out from behind the tree and revealed herself to him. His gaze snapped to her and she took a nervous step back. He let the chain fall from his hands. The tension eased from his face, softening his harsh features and making him look less vicious. They stared at each other for the longest time.

Finally Dizzy found enough courage to move closer to him. Her footsteps crunched on the firm, packed snow. He glanced at her bare feet and scowled. “Why the hell did you take off your shoes?”

Taken aback by his gruff tone, she froze in place. Squeaking with fright, she explained, “The soles were too slippery. I nearly face-planted on a tree stump and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.”

He grunted. “You’ll care when you lose those toes to frostbite.”

Her stomach trembled violently and she stared at her frigid feet. “Are you serious? Am I really going to lose my toes?”

His lips twitched with amusement. Was he teasing her? She couldn’t tell. With a flick of his fingers, he motioned her closer. “Come here. Let me help you.”

She took a few tentative steps toward him. “I think you’re the one who needs my help.”

His mouth settled into an irritated line. “My leg will keep. Now get over here and let me see your feet.”

She frowned at him. “You could be nice about it.”

He sighed loudly. “Please. Come here before you freeze to death or need your damn feet amputated.”

Though that was hardly nice Dizzy felt sure that pushing him wasn’t a good idea. She moved as close as she dared. Apparently that wasn’t close enough, because the frightening sky warrior snatched her by the waist and hauled her onto his lap. She squealed with surprise and smacked his chest. “Let me go!”

“Not likely.” He gathered her even tighter to his warm, hard body. “Now stop fighting and hold still.”

“Like hell,” she snapped and pushed at the ridiculously strong arm clamped around her waist. It was no use. His superior strength rendered her desperate shoving futile.

“Stop,” he said with a laugh. “You’re going to fall off me onto the snow. I’m trying to warm you up. Now behave or I’ll toss you over my lap and spank that sweet little ass of yours.”

Outraged, she gasped at him. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“Oh, sugar, I would.” His blue-green eyes glinted with excitement and something else, something she couldn’t quite pinpoint. Arousal? Yes, she decided finally. The thought of spanking her bottom aroused him. She wasn’t sure what to think about that.

His gloved hand moved down her legs to her feet. She couldn’t believe how small her foot looked cupped in his massive palm. He brushed the snow and wetness from her skin. “Can you feel your feet?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

He pinched and wiggled her toes. “And here?”

“Yes.” She curled her toes under and tried to pull her foot away from him but he held tight.

“Unzip that pocket on my left leg.” He gestured to the pocket in question with his head. “There is an extra pair of socks in there.”

Fingers trembling from cold and nervousness, Dizzy did as instructed. She found the pair of too-big socks and handed them to him. He shook them out and quickly rolled them onto her feet. The tops brushed her knees and the heel was above her ankle but she didn’t care how silly they looked. Her feet began to warm almost instantly. “Thank you.”

He simply nodded and unzipped another pouch on his strange pants. He withdrew two clear plastic bags and two long, thin strips of plastic. “Evidence bags and zip ties,” he explained. “I’m going to use them to secure a barrier around the socks. I don’t want them getting soaked with melted snow.”

She marveled at all the things he kept in his pants. “Don’t these get heavy?”

He flashed a quick smile. The sight of his lips curving in that playful way did crazy things to her belly. “You get used to it.”

Ignoring the wild tremors shaking her core, she asked, “Why do you need all these things?”

“I’m SRU.” He slid the plastic bags over her feet. “Special Response Unit,” he clarified. “We’re small, focused, elite teams who respond to highly dynamic environments and situations.”

“Dynamic environments?”

“Hostage situations, terrorist threats—dangerous stuff that requires some finesse and understanding.” He tightened the zip ties around her ankles. Satisfied with his work, he pulled down the cuffs of the ugly red pants she’d been forced to wear. “What do you do?”

“I’m a seamstress.” It seemed a silly occupation compared to his. “I design clothing for a couple of small boutiques in The City. Well—I used to design for boutiques.”