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 Not sure I want to. Dax didn t interfere as she slid off his back. Stopping to consult his
tracking device, he pointed it at a throng of dancers.  He s around here somewhere.
Ava gaped at the crowd.  How will we ever find him here?
 That s easy, Waroun said.  We just whistle and yell: Here, Quinn!
 He s not a dog, Waroun. I don t think that will work.
Dax ignored this exchange and continued onward. Following the combadge signal like a
bloodhound on the scent, he passed right through the hordes of music lovers. The band
was one Ava had actually heard of, and she paused to watch the show.
There was a time when Ava had drooled over the lead guitar player, but having Dax
around lessened his appeal considerably. He was still attractive, though, if only because
of his long black hair something Ava had always found irresistible. Why she had ever run
off with Lars, who wore his hair short to the point of being nearly shaved, was a mystery.
It was as if she d been brainwashed or drugged into finding him hunky enough to want to
live with him, but the effect had worn off as quickly as the pheromones upon leaving the
brothel district.
This realization struck her with the force of a Darconian s tail. Had she been drugged?
The effects of Rhylosian advertising were very similar to what she d felt back then, but
why would Lars have felt the need to do such a thing? And if he had, why hadn t he kept
it up?
She had no proof, but the notion took root in her mind and began to grow. If true, it
would certainly explain a great deal and make her seem far less capricious. Had she ever
hit on this idea before, it would have seemed ridiculous, but now, having spent some time
at the mercy of the no-holds-barred approach to commerce on Rhylos, she wasn t so sure.
The more she thought about it, the more plausible it seemed. She had met Lars while in
town shopping for building supplies when she and Russ were remodeling the house they
shared. Lars had offered to help load her speeder, and she d been inexplicably smitten.
Russ must have suspected she was under the influence of something, otherwise he
wouldn t have said he d wait for her when she told him she was leaving him and Rutara
forever. Perhaps he guessed that it would wear off someday, and she d come back to him.
Five years. If Lars had been drugging her the whole time, that would explain why she d
put up with him for so long. Whatever he d used couldn t have been cheap, which would
also explain why he d quit giving it to her. After his money ran out, he simply didn t
have the wherewithal to continue, unless he started stealing, and Lars wasn t smart
enough to be a good criminal, which is to say, one who wouldn t get caught.
Ava thought furiously as they threaded their way through the crowd. Lars had been
annoying as hell, but had always managed to talk her into staying. But had it all been talk,
or was it something else? The day she finally left him, she d asked him to make her want
to stay, and he couldn t do it. The idea was far-fetched but made sense, except for one
tiny little thing: motive. Ava had no money or important connections. In the long run,
Lars had gained very little. He might have truly loved her, but it certainly didn t show.
Realizing she would probably never know the truth, she glanced about, looking for Dax.
She spotted him just as he turned down the closest thing Rhylos had to a dark alley.
Threldigan waved at her, and she jogged toward the men who were clustered near a dark
niche.  Have you found Quinn?
Dax shook his head as he stooped down to retrieve a small bundle.  Just taking a little
side trip.
 I m surprised the street sweepers haven t picked him up, Threldigan said.  Though that
could be what happened to Quinn.
 What? Ava said.  Picked who up?
 Him. Dax glanced at the squirming ball of fur he held against his chest. A curly blond
head emerged from beneath his arms and began licking his neck.
 A puppy! Ava exclaimed.
 A very hungry puppy, Dax amended.  He s nothing but bones and a little fur.
 Are you sure it s a he?
 Quite sure. Dax held the puppy up with its belly aimed toward her.
Ava nodded.  Yep, it s a boy.
Dax shifted the dog to the crook of his left arm and gestured with the tracking module.
 Quinn is over that way, he said and started walking. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]