Disclaimer:I neither created nor own these characters. (All hail Joss!) Just havin' some fun, no cashy-money comin' to me…


He knew the moment he became prey.

Every nerve in the big man's body blared alarm. Muscles already primed from his workout, he eased his large frame off the bench. His keen blue eyes roamed the cargo bay.

Jayne Cobb was deadly familiar with this raising of hairs on back of his neck, all warning and urgent. He was a hunter by nature, but this weren't the first time he'd been the one hunted. By wild wolves in the hills back home when he was looking for game. By hired guns like himself, looking to settle a score or remove him as a threat to their own profit.

Nobody here but him. Rest of the crew had gone into town, if you could call the go se mudhole settlement that. Cap'n said they was a religious sect trying to "get away from all the sinning of the civilized 'verse", so weren't no use looking for trim.

Pay was good, even if they were a bit fussy about landing Serenity nearby. Mal'd agreed to put down a day's ride away, and Jayne volunteered to stand watch, looking forward to having the boat to himself.

Well, Inara was here, but she was holed up in her fancy shuttle as usual. Jayne snuck around a stack of crates in the corner. Somebody was here, all right, watching him. He hoped Inara'd locked her shuttle door, just in case somebody got the drop on him. Wouldn't want harm to come of her if he weren't able to bring down an intruder.

His gaze flickered up toward her quarters at the thought. Unexpected, a flare of excitement jolted through him at the source of the warning, an intense dark stare fixed on him from above.

Weren't the first time he'd been in the crosshairs of hungry eyes.

He just never dreamed it would be her.


She knew the instant he became aware of her presence.

She sensed the subtle, sudden stillness in him. Bay lights glinted off his dark hair, his head turning to scan for danger. Shock and wariness registered in his crystal blue eyes as they settled on her.

He stalked toward the stairs, his stealthy grace always surprising to her, so unexpected in a man of his stature.

Like a tiger, she mused. She'd seen one in the private exhibit of a client back on Sihnon. Padding around his cage with a comfortable ease, splayed out in the sun, appearing to doze, yet ready to pounce in a heartbeat. Kept in check by those who valued but feared him.

This cage was more than the metal hull of Serenity. It was the myriad of social barriers between them. The rough gun-hand paused at the base of the stairway, surveying the polished, respectable, well-bred lady staring down at him from the catwalk. A woman of her social standing wasn't supposed to want a man like him.

Forbidden. Taboo.

Undeniably irresistible.

Inara had come out to the Black searching for an essence tangibly absent from her precise, controlled world. Something real and passionate and fiery and untamed that no 'respectable' client had ever ignited in her.

The woman in her craved more than the formal ceremony of her profession. She wasn't ready to give up her independence to seek a forever mate just yet. And she couldn't share herself with a man who didn't at least care for her a little.

Yet she yearned for a man who could ignite the passion waiting just beneath her composure. Her body flushed at the thought of this large, dangerous man rushing those barriers, tearing through the carefully crafted walls of 'can't have' and 'don't touch' and 'not for you.'

Unbidden thoughts of Mal popped into her mind. Barriers were a thing Mal was unwilling to breach. Ever shutting his heart and his body away from her reach. Going willingly to Nandi with his need, despite his puritanical notions about sex and embarrassment. Not coming to her. A woman could only take so much sting of rejection.

But this man…

This mountain of a man with his dry, crude wit and rough manners, was ruled by his passions.

Jayne worked hard and played hard. A fire burned in his belly, and he reveled in it. The very idea of apologizing for pleasure was a concept foreign to him. He was what she needed, fueling her excitement beyond her wildest imagining.

The past few months had required all her training to keep her composure until an opportunity presented itself. None could know of the burgeoning flame licking at her core when he brushed past her in the hallway or gave her a habitual sexy leer over dinner.

The hard-ass mercenary was hot-headed and hot-blooded. Only the long days spent confined together on Serenity had revealed the secret he tried desperately to guard. Beyond that very real toughness was a man who loved as hard as he lived.

Jayne was action, not words. Inara never let on that she saw the caring man behind the fiery nature. She wanted both, and had been willing to wait for this moment to get them. When Mal announced their destination, she knew she'd have no reason to seek clients on this puritanical settlement. But that also meant the big mercenary wouldn't be searching for a night's attentions in town, either.

He had paused at the foot of the stairs, a massive hand gripping the rail. He was visibly aroused, yet wariness tempered his lust, holding him back. She'd have to pull a page from his book.

Leaning slightly over the railing, she gave him an enticing view of her cleavage. He sucked in his breath, belly drawn taut, pupils widening.

"Jayne," she let his name glide across her tongue. "Will you come to me, please."