What's worse, being stuck on a dying planet with no hopes of escape or lusting after an impossible woman hell bent on her career and nothing else?
Ishbel Norrington has one thing on her mind—climbing the corporate ladder at INTV and eventually landing herself a spot at the anchor desk. She doesn't have time for love and has sworn off one night stands. That was until she met hot-as-all-get-out Garrick Lands.
Garrick Lands is stuck in a mess and then some. His Circean blood is boiling and his temper is running short. Not a good thing for a man five-times stronger than anyone else on the dying planet of Solaria Alpha. On top of that, he's met his mate, a mouthy piece of goods who forever has an argument at the ready and carries a bitchy attitude around like a suit of armor. It's only a matter of time before she pushes him over the edge.
“This is Ishbel Norrington reporting from storm-torn Solaria Alpha.” Ishbel slashed her hand across her throat, telling her cameraman it was time to cut the feed.
Wanting nothing more than to collapse, the arm she’d just used to give the signal to her assistant producer, Everett, wind-milled when a particularly strong gust of wind slammed into her.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, her brain screamed. For a split second she closed her eyes, willing her feet to cling to the gritty surface of the observation deck. The top of the line water shoes almost failed to deliver on the company’s promises of traction in any water sport. Her toes curled in them while she silently willed herself to keep her balance on the observation deck.
Of course, thrashing about on a rain-whipped deck in the perfect storm wasn’t in the specs, but then again she hadn’t really thought the weather could be this bad!
Please, God, don’t let me die here.
A scream built in her throat. A massive wave rose on the horizon. Her heart raced in her chest. Oh, God! No. No. No. Don’t let me die here!
Her lips moved quickly as she offered up a prayer to the broadcasting gods that she wouldn’t become just another dead body to add to the growing statistics no one really paid attention to. Well, paid no attention to unless the death was a particularly gory one. On the other hand, she’d be newsworthy enough to boost some other reporter’s ratings. Probably one with the good sense to stay out of off-the charts-hurricane winds.
A tug on the safety harness circling her waist pulled her out of her stupor. She checked the wave and was only minimally relieved to see it break fifty meters from her location—only minimally relieved because right behind it was an even bigger breaker.
Between her balancing act and being buffeted about like a tetherball, as well as seeing her death coming with the next wave rolling toward her, she almost missed the lack-luster tugging. Her other hand hurt from gripping the tether which kept her from being swept from one of the Solarian Communal Pods. Every centimetre of exposed flesh stung from the driving wind and spray. Finally finding her balance, and feeling the blast of sultry air easing for a quick pause, she took a quick yet tentative step toward the airlock.
Drenched to the skin despite the supposedly impervious wetsuit she wore, she huffed her way inside. The wave she’d feared broke over the spot she’d been standing not two minutes before.
She flapped her arms like a big bird trying to take flight, sending showers of ocean water everywhere.
“Hey!” Bob shouted.
“Get a grip,” she snapped. Pressing her hands against her sides, she pushed the water from her get-up. She really wanted to lean over and dump out all the water that was making her boobs feel like they were floating.
She would never admit—except to herself—that the special, more flattering, alterations she’d made to her wetsuit (and several others purchased from the same manufacturer for this event) might have compromised the waterproofing. The fact wasn’t lost on her that it took both her cameraman, Bob—the suck-up whose real name she’d long since forgotten after glimpsing him on his knees in a broom closet—and their assistant producer, fondly known amongst the interns as Everett the Back Stabbing Slimeball, to pull her the last little way and get her through the open airlock.
Supposing the sudden burst of effort was because Bob had put his camera down, thus robbing them of the money shot of her being swept over the edge, she glared at both of them.
She looked from one to the other, unappreciative of the smug smirks curling their lips upward. If she was a better person, she’d find some good thing about them to focus on. She’d find a self-improvement moment here. Screw it. Finding such took way too much effort.
Suck-up sexist bastard assholes.
Shoving her dripping-wet hair away from her face, she turned around just in time to see one of the extreme water sportsmen wipe out in the seething sea. A wince marred her face for a quick tick of the clock before she composed her features. “These surfers are flipping crazy.”
Hell, if she was completely honest with herself, she wasn’t all that much more ahead of the slowly-trekking-their-way-straight-to-bedlam group currently attempting to ride waves over 150 meters high.
I seriously need to have my head examined and then some.
She blew out an exhausted breath. Her whole body ached from being pummelled by the wind and rain. “Damn, even my toenails hurt.” If she was looking for sympathy from the production crew, she was shit-out-of-luck. She heaved a huge sigh when a not-quite-as-drenched-as-she (but pretty damned close) Everett sent her a withering glare. The punctuated grumbles of misery from Bob only showcased his displeasure at being stuck on the planet. They weren’t any more thrilled with this assignment than the powers-that-be on Solaria were to have not only INTV here, but also the crazies that were currently trying to set intergalactic surfing records.
To think, I asked for this assignment.
A soft sardonic snort escaped her lips. Truthfully, I begged for this assignment.
The thought was not only sad but extremely accurate. She had begged, pleaded and promised a lot of sexual favors to not only her boss at INTV but also her boss’s boss to be allowed to travel to the dangerous water world located deep in the Beta Quadrant. Not that she’d ever met James Farmington’s boss. Nope, that guy was about as enigmatic as they came and twice as secretive about not only his existence but his actual physical features. He might as well have been a Correllian spy. That’s how little was known about him.
Still, if she had to send him messages via INTV’s secured courier transport system, then so be it. “Okay, I know—it’s all my fault. I asked for this.”
Accepting the towel from one of the Solarian hospitality caste who was assigned to them for the duration of their visit, she dabbed the water from her face and neck. And to think, women in the twentieth century thought it was tough to break into sports casting. Ha! Try it in the twenty-third.
Granted, back when her fifth great-grandmother had forged a path at some archaic entertainment sports network, it had little to do with her ability to convey true sports knowledge and enthusiasm but more to do with her gender. Today, it was all about eye-candy for the camera lens—the knowledge part wasn’t really all that important, nor was enthusiasm. Hell, if she’d been willing to walk out onto the observation deck in nothing but a skimpy bikini that barely covered her nipples and thatch, well all the better.
She would have done just that if it weren’t for the Solarian governing council, the School of Thought, who’d told her emphatically “no” when she’d put the request to them. She didn’t even know why they would make such a dictate considering most of their kind strode through the interiors of the pods with little more than diaphanous halter tops and loose fitting harem pants of the same material on. Probably because they don’t want to be upstaged.
Her ungenerous and unbending thought came out of left field and had her cooling her heels. That was so unfair.
The swish of an auto-door opening drew her attention to an observation room—the same place Everett had tried to book for her to do her reporting from, and that she’d fought as aggressively against. She wasn’t going to get the ratings she needed by acting the beautiful bird in a gilded cage. Granted, the proverbial cage was a bland monochromatic coloured room with a whole wall made up of windows.
A small groan rose in her throat but she managed to swallow the sound. God, her back hurt. Should have let Everett win that one. Too late now.
“Wipe out from extreme surfer Galileo Gethsman from the Nordastar colony. This is a really unforgiving sea, folks.”
The commentary permeated Ishbel’s tired brain. Her gaze sliced to the side and then up to the tall and undeniably handsome in a stop-any-woman-between-the-age-of-fifteen-and-fifty-to-take-a-second-look sort of way Circean.
Okay, not completely Circean, but Garrick Lands could have been a member of the Royal Circean household, with his good looks. If not that, then he could have been used as a really good model for the planet’s promotional material.
He was that handsome.
Sneering at him, she grabbed her bleached-out-of-the-bottle blonde tresses and squeezed the excess water from her hair. A puddle formed around her water-shoed feet. Growing irritated with the sarcastic smirk he’d plastered to his lips, she tapped her shoe in the water, wanting nothing more than to slap the grin from the smart ass’s face.
Schooling her features when he glanced at her, she sighed. Her heart did a funny little flip-flop and tension coiled in her belly. He was the epitome of great eye-candy with his long black hair and chiseled features. She didn’t want to think about his broad shoulders or what it would feel like to snuggle up against his strong body.
Stop it. Don’t go there.
It wasn’t that if she was given the opportunity to take the half-Circean/half-Earthling for a ride across the sheets, she wouldn’t. Sure she would. She was a woman, and he was melt-your-bones hot.
Well maybe I would. The mental debate continued for a split tick before she shook her head.
No. I wouldn’t.
I don’t need that type of heartbreak.
Nope, it was the main reason she barely acknowledged his existence. Not that she’d had a huge amount of time to give him the cold shoulder treatment, since she only came to this area when she had to report on the surfing contest. The rest of her time she spent in her quarters, resting her battered body and regaling herself for the personal drive that had led her to Solaria.
She actually detested the fact that they were forced to breathe the same air—it was also the fact that he was half Circean that made her surly toward her contemporary. That kind’s reputation for love ‘em and leave ‘em preceded them, and she didn’t want any part of it.
She was tired of one-night-stands and never getting an ‘in’ with a guy. She’d had enough of that. Hell, hadn’t she made a promise to herself that she’d never engage in another fuck for fuck’s sake relationship?
And, then again, there was another fact that had her cooling her sexual angst for the man.
The Circeans did, after all, come from the universe’s top—rated pleasure planet, which was notorious for its lavish vacation packages. Vacation packages which included all sorts of erotic-fantasy fulfilment promises.
Want to have a threesome? No problem.
Trying to get over a sexual hang-up? Can do.
Looking for a one or two night stand with a being that will rock your world? Guaranteed.
Yeah. Right. No thanks, she mused. Even before the thought whispered away in her mind, her nipples tightened and a throb took hold of her pussy. Just thinking about the planet got her juices going.
Just considering he was friends with the Navorain contingent currently working feverishly to fix the stabilizing jets which kept the pod from tipping to and fro only nailed her decision home.
Having lusty dreams about a Circean was one thing. Having naughty thoughts about a threesome with a Navorain warrior was a whole other.
Navorains—totally hot and totally devoid of emotions.
Still, her decision to not engage either species hadn’t stopped the lewd dreams she imbibed of nightly from rearing up and the memories of those fantasies that kept her sexually charged during the day.
Stop it. Stop it right now.
To want to have a Circean fuck her was bad. To fantasize about having this particular Circean and a Navorain fucking her was totally overwhelming.
A recipe for disastrous heartbreak.
A soft sigh stroked her lips. In the next breath she was biting back on a moan. Her imagination kept conjuring up all sorts of naughty little fantasies to drive her lust higher and higher.
Fantasies fed by the most recent travel brochure she’d perused for Circe X.
The pleasures that came from deep exploration of sexual fantasies and alleviating the tourists of their sexual hang-ups, she mused. Her nipples tightened to even harder buds. Warmth slicked her feminine folds. A quiver raked down her spine.
This is bad.
This is very bad.
Just as quickly as her breath caught in her throat whenever she considered the men, her mind kicked into smack-down gear. No way. No how.
She mentally listed the problems with even engaging in the fantasies. Vacation packages she’d never be able to afford because she was basically stuck on the lowest rung of the proverbial hierarchy that was the sport’s broadcasting team at INTV. The one-night stand promise she’d made with herself now mocked her. The fact that she wasn’t sexually evolved like the Circeans or the Navorains, but more the inquisitive novice who had dipped her toes into almost all acceptable taboos on Earth.
They were out of her league both in and out of bed.
Still, she needed to get laid—badly. Her gaze stroked over her film crew. Everett shook his head at something her cameraman was saying to him.
Safe. Easy. Boring. She sighed. Damn it. She wouldn’t get them naked. Hell, if the gossip at INTV was to be trusted, they weren’t even into women.
So, once more, she was shit-out-of-luck.
Garrick, on the other hand, was on the highest rung of any and every ladder she’d like to name.
Her eyes followed his strong arm as he moved to cut his feed. The producer for his show had other ideas and rolled his hand in the air to tell Garrick to keep going. She wondered what it would feel like to have that arm around her waist as he lifted her hips to accept his cock. Twinges of unrequited lust tingled down her channel.
He had the unmitigated gall to wink at her before continuing in his broadcast.
Thanks, but no thanks.
I’ll pass on whatever you meant by that little eyelid twitch.
The look in question was one that made her feel as though he might be working his craft in front of the vidi-cams while also undressing her with his eyes. He was saying that he was aware of her presence whether she liked it or not.
Liquid heat clung to her pussy lips when he turned his striking emerald gaze to her for another quick glance before once more focusing his face back to the camera.
“Fuck! We’ve lost our feed!” Garrick’s producer shouted and then continued to curse a blue streak. “Again!” he finished after a full minute of yelling about the poor weather and the shoddy connection to the trans-galactic vidi-transfer satellites currently orbiting the planet. “How the hell are we supposed to report on this—the biggest surfing competition ever—when we can’t get a fucking stable feed?”
“Chris, settle down,” Garrick interjected. “There’s a lady present.”
Ishbel would like nothing more than to give him lady right between his eyes. “I’m a professional broadcaster. I’ve heard worse than your producer, so keep me out of it, halfling.” The final word flew from her lips so fast she didn’t even have a chance to think about what she’d just said.
A blush of embarrassment crept up her cheeks. “My God. I am so sorry.” Even if her tone didn’t convey the depths of her mortification for calling him one of the greatest insults in the cosmos, her contrition was palpable. “I…don’t…know…what….”
“You’re exhausted,” Garrick said, giving her a legitimate out. “We all are.” He sighed long and hard. “It’s been a really insane week of competition.”
“Is that considering we can’t get a good feed to the trans-galactic satellites or that so many swimmers have been pulled from the water with every imaginable injury that it sickens us?” Inwardly cringing at the memory of one competitor who’d been bitten in half by a massive shark-like sea creature, she swallowed her thoughts in an audible gulp.
Her whole vow to ignore him went flying out the window when she digested what he had said.
On top of the concerned frown etching his brow, there was a worry for all of them tingeing his tone.
Truthfully, it wasn’t that she merely wanted to know how he felt about what was going on. She needed to know what he thought about the competition and, almost as importantly, the weather.
“Or that it physically hurts me every time INTV sends you out on that platform to report?” he challenged in his slightly accented voice. “Take some loop for the later feed. I’ll do the broadcast in post-production.”
Her disgust of the injuries she’d witnessed evaporated only to be replaced by pure undiluted fury. You have got to be fucking kidding me.
“You have the capability to do that here?” She couldn’t have heard him right and her tone conveyed the depths of her anger.
The sight of her producer and cameraman bowing their heads sent her rage racing for the stratosphere. “Why the hell am I walking out there, risking life and limb, when we can do post-production in the pod?” she screamed at her crew. “Are you guys flipping kidding me?” Tossing the towel at her cameraman, she gaped for a good five minutes. “Do you want to kill me? Would that help your ratings? Would it?”
She was so mad that she didn’t feel Garrick grab hold of her elbow and steer her away from her crew until she’d taken several steps down the corridor. “Get your hands off me.” Jerking away from him, she lost her balance. Her butt would have landed on the floor if he hadn’t caught her with an arm around the waist.
“Come on, Ishbel. You’re exhausted—and soaking wet, might I add.” He planted her body to his warm, firm one. “Let’s get you dried off and sipping on a cup of hot coffee.” A frown ripe with genuine concern marred his brow. “They shouldn’t have let you come here.”
Ignoring the remainder of his statement, she focused in on a single word. “Coffee?” Wait. What? “You know where I can get a cup of coffee.” She honestly wanted to throw another fit, but thought better of it. If he could get her a real cup of coffee….
His deep throaty laugh did amazing things to her blood pressure. “I know where you can get a whole pot.”
Surprised when her heart softened toward what her counterparts called the top competition for a spot at the anchor desk, she heaved a breathy sigh when he moved her down the boring gray coloured corridor toward her quarters. Her gaze picked out the barely recognizable outline of a doorway. The Solarians really liked clean lines, as well as minimal amenities.
Coffee. A throaty sigh built in her throat.
“Really. A whole pot.” She couldn’t form a cognizant thought if her life depended on it. His arm around her felt wonderful. The hard muscles of his right thigh brushed against her hip and leg as he moved them along. What would it feel like to have those thighs driving his cock into me?