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By JENNA McCORMICK
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Jenna McCormick
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Chapter One"Another drink, Gia?"
Gia dragged her gaze away from the well-muscled arms of the bartender, Los, and looked up into his pretty brown eyes. "I'm not sure that's smart. I'm starting to fantasize about you naked again."
He winked at her as he poured a shot of some green liquid into the bottom of a coffee mug. "How about a hit of wake-up juice?"
She cradled the cup between her palms and inhaled. Though it was cool to the touch, it smelled like the richest French roast she'd ever had the pleasure to drink. She thanked him and didn't even try to present her credit chip. So far from Earth, this planet didn't exchange currency, instead relying on the barter system. Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Unfortunately her back wasn't the part of her anatomy in need of attention right now.
"Do you want to come back to my ship for the night?" It had been weeks since she'd enjoyed male company, and with no missions to fly she was totally out of her element. And Los was as fine a specimen of male perfection as she'd ever seen.
He placed his warm hand over her cold ones. "I told you, I'm looking for something more. A real connection. Until you have that to offer, I must regretfully decline."
No surprise there, yet she was still disappointed. Gia's upfront, no-strings-attached approach had helped her out all her adult life. Men appreciated her candor, enjoyed her body, content with the knowledge that was all she was offering. Not Los though. The first time she'd hit on him he seemed flattered, but disinterested. She'd asked if he was gay and he'd assured her that wasn't the case, even as he'd provided her with another drink to ease the sting of rejection. The same held true for every other man on this planet, or at least those she'd propositioned. They all wanted more than a quick nail and bail. More than Gia had to give. So she'd changed her strategy and focused on Los, thinking she could wear him down. Unfortunately, it had the nasty side effect of making her feel pathetic.
He smiled at her kindly. Los was too nice for her. Everyone on this world fit into that category. Too kind for the likes of Gia. A reasonable person would love this place, filled with honest, caring people who wanted nothing more than to be close with their friends and family. Gia shuddered at the prospect. "Are you sure I can't pay you for the drinks? I have plenty of supplies on my ship—"
She cut herself off at his shaking head. He knew what she intended, and she felt like some sort of letch for even trying it, a pervert offering candy. This whole place, full of decent, honest people, made her feel like a shallow slut. Grabbing her jacket, she headed toward the door before she disgraced herself further. "'Night, Los."
The cool breeze off the shimmering ocean lifted her hair off the back of her neck. She inhaled deeply, savoring the salty tang off the purple sea. She focused on the distant landmass, another island of some sort. The topography of this planet was filled with various size islands, interconnected like an archipelago. All tropical all the time, the world having found a perfect balance within itself, just like its inhabitants.
Well, most of the people here had found balance. Pivoting on her heel, Gia started back toward her ship, kicking stray rocks out of her path with a viciousness born of sexual frustration and general ennui. She needed to do something, be active and have a purpose. Daily runs on the beach kept her in shape, but in shape for what? A few cargo shipments a month swallowed by a host of mind-numbing downtime? What was the point, other than feeling like an outcast, the serpent in the Garden of Eden?
A high-pitched, distinctly artificial chirp woke her from her reverie. She fumbled for a minute, retrieving her comm link from her jacket pocket. "'Lo?" The word came out slurred. Maybe she should have had another hit of Los's wake-up juice.
"Hey, Gia, how are you?" Gen's smiling face filled the small screen.
Gia couldn't help but smile back. It was so nice to see her best friend really happy after all she'd been through. She took to this place like a duck to water, more than suited to Rhys, the empath she'd fallen for and his touchy-feely way of life. "Not as well as you, I imagine. How's Rhys?"
"Divine." Gen breathed the word like a woman coming off an orgasm. Which she probably was. Jealousy reared up, the ugly green eyes burning through to her soul. Not that Gia begrudged Gen her happiness. Her friend had gone through a dry spell for most of her adult life, where Gia had bathed in the pool of decadence. Until recently anyway.
"Why don't you fly over here, stay out on the island? It's private, and we could spend some time together. I feel like we've hardly talked at all in the last month."
"I didn't want to interfere," Gia hedged. Or be the useless third stabilizer on a two-engine rig. Gen had finally found her bliss and Gia didn't want to sour her daiquiri. "You guys are like newlyweds, or the empathic equivalent of it. You need alone time, to bond."
"If we bond any more we'll be permanently fused together."
"Show-off," Gia said with a wink, to take the bitterness out of her quip. "You know what I need? To be fucked good and hard by someone who doesn't give a fig what's going on in my head. Abstinence is total balls."
Gen winced visibly. "Maybe you could try getting to know someone. It's better when there are feelings beyond oh baby, right there, that's the spot."
Gia stopped and leaned up against a large rock. "Hey, that was pretty good. Maybe you can talk dirty to me and help me out of this funk."
Shaking her head, Gen sighed. "You're hopeless, you know that?"
"But you love me anyway, right?" Gia hoped so. Alienated from everyone and everything familiar, Gia needed her friend now more than ever.
"Of course. I know what you gave up to help us, Gia. Your career and your home, all your friends—it's all gone because you chose to side with us."
"At least I still have my stinger." Gia gazed out at the empty field where her stinger-class starship waited patiently for her return. Pride made her chest expand, just like the first time she'd seen the stealth weapon that would become her home. Small and streamlined for maximum efficiency, the stinger could travel for over a billion miles on its cold fusion energy pack. The weapons and navigational systems were state of the art, and while she couldn't take down an armada, any single ship in the galaxy would think twice about messing with her. Providing shelter, transportation, basic foodstuffs from the synthesizer, and protection, the stinger gave her an instant family. It was the only thing Gia let herself count on. The one constant she couldn't afford to lose.
Gen spoke the truth. She had sacrificed a great deal. Not just her place in the stinger squadron, but her reputation as well. By going against orders, Gia had branded herself a traitor. And given the choice she'd do it again, no matter the personal cost.
Refocusing on Gen, Gia said, "I promise I'll come over soon. Now I need to take some time to figure out what my next move ought to be. Send coordinates to my comm unit. And say hi to Rhys for me."
"Will do." Gen's face shrank to a tiny point of light and then blinked out altogether.
"And then there was one," she breathed, unsure of whether it was relief or disappointment in her belly.
"That ain't quite true." The deep timber of a male voice spoke from behind her, rumbling with menace. Gia shivered even as she reached for her laser pistol. Whirling around, she met the golden-eyed gaze of the one man she never thought she'd see again.
His focus dropped to where her fingers curled around the smooth, hard casing of her handheld. "No need for weapons. I'm unarmed."
"Zan." Gia kept her hand where it was as her heart beat faster against her rib cage. "What are you doing here?"
The corner of his mouth curled up into a half smile. "Happy to see me?"
Parts of her defiantly were, specifically the nonthinking, needy woman parts that sensed this giant of a man with his long black braid and smoldering eyes could fulfill her every sexual fantasy. Where Los the empathic bartender would have been a gentle ride, Zan was a wild stallion. Gia knew better than to indulge. Didn't she? "Surprised is more like it. I thought you were on your way to loot and pillage the empath's treasure planet."
The last time she'd seen the golden-eyed pirate, he stood on the gangplank of his ship, ready to sail off to the stars and his next adventure. She'd been relieved to see him go, even if it did mean he was free to accost innocent civilians. She was no longer in a position to arrest him for his criminal behavior. And though he was a feast for the senses, his air of entitlement combined with his horrific grammar set her teeth on edge. Still, he was a magnificent beast to behold.
He moved closer, a large predator stalking his prey. "As I recollect, we were invited. It ain't exactly looting and pillaging when the owners tell me to help myself." He raised his hand and trailed a finger down the side of her neck. She shivered again.
The words help yourself almost slipped past her lips. This close she scented leather and male spice, a unique blend she couldn't compare to anything she'd ever known, and it made her mouth water.
"I heard your conversation." His hand trailed down around the scalloped edge of her jumpsuit, stopping right above the swells of her breasts. "You're in a bad way too."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "You're not suggesting what I think you're suggesting. Because that's plumb crazy."
His grin blossomed into full-fledged wicked. "You and me. Mighty interesting proposition, ain't it?"
She sucked in a sharp breath as his hand trailed lower, beneath the fabric to stroke her breast. The thought that she should stop this came and went as his fingertip made contact with a beaded nipple. The light touch ignited the kindling in her belly, making her blood burn. "You're the embodiment of everything I've spent my life fighting. Interesting is not the word I'd choose."
"That may be the case," he whispered in a low, seductive voice that coiled around her like a snake, ready to squeeze the fight out of her. "Me and you, it's wrong but feels right. Go with your gut on this one, Gia."
He was right, damn it. How could a man she'd just met in passing see so much about her inner workings? His offer tempted her far more than it should. Liquid heat pooled in her belly. She bit her lip, torn between what she wanted and what she thought she should do. Her hand fell away from her weapon so she could clutch his leather vest with both hands. "Get this straight. If I weren't absolutely desperate, this would never happen. I'm way out of your league. And if you tell anyone, I'll cut your tongue out."
Golden eyes sparkled. "Damn, you are fine when you're fired up."
Walking backward, she pulled him aboard the stinger. The space was tight for two people, intimate. As soon as the access door sealed behind them, Gia toyed with the zipper on her flight suit. "Kiss me before I change my mind."
His mouth crashed down on hers. Zan claimed her lips, thrusting his tongue beyond the barrier of her teeth to tangle with hers, all marauding pirate. Hot, wet, and brimming with desire, a heady concoction that made her ache. His hands—those broad, calloused digits—tracked down her shoulder blades, following the bumps in her spine in a slow, lulling rhythm. Her eyelids grew heavy and she swayed on her feet. Zan cupped her ass cheeks, one in either hand, and pulled her closer to him. His vest slithered to the floor with a soft whisk.
As he leaned down, his dark braid slipped over his shoulder, and she couldn't help but reach out and touch it. The smooth, silky texture captivated her, such a contrast to the rest of his rugged appearance. His fingers found the zipper pull on her jumpsuit. The evidence of his arousal pressed into her belly.
It was easy to follow his lead in this seductive dance. Gia knew all the steps, but Zan was a strong partner and guided her through each turn and dip, making progress at the same time he lingered in just the right places. He removed his boots, his pants, and stood before her naked. Gloriously so. She needed this, needed him. Just once to satisfy the hunger that gnawed on her, and then they could go their separate ways. With a laugh she activated her health guard, the electromagnetic shield she'd been fitted with at puberty. It would act as a barrier between them, preventing fluid from being transferred, along with any potential health hazards. He grinned as he reached for her again.
The zipper pull stopped at her waist and Gia shrugged her arms out of the sleeves, baring her breasts to him at the same time she reached for his swollen shaft. He jolted under her touch, as though her boldness had startled him. Like no one had ever been so forward with him before.
She met and held his gaze while she stroked him, swirling the bead of precum around with her thumb. Then, cupping him lower, she closed her hand around his erection and stroked upward in a firm pull. His hips began to rock in time with her glides, but he stopped and forcibly removed her hand. "This will be over before it starts if you keep on with that."
She felt one eyebrow go up. "You're willing to admit defeat so easily?"
"Just begging for leniency is all." Falling to his knees, he met and held her gaze while he sucked the tip of her breast between his lips.
Arching more fully into the welcoming heat of his mouth, Gia let out a groan. Slow and languid fell by the wayside of the fire building low in her belly, the blaze he stoked oh so precisely. Zan's hands pushed her jumpsuit down, even as he tongued the stiffened peak in sharp flicks. Tension spiraled in her core as he switched to the other breast, cupping her bottom in both hands to hold her close. His finger slid down her crease in a self-assured manner. He knew he had her at his mercy and he so obviously had none.
In a swift move, Zan tumbled her into his arms. Her lips parted on a gasp and he was there pushing his tongue into her mouth, invading her every sense. A dark kiss, full of unspeakable pleasures. The caress of his tongue, the forceful exploration made her wetter than everything that had come before. He tasted of spices, foreign and flavorful, and she sucked on his tongue, eager for more.
His fingers dabbled between her legs, finding her overflowing well of desire. One hard digit plunged inside and she rocked against him, begging for more. He gave it to her, adding a second finger and swirling his thumb around her clit. She bucked in his arms, on the edge of an all-consuming release. His fingers fucked her harder, faster, and she shattered, pushing against his shoulders, needing to get away before he incinerated her.
Zan released her lips, though he kept his fingers in her sex. Those golden eyes glowed as he shifted her down onto the discarded blanket. He removed her shoes and the flight suit tangled around her ankles before shucking his own boots. His staff looked angry, purple, and veiny, and she couldn't wait until it stretched her, filled her up.
Without planning it, she reached for him again, but he pinned her hands over her head. "I said no more of that now."
"Who put you in charge?" she shot back. Raising her hips, she brushed against the hard rod of flesh, beckoning him down to her.
He cursed. "Not till I say, damn it."
She grinned. "You gonna take your toys and go home?"
Gripping his shaft, he scowled down at her. "I just might."
Though she knew it was a hollow bluff, her expression closed up. "No one's forcing you here, pal. You're the one who suggested we do this in the first—"
Zan slid down her body until he could lick her already drenched sex. His tongue traced the tender folds, and with a gasp she drew her knees up, opening herself more. He accepted her invitation, diving deep into her molten core. Her health guard crackled, and he backed off, his chin wet with her lube. "You're delicious," he murmured, nuzzling her thigh before delving back in for more.
Her head fell back against the deck, and she stared up at the falling light beyond the viewport sightlessly, alternately hot and cold as he stroked her toward orgasm. Restless hands found and caressed his braid. He paused mid-lick and pulled away from her. "Don't pull my hair."
Gia almost retaliated by doing exactly that, but darkness returned to his gaze. The silent please filled the small space and something shifted. This wasn't just about release anymore. The fragile threads of connection wove through her heart and she reached her palm to his face, caressing a whiskered cheek. "Okay."
Excerpted from No Mercy by JENNA McCORMICK Copyright © 2013 by Jenna McCormick. Excerpted by permission of APHRODISIA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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