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EXCERPT FROM BENEATH TWO MOONS
The shuttle from the Tarquin set down in a cloud of fine red grit, and Dr. Eva Kelsey peered through the shield for signs of life. Nothing moved except a lone dust devil.
"See anything, Leon?"
"Looks like the Texas Badlands," the pilot said. He hunched over the console. "No welcoming committee. But I got the right coordinates and time. How long do we wait?"
A hideous roar split the low hum of the shuttlecraft, and Eva started. An immense splay-footed beast, a brown lizardy nightmare masquerading as a horse, shuffled from a sand canyon. The animal was saddled and bridled. And in the saddle sat a huge man.
He urged the creature close to the shield. The lizard rolled its eyes and stamped its feet, but it obeyed.
Confident, relaxed, the rider leaned forward and his penetrating stare burned Eva, as if he'd crisped her neosuit to explore the possibilities beneath. She fought an urge to cover her breasts with both hands, to protect herself from the attack of his eyes.
"Conor." Eva caught her breath, her mouth tightened. Low in her belly a hot memory woke.
He held his seat on the nightmare nonchalantly, reins loose in his lap. Always in control, Conor, even when he looked sleepy-eyed and careless. That's when he was most dangerous. His steel-grey eyes never shifted from Eva's face, and unsettled, she smoothed her hair in its confining Baradian twist, and tucked in a stray curl.
Damn! She knew better than to signal that he'd unnerved her, but it was too late. A smile flickered across Conor's lips, a smile that implied she'd come off-world to re-ignite an old fire.
He was more man than most women could handle. Except Eva. Conor's aura ofintense maleness presented no danger to her. She'd had the experience, like some exotic disease, and she was immune. Her self-control had intensified in the last two years, and he wielded no power over her.
"Is that the Conor? The legend in the flesh?" Leon adjusted a stabilizer and chuckled. "Hey, Doc. I'm impressed."
"Then you're a chump for personality cults." Eva patted his back and rose abruptly. As Conor backed his creature into the shadows of a dune, Eva touched the pilot's shoulder. "Thanks for the ride, Leon. You can take off after I unload. I've only got the two cases."
Minutes later, ankle-deep in the planet's sand, she was assaulted by the thirsty air, and heat shimmered over the arid earth. Every breath scorched her lungs, and tiny beads of sweat collected on her upper lip and evaporated in an instant.
Leon shot her one last wave and the shuttle slipped away, shrinking in an instant to a silver dot of light and then vanishing, separating her from the Tarquin, leaving her on Feldon-9 for months. For the first time, she couldn't suppress fears that accepting the assignment had been a bad idea, a risk. But assignment refusals alerted the Psych Board, and files were pulled, notes were made.
EXCERPT FROM INSATIABLE
Marcus Remmington finished reading the directions on his frozen microwave dinner in time to be startled by several successive rings of the doorbell. He tossed the package into the kitchen sink and shouted, "Hold your horses, I'm coming."
Before he had a chance to wonder who was playing his doorbell like a piano, his gaze fell on the entry his assistant had made in his diary. Daagmar's spidery scrawl was spread across the page as a cue to block out the entire evening. He barely noticed the words, "Ashly-Tate"; then beneath it, "Bedroom Eyes."
"Shit," he muttered. The appointment had gone right out of his head after the ugly scene this morning with Yolande Johannsen, his latest runway diva. She'd shown up while he was in the shower, ready to scratch out his eyes. Of course, she'd quit on the spot. Marcus had expected as much so he wasn't terribly disappointed. He also wasn't disappointed at the shots he took yesterday, so Yolande's bailing out wouldn't cost him a job, but she'd never work with him again. Losing her as a bedmate didn't bother him. Losing a model to sit for the gallery opening did. Professional models of his acquaintance weren't interested in working for nothing. Besides, if Marcus was completely honest with himself, he was tired of the single name supermodels with their super-egos and over-inflated breasts or the underfed, wasted-waifs with their heroin-haunted eyes and six figure contracts. They wanted the runways at the end of the rainbow; not the hungry, artistic, pay-me-nothing-but-experience jobs that meant working in rain, snow or triple digit humidity. Just working period.
He no longer had the patience to scour amateur portfolios of thirteen-year-old virgins who offered to let him change their status in exchange for their first job. Nor did he have the cash flow to indulge in big money contracts for temperamental spoiled brats like Yolande. If it wasn't for the extra money coming from his Bedroom Eyes work, he couldn't afford his share in the gallery at all. So if his evening appointment was late and he missed out on supper, he didn't mind. He was grateful for every job.
He flipped on the outside porch light and prepared his professional side to flatter some bored housewife. He opened the front door and braced himself. The sight of the petite, dark-haired woman in the red cocktail dress stunned him into silence.
Her slightly glazed, green-gold eyes stared back at him in surprise. The halo of the yellow porch light reflecting in her glasses made her seem like some smoldering angel from wet-dream Heaven. She swayed slightly and shivered. Instantly, Marcus stood aside to allow her to enter. When she hesitated, Marcus was afraid she might be someone who just had the wrong address. Luck was with him, however, when she finally spoke.
"Is this Bedroom Eyes?"
EXCERPT FROM ALIAS SMITH AND JONES
Smith Wilding scanned the crowded airport bar. Thanks to a sudden snowstorm, his morning flight to New Orleans had been delayed. Odds were he'd be stuck for the rest of the afternoon, perhaps the night. His gaze caught and held on a shapely pair of nylon-clad legs. Ever-so-slowly he assessed the woman sitting alone at one of several tables lining the floor-to-ceiling windows. The runways were barely discernable, and the woman's attention remained on the swirling snow. Her conservative gray suit and simple hairstyle told him she, like the hordes of business-class travelers mingling around the gates and concourse, had been caught off-guard by the fierce storm.
Thankfully all the barstools and tables were occupied. Every single seat, except one. Focusing his gaze on the woman's long legs, he headed for the empty chair which just happened to be the molded plastic seat at her table.
"Excuse me," he began. "I could use a drink. Do you mind?"
She gave him a brief nod, then turned her attention back to the storm. Although her face wasn't knock-down gorgeous, something about her intrigued him. Perhaps her eyes. Large, slightly tilted, dark brown and seductive. Bedroom eyes.
"It looks like we have a bit of a wait," she said, without looking at him.
He'd barely taken his seat when a barmaid hustled over. He noted the empty glasses on the table, ordered a martini for himself and another white wine.
"How'd you do that?" she asked, swiveling around in her chair. Her knee bumped into his. "I had to wait so long, I ordered two. That waitress hasn't been within ten feet in the last hour."
"Should I call her back?"
After a long assessing stare, she grinned. "No, I have a feeling she'll be around. Come here often?"
"Only when there's a blizzard."
She pushed aside the two wineglasses. "Lucky me."
"I'm Smith "
The grin disappeared. "Sure you are. I guess that makes me Jones." Abruptly she turned her attention back to the falling snow.
Surprised by her rudeness, Smith considered returning to the first-class lounge and the complaining gaggle of elderly couples who'd driven him to the public bar. "Would you rather I left?"
Those big brown eyes locked with his just as the waitress delivered their drinks. While the girl took her time removing the empty glasses and crumpled cocktail napkins, Smith enjoyed the amused expression on his new companion's face. The fine lines about her eyes told him she had recently slipped into her thirties. She wore little make-up, giving her a fresh, no-nonsense look he liked. Her mouth bordered on seductive, but her stubborn chin guaranteed she wasn't easily impressed or conquered.
Swinging her long legs around, her skirt slid several delightful inches up her thighs before she stood. "You stay put... Smith. I need to brave the line at the ladies room."
Sexy and bossy.
EXCERPT FROM STRICTLY BUSINESS
Elizabeth laid both hands on his chest and spoke quietly. "Please don't misunderstand me. We've had an incredible two days, and I'll treasure them always. But I can't do this." He took a breath to speak, and she covered his mouth with a finger. "Let me finish. I care about you and I think you care about me. But everything else aside, our goals in life are too different. You live for Stratton Hill. I can't. I just don't see a future for us. Not the kind I'm looking for, anyway." Elizabeth's voice failed on the last words, and the tears choked off anything more she wanted to say.
Garrett tried to take her in his arms. "Elizabeth. Darling. I never thought I'd hear you say you care. I can't believe it. It's"
"Garrett, didn't you hear any of what I just said?"
"Of course I did, but I'm focusing on the important part. We care about each other. That's what matters most."
For an engineer and a strategist, he could be surprisingly unrealistic. "But I'm looking for a future, Garrett. A meaningful future. And I don't think you can offer me that."
"What do you call a meaningful future?" His voice was too quiet.
She needed to explain this clearly, without sounding like a needy female. Her mother's behavior with her father flashed into her memory, and stiffened her resolve. "It's not as if I want white picket fences; I'm just not that kind of person. But I do want a home I can share with a man I love and respect. I want a partnership where the first priority is our life together. And some day I want children, which will make it even more important that our priorities are in the right order. Which would mean business in second place."
"Do you expect me to propose?" He was trying hard to understand. Elizabeth's heart squeezed with love and her own pain at having to deny them both what they desperately wanted.
"No, of course not. It's too soon to expect anything from each other."
He dropped her hands as if they burned him, and walked over to the window. "That's the most unkind thing anyone has ever said to me." His shoulders were rigid with hurt.
"Oh, God." For an expert in human resources, she was really making a mess of this. Where were all her communication skills when she needed them? "What I'm trying to say is that Stratton Hill isn't my entire life now, and won't be in the future." She crossed the room, and touched his shoulder blade with a gentle hand. "Garrett, my dad gave thirty years to IBM. I grew up without him. For God's sake, my mother took me to the father-daughter dance because he was tied up on a project and couldn't give me the time. I've learned the hard way how important it is to put relationships first."
He turned to her slowly. "And you think I wouldn't?"
"I know you wouldn't," she said, her voice husky with tears.