Surviving Demon Islandby Jaci Burton
What’s America’s top female action star doing on a tropical island shrouded in secrecy? To Gina Bliss, competing in a survival-type reality show is a nice change from fending off on-screen villains. Until she meets real-life action hero Derek Marks. A survival specialist in a tight black T and sexy stubble, he’s arousing every bad-boy fantasy… See more details below
What’s America’s top female action star doing on a tropical island shrouded in secrecy? To Gina Bliss, competing in a survival-type reality show is a nice change from fending off on-screen villains. Until she meets real-life action hero Derek Marks. A survival specialist in a tight black T and sexy stubble, he’s arousing every bad-boy fantasy she’s ever had . . . and testing her survival skills to the max.
Martial arts, jungle warfare—Derek’s done it all. But his latest mission is more dangerous than a stick of dynamite. Try telling that to the sexy, adrenaline-pumped actress who’s got his libido racing off the charts. As the heat rises between them and real-life violence erupts, suddenly Derek and Gina are on the run . . . and when they uncover a secret so explosive it could blow the lid off their so-called reality show, these two unlikely heroes are about to discover what surviving’s really about. . . .
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Get into character, Gina. You're a fighter, a warrior, and this is your moment to save the world.
God, she loved these scenes. Deeply immersed in the role, her thoughts became the character's thoughts. She was now Melissa–archaeologist and adventurer, prepared for the battle to come, only needing the director's cue to spring into fight mode.
Funny how much of the real her was like this character, how closely her own thoughts mirrored those of this feisty adventuress. This was one of the easiest roles she'd ever played.
She glanced around the stone keep, at the priceless artifacts on the walls. "You know, Rorg, I understand the allure of cashing in on all these treasures. But the difference between you and me is that I have scruples, and you have none. You take from the past and use it for gain in the future. I can appreciate its beauty, its history, but I could never remove anything that doesn't belong in our time."
"And that's why you fail, my dear Melissa," he said, taking one step closer.
Lost in the fantasy, she backed up against the stone wall, realizing she had only two choices: Die or jump. One misstep and she would be impaled on her opponent's sword. But she hadn't come here to lose.
She hated to lose.
The tip of Rorg's sword was pointed at her heart. It was a life-or-death moment. Hers. The next step would decide. She had only a second to think because the time warp was unstable. If she didn't kill Rorg soon and get the hell out of there, she'd be forever lost in a century that wasn't hers.
"Make your choice, bitch. I don't have all day."
Her lips curled in a sneer. She refused to show fear to this barbarian, this monster who had killed without remorse. "Gee, and I thought I'd have time to get a manicure first."
Decision made, she leaped from the stairs and landed with a thud on the cold stone floor, then made a mad dash for the broadsword hanging on the wall. Lifting it off with both hands, she whipped around, swinging just as Rorg caught up with her. He sidestepped her attack, laughing at her.
"If that's the best you can do, this won't take long at all."
"Oh, but I was just warming up." Arrogant asshole. Keep on thinking I'm just a weak woman and no match for you. Lots of now-dead men thought the same thing.
Her breath blew white smoke in the early dawn, the chill still lingering despite the quickly rising sun. The torches flickered, trembling as she rushed past. She scrunched her shoulders then relaxed them again, hefting the sword up with one hand and leveling it in Rorg's direction. Excitement drove her. She loved being in battle again. She lived for these moments.
He nodded appreciatively, obviously having assumed she'd never be able to hoist the heavy broadsword with one arm.
"You have strength, I'll give you that. But it won't help. You're an amateur, a little girl playing a game reserved for grown men."
"If only I had a dollar for every time I heard that one," she said, grasping the sword with both hands and swinging it in a half-circle toward Rorg's middle. His sword met hers and the clash of steel against steel reverberated as the time warp sizzled, transporting them back and forth between ancient times and present day, between a fully functional castle and ruins. Momentarily distracted, their swords locked at the hilt, Rorg looked around at the constantly changing landscape. Gina used that moment to backhand him, then kick him in the stomach with the heel of her boot. He grunted and stumbled back, but managed to maintain his balance.
Rage turned his face a mottled red. He roared and dove toward her, his hands pulled in to his chest and his sword pointed dead-on. She stepped back, then lunged forward as he retreated. A game of thrust and parry ensued, a seemingly civilized match of fencing fought with medieval broadswords that had been used by highlanders to forge their freedoms. She fought for freedom, too, to free the past from a devil of the future before it was too late and all their lives were irrevocably altered.
"You won't win, bitch," Rorg spat, hatred sharing space with the madness glowing in his dark eyes. "The time portal was my secret, my wealth. Everything would have been mine if you'd just left it alone." He punctuated his sentences with each slice of his sword. "Why–didn't–you–die?"
"Because I enjoy tormenting you too much, Rorg," she replied, leaping from the ground to a long wooden table as he swung repeatedly at her knees. The loud whoosh of steel slicing air was the only sound in the quiet void between past and present.
She jumped over and over again, avoiding the blade. Her leg muscles burned, the heavy boots and sword taking their toll. But she refused to give up. She was the world's only hope. "You won't win. I won't let you destroy the people I love."
Sweat poured from her brow, the leather she wore growing warmer as the sun arched higher. The waves of the portal shimmered like silvery heat on blacktop road. There wasn't much time and she needed the element of surprise. Crouching as if in defeat, she waited for his attack. When he drew close enough, she twisted around and swung upward with all her might, slicing his sword arm. His eyes widened and he dropped the weapon. Without sparing a second's hesitation she went in for the kill, leaping from the table and slamming her boots into his chest.
He went down like a bull elephant, his body hitting the ground with a loud thud and sending up a cloud of dust from the floor. Before he could gather his wits she jammed the blade downward, rendering his fighting arm useless. He screamed in pain and reached for his sleeve, a crimson trail flooding his white shirt. With one booted heel she pinned his throat and pointed the sword at his black heart.
"Have I ever mentioned how much I hate to be called 'bitch'?" She affected a deep sigh and said, "I'm afraid you'll have to die for that, Rorg."
"Cut! Print! That's a wrap, folks. Great job, Gina, Bob."
Heaving rapid breaths to fuel her lungs, she was lost in this moment, in the action, the adventure, the pure thrill of besting an opponent. She barely registered the director's words.
"Gina. Wanna get your foot off my neck?"
She looked down at the strangled voice of her nemesis, remembering that this was a movie scene. Rorg was the character Bob played, not her real opponent. And she was crushing his larynx with her boot.
"Oh. Sorry, Bob." She blinked and forced reality to once again enter her mind, lifting her foot and holding out her hand. He grinned, grasped her palm, and leapt to his feet.
"You scare me sometimes, Gina," he said, kissing her on the cheek. "I think you enjoy this aspect of your work a little too much. But great job kicking ass."
"You know me, Bob. I live for the action scenes. And right back at ya on the ass-kicking."
Bob walked away and Gina rested her hands on her hips, breathing heavily. Exhilarated as always after a battle scene, she fought to keep from jumping up and down like a hyperactive child. The shot had gone better than she expected, the last retake they needed to wrap this picture. Josie, her assistant, hurried over with a bottle of water and a towel. Gina wiped the sweat from her face, dying to take a shower and wash off the thick glop of makeup they'd applied at the ungodly hour of three o'clock this morning.
"David, you need me for anything else?" She loved working for David Beasley. He knew how much she enjoyed doing action films and always called on her for the grueling ones.
"We're done here, babe," he shouted across the room. "I'll call you later for dailies."
Heaving a sigh and wishing he'd asked for another take, she headed to her trailer, grinning when she found her agent, Dee Hastings, waiting inside. "Hey, Dee! What's up?"
"My blood pressure," Dee replied with a grimace, shrugging out of her suit jacket. "It always goes up when I see swords swinging in your direction, or when I have to watch you poised to jump off a cliff, or when three beefy stuntmen are set to beat the shit out of you."
"Aww, come on, those are the parts I like," Gina teased, breezing by with a kiss to Dee's cheek.
"That's what scares me," Dee said, following her into the bedroom of the trailer. As Gina peeled off the now-sweaty leather and tossed it on a pile near the door, Dee flopped into a chair and smoothed the fine blond hairs away from her face. "You're going to give me gray hair. You're going to make me old before my time. My star, my moneymaker, taking risks like you do. You make me crazy, girl."
Laughing, Gina slipped on a robe, sat on the bed, and began to loosen the braid holding her hair. "I know what I'm doing, Dee. You know my background. You know what I'm capable of."
"I also know what you're worth. What if something happens to you during one of those crazy action scenes?"
"You afraid of losing your fifteen percent?"
Gina looked up at Dee's silence. Uh-oh. She'd hurt her feelings. She could tell by the furrows on Dee's forehead. Why did she always do that? Why didn't she think before she spoke? She'd known Dee for fifteen years. Dammit.
"I think you know better than that, Gina. I care about you."
Shit. That caring thing, that need for people to want to get close to her. "I'm sorry, Dee. Of course you do. I don't know why I said that."
"It's okay. You've had a long day."
Crisis resolved. Gina resumed unbraiding her hair, grateful she didn't need to do more groveling than necessary. She had to be careful what she said around Dee. Some people were so sensitive. Especially Dee, who'd taken it upon herself to act as Gina's mother figure. Whatever. She didn't need a mother, hadn't needed one since her own disappeared. Since she was eight years old she'd done just fine without one.
She shook her hair out and grabbed a brush to begin the untangling. Lord, she needed a shower. And a really big breakfast.
"You have to realize you are the number one female action movie star right now," Dee continued. "And there are plenty of stuntwomen out there who can do the risky stuff so you don't have to."
Gina paused and laid the brush in her lap, blinking innocently. "Then what would be the fun of doing movies, Dee?"
Dee rolled her eyes. "You could make a fortune doing a love story, you know. With your face, that mouth, that body . . . God, the roles I could get for you."
Gina scrunched her nose and stuck out her tongue. "Blech. I don't do romance."
"Don't I know it. The tabloids keep printing rumors that you're gay."
Gina snorted. "Like I care what they print."
"You could try dating once in a while. Or, God forbid, you could have an actual relationship."
Gina's eyes widened. "Now you are scaring me, Dee. I'd rather kick a guy's ass than kiss it, thanks." Men were so . . . complicated, so difficult to figure out. No, she didn't have time for those kinds of problems. As arm candy, fine. The occasional sex release? Definitely. As permanent relationships or, heaven forbid, husbands? Forget it. She'd rather lose a limb.
"It wouldn't hurt you to let someone get close," Dee grumbled.
Yeah. Because that had worked so well for her in the past. "I like my life the way it is. It works fine for me."
Dee looked like she wanted to argue the point further, but at Gina's warning glance, she shrugged and said, "Fine. And speaking of asses to kick, that's why I'm here. I have an offer for you. A reality show."
Gina scooted back against the headboard. "Are you insane? First off, I never do television. Second, I need a vacation. I've done back-to-back pictures over the past two years. I need a break."
Dee tilted her head and offered a secretive smile. "That's what I thought you'd say. And typically I wouldn't have even brought it up. But this is right up your alley. Tropical island, lots of weaponry. It's called Surviving Demon Island. Contestants try to 'kill' demons hiding on an island. Last one standing without being taken out by a demon wins. And not only do the winners get money, but there's also a contribution for charity, for that new worldwide relief fund for children."
"I like that charity. They've been doing great things. Okay, so you've sparked my interest. Who's doing it?"
"Some new start-up production company. Checked them out and they sound good."
Despite her utter exhaustion at the breakneck pace she'd led the past couple years, the thought of getting away from it all on a tropical island and playing with weapons at the same time held quite an appeal. She wasn't the type to sit back and sip mai tais on a beach. Vacation to her was a trek through the jungle or scaling a mountain or soaring down rapids. God forbid she should have some actual downtime. She liked to stay busy, and something like this might be fun. "Who else is going to be there?"
Dee reached into her briefcase and pulled out a manila envelope, drawing out papers. Scanning the top sheet, she said, "Actually, it looks like you're the Hollywood draw, but they've invited people with backgrounds in martial arts, weaponry, and extreme sports."
"No other Hollywood types? Really? Oh, hell. I thought you meant a bunch of spoiled actors who'd cry if they broke a nail or a sweat." She grabbed the sheet from Dee and scanned it, then handed it back to Dee. "Sounds like a blast. Sign me up."
Arching a brow, Dee said, "I thought you said you wanted a vacation."
Pointing to the contract, Gina said, "That is my vacation!"
A few weeks later, Gina peered out the porthole of the ship, bound for some undisclosed island where filming of the reality show would take place. The producers had shrouded everything under a veil of secrecy, requiring her to sign a confidentiality agreement. She couldn't bring anyone with her or tell a soul where she was headed. No cell phones and no contact with the outside world. As far as Gina knew the press wasn't aware of what was going on or where, and she hadn't seen anyone other than the production company's limo driver who picked her up at the airport and the lone crewman who'd escorted her onboard the ship. As soon as she arrived she'd been taken to a rather plain cabin and told to wait there until she was summoned.
All very dramatic, but then what did she expect? So typical for the industry. But her career fed her love of action and adventure and her chance to escape reality and become someone else. If she didn't have her career, life would be dull, dull, dull.
She took the opportunity to shower away the grunge from the long flight and change into a sundress, grateful not to have a makeup, hair, and clothing assistant trailing behind her. Staring into the mirror, she applied minimal makeup and brushed her hair until the sable strands shimmered, braiding and securing it with a single band at the bottom. Then she slipped on a pair of flat sandals and checked her reflection, hoping she projected a casual image, like an average person on vacation. She didn't want to look Hollywood, nor did she want to tip her hand and show up in full battle gear. Best to remain neutral until she had a chance to assess the competition.
Competition. Her blood damn near sizzled in her veins in anticipation of what was to come.
From the Paperback edition.
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