Book three in the Talson Temptation series.
Kidnapping Rowe Trainer, co-heir to Chartrell Shipping, might not have been the smartest thing Val Talson's ever done, but he wants answers, fast. He couldn't have expected the beautiful little bully to be half-human, nor could he have anticipated that she could turn the tables on him so easily. She's powerful, and he's learned to be wary.
His violent arousal in her presence makes little sense. Lust he appreciates, but the deeper draw to his rival baffles him. Soon he can't think of anything but Rowe. When he finds her again, he gets more than he bargained for--attraction not only to Rowe, but to her bodyguard as well. Then add the shock of her Selection--a female Otra's readiness to mate.
Val doesn't intend to give in easily. He'll handle rogue saboteurs, Rowe's larger-than-life bodyguard, and the idea that he's entered the Testing, the time in a male Otra's life when he's ready to bond to his destined mate. As for Rowe...Val's more than willing to give her what she deserves. And then some.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Talson's Net by Marie Harte
"What the hell are you talking about?"
He snorted. Nice innocent act. If he hadn't been so focused on the rise and fall of her full breasts, he might not have noticed the small quiver that shook her. But the tremors in her breathing told him she knew more than she was saying. He needed that information. Four months ago, he and his older brother Z had nearly fallen prey to thieving pirates at the behest of a Chartrell saboteur. Only the quick action of his brother's mate had saved the ship and its passengers from death and worse.
Glaring down at the stubborn little liar, he wondered when, or even if, he'd be as blessed as Z. One of four brothers, Val had watched his youngest brother, and then his oldest, find their iriu--their true loves. Yet here he was, dealing with another Talson Shipping nightmare, no closer to romance than he'd been last month, or the month before that, or the month before that...
Because of this woman and her fucking family, he'd turned into an unpleasant bastard who hadn't gotten laid in way too long--at least, according to his brothers.
He sat next to Rowe on the bed, pleased at her wide-eyed alarm. Running a hand over the soft skin of her abdomen where her shirt had ridden up from her jeans, he told himself he only wanted to confuse her, to put her off balance.
The thought that she felt like veeri silk came out of nowhere.
"Rowe, I think it's more than admirable to show loyalty to family. But don't you think protecting murderers is going a bit too far?"
"Talson, you jerk, I'm going to--" She gasped when he snaked his hand farther along her rib cage toward her breasts.
"I think you're beginning to understand who's in charge here, aren't you?" He inched his hand higher, grazing the underside of those soft, round globes begging for his attention.
She nodded frantically, looking panicked, and he regretfully withdrew his hand from beneath her shirt. He wondered what it was about the woman that made him simultaneously aroused and aggravated.
"Fine." Rowe swallowed audibly. "You're in charge."
"You're in charge, Valis Talson 'Or Fal," he corrected, and refrained from adding, my humble master. "I want to hear you say my name."
"Oh, I want to say your name." He swore she muttered dickhead under her breath, and he found himself starting to like her.
He stared at her breasts and considered touching her again. Unfortunately, his urge had less to do with prodding her and more to do with fulfilling his desire to feel her soft skin.
She gritted her teeth. "You're in charge, Valis Talson 'Or Fal. Look, I'm telling the truth when I say I want to find out who's behind these crimes as badly as you do. We lost one of our most lucrative freighters two weeks ago due to a pirate attack in the outer rim."
He paused. He hadn't heard anything about Chartrell losing a vessel.
She apparently noted his suspicion, because she added, "I'm not lying. There was a small blurb about it in The Shipping News. We paid a lot of money to keep it quiet and buried it. You can access the data from my chipset." She nodded toward the small device attached to the strap of her purse on a nearby chair.
He crossed to the chair and picked it up. He recognized the latest newsgathering gadget worth a pretty penny and searched to verify her information, then rejoined her on the bed.
"I second that."
Feisty. Instead of annoying him, she made him want to laugh. Odd.
He grinned and she blinked at him, her gaze shifting from his eyes to his mouth.
"So, you were telling the truth. That's good, sweetheart. Now maybe you can tell me what you know about Project Overhead."
She frowned. "Project Overhead? What's that?"
"Now, now. I thought we were becoming friends." He ran his fingers along the band of her jeans over her taut belly, and she sucked in a breath. So fucking pretty. His heart raced, and to his surprise, his psychei suddenly flared. The psychic power inherent in all Otra that had made his kind feared for years on Earth wanted nothing more than to connect with Rowe.
He didn't like the notion. Not unless body parts were involved.
Psychei tied the universe together, even if the humans couldn't tap into it. The energy connected him to his siblings and family, to his clan, the 'Or Fal. Not to some pain-in-the-ass sexpot giving him trouble.
He glared at her, wondering if she was trying to screw him over with some weird burst of power he could feel but couldn't quite identify. While he could communicate with his kin telepathically, his real gift lay in telekinesis. Time to use it to his full advantage.
"Tell me what I want to know, sweetheart. Don't make me bring out the big guns." In a subtle warning, he used his mind to shake a picture hanging on the wall--a tacky rendition of New Hattan in all its pre-Otra glory.
She glanced at the wall then turned a wary gaze back to Val. "I'm telling you the truth. I don't know what Project Overlord is."
"Not Overlord, Overhead." He scowled. As much as he wanted to treat her the way her clan had treated his, it wasn't in his character. He'd never in his life harmed a woman. The thought alone made him ill. Yet something about Rowe tempted him to push his own boundaries. He didn't have to hurt her to make his point. The thought of tasting her ripe lips plagued him to no end.
Rowe had the carnal beauty of a woman who knew her way around a man. Though petite, she possessed a perfect hourglass figure, with breasts he had a hard time ignoring. She had a jaw-dropping sensuality. Pouty lips sat under a slender nose. A forest of thick black lashes framed exotic eyes. Wavy black hair fell to the middle of her back, thick and lustrous, making him want to fist his hands in it to keep her under his control. He could all too readily imagine imprisoning her by those silken strands while he sampled her honeyed mouth.
Shit. I am getting in way too deep with this one.
The first moment he'd seen her, Val had been entranced. And annoyed. To find that such a lovely package belonged to the Chartrells, a family rival, seemed a cruel twist of fate. Val had seen too much of the Chartrells to trust anyone who worked for them. Then to learn that the gorgeous termagant ordering everyone around in Chartrell Headquarters was none other than Rowe Trainer 'Or Ryi, Fulton Chartrell's niece and co-heir to the company...
"Um, Talson?" She sounded too quiet, too innocent, and it set him on edge.
"What's that, sweetheart?"
Her eyes flashed. She really didn't like his pet names.
"It's just that I don't know what you want from me. I work for Chartrell Shipping, yes. Fulton Chartrell is my uncle, yes. But beyond that, I can't help you."
Val wondered at her sincerity.
She bit her lip, and like a magnet, drew his gaze to her mouth. "I was wondering, would you undo these restraints, or at least loosen them? My wrists really hurt."
He blinked, nonplused that he'd actually tied the poor woman to the bed. What the hell had he been thinking? He should have simply asked for her help. She would have told him anything he wanted to know. Chartrell and their piracy connections, the rumors of insider trading, the schemes to monopolize the lanes to Werfal 6 and 7. But no, he'd thought imprisoning the poor woman might net him some answers. She's right. I am an asshole.
"I'm sorry," he said gruffly, disturbed by the tears pooling in her eyes. Pools of sorrow that tugged at his heartstrings made him hurry to free her. In his haste to undo the bands holding her to the bed frame, he leaned over her body. Way too close. And forgot everything but the need to taste her.
For a heartbeat they shared the same breath, and suddenly his mouth was on hers. He lost all thought, buried in sensation.