How many layers of deception are there in space?
When a trade negotiation goes wrong, Melina Davenport is sure she'll end up either a casualty of war or a sex slave. Discovering one of her missing partners, Trev, is the new leader of the rebels who have captured her adds insult to injury. And what the hell does he think he's doing, ripping her clothes away and touching her in front of the Derryn rebels? She is so going to kick his ass.
But when her former lover whisks her away to a reunion with their third, Davis--now captain of the notorious outlaw vessel Nottingham--she has to decide if she wants to join her two lovers in their important but less-than-legal activities. Time is running out. The authorities are hunting them, the rebels are bomb crazy and the local fauna is reproducing at an astonishing rate aboard their vessel.
If they don't find a solution soon, they can kiss the universe goodbye.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Claiming Derryn by Vivian Arend
So, that's where the bastard had gone.
The stretch of granite floor between them was littered with the unwashed bodies of a motley crew scattered like asteroid crumble. Two hard-faced men stood on either side of an obsessively ornate chair, the chiseled muscles of their bare torsos glistening with moisture from the hot air billowing into the room. The blond on the right eyed her as if she were naked on the auction block at Ransel Four instead of a sanctioned representative from the Corporation's Trade Embassy. Melina ignored him, barely keeping her lips from curling in disgust. None of the underlings worried her as much as the hunk of male who, by some mysterious circumstance, occupied the key position amidst the rebels. She didn't know what to expect after so long.
His striking features remained unreadable, his amber eyes locked on hers. He stroked one of the furred lizard creatures she'd seen in abundance swarming the passages and caverns on her way to this audience. Trev's long fingers soothed the sharysa and it quivered in his lap. A shiver raced over Melina's skin at the memory of those same fingers stroking her, bringing her pleasure. What the hell was he doing in the rebel camp?
The two team members accompanying her shifted uneasily on their feet. Her second-in-command slid closer, his folded hands belying the fear pouring off him.
Warning signals flashed in her brain.
The low-tech lighting limited her vision, eerie shadows filling the distant cervices of the hall. A hiss of steam entering the room from the massive cracks on the far wall created a soundtrack morbid enough for a horror-vid. Her breathing sounded obscenely loud. Why didn't Trev acknowledge her? He had to recognize her.
She debated for a moment, and then raised her hand to greet him discreetly with one of the codes they'd learned at the Institute. Sharp clicks echoed around her as the bodies sprawled on the floor leapt to attention at her slight movement.
A dozen knife blades thrust in her direction.
Trev stood abruptly, the light vest covering his torso flashing open to reveal the hint of a new tattoo on the skin above his waistline. The image distracted Melina, her gaze trailing over his body as he marched down the dais toward her committee. The ridges of his abdomen haunted her with the urge to touch him again. If anything, he had grown harder, stronger since she last saw him.
The sharysa now clung to his neck, its fur standing upright, a long white tail dangling down Trev's back. The creature blinked blue eyes at her, its head tilting as if measuring her by some alien mammalian standard. Suddenly it leapt across the distance between them to land on her shoulder.
Melina stood stock-still, holding her face blank. The expressions on the guards around Trev warned her this was some kind of test, and she'd be damned if a fur ball would make her cringe before their sneering gazes. Its sniffing nose trailed past her ear, moisture touching her neckline. She stared straight at Trev, willing him to give her a signal of how to proceed. The whole situation screamed danger. Something had gone wrong between the time the rebels agreed to the meeting and the negotiation team's arrival, and now she was deep in their midst with no weapons available except her hand-to-hand combat skills.
Crap, she hated low-tech worlds. She hated being off ship, and she hated her job. If she never got another landing assignment she'd be elated.
The weight of the creature as it explored felt strangely comforting. It curled around her neck and gave her cheek a light touch with its tongue. The goons on either side of Trev rocked at the sight, the blond going white with surprise.
Only a slight flicker in Trev's eyes warned her. As the men accompanying her fell to the floor, Trev yanked her forward. He twirled her, the sharysa leaping away with a squeal and Melina found herself held tight against his muscular frame, his cheek pressing into hers as he locked her in place.
It would only take a second to break his grasp, but she froze as his fingers tapped on her waist, the message hidden from the view of the rest of the rebels. Danger. Trust. As if she had a choice right now. The bastard had more than a little explaining to do when they got out of this mess.
Her gaze slid to the men who had accompanied her to the surface of Derryn, now lying in boneless heaps on the floor. Shallow movements of their chests reassured her they still breathed, but what had taken them down so quickly? One of the rebels stepped forward and pulled long, narrow darts from where they stuck out from her team members' torsos.
Perhaps she should be thankful Derryn was a low-tech world where poison instead of a stunner did the trick.
"What kind of craft did they arrive in?" Trev's voice was deeper, harsher than she remembered. Lower even than when they used to lie together after lovemaking, physically sated but unwilling to leave each other's heat. What kind of mess had she gotten into?
"A Mari 14," a rebel standing by the door growled. "It's still in good shape too. They managed to land it in one piece."
Trev was silent for a moment.
"There are two-man escape pods on those. That will work nicely." He nudged the nearest body on the floor with his toe. "Take these two negotiation members and strap them into the pod. Add the package we've prepared with our list of demands. If you install a couple new energy crystals there will enough power to launch the pod on autopilot. Let's hope their mother ship is alert enough to discover them before life support fails. The rest of you can salvage the Mari 14 for parts."
The blond stepped forward into Melina's line of vision. "That wasn't the plan," he complained.
Trev backhanded him, never once losing his grip on her body. "I changed my mind. Go with the men to make sure the pod gets away safely." He chuckled, a harsh, cruel sound. "Unless you're thinking about challenging me. You really think you're ready, Dax?" The knife in Trev's hand appeared out of nowhere.
Dax swore and backed away, hands held before him in protest. "Easy, boss, I'll escort them. If you're sure." His gaze dragged over Melina, the hunger in his eyes rising to the surface. "What about the woman?"
Trev growled and the knife disappeared. He shifted behind her, one leg pinning her close while his hands clasped the front of her robe. With a sharp jerk, he shredded the material, turning her body to face the men in the room.
Trust him? Holy hell. She squirmed and struggled to get away, stomping her foot in an attempt to gain an inch of space between them to free her own hidden weapon. The lust on the faces of the rabble watching was palpable, and for one of the first times in her career, true fear tingled its way up her spine. One of her, lots of them, Trev gone insane. The odds weren't good. Trev clasped her chin tightly, his fingers digging into her skin when she tried to shake free. His other hand held her arms clamped behind her, too tight to move. Again he tapped in the Institute code, telling her to trust him and follow his lead.
"The woman is mine. I claim her."
Melina jerked, this time more for show than to break his hold. So, the asshole did have a plan. Just wait until she got him alone, she'd tell him a thing or two about timing and where he could stick his claiming. Now with her life on the line, complaining didn't seem appropriate.
A laugh rumbled through the room and the men eased back their stances, squatting on the floor or leaning indolently against the wall. Melina sucked in a breath as Trev slid his grasp from her chin to fondle her breast. His body hardened behind her, the length of his cock pressing into her hip like an overheated weapon. When he tucked his fingers into the thin fabric covering her breasts and ripped it aside, the men's stares grew more intense, eyes fixated on her torso, and suddenly Melina knew.
They were going to watch him take her like an animal in rut.