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- 2009 (174)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
It's official. Blown Away is available in print or eBook. Here's a couple of excerpts:
MacKay stared at the application and groaned. The name should’ve been the biggest clue for what to expect, followed by his in-her-face prior occupation. A jarhead—just what she needed. She scanned the screen, studying his credentials. Sapper—okay, at least he knew something about explosives, but most of them were either insane, cocky or both.
From that name, she’d say both.
Trusting someone to watch your back in this business could get you killed. Trusting someone from off world who already thought they knew everything about explosives because they’d tinkered with them in the Terran Marines—well, you just didn’t do it. Plus the explosive material combat engineers used to blow things up on Earth wasn’t nearly as complicated as what the Explosives Ordnance Division found off-world and had to defuse. It took a whole different kind of personality to disarm instead of destroy.
She looked up and Boomer gave her a boyish grin.
This guy has no clue what he’s getting into.
She scooted her chair closer to her desk, which all but filled the old, windowless cell in the revamped, Trios Port City, retired asylum basement. Hell, her office might have been a speck on the corner newsstand’s tourist map—though she didn’t receive a lot of sightseers or make her money catering to them. But for some reason she’d been included on the tour. Perhaps the club upstairs that made the ceiling bounce after seventeen-hundred hours gave her the distinction of being noticeable, even if nobody partied downstairs. Who knew?
Reviewing the application again brought her molars grinding together. She wouldn’t be hiring anyone if she hadn’t been so backed up. The galaxy was a violent place, and unfortunately business had been good—so good she hadn’t been able to keep up. With the body count escalating, she had to hire help or watch more innocents die.
Mackay lifted her chin and met the Marine’s gaze. “I see you were a Sapper and have combat experience, so I’m not going to ask you if you’ve blown anything up. Any idiot with a charge and enough explosives can do that. I want to know if you’ve defused anything. Ever worked EOD?”
“Any idiot?” His eyes lit with humor, as though her question amused him.
She let her gaze slide over him and for a moment her mind wandered to places it had no business going. Not bad—if she’d been shopping for a man and not an employee.
He had hair the color of burnished gold—a recessive shade and a rarity in any sector of the galaxy. He wore it in the all too familiar flat top of a Terran Marine. Shorter than she normally liked, but it gave him that bad boy edge that so many men tried and failed to pull off. For him, bad boy seemed natural.
His eyes were also extraordinary. The color reminded her of a Terran summer, a vibrant, bottle green that brought Earth to her mind with one glance. He wasn’t visually perfect, but she liked that too. A scar trailed across his jaw, still pink from a recent injury. From the jagged edge, she’d say shrapnel. An obvious eye-catcher, but it didn’t seem to bother him.
MacKay shook off the attraction and focused on the reason he sat before her. No time to admire the view. “Well, have you defused anything?”
“Enemy threats—an angry mother-in-law.”
MacKay narrowed her eyes. She hadn’t stated single as an option in the advertisement. This job had risks too high for someone with a family. Anger surged through her and MacKay counted backward from ten before she spoke. “The ad specifically stated you must be single to apply.” The last thing she needed was to leave the galaxy with more orphans and widows.
“Excuse me. I meant angry, ex-mother-in-law.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. The front feet came off the floor as he tipped back and leaned the chair against the freshly-painted office wall. “Single and available.”
“And one second from limping, if you don’t get that chair off my wall.” MacKay gave him her bitchiest stare. It had taken a great deal of work to get the basement of the old institution clean and the damn mold restrained behind the very expensive, imported paint. Now black marks scuffed the cheery, yellow surface. She’d carefully chosen the color, looking for anything that would take the doom and gloom from the converted asylum cell and turn it into a comfortable office.
And why the hell did he think she cared if he was available? Arrogant jarhead.
The chair dropped back to the floor, and he leaned forward, resting his elbows on her desk. “No harm done.”
Strike two. No interview etiquette.
“Have you ever boarded a ship packed with enough explosives to take out half the galaxy or watched a station with over twelve thousand people assigned to it disintegrate because you didn’t understand the alien technology well enough to defuse the bomb?”
He shook his head and smiled. This time he exposed a glowing row of pristine, white teeth and projected enough charm to melt her to her chair.
MacKay snorted. She’d seen his type a dozen times, and he wouldn’t be sweet-talking or charming his way into this job. She stared until his smile died. “You think this is funny? There are ordnance techs out there that have seen or been in those exact situations.”
“No, I didn’t think it was.” He shifted in his seat and glanced at the clock. “I’m trying to be friendly. Break the ice.”
“I don’t like friendly.”
Actually, she hated friendly. No one had ever accused her of being Miss Congeniality, and she wasn’t about to start playing the part for this guy. Five years before, her life changed at the clip of a wire, and she had refused to let herself get close to anyone again. Too many people she’d cared about had died. When she’d stopped caring, it hadn’t hurt as much when something happened—and something always happened. It couldn’t be avoided in her line of work.
She narrowed her eyes, her gaze sweeping over his shoulders and down his chest. He looked like a walking wreck. He hadn’t even bothered to wear a suit. No, he’d come into her office looking like the next big Hollywood action hero. Khaki cargo pants, black combat boots and a T-shirt that molded to his chest sent shameful images flitting through her mind. Unmistakably Terran. Rugged. War worn. Well built…
Her heart sped up. Not her type. So not her type. The man obviously was an adrenaline junkie. His list of credentials and battle scars proved it—even if there was something sexy about his couldn’t-give-a-shit-attitude. . And God, it was sexy.
He tilted his head and studied her, as though he knew her thoughts.
Heat rushed to a part of her body she’d sworn to forget about years before. Her stomach flipped, and she shifted in her seat.
The corner of his wicked mouth twitched.
MacKay blinked and realized where her thoughts had strayed. Again. Snap out of it. You don’t need a man or the trouble that comes with one.
Time to get rid of him. He wouldn’t do. She’d have to find someone else. MacKay typed a quick note, transferring her thoughts to her digital pad. The shitty thing about it? His qualifications blew all her other applicants away.
She scrolled through the other candidates’ applications. She had a fish merchant, clothing designer, freighter mechanic, and four other various professions including a dancer. All didn’t come remotely close to what she was looking for. MacKay had called them in, hoping in an off chance she’d get lucky and they’d either be extremely quick to catch on or they had experience they hadn’t mentioned on their applications. And then there was one other candidate that had the experience she needed, but he was nearing his eighties. He might be single, but she needed him to have a little pep. She hadn’t bothered to ask him to come in.
The mechanic might work. He had a grasp on wiring and electronics, plus he knew ships, and she spent a multitude of hours crawling around in the maintenance shafts and the secondary access passages of ships . Knowledge in that area was a bonus. Disarming bombs would be a leap up from what he currently did for work, but certainly he was trainable.
The Marine—not so much. MacKay lifted her chin and studied the man across from her.
Arrogant. No, beyond arrogant. He acted as though he already had the job. And what the hell was up with that name? How did he possibly expect her to take him seriously? She returned her attention to the computer and read the name for a third time, unsure if she really wanted to ask.
MacKay looked up and eyed him again. However this time, his attention wasn’t on her, and he wasn’t turning on the charm. He seemed captivated by her clock.
She cleared her throat. “Don’t watch the time. Focus here, on me.”
It wasn’t the first time she’d caught him checking the digital readout during the interview. More than once his gaze had jumped to the numbers as though he itched to get out of the chair. Not a good sign. Fidgety equaled nervous—which equaled dangerous.
An even better reason to get rid of him.
His attention drifted back to her. “Sorry, I have a hard time sitting still.”
He’d already struck out but she’d toss in a bonus strike for that one. “Pity, because it take a great deal of patience to do this job and jittery won’t cut it. You have to have steady hands. I don’t trust anyone. I don’t like working with anyone, and I sure as hell don’t like working with someone who can’t sit still. The only reason I posted the ad is because I’m buried in jobs and I need someone good enough to handle this position without getting turned into pâté on the first assignment.”
He cocked a brow.
Happy trail: That sexy little strip of hair that runs from a man’s belly button to his—towel. Jenna stared at the fluffy white barrier that blocked her gaze from traveling any further south. She’d enjoyed the scenic route, visually devoured the hard ridges of his six pack abs and the way the water trickled over his flesh while it took the path of least resistance. She knew she shouldn’t stare. It was inappropriate to ogle the higher-ranking beefcake, but she couldn’t stop. What woman in her right mind would be able to?
He cleared his throat, and Jenna remembered what she was supposed to be doing. She looked up. “Captain Rivers…” Gods that look was intense. Jenna dropped her gaze, staring at the decking under his feet. “Sir, I…” She swallowed and slowly her gaze drifted up, stopping on his midsection, and she could no more look him in the face than she could stop staring.
What an uncomfortable predicament. She’d been ordered to find the explosives ordnance officer, and find him she had. For the last fifteen minutes, Jenna had searched every place on the ship from the galley to the indoor gym. The Gold Digger’s head had been her last stop, and her timing couldn’t have been worse. Tyson Rivers, the ordnance officer, had just stepped out of the cleansing unit.
No wonder he hadn’t been answering the com. The edge of the towel rode just under his hips, dipping slightly where he’d tucked it in. Jenna bit her lip. “Sir, I’ve been sent…”
“I’m up here.” A deep voice invaded her wet daydream. Jenna sighed. Deep, sexy, she could listen to it all day.
Oh gods! She blinked. Up where? Her brain connected the verbal dots. What he’d said sank into the mushy gray matter between her ears, sending a jolt of horror rocketing through her body. Heat rushed to her face, and her gaze snapped up to the subject of every naughty dream she’d had on the ship since she’d boarded. Jenna opened her mouth, and all that came out was silence. What was the appropriate thing to say in this situation?
“Do you have a reason to be here, or do you make a habit of hanging out in the male showers?”
Mortification: the sudden urge to run and dive under one’s bunk until the end of the shift. “I have a reason.” If she could only remember what.
He brushed past her and headed for his locker. Jenna swallowed and turned around in time to see him drop the towel. Again, her timing—impeccable. Bare ass. Hard, tight, and like the rest of his body—unbelievable. She grabbed the nearest object in an attempt to steady herself. The towel bar snapped off. Jenna gasped and whipped it behind her back.
He glanced over his shoulder. “Captain send you down here?”
She gave a nervous smile and nodded. He returned his attention to the contents of his locker. Jenna glanced right and left, desperate to get rid of the evidence. She spotted her target not five feet from her location and tossed the bar like a javelin into the trash receptacle.
If he heard the clunk, or saw it, he gave no indication. Instead, he snatched his uniform out of his locker and began to dress, not seeming to mind the audience.
It was a sickness, unable-to-look-away-itis. Like people who stood by watching a disaster unfold, Jenna couldn’t move. First his skivvies, then his pants. Jenna swallowed. “Oh, my.” She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. Her body exploded with heat.
“Did you say something?”
“No.” She needed to learn to keep her thoughts to herself. Embarrassed wouldn’t begin to cover the way she’d feel if he knew what she was thinking or how badly she’d lusted for him these last couple of months.
“Well, spit it out. What does he want?”
“I don’t know. He…”
Dear gods. He turned around, dressed in his blue and grey camo pants, no shirt and that hot, happy trail staring back at her again. She swallowed and averted her gaze. “He said to hurry.”
“You don’t have any idea?”
“No.” She shook her head. Jenna reached up and put her hand over her breast in an attempt to steady her heart. She had to get control of herself or she’d stroke out for sure. Focus. Breathe. One, one-thousand, two, one-thousand… It almost worked.
Until he gave her a grin that would make most women’s panties drop. “He said to hurry?”
Shit. A wave of dizziness washed over her and Jenna thought for sure she’d swoon. She glanced around in desperation, searching for another towel bar, not sure her knees would hold.
“And you’ve no clue what he wants.” He slipped a boot on and set his foot on a bench, yanking the laces tight.
Jenna narrowed her gaze. Peculiar. Why did he have wire double-laced into his boots—at least it looked like wire.
Jenna pulled her attention from his boots. “No, sir. He didn’t elaborate. He said to find you and drag you to the command deck, by force if necessary.” She watched the way the muscles in his arms flexed and seriously doubted there was any force that could budge the man if he didn’t want to be moved.
He switched feet. “Tell me he’s finally got the help I asked for.”
She shook her head again and gave him a quick smile. “I don’t think that’s it, sir. He specifically said to light a fire under you.” Except she hadn’t lit the fire, Tyson had, and it sure as hell wasn’t under him. Jenna shifted on her feet. More like a freaking inferno.
Tyson looked up and raised a brow. “A fire?”
He stood, grabbed his shirt and draped it over his shoulder. “Okay, let’s see what’s got the Captain’s shorts in a knot.”
Blown is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most major book outlets, in print and eBook, or get your copy here: http://passioninprint.com/index.php