They’re in it to win it—or die trying.
Willa Rayes, only daughter of a legendary Lingorian fighter pilot, can fly any ship in the galaxy. Better than her brothers, in fact. But does that get her any respect? Not as long as she has breasts. Winning the Nebulon Trike will not only force her family to notice her, it’ll be her declaration of independence from men in general.
Then she meets her race partner, Stratton Sinnet. Arrogant and chauvinistic, he ignites her libido like no man ever before. And threatens to send her well-planned strategy straight to hell.
A bounty hunter by trade, Sin enters the Trike for one reason: money. Somewhere among the racers his quarry is hiding, but he’s not worried. He always gets his man, and winning the race will be a nice bonus. It sure would be a hell of a lot easier, though, if he wasn’t saddled with a know-it-all navigator who’s getting on his last nerve—and under his skin.
As the checkpoints go by and the danger escalates, the fight for control, the lead—and satisfaction—approaches supernova heat. Burning away their resistance, and the tough shells that protect their one vulnerability…their hearts.
Product WarningsThis story contains a hot, bald bounty hunter whose sex appeal rivals his cockiness; a smart-mouthed pilot who refuses to let a mere male beat her in anything; and love scenes that’ll make you think a star exploded. Dramamine recommended to counteract the effects of fancy flying.
Copyright © 2012 Sandra Sookoo
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Marshall Galaxy—Beta, year 2060
“Team five will consist of Willa Rayes…” The announcer paused as he shuffled through his paperwork, and low murmurs swept through the crowd. The urge to grin tugged at Willa. She squelched it. Better not appear too confident. At least her reputation had come before her. They should be in awe; she’d wipe the racecourse with all of them. Willa held her breath, disconcerted she’d missed the last team’s names while lost in thought. “Willa Rayes and Stratton Sinnet. Please take your places to the left of the podium.”
Willa’s heart plummeted into her churning stomach, even as her pulse accelerated. Stratton Sinnet? There had to be a mistake. She glanced around the hangar but didn’t see anyone fitting his description. Though she’d never met the man, his reputation preceded him too. Rumored to be the louse of the galaxy, he’d been dubbed a bounty hunter, a con, a thief and a womanizer, among other things. The only redeeming quality she’d heard was that he could pilot a craft with a decent amount of knowledge and skill.
No matter. No skid mark of society was going to keep her from winning this race.
Shoving her way through the tightly packed bodies, she crossed to the stage. Her boot heels rang against the grating of the steps as she climbed to the stage. A few murmured words of congratulations from the other participants later and she took her spot at the end of the line. The announcements of the next teammates droned on, and still her racing partner didn’t show.
Where the hell is he? This isn’t playtime.
She flipped the end of her black ponytail over a shoulder in frustration, and that was when she caught sight of him—Stratton Sinnet or more commonly known throughout his fan base, Sin. He moved through the crowds with the grace and easy confidence of a celebrity or a politician, shaking hands and even signing an autograph or two for the children lingering in his path. A few whispers of Sin accompanied the spectacle of his arrival, while sycophantic, female groupies and wannabe male pups followed in his wake. As she watched, a tiny part of her mind agreed he was indeed the personification of sin.
The man was tall, probably a tick over six feet, and his creamy, light-cocoa skin gleamed with a thin sheen of sweat. Not surprising in the hangar’s sweltering temperatures. Rich-brown eyes seemed to take in every aspect of his surroundings even as he joked and laughed, although they were hard, empty, no trace of happiness or humor behind them.
Willa moistened her bottom lip with the tip of her tongue. He paused at the base of the metal stairs, and his gaze met hers for a moment. Slowly, as if he meant for her to know exactly where she stood in his estimation, he raked his gaze down her body. She shivered, her skin almost heating under such blatant perusal, but she stood her ground, staring back, willing him to look her in the eye.
When he did, she stumbled back a pace. His sensual lips edged upward in a grin that sent a rush of sensation between her legs. She squeezed her thighs together and swallowed—hard. Yes, Sin was a good name for this man, with his liquid brown eyes and mouth that probably had made more than a few females beg. A thin goatee graced his face, the meticulously groomed ribbon of a beard outlining the sharp cut of his jaw and ending at his earlobes. Other than that scarce facial hair, Stratton Sinnet was bald. Every move was calculated to bring attention to a lean, powerful body that his tight-fitting cream trousers and billowing black silk shirt couldn’t come close to hiding.
Of course, the damned man had to be handsome. Not only that, he was very aware of how good he looked. She narrowed her eyes. I detest attractive, arrogant men.
As he mounted the stairs and walked the length of the stage, she shook her head, clearing her lustful thoughts. This man was nothing to her but a navigator, the second of her team. He could take his reputation and shove it, for all she cared. Sometime during the course of this race, she’d bring him down a peg or two, show him not all women were meant to fawn over him simply because of his pretty face and body.
Barely aware of the remaining team announcements, Willa focused on Stratton’s approach. When he stood before her, she drew herself up to her full height and extended her right hand. “Good afternoon. I’m Willa Rayes, and I’ll be your pilot during the Nebulon Trike.”
“Now, see, here’s where we’ll have a problem.” Stratton grasped her hand, holding on to it much longer than necessary. “I’m Stratton Sinnet. I’m the pilot. You are my navigator, and I always get what I want.”
She ignored her annoyance. Now was not the time or place to call him out. It was hard enough to control the heat his smooth-as-glass voice stirred in her stomach. “Not today. I’m always the pilot, so you’d better get it into your skull that I’m in charge.” She wrenched her hand from his grip, resisting the urge to wipe it on her pants. Time to lay down the ground rules. “As soon as we’re assigned a ship, I need you to enter the coordinates to the first checkpoint. Also, I’ll need a status report of the ship itself, as well as a listing of any skills you may have.”
“And I need you to shut your yap.” Stratton’s gaze constantly roved over the other racers before focusing on her. Again she reeled beneath the force of those eyes. “Look, you may be important on your home planet, but here, you’re my navigator.” He pinned her with a glare that could have frozen water. “There’s more at stake in this race than whatever it is you’re here for. Now, you leave the flying to me, and if you’re a good girl, I might let you rub my feet at that first checkpoint.”
Willa seethed, clenching her hands into fists so tightly her nails bit into her palms. She ground her teeth as surprised laughter erupted around them on the team stage. Remembering why she’d entered the race in the first place, she stepped into Stratton’s personal space and drilled a forefinger into his chest. “I rub no man’s feet, and I don’t take orders from them. You don’t have the right to treat me like one of your conquests.”
More announcements sounded over the speaker system, and a high-pitched squeal from the universal translator made her blank out for a couple of seconds. Sometimes the technology didn’t mesh with her neural circuits when there was too much stimulation or other translators in the vicinity.
Stratton’s beautiful mouth lifted in a grin. “Looks like they’re handing out ship assignments. As your pilot, I’d better go claim ours.”
“Step off, newbie.” She gave him another couple of pokes, loving the surprise that flickered deep in his eyes. “I can pilot any craft as well, or better, than any man here, so it would be in your best interest not to piss me off. Otherwise, I’ll make sure you never get past that first checkpoint.” Her voice had risen steadily through her diatribe.
Startled silence cut into the general melee in the hangar as every eye stared at her. Willa was beyond caring. She gave him one last poke, ignoring the hard-packed muscles beneath the thin fabric of his shirt. “I don’t want any more excuses. Get your rear into the bays. I’m going to find out which bird we’re assigned.” She turned on her heel so quickly her ponytail whipped around, and she felt it smack his chest.
Stratton Sinnet could rot. There was no way she was giving up control to the likes of him.