Valmont Contingency Excerpt–First Kiss

Garrick gave up. She was scared and frustrated, and he didn’t want an implosion. He’d already been through one of those and, honestly, didn’t care to repeat the experience.

Ripping damn, he wanted to help her. “Would you feel better if you slapped me?”

She huffed. “You haven’t done anything to warrant it.” Then she frowned. “Lately.”

“Fine,” he agreed. “I’ll do something tacky and rude, you can slap me for it, and then we’ll move on.” Without waiting for a response he dragged her against him and sank his fingers into her hair, using the silky mass to pull her head back.

“What—ow!”

He covered her mouth with his, swallowing whatever else she was going to say.

Her entire body went stiff and he congratulated himself on a job well done. In another second or two she would shove, he would let go and brace for impact. Any second now. Any…

She melted.

The stiffness turned into soft curves, her palms slid up his chest and her lips parted. Her tongue flicked out to touch the inside of his lower lip and the really weird thing happened. The top of his head blew off, taking most of his brain with it. Rational thought was a dim memory and all those “baser” instincts it overruled were now in control. The drive to breathe, to eat.

She moaned quietly, deep in her throat.

The drive to mate.

He had both hands on her backside, pulling her hips tight against his to ease some of the throbbing while she pushed her fingers into his hair. She wrapped one of her legs around his, her bare toes rubbing the back of his calf.

“Rick?”

Somehow she’d said his name even while he was trying to lick her tonsils. Her voice was deeper than he would have expected, not as breathy, more…male. Male?

“Captain, this is the bridge. We have a Reich distress call originating in Republic space.”

Ripping hell on a platter. It was Shak, not Tasha. Brain matter reappeared and told him in no uncertain terms exactly how stupid he was, even when everything between his ears was functional. On the other hand, disengaging from that full-body kiss was quite possibly the most physically demanding thing he’d ever done—enough to make him pant from exertion. Exertion. It had to be exertion, because the alternative was a direct violation of half a dozen military rules that he had insisted go into the navy contract.

Tasha mewled in protest, a noise he hoped the comm hadn’t picked up as he tried to control his breathing enough to talk.

“Captain here. What’s the nature of the emergency?”

There was a tangible pause, almost as if Shak was trying to figure out what was going on. Garrick wished him luck. “Engine trouble,” was the eventual response. “Intercept or transmit to Glitzer?”

Well, that would explain what a Reich ship was doing this far over the border. They could have been drifting for a sepcyke. And Direwolf had the ability to help with that kind of emergency. A heavy sigh pushed its way out of his lungs.

“Intercept.” As if he had any choice. And it would keep him far away from Tasha. Direwolf was a tiny ecosystem in the middle of space and he was in control of it. She was dependent on the ship for the oxygen, pressure and heat that kept humans alive in space. She had to be able to trust him not to take advantage of that dependence.

“Bridge out.” Which meant he had five minutes to finish whatever was going on in here before Misha would expect him to show in the ready room.

Garrick glanced down into enormous indigo eyes that were just a little dazed-looking. His ears felt warm. “You were supposed to slap me, remember?”

She blinked at him a couple of times. “Your name is Rick?”

“Yeah.” He started, gently, to pry her off. “That’s me.” Buddha on a stick. He’d been trying to lick her tonsils and she hadn’t known his name. He was a lower life-form than slime mold.

“Oh.” She seemed to realize she still had limbs wrapped around him and let go. She stepped back and looked at the floor, the bulkhead, anywhere but him. “So you’re going to board another ship?”

“It’s my job.” And taking advantage of attractive women who were completely dependent on him was emphatically not part of that particular job. Even if it felt extraordinarily good.

“What if some of them need medical treatment?” She actually tried to dig a toe into the flooring, which looked adorable if almost painfully cliché.

“I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.” He pulled her chin up with a knuckle. “Look, you’re still short of sleep. Twelve hours over six cykes isn’t enough. Nap. If I need you, I’ll call you. I promise.”

Oh god, she was biting her lower lip. Then she nodded. “I’ll try to nap.”

He needed to get away from her for a moment or he was going to dive back into her body, and the guilt from doing it once was bad enough. His ears felt like they might be considering spontaneous combustion.

“You want me to tell Shak he’s getting a new roommate?”

She looked confused. “Who is Shak?”

“Second-shift commander. The guy on the comm just now.”

She blinked several times in succession. Either she was batting her eyes at him, or she was trying not to cry. “No.”

He didn’t have time for this right now, no matter how vulnerable and appealing she was at the moment. Especially given how vulnerable she was at the moment. “Then we’ll talk about the rest of it when I get back, all right?”

She nodded again, somber.

He felt like enviro sludge, but he nodded back. “In the meantime, I have an engine to fix.”

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