by Deborah Cullins Smith -
Jacian gazed through the observation window in the intimate bar he had chosen for this rendezvous. The intensity in his eyes frightened Cassie. She had just begun working in the undersea lab and now he was begging her to sneak him inside for a stroll—outside Zirconia’s walls.
“Just a quick visit,” he pleaded, turning up the dial on the quicksilver smile that usually gained him whatever conquest he sought and earned him the reputation of a playboy. “Think of it as …. A stroll in the park.” He had her backed against the window, one hand on either side of her body, his face inches from hers.
“But Jace, I could lose my job,” she protested, pushing both hands firmly against those rock hard chest muscles.
Jacian’s eyes blazed, but only for a split second. Obviously he was accustomed to girls melting into his arms. He didn’t seem to understand—or accept—Cassie’s ability to hold out against his charms.
“OK,” he said, pulling back and assuming a more business-like stance. “No romance, eh, Cassie? Holding out for an underwater lover?” His tone teased, but his eyes sparkled like two ice blue diamonds. The controlled rage she saw burning in that blue fire scared her to the core.
Reaching into his pants pocket, Jacian pulled out a wad of credits that could have supplied Cassie and her mother for the next 20 years. His eyes never left her face.
“How about it, Cassie? I’m willing to pay if this suits you better.”
She gulped and turned away from the sight of so much temptation. Her mother had contracted ash lung on the planet surface, and the medication she needed was expensive. Her father’s death benefit had provided their passage to Zirconia, but it now fell to Cassie to provide a living so they could remain in the safety of the undersea city. Jacian’s proposition could spoil everything.
Jacian’s father wasn’t the wealthiest man on Avenir, but he certainly fell within the top ten. His son learned early how to manipulate people, and he rarely ever lost in a contest of wills. How he managed to flit between the space station and the planet for these little excursions was beyond Cassie. But he had managed. And he would find a way to get into her lab too. The question was should she play a part in his scheme or let him find another gullible patsy for his plans?
“Why do you want this so badly, Jace?” Cassie whispered, turning her back on him and leaning her head against the cool glass wall. She felt Jacian loom close to her back but she didn’t turn around to meet those cold eyes—she couldn’t.
“It’s the experience I want, Cassie,” he said softly. “To go out there and try to make contact. Why shouldn’t we try to meet those creatures on their own turf?”
Cassie wanted to believe him. But even with the fistful of credits bulging in her coat pocket, she knew.
Jace was lying.