When a poker game turns ugly, erstwhile gambler Ryder Vaughan runs for his life. After crash landing his ship on an unknown world it looks like his life will be a short one - until the lovely healer, Saba Duer, finds him and saves him. Smitten, Saba has no qualms allowing Ryder to seduce her.
In Ryder, Saba sees the coming of a hero to save her people. The deadly errol that has terrorized the Ramalho Clan for so many years has been spotted on a course that will bring it to the village. Ryder has a weapon that could destroy the creature. She strikes a bargain with him to secure his help. Ryder’s not yet well and whole, but there is no choice. Saba has to let him go and face the truth – she’s sent him on a mission to die.
But Ryder has a plan - and dying isn’t a part of it.
* * *
His eyebrows shot up. His eyes darkened.
“Pay me, will you? With what? A ship so I can get back to my life? Tell me you have one. Lie to me, Saba.”
Ryder had every right to be bitter over his circumstances. She understood, but his acerbic tone shocked her. She hadn’t considered anger. Anger could make him dangerous in ways nothing else would. Nonetheless, her mind was made up. It was her decision, be it folly or not.
“No. The coin I would pay you with is my body.”
His mouth dropped open. “Excuse me?”
“I will come to your bed when you are well enough.”
He sat up, swinging his legs off the pallet and onto the floor. She jumped away from him, startled. Just as quickly her concern for her patient moved her back to his side.
“Do not! You should be still.”
Quick as lightning he grabbed her and pulled her to him. His chest was like a rock.
“Let me go!”
“I don’t think so, angel.” His arms tightened around her. His lips thinned into an angry line.
“So you’d come to my bed, would you? For what? What do you think I could do with you in my current condition, hmm? Pat you on the ass and tell you to sleep well?” His lips curled, snarling.
“Offer something better, Saba. Offer me my manhood back. Then come to my bed!” He released her so abruptly, she almost fell. She plopped down on the stool. He grimaced, his face tightening with pain.
“You will heal but it will take time,” she said, far more calmly than she felt.
He hissed, pressing his hands to his stomach. Alarmed, she jumped up. Quick as a snake, he had her again, one hand fisting in her hair, trapping her.
“Heal me, then.”
His mouth came down on hers with bruising force. She pushed against him but he was too strong. His tongue swept over her lips and suddenly, escaping him wasn’t important. Need, hot and sweet, throbbed with each beat of her racing heart.
His kiss gentled, coaxing her now with a soft plea to answer him. Her arms slid around his neck. Her lips opened. There was a low rumble in his chest as his arms tightened around her. Awareness of her surroundings faded. All she knew was his lips moving on hers and his warm hand slowly caressing her back. She was caught in the spell he wove, floating in some dark place where her body spoke to her of aching loneliness and whispered its hope of fulfillment.
Softly, ever so softly, the kiss ended. His lips left hers, lingering a hairsbreadth away. His hands slid to her hips, grasping them with strong fingers and pulling her to him. She looked into his eyes, gone black with desire.
“You’ll come to my bed first. Then I’ll talk to Tyree about my weapons