Read Heart of Stone Online

Authors: Cathryn Cade

Tags: #space opera, #erotic romance, #free romance, #free reads, #cathryn cade, #frontiera series, #orion series, #red hot romance, #sci fi futuristic

Heart of Stone

BOOK: Heart of Stone
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Heart of Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a
galaxy far, far away …

 

Stone Masterson knew the small female
standing on his doorstep was trouble, but he opened the door
anyway. He was bored and he was lonely. Lonely, he could deal with,
but he loathed being bored.

Sure enough, no sooner had the massive
entry hatch to his Frontiera stronghold groaned open than she
pulled a weapon on him, and he found himself being escorted back
into his own home at laser gunpoint. That was a twist he hadn't
expected.

He looked down at her as the hatch
slammed shut against the swirling snow and frigid wind. She was
just a little bit of a thing, wrapped in a cape of buttery-soft
skrog leather dusted with snow. Visible over the weapon were two
big green eyes filled with a mixture of fear and determination, a
pert nose and the prettiest, most kissable mouth he had seen in
some time. Seven hells, he must be lonelier than he'd
thought.

Or perhaps memory was a more powerful
force than he'd reckoned. Because those eyes and that mouth had
stirred powerful urges in him the first he saw her, too—even if he
hadn't acted on them at the time.

"You evidently have business with me,"
he said. "I usually respond more cordially without a weapon in my
face."

His words, which he thought damned
diplomatic, considering, seemed to incense his visitor. Her eyes
narrowed dangerously and her mouth firmed into a hard line.
Actually it was more of a pout, but he could see it was meant to
look mean, so he bit back the grin that threatened. At least she'd
stopped the shivering that made him want to haul her over in front
of the fire.

"You'll respond, all right," she said
in a husky voice. "Or—or I'll blast a hole in your hide that a
skrog could tromp through!"

Ominous. The wild herd beasts were
huge. He wondered why he wasn't more worried. Part of him was
stirring all right, but it wasn't the hair on the back of his neck,
his usual visceral response to danger. Who the quark knew it would
be so arousing to have a pretty female pull a weapon on
him?

Hers was the compact type of laser
chosen for personal safety. An older model, but well made, of
silver cerametal with narrow titanium trim. Although small, it was
still deadly, even in the hands of a novice.

She peered past him. He watched her,
interested to see what she thought of his haven. A tarma-wood fire
burned in the hearth at the far end of the great room. Primitive as
it was, he had yet to tire of the novelty of sitting before a fire
in the evening, indoors or out, watching the flames lick through
the fuel he fed it. By the time he left Earth I, the only wood had
been enclosed in locked and guarded tree-farms and the gardens of
the wealthy.

Two armchairs were drawn up before the
fire. A small hover table held a snifter of moon-brandy and the
holo-reader he'd been perusing before his alarm warned of her
approach. Glow-lamps floated, round shimmering balls of
light.

Would she think the scene cozy,
inviting? Or that he was spending his evening like an old man,
instead of a virile one in his prime? Maybe, but as the Frontiera
autumn deepened into winter, he'd found himself tired of evenings
at the bars in New Haven, the nearest settlement. Even the thought
of flying in a courtesan failed to excite him.

And tonight he'd had a special reason
for being snug at home.

Perhaps his visitor was the answer to
his ennui. She waved the gun toward the dining area visible through
a wide arch.

"Sit down in there. And—and put your
hands behind your back."

"Ah, you intend to restrain me, do
you?" He cocked his head thoughtfully. "Now, in my experience, when
someone wishes to bind me, they want information, leverage, or
revenge. You've no reason for revenge." Not yet, at
least.

There were plenty of other beings in
the galaxy who did, and some of them wouldn't give up until he was
dead—or they were. Recently he'd been told the price on his head
was enough credit to buy a fast cruiser. Of course the last bounty
hunter who'd tried for him had been left for catamount bait on the
mountain. The one previous had survived long enough to crawl onto
his cruiser, but crashed soon after. Presumably he'd blacked out
from blood loss. Stone had wounded him several times with his own
laser.

She held her weapon steady.
"Information, that's all I want."

"Well, if I'm to be held prisoner, I'd
like to comfortable. I'm sure you can understand that." He motioned
her to follow him through the wide double doors open on the left
side of the big room. "Come along, Rose. You can tie me up in
here."

As he led the way, he was smiling to
himself. His boredom had been snuffed out like a deleted holo-vid
link. By brazening her way into his home, she'd changed the rules.
He'd stayed away from her, hadn't he? He'd tried to do what was
best. But if she was going to treat him like a brigand, then he'd
behave like one.

She might have a weapon, but he had a
few at his disposal, too.

 

# # #

 

 

Rose Thorne could not believe her eyes.
Her prisoner, the man she held at gunpoint, had invited her to
follow him as casually as if she were a guest dropping by, not an
armed intruder.

"Wait a sec," she protested. "You can't
just—walk away from me. I've a weapon, remember?" But she was
speaking to his back.

And had he just called her by her name?
She could have sworn he hadn't noticed her the one time they'd been
in the same room together.

Masterson's lean, rangy form
disappeared through an open doorway. She hurried after him. He
undoubtedly had weapons hidden around his home—she couldn't give
him time to draw one.

She wanted to stuff her weapon back in
the pocket of her cape, plop into one of those huge, cozy chairs,
and just forget this whole scheme.

She'd been fighting that impulse from
the moment he flung open the huge doors and looked down at her with
eyes as golden and merciless as the fire flickering behind him. Up
close, he had the face of a raptor—fierce as a Frontieran
gyre-hawk, with high cheekbones, a blade of a nose and deep-set
eyes. The long, chestnut-brown hair falling around his shoulders
only added to his untamed appearance.

He
was
untamed. A space magnate whose
meteoric rise to wealth had origins as murky as a black hole. Her
own training as a dutiful daughter and pastry chef hadn't prepared
her to deal with men like him.

Even if part of her had been craving
just that for an entire lunar year.

Why did he have to be a—a space pirate,
who had drawn her only remaining family into his nefarious schemes?
The most exciting man she'd ever met and she had to get his
attention all right, but not for romance. He was like a delectable
dessert displayed in a café window—mouth-wateringly tempting, but
unavailable+.

Tracking his long-legged saunter
through his home, Rose drew a determined breath. Mooning over what
couldn't be wouldn't win her goal. Only force would work—that's
what men like Stone Masterson understood. So she'd come here to
beard him in his den.

And it was den-like. She looked around
with fascination as she hurried after him. Everything was built on
a large scale, of solid stone, wood and leather. It was quite cozy,
really, with the fire burning warmly in the hearth and soft light
from the glow-lamps in every room. A complete contrast to the
winter night and blowing snow outside. She'd barely been able to
see the last stretch of the hovie track that had been cleared up
the mountainside. If not for his lights, she might have missed it
entirely.

But she stopped short in the open door.
He'd led her to his bedroom. And the man who was supposed to be her
captive was lying back on the huge bed, watching her, relaxed as if
they had come here to—well. She had the surreal feeling that he was
in control, not she, which was ridiculous because she had the
weapon.

"You can tie me up here, Rose." His
voice was soft, coaxing as if he didn't want to frighten her. Which
was also ridiculous because why would he care if she were
frightened? Except that of course he didn't want to get shot by a
nervous kidnapper.

"I will, then." She crossed the room
with the weapon before her. "And don't get any more creative ideas,
Mr. Masterson, or I may start shooting."

"Oh, I won't," he assured her. "I can
see you're a determined woman."

He lay back against the mounded pillows
on the bed and arranged his hands helpfully on the massive wooden
crosspieces of the huge headboard. Both he and the bed looked as
though they had been hand-hewn.

He wore a pair of leather pants, so
pliant they clung to his muscular legs like a second skin. With his
moss-green shirt pulled up by the position of his arms, she could
see his pants also molded to his groin. Rose blinked. He was
certainly … impressive.

As a peculiar warmth invaded her own
nether regions, she jerked her gaze back to Masterson's face. His
mouth twitched. Rose eyed him suspiciously. Was he laughing at
her?

His glossy hair fell back from his high
cheekbones, revealing a small comlink in one ear. Nearly all
Frontierans wore them, held on by a minor surgical procedure. A
rudimentary satellite communication system had been established on
the planet. Masterson's comlink was carved of polished horn, a
small objet d'art. That figured; he was said to be wallowing in
wealth from his shady pursuits.

Reaching under her cloak, Rose fumbled
for the soft restraints she'd brought. They stuck in the inner
pocket, and her attention wavered from her weapon as she tugged. At
last they came free.

She approached the bed under his look
of rapt interest. Rather like a large predator might look at his
next meal. Her heart pounding even harder, she scowled at
him.

"I'm going to tie you up now," she
said. "And if you make a move, I'll shoot."

"Wouldn't think of it, Rose." He spoke
with a slight, lilting accent, rolling his consonants and
lengthening the vowels.

"Don't call me that." She was just
realizing the impossibility of climbing onto the side of the bed
clad in her enveloping cloak. And besides, the warmth of his home
was making her perspire. Well, there was no help for it. Her wrap
would have to come off.

"But what am I to call you?" Now he had
a smile in his voice, drat him.

"Miss Thorne to you." She worked the
fastenings and pushed the cloak off.

His gaze heated.

A blush surged upward from Rose's low
décolletage and blistered its way across her cheeks. She knew very
well what occasioned that look; the ridiculous costume she wore in
her current job as hostess at the Yolovana Inn and Bar in New
Haven.

 

# # #

 

 

Stone recognized her ensemble. Of
clinging faux chamois, the brief halter dress made her look like a
Frontiera Girl Scout gone bad. He gave silent thanks for the
avarice of the inn's owner, whose choice of uniform made his
servers a walking enticement.

This dress fit as if it had been
shrink-wrapped onto her, clinging to her round hips and thighs, her
small waist, and even the slight curve of her belly. She'd be soft
there, built to cushion a man while she rocked him to sweet
oblivion. And her breasts—round and full, cradled in thin faux
leather like an offering … He stifled a groan.

"I have to tell you, lass, if you'd
dressed like that the first time I saw you, I'd have made sure we
were introduced right away."

She eyed him suspiciously. "But I've
only seen you once and you didn't even notice me." Was that a flash
of hurt in those eyes, or just feminine pique?

"My party at the inn last winter."
Christmas by Old Europa tradition. He took over the inn every year,
throwing a big celebration for his employees and the locals. "I
noticed you all right. A little immi just off the cruise ship, with
eyes the size of moons, staying close by your brother's
side."

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