Keily: Human. Curvy. Independent. An intense, do-good activist who’s never without a cause to throw her limitless energy into. She likes her sex hot and impersonal. She doesn’t have time for silly romantic dalliances. She has a planet full of Battle Rats to save!
Ryker: Cyborg. Scarred. Cynical. Rejected by the females of Terras Five, he becomes one of the most sought-after mercenaries in the galaxy. But when he accepts a contract to capture a female activist he finds out not all females find his scars terrifying. One particular human female finds them incredibly sexy.
Engine failure, hastily terminated jumps, and a fluffy stowaway challenge the unlikely pair to work together to find their way home and into each other’s hearts.
Was the little minx actually trying to use sex to get to him? He smothered the unfamiliar urge to laugh. Did she really think he’d believe she still found him irresistible? Or even remotely desirable? “Just until the negotiations are over. Shouldn’t be more than a few moon cycles.” He leaned forward, deliberately looming over her and giving her a closeup view of his scarred face. “So what did you have in mind? To amuse ourselves?”
He had to give her credit, she didn’t flinch away from his scarred visage. “Well, I haven’t had much time to myself lately. Haven’t really had any downtime to speak of.” The pink tip of her tongue appeared, running over her lips in a blatantly suggestive gesture.
Tempting. Damn, she was tempting. It had been so long since someone has tried to seduce him, he’d forgotten the thrill of knowing a female wanted him, wanted to feel his naked body sliding against hers. His gaze strayed to those perfect globes rising and falling with each breath. Reaching down, he gently pulled the edge of her top apart. For a brief second, the material resisted him. Then, like a flower opening under the welcoming warmth of a planetary sun, it popped apart to let her luscious breasts spill out.
And they really were luscious. Keily arched her back, wordlessly offering them up for his approval. Oh, yeah. He definitely approved. Lowering his head, he scored his teeth across one dark pink nipple, feeling it pebble into a hard tip in his mouth.
He lifted his head as a tiny tinge of guilt stirred in the corner of his brain. He had no intention of allowing her to escape so she could go back to champion the Battle Rats in the upcoming confrontation. Accepting her sexual advances knowing he had no plan to give her what she wanted wasn’t fair.
Then again, life wasn’t fair. He was living proof of that.
What the hell. She’d started it, and he didn’t recall keeping his hands off of her being one of the conditions of the contract. He just had to keep her off the planet and incapable of throwing a monkey wrench into the Conglomerate’s plans.
“You sure you want to do this?” Ryker cupped the warm mounds of flesh, his damnable sense of right and wrong forcing him to give her a chance to stop him before it was too late. “I know I’m not the kind of male you humans like to dream about.”
She cocked her head, a look of startled confusion on her face. “Seriously? You think you know what kind of male I fantasize about? Let me assure you it isn’t some slick young pretty boy who wouldn’t know what to do with a real woman.”
Her gaze ran over him from tip to toes, igniting a slow burn he hadn’t felt since before he’d become more machine than man. She didn’t linger on the scars or the metallic arm. What she did linger on was the growing bulge at his groin.
Damn. Was there anything sexier than a female who wasn’t afraid to let you know that she wanted you?
“Turner, I’m sending you undercover as a Beautiful Dolls sex robot.”
Jai Turner stared at her boss, Commander Talis Rainey, convinced she couldn’t possibly have heard him right. She and her partner, Leith Wyatt, had been called into his office at the end of their duty shift. It had been a long day, as they all were on Tau Cetus in this post-apocalyptic era, and she was in no mood for a joke.
“Sir?” Jai noticed that even Leith, who was standing beside her, had raised his eyebrow in question.
For an answer, Rainey leaned forward in his chair and pushed a button on the console on his desk. “Send in Mr. Carron.”
A minute later, a short man stood in the doorway. His eyes darted nervously as he checked out the Spartan office before taking an apparently reluctant step into the room. He was such a stereotype that Jai felt herself stiffen. Thick glasses… hair askew… frankly, all he needed was a lab coat with a pocket protector to complete the picture. Savant. Adept. Carbon-copier.
Maybe her boss hadn’t been making a joke.
Rainey cleared his throat. “This is Anson Carron. The creator of Beautiful Dolls.”
If the abrupt and impersonal introduction annoyed their guest, he didn’t show it. His eyes had locked on Jai, and were scanning her up and down in a way that felt decidedly intimate despite the generic, navy blue one-piece uniform that she and everyone else on the Tau Cetus force wore.
“Yes,” he murmured. “I suppose I can work with this.”
“This,” Rainey said hotly, “is Jai Turner, one of my best agents. She’s human.”
The little man seemed lost in his own train of thought. “She meets his prime criteria. Of course, it would be better if I could see her without her clothes on before I make a final assessment.”
Jai stiffened even more. “Commander!”
Rainey let out a loud sigh, then glanced at Jai and the two men. “Sit. All of you.”
Instead, Carron took a step closer. “Can I touch her, at least?”
“Lay one finger on me,” Jai growled, “and it’ll be the last thing your hand ever touches.” Wyatt stepped closer to her to drive the point home.
Behind his desk, Rainey blew out a breath. “I said sit!”
The three of them held their adversarial positions for a moment, then took the hard chairs arrayed around Rainey’s desk. Jai crossed her arms and legs defensively, and even Wyatt turned his chair around to straddle it. It was obvious neither one of them anticipated liking whatever the Commander might be about to say.
Rainey ran a hand through his grey-black hair and looked at the partners. “Before I start, I have just one thing to say to you two. Marque Callex.”
Jai gasped. “What?”
That changed everything. The infamous name had both her and Wyatt leaning forward in their chairs, now eagerly waiting for Rainey’s next words.
“You know how long we’ve been trying to get close to this guy. We may now have a chance, albeit by a very unconventional route.” Rainey nodded toward their guest. “A month ago, Mr. Carron here ran afoul of the law. No need to get into the specifics, but in an effort to save his neck – and his very lucrative business – he suggested a unique proposal in return for us not pursuing charges against him.”
“What kind of proposal?” Wyatt asked.
“A clever one, as it turns out.” Rainey smirked. “Mr. Carron agreed to send out an… invitation… to Marque Callex, in the guise of offering ‘a select number of high-powered businessmen’ the chance to sample the latest model of Beautiful Doll for free, in exchange for their feedback on the product. In reality, Callex was the only person to get this invitation.”
Jai’s mouth set in a disgusted line. “And he accepted.”
“He did,” Rainey confirmed. “It was a gamble, but it paid off. In this supposed ‘latest model,’ clients are able to customize their girl. Callex filled out the form specifying the criteria of his ideal Beautiful Doll, and now all we have to do is fulfill his requirements.” The Commander gave Jai a pointed stare. “With you.”
Jai’s eyes went wide. “You want me to impersonate a sexbot?”
“He’s requested certain specifics,” Anson Carron spoke up. “Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Lean, athletic build.”
Jai let out a relieved breath. “Well, that rules me out then. I’m brown-haired and brown-eyed.”
“Easily fixed,” her boss pointed out. “You fit the most important characteristic: athletic build. We can’t fake that, but we can correct the other things with hair dye and contact lenses.”
Uneasy, Jai leaned forward in her chair. “Sir, do you really believe a man who can have any model of girl he wants, would pick a B-cup and not a triple-D? For a sexbot? Come on, Commander. Are you sure Callex is even serious about this?”
Rainey stroked his chin thoughtfully, and then shrugged. “Well, we’ll have our answer on Monday, if he shows up at the Beautiful Dolls boudoir. Until then, prepping you for the assignment is the way we’re going to proceed. That is, if you’re agreeable.”
Jai scowled. There was absolutely no way she was going to volunteer for this. Have sex on command? Not a chance. Not even to bring down a man they’d long been after for suspected weapons smuggling. Besides, she could never pass for a sexbot. She had a heartbeat, for Christ’s sake! “Why don’t you send in a real Doll for the job?”
“Because the whole point is to get information out of him,” Rainey answered. “A robot can’t be programmed to be clever. We need someone to coax him into spilling his secrets.”
“With all due respect, Commander,” Wyatt interjected. “Callex is locked up tighter than a penitentiary. Security is everything in his line of work. It’s not realistic to think he’s going to give away top secret information while in the throes of passion.”
“You haven’t met my Dolls,” Carron mumbled.
Rainey ignored the remark. “Maybe not during sex, no. But haven’t you heard of pillow talk? Read your history books. Greater men have been brought down by baring their souls during that post-coital sense of euphoria. I want Jai to build a relationship with him, gain his trust.”
In response, Jai re-crossed her arms and legs. There was no way – absolutely none – that she was going to be anyone’s personal sex toy.
Rainey sighed into the stubborn silence. “Do I really need to play the Joran Breaux card with either of you?”
A spark of anger shot through Jai, even as she heard Wyatt shift uncomfortably on his chair. Joran was the second – and definitely much more personal – reason they were after Marque Callex. Joran had been sent in to infiltrate Callex Industries from the inside, to discover how one of the government’s top weapons contractors was secretly diverting arms to militant countries. Joran’s cover as an employee had seemed secure until two months ago, when the police force had lost contact with him on the very day he’d scheduled a meeting with Marque Callex. Three weeks later, Joran’s body had turned up – in pieces – in a recycling center a hundred clicks away.
Joran had been Wyatt’s partner before Jai.
Jai would relish the chance to avenge the death of a fellow Tau Cetus agent, but was becoming a sex slave really the best way to do it?
“How do we know Jai won’t end up the same way Joran did? Dead?” Wyatt rasped. Raw emotion was clear in his voice.
“Because we’re embedding you as the Beautiful Dolls concierge,” Rainey answered. “You’ll be there secretly taping the sessions, close by to protect her if things get out of control.”
“Good God,” Jai balked. “You plan to record the sex encounters with Callex?”
Rainey scowled. “You know how long we’ve been trying to get to Marque Callex. This may be our best chance. But if you’re not up to it, Turner, I’ll find another female agent with athletic build who’s more committed to her job.”
“I’m committed to my job, Commander,” she protested hotly.
Rainey waved a hand. “I probably shouldn’t have even offered it to you two. Wyatt is too close to this case. I just thought he’d want a crack at the guy who murdered his partner. But you’re right, Turner. Wyatt could very well be a liability.”
“I didn’t say –” Now the Commander was accusing her of letting down the force and her new partner. The guy was a master manipulator.
Silence stretched in the room while Jai considered her options. Her very limited options. As in, none. “I’ll do it.”
Jai’s mouth set into a mulish line. What real choice did she have? Marque Callex needed to be stopped. “I said I’ll do it. If this is our best – and possibly only – chance to get to him, well, then, I’m in.”
Ever since the genre exploded in the mainstream romance world back in 1986, with the publication of Timeless Passion by Constance O’Day Flannery, I have loved time travel. It had always been my goal to write time travel in a unique way, and Dreamland certainly delivers on that! I love all the books I’ve written, but I have to admit, this one is my favorite.
Tell us something about the novel that doesn’t appear on the blurb or the excerpt.
Okay, obviously if the book is set in Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, I had to mention someone famous. So…Dicen and Juliet go to a party and he sees a man that’s slightly familiar. Juliet tells him it’s John Barrymore, and he replies now he sees the resemblance to Drew. Juliet asks who’s that, and he replies “Just a girl I know.” I think the scene is hilarious!
How much research went into Dreamland?
I wanted this to be as authentic as possible so a lot of research went into the lingo. The 1920s was a completely unique time period, rich and beautiful as well as dangerous and frivolous. We as readers know what’s right around the bend for these people, how the world descends into the Great Depression, and we feel that live-or-die exuberance from the characters. And it’s heartbreakingly intriguing. That’s what I love about this book and these characters.
Drugstore cowboy: man hanging around the street corners
Dicen Burke had it all. As lead singer in the world famous rock band, Dark Army, the world lay at his feet. But the path to super stardom warred with a painful past and during a performance the demons haunting him finally descended. Unable to stop the self-destructive path of alcohol and drugs, when he fell, he fell hard.
He wakes up in a world he doesn’t know. The Twenty-first century rocker is now in the 1920’s, lost and bewildered. He’s taken in by Juliet Fox, a beautiful woman trying to be a positive influence in her brother’s wild lifestyle among the Hollywood Motion Picture elite.
Dicen does his best to adapt, and with Juliet by his side, he discovers a world that offers him a clean slate. But when he’s pulled back to the present, separated by time from the one person that gives him a reason to live, will he find a way to push past his demons as well as find Juliet again?
“Hey you,” a soft voice commanded. “Open your eyes please”
He tried to obey, struggling to push past the lingering darkness that clung to him like a second skin. God, he felt horrible.
“That’s it,” she soothed. “Open your eyes. Look at me.” Finally, he managed to raise his eyelids. An angel leaned over him, staring into his eyes. She smiled at him so he smiled back. He had always thought it would be demons that would come collect him when he died so it amazed him that heaven was calling.
“Ah, a set of beautiful baby blues,” she murmured, stroking his cheek. “Hello, handsome.”
He opened his mouth to say something but the words wouldn’t come. His tongue felt swollen, dry. He forced himself to swallow to try to get some saliva flowing.
She cocked her head. “Bad hooch I’m thinking. Gotta be careful of certain juice joints. Come,” she said, holding out her hand. “Let’s get you sitting upright.”
He hadn’t realized he’d been lying down but as she helped him up, he realized the halo around her head had been nothing more but the flickering of a street light accentuating the midnight hue of her hair. When he was vertical once more, he finally saw all of the woman’s features. Short bobbed hair held back by a headband made of crystal beads while dark eyes watched him from under thin, perfectly arched eyebrows. Her lips were a cupid’s bow, painted a deep red. Her skin a flawless pale shade that contrasted sharply with her heavily made up eyes.
“Like what you see?” she asked.
He blinked. “I always like my fans. Where am I?”
One of those thin eyebrows arched. “That hooch must’ve really made you balled up. You’re off Hollywood Boulevard, of course, belly up in an alley.”
He looked around, completely baffled. How the hell did he get here? Where was the stage? The screaming fans? Kieron, Van and Tony?
“Do you have a name, handsome?”
“Yeah, sorry. I’m Dicen Burke.”
He waited. He waited for the name to sink in, for her eyes to widen, for her to begin batting her eyes in an attempt to flirt her way into his bed.
“Juliet,” she said. “Juliet Fox. I was looking for my brother, Thayer, and figured I’d find him upchucking out here and instead I find a keen big six. Say, you’re no drugstore cowboy are you?”
“Excuse me?” Her lack of a response to his name, along with slang he didn’t understand, threw him.
“You know, a guy that hangs around street corners looking to pick up ladies. Just so we’re clear on the matter, I ain’t that kind of girl,” she informed him, the smile on her face lessening the harshness of her tone. “Have you seen another man out here, by chance, throwing up?”
She confused him. He shook his head and then wished he hadn’t when it throbbed. “God, I need an aspirin.”
I began reading my mom’s Harlequin Presents in the fifth grade, and from the first story I knew I wanted to write romance novels. I like writing about the very ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so my heroines will probably never be lawyers, doctors or corporate highrollers. I try to write characters who aren’t cookie cutters and push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to resolve, forcing me to think outside the box. I love writing characters who are real, complex and full of flaws, heroes and heroines who find redemption through love. You can find me on the web at: