The story: Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance.
Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.
But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised – the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.
Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?
And the excerpt:
“Took you long enough,” Drewson said as Red reached the cockpit.
“Here’s your synth,” he answered, more than a little annoyed. He suspected Drewson had set him up.
The pilot guffawed as he accepted the steaming drink. “Miss By-The-Book wouldn’t give you the real stuff, would she? Didn’t think she would.”
Red sank into his chair, rubbing the back of his neck. Yeah, his trip to the cabin had sure gone well. He’d managed to annoy Meg twice in ten minutes. Third time and he’d be a total write-off as far as she was concerned. Good intentions didn’t get him too far. Need to up your game, Thomsill. Meg was the only reason he’d signed on to this outfit. One glance at her, sitting at the next table in the Guild canteen on Sector Hub and he’d been a goner. Something about her sweet face and sparkling hazel eyes stuck in a man’s memory.
When he heard there was an opening on this ship for a Third Officer, he’d put his other opportunity on hold, entered his bid, and apparently the captain liked his experience. But this was next to the last stop on the charter and so far Meg barely gave him the time of day. If she spoke to him at all. The other officers and crew members said she kept to herself and never dated co-workers. Which was smart of her, but didn’t help him much. The Sectors was a galaxy-wide civilization, the cushy job on hold for him with the CLC Line wouldn’t wait forever, and he might never see her again if he let this opportunity fall through.
He’d never had much of a problem getting to know a woman before. Of course, none of them had mattered to him as much as Meg did. Desire to impress her made him self-conscious and fall over his own big feet.
“Told you she’s impossible,” Drewson said. “I tried on our first cruise together, but she shut me down hard.”
“Well quit ‘helping’ me, okay? I can screw this up enough on my own.” Red hid his frustration under a light tone.
“Gonna miss you, rookie, if you don’t sign on with us again. It’s been a treat watching you try to make an impression on Meg. You should have gone after the Chief Stewardess. She’s been eyeing you, in case you haven’t gotten the message.”
Except he wasn’t the least bit interested in anyone but Meg. Red gave himself a mental shake. He could plan complex operations in the field, improvise on the fly under the worst conditions, and had the medals to prove it—why couldn’t he manage to establish some kind of less than antagonistic relationship with Meg Antille? See if there was any potential for something between them? Not for the first time, he berated himself for being an idiot, following a woman he’d only barely met across the Sector…but somehow a chance with Meg seemed worth it.
Drewson fiddled with the controls. “Check the atmospherics, would you? Make sure those storms are tracking out to sea.”
“Yes, sir.” Glad to be distracted, even for a moment, Red gave his attention to the instruments.