Authors: Joanna Wylde
Tags: #Programming Languages, #Computers, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Adult, #General
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
Garnets or Bust
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Garnets or Bust Copyright © 2008 Joanna Wylde
Edited by Briana St. James.
Cover art by Syneca.
Electronic book Publication January 2008
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in
part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing,
Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal
copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is
punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/)
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales
is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
GARNETS OR BUST
Year 5, Saurellian Calendar
Daaron crept up to the edge of the hillside on his belly, raising the scope of his rifle
to his eyes, finger light on the trigger. The small figure of a woman came into focus and
his breath hissed inward. He recognized her.
Of all the people in the damn Empire to find the garnet deposits, why the hell her?
Tessa’s tiny form hunched over an ore processor, and from the excited tension she
radiated he knew she’d struck pay dirt. She’d discovered cerulean star garnets, which
just happened to be the new Emperor’s favorite gemstone. Before today, they could
only be found on one planet in the entire Empire.
The damn things would be worth a fortune, a dream come true for Tessa. Now
Daaron’s job was to kill that dream. By all rights he should kill Tessa too. He sighed
heavily and raised one hand to signal his men to hold their fire. He just couldn’t bring
himself to do it, not yet.
Tessa dropped something, falling to her knees and reaching under the processing
platform to find it. The position pulled her sturdy work pants tight against her butt and
Daaron’s breath caught on a surge of lust. He’d wanted to get his hands on that ass for
years, ever since the first time he’d seen her at university. She had a tight, compact little
body just soft and round enough to give a man all kinds of ideas—mostly about
plowing her until she screamed for mercy. His cock stirred, prodding the ground
painfully, which also brought back memories. No woman had turned him down before
or since, yet he’d spent two years lusting after Tessa without so much as a kiss, let alone
the long hard screw he needed.
Garnets or Bust
Nope, she’d protected her virtue against every type of assault, from his first gentle
attempts to flirt to his final humiliating offers of money.
Daaron lifted his pelvis, adjusting himself awkwardly, but the brief touch of his
hand brushing his stubborn prick just made things worse. Trying to ignore his arousal,
he studied her carefully through the scope. Long, reddish braids still swung down her
back, reaching all the way to her knees. He hated those braids. A proud symbol of her
purity and unwed state, they were the crowning glory for any girl raised in the Warrens
of Tyre. Why a people would refuse to allow their women to have sex outside marriage
was beyond him, but that stubborn, lower-class morality had kept her out of his bed.
He would have given her anything, yet she rejected him.
As he watched, Tessa stood and turned toward him, reaching both hands down to
the small of her back, stretching. High, pointed breasts poked forward. Taunting him.
He’d never seen them naked, but he’d watched her working out at the pool more than
once. Her bathing suit, while modest, still left little to the imagination. He wanted to
lick those nipples, suck on them while he thrust his fingers right into her cunt. Virgin
territory, so tight it would hurt. Daaron reached down again, unable to resist gripping
his cock as she turned away from him. His hips thrust down involuntarily, need
hardening his thighs.
How could he kill Tessa? She’d fought so hard to make her way in the world, rising
above her birth to escape the Warrens and build a life for herself. And what a waste of a
beautiful woman that would be… Daaron forced himself to pull his hand away from his
crotch as a solution came to him.
Maybe he wouldn’t have to kill her after all.
* * * * *
Tessa sat next to her fire in the cool evening air, studying an ancient colonial survey
on her tablet. The brightly lit screen scrolled by quickly, dancing across the caparison
data gleaned from fifteen core samples she’d taken earlier in the day. The last had been
the best—who could have dreamed that she’d find a cerulean star garnet as big as her
eye in a frigging core sample? Stuff like that never happened in the real world, and
certainly not to Tessa.
As she read the analysis of her other findings, her ore processor chugged away
quietly behind her. Occasionally it gave a little ping, setting her heart pounding. Each
ping meant another garnet. She already had enough that she’d never have to work
again, and that was without excavating at all. When she’d been assigned as a lowly
clerk in the nearly defunct colonial geologic survey office she’d thought it was the
worse thing that could have happened. Buried alive professionally, or so she’d been
Tessa Marasdottir was about to rise from the dead. With this money she’d pay off
her mother’s indenture and cover the immigration tax without even noticing. Within six
months they’d be starting a new life in a new place. Hell, she might even be able to get
married eventually, have kids.
Tonight her new life could begin.
Tessa flicked off the tablet and sat back in her camp chair, looking at the stars. Then
she raised her glass of carefully hoarded Tyrian brandy and toasted herself.
“To the future,” she said, and drained it down.
“You got another cup?”
It took every bit of willpower Tessa had to hold her glass steady at the sound of that
penetrating, hated voice.
Daaron Von Saur’rel.
Her eyes darted, searching for him, hunting him in the dim darkness beyond the
reach of her fire. What the hell was
doing here? And more importantly, did he know
about the garnets?
Garnets or Bust
Daaron stepped into the circle of light. The bastard looked just like she remembered
him, but different too. Still tall, with unruly dark hair that played around his head with
a looseness that echoed his morals. Still that hideously beautiful face. Sculpted mouth
and cheekbones, heavy-lidded eyes that belonged in the bedroom. A casually cruel
mouth capable of flaying a classmate alive if they spoke out of turn or didn’t do their
homework. Muscle-bound body, like a great ape.
But there were differences too. At university, he’d worn silken shirts that cost more
than her mother’s indenture. Now he wore clothing that was still expensive but
eminently more practical. She could tell even in the dim firelight that he had one of
those fancy nano-shirts capable of shedding water, providing heat and even morphing
shape as needed, the type used by the military. The same material in the form of pants
cupped those lean hips she’d always tried so hard not to notice. She’d give anything to
own a suit like that, far better than the cheap synth crap she wore.
And in his hand?
A blaster, pointed right at her.
“The old Daaron Von Saur’rel wouldn’t have let himself get this far from a luxury
hotel and an entourage,” she said, sounding far cooler than she felt. “What brings you
to my campsite?”
“The old Daaron Von Saur’rel is dead,” he replied, voice light but eyes deadly
serious. “You still have your braids.”
She started, off guard.
“I am still unmarried,” she replied, choosing her words with great care. “That
shouldn’t surprise you. I can only bring a man debt, not a dowry.”
“Doesn’t it seem a little old-fashioned to you?” he asked, his tone conversational,
almost friendly. The gun wasn’t friendly at all.
“Our customs may seem strange to an aristocrat,” she replied, thinking rapidly.
Where was he going with this? “But they serve a valuable purpose for my people. Of
course, we’ve had this conversation before. Without guns. I’m not going to change my
mind about sleeping with you.”
“Having sex,” he corrected gently. “I wanted you to have sex with me. Sleep was
He stepped farther into the light, and a crooked smile stole across his lips.
“You’re always cold, aren’t you, princess?” he asked. “Always high above us
“Mortal?” she asked, her tone harsh and bitter. “You’ve never been mortal, Von
Saur’rel. As far as I’m concerned, you aren’t even human.”
“You’re right about that,” he replied. “I stopped being human a long time ago. But
probably not for the reasons you think. You were always too smart for your own good,
Tessa. You’re lucky I happened to go out with the scouting party that followed you
here. Otherwise you’d be dead by now. Instead, you have a choice.”
His words struck her hard. Followed her? How and why would Daaron Von
Saur’rel be following anyone on this nearly empty planet in the back of beyond? And
any choices Daaron might offer her wouldn’t be good; she knew that in her bones. He’d
never made a secret of what he wanted from her. Sex. In her darkest moments she could
even admit that she’d wanted him too. Every girl in their class had, and a good many
more than that. He’d worked his way through more of them than should have been
But how had he found her in the first place?
He strode into the firelight, eyes holding hers, blaster steady. He held it low, near to
his hips, drawing her eyes toward that part of his body she always pretended didn’t
exist. Dear Goddess, she could see his erection from here. Answering heat flickered to
life in her own groin, he’d always done that to her. She cursed her response even as her
He’d followed her
. Did he know about the garnets? How long had he been