Adventurer Rayce Coburne is a financially desperate man with a taste for vengeance. Scientist Tru Van Dye is a brilliant, single-minded woman with a priceless treasure to find. He’s her guide and worst nightmare. She’s his client and bitter enemy. Will they survive being…UNRAVELED?
“Sexy, intriguing, and a pure delight to read.” —Catherine Spangler, best-selling author
To prove she’s worthy of her place at the prestigious Majj Institute, Tru Van Dye must make an important discovery by age 30—and time is running out. To complete her research, she must leave home for the first time and travel to the most dangerous planet in the sector. She needs a guide: someone discreet, someone fearless, someone who guarantees results. The infamous Rayce Coburne fits the bill.
Rayce has given up treasure hunting, but his dream of renovating a starport is threatened by a lack of funds—funds Tru is offering. All he has to do is deny his attraction to his cool client long enough to complete one last mission.
Rayce is like no man Tru has ever met outside of a virtual reality simulator. He ignites feelings she didn’t even know she was capable of. But if she falls for the bad boy in real life, will she be forced to give up the future she thought she was destined for?
Tru took a deep breath and stepped through the battered doorway. A drinking glass shattered against the wall behind her, splashing its lime green contents across one leg of her silver bodysuit. A chorus of roars burst from the far corner of the saloon. Tru froze as The Rough Cut attacked all of her senses at once.
The noise, the smell, the visual were overwhelming. In her mind she fought to make order of the chaos before her.
Noise demanded attention first. An ebb and flow of hearty masculine bellows deafened the dreadful music straining above the discord. Jeers, cheers, rants—they all melded into a raucous symphony.
The smell, well, she didn’t even want to analyze that. Her nose would never be the same.
The visual would take a bit longer to sort through. The four dilapidated walls were a patch-work of crudely attached composite board marred by vulgarities in every alien language. A serving bar stretched the length of the far wall, manned by a single burly saloonkeeper. A haphazard collage of tables and chairs in various stages of ruin littered the rest of the place.
Then there was the patronage. Tru caught glimpses of scars, matted hair, missing teeth and something furry in the corner that she was trying hard to ignore. Men huddled over small tables, heads close, grunting and chortling, watching her.
Lovely place. And to think that in all her twenty-nine years she’d never been in a saloon. Nice to know she hadn’t missed a thing.
Over the general racket and chaos, Tru scanned the saloon and spotted the man she had come to see.
She made her way through the crowded tables and overt looks to where he sat at the bar, his back to her. She slowed as she got closer and he got bigger. Standing behind him, looking at those broad shoulders, she nearly changed her mind about the whole idea.
What did he eat?
She shook off the thought and spoke up. “Excuse me. Rayce Coburne?”
The man before her turned leisurely on his stool and propped his elbows on the bar. Tru froze as brilliant blue-green eyes drilled into hers. They were hypnotic, a stunning complement to the black hair that hung carelessly over his forehead. Finely chiseled features under smooth, bronzed skin fashioned a rogue’s countenance. He lounged on a bar-stool amid the barrage of foul language and stench of alcohol, looking completely at home. She couldn’t tell how tall he was, but he was solidly built. Big arms and shoulders stretched the seams of the supple gray jacket he wore. His white shirt-collar was open, revealing a golden brown, powerful chest. Strong leg muscles bulged through the light fabric of the black pants. Even though she’d seen images of him, the live, up-close version proved far more daunting.
He gave her a long once-over before breaking into a slow, lazy smile.
“Have a seat,” he said in a soft growl of a voice that burned into her memory long after he showed her the empty stool beside him.
As she sat down, she was keenly aware of his eyes scanning the length of her body. Talk about distracting. Her pulse quickened; her palms began to sweat. She rubbed her hands on her thighs. The worst part was that he hadn’t done a thing except offer her a seat.
Annoyed at herself, Tru straightened. After all, he was only a man. A man who would soon work for her.
Boldly, she met his gaze. “What are you drinking?”
Coburne narrowed his eyes. “What are you drinking?”
She hadn’t planned for that. She never drank, but she wasn’t about to admit that to him.
“Safin,” she said quickly. It was the only intoxicating drink she knew of.
His eyebrows went up—in respect, she thought. She hoped. He held up two fingers to the saloon-keeper who nodded back.
The drinks appeared immediately and Tru picked up her glass as if she did it all the time. She took one small sip. Nice. Pleasant. Cool. She took a big sip and stopped breathing. Cool turned to heat in a flash that shot from her hair to her toenails. It was all she could do to stay on her seat.
Coburne chuckled softly next to her. Through the tears in her eyes, she watched in awe as he downed his drink in one swallow.
He immediately ordered himself another. Tru grimaced. She’d better get to business before he drank himself into a stupor.
“My name is Tru Van Dye and I have a business proposition for you,” she stated firmly.
He stared at her for a full minute before answering. “How much?”
Tru blinked. “Don’t you want to know about the job first?”
He laughed low over his new drink. “I know the job. How much?”
She frowned. “I thought 5,000 credits up front would be fair. We can negotiate the rest later.”
Coburne choked on his drink. He gave her a hard look and then glanced around behind her. “For just you?”
Sensing that she was missing something quite significant, Tru replied carefully, “Yes. I’m good for the credits.”
He blasted her with another killer smile. “You better be good. I don’t pay that much for any woman.”
Tru’s mouth dropped open in comprehension as his smile turned sinful. The air changed around her, growing hotter and more sultry. Coburne moved fast, slipping his hands around her waist, pulling her up out of her seat and against him. She gasped as her body made hard contact with his.
Oh, dear. This was not going at all as she had planned.
He lowered his face to hers and murmured, “Okay, lady. Let’s see what a man can get for 5,000 credits these days.”
Incensed out of her initial shock, she shoved against his chest and stepped back a fair distance from him.
“I don’t believe this,” she said with what she considered exceptional self-control, under the circumstances.
“You aren’t paying for me. I want you to work for me. I am a client, not a street moll.”
By now, the entire saloon had seen and heard their conversation. The peal of male laughter hit her ears like a slap.
Coburne grinned wide and crossed his arms. “I think I prefer to be the client.”
Another roar of laughter. The heat of humiliation stung her cheeks. At that precise moment, she knew that her carefully crafted plan had failed beyond all repair.
Disgusted with herself and him, she turned and stalked around the tables for the door. She’d blown it.
And as far as she was concerned, there was never an excuse for failure.
Nothing less than perfection, Tru. Her father’s familiar maxim mocked her.
She felt Coburne’s hand on her arm just as she exited the saloon. Effortlessly, he spun her around to face him and pinned her to the rough outside wall of the saloon. Before she could protest, his mouth covered hers with a scorching, staggering kiss that made her knees buckle.
The kiss turned to pure liquid heat stronger than any drink, pouring through her veins and igniting sensations she’d never felt before. No man had ever kissed her this way—all wicked and decadent—putting his whole being into one, sole purpose. It was her first full-body kiss. So, this is how it felt to be seduced by a rogue. No wonder women fell at his feet.
His body pressed against hers and suddenly she felt as if the oxygen had been sucked from her lungs, replaced by something hot and volatile, ready to explode. She actually shuddered from the intimate onslaught, unable to find a single weapon with which to defend herself.
Not in the original plan at all.
For the first time in her life, her body utterly refused to listen to her mind, not even when he broke off the kiss. His lips were now making their way down her throat leaving a fiery trail and moving still lower. But when he reached her breasts, she froze. Too real, too close. Panic gripped her as she pushed him away.
He stood back, staring at her in confusion.
Quickly, she said, “Computer: End program.”
“C.J. Barry brings us a novel filled with adventure, mystery, betrayal and ultimately love. For lovers of futuristic romance, this book is a must read!” —Goldie Thomas, Midnight Reviews Highly Recommended!
4 1/2 Stars —Romantic Times magazine
“…this world just keeps getting better and better. Ms. Barry surely knows what she is doing; she can create many fantastical worlds, and amazing characters.” -Night Owl Reviews
“Unraveled is a fantastic book on many levels and is a must for futuristic and romance fans! MS. Barry has broken out of my ‘must buy’ list and created a category all her own ‘must read sequel now’! —Bree, A Romance Review
“An Unearthly romance to be enjoyed! The budding relationship between a sheltered innocent and arrogant swashbuckler added to the adventurous quest and provided the smiles and romance that put the critical touch needed to make this quest into an entertaining story for your keeper shelf.” —Cy Korte, eBOOKISLE.com
“Ms. Barry has done it again. The sexual tension is HOT and carries through the entire book. World building is definitely a strong suit for Ms. Barry, for she seems to effortlessly create her cultures and worlds then with even less effort presents them to the reader.” —Karen Larsen, 5 Stars – Reviewer’s Choice
“Ms. Barry takes us on a wild trip through space where Rayce learns the meanings of tolerance, forgiveness and love. Tru learns what it means to live. This is a must read for any fan of futuristic romances, as Ms. Barry’s world building technique is right on target.” —Lady Luck, Romance Junkies 4 1/2 Blue ribbons!