Home > Garnets or Bust (Saurellian Federation 0.5)

Garnets or Bust (Saurellian Federation 0.5)
Author: Joanna Wylde

Chapter One

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.

Tessa Marasdottir.


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 c**k 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.

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 br**sts 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 ni**les, 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 c**k 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 theWarrensand 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 thebest—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 told.

Fuck that.

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 washedoing here? And more importantly, did he know about the garnets?

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.”

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