They spent what felt like hours combing the nearby terrain for remains from the Starflight Folly. Other than a few stray pieces of twisted metal, nothing useful cropped up. Certainly nothing that would get them off the godforsaken planet.
Rini used the toe of her boot to clear sand away from a strip of metal protruding from the ground. Satisfied she’d uncovered most of it, she stooped and pried the object from the desert’s tenacious grasp. She buffed the metal with the hem of Lucus’s shirt to get a better look at the symbol etched on the corroded surface. “This looks like one of the symbols from the rock.”
Lucus stopped poking through a stack of charred cactus husks and strode to her. She handed him the metal piece for inspection. “Yep. This is probably from the Starflight’s masthead. Used to be captains would fly their ships with their crew’s names and rankings displayed. Not sure why the practice isn’t kept up.”
She stared at the shadow of day-old beard gracing Lucus’s jawbone and became seriously irked when her nipples tightened at the idea of being teased by the dark bristles. “How is it you’re fluent in ancient Illonican?” she demanded in hopes of distracting her aggravating hormones.
He gave the metal strip a final look before tossing it on top the burnt cacti. “When I first started trading, I did business with this grizzled farmer on Orrik who used to be a professor of languages.” A grin overtook his rugged features. “
“Hmm, wish I’d known
A teasing hint of challenge danced in Lucus’s eyes. “The girl who graduated top honors had trouble keeping up her grades?”
“Just in languages and anthropology.” She batted away a persistent army of gnats trying to roost in her hair. The damn things were a nuisance, particularly when she already felt sticky and grimy.
Lucus’s palm suddenly squashed against her forehead. She gave him a double blink and one corner of his mouth quirked. “One of the gnats snuck by you.”
The heat of his skin continued seeping into her and she began to wonder if he’d forgotten where he’d plastered his hand. But then an intense look crept into his expression and she had no doubt he knew exactly what he was doing. His face inching closer, he snuck his hand along her cheek. She licked her lips. “Before this goes any further, I think we should both remember we don’t like each other.”
“I like you fine.”
His lips brushed just to the side of hers and she released a shaky breath. “You said the same thing about your brother.”
“Yeah, but I don’t have this overwhelming urge to lick my brother’s nipples.”
“I should hope not, because that would be majorly twist—” Lucus’s mouth swallowed the remainder of her sentence. His tongue coaxed its way inside and she had trouble remembering why kissing him back was an incredibly lousy idea. Her hands crept under his shirt and roved over the damp skin above his rib cage. Talk about unfair. Here she felt like a gross, sweat-soaked dishrag, yet Lucus’s body was a slick and delicious yummy treat.
His lips trailed to the underside of her jaw and she gasped, blinking against the overhead glare of the sun. “What are we doing?”
Lucus’s chuckle vibrated against her neck. “If you have to ask, I’m severely out of practice.” His teeth scraped the sensitive hollow beneath her earlobe.
“This…” She swallowed and tried again. “This is a residual effect of our close call with death.”
“Mm, you think?” His tongue traced the shell of her ear, making her shiver.
“Yes. I mean between the near drowning in the cell and crashing, it’s a miracle we haven’t ripped each other’s clothes off.” Oh man, why the hell did I say that?
“Excellent point. Maybe we should do something about it.” His fingers swept to the buttons on her shirt and flicked the first one from its hole.
She should stop him. She should really, really stop him.
He made quick work releasing three more buttons. Her shirt gaped open and his hand slid inside, molding perfectly over one breast. His thumb rasped the cotton and lace covering her nipple. Gasping, she arched into him. Warm, firm lips resettled over hers with a groan. The sound rumbled through her, striking a match to her already inflamed senses.
His tongue glided over hers. She tasted desire and hot, aroused male. Dizzy from the sensory overload, she curved a hand around the nape of Lucus’s neck, the ends of his dark brown hair tickling her knuckles.
She pulled back slightly, the oxygen leaving her lungs in staccato bursts. “You and
“The worst.” He pushed her tank top upward until it was anchored beneath her armpits. Dipping beneath her bra cup, he caressed one traitorously eager nipple.
“You need to stop doing that.” Even as she forced the wispy words from her mouth, she leaned into him, effectively offering more of her breast to fondle.
“Yeah, I should.” Lowering his head, he eased the lace away and circled her nipple with the tip of his tongue. The touch might have been feather-soft but it sparked a lightning-bolt reaction throughout every nerve receptor in her body. His teeth enclosed her nipple before he suctioned the bud inside the warm, wet cavern of his mouth.
“Oh God.” Her knees started to give and he caught her tight against him. So tight, there was no mistaking the solid nudge of his erection against her belly. I want that. Much as she debated telling her inner slut to shut up, she couldn’t deny the truth in those three embarrassing words.