Caught in Amber by Cathy Pegau - Romance>Sci-Fi
Recently out of rehab, Sasha James is determined to keep her head down, complete her parole and never touch amber again. The chip in her neck controls her cravings for the highly addictive drug, but also tracks her every move. Not that she goes anywhere other than work and the halfway house she calls home--a far cry from her luxurious former life as lover of the mining colony's top drug dealer, Guy Christiansen.
Agent Nathan Sterling has no desire to see Sasha fall back into amber, but his sister has become Guy's latest conquest and the unexpectedly attractive Sasha is the key to getting her back. So in exchange for an introduction, he offers Sasha the one thing she can't refuse--her freedom. From the chip, her parole and even the planet if she wants. Though he would be sorry to see her go...
Torn between her growing attraction to Nathan, fear of Guy and the allure of amber, Sasha accepts. But who will save her if Guy refuses to let her go a second time?
There he was. Again.
Sasha sipped her huskberry juice and watched the blond man reflected in the mirror behind the bar. Dressed in the somber clothing of a Revivalist, like herself, his broad shoulders filled out his long, dark coat like no other man in the room. He walked with a quiet confidence that drew the attention of more than a few people and had them moving out of his way on their own accord--definitely not in the unassuming nature of a typical Revivalist. Veering off behind her to the right, he didn't seem to notice her as he navigated chatting patrons and servers with colorful drinks on their trays.
But she'd noticed him. Twice before tonight. The first time had been earlier this week, while Sasha had been grabbing a quick bite at a local coffee shop before work. He'd strode past her table, eyes on the counter, and placed his order without seeing her. His profile had been handsome enough in a serious, lived-in sort of way. Brooding, almost. But it was the way he carried himself--the way his shoulders narrowed to a tapered, fit waist--that had caught her eye.
He'd started to leave then turned and smiled at something the server said, and his face had changed from merely attractive to charming. The severity in his eyes softened, making him more approachable. If she'd had the nerve to do anything like approach him, that is. Sasha had only smiled in response, surprised he'd affected her at all, and hid her grin behind her cup so he wouldn't catch her looking at him.
She'd almost felt sorry to see him go.
Then two days ago, at the PubTrans station near the halfway house where she lived, his blue eyes found hers as she boarded a train car. Their intensity took her breath for a moment before he disappeared into the crowd.
Maybe he lived in the neighborhood. Maybe she'd run into him at the market where she worked. Maybe they could have coffee together sometime. A nice, normal conversation with a nice man. A decent man.
Sasha gave herself a mental shake. Right. And the offender status chip in her neck was just for the hell of it. Seeing a stranger three times in the same week was no coincidence. Not when it came to her.
"Getcha 'nother?" Trent, the skinny old bartender, stepped in front of her, cutting off the view of the room.
Damn. She'd lost her bead on the guy.
Sasha gulped the last of her drink, shivering at the citrusy tang on her tongue. "Less ice this time." She slid the tall glass toward Trent and tilted her head to glance in the mirror behind him. No sign of the blond man. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? "I'd like to taste the juice."
Trent's bushy gray eyebrows rose in proper, albeit false, indignation. "Me? Water down drinks?"
Sasha mimicked his expression. "You? Charge a credit for a credit's worth of product?"
The barman laughed as he refreshed her glass with more of the ochre juice and less ice, she noted, as she smiled back. "Just don't tell anyone I'm giving you the real deal. I'd go broke in a week," he said.
"For what you charge for a whisky fizz, which I know is mostly fizz, I think you can afford to give me straight juice."
Sasha tensed as she felt a prickle of awareness on the nape of her neck. Trent continued to smile as his gaze settled over her left shoulder.
"What're ya drinkin', sir?" he asked.
"I'll have what she's having."
Sasha relaxed a micron and rolled her eyes. Not the most original line she'd ever heard, but she liked the sound of his low tenor. "Hope you like huskberries."
She turned toward the newcomer and froze. The blond man.