Ex-space marine Savan Bardan survived the Galactic Wars to become the most ruthless trade negotiator in the galaxy. His planet needs energy to survive, and he'll do anything to close the deal for the Perman fusion crystals that can provide it--even if it means seducing his beautiful, infuriating opponent, a rival icier than her planet.
Perma's top negotiator, Brinn Fjord, lost her father when Savan delayed her planet's Trade Guild membership years ago. She hates the handsome Rendarian and the planet he represents. She's determined to finish the deal and get rid of him as quickly as possible, so she can celebrate the holidays.
But soon the rival negotiators are in a fight for their lives. Besieged by mysterious accidents and unforgiving weather, Brinn and Savan have no one to depend on but each other. As they put the past aside, they uncover a desire hot enough to melt ice, and Brinn discovers a secret that may keep them apart.
Savan Bardan's head snapped up. Was this a joke? He stared at the holo-com of his boss, but Kolar looked his usual unsmiling self. "You can't be seri--"
"Soften her up, Bardan. Get her to like you." Kolar leaned forward, his three-dimensional image flickering a little. "Your entire world is depending on you to secure this new power source."
Savan bit back a curse, swiveling in the pilot's seat of his interstellar tradeship. Kolar was a master at "motivating" his negotiators.
And he wasn't finished.
"If these fusion crystals are half as powerful as the Permans say they are, we need them. The Permans are as icy toward Rendar as their gods-forsaken planet."
Savan knew the Permans still resented his planet. They blamed Rendar for barring their way into the Galactic Trade Guild five stellar years ago. "They weren't ready. We had good reasons to delay their membership."
"Well, they don't see it that way. Especially Negotiator Fjord."
Yes, Perma's top negotiator was very vocal in her dislike of Rendar.
An image of Brinn Fjord flickered into his mind--moon-pale skin, blond hair and ice-blue eyes. He'd noticed her the first time she stepped onto the Trade Guild Space Station two years ago as a newly minted negotiator. He'd been a part of some fierce negotiations with her.
She was young for a negotiator, smiled too easily and laughed too much. But she was surprisingly ruthless. The Guild could swallow up the naive and inexperienced and spit out their broken bones. But Fjord held her own at the trade tables.
Somehow Savan doubted there was anything he could do to get Fjord to soften up. He wasn't known for his charm. He'd been a trade negotiator for ten stellar years and was damned good at it. He closed his deals with hard negotiation and tough bargaining. Not by being nice.
"I'll get the contract. There's no need for me to...seduce Negotiator Fjord."
Kolar sighed. "You see all that behind me, Bardan?"
Savan let his gaze drift to the window behind his mentor. While Savan was seated in his ship, Kolar was several light-years away in his office high above the megacity that covered their home world.
Buildings speared into the sky. Everyone on the metropolis world lived, worked and played in skyscrapers hundreds of stories high. Parks and gardens had died out centuries before, when the planet's water had dried up.
As the population had grown, every available space was needed for housing. Now even the empty ocean space was covered in buildings.
Aerial traffic filled the sky like a swarm of insects. Smaller personal transports zipped between buildings while larger public transports lumbered between rooftop stops. Neon signs flashed and blinked from every available space--advertising everything from the latest personal Sync devices to the Interplanetary VelocityBall Championships.
"Everything out there is dependent on energy. Without a new power source, Rendar and her people will grind to a halt."
Kolar's words rang through Savan's head. He knew everything they used was powered--transports, housing, holo-com projectors. Even the food units that made the tasteless cloned food Rendarians ate consumed vast amounts of power.
"Your world is depending on you."
A heavy weight settled on Savan's shoulders and he scraped a hand down his face. He'd felt this demanding responsibility before, while fighting in the Galactic Wars for Rendar's survival. Leading his men into hopeless battles that got them slaughtered. His fingers gripped the chair's armrests.