Since I am the starter this week, I'll give you a recipe for a great salad. It's spicy - like some of our romances - full of good stuff - like all of our romances - and everyone loves it - also like our romances!
Oh, and for the contest, whoever wins a copy of the first book in this series, "The Turn of the Card" - ebook only.
But first, about my new book, "Lovin' the Odds" available today from Liquid Silver Books. It's the second in a series called "Gambling on Love" - oh, and don't worry, it's also a stand alone so you don't *have* to read them all (but I'd love it if you did!). The hero and heroine are stranded on a desert planet with little food. I'm certain they'd give a lot for my chili bean salad (recipe below). In the meantime, they have to subsist on energy bars, snakes and what little water they can find.
Catch her, kill her, or kiss her? So many choices, so little time. But Carter Jamison has to decide one way or the other what to do about Sabrina Rutledge. Wounded, hunted, and stranded on a desert planet, they will need to put their distrust aside and work together to survive. Vicky Burkholder brings you Lovin’ the Odds Book 2 of her action-packed romance series, Gambling on Love.
Carter pulled out the chute and a pack of lightweight frames that he used to make a shelter. He returned to the shuttle, dislodged the rocks blocking the rear hatch, and popped it. Smoke poured from both hatches. The interior was a shambles. He used the fire suppressant to put out the few flames he saw. Fortunately, most of the fire had already burned out. He unhooked cushions from two of the seats and hauled them back to the shelter. He activated the release switch on both, opening them up into thin sleeping pads that he laid out. Once he had everything set up to his satisfaction, he carefully carried Sabrina in.
She weighed no more than a feather, and he felt her bones through her clothing. Dark circles not from bruising showed in the fair skin under her eyes. He wished she’d open her eyes so he could look once again into their golden depths, the color of fine whiskey. He’d fallen in love with her eyes. He shook his head to stop the thoughts bouncing around. He was a Fleet agent doing an undercover job. He had no time for a relationship. Nothing more than a quick liaison to quell any urges. And no matter what her social calendar looked like, Sabrina Rutledge was not a quick fling. She was the type of person you settled down with. Something that would never happen to him.
But his heart refused to listen. They’d had something special. At least he’d thought so. Then he’d seen her with others, though never any one man for more than a few times, earning her a reputation as a stuck-up diva—something he wasn’t sure she deserved. After all, she was just trying to protect herself. That’s what he told himself, often. She was everything he’d ever wanted in a woman. Everything except loyal.
He backed away from her. He shouldn’t have come after her. There was no way this would be any good. What did she have that was so important to Tyler Adams anyway? Was it just her? Or did she honestly have something? If it was in the shuttle, it was as good as destroyed. He grabbed her bag and quickly dug through it, but other than a change of clothing, a first-aid kit, and food and water for a day or two, he came up empty. Nothing. Unfortunately, sitting here in the middle of a desert full of Ki crystals, he wasn’t going to get any messages out to anyone to let them know.
Carter unpacked a thermal cell and started water heating. “First things first.”
Using cleansing cloths, he wiped her face, checking for additional injuries. Other than a few minor scrapes and bruises, there were no other problems beyond her leg and arm. He used his knife to cut away her pant leg, clenching his jaw as he felt the smoothness of her thigh. The gash was not pretty, but it looked like she’d tried to seal it. He cleansed the wound and used his own tube to finish what she’d started. The other serious injury was her arm, and he’d already taken care of that. He covered her with a thermal blanket and went out to make sure their shelter was secure.
The sun had set and the twin moons were high in the sky. He looked into the stars. His life was out there now, not here on Tairis. He’d lived here before going undercover, guest of his friend Kiernan, leader of one of the local villages and Carter’s safe-drop spot for messages to Fleet. He’d been second man at Kiernan’s wedding, and spirit-uncle to his daughter and son. He hoped Kiernan could find them, otherwise he wasn’t sure how he’d get Sabrina out of the desert. Himself, he could get out with no trouble, but her in her present condition? That was going to be a challenge.
He shivered as the breeze picked up. The desert could be bitterly cold at night and, if he remembered correctly, they were coming into the stormy season. That meant high winds and freezing temperatures at night. He weighted the edges of the makeshift tent down with rocks. Though there wasn’t much growth around, he managed to scrounge up some dry branches—enough for a small fire—and crystals. They would hold the heat, but he had to be careful not to touch them with his bare hands. Prolonged exposure to raw Ki crystals could wreak havoc with human physiology. The fire and crystals wouldn’t be much, but it was better than nothing. Holding his bounty in his covered arms, he returned to the tent.
Sabrina hadn’t moved, and that worried him. He knew basic field first aid, but what if she had internal injuries? He pulled out a portable medi-scanner, already pretty sure it wouldn’t work. After the third time it told him Sabrina was a neutered male, species Cerulean, he gave up and stowed it back in his pack. Not only was she very much a female, but she had two arms, not four, and her blood was red, not blue.
He made her as comfortable as he could, then pulled his sleeping pad next to hers, in case she needed him during the night. At least, that was what he told himself as he lay down, facing her.
Not so long ago, he’d been in the same position, but the circumstances had been significantly different. After going out a few times and enjoying each other’s company, she’d surprised him by going to bed with him. Unlike now, they’d been in his bed, in a comfortable apartment on the outer rim of the station. The sex had been incredible as they moved from the sofa to the bed, touching, kissing, teasing until both were too hot to breathe. He remembered the way she felt in his arms, the way her thick hair felt in his fingers, the way her eyes darkened with passion. They’d gone from casual dating to what he’d thought was a serious relationship. At least on his part it had been serious, as he’d fallen hard for her.
Then Tyler had sent him to another Fun Palace to quell a strike, which he’d done. When he’d returned two weeks later, Sabrina was gone. A few quiet inquiries let him know Tyler had sent her planetside to analyze the viability of setting up a permanent casino there. When she returned to the station a month later, she wouldn’t even talk to him. Then he heard she was dating one of Tyler’s accountants. He got the message loud and clear. He’d taken every off-station job Tyler would send him on. It gave him a chance to see more of Tyler’s operations, and it kept him away from her.
“So what happened?” he whispered as he reached out to smooth a stray hair from her face. “And what brought you to this?”
He closed his eyes to sleep, but all he could think about was her. Her scent tickled his nose, teasing his memories. She smelled like a summer day in his family’s garden, sunshine and flowers. He rolled over onto his back to stare at the darkness and to try to forget how much she’d hurt him.
During the night, Sabrina’s thrashing woke him. He tried to calm her and got a solid punch in the jaw for his efforts. Lost in the throes of a nightmare, she’d reinjure her arm and more if he didn’t calm her. In addition, she was burning up. He scrunched around and pulled her into a tight embrace, her back to him.
“Brina, baby, come on. Relax. It’s all right. I’m here.” As soon as he started talking, she calmed down, wilting in his arms. When he felt it was safe, he moved away to get the first-aid kit, then gave her a shot of antibiotics and an analgesic. Done with that, he sat back on his heels and stared at her. He knew what he should do to bring her fever down more, but damn, it was hard. And so was he.
“I hope you appreciate this.” He bent over her and maneuvered her out of her filthy jumpsuit. Underneath, she wore black lacy panties and bra, ones with dark red roses embroidered on them. She also had on a small pendant she always wore. He’d commented about it once, and she’d grasped it like a lifeline. He figured it was something special to her. It wasn’t even all that pretty, but she never took it off. “Double damn.”
He sponged her off with cleansing cloths, shivering in the cold night air, then laid her back down and covered her with a thermal blanket. Several times during the night, he alternated calming or cooling her. Finally, toward dawn, her fever broke, and she sank into a more normal sleep. Exhausted, he caught a few hours of rest as well.
The sun was midway to zenith when Carter woke again. He checked on Sabrina. She was still sleeping, but at least she showed no sign of the fever. He went outside to relieve himself and climbed a low hill to get his bearings. Nothing but rocky desert lay in all directions. Kiernan’s village lay to the west. He hoped Posi had been able to contact Kiernan, or it was going to be a long, difficult—if not impossible—hike out, if Sabrina could even make it. Somehow, he’d get them both out. Then he’d strangle her.
Now for the recipe:
Chili Bean Salad
3 (14 oz.) cans beans of your choice (I usually use black beans, pinto and garbanzo)
1 small can sliced black olives
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 1/2 c. corn (frozen or fresh)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder (Note: NOT garlic salt)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
Rinse beans well. Combine beans, corn, olives, onions, parsley in a large bowl (I actually put them in a plastic sealable bag or a bowl with a tight cover). Combine dressing ingredients, mix well and pour over salad. Chill several hours (overnight is even better).
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