Excerpt from “Tropical Temptation”
Here is a free sample from my 2nd novella, Tropical Temptation!
Adrianna startled awake, the dream she’d been having still living behind her eyelids. No, not exactly a dream… a memory—one of her worst.
She lay flat on her mattress and breathed deeply in an attempt to calm her racing heart.
Of course it was that memory that her mind wouldn’t allow to recede: the moment she’d had her heart broken.
Don’t think about it! she demanded of herself.
Why couldn’t she dream about pleasant things, like her family, or her home in Brazil? Why couldn’t she wake up content, if a little homesick? She’d take homesick over this depression any day. She wasn’t deluded… Adi knew that she hadn’t been herself in weeks.
Sometimes the depressing memory invaded her mind during the day, but in those moments, she was able to catch herself and redirect her thoughts onto happier things. She wasn’t able to do that when she was asleep. Caught in her dreams, she had to relive each horrible word uttered, and the expression Saric wore as he rebuffed her outpouring of love.
Crap! I’m thinking about it!
She jumped out of bed, as if movement would help keep the memories at bay, and exited her small alcove. Separated by only a sheet, her compact corner of the cabin had a bed, nightstand, light, and a few photographs of her family hanging on the walls. Her roommate Kaitie’s area of the cabin was the same as hers, but the third sectioned-off alcove was now empty, except for a small sofa which sat in the place of Lauren’s old bed. Their third roommate had vacated their small cabin two months ago in order to move in with her mates, Ian and Bilal.
Adrianna missed her. They’d been roommates for nearly four years, and were as close as sisters. Even though she missed Lauren, Adi couldn’t blame her for wanting to move in with her guys; she was in love, and Adi was happy for her. Lauren had gotten her happily ever after. It gave Adrianna hope that maybe she’d get hers… someday.
As crazy as it sounded, the tiny house felt emptier without Lauren. Not completely empty—Adi still had Kaitie living with her, and the woman’s personality was big enough for the three of them put together! Kaitie was an amazing person, but she was a bit intense for Adi to have all to herself. She missed having Lauren as a buffer between her and the (sometimes) boisterous other woman. Adrianna was quiet and liked her solitude; Kaitie was the opposite. She was outspoken and brash, but also strong, loyal, and an amazing friend.
Adi sighed and turned back to look at her personal alcove of the house. The hovercrate that had been replicated to carry her things for the move sat empty under her bed. It taunted her with its presence. Sooner or later she’d need to pack all of her belongings into it, but not right now. Probably not today… Eventually.
It was early morning—so early that the sunrise hadn’t yet painted the sky. It was too early to get ready for work, so she grabbed a piece of fruit, some dried meat, and her tablet. She opened the novel (a murder mystery she’d been reading the past few nights) and settled onto their new sofa. The genre wasn’t her norm, but anything to escape real life for a few moments.
She read for an hour, and when the sun had just begun to rise, she heard the stirrings of people outside their cabin. Soon, her roommate Kaitie emerged from behind her own curtained-off area, bleary-eyed, hair a complete mess, her pajamas askew.
“Morning,” Adrianna greeted.
Kaitie grunted some form of reply, and made her way into the kitchen to make herself her first cup of coffee. Adi smiled to herself; Kaitie wasn’t a morning person. Usually, she didn’t interact with anyone before her second cup of liquid caffeine. It was one of the only indulgences she used her replicator rations for.
Adi continued to read more of her book, and let her roommate caffeinate herself in peace. Soon, Kaitie came over with her second (or maybe third) steaming mug in hand, lifted Adi’s feet, and sat at the other end of the sofa, draping the legs she had lifted back across her own lap.
“How’d you sleep?” Kaitie asked. Now she was ready to start her day.
“Good, you?” Adi lied. Kaitie eyed her skeptically, but let the falsehood drop this time—thankfully.
“Pretty good,” Kaitie answered. “I’m just glad the high water finally receded.”
Adi whole-heartily agreed. That month’s high tide had lasted a whole two days longer than usual… something about the moons’ aliments at this time of the year. Adi didn’t understand it, and only cared that the high tide had forced her and the other colonists to stay up in the trees longer than usual. She didn’t love heights, which made this time of the month a challenge for her.
Usually, she spent her days with her feet firmly on the ground, gathering edibles for their colony. Kaitie, who seemed to thrive on heights, didn’t have any problems at all during high tide. It didn’t impact her days, as she collected the sweeter fruits growing in the tops of the trees that required more sunshine. A woman who climbed and repelled for fun, Kaitie was totally in her element, even when the tide was at its highest.
“Are you going to help Lauren again today?” Kaitie asked her. Adi nodded.
Lauren (the woman who’d, until recently, been their third roommate) worked at the colony’s hydroponics garden. What had begun as an experiment several months ago, was already so successful that they were enlarging their capacity. Adi was happy to help while she was stuck on the platforms in the trees. It was far better than swinging from branch to branch with Kaitie and her crew of monkey-like daredevils.
“Tell her I said hi, and that she needs to come visit more often,” Kaitie continued. “I swear, she spends every night with her boys… not that I blame her. I mean, have you seen them?”
She knew the question was rhetorical, but Adi nodded in agreement anyway. If she had two men like Ian and Bilal at home, she’d probably never leave.
An image of Saric and Duran fought into the forefront of her mind, causing an ache to pierce her chest. Adi fought back the image ruthlessly, and forced her mind back to their conversation.
“I’ll tell her, but I’m sure we’ll see more of her now that dinner will be back down on the beach.”
“You’re probably right,” Kaitie agreed. “It’s hard to find anyone on the damn platforms.”
Normally dinner was cooked and eaten on the sand, but during high tide, it was moved up onto large platforms in the trees. The colony was over four-hundred people now, so that meant that people usually got their food, then went somewhere else to eat to avoid the crowd. It was rare for the entire colony to gather together, but it did happen.
The most recent gathering had been three months ago, when Mayor Rexvan had called a meeting at the Community Center to make a life-changing announcement: his people, the Arathians, would be arriving with a ship to take volunteers to their more technologically advanced planet.
Rex had invited each of them to go, but Adrianna had known immediately what her answer was going to be. She didn’t want to leave Aeonas; she dreaded the idea of starting over on a new, unfamiliar planet—again. She loved her life on the colony… largely due to the fact that the men she had feelings for were there.
Saric had been the first Arathian Adrianna had laid eyes upon, and she’d been immediately drawn to him. She understood that Saric was a package deal; he was already mated to Duran, another Arathian male who’d been stationed on the Adastra. Duran was still sort of an enigma to Adi; she didn’t see him often, or talk to him. But when she did, he was always amicable, if a bit abrupt and direct. Even though she didn’t know him well, she trusted Saric: he wouldn’t have mated with a male who was unworthy.
Her plan had been to gently ingratiate herself with the duo. It’d taken her a while—a long while—to get the courage to go after Saric and Duran, but she’d been committed. Rex’s announcement had put a wrench in her plan. Their time on Aeonas had a potential expiration date, and she’d needed to act, in case the males decided to leave for Arath.
Adrianna had gathered every bit of courage she possessed so that she could tell them how she felt before it was too late.
Don’t do it! her mind warned. Don’t think about that moment! She knew the memory would be painful, but she couldn’t keep herself from sliding inextricably into the scene as it played out on the inner-surface of her mind…
The gathered crowd dispersed after Rex’s announcement. Adrianna lost sight of Duran, but caught up with Saric inside the Community Center, where he was shutting down the replicator for the night. Standing before him, she bared her soul.
“Don’t you see, Saric? I’ve had feelings for you for a long time now,” she confessed. “More than anything in the universe, I want us to be together.”
His expression brightened, which emboldened her. Adrianna took a couple of steps closer to him, within touching distance.
“I want to stay here on Aeonas with you and Duran.”
Saric’s expression immediately hardened at the mention of his mate’s name.
“You can’t have feelings for me,” he told her, taking a step backwards and away from her. The action cut at her chest.
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “Of course I can, and I do. Ever since you helped me the day my plane crashed, I’ve felt a connection between us. I know you feel it too.”
That day had contained the most terrifying experiences of her life, but Saric had been the one to tend her wounds. She hadn’t comprehended what he was saying at the time (since he only spoke Arathian), but his voice had been soothing, and his hands gentle, as he’d sealed the cut on her forehead and reset the broken nose she’s sustained during the crash. He’d been her anchor in a tumultuous storm. Now, over three years, and the development of a caring friendship, later, her feelings had long ago morphed into something more intimate.
At least, for her they had. If the look he gave her now was any indication, her feelings were unrequited.
“What you feel is admiration for what I did for you,” Saric insisted. “You were hurt and scared…”
“That’s not it,” Adrianna denied, then corrected herself. “Maybe at first I felt close to you because you’d helped me when I was at my most vulnerable, but that was three years ago. Since then, I’ve developed real feelings for you.”
She looked into his eyes and saw pain reflected in their depths. She’d never seen him like that before.
“Adi, it makes sense that you’d be nervous about moving to Arath—”
“I’m not nervous because I’m not leaving,” she interrupted. “I don’t want to go to Arath, especially if you’re not there. Don’t you understand, Saric? I’m in love with you.”
His expression turned to one of agony; his brows drew together so closely that there was a deep valley between them. He grimaced, then looked down at the ground while shaking his head. It was not at all what she’d expected when she imagined this moment. He was supposed to be happy, thrilled even. He was supposed to scoop her up in his arms, twirl her around, then give her a kiss full of love and promise. Maybe she’d been romanticizing the moment a bit, but he certainly wasn’t supposed to look at her as if she’d just broken his heart—like she’d given him horrible news.
“Adi, I can’t be with you,” he told her gently, his eyes coming back up to her. “It’ll never work out between us.”
Her chest constricted. Why would he rebuff her? He’d always been so happy in her presence; it couldn’t be that he didn’t like her company.
“Is it because you already have Duran?” she asked, determined to change his mind if she could. “I admit that I don’t know him very well, but give me time. I’m definitely willing to try.”
His eyes brightened for a moment in… hope? But then he closed them and shook his head slightly, as if trying to pull himself back. When he met her eyes again, his were cold. He’d never looked at her that way. That, more than anything else, scared her.
“I know you’re willing, but he’s not.”
Saric’s words caused her to physically flinch back.
“What do you mean?”
He seemed to struggle to find the right words. “He’s… We’re not looking for another mate.”
Her stomach fell, and unwanted tears stung her eyes. Did he mean what he was saying? She thought that all Arathians were bisexual and mated in menage partnerships.
“I don’t understand,” she admitted, choking back the nearly-overwhelming urge to cry. “I thought that mating with Earthers was the whole point of you helping us.”
“For Arath as a whole maybe, but not for Duran and I. We’re just here to help because your people were in need of it. We’re not here to become… attached.”
“I see,” she told him, even though she didn’t see his point at all. His expression turned from cold, into one of sympathy, and he finally reached out for her.
“I’m so sorry, Adi. I—”
“No, it’s alright,” she interrupted as she stepped back out of his reach. “You don’t have to explain.”
The last thing she wanted was his pity, or his placating touch—touch that, to her, meant so much more than platonic comfort. For the very first time, she couldn’t even stand to be in the same room as him. She was embarrassed, ashamed, and overwhelmed by the ache constricting her chest. She wanted to leave and go lick her wounds in private.
“I’m sorry I bothered you,” she muttered as she turned to leave.
“Adi, please let me explain,” he called after her.
She didn’t listen. She ran from the building to the nearest ladder, and quickly descended to the ground below. It was dark outside, but the moons were bright enough that she found the trail into the jungle. She moved swiftly, familiar with the twists, turns, dips, and valleys in the terrain, since she spent every day amongst the trees. It was a half mile away where she found a small cave formed by two entwined tree trunks. She crawled inside, brought her knees to her chest, and let the tears fall.
Adrianna shook herself out of the horrible memories, still so fresh in her mind. The constant reminder of Saric’s rebuff made it difficult for her heart to heal. Although she put on a brave face to everyone around her, she still felt the emotions of that moment like a festering wound.
Shaking off the depressing thoughts, Adi focused back on Kaitie, who’d snagged her own tablet and was tapping quickly on its surface, probably answering a piece of correspondence. It was still early in the morning, but Adi figured that she might as well get cleaned up before beginning her day.
“I’m going to go shower,” she told Kaitie.
She got up, put on her robe, snagged her toiletries, and exited their house, calling a “see ya” to her roommate as she went. Kaitie only grunted to her in reply, her eyes remaining focused on the screen in front of her. Adi didn’t let it bother her; there was no better person to be moving to Arath with than Kaitie.
Outside, there were few people around the colony this time of morning, but the sun was just rising, giving the sky a beautiful orange-pink glow that could be seen through the filter of tree branches overhead. Adi was grateful to see the sky without it being darkened by clouds. They were in the middle of the rainy season, so even a short reprieve was welcome.
She enjoyed the sunrise, then walked to the nearest community bathhouse. Inside the small building, there were several private showers and changing areas. The water was kept in a large tank on the roof, and was heated by solar power. The design was a vast improvement from bathing in the nearby river, like they’d done when Adi and the other plane passengers had arrived at the colony. The sudden increase in able-bodied people (and the Arathians’ replicator) had made luxuries like plumbing and warm water possible.
The bathhouse was empty, so Adi slipped into the far shower, pulled the curtain, and hung her robe and towel on the hook outside to keep them dry. She turned on the warm water to luxuriate for a moment, and pretend as if she hadn’t a care in the world.