Cover & Excerpt Reveal
by Tina Christopher
Victoria's Secret Agents Book 0.5
Working as an Aether Traffic Controller saved Holly Acklin after the death of her husband, but now she wants more—including a night of uninhibited passion with Jack Smith, whose very presence has kept her body tingling for months.
Special Agent Jack Smith kept his identity a secret when he came to the London Royal Port Authority with one assignment, one he cannot fail. It holds him back from following his attraction to Holly. But on the eve he must complete the mission, Holly asks for one night with no rules or boundaries, and his control snaps.
When London experiences an unexpectedly white Christmas, all dirigible traffic is grounded, leaving Holly and Jack free to act upon their stormy passions. Holly finds her determination to stay emotion-free crumbling unaware Jack is experiencing the same need. Each lover wishes for more, but fears it can’t be. Instead they focus their desires in mind-blowing passion.
But when Holly discovers that Jack isn’t who he claimed to be, everything is thrown into turmoil. Can she trust the man she thought she knew?
Genre: Erotic Steampunk RomancePurchase links: Loose Id Amazon ARe Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Sci Fi, Spies, Special Agent, Christmas, Victorian London
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Loose Id
Excerpt & More
Holly Acklin stormed into her supervisor’s office without knocking. “Mr. Tannenbaum, I’ve had enough. I must resign from my position as Aether traffic controller, effective immediately.”
Nicholas Tannenbaum, chief Aether traffic controller for the London Royal Port Authority, the largest and busiest dirigible port in England, looked up from his mountain of paperwork and stroked his long white beard. The sparkle in his eyes dimmed. “Indeed? Mrs. Acklin, I’m very sorry to hear that. What has brought on this rather abrupt decision?”
Holly straightened her back and lifted her chin. “Once again I have been scheduled to work the Christmas Eve shift. Tomorrow night will make it the third year in a row.” She had looked forward to spending the evening with friends at the Royal Port Authority Christmas Dance, had anticipated the socializing and admiring of the annual clockwork-creatures exhibition. For the first time since David’s death three years ago, she had wanted to do more than remember.
Tannenbaum’s bushy brows shot up. “Let me just see what we can do.” He pulled a pile of papers out of the mountain, narrowly avoiding an avalanche. “Hm…yes…” He ran his finger down a spreadsheet. “I see. You have the final overnight shift before we close down for Christmas. Out of all our senior members of staff, you are the only one without family close by.” His washed-out blue eyes studied her. “You never spoke up before. I didn’t imagine being scheduled for the holiday would push you to resign.” He curled the tip of his beard around a finger. “Unfortunately, I’m unavailable to work that night. Otherwise I would of course take the shift myself.”
Holly’s anger flared. For as long as she’d worked for the Royal Port Authority, she had not seen Tannenbaum work Christmas Eve. Or attend the dance. No one knew where he disappeared to.
A good chief spread the shift work evenly among the team. Instead, Holly had to work every occasion colleagues enjoyed family time.
Turned out she was no longer willing to accept this imbalance. Instead, she would use it to address her restlessness, her thirst for life after three years of grieving. She enjoyed her work at the Port Authority station, and it had given her the stability and routines she needed after losing David. But enough was enough.
She exhaled. “Mr. Tannenbaum, I do not care who will work the shift. Just be aware that it won’t be me.”
He nodded and gave a big sigh. “I understand. Smith is also working this Christmas, and it’s his first time. He is without family as well and told me he was willing and able to work Christmas. I had hoped he would have you and your experience beside him.” Tannenbaum shrugged. “Not a lot we can do about that if you’re certain you must leave.”
“Smith?” Holly swallowed. “Do you mean Jack Smith? From the Cardiff office?” Images of the man who had arrived four months ago flashed through her mind. The tall, rugged figure. The black hair and azure eyes that captured her every time he looked at her. The edge of danger surrounding him.
Since Her Majesty Queen Victoria had passed the Equal Rights Act shortly after she took the throne, men had needed to adjust to changes in their lives. Even now, nearly five decades after the law passed, Holly still found some men staring at her with a frown when they realized they were required to follow her orders. As if she couldn’t do the same work as good if not better as her male colleagues.
But Jack Smith had never responded in that manner. From the first time they’d been introduced, he’d been friendly, chatty, and just a pleasure to be around, accepting her position while sharing his experiences from the Cardiff station.
And his smile. His features were too roughly hewn to be called handsome, but his warm smile melted many things, including women’s knees. More than once Holly had needed to pinch herself to remember where she was.
She had clung to the idea of him as a new member of staff, as someone who required her assistance. Otherwise her thoughts tended to take very different and rather inappropriate paths.
Paths that involved tingles across her body and moisture between her thighs. And copious use of her personal manipulator.
But if I’m leaving anyway? The idea came out of nowhere. If I’m never going to see him again, I can fulfill a fantasy. No one will ever know.
Holly realized she’d stood silently for some time. Tannenbaum looked at her with raised eyebrows.
She blushed. “I’m sorry?”
“I said it will be difficult, but I will try to find someone to assist Mr. Smith. If I’m unsuccessful, he will just have to handle it on his own with your being so set on leaving right away.” A mischievous sparkle appeared in his eyes, as if he knew something she didn’t.
Holly cleared her throat, her thoughts spinning. The afternoon shift ended at seven. Once their colleagues had departed for the evening, she and Smith would be alone. Alone but for the Port Authority’s automatons.
“Maybe…maybe I spoke too hastily. It would be rather unkind of me to leave you on such short notice, especially as Mr. Smith hasn’t worked the busy Christmas Eve before.” She had no idea if she could go through with it, but this would be her last opportunity to do something she had fantasized about for months.
The delight in Tannenbaum’s eyes deepened and a smile spread across his lips. “Really? Mrs. Acklin, that would be wonderful and very generous of you.”
Holly clasped her hands before her. “Christmas Eve will be my last day of work.”
His smile dropped. “Still? That’s a shame, but I will not stand in your way.” He rose and held out his hand. “I hope you’ll find what you are searching for.”
Holly shook his hand. “Thank you, Mr. Tannenbaum.”
Tannenbaum sat back down. “No, thank you, Mrs. Acklin.”
Holly turned and walked out of the office but came to a standstill halfway down the corridor. Her heart raced. What on earth had she just done? Was she insane to give up her steady position?
No. As much as you enjoy your work, this is not what you want to do for the rest of your life. She took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to calm herself and formulate a plan. Holly needed a new direction, and her somewhat impulsive decision to resign had brought the necessary change upon her.
She would adjust, she always did. More important was the radical thought that had made her agree to work tomorrow night. All sorts of opportunities had now opened up. Opportunities to follow through on the heat burning inside her, the heat reflected in Smith’s eyes. He was too much of a gentleman to take it any further, so it fell to her to show him what she desired.
She flipped a curl of her undisciplined hair behind her ear. This could go either very, very right or horribly wrong. She started to walk again. But if it went wrong, she’d only have to suffer in his company for a few hours, and then they’d never cross paths again.
Holly pushed her hands inside her jacket pockets. Paper crinkled in one. Bother. She’d forgotten to give Mr. Tannenbaum the message from his wife. Holly turned around and strode back to Tannenbaum’s office, her rubber-soled boots thumping on the wooden floor. She knocked briskly and stepped inside. “Mr. Tannenbaum, I forgot I had a message from your wife.”
His bushy brows shot up. “What is it?”
“She asked me to tell you to come home early tonight so you’re prepared for tomorrow evening.”
A loving smile spread across his lips. “Ah, the missus worries too much. But it’s sweet of her to call.” He lifted the Aetherphon receiver on his desk. “I’d better call her back and reassure her.”
“You have big plans for Christmas Eve?” She couldn’t resist asking.
The loving smile turned wicked. “Not really. As I said, she worries too much. She should be aware that after all these years I know what I’m doing. Thank you, Mrs. Acklin.”
That tells me nothing. But Holly had no choice but to nod and turn around. Tannenbaum was a master at saying plenty of words without actually saying anything. She grumbled a little on her way to the tower, but Smith and their shift together tomorrow evening dominated her mind.
Luckily, once she got to her Long Range Visualization Terminal, or LRVT, in the tower, the Aether was busy enough to keep her thoughts focused and occupied. It always amazed her how many goods were delivered this close to Christmas. As someone who started to plan her Christmas list in September, it made no sense to her, but obviously there were enough people who waited to the last minute.
It had snowed steadily for the last two days and continued to do so. Snow interfered with the Aether connections and made the links between the controllers and vessels unreliable. She was uncertain how much more the station would be able to cope with.
She pushed her worries aside, and if the image of Mr. Jack Smith flitted through her mind with alarming regularity, she ignored it. Mostly.
Just because she wanted a night of pleasure didn’t mean she was emotionally involved.
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