Title The Seven-Foot Cupid
Author Edward Hoornaert
Genre Science Fiction Romance
Ember Dayle prides herself on handling anything her newly colonized planet can throw at her, so after an injury, she’s determined to prove herself again. She gets her chance when ordered to explore a mysterious cave on a wilderness mountain. Until that’s done, the last thing she needs is the distraction of a man.
Tyler, an explorer from her town’s fierce rival, is sent to explore the same cave. Like Ember, he’s been in an accident…but he was the only survivor. When he meets Ember, he’s drawn not only to her beauty and toughness, but by her ability to deal openly with her accident.
Booker is a naïve Apprentice Cupid for a secret group hoping to make the colonists healthier and smarter by helping people with strong genes fall in love. His first assignment: Ember and Tyler. His strategy: lock them in an abandoned cabin together. With nothing else to pass the time, maybe they’ll find love.
But he doesn’t realize he’s locked them in with the fiercest, most intelligent beast mankind has yet discovered…
Tyler had suffered a stun beam once before, when he was young and foolish enough to try to break up a pub fight between Westerners and Easties. When the police arrived, they stunned everybody in the melee, including him.
He would never forget how it felt. At first it was like someone had slammed his solar plexus with a sledgehammer. Although he feared the pain would never end and he’d never be able to draw breath again, that horror lasted only agonizing seconds.
Then he went numb all over. The floor, when it rushed up to hit him, could’ve been a mattress made out of a cloud, because he felt nothing when he landed. Or crashed. Or crash landed.
This time, though, he hadn’t gotten a full dose, because Ember had set the stunner to take out the beast, not him. Instead of a sledgehammer to the solar plexus, it was just a regular hammer, which wasn’t really much better. The top of his foot registered a searing pain, as though he’d danced with a clumsy shymonster that stepped on his foot.
And all the while, was still leaping, because the stunner did very strange things to his experience of time. It seemed to slow down, while his thoughts raced.
He expected the pain to go away and numbness to take over. It didn’t. Worse, he lost control of the foot, and it was the one he landed on. He’d missed the beast, luckily, but crumbled to the floor and skidded in an untidy mess into the rampart of boxes.
For an instant, he glimpsed Ember’s face as he flashed by her. Then she was gone, and he was dodging as boxes fell and hit his face. The wall behind the boxes rushed toward him then hit him. He groaned.
“Tyler! Are you all right?”
He almost groaned again but he didn’t want to worry her. “What ho, Esmeralda?”
No, that was wrong. Esmeralda had been in the pub when he foolishly rushed in and got stunned. He’d probably been trying to impress her. Dumb of him.
Now Ember…that lady was worth trying to impress.
“Speak to me, Tyler!”
“You’re not Esmeralda.”
Ember sat on the floor beside him and put his head on her lap.
“Glorious pillow,” he said.
She flinched and let his head hit the floor.
The light blow knocked Esmeralda and the pub out of his mind. “Former wife,” he said through clenched teeth. “Twelve years ago.”
He hoped she’d cradle his head again, but she didn’t.
“How’s the mountain beaver?” he asked.
“Out like a light.”
“But it’s alive?”
“I haven’t checked. You’re more important.”
“That is not what the manuals would—”
She silenced him with a kiss.
Not just any kiss, either. A wow of a kiss that made him forget about his painful foot, forget about the creature, forget about his sore solar plexus. Pulse hammering, he struggled for self-control as her tongue teased his lips. He opened. So did she.
Her sweet, warm breath sighed against his face. He forgot everything in the world except the softest, most pliant, most wonderful lips he’d ever felt and tasted and licked. Were those sensations caused by the stunner, the time dilation?
He didn’t care. He strained toward her, trying to deepen the kiss, and she responded with equal fervor, feeding his explosion of desire. When the kiss finally ended, he stared up at her. “You’re wonderful.”
“Better than Esmeralda?” She cuddled her hand against his cheek. Her fingertips spread delightful electricity over his flesh. “You, sir, are my knight in shining armor. Even though you demolished my castle.”
“Your castle?” He sat up with his back against the wall. He couldn’t quite control the wince that slipped from his mouth.
She laughed and kissed him again. This one was even better. In this upright position he could put his arms around her, and the sensation was like holding a warm and cozy vision of heaven. Their tongues danced together with the precision of long-time tango partners. Never had a mere kiss moved him so much. When they separated a few inches, he was breathing heavily. So was she.
“I’m not wearing armor,” he whispered. “Shiny or otherwise. Just skimpy shorts.”
“The skimpier the better. Don’t you know how fair damsels reward their heroes?
“Not in as much detail as I’d like. What is a damsel, anyway? I always wondered about that.”
Smiling, she opened her mouth to answer but no words came out. She spread her hands in bafflement.
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Edward Hoornaert (a.k.a. Mr. Valentine) is not only a writer, he’s a certifiable Harlequin Hero; he inspired N.Y. Times bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson to write her favorite Harlequin Desire, “Mr. Valentine”, which was dedicated to him. In the past, he wrote contemporary romances for Silhouette Books, but these days he writes science fiction adventures—usually with elements of romance and humor. In addition to novelist, he has been a teacher, technical writer, salesman, waiter, janitor, and symphonic oboist.
After having 30 different addresses in his first 28 years, his rolling stone slowed in the mountains of British Columbia and stopped in Tucson, Arizona. His high school sweetheart has been his wife for more years than he has fingers and toes to count. Ed and Judi have four children, a rescue dog, and the galaxy’s most delightful grandsons.
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