Today's First Chapter Friday comes from the first series I completed. It's a dystopian series, and while each book is a romance story on it's own, it is important to read them in order to fully understand everything that is happening in this fictional world. While this is a MF romance, there are FF scenes. The second book in the series is a FF romance, and the third is a MM romance. Meanwhile, there are many secrets learned in each book. Happy reading!
Enjoy the first chapter of NEVER GONNA LET YOU GO (The Underground #1)
If only I could touch his sexy body again.
Standing at the edge of the camp, Calla Jacobs couldn’t stop staring at the toned and tanned body of Erik Edwards, aerospace mechanic for mission SFAE3, while he worked to repair the core drill. She tried to tear her gaze away, willed her feet to move so she could get to the plains of Airondelle, but it just didn’t happen. She watched as sweat trickled down the center of his back, and she closed her eyes, breathing in his pure, masculine scent. The memory from years ago, of running her hands across the wide expanse of his upper body and through his thick, blond curls, only made things worse. She didn’t love him anymore—at least not in the way she had when they’d dated. And still, Erik would always hold a place in her heart. They’d grown up together, been best friends, even after they’d broken up, until he’d married Holloway.
Erik snapped open a bottle of water, took a large swig, and then poured the rest over his head with a heavy sigh. She could almost hear the water sizzle.
Oh, to be one of those water droplets cascading down his bare chest. She’d enjoy the water so much more if she could stand close enough to lick it off of his body before it dripped to the ground. Grimacing, she clenched her fists. Jeez, pull it together.
Their mission on the barren planet did not include sexual affairs. In fact, except for already established marriages, sex was forbidden outright; the mission could not be compromised by all of the emotions and distractions a sexual bond brought. She and Erik had ended their three-year relationship for that reason— they’d both dreamed of being a part of the mission responsible for confirming the existence of a planet capable of sustaining life. And neither of them had felt ready to get married. They’d promised to wait for each other until they’d served their time and had remained friends throughout their training. Two months before their departure date, Erik had eloped with the mission commander, Melina Holloway, a woman Calla could never compete with in terms of brains and beauty. A quick divorce had followed, but the short-lived marriage had left Erik with a chip on his shoulder. And he’d refused to talk to Calla about anything other than the mission, if at all.
“What do you want?” His gruff voice jerked her from her thoughts. “You’re supposed to be out studying those tapir things. I’m not one of your specimens, so move on.”
He’d turned into such an ass since his tryst with the commander. And still, Calla couldn’t stop the desire coursing through her body as she stared at his half-naked body. She hadn’t been with anyone since him, and every other male in the camp was at least old enough to be her father. Mission or not, on Earth or Airondelle, she still craved a man’s touch. Erik’s touch.
“Seriously, Jacobs, leave or I’ll report you to Holloway.” He growled the words as he continued to work on the drill. “She’ll put you on mess duty for the rest of the mission.”
Calla cursed Holloway for changing Erik. What could have happened between them to turn her once best friend into someone who couldn’t stand the sight of her?
“Did someone mention my name?” Calla cringed at the sound of her commander’s unwelcome voice. If she didn’t acknowledge her, perhaps the commander would continue to walk past her. She didn’t know Holloway very well, had avoided her since Erik’s involvement with her. In truth, she could find no reason to get to know her any better. Many crewmembers called Holloway a bitch, among other names, behind her back yet acted like googly-eyed teenage boys when she disciplined them for insubordination.
“Jacobs, follow me,” Melina said, her tone sharp.
Shit! If only she’d gone straight to the Jeep instead of stopping to drool over Erik. She didn’t need to be reminded of Holloway’s authoritative prerogatives as commander, a position she dreamed to one day be in. The thought entered her mind too often already.
As she followed the commander, she glanced back at Erik. He didn’t even appear to notice she’d left, as if she was a bug he’d squashed and thought of no more. What had she done to deserve to be treated like shit? Sure, she didn’t have a perfect, shapely body like Holloway, but in the past, he’d told her he loved her.
Holloway stopped at the mess tent, opened the flap, and closed it again without stepping inside. “Too busy in there. Let’s go to my quarters.”
The commander’s tent sat beside her own closet-sized one, with the mess, medical, and storage canopies separating their sleeping area from the men’s.
Ducking through the entrance, Calla reined in her envy. Not only did the commander have ten times as much room as Calla, Holloway also slept in a queen size airbed. I’m sure that’s so much more comfortable than the wretched cot I have to sleep on.
The commander pulled out a chair from her makeshift desk. “Sit down, Jacobs. We need to talk.”
She perched on the plastic contraption, an uncomfortable thing compared to the hover chairs back on Earth, wondering why Holloway was giving her such a stern look rather than the smile she often wore. Perhaps she reserved smiles for the men. Flirting with her wouldn’t work. She wasn’t interested in women.
Holloway crossed her arms. “Why are you so obsessed with him?”
The commander’s question interrupted her inner grumblings. “Pardon? Who?”
“Edwards. I see the way you stare at him. You remind me of a teenage girl with a crush.”
Bitch! “We used to be friends.”
Holloway laughed. “Oh no, not the way you practically fall over yourself whenever he comes within ten feet of you. I mean, I understand the attraction. He’s hot and one of the few men who haven’t gone soft since Planet Core took over the city.” She sat on her bed and removed her polished black boots. “They all think PC will make their lives easier. Little do they know….” She shook her head. “Anyway, why aren’t you and Edwards friends anymore?”
Calla wanted to be nice to her commander, she really did, but the woman was sticking her nose in her personal business. She stood up. “May I speak freely?”
“By all means.”
The amusement on her commander’s face fueled her anger. “We’re not friends anymore because of you. He married you then turned into a complete asshole. What did you do to him?”
Holloway rose from the bed and moved so she hovered only inches away from her. Her nostrils flared. “It wasn’t my fault. We got married, had two days of nonstop sex, then he woke up the next morning, said it was all a mistake and asked for an immediate divorce. I’d like to know what happened as much as you.”
Her stomach clenched at the mention of Erik having sex with someone else. But she could no longer hold a grudge against her commander. She hadn’t been dating Erik when he’d married the woman, and Holloway seemed to know as little about the change in Erik as she did. She and the commander were probably both going through the same thing. “I’m sorry. We just used to be so close and now he barely talks to me.”
“I know, hon.” Holloway rested a hand on her shoulder, giving her a comfort she’d always longed for from her own parents and had only ever received from Erik. “We both deserve better. Much better.”
But she didn’t want anyone else. Couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. Only Erik. She was ready to break the rules if he showed some interest. Calla turned, ready to get back to work, to get her mind on something else before she broke down. The only time she allowed herself the luxury of crying over Erik was at night, before she fell asleep. Alone. “Is that all, Commander?”
“No. I wanted to tell you what a great job you’re doing out there. I know it must be tough to do all of this research by yourself, but you’re exceeding Planet Core’s expectations.” She leaned closer. “That’s because we women know how to get our work done.”
Calla smiled. Other members of the crew had often been caught napping when they were supposed to be drilling and taking samples. She wouldn’t even consider such a thing. Working for Planet Core had proved to be the opportunity she’d always wanted to escape her parents’ control. They’d never cared what she did until she’d moved to the city with Erik. Then they’d cut off her funds to get her to move back home. Planet Core had given her an education, a job, and a place to live. Without Erik though, living in the city seemed pointless. She was lonelier than she’d ever been.
The commander stepped back out of Calla’s personal space. “I want you to call me Melina. I really want us to be friends, regardless of what happened with Edwards. There aren’t too many women set to go on the missions, so we need to stick together.”
A friend? She wanted nothing more than someone to talk to, someone to trust. Erik had once been that for her. She missed the bond they’d once shared. Missed having someone else to count on. She’d needed a friend for so long.
Tears trailed down her cheeks, and she was helpless to stop them. She’d held so much in, self-doubt forcing her to live in darkness. Now she could see a hint of light.
Arms wrapped around her. Melina’s. She welcomed the comfort, rested her head on her new friend’s shoulder, and cried.
“It’s okay, hon. You’re strong. You’re tough. You prove that every day out in the field.” She rubbed her back until all of her tears were spent and then wiped the moisture from Calla’s face. “Just don’t let any of them see you weak. That’s when they’ll walk all over you. We need to stick together.”
Staring into her eyes, she noticed her commander’s expression change. She recognized the desire, the lust. Holloway brushed her thumb across her bottom lip.
She gasped, more from wanting to take Holloway’s thumb into her mouth and the tingling need in her loins than surprise at the commander’s touch.
Releasing her, Holloway walked to the other side of the tent. She kept her back to Calla. “You’re dismissed. The mission is almost over, and you still need to catch a rapat.”
She rushed out of the tent toward the Jeep, grabbing her backpack along the way. Not only was she surprised by Holloway’s show of desire, but also by her own body’s response.
Pulling the camera from her backpack, Calla considered what might have happened if she’d remained in Holloway’s tent. Would they have kissed? Her stomach fluttered and dampness spread between her legs as she thought about Melina’s soft lips.
Wait! She wasn’t attracted to women, never had been before. Then why couldn’t she stop thinking about what Holloway’s lips would feel like on hers and all over her body?
She took a deep breath. Sexual relations of any kind are forbidden during the missions. While repeating those words over and over, she spotted a perfect place to set up for her study—a large crancait bush on the edge of the field where the rapat fed. The bright red berries decorated the bush in stark contrast to its deepgreen, oval-shaped foliage. She crept through the waist-high vegetation, trying to make as little noise as possible. Although the foreign planet had not been shaped by an ice age like Earth, it did boast fields all the way to the horizon similar to the prairies where she and Erik had grown up. Erik should be the one she thought about kissing, not Melina, not a woman. She knew everything about him, or once had. But Erik had turned into an asshole, and Melina wanted to be friends. Maybe more? Her body warmed at the thought.
On her way to the red-berried bush where she planned to take pictures of the creatures, she stopped to ensure she hadn’t spooked the herd while her mind wandered to places it shouldn’t. Good, they haven’t moved.
Arriving at the crancait, she spread out a blanket to lay her equipment on and turned to affix her camera to a tripod. She’d never gotten this close to the herd for her footage. She’d managed to remain downwind and the warm breeze not only helped to disguise her scent but also her movements.
With no natural predator—at least none she’d discovered—the rapat flourished on this part of the planet. Their round pig-sized bodies resembled the tapir of Earth, but with the addition of a longer, elephant-like trunk. Their lips smacked and teeth ground together as they ate their fill of grasses. The smell of their dung reminded her of molasses rather than that of any Earth animal.
After adjusting the camera to record video footage of their feeding and social behaviors, she sat down to write her notes. Instead, she could only think of Melina, and the moment in her tent, which could have led to something else, something more than friendship. Something she needed just as much. She sighed. I’m attracted to Melina. What does this mean?
Nothing. She needed to focus on the mission. The rapat. She’d been observing the creatures during daylight hours—two more than she’d grown used to on Earth—for a week now, yet she found herself no closer to figuring out a way to capture one without using Earth tranquilizers. With no idea how the drugs would react with one of these creatures, she refused to take the risk. If the rapat were to be tested as a viable food source for the people of Earth who would one day settle here, she needed to capture one by indigenous means.
The thought of killing and preparing one of the fascinating creatures for consumption repulsed her, but she’d already collected samples of all of the vegetation. The berries, leaves, and bark of the crancait all proved to contain toxins that, when consumed over time, would kill a human. Perhaps the rapat avoided them for the same reason. She’d tested the dry, pink-flowered vegetation the rapat fed on, but found it lacked too many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for human life. Until the next crew arrived to survey another part of the planet, the rapat remained their only option. She had to capture one, test it, skin it, and then prepare its meat for freezing. Planet Core would process the meat for consumption when they returned to Earth, if the rapat proved viable. Thank goodness I don’t have to eat one because I don’t think I could.
Tired of waiting for one to approach her, Calla decided to take action. She needed something to focus on to keep her mind from drifting to inappropriate thoughts about her commander. With only a week left on Airondelle, she needed positive results to be considered for any future missions. She pulled out the dagger she kept sheathed in her boot for defense against any yet undiscovered creatures on the planet. Creeping through the grass, she spotted her target—a young rapat, brown with pink spots, just old enough to begin wandering away from its mother. Ready to attack, she gasped as the herd snuffled out a warning cry and then bolted in front of her. Shit! Every one of them took off, bounding across the fields, and she couldn’t come up with any reason why. She hadn’t moved an inch.
Vegetation rustled behind her. The sound grew closer. She spun around to face a possible attacker, her knife held high.
“Whoa, Jacobs. Put the knife down.” Holloway stood before her, arms raised in submission. Even dressed in her camo uniform, her chestnut-colored hair pulled back in a severe ponytail, she still eclipsed any model from any of the fashion emagazines. Beautiful.
Calla struggled to keep her hands by her sides and cursed under her breath. Anger was better than revealing her other feelings. “You scared my herd away.”
Her commander smirked as if she’d done it on purpose. “It’s a good thing, too. You were about to kill one.”
Calla kept her mouth shut. Yelling would do her no good, only get her reprimanded. Even though she wanted to be friends, Holloway still remained her commander for the rest of the mission. “I had no other choice. Without anyone to help me, that is the only way I’ll bring a rapat back to the camp.”
“Well, today is your lucky day. Edwards finished fixing the drill, so I don’t have to ride everyone’s ass to keep them busy.” Holloway stepped closer, and Calla inhaled the woman’s appealing citrus scent. “Now I’m all yours. I want you to go back to camp right now and get some sleep. I’ve read your notes and I think we’ll have better luck if we come back during the night.”
As soon as the commander drove away, Calla breathed a sigh of relief. No more awkwardness. She packed up her equipment and returned to camp. She’d wanted to study the rapat at night all along, but she’d never been able to convince anyone to go with her, and no one was permitted out of camp alone at night. Holloway wasn’t her ideal tagalong—since she’d started having sexual thoughts about the woman—but with only one more week on the planet, she’d settle for anyone.
Wanting a quick bite before she tried to sleep away the afternoon, Calla stopped by the mess tent. Erik sat at the picnic table inside, all sweaty and sexy and still shirtless. She joined him after grabbing a snack pack—a mix of dried fruit and seeds. He was the one she was supposed to fantasize about, not Holloway, not a woman.
“I heard you got the drill up and running.”
He turned toward her and glared. “Yep.” Then he stood up, put the food packaging in the recycler and left.
Fuck him. She’d had enough.
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Jessica E. Subject is a USA Today bestselling author of Sci-Fi and Paranormal Romance.
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