They say one's first love leaves an indelible mark upon the psyche. Audrey Purcell's first lover, Kirk Mason, disappears in the aftermath of a bomb blast, and the bittersweet experience transforms the shy, bookish girl into a brazen and reckless risk taker.
Each shore leave sees her swimming in alcohol and rejoicing in one-night stands -- the latest fling with Joachim Muller, a navy commander with the body to die for.
Now a navigator on an independent rain catcher, Audrey's career takes a great leap forward when she is given command of a derelict, the Aqua Vitae, found abandoned on the high seas -- its reactor shut down and its crew murdered.
Audrey's success comes with a price, as the echoes of her painful past clash with the promise of the future, and threaten her lifelong dream with destruction.
Aqua Vitae (Raincatcher 2)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2013 Mikala Ash
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2141 Ad -- The Library
Day One, Afternoon
It was a sign of the times. The July fifteenth "Protest for Peace" at the Hobart University's campus escalated into deadly chaos. Lasting three full days, the peace rally resulted in over two hundred and fifty casualties, including five dead.
Fiercely apolitical, I was in the library studying. Being the first in my family to actually attend college did not afford me the luxury of extracurricular activities. My mother had worked herself into early decrepitude as a hospital janitor to afford my fees, and it would have been disrespectful to not focus completely on my studies.
So, while pitched battles were waged outside, I was safely ensconced behind rows of bookcases and luxuriating between the battered covers of a fifty-year-old Levanovsky; which in my opinion is still the most readable celestial navigation textbook ever written.
With my "line of position" calculations and an almanac spread out over a map of the Southern Hemisphere, I was totally oblivious to the real world. Instead, I was in the virtual world of navigation exercises, plotting a hypothetical course off the treacherous coast of Tierra del Fuego. A bomb could have gone off and I would not have noticed. In fact, dozens had exploded during the course of the riot's first morning, cracking the plaster and buckling the library's foundations, and I hadn't felt them at all.
So I almost jumped out of my skin when a hand reached across the desk and took the pencil out of my grasp.
"Would you do me a favor?"
I gazed up into the most startling blue eyes I've ever seen. The skin of the angular face that wasn't covered by the patchy beard was deeply tanned. Full lips curled into a beguiling smile, exposing brilliantly white teeth.
"Can I borrow your jacket? It's a nice shade of... khaki."
"What are you talking about?"
Then I noticed a loud kerfuffle down the corridor. The normally heavy silence of the library was being disturbed by shouts and running footsteps. The good-looking stranger shucked off his bright blue parka and threw it beneath the desk. "Please?"
He wore a form-fitting shirt that stretched across his athletic chest. My heart skipped a beat. I'd read about that reaction to handsome men in my Mum's romance novels, but never felt it for real before. It was a disconcerting experience. "Sure."
I took the jacket off the back of my chair and handed it over. I watched as he struggled to put his arm through the sleeve and over his wide shoulders. I'd bought the jacket mid "summer" when the Hobart weather first turned nippy. It had been the cheapest I could find. It barely fit him, as I am, according to my Mum, quite petite. It stretched almost to the breaking point across his broad chest. He pointed to my beanie sitting on the end of the table. I shrugged, feigning indifference, and he pulled it over his tangle of sandy hair, making sure it covered his ears.
He dropped into the chair opposite me and stretched out his legs, propping them on the corner of the desk. He grabbed the Levanovsky and pretended to read.
"It's upside down," I pointed out.
He gave me a broad smile before he flipped it over. He surprised me with a question. "What's the answer to exercise fifteen?"
Before I could answer he'd dropped his feet to the floor, and leaned over the desk, taking my face between his hands in one fluid motion. Then he kissed me. His lips were firm, and his tongue forceful as it entered my unresisting mouth. His beard tickled my chin.
At that moment two giant policemen rushed into my quiet corner. They gave us a cursory glance before continuing on toward the Astronomy and Cosmology sections. Eventually the angry sounds of pursuit dwindled away into silence.
"They didn't look happy," he said after he released me. He settled back into his chair and, with a wide grin on his face, stared at me in a most open and provocative manner.
Mum would have slapped him across the face for his presumption. I guess I'm not completely like my Mum.
I admit some shame at not resisting his kiss. Not even a scream. Not even a whimper. I'd just let him kiss me. My lips tingled strangely, and my cheeks were suddenly hot. I couldn't take my eyes off his chiseled features, and it was a few moments before I realized I wasn't breathing.
Down the hall, a door slammed as the police took their search into the stairwell. I drew in a long, ragged breath.
"What did you do?" My voice was brittle, and I cursed myself for being so flustered.
He shrugged. "Attended the rally is all." He dropped his gaze to take in the rest of me. I was suddenly conscious of the embarrassing state of my clothes, courtesy of the Salvation Army's "free rack." My flannelette shirt was a size too small, and I was acutely aware that the buttons were stretched tight. My breasts, I'm told, are not exactly petite. His eyes lingered there, and I experienced a sudden flush of warmth between my thighs..