Shades of Deception by J. A. Clarke

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Syl Gordon just wants the perfect career and she thinks she’s found it. What could be easier than collecting plant specimens, even if she has to be a little deceptive about it? The jewel-eyed chancellor at The Simjul Research Institute seems to have fully accepted her less than truthful reason for being there. Now all she has to do is stay out of the way of temptation, and find her target specimen.

Jarek Mariltar has dealt with competitors anxious to learn more about his research, and friends anxious to find him a mate, but he has never before encountered anyone like Syl. He knows the accident-prone, fashion-conscious female is a fraud. He just can’t figure out who might have sent her. And he must protect the rare plant specimen from her amateur attempts to retrieve it at all costs.

Someone is manipulating them, but neither has a clue. They know they shouldn’t be spending so much time together, but they can’t seem to help themselves, nor can they refute their growing feelings for one another despite a relationship rooted in deception.


“Time to go. Storm’s coming.” He took off at a fast jog down the path. He couldn’t hear anything behind him, but he sensed her, and as he followed a curve in the path, he turned his head to watch for her. She was several lengths back, moving with a beautiful, fluid grace that was effortless. Her hair bounced over her shoulders. Her curvy body was sharply defined against the wall of darker vegetation.

He brushed against a Tinella and stumbled. Inattention had taken him too close to the edge of the path. Too late he felt a magnetic pull and had enough presence of mind left to toss the staff in the woman’s direction before he found himself hugged against the trunk of the first Pina colanthrium's mate. 

Slieking balls of Sortor. 

The tree’s gravitational pull was stronger in a storm. It should have been top of his mind. The last remaining hazard on their way back to the institute. Purple curves glided toward him. The tightening in his body didn’t have anything to do with the tree’s embrace. His mind apparently had decided to focus on something else.

The woman skidded to a stop in front of him, her eyes round, her chest heaving a little. “That was amazing,” she said.  

Not how he would have chosen to impress a woman, and why he would even think about wanting to impress this one was beyond him. “Your turn,” he responded, and jerked his head at the staff lying at her feet. 

“Of course.” She turned and bent to pick it up. Once again, his mind deserted him and his body exploded with heat. The rounded curve of her ass was pure temptation.

She straightened and pointed the wrong end of the staff at the tree.  

“Turn it around,” he growled, irritated with himself. “Find the knot at the base of the trunk and push the sponge against it.”

“Amazing,” she said again, an intense fascination etched on her face, as she followed his instructions.

Unlike her, he was ready for the sudden release from the tree’s embrace. He jumped away.

“Let’s go,” he said. He grabbed the staff from her and shoved at her back with his other hand. “You first. Run.” The wind was beginning to moan, not a good sign.

Her idea of running was more like a slow lope, but the view of her going was just as interesting as the view of her coming. At least he could watch where he was going and not risk an unintentional detour off the path again.

The skies opened up with a sharp crack and a rolling boom. To her credit, she didn’t utter a sound or falter. After a single quick glance back at him, she just kept going. It took a six-nan to reach the institute’s covered pavilion, another two to reach the entrance. 

As the heavy doors slid closed behind them, cutting off all sounds of the fury outside, Jarek turned. His boots rooted to the floor. All intelligent thought fled. 

The rain had turned the woman’s clothes completely transparent.

  • Published by: Uncial Press

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