romance writer
Cold Temptation by Zoe Ashwood

Hi, dear reader,

 

I'm so happy to announce that COLD TEMPTATION, the second book in my Alien Romance series is out today!

 

Dive back into the stunning world of Rendu:

 

Zoologist Mika Yadama has her hands full exploring a new alien world - the only problem is that the planet itself keeps trying to kill her. And the one male assigned to be her guide seems to be keeping his distance.

Kol ad Naals wants nothing more than to give in to temptation and drag Mika off to his bed, yet she’s leaving in six weeks. He’s lost enough people already, and he won’t allow himself to care for the human. 

That would be easier if she didn’t put herself in constant danger - rescuing her from certain death ties them together whether he likes it or not. 

But the environment and the lethal alien species aren’t the only threats to their relationship, and as a series of mysterious break-ins occurs in the capital, Kol’s duty to his queen and his nation must come first. If only it didn’t mean letting go of the only woman he ever wanted to keep.

Cold Temptation is a steamy Sci-Fi alien romance perfect for readers who like sexy alpha males and quirky, independent heroines. It can be read as a sequel to Cold Attraction or as a standalone, and it features a full HEA. Dive into this sexy series today!

 

Scroll down to read Chapter One or get it now: Amazon US - Amazon UK - Amazon AU - Amazon CA - International 

Cold Temptation by Zoe Ashwood

 

Chapter One

Mika

 

Icy wind swept across the frozen plain north of Volarun, the capital of Rendu. Flags snapped in the gale, the only sound to break the silence that had descended on the crowd gathered for the king’s funeral.

Mika shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. It didn’t help; the tiny snowflakes swirling through the air bit into her exposed cheeks and somehow found their way under layers upon layers of the best winter gear humans could produce. It still wasn’t enough to combat the persistent cold of this alien planet.

They had come at dusk to send the king on his final journey to join his ancestors, as the Rendians believed. The funeral pyre was built on a stone platform—only the royal family’s dead were burned there. The rest of the population carried out their cremations in special furnaces, then the ashes were given to the families and scattered into the wind.

But the king’s body would burn here, his last remains carried into the skies.

Mika shuffled from foot to foot. It was much too cold for humans to be standing still, but a vast number of Volarun residents had come out for the ceremony, and young Queen Zeema had invited the human delegation to participate.

Adriana, Mika’s American friend, was bouncing on her toes, trying her best to see above the crowd. The anthropologist was short and curvy and was fascinated with funerals as part of the culture. But Mika preferred her study subjects alive and kicking.

But she didn’t voice her complaints. Instead, she kept her gaze on Kol ad Naals who stood behind the queen with his two brothers, Taron and Lhett. His dress uniform was a marvel of Rendian engineering, completely impenetrable and yet molded to his strong, tall body.

She couldn’t help but admire his long, muscular legs and the sinewy strength of his arms, and that was just below his neck. He was one handsome male, with sharp, high cheekbones and serious blue eyes that turned her insides to liquid mush. The scientist in her said that he was simply a prime specimen, and her body was reacting to his, uh, manly hormones. But there was more to Kol than just his face.

Mika suppressed a sigh. She wished she could stand there beside him to offer him comfort, but she didn’t have any claim on Kol, so there was no reason for her to be joining the nobles at the front. Adriana, however, was Taron ad Naals’ partner.

“Hey,” Mika whispered to her friend. “Why aren’t you up there with Taron?”

Hanne, their Danish friend, the astrophysicist of the human delegation to Rendu, shushed her quietly. She was a stickler for rules, but Mika loved her all the same.

Adriana glanced around them. Nobody was paying them any attention, since all gazes were locked on the pyre.

She leaned close. “I figured this wasn’t the right time to make a spectacle. I didn’t want people staring at us instead of focusing on the funeral.”

Mika nodded, though she didn’t exactly understand. Fine, so Adriana and Taron were the first official human-Rendian couple, but Rendians were used to interracial relationships. They’d been communicating with other planets’ nations for centuries. In contrast, humans had only recently discovered that they weren’t alone in the universe. A Rendian trader ship found a space probe the Chinese had launched into space, and brought it back to Earth.

What had followed was a rapid recalibration of Earth’s priorities, and the first human expedition to Rendu was green-lighted. Mika had scored a place on it by both luck and extremely hard work, and there wasn’t a day she spent on Rendu that she wasn’t thankful for it. She would make history here.

Yet as much as she wanted to walk down to the harbor and convince one of the fishing vessels to take her out to sea to observe the giant creatures that resembled plesiosaurs, Adriana had told her that this was an important ceremony. And she trusted her friend to know better than her whether a social event was necessary to attend.

She shivered and rubbed her hands over her arms. They’d been standing here in absolute silence for the past ten minutes—Mika suspected this was a form of prayer or perhaps of remembering the late king and his work.

Then the queen stepped forward, nearing the pyre. An attendant approached her with a spear and handed it to her. The young woman inclined her head in thanks, then touched the electric spearhead to the kindling at one corner of the wood pile.

Wood was scarce on Rendu, and what gnarled trees grew were protected fiercely. Rendians used thermal energy for heating, cooking, and a number of other purposes, and Mika knew this pyre was an extravagance fit for a king.

The queen walked in a circle around her older brother’s body, her face pale and drawn. Wherever she touched the wood, smoky tendrils curled up in the air, soon stoked by the wind. By the time she returned to the Naals brothers, fire burned merrily, strange, greenish flames licking at the king’s shroud.

Within minutes, the pyre was ablaze, and the nobles retreated several steps to keep from the heat. The wind carried the sparks farther north, toward the massive half-circle of mountains that protected Volarun from the worst of the winter ice storms.

Mika still smelled the ashes in the air, and she knew her clothes would carry the scent afterward. It was strange, but she liked the thought: she would remember the king, even though she hadn’t known him.

They all remained silent, watching, until the queen bowed her head deeply, saluting her brother one last time. The crowd parted for her and her retinue as they passed, and soon, they disappeared from view. That seemed to be the unspoken signal that the funeral was over, even though the fire hadn’t yet died down. Mika cast a glance over her shoulder; there were several attendants on the dais now, minding the flames. Rendians were a practical nation, and staying outside longer than was strictly necessary wasn’t something they would do.

“What happens now?” Mika whispered to Adriana.

They made their way back to the palace, where the human delegation was still housed in an amazing, warm wing.

Adriana put her arm through Mika’s and grabbed Hanne with her other hand. “Taron is hoping the nobles will agree to crown the queen even though she hasn’t reached majority yet.”

Mika pursed her lips. From what she’d seen, the young monarch seemed like a responsible, smart woman. “Can’t she emancipate herself?”

But Hanne shook her head this time. “Lhett told me that the law forbids it. And she can’t change the law until she’s crowned and takes on all her duties.”

The ear-implant translators the Rendians had provided them with allowed them to each speak in their own language: Adriana spoke English, though Mika suspected some of her curses were in Portuguese, Hanne in Danish, and Mika in Japanese. She spoke fluent English and a smattering Icelandic from her studies abroad, but not having to think in another language was a gift. Rendian technology was far more sustainable and advanced than human, Mika had learned as soon as she’d stepped on Taron’s spaceship back on Earth. Above all, Rendians didn’t seem intent on colonizing and killing every nation that they encountered; apart from the recent coup, which was instigated by one power-hungry individual, their history was more or less peaceful for the past five hundred years.

Humans were luckier than they knew. If Rendians ever wished to harm them, Earth wouldn’t stand a chance.

Mika studied Hanne. It was unusual to see her awake during the day as her schedule had become completely reversed: she spent her days sleeping and her nights watching the stars. She and Lhett had been growing close, but nothing like Adriana and Taron’s clear devotion.

“And if they don’t crown her?” Mika persisted. “What happens then?”

Adriana’s dark brows furrowed. “They’d have to appoint another regent for her.”

“Ugh.”

Mika now hated the word regent. She’d come to associate it with Gilmar, the upstart who had killed the king and enslaved the queen in order to take over the power himself. The rebellion that had followed, over two weeks ago, had included most of the human delegation. They’d rescued the queen, and Taron had killed Gilmar, but not before the bastard had hurt both Adriana and Mika.

They were both mostly healed now, though Mika had a shiny pink scar at the edge of her scalp to show for her trouble. Ben, their Dutch doctor colleague, had done a fine job stitching her up, and had given her a clean bill of health the day before.

“Come on, we’ll be late for the feast.”

Adriana tugged their arms, and Mika didn’t have to be told twice: she was eager to get out of the cold. As much as she enjoyed exploring the fauna of Rendu, she didn’t think she could live in such conditions her entire life. She was leaving the planet in six short weeks and she’d travel to Morocco for a sunny vacation the moment she returned to Earth.

Do you really want to leave? Even if it means leaving Adriana behind?

At the thought, pain shot through her. She’d come to love and respect her two colleagues, and she’d thought they’d be friends forever, visiting each other in their respective countries every year. That was their plan, anyway, the one they’d concocted during the long month of travel that they’d had to endure while flying from Earth to Rendu in Taron’s beautiful, sleek spaceship.

But now Adriana, captivated by the Rendian culture and completely devoted to Taron, had decided to stay on Rendu forever. And as much as it was difficult to admit it, Adriana was the glue that held their trio together. Mika and Hanne were both slightly antisocial in their different ways: Mika because she was too straightforward and honest for anyone’s liking, and Hanne because she was generally too shy to make real connections.

Would their friendship survive if they were separated by light-years of deep space?

Mika squeezed Adriana’s hand. “I’m looking forward to the food.”

Hanne rolled her eyes. “Of course that’s what you’d think about.”

“Hey,” Mika defended herself. “If you were vegan, you’d have to eat all the time in this cold, too.” She’d had her vegan protein shake in the morning along with some mashed root vegetables that her friends in the kitchens had sent especially for her.

“You could just eat meat, you know,” Hanne said with a smirk.

They’d had this conversation before. Mika shook her head and returned her smile. She couldn’t eat meat—the animals she was studying sometimes seemed more real and approachable than humans. Or Rendians, for that matter.

“How’s Kol doing?” Adriana asked, her voice breezy.

Her sly grin betrayed the underlying intention of her question, though. She was fishing, and Mika was having none of it.

“I have no idea,” she said. “Since the regent was overthrown, Kol has barely talked to me.”

Which was true. He’d been assigned as her guard and guide at the human delegation’s arrival on Rendu because the former regent had wanted to keep the humans away from his illegal mining plans. Well, if she was being completely honest, she’d picked Kol out of the Rendian guards as soon as she saw him, and he’d sort of gotten stuck with her for the next month or so.

But she hadn’t thought he resented the position. Hell, he even brought her food sometimes, and he didn’t seem to mind too much if she asked him to show her around the city.

Yet she was certain he’d been avoiding her ever since the queen released the humans’ guards from their duties. And she missed him. Navigating a foreign city wasn’t as easy without his help, and while the locals were very friendly whenever she came to ask for information on the animals she was researching, Kol’s presence had always smoothed the way even more. He was a diplomat by nature, and his noble status was widely known.

As they passed through the main palace gate and entered the imposing obsidian structure, Mika sighed in relief. Warmth enveloped her, thawing her frozen extremities. But that odd, uncomfortable knot in her stomach remained. She didn’t just miss Kol for the way he charmed his fellow Rendians, but for the talks they’d had along the way. He’d explained details of their culture, clearly proud of everything they’d achieved. He’d even helped her in her explorations and was a passable lab assistant if she needed him.

In short, she’d thought he’d become her friend. It wasn’t the first time she’d mistaken an official relationship for friendship, though, and this proved no different. The instant he was officially off duty, he disappeared so completely, she couldn’t even locate him most days.

Which was why she was glad the queen had invited them to the feast. It was expected, Adriana had explained, that the new monarch feed their nation after the previous ruler’s death. It wasn’t a foreign concept—many Earth societies held wakes. But this would be a grand event, complete with music, speeches, and dancing to celebrate all the late king’s achievements. Food and drink were being distributed throughout the city, and even sent out to the remote communities such as the villages in the mountain foothills.

Back in their quarters, Hanne and Adriana disappeared to their rooms to get ready. Mika glanced down the corridor. Graham, one of the two American soldiers in the human delegation, slipped away from the mess hall and around the corner. She hadn’t seen a lot of him since her stay in Ben’s medical suite, which was fine with her. Though she’d found two amazing friends in the exploration team and got along well with most of the crew, it was statistically improbable that they would all become great colleagues. People were complicated, and she had enough work deciphering the thoughts and emotions of those closest to her.

She stopped in her room just long enough to dump her parka, hat, and the ski pants she wore over leggings, and exchange her thick-soled winter boots for a pair of Converse. This was what she was most comfortable in, and she hadn’t even brought clothes fancy enough for gala events.

On second thought, she shed her thermal t-shirt and put on a white button-down tunic that came to her mid-thighs. It was the only ‘nice’ thing she’d packed, and she wanted to look at least respectable for the evening that would likely mean a lot to Kol and his brothers. She swept her fingers through her hair and made a mental note to find a hair salon soon.

Her black hair was as different from the Rendians’ white locks as possible, and in fact, she was the least likely of their group to be confused for a local here.

She sighed. Maybe that was what was keeping Kol from hanging out with her. She wasn’t a six-foot-tall Rendian beauty but a five-foot-two Japanese woman. She suspected her weight and narrow hips alone made her undesirable for these strong, statuesque aliens, and her grating personality didn’t help with that.

Mika straightened her shoulders and gave her reflection a stern glower. Then she stomped into the corridor and banged on Hanne’s door to collect her friend and leave for the celebration.

There was no use in mourning her lack of suitors. She was here to do a job, and she would do it well. If Kol ad Naals didn’t have the time to chaperone her around the country, she’d ask for another guide, someone she wouldn’t get attached to. Someone she wouldn’t miss when she finally left the planet for good.

 

 

To find out what happens next, go right here: Amazon US - Amazon UK - Amazon AU - Amazon CA - International 

 

If you haven't read Cold Attraction yet, now's your chance! Get it today: Amazon US - International.

 

Happy reading!

Cold Temptation by Zoe Ashwood

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Hi! I'm Zoe Ashwood, a contemporary romance writer with a passion for sweet stories with a sexy twist. I want to make my readers fall in love with romance because I believe we all need a dash of love in our lives. Join my other followers to receive reading recommendations for all genres of romance, learn more about my writing process, and even read exclusive snippets of my novels and other writing endeavors. 

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