BEYOND THE LIMITS
This mission is out of control…
Astronaut Isabelle Wolsten fought like hell to be one of the final candidates for the CRONUS mission to space. She can't afford to be distracted by teammate Antonio "Playboy" Curzon's broad shoulders, dark, sexy eyes and hot-as-hell Spanish accent. But one searing kiss from Antonio and Izzy knows she's definitely hit mission critical.
When the two astronauts are put in direct competition for a top spot on the mission, they'll be tested beyond their limits. Getting involved with Antonio is dangerous—but not nearly as dangerous as the feelings Izzy's starting to have for him. With everything she's fought for on the line, falling for this space cowboy might just ground Izzy's dreams for good…
PUSHING THE LIMITS
MAY 1, 2017
At six foot one, Antonio “Playboy” Curzon immediately drew the eye. Isabelle Wolsten tried to look at him objectively. His muscles rippled and bulged with each upward motion of the weight bar he was bench-pressing, while a low, gravelly grunt captured way more than just her gaze. His short, spiky hair was drenched with sweat and stood up away from a perfectly formed scalp. He had a day’s worth of stubble on his jaw and his dark brown eyes were intense as he continued his workout.
Aggravated with herself for even noticing, she pushed the button on the AlterG treadmill she was working out on to increase her bone density. She was one of eight women in the Cronus candidate class, and she was determined not lose her head over a pretty face.
But, damn, Playboy was more than a pretty face. He was a sexy, muscled, rock-hard body with a drawling Spanish accent. He was all the things her mother had warned her to watch out for and everything that her secret self wanted.
But could she really want him as much as she wanted to go to space?
Her snarky inner voice had been her guiding star all these years. Getting into NASA had been hard. At five foot two she was at the bottom end of the height requirement. She was wicked smart—no sense in denying it—and had been determined to make her mom’s sacrifices count. Her mom had been sure that Izzy was meant for great things. She’d worked hard—an administrative assistant by day and an exotic dancer by night—and she’d saved every penny. Made sure they lived in the right neighborhoods and that Izzy went to the best schools. Her mom had endured all kinds of snide remarks so Izzy could be where she was today.
One of an elite class of sixteen who were in the final running to fill out the last three spots on the first long-term Cronus mission. She was proud of that. Really, she was. Which was why she wasn’t going to let that hot body bench-pressing 250 pounds distract her.
It didn’t matter that he smelled good. That his aftershave—probably something custom-made—had her thinking of long, sultry summer nights. She hit the off button before she lost her concentration and tripped over her own feet on the treadmill. She didn’t look his way as she walked to the refrigerator that was packed with water and electrolyte-heavy beverages. Everything at the Mick Tanner Cronus Training Facility was to enhance an astronaut’s ability to stay longer in space. They worked out for twice the amount of time the astronauts heading to the International Space Station did. They ate a diet that was rich in vitamins to enhance bone density, and they were monitored for the development of kidney stones.
Music was blaring through the speakers, some kind of death metal that their second-in-comand, Thor, had put on to get the blood pumping. Izzy had just missed out on that position, but, despite that, she still wasn’t a shoe-in for the first mission. Izzy finished her drink and moved over to the punching bags in the corner. She wrapped her hands and then put on the gloves, slowly finding her balance again. She wasn’t going to let Antonio rattle her, even if he’d earned his moniker honestly. They’d been in the same candidate training class more than eight years ago. He’d been this born-with-a-silver-spoon guy who had too much charm and had bought his way in, while she’d gone to the academy on a merit scholarship and a recommendation from her senator.
She wasn’t being fair—she knew that. He’d always been a hard worker, but he’d had an easier path and she resented it. He’d left NASA and gone into the private sector to join Space Now, a company owned by a billionaire who was innovating outside of NASA. She’d thought she’d seen the last of him.
Yeah, sometimes that chip on her shoulder showed itself a little more than she’d like. But she couldn’t help it. She’d worked for everything she had. Rich guys like Playboy seemed to just waltz through life like it was nothing at all.
“Want me to hold the bag?”
That voice. He spoke English way better than she’d ever be able to master Spanish. And his accent—well, damned if it didn’t undo all the resolve she’d just spent the last fifteen minutes shoring back up. She wasn’t going to fall for him. She’d been strong when she’d gone through basic training. Ignored his flirting then, and she’d do it again now.
Except this time it was harder. She was more mature. Not as angry at the world as she’d once been, and Antonio…it seemed like experience had taught him a few things, too.
“Sure,” she said.
She didn’t say another word, instead picturing his strong jaw and dark brown eyes right in the center of the punching bag, and just went for it. Punched down the desire for him. Made herself believe there was nothing between them but sweat and—oh, hell, why did sweat smell so good on him?
This wasn’t working. She dropped back and let her arms, which felt like noodles from the pummeling she’d just given the bag, drop to her sides. He watched her the way he always did.
The intensity in his stare made her feel that he could see past all her barriers. Past the workout clothes and the prickly exterior she used to keep everyone at arm’s length.
“Why do you do that?” he asked.
“Look at me like I’m your enemy,” he said.
She shook her head, dropped her gaze and cursed herself inwardly. She turned away from him and used her teeth to loosen her boxing gloves. “Don’t flatter yourself, Playboy, the only thing you see in my eyes when I look at you is a desire to make sure I stay one step ahead of you.”
Yeah, right, and not a desire to see if his potent sexuality was the real deal or just another one of those things that looked better in the window. She walked over to the tablet mounted in the wall as she got first one and then the other glove off. Congratulating herself for leaving the encounter relatively unscathed, she entered her workout information, not paying attention to the fact that Antonio had followed her. He put his hand on the wall next to the tablet.
Even his forearm was too muscled and masculine. She doubted this man was going to have any problems with bone density. He was six feet one inch Grade A prime male.
“It’s not flattery, Bombshell. I know you keep watching me,” he said. “Deny it all you want.”