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ABOUT THE MICHAEL
HE IS A LETHAL WEAPON…
One of an army of soldiers created by a government experiment, Michael is different from the others involved, dangerous in ways no one quite understands. Even Michael himself, believes darkness lives within him, evil fights to control him. And only one woman, the woman he loves, can bring him back from the darkness and into the light. But she has become his enemy.
Cassandra is the daughter of the man who created Michael, who unknowing to her, tricked him into taking drugs he believed to be immunizations. She is torn between her love for Michael, and her love for her father. She’s also the woman Michael left behind, breaking her heart, seeming to shut her out without looking back. But now Michael is back, fully intending to show his enemies, Cassandra’s father included, his wrath. And he’s not leaving without Cassandra.
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Cassandra followed Brock onto the plane managing to maintain a remarkably calm façade. Relaxed even. As if she were not about to be found out by her wannabe murderer. If she couldn’t get to a phone and call Caleb, Michael would save her. Of course he would. He’d know the flight she was on. He’d wind-walk to her arrival airport and be waiting. He’d be pissed, but he’d save her. And if she was going to deal with two hundred pounds of pissed off, macho man, she was going to have something to show for it. She was going to get that copy of the hard drive. So think. Think! There was a way out of this.
She passed an enclave where a flight attendant greeted her when a plan hatched in her mind.
“Hi,” Cassandra said, stopping to chat with the woman. “I’m battling a migraine, and it’s really making me sick. Any chance I could talk you into bringing me a Sprite before takeoff.”
The twenty-something female was quick to help. “Oh, my sister gets those, and they are hell. We’re running late, so let me give it to you now so you have time to drink it.” She motioned Cassandra out of the aisle so people could pass. She then popped some ice into a glass and filled it with Sprite. “Make sure it’s empty before liftoff. What seat are you in? I’ll check on you once we’re in the air.”
Cassandra searched her ticket and showed it to the attendant before accepting the drink. “Thank you very much,” she said and then rushed after Brock, praying she got to him before he managed to open that briefcase. She arrived at her seat just as Brock buckled himself up, her computer case at his feet, ready to open.
With a silent prayer that this was going to work, she moved to sit, and accidentally, on purpose, dumped her Sprite in his lap. He cursed and jerked in shock, ice and cold liquid all over his pants and shirt.
Cassandra reacted with instant shock. “Oh no! Oh Brock, I am so very sorry. I am really not myself.” She handed him the glass. “Put the ice in this.” She reached for the computer bag. “I stuffed some tissue in here while I was in the airport restroom in case I got sick.” She partially unzipped the bag and fumbled around, removing the flash drive and trying to conceal it with the tissue.
“Miss,” a flight attendant said, stopping beside them. “The bag needs to go under the seat for takeoff. Oh no. Do you need help here?”
Brock crammed the ice into the glass and handed it to her. “You can take this and bring us some napkins.”
Cassandra discreetly maneuvered the tissue and the stick to her lap and used the briefcase as cover as she slipped the stick into her pants pocket. “Here you go,” she said, offering him the tissue as she zipped the case closed and then slid it under the seat. “I’m really sorry.”
He accepted the tissue and started wiping down his shirt. “It’s fine,” he said, his tone saying it really wasn’t. “I guess we can change the computers once we are in the air.”
“I guess so,” she said softly, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes. She’d dodged a bullet. Now, if she could get away from Brock without getting herself killed.
With Chin by his side, Powell stood in one of several private PMI labs, their location highly secret. Together, they overlooked a dozen willing soldiers strapped to hospital beds, still several injections from completing their conversion to GTECH. All receiving the original GTECH serum—Grade 1—while Chin perfected a newer, faster-acting Grade 2 version. “You’re certain we cannot use the Grade 2 serum to speed up their conversion?” Powell asked.
“Grade 2 is not ready, and to mix the two versions of the serum would mean certain death,” Chin replied, hands in his lab coat. “There is no rushing the process. They are two weeks from being Red Dart ready and impatient to be liberated from those restraints.”
“They’ll be free when they are under Red Dart control and not a minute sooner.”
“From what Jocelyn has told me this can happen twenty-four hours after the final injection,” Chin assured him. “She seems quite certain she’s found a way to overcome the immune function of the soldiers, but only once their bodies have stabilized in their new condition.”
Yes, his little Jocelyn was quite the prize. “It’s time we find out for sure. A dozen soldiers ready for battle two weeks from now is no longer enough. Not with the entire GTECH population trying to stop Red Dart from happening. We have no idea what they might do to stop us. Use the GTECH2 serum. I need an army of GTECHs, and I need them now.”
Chin objected instantly. “General Powell, I must remind you that the GTECH2 serum is a conversion that is rapid and potentially lethal. Those that survive will not only be positive for X2, but the aggression will be magnified times ten. You are talking about a highly volatile soldier. One without a mind for anything but violence. I need time to alter this reaction.”
“Will the GTECH2s be stronger and faster as you promised?”
Chin hesitated, “Yes.”
“And at least half of those dosed will survive?”
“I take that as a yes,” he interrupted. “Both Adam and Caleb Rain are after Red Dart. Do you wish to see our country fall to the GTECHs?”
“You know I do not,” Chin replied brusquely. “I need a human test subject.”
“You’ll have Brock West,” he replied, pleased with Chin’s agreement. “I’ve sent orders to have the several hundred recruits scheduled for next week report two days early. We’ll have hundreds of test subjects in forty-eight hours.”
“You do realize that West and anyone we dose before I perfect the serum will be little more than an animal on a leash?”
“The Zodius are animals, Chin,” he said. “I want an animal who can face them and win, who is both powerful and in control of my troops,” he said. “And in case you’ve forgotten, Red Dart is my leash. It’s my method of control.”
“Very well then,” Chin agreed. “I assume I will have the Red Dart application immediately available?”
Powell gave a short nod. “Jocelyn is in the lab next door running final tests even as we speak. We’ll bring West in tonight when he returns from Washington.”
Soon this country would know it was safe and that he alone had kept it that way.
After a long delay in Houston, it was early afternoon when Cassandra finally stepped off the plane in Nevada. She immediately tried to ditch Brock. “I need to drop by the ladies’ room, and since I’m under the weather, I’m going to call it a day. No dinner for me tonight.”
“Understood,” he said. “But I’ll wait. You’ll need help with your baggage, and I should probably give you a ride home.”
Not going well. Especially since she’d come to the realization she didn’t have the phone Michael had given her and had no idea how to reach Caleb without the call being traced. Nor did she have her own phone. It had been on the nightstand in the hotel. Which explained why Michael hadn’t been calling to yell at her. But neither had she felt so much as a tingle of awareness of him nearby. She could really use a tingle right about now.
“I’ll be fine to drive,” she said. “If you can just get my bags.” She started walking toward the escalator.
“I thought you needed a restroom,” he said suspiciously.
“Changed my mind,” she said. “Rather just get home.”
Twenty-minutes later, Brock settled her bag into the trunk of her new red Beetle that had replaced the fancy German car. He grabbed his duffel bag, which was leaning against the bumper, casting a critical inspection over what Cassandra knew to be an appearance worthy of that “walking death” comment that still made her cringe.
“You sure you can drive?” he asked, though he didn’t seem particularly interested in doing so.
Cassandra guessed he hadn’t made any plans to kill her yet. Comforting thought, so she clung to it. “I’m fine,” she said. “See you in the morning.”
He offered her a two-finger salute and sauntered away. She watched him and frowned. Why had that been so easy? Didn’t the man want to kill her? She turned to her car and got in, uneasiness in her stomach as she slipped the key into the ignition.
Brock dialed his voice mail as he left Cassandra, hoping to find instructions from Powell regarding his first injection, but stopped short when his Chevy Blazer came into view. Lucian was leaning against it, all nonchalant, as if contact with a member of Zodius Nation wasn’t a major fucking problem. Cassandra could drive by at any minute.
Brock charged forward. “Are you crazy? I can’t be seen with you.”
“That’s not a very friendly welcome,” Lucian chided.
Brock ground out between his teeth, “Get in the damn truck before someone sees us.” He clicked the locks open with his key chain and rounded the bed of the truck, lifting the tarp along the way to toss his bag in the back.
Lucian didn’t move. “It was Michael who followed us last night,” he said. “His unfortunate involvement demands aggressive actions. We’ve set plans in motion—Cassandra Powell will be dead within the next hour. I’ve arranged for the secretary of state to pressure Powell for Red Dart during his grieving. You will volunteer to deal with Red Dart and the government while Powell is mourning.”
Brock’s heart thundered in his ears. “Powell told me to look out for his daughter. If anything happens to her, he’ll blame me. I will be the last person he trusts to take care of things while he buries Cassandra.”
“That’s why it will be a car accident,” he said. “Just like her mother.” He made a fist and twisted it in unison with his words. “That should twist Powell in the gut extra hard. And there is no way you could prevent such a thing.”
“You can’t be sure a car accident will kill her,” he argued, trying anything to shut this down.
Lucian smiled. “You underestimate me, Brock. There’s a little alien something we call ‘Stardust’ in her exhaust. It will cause a brain aneurism. It is undetectable in human testing. Her car will crash. She’s dead regardless of cause. I suggest you get to work so you can be there by Powell’s side when he gets the news. Be ready to take control.” The wind lifted, and he was gone.
Brock stood there all of three seconds before he started running toward Cassandra’s car as fast as he could. If anything happened to Cassandra, he didn’t care what the cause, Powell would go ballistic. He wasn’t taking any chances of losing his injections or even delaying them. He ran ten parking rows and one level up. By the time he got to her car, he was panting, finding her stupid little Beetle sitting where it had been with Cassandra nowhere in sight.
He let out a breath of relief. She must have forgotten something inside. He’d wait. He didn’t want to risk missing her. Thirty minutes later, no Cassandra. Brock lifted the hood of her car and disabled the battery. Then, for good measure he pulled a pocket knife and discreetly sliced two tires.
He had to get to her house before Lucian found out she was alive and decided to kill her some other way.
Her stomach twisted and turned in sudden sharp waves that, thankfully, remained dormant during the ride from the airport to her condo. Cassandra paid the cab driver and lugged her suitcase out of the car, balancing her computer bag on top, purse over her shoulder. She’d been about to turn the key in her ignition when it had hit her that in the movies a few too many of those who were knocked off ended up dead in their car. She hadn’t liked her odds.
Nervously, she rolled her bag toward her condo and realized that going inside might not be smart—the second place that people got killed was in their homes. But she didn’t know where else to go that she could be sure Michael could find her. She had no direct number for Caleb. If she called her office, she worried that her father would find out she’d asked for the number.
With her heart fluttering wildly in her chest, she entered the paved walkway with her residence to the left. She drew a breath and unlocked her door, then shuffled her bags inside. Cassandra felt the tingle of awareness spike the mark on her neck a moment too late. Suddenly, strong arms were around her, and she was inside the condo, the door shut behind her.
Michael leaned against the solid surface, pulled her hard against his body, powerful thighs molding hers, branding her. He slid his hands up her back.
“Michael,” she gasped. His hair was pulled back so that she could see the anger etched in his beautiful face all too clearly.
He placed his hand over her backside. “I have a good mind to turn you over my knee and spank that pretty little ass of yours.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Oh I’d dare, and you know it,” he rebutted. “What part of… Adam wants you dead… do you not understand?”
“What part of, Adam has to be stopped before the world is destroyed, do you not understand? I had to get that copy of Brock’s hard drive.”
“And did you?”
“Yes,” she said, chin tilted defiantly. “I did.”
Dark eyes assessed her. That hand on her backside flexed, almost in threat. And damn it, that made her hot when she didn’t want to be. He made her hot. “Did you know, Cassandra,” he replied tightly, “that once a female has had sex with a GTECH there is a psychic residue that can be tracked? Unless that female is lifebonded, or underground, a skilled GTECH Tracker with the right motivation can find you anywhere. Even Germany.”
Shock rolled through her. She had never been safe. Adam’s Trackers could have found her. “You knew I was in Germany?”
“I’ve always known where you were. And I knew you were far enough away to stay out of sight, out of mind—off Adam’s radar. I was furious when your father lured you back to the States, back onto Adam’s radar.”
A knot formed in her throat. “I… you knew I was there, but you never once came to see me.” In that moment, she realized painfully that she’d used her time in Germany as his excuse for not contacting her. He couldn’t find her. He couldn’t come to her. But he’d found her all right.
His hands slid into her hair. “I came to see you,” he said softly. “You just never knew I was there. You were safer that way. I’ve kicked myself a million times for not intervening when you were returning home. I should have made you stay there. But I also knew any contact with me put you at risk—and not just from Adam, Cassandra. I knew if I touched you again, there was no way I would ever let you go.”
She sucked in a breath at that confession. He was touching her now.
His hand slid up her back, molding them closer. “Do you know how damn worried I was about you when you were on that plane?”
“No,” she said, leaning back to search his face. “No, I don’t.” But she wanted to. God, how she wanted to. “I don’t know anything about what you feel, Michael. Because you never tell me.”
“Well, I’m telling you now,” he said hoarsely. “I was going insane, coming out of my own skin. Barely able to stop myself from yanking you out of that airport and back into my arms.” His mouth came down on hers, hot, passionate, and fiery, like a man starving. Cassandra clung to him, hungry for the comfort that his strong arms offered, the scent of him devouring her with… him. Yes. Him. He was what she needed, and she could feel the same hunger in him. He needed her. He’d always needed her. He’d always known where she was, always been near.
But… she tore her mouth from his, still clinging to him, unable to make herself let go. “What happened to not touching me, to being afraid we’ll lifebond without a blood exchange?”
“The knowledge that in one instant you could be taken from me forever.” Emotion cut deep in his tone.
This was what she’d wanted to hear from him, was it not? So why was there an empty gnawing feeling inside her? Confused, so confused. Her hands went to his chest, self-preservation kicking in. “No.” Then stronger. “No.” She shook her head. “One minute you push me away. The next, you pull me close. I can’t do this. I can’t.”
“Cassandra,” he breathed heavily. “I want you. I want you so damn much. But there are things about me you don’t know.” She was ready to reject those words, to shove away from him until he added softly, “Things… I don’t want you to know.”
Tenderness rushed over her, and Cassandra pressed a palm to his cheek. It was an honest, raw answer. The most honest he’d ever been with her. “I do. Tell me. Please. Just say whatever it is, and be done with it. Then the worry is over.”
Abruptly, he set her away from him. “This isn’t the time for this conversation. Adam’s men will come for you. We have to leave.”
They stood there, staring at each other. His face a stony, unemotional mask, yet hurt and loneliness spilled from him, seeping into Cassandra’s pores. She felt herself become that hurt, that loneliness—his hurt and loneliness.
It made her angry. It made her want to shout at him to stop being a fool. It made her want to run to him. It made her want to run away. Nothing had changed from moments before, when she’d tried to push him away. He was still incapable of letting her inside himself. He would hurt her.
This was over. They were over. And she might have said just that—wanted to, needed to—but a sudden rush of nausea seemed to merge with her emotions, and her knees wobbled.
Instantly, Michael was there, his arm wrapping around her waist. “Cassandra.” He picked her up and carried her to her oversized blue couch and laid her down. On one knee beside her, he studied her with those probing, black eyes. “The lifebond illness.”
She nodded, the implications clear. She was having the lifebond illness. “I’ve been sick. Yes. All day. But before you start freaking out, it’s not the violent, bedridden illness of lifebonding. And we still haven’t done a blood exchange. So please. Let’s skip the part where you do the brooding Michael thing you do, and tell me how dangerous you are for me. We both know we have no business lifebonding after everything that’s happened between us. Let’s leave it at that.”
Michael’s expression shifted. He looked shaken. “Cassandra—”
She shook her head. He pulled her close, pressed his forehead to hers. “I never meant to hurt you, Cassandra.”
Her fingers curled on his jaw, her chest heavy, eyes tingling though she refused to cry. “I know,” she said. Just as she knew he wouldn’t mean to hurt her again if she let him. She wouldn’t. Nor would she run. Not from Michael. And not from Adam. She’d spent far too much time watching rather than participating, making a difference. She’d accepted Michael’s emotional distance. She was done accepting. It was long past time for her to stand and fight.
She leaned back and ran her fingers over his lips. She loved his lips. Loved kissing him. So she did. She pressed her lips to his and then leaned back, pulling the flash drive from her bra. He arched a brow, and she smiled. “I wasn’t about to let it off my person. Care to do the honors while I pack?”
He took the flash drive from her. “Backpack or small duffel. We’ll be traveling by motorcycle through Sunrise Canyon.”
Fifteen minutes later, with a small backpack filled, Cassandra had changed to jeans and tennis shoes. She returned to the living room and found Michael sitting on her couch, laptop open. “Any luck?”
“Encrypted,” he said with frustration, shutting the lid to the computer. “I just talked to Sterling. We’ll meet him on the way out of town and give him the flash drive. He’ll have it decoded by the time we get to Sunrise City.”
A moment of trepidation fluttered through Cassandra at the lack of control that gave her. She knew Adam was after Red Dart; she also knew the Renegades were against her father. But they wouldn’t be once she proved he was not against them. That hard drive might be the answer to doing that.
Cassandra nodded her approval. The sooner it was decoded, the sooner they could all work together.
Michael exited Cassandra’s condo, pulled the door shut, and locked it. He took her hand in his, a silent promise everything was going to be okay. Her hand was tiny, soft. He wanted to hold it forever, and for a moment he couldn’t remember why that wasn’t possible. The instant they cleared the building, the stifling early evening heat wrapped around them, the smell of rain touching the air. A distant rumble of thunder promised the trip through the canyon would be a wet one. Reaching out to the wind for any warnings, Michael listened for the whispers only he could understand, and then ordered it to seek out trouble.
Glancing at Cassandra, he inclined his head toward the side of the building, to a row of parking meters that faced another building and more meters. “I’m over here,” he said, leading her toward the less-than-discreet spot he’d parked the Ford F-150 he was driving, scanning the perimeter with feigned nonchalance and noting four vacant cars across the street. A fifth car sat two empty spaces in front of the truck.
He opened the passenger’s door of the truck, and he settled his hand on her tiny waist, helping Cassandra climb into the cabin. “I can’t believe you traded in Carrie for a pickup truck.”
“Carrie is waiting at home for her next ride,” he said as she settled into the seat, and then softened his voice as he added, “or ours,” remembering all too clearly a night they’d made love in that car. That had been a feat, considering it was small, and he was big, but a pleasurable feat. From the pink flush on Cassandra’s pale cheeks, he knew she remembered that night as well. “She’s missed you.”
Her lips parted, full, tempting, and the only thing stopping him from kissing her was the need to get her to safety. “Then why isn’t she here?”
“We’re headed toward some hard desert terrain. Carrie doesn’t like hard desert terrain. I can’t exactly wind-walk amongst the general population, so believe me I’d take her speed and agility any day over Frank here.” He patted the truck’s dash.
She snorted, delicately. Cute. Damn, he loved everything about this woman.
“Frank?” she laughed and shook her head. “You and your nicknames.”
Good. Laughter. Keep her mind off danger. “I’ve been eyeing a white vintage Mustang. I need another Carrie.”
He started to shut the door, contemplating the many ways to change her mind, when the wind whispered a warning. His gaze snapped upward and did a quick scan.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Cassandra’s hand touched his chest, warm, insistent.
“Someone is watching us.” He reached across her and popped the glove box open, displaying a Browning 9 mm pistol. “Lock the doors, and lie on the floorboard.”
Cassandra grabbed his arm. “Let’s just leave,” she said. “Drive away. I don’t want you to get hurt again.”
His gut clenched with her concern. No one but Cassandra had ever worried about him. He grabbed her. Kissed her fast and hard. “I’ll be fine,” he said and shut the door on her before she could stop him, already following the wind’s direction.
Abruptly, he turned to the blue Toyota 4Runner across and to the right. Someone was hiding behind that vehicle. He wind-walked behind it and found the crouching male behind the front bumper.
Michael grabbed the man by the neck and found his ineffective attempts at escape confirmation that he was human. The buzz-cut and stoic demeanor spelled out military despite his street clothing. If he worked for Adam and was here to kill Cassandra, he was dead. If he was here to spy for Powell, well… he was dead. Allowing Powell to know Cassandra was with him wasn’t an option. That would shut her out of her father’s trust and destroy her chances of getting to Red Dart. Probably the Renegades’ chances too, as Powell would increase his security measures.
But before he killed the man, he needed to know for certain if Powell was suspicious of his own daughter.
Michael jacked the guy against the wall, holding all two-hundred-plus pounds of him dangling above the pavement. “What the flip is your problem!” the man demanded, indignant, unruffled when he should have been.
Michael dug his fingers into the man’s flesh, giving him an idea of the amount of pain he could inflict. “Who are you working for, soldier, and why are you here?”
“Let me go,” the man grunted. “I’m not working for anyone!”
“Right. You just like crawling around behind cars.”
“I was checking my tires!”
“Don’t fuck with me,” Michael growled. “Who the hell are you working for?”
“You’re flipping insane, man. I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Michael ground his teeth, spoke tightly. “Did whoever sent you tell you who I am?” he asked, well aware of his reputation. “Did they tell you how capable I am of killing you without blinking an eye?”
“I told you, man,” the soldier said, “I was checking my tires.”
The wind gusted with warning, and Michael yanked the man to the ground and behind a car, bullets splattering all around them. But not soon enough. The man went limp, a bullet between his eyes.
Fuck! More bullets. Cassandra . Michael left the man behind, ordering the wind to surround his truck, create a windshield, a buffer that he was capable of holding no more than sixty seconds.
He wind-walked to the driver’s side of the vehicle and held his position, listened for a message in the wind. The shooters were dead. That was the extent of what he understood. Often he didn’t understand at all, but that was improving.
Michael popped the door handle and climbed into the truck, quickly turning on the engine. “Stay down until I tell you otherwise.”
“I thought they wanted to make it look like an accident?” she asked from the floorboard. “Shooting at me in the middle of a public place is not an accident.”
“Did any gunfire hit the truck?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the road as he scanned for attackers.
“I don’t think so,” she said, and then with more certainty. “No. Now that you mention it, I don’t think any bullets hit the truck at all.”
“You can get off the floor now, sweetheart, but stay low in your seat,” he said. “I think the shooters were after me, not you. That means this was your father.”
She eased into the seat, lying with her head on the door below the window, feet on the seat. “Please tell me, no,” she said. “If he knows I’m with you, Michael, that hard drive will be it for me. I won’t get anything else out of him.”
Michael wasn’t sure what more she could do anyway with Adam trying to kill her, but he didn’t say that. “It’s doubtful your father is going to find out I was with you,” he said, which was good, if not for the very real threat of a Zodius attack. “Someone killed the shooters.”
“I don’t understand,” she said. “Was it Zodius?”
He nodded. “It had to be.”
“Why would they keep either of us alive? And why aren’t they attacking now?”
Michael’s jaw set, and he reached for his phone to call Caleb. They were going to need backup to make it to Sunrise City. “Adam doesn’t want me dead, or we wouldn’t be driving away. He wants me alive. So he can torture me. And for whatever reason, the Zodius didn’t feel they were ready to stand against me back there.”
But they’d be back, sooner than later, and Michael had to be sure Cassandra was out of the line of fire when it happened.
Perched on a rooftop across from Cassandra’s condo, Brock’s attempt to kill Michael had failed. He’d killed a soldier, which had left him no choice but to kill the other three. If he couldn’t kill Michael before he left with Cassandra, no one could live to tell Powell she was with him.
His one last shot at Michael had been a prime one. Michael had opened the truck door, preparing to get in. Brock had prepared to take the shot, when suddenly his weapon had been yanked from his hands.
Brock had whirled around to face his attacker—Lucian. “What the fuck?”
“You will not kill Michael,” Lucian said. “Adam wants him alive. You saved him from his attackers, yet you try to shoot him yourself.”
“I didn’t want anyone else getting the credit,” he lied, and quickly drew the attention elsewhere. “I thought we wanted him dead. If you’re trying to capture Michael, you’re failing, just as you did at killing Cassandra Powell.”
Lucian glared. “Michael and Cassandra are about to take a nice long drive on a deserted section of Highway 95. They won’t last the night.” He raised Brock’s weapon and pointed it between his eyes. “And you won’t last the week if you don’t get me Red Dart.” He disappeared into the wind, taking the weapon with him.
Brock punched at the air and took off running. He had to get to the base. He needed to convince Powell to inject him now because if Lucian had his way, Cassandra wouldn’t be returning home. Powell had charged him with her protection, but she’d be dead by morning.
Brock climbed into his truck and slammed the door just about the time his cell rang. He eyed the screen. Powell. His gut clenched. He was sitting in front of Cassandra’s apartment—four of Powell’s men were dead, and his daughter had just left with Michael. That kind of timing screamed of a fly stuck in shit.
He answered. “Yes sir, General.”
“Under the Speedway Bridge at I-15 at 2300,” he said. “You’ll be transported to our facility from there.” The line went dead.
Brock sat there in stunned disbelief. A meeting under a bridge in the middle of the night. This damn sure wasn’t standard protocol, but then neither was anything to do with Red Dart. Powell was secretive about his lab.
Brock didn’t consider himself a wuss, but he was shaking clear through to his bones. He was excited. He was scared. He was aroused just thinking of the power that would soon flow through his veins. This could be the day his life changed forever.
Only a few minutes after being sprawled out on the floorboard of the truck certain she was going to die, Cassandra watched in surprise as Michael pulled off Las Vegas Boulevard and into the parking garage of the Neonopolis Entertainment Center. He cut a hard right to the lower level of the twenty-thousand-square-foot facility.
“Please tell me why we are in a shopping mall?”
“Neonopolis is more than a shopping mall,” he said. “It’s a full entertainment center with movies and games. It’s also a great cover for our inner-city operation in the basement. Crowds discourage wind-walking and battles. Even Adam doesn’t want to be known to the public. Not yet. Not until he’s ready to take over.”
She shivered with that comment. “Don’t say that as if it’s going to happen. Like it’s just a matter of time.”
He stopped the truck in front of a steel wall, and then punched a code into his cell phone. The doors opened with rocket speed. He put the truck back in gear. “I’d kill him before I let that happen.”
She frowned, realizing the question in the back of her mind that had been niggling with demand. “Why didn’t you kill him while you were in Zodius City?”
He pulled into a parking spot next to Carrie, and her chest squeezed with memories.
“Oh I wanted to,” Michael assured her, putting the truck in park and killing the engine. “You have no idea how I salivated to kill that man. Would have done it the day of the Area 51 takeover, but the bastard had enough explosives strapped on his person and planted all over the facility to kill everyone in the place if his heart stopped beating. Caleb and I both figured I’d kill him the minute he unhooked himself, but Adam is thorough. He has chemical weapons set to go off in several major U.S. cities upon his death. I’ve never been able to find out who holds the remote. That’s why he remains untouchable.”
This was almost too much to comprehend. “He’s frightening. All of this is frightening.” A realization came over her, and her gaze snapped to Michael’s. “That’s why you stayed inside Zodius so long? Trying to find out how to kill him without civilian casualties?”
“Yes,” he said softly. “And not just causalities, Cassandra. Mass causalities. Hundreds of thousands of people. I never planned to be gone two years. I was supposed to be in and out—I was going to kill Adam, and the Renegades would attack his followers. It would be over. But nothing is simple with Adam.” He shoved open the door. “We need to move. We aren’t far enough underground to keep the Trackers from finding you, and the high concentration of people above ground will only mildly dilute your psychic energy enough to slow them down, not stop them.”
Cassandra swallowed hard at that announcement and popped open her door. She was being hunted. Would this hell ever end? She stepped to the back of the truck as Sterling exited the elevators a few feet away and approached in a casual saunter, his long, blond hair tied at his neck, weapons strapped to his shoulder, one to his jean-clad hip.
Cassandra listened as Michael replayed what went down at her condo. “Holy fuck,” Sterling said, running a hand over his face and then casting Cassandra a teal-green apologetic look created by contacts. Unlike the other GTECHs, Sterling could not mask his eye color from humans. No one knew why.
“Sorry Cass,” he offered quickly.
She snorted. “I’m just glad to be alive to hear you curse, Sterling.” She’d known Sterling since Area 51 and always liked him. “Besides, I’m fairly immune to soldier talk. All I care about right now is getting that hard drive data decoded.”
“I’ve never met a government code I couldn’t crack,” he said with a cocky wink. “Michael might be better at scorching someone with a single dark look, but I’m the man with the computer skills.”
Cassandra laughed. She’d forgotten the way Sterling teased Michael and the way Michael scowled in return. She’d missed it. And the little hint of light in Michael’s eyes told her—he had too. She realized then that those two years inside Zodius must have been hell for him, and she wondered what kind of inner strength it had taken to survive that. For the first time, she felt something more than anger at him for what he’d done. She felt pride.
“I should have it open by the time you two head for the trams,” Sterling assured her. “Which better be all of fifteen minutes or the Trackers will be all over us.”
“Trams?” Cassandra asked, casting Michael a questioning look and trying not to think about the Trackers.
“We’ll travel through a series of hotels by way of the connecting trains,” Michael explained. “Then we’ll walk through each hotel. It should confuse the Tracker’s senses long enough to get a good start on the highway. A team of Renegades will travel ahead and behind us from there.”
She bit her bottom lip, her throat suddenly dry. “Because eventually the Trackers are going to catch up to us,” she said, and it wasn’t a question. Neither Michael nor Sterling denied that statement. They didn’t have to. They all knew—the Zodius were coming for both her and Michael.
A few minutes later, Cassandra stood munching on a PowerBar and drinking orange juice in a room full of computer monitors and electronic gadgets. Michael had put down six bars and some sort of liquid supplement drink and was popping the top on a second. Sterling sat at the computer panel, keying like crazy, all kinds of green and white code popping up on the screen.
“How do you feel?” Michael asked softly, studying her.
She nodded. “Better,” she said. “Just tired. Wishing I was like you guys right about now and needed only a couple hours of sleep here or there.” She really wished for the past right now—to be back at Area 51 before any of this happened, curled to Michael’s side after eating a great meal and watching a movie.
He stared at her a moment, as if he too might be thinking of the past, and then cut Sterling a look. “We’re on borrowed time here, man. What do you have?”
“Hold your breath and count to sixty,” Sterling said. “I need one more minute.”
Michael cursed and grabbed the newspaper under Sterling’s arm. Sterling cut him a look. “There are similar stories in four states.”
“What is it?” Cassandra asked. “What’s going on?”
Michael tossed the paper down. “More missing women,” he said. “Most of whom are probably already dead.”
Bile rose in her throat, and she set her PowerBar on the counter behind her. “Dead? I thought they were just experimenting?” Just experimenting. God. That sounded horrible.
“Ava has a new fertility treatment she’s developed from her pregnancy hormones,” he said. “Problem is—the women only have a 50 percent chance of surviving the process.”
“Giving birth to the devil’s spawn,” Sterling said, over his shoulder, still keying.
“That was the unavoidable situation that kept Caleb from calling you the night we gave you that phone,” Michael explained. “We rescued fifty of the hundred women there. I had to blow my cover to get them out.”
“What about the other fifty?” Cassandra asked.
“So brainwashed they stayed,” Michael said. “At least half of them are probably dead now.” He scrubbed his jaw. “All we did was cause more women to be kidnapped.”
“That’s not true,” Cassandra said. “You saved fifty women, and it will take time for them to replace those women. No matter what, fewer women will die.”
“Not unless we stop Adam,” he countered.
Sterling turned around, running his hands down his legs. “I’m working with law enforcement to spread certain abduction profiles around the country. Bulletins are going out with public warnings.” He shifted subjects. “Okay. The backup data. To start, Powell has two hundred troops headed to Dreamland in a few days.”
“That’s right,” Cassandra said. “All training to fight Zodius.”
“I don’t like it,” Sterling said. “Not with the threat Red Dart represents to the Renegades.”
“Agreed,” Michael said. “I say Dreamland needs to have a little mishap that keeps those soldiers from reporting.”
Cassandra shook her head, pushing off the counter she’d been leaning on. “If anything happens to Dreamland, my father will be suspicious.”
Sterling grimaced. “I’ll see if I can hack West’s email,” he said. “I should be able to redirect their orders. Have them sent somewhere else. Make it look like a computer hiccup. That will buy us a few days to find Red Dart.”
Cassandra let out a breath. “That should work.”
“What else?” Michael asked. “Because we have to roll.”
“Powell has Green Hornets,” Sterling said. “I’m assuming Brock gave them to Zodius since we know he’s in bed with Lucian.”
“Maybe,” Michael said. “Or maybe it simply means my mother is as big a bitch as my father was a bastard. Selling to our government and the enemy at the same time.”
“What?” Cassandra and Sterling said in unison.
“Those bullets are made by Taylor Industries,” he said grimly.
“Your family business?” Cassandra asked, cringing in memory of the day she’d looked up Michael’s file and realized his family connection, acting on her concern that her father was using that connection for personal gain.
“That’s right,” he said with a short nod.
Sterling arched a brow. “You’re freaking kidding me.”
“I wish I was,” Michael said. “It’s technology that was back-burnered years ago. The bullets imploded inside the weapons and injured the user. Obviously, they found a way around that. And Mommy Dearest doesn’t think twice about selling to a terrorist if the money is good. If my mother is involved with the Green Hornets, a weapon being used against GTECHs, it seems highly probable that she is involved with Red Dart, another weapon designed to be used against GTECHs. One to kill and one to control. Powell is being thorough this time. I’m going to need you to find a way into their database, Sterling.”
“Jesus,” Sterling said. “And here I thought I had a F’d up family. I’ll get into Taylor’s system all right. I want all those bullets. Every last one ever made.”
“That means getting the ones on base, too,” Michael reminded him.
“Artillery goes in and out of base all the time,” Sterling said. “I’ll create a shipping order with the Green Hornet coordinates, and we’ll intercept the shipment before Powell ever knows they’re gone.”
Michael nodded his approval. Cassandra couldn’t stay silent. “What if my father really is taking a stand against Adam?”
“Those Green Hornets may be the only weapon that allows the soldiers to survive a confrontation.” Michael looked at Cassandra—a long, hard stare. “The Renegades, not those bullets, are the best chance this country has to stand against Adam. Your father has forgotten that. I won’t let those bullets be used against our soldiers, and they will be if we leave them with your father.”
He turned back to Sterling. “Did you find anything on that hard drive about the crystal?”
Sterling shook his head, lips thin. “Nada,” he said. “Not one damn word. But at least we have the location of the bullets, and the information on the incoming soldiers who are meant to stand against the GTECHs. Diverting their arrival will delay Powell’s plans and buy us some time.”
“Zodius,” she corrected. “The soldiers are meant to fight Zodius. I still don’t believe my father is turning against the Renegades.” Determination rose in her. “I know you think he is, just as I know you think Red Dart is about torture, but it’s not. I have to go back and prove that. Then we can work with my father and shut down Adam.” Then more decisively, “Yes. I have to go back. Tonight. I can’t run.”
Sterling and Michael looked at each other, and Michael nodded to Sterling who turned back to his computer and began to key again. “Cassandra,” Michael said softly. “ There is no maybe to any of this. Red Dart is a torture device, and the Renegades and the Zodius are both the intended targets.”
“Damn it, Michael,” she said, cursing when she normally did not. “You don’t know that.”
Sterling rolled his chair back and motioned to the monitor. Cassandra walked to the computer screen and sat down, staring at the scanned paperwork.
Cassandra’s world crumbled down around her as she read the documents to the chiefs of staff, the definition of Red Dart, the directives for its use: tracking and remote, intense torture. Her eyes burned, her chest hurt. Try as she might, she couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
The past rushed at her and collided with the future. The immunizations. The God-like complex she’d seen glimpses of. Did he ever think they were just immunizations? The lies. The loss of a man she’d considered a hero. Every action he took was to better himself, and every action seemed to lead to lives lost, lives in jeopardy. Her gaze went to that newspaper lying on the counter. All those women already affected, torn from families. Lost forever. And the ones who would be in the future.
Her gaze focused on a certain paragraph, and her eyes went wide. Her father was testing it on humans and GTECHs. She could barely breathe with the implications. If Adam were to use this on humans, he’d rule the world. If her father were to use it on humans, he could too. That last thought sickened her more than any other. She had to consider that might be her father’s ultimate goal. Oh he’d call it protecting his country, but it was really about controlling it.
She swiped angrily at her tears. There was no time for emotions. Not now. She turned back to Michael and Sterling, but it was Michael she looked at. “I’ll help you destroy Red Dart, but I can’t do it from inside Sunrise City. I have to be close to my father.”
“You’re going to the Renegades’ headquarters,” Michael said, snagging her hand. “You’ll be safe in Sunrise City.”
“No,” she said. “I don’t care what kind of danger I’m in. This is potentially the end-of-the-free-world we are dealing with. I can’t go.”
Michael eyed Sterling. “We’re leaving.” And before she knew it, they were in the hallway, her back pressed against the door, his big body in front of hers. Cassandra wanted to scream at him for bullying her. To scream at him for making her see the truth about her father. And she wanted to bury her head in his shoulder and just be safe, if only for a minute.
His fingers laced into her hair. “I know this is hard, sweetheart,” he said. “But the Trackers are coming for you. We have to go underground. Then we’ll find a way to fix this together.”
“How?” she demanded. “How do we do that when you want my father dead, and no matter what, I can’t want that. I can’t.”
“Do you want him dead? Say it. Say it because I need to know.”
He bent at the knees, coming eye-level with her. “What I want is your safety. You’re my priority right now. You won’t survive the night if you stay here. You have to survive if you want to fight.”
He was right. She knew he was right. But hiding felt wrong. Guilt was eating her alive. “I helped my father. I stood by him. I—”
He kissed her. A deep, passionate kiss, filled with the gentle strength she’d always loved in him. Gentle. No matter how demanding, how stubborn, he’d always been gentle.
“We’ll find an answer,” he said. “But we have to leave now. Okay?”
She nodded, unable to find her voice. She was running, but only because Michael was right. She had to survive to fight. And she was going to fight like she’d never fought before.
Lucian found Adam in the center of his coliseum—Tad by his side with a smug look on his face, as if he mattered or something. They stood between a row of thirty wolves and another row of as many soldiers—a formation Adam favored when training the wolves for combat. He planned to use them to herd humans when he was ready for takeover. To herd and kill as needed. Those damn wolves. Lucian would never get used to those beasts walking amongst them as if they were above higher forms of life, just because they were joined with Adam.
Lucian exited a stone staircase as Adam lifted his hand and then threw it down. The wolves and soldiers charged at one another. Adam and Tad backed away, walking toward Lucian, Tad by Adam’s side, as if he belonged there instead of at his feet. Tad couldn’t see he was just another dog, lapping at Adam’s heels. But he would. Soon.
Lucian would see to it. Because Lucian had a plan to turn Michael and Cassandra’s time together into their end and his beginning. By night’s end, he would not only see to it that Cassandra Powell was dead, he’d frame Michael as her killer. Powell would be furious, devastated—vulnerable to Brock’s Red Dart probes. And Michael would be captive, inside Zodius City, ready for his punishment. Lucian would be his replacement, and Tad would be nothing.
Brock pulled his truck to a stop under the bridge and killed the lights. Pitch dark surrounded him, and silence, but for the rush of tires over the concrete highway above. The whistle of the wind came soft and low, and Brock stiffened, flipping open his center compartment and removing a Smith and Wesson. It might be hard to kill a GTECH, but he knew how to make his shot count.
Abruptly the wind gusted. Brock tensed as the truck shook with the violent impact. A roar of thunder followed, providing some comfort that it was Mother Nature rather than a Wind-walker. He relaxed marginally, but with the comfort of that steel weapon against his palm.
From a distance, headlights turned down the street, high beams that cut through the fog. A white van pulled to a slow halt a few feet from his truck, lights illuminating the droplets of rain as they nosedived to the pavement.
He sat there and so did the driver in the other vehicle. A silent standoff of sorts, until Brock accepted with a twist of his gut that he had to get out. He had orders. He shoved open the door and held on to the gun.
Rain fell steadily now, and his shirt clung to his skin, but he ignored it. He aimed the gun at the panel door and knocked. It slid open, and to his shock, big blue eyes framed with long, sleek, raven hair greeted him. The woman was striking, the smile she offered him sweet enough to charm a battalion of soldiers. What the hell was a woman thinking, meeting a guy under a bridge alone?
“Come in, Lieutenant Colonel, before you wash away.” Her voice was smooth like whiskey, a throaty sensuality rasped from its depths.
His gaze shifted to the medical bed and monitors behind her. “Who are you?”
“The person who is going to hand you the world, Brock. If you want it. But you can call me Jocelyn.”
Slowly, he lowered the gun, and she backed away from the entrance to give him room. He climbed in and pulled the door shut behind him.
“Lie on the bed and roll up your sleeve,” she ordered, apparently unconcerned about the water he was dripping all over the place. His nostrils flared with the scent of her; it filled the cabin, the odd but arousing mixture of vanilla and cinnamon.
Jocelyn kneeled by his side and wrapped a rubber tube around his upper arm. Holy crap! This was happening; it was really happening. He was getting his injections. He watched her as she withdrew medication from a vial into a syringe, and his cock stood at attention. He was aroused. By her. By that needle about to deliver him to a new life. She was older than he first thought, maybe in her fifties, but could pass for forties. But it didn’t turn him off. No, nothing about this woman turned him off. She was fucking amazing.
Those amazing blue eyes caught his—amazing crystal blue eyes. “General Powell told me you are aware of the risks, but I’d like to hear that from you,” she said. “Because there is no turning back. Everything about this program is experimental.”
“No risk, no reward,” he said, lost in the sea of her stare.
“My philosophy, exactly.” She held the syringe up and tapped it. “Ready?”
“I was born ready.”
Her lips lifted at the corners. “I’ll bet you were.” She tapped the syringe once more. “But we’ll talk about the side effects a little later.”
Something about her words set him on edge. Didn’t doctors do that beforehand? But it was too late for questions. She bent her dark head and injected him. The liquid was cold. The anticipation, hot. The darkness, almost immediate.
After three hundred miles of stormy weather and dark highways, Michael pulled the Range Rover that the Renegades had left for them at a Vegas hotel into the parking lot of a storage facility. It was stockpiled with weapons and rarely needed motorcycles, but they’d need a bike tonight to get Cassandra through that canyon.
He was feeling edgy, ready for a Zodius confrontation, certain it was coming the minute they hit the dark depths of the canyon. What he wouldn’t do to be able to wind-walk her there. Or even airlift her to Sunrise, but that would make them a big target, one Adam would have no qualms about shooting down.
Cassandra lay on the seat next to him, her blonde hair draped over the cushion as she slept—hair he knew felt like silk and smelled like honeysuckle. He wanted that woman more than he wanted his next breath.
He scrubbed his jaw, silently cursing his sorry, selfish existence. And he was a selfish bastard. If these past two hours of his wandering mind and her silent slumber had taught him anything, it was that. He knew he was a bastard. The selfish part, well, maybe he’d always been that too. Because just like at Groom Lake, he’d convinced himself that he and Cassandra were meant to be together. Talked himself out of it a couple times too, but mostly the opposite. Mostly he’d talked himself right into her bed and into her life all over again. Yeah. Selfish, fucking bastard.
And the danger of getting through that canyon to Sunrise City drove that point home. He didn’t want this hell life of war for her. He wanted her back in Germany, happy and safe. No . He wanted her in bed, beneath him. On top of him. All around him. Smiling at him. Convincing him there was something human left in him. Something worth caring about.
He hit the remote, and the door slid open. Cassandra stirred, groggily sat up, and stretched. “How long was I out?”
“Two hours,” he said, pulling into the building. “Which you needed. It’s going to be a hard, bumpy ride through the rain, and we need to move quickly.” He popped his door open, leaving her to exit on her own.
He needed weapons and a fast exit strategy. They were sitting ducks if they stayed in one place, out in the middle of nowhere, despite the Renegades surrounding them ready to offer defensive action if need be. But they were not human, and she was. Vulnerable.
Michael walked to the cabinets on the wall and yanked one open; at the same time, a voice in his head said you can fix that . Lifebond with her. Make her GTECH. Right. And what else would he make her in the process? The only thing he had any business doing was taking her to Sunrise and then leaving, working for Caleb from a safe distance.
He yanked another cabinet door open and pulled out body armor for Cassandra, telling himself to focus, agitated at where his thoughts kept going. The truck door slammed, and he turned to Cassandra, holding up the bodysuit.
“Hurry,” he said. “I need you in this body armor and us on the road in the next five minutes.”
“It’s huge,” she said, eyeing the bodysuit made for a man three times her size.
“We’ll make it work,” he assured her. “I want you as protected as you can be out there.” He tried not to think about those damn Green Hornets.
Trepidation flashed in Cassandra’s face as if she understood what he was telling her. Nothing good was waiting for them in that canyon, but there was no other way.
He helped her into the suit and then bent down, rolling up the too-long legs and sliding the zippers into place. His hands finally settled on her waist.
Suddenly, they were staring at each other, his heart in his throat. He looked away. So did she.
Their gazes collided again as he said, “I never meant to hurt you.” Words he’d spoken before, but he’d say them a hundred more times if that’s what it took for her to believe him. He needed her to believe him.
“I know,” she said softly. “You just couldn’t help it.” She laughed, but not the laugh that lifted his spirits. “That’s why my mother warned me never to fall in love with a soldier. Because it hurts.”
He went completely, utterly still. She loved him? Did she just say she loved him? “What did you just say?”
She wet her lips, that sweet pink tongue glossing her full bottom lip. “I… I said that I—”
A loud crash sounded on the roof followed by another and another. The radio on his phone buzzed. Michael grabbed it.
“A dozen Zodius and double that in wolves,” Sterling said. “Come out blazing, and do it now.”
Michael snapped the phone back in place and grabbed a helmet for Cassandra. “We’ll be okay.” He kissed her hard and fast. “Do exactly as I say, when I say it.” She nodded, terror in her eyes, and fitted the helmet to her head. He grabbed a helmet for himself and then climbed on a motorcycle.
In seconds, he had the bike cranked and hit the remote to the doors. Then they were flying through the exit, and despite his instinct to use the wind as a shield, he restrained himself. Anything he used against the Zodius he might be using on the Renegades as well.
The instant they cleared the building, rain pounded them, blurring his vision. Wolves lunged at them from all directions. Cassandra screamed as they nipped at her feet, and he was damn glad he’d insisted she wear the armor.
Michael cut and swerved, unable to reach for a weapon and still control the bike. The wolves were everywhere, right, left, front, back. Too close to use the wind without it affecting the steadiness of the bike. But there were no bullets, and he thanked God for that. The Zodius wouldn’t dare shoot one of those wolves for fear Adam would kill them. It was a ridiculous, though convenient, weakness he forced upon his men.
Somehow Michael maneuvered through the pack without ending up flat on the ground. The instant he hit the edge of the canyon, he revved the engine and blasted past the trees. Gunfire replaced the wolves, canvassing their path. Michael called on the wind, erecting a barrier until it fell. Then did it all over again.
But the bullets kept coming, and in an unprotected moment, a spray of bullets pierced the tire of the bike. Time stood still as the bike skidded from beneath them. Michael could think of nothing but Cassandra, and instinctively, he used the wind to cradle their fall, creating a soft cushion over the ground.
The instant they were down with mud splattering around them, terror ripped through Michael as he tore off his helmet, trying to see Cassandra in the rain. He found her a few feet away, sitting up and yanking off her helmet. In a flash of movement, he was on top of her, covering her from gunfire, about to roll to some nearby trees for cover when he heard weapons cock above him.
He turned to find himself looking up at the barrels of a dozen weapons, no doubt loaded with Green Hornets. Wolves growled at the soldiers’ feet. Lucian stood front and center, obviously leading the attack. Lucian, who had always wanted power, but had never gained anything more than Adam’s disregard.
Behind the Zodius, Renegades materialized, pointing guns at their heads. “These might not be Green Hornets,” Sterling yelled. “But they’re going right through your men’s heads.”
“Not before Michael and Cassandra are dead,” Lucian assured him. “Back off, asshole.”
Michael’s eyes latched onto Lucian’s, and he could see the panic in his eyes. Lucian was backed into a corner. The only way to save himself with Adam was to shoot Michael and Cassandra, and then fade into the wind.
Michael didn’t give himself time to consider the repercussions of his actions, because there was no good answer, no right one. Anything he did with the wind would be temporary, and then bullets would fly. And then they might well die—not only he and Cassandra, but the Renegades here with them. No, there was only one option that gave them any hope of surviving. He grabbed Cassandra, and he wind-walked with her, praying she would survive.
Coldness seeped into his awareness with a hard bite. So. Damn. Cold. Brock’s eyelids flipped open to the burn of bright lights. Pain pierced his cornea, forced his lashes downward as if weighted with cement, granting him the comfort of darkness. Yes. Darkness. He liked the darkness. It was all he could feel, all he could see.
The room shifted around him, shadowy movement almost enough to entice him into another attempt to open his eyelids. A soft voice shifted through the empty space of his mind, a sensual, sweet voice, an angel come to help him.
His lids scraped across his eyeballs, and he blinked into that bright light that splintered through to his brain; it turned the coldness into blistering pain that traveled a fast track down his spine. Muscles twitched in his face, across his eyebrows. He inhaled and forced himself to focus.
White ceiling. He was staring at a white ceiling. His vision faded; spots glistened like water droplets above him, disorienting him. Desperately, he fought for something to hold in his line of vision, but there was only that damn white light. It was all over, surrounding him, consuming him.
Panic expanded in his chest, rose to his throat with suffocating precision, and he jerked upward. A sharp tug on his wrists drew a gasp, pain wrenching them and soaring up his arms. He panted several times, his mind a whirlwind of foggy images that he couldn’t make out.
Brock lifted his head, looked around—small sterile room, white sheets, hospital bed. Sharp pains shot through his wrists as restraints dug into his flesh. Desperately seeking freedom, he jerked upward again, finding nothing but more resistance, more pain.
Clarity came to him with the realization that the pain came from the steel pinch of needles, IVs running through his legs, chest, and arms. He glared down at himself, at the tubes and needles around him, in him, and memories weaved a taunting path through his mind. The bridge. The gorgeous female. The injection.
“Powell, damn it! Get the hell in here! Powell!” Over and over he screamed, no concept of time, but there was no response to his demands. He screamed until his throat rasped.
“Easy,” came the soft, female voice he recognized from the van, a moment before her lovely, blue eyes came into view. “You’re okay.” She spoke over her shoulder. “Get Dr. Chin, please.” A gentle hand settled on his arm a second before her piercing gaze blinked into focus.
Jocelyn , he thought. Her name was Jocelyn. “You bitch! You tricked me! You were supposed to be giving me the injection, not bringing me here.”
She recoiled as if slapped. “No. I didn’t trick you!” She leaned closer again. “Brock, sweetheart. The secrecy of our location is a necessity. I know you understand this. You’re a military man.”
“Then use a blindfold,” he snapped back. “It doesn’t require needles or straps. I read the GTECH reports. Don’t jerk me around, lady. They weren’t tied down. They didn’t even know what was happening to them.”
An answer slid quickly off her tongue. “Their transformation was gradual. Yours will not be. You’re tied down so you won’t rip your IVs out as your body transforms. A few days from now when we take them out—”
“A few days!” he shouted, trying to jerk free again. He didn’t care about the pain. He wanted free. “I can’t stay like this for a few days. I didn’t sign up for this. Get the needles out. Let me go.” A small Chinese man entered the room, and Brock glared at him. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Dr. Chin,” he stated, reaching for the chart at the end of the bed and then speaking over his shoulder to someone Brock couldn’t make out. “Push two milligrams of Ativan.”
“Give me that shot, whoever you are, and I promise you, when I get up, I will remember and kill you.” The blur of white cloth hung back without approaching, taking heed of the warning. Wildly, Brock swung his gaze from Jocelyn to Dr. Chin. “I’ll kill you all.”
Jocelyn reached behind her to whoever the white blur was and said, “Give it to me.” She spoke to the doctor. “Is he okay otherwise?”
He gave her a nod. “I checked him thoroughly before he awoke.”
“Then leave us so I can explain everything to him,” she said, and turned back to Brock.
“Give me that shot, and you’ll regret it,” he warned.
Unshaken, Jocelyn’s full lips lifted into a smile, and she reached for an IV attachment. “You’re very tough for a man tied to a bed.” She pumped the syringe into the tube and emptied it.
“Next time you’ll be the one tied to the bed, and I’ll have my way with you.” She owed him some pleasure for her deception.
She arched a brow. “Promises, promises. But right now, I doubt you could manage to tie your shoes, let alone, tie me down.” She tossed the syringe into a trash can and then settled comfortably beside him, resting her hand on his chest. It was warm against his cold skin. “So why don’t we talk about what’s happening to you, shall we?”
A sudden heaviness thrummed across his eyelids, fusing with the heat of her palm, dragging him into lethargy. “Tell. Me.”
“You’ve been given the GTECH serum—a special serum formula no other man has ever received. You will be the strongest, the most capable GTECH—as you should be as their commander.”
Strongest . The word rolled in Brock’s drug-laden mind. He liked that word. He liked Jocelyn’s voice—all rich and womanly. She continued, “There will be some pain with the transition as your muscles and fluid levels adjust. But when it’s over, you, Brock, will be the most powerful man on earth, and we will begin building your army.” She inched closer, that crazy exotic scent of hers spiking in his nose as it had in the van, despite his fading senses. “You’re going to be a hero, Brock.”
Hero , he thought, smiling. He was going to be a hero. The most powerful man on earth. Satisfaction slid into his mind, and he allowed his lids to shut, allowed darkness to overcome that bright light.
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