I have the next 4 chapters of MICHAEL!! I’d love if you’d take the time to comment on this post with your favorite quote so far! Be sure to come back or subscribe to know when the new chapters are available!
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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Still rattled from her confrontation with Michael, Cassandra followed the hostess to the table of eight women rescued from Zodius who’d come together in an informal gathering. Already nervous about her father’s role in creating the GTECHs, she felt an added rush of self-consciousness over her poorly fitted clothing as she brought the group into focus. Each one of them was spectacularly attractive in her own way. Apparently, Adam’s fixation on a perfect race included breeding with certain types of females.
A cute brunette with a bob popped to her feet and greeted Cassandra. “Hi,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Emma. I’m so glad you joined us.”
Cassandra slid her palm against the other woman’s and blinked in surprise. “You’re Emma?” Cassandra exclaimed. Somehow she’d pictured Emma as middle-aged and frumpy, not petite and adorable. “Thank you so much for the care package.”
“I’m so glad to help.” Emma motioned for her to sit at the head of the table beside her. Cassandra quickly settled into her seat only to find herself the recipient of wide-eyed inspections that bordered on gaping.
“Hello,” Cassandra said, feeling dry-mouthed to say the least. She was the only professional in the group. “I’m Cassandra Powell.” The last name came out like lead, and her hands flattened on the brightly colored tablecloth. Powell. Her father. The man who’d created the monsters that had tortured them.
“Your eyes.” The comment came from the gorgeous blonde at the end of the table. “Emma said you’re staying with Michael. Are you his Lifebond?”
“Intended Lifebond,” Cassandra said, because it sounded better than unclaimed. “We haven’t completed the blood bond.” And might not ever complete it—a thought that jabbed her right in the heart.
“Wow,” the woman said and sat back in her chair as if dumbfounded. “That must be… terrifying.” Agreeable murmurs followed.
Cassandra shook her head. “What?” she asked. “Why would that be terrifying?”
“He was Adam’s second in command,” said one woman.
“They called him ‘the Punisher,’” said another.
“Even the other Zodius soldiers feared Michael.”
Similar murmurs followed from around the table, and Cassandra absorbed them all with shock. He’d been “The Dark One” and now “The Punisher.” What it must be like to be whispered about and feared. Protectiveness rose inside her for Michael. This was the man she loved—a man she knew had put innocent lives above his own, time and time again.
“Did he hurt any of you?” she demanded, not believing for one moment that he had.
A pause ensued. “No,” came agreement around the table.
“Did he save you from Adam?” Cassandra demanded.
“Yes,” they all said.
Cassandra scanned their faces, challenging them as she did. “He saved you from that hell, and yet you act as if he is the enemy?”
The blonde at the end of the table spoke again, introducing herself as Jessica, and then made her case. “You have to understand,” she argued. “Michael was an extension of Adam. We were not to talk to him or look at him without fear of reprisal.”
Another added, “He scared the hell out of us. We went through hell at Zodius.”
Another added, “If someone crossed Adam, they were either thrown to the wolves—”
“Or given to Michael for torture,” Jessica finished.
Cassandra gulped. Okay, that did sound rather ominous. She shoved her hair out of her face, her hand shaking a bit, but her belief in Michael did not falter. Nevertheless, she was thankful that when the waitress approached, Emma waved her away. Cassandra wanted to hear more.
She was a general’s daughter; she understood the rules of war, and she’d never kidded herself about Michael—he was a soldier, and that wasn’t always a pleasant job. That’s where she came in, helping the soldiers cope with what they had to do—and why they were men of honor, despite the nastiness of their duty.
“But he never hurt any of you?” she asked.
Silence and a skittering of eye contact followed, and a murmur of “no’s” followed. “Just the other soldiers,” Jessica said.
“But we were sure he would,” one girl assured her. “He scared the other soldiers, so we knew it would be horrible to anger him.”
Relief washed over Cassandra in a short laugh, a release of tension, not humor. “Of course he punished Zodius soldiers. He probably wanted to kill them.” She leaned back in her chair. “Michael is, and always has been, a Renegade. Those soldiers were not only your enemies, but his. Ladies, this is war. If anyone doubts that, think again.” Pride welled in her. “The information that Michael discovered inside Zodius Nation was invaluable to our efforts to protect humanity, and his presence there allowed him to rescue you all.” It had been hard to endure his departure, but his actions had probably kept the Renegades in this war—perhaps kept humanity fighting for survival as well.
Silence wrapped around the table, confusion clearly touching many of the women’s faces, reluctance to accept Michael in others. Her father deserved condemnation for his actions, but Michael received it instead. Good Lord , she thought, this was so unfair to him . How could she expect Michael to see himself as anything but a monster—one he felt he had to protect her from—when the rest of the world saw him that way?
“He saved your lives, ladies,” Cassandra said, trying to keep in mind how new these women were to Sunrise City, how new to the idea that Michael wasn’t Zodius. She was still getting her mind around that idea, and she was in love with the man. “Surely that counts for something.”
“It’s hard to discount what it was like there,” Jessica said. “And it’s hard not to associate him with that place.”
Emma delicately cleared her throat and set her napkin on the table. “I was never afraid of Michael.” An awkward discomfort fluttered through the group. Several women cut their gazes away from Cassandra.
A sick feeling ripped through Cassandra. Her hands balled on the table. Her breath lodged in her throat, hanging on Emma’s words as she continued. “Every soldier close to Adam used us like sex slaves,” she said. “We were expected to please them any way they saw fit. Then we had to submit to one medical test after another. Afterwards, we did it again with one soldier after another. Michael came to me. Only to me. How he managed that, I don’t know, but then, as we said, Michael was feared. He did what he wanted, when he wanted to do it.”
Cassandra almost threw up. Her head spun and her throat heaved. In the two years they’d been apart, she’d tried not to think about him with other women. Now, she was sitting next to her. No wonder Michael was withdrawn before the lunch. No wonder he’d said good-bye outside the restaurant.
Emma placed her hand over Cassandra’s, and Cassandra barely kept herself from shoving it away. “But he never once touched me,” Emma said. “He made me lie and say he did.”
The entire table gasped. Cassandra let out a breath, her shoulders slumping forward, fist to her chest. For a moment, she’d been unable to breathe. She reached up and wiped at one damp eye. “Please say that one more time.”
“He didn’t touch me or anyone else.” Emma looked around the table. “Did he ever touch any of you?” Everyone quickly chimed in with their promises that he had not.
Emma smiled. “He said if I told anyone the truth, it would put them in danger. He didn’t want anyone acting suspicious when we plotted the escape. He said everyone had to hate him. Adam expected it.” She glanced at her friends. “So I lied to all of you, and I’m sorry, ladies. I was protecting you.” She shifted her attention back to Cassandra. “That’s why I wasn’t afraid of him.”
“Thank you, Emma,” Cassandra said softly, the seeds of a friendship blossoming in their shared look. Emma had given her a gift. Michael had stayed true to her in the worst of circumstances. Cassandra rested her elbows on the table, chin on her hand. “Tell me what it was like. What you went through.”
To her surprise, the stories flowed one after another, and Cassandra could feel their need to talk, to heal. For two hours, Cassandra listened to the horrors these women had been through, starting with how they were lured into being captured.
“Where are the other women?” Cassandra asked. “Why didn’t they join us?”
“A lot of them are struggling with being forced into hiding,” they said. “Many are afraid for their families, but torn about bringing them here and forcing them to give up their lives.”
Cassandra understood. She’d gone to Germany, hiding, feeling like her life had been taken from her. “They need to fight back,” she said. “We need to fight back.”
“How?” came murmurs from around the table.
“By doing everything in our power to stop the abductions,” she said. “The Renegades are busy trying to shut Adam down completely, but in the meantime, the abductions continue. Why don’t we play a role in stopping them? We all have skills. We can put them to use. I know trends, chart and graphs, and behavioral analysis.”
“I was with the FBI,” one woman said.
Several of the others chimed in with skills they possessed, and Cassandra felt excitement building within her. “We are fifty strong,” she said. “We can make a difference. We’ll track the trend of how and when the abductions are taking place. We’ll talk to Caleb about setting up a team to respond to threats we identify. Find out what ability we have to educate the public and law enforcement without exposing an alien threat and causing more panic. Even if we can’t stop the abductions, we can slow them down.”
Ideas began flowing as the women clearly shared Cassandra’s determination. They were going to fight.
Cassandra had found a purpose, and it felt right. She was not only accepting her circumstances here, she was embracing them. And if Michael couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do the same, she’d fight him too.
“I got nothing,” Sterling said, leaning away from his laptop and folding his arms in front of his chest. It was late, near ten, and they’d been pounding through data for hours.
“Sonofabitch,” Caleb muttered a few feet away, his attention on the satellite surveillance monitors that covered one end of the rectangular-shaped room. “The show is on, boys,” he said, turning to face them. “Those Green Hornets are moving. You were right, Michael. Your mother told Powell we knew about the bullets.”
There it was. Michael’s confirmation that his mother was indeed communicating with Powell beyond a simple purchasing order. Not that he’d had any doubt. One more stab in the gut to complete a perfectly screwed up night.
Sterling rolled his chair to the mainframe, punching the keyboard several times to alert their field team into action, before he swiveled around to face Caleb and Michael with a confirmation nod. “Interception is under way. Now, let’s hope none of those Green mojos end up in our men’s bellies. Powell will be anticipating action.”
Sterling’s laptop started to beep, and he rolled back to the table, eyed the alarm notice, and glanced up at Michael. “Cassandra is getting a call from West.”
Caleb stepped to the table and rested his hands on the back of an empty chair as Sterling hit his volume button. The sound of ringing filled the room, a moment before Cassandra’s voice purred sweetly over her voice mail, the soft feminine sound humming through Michael’s body and drawing his balls tight. That easily, she reached inside him and set him on fire.
You’ve reached the voice mail of Cassandra Powell. Please leave a message, and I will call you back as soon as possible .
West’s message followed. “Cassandra, this is Brock. I’ve talked things over with your father, and he’s willing to bring you into the loop on Red Dart. I know you are still out with that migraine today, but he told me about dinner tomorrow night. I’ll be joining you, but there are some things I want to discuss in advance. Call me.” The line went dead, and Sterling punched the sound button to off.
Michael ground his teeth so hard, the muscle in his jaw popped. West was on his list of people to be dealt with, once and for all, right along with Powell.
Caleb’s lips compressed into a hard line, and Damion said what they were all thinking. “Is it me?” he asked. “Or is the timing on that call mighty suspect. The bullets move. West calls Cassandra.”
Sterling chimed in his agreement. “I’d like to think it’s the real deal, and Cassandra is about to be enlightened, but we know he’s working both sides—Powell and Zodius. This could be a trap. A way to lure her out and kill her.”
“Brock West needs to be taken out,” Michael said. “He’s a liability. And it’s long past time we accept that we need to lock Powell up. We can keep saying we’ll find Red Dart, and that we need him to do that. But what else is he brewing that we don’t know about? We left him alone for two years, and Red Dart emerged. We cannot make that mistake again. We need to cut our losses.”
Damion shifted in his chair. “We cannot act rashly—”
“While you’re sucking your thumb, considering options,” Michael interrupted, “Powell could make a mistake that allows Adam, not us, to get his hands on Red Dart. He’s scrambling now. Moving bullets. Trying to get his daughter back. Now is the time to move in. We’ll find some evidence. We’ll find Red Dart. And even if we don’t, we’ll have rid ourselves of the hazard Powell represents.”
He turned to Caleb, and Damion had the good sense to shut up. “I know you worry that we’ll create enemies in our government if we take out Powell. But he’s creating their fear of us. They think all GTECHs are the same. Walking on eggshells isn’t going to make that go away. We take him, and no one knows we have him. We’ll hit Powell’s house, my mother’s place, and Taylor, all in one night. We leave with everything we can, including Powell. Throw him in a cell here at Sunrise City. Tell him he better help us shut down Red Dart before Adam gets his hands on it and comes after us all.”
Sterling’s computer buzzed again. He surveyed the message. “Green Hornets are headed to Sunrise City. There was no resistance and no reported injuries.”
“Those bullets have leveled the battlefield,” Michael said. “Let’s get rid of one of the enemies. Let’s take out Powell.”
Caleb’s brow furrowed, and then he nodded sharply. “Tomorrow night.”
Michael really intended to say good-bye. Cassandra lay against Michael’s headboard trying to focus on the DVD she’d popped into the player simply to do something other than watch the clock. She wished with every breath Michael would show up. So much for her excitement to tell Michael about the plans that she and the women had made. That had faded hours ago when he’d failed to appear.
A knock sounded on the door, and Cassandra raced across the room and yanked the door open only to sag in disappointment when Kelly stood there.
“I take it you were hoping for Mr. Tall, Dark, and Incredibly Cranky instead of me?”
“Yes,” she admitted dejectedly, stepping away from the door. “I would have welcomed his crankiness right about now.”
“I’m convinced that the extra chromosome I told you about earlier makes him incredibly stubborn,” Kelly said, entering the room and shutting the door behind her. “I guess you don’t want to hear it’s time to give up more blood.”
Cassandra plopped down on the couch and offered up her arm. “Yes, please take my blood. I can’t wait.” The extra chromosome. Once she’d heard that news, she’d known she was in for an uphill battle convincing Michael it wasn’t a worry. Michael was what he was, and that was the man she loved. Whatever he faced, she was supposed to face with him. She’d made that decision, and she was sticking with it. “When I was in the elevator yesterday, Caleb seemed to read my mind. Can he? Read minds?”
“He reads human emotions,” Kelly said, already dipping the needle into Cassandra’s arm. “It doesn’t work on GTECHs. He senses fear, worry, and happiness. He says it’s like seeing a color in his mind.”
“So,” Cassandra said. “Does he have the extra chromosome? Is that what creates unique abilities?”
“He doesn’t have the extra chromosome. At least not yet. It is possible that he will, and it has yet to surface. Michael’s ability with the wind surfaced very early after his conversion to GTECH, as did Adam’s ability to communicate with wolves. Caleb’s ability is more recent. I really have nothing conclusive that indicates why certain GTECHs have special skills though it would be interesting to know if Adam has that chromosome.”
Cassandra grimaced. “I’m glad we don’t know. That would be just one more reason for Michael to compare himself to Adam.”
“No matter how Michael demonizes this chromosome or himself, scientifically, I theorize it’s a sign of the GTECHs evolving and getting stronger. I’d like the chance to prove that. If you can influence Michael to allow me to do some more testing, that would be helpful. I plan to ask Caleb to talk to him as well, but I can’t catch up to him. He’s been behind closed doors for hours.” She studied Cassandra. “Your eyes are almost back to normal.”
Cassandra’s hand went to her cheek, her heart twisting. “They are?” Already Michael was slipping away from her.
Kelly’s expression softened. “You really don’t want to leave him, do you?”
She shook her head. “I love him.”
“He loves you too, or he wouldn’t be so worried about you,” Kelly said, touching her arm. “Just keep telling him. You’ll get through.” She tapped her pocket. “Let me get this to the lab and make sure I feel good about you heading out in the morning. I assume it’s going to be at the crack of dawn. I can’t release you until I review the results.”
With a nod Cassandra stood up and followed Kelly to the door. “I’ll call you in a bit with the results.” Kelly reached for the door, and Cassandra felt the shimmer of awareness ripple down her spine. Caleb was standing in the doorway, Michael and Sterling by his side. Kelly looked over her shoulder at Cassandra and winked. “You really have a way of drawing men, girl.” She eyed Caleb. “We need to talk when you’re done here.”
Cassandra’s heart fluttered in her chest, and she backed into the room, ever aware of Caleb in the lead, not Michael. “What’s wrong?” she asked, her gaze seeking Michael’s and colliding with the force of a freight train. He was withdrawn, distant in a way that wrenched her heart.
“We need your help, Cassandra,” Caleb said as the three of them took positions inside the room, all in their black fatigues. Warriors preparing for battle , she thought.
Her gaze lingered on Michael a moment and then jerked to Caleb. “Anything,” she promised.
He motioned her to the couch. Cassandra perched on the edge. Sterling sat down next to her and opened his laptop case. Caleb sat down in the chair beside them. Michael kept his distance, while Caleb told her about Brock calling for her. Despite her attentiveness to Caleb, Cassandra was aware of Michael every second, standing above them, his eyes half veiled by those thick black lashes, his expression unreadable.
“We both heard Brock say in that Washington alley that he wants the serum,” Michael said. “He’ll get it however he can. There is no way to know if his call is motivated by your father or Adam. It could simply be that one of the men at your condo saw us together, and your father is trying to ensure your return by baiting you with information about Red Dart. But that doesn’t mean Brock isn’t still trying to kill you. It simply means your father gave him the opportunity.”
“The bottom line, Cassandra,” Caleb said, “is we’re ending this tomorrow night.”
Her eyes went to Michael’s. “What does that mean?” she asked, willing him to answer.
Caleb replied before he could. “We’ve confirmed Michael’s mother has some connection to your father. We’ll search her place, your father’s, and Taylor Industries, tomorrow night. And we’ll be leaving with your father. He’ll be a prisoner in Sunrise City, which we hope will encourage him to tell us where Red Dart is located. We’d like you to return that phone call. Make him feel everything is as it should be. Convince him you’re returning tomorrow.”
“You say that like I’m not returning,” she said, surveying their faces and realizing that was their intention. “I have to go back. You say my father knows Michael is involved, that he most likely knows I’ve had contact with Michael. If I don’t go back and convince him everything is okay, he’ll disappear with Red Dart before you can get to him.”
“No,” Michael said authoritatively. “I will not allow you to take that risk.”
She leveled him in a direct stare. “This is my decision.” She glared at Michael a moment and then looked at Caleb. “Let’s make that phone call. To Brock first. Then to my father.”
Caleb glanced at Michael, arched a brow. “She’s making sense,” he said. “She needs to return. We’ll protect her, Michael.”
The room ticked with thick silence before Michael looked at her. “You’ll wear a wire and do exactly as I tell you.”
“Of course,” she said, feeling victorious in a way that held no glory. She was betraying her father. That was nothing to embrace, yet she had no other option.
Sterling handed her the phone, and everyone put some sort of ear buds on to listen to her conversation that he explained blocked out more noise. They dialed Brock first, and Cassandra assured him she was coming to work the next day and thanked him for talking to her father on her behalf. She vowed to be objective about Red Dart, promising she would not make him look bad.
Next up—her father. That was the call she dreaded. “Hello, General,” she said, trying not to sound strained.
“Cassandra, sweetheart,” he said. “How do you feel?”
“My headache is better, but there’s something else. A problem.”
A pause, a mere second, but it was there, rich with tension. “What is it?”
“Michael approached me today,” she said. “He says he’s working for the Renegades now.”
“You saw Michael?” snapped her father.
“Yes,” she said. “For coffee. He showed up at my door, and I felt trapped so I made the suggestion. I thought a public place was best. But it was horrible. I was a nervous wreck.”
Powell inhaled deeply. “Don’t you worry, little one. I’ll handle this with Caleb and make it clear that Michael is not to be allowed near you. He will not hurt you.”
They exchanged a few more words and hung up. Cassandra handed Sterling the phone, her hand unsteady. “Now I have an explanation for being with Michael if one of his men reported seeing us together.”
“That was damn convincing,” Sterling said approvingly. “That bought us time. I know it did.”
“Thank you, Cassandra,” Caleb said.
Michael said nothing. He wouldn’t even look at her. He was angry. And she had no doubt they would have an explosive confrontation later. Cassandra watched in shock as Michael turned to follow Caleb from the room, and her restraint snapped. She was done playing tug-of-war with her emotions over Michael. “Don’t you dare walk out that door, Michael.”
He froze, the other two men smart enough to make a fast exit as they had once before that day. Slowly, he turned, the door still open. Her heart raced, pounding in her ears. “The problem with my father ends tomorrow night,” she said. “But whatever happens here tonight with us—that’s it, Michael. It ends, or it begins here.”
Brock had done everything Powell had ordered, including the call to Cassandra. He’d listened as Powell talked to his daughter on the phone, hoping like hell she didn’t say anything to piss her father off. He wanted out of confinement. He’d done as he was ordered. He’d called Cassandra. He’d done his part to lure her back home.
At least he was dressed now in army-green fatigues and standing just outside the cage. Almost human, but not quite. He was jittery, and a damnable muscle in his jaw wouldn’t stop twitching—adrenaline hummed through his body like an electric current. Somehow, he kept a steady look, stood tall and proud. He was being tested. Could he be trusted outside the cage? A test he had to pass. He hadn’t signed up for bars. He’d signed up for the freedom that being the strongest, the fastest, and the most powerful of all GTECHs would give him.
Powell ended the call and glanced at the tech specialist sitting expectantly in front of a computer panel. The man glanced at him. “The call was scrambled and well done. This wasn’t an amateur job.”
Inhaling a breath, Powell nodded to the man. “Dismissed, Sergeant.” The man pushed to his feet and exited.
The minute he left, Powell glanced at Jocelyn who stood nearby. “Michael has most certainly corrupted my daughter. It is confirmed. She has betrayed me.”
Jocelyn inched closer. The scent of her raked through Brock’s senses and stirred some wild beastly lust. “I’m sorry,” she said to Powell. “What are you going to do?”
“There is only one thing we can do,” he stated. “Move forward with our plans and do so quickly and effectively.” He glanced at Brock. “You’re ready for action, aren’t you son?”
He saluted. “Yes, sir.” This was a total lie—he could barely focus on anything but the twitch in his jaw and the need to reach for Jocelyn and pull her close. But Brock would say anything to keep Powell—or the techs operating the remote sound signals—from shocking him again. He was pretty damn sure his brain would fry if they juiced him many more times.
“He isn’t ready for action,” she objected. “He shouldn’t even be outside that cage. Not until Dr. Chin figures out what is causing his aggressive behavior.”
He held up the remote. “I only have to punch this to control his aggression,” he proclaimed. “We do not have the luxury of time. Not with Michael breathing down my neck.” He inhaled deeply, as if he were inhaling power. “You will have my laser weapons ready, I assume?”
She hesitated and then nodded. “They’re in mass production even as we speak.”
“Excellent, Jocelyn,” he said, speaking to her, but looking at Brock. One hand went to her cheek, caressing it with the intimacy of a lover, while the other went to the remote around his neck—silently daring Brock to challenge him.
“Stop it, General,” Jocelyn said, trying to pull away, but Powell slid his hand around her neck and jerked her to him.
Brock started shaking with the effort to control himself. He could feel a little more of his sanity slipping away every time Powell punched that button. Brock turned away, walked to the cage, and shut himself inside, locking the door.
Powell smiled, a smug, “I am God” kind of smile. Then, despite her struggles against him, he kissed Jocelyn. Brock ground his teeth as she finally gave in to the kiss and wrapped her arms around Powell’s neck.
When finally Powell’s lips released hers, she was panting. “Why must you tease him so?”
“I was simply proving to you how ready he is for action,” he said. “You are his weakness and still he prevailed.” He brushed his lips over hers again, and Brock cringed at the wild noises filling the room, the grunts and growls he could not control.
“You’ve done well with Red Dart,” Powell said. “We are so close to everything we have dreamed of, my sweet. Do not let the grisly side of war detour you from the greatness of what we have set out to achieve.” He brushed hair from her eyes. “I must go now, but I will return tonight to finish our celebration.”
The growls slipped into Brock’s head, turned into black space. His hands clutched onto the bars. Time stood still.
“Brock.” The voice, soft and sweet, pulled him back into the light. He blinked, opened his eyes. Jocelyn stood outside the bars. He soaked in the big, blue, beautiful eyes, and then scanned the room.
“He’s gone,” she said. “He’s been gone for hours.” She stuck the key in the lock. “I made you dinner. You have to eat.”
“No!” he shouted, feeling the violence inside him and realizing what he had become. He was an animal, and Powell wanted to create an army just like him. “Do not open that door.”
She froze. “You have to eat.”
“Slide it through the bars,” he said. “I cannot be trusted with you, Jocelyn. I won’t be able to control myself.” She stepped back as if burned, and for that he was thankful. “Is this what you want to be a part of? Making more animals like myself?”
“Dr. Chin is doing lab work,” she said, her voice trembling. “He’s going to figure out how to fix whatever is happening to you.”
He laughed, bitter and suddenly angry—raging at her. “You bitch. You did this. Every time he jolts me, I get a little crazier. You can’t blame Chin. You want to, but you can’t. You fucking…” He opened his mouth to speak again, but his mind went black, words lodged in his throat. With a forced breath, he willed himself to calm. “I’m… sorry. I… don’t help him. You have to destroy Red Dart,” he said. “Stop Powell, before he—”
His eyes widened as Powell appeared behind Jocelyn, and pain shot through his body. Then everything went black.
Michael’s apartment had never felt so small as it did the moment Cassandra cornered him by that door, standing so close that he only had to reach out to touch her. “Is it that easy for you to walk out without a word?”
“It’s easier than being near you and knowing I can’t have you,” he confessed, his voice low, rough. Something savage and wild raked through his body, a demand that he claim his Lifebond.
“The only thing keeping you from having me, Michael, is you,” she said hoarsely. “I know about the extra chromosome, and you know what? I don’t care. I am your Lifebond. Whatever you are… we are.”
Her words twisted the hunger to gut-wrenching intensity. “ There is no we , Cassandra,” he all but growled. “You said it ends or begins tonight. It ends.”
Dragging a breath, she leveled him in a challenging stare. “Be sure you mean that, Michael,” she said, her voice choked, emotional. “I waited two years for you. I didn’t even know I was waiting. I told myself I hated you. But I waited. I know that now. I looked at no other man. I wanted no other man. I knew somewhere deep inside me you would be back, that you had not betrayed me. I will not wait this time. I will move on. I will make a life for myself, and I will survive. So… if you say it ends here. It ends .”
The idea of another man touching her, holding her, making her moan… it ripped through his veins like acid boiling his blood. He shackled her wrists with his big hands and pressed her against the wall, pinning her arms over her head with one hand, the thick ridge of his cock pressed to her stomach. “You will not let another man touch you,” he growled.
Her chin lifted. “You cannot have it both ways, Michael. Either you are with me, or you are not. There is no in-between. Not anymore. I won’t live like that.”
For a moment, he squeezed his eyes closed, reached for control where there seemed none to be found. “Intentionally pushing me is dangerous, Cassandra,” he warned. “Didn’t you listen to those women at that table today?”
“I listened to them,” she said. “And I know you. You did what you had to do to survive inside Zodius. You were trying to save lives. To protect our country. You might scare some people, but you will never scare me.”
Lust climbed through every pore of his body. Her lips drew him, entranced him. A taste. One taste. He jerked his gaze to hers. “Will you never stop being a damn fool?”
“Will you?” she half panted, half whispered.
“Damn you, woman,” he hissed, his hand gliding over her slender waist to the swell of her breast that fit perfectly in his palm. “Is that what you want, Cassandra?” Her nipple stiffened beneath his touch, and he tweaked it. “You want me to touch you?”
She arched into his touch. “Yes.”
“You want me to pleasure you?” he asked, roughly tugging on her nipple. She moaned, and that only made him hotter. Harder.
He abandoned her breast and palmed that plump, delectable ass, molding her hips to his. She rewarded his boldness with a sweet, sensuous moan that vibrated through his body and thickened his cock.
He dipped his head. Inhaled deeply. “You smell like sweet honey.” He leaned back, unable to stop his lips from brushing hers, the soft, subtle texture. “I could lick you from head to toe and do it all over again. Spread you wide and taste you when you come.”
She shivered. “Do it. Do it, Michael.”
He inhaled sharply, grappled again for that hard-won control—held her hands to keep her from touching him. Her touch would undo him. He willed himself to release her. To walk away and allow her the life she deserved—a life away from the dangerous nature threatening to consume him as surely as she consumed him right now.
“I love you, Michael,” Cassandra whispered.
“Don’t,” he raged, his chin snapping down as his gaze locked with hers, his hair escaping the tie at his neck and falling wildly around his face. “Don’t love me, Cassandra.” With every bit of will he had left, he pushed away from her, distancing himself.
Her head fell back against the door, and Lord help him, his gaze swept the stiff peaks of her nipples puckered beneath her shirt, and he took another step backwards.
“I don’t know how to get through to you,” she said softly, staring up at the ceiling. “I don’t know.” Her gaze returned to his, and she stared at him with so much pain, so much helplessness etching her face, he could barely breathe knowing he’d put it there. “I need you, Michael, and I know you need me.”
Then she pushed off the door, straightened, walked to the kitchen, and left him staring after her. She returned a second later with a knife in her hand. What the hell?
Before he could stop her, before he had any idea what she intended, she had already acted. She sliced down her palm, blood spilling from the delicate pale skin. “This time is forever,” she said and then grimaced. “Ouch. Ouch. Okay, that hurt more than I thought it would.”
He was already by her side, picking her up and carrying her to the bathroom. “Are you insane, woman?” He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her hand. “What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking this would make you see how certain I am about a blood bond,” she said, her voice cracking with a hint of agony.
He pressed his forehead to hers, ran his hand down her hair. “Cassandra.” He stared into the green eyes that he had so adored. He couldn’t steal her humanity, her life. “We have to go get you stitches.” The cut was deep, too deep to ignore.
“ You heal me,” she said. “You, Michael. I meant what I said. Whatever you are, we are together, in life or death.” She sucked in a shaky breath. “Don’t you see? I can’t breathe without you.”
Michael went utterly still, those words reaching inside his soul and speaking to him. Words he himself had thought about her a million times.
He reached down to his leg and removed the knife inside his pocket, held his hand out, and sliced it opened.
Big pearly tears glistened down Cassandra’s cheeks as he unwrapped the towel from her hand.
“And I cannot breathe without you,” he whispered. “But once this is done, there is no turning back. We really do live and die together. And whatever monster I become, you will never escape me.”
“You are not a monster, and you never will be,” she said, grabbing his hand and pressing her palm to his. “If it takes me a lifetime to make you see that, then I will fight for a lifetime.”
She sealed their hands together, blinking up at him through her tears.
He trembled with emotion, with the magnitude of what she had just done, with the trust she had in him that he did not dare have in himself.
One by one, he kissed her tears away and then cradled her cheek with his hand, repeating the vow that he never wanted her to forget. “I love you.”
“I love you, Michael.”
With all his heart and soul, he silently made yet another vow—that he would live up to that love, that he would not let his past, his family, or the darkness within him, destroy them.
Michael kissed her with tenderness, the passion of minutes before shimmering warm and ready, but without any harsh demand—because she was his, his forever, and that was something to savor. He pulled back, stared down at her as black swallowed the green of her eyes, then guided their sealed palms between them and slowly released her hand, showing Cassandra that their wounds had healed.
Cassandra stared down at her hand. Touched her palm. Looked up at him. “Is it done? That easily?”
He closed their hands together again. “It is done,” he promised, pressing his lips to hers and lingering there. Their breath mingled, warm and perfect.
She shivered and moaned, a sound so decadently erotic, he had to have more. He delved deeper, his tongue sliding against hers, a caress that turned to long, sensuous strokes, hungry and wild. Clothing disappeared, barriers gone once and for all. He turned her around, facing the mirror, and framed her soft curves with his body, his long, dark hair falling around his face and hers, the steely length of his erection settling between her thighs. The wet heat of her body drenched him in the promise of pleasure and passion.
She reached up and ran her hand through his hair. “I love how you feel.”
The thick ridge of his cock expanded, throbbed. It would be so easy to slide inside her, to sink into the deep recess of her perfect body and take her. But this was special. This was their first time lifebonded, and he shackled the urgency within him, focused on her pleasure. Filled his hands with her breasts and tugged her plump, swollen nipples—red, rosy buds that he planned to worship over and over before morning light. She moaned and leaned her head against his shoulder, closed her eyes and shivered.
“Look in the mirror,” he ordered. “Let me see how I please you.” He continued to roll the hard little buds, tugging with a sharp bite he’d come to know aroused her.
Her legs wobbled, almost buckled. “I can’t,” she confessed.
He flattened his hand on her stomach and steadied her. “You can,” he willed her. “Look at me, Cassandra.”
She tilted her chin down, her heavy-lidded stare meeting his in the reflection. His fingers plucked at her nipples. He watched her teeth sink into that full lush bottom lip, dipped his head, and pressed his lips to her ear. “I’m going to give you what you said you wanted,” he promised, nipping her lobe and placing her hands on the counter to brace herself. “I’m going to kiss you and lick you from head to toe.” He shoved her hair aside and displayed the lifebond mark. “Starting here.”
He covered the mark with his mouth, flicked his tongue around the design, his hands sliding down her silky, soft back, his lips following the same trail until he caressed her creamy white, heart-shaped butt. He lifted her hips, spread her wide, and then met her stare in the mirror, letting her see the raw hunger and promise of pleasure in his eyes, before he eased to his knees, the sight of her open for him damn near making him shake. His hands caressed her shapely hips as his lips and teeth nipped at one perfect butt cheek. Fingers sliced a path through the wet heat of her intimate flesh as he reached in front of her and thumbed her swollen nub.
“Michael,” she gasped. “I…” She lost the words. He suckled her nub into his mouth. Her hips lifted and then pressed against his mouth, moving with the licks and caresses. He filled her with his fingers, explored her, stroked her, made love to her with his mouth, his hands. She gushed in his mouth, the sweet flavor of her arousal making him lick and suckle with wild determination until she cried out, tightened around his fingers. A second later, spasms milked his fingers, her thighs quaking with her release. Gently, he pleasured her through the release, easing the pressure slowly, until she calmed.
He turned her around, kissing a path up her body until he fit his erection between her legs, tangled his hands in her hair. “You have no idea how much I love you,” he whispered, sliding inside the wet heat of her core and lifting her at the same moment.
Her arms slipped around his neck, her body wrapping his cock in warm wonderful sensation, her breasts cradled against his chest. “You have a lifetime to show me,” she promised.
Adam sat at a marble dinner table on a balcony overlooking the coliseum. Hordes of soldiers filled bleachers to his left and his right, enthralled by twenty scantily-clad females dancing in the center of the ring—new recruits hoping to be chosen by males for their beds and a chance to become a Lifebond.
“You are pleased?” Ava asked, sipping apricot nectar from a silver-stemmed glass, watching him from beneath half-veiled eyes.
He reached for her hand, pressed it to his lips. “Your ability to influence these women’s thoughts and feelings is nothing shy of amazing.”
She beamed with satisfaction that lasted only moments. “We are up to seventy women again,” she said. “Two of the new recruits are now Lifebonds.” Considering she’d scaled back her fertility testing and had still managed to kill ten of her subjects, this number spoke highly of Tad’s recruiting efforts—if you could call luring women into captivity recruiting.
The crowd roared as the women exited, music blaring through speakers as the real show prepared to begin. The lights dimmed around the bleachers, spotlights glowing around Adam’s wolves as they filed onto the stone center floor. Candles flickered on high walls around the ring and on the tables.
Recently captured human soldiers would soon appear to fight for survival, promised they might earn the serum. Of course, his stock was low. It would take a warrior of great skill to be worthy. Not likely, but it was entertaining to watch his wolves. Adrenaline rushed through him at the excitement, all else but the show forgotten.
That was until the scent of female and fear flared in his sensitive nostrils. His gaze shifted to his right to the stone hallway where Tad entered the balcony, a terrified female in front of him with a gun to her back. Tears streamed down her face.
Irritation grated Adam’s nerves as Tad stopped at the far end of the table. “What is it you want, Tad?”
Ava pushed to her feet and walked to the Asian beauty and took her hands. “You’re okay,” she said, staring into the woman’s eyes and then touching her forehead. The female stopped crying, her expression taking on a distant, calm look. Ava gave her another once-over. “She is a good specimen at least,” she said dryly.
“She also has an interesting family connection,” Tad said, running his hand down her hair. “Tell them who your father is.”
“Tan Chin,” she said softly.
Ava’s eyes went wide. “As in Dr. Chin?”
“That’s right,” Tad said, his attention going to Adam. “She was living with Chin’s ex-wife in China. But I found her.”
Adam arched a brow. “Does Chin know?”
“Not only does he know,” Tad replied, “he assures me he can get us Red Dart, a stock of serum, as well as both Michael and Cassandra, tonight. He even promises aid with the birth of your child.” He leveled his stare on Adam. “I want to be Michael’s replacement.”
Adam studied him. He was distasteful to the eye, unworthy. Yet, he was resourceful at a time when Adam had been forced to avoid battle for fear any injury would affect Ava and his child. He would use Tad for now. When he had Red Dart, he would force both his brother and Michael to join him. He would not need the likes of Tad.
He inclined his head. “I hear you doing lots of talking,” Adam said. “Show me results.”
Near dawn, with Sterling, Damion, Caleb, and about a dozen soldiers, Cassandra and Michael exited Sunrise City. Nerves jumped in Cassandra’s stomach. Instead of sleeping, she’d shared her ideas with Michael to organize the women into a coalition against the female abductions. Talking and making love, of course, had kept her mind off what the day would hold. No matter what the cause, it would be hard to see her father taken into captivity. And then there was the wind-walking.
Cassandra Powell—used-to-be-normal, military girl—was going to wind-walk. Or maybe she wasn’t so normal—not for a long time, it seemed. She did, after all, have a father who’d created a new race and a half-alien lover who had now become her permanent Lifebond. Thankfully, there were no morning-after effects from the final phase, considering all she had to face today. She’d been so close to bonding with Michael that the final step had been a piece of cake. For once in her life, she’d had no sleep and still felt like a million dollars.
The doors to the city slid shut behind them, and Cassandra turned and blinked. The mountain looked untouched, as if that door did not exist.
“Not so sure about this whole wind-walking thing,” Cassandra said. “My first attempt wasn’t such a good one.”
“You’re different now,” Michael assured her.
“You complete him,” Sterling joked, repeating a line from the movie Jerry Maguire and pressing his hand to his chest. He snorted and then added, “It’s addictive. The wind-walking, that is.” He inclined his head at Michael. “Not Michael. Or if he is—I don’t want to hear about it.”
Michael pulled her close. “Ready?”
She inhaled nervously. “I think so.”
He didn’t wait for a more definite answer. Suddenly, the most incredible force of energy lanced her body, and before she could even begin to react, she was standing in the alley across from her condo.
She blinked and smiled. “Oh my God, that was so amazing. Can we do it again?”
Michael laughed and kissed her. “Many, many times,” he promised. “But not now. Now you go inside and change clothes.”
She clung to him. “You aren’t coming in with me?”
“You bet your life I am,” he promised. “But I don’t want anyone to see me enter.” He slid a cell phone to her hand. “Punch the speed dial ‘1’ button when you get to the door, and let me know it’s clear so no one sees me with you, and I’ll wind-walk.”
“You think it won’t be?” she asked apprehensively.
“I’m sure everything is fine,” he told her. “The Zodius think you’re still inside Sunrise City. They won’t know you’re here until you show yourself at the base. But I’m not taking any chances with your safety.”
He patted her ass. “Now go. Get to that door, and let’s get inside.” His lips brushed hers as he sent her on her way. Cassandra’s stomach clenched, nerves again taking root. The end of this day could not come soon enough.
The path across the street was short, and she was dialing the phone before she even turned into the hallway to her condo. “It’s clear,” she said the instant she scanned the entryway. Michael was there an instant later pulling a tool kit of some sort from his pocket to pick her lock. Apparently, he’d thought of the fact she didn’t have the keys.
He shoved the door open, pulled a gun from under his pant leg, and entered. “Stay here, right inside the door,” he said.
Cassandra did as he said, and her heart raced as he scanned the condo. When he reholstered his weapon and pushed the door shut, locking it behind him, she let out a heavy breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding. “I can’t wait until this is over.”
He pulled her close. “Soon, sweetheart,” he promised. “I have you shielded from Trackers, but I don’t like being in this apartment. Go get ready for work. I’ll follow you to the base, where you will be safe. Do not, under any circumstances, leave that base without calling me first. You go nowhere without me following.”
“You’re not making me feel better,” she said.
He kissed her. “I’ll do that when we get back home to our bed.”
“Our bed?” she asked softly.
“ Our bed,” he said, tangling his hands in her hair. “Where I plan to keep you for at least a week when this is over.”
She clung to the intimacy between them, to the sweet way he was trying to make her relax. But there was a knot in her chest that clamped down with every breath. Something felt terribly wrong. She told herself this was to be expected; today she would help throw her father into lifelong prison.
Yet still that knot tightened and twisted in her chest with the awful feeling that everything was going to go horribly, terribly wrong. A feeling she didn’t share with Michael. He was jumpy and on edge as it was. Her father had created this mess, and she had to help make things right. She felt as if the beginning of the end was upon them, and somehow, someway, she had to stop it from happening.
Lucian stood outside the security gates of Zodius City and called to report to Adam. The instant he stepped on the scanner, the wind shifted, and six soldiers surrounded him. Tad stood front and center, holding a snub-nose .38 special locked and loaded at Lucian’s forehead.
“Your service will no longer be needed,” he said, grinning snidely.
“Kiss my ass,” Lucian said. “You kill me, and Adam will not get Red Dart. I’m the one Brock West trusts.”
Tad chuckled. “I have it from a reliable source that West is locked up inside Powell’s lab, a nut job jacked up on some new GTECH serum. He’s useless to us now.”
Lucian’s gut clenched. “That’s impossible. Powell doesn’t have any more serum.”
“His attending doctor, Dr. Chin, says differently. See, I have Chin whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Funny how kidnapping his daughter can make things work that way.” He cocked the gun. “Would you like the bullet between the eyes or in the back of your head?”
In that instant, Lucian believed that as much as he despised Brock West, they had one thing in common. They both would do whatever was necessary to survive. And Tad… well, Tad was still an idiot. He’d left Lucian unchained, able to escape. Lucian faded into the wind. He’d help Powell before he would die.
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