In the three years since Project Dawn disbanded, Hale continues to fight the good fight. Now civilians, his squad–Circe’s Recruits–works for a private organization bent on cleaning up the mess left in the wake of Project Dawn’s rebirth. Pearson Labs continues to create Circs, people who have been genetically changed. When needed, these Circs take on an altered form–one neither man nor animal, but something in between. But unlike the squad, the Circs coming out of Pearson Labs aren’t sane.
Hale’s dreams are more than nightmares–the prophetic doom of a beautiful woman he doesn’t know and a man he wishes he’d never met: two people meant for him that are too involved with his enemy for Hale’s peace of mind. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and Hale’s beast won’t accept less than the woman and man destined to become his mates. Then word arrives that Pearson Labs is finally coming down, and Hale has to race to save his mates from the fallout. Can they survive or will their love crumble under the enemy’s chaos and deception too close to home?
NOTE: This book is a re-release. It’s been given a new cover and minor edits, but is the same otherwise as the first edition.
- Release Date: September 15, 2015
- Publisher: No Box Books
- ASIN: B0153O2SXE
- Length: Novel
Avalon, New Jersey
“This is insane.” Hale Rogers scowled. “We’ve got better things to do than search for a woman who doesn’t exist.” He’d been looking forward to visiting Nina and her hot friend again. The things they’d done the last time they’d met definitely called for another go-round. So why was he freezing his ass off in his truck on a brisk Friday night?
“Suck it up, Hale.” Roane Weston, Hale’s best friend and squad leader, sat beside him looking bored. “Doc thinks this woman is his long-lost niece. It’s worth a look.”
“Don’t you mean another look? This is the fifth ‘Paige’ we’ve visited in the tristate area over the past three months. Do you really think Doc’s niece lives this close to us? And come on. Elliot Pearl was a dick, but even he wouldn’t experiment on his own daughter.”
He paused, not needing Roane’s look of disbelief to correct himself.
“Okay, so maybe he would. But he’s dead. Why are we still fucking around with Pearson Labs? Let’s just torch the place and call it a done deal. We’ve dealt with this asshole for eight years. Enough already.”
Eight years ago, Pearson Labs had worked with the government to create Circs—humans genetically altered to be the world’s first super soldiers—under the umbrella of Project Dawn. Except something had gone horribly wrong. Of the seventy-eight men initially injected with the Circe serum, only five men now remained—Circe’s Recruits. Empowered with enhanced abilities and incredible strength and now civilians, Hale, Roane, Derrick, Zack, and Ace fought rogue Circs bent on destruction. Regrettably, Elliot Pearl had never known when to quit. The newest batch of rogues—the mutants—barely resembled anything human. And they were twice as lethal.
“I’m with you,” Roane said. “With Pearl dead, you’d think rogues would no longer be an issue. But we both know someone else, someone higher up, is running the project. My question is, where the hell has the PPA gone? I haven’t seen one damned agent since we got Sabrina back.”
He had a point. The PPA, the Project’s Protection Agency, did Pearson Labs’ dirty work. Normally, they did their best to screw with Circe’s Recruits, trying to save their labs’ new experiments for further study, disregarding the damage their monsters did to innocent life. Hale was tired of watching rich assholes get away with murder in the name of science. Pearl and his kind needed to be stopped.
His inner beast roared his fury, and Hale gave over to the frustration seething just below the surface, accepting a slight change to his body chemistry. Unfortunately, the minute his hormones surged, he caught scent of Roane’s needs. Roane had a huge sexual appetite—one Hale’s beast liked sharing. The familiar itch to change burned beneath Hale’s skin. Being a Circ had its perks, but this incessant need to mate bugged the shit out of him. He glared at Roane, the source of these current, out-of-control pheromones. “I swear, you’re as bad as Derrick around Sabrina. They’re newly mated, so I get the constant horniness. What’s your excuse?”
“Sorry, man.” Roane flushed. “Kelly’s pregnancy is pushing Caitlyn’s hormones all over the place, which have the strangest effect on me. I can’t help these surges of…need.”
Hell, Kelly’s hormones had thrown all of them out of whack. Her mates didn’t know if they were coming or going and would surge into uncontrollable rages at the drop of a hat.
“You’re not the only one with problems. This morning I made the mistake of saying hi to Kelly. Ace almost ripped my arm off.”
Roane sighed. “Yeah, well, thank God you’re not mated yet. Caitlyn’s been all over me lately. I’m not complaining, but sometimes when she looks at me… It’s like I’m a piece of meat.”
Hale snickered. The dark look Roane shot him made the comment that much funnier, and he laughed even harder. “Thanks, man. I needed that.”
“Glad somebody’s happy about my shredded ego,” Roane muttered. He shifted in the passenger seat of Hale’s 4Runner, his scent both comforting and familiar…and laced with Caitlyn’s musk. Shit. The woman was ovulating. I should tell Roane, but then he’ll want to know how the hell I can know that.
Ever since his meeting with that prick McKinley, Hale’s sensitivity had skyrocketed. When changed, he could see, smell, hear, and taste things a mere human never could. But lately, his keen senses flared supernova even in human form. Which was to say nothing of those odd dreams he kept having.
He glared out the window at the small house on the edge of the beach. Damned woman. What were the odds he’d dreamed about a blonde named Paige, and she just happened to be Doc’s formerly presumed-dead niece? Something odd was going on, and it had McKinley’s name written all over it.
“Earth to Hale.” Roane elbowed him hard in the side. “I said, pass the coffee.” He sighed. “So much for an early spring. Fucking ice on the ground in the middle of March.”
Hale shoved the thermos at him without taking his gaze from the woman’s house. “This is bullshit. No one’s home. I’m going in. If this Paige Masters is Subject 31 and Doc’s niece, I’ll find proof of it inside.”
Hale left the truck before Roane could tell him not to go. He jogged around to the back door, facing the beach, and had just put his hand on the black box housing the alarm system when Roane yanked him back.
“Wait for me, you little shit.”
Excited at the prospect of some action, finally, Hale grinned, exposing the tips of his extending canines. “Sure thing, boss.”
Roane mumbled under his breath as he located and disabled the house alarm. At his nod, Hale used a set of tools to unlock the door and pushed his way inside. He automatically adjusted to the darkness, his preternatural vision turning everything brighter as he moved through the small kitchen toward a spacious living room.
The place looked lived in. Bookcases, a couch and side chair, a small television set, and a few other odds and ends decorated the living room. Nothing on the walls, which Hale found strange. Women usually liked to decorate. At least, all the women living at their compound did. Even Sabrina, as cool and bitchy as she could be, had put a vase of flowers in the room she shared with Derrick.
Roane motioned to the stairwell. Hale nodded and walked up the stairs, being careful to be quiet, and continued his search through the small cottage.
He didn’t smell anything odd, nothing to alert him to intruders. He also found little with which to identify the resident of the house. A strangeness in itself. No pictures, frames of loved ones, or saved correspondence with anyone. Just bills and the occasional magazine. A few entertainment rags, a women’s style issue, and…a Popular Mechanics? A sudden mental image of McKinley appeared in his mind’s eye, and he threw up an internal shield on the off chance the freak showed. He had no reason to suspect as much. Nothing tied Doc’s niece to the man. And after barely escaping from Pearson Labs several months ago, Hale hadn’t seen McKinley since.
Still… Something about this empty house smacked of that dickhead. Hale’s curiosity about the male irked him to no end. Unlike the other rogue Circs at Pearson Labs, McKinley didn’t fit the mold. He hadn’t changed into a giant human with thicker, harder skin. His flesh hadn’t darkened, and he’d remained normal looking, if somewhat huge, even for a human. The guy had to be close to seven feet. Hale hadn’t seen him but for that one time, but he couldn’t forget him. Short black hair framed a masculine face, hard and unforgiving. But those eerie, inhuman yellow eyes with elongated pupils proclaimed McKinley’s differences even more than the occasional glimpse of his fangs or claws. A real freak of nature with as much strength as a true Circ, McKinley had even put Derrick on his ass, and Derrick was a monster when changed.
Uncomfortable that McKinley dwelled as often in his mind as the blonde woman did, Hale swept through the rest of the upstairs, noting nothing out of the ordinary. A partial sense of relief filled him. This Masters woman was simply another Paige who didn’t fit the profile. Good news for him, bad news for Doctor Evan Dennis.
Hale wished he had better news to give Doc. First, Doc’s boyfriend had turned traitor. Then, learning his only sibling had died, despite the fact that Elliot Pearl had been an evil genius, had to be a bitch. Doc rarely smiled anymore. The man was grieving. So to find out he might have a surviving relative? Hale understood Doc’s need to cling to something good in his life. After dealing with a psychotic half brother and a lover who’d turned on him, who wouldn’t want ties to a seemingly normal woman, one who might be the last in a familial line?
Still, Hale didn’t buy Doc’s idea of proof. An e-mail from Elliot Pearl, sent automatically after he was dead, couldn’t be substantiated. Just one more way for the asshole to screw with Doc. And now Doc wanted them to find his niece, Paige. So they’d find the woman. That her name and face happened to be the same ones he’d dreamed about didn’t make a lick of sense. An odd coincidence, no more. I’m not psychic, and this Paige Masters is another nobody—
A sudden punch to the head took him to his knees. He instinctively rolled to his side and stood, needing to face the threat on his feet. Shoring his mental wards, Hale called on the change and shifted into his beast. His skin hardened, and he expanded as the enemy attacked.
Dodging an enlarged fist, Hale snarled and raked a set of claws down the mutant’s belly. The Circ was tar black and strong as hell. Red eyes stared out of a monster’s face, and the forked tongue that swiped at the thing’s lips told Hale he had no recourse but to kill it. There was no reasoning with Pearson Labs’ new mutants. The old rogues at least resembled Circs and could reason. These things were rabid killers that understood death and dismemberment. Nothing more.
Having shredded through his shirt and shoes, Hale’s bigger body strained against his elastic-waist pants as he butted against the rogue. They locked arms, pushed, and pulled, until Hale purposefully shifted his weight back. He sank to the floor, placed his feet on the rogue’s belly, and shoved.
The mutant hit the wall behind him, and something shattered all over the floor. Roane’s bellow signified trouble, probably more mutants in the house. Knowing how strong the fuckers were, Hale didn’t hesitate to run past this one down the stairs, though he knew it would follow him.
He found Roane under attack, two normal-looking rogues circling him. Roane too had changed and now stood a head taller, thicker, and a hell of a lot angrier than he had been several minutes ago.
“Not the right Paige, eh?” Roane snarled at Hale, then broke one of the rogues’ arms and shoved him into the other before defending himself from the one behind Hale.
Hale immediately leaped onto the downed pair, slicing claws across the top one’s throat before gouging his eyes. Thankfully, the combination of Hale’s and his bleeding opponent’s weight pinned the other one down, effectively putting him out of commission for a short while.
The Circs beneath him howled and fought, but Hale wouldn’t let up. He continued to pound the rogue directly under him, his increasing speed addicting. His hands a blur, he hit harder and faster, rapidly turning his opponent into a mess of bloody flesh and bone. He registered the sound of a subtle pop, recognized it as Roane’s specialized silencer, and continued to work, giving his buddy time to take on any more comers. The sheer pleasure of the battle consumed him, and Hale willingly gave control of the fight to his inner beast.
Having worked through one of the enemy, he concentrated his efforts on the pinned one and heard a few more muffled shots.
“Hale, enough,” Roane growled before dragging Hale back. “Snap out of it.”
Hale trembled, adrenaline pumping through his system, sending him into overload.
Then he froze. Something…in the air. He lifted his head, opened his mouth, and drew it in, a faint taste of cherry that lingered on his tongue. Sweet, sensual, and enthralling. Hale couldn’t get enough.
He turned to follow the captivating scent into the kitchen, toward a locked door he hadn’t yet explored, when a fist rammed into his face. Pain centered in his nose, then his neck, ribs, and groin. It took him a minute to realize someone—or something—dragged him deeper into the kitchen. The sound of more rogues alarmed him. He needed to help Roane, to protect his alpha, his friend. Struggling though the pain, he gained a bit of ground by digging into the walls to stop his progress.
A sharp prick to his neck made him wince, especially when his airway began to close.
To his surprise, the scent of cherries intensified. He automatically relaxed as layers of warmth enveloped him.
Minutes or hours later, he heard Roane’s muffled voice.
“Out, now,” echoed in several pitches throughout the room, the voices of half a dozen or more of the enemy. Rogues? Mutants? Circs? Or had Pearson Labs sent their agents, the PPA? He tried to understand as he listened to the fading noise around him.
Bodies scrambled. Something scratched—the sound of claws finding purchase in the scarred wooden floor. Windows broke, glass shattered, and footsteps stampeded through the small house.
“Hale? Shit. Is that all your blood?” Roane pulled him to his feet, which refused to support him without help.
Hale found himself staring into the fun house glass of Roane’s eyes. Caitlyn appeared in her mate’s dilated pupils, looking sexy, angry, and hungry for another bite of her “meat.” “Dude, she has you whipped, big-time.” Hale grinned, sure of himself. “Not me. Never gonna happen.”
Between one breath and the next, Hale suddenly stared at Roane’s ass, then at the grass under their feet. His vision alternated between pitch-black and a subtle glow of moonlight that covered everything. “Wh-what? Where we going?”
“I can’t understand you.” Roane muttered something. “You’re slurring your words, playboy. Looks like I’m driving.” Roane set him down gently. In the backseat of the truck? “I don’t know what they hit you with, but at least your pretty face is back to normal. You’re healing superfast, my friend. And I think Doc is gonna want to know why.”
As Roane started the vehicle, Hale let the haze envelop him and licked his lips, testing the air for another taste of that sweet, sweet smell of cherries.