Break Out by Nina Croft
Dark Desires #1
Tagline: The immortal heart knows no bounds.
About Break Out:
The year is 3048, Earth is no longer habitable, and man has fled to the stars where they’ve discovered the secret of immortality—Meridian. Unfortunately, the radioactive mineral is exorbitantly expensive and only available to a select few. A new class comprised of the super rich and immortal soon evolves. The Collective, as they’re called, rule the universe.
Two-thousand-year-old Ricardo Sanchez, vampire and rogue pilot of the space cruiser, El Cazador, can’t resist two things: gorgeous women and impossible jobs. When beautiful Skylar Rossaria approaches him to break a prisoner out of the Collective’s maximum security prison on Trakis One, Rico jumps at the chance. Being hunted by the Collective has never been so dangerous–or so fun!
Scene right after the ending of Break Out…
“Nice room,” Skylar murmured, hovering in the doorway. Though maybe nice wasn’t the right word. This was the first time she’d been to Rico’s cabin. It was huge and, like the rest of the ship, decorated in black and silver to match its owner.
Rico tugged her inside and gestured with a flourish of his free hand. “Mi casa es su casa.”
“What does that mean?” she asked as the doors slid shut behind them.
She was in the vampire’s lair. With the vampire. Would she ever get over that little twist of primordial fear when she thought the word? Part of her hoped not.
“It’s an old Spanish saying—my house is your house. In this case my cabin but the sentiment remains the same—it’s yours if you want it.”
She thought about the words. A ring and now sharing quarters. This really was serious. “You want me to move in in here with you?”
“Of course. We’re almost married and I’m an old-fashioned guy. This is my home and I’d like it to be ours.”
Home. A strange concept.
The only furniture was a huge bed in the middle of the room, covered in black sheets and mounds of black pillows. It looked comfortable, but she wasn’t tired. She felt totally wired. She’d faced death, today, and made love for the first time in… well, a lot of years. At the memory, everything tightened low down in her body.
Rico turned to her. “So, you’re our new security officer. You think you’re up to keeping order on the Cazador?”
She eyed him up. God, he was beautiful, all long lean grace, wrapped up in black leather. And he was hers. Heat washed through her, tightening her nipples and settling between her thighs.
His nostrils flared, a slow smile curled his lips, and he quirked a brow as he waited for her answer.
She shook herself. “Hell, yeah.”
Rico released her hand and turned to face her, his gaze running over her, no doubt snagging on the hard little points of her nipples pressing against the jumpsuit. Suddenly her clothes were way too tight.
“You think you could take me?” he murmured.
Oh, yes, she could take him. Every way he could think of, and she was betting after fifteen hundred years, Rico could think of quite a few ways. She remembered what he’d said earlier about tying him up and image flashed in her mind of Rico flat on his back, his wrists and ankles bound to the corners of the bed, while she had her evil way with him. Trouble was she wasn’t sure what her evil way would be—maybe she needed a bit of practice first. Get her head around the whole idea that she had a lover.
She swapped the image for one of herself spread-eagled on the bed, while Rico crouched over her, kissed her, licked her, bit her… She was a little concerned about how much she liked that idea. Only a few hours after they’d made love for the first time and she was turning into a pervert. Shaking her head, she banished the image—well, for the moment anyway—and focused on the vampire. “Yeah, I could take you.”
She glanced across to where he stood, his body relaxed, a sleepy smile on his lips. So he found the idea amusing? Without giving herself time to think it was a bad idea, she whirled around and kicked out, sweeping his legs from under him.
He landed on his ass with a thump and stared up at her. “Hey, not fair.”
“Nothing about fighting is fair.”
“You’re right.” He moved so fast he was a blur and she was on the floor next to him, flat on her back. He moved again so he crouched, looming over her. “Totally right, querida.”
She sat up abruptly. Her face slammed into his rock hard chest, she fell back to the floor, and slapped her hand over her nose. Beneath her palm she could feel the warm ooze of blood. “Oh, fuck. You broke my nose.”
Rico had gone still above her. She blinked and stared up into his crimson-flecked eyes. His gaze focused on her face where blood trickled down from beneath her hand.
“Ugh,” she said. “Don’t tell me you find a nosebleed sexy?”
He shook himself. “God, sorry sweetheart.”
“Not your fault. I banged into you.”
He rolled to his feet and disappeared through a door opposite. Skylar pushed herself up and was investigating the damage when he re-appeared. Crouching down in front of her, he peeled her hand away from her face and gently wiped it clean with the warm wet towel.
Skylar twitched her nose. The pain was gone, the damage healed almost instantly. Perhaps she shouldn’t tell him that though. She quite liked contrite Rico. She blinked a couple of times. “I’ll be fine if I just lie down for a little while,” she said adding a small catch to her voice.
His brows drew together then his eyes narrowed. Reaching out he stroked one long finger down the length of her nose. “Broken?”
“I heal quick.” She gave a shrug of one shoulder, then curling her hand into a fist, she punched out, catching him in the center of his chest so he toppled over onto his back. Quickly, she straddled him, palms flat on the floor on either side of his head.
He grinned. “Are we going to fight about who goes on top every time?”
His hands gripped her arms and they rolled on the floor, and somehow he was on top once again, and her jumpsuit was open to the waist, and his mouth was on her breasts. The urge to fight drained away as his cool tongue licked at her heated flesh, his teeth tugging at her distended nipples.
For a moment, she closed her eyes and savored the feeling, then she bent her knees, placed her feet against his chest and shoved. He flew across the room slamming into the wall. And she was on her feet and stalking after him.
He leaned against the wall and watched her through narrowed eyes. “You like it rough?”
Actually, she’d never had it “rough.” “I don’t know.”
“You want to try?” Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed her by the arms and whirled her around so she was facing the wall, her naked breasts up against the smooth metal, Rico’s long, hard body pressed against her back. He lowered his head to the curve where her shoulder met her neck and nuzzled. His fangs grazed her skin while his hand slid around her and tugged her zipper all the way down. She jumped as one hand slipped inside then went still as his teeth gripped her shoulder, not breaking the skin, but holding her in place.
Her insides were melting, heat sinking to her belly, then lower to where a pulse throbbed at her core. Rico worked quickly, pushing the jumpsuit down her arms, over her hips. She kicked off her boots and the jumpsuit followed leaving her naked. He kissed her neck, then the lobe of her ear. His body held her in place while his hands roamed over her, cupping her breasts, tugging at her nipples, sending darts of pleasure between her thighs. He pinched hard and she gasped but pushed back against him, her ass pressing against the hardness of his erection.
“You like that?” He pinched again, rolling the nipple between his finger and thumb. Sliding his hand lower, his fingers tangled in the curls at the base of her belly and her breath caught in her throat. His fingers slipped easily between the folds of her sex. “I’m guessing that’s a yes,” he whispered against her skin, as he tormented her sensitive flesh.
As his hands left her, she bit back a groan. He stepped back, then his lips caressed the nape of her neck and he kissed his way down her spine using his tongue and his teeth. Tingles raced through her body, settling between her thighs. There was a constant throb there now, sensation swelling inside her. He licked the curve of her buttocks, bit gently, then shifted lower to her thigh and every muscle tensed in anticipation. “You have a vein”—he spread her legs and kissed her inner thigh—“just here. May I…?”
She couldn’t speak but she nodded, bracing herself for the bite, her breath coming in short sharp pants. Instead he straightened, scooped her up and tossed her onto the bed.
Before she could register what was happening, he came down on top of her, sliding over her body. His hands grasped her ankles, spreading her legs then his mouth was on her inner thigh and his fangs sank into her. At the first pull, the pleasure exploded, her head falling back, a scream locked in her throat. He drew the blood from her vein as the sensation pulsed through her. As the pleasure ebbed, he plunged a finger inside her, the pad of his thumb massaging her clit, and she came again.
Then he was over her, parting her legs with an impatient thigh, shoving himself inside her while the ripples still radiated out from her core. He filled her hard and fast. She blinked open her lids to find him gazing down at her, his expression savage, his eyes glowing crimson. Fear flashed through her. As the adrenaline pumped through her system, she wrapped her arms around his neck, dragged him down to her, and kissed him, thrusting her tongue into his mouth, careless of the fangs, then tasting the sharp metallic tang of her own blood as her tongue dueled with his.
He ground his hips against hers, each stroke tormenting her sensitized clit, so the pleasure grew again. His fingers dug into her hips as he held her steady for each hard thrust. He was losing control and she loved it. She bucked, rubbing herself against him, until his back arched and they came together just as a loud crash filled the room and the ship lurched, sending them rolling from the bed.
Rico hit the floor with her on top and his arms wrapped around her. For long seconds, they lay waiting for whatever came next. Finally, he looked into her face. “Are you getting a sense of déjà vu here?” he murmured.
The ship jolted again, hurling them sideways so they slammed into the wall. She held on tight but when nothing else happened, she levered herself up. “I suppose, as the brand-new security officer, I’d better go check out who’s shooting at us.”
Time to go to work.
Someday, she’d really like to spend a whole uninterrupted night in bed with Rico. But not today. One thing was for sure—things would never be boring around here.
Deadly Pursuit by Nina Croft
Dark Desires #2
Tagline: Eternal love is the greatest risk of all.
About Deadly Pursuit:
Breaking assassin Jonathon Decker out of a maximum-security prison on Trakis One seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, pursued across space by the two most powerful factions in the universe, the crew of El Cazador are having second thoughts. They’d like to give him back. Unfortunately, that is no longer an option.
Jon is used to working alone. Now, he’s stuck on the space cruiser El Cazador until he can work out just what he’s supposed to know that puts him on everybody’s most-wanted-dead list. He’s not happy that the crew includes a runaway priestess with designs on his virtue—such as it is. Jon likes women, but he gave up the role of protector a long time ago, and Alexia, High Priestess of the Church of Everlasting Life, is an accident waiting to happen.
After twenty-four excruciatingly boring years of doing her duty, Alex is finally having some fun. She never meant to run away—it was a rash impulse—and she means to go back—eventually. But first, she’s going to squeeze enough excitement out of the situation to last her a lifetime. And what could be more exciting than a stunningly gorgeous werewolf?
Meanwhile, the Church are chasing their missing priestess, and the Collective are pursuing their escaped assassin. Being hunted has never been more deadly…or more fun.
“I now pronounce you man and wife.” Tannis turned around to the audience. “Does this shit actually mean anything?”
“Back on Earth, it was legal for couples to be married by a ship’s captain,” Rico said. “That’s you.”
She shrugged. “I guess so. I can’t see that it makes a difference, but congratulations.”
“And you may kiss the bride,” Rico added.
Jon lowered his head and kissed her gently, as though she were some fragile little thing that might shatter if he was too rough. He hadn’t done any more than kiss her gently since she’d come around and he’d told her just what he’d done to save her life.
It was six days since they’d fled from Trakis Five. Six days since Jon had sunk his teeth into her throat. She’d lived and she was getting stronger, though she still felt weak. Jon had said that once she shifted, she’d be fully recovered. But so far she hadn’t managed to drum up the courage. He’d said it would be different once they were out in the forest. Apparently, space ships messed with werewolves’ heads.
She was a werewolf. It didn’t seem real.
No one had followed them from Trakis Five, and the captain reckoned they were safe for now, though Tannis had hardly been herself since they’d escaped. She seemed distracted. But Skylar, as security officer, had stated that they were going to lay low for a while after they had dropped her and Jon off. And after they’d gone through this weird little ceremony which Jon had come up with after talking with Rico. Who’d have expected a vampire to be an expert of weddings?
Anyway, they were now in orbit around Jon’s old planet.
Daisy came forward and hugged her…gently, then Janey. “You make a beautiful bride.” Rico had suggested she wear white—it was traditional, but that was almost as bad as black. So she was in a scarlet dress, which Janey had somehow altered to fit her. It left her shoulders bare, skimmed her body and the ground, and clashed beautifully with her hair.
Jon was in black though, but he looked good in it. With his dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and a smile on his gorgeous lips, he actually looked…happy.
“Look after him,” Rico said as he kissed her cheek.
He poured drinks and she leaned against Jon’s side, sipping whiskey as Daisy took the ship down. In the docking bay, Jon hefted a rucksack onto his back with a few supplies and a change of clothing and they headed down the ramp. Jon wrapped her smaller hand in his and pulled her close.
“Aw isn’t that sweet,” Rico said.
“Fuck off,” Jon growled. But he sounded positively mellow.
“We’ll see you in a month,” Tannis said. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
They watched as the ship took off, staring up into the sky until she disappeared, merging with the stars. Then Alex looked around her. They were in a clearing in a forest, huge trees all around them. It was nighttime, a sickle moon hung in the sky and stars twinkled over the vastness of space. A light wind rustled the leaves and she lifted her head and breathed in deeply. The air was heavy with the scent of growing things and something alien stirred to life inside her. Waking and stretching.
Jon turned to her as though he sensed the change. “You ready?”
Was she? She was a goddamn werewolf. What would the Church think of their priestess now? What did God think of her? Though really why should she care? God hadn’t saved her back there on Trakis Five. Jon had.
“Good.” Reaching out, he loosened the ties at the shoulders of her dress and it dropped to the ground pooling around her feet like blood. Though the air was warm, she shivered as Jon stepped back and stripped off his own clothes. Her breath caught at the sight of him and she trembled. He wasn’t aroused, but as she stared, his cock twitched and pulsed.
“Later,” he murmured.
The thing inside her growled and raked a claw down her insides. “Ouch.”
“It’s time,” he said.
Her skin prickled with energy, tremors rippled up her spine and fear flickered inside her. Her skin was burning, shooting pains jabbing at her muscles.
“Relax,” Jon said. “It only hurts if you fight it. Trust me.”
And she did. Suddenly the night throbbed with magic. Alex relaxed, and the fear receded as she gave herself up to the enchantment and the change flowed over her.
The world was altered. Twisting her head, she stared at the rich dark red fur that covered her back. She lifted each paw in turn, placing it down with exaggerated care, digging her sharp claws into the soft earth.
The weakness that had afflicted her had vanished. She felt vital, alive, everything sharply defined. Her ears swiveled, to pick up the sound of the wind in the treetops above her, and somewhere far off a bird hooted. She opened her mouth and tasted the damp air on her tongue. The scents of the night filled her nostrils, the rich soil, leaf mold, the musky aroma of wolf.
He stood close by, watching her from his dark wolf’s eyes, his plumed tail waving. He stepped toward her his muzzle touching hers lightly, then he yipped once, whirled around, and headed into the trees.
She ran through the dark forest, the pads of her paws making no sound on the soft leaf-littered floor. Effortlessly, she weaved her way between the trees, following where he led. As the trees thinned, she picked up speed, running ever faster, until she was aware of nothing but the wind flowing past her. All her tension, the weakness that had plagued her for so long, fell away beneath the relentless stretch and release of muscle and sinew. A wild exhilaration filled her.
She ran until she was exhausted and then stood, head hanging down, breathing deeply, feeling each breath, the hot blood flowing through her veins. She sensed Jon come up beside her. He nudged her with his nose, and she followed him to a small overhang. Collapsing to the sandy ground, she rested her head on his soft silky fur and closed her eyes.
When she awoke, she was back in human form, lying on the cool sand with Jon’s hot body wrapped around her. She could feel the hardness of his erection pressing against her ass and she wriggled.
He had promised.
She pressed back against him, wriggled again just to make her intentions clear.
One big hand cupped her breast as the other slid between her thighs. He kissed the sensitive skin at the back of her neck and she shivered.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes.” She was better than okay, but she couldn’t find the words to tell him, so she rolled over, took his face between her hands and placed her lips to his, putting everything she felt into the kiss.
“Just in case I forget to tell you…”
He nuzzled her neck, then pressed her down onto her back and came up over her. “Hmm?” he asked. “Tell me what?”
Then he filled her with one hard lunge of his hips and her breath left her on a sigh. She lay for a moment, as her body adjusted to the size of him, the fullness, then she bucked her hips to show she was ready for more.
“That I love being a werewolf,” she said.
Death Defying by Nina Croft
Dark Desires #3
Tagline: Eternal love is the greatest risk of all.
About Death Defying:
Captain Tannis of the starship El Cazador is part snake, part human, and—according to some—all bitch. She is one job away from her lifelong goal—to achieve the immortality she craves. The assignment: protecting the most powerful man in the Universe.
After five hundred years, Callum Meridian, founding member of the Collective, is bored out of his mind. Until he realizes he’s physically changing—into what, he isn’t sure. Callum is determined to discover the truth, but his own people will stop at nothing to prevent it from coming out.
With a coup brewing and the crew of El Cazador close to tossing him off the ship, Callum turns to Tannis. Sparks fly as they work together to make it out alive. But can Callum really trust the one woman hell bent on using him? Defying death has never been more dangerous, more sexy, or more fun.
500 years ago
“We’ve lost contact, Captain. The signal is dead and there’s been nothing from them in over three hours.”
“Shit.” Callum sat back in his chair, and studied the monitors while he considered his options.
He’d been captain for ten years now, ever since he’d been woken from cryo, and in all that time he’d never had to make a decision. He was out of practice. The ship virtually flew herself, the crew had trained together for years before they left earth, and everything worked like a well-oiled machine. Or had done until the Trakis One vanished off the scanners.
Five hundred years they’d survived in the vastness of space.
Now, they’d finally reached a system which appeared—at least at first sight—to be able to sustain life. Then just as things were looking up for mankind, and the long trip was finally over, disaster struck.
The Trakis One was their lead ship and carried the President of the Federation of Nations as well as his daughter, Tamara. He’d been engaged to Tamara for a while back on Earth until he’d realized what a bitch she was. Hard to believe that was over five hundred years ago. If he and Tamara hadn’t parted company, then in all likelihood, he would have been aboard the Trakis One as well. And now he’d be….he didn’t know…wherever the Trakis One was. Maybe they’d never know what had become of the ship.
But the real problem was that the captain of the Trakis One was also the man who made the final decisions for the fleet. Now the rest of them were wandering around like headless fucking chickens. About time someone stepped up to the mark.
He leaned forward and pressed the comm unit that would connect him to the other ships. “This is Captain Callum Meridian of the Trakis Seven. I say—let’s do this.” Then sat back and waited.
Tasha his second in command entered the bridge and came to stand behind him, resting a hand on his shoulder, and watching the monitor.
“Hi sweetheart,” he murmured. Tasha was an excellent officer, she’d also been sharing his bed for the last five years—pretty much since she’d been woken, and he’d decided he’d had enough of celibacy.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“Just waiting to see if anyone out there has the balls to see this through. Or whether we’re just going to sit here for another five hundred years.”
There were nine ships in all, well, eight now the Trakis One had vanished. Twenty-four had set off from Earth, named imaginatively, the Trakis One to Twenty-four. Each ship had carried ten trained crews, nine of which were placed in cryo as they set-off on the long journey, to be woken as they were needed. Callum was the tenth captain of the Trakis Seven, and the last. In addition, each ship carried ten thousand “Chosen Ones.” The future of humanity.
Twelve of the ships had gone their separate ways long before Callum had been woken from cryo. They’d had no contact from them in over three hundred years. Another three had been destroyed in unexplained explosions. He supposed that was good going—none of the technology had been really tested before they left Earth. There hadn’t been the time.
Finally, when he’d decided they must have all gone to sleep, the comm unit crackled. Everything was getting old; it was only a matter of time before bits started to fall off—another reason to get off their asses and get moving.
“You’ll take point?” Captain Crane of the Trakis Three asked.
Obviously everyone was a little nervous after what had happened to the Trakis One, and no one wanted to be first to follow wherever they had gone. But it was time to grow some goddamn balls. Adrenaline spiked in his system at the thought of some action at last. Back on Earth, he’d been a fighter pilot, a whole different ballgame than captain of a space cruiser. No amount of training had prepared him for the boredom.
Callum grinned and squeezed Tasha’s hand. “Yeah, I’ll take point.”
One by one the other captains gave their agreement. When the vote was in, it was unanimous. “Looks like we’re on.” Callum said. “Set a course for through the system.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, sir?” That was his third in command, Aiden Ross. He cast the man a glance. What stroke of bad luck had given him Aiden-No-Balls-Ross as his third? “Hell, yes. I want off this ship. Don’t worry, we have the last co-ordinates of the Trakis One—just make sure we steer clear of that spot.”
It would be a while before anything happened. Before the Trakis One had inconveniently disappeared, each ship had been allocated a planet. They were to approach, do an initial survey of conditions, and if they met certain pre-set criteria, then they were to land and investigate further. This system had two suns and thirteen major planets circling those suns in various orbits, plus a number of outer planets at the edges. Callum’s planet was one of the thirteen, but on the far side of the system. He settled back into his seat rested his booted feet on the console in front of him and had lapsed into an almost hypnotic state, staring at the monitors, when something jolted him awake.
“Shit,” Aiden muttered from beside him.
“Too right.” They were passing the first planet at the edge of the system, keeping a safe distance as this was the last known co-ordinates of the Trakis One. Callum stared at the image filling the screen and got an inkling of what must have happened to the ship.
The planet itself was dark ochre encircled by spiraling radiation rings of palest yellow to blood crimson. But it wasn’t the planet that drew his attention. Beyond that was a gaping pit of blackness—as though all the light had been sucked out of the world. The planet was orbiting a black hole. He’d never seen a black hole before and a shiver ran through him. Had that somehow sucked in the Trakis One? Poor bastards wouldn’t have stood a chance if they’d inadvertently crossed over the event horizon.
“Let’s hope the rest of the system is a little more hospitable,” he muttered.
Through the next days they had confirmation that the Trakis Four and Five had landed safely and their planets were habitable. It looked like mankind had found a new home at last.
It took them a while longer to reach their designated planet. By the time they were in orbit, Callum was itching to get on solid ground. Unfortunately, the preliminary checks didn’t look hopeful. While there was an atmosphere that could sustain life, the oxygen levels were lower than optimal, the nitrogen higher, and there didn’t appear to be any water. Anywhere.
Plus, the view out of the scanner hardly appeared welcoming. A barren surface of grey-green rock, the landscape pitted with mountains interspersed with vast flat plains. No vegetation to be seen or at least nothing they recognized.
But he could see no reason not to continue the investigation. Even if the planet turned out to be uninhabitable, there might be valuable resources. He set the Trakis Seven on course for one of the flat plains which should prove a safe landing site for the huge ship.
Within minutes of setting the new course, they were in trouble. It was as though a huge fist had closed around them and was dragging them in. No longer heading for the flat plain, they were on a collision course for a rocky outcrop. And they were speeding up.
His pulse raced and he gritted his teeth as he fought to wrest back control, but the ship was unresponsive. Shit. No way had he survived five hundred years wandering the vastness of fucking space just to crash now.
After five totally unproductive minutes, he turned to the rest of the crew. “Strap yourselves in. We’re going down.”
He threw himself into the captain’s chair and buckled the harness. A waste of time. At this speed a crash would shatter the ship, smash her into a thousand pieces with no chance of survivors. He’d faced death a hundred times as a fighter pilot back on Earth, but this was different. He wasn’t so much scared of dying as pissed off with the sense of powerlessness. “Goddamn it.”
Then the ship slowed as though caught in a net, maybe some sort of gravitational field. They were still travelling too fast, but if he could get back the steering there was a chance.
At the last minute, she came back to him. Huge and unwieldy, she was slow to respond. He only had seconds but managed to turn her slightly from her course. The scream of tearing metal sounded loud on the bridge as they grazed the rocky outcrop, then bounced along the ground. Callum was flung across the bridge as his seat broke loose and he landed with a crash. The lights flashed off leaving them in darkness. Then the emergency systems kicked in and a dim, orange glow lighted the bridge.
Finally, they skidded to a halt. He lay staring at the ceiling for a minute. When he was sure they had actually stopped, he unstrapped his harness and pushed himself to his feet. A groan escaped his throat, but really, apart from bruises, he was fine. He glanced around. Tasha’s seat had held and now she unstrapped her harness and staggered to her feet. She rubbed her ass. “Great landing, captain.”
“Yeah. You okay?” he asked.
“A bit sore, but otherwise undamaged.”
“I’ll kiss it better later,” he promised and turned to survey the chaos. “Everyone else, okay?”
“Dex is down. Broken neck.”
Shit, Dex had been a good guy. Callum headed to the spot where his seat should have been and opened up the diagnostic screens on the console in front of him. The ship didn’t look in too bad a shape and could no doubt be repaired sufficiently to get them off this piece of shit planet and onto one of the more hospitable ones. But the repairs would take time and he might as well find out what he could about the place.
He turned on the external monitors. As the prelims had shown, the air was thin but breathable. The temperature within viable ranges. “Wake the environmental team from cryo,” he told Aiden. “They can do some tests while we go take a look around.”
An hour later, the engineers were hard at work fixing the ship, and the environmental team was coming around from their five hundred year sleep. There was nothing else he could do back here so Callum took a team of five men and headed down to the docking bay. For the first time since he’d woken, he strapped on a weapon at his waist. Who knew what they might find here. Aliens? Little green men? Excitement filled him—there was a whole new world out there.
“You’re in charge,” he said to Tasha. “Keep them working. I want out of here ASAP.”
As he opened the outer doors, the sense of wrongness hit him. He couldn’t think of another way to describe it. There was nothing tangible, just everything felt fucked-up. He stared out across the flat plain trying to analyze what was making him want to turn around and lock the doors tight behind him. The suns had only just gone down and a dull crimson glow still bled over the edges of the horizon.
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Aiden asked from beside him. “Maybe we should wait in the ship.”
That decided him. “Shut the fuck up, Aiden. Where’s your sense of adventure?”
Aiden stiffened but didn’t say anything. Actually, Callum was having second thoughts about how good an idea this was. And third thoughts. The sense of wrongness increased as he strode down the ramp. Everything seemed fine. The air was a little thin, but breathable and he could smell nothing “off” in the atmosphere. His handheld monitor wasn’t beeping or flashing, but walking felt like pushing through fog. Tendrils curled around his mind and nausea rolled in his stomach.
“I don’t like this place,” Tyler said from behind him. “It’s a shit hole.”
“Yeah. All the same let’s go see what sort of shit hole it is.”
He stood at the bottom of the ramp orientating himself. The rocky outcrop loomed to his left, then to the front and right stretched the vast grey plain. Far in the distance a mountain range was silhouetted against the dim light. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, but the sense of wrongness didn’t ease.
Something flickered at the edges of his mind, tugging at his consciousness, and he gazed toward the outcrop. The dark rocks were cut by fresh scars where the Trakis Seven had scraped down their side. Lower down, he could make out the darker shadow of some sort of fissure cut through the rock. It was somewhere to start. “This way.”
They were all breathing heavily by the time they reached the opening in the rocks, and Callum’s heart was beating double time trying to get enough oxygen to his starved lungs. The gap was too narrow to take his shoulders straight on and he turned sideways so he could enter. He half expected complaints from his men—he wasn’t sure this was a good idea himself—but they followed him in silence. Maybe they too felt the strange compulsion to go forward.
The tunnel widened but they were headed underground now and the last of the suns’ rays vanished quickly. He flicked on the light from his monitor and kept moving.
Up ahead a dull violet glow lit the passage, drawing him forward until finally, it opened into a huge cavern, pulsing with purple light.
“What the fuck…?” Aiden said from beside him.
Callum stepped forward slowly, and a ripple ran through the place as though the rocks were alive. He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and whirled around. As his sight adjusted he could make out snake-like structures growing out from the walls. Some sort of rock formations? But they moved as though with a life of their own. “What are those things?” Tyler asked in a hushed voice.
Part of Callum knew this was a really bad idea and they should get the fuck out of there as fast as they could run. But his feet didn’t want to move. Not in a sensible direction anyway. Instead they took him closer to the wall with its mass of writhing tentacles. He slowly reached out a hand and stroked his fingertips along the growth, and it shivered beneath his touch. The blind head slithered across the skin of his hand. Then faster than thought, it wrapped around his arm. Red hot daggers of pain jolted through him as it tightened.
He collapsed to his knees, lava pouring through his blood, scorching up his spine, melting his brain. Smashing to the ground, his back arched as he tried to tear the thing free. The pain built and built until his mind could take no more and he crashed into darkness.
He wasn’t dead.
That was his first thought as he came awake. The second was that the pain had vanished as though it had never been. He lay on his back, the sand soft beneath him, unwilling to move in case something bad happened. But if fact he felt good. Way better than he had since he’d stepped onto this godforsaken planet. Actually, if he was truthful, better than since he had first woken on the Trakis Seven ten years ago.
He lifted his arm, but the thing was gone, and though his shirt was burned away below the elbow, there was no mark on his skin. As he rolled his head to the side, he spotted shriveled remains lying on the ground beside him like a snake that had shed its skin. The rest of his men lay unconscious or dead on the ground, a withered tentacle by each of them.
All around Callum could hear the murmur of the tentacle-like structures as they waved languidly from the walls. Finally, he pushed himself to his feet, and stretched. There was no damage that he could discern, though he felt odd, somehow changed in ways he couldn’t identify. And his body buzzed with energy.
He crossed the space between them and crouched down beside Tyler, feeling for a pulse. It was strong and Tyler’s skin was warm to the touch, but not seriously so.
A groan filled his mind and he glanced up, searching the chamber for the source.
What the fuck…?
He heard the words inside his head, but couldn’t see where they had come from. Then Tyler rolled over, his eyes blinked open, and Callum reared back in shock. The eyes staring up at him glowed a deep, inhuman violet.
What the fuck just happened?
Again, the words echoed in Callum’s head, but Tyler’s lips hadn’t moved. Holy shit. Had he just heard Tyler’s thoughts? Or was he crazy? Tyler gazed up at him as if waiting for an answer. What the hell, it was worth a try.
Something really fucking weird, Callum replied.
Temporal Shift by Nina Croft
Dark Desires #4
Tagline: Caught between destiny and desire…
About Temporal Shift:
After diving into a black hole in search of the source of Meridian, the key to immortality, the crew of the Blood Hunter finds themselves stranded in an alternate universe.
Engineer Devlin Stark doesn’t want immortality. He just wants to live long enough to get his revenge on the man who murdered his brother. Now, he’s trapped in a strange world with a crazy woman who claims he’s fated to be her lover.
Saffira Lourdes has a destiny: to save humanity and lead her exiled people to the Promised Land. Haunted by visions of the past and future, she’s been sustained through the years by a dream lover. Unfortunately, Devlin doesn’t believe in fate. But it’s obvious there’s a connection between them, one that will soon be tested by the limits of time and space. Saffira is about to make the crew of the Blood Hunter an offer they’ll find impossible to refuse.
They’re heading back to Earth, and they’re going back in time…
In the original manuscript of Temporal Shift, book 4 in my Dark Desires series, Saffira, my heroine, is trapped on Earth for 500 years. While these years are not actually written about in the book, I thought it would be nice to give an idea of how they changed Saffira by including an excerpt from her diary at the beginning of each chapter.
My editor didn’t agree and the excerpts were removed at the first edits. Anyway, here they are…
Random excerpts from the diary of Saffira Lourdes…
I had sex, today. I won’t call it making love—I’ll not make love with anyone but Devlin. But it occurred to me that maybe I should get a little practice. And I felt guilty the whole time. Unfaithful to a man who won’t even be born for another fifteen hundred years. And who didn’t even have the decency to fall in love with me when he had the chance.
I wanted a shower afterward and I’m going to have to wait a long time—like a few hundred years. Perhaps I could invent the shower… Indoor plumbing is one of the things I mess the most…how pathetic is that?
August 15th 1678
We limped into Boston harbor. Between the scurvy and the pirates, we’re down to about half of us that set sail. But—hurray—I’m in the new world. One step closer to my goal. Though I have to say the new world doesn’t look much better than the old one and the stench drifting off from the land…Ugh! All the same, I can’t wait to get off this ship, onto dry land, and away from all these people. I’ve discovered that I’m not really a people person. I think I prefer rats. But being on a ship again brings back memories of another ship, The Blood Hunter…and ice cream.
June 10th 1692
I have just watched a woman hanged as a witch and the “good” people of Salem enjoying the spectacle. Her name was Bridget Bishop. It took me back to that first night and the woman they burned. Her screams still haunt me. Two hundred years and it seems they have learned nothing.
Today, I bit my tongue—Thorne would be proud of me—to stop myself from screaming at them that they were stupid ignorant peasants. Because then, I would no doubt be next on the gallows, and I can’t risk that because I have a high and lofty destiny. To save mankind.
Hah, perhaps not so lofty after all. The conviction is creeping up on me that perhaps mankind doesn’t deserve to be saved.
Dec 17 1903
Many times, I have despaired of human nature but today I rejoiced. It renewed my faith a little—though not enough to turn me from my course. I traveled to the Kill Devil Hills and watched from a distance as men flew for the first time. Not for long and not very high, but it’s a start. This is the day that really sets humanity on a course for the stars.
6th August 1945
Sometimes I hate the human race. If I could fly away today and forget them all I would. Unfortunately, I can think of no way and so must stick with my plan.
April 12th 2009
I wish Doctor Who was real.
I would so get in his Tardis and ask him to fly away with me… anywhere, anytime…
22 April 2021
It’s my birthday!
I’ve had so many lives, moving on before it became obvious that I wasn’t quite…normal. I’ve been Sally, Saffron, Sarah…
But this is my last life, and with a little luck (and a hell of a lot of hard work) it will be a long one. So once again, for the first time in more than five hundred years, I will be Saffira Lourdes. Of course, my birth isn’t quite typical as I’m coming into this world at the age of eighteen (well according to the paperwork) and today I enter the seminary. I’ve considered the various options and this seems my best chance of success And I wasn’t even vaguely swayed by imagining Devlin’s reaction to my up and coming ordainment…honest!
1 May 2030
Today, they started building the Trakis One. It’s really happening. I went along with President Asshole (if I survive the next few years in his company, I will deserve a sainthood) to witness the first day of work, and even his presence couldn’t dampen my excitement. My ticket out of here.
To think how many nights I spent staring up into space at the Trakis One. Wondering where she came from, who had flown in her. If all goes well, that will be me. But it seems inconceivable that I was up there all that time. Floating above my younger self. Dreaming.
Maybe I wasn’t. There is still so much that could go wrong.
But anyway…it’s begun.
December 15th 2050
Today we leave Earth and last night I dreamed of Devlin. I haven’t thought about him in so long (a little white lie, but honestly hardly ever and mostly I think things like—what a bastard!)
In my dream, I watch him sleeping. He’s so beautiful it actually hurts to breathe. I never saw him sleeping. Then he opened his eyes and I got the shock of my long life—almost woke me up because they were the deep inhuman violet of the others. I tried to remember if they had ever been that way before—I think I would have noticed.
But after all, it was no vision of the future. Only a dream. And everyone knows dreams don’t come true.
I wonder, will I dream of him again in the long sleep to come.
Blood and Metal by Nina Croft
Dark Desires #5
Tagline: She’s his last chance for redemption…if she doesn’t kill him first.
About Blood and Metal:
Copilot of the Blood Hunter, Daisy is a newly-turned vampire, and she’s hungry. Really hungry and it’s interfering with her plans for revenge. Unfortunately, the only thing that can distract her from said hunger is sex…which is a problem when she can barely refrain from draining any man dry within moments. But old flame Fergal Cain might just be the sexy-assed solution to her problem.
Part human, part cyborg, and with a poison coursing through his system, Fergal’s running out of time to find the scientist who has the cure. Unfortunately for him, the misfit crew of the Blood Hunter put a serious kink in his plans. And if the poison doesn’t kill him, the hot little vamp he can’t resist might do the honors herself…
Flying Through Fire by Nina Croft
Dark Desires #6
Tagline: Saving the universe sucks.
About Flying Through Fire:
For ten thousand years he’s done his duty. Now he wants something for himself…
Winged monsters have been seen in the skies, and a pestilence follows in their wake, threatening the very survival of mankind. Only the crew of the Blood Hunter knows where they come from, and only one man has the power to send them back—Thorne, a human/dragon hybrid in possession of mental powers beyond comprehension.
Candace Decker doesn’t need anyone to look after her—she’s a badass werewolf more than capable of protecting herself and those she loves. All the same, she’s always been drawn to Thorne’s strength. In an uncertain world, he’s the one man who makes her feel safe. And what Candy wants, she usually gets.
But while Candy is tenacious, Thorne’s willpower has been honed over ten thousand years. He might want her, but the last thing he needs is an infatuation with a young, impetuous werewolf. Candy makes him lose control, and that could have disastrous consequences.
As the threat escalates and they become separated by time and space, Candy must find a way back to him, because while Thorne alone has the power to defeat the dragons, only together can they finally bring peace to the universe.
In Flying Through Fire, book 6 in my Dark Desires series, we have the whole cast of the series appearing at some point or other. I thought it would be nice to get inside a few of their heads, see how they were doing, what they were thinking…
However, my editor believed that these scenes detracted from the two main characters and were a little jarring, and so the scenes were removed. This one was from Saffira’s (the heroine of book 4, Temporal Shift) point of view.
The door slid shut behind her. Saffira leaned against the wall of the corridor and tried to slow her breathing. Sweat pricked her forehead, heat from the vision.
Thorne had burned because of her. She’d been powerless to help him, to save him.
It’s not real.
Not all her visions came true. Maybe this was a warning of what might be.
And she’d already lost Thorne. He’d closed himself off. He’d given ten thousand years to his people. Now they were dead. Perhaps he was right, and that meant he was free. They were both free.
She pushed herself up, hating the weakness that made her stumble. The visions drained her strength, but she had to sort herself out before she saw Devlin or he would want to know what was up, and what could she say?
In the back of her mind, deep down, she’d always known it would come to this.
She shook the thought aside, not wanting to think about what was to come. She’d always been afraid of burning; had the flames already consumed her in some forgotten vision?
Thorne had been right; she hadn’t thought of anyone but herself and Devlin in the past year. She’d been totally immersed in their love. It had been a magical time, and she’d believed she deserved it. She’d saved the goddamn human race. Sort of. And besides, she would have visited later; she was supposed to have had fucking eternity.
Time enough for everything.
Now time was running out.
The strength was coming back to her limbs. Good, because she was going to need all that strength. She headed to the nearest transporter bubble.
“Bridge,” she murmured. The ships mind control systems were still offline. Wouldn’t be brought back up until Thorne was away.
He’d been like a father to her, but that was over. She’d broken the first ties when she had lied to him, betrayed him. He’d said he understood, but she’d known that underneath he’d harbored resentment. The remaining ties had snapped when she had abandoned Espera and her people.
How hard would it have been to visit?
Guilt gnawed at her insides.
She’d always had a selfish streak.
The transporter bubble opened onto the bridge. It was empty but for Fergal sitting at the console.
“Hi,” she said.
He glanced up. “Hey, there. I’m just tweaking the program and keeping an eye on our incoming.”
“Are they still heading this way.”
“Yeah. On a direct course. There’s also a third, seems to be following but farther behind. It’s these two you’re going to have to avoid.”
She leaned closer. “Can I see?”
“Sure.” Fergal flicked on the monitor and the screen filled up with an image of the two dragons flying through space. In a way, they were beautiful, fierce and powerful, and they called to something deep inside her. But then she was part dragon. It had been in her blood from birth, and she had strengthened the connection when she had made the change. Probably more so than anyone alive.
She took a mental note of the coordinates flashing on the screen. They were still four hours out. Plenty of time. Or no time at all when compared to eternity.
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll go check if Devlin has Thorne’s shuttle ready.”
This time she didn’t take the transporter bubble but walked to the docking bay. She needed time to think this through. Sort out what she needed in her head, and the best way to achieve it.
And put off seeing Devlin for the last time.
She didn’t know if she was strong enough, but she had to be.
Her steps slowed as she drew close, and she cleared her mind. She needed to keep the truth locked down in that lower level where they only went in the most intimate moments when their minds became as one.
As she entered the docking bay, he was coming down the ramp from the shuttle he was readying. Her heart still gave a little jump each time she saw him. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, with his tall, lean figure and his black and gold hair. The scar running down his cheek adding to the attraction. When he caught sight of her, his lips curved up in a smile, and as she came to a halt in front of him, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her hard.
For a second she relaxed against him, gave herself over to the kiss, emptied herself of everything but the taste and feel of him. Finally, she pulled away.
“How did it go with Thorne?” Devlin asked.
She screwed up her face. “Not good. He’s determined to go, and won’t let me in. Said I should leave, that I’m endangering everyone by hanging around.”
He leaned across and kissed her forehead. “We’ll be out of here as soon as he’s on his way.”
She licked her lips. “I think I might have one more go. I’ll call him, tell him the shuttle’s ready, and try and convince him one more time.”
“Well, you know him better than anyone else. Go for it. Rico seems to think he’s our one hope. You want me to stick around?”
“No, I think I’ll have a better chance alone.”
“Okay. I’m going to get some food. Is there anything I can get you?”
He grinned. “Of course,” he said and strode away.
At the last moment, she had to touch him one more time. She raced down the ramp and he turned at the bottom. She ran into his arms, hugged him tight.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“No. Not really.” She forced a smile. “It will take time, but I will be.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Go call Thorne. I’ll feel better once we’re away from here and on the move.”
“I will.” This time she held her feet in place as he disappeared into the transporter bubble.
She worked quickly, tapping into the systems manually. She knew the Blood Hunter better than anyone. Better even than Devlin. After all, she had five hundred years on Earth to study the plans.
When she was sure she had done everything she could to buy herself enough time, she wiped the ship’s memory and headed to the shuttle Devlin had prepared for Thorne.
She purposefully didn’t think as she sat in the pilot’s seat and switched on the engines. The shuttle lifted, hovered, then the docking bay doors opened and she was heading out into open space. Tears pricked at her eyes as she left the Blood Hunter behind. She watched the rear screens, saw the docking bay doors close and then the explosion that would seal the doors and give her enough time to do what she needed to do.
Two minutes out, she sensed him in her mind.
“I have to. I love you, but I have to do this.”
“Why?” The question was tortured.
“I’m the only one who can end this. I started it, and I need to finish it. I should have died a year ago. We’ve had that year and it’s been the best time ever.”
“You promised me eternity. How am I expected to go on without you?”
“You’ll find a way.”
“I’m coming after you.”
“You can’t. I’ve seen to that.”
She raised the wall in her mind and shut him out forever.
Glossary of Terms
The Chosen Ones
One thousand years ago, when it became clear that the Earth was going to be destroyed, twenty-four ships were built, the Trakis One to Twenty-Four, to ensure the continuation of humanity and to take a selected few to a new life. Each ship carried ten thousand people, sleeping in cryo tubes, to be woken when they reached a planet able to sustain life. They were selected by a—some claim very dodgy—lottery system and were known as the Chosen Ones.
The Trakis System
Five hundred years after leaving Earth, the fleet eventually came upon a system capable of supporting life. They christened it the Trakis system after the ships that carried them to safety. Each individual planet was named after the ship which first landed there.
Trakis One was the first planet reached, an inhospitable place on the outer reaches of the system, and guarded by a black hole. The ship, the Trakis One, carrying the President of the Federation of Nations, the government in charge of the Earth at the time of the exodus, was promptly sucked into this black hole on arrival and never seen again. (At least, not for a very long time…)
Trakis One was later used as the high-security prison planet for the Collective, due to the fact that it was almost impossible to escape without being dragged into the black hole.
Trakis Two doesn’t rotate, hence it has a dark side and a light side, and is also known as The Planet That Never Sleeps. It’s a den of iniquity, with every known vice available, and also the home of many “beings” who made it from Earth but were never officially part of the Chosen Ones.
When the Chosen ones were selected, certain groups were kept out of the lottery, mainly because most people didn’t know they existed. They included vampires, werewolves, demons, among others. Considering the system unfair, a few of them, led by the vampire Ricardo Sanchez, took it on themselves to bribe the captain of the Trakis Two with the promise of eternal life in exchange for dumping a few of his Chosen Ones and taking them onboard.
The original Church headquarters was based here before moving to Trakis Five.
Trakis Five is the most pleasant and Earthlike of the planets, and where the Collective made their home. The Church took over the planet after they had defeated the Collective.
Meridian, the source of immortality, was first discovered on this extremely unpleasant planet. At the time, no one was aware that Meridian was produced by an alien dragon-like organism trapped on the planet. Or that the dragon also produced a substance poisonous to humans, and only counteracted by dragon DNA from the Meridian. Anyone who visits Trakis Seven, and doesn’t “join” with Meridian dies, sometimes quickly, but usually slowly and extremely painfully. Prisoners were used on the planet to “mine” the Meridian. It was a prolonged death sentence due to Meridian poisoning. The Church blew up Trakis Seven to destroy the source of Meridian.
Trakis Twelve is a pretty depressing place with not much happening.
This mysterious substance was discovered when the Trakis Seven crash landed on its planetary namesake. The material was named after the captain of the Trakis Seven—Callum Meridian. At first it was thought to be a mineral, but was later found to be animal in nature. It combines with human DNA to form a hybrid creature, and it bestows certain characteristics, not all of which are completely understood, including: violet eyes, immortality, telepathy, super-strength, improved healing, and, about five hundred years after the change—wings.
The Collective is made up of all the people who had taken the Meridian treatment before the sole source of Meridian in this universe was destroyed. Led by Callum Meridian, the Collective are telepathic, super-strong, and immortal. They form a sort of gestalt intelligence and were the ruling class for many centuries.
The Church of Everlasting Life
This religion came with the Chosen Ones from Earth. Religion had become a little out of favor, but with the discovery of Meridian it regained its popularity. Everyone wants to live forever, but very few can afford the exorbitant cost of Meridian and the Church offers a cheaper, if less reliable, road to eternity.
It quickly became the second most powerful organization in the universe. When the Collective was weakened by the disappearance of their leader, Callum Meridian, the leaders of the Church grabbed the opportunity and took over in a very bloody coup.
DNA from all species was carried on board the Trakis ships. When the planets were colonized, many scientists believed that the best way to survive in the harsh and sometimes alien conditions was to combine the DNA of humans with that of any species which might give them an advantage.
The Rebel Coalition
The Church of Everlasting Life does not like genetically modified beings and refers to them as abominations. The Church came to an agreement with the Collective that GMs should be downgraded to non-human status, allowing them to be hunted down and destroyed. Many of the GMs were understandably not too happy with this decision and formed the Rebel Coalition with the purpose of returning the favor and destroying the Church. They were led by Devlin Starke, the most-wanted man in the universe, and a late addition to the crew of the Blood Hunter.
A female with dragon DNA, capable of creating and controlling wormholes and therefore able to travel vast distances of time and space.
The crew of the original Blood Hunter (El Cazador de la Sangre) at the beginning of Break Out:
Tannis – Captain, part snake, part human, all bitch
Ricardo Sanchez – Owner, pilot, and vampire
Daisy – Copilot and plant GM
Janey – Tech expert and human
Tristan Starke, aka The Trog – Engineer and jaguar GM
Al – Cabin…boy?
The crew of the Blood Hunter 2 at the beginning of Flying Through Fire:
Tannis – Captain, Snake GM, and Collective
Callum Meridian – Captain’s consort and Collective
Rico – Pilot and vampire
Skylar – Security officer and Collective
Daisy – Copilot, plant GM, and vampire
Fergal – Tech expert and cyborg
Devlin Starke – Engineer, jaguar GM, and Collective.
Saffira – Time-mancer
Jon and Alex – Werewolves, on hiatus
About Nina Croft:
Growing up in the cold, wet, north of England, Nina Croft spent a lot of time dreaming of faraway sunnier places and ponies. When she discovered both, along with a whole load of other things, could be found between the covers of a book, her life changed forever.
Later, she headed south, picked up the perfect husband along the way, and together they volunteered to work in Africa. There they discovered a love of exotic places and a dislike of 9-5 work. Afterward they spent a number of years travelling (whenever possible) intermingled with working (whenever necessary.) Eventually they stumbled upon a remote area in the mountains of southern Spain and the small almond farm they now call home.
Nina spends her days reading, writing and riding her mare, Gencianna, under the blue Spanish skies—sunshine and ponies. She reckons this is proof that dreams really can come true if you want them enough.
Connect with Nina:
Author Website: www.ninacroft.com
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nina_Croft
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NinaCroft.Writer/
Author Pinterest: https://es.pinterest.com/nicolacleasby/
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NinaCroft.Writer/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3378320.Nina_Croft