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.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)|
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Flying Through Fire
A Dark Desires Novel
By Nina Croft, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Nina Croft
All rights reserved.
Ten years later
The tips of Thorne's wings twitched as he paced the bridge of the Blood Hunter. It was time to go. Hell, it had been time to go for years now.
He had responsibilities.
"Will you either stop that goddamn pacing, or get the hell out of here," Captain Tannis snapped. "You're giving me a goddamn headache."
He ignored her, stretching his wings to ease the tension, and Tannis had to take a step back or be knocked off her feet. She swore loudly. "And watch with the goddamn wings." She stared at him through narrowed eyes. "I seriously need to shoot someone."
They were all a little jumpy. Too long doing nothing. They needed a good fight to clear the air. Unfortunately, there was no one left to fight.
They'd been in limbo since the downfall of the Church six months ago. They could never have envisioned that the whole system would fall apart completely, leaving them no obvious enemies. But once Hatcher, the High Priest of the Church of Everlasting Life, had given up, everyone else had seemed to melt away.
Thorne had waited around until they were sure Fergal wasn't going to need a full-on rescue mission. At least, that had been his excuse to stay on the Blood Hunter for the last six months, when he should have been back with his own people on Espera.
Fergal was part cyborg, and Daisy's — the copilot of the Blood Hunter's — boyfriend. He'd been sort of offline, his brain almost fried when he'd wrenched control of the cyborg army from the Church, just in time to prevent the majority of the Blood Hunter's crew from being burned at the stake.
That was six months ago, but now Fergal was conscious and on his way to the Blood Hunter. There was nothing to keep Thorne here. Nothing at all.
And he still had those responsibilities.
The last of his people had already gone ahead. There was just him now, and he'd be on his way any moment.
"Waiting for something?" Rico drawled from where he sat in the pilot's seat, his long, booted legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle on the console in front of him. "Or should I say someone."
"Piss off," Thorne said. But his eyes strayed to the transporter bubble. She knew he was leaving. The least she could do was say good-bye. But why should she? Candy considered him a boring old tosser — or that's the description she'd used the last time they'd spoken, when he'd tried to explain his reasons for going back.
He'd even suggested she come for a visit. Her answer had been even more derogatory — why visit a boring planet light years from anywhere, full of a load of farmers? She had things to do in the real world.
That's what he was worried about. He was quite aware she hadn't given up on her plans for revenge. No, she was nothing if not tenacious.
"Why don't you just tell her how you feel?" Rico suggested, and Thorne could hear the thread of amusement in the vampire's voice. Bastard.
"Tell who?" Tannis asked, curiosity overcoming her boredom. "And how does he feel?"
"Mind your own goddamn business," Thorne muttered. Of course that was going to happen — like never.
"Thorne has a hard-on for Candy," Rico informed her. "And I don't mean the sweet variety."
Tannis sat down abruptly, eyes wide as she stared at Thorne. His wings twitched again. "Candy?" she asked. "Jon and Alex's Candy?"
"Is there another?"
"As in werewolf, mad-as-a-bitch-in-heat, Candy?"
"That's the one."
"Well, all I can say is he's a brave man."
"No, he's not. Because he's not going to do anything about it. In true, noble, leader-of-the-fucking-people, Mr. Perfect fashion, he's going to do absolutely nothing."
Tannis pursed her lips. "A sensible man, then."
"Well, she is young enough to be his ..." Rico shook his head. "I can't even work it out. It doesn't bear thinking about. But there is a considerable age difference."
Nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty years to be precise. Not that he was counting.
"Plus, I've never met someone so stuck up his own ass as our friend Thorne here. And Candy is ..."
"A complete and utter maniac," Tannis finished for him.
They were being a bit unfair. Candy was a little wild, but she had her reasons. And she was young. Once the universe settled down, no doubt she would as well. He found himself quite sad at the idea. Maybe that's what attracted him — her wildness. She was so different from anyone he had ever met.
"Aw, look, he's gone all dreamy," Rico said.
"Fuck off." But he didn't try and deny it. Nothing passed the vampire.
"Does Jon know?" Tannis asked.
"There's nothing to know," Thorne snapped.
"I heard that she tried to seduce him when she was sixteen. I'm guessing he's been torn between jumping her bones and running as fast as he can in the opposite direction ever since."
How the hell did Rico know about that?
"Angel told me," Rico answered as though he'd spoken the question out loud. "That Candy made a bet with him that she could seduce you. She was apparently not pleased when she lost."
No, she hadn't been pleased. She'd made that crystal clear. But she'd been sixteen, and he'd been nearly ten thousand. Though she'd certainly been no child. He doubted she'd been a child since she was twelve — when her father had been captured and her mother coerced into returning to the Church — and she'd taken on responsibility for herself and Angel.
She'd shocked him, that was all.
He hadn't really been terrified, as she'd accused.
That had been six long years ago. She hadn't tried again since. And he was glad about that. There could never be anything between them. They were too different. She was so young. He was immensely old. She was wild and impulsive and he was ... not. They would drive each other crazy within minutes. They already did.
She was the only person who could reduce him to unreasonable rage. And there was no way he could allow himself to lose control like that. Because he was beginning to believe that if he lost control, bad things could happen. Really bad things.
So why was he still here?
He glanced up from the contemplation of his boots to find Tannis and Rico regarding him with disbelief and amusement respectively. At least he was entertaining.
"I'm leaving," he said.
"About fucking time," Tannis replied.
She had never forgiven him for messing with her mind, knocking her out, when they had first met. And she was really unhappy with the knowledge that he could do it again any time he wanted to. And much more, if she knew the truth. Which she didn't. And he wasn't about to share.
"We'll see you out," Rico said.
"There's no need."
"Just being friendly."
Just seeing him off the premises. Of course, Rico had never forgiven him for zapping Skylar's mind, either. And he suspected Rico guessed that his powers went far beyond mind-zapping and were, in fact, far greater than he had ever revealed. Hell, even he didn't know the full extent of what he could do, and it was probably best he never found out.
All three of them entered the transporter bubble.
"Docking Bay." He spoke the words in his mind, and the ship responded. She had been built by Callum Meridian, the leader of the Collective, the old ruling class, so she'd been designed for people with wings, people who could talk with their minds.
Five hundred years ago, when the human race arrived at the Trakis system, they had stumbled upon a never-seen-before substance. Meridian, named after Callum who had discovered it, bestowed — among other things — increased strength, telepathy, immortality, and eventually wings. The Collective had been born, and they soon ruled the universe with a ruthless hand.
Originally, they'd believed Meridian was a radioactive mineral. Only recently had they discovered it was actually animal in nature. Part of the asexual reproductive cycle of a dragon-like species of alien, it had the ability to combine with human DNA and form a hybrid. The effects increased with age, and thanks to an unplanned trip down a wormhole — which had taken him not only to another universe and the dragons' home planet, but also back in time ten thousand years — Thorne was the oldest and strongest of those who had been changed by Meridian. Which meant he could control them all.
They found Daisy in the docking bay, awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend. She flashed them a worried glance. "You heard, then?"
"Heard what?" Rico asked. "We're here to say our fond farewells to Thorne. What's happened?"
"Jon called. Apparently, they've lost Candy. Again. Seems she got a call and vanished. I checked, and one of the shuttles is gone."
"Shit," Rico said. "Did I not say if she pulled that shit again then I was locking her in the brig?"
"Actually, I think I said that," Tannis added. "That girl is more trouble than a nest of priests."
As he listened to the conversation, a weird sense of relief swept over him. With a wave of shock, he realized he hadn't wanted to go. For ten thousand years, his people had been in exile, marooned in another universe. And for all that time, he'd done his duty, protected his people, kept them safe. Then twenty-two years ago, he'd fulfilled his promise and finally got them to their promised land of Espera. He'd seen them settled. Now he wanted something for himself. Of course, he was never going to actually have that something, but it was almost liberating to admit it.
"Do we know where she's gone?" Tannis asked.
"I tracked the shuttle — looks like she's heading to Trakis Two."
"Well, we can't go after her yet. She'll have to wait until Fergal gets here."
"I'll give Sardi a call," Rico said. "Ask him to watch out for her."
"No way," Thorne said. Rico raised an eyebrow, and he continued, "Damn demon has been trying to get into her pants since she was sixteen. I'll go after her."
"Don't you have somewhere you're supposed to be?" Tannis asked.
"Another few days aren't going to make a difference. And my shuttle is prepped and ready to fly. You can follow when Fergal gets here. If I go now, I might catch her before she reaches the planet and causes whatever mayhem she has planned."
"Thorne to the rescue," Rico murmured.
Thorne ignored the comment. At least now he knew why she hadn't come to say good-bye. Because she hadn't been here. She'd been busy stealing a shuttle and heading back to Trakis Two. He could only guess that she had received news about the people who had betrayed her family ten years ago. She hadn't given up the search. And she could be walking straight into danger.
It occurred to him that if she hadn't wanted someone to come after her, she could easily have disabled the shuttle's tracking device.
Had she known he would drop everything and follow her?
He was guessing — yes.
* * *
Candy stepped out of the shuttle and came to an abrupt standstill. The place was silent.
She'd set the shuttle down on the outskirts of the city then activated the stealth mode. It didn't do to leave your ship unguarded in Pleasure City, not if you expected it to still be there when you got back. But all the shuttles from the Blood Hunter were now equipped with stealth mode, and unless someone literally walked into it, she could pretty much guarantee it wouldn't be found.
She'd lived on Trakis Two most of her life, except for the last few months on board the Blood Hunter, and she knew the city well, and loved it. It was a total den of iniquity, but also vibrantly alive.
Today the silence hung heavy on the air.
A shiver of unease trickled down her spine. But she couldn't worry about that now. She had a double-crossing bastard to eliminate.
She wrapped her leather coat — pinched from Rico and a mite too long, so it dragged on the ground — around her to hide the laser pistols strapped to her waist.
Though, actually, there was no one to see whether she was armed or not. The streets, usually crammed with locals and tourists who flocked to the city-that-never-sleeps, were empty. Even through the recent wars that had almost torn the Trakis system apart, the pace of Pleasure City had never slowed. Loud music would blast from the twenty-four-hour clubs, the air thick with the scent of food of every variety known to man.
Where the hell was everyone?
She passed the tattoo parlor where she'd gotten all of her body art done, but the place was locked up and dark. In fact, all of the businesses were locked up.
What had happened here?
She had friends in the City, people she had known all her life. Where were they? She would find out, but only after she had dealt with Drago. She didn't want news of her arrival reaching him, or he'd likely do a runner, as he'd done last time she was close.
At least he showed a healthy fear of her. She liked that.
She paused to stare up at the sky. Would they come after her? Tannis had told her that the last time really was the last time. But she reckoned loyalty to her parents would make them follow. Of course, she could have gone to them first, asked for help. They understood revenge; she had no doubt they would offer what assistance they could. But she was used to relying on nobody but herself, and asking for help was an alien concept.
Then there was Thorne.
He'd seen her as a responsibility for too long now to just let her go out and get herself killed. Not that she needed his help. She was quite capable of handling Drago on her own.
If he was even here.
But her intel had been good and up to date.
She reached Drago's bar. Like everywhere else, the place was closed up tight. There was no one to see, so she pulled her laser pistol and shot out the lock, then kicked in the door. The lights were off in the main room, though the place was set up for business. She stood in the doorway for long minutes, but when nothing moved, she stepped inside, the pistol still hanging loosely at her side.
This was where she had first met Drago. She'd been sixteen and desperate to find any news of whoever had betrayed her parents, and maybe a way to get them back. The longer they remained prisoners of the Church, the more likely they were to give away what they were — werewolves were hardly renowned for their restraint — and that would have meant instant execution. Hatcher hated her mother and would no doubt have loved an excuse to get rid of her. Likely only the fact that the people had always loved their priestess had kept her alive. Candy had let it be known she was willing to buy information, and Drago had contacted her.
Unfortunately, the price he had asked hadn't been one she had expected to pay. Her stomach churned at the memory.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Well, it hadn't killed her. Though for a while afterward she'd almost wished it had.
In the end, it hadn't helped her find what and who she was searching for, either. But that was hardly surprising, as she now knew the person who had betrayed her father was none other than Drago himself.
A door opposite led into his private quarters. As she crossed the room, her boots sounded loud on the wooden floors, but it didn't matter. It appeared there was no one to hear her.
Had she wasted her time? Was Drago long gone?
All the same, as she came to a halt in front of the door, her heartbeat picked up. She wasn't afraid. It was pure hatred that was fueling her, not fear. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the silver flask — also pinched from Rico — unscrewed the top, and took a long swallow of whiskey. Warmth spread from her stomach to her limbs, slowing her heartbeat.
She remembered the feel of Drago on her, the suffocating sense of powerlessness as his body had pierced hers. It hadn't been rape. Not in the real sense of the word, as she hadn't fought him. That had been his price for the information. But she'd been a virgin and he hadn't been gentle. That feeling of powerlessness had never left her, had changed her forever.
Black hatred of him rose up inside her. Not only for taking her virginity, but for the lies he told and the promises he had made, all the while laughing behind her back. He'd promised to help her find her father's betrayer when all the time it had been him.
Excerpted from Flying Through Fire by Nina Croft, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Nina Croft. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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