"Smoking hot heroes, driven heroines, and inventive stories – Nina Croft is on my one-click list!" - New York Times bestselling author Katee Robert
Betrayed by the government he worked for, Jake Callahan, leader of a group of powerful telepaths, will do anything to keep his people safe—and that means uncovering the secrets behind their past. His only hope lies with Christa Winters, the beautiful scientist daughter of Jake’s old boss. But Christa has secrets of her own…
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Beyond Human Book One
By Nina Croft, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Nina Croft
All rights reserved.
Present Day ...
"We're not being followed."
At the words, Jake's hands tightened on the wheel. Maybe he was being unduly concerned, but he'd messed up before — big time — and people had died.
He shifted his gaze from the rearview mirror to the man beside him.
Quinn glared at him. "For fuck's sake, relax. You're making us all twitchy," he said. "We'd have picked up a tail by now."
He was right. They'd driven non-stop all the way from Scotland, and Jake would swear they hadn't been followed. Now, they were travelling through London, but at four in the morning the roads were quiet, no vehicles behind them.
All the same, he couldn't shift the sense of unease.
They were close to the safe house, and he reached out with his mind for the others but came up with nothing. "No one's responding."
"It's the middle of the night." Quinn sounded exasperated. "They're asleep."
"There's always someone on watch." Or there was supposed to be. They'd gotten way too complacent.
"Maybe they dozed off. You're getting paranoid, boss."
"Hell, I passed paranoid a long time back."
"And cranky," Quinn added. "You know your problem?"
Jake sighed. "No, but I have a suspicion you're going to tell me."
"You need to get laid."
Rose snorted in the back. "Hey, boss, I can take one for the team, if it helps."
"Thanks, but no thanks." Rose was family, or as close as it came — he had no clue who his real family had been or where he'd come from. All the same, he felt as tense as a wire, ready to snap, and he knew from experience that sex would bring him down. "How about we hit the town tonight?" he said to Quinn.
"It's a date."
As he approached the safe house, he studied the road, looking for anything out of place, anything that didn't fit in. Scanning the area with his mind, he encountered a few people awake but nothing suspicious. Even so, he drove past the house without slowing. The building was in darkness. He only pulled over when he turned a corner and was out of sight.
After switching off the engine, he sat back, ran a hand over the two days' growth of beard on his chin, then through his hair, trying to pinpoint the source of his unease.
"You really think there's something wrong?" Quinn looked no better than he did, like he'd been on the road for two days solid.
"Then I guess there's something wrong. How do you want to play this?"
"I'll go in the front. You go in the back. Rose stays with the vehicle." He twisted in his seat to look at her. "And be ready to leave fast if we need to."
After grabbing his jacket from the backseat, he climbed out, pulling it on over the shoulder holster. He drew the pistol and held it down at his side. They were all armed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd stepped outside without a weapon. The night was warm and — just shy of the longest day — dawn not far off. Quinn came to stand beside him, gun already in his hand.
Rose got out and slid into the driver's seat, laying her pistol beside her. A frown formed between her eyes. She was attempting to contact her twin brother, Dex, but Jake had already tried with no success. There was no one responding in the house, and the place had an empty feel. He searched the area around it, but all was quiet.
He waited while Quinn headed off down the road, took a sharp left, and jumped the fence that would lead into the yard at the rear of the house. Jake walked back the way they had come, pausing before the metal double gate to the front of the property. The streetlights provided enough light to see that nothing moved on the other side of the fence. He pressed in the code to open the gates and slipped through onto the drive. The gravel crunched under his feet, loud in the silence of the night.
He pulled out his keys, but as he got closer he could see the door was slightly ajar. After pausing for a few seconds, he pushed it open gently with his fingertips, his other hand tightening around the pistol. He could sense Quinn entering at the back. "All clear?"
"Seems like it," Quinn replied in his head. "There's no one here, but it looks like there's been a fight of some sort."
Jake stepped into the dark hallway and through to the main living area where Quinn stood surveying the damage.
Quinn had lit a single lamp, which bathed the room in a yellow glow. Furniture was overturned. Glasses were smashed on the floor, and a dark patch stained the cream rug. The sharp metallic scent of blood tainted the air, and beneath that something chemical stung his nostrils.
"Over here." Quinn pointed to an object at his feet. "Gas grenade, and I'm guessing not more than a couple of hours ago. Probably took out some of them, obviously not all — someone fought back."
Jake's muscles tightened as fury and a sense of powerlessness washed over him. Once again he'd failed to keep his people safe. He should never have made the trip to Scotland, should have known it was a waste of time. The Rayleigh estate had been locked up tight, and no one knew the whereabouts of its owner.
Had Martin Rayleigh betrayed them?
He hoped not. Martin was the nearest thing he had to a father. Jake had grown up on the Rayleigh estate. Then at sixteen, he'd gone to live with the rest of the group in a compound close to London, and the Tribe had come into being. He reckoned that was when everything had started to go to shit.
"If we hadn't gone, chances are we would have been taken as well," Quinn said. "This was obviously a well-planned attack. At least this way we're still out here and we can get them back. We will get them back."
Jake nodded, forcing down the fury that threatened to engulf his mind. Breathing slowly, he relaxed his muscles one by one until he was calm. Something flickered at the edge of his consciousness.
He stalked across and turned off the lamp, leaving the room in the dim light that filtered through the windows. "We have company. There's someone out front." He concentrated for a second. "And out back. Rose?"
"Be ready for that quick getaway." He turned back to Quinn. "They're SAS."
Quinn grinned. "Only the best for us, right?"
"Yeah." He concentrated on the minds surrounding them. Four in all. He focused on the leader. "Shit."
"What is it?"
"They had surveillance on the gate. They know it's me."
"They'd prefer the rest of you alive, but dead is better than nothing. Me, they'd just like dead. Apparently we're dangerous terrorists." That was how their former government liaison, the colonel, was selling them. Bastard. He delved deeper. "Holy crap, we have to get out of here. Now!"
He grabbed Quinn by the arm, raised his pistol, and shot through the window. The glass shattered. "Jump."
Quinn leaped out. Jake followed, still in the air when the house exploded behind him with a roar, hurling him across to crash onto the grassy lawn at the side of the house. He rolled, lifted his head, and something slammed into him, knocking him back down. Peering around for Quinn, he found him sprawled on his back a few feet away.
He sensed a mind concentrating on him and rolled quickly for the cover of the wall as the grass erupted in little puffs. Goddamn bastards were shooting at him. Quinn scrambled toward him, jerking as a bullet took him in the arm and whirled him around. "Fuck. That hurt. Get us the hell out of here."
The heat from the burning house warmed his face, the smoke clogging his nostrils. Jake hugged the wall as he led the way around the back of the building, then he reached out again. "They've lost us. But there are two more snipers covering this side of the house. They'll spot us as soon as we make a move."
"Maybe it's time to see if Rose's new party trick works?"
"Maybe." Jake was reluctant to reveal their new powers — the colonel would be desperate to get them back if he found out what they could do. Or maybe he already knew. How had he even found the location of their supposedly "safe" house? Anyway, they didn't have a lot of options. "Rose?"
"Yes. Are you both okay?"
"Hey," Quinn said. "Actually, I've been shot."
"He's fine," Jake said. "But there are two snipers blocking our exit. Can you take them out?"
"You mean ...?"
"Where are they?" Suppressed excitement bubbled in her mind. Rose had considered herself one of the weaker of their group until her new talent had shown up. "I still need to see them for it to work."
"One's in the first floor window of the house directly opposite. The other is on the move. Actually, he's heading your way. He hasn't seen you yet. Shit. He's spotted you. He's going to try and take you. You need to do this now, Rose."
She wasn't ready. While the Tribe had never been military, they were all military trained. But unlike him and Quinn, Rose had never actually seen any action. It was all theoretical, but she focused herself quickly.
Jake was deep in the man's mind when she sent out the psi bolt and the effect nearly knocked him off his feet. Balancing himself with a hand against the wall, he shook his head.
"I did it."
"So you did. One down. Can you see the other?"
"Not from here. I'll have to get out."
"Be quick. The rest aren't aware that one of their guys is down yet. But that can't last."
"Did it work?" Quinn asked.
"Yes. She's going after the second sniper. But she'd better be quick. They're coming for us." He'd lost his gun during the blast. So had Quinn. They were unarmed. If their attackers found them now it was over unless Rose came through. And she probably couldn't get there fast enough to prevent them putting a bullet in his brain.
"Almost there. I can see him. He's farther away."
"He hasn't seen you yet." This time, Jake pulled out of the man's mind before the bolt hit him.
"Come on," he said to Quinn.
Quinn was pale, his shirt sleeve drenched in blood, but there was nothing they could do about the wound right now. Jake ran, crouching low to the ground, but had to straighten to get over the wall. "You first." Quinn didn't argue, just hoisted himself one-handed over the five-foot wall. Jake followed. He sensed the moment the soldier behind them spotted him, and he jerked to the side. A bullet hit the wall at his left, puffing up dust. Then he was over, hitting the ground hard and rolling on the pavement. He pushed himself to his feet and ran for the vehicle as a soldier scrambled over the wall behind them. Jake felt the man focus, the gun aim, then another psi bolt and the shooter crashed to the concrete.
Rose leaned against the car, exhaustion etched on her face.
"You did fucking great," Jake said.
She gave a weak smile. But they couldn't waste time. They needed to get out of there and fast.
Quinn and Rose climbed in the back as Jake opened the front door and got into the driver's seat. As he pulled away, he looked into the mirror behind him. Figures were emerging from the neighboring houses, but otherwise all was quiet.
"Are the others alive?" Rose asked, her voice strained.
He ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know. I think so. At least when they were taken. But I can't get any contact. They're unconscious or ..." He didn't finish the sentence, not wanting to say it out loud. To his reckoning there had been four of their people at the house last night. Dexter, Stefan, Teagan, and Connor. Sadie and Ryder were watching the colonel, their old government liaison. Finn, Chase, and Imogen were presumably still in Monte Carlo trying to make them some funds. But he couldn't reach them that far away — only Kaitlin was strong enough to do that.
"What about Kaitlin?" Quinn asked as if catching the whisper of his thoughts.
He shook his head. "Nothing."
It had been the death of Kaitlin's brother, Sam, that had precipitated their decision to break away from their government controllers three months ago. But Kaitlin had decided to go back. While she hated the colonel for his part in her brother's death, she still had faith that they could help create a better world. So she'd given herself up to the oversight committee who'd been appointed by the American government to investigate the Tribe.
Although the Tribe was originally funded by the Rayleigh Corporation, and then by the British government, over the last few years the Americans had thrown a shitload of money at them. At some point it was inevitable that they would want to see where that money was going, how it had been spent — whether it was worth it.
Kaitlin had believed the head of the committee, a Senator Gilpin, was an honorable man and that she could get him to listen to her, offer him a vision of a future with no more lies. Jake no longer believed in that vision. There were too many people for whom lying was a way of life. But short of tying her up, he hadn't been able to stop her. No one could stop Kaitlin when she set her mind on something. Seventeen going on seventy — she was the strongest of them all. Now he couldn't reach her.
He had to find a safe place for them to stay while he sorted out this fucking mess. Then he'd contact the colonel and find out exactly how the bastard wanted to play this.
Not that it really mattered. If one more of Jake's people came to harm through anything the colonel did, he was a dead man walking.
It was only a matter of time.
* * *
Colonel Harry Winters loved two things in life — power, and his daughter Christabel. The former had always been his driving force. The latter had come later in his life. He had never expected to feel that emotion. He'd certainly never loved Christa's mother, and if anyone had ever questioned him on the subject, he would have said categorically that he didn't believe in love. But somehow she had crept into his heart and lodged herself deep inside.
Maybe because in the whole world she was the only person who had ever loved him. And Christa gave her love, as she did everything else in life, unconditionally and whole-heartedly.
She watched him now from across the kitchen table, a small frown between her brows as she sipped her coffee. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
She screwed up her nose as she studied him. "You seem a little distracted, that's all. You haven't been yourself for the last few days. Actually, for the last few months."
She'd always been perceptive — he'd worried about it in the early years — but it had come to nothing. There were no signs of her origins anywhere. She certainly bore no resemblance to him. Still in her pajamas, with her hair a wild mass of honey-blond curls around her heart-shaped face, she gave off an almost palpable air of sweetness.
And no one had ever accused him of being sweet.
While she had her own self-contained apartment in the house, it had become a ritual for them to share an early morning coffee together. Christa worked hours almost as long as his. She was, in her way, even more driven than he was, and at only twenty-five, she was already at the top of her field. So this, at least, ensured they saw each other briefly most days.
"I'm fine," he said. "Just a little problem at the office."
"Well, if you want to talk ...?"
Never going to happen.
Christa loved him. He knew that. But whether that love would survive a more intimate knowledge of what he did — what he had to do — he was unsure. She was a genuinely good person. For Christ's sake, he'd seen her pry earthworms off the pavement and put them gently in the garden, and half her salary was donated to one cause or another. She hated injustice, cruelty, unkindness ... No, she definitely wouldn't approve of some of the harder decisions he had to make. So he ensured that she would never find out.
His cell phone rang, and he pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the screen. A relay from the office.
Excerpted from Unthinkable by Nina Croft, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Nina Croft. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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