The Praetorians: Infiltration - available NOW at New Concepts Publishing:
When her brother's slip makes Kendra, a strong telepath, a target for the Praetorians, she heads for the hills to hide out in hopes of evading them.
Quinn isn't about to leave his 'little lamb' out in the cold for the Hyenas, though. He might have problems with commitment, but she's his woman, and he means to rescue her, whether she wants to be rescued or not!
~ * ~Quinn O’Rourke paced the confines between the sofa and security monitors in the living room of the cave house in which he and his friends currently lived. While it might be a cave, it had all the modern amenities one could want. Right now, hearing moans, then curses, from one of the bedrooms, he wished they’d thought to soundproof the damned thing.
He clenched his jaw. Goddamned Foundation. They’d screwed with everyone here, from his friend Max Didion, the captain of their team, to the man currently being deprogrammed.
Sean Devane. Max’s brother-in-law.
They were all Praetorians, men who were human/animal hybrids, results of secret DNA splicing that had been going on for at least twenty-five years. Max had been one of the first soldiers to volunteer, believing that having such warriors would help maintain the peace in an ever-increasingly volatile world.
Quinn, on the other hand, hadn’t been fortunate enough to be a volunteer. He’d been forcibly changed, his DNA spliced with that of a wolf. He clenched his jaw against the memories and pushed them aside. There wasn’t time for this maudlin shit.
He looked at Max, who sat on the sofa, one leg crossed over the other, ankle resting on the opposite knee. His friend had a beer bottle in one hand and a folded newspaper in the other.
More cursing came from the bedroom, and Quinn parroted the phrase he heard. “Goddamned son of a bitch. What the fuck is Shepherd doing to him?”
Max looked up and calmly took a chug of beer. “He’s helping.”
“Yeah, sounds like it to me. Fuck.” Quinn prowled the space in front of the monitors, one hand raking through his hair. When several thick strands fell over his forehead, he cursed again. He needed a damned haircut. With a glance at Max, he scowled and continued to pace. “How the hell can you wear your hair that long, letting it flop around in your face? It impedes your vision.”
For Quinn, anything that affected his ability to see or hear or smell clearly had to go. All he had were his enhanced senses. Without them, he was just plain old Quinn O’Rourke, boy born on the wrong sides of the tracks, man who had nothing to offer.
“My wife likes it longer.” Max turned the paper over in his hand. Setting down the bottle of beer, he picked up a pencil from the side table and began working on the crossword puzzle.
“And you always do what she wants?” Quinn snorted. “Didn’t take long for you to be pussy-whipped.” If having a woman made a man soft in the brain, well, count him out. Besides, they always wanted to change you, make you ... civilized. He wasn’t civilized, had no desire to be civilized.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like women. He liked them just fine wrapped around his cock. He just wasn’t interested in forming a lasting relationship with one. Well, not anymore. He’d had his chance, and he’d blown it.
Max shot him a look, one eyebrow raised. “Since when do you have a problem with my wife?”
Quinn grimaced and scrubbed the back of his neck with one hand. Dammit. Having Tynan Shepherd here was working on his nerves and turning him into an idiot. “I don’t. It’s just.... Shepherd's been here for three goddamned weeks,” Quinn muttered, throwing a glare at Max. This sudden soul-searching was Max’s fault, anyway. If the good captain hadn’t gone and fallen in love with Sean’s sister ....
Fuck. Who the hell was he kidding? It was his own goddamned fault. He was the one who’d brought her into this mess in the first place.
“Deprogramming someone who’s been brainwashed takes time, O’Rourke. You know that.” Looking up from his paper, Max frowned. “What kind of bee’s crawled up your butt, anyway?” Quinn tightened his jaw but didn’t say anything. What could he say? That seeing Tynan made him think of Tynan’s sister, Kendra? That the last time Quinn had seen her she’d been sprawled out on his bed, naked, her breasts soft and full, her sweet pussy still swollen and smeared with his come?
Yet something else he’d fucked up. He’d never have touched her if he’d known she was a virgin. Virgins always expected way too much from a man as far as he was concerned. The white picket fence, two point three kids and happily ever after.
He didn’t do happily ever after. It wasn’t in him. The bitch scientist who’d created him had seen to that. Even if every instinct had screamed at him that Kendra was his mate, he hadn’t acted on it. She deserved better than a wolf masquerading as a man.
“You’re starting to brood.” Max’s voice was matter-of-fact as he buried his nose back into his puzzle. “You know how you get when you brood.”
“Fuck off.” Quinn paced back to the monitors and stared, not really seeing them. The skin around the piercing in his perineum tingled and he knew the feeling was psychosomatic, but it still triggered the bundle of nerves there between his scrotum and anus, and he started to get a hard-on.
This was just fucking perfect. Just what he needed to round out his day. A randy prick with nowhere to go.
A noise from behind alerted him to another’s presence, and he turned to see Tynan Shepherd walk in from the back rooms. He looked tired and discouraged. Not a good sign.
Max stood, dropping the paper onto the sofa. “Well?” he asked.
“Yeah. Well?” Quinn walked forward until he stood a few feet from Tynan. “How is he?”
The man sighed. With a weary gesture, he bent his head, rubbing the back of his neck. When he looked back up, his dark eyes appeared drained. “The brainwashing goes deep, guys. This isn’t something that I can reverse with just a few sessions.”
“You’ve had more than a few sessions,” Quinn snarled. He clenched his fists against the urge to wrap his hands around the man’s throat. It wasn’t Tynan’s fault that Sean had been indoctrinated to begin with.
And he sure as hell couldn’t help that he was Kendra’s brother. Quinn ground his jaw as his cock twitched at the thought of her.
“And it’ll take a few sessions more,” Tynan responded in a hard tone. A slash of color rode high on the dusky skin of his cheekbones. He threw up one hand and muttered, “Sorry. This is a difficult one.”
“How so?” Max walked around the sofa and headed toward the kitchen. “Sean and his men were all indoctrinated at the same time five years ago, right? You’ve already been able to successfully deprogram--what?--two of his men? Why is Sean different?”
“It’s his brain chemistry.” Tynan sighed and sat down on the sofa, stretching his legs out in front of him. “Plus, since he’s the captain of the squad, I think they spent more time on him. The conditioning went deeper.”
Max walked back into the living room with another bottle of beer in his hand. He handed it to Tynan, who immediately tilted it to his lips and took a large gulp.
“So, what now?” Quinn scowled at Max for making him fetch his own beer. He walked to the refrigerator for a bottle.
“I’m definitely getting closer,” Tynan responded. He rolled the beer bottle over his forehead. After taking another swig, he leaned forward and set it on the coffee table. “But it still may be several weeks before I make a significant breakthrough. He’s very angry.”
“He has the right to be,” Max replied. His back was to them as he stared at the security monitors nestled in the wall opposite the sofa. His hands clasped behind his back and legs slightly spread in a typical military pose, the set of his shoulders suggested he, too, was angry.
Out of habit, Quinn glanced at the monitors. They showed various areas of the cave compound. No activity, which was a good thing.
“How do you mean?” Tynan asked.
“Sean’s entire unit, including him, didn’t volunteer to be Praetorians.” Max turned toward them. His face was set in hard lines. “At some point, the powers that be decided things weren’t progressing fast enough to suit them. Where there are Chosen Ones, there are Praetorians. And a need for trackers. So military people from all around the world were forcibly enhanced.” He paused, muttering a curse. “Because it wasn’t voluntary, they were also brainwashed to believe in the doctrines of The Foundation. They were, for all intents and purposes, raped.”
Quinn’s jaw flexed. He would not think of the first six months following his own forced enhancement. Caged, drugged, used.... He dragged his attention back to Max and Tynan. It did no good to dwell on the past--he would not go there.
Tynan nodded a response to Max’s statement. Sitting forward, his elbows braced on his knees, he stared at the floor.
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Max asked.
Tynan sighed. With another sigh, he pushed to his feet. “It’s Kendra.”
Quinn stiffened. Having the man here was bad enough. To have him want to talk about his sister.... God.
“A few days ago, I inadvertently told Victor Bedrosian about Kendra’s abilities.”
What the hell? Quinn stared down at Tynan, felt the man’s fingers scrabbling at his hands, heard Max’s voice as a muted rumble over the roar of blood in his ears. He didn’t remember getting up, much less attacking the other man.
“Quinn, let him go.” Max’s arms came around his chest as he tried to pull Quinn off Tynan. “Let go.”
Releasing his fingers from around the other man’s neck, Quinn jerked away from Tynan and threw his hands up. “I’m okay.” When Max didn’t immediately let him go, he muttered, “Get off. I’m okay.”
Tynan coughed and held his throat. Max touched him on the shoulder. Going into the kitchen, he turned on the tap and ran a glass of water, which he handed to the dark-skinned man.
After he took a few gulps, the deprogrammer wiped his hand over his mouth and dropped down onto the sofa again. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head against the back of the sofa. He grimaced. “I didn't mean to tell him. He tricked me.”
“Bullshit.” Quinn took a step forward, and Max moved in front of him, putting one hand on his chest. Quinn glared at him.
“Stand down, O’Rourke.” Max gave him a little shove, his face hard and implacable. “Now.”
Quinn scowled, but backed up a few steps. He thrust his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. Leaning his shoulder against the wall, he stared toward Tynan with rage churning in his gut. If his little lamb was in trouble because her fucking brother couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut ....
“Go on, Ty,” Max said and sat on the sofa beside the dead-man-walking.
Tynan let out a long sigh. He sat forward and stared at his hands clasped between his knees. “I still don’t know how the bastard did it. One minute he was asking me for an update on the mental stability of the latest round of recruits, the next thing I knew, I heard my voice telling him Kendra had telepathic abilities.” He surged to his feet with a curse. “God damned son of a bitch.” He looked at Max, then Quinn, bewildered fury in his eyes. “How the hell did he do it?”
Max shook his head.
Quinn wasn’t as sedate with his response. “Does it matter, Shepherd? Bottom line is you betrayed your sister to the enemy. Your sister.”
My woman. Mine.
The fear of her being in danger, the rage at his own stupidity, the fire of wanting to claim his mate roared through him, obliterating any other thought from his mind.
“Well, I don’t think there’s any question about how you still feel about her.” Max’s voice came to him through the haze clouding his mind.
When he looked at his friend, the slight grin on Max’s face made him narrow his eyes. “You wanna keep that handsome face of yours, pretty boy?” Quinn asked in a growl.
The grin widened. Quinn clenched his fists against the urge to throw a punch at Max. Since they’d left The Foundation and become fugitives, there was no real chain of command anymore. They acted more as a democracy, but habit was hard to break, and Max had been his commanding officer for almost twenty years. Quinn just couldn’t go around punching his C.O. in the nose.
As much as he might want to.
“Where’s Kendra now?” Max asked, turning back to Tynan.
The deprogrammer rubbed his forehead with one hand and held the other one up in a gesture of confusion. “I’m not sure.”
Quinn trapped another growl in his throat and took a step forward. “You’ve lost her?”
“No. Yes. Maybe.” Tynan scrubbed his hand over his jaw. “I think she’s camping up in Oak Creek Canyon somewhere. That’s where our folks used to take us when we were kids. She’d probably head up there and try to get lost in the wilderness.”
Quinn clenched his fists. The thought of Kendra out there, afraid and alone, made him crazy. He turned a cutting gaze on her brother. “And you just let her go?”
“You know Kendra,” Tynan responded. “What was I supposed to do, tie her to her bed?”
Heat spread through Quinn. He’d had Kendra tied to his bed before. If he had to do it again to keep her safe, he would.
He just had to find her first.
Without another word, he turned and headed toward his room.
“Where’re you going?” Max called out after him.
To get my mate. “To find Shepherd’s damned sister,” he snarled.
Infiltration - Book #2 in The Praetorians series - available NOW at New Concepts Publishing!