Edge of Insanity - S.E. Smith - ebook
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USA Today Bestseller! Edge remembers little of his capture but all of what has happened since. He can feel his mind splintering, but a soft voice in the darkness urges him to resist—and fight back. Lina Daniels is used to fighting fire with fire. She isn’t afraid of death, but she is terrified of being captured. As a resistance fighter on Earth, she knew the dangers. Those threats seem minuscule compared to those on the alien world where she now found herself. Lina’s plan is simple—free the drugged Trivator warrior who’s been tortured past the brink of sanity, and force him to take her and the other women back to Earth. There’s so, so much that can go wrong, but it’s the only shot they’ve got… Internationally acclaimed S.E. Smith presents a new action-packed story full of adventure and romance. Brimming with her signature humor, vivid landscapes, and beloved characters, this book is sure to be another fan favorite! Main Content: 217 (6x9) pages, 67,260 words

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Edge of Insanity

The Alliance Book 6

S.E. Smith

Contents

Acknowledgments

Copyright

Character Bible

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Epilogue

Synopsis of Tansy’s Titan

Sample of Gracie's Touch

Additional Books and Information

About the Author

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my husband Steve for believing in me and being proud enough of me to give me the courage to follow my dream. I would also like to give a special thank you to my sister and best friend, Linda, who not only encouraged me to write, but who also read the manuscript. Also to my other friends who believe in me: Julie, Jackie, Christel, Sally, Jolanda, Lisa, Laurelle, Debbie, and Narelle. The girls that keep me going!

And a special thanks to Paul Heitsch, David Brenin, Samantha Cook, Suzanne Elise Freeman, and PJ Ochlan—the awesome voices behind my audiobooks!

—S.E. Smith

Montana Publishing

Science Fiction Romance

Edge of Insanity: The Alliance Book 6

Copyright © 2015 by Susan E. Smith

First E-Book Published April 2018

Cover Design by Melody Simmons

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the author.

All characters, places, and events in this book are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations are strictly coincidental.

Summary: Dagger was rescued, but Edge was presumed dead…. Lina’s plan is simple—free the drugged Trivator warrior who’s been tortured past the brink of sanity, and force him to take her and the other women back to Earth. There’s so, so much that can go wrong, but it’s the only shot they’ve got…

ISBN: 978-1-944125-14-1 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-944125-26-4 (eBook)

Published in the United States by Montana Publishing.

{1. Science Fiction Romance. – Fiction. 2. Science Fiction – Fiction. 3. Paranormal – Fiction. 4. Romance – Fiction.}

www.montanapublishinghouse.

Synopsis

USA Today Bestseller!

Edge remembers little of his capture but all of what has happened since. He can feel his mind splintering, but a soft voice in the darkness urges him to resist—and fight back.

Lina Daniels is used to fighting fire with fire. She isn’t afraid of death, but she is terrified of being captured. As a resistance fighter on Earth, she knew the dangers. Those threats seem minuscule compared to those on the alien world where she now found herself.

Lina’s plan is simple—free the drugged Trivator warrior who’s been tortured past the brink of sanity, and force him to take her and the other women back to Earth. There’s so, so much that can go wrong, but it’s the only shot they’ve got…

Character Bible

Lina Daniels: Human – sister of Tim Daniels.

Tim Daniels: Human – brother of Lina;

second in command for Destin Parks

Destin Parks: Human – Rebel Leader;

married to Jersula 'Sula' Ikera.

Jersula 'Sula' Ikera: Usoleum Ambassador to Earth

Gail Barber: Human: former Chicago police officer

Mirela Guinn: Human;

Hospitality and professional kickboxer

Mechelle Guinn: Human;

gaming programmer and actress

Bailey Reynolds: Human; Physician’s Assistant

Andy Curlman: Human; Diesel Engine Mechanic

Edge: Trivator warrior; expertise in combat; weapons, piloting spacecrafts, and combat medical training.

Thunder: Trivator warrior; expertise in tracking and moving behind enemy lines.

Vice: Trivator warrior; expertise in tracking and moving behind enemy lines.

Jag: Trivator Warship Commander; expertise in military maneuvers and combat situations.

Razor: Trivator Chancellor in charge of the Trivator military.

Hunter: Trivator diplomat

Jesse Sampson: Human; mate of Hunter

Kali Parks: Human; mate of Razor

Jordan Sampson: Human; mate of Dagger,

hacker extraordinaire

Dagger: Trivator warrior; expertise in combat weaponry; fighting

Prymorus Achler: Waxian; Prime Ruler

Katma Achler: Waxian; mate to Prymorus and former military commander of the Waxian forces.

Deppar Achler: Prymorus’s half-brother, overlord of Oculus IX: Waxian Spaceport

Stitch: Trivator doctor

Dakar (Adron) Mul Kar: Kassisan Spy for the Kassisans and working with the Alliance.

Chapter One

Spaceport: Oculus IX – Deep in Waxian controlled territory.

The sound of cruel laughter pierced the periphery of Edge’s consciousness. He wanted to fight the darkness, but it had become a welcome haven against the constant pain wracking his body. Despite his feelings of shame at his weakness, Edge knew he would court any brief respite from the agony ripping apart his mind and body. His head felt as if it might explode after the relentless inquisition he had just survived.

He wasn’t sure ‘survive’ was the correct word. His mind was fragmented, his thoughts flashing at a nauseatingly rapid rate where one thought would start to form, only to be replaced with another in a dizzying kaleidoscope of colors that left him weak and disoriented. Whatever drugs his captors had pumped into him this time had come all too close to breaking the fragile control he had on his mind.

“Did you see the blood coming out of his nose this time? I swear I thought I could smell the bastard’s brain frying,” the guard gripping his left arm chuckled.

“We’re just lucky Deppar had us double strap him or we’d all be dead,” the guard on his right retorted.

“What are you talking about? I was expecting him to cry like a baby this time,” the first guard replied with another laugh.

“I hope you know that you are going to be the first one he kills if he ever gets loose,” the second guard muttered. “Open his cell door.”

Edge heard another guard mumble something under his breath before the sound of metal scraping against stone screeched through the air. A groan mixed with the sound. It took a moment for Edge to realize the sound was coming from himself. Every sound was amplified in his head, causing sharp, excruciating pain to ricochet through his skull.

“He’s drooling,” the first guard chortled. “Next thing you know, he’ll be pissing his pants. He can’t even lift his head or keep the spit in his mouth. You really think he could fight me?”

“I heard Deppar is tired of dealing with him,” the cell guard said as the first two guards dragged Edge through the doorway and dropped him to the cell floor. “Talk is that he has called in someone else to retrieve the information. I heard another Waxian wants all the knowledge the prisoner has about the Trivator forces and their technology. This Waxian is supposed to be working with the Drethulans. If he is, he’s a crazy bastard. You couldn’t pay me to have a Drethulan at my back. I doubt this Trivator will survive long once they get ahold of him.”

“What could the Trivator know? He’s been held captive for too long to have any current information of use. If you ask me, this other Waxian or the Drethulans should have gotten to him before he was sold to the mines,” the first guard retorted before he spit on the floor near Edge’s head. “Between working the mines and the drugs Deppar used on him, there isn’t much left of the bastard’s brain to interrogate. Deppar should just kill the big bastard now before he gets loose.”

“Well, they didn’t ask you,” the second guard grumbled as he left the cell. “You’re a grunt and grunts do what they are told. We keep our mouths shut if we want to get paid and live to spend it. Now, come on, I’m ready for some food.” The cell door closed with a clang, and the sound of the cell guard locking it was loud in the small corridor. “That reminds me, Deppar said no food or drink for the prisoner. He wants him as weak as possible for the Waxian’s visit,” the second guard informed the cell guard.

“I haven’t fed him anyway. They don’t give us enough food, so I’ve been eating what they sent down. It all tastes like shit anyway,” the cell guard muttered.

Edge rolled over in the narrow, dark cell as the guards continued to talk. A shiver ran through him as the toxic dregs of the drugs the Waxian had pumped into him seeped through his pores. He fought against the urge to throw up. The trembling in his body increased as the chill from the cold floor soaked into his sweat-dampened skin.

“Goddess, give me death,” Edge whispered, hoping she would be merciful and grant him his wish.

“Like hell. You can’t die now that I’ve found you, Trivator. I need you alive,” a soft voice answered.

Lina Daniels peered through the narrow openings in the wall grill near the cell’s filthy floor. Ever since she had overheard two men in the market talking about a Trivator, she had been searching for the alien warrior. It had taken her a day to discover where they were holding him. Then, almost another week to figure out a way in and out of the building. The last thing she wanted was to end up either in the cell with him or on the dinner table as the main course for the alien bastards holding him captive.

This tiny shithole of a cell had been the last on her checklist for the day. She had come up empty handed with her search of the other cells, and this one was empty too. She had been about to give up and had even started to scoot back down the drainage channel when she heard footsteps approaching and recognized one of the men’s voices from the market.

Holding her breath, she waited to see what they would do. She was rewarded for her patience when the door opened. The man she’d been searching for was being dragged in by his arms by two guards. She watched with a combination of satisfaction and disgust as they dropped him to the floor.

The man was definitely a Trivator! She silently studied him while the guards talked. Personally, she didn’t give a damn what his species or the Earth’s government had said about the aliens responding to her planet’s transmissions into space. As far as she was concerned, the Trivators and the Alliance had invaded Earth.

The resulting fallout had been devastating for humans. Her life and that of millions of others had gone to hell in a matter of hours. She’d spent the last decade since that unforgettable day fighting to free her fellow humans from the aliens as well as from other humans.

It didn’t help when memories of being sold by one of her own species filled her mouth with a bitter taste. She wanted to return to Earth so she could kill Colbert Allen. Who the hell cared that revenge was a bad idea? She’d had a lot of bad ideas in her lifetime and would deal with the consequences just as she always had – with a fight.

Lina ground her teeth to keep the curse from passing her lips. She wanted to tell the three guards to finish up with their sadistic enjoyment and get out. Now that she’d found what she’d been looking for, she had work to do.

It’s about freakin’ time, she savagely thought when the door finally closed behind the sadistic trio.

Returning her focus to the man in the cell, she watched as he rolled until he was facing the wall and unknowingly her. The grim satisfaction that coursed through her at the success of her mission was quickly replaced with a punch to the stomach as instant recognition hit her. Dark, painful memories threatened to choke her. Blood, pain, and despair flooded her as a vision of him standing over a lifeless body ripped her back to the past.

Deeply shaken, she closed her eyes for a moment and drew in a deep breath. There was no room for her personal feelings. Whether she liked it or not, she needed this man regardless of who he was or the painful memories that he awoke inside her.

Swallowing the bile that rose in her throat, she focused on her mission. This was not just about her. If it had been, she would have been tempted to help the Waxian with killing the Trivator.

At least, she reasoned, I would be the more merciful killer. It might still come to that if he doesn’t know how to fly a spaceship, she thought.

“Goddess, give me death,” he murmured.

Lina froze when she heard his barely audible mumble. A surprising rage swept through her unlike anything she had ever felt before – well, almost anything. She was reserving that little dose of overwhelming rage for Colbert Allen. Still, the words were like kerosene on an open flame to her. She totally ignored the fact that she had thought about killing him less than a second before.

“Like hell. You can’t die now that I’ve found you, Trivator. I need you alive,” Lina hissed out.

In the darkness, she could barely make out that his body had stiffened in surprise. Muttering a series of expletives under her breath, Lina felt along her side for the pocket of her pants. Slipping her hand inside, she pulled out a tiny red light and turned it on. Inserting it between the gaps of the grill, she got her first good look at the Trivator’s face.

She drew in a deep, unsteady breath as the past and present collided again in her mind. There were two things which immediately caught and held her attention. First, he looked like shit. Second, she was surprised by the wave of compassion she felt when she saw the pain etched into his features.

“You were on Earth,” she stated, unsure of what else to say.

“Yes,” came his hoarse response.

“Can you fly one of those spaceships they’ve got here?” she demanded, forcing him to focus on her when his head started to roll back.

“Yes,” he replied.

Lina’s lips twisted and her fingers tightly gripped the light. She drew in another deep breath and wished she could just leave his ass here, but his admission sealed his fate as far as she was concerned. He knew where Earth was, and he could fly. She needed him alive.

“I’ll be back. Don’t you fucking die or get yourself killed before I do,” she ordered.

Sliding backwards, Lina knew she didn’t have much time. She was also going to need some help. As much as she hated endangering any of the other women who had escaped with her, she didn’t have much choice in the matter. She couldn’t haul this guy out on her own, and he didn’t look like he was in any shape to walk, much less run.

She carefully retraced her steps, mentally adjusting her plans to get the warrior out of the building. As difficult a puzzle as the problem was, what worried her most was what to do after she got him out. There were too many variables once they were outside among the rest of the inhabitants on the Spaceport, and there were only so many places you could hide on a small rock in space.

Chapter Two

“Are you sure, Lina? What happens if he turns on us?” Bailey asked, biting her bottom lip.

“Of course she is sure! Lina always knows what to do,” Mirela retorted before she grimaced and added under her breath, “most of the time.”

“Ha-ha,” Andy replied, sitting back against the wall and stretching out her legs. “What’s the plan, boss-lady?”

Five faces turned to Lina, their eyes watching her with anticipation. Gail and Mechelle, Mirela’s twin sister, sat silently contemplating what she had told everyone. Gail was the oldest of them all while Mechelle was the youngest, even if it was just by five minutes.

“His injuries don’t change the basics of the plan too much. We get him out, doctor him up as best we can, and make him take us home,” Lina said.

“Well, that should be easy enough,” Mirela replied with a roll of her eyes.

Gail snickered. “Be careful, Mirela. You might end up carrying this Trivator by his feet,” she warned.

Mirela tossed her head. “It would take all of us to carry out one of those guys. I don’t know about you, but I clearly remember them being big, muscular, and….”

“… Cute,” Mechelle interjected, trying not to grin.

Mirela shot her twin a glare. “I never said I thought they were cute,” she hissed.

Mechelle smirked. “No, you didn’t. You whistled and said—”

“Okay,” Lina cut her off. “Let’s get back on topic and plan how we are going to get him out of his cell, past the guards, out of the building, and down into the access ducts without everyone on the Spaceport seeing us,” Lina ordered in a slightly exasperated tone.

Andy leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. Lina could tell when the other women realized that this was probably their only chance of ever getting home. They had been lucky so far, but luck didn’t last forever. Out of the eighteen women who had been abducted and spirited away from Earth by the alien ship, they were the only ones who had managed to escape.

“We’re listening,” Andy said in a quiet voice.

Lina looked around at the hopeful and determined faces. They had been through a lot together. Some of it good and some of it bad, but they had survived. Taking a deep breath, Lina motioned for everyone to gather around in a circle. Kneeling, she used the dirt on the ground as a drawing board.

“This is what we are going to do,” she said in a determined voice. “I’m not sure he can walk, so I’ll need one of you to go with me.”

“I will,” Andy volunteered immediately.

Lina nodded. “Mechelle, I want you to be ready at the entrance to the tunnels. We’ll be coming in hot and heavy and will need to disappear fast. Mirela, I want you and Bailey to have a cart with a cover ready.”

Mirela looked grim for a moment before she nodded. “There are a couple places where I can borrow one,” she replied, using her fingers to place imaginary quotes around the word ‘borrow’.

“Where do you want us to meet you?” Bailey asked, leaning forward and staring down at the roughly sketched map of the building.

“The building across from where they are holding the Trivator is empty. It has a chute that was left over from whatever they made there. The chute is located on the opposite side of the building. That’s how I’ve been going in and out. I put a metal plank across from one roof to the other and crossed here. I guess they think because this is a Spaceport, no one would come in from the top. Anyway, there are no guards on this building because it is empty and none on the roof of the other one,” Lina explained for the benefit of those who had not been in on the details of her scouting mission.

“What about cameras?” Gail asked.

Lina shook her head. “None that I could see. It is like they moved in and didn’t bother with security except for hiring a bunch of moron guards. The main guy is a Waxian and is scary as shit. I’ve seen what he can do. It surprises me that anyone would be stupid enough to work for the man. I get the feeling the life expectancy of a guard isn’t very long if you mess up,” she explained with a look of distaste on her face.

“God, I hate the Waxians. They aren’t as easy to kill as the Armatrux,” Andy groaned.

“Yeah, I think we all do,” Gail replied.

Lina nodded and continued. “The chute leads to an empty section on the top floor of the building. I’ve been crossing over and moving through the building using their ventilation and drainage accesses. Anyway, the chute comes out on this side alley. One end is a dead end, and the other leads to a larger alley that leads to the main market area. It is a dark and seedy section. Place the cart under the chute and stay in the shadows. Andy and I will get him out of the building, up to the top floor here, and shove his ass down the chute. He falls in the cart, we come down next, you cover him up, and move at a normal pace through the market while we take up positions on each side to cover you. We’ll do it during rush hour when the market is chaos, which is in six hours,” Lina instructed.

“What do you want me to do?” Gail asked.

Lina smiled and nodded to the blaster strapped to Gail’s side. “You’ll be undercover. I need you to cover our backs. Fall back and keep an eye out. If those Waxian bastards discover we’ve taken their golden egg, they are going to be pissed. You are the best shot out of all of us, especially from a distance. I’ll need you to take them out if we are discovered,” Lina said with a grim expression.

“I won’t miss,” Gail promised.

“I have one question,” Mechelle said, frowning at her.

“What’s that?” Lina asked.

Mechelle rubbed her chin. “If he can’t walk, how are you going to get him across a metal plank nearly five stories up?” she asked.

Lina had hoped no one would notice that tiny detail. She glanced at Andy, who shrugged. Somehow they would get him across. Lina’s eyes strayed to the bag in the corner.

“Bailey, what kind of drugs do you have that might help us?” Lina quietly asked.

Pain radiated through Edge’s arms. His guards had left them shackled behind his back. The discomfort had finally pulled him from his restless doze. His head still ached, but it was back to the steady throb that he had been living with for months now.

His body was stiff from lying on the cold floor. Somewhere in his mind, he knew he should sit up, but he didn’t have the strength. He kept his eyes closed. In the darkness, it didn’t matter. He could see, but there was nothing to look at except the shadowy creatures that danced in his mind and along the walls.

Behind his back, he moved his fingers and tried to focus on counting. He could feel the claws of whatever beast they had poured into his blood this time tugging at him. Sweat beaded on his brow despite the cold.

The fire was heating up inside him, and he began to shake again. His reaction to the drugs was getting worse. He jerked his arms against the restraints in an effort to reduce the discomfort. As the fire grew to a fevered inferno, he twisted around and struggled up until he was on his knees.

Edge started shaking and his sweat poured out until a light film coated his entire body. His skin crawled with the imaginary insects. An agonized groan escaped him as the feeling of being eaten alive grew. The fireworks in his brain began to explode again, flashing colors at a sickening speed.

Gasping for air, he bent forward and rested his forehead against the cold floor. He squeezed his eyes closed to prevent the burning tears from escaping. He was dying. He could feel it, but he wasn’t allowed to. The voice… The voice had told him he wasn’t allowed to die. She needed him. She had found him, and she needed him.

Who had found him? another part of his brain demanded.

My Amate, the other part answered.

Edge knew his grasp on reality had finally snapped. There had been no voice answering his plea to the Goddess for death. It was a cruel hoax. The voice had been another trick to test his strength.

Straightening up, he parted his lips to shout his denial. He would never give the Waxians what they wanted. He was a Trivator warrior. Death before dishonor.

“Back up,” a soft, feminine voice ordered.

The sound broke through the confusion, calming the chaos. A shudder ran through Edge and he opened his eyes. Along the far wall, he saw the insects that had been crawling over his body disappear.

“Goddess, I swear I will resist,” he whispered. “I will die a warrior.”

A barely audible sigh from behind made him frown. “Yeah, well, tell your Goddess to put your death on hold, sweetheart. There won’t be any dying today if I have any say in the matter. Now, back your ass up to the wall behind you so I can see if I can get those damn wrist cuffs off you. It’s going to be a bitch doing it from this angle,” the voice demanded.

Edge tilted his head to the side. His frown deepened as his confusion grew. Shaking his head, he was rewarded with a wave of dizziness. Falling backwards, he grunted and stretched his legs out in front of him while he rested his head against the wall behind him.

“Why are you testing me like this?” he asked, closing his eyes again.

A soft snort answered him. “Welcome to our world, sweetheart. Life is all about the tests – seeing who passes and who crashes and burns,” the voice replied. “Can you walk?”

Edge was about to reply when he felt a movement against his skin. A shudder ran through him, and he started to shift to the side when he felt slender fingers wrap around his left wrist. Warmth poured through him. This wasn’t the heat of a few minutes ago, but a soothing warmth that chased away the insects.

“Goddess?” Edge whispered in awe.

This time a chuckle answered him. “Darling, you can call me anything you want as long as I don’t have to carry your ass out of here. That would make my life a lot easier. It might even give this harebrained plan a slim chance of success. As it is, we’ll all probably be meeting up with this Goddess of yours for drinks by dinner time,” the voice replied.

“I do not know if the Goddess drinks, or eats,” Edge replied, feeling several tugs on his wrists.

“Yeah, well, I’ll have to make sure I bring a few cases of beer along then,” the voice muttered before uttering a long string of curses that had Edge opening his eyes again in surprise.

“You have very colorful language,” he stated.

Another soft chuckle echoed behind him. “So I’ve been told,” she replied.

The sudden release of pressure on his arms took him by surprise. He slowly pulled his arms around, wincing at his protesting muscles. Bending his elbows, he rotated his arms until the feeling began to come back. Flexing his fingers, he suddenly twisted until he was lying on the floor, facing the wall.

A tiny red light shone from the hole where the grill had been. His top lip curled and he snarled. If the Waxian thought giving him hope would break him, he would show the man he had made a serious mistake.

“Well, you’re still fast, but that doesn’t answer my earlier question,” the voice hissed.

Edge tried to get a look at the face in the depths of the hole, but the red light was shining in his eyes. A low growl shook his frame. He wanted to reach into the hole and drag out whoever was within by their neck.

“What question is that?” Edge demanded, curling his fingers into a fist.

The red light wavered for a brief second, and Edge could make out the delicate lines of a very feminine face. The woman stared back at him, as if she, too, was assessing his features. Her dark brown eyes locked with his in a silent battle.

“Can you walk?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, hoping it was true.

A small grin curved her lips. “Good enough, though if you can run, it will be even better. Expect company in ten minutes,” she replied, turning off the light.

Edge heard a soft scraping sound on the other side of the wall. Unsure if he had imagined what had just happened, he shot his hand out and he stuck it through the opening. He reached as far as he could and felt around the other side.

Then he pulled his hand back, and slowly pushed up until he was in a sitting position again. His gaze ran over his arms while he used his fingers to trace the raw circles around his wrist where the restraints had been. Reaching down, he picked up the metal cuffs in his left hand. His grip tightened around them.

Can you walk? Can you walk? Can you walk?

Her words kept repeating over and over in his head. Unsure, he braced his free hand against the wall and pushed up off the floor. His legs trembled, and he fell against the smooth wall of his cell. Gritting his teeth, he forced his legs to straighten until he was standing.

Chapter Three

A wave of dizziness washed over Edge, threatening to send him back to the floor. Once again, sweat coated his skin, and he could feel the legs of insects crawling across his body. Nausea churned in his stomach.

He kept his head up and focused on the other side of the narrow cell. It was three steps. He could make three steps. His lips parted and he licked them.

Step, he commanded his body. Move your leg.

His body refused to follow his mental command. The sweat began to form rivulets trickling down from his temple and between his shoulders. The metal from the wrist cuffs cut into the palm of his clenched left fist.

Step, he commanded again.

This time, his leg moved with a jerky, uncoordinated movement. He kept one hand braced against the wall. Swallowing, he sent the command again. His steps were jerky and unsure, as if he were an infant learning to walk. He made it two steps before he started to tilt. He quickly stretched out his arms and braced his hands on the wall across from him.

His jaw ached from clamping his teeth together. He desperately wanted to pull his hands away from the wall. The insects were coming back out of the metal. A small part of his brain knew that they weren’t really there, but his eyes saw them, and his skin felt their touch. The sweat was pouring off his body now as he began to shake.

Expect company…

Someone was coming. The thought sent another wave of panic and rage through him. Had the woman been real? Was she part of the Waxian’s plan to get information from him?

“Walk,” he desperately mumbled. “I have to be able to walk. She doesn’t want to carry my ass out of here.”

Turning, he continued to force his body to listen to him even as the number of insects doubled and then doubled again. Soon, he felt like he was wading through a sea of them. They were crawling up his legs. Their numbers continued to increase until they were up to his knees. His breathing became more erratic. He could feel his heart pounding until he was sure it would explode.

He turned his head when he heard a muffled sound outside the door, followed by a thump. Shaking, he continued to grip the metal handcuff in his hand as he fell back against the wall away from the door. Blinking his eyes to clear them, he gritted his teeth and waited.

The rattle of metal on metal and the turn of a key reverberated through his brain. Even the sound of his own breathing brought him a large amount of discomfort.

Edge braced himself for what was about to enter. He refused to fall without a fight. Nothing would stop him this time – not the insects, not the explosions going off in his mind, not the trembling and weakness of his body, not even the sudden presence of his imaginary Goddess giving him false hope. The time had come to end this nightmare once and for all.

The door slowly opened, and a shaft of light from the corridor cast a shadow on the figure pushing against it. Edge waited, sweat rolling down his trembling body, gripping his only weapon so tightly that he could feel the warmth of his blood sliding down from his cut palm to his wrist.

“Bloody hell! Can they make these damn doors any heavier?” a woman’s voice muttered.

“Just hurry, Lina. I know you said they don’t have any cameras, but I’d sure feel a lot better if we were already out of here,” another feminine voice replied.

“Almost… there,” Lina grunted.

Edge watched in disbelief as the door opened enough that the shadow could step inside. His pupils tried to contract because of the light. He pushed off the wall, his arm rising toward the person silhouetted in the doorway.

“Watch out!” the woman behind his goddess warned.

“Son-of-a-bitch! Don’t make me have to knock out your ass,” his goddess threatened, stepping forward and wrapping her hand around his uplifted wrist. “Drop it or I will.”

Edge’s breath caught in his throat. He swallowed several times before he could speak. His gaze remained locked in disbelief on the defiant face looking up at him.

“You… You are real,” he finally said in a hoarse voice.

The woman grinned at him with a wry expression on her face. “It’s good to see you standing. Now, let’s see if we can get out of here alive,” she replied, standing to the side. “Andy, take the lead.”

Edge watched as the other woman nodded and started to turn away. He took a step toward the door. His vision blurred and he shook his head to clear it. In the distance, he could hear a voice utter a low string of very colorful curses. Warm hands wrapped around his waist to steady him.

He caught snippets of words. It took a moment for his brain to translate them.

“Hold him,” one voice said.

“Shit! This isn’t going to be good,” another responded.

“We’ll have to drag him,” the first said.

Edge shook his head again. “No, I… can walk,” he muttered.

The arms around him tightened. The voice of his goddess sounded harsh but determined. Her refusal to allow him to give up was like a living thing in his mind.

“Prove it, warrior. Move your feet. We’ve got to get out of here now or we’re all going to die,” she stated. “Walk.”

“I can walk,” Edge muttered, lifting his foot and stepping forward.

“Andy, you lead. Shoot anything that gets in our way,” his goddess ordered before she turned her attention back to him. “Move your damn feet faster, soldier.”

“You are a very… bossy Goddess… with colorful language,” he informed her, his voice breaking as he tried to focus on not falling.

The other woman ahead of them snorted. The periphery of Edge’s vision grew dark and he blinked to clear it. The arm around his waist squeezed his side. His arm was draped over her shoulder.

“I’m too heavy,” he said, unable to do anything about it.

His goddess made a very unladylike noise. “No kidding. What did they do to you?” she asked.

Edge felt their pace slow, and the woman ahead of them murmured it was clear. Turning the corner, he braced his free hand on the wall to keep himself upright and steady. His hand slid across the smooth surface.

“Next left,” his goddess said.

“Drugs. My brain… skin… hurt,” he finally admitted.

“Damn!” the woman in front muttered.

Edge gripped the frame of the door when it opened. This room was darker than the corridor. He breathed a sigh of relief. The light hurt his eyes. The woman tugged him forward into the room.

“There’s a service lift in the back of the room, thank God. I forgot how big you aliens are,” his goddess groaned.

The other woman hurried forward and pressed the control button. The doors parted to show a lift. Edge stumbled forward into the small box. He closed his eyes and leaned against the lift wall. When the lift suddenly moved, he breathed deeply through his nose, trying to keep his stomach from expelling the churning acid inside.

“How in the hell are we going to get him across to the other building?” the other woman asked.

His goddess had guided him to the corner and was pressed up against him in an effort to keep him upright. He wanted to answer, but the effort to keep the nausea under control kept his mouth firmly closed.

“He’ll make it,” his goddess replied. “He has to.”

“He doesn’t look so good, Lina,” the woman remarked as the lift began to slow.

His goddess didn’t answer. Edge cracked his eyelids open when the lift drew to a stop. The woman with them stood to the side with a laser pistol leveled at the door. His goddess had stepped in front of him. She was standing protectively with her back pressed against his chest and her hands gripping another gun. The doors silently slid open to another dark room.

The woman by the door peered through the opening before she cautiously stepped out of the lift. A second later, she motioned for them to follow her. Edge automatically lifted his arm when his goddess turned and wrapped her arm around his waist again. Leaning heavily on her shoulder, he stumbled forward.

They were halfway across the room before he spoke. His throat was dry from dehydration and his voice rough from lack of use. Still, he could feel the danger surrounding them and knew he was a liability. His mind and body were shutting down.

“You… need to… leave me,” he croaked in a raspy voice.

“Shut up,” his goddess hissed in response.

A frown creased Edge’s brow. Anger began to build inside him. No one told him to shut up.

Licking his lips, he tried again. “I said… you need… to leave me… here. It is…. It is too dangerous… for you,” he insisted.

The woman glanced up at him with a scowl. “And I said shut the fuck up,” she replied, scanning the empty room.

Edge could feel the muscle in his jaw twitch at her response. A low growl of disapproval rumbled in his chest. Goddess or not, she needed to understand that he would not risk her life for his own.

Focusing inward, he commanded his body to listen to him. He felt the woman’s body stiffen in surprise when he straightened and tried to pull away from her. Her arm tightened around his waist while her fingers curled into the vest he was wearing.

“I will not endanger you,” he growled.

Her fingers curled against his side. “Don’t go getting all huffy and noble on me now. You can do that after we save your ass. Trust me, Trivator, we aren’t doing this for any other reason than that we need you, otherwise I would have left your ass to the Waxians,” she snapped.

“Roof is clear,” the other woman said.

Edge was surprised when he felt his body being turned and shoved up against the wall. The woman pressed her free hand against his chest. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he noted that she was surprisingly strong for someone so small. Her eyes flashed with a warning that made him want to smile. That astonishing fact registered in his tortured brain. He wanted to smile!

“I need you to keep your shit together for this next phase. We have to get across to the other building. We doubled the planks, but it is still too narrow for Andy or me to support you. You have a choice. You can either walk or we can try to carry you. If you screw up, it is a fifty-foot drop to the ground. It is only a matter of time before they discover you’re gone. Can you do this or not?” his goddess bit out in a soft, cold voice.

Edge gazed down at the face staring up at him. In the dim light, he saw her features better than he could before. Shoulder-length, dark-brown hair framed a face with a long nose, full lips, and fierce dark-brown eyes. Her black shirt and jacket highlighted the creamy column of her neck and the slight curve of her breasts, while her form-fitting black pants and boots showed an undeniably feminine figure.

“Why are you doing this?” he quietly asked.

The woman’s expression hardened. She slowly dropped her hand and stepped away from him. Lifting her chin, she stared at him with a look of challenge in her eyes.

“We need you. You are bigger than I remembered and there is no way Andy and I can carry your ass out of here. So, here’s the deal, if you want to get out of this dump, you need to prove it. It’s your call,” she stated in a voice laced with steel before she turned toward the door.

Edge watched the woman walk through the door. He took two steps and paused to grip the doorframe and steady himself. His gaze remained focused on her as he pushed away from the door and began to follow his Goddess.

He ignored his body’s demand that he stop and give up. Instead, he focused on the woman’s back as she walked away from him. He needed to stay with her. She was important. He needed… to help her… to protect her.

Once again, the instinctive knowledge of who she was flashed through the haze threatening to overtake his mind. The one thing a warrior craved above all. She belonged to him, his Amate. Adrenaline surged through him when the distance between them increased and he picked up speed to close the gap.

Chapter Four

As much as she wanted to, Lina resisted the urge to look back over her shoulder to see if the Trivator was following her. She could sense that his body was shutting down. As much as she would love to feel sympathetic toward him, such a feeling now wouldn’t do anything but get them captured or killed.

Too many times in the past, she had noticed the same situation among those fighting back home. Hell, she’d even felt it herself on more than one occasion. Sometimes there had been an overwhelming urge to just give up and let whatever was going to happen occur.

Lina shook her head at Andy when her friend turned to look back at her with a worried expression. If there was one thing she had learned when fighting these bastards back on Earth, it was that they didn’t give up – ever. Her hope was that somewhere deep inside the man behind her, there was a steel spine and a cast iron will to survive.

Andy slowed as she reached the low wall running around the roof of the building. The buildings on this section of the Spaceport butted up against the floor of the section above it. Stacked like the game with the wooden blocks, all it would take was to move the wrong one to make it collapse and bring the entire Spaceport crashing down.

Lina paused when she heard the echo of shouts from below. Glancing over the side, she saw several men running down the alley toward the entrance to the building, frantically issuing orders for the guards to spread out. Their attention was momentarily captured by the Waxian angrily striding down the alley five stories below. Fortunately, neither the Waxian nor his guards had looked up yet.

“Life is about to get very exciting,” she said, nodding to Andy.

Andy grimaced and looked over the ledge. “Tell me about it,” she said, turning to look back at the open door. “We need to bar the door. You get our ticket out of here across to the other building, I’ll try to delay them as best I can.”

Lina started to shake her head, but realized Andy was right. The Trivator seemed to have bonded with her and was more likely to follow her lead than Andy’s. Turning, she faced the warrior whose eyes were glued on her.

“Follow me,” she instructed as she shoved her gun into the waistband of her pants and reached out her hands.

She breathed a sigh of relief when he automatically gripped her hands. Pulling him forward, she stepped up onto the planks they had laid across the yawning gap between the buildings.

Lina slowly walked backwards. “Focus on my face,” she ordered.

Behind him, she could see Andy disappear through the doorway again. Her gaze moved back to the Trivator holding her hands in a surprisingly gentle grip. He stepped up onto the plank.

Her stomach twisted when she felt the uncontrollable trembling in his hands. Sweat glistened on his brow, and his face was very pale under his naturally dark complexion. She could see the wild expression in his eyes and knew he was fighting to maintain the fragile hold he had on his control.

“How long have they been drugging you?” she asked, moving backwards, taking one step at a time.

“I don’t… remember. It… it feels like forever,” he admitted.

Lina squeezed his hands when she saw him start to look down. “Focus on my face,” she sharply ordered before softening her tone. “How long have you been here?”