Coming June 15th from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid!
an erotic fantasy romance novel
by Linda Mooney
Heat rating: sensuous
an erotic fantasy romance novel
by Linda Mooney
Heat rating: sensuous
Miranda Sayers's best friend is her wheelchair. It has been her refuge for most of her twenty-six years. But the time has come when her grandmother can no longer help take care of her. Now Randi is faced with having to survive on her own, and unfortunately that future doesn't look promising.
Collin First's job on Earth is to find the Ducts between his world and this one. As an Extinguisher, he has to eliminate those passageways before any of the dangerous creatures from Sandeflay can pass through and harm any humans. The last thing he expected when he took the assignment was to find was the beautiful, crippled woman living one floor below his apartment.
Before either of them can contend with the impossibility of their relationship, Randi and Collin are thrown together, seeking each other's love and help. And when circumstances force Randi to follow Collin to Sandeflay, the greatest miracle of all awaits them both.
Taking the bag, Collin turned to join her where she was waiting at the outer doors when a loud, ear-splitting sound suddenly shredded the air. Randi cried out and covered her ears against the noise.
To her shock Collin grabbed her, chair and all, and literally threw her back into the shop just as the outer doors sealed shut with a hiss. The moment they firmly closed, the scream of the siren lessened but remained audible outside the glass enclosure.
"WHAT IS IT?"
Behind them the handful of customers and shopkeepers had retreated to the middle of the store. Many of them went to hide inside the dressing booths.
"Duct breach," Collin replied tightly. He stood rooted in front of her, providing a shield between her and the outer wall. His eyes never wavered from what was going on outside.
The people outside had literally vanished. The city looked as empty as if the entire town had been evacuated. She started to ask him more when his watch lit up. Collin answered the page.
"Where are you?" It was Marc’s voice and his image on the little screen.
"At the market," Collin answered. "Where’s the breach?"
"Oh, dearest heavens. It’s right on top of you. Are you armed?"
The Second Director mouthed an obscenity, making Randi react with surprise. "Stay put. We have a half-dozen trainees on their way to you now to handle the crisis. Keep this relay open in case something happens."
"Have someone bring me a pouch," Collin ordered.
"Too late. It’s a stage four and sprouting. Besides, you’re still listed on medical leave."
Collin lowered his arm in exasperation. Turning to her, his eyes quickly checked her over. "Are you all right? I didn’t hurt you, did I?"
"What’s happening?" She tried to move up next to him, but he continued to block her.
"Stay away from the windows, Randi. It’s a Duct breach. Instead of a Duct forming between our world and yours, it’s formed inside the bubble." He went back to watching the outside as he spoke.
"What does stage four mean? And sprouting?"
"Ducts are categorized by their size and posture. A stage four is a tunnel big enough for creatures as large as you and I to get through. Sprouting means it’s throwing off arms. It’s creating more Ducts."
She swallowed hard. "Then it’s a very large, very dangerous one, right?"
He nodded instead of answering.
Behind her she could hear whispering and shuffling sounds. The people trapped inside the store with them were terrified.
"Do all these Ducts come from outside the bubbles?"
"Yeah, but don’t ask me how or why. We’ve never been able to figure that out." He raised the watch to his face. "Marc? Where are those trainees?"
"Another two minutes, tops. How’s Randi holding up?"
That one got a snicker from him. "Full of questions, but she’s not afraid."
"She doesn’t understand the danger," the Second Director commented.
"Then explain it to me!" she almost shouted. She was mad. No, she was furious. She had endured all the coddling and babying she could stomach. Taking her handicap into account was one thing. But treating her as if she was a mental invalid, as well, was not.
Ignoring the chuckling coming from his watch, Collin glared at her. "Remember me telling you about the creatures I have to protect your world against? Well, they’re out there, beyond the bubble just waiting for a chance to get to us. There are times when the Ducts breach the bubble, opening a way for those creatures to get in here; in here with us. The bigger the Duct, the greater the chance they’ll get in. And if they do, when they do, they’ll create havoc and death. And the only thing standing between them and us is people like me."
"Extinguishers," she clarified.
"More likely trainees. Our best Extinguishers are over on your world."
Randi maneuvered the hover chair closer to him. "All except for you."
He nodded. "And a couple others still recuperating."
She glanced out the windows. "Your people would send inexperienced trainees to face those things?"
"Some of our retired Extinguishers will be leading them." He managed a small grin. "When an Extinguisher is released from active duty because his injuries keep him from walking the Ducts to your world, he keeps his skills honed by using them here. Marc?"
"We have a delay. We have a rhinop on site."
"Rhinop?" Randi echoed. Collin had told her about the dangerous creatures that plagued their worlds. But other than Bud, she had no idea what any of the others looked like.
Collin had his back to her. He didn’t move or show any sign that he had heard her question. He was staring out the windows. Staring. Waiting. She could see the tenseness in his body.
He wanted to get out there but he couldn’t, she realized. He didn’t have a weapons pouch, which was why he was holding back. The fact that he was determined to keep himself between her and the window proved his need to protect her.
Randi reached out to touch his sleeve. Her husband was aching to keep her safe, to keep them all safe, but there was no way he could. Not at this moment. She could almost see the frustration mounting in him.
A glimmer of light bounced off of something outside. She jerked her head to stare at it dead-on, but the glimmer was gone. Randi frowned. The same thing had happened the first time she saw Bud. It was almost as if the creatures outside were playing another game of cat and mouse. A deadly game. And the people trapped inside were the mice. Okay. Play that way. It won’t work.
Lifting her chin, she did the little trick she’d taught herself—how to spot something without looking right at it. This time she clearly caught the slow approach of the nearly invisible animal.
"Collin. There’s a tygren out there."
His head snapped in her direction. "What? Where?"
She pointed at the frond of purplish leaves on the edge of the walkway. Now that she had spotted it, keeping an eye on it was simple. "There. Moving that way," she added, pointing to the right.
"Marc. We have a tygren spotted."
"Good job, Collin!" the man praised. "Team Two, you have a tygren in your sector."
Collin shook his head. "I didn’t spot it. Randi did."
The man literally blanched. "How?"
"Beats me." He stopped himself for a moment, then turned back to look at her. "Randi, can you still see it?"
"Oh, yeah. Clear as day. Why? Can’t you?"
"Not until it materializes the first time. Then if it goes back into hiding I can see it." He snorted softly. "I could feel the damn thing. I just couldn’t get a clear view of it."
"Can she see anything else? This is the damndest thing I’ve ever heard of," the Second Director said, still looking slightly dazed.
Giving his wife a questioning glance, Collin told the man to hold on.
"Do they all turn invisible?" she asked.
"Not in that sense. You already know tygrens use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. If I describe something to you, can you look around to see if you can spot it?"
"I can try."
"All right. Think long and thick as your arm. Dark green. With spiked tails that curl up over its back."
"Does it also have little spike thingies behind its head?"
"Oh, great heavens!" Marc’s voice exclaimed.
"Yeah, Randi. Do you see any?" Collin’s voice was low, controlled.
Randi wrinkled up her nose. "I see two of them. There’s another one, but it’s not green. It’s more silver colored. They look…" She stared directly at the creatures that slithered through the trees overhead. They reminded her of snakes, only there were spiny protrusions sticking up from their backs, and several ugly looking stingers coming off of their curled tails; that, plus the fact that they seemed to be at least fifteen feet in length.
"We have at least two verdant lashers and one crystal lasher on the premises!" Collin barked into his watch. "Tell the teams to use extreme caution!"