I need to get out of here, right now."


Brock's big, broad hand came toward her again, but this time, Jenna swept it away. It had only been a slight flick of her wrist, but it knocked aside his hand as though she'd put all of her strength--and then some--into the motion.


"What the hell?" Brock's eyes narrowed, something bright and dangerous crackling in his dark gaze, there and gone before she could fully register what she was seeing.


And at that very moment, Kade returned to the room, two other men with him. One was tall and lean, athletically built, his disheveled crown of blond hair and rimless, pale blue sunglasses that rode low on the bridge of his nose giving him something of a geeky mad-scientist vibe. The other, dark haired and grim faced, strode inside the small room like a medieval king, his very presence commanding attention and seeming to suck all of the air out of the place.


Jenna swallowed. As former law enforcement, she'd been accustomed to facing down men twice her size without flinching. She'd never been easy to intimidate, but looking at the likely thousand-plus pounds of muscle and brute strength that now surrounded her in these four men--to say nothing of the distinctly lethal air they seemed to wear as casually as their own skin--


she found it damned hard to hold the scrutinizing, almost suspicious, gazes that were locked onto her from each man in the room.


Wherever she'd been brought, whoever these men were whom Kade associated with, Jenna got the very distinct impression that the so-called private facility wasn't a hospital at all. It sure as hell wasn't a country club.


"She's been awake only for a few minutes?" asked the blond, his voice carrying just the barest hint of an English accent. At Brock and Alex's joint nods, he walked up to the bed. "Hello, Jenna. I'm Gideon. This is Lucan," he said, gesturing to his mountain of a companion, who now stood next to Brock on the other side of the room. Gideon frowned at her over the top of his shades. "How do you feel?"


She frowned back at him. "Like a bus ran me over. A bus that apparently dragged me from Alaska all the way to Boston."


"It was the only way," Lucan interjected, command palpable in his level, ask-no-permission tone. He was the leader here, no question about that. "You hold too much information, and you needed specialized care and observation."


She didn't like the sound of that at all. "What I need is to be back at home. Whatever that monster did to me, I survived it. I won't be needing any kind of care or observation because I'm fine."


"No," Lucan countered grimly. "You are not fine. Far from it, in fact."


Although it was said without cruelty or threat, an icy cold dread seeped through her. She looked to Alex and Brock--the two people who'd assured her just a few minutes ago that she was all right, that she was safe.


The two people who'd actually managed to make her feel safe, after waking up from the nightmare that she could still taste on her tongue. Neither of them said a thing now.


She glanced away, stung and not a little afraid of what that silence might truly mean. "I have to get out of here. I want to go home."


When she started to swing her legs over the edge of the bed to get up, it wasn't Lucan or Brock or any of the other huge men who stopped her, but Alex. Jenna's best friend moved to block her, the sober look on her face more effective than any of the brute strength standing ready elsewhere in the room.


"Jen, you have to listen to me now. To all of us. There are things you need to understand ... about what happened back in Alaska, and about the things we still need to figure out. Things only you may be able to answer."


Jenna shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about. The only thing I know is that I was held captive and attacked--bitten and bled, for God's sake--by something worse than a nightmare. It could be out there still, back in Harmony. I can't sit here knowing that the monster that terrorized me might be doing the same hideous things to my brother or to anyone else back home."


"That won't happen," Alex said. "The creature who attacked you--the Ancient--is dead. No one in Harmony is in danger from him now. Kade and the others made sure of that."


Jenna felt only a ping of relief, because despite the good news that her attacker was dead, there was still something cold gnawing at her heart. "And Zach? Where is my brother?"


Alex glanced toward Kade and Brock, both of whom had moved closer to the side of the bed. Alex gave the faintest shake of her head, her brown eyes sad beneath the layered waves of her dark blond hair. "Oh, Jenna


... I'm so sorry."


She absorbed her friend's words, reluctant to let the understanding sink in. Her brother--the last remaining family she had--was dead?


"No." She gulped the denial, sorrow rising up the back of her throat as Alex wrapped a comforting arm around her.


On the wave of her grief, memories roared to the surface, too: Alex's voice, calling to her from outside the cabin where the creature lurked over Jenna in the darkness. Zach's angry shouts, a current of deadly menace in every clipped syllable--but menace directed at whom? She hadn't been sure then. Now she wasn't sure it mattered at all.


There had been a gun blast outside the cabin, not even an instant before the creature leapt up and hurled itself through the weather-beaten wood panels of the front door and out to the snowy, forested yard. She remembered the sharp howl of her brother's screams. The pure terror that preceded a horrific silence.


Then ... nothing.


Nothing but a deep, unnatural sleep and endless darkness.


She pulled out of Alex's embrace, sucking back her grief. She would not lose it like this, not in front of these grim-faced men who were all looking at her with a mix of pity and cautious, questioning interest.


"I'll be leaving now," she said, digging deep to find the don't-fuck-with-me cop tone that used to serve her so well as a trooper. She stood up, feeling only the slightest shakiness in her legs. When she listed faintly to the side, Brock reached out as if to steady her, but she righted her balance before he could offer the uninvited assist. She didn't need anyone coddling her, making her feel weak. "Alex can show me the way out."


Lucan pointedly cleared his throat.


"Ah, I'm afraid not," Gideon put in, politely British, yet unwavering.


"Now that you're finally awake and lucid, we're going to need your help."


"My help?" She frowned. "My help with what?"


"We need to understand precisely what went on between you and the Ancient in the time he was with you. Specifically, if there were things he told you or information he somehow entrusted to you."


She scoffed. "Sorry. I already lived through the ordeal once. I have no interest in reliving it in all its horrible detail for all of you. Thanks, but no thanks. I'd just as soon put it out of my mind completely."


"There is something you need to see, Jenna." This time, it was Brock who spoke. His voice was low, more concerned than demanding. "Please, hear us out."


She paused, uncertain, and Gideon filled the silence of her indecision.


"We've been observing you since you arrived at the compound," he told her as he walked over to a control panel mounted on the wall. He typed something on the keyboard and a flat-screen monitor dropped down from the ceiling. The video image that blinked to life on the screen was an apparent recording of her, lying asleep in this very room. Nothing earth-shattering, just her, motionless on the bed. "Things start to get interesting around the forty-three-hour mark."


He typed a command that made the clip advance to the spot he mentioned. Jenna watched herself on-screen, feeling a sense of wariness as her video self began to shift and writhe, then thrash violently on the bed. She was murmuring something in her sleep, a string of sounds--words and sentences, she felt certain, even though she had no basis to understand them.


"I don't get it. What's going on?"


"We're hoping that you can tell us," Lucan said. "Do you recognize the language you're speaking there?"


"Language? It sounds like a bunch of jibberish to me."


"You're sure about that?" He didn't seem convinced. "Gideon, play the next video."


Another clip filled the monitor, images fast-forwarding to a further episode, this one even more unnerving than the first. Jenna watched, transfixed, as her body on-screen kicked and writhed, accompanied by the surreal soundtrack of her own voice speaking something that made absolutely no sense to her.


It took a lot to scare her, but this psych ward video footage was just about the last thing she needed to see on top of everything else she was dealing with.


"Turn it off," she murmured. "Please. I don't want to see any more right now."


"We have hours of footage like this," Lucan said as Gideon powered down the video. "We've had you on twenty-four-hour observation the whole time."


"The whole time," Jenna echoed. "Just how long have I been here?"


"Five days," Gideon answered. "At first we thought it was a coma brought on by trauma, but your vitals have been normal all this time. Your blood work is normal, too. From a medical diagnostic standpoint, you've merely been ..." He seemed to search for the right word. "Asleep."


"For five days," she said, needing to be sure she understood. "Nobody just falls asleep for five days straight. There must be something else going on with me. Jesus, after all that's happened, I should see a doctor, go to a real hospital."


Lucan gave a grave shake of his head. "Gideon is more expert than anyone else you can see topside. This thing cannot be handled by your kind of doctors."


"My kind? What the hell does that mean?"


"Jenna," Alex said, taking her hand. "I know you must be confused and scared. I've been there myself very recently, although I can't imagine anyone going through what you have. But you need to be strong now. You need to trust us--trust me--that you are in the best hands possible. We're going to help you. We'll figure this out for you, I promise."


"Figure what out? Tell me. Damn it, I need to know what's really going on!"


"Let her see the X rays," Lucan murmured to Gideon, who typed a quick series of keys and brought the images up on the monitor.


"This first one was taken within minutes of your arrival at the compound," he explained, as a skull and upper spinal column lit up overhead. At the topmost point of her vertebrae, something small glowed fiercely bright, as tiny as a grain of rice.


Her voice, when she finally found it, held the barest tremor. "What is it?"


"We're not sure," Gideon replied gently. He brought up another X ray.


"This one was taken twenty-four hours later. You can just make out the threadlike tendrils that have begun to spread outward from the object."


As Jenna looked, she felt Alex's fingers tighten around her own.


Another image came up on-screen, and in this one, the tendrils extending from the brightly glowing object appeared to lace into her spinal column.


"Oh, God," she whispered, reaching up with her free hand to feel the skin at her nape. She pressed hard and almost gagged to register the faint ridge of whatever it was embedded inside her. "He did this to me?"


Life ... or death?


The choice is yours, Jenna Tucker-Darrow.


The creature's words came back to her now, along with the recollection of his self-inflicted wound, the nearly indiscernible object he'd plucked from within his own flesh.


Life, or death?


Choose.


"He put something inside me," she murmured.


The slight unsteadiness she'd felt a few moments ago came back with a vengeance. Her knees buckled, but before she ended up on the floor, Brock and Alex each had an arm, lending her their support. As terrible as it was, Jenna could not tear her eyes away from the X ray that filled the screen overhead.


"Oh, my God," she moaned. "What the hell did that monster do to me?"


Lucan stared at her. "That's what we intend to find out."


Chapter Two


Standing in the corridor outside the infirmary room a couple of minutes later, Brock and the other warriors watched as Alex sat down on the edge of the bed and quietly comforted her friend. Jenna didn't break down or crumble. She let Alex wrap her in a tender embrace, but Jenna's hazel eyes remained dry, staring straight ahead, her expression unreadable, glazed with the stillness of shock.


Gideon cleared his throat, breaking the silence as he glanced away from the infirmary door's small window. "That went well. Considering."


Brock grunted. "Considering she just came out of a five-day Rip van Winkle to learn that her brother is dead, she's been leeched by the granddaddy of all bloodsuckers, brought here against her will--and oh, by the way, we've found something embedded in your spinal cord that probably didn't originate on this planet, so congratulations, on top of all that, there's a good chance you're part Borg now." He exhaled a dry curse. "Jesus, this is messed up."


"Yeah, it is," Lucan said. "But it would be a hell of a lot worse if we didn't have the situation contained. Right now, all we need to do is keep the female calm and under close observation until we gain a better understanding of the implant itself and what, if anything, it could mean to us. Not to mention the fact that the Ancient must have had a reason for placing the material inside her in the first place. That's a question that begs an answer. Sooner than later."


Brock nodded in agreement with the rest of his brethren. It was only a slight movement, yet the flexing of his neck muscles set off a fresh round of pain in his skull. He pressed his fingers into his temples, waiting for the knifelike agony to pass.

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***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com

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