In the three years since Project Dawn disbanded, Hale continues to fight the good fight. Now civilians, his squad--Circe's Recruits--work for a private organization bent on cleaning up the mess left in the wake of Project Dawn's rebirth. Pearson Labs continues to create Circs, people who have been genetically changed. When needed, these Circs take on an altered form--one neither man nor animal, but something in between. But unlike the squad, the Circs coming out of Pearson Labs aren't sane.
Hale's dreams are more than nightmares--the prophetic doom of a beautiful woman he doesn't know and a man he wishes he'd never met: two people meant for him that are too involved with his enemy for Hale's peace of mind. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and Hale's beast won't accept less than the woman and man destined to become his mates. Then word arrives that Pearson Labs is finally coming down, and Hale has to race to save his mates from the fallout. Can they survive or will their love crumble under the enemy's chaos and deception too close to home?
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May 19, 2009
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Excerpt from Hale by Marie Harte
"Ow, cut it out." Hale tried to pull his arm away from Doc and his incessant prodding. "I'm fine, Doc. Shit. That hurts!"
"What a baby." Sabrina Torrence, Derrick's mate and fianc�e, watched Doc with interest as he leaned over Hale on the exam table. "Is it always this hard to treat them when they've been dusted by the PPA?"
"I don't know that I can classify this attack as PPA," Doc answered, fiddling with his glasses. His blue eyes looked tired, and he'd lost weight. But then he smiled, and Hale saw the familiar scientist who had saved their asses time and time again. "But if they encountered rogue Circs at Paige Masters's house, I think we can determine she's the one we want."
The one you want, Hale wanted to say but didn't. He liked seeing Doc smile again, so he'd save his bad attitude for... "Derrick, you ass. Come and drag your bloodthirsty little leech out of here. This isn't the circus, honey," he said with a glare at Sabrina.
She flipped him off, causing Derrick, who'd just entered the lab, to laugh.
"No kidding. This is more like the zoo," she muttered. "No offense, Doc."
"None taken." He shook his head at Hale. "And what have I told you? 'Leech' isn't very nice. Sabrina's a top-notch technician. A phlebotomist, if you want to be technical about it. There's a science to taking blood and assisting with scientific progress." Doc removed the large syringe from Hale's forearm, not bothering to stop any leftover bleeding, since Hale's skin immediately mended.
"Yeah, yeah," Hale muttered, just glad to be done with Doc's prodding. "Can I sit up now?"
Derrick shoved him flat on his back when he tried to rise. "Not yet, playboy. What else you need, Doc?"
"Just one more thing."
Hale groaned and tried to move, but Derrick wouldn't lift his huge-ass hand.
Derrick sneered. "Stop being such a pussy." He looked over his shoulder at Sabrina and cleared his throat. Turning back to Hale, he gave an insincere smile. "I mean, relax and take it easy, buddy."
Hale scowled. Sabrina called her mate a teddy bear in a grizzly bear's clothing. As if. The large African American glaring down at him resembled nothing as soft as a razor. And Derrick absolutely hated when Hale made fun of Sabrina's pet names for him.
"Hey, Teddy, how about you go play footsie with your fianc�e and get off me?"
Derrick grinned, showing very sharp teeth. "Aw, it's okay, Hale. I know it's the pain talking." He leaned close and released a familiar pheromone that turned Hale's dick into a rock. "Pain can make you say all kinds of things, right, Hale?"
"Fuck. Yeah, the pain," Hale gasped. "You horny bastard, back off," he whispered, groaning when Derrick put his hand over the front of Hale's crotch. The sweatpants he wore did nothing to protect him from that large, callused palm.
Terrific. Roane might have been an isolated incident. But Derrick acting like this with Doc in the room meant a mating heat loomed near. And only a Circ could satisfy another Circ. His beast didn't give a damn about gender. Thank God they'd finally found female Circs. Given the choice, Hale preferred a woman.
Sabrina shook her head. "Honestly, Derrick. Hale just had a run-in with some rogues hours ago." She glanced at Doc standing across the room by the centrifuge and lowered her voice. "He's not ready for that."
Derrick grinned. "But you are, aren't you?"
She blushed. Hale would have praised her distraction had she not interrupted Derrick's hand over his erection. Derrick kept one hand on Hale's chest but laced the fingers of his other hand with Sabrina. Leaving Hale aching and frustrated.
"Sorry, princess. I'm just trying to take his mind off it," Derrick murmured.
"Off what?" Hale asked, watching as Doc crossed the room again. "Off the pain--shee-it, Doc! What the fuck was that?" Whatever it was cured his desire in a heartbeat.
Doc pushed the plunger down on the syringe he'd jabbed into the meaty part of Hale's shoulder. "A little insurance that whatever's inside you won't hurt you."
"What do you mean, 'whatever's inside me'?"
"The sedative they injected you with is different from the last one we cataloged. This one not only depresses your central nervous system, but it's interacting with some of your Circ cells in a way needing further study."
"Great." Could his night get any worse?
As if he'd asked for it, "worse" walked through the door.
Rounded and glowing, a pregnant Kelly Malloy preceded Zack and Ace, her mates. Roane and Caitlyn followed close behind.
Talk about feeling on display. Hale was half-naked, sore, and confined to a damned lab table. At least Doc and Sabrina had cleaned him up so he was no longer encrusted in blood. His bruising and scarring had all but vanished. If not for the effects from the mating heat, Hale would have said he felt fine. To his relief, Derrick finally backed away, taking Sabrina with him.
"How are you feeling?" Caitlyn asked, her green eyes full of concern.
"Oh, Hale." Kelly leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.
To his relief, her mates didn't punish Hale for the small sign of affection, and he remained in control of his libido.
"I'm so sorry you got hurt." Kelly straightened. "Ace is sorry for what he did this morning. All you did was say hello," she reiterated, glaring at her mate.
Ace sighed. "Sorry, man. Kelly's driving me nuts."
"You and me both," Zack muttered and shrugged at the look she gave him. "Sorry, baby. But your pregnancy has us all on edge."
"Yes. Isn't it fascinating?" Doc said, excitement in his voice. "After Roane and Caitlyn mated, we thought the mating heats would cease for joined couples. Turns out we were wrong. That anomaly lasted only until Kelly became pregnant. Now, not only Hale, but the rest of you will continue to experience the mating heat. It's probably worse now because of Kelly's hormonal surges. And speaking of which, Kelly? I'll need you to sit down with me for some more tests after I'm done with Hale."
"I'm done, Doc." Hale sat up and swung his legs over the table. He looked around for his shirt, wanting to cover up. He'd never admit it, but the way Caitlyn stared at him made him uncomfortable, like a helpless rabbit waiting to be eaten by the big bad wolf.
"Told you," Roane said under his breath as he handed Hale his shirt.
"Is it hot in here, or is it me?" Kelly asked, fanning herself.
Just when he'd willed his erection away, Kelly spiked the room with her scent. The others groaned, caught in the grip of a genetically enhanced desire.
Doc waved them away with a blush. "We all know what's going on. Kelly, I'll see you later. Hale, let me know if you feel any aftereffects from what happened last night."
Everyone filed out of the lab in a hurry. Zack, Ace, and Kelly left the house for their smaller cottage a few hundred feet behind the main house. Derrick and Sabrina headed for Derrick's room on the third floor, next door to his own. Hale wanted some space, to get away from this cloying sexual desire. He wasn't mated and had no need to procreate. He tore away from the others and hustled to his room, determined to escape the chaos of feeling invading his body. Because as much as the lust hit him, an odd craving struck him numb.
His beast wanted that woman. Paige Masters. And with Paige came remembrances of the recurring dream he couldn't stop having. The one where she rode him hard while another male took her from behind. Only it wasn't just another male. Hale struggled to ignore the truth, needing an escape more than ever.
Sweating and trying to fight his need, Hale shut himself in his room. Ignoring the moans and groans so close, he hurriedly packed a bag and exited the house at a run. Though he'd never before gone without Circ-induced satisfaction, he didn't want to join any of the other mated couples because he had to. Hale wanted to dominate his inner beast when it came to sex. To be in control of it all, just once.
Focused on getting to his vehicle and driving the hell off the compound, he didn't notice Roane and Caitlyn until it was too late. The transformed couple, naked and writhing on the cold, hard ground, entranced him. Without realizing it, he dropped his bag, shed his clothing, and changed.
Roane and Caitlyn lay on the ground, fucking like animals. The larger male covered Caitlyn as he thrust into her, over and over. She clawed at him and moaned, her changed form so beautiful, Hale could only stare. Her hair had grown, strands of brown and gold weaving with the lighter wheat color. Her nails scored Roane's arms as she clawed toward her own orgasm. She cried out just as Roane stiffened and moaned, tensing between her powerful thighs.
Fully aroused, Hale approached them. Roane clearly wasn't done, because he began pumping again.
"You need more? I'll give it to you," he growled at Caitlyn when she squirmed in his hold. "But you remember who's in charge." He glanced up at Hale and motioned him closer. With a grunt, Roane pulled out of Caitlyn and forced her onto her hands and knees. "Suck him off, hellcat."
Hale hissed as she pulled him closer by digging her fingers into his thighs. The pain only enhanced his pleasure, and he hurried to his knees. The minute his cock was close enough, Caitlyn settled her hot, wet mouth around him. She sucked him balls deep, accommodating his girth with ease.
"That's it," Roane crooned and slammed into her from behind. "Swallow all of him, mate."
Caitlyn moaned but didn't disobey. Hale loved watching Roane master her and knew the two got off on their power plays. He didn't mind. The squad knew their pecking order. Roane led them, and Hale seconded his leader. Bonded to Roane and the others through violence, blood, and sex, he would do anything for his friends.
Having sex with Roane and Caitlyn was a joy, despite his beast's frustration that all wasn't as it should be. Not the right pair. Not the right blonde, not the right male...
Forcing himself to stop thinking about a woman he didn't even know and a man he didn't want to know, Hale closed his eyes and threaded his fingers through Caitlyn's hair.
"That's it. Let it go," Roane commanded, and though Hale didn't know who Roane spoke to, he obeyed, easing into the moment. Caitlyn moaned and sucked harder.
When he opened his eyes, he saw Roane's face contort into pleasured agony, his eyes shuttered, his fangs exposed as he gasped for breath. Coming again, he gripped his mate's hips and jerked. The joy of Circ sex--the ability to go for hours without tiring. Even in human form, Hale could perform again and again without rest. But with Caitlyn, he didn't have to soften his libido.
On the verge, Hale gripped her head tighter and began fucking her mouth.
Roane pulled out and stood up behind her, watching Hale take his mate. "Good, playboy. Now come inside her."
Hale moaned, not needing Roane's order to push him over the edge. The light press of Caitlyn's teeth over his sensitive crown shot him into orgasmic bliss. She swallowed all of him, even as he inwardly cursed himself for wishing she were someone else.
Finally spent, Hale withdrew. That took the edge off. Now I can get the hell out of here before--
Roane shoved him on his ass and glared.
"Wh-what?" Hale asked, trying to catch his breath.
"You're not right. Something's off with you." Roane walked over him, until Hale looked up at the underside of Roane's rising dick. "Get up."
Knowing what his friend intended and for once not in the mood, Hale shook his head. His beast confused him. The damned thing wouldn't stop thinking about his dream couple. Paige Masters and that fucker, McKinley. God, please let that be a nightmare and not a preview of things to come.
Caitlyn stared, glued to the byplay.
"I said, get up." Roane held his dick, waiting for Hale to assume the position. Roane loved him but wouldn't tolerate disloyalty. To reassure his beast, he had occasionally fucked his men into submission. But since the others had mated, they'd become much less problematic. As far as Hale knew, Roane only fucked him to fuel Caitlyn's desire. Hale had never before questioned Roane's right as alpha. Until now. For the first time since the mating heat had initially struck, a foreign part of him rejected their sexual association.
Confused and a bit worried, Hale didn't give Roane the timely response he wanted. Roaring his fury, Roane flipped him over onto his hands and knees. Wanting to please his alpha despite his uncertainty, Hale didn't fight him. Instead, he groaned as Roane rammed into his ass. The natural lubricant that coated a Circ's cock made the entry easy, but the tight fit still stole his breath.
Roane gripped his hips as he fucked him. "Come back to me, Hale. Remember where you belong."
"I know, I know," Hale rasped, once again reveling in his alpha's possession. Roane tunneled into his ass, the abrasive intrusion heating into pleasure when he continued to hit Hale's sweet spot deep inside.
Caitlyn murmured something to Roane, and his thrusts grew rougher. Then Hale felt her hands on his back, smelled the mixture of his and Roane's cum all over her, and thrilled at the sense of belonging. Once again, everything was right with his world, and he thanked this pair for giving him back his sense of self. The rapture of possession consumed him, Roane's dominance and Caitlyn's acceptance shooting him toward that pinnacle of orgasm.
When she reached for his cock and pumped him, Hale lost his mind.
"Oh, oh fuck," he shouted as he came hard. His orgasm lasted, coating her hand with cream as she continued to stroke him, and Roane surged once more inside him, filling him with seed.
When Roane finally stopped moving, Hale shuddered, spent and oddly calm.
"You okay?" Roane panted.
"That was so damned sexy," Caitlyn whispered, kissing Hale on the cheek before turning to her mate. As she kissed Roane, he hardened inside Hale once more.
These two are insatiable.
Thankfully, Roane withdrew and rose to his feet. "Time to move this inside. You are okay, aren't you, Hale?"
Ignoring the deeper meaning to Roane's question, as in, what the hell is wrong with you, lately, Hale stood, aware of the cum sliding down his thighs.
"Shit, Roane. You just fucked me up the ass. How do you think I feel?"
Roane grinned. "Like you need some more?"
"Funny. Have fun, you two. Go make babies," he added, pleased when the smile faded from Roane's face. Hale knew how thoughts of children panicked his best friend, and never wasted a chance to taunt him with it. The guy would make a terrific dad, so Hale thought it his duty to remind him of fatherhood as often as possible. "Later."
He shook out his limbs and stretched, relaxed once more. Leaving his duffel where it lay, he decided to take a quick shower before leaving the compound. Walking unashamedly back to the main house, he entered his room without running into anyone. By the muffled roar through the wall, he figured Derrick and Sabrina would be going strong all night. Like Kelly, Ace, and Zack, and like Roane and Caitlyn.
But not me. Not yet.
Hale stepped into his bathroom and lingered under a hot shower, gradually changing back into his human form. He liked the fact that his friends had found people to love. It had taken Ace and Zack years to come to grips with what they meant to each other as well as to Kelly, and now the threesome was inseparable. Roane had his hands full with Caitlyn, and Derrick had finally found a woman to tolerate his gruff attitude in the mean and sexy Sabrina.
Having grown up in a caring family, Hale had nothing against marriage. His parents had cherished one another until the day they died. He didn't have trust issues or an unrequited longing for anyone. When he found "the one," he'd know her. It had been that way for his parents, and he knew it would be that way for him.
Though taking a mate didn't necessarily mean a happily-ever-after, Hale saw the way his friends had taken to their own joinings. Sex and chemistry played a huge part in his friends' relationships, yet all four of his squad mates had found love as well. Even when Caitlyn enjoyed the occasional threesome with Hale, her heart belonged to Roane. Circs handled the physical side of love a lot differently than most people, because they had to. Nothing like being at the mercy of your hormones every few weeks to make you rethink sexual taboos and labels. And there was nothing normal or tame about Circs in heat.
Hale slicked his hair back, enjoying the calm he'd been missing for months. He hadn't been "normal" since he'd run into McKinley at Pearson Labs during the winter. Hell, if I'm honest with myself, it's been longer than that. As much as Hale wanted to deny the odd dreams he'd been having, his family had a history with the unexplainable.
The Rogers family had always done things no one in their small North Carolina hometown could quite understand. Hale's father predicted the weather, without fail. His mother knew things--where something got lost, when a friend's baby was due, who would call on the phone right before it rang. Flashes of extrasensory ability in his family had always been there. His parents were surprised when Hale showed no signs of anything more extraordinary than his ability to throw a football. And so Hale, an only child, managed to escape much of the town talk, clinging to his proclivity for sports and his popularity with girls.
Joining the military had been the natural progression for a young man taken with physical exertion, discipline, and order. The Marine Corps had treated him well. And then he'd signed up for Project Dawn. Within months, he had become something not quite human, altered genetically, physically, and mentally.
But Hale had little in the way of complaint. He loved being a Circ.
He flexed his arm, enabling a part of himself to change, and stared at the tanned, larger hand that ended in blade-sharp talons. Being stronger and faster felt great. With his new abilities, he could jump higher, run faster for longer periods of time, and rebuff the threat of most small-caliber rounds even at close range. His enhanced senses allowed him a perspective on the world most people would never know.
The mating heat took some getting used to. Despite the utter necessity of sex with other Circs, the sexual gratification was like nothing else. Though he preferred women, Hale had come to accept his needs when in that changed state. He didn't know what to call what he'd shared with Roane and the others--hell, what he continued to sporadically share with Roane and Caitlyn.
Hale forced his arm to return to normal, comfortable with the gentle slide of muscle and bone as he transitioned back. The water started to cool, so he turned off the shower and dried himself. More muffled noise came through the walls, and he smiled at thoughts of Sabrina taming Derrick.
Another pair in love. As he left the bathroom to dress, he wondered what it must be like to have someone special. To love and be loved, the way his friends did, the way his parents had. Hale had never known a true love like that, and sometimes, he wondered if he ever would. Being a Circ certainly narrowed down the playing field. On the off chance he found the woman of his dreams, she'd have to accept that Hale turned into something less than human, and that he needed to fuck other Circs, be they male or female.
Oh yeah, that'd go over like a lead balloon.
Sighing, he dressed and left the house. Picking up his duffel from where he'd left it, he entered the garage, grabbed his keys from the key rack, and started his truck. He left a short cell message for Doc about needing to get away for a few. If they needed him, they'd call. But for once, Hale hoped they wouldn't.
The others thought of Hale as the easygoing Circ, the even-tempered team member who often settled brawls, as opposed to engaging in them. But he was also the most determined of the bunch. When Hale had a question, he wouldn't rest until he found his answer. Right now, Paige Masters puzzled him. He needed to know exactly what had happened at her house, why he'd dreamed of her, and why the thought of her refused to leave his mind.
His mood darkened as an image of McKinley joined Paige's. Two pieces of a puzzle that didn't seem to fit anywhere. Hale only hoped he could solve this mess, and the sooner the better, because he had the uneasy feeling these two strangers would complicate his life. He had enough on his plate without Elliot Pearl's castoffs taking up his valuable time.
Grunting in annoyance, he pulled out of the long driveway and headed back to Avalon.